Ebook Giveaway & Interview: Mary Turzillo, Author of Mars Girls

Join me in welcoming Mary Turzillo to the blog! Apex Magazine has put together this lovely blog tour to celebrate Mary’s newest book, Mars Girls. Learn about science fiction poetry and Mary’s involvement in fencing! Make sure you check out the giveaway at the bottom of the post to see how to win an ebook copy of this science fiction novel.

If you could give any literary villain a happy ending who would you chose?

I’m going to be very unoriginal here. I wish Darth could change back into Anakin, through time travel, I suppose, to be reunited and reconciled with Padme, then rejoice in the birth of Luke and Leia. But the Star Wars universe so far has not included time-reversal, so I guess that’s out. Oh well.

The public library of your dreams has arrived! What special collections does it hold?

All the old pulps. All the Ace Doubles. Oh, wait! It ALREADY exists: The Judith Merril Collection, in Toronto! It’s a great institution, run by fabulous librarians. If you are ever in Toronto, don’t miss it. And there’s a great poutine restaurant nearby.

If you could, what book or movie or TV series would you like to experience for the first time all over again and why?

Oh, that’s an easy one. Star Wars. It was so fresh when it first came to the screen, so epic. And I’d like to see it without knowing what happened to all the actors later on, because some of that is so sad. I really felt there were more imaginative leaps in the first Star Wars movies than in any previous science fiction movie. The vehicles, the aliens, the bots — any single one of them you could find models for in previous movies, or at least some original thinking. But Star Wars just piled on the neat stuff, scene after scene. And the other thing was a beautiful, very young woman acting as a warrior and a hero. Then more of the same as the series developed.

I also would like to see Scanners and the original The Thing and maybe the original (?) Invasion of the Body Snatchers. A little dark, I know. I do love Donald Sutherland’s work.

What has been your worst or most difficult job? How does it compare to writing?

I hated and loved teaching at Trumbull campus of Kent State. A few of my students were difficult; one class of nursing students tried unrelentingly to drive me from the classroom. They left a preserved pig’s ear on my lectern. They hazed the best student in the class. They shoved a cake in my face. I had a student who wrote themes that were thinly disguised death threats — meaning, my death.

But I was heavily involved with art and theatre students, and they were so inventive and so eager to learn and create, that I am still friends with many of them years later. Some of them have become published authors. Some are college profs, following in my footsteps. I created costumes for Shakespeare shows that they were in. I coached them on lines. I was even in shows with them, playing a witch in Macbeth and Richard III’s mother.

One of my favorite memories: In my office one afternoon, suddenly a human body with an elephant head appeared in the open door. It was one of my Shakespeare I students, just finished with his prosthetics project from his Theatrical makeup class. A few minutes later, the victim of a horrible accident appeared. Blood all over, broken nose, black eye, missing teeth. Another of my student’s prosthetic makeup projects. Later, a green alien, with huge bulging eyes and tentacles sprouting from his bald head. Same deal. A Cthulhu head. An ancient old lady. They each challenged me to identify them, and I could only match my students’ names to about half of them. That was before I had an iPhone, or I’d share pictures. If only!

Those were the kids I loved, the best students in the whole world. The best people.

I loved the non-theatre students, too. They were original, creative, full of spirit and hope. I still know many of them as friends.

You are stuck in space in dire straights. Which science fiction authors would you want with you?

My husband, Geoff Landis, for obvious reasons. But then I’d choose an additional crewmate with an engineering background, like Arlan Andrews, Vernor Vinge, or Arthur C. Clarke. Of Course I’d want a physician, and so I’d choose F. Paul Wilson and Janet Asimov, with Robin Cook for second and third opinions, in case I had a space-related injury. Octavia Butler, because she could think her way out of anything. I wish she was still with us! Joan Slonczewski in case we needed a little genetic engineering done.

If you were asked to create the syllabus for a college class in Science Fiction & Fantasy poetry, what works would be on there as required reading? As passing discussion?

Wow, if only! It would need to contain be an enormous number of poems, so let me just sketch out my brainstorming for this fantasy course.

First Unit: Roots: I’d want poems from Shakespeare (selected passages from The Tempest) and maybe some passages from Dante and Milton, for perspective. Christina Rossetti’s Goblin Market, of course. A smattering of Poe. These would be early in the course, as teasers, because they would be beautiful and draw students in.

Second Unit: Theory: I’d direct students to follow sfpoetry.com. Essay readings would be assigned, particularly Suzette Haden Elgin’s The Science Fiction Poetry Handbook. I think there exists an essay called “Why Speculative Poetry Matters,” but I can’t find it right now.

Third Unit: An Explosion of New Masters Mid Twentieth Century: The next part of the course would be devoted to landmark spec poetry: I’d assign several anthologies, especially Edward Lucie-Smith’s Holding Your Eight Hands: an Anthology of Science Fiction Verse (1969) and Robert Frazier’s Burning with a Vision: Poetry of Science and the Fantastic (1984).

Fourth Unit: Twentieth Century Master: Contemporary Masters: Here I’d pile on Ray Bradbury’s When Elephants Last in the Dooryard Bloomed, with special attention to “If We Had Only Taller Been.” Then there would be slim volumes by Roger Zelazny, parts of Creatures of Light and Darkness, plus To Spin is Miracle Cat and “When Pussywillows Last in the Catyard Bloomed.” Next, Ursula Le Guin, not sure which volume, maybe New and Selected Poems.

Fifth Unit: Masters of the Last Thirty Years: I’d create an anthology of all the Rhysling winners. This would be quite a task, because I’d a) have to locate the authors or their literary estates and b) wrangle permission to reprint. So I might just do a Samizdat printing, or have students read the poems from the SFPpoetry website. (I won a 2nd one time, but it’s not up there, because they started listing them after my winning.) I’d also include Bruce Boston’s retrospective, Dark Roads; at least one collection by Jane Yolen; David Kopaska-Merkel’s The Memory of Persistence, Geoff Landis’s Iron Angels, F.J. Bergmann’s Constellation of the Dragonfly, David Cowen’s The Madness of Empty Spaces, one of Mary Soon Lee’s extraordinary Crowned series, and Marge Simon’s Unearthly Delights.

Plus poems by Ann Schwader, Kendall Evans, Suzette Haden Elgin, Bryan Thao Worra, Mike Allen, Deborah P. Kolodji, Sandra Lindow, Gary William Crawford, Josh Gage, Mari Ness, Rachel Pollack, John Amen, Lucy Snyder, J.E. Stanley, G.O.Clark, Tim Esaias, Scott Green, Robert Borsky, Denise Dumars, Bryan D. Dietrich, Linda D. Addison, Sandra Kasturi, David Clink, Stephanie Wytovich, Herb Kauderer, and Alessandro Manzetti.

Out of pure egotism, I would offer free copies of my own books, Lovers & Killers (Dark Regions, 2012) and Your Cat & Other Space Aliens (Van Zeno, 2007) as prizes for the best essays about some other poet.

I’d have a few words about SciFaiku, plus poets outside the spec fic community who write speculative and may not even know it: Billy Collins, Lola Haskins.

I’d alas not be able to do much with non-English-speaking poets —

Care to share an awkward fangirl/fanboy moment, either one where someone was gushing over your work…..or one where you were gushing over another author’s work?

I told Roger Zelazny I wanted to BE him. Roger was fundamentally very reserved, and just kind of froze in horror.

I also fed Algis Budrys an absolutely inedible meal at my house — burned to charcoal. And suggested he should watch his diet and stress level.

Another awkward moment was when I was at a Writer of the Future event and my boyfriend asked Larry Niven what he did for a living. This boyfriend soon became my ex-boyfriend. (Of course that was also because I took him to a Warren Zevon concert and he made fun of the drummer’s hairdo.)

Competitive fencing has been a part of your life. How did you get into it? How long have you been fencing?

I always wanted to fence. Swords, don’t all geeks love them? My departed son collected historical replica swords, so I feel a connection with him when I fence. My husband and I have been fencing for over five years and by pure luck I represented the US in Veteran’s (meaning over 40) Women’s Foil in Germany last year.

What is a recurring or the most memorable geeky argument or debate you have taken part in?

The whole debate about “mainstream” (meaning literary realism) versus speculative fiction. I hope we’ve finally put that puppy in the grave.

Of course now the big debate is that some factions (white hetero males) think there’s too much emphasis on social justic themes in fiction by women and minorities. It makes my head ache.

What is the first book you remember reading on your own?

Margaret Wise Brown’s The Golden Egg Book. The illustrations are so very Miyasaki-like, so pretty, in my memory. The second book I read was Clare Turlay Newberry’s April’s Kittens, a story about a girl who loves her cats, but has to choose between the mother cat and her kitten.

Finally, what upcoming events and works would you like to share with the readers?

I’ll be at Worldcon in Finland (if we ever make our plane rez). I’m trying to arrange some signings for Mars Girls. I’m in the process of arranging some bookstore signings. Check Facebook (I make all my posts public, so you don’t have to go through the whole “friend” chore.) and I have an Amazon Author Page.

Places to Follow Mary

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Book Blurb for Mars Girls:

Nanoannie is bored. She wants to go to clubs, wear the latest Earth fashions, and dance with nuke guys. But her life is not exciting. She lives on her family’s Pharm with her parents, little sister, and a holo-cat named Fuzzbutt. The closest she gets to clubs are on the Marsnet. And her parents are pressuring her to sign her contract over to Utopia Limited Corp before she’s even had a chance to live a litte. When Kapera—a friend from online school—shows up at her Pharm asking for help, Nanoannie is quick to jump in the roer and take off. Finally an adventure!

What Nanoannie and Kapera find at the Smythe’s Pharm is more than the girls bargained for. The hab has been trashed and there are dead bodies buried in the backyard! If that wasn’t bad enough, the girls crash the rover and Kapera gets kidnapped by Facers who claim her parents are murderers! Between Renegade Nuns, Facers, and corp geeks, Nanoannie and Kapera don’t know who to trust or where to go. Kapera only wants to find her parents so they can get to Earth Orbitals and she can be treated for her leukemia. Nanoannie wants to help her friend and experience a little bit of Mars before selling her contract to the first corp that offers to buy it.

Life isn’t easy when you’re just a couple of Mars Girls.

Author Bio

Mary Turzillo’s 1999 Nebula-winner,”Mars Is no Place for Children” and her Analog novel, AN OLD-FASHIONED MARTIAN GIRL, are read on the International Space Station. Her poetry collection, LOVERS & KILLERS, won the 2013 Elgin Award.  She has been a finalist on the British Science Fiction Association, Pushcart, Stoker, Dwarf Stars and Rhysling ballots.   SWEET POISON, her Dark Renaissance collaboration with Marge Simon, was a Stoker finalist and won the 2015 Elgin Award.   She’s working on a novel, A MARS CAT & HIS BOY, and another collaboration with Marge Simon, SATAN’S SWEETHEARTS. Her novel MARS GIRLS is forthcoming from Apex.   She lives in Ohio, with her scientist-writer husband, Geoffrey Landis, both of whom fence internationally.

Geoff and Mary ponder the question: what would it be like to fence in zero-G? and: What about if we were cats fencing in zero-G?

Places to Follow Apex Book & Magazine Publisher

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GIVEAWAY!!!

Apex is giving away 1 ebook copy of Mars Girls, open world wide. Just do the Rafflecopter thing below. Ends June 17, 2017, midnight.

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Ebook Giveaway & Interview: Will Collins, Author of A Darker Shade of Sorcery

Everyone, please give a warm welcome to William Collins. He’s the author of The Realmers, a dark urban fantasy series, of which A Darker Shade of Sorcery is Book 1. Scroll to the bottom for info on the ebook giveaway!

If you could be an extra on a TV show or movie, what would it be and what would you be doing?

Awesome question. I’d love to be an extra in any sort of medieval or epic fantasy movie/tv show. I think it would be particularly fun to be the extra during a massive battle scene. I also think playing the part of an elf or orc would be an incredible experience.

What has been your worst or most difficult job? How does it compare to writing?

All of the jobs I’ve had have been manual labour, so writing is a stark contrast, but far more enjoyable.

Who are some of your favourite book villains?

Oh, there’s many, often I like the villains more than I do the good guys. I’ll have to give a nod to Lord Loss, from the Demonata Sage and Tyler Durden from Fight Club; if he counts.

What does your Writer’s Den look like? Neat and tidy or creative mess? Can you write anywhere or do you need to be holed up in your author cave?

Oh it’s definitely a creative mess. I can plan/brainstorm anywhere, but I always have to do the serious writing in my ‘author cave.’ I get into a zone and often write the first versions of my works very fast. I’d proably look like a mad man if I did it in public. J

If you could sit down and have dinner with 5 dead authors, who would you invite to the table? What would they order?

H.P Lovecraft – Creator of the Cthulhu Mythos.

Katherine Kerr – Author of the Deverry series.

Terry Pratchett – I’m sure everyone knows who this is.

Ray Bradbury – Another very famous author, a master of short stories too.

Robert E Howard – Credited for creating the sword and sorcery genre, his most famous character is likely Conan the Barbarian.

I can’t decide where they would rank, but I’d be most fascinated by merely sitting at the table with all five of them and seeing them interact.

Care to share an awkward fangirl/fanboy moment, either one where someone was gushing over your work…..or one where you were gushing over another author’s work?

Unfortunately, I haven’t met any other authors yet, although I’ve talked briefly with Darren Shan and Philip Reeve on twitter, but that doesn’t really count. J

The first time a fan gushed over my work was quite a surreal experience. It’s still surreal to me when readers reference the little things in their reviews, such as using the swear words I invented etc. It’s cool though, I haven’t experienced anything awkward. I myself would be the one to bring the awkwardness if I encountered a favourite author.

Side characters can make or break a story. What side characters have you enjoyed in other works? What side characters in your own work have caught more attention than you expected?

I love side characters, they’re often my favourite characters in novels. My favourite side character in Harry Potter is Gilderoy Lockhart, who probably isn’t a character popular with many people, but I think he’s awesome. In my own works a few side characters appear to be liked by many readers, when I didn’t necessarily write them to be likeable, so that’s really interesting to me.

You have to run an obstacle course. Who do you invite along (living or dead, real or fictional)? 

Can I cheat and jump on Luke’s back like Yoda?

Finally, what upcoming events and works would you like to share with the readers?

You can find the first book in The Realmers Series, A Darker Shade of Sorcery.

Inside the Amazon page are links to book 2 and 3 in the series.

Book 3 was published recently, and I’m currently writing book 4. Meanwhile, I have a spin off set of novella’s that accompany the main series, the first of which has also recently been released. Here is Choo Choo Your Food, Book 1 of The Realmers Chronicles Book 1.

A second novella will be published within the next few weeks, and I’m halfway through a prequel novella for the main series too.

Thanks for having me, and I hope any who read this enjoyed it.

Places to Find William Collins

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Book Blurb for A Darker Shade of Sorcery

The lonely and grieving Evan Umbra is the newest Venator to enter Veneseron, the school for demon hunters.

A Venator is a wizard, a spy and a demon hunter rolled into one. They’re taught how to wield their sorcery and enchanted weaponry by orcs, elfpires and aliens alike.

Their missions range from battling monsters and saving countless lives in the multiple worlds, to the more peculiar, like wrangling killer unicorns and calming down drunken yetis. In their free time Venators enjoy goblin soap-operas and underwater bubble travel, but they also understand that every new mission they’re given could be their last.

Whilst learning how to manipulate the elements, summon creatures to fight for him and shoot Spellzookas, Evan encounters a dangerous rival and meets a girl who makes him feel nauseous; but in a good way. He makes the first friends he’s ever had in the carefree Jed and the reckless Brooke. Whilst Jed gets on the wrong side of a rival Venator, Brooke finds herself falling for the enigmatic demon hunter who brought her to Veneseron, not knowing he isn’t quite human. But it soon becomes apparent that Evan is more than just a Venator. Everyone wants to kill or capture him, from demons to Dark-Venators and even people he’s supposed to be able to trust.

Evan reckons he probably won’t survive his first year at Veneseron.

Amazon

GIVEAWAY!!!

Will Collins is offering up 3 ebook copies of A Darker Shade of Sorcery, open internationally! Do the Rafflecopter thing below or answer these questions in the comments: What country do you live in? Who is your favorite side character? Giveaway ends June 10th, 2017, midnight.

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Giveaway & Interview: Lee Stephen, Author of Dawn of Destiny

StephenDawnOfDestinyHello readers! Join us today for a chat with author Lee Stephen. Today we chat about childhood books, obstacle courses, dream SFF college courses and much more! You can check out the giveaway at the end of the post. Also, a big thanks to iRead Book Tours for asking me to join in. You can check out the tour schedule over HERE.

What has been your worst or most difficult job? How does it compare to writing?

My worst job by far was as a mall survey guy. I got hired as one at the Esplanade Mall in Kenner while I was on summer break from college. There’s no way to compare it to writing, let alone anything dignifying. Your job was basically to aggravate people into answering questions. It’s a job that I think has gone extinct, and the world is better for it.

In this age of publishing, self-promotion is really necessary for the author. What do you enjoy most about advertising yourself and your works? What do you find most challenging?

Self-promotion actually isn’t my favorite part of writing, so I kind of consider it a necessary evil. I rather let my writing speak for itself. I think if you write something that’s entertaining enough, people will come to it on their own.

If you were asked to create the syllabus for a college class in SFF literature, what books would be on there as required reading? As passing discussion?

I really think 1984 would be on the required reading list, just because it hit on so many notes that are reflective of society today. I’d probably also include some of Crichton‘s work, as he was a huge influence on the genre. You can’t forget Bradbury, either. Any one of those authors could lead off an entire course.

Care to share an awkward fangirl/fanboy moment, either one where someone was gushing over your work…..or one where you were gushing over another author’s work?

Without a doubt, it would have to be when a fan showed up at my place of work to ask me some questions! I work for Homeland Security, too, so that took some brazenness. That happened pretty early on in my writing career, too, which is odd. Thankfully that was only a one-time occurrence. Fans, don’t stalk your authors!

What is a recurring or the most memorable geeky argument or debate you have taken part in?

My college roommate, Joel, used to argue with me incessantly. We argued for like an hour on whether the phrase, “you can’t have your cake and eat it, too” was a truth.

What is the first book you remember reading on your own?

If you discount child books like, If You Give a Mouse a​ Cookie, then it’d be The Curse of Blood Swamp, by Cindy Savage! And yes, I had to look it up to remember. I think I got that in elementary school from a book fair, or something. I don’t even remember the story today, but I do remember reading it over and over when I was a kid. Man, you got me wanting to go hunt that thing down now and see what all the hubbub was about back then! I obviously loved it enough to read it about a dozen times.

You have to run an obstacle course. Who (fictional or real) do you invite along? Will there be a tasty libation involved?

I think I’d own an obstacle course! I’ve always wanted to run one. I might need to dust off my old P90X DVDs, though, to get back in “playing” shape. If I had to pick one character, limiting it to Epic just because, why not, I’d probably have to take Scott, my lead character. He was a college athlete, so he can pick up any slack I leave for him.

Finally, what upcoming events and works would you like to share with the readers?

The biggest event happening in my life, right this very minute, is celebrating our second son, Lawson, into the world! He’ll have just been born by the time people start reading this, so rest assured, I’m sleep deprived at this very moment. Daddy loves you, new little buddy.

Book Description for Dawn of Destiny Audiobook

The Dawn of Destiny audiobook project is a full adaptation of the first book in the Epic series. It’s not your typical “audiobook,” even though technically that’s what it is. When people hear “audiobook,” there’s a certain type of thing that usually comes to mind. Most likely it’s the thought of someone reading a book to them, occasionally with music playing in the background. This isn’t that.

What you’re going to hear in this project, is more of an audio “experience,” the audio equivalent of a summer blockbuster movie. Over thirty voice actors played a role in this. This is ear-splitting sound effects, bombastic music, and characters shouting back and forth in the middle of a war zone. This is unlike anything you’ve ever heard.

Book Description for Outlaw Trigger

They say every man has a breaking point-every man can be pushed off the edge. Scott Remington entered EDEN with the heart of a lion. He forged glory in the furnace of war. But on the heels of dawn, darkness awaits. Only when stretched to the limit will a man truly learn who he is. That limit is about to be breached. Lines will be crossed. Sides will be chosen. And faith will be put to the test. Will the righteous prevail?

Author’s Bio

Born and raised in Cajun country, Lee Stephen spent his childhood paddling pirogues through the marshes of South Louisiana. When he wasn’t catching bullfrogs or playing with alligators in the bathtub (both true), he was escaping to the world of the imagination, creating worlds in his mind filled with strange creatures and epic journeys. This hasn’t stopped.

Now a resident of Luling, Louisiana, Lee spends time every day delving into the world of Epic, the science-fiction series that has come to define him as a writer and producer. Alongside his wife, Lindsey, their sons, Levi and Lawson, and their dog, Jake, Lee has made it a mission to create a series that is unique in its genre—one unafraid to address the human condition while staying grounded in elements of faith.

Places to Find Lee Stephen

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Giveaway

Win one of 3 sets of books in the Epic series, Dawn of Destiny and Outlaw Trigger (Open to USA & Canada) Ends July 4.

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Giveaway & Interview: Franz Ross, Author of Our Future Good

KirbyOurFutureGoodFolks, please welcome Franz Ross (aka T. J. Kirby), author of Our Future Good. I really enjoyed Our Future Good, a sharp mix of near-future scifi and social commentary. The audiobook is narrated by Simon Vance, one of my all-time favorite narrators. He’s here today for a lovely chat about physics in science fiction writing, holography, life as a realtor, Warren Buffett, and much more. If you’re here for the giveaway, Franz if offering up 3 audiobook copies of Our Future Good. Scroll to the bottom to enter!

You have a dedicated interest in holography. How did you get started in that? How has the hobby changed over the decades?

I have a small publishing business and I happened to see a notice that these guys were giving classes on how to make your own holograms.  If you ever see a real good volume hologram (a hologram that actually forms an image in space out in front of the plate) it is very impressive. People that have never seen one spend a lot of time running their hand through the ghost-like image.

So I did a book with the people that conducted these classes and the book was called the Holography Handbook and it was very well received. Both MacMillan and McGraw-Hill put it in their book clubs and the book sold well in stores too.

I then went on to do a series called the Holography Marketplace which had 8 editions and came out almost annually. Each edition had articles on holography and a database of all the businesses in holography. Each edition was also filled with lots of holograms from various vendors.

Artistic holography was very big for quite a while and there were hologram stores in lots of cities. It has kind of died down now and most uses of holograms today are in security devices like credit cards, money and things like that. It will probably come back in time.

What now-dead author would you like to interview? What are some of the things you would chat about?

Aldous Huxley. I thought Brave New World was an interesting insight to where things might go. The other possibility for the future was 1984. It would be interesting to hear his comments.

What has been your worst or most difficult job? How does it compare to writing?

Being a Realtor is very difficult because you never know what is going to happen or where your next dollar will come from.

Writing takes a long time and it is more time consuming and difficult than I first thought but you do it because you love doing it.

Who are your non-writer influences? 

I like to casually follow stocks so people like Warren Buffett are interesting.

I really like cutting edge science so the things that people like Elon Musk are doing are very interesting. It is really exciting to be alive today because everything is changing so rapidly.

You have a degree in physics. Did that make writing your book, Our Future Good, easier or more difficult? 

It helps a little because it allows you to discount a lot of the garbage in the news and gives you a more realistic idea as to where things are going to go. Our Future Good is the not too distant future and I think people will be surprised how quickly these things come to exist.

I will take this moment to sketch this out: One way of looking at the near future is that there will be 3 major human inventions during our time. The inventions will be so important that you would have to go all the way back to the invention of written language or the wheel to find something comparable.

1)     The internet – We have just started this one and it is difficult to understand how incredible it is because you are living it.

2)     Mobile Robotic Devices – This has not started yet but it is coming very soon. Call them robots if you like. Robots will make robots and repair robots. So you will be able to create huge quantities of robots if needed and they will do all our mundane chores.

3)     Biological Evolution – This comes soon too. To survive as humans we have always gone out and wacked a plant or animal to death and then stuffed it in our mouth to get the nourishment we need. So we are basically using our body as a garbage disposal that leaches out nutrients that we need and this process also slowly clogs up our plumbing and kills us. We will find a way to provide all the nutrients our body needs without going through all this waste.

In this age of publishing, self-promotion is really necessary for the author. What do you enjoy most about advertising yourself and your works? What do you find most challenging? 

I really have to spend more time on this. I published a number of books by other authors in my business called Ross Books (www.rossbooks.com) but I never actually wrote a book before Our Future Good.

I admit I am not good at self-promotion and I need to work on it. Maybe your readers have some ideas.

If you were asked to create the syllabus for a college class in SFF literature, what books would be on there as required reading? As passing discussion?

1984

Brave New World

Some of Isaac Asimov’s voluminous writings (hundreds of books).

Arthur Clarke

H. G. Wells

Ray Bradbury

Thank you Franz for spending time with us!

Book Blurb for Our Future Good:

KirbyOurFutureGoodMary and Joe are young people just graduating from their General Lessons. It is time for them to go to their first Project Day and choose the first Project they will to join. Mary wants desperately to get her boyfriend Joe to join her in the NutriSuit Project, but Joe wants just as desperately to do a Journalist Project because a major event is happening and Joe has an opportunity to play an important role

Places to Find Franz Ross (T. J. Kirby)

Ross Books

T. J. Kirby Website

Goodreads

Audible

Amazon

Now for the Giveaway! Franz Ross is offering up 3 (three!) copies of the audiobook Our Future Good. You need to have an Audible.com (USA) account. For a quick, easy entry in to the giveaway, leave me comment with the following: an email address, do you have an Audible USA account?, and recommend a scifi audiobook. For even more chances to win, do the rafflecopter thing.

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Interview: Selah Janel, Author of Olde School

SelahJanelAuthorPicEveryone, please clap eyes together for Selah Janel! We chat about a ton of stuff in this interview, ranging from comics (Batgirl, Sandman) to books (American Gods, Ray Bradbury), to Welcome to Night Vale, along with lots of other interesting bits. Enjoy!

What book should be made into a game (card, PC, board, etc.) and why? Is there a specific character who you would want to play in this game?

First, thanks so much for having me on! I’m an unabashed geek, so there are a lot of books I’d love to see branch out into some sort of interactive play. I really love Neil Gaiman’s work, so I’d have to say that I’d be all for some sort of American Gods or Sandman game. Both of those worlds are so rich in settings, characters, story, and mythology, so you could do a lot with any type of game experience. You could even have different players actively working against each other with either title, so that would be a lot of fun. I’d totally be down to play Death or Delirium in Sandman!

Ray Bradbury is also probably my favorite author, and I have an unhealthy love of carnival-themed stories, so I would absolutely love to spend all evening playing any kind of version of Something Wicked This Way Comes. It would be so cool to play as Jim or Will and go around exploring the carnival, then seeing the town come undone and having to figure out the reason for it, then face down characters like the dust witch, Mr. Cooger, and Mr. Dark.

And honestly, I’d love to eventually see Olde School get that kind of treatment. Kingdom City and The Land in general is a huge area with a lot of great characters and places to explore. I’d love to see people playing their way through the city and Thadd Forest, dealing with characters like Nobody and Addlebaum, and facing off against the Olde Ones. There could be so many fun possibilities there!

JanelOldeSchoolWith the modern popularity to ebooks, a book is no longer limited to a specific genre shelf. It is now quite easy to label place an ebook in multiple genres (i.e. YA, Fantasy, Horror). How do you see this affecting readers? Have you been inadvertently lured outside your reading comfort zone?

I tend to read a little bit of everything, and I like perusing the new section of my library and grabbing titles with no prior knowledge, so I don’t know that I’ve been lured outside my comfort zone without expecting it to happen. I like discovering different work, and even if it makes me feel uncomfortable, I’ve discovered a lot of great titles by being open. So I suppose if classifying a work in different genres helps people who may not go looking for something discover that they like more than what they assume, then it’s definitely a good thing. Anymore, as cross-genre titles become more popular, it’s almost impossible to distinguish a title by one genre, anyway. The genre labeling helps bookstores and marketing, sure, but at the end of the day, I think most books tend to be more than one classification. Sure, there are people who only go after certain genres: horror, paranormal romance, etc., but even those two examples encompass a lot of subgenres.

My book, Olde School, is a good example. It looks like a fantasy book, and it encompasses a lot of those creatures and plot elements. It also has a lot of folklore and fairy components, but lends itself to urban fantasy because of its modernized setting and the fact that there are paranormal/Lovecraft-type horror elements coming into it from another realm. On a shelf it would probably be found under fantasy, but I’ve had all sorts of people get into it and enjoy it – some of whom made it a point to mention that they never read fantasy, but really enjoyed this title!

In that way, I think marketing to different genre shelves definitely helps authors, but it also helps readers expand their horizons and find titles that they might have overlooked. It’s the equivalent of me wandering through the library grabbing whatever’s interesting. If I hadn’t picked up Gil’s All Fright Diner by A. Lee Martinez, I may have just thought it was some goofy title playing on the horror genre and not the really clever book and well-written story it is. If I’d walked past This is Gonna Hurt by Nikki Sixx, I’d have assumed it was yet another rock star bio and not a really incredible photography book combined with musings about living a creative life and not judging people (plus I’d have missed out on a book that probably changed my creative life). It all goes back to not judging a book by the cover, and if the various genre filing does that for a reader, then I’m all for it!

JanelMoonerWhat reboots (or retellings) of classics have you enjoyed? Are there ones that haven’t worked for you?

I’m really (really, really, really) into fairy tales and folklore of all types, as well as myths from all areas of the world, so I can definitely get behind a well-written retelling or a story that uses the characters, settings, or arcs to make them new. The Tenth Kingdom miniseries came at a time when I was starting my twenties and had gotten away from a lot of genre fiction because I was a freshman in college and studying theatre. Although I’d been brought up with various versions of fairy tales, it seemed that only the Disney versions made it into popular culture, so to see something closer to the Grimm versions used in such unique ways blew my mind. I loved the way the story incorporated the “real” world and original characters, and utilized a lot of themes as well as just having the fairy tale characters show up. Diane Wiest is so amazing in that, as is Ed O’Neil. The humor is fantastic, and I love that it doesn’t shy away from slightly bawdy themes and some really dark territory. I really don’t think Olde School would have gotten written if it hadn’t been for that influence – it made me think years later of what was possible and just go for broke, giving me permission to do my own slant on old themes.

As a kid, I also grew up with Jim Henson’s The Storyteller. Those episodes were just mind-boggling and seemed so real. I was mesmerized…and terrified. A local library happened to have the novelization of those stories, and I checked it out so often that I’ve probably still got some of them memorized. I always found it a shame that his fantasy work always gained more of a cult following, because things like that series are exquisite – just perfection, and really show what you can do with puppets, great acting, and fantastic stories.

A few years ago I stumbled upon My Father He Killed Me, My Mother She Ate Me, which is an anthology of fairy tale retellings. Like any anthology, I gravitated to some stories more than others, but The Color Master by Aimee Bender…to this day I am in awe and incredibly jealous of this story. I love any version of Allerleirauh I can find, and to have it told from the perspective of a craftsperson really spoke to me since I sew and design costumes in my daily life. The emotion in the tale brought me to my knees, and the descriptions of making the three dresses really spoke to me. It was such an unusual take on the story and it’s done so well.

Obviously I’m really into Sandman – that series never ceases to make me feel on a visceral level and give me something to think about. American Gods, too – that’s one of the few books where I really didn’t see a lot of the reveals coming. You can really tell that Neil Gaiman knows what he’s talking about. He doesn’t necessarily cram anything down a reader’s throat but uses the revamped characters and themes in some subtle ways. I still catch things when I go back and reread both titles.

As far as ones that haven’t worked for me…I honestly don’t get into movie revamps that purposefully take fairy tales and make them “dark.” This doesn’t make sense at all to me…they’re already dark, it’s just that we’ve sanitized them so much in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. Just go back and tell older versions of the story and tell them well! You don’t need to work so hard throwing in twenty action sequences and over the top love triangles and things that just don’t fit. I get the fixation, I get wanting to modernize things, but I can’t help but think that there are better ways. I really wish that instead of taking the same five or ten stories and continually showing the “true” version or cramming them into some new subgenre, people would take a look at a lot of the international versions of the stories and work with them. I mean there are over three hundred known Cinderella stories and we regularly use maybe three. That’s a shame, especially when some of them have some great elements like the heroine leaving home to find her own way or man–eating trolls.

JanelInTheRedWhat is your favorite fictional holiday (from books, movies, or tv)?

Speaking of Jim Henson…and probably showing more of my inner workings than is healthy….Refrigerator Day, from the TV series Dinosaurs. I would totally be all about celebrating the glory of the fridge.

JanelHollyAndIvyIf you could sit down and have tea (or a beer) with 5 fictional characters, who would you invite to the table?

Oh, man! Questions like this always get me! I always have to fight the instinct to put a bunch of people together that might become a powder keg, just to see what would happen. Definitely Jareth, the Goblin King, from Labyrinth. I’ve always really been intrigued by that character since you really don’t know a lot about him other than his role (that he seems bored by), and if you believe his interpretation of things in the end scenes, that may be a front because it’s how Sarah expects to see him. Barbara Gordon/Batgirl would be one that I’d definitely want to talk to, but only in her pre-new 52 version. I found her transformation into Oracle so emotional and inspiring, and it did wonders for her characterization in the comics. I really hate that all that got reverted. Salem the cat from Sabrina the Teenage Witch because I am that big of a geek and a cat person and I cannot help but think that it would be hilarious. Cecil from Welcome to Night Vale because I just want to know everything that goes on in that town and he’s probably the best one to get the dirt from. And I’m sure Clyde from Olde School would make me invite him to keep the peace – he’s annoying like that. He was once a magical/possibly evil entity, and now is stuck as a non-magical songbird with a deep, sexy voice who helps the lead character in my book as long as it means he gets unlimited access to red wine and cable television. He wouldn’t want to be left out…plus he’d probably give Salem a run for his money.

Man, only five? I guess I’d have to save the invites to Eowyn, Aslan, Meg Murry from Madeline L’Engle’s books, The Endless from Sandman, Tamora from Titus Andronicus, Loki, Skinner Sweet from American Vampire, The Faceless Old Woman Who Secretly Lives in your Home from Welcome to Night Vale, and half of the standard fairy tale characters for the Christmas party……..Come on. You know that would be amazing!

JanelTheOtherManCare to share an awkward fangirl/fanboy moment, either one where someone was gushing over your work…..or one where you were gushing over another author’s work?

I feel like this happens on a day to day basis for me. I tend to talk prolifically about anything I’m really enjoying, be it a band, movie, book, whatever. I know it gets obnoxious and although I try to dampen that down, I do get really passionate about what I’m into at times. I’m also still not used to people coming to conventions to see me or coming up to me to talk about my books, so I have to really stop myself from going “Me? Really?” and looking around in confusion.

Probably the best example of me overreacting isn’t actually me gushing to anyone, but an incident that happened a handful of years ago. I was in the middle of just a lot of different things going on and I’d recently lost a family member, so I was a ball of tension anyway. I love going to the library and I had found a book of source material written by Ray Bradbury around the same concept of Fahrenheit 451 that either didn’t make it into the book or were written before or after, etc. I didn’t realize until I’d gotten home that it was a limited edition…a signed limited edition.

The thing about me is I’m a huge lover of Ray Bradbury. His work really encouraged me to keep writing, and I could speak about his influence forever. He’s one that I keep slowly going through the list of his works, debating whether to read it all or leave some go, so there’s always something to look forward to. And having that book in my hands that I happened to check out, knowing that it wasn’t available anymore and at the time I didn’t have the money to spend on it, anyway….
….this is so embarrassing, but I lost my ever-loving mind.

There’s a story he wrote in Dandelion Wine called The Happiness Machine, and it involves a husband trying to make his family happy by building a machine that would show them all these different things that they didn’t happen to have. The wife comes out of the machine sobbing and says something to the effect that they were things she didn’t even know she wanted, and now she knew she’d never get them. That’s about what it was like for me, to hold that thing in my hands, running a finger over the signature, knowing I’d love reading it, knowing I’d get attached to it, knowing I had to give it back…

Yeah, definite meltdown. My mother happened by and actually thought someone else had died or some other tragedy had happened until I calmed down enough to explain. After realizing that she’d given birth to a crazy person, we actually sat down and tried to find a way around the situation, but by then most of that edition had been bought up.

A lot of my friends suggested a lot of ways around the library process, but I couldn’t in good conscience do anything with a book that advocated literacy and shared knowledge, so I actually had my mother take it back so I wouldn’t be tempted. I never read a single part of that book because the thought of having it but not having it just tore me apart.

In hindsight, a lot of it was probably me expressing a lot of grief and frustration at the things that were going on, but man that was a huge catalyst that actually got me to express a lot of that emotion. I was also fortunate enough that a dear friend of mine found a signed copy of Dandelion Wine (my favorite Bradbury book) and sent it my way to ease the ache. I’ve never forgotten the gesture and it helped to reorient my headspace at the time. Still, I will admit that I’ve never tried to check that book out again.

JanelLostInShadowsWhat is a recurring or the most memorable geeky argument or debate you have taken part in?

I feel like this happens once a week, so it’s really hard to choose or remember a specific incident. I get involved in the Marvel vs. DC debate a lot, and I end up getting way more detailed in any Batman discussion than I probably should. People tend to rope me into a lot of discussions about fantasy or fairy tales. Sometimes I’ll play devil’s advocate about titles I’m not really into or things I love but don’t think need endless sequels, just to make sure everyone keeps an open mind. Lately, since I’ve become a regular listener of Welcome to Night Vale, the most recent geektacular discussion involves deciding out of my friends and family, who would be a resident of Night Vale and who would belong in Desert Bluffs. I got talked into moderating a fanfiction panel at a writing convention a few weeks ago. Whatever your feelings on it (and I have many different ones), as I’ve gotten older I’ve developed this secret theory that fanfic is the new oral tradition and a lot of the “new” archetypes specific to it are downright Jungian, but for slightly different reasons and goals. I’ve had a lot of moments lately traumatizing people with that more intellectual take on fandom. It’s always something – if I can inject people’s daily lives with a little bit of geekiness and get them to appreciate all the fun stuff out there, then I’ve done my job,

HartnessLeverettBigBadFinally, what upcoming events and works would you like to share with the readers?

Most of my upcoming stuff is still in the development stage at the moment – I’m finishing up some standalone manuscripts to shop, working on a few proposals, and plotting out the next Kingdom City book. I’m discussing a few other projects, including an issue of Tales of Indiscretion dedicated to my short fiction, but as of yet I don’t have any official dates on anything. I’m hoping to make an appearance in the Columbus, Ohio area on October 25, but that’s still being finalized and I’m still working on my 2015 schedule, as well.

I will have a story in The Big Bad 2 anthology, which focuses on characters traditionally seen as “evil” getting the spotlight. “A Family Affair” will be a prequel to my vampire story “Real Wild Childe” in the first Big Bad anthology, and deals with cold war era vampires and a fairly interesting housewife.

There’s a lot to discover on my blog, though! After a short break I’m trying to get back to regular posting, and a full list of my available releases, as well as magazines and anthologies I’m in is there. There’s also a full page of different Kingdom City fun, including little shorts featuring Clyde the bird. The main link is http://www.selahjanel.wordpress.com and the rest can be found by clicking at the subheadings. I always welcome people to message me on my FB author page or tweet me or leave a comment on the blog. I love hearing what people have to say!

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Interview: Gabi Stevens, Author of The Wish List

StevensTheWishListEveryone, please welcome Gabi Stevens to the blog today. She is the author of the Time of Transition series. She also writes under the name Gabi Anderson (Destiny Coin series) and G. S. Anderson (Preternatural). Today we discuss Harry Potter and Cinderella, Star Wars I and backstory, game shows, reboots versus retellings, and plenty more!

Who are your non-writer influences?

Dare I be cliché and say my family? Okay, now that that’s behind us . . . I have to thank the teachers in my life who taught me how to think and dream, especially in high school. I went to boarding school and not only did those teachers see us in the classroom, but they also lived with us on campus. We ate meals with them, I babysat their children, etc. They introduced me to Sci Fi and Fantasy novels.

StevensAsYouWishWhich ancient or historical works have you not read and periodically kick yourself for not having made time for them yet?

Ooo, confession time. I haven’t read Dickens. I know. Shocking. But I will, one day. I’ve really never read Hemmingway, but I know the plots, and I just don’t want to. Okay, I have read The Old Man and the Sea, but none of the others. Steinbeck is another author I’ve never read. I tried to read The Red Pony once, but, well, no. I only kick myself for the Dickens. I haven’t read all of The Canterbury Tales or any of Beowulf, but I can claim to have read part of The Aeneid in Latin, as well as some Livy, Tacitus, and Palutus’s Menaechmi. And I can claim Faust, parts one and two in German. (Too much bragging?)

What reboots (or retellings) of classics have you enjoyed? Are there ones that haven’t worked for you?

If you subscribe to the Joseph Campbell school of thought, there is only one story, so essentially every story is a reboot. That said, I loved Harry Potter (books more than movies, although I loved the movies too), which is essentially Cinderella. I myself have written a couple of Beauty and the Beast stories (one of my favorites). If you can’t tell, I love fairy tales (must be my German Lit background). I enjoy most of the new retellings of them–although no one has ever tackled my favorite, King Thrushbeard (or Grislybeard, as some have translated it, although the point of Thrushbeard is that the king’s beard looks like the beak of a bird).

StevensWishfulThinkingI’m not as fond of reboots. If it was good before, why remake it? Psycho? Really? And not enough time has passed to reboot some of the series (Could be that I’m just old). Dare I confess I haven’t seen the new Spiderman reboots? Planet of the Apes? Mad Max, ignoring the modern incarnation of Mel Gibson, is pretty awesome already. So what if it’s dated. That’s part of its charm. And clearly, the new one is not out yet, but did we really need a new one? There are so many untouched stories out there, why remake something that’s already been done and done well? But of course there are exceptions. I can’t wait for a good Hulk movie. And (I know this is controversial) I do like the reboot of Star Trek (but I loved the old series). But if they have to reboot, why not pick the really old stuff, like the Thin Man series. But my favorite is the reboot of Sherlock Holmes in the BBC’s Sherlock (huge fan of this reboot).

There is this rumor that you have been on a few game shows – an experience worth repeating? What would your favorite characters from your own writing be like on a game show?

I have indeed. I was on the Family Feud with the women in my family when Richard Dawson was the host. We won twice then lost the third time, but only won the “Big Money” once. So many tales to tell from that experience, especially since two of our members had heavy Hungarian accents.

Then I appeared on Sale of the Century, and lost it in a tiebreaker because they said tiebreakers would be hard questions– it was easy, and by the time I thought, “But that’s easy,” the other guy had answered.

AndersonTemptation'sWarriorBut my favorite was on Jeopardy, where I came in third, but won the best set of pots and pans ever. No, seriously, they will be handed down to my children, the quality is that good. And I was doing great until Final Jeopardy. To myself I was chanting, “Don’t be US presidents, don’t be US Presidents”, and up pops the category: US Presidents. Man, the day before (because you watch several tapings while you wait) no one got the Final Jeopardy question right (What does Alice cross in “Through the Looking Glass?), and I was sitting in the audience screaming to myself because I knew it. My question: The last surviving president to have signed the US Constitution. Really?

So if my characters would be on game shows my characters, Tennyson Ritter, hero of THE WISH LIST, would do awesome on something like Jeopardy, but horrible on something like Family Feud. He’s got brains, but he just doesn’t have the exposure to the real world to answer questions about how other people would answer. Jonathan Bastion, hero of AS YOU WISH, is too savvy a businessman not to know how people respond to things, so Family Feud would be his game. And Hyacinth, one of the Fairy Godmothers who appear in the entire trilogy, couldn’t be bothered to do something like a game show. She would probably watch them and mock the contestants that appeared on them.

What is your favorite fictional holiday (from books, movies, or tv)?

Talk Like a Pirate Day (September 19th) is my favorite, closely followed by May the Fourth (Star Wars day!).

AndersonFalconAndWolfHow did you celebrate that first time experience of having a piece accepted for publication?

That was fun. I bought my daughters little tokens—one got a Pocket Dragon (porcelain figurine) reading a book, one got items for her Josefina doll, and I just can’t remember what I got the youngest. I bought my husband a ping pong table, which has since gone the way of the dinosaur. For myself, I bought a tiny Swarovski crystal inkwell with gold quill. When I got the call my husband was in the air, flying to Britain, so I had to leave a message at his hotel to call me as soon as he arrived with the words, “Good news” so he wouldn’t panic upon arrival. My two oldest daughters jumped up and down, and my youngest just looked up at me and said, “Chocolate milk.” Way to bring me down to reality quickly, but she was only four.

If you could sit down and have dinner with 5 dead authors, who would you invite to the table? What would they order?

Mark Twain, Isaac Asimov, Edgar Allan Poe, L. Frank Baum, and Agatha Christie. But I would order for them–tacos, enchiladas, burritos, chips and salsa, margaritas, green chile, and sopapillas. They need to be exposed to the food from where I’m from. Especially the margaritas. Can you imagine the conversation we could have after a couple?

AndersonEverYoursIf you were asked to create the syllabus for a college class in SFF literature, what books would be on there as required reading? As passing discussion?

How about for your 8th grade students?

I already did give my eighth graders SFF literature. Not only did we read a bunch of short stories—Bradbury’s “A Sound of Thunder,” “There Will Come Soft Rains”; Asimov’s Nightfall; Stephen Vincent Benet’s By the Waters of Babylon; but we also read the entire I, Robot by Isaac Asimov.

As for college, here is my list of must reads: Stranger in a Strange Land, The Stars My Destination, A Canticle for Leibowitz, The Martian Chronicles, The Foundation Series, The Lord of the Rings, Doomsday Book, Lord Foul’s Bane,…I know I’ve forgotten a ton.

Care to share an awkward fangirl/fanboy moment, either one where someone was gushing over your work…..or one where you were gushing over another author’s work?

When isn’t such a moment awkward? When I’m the one doing the gushing, I figure I’m bothering the author. I had a chance to meet Brent Weeks last year and his wife and their little girl and all I could talk about was child rearing. And when someone gushes to me, I always wonder why? I’m not that good (did you know that most writers are terribly insecure).

AndersonPreternaturalWhat is a recurring or the most memorable geeky argument or debate you have taken part in?

When my husband and I watched Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace, we spent two hours discussing the movie at the end. We are both huge Star Wars fans (the original series, and Han shot first) and we didn’t like it. What it boiled down to for me was it was all backstory. As a writer you’re taught not to dump backstory on the reader. Yes, you give hints to what happened in the past, but unless it’s relevant, you don’t need backstory. SW I, II, and III are all backstory. I didn’t need to know why Anakin turned bad. I already knew he had and that he was redeemed. Funny, considering I usually like spoilers, but the difference between spoilers and backstory is huge.

Finally, what upcoming events and works would you like to share with the readers?

I am currently working on shopping around my first pure fantasy novel. I’ll keep you posted. In addition, I’ve got a story collection, Preternatural, on Kindle and Nook under the name GS Anderson, which is receiving some great reviews (Phew). Look for me and news about me at my web site: www.GabiStevens.com. You can also find me at Facebook, Twitter, and Tumblr.

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Interview: David Lee Summers, Author of Lightning Wolves

SummersLightningWolvesFolks, please welcome David Lee Summers to the blog once again. He’s previously gifted me with a bit of his time in this other interview. Today we chat about fairy tales, Star Wars, Cherie Priest’s works, awkward fan moments, and question over the correct use of the term ‘parsec’. I had quite a bit of fun in reading through David’s answers and I expect you’ll be as entertained as I am.

Myths and beliefs that we would consider fiction or fantasy in modern literature once upon a time shaped history (think of all the hunts for unicorns & dragons). Do you see modern fantasy fiction affecting human cultures today and how?

One of my favorite poetry collections is Jean Hull Herman‘s Jerry Springer as Bulfinch or Mythology Modernized. Throughout her collection, Ms. Herman recounts stories of Greek myth and recounts similar episodes from the Jerry Springer Show. It all goes to show that we not only project our hopes and aspirations into our myths, we also reflect who we are as human beings on our myths and sometimes we don’t always come off in the best light.

No matter what genre a writer tackles, they’re going to react to those things around them. Now a science fiction writer might either add some wish fulfillment and create the world she hopes will come about, or she might create the world she fears. The same is true for fantasy. We’ll raise up our better selves in the form of heroes and noble creatures while also dashing ourselves through villains and monsters. In answer to your question, I think modern fantasy fiction simply gives us a lens by which to view the modern world and attempt to make the best choices as human beings. A century from now, people will look at our fantasy in much the same way as we look at Grimm’s Fairy Tales, as a window into past times.

HowellSummersKeplersDozenGiven the opportunity, what fantastical beast of fiction would you like to encounter in the wild? Which would you avoid at all costs?

The fantastical beasts of fiction I would most like to encounter would be any Maurice Sendak‘s wild things of Where the Wild Things Are. They look vicious, but really, all they want to do is play and I could be their king by simply being fierce at them.

Although I love dragons and gryphons and would love to see one from a safe distance, I’d probably also want to avoid them at all costs because I’m not sure there would be a safe distance.

What book should be made into a game (card, PC, board, etc.) and why? Is there a specific character who you would want to play in this game?

I would love to see a PC game based on Cherie Priest‘s Clockwork Century novels. It would be fun to see a lot of the different locations and situations visualized. It could be done as a quest game with different objectives. I’d love to campaign through her alternate Seattle underground, or aboard the speeding train of Dreadnaught, or through the streets and swamps of her steampunked New Orleans from Ganymede. For my part, I would like to play the part of airship pirate captain Andan Cly, but there are plenty of great characters that a player could choose to be in this world.

SummersOwlDanceWhat nonfiction works have you found useful in building fictional worlds, cultures, and plots?

One of the go-to books in my personal library is The Atlas of Past Times. It was a book I found on remainder on a shelf outside a bookstore, but I find it a great quick reference when I’m checking where boundaries were at a given point in history or who was in charge of what, which can then point me to other historical reference materials. This is very useful if I’m working on a historical story, alternate or otherwise. It also reminds me about how fast boundaries have changed in human history.

In general, I think the most useful books for building cultures are collections of folk tales. I’ve used Grimm’s Fairy Tales, American Indian Myths and Legends by Erdoes and Ortiz, and Vampire in Europe by Montague Summers. There are also a lot of good projects where people have collected folktales on the web. These tell you a lot about people’s hopes and fears, their morality, and their taboos. Reading folk tales along with books from other times and places can open your mind and help you consider what future or fantastic cultures might be like.

NASA has many great online resources not only for their discoveries, but the spacecraft and vehicles that made them. This can be helpful when you’re thinking about how vehicles work in space. Plus, they often give you references for places to look for more information.

The way I approach any story at the beginning is to think about what building blocks I need for the story. Will I need to know about a certain region of the world? Do I want to build a culture that’s analogous to a culture that has existed? Sometimes I have books that will help answer those questions in my library. If not, I’ll go to the online card catalog for the local library and see what kinds of books they have on those subjects.

SummersTheSlayersWhich ancient or historical works have you not read and periodically kick yourself for not having made time for them yet?

Paradise Lost by John Milton is one I’ve always wanted to sit down and work my way through because it inspired so much of the modern lore about angels and demons—things people think are Biblical but aren’t. I’d also love to read the Iliad and the Odyssey all the way through. I’ve read large chunks of the latter, but it’s been a long time. On a somewhat lighter note, I’ve been looking for a good translation of Jules Verne‘s ‘Round the Moon, the sequel to From the Earth to the Moon. Verne ends the first book on a cliffhanger, with his crew going to the moon, but we don’t find out what happens until the second book and I haven’t tracked down a copy yet!

From your own writings, are there any characters you would like to cosplay? Have others dressed up as characters from your books?

In fact the outfit I often wear to steampunk events is inspired by the clothes I describe for the inventor, Professor Maravilla in Owl Dance and Lightning Wolves. It’s a cravat, brightly colored waistcoat, and tailcoat. The bounty hunter, Larissa Crimson, was created by my daughter as her steampunk persona for events. As it turns out, she appears as Larissa on the cover of Lightning Wolves.

So far, I haven’t encountered anyone outside my family dressed up as a character from my books, but I’d be absolutely delighted if they did. They’d get a free book and I’d have to take a picture with them!

SummersSolarSeaIf you could sit down and have dinner with 5 dead authors, who would you invite to the table? What would they order?

I would start with Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley. After all, she pretty much invented both modern science fiction and horror with Frankenstein. Next would be Arthur Conan Doyle. It would be great to meet the man behind Sherlock Holmes and see if I could get him to recount stories of some of his famous hoaxes. Another British author of the period who would be fun to have at this table would be D.H. Lawrence, to discuss both poetry and his perspective on northern New Mexico at the time my grandparents were doing their best to make a life there. Leigh Brackett would have to be on the list for both her role in early pulp science fiction, but for a Hollywood writing career that ranged from working with Humphrey Bogart in The Big Sleep, to John Wayne in Rio Bravo, and finishing with the screenplay for The Empire Strikes Back. With Leigh Brackett there, I would have to invite Ray Bradbury. Even though I got to meet him before he died, there are so many more things we could talk about and discuss now than when I met him in the early days of my career.

Who knows what they would order if left to their own devices, but with three people from England and two of them from the late Victorian period, I’d be inclined to invite them over to a sumptuous holiday meal of turkey and all the trimmings. If I were preparing it, it would be a smoked turkey with mole sauce on the side. I’d make sure there was plenty of wine and beer available. The one time I was with Ray Bradbury that he ordered something, it was a Heineken.

SummersDragon'sFallIf you were asked to create the syllabus for a college class in SFF literature, what books would be on there as required reading? As passing discussion?

The hard part of this question is that a college semester is only going to have limited time and you can’t read all the greatest, best, or the most influential works. My inclination would be to use Frankenstein to discuss science fiction’s beginning as cautionary, morality tale. I would move on to Jules Verne’s From the Earth to the Moon to discuss the rise of science fiction as an optimistic genre. Starship Troopers would probably serve as classic military, hero-driven science fiction and as a jumping off point for the role of politics in science fiction. Dune would probably come next to show a continuation of the heroic saga, but subverted by the sensitivity of ecology and drug culture at the time it was produced. The Stars My Destination by Alfred Bester would probably come in there, too, to show how heroic science fiction could be completely subverted, allowing for the rise of cyberpunk and other genres. A novel like Paolo Bacigalupi‘s The Windup Girl would serve to show the return to science fiction as cautionary tale, the introduction of steampunk and a jumping off place for a discussion of the future.

Lots of other books would certainly be mentioned, if not substituted for these. Certainly Ray Bradbury’s novels and stories would be discussed. Lois McMaster Bujold and the Miles Vorsagian novels would be good examples of character and plot almost becoming primary to any particular science fictional element. The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy could come in as part of a discussion on the role of humor in science fiction. So many books so little time!

SummersRevolutionOfAirAndRustCare to share an awkward fangirl/fanboy moment, either one where someone was gushing over your work…..or one where you were gushing over another author’s work?

It was more cool than awkward, but last year at Phoenix Comicon, a fellow bought a copy of Revolution of Air and Rust. He was nice enough, but said he’d read it over and let me know what he thought. The next day, he came back to the table with one of his friends and he immediately bought Owl Dance and told his friend, he absolutely had to buy Revolution of Air and Rust. “That’s one of the best things I’ve read.” That just made my day.

As for awkward fanboy moments on my part, I went to see Star Trek: The Wrath of Khan on the day of release with friends of mine from across town. We were all in high school at the time. They introduced me to their friend Jan Bixby. We were having a great time in line talking Star Trek, science fiction, and generally geeking out when an older man built like a bantam rooster with hair that looked like it put combs in their place walked up and had a few words with Jan. One of my friends pulled him aside and introduced me to him. “This is Jan’s dad, Jerome.” I shook his hand, then said something like “Pleased to meet you, sir”, then he went on his way. A beat or two later, I put it together. Jan Bixby’s dad was Jerome Bixby, the author of such original Star Trek episodes as “Mirror, Mirror” and “Requiem for Methuselah” plus the great, great horror story “It’s a Good Life” which was made into a Twilight Zone episode starring Billy Mumy. I think I was speechless and muttering incoherent syllables for a while afterward. One of my friends had to point out in typical high school fashion, “Yeah, but he’s just Jan’s dad.”

SummersSpaceHorrorsWhat is a recurring or the most memorable geeky argument or debate you have taken part in?

One argument that seems to crop up from time to time is whether or not soft science fiction has any value influencing scientists. For example, someone might point to the infamous line from Star Wars where Han Solo says the Millennium Falcon “made the Kessel Run in less than 12 parsecs.” In the context of the movie, it’s clear he’s referring to parsecs as a unit of time, when in fact, they’re a distance that was initially based on the size of an arcsecond of angle on the sky. The claim is often made that not only is this bad science, it’s going to lead kids away from the sciences and we’re going to raise a generation of idiots. Therefore, this kind of terrible science needs to be eliminated from science fiction at all costs.

However, most astronomers I’ve known have gone into science precisely because soft science fiction got them thinking about the adventure of space at an early age. Carl Sagan famously fell in love with Mars because of Edgar Rice Burroughs, who got almost everything wrong about Mars. I’ve known generations of scientists who got interested in science because of both Star Wars and Star Trek. In my case, I remember hearing Han Solo’s line from Star Wars and wondering what a parsec was. Was it anything real? When I looked it up, I found out they got it wrong. So what? I still loved the adventure of Star Wars, but I have to admit, I felt a little bit superior to the writers of Episode IV. A whole new world opened up to me and I started looking up even more stuff.

So my side of the argument usually runs something like this: Science fiction influences scientists not because it’s right but because it’s fun. Sure as writers, we should do our best to get it right, but it’s the fun that makes people care. I’ve yet to meet anyone who stopped having an interest in science because George Lucas didn’t know what a parsec was.

Places to Find David Lee Summers

Hadrosaur Productions

Tales of the Talisman

David Lee Summers: Wrong Turn on the Information Superhighway

David Lee Summers’ Web Journal

Goodreads

Amazon

Facebook

Twitter

Interview: Mari Adkins, Author of Midnight

AdkinsMidnightHello everyone, please welcome Mari Adkins. She’s launching her book, Midnight, today! And she had time to swing by here and chat about the usefulness of Google maps, Buck Rogers, bloodlines, and Harlan County. You can check more about her book at Apex Publications.

1. What fictional world would you like to visit for the holidays? Is there a fictional holiday that you would like to take part in?

People are probably sick to death of me going on and on about Cornwall, brown betty teapots, and Penelope. But if I could go anywhere, I’d like to spend time inside Rosamunde Pilcher‘s The Shell Seekers. It would make me insanely happy to visit Penelope at Podmore’s Thatch and have lunch and afternoon tea. I would think around the middle of April would be perfect. The flowers and trees in her gardens would be sprouting and blooming. The vegetable garden would have been turned and seasonally planted. Everything would be homey, especially with the singing birds and laundry on the clothesline. And of course, inside, her father’s painting would still be hanging on the wall.

2. Reality in my fiction: how important is it? Lengthy travel, cussing, and bathroom breaks happen in real life. How do you address these mundane occurrences in your writings?

Reality in my fiction is just as important as the paranormal along with everything else. My Harlan County is, of course, based on a real place.

It’s a three hour road trip from Loyall, Kentucky, to Lexington. Likewise, it takes forty-five minutes to get from Loyall to Middlesborough, which is more or less halfway to Knoxville, Tennessee. So yes, getting places takes time. With Sami’s stories, she usually went to sleep, unless she was driving; then, I’d make note of the length of the drive, insert a discussion (if any), and have the characters listen to music and/or check out the scenery and/or think Really Deep Thoughts.

I don’t know about my characters, but personally, I require a pit stop at the Happy Mart in Pineville on the way to Lexington, followed by another at Renfro Valley Shell; reverse that for the trip from Lexington. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve sometimes had to add a stop, each way, in Corbin.

There’s plenty of cussing in Midnight. I tried to tame a lot of them, but Sami is fond of her many f-bombs. I’ve tried to use a bit more creativity in the teenagers I’m writing now. Teens are going to swear; it’s as much part of finding their identities as the clothes they wear and the music they listen to. Sometimes saying, “charlie foxtrot”, “cuss panties”, or “my hind foot” don’t and can’t convey how someone truly feels in a given moment.

My characters end up in showers, baths, and looking in the mirror a lot. It’s not uncommon or strange for them to end up doing these things together. Females tend to get their periods right on schedule without any comment. But if it comes as a “bad time”, the reader hears about it, plenty.

SizemoreAinsworthAegriSomnia3. More and more we see fiction being multimedia – a book, a TV show, a PC game, a graphic novel. How do you see the publishing industry evolving to handle this trend? Any cross over pieces (TV to book, book to PC, etc.) that you have enjoyed?

I reserve comment on how I feel publishing should be handling such changes. I can say I can’t see them as trends; I definitely see them as change. Having said that, I’m a big fan of The Walking Dead and Justified. While I haven’t read the TWD graphic novels, I have read the short “Fire in the Hole” that the pilot for Justified was based on.

4. What nonfiction works have you found useful in building fictional worlds, cultures, and plots?

As I’ve mentioned, Harlan County, Kentucky, is a real place. So, in a way, a lot of my worldbuilding is already done for me. However, I’ve made use of digital and print histories, genealogies, maps, and photographs. Mostly my own photographs–with the exception of the story set in 1959, obviously. I spent 1995 to 2013 talking with Art Halcomb Sr about Harlan County. We got to the point where he’d sometimes call me with questions. The running joke in our family is that I know more about the county than some of the people who live there.

Google Maps with street view has been useful. Not much of the county is available on street view, unfortunately, but there’s just enough that if I need to know real quick what something looks like, I can click through–which is often simpler than combing through a gigabyte of pictures.

I’m also one of those writers who creates or downloads floorplans of the buildings my characters spend the most time in. If I don’t, I’m sure to write a character going through a wall instead of taking a flight of stairs, looking out a window that doesn’t exist (onto a view that doesn’t exist), or taking an elevator into oblivion.

I’ve also made use of a 1995 county telephone book so I have authentic local names. For example, I might pull a last name from one part of the county and a first name from another and use that to start building a character.

AdkinsHarlanCountyHorrors5. In writing your bad guys, do you want the reader to enjoy hating on him/her, or do you want the reader to be waiting for that magical moment when they redeem themselves?

I’m one of those writers who doesn’t write physical bad guys. Sometimes readers have difficulty comprehending the lack of a physical antagonist. Readers are conditioned to believe a boogeyman or other kind of physical threat is necessary. But neither is. Just like in real life, characters don’t have to wage physical battles to grow as individuals. My leads battle their inner selves. Sure, there’s outward conflict. But inward battles can be even more damaging and traumatic than what we might face from someone else.

6. As a young reader, unspoiled by the realities of this world, what stories and authors drove you to delusions of grandeur, expecting to be swept up into a magical tale or a laser battle?

Anything by Arthur C. Clarke or Ray Bradbury gave me this. When we studied space in second grade (way back in 1976), I fully expected to be living on the moon by 2010. I thought that would be so awesome. Space stations, lunar colonies, daytrips to Mars, and so forth. I thought this would be common. I got my laser battles from visual media–Star Wars and Buck Rodgers. I’ve always envisioned a future world made of science filled with magic, which in my opinion, aren’t mutually exclusive; they comprise a whole.

ScullyEnterAtYourOwnRisk7. Writing in the fantasy genre, how do you take the standard tropes and turn them sideways? Or even upside down?

I wanted to write a “human having a vampire problem” story. How would it be if vampirism wasn’t at all like we’ve learned from books, movies, and even common folklore? How would it be if this vampirism was genetic, passed through bloodlines?

I kept asking What if? What if? What if?

My characters are human first. The vampire certainly lies at their core, but the vampire isn’t what or who they are. They aren’t monsters. They’re people. They have jobs, go to school, have parties, visit family and friends, have babies, fall in love–and have real, human problems.

One of the characters is quite fond of telling anyone who’ll listen, “You’re a vampire. Being a vampire is pain.” And that, to me, encompasses the entire human condition.
Humans have limits. Humans can be pushed only so far before they break–figuratively and literally. Vampire genetics makes that a bit trickier. They still become ill, grow old, get hurt, be killed–anything that can happen to a “regular human” can happen to them. The vampire genetics can make all that better or worse, depending on the overall health and mindset of the person at his core.

8. How did you celebrate that first time experience of having a piece accepted for publication?

My first reaction to having something published was, “Are you serious?” I jumped up and down a bit then had a glass of wine. I love a party, but I’m not much of a party person, despite the jokes I make about holding raves. The feeling returned when I received the anthology and got to hold it in my hands. I’d sometimes go to the shelf and look at it and see if it was really there. Or I’d read the table of contents–just in case!

9. Finally, what upcoming events and works would you like to share with the readers?

Midnight, my debut novel, launches May 27th. I have a signing June 7th at the Lexington Farmers Market at The Morris Book Shop booth.

AdkinsMidnightSynopsis of Midnight:

Samantha Clark has always known she was different. Growing up feeling unwanted and unloved, she escaped a bad childhood by going to college. There she quickly fell into an unhealthy relationship in an attempt to form a connection with another person, to be needed and loved in a way she had always craved. When the abuse becomes life-threatening, Sami is on the run again, turning to a college-friend for help. What she finds is not only a place to crash while she tries to make a plan for the future, but acceptance, friendship, and a new hope of ‘family’.

Set in rural Kentucky in 1985, Midnight is the inward journey of Sami’s self-loathing, self-reflection, and eventual self-acceptance. Through the love of her friends and the mysterious Michael, Sami not only heals from the scars given earlier in life, she finds her personal strength.

Places to Stalk Mari Adkins

Website

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Around the Sphere June 2013

Once again, I am here to bring you some entertainment in the form of the odd, silly, questionable, and perhaps, even, rude.

i09 has this great little article, 10 Great Books You Didn’t Know Were Science Fiction or Fantasy. I have two books on this list: Beloved by Toni Morrison and Invisible Cities by Italo Calvino. Several others look weird and warped and I think I would need to be in a stable mindset to give them a go. I know Invisible Cities was one of the oddest books I have ever read.

If you haven’t heard about Saladin Ahmed and his first novel, Throne of the Crescent Moon, then here is another great interview from the folks of Sword & Laser. It’s about 30 minutes long, but worth the time.

Over at Academic Earth, they have this cool little video summarizing Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury. It’s one those videos with hand drawings that illustrate the narrator’s words. I find these types of videos charming.

Last month, I included a video by Peter Hollens. Well, Carl from Stainless Steel Droppings left a comment pointing me to his Skyrim Theme video, which is great. I haven’t actually played Skyrim, but this theme music makes me want to spend some quality time with the Xbox adventuring through Skyrim.

Peter Hollens also does some cosplay videos with Lindsey Stirling that you might want to check out.Here is her video of violin music for Assassin’s Creed III, which I haven’t played either, but my man assures me is quite fun.

Dandelion Wine by Ray Bradbury

Heldig hoovering, hoping for a) dinner, b) attention, c) dinner.
Heldig hoovering, hoping for a) dinner, b) attention, c) dinner.

Why I Read It: I’m participating in Little Red Reviewer’s Vintage Scifi Month, and this fit.

Where I Got It: The Library.

Who I Recommend This To: In many regards, this is a coming of age story, and if you enjoy those, then this would probably suit you.

Narrator: Full Cast – The Colonial Radio Theatre

Publisher: Blackstone Audio (2007)

Length: 2 CDs

Dandelion Wine was first published in 1957 and is a fix-up novella of other loosely connected short stories, many of which had been previously published. However, upon listening to it, I could not tell that it was written in such a way, which shows Ray Bradbury‘s craftsmanship in sticking them all together into a single fluid story. The setting is 1928 Green Town, IL. Douglas Spaulding is a 12 year old who has the full run of his town and the magic of youth in the perfect summer. This book is divided into 2 parts. Part I is all about the wonder of running through the woods on a hot day, of the fun of collecting dandelions for senior citizens to turn into intoxicants, and of the play of pretending fireflies are more than they are. There’s also best friends, tom girls, new sneakers, listening to heroic tales from old men, and the first crush on the town’s young librarian. Part II, however, is darker and is about realizing that things change, not always for the good, and yet life still goes on.

This tale is 90% mainstream fiction, with a slight, nebulous time travel element; hence, it is classified as science fiction. I had not heard the details of this tale before and I was expecting much more science fiction, or at least Outer Limits type plot. Alas, no. The story was well written for its brevity and I enjoyed certain elements of it, such as Doug’s shy interactions with the librarian and his fascination with a new pair of sneakers. However, this work just didn’t do anything special for me. I found myself waiting for something to happen in the story, and when it finally did, the events were not resolved, but rather the story turned into a Lesson, a lesson about growing up, letting go, and moving on. I know Ray Bradbury, and probably this work in particular, holds a lot of magic for many folks. I just am not one of those folks.

The audio production and performance by The Colonial Radio Theatre was excellent. There were sound effects and various narrators to pull off the cast of characters. My only slight criticism is that at times I had to turn the sound down a bit because of the excited sound effects and then turn up the volume later to catch the conversation between two characters.

VintageScifiBadgeWhat I Liked: This book got me curious about dandelion wine; the magic of a care-free summer.

What I Disliked: The lack of a strong scifi element; story became a Lesson and stopped being a tale.

ScifiExperience2013Badge

This month I am participating in two reading events that this fits into: Little Red Reviwer’s Vintage Scifi Month and Stainless Steel Droppings’ Science Fiction Experience (which runs to the end of February). Make sure to check out both blogs for further science fiction treats from around the blogosphere.

I am also including this in the weekly Read & Review Hop hosted by On Starships and Dragonwings. Make sure to stop by her website to catch more great book reviews.

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