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.

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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?

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GIVEAWAY!!!

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Interview: Matt Costello & Neil Richards, authors of Cherringham

CostelloRichardsCherringhamMurderOnThamesFolks, I have a treat for you today. Please welcome Matt Costello and Neil Richards to the blog. They are here as part of the virtual tour for Bastei Entertainment. You can check out other stops on the tour HERE. We chat about movies, dead authors, fictional evil books that could destroy the world, and mystery writing.

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

Neil: Impossible to choose one! Movies – Stand by Me, the best coming of age movie ever, North by Northwest – Hitch’s lightest but most unpredictable, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, for what it says about love. TV – Band of Brothers for me the best series ever made. Book – What Makes Sammy Run, still one of the funniest books ever (well maybe you have to work in movies to feel like that!)

Matt: King Kong. On a black and white TV, in my Brooklyn home. Seminal, amazing, and quite possibly a film that forever altered my creative life to come.

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?

Neil: The characters have to be true – and in the case of our Cherringham series the world has to be true. They’re cozy mysteries so the cussing gets the cut – but we have to totally believe in the reality of our world to make it work.

Matt: Writing is selective. Even for dramatic events, the focus of the word, the line, the paragraph should be on creating the moment. If a visit to the bathroom is important, it should read so as well, whether it’s to be suspenseful, funny or horrific. Readers should feel the mundane under the surface without ever having to experience the tedium of reading it.

CostelloRichardsCherringhamMysteryAtManorMore 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 plans to take your works in the multimedia realm?

Neil: Matt and I both work in ‘multimedia’ writing games, interactive, TV, books, animation, etc. so it’s a world we know pretty well. We’ve written a YA novel which grew out of a location-based app and will work alongside it. And transmedia – where it’s appropriate – can open up a fictional world in intriguing ways. Cherringham feels to us like a TV series above all – we’ll wait and see…

Matt: As Neil says, we have created works with straddle the different platforms, and would love to see Cherringham do the same.

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

Neil: I’ve rediscovered Dickens in the last few years – so a year off to read them all would be great. I never read War and Peace and feel I should…

Matt: I have a pristine copy of Abdul Alhazred’s Necronomicon locked in a safe, in a crypt, just to the left of the wine cellar in my basement. The book itself, more mummified than bound, would be a daunting, even dangerous read. One of these dark and stormy nights, I fear I will be compelled to open the safe and crack those ancient pages…

CostelloRichardsCherringhamMurderByMoonlightWho are your favorite hero duos from the pages?

Neil: Sherlock and Dr Watson. Morse and Lewis.

Matt: Abbott and Costello. Oh pages…hm, Sherlock and Watson, as my esteemed colleague suggests. The game’s….afoot.

In my experience, some of the best fiction is based on facts and history. How do you build your research into your fictional works?

Neil: We don’t do it deliberately – but sometimes a news story will trigger a conversation between us and turn into the core of a new plot. Any time we’re creating an ‘institution’ (say an old people’s home, or a local fire station etc) or perhaps entering a specialized story world (a character’s love of metal detecting for instance) we’ll spend time learning the jargon and reality of that world. But too much research can slow you down – just pick what’s needed to be able to write truthfully about the specialism.

Matt: What I tend to do when I hit something that indeed must be researched (for example, the technical name of an item or part of a device or machine) is to type ‘xx’ and carry on….knowing that when the draft is done for the day, I can jump onto the net and find out exactly what this part or that particular thing is called.

CostelloRichardsCherringhamThickAsThievesIn 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?

Neil: Ah, well – the way our stories unfold the bad guy is concealed until the very ending when our heroes uncover the plot or the murderer. So we usually present them in the most generous light we can.

Matt: It can be tricky keeping our real bad guys hidden. But that is also part of the fun of these ‘cozies’…to know whodunit, and then making sure that they remain well hidden – but then…clearly so guilty at the end!

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

Neil: Hmm, Poseidon Adventure 2Taking of Pelham 123… Best not to dwell on these things. The best films make the worst remakes.

Matt: I worked on a prequel for Peter Jackson’s King Kong, and I found that film powerful, honoring the tone and power of the original. John Campbell’s classic story Who Goes There? was made into the original film The Thing, and amazingly all the reboots of that tale have worked extremely well.

CostelloRichardsCherringhamLastTrainToLondonIn 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?

Neil: I like chatting to readers, bloggers, reviewers, TV and radio people – I guess because there’s no preparation and it never feels like hard work. The constant sharing of info on social media can get time-consuming – I still feel that if I’m at my desk I should be writing not selling but I guess those days are long gone…

Matt: Gone, but not forgotten….

If you could go enjoy a meal in a fictional world, where would that be, and what would you eat?

Neil: I love train travel – and eating a meal in a proper restaurant car is one of life’s luxuries. So what better for a mystery writer than dinner with Poirot himself on the Orient Express, crossing Europe at night. Classic French cuisine of course!

Matt: Private dinner in Casino Royale, stack of chips, martini, and company for evening awaiting…

CostelloRichardsCherringhamCurseOfMabb'sFarmWhat 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?

Neil: I work in a custom-made garden office – a writing den I’ve waited a very long time for! At the start of every project I like to clear the desk. By the end I’m surrounded by piles of paper. Being digital doesn’t seem to have reduced the mess as it should have done! I don’t need to be there – in fact I wrote fifty pages on a long train journey in a crowded carriage a couple of years ago – just got ‘into the zone’ and didn’t stop. At the end I was exhilarated and the feeling didn’t go away for a couple of days.

Matt: Just an office, with bookshelves, a desk, Mac, printer, and stacks of notebooks and pads related to countless projects. But I can – and do – write anywhere, anytime.

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

Neil: I still haven’t done that. Never want to tempt fate…

Matt: Having been published a lot, for me – now — it is about the work I am in the middle of, and the work to come. Champagne can wait…

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

Neil: Dickens for story-telling. Hemingway would be fun for a while but I think we’d kick him out when he got too wild. Chandler to learn about crime writing. Dodie Smith for class. And Douglas Adams who I worked with for a few years and whose humour I miss. They’d eat what I cooked for them and be grateful – plenty of other writers on that deceased list to pick from…

Matt: Well you see, I don’t think having dinner with a dead author would be very entertaining., I mean, there they are, all moldy and decayed, sitting there, sans appetite. Plus imagine explaining to them every time you reach for your iPhone to check the latest IM!

CostelloRichardsCherringhamBodyInLakeSide characters can make or break a story. What side characters have you enjoyed in other works?

Neil: I’m reading a lot of Alan Furst at the moment. His novels take place across Europe in the late 1930’s and 40’s. His side characters interweave across the series, sometimes becoming protagonists, sometimes just flitting through the lives of other central characters. John le Carre is a master at creating fully blown side characters, often marching through their own tragedies.

What side characters in your own work have caught more attention than you expected?

Neil: A bit early to say as we’re only published a few months. But some of the regulars are becoming old friends to us.

Matt: We have gathered quite the collection of locals, bit players in our stories, who all seem quite real. I’m beginning to think I know them better that the real humans who are my neighbors in my hamlet of Katonah!

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

Neil: As well as crime I write a lot for children’s television and games. I’ll be at the Children’s Media Conference. Also Develop in Brighton – and the Forum on Financing Family movies in Erfurt Germany later this month. The last game I wrote – Broken Sword the Serpent’s Curse – is just out on most platforms. And the game company I’m a part of publish their first game Battleplan Gettysburg this month too. And Matt and I have the last three of the current series of Cherringham to write. After that, we have a much darker crime story to outline…

Matt: I’ve begun the third and final book in my Post-apocalyptic trilogy that began with 2012’s Vacation. I’m working on a major TV meets game project that I can’t talk about, and I am also working on a surreal interactive graphic novel project for Blue Rocket, based in Tasmania.

Places to Find Matt and Neil