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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Interview: Lisa Cindrich & Jay Sparks of Glynn River Press

CindrichSparksExecutablesPlease welcome Lisa Cindrich and Jay Sparks from Glynn River Press. they’re here to chat about self-promotion, villains, retelling of classics, and more. Enjoy!

Are minions/sidekicks just throwaway devices in a tale? Can they become more? Do they need to become more?

Jay: Secondary characters, especially those closest to the narrator and his/her chief antagonist, are very important and should be developed as much as possible within the confines of the story.

One of the best examples is William Golding’s novel The Lord of the Flies. The central conflict between Ralph and Jack is quite powerful in itself. But the secondary characters and what they represent elevate the novel from merely good to classic. Simon, Piggy and Roger each bring something different to the tale, and all elicit a strong emotional response from the reader. Simon and his confrontation with “The Lord of the Flies” is one of the most powerful scenes in the book. Piggy provides Ralph with his strongest support and the penultimate scene on the cliffs is truly heartrending. And Roger—ooo, that evil, malicious little monster! He’s a crucial element in the story. Worse than the biblical Cain (who was ashamed enough of his crime to at least hide his brother’s body), Roger shows how murder can be a “pleasurable” act, and a prelude to the sadism the boys’ civilization will devolve into.

We went a little overboard with the secondary characters in the early drafts of Executables, and it was painful to excise a few of them from the text. (Tommy Edgers comes immediately to mind.) Fortunately, we’ve been able to resuscitate a few of these in short stories we’re writing as promotional companion material for the novel.

So there is that danger: the story can get out of hand if you venture too far from the central conflict in following these secondary characters down each of their little paths. [Lisa: Haha! I remember reading once that Roald Dahl originally had nine other kids entering Wonka’s chocolate factory along with Charlie Bucket. All probably as vividly drawn as Veruca Salt and Augustus Gloop…but talk about potential minor character chaos! So it happens to the best.] They are going to quite fascinating places, after all. But they help you create a richer world and deliver a better payoff to the reader.

Lisa: Not only a richer world, but secondary characters that we know well and come to care about can give us some surprising views on the main characters, can reflect different facets of the protagonists, for good or ill. Think of how differently you viewed Harry Potter’s father after witnessing the interaction between his teenaged self and Snape. I think I was as shocked as Harry!

And yes, there is a danger not only in minor characters taking the story off-course, but also upstaging the protagonist if they are too fascinating or funny. I’d rather read about Mrs. Havisham or Mr. Jaggers than about Pip, Mr. Grandcourt rather than Daniel Deronda.

Over the years, are the changes in society reflected in today’s villains and heroes?

Jay: Well, we’ve come a long way from Beowulf, that’s for sure.

Government and society are the villains in quite a bit of what I read these days, and I think that reflects the distrust we feel towards authority figures in general and with the way many political leaders are doing their jobs. [Lisa: What was Congress’s most recent approval rating, again?] Many of us are struggling to pay bills and take care of our families. It can feel like we are at the mercy of larger forces— whether those are governmental, technological, societal, even environmental—and that is reflected in much of our modern entertainment, particularly in dystopian literature.

There’s also a backlash against rampant consumerism which fuels today’s economic engines. Again, I think this reflects people’s struggles to maintain the status quo in their financial lives, and the worries they have about changes going on world-wide and how they and especially their children will fit into these future realities. [Lisa: I can’t help but think about the conversations I hear among parents, trying to figure out how to advise their kids about college and career choices. Which college majors or graduate studies justify x amount of debt, and how will that affect the ability to buy a house, have a family, retire, etc? Do you dare try to nudge your children toward anything but the STEM areas? And even if your kid becomes an engineer or computer expert, etc., will even those jobs be outsourced? Is anything a safe choice?]

The heroes/heroines in dystopian tales tend to be average folk who are thrust into a role where their actions can have an impact and a benefit to the suppressed populace. Or in their struggle to survive, they provide a basis for the rise of a new society. I think that is a reflection of a lot of our fantasies, knowing full well that there is truly little an individual can do to counter the waves of change that bombard us every day, in many aspects of our lives. [Lisa: Well, I’m not quite as pessimistic as that. Because there are individuals who arise who make a tremendous difference. Or, even if no one individual in a movement stands head and shoulders above the rest in influence, enough individuals wanting a particular change and willing to struggle for it can, as a group, be the impetus for enormous change. But the ‘forces that bombard us every day’ are certainly daunting and sometimes (often?) insurmountable. And in the face of that, who wouldn’t fantasize about being Katniss or Frodo?]

We live in extraordinary times. The discoveries in medicine, in technological innovation, in exploration of our world and beyond, provide an enormous palette from which to craft stories. There is a lot of fear of these changes, but also exhilaration about the potential. [Lisa: Absolutely! Anxiety, dread, excitement, the thrill of ever-increasing knowledge—it’s a great, boiling cauldron of emotion and possibility, both in reality and in fiction.]

CindrichSparksWhateverItTakesConventions, book signings, blogging, etc.: what are some of your favorite aspects of self-promotion and what are some of the least favorite parts of self-promotion?

Jay: I do enjoy the interactions with people, the one-on-one communication aspect of self-promotion. I like conversing with individual readers and hearing what they liked and what they didn’t like about the story I wrote. It helps me in gauging how far to take some stories, and where to draw the line. Plus, it’s just fun! I know as a reader I’d be thrilled to talk to Dan Chaon some time. I did get a chance to talk with one of my literary heroes, Daniel Woodrell, and he’s an amazing person.

We’ve just started to get into the blogging and the tweeting and the tumblring and facebooking, etc. Of course, I’ve had a personal page on Facebook for a while now, so that’s not new, but I never used it for self-promotion. The biggest hang-up I have to get over on the online promoting is the fear of sounding like a braggart. [Lisa: Yup. Or a nag. Or that annoying salesperson who just will not let you browse in peace.] I want to let people know I have a book out there, but it’s almost like I want them to come to it of their own choice, or offer them something for free as a promotion to a sale. But then how do they find the material? So you have to get the information to them some way. I’m getting over my discomfort on this, but it’s taken some time.

Lisa: Well, I’m an introvert and while I enjoy conversations one-on-one or in small groups, I don’t particularly enjoy big crowd scenes and really, really don’t enjoy public speaking or being the focus of attention. (Even at my own wedding, I was thrilled when our little ring bearer was such a totally adorable ham going down the aisle before me that he basically stole the show and it felt like all the pressure to be the star attraction was off! Please, people, can we all just now ignore the bride? Thank you.) I LOVE that I can now meet and mingle online with people who have similar interests and sensibilities. But as far as using those tools to sell? Eesh. I’m pretty terrible. It’s a struggle.

Who are your non-writer influences?

Jay: Technological innovation—what is possible and what is going to be possible in the near-future—these are things that I find most interesting and influential. The speed of change that has occurred in our lifetimes makes any other epoch in history pale by comparison, and so anything that touches on these breakthroughs and how we deal with them as human beings fascinates me. I like perusing Wired, Discover, Mental Floss, and other magazines, and listening to RadioLab. I like works by popular physicists like Michio Kaku and Brian Greene because they can break down complex topics and make them comprehensible for people like me, and they raise interesting questions that just get your brain working in overdrive.

On a personal level, my parents and family have had the most influence on my life and how I look at the world. Both of my parents encouraged my interest in science and asking questions about the whys and ways of everything. Sibling rivalry with my older sister and younger brother brought out a competitive nature in me that continues to this day. My children continue to amaze me with their enthusiasm, their energy, and sense of wonder about the world about them. I love their perspective.

I’ve also always had a thing for the underdogs of history and in sports, and for those whose dedication to a cause and to duty led them to undertake incredible and, at times, suicidal tasks. Think Gettysburg, Into Thin Air, Charge of the Light Brigade, Gallipoli, U.S. Olympic hockey team at Lake Placid, Buster Douglas, etc.

Lisa: A couple of influences immediately come to mind. My upbringing as a Catholic and my much later explorations into that religion—once I could get past the unattractive 1970’s churches and bland 1970’s hymns of my youth and plunge more deeply into the cultural and historical richness—the mystery of what it is to be human and the sense of deep timelessness that drenches the art, architecture, legends, and literature from Dante all the way through Graham Greene and Flannery O’Connor. I’d assume that a childhood involvement in any particular religion is going to shape who you become in many, many ways no matter what your conscious, mature view is of that religion, even if you completely reject every last tenet. Even if you reject the entire notion of religious faith itself as outdated.

Another thing that influences me strongly is travel. Not that I’ve been able to do nearly as much of it as I’d like and nowhere more exotic than Italy and England, but exposure to new places (even as close to home as, say Atchison, Kansas) always affects me powerfully and often brings out the writing juices.

Like Jay, I also like stories—true or fiction—about fighting impossible or nearly impossible odds. Survival stories—In the Heart of the Sea, The Last Place on Earth, Ice Blink, The Terror by Dan Simmons, Charlotte Rogan’s The Lifeboat—are special favorites. If a group of people are facing the choice of cannibalism or starvation in a lifeboat or on an ice-trapped ship in the Arctic, I want to know about it!

With 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?

Jay: I think those old genres made it easier for publishers to group their readers according to taste, and market books accordingly. Neat genre classifications may have made deciding what to publish and how to market a little more clear-cut, but with the self-publishing explosion, the old rules no longer need apply and the genre distinctions are a lot murkier, even for traditionally published books. I think it’s great that readers are branching out from what they are familiar with and taking chances, especially with material that might be considered “really out there” and mind expansive.

I do like being lured away from my comfort zones. The rewards are great. I’ve never regretted reading A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess, and I was put off from reading it for years because of what I “thought” it was about.

Lisa: I love genres getting all mixed up, mashed up, messed up. Fantastic! It’s right up my alley. I’ve always loved fiction that utilizes but at the same time pushes against the boundaries of its genre, that breaks rules and surprises me. For example, I’ve really enjoyed what Dan Simmons has been doing in his most recent works (The Terror, Drood, The Abominable), mixing historical-based fiction (well-researched as far as I can tell) with creepy paranormal or potentially paranormal elements. Right now I’m reading Robert McCammon’s The Five (fantastic so far, by the way) and it’s been interesting to read about his unfortunate experiences with his publishers back in the 90’s, how they wanted him to stick to the horror fiction he was known for and not stray too far from that. Nobody seemed to think that there would be any readership for the sort of historical/horror/mystery blends that he started writing with Speaks the Nightbird. (frantically waving hand) “Hey! Right here! Your ideal historical/horror/mystery combo novel reader! Ready and waiting!” I’m SO glad that he’s back to publishing regularly again.

One writer I discovered several years ago who might have seemed a bit out of my comfort zone is Sarah Waters. I’ve read the occasional well-known lesbian-themed novel over the years (Oranges are Not the Only Fruit, Rubyfruit Jungle, Annie on My Mind) but it wasn’t something I would typically read. If I’d happened on Sarah Waters’ Tipping the Velvet first, I probably wouldn’t have been interested. But it so happened that the first book she wrote that I discovered was Affinity…and, oh, yeah, that might have been written just for me, all 19th century gloom and séances and prisons. The lesbianism aspect was just one other thread, all woven gorgeously together. Now I’ve read more of her books, some featuring more overt lesbian themes, others with none in particular, but all terrific.

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

Jay: I remember reading Stephen King’s Salem’s Lot right after Bram Stoker’s Dracula and Sheridan Le Fanu’s Carmilla. I liked King’s modern take on the old vampire myth. I also enjoyed the graphic novel The Watchmen by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons, and how they deconstruct the classic superhero story. Cormac McCarthy’s anti-western Blood Meridian blew away most of my previous favorites in that genre.

Lisa: I suppose I’d have to break this down into two groups—1.) reboots of specific stories and 2.) reworkings of more general mythic types (vampires, witches, werewolves, etc.) I’m probably more drawn to the second group with a few of my favorites being the reimagining of vampires in Let the Right One In by John Lindqvist, werewolves (obviously) in The Last Werewolf by Glen Duncan, the magician class in Lev Grossman’s The Magicians, fairies in general in Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell, and—well—tooth fairies in Graham Joyce’s The Tooth Fairy. As far as more specific retellings, I’d always recommend The Lightning Thief series, A Tale Dark and Grimm by Adam Gidwitz, A Curse as Dark as Gold by Elizabeth Bunce, and The Once and Future King by T.H. White. If we can venture away from books, I’m a sucker for the stage version of Wicked, Sondheim’s vision of the Sweeney Todd legend, and O Brother, Where Art Thou? (Was Homer’s Odysseus ever a fraction as attractive as George Clooney?)

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

Lisa: I’m afraid my class might not be the most balanced because I’d probably ignore seminal works that I haven’t read yet, while concentrating on my personal favorites. (Come to think of it, I’m sure I had some lit professors who operated by precisely that method when creating their syllabi so maybe this is a-ok.) I do think that I’d make sure to include dystopias that fall into different models of oppression: the obvious heavy-hand of physical violence or threat of same; oppression through restriction of free thought and free conscience; dystopia through chaos or anarchy; the we’ve-made-life-easy-and-fun-here-so-why-is-this-person-complaining model. So many avenues to dystopia; so little reading time.

That said, this is a combined Jay-and-Lisa list, no particular order, with our personal favorites starred:

First the required reading:
By the Waters of Babylon (Jay: Definitely. The first piece of dystopian lit I ever read.)
Brave New World*
The Time Machine
The Road*
Harrison Bergeron*
A Clockwork Orange*
A Handmaid’s Tale
Parable of the Sower*
I am Legend*
A Boy and His Dog
Fahrenheit 451
1984*
The Lord of the Flies*

And the extra credit:
Anthem
The Trial
Alas, Babylon
The Stand
The Passage*
The Giver
House of the Scorpion
Cloud Atlas* (Ooh, soulless super-techno dystopia AND postapocalyptic barbarism in one book—so very awesome)
Super Sad True Love Story* (Very uncomfortable read; hits way too close to home)
The Birds (Daphne Du Maurier, not Hitchcock)
Blindness
The Minority Report
On the Beach
White Noise
It’s a Good Life (by Jerome Bixby)
Never Let Me Go
The Hunger Games

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?

Lisa: Wow, I’ve gushed any number of times…at least when I could actually manage to form words of any sort. One of my most tongue-tied was with the poet Mark Strand. He gave a reading (packed) when I was at the University of Illinois. He was funny, sharp, gorgeous images falling from his mouth as he read. Plus he was (to be frank) hot, in a kind of rangy, silver-haired, Clint Eastwood way.

Jay and I were on a committee together a number of years ago that presented a literary award annually to an author from the general Kansas/Missouri area. One year the winner was Daniel Woodrell. This was before Winter’s Bone, but right around the time that the film Ride with the Devil (based on Woodrell’s Woe to Live On) was made. We were so blown away by his writing that everything to do with the event made us anxious even though Woodrell was never anything but gracious and pleasant and easy to deal with. For starters, it was fairly embarrassing that we had such limited funds we couldn’t offer to pay for things like hotel rooms, mileage, or—God forbid—airfare even though we required a trip to Kansas City to accept the award. Committee members tossed around various mortifying ideas for the post-ceremony committee-and-author dinner, assuming that because he was known for ‘country noir,’ he might enjoy eating off battered pie tins and drinking from mason jars while using a checkered Labrador-retriever-style bandanna to dab any excess chicken gravy from his lips. (Thank God, Woodrell said he couldn’t stay for dinner because he had to make the drive back home in time to feed his animals. We never knew if he really owned animals or not, but if he didn’t, Jay and I would like to thank him at this time for inventing a plausible excuse and sparing us all humiliation.) One committee member intended to get her book signed, but fled in panic at the thought of coming face-to-face with such a gifted writer. Another committee member videotaped the event but when Woodrell emailed Jay weeks later and said his publisher would love a copy of the video to use for PR, it turned out that our primary camera had malfunctioned. Someone’s spouse had carried on with one of those early, handheld camcorders—shaky picture, no sound. Jay sent it to Mr. Woodrell with extensive apologies but never heard anything from him again. Ever.

Which favorite utopian worlds (from books, movies, tv) would you like to visit?

Jay: I still remember how intrigued I was with Michael Crichton’s amusement-park-gone-berserk premise in both the movie Westworld and his novel Jurassic Park, so I guess I would vote for either of those. Delos seems like the perfect getaway—as long as the robots don’t contract any viruses that turn them into actual killers. Nobody wants to be on the run from Yul Brynner. And an island that has actual dinosaurs on it? Sign me up, please!

Lisa: An island that has actual dinosaurs on it? Book me a flight in the opposite direction, please!

This is a really tough question! How many utopias are there that don’t turn out to be dystopias at their core? How many authors could write about a true, successful utopia without the reader dozing off? Maybe Narnia (during the good times.) Or Hobbiton (also during the good times.) Or one of the Star Trek series? Yes, there is still intergalactic war and all that, but human society seems to have taken care of so many of the things that ail us today: disease, poverty, lack of education, etc.

The truest utopias in fiction may be the charming old-fashioned small towns and villages that populate picture books—if you ever happen to read picture books, visualize where Arthur (the aardvark) lives. Or Angelina Ballerina. Or the Berenstain Bears. Or Franklin the turtle. Or Fancy Nancy. Or Pinkalicious. Or Clifford. Pleasant downtowns with leafy parks and friendly shops—not a Walmart in sight. Sunny, spacious houses with porches and large yards and big treehouses. It’s safe for the young ones to walk or ride their bikes (unsupervised!) to the library or the ice cream shop or the firehouse. There’s snow for Christmas and one crooked, decayed Victorian mansion at the edge of town to provide a scare on Halloween.

Dang. Can I go there right now? Or, at least, to the Hundred Acre Wood?

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

Jay: I used to work in the Technical Services department of a public library system, so I’ve been involved in my share of geeky discussions/debates. I remember how excited we’d get when the Library of Congress would mail us their newly-approved subject headings. We’d have arguments about how many access points were appropriate in a “good” MARC record (answer: you can never have enough), and how far to carry the decimal point in our Dewey classification system (we were limited to four places to the right of the decimal). I thought our bizarre preoccupations were limited to our own library, until I got approval to attend a meeting of a national organization for audio-visual catalogers in Chicago. People like me were everywhere! We’d spend entire dinner evenings discussing the nuances in the cataloging of recorded opera. Ah, those were the days.

We did debate pop culture as well. Such geeks we were! One particular discussion that prompted a heated exchange or two was over which actor portrayed the creepiest “Tooth Fairy” in the film adaptations of the Thomas Harris novel Red Dragon: Tom Noonan or Ralph Fiennes? My vote still goes for Noonan. His Francis Dolarhyde is the stuff of nightmares.

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

If you happen to live in the KC area, we’ll be appearing at the Home Grown Authors’ Fair at the South branch of the Kansas City, Kansas Public Library on October 25th. Executables will be available in print by the end of September 2014, and October 2014 will see the release of at least three free companion stories—“Avenge Me,” “First Kill,” and “Whatever It Takes”—set in that same dystopian world.

The novel we’re currently working on, Deflection, is straight-up sci fi; we expect to release it in March, 2015.

CindrichSparksExecutablesExecutables book blurb:

After ten years of brutal labor on a prison meat-packing line, Tori Jennings now confronts an even more unbearable prospect: freedom.

But just because she’s free doesn’t mean she has a future. As an Executable, she has no money, no rights, no citizenship. No laws protect her. And the second she steps off penitentiary grounds into the Pennsylvania countryside, Tori becomes prey. A corrupt court judged her a murderer, and now hit-men, legally hired by the victim’s family, intend to take revenge.

Tori’s only chance is to run—and keep running, struggling to hold onto both courage and compassion as she stumbles through the underbelly of a decayed society. Her mother is dead, her father’s fate unknown. No family or friends can help her. Her sole allies? A troubled ex-cop who’s determined to see her survive and a female killer suffering doubts about her own lethal career.

The execution company will hunt Tori without mercy unless the victim’s family calls off the hit. Tori needs convincing proof of her innocence, but even she doesn’t know the truth behind the death she supposedly engineered. She only know that, without it, she can never run far enough to escape.

Places to Find Lisa Cindrich

Glynn River Press

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Places to Find Jay Sparks

Glynn River Press

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CindrichSparksWhateverItTakesWhatever It Takes book blurb:

As president of Regency Executions, Merle Edgers chafes under the general disdain for his line of work: the legalized hunting down and killing of felons branded as Executables. He’s determined his new venture into prison manufacturing will bring him the respect he craves from the socially elite. He’s confident he can make the climb . . . until he pays a surprise visit to Regency’s San Diego office. Brendan Roth, Regency’s west coast manager, has the upbringing of an American aristocrat, a matching sense of entitlement, and a fondness for blackmail. But Roth doesn’t understand just who he’s taking for a chump. Edgers isn’t about to let some Dartmouth punk run roughshod over his ambitions, no matter what he has to do to stop it.

CinrichSparksFirstKillFirst Kill book blurb:

How hard can hunting a human be? Tommy Edgers’ uncle runs a legalized hit squad and all Tommy wants is a chance to prove he’s not the loser so many people seem to think he is. When Uncle Merle finally gives him an easy hit–a straight shot in barren desert–Tommy intends to prove he deserves to hang with the pros he idolizes. But the Russian sadist assigned as his partner has other ideas.

Enter the world of Executables in this short story companion to the novel.

Interview & Giveaway: Edoardo Albert, Author of Edwin: High King of Britain

AuthorEdoardoAlbertIt is my pleasure to have Edoardo Albert on the blog today. His novel, Edwin: High King of Britain, is the first in the series chronicling the Christian kings of England of old. Come enjoy our chat on historical figures, Tolkien, how the Anglo-Saxons took their swearing seriously, and more! Scroll down for info on the Giveaway!

Who are some of your favorite historical villains? Who are some of your favorite historical heroes? In general, are these villains and heroes misunderstood by the modern public?

Of course, Aristotle was right: all men act according to what they see as good – even the worst men in history do not get up in the morning to twirl their mustaches and cackle, “What is the evillest thing I can do today?” But yet, men do evil, and great evil at that. A favorite villain must be one with a certain style and panache, so I suppose someone like Napoleon would rank at the top of the tree there: a man whose vanity and energy plunged Europe into a decade and a half of war, leaving hundreds of thousands dead and a world remade, yet whose charisma was such that he is still regarded as a hero as much as a villain. Such was his personal magnetism that I’m sure if I’d been in his orbit I would have ended up circling the Napoleonic sun along with all his other satellites. As for heroes, you’d be hard put to do better than William Wilberforce and the others who campaigned, and succeeded, in ending an institution as old as humanity and one that no one could really have imagined could be ended: slavery. But, since evil lacks imagination, slavery and human trafficking is on the way back, for what better way to demonstrate pure power than to own other human beings.

As to these and other historical figures being misunderstood, it depends on where you stand on the debate as to whether one can enter into any other age in any real way. The cultural and historical relativists have strong arguments, but in the end, as a writer, I plump for the belief that the fundamentals of human existence unite us through the ages. Besides, all men consider their time to be normal, and in writing historical fiction that is one of the great rules to bear in mind when dealing with the strangeness of past cultures.

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?

To be honest, mostly by ignoring them. Bathroom breaks are the common lot of humanity and although the toilet difficulties in pre-modern times are quite interesting they are better dealt with a non-fiction book (in fact, that could be a whole new book right there – Toilet Habits of the Past!). Anglo-Saxon swear words have transferred all too well to modern English, so I haven’t felt any particular need to include them, and a characteristic of pre-modern and barely literate peoples was a far greater reverence for language, so even the cursing was better done. There’s quite a bit about travel in Edwin: High King of Britain, for with roads being generally poor, rivers and sea were more highways than obstructions.

AlbertEdwinHighKingofBritainMyths 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?

At the most surface level, it has spawned various fandoms, from Harry Potter to Tolkien geeks to Trekkies. The writers of the golden age of science fiction were indirectly responsible for the space race, their writing inspiring many of the scientists and engineers that worked on the Apollo missions. Modern fantasy fiction seems to have had a more diffused effect; it’s probably stepped into the void left by the decline of religious belief in some countries of the old West, although in that case its more placebo than anything else. I suspect the jury is still out as to whether its long-term effects will be for good or ill.

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

The Lord of the Rings. It still stands head and shoulders above all modern fantasy, and to read it again would be to enter Middle-earth afresh – who wouldn’t want to do that?

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

For the world of Edwin – a very real but only dimly perceived world – the two foremost documents are Bede’s Ecclesiastical History of the English People and the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle. Without them, we would have only archaeology, which is vital for a deep understanding of a world but leaves us without names or actors within that world. Apart from these foundational sources, there has been a great deal of excellent scholarship on the period, notably by James Campbell (a different Campbell to the one who wrote The Hero with a Thousand Faces), Peter Hunter Blair and Nick Higham. I’ve also hugely benefited from my conversations with my archaeologist co-writer of Northumbria: the Lost Kingdom, Paul Gething, who shared his expertise, knowledge and passion for the period with me through many long conversations.

Who are your non-writer influences?

Apart from Paul, my wife and children. Harriet is my first reader, my best critic and, as an actress and voice teacher, the perfect person to read my stories out loud to me; there is no better way to learn if something works or not than to hear it read to you. And having a family has simultaneously reduced the time I have available to write by half but increased my productivity when I do write by something like fiftyfold – I have reason to write other than myself now!

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

Thucydides and Herodotus are on my to read list, along with the Aeneid, from the Classical period. The lack of sources for the early Anglo-Saxon era means that it’s really not that difficult to read everything that’s survived from then, and Bede is such a pleasure to read that I return to him frequently.

With 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 would hope it means that people will read more widely; I suspect that little of the self-consciously literary fiction of the second half of the twentieth century has any lasting value, but some of the genre novels will survive as long as people read – Stephen King is a better chronicler of our times than the vast majority of literary novelists. As to me, I read widely as a matter of course, so I’d be delighted to be lured out of my comfort zone.

If you could go enjoy a meal in a historical setting (time travel, here we come!), where/when would that be, and what would you eat? Who would you invite from that time and place to sup with you?

Gosh, that’s a tough question! Part of me would like to attend the Last Supper, but I’m not sure I could bear to be present for the events of the day afterwards. Apart from that, I’d like to invite Dante and Boccacio to a high medieval feast in Italy – days of feasting, song and conversation – and then to drop into the Eagle and Child pub in Oxford in the 1930s when Tolkien, Lewis and the Inklings were all in full flow.

What do you do when you are not writing?

Read! Bring up children. Day job – the usual stuff writers do when they’re not writing.

I snooped around on your website. You have written in several genres: SFF short stories, history books, a biography of Tolkien, a children’s book, historical texts on Islamic philosophers. Which do you find more challenging: the non-fiction or fiction works? Are there genres you would like to branch out into even further? Do you work on more than one book at a time?

Non-fiction and fiction present different challenges. With non-fiction the first and greatest challenge is to tell the truth. Of course, that’s also the challenge of fiction, but the templates of truth are different in each case. Non-fiction requires adherence to sources, proper understanding and sifting of contemporary scholarship – with its enthusiasms and biases – and synthesis; there’s always more you could write! Fiction demands the writer remains true to the story and its characters, removing himself from them as far as is possible. I think working in different areas has benefited me hugely as a writer and I’d definitely hope to write in further genres; in fact, a book I’ve been commissioned to write on the spiritual history of London is turning into something of a new genre in itself: part history, part travel, part spiritual autobiography, I’m making it up as I go along! When writing, I usually just write one book at a time, but I’ll probably be reading and researching the next at the same time.

Thank you for your questions; they really made me think hard!

About the Book

Debut historical fiction series vividly recreating the rise of the Christian kings of Northumbria, England.

In 604 AD, Edwin, the deposed king of Northumbria, seeks refuge at the court of King Raedwald of East Anglia. But Raedwald is urged to kill his guest by Aethelfrith, Edwin’s usurper. As Edwin walks by the shore, alone and at bay, he is confronted by a mysterious figure–the missionary Paulinus– who prophesies that he will become High King of Britain. It is a turning point.

Through battles and astute political alliances Edwin rises to power, in the process marrying the Kentish princess Aethelburh. As part of the marriage contract the princess is allowed to retain her Christian faith. But, in these times, to be a king is not a recipe for a long life.

This turbulent and tormented period in British history sees the conversion of the Anglo-Saxon settlers who have forced their way on to British shores over previous centuries, arriving first to pillage, then to farm and trade–and to come to terms with the faith of the Celtic tribes they have driven out.

The dramatic story of Northumbria’s Christian kings helped give birth to England as a nation, English as a language, and the adoption of Christianity as the faith of the English.

Places to Find Edoardo Albert

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Giveaway!

Edoardo Albert has one paperback copy of Edwin: High King of Britain. The giveaway is open to US, UK and Canada residents. In order to enter, leave a comment answering this question: What historical figure would you like to read a historical fiction on? I’ll select at the end of the book tour (midnight September 19th, 2014). Leave me a way to contact you in the comment (email, twitter, etc.). Good luck!

Follow The Tour with Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours

Monday, August 25
Review at Princess of Eboli
Review at 2 Book Lovers Reviews

Tuesday, August 26
Review at Just One More Chapter
Review & Giveaway at Unshelfish

Wednesday, August 27
Review at Dab of Darkness

Thursday, August 28
Interview & Giveaway at Dab of Darkness

Monday, September 1
Review at Book Lovers Paradise
Review at Queen of All She Reads

Tuesday, September 2
Review at Flashlight Commentary

Wednesday, September 3
Review at The Writing Desk
Review at The Mad Reviewer

Friday, September 5
Spotlight & Giveaway at Passages to the Past

Monday, September 8
Review at A Book Geek
Review at Svetlana’s Reads and Views

Tuesday, September 9
Review at Book Nerd

Wednesday, September 10
Review & Giveaway at 100 Pages a Day – Stephanie’s Book Reviews
Interview & Giveaway at Thoughts in Progress

Friday, September 12
Review at A Bibliotaph’s Reviews

Monday, September 15
Review & Giveaway at Words and Peace

Tuesday, September 16
Review at Layered Pages

Thursday, September 18
Review & Giveaway at Beth’s Book Reviews

Friday, September 19
Review at Book Drunkard

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