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Anthony R. Cardno's Fiction and Commentary

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Lawrence Block Returns

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Lawrence Block,
the writer who never rests

I’m always happy to welcome previous interview subjects back to ramble on with me, but it’s always an honor when someone really well known agrees to be interviewed or re-interviewed. Today I get to welcome back the great Lawrence Block. You know him at the author of the Bernie Rhodenbarr and Matthew Scudder mysteries, among many others. He’s got a new short story collection out, so we chatted via email about it.

ANTHONY: Hard Case Crime just released the hardcover edition of CATCH AND RELEASE through special arrangement with Subterranean Press.  How closely did HCC publisher Charles Ardai work with you to choose the contents of the book?

LAWRENCE: Not at all, actually. I proposed the book to Bill Schafer, and made up a list of contents. Charles was good enough to offer his support and co-sponsorship for the book.

ANTHONY: The advertising copy for CATCH AND RELEASE says the contents are all short works that have not appeared in previous collections. When did the oldest story in the book last see print?

LAWRENCE: Well, remarkably enough, “Part of the Job” was published in Dapper in 1967—but I didn’t learn about it for over 40 years! The whole story of its publication and re-discovery is included with the story itself.

With that curious exception, these are all recent stories, all written in the present century. Thus they weren’t included in my omnibus collection, Enough Rope.

ANTHONY: What is the newest piece in the book?

LAWRENCE: Probably “See the Woman,” written a couple of years ago for the L.A. Noire anthology.

ANTHONY: CATCH AND RELEASE includes stories featuring Bernie Rhodenbarr and Matthew Scudder, correct?

LAWRENCE: Bernie’s here in “A Burglar’s-Eye View of Greed,” a newspaper op-ed piece I did for New York Newsday in 2002. Mark Lavendier published it as a deluxe limited-edition broadside, but it’s never appeared anywhere else. Matthew Scudder’s here twice, with “Mick Ballou Looks at the Blank Screen” and “One Last Night at Grogan’s.” These are the last two stories in the Scudder collection, The Night and the Music.

Catch and Release

ANTHONY: The volume also includes a play script. Was the script ever produced? (And if so, can you tell us a bit about the production?)

LAWRENCE: It’s the adaptation of a short story, and I believe it was performed a couple of times in Australia. And there have been a couple of Stateside nibbles, but so far nothing has happened—as is not unusual in the theater. It’s a natural for an amateur production—two characters, one set—so if anyone wants to stage it, all they have to do is get in touch.

ANTHONY: Are there any other Block (or pseudonymous) stories out there left to be collected, or have they finally all been un-earthed?

LAWRENCE: Well, only “Part of the Job” was unearthed; the others are all pretty recent. It would surprise me mightily if any more stories turned up from way back when, but the possibility’s hard to rule out.

ANTHONY: This is the second time Hard Case Crime has partnered with Subterranean to release a limited edition hardcover collection of yours. The STRANGE EMBRACE / 69 BARROW STREET collection is out of print now?

LAWRENCE: I believe so. The two individual titles are eVailable as eBooks from Open Road.

ANTHONY: Most of the Hard Case Crime line is mass market or trade paperback editions. Will we be seeing paperback releases for either of the Subterranean titles?

LAWRENCE: No plans that I know of for PB editions of Strange Embrace or 69 Barrow Street. As far as CATCH AND RELEASE is concerned, I retained both eBook and paperback rights, and have already self-published the eBook edition; it’s on sale even as we speak, and here’s a Kindle link.

I’ll also be bringing out a trade paperback edition any day now; it’s coming from CreateSpace, and will be widely available at Amazon and other online booksellers as well. Same format as the SubPress hardcover, same great cover art—and, since the hardcover’s essentially sold out on publication, a chance for readers to get the printed book at a reasonable price.

There an audiobook coming, too, and Dreamscape is already taking preorders in advance of a November release date. I did the narration, with an assistant from the beautiful and talented Lynne Wood Block; the play, “How Far,” needed two voices, one male, one female. And while she was at it she also voiced “Without a Body,” a brief monologue with a woman narrator.

ANTHONY: Since there’s a Scudder story in the new collection, I have to ask how filming for “A Walk Among The Tombstones” has progressed. Are they still filming, or are they in post-production now?

LAWRENCE: It’s in post-production, and I don’t know if they’ve set a release date, but I’m sure it’ll be sometime in the first half of 2014.

ANTHONY: You got to spend some time on the set. How was that?

LAWRENCE: It was fun. Liam Neeson was absolutely brilliant in the scenes I saw, and I think fans will love him as Scudder.

ANTHONY: I’m looking forward to that. Final question: What’s coming down the pike in the next few months?

LAWRENCE: A brand-new novel, the one I wrote this summer on a Holland America cruise. Don’t ask me where we went, as I barely got out of my cabin. I’m very excited about the book, and couldn’t bear to wait a year and a half for a traditional publisher to bring it out. So I’m publishing it myself, and we’ve settled on Christmas as  our release date.

Yeah, this Christmas. Christmas of 2013, which is like 90 days from now.

And, for the moment, that’s all I can tell you about it…

You can find more of Lawrence Block’s discussions of his writing on his website, his blog, his facebook and his goodreads discussion group. You can also follow him on Twitter as @LawrenceBlock.

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Interview with Richard Bowes

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Rick Bowes, recording at WBAI

Richard Bowes is an author I should have been long-since familiar with, but who I’ve only started reading in the past two years or so. Rick has lived an interesting life, a large portion of it in Greenwich Village serving as a librarian at NYU.  He’s seen the city change a lot, and regularly posts photos of Old New York on his Facebook page. He was, of course, in the city on September 11, 2001, and one of his most moving stories, “There’s a Hole in the City,” takes place in the days immediately following; WBAI out of NYC airs Rick’s reading of the story ever year to commemorate the anniversary of the event.  All of Rick’s stories and novels are character-driven and many, but not all, have some aspect of the supernatural or fantastic.  I met Rick in person, finally, at Readercon 2013 in Boston, and he’s as fun to talk to in person as he is on Twitter or Facebook.

 

ANTHONY: Thanks for taking the time to chat, Rick. Let’s start with an easy one: when was your first professional sale?

RICK: It was early 1985. Before then I’d designed board games that got bought and published. And I wrote gay porn under a pseudonym. But my first real fiction sale was a paperback time travel/alternate worlds novel, WARCHILD, to Warner Questar in 1985. It was the first piece of real spec fiction I’d written.

ANTHONY: What is your writing process like? What’s a Day In The Life of Rick Bowes?

RICK: Well I’m old so a day in the life isn’t as exciting as it might once have been.  I’m retired and can stay up far into the night like I’m doing as I write this and can sleep until noon if I want. I try to have something: Yoga class, shopping, early brunch with a friend, to get me out the door before noon. I live in a tiny apartment in what was the heart of the 1950’s/1960’s Greenwich Village and I love this place dearly. I almost always manage to write something each day. I don’t have those spectacular daily word counts I read about in young writers’ tweets and Facebook entries but I produce stories and they get bought and published.

ANTHONY: You’ve written short stories and novels. Does your process change at all from one form to the other?

RICK: The two are often intertwined. The first three books I published, WARCHILD and its sequel GOBLIN MARKET plus the standalone FERAL CELL were novels written as novels. In 1989 I began writing short stories for the first time since college nearly 25 years before. The first one never sold (though I cannibalized it many years later). Every story since then has sold. My fifth story “On Death and the Deuce” was my first fictionalized autobiographical story. It was about kicking alcohol and drugs which I’d done 15 years or so years earlier and it introduced Kevin Grierson and his doppelganger who was his addictions. A couple of my other stories had already been bought but ODATD was the first to be published (in F&SF May 1992).  I wrote nine more Grierson stories and all ten became the Lambda Award winning MINIONS OF THE MOON.

At some point fairly early on I realized I had a book and began “hooking” the stories,  introducing the same characters in different stories, creating story arcs (like showing Grierson going from self destructive kid hustler to a gay man in an adult relationship). Each piece had to be written in the classic short story form in order to sell to the magazines and anthologies.  But certain changes had to be made for them to then serve as chapters. My story, “Streetcar Dreams” which won a World Fantasy Award was actually the linking material that joined the other stories together in the finished novel.

ANTHONY: You know I’m a big fan of your short fiction. A lot (if not all of it) draws from your real life in a much more concrete way than I think a lot of authors would be comfortable doing (at least, while the people they’re drawing from are still alive).  Are there any pieces of your past that are “off limits” as story fodder or inspiration?

RICK: “Still alive,” may play a bigger part in this than I’d consciously realized. Except for my late brother Gerry, I guess I’ve written less about my family than I might have. Gerry and my relationship was what my story “Circle Dance” was about. It appeared in Postscripts magazine and my 2006 collection STREETCAR DREAMS then got adapted into a chapter of DUST DEVIL.  Gerry and I were in the East Village together in the heady late ’60’s and grim early ’70’s. I was as close to him in many ways as I’ve ever been to anyone.

“Off limits”? I’m not sure. My parents were fascinating people. My father and mother were both in the theater when I was a kid. Both were writers. I use some of that in DUST DEVIL and in my “were actor” story “A Song to the Moon” which I’ve included in IF ANGELS FIGHT.  Often my narrator’s mother is crazy/unhappy and his father is angry and tough (mine had been a WW2 army bomber crewman). I’ve written about my father in the story “My Life in Speculative Fiction (in the STREETCAR DREAM and TRANSFIGURED NIGHT collections) and in an upcoming non-speculative fiction story for the magazine “The Revelator”.  I used an aspect of my mother for the mother in MINIONS. But there was much more to each of them than I’ve shown.

My sisters and their husbands and children and my youngest brother are all highly successful many of them in the creative arts and I’ve never really written about them.  I’d love to but, yeah, that can get difficult and somehow the right circumstances never seemed to arise.

ANTHONY: Without naming names (unless you want to), have there been any instances where you’ve based a character on someone from your past and they’ve reacted negatively?

RICK: The friends/boyfriends/girlfriends/chance encounters in my stories tend to be modular creations; a single character will be drawn from several different people. Also this is fiction. I make varying amounts of this up. It draws from real life but isn’t autobiography.

That said one advantage I had was that in a large part of my life most of the people I associated with weren’t readers or if they were didn’t read fiction. It’s only in the last fifteen or so years that I’ve started hanging out with writers. I put aspects of people in books and they never knew. Now the God-damnedest people see themselves in my stories. Usually they seem pleased. Maybe they’re right but it wasn’t intentional.

Dust Devil on a Quiet Street

ANTHONY: I remember a guest on the Science Fiction/Fantasy Writers Chat on Twitter (#sffwrtcht) once commenting that the defining aspect of “urban fantasy” is that the setting is as much a character as the actual characters are. It strikes me that this is very true of a lot of your work: most obviously with Greenwich Village in DUST DEVIL ON A QUIET STREET, but even with your Time Ranger stories (especially “The Ferryman’s Wife” and “Mask of the Rex”) and your story “Seven Days of Poe” in Steve Berman’s WHERE THY DARK EYE GLANCES. Do you intentionally give Place this level of importance, or is it something that is just organic to your style and process?

RICK: So do you consider any of your story cycles to be “urban fantasy?”  If not, is there a sub-genre you would say your work falls into?

I’m going to try to answer both of these questions in one if you don’t mind. It’s probably a sign of my alienation that I find my surroundings so endlessly fascinating and surprising that I don’t really need to invent imaginary ones.

FERAL CELL was my second novel. It came out in 1987. FC gets talked about in DUST DEVIL in the chapter where the narrator is in St. Vincent’s Hospital. I had cancer in 1984/5 which is when I began writing FERAL CELL. It’s set slightly in the future in a New York where the narrator is dying of cancer and when he discovers an alternate world called Capricorn where people dying of cancer in our world (which they call Cancer) appear like spirits and are considered sacred. There are evil aristocrats in Capricorn and rival gangs of skateboard and roller skaters here in NYC.

The vast apparatus of online websites and blogs and so on didn’t exist twenty-six years ago. The book got interesting reviews and attention, especially from people who had or once had cancer. Among them was Terri Windling the editor/author whose BORDERTOWN anthologies in the 1980’s did so much to establish Urban Fantasy as a sub-genre. She discovered Feral Cell, included my story “On Death and the Deuce, in YEAR’S BEST FANTASY AND HORROR and helped get MINIONS published. Terri identified me as one of the early practitioners of the sub-genre.

Stories of magic set in cities go back as far as cities do. Urban Fantasy wasn’t something I did intentionally. The Boston (especially the Boston Public Library) of  1960 in my Poe Story, the Bar Harbor Maine of FROM THE FILES OF THE TIME RANGERS, the New York of the late 20th/early 21st centuries in DUST DEVIL ON A QUIET STREET are my world.  I’m glad there’s a subgenre to accommodate it.

IF ANGELS FIGHT

ANTHONY: In October, Fairwood Press is releasing your collection IF ANGELS FIGHT, which brings together stories from across your career, with new introductions written by you. How did you choose what would be included? Was there anything that didn’t quite make the cut that you wish you’d had the room to include?

RICK: Patrick Swenson of Fairwood Press has been great to work with. The stories in the book are the ones I wanted included. It could have been a longer book if I’d decided I needed that.

But I intend it to give an overview of my career as a short fiction writer from my first published story to very recent pieces. I included stories like “Jacket Jackson” (my collaboration with Marc Rich) and some recent stories that appeared in large anthologies because I didn’t think they got the attention they deserved. Also I thought would give variety to the collection and show what I could do.  Others like “If Angels Fight” itself, a Nebula nominee and World Fantasy Award winner is a personal favorite I wanted to show off.

ANTHONY: IF ANGELS FIGHT includes a number of stories that went on to be folded into full novel narratives: the Time Rangers stories are part of a ‘mosaic novel,’ but the Kevin Grierson story became part of MINIONS OF THE MOON and “A Hole In The City” became the lead-off chapter of your recent novel DUST DEVIL ON A QUIET STREET. Is the concept of merging short stories into novel form something you’re always thinking about as you write?

RICK: “On Death and the Deuce,” “The Ferryman’s Wife,” “The Mask of the Rex,” “There’s a Hole in the City,” were changed in the process of being turned into novel chapters and I present them here in their original story format – all of them also attracted attention (award nominations, inclusion in Year’s Best anthologies etc).

I often have a novel in mind as a final destination when I’m writing a story. But sometimes stories I think of as part of a novel, don’t fit into the finished manuscript. Doing a novel about Greenwich Village and how I ended up here was already a concept when I wrote the first story, “There’s a Hole in the City” in 2005 and I wrote many stories that became chapters in what turned out to be DUST DEVIL ON A QUIET STREET. It didn’t always work out. “If Angels Fight,” for example was intended it to be part of DUST DEVIL but it turned out  to be too much an entity unto itself to fit.

A lot of the stories I write are stand alones. That’s why I do collections.

ANTHONY: What is the appeal, and what are the challenges, of taking a short story cycle and creating a full novel around them rather than just releasing a story collection?

RICK: I get a lot of satisfaction out of fitting the pieces together. Also novels generally sell better than short story collections and do more to establish a certain name recognition which then helps the process of selling more stories. That may sound a bit brutal but this is a commercial medium.

ANTHONY: I think I’ve told you the story of reading the first chapter of DUST DEVILS in a restaurant in Alexandria VA and being almost in tears as you describe New York City in the days immediately after September 11, and then hearing Ryan Adams’ “I Still Love You, New York,” (the video for which was filmed only days before the Towers fell) and completely losing it. Does music play a part in your creative process, as it does for many writers?

RICK: Music is my main love. I confess I don’t keep up with current popular music. I know Rock from the fifties through the seventies but not much later. Aside from that – classical music, opera, classic jazz, Broadway and what’s called The American Songbook – especially stuff from the thirties and forties Gershwin, Rogers and Hart, Porter etc. are what I listen to.

(As I write this at 2 AM on September 12, 2013, twelve years and a couple of hours after 9/11 I’m listening (as I know you are) to Jim Freund playing the wrong version of me reading “There’s a Hole in the City” on WBAI radio).

THE QUEEN, THE CAMBION AND SEVEN OTHERS

ANTHONY: I felt bad for Jim when we realized the wrong version was playing, but I loved the insight it gave to how he works with voice folks. In addition to DUST DEVILS and IF ANGELS FIGHT, you’ve also recently released THE QUEEN, THE CAMBION AND SEVEN OTHERS, another short story collection with the focus on “modern fairy tales.” Tell us a little about that collection and how/if it differs from your previous collections.

RICK: TQTCASO has been a joy. I’ve always been interested in fairy tales. You should see my shelves. But in the last few years reading them and reading about them has become a minor obsession. And I wrote stories in that mode – third person, past tense fantasy tales. Chris Barzak turned me on to Aqueduct Press and their Conversation Series: small books nicely produced.

Aqueduct is mainly a feminist press and the fairy tale was for much of its history largely a woman’s genre and a refuge for gay and lesbian writers (think of Anderson and Wilde) in bad times. So I asked and Timmi Duchamp the publisher was interested. She and Kathryn Wilham, the editor, were very supportive. The book includes an essay and eight stories involving everything from the daughter of Winter and Summer (very unhappy marriage), to a young woman who learns to dress bears, to stuff you didn’t know about Merlin and Queen Victoria.

Just under 35 thousand words which I think is a perfect length for such an enterprise. In fact my essay (one of maybe five which I’ve written in my entire life) is titled “A Secret History of Small Books.”

Kath Wilham suggested the pictures and helped me find suitable ones by Rackham and Dore. There’s a generous sampling (and what is a fairy tale book without pictures?).  I know I would have been delighted to find something like this.

ANTHONY: What work do you have due to be published in the near future?

RICK: Getting four books out this year took a lot of my time and took a lot of writing over the last year. Both TQTCASO and IF ANGELS FIGHT include never-before-seen stories. DUST DEVIL needed lots of new linking material. Even the new edition of MINIONS has the first new Grierson story in many years.

So only a couple of new stories are due out:

One is:

“Tales That Fairies Tell” involving a certain famous fairy tale cat and set in a more desperate New York (The Big Arena) fifty or so years down the line.

It’s included in: Once Upon A Time: A modern fairy tale anthology (Guran ed), Prime Books,  October.

The other is:

“Stories I Tell My Friends” – Narrated by the same kid who appears in my “Seven Days of Poe” (from the Berman/Lethe WHERE THY DARK EYE GLANCES). But this will be a first:  sex and drugs and parent problems in Boston circa 1960 but NON GENRE!  NO SPEC FICTION ELEMENT! It will appear later this year in Matthew Cheney and Eric Schaller’s experimental online magazine The Revelator (which everyone should check out).

Currently I’m writing a story about a play being staged in an abandoned hotel in the same NYC as “Tales That Fairies Tell.”

And I’m writing what seems to be a very short story about a mortal, once a fairy bridegroom now the owner of a bar in the current Greenwich Village.

A young Rick graces the cover of MINIONS OF THE MOON

ANTHONY: Now I’m looking forward to all of those. And my usual closing question: What is your favorite book and what would you say to someone who has never read it to convince them that they should?

RICK: Not one book but two! I would like to thank Steve Berman and his Lethe Press for bringing out a new edition MINIONS OF THE MOON as well as the first publication of DUST DEVIL ON A QUIET STREET.  Together I think they make a gay chronicle from the 1940’s till now.

 

You can follow Rick on Twitter @rickbowes, find him on Facebook, and of course check Rick’s website for updates on his work.  DUST DEVIL ON A QUIET STREET and MINIONS OF THE MOON can both be purchased from Lethe Press, Amazon or BN.  IF ANGELS FIGHT will be out in October from Fairwood Press and on Amazon and BN.  THE QUEEN, THE CAMBION, AND SEVEN OTHERS is available from Aqueduct and on Amazon and BN.

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Just a sample of Isa’s gorgeous NAMESAKE art.

It’s a week for welcoming back previous interviewees! Today, I’m catching up with Megan Lavey-Heaton and Isabelle Melancon, creators of the webcomic NAMESAKE. It’s been a while since my last interview with them; we’d meant to do one during their second Kickstarter project, but that sort of fell through. So here they are to talk to us about how that went and what’s upcoming:

ANTHONY: You successfully funded the print version of Namesake Book Two not so long ago. How is the production process coming, and when will the book be available to the general public?

ISA: Production is pretty much over. I re-colored a couple of the pages, polished it up, added an extra story… and then Megan did all the book putting-together part. The toughest part for me is always to design the covers. And I had to design 3 this time. Whew! Since we had the hardcover version coming out with this Kickstarter too. But they turned out great too. The books should be available in August/September if all goes well, but we might open pre-orders before then.

ANTHONY: Are there plans already afoot for collecting book three in print form?

ISA: Book three is almost fully posted online, so as soon as that’s done, plans for the next Kickstarter will probably start.

ANTHONY: What’s your process been like for transferring from web content to the printed page? Did it change at all between books one and two?

ISA: Well, the pages have a pretty standard format, so making the jump from digital to print wasn’t that hard. I perfected my drawing techniques and scanning techniques, and Megan started doing allt he lettering in indesign to make the whole process go more smoothly. Our processes kinda changed about half-way into book one, so book 2 went considerably better.

ANTHONY: Where do we find the characters at the start of book two?

MEG: Emma is still entrenched in Oz at the beginning of book 2. We take a slight detour to check in on Alice and Lewis in the 1800s, then Ben, Elaine, Fred and the Calliope staff in the modern era, along with the introduction of some new cast members who will be very important in the future. For now though, most of this book tells the bulk of Emma’s adventure in Oz.

ISA: And Warrick’s backstory is revealed in book 2. Everyone loves a good tragic backstory.

ANTHONY: How much material will be in the print edition of book two versus the online edition? Any new special extras?

MEG: Book 2 contains Intermission 1 and chapters 6-10. We are about to start chapter 13 in the online edition. We have a book bonus story with Warrick and a Kickstarter-only story with Chiseri and Adora.

 

Co-creator and artist Isabelle Melancon

ANTHONY: Has your collaborative process changed at all since you started Namesake?

MEG: Not off the top of our head. The machine isn’t broken!

ISA: Nope, if anything, we just have MORE fun. Because the story is gradually becoming more engaging and creative.

ANTHONY: How about your individual creative processes?

MEG: I know for me, I have switched to doing the lettering of the pages in InDesign. Makes it vastly easier when it comes to creating the books!

ISA: I started doing more storyboarding and I have a notebook listing important visual details for all characters… to make sure I don’t forget anything! I plan to make character turnarounds too. It’s more of a process used in animation, but it helps not to draw someone off-model.

ANTHONY: Has the story continued to play out according to your original master plan, or has it taken any interesting side turns?

MEG: It’s definitely taking interesting side turns. For example, Selva has become one of the main cast when originally she wasn’t supposed to have much of a role beyond chapter 1. Nose is another unexpected developed character. We still have the master plan, but we’re letting the different stories develop organically and adjust as needed.

ISA: Characters change a lot, but the main plot stays stable. I think it’s nice that characters are kinda “telling” us who they want to be.

 

co-creator and writer Meghan Lavey-Heaton

ANTHONY: What other projects are you both working on?

MEG: I’ll let Isa answer that one!

ISA: We have a couple of things we wish to start. I have a few ideas for graphic novels for kids and pre-teens, because it’s an age group I love to write for. Mostly fantasy stuff. Megan has a few ideas that are really exciting too, but she tends to write more for adults, with police mysteries and diabolical curses. I guess we’ll flip a coin and see who gets to choose first. On the short term, we plan to do a couple of short comics to try different things as a team.

ANTHONY: A slight tweak on my usual closing question: If you could only recommend one of the books your characters are based on/connected to, which one would it be?

ISA: Probably a complete book of Andersen’s works. I love his fairy tales. They are my favorites.

 

 

 

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The lovely Linda Poitevin

It’s always fun to welcome certain folks back to Ramble On with me about new projects. Linda Poitevin is one of those folks. Linda is the creator of THE GRIGORI LEGACY series of urban fantasy (SINS OF THE ANGELS and SINS OF THE SON available now), and she recently debuted a new romance novel. You can see my previous interviews with Linda HERE and ALSO HERE, and sharp-eyed readers of my story “Chasing Satellites,” now available in the anthology BEYOND THE SUN, may notice a nod to Linda therein as well.

 

ANTHONY: Welcome back, Linda!

LINDA: First of all, Anthony, thank you SO much for inviting me onto your blog again—I’m truly honored to be here!

ANTHONY: You released GWYNNETH EVER AFTER recently. Tell us a bit about the story.

LINDA:  I’m not very good at seeing the underlying themes in stories (I detested that part of high school English, lol), but a reviewer identified Gwynneth Ever After as a “Cinderella tale” and darned if she isn’t right! In my story’s case, “Cinderella” is an ordinary single mom/architect raising three children and juggling all the ordinary stresses in life, and her Prince Charming is a famous Hollywood actor. But all isn’t love and sweetness, because they have a lot to try to overcome. Gwyn’s and her children’s hearts have been badly damaged and she is fiercely protective of them all—and Gareth is harboring a secret that could drive her away forever.

ANTHONY: GWYNNETH is not at all connected to your “Grigori Legacy” series, correct?  Where did the inspiration for this story come from?

LINDA: No, Gwynneth isn’t connected with the Grigori Legacy at all. It was actually written (and published) before Sins of the Angels was released. At the time, I was focusing on writing romance, had a huge crush on an actor who shall remain unnamed, and regularly walked past a house in my town that became my inspiration for Gwyn’s home — and her occupation.

And wanna know something weird? About three years after I wrote the book, I found out that home’s owner—who had renovated the house just as Gwyn did—was also an architect.

ANTHONY: That is a little eerie! Did you find that your writing or editing process changed because you were writing in a different genre?

LINDA: My writing and editing process is…well, I’d have to call it a work in progress, lol. Gwynneth Ever After came earlier in my career, so my process has actually evolved a great deal since I wrote it. For instance, I used to be a pure “pantser,” not plotting out anything in advance. That worked well enough with Gwynneth, but needed to change with the complexity of the Grigori Legacy series because there were just too many threads to keep track of entirely in my head. Now I straddle the fence between pantser and plotter, having just enough of an idea of what’s coming up to be sure I don’t miss something or—even worse—write myself into a corner when it comes to a future plot point.

ANTHONY: That last comment is a logical segue into this question, if you can answer it without spoiling the outcome: is GWYNNETH a stand-alone novel or the start of a new series?

LINDA: Gwynneth was written as a stand-alone, but I haven’t ruled out a sequel at some point down the road. Mostly because there’s a certain cousin in the book who really, really needs to meet his match, in my opinion. J Also, several readers have suggested a novella that perhaps features Gwyn & Gareth’s wedding…I’ve never tackled a novella, but it might be fun!

ANTHONY: What prompted the decision to self-publish this book after going the traditional publisher route for the first two “Grigori” books?

LINDA: My publisher was actually interested in taking on Gwynneth as well, but once I made the decision to release, I wanted to do so faster than they could manage. With almost a year and a half between the releases of books 2 and 3 in the Grigori Legacy series, Sins of the Son and Sins of the Lost, I felt I owed it to readers to fill the gap with something and my editor and agent were very supportive of the idea.

Cover of GWYNNETH EVER AFTER

ANTHONY: That’s fantastic that they were supportive. What were the challenges of self-publishing? And why only in e-book form?

LINDA: The main challenges of self-publishing were the enormous learning curve and the sheer amount of information I had to sift through to find the answers I was looking for. It really is a “buyer beware” world out there when it comes to the plethora of services offered to authors who are self-publishing and you need to be very well informed in order to make sound decisions.

As to why only e-book, I honestly just haven’t had a chance to look at the possibility of print at this point. Again, I haven’t ruled it out.

ANTHONY: What would your two lead females, Alexandra Jarvis and Gwynneth, think of each other?

LINDA: That is such an interesting question. Both women are very strong in their own right—they’ve had to be, given the circumstances of their lives. I think they would recognize and respect that strength in one another if they were to meet, but I also think Gwynneth would want to keep her family as far away from Alex as possible if she knew even a fraction of what was going on in Alex’s life these days. Alex would be inclined to agree with her—the war between Heaven and Hell has no place in the lives of three small children and their mother.

ANTHONY: And speaking of Alex, when is the next Grigori Legacy book coming out, and what can you tell us about the plot?

Sins of the Lost will be out on October 15th—darker and grittier than either of its predecessors. Alex’s new relationship with Seth is struggling, Lucifer’s Nephilim army is on the brink of its birth, and humanity is beginning to disintegrate in the face of its own fear. Apart from that, all I can tell you is that bad things happen, Anthony…very bad things. (I’m beginning to become a little concerned about this sadistic streak I’ve uncovered in myself, lol!) Before readers become too upset with me, however, I’d just like to point out that the Grigori Legacy is not a trilogy and there will be a fourth book!!!

 

You can follow linda on Twitter @lindapoitevin, and “like” her page on Facebook, or go direct to her website for updates on all of her projects.  GWYNNETH EVER AFTER is available in e-book form at Amazon and Barnes and Noble.

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Steve B. Howell

In June, Hadrosaur Productions published A KEPLER’S DOZEN: Thirteen Stories About Distant Worlds That Really Exist, a science fiction anthology co-edited by Steve B. Howell and David Lee Summers.  In this second of two interviews, I talk to co-editor Steve B. Howell about the anthology and about the actual Kepler Mission.

Dr. Steve B. Howell is currently the project scientist for the NASA Kepler Space telescope. Kepler was launched in 2009 with a goal to discover planets orbiting other stars – exoplanets – using the transit technique. Dr. Howell is a highly distinguished astronomer having worked in the field for over 25 years. He has been a university professor, built instruments for the NASA Space Shuttle, worked as a scientist at the Kitt Peak National Observatory, and now is the science head for NASA’s most scientifically and publicly visible mission, Kepler. He is the author of over 600 scientific publications, numerous popular and technical articles, and has written and edited 8 books on astronomy and astronomical instrumentation. Dr. Howell is highly involved with informal and formal scientific education for kids to adults and as an entertaining speaker, he is often asked to talk as various functions both professionally and publically. He currently lives in Redwood City, CA where he loves to hike, prepare gourmet meals, and play blues music.

ANTHONY: What is your current role with the Kepler mission?

STEVE: I am the Project Scientist for the Kepler mission. As project scientist, it is my job to get the most science out of the Kepler mission. The job is a sort of overseer of the science for the entire mission. The work includes science for both exoplanets and work on stars themselves.

Stellar astrophysics using Kepler data, for example, studies of interacting binary stars, pulsating stars, rotations of stars as measured by watching starspots on their surface, has been very exciting as well. I work at such tasks as getting astronomers around the world involved in using the data we have collected for a variety of science purposes and to make sure we get the funding we need from NASA to accomplish our goals.
ANTHONY: Can you tell us a little about the original intent and time-span of the mission?

STEVE: The mission was designed to determine the frequency of Earth-size planets orbiting stars similar to our sun. The mission life time was originally 3.5 years but was extended to 4 years.

ANTHONY: How does the camera function?

STEVE: The camera is a 16 million pixel large format array of digital detectors. The array is about 16 inches on a side and consists of 42 separate large charge-coupled detectors. These are similar to the cameras in a cell phone only much, much better quality and tremendously larger. Kepler states at one field of view in the sky all the time. The camera has no shutter so reads out the images constantly. At NASA Ames Research Center, where I work, we use sophisticated software and a supercomputer to search all the data to look for small drops in light from any star that might indicate an exoplanet has passed in front of the star (a transit event).

ANTHONY: It seems like there’s the potential for an exorbitant amount of data to be collected. How is that all transferred back to Earth?

STEVE: There is indeed a tremendous amount of data collected and sent back to Earth. Once a month, the spacecraft turns to point an antenna toward the earth and we use about 20-24 hours of time to transfer all the data back to the ground.

ANTHONY: What’s involved in analyzing the data? I guess I’m asking how you know what’s going on in each of the systems you’re investigating.

STEVE: Each star we observe, over 150,000 of them, has its light curve examined in great detail. A light curve is simply a measure of the star brightness over time. We observe each star every 30 minutes and produce a record of that stars brightness every 30 minutes for days to weeks to years. Each measurement is looked at by our software system to see if there is a chance that the star has dimmed just enough and in the correct way to indicate a possible transit by a planet orbiting that star.

ANTHONY: How many exo-planets have been identified since the mission started?

STEVE: Kepler has found over 3500 exoplanet candidates, of which we believe that 90-90% are certainly real exoplanets. They range in size from about that of our moon to larger than Jupiter. Most are small in the 2-5 earth radius size range.

As we examine more of the data, smaller planets, similar to Earth-size, will be discovered and we expect to end up with hundreds of exoplanets near the size of our earth.

ANTHONY: There’s a distinct naming convention for stars and planets identified through the mission, correct?

STEVE: Yes, it is simple. The first planet we found that we could absolutely confirm as a planet we called Kepler 1b. The next was Kepler 2b and so on. The “b” is used to designate that we are talking about the planet in orbit about a star and not the star itself. So far, we are up to naming over 100 confirmed exoplanets.

ANTHONY: One of the things I liked about the format of A Kepler’s Dozen was the introduction to each story, which included hard data on the stars and planets the authors set their stories on or near. How much input did you provide to authors in terms of choosing stars to write about?

STEVE: The book had one firm rule – each story had to be about a real Kepler discovered and confirmed exoplanet. The authors were given the details of the planets they choose to write about and had to stay scientifically true to those data in their story. I believe this is the first such science fiction book that uses real exoplanets.

ANTHONY: I think that’s correct. Was there any thought of including even more planetary or system data with the stories?

STEVE: Each author was free to include whatever data they wished about the planet or planets they chose for their story. Some stories simply name the planet as a destination others use more information to develop the story.

ANTHONY: Tell us a bit about your own story in the collection, “A Mango and Two Peanuts.”

STEVE: Well, that story formed in my head soon after David and I agreed to work on this anthology. Kepler 37 was just discovered and we were really busy working on the science paper to announce it. There was a sort of race as to what would come out first – the science paper or the Anthology? The science paper won by 3 weeks.

The hard part was the ending. If you read the story you may see that a number of possible endings are possible. I think I choose a rather unusual one, certainly one that fits me well. I tried to integrate a number of favorite topics, persons, and other information into the story using them as spring boards toward the story line.

ANTHONY: I identified a bit with several of the characters in the story, the ones who know they are part of something bigger but don’t really understand the science behind the mission. Do you find that’s a normal thing when dealing with missions the size of most NASA projects?

STEVE: Yes, this is a realistic view of some of the players in real missions. The work on a space mission in very complex and involves hundreds of people from engineers to software programmers to astronomers like me. At each stage, each person’s contribution is important and taken together they make it all work. Some folks are more in tune with the science and some are not, but all are crucial parts of the whole. I am blessed to have such a great team working on the Kepler mission

ANTHONY: The mission has faced some challenges with the craft’s reaction wheels. How does this impact the mission going forward?

STEVE: Indeed! In fact, as of May 2013, just about when our book was released, Kepler lost its second of four reaction wheels. The collection of science data may be finished for the exoplanet part of the mission, but we are exploring ways to revive the reaction wheels and to look at what other science mission the telescope might be able to do. This work in on-going and we should know the answers by end of summer.

ANTHONY: What do the reaction wheels do, and what makes them particularly hard to fix?
STEVE: Reaction wheels are used to point the Kepler telescope very precisely. This precise pointing allows us to collect very precise photometry, giving us the ability to detect the small (<1%) drop in light from a star as a planet passes in front during a transit.

ANTHONY: And my usual closing question: What is your favorite book, and what would you say to someone who hasn’t read it to convince them that they should?

STEVE: Wow! This is tough. I read a lot and on many different topics. I’ll stick to Sci Fi for this answer. My favorite Scifi Book (so far) is The Invisible Man by H. G. Wells (1897) because he used real physics principles and the possibility of what we might be able to do with them to create his “monster”. It was one of my early scifi reads as well and that probably adds to the interest. I think the simplicity of the principle and the human condition story that ensues are good elements to make one think as they read along.

You can learn even more about the Mission at NASA’s Kepler Website. You can order print copies of A KEPLER’S DOZEN directly from Hadrosaur Productions, or find the ebooks on Smashwords.

And you can read my interview with Steve’s co-editor, David Lee Summers, by clicking on the little link at the bottom of this post that takes you to the previous interview.

 

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David Lee Summers

In June, Hadrosaur Productions published A KEPLER’S DOZEN: Thirteen Stories About Distant Worlds That Really Exist, a science fiction anthology co-edited by Steve B. Howell and David Lee Summers.  In this first of two interviews, I talk to David Lee Summers about the anthology and a little bit about his other writing.

David Lee Summers is the author of seven novels and over sixty published short stories. His writing spans a wide range of the imaginative from science fiction to fantasy to horror. Novels include a wild west steampunk adventure (OWLDANCE) and VAMPIRES OF THE SCARLET ORDER, in which vampire mercenaries fight evil. David edits the quarterly SF/F magazine TALES OF THE TALISMAN, and has also served as editors for the anthologies SPACE PIRATES and SPACE HORRORS. When not writing, David operates telescopes at Kitt Peak National Observatory.

ANTHONY: Let’s talk about A KEPLER’S DOZEN first. What inspired the anthology?

DAVID: Steve Howell and I have been friends since I returned to Kitt Peak National Observatory a little over five years ago.  I was one of the Observing Assistants for the WIYN 3.5-meter telescope and he was the WIYN 3.5-meter telescope scientist.  Over the years, Steve learned about my interest in writing, and even picked up one of the anthologies I was in.  A couple of years ago, Steve left the National Optical Astronomy Observatory to work for NASA as the project scientist for the Kepler Space Mission.  The Kepler space telescope has done a remarkable job finding planets around stars.  Looking at the Kepler web site as I type this, I see over 3000 planet candidates and 136 confirmed planets.  As someone who grew up and went through college and grad school only knowing about the planets in our own solar system, this is absolutely remarkable, but there’s a real danger of all these planets just becoming statistics.  So, Steve’s idea was to assemble an anthology that showcased some of these planets and imagined what it would be like to see these worlds up close.  It becomes a way to visualize the wide variety of planets the Kepler telescope has discovered.

ANTHONY: Was there an open call for submissions or was it invite-only? Might we see “Another Kepler’s Dozen” in the future?

DAVID: A Kepler’s Dozen was invite-only.  We did that because we wanted each story to feature a unique planet and this allowed each author the opportunity to ask questions about the planet they chose.  That said, one of the stories came in during the last reading period for Tales of the Talisman Magazine.  I thought it was a great match for the anthology.  Steve agreed and we invited the author to make a few minor revisions and we included it.  Since we assigned the planets for A Kepler’s Dozen, more exoplanets have been found in the so-called habitable zones of their stars.  This is the area where you might conceivably find life as we know it.  So, yes, we’d like to do a follow-up anthology.  I’d like to make this one at least semi-open.  Perhaps there would be a way to sign up and select from a list of available planets (still over 120 to choose from!).

ANTHONY: How did you split editorial duties with you co-editor, Steve B. Howell?

DAVID: We both read for overall story.  If there was something about the story we didn’t like, we discussed it and came up with a solution to propose to the author.  From there, I read for the more in-depth grammar and spelling issues and he read to make sure the planets were portrayed as accurately as possible given what’s known.  He allowed some leeway on that since, in fact, very little is known about all these worlds.

ANTHONY: Steve is a project scientist for the Kepler mission, correct?  What unique perspective did he bring to the project?

DAVID: That’s right, Steve is Kepler’s project scientist.  Of course he had a good handle on the most up-to-date information available from the Kepler telescope.  Beyond that, he brought a real sense of fun to this project.  It was clear he was delighted about people imagining what these planets might be like.  One thing both science and science fiction share are people asking “what if” questions.  What’s more, scientists thrive on challenges to conventional wisdom.  So, he clearly liked it when authors challenged a picture he might have about the planets.  In fact, in his own contribution to the anthology, Steve suggested that there could be a subtext hidden in the planet data that hasn’t been seen yet.

Front cover of A KEPLER’S DOZEN

ANTHONY: The Kepler mission hit a big snag last month with the failure of a second “reaction wheel” (out of four on the craft), affecting the telescope’s ability to remain focused on fixed points. What effect will project termination (if repairs aren’t possible) have on the search for habitable planets outside of our system? Is a second, improved Kepler mission a possibility?

DAVID: In fact, there was another mission in the works before Kepler’s problems started.  It’s called TESS (Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite) and it’s tentatively scheduled for launch in 2017.  My understanding is that while Kepler focused on one region of the sky, picked because of a large number of sun-like stars, TESS will focus on nearby stars, so we’ll learn more about stars we might visit in the near future.  Also, I gather there’s a good chance Kepler will continue to operate.  The reaction wheel problem just means that it won’t be very likely to detect Earth-sized planets, but it will continue to collect data and monitor Jupiter-sized planets.

What’s more, there are actually a lot of ground-based exoplanet surveys such as the HAT survey being conducted in Arizona and Hawaii by a group of Hungarian Astronomers.  HAT stands for Hungarian-made Astronomical Telescopes.  There are also ongoing searches at the 1.5-meter telescope at Arizona’s Whipple Observatory and at observatories in South America.  So, despite Kepler’s problems, the hunt for exoplanets is far from over.

ANTHONY: A neat feature of the book is that the introduction to each story includes data collected during the Kepler mission. How much guidance was given to the authors in terms of choosing the stars/planets to be used in their stories?

DAVID: As a starting point, the authors were sent to the Kepler Mission website at http://kepler.nasa.gov and allowed to browse for a planet that captured their imagination.  In some cases, the authors came back and had questions about details of the system for Steve.  In other cases, authors asked about planets that would fit a certain set of criteria they had in mind for a story.  Steve and I worked with them to find planets that would work in their stories.  Sometimes a story idea had to be modified slightly, but with so many planets to choose from, modifications were actually pretty slight.  Of course, Steve read the stories for accuracy and again made some suggestions, but those tended to be slight and only had minor impact on the stories being told.

ANTHONY: Tell us about your own story in the book, “Hot Pursuit.”

DAVID: “Hot Pursuit” tells the story of a band of space pirates who are hired to help transport stolen technology back to Earth.  The technology’s creators kill the agent and want to do the same to the pirates who get away with the stolen goods.  The pirates take refuge near a so-called hot Jupiter called Kepler-17b.  This planet orbits its sun every one and a half days.  Keep in mind that Mercury orbits our sun every 88 days.  What’s more, the star Kepler-17 is an active star, meaning it has flares and starspots.  This is good for the pirates because being near this star and planet makes them undetectable.  The problem is, they can’t stay for long or else they will burn up.

SPACE PIRATES, another Summers-edited anthology

ANTHONY: How does this story tie in with your short stories in the SPACE PIRATES, SPACE HORRORS and SPACE BATTLES anthologies from Flying Pen Press?

DAVID: “Hot Pursuit” features Captain Ellison Firebrandt and the crew of the Legacy, who are also featured in the Full-Throttle Space-Tales anthologies Space Pirates, Space Sirens, Space Tramps, and Space Battles.  Chronologically, this story takes place immediately after the one in Space Sirens.  My story in Space Horrors is, so far, the only one I’ve written for the Full-Throttle Space Tales series that does not feature the crew of the Legacy.  That one is a vampire story set aboard a Bussard Ramjet, an idea that came to me while spending an evening in Robert Bussard’s Santa Fe home.

ANTHONY: What projects are you working on currently?

DAVID: Currently I’m wrapping up work on my second wild west steampunk adventure, Lightning Wolves.  It’s a sequel to my novel Owl Dance.  In the new story, Russians have invaded the Pacific Northwest in 1877 and are advancing into California.  New weapons have proven ineffective or dangerously unstable and the one man who can help has disappeared into Apache Country, hunting ghosts.  A healer and a former sheriff lead a band into the heart of the invasion to determine what makes the Russian forces so unstoppable while a young inventor thinks outside the box to create a new kind of weapon.

ANTHONY: And my usual closing question: What is your favorite book, and what would you say to someone who hasn’t read it to convince them that they should?

DAVID: This is a tough question because there are so many books I love!  So, let me narrow it down and pick my favorite anthology.  It’s called A Very Large Array and it’s a collection of stories by New Mexico science fiction and fantasy authors.  It was released in 1987, edited by Melinda M. Snodgrass and contains stories by Roger Zelazny, Jack Williamson, Stephen R. Donaldson and Fred Saberhagen.  This is the anthology that introduced me to Suzy McKee Charnas and George R.R. Martin.  If the names in this anthology haven’t convinced you to read it, then let me just say that what makes it wonderful is that it collects an amazing range of science fiction and fantasy writers from the early greats to contemporary masters.  There’s hard sci fi, horror, and fantasy.  It is one of the most compact windows into the universe of speculative fiction.

You can follow David on Twitter @davidleesummers. His blog is located at davidleesummers.com. You can order print copies of A KEPLER’S DOZEN directly from Hadrosaur Productions, or find the ebooks on Smashwords.  You can also find stories by both David Lee Summers and myself in FULL-THROTTLE SPACE TALES VOLUME 6: SPACE BATTLES.

Come back on Thursday for my interview with David’s co-editor, Steve B. Howell.

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Neal and Dexter, the Early Years

I’ve interviewed my friend Neal Bailey a number of times here on “Rambling On,” discussing the progress of CURA TE IPSUM, the fantastic “can one man save himself across the Multiverse” webcomic written by Neal and drawn by the incomparable Dexter Wee. About a month ago, Neal started a Kickstarter to publish a print version of Year Two of the webcomic, with lots of awesome perks for backers … and I promptly dropped the ball in regards to having him on here again to promote it. There’s still four days left and the campaign is going strong, so better late than never, right?

 

ANTHONY: Hi Neal! So, what’s new and exciting in the world of CURA TE IPSUM?

NEAL: Hey, Anthony! Honestly, that probably depends on your perspective. For the readers, we’re going into a section of story that’s going to be decidedly exciting. A big paradigm shift in the next few months, and the beginnings of the origin of the Dark Everett.

For me, what’s exciting is winding toward the middle of Year Five (I write… in the FUTURE) and finishing up this Choose-Your-Own-Adventure style novella I’m doing for the Kickstarter. It’s a lot of fun.

Also… HARDBACKS! We will have hardbacks, it looks like, thanks to this wonderful Kickstarter thing. 

ANTHONY: What made you feel now was the right time to run a Kickstarter for CURA?

NEAL: Honestly, going to cons and watching other independent comics make use of it with no ill effects. I used to write for the internet, and if I learned one thing writing for the internet, it was that if you do a thing and ask for money for it, you get nastygrams from people, for some reason. At least, you used to. That has changed now. As the medium grows, people start to understand if they don’t support a thing, it goes away, which sucks.
I was going to do one big Kickstarter, at the end of Cura, and try and recoup something, anything of the tens of thousands of dollars I’ve thrown into it. I saw Kickstarter as a trigger you could pull once, a fundraising tool to get a thing recognition and a printing.

Then I printed my own trades a few times, and realized I couldn’t continue to do it on my own. I debated options. Going two days a week (which would lead to pay reduction for Dex, which I didn’t want to do). Going to companies (I already have, and a few big ones passed on Cura). That’s when I started asking my other friends doing webcomics and they indicated that the model for Kickstarter has shifted. You’re not a fink for doing one once a year, it’s more of a situation like Kickstarter is a Previews for the indie world. People who like indie comics come, see things that need regular support, order it, and keep it going.

I realized I can do Year Two, and if the people like it, then it wouldn’t be the only hurrah. There is a matrix and community of people who will support a thing that you’re earnestly passionate about. That is quite a reassurance for a struggling writer, and I said to myself, what’s the worst that could happen, you fail? Then you just don’t produce the book, you keep making Cura, you don’t go into more debt, win-win. It’s really quite amazing.

Year Two Cover Concept

ANTHONY: With only four days to go, you’re very possibly going to double your original goal. What are some of the perks backers can get if they sign on before the campaign ends?

NEAL: We’ve had two stretch goals so far, the first one is better paper, which I REALLY wanted to get for folks, and the hardbacks, which people REALLY wanted to get from me. I got a lot of messages asking for them. If we reach the $7,500 mark (and we’re darn close as of this writing) folks will have a hardback option.
The stretch goals after that are pure perks for folks. I’m going to set a new stretch goal the minute we hit that $7,500, if we’re that fortunate, but to be honest, I have been so overwhelmed by the outpouring of support that I’ve been floored. Anything after where we are now is just a way to make the book better… it’s already happening! Isn’t that fantastic?

The biggest perk that people will have if we do double our goal, outside of any material thing, is the secure knowledge that it’s setting up Cura for at least another solid year, and guaranteeing that trades will continue to be worthwhile and fought for. There isn’t much squeak between the costs and the pledges, but whatever squeak there is will go right back into the book and the comic. I went bankrupt five years ago throwing my own cash into my work, and I’m so incredibly glad that I have a support net here now to help keep this book going. It makes me redouble my efforts and believe even more in what we’re doing, as shallow as that might sound. It’s amazing what a little validation will do. My life is forever changed.

I’m going to try and manage some postcards and paper dolls, bookmarks, whatever I can manage to throw in as a bonus, depending on the final tally. This is really about the people who made this happen, and I want to reward them as much as I can for their good faith.

ANTHONY: You’re creating a “Choose Your Own Dimension” adventure for backers, right? Tell us about that.

NEAL: I used to collect all of the Choose Your Own Adventure books as a kid, and when I was in elementary I was fortunate enough to have a writer of those style of books come to the school and explain the process. Since then it’s fascinated me.

Once I started doing Cura, early on, I realized that it would lend itself extraordinarily well to a Choose Your Own Adventure style narrative, and I started to write one, but I stopped, for several reasons. Firstly, I wanted to make it a comic, which I hadn’t seen before outside of a book that slips my mind, the title, but it was amazing. I am embarrassed that I don’t recall. That had issues, because Dex is busy, and asking him to do a hundred page comic while he’s already doing Cura and other stuff wouldn’t work. The story is narrative enough and a handful.

I set it aside. I kept thinking about it, but I set it aside, and in the meanwhile fleshed out all of the characters I’d already outlined. Then the Kickstarter came, and Greg Rucka suggested, when I solicited his advice on my Kickstarter, that I ought to do a Choose Your Own Adventure. Recalling my earlier idea, it sounded like it might make a great novella, and so here I am, writing it. It’ll feature almost every member of Cura and Nosce that we’ve seen so far, and some other characters we may never see. You’re every Charlie, and some of the choices you can make are pretty hairy.

I did make one change to the basic formula. As morality tales, CYOA novels seem to reward good behavior and punish bad behavior. I like a more chaotic view of nature and nurture. Sometimes if you do the right thing, bad things still happen, and sometimes when you do a bad thing, there are no consequences. But sometimes it’s as you might expect, and I hope to keep people jumping.

Either way the dang thing is 15,000 words and climbing, so it’s not a minor perk, I hope. 

The Last Supper, Cura Style

ANTHONY: I see this question a lot regarding Kickstarters: you’ve hit your funding goal, and passed it — why should I back it?

NEAL: That goes a bit to what I mentioned before, in my earlier answer. First off, the more books I can order, the longer Cura is supported, in multiple respects. I can go to cons and get physical books into the hands of people who have never seen it, which helps the readership, which feeds the book. I can offset the cost of paying Dex, because I believe in paying my artist even when I can’t afford it (and God, have I been stretched thin the last five years). Most importantly, however, every purchase is a vote of confidence that says this book is a thing worth fighting for outside of my own mind, which is critical. It will make my work better, which will in turn feed what I turn out, which will in turn reward those who buy even when the initial goal is met.

Also, another important factor is that the initial goal is the bare minimum to get the project done, the books alone, and anything after that is where things start to be about extra for keeping the wheels turning. Plus, y’know, perks! Stretch goals. There’s good for everyone if we can keep going.

I can unconditionally guarantee that not a penny beyond the goal will go to anything beyond Cura. Hell, if we made a hundred thousand dollars, after Cura was colored, made into a short film, got an app, got Dex a Syntique, or whatever the heck else could benefit Cura, I’d still take cash from my own wallet and put it into making the comic more.

I am a strange duck, in that I never wrote for profit (shhh, don’t tell editors). I write for love of the characters in the hopes that profit may come, that I may write for love of the characters, on and on and on. If I have a dry room and a pen, I’m good. The cash is all about the book, and always will be. If I needed money for my own fun or amusement, I’d go back to day labor moving cabinets with stoners.

i09.com described Cura as “an emotional crisis on infinite earths.”

ANTHONY: Dexter’s art continues to amaze and astound. Is he creating any special new art for certain pledge levels?

NEAL: Yes! We have just added a new “commission” level at the two hundred dollar pledge. He will make a custom tailored commission. Speaking as a guy who has several hanging in his own house, I can honestly say they’re quite a centerpiece for a geek like me. Plus you get the hardbacks and all the other goodies.

ANTHONY: How about for the book itself?

NEAL: We have an eight-page backup introducing an all-female group of Charlenes who will figure prominently in Year Four and Five. There’s a Filipina, several steampunk inspired designs, a black female Hank (Henrietta), and a few members that will likely surprise you. Let’s just say Mrs. Arntzen doesn’t always die.

The backup has been a lot of hard work while producing the regular pages, but it’s absolutely worth it, and probably one of the best arguments to get the trade or the PDFs.

ANTHONY: The print collections cover Year One and Two, but the webcomic is well into Year Three now.  Has anyone come to CURA from reading the print editions first?  Do you find a different reaction to the story (or characters, or pacing) between print-first readers and web-first readers?  Or even a difference in reaction for people reading it in print after reading it as each page first appears online?

NEAL: Absolutely, in answer to both questions. People have come to print first through cons, and there is a huge reaction when people read it day-to-day as opposed to in a big stream, both in print and digitally.

The comic is written with a very known sense that days are passing between pages. The comic leaps a bit, and I have wrestled with it quite a bit. Some people are annoyed by it, but some love it. I stand by it, in that it is supposed to bring that feeling of jumping around in space and time that these characters are going through. That said, the story is becoming more and more linear as it moves on, perhaps as I learn, perhaps as the ending becomes more and more clear.

Either way, thankfully, I haven’t received any email from anyone calling it a pile of turds. The readership, to a man and woman, have all been incredibly kind and respectful and awesome.

ANTHONY: What is it about the story of Charlie Everett that resonates so well with fans?

NEAL: I’ve been told it’s the fact that he’s optimistic, and also the tension of whether or not he will become the Dark Everett, but I don’t want to speak for the audience and put words in their mouth. Maybe that’s just the things I’ve heard that I want to be true, and for other people it’s that he’s dreamy, or they love tweed, or hey, shout out to the guidance counselors out there who need representation!

That is my tongue firmly in cheek, for the record.

I can speak for myself. Charlie resonates for me because I wanted to write from the age of twelve, twenty long years ago now, and everywhere I went it was like that Dewey Cox movie, a parade of family encouraging me to have a fallback, get a job, stop being such a lazy waste. A relative said, I quote, that I contribute in no meaningful way to my family, doing what I do.

I disagree. And Charlie didn’t. Charlie thought people like that were right for so long, and he cast it off, and even better, he did it for himself. He found hope, he found courage, and through that power. That’s what I see in him, and that’s what makes me love him.

ANTHONY: What glimpse can you give us into the near future for the CURA cast?

NEAL: I’ll be cryptic, and maybe a little scary. A latin demon. Origins. The smell of the person you love the most. Power beyond reckoning in the hands of a madman. The explanation of that moon. Junior’s origin. The House of Cindy. God, now I’m getting creeped out. Soon!

ANTHONY: And a twist on my usual closing question: What is Charlie Everett’s favorite book, and what would he say to convince someone who hasn’t read it to convince them that they should?

NEAL: Charlie’s favorite book is Richard III, and he would say that one should read it because even though this man, Richard, in attempting to find his way, becomes a terrible villain because of how he is perceived, he also says one of the most important things any human being ever has in history:

“Shall I live in hope?”

Charlie does, and you should too.

You can follow Neal and Dex on Twitter @nealbailey  @dexterwee. You can find the comic CURA TE IPSUM on the web. But most importantly, you can find the final days of the Kickstarter campaign and donate by CLICKING RIGHT HERE.  If you decide to back, please leave a note here letting me know you did so.

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Worlds of Philip Jose Farmer, Vol 3

One of my favorite independent publishers is Meteor House, who specialize in works related to the great Philip Jose Farmer. Meteor House is one of the prime motivators (along with Titans Books’ reprint line) behind the resurgence of interest in Farmer’s work in general and in Farmer’s Wold-Newton Family work in particular. I had a chance to sit down with Mike Croteau, the founder of Meteor House, to talk about the imprint, its goals, and of course about Phil Farmer.

Anthony: How long has Meteor House been in existence as a publisher?

MIKE: Meteor House launched in 2010. After publishing the fanzine Farmerphile: The Magazine of  Philip José Farmer from 2005 to 2009, it felt like the right time to take the next step, to start a company and publish some books.

ANTHONY: Where does the company name come from?

MIKE: The “Meteor” in question refers to the Wold Newton Meteorite which crashed in Wold Newton England in 1795. This historical event plays a significant role in many of Philip José Farmer’s works.

ANTHONY: The focus of your efforts is clearly on the great Philip José Farmer. How much of an influence has his work been on you personally?

MIKE: To really get this answer, you need to pick up Titan Books’ brand-new reprint of The Wind Whales of Ishmael. I was honored to be invited to write the foreword to that edition, and in it I take about 1,700 words to answer that question! I will say that between maintaining Farmer’s official website, Facebook page, Meteor House, my book collecting, selling books from his estate for his heirs, rereading his books and still trying to read a lot of the books that influenced him…it’s safe to say that Philip José Farmer is my full-time hobby.

ANTHONY: You started with plans for annual Words of Philip Jose Farmer anthologies. Tell us a bit about the focus of the series and the kinds of writing readers can expect.

MIKE: Each issue of the  fanzine Farmerphile, which I mentioned above, contained never-before-seen material by Farmer himself (stories, articles, speeches, letters, excerpts), all culled from his “Magic Filing Cabinet,” so named because every time it is searched a new discovery is made. Each issue also contained tributes to Farmer and critiques of his work, by his fans and his fellow science fiction writers. Everyone who contributed to Farmerphile really did it for the love of Phil—because the only payment was two contributor copies! The money from sales went to cover printing and postage expenses, while the lion’s share went to Phil himself (thus making it worth his while to let us continually search through his files).

With The Worlds of Philip Jose Farmer anthologies, we shifted gears a bit. Since Phil was no longer with us (he passed away in February 2009) it was no longer about writing tributes to him that he would get to read. While each volume still contains stories, articles, speeches, letters, excerpts, interviews, tributes, critiques, all by or about Farmer, we also obtained permission from his estate to allow writers to create new licensed fiction using his creations. So we are able to publish new stories about some of his most popular characters and worlds, like Greatheart Silver, John Gribardsun, Roger Two Hawks, the World of Tiers, Khokarsa, members of the Wold Newton Family, and many others.

ANTHONY: When will the next Worlds of PJF volume be out, and what authors/focus can we expect?

MIKE: The first three volumes in the series were all released each year at FarmerCon, our annual gathering of Farmer’s fans (now being held in conjunction with PulpFest). This year, however, volume 4 is being delayed because Meteor House is releasing two other books at FarmerCon this summer. The first is a joint venture we’re doing with Altus Press to reprint Farmer’s biography of the Man of Bronze, Doc Savage: His Apocalyptic Life. Altus Press is publishing the ebook and trade paperback edition, while we’re publishing the deluxe hardcover edition, which is full of bonus material.

The second book we’re releasing is the second in our series of original signed limited edition novellas: The Scarlet Jaguar by Win Scott Eckert. Win is one of the foremost experts on Farmer and his Wold Newton Family, as well as the Wold Newton Universe that Win helped expand from Farmer’s original concept. This story is a sequel to the novel The Evil in Pemberley House, which Farmer and Eckert co-wrote and was published in 2009.

So, to finally answer…wait, what was your question? Oh yeah, the next Worlds of PJF book. As soon as we get back from FarmerCon we’ll kick into high gear to get that out well in time for Christmas. The book is actually pretty far along, except there is more material than can be used, so we’re in the process of culling that down. But there is still so much work to do on the other two books we’re bringing out we’re focusing our energies on those first.

Each book in the Worlds of PJF series has a theme. Volume 1 was subtitled “Protean Dimensions” and it focused Farmer’s near utter disregard of literary boundaries. The second volume, “Of Dust and Soul,” looked at Farmer’s interest in the softer sciences like philosophy, psychology, and theology, among other things. The third volume, “Portraits of a Trickster,” focused on the trickster nature of many of Phil’s characters, as well as his own.

I actually don’t want to say too much about the next book yet except to say that it will focus on, of all things, Farmer the science fiction writer. That is, a science fiction writer in the “classic” sense, one who wrote about space exploration, the far future, alien invasions, and the like. But I am excited to announce that it will have a foreword by Robert Silverberg!

Meteor House re-issues a Farmer classic

ANTHONY: I’m a big Silverberg fan, so that’s doubly exciting for me! How has Meteor House grown since you started? And where do you see the company going in the near future?

MIKE: In 2010 we published one book, The Worlds of PJF 1. In 2011, we also published just one book, The Worlds of PJF Volume 2. We started slow as we made the adjustment from fanzines to books, which turned out to be a bigger adjustment than expected.

In 2012 we published two books, The Worlds of PJF Volume 3, and our first signed limited edition novella, Exiles of Kho by Christopher Paul Cary. Chris was the coauthor, with Farmer, of The Song of Kwasin, the third and concluding novel in Farmer’s Khoharsa series (begun in the mid-1970s with Hadon of Ancient Opar and Flight to Opar). Exiles of Kho is an origin story about that world, and it is currently out of print.

So here we are in 2013 and we will be publishing four books. The first, due out in June, is our first non-Farmer title (although he is mentioned in the book), The Abnormalities of Stringent Strange by Rhys Hughes. Rhys is a brilliant writer who is hard to classify, although I guess surrealism is probably the one word that does the best job to describe his works. Stringent Strange starts off as a 1930s-style aviation pulp, then turns into a time-travel science fiction novel, then gets rather surrealistic, and then it gets weird. This book is currently only available as a signed limited edition, and it is nearly sold out.

Then, of course, we have the three books already mentioned. The hardcover edition of Doc Savage: His Apocalyptic Life (full of bonus materials), The Scarlet Jaguar, and The Worlds of PJF 4.

Other than The Worlds of PJF 5, and another signed limited edition novella, or two, we don’t have nearly as much planned for 2014. But I’m fairly sure that will change.

ANTHONY: As a small independent publisher, what challenges do you face in promoting your books, and how are you working to overcome those challenges?

MIKE: Having maintained a website about Farmer since 1996 (and his official site since 2001), there was a built-in audience for the Worlds of PJF series, but not enough of one to sell out an edition of 500 copies. We do a lot of social media, of course. To date we haven’t spent a lot of money on marketing, except for the money we put into hosting FarmerCon at PulpFest. We’re very proud of our books, from the artwork and design, to the contents, to the editing, layout, copyediting, etc. We believe we put out books that are just as good as any publisher of any size, so word of mouth is important to us. It’s a good sign that a small percentage of our customers who only buy one of our books.

Win Eckert carries on Farmer’s legacy

ANTHONY: Why does Farmer’s work still speak so strongly to readers after all these years? What has prompted the resurgence in interest that seems to be occurring?

MIKE: That is hard to answer. The seeming resurgence might just be due to the state of publishing these days. Most of the great authors from the early days of science fiction, even the biggest names, are going out of print to make room on the shelves for all the current writers. I suppose this is natural. So when someone like Titan Books decides to reissue a dozen Farmer titles, it seems like he’s “coming back.” Then again, other than the Riverworld series, Farmer has mostly been published by smaller presses (Subterranean Press, Monkey Brain, Ramble House, Meteor House, Overlook Press, Bison Books, Creation Oneiros, IDW, Baen, etc.) over the last decade or so. So his books are staying in print, but for the most part they are through specialty publishers and you have to buy them online.The Titan reprints I mentioned above are different, since they have major distribution and we haven’t seen anyone print this many Farmer titles since Ace in the 1970s.

As for his resurgence, I think some of it has to do with his fanbase and the big following of his Wold Newton theory. I believe it was the idea of marketing many of Farmer’s books as “Wold Newton Novels” that got Titan Books interested in reprinting Farmer in the first place. And guys like Danny Adams, Win Scott Eckert, and Christopher Paul Carey completing some of Farmer’s unfinished works, and giving readers “new” Farmer, has kept the interest level up.

But to answer your question as to why his works speak so strongly to readers, to me the most remarkable thing about Farmer is that his knowledge was very broad, and in many places very deep. So he put so much into each book. If you ever come across something in one of his books, a random fact about a place he created, like the natives not having any generic words in their language, and you think, “that was a throwaway he probably made up on the spot,” you’re wrong. If he goes into detail about something, he’s done the research. Farmer is one of those writers who, no matter how many times you reread one of his books, you always discover something new.

And he was into so many things which people are still discovering are cool, like pulp heroes, and alternate universe/timelines, writing fiction about real people, or trying to prove someone you thought was fictional was in fact a real living person, and other outside-the-box thinking.

ANTHONY: And my usual closing question: What is your favorite book and what would you say to someone who hasn’t read it in order to convince them that they should?

MIKE: Let’s see, you started this interview on a Tuesday, but I started typing this on a Thursday, and now it’s Saturday, so…which answer should I give? I have a hard time picking my favorite Farmer title, or in most cases my favorite from any author. It often depends on the person I’m recommending the book to. But since it’s Saturday, I’ll go with today’s answer: The Maker of Universes. This is the first book in the World of Tiers series and introduces Kickaha (aka Paul Janus Finnegan, note the initials), who although an ancillary character in the first book, by the third book takes over as the focus of the series. If you’re not familiar with Kickaha, think Tarzan, but without the Victorian restraint that Edgar Rice Burroughs gave him. Even if The Maker of Universes isn’t always my favorite book, Kickaha will always be my favorite of Farmer’s characters.

 

You can learn more about Meteor House at their site.

You can still pre-order the re-issue of Doc Savage: His Apocalyptic Life and the new Pat Wildman novella The Scarlet Jaguar.

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William Miekle

William Miekle is a Scottish author who works largely in the horror, dark fantasy and urban fantasy realms. He recently launched an anthology project similar to the one I’ll be putting out later this year, where the profits will go towards cancer research. My own project is a mix of genres and authors, while William’s is straight-up horror with stories provided by some of the biggest names in the business. So I thought now was a good time to chat with an author I seem to share a lot of common interests with.

ANTHONY: The Unspoken is an anthology intended to raise funds for cancer research. How did the project come about?

WILLIAM: Cancer is a monster. I can’t fight it. But as a writer and as an editor there is something I can do. I rallied up some friends, and friends of friends, and asked them for some stories. They responded brilliantly. We’ve put them together in a wee book. And now it’s out there, earning money for cancer charities. I’m very proud of everyone involved.

ANTHONY: What’s your personal connection to cancer?

WILLIAM: My Dad has cancer. More than one kind in fact. He’s fighting hard, but cancer is a devious bugger. It hides, it lurks, and it pounces when you think it’s down and defeated.

It has been a presence in my life for as long as I can remember. I first came across it in the late Sixties. My Gran’s brother came back to town to die with his family. I was fascinated by this man, so thin as to be almost skeletal, wound in clothes that were many sizes too large for his frame, his skin so thin that I could see his blood moving… not pumping, for it had long since stopped moving enough to keep him alive long. He rarely spoke, just sat by the fire as if trying to soak up heat, his eyes frequently wet from tears, not of sadness, but of pain. He lasted for months in that condition until it finally took him and I knew then that cancer was a monster.

Since then it has taken others, both friends and family, a young mother with two pre-teen children, a cousin who was like a big brother to me, and a girl I never got to know for she was taken before her twentieth birthday. Other family members are still fighting. There’s my Dad, who meets it all with a good humour that is humbling, and my godmother who has battled bowel cancer into remission twice.

ANTHONY: Why call the anthology “The Unspoken?”

UNSPOKEN

WILLIAM: There is a taboo in talking about cancer, and death. I remember it well as a child, watching my mum and aunts whisper, taking care that we, the children, were kept distanced from it, kept away from the horror, as if in fear it might somehow be contagious. Couple that with the reticence many people feel when talking about things that affect their bodies and there is definitely a lot left Unspoken.

ANTHONY: What authors are involved in the anthology, and did their personal experiences with cancer influence the stories they chose to tell?

WILLIAM: The lineup is stunning.

Ramsey Campbell – Introduction

Tim Lebbon – Just Breathe

Simon Kurt Unsworth – Photographs of Boden

Steven Savile & Steve Lockley – The Last Gift

John Shirley – Where the Market’s Hottest

Anna Taborska – Underbelly

Stephen James Price – Pages of Promises

Scott Nicholson – Heal Thyself

Stephen Laws – Harbinger

William Meikle – The Unfinished Basement

Nancy Kilpatrick – Alien Love

David Riley – A Girl, a Toad and a Cask

Barbie Wilde – Polyp

Johnny Mains – The Cure

Guy N Smith – The Big One

Pete Crowther – Cankerman

Steve Duffy – X for Henrietta

Gary McMahon – Bitter Soup

Cover art by Simon Marshall Jones

I know from private correspondence that each one has been touched in some way by cancer, whether it be personal, family or friends, but I’ll let their stories speak for them – the rest is a private matter for them to speak about if they wish to.

ANTHONY:  Tell us about your story in the anthology.

WILLIAM: The Unfinished Basement is a cancer metaphor story – there’s several in the collection.

I write about monsters, and have been doing so for a long span of years. Just recently I’ve started thinking more about why and taking a harder look at my motivations. A look back at several recent things I’ve done was revealing. THE INVASION features an alien invasion that comes in the form of an organism from space that eats anything in its path, transforming it into something different and unnatural. My short story THE COLOUR THAT CAME TO CHISWICK features a colour out of space that gets into beer and, when consumed, eats the drinker away from the inside out. THE UNFI|N|ISHED BASEMENT features gross body changes and loss of identity, and even my current work in progress, ostensibly just a little creature feature disaster story, features genetic modification leading to crawling chaos. I may not have been consciously aware of it, but it’s obvious to me now that the Big C has been on my mind.

ANTHONY: You write short stories and novels. Does your writing process change at all from one format to the other?

WILLIAM: To me it’s all just writing. The story itself dictates its own length. The end format is just another method for me to deliver the story. I’ve been published in all lengths, in print, ebook, audio, and on film and I’ve read stories at storytelling evenings in a variety of bars. I’m sure when the time comes for media to get delivered straight into people’s brains that I’ll be ready with something to publish that way too.

ANTHONY: You also are known for writing stories with characters like Doyle’s Professor Challenger and Sherlock Holmes, Lovecraft’s Cthulu mythos and Thomas Carnacki. What draws you to these classic (and somewhat public domain) characters over and over again?

WILLIAM: Nowadays there is a plethora of detectives in both book and film who may seem to use the trappings of crime solvers, but get involved in the supernatural. William Hjortsberg’s Falling Angel (the book that led to the movie Angel Heart) is a fine example, an expert blending of gumshoe and deviltry that is one of my favorite books. Likewise, in the movies, we have cops facing a demon in Denzel Washington’s Fallen that plays like a police procedural taken to a very dark place.

My interest goes further back to the “gentleman detective” era where we have seekers of truth in Blackwood’s John Silence, Sherlock Holmes and William Hope Hodgson’s Carnacki, and, mixed in with that, a deep love of the American PI books and movies of the ’40s and ’50s.

I’ve written numerous stories set in the late Victorian / Early Edwardian era, for Sherlock Holmes, Carnacki, and Professor Challenger. I was raised on Doyle, Wells and Robert Louis Stevenson and I love that historical period they covered in their work. It’s also the time period I’ve come to prefer for my own writing and I can see me settling in there for a long time to come.

ANTHONY: You also have your own continuing series, like The Midnight Files. Tell us a little bit about them.

WILLIAM: I read widely, both in the crime and horror genres, but my crime fiction in particular keeps returning to older, pulpier, bases.

My series character, Glasgow PI Derek Adams, is a Bogart and Chandler fan, and it is the movies and Americana of the ’40s that I find a lot of my inspiration for him, rather than in the modern procedural.

That, and the old city, are the two main drivers for the Midnight Eye stories.

When I was a lad, back in the early 1960s, we lived in a town 20 miles south of Glasgow, and it was an adventure to the big city when I went with my family on shopping trips. Back then the city was a Victorian giant going slowly to seed.

It is often said that the British Empire was built in Glasgow on the banks of the river Clyde. Back when I was young, the shipyards were still going strong, and the city centre itself still held on to some of its past glories.

It was a warren of tall sandstone buildings and narrow streets, with Edwardian trams still running through them. The big stores still had pneumatic delivery systems for billing, every man wore a hat, collar and tie, and steam trains ran into grand vaulted railway stations filled with smoke.

To a young boy from the sticks it seemed like a grand place. It was only later that I learned about the knife gangs that terrorized the dance halls, and the serial killer, Bible John, who frequented the same dance floors, quoting scripture as he lured teenage girls to a violent end.

Fast forward fifteen years, and I was at University in the city, and getting an education into the real heart of the place. I learned about bars, and religious divides. Glasgow is split along tribal royalties. Back in the Victorian era, shiploads of Irishmen came to Glasgow for work. The protestants went to one side of the city, the catholics to the other. There they set up homes… and football teams.

Now these teams are the biggest sporting giants in Scotland, two behemoths that attract bigots like bees to honey. As a student I soon learned how to avoid giving away my religion in bars, and which ones to stay out of on match days.

Also by the time I was a student, a lot of the tall sandstone buildings had been pulled down to make way for tower blocks. Back then they were the new shiny future, taking the people out of the Victorian ghettos and into the present day.

Fast forward to the present day and there are all new ghettos. The tower blocks are ruled by drug gangs and pimps. Meanwhile there have been many attempts to gentrify the city centre, with designer shops being built in old warehouses, with docklands developments building expensive apartments where sailors used to get services from hard faced girls, and with shiny, trendy bars full of glossy expensively dressed bankers.

And underneath it all, the old Glasgow still lies, slumbering, a dreaming god waiting for the stars to be right again.

Derek Adams, The Midnight Eye, knows the ways of the old city. And, if truth be told, he prefers them to the new.

He’s turned up in three novels so far, THE AMULET, THE SIRENS and THE SKIN GAME, all out now in ebook at all the usual online stores and in shiny new paperback editions from Seven Realms Publishing in 2013.( All three books will also be appearing in Portuguese language editions in 2013/14.) The Amulet is available in audiobook at Audible.com, and there’s also a film company looking for funding to bring him to life, several short stories, and an anthology appearance in the forthcoming CTHULHU 2012 anthology from Mythos Books.

Derek has developed a life of his own, and I’m along for the ride.

ANTHONY: The e-book of The Unspoken has been available for a short while now. What’s the response to the book been like from readers?

WILLIAM: Slower than I hoped actually. Anyone who has read it has been very positive, but sales are sluggish. I’m hoping interviews like this one will help raise the profile.

ANTHONY: When will the print version of the anthology be available?

WILLIAM: It should be along later this year, funds permitting.

ANTHONY: Where does the money raised by the anthology go?

WILLIAM: The money is going to The Beatson Cancer Research Institute, an organization who have done a lot of tireless work in helping sufferers for many years – including my dad.

 

The US Kindle edition is available on Amazon: The Unspoken. And if you’re interested, here’s the link for Amazon UK.

You can learn more about the Beatson Cancer Research Institute by visiting their website.

You can also learn more about William’s writing on his website, and follow him on Twitter.

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This blog post is part of the NEXT BIG THING meme. No, not Radio Disney’s Next Big Thing — I know a number of former contestants on that (Hollywood Ending, Kicking Daisies, Matt Johnson, Palaye Royale (back when they were “Kropp Circle”)), but that’s a music competition, and this NBT is about writing. The idea here is to talk about a book you’re working on, to generate interest in it and perhaps jumpstart your creativity a bit. I was tagged to be a part of this by my friend Shay Darrach, who in turn was tagged by our friend Sabrina Vourvoulias, and our friend Kay Holt has taken part as well. Our other friend Day al Mohamed was also tagged by Shay, and when she posts her installment, I’ll add the link to this.  They are all wonderful writers who regularly blow my mind, so check their blogs out for what they’re working on.  And then scroll down the bottom to see who I’m going to tag (and if/when they post their responses, I’ll link to those from here as well).

But first, my responses to the 10 questions asked of every Next Big Thing participant:

 

1.What is the working title of your next book?

THE MANY TORTURES OF ANTHONY CARDNO

2.Where did the idea come from for the book?

Last year, Brian White ran Kickstarters for each individual issue of FIRESIDE magazine. Among the “perks” for backing was the chance to be tuckerized into an author’s story as one of the main characters – not just a one line mention, but an actual part of the story. I chose this option for all three issues, and ended up in stories by Christie Yant, Damien Walters Grintalis and Mary Robinette Kowal. In the fall of 2012, Brian was teasing me and said that if I backed enough projects, we could put together a whole anthology of such stories. I thought the idea was so good that I asked a bunch of other authors if they’d be willing to play along and donate their stories so that the proceeds from the book could be donated to the American Cancer Society’s Relay For Life, in honor of author Jay Lake. This was before Jay officially got his terminal diagnosis, of course.

3.What genre does your book fall under?

Short Stories. Haha. That may seem like a cop-out answer, but the stories in the book are covering almost every genre – time-travel, horror, crime, hard sf, fantasy, even “literary fiction.”

4.What actors would you choose to play the part of your characters in a movie rendition?

Oh man. That would depend on the story.

In my own contribution, “I’m” a teenager, and I’d have to choose Austin MacDonald, whose most recent credit is as a teen serial killer on the episode of HANNIBAL that NBC famously pulled in the wake of the Boston bombings, as “me” and Brandon Tyler Russell (from the movie SMITTY) as the other main character.  In other stories? I see John Krasinski as the “me” in Damien Walters’ Grintalis’ story (as a husband who is largely clueless about what his wife is going through), and Neil Patrick Harris as the “me” in Christie Yant’s (a drunk in a “dry” town in the California of the late 1800s). I think Mary Robinette Kowal’s story would call for someone a bit more pompous, John Laroquette, maybe (an egotistical actor partaking in an “extreme dining” adventure), while Sabrina Vourvoulias’ version of me conjures up images of Robert Carlyle (a US government operative in Central America who has seen things one shouldn’t see). In Jay Lake’s story of a young man drawn back to the ocean he was forced to leave as a child, I picture Freddie Highmore. In Joseph Pittman’s latest Todd Gleason crime story, Stephen Fry would be perfect. I could go on.

5.What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?

To paraphrase Parke Godwin: “Who you are depends on who’s telling your tale, and boy do these authors have tales to tell about me.”

6.Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?

Self-published in e-book format only so that we can get the largest number of stories into the book. I’d love to be able to do a run in print, but that’s going to be expensive (unless some lovely publisher reading this would like to donate a small print run as a collector’s item…). I currently have folks donating their time to do the e-book formatting and such to help me out.

7.How long did/will it take you to write the first draft of the manuscript?

Technically, it’s been over a year since Christie’s story appeared in Fireside #1, but really the idea came into focus in November of 2012 and I anticipate offering the book for sale in September of 2013, so about a year.

8.What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?

I’m not really sure.  There’s been a push lately, with anthologies like Neil Gaiman and Al Sarrontonio’s STORIES and magazines like Fireside, to move away from “genre” boundaries and just publish good stories across the spectrum. This anthology falls in line with that goal.

9.Who or what inspired you to write this book?

If I was going to do this, it wasn’t going to be a self-aggrandizing attempt to make money for myself. I knew immediately the proceeds would go to cancer research, in honor of not only Jay Lake, but so many other friends and relatives who are battling or have been lost to cancer: my friends Karen Jenkins, Kristin Meyer, and M. Denise Barnoski, all taken too soon. My cousins Chrissy and Jimmy Hajkowski and my almost-sister Michelle Moklebust, amazing fighters. And of course my parents and maternal grandparents, all lost to one form of cancer or another. Folks like Jay and my cousins inspire me with their willingness to share the details of their fight, even the bad times, and how they do their damnedest to not let cancer rule them.

10.What else about the book might pique the reader’s interest?

Hopefully, it’s the variety of authors involved that will bring people in, as well as the good cause. Jay Lake, Mary Robinette Kowal, Christie Yant, Damien Walters Grintalis, David Lee Summers, Sabrina Vourvoulias, Joseph Pittman and Kaaron Warren are the most well-known among the authors who have already sent stories, as well as songwriters Barry Mangione (of The Dalliance and Apply The Graft) and Frank Dixon. It occurs to me that with Kaaron and Frank in the mix, we’ve got authors from two different continents involved, another nice selling point.

 

I don’t typically do the “I tagged you, so you HAVE to play” thing. However, there are a few authors I hope will play along. I’m not giving them specific dates to post, either.

1. Dennis Miller, author of  ONE WOMAN’S VENGEANCE, a wonderful Western with a female protagonist who, yes, starts out as a victim but who does not allow the label of “victim” to become her identity. Dennis’ book is brutal and beautiful at the same time.

2. Sidney Bristol, author of UNDER HIS SKIN and other erotica. Sidney is one of the “Crazy Writer Ladies of DFW” who I adore, and her work is so completely different from mine and Dennis’ that I cannot resist tagging her.

3. Bryan Thomas Schmidt, author of THE DAVI RHII SAGA, a great space opera based on the story of Moses. Again, someone completely different in style and tone from the preceeding two authors.

I hope all three authors will play along!

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