Twenty Questions for Twenty Authors: Alisa King

This series is my excuse to satisfy my curiosity about what makes writers tick. The hope is that by exploring how writers got to their craft, how they interact with books and their process, I might learn a little more about my own.

It’s been a while since I got the opportunity to interview a fellow writer, and I hope to make up for the absence with an extra treat. Alisa King is an science fiction writer currently working on a video game novel entitled Are You Sure You Want To Quit?, a wild romp about a game filled with dragons and adventure. She is currently sitting in the top three of the Nerdist Video Games contest, which you can find hosted on Inkshares.

First though, before we get to the questions, here’s a little about Alisa:

About Alisa King

My name is Alisa King, I am a 4th year graduate student currently pursuing a microbiology PhD, and I am a HUGE gamer girl. I am also half-Japanese and half-African American. Ever since I was a young lady I loved playing video games and would crush my friends in Super Smash Bros. as Yoshi (I still do). And yes, I also love to write stories, mainly dealing with the fantasy realm.

On Reading

  1. What are you currently reading?

I am currently reading a bunch of graphic novels/comics indlucing Monstress, Saga, Descenders..the list goes on. I plan on starting Fire Bringer when I have free time.

2. Ereader or Traditional?

Have to go with Traditional!

3. What is your favorite book?

Eragon by Christopher Paolini

4. Why do you think reading is important?

Books in general are not only a great educational tool but a wonderful way to expand your mind. I also think that reading keeps the creative juices flowing while at the same time providing a mental exercise. There’s nothing like finding a comfortable spot outside or curling up on the couch with a good book.

5. What is the one book (other than your own) that you would recommend to others?

I’d definitely recommend The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman.

On Writing

  1. What made you want to become a writer?

My father was my biggest inspiration and supporter of writing (although I ended up going to grad school for Microbiology). He’s published two books already (Cho Kokujin and Medusa’s Freshman Year) and he’s currently working on another project. I think that by assigning me book reports outside of class, my father introduced me to literature and writing.

2. Why do you write?

I write because I enjoy it, first of all, and because I am allowed to showcase myself through writing. As an author, I can create my own universe and have the freedom to do whatever I want.

3. What was the first thing you wrote?

The first thing I wrote was a story called Rocket Dog, which I wrote back in elementary school. It was about a dog from outer space who befriends a little boy and together, they fight crime.

4. Which writers inspire you?

J.K. Rowling and Toni Morrison

5. Are you a planner or a seat of the pants writer?

I’d say I’m a hybrid where I plan out most of my story, but write as I catch the flow.

6. What are you currently writing?

I am currently writing Are You Sure You Want to Quit? (AYSYWTQ?), which is a story of a gamer girl enveloped in a dragon-themed video game.

7. Why this particular genre?

I am a huge gamer so writing a video games themed book hits close to my heart.

8. From where do you glean ideas for your writing?

My ideas come from a mix of shows I’ve seen, my guinea pigs surprisingly, and the graphic novels I’ve been reading.

9. What advice would you give a fledgling writer just starting on the path to building their own novel?

Be patient, get yourself out there, and surround yourself with people who share your ambitions.

10. A new writer is suffering with writer’s block. What advice would you give them to break through?

I found that relaxing activities such as taking a walk or showering help tremendously. Basically, activities that refresh your mind and take your mind off of writing for a moment are the best.

On Your Book

  1. Tell the readers about what makes your book unique.

AYSYWTQ? is unique in that the main protagonist is a gamer girl, which you don’t see much of.

2. What do you love about your protagonist? What do you hate about them?

I love how Maggie (protagonist) is strong and independent, but also a huge gamer. I wish she wasn’t so stubborn sometimes and would treat her mother with more respect!

3. Who would you want to play your protagonist in the movie adaptation of your book?

Oh man. I thought about this the other day and felt that Brenda Song would be perfect as Maggie. Brenda has that nerdy yet kickass vibe which I really love and admire. And she’s also Asian-American, which helps. For a grown-up version of Maggie (*hint hint* in the sequel), I’d love for Lucy Liu to play Maggie.

4. Are you planning on continuing the story with a sequel and/or series?

At this point yes

5. Is there anything else you want readers to know?

If you love dragons and video gaming as much as I do, then you’ll definitely enjoy this book!

AYSYWTQ_final_cover

Excerpt from Are You Sure You Want to Quit?:

There he was. Standing there. Eyes glowing, shoulders hunched, wide-toothed grin, as if the blasted thing was mocking me. Everything I had done up to this point hit me like a freight train at that very moment. Was I ready for this? Hell no. But here I was, face-to-face, with Amasarok, the final boss of Scales of Time: The Land of the Scorched. Here we go…

My first instinct was toscan the environment in which the battle was to take place. A huge pit of lava hissed menacingly from the far end of the enormous cave (a fire dragon WOULD live here I guess), but otherwise silence filled the vast cave where Amasarok resided. I turned the camera to the left only to find jagged, black rocks jutting out from the ground. Could I possibly lead Amasarok into a pointy doom? Unlikely. Amasarok might have been a giant, fire-breathing dragon with killer instincts, but not dumb enough to die by rock.

Disappointed, I panned to the right side of the cave only to find the same rocks decorating the landscape. Since I had not overstepped that imaginary line that triggers enemy encounters, Amasarok remained near the back of the cave. At that point, I knew that I couldn’t rely on the cave to help me defeat Amasarok. After all, this was his domain.

I took a long, deep breath, wiped my sweaty hands on the sides of my legs, and pushed my bangs out of the way. The Trident watermelon flavor from the piece of gum in my mouth was non-existent at this point, but I kept chewing as if this gum was going to fuel me in battle. Slowly, I tilted the joystick forward and watched my burly level 70 dwarf mage traverse the obsidian cave. With a final check of my equipment and a weak “You can do this Maggie,” I pushed the joystick all the way and felt the roar of the dragon bleed through the speakers.

Amasarok moved effortlessly through the cave as his eyes locked on to my mage, who was named Ganko (“hard-headed” in Japanese), and I died a little inside. I glanced up at the top of the screen and saw a ridiculously long health bar – at that point I knew this battle was going to be brutal. Amasarok made the first move and swept his giant claw in my direction, but with a simple push of the square button I (I mean Ganko) dodged with ease. However, the dragon came back with his other claw and knocked the dwarf right on his back. Ouch. My health bar decreased 15%, but I did not let that deflate me.

Deus Hex Machina: Interview with Timble Ada

As some of you know, I am writing a cyberpunk novel. While it may seem strange to be talking about a science fiction project on a fantasy blog, I remind you that I firmly believe science fiction is merely a subsection of a larger fantasy genre, since it imagines worlds that don’t exists. While fantasy looks to the past, science fiction looks to the future.

Speaking of the future, I have got a special treat for you today. In researching Deus Hex Machina, I stumbled on the work of noted perceptual computing expert Timble Ada. Dr. Ada graciously agreed to talk to me about the future of the Internet, how we as humans should really be interacting with technology, and when a cyberpunk future might become our reality.

I always start off with this question: What are you currently reading?
I do not have as much leisure time as I would like, so I haven’t had the chance to connect with many works of fiction of late. The last thing I read of a published nature was J.M. Mendal’s paper on the perceptual computer, but I must admit that it is something I reference often so one might better ask ‘what am I constantly reading?’
Speaking of your work, what exactly is perceptual computing?
Without getting too technical, perceptual computing is based on Zadeh’s theory of computing with words — that we can create technology that can make judgements on its own with only natural language as its computing structure. With this sort of technology, people will be able to talk with a computer and using the syntax of regular speech create functions and computations that will result in both a language response and a data output.
Imagine a computer that understands your language, that you can interact with by just talking to it, and that relates its information in an understandable way. Imagine interacting with a computer with gestures and touch, and not merely the user interface level, but within the computing itself. Prototyping a new car just by drawing the model in the air. Asking a computer to create a program for you in order to scan the Internet for books by your favorite authors. The applications for such a technology are exciting. It’s a brave new world, Ms. Orneck.

Do you see virtual reality as a step toward this more personal computer interaction?
I definitely see virtual reality as a step in the right direction, but I am less interested in the concept of interactive interfaces as I am in the notion that our computers themselves could interact with us. I do think that in order to fully integrate with a perceptual computer we will have to create new ways to interface with them. I am just not certain that virtual reality is a proper analog for that.

When will these science fiction dreams of ours — the completely immersive Internet, technology that links our brains directly into the computer, flying cars — really happen?
I can’t speak about the concept of flying automobiles as I’m a computer scientist, but I can tell you that we are closer than you might think. Intel has recently released a Per-C SDK, which will allow programmers to develop for a perceptual computing system. Video game developers are building virtual reality interfaces into their game systems. We already carry incredibly small computers around with us in our pockets wherever we go. Is it really too much to assume that in a few short years those phones might just be chips that connect to our brains via a neural uplink?
In my own work, I am striving to create a new way for people to connect to technology. While we are no where near the point where I can talk about my project, I think from what you tell me about your novel that you have the right idea about what our future would look like. Not sure about the Church of Technology though. That sounds a bit bizarre.

Do you agree with Elon Musk when he warns about the dangers of artificial intelligence?
Honestly no and I think he is missing the point. I believe that if you build a computer system that has the ability to learn from people, that any such future artificial life would have an understanding of morality on a level we cannot comprehend. Imagine having all of human history held inside your brain. All the wars, the struggles, the constant battles for dominance. A perceptual computing system would be able to cull through such data and make proper judgements about the futility of war, and then output more humane data. I truly believe that any artificial intelligence that we create will be made from the best of mankind, and much like the Asimov’s laws of robotics, will only have our best interest at heart.
Fundamentally though, Mr. Musk and I come from very different worlds. He is a man of profit, I am a man of science. Any future developments that he makes will have a price tag on them. I envision a world where access to technology is a human right, like air and water and is neither taxed nor gated based on how much wealth you have. I suppose you could say I am the Tesla to his Edison. But obviously I’ve tangented here, so I’ll leave it at that.

Thank you so much Dr. Ada for taking time out of your busy work schedule to talk with me! I’m so honored!

Twenty Questions for Twenty Authors: M. Bryn Schut

This series is my excuse to satisfy my curiosity about what makes writers tick. The hope is that by exploring how writers got to their craft, how they interact with books and their process, I might learn a little more about my own.

This week on TQfTA, I got the chance to interview M. Bryn Schut, and inspiring writer I met through the Inkshares Nerdist contest.  She is the author of Visioner, an epic sci-fi/fantasy blend YA tale that puts romance in the back seat and adventure up front and center.  I’m a huge fan of Miss Bryn, and can’t wait to share her particular world view (and writing) with you all.

First up, as always, let’s learn a little bit about the author.

About M. Bryn Schut

Obsessive pop culture geek by day, pedantic nerd by night, Bryn has been writing for almost as long as she’s been reading. Her interests lie primarily in science fiction and fantasy and she spends an inordinate amount of time analyzing her favorite books, movies, and video games. Her true passion lies in stories that twist the expected narrative and attempt to surprise even the most jaded of readers. Bryn’s writing credits include both first place and third place in the short story category, second place in the personal narrative category, and second place in the poetry category for Victor Valley College’s annual writing contest (2009). She graduated from Sonoma State University with a B.A. in English: Creative Writing (2012) and continued her education at the same university to obtain an M.A. in English: Creative Writing (2015), where Visioner served as her thesis project. She currently lives in northern California with her “god-with-the-level-of-commitment-we-have-he-needs-a-better-title-than-boyfriend” and their two cats.

On Reading

1. What are you currently reading?

I just picked up The Best American Science Fiction and Fantasy (edited by Joe Hill and John Joseph Adams) and Uprooted by Naomi Novik. I’m early into both, but I’m enjoying them immensely. I’m also reading Super You by Emily Gordon, which is a self-help book with a nerdy spin.

2. Ereader or Traditional?

Traditional, for sure. For me reading falls under a full-sensory experience and it doesn’t feel “real” unless I have a physical book in my hand. The weight of it, the smell, the texture… I love technology in all other aspects of my life, but I balk at ereaders.

3. What is your favorite book?

This is always the worst question! I’ll try to narrow it down to two: A Wrinkle in Time by Madeline L’Engle and Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman. I love L’Engle for her sense of adventure and the idea that stories shouldn’t be dumbed down just because the story is aimed at younger readers. And Gaiman just has a way with words that I find hypnotizing.

4. Why do you think reading is important?

I think it’s important to have space in your own head. We can get so bogged down with phones and Netflix and easy consumption that I feel it’s necessary to engage with a medium that encourages you to do the mental work yourself. Reading forces you to visualize things for yourself and to meet another mind (in this case, the author’s) in way that doesn’t allow you to be passive.

5. What is the one book (other than your own) that you would recommend to others?

There’s a great book I wish more people knew about that I ended up using as a textbook when I taught a fantasy writing class. Wonderbook: The Illustrated Guide to Creating Imaginative Fiction. It’s a how-to writing guide for people who hate how-to writing guides. There are bright colors and margin notes and stories from authors and generally good writing advice. It was really useful for both the beginning writers and the experienced writers in my class.

On Writing

1. What made you want to become a writer?

I’m not sure it was so much a want as being violently bludgeoned over the head with an obsessive need to tell stories. I’ve always loved the way that a good book could make me feel something, and I think my writing grew out of a desire to share that with others. Reading a book felt like a gift from an author, and I wanted to offer someone else that gift in return.

2. Why do you write?

Because I absolutely cannot fathom my life without it. Of course there’s an element of pleasure in it—I don’t think any author tortures themselves without getting some joy out of the act of creation—but I think obsession plays a big part in my personal drive. I need to get the story out somehow, or I’ll lose my mind.

3. What was the first thing you wrote?

The first thing I can remember writing was in kindergarten or first grade. It was a small picture book about horses with a unicorn randomly thrown in. No plot to speak of, just statements about things horses did. The first thing I remember writing with a real plot was clearly ripped off “The Last Unicorn” because it had a unicorn searching for her friends that interacted with a moth.

Of course, in mine the moth lied about the absence of the other unicorns so the last unicorn would be his friend, but the unicorn eventually forgave him and everyone had a happy ending.

4. Which writers inspire you?

Neil Gaiman. Madeline L’Engle. J.K. Rowling. There are dozens, but these are probably my big three. They believe in their writing so much that you just can’t help but be pulled in, and that’s the kind of writer I want to be.

5. Are you a planner or a seat of the pants writer?

Definitely seat of the pants. Every time I try to outline and plan a story it absolutely loses its magic. I always start writing with a general idea of the story I want to tell and discover the magic of it as I go along. So I tend to write whatever comes to mind and then fix it in revisions.

6. What are you currently writing?

Right now I’m trying to work on the sequel to Visioner, my YA sci-fantasy novel. I’m also experimenting with some short stories. Then there’s a novel I’d been working on and set aside that’s calling to me again, so I might be picking that up to work on when I get blocked with other work.

7. Why this particular genre?

Science fiction and fantasy have always been my two great loves. Both stretch the bounds of possibility, looking forward to a strange new world and looking back to a mythical one. I’m particularly interested in what happens when those worlds are put into conflict and how they play off one another. And most of what I write tends to be Young Adult Fiction, because I like exploring that feeling of being caught between childhood and adulthood, wishing for both and fitting in neither.

8. From where do you glean ideas for your writing?

Oftentimes I have really interesting dreams that I try to turn into something more coherent and structured. Or I read a story and get inspired by some element within it. Or I watch a movie and decide that a certain character would be worth exploring. Basically, my mind is like a weird sinkhole for creativity; things get caught in the muck there and don’t get unearthed for ages.

9. What advice would you give a fledgling writer just starting on the path to building their own novel?

Think about every story you’ve ever enjoyed and think about why you enjoyed it. Was it a character? A specific storyline? Something within that story called to you. Take that tiny seed and bury it in your own work. With enough dedication and love, it’ll bloom. It’s my personal belief that stories should offer something to the reader, and I want all writers to consider that before they ever start putting words down.

10. A new writer is suffering with writer’s block. What advice would you give them to break through?

I have no idea if what works for me works for anyone else, but what I tend to do is walk away from the story for an afternoon. I go see a movie, or reread my favorite book, or immerse myself in a video game. When I get fired up about someone else’s work, I tend to come back to mine with new enthusiasm.

On your Book

1. Tell the readers about what makes your book unique.

A lot of fiction for teen girls is focused on the romance aspect, which I really have very little interest in. Visioner is an adventure story for girls, which is something I don’t think we get to see often. My protagonist, Mira, is snarky and violent and impulsive—which are not always endearing traits in a fifteen-year-old—and her journey is about learning the difference between being assertive and being abrasive. This isn’t about someone else finding her loveable, but about her discovering her own identity. Plus, there are aliens and mages and seers and missing moms and magic portals to other worlds, which force Mira to confront a lot of her previous notions of the nature of things.

2. What do you love about your protagonist? What do you hate about them?

I love Mira’s willingness to fight for the things she believes in and the people she cares for. I absolutely hate how insensitive she can be, though, and how she often doesn’t think about the consequences of her actions before she does them. She’s the equivalent of your friend who’ll get in a guy’s face for looking at you wrong, but then end up in the hospital because she tried to fight someone three times her size. I write so many of her scenes while wincing.

3. Who would you want to play your protagonist in the movie adaptation of your book?

Someone unknown, I think. Who did the casting for the Harry Potter movies? As far as movies-based-on-books go, they did pretty well for that series.

4. Are you planning on continuing the story with a sequel and/or series?

Yep! It’s a five-book series. I know the titles and very general storylines for each one. Visioner is book one, with Ravager the working title for book two. All of the books follow Mira’s journey, so we really get to see how much she grows emotionally across the series.

5. Is there anything else you want readers to know?

I am highly invested in fiction for teenage girls, particularly fiction which does not dwell on a single, defining romance as the pinnacle of the girl’s existence. I want to produce books where the girls go on quests, encounter challenges to their worldview, face their deepest fears, and come to terms with their identities as people, where they take their destinies into their own hands and don’t allow others to dictate their place in the world. I want to write the sort of adventure stories for girls that stories for boys take for granted. There are hundreds of books for teen girls that focus on romance; I want to write books for the readers who want something else.

 

Visioner cover

Excerpt from Visioner:
The scent of burning skin overfilled Mira’s nostrils and stuck in the back of her throat. She coughed and spat, trying to expel the smoke from her airways. At least the coughing kept her from spending too much time looking at the bodies beside her. As it was, her eyes seemed magnetically drawn to the burnt corpses that littered the field. It was a struggle not to indulge in her curiosity and outright stare; she resorted to quick looks every few seconds just to take the edge off.
Mira’s hands were shaking, so she curled her fingers into her palms and took a deep breath. She was disturbed to discover that she was getting used to the burning smell in the air, but decided that at least she wasn’t vomiting or passing out. She took a few more deep breaths and steeled herself for the search for Ry; standing here fighting a panic attack wouldn’t do anything to find him.
Her gaze lifted from the bodies on the ground to the horizon. There was a line of trees in the distance. No one else was standing upright, which made Mira feel as exposed as a metal pole in a lightning storm. Where was everyone else? Or, for that matter, why were there only human bodies on the field if the Draykure weren’t human? The skin on the back of her neck prickled as she wondered if the Draykure had already removed their dead. And if they were still around to notice her.
That settled it: she needed to find Ry and get out of there. If her best friend was anywhere on the field, he was keeping a low profile. And as much as Mira wished she could do the same, she knew that it was already impossible; she’d spent too much time in the open to worry about stealth now.
“Ry!” Mira’s voice didn’t carry as far as she would have wanted, so she tried again. “Ry!” The end of her scream came out panicked and warbling, like the scream of a child.
There was no answer. Had Syneth even really sent Ry through? If Mira had to walk a path to get here, it seemed unlikely that Syneth could have just thrown Ry into Avrym. She was starting to feel like she’d been tricked into leaving Earth, and a new wave of rage swelled in her stomach. She should have stopped and asked more questions before letting Syneth scare her into this route.
She tried shouting a third time, then a fourth, but if Ry was anywhere nearby he wasn’t answering. “Okay,” she said aloud, trying to calm herself down. “You can do this, Mira. Ry’s not here, so you have to move to those trees. Just take a step.”
Talking to herself made it easier to step over the first corpse in her way. “Okay, good,” Mira said, injecting all the false cheeriness she could into her voice. “Keep going.”
With each step she took, Mira complimented and cajoled herself. Now that she was walking, it was impossible not to look at the bodies beneath her feet. Some were missing facial features, eyes burned out of their sockets and noses and lips all but melted away. Hair was half-crisped if it was visible at all. Leather and fabric was all but indistinguishable from the skin it had fused to. Flies, reddish-orange in the afternoon sunlight, swarmed over every available surface. It was all so overwhelming that Mira just wanted to sit down and cry.
She wished that the grassy field beneath her feet was empty. That the almost-purple sky above her wasn’t filled with the sound of wings and the crow-like call of some scavenging bird. That she could take a breath without breathing in dead people. It was hard to be excited about visiting an alien world when she was staring at dead things. As it was, all she wanted to do was find Ry and go home.
Every so often, Mira’s foot would kick into one of the corpses as she stepped, sending up a flurry of the red flies. They knocked into the backs of her hands, prompting Mira to jerk around to shoo them away. She didn’t want anything to do with bugs that had touched dead bodies. As she walked and waved away the flies, her speeches to herself became more hurried and less cheerful. She berated herself for her slow pace, or for disturbing a body, and tried to talk her legs into moving faster. The trees were a lifetime away, locked beyond a sidewalk of the dead.
She was about halfway to the trees—was that the forest Syneth had mentioned, or just a bunch of trees?—when her foot kicked against another corpse. To her horror, it moaned and shifted. “Oh, shit!” she screamed, jerking backwards away from the now-moving and crying figure.
Her first thought was that the body had reanimated and was now a zombie. When she saw its chest rise and fall, though, it seemed more likely that it was a living person. Still, she wanted to run and escape the pained cries of the thing at her feet. She’d never been good with pain—hers or anyone else’s—and she sure wasn’t equipped to help a burn victim. Its hand, however, had fastened weakly on her ankle, and shaking it loose and running seemed like exactly the wrong thing to do.
The burned person was repeating something over and over in a language Mira didn’t recognize. It was impossible to mistake the tone, though, and it was clearly a plea for help. If Ry were here, he’d help without a second thought. She’d never be able to look him in the eye again if she walked away now.
Gritting her teeth and ashamed at her own desire to keep moving, Mira forced herself to kneel down. The burn victim was young—perhaps eighteen or nineteen—and wasn’t as badly burned as the other bodies Mira had seen. She could tell it was a young man, with dark eyes and black hair cropped close to his head. The skin that wasn’t burned was a dark olive tone. He was wearing a number of thick clothes and a set of leather armor, but it had been burned down to the skin in some places and looked more like Swiss cheese than adequate covering. He continued to whimper and moan, fingers clutched around the hem of Mira’s pant leg as if to keep her from escaping.
The largest of the young man’s burns ran from the left side of his chest down and across to his right hip. Here the leather of his armor had been completely burned away, as had most of the shirt beneath, leaving the raw wound open to the air. It was about the width of Mira’s hand, wetly red and slightly blistered. A few more scattered burns dotted his legs and arms, but none of these had the same intense appearance as the big burn. Though each looked fresh and painful, none seemed to be immediately threatening his life.
He said something to Mira in a foreign tongue. The words had an Italian sound to them, like Syneth’s accent, but Mira didn’t speak Italian. She shook her head and said, “I’m sorry, I don’t understand.”
His hand twitched on her pant leg, then dropped. “Anglish?” he asked Mira. “You speak Anglish?”
She couldn’t believe she was hearing a familiar language on an alien planet. “I…uh…yeah!” she stammered. “Yes, I speak English!”
“Good. Good. I know a little.” He twitched his fingers towards his body. “Isaac.”
“I’m Mira.”
“Mira. Need help. Please. Help.”
Mira rocked back on her heels a bit. Isaac must have taken this as a sign she was preparing to leave, because his fingers wrapped around her left wrist and held on tight. His dark eyes stared into hers pleadingly as his head shook from side to side. She suddenly felt like she was a life preserver and Isaac was trying to keep from drowning.
“Hey, hey, I’m not going anywhere,” she said, patting his hand. “My legs are cramping, that’s all.”
Isaac nodded, but his grip didn’t release. “Help,” he repeated. “Please.”

 

Twenty Questions for Twenty Authors: John Robin

This series is my excuse to satisfy my curiosity about what makes writers tick. The hope is that by exploring how writers got to their craft, how they interact with books and their process, I might learn a little more about my own.

Today’s a very special day around here.  I have the privilege to pick the brain of one of the most inspirational people I know: John Robin.  John is the author of Blood Dawn, one of the few books to successfully gain enough ground on Inkshares to reach publishing status.  More than that John is a rallying point for every writer that knows him.  There are some lightning rods that just make you want to be around them, and for me John is at the top of the list.

Here’s a little about John:

About John Robin

From the time he first looked at Tolkien’s map of Wilderland as a ten year old boy, John Robin knew he was destined to make his own world and tell stories about it. So, as he grew up and read the great fantasy epics, he began to create his own world with its own stories, history, and myths.

Over twenty years, he learned the craft of storytelling, writing three novels just for practice (unpublished), and all the while his fantasy world and unique vision as a writer ripened. The evolution of the Internet and the exciting possibilities of what technology just might do for human beings further inspired John to model his magic system and epic tale to also communicate a message about how mastery over one’s environment might change the human condition.

After working for many years in academia and adult education, John left his job to pursue a career as a full-time editor, starting his own company, Story Perfect Editing Services. He has edited more than forty stories to date.

John’s work has appeared in the Tantalizing Tidbits anthology (“One Who Waits”, a prequel short story to Blood Dawn). His novel, Blood Dawn, which he has chosen to be his debut, is the first of many stories John plans to write in a series of stand-alone novels that will follow the evolution of a world undergoing magical revolution.

On Reading

  1. What are you currently reading?

A book called “The Anatomy of Story” by John Truby. In progress, but on the backburner because of the amount of editing projects I am working on, “The Way of Kings” by Brandon Sanderson

2. Ereader or Traditional?

Both. I love my ereader for writing craft books. I love hard books for epic fantasy, where I can flip to the maps frequently.

3. What is your favorite book?

That’s a tough one. I tend to have new favorites as time goes on. Of course, I’m a big fan of the Song of Ice and Fire series and the work of George R.R. Martin, I also love the Wheel of Time, up to the eleventh book when Mr. Jordan’s passing broke my heart.

4. Why do you think reading is important?

Reading is the number one way I appreciate different ways people tell stories. Most of the things I do in my writing have come from immersing myself in other authors and getting a sense of ways they’re got their groove on with different riffs of story. I’m not an academic about it – I tend to absorb concepts more intuitively. Friends have called me a sponge. When I read, I am soaked, and I find rich story ideas come out.

(I might add as a caveat that watching TV shows or movies is as enriching an experience as reading for me, because it helps me appreciate story from a structural level. I owe a great deal of my current writing vein to watching episodes of Star Trek. But I find I’m incapable of watching any TV show or movie without thinking like a storyteller and taking home a wealth of ideas.)

5. What is the one book (other than your own) that you would recommend to others?

Game of Thrones. It’s probably the book that blew me away the most of all fantasy books. Although Game of Thrones is rooted in much more historical and realism elements than my preference for fantasy, the complexity and use of tension in character and plausible background world is just amazing.

 

On Writing

  1. What made you want to become a writer?

When I was about 8 my teacher told us all to write in our journal about something we did the previous night. I wrote about my experience working on my patient in my secret operating room and was sad that they didn’t make it. I even included an illustration. I didn’t understand why I was put in the hall and scolded; the teacher wanted me to write about my life – a simple assignment – but I wanted to write a story.

I started writing stories after that, and never stopped. I was always the boy in the back of the room drawing picture or writing stories. If you ask my uncle, who remembers earlier in my life than I do, I was telling stories before I could write them.

2. Why do you write?

I write to transform. Life feels like a limiting set of experiences. Writing, however, is an arena where I can take this all deeper. When I write, I feel like I’m tapping into some sort of higher mind that branches out from my own and connects me to all the collective experiences of others. I sit down and my cursor is blinking, and I’m sitting like a shaman in between this world and the next, calling forth something else. There’s nothing more exciting and thrilling that when that something else is happening, and, no matter where on earth I might happen to be, I’m in this beautiful limbo stuck between two worlds. That’s writing, and that’s why I do it: to translate and bring something much greater than life into a world that is otherwise so mundane.

3. What was the first thing you wrote?

Journal entry (above) aside, my first story was about two brothers who discover a shack haunted by an interdimensional monster. I was 10, and the story was meant to be for a competition. I came in second place, but the principal liked the story so much she typed it up and read it to the class in the library – all to my surprise.

4. Which writers inspire you?

Tolkien, Robert Jordan, George R.R. Martin; men who’ve managed to give their all to create an epic, to live for it. To me, these men are the gods of epic fantasy.

5. Are you a planner or a seat of the pants writer?

I’m a hybrid of both. I spend a great deal of planning before, during, and after. But when I write I am always open to go in any direction. I like to think of my method of writing much like chess. You must always plan and plan every step, but you must always reassess your plan as you proceed, to account for unexpected twists that make your game better. Stories are full of surprises, and it’s been my experience that often the best touches in a story are discovered later, during writing, when I’m stuck in the thick of everything and I know my characters desperately need something. Sometimes even it comes to me during a dream or a traffic jam, and I’ll think about my story again from the new angle, and AH! yes, suddenly I see exactly what I need to do. It involves perhaps some revision and rewriting, but if it’s the thing to do, then so be it. I am a writer because I write, not because I have written.

6. What are you currently writing?

I am writing an epic fantasy novel called Blood Dawn, about a young woman who discovers she’s the long-lost daughter of a god-king, and that her inborn magical gift is the key to revolution in a darkened empire.

7. Why this particular genre?

Ever since I discovered Tolkien’s map of Wilderland, I’ve been in love with imaginary worlds. I started creating my own when I was 13, and kept at it all my life. I’ve tried writing other things, but I’m always drawn back to fantasy, back to my world that’s been developing a bit like a recycling yard. I try to leave it, but that’s a bit like diving underwater and saying I don’t need to breath anymore. I always come back.

8. From where do you glean ideas for your writing?

Everywhere. Absolutely everywhere. My mind is on my story all the time. I like to think of it like turning the dial to a certain radio station. All I have to do is get my mind there, and there are infinitely many things waiting to come out. Ideas come from experiences, but sometimes the traces are too amorphous to glean. For example, my idea for dragons in my story as a mystical rather than a physical entity is rooted in the influence of Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time, but I also have added in a touch of AI and Star Trek in how I define my dragons, giving me a unique approach that mixes many elements and makes them all distinct. At the end of the day, though, everything I do in my story seems to come out of this strange place where everything mixes, and I’m only aware of some ways the ideas have morphed into their current form, but the roots are so old I almost feel they vanish in the darkness of my subconscious.

9. What advice would you give a fledgling writer just starting on the path to building their own novel?

Write. Write. Write. Don’t stop, don’t worry about failure, because it’s going to happen. Just write. Love what you do. You will get better. You will always get better, as long as you keep writing. Don’t worry about writing the same thing. You won’t, because your mind is always going to be changing, and what you write is an outward reflection of what is going on inside of you.

The one caveat: kill the ego. Don’t write to be famous or don’t tote yourself as a bestselling author on Amazon, even if you get a shiny cover and the “buy now” button. This, to me, is the death of the writer. Writing is not about ego, or about proving yourself. Writing is about transformation, about giving to others a gift that just might be divine. Although we all need to eat and it’s good if we can succeed from our book sales, let that all be a milestone of success. Walk with kings and keep the common touch – if I may channel Kipling. Write, just write, and love it, more than money or anything else, because there’s going to be a lot of hardship if you want to live for writing fully and without limits.

10. A new writer is suffering with writer’s block. What advice would you give them to break through?

Sometimes I have tough writing days. I’ve been at this now for 8 years, and I can write about 6,000 words in one day, and have pulled off a big output every week for the last year. But still, there’s days where all I want to do is play computer games.

What I do to get over it is this: change your goal. Don’t think about needing to write pages or write so many words in such and such a time. Just make your goal to have your manuscript open and to sit with it. And don’t just stare at the blinking cursor (though sometime that is helpful). Move around the story. Maybe go back and read an earlier chapter. If you use Scrivener (which I would recommend to any writer!), you can move around to other files for characters or settings. In my case, I have 5 Scrivener files open which I link using a program called Window Tabs, so I can click between my file for Blood Dawn, Character, Generators (Story Arc notes), World, and Series. I have all these organized into directories and find that when I’m writing if I’m not sure what to write next, wandering around these with my story in mind quickly connects me to something. Scrivener is also great for me because it allows me to dive into earlier chapters and read over it, all while I have my present chapter open in the split pane view.

(Seriously, if you have writer’s block, switch to Scrivener. You’re on your way to killing writer’s block if you can get used to using it.)

On your Book

  1. Tell the readers about what makes your book unique.

My book is like a lighter Game of Thrones set in a pseudo-Victorian world, with a complex magic system blending in aspects of the paranormal and good old comic book mutants. Blood Dawn really just started as the story of a weaver who I knew was going to be thrust into a position where she had to become queen, and, though I borrowed from the same fantasy world I’d been writing in all my life, I found the act of writing this story brought out something else – the story as it is now.

2. What do you love about your protagonist? What do you hate about them?

I love that Rena is a mixture of timid and strong. Rena isn’t your typical Kill Bill hero. Her strength is within, and when we meet her, her conflict is that she doesn’t’ want to believe in that strength. She doubts herself, and the course of the story helps her discover how to overcome that doubt, and become great.

I don’t have anything about Rena [I hate]. She’s refreshing to write, and, like the other point of view characters, I learn so much each time I’m in her head.

3. Who would you want to play your protagonist in the movie adaptation of your book?

Probably Kate Winslet, if it’s possible to make her look twenty. Rena’s character strongly draws on the story of Queen Elizabeth I, and Galadriel in Lord of the Rings, so why not the same actress who played both?

4. Are you planning on continuing the story with a sequel and/or series?

Several, and I have them quite planned out. However, just like I said with planning, above, the plan is malleable. I only keep the series notes so that everything I set in motion will have a resolution. However, I plan to write each book as a standalone, so that if something unfortunate should happen to me, I won’t leave readers hanging. I always want to leave each book with a feeling that there is so much potential to do more, but that the story itself isn’t left hanging. Blood Dawn, for example, will end with links to a sequel – screaming links – but as a book and for all that I’ve set up with the character arcs, when it’s over, it’s over. If I never write a book again, the intrigue, and the “what lies beyond the walls?” effect will make it more intriguing – kind of like how one feels when reading Lord of the Rings.

5. Is there anything else you want readers to know?

Blood Dawn is actually my fourth novel. I’ve written three, and like to think of them like the first pancakes. You know: the frying pan is still getting heated up, and those first few pancakes don’t quite turn out. They’re yummy to the cook, but you wouldn’t serve them. With Blood Dawn, I’ve debut. I might be wrong, but I can certainly say that those first three novels, which are hidden away in my computer, helped me get to where I am now. I just learned so much!

 

Blood Dawn has just gone into production, but if you want to get your hands on a copy you can preorder it on Inkshares.  Here’s an excerpt:

john-inkshares-john robin-blood dawn

RENA

As soon as the green-eyed noble arrived at her audition, Rena focused on the threads before her. Would he recognize her, after all these years? Rena convinced herself he wouldn’t — no one here would. The secrets of her past would remain hidden. She ignored the bead of sweat on her temple and the painful ache of her shoulder lump, thinking only about the imaginary colors she saw, colors that told her which treadle to step on next. Red, green, black, white, red, green, green, white …. Pride in her work, in the endless call of the patterns, created the perfect escape for her. The blur of shifting warp threads soon hypnotized her as she deftly passed the shuttle back and forth between them, forgetting the room once more.

She blurred her eyes, the imaginary guiding colors glowing like little fires, fires of seven different hues. This Valian loom she wove on was an intricate device, regarded by most as useless because it was hopelessly complex. It was made by a technology now forgotten, a relic in collectors’ homes, and this machine had belonged to Rena’s mother. Yet when Rena came before it, she knew what to do. She merely set the warp threads into the harness spools, then opened her mind to the colors. The colors were always there, begging to be expressed. There was no planning involved. It always worked.

Her gift had been secret until she’d allowed herself to get drunk with Uncle. The fire of liquor burning in her veins, her usual restraint she felt around him vanished and she thought it about time to show him she was more than just a quiet, timid girl. Foolish — to think that greedy, conspiring Uncle Kurt would keep her secret when he saw a possibility of gain for House Arwelle. Now, it was too late; unlike a weft thread, there was no reversing the mistake that had brought her here, now, in this crowded room where she crouched before her loom, reluctantly showing off her skill before the Keldarian officials.

They’d hauled her Valian device here, into the Rector’s Hall, a few buildings from Rena’s shop. The officials had driven the Orn Monks out; ever since the occupation began, the Monks’ safe houses had become their most popular meeting places, mockery of the former god-king’s empire. Uncle had promised Rena this was only an audition to show off her skill — to reveal a useful opportunity to develop Gholheim’s textile industry — but now, in this bare room with its sparse lighting and black-and-gray tapestries that stunk of oil, with more than forty royal spectators crowded close together, scrutinizing Rena in silence, it felt like a trial. The worst part was that half of them wore obsidian robes, marking them as the tyrannical troupe of King’s men known as the elite guard.

That was the true source of Rena’s underlying fear, and the reason she did everything she could now to focus only on her work, to pretend that she was elsewhere. In Gholheim, it was illegal to be an artist. King Fyrian’s ruthless reforms, which only got worse with each moonspan, saw artists hauled away every day. The elite guard came to do inspections of shops at random, and many of them ended up with boarded-up doors and windows. Never once did they come to Rena, but even if they did, she had gone to great lengths to keep her secret.

Was she truly a criminal? Late at night, while she wove cloth secretly in her shop, it was easy to forget the danger when her passion came to life, as patterns transformed from mind to cloth. For more than a year she basked in this secret pleasure, every day coming home well after first moon. There was fear—a sliver, easy to ignore—but she was never caught. No, she hid her tracks well, and she truly believed that the one thing she loved above all—that thing considered to be wrong—was not wrong. This did not hurt people, not like the drawings had.

Rena glanced briefly to where Uncle stood next to his three noble friends. Francas was the hawk-nosed southerner, Mikas, the head of House Dulvar, was stone-faced, squinting around his monocle. And the third noble… He had joined last, his emerald eyes like glass, his face unreadable—exactly how Rena remembered him from her years of imprisonment years ago. He still had the same anchor tattoo on his left cheek and half a missing ear. Rena did not stare long enough, but even in her quick glance she saw that he was looking at her with uncanny fascination. Does he recognize me? I was still a child, and I look nothing now like I did then. Maybe he won’t remember me.

 

Looking for more information about John Robin or Blood Dawn, you can learn more at the following sources:

Website: http://www.epicfantasywriter.com
Twitter: @johnrobinrt
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/john.robin.904
Facebook lpage for Blood Dawn: http://www.facebook.com/blooddawnproject

 

 

Twenty Questions for Twenty Authors: Amy Boukair

This series is my excuse to satisfy my curiosity about what makes writers tick. The hope is that by exploring how writers got to their craft, how they interact with books and their process, I might learn a little more about my own.

For the third installment, I got the chance to interview urban fantasy writer Amy Boukhair.  I met Amy during the Inkshares Nerdist contest, but it’s obvious from her writing that she’s an old hat at this whole sharing stories with others thing. First off, let’s learn a little about her.

About Amy Boukair

Amy L. Boukair is a short story author, published novelist, and an occasional poet. Her first self-published novel – the time travel romance INDIGO, was well received by readers and reviewers alike from around the world. When she’s not working on her new urban fantasy novel SHADE, she can be found working on a home improvement project, hanging out with her special needs son, or reading a novel with her golden retriever Abbey curled up next to her. You can visit her at www.amyboukair.com

On Reading

1. What are you currently reading?
I hate to admit it, but I’m always juggling several books at once!
Just finished: Veiled, by Benedict Jacka (I highly recommend the Alex Verus series if you like urban fantasy)
Current audiobook (fiction): Magic Shifts: Kate Daniels, Book 8, by Ilona Andrews (Another great series)
Current audiobook (nonfiction): The Filter Bubble: What the Internet is Hiding From You, by Eli Pariser
Current Kindle book: All the Light We Cannot See: A Novel, by Anthony Doerr
2. Ereader or Traditional?
Both, but especially audiobooks. There’s something about a good story being read to you by a great narrator that can’t be beat.
3. What is your favorite book?
I have to pick just one??? I have so many! If I love an author, I tend to love anything and everything they write. I like to say that my favorite book is the one I haven’t read yet. There are even some books that I wish I could unread so that I could experience the first read through again – Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman would be one; or all of the Harry Potter books.
4. Why do you think reading is important?
There are so many reasons to read – vocabulary expansion, imagination-sparking, escapism, general learning. Most importantly as a writer, reading inspires my own creativity and writing process. I can’t imagine not having books or stories in my life in some major way.
5. What is the one book (other than your own) that you would recommend to others?
The Graveyard Book, by Neil Gaiman. It’s one of the most lyrical books I’ve ever read. Neil has such talent of stringing all the right words together, in the right order. It’s enviable.

On Writing

1. What made you want to become a writer?
I don’t think there wasn’t anything specific that inspired me to write. I’ve just always written. It’s part of who I am. I do know that my father read to me quite a bit when I was a child, and that triggered a deep love of stories, and the craft of creating them.
2. Why do you write?
Mostly for my own entertainment, to be honest. It’s almost a challenge to myself to see if I can finish out a thought, or craft a complicated story in a cohesive way. A lot of times it’s just to get the stories out of my head. If an idea sticks, it can be a bugger to get rid of until you write the story.
3. What was the first thing you wrote?
Ha! The first thing I wrote was a script for the TV show Fantasy Island. Of course, I never sent it in to be produced since I was only 10 or so at the time, but it’s a hoot to look back on now. Then there was a play about horses. Little girls have a thing for horses…
4. Which writers inspire you?
Again, so many! If I had to list a few in no particular order: Stephen King, Benedict Jacka, JK Rowling, Diana Gabaldon, Neil Gaiman, Dean Koontz, Ilona Andrews, Cassandra Clare, JRR Tolkien, George RR Martin, Robert Jordan… as I said, it’s a long list, and it grows daily. Pretty much anyone who has taken the time to write a story inspires me in some way.
5. Are you a planner or a seat of the pants writer?
A little bit of both, really. For my first novel, Indigo, it was mostly a seat of my pants deal. With Shade, I’m trying to be a bit more organized with an outline, but don’t let it impede the creativity. Everything is fluid.
6. What are you currently writing?
I’m still polishing Shade. I’d probably edit/revise ad infinitum if I could.
7. Why this particular genre?
I’ve always been an avid reader of urban fantasy, and I love the idea of creating my own magical world with its own rules. One of the wondrous aspects of being a writer is being able to create your own world for your characters to live in.
8. From where do you glean ideas for your writing?
Anywhere and everywhere. I remember coming up with one of the types of magic in Shade by seeing something on TV about empathy. I took that idea, turned it on its ear, and created a new form of mind manipulation magic that I’ve not seen before.
9. What advice would you give a fledgling writer just starting on the path to building their own novel?
Write for yourself, not for others. Don’t compromise your story or your ideas just to please an unknown and vague audience. Write what you would want to read. Otherwise, you’re pandering and not being true to yourself or the story. Critics will come and go, but if you don’t love what you’re writing – don’t expect anyone else to.
10. A new writer is suffering with writer’s block. What advice would you give them to break through?
Writer’s block sucks. Plain and simple. There are a few tricks to try to snap out of it – 1) Do a complete reread of the work so far. Sometimes going back over previous material sparks new ideas for a story. 2) Write something else. You may need to switch your mind to a completely new direction for a few before coming back to it. 3) Read something. Often the best inspiration can come from someone else’s words.

On your Book
1. Tell the readers about what makes your book unique.
Modern day mages can be pretty predictable nowadays. There is a standard of accepted magic, and its rules that, to be honest, is becoming boring. With Shade, I try to put a new spin on the magical world, while at the same time keeping in mind that mages are people too, with human relationships and emotions. Magic is just a bonus.
2. What do you love about your protagonist? What do you hate about them?
I love that despite her past mistakes, Shade is willing to take chances when she has to. I hate that she does tend to dwell on her mistakes, and it can shape her view of the world to her detriment.
3. Who would you want to play your protagonist in the movie adaptation of your book?
I’ll shoot for the stars and say the first choice would be Jennifer Lawrence – simply because I think she’s amazing and could really play anything. The second choice would be Chloe Bennet (Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.), as I think she can pull off Shade’s reluctant hero sensibility.
4. Are you planning on continuing the story with a sequel and/or series?
I would love to expand the world, and send Shade and Flynn on more adventures! I’m often asked to revisit Indigo, my first novel, and continue that series as well, so it’s nice to have options.
5. Is there anything else you want readers to know?
Just that I hope they take the time to check out some of my work. One thing about us indie authors is that we don’t have the support and backing of a huge publishing house – everything we do is grassroots, and all on our own. Any little bit of encouragement, whether it’s merely a retweet, a pre-order or purchase, or as grand as a glowing review, truly helps make it all worthwhile for us. It is a lot of unseen blood, sweat, and tears!

shade-cover

Summary: Shade Blackmore and her brother Flynn are Regulators for the Mage Guild, one of three magical guilds hidden in plain sight of our normal human world. A routine job goes awry and injures Flynn, leaving Shade a mystery to solve.

Excerpt from Chapter 4:

I give Jet a sympathetic look as I walk around the room. There is a walk-in closet on the wall opposite the French doors, and I can see a light is on inside from under the door. There could be someone hiding inside. I stop and silently motion to it, and Jet nods at me, allowing me to open the door. I tentatively pull at the shadows and can feel a slight breeze behind me as Jet also prepares an attack stance. My hand trembles slightly as I turn the doorknob and yank the door open.

Nothing. There’s nobody hiding inside. Clothes and shoes are scattered about the floor, but our attention is immediately drawn to a safe in the far wall, its door left wide open. I glance at Jet as we both silently approach the safe, neither of us has dropped our magic; unsure of the situation. For all we know, the safe could be booby trapped somehow. At this point, anything is possible.

The safe is empty except for a very old, thin wooden box. Runes are carved into the sides, but they’re not any that I recognize, and the top is open. The box itself is empty too.

“Oh boy…” Jet lets out a deep breath as she finally drops her magic. I hesitate but then do the same.

“What? What is it? What was in the box?” I don’t like the look of unease coming over her. This evening has been enough of a nightmare. I don’t need anything to add to it.

“If I’m reading it right, the box held the Stake of Banna.”

“Steak and banana, what?” I laugh nervously, unsure where the sudden urge to joke comes from. The events of the night are finally taking their toll on me, and I’m going insane. Jet stares hard at me, and there’s something in her features that scare me – she looks terrified. The hair on the back of my neck immediately stands on end.

“It’s Norse mythology, Shade,” she says, her voice steady even though I can see she’s almost trembling. “The Stake of Banna is rumored to be a sliver of the World Tree, Yggdrasil, used by the Valkyrie Kara on the battlefield to choose who lived and who died. Wielding it gives the holder access to a very powerful curse.”

“Okay, that’s definitely not cool.”

“And that’s not all,” her eyes shift back to the bedroom, “allegedly it can also be used to reincarnate the dead.”

I follow her gaze and peer out of the closet. I can still see Gary’s legs on the floor by the bed, and let out the breath I’m holding. I don’t know what I thought I’d see, but am glad he’s still there.

I don’t know about you, but I’m intrigued!  If you liked what you read here as much as I did, preorder Shade today on Inkshares.

Twenty Questions for Twenty Authors: JF Dubeau

This series is my excuse to satisfy my curiosity about what makes writers tick. The hope is that by exploring how writers got to their craft, how they interact with books and their process, I might learn a little more about my own.

Recently I got the chance to talk with J.R. Dubeau the author of The Life Engineered and A God in the Shed.  J.R. is a longtime Inkshares alum, having won the Sword and Laser collection contest last year.  This year he’s publishing a dark fantastical mystery that I can’t wait to read.  Here’s a little about our current leading man:

About J.F. Dubeau

I don’t want to be a writer. I want to write. Telling stories is both what I seem to do best and what I most enjoy doing. As a graphic designer and brand specialist I’m always looking for the narrative in whatever project I’m working on. I’ve always gravitated towards hobbies with a strong storytelling element to them; improvisation, role playing games, etc. Even my preferences in visual arts lean in the direction of pieces that want to tell a story.

It’s strange that it took me until so late in life to discover how much I adore writing. Especially long form narratives like novels and series. I’ve written several books but only two so far have been deserving of being published.

The Life Engineered, (winner of the Sword & Laser Collection contest) and A God in the Shed. I have a lot of other ideas I want to bring to life and hopefully I’ll get the opportunity.

I dream of one day having the privilege to write for a living, concentrating on typing new worlds into being. I hope you’ll be a part of that by supporting me and pre-ordering A God in the Shed.



On Reading

1. What are you currently reading?

Right now I’m reading Canticle for Leibowitz for the Sword & Laser book club. I tend to usually read two things at the same time; one fiction and one non-fiction. I just finished re-reading

Mary Roach’s ‘Stiff’.

2. Ereader or Traditional?

Doesn’t matter to me. I tend to prefer the practicality of an ebook but the aesthetics and texture of a real book. I work a lot in printing as a designer so I have a certain affection for the printed mediums.

3. What is your favorite book?

Clive Barker’s Galilee. There’s something beautifully bittersweet about that book.

4. Why do you think reading is important?

I don’t! I think that absorbing information, stories and narratives are important but I don’t think the chosen method is important. Of course I favour books because I love reading, but as the advent of audio book has taught me, the important part is the content.


5. What is the one book (other than your own) that you would recommend to others? 

I’m tempted to say Galilee but that’s not a good recommendation. It speaks to me but might not do as well for others. I’d say if you haven’t read The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn then that is a definitive must.

On Writing

1. What made you want to become a writer?

NaNoWriMo. Or rather, I’ve always wanted to write a book. NaNoWriMo seemed like a good way to get that off my bucket list. Midway through it though I discovered that this ‘writing’ thing was an addiction I wouldn’t be able to shake. Becoming a writer is just a means to writing more.

2. Why do you write? 

Pleasure. The euphoric joy of having a story be told by characters of my own making.

3. What was the first thing you wrote? 

A horrible, boring and unreadable vampire novel.

4. Which writers inspire you? 

I like Clive Barker’s cadence and style but I love David Brin’s inventive optimism about the future.

5. Are you a planner or a seat of the pants writer? 

A little from column A and a little from column B. I like to plan my course of action before I start writing but once I get into the motion of writing, I tend not to stop until I’m done, even if it means making mistakes I’ll have to fix later.

6. What are you currently writing? 

Answers to an interview. Seriously though, I’m finishing the first draft of the sequel to The Life Engineered. So it’s science fiction.

7. Why this particular genre? 

I like the challenge of writing something plausible in the frame of the demands of scientific reality while also being able to explore various versions of the future.

8. From where do you glean ideas for your writing? 

I don’t know. I’m always terrified that I’m stealing ideas. Usually I find something in someone else’s narrative that I want to either explore in more depth or think should have gone differently and iterate until it becomes what I hope is my own thing.

9. What advice would you give a fledgling writer just starting on the path to building their own novel? 

I’m not going to break any ground by saying this but just write. Don’t overthink or over plan. Just write and put it out there. You’ll never get better if you don’t write and have your writing critiqued by others.

10. A new writer is suffering with writer’s block. What advice would you give them to break through? 

If it’s white page syndrome, just write. Forget quality or even common sense, just dirty your page with words. If you’re stuck on a plot point, move to another section of your book and come back to it later. Don’t try to force the plot. Your readers will notice.

On your Book

1. Tell the readers about what makes your book unique. 

‘A God in the Shed’ is special because it’s a juggling trick of contrasts. I only came to realize this recently while re-reading some portions but in a macro sense, it’s a story about the places where extremes circle back onto themselves. Where extreme beauty becomes ugly, the worst of horrors become magnificent and the most unbelievable magics fall into the natural order of things.

2. What do you love about your protagonist? What do you hate about them? 

I have a few protagonists but let’s talk about Venus McKenzy who is central for the first portion of the book. I like her because she’s a dumb teenager but smart enough to recognize when she’s making mistakes. She’s not an adult in a tween’s body. Also, unlike the current trends for female characters, she’s not a strong woman because she’s violent or angry or a fighter. She’s whip-smart, clever but human, which is important if I want her to react realistically to the horrors she faces. I hate her because she’s significantly smarter than I am and that’s difficult to write for.

3. Who would you want to play your protagonist in the movie adaptation of your book? 

I have no idea. One of those Fanning kids if there’s still one of the appropriate age. Unnaturally talented those kids are.

4. Are you planning on continuing the story with a sequel and/or series? 

The book is planned as a trilogy. Hopefully a real trilogy and I won’t get carried away and write seven book. I like my tales to have endings. Though I’m not averse to telling a different story in the same universe.

5. Is there anything else you want readers to know? 

If there’s one thing I want to add it would be that I don’t want to be a writer. I just want to write. I never realized how important it was to encourage creatives until I was the one with an addiction to feed. People underestimate the impact they have with so small a gesture as just pre-ordering a book on Inkshares or commenting on a part of a book they liked. Being part of a creative’s journey to being able to do what they love, what they need to be doing, is huge to the creative, no matter how tiny it might be to the supporter. Find something you like from someone trying to break in their industry and support the hell out of it.

 

 

Excerpt from The God in the Shed


Regrets are the instruments by which we learn. We tend not

to repeat those things we regret. A remorse, I think, is a much

deeper thing. I tend not to dwell on regrets. For all the pain

they’ve caused me, they have allowed me to grow and become a

better man, sometimes despite myself. I regret how I treated my

first love, but it taught me how to better live with my wife. I

regret not working very hard in school, but now I know to apply

myself in my work. I feel bad about the things I regret, but I

wouldn’t take a single one back.

My remorses however, I would do anything to go back and

prevent the circumstances that brought those to life, and they

are many.

The worst however came at a young age. I was too much of a

child to know better, but that doesn’t take away from the pain

I’ve caused, lives I’ve destroyed and the hardships I’ve

endured.

It was during my last summer in Saint-Ferdinand. Not my

very last summer, but the last one I’d spend before heading off

to boarding school. Back then, our little village was nothing

more than a handful of farms and a general store. We had to

leave town for anything fancier. It was no big deal however. In

those days, what we couldn’t grow, we’d just make ourselves.

The whole ordeal started innocently enough. It was early

summer, maybe spring, any warm day with the sun high in the sky

is summer to a child like I was that day.

My friend Jonathan and I had gone deep into the forest.

Woods that hadn’t been seen by human eyes in years, decades,

perhaps ever. The purest of virgin forests. We’d play games back

then, often roping the Richards twins into joining us. We’d do

as most kids do; play cops and robbers, or was it cowboys and

indians? We’d build forts and occasionally go fishing or frog

catching. Children playing childish games.

One such passtime that we always reserved for when we were

deep in uncharted territory however, was hide and go seek. We

would come up with endless variants of this game, but a favorite

by far we called “freeze’. As long as the seeker was looking at

you, you were ‘frozen’ and could not run away. If the seeker

touched you, you were caught.

All was fun and games until that one day, when we were

further into the woods then we had ever been, that’s where we

found ‘him’.

We were playing explorers that day. We’d brought bottles

filled with water, which we called canteens, and bags with some

bread that we called rations.

‘He’ was sitting on a moss covered stone in a clearing. At

first, we didn’t notice him. His green skin glowed gloriously

like the sun shining through leaves at noon. He was as immobile

as he was naked, smiling peacefully, his face turned towards the

hot summer sun.

“Hey!” I remember calling. “What are you doing here? Where

are your clothes?”

Slowly and only after a moment, he opened his night-black

eyes to look at me. His smile broadened on his noseless face, as

if he were glad to see me.

“I’ve always been here.” he answered without moving his

lips.

As a child, I didn’t take notice of his physical

differences. His sexlessness, his skin color and his strange

anatomy. I was more curious to know if he’d join our games, and

he did.

First, we continued playing explorers and he was our Indian

guide. He brought us even deeper into the forest where we found

a small rivulet. He showed us a clearing where strawberries grew

and a tree so large and old that it dwarved all others in the

area.

We had to give up fishing though. Our new friend didn’t

like that we killed for sport. Instead, he’d find us nuts or

other berries that we could eat, or show us other wonders to

keep us distracted.

Jonathan was convinced we’d found a wood nymph, while I

thought he was just some freak, like those from the circuses

that fascinated me so much. In the end, it didn’t matter. Every

day, after our chores and if it didn’t rain, we would gather

together at my parents farm and head out into the woods to meet

him. Every time we’d find him sitting on his rock, staring at

the sun, a look of serene pleasure writ upon his face.

Then, one day, we drove so deep into the woods, so far into

the forest, that even our guide was finally in unfamiliar

territory. That’s when we knew we had, at last, found a place to

play ‘freeze’.

“Whenever you’re being watched, you can’t move.” I

explained, along with the rest of our made-up rules. He nodded

and said ‘yes’ with that wordless voice of his that caressed the

mind so pleasantly.

However, the very first time we played with him as the

seeker, he cheated. You can do a lot to a child that he will

simply shrug off, but cheating isn’t one of those things.

We… Called him names. Unkind things I’m happy not

remembering and glad he couldn’t understand, but still, he knew

we were unhappy with him.

“Now you have to promise, spit in your hand and swear, when

you’re watched, you cannot move. Understand?”

He answered by doing as he was told and spitting in his

hand and shaking mine after I did the same. The innocent things

children do without knowing the reach of consequences.

We played that day, but our fun game had taken on an

intensity we’d never meant for it to have. Our new friend had a

fresh gleam in his black eyes. There was something predatory in

how he watched us play. He was suddenly intolerant of even the

slightest mistake.

It all came to a head when Jonathan kept running after

being spotted. We were already tired and more than a little

worried at the atmosphere. None of us had ever given a second

thought as to our companion’s strange abilities and powers.

Suddenly however, we were his prey and what made him different

also made him dangerous.

Obviously, Jonathan had had enough and wanted to walk away

from the game.

“Stop.” it growled, very softly as my friend ignored him

and kept walking. “Stop!”

When he shouted, we all grabbed our ears in pain. It wasn’t

the silky, soothing silence we had been accustomed to, but an

assault on our young minds.

This scared Jonathan and he started to run, further

angering our strange friend.

I didn’t see what happened next, how could I, but when we

got to Jonathan, the strange creature we had befriended was

holding him to the ground and had bitten his pinky clean off.

“He cheated.” he declared, his mouth full of fresh, warm

blood.

None of us moved. Jonathan was sobbing in the dirt, holding

his mangled hand.

“You understand Nathan?” the creature asked me while

getting off my wounded friend who scampered away. “He cheated.

We hate cheaters don’t we?”

I took a step backwards, then another, never taking my eyes

off the strange creature we’d met and befriended in those woods.

“Nathan?” it called out in my mind “At least tell me I can

move. Nathan? Nathan!”

“I’ll be back tomorrow. We’ll talk.” I said, never meaning

a word.

“Do you promise Nathan?” it asked, the voice in my head

sweet and harmless once again. “Do you?”

I never answered. By that time the next day, I was on a

train bound for Toronto. I wouldn’t be back in Saint-Ferdinand

for another twelve years, by then, things had changed.

#

 

Twenty Questions for Twenty Authors: C. Brenneke

I have always been fascinated with the story of how a person got to be where they are.  Over the weeks working with other writers in the Inkshares Nerdist contest I realized I had a unique opportunity to pick their brains about reading, about writing, and about their novels.

To that end, I’m starting an interview series where I take the time to sit down and pick the brain of other authors who are out there writing amazing stories of their own.

I’m calling the series “Twenty Questions for Twenty Authors”

First up, I’d liked to introduce C. Brennecke, author of Seven Shards: The Colors of Wine currently funding on Inkshares.

C. Brennecke is a fantasy writer, artist, and lifelong daydreamer. She works as a publications editor and organizes chaos for fun. Her first taste of world-building came when she discovered tabletop roleplaying while studying art at Temple University, and she’s been creating worlds ever since. She spends many late nights on the computer in her suburban Philadelphia home, which she shares with her husband and a sheltie that thinks he’s a cat. Follow her on twitter: @bonebonetweets

Here’s a little about Seven Shards: The Color of Wine:

Tensions run high across the Kingdom’s seven counties, as allegiances are tested and old wounds become inflamed. The recent time of peace nears its end when the Shadow King flexes his power and the oppressed lash out. His actions stir up new leaders and visionaries from the generation now coming of age. With so many changes in the air, any of the Kingdom’s residents could bring about the tipping point; from the disillusioned artist as she grows in fame, to the cocksure fool pursuing love for the first time.

Far from the sights of the King’s throne, hidden away in a cave, a High Priestess sits and studies the threads of fate as they weave the lives of her fellow citizens towards an inevitable war. Fueled to urgency by a dire prophecy, she stretches her influence far and wide, carefully building her allies up while breaking her enemies down. As she manifests her will through schemes and lies, those closest to her begin to doubt the sanctity of her vision as its costs pile up. Could her well-intentioned interference cause more harm than good?

Stay tuned after the interview for an excerpt from the book.  Here’s a little taste to whet your appetite:

 “But this generation could not afford to lose anyone else, not even a weakling like him.”

I have so many questions about the story after reading just that one sentence!  Just wait until you read the rest of what she’s shared with you.  Anyway, onto the interview proper.

On Reading

1. What are you currently reading?

The Bloody Chamber and Other Stories by Angela Carter

2. Ereader or Traditional?

Traditional

3. What is your favorite book?

I think you forgot the “s” in “books!” My current top three are The Night Circus, The Mists of Avalon, and Red Azalea.

4. Why do you think reading is important?

Reading develops your imagination and your understanding of the world. The ways in which you can learn and become a better person through reading are innumerable.

5. What is the one book (other than your own) that you would recommend to others?

The Night Circus, by Erin Morgenstern

On Writing

1. What made you want to become a writer?

I’m not sure that’s my goal; at least it wasn’t until very recently. I simply want to capture my stories and share them with others.

2. Why do you write?

I write because if I didn’t, the stories would fade away just like a dream.

3. What was the first thing you wrote?

I could interpret and answer this question in many ways, but I think I’ll go with the most embarrassing. The first book I wrote (not to completion, mind you) was a tale of a widowed woman rekindling the flames of her long lost love, who happened to be a vampire.

4. Which writers inspire you?

Neil Gaiman, J.K. Rowling, Erin Morgenstern, Anchee Min

5. Are you a planner or a seat of the pants writer?

Both. I’m constantly going back and forth between both modalities.

6. What are you currently writing?

A fantasy by the name of Seven Shards: The Colors of Wine

7. Why this particular genre?

Fantasy is a genre I’m fond of and familiar with as a reader, and it allows me to be creative and inventive without having to reinvent every single thing.

8. From where do you glean ideas for your writing?

This is difficult to answer because I’m a very intuitive, inspiration-based writer. Some of it comes from people or situations I’ve observed, some of it comes from backstories I’ve written for RPGs, some of it comes from prompts or feedback I’ve received, and most of it comes from an unknown source.

9. What advice would you give a fledgling writer just starting on the path to building their own novel?

Jump in and start writing. Save every note, every idea. Don’t expect it to be cohesive right away. Do expect that it will take many, many long hours.

10. A new writer is suffering with writer’s block. What advice would you give them to break through?

Taking a walk usually helps. So does switching from keyboard to pencil, or vice versa. If you don’t have the idea you want, write anyway. Just write something.

On your Book

1. Tell the readers about what makes your book unique.

My story tackles a lot of contemporary issues and intrinsically human experiences without belaboring any one point. It is diverse without being about diversity. Some of the characters fall into familiar stereotypes, while others defy them. But every character is layered and achieves growth throughout their journey.

2. What do you love about your protagonist? What do you hate about them?

I have a few protagonists, but the one that bookends the story is the High Priestess. I love her physical quirks and her almost self-sacrificial devotion to a higher purpose. In pursuit of that purpose she can be very manipulative and deceitful, which can be a hard thing to forgive. But ultimately, her judgment is right. I think she will be a very divisive character.

3. Who would you want to play your protagonist in the movie adaptation of your book?

Cate Blanchet would be my first choice. Michelle Williams could pull it off as well.

4. Are you planning on continuing the story with a sequel and/or series?

I wasn’t originally, but lately I’ve been changing my mind about that. So, what I mean to say is yes.

5. Is there anything else you want readers to know?

Seven Shards: The Colors of Wine is a fantasy that will resonate with the common reader, not just fantasy fans. Everyone will find a relatable character or storyline within its web. It will also challenge many people to question or stretch their sense of morality.

Thanks so much C. Brennecke for being my inaugural interviewee!

As promised, here is an excerpt from her novel.  If you love what you read here, why not preorder the book and help it get published? 

The High Priestess turned to the timid Lygar with a scrutinous eye.

“You’re not a natural fit for Archon, are you?” The priestess surveyed his face.

His lips gaped open for a beat, then pursed as he raised his brow. “No, I’m afraid not.”

“But I suppose you’re the right leader for this generation. The last thing your people need is another war.”

Alphonse nodded slowly, not offended, or even surprised, but more than a little unsettled by the frank analysis. Though she had said few words, the truth of her statements weighed heavy in his mind. The title of Archon had fallen to him solely because he happened to be the eldest able-bodied male survivor of the last two wars. And just as some whispered, his survival was attributed not to bravery, but to mere cowardice and luck. In any other time, he would have been challenged, and presumably killed, for the title. But this generation could not afford to lose anyone else, not even a weakling like him. Aside from himself, all that was left of the Lygars was a handful of old women and a few dozen young adults and children. They were no more than fifty by his last count.

Alphonse sat rigid, silently growing more anxious. The ever-real possibility that he was not even leader enough to assure his people’s immediate survival gnawed on his mind. He was a coward and he knew it. And how could a coward protect his people? He could not fight, his resolve was tenuous, and the charisma to inspire others was not a gift that he possessed. Even trivial matters, such as lover’s quarrels, made him feel uneasy. The first few years of his reign had past by easily due to the fact that the majority of his people were mere children. But now that those children were entering adulthood, the demands of leadership were quickly becoming more difficult to fulfill.

“Count yourself lucky that King Vincent has no interest in rehashing his predecessor’s goals,” the High Priestess spoke again, “If he wanted to, the Shadow King could take control of your land within a single phase of the moon.”

Her breathy voice became low as she continued. “But now is no time to rest on your laurels. The King may yet change his mind, or perhaps more likely, his title may yet pass to another.”

Azimah squinted, seemingly distracted by something in the stars. The sky held her gaze as she continued. “You must do everything you can to conjure up defensible numbers again. There are still a handful of slaves throughout the countryside that could be freed and rallied. And there are deserters who might be swayed to return. You must also strengthen your alliances and business holdings. It is paramount that you appear formidable to your foes, my dear Alphonse, as you quietly build back your numbers. Breeding takes time…and…zhuh-hywwwwwh…and your time is not guaranteed.”

The color drained from the Priestess’ face and her eyes began to glaze over. As if on cue, her guardian appeared with a cushion and guided her safely down to the floor. She lay there for a moment, still as a marble statue. Her breath grew louder and louder until she, quite abruptly, sat up.