Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for February, 2013

Lily-of-the-Valley Fairy Happy Tell a Fairy Tale Day to all my readers. Like many of you, I fell in love with the magical, mystical, and miraculous world of fairy tales when I was a small child. And I’m still in love with this most wonderful kind of story. To celebrate, here’s a link to the beginning of Feathers, one of the fairy tales included in my new book, Owl Light: http://vonniewinslowcrist.com/stories__more/happy_tell_a_fairy_tale_day

And remember to celebrate Tell a Fairy Tale Day every year by sharing your favorite fairy tale with a child or re-reading a fairy tale for the sheer pleasure of re-visiting a charming (though often scary) part of childhood.

Here’s to happily ever-afters! – Vonnie

Read Full Post »

author Thanks to Michigan fantasy author M.A. Donovan for stopping by. Hold on a minute, weren’t you promised a visit from author Shelby Patrick? Yes – but they are one and the same. M.A. Donovan uses the name Shelby Patrick when writing horror and thrillers. Now, let’s see what she has to say about fantasy.

Fantasy Meets Reality by M.A. Donovan

Fantasy should have its grounds in reality. Yes, we can totally make up our own little worlds but they fall flat without some truth to them. They need structure and rules. Even magic can’t get by without some sort of organization.

In The Golden Horn, I have created my magical kingdom where dragons rule, unicorns keep the peace, and magic users wield power. It pits my four main characters against dangerous beasts and demonic warlords on a quest to find the ultimate weapon – The Golden Horn. Nations have gone to war over this legendary weapon; treasure hunters have died attempting to locate it; and whole cities have been destroyed to keep it safe. When their kingdom is taken over by evil, my heroes begin their journey that is fraught with deadly traps and hungry monsters. If they fail, they will become enslaved to an ancient wizard with the power of the shadows on his side.

Although my imagination created this mythical world, I still had to pull from history and myth. Anyone can throw a few orcs or wizards in and claim it to be a fantasy realm, but it will lose readers. People want to feel like the place could have existed and their dreams will whisk them away to this wonderful kingdom. To do that, you need to come up with a society which involves villagers, towns, markets, trades, neighboring kingdoms, soldiers, religions, money, nobles, etc.

It helps to map out your world so that the reader can follow along as your characters travel along roads (rocky, dirt, paved) or paths (forests, meadows, rivers) to get to their destination (the next town, the castle, the monster’s lair). Once you have the basics down, how will they be traveling – horses, carriages, on foot, by ship? If you decide to go with horses, make sure the animals become part of the story. They need to be rested, watered, and fed as well. Figure out distances and time traveled depending on the mode of transportation. For example, it will take longer to go by foot than by horseback. What type of equipment do your characters carry? This will affect their travel pace. Who or what will they encounter in their travels?

frontcover When I first wrote my story, I left out a lot of the background information. My editor said I needed to make my world “real”. My characters weren’t situated for a book. Since they went from one battle to the next (in the original version), it was more like a role-playing game. They had to interact with other people along the way and have some down time. Plus, some of the monsters had to be downsized. They couldn’t fight the most intense creatures every day, but if they did, the fights had to be death-defying. The reader had to feel as if the character may not live to survive the tale. Reality check! Not only did the world need to be believable, so did the characters and their actions. That’s what makes a good story – fantasy or not.”

The Golden Horn is available at: http://amzn.to/WHRULe (print edition) and http://amzn.to/YN40FX (Kindle edition) or createspace.com And you can read the first three chapters for FREE at http://bit.ly/XC5pst Visit M.A. Donovan online at http://www.donovanfantasyauthor.com or check out her blog at http://www.freethewriterinside.com You can also find her on Facebook (ShelbyPatrickAuthor) and Twitter (@shelbypatrick).

Special Offer: Want to win a free signed copy of The Golden Horn along with a special gift from M.A. Donovan? Enter her “Letter to a Hero” contest. Simply craft a genius letter to your special hero (can be a fictional character or a real person) and send to her at kariah@donovanfantasyauthor.com with “Letter to a Hero” in the subject. She’ll select a winner at the end of her virtual book tour, on or around March 1, 2013. Please make sure to include your name, mailing address, and email in your letter.

Thanks again to M.A. Donovan for her guest post. Watch Whimsical Words for more guests, blogs from me, and my new feature, Readers & Writers Recipes. Have a fantastical day.– Vonnie

Read Full Post »

Thanks to my sister, Jane, for this quick and easy cream of crab soup recipe. The recipe uses a Maryland standby, Old Bay Seasoning. For those who aren’t familiar with Old Bay, it’s a spicy, salty seafood seasoning. Like last week’s Easy Fudge Ribbon Cake, Cream of Crab Soup in a Jiffy works well for a book club or readers’ group get-together, a luncheon, or any other fun gathering.

Cream of Crab Soup in a Jiffy

Ingredients:

1-pound of crab meat

3  cans of cream of celery soup (10.5 ounce size)

3 cans of milk

1/4 cup margarine (or butter)

1 to 2 Tablespoons of Old Bay Seasoning

To make soup:

1) Empty cream of celery soup into a large pot.

2) Fill the empty cans with milk, then slowly pour milk into pot while stirring.

3) Add margarine and Old Bay Seasoning.

4) Warm over medium low heat, stirring occasionally.

5) Bring soup to a boil, then turn down to a simmer.

6) Serve hot and enjoy!

Notes: additional salt and pepper can be added to the soup to your taste, though I prefer it with just the Old Bay Seasoning. Fresh crab meat tastes the best, though I’ve bought crab meat when on sale, frozen it, and added it the soup a few weeks later when I was having folks over for lunch.

Appearing Monday on Whimsical Words: a guest post from author Shelby Patrick.

Read Full Post »

 I’ve reviewed books, movies, videos, and restaurants over the years for various publications. It’s not an easy job! As a reviewer, your thumbs up or thumbs down can have an impact on whether readers buy or pass up a book. Yikes! That’s a lot of responsibility – which is why I no longer review books.

“Wait a minute,” you might say. “Don’t you write the ‘Writer’s Block’ column for Harford’s Heart Magazine?”

And yes, I do write that column, but I don’t actually review the books presented there. I do interview authors and introduce books which have a local connection. In addition, I occasionally write a book-based column for the Holiday, Pets, or Children’s section of the magazine. But I try to not give my opinion as to the merits of the work.

“Why not?” you might ask.

Firstly, I’m interested in promoting reading, writers, and books – not in telling readers which books are worthy of their attention.

Secondly, as a writer I’ve come to realize a reviewer’s opinion is just what one person thinks of a book (or film or restaurant), and that view can be skewed for any number of reasons. Maybe the reviewer doesn’t care for a particular type of book. Maybe he or she just read a similar book and, consciously or unconsciously, is comparing the two rather than evaluating a book on its own merits. Maybe the reviewer is having a bad day. Or maybe the reviewer is trying to curry favor with someone. This isn’t meant to imply reviewers are dishonest, most are very honest. But reviewers are human.

Leprechaun Cake fc One of the first reviews (and one that still lingers on the internet) I received for my kids’ book, Leprechaun Cake & Other Tales, was a bad review. After the initial sting of the reviewer’s words, I looked more closely at the content. It was evident this person was not someone used to working with kids, had never met a polite child (how sad), and seemed to be a bit of a grump. How unfortunate this one person’s opinion might persuade others not to buy my book. Before you pull your handkerchief out to weep for my misfortune, many more reviews of Leprechaun Cake & Other Tales were published, and they were all positive. But the impact of one nasty review is hard to calculate.

I’ve begun to list books I’ve read on Goodreads, but as of yet, I’ve not posted reviews. I’m planning on posting brief reviews shortly, but I’ll be certain to frame my comments with “in my opinion” rather than stating for a fact that a book is great, mediocre, or awful. Actually, I’m usually generous in my “stars” on Goodreads, and I try to appreciate a book for what it is – meaning I try to rate a children’s book as a children’s book (quality illustrations, age-appropriate text), a non-fiction book as a non-fiction book (adequate references, soundness of research), a fantasy novel as a fantasy novel (good world-building, uniqueness of characters), etc.

Which brings me to another problem for me with reviews: negativity. My mom was a fan of the “if you don’t have anything nice to say, then don’t say anything at all” school of thought. And she passed that philosophy on to me. So instead of posting a poor rating on Amazon or Goodreads or elsewhere, I have a tendency to just not review that book. Cowardly? I don’t think so. Rather I remember that misguided review of years ago, and choose not to be unkind.

If you’ve read my books, please post your ratings/reviews on Amazon, Amazon UK, and Goodreads. And don’t forget to give the books a “thumbs up” if you enjoyed the read.

For you cooks out there, look for another easy, delicious recipe on Saturday, Feb.24th – Vonnie

Read Full Post »

Thanks to author Ripley Patton for stopping by and talking about the dark subjects that are often a part of Young Adult books.

Dabbling in the Dark: Addressing difficult issues in YA literature by Ripley Patton

Ripley's author photo “Even though my first young adult book, Ghost Hand, is a paranormal thriller, it still touches on some of the real issues confronting teens today; loss of a parent, feeling like the outcast, dysfunctional families, body image, cutting, and, in general, the dark hurts that lurk inside of each of us.

I’ve heard people complain that YA literature has become too dark. They ask, ‘Why all this gloom, and death, and monster stuff?’ But the truth is stories for children crossing into adulthood (ie fairy tales) have traditionally had a very dark slant, and this well may have been a way of preparing them for the fearful truths of the adult world. Story is a way of giving us a road map to reality.

What I have found is that most modern teens already know that adult world. They’re dabbling in it, or they’ve been forced to live in it long ago, perhaps long before they should have. They are seeking books that touch on the very things they are struggling with or experiencing. So, it bothers me when people try to censor what constitutes YA, or say kids of a certain age shouldn’t be reading work that is dark. If those dark things are happening to kids in the real world, shouldn’t we be empowering them to process that through the amazing meaning-making tool of literature?

Now, I don’t think that you can just toss harsh, dark stuff into a story along with some teenagers and say ‘Viola! I wrote good YA literature.’ I think there are some guidelines, and there is certainly a responsibility we have to our readers.

For example, I once read a YA book where the main character, a girl, violently beat her boyfriend around the face because he wouldn’t tell her what she wanted to know. These two characters were supposed to be in love, and I think perhaps the author was trying to make a statement about domestic violence, and how it can cut both ways. I’m not sure what the point was because the author just left it at that. The girl beat the boy, and later on they made up, and no one ever said anything about it again. The girl didn’t even apologize. When I finished this book, I found myself very upset at the author. Yes, violence like that happens in the real world without any purpose, and teens are certainly experiencing it, but her job as an author, I think, is to give that occurrence meaning in the book and some resolution in the reader’s heart. At the very least, I would have liked to see a character speak to the injustice and wrongness of beating someone you love around the face in a rage. I would have liked her to show how that breaks trust and damages relationship. Because our books are our voices, and I hope those are the kind of things they’ll say to young people.

Ghost Hand cover But it isn’t always easy to say the right things, or even know what the best things are to say with our writerly voices. For example, in the second book of The PSS Chronicles, the one I’m working on now, there are guns. Under-age teenagers wielding guns. And given the recent violent shootings, and the social outcry both for and against gun control, I found myself very uncomfortable when my characters began to take up arms. I actually stopped writing for a while and tried to figure out something else for them to do. But no, they wanted and needed guns for the plot to move forward. So, I decided to let my characters express the very struggle I was having. I gave them that voice. I let them hash out between themselves the issue, with some adamantly against guns and the escalation of violence and others strongly for that means of self-protection. Perhaps, I even needed to write this into my book because it is so in the forefront at the moment. It is something America is dealing with, and so am I, and so are our teens.

I’m not saying that an author or their characters should be preachy. I’m not saying they should say ‘This is right. And this is wrong,’ because, let’s face it, most issues have multiple sides and are more gray than black and white. But I do think we, as authors, should let our characters ask the hard questions. They should do more than act. They should think. And hope. And feel. They should process the very issues we are facing so we can face them together.

This is the magic of reading, of literature and fiction, and why we should never shrink away from the really hard, dark issues.

Because when we read, we are no longer alone.”

To read more about Ripley visit her website: http://www.ripleypatton.com/  Ghost Hand is available on Amazon.  You can also find Ripley on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/writerripleypatton  Twitter: @rippatton and Goodreads: http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/4340243.Ripley_Patton

Thanks again to Ripley Patton for her guest post. Watch Whimsical Words for more guests, blogs from me, and my new feature, Readers & Writers Recipes. – Vonnie

Read Full Post »

This fancy-looking and delicious bundt cake is easy to make, because it begins with a prepared cake mix. Chocolate-lovers and fans of “black-bottom cupcakes” will especially enjoy it. Like last week’s Over-Night Shrimp Dip, Easy Fudge Ribbon Cake works well for a book club or readers’ group get-together or any other fun gathering.

Easy Fudge Ribbon Cake

1) Preheat oven to 350° F.

2) Grease & flour a 10” bundt cake pan. (Or spray pan generously with a vegetable-based cooking spray)

3) Make cake.

For cake:

1 package chocolate cake mix (2 layer size).

Ingredients listed on back of box for preparation of the cake mix.

Directions: Make cake according to directions on package. Pour into a prepared bundt cake pan.

4) Make filling.

For filling:

1- 8-ounce package of creamed cheese, softened

2 Tablespoons softened margarine (or butter)

1 Tablespoon cornstarch

1- 14-ounce can Sweetened Condensed Milk

1 egg

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Directions: In a small bowl, beat creamed cheese, margarine, and cornstarch until fluffy. Gradually beat in milk, egg, and vanilla. Pour the creamy mixture evenly on top of cake batter.

5) Bake for 50-55 minutes.

6) Cool 10 minutes, then remove from pan and cool on a rack.

7) Make glaze.

For glaze:

2 Tablespoons softened margarine (or butter)

3 Tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder

1 Cup confectionery sugar

2 Tablespoons boiling water

Directions: Mix ingredients together, then beat until smooth.

8) Place cake on serving plate and glaze, beginning at the top and letting the chocolate dribble down the sides. Serve.

Notes: Seriously, no one will imagine you used a boxed cake mix. I’ve had more requests for this cake recipe after I’ve served it than any other. – Vonnie

Appearing Monday on Whimsical Words: a “dark” guest post from author Ripley Patton.

Read Full Post »

Romance is a sudden and miraculous grace: never to be counted on to recur.” wrote JRR Tolkien. Though one usually doesn’t think of Tolkien when one thinks of Valentine’s Day and romance, there are love stories woven through many of his tales. With a few exceptions, those love stories are intense, long-enduring, require suffering or sacrifice on the part of the couples, and have tragic endings.

“What a terrible thing to bring up on Valentine’s Day!” you might say. And though those passionate and ill-fated love stories abound in Tolkien’s fiction, he also gave us the quiet love of the hobbits, Samwise Gamgee and Rose Cotton. I think it is no accident that hobbits (Bilbo, Frodo, Sam, Merry and Pippin) were central to The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit, and it is through their eyes that the reader views much of the action.

Most of us aren’t cut out for dangerous adventures, battles with gigantic creatures, and walking for months through perilous lands over-run by armed enemies. Just like most of us aren’t cut out for romances filled with drama, terrible tragedies, and doom. Instead, we appreciate the simple happiness that comes from finding someone who cares for us and for whom we care.

There’s a wonderful comfort in the ordinariness of Sam and Rose. They love each other with the sort of love that we modern-day humans can identify with, and perhaps discover in our own lives:

Sam turned to Bywater, and so came back up the Hill, as day was ending once more. And he went on, and there was yellow light, and fire within; and the evening meal was ready, and he was expected. And Rose drew him in, and set him in his chair, and put little Elanor upon his lap. He drew a deep breath. ‘Well, I’m back,’ he said.” – JRR Tolkien, the last lines of The Return of the King.

Happy Valentine’s Day, dear readers. And may your life be filled with love.

For another Tolkien-inspired post, visit: http://ljagilamplighter.com/2013/02/13/wrights-writing-corner-guest-blog-vonnie-winslow-crist-on-writing-adventures/

Read Full Post »

Thanks to  L. Jagi Lamplighterauthor of the Prospero’s Daughters series, for stopping by and sharing her explanation of why she writes fantasy literature.

All About The Wonder by L. Jagi Lamplighter

Anystreet picture “Recently, I met my first grader at the bus after school. As we walked home, he asked suddenly, ‘Mom, why do you write fantasy?’

I must admit, I was taken aback. I did not have an easy answer ready on the tip of my tongue (or any other part of my tongue, for that matter.) After stuttering a bit, I recovered and said, ‘Because it is filled with wonder—wonder, magic, and enchantment. Because when you write fantasy, you can write about anything.’

And really, that is the reason. For me, it is all about the wonder.

Fantasy can do anything, go anywhere, occur in any milieu. It can take place in your back yard, in the ancient past, on the moon, in another dimension—the nature and laws of which can be anything you imagine. It can be frightening, romantic, mysterious, filled with intriguing factoids. But there is one thing fantasy does better than any other genre, and that is wonder.

Wonder is the sensation we feel when we suddenly discover that there is more to the world than we expected….and that this more is better, or at least more awe inspiring, than we had imagined. When this happens in real life—when we hold our infant son for the first time, or rush outside on our way to work to find a baby fawn, all wet and new, standing on our driveway, what is the first thing we always say when we describe the experience to someone else?

‘It was like magic!’

I live in a world where there is wonder all around me, and no one else ever seems to notice it. Amazing things happen all the time.

Once, I went to the Mall in Washington D.C. in hopes of meeting an author I particularly admired. It is rather a rare thing, to have an author one admires in town. By an even rarer quirk of coincidences, I found myself not in line with the hundreds of other people who were waiting for his signature, but standing next to him, talking to his daughter. There was a sprinkling of rain—which did not dismay his die hard fans in the least—and, when I turned around, a huge rainbow arched across the sky. But it was not just in the sky. From our position, it was coming out of the dome of the capital building!

I had seldom seen a rainbow so clearly, much less one in so auspicious a place! (This was just at the very beginning of the bank crisis, while they were first discussing the bailout. I kept wanting to shout: ‘Hurry! Catch the Leprechaun! Grab the crock of gold!’ ) Things like that just do not happen in real life.

But it did. I eveCats-rainbow-300x225n have a picture.

It was like magic!

I have always wanted to have a daughter. I have also always wanted to adopt a child. When I was a teenager, I had friends who needed adopting, but no one wanted to take on children who were so old. Too much trouble. So that became one of my dreams, too: to adopt a teenager.

I also wanted to be a writer. I have always wanted to tells stories. As a child, a group of adults who used to dress up as elves and kidnap their friends for fun once granted me the title ‘the Legendmaker,’ because even way back then, everyone knew that was what I wanted to do.

But wanting to write and succeeding are two different things. It took me nine years to finish my first novel and another six to sell it. By the time the book finally hit the shelves last summer, I had waited 17 years.

Then, July 29th, 2009, a day I shall never forget, not if I lived for a thousand years, it actually happened. My book arrived! After all that time waiting, I held the beautiful volume in my hands.

But it hardly mattered, because just a few hours before, my husband and I had grasped each other while we sent off the email saying, ‘Yes, we would like to be the parents to the thirteen year old girl who will lose her ability to have a family forever if she is not adopted before her fourteenth birthday in November.’ With the return email, saying that our application was going forward, the picture of the beautiful Chinese girl we had received the day before suddenly became a picture of our daughter. For the first time, after waiting four years, we saw our daughter’s face.

Prospero Regained narrow On the same day, I gained a book and a daughter!

It was like magic!

And that is why I write fantasy. Because I want to share that, to weave a tale of awe and enchantment so others can experience even a hint of the way I felt upon those two occasions.

Because nothing is more like magic than magic itself.

When you walk into your garden and discover that fairies really are living in your lily-of-the-valley; when you are taking a rest by a cool mountain river and you suddenly realize that what you had taken for an outcropping of rock is peering at you; when you come around what you thought was a familiar corner an catch elves dancing in the moonlight, that is fantasy at its best. When done right, it reminds us of those moments in our lives, those real moments, when the curtain of mudanity is pulled aside, and we see, not a little man from Kansas, but something vast and glorious that, if only for an instance, lifts us out of our every day life and into eternity.

And that is magic.

PS. Being an published author is a delightful thing…but being the mother of a teenage girl is even more wonderful. Life is filled with wonder every day.”

Notes: This article previously appeared on the blog of Jagi’s Downunder writer friend Dolly Garland and at Magical Words, a website of writing tips and publishing advice for aspiring novelists run by a group of top fantasy writers. And special thanks to Cat Mihos for her rainbow photo.  For more about L. Jagi Lamplighter visit her website: Welcome to Arhyalon. Her books are available from bookstores and online, including at Amazon.

Thanks again to L. Jagi Lamplighter for her guest post. Watch Whimsical Words for more guests, blogs from me, and my new feature, Readers & Writers Recipes. Have a magical day – Vonnie

Read Full Post »

Debuting on Whimsical Words is a new feature: Readers and Writers Recipes. I’ll be posting a recipe per week from either my recipe files or the files of another writer or reader. Many of the recipes, like today’s Over-Night Shrimp Dip, work well for a book club or readers’ group get-together or any other fun gathering.

Over-Night Shrimp Dip

1) Mix well with a fork:

1 can tiny shrimp (drained weight 4 ounces)

8-ounces cream cheese (softened)

2 Tablespoons finely chopped onion

3 Tablespoons mayonnaise or mayo-like salad dressing

3 Tablespoons ketchup

2) Put in sealed container and chill over-night in the refrigerator.

3) Serve in a festive dish with either chips or fresh vegetables for dipping. Also works great as a delicious spread on crackers.

4) Notes: I use low-fat creamed cheese and low-fat “Miracle Whip” to reduce the calories. Left-overs can be stored in a sealed container and used within a week. I love to spread the left-over shrimp dip on crackers and eat with soup for a great lunch.

Remember book clubs and readers’ groups, I’d love to be a guest at one of your meetings if you’ve read one of my books. If I can’t get there “in-person,” I can always Skype! And let me know of any great recipes or book club ideas that have worked for your group. – Vonnie

Coming on Monday: a fabulous guest post from author L. Jagi Lamplighter Wright.

Read Full Post »

The following is the second part of a 1999 interview I did with science fiction writer, Jack L. Chalker. Click here to read Part I. (Photo of Jack Chalker courtesy of Patti Kinlock, chair of Balticon).

A Conversation with Jack L. Chalker (part II)

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAVWC: Earlier you mentioned the controversy surrounding The Soul Rider Saga from the mid-eighties (Spirits of Flux and Anchor, Empire of Flux and Anchor, Masters of Flux and Anchor, The Birth of Flux and Anchor, and Children of Flux and Anchor) and just now you mentioned naming characters in a manner that avoids lawsuits. Do you think fear of lawsuits and controversy are having an impact on today’s writers?

JLC: Well, if I really worried about that I wouldn’t have had so much fun with the Well World names. It’s crass, but publishers have insurance for this sort of thing and that’s in my contract as well. I have had some problems with legal staffs, but it was almost always because of commentary, rather than within the story itself. The only serious problems I had were with my autobiographical comments in my story collection, Dance Band on the Titanic, where the insurance company simply wouldn’t take the risk. There are other outlets, though, and other ways to say the same things.

Fear of lawsuits doesn’t affect many writers but it does affect editors and publishers through which we have to deal to get our work out to the public. This is nothing new.

The Soul Rider controversy wasn’t a legal problem, it was simply that people who see things in absolutes and do not understand what this work is about yelled because they believed it was politically incorrect. It may be, but not for what they said. My biggest critics on it, though, have all proudly admitted that they never read it. Unfortunately, at least one of these people is an influential editor for one of the dwindling number of New York publishers and he has kept a lot of writers’ work from going further based on this sort of PC lens. I have had more problems with this sort than with any lawyer.

VWC: I know from checking your website [no longer available], that you’re not convinced that e-books are profitable or that readers typically discover new authors via e-books. I happen to agree with you that many ‘people don’t read novels off screen, and they don’t have a tendency to shell out real money for books when they don’t retain anything physical for their money.’ [Remember this is 1999, before the Kindles, Nooks, etc. were mainstream.] So what do you think is the future of the science fiction/ fantasy publishing industry?

JLC: Unfortunately, I’m very pessimistic not just about science fiction, but about fiction books in general in the future. Readership overall is graying and down. The only areas of increase are tie-ins to movies and TV shows. The new distributors are MBA types who focus only on quick sell-through, maximize quick profits and invest nothing at all in the future or in the long term. These in turn drive the publishers, who can’t get books out on the shelves and racks that the distributors won’t take.

There’s a lot of excitement about Amazon.com and the like, but these are not online book stores, they are book SERVICES. That is, if you know what you want, it’s a quick and easy one stop source. But what about all the people who haven’t seen my books (or anybody you want to name as author). How do the new readers find you? Traditional reviewing sources are always inbred and tend not to have wide influence in any case, and online hype is actually paid for. If my publisher doesn’t pay the fee, Amazon.com doesn’t put those ‘If you like Farmer you’ll like Chalker’ type things up.

New and building readership comes from impulse buying, and that’s where nothing can beat the vanishing bookstore. The distributors weren’t interested in Priam’s Lens, so Barnes and Noble only bought 1,250 copies for their entire chain. Amazon’s selling a bunch, but they’re to my following, not to new people. You can see that I’m very discouraged about the future of books in general. I used to tell new writers not to quit their day jobs until they spent at least three years making more off writing than the job. Now, I tell them don’t quit unless you can retire with no book income.

VWC: Novels are like children, it’s hard to pick a favorite – but nonetheless, do you have a novel of saga that holds a slightly more cherished place in your heart? And is there a book or series that you wish you could change?

JLC: Well, Web of the Chozen was a joke done to win a bet and isn’t one of my personal favorites. It also came out due to some complexities in the wrong order; everybody who’d ignored me had to pay attention when Midnight at the Well of Souls became a spontaneous bestseller; they looked at my next book, which was supposed to be Identity Matrix. As it happened, though, Chozen came out next, and many reviewers and critics never read me again.

Favorite? The original Midnight at the Well of Souls, because it made my career and because it holds up as well now as when it was written. I’m uneven on the series that developed out of it; some are good books, but none, I think, approach the original stand-alone. Soul Rider was my most complex series, one many people could see only as a wild adventure, but that’s okay. Although I’d like to tweak the final book of the five, otherwise it’s pretty much the way I would do it again. The tweaks would be just to make clearer the sources of the wacky ideologies that emerged in the books.

My all-time favorite of all the things I’ve written is a novelette; Dance Band on the Titanic. I think it accomplished more of what I wanted to do in writing than anything else I’ve written.

VWC: Lastly, what advice do you have for the beginning writer who wants to be a novelist?

JLC: Go ahead and write. And, in fact, you can still get published even under the pessimistic conditions I outlined. But unless that first book’s a bestseller and turned into a Major Motion Picture, think of it as something you do for yourself and for posterity, not for a living.

VWC: Thanks for taking the time to talk about writing. I’ve just seen Priam’s Lens on the bookshelves and I’ll be looking for Currents of the Well of Souls and Ghost of the Well of Souls in the near future. Your productivity amazes me!

JLC: Well, I think Currents and its second half are as good as I’ve done in the Well universe in many years (and absolutely no characters or races from the past books, period!) But as to my productivity – I spent a year and a half when they took my books but didn’t publish them. During that time, there were rumors that I was gravely ill, and after Priam appeared many people said, ‘Gee, I thought he was dead, it’s been so long since we saw anything new from him!’ So one person’s productivity…

VWC: Hmm, almost sixty books, not counting re-issues in twenty-five years. I’d say most writers dream of being so prolific. As to rumors of your death, after a similar experience, Mark Twain said, ‘Reports of my death were greatly exaggerated.’ Judging from the list of titles on your website that are planned, but not yet completed, we’ll be seeing quite a few more Jack Chalker books as we move into the next millennium.”

End Note: There were additional books written and published after the interview, but not enough for his fans. Jack died on February 11, 2005. The Baltimore Science Fiction Society‘s annual Maryland Young Writers Contest was renamed The Jack L. Chalker Young Writers’ Contest in 2006, so his presence is still felt at Balticon and in BSFS. And the first SF organization Jack belonged to, the Washington Science Fiction Association, is still going strong, too. As for me – I am a better writer for having known him. – Vonnie

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »