Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘guest author’

Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000039_00001]Thanks to author Peter Schranz for stopping by and sharing an interesting essay on science fiction writer, Mark Twain! Having visited Twain’s boyhood home this summer, I wonder what Samuel Clemens would think of it?

For those who haven’t ordered their copy of Hides the Dark Tower containing Peter’s story, “Tower of the Sea Witch,” here’s the link. Now, back to the essay. Enjoy!

An Anticipation of Twain’s by Peter Schranz

‘It’s not news that science fiction writers are good at making uncanny predictions about future technological advancements: Verne’s 1865 novel From the Earth to the Moon developed Apollo 11, Wells’ 1903 story The Land Ironclads triggered World War I, and Shelley’s 1818 novel Frankenstein gave birth to the misunderstood English corpses responsible for the gothic rock music of the early 1980s. What a slice of pie it would be if I could justify the argument that I belong on the list because of ‘Tower of the Sea Witch,’ my contribution to Hides the Dark Tower, but unfortunately that story is set before technological advancement was even invented.

I would say that the list, long as it is, has snubbed Mark Twain, one of my country’s greatest science fiction writers. You might not think he’s a science fiction writer, but I intend in this paper to pry that false notion right out of your brain forever.

A French translation of part of “The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County,” appeared in the Revue Des Deux Mondes of July 15, 1872. Three years later, Twain discovered the article, took exception to its note that his story wasn’t that funny, and re-translated it back into English to reveal that the French translation was a disjointed shadow of the original, mainly via his feigned and smart-alecky ignorance that French and English syntax and grammar significantly differ.

While the idea of machine translation dates back many centuries, the first actual machine to translate wasn’t available until about fifty years ago. This means that Twain predicted the translation method made famous by machine translators (‘letter-not-spirit method’) by a good nine decades.

I’ve included below a small section of the story in all three versions, or, as Twain himself wrote, “in English, then in French, then clawed back into a civilized language once more by patient, unremunerated toil.”

‘Why, I’ve seen him set Dan’l Webster down here on this floor–Dan’l Webster was the name of the frog–and sing out, ‘Flies, Dan’l, flies!’ and quicker’n you could wink he’d spring straight up and snake a fly off’n the counter there, and flop down on the floor ag’in as solid as a gob of mud, and fall to scratching the side of his head with his hind foot as indifferent as if he hadn’t no idea he’d been doin’ any more’n any frog might do. You never see a frog so modest and straightfor’ard as he was, for all he was so gifted.’

‘Tenez, je l’ai vu poser Daniel Webster la sur se plancher,–Daniel Webster etait le nom de la grenouille,–et lui chanter: Des mouches! Daniel, des mouches!–En un clin d’oeil, Daniel avait bondi et saisi une mouche ici sur le comptoir, puis saute de nouveau par terre, ou il restait vraiment a se gratter la tete avec sa patte de derriere, comme s’il n’avait pas eu la moindre idee de sa superiorite. Jamais vous n’avez grenouille vu de aussi modeste, aussi naturelle, douee comme elle l’etait!’

‘Tenez, I him have seen pose Daniel Webster there upon this plank–Daniel Webster was the name of the frog–and to him sing, “Some flies, Daniel, some flies”– in a flash of the eye Daniel had bounded and seized a fly here upon the counter, then jumped anew at the earth, where he rested truly to himself scratch the head with his behind foot, as if he no had not the least idea of his superiority. Never you not have seen frog as modest, as natural, sweet as she was.’

If you’re anything like me, you’ve spent the last fifteen years of your precious life doing nothing but feeding a machine translator a perfectly blameless piece of English, instructing it to translate it into another language, and instructing it once more to translate its own translation back into what it swears on a stack of bibles is English. If you haven’t done so, perhaps you will after reading the following brief examples, created using a well-known machine translation service whose name I am too polite to reveal:

O Romeo, Romeo! wherefore art thou Romeo?

O Roméo, Roméo ! C’est pourquoi es-tu Roméo?

O Romeo, Romeo! This is why are you Romeo?

Deep into that darkness peering, long I stood there wondering, fearing,

Loin dans l’ombre peering, je me tins longtemps plein d’étonnement, de crainte,

Deep into that darkness peering, long I stood full of astonishment, fear,

In fairness to the translation in the Revue Des Deux Mondes, its French (I’m so magnanimous as to presume) is without fault, a feat, considering Twain’s ample colloquialisms (which I guess is the joke), whereas the French in Shakespeare’s and Poe’s machine translations looks about as bad as the re-English.

But this eerily similar, slavish adherence to the “from” language’s syntax (cf. 1875’s “Never you not have seen frog as modest” and 2015’s “This is why are you Romeo?”) and the refusal to translate certain words (cf. “Tenez, I him have seen pose Daniel Webster there upon this plank” and “Loin dans l’ombre peering”) is what demands that I forward Mark Twain for consideration as a member of the technology-anticipators’ club. The mistakes he made in his translation and those that modern machine translators make are so similar that I can only assume Twain’s capacity for prediction was that of a science-fictionist’s.

Not even Douglas Adams’s Babel fish gives bad translations, but if you, reader, are beginning to suspect that my argument is spurious, you may retort that the Babel fish is not a machine, but a leech-like creature. Firstly, to this retort, I would suggest that yours is one of those irrelevant distinctions favored by students of sophistry, and secondly, I would cross my arms and pout in the corner.’

And here’s where you can find Peter’s books, Astonishing Tales of the Sea and It Spits You Out & 12 More Stories to Rub Your Chin To.

Thanks again to Peter Schrantz for his guest post. Watch Whimsical Words for more guests, quotes, blogs from me, and more. Have a fantastical day! – Vonnie

Read Full Post »

0061-eWomenNetwork Thanks to author Gail Z. Martin for stopping by and sharing tips on how to make epic fantasy epic. And lots of links to free reads. Enjoy!

Making Epic Fantasy Epically Epic By Gail Z. Martin

By definition, ‘epic fantasy’ deals with sweeping storylines, plots that involve the rise and fall of kingdoms and dynasties, the fates of empires and massive battles. There are a lot of moving parts in a good epic fantasy, but if you do it right, it purrs along like a race car, taking you on a breathless journey.

That requires a lot of engineering under the hood—or between the covers, as the case may be. I’ve written two sprawling epic fantasy series (The Chronicles of the Necromancer/Fallen Kings Cycle and The Ascendant Kingdoms Saga). They involve a large cast of characters, a big map, lots of battles, and complicated magic—which is a lot for an author to keep straight!

Shadow and Flame, the fourth (and final) book in the Ascendant Kingdoms series comes out in 2016, wrapping up that series. I found in this book that it’s as complex to wind down an epic series as it is to ramp it up. (I didn’t have quite that challenge with The Dread, the last book–for now–in the Chronicles series, because in my head, it’s not really the last book. There’s a seventeen year break in the action where the characters get to rest up and drink some beer, and then there’s more action coming their way in six more books I haven’t written yet. But since it’s not over for me, it’s not over. )

DEADLY CURIOSITIES-VENDETTA Which got me thinking about how epic fantasy works under the hood. No matter how big and sprawling your series will be, in your first book you’ve got to get people to care about your main characters or they won’t get to the truly epic part. It usually starts in one of two ways (or you can combine them if you’re tricky!) Either a person has a big problem, or a person has the chance to go on an adventure. Let’s look at both.

Sometimes it all begins with one person who has a big problem. If that problem could have been dealt with before it got out of hand, the world might have been able to stay as it was. But because the main character has to do something dangerous or brave or reckless because of the problem, the wheels begin turning and nothing will ever be the same again. Only of course, at this point, he/she doesn’t know everything’s about to change. Your protagonist only knows that he/she’s gone from having a big problem to having an even worse problem with no resolution in sight.

In hindsight, once everything blows up, you see that had the powers-that-be been a bit more fair, a tad less heavy-handed, a smidge less ruthless or greedy, they might have gotten to hang on to their status quo. But no, they had to piss off the wrong man (or woman) who then sets in motion the events that lead to the fall of the bad guy’s power base. That’s because whatever it was that cheesed off the hero, it wasn’t really an isolated problem. It was part of a larger, systemic rot that had been going on for a long time, getting more and more out of control, in a system unable or unwilling to reign in its abuses. And finally, they screw over the wrong person, who decides that he’s mad as hell and he’s not going to take it anymore. Cue epic movie score.

Martin_WarOfShadows-TP[1] In other cases, the protagonist gets sent on a journey. It’ll be fun, they said. You’ll see new things and meet new people, they said. Instead, something goes wrong. The simple journey ends up drawing the protagonist into bigger issues that have their own ramifications. Things go from bad to worse, usually involving magic or soldiers. Companions are found along the way with the skills to get out of one jam, but those same companions often create the next dangerous situation. And all the while, the protagonist is being drawn into a funnel of events whose scope and ramifications just get bigger and bigger until the young person who was sent to market to sell a goat ends up fighting off the armies of evil or winning the throne.

A lot has been said about epic fantasy embodying Joseph Campbell’s hero’s journey, and that is at the heart of many stories, with plenty of twists and embellishments. But I think that’s because Campbell really described a process that happens in real life—at least, in a life where someone is seeking something better, maybe even enlightenment. We all in our heart of hearts want to go on an adventure that awakens greatness within us, connects us with people who are loyal friends, triumph over adversity and return home victorious, wealthier and wiser.

Two of the other pieces that need to come together include imagining the villains and the problems that confront the hero. Usually, the hero doesn’t start out intending to fight the Ultimate Bad Nasty of Evility. It starts with a corrupt guard, a thief, a garden-variety bully. But as the hero gets more enmeshed in the situation, the stakes rise. Larger and more dangerous villains appear. That means the author has to plan the story to escalate, envisioning how and why the small problems become big ones, how the small bad guys become big villains, how the forces against the hero and the forces on the hero’s side coalesce.

There’s a lot more that goes into making an epic fantasy epically epic, but these are a few of the big pieces. The next time you read epic fantasy, ask yourself ‘what’s going on under the hood and how did the author do that?’ You’ll have double the fun!

Print My Days of the Dead blog tour runs through October 31 with never-before-seen cover art, brand new excerpts from upcoming books and recent short stories, interviews, guest blog posts, giveaways and more! Plus, I’ll be including extra excerpt links for my stories and for books by author friends of mine. You’ve got to visit the participating sites to get the goodies, just like Trick or Treat! Details here: www.AscendantKingdoms.com

And now, readers, the good stuff:

Book swag is the new Trick-or-Treat! Grab your envelope of book swag awesomeness from me & 10 authors before 11/1!

Trick or Treat! Excerpt from my new urban fantasy novel Vendetta set in my Deadly Curiosities world. Launches Dec. 29

More Treats! Read an excerpt from Bounty Hunter a Jonmarc Vahanian Adventure.

Epically epic treats! Here’s an excerpt from The Summoner.

Lots of Tricks! New Blaine McFadden (Ascendant Kingdoms) short story set in Velant Prison No Reprieve.

Trick Or Treat with an excerpt from The Raven’s War.

Treats not Tricks! Excerpt from Creiton’s Sword.

About the Author:

Gail Z. Martin is the author of the upcoming novel Vendetta: A Deadly Curiosities Novel in her urban fantasy series set in Charleston, SC (Dec. 2015, Solaris Books) as well as the epic fantasy novel Shadow and Flame (March, 2016 Orbit Books) which is the fourth and final book in the Ascendant Kingdoms Saga. Shadowed Path, an anthology of Jonmarc Vahanian short stories set in the world of The Summoner, debuts from Solaris books in June, 2016.

Other books include The Jake Desmet Adventures a new Steampunk series (Solaris Books) co-authored with Larry N. Martin as well as Ice Forged, Reign of Ash and War of Shadows in The Ascendant Kingdoms Saga, The Chronicles of The Necromancer series (The Summoner, The Blood King, Dark Haven, Dark Lady’s Chosen) from Solaris Books and The Fallen Kings Cycle (The Sworn, The Dread) from Orbit Books and the urban fantasy novel Deadly Curiosities from Solaris Books.

Gail writes four series of ebook short stories: The Jonmarc Vahanian Adventures, The Deadly Curiosities Adventures, The King’s Convicts series, and together with Larry N. Martin, The Storm and Fury Adventures. Her work has appeared in over 20 US/UK anthologies. Newest anthologies include: The Big Bad 2, Athena’s Daughters, Realms of Imagination, Heroes, With Great Power, and (co-authored with Larry N. Martin) Space, Contact Light, The Weird Wild West, The Side of Good/The Side of Evil, Alien Artifacts, Clockwork Universe: Steampunk vs. Aliens.

Thanks again to Gail Z. Martin for her guest post. Watch Whimsical Words for more guests, Quotable Wednesdays, blogs from me, and more. Have an epic day! – Vonnie

Read Full Post »

weston201415 365 Thanks to author Neil Weston for stopping by and sharing the inspiration for his story, “The People of the Tower.” Enjoy!

From Poem to Story by Neil Weston

‘I’m one of these writers who wants to write stories with a flowery, poetic form as their backbone. Not an easy combination to pull off, as witnessed by a well of rejections! After getting my story, “The People of the Town,” accepted into Pole to Pole Publishing’s Hides the Dark Tower anthology, using a similar format, I was finally able to breathe that this style could work. It was only my second short story acceptance and, more importantly, was an experience in patience and belief.

The story originally started as a short-form poem and was inspired by my earlier poetic creations of servile/servant, warrior Japanese Kimono Droids (soft-faced, androids wrapped in colorful, steel, Kimonos and impervious to almost any munition) and a fascination with Japanese culture, history and mystery. A Kimono Droid inspired poem can be found in issue seven of Eye to the Telescope online.

My imagination is bleak, and I wanted these droids or variations of them to be the only things to survive an apocalyptic scenario. When I hit upon a near future destroyed by over industrialization, the shaping of the tale became evident. I have a penchant for irony and was keen to see the ending reveal painfully downbeat. My favorite poets are Bukowski, Plath, Shelley and of the modern crop of speculative poets, Alicia Cole. I think they all impacted on my vision and approach and to take a chance on some beautiful, brutal words, which then inspired the shape of the landscape in my head. Thanks as well to the Internet and multitude of websites for slowing me to fine tune dress and language and food.

Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000039_00001] I like my poetry to be self-contained tales, and I think practicing Twitter fiction was a perfect form by which to learn to choose words carefully. With the editorial expertise of F.J. Bergmann, you can find one of my favorite creations in Mobius: the journal of social change, Vol 24, No 1 (under Neil Weston), which provides an insight into how and why “The People of the Town” evolved in the manner it did. Even though I’m always eager to finish one tale and tell the next, from poem to short story was about a calendar year of adding, subtracting words. This was truly a tale that refused to be rushed into being, much to my frustration! But I think the end result delivers my vision…’

To learn more about Neil Weston, visit his Facebook page.

If you’d like to read more of his work, you can check out a story in Forging Freedom Dimensions and a piece of flash fiction in Big Pulp.

Thanks again to Neil Weston for his guest post. Watch Whimsical Words for more Guest Authors, Quotable Wednesdays, posts from me, and more. Have a fascinating day – Vonnie

Read Full Post »

jgottwig Thanks to author Jeremy Gottwig for stopping by and sharing the journey from inspiration to published short story of the science fiction tale, “Who Abandon Themselves.” Enjoy!

Inspiration to Story by Jeremy Gottwig

‘Years ago, my wife (a religious historian) told me the story of the Abelard and Heloise. I’m not sure why it came up. Knowing her, it was probably just bouncing around in her mind.

Either you already know the story or you can use Wikipedia, so I’ll spare you my three penny synopsis. I will say that the story of Abelard and Heloise is sad, scandalous, sexy, and a little bit painful. It stuck with me, and years later it inspired my piece, “Who Abandon Themselves”, which is now available in the Hides the Dark Tower anthology.

Being the science fiction junkie that I am, I plucked these characters from Medieval Europe and dropped them onto different planets in a star system very unlike our own. In other words, I was not kind to these characters, but nor was their own time. “Who Abandon Themselves” focuses on a brief, fictional moment near the end of their relationship, but I envisioned a backstory that resembles historical reality. I recommend that you read my story before you dig into the facts. You shouldn’t encounter too many spoilers, but I suspect the story will be more enjoyable if you encounter these characters without context and fill in the details later.

Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000039_00001] I would like to end on a personal note.

The title of my story, “Who Abandon Themselves”, is taken from a quote by Peter Abelard in one of his letters to Heloise: “The men who abandon themselves to the passions of this miserable life, are compared in Scripture to beasts.”

I love this quote, but I have to be honest: being married to a religious historian doesn’t make me a genius at deciphering religious texts. This quote feels like a moment of raw clarity in the middle of an otherwise unrestrained rambling. I encourage you to seek out the letter in its entirety if you want to see what I mean.

This reminds me of the process of writing and editing stories.

I rewrote the ending to “Who Abandon Themselves” half-a-dozen times. It had stagnated, and my cosmetic changes had little effect. My wife listened to me read and reread the thing after each little tweak. She provided honest (and brutal) feedback. My own moment of clarity came while reconsidering the relationship between my characters. Something clicked, and everything changed. I rewrote the entire ending from scratch. My wife liked it, and I submitted the story to Kelly and Vonnie.

employee01 And so I dedicate this story to my wife. She inadvertently gave me the idea, she loaned me her expertise as a historian when I had questions, and she listened to me read and reread the thing until we were both satisfied.”

To learn more about Jeremy Gottwig, visit his website or follow him on twitter and Pinterest.

And here’s where you can find his book, Employee of the Year.

Thanks again to Jeremy Gottwig for his guest post. Watch Whimsical Words for more guests, Quotable Wednesdays, blogs from me, and more. Have a fantastical day! – Vonnie

Read Full Post »

mcguckin briana Thanks to Briana McGuckin for stopping by and sharing her journey as a reader, writer, and person with cerebral palsy. She has a story in the newly released speculative anthology from Pole to Pole Publishing, Hides the Dark Tower.

Broken, Brilliant by Briana McGuckin

‘My mother once told me: people with cerebral palsy are brilliant minds trapped in broken bodies.

This was not a don’t-judge-a-book-by-its-cover remark. She wasn’t teaching me about tolerance. This was part of a pep talk.

I was born about a month early, and I fit in one of my father’s hands. When I finally learned to walk, I did it on my toes—knees bent, leaning in upon each other to support my own weight.

Details are boring, but one way or another oxygen gets in where it shouldn’t and damages brain tissue. That’s CP. The severity of the resultant disability, and its complications, are so different across individuals because the damage can be slight or extensive, and affect different areas of the brain.

My hamstrings and heel cords are tight—as dictated by the garbled orders coming down from my brain. My hips were twisting, my knees bending, and my heels rising, all to accommodate the tension in my body. My legs were the worst of it, and still are.

I had a seat belt installed at my school desk when I was very young because I would concentrate so hard on what I was doing that I would fall right out of my seat. Later on in life, I was one of those “lucky” kids who got to walk the perimeter in gym instead of playing dodge-ball, or running the dreaded mile, but I promise you that I had already done my time in the form of physical therapy; for as long as I can remember, there were always kind strangers in the house bearing giant medicine balls, and little toys for fine motor-skill development. (Anyone else remember when Polly Pocket actually fit in your pocket?)

I had major surgery when I was ten, lengthening my heel cords and hamstrings, and getting metal plates put on my hips to set them straight. I missed some school, re-learned how to walk, and then went under once more to have the metal plates removed.

What does all of this have to do with writing? Well, it actually has more to do with reading.

My parents didn’t know how I was going to turn out, you know? A baby is a baby. If I couldn’t walk, they wouldn’t know it until it was time for me to start walking. If I couldn’t talk, they wouldn’t know until it was talking time.

But I was a talker. According to Mom (and moms exaggerate a bit, so bear that in mind) I was babbling full sentences well before my time, and to anyone who would listen.

Encouraged, my mom read to me often, and perhaps my entire destiny as a reader (and thus a writer) hinges upon one single habit of hers: while she was reading, she pointed at the words. She read me children’s books this way, and she even read out from the Danielle Steele books she was reading. It slowed her down, and she had to flip past all the dirty parts, but I bet in her estimation I didn’t have a lot of other ways to entertain myself. She saw a child who was doing a lot of work disguised as play—frustrating work, on giant medicine balls.

One day she forgot to point. She still loves to tell that story. “Mommy! Use your finger!” It was confirmation that she was doing something right for me.

I was reading before we got to reading in school, needless to say. My teacher was annoyed because my mother “might have taught [me] wrong,” and then—the next day, it seems to me—I had been placed in the “gifted readers” reading group. Suddenly I was winning spelling bees and writing little stories that received high praise from my teachers. And from there it just kept growing.

I say all this to contrast two internal pictures that I had of myself. On the one hand, I always understood that there were things I couldn’t really do, and places I didn’t fit in. I have been called ugly names, shoved into lockers, and gotten into little schoolyard scraps over being awkward and clunky.

And surgery is swell and all, but as the years go by old failings of my body creep back up on me. I can walk well enough, but my heels are inching off the ground again, and my knees are turning in. Strangers and acquaintances alike pull me aside to tell me the ways in which I can fix my body – and never because it’s a conversation I have started, but rather because it’s a problem they can see (and think that they can solve).

They mean no harm, but all the same it reminds me of my flaws. Something is wrong with me.

On the other hand, I have these words. I can take them in and spin them out, doing deft and delicate work mentally that is really beyond my physical capacity. In the wild expanse of my imagination, nothing can stop me: my reason is a muscle I can flex, train, and use. I may not be able to undertake whatever I choose, but I can understand. And I can give that understanding to others. Stephen King calls writing a form of telepathy.

Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000039_00001] Nothing is wrong with me.

I guess I am a writer because I am not a runner. I choose to cherish myself for the things I can do rather than berate myself for the things I can’t. I choose it every day, and sometimes it’s hard.

It’s so easy to focus on our flaws, whatever they may be. But our flourishing is more important. We are all broken. We are all brilliant. Go with brilliance, I say.

Nothing is wrong with you.’

To learn more about Briana, check out her blog, Moon Missives.

Thanks again to Briana McGuckin for her guest post. Watch Whimsical Words for more guest posts, Quotable Wednesdays, blogs from me, and more. Have an inspired day! – Vonnie

Read Full Post »

Thanks to author Steven Southard for stopping by and sharing the Biblical background for his story, “Ancient Spin.” Enjoy!

Alas, Babel by Steven Southard

Steve Southard photo ‘First of all, I’d like to thank Vonnie Winslow Crist for allowing me to post as a guest on her blog, and also for including my story, “Ancient Spin,” in Pole to Pole Publishing’s anthology Hides the Dark Tower which she co-edited with Kelly A. Harmon.

“Ancient Spin” takes place in the land of Shinar near the site of the Tower of Babel, that lofty and legendary edifice whose story comes to us from Genesis. In the Biblical version, God sees the tower and disapproves of mankind speaking a single tongue. God scatters people across the Earth and confuses human languages. In some accounts, God also destroys “‘the tower.

Perhaps it’s all true, perhaps not. But if the Babel story is just a tale, then what is the truth? Was there an actual tower? What was it like and what happened to it? The people of Mesopotamia certainly constructed tall structures, many taking the tiered form of ziggurats. (Ziggurat—what a fun word!)

Some accounts state that Babel was built of fired brick, cemented with clay. At some point the people of the region shifted from sunbaked bricks to the sturdier fired brick. Even so, such buildings had to be built with much shallower angles (sloped like a pyramid) than our modern, vertical skyscrapers constructed of steel I-beams.

Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000039_00001] Living in a flat plain, the people of the time must have considered these towers truly imposing. But even buildings constructed from fired brick would not have endured forever, and might have collapsed suddenly. In “Ancient Spin,” that’s the backstory. The Tower of Babel has just fallen and my main character is dealing with the disaster’s aftermath.

The story is very short, and if I’m not careful, this blog post could surpass the length of the tale I’m describing. You’ll meet only two characters—Eullil, and his brother, Ludarat. The name Eullil is my own corruption of the Sumerian words for “may the temple last into distant days.” Likewise, Ludarat is my twisting of “eternal man.”

I’m looking forward to reading the rest of the stories in Pole to Pole Publishing’s new anthology, Hides the Dark Tower. It’s my hope you’ll buy it and enjoy “Ancient Spin.” If you do, and you end up craving more of my stories like:

“Ripper’s Ring,” http://www.gypsyshadow.com/StevenSouthard.html#Ripper

“Time’s Deformèd Hand,” http://www.gypsyshadow.com/StevenSouthard.html#TimesHand

or “The Cometeers,” http://www.gypsyshadow.com/StevenSouthard.html#Cometeers

Visit me on Twitter, on Facebook, and my website where I sign each entry as— Poseidon’s Scribe’

About the suthor: Steven R. Southard’s short stories stack up in ten different anthologies including Dead Bait, Quest for Atlantis, and Avast, Ye Airships! He’s the tall and looming author of the What Man Hath Wrought series, with thirteen stories at last count. An engineer and former submariner, Steve takes readers to new heights with engaging characters in distant places and varied historical periods. He builds stories in the genres of steampunk, clockpunk, science fiction, fantasy, and horror.

Thanks again to Stephen Southard for his guest post. Watch Whimsical Words for more guests, Quotable Wednesdays, blogs from me, and more. Have a well-constructed day! – Vonnie

 

Read Full Post »

John Horst Thanks to Western book author, John C. Horst, for stopping by and answering a few questions.

VWC: When did you decide you wanted to be an author?

JCH: Since an early age, maybe fifteen or sixteen, but was never encouraged. So I did not try until I was in my late thirties, but kind of gave up when I had no luck obtaining an agent or contract with a publisher. Then, I tried again in 2012, and was mentored by Patrick Smithwick, a writer and educator who gave me excellent help and insight.

VWC: What are some of the things you did to reach that goal?

JCH: First, I worked with Patrick Smithwick who read my first manuscript and thought I had something worthwhile. After the normal and subsequently unsuccessful attempts at finding an agent or publisher, I decided to self-publish on Amazon. The Mule Tamer became a big success, eventually making it as a #1 Amazon bestseller for Westerns. All of the great reviews inspired me to keep going with the characters, and this developed into a four book series, about the Walsh family in Arizona and Mexico, spanning from the 1890s through 1911.

VWC: How did you find your first publisher?

JCH: I attended the Western Writers of America (WWA) conference and was able to meet face to face with publishers. I still do not have an agent, but have a wonderful working relationship with the publisher, who has published all three of my books in the Allingham series, about a tough New York cop who moves to Arizona for his health. This series has also proven to be popular with readers.

VWC: How do you find a publisher for a book now?

JCH: I submit my manuscripts to the publisher who has taken my previous work directly.

VWC: Have you ever self-published a book? If yes, what are the greatest challenges for a self-published author?

John Horst Allingham Long Journey JCH: Yes, as mentioned above, all of my books except for Allingham – The Long Journey Home started out as self-published books. The greatest challenge is having the books noticed by readers. Of course you’ll have to get someone to professionally edit the book for you, but that just involves finding a good person and investing the money. The real difficulty is having folks actually buy the book. There is a tremendous amount of material out there for folks to buy, and if you do not have the advertising budget employed by the big publishing houses, then you’ve got to find a way to compete.

VWC: Your books are Westerns, is that the sort of book you read?

JCH: Actually no. Although B. Traven, the author of Treasure of the Sierra Madre is one of my favorite authors, I really love general fiction and literary fiction and mostly stuff that has not been written before, say 1960. I purposefully do not read Westerns as I do not want to copy anyone’s style or story. My hope is to produce something that is genuinely novel.

VWC: To date, you’ve had seven books published, four in The Mule Tamer Series and three in the Allingham Series. Why do you write series novels?

JCH: I have found that, once folks get to know certain characters, they like to read more about them. My greatest compliment from readers is that I have extremely interesting and (mostly) lovable characters. One reader stated that he felt as if he could go out to Arizona and visit the graves of my characters. They were that real to him. That was profoundly gratifying. I also feel that the stories become stronger as I go along. I pull various characters who might have played a minor role in the first story and give them center stage. But ultimately, it is the response by the reader that dictates my decision to write additional stories about my established characters.

VWC: What book that you’ve written is your favorite, and why?

John Horst Marias Trail JCH: Maria’s Trail in The Mule Tamer series. Chica (or Maria) is the love interest of my protagonist, Arvel Walsh. She is a Mexican beauty who has had a rather storied past. Some of the readers of The Mule Tamer did not like her, as she is bold, profane, and often violent. I felt that I had to defend her honor, so I told her back story in Maria’s Trail. That story almost wrote itself, as I knew Chica by then, and it felt like I was simply chronicling her life. It was extremely fun to write, and made many of my readers love her even more.

VWC: Do you work on more than one book at a time?

JCH: No, but I have several stories in my head at one time. I’ll sometimes write notes about them and revisit them, but my primary focus is on one book at a time.

VWC: Do you have any time-management secrets for writers?

JCH: Do not stay away from your story at all. Even if you only have a few minutes to work on it on a particular day, do something with it. If you are blocked, go back and read what you’ve written and revise it. But keep the momentum. If you do not, you’ll never get it written. Also, I like to write in a linear fashion, but sometimes a particular scene will pop into my head and I’ll just write that. I don’t even know where it will fit in the story, but at least it’s down on paper (virtually, since I write on a PC). Also, sometimes I won’t even write in complete sentences. I don’t worry about that. I’ll clean it up and revise it later, but at least it’s down on paper and that’s the hard part. Cleaning it up and making it plain to the reader is the easy part.

VWC: What projects are you working on now?

JCH: A fiction around the Rough Riders from Arizona. It is the story of two brothers who join Theodore Roosevelt’s volunteers and their adventure. I’ve also got a nice sub-plot story about Nurses, Clara Maass who was a real person at that time, a so-called immune nurse who is an African American from North Carolina, and a nun from Baltimore’s convent of Sisters of Mercy, who also served during the Spanish American War. It is a lot of fun so far.

VWC: What advice do you have for writers trying to get a book published?

JCH: Do not become discouraged. This is a subjective business. Many good books go unpublished. Many bad books become best-sellers, and getting your book published is kind of like winning the lotto. Having a lot of people read your story and like it is like winning the mega millions. Just remember that and keep pushing. Go to conferences where agents and publishers handle your kind of writing. Talk to them, but remember, you’ve got to grow a thick skin. These people are not out to hurt your feelings, but they will if you let them. They are in business and that’s all. Maintain a healthy attitude. The most heartbreaking story to me is the one about John Kennedy Toole, who became so discouraged that he took his own life when he suffered one rejection after another. He did not live long enough to see A Confederacy of Dunces become a grand success. You CANNOT let this stuff effect you in that way. Keep a positive attitude and keep pushing to get that publishing contract.

VWC: Who was your favorite author as a child?

JCH: Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

VWC: Who is your favorite author now?

JCH: Olive Higgins Prouty. She was the author of the Vale novels and Stella Dallas. Your readers might remember her as the author whose story was made into the film, Now Voyager, in 1942.

John Horst MuleTamer VWC: When is your favorite time of day to write?

JCH: Whenever I have the time. I am not a fulltime writer, and I have many other obligations, including a family and day job. I have to fit in the writing around all that.

VWC: What was the most valuable piece of writing advice given to you?

JCH: Women read fiction, men read “how-to” books. Always write for a female audience. Even with Westerns, which are read widely by men (at least the men who read fiction), write them with women in mind. I always, always write with the female reader in mind.

VWC: And now, the final and most important question: What’s your favorite kind of cookie?

JCH: Ginger snaps.

For more information on John C. Horst visit his website and blog.  And you can find his books on Amazon.

Thanks, John, for stopping by. Watch Whimsical Words for more Guests, Quotable Wednesdays, Writing Tips, Recipes, and lots of other interesting posts. Have a “wide open spaces” kind of Monday – Vonnie

PS. If you want to show some love, visit my Amazon page and buy one of my books. 🙂

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »