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juliana spink mills Whimsical Words welcomes guest author, Juliana Spink Mills. Juliana Spink Mills was born in England, but grew up in Brazil. Now, she lives in Connecticut and writes science fiction and fantasy. She is the author of Heart Blade and Night Blade, the first two books in the young adult Blade Hunt Chronicles urban fantasy series. Her short stories have appeared in anthologies and online publications. Besides writing, Juliana works as a Portuguese/English translator, and as a teen library assistant. She watches way too many TV shows, and loves to get lost in a good book. Her dream is to move to Narnia when she grows up. Or possibly Middle Earth, if she’s allowed a very small dragon of her own.

Juliana Spink Mills’s latest book, Night Blade, is a YA novel urban fantasy fans are sure to enjoy. A quick summary for my readers—In the aftermath of the Heart Blade’s return, Del and Rose have different roads to follow. One leads forward, the other to the distant past. Rose is on a mission to infiltrate and double-cross the ultimate heist, and retrieve a game-changing prize. Meanwhile, as the Court of the Covenant prepares to meet, Del has a quest of her own. She must untangle her lost identity or risk her entire future. With the Blade Hunt prophecy in motion, darkness threatens to rise, and a new sword emerges from the shadows.

And a little “taste” of Night Blade:
  The vampire smiled at Raze. “How do you feel about a little undercover work?”
  “Undercover work? What kind?”
  “The dangerous kind. The sort of work that should suit Raze perfectly, since you’re so determined to leave Rose behind,” he said. “A challenge. You’re infiltrating a heist. I think you’ll make an excellent cat burglar.”

nightblade_front_mills Where did the idea come from for your latest book, Night Blade?

Night Blade is the second in my YA urban fantasy trilogy. The idea for the series came from a short story I was working on. That particular story was never published, but the world stuck in my head and kept growing, and eventually became the first book, Heart Blade.

Who is your favorite character in the book—and why?

I think my two favorites are Camille, an immortal half-demon, and Ben a teenage witch. Camille is fun to write, because her personality is similar to my own (demonic immortality aside). As for Ben, I just like him. He’s had a lot of bad things happen to him, but he doesn’t give up. And, more importantly, he always tries to do the right thing, even if it’s going to cost him.

Is your book traditionally published, indie published, or self published?

Both my books were published by a small press. I think the advantages were that I was involved in every step of the process. I was given everything you can expect from a larger press—editor, copy editor, professional cover art—but additionally, because I worked so closely with the owner of the press, I was involved in a lot of the decision-making. It really was a lesson in what it takes to bring out a book! For a first timer who up to that point had only published short stories, it was a real learning experience.

The disadvantages of a small press are probably obvious, and center mostly around market reach.

What is your writing process like—are you an architect (planner) or gardener (pantser)?

I’m definitely a planner. That said, I’ve become a lot more organic in my process as I’ve gained confidence in myself as a writer. So now, instead of the rigid chapter outlines I used in the past, I tend to do a list of bullet points: key events that need to be incorporated. This gives me wriggle room to go ‘off road’ when I want, and I constantly update this list as the story progresses.

What was your favorite book as a child?

I was definitely a Narnia girl. I was gifted the full Narnia set as a going away present when I moved from England to Brazil at the age of eight. Brazil was new, and exciting, but also confusing and strange, so I absolutely connected with Lucy Pevensie and the rest of C.S. Lewis’ portal-travelling youngsters. I credit those books with a life-long love of fantasy novels.

What writing project are you currently working on?

After a much-needed break to write a sci fi thriller, I’m now working on Star Blade, the last book in my YA trilogy. The planning stage took ages—there is so much to fit in!—but now I’m up and running and delighted to be back in this familiar world of mine. I missed my characters!

What’s the best writing advice anyone ever gave you?

My favorite bit of advice ever, and one I always pass along, is: “it’s a marathon, not a sprint.” Nothing happens overnight in publishing. If you love writing, allow yourself the gift of time. And keep writing!

Want to learn more about Juliana Spink Mills and Night Blade? Check out her:  WebsiteFacebook pageTwitterInstagram, and  Amazon Authors Page.

Or better yet, purchase a copy of Night Blade.

Thanks to author Juliana Spink Mills for stopping by. Watch for an interview with author E. C. Ambrose (Elaine Isaak) on February 21, 2019. Happy reading! – Vonnie

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AL Kaplan Whimsical Words welcomes guest author, A. L. Kaplan. A. L. Kaplan’s love of books started as a child and sparked a creative imagination. Born on a cold winter morning in scenic northern New Jersey, her stories and poems have been included in several anthologies and magazines. Her novel, Star Touched, released October 2017. She is the Maryland Writers’ Association’s Vice President and served on the Howard County Chapter board for several years. A. L. is a member of Broad Universe and holds an MFA in sculpture from the Maryland Institute College of Art. When not writing or indulging in her fascination with wolves, A. L. is the props manager for a local theatre. This proud mother of two lives in Maryland with her husband and dog.

Startouched AL Kaplan A. L. Kaplan’s latest book, Star Touched, is a fast-paced read for those who love science fiction. A quick summary for my readers: Eighteen-year-old Tatiana is running from her past and her star-touched powers eight years after a meteor devastates earth’s population. Her power to heal may be overshadowed by more destructive abilities. Fleeing the persecution of those like her, Tatiana seeks refuge in a small town she once visited. But this civil haven, in a world where society has broken down, is beginning to crumble. Will Tatiana flee or stay and fight for the new life she has built? Only by harnessing the very forces that haunt her can Tatiana save her friends…and herself.

Where did the idea come from for your latest book, Star Touched?
Star Touched was born from a series of nightmares: Huge waves of water, giant fireballs, etc. There are several scenes that are straight from those dreams. There are real world inspirations as well. Tatiana’s favorite book, Island of the Blue Dolphin, is also one of mine. The bit about the octopus came from a trip to the aquarium. Some things I didn’t plan on that just sort of happened, were the huge meteor that passed nearby earlier in 2018 or the multitude of natural disasters. Really, I didn’t plan that.

Who is your favorite character in the book—and why?
Bobby Sue started as a minor character, then morphed into a whole lot more. She’s just a sweet southern girl who was a lot of fun to write. I had to do some research to get her accent right and wasn’t sure I had it right until I saw Jason Smith on Food Network’s Holiday Baking Championship. Yup. Nailed that one.

Is your book traditionally published, indie published, or self published?
Star Touched was published by a small press. One of the advantages was I got to have a lot of input on the book cover without having to hunt down a cover artist. They handled all the non-creative parts of getting a book out. Getting books on shelves is another story. Most stores will order print copies if requested, but unless I’m going there for a reading or signing, they don’t stock them.

What is your writing process like—are you an architect (planner) or gardener (pantser)?
I tend to be somewhere between a plotter and a pantser. The beginning and end are usually set, but what happens between them evolves as I write. I’m also flexible to what my characters tell me.

What was your favorite book as a child?
I had three favorite books growing up, Julie of the Wolves, My Side of the Mountain, and Island of the Blue Dolphins. All of them have similar themes, kids surviving on their own in the wild. Something about that always touched me. By the way, I also love the musicals Annie and Oliver. Go figure.

What writing project are you currently working on?
I’m working on several projects right now, which is very unusually for me. There is a sequel to Star Touched, a YA fantasy, a Sci-fi fantasy series, an a few short stories. There’s even a story about Fifi – Well, sort of.

What’s the best writing advice anyone ever gave you?
This wasn’t exactly advice as much as inspiration. My college English 101 teacher told the class she wanted everyone to write creatively and wasn’t taking points off for spelling errors. It was the first time I didn’t stress out with words. I got an A on my first assignment. She also made a general request for those of us with “artistic handwriting” to please write every other line.

Want to learn more about A. L. Kaplan and Star Touched? Check out her :
Website & Blog, Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, and Amazon page.

Or better yet, purchase a copy of Star Touched.

Thanks to author A. L. Kaplan for stopping by. Watch for a post from me on Christmas and an interview with author Dianna Sanchez on December 27. Happy reading! – Vonnie

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Jennifer Povey Whimsical Words welcomes guest author, Jennifer R. Povey. Born in Nottingham, England, Jennifer R. Povey now lives in Northern Virginia, where she writes everything from heroic fantasy to stories for “Analog.” She is currently working on an urban fantasy series of which the most recent volume, Fallen Day (Lost Guardians Book Four), was released in the summer of 2017. Additionally, she is a regular writer and designer of tabletop RPG supplements for a number of companies. Her interests include horseback riding, Doctor Who and attempting to out-weird her various friends and professional colleagues.

Jennifer Povey Book Jennifer’s latest book, Risen Day, is a great read for those who enjoy urban fantasy. A quick summary for my readers: After saving the city of London from a demon trying to make it his own personal kingdom, Anna McKenzie, Victor Prince and their friends must now save the world…from a similar, but far greater threat. One which has already removed many of Earth’s defenses.

Where did the idea come from for your latest book, Risen Day?

This is the fourth (and last) in a series that was essentially an answer to the craze for YA vampire romantic fantasy…remember that? It evolved into something a little different. I hadn’t planned on writing an actual romance.

Who is your favorite character in the book—and why?

Rahel Chudasama. She’s just so much fun to write! I love her powers, and now I kind of regret that I didn’t introduce her until Book Three.

Is your book traditionally published, indie published, or self published?

Self published. The advantage is keeping control and not having to worry about a publisher going bankrupt or deciding your series sold so badly that it isn’t worth publishing the rest. Disadvantage is having to pay for everything.

What is your writing process like—are you an architect (planner) or gardener (pantser)?

Definitely a gardener, although I prefer “discovery writer.” I usually know what the ending is going to be. Usually.

What was your favorite book as a child?

I don’t do favorite questions! 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea is the book that got me into science fiction though…and for fantasy, yes, The Hobbit. What? I’m a forty something Brit.

What writing project are you currently working on?

About to start a new science fiction novel, working title, The Veteran –although I know that’s going to change. I also have another book I’ll be publishing in the new year.

What’s the best writing advice anyone ever gave you?

Not to follow writing advice slavishly. The rules are useful, but you need to learn how to break them.

Want to learn more about Jennifer R. Povey and Risen Day? Check out her :
Website, Facebook, and Tumblr.

Or better yet, purchase a copy of Risen Day.

Thanks to author Jennifer R. Povey for stopping by. Watch for an interview with author Tanya Lisle on December 13. Happy reading! – Vonnie

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DawnVogel-pic Whimsical Words welcomes guest author, Dawn Vogel. Dawn’s academic background is in history, so it’s not surprising that much of her fiction is set in earlier times. By day, she edits reports for historians and archaeologists. In her alleged spare time, she runs a craft business, co-edits Mad Scientist Journal, and tries to find time for writing. She is a member of Broad Universe, SFWA, and Codex Writers. Her steampunk series, Brass and Glass, is being published by Razorgirl Press. She lives in Seattle with her husband, author Jeremy Zimmerman, and their herd of cats.

Dawn’s latest book, Brass and Glass 2: The Long-Cursed Map, is a fun read for those who love adventure. A quick summary for my readers:
dawn vogel book On the hunt for a legendary, cursed map that leads to treasure unimaginable, the crew of The Silent Monsoon, led by the pertinacious Captain Svetlana Tereshchenko, soon discover they aren’t the only ones hunting for riches. But there’s more than gold at stake in this pursuit. The Last Emperor’s Hoard is rumored to contain the Gem of the Seas, a device that gives its owner the power to control the oceans.
Wanted by the Air Fleet and dogged by spectres both real and imagined, Svetlana and her crew will have to call in every favor and pull every string—even if it means stirring up more ghosts—to complete the map before the High Council does. This race will require courage, determination, and sacrifice. Will Svetlana have what it takes to win, or will the map’s curse be too high a price?

Where did the idea come from for your latest book, Brass and Glass 2: The Long-Cursed Map?
My latest book is a sequel to my first published full-length novel, Brass and Glass: The Cask of Cranglimmering. The original book started life as a short story, but grew into a novel. When my small press editors and I were working through the edits on the first book, they asked if there were more books. I hadn’t outlined or planned the other books, but I knew the story wasn’t done yet. So I said yes, I thought I could get a trilogy out of this idea. So in many ways, the second book directly stemmed from my editors loving the first book. The first book also helped to dictate what needed to happen next–the protagonists were in search of a map, and they needed to find all of the pieces. Midway through, they discovered that perhaps the map was more than they’d bargained for, being called the “long-cursed” map and all.

Who is your favorite character in the book—and why?
Of course I adore my protagonist, Captain Svetlana Tereshchenko, but I have a lot of fun writing Indigo, the ship’s mechanic. He’s a teenage boy who grew up in a culture that was far removed from the predominant culture in the books. So he’s often encountering things for the first time in his life that the other characters just accept as part of reality. He also has an abnormal speech pattern, which is both challenging and rewarding to get just right.

Is your book traditionally published, indie published, or self published?
My book is indie published through Razorgirl Press, which is a small press based out of the Seattle area. Because it’s a small press, the editors are people I interact with directly and regularly—we will get together at a coffee shop or other locations to work on edits or discuss plans for the book. Because the cover art and editing are done in house, I feel like I get a lot of input into those things, which I might not have as much if I were traditionally published. The downside, of course, is that the marketing also falls on our shoulders, so it’s not as easy to publicize the book as it would be if I was with a traditional press that has a team for marketing and publicity.

What is your writing process like—are you an architect (planner) or gardener (pantser)?
I started out as a pantser, but I quickly found that path was not a good fit for me. I started planning out all of my books, and I found I was much more productive that way. That isn’t to say that I never wander off down a garden path while writing, and some of those diversions have wound up being fantastic additions to my plans. But I need at least the bare bones of a structure to keep me on track and not wandering off into the woods beyond the garden.

What was your favorite book as a child?
The one I most remember reading (again and again and again) was The Girl with the Silver Eyes by Willo Davis Roberts. One of my teachers in grade school had this book in her classroom library, and I checked it out and read it so many times that at the end of the school year, she gifted it to me. The main thing I remember about the plot as an adult was that the main character had telekinesis, which I thought was the coolest thing ever. I’ve gotten a new copy of the book recently, but I haven’t managed to re-read it since re-acquiring it!

What writing project are you currently working on?
The third book in the Brass and Glass series is in my editors’ hands, so I’ll be working on edits for that in the near future. But in addition to the countless short stories that I’m currently working on, I’m editing the first draft of another novel, this one a post-apocalyptic novel about recovering from past traumas and finding a new place to belong.

What’s the best writing advice anyone ever gave you?
Neil Gaiman once said: “You will learn more from a glorious failure than ever you will from something that you never finished.” I took that advice to heart and try to finish all of the stories that I start!

Want to learn more about Dawn Vogel and Brass and Glass 2: The Long-Cursed Map? Check out her :  Website & Blog,   Facebook Page,
Twitter,   or Amazon Author page.   Or better yet, purchase a copy of Brass and Glass 2: The Long-Cursed Map. 

Thanks to author Dawn Vogel for stopping by. Watch for an interview with author Kathryn Sullivan on December 6th.   Happy reading! – Vonnie 

 

 

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I had the pleasure of doing an interview with fellow speculative writers and friends, Paul Lagasse and Gary Lester on the last day of Baltimore Science Fiction Society’s Balticon 49 for the audio show: Channel 37 – Serial Science Fiction from the Distant Reaches of UHF.

Alas, the only place to record the conversation was in the foyer of the hotel lobby – so you will hear people walking by and automatic doors whooshing open and close. Nevertheless, I hope you’ll turn up the volume and enjoy:

Channel 37 Audio Invasion Episode 13 featuring Vonnie Winslow Crist.

Thanks, Paul and Gary. Though exhausted after a busy weekend at Balticon, I hope I make sense and give your listeners (and my readers) something to think about.

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I went through these 50 often mispronounced words, and found that I was guilty of a couple of them. (But I will not confess to which ones!) Who cares? – you might ask.

I suspect quite a few people will notice if you don’t pronounce a word correctly. People like a job interviewer, a reviewer, a potential client, an agent, a librarian at a library branch where you’d like to speak, an audience, a classroom full of kids, or a radio, television, or Skype interviewer.

How many of the 50 do you mispronounce?

I hope you’re enjoying my blog posts and links. Want to show some love? Visit my Amazon page and consider buying a book. 🙂

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I’ve always found the number 13 to be lucky. I know many of the people reading this post will disagree, whether they suffer from Triskadekaphobia (fear of the number 13) or not.

Maybe it’s because my daughter was born on the 13th of the month – though I liked #13 long before then. Perhaps it’s because a baker’s dozen gives the buyer one extra donut to eat. As a writer, maybe it’s because there are 26 letters in the alphabet (2 times 13). Or perhaps it’s simply because the number 13 is unloved by others.

Skean copy Two thousand and thirteen has been a good year so far in my writing life. My fantasy novel, The Enchanted Skean, was published by Mockingbird Lane Press, and a collection of speculative stories, Owl Light, is due out from Cold Moon Press within a year. Plus I’ve gotten to interact with my readers at the Bel Air Authors Day (Maryland, USA), Balticon (SF/F con), the Black-Eyed Susan Book Celebration at the Towson Library (Maryland, USA), a Harford Writers Group meeting, and I’m due to speak at several other events including meetings of various branches of the Maryland Writers Association.

And June 13th has turned out to be a good day, too. I have a guest post up on writer Anne E. Johnson’s Jester Harley’s Manuscript Page: http://anneejohnson.blogspot.com/2013/06/vonnie-winslow-crist-on-using-fact-in.html I talk about using fact as the beginning place for writing fiction. You can read about several of the facts that were incorporated in The Enchanted Skean.

I also have a new interview up on Lindsay and Jane’s Views and Reviews: http://lindsayandjaneviewsandreviews.blogspot.com/2013/06/interview-with-vonnie-winslow-crist.html I really appreciated the thoughtful questions posed by Romina, the interviewer, and I hope my answers will prove to be interesting to readers. And thanks to Romina for reviewing The Enchanted Skean. A brief excerpt of her review: “The book evolves around a mystical world that in such a well-written descriptive is easy for the reader to imagine. The characters are fun and defined well in the story…This is a book full of creatures of folklore and…fantastical moments that will appeal to a…reader with a passion for this genre.”

Happy June 13th everyone – and in my next post I’ll tell you about one of my fears and how I was forced to confront it on May 31, 2013.

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Skean copy The book world has changed enormously since my children’s book, Leprechaun Cake & Other Tales, was published. Yes, I had to do school visits and storytellings, but most of the promoting was done by my small press publisher. The Vegetarian Resource Group secured reviews and in-person interviews, placed ads in print publications, and listed the book in their printed catalog. Brick and mortar stores, both independents and chains, carried the paperback and royalty checks were issued when sales were good.

Nowadays, authors with small press publishers are often responsible for securing their own interviews and reviews. And those interviews are usually done via the internet, whether later published on a blog or offered as a podcast. Advertisements in print publications have been replaced by book trailers on YouTube, online ads, and excerpts read on a computer screen. Online book stores have grabbed a huge share of the book market, and if profits are realized, an online deposit is made in an author’s electronic account.

So what’s an author to do? I say, “Embrace the changes and learn the new world of books!” And that’s what I’m trying to do with The Enchanted Skean, my just-released fantasy novel from Mockingbird Lane Press. For better or worse, the book world is changing, and this writer is trying her best to take advantage of the new technologies and the wide support network offered by the internet.

So please check out the following, and let me know what you think.

Alesha Escobar’s Blog Interview of Vonnie: http://www.aleshaescobar.com/feature-friday-the-enchanted-skean/

Larry Matthew’s Podcast Interview of Vonnie: https://soundcloud.com/larry-matthews/vonnie-winslow-crist-talks

Book Trailer for The Enchanted Skean: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3-8C9OkyJCU

Online 3-chapter excerpt of The Enchanted Skean: http://vonniewinslowcrist.com/books/the_enchanted_skean_excerpt

And giving credit where credit is do, thanks to Alesha and Larry for doing the interviews, Jamie at Mockingbird Lane Press for the book trailer, and the readers who’ve bought the book. It takes lots of support to become a successful author, and I appreciate all the support I’ve received.

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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

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In 1999, I did an interview with writer Jack L. Chalker for Lite Circle Books’ speculative anthology, Lower Than The Angels. As the anniversary of his death approaches, today and tomorrow I’ll be sharing that interview in two parts as this week’s guest author post. (Photo courtesy of Patti Kinlock).

A Conversation with Jack L. Chalker (part I)

“Baltimore-born writer, Jack L. Chalker, is the author of more than fifty books. Best-known for his series novels including The Saga of the Well World, The Four Lords of the Diamond, The Dancing Gods, The Rings of the Master, The Watchers at the Well, The Soul Rider books, The G.O.D., Inc. books, The Changewinds, The Quintara Marathon, and The Wonderland Gambit; Jack is also the author of non-fiction, non-series novels, a collection of short fiction, and the editor of a shared-world anthology. The following interview was conducted by Vonnie Winslow Crist with Jack L. Chalker on June 12, 1999.

VWC: You became involved with science fiction and fantasy writing initially as a fan, right?

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA JLC: Oh, absolutely. My first published writing was book reviews in a 1958 fanzine; my first Hugo nomination, in 1963, was for my fanzine, Mirage, and I was a member of the Washington (DC) Science Fiction Association from 1958 until 1992 and was a co-founder of the Baltimore Science Fiction Society in 1963 (still going strong, still a member) and creator of Balticon. In fact, somewhere on the Web there’s a reprint of my article on the history of fandom in Baltimore, which basically is my fan history as well. I did some sideline professional editing and rewriting in the Sixties, founded and edited Mirage Press, was an Air Commando (USAFR), taught history in the public schools, and helped run various local and national SF conventions. Didn’t turn pro as a writer until 1975.

VWC: From fan, editor, and little-known writer, you turned pro with the publication of A Jungle of Stars. It doesn’t seem to be part of a series, but starting in 1977 with Midnight at the Well of Souls, your novels usually are part of a continuing saga set in their own world. Do you build a world first or allow it to take shape with each book?

JLC: Well, the funny thing was, I had the idea for some sequels to A Jungle of Stars, none of which ever got done, but Midnight at the Well of Souls was never thought of as a series at the beginning. Its origins have been well chronicled – I’d watched Forbidden Planet one time in mid-1976, and wondered what would have happened if the Krell experiment had worked. I quickly decided that they’d fast run through the entire god routine and quickly become bored. No challenges, no questions, an endless and ho-hum present. From that came the concept of them deciding that they must have done it wrong and the Great Experiment to get it right the next time.

The Well World itself was formed that July in isolated Stehekin village in North Cascades National Park in Washington state. There is a trail there that descends more than a mile and goes through abrupt climatological zones as you descend from snow through rainforest and beyond. The changes were so dramatic that I realized that it was what the Well World might be like if walking across it. The final nail in the construct was when the hex concept came up. A New York SF fan, Ben Yalow, suggested the hex for easy movement and since Avalon Hill games was not far from my home in Baltimore, I dropped by and picked up a ton of blank hex maps and pads. On this, the Well World was created in an elaborate physical-political map since lost (by Lester Del Rey, it should be noted, who borrowed it).

From that it almost wrote itself. The only rewrite I did other than to editorial fiat was to redo the end sequence, the last page, which most readers find the most memorable. That was actually done in galleys. The book was supposed to be a “midlist” fill-in book for summer reading and little was expected of it. Instead, it caught on, became a Campus Cult Classic must-read, and essentially made my career. It was then that Del Ray came back waving big money for sequels, far over what they would pay for other works.

Beyond those, I did several stand-alone novels (including a World War II novel), and really didn’t go back to the long form until Four Lords of the Diamond. When that also hit, publishers were only really interested in multi-book sagas. Since I found a big canvas conductive to my own dramatic sense, that’s what most of the Eighties books were. That led to my most controversial and complex project, The Soul Rider Saga.

In all cases, the world and perhaps a scene come first. Although I’m considered a tight plotter, the plot is the very last thing I work out, after the setting and the more interesting characters.

VWC: Speaking of characters, Joe and Marge in The Dancing Gods books, begin with such mundane names, jobs, and appearances, then transform into the stuff of legends as do many of your other characters. Do you begin your characters with someone you know, say a waitress or truck driver, then imagine them a hero? Or do you design a hero and work back to the truck driver and waitress?

JLC: The names pretty much just come. I have to check them to ensure that I’m not going to get sued by anybody real, but beyond that my characters tend to name themselves. Joe’s name is hardly simple, though; it just came out that way. His original name in the manuscript was a gag: it was Joseph Raymon Felipe San Juan Mario Silvio Enrico Alvarez de Oro. Except for the first and last names, that’s the actual “real” name of Lester Del Ray. “Marge” just seemed like a good west Texas name.

Some characters come fully named. I can swear that Nathan Brazil just up and introduced himself to me at Stehekin Lodge. Mavra Chang was a bit more complex; her first name, like the first name of a few others in the first Well World cycle, are titles of lesser known Stravinsky ballets, for example. A vast majority of the Well World hex names are also gags or tongue in cheek place names. I had just been ordered by the Del Rey legal staff not to name anything after anybody real because they were trying to fend off a lawsuit from an ex of Bill Rotsler’s, who was threatening to sue them after Rostler used her as a major villain in his novel. So I created the ultimate “Tuckerism” as it were, almost a challenge. It was quite easy. The northern hemisphere is mostly anagrams of editors and SF writers, the south places, friends and SF fan clubs and members.

Sometimes, the names are obvious in retrospect. Matson was a mover of cargo; his name came from a major trucking line. Still, those who look for meanings in the character names should stop; in most cases they simply fit the character in my own mind.”

Please stop by for A Conversation with Jack L. Chalker (Part II) tomorrow.

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