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MLC_meriah Whimsical Words welcomes guest author, Meriah L. Crawford. Meriah Lysistrata Crawford is an associate professor at Virginia Commonwealth University, as well as a writer, editor, and private investigator. Among her publications are short stories in several genres, essays, poems, a variety of scholarly work, and the co-written novel The Persistence of Dreams, which was released in 2018. Meriah has an MFA in creative writing from the University of Southern Maine’s Stonecoast MFA program, and a PhD in literature and criticism from the Indiana University of Pennsylvania.

Her work as a PI, over fifteen years, has included investigations of shootings, murders, burglaries, insurance fraud, auto accidents, backgrounds, counterfeit merchandise, patent infringement, and missing persons.

Meriah L. Crawford’s latest book, The Persistence of Dreams, is a novel fantasy and alternate history fans are sure to enjoy. A quick summary for my readers—It is 1636: five years after a West Virginia town from the year 2000 arrived in Germany in a flash of light and altered the course of history. Now, down-time master artist Daniel Block is troubled. No mention or proof of his name or life work, of which he has long been proud, made it through the Ring of Fire; it’s as if he never existed. What can a talented and proud artist like him do, to make sure this new world remembers him long after he’s gone?

Daniel develops a plan to make himself one of the greatest artists the world has ever known, and he’s willing to do whatever it takes to see his dreams fulfilled. Even if it means risking himself, his wife, and his children.

Intent on changing his own history, Daniel journeys to Grantville to learn about these Americans and their wild and outrageous art forms. But while there, he runs afoul of the up-timers’ strange attitudes—and the law. What follows upends seventeenth century art, threatens the emperor, and changes Daniel and his family forever.

persistence cover_meriah Where did the idea come from for your latest book, The Persistence of Dreams?

My co-author, Robert E. Waters, and I have been writing in the 1632 universe for a while. This is a series of novels and stories begun by Eric Flint, about a town in West Virginia transported from the year 2000 to Germany in 1631, into the middle of war and other upheaval. Most of my collaboration with Robert has focused on an artist named Daniel Block, who is a real person born in 1580. Robert and I thought it would be interesting to delve a bit into the art world of the early seventeenth century with the assistance of a man who was a well-known and highly regarded court painter, as well as a bit of a drunk and a troublemaker. We also complicated his family life quite a bit, and involved him in some major political drama.

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

That’s a tough question. I really like so many of the characters. For the novel, though, I wrote an appendix from the perspective of an art history teacher named Elaine O’Meara, who also appears in the beginning of the novel. She’s shown herself to be smart, independent, committed, thoughtful, and funny. She also really knows a ton about art. She was inspired by a really wonderful history teacher I had in high school named Alice Fearen, who instilled a love and a solid grounding of knowledge about art that I have valued deeply ever since. For all of these reasons, I think I’d rather have a cup of tea with Elaine more than anyone else in the book.

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

It’s published by a small publisher: the Ring of Fire Press. The only real disadvantage is a small marketing budget, but that’s something most authors deal with, even with larger presses. The people have been great to work with, and have moved faster and been more responsive than many larger companies are able to be, so that’s been great, too.

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

I’m actually very into lists and planning, and if I’m working on a nonfiction project, it will absolutely have a structure early on. But my fiction is often a lot more organic. That’s why, for example, I have a story that started out as a piece of flash fiction, but is now over 63,000 words. (Oops!) It’s also why I stopped working on it: I realized that the novel really needs to be in the third person, but I wrote it in the first. This is exactly the benefit of planning, though of course planners also find that they make mistakes along the way. Going forward, I’m planning to try to plan more. We’ll see how that goes. 

What was your favorite book as a child?

I have so many answers to this question, but I particularly remember a book named Pidgy’s Surprise, by Jeanne Mellin. It was the first “real” book I read all of by myself. Like many people, the main character spends a lot of time wishing her life were different. In her case, she wishes she had a horse instead of a pony. As the novel progresses, she comes to appreciate what she has when she nearly loses her pony Pidgy. It’s a great lesson, and one that I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about as the years have passed: it’s so easy to focus on wanting what we don’t have, but most of us have SO MUCH already. And feeling and expressing gratitude for that makes us a lot happier.

What writing project are you currently working on?

I always have a lot of projects in the works. Over winter break, I aim to finish and submit some articles (about teaching assistants, James Joyce, and dialogue tags), put the finishing touches on a short video of a huge dust devil I filmed in Jordan this past summer, and spend some hours on a book I’m writing about the second person.

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

Writer’s write. I’ve learned over the years that a huge amount of writing advice should really start with “Here’s what works for me.” Much of it—maybe most—is not one-size-fits-all. Find your own path!

Want to learn more about Meriah L. Crawford and The Persistence of Dreams? Check out her:  WebsiteBlogFacebook pageTwitter,  and Amazon Authors Page.

Or better yet, purchase a copy of The Persistence of Dreams.

Thanks to author Meriah L. Crawford for stopping by. Watch for an interview with author Juliana Spink Mills on February 19, 2019. Happy reading! – Vonnie

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lana ayers Whimsical Words welcomes guest author, Lana Hechtman Ayers. Lana Ayers is a poet, novelist, publisher, and time travel enthusiast. She facilitates Write Away™ generative writing workshops, leads private salons for book groups, and teaches at writers’ conferences. Born and raised in New York City, Lana cemented her night-owl nature there. She lived in New England for several years before relocating to the Pacific Northwest, where she enjoys the near-perpetual plink of rain on the roof. The sea’s steady whoosh and clear-night-sky stars are pretty cool, too. Lana holds an MFA in Writing Popular Fiction from Seton Hill University, as well as degrees in Poetry, Psychology, and Mathematics. She is obsessed with exotic flavors of ice cream, Little Red Riding Hood, TV shows about house hunting, amateur detective stories, and black & white cats and dogs. Her favorite color is the swirl of Van Gogh’s Starry Night.

lana book Lana Hechtman Ayers’s latest book, Time Flash: Another Me, is a time traveling story with a cat as a character. What’s not to like? A quick summary for my readers: The Granola Diet promises to turn curvy Sara Rodríguez Bloom García into a svelte, new woman in no time. Once it does, her husband’s rekindled passions will be unstoppable—she hopes. But “Holy molé salsa!”—when Sara reaches for the box of cereal, she travels back in time to a childhood trip to the grocery store with her beloved grandmother. Seeing her dead grandmother alive and well again is wonderful, but Sara may be losing her mind, or much, much more. What starts out as another fad diet, leads Sara on a time travel journey of perilous twists and turns—fraught with double-agents, lusty redheads, and a deadly serum. Sara’s possibly-magical cat, a sexy former crush, tasty meals, and vivid music enliven the darker moments. Fans of The Time Traveler’s Wife and Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander series will love Time Flash: Another Me.

Where did the idea come from for your latest book, Time Flash: Another Me?
After years of publishing poetry collections, Time Flash: Another Me is my first novel. I’ve been obsessed with time travel since childhood, thanks to my older brother who controlled the TV and forced me watch Science Fiction. When I finally decided it was time to fulfill my lifelong dream of writing a novel, it had to be time travel. My favorite time travel stories have always been the ones where characters can change the past, thereby wreaking havoc in their present and future. These stories are always about characters becoming their truest selves.

Who is your favorite character in the book—and why?
Main character Sara is my favorite because I completely identify with her. She’s always trying to lose ten pounds or twenty, believing the newest fad diet will fix her life. She’s emotionally stuck since the trauma of losing a baby. Her marriage and career are in limbo. A dangerous experiment that causes her to time travel not only turns her into the heroine she never knew she was, but teaches her to accept and love herself exactly as she is. She also forges deeper relationships with the loved ones in her life.

Is your book traditionally published, indie published, or self published?
My novel is published with our local county co-operative press. All manuscripts need to be vetted by member-authors in order to be considered for publication. In addition, the manuscripts must be professionally edited and copy-edited. This is really a great hybrid publishing choice. Quality of the books produced by the press is assured. Plus, authors have greater control over the design and distribution of their books.

Publishing with the co-operative press was the best choice for me because my two previous acceptances with small traditional presses wanted me to make changes to the manuscript that I was ethically unwilling to make. One press wanted me to switch my main protagonist to a male. The other wanted me to whitewash my heroine’s race and ethnicity.

The only real disadvantage is that a co-operative press will never have the same cache as publishing with one of the big-five houses.

What is your writing process like—are you an architect (planner) or gardener (pantser)?
Definitely a pantser. Maybe this comes from being a poet before I was a fiction writer. My poems arrive on the page word by word. Fiction comes to me as a character’s internal thoughts first, then dialogue between characters. Characters tend to just show up in my head fully formed. Plot arises out of the different characters’ needs and difficulties. Setting is the thing I need to remember to add in. My first draft is always just heads in space talking.

What was your favorite book as a child?
I was a precocious reader. I started reading adult novels at the age of seven, after I’d exhausted the children’s’ books in my local library. The Time Machine by H.G. Wells was an early favorite, because it broadened for me the scope of time travel to how humanity might evolve—or devolve. It got me to thinking about the earth itself in an ecological sense. It also taught me the concept of human values for society as a whole, driving home the idea that we are all interconnected.

What writing project are you currently working on?
I am working on another story in the Time Flash world, featuring a minor character from the first book. I’m also beginning my first in a series of cozy mysteries that take place on the Oregon coast. And I’m working on two different poetry collections. One is an ekphrastic project based on photographs taken by my father-in-law of county landmarks. The other poetry collection is about the scientific notion of time.

What’s the best writing advice anyone ever gave you?
The best advice and the hardest—write no matter what. This advice came from prolific, multi-genre author Dean Wesley Smith. That means even when I lose faith in the value of my own words, I have to keep going. That means when the critic in my head tells me my story sucks, I have to keep writing until it’s done. Even when I don’t feel like writing because I am tired or sick or want to watch TV, I should just write.

Want to learn more about Lana Hechtman Ayers and Time Flash: Another Me? Check out her : Website, Facebook, Twitter, and Amazon page.

Or better yet, purchase a copy of Time Flash: Another Me.

Thanks to author Lana Hechtman Ayers for stopping by. Watch for an interview with author Andrew McDowell on January 8, 2019. Happy reading! – Vonnie

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Techie Brain The word automaton sounds very futuristic, but these clockwork machines were first built hundreds of years ago. I began my speculative story collection, Owl Light, with a time-travel, steampunk story about an owl automaton. And the builder of my owl machine in “The Clockwork Owl” was officially employed as a clockmaker.

You can imagine my surprise when I stumbled on this video of an automaton, The Writer, built by Pierre Jaquet-Droz, a clockmaker, in Switzerland hundreds of years ago. It is a fascinating machine, but a bit creepy. Perhaps it’s because dolls in general give me the heebie-jeebies, but this little clockwork boy is both amazing and the stuff of my nightmares.

What do you think — is the automaton in this video genius or creepy or both?

 

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Time travel is not only possible, but it occurs thousands of times every day! You see, it happens when a reader suspends their disbelief and enters the world of a story that occurs in the past, the future, or in another world.

I just watched The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian today. The film reminded me of the book of the same name, one of seven that take place in the land of Narnia. Rather than the wardrobe from Book I, an underground train station becomes the portal from England to another place and time for Peter, Susan, Edmund, and Lucy in Book II. Only a year has past in England since the four siblings returned from The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe’s adventures, but in Narnia, hundreds of years have slipped by.

 Jubilant to return to Narnia, Peter, Susan, Edmund, and Lucy soon discover the time discrepancy and the troubles disrupting the peaceful world they left behind. After many days spent traveling through Narnia and fighting battles beside talking beasts, dwarfs, mobile trees, minotaurs, centaurs, giants, and such – the tales ends with the four children stepping through a doorway of branches to find themselves back in the English train station. And oddly, only a few minutes have passed since they departed. Beloved author, C.S. Lewis, presents different portals in his Narnia books, but the variance in the passage of time is a common thread.

Portals are an oft-used time travel device (in addition to being quite handy for zipping characters from one world to another). Andre’ Norton used a portal to bring her original hero to Witch World. Witch World initially seems to be a place set in the past, but the intrusion of machines in the storyline makes the reader wonder if perhaps it’s a place in the future.

L. Frank Baum utilized a whirling tornado as a portal device to deliver Dorothy to Oz. After days and days of adventures, Dorothy returns to Kansas only a few minutes after she departed. Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland is another example of a portal transporting the hero from her world to another. A rabbit’s hole serves the function of portal for Lewis Carroll’s book. And again, only a few minutes have passed in the “real” world when Alice returns home from her time-consuming wanderings.

Like many writers before me and some writers who craft stories today, I like to transport readers into the past, the future, or to a different time in a world that I’ve built. Most often, the only portal I use is the turning of a page. The page that carries a reader from their work-a-day world to places where singing opossums or mermaids or dragons or ghosts or zombies or faeries or alien species live their lives to the tick of a different clock. So pick up a book or download a story, and travel through time!

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