Thursday, May 31, 2007

Appearance: Three Rivers Arts Festival - Poetry Readings

Appearances

WHEN: Saturday, June 2, 2007 at 7:30 PM

WHERE: Three Rivers Arts Festival 121 7th Street, Pittsburgh, PA

WHAT: Green Hills of Earth, a speculative fiction poetry reading

WHO: Bram Stoker Award winner Michael A. Arnzen and Asimov's Reader's Choice Award winner Timons Esaias, as well as Heidi Ruby Miller, Ziggy Edwards, Eric Davin, and Cheryl Ferrier

I'll be reading Five parsecs away from SCIFAIKUEST 15
Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at PhotobucketCover Art by Bruce Boston

and Robot knows which will be in the February 2008 issue of SCIFAIKUEST, along with some new work.

Hope to see you there!

, , , , , , ,

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Book Signing: REI slide show for MOON Pennsylvania Camping

Book Signings

Tonight from 7:00 PM to 8:00 PM, Jason and I will be hosting a free clinic at the REI in Pittsburgh's Southside Works on our travel guide MOON Pennsylvania Camping.

The clinic will include a slide show from our research trips throughout the state of Pennsylvania, a look at the TOP TEN campgrounds, and a question and answer segment open to the audience. We'll be signing copies of the guidebook afterward.

Hope to see some of you locals there!

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket



, , , , , , ,

HEIDI'S PICK SIX - Michael A. Arnzen

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

HEIDI'S PICK SIX
1. Which of your characters is your favorite?
The Schwa E.


2. Tell me about your travels.
I've been to hell. The handbasket came in handy, actually, when I tried to escape.


3. Coffee, tea, or milk?
Nothing against tea or milk, but coffee packs the strongest punch. And I do like it rough.


4. What else can you do besides write?
Hint taken.


5. Who are you, reading right now?
Who am I, not to?


6. Pop culture or academia?
The difference is academic.


7. What is the toughest scene you ever wrote?
The opening section to Grave Markings. The disc failed and I had to rewrite it from memory FOUR TIMES. But a lot of people tell me it's the best opening to a book they ever read. Hmm...maybe I should rewrite more often?


8. Where do you find your inspirations to write?
They're usually hiding in the closet. Biting their nails. Eye-balling me. Cowering.


9. Food you could eat everyday.
Plastic, not so much.
[Okay, seriously: Turtle Chocolate Chex Mix! Washed down with gallons upon gallons of coffee!]


10. Are you into sports or other physical activities?
Okay, okay... I'll promise to slow down on the Turtle Chocolate Chex Mix!


11. What kind of music speaks to you?
The backmasked kind.


12. Do you outline your stories or do they just take you along for the ride?
I lay in the backseat, with my feet out the window, asking if we're there yet.


13. Celebrity crush.
Celebrity die.


14. Who are the biggest influences on your work?
The bank tellers.


15. Do you still watch cartoons?
The question is: are they still watching me?


Award winning author and writing professor Michael Arnzen was born in Amityville, NY -- hometown of the infamous horror house. After a brief stint in the US Army overseas, where he began writing horror stories to entertain his fellow soldiers, he moved to Colorado where he launched his career in publishing to much success. By the mid-nineties he received the coveted Bram Stoker Award -- the highest accolade in the horror genre -- for his first novel, Grave Markings. Shortly thereafter, he went on to earn a Master's degree while working on his second novel, soon followed by his Ph.D. in English at the University of Oregon, where he studied the role of horror and nostalgia in 20th century culture in a dissertation called The Popular Uncanny, which will be released soon through Guide Dog Books.

Arnzen now lives near Pittsburgh with his wife and cats. He is an Associate Professor of English with tenure at Seton Hill University, where he teaches in an innovative Master's degree program in Writing Popular Fiction. His latest novel is Play Dead, published by Raw Dog Screaming Press.
Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

Audiovile, a collection of Arnzen's works set to music, and the harcover edition of his popular 100 Jolts will be available this month, also through Raw Dog Screaming Press.
Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

His blog Gorelets.com now features a full bibliography and publication history, with free excerpts and more.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Book: Sails and Sorcery: Tales of Nautical Fantasy

Books

Fantasist Enterprises has posted samples of the inside artwork for the Sails and Sorcery: Tales of Nautical Fantasy anthology.

Alas, the art for my story "The Islands of Hope" isn't up, but I was able to preview the illustration and Julie Dillon captured the essence of my story perfectly. I can't wait to see the words and art together.

Sails and Sorcery will be released in August 2007, but is available for preorder now.
Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket


, , , , ,

News: Seton Hill Writers Chun Lee and Shelley Bates

News

Chun Lee's short story A Contained Inferno can be read or listened to at The Late Late Show.

Shelley Bates begins her VBT this week for her new novel Over Her Head.



, , , , ,

Monday, May 28, 2007

HEIDI'S PICK SIX - Tobias Buckell

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at PhotobucketTobias Buckell

HEIDI'S PICK SIX

1. Which of your characters is your favorite?
2. Tell me about your travels.
3. Coffee, tea, or milk?
4. What else can you do besides write?

5. Who are you reading right now?
Good question. I just finished up Karl Schroeder's Sun of Suns and enjoyed it immensely, and I am wrapping up The Android's Dream by John Scalzi, which was a lot of fun as well. Next on the bookshelf is another Phillip Reeves Hungry City Chronicles book.


6. Pop culture or academia?
Pop culture. Without a doubt. I wanted to write some negative things about academics then realized I was an instructor at Seton Hill's Writing Popular Fiction program and hit myself, because I guess I am tainted with a little bit of academia. I'm the man, man.

Frankly pop culture is what, after enough time passes, turns into the stuff that academia studies. Why not love the original source? I'm down with it. I want to be on the ground floor where the action is.


7. What is the toughest scene you ever wrote?
8. Where do you find your inspirations to write?

9. Food you could eat everyday.
Emily, my wife, makes this homemade mac&cheese that is literally to die for. I could eat that any day and all day. After that, anything with strawberries.


10. Are you into sports or other physical activities?
I liked weightlifting until a year ago when I tore a shoulder. I used to like soccer and basketball, but the weird thing about the US is that when people get out of school they stop playing sports and get to work on being out of shape as quickly as possible. I find it frustrating, I would mind playing in an adult league of some sort, there isn't much out where I am. I've started playing Wii Nintendo sports, boxing, with two pound wrist weights, it's a great workout and lots of fun. I'm using light weights to slowly get back into the game.

For years I've wanted to learn a martial art. But some people who do it struck me as showy and useless (yeah baby, I'm a black belt, can I buy you a drink?). My sister was belted at some high level in some art, and she was in a bar fight. I was excited to ask a question that had been on my mind. "Did you use any moves on them?" She told me she didn't, once you have a bottle hit you upside the head you don't have time to remember series of moves. I know, I know, the martial arts are more to train you to clear your mind and achieve a discipline, but I can do that sitting on a mat near a waterfountain for a lot cheaper. If I'm going to workout and condition and pay loads of money in a class I want to be able to at least know how to quickly disable a mugger, right?

So Muay Thai or Brazilian Ju-Jitsu seem to fare well in Ultimate Fighter Championships, they look fairly brutal, but I live in the middle of nowhere and won't be training in either anytime soon. Maybe Wii Karate will come out at some point? I can hope.


11. What kind of music speaks to you?

12. Do you outline your stories or do they just take you along for the ride?
A bit of both. If I don't outline some I lose complete track of what I was doing and spin out. I'm easily distractible and have no memory, if I don't write something down I end Frankenstening the story so bad the stitches can't hold, and I also do it with all the wrong pieces. Flippers don't belong where the ears are, no matter how frikkin cool they are. A map helps. But I love playing around withinthe rough outline as much as I can.

I find each writer has to figure out what works best for them and roll with it.


13. Celebrity crush.
14. Who are the biggest influences on your work?

15. Do you still watch cartoons?
I watch some anime and Adult Swim on Cartoon Network. I swear I'm about ready to start watching Aqua Teen Hunger Force just out of solidarity. Recently I caught Afro Samurai. Have you seen this? It's got everything I love. A cartoon with a samurai with Samuel L. freaking Jackson doing voice overs. I died and went to heaven. And the dude's got a rockin' afro. It's got attitude and spirit, I love it.


Tobias S. Buckell is a Caribbean-born speculative fiction writer who grew up in Grenada, the British Virgin Islands, and the U.S. Virgin Islands. He has published stories in various magazines and anthologies. He is a Clarion graduate, Writers of The Future winner, and Campbell Award for Best New SF Writer Finalist. He now mentors in Seton Hill University's Writing Popular Fiction Graduate Program.

His first novel Crystal Rain was nominated for a LOCUS Award and will be coming out in paperback this month.
Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket
The follow up novel Ragamuffin will be out soon.

HEIDI'S PICK SIX - WEEK 16

This week at HEIDI'S PICK SIX all the interviewees are mentors at Seton Hill University's Writing Popular Fiction Graduate Program:

Monday - Tobias Buckell / Science Fiction

Wednesday - Michael A. Arnzen / Horror

Friday - Lawrence C. Connolly / Science Fiction / Fantasy / Horror


, , , , , , , ,

Friday, May 25, 2007

HEIDI'S PICK SIX - Simon Haynes

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at PhotobucketSimon Haynes

HEIDI'S PICK SIX

1. Which of your characters is your favorite?

2. Tell me about your travels.
Until I turned 6 or 7 my parents took us (younger brother and myself) on holiday two or three times a year. We lived in the UK at the time and must have visited dozens of different countries, from Eastern Europe to North Africa and all points in between. When I turned 8 we moved to the south of Spain, where I attended local schools, and when I was 15 we moved to Australia. Once we got here that was just about it for the travel - it's 3 hours flight just to leave my home state. Next year is the 25th anniversary of our emigration to Australia, and it's been fantastic.


3. Coffee, tea, or milk?

4. What else can you do besides write?
Carpentry and home handyman stuff (that noise you can hear is my wife laughing. Ok, so I used to do a lot more before writing took over my life, but that goes for all my hobbies and interests.) I've spent the past fifteen years designing and writing financial and accounting software, which puts food on the table. My software website contains a bunch of free programs for writers - yWriter, for example. Andromeda Spaceways Inflight Magazine is something I really enjoy being a part of. We've published a number of first-timers, and it's always special when you see someone go on to make a name for themselves. I'm fluent in Spanish, although 20+ years since I used it has probably left me quite rusty.


5. Who are you reading right now?

6. Pop culture or academia?
Pop culture, but not reality shows and celebrities and all that nonsense. It's just that despite having 2 degrees I honestly couldn't claim to be the academic type. 20 years in small business - from entry level worker to upper management - will boot the arty idealist out of anyone.


7. What is the toughest scene you ever wrote?

8. Where do you find your inspirations to write?
Daily life, mostly. The events in my books are often based on annoyances I face from time to time, only I blow them up to extract the most out of them. For example, it's been fifteen years or more since EFTPOS was introduced to Australia, and they STILL tell you to enter your pin number and press okay when you check-out at a shop. I think I've got the idea, ok? So, at some stage that'll make it into one of my books, only writ large.


9. Food you could eat everyday.

10. Are you into sports or other physical activities?
Laughs from the wife again. I enjoy bike riding, sometimes accompanying my eldest daughter to school. I enjoy archery but it's been five years since I got the bow out, and I'm worried it'll just snap in half if I try to actually use it. I also play golf, but I find I can put the time to much better use.


11. What kind of music speaks to you?

12. Do you outline your stories or do they just take you along for the ride?
I used to write wildly and keep the best bits once the smoke cleared. That stopped when I got published, because meeting regular deadlines requires careful planning. I treat the plot outline as a guide though - the wide angle view stays true to the original idea, but I do whatever I like with the close-ups. I used to think outlining stifled creativity, but now I find it's comforting to know I just have to hit the 1000-2000 words a day to remain on target.


13. Celebrity crush.
14. Who are the biggest influences on your work?
15. Do you still watch cartoons?

Simon Haynes is the author of three Hal Spacejock novels, a number of articles on writing and publishing, and several short stories, one of which collected an Aurealis Award in 2001. He divides his time between writing fiction and computer software, with the occasional round of golf thrown in for a laugh.

Born in the UK and raised in the south of Spain, Simon emigrated to Australia with his family in 1983. He's a founding member of Andromeda Spaceways Inflight Magazine, and lives in Perth with his wife and two children.

His goal is to write fifteen Hal Spacejock books before someone takes his keyboard away.
Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at PhotobucketHal Spacejock by Simon Haynes

Simon is on Live Journal as halspacejock.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Book Tours: VBTs for Chris Dolley and Sandy Lender

Book Tours

Chris Dolley's VBT for his debut novel Resonance is up and moving with stops at Jim Hines' blog, Lyrique Tragedy Reviews, UK SF Book News, Dasef Central, HEIDI'S PICK SIX, Diane, and even Crazy Quilting for Fun.

Sandy Lender just started her tour today at Sabbath's Room for her high fantasy novel Choices Meant for Gods. Tomorrow she'll be with author Alison Kent. I'll interview her for HEIDI'S PICK SIX on June 25.



, , , ,

Conference: Seton Hill Authors at Pennwriters Conference

Conferences

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at PhotobucketBACK: Jason Jack Miller, Timons Esaias, and Heidi Ruby Miller FRONT: Ellen Spain, Victoria Thompson, and Mary Ann Aug

The 2007 Pennwriters Conference The Write Attitude was a wonderful experience, both personally and professionally.

Networking opportunities were the best of any conference I've attended because the group's officers, the editors, the agents, and the writers were all so personable.
Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at PhotobucketBACK: Mary Ann Aug and Heidi Ruby Miller FRONT: Lisa D. K. Coutant, Vice President of Pennwriters, Barbara Lockwood, President of Pennwriters, and Jason Jack Miller

The above photo was taken after Victoria Thompson, mystery author and Seton Hill mentor, gave her keynote at the luncheon on Saturday. It was very inspiring because she used personal experiences to show just how fickle this industry can be, but also how rewarding to those who stick it out.

Among the editors I met were Ginjer Buchanan, Senior Executive Editor and Marketing Director at The Berkley Publishing Group, Jane Friedman, Editor of Writers' Digest Books/F & W Publications and Robbi Hess, Editor/Co-Publisher of Byline Magazine.

The three best panels I attended probably reflect where I am personally in the process of publication, not that I won't work on mechanics and style until I die, but after an intensive two year graduate program, I'm ready to move onto the next step: Agents Panel with Daniel Lazar, Rita Rosenkranz, Adam Chromy, Sheree Bykofsky, and Jenny Rappaport; Editors Panel with Jane Friedman, Ginjer Buchanan, Colleen Sell, and Robbi Hess; The Publication Process with Rita Rosenkranz, Jane Friedman, and Paul Martin.

This last one was Paul discussing the process of publishing his books with his agent Rita Rosenkranz and an editor from his publishing company Jane Friedman. Very insightful about "who gets a say in what" from cover design to contents. Jason and I had part of this perspective when we published our guidebook with Avalon last year. We were missing the agent part, an important part I will now say, but will hopefully rectify soon.

I pitched to one editor and three agents while at the conference. As a direct result. I am sending out my submissions this week. Here's hoping that some of those are accepted.

I also made some new author friends. Writers Valentine Brkich and Brian Butko agreed to participate in the HEIDI'S PICK SIX special non-fiction week coming up.
Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at PhotobucketJason Jack Miller, Brian Butko, and Heidi Ruby Miller

If nothing else comes from my time at the conference, it was still well-spent because it inspired me and gave me that turbo boost we writers all need now and then.

, , , , , , , , ,

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Appearance: REI Clinic for MOON Pennsylvania Camping

Appearances

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

On Wednesday, May 30, 2007, from 7:00 PM to 8:00 PM, Jason Jack Miller and Heidi Ruby Miller will be hosting a free clinic at the REI in Pittsburgh's Southside Works on their travel guide MOON Pennsylvania Camping published by Avalon Travel Publishing.

The clinic will include a slide show from their research trips throughout the state of Pennsylvania, a look at the TOP TEN campgrounds, and a question and answer segment open to the audience. They will be signing copies of their guidebook afterward.


, , , , , , ,

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

HEIDI'S PICK SIX - Chris Dolley

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at PhotobucketResonance by Chris Dolley

HEIDI'S PICK SIX

1. Which of your characters is your favorite?
This is a bit like being asked to name your favourite child. So the answer is, of course, all of them. Until they misbehave.

I certainly loved writing for Graham Smith. I have my obsessive compulsive moments so it was easy to slip inside his head for 400 pages. And fun. He may be the least pro-active protagonist in literary history, but his quirky view on the ever-changing world around him was a joy to construct.

Annalise was even more fun. I could have written dialogue for her all day and had to employ several large internal editors to prevent her from taking over the entire book.

Nick Stubbs, my latest protag, is the opposite of Graham. He acts first and regrets it three pages later. Which is endearing - as long as you're the one doing the writing and not his sidekick.


2. Tell me about your travels.

3. Coffee, tea, or milk?
Back in my student days it was neither. My preferred beverage of that era was scrumpy or 'rough' as our local publican insisted on calling it. What's scrumpy? Imagine a fine dry cider brewed by HP Lovecraft. It's rough, it's primordial and so cloudy that if you can see any fingers through the glass - they're not yours.


4. What else can you do besides write?
A lot. In fact when the blank page stares at me and the words won't come, I find I can do an extraordinary amount of things. Every one of them preferable to writing. Prevarication, tearing out hair, solitaire, counting flies.

And I did work in the real world - programming, design, tech support, management - freelancing in the lucrative world of large mainframe computer projects until I earned enough money to buy a small farm and drop out into a self-sufficient lifestyle of animals, orchards, huge vegetable garden and writing.

And being a smallholder on an even smaller budget - retiring at 35 seriously diminishes your income! - I've learnt to be practical. I plumbed our house, wired it, built a roof or four, a staircase, converted a loft, a stable...

But the task I enjoy the most is building stone walls - we built a couple of huge buttresses for our gable wall. Building with irregular natural stone is very satisfying and when you have a medieval granite quarry on your land you have a lot of rock to play with.


5. Who are you reading right now?

6. Pop culture or academia?
Well, I'd rather be read widely than win prizes. And being a working class lad I was never exposed to anything remotely resembling academia growing up. But, as I age, I find myself cultivating a distaste for the lowest common denominator culture of reality TV and celebrity obsession that has seeped into popular culture during the past twenty years.


7. What is the toughest scene you ever wrote?
8. Where do you find your inspirations to write?

9. Food you could eat everyday.
Chocolate, chips, puddings, chicken tikka massala... the list is not only endless but the combined mass of calories are sufficient to create a minor black hole.

If asked to cater for 'the food that would be partaken every day' I'd plump for an Indian (by far and away the best cuisine on the planet) followed by an English pudding (no one can design comfort food better than the English*) with an assortment of chocolates between each course. And then one of those convenient time loops to take you back to the start before the calories kick in.

* If you don't believe me try one of the English pudding restaurants. Yes, in England we have restaurants that cater for people who want to forget the main course and go straight for dessert. Treacle Sponge Pudding, Bread and Butter Pudding, Queen of Puddings...


10. Are you into sports or other physical activities?
11. What kind of music speaks to you?

12. Do you outline your stories or do they just take you along for the ride?
I used to have an organic approach to writing in that I'd plot the beginning and the end then let my characters work out the path in between. But characters have a worrying knack of getting sidetracked. And they talk too much.

So now I spend a lot more time outlining - mapping out the novel almost to scene level. I think it's essential if you're writing mystery driven fiction as you need to ensure that information is revealed and events take place in an order that both works and entertains. Having an outline allows you to juggle scenes, identify slow patches, and arrange your twists before you even begin your first draft.

But it does take willpower. The urge to slap those first words on the page and get on with it is strong.


13. Celebrity crush.
14. Who are the biggest influences on your work?
15. Do you still watch cartoons?

Chris Dolley is an author, a pioneer computer games designer, an amateur detective and the man who convinced the UK media that Cornwall had risen up and declared independence.

His first novel, Resonance, an SF mystery, was the first book to be plucked from Baen's electronic slush pile. It was also selected by the Science Fiction Book Club - which is rare for a first novel - and entered the US SF&F bestseller charts.

As novelist Keith Brooke wrote, "Resonance is a tremendously accomplished book ... and immediately raises Dolley into the ranks of writers to watch. It's a head-over-heels romp through ever-changing realities, crammed with great set-pieces, excellent hooks and some nice one-liners."

His second novel, Shift, comes out in July this year.

In 1981 he formed Randomberry Games and designed Necromancer, one of the first 3D first person perspective dungeon games. He also wrote the most aggressive chess program ever seen and created the most dangerous game ever played.

When chairman of Plymouth Rag Week he convinced the UK media that Cornwall had declared independence - a stunt so successful that the 1974 General Election result was pushed off the front page. The story was later written up in Punch.

Amateur Detective? Well in 1995 he was abandoned by the police forces of four countries when his identity and life savings were stolen. So he had to solve the case himself - which he did in one of the most bizarre investigations ever.

His Virtual Book Tour begins today. Check his LJ chrisdolley for more stops.

Monday, May 21, 2007

HEIDI'S PICK SIX - Charles Stross

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at PhotobucketCharles Stross

HEIDI'S PICK SIX

1. Which of your characters is your favorite?
I have two answers to this question: (a) I try not to pick favourites, and (b) that would be telling.


2. Tell me about your travels.
I travel too much. It's disruptive I can't write effectively while I'm traveling -- but I'm away from home for 2-3 months of the year. What I can say in my defense is that I write full-time, and it's a pretty isolating job; if you don't get out of the house from time to time you go nuts. So I go to SF conventions, I do speaking gigs, I even (occasionally) go on vacation. It seems to be an occupational hazard for writers ...


3. Coffee, tea, or milk?
Used to be coffee, but some time during the dot-com years I burned my stomach out and started getting acid indigestion. So these days I drink copious amounts of tea -- 3-6 litres a day -- and it's brewed for caffeine: milk, no sugar, and ideally it's bright orange and corrodes the spoons if you leave them in it too long.


4. What else can you do besides write?
I'm a one-trick pony. I don't play any musical instruments, I don't sing or dance, I don't speak any other languages, I'm kind of short on hobbies. (I drink beer, but I wouldn't call that particularly interesting ...) It's given to very few people to be very good at more than one thing; I'm not a polymath, so I put most of my effort into writing.


5. Who are you reading right now?
I'm currently re-reading God Stalk by P. C. Hodgell, a rather remarkably overlooked classic of the fantasy genre. And I'm reading a couple of non-fiction books about Eliza Lynch, the 19th century adventuress who precipitated the War of the Triple Alliance (the most disastrous conflict in 19th century South American history). And the current issue of New Scientist.


6. Pop culture or academia?
Pop culture, I think, but not to the exclusion of academia.


7. What is the toughest scene you ever wrote?
The novelette Nightfall (the fifth chapter of Accelerando) was kind of hard. In fact, it was so hard that I took four months off in the middle of it -- at the point where I was trying to get a handle on Amber's situation inside a vast, ancient alien artefact millions of years old inhabited by a sapient pyramid scheme that was trying to mess with her head -- and by way of convincing myself that I was busy I wrote an entire book. Which then got chopped into two and became the first two volumes of the Merchant Princes series -- it was the longest novel I've
ever written.

But that's probably not the hardest. There was a scene in my novelette Antibodies that was so hard I put it down and didn't pick it up again and make any significant progress for six years. I think it involved a woman sitting on a park bench, cutting up credit cards ... and her motivation.


8. Where do you find your inspirations to write?
What is this "inspiration" you speak of?


9. Food you could eat everyday.
Bacon. (Comes of having a Jewish upbringing ...) Preferably a bacon and cream cheese bagel. (It's a good thing I live with a militant vegetarian who won't let me keep bits of dead pig in the larder.)


10. Are you into sports or other physical activities?
Not really, but I swim regularly -- I aim to do at least half a kilometre non-stop at least three times a week. And I walk, lots: I live in a dense city that predates the automobile, so parking is nightmarish here. As a result, my car stays parked unless it's needed for moving cargo or multiple people about, or for journeys over about five kilometres in a direction where public transport is inconvenient.


11. What kind of music speaks to you?
Electronic/industrial/punk/alternative. Classical leaves me completely
cold.


12. Do you outline your stories or do they just take you along for the ride?
It varies from story to story. Sometimes I write by the seat of my pants -- although I tend to have a lot of mental background notes before I start going -- but sometimes I outline in depth. In the case of one novel, the outline's word count was 10% of the length of the final book.


13. Celebrity crush.
What is this "celebrity" you speak of?


14. Who are the biggest influences on your work?
I'm probably not going to surprise anyone if I mention Bruce Sterling as having been hugely influential (followed, perhaps, by Neal Stephenson). But I was writing -- in fact, selling short stories in Interzone -- before I ran across either of those authors' works. In non-science-fictional writing I probably tend to pay too much attention to Christopher Brookmyre. The same goes for most of the author authors I respect. In general, I try not to be overly influenced by other people -- it's not good, if you want to develop your own voice.


15. Do you still watch cartoons?
Occasionally. But the thing is, I probably only watch 2-3 hours of television a week, tops. I've never been a great TV watcher (or media watcher -- I probably watch 1 DVD a week, max, on average), and the TV is mostly used as somewhere to park my eyeballs while I'm eating dinner.


Born in Leeds, England, Charles Stross knew he wanted to be a science fiction writer from the age of six, and astonishingly, nobody ever considered therapy until it was too late. He didn't really get started until his early teens (when his sister loaned him a manual typewriter around the time he was getting heavily into Dungeons and Dragons); the results were unexpected, and he's been trying to bury them ever since. He made his first commercial for-money sale to Interzone in 1986, and sold about a dozen stories elsewhere throughout the late 1980s and early 1990s before a dip in his writing career. He began writing fiction in earnest again in 1998.

Along the way to his current occupation, he went to university in London and qualified as a Pharmacist. (This is what you get for listening to people who tell you "but you can't earn a living as a writer -- get a career first!") He figured out it was a bad idea the second time the local police staked his shop out for an armed robbery -- he's a slow learner. Sick at heart from drugging people and dodging SWAT teams and gangsters -- it's hard to do that when you're wearing a lab coat -- he went back to university in Bradford and did a postgraduate degree in computer science. After several tech sector jobs in the hinterlands around London, initially in graphics supercomputing and then in the UNIX industry, he emigrated to Edinburgh, Scotland, and switched track into web consultancy and a subsequent dot com death march.

All good things come to an end, and Stross made the critical career error of trying to change jobs early in 2000, just in time for the bottom to drop out of the first dot-com boom. However, he had a parachute: he was writing a monthly Linux column for Computer Shopper, and by a hop, a skip and a jump that would be denounced as implausible by any self-respecting editor, he managed to turn this unemployment into an exciting full time career opportunity as a freelance journalist specialising in Linux and free software. (The adjective "exciting" applies as much to the freelance journalist's relationship with their bank manager as to their career structure.) Even more implausibly, after fifteen years of abject obscurity, his fiction became an overnight success in the US, with five novel sales and several Hugo nominations in the space of two years.

His first short story collection Toast comes out at the end of this year in a signed limited hardcover edition through Wyrm Publishing.

Stross now lives in Edinburgh, Scotland, with his wife Feorag, a couple of cats, several thousand books, and an ever-changing herd of obsolescent computers.

Friday, May 18, 2007

HEIDI'S PICK SIX - Jane Wenham-Jones

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at PhotobucketJane Wenham-Jones

HEIDI'S PICK SIX

1. Which of your characters is your favorite?
Gaynor from One Glass is Never Enough because she's a thinner, prettier version of me, Cari from Raising the Roof because she is a bit like how I was once and Ben from the same book because he's huge and sexy.


2. Tell me about your travels.

3. Coffee, tea, or milk?
I loathe and detest milk and I gave up coffee about six years ago. Mainly because I drank so much it made me jittery and brought me out in blotches. Now I cannot manage without gallons of green tea with lemon. And good white wine....


4. What else can you do besides write?
Sadly, I have never learnt to play the spoons. Or the guitar, or the piano.
I have also singularly failed to acquire fluent French or Spanish - to my
eternal regret. What I can do is talk a lot, dance on the table, sing when
three sheets to the wind, make good mashed potato, reverse-park into tiny
spaces, attract dodgy-looking blokes and manage to spend the entire day
emailing despite having deadlines coming out of my ears. Oh and I did my own
illustrations for Wannabe a Writer? (after a fashion...)


5. Who are you reading right now?
6. Pop culture or academia?
7. What is the toughest scene you ever wrote?

8. Where do you find your inspirations to write?
From everything's that's ever happened to me. As I explain in Wannabe a
Writer?
a big turning point for me came when my son - aged 2 - locked me in
a cupboard! I discovered then that everything, but everything can be put to
good use. All my fiction, all my articles, have been born from real-life scenarios. And the more you look at life that way, the more inspiration you will find.


9. Food you could eat everyday.
Egg sandwiches, good crisps (chips to you? :-)), dry white wine and salad.


10. Are you into sports or other physical activities?
Exercise is a terrific cure-all. Love walking along the beach, running not too far, playing tennis (badly), badminton (ditto) and swimming in a warm sea.


11. What kind of music speaks to you?
Anything soft and lyrical, haunting and melodic. Songs with great words. White Ladder by David Gray is my perfect album. Also Norah Jones, Irish Folk Music, The Beatles, Chris Rhea, Bob Dylan, the list is endless and eclectic - how long have you got?


12. Do you outline your stories or do they just take you along for the ride?
13. Celebrity crush.
14. Who are the biggest influences on your work?
15. Do you still watch cartoons?


Jane Wenham-Jones published her first novel in 2000. Since then she has sold eight books, including one on the craft of writing, Wanna Be a Writer?

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

HEIDI'S PICK SIX - J. A. Konrath

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at PhotobucketJ. A. Konrath

HEIDI'S PICK SIX

1. Which of your characters is your favorite?
2. Tell me about your travels.

3. Coffee, tea, or milk?
Beer. I love beer. In fact, back in '93, I married a case of Corona. She had nice cans, and went down easy. Unfortunately, it didn't last more than three days. You could say I pissed that marriage away.


4. What else can you do besides write?
I can tie a cherry stem into a knot with my tongue. Plus other stuff, probably. Like Jenga.


5. Who are you reading right now?
On the Ropes by Tom Schreck. It's a mystery about a boxer-slash-social worker named Duffy, and it's funny as hell.

Tom has got a great website at www.tomschreck.com. Tom also owes me some steaks for mentioning him here. Mmmm. Steaks.


6. Pop culture or academia?
7. What is the toughest scene you ever wrote?

8. Where do you find your inspirations to write?
In the laughter of children. And that's gotten me into trouble with the authorities.


9. Food you could eat everyday.
10. Are you into sports or other physical activities?
11. What kind of music speaks to you?
12. Do you outline your stories or do they just take you along for the ride?

13. Celebrity crush.
I've got a teensy tiny crush on Tess Gerritsen that's totally platonic, because of the restraining order. I also have a crush on Barry Eisler, which isn't so platonic. He's dreamy.


14. Who are the biggest influences on your work?

15. Do you still watch cartoons?
I've got Thundarr the Barbarian and The Herculoids on my iPod, and complete DVD sets of Spongebob and Aqua Teen Hunger Force. Plus, I make my own cartoons. But I don't use film, or a computer. I use pretzels. And rather than animate with them, I eat them. But I make them do a little dance before they go into my mouth, and I pretend they're screaming while I chew.

This was fun. But next time I get to ask the questions, Little Miss Nosy.


In 2003 J. A. Konrath signed a three book deal with Hyperion for the Lt. Jacqueline "Jack" Daniels thriller series, which includes Whiskey Sour, Bloody Mary, and Rusty Nail. His latest novel in the series Dirty Martini will be released on July 3.

His blog A Newbies Guide to Publishing has been helping writers since 2005.

Monday, May 14, 2007

HEIDI'S PICK SIX - Danny Adams

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at PhotobucketDanny Adams

HEIDI'S PICK SIX

1. Which of your characters is your favorite?
Lucian Aurelianus, the main character in my unpublished novel about Camelot after the death of King Arthur. Lucian grew up saturated in Arthur's idealism, but a family squabble led him to go fight barbarians in the "North Country". He returns just after Arthur's death a hardened, tired cynic, but desperately wanting to recapture the idealism and hope he once new...particularly when the handful of surviving Knights of the RoundTable ask him to help rebuild what was lost with Arthur's death.

I've seen a lot of people struggle with hopelessness and frustration and a feeling of powerlessness like Lucian does. While I was writing Lucian, he became an offering to the people I know who are struggling, and a tribute to those who surmounted those troubles.


2. Tell me about your travels.
Unfortunately there's not much to tell, but I could tell you what I would like to do. I would like to spend a week hiking through the Grand Canyon. I would like to walk along the medieval walls of Carcassone, York, and Rothenburg at sunrise and sunset. I would like to fly over the Himalayas and see if I can spot Shangri-La. I would like to wander inside the Great Pyramid of Cheops. I want to walk along the beach of Monuriki, the Fijian island where Castaway was filmed. I have friends and family on six of the seven continents, and would be happy spending a year doing nothing but visiting all of them.

And doing all this with my wife Laurie, who is far and away my favorite traveling partner!


3. Coffee, tea, or milk?
4. What else can you do besides write?
5. Who are you reading right now?

6. Pop culture or academia?
Academia--sort of. It's not that I'm necessarily an academic myself, but I've got so many interests that don't fit into pop culture it's hard to find myself interested in pop culture. Like ancient history, for example...unless you count Gladiator, King Arthur, or 300.


7. What is the toughest scene you ever wrote?

8. Where do you find your inspirations to write?
Everywhere. I know that's a stock answer, but I'm interested in almost everything to one degree or another (except maybe for much of pop culture, unless Cory Doctorow is writing about it), fascinated by multitudes of things, and I tend to write about anything that strikes me.

And often my stories and poems are created by combining two things that nature never intended. My poem Braiding the World Lines (Ideomancer), for instance, combined my interests in quantum computer and South American mythology. My story Redshift Dreamer (Trabuco Road) combined Australian Aboriginal mythology with my fascination after reading a story about potential planets that have small, narrow habitable zones between regions that are too hot or too cold.

But a lone thing can be the trigger too: on an Appalachian Trail hike last year my friend Tamara and I found some juvenile American Chestnut trees which, we were told, would be dead in a year or two--because all American Chestnuts die once they reach adulthood thanks to the Chestnut Blight. A hundred years ago they blanketed the Appalachians as surely as Oaks did, but now they're bordering on extinction. This tree became my poem "Chestnuts, Sleep", which is also (so far) my only non-speculative poetry sale (to Appalachian Heritage).

And then--there's Laurie, who is simply inspiration on all sorts of different levels and on a regular basis. Not to mention always supportive of my writing, which is more important especially to my inspiration) than I can say.

So, yeah...anything and everything.


9. Food you could eat everyday.
10. Are you into sports or other physical activities?
11. What kind of music speaks to you?

12. Do you outline your stories or do they just take you along for the ride?
That depends on what I want from the story. Novels I tend to outline more, if only because I know I'll be working on them for a lot longer, and putting a lot more work into them. Short stories are more likely to take me along for a ride, particularly the ones I start simply to answer a question I have. Then again, I also usually have a good idea of where the stories will end up, so the wild ride may only get just so wild.

But not always. Even when I outline, things happen that I don't expect and can take me far away from anything I'd planned for. And when those stories work, I consider them the best kind, my favorites by far.


13. Celebrity crush.

14. Who are the biggest influences on your work?
Philip Jose Farmer, naturally; he gifted me with a serious interest in writing when I was 12 and, particularly as he's my uncle, was always there to encourage me--and, for that matter, be a constant example that a writer really could make good even if other people told him writing was stupid (especially writing speculative fiction!). Finishing his book The City Beyond Play was a long-time dream come true.

Beyond him, I'd say Mark Twain--for his social commentary disguised as sharp humor I could never hope to match. James Michener, who first taught me how a single book could carry you through a grand, epic sweep of history. And as a child my sense of wonder was sparked by the short stories of a lot of the greats such as Asimov and Bradbury; a lot of those old short stories still tickle me, and to this day short stories are still my favorite form of speculative fiction.


15. Do you still watch cartoons?

Danny Adams was born somewhere in the Blue Ridge Mountains in October of 1970, and since then has enjoyed such activities as making covenants with bobcats (1993), partying with James Doohan (1992), outrunning a train on foot (1994), hunting down psychics and spirit channelers and haunted houses (1991 to present), working in other centuries (1999, 1850, 1740, and 1671), and other mundane pastimes. His favorite passions include writing and anything outdoors.

He is the co-author, with Philip Jose Farmer, of the short science fiction novel The City Beyond Play, forthcoming from PS Publishing in May of 2007.

Friday, May 11, 2007

HEIDI'S PICK SIX - CHARLOTTE BOYETT-COMPO

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at PhotobucketCharlotte Boyett-Compo

HEIDI'S PICK SIX

1. Which of your characters is your favorite?
Any of the Cree men but most especially Viraidan. He is just such a wounded man. He died for love and was re-born to love that woman all over again. He's gorgeous and sexy and muscular and as one of my signature Prime Reapers has such raw power you feel intimidated just looking into his golden eyes. And he has a wicked, wicked sense of humor: a must in any man!


2. Tell me about your travels.
Well, with my DH, Tom...better known as Buddha Belly to my readers...I've traveled to all but five states. Have been to all the landlocked Canadian provinces, Mexico and Puerto Rico. Tom was career military so we've lived in Georgia, Florida, South Carolina, New York, Illinois, Iowa, and Nebraska. I've also lived in Ohio and Alabama when I was a child. I've seen the Grand Canyon, Niagra Falls, Mt. Rushmore, and been up in the Sears Building in Chicago and the CNN building in Toronto. I've had my picture taken in front of twenty-nine state capitols.


3. Coffee, tea, or milk?

4. What else can you do besides write?
I play the guitar and piano and autoharp. I crochet though I haven't done that in years because of my carpal tunnel surgeries. I am a helluva cook and when I'm angry or sad or mad or excited, I cook...usually a couple of things at once. My specialty is southern soul food since I'm from Georgia.


5. Who are you reading right now?
6. Pop culture or academia?
7. What is the toughest scene you ever wrote?
8. Where do you find your inspirations to write?

9. Food you could eat everyday.
Pecan divinity and I have as long as it's sitting there whispering to me. Oh, you mean like real food? Well, that would be a traditional southern Sunday lunc: baked ham, turnip greens with pepper vinegar, breaded fried okra, field peas with boiled okra, fresh sliced tomatoes right out of the garden, hot buttered cornbread muffins, and still warm, banana pudding with mile-high meringue, and a large glass of SWEETENED tea with lemon. No calories, no cholesterol, of course.


10. Are you into sports or other physical activities?

11. What kind of music speaks to you?
Celtic. I love the combination of drums and fiddles and whistles. The refrains of the ballads as so haunting and the music just enters my very soul. I always listen to Celtic music when I'm writing love scenes or fight scenes. When I need to mellow out, I just put on the earphones and sit down to listen to David Arkenstone or Jim Bridgeman. Guitars added to the other instruments are sure to make me quiver all over.


12. Do you outline your stories or do they just take you along for the ride?

13. Celebrity crush.
Gerard Butler! Oh, yummy, yummy, YUMMY! His green eyes and little boy grin just flips my switches. I've been a fan of his since 1999. If you've ever seen him in Attila, you'd know why! His latest turn in the movie 300 shows abs you could crack a peppercorn with and thighs that could break a woman in half. I certainly wouldn't mind breaking with those things wrapped around me. ;)


14. Who are the biggest influences on your work?
15. Do you still watch cartoons?

Charlotte Boyett-Compo is the author of fifty books, the first ten of which are the WindLegend Saga. Married 40 years to her high school sweetheart, Tom, she is the mother of two grown sons, Pete and Mike, and the proud grandmother of Preston Alexander and Victoria Ashley.

A native of Sarasota, Florida, Charlee was adopted at birth and grew up in Colquitt and Albany, Georgia. She says of her heritage: "I was born in Florida and raised in Georgia so that makes me an official Sunshine Cracker!" She now lives in the Midwest where she enjoys the changing of the seasons.

Her hobbies are writing, watching Gerard Butler strut his stuff in period movies, and trying to keep her adorable husband, Buddha Belly, from snoring and hogging the TV remote. She is owned and operated by five cats who allow her to only leave the house for catnip, kitty kibble, and clumping kitty litter.

BloodWind, her latest novel, was just released through Dark Star Publications.

Currently, she is at work on a new erotica novel for Ellora's Cave.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

News: Seton Hill Writers

News

The Spring 2007 issue of Eye Contact has work from WPF writers and artists Jason Jack Miller, Adrea Peters, Melissa Doll, and Michael A. Arnzen

Romance Bandits is giving away prizes for comments. Contributors to this new group blog include Seton Hill alum K. J. Howe, as well as Trish Milburn, Christine Zampi, Donna MacMeans, Cathie Shaffer, Anna Campbell, Beth Burgoon, Joan Kayse, Kate Carlisle, Jo Lewis-Robertson, Caren Crane, Anthea Lawrence, Christine Wells, Cindy Munoz, Tawny Weber, Cassondra Murray, Anna Sugden, Inara Scott, Suzanne Welsh, and Jeanne Pickering Adams.


, , , , , , ,

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

HEIDI'S PICK SIX -Lucy A. Snyder

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at PhotobucketLucy A. Snyder

HEIDI'S PICK SIX

1. Which of your characters is your favorite?
"Favorite" is kind of a tricky term; I don't write about characters I'm not interested in, but there are characters I'd like to do more with, and in that sense I favor them. From my new short fiction collection Sparks and Shadows, I'd have to say one of my favorite characters is Nturi from "Burning Bright". I want to tell her whole story in a novel sometime. Of course, I can say that about a lot of the characters in those shorts.

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at PhotobucketSparks and Shadows

I'd like to revisit Charlie ("... And Her Shadow") as an adult, because she's definitely got some unfinished business with the supernatural world as well as her own conscience. And I'd like to do more with Nikolai Zorleski and his crew.


2. Tell me about your travels.

3. Coffee, tea, or milk?
Coffee, tea, and milk are my holy beverage trinity. That first cup of coffee with lots of milk in the morning is absolutely crucial. I also love green tea and hot or cold chai.


4. What else can you do besides write?
5. Who are you reading right now?
6. Pop culture or academia?

7. What is the toughest scene you ever wrote?
It was actually a couple of scenes I wrote in one of my satire stories, "Sara and the Telecats", which first appeared in Farthing and is also in Sparks and Shadows. It was the first thing I wrote in response to my mother's dying, and was based on a bizarre dream I had a couple of weeks after her funeral. The story's still satire overall, and is ultimately supposed to be read as a kind of very dark humor, but writing it took me to some bad places. The description of the cancer death is taken precisely from memory, isn't supposed to be funny because that kind of thing isn't ever funny, and took way longer to write than you'd think because it's hard to type when you've stopped being able to see the computer screen.

(Other than sharing the same death, though, the mother in the story and
my mother have very little in
common.)

I know the story won't work for some people because of the uneasy truce between the satire and the content that's deadly serious. It switches gears on the reader a whole lot; some readers enjoy that, some don't.


8. Where do you find your inspirations to write?
Everyday life is a big inspiration, but so are old myths and fairy tales and poorly-written technical documentation and the weird dreams I get when I have to take allergy meds. Personal amusements and aggravations tend to start spinning inside my brain, and I inevitably want them out of there, so I have to get them down on paper.


9. Food you could eat everyday.
10. Are you into sports or other physical activities?
11. What kind of music speaks to you?

12. Do you outline your stories or do they just take you along for the ride?
I like to know where I'm heading when a trip begins, even if that's not where I actually end up. However, I don't outline so much as take lots of notes when new elements come to me. I have a mind like a steel sieve, so note-taking is crucial if I expect to retain small details.


13. Celebrity crush.
14. Who are the biggest influences on your work?

15. Do you still watch cartoons?
Oh yes. My husband and I both watch a lot of cartoons (eagle-eyed readers of In The Midnight Museum spotted the Invader Zim reference in Gary's dedication to me). TV-wise it's mostly Foster's Home for Imaginary Friends, The Venture Brothers, SpongeBob SquarePants, The Grim Adventures of Billy and Mandy and of course Zim. I love Miyazaki's movies and most of Pixar's movies. If I ever get too old for cartoons I expect I'll be too old to write.


Lucy A. Snyder has an MA in journalism from Indiana University and a BS in biology from Angelo State University and she took a whole lot of coursework in English and chemistry in the process. Right now she's taking a seemingly-random assortment of classes at The Ohio State University.

She's worked as a tech support agent, web monkey, science writer, software reviewer, managing editor, research assistant, advertisement designer, early-morning radio news editor, snake wrangler, and bassoon instructor. Lucy has been over-employed (4 jobs at once!), side-employed, and under-employed. She's all about employment.

Her debut collection Sparks and Shadows has seventeen short stories, seven poems and four humor essays that will appeal to any reader of the dark fantastic. By turns touching, chilling, surreal, wryly satiric, seductive, macabre and laugh-out-loud funny, this book will take you from adventures in the farthest reaches of outer space to the darkest shadows beneath the surface of modern America.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Poem: Robot Knows

Poetry

Geoffrey Girard reminded me that my journal hasn't had much about me in it for some time, so here's some good news of my own to promote. I sold my poem 'Robot knows' to SCIFAIKUEST. Those of you who attended the Poetry Panel at Confluence 2006 heard an alternate version to this joined haiku.

It will be one of the poems I read at the Three Rivers Arts Festival in Pittsburgh on June 2, alongside Timons Esaias and Michael A. Arnzen. If you're in the area, please come and see us.

~Heidi
And this is thanks to flaggerx for getting me all in the Disney spirit with his latest entry.
Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at PhotobucketHeidi Ruby Miller and friend


, , , ,

Monday, May 07, 2007

HEIDI'S PICK SIX - Mark W. Tiedemann

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at PhotobucketMark W. Tiedemann

HEIDI'S PICK SIX

1. Which of your characters is your favorite?
Aside from the main character of a novel that may never be published, I'd have to say Tamyn Glass in Peace and Memory. She's an independent merchant, a shipmaster, on the far side of fifty, and very much her own person. She's tough, sympathetic, with wide-ranging interests, and by the standards of a lot of pop culture pertaining to women she's atypical.
Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at PhotobucketRemains by Mark Tiedemann

But of course a character is very much a part of his/her setting, and Peace and Memory is currently the best realization of my Secantis universe. After her, I'd have to say Lis from Compass Reach is a very close second, almost a tie.


2. Tell me about your travels.
3. Coffee, tea, or milk?

4. What else can you do besides write?
I've made a living as a professional photographer and photofinisher most of my life. I picked it up in high school and over time got fairly good at it. (My preference is for black & white, f/64 Group style work, ala Ansel Adams, Edward Weston, Imogen Cunningham.) I'm also a keyboard player and once-in-awhile guitar player. I cook and occasionally clean house. I'm a competent dog walker and I've been known to carry things well ( I work out ).


5. Who are you reading right now?
Laurie R. King's Mary Russell mysteries; I just finished John Crowley's Lord Byron's Novel; and I'm about to start a new Pynchon novel. Ongoing, though, is a ton of research material related to the Revolutionary War, particularly in the west, for the new novel I'm writing, which will not be SF.


6. Pop culture or academia?
I think they are both fine ideas.


7. What is the toughest scene you ever wrote?
8. Where do you find your inspirations to write?
9. Food you could eat everyday.
10. Are you into sports or other physical activities?

11. What kind of music speaks to you?
Layered music, the kind of thing you can listen to a hundred times and find something new evertime. Which kind of eliminates most pop music, almost all country & western (which I loathe), and a good deal of what's called "easy listening." (Never understood that label, actually, since I never found it "easy" to listen too.) As I write this, for instance, I have Gyorgy Ligeti playing, specifically "Clocks and Clouds." It's great music for writing odd things to.

Classical, except for opera. Once they start warbling, I leave the room.

Music, to me, is a key to emotional response unmitigated by the distraction of utility--you know, the "pose" that something has to serve some sort of "practical" purpose in order to be of merit. It is what it is, and requires no other defense for being abstract, surreal, outre, or pure. It gets in. So the things that have had the most impact on me and continue to be are those pieces which cause often unnamed mixtures of immediate emotional response. I love Dvorak and Beethoven, most of Stravinsky, and I have an abiding fondness for Camile Saint-Saen's piano concertos (which I think are almost ideal examples of the form). I could listen to Miles Davis all day long. I can't listen to vocal music when I'm writing, so I have a lot of instrumental in my collection. It has to take me somewhere, I want to feel like I've been on a journey when a piece is done, or at least be shown something new. In rock, I have Focus, Phish, U2, Traffic...on and on. But the band that has been at the center of my musical aesthetic since I first heard them in 1971 is Yes.


12. Do you outline your stories or do they just take you along for the ride?
13. Celebrity crush.

14. Who are the biggest influences on your work?
Samuel R. Delany, Iain Banks, Eddison Marshall, Joseph Conrad, Joanna Russ, James Tiptree, Barbara Tuchman... often whoever I happen to be reading at the moment I find worth raving about. My tastes have changed over the last four decades and people I really liked at fifteen I find insufferable now, but certainly if I liked them ever they ended up in the pool of influences at the bottom of my psyche. Heinlein had a big influence, although I couldn't quite say how since my apprehension of him has changed, and it's hard to remember. I read a great deal of Dumas and Verne, but I in no way write like them. I read most of Dickens at one time and came to dislike him, but certainly in his penchant for writing about the seamier side of real life he established a precedent for honesty and verisimilitude in the construction of the worlds we set our stories in.

I have to admit as well that a lot of movies have influenced my writing, sometimes I think more than written works, at least in that aspect of my work which tends to be visual. I've been called a very visual writer, and if so then I have to credit film. I admire Roman Polanski and Francis Ford Coppola immensely, and I think Robert Redford has become an excellent auteur. But as for direct influence on my science fiction, Forbidden Planet and 2001: A Space Odyssey and Blade Runner get pride of place for sheer visual wealth.

Then, of course, there are the non-literary influences, first of which is Donna, who is my first reader/editor/companion/inspiration/wielder of the dreaded red pen.


15. Do you still watch cartoons?

Mark W. Tiedemann began writing shortly after he learned how to read, and has continued, on and off, his whole life. In 1988 he attended Clarion and under instructors Tim Powers, Lisa Goldstein, Samuel Delany, Kim Stanley Robinson, Kate Wilhelm, and Damon Knight he figured out how to write them well enough to sell. His first professional short story appeared in 1990, in Asimovs SF, a story entitled "Targets. " In 1999 he signed a contract with Byron Preiss's iBooks to write three new novels set in Isaac Asimov's robot universe. The following year he sold three novels in his ongoing Secantis Sequence to Meisha Merlin Publishing. The first, Compass Reach, was nominated for the Philip K. Dick Award. His most recent novel, Remains, which combines elements of cyberpunk and detective thriller, was shortlisted for the James Tiptree Jr. Award and made the preliminary Nebula Award ballot. Remains is his tenth novel.

In 1980 he met Donna, who promptly read all his unpublished work and asked him the pointed question, "So have you ever sent any of this out?" starting a long, arduous, and to date unpredictably fascinating process of becoming a real live SF writer. In spite of that, they still live together--happily--in a house in South St. Louis with a resident alien lifeform, a dog, named (appropriately) Coffey.

In 2001 Mark was invited to join the board of directors of the Missouri Center for the Book, the state adjunct program of the Library of Congress Center for the Book and in 2005 he was elected president, a position to which he was just recently re-elected. When not writing or working at The Day Job, Mark is available for speaking engagements and workshops. When he is not doing any of that, he can usually be found at home listening to music, watching movies, reading one of the too many books still on his shelf, and talking to friends. All in all, a fairly "average" life.

Friday, May 04, 2007

HEIDI'S PICK SIX - Jim C. Hines

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at PhotobucketJim C. Hines

HEIDI'S PICK SIX

1. Which of your characters is your favorite?
That's a tough one. Jig the goblin is great -- he's a cowardly runt, but he's clever. Plus he has a pet spider who can set things on fire. What's not to love? I think my favorite thing about Jig is that he never pretends to be anything he's not. He's a coward and a goblin, which means he's perfectly happy to leave you to fight the dragon while he runs away. In Goblin Hero, there's a lot of pressure on Jig to be something more. The other goblins expect him to be this great hero and leader -- after all, he survived the first book -- but the only thing Jig wants is to be left alone. Well, he also wants a good pair of boots.

I'm also quite fond of Talia, from The Stepsister Scheme. She reminds me a little bit of River from Joss Whedon's Firefly. Talia's sane, but she has that whole "I can kill you with my mind" attitude going. Only in Talia's case, she's more likely to kill you with a spoon, or whatever else happens to be handy.


2. Tell me about your travels.
3. Coffee, tea, or milk?

4. What else can you do besides write?
I can juggle all manner of odd objects. The strangest example was when I ended up juggling three boxes of tampons in the grocery store years ago. I don't remember what led to that one, but I swear that my friend and I were both perfectly sober at the time. I could probably still do a few mean yo-yo tricks. And I've learned to do minor car and home repairs without blowing anything up, which is useful.

Having kids, I've also learned how to change a pretty mean diaper.


5. Who are you reading right now?

6. Pop culture or academia?
False dichotomy. Heck, my office-mate in grad school turned in a very well-done paper on South Park. Academia, to me, is about critical thinking and analysis, learning to construct a more sophisticated argument. There's no reason that can't be done equally well with J. K. Rowling or Esther Friesner as it can with Melville or Joyce.

I see the same thing pop up time and again around the whole idea of literature vs. fantasy. People in the literary camps look down on fantasy as junk. Fantasy authors write nasty things about "lit-ra-chure." Personally, I think the whole argument is nonsense. Sure, there's plenty of crappy fantasy out there. Plenty of crappy literary fiction, too. And a lot of the fantasy out there has what I perceive to be strong literary values. Billing literature and fantasy as an either/or situation is just silly.

Goblin Quest is one of the required reads for a local high school. If that doesn't blur the boundaries bewteen pop culture and academia, I don't know what will.


7. What is the toughest scene you ever wrote?

8. Where do you find your inspirations to write?
When I'm writing, I want to care about the story, and I want to have fun writing it. So inspiration comes from things that amuse me, or things I care about, both of which are pretty broad.

Since getting married and having kids, I've seen family themes creeping into my work more often. They're what's most important to me these days. Similarly, most of my really strong fears also tie in to family. So of course that's going to show up in my writing. Relationships, losing a loved one ... lots of great stories in there. Family can provide an awful lot of humor, too!


9. Food you could eat everyday.
10. Are you into sports or other physical activities?
11. What kind of music speaks to you?

12. Do you outline your stories or do they just take you along for the ride?
I do outline most of my books. Then I start writing, and usually by the fourth or fifth chapter, the book begins to mock my outline. It's like the bully on the beach, kicking sand on my scrawny six pages of notes. "Why would your characters do that? Is everyone in this story an idiot? Why has everything gotten so boring in this scene?"

This usually leads to scenes like this one, from the first draft of Goblin Hero:

-----
A change in the footsteps behind him made Jig whirl. He tried to draw his sword, but his hands were wet from his last fall in the snow, and his grip slipped. "What happened to you?"

Grell spread her fingers and examined her hand. The last time Jig looked, Grell had been a lean, muscular warrior, with reflexes like a whip. Now it appeared her body had aged at least a century, and since most goblins didn't live past the age of thirty, that was saying a great deal.

Her back was hunched, and she had traded her sword for a set of rough-carved canes. Her skin and muscles sagged from her bones, like her body had grown too large for her bones. Her face resembled a bruised, rotted fruit.

"Don't ask me," she said. One whiff of her breath made the rotten fruit comparison much more apt. "Looks like the author decided my character wasn't providing enough tension or amusement, and he's too much of a lazy bastard to go back and rewrite my scenes."

She fingered the broken tip of her yellow fang. The other was missing completely.

"Right," said Jig. He glanced upward and whispered, "Just don't do that to me, okay?"
-----

(Just in case anyone's wondering, I do clean these scenes up in the final draft.)


13. Celebrity crush.
14. Who are the biggest influences on your work?

15. Do you still watch cartoons?
I have a six-year-old and a two-year-old. Some nights I lay awake, wondering whether a power drill would be enough to excise the "Go Diego, Go!" theme song from my brain. On the other hand, I suspect my wife and I are bigger fans of Kim Possible than either of the kids. And I would love to see The Tick come back someday....


Jim C. Hines began writing back in 1995, though he tries not to think about that too hard. His first fantasy novel, the humorous adventure Goblin Quest, was released in November of 2006. Goblin Hero came out on May 1 of this year. The final (for now) book in the series, Goblin War, is set for 2008 . . . assuming he can get the final revisions turned in on time.

DAW will also be publishing The Stepsister Scheme in either late 2008 or 2009. If all goes well, this will be the first book in a new series of butt-kicking fairy tale heroines. His proudest moment in this book was writing what may be the best ever use of tableware in a fantasy melee.

He was a first place winner in the 1998 Writers of the Future contest for his story "Blade of the Bunny," and he has since published over thirty other short stories in markets such as Realms of Fantasy, Turn the Other Chick, Sword & Sorceress, and this month's Fantasist Enterprises' anthology Bash Down the Door and Slice Open the Badguy. He also edited an anthology, Heroes in Training, with Martin Greenberg.

Hines lives in Michigan with two wonderful kids, an amazingly patient wife, 2.75 cats, a dog, some fish, a frog, and a defective tadpole. He spends far too much time online at the Jim C. Hines Live Journal.