Wednesday, December 26, 2007

HEIDI'S PICK SIX - Jeri Smith-Ready

Jeri Smith_Ready_Heidi's Pick SixJeri Smith-Ready (2006 Szemere Photography)

HEIDI'S PICK SIX

1. Which of your characters is your favorite?
Definitely Ciara Griffin, the heroine of my upcoming vampire novel, Wicked Game. She’s your typical con artist in many ways—clever, confident, and morally flexible—but she’s not completely nihilistic. Ciara’s on an unusual redemption quest: saving a vampire radio station from corporate takeover, a mission that becomes a matter of life and un-death.

It’s terrific fun to be in Ciara’s head, because I get to say and do things I could never get away with in my own life. My other favorite character, Lucifer from Requiem for the Devil, appeals to me for the same reason.

I suppose I gravitate most strongly to my “bad” protagonists. Maybe I enjoy the challenge of making them sympathetic, or maybe I just relate to them better (let’s not look too hard at that second possibility, shall we?).


2. Tell me about your travels.
In college I backpacked across Europe, where I lived on $26/day by staying in youth hostels, stood up all night on Italian trains in the compartment between the cars (outside the loo), and wandered all over the Greek island of Rhodes tracking down a man named Stavros, which is the equivalent of combing Staten Island for a guy named Steve (but with better scenery). That which did not kill me, made for great stories.

These days, I always seem to end up in wonderful places no one I know has ever heard of, like Stehekin, Washington, or Cape San Blas, Florida, or Tobermory, Ontario.


3. Coffee, tea, or milk?
4. What else can you do besides write?

5. Who are you reading right now?
Right now I’m reading a fascinating novel called The Song Reader, by Lisa Tucker. It’s about a woman who tells people’s fortunes based on the songs stuck in their heads. I love books with musical frameworks. High Fidelity by Nick Hornsby and Stupid and Contagious by Caprice Crane are two others I could read again and again.


6. Pop culture or academia?

7. What is the toughest scene you ever wrote?
Just last week, for the first time, I wrote a scene in which a point-of-view character dies (*for good*, which isn’t always a given in my Aspect of Crow fantasy series). I not only cried buckets, but I scared myself; it was a ruthless, cold-blooded murder the character couldn’t escape.

Sigh...poor thing. What a mean old writer-god I am.


8. Where do you find your inspirations to write?

9. Food you could eat everyday.
Fresh pineapple. Not just every day, but every second. Maybe it’s genetic—maybe my Irish brain lacks the satiation switch for tropical fruit. You know how if a horse gets into a bag of oats, it can literally eat itself to death? That’s me and pineapple.

I’ve also been known to eat an entire box of Kraft Original Macaroni ‘n’ Cheese, right out of the mixing bowl, standing next to the sink.

But I couldn’t do that every day.


10. Are you into sports or other physical activities?

11. What kind of music speaks to you?
Music is the source of much of my inspiration, which is funny considering I have absolutely no talent (well, I played a pretty mean flute in middle school). Music can illuminate the hidden corners of the human soul in a way that words can’t do alone. This quality makes
it one of the most powerful gifts a novelist can use in that never-ending quest for psychological truth.

As to what kind of music speaks to me most, these days it’s usually some form of rock or world music. I’m a huge fan of (*takes a deep breath*) delta blues, rockabilly, psychedelic, punk, goth, reggae, Celtic, Native American, and industrial, as well as the more ironic, self-aware forms of metal.

Not coincidentally, many of these styles are represented by the DJs in Wicked Game, who are each stuck in the eras in which they were turned. It’s one reason why I’m so excited about this series—I get to listen to music, buy music, learn about music, talk about music, all as part
of my job! I’m the luckiest person in the world.


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?

Jeri Smith-Ready has been writing fiction since the night she had her first double espresso. She holds a master’s degree in environmental policy and lives in Maryland with her husband, two cats, and a retired racing greyhound.

Her hobbies include cooking and animals—though not at the same time, unless you count the cat's culinary supervision, which looks remarkably like sitting on the floor waiting for food to drop.

Jeri fosters shelter dogs with Tails of Hope Sanctuary. As of this writing, she has hosted fifteen dogs at her home, all of whom have found loving adopters.

Monday, December 24, 2007

HEIDI'S PICK SIX - Deidre Knight

Deidre Knight_Heidi's Pick SixDeidre Knight

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?
What else “can” I do—or do I want to do? LOL! You’re too funny! Well, I have this new, wannabe emerging hobby and that’s learning to make clothes. My nine-year-old and I are PROJECT RUNWAY addicts, but our interest in sewing together predates that. Growing up, my amazing stepmother was into every possible type of needlework—needlepoint, cross stitch, knitting, crochet, sewing. You name it. I grew up learning all of these skills, at least nominally or touching on them, with her. Well, except crochet which I learned last year from then Knight Agency employee Julie Ramsey. Anyway, my daughter constantly tells me she wants to be a fashion designer, so I finally dusted off my stepmother’s sewing machine—she passed away four years ago. I think she’d love knowing that her sewing machine is inspiring a new generation of little needleworkers!


5. Who are you reading right now?
I’m reading a book called Change or Die that is nonfiction and looks at why—even when faced with life/death circumstances—90% of humans still refuse to change. I have a number of areas of my life that I want to improve and change, so I thought this book would offer me some good insights on how to, say, lose weight! I’ve also got ten books beside my bed, all purchased in the past two weeks. Some are romance, some nonfiction, fantasy… older Suzanne Brockmann, Nelson DeMille. I tend to read in a more diverse way than I did for a few years there. I’m enjoying reading across lots of genres, although romance is a great love of mine! Always will be.


6. Pop culture or academia?
Oh, goodness, I am *so* pop culture over academia, it’s not even funny. My brain was never wired for serious study. I was the student whose mind always wandered, thinking about the sorts of stories I now put in books. Of course, I loved English and art and the more creative subjects, but in the end, I’m a pop culture queen. Example: As I answer these questions I have a movie on in the background, one I really enjoyed back in the late 80’s, I think, called BLOWN AWAY. Love movies, love television shows, love music… magazines, books, books and more books.


7. What is the toughest scene you ever wrote?

8. Where do you find your inspirations to write?
I’ll tell you the truth… they’re like patchworks for me. Sometimes little pieces haunt my mind for years, until I figure out how to meld one little fragment with a new one that’s come to me. And sometimes, very high-concept ideas download into my brain from the ether, growing from the smallest little tidbit or detail. You know when you’re working a puzzle, and you find this one piece that allows ten others to slide quickly in beside that piece? That’s how the concepts come sometimes. Just yesterday I heard a fragment of a phrase that became a title idea…next thing I knew I was hearing the actual story pitch in my head, knew the time period the whole story would take place over. Had bad guys/good guys and a heroine with a painful backstory. But that’s unusual. Normally I have to piece together over a period of time before I’m ready to really roll with a new book idea.


9. Food you could eat everyday.
If there were no health complications, no fat grams, and no possible repercussions—I’d eat Mexican every single day. Fajitas, salads, tacos… black beans, refried beans, tortillas. There’s good variety there, so yeah, I could eat it every day!


10. Are you into sports or other physical activities?

11. What kind of music speaks to you?
When I was in college I was a radio DJ, and my radio show was called Deidre’s eclectic hour because I’d play Madonna’s Borderline, then go right into Charles Mingus’s Haitian Fight Song, then head into Elvis Costello. I’m pretty much the same these days, although I’m a bit cyclical. So lately, I’ve been listening to BBC’s Radio One a lot in my car, and that’s made me really get back into dance music. I like that it’s pop radio without being *American* pop radio, i.e. songs I’ve heard zillions of times. Seems like every summer I get into country music. Don’t know why, but it tends to happen. Tim McGraw is a total fave of mine. Counting Crows, Wallflowers, Alison Kraus, Jayhawks, Wilco, Bob Dylan, I tend to love a bit of a rootsy sound in my rock. Late at night I’ll get into jazz—standards, classic vocalists like Billie Holliday or Dakota Staton or even hokey type crooners like Paul Anka. But see, it was hokey when we were young—now if you’re into Sergio Mendez, it’s way cool! J


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?


Deidre Knight is a literary agent, mom, wife, novelist and southern woman, and proud to answer to all of these titles. Before she founded The Knight Agency in 1996, Deidre worked behind the camera in movies and television. During the eleven years since she launched her literary agency, she has grown The Knight Agency to national prominence, shepherding authors on to every major bestseller list. With agency sales of more than 1,000 titles to major publishers, a large percentage of which are in the categories of romance and women’s fiction, Deidre has established a reputation for discovering vivid and unique storytellers and is considered an industry expert on the hot trend of paranormal fiction. Writing in that genre, she creates fresh characters and strong, emotional storylines. One editor has described her as having “tremendous verve and a great knack for character and smart scenes.” Others have called her writing “outstanding” and “emotionally evocative.”

Deidre began her writing career at age nine, when her award-winning essay on Barbie was published in her hometown newspaper, The Atlanta Journal and Constitution. She has been writing in one form or another ever since. After nearly a decade of working with Knight Agency clients, helping them discover their creative potential, Deidre’s dream of writing romance came true in the form of her Midnight Warrior series. Her eagerly awaited Parallel Desire released in December 2006.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

HEIDI'S PICK SIX - Alistair Langston

Alistair Langston_Heidi's Pick SixAlistair Langston

HEIDI'S PICK SIX

1. Which of your characters is your favorite?
I guess Saul from Aspects of a Psychopath has been one of my favourite characters simply because he is so different. He is he type of bloke you just don't want to get on the wrong side of. Not because of his physical presence but more for his unpredictability. He is as likely to slit your throat as he is to buy you a beer. He is the antihero that the reader can't wait to see the demise of but whatever situation Saul finds himself in he will find a way out. As a result he was a great character to write about because there are many routes that his path can take. with a bit of luck he will be returning in the not too distant future in a sequel to Aspects of a Psychopath.


2. Tell me about your travels.

3. Coffee, tea, or milk?
Coffee, tea or milk... where's the wine? Okay if I can't have wine I guess it will have to be tea. It's a great refreshing drink - taken with a little milk and a single spoon of sugar. I probably drink far too much of it during the day but I enjoy it. I used to be a big coffee drinker years back then I overdosed on filtered coffee one day and that was the end. These days you will only find me drinking coffee either late at night at a motorway service station or in a restaurant at the end of a meal. Now any chance on a glass of wine... preferably red!!!


4. What else can you do besides write?
I spent 15 years or so after leaving college, managing various bars and nightclubs. It was great fun at the time and I got to work in some interesting places with a varied mix of people. However towards the end I was looking for a change and had become involved with the IT side of things and also returned to college and after being made redundant from a company I was working for I was fortunate to find a career in the IT department of a local council. Now my routine is 9 to 5 and spent developing new computer systems and maintaining existing systems.


5. Who are you reading right now?
I'm reading Clive Barker's Mister B. Gone. It's a great little book which I think may have been a little unfairly treated by reviewers. Basically its the autobiography of a demon named Jakabok Botch with a little twist in the way the story is told. I first cam across Clive Barker when he published the Books of Blood and have pretty much read everything since, though if I have a favourite of his books it would either be Weaveworld or the Books of The Art series... come on Clive when are we going to see the third one?


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

8. Where do you find your inspirations to write?
Pretty much just about everywhere. I am currently completing a science fiction novel whose origins could probably be pinpointed to my experience with working in the club scene. Funny enough this was a question that I was often asked by people who had read Aspects of a Psychopath... obviously I have not experienced many of the atrocities that Saul and a few of the other characters get up to but they are often based in fact at some level. Perhaps a remembered newspaper story or maybe an argument between two people that I have seen. Throw all these ideas into the back of the mind and leave them to brew for a while and eventually you will get something out that might be ten times worse than the original idea but well suited to the story.


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 will sketch out a rough story - basically details of the main character, where the story is going to start and the problems faced - then I will usually sit back and enjoy the experience of seeing where the characters and their actions take me. One thing is not to be afraid of making changes.

Take the sequel to Aspects of a Psychopath that I've been working on. I had a pretty good idea of where it was going but at an early stage I realised that one of the secondary characters had a much more important role than I had originally anticipated and after a while it was evident that I had to go back and change their history in order to blend them into the story more. If I hadn't let the character lead me then perhaps I would never have discovered the extra possibilities.

Also with the sequel I knew the story I wanted to tell but I wanted to change the writing style to that used in the original novel, which was primarily journal entries in a diary. However I could not find an easy solution so in the end I decided to get on with writing the story at least in one style until the one I wanted presented itself to me. Which is exactly what happened. Recently after going through an earlier draft, I was reading a scene and realised it could be written differently... as I began working on it again it became evident that if I applied the same idea to the entire book which I had applied to the single scene then I had found the writing style I had originally been looking for. There are a few things I need to tie up but its looking good and hopefully you'll be able to see the finished result in the not too distant future.


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

Alistair Langston is a writer living near Glasgow, Scotland. His first novel Aspects of a Psychopath was published by Telos Publishing and his latest novella, Damon, was published as an e-book by Forbidden Publications. Alistair is currently completing a science fiction novel as well as a follow up to Aspects of a Psychopath.

Friday, December 21, 2007

HEIDI'S PICK SIX - Joel A. Sutherland

Joel A. Sutherland_Heidi's Pick Six

HEIDI'S PICK SIX

1. Which of your characters is your favorite?
Without a doubt, hands down, this has got to be Clayton, the teenage boy in my short story “Something Fishy This Way Comes”, which was published in Permuted Press’ The Undead: Skin and Bones. Clayton is a big mish-mash of my high school friends (and maybe some of me thrown in for good measure). Many of the idiotic things that Clayton does in the course of the story are based on real events. Not the zombie gold fish, mind you, but you get the picture. (And yes, mish-mash is the technical term.)


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

4. What else can you do besides write?
I can edit! Graveside Tales just published my first book as an editor, Fried! Fast Food, Slow Deaths, an anthology of deep-fried horror stories. It comes endorsed by some big-name horror authors, such as Jeff Strand, Kim Paffenroth and Fran Friel, and I’ve just found out that it’s been recommended for a Bram Stoker Award, a huge honour. My co-editor, Colleen Morris (who also happens to be my wife), and I are now planning our next anthology. Details will be announced soon.


5. Who are you reading right now?
I just finished book four in Naomi Novik’s Temeraire series, Empire of Ivory. The first three books were solid historical fantasy tales, but I felt the fourth was a bit of a letdown. I’ll still be first in line when the fifth book is released. I’m now about halfway through Cutting Block Press’ Horror Library Vol 2, which is scaring the crap out of me. Standout stories so far have been Ian Rogers’ “Charlotte’s Frequency” and Matt Hults’ “The Show Must Live On”.


6. Pop culture or academia?

7. What is the toughest scene you ever wrote?
The final scene in my first novel, Frozen Blood. It’s a...devastating scene, emotionally and physically, and writing it literally drained me. I can’t say anything else because the book hasn’t been published yet. Lachesis Publishing will release it in 2008.


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?

12. Do you outline your stories or do they just take you along for the ride?
It depends on the book or story. For instance, I painstakingly outlined my children’s storybook, The Teddy Bears of Tomorrow. It’s a short book and I wanted it to move quickly to maintain a child’s interest, so every word had to count. But most times I just jump in the river and see where the current takes me. It’s more fun that way. And I’m a big Lazy River fan at water parks.


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

15. Do you still watch cartoons?
Watching Homer Simpson sing “Spider-Pig” was the hardest I laughed at the movies this year, so yeah, I still watch cartoons. Fun fact: I’m actually an 8-year-old in a 27-year-old’s body.


Joel A. Sutherland is a librarian, an author and an editor. His short fiction has appeared in many anthologies and magazines. He is currently completing his Masters of Library and Information Science from the University of Wales, Aberystwyth. He lives in Whitby, Ontario, with his wife and their Goldendoodle. Visit Sutherland online at www.joelasutherland.com.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

HEIDI'S PICK SIX - Rhonda Mason

Rhonda Mason_Heidi's Pick SixRhonda Mason

HEIDI'S PICK SIX

1. Which of your characters is your favorite?
Without a doubt that would be Tae, the main character of my thesis novel Sworn Sword. She is so tough and driven. She seems strong to everyone else, and she is, but on the inside she is hurting and lost. She's a complex character who you can't help but feel empathy for ... and it doesn't hurt that she can beat just about anyone in a sword fight. She's the reason I became a writer, to tell her story.


2. Tell me about your travels.

3. Coffee, tea, or milk?
All three!! I have a dire weakness for whole milk, though I try to drink 2% at least. I like coffee with tons of sugar, and any kind of stout British tea. No herbal tea for me.


4. What else can you do besides write?

5. Who are you reading right now?
My Critique partner Jen Brooks. Her new novel Wishstone is so fabulously painful, wait until you read it! It's full of bitter regrets, tentative hopes and very grey moral choices. Awesome stuff, as usual.


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.
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'm one of the few outliners. I think it's a misconception that outlining does not let the story take me for a ride. Stories go through lots of phases with me. I do a ton of just thinking about the plot, working it over in my head. Next is the scribbling random notes down at all odd hours of the day, a great line here, a name of a character yet to be formed there, a rule for magic somewhere else. That's all typically while I'm still writing another project. Then when I sit down to outline, I try to put everything down that I've already come up with in one file, so I know where the story's going. Then (and this is the truly anal part) I like to outline scene by scene.

It's one thing to know what's going to happen in a scene: Tae defeat's Jok in a swordfight. It's another to know exactly how that happens, who stands where, who talks what trash, what the weather is doing. I find the act of putting prose on paper grueling enough, I like to have all the other details worked out so that I can watch the whole scene in my mind before I try to actually write it. Of course, that's the ideal situation.

I have thrown out whole outlines and plots as early as the first 10 pages, and after all my planning and writing, I rewrote the last half of my thesis novel, so, I think for me, that outlining is just as much winging it as not outlining. I just waste less time rewriting something that was never going to have worked in the first place. I think people mistakenly believe that once a writer outlines, they stick to it religiously. That couldn't be farther from the truth. As always, the story dictates my direction, and I go where it goes. I just like to be prepared. :) (Can you tell this is a soapbox issue of mine?)


13. Celebrity crush.
Christian Bale


14. Who are the biggest influences on your work?
Melanie Rawn, Anne Bishop, Brian Jacques, Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman, Tad Williams


15. Do you still watch cartoons?

Rhonda Mason lives in New England, where she writes whenever she can conquer her own self-doubts. She has a BS in Environmental Science and an MA in Writing Popular Fiction from Seton Hill University. Her urban fantasy short story "Love's Consequence" appeared in the Modern Magic anthology, and her historical romance novel, Dishonorable Intentions, is being released by Cerridwen Press next year.

She divides her time between writing romance and writing fantasy that has strong romantic themes and plenty of fighting. Ideally she'd love to be working on Sworn Sword's sequel, but her current project is a futuristic romance titled Empress Game.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

HEIDI'S PICK SIX - Matthew Cook

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at PhotobucketMatthew Cook

HEIDI'S PICK SIX

1. Which of your characters is your favorite?
Well, Kirin from the Blood Magic series was the hardest to write, seeing as how she’s a troubled woman, a childless wife in an unhappy, abusive marriage, as well as a necromancer, further complicated by the fact that she speaks to the reader in first person. Given the kind words so many female readers have given me about how well they thought I captured her voice, though, she will always have a place in my heart. If we’re talking about pure favorites, though, it has to be Perry, the protagonist from my forthcoming urban fantasy series. Perry is in many ways a guy just like me – an artist living in Chicago, struggling just to make a living (write what you know, right?). In his case, however, he gets thrust into the middle of a faerie war when he’s fingered as the “prophesied hero” that’s central to the struggle. Through the book, he’s just so lost, struggling to understand the things that are happening to him and the way his world is being overturned, and writing him was deeply gratifying. Hopefully he’ll prove as fascinating to a publisher as he is to me – wish me luck!


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

4. What else can you do besides write?
I’m trained as a visual artist and have a BFA from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, so I love taking photographs, illustrating and doing ceramics. I also can play drums, mainly African hand drums. Lately, I’ve been putting all of my creative eggs in the writing basket, however (I had no idea how writing would grow to demand so much of my creative attention), so I’ve had to step back from that to keep from going insane. When I’m not writing, I like playing PC games and writing reviews about them over on MyGamer.com, where I’m a senior editor. I also like modifying my cars – I’m a lifelong Mini Cooper fan, and have a pair of cars that I like tinkering with on weekends.


5. Who are you reading right now?
6. Pop culture or academia?

7. What is the toughest scene you ever wrote?
The death of Kirin’s baby and her temptation to resurrect it in Blood Magic, hands down. I was struggling with the end of that book, and the idea I had was, quite frankly, not very dramatic. Then my wife and I were talking in bed one night and she suggested the scene that finally appeared in the book. It was so disturbing to me – repellent, really – that it actually gave me nightmares for a week, before I finally forced myself to just sit down and write it. Thinking about it even now makes my skin crawl, which is the reaction I was hoping to evoke in the reader.


8. Where do you find your inspirations to write?
Everywhere and anywhere. Anything I encounter: a novel or a nonfiction book; an article in a magazine; an interview on NPR; a show on the Discovery Channel; people I meet on the street… everything has the potential to inform a writer’s work. That’s why I believe that writers or other creative people should experience as much of life as they can, talk to as many people as possible and always try to go outside the boundaries of their everyday lives in order to experience new things. As far as what inspires me to sit down every day and put words on paper, it’s no big secret: it simply was a case of where the pain of NOT writing at one magical point exceeded the pain of getting up an hour early every morning to write. Once you hit that point, writing daily is the easier path.


9. Food you could eat everyday.

10. Are you into sports or other physical activities?
When I was in high school I was the archetypical gamer/couch potato and by the time I was 27 I weighed 250 lbs. Luckily, I was diagnosed with diabetes in my late 20’s and it really got me up off my lazy ass and got me moving. I chose to look on the disease that killed my grandfathers as a rallying cry to be more physically fit, and now I go to a gym several times a week. I also have done kendo, a Japanese martial art using bamboo swords, for several years, and while I’m not active in it at the moment (my group fell apart), I’m looking to start it up again as soon as possible. I miss bludgeoning people in the head with a stick – it’s a wonderful stress reliever.


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 generally write a loose outline and then let the characters do all the hard work as I write. I believe that if the writer really nails the character’s motives and drives that the plot will follow inevitably from the moment that character is dropped into a dramatic situation. The trick is coming up with the compelling character as well as the dramatic situation, and allowing them to interact with a minimum of preconceived notions. That said, the risk is that often my characters will go off and do weird things that I didn’t predict, which is very cool, but it can also be frustrating when they go down dead-end plot roads. In the end though, that frustration is almost always outweighed by the thrill of discovery, as unexpected story path open up.


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

Matthew Cook is a writer and artist living in Columbus, Ohio. After years of struggling to break into the world of visual arts, Matt took a “real job” in the online banking industry, which is still how he pays the bills.

In 2002, Matt started work on yet another draft of an urban fantasy novel that had been rattling around in his head since college: a story about a “regular Joe” that gets swept up in a faerie war. This time, the writing habit stuck, and three years (and 200,000 words later) he had the first draft of his book.

Daunted by the prospect of editing such a large work (publisher and author friends kindly informed him that very few – if any – publishers would take a risk on such a large manuscript from a first-time author), Matt decided to take a break from the urban fantasy, and began dabbling in a character study of a young woman that turns to necromancy to create “sweetlings”: undead children that fill the void in her heart where living children should be. That sketch soon took on a life of its own, resulting in the dark fantasy novel Blood Magic (available from Juno Books.

Matt has written a sequel to Blood Magic, titled Nights of Sin, which will be available in August 2008, also from Juno. He is also working on the final edit to the urban fantasy, and hopes to publish it in 2009. He resides in a modest, cookie-cutter house in a cookie-cutter suburban sub-division with his wife, 2 children and multiple furry/feathered/finned pets, but lives 24/7 in the weird spaces in his head. Sometimes he comes out just long enough to do interviews or pen the occasional email, forum post or blog entry. You can learn more about him at: http://bloodmagicbooks.blogspot.com/

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Book Review: The Fix Reviews SAILS AND SORCERY

Book Reviews

Here's what Kimberly Lundstrom at The Fix had to say about my story "The Islands of Hope" in the Fantasist Enterprises' anthology Sails and Sorcery: Tales of Nautical Fantasy:

"Miller’s prose is clear, bold, and direct. She introduces us to a realistic, interesting, sympathetic character in Julian, whose motivations are believable and clearly communicated in a tale that arcs gracefully through conflict and complications, and comes to its inevitable, but still unexpected conclusion."

Thank you, Kimberly.

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This is the first time my story has been mentioned in one of the reviews.

Thanks to Paul S. Kemp, who also received praise for his story "The Spinner", for finding this review.


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Monday, December 17, 2007

HEIDI'S PICK SIX - Tim Powers

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at PhotobucketTim Powers Photo by Beth Gwinn

HEIDI'S PICK SIX

1. Which of your characters is your favorite?
I think Archimedes (Arky) Mavranos, from Last Call and Earthquake Weather -- he's a type of person I like, competent, humorous, loyal, and generally drunk.


2. Tell me about your travels.
We just about exclusively travel to attend science fiction conventions! But those have taken us to Norway, France, Germany, Spain, Australia and Israel. And we always take a week or two so we can look around a bit. So far our favorite places -- aside from Los Angeles! -- are Tel Aviv and Leipzig.


3. Coffee, tea, or milk?

4. What else can you do besides write?
Not much! I've always figured that the best way to become a writer is to make yourself unfit for all other employment. I do teach two days a week, but that's just explaining how I write, so really it's not all that different.


5. Who are you reading right now?
Right now I'm reading -- re-reading, I should say -- a bunch of Dick Francis mysteries. I can see he's a much better writer than I am, and I keep trying to figure out exactly how he does it.


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.
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 outline like crazy -- I try to know every detail of the story, even a lot of the dialogue, before I write the first sentence. If I let the story discover its own path, all my books would be about people who never get out of bed.


13. Celebrity crush.

14. Who are the biggest influences on your work?
From our genre, that'd be Fritz Leiber, mainly. And H. P. Lovecraft, and Sturgeon, and James Branch Cabell. From outside the genre, it'd be John D. MacDonald, Kingsley Amis and Raymond Chandler, probably. Actually a lot of these are writers I hope I've been influenced by!


15. Do you still watch cartoons?

Tim Powers works include The Skies Discrowned, Epitaph in Rust, The Anubis Gates, which won the Philip K. Dick Award, Dinner at Deviant's Palace, which won the Philip K. Dick Award, On Stranger Tides, The Stress of Her Regard, Last Call, which won a World Fantasy Award and a Locus Award, Expiration Date and Earthquake Weather, which both won Locus Awards, Declare, which won a World Fantasy Award and an International Horror Guild Award, and Three Days to Never.

Powers lives in San Bernardino CA with his wife Serena.

You can everything you need to now about Tim at http://www.theworksoftimpowers.com.

Friday, December 14, 2007

HEIDI'S PICK SIX - James T. Durkin

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at PhotobucketJames T. Durkin

HEIDI'S PICK SIX

1. Which of your characters is your favorite?
Robert Hamlin, main character from my first novel In My Dreams. He epitomizes what is best in all of us.


2. Tell me about your travels.

3. Coffee, tea, or milk?
That's easy, milk. Have only had one cup of coffee in my entire life. Thought it tasted horrible. Wish I said that about beer when I was in college.


4. What else can you do besides write?
Numerous things. Work full-time as an investigator. Teach American Politics, part-time, at two local community colleges, now for fifteen years. Try to be the best father I can. Am currently training to try and set the world record for walking on a treadmill. Event will correspond with the release of my second novel, The Call of Angels in September of 2008.


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.
That's simple: any pasta dish or pizza. I love spaghetti. Food is full of carbs.


10. Are you into sports or other physical activities?
I love sports, particularly football. Sports unite us as a community and give us something to cheer for, in a positive manner. I exercise a lot. As mentioned above, I am training for a world record attempt event next September. To date, I have lost 22 pounds for the year. After eating a large meal, go and work it off. I exercise now 4-6 days a week, from raking leaves to walking to swimming to running up a hill to jump-roping to leaping on a trampoline. I've learned in the past year you can lose weight and eat what you want. Here is the simple formula: you will lose weight if you burn more calories each month than what you take in. (The trick is do not weigh in each day because you'll be frustrated. Weigh-in once a month---and watch the results.)


11. What kind of music speaks to you?
Anything that is upbeat, positive and loud. That eliminates country music (lol). I love percussion instruments, which helps explain why I've gone to see Blue Man Group four times. When I pursue my attempt on the treadmill next year, upbeat music will help to keep me walking between 2 and 6 (am).


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?

James T. Durkin is the author of In My Dreams, a novel about a young man from the Suburbs of Chicago who gets elected President of the U.S. at the age of 29. Many cities in the Chicagoland Area are named in the storyline. He has completed writing the sequel, The Call of Angels that continues the storyline set forth in his first novel. It is scheduled to be published in August of 2008.

Durkin is a Civil Investigator serving as a contract employee for an agency of the federal government. Before beginning his career he earned both his Bachelor and Masters of Science Degrees in Political Science from Illinois State University.

He is a part-time college instructor of American Politics. Teaching Political Science classes since 1992, he believes in a lively discussion format and encourages his students to challenge their opinions in addressing today’s problems. He performs various charitable activities. They include: participating in a number of activities in his church; walking as a Team Member at the Relay for the American Cancer Society at Downers Grove North HS and organizing an annual drive in February through his church to collect personal care items to benefit the Woodridge Community Pantry.

Durkin is also training to set the World Record for walking on a treadmill. He is doing the walk to raise awareness of Deep Venous Thrombosis (DVT), which is having blood clots in the deep vein of a leg; and to benefit a local educational foundation. The event is scheduled for September of 2008.

He used his experiences from working on several political campaigns, knowledge about politics from teaching in the classroom, and from his academic studies to write a novel that many readers have described as educational, inspirational, and motivational.

Also, he is the co-founder of the Authors Marketing Group. The group consists of published authors from the Chicago Area who wish to share positive marketing experiences with other published or potential authors on how to sell more books. The group meets six times each year at the Woodridge Public Library.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

HEIDI'S PICK SIX - Elizabeth Coley

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at PhotobucketElizabeth Coley

HEIDI'S PICK SIX

1. Which of your characters is your favorite?
That's like asking which of your kids is your favorite. You've done it right if each of them secretly thinks he or she is your favorite. You love the first one so much, because it's just the two of you spending all your time together and everything is a discovery. And you adore your second, because this time you actually know what you're doing and you can enjoy each other in a more relaxed way. And the next one is treasured because she fills a role and a place in your heart the other two left vacant, and she fairly explodes with personality. Wait, are we talking about my characters or my kids?


2. Tell me about your travels.
This is a great question because it gives me a chance to tell you how Rick Steves changed our lives the day I re-upped our NPR pledge and got his travel guide as the thank you premium. (I hope it's ok to plug him here because Heidi covers domestic travel). We learned how to pack a family of five into five carry-on backpacks that everyone could manage. Even the six-year-old could carry her own. We said goodbye forever to the anxiety of lost luggage. Two weeks in Europe, one carry-on bag. It works. I dare you to try it and change your life, too.

Our backpacks have now been to Germany, Hungary, Austria, Greece, Italy, Croatia, Slovenia, and Belize. We've learned that Italian food is, in fact, the universal food of Europe, as commonly accepted as the Euro. Some of the highlights--Mad Ludwig's castles in Bavaria, the Terror Museum in Budapest, the Danube hydrofoil out of Vienna, the Christian and Byzantine Museum in Athens, the Duomo in Florence, the coastal islands of Croatia with their Venetian architecture, and the flower market in Lubljana, capital city of Slovenia. Beautiful, friendly Belize was the source of inspiration for my current Nano novel, with its evocative caves and ancient abandoned cities. The short list doesn’t do justice to the breadth of wonderful experiences waiting out there. And almost everyone speaks a little English.


3. Coffee, tea, or milk?
Actually, being half-British, I wake up to tea in the morning and recharge with tea at mid-afternoon teatime. But my guilty secret is that I bribe myself with a homemade double espresso latte when I sit down to write. It's part of the procrastination and warm-up ritual. Coffee-flavored hot, foamy milk. Calcium and caffeine now appearing together.


4. What else can you do besides write?
I'm a dabbler in life experiences, so I can play the piano a little, play the flute even less. One day I'd like to dabble in classical guitar. I've made sand paintings, silver jewelry, and stained glass--one piece each. I've tried pottery (it blew up) and candy making (far more rewarding). I've taken yoga, tai chi, and a hip hop class for middle-aged women. I started playing tennis more seriously a year ago--that's one that might actually stick because it's something I do with my son. I can sew curtains and costumes, but nothing I'd actually wear outside the house. I can produce a halfway decent knit sweater and a great scarf. I can identify a fairly large number of plants and birds. The things I most enjoy and do well are photography, cooking, and singing.


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.
Instant oatmeal, because I have to see if the Quaker Oats promise actually works. But my heart belongs to pizza. If I were stranded on a deserted island and could only have one kind of food air-lifted in, pizza would beat everything else.


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 usually start with a protagonist, a premise, and a title. From there on out it's a wild ride of discovery to a vaguely imagined destination. The price paid for leaving the road map to that destination in the glove box is that I've completely rewritten my endings twice. I do make notes about upcoming events, but how they play out in each scene is determined at the keyboard or in longhand scribbles. I love disappearing into the zone, taking dictation from the ether when it happens. Other days, it's just one word after another and hope for the best.


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

Elizabeth Coley is an aspiring author on the cusp of breaking in with her first published novel. She writes speculative fiction for young adults, ranging from starship adventures to near future to alternate history. Her three kids serve as inspiration, first readers, and merciless critics. Her husband generously supports her writing habit. Elizabeth lives in Columbus, Ohio where she regularly attends Context and the Northern Ohio SCBWI conferences.

21st Annual Pennwriters Conference

Joyce Carol Oates will be the keynote speaker for the 21st Annual Pennwriters Conference at the Host Resort in Lancaster, Pennsylvania.

Tickets for the May 16-18, 2008 event go on sale January 2, 2008, at www.pennwriters.org or by e-mailing the conference coordinator at conferenceco1@pennwriters.org for a registration form. Three-day conference packages start at $199 for members and $249 for nonmembers. After March 2, 2008, dinner tickets with Joyce Carol Oates will be sold separately from the conference at $65 for Pennwriters members and $99 for nonmembers..

Oates, who has been writing since age 14 and is now a creative writing professor at Princeton University, released her 36th book, The Gravedigger's Daughter, this year. Her dinner presentation on Friday evening, May 16, will include commentary on her books and the writing process as well as a question and answer session and a book signing.

Oates' presentation is one of many events during the three-day conference that are designed to introduce beginning writers to the world of publishing and to provide experienced authors with opportunities to network. The conference theme, "A Writer¹s Smorgasbord," reflects the rich traditions of Lancaster County and the diverse nature of writing as a career.

Included in the conference price is the opportunity for writers to pitch finished manuscripts to 10 well-established agents and editors in the publishing business. Among them are Irene Goodman, an agent who started as the assistant to Stephen King's editor 25 years ago and has since built her own agency in New York City, and Melanie Donovan, the executive editor of HarperCollins Children. These 10-minute pitches are designed to give writers the chance to bypass the traditional query letter process and present their work face-to-face.

Other agents scheduled to be at the conference include agents Ginger Clark from Curtis Brown, Ltd., Jessica Regel from Jean V. Naggar Literary Agency, and Elaine P. English. Other editors include Editor in Chief Ginjer Buchanan from Ace/Roc, Associate Editor Paul Stevens from Tom Doherty Associates (Tor/Forge), Assistant Editor Tessa Woodward from Avon, and Editorial Director Jane Friedman from F+W Publications.

Hour-long workshops led by agents, editors, and published authors start Friday morning and continue throughout the weekend until Sunday at noon. Visiting authors include Jonathan Maberry, Bram Stoker award-winning author of Ghost Road Blues; Maria V. Snyder, winner of the 2006 Compton Crook Award for Best First Novel, Poison Study; Timons Esaias, an Asimov's Reader Choice Award winner; and debut author D.L. Wilson, who will also speak during Saturday's luncheon.

Pennwriters is a statewide organization of more than 450 published and unpublished writers from Pennsylvania. Annual conferences are held in alternating years in Pittsburgh and either Harrisburg or Lancaster.



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Monday, December 10, 2007

HEIDI'S PICK SIX - Christopher Paul Carey

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at PhotobucketChristopher Paul Carey

HEIDI'S PICK SIX

1. Which of your characters is your favorite?
I won’t name an absolute favorite character because the other characters might get jealous. One of my favorites is Aleste, one of two protagonists from my thesis novel which I wrote while getting my Master’s degree at Seton Hill. Originally meant to be a tertiary character, Aleste quickly asserted her spunky will and pushed the other characters off the page. I like her for the way she matured in response to the terrible things that confronted her but yet in other ways remained the same stubborn-minded character as ever. She learned who she was, and what she needed to do. And she did it. There can be no better definition of hero.


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?
I just finished Caesar’s Column, an early work of science fiction dystopia by Ignatius Donnelly. Donnelly was a U.S. Congressman, Atlantis scholar, and apologist for Sir Francis Bacon (who he believed was the true author of the Shakespeare plays). I’ve been going through Donnelly’s whole catalog because he was such an interesting personality. I also just finished Tobias Buckell’s Ragamuffin, which I found an extremely entertaining, fast-paced read, even better than the first book in the series, which I also enjoyed. Next up is S.M. Stirling’s The Sky People. And I’m prepping for a short historical conspiracy novel with a science fiction twist that I want to write, so I’m reading Robert V. Remini’s The House: A History of the House of Representatives, which won the National Book Award a year or two ago.


6. Pop culture or academia?
I write some metafiction, so I have a tendency to fuse both. If you read my essay in Myths for the Modern Age, you’ll see what I mean. I found myself at home in a practical genre writing school like Seton Hill University’s Writing Popular Fiction program, as opposed to a program that’s all about theory and no doing. I’ve always liked the apprenticeship model of learning, and that’s what I found at SHU. I do have a fondness for theory too, though.


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?
Music that’s there, visceral in either a quiet or a loud way. The work Jon Hassell did with Brian Eno is some of my favorite music. Bob Dylan, for his presence and for his ability to photograph with words. The book I’m currently shopping is a science fiction novel about music and free will. Music is important to me.


12. Do you outline your stories or do they just take you along for the ride?
A little of both. I outline heavily, and then I veer from the outline as needed. The novel I’m working on now has a twenty-six page chapter outline, as well as a thick folder of notes to accompany it. But about a quarter of the way thorough the outline, the story started to stretch, recombine, and mutate. That’s okay. Stories are organic. I’m sure the bards of old innovated at points as they went along.


13. Celebrity crush.

14. Who are the biggest influences on your work?
When I was young I read everything in print by Edgar Rice Burroughs, who infused me with a love of adventure and the fantastic. Later I discovered Philip José Farmer, who worked a bit in Burroughs’ milieu but—with no offense to Burroughs, whose work and characters remain immortal—also transcended and matured it. One of your questions was about pop culture and academia, and Phil Farmer was the one who drove home the strengths and the weaknesses of both for me. Pop lit and the so-called literary fic are jealous of one another, but if you take a little of both you can really do something interesting. But more than that, Phil taught me an enormous amount of craft. Philip José Farmer’s role as literary craftsman—that is, his mastery of the craft—often goes unnoticed because, like Zelazny in his later years, he often chose to work with adventure stories. But Phil put a lot of subtlety in there in addition to the heroes and the tight, fast-paced plotting. Realism, a deep understanding of psychology, anthropology, and history, the power of mythological archetypes and themes, it’s all in there. It was an honor beyond words to be able to introduce and edit two volumes of Phil’s work [Venus on the Half-Shell and Others and Up from the Bottomless Pit and Other Stories]. He’s also a tremendously nice, quick-witted man.

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at PhotobucketVenus on the Half Shell

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at PhotobucketUp from the Bottomless Pit

As for other big influences, there’s Frank Herbert, Philip K. Dick, Claude Lévi-Strauss (the French social anthropologist and father of structural anthropology), some of the classical Taoist poets. My mentors while I was at Seton Hill, Toby Buckell and Steven Piziks (aka Steven Harper), as well as everyone in the program who critiqued my work, taught me so much about good writing, things I’m still working on and probably will continue to work on as long as I continue to write.

And certainly not the least, the love and support I get from my wife Laura and my family and friends is an ongoing influence. I couldn’t do this without them.


15. Do you still watch cartoons?

Christopher Paul Carey is a writer living near Seattle, Washington. He holds a B.A. in Anthropology and an M.A. from Seton Hill University’s Writing Popular Fiction program. Chris is also the editor of Philip José Farmer’s collections Venus on the Half-Shell and Others and Up from the Bottomless Pit and Other Stories, and his metafictional essay “The Green Eyes Have It—Or Are They Blue?” appears in the Locus Award Finalist anthology Myths for the Modern Age: Philip José Farmer’s Wold Newton Universe. He is currently at work on a historical fantasy novel.

Saturday, December 08, 2007

Friday, December 07, 2007

HEIDI'S PICK SIX - Michelle Klein

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at PhotobucketMichelle Klein

HEIDI'S PICK SIX

1. Which of your characters is your favorite?
My favorite of my characters currently is my version of Cain. I am writing a retelling of Cain and Abel called If Flesh Is Better. Villains and their motivations fascinate me, and my Cain is very different than the traditional image of the character, even though the major events in the story don't conflict with the account in the Bible. For example, since Cain is a farmer and not a herdsman, he's also a vegetarian and is very opposed to the slaughter of animals.


2. Tell me about your travels.
I have been to England, France, Greece, the Caribbean, Canada, Mexico, and a number of U. S. States. My family and I are about to go back to the Caribbean on a cruise, during which my son, the world's tiniest pirate, will attempt to stage a mutiny on the cruise ship and fly his own Jolly Roger.


3. Coffee, tea, or milk?
Right now, Starbucks' Gingerbread Lattes. They're spicy, warm, and they feel like being curled up at home under a blanket.


4. What else can you do besides write?
My most important task besides writing is taking care of my five year old son, Archer, and keeping up with his active imagination. Also I manage software implementations at a hospital (we convert the patients' medical charts from paper to electronic). I'm usually working on a costume for a party, an event, or a convention - I can't sew, but I'm good at putting outfits together.


5. Who are you reading right now?
I just finished Rant by Chuck Pahlaniuk. That man knows how to tell a story. Also I think it's interesting that Pahlaniuk's work is classified as mainstream literature, when it's clearly speculative fiction. The book involved time travel and time travel paradox theory, so why is that not in the sci fi section?


6. Pop culture or academia?

7. What is the toughest scene you ever wrote?
Cain killing Abel. I was crying when I wrote it.


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?
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?

A native of Philadelphia, PA, Michelle Klein brings the flavor of its ethnic neighborhoods and tree-lined streets to her fanciful tales. Her written work includes The Secret of Gardons, swashbuckling serial fiction and His Mother’s Son, a pirate fantasy story published in the anthology Black Sails. Her flash fiction story Stolen Kiss was published in October on Everyday Fiction.com, which also accepted her story Echo for future publication. Michelle freelances for Talisman Studios.

She currently resides in Wilmington, Delaware, with two redheaded pirates. One is bigger than the other.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

HEIDI'S PICK SIX - Jason Schmetzer

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at PhotobucketJason Schmetzer

HEIDI'S PICK SIX

1. Which of your characters is your favorite?

2. Tell me about your travels.
What, like to work and back?


3. Coffee, tea, or milk?
Hot chocolate.


4. What else can you do besides write?
Oh, you mean in my free time? Wait, free time… what is that again?

These days when I’m not writing, I’m either at the day job (print shop) or the night job (college English teacher) or the other night job (digital layout & editing) or just simply being Daddy to my five-year-old. I’ve a whole list of things I’d like to be doing, but so far all I’ve managed to cross off is travel a bit more and get to a con or two.


5. Who are you reading right now?
Wraith, Phaedra Weldon
The Mist, Stephen King
I am Legend, Richard Matheson
You’re Not Fooling Anyone When you Take your Laptop to the Coffee Shop: Scalzi on Writing, John Scalzi
Vorpal Blade, John Ringo
Some Golden Harbor, David Drake
…and lots, lots more…


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

8. Where do you find your inspirations to write?
The short answer is in circumstance.

I think every writer has read something and had the notion “Golly, that’s tripe. I can do so much better than that.” I used to have an entire shelf of tripe, so when I thought my own writing was getting lackluster I could pull those shiny-covered professionally published packets of drivel and sigh in contentment. I don’t have that shelf any more, but I remember enough of the sentiment to get by.

These days my inspirations are a lot more commercial: I have bills to pay. What I write, however, is still a matter of inspiration. I’m finding I’m more interested in what pushes people, what drives them. I like characters. My stories are very much people stories, more than gadget or adventure stories, and I figure if I can make someone sit back, after they’ve finished reading, and think “Damn, I’m glad I’m not him or her,” then I’m doing something right.


9. Food you could eat everyday.
Pineapple.


10. Are you into sports or other physical activities?

11. What kind of music speaks to you?
The loud kind, most frequently.


12. Do you outline your stories or do they just take you along for the ride?
I work differently for novels and short stories (as I’m sure most of us do). I have to outline novels, but I do little more than a synopsis for them—I’m not one of the 50-page outline novelists, by any means.

For shorter work I’m ashamed to say I have to write to the hump of the story and pray that I get thrown down the other side. I discard a LOT of story openings, oftentimes as much as 3,000 words of opening (and yes, I can hear you short-short writers groaning) before I find one that gets me to where I go. I’m very much an ‘along for the ride’ short story writer—it may take me two weeks to write the first 2,000 words of a story, but once I get to the hump and I understand where the characters are going I tend to sprint to the end… so if it takes me two weeks to write a 9,000 word story, I might only write a total of 2,000 words in the first ten days, and then the last 7,000 in 3-4 days (or less). When I’m in the end run it’s not uncommon for me to write 3,000-5,000 words a day.


13. Celebrity crush.
Nicole Kidman. And lots of others, of course, but some rise above all others.


14. Who are the biggest influences on your work?
It would depend on whether you’re asking about positive influences or negative influences… ;)

Since a lot of what I write is military science fiction, probably the largest stylistic influence has always been David Drake, for the sheer simplicity of his worldview of the soldier. I read most of what John Ringo writes these days (although not his fantasies), and also the household names: Heinlein, Dickson, Card, Godwin, Klass… In fantasy I still swear by Glen Cook, although I’ll give George Martin his due, as well as the simpler fare of Mike Stackpole.

In a more general sense, one can’t read too much Scalzi… although I’ve been branching out lately. There is a great deal to be learned from more generic (in a genre sense) writers like King, Christopher Moore, and a great number of others I can’t seem to recall at the moment.


15. Do you still watch cartoons?
I have a five-year-old. What kind of a question is that?

I will admit I’ve been falling lately into the traps laid by friends and watching more anime. Most of it is drivel, in my opinion, but I can appreciate the artistry and every once in a while the sheer satisfaction that one gets from ignoring physics in violence. And now I’ve got the little one hooked on Justice League Unlimited (which I think we’ll all admit is a gateway ‘toon), so we’re progressing away from Dora and The Backyardigans.


Jason Schmetzer lives in Bloomington, Indiana, with his daughter Nora and thankfully no pets. He holds a BS in English (and yes, the letters are accurate) and an MA in Writing Fiction from Seton Hill University, and by day is a mild-mannered print shop employee. By night he is the dreaded English Comp teacher, inflicting the horrors of Tom Godwin and Johnathan Swift on freshmen and sophomores, filling in his free time with supplemental jobs and by scribbling down words while cackling madly.

To date Jason has written and sold short fiction to a variety of markets, with the bulk of it being work for-hire for companies such as Wizkids, Inc, InMediaRes Productions, and FanPro USA. His stories have appeared online under the Classic BattleTech and MechWarrior game lines, and he is a regular contributor to print products in those lines. His original fiction has appeared online and in print, most notably in the forthcoming Crime Spells anthology.

And if you’re keeping track: No, he can’t count.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Seton Hill Writers News

#1: Venus on the Half Shell, the Philip Jose Farmer anthology edited by Seton Hill alum Christopher Paul Carey received a starred review from Publishers Weekly. The publisher Subterranean Press expects the book to sell out "by or shortly after publication." You can reserve a copy here.

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at PhotobucketVenus on the Half Shell

#2: A special serial story for the holidays is in swing at Home by Christmas. This European historical tale is being told by twelve authors, including Seton Hill alum Laurie Alice Eakes.

#3: Seton Hill alum Mary SanGiovanni's debut novel The Hollower received a good review at Dread Central.

#4: Several Seton Hill writers will be teaching workshops at the Pennwriters 21st Annual Conference, including Timons Esaias, Maria V. Snyder, and Victoria Thompson. The conference is being held at Lancaster Host Resort and Conference Center in Lancaster, PA, from May 16 - 18, 2008. Keynote speaker will be Joyce Carol Oates.

#5: Proverbs for Monsters, the lastest collection by Seton Hill mentor Michael Arnzen, is available now.


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Monday, December 03, 2007

HEIDI'S PICK SIX - Michael Swanwick

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at PhotobucketMichael Swanwick Photo by Beth Gwinn

HEIDI'S PICK SIX

1. Which of your characters is your favorite?
Tough call. Johannes Faust in my criminally-underappreciated Jack Faust was my single best-drawn character, though a loathsome human being. Darger and Surplus, the Postutopian con men who appear in a number of short stories and in a novel I’ve just begun, are certainly the most lovable. And Esme, the demon-child in my forthcoming novel, The Dragons of Babel, despite being a supporting character, pretty much steals the show. But pride of place has to go to Jane Alderberry, the girl who was stolen by the fairies and forced to work in a factory building dragons in The Iron Dragon’s Daughter. She was so brave and so resilient. Every time life slapped her down (and when you’re in one of my novels, that happens a lot), she got right back up and tried something new. She was practical and level-headed in a way that I’m not, and over the course of the novel I had the privilege of seeing her grow up. I’m extraordinarily fond of Jane. Sometimes I think of her as the daughter I never had.


2. Tell me about your travels.
Earlier this year, Marianne and I spent two weeks in Moscow researching my next novel. Moscow is a difficult and wonderful place. We had a flat on the Garden Ring (Moscow has several ring roads, for which its mayor is jokingly called “the lord of the rings”) and on our first day there, we strolled a couple of miles to Red Square. The walk is all gently downhill until you come to a rise and pass through the Resurrection Gate and into the square. Which is a huge space paved with granite blocks, with the Kremlin to the right, GUM to the left, and St. Basil’s straight ahead, and hardly a scrap of green to be seen. It’s one of the most artificial – in the sense of constructed – places imaginable. Something about it, possibly the way the square rises up before you, makes you feel like you’re standing at the exact center of the Earth. People stand about at random spots taking each other’s pictures. Because – you can’t help it – you feel important just being there.

Everything that we saw was profound and moving. We had dinner in a piano restaurant named Dissidents with a beautiful nighttime view of a full moon floating in the sky over Lubyanka Prison. We went out one day to discover the city flooded with OMON thugs – and nobody could explain to us why. We saw a vigorous and hard-charging city whose people (those we met, anyway) we liked a great deal.

Everyone who comes to Russia ends up being conquered, one way or another. This was my second trip to that country, and I both love it and fear for its future.

My solo trip to China for the Second International Science Fiction and Fantasy Conference in Chengdu was a very different but equally rich experience, which I’m not sure I’ve fully assimilated yet. China is far less free than Russia. You can’t so much as buy an English-language magazine anywhere in the country. But it didn’t feel oppressive. The relationship between the government and the people is not as antagonistic, I think.

Then again, maybe it’s simply that the people from Science Fiction World, which sponsored the conference, took extremely good care of their Western guests. We were treated like rock stars. They took us to the panda breeding facility and arranged for us each to hold a juvenile panda in our laps, which it turns out is an astonishingly blissful experience. Every meal was a feast; and the food in Chengdu is famous throughout China. We were taken to museums and temples and entertained by traditional musicians and mask dancers. Best of all, Rob Sawyer and Neil Gaiman and I (Nancy Kress was suffering from exhaustion that night, unfortunately) got to spend a long evening in a tea house, just talking with Chinese writers, sharing ideas and comparing experiences. That was the highpoint of the trip for us all. Better even than the panda or the day I went off with the parents of a family friend and visited the poet Tu Fu’s thatched hut, which has been a tourist attraction for over a thousand years.

But the downside was that I never did get to know Chengdu well enough that I dared go out into it, as Marianne and I did in Moscow, and get deliberately lost.

I could go on and on about China and Russia – and Finland and Sweden and Croatia and other places science fiction has brought me where I have friends and feel particularly strong connections to. But there’s no need. Eventually, it will all come out in my fiction.


3. Coffee, tea, or milk?

4. What else can you do besides write?
Well? Close to nothing. For a hobby, I write non-fiction.


5. Who are you reading right now?
Far too much. I’ve got an ever-growing stack I’m reading for research, not all of which I’d recommend to anybody. Then there are books that come in the mail for blurbs or the like. This week, it’s Gene Wolfe’s An Evil Guest which, as of page 230, is terrific, and The Surgeon’s Tale and Other Stories, a self-published mini-collection of stories by Cat Rambo and the very energetic Jeff Vandermeer, some in collaboration with other writers. I’m looking forward to reading that because Cat was one of my Clarion West students, and I’m interested in her work. Plus books that fellow readers urge on me, such as Votan, a classic fantasy that Neil Gaiman was horrified to learn I hadn’t read, and Wild Girls, a book about Natalie Barney and her circle, which Henry Wessells (who published my short-book-length essay on James Branch Cabell) knew I would be interested in, because of my earlier essay on Hope Mirrlees.

Just today, I received a stack of mysteries by Boris Akunin from my Russian friend, Alexei Bezougli. And of course I can’t drop by a bookstore or go to a convention without coming out with an armload of books. Last Sunday it was Martin Amis’s criticisms, A. A. Milne’s light essays, two Olympia Press paperback pornographic novels from the 1950s (not very good, I’m afraid), and a Connie Willis novel I’ve somehow never gotten around to reading. I also subscribe to two or three genre magazines at any given time, just to keep in touch with what’s happening.

For pleasure, I’m reading War and Peace, a novel I’ve had to quit halfway through several times in the past when things got so busy I couldn’t spare the time for it. An extremely easy book to read and enjoy, but one that you can’t help but linger over, for the sheer pleasure of its company. When that’s done, I plan to tackle another book I had to give up half-read, What Are We Fighting For?, which is Joanna Russ’s historical history of contemporary feminist theory. Put that way, it sounds dull as dishwater, but it’s anything but. It’s a fast and exciting adventure in ideas – about our lives, our society, and what it means to be human. But one indulgence at a time. First I’m going to finish the Tolstoy.


6. Pop culture or academia?

7. What is the toughest scene you ever wrote?
In “Empire of the Air,” a story original to my new collection, The Dog Said Bow-Wow, there is a scene where young Will visits his father in the mental ward of Pennsylvania Hospital in early nineteenth-century Philadelphia, and finds that his father no longer recognizes him. That was extremely difficult to write because it came straight from my life. My father contracted early-onset Alzheimer’s, which comes on fast and hard, when I was a teenager. So I got to see a man whom I loved and who was admired by everybody he met, destroyed from within. By the time of that visit in the VA Hospital in Roanoke, Virginia, all that was left of him was the awareness that something was terribly wrong and that in some way he had failed his family. I was crying when I wrote those paragraphs, thirty years later, but it was something I had to start to come to terms with.

The trauma of that experience would be hard to exaggerate. For years I wasn’t able to even talk about it. It made me into a different person, and that person made himself into a writer. I’d been published for over a decade before I made that connection. John Gardner used to say that a writer is hurt into being. I didn’t believe that until I saw it in myself.


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?

12. Do you outline your stories or do they just take you along for the ride?
I am, alas, a very slow and deliberate writer. So when I’m bogged down for a long time on a particular part of a novel, I’ll make diagrams as a way of analyzing the situation, figuring out what the problem is, probing for a way ahead. I’ve posted a dozen out of twenty or thirty such for The Dragons of Babel on my blog. For short stories and novelettes, though, never. They’re short enough to be held in the mind, whole and entire. A diagram wouldn’t tell me anything I didn’t already know.


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

Michael Swanwick is one of the most acclaimed science fiction and fantasy writers of his generation. He has received a Hugo Award for fiction in five out of six years – an unprecedented accomplishment! – and his has been honored with the Nebula, Theodore Sturgeon, and World Fantasy Awards as well and receiving nominations for the British Science Fiction Award and the Arthur C. Clarke Award.

His stories have appeared in Omni, Penthouse, Amazing, Asimov's, High Times, New Dimensions, Starlight, Universe, Full Spectrum, Triquarterly and elsewhere. Many have been reprinted in Best of the Year anthologies, and translated for Japanese, Croatian, Dutch, Finnish, German, Italian, Portuguese, Russian, Spanish, Swedish, Chinese, and French publications.

His books include In the Drift, an Ace Special; Vacuum Flowers; Griffin's Egg; the Nebula Award-winning Stations of the Tide; The Iron Dragon's Daughter, a New York Times Notable Book; Jack Faust, and Bones of the Earth; his short fiction has been collected in Gravity's Angels, A Geography of Unknown Lands, Moon Dogs, and Tales of Old Earth. His flash fiction was collected in Cigar-Box Faust and Other Miniatures. A new collection, The Dog Said Bow-Wow, is out with Tachyon Publications and his new novel, The Dragons of Babel, is scheduled to be published by Tor Books in early 2008.

He lives in Philadelphia with his wife, Marianne Porter.