Friday, May 30, 2014

Hopping Down The Blog Trail...

Yes it's been a while since I updated here, but life and writing have both kept me busy. That said, today's post is a bit of a departure, in that instead of playing catch up, I've been invited to participate in a chain of Blog Hopping posts with other fine writers. Kudos and thanks go to the incredible Lisa Collins for bringing me in on this one. Make sure you all go out and read her post, and those that she's linked with. While you're there, read her entire blog, she does some great interviews with other authors!

So here we go a-hoppin...

  • What am I working on?

I don't do hard and fast writing goals for each year because I can never predict what life will throw my way; but I've learned over time to at least list the projects I must do or want to accomplish, and tick them off as I go along. I keep a running list on my desktop, and highlight in blue every project I finish. There's a big incentive in seeing those blue streaks mounting up.

That said, this year (2014) I've already turned in a finished novel and have another in editing. Both books are for my Pro Se imprint HANSEN'S WAY, and take place in the same overarching world. The finished one is the first in a brand new fantasy series called The Sudarnian Chronicles, the one in editing is Master's Endgame, which is the third in the Greenwood Cycle novel series that started with Fortune's Pawn, and continued in Prophecy's Gambit. I also went over a short story I had written several years ago for COMPANION DRAGONS TALES and turned that into a novella, which should become my third offering to Pro Se's YOUNG PULP line. I do have a second COMPANION DRAGONS TALE book co-written with series co-creator Roger Stegman titled Finding Waxy that should be coming out soon from Pro Se. Just saw a pencil sketch of the cover art for that, and it looks awesome!

BTW, this just came out from Pro Se Press and is available online through, Barnes & Noble, and Smashwords, as are all my Pro Se books. Good timing huh?

On the short story end, I will have a tale in a brand new steampunk superhero anthology called SINGULARITY: Rise of the Posthumans published by New Babel Books. That is supposed to be out sometime later this year, and I get to share space with a lot of talented folks, including series creator Jaime Ramos, the iconic comic world author Mr. David Michelinie, and long time writing pal, Lee Houston Jr. And speaking of Lee, we just co-collaborated on a short story for another anthology that will be coming from Airship 27 somewhere down the line. So lots of stuff has been going on, writing-wise, and May isn't even over yet.

My most current project is not something I can say a lot about, except that it's an action/adventure novel in a specific time period and genre, and is about half written. I proposed it as an ongoing series, the idea received an enthusiastic response, and now I've just got to get the first book done. Lots of research with this one because it's a new area of adventure fiction for me, but it's moving along. I foresee at least a three book initial offering. It's not my usual fantasy, but a very recognizable sub-genre that I've always wanted to tackle.

  • How does my work differ from others in its genre?

I came into the small pulp publishers of today as a mainstream epic fantasy writer seeking an easier route to get my work out to readers. While pulp is extremely fast paced and plot-oriented, and the traditional pulp fantasy stories tended toward the more straightforward heroic style (think of Robert E. Howard's Conan, hacking and slashing through his tales), I still prefer to read and write the character driven epic quest fantasies I ate up as a mainstream fiction reader. A lot of those mainstream books are pretty lengthy, and they can bog down in detail and drag in spots, so they don't have the breathless pacing of a pulp story. What I've learned to do is create sort of a hybrid yarn, where you get the ongoing feeling of character development over time and trials, but the action doesn't lag so long. That way I can have my fun in writing what I love and know well, and still please the page turning reader who wants to see something dramatic happening without wading through a ton of exposition.

Another thing that I really wanted to bring into my writing—especially to the pulp world—were heroic female characters with that 'everyman' appeal. While mainstream fantasy publishing has become somewhat caught up with the idea, so few of the classic and beloved characters of pulpdom were females in a starring role. Those who did make a name for themselves tended to be glamorous and/or ruthless; generally beautiful and deadly ladies equipped with a male mind and motivations. I want more than that for my female characters, so they purposely aren't designed to be classically statuesque and stacked super-Barbies streaked with blood and fighting in chain mail bikinis. Some are tall and thin, others short and plump, or just plain Jane average looking, and none of them set out to be warrior heroines. They are driven women though, which will always tend to land you in hot water... The idea behind the 'Average Jane' appeal is to make sure my female readers can put themselves in the story as they read it. I don't want to alienate or segregate my male readers either, so there are plenty of manly characters running around doing their thing as well. Even there I will take a step away from the 'super fit athlete' image of the masculine god beings of vengeance to something a bit more plausible.

I don't tend to think of my books and short stories as appealing to any one demographic and I'm trying to be as diverse as possible. Right now, even though this is a fantasy setting, the characters are still mainly Eurocentric, Caucasian, and heterosexual in flavor, because that's what I'm most comfortable with; but I'm working on widening that scope. I want more ethnic, gender, and racial variety to reflect the world my readers and I live in. I want people who buy these stories to see people who look like them doing amazing things. The best tales are the ones where you can insert yourself in that setting and experience it vicariously through the actions of the character you most gravitate toward.

  • Why do I write what I do?

I absolutely, passionately, love what I write. Fantasy settings, with their rich and imaginative worlds peopled with outlandish beings, incredible beasts, and astonishing feats of swordplay and sorcery, have always been my favorite playground to escape from the real world. I've devoured them as books and movies, and the scant television programs that came and went. I prefer playing in a world that has rules far different than the one I live in, and as a writer, I enjoy being the omnipotent and omniscient Grand Poobah of all. LOL! Yet it does need to have rules and follow some sort of logical design, and that's where the true craftsmanship of writing comes in.

I'm a creative person by nature, and outside of writing I love to do crafting, cooking, gardening, and I crochet and dabble a bit in art. I've hunted and fished, and consequently eaten a lot of things the average person would not consider table fare. I have an ongoing thirst to know more about the world around me, so the internet has been a huge boon to my oversize curiosity bump. Some of my interest areas include the incredible diversity of Nature, early human history (especially the feudal/medieval era and hunter/gatherer or agrarian societies), mythology and religions, the occult and ritual magic, and warfare before the widespread use of gunpowder and machinery. All of that stuff kind of gels within the innovation of people who lived close to the land and had to handle things hands on—whether you're talking needle crafts, seasonal crop rotations, warding off enemy pillagers, or dealing with plagues of beasts and vermin. Life moves in rhythms you can understand at a basic level if you shut off the electronic devices and just step outdoors and look around. Seeds still get planted in the soil or a substitute soil medium with chemical nutrients, and they grow into food crops, as they did for our ancestors. Babies still are born from the same combination of genetic material. Wars might be fought with advanced technology, but the reasons behind them haven't really changed. We still have religions and laws to help us find order in our otherwise chaotic, tempestuous lives. Underneath your clothing and skin is the muscle, guts, and spirit of generations of warriors and survivors. I don't forget that when I write. I bring in a lot of the world I know to enrich the story. Even a little detail like the way a deer browses or how to predict weather from cloud formations can come in mighty handy in a story. It puts the reader there, on the scene.

Good writing involves all your senses. You want to be able to see, hear, smell, taste, and feel what's going on. There has to be some tale to tell; one that resonates with the audience on some visceral level of understanding. The more I know about what I'm writing about, the better it will translate from my vision into your brain's version. Those little dabs of paint that an impressionist uses to build a picture on a canvas are the same system that the sentences in my stories are spun from. Each word has to count for something. I put a lot of my heart and soul into what I tap onto each page. You can't not enjoy what you're doing, and work that diligently. Every time I sit down, I try and write the sort of story I'd love to read.

  • How does your writing process work?

I am far from the world's most organized thinker, and there are a lot of demands on my time these days, so I have learned to be more disciplined in my work habits. Because I presently babysit an infant grandson on most weekdays, and have family over just about every weekend, I've had to pare down my other internet activities and consolidate appointments with errands and shopping to make sure I keep regular time for writing. Any day that I am home in the AM, I do a very quick morning run through email and social network sites, only hitting the highlights and important issues before I shut all that down and focus on getting some keyboard time in. The internet is a fascinating place, but it can be a real time waster too. I pull up a tab with a dictionary/thesaurus site, and one with Google for impromptu searches, and then whatever I'm working on at present.

I start each session of writing with a read through of at least part of what I wrote over the last few days. That way I reacquaint myself with the piece, and get a little on-the-fly editing done as well. I use bookmarks in my documents that tell me where I left off last time, or to mark my current position as I check back and see if I got names and other info correctly. Since I'm often bouncing between projects over the course of weeks or even months, I tend to forget things. That reread refreshes my memory, and the ability to leave where I am working and run a document search from the top really helps me keep moving forward. The story lines I run in fantasy pieces tend to be rather involved, with subplots and secondary characters, so it's easy to get confused. Having the resources a click away to look up alternate wording or research an idea makes efficient use of my time. Plus it's a part of a helpful ritual to have a setup routine that tells your mind that we're at work now. That's vital when you work at home like I d. The temptation to goof off is so much stronger with no boss or coworkers looking on. Books don't get written by staring out the window, tapping a pencil or texting messages. I have to treat this like a job or I'd get nothing accomplished.

Ideas come from anywhere and everywhere. I have whole files of pictures and news clippings that I refer to when I need inspiration. Sometimes I just go look things up. It doesn't matter what era it comes from or how modern it is, because with a bit of creativity, anything can transformed into your own world view. I liberally borrow from any current news item that gets attention to flesh out a tale—even one set in my fantastic worlds. The technology and living arrangements might be drastically different, but the heart of the human feelings within it have not changed. If you look at the paleolithic cave paintings in Lascaux France, there's more going on there than pretty pictures of animals. People were trying to tell us stories. Humans have an incredible need for their lives to have meaning, and to pass that on. A good tale can do that, whether it's real life drama, or fiction filled with myth and magic. I take my cues wherever I find them.

I am not a outliner or a plot-planner of any kind. I write by the seat of the pants—one idea building on another. Usually I'll have some kind of seminal scene in mind, and that might be something that happens anywhere in the story. I build around that. I'm a visual thinker, so my brain sees possibilities that look like movie trailers, with all the thunderous sound effects and stirring music accompanying quick flashes of drama. My job as writer is to adequately describe what I see in my head, to imagine what would happen next, and string it together into a coherent whole. With a book, that's a very long process, and somewhere in the middle, it always bogs down. That's when you have to be tough with yourself, and shove your butt into the chair, put your fingers on those keys, and write something—even when you don't want to. Slogging through the doldrums middle of a long project is the hardest part.

Keeping multiple projects going helps stop me from getting stale and dissolving into that dreaded 'Writer's Block'. If I am really stuck on something, I will get up and walk away, and go do a little housework. If that time away doesn't resolve the issue, I save and quit, and boot something else up. Worst case scenario, I discuss it with a writing pal. Nine times out of ten, in the process of talking it over or writing an email, I come up with a solution on my own. The point is, you keep going. Fall off that horse, get back on this one, and ride some more. Don't let your frustration with one vehicle of expression sour you from all further creative endeavors. Just work on something else.

If I just can't write for a day or so, I don't sweat it. My mind is always open to ideas and so I try and keep paper and a pen nearby. I have woken up from some interesting dreams to jam on my glasses, squinting in the nightlight, and scribble it out before the idea is gone. I've paused in the middle of doing dishes, eating in a restaurant, weeding in the garden, or watching a baseball game to jot something down. Inspiration comes from all around, if you just leave the writer antennae up. I write whenever I can, whether it's 30 words, 300, or 3,000. The point is, just get into the habit of getting a little something on paper, even if it is just sketchy notes and a skeleton outline. My story files go back over 25 years and numerous PCs and laptops, and I've just kept backing them up and moving them to each new machine. I'm still picking through story starts to redo or finish that were new when my sons were preschoolers, and they are 28 and 30 now. The Sudarnian Chronicles novel I turned in to Pro Se earlier this year sprang from a 100 page novel start that was originally printed on fanfold, tractor pin fed, dot matrix printer. I'd lost the file, and had to retype it all from scratch. The inspiration was my two little boys, who loved console RPG games with teams of multi-skilled characters, and when they heard I was writing a book, they begged me to put them in it, and make them heroes. So when you read the adventures of the brothers Ethan and Nicholas, they were inspired by my own two little warriors, so many years ago. At the time, I didn't know if I'd ever get the book done, let alone published, but I kept it in my files for all those years. This past year, the time was right to pull it out, dust it off, and finish the darn thing.

Never give up. Write whatever and whenever you can, save often and in more than one format, and keep the faith. The more you write, the better you get, and the easier the words flow. There's never been a better time to be a published writer, even if you don't have a big named publisher and a hefty advance check. Those folks who did the rock paintings in the caves didn't concern themselves with how they were going to sell their stuff or who the projected audience would be; they were just determined to tell a story that would outlive them. That's kind of where my head is these days. Even if someone 20 years down the road buys one of my books in a thrift store for a pittance, I've still managed to find one more person to entertain. I'm content with that.

I'm passing the Blog Hop torch here to three fine gentlemen that I have worked with as either/both writers and editors, Mr. Lee Houston Jr.,  Mr. Chuck Miller, and Mr. Jaime Ramos. Make sure you all go and check out their sites and see what they're up to—you won't be disappointed! Lee is the former editor of Pro Se Presents, as well as the author of HUGH MONN PRIVATE DETECTIVE books 1 and 2, as well as everyone's favorite superhero in PROJECT ALPHA. Chuck, with his wry wit, has a whole pantheon of oddball noir characters that seem to revolve around a town called Zenith in Massachusetts. Jaime is the mastermind behind the project featured below:

You can find Lee's blog here:  and Chuck's here: 

I'll have more on the Blog Hop folks as info comes in.

A direct link to Lee's Blog Hop post:

And yes folks, there's even more! Local Connecticut author Elizabeth K. Wadsworth has joined the Blog Hop! You can go see what she's up to by clicking right here: 
You don't want to miss out on this lady's writing, she has a real old fashioned pulp feel to her books, and I highly recommend them as an engaging read.