Guest Post by Jason Sizemore

On the surface, I come across as milquetoast. Other than the strange accent and pale skin, there’s nothing outwardly remarkable about Jason Sizemore. This is one reason I started Apex Publications. Ten years later, I wrote For Exposure: The Life and Times of a Small Press Publisher to chronicle some of the more outlandish incidents during that decade.

I’m not what you call loquacious. In high school, I was awarded with the “Most Quiet” award my senior year. All the ladies love the creepy quiet ones!

Yet, despite the demure exterior that so many see when they look at me, I don’t feel like I’m anything of the norm. Perhaps that’s why I feel so at home in the worlds of science fiction, fantasy, and horror. They let me unleash, be myself, get my freak on.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not calling you, dear reader, a freak or weirdo.

Though this being Jeremy Shipp’s blog I do have to wonder about you

Sorry for the digression. I am here to talk about the things that made me who I am. A tribute to those things that you and I enjoy so much.

First and foremost, I love science fiction. It doesn’t matter what media. Two of my favorite things in the world are the television series Lost and Battlestar Gallactica (new school, please). A science fiction novel has greatly shaped the way I view the world—The Sparrow by Mary Doria Russell. I adore Brian K. Vaughn’s Y: The Last Man.

The possibilities of the future have long pushed me toward an optimistic worldview. For ten years I ran Apex Publications and juggled a day job before I was able to escape my corporate bonds and declare FREEDOM while showing them my bare bum. Now I work solely for myself and get to do the one thing in life I enjoy more than most anything else: publishing, editing, and writing. Thank you, science fiction!

Second, I love fantasy. The world of Middle Earth allowed my imagination to have that “What if?” moment every time I opened J.R.R. Tolkein’s work. The time I spent watching Xena: Warrior Princess with my parents evoked a sense of fun and adventure. The lessons I learned reading Stephen Donaldson’s misogynistic anti-hero Thomas Covenant showed me that even the worst of us can become better…at least marginally. Neil Gaiman and Sandman made it okay to dream and be yourself. The Princess Bride showed the world that giants can have a heart. If you stay focused on your goal, you’ll eventually reach it. Thank you, fantasy!

Third, I love horror. Brian Keene shocked me with his deep sense of family love and devotion in The Rising. Garth Ennis and his Preacher series warned me that there are some assholes out in the world who delight in making your life a living misery, but ultimately, they’re all part of a grand design. Alien showed me that if you keep your cool in the worst of circumstances that you give yourself the best chance of survival Thank you, horror!

Life is what you make of it. You open your eyes and find meaning in those things you enjoy. For me, for Jeremy, and for you, we are shaped by the grand imaginations of wonderful authors, directors, artists, and other creators. While that road is fraught with occasional peril, it is a path of delight and wonderment.

While I might be a quiet guy, I’m living a crazy and vibrant life. Unfortunately, the crazy sometimes bleeds out to the real world. If you don’t believe me, check out chapter 2 of For Exposure. You’ll discover a combination of ham and sexual proclivities that will disturb most and titillate a handful. Thank you, For Exposure!

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ABOUT THE BOOK:

For Exposure: The Life and Times of a Small Press Publisher
Apex Publications
182 pages
ISBN: 9781937009304

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

jasonBorn the son of an unemployed coal miner in a tiny Kentucky Appalachian villa named Big Creek (population 400), Jason fought his way out of the hills to the big city of Lexington. He attended Transylvania University (a real school with its own vampire legend) and received a degree in computer science. Since 2005, he has owned and operated Apex Publications. He is the editor of five anthologies, author of Irredeemable, a three-time Hugo Award loser, an occasional writer, who can usually be found wandering the halls of hotel conventions

Hold out your hat for nightmare soup – Guest Post by Benjamin Kane Ethridge

I stopped by the great Mr. Shipp’s blog to ramble with warmly crafted incoherence about my novel NIGHTMARE BALLAD releasing this month. Thanks to JCS for making this happen!

To start, from early blurbs and reviews this initial book of the trilogy has been called “esoteric,” “edgy, original and unclassifiable,” “creepy” and “fascinating.” It has also been called “surreal,” but the term was used almost in a pejorative way. I happen to love surreal fiction, so I take that label with more than an ounce of pride. More like ten gallons of pride.  Okay, fifty gallons. Or, to hell with it, just a 100 gallon foam cowboy hat with the word SURREAL on its band. That’ll do. And look how nice it fits on that guy’s head! Stunning, and protects his pasty skin from problematic onslaughts from the sun. How about that folks?

I see that some of you have deflated and dire, depressing questions remain. When your hat isn’t on that poor guy’s head, what’s inside? What makes up all those expertly measured gallons? Well, turns out, oddly enough, there’s no pride in there to speak of.  Pride is always fleeting (I just looked under my chair, isn’t there either). Besides which, that’s so one-paragraph ago. In this paragraph I have instead poured into the hat a batch of nightmare broth. In all honesty, I do this whenever I find a surreal hat. I’ve heard this latest broth tastes like a Lynch or Cronenberg film with a dash of Stephen King fantasy in there. I do enjoy consuming all those folks in some capacity, so I’m chuffed that’s palatable for me and others, but let me just plainly voice my mission statement before I find a more unreasonable metaphor to mistreat.

Think of a dream you cannot explain, at first, and then, slowly, you are made aware of what it really means. Though the first installment answers some questions, the second and the third novel will answer them all. I’m excited about the series for this very reason. The reader gains lucidity through the waking nightmare and as the adventure continues, they become aware of the dream and then, ultimately, how to deal with the outcome.

Hope you all come along and wear broth-soggy foam hats of some kind! Here’s the synopsis.

One day, while instructing a swim class, Luke Rhodes hears a strange ballad in his head that twists reality. After a series of terrifying events, he escapes through a black curtain and leaves a living nightmare behind.

The ballad hasn’t left him though. Pieces remain. And when the song surfaces… the nightmare returns. Joined by Luke’s two wives and his miscreant friend Johnny Cruz, they resolve to discover the source of these “Lifemares,” and, more importantly, how to escape. Will Luke and his family find the singer of the Ballad before it’s too late? Or will horrifying nightmares roam the world… forever?

For review copies please contact ben@bkethridge.com
To purchase: http://amzn.com/1936564831
Visit Benjamin Kane Ethridge at www.bkethridge.com

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Benjamin Kane Ethridge is the Bram Stoker Award winning author of the novel BLACK & ORANGE (Bad Moon Books 2010). For his master’s thesis he wrote, “CAUSES OF UNEASE: The Rhetoric of Horror Fiction and Film.”Available in an ivory tower near you. Benjamin lives in Southern California with his wife and two creatures who possess stunning resemblances to human children. When he isn’t writing, reading, videogaming, Benjamin’s defending California’s waterways and sewers from pollution.

Casting Books Series – Guest Post by Jeff Strand

Welcome to the fourth installment of the CASTING BOOKS blog series. In this series, authors choose one of their books, and then discuss their dream cast for a movie based on that book. This installment is written by the superb Jeff Strand.

Casting Graverobbers Wanted (No Experience Necessary)
by Jeff Strand

Though my books tend to have a cinematic feel, I almost never think about who I’d want to be in the movie version. I don’t have actors in mind when I write the characters, and I can’t think of a single instance in my entire bibliography where I have a “perfect” casting choice. I’ve even written a screenplay adaptation of my novel Graverobbers Wanted (No Experience Necessary) without any ideas about who should be paid millions of dollars for playing my characters.

This can prove problematic when one is, say, writing a guest blog about who you would cast in your books. But instead of doing an “I have no idea!” wuss-out, I will indeed share some picks for who I’d cast in my Andrew Mayhem series.

Andrew Mayhem, our bumbling lead…Billy Crudup. He would not be blue and naked as in Watchmen, but he’s probably the closest to my mental picture of Andrew Mayhem, and he can do comedic performances without being a total goofball.

Roger Tanglen, his best friend…Owen Wilson. Actually, I might also cast him as Andrew Mayhem if Billy Crudup passed.

Helen Mayhem, his wife…Bonnie Hunt. It’s worth noting that Bonnie Hunt doesn’t look like Helen as described in the book, and she’s about 15 years older than the character, but screw it, I like Bonnie Hunt. (And yet until I checked IMDB a couple of minutes ago, I didn’t know she’d had her own talk show.)

Theresa and Kyle Mayhem, his children…preferably, some kids who can handle the fame and won’t turn into drug-addicted train wrecks. Maybe Kyle could be a CGI version of Haley Joel Osment capturing what he was like as a little kid.

Bruce and Tony Frenkle, twin brother cops…Morgan Freeman. Because every movie is better with Morgan Freeman. They don’t have that big of a part until the fourth book, Lost Homicidal Maniac (Answers to “Shirley”), but we’d beef up their role to take advantage of the talents of Mr. Freeman.

Samantha Tracer, Roger’s girlfriend…Charlize Theron. And this movie would acknowledge that she’s way hotter than Kristin Stewart.

I guess that’s it. Any and all of these actors are welcome to attach themselves to this project. There are four books in the series, so that means SEQUELS, so you could set yourself up for a few years.

Jeff Strand was born in Baltimore, Maryland, but moved to Fairbanks, Alaska when he was six months old, so his memories of Baltimore are hazy. He grew up in the cold, where he desperately wanted to be a cartoonist. Then he wanted to make video games. Then he wanted to write movies. Actually, he still wants to do all of those things, but for now he’s quite happy writing lots of demented novels.

He was nominated for the Bram Stoker Award in 2006, 2008, and 2010. His novel PRESSURE has been optioned for film; he’s hoping the movie will be made soon so he can scream “My baby! What have you done to my precious baby?!?”

His novels are usually classified as horror, but they’re really all over the place, from comedies to thrillers to drama to, yes, even a fairy tale (FANGBOY).

Because he doesn’t do cold weather anymore, he lives in Tampa, Florida with his wife and two cats.

SpaceHive – Guest Post by Kenna McKinnon

Guest Post by Kenna McKinnon

Saturday September 1st was launch day for SPACEHIVE, my MG/YA sci-fi novel published by Imajin Books, available in Kindle and print on Amazon and in print on CreateSpace.

Excerpt from SpaceHive

Earth was in danger.

Jealous eyes gazed toward our Sun from a planet called Jive Hive in another star system, black compound eyes that peered without compassion as though we were flies caught on sticky paper ready for the fire.

The first of their suns was setting as blood-orange light spilled into the valley. Three female worker bees, two over seven feet tall and the other not quite five feet, sat under a purple-flowered tree, sorting through various blossoms, while other bees worked nearby.

“We can’t go on like this much longer,” Banter said. “There are too many of us. The hive has to find a new home. The Black Watch wasps, vicious as they are, know what they’re doing. They’ve been scanning the skies for hundreds of years and keeping a check on our population.”

She sat next to her cousins, Zibb and Bipp. They had worked all day collecting pollen for their hive. Now they rested and talked of the Imperative—to colonize. The whole Jive Hive planet was abuzz with the news.

“Yes,” Zibb agreed. “The queen said this one is a plum ripe for the picking and only eight light years away. We’ll be tired from the long sleep when we arrive. It’ll be a brand new adventure for us. A new Jive Hive.”

“Too bad there are beings there.” Banter selected a fresh flower and began culling its nectar.

“Too bad we have to kill them all,” Zibb said. “I’ve heard the new planet’s green and warm. The wasp scouts said that it’s abused by its inhabitants, though.”

“Their fault then and all the more reason to kill them. We must take it while we can.”

 —

Kenna McKinnon is a freelance writer/photographer and self-employed medical transcriptionist who lives in Edmonton, Canada. Although her degree is in Anthropology (with a minor in Psychology), Kenna has spent her life writing. Kenna has lived successfully with schizophrenia for many years. She has also published an anthology of poetry ebook on Kindle, available on www.amazon.com as well.

“If I knew then what I know now I would have put clowns on my wedding cake” from PLAYING DEAD by Jody E. Lebel.

http://kennamckinnon.blogspot.ca/

http://www.facebook.com/KennaMcKinnonAuthor

Twitter: @KennaMcKinnon

Casting Books Series – Guest Post by Brent Michael Kelley

Welcome to the second installment of the CASTING BOOKS blog series. In this series, authors choose one of their books, and then discuss their dream cast for a movie based on that book. This second installment is written by the brilliant Brent Michael Kelley.

Casting Chuggie
by Brent Michael Kelley

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It was a beautiful coincidence that I was asked to cast my book, Chuggie and the Desecration of Stagwater, for Casting Books. It’s something I’d thought about before, and very recently a friend and I had a long discussion about it. In fact, I was thinking sooner or later I’d get around to doing this as a blog post on my own site. But now the forbidden fruit must be tasted.

The story is set on the strange world of Mag Mell, and it follows Chuggie, the embodiment of Drought, as he rambles and drifts drunkenly from place to unwelcoming place. It’s full of dark forces using dark magic to do dark things darkly in dark places after dark. DARK! I’m just kidding. It’s not that dark. Well, it’s kinda dark.

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Chuggie can only be played by Tom Waits. The character was born from a Tom Waits song, and I’ve always imagined Mr. Waits as Chuggie. When I write, that’s who I picture, and that’s whose voice I hear. Chuggie is rough around the edges. He’s seen it all. He’s either full of wisdom or full of shit, or both. He’ll sell you a pile of secondhand goods that may or may not be a complete ripoff. He’ll tell you tall tales about people he’s known and things he’s seen, but you won’t know if any of it is accurate, and there’s no way to find out. His voice is gravel, he likes to sing, and few can swear with such color and enthusiasm as he can.

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Kagen Kale is big and mean and serious all the time. Brian Cranston would make an excellent Magistrate Kale. The character needs to intimidate with a look. He needs to make you cringe when he barks his orders at you. He needs to possess a cold cruelty coupled with a hunger for power. Oh, throw on some open contempt for everyone everywhere. I think Cranston would know just how to play this part.

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Philip Seymour Hoffman would be amazing as Haste. Hoffman has an astounding talent for portraying loathsome people, and Chief Magistrate Haste is just that. He’s power hungry, arrogant, slobbish, loud, and generally unpleasant. Haste runs Stagwater ruthlessly. He has nothing but disdain for the citizenry, and he masterfully manipulates the public through pandering and fear. I’m certain PSH would have a lot of fun in this role.

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We’ll get Crispin Glover to play Ronymous Fitch. See, Fitch is this oily, squirmy magistrate who uses spirituality to influence people. He preaches humility, but he’s as power hungry and cruel as any. Crispin Glover, like Hoffman, has a way of melting into bizarre roles. Did you see Dead Man with Johnny Depp? He wasn’t in it much, but his character was one of the most memorable. He’s got creepy down to a science, and that would come in very handy – especially when Fitch looks inside the goat face purse.

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Long have I imagined the witch Shola being played by the lovely Mila Kunis. Shola has striking eyes. Mila does, too. Shola is petite. So is Mila. Shola runs around naked for a while. I’d like to see Mila do that. Also, Mila has shown that she can be creepy and seductive at the same time. This, I feel is important. I suspect if you watched Mila Kunis play Shola of Scarecrows, you’d forget she ever played Meg (p’tuh!) on Family Guy. Instead, she’d haunt your dreams with one blue eye and one white.

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Debra Ann Woll would be fantastic in the role of Fey Voletta. FV is a sexy blade cultist with self-inflicted scars from head to toe. She uses her sexuality at every opportunity, but don’t get too excited, fellas! Fey Voletta is a virgin, and she’s likely to stay that way. If you think you’ve got a chance with this red-headed hellcat, she may very well just be getting ready to kill you. Debra plays a young vampire on HBO’s True Blood, and in that role she’s shown she can play a savage killer and  sexy temptress at the same time. Important, I feel. Fey Voletta doesn’t get naked in this book, but I think we can adjust that in the screenplay. We’ll see what the director thinks.

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We’ll get Ving Rhames to voice the Steel Jacks. If you saw Final Fantasy: Spirits Within, you heard him voicing Ryan of the Deep Eyes strike team. When that character has his helmet on, the voice gets filtered into this deep, sort-of-vibratory thing. We filter it a little more, and we got a voice for Non and the rest of the Steel Jacks. Those guys don’t mess around.

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I’d trust Katey Sagal to play Faben Brassline. Faben’s a touch past her prime, but she’s still no one to mess with. She is a summoner who can call forth creatures from other realms to do her bidding. She’s also sassy, and she don’t take no guff. If you get on her bad side, she’ll give you a smack that’ll leave a mark. When it comes time to whoop some ass, Faben is ferocious. Katey plays Gemma on Sons of Anarchy, and that’s a good enough audition for me.

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Jeff Bridges would be great as Captain Rorid. This character has seen a lot of action, but he’s getting close to retiring from the city guard. He’s blue collar, honest, and humble. He’s got some wisdom to impart on the next generation of guardsmen before he hangs up the red and black. If you need a whoopin’, he’ll give you one, but Rorid doesn’t pick a fight.

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Guardsman Kletter Priole could only be played by Clay Matthews III. I realize he’s a football player. This means we can’t shoot the movie in the Fall. Well, the book is set in the Fall. That’s the director’s problem. When I made this character, I imagined Clay Matthews. Dude is a freaking warrior. Anyway, Priole is the prototypical guardsman. He’s tall, muscly, fast, and ready for action. But he’s also new to the job, and he definitely has a lot to learn from Captain Rorid (whether he’s willing to learn it or not). He may seem arrogant, but everything he does is for his young bride Ree.

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Ree Priole doesn’t have a big role in this book. She may, however, have a bit more to say in the next one, so we need to cast her properly right away. I think Hailee Steinfeld would be great. She’s got a mischievous glimmer in her eye. Hopefully we can generate some chemistry between her and Clay Matthews, because those characters are going to be around for a very long time. Hailee was terrific in True Grit. I think she’d be great as Ree. Take it from me, chums. I know what lies ahead for the character. EEEE! I wish I could tell you! My publisher would kill me if I leak spoilers, though. Seriously, she showed me the chainsaw she’d use and everything.

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Sam Rockwell needs to be Mucklin the Bartender. Mucklin is a jocular jerk, and Rockwell is a genius at such characters. Mucklin is selfish, sarcastic, and a bit of a bastard. The kind of character who deserves to have something bad happen to him, but you’d be sad if he was gone forever. He’s another one that isn’t going anywhere, so he must be cast appropriately in the beginning. Can’t you just imagine him teamed up with Clay Matthews, buddy action-flick style? That would be awesome. I mean dragon. That would be dragon.

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Rob Zombie is good at the violence. Why, just the other day my four-month-old son and I were watching the Devil’s Rejects. I was all like, “Man, this is really violent!” Jordy just stared at the TV, fascinated by the moving colors and the snappy dialog. But more than just the violence, Rob Zombie has a ridiculous attention to detail. I’d trust him to make the violent scenes violent, the picturesque scenes picturesque, and the nude scenes NUDE the way God intended. Looking at you, Mila. You too, Debra. And Katey. I, personally, don’t need to see Clay Matthews naked, but that’s a decision for the director. If Rob Zombie thinks showing Clay Matthews nude would be the best thing for the STORY, I’d have to trust him. Would my wife go to this movie just to see that? Yes, she would. Every other woman I know? Yep, them too.

So this movie would have something for everybody. Perpetually intoxicated Tom Waits talkin’ loose, naked ladies, naked Clay Matthews, scarecrows, and a purse made from the face of a goat. Maybe we’ll get ol’ BMK in there for a little cameo, huh? Then again, that could make the film TOO sexy! You know what? I don’t care, I’m doing it. How often do you get a chance like this? Tom Waits and Rob Zombie! Throw in Maynard James Keenan and Isaac Brock, and my head will literally explode. But I’m rambling now. That’s your fault.

Thank you for your time. You found this article entertaining and informative.

ImageBrent Michael Kelley lives in the countryside north of Tomahawk, Wisconsin, with his wife Keri, their son Jordy, and a small zoo of strange animals. He assures you he is not building an army of clone-bots at a secret bunker in the forest. His rivals may insist otherwise, but they are all madmen, bent on world domination. Not Brent, though. Nope. In addition to short stories, he writes about his pal Chuggie, the drunken and travel-worn embodiment of drought. Chuggie and the Desecration of Stagwater is available now from Omnium Gatherum, and the next Chuggie adventure is coming soon. Brent keeps his readers up to date at www.brentmichaelkelley.com.

The Value Of Writers In Community – Guest Post by Bryan Thomas Schmidt

Writing can be a lonely art—long hours spent sitting alone in a quiet room with your thoughts, your imagination. As thrilling as it is when the words flow and the story comes together, it still can be an isolating experience. This is only deepened by the fact that many creative are introverted. Social awkwardness is common, and shyness in large groups often goes right along with it. Yet one of the demands of readers and publishers is author interaction with the public, not only to sell and promote books, but the open the door slightly on the mysteries of the inner creative process and connect. From conventions to workshops and retreats to bookstore signings and other appearances, the ways contact occurs can be quite varied. Social Media only broaden that, it seems. Which is why some of the most treasured gifts a writer discovers in the writer’s journey are fellow writers.

No matter where you are in your writing journey and path to success, you are bound to discover that other writers will treat you with great kindness, offering encouragement, advice, assistance and, most of all, respect. I have shared a stage with writers like Tamora Pierce, Robin Wayne Bailey, Jim C. Hines, and Seanan McGuire—all who’ve released multiple books and reached levels of success I haven’t yet. And every one of them was so gracious and kind and supportive. I was never once made to feel less in any way. They treated me like a peer, and it has been so humbling and encouraging and energizing for me.

In addition to the loneliness, the writing world is filled with rejection. It’s almost a daily occurrence, certainly several times a month. From editors passing on stories to sending notes, from reviewers and readers critiquing your prose to publishers and sales charts and more, rejection is like bread and butter in this business.  You may have heard the phrase: “don’t become a writer unless you have a thick skin,” and the irony of that is most of us write because of passions and emotions which drive us, the exact opposite of people with thick skins.

But other writers have been there and continue to be. And perhaps that’s the bond that draws us together more than any other. We know what it feels like. We know how hard it is. We know the struggles and the uncertainties and the challenges, and so, when we meet fellow journeymen, we can’t help but think of them as friends and family, in a sense. I have writer friends of all ideologies. We may not share political or religious ideas. We may differ on how we write and whom we write for. But somehow none of that matters when we bond as writers, and that’s why, all writers should surround themselves with fellow writers whenever they can—to transcend the separation and divisions and distances of writing and the world and be reminded for however long that YOU ARE NOT ALONE.

Chances are, no matter what the struggle or difficulty you face as a writer, there are others out there who know exactly how you feel, exactly what it’s like. It’s rejuvenating to encounter that empathy and the closeness it inspires. It’s also rejuvenating to be around people with driving passions and emotions and wonderful ideas. I always come away not only encouraged and happy but also inspired and moved and so much more.

There’s value in writers in community interacting. Like the ultimate reviewers and readers, they come with a level of understanding and insight that provides immediate connection. Not that everyone likes everyone all the time or that there aren’t rivals and spats. But still, the value of writers in community is a powerful force. It’s why writers actually enjoy hanging out in Google Plus hangouts where no one talks but everyone writes. Other people may think that’s strange and a time sink but writers get it and thrive on such opportunities. It’s why writers go to retreats and conferences and even Conventions and hang out together, and it’s why so many writers speak often of friendships with other writers. We’re part of a club, a fraternity, a special order that forever binds us.

Who’s in your community? Both online and offline, who are the other creative you know and draw strength from? Do you make special effort to offer them the same support? Are there things you can do to build that community and help others to do the same? Jeremy’s doing it right now by letting me guest post here on the blog again, and I’m really grateful. We’ve talked online quite a bit on and off but we’ve never met face to face, yet here he is, opening his circle for me. As long as fellow writers exist, we are never alone, scribes. And isn’t it great to know we don’t have to be?

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In Bryan’s second novel, The Returning, new challenges arise as Davi Rhii’s rival Bordox and his uncle, Xalivar, seek revenge for his actions in The Worker Prince, putting his life and those of his friends and family in constant danger. Meanwhile, politics as usual has the Borali Alliance split apart over questions of citizenship and freedom for the former slaves. Someone’s even killing them off. Davi’s involvement in the investigation turns his life upside down, including his relationship with his fiancée, Tela. The answers are not easy with his whole world at stake.

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Bryan Thomas Schmidt is the author of the space opera novels The Worker Prince, a Barnes & Noble Book Clubs Year’s Best SF Releases of 2011 Honorable Mention, and The Returning, the collection The North Star Serial, Part 1, and several short stories featured  in anthologies and magazines.  He edited the anthology Space Battles: Full Throttle Space Tales #6 for Flying Pen Press, headlined by Mike Resnick. As a freelance editor, he’s edited novels and nonfiction.  He’s also the host of Science Fiction and Fantasy Writer’s Chat every Wednesday at 9 pm EST on Twitter under the hashtag #sffwrtcht. A frequent contributor to Adventures In SF PublishingGrasping For The Wind and SFSignal, he can be found online as @BryanThomasS on Twitter or via his website. Bryan is an affiliate member of the SFWA.

The Importance of Heroines – Guest Post by Bryan Thomas Schmidt

One of the traditional tropes of much science fiction and fantasy has long been the damsel in distress. Naturally, modern women often find such characters hard to relate to. They certainly find them hard to admire. So in revisiting the Golden Age style for my debut science fiction novel, The Worker Prince, one trope I was determined to avoid was the damsel in distress. In the end, I wound up with four strong female characters in major supporting roles. Here’s a break down:

Tela—pilot, slave rebellion leader, young but very smart and very independent.

Miri—Boralian princess, spoiled but yet independent. Refuses to accept the history and philosophy officially espoused by her ruling family, instead educating herself and her son, Davi, with exposure to diverse sources. Unafraid to question. Unafraid to confront her brother, who rules the Boralian Alliance, when necessary.

Lura—slave woman long separated from her husband who disappeared along with their only son, Davi, twenty years before. Nonetheless, she takes care of her sister’s family and stands firm in her faith and conviction and hope for the future.

Kray—sole female member of the ruling Boralian Council, life-long friend of Miri, independent, strong-willed, not intimidated by the powerful men around her.

One advantage in writing strong women characters is that I grew up in a family of strong women. From my mother to my grandmothers to my twin sister, the women in my family were taking no guff, and believe me when I say I tested those boundaries. But you quickly learn to respect women who are not pushovers. It’s amazing to be both loved well and scolded well by the same people. Yet you learn that their passions for both run deep, and it makes you a better man.

To me, the importance of strong heroines is twofold. First, for inspiring young women to grow up to be proud and comfortable and secure in their identities. And second, to raise young men who will respect and appreciate those women for all they have to offer.

Literature is influential. It teaches even as it entertains. If all we provide for young readers are examples of weak heroines, they will, in some way, grow up expecting that’s all they should find in the real world. All human beings have their weaknesses, of course. No two humans are exactly alike, we are all individuals. So writing characters as individuals is vital. And offering examples of the infinite possibilities available to our young people, I believe, is an author’s responsibility. A part of this is modeling behaviors which such strong individuals might exhibit. Being strong women does not automatically mean bitches. That is one old stereotype we can all do without. At the same time, strong women can cry and express a variety of emotions. Showing emotion is not a weakness. It’s just something women in society have learned to do better than men. In many ways, they are fortunate in that opportunity.

For me, the trick to writing strong women is to write them like men. But remember key things. Women are all about communication, especially emotional communication. Whereas men tend to prefer action to show their emotions and don’t tend toward long emotional discussions, those things are the opposite with most women. Of course, women also have different priorities and often different concerns. From child birth to homemaking, etc., women do have different societal expectations to wrestle with than men. Whether your characters go the traditional route or buck the trend, the questions must be asked and answered and can be used in building their characters.

There’s also certainly nothing wrong with male heroes rescuing or helping their women. Some women in real life even fantasize a bit about this. But you can have a woman in jeopardy without her being weak and defenseless. Especially in larger than life space opera settings, such as mine, the odds against characters are often larger than life themselves and require teamwork to overcome. A male hero leading the way is not all bad if that character has knowledge the female character would rely on to help get them out of the trouble they’re in. The woman can use her skills as well to contribute and work with the man to extract themselves to safety.

I think the key to keeping heroines strong while still building dramatic situations with real jeopardy and challenges for the characters is to emphasize the individual strengths of the characters and think about how those can be used for each character to react differently to the various circumstances you put them through. It’s also not wrong to have the woman rescue the man sometimes. In my case, having a woman partner who can do that is a big turn on. I like to be taken care of, too. Don’t you?

It doesn’t make me feel week to rely on someone else’s strengths. It make me feel loved and safe, and that’s a good feeling. So employing these things in your story just makes it more relatable for readers. It also makes it more fun and connected to their contemporary reality, and that, when writing in the speculative realms, can only make your stories more accessible and successful.

So don’t forget about the need for strong heroines. What are some ways you can employ them to make your stories rise above the rest?

Bryan Thomas Schmidt is the author of the space opera novel The Worker Prince, the collection The North Star Serial, and has several short stories forthcoming in anthologies and magazines. He’s also the host of Science Fiction and Fantasy Writer’s Chat every Wednesday at 9 pm EST on Twitter, where he interviews people like Mike Resnick, AC Crispin, Kevin J. Anderson and Kristine Kathryn Rusch. He can be found online as @BryanThomasS on Twitter or via his website. Excerpts from The Worker Prince can be found on his blog.

The Worker Prince is the story of a prince who discovers he was born a slave. When he raises objections about the abusive treatment of slaves, he finds himself in conflict with both friends and families. After a tragic accident, involving the death of a fellow soldier, Davi Rhii winds up on the run. He then joins the worker’s fight for freedom and finds a new identity and new love. Capturing the feel of the original Star Wars, packed with action, intrigue and interweaving storylines, The Worker Prince is a space opera with a Golden Aged Feel. 

Idols & Cons – Guest Post by S. S. Michaels

Thanks for having me on your blog today, Jeremy. I have a new book scheduled to be released on November 15th, so I’d like to talk a little bit about that.

People ask me how IDOLS & CONS, a story about drugs, murder, art, and imprisonment in a boy band came about. Well, I was working on award shows in Hollywood at the time and I spent some time hanging around, getting to know a little bit about the talent. One of the biggest guests we had was a boy band, and just seeing their dynamic, how they seemed like this cute little clique, an evil thought entered my head about what it might feel like to be someone kind of edgy forced into a situation where they had to be perfect and bubble-gummy all the time. Hence, the situation in my story.

Another question I get is about transgressive fiction, and what it means to be transgressive, and why I choose to write this kind of misfit mix of disturbia. I actually did not know that what I was writing was called “transgressive” – it was a label given to me by a couple of agents and at least one editor. And, it’s just what comes out of my head. I’ve known marginalized people – drug addicts, people afflicted with mental illness, “outsiders” (thankfully no murderers, though) – and I find them fascinating characters in life, so why not blow them up to larger-than-life and put them in a book? I’ve lived in a lot of different places and have seen so many different things in life, I like to bring in what’s interesting, what most people aren’t writing about. My editor says my writing is “like getting punched in the face until you vomit. In a good way.” I like that. I think a lot of people will find my book interesting, to say the least.

In IDOLS & CONS, Jake Wolfram is the biggest, slickest, sickest pop star of our time.

Drug-dealing voyeuristic punk, Jake, is yanked from poverty and into the white-hot spotlight after witnessing a crime committed by his neighbor, Damien Tungsten, front man for the boy band, In Dreams.

Jake lives life on the run, hiding in the limelight, and resenting every single minute of it. He’s relentlessly pursued by his former friend, psychopathic visual artist, Patrick Salinger, who coerces Jake into helping him turn a grisly murder into a masterpiece.

Seizing control of the power he craves, Jake disposes of Damien, confronts Patrick, and lives a bad-boy rock-and-roll lifestyle as he hijacks Damien’s super-stardom.

But Damien’s not quite ready to let it go.

IDOLS & CONS will be available November 15th.

Thanks, Jeremy, for having me on your blog. Tell the Attic Clown I’m ready to give him another stomping whenever he’s ready. Bring it, Clown!

S. S. Michaels has written three novels, and has had several short pieces appear in on-line publications. She has worked for Scott Free, dick clark productions, inc., and CBS. Visit her on the web at http://slushpilehero.wordpress.com.

Jupiter Set – Guest Post by S. S. Michaels

Jupiter Set
by S. S. Michaels

“They look like ants,” you say. You spit out a grain of sand that flew into your mouth when that screaming guy in the polyester track suit sprinted by, his sneakers kicking up a rooster tail behind him. “You know, like a big bloated orange torso that some kid pulled the legs off of.”

The squeal of locking brakes, screeching rubber marring the asphalt, a hideous metallic crunch and a boom all echo down the beach from the street behind us.

I squint at the object you’re holding in both hands like some antique shop rarity.

I snort.  “Circus peanuts don’t look like ants,” I say, looking out at the Pacific Ocean. Some student walks by, leaving a trail of school shit that leaks out of his L. L. Bean monogrammed backpack. A calculator. A pocket-sized dictionary. A couple of pens. He mutters something unintelligible and pulls at his greasy brown hair as he plods by.

People scream from the pier, though none of the rides are operating.

“What’s a six-letter word for a bouquet of seashells?” I say.

You’re looking at the starfish running by on two legs, smiling. I know you’re worried about it dying on dry land, though. You throw the circus peanut and it lands in the creature’s path. It lets out a dry screech and changes direction. You frown..

“Danger?” you say.

A bus crashes into the new Hilton Hotel across the street from the beach. Breaking glass flies through the thickening air, slicing anyone and anything in its path.

There are no sirens anymore.

Those stopped a few days ago.

When the sky started to change color and we didn’t notice.

My crossword puzzle is too hard. Or maybe I’m bored with it. I lay it on the greenish sand next to me and stand up to stretch.

“Are you going somewhere?” you say.

Families run toward the street. People trip over each other. Maybe they’re on their way to dinner.

“No. Where would I go?”

Over the water, Jupiter sets more gracefully than the sun ever has.

“Dinner?”

S. S. Michaels is represented by Mark McVeigh of The McVeigh Agency. She has written three novels, and has had several short pieces appear in on-line publications. She has worked for Scott Free, dick clark productions, inc., and CBS. Visit her on the web at http://slushpilehero.wordpress.com, and check out her story Road to Revival House.

Rule 1. When the Story Fairy Makes a Delivery, Take it – Guest Post by Lydia Ondrusek

Once upon a time I wrote for high school and college papers. I wrote a column, reviews, profile features. And then I didn’t write at all, for a long time. When I started, years later, to write again, I went for what I knew. I did little essays on a site called Gather. They were okay. Then someone told me about fifty-word stories.

I was incredulous. I was hesitant. I was – curious.

I discovered I had a knack for twisty little fifties. People on Gather liked them. People off Gather liked them. My first sale was a “long” story (a whole hundred words) and my second, FOUR fifties.

Somehow, that led to writing poetry. Still not sure how.

I acquired a crit partner, who I’ve never met in person, courtesy of the internet. And despite the fact that he wrote humor and horror and I – didn’t — because the story fairy had delivered him, he was just the magic I needed. I began writing fiction; exploring flash, which was just starting to really fly with the increase of reading on the computer.

I wrote a little horror (my crit partner calls my horror stories “horrilous”). I wrote a little fantasy, and a little mainstream, and a little undefinable something that teetered between the two. I wrote stuff I dreamed, whole, and things that trickled out bit by piece; things that I recognized – and things that made my husband shake his head, speechless.

What I learned, through all this, is that it doesn’t hurt to try anything I have a mind to try. Maybe I can do it. Even if I’ve never done it before. Even if I’m not sure I know how to do it. Even if I give it my best shot and can’t do it – what are they gonna do to me?

So I’ve got a middle-grade story series that’s being published, and a story in an anthology this summer that’s, well, not middle grade. I’m writing a novel that involves a place I’ve never been, and if any editors would like to take a look at the first story ever co-written by me & my crit-partner, John Jasper Owens? Just ask. It’s horrilous.

I spend a lot of time, probably too much, on Twitter. One of the more interesting things I’ve learned there was that RL Stine, who writes Goosebumps, was originally a humor writer. Rule 1. When the story fairy makes a delivery, take it.

Why don’t I have any other rules? Because after all this time, I haven’t found I need any others.

Bio: Lydia Ondrusek has been known to describe herself as writing her way out of a paper bag. Her fiction and poetry have been published both on the web and in print – find out where at www.lydiaondrusek.com. Her middle-grade short-story series “King of the Marshmallows” is being published by Echelon/Quake in six monthly releases. It’s available through Amazon, OmniLit, and Smashwords.