This post is something of a blast from the past, or possibly the start of another series of guest post.
My guest today is Jane Routley whose novel, The Three Sisters, was released recently. This is from Jane’s press release.
The Three Sisters by Jane Routley
Historical Fantasy with feisty female Characters
“A captivating read” Sara Douglass
Three sisters, estranged from the Society they are destined to save. Elena, more beautiful than any man can resist, is kidnapped, her destiny controlled by the men who desire her. Yani, warrior woman, brave, strong, able to pass as a man, who will do anything to find Elena. Marigoth, powerful female mage, determined never to grow up, equally committed to finding their missing sister. In a country oppressed and cruelly ruled, the fate of many people lies in the unsuspecting hands of these three women.
Today’s post is very long, very interesting, and very colourful. My guest, Nikki McDonagh is a very talented artist and everything is grist to her creative mill. She hasn’t sent me an author pic this time but you can see what her mug looks like if you go here. I’ll hand over to Nikki to introduce herself.
I am a creative writing tutor, photographer, and published author. I trained as a photojournalist many years ago and have an Honours Degree in Drama and English Literature, and a Diploma in Creative Writing.
I used to be an actor/director and scriptwriter, but gave it all up when I moved to Suffolk, where I live with my husband and cats in a 17th Century timber-framed cottage. I love being creative with words and images, and enjoy experimenting with language and photography.
Echoes From the Lost Ones: Blurb:
I’m not like the other girlygigs in Cityplace; I’m a bringer. I can sing to the only animals left in NotsoGreatBritAlbion and make them land. Adara, catcher of birds -that’s what they call me and that’s what I can do.
Now that the Agros have cut supplies and folk are near starved, I’d best keep shutums about my name though, or everyone will want a piece of me.
I’d best creep and peep all stealthy-like to track down my bro-bro. Snatched by Agro scum for who knows what.
Good job I’m trained in S.A.N.T. ways too, for I’ll need all my roughhouse skills to keep the Agro spies, Nearlys and wolfies at bay until I find and bring home my bro and all the other missing Meeks.
I just wish I knew who or what is following my every move.
We stood in the dark not able even to see our own limbs if we were to lift them to our faces. I turned my head skywards and saw nowt, no moon and no stars. I heard Wirt take a gulp and I too felt a dryness creep up my throat. I remembered the last encounter with wolfies had been in daylight, and with some sort of diversion for us to make our escape. Out here in pitchy blackness, I feared for us all and shuffled nearer to Eadgard.
“Shhh! Quickly stand back to back in a circle and do not move, or make a sound. Do not turn on a torch or any source of light. The darkness now is our only protector. These hounds, although fierce to be sure, are about as bright as a black hole and will only attack when they see movement. Again I urge you to be as still as still and quiet as quiet. Now let me feel your hands,” Eadgard said and Wirt and I did what we were told.
The grumbling, rumbling noise grew louder and I smelled a pungent wetness waft across my face. The darkness seemed to thicken around us and I saw red dots appear here and there. They winked and burned and I knew they were the soulless eyes of the Cloniewolves that Eadgard had described. A dagger like voice slashed into our ears.
“Heel! Heel, you rawbone jackals. Heel!”
A whip crack sound echoed round us and the burning flecks disappeared. I felt both Wirt’s and Eadgard’s hands relax in mine. A different smell spiralled up towards my nasal passages. A sweet and sickly aroma like something gone rotten.
“Strangers here, we tell. We leave all to mercy of houndlings, have ourselves goodly feed. Meat scarce to come by, we here not particular where it comes from. All better when fresh.”
“Quiet, Marcellus. Stand back, shine our light.”
“Do as we say. Or Vea will hear of this.”
The stinky pong diminished and I heard a sparkly crackle sound. Then a light as bright as two suns, or so it seemed in the blackness of our surrounding, splashed before our eyes. I held my hand across my face and blinked until my vision made sense of such illumination. I gave out a greatly gasp and let instinct propel me backwards at the sight that came into view.
*Blogger’s Note: You will have noticed that Nikki has a special way with words. That alone makes her book worth reading. Here is my review of Echoes from the Lost Ones
A Silence Heard is the second volume of the series.
A Silence Heard – Blurb:
It’s a sickly wind that blows, ash black and full of menace. I hear them through the blackness – voices inside my noggin. Meeks calling from deep within the ground.
I stop listening and catch another sound. Agros, lots of them. Feet pounding, shaking the earth, drawing closer. An unseen army equipped with tech we know nowt about. All I have is my voice and the power of friendship. I must act now before the Agro menace snuffs us out.
But there’s a stone in my guts. A hard thing that won’t move. Yet I must, I must rise from all this grief and sing. Sing to save the Meeks, sing to destroy the Agros, and sing The Song of Forgetfulness to send lost loved ones to a better place and peace.
You’ll see, I’ll save my bro-bro yet.
Eadgard walked over to the other two Agro guards, who remained flat on the floor. He grabbed one of them by his shirt collar and yanked him to his feet. “Disarm the cams,” he said. The guard gulped. Eadgard pressed two fingers into the side of his neck and the guard choked. “You on the floor, get up.” He did and quickly too. “Disarm the cams or your friend will join the others.”
The male shook his head and said, “I have not the power to do this.”
Eadgard gave his prisoner a swift jab in the throat and down he went. He stared at the remaining guard. “Disarm the cams.”
“I do not know how.”
Eadgard leant closer to him. The male sank to his knees. “Do me no further harm. I cannot do as you ask, I cannot.”
“Do so quickly. We cannot be observed.”
“I cannot. I do not know how!”
Eadgard shoved him forward and the trembling Agro scum sprawled out, blubbing like a newbie. Eadgard raised his foot over his head, but before he could make contact with his skull, Kendra approached him holding out a black rectangle.
“Wait. I still have the communications console from the ‘Play Area’.”
Eadgard placed his foot on the ground and the guard curled up like a womb bub. Kendra lifted the com, tip-tapped it and the red dots of light on the cams went out.
“There, all fixed.”
“Why did you not use this device before?” Eadgard said.
“Because I wanted to show this Agro slime that we are not to be taken lightly.”
Kendra walked over to Alfred and glared at him so hard that he looked away as if
burned by the sun. “I wanted him, and all those that are spying on us right now, to see the strength we have.”
Marcellus pinned Alfred’s arms behind his back and he let out a yelp. Eadgard pulled the prostrate guard from the floor and pushed him towards Wirt, who pointed a gun at the Agro’s head. The puny male began to weep and Eadgard walked away, a look of loathing on his face. He stood by one of the cubicles, turned his head and looked into the window. He narrowed his eyes and peered closer. I thought him daft since all I could see was gloom.
“Hey! Hey! Over here. I think I see something,” he said and beckoned us to join him. Kendra and I sped to his side, whilst Wirt and Marcellus pushed and prodded the Agro males before them. Eadgard had his nose squished against the glass. We all, except for Alfred, and the Agros, crept nearer and stared into the darkened room behind.
We all jumped back.
Out from the unlitness, a face appeared.
Then another, and another, and another.
As light filled the cubicles we saw more and more young ’uns and bubs alike, staring back at us.
Their hands pressed upon the panes.
Their eyes wide, their mouths open.
Glimmer is a collection of seven compelling and darkly humorous stories that deal with obsession, loss, redemption and hope.
In these tales of mysterious liaisons, supernatural intrigue, deathly hauntings and disturbing fixations, characters reveal hidden secrets, forbidden urges, untold yearnings and skills in necromancy.
The world will not end because I close my eyes. The sun will still shine, so too the stars. Yet the darkness behind my drooped lids tells me otherwise. I see a macrocosm made up of swirling silhouettes and geometric shapes that aren’t strange to me at all. This is where I live now, in x-ray blackness. There is peace in this non-colour. A stillness that demands quiet.
This is what I need if I am to receive their call.
Though my eyes are closed and my breath is short and shallow, I see and hear everything. Sometimes it’s too much and I have to take a break and let my mind wander down a quieter path. But I get lost and end up back in the place of noise and trouble. They must sift through all this debris and find me out.
Before I stick to the sheets.
Extract: On the Eighth Day:
Rain. Lots of it.
What a contrast to the day before. The monochrome light showed more than it should. I began to notice cracks in the cornicing and areas of discolouration on the burgundy painted walls. Even the bed looked unwelcoming and I shuddered as a memory from the past crept into my head. My wedding day. Not a joyous affair. A marriage I allowed to happen because I feared the alternative. I was not a great beauty. My charm lay in my chastity. And my new husband, Alfred, valued it above all else.
“You are my salvation. My pure one. Soon, when the moon is blue, I will come to you and lavish my affection. You will endure pleasures beyond your comprehension. You cannot know what things are to come,” Alfred said. He was right. I could never have imagined what was in store for me.
Adam lay stretched flat upon the floor. Two white plugs stuffed into his ears. His head nodded in rhythm to a faint beat. I grew weary of watching his eyebrows rise and fall at each change in tempo, and stared out of the murky window. My mind turned to thoughts of last night and the intriguing man that I had met.
I looked down at the street below. A grey scene that reflected my mood. I saw grey people walking along grey pavements under a grey sky. I looked back at Adam, he too was grey. He noticed me and caught me up in his big fleshy palm. I scratched his knuckles drawing blood. He withdrew his hand and sucked at the wound. I watched the red liquid drip, and thought it a relief of colour against this atmosphere of dull.
Before we flip over to another facet of Nicola McDonagh’s creativity, here are the links for her books.
Today in the Author Hot Seat my guest is Lockard Young and the first MG author to volunteer to reveal all. Lockie’s article is the story of his journey as a writer, intimately woven into his life as a family man. It’s an inspiring story. I found it touching that his experiences mirror very closely those of many women writers. So, ladies, we too can be at the giving out end when it comes to criticising writing spouses. Lockie though is blessed with an understanding partner who forgives him his little foibles.
I’m handing over to him now, to tell you about his writing and why he does it.
I started writing nearly 20 years ago as an experiment to try and learn to type on our then brand new computer. I was out of work with 2 small boys at home, so while my wife worked I would play Mr. Mom, at least for the day. While the children were down for naps, I would clickity clack away in an awkward hunt and peck method. I got bored with typing “The quick brown fox” sentence, so I started to make up my own sentences. Now I had no idea about hand placement so my awkward wooden fingers just plodded on, and the ancient word program I had that came with the PC was so very cool, it was like magic. Gone were the messy inked ribbons, carbon paper, and ‘white out’. A simple click on the backspace button and the mistake was gone. What I didn’t expect was this story pouring out of my head and onto the monitor screen. Born out of my imagination a character was taking shape, and he was telling an amazing story.
One day my wife came home from a tiring day at work to find the living room a mess with toys, our two toddlers busy with blocks and toy cars, and supper not even started, never mind cooked. I had made sure I kept an ear out for trouble in the living room (our oldest boy could somehow escape from the playpen) but they were safe and sound, and I had simply lost track of time. And so after discussing my lack of help, loudly discussing my lack of help, I admitted my addiction. That’s right, this story was now an addiction. When I didn’t have distractions like children or upset wives, like on weekends and evenings, I would climb into my story and feel it envelope me, and I would not even stop for a cigarette, my other addiction at the time. Eventually my wife’s curiosity got the best of her and so one evening I read everyone my story. It was about a young boy who discovered a real live creature beneath the ground in his back yard. This creature is known to humans only as a legend, a mythical beast, but the main character is able to communicate with this Legend through telepathy, and he learns why this species has hidden from Mankind for so many centuries. The characters in my book were named after my children, and they both listened intently as the story unfolded.
I wrote Ryan’s Legend because my boys wanted to know “What happens next Daddy?” and with nothing written I had to write more, and because the book has short chapters and is meant for young children to read,with simple sentences and cliff hanger chapter endings, I was told it was a Middle Grade Fantasy. I find it hard to nail it down to just one genre, because it also appeals to adults, as I discovered when I test drove it for a group of senior citizens, and they wouldn’t let me leave until I had read the entire book. Today, there are things called tags. Apparently this amazing entity we call the internet (it really is alive you know) knows how to search out these tags, so I would tag Ryan’s Legend with names like Fantasy, educational (because the MC learns about nature) and Nature, secrets, Legends. All of these words describe this very short story which fits somewhere between a short story and a novella. At roughly 12,000 words, I stopped because I was told it was getting to be too long for middle graders, and I continued to add to the sequel many years later, when I was offered publication of the first book. At present my publisher has shown an interest in the sequel, but we haven’t reached the contract stage as yet.
While I was and am still discovering my passion for writing I continue to try different styles and themes. After all, what is an addiction if we don’t experiment along the way? I have a detective novel that I add to now and then when I get stuck for words on something else, I have a Science fiction short story I wrote years ago called Techno Man (surprisingly some of the things I wrote in that piece have come true), and I have a few short stories, all under 5000 words, which includes a Fairy Tale. Oh, and I am also working on an auto biography, which is so much different then Fiction, about my experience with arterial disease, and living life as an amputee as a result of a clogged artery, and an operation that went sideways. As a result of my new journey on a different road, I have also written a speech, which I will give someday to inspire others, called Depression and the 80% solution. You can view that on my blog, with the link below.And Just the other day I wrote a humorous piece about the trials of coping with an artificial leg and the pitfalls of life in a wheelchair, called “My Sweaty Old Stump” (yeah…it’s a working title). I also have written numerous poems, some of which I don’t like, but I found out long ago not to trash those poems and stories you don’t like. They say the harshest critic is oneself, and I’ve discovered that some of my poems and stories that I absolutely hated, other’s like, and so I rarely trash any completed piece anymore. One of those poems I nearly threw out was my attempt at an Edgar Allen Poe type poem called Beneath my Bed. I had a lot of positive feedback on that poem, but poetry for me has always been more of a nuisance to me than anything else. Rhyming words that strike me, sometimes in the middle of the night, that I just have to write down or they haunt me. I’ve been told my poetry, at least some of it, is very good, but it is something I’ve never had much confidence in.
You asked me Which Author influenced my writing. I’m ashamed to admit that I didn’t read much as a very young boy, other than the Archie comics and “the Hardy Boys” mystery series. Richard Adams wrote an amazing tale called Watership Down, where animals are Characters, and since I was thinking of that book when I animated Ryan’s Legend, and brought that creature alive and able to ‘talk’ to Ryan, I suppose you could say I was influenced by that book to a certain extent. One of my favorite authors is Stephen King, but I have yet to write in his Genre, but those are impossibly big shoes to fill, so I just try to be L.F.Young, and write first for me, because if I’m not having fun writing, then it becomes work, and I already worked for 35 years as a Plumber. Once I have had my fun writing, it is then I will give it to my readers, and that is really the hardest part for me. The letting go of something that you live and breath and become for a while. I give my stories to my readers reluctantly, because I have nurtured those tales like children, and no parent likes to let go of their children.
You also asked about Amazon, Jane. You may not like what I have to say about Amazon. Is it a necessary evil? Perhaps so, but I would tell anyone reading this, not to get discouraged by the numbers on amazon. They are terribly skewed in a way, to sales. If you got 150 of your friends to all go on Amazon at the same time and buy your book you would climb in the ratings. Now there is your sign. I suppose that is the most important thing in the whole world for a new writer. To be famous and fabulously rich, but the truth is, that is just not how it is. A writer, especially a published writer, has to work hard to promote themselves, and that is especially true if you self publish. That is the part I have trouble with. Tooting my own horn. A writer can’t depend on the publisher alone to do the promoting of your book, and of you. That’s right, you are now a commodity. Nothing more than a bag of sugar in a warehouse full of bags of sugar. You have to convince the consumer (the reader) that this bag of sugar is the absolute best one in the whole building, and that is easier said then done.
One way to get your name out there is to actually promote someone else. I had no idea who Jane Dougherty was, or who Chris the story reading ape was (if you put all those words together you will find his Blog) but Chris featured me one time on his Blog, and I found Jane through Chris, and so the networking will begin. The worse thing for a writer is no self confidence. And it doesn’t take much to knock a person down. A few rejection letters will do that in no time, but remember who you ultimately write for, your audience.
Thank you for taking the time to read this. I hope you will read my book Ryan’s Legend, perhaps to your children, or with them. It’s so very important to keep our species reading, because without imagination, we are just machines.
Let me leave you with these words I wrote…
How many great Gems
Were lost to thought
And not put down to pen
We can but think of just a few
And then they’re lost again.
Lockie Young AKA L.F. Young
Thank you for your optimism, Lockie. It’s easy to let lack of sales get us down, but you remind us all that sales aren’t the be all and end all of success.
If you would like to find out more about L.F.Young you can find him here http://morningrainpublishing.com/project/ryans-legend/ The book
Today my guest in the Hot Seat is Misha Burnett, an author I didn’t know before I decided to try and tempt the more off-beat authors to reveal themselves. I’m pleased that I did as it has given me the opportunity to discover some really original writers. Misha is one of those writers who seems to have defied every convention in the book—an ideal candidate for the ‘unclassifiables’ I was so keen to get into the hot seat.
Handing over now to Misha, to tell it as it is.
G. K. Chesterton once remarked that when inscribing a circle, one can begin anywhere. To begin trying to explain the world that I have created in my novels, I want to start with a drunken conversation at a party some years ago in which I was discussing William Burroughs with a friend of mine and someone entered into the discussion under the impression that we were talking about Edgar Rice Burroughs.
The confusion didn’t last long, but the chance juxtaposition of two very different writers, both of whom I happen to enjoy for very different reasons, started a chain of thought in my mind. What if (and “what if” is writer talk for “hold my beer, I want to try something”) I took what I liked from both writers and put it together?
The world has changed and grown some since then, but the seed crystal with which I started was an attempt to combine the cosmology of William Burrough’s Nova Express novels with the very prosaic and quotidian style of an Edger Rice Burrough’s narrator.
My novels are set in a world that seems very much like ours, but is under attack by bodiless parasites from outer space, creatures that exist only as information and feed on order. They have destroyed their own worlds and have attached themselves to the Earth, entering the minds of human beings to sow madness and chaos, increasing entropy and sucking the sanity out of everything they touch.
They also make deals with human beings. They sell technology that allows humans to change themselves into other things—ambimorphs, blue metal boys, necroidim, minraudim, hives, pale surgeons. I deliberately set out to create a new mythology of semi-human creatures, avoiding the standard vampires, werewolves, zombies, elves, and so on.
Now, that’s the half that’s easy to explain. The other half is my narrator, James, and his alter ego, Catskinner. This gets a little personal. I have a mental condition that is known as Dissociative Identity Disorder—what they used to call Multiple Personality Disorder. In creating James & Catskinner I wanted to capture the subjective experience of dissociation. I fictionalized it and made it into something with a fantastic explanation because I wanted to concentrate on the feelings rather than the facts behind them. (I, myself, do not believe that I have an alien demon living in my head, nor do I kill people. Just so you know.)
Clearly, I have some difficulty giving an elevator pitch on my novels. I have a main character who isn’t entirely himself, in a world where nothing is quite what it seems. I deliberately blur the line between science fiction and fantasy, keeping the true nature of the Outsiders ambiguous. My narrator is not a hero, he is, at best, the least of a host of evils. My romantic lead is a half-plant hermaphrodite. My protagonist’s sidekick makes his living conning government agencies into thinking that he works for them.
And don’t even get me started on James’ family.
My experience with traditional publishing has been somewhat underwhelming. I queried twenty-something agents when I finished the first novel, Catskinner’s Book. I carefully sorted through listings for those agents who were currently looking for new authors, who accepted science fiction and fantasy and horror (since my book could be considered any of those), and who specifically said that they were looking for works that broke new ground.
I never got a single reply. Not even a “no, thanks, this isn’t for me.” Nothing. To be honest, I don’t know if any of them even received my query. I know that people say that I should have kept working on trying to get representation, that I should have sent out two hundred or two thousand letters, but when the first twenty—the ones that I had hand-picked as being most likely to accept something really different—failed to reply at all, I gave up.
I decided to self-publish.
Am I a financial success? Not so much. I have reached people, though, and I have a small but very enthusiastic fan base. My work isn’t for everyone, but those who like it seem to really like it, and it’s not something that they can get anywhere else. The reviews for both Catskinner’s Book and Cannibal Hearts have been very positive, and I have a lot of interest in the third book, The Worms Of Heaven. (I’m working on it, okay? It’ll be done when it’s done. Soon, though, I promise.)
I have tried a lot of different kinds of promotion, ranging from expensive stuff that doesn’t work to cheap stuff that doesn’t work. I’m a terrible salesman. Most of my new readers learn about my books from other readers, one friend telling another, “You’ve got to check out this book… it’s so weird!”
I also pick up new readers from my blog, where I talk about the art and business of writing and post samples of my work.
Now that I have some reviews on the two books that I have out there and a third nearly finished, I have started looking for a publisher again. There are a number of reasons for this, but the main one is that there is a lot more to putting a book together and selling it than just writing the damned thing, and I am very willing to share the profits in exchange for help with editing, formatting, promotion, and the rest.
It is still an uphill battle, but now I can point to my fans and say, “See—people will actually pay real money for this stuff! And say nice things about me, too!”
So we’ll see what happens.
To whom would I recommend my work? People who like books that mess with their heads. I consider myself a New Wave writer, in the tradition of Phillip Dick, George Alec Effinger, Ursula K Le Guin, Samuel Delany, and, more recently, Tim Powers, Clive Barker, and China Mielville. I don’t think that speculative fiction—by which I mean science fiction, fantasy, and horror—should be safe or comfortable. I raise a lot of hard questions in my work, and I don’t even try to answer most of them.
I like questions that don’t have easy answers. I think that they’re the only questions worth asking.
For more of my work you can check out my blog at: http://mishaburnett.wordpress.com/
My Amazon author’s page is here: http://www.amazon.com/Misha-Burnett/e/B008MQ8W4K/
Thank you for telling us about yourself and your writing, Misha. I think many of us would agree with you about the discomfort factor being somehow necessary in spec-fic, even if it is possibly easier to win over a certain readership by slipping in a romantic element that distracts attention from the potential nastiness of futuristic/fantasy worlds.
Your reasons for self-publishing will also seem pretty familiar to many of us. Interesting that you are going to persevere with your search for a publisher. I hope you’ll come back and let us know how you get on.