Writer’s Block: Guest Post by Author Anne Charnock

Charnock2I’m pretty much immune to the phenomenon labelled ‘writer’s block’ largely thanks, I believe, to my career in journalism.

Procrastination isn’t really an option either in that line of work – there was no time to fear ‘the blank sheet of paper’. In fact, I’d often conjure the first paragraph of a feature in the midst of conducting an interview (Got it! That quote will be the opening). It was fun, even exhilarating.

However, when I’d completed my novel A Calculated Life, I looked back on the years of drafting and redrafting and I could see I did experience writer’s block on one occasion. I wasn’t blocked in terms of losing my mojo. I simply couldn’t visualize the next scene. It was so problematic that I put my incomplete first draft in a drawer, and left it there for at least six months.

In this first draft I’d set up a scenario, based late in the 21st century, in which low-grade workers were segregated and lived in enclaves outside the metropolitan areas. My problem was this: I simply couldn’t visualize these enclaves.

It took many months for the penny to drop. This is how it came about:

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Buy on Amazon!

In my journalism career, I operated as a freelance foreign correspondent looking at issues around economic development. My research took me on many fascinating journeys to see living and working conditions within towns, cities and rural areas. The interviews were diverse: a farming family in Upper Egypt, a shanty dwelling family in Mumbai, an entrepreneur coffin maker in Botswana, an olive farmer in Jordan, chapatti bakers in Gujarat. I met so many interesting and generous people whose lives in some ways were very different to my own. In other ways, we had a great deal in common. We laughed about the same things, we all had families.

The answer to my ‘enclaves problem’ was SO obvious that I was tempted to bang my head against a brick wall! The enclaves became an amalgamation of scenes I’d witnessed during these foreign assignments. The regimented housing blocks of Suez, in Egypt, became the architectural fabric of the enclaves. The teeming markets of African and Middle Eastern towns became key scenes. And the entrepreneurial activities in my fictional enclave reflected the many local, micro-finance businesses I encountered in shanties and rural communities, from Colombo to Ismailia, Khartoum to rural Malawi. I even drew on the mild anxiety I experienced when I found myself way off the beaten track with minimal personal security. Less dangerous times, maybe!

It took me many years to get around to writing fiction and one of my main consolations today is that I’ve found a new incarnation for these exciting and intriguing foreign encounters!

Learn more about Anne on her website, www.annecharnock.com, follow her on Facebook or Twitter, and most importantly pick up a copy of A Calculated Life.

INTERVIEW WITH A CHARACTER

Of course Dimitri didn’t answer on the first ring (he always lets it go to voicemail so he can screen calls – god knows he’s too cheap to get caller ID), but still I thought he’d get back to me sooner. I mean we have history. But what with the media attention from the 2013 Amazon Breakthrough Novel Awards (he’s the narrator of POE), plus the unwanted attention from the demonic realm, it’s understandable that he’s trying to keep on the down low.

It took an offer of fresh cronuts and a cappuccino machine (bought at a yard sale), before he was willing to sit down at a small diner in New England to talk about his least favorite subject—himself.

Fenn: So I thought we’d use “Proust’s Questionnaire” to get things started. It’s a little writer’s trick to discover more about their characters.

Dimitri?

Dimitri sighting?

Dimitri: Are you saying I’m a character? As in “oh, he’s such a character, he’s the life of the party.” Or are you questioning my inherent existence?

Fenn: I didn’t mean—

Dimitri: Because let’s get one thing straight. You got how much money selling my story to Amazon?

Fenn: Technically it was an advance—

Dimitri: And you think cronuts and a second-hand cappuccino machine is my due? By the way I noticed the $5.00 label. Classy touch.

 Fenn: Right.

 (awkward pause)

Fenn: Not easy to get cronuts though.

Dimitri: Noted. (eyes the cronuts). It’s like a cross between a donut and croissant?

Fenn: And it’s fried. That’s peanut butter icing.

(Dimitri takes a bite. Looks reluctantly appeased).

Fenn: So let’s dive into our Proust thing. What is your idea of perfect happiness?

Dimitri: A new cappuccino machine?

 Fenn: Seriously.

 Dimitri: I don’t think there’s such a thing as perfect happiness. I mean, I could say sitting with Lisa on a beach in Miami, drinking something fruity with umbrellas, that’d be nice. Unless there are sharks. And then sand, it gets all up in your bathing suit—you try to wash it off in the bathtub and it clogs the drain. See what I mean? There’s always something itchy about happiness.

 Fenn: What is your greatest fear?

 Dimitri (snorts with laughter): Other than spleen-eating demons trying to kill me and my girlfriend?

 Fenn: Yeah, other than that.

 Dimitri: Dying without knowing who I am, or anyone else knowing who I am, really.

 Fenn: Ok. That was actually kind of deep. If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?

 Dimitri: My insanely gorgeous physique. A constant source of harassment.

 Fenn: I take it you’re being ironic?

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Is this level of sparkle refraction even possible?

Dimitri: You should know—you wrote me this way. Of course Twilight’s Edward is so good-looking he sparkles. You think a geeky guy narrator is going to pull in the tweens?

 Fenn: Not really the audience I was going for. You might have noticed the strong language.

 Dimitri: I’m 23, we swear occasionally. Sue me. But the gore wasn’t my idea.

 Fenn: Right, the gore.

 Dimitri: Thanks so much for that.

 Fenn: Hey, you took the Aspinwall assignment. Maybe staying overnight at a haunted mansion on Halloween wasn’t the best idea.

 Dimitri: Again, not my call Ms. Deux ex Machina. Plus it was an opportunity to expand my journalist horizons beyond obituaries, and I needed the money. Some of us writers aren’t living the 47North high life. They gave you a free Kindle, right?

 Fenn: You’re completely impossible. Ok, next question. What is your current state of mind?

 Dimitri: Recovering from PTSD. I know I’m not supposed to give away any SPOILERS. But thanks to you I now have a phobia of wells, the Tudor style of architecture, antiquarian books, morgues, hospitals, knives, 20th century Russian occultism, séances, punk rock bands, photography, and poetry magnets. Not necessarily in that order.

 Fenn: But beaches, beaches are still good?

 (scribbles note to self)

 Dimitri: I don’t like the way you just said that. You’re not going to ruin beaches for me too, are you?

 Fenn: Me? No. You and Lisa are happily ever after and all that.

 Dimitri: Because if there’s a sequel I’d appreciate some warning. And a bigger cut.

 Fenn: Noted. So, back to Proust. What is your most treasured possession?

 Dimitri: I’m wearing it. (Lifts his left hand and flashes a silver ring).

 Fenn: That was your father’s ring, right?

 Dimitri: Spoilers.

 Fenn: Right. What do you regard as the lowest depth of misery?

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Not Dimitri’s favorite day.

 Dimitri: Waking up in the morgue would probably be high on the list.

 Fenn: You sure? Because…you know…I was thinking there was that moment when you opened the fridge, and you thought there was ketchup leaking…

 Dimitri: Do you actually want to sell any copies of this book, or should we just post it all for free now.

 Fenn: I’m sorry. My bad.

 Dimitri: Thank you. Now, what was I saying…depth of misery. I guess there were technically a couple of bright spots about waking up on the slab in the morgue. A) No one had dissected me yet. Being splayed alive would have really sucked. B) At least Lisa was upset because she thought I’d died. Since my parents passed away…there really hasn’t been anyone who cared, or even gave a f—

Fenn: Language! Please, this is a G-rated blog posting. Okay we’ve got to wrap it up—just so you know, I’m not exactly bathing in dollar bills yet. Got to get up early for work. So let’s see…What or who is the greatest love of your life?

Dimitri: Lisa put you up to that, didn’t she. 

Fenn: I might have mentioned to her…

here

Look! It’s Lisa!

Dimitri: Okay, she is. Lisa Bennet, punk rock drummer extraordinaire is the love of my life. The apple of my eye. The candy of my cone…

Fenn: Insert cliché here. 

Dimitri: Exactly.

Fenn: Alright, last question. Please take it somewhat seriously. On what occasion do you lie?

Dimitri: When being interviewed.

(Fenn sighs heavily. Starts roughly stuffing her papers into her messenger bag).

Fenn: You know, next time I’m going to write a biography about someone dead. At least when your subject is DEAD they can’t be such a pain in the—

Dimitri: Language!

Fenn (sputters): You…you are so…what’s the word I’m looking for—it begins with an ‘a’.

Dimitri: Adorable?

 Fenn (slides bag over shoulder angrily): No, that is so not it. More like ‘annoying’ to the millionth power.

 Dimitri: So does that mean yes, you need a ride? (swings car keys around his finger).

 Fenn: In your crap Mustang.

 Dimitri: Write me into a Lexus next time, I won’t complain.

 Fenn: (sighs). If you’re headed my way.

Thus concluded our interview. Dimitri palmed the cronuts, bummed some gas money off of me, and called me about an hour after I got home to complain at length that the “crappucino” machine was, well, not exactly functional, and before I get any sequel ideas we need to sign a contract and yes, he’s got an attorney.
Definitely writing a biography of someone dead next time.

Guest Post: Roberto Calas

It’s funny that this month Roberto Calas sent me a post about reviewer conduct – I’d just watched a YouTube video about things you do online that you’d never do in real life. Leaving scathing, 1 star reviews for books you haven’t read would probably be on that list.
Roberto has kindly come up with these mild suggestions. Note: always, always listen to the man who wears armor.
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Author & Raconteur Roberto Calas

by Roberto Calas

Are you an ugly reviewer?

I’m not asking if you are an unattractive person that writes reviews. I am asking if you’re the kind of person who takes a star away from your Amazon.com review of a novel because the first few words of every chapter are capitalized. Or because you don’t like receiving a novel in episodes even though you bought a serial. Or maybe because you don’t like a political statement the author made in an interview once.

If you’ve done any of the above, or similar things, then you are an ugly reviewer and you should have cabbage thrown at you. Soft tomatoes if cabbage can’t be found. Something should be thrown at you at any rate, and here’s why: Potential buyers don’t want to know about you, they want to know if they will like the book or not.

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Warning: May Contain Capital Letters

If you don’t like the little sword graphics in the breaks between scenes, that’s your issue. A potential buyer doesn’t care about little sword graphics. She or he cares about the story, the character, the tension, the deep, emotional, cathartic resonance of the goddamned thing. Not about the font. Not about the capitalization preferences of the copy editor.

But hang on. There are many other ways to be an ugly reviewer. I have, in my almighty and pathetic powers, drafted a Reviewer’s Code of Conduct, for all to commit to memory. Before reading this, please take the reviewer’s oath, which states:

A review is not a forum for me to air my grievances, political opinions, religious views, or lack of taste. When writing a review, I will be honest, objective, and will refrain from revealing my psychological tics, even if I am bat-shit insane.

THE REVIEWER’S CODE OF CONDUCT

  1. I will not review a book I have not read. Sometimes a book comes out that looks really offensive, or goes against my personal views. Although I may want to leave a negative review without reading the book, I will refrain. Writing a review without reading the work helps spread the darkness of ignorance, injustice and mindless censorship. And it makes me look like a book-burning idiot. I will simply ignore the book and understand that sometimes silence is the best response.
  2. If I pick up a book that is obviously out of my comfort range, I will not review it. I understand that if I like romances and read a book with a blood-soaked breastplate as the cover, I will not like it. Posting a review telling people how I hated the violence of the book will only make me seem silly and will hurt an author who may have written a wonderful book in his/her genre.
  3. I will not deduct stars (nor even mention) stylistic choices in the layout or cover. I know that books can be printed in many different ways and that most people don’t care about such things. I will stick to universal criteria like character, plot, writing, pacing, etc.
  4. If I give a bad review, I will explain why. I understand that writing, “This was not my cup of tea,” or “This was terrible, I hated it,” is not helpful to anyone.

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    Feeling like this? Don’t take it out on an author.

  5. I will not write a review while I am angry. Sometimes books make me angry, but I will not use the review to unleash my anger on the author. I will seek anger management classes.
  6. I will not use a review of someone’s novel to talk about my own book (or a friend’s). It is tempting to use a review as a marketing platform. I would really like to mention how much better my book (or my friend’s) book is as I give a review, but I will resist the urge to be a douchebag.
  7. I will not vent my publishing frustrations on any book. Just because a publisher or agent has not accepted the book I wrote does not mean I should take my frustrations out on other books that I think are inferior. I realize my book probably sucks just as much. And probably more.
  8. I will not allow my religious, political or ideological views to interfere with my review. Just because the writer wrote something I was opposed to, does not make her or his book bad. I will take a deep breath and chill the hell out, then write an objective review without an agenda.
  9. Fiber-heart-1024x1024

    Not happy? Try fiber!

    I will refrain from insulting the author of the book. I realize that insulting a person I have never met because of a work of fiction they wrote is shallow and abusive. I understand that it makes me look completely unstable and that I should probably add more fiber to my diet.

  10. I will not mix my signals. If I give a book two stars, I will not go on to say that I loved it. If I gave it four stars, I will not title the review “Not very interesting.” I have trouble with the whole five-star thing, but I will strive to remember that the closer the number is to five, the more I liked it.
  11. I will try to write my review like I made it past the second grade. I will not trash a novel with phrases like “This suked so bad,” or “It was to stupid too keep reeding,” Common grammar and spelling mistakes will make it clear that I may not be well suited to critiquing literature.
  12. I am not as smart as I think I am. I will not write my review as if I am the authority on life and literature. If I do, I understand that people will laugh at me and share my review with friends and the review has the potential to go viral in a very bad way. I will exercise humility when writing a review because it will make what I say more credible. And I will point out positives as well as negatives.
  13. 51FXVSQVPXL._SS500_

    Posses are best left to Hollywood.

    I will not join a virtual posse. Society has come a long way from the Dark Ages or the Old West. We no longer form mobs and lynch people, so we should not do so virtually. Masses of people conspiring to destroy a book or an author, no matter what the author has done to upset the masses, is cruel. It does not make me an avenger, it makes me a bully.

  14. Most important of all: I will be kind. I realize that showing kindness is a strength, in reviews and in life. Writers have spent months or years pounding out each novel. They have opened their souls to the world and I know that ridiculing their work anonymously through my computer is an act of cowardice. If I hate a book, I will find at least one positive thing to say about it, or I will simply not review it. I will find constructive ways to talk about the things I didn’t like. Because there is too much hate and negativity in the world, and I don’t want to add to it.
47NorthCalas

Say ‘hi’ to Roberto

You can learn more about Roberto’s work here: www.robertocalas.com. He’d be most appreciative if you liked his facebook page, too, and if you feel you can only take 140 characters worth of him at a time, his twitter handle is @robertocalas.

MARY SHELLEY, GENRE-BENDER

It’s the summer of 1816, Switzerland, although it doesn’t feel like it­—the eruption of Indonesia’s Mount Tambora has cast the world into a long volcanic winter. What’s a bored girl to do?

shelIf you’re 19-year old Mary Shelley, you decide you’re going to win a bet about who can come up with the scariest tale, this although you’re up against Percy Shelley (you’re not married to him yet) and Lord Bryon. 

And a classic novel that bent, blended, and invented genres, is born.

Although Frankenstein most obviously checks the horror genre box, it carries romantic and gothic elements and is considered by many to be one of the earliest examples of science fiction too.  That genre mix was popular with readers, not so much with critics. The Quarterly Review called Frankenstein, “a tissue of horrible and disgusting absurdity”.

Apparently they hadn’t read the Monsanto prospectus.

As if mixing horror, gothic, romance, and sci-fi wasn’t enough of a feat, Frankenstein also sprinkles in some Greek mythology. Five second quiz for all you horror aficionados this Halloween—what was Frankenstein’s alternate title?

A)   Not so Warm Bodies

B)   Dawn of the Newly Re-Assembled Dead

C)   The Modern Prometheus

You’re right, it’s C (can’t fool you none).

9780141439471Prometheus was more than a bad prequel to Aliens. In the Western psyche, Prometheus serves as the epitome of bad things that happen when you pursue science without understanding its dangerous consequences, interesting because at the time Shelley wrote Frankenstein, experiments were being performed on dead flesh. These experiments included the electro-stimulation of executed prisoner George Forster’s limbs at Newgate in London. “On the first application of the process to the face, the jaws of the deceased criminal began to quiver, and the adjoining muscles were horribly contorted, and one eye was actually opened. In the subsequent part of the process the right hand was raised and clenched, and the legs and thighs were set in motion.”

Don’t even ask me about the frogs.

So now we have horror, gothic, romance, sci-fi, Greek mythology and the moral implications of contemporary issues.

Let’s add some personal experience, shall we?

Shelley did what any good writer of her, or any time, would do, which was to mix bits of her own life, her experienced horror, into the story. Frankenstein, (the scientist, not the monster who had no name), loses his mother to scarlet fever, then his brother and wife are murdered by the creature. Shelley’s own mother died eleven days after giving birth to her, leaving an epic void in her life. She lost one of her children shortly after giving birth, and lived through the suicide of her stepmother and stepsister. Not exactly a stranger to death’s sting.  And it’s quite probable that the emotional impact of her personal experience is what gives Frankenstein its longevity and contemporary relevance.

Do audiences still want that kind of genre blend?

poe_fullcover.jpgWhen I first started to shop my novel POE, everyone loved the writing but no one knew where to sell it. And they told me that if, miraculously, they did find a publisher, where the heck would the bookstores shelve it?  All would be better if POE colored inside some genre lines.  It couldn’t be horror and new adult and dark urban fantasy and literary. It couldn’t span Russian occult practices in the early 20th century, the séance craze during America’s gilded age, a contemporary and economically depressed New England town, magic squares, ghosts, angels/demons, my own horrific hospital experience plus my parents’ deaths, and, for god’s sake, be irreverent too.

I tried, but I just couldn’t write it any other way. It wouldn’t let me.

Through sheer, dumb luck, I finally entered POE into the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award contest where it placed first in the Sci-Fi/Fantasy/Horror category. Then, through an even bigger stroke of dumb luck, Amazon’s 47North was publishing the winner because they were looking for genre-bending work.

I’d finally found the island of misfit toys where I belonged, in a cadre of other authors who don’t fit into boxes neatly either (you can see them here – buy all their books, please). Maybe Shelley should be our patron saint.

Because if Frankenstein is any example, one should be careful about underestimating the market for books that defy easy categorization.

Here’s to new latitudes, odd genre blends, and virtual shelves you can call whatever the hell you want.

Blank white book w/pathAs of Oct. 22nd, POE is now available for your virtual (or physical) shelf.

“A delightful, bravura piece of gothic pop…fans of Neil Gaiman and the aforementioned Buffy will be immediately taken, but there’s a literate edge to the pyrotechnics that makes for an unlikely and welcome marriage between the spook story and literature of altogether less ectoplasmic substance.” —Publisher’s Weekly

“Hitting the high notes of multiple genres, her talent is wicked raw and proudly untamed. This is Fenn’s first novel—I can’t wait to see what comes next.” —Bloody-Disgusting.com

Wherein I explain how the study of Ninjutsu long-sword techniques can improve one’s writing.

It’s hot, it’s LA, it’s another smoggy day in some semblance of desert paradise when I walk into the dojo to get a taste of long-sword techniques from Tanemura Sensei, the head ninja (no really) of Genbukan World Ninpo Bugei Federation. He’s about five feet max and holds a sword that looks like it was made for someone at least three feet taller.

Here’s how I got into ninjutsu.

I’d landed a somewhat steady job as a producer’s assistant (read in-house corporate video director), making a whopping $7/hour, and one weekend I looked at my meager horde of savings and decided I was either going to:

A) Go to San Francisco.

B) Take a martial arts class.

I have no clue either how these are related, but since I met my husband with option B, let’s call it destiny.

I began my dojo search using this odd contraption called “The Yellow Pages” (if you were born after 1997, here’s the Wikipedia link), and then made some calls, starting alphabetically. The first seven dojos were more than a little intimidating – while the guys who answered the phone gave me their spiel in a rush, I could hear dull thumps in the background like punching bags were being beaten into dust along with the cliché “Hai Ya’s” that made me flashback to Johnny in The Karate Kid who had to fight dirty but lost anyway.

Anyways.

Just as I was beginning to calculate how much gas money a seven-hour car drive north to San Fran was going to cost me, I finally reached a Ninpo dojo, and I heard things like “soft art” and “meditation” and “eastern philosophy.” I signed up on the spot and spent the next two months mastering these two key basics which have served me well throughout life:

A) How to fall.

B) How to get out of the way.

Just to give you an idea of how important B is, here’s the test that my sensei passed.

You kneel on the floor. You wear a blindfold. Your sensei stands behind you with a live sword. He will make one of six cuts with the sword. You don’t know which. You get out of the way. If you live, you pass. If you don’t, well, it was an admirable try. Can someone call an ambulance?

Now I was about to meet that guy with that sword. Thankfully, I was only a green belt and a long, long, long away from the fabled blindfold test. I’d barely gotten good at rolls (which you non-martial artists call ‘somersaults’). And it turned out this man trained nearly from birth on the thousands of different ways to kill people was surprisingly humble. Of course I don’t doubt for a second he could eviscerate any living person in less than three seconds, but the only things I remember from that day are his stories.

He’d worked as a police officer in Japan (yes, that’d be a perfect cop show, HILL STREET NINJA BLUES) and said that whenever he saw an actual criminal his first reaction was sheer panic. First thought.

Then he’d remember, oh right, I’m a ninjustu master, I got this. Second thought.

He told us he never worried about carrying a weapon, because his opponent would bring them to him. And if they didn’t bring a weapon, he had the perfect alternative. He’d use their body as one. The real long sword was one’s own imagination—handy because you take that everywhere you go.

Using what you have in spite of what you don’t is a valuable lesson for struggling writers. There’s never enough time/money/time. Sometimes that blank page feels like emptiness with criminal intent, while a host of enemies whisper, you’re not a writer. Writers wear sweaters with leather patches on the elbow. They read E. E. Cummings and understand it. Give up before you reveal what a complete idiot you are. First thought.

Using those whispers to develop the interior voice of the main character, Dimitri, in my novel POE…Second thought.

Entering POE into the 2013 Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award entered by 10,000 aspiring novelists, where in spite of the odds it won the Sci-Fi/Fantasy/Horror category…

Well that’s the long-sword.

On Medieval Sword-Making and the “Diaries of a Dwarven Rifleman”

Mugshotvia fellow 47North fellow author Michael Pierce who writes with his wife Linda Pierce

I’d given up on writing fiction. I really had!  Back at the dawn of the nineties I sold a couple of pieces of short fiction, but after being exposed to the inner workings of the industry I gave up the notion.  Instead I became a sword-maker, which as it turns out has everything to do with my becoming a writer again.

Part of my interest in becoming a sword-maker was simply being a picky bastard.  I’d seen and handled antiques and almost no one was doing a good job reproducing European Medieval swords.  I made a lot of swords and did a lot of research.  I didn’t just want to know what swords looked like, I wanted to know how they were made, why they were designed the way that they were, how they were used and how that influenced their design.  Hey, I was raised by an engineer…

This lead to the discovery that if you want to study swords you can’t just study swords– you have to study everything.  Ancient and modern metallurgy, manufacturing technology, society, Guild structures and rules, clothing, armor, social context and how the weapons were used.  Still working on all of that; there’s more than can be absorbed in a lifetime. I wrote endlessly about swords and everything related to them on online forums, in articles etc.

In the course of all of this I became known as something of an expert and  eventually people began asking when I would write a book on the subject. I even had some interest from publishers.  Realizing that there were literally tens of dollars to be made on such a book I eventually wrote and self-published The Medieval Sword in the Modern World.’  This has actually done quite well for a ‘niche’ book.

When Neal Stephenson got interested in swords in a big way it was only natural that, since I was local, he’d eventually look me up.  I wound up being a technical adviser on a media project that became ‘The Mongoliad.’  When Amazon picked up the project the call went out for Novellas set in that ‘world’ and my wife said, “Let’s take a crack at that.’  The result was ‘The Shield Maiden which has been quite successful.

downloadSince I had done so much research we were quite familiar with the cultural setting of the story and familiar with researching since I had been doing it obsessively for most of twenty years. Linda as it turns out is also a hell of a researcher. Over the course of writing the novella Linda and I worked out how to co-author and found that we genuinely enjoyed it. Once that published we launched into our first novel, Diaries of a Dwarven Rifleman’.

The experience of being a sword-maker taught me to research, the importance of the ‘little’ details and gave me a lot of practice writing.  Most importantly it taught me the value of craftsmanship.  Someone who picks up one of my swords may not realize the care, the depth of understanding, the thought and the research that went into the making of it- but they can feel the result.  Likewise the reader is never going to know as much about the world of a story as I do- but if the underpinnings aren’t there they are going to feel the lack.

We’re new at writing, just as I was once new at sword-making.  But another lesson I learned over the years was that all the theoretical knowledge in the world is useless if you don’t get out there and do it. So we are.  So far this year we’ve written one complete novel, two novellas, several short stories and we’re well along on our next novel.  There’s a lot to learn yet and we’re looking forward to the ride.

Ill at Ease with Solomon Grundy

7116446via fellow 47North author J.D. Horn

A summer sleep-over more than thirty years ago. A rare chance to peruse someone else’s comic collection left me incapable of sleep.

Throughout the wee hours, I lay on the floor, a small lamp shedding a dim circle of light on the massive pile of comic books spread out in a careless semicircle before me. Since my friend and I were the same age and had similar tastes, our collections shared many titles in common, but his included an issue of Superman that mine lacked. I picked up that issue and set it aside at least three times before opening it. Its cover depicted a creepy cemetery scene with Superman, superhero par excellence, caught in the clutches of Solomon Grundy, a monumentally strong zombie. My sense of proper taxonomy rebelled against the blending of what I considered two separate and never to be combined  genres.

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Flash forward a few decades, and even a purist such as myself has had to come to terms with the fact that genres just aren’t the neat little buckets they used to be. When trying to explain my own work I always flash back to my side of an early conversation I had with my agent about The Line, first book of the Witching Savannah series. Yeah, it’s kind of a romance. Just with witches. Oh and a demon and a few ghosts. Horror? Yeah, but not too horrible. Set in a real city. Uh huh. Savannah. Yeah, I guess you can call it Urban Fantasy. Works for me. Did I mention it’s part murder mystery? A short pause. A sigh. Silence on the other end. Oh, and the sequel will have evil aliens and Nazis. We still good with Urban Fantasy?

So what has changed to make me more receptive to genre bending and blending? Actually there is still a part of my psyche that continues to yearn for a divided plate, one that will keep my peas from coming into contact with the mashed potatoes. A part of me remains uncomfortable.  But in the intervening years I have learned that where there is discomfort, there is creativity. Energy comes from conflict, and unexpected combinations allow for fresh takes on otherwise well-worn themes. So you say you have a heart-felt coming of age story about an alien vampire leprechaun?  Let me know when it is available for order.

J.D. Horn is the author of The Line (Witching Savannah),  a heart-felt coming of age murder romance featuring a misfit witch tour guide (oh, and demons), coming January 2014 from 47North.
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