The Art of Sincere Flattery

My life is somewhat rough right now. I am moving tomorrow, am waiting to hear back about a position I applied to weeks ago, and am currently ill. I don’t even known if it’s a cold or allergies, but my swollen sinuses have kept me from needed sleep last night.

However, I wanted a quick break from packing. And a discussion worthy thought came to me a few moments ago.

ENSo my friends and I have been discussing certain coming projects and the latest entertainment releases. The UK got to see Avengers: Age of Ultron before the United States did, and I’m thankful for those across the pond who haven’t mentioned any spoilers yet. One of my chums, Alec McQuay, saw the recent release of his novel Emily Nation, which is worth a glance if you’ve time.

Now I’ve been scratching my head, trying to remember who reminded me during our conversations. But someone caused me to recall this peculiar behavior a select few established authors engage in… where they do not read fiction.

In my time, I’ve only come across a single author who publicly admitted to disliking reading novels, despite writing them. This is not to say that this author does not read; they do. But they tend to stick to non-fiction, and there is fair merit to that. It’s easy to forget that scriveners like Robert E. Howard and living legend George R.R. Martin borrowed from the pages of history to spice their work.

Now… this has led me to ponder a few of my own approaches of input versus output in literature. Personally, I enjoy reading creative tales and novels. I tend towards a fairly eclectic blend of genres. In the vein of high fantasy or swords-and-sorcery I have read all the original Conan works from Howard, and everything available from Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire series. The Lord of the Rings trilogy and The Chronicles of Prydain a long time ago.

In the grand scheme of readership, this really isn’t much. I’ve never read anything by Terry Pratchett nor R.A. Salvatore. The first four books of J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series rest on my bookshelf, still awaiting my eyes. A Wizard of Earthsea is the only piece amongst the works of Ursula K. Le Guin I’ve finished, and I barely remember it. Scott Lynch had my attention for The Lies of Locke Lamora but I haven’t invested in the rest of his series. The majority of my fantasy reading has actually been in the works of the Black Library’s Warhammer fantasy universe, and those are usually light and often polished off in a weekend. There are probably a dozen other fantasy authors who have at least one story worth studying, but I haven’t found the time yet.

I mention this because, as of late, I have been penning and finishing a growing number of fantasy pieces. It’s part of my efforts to become a “full stack” author, who moves from genre to genre to learn what they can. Perhaps even combining these types, creating new tales from the union. As I’ve set horror down for the time being, fantasy has become my newest focus.

I’ve had successes in horror, some of which are still on going. But I haven’t quite had that one breakout success with fantasy. I feel as though I’m closing in on it but… time will tell. What makes me curious is that compared to fantasy, I’ve read very little horror. I’ve seen many horror films, and the visuals have stuck with me. But not much in the way of reading.

Part of me wonders if the act of “researching” a writing market by reading successes within it kind of poisons the well. On one hand, it does inform the author as to what has already been done before, yet at the same time, can it make us prone to fearing innovation?

About a year back, I was very proud of a tale I wrote. It was swords and sorcery meets Indus Valley Civilization, the area that was proto-India. Compared to European inspired fantasy, there is a tremendous amount of cultural differences to communicate. There was the caste system. There were the different kinds of weapons which we see as exotic, and they see as normal. They have their own pantheon of gods. It’s easy for us to take knowledge of Zeus or Thor for granted, but gods like Agni or Indra may require a little prefacing in English speaking markets.

I was very proud of this story. I still am despite its rejection, if for no other reason than the sheer scholarly effort to try and… just widen the door a crack, hoping for something inspired. I’ve read articles and blog posts about people who are a little tired of European centric tales and I kind of see their point. It’s not that it’s bad, it’s just that there is so much of it.

Maybe I’ll dust that story off and try again someday, and I’m hoping the wheel is finally turning a little. And if you’re one of those types seeking something new and inspired, try Emily Nation by McQuay.

For me however… back to work.

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The Next Big Thing

I received an invitation from Alec McQuay to answer a selection of questions about my current writing workload. Behold the horror…

What is your working title of your book?
There’s actually a couple of projects I’m working on. I’m just sticking to short stories because it’s easier to finish up. I may start my first novel next year.

But for the time being, I’m working on a short story for Narrativium’s Marching Time anthology, simply titled Ragnarok for now. I am also pitching two new stories to Cruentus Libri Press. I can’t tell you about the new one I’m hacking away at, but the latest submission is a horror piece set in World War I, between the French and Germans.

Where did the idea come from for these stories?
For the Marching Time piece, I really can’t remember. No one had called out vikings, so I decided to do that. But then somewhere, I got this idea about how to make it a hero epic piece. For some reason, I really relished the chance to do the olde tyme thick epic, so I got started.

As for the WWI piece, that took considerable evolution. It originally began as an alternate history horror piece set in WWII. America was invaded by a hodge podge army of zombies. I can’t tell you more, but there was more depth to the tale than endless and pointless fighting. This WWII was started for a different publisher, but I changed my mind towards the end and wrote a mad scientist piece set during the storms of Dustbowl. It was a slow, building story that wasn’t particularly pulpy.

After the mad scientist piece was rejected, I returned to the original idea. During this time, I was getting ready for a trip to England, and was brushing up on my French and German with a girl who knew both. Somehow, this inspired me to try a WWI story, with several twists on the original tale. The zombies were removed, but I added a different foe. It’s called On Ne Passé Pas! but that title is subject to change.

What genre does your book fall under?
For the Marching Time piece, there are elements of sci fi and medieval style war in it. I tie large, important themes of Norse mythology into it, but I must remind the reader that during the Viking age, this was a religion and a few concepts of faith. All of this is very central to the story.

My other stories are primarily horror. Horror has been a great starting niche because it generally gives a lot of freedom, and horror literature lovers by no means expect feel good endings. But horror by itself isn’t a great genre. The best horror tends to blend itself with another genre. Horror fantasy (Berserk), horror crime, so on. A really important thing to remember when writing horror is that the horror elements should be hinted at or introduced early. Readers do not like last minute genre-bending, like Steven Spielberg’s A.I. They hate it, and I’m no fan myself.

Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?
I’ve given no thought whatsoever to who I’d want to play my character for the Marching Time story. I would be open to no name actors, particularly from Swedish cinema. A few Swedish movies and shows have started making their way to the states, either original or remade. And they’re pretty good!

As for the WWI piece, this is going to blow your mind. I’d be open to having Sacha Baron Cohen for the lead role. I know, I know. You probably know him for his low brow comedies, like Borat, The Dictator and Brüno. But he’s also done somewhat more serious roles, like Hugo. And he has a part in the upcoming Les Misérables that I’m looking forward too. Sometimes, certain comedians are actually outstanding actors underneath the comedy mask, like John Leguizamo.

What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?
Ragnarok: When the gods march to their doom, for whom will you fight?
On Ne Passé Pas!: They have surrendered in droves to escape their own country…

Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?
Ragnarok: To be honest, neither really describes it. It is technically self-published, but it was a large, group effort by just under a dozen talented individuals. It’s our first effort together and I really hope we can do it again soon. Just like The Black Wind’s Whispers.

On Ne Passé Pas!: If Cruentus Libri Press accepts it, they will. If not, I may put it on the back burner and figure out what to do with it later.

How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?
For the MT anth, it’s still being worked on. The writing is thick and requires considerable care. For the other story, that is debatable. Its first real draft took only a week, but the idea evolved over several previous iterations over the course of six months. 

What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?
Beowulf comes to mind for Ragnarok. The plot, I’m trying to think if and where it has been borrowed before. Probably from elements of historical acts involving religion.

For On Ne Passé Pas!, I really wanted to draw inspiration from the movie All Quiet on the Western Front. But there was a lack of trench warfare to it. I’d say more came from The Dirty Dozen.

Who or what inspired you to write this book?
For Ragnarok, it might have been Dan Abnett with the 40k book, Prospero Burns. The Space Wolves, a group in the 40k universe, have been stereotyped as barbarians, but there’s more to them than that. Real life vikings, on whom the Space Wolves are based upon, have many similar misconceptions and falsehoods about them. I don’t know how much of an eye opener Ragnarok is going to be, but if I can set the records straight on a few historic facts, I will.

On Ne Passé Pas! was inspired by a woman who has helped me with my French and German, and a dash from my high school history teacher. Who, according to other students, was certifiable.  

What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?
Because I’m not in charge of these books overall, I’m really not sure yet. I’m helping as an editor for Marching Time, so when first drafts start pouring in, I’ll have a better answer.

Here are a few other author’s (and links to their blogs) you should watch carefully.

Alec McQuay

Sarah Cawkwell

James Swallow

Kim Krodel

The Black Wind’s Whispers, Out Now!

The Black Wind's Whispers, by the Bolthole.

The Black Wind’s Whispers, by the Bolthole.

After months of work, it’s finally here… The Black Wind’s Whispers. Available now on Amazon. (Also in England.)

Included within are nine tales of  horror, featuring new twists on classic monsters, managed by yours truly, James “He2etic” Fadeley. Edited by CS Barlow and Andrew Aston, it features tales by Andrew Aston, Alec McQuay, Simon Howers, Jeremy Daw, Johnathan Ward, Robbie McNiven and Keanu Ross-Cabrera. Cover art by the amazing Manuel Mesones!

But best of all, it includes a tale from special guest author and veteran horror writer, CL Werner!

Get your copy today from Amazon! Smashwords version coming soon!

Spares by Alec McQuay

In the future, the homeless shall beg you for a spare pinky instead of change.

If you’re looking for something bizarre and amazing, something between a horror vein and a real new twist on science fiction, check out “Spares” by Alec McQuay and published by Fox Spirit Books. 

That’s Alec with a C, not X.

Taking place in a world after a viral-war, no one dies. Everyone lives forever. But to get by, they need fresh body parts grafted on. The description I gave to this story is ‘fleshpunk’, a biological twist on William Gibson’s cyberpunk. 

If you like horror, unusual sci-fi or just a damn fine story, check out McQuay’s tale. Available in EPUB/MOBI format at Wizard Tower Books.