Writer Wednesday – Steven S. Long

Let’s start with the basics. Who are you?
Tell us (briefly) about you…
I’m Steven S. Long, writer and game designer. I’m in my late 40s and live in Greensboro, NC in a book-filled house along with my cat Persimmon. When I’m not busy writing or reading, I collect antique maps and travel books from the 1920s and ’30s, go for walks, birdwatch, entertain Persimmon, or watch movies in my custom-designed home theater.

…and a bit about what you’ve written…
For most of the past 20 years I’ve worked primarily as a writer/designer in the roleplaying game field — I’ve written or co-written about 200 RPGs or RPG supplements. I’m best known for my work on the HERO System/Champions, but I’ve written for many other games during my career.

In recent years I’ve branched out into writing fiction as well, and am definitely enjoying the new challenge. Fiction uses different “writing muscles” than RPGs, so “exercising” them improves my writing overall.

You can find a full list of my current fiction credits at my website, http://www.stevenslong.com/

And my Author Central page at Amazon has some of my RPG books as well: http://www.amazon.com/Steven-S.-Long/e/B00CA5HF4M

…and what you’re working on right now.
I am currently focused on my first major non-fiction work: Odin, The Viking All-Father, for Osprey Publishing’s “Myths and Legends” series. Given my life-long interest in Norse mythology (see below), it’s been a dream project to work on.

Additionally, I’m working on short stories for several anthologies I’ve been asked to participate in, stretch goal contributions I’m providing for several Kickstarters, and when I can on my major long-term project, Mythic Hero. MH is a book about world mythology for gaming; I’ve been working on it for 2½ years so far and have at least that much more to go.

What are your earliest book-related memories?
Wow, good question. I’m not sure if this is the absolute earliest one, but the most significant, I think, is my memory of pulling D’Aulaires’ Norse Gods and Giants off the bookshelf in my elementary school library and becoming captivated by it. I don’t know for sure what attracted me to it — quite possibly the art, which I still enjoy looking at today — but that led to a life-long interest in mythology, and then Fantasy and Science Fiction. In a sense you can trace my entire career back to that one book.

What are your three favorite books?
That’s a tough one! There are so many good books. I’m going to exclude genre fiction from this, because that’s really a separate discussion altogether. 😉 If I absolutely had to pick, I would say: The Yearling, by Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings; King Of The Confessors, by Thomas Hoving; and The Children Of Odin, by Padraic Colum.

For a list of Fantasy fiction I like, see http://www.stevenslong.com/articles/ — though I need to update that list with some of the good stuff I’ve come across in the last couple years. It’s hard to find a Fantasy novel I truly enjoy these days, but every now and then I get lucky. 🙂

How many books to do you read at any given time? What are you reading now?
Excluding anything I’m reading for research purposes, I usually have two or three going at any given time. Often this is because while I’m in the middle of one book, another comes along that takes priority. For example, if I’m published in an anthology, I try to read the rest of the stories in that anthology ASAP in case anyone asks me about it. If a series that I like gets a new book, I often give that priority (though these days I usually wait until a series is done before reading it — saves time).

Currently I’m working my way through several collections of the early short stories of one of my most favorite Fantasy/Science Fiction authors, Jack Vance. I’m eagerly awaiting several books due out later this year, including J.R.R. Tolkien’s translation of Beowulf and the latest Deryni novel from Katherine Kurtz.

Finish this sentence; when I curl up with a book, I ___
…have to be careful not to get attacked by a nap.

To re-read or not to re-read that is the question.
You have to re-read good books, there’s no question about it! I re-read some light favorites pretty much every year. I think re-reading is important not only for the sheer fun of it, but because a book that appeals to you often does so on multiple levels, and you don’t always catch everything on one read-through. For example, I’ve read Gene Wolfe’s Book Of The New Sun quadrilogy at least half a dozen times, and I’m certain that I’m still missing cool things in it.

How likely are you to read a book that’s been recommended to you?
Pretty likely. If a friend whose taste I trust tells me I’ll like something, I’m willing to give it a shot. After all, if I don’t like it I can just quit reading it. There’s no law that says you have to finish a bad book.

How likely are you to recommend a book (that isn’t yours)?
Very, very likely. I’m not known for keeping my mouth shut when I dislike something, but by the same token on those (sadly rarer) occasions when I find something I really like, I don’t hesitate to recommend it. For example, just this year alone I’ve gotten a couple friends hooked on reading Patrick Rothfuss’s “Kingkiller Chronicles” novels.

What do you look for in a good book?
That’s a tough one to answer, but I’d say that what it really boils down to is that I want to be swept up in the story. I want to care about the characters, what they do, what happens to them. I want the setting to come alive. And in the case of Fantasy fiction (my usual pleasure reading), I want that sense of wonder, majesty, and awe that I think Fantasy should have. A lot of older writers (Dunsany, Tolkien, Vance, Howard, Carter…) knew how to create that and infuse their stories with it. Few writers these days do, at least for my taste.

Why do you write?
It’s my creative outlet — I’d do it even if I weren’t getting paid for it (but I’m glad that I am). That’s not a very original answer, I admit, but that’s the way it is. 😉

If you couldn’t be a writer, what would you be?
I used to be an attorney, but I don’t think I’d go back to that. If I could pick anything? Hmmm… archaeologist? architect? artist? ninja? psychiatrist? FBI agent? professor? There are so many cool things to do that it’s difficult to pick just one.

Where do you draw your inspiration from?
Everywhere and anywhere! There are story possibilities in just about every little thing you encounter or sense during the day. For example, I’m currently writing a short story inspired by the little patch of woods half a block from my house.

What has writing taught you about yourself?
Ummmm… plaid? I don’t know that it’s taught me anything about myself, really. I don’t think of it as a spiritual process.

How do the people in your life seem to view your writing career?
They’re supportive of it and curious about it. I know some of them think what I do is a little “unusual,” but that’s pretty much correct. 😉 And I think a few of them are jealous of my control over my own schedule.

Are there any stereotypes about writers that you don’t think are true?
Probably any and all of them. Writers are such a diverse bunch that I don’t think you can accurately say much about us as a group other than that we write.

What do you see as the biggest challenge today for writers starting out?
The same challenge writers have always had — getting noticed, attracting readers/customers. Self-publishing offers possibilities that never existed before, which is great, but I don’t think the odds of a starting writer succeeding via self-publishing are much different than they’ve always been via “traditional” publishing.

Have you made any writing mistakes that seem obvious in retrospect but weren’t at the time?
Oh, sure, lots of them. Little things, mostly, but looking back on my work I can see them. I like to think that every book or story I write, I learn something.

Is there a particular project you would love to be involved with?
It’s hard to name just one! There are so many things I’d love to work on. For example there are lots of licensed RPGs for favorite IPs of mine that I never got to work on. From a fiction standpoint, I’d love to be involved in creating a classic “shared world” anthology that went on to become a big success.

How do you deal with your fan base?
With as much respect and love as possible! I really appreciate my fans and am grateful for every one of them. I just wish I had a few million more. 😉

Finish this sentence; my fans would be surprised to know ___ about me.
That I’m really not that big a fan of many IPs in genre culture. Some of the biggest or most popular (e.g., Superman, Star Wars) just don’t hold that much appeal for me. I often seem to be attracted to the old and now-neglected stuff, the quirky classics, the obscure authors.

 

Writer Wednesday Bonus Post – Miguel Viscarra

 

 

 

 

From the fiery abyss of the underworld comes 20 hellish tales from the south and southwest. Within these charred pages are stories that will introduce you to the many demons that stay hidden but are always nearby…  Southern Haunts is an anthology of  stories of possessed people, objects, houses, highways, and the devil’s favorite playground – the forest.

For this blog post, we’ll follow author Miguel Viscarra as he talks about the inspiration for his contribution “And There Was Nothing Left But Ash…”

 

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Regarding inspiration for And There Was Nothing Left But Ash…, much like The Cleansing (in the initial installment of Southern Haunts), I really wanted to draw from my sociological background and once again focus on the dynamics of a relationship; albeit, the relationships of the characters in the story are much different than that of its predecessor. Primarily, the two main characters had a very picturesque and loving union, which I’d hoped that readers could identify with to some extent. I think that emotional connection is really important for the way things transpire throughout the story. The push and pull between the two main characters is really essential for drawing the audience’s sympathy, in hopes that they can see some semblance of identification within the characters. Whilst the characteristics and traits of my lead characters were important, it’s undeniable how significant the setting of my home state was for my second published work.

Researching and learning more about my own environment over the course of writing my works has been one of the most eye-opening and enjoyable experiences. I’ve only been to Deming, New Mexico a handful of times, and I can remember feelings like it was a very small town, very similar to my own. In New Mexico, I’ve seen many places that were reported institutions and tuberculosis wards in different parts of the state, but I was absolutely captivated by the uncertainty of the story surrounding Camp Cody/The Holy Cross Sanatorium. The rich history and fact behind the location was so intriguing. I stumbled upon numerous photos of the area when it was in its prime, and it was very important for me to really portray that historical basis through the accuracy of the location’s description. Moreover, the modern day information that I found regarding the setting was frighteningly real. To know that contemporary atrocities have been reported only makes the place all that more hellish.

I had the pleasure of visiting the area after a short vacation to Phoenix, Arizona to see one of my favorite bands, AFI. On the way back home from my trip, I stopped in Deming to uncover the place that I’d been so eager to dive into. I was surprised to see that there wasn’t much left today. What was still visible from afar were lost architectural relics on the desert floor of New Mexico. Once could still find the famed fountain, which in my story, serves as the intricate gateway that brings forth the fiery demon. All in all, I’d say the overall inspiration for the story was the desire to write a second tale in which readers could see very real human traits and traumas; an outlet that would provide an emotional fear that can be experienced by all.

 

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Writer Wednesday – Steven Shrewsbury

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Let’s start with the basics. Who are you?
Steven L. Shrewsbury, author from Central, Illinois.

Tell us (briefly) about you…
farm kid in his forties, blue collar all the way…rumored to be Robert E. Howard reincarnated.

…and a bit about what you’ve written…
I’ve written a fantasy series about Gorias La Gaul, 700 year old warrior available from seventh star press (OVERKILL, THRALL BLOOD & STEEL and more to come); I also write historical horror novels, like HELL BILLY and modern horror tomes like STRONGER THAN DEATH, HAWG, TORMENTOR and the forthcoming Lovecraftian Western LAST MAN SCREAMING. I collaborate on a Viking series with Peter Welmerink called BEDLAM UNLEASHED and with Maurice Broaddus on BLACK SUN RISING, also forthcoming. PHILISTINE is my new release, a tale of Goliath.

…and what you’re working on right now.
Another 2 books about Gorias La Gaul, a thriller, and 2nd draft of another horror western and 3rd draft on a book about Widowmaker Absalom Abbas.

What are your earliest book-related memories?
Mom getting me talking tapes from the library of congress, listening to the BIBLE and TARZAN OF THE APES. I read my brother mak;s yellowed Howard and Wagner novels and then Harlan Ellisons STRANGE WINE. I do remember reading THE MOMEN and my mom throwing it out in 1980.

What are your three favorite books?
HOUR OF THE DRAGON by Robert E. Howard; THE GODFATHER by Mario Puzo and SLAUGHTERHOUSE FIVE by Kurt Vonnegut.

How many books to do you read at any given time? What are you reading now?
A few. IRON MAN a bio of Tony Iommi; HUBRIS about Hitler; a collect of Elric tales and re-reading THE HEORES by Joe Abecrombie.

Finish this sentence; when I curl up with a book, I ___
Want to be left alone to travel into the realm of that writer’s mind.

To re-read or not to re-read that is the question.
There are some books that are so good one must re-read them. I think I re-read THE GODFATHER every few years. Stuff by Howard and Wagner also.

How likely are you to read a book that’s been recommended to you?
That depends on who recommends it. I would.

How likely are you to recommend a book (that isn’t yours)?
Very likely. I love to support other authors. I could give you a long list of great storytellers.

What do you look for in a good book?
If the writer has a good VOICE and speaks to me, not trying to impress another or make their voice ring too much. Tell me a story.

Why do you write?
I write because I have to. I dunno how else I’d let it all out. I love to tell tales.

If you couldn’t be a writer, what would you be?
A preacher…not a pastor. I’d hate dealing with people’s problems every day, but preaching on Sundays? That’d rock.

Where do you draw your inspiration from?
Things come to me when I read history or hear music. A few lines in a song by Black Sabbath might inspire an entire novel. I read about an obscure event in history and I know JUST what happened out of camera range. My sons inspire me as well as a few close friends.

What has writing taught you about yourself?
That I’m no where as bright as I thought. But it also taugh tme about dark places inside that are best kept chained than on display.

How do the people in your life seem to view your writing career?
My kids love it. I have a brother that enjoys it. The rest hate it and wish I’d take up basket weaving.

Are there any stereotypes about writers that you don’t think are true?
That we are all nuts? That’s true. The more authors I meet, the more I think that. I always thought I was a bit different, but there are so many that are bugf%$k crazy it is sorta shocking.

What do you see as the biggest challenge today for writers starting out?
Finding their voice and not following bad advice.

Have you made any writing mistakes that seem obvious in retrospect but weren’t at the time?
A great many. I listened to bad advice many times, sometimes by selfish jerks, but ya can’t make an omelet without busting eggs.

Is there a particular project you would love to be involved with?
I’d love to write a novel of Conan, one about Wagner’s Kane…sure. I’d also like to write a book about Howard’s BRAN MAK MORN.

How do you deal with your fan base?
Whips & chains work at first. Naw, they are great folks and I deal with them like any other group of friends.

Finish this sentence; my fans would be surprised to know ___ about me.
That I’m half blind.

Anything else we should know?
Just that PHILISTINE is my greatest work so far, an epic in fantasy, a horrific ride through a realm unseen as of yet in such fiction. Trod the bloody pages of history and try to forget the images seen there…go ahead, try…

Writer Wednesday – Jackie Gamber

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Let’s start with the basics. Who are you?
With Jackie Gamber, author of the Leland Dragon series

Tell us (briefly) about you…
I’ve been a soldier, a secretary, and a stay-at-home mom, gone rogue into writing professionally.

…and a bit about what you’ve written…
My published works include poetry, short stories, novelettes, and novels in science fiction, fantasy, horror, and the genre-bending blends of them. I’m also an indie screenwriter/director, with four produced short films.

…and what you’re working on right now.
Since I’ve just finished “Reclamation”, book three of my Leland Dragons trilogy, I have a few more novel projects in the works; a steampunk fantasy, a SF-romance, and a paranormal-lit about a twin whose sister has died, and begins journaling as a tribute. I’m also writing my second full-length screenplay entitled “The Mark”, as well as other short film scripts.

What are your earliest book ­related memories?
I remember the Scholastic book program in school where I could peruse the book catalogue and order books that would come a month or so later right to my classroom. I always started with a “one of everything” sort of list, and then had to whittle down to one, or two – sometimes for 99cents! Also, I could describe in detail the layout of my town’s library. It used to have a clawfoot bathtub that I would spend more than my fair share of time in, with huge stacks of books beside me. I love libraries.

What are your three favorite books?
Just three? This is always a tough question for me to answer! I have favorite books for different reasons, but I have to say “Fahrenheit 451” by Ray Bradbury, “Frankenstein” by Mary Shelley, and “A Christmas Carol” by Charles Dickens.

How many books to do you read at any given time? What are you reading now?
When I read fiction I read one at a time. Non-fiction books could be as many as three or so, back and forth. Right now I’m reading “Quiet” by Susan Cain, about introversion in an extravert culture.

Finish this sentence; when I curl up with a book, I ___
…forget about everything else. I even get irritated when I have to pause to use the restroom.

To re­read or not to re­read that is the question.
I re-read all the time! I don’t keep every book I buy because my bookshelves couldn’t possibly hold them all. I’m selective in that I only keep the ones I know I’ll go back to again.

How likely are you to read a book that’s been recommended to you?
In my profession, I get a lot of recommendations. I don’t have enough time in the world to read them all, unfortunately. But I will, if it’s from a reader source I trust and the story sounds like my kind of thing. That’s really how all readers find books, mostly—word of mouth.

How likely are you to recommend a book (that isn’t yours)?
Very likely! I do it all the time. Speaking of which, have you read “The Midwich Cuckoos” by John Wyndham?

What do you look for in a good book?
To me, a good book is full of believable characters that get involved in their own tale.

Why do you write?
I write because I’m a storyteller. I resisted the notion for years, but the truth is that I see life, and the world, through metaphor and symbolism. I’m always asking, “But what does that really mean?” and “What makes a person think like that?” It’s in my nature.

If you couldn’t be a writer, what would you be?
I have a knack for looking at others’ stories, and seeing why what they think they’re saying isn’t actually being communicated that way. If I wasn’t a writing, I’d be an editor (although, I do both, already). Outside of words, though, I’d be working more with animals; at a zoo or a rescue, probably.

Where do you draw your inspiration from?
To be honest, I don’t exactly know the mechanism that whirrs into motion from observation to idea. But I spend a lot of time watching the world, and studying it, and trying to figure it out. Somewhere in there, inspiration happens.

What has writing taught you about yourself?
I’ve gone through dry periods, and times when I’ve set down my pen, so to speak, for the greater good of other responsibilities. I’ve struggled with how to find readers, how to prove to my contemporaries I’m not a hack. I’ve battled my demons that terrify me, and there have been days I’ve almost decided to just stop, because the desire to be heard is too hard to carry into an industry of cacophony.

I’ve lived with writing, and without it. What I’ve learned, is that I turn too inward, and become bitter and miserable, unless I believe in a world where writing happens, and that I can be a part of it.

How do the people in your life seem to view your writing career?
My husband and two kids (my children are grown, now) have always been my support system. Beyond that, it’s hard to say. The stigma that science fiction or fantasy isn’t real writing lingers.

Are there any stereotypes about writers that you don’t think are true?
I wouldn’t wish a stereotype on anyone. Human beings share commonalities, of course, but I like to think my job as a writer, and fellow human, is to bust stereotypes, not feed them.

What do you see as the biggest challenge today for writers starting out?
The writing industry is in a stage of rapid, almost violent, evolution. What used to be “the way” just isn’t anymore. Authors are writing books aimed at other authors for “how to do it the way I did” and a new one emerges practically every week. The biggest challenge I see for writers today is holding on to their own conviction, and their own ideals, while everyone is shouting into their face that their doing it wrong.

Have you made any writing mistakes that seem obvious in retrospect but weren’t at the time?
Some mistakes take a long time to make themselves known. My perception is that I may have trusted the wrong people a little too much, or a little too long. Sometimes, I haven’t trusted enough.

Is there a particular project you would love to be involved with?
I’ve always said it’s a life goal of mine to write a book that one day is banned!

How do you deal with your fan base?
I don’t think of myself as having fans. But I love readers! I have so much in common with fellow readers. In the end, that’s what I am, anyway; a book lover who can’t resist writing a few of her own.

Finish this sentence; my fans would be surprised to know ___ about me.
I’m a pretty transparent person—or at least, I aim to be—so I’m not sure how surprising I am! Although I do tend to get a reaction of disbelief when I share with people how introverted I am. They say “You’re not shy!” But I am incredibly introverted, nonetheless. And I’ve spent an inordinate number of years figuring out it’s nothing to be ashamed of.

Jackie Gamber is the award-winning author of many short stories, screenplays, and novels, including “Redheart”, “Sela”, and “Reclamation”, Books one through three of the Leland Dragon Series. For more information about Jackie and her mosaic mind, visit http://www.jackiegamber.com

And meet Jackie elsewhere on the world wide web at:
https://www.facebook.com/AllotropeMedia
http://www.amazon.com/author/JackieGamber
http://www.twitter.com/JackieGamber
http://www.facebook.com/jackiegamber

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