Writer Wednesday – Jackie Gamber

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Let’s start with the basics.  Who are you?
Tell us (briefly) about you…

I’m a stay-at-home Mom turned professional writer, with a love of books and tea and snuffling, short-snouted dogs. Our current family friend is Lady Ursula, a dignified and lovable English bulldog.

…and a bit about what you’ve written…
I’ve published numerous short stories, poetry, a novella, and novels. Most of my stories have involved an element of science fiction/fantasy/the paranormal; I think because that’s where I get to break some rules and rewrite society’s expectations. It’s fun to examine life through the eyes of an alien, or a mythical creature, and to examine why, in our everyday life, we either believe or don’t believe the things we do.

…and what you’re working on right now.
Currently, I’m in the editing phase on the third and final book of my Leland Dragon series, entitled “Reclamation.”

What are your earliest book-related memories?
One of my earliest book-reading memories is “My Father’s Dragon” by Ruth Stiles Gannon. I’m certain that had a long-lasting effect on me, although I can’t say for sure how that all works. I never woke up one day and decided to write about dragons, but Kallon Redheart, a main character in the Leland Dragon series, definitely introduced himself to me as one, and I couldn’t have written him any other way.

What are your three favorite books?
I have so many favorite books, but I like them each for different reasons. First, without a doubt, is Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol” for its redemption and hope. Shelley’s “Frankenstein” -it’s so much more than the cult movies make it out to be. And Wyndham’s “The Midwich Cuckoos” for his utterly charming way of telling a chilling tale. I’ll stop at three, but I could go on and on!

How many books to do you read at any given time?  What are you reading now?
I sometimes have 2 or 3 books going at one time, if I’m reading non-fiction, which I do when I’m involved in my own writing projects. I think because it fires different brain cylinders. Most non-fiction reading of late has been related to how-to’s on screenplay and such, but in my stack of to-be-read fiction are Asimov’s FOUNDATION and Philip K. Dick’s A SCANNER DARKLY, among others.

Finish this sentence; when I curl up with a book, I ___
…become utterly lost to the rest of the world. I might as well be invisible!

To re-read or not to re-read that is the question.
Re-read, and re-read, over and over. Some of my favorite books are so worn around the edges they’ve become soft as fabric.

How likely are you to read a book that’s been recommended to you?
Very likely! Word-of-mouth is one of the best ways to discover new authors and new stories.

How likely are you to recommend a book (that isn’t yours)?
I recommend books all the time! I even do something called “Booktasting”, where I pair a book (usually a classic science fiction novel, but not always) with a certain tea you should drink while reading. It started out as something I was just doing for fun, for myself, since I love both reading and tea. But then tea drinkers, or book readers, began asking me about it, as well as authors, who were interested in knowing what tea I might choose for their book, and I decided to start sharing my Booktastings with the world. It’s been so much fun!

What do you look for in a good book?
I like a book with characters I can root for and a good conundrum I can help them figure out.

Why do you write?
I began writing very young. The trickier part of that question is the answering why–it’s a bit like trying to figure out why some kids climb trees, or collect marbles, or play with dolls, or paint, or play video games. I seemed to be an observer-type and I wrote out poems and story bits to process through what I was seeing. Or feeling. I’ve always been intrigued by mysteries, and writing is one way I explore that.

If you couldn’t be a writer, what would you be?
I would be a baker; it’s one of my other life dreams. In fact, I’ve recently started working in a bakery, in addition to writing, so I’m working my way through my bucket list, slowly but surely.

Where do you draw your inspiration from?
My writing inspiration comes from everywhere, because people are everywhere! I tend toward character-driven fiction, which draws on the “why”. Why does a person feel the way they do? Why do they act a certain way? What about their life could create their fears, their hopes? In my attempts to fill in the blanks, stories emerge.

What has writing taught you about yourself?
Writing has taught me that I can persist as much as I need to, after all. If I can wrangle one thing, I can surely wrangle another. I keep piling dreams on top of aspirations, on top of goals (even becoming a baker, too). I came a little late into this “believing in a dream” life. Took me a while to unhinge my baggage and step out into a brave new world. Deciding I was going to write “for real” was a first step in finding out what I’m capable of.

How do the people in your life seem to view your writing career?
My family has been my best supporters. On days I didn’t think I could keep going, my husband helped me hobble along. And having my two kids be proud of me has been terrific incentive to do my best, and keep on keeping on.

Are there any stereotypes about writers that you don’t think are true?
The writing life is not the glamorous, celebrity-filled life so often shown in movies. It’s a job like a plumber, or a farmer: I go back day after day, and get the words down with a lot of labor.

What do you see as the biggest challenge today for writers starting out?
The publishing industry can be pretty brutal on a sensitive soul. Publishing is a business like any other, and yet its product is subjective art, and so how does combining the two make success? It’s a mystery, both to those inside and outside the publishing world. There are no formulas, and no real repeatable patterns, especially with all the publishing options and changes that have rocked the industry for the last few years. A huge challenge is getting noticed among the din, and getting read.

How do you deal with your fan base?
I don’t really think of myself has having fans; more like fellow readers with whom I can share my love of stories. We all have something to say, and something to share. I share with words, and I’m so grateful for the opportunity to do so, and to have my words, hopefully, touch someone.

Finish this sentence; my fans would be surprised to know ___ about me.
…I’m a gamer, when I have time for it! I was one of the first kids on the block to get Pong (for Christmas, about a hundred years ago) and I’ve enjoyed video games ever since.

Anything else we should know?
I have lots of exciting projects on the way! In addition to Book Three of the Leland Dragon Series, I’m also writing a steampunk fantasy novel. I’ve written a feature length paranormal thriller screenplay, as well as several short film screenplays based on my published stories. I also edited a special issue of the dark fiction magazine Shroud, due out in the coming weeks.

Jackie Gamber is the award-winning author of many short stories, screenplays, and novels, including “Redheart” and “Sela”, Books One and Two 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
http://www.lelanddragons.com

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Writer Wednesday – William Dickerson

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Let’s start with the basics. Who are you?
I’m William Dickerson and I was born in Yonkers, New York, home of DMX and Mary J. Blige.

Tell us (briefly) about you…
I’m a filmmaker and author. My debut feature film, DETOUR, was just released nationwide, and my book, “No Alternative,” was recently published as a Paperback and eBook.

…and a bit about what you’ve written…
“No Alternative” is my first novel. It is a coming-of-age story about teenagers in the grunge era of the early 90’s. The protagonist, Thomas Harrison, is determined to start his own alternative band, an obsession that blinds him to what’s either the mental collapse, or the eruption of musical genius, of his little sister, Bridget. Bridget boldly rejects her brother’s music, and the music of an entire generation of slackers, by taking on the persona of an X-rated gangsta’ rapper named Bri Da B.

…and what you’re working on right now?
I’m working on two books. One’s a memoir (of sorts) detailing my experience making an independent film in Hollywood – it’s part instructional, part anecdotal, with helpings of caution, acquired wisdom and humor. The other is a sci-fi thriller involving mind control, the Beat Generation…and maybe some Ninjutsu. My film-related activities involve post-production on my second feature, THE MIRROR, starring the Internet sensation known as “Taylor.” We are currently looking at a summer 2013 release date.

What are your earliest book-related memories?
“Animal Farm,” “Old Yeller,” and “Huckleberry Finn” are embedded in some of my fondest book-related memories. Agatha Christie’s “Ten Little Indians” is particularly special, as it was the first book I ever adapted into a movie. It was, in fact, the first movie I ever made. In 6th Grade, I asked if I could shoot a movie in lieu of writing a book report, and for better or worse, my teacher acquiesced to my request and the rest is history!

What are your three favorite books?
Questions like this are always so difficult to answer. It’s hard to say for sure, but three books that I often find myself going back to and that I admire greatly are: “Lolita,” by Vladimir Nabokov, “The Sun Also Rises,” by Ernest Hemingway, “Flow My Tears, the Policeman Said,” by Philip K. Dick, and also, if I get to add one more, it would “The Great Gatsby,” because shouldn’t that book just be in any Top Three list by default?

How many books to do you read at any given time? What are you reading now?
I don’t get to read as many books as I would like, which is unfortunate, but I’m currently reading “The Revolution Was Televised” by Alan Sepinwall, a terrific rundown on the way television has changed (for the better) over the past decade. It is also noteworthy for being the first self-published book to be reviewed by The New York Times, which is a terrific benchmark for indie authors.

Finish this sentence; when I curl up with a book, I ___
___ make sure to find a position in which I do not aggravate my herniated disc.

To re-read or not to re-read that is the question.
Re-read. Unless it’s Proust’s “In Search Of Lost Time,” because there’s simply not enough time…at least, not at the speed that I read.

How likely are you to read a book that’s been recommended to you?
Depends who recommends it to me! Just like anything else, I suppose!

How likely are you to recommend a book (that isn’t yours)?
I’m extremely selective about the books I read, so I’m very likely to recommend them. I vet my reading material thoroughly before I dive in.

What do you look for in a good book?
I look for books that have protagonists with strong, subjective points-of-view; perspectives and views of the world that I can lose myself in and explore anew.

Why do you write?
As if there is any other choice?! In all seriousness, I find very little else as fully satisfying as the creative process. Writing a sentence, filming a scene, playing a drumbeat or a guitar lick; it is as freeing as a bird in the midst of flight, or that’s what I imagine it to feel like. It’s one of the few things that allows me to escape the world and enter another, and that is nothing short of thrilling.

If you couldn’t be a writer, what would you be?
Chef.

Where do you draw your inspiration from?
Life experience and imagined life experience, and sometimes one informs the other.

What has writing taught you about yourself?
Writing has taught me to focus more on the details, the leaves not the tree; not that the tree isn’t important, but it’s the details that stick, that resonate, that float past your face, fall to the ground and crunch under your foot when you step on them.

How do the people in your life seem to view your writing career?
It’s been many years since I’ve embarked on a career in the arts, and I’ve had tremendous support from friends and family. However, and perhaps this is just me being hard on myself, I feel like it takes many years to earn the credential of a “professional” in the eyes of those around you. And perhaps that’s a good thing; it keeps you striving, it keeps you humble and hungry; it keeps you on your toes.

Are there any stereotypes about writers that you don’t think are true?
That all writers are miserable. Okay, well, maybe that one’s true…

What do you see as the biggest challenge today for writers starting out?
The publishing industry is changing exponentially; for someone to succeed in the business, he or she must treat it as a business, which is the last thing I (and others, I’m sure) want to do! First, you need to write a good book. If that wasn’t hard enough, you then have to market it, and you must do so with as much conviction, fiery passion and steely resolve as you direct to your writing.

Have you made any writing mistakes that seem obvious in retrospect but weren’t at the time?
I will defer here to a quote by Charles M. Schulz: “I never made a mistake in my life. I thought I did once, but I was wrong.”

Is there a particular project you would love to be involved with?
Yes, absolutely. I would very much love to adapt “No Alternative” into one of my next films.

How do you deal with your fan base?
Pepper spray.

Finish this sentence; my fans would be surprised to know ___ about me.
Whenever the movie LA BAMBA airs on television, I can’t turn it off – I must watch it until the very end.

Anything else we should know?
I’m kidding about the pepper spray.

 

 

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Book Review – Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? by Philip K. Dick

Title: Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?
Author: Philip K. Dick
Format: Paperback
Written: 1968
Published: 1972

Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep is a science fiction novel set in the future world of 1992. Colonisation of our solar system has been accomplished, which is fortunate due to the devastation that war has brought to Earth. Part of the colonisation effort involves providing a free android to every colonist who migrates away from the dying mother planet. Unfortunately, the androids in question are not always happy with the arrangement. Our protagonist, Rick Decard, is a bounty hunter charged with tracking down escaped androids and killing them.

This book improves dramatically if you ignore the proposed timeline, which was ambitious given the 25 year window between when the book was written and when it was set. Technology has reached impressive heights. Space colonisation is successful, machines regulate mood according to the programming of the user, android technology has progressed to the point where it is almost impossible to tell the difference between man and machine, and hovercrafts are the main form of transport.

The writing style is easy to settle into, and does not get in the way of the story. We are immediately introduced to the personality of the main characters, the values of the world, and the general premise without any info dumps. It is an excellent grounding for the story, which makes it easy to race through the pages.

Both sides of the conflict are well represented as the novel explores concepts of humanity and empathy. We are able to meet characters before we know whether they are human or android, which gives us the ability to make our own judgements first. In many ways the sequence of this novel is representative of the world. This episode is significant in the protagonist’s experience due to the size and complexity, but the underlying power balance remains the same.

While the quality of being just another few days in an incredible life lends a peculiar type of suspense that works well for the novel, it deprives the ending of a resolution to a subplot. I won’t go into many details, because spoilers are unnecessary, but I will agree with the advertising on my novel that the book ends “in a jolting climax that leaves the reader very thoughtful indeed”. I have been thoughtful for days, coming up with dozens of ways that I would have fixed my biggest gripe with the ending.

I had hoped that the unresolved thread was intended to be addressed in a sequel. Unfortunately, the only subsequent work on this world appears to be a result of its adaptation into the movie Blade Runner. The sequels were authorised but written by someone else many years later. I don’t believe in novels written decades later after a movie has been released count for this purpose.

My copy of this book is 183 pages long. I give the first 169 of those pages 5 out of 5. If you haven’t guessed by now, the conclusion to this novel was unfortunate in my opinion. Therefore, I give this book an overall rating of 3 out of 5 pages.

Yes, I averaged the numbers; the ending irritated me that much.

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