Book Review – Hip Hop History

TITLE: Hip-Hop U.S. History
AUTHORS: Blake Harrison & Alex Rappaport
FORMAT: Paperback with CD
PUBLISHED: 2006

I don’t even know where to start with this book.
I guess I should go with the statement that I picked it up thinking it was either going to be awesome or total crap, but the library had it on display and I thought they might know what they were talking about.
Then again, my library being a branch of the Nashville Public Library, I should know better.

Yes, I just publicly dissed my library. But that’s a convo for another day.

So this book was on display and I thought that it had potential. The concept is that it’s giving a basic overview of US History “From Columbus to the Civil Rights Era” through specially written hip-hop songs. Each chapter gives the lyrics of one song, and alongside gives explanations of each section of the lyrics.

It’s possible that this book could be helpful if you had no idea about anything (I’m reminded of an episode of The Wild Thornberrys where the mother teaches the older daughter something using this method), but really, I fail to see how this book provides a good history lesson, especially considering how much it assumes you already know.

Here’s a sample of the book:
Back before buffalo wings at Domino’s,
America was where the Buffalo
roamed. What you don’t know?
Thirty thousand years ago some dudes
Came across the Bering Strait
wearing snowshoes.
Eskimos chasing woolly mammoth,
Ice Age white like dandruff.

But the book has assumed you understand Bering Strait and Ice Age, and if you know that stuff, you probably already know how people arrived in North America. And if you don’t already know that stuff, you’re probably going to have some weird image of eskimos sitting at a booth eating hot wings.

Which goes along with my other complaint that the amount of unimportant stuff shoved in just amazes me. At one point there’s a reference to Chubby Checker dressed up for Halloween in reference to the Boston Tea Party.

And the way they explain some of this stuff… Yes, the third amendment technically means you don’t have to let soldiers sleep on your couch and the eighth technically means that you can’t be ordered to drink turpentine for punishment, but is that really the best way to explain the Bill of Rights?

The worst part about this book is that on the cover it even touts this book as a prep for the US History AP and Sat II exams. Wait, what? Before I read that, I thought the target age for this book was somewhere around middle school.

Maybe (okay totally) I’m the wrong demographic for this book. But even being my most objective, I fail to see how this book would be helpful at a higher level. I’m not going to crack the CD, so I can’t vouch for the songs’ musical merit, but as far as a learning tool, it fails. I didn’t learn anything I didn’t know, it glosses over a lot of stuff for more common “history” (the book says Columbus found America, but fails to mention anyone else who arrived here before or around the same time unless you read the appendix), and in a couple instances, the ‘facts’ given are wrong. (The first one I saw said you can’t print something to intentionally defame somebody because it’s “Libel or slander” um… )

I see what they tried to do here, but they failed. Then again, what do I expect from a book announcing its “Flocabulary” and created by MTV? If this book actually helps, more power to it. But from my observation, it gets a 2/5.

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Writer Wednesday – Bobby Nash

Let’s start with the basics. Who are you?
Tell us (briefly) about you…
My name is Bobby Nash. I am a writer. I write novels, comic books, short stories, and screenplays. It’s the coolest job.

Here’s my official bio…
About Bobby Nash:
From his secret lair in the wilds of Bethlehem, Georgia, 2013 Pulp Ark Award Winning Best Author, Bobby Nash writes a little bit of everything including novels, comic books, short prose, graphic novels, screenplays, media tie-ins, and more.
Between writing deadlines, Bobby is an actor and extra in movies and television, including appearances in Deviant Pictures’ Fat Chance, FOX’s The Following, USA’s Neil, Inc. and more. He is also the co-host of the Earth Station One podcast (www.esopodcast.com) and a member of the International Association of Media Tie-in Writers.
Bobby was named Best Author in the 2013 Pulp Ark Awards, his first professional writing award. Rick Ruby, a character co-created by Bobby and author Sean Taylor also snagged a Pulp Ark Award for Best New Pulp Character of 2013.
For more information on Bobby Nash please visit him at http://www.bobbynash.com, http://www.facebook.com/AuthorBobbyNash, and http://www.twitter.com/bobbynash, among other places across the web.

…and a bit about what you’ve written…
I’ve been a published author since 1992, but I didn’t really start producing regularly published material until around 2005. In that time I’ve worked on some pretty cool projects for a few different publishers. You can get the full list of my work at http://www.bobbynash.com, but here are a few of the highlights:

Novels: Evil Ways, Deadly Games!, Earthstrike Agenda, Fantastix
Comic Books: Fuzzy Bunnies From Hell, Demonslayer, Domino Lady vs. The Mummy, Lance Star: Sky Ranger “One Shot”
Short Prose/novellas: A Fistful of Legends, Tales of The Rook, Zombies vs. Robots, The Ruby Files, Lance Star: Sky Ranger, Blackthorn: Thunder on Mars, Domino Lady, Secret Agent X, The Avenger: Roaring Heart of the Crucible, The Spider: Extreme Prejudice
Graphic Novels: Yin Yang, I Am Googol: The Great Invasion
Screenplays: Zenoids: “Animal Crackers”, Starship Farragut: “Conspiracy of Innocence”
Media Tie-In: Green Hornet Case Files, Green Hornet Still at Large, Nightbeat

…and what you’re working on right now.
I’m always juggling multiple projects at one time.

At the moment, I am working on the first (of many, I hope) Ghost Gal novel for Raven’s Head Press. I’m doing production work on the Operation: Silver Moon graphic novel I wrote so it can go to press this month. I’m also working on a Honey West/Domino Lady novel for Moonstone Books. I also have a screenplay in the works I’m co-writing with a writer friend of mine on, and doing rewites on a short film I wrote that goes before the camera in May. There are other odds and ends that make up my day as well. I co-host the Earth Station One podcast, keep my websites up to date, social media, things like that. There never seems to be a shortage of things to do, which is nice.

What are your earliest book-related memories?
I remember reading and enjoying the Encyclopedia Brown books as a kid. I checked them out from the school library. They were great. The first novel I recall owning was Han Solo’s Revenge. My Mom ordered books from a catalog and I was a big Star Wars fan. I saw it in her ordering form and she bought it for me. I still have it.

What are your three favorite books?
This is a tough one to answer because the answer is always changing. The first three that come to mind today are Airframe by Michael Crichton, Whipping Boy by John Byrne, and DC’s The New Frontier by Darwyn Cooke. I’ve read them multiple times.

How many books to do you read at any given time?
It varies. Sometimes it’s one at a time, sometimes three. It depends on my mood.

What are you reading now?
Right now I’m bouncing between three novels. So Close The Hand of Death by J.T. Ellison, Honey West: This Girl For Hire by G.G. Fickling, and I just started Star Trek: The Fall: A Ceremony of Losses by David Mack.

Finish this sentence; when I curl up with a book, I ___
Lose all track of time.

To re-read or not to re-read that is the question.
I have re-read a few novels over the years, but only a small number. There’s always something in my to read pile I’ve not read yet.

How likely are you to read a book that’s been recommended to you?
Very likely, especially when people who share the same interests as I do recommend a book. I’ve discovered many fantastic readers because someone said, “you have to read this.”

How likely are you to recommend a book (that isn’t yours)?
I love to recommend a good read to others, even if it’s not one I wrote. [laughs]

What do you look for in a good book?
I like to be entertained. Tell me a good story and I’m excited. Make me fall in love (or hate) with your characters and I’ll come back for more. What I don’t like is to be bored.

Why do you write?
It’s the only way to get the stories out of my head. I know that sounds silly, but it’s true because the ideas never stop coming. There are more story ideas rattling around in my brain than I can write. I will never have the chance to get to all of them. I love telling and crafting stories and creating characters. It’s fun.

If you couldn’t be a writer, what would you be?
I’d probably be sitting in an office doing something uninteresting.

Where do you draw your inspiration from?
Inspiration comes from anywhere and everywhere. Ideas come from anywhere. I wish I had a better answer, but the ideas and inspiration come from all around. I will say that deadlines are great motivators.

What has writing taught you about yourself?
Writing has taught me that I can persevere and accomplish things with a lot of hard work and dedication. When I first started down this path, it was tough. There were (and still are) many rejections and criticisms. As a writer you are advised to “have a thick skin” but sometimes that is easier said than done. It would have been so easy to give up way back when. Thankfully, I didn’t give up and stuck with it and today I’m being contacted by publishers asking me if I would like to work for them. That’s pretty amazing. I wish younger me could have seen me now.

How do the people in your life seem to view your writing career?
It’s weird, but the one I find most often is meeting people who assume I’m rich because of the number of books I’ve worked on. Sadly, published author does not automatically equal wealthy author. I wish it did. I think my life would be a little simpler if that were the case, but it’s not. Far from it, in fact. I’m still chasing that brass ring.

Are there any stereotypes about writers that you don’t think are true?
There are a lot. We’re not all rich. We’re not always drunk or high. That sort of thing. Also, the police never ask me to help them solve crimes.

What do you see as the biggest challenge today for writers starting out?
Right now, it has never been easier to get your work in print. The downside of the that is that it takes a lot more to make your book(s) stand out against the millions of other titles out there. I don’t have the answer for how to rise to the top because, if I did, my books would be selling better than they are [laughs]. There is more to being a writer than writing. You have to market your book(s) and yourself. You have to get out there and meet readers, talk to people, sell it. It takes a lot of work, a lot of time. Writing the novel is only part of the job.

Have you made any writing mistakes that seem obvious in retrospect but weren’t at the time?
Oh, sure. Poor writing style or clumsy turns of phrase. There is always something I look back on and realize that I can do it better or differently now. That’s not to say it was wrong the first time (although, sometimes…) but as I learn new techniques and develop new skills, how I approach certain things is different. I learn from those mistakes.

Is there a particular project you would love to be involved with?
There are so many dream projects. I do enjoy writing media tie-ins and I’ve had fun with the few I’ve been fortunate enough to write for, but there are a few out there I wouldn’t mind trying my hand at eventually. Stargate SG-1 or Stargate: Atlantis would be fun. I pitched a novel to the publisher that holds the license, but never heard back. It would have been fun, I think. I love Star Trek and Star Wars, but I’m not sure I’m the right writer for novels based on those properties. On the comic book side of things, an opportunity to write The Fantastic Four would be incredible. I love those characters. There are more, of course, but those are currently at the top of my list.

How do you deal with your fan base?
I feel fortunate to have a fan base that interacts with me. I answer every email, question, and comment sent to me or left on my website or at conventions. I attend as many conventions/signings/conferences as I can afford to get out and meet readers and creators face to face. I love meeting fans and potential fans of my books.

Finish this sentence; my fans would be surprised to know ___ about me.
Secrets. I’m pretty much an open book. Sometimes I think I share too much. [laughs]

Anything else we should know?
I appreciate everyone who has taken the time to check out one of my books, leave a review, or just say hi. I love what I do and hope to continue doing it. Please feel free to visit me at http://www.bobbynash.com or on social media.

Book Review – 1602 by Neil Gaiman

Title: Marvel 1602

Author:  Neil Gaiman

Artwork: Andy Kubert & Reinhard Schweizer

Format: Graphic novel/comic collection

Published:  2004

1602 is a collection of 8 parts that operate under a very interesting premise – what if all the Marvel characters start their stories 500 years too soon? – written by the incredible Neil Himself Gaiman.   The story starts with a girl on a boat – 14-year-old Virginia Dare and her protective Indian guide on her way back to England to ask Queen Elisabeth for more money for the Roanoke colony.  At the same time, King James and the Inquisition are both trying to get all the freaks killed.

After that, there is *a lot* that goes on, and honestly, I think that it loses a little something if you’re not really into the comics.  For instance, Hawkeye makes an appearance as an apprentice… named Peter.  And if you weren’t really into Hawkeye or you missed the one offhanded comment that made you go… Oh, wait a minute!… you’d probably miss it.

So, truth be told, I missed most of them.  I mean, Thor was pretty easy, since he came down as, um, Thor.  But was that other one Arachne, Spider Woman or Black Widow?  And if it was Black Widow, who was the other one that I *thought* was Black Widow?  I’m pretty sure those are the X-Men, but I couldn’t name all of them, and even my Ultimate Marvel Character Guide isn’t helping with some of these.  Others aren’t so hard to come up with – Doom, Strange and Banner are called Doom, Strange and Banner, for instance.

Since this is a graphic novel/set of comics, let’s talk about the artwork for a minute.  The artists used a combination of techniques that made the art title pages (there are eight, one for each of the original parts) look like old wood carvings, and really gave the collection a feel of old 17th century artwork.  But some of the illustrations came out a bit odd.  For instance, Queen Elisabeth looks a bit like a groupie for Insane Clown Possee in a couple of them.  And because of the techniques, we lose a lot of the details that we expect in a graphic setting.  Not going to lie, it’s the only reason I read these – for the artwork that accompanies.

So although I give the story a four, I have to give the overall a three out of five.   If you’re into Marvel, don’t miss it, but otherwise, you’ll miss a lot.

 

 

Writer Wednesday – John Jackson Miller

When I met John Jackson Miller at MidSouthCon in 2012, I was immediately taken by him.  He started with Star Wars and went through his list until he got to something that I really liked – Iron Man.  But it was how he treated fellow writer Janine Spendlove that got me all googly-eyed over him – when he found out she worked in Washington, he started showing her a story line that took place in the very rooms she worked in – and then gave her a copy of each of the comics.  (She later took them and read them in several locations around the world.)  I’ve said it before – I like writers for the people behind the books (or comic books) and this is no exception.  Because of that, I bought a comic on the spot and it’s one of my most treasured posessions. 

Anyway, before I get all mushy, here he is…

Let’s start with the basics. Who are you?
I am John Jackson Miller. Greetings.

Tell us (briefly) about you…
For many years I was the editor of the trade magazine for the comic book industry. Ten years ago I began writing comic books on the side, and for the last five years I’ve been writing comics, fiction, and games full-time.

…and a bit about what you’ve written…
I am the author of two Star Wars prose books: the Knight Errant novel and the Lost Tribe of the Sith short story anthology. I’ve also written more than 100 comic books which have been collected into a few dozen graphic novels. Those comics range from Star Wars to Indiana Jones to Iron Man to Mass Effect.

…and what you’re working on right now.
Releasing this fall we have the Star Wars Lost Tribe of the Sith – Spiral comic series from Dark Horse. This is the comics sequel to the prose book available now from Del Rey. I also have been working on a number of Simpsons comics stories, with a couple of them coming out this fall and more next year. I also have a number of other fiction projects that I’m working on including a couple of things of my own, and some other things I’ve still got under wraps. People can find out more about what I’ve been doing on my website, http://www.farawaypress.com.

I am also a researcher into comic book circulation history, and my research can be found on my Comichron website: http://www.comichron.com.

What are your earliest book-related memories?
My mother was a grade school librarian and so we always have had books around. I always joke that where other people’s mothers threw their comic books away, my mother encouraged me to put mine in alphabetical order. Then there was one summer during which I got to help her organize a school library that had previously fallen to ruin, and so spent almost the entire time hiding in a corner reading this book or that one. It was a great way to spend the summer!

What are your three favorite books?
Oh, that’s not a fair question… I don’t think I can narrow things down to that degree. There were certainly books that I was obsessed with that one time or another in my life. Arthur C. Clarke’s 2010, for example, is one of the reasons that I took Russian in college. I’m a big fan of the novel and movie Contact by Carl Sagan. In college, I was on a serious Tom Clancy kick. I adore the Horatio Hornblower novels. I love all the books by P.G. Wodehouse. And that doesn’t even get in the comic books. So it’s hard to narrow down.

How many books to do you read at any given time? What are you reading now?
I have a terrible habit of switching between books. I have about 20 different books that I’m in the middle of and I return to them depending on my mood at the end of the day. So when I do dig into a book that I can’t put down, that means it’s pretty special. Most recently, the book that I’ve started reading is The Making of the President by Theodore White. I tenderly read a lot more nonfiction than fiction for fun.

Finish this sentence; when I curl up with a book, I ___
…sometimes have a tendency to fall asleep. This is the problem when you reserve most of your reading for bedtime!

To re-read or not to re-read that is the question.
There are some books that I’ve reread several times. Generally, that qualifies as comfort reading!

How likely are you to read a book that’s been recommended to you?
Well, the book can get into the line, but there are a lot of other books in the queue already!

How likely are you to recommend a book (that isn’t yours)?
I have done it now and again. I am unlikely to recommend a book I haven’t read yet, which may be why I don’t do a whole lot of recommendations. Because I have so many books that I’m still trying to get to, if it’s not often that I’m able to recommend a book in a timeframe that’s helpful for other authors’ marketing.

What do you look for in a good book?
What everybody also is looking for. Engaging characters, an interesting story, and something that will teach me something I don’t know.

Why do you write?
Take the previous sentence and switch all the subjects and objects. Basically, I right for the same reasons that I read.

If you couldn’t be a writer, what would you be?
Is “professional poker player” in the mix? Seriously, I don’t know. They say people switch careers many times over the course of a lifetime, but generally what I’ve been changing is the sort of things that I’m writing or editing books about. That has managed to keep things interesting and fresh for me.

Where do you draw your inspiration from?
I get a lot of inspiration from reading history books, old newspapers, and magazines. You would be surprised how many old stories are out there that can be used as inspiration for something that you might tell a story about that is set in the far future, or in a galaxy far away.

What has writing taught you about yourself?
I think that I’ve always wanted to be a communicator. Whenever news broke I always wanted to be the person to tell other people about it, or to describe it in my own words. I think that is why I became a journalist years ago. I’m telling different kinds of stories now, but to a large measure it all comes from the same place.

How do the people in your life seem to view your writing career?
I think my kids wonder what I do all day. Writing is a lot like time travel, in that you can sit down in front of a screen at noon and look up of couple of hours later and realize it’s 8 or 9 o’clock. I sometimes resent the amount of time that takes away from the rest of my life, but I would not give up what I’m doing for anything.

Are there any stereotypes about writers that you don’t think are true?
I think a lot of people have the mistaken impression that writers are all solitary and antisocial. It is true that we have to stay in isolation while we’re working, but I like nothing more than to get out of the house after I’ve been writing, and to talk to the people that are out there in the real world.

What do you see as the biggest challenge today for writers starting out?
I think people focus too much on the end result of their ambitions. They immediately set their sights on writing for this or that movie franchise or comic book franchise or something, and fall into a trap of not doing the intermediate steps which are not just training, but also our vital for getting a writer seen by editors.

And then, hopefully, getting them to a position where they can work on these bigger properties one day.

I worked as a journalist for more than a decade before I had my first comics story published. A lot of the things that I wrote about were not things that I was particularly interested in, or that were particularly glamorous. I even edited a line of trade magazines for the lumber industry — what I know about lumber would fit into your shoe! But it was important to do that because it established that I could write about anything, if I had to, and that I could make deadlines.

Write about anything, I say. Just write.

Have you made any writing mistakes that seem obvious in retrospect but weren’t at the time?
It took me a while to make the transition as a prose writer from writing the way I did as a journalist to writing for the fiction reader. One of the things that’s ingrained in reporters is the quote-paraphrase-quote style of writing, where you summarize much longer pieces of dialogue for space economy. My temptation was always to short-circuit long sections of exposition by simply summarizing what was being said — when in fact part of the fun of reading is hearing things in characters’ own voices. So that’s something that I’ve learned to adapt my style for.

Is there a particular project you would love to be involved with?
Oh, there are all sorts of media properties that I would be interested in working with. I’ve said for many years I would love to write a Die Hard movie script or comic book. But increasingly I’m also focusing on writing my own work. I joy working on licensed properties and will continue to do so but I need to balance out what I’m working on.

 You’ve written for some pretty well known characters/franchises – Mass Effect, Star Wars, Iron Man, even the Simpsons! Is it hard to write characters that are so well known?
It isn’t difficult in the sense that I have a familiarity with you the characters in these worlds, and how the characters should speak. The challenge comes with knowing that I’m writing to a group of readers who are particularly savvy about the world I’m writing about, and so they will let me know if I haven’t described something properly. So I try to do my homework whenever possible.

How do you deal with your fan base?
I talk to fans on Twitter and Facebook and on my website, and I also go to conventions as often as I can. There are a few message boards that I also check in on. I enjoy talking with fans and I appreciate their enthusiasm, and very much feed on the energy that they bring to reading the works.

Finish this sentence; my fans would be surprised to know ___ about me.
That for some reason, I have a near-encyclopedic knowledge of television network program schedules in the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s. On second thought, if they’ve been following me on my Facebook page that probably know that already.

Anything else we should know?
Just that interested readers can find more about me on http://www.farawaypress.com, and also can follow me on Twitter at @jjmfaraway

Thanks!

Writer Wednesday – Angelia Sparrow

A regular around the con-circuit in the southeast, Angelia is a surprising person both in and out of the book (and the bedroom, I’m sure…).

Let’s start with the basics. Who are you?
I’m a cranky middle-aged trucker who doesn’t believe in love, yet writes romance anyway.

Tell us (briefly) about you…
I graduated college with a BA in English lit, a husband of 3 years and a bun in the oven. Three more kids later, I was trapped in the pink collar ghetto as a library paraprofessional. In 2005, I wrote my first full-length novel. I also met my usual collaborator, Naomi Brooks. I made a radical career change and went to truck driving school. I wrote a great deal on the road, filling the hours spent sitting on loading docks with words. In 2007, I got a local run, which got me home every night. I crochet, write, cook, and run a small press in my copious spare time.

…and a bit about what you’ve written…
I started, professionally, with erotic horror. A little boy meets incubus tale called “Prey.” Since then, there have been 10 novels (and 2 more coming), including one basic horror and one heterosexually focused book. HARD REBOOT releases Sept 30 from Amber Heat. I’ve written over 60 short stories, including a collection of lesbian adventures, a collection with my usual collaborator and a number of anthology pieces, the most recent of which is a contemporary called “Tiocfaidh Ar La.” It can be found in Storm Moon Press’ CARVED IN FLESH. My next release is Oct 26, an urban fantasy romance from Ellora’s Cave, called SPELLBOUND DESIRE about a combat mage and an alcoholic PI in a slightly skewed Memphis.

…and what you’re working on right now.
At the moment, I’m working on a comedic space pirate story for an anthology, the edits for a historical pirate novel, assembling 2 collections, editing a novel for my small press, and awaiting the edits on my January novel, a post-apocalyptic biker-gang thing.

What are your earliest book-related memories?
My father and grandmother reading to me. Grandma would read endless books to me when I was visiting. And my father, an account manager, had one for Holt, Rinehardt and Winston. He test- marketed kid books on me. The Holt client said they had found that when I liked a book, it tended to sell well. So I ended up with 2 full shelves of books at my grandma’s house.

What are your three favorite books?
That’s a really tough question. Julian May’s THE MANY COLORED LAND, Aldous Huxley’s BRAVE NEW WORLD, and Judith Viorst’s ALEXANDER AND THE TERRIBLE, HORRIBLE, NO GOOD, VERY BAD DAY.

How many books to do you read at any given time? What are you reading now?
I read between 2 and 4. Right now I am reading LIKE IT OR NOT, a dubious consent anthology from Storm Moon Press, LITTLE DEATHS edited by John F.D. Taff and NIGHT SONGS by Charles L. Grant.

Finish this sentence; when I curl up with a book, I ___
…tend to fall asleep. I read in waiting rooms, in lines and anywhere but in a peaceful comfortable reading specific environment. I don’t curl up with books, so much as stand impatiently.

To re-read or not to re-read that is the question.
I try not to. Sometimes I just get to jonesing for something old. I read about 50 new books a year, and that leaves little time to reread old favorites.

How likely are you to read a book that’s been recommended to you?
It depends on the book and the person recommending it. My mom keeps trying to get me to read these Christian quilting mystery novels. Yeah, not so much. Elizabeth Donald, on the other hand, has reading taste similar enough to mine that I know I can try the new horror book without much regret.

How likely are you to recommend a book (that isn’t yours)?
Fairly. Of course, I’ll pitch my own first, but then I move on to other smaller press authors and then up to New York authors of my acquaintance. A book by a complete stranger? Only if it’s Heinlein, Bradbury, Ellison, Huxley or Orwell (and sometimes Steven King)

What do you look for in a good book?
I look for a story that pulls me in and characters I care about, that actually manage to live through the book. A 70% character-kill rate is about my upper limit, and after a few of those, I’m not letting myself invest in that author’s characters, I am just reading for the spatter. I quit reading Brian Keene, because nobody ever survived his novels and I was tired of new and innovative ways to kill people. Although I like the bit where the cows ate the Amish farmer…

Why do you write?
Because when the words quit, I end up with an expensive vacation to Sunny Rancho Loco in Scenic Downtown Little Rock. Last time it took anti-psychotics to get me functional. Writing is cheaper, and actually MAKES money.

If you couldn’t be a writer, what would you be?
A crochet artist.

Where do you draw your inspiration from?
EVERYWHERE! It’s all grist. Everything
My mother saying, “I’m being followed by a couch.”
A line in a song on the radio. “Carried a gun in every hand” from “John Wesley Harding” got me wondering how many hands he had. And so was born a four-armed gunslinger.
A costume. Adam Lambert’s spiked codpiece at Sydney Mardi Gras inspired the opening scene of BARBAROSSA’S BITCH, my January release.
An actor. We’ll see an actor’s face, and go “Him, yes, him! He needs to be in my next book!”
A news item. An article about Christian Exodus led to research on Dominionism. This in turn led me to imagine a dis-united states, where the Dominionists, the Exodusers and other religious fanatics had created a religiously run American state, where pork was illegal, where women by law could not work outside the home, and where many crimes were punishable by public execution on live TV.

What has writing taught you about yourself?
That I am not as smart or knowledgeable as I think I am. That my well of inner darkness goes a lot deeper than I’d like it to.

How do the people in your life seem to view your writing career?
My husband is pleased by it. He doesn’t read my genre, but is very proud of me for writing. My mother is proud of me for publishing and embarrassed by what I write. Ditto my dad. My younger sister is my biggest fan and constant first reader. My kids are like “Eh, Mom’s writing again.”

Are there any stereotypes about writers that you don’t think are true?
We aren’t all isolated crazy cat ladies projecting our bizarre sexual fantasies onto the page because we haven’t seen anything that doesn’t run on batteries since the Clinton administration. Two cats fails to qualify me as a crazy cat lady.

What do you see as the biggest challenge today for writers starting out?
Learning to write well BEFORE being published. A lot of authors are going the self-publishing route, just slapping together a story without even a spell-check, running it through Create Space and Smashwords. And that’s flooding the market. I’ve been asked why I stay with publishers when I could easily self publish. I know my limits and I know I need editors badly!

Have you made any writing mistakes that seem obvious in retrospect but weren’t at the time?
I used to write in lists. I would start the sentence, add a colon and then go into a list of words describing the action. My editors broke me of this bad habit.

Is there a particular project you would love to be involved with?
Ellora’s Cave has a bounty hunter call out. I’ve got a partner and a plot and characters. We’re going to get cracking as soon as there is internet in zir new place.

How do you deal with your fan base?
By smiling and nodding and avoiding eye contact. No, seriously. I’ve been told my eye contact is initially good, but then it slides away. There are reasons for this, usually because I’m lipreading. I love meeting fans of my work at conventions and I hope I greet and enjoy them with the same patience George Takei showed me at my first convention when I was a rather hyper 14 year old fan girl.

Finish this sentence; my fans would be surprised to know ___ about me.
My fans would probably not be surprised by anything. I mean, they probably don’t want to know I’m hard of hearing, wear dentures or am asthmatic. I wear my paganism and queerness on my sleeve. They’d probably be surprised to know I’m not the wild sexual vixen having mad sheet romps every night and breaking the chandelier. I’m a tired old trucker with a six p.m. bedtime and a husband on an opposite schedule.

Anything else we should know?
You can catch me live at ConTraception in Independence MO on November 9. I’ll also be at MidSouth Con in Memphis next March, and FrolicCon and OutLanta in Atlanta next spring.

You can find me at http://www.brooksandsparrow.com
I’m on facebook as Author Angelia Sparrow, twitter as asparrow16 and livejournal as valarltd
Paperbacks can be had through http://www.literaryunderworld.com
And my company, http://www.inkstainedsuccubus.com is currently accepting submissions in all genres except children, young adults and monotheistic inspirational.

Writer Wednesday – Herika R Raymer

Based out of Memphis-ish, Herika R. Raymer is a familliar face around the southeast con circuit.  If she’s not at the Imagicopter table, she’s either at a panel or hanging around somewhere.  Outside of cons, she’s a busy woman; the married mother of two is a writer and editor and runs Imagyro Magazine for Imagicopter.  This is her story…

Let’s start with the basics. Who are you?
Tell us (briefly) about you…
I am an overgrown big kid who finally realized her dream of sharing her stories with people who (hopefully) like them. I am married with two children and one dog, but have never quite left the imaginary world for the real one. I visit quite often, and share what I see there when I can.

…and a bit about what you’ve written…
At present I have only published short stories which can be found from a variety of small to independent presses. A list can be found at my website – herikarraymer.webs.com – and my author page on Facebook. The stories are mostly horror and fantasy, though I am hoping to try science-fiction and urban fantasy soon.

…and what you’re working on right now.
Right now, literally, I am wrapping up the final stories on a collection. It is based on some creatures I dreamed up for an anthology a few years back. I never thought they would be so popular. However, due to demand, I am putting together some stories and hope the readers will be pleased. Look for it soon!

What are your earliest book-related memories?
Being read to as a child. I always adored hearing either my mother or my father read to me. My mind wandered into fantasy world, and has never quite left.

What are your three favorite books?
I only get to choose three?! Oh man…
Traveler In Black by John Brunner because it taught me to be careful what I wish for.
Dragonsinger by Anne McCaffrey because it was a delightfully painful story about a girl who refused to give up her love of music.
The Forgotten Beasts of Eld by Patricia A McKillip, because it taught me the power of names.

How many books to do you read at any given time?
Two to three, depending on my mood and how well some read.

What are you reading now?
Touch of Madness by B C Brown
Callahan series by Spider Robinson

Finish this sentence; when I curl up with a book, I ___
am happiest.

How likely are you to read a book that’s been recommended to you?
Very likely if I can find it, it is finding the time in the stack that has already been recommended.

How likely are you to recommend a book (that isn’t yours)?
Highly likely, not to mention that particular tendency comes in handy now that I am part of Imagicopter.

What do you look for in a good book?
Storyline and characters I can envision! If I cannot relate to them, well I can expect that – but at least let me see them in my mind and follow where they are. And let the story make sense.

Why do you write?
Too many stories in my mind, it cannot hold them all.

If you couldn’t be a writer, what would you be?
Artist, I would like to refine my drawing abilities.

Where do you draw your inspiration from?
Not sure, everywhere. Mundane chores, something that startles me, an adventure I overhear my children playing, questions that a book / movie / show prompts or does not answer. Just so many places, it is hard to choose just one.

What has writing taught you about yourself?
That I procrastinate too much and need more discipline.

How do the people in your life seem to view your writing career?
For the most part the response has been positive. Apparently I have always told good stories or was always found reading, so they naturally surmised this was the next step.

Are there any stereotypes about writers that you don’t think are true?
Well, we don’t all drink and not all of us are completely crazy. There are parts of us missing after all, I think that is the window where the stories come in.

What do you see as the biggest challenge today for writers starting out?
Allowing their work to be viewed by strangers. There is too much of ourselves in our early work, and letting people we do not know see it is frightening. After all, it is only a fraction – and people are quick to judge. If we write it out, we want to tell a tale – not be dissected.

Have you made any writing mistakes that seem obvious in retrospect but weren’t at the time?
Absolutely! The voice you write in indicates what kind of audience you are writing for. I wrote very child-like, and had to mature it quite a bit to reach the audience I want to now – which is Young Adult to Adult. It is embarrassing now to read some of the stuff I originally wrote – no wonder my Beta Readers winced while looking at it (poor dears).

Is there a particular project you would love to be involved with?
Not sure. If I get to that point I will let you know. Although, I think it would be awesome to write for a series… televised that is.

How do you deal with your fan base?
When I get one I will tell you.

Finish this sentence; my fans would be surprised to know ___ about me.
“My fears”

You’re one of the brains behind Imagicopter. Tell us about it.
I am? Here I thought I was the voice broadcasting it.
Imagicopter is a voluntary cooperative of authors, artists, and hopefully musicians. The idea is that there is local talent in any town, all one has to do is be aware of them. Imagicopter uses networking and free venues to help raise that awareness and, hopefully, help local Talent sell their wares.

Anything else we should know?
Imagicopter is not a promotional agency, nor a publishing house, and this being the case it does not guarantee sales. All we can do is try to entice people to buy your product, but we do not guarantee anything. Also, as we are a voluntary outfit, our participants do not pay us and we cannot pay them. Any sales made must be by them. We do try and direct people to their sites or to Amazon or Goodreads or wherever their books and art can be found.

When we are on the convention circuit we do direct people to their publisher’s booths or to their tables (if they have one) to get the books. This may not be what is expected, but we do try and be direct with possible participants with what we do as we do not want to raise any false hopes.

Thank you so much for your time Ms Lynch! See you on the convention circuit!

Writer Wednesday – Princess Alethea Kontis

Alethea Kontis (that’s A-le-thee-ah con-tis for those in the know – you can say it with her on her website www.aletheakontis.com) is my favorite princess.  I first met her at con a few years ago, and her personality caught me right away.  She’s one of those people who can light up a room with happiness, and not in an overly cheesy way.  Her books range from The Wonderland Alphabet (check out our review on it) to the Alpha Oops series (The Day That Z Went First and H is for Halloween) to Young Adult and more.  So put on your tiara (guys, too!) and settle in to learn about Alethea Kontis.

Let’s start with the basics. Who are you?
Author. Princess. Geek. Former nerd.

Tell us (briefly) about you…
My first best friend was a tree. My favorite fairy tales are “The Goose Girl” and “Snow White and Rose Red.” I make the best baklava you’ve ever tasted and sleep with a teddy bear named Charlie. (The Fairy Godboyfriend doesn’t mind.)

…and a bit about what you’ve written…
I grew up in a family of storytellers. I started writing (mostly poetry) when I was about eight years old. When I branched out into short stories, I began writing “new fairy tales” per my mother’s request. I’ve been reading and writing fairy tales my whole life. “Making old stories new,” as Samuel Johnson says.

…and what you’re working on right now.
Right this minute I am currently waiting on editorial input for Hero (the sequel to Enchanted), so I’m working on a “Trixter” novella, making notes about Beloved (book three), and chatting to my new friend about a Big Fat Sekrit Project. (Like authors are wont to do.)

What are your earliest book-related memories?
Thanks to a childhood eidetic memory and a father who read to me ever night, I was reading the TV Guide by the time I was three. I don’t actually remember a time in my life when I couldn’t read. I was voracious. My mother quickly learned to abuse the library system and scour yard sales to feed my hungry brain. So my earliest book memories are of long trips to the library, summer reading programs, and library book sales in every small town we happened to be driving through at the time.

What are your three favorite books?
Because I indulged so much as a child, my favorite books are the ones from that time. There are far too many to pick three–when I have time I like to review them on Goodreads, especially the obscure ones. You can also find a list of My 21 Most Influential Books on my website.

How many books to do you read at any given time? What are you reading now?
I used to read books like some people smoked cigarettes. Unfortunately, when one starts writing, the reading is the first thing to go. I miss it. I took the book reviewing gig at Orson Scott Card’s Intergalactic Medicine Show so that I would be forced to read something every month. Also, I will drop everything when a new Jude Deveraux book is released. Guilty pleasure.

Finish this sentence; when I curl up with a book, I ___
…go into this lovely meditative state where my breathing slows and the world around me completely disappears.

To re-read or not to re-read that is the question.
In 2006, I had Sharon Shinn sign my worn copy of Jovah’s Angel: “To Alethea–Have fun reading this…again.”

How likely are you to read a book that’s been recommended to you?
Very likely. I still blame Kitti and Kay for the first three George R. R. Martin books.

How likely are you to recommend a book (that isn’t yours)?
I do it every other month at IGMS, and I used to do it every day when I worked at the bookstore. Especially The Princess Bride. (See? Like I just did.)

What do you look for in a good book?
Anything but first person present tense. Ugh, that sets my teeth on edge.

Why do you write?
As Victoria Page replies in The Red Shoes: “Why do you want to live?” I don’t know why. I just do.

If you couldn’t be a writer, what would you be?
In college, I studied to be a Marine Chemist. I have always been fascinated by inorganic chemistry and the hydrothermal vents. I have some small regrets that my life path took me away from that.

Where do you draw your inspiration from?
The magic in the world around us. (It’s there if you know how to look for it.)

What has writing taught you about yourself?
That Butt in Chair is the biggest obstacle holding me back from Meg Cabot-type fame.

How do the people in your life seem to view your writing career?
I’m lucky: writing as part of my life has always been understood. Always. From the time I was in grade school. Because of that, I’ve had less of an adjustment period than some authors do when they suddenly stop calling their parents and start speaking in word count.

Are there any stereotypes about writers that you don’t think are true?
I think all stereotypes are true for some authors, and that nothing applies to everyone. Does that make sense? The only universal truth is Putting One’s Butt in One’s Chair.

What do you see as the biggest challenge today for writers starting out?
Putting One’s Butt in One’s Chair.

Have you made any writing mistakes that seem obvious in retrospect but weren’t at the time?
The biggest writing mistake I’ve ever made has been not writing. That’s always a mistake, no matter how you slice it. The rest of the mistakes I made I learned from, just like everything else in life.

Is there a particular project you would love to be involved with?
Being asked to collaborate on a Neil Gaiman/Joss Whedon joint effort.

How do you deal with your fan base?
I honestly don’t think of myself as having fans–I have friends. Like I always say: Strangers are just best friends I haven’t met yet.

Finish this sentence; my fans would be surprised to know ___ about me.
Um…. “nothing”? Little surprises me at this point. I have a pretty extraordinary life.

Anything else we should know?
I am extremely proud of having just won the Gelett Burgess Children’s Book Award for my novel Enchanted. I’ve also been having a BLAST touring Comic Cons up and down the east coast with my lovely and talented friend Janet K. Lee to support our collaboration The Wonderland Alphabet, our book for adults to read and babies to eat. If you love subversive poetry and adore Wonderland like I do, you’re going to want to own this one (whether you have kids or not)!

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