Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Nifty Newly, featuring David Gowey

David is an author I look up to. He has this self-publishing thing down, and I think part of the key is that he has a compelling style and a tone that encourages reader trust. I'm sure it helps that he knows his way around the best publishing and promotional platforms. For a take on originality that rings of personal experience, please welcome David Gowey.

What's the title of the book you're working on? That's the big question, isn't it? I usually end up working on too many things at once and gradually finish one or another. Instead of listing all of those, I'll just say that the one I should be working on is The Work of Souls, which is the sequel to my first book.

How many books have you written? Published/unpublished? What genre? I've written and self-published two so far. Kaschar's Quarter is novel-length fantasy and First Instance is novella-length science fiction, though I might extend the latter at some point. The third, a fantasy novelette called Jire, is unpublished but will probably go up on Amazon in the next few weeks. [Jire is available now! Click on the image below.]

Kaschar's Quarter (The Default King Book 1)     First Instance     Jire

What inspires you, as a writer? I've always been telling some story or another, whether it's doing voiceovers with LEGO as a kid or doing something a bit more complex now as a graduate student. What I really want to get at is creating character experiences that feel authentically human, and putting them in a world that seems not so far removed from our own. It's about taking the weird things that go on inside my imagination and breaking them down into little chunks that characters can relate to in their own unique ways, and letting readers feel like they're peeking in on something real.

How do you come up with names? Usually, it's to fit the feel that I want each society in the story to have, or what Earth society I want it to bring to the reader's mind. This is done through either using a list (say, Spanish men's names) and changing them slightly to also give a feeling of newness with the familiarity. I also derive some from constructed languages, like how Jire's name means “red” and this has some implications about her characterization.

How do you come up with ideas? What I try to do in my stories is find some balance between relatable characters and unique situations. These situations usually come from reading history and trying to put myself in them, which then gets turned into a character. A recent example was reading about the Mt Tambora eruption in 1815, and trying to see what that aftermath would entail for a character who was really just a regular guy. There was no way for him to save the world, fix things by fighting against anthropomorphized forces of nature, or really change much at all except how he reacted to something that he only somewhat understood. I guess this could be a clue as to why not many of my stories have happy endings.

Why is originality important in fiction? Or is it important? What would you consider a good example of originality in your fiction? Originality is only as good as the execution, and the same can be said about being unoriginal. It would be easy to make just another fantasy story about talking dragons, dwarves, and halflings (not hobbits, though, since at least that word is copyrighted) but what's more difficult is for the author to make a good case that their story is different. Changing up the set dressing, as in pulling from a variety of sources beyond just the standard medieval/Renaissance Western Europe fantasy ideal is one way to do this, although it requires a lot of research to present non-Western (or really, unfamiliar) societies and culture in a way that isn't cheap or exploitative.

Thank you so much, David! I'm reading Jire right now, and I've been really enjoying the tight prose and thoughtful characterization. If you would like to learn more about David Gowey, check out his stories, or keep up to date on all his latest projects, you can check out his Amazon page here: 


And here's his blog! Along with a number of writing excerpts for your reading pleasure: 


The following excerpt is taken from “Waiting on the Rain”, a short story you can find in its entirety here

It always rained on Lorakast. Something about the orbital distance or screwy atmospheric modeling, they’d said in the preliminary report on the way here, but there had to be more to it than that. Years in the business had taught Rell that much. She watched the rain pattering and pinging off the thick window that separated her from death by hypoxia and wondered where they’d gone wrong. Interplanetary Resources Incorporated only sent upper-level inspectors like herself when something had gone wrong, so it was her first assumption. But the colonial governor wasn’t cooperating, and that made things tricky.

She’d been in situations like this before. There was the riot a couple years ago, where the Thevashi ambassador had thrown such a fit over IRI’s installation on Gasin b that only the threat of RSA navy support had called off what promised to be a slugfest in orbit between prospector escorts and a surprisingly large contingent of alien scouts and their human buddies. Rell could deal with aliens and had on plenty of occasions; it was her fellow humans for whom she couldn’t find an ounce of patience.

Nothing had gotten out of hand. The translators had done their job with consoling the vaguely ursine attackers that this wasn’t just a smash-and-grab operation by IRI, that the terraforming operations were proceeding on schedule to bring about a human-tolerable atmosphere and not just a Thevashi-intolerable one. By the end of the little scuffle, the aliens packed up and headed home, appeased but not for long. What bothered Rell the most was that some people out there still thought she was some kind of monster.

And for what? For accelerating nitrogen production on a cyanide-and-sulfur wasteland that not even a Josikan would look at twice? For pushing out a bunch of claim-jumpers like the Thevashi whose only dog in the colonization fight was getting there first, and not preserving natural habitats as they claimed? And natural habitats for what? The only things alive on Gasin b were extremophilic bacteria that were already found across half the system anyway. Let the xenobiologists—and yes, Rell would still call them that, no matter how often she was told it was insensitive—take their samples and move on. It wasn’t like they were paving over Ryosh c, for heaven’s sake. Her boss might even balk at that one.

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Nifty Newly, featuring Cassiopeia L. Fletcher

Destined to be one of the coolest names in fiction, Cassiopeia is also an old friend and former classmate from Southern Virginia University. She helped me beta-read my first book a couple years ago, and right now I'm beta-reading one of hers. I'm excited to share with you her take on originality, idea-generation, and inspiration, but I'm even more excited to see the book she shared with me in print. Let me introduce you to Cassiopeia L. Fletcher.

What's the title of the book you're working on? I have an attention span problem so I’m always working seriously on several books at a time. I’m currently focused on two specifically: The World Over and The Book of Ages.

How many books have you written? Published/unpublished? What genre? Three, none yet published. One was a superhero book, one a science-fiction thriller, and the third a chicklit romance.

What inspires you, as a writer? I never know until I’m inspired. I suppose it’s cliché to say ‘life itself,’ but that’s generally it.

How do you come up with names? It’s hard to say. Most of the names I have for characters started so long ago that I can’t remember where they came from. I do know that most of the time, especially for main characters, the name just sort of happens. In those cases, I often have ‘filler’ names before the ‘real’ name manifests through my writing while other times the name and character come before the story itself. On very rare occasions, I look for names in a babyname book or app that has the meaning I’m trying to convey. Of course, if I’m writing High Fantasy, I usually just make up a name, but I always try to assign that name a meaning in the language it originates from.

How do you come up with ideas? Ideas are a lot like names for me; they usually just appear. Sometimes I pull them from a dream, other times from a TV show or movie that had an abandoned plot-thread that I thought needed explored, and a lot of the times through conversations with family and friends that pull up ‘what if’s or ‘wouldn’t it be cool’s.

Why is originality important in fiction? Or is it important? I am in the school of thought that there is no such thing as an original story. All of the greatest tropes and narrative arcs have been done since the very beginning of human literature and so there is very little to be written—if anything—that is truly ‘original’. Even those few stories that have never been done before aren’t really original, they’re just too boring for anyone to want to read. That being said, originality in fiction is very important, not in spite of the lack of original stories, but because of it. Readers have an emotional connection with the things they read and that connection is what makes them want to keep reading. Having a story that everyone can connect with—boy meets girl, girl hates boy, boy and girl fall in love, break up, get back together and live happily ever after—makes it easier to create a narrative that people find interesting and characters that they want to root for. What makes each individual story unique is not the story itself; it’s the way it’s told.

What would you consider a good example of originality in your fiction? I like shaking up the common tropes just enough to surprise. For instance, if I have a character that is well loved by both the people in the story and the readers of the story, I’m probably going to kill them (assuming it’s the kind of story where that makes sense) or put them in some sort of peril that makes it very possible that they will die. Not because I like hurting my characters, but because it creates an emotional reaction in readers that resonates. Even when I’m not killing characters, I’m still trying to create a strong emotional context between my characters, their situations, and the readers, because as long as the reader is invested in what is happening, the situation is unique and original, no matter how cliché or routine the story may be.

Thanks again, Cassie! If you would like to learn more about Cassiopeia's work and keep up to date on her writing projects, you can check out her blog here: 


Excerpt from the first chapter of Book of Ages: 

Alexis came back from the dead with a friend. At least, that’s what he kept calling himself. He appeared as a soothing voice that echoed through her lethargic brain, wrapping her up in mental arms to comfort and protect her. At first his words were indecipherable, just a meaningless murmur whispered insistently, the way a parent would try to reassure an inconsolable child, repeating the same strain over and over and over.
It was not your fault. It was not your fault. It was not your fault.
It was weeks before Alexis was coherent enough to understand the words.
It would be years yet before she believed them. If she ever did.
Of course, Alexis knew that Emrys wasn’t real. He was a subconscious manifestation she had created in the wake of having her entire life deconstructed in one horrible, world crushing moment. A manifestation that Dr. Harris had promised would be reabsorbed in time. Though how much time was anyone’s guess. It had already been six years.
Maybe her new therapist would have a more solid hypothesis. Supposing she ever got around to finding one. Despite the constant companionship of her neurological guest—or maybe even because of it—Alexis didn’t appreciate the idea of someone poking around in her head. Not even a trained psychologist. Her mind and thoughts were her own.
Alexis shook her head and stepped back to admire her handiwork. The sky-blue paint on her new apartment’s wall was hardly visible behind the masterful collage of black framed photos that now covered it. She had originally planned to use the silver frames she brought from home, but the large picture window allowed copious amounts of light to bathe her picture-wall at nearly every hour of the day. The glass would reflect enough sunlight without adding metallic frames into the mix.
Emrys grunted, as he always did when he disapproved. Early in their relationship, Alexis would have fallen into a tirade against his apparent lack of enthusiasm for her family, but their time together had soothed her temper in most ways. If not all ways.
“What has your knickers in a twist?” she asked, taking a jab at Emrys’s inexplicable British accent. She pulled her mass of blonde curls away from her sweaty face and neck with a groan. Hair-ties were clearly a must in this awful place.
Must you be so vulgar? Emrys asked in his detached, almost echoing voice.
“That was hardly vulgar, you old prude,” she bit back, resisting the urge to smile at their usual banter. Ironically, despite being a vivid reminder of her failing mental health, Emrys and his ever-present complaints had become the only source of stability, and even normalcy, that Alexis had in her life. On a good day, she might even admit that he made her feel sane. Or at least not completely insane.
“Well?” she asked again.
You know what I think, Emrys returned, his disembodied voice decidedly bitter. It is what I have thought since you first concocted this…ludicrous idea.
“Doth my ears deceive me?” Alexis asked, though she knew full well that she couldn’t physically hear him. “The Neuron Cloud is questioning my sanity?” She pressed the back of her hand to her forehead and feigned a swoon. “Oh the humanity!”
She could almost feel Emrys bristle at her mocking and she imagined how he must look, sulking from her tone. Obviously, as an insubstantial (and psychological) being, Emrys couldn’t be seen. But there were moments, especially now with the sun streaming in through the large, black paned window, that Alexis would almost swear she could see him as he might have been.
It was a faint image, more of an outline really, of a tall, athletic man with dark skin and shaggy, light colored hair. He stared past her, almost glaring at her collage, his arms folded resentfully as he stood with his broad back to the window. As if sensing her eyes, Emrys looked away from the picture covered wall and caught her gaze with a frown. His eyes glowed gold in the sunlight reflected off her mass of glass-faced frames.

Alexis blinked and the image disappeared. All that greeted her was a merciless flood of red sun.