Thursday, January 19, 2017

Why I Write What I Write



Now that I'm starting to write again, I don't know what I'm going to work on.  So far, I've only been going over my past work, reading through 50,000 words of an incomplete novel I wrote 6 years ago.  It holds promise, but I'm not quite feeling it.  That thrill of the storyline and love of the characters isn't there, and I'm left wondering if I can get the emotional stimulation necessary to finish it.

I may have to find something else to write, or just keep trying to get interested.

In order to write anything, it has to be something that I want to write.  That's the way it has always worked for me.  Writing is about me telling a story that I enjoy, exploring things that draw me in as the creator, revealing the worlds inside my mind in a way that satisfies that creative part of me.  It gives me purpose, and fuels the creative process.  If I can't get into the story, if my mind doesn't care about what's going on, then I find it exceedingly difficult to proceed.

This is of course not the method that all writers use.  I've read so many "advice" columns from people saying that to be a writer you have to write whatever will pay, take whatever work in the publishing industry you can get, and if you keep grinding away inside the machine you'll someday get your reward and "be allowed" to write what you want.  That's all well and good for some, but it's not for me.

Another common occurrence that I've run into over the years is friends and family who like to suggest that I "write what sells."  I know they're only trying to help, but it serves no purpose and can get annoying, as trying to dismiss their advice feels like talking to a brick wall.  They're so sure if I write "something else" that I'll be a big success.  Whether it's my father telling me to write about weirdoes in the woods, or friends suggesting I write anything from "serious mainstream fiction" to "teen chick-lit," it's not going to happen.  It wouldn't increase my chances of fame and fortune to write it, and because I'd hate doing it I would end up with a totally unmarketable piece of pulp nobody would ever want to read.

With writing, I'm not one to "climb the ladder," or "play the game."  It's not that I don't respect that approach.  It's just not me.  In my case, doing that would suck the life out of me, and writing would become a job that I didn't enjoy.  The creative flames inside me would die, and I'd be a horrid hack, writing words just to make money with no pleasure or fulfillment.  So, I have learned that the only way I can write is on my own terms.  If this means I will fail to gain an appreciable audience, then so be it.  To gain a million readers and lose my soul would be worse than having a handful of people reading what I want them to enjoy.

So, going forth in 2017, I will seek to create something new that others will enjoy.  It's all I can do, and so I will strive to accomplish that yet again.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

2017 Writing Shootout and Remembering Nye Joell Hardy



As I'm getting back into writing, and working to rejuvenate Martinus Publishing, I've decided that one of the best ways to get back into the groove is to bring back the ever fun and popular "writing shootout" contest, which has produced amazing stories and brought many great writers into my life.  You can read all about the shootout here, and there are still a few slots available for writers who want to throw their hat into the ring  (sign-ups end January 13, 2017).

Now, a sad bit of news hit me after first inviting some former participants to the contest.  I learned that Nye Joell Hardy, a fellow writer and shootout participant, died in 2016.

I first "met" Nye online back in 2010, when we were both Pill Hill Press writers.  Her book, The Crows of Bedu, was released right before The Guns of Mars, and we participated in several PHP shootouts together.  After Pill Hill Press closed, we stayed in touch somewhat, mostly during the Martinus Publishing shootouts that I hosted.

While I can't say that I knew Nye very well on a personal level, she was there to voice support and cheer me up when I needed it.  I remember a few times that her encouragement helped me through dark times, and I did what I could to support her, as well.  Her writing talent left me always wondering why she hadn't seen greater success in the fiction publishing field.

Nye's stories were always fun to read during the shootout.  You never knew where she'd go with a prompt.  Sometimes, she'd write something very traditional and captivating, and others she'd invent something absolutely unique and experimental (like a story about sentient flowers).  This meant that her scores during a shootout could vary, but her stories never failed to entertain me.

One of Nye's shootout stories was the impetus for the now defunct anthology, The Secret Life of Ghosts.  I hadn't thought of doing a ghost story anthology until Nye wrote an incredibly haunting tale, and I wanted to publish it.  So, I planned the story collection and would have published it, if personal problems hadn't derailed things.  It seems sadly fitting that the anthology was put to rest about the same time that Nye passed.

Nye's death haunts me a little, thinking of my own plight, and how any of us will be remembered.  It's funny how much of an impact someone can have on your life, even an acquaintance three thousand miles away that you never met in person.  It's a difficult thing to face.  The writing world is a darker place without her imagination, and it is so sad that I'll never have the pleasure of seeing her creativity at work again.

I had the pleasure of publishing several of her stories over the years, though the best one I have in-print can be found in Yarr!  A Space Pirate Anthology.  It was an amazing story that earned her the win during a previous shootout.

I wish there was something more I could say, but I guess that's about it, for now.

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Counts Family Photo



It has been a long time since I wrote a column about my ancestry, and there's one that I've been thinking about for quite a while.  A couple of years ago, my cousin Esther sent me a photo of the Counts family from around 1901.  The quality is okay, though not the greatest as it's a photo of a photo.  I'm not sure who has the original, but I'd love to see a clearer copy someday, perhaps one that's computer-scanned.



So, in this photo we see my great-great grand parents, James Wilson Counts (b. 14 Nov 1856 /died 16 March 1931) and Mertie Florella (Gamble) Counts (b. 23 June 1864 /died 18 April 1946), along with their 6 children:

Florella T. Counts (b. 8 February 1886 /died April 1969.  Married Walter D. McKittrick)
Hugh Wiley Counts (b. 16 January 1888 /died 20 September 1975.  Married Ada Bartlett, later Charlotte Law)
George Sylvester (my great-grandfather, b. 9 December 1889 /died 10 November 1974.  Married Lois Hazel Bailey)
Wilson James Counts (b. 11 June 1891 /died March 1979.  Married Wilma B. Crossan)
Mary Counts (b. 30 April 1895 /died 30 November 1993.  Married O. Boone Morgan)
Milton Irwin Counts (b. 24 February 1899 /died 10 July 1974.  Married Clara Eugenia Van Vleck)

The other people in the photo are at present uncertain.  Esther initially suspected that the old couple in the middle could be Mertie's parents, Theodore Beza Gamble and Florella Amanda (Tucker) Gamble, but this is quite impossible, as both of them died before this photo was taken (1893 & 1895, respectively).  The Counts kids are far too old for this to be the 1890's.

Confirmed S.T. Counts
Suspected S.T. Counts
I suspect that the old couple in the photo are actually Sylvester Tobias Counts and his wife, Mary Ann (Wilson) Counts.  I also suspect the lady on the far left of the photo is their daughter, James Wilson Count's sister, Jennie Hannah (Counts) Marcy.  This is pure speculation, as I do not have other photos of them, except for Sylvester's old Civil War photo.  It's hard to make out his facial features in that grainy photo, so it's not enough for a positive identification.

I would love to find an attributed photo of Sylvester, Mary, or Jennie, for comparison, but thus far such photos have proven elusive.  So, the search goes on.

Sunday, January 1, 2017

Martin's 2017 Goals and Dreams



Happy New Year!  Yes, I should be writing fiction right now, but I'm a bit distracted, and I'm thinking I'll do something that I have rarely done, because I often think its pointless, tacky, or otherwise a set-up for disappointment and failure.  I'm going to put forth a list of New Year's "resolutions," to see where I want to be a year from now.

I list these as "Goals and Dreams," because that's what they are.  I don't have any illusions, and know that I will fall short on some of these, but that's what these lists are all about. More than anything, they're us "dreaming."  We look at our lives and wonder what could be better.  Getting there is the hard part, and while most if not all are possible with proper planning and effort, much of the time we are just dreaming when we make up these resolutions.  I'll be honest and say these are just what I would like to do, but acknowledge that I'll probably let life get the better of me.

1:  Write a new novel.  This should be an easy one for me.  I won National Novel Writing Month each year I attempted it, and even before I discovered NaNoWriMo I once wrote a 100k novel in 3 weeks.  The quality of these speedy works are no less than those novels that took me months to finish, so it isn't pace so much as feel that propels me.  When I am in the writing zone and know where I'm going with a concept, I can move quickly with skill.  When I don't feel what I'm writing, it can drag on, and get bogged down.  Regardless, I want to write another books this year.  I just need to find the inspiration.

2:  Lose 20 pounds.  Isn't this one on most people's list?  I've always been fat, and I'm getting older and tired of the extra pounds.  If I drop 20 pounds this year, I'll be healthier and happier.  I could lose more than 20, but this is a reasonable goal, one that I cannot guarantee I'll achieve, but at least this way I have a chance.

3:  Have a meaningful relationship.  Yes, it's been almost 2 years since my wife walked out the door, and June will mark 2 years since we were officially divorced.  I'm still not sure if I'm ready to put myself out there, but this year I dream of having a meaningful relationship.  At the end of 2017, I hope to share with the world great news that I have somebody to love.  Though, please, nobody try to set me up.

4:  Get my 1954 Chevy Bel-Air on the road.  Okay, here's the easy one.  I've spent 5 years fiddling with this old car, and at long last it's on the verge of being road-worthy.  The windshield replacement ought to be completed very soon, and then it should be just a matter of waiting for spring.  I'm not going to be stupid and drive it around with salt on the road, but if I'm lucky, we'll be salt-free by April and I'll finally be behind the wheel of this beautiful project that has sucked up so much time and money.  It won't be a show car, but it'll be a gorgeous driver.

Is that all I can come up with?  It's not a really long list, is it?  I am a little disappointed that I am not dreaming bigger.  There was a time I would have aimed to write 2 or 3 novels in a year, or dream of getting West of the Warlock turned into a television series.  Ah, but I'm trying to set reasonable goals, and ones that are more in my control.  There are plenty of things I can wish for in 2017, but many of those are not within my power.  I can't expect to publish a Best Seller, or to get a Studio contract.  Those I can dream about, but it's up to more than me for those to happen.

Maybe I should strive to write more blog posts this year.  Yes, that's #5:  Write at least 1 blog post per week.  There.  Now my list is complete.  Here's to having a great 2017!

PS:  If you feel like reading this year, pick up one of these books:  Martinus Publishing.


Thursday, December 29, 2016

My Life's Meaning



The last two years have been the most tumultuous of times for me, though much of it has merely been in my head.  Life hasn't been all that bad lately, though I've felt depressed and unfulfilled.  So recently I started reflecting on my existence, and seeking to answer that ever-present question, why am I so miserable?  The answer, as it turns out, is as simple as it is complex.

I am a writer.

The last two years, I haven't written anything.  As my marriage began to fall apart, I lost interest in my fiction, and stopped writing altogether, but that's the one thing that truly empowers me.  It is my God-given talent, one that I have viewed as both a blessing and a curse.  I am a writer, and I cannot live without that distinction.

This answer should have come to me sooner, and maybe it did, but I ignored it.  I wanted to escape my destiny, and forsake my gift.  I blamed my "obsession" with writing for the destruction of my marriage, and then I found my free time depleted, having to raise 4 kids without a wife.  So, I forgot myself, and abandoned the only thing that I ever wanted to be.

There were times in the past that I almost gave up on my writing.  Back in 2006, I was ready to call it quits, but the next year rolled around and I got Virtual Wiles published (albeit by what turned out to be one of the world's worst publishing outfits).  After that, I discovered "self-publishing," and released Prisoner of Time and The Rogue Investigations, which I still wish would sell more, as they're really fantastic works.  Then The Guns of Mars made semi-finalist in the second Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award contest, which led to its publication by Pill Hill Press a year later.  Everything was on the up and up, and when Hall Brothers Entertainment asked me to write a full-length novel based on my Dwarf at High Noon short story, I was on top of my game, feeling I was finally on the brink of being a professional writer.  I threw down West of the Warlock, and it impressed them so much that I was contracted to write 2 more books in the series, which I did.

Then, things slid downhill again.

First, Pill Hill Press closed up shop, leaving the Guns of Mars out of print.  GOM hadn't sold that well, despite solid reviews, and PHP's closure put it to rest for a time (I later republished it under my own company, but little attention has been paid to it).  I thank Jessy Marie Roberts for running Pill Hill Press and releasing the Guns of Mars, and I hope that someday she (and her husband, Alva Roberts) get back in the greater publishing industry, as they're both talented writers.

While that was a disappointing blow to my career, the worst had to be the subsequent closure of Hall Brothers Entertainment, less than a month later.  Right before the second West of the Warlock novel, The Curse of Selwood, was due to be released, HBE shut down, and I found myself with nothing in print outside of my self-published books.

In response to these publishers closing, I fought back by starting my own small press, Martinus Publishing.  The final impetus for my starting this press was the fact that I had a multi-author anthology in the works.  With the success of West of the Warlock, I'd decided to expand a little, and came up with the idea of assembling and editing a "time travel anthology."  My proofreading skills were quite good, and I had a vision, so I pitched the idea of this collection to the Hall Brothers, who were supportive and excited about it.  I had half of the stories for TheTemporal Element accepted for publication when HBE closed shop, and rather than disappoint the contributors and abandon my project, I pressed forward under my own banner.

Becoming the editor of a small press had its rewards and its hardships.  At first, it was all fun and exciting.  I got to release stories from fellow authors that I really enjoyed, and I could release my own works under the auspices of a small publisher, rather than have them be blatantly self-published.  Yet, it was so much fun that I overloaded myself.  I came up with numerous anthology ideas and took in overwhelming numbers of submissions that took up much of my free time, leaving me little time for any writing of my own.

When I announced my plans to start Martinus Publishing, A.C. Hall gave me some great advice.  He told me I could either be a great writer or a great editor, but it would be hard to be both.  I knew he was right, but at the time I felt I had no choice.  My books had largely been commercial flops, and with nothing left in print I felt that I had failed as a writer.  I decided that I could serve better as an editor, and perhaps find success there.

A year went by, and Martinus Publishing had limited success with its first couple of anthologies.  Overall, it was breaking even, and I felt satisfied, even as my writing continued to dwindle.  I threw together a novel during National Novel Writing Month in November 2013, but after that it was all bits and pieces, and revisions to previous works.  3 years ago, that's the last time I truly wrote any significant fiction.

Spring of 2014 saw the release of Altered America, and it outperformed my wildest expectations.  It was a hit for Martinus Publishing, until nitpickers and critics threw it negative reviews.  I still consider it a success, even if it wasn't what half the reviewers wanted it to be.

From there, everything was a downward slide.  Subsequent Martinus Publishing releases were met with poor sales, and as my personal life became more turbulent I found it difficult to keep up with my editing responsibilities, let alone get any writing done.  By the time my marriage ended in early 2015, I was ready to give up.  I would have shut down Martinus Publishing, but I refused to disappoint my fellow writers.  I didn't want them to feel the way I felt when Pill Hill Press and Hall Brothers Entertainment closed.  I didn't want to let them down, and see their dreams of publication diminished.  And deep down, I knew I'd be sorry, too.  I'd be admitting failure again, and affirming it by shutting up shop.

I'm just too stubborn to know when to quit.

This past year was difficult for me, as I struggled to find meaning to it all.  People tend to say that my kids ought to be enough, that they are the purpose I should be living for.  I feel guilty, sometimes ashamed, to say that that doesn't work for me.  As much as I love my kids, and as much as I'll do anything for them, they just aren't enough to give my life meaning.  I have been selfless and sacrificed so much lately that it has brought me to mental misery.  I cannot go on denying myself.

A few days ago, I wrote a blog post, reflecting on my existence, and for the first time I felt alive again.  After that, I wrote more, starting with some personal ruminations that may or may not see the light of day sometime, and then I began looking back over some of my past projects, seeking to rekindle the creative fires.  At long last, I am creeping out of depression and feeling like I have a purpose again, that I can move forward and I have something to look forward to.  For the first time in years, I have hope, and all it took was for me to wake up and realize the truth, a simple truth that I had abandoned.

I am a writer.

This isn't a choice for me, and it isn't some paltry dream.  It is all that I am.  When I don't write, I hurt.  I fall into despair, and lose sight of everything.  I stop caring, and nothing is interesting.  When I am not writing, I am nothing and nobody.  I am simply existing, and that is a very bad thing, indeed.

So, what does this revelation mean for the future?  It means that I have to reset my priorities, and do what is right for me, something I haven't done in a long time.  I need to find the time to write, and I need to find more ways to promote my published works.  I have to try again, which is all anyone can ever do.

I can't promise I'll succeed, and I know when I have commercial flops and rejections that I'll hurt.  Again and again I will hurt, but if I do not even try I'm already dead.  I have to keep striving for the mark, because writing is my life, and if you're reading this, then you are giving my life meaning.  Thank you for taking the time to read these words.  I'll be writing more of them soon.

Here's hoping for a happy 2017 for all of us!

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

My Existence in 2016



As 2016 nears its end, I find myself writing a blog post for the first time in so long.  It's hard these days to find the time, but harder still to find the will.  It has been nearly 2 years since my wife left, and as much as I'm over her, I am still uncertain about where to go from here.

Totally random picture of me... 
I haven't written a single word of fiction in the last two years.  I keep thinking I should, and on rare occasion I've glanced over some of my past works, wondering if I can do it again, but then I run out of time or desire.  It's hard writing for myself anymore, as everything I do is for someone else.  I find myself plagued with selflessness, always seeking to make others in my life happy, and I rarely do what would please myself.

I'm not saying that my life is horrible.  Many people would kill for the life I've got, but that doesn't make it satisfying.  Every life has its trials, its ups and downs.  Right now, I'm stuck in a rut, but I don't know how to escape, or if I want to escape.  Is it really so bad here?  Maybe I should just settle for what I have, and be happy with what I've got.  My dreams are asleep, and I don't know if I can get excited enough to wake them.

I can hear my handful of readers screaming in their heads right now, saying I shouldn't give up, or that I've got to get up and fight anew.  I hear you.  The handful of people who truly enjoy my fiction.  The lingering sparks that seek to ignite the fumes left inside my creative fuel tank.  I fear the tears may have me waterlogged, though.

Don't give up on me.

I don't wish to sound pathetic, and I don't need anymore sympathy.  I'm only seeking to figure things out, come to terms with myself, and maybe work up the courage to move on.  That's why I'm writing today.

To be fair, I feel miserable so often because I do not know what I want to do.  So many things I care about don't feel right, so when it comes to watching a show or playing a game, I simply don't.  When it comes to having fun, I let everyone else in my life decide what to do, because they can have fun doing what they want to do, but I don't feel good doing what I want to do.  Does that make any sense?  I can't enjoy what I like, so I let others do what they like, even when I hate it, because what's the point in making them feel disappointed having to do what I like to do, when I don't even get any satisfaction out of it?  No sense in them suffering too.  They don't like what I like, and I can't force them, but there's no fun for me if they don't like it.  So I've lost much of the entertainment that defined me for much of my life.  Strange, pathetic, ridiculous; whatever.

Now, I understand there are people out there who appreciate the things I like, the kind of books and shows that I enjoy, but that's not the point.  I don't feel like being with those distant friends, let alone complete strangers.  I was uncomfortable around people before my divorce.  Now I've ended up cutting myself off from just about everyone, but that doesn't bother me so much.  It's the fact that I'm alien to those who are closest to me, and I can't change that.

I probably shouldn't post this to my blog, because I can't see that it'll serve much purpose other than to make people less interested in reading my ramblings...  What the hell.  I've tried to write something for months, and this is the first time I've been able to get anything down, so I have to start somewhere.  If I don't get it out, I'll just end up keeping it all to myself like I have been, and there will be no more words.  I will never work things out, never be able to decide where I'm going, if I keep it off the page.  The written word has been my avenue for personal exploration all my life, and writing it just for myself isn't good enough.  It's why I'm having such a hard time, because putting down words, knowing that only I will ever read them, seems pointless.  If I ever want to write anything of substance again, it must be put out there for others to read, because the words cannot end with me.

I hope to write more in the near future, but I have no idea what that'll be.


Sunday, July 24, 2016

Our Heroes Through Tomorrow (Cover Reveal & Pre-Order)



It has been a long month since I last posted to the blog, and in that time I have had some great progress with the new Author Spotlight series, and have in fact completed work on the 2nd volume in this set.  Without further ado, I am pleased to share with you the cover for "Our Heroes Through Tomorrow," a collection of stories by Dan Gainor:
 
Cover art by Mirko Calusic
 This fantastic collection includes some of Dan's greatest short stories.  If you haven't encountered his fiction before, you really must have a look at what wonders he weaves!  Here are the six stories contained in this collection:

Unintended Consequences
 In a future where nuclear weapons no longer function, conventional warfare rears its ugly head as America becomes the target of a hostile invasion, and a young computer wiz finds himself in the thick of the fight.

We The People
 A billionaire rancher seeks to rekindle the spirit of America... by cloning the Founding Fathers!

Soul Tracker
 A science-fiction epic of alien worlds, conjoined souls, and one man's quest to become the ultimate warrior.

Original Sin
 College students set out on a quest to prove that time travel is possible, only to find themselves stranded in an all too familiar past, with a crucial decision to make about altering fate.

Just Desserts
 Aliens seek to neutralize the "human threat" through a virus that makes "zombies" all too real... only, what will be the true consequence of this bio-warfare?

Drawing A Line
 In a future where humanity is conquered and fragmented amidst the stars, the last soldiers must hold the line between warrior and pirate as they struggle to fight for freedom and survival.

This story collection is an Amazon Kindle exclusive, and is currently available for pre-order.  (GET YOUR COPY RIGHT HERE)  Reserving a copy will assure that you receive this book on September 2, 2016, the official release day!

I am hopeful that this collection will have many readers.  Martinus Publishing needs a new hit, and these stories deserve the exposure.  If the Author Spotlight series takes off, it will facilitate further investment in future collections.  I am hopeful for commercial success, but as always, I remain committed to publishing stories that I enjoy and love to read.  Sales merely make it easier to do that.

The third volume in the Author Spotlight series is currently in the works, and I'll have more news about that release as we get closer to Fall.

Let's see where this road will lead us...

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Martinus Publishing: The Future



I'm sorry that I have been so silent as of late.  Work and family life continue to keep me busy, and it is getting hard to find time for blogging.  So, I'd like to take a few minutes to assure everyone that I'm still alive and well, and that I am in the process of evaluating certain aspects of my life.  One large part of that is my publishing pursuits.

The last three and a half years of Martinus Publishing has been an up and down roller coaster.  There have been highs and lows, positives and negatives.  It has been a lot of fun a times, and bothersome as hell at others.  I've met some really great writers, and discovered some amazing talent.  Throughout the entire process, I only wished I could have done more for the great contributors whose work I published.

First, let's get this speculation out of the way (again).  Martinus Publishing is not closing.  I know, some writers keep asking "if" or "when" I'm going to shut down, and "can I please have my story back because you, like, aren't publishing it fast enough."  Okay, I'm sorry if that came off as insensitive, but that's how a few writers have come off, and it's also why several Martinus Publishing anthologies are a few stories short.  I try to fit 20 tales in each anthology, though on occasion I'll have someone pull out for one reason or another, and about half the time it's because they don't realize what it takes to put one of these collections together.  I understand their frustration in some cases, especially when we're talking years between publication, but a few people started getting antsy a few months after their stories go accepted, even before submissions ended sometimes.  You can say I've had the pleasure of working with writers possessed of a myriad of temperaments.

Martinus Publishing is here to stay, but in order for that to happen, I have to scale back a bit and rethink certain projects.  First of all, any anthology that has not performed well in the past 6 months will be cut.  This means that Life of the Dead, and To Hell with Dante, will both be discontinued at the end of July.  Unless one of those titles miraculously sells big in the next 60 days, they must be retired.  There's no sense letting them sit there gathering virtual dust.  Others will join them at the end of 2016.  No sense carrying around dead weight.

Secondly, I'm afraid I must announce the cancellation of The Secret Life of Ghosts.  This project has been on the rocks for months, with multiple writers pulling out due to the understandably long wait.  I apologize to everyone who still has stories pending in this collection.  I thought of putting together a shrunken collection, though I don't believe the anemic volume would make back enough to cover the cost of cover art, which to date remains uncommissioned.

Third; Altered Europa remains in the works.  I still have to find time to give it a proper editing, and I need to get cover art drawn up, but I want this anthology to happen.  It will be hard, but somehow I will make it happen.  Though it may not be released until fall/winter.  Please be patient, but if anyone can't wait I'll understand if they want to pull out at this juncture.

Fourth;  I am in full development for a new "Author Spotlight" series, which will feature a few of Martinus Publishing's more popular and prolific authors, those I've worked with for years and feel deserve a solo shot to advertise their work.  Right now, I'm starting out with two particular writers whose work I always love to read, but I'll be adding more to the series if the first couple of collections are a success.  Stay tuned for more about these special ebook only collections in the coming months.

So, I hope this has been informative, and as my life continues to evolve I hope to bring Martinus Publishing back into prominence.

Saturday, April 2, 2016

Martinus Publishing Author Spotlight Series



It's hard to believe that it's already April, and next week I'll be turning 36.  There is so much to be done, and with the latest Martinus Publishing releases being largely overlooked and under-bought, I feel the need to finally get something new moving.

Over the next few months, Martinus Publishing will be releasing a series of single-author mini-anthologies.  These will be e-book only collections, featuring short stories by some of my favorite and most prolific authors.  The collections will contain several stories that have been previously-released in past MP anthologies, as well as some new, never before published stories.  This will give readers the opportunity to check out more stories from individual writers.  I'm calling these the "Martinus Publishing Author Spotlight Series," and they'll be bargain priced at only 99 cents each!  Anyone can afford that.

The first in our spotlight series will be a collection of my own stories, which I'm cynically calling "Escapist Garbage."  I feel it's time that I finally put something of my own out into the market again, and this sampler has a cross section of my entire writing career, with 2 never before seen pieces, along with some old favorites.

So, for those of you who are ready to read more of my writing, order yourself a copy of Escapist Garbage today!


Monday, March 21, 2016

Sharing My Favorite Things...

Here it is, the second day of spring, and it's snowing.  What do you expect for Maine?  So, today I find myself a bit under the weather, both figuratively and literally, as my throat is sore and I'm feeling a bit flushed.  It's a dreary day all around.  What better time to ramble on about myself?

I know a few of you still read this blog, though I don't post nearly enough to expect a dedicated following.  While I'm slowing coming out of my post-divorce rut, I still have a long way to go.  You don't get over something like that overnight, but there is light at the end of the tunnel.  Mind you, it may still be a few years before I'm truly myself again.

In life, I am sometimes seen as standoffish, or distant.  It comes from my introverted personality, which is a core part of who I am, and not something I can turn on and off. For the longest time, I am kept to myself.  Though at times I am able to expose bits and pieces of myself through writing or online exposure, it is not so easy to put myself out there, or share what lurks inside my heart.

Going into my personal life, there are times I have found it particularly uncomfortable, scary even, to reveal myself, my like and dislikes, my favorite things; that which I most enjoy.  Or rather, I find it difficult to share what I like with those who are closest to me.  With strangers?  Sure, I can say I like xyz.  But when it comes to those who are important to me, with those I love the most, there are times I am afraid to share.

I remember when I was growing up, I would sometimes feel embarrassed to share what I was doing with my parents.  I would shut off the television or record player when they came around.  I would pause a video game and turn the screen off, so as not to be asked what it was I was watching or doing.  I wasn't even doing anything they'd find objectionable; I just felt silly letting them know.  Don't ask me why.

In later life, as I grew up and got married and had kids, I started to feel a little more willing to open up.  I shared my activities with my wife, though in many cases she wouldn't enjoy what I was doing.  After we had kids, she lost interest in the seemingly insignificant things that I enjoyed, though she never really cared that I did them, except on occasion when she'd say they were either boring or stupid.  It didn't hurt me at the time, because I grew accustomed to doing things by myself again—and so the television programs I loved the most and the games I liked to play, and the hobbies and projects I played around with all ended up being done in private, away from prying eyes.  I can't count the hours I spent in my office watching Doctor Who or Stargate, or some other damn thing when I didn't feel like writing.  Or the hours I spent working on my cars out in the yard.  Or the time I spent working on watches, or guns.  Or the odd hour I spent playing some "boring" video game like Sid Meier's Civilization.

I won't complain that my ex-wife drifted away from me.  That's all over now.  But I find that I still have a problem sharing my life with certain people.  It may seem stupid, but the shows I watch, the games I play, the stuff I do for fun; it's all an integral part of who I am, and sharing that can be scary, especially when the person you're sharing it with is important to you, and you want to spend time with them, and it can hurt when they say "I can't get into that."  If they say it enough, it ends up being a rejection of who I am, and so I return to my familiar pattern of hiding and doing things by myself.

Okay, maybe I'm getting a bit carried away here, but I'm feeling feverish, so cut me some slack.

Overall, I am a sensitive fool, who keeps everything to himself because he doesn't want anyone's rejection to hurt him.  It's just who I am.

Yeah, so the point of all this comes down to something quite simple, and only really applicable to those close to me.  It is an effort for me to share things.  Something as trivial as a song, or a movie.  So, when I take this leap, to share something that I enjoy, please try to realize how big a move that is on my part, how much I'm putting myself out there.  Understand that my wanting to do something with you is special, as I'm someone who has spent a lifetime enjoying things alone.  Please know how rare you are, if you have the opportunity to have me ask you to sit down and watch something with me, and humor me if it's not something you're accustomed to, as I have done for those few people who are important to me.  I remember many shows I would never have watched, if not for my kids or ex-wife, or someone else special to me, who wanted to share.  That's what relationships are all about.  Sharing.  Because what's the point of being with people who are so alien in their tastes that they can't tolerate each other's favorite things?


Damn it, I really feel like watching Doctor Who about now...

Saturday, March 12, 2016

We Were Heroes Interview: Gary Budgen

Hello, and welcome to an all new series of author interviews.  The long anticipated anthology "We Were Heroes" is now available, and to help promote that  release we're running interviews of various contributors.


MTI:  Today I'm interviewing Gary Budgen, who contributed "Exile." Thank you for being here.


Starting off, could you tell our readers a little bit about yourself?

GARY BUDGEN:  I grew up and live in London, UK, where I have spent most of my life except for a couple of stints away at universities in Norwich and Staffordshire. I live with my partner and daughter in north-east London but originally come from the other side of the river in south-east London; that has no significance to anyone except people who live in London. The best expression of this is on the first page of Angela Carter’s novel Wise Children. I’ve been writing fiction for years and have a fair amount of short fiction published. I like writing science-fiction, slipstream, horror and fantasy. A few years ago I took a Master’s degree in Creative Writing at Middlesex University.

MTI:  Now, getting down to business; what first compelled you to weave fiction, and what's your favorite type of story to write?

GB:  I remember being under five and going to school. On the first day I wrote a story about a robot. I asked if I could write another story, it didn’t seem like work to me. It never has. At primary school I wrote stories, plays, comics; people seemed to like them so I realized it was something I could do. As life has gone on I’ve realized that it is something I couldn’t NOT do. I need to do it to make sense of the world. My favorite type of story to write is one where as I’m writing it I begin to get a feeling that it means something much more than when I started, that perhaps, in there, there was something I’ve been trying to say for a while. The story itself could be in any genre but I do have a love of slipstream or at least genre fiction which is in some way aware of its own devices. Good fantastic fiction to me is always, in some sense, also about the nature of the fantastic.

MTI:  Tell me, if you had to pick just one author who has influenced or inspired you, who would it be?

GB:  Well, without doubt, Allen Ashley, prolific short story writer and editor. His ‘Once and Future Cities’ is an exemplar of a certain type of slipstream fiction that I love. I’ve got to know Allen over the last few years in Clockhouse London Writers and he has been very supportive of my work. However it feels slightly dodgy picking someone I know, so I hope you don’t mind if I cheat and mention another writer: Barrington J. Bayley whose short story collections ‘The Knights of the Limits’ and ‘The Seed of Evil’ were something that made me reconsider what science-fiction could be about.

MTI:  Your story, The Exile appears in We Were Heroes, an anthology devoted to the theme of aging, retired, or out of their element superheroes and villains.  Tell us a little bit about your contribution to this collection.

GB:  First of all it’s a great theme for an anthology. I love the idea of what happens to superheroes after the adventures have ended, or they think they are. The places in the story are real. The Isle of Sheppey is an hour’s drive from London, but is a world in itself. I spent a lot of time there as a kid on holiday. The Church of St Thomas is so isolated it could be at the end of the world so I’ve always found it magical. The other side of the island is where the holidaymakers go. It was thriving up until the ‘80s but has declined as people have gone on cheap holidays to Spain, Greece etc. It is fairly run down now although I still like visiting. Somewhere in my head I always feared I might end up retiring there to some shack, a lonely old man who spent his days writing and evenings in the pub. I put that situation at the heart of the story. But this old man is someone who was once extraordinary. And there will always be one last adventure.

MTI:  Who's your favorite superhero (or villain)?

GB:  That’s hard to narrow down. Does Man-Thing count? I love Steve Gerber’s stuff from the seventies. And I love superheroes. I was an avid collector of American comic-books when I was a kid and lots of the characters have a real place in my heart.  

MTI:  If you, yourself, could have any superpower, what would it be?

GB:  To be able to breathe underwater, then set off to explore the oceans.

MTI:  Shifting back to your writing, can you tell us a little about what you're working on right now?

GB:  I’ve been trying to work on a novel while at the same time keeping up writing short fiction.

MTI:  Other than Exile appearing in We Were Heroes, do you have any other stories being published in the near future?

GB:  There are a fair few stories coming out in various anthologies. I list them on my website: https://garybudgen.wordpress.com/. What I’m most excited about is that Horrified Press are bringing out a collection of stories of mine. Hopefully this will be published in early 2016.

MTI:  On a lighter note, have you watched any good tv lately?

GB:  I’ve watched a lot of Doctor Who with my daughter lately. Enjoyed the first series of True Detective. Utopia was great too. River, a UK detective series, was also very good.

MTI:  How about music?

GB:  Music has always been important to me. Ska, reggae, soul-music, jazz, garage-rock.

MTI:  Can you name three movies that you could watch over and over again and not be bored?

GB:  Melody (1971), Quintet (1979), Dark City (1998)

MTI:  Readers love samples.  Do you happen to have a story excerpt you'd like to share with us today?  (If you'd like to share a few paragraphs or a page of writing, this could be a good place for it.)

GB:  This is from the opening story of my forthcoming collection. The story was originally published in M-Brane Science Fiction.

Salt Cellar
Because you love me you are going to have to kill me and eat me. You mustn’t be sorry. I would not have you being sorry. I would not have it any other way. 
            This morning I watched Neptune rising, blue, flecked with ice geysers, like the pupil in the eye of a god with a stigma. It had seemed magnificent once. I waited before I turned, knowing that once I did, once I saw you, the glory before me would shrink to insignificance. I had come to Triton for the awe of the outer planets, and found instead the intimacy of your embrace.
            So I turn and look. You are atop the hillside that I think of as our place. The great dome of your carapace fills the short horizon. Your shell is the blackest void, sucking in light, pulling the stars to it. Then you touch me with your mind as you have done every day since we found each other. Sometimes you have granted me visions of your home world, light years away, the liquid metal oceans and cities that rise up in crystalline knots. But today it will be past lovers. It will be a lesson.
            Your courtship is majestic, a work of art. When the final moment comes your mates give up their psyche to you and you both rise through the ice beauties of n-dimensional mathematics. There is a moment of communion. Their philosophies, theories, memories and pleasures will be passed onto your children. And when you are seeded you feel the urge don’t you? If you were to deny it you would die. It’s all right. I understand. It is an itch that can only be scratched in one way because however godlike you are your children need physical as well as spiritual nourishment. So in ecstatic misery you consume the bodies of your lovers.
#
And I am sitting in a café in the East End of London near my studio and Stephen is telling me that he is leaving.
            “Your work,” he says.
            His eyes are puffy where he has been crying or drinking too much or both. He tells me he can’t compete, that he always feels second best. Even as I try to reassure him that it isn’t so, part of my mind is focused on the oddly shaped salt-cellar that when he has left I will steal and use of part of my sculpture.
#
            You love this about me don’t you? It is something you could never get from one of your own. The little details of a human life are seasoning on the vaster dish that is your higher understanding. When I remember Earth, my old life, it fills you with pleasure. A rush of psychic feedback floods back into me. I run up our hill, towards you and you hold me in the great girders of your mandibles. I look into your jaws and the infinite depths beyond.  Will it be now? I want it to be now.
#

MTI:  A tantalizing sample!  Those who'd like to check out Gary's latest short story release can pick up a copy of We Were Heroes!


Friday, March 11, 2016

Crime and Punishment and Martinus Publishing

It's hard to believe it's been over 3 years now since Martinus Publishing first came into being, and our first short story anthology, The Temporal Element, hit bookshelves.  A lot has happened in that time, and not all of it good.

Today, a shocking news article was brought to my attention, which apparently involves one-time contributing author, Steven Gepp, who has a story called "Extinction" in The Temporal Element.  In the news article, it is revealed that one Steven Craig Gepp was convicted of molesting teenage girls in 2014, over a year after I published Extinction.  The individual who brought this news story to my attention claimed that my "interview" with Steven Gepp, a full year before he was prosecuted for these crimes, is "inappropriate" and that I should remove said interview.



I will point out that my interview with Steven Gepp has nothing criminal or inappropriate in it, and I would never condone or promote any form of sexual abuse.  I will further say that while I am inclined to believe that the news article is factual, I cannot with certainty say that this is the same Steven Gepp who wrote "Extinction" for The Temporal Element.   I cannot say with 100% certainty that it is the same individual.  Mind you, stranger things have happened.

So, here is where I stand on this whole thing.  Firstly, Mr. Gepp sold me the right to use "Extinction" in The Temporal Element in 2012, over a year before this news was released.  Furthermore, his fiction has nothing sexual or inappropriate in it, nor does his interview on my blog.  As I said, the interview was published over a year prior to Steven Craig Gepp's conviction, and since he sold me his story outright, he is receiving no more remuneration for this story contribution.

I can understand where some people are coming from when they say I should delete his interview and withdraw The Temporal Element from publication.  Certain people see that allowing his fiction and his interview to remain published is somehow "promoting" him as an individual, and that he doesn't deserve that publicity.  However, I am no fan of censorship, and I also will not be held responsible for a writer's actions when I am not made aware of said actions until years after their work is published.

At this time, I have no intention of pulling "The Temporal Element" from publication, and I furthermore have no intention of deleting my interview with Steven Gepp.  I will not punish the many other contributors to The Temporal Element who deserve to have their writing read, and I don't recognize how having a writer interview on my blog is in any way inappropriate.

I am still left with a nagging question as to how many people are going to be on my side with this decision.  Personally, I would be disinclined to publish the work of a sex offender, but when you're taking open submissions from people you do not know personally, you're bound to get stories from all kinds.  Though almost all Martinus contributors are upstanding citizens, there could be one or two with questionable morality (but that's none of my business).  I'm a fiction publisher, not a prosecuting attorney or judge.  It's not my job to "punish" Steven Gepp or any other writer.

I can only be expected to know so much, and I can't allow things that happen to contributors in the future to affect my publishing decisions.  I apologize to anyone who might be offended, but what is done is done.  Steven Gepp's interview and his fictional story were both published, and that's just the way it is.


Monday, March 7, 2016

We Were Heroes Author Interview: John Vicary

Hello, and welcome to an all new series of author interviews.  The long anticipated anthology "We Were Heroes" is now available, and I'm wrapping up the last interviews with the collection's various contributors.

MTI:  Today I'm interviewing John Vicary, who contributed Her Game. Thank you for being here.

Starting off, could you tell our readers a little bit about yourself?

John Vicary:  Hello, and thank you so much for having me. I write under the pseudonym of John, but I'm actually a wife and mother of five. I own my own editing business, The LetterWorks, and I am the submissions editor at a small publishing company called Bedlam Publishing. In my spare time, I enjoy playing classical piano and I am learning to speak Russian.

MTI:  Now, getting down to business; what first compelled you to weave fiction, and what's your favorite type of story to write?

JV:  I've been writing for as long as I can remember! It seems like it was a natural outlet for me since I was very young. I like to try my hand at all different genres, but I tend to gravitate towards literary fiction and more recently I have had success with creative nonfiction.

MTI:  Tell me, if you had to pick just one author who has influenced or inspired you, who would it be?

JV:  I have to pick John Irving. As a youngster I was in love with the classics, and I read a lot of authors who had been published many years before I had been born. John Irving was one of the first authors I read who is still alive and publishing today who I consider an absolute genius. I was so impressed by his unique style. I find that he is very polarizing; people either love his stories or they despise his work. My own style is not like his, but if I could imbue my stories with as much heart and humor as he does, I would consider myself a success.

MTI:  Your story, Her Game, appears in We Were Heroes, an anthology devoted to the theme of aging, retired, or out of their element superheroes and villains.  Tell us a little bit about your contribution to this collection.

JV:  I was so excited to write for this collection because it is an unusual and interesting subject. My story is a little tongue-in-cheek, but I think that underneath it shows the pain of aging in this society. We tend to neglect our elderly, and I think the transformation into an old, and therefore useless, person must be very difficult for those people who were revered as celebrities, as superheroes are. This story uses humor to underscore that point.

MTI:  Who's your favorite superhero (or villain)?

JV:  When I was little I adored Wonder Woman. And She-Ra, Princess of Power!

MTI:  If you, yourself, could have any superpower, what would it be?

JV:  I rather think it would be fun to fly, don't you? If I didn't have to worry about the wax melting, like Icarus, then I might choose that. If flying were like swimming in the air, I don't know if I could turn that down. Then again, I could wreak a lot of havoc by shape-shifting, and I'm not normally mischievous but that sounds like limitless fun for a creative person! Tough choices!

MTI:  Shifting back to your writing, can you tell us a little about what you're working on right now?

JV:  It sounds terribly pretentious, but I am working on my memoir. It has received some positive reviews, and I am hopeful that people will find it interesting.

MTI:  Other than your contribution appearing in We Were Heroes, do you have any other stories being published in the near future?

JV:  Yes, I have just published my fifty-second story with “Shenandoah”, and two of my stories are shortlisted for the 2016 Charter Oak Best Historical Fiction Award and will be published as part of Alternating Current's annual literary journal.

MTI:  On a lighter note, have you watched any good tv lately?

JV:  It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia's 10th Season just came out. So funny! I also just finished this miniseries called Poldark. It wasn't bad.

MTI:  How about music?

JV:  I have diverse tastes in music. My kids are really embarrassed by what I listen to. I like everything from 70's disco to classical. My favorite genre has to be Bollywood soundtracks, though. If you haven't danced in your kitchen to Chammak Challo or the Lungi dance, you're missing out. Fun stuff!

MTI:  Can you name three movies that you could watch over and over again and not be bored?

JV:  #1 The Lord of the Rings trilogy extended version, #2 Om Shanti Om, #3 The Matrix

MTI:  Readers love samples.  Do you happen to have a story excerpt you'd like to share with us today?

What Remains

            They threw me off the hay truck about noon after we’d been riding the rutted roads for the better part of six hours. They gave me a dented canteen still mostly full of warm water and pointed me north to a border that no one but me wanted to cross. I shook hands with all of them except Wilford and I would have watched them pull away, but there wasn’t any point. They were already gone, whether I watched it happen or not. I hitched my pack onto the shoulder that wasn’t broken and started walking.

            A different sort of man might have enjoyed the scenery; the ruined path that had proffered pain in the riding now provided a breathtaking vista by foot. Perhaps that same man would have taken the chance to turn inward along the way to examine the thoughts and conscience that had led him to undertake such an arduous journey. I was not such a man, however, and I walked northward with a numbness of purpose. Each step was a buffer against pangs and ruminations until I found myself alone in some dark unknown place.

            Even a man such as I must rest sometimes, and that place between sleep and dreams is when memory lays down the weapons of day and allows unwelcome remembrance to breach the gate. There is nothing left in this wide world during the nighttime except the star lanterns shining overhead; that is when what is left of you crept in. I saw your face in Andromeda and Virgo, and the cloud veil hid your smile. I knew then that they were right to leave me at the border. They were right about all the things they’d said. Even Wilford hadn’t been half wrong, but I’d broken my hand in two places against his jaw trying to shut him up and make the words stick in his throat. It hadn’t worked.

            The next morning the stars had burned themselves out against the trenchant dawn, and I was alone again. This time, I hefted my pack onto the injured shoulder and pretended the tears were for that tender broken spot. A slight breeze brought the smell of hay from the west, where I imagined they had made good time and were safe by now. But, then again, it might have been my imagination and I was just picking up a whiff from a fallow field down the road. Whatever the case, I had my own sojourn to make. I drained the last sip of water from the canteen and left it in the hollow where my head had rested last night. If my finger lingered in the dent, it was just for a moment, then I placed it with care against the cradle of dry prairie grass. I turned my back to the rising sun and headed into the unknown to find you in the missing blue of every day.

MTI:  That's certainly an intriguing piece.  For those who want to read more work by John Vicary, they can pick up We Were Heroes now, in print or kindle format!