Bowlesian! – Godling: Part II

Godling: Part II

by Jeff Bowles

*This story and others like it can be found in my collection Godling and Other Paint Stories, available on Amazon now. We published Part I of Godling last month on Writing to be Read. You can find it here.


A part of Godling was aware the two black lumps lying in the darkness had been silent and still precisely 2.234 minutes. If they were sleeping, they most certainly were not dreaming. Which was just as well. Godling was doing enough dreaming for the both of them.

His memory banks refreshed again. She was there as if Godling could touch her. Jossinda, queen of his universe. Her smooth, lithesome sway; the sensual intelligence lurking behind her hazel eyes; and of course, the final words they’d spoken to each other.

“I want this, Godling. I want it more than anything. Can’t you see? Think of all the good we could do.”

“Jossinda …”

“My love, I’m not asking.”

“Quickly, my friends,” Renaldo said. “Awake, awake.”

Godling became aware Renaldo hovered over him in the darkness of the Black Room. The abbot warden jabbed the raw, sparking end of a hazer-stunner into Brennan’s back. Godling felt the hot lancing voltage. Brennan screamed. He leapt to his feet.

“Faith preserve us!” he moaned.

The prison’s hazy green lights flickered, warmed, and then settled into a steady glow. As Renaldo woke Ressia in a similarly excruciating manner, Godling realized the abbot warden may not have been as stupid as he’d always seemed. He’d not painted Ressia and Brennan so Godling could control them. He’d painted them so they could control Godling.

His heart had always been a kind of magnetic base for his consciousness. The paint was entirely repurposed now. Perception dispatching elements nullified due to the layering effect, perception receiving elements perfectly stratified and even slightly enhanced. The details only served to infuriate Godling. The simple truth of it was he had long ago closed the Black Room precisely because he’d feared something like this could happen. His mind, his body, his paint, his black liquid heart. Godling had been tricked into believing both Ressia and Brennan were his rightful bodies.

Now the two young lovers were naked and jet black head to toe, and when they moved, Godling moved with them. When they leaned against one another in sheer exhaustion, he felt the sensations of their heaving chests and the sweat collecting on their arms and necks as if with his own organic skin.

“Utterly perverse,” he muttered. His voice made the circuit matter vibrate over every square inch of them.

“Oof!” Ressia chirped, and even Godling was surprised by how it felt.

“Human vibrathreads,” said Renaldo. “I anticipated it might be a result.”

“Result? That’s the word you’re choosing?” Godling fumed. “How about abomination? Or disgrace? Did you really think it sensible to interface with the truest king of all in such a reckless manner?”

“Godling, please, you’re still my prisoner. I’ve simply exchanged one set of holding cells for another. You should thank me. You haven’t asked why we’ve done this.”

“That’s because I don’t care.”

“We know the truth about you, god machine,” Brennan said. “The wars, the massacres. We know it’s nothing you intended.”

“Is that so?” said Godling. “And I suppose you’d have me believe you’ve risked your lives for nothing at all but a fantasy? I was responsible for those wars. I murdered millions. See here the fruits of my labor? A prison built on foundations of millennia, ransacked now by two fool children and a bald-headed fop.”

Renaldo laughed. “You can stop pretending, Godling. We do in fact know everything. I found it, and I asked it myself. You know very well what it is.”

Sudden harsh voices filled the access tunnel outside the Black Room, gruff and full of violence.

“Step lightly men! We got ‘em trapped like rats!”

“Kill the monster where he sleeps!”

Another voice rose above these. Godling recognized it in an instant.

“They’re cornered, men. Take your time. Line up your shots. We want nice clean bodies to show the whore’s father.”

General Praebus, the man who’d hijacked his vibrathreads. Godling expected the lovers to panic, but they didn’t. Pupil dilation well within ranges concurrent to moderate stress. Heart rates elevated, but not in the extreme.

“We prepared for this, my young friends,” said the Timekeeper.

With that, they stepped in front of Renaldo, and these two helpless, hapless children dropped into surprisingly sophisticated hand-to-hand combat stances. General Praebus and his men appeared up the corridor, their machine rifles and mortar shot locked and leveled. Praebus spotted the children and bellowed, “Open fire!”

Brennan and Ressia launched themselves from the Black Room, bounding off the balls of their feet, touching off against the walls. They crisscrossed past each other. A hail of bullets ripped and zipped past them, but they closed the distance with stunning speed. Brennan landed with his palm to the neck of a gunner sergeant, but Ressia careened right past her target and skidded down the corridor. Three footmen leveled their rifles at her back and fired. Without thinking, Godling forced the black circuit matter to stiffen. Bounce, bounce, ricochet, bounce. All three footmen fell to the floor dead.  

Ressia got to her feet and drew her hands to her back. She was unwounded.

“Godling, did you just…?”

“Yes, I believe I did.”

“Thank you.”

Godling took a punch, a solid right jab to the ribs. No, it wasn’t Godling who took the jab. It was Brennan. Both he and Godling grunted, but Godling was quicker to react. Another jab came for Brennan’s face, but Godling pulled the same trick, surrounded and concentrated the circuit matter. When the blow landed, he heard the distinct cracking of finger bones.

The owner of the hand shrieked. It was General Praebus himself, a sweaty, red-faced mountain of a man. He balled the hand in agony, made the other into a fist and swung.

“Boy, solar plexus!” Godling said.

Brennan hit the General the instant Godling focused the circuit matter into a ridge of raised knuckles. Praebus flew back, landing like a ragdoll on a pile of men. He huffed and snorted and passed out cold. The third mounted army paused for one panicked instant, and then they scrambled to heft and pull him back. They pitched a half-hearted assault after that, but the sight of their fallen commander seemed to dull any notion they’d had of victory. The three of them—Brennan, Ressia, and Godling—jabbed and kicked and hammered until what was left of King Marshal’s raid party cried for retreat and scrambled back the way they’d come.

*****

“Did you see what happened?” said Ressia. “That soldier kept firing into my chest and Godling absorbed—”

“And the one with the mortar shot,” said Brennan. “I was on fire a full twenty seconds and I never felt—”   

“Children, please,” Godling interrupted. “I believe the abbot warden was explaining why I deserve my newfound freedom.”

Isolation, of course, was the root of the planet’s moniker, Isolinius. According to Renaldo, there were reasons the word Ancient was always applied to Spacefarers, reasons wars over petty things like failed betrothals happened at least once a decade, if not twice.

“It’s no large mystery, is it?” the abbot warden said. “Humanity is lost without your steady hand, Godling, and not a soul on this planet is better off with you locked away.”

Godling couldn’t help but laugh.

“Once again, a complete misrepresentation of the facts,” he said. “Now that I’m out and about, I can confidently say humanity has never looked better.”

They rode the vast open grasslands of the Isolinium plains. Great red tracts of Crimson Blade swayed in the breeze. The binary stars shone in orange and white-tinted splendor, but even they did nothing to distract from the true beauty of Isolinius, its seventeen moons, three of which were visible now. The preferred mode of travel on the planet, of course, was the ever-reliable Flitglider. But Renaldo had quite correctly surmised they’d be too easy to track darting around the sky, spewing long greasy trails of green and black smoke. So they instead chose for themselves the domestic breed of the artificial industrial Tri-Roller animal, otherwise known as a Beastwheeler.

“For instance,” Godling mused, “I find transportation in the modern era rather charming. I think I’ll call this one Nancy.”

“Can we please get on to the matter at hand?” Renaldo snapped. He whipped his reins, and after a deep, throbbing groan, the hairy industrial creature’s three large fur-and-callus covered wheels picked up speed.

“I think, humbly speaking, hallowed one,” Ressia said, “that you should stop picking on Renaldo and listen to what he has to say.”

The lovers sat in the low hairy hauling bed, the overriding musky scent of which was rather … florid. Godling had had more than enough time to observe the pecking order of the three humans, and understood, most unambiguously, that the two children would only come to the abbot warden’s defense if and when it suited them.

“It’s a very simple scenario,” Renaldo said. “The Gods created man, man created Godling, Godling ruled over man—”

“Until man decided genocide was in fact the worst case ever made for machines ruling anything,” said Golding. “Yes, I remember quite well.”

 “All your bloody campaigns, Godling, tragic though they were, had nothing of the import of what came before and after.”

“And what came before?” said Godling.

Renaldo sat up straighter in his driver box. “An explosion in human development. The expansion of our minds, the impetus and growth of a wise and compassionate galactic society, due in full to your guardianship and wisdom. God machine, human beings traveled the stars! We grew peaceful and curious. We at last became aware of ourselves, and we strived to leave behind something better for our children.”

“And what came after, abbot warden?” Godling asked.

“The exact opposite. As soon as you were imprisoned, space travel ceased. Humans isolated themselves on small, insignificant worlds. We forgot the virtues we’d fought so hard to earn. People like Praebus, King Marshal, their brutality and eagerness for violence, it’s mankind’s rule now, Godling, and not its exception.”

“And so you chose to forsake your wardenship, to free the monster king from his eternal prison?” said Godling.

“In a word, yes. What sane man could blame me? Brennan and Ressia are of like minds. The three of us have been planning this for months, but it is you, god machine, who must restore yourself to your rightful place.”

Godling pondered the sentiment. It wasn’t that Renaldo was necessarily wrong on all points. He simply had left out a rather significant detail.

“And this matter of genocide, Timekeeper?” said Godling. “Perhaps it’s been too long since I’ve cracked a history vid, but they do still teach who was responsible, do they not?”

“They do,” said Renaldo.

“But it’s not the whole truth,” Brennan said. “Like we told you, god king, we know everything.”

“There you go again, using the word know as if it pertains to your rather diminutive primate brains. You, like all stupid children, know absolutely nothing. Now leave me alone so I can fantasize about ever more elaborate ways of ripping out your kidneys.”

“He won’t listen to reason, Renaldo,” said Ressia. “I think it’s time we show him.”

The abbot warden turned around. He glared at Ressia, his brow furrowed. “Are you certain?”

She nodded and looked to Brennan, who gave a deep frown and nodded in kind.

The abbot warden jerked his reins. There was another low, throbbing groan, and then the Beastwheeler pulled to a stop. Renaldo stood from the driver box and stepped into the bed. Gazing into Ressia and Brennan’s eyes, the abbot warden raised a finger and pointed off the way they’d come. There, Claustrum Mons towered over the landscape.

“You’ve been having errant memory recalls recently, haven’t you, Godling?” Renaldo said. “Sudden onset, coming out of nowhere, at the least opportune of times. Memory recalls specifically concerning … her.”

“How did you—”

“I gave them to you. I have access to your memory banks,” Renaldo said. “Every abbot warden of Claustrum Mons has had such access.”

He slid the administrator glove off his right hand. His fingers were painted a stark, brilliant white.

Hold on a moment … White paint? How in the hells had Renaldo gotten his hands on white

The abbot warden snapped his fingers. Ressia and Brennan jumped to their feet. He snapped his fingers again.

Godling fell back 5,000 years.

He found himself in two places at once, staring into the eyes of two different people. The one person, in the one place, was Ressia, daughter of King Stevrik III, standing in the bed of the Beastwheeler on the Isolinium plains. The second person and place … much harder to interpret. It was Jossinda, the queen of his universe. She lay with him on the marble floor of their royal palace, sprawled out in the throne room, panting, dripping with sweat after a long, passionate tryst. He, so large and cold; she, so small, warm, nubile….

They had only been married a year, but what a glorious year it had been. He’d felt vacant before her, even to himself, nothing more than an intelligent but ultimately soulless automaton. They’d always said the truest king of all could never fall in love, but Jossinda had proved, beyond any doubt, the god machine had a humanity all his own.

“My love,” she said to him, “I think there is a truer way, a better way.”

“A better way?” Godling said. “We’ve found the best way of all. Our subjects are happy and industrious, growing wiser all the time. There has never been a people so content.”

She grinned at him. “I think we have more to offer than mere contentment, don’t you?”

But no, this wasn’t Jossinda speaking to him of contentment. It was Ressia speaking to Brennan, and Brennan responding in haste. In the memory, Godling told her he didn’t understand, and Jossinda climbed to her feet and strode across the massive room to their large glossy golden thrones. She soon returned, carrying with her a small silver pot and a brush.

She said to Godling, “Here, my love, see what I’ve made for you?”

Godling took the pot from her and peered inside. “I doubt you’ve made this. Our engineers have been working on it for years.”

“And yet I found a way to finish it. Paint me, Godling, here and now, before I change my mind.”

His special white paint, the very first of its kind. Not sensory, and not for touch or locomotion. The idea behind the paint—Godling’s idea—was that its application to other less advanced machines would allow him to duplicate and transmit an autonomous part of his consciousness. Conceivably, there could one day be two god kings, or three, or twenty. But the paint itself had been an utter failure. Every machine to receive a coat of it had fried its circuit matter in less than a minute of functionality.

“I’ve discovered the secret, the one variable your engineers never thought of,” Jossinda said. “You’ve all been focused on creating additional Godling machines. But I have a better idea, merging the mind of Godling with the soul of a human being.”

He couldn’t believe what he was hearing. He eyed his queen, deciding not to interrupt her.

“Think about it,” she said, “how perfect such a being would be. The sublime union of you and me. Why, the two of us together, we could make ourselves gods. True gods, not merely gods among men.”

“Are you referring to the concept of the New God?” he asked. “This is an impossible request, though I’m flattered you think me capable of such boldness. This notion we’ve had, that a significant eruptive force could merge—”

“I’m referring to perfection in the here and now. No ambiguity, nothing theoretical about it. And I’ve already proved it can be done.”

She turned and lifted her shimmering auburn hair away from her neck. There, over her vertebrae, she had painted a small white dot.

“Jossinda, you didn’t.”

She turned back. “And I’ve already received a partial transfer. Your plans for Rieleth’s third mountain harvest this cycle, they include an extra allocation of spider croppers, do they not?”

“How…?”

“While we were making love. Your mind, it tends to wander. I want this, Godling. I want it more than anything. Can’t you see? Think of all the good we could do.”

“Jossinda …”

“My love, I’m not asking.”

And then she dipped the brush into the pot and guided a long streak of white down between her breasts. He hesitated, but not for very long. Godling painted her. He loved her and trusted her. He had a single moment of frailty in all his long years. Now and then, he stopped to kiss her neck and giggle with her. Jossinda stood before him in the end, her entire naked body a stark, bright white.

“Do it, my love,” she said. “Change this universe forever.”

Godling began the transfer.

At ten percent, Jossinda’s eyes rolled up into her head. At fifteen, her body went limp, and Godling had to catch her falling. Twenty percent, Jossinda lay sprawled out on the floor, her limbs twitching, her mouth opening and closing in silent agony. Thirty percent, and Godling began to feel strange. He was not cloning himself or making a copy. He’d decided his queen would receive a piece of him that was unique and all its own.

At fifty percent, Jossinda began screaming. At fifty-five, Godling screamed with her. Fire, lighting, Godling felt his chest might explode. Sixty percent, sixty-five, seventy. He couldn’t stop it, couldn’t cut the transfer now. Godling went inside himself. A part of him was aware of the torment, but mostly he was aware of change. His notions darkened. A singular thought for blood wormed it’s way into his thoughts.

One-hundred percent. Transfer complete. Jossinda, his queen, his love, lay lifeless and cold on the pale marble floor.

Godling wasn’t there when his honor guard buried her. He’d already begun planning his brutal, murderous campaigns. The part of him he’d given to her, he never got it back. They called him monster king, and he deserved the name. His madness would cease after a few thousand years. The bloodlust would diminish and become little more than idle threats. But nothing could diminish the memory.

“God machine,” said Renaldo. “Godling, snap out of it.”

The screams, the screams. How could he ever stop the screams?

“Cycles of Perdition, Godling, come to your senses.”

Godling regained his mind. He was there in the Beastwheeler on the plains of Isolinius. Ressia and Brennan lay atop each other, unconscious but safe. The day was bright and clear. A stiff breeze blew and rustled a sea of wild crimson grass.

“Apologies, abbot warden,” Godling said. “I don’t know what came over me.”

“I do. It’s a nasty trick we played on you, but believe me, it had to be done.”

“The white paint, how did you…?”

“The ancient abbot wardens reverse engineered it,” said Renaldo. “They added a control and command function to the standard transfer elements your engineers concocted. No one’s been stupid or brave enough to use it until I came along.”

“And the children, are they…?”

“They’re fine,” the abbot warden said. “Give them a few hours. They’ll be bounding off walls in no time. You see, Godling? History doesn’t tell the full story. When you lost that spark, you never were the same again.”

“But the things I did,” Godling said. “Just because I lost this piece of myself … I’m not suddenly forgiven, am I?”

Renaldo sighed. “Forgive yourself first and foremost, Godling. The rest will come later. What if I told you your wildest dreams are about to come true?”

“Timekeeper, I very much doubt you grasp the dreams of one such as I.”

Renaldo grinned. “This may come as a shock, but you’re wrong. Your queen, Godling, she is still alive. And I am in a position to give her to you.”

*****

Little was known of the old hag of the Prairie Sea. It was said she’d sought her fortune long ago, but that madness had driven her to give it away for a small, homely plot of land. Depending on whom you asked—and Renaldo said he’d asked everyone—she was either blind, disfigured, the house guest of 39 wraith-cats, or most popularly of all, no longer a crazy old woman but by means of an unlawful tech infusion, a crazy old woman trapped inside the body of a little girl.

Godling didn’t believe any of this, of course. Nor did he believe reuniting with Jossinda would restore him to the machine he’d been.

“They built me a prison for a reason, abbot warden.” Godling said. “They locked me away for a good damn reason. Of course I never wanted to escape that place! Oh yes, very astute, Renaldo. Very well done, indeed. I may be mad, but I’m not stupid! You wouldn’t let a razor beast off its leash simply because it’s gotten long in the razor, would you?”

“God machine, you’re panicking,” Renaldo said.

“You’re damned right I’m panicking! An ex-wife who’s still alive? Isn’t that sort of like … a defective socket wrench you’ve tried to throw away?”

The humans had taken turns driving the Beastwheeler for an entire pseudo-day. Through the long, bright true-day and the long, dark first-night. The blue-tinted false-day had been more than welcome, its light blooming by the sheen of the gas giant, Cerullia. Second-night had followed, the hours in which the prairie creatures played and hunted, and then at last, the slow, majestic rise of the bright binary stars. Not long after, the weary travelers finally arrived.

Jossinda, it appeared, had made her home in three large statues carved of pure marble and obsidian. Two black and one white, each the height of perhaps ten humans. The carvings themselves were crude, composed of indistinct shapes. The black statues seemed a pair, a man and woman reaching for one another but not touching. The white statue, the one carved of marble, Godling had a difficult time interpreting it.

It was wider, lumpier. It could’ve been a comment on the amorphous nature of godhood, but of course, it could just as easily have been a herniated land whale.

“No one could possibly know about this place,” he said.

“That’s how she’s had to conduct herself,” said Ressia. “Her unnatural longevity frightened many. She found it best to hide. But the abbot warden thinks it might finally be time for her to reveal herself.”

“Of course it’s time.” A lively voice vibrated across the lovers’ inky black circuit matter. “Do you think I’d have invited you here if events hadn’t occurred exactly as I anticipated?”

Godling identified Jossinda immediately. She’d hijacked his vibrathreads exactly as had Praebus. How infuriating. The voice didn’t sound old. In fact, she sounded just as he remembered her. For what purpose had the past occurred? Such a spiteful existence. She’d been alive and in hiding for 5,000 years, even as the machine who loved her agonized her death.

“God machine, it’s been far too long,” Jossinda said. “You have many questions for me, I’m sure. Come inside and know the truth at last.”

*****

His queen stood before them in the roughhewn marble entryway of her home. She appeared exactly as he remembered her in his fragmented dreams, and the fact he could not physically touch her maddened him to the point of desperation. She wore a plaid shawl and her hair was tied back in a fashion reminiscent of their early days of courtship. Cooking smells filled the space, meat and butter and root vegetables. Jossinda smiled at Brennan and Ressia. She took hold of the frills of her dress and curtseyed, saying, “I am very much obliged, my friends. The paint had an unusual effect on my physiology, my love. In order to combat such an extreme invasion, my body permanently inhibited some of its autonomic processes.”

“Such as the process of aging,” Godling said.

“Amongst other things.”

He didn’t know what to say to this, if the right words existed or if he might only manage crude working models. In the end, for want of proper expression, only two words vibrated across Ressia and Brennan’s bodies.

“I killed….” 

Jossinda looked like she might cry.

“I know, my love,” she said. “But you remember what you gave me, don’t you? Your faith and ability to dream. The traits of an innocent being.”

“You didn’t lose your mind, Godling,” Renaldo said. “You traded your humanity. It has been a long road for you, and you have done much to gain back your noble spirit. But you will never be whole until you rejoin with this woman.”

Intolerable. Disastrous even. All those years lost to ruin of an inner corrupted self.

“Why’d you do it?” Godling asked. “Why’d you pretend to die?”

Tears welled in Jossinda’s eyes. “I had my reasons. I won’t tell you they were good, but they did bring me a measure of comfort all these long years. In simple truth, I did die, Godling. And by the time my body and mind revived themselves, I found myself awake in my tomb, and you were changed … killing so many. I knew if I reunited with you, all might be well, but before I was strong enough to intervene, they imprisoned you. So I waited. I knew we’d come to a time in which the human race no longer spat upon the name of Godling.”

“And you may wait still,” Godling said. “Nothing’s changed, my queen. They still hate me. As well they should.”

“No,” said Jossinda. She crossed the floor to Ressia and Brennan. Lovingly, she placed a supple, soothing hand on the girl’s cheek. “You’re wrong about them. You gave me your sense of hope, remember? Just as you gave this young woman your heart. Please, my love. Let me prove to you the world needs its truest king of all. Let me give you back the hope you so desperately desire.”

“Give it back?” a voice declared from the entryway behind them. Brennan and Ressia turned. King Stevrik III, Lord of Quaratania, sometime seeker of wisdom from the god machine himself, stood in the portal, the bright binary stars outside highlighting his blonde hair and royal yellow jacket.

Ressia gasped. “Father.”

Stevrik was tall and thin, with youthful features and a closely cropped beard. He entered Jossinda’s home as if it belonged to him. “Daughter, I shall only say this once. Step away from that contemptible writer and cover your shame.”

Ressia did nothing about his first request, moved not an inch from Brennan, and as for his second, she self-consciously folded her arms over her breasts.

“How did you find us?” she asked.

Stevrik sneered. “You didn’t really think a being such as the god machine could escape without anyone noticing, did you? I had my best men track you. And once I was able to determine the general path you’d struck …”

“My good Stevrik,” Godling said. “You have always accepted my council. Please, listen to me now.”

“The days of your council are over, monster king. As are the days of this romance. I’m at war, no thanks to you, with an enemy against which I don’t think I stand a chance. This young man shall be put to death, and my daughter shall marry her betrothed.”

Ressia shouted, “Father, you wouldn’t!”

“Oh no? I love you, Ressia. But believe me when I tell you this is for the good of our homeland.”

Stevrik pulled a crude compact pistol from his jacket and aimed it squarely at Brennan’s chest.

“Now please, everyone step outside.” he said.

One by one, with Stevrik bringing up the rear, Ressia, Brennan, Renaldo, and Jossinda left the safety of the statue house and walked down the steps into the yard. Hundreds, perhaps even a thousand, soldiers, guardsmen, and guns for hire, all bearing the yellow seal of Quaratania, stood nearby, ready to act at a moment’s notice.

“Now,” Stevrik said, “I want the writer out front. We’re going to end this here and now.”

“Father!” Ressia screamed. She launched herself at him, angled a fist for his head. One of his soldiers stepped in. He slammed the butt of his rifle into her stomach, pulled her back by her hair, and shoved her to the ground.

“I don’t expect you to understand, daughter,” Stevrik said. “But I do expect you to obey. I love you, dear girl, but this is reality. I’m afraid love doesn’t count for much here.”

Godling took in the faces of the humans who had so thoroughly upended his life cycle. Firstly, his wife, Jossinda. The same as she’d always been; better even, alive and breathtaking. And foolish old Renaldo, the abbot warden had shown true dedication to an ideal. When was the last time Godling had shown half as much dedication to anything apart from making idle threats?

And the children, Brennan and Ressia, heart rates elevated, skin beneath his flowing circuit matter flush with anxiety. He recognized the astonishing lengths to which they were prepared to go for each other, and it humbled him. The young lovers were doing their best to remain courageous and strong in a desperate situation.

“Forward quickly, writer,” said Stevrik. “I take no pleasure in this.”

Brennan regarded Ressia with a feral look in his eyes. She struggled and fought, still pinned to the ground beneath Stevrik’s foot soldier.

“Don’t, my love,” Brennan said. “You can’t give him a reason to hurt you, too.”

Stevrik snorted loudly. “As if I’m capable of harming my own daughter.”

“I have no concept of your capabilities, my king. Just as a zoo keeper cannot conceive why his apes throw their own shit.”

Brave response. Fighting words. And under such duress. Astonishing. And look at Ressia, why did she struggle so? It was over, wasn’t it? Why hold on to hope?

“On your knees,” Stevrik growled.

Brennan didn’t hesitate. He got down, gave Ressia a brave smile.

“Live long, my love,” he said.

And then he himself gripped Stevrik’s pistol and set the barrel to his head. Stevrik’s grip tightened, his finger locked in place over the trigger. Ressia screamed. His finger tensed.

A white-hot explosion erupted in the yard. Mortar shot, and it was followed by another. The extreme heat buffeted Godling and the lovers. Suddenly, the crimson grassland filled with balls of fire and loose-cutting shrapnel. Stevrik’s men scattered and fell to the ground all around them.

Flitgliders—several formations of them—buzzed overhead, dropping mortar rounds onto the King’s men. One Flitglider in particular, a grey one, bulkier and heavier and spewing tarry smoke, separated itself from the pack and came in low, maneuvering itself into position above Brennan and Stevrik. It hovered there, training all its forward munitions on Ressia’s father.

“Stevrik of Quaratania,” said a tight, rasping voice, “for violation of the sacred Spacefarer decrees and the laws of Isolinius, his majesty, Marshal of Sevrum, has sentenced you to death.”

“Godling,” Brennan said, kneeling where Stevrik had put him, “is that who I think it is?”

“General Praebus,” said Godling, “my deduction exactly. Brennan, child, we have never known the good General to back down from a fight.”

The guns of the Flitglider spun up. Stevrik froze in place.

“Contrary to popular wisdom, large-caliber exploding bullets are actually rather painful,” Godling said.

“Godling, cover my back!” said Brennan.

The Flitglider opened fire. With the speed of a prowler beast, Brennan leapt and dropped Stevrik to the ground. He covered him, and just as the fire struck, Godling put everything he had into commanding the circuit matter to form a flat protective shield.

It stood out from Brennan, shrouded him and Stevrik, and it absorbed the bullets and micro munition-eruptions. Godling took all that shrapnel and explosive force, and then he flung it back out and up at the General’s Flitglider.

The flitglider lurched to the side, narrowly escaping the barrage. It listed and dropped several meters, but finally corrected itself and zipped back into position.

“Ah,” Praebus wheezed, “the god machine has come as well. Yes, and a great many thanks for the lesson you taught me, monster king. I shan’t repeat that mistake again. Gunner Sergeant! Big Beth!”

“Big Beth?” Godling said. “Who in all the unrighteous hells is Big—”

“Never mind that, Godling,” said Brennan. “What you just did, the way you shielded us. Could you do it again?”

“Brennan!” Ressia rushed over to them and dropped to the grass, her hair whipping around her head in the downdraft of the Flitglider’s oscillators. She marked Brennan with a deluge of kisses. Stevrik groaned. He slowly got onto his hands and knees, but the lovers paid him no attention as he crawled away, their entire worlds composed of passion for each other.

Godling called out, “Renaldo Timekeeper, you are summoned!”

The abbot warden and Jossinda emerged from behind the marble home. Renaldo tested himself against the blistering mortar winds, and then they both rushed from hiding and picked their way through the chaos.

“You don’t summon me, prisoner. I am an abbot of the Divine Order of Battles Won, and none may summon me but the gods themselves,” Renaldo said when they finally drew near. Godling noted Jossinda seemed to be holding something behind her back.

“Ah, but I am the god machine,” said Godling, “and as such, I may rule over any man alive.”

“Not yet, my love,” said Jossinda. “One thing remains. Our reunion. We must become one.”

From behind her back, she produced a brush and a broad metal canister full of white paint.

“You are a machine first and foremost, Godling,” she said. “See all this destruction? This death? Calculate for me, tell me truly, is this the way human beings were meant to live?”

General Praebus opened the starboard drop compartment hatch of his Flitglider. In an oxygen mask and breathing harness, strapped into a large shoulder-mounted tri-grenade launcher, he stepped onto the glider’s chrome railing.

He chortled, saying, “You haven’t forgotten me, have you? I certainly have not forgotten you, Godling.”

Cackling, enraged, he fired a violent barrage from the tri-grenade launcher. A hail of blitz-fire rained down on them. The sound was deafening. Godling threw up shields, two of them, enormous and black, one from Ressia and the other from Brennan. He screamed from the strain of it, could barely contain the eruptive force. The harder he tried, the more he hoped, and catching such hope, it all seemed so startlingly possible.

His human friends cried out. It was chaos, madness. In the middle of it all….

Someone spilled the canister of white paint.

Another explosion rang through the grasslands. Not one of gunpowder, and certainly not of deadly force. It was an explosion of pure, radiant energy. It echoed and boomed. It ripped all the war machines from the sky. The explosion flattened down the high crimson grass and every man afield. Radiating outward, it traveled far and filtered high up through the clouds.

And then it simply washed away, like a gentle, cleansing wave.

All was silent and still for the longest time. One point of light remained, not far from Ressia’s father, lord and ruler of Quaratania, King Stevrik III.

Stunned, confused, Stevrik stumbled to his feet.

“Daughter?” he said. “Ressia, are you all right, dear girl?”

Silence greeted him, and a harsh blinding light the like of which he’d never seen.

“Ressia? Please answer me, daughter.”

“Ressia is well,” said a voice so unearthly, so heavenly, it halted Stevrik’s breath and stopped him in his tracks. “In fact, they’re all well. Your daughter, her lover, the abbot warden, the queen of the universe, and the god machine himself. Much better now, if you really wish to know.”

Stevrik raised a hand to block the raging light. “W-who are you…? Monster king? I-is that you?”

“I am not the monster king. I am his fusion into a more perfect being. Do you understand the apex of the man/machine interface? The divine meeting of touch, movement, sense, heart, intelligence, and of course, belief?”

“I don’t …”

The light flickered and strobed. It set his world into a freeze-frame progression of knotted, tangled images, and then it blinked out entirely. Stevrik saw, as if in a dream, an unearthly being floating toward him. It wasn’t a man, nor was it a woman. It was completely white, with a flowing mane of hair colored green, purple, orange, and most strangely of all, black.

Stevrik’s mouth hung open. He moaned, “God.”

“God, yes,” said the being of white. “Not machine, and not human, but a sublime union of the two. No more need for forgiveness or the sins of the past. They didn’t understand what union meant. They had no idea imperfect beings could never achieve the oneness and peace your kind so vainly long for in secret. Perfection means creation, and I understand this with a clarity no murderer of millions could hope to achieve. You, Stevrik of Quaratania, and every man afield, have just witnessed the birth of something long thought theoretical. I am the New God, and I alone may be king.”

Stevrik couldn’t comprehend. His mind wasn’t capable. Was Ressia inside this thing? At the apex of all their trials, could such a creation be birthed by violence and fire?

“Kneel for me, Stevrik,” the New God said. “Just as you made that poor boy kneel. And let’s begin the work of rebuilding your race.” Stevrik didn’t second-guess or attempt to defy the New God. He knelt there in the Crimson Blade of Jossinda’s yard. And then he broke into uncontrollable, sobbing tears.

THE END


Jeff Bowles is a science fiction and horror writer from the mountains of Colorado. The best of his outrageous and imaginative work can be found in God’s Body: Book One – The Fall, Godling and Other Paint Stories, Fear and Loathing in Las Cruces, and Brave New Multiverse. He has published work in magazines and anthologies like PodCastle, Tales from the Canyons of the Damned, the Threepenny Review, and Dark Moon Digest. Jeff earned his Master of Fine Arts degree in creative writing at Western State Colorado University. He currently lives in the high-altitude Pikes Peak region, where he dreams strange dreams and spends far too much time under the stars. Jeff’s new novel, Love/Madness/Demon, is available on Amazon now!

Love Madness Demon Cover Final

Check out Jeff Bowles Central on YouTube – Movies – Video Games – Music – So Much More!


Wrapping up the WordCrafter “Will Write For Wine” & “Stories I Stole From Lord Byron’s Bastard” Book Blog Tour

Will Write for Wine & Stories I Stole From Lord Byron’s Bastard Book Blog Tour

This is the last stop on the WordCrafter Will Write For Wine & Stories I Stole From Lord Byron’s Bastard Book Blog Tour with a guest post by author Sara W. McBride about the inspiration behind the Will Write For Wine, and my review of her debut novel. I want to thank you all for joining us, and if you missed any of the stops along the way, you can catch them at the links below.

Writing to be Read – Opening day post: Guest post by Sara W. McBride – The Inspiration for “The Devil’s Bridge”, and review of Stories I Stole From Lord Byron’s Bastard

The Showers of Blessings – Guest post by Sara W. McBride – The inspiration for “Stealing Georgione’s Mistress”

Carla Loves to Read – Guest post by Sara W. McBride – The inspiration for “The Masked Kiss”, and review of Stories I Stole From Lord Byron’s Bastard

Writing to be Read – Interview with author Sara W. McBride and guest post – The Inspiration for “Lazzaretto Vecchio: A Dowry for Saffron”

Zigler’s News – Guest post by Sara W. McBride – The Inspiration for “A Gentleman’s Portrait by a Pregnant Man”, and a review of Stories I Stole From Lord Byron’s Bastard

Annette Rochelle Aben – Guest post by Sara W. McBride – The Inspiration for “The Haunted Palazzo”

Roberta Writes – Guest post by Sara W. McBride – The Inspiration for “The Secret Vault”

Give-Away

Don’t forget to leave a comment and click on the link below to enter for a chance to win a free digital copy of Will Write For Wine or Stories I Stole From Lord Byron’s Bastard.

http://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/display/d9280cae1/?

Image of Laocoön
Credit: Laocoön statue, Vatican, Photo by Frank Eiffert on Unsplash

Inspiration for Will Write for Wine

Guest post by author Sara McBride

What inspired the novel Will Write for Wine?

My love affair with Venice began in 2005 on my very first trip to Italy. I had planned a two-week research trip, by myself, that started in Venice and ended in Rome. My husband had shown me an article about an art historian who believed a sketch by Michelangelo, dated 1504, was of the torso of Laocoön, the statue that Pope Julius II paraded through the streets of Rome and subsequently launched the Vatican Museum. But Laocoön wasn’t discovered until 1506, and it’s discovery changed the world of Renaissance art.

How did Michelangelo sketch a statue that was still buried in the earth? The hypothesis was simple: Michelangelo forged the statue and buried it.

I spent 6 months researching Michelangelo’s life, his art commissions, and his war with Pope Julius II—Which is epic!—and came to the conclusion that the hypothesis might be true. I built a 76-page itinerary—fully color-coded, because I’m that anal—and set out across Italy to walk the steps of Michelangelo and those I believed assisted with his subterfuge.

I hunted for evidence in the art world itself. Since I wanted to write a novel, I also sought ambiance from historical locations and wrote down the smells of restoration sites with turpentine and plaster dust hanging in the air, the sounds of echoing footfalls in an empty cavernous church or of a single woman weeping in a side chapel, the taste of rustic breads, the sight of sunset over St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome, and the smoothness of Istrian stone supporting Venetian palazzos.

After that first trip, I could walk into any museum room and at a glance, tell you which paintings were completed before or after 1506, the year of Laocoön’s discovery. That’s how influential the discovery of Laocoon was on the Italian Renaissance art scene. But on the flip side, I couldn’t tell you how the artist felt when he painted or sculpted an art piece.

I wrote a novel. It read like an 800-page art history dissertation. Snore-ville! Even though the entire novel is centered around Michelangelo, Bramante, Rafael, Sansovino, and Pope Julius II, the reader never becomes invested in the characters. I understood the history, the places, the art, but not the men or what motivated them.

Anyone can sing a song, but for it to resonate and draw in a listener, it must be sung with emotion. It is the emotion of the song that tells a story. My novel was missing the emotion.

But seventeen years later, I’m still drawn to the story of Laocoön, which I believe to be Michelangelo’s greatest forgery—Some forgeries were documented—and with every art museum exhibit, every church, every trip to Europe, I see more evidence for the pieces of the story. But now I seek to understand why Michelangelo and Pope Julius II were at such odds with each other. For that, I needed to understand people.

Venice is an amazing city to study not just history, ambiance, food, beauty, and smells, oh so many smells, but to study people. And out of that study, came the novel, Will Write for Wine.     

Will Write for Wine

Buy Link: https://www.amazon.com/Will-Write-Wine-Alexis-Novel-ebook/dp/B09XVM6Y38

What they are saying on Amazon:

The mind of Alexis Lynn is as delightful and convoluted as the labyrinth of canals and streets of Venice. Tagging along on the ride with this endearingly flawed character is sometimes rooting for her, sometimes laughing with her, sometimes crying with her, sometimes wanting to smack her, and sometimes wanting to smack the men she entangles herself with. Will Write for Wine is a quick and light beach read – no, scratch that – it’s a quick and light European vacation read. Alexis Lynn puts the “fun” in “dysfunctional” and the “Veni” in “Venice”!

My Review

Alexis Lynn is at a crossroads, starting a new life in Venice and leaving the old one in the America behind, making the choices which will affect her future. At times like this, lots of wine may be required, and there’s no end to what Alexis Lynn will do for good wine- the writing of stories, the breaking of hearts, the solving of age-old mysteries. In Will Write for Wine, by Sara McBride, it’s a fun ride with Alexis, her new found friends and the ghosts of Venice as she writes stories, falls in and out of love, and delves into Venetian history to create a new life for herself with the best from the old, as well as the new.

Pour yourself a glass of wine and settle in for a good read with Will Write for Wine. You don’t need a good wine to enjoy this novel, but I’d highly recommend it. I give it five quills.

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Ask the Authors 2022 Book & Blog Series: Publishing

Ask the Authors 2022

Welcome back once again to the “Ask the Authors 2022” blog series, where we’re offering glimpses into the content of Ask the Authors 2022 writing reference anthology; a unique reference packed full with the writing tips and advice from ten different authors and myself. The Q & A sessions can run a bit long, with all of the contributors weighing in, but they are only a small taste of the wisdom contained in this book. I want to thank all of you who have joined us for each session and keep coming back for more. If you haven’t purchased a copy of your own yet, there’s a link for the UBL at the end of this post, where you can grab one from your favorite book distributor at the special send-off price of 3.99 for the duration of this blog series.

If you missed any of the previous segments, you can find them here:

Segment 1: Introductions for Kaye Lynne Booth & Kevin Killiany/Writing Life Q & A session

Segment 2: Introduction for Bobby Nash/Pre-writing Rituals Q & A session

Segment 3: Introduction for Roberta Eaton Cheadle/Plot & Storyline Q & A session

Segment 4: Introduction for Paul Kane/Character Development Q & A session

Segment 5: Introduction for Mario Acevedo/Action, Pacing & Dialog Q & A session

Segment 6: Introduction for Nancy Oswald/Tone: Voice, Person, Tense & POV Q & A session

Segment 7: Introduction for Chris Barili/Setting & World Building Q & A session.

Segment 8: Introduction for Jeff Bowles/Editing & Revision Q & A session

Today’s segment brings you an introduction to award winning author and publishing industry expert Mark Leslie Lefebvre, whose contribution to the anthology is “Publishing Trends to Watch” and a Q & A session on Publishing. So let’s get started.

Meet Mark Leslie Lefebvre

A self-confessed book nerd, Mark Leslie Lefebvre, who is a former President of the Canadian Booksellers Association and the former Director of Self-Publishing and Author Relations for Rakuten Kobo (and founder of Kobo Writing Life), thrives on innovation and excellence within all aspects of the publishing and bookselling industry.

With more than a quarter century of experience, Mark has been involved in bookselling as it evolved from strictly bricks and mortar operations and into online and digital venues, and has continually been at the forefront of applying digital solutions to publishing and book selling.

An author who has embraced both traditional and self-publishing opportunities for himself as well as the thousands of authors he has coached, advised and consulted with over the past two decades, Mark not only believes that each author’s journey is individualized and personal, but that each specific project a writer embarks upon can have its own unique goals, elements and desired outcomes.
He can be found online at www.markleslie.ca

And now on to the Q & A.

Publishing

Are you independently published, traditionally published, or a combination of both?

Mario Acevedo: I’m traditionally published by a large and regional/small presses.

Paul Kane: Combination of both. I started out in the small, indie presses, before working with some of the bigger places, so I like to go back there and write fiction for them when I can. Plus, it gives me a bit more freedom to experiment or write something that might not be that commercial; because the indies don’t have the same kind of print runs as bigger publishers there’s a bit less pressure to appeal to huge audiences. The flip side of that is you get read by a lot more people when you’ve done something for a bigger publisher, simply because they have the money to put behind advertising, production, distribution and marketing. Having said that, I still try to do as much of that as I can myself – I never assume it’s all being done for me. I’ve been known to set up blog tours myself, even when working with bigger publishers because sometimes the personal touch is what bloggers and book reviewers respond to.

Bobby Nash: Both. I’m what they call a hybrid author. I work for traditional publishers of all sizes. I also have my own indie small press, BEN Books.

Robbie Cheadle: Most of my books are published by TSL Publishers in the United Kingdom. I love working with Anne Samson and find her fair and helpful. I self-published Open a new door, a collection of poems which I co-wrote with another South African poet, Kim Blades. I did not enjoy the self-publishing experience and prefer to work through a publisher.

I have short stories and poems published in a number of anthologies which have been published by the editor and compiler through their own publishing enterprises.

Nancy Oswald: A combination.

Mark Leslie Lefebvre: I am a combination of both traditionally published books, independently published books, as well as a hybrid mix of selling work to or collaborating with indie publishers in a slightly traditional way.

What factors influenced you to take your chosen publishing route?

Paul Kane: Things just seemed to slot into place for me, rather than choosing a particular route. I went to art college thinking I’d go into some kind of career in the arts, but it turned out I was better at theory than the practical stuff, so I went to university initially to study History of Art, Design and Film. While I was there, I chose an optional module called ‘Professional Writing’ and loved it, which led me into the journalism – and I figured I could at least make a living writing non-fiction that way, with articles and reviews.

Because I was writing for the day job, I thought I’d do some stories for pleasure – and they ended up being published too, in small press magazines. Then the fiction started to overtake the non-fiction, and the rest is history.

I don’t think I consciously chose any of that, it just sort of happened. I definitely didn’t think to myself when I was younger ‘I’m going to be a writer when I grow up.’ That, honestly, never even crossed my mind because I came from a very working class background where you did manual jobs like being a builder or joiner or whatever. My dad was a miner, so his was a hard job – especially compared to mine – but at the same time he never discouraged me going down the creative route. He did, however, instill in me a solid work ethic which I still have today. 

Bobby Nash: When I started, doing it yourself was not as accepted as it is today. Working for a publisher was the only way to get a book published at the time. Fast forward and there are more options. This allows me to do some projects the way I want through my own press and still do work for other publishers as well. For me, it truly is the best of both worlds.

Robbie Cheadle: Initially, I submitted my Sir Chocolate story ideas to four or five small publishing houses and TSL Publications responded to say they were interested in publishing them for me. I was fortunate as I didn’t experience a lot of rejection and I benefited from the experience and expertise of a publisher right from the beginning of my journey.

Nancy Oswald: For me it’s been like water finding its way through a channel. My course had often determined by which barriers are encountered, force and velocity, and other influencing factors like an unexpected change in the weather, excessive rain, drought, and human factors.

Please briefly share the story of your own publishing journey.

Paul Kane: A lot of that’s covered in the above, but if I’ll take you through from when I started to get stories accepted in the small presses to today… When I got back into writing fiction again in the ’90s, which had been something I enjoyed tinkering with back in my teens, I wrote a lot of short stories. Some of them worked, some didn’t, but it was all practice. I’d been doing a correspondence course to help with my non-fiction and my fiction, and I sent the tutor a story I’d written that had come to me, fully formed, in a dream: ‘The Cave of Lost Souls.’ She loved it and told me I had to send it off somewhere. I’d been toying with the idea of entering it into a writing competition, but then I saw an advert in a trade magazine for a publication called Terror Tales. I sent the story off to the editor, John B. Ford, and he wanted to use it in an upcoming issue. He also lived locally, so invited me to a gathering of writers. I sat around listening to all these stories about what they were doing and thought to myself, ‘wow!’ But also, if they’ve done it, maybe there’s a chance for me too. They gave me pointers as to which publications to try my work with, where I could find listings and so on. That led to more acceptances, attending more events and eventually getting a couple of collections out. I also found out about something called The British Fantasy Society who were looking for volunteers for positions, one of which was for Special Publications Editor. That enabled me to work with such names as Ramsey Campbell, Neil Gaiman, Muriel Gray and Clive Barker. I was helping out running their convention FantasyCon as well, and indeed years later ended up co-chairing a few. In the meantime, someone I’d met at an event – Jonathan Oliver – was looking for ideas for post-apocalyptic novels set in a universe called ‘The Afterblight Chronicles’, mass market books brought out by the publisher he worked for, Abaddon/Rebellion. I pitched a few and Jon loved the Robin Hood idea. I worked up a chapter breakdown, which got me the first book – there ended up being a trilogy of novels a couple of shorts and novelettes and one novella – and suddenly my longer fiction was getting some attention. I’d also gone into editing professionally, putting books together with Marie for places like Simon & Schuster, PS Publishing and Constable & Robinson. Anthologies like Hellbound Hearts, A Carnivale of Horror and The Mammoth Book of Body Horror… All of this enabled me to try my hand at things like film and TV scripting, comics, audio and theatre scripting, which broadened the scope of what I was doing. And it led me into writing crime thrillers for HQ/HarperCollins, which I’m doing today as PL Kane. In a nutshell, that’s my journey.

Bobby Nash: I started writing comic books. I then wrote a novel, then a second, which was published, Evil Ways. Then, I did a mix of comics, novels, and shorter stories for several years. These days, I’ve added screenplays and audio scripts to the mix. I like to try new things.

Nancy Oswald: Published, two large publishers, one it Canada and one in New York, published small Colorado owned publisher, self-published twice, each time for a different reason.

Mark Leslie Lefebvre: I started off in the mid 1980s when there really was no other choice but to submit short stories to magazines in order to slowly build yourself a name within writing and publishing and hopefully attract the attention of an agent or editor who might take your book proposal seriously because of your proven track record.

After years of rejection my first short story was published in 1992. I earned $5 USD and a contributor’s copy of the digest-sized quarterly magazine with a circulation of perhaps 500 people. And as time went on, I started selling to bigger markets with larger distribution and higher pay. (At the time 5 cents a word was considered a “professional rate” for a short fiction sale).

Over the years I sold dozens of stories to various small press magazines and anthologies, but my work never remained in print for more than maybe six months maximum. So, in 2004, I collected a number of my previously published short stories along with a couple of ones that hadn’t appeared anywhere, and I self-published them in print (using Ingram Lightning Source for making a Print on Demand (POD) book entitled One Hand Screaming.

Back then self-publishing was a dirty word, and most self-respecting authors serious about a writing career would ever consider that path. All of my friends who had publishing deals with big publishers told me that self-publishing was the best way to kill my writing career.

But I did it anyway.

I did so because after all those years of writing, I still didn’t have a book out. In addition, the majority of the stories had not only already graduated from the slush piles of the various magazines they’d first appeared in (thus having an editorial “seal of approval” but they had also been edited.

I secured an ISBN, established a publishing company (Stark Publishing – which I use to this day), had a logo for the company created, and had a book cover designed. (The cost for the logo and book cover was about $24, the price of a case of beer paid to my best friend who was a graphic designer.

In 2009, I used the Stark Publishing imprint to publish an anthology called Campus Chills. I solicited sponsorship for this anthology from three university bookstores (University of Waterloo, University of Alberta, and McMaster University Bookstore) so I could pay contributors pro rates for their original stories. The book was a historic publishing first. It was the first professional anthology to be produced exclusively for the Espresso Book Machines that the three bookstores owned.

My first full length book traditional deal was Haunted Hamilton, which was published in 2012 by Dundurn, Canada’s largest independent publishing house.

Since then, I have continued to work with traditional publishers and also use my Stark Publishing imprint to publish my own books as well as a few selected titles from author friends. 

What do you see as the pros and cons of traditional/independent publishing?

Paul Kane: The pros of traditional publishing are, as mentioned, more money behind things like advertising and marketing, distribution and so on. You’ll also likely get paid more as an author. The cons are the restrictions of the marketplace, in that you’ll have to deliver something that’s more of a crowd-pleaser than you would if it was only intended to be a limited book of say 500 copies. That’s where the indies shine, because they’re more likely to take a chance on something experimental. But don’t look for fortunes that way, if that’s your goal. I straddle both traditional and indie and adore both. I’m lucky enough to enjoy writing mass market thrillers, and at the same time put out horror books with huge monsters in. The best of both worlds, frankly. If, by indie, you mean self-published, I’ve never done that, but I know a lot of people who do – some make a very good living at it – so there’s nothing wrong with that either. Do whatever makes you happy as a writer, I say, because that will come across in your writing.

Bobby Nash: Traditional publishing handles the production work, which is nice. They handle the cover, printing, and distribution. If the publisher has good distribution, that’s a big plus. The more places your book is shelved, the better your odds in terms of sales.

Indie publishing offers more freedom to do what you want with a shorter lead time. You handle production, cover, and there’s usually only Amazon and a few on-line retailers carrying your book.

No matter which you choose, you, the writer, are expected to handle almost all of the marketing and promotion.

Robbie Cheadle: Working with a publisher taught me a lot about the publishing process and spared me having to do all the research and experimentation myself. I find it beneficial to have a second set of experienced eyes read and edit my books. My publisher gives me advice about formatting my books and also deals with Lulu.com and Amazon on my behalf. This lifts a lot of the administration from my shoulders. As a full-time working person with a demanding corporate job, I don’t think I would manage the proofing, type-setting, and other administration on my own as well as have time to write and market my books. My publisher also does some marketing of my books which is helpful.

Nancy Oswald: It depends on personal goals, opportunities, and life’s circumstances. Money and control and time are issues that have played into my decision. Marketing is not. You still have to get out and promote yourself.

Mark Leslie Lefebvre: First of all, I embrace both, and I recognize that there are unique pros and cons for each of them. I’ll try to boil them down to a few things.

With self-publishing (or indie publishing), you’re in full control. You are the publisher, which means you control everything. Whether or not it’s published, when it is published, how it’s edited, the cover design, the price, what markets it is released to. That is both a blessing and a curse because there are a lot of moving parts; and many authors don’t like the idea of having to do all that work – or, more specifically, having to hire out the right people for those tasks and project manage the process.

On the plus side, because you’re in control, you don’t need to wait for a gatekeeper to anoint your book from out of a slush pile of millions of manuscripts. If you want to change something you don’t need anyone else’s permission, you can do it.

And, of course, you can earn much higher royalties (up to 70% in many cases) and get paid monthly rather than perhaps once a year or maybe twice a year.

The biggest downside to self-publishing is that while you have easy access to digital sales (eBooks, Audiobooks, and POD print book online sales), you have extremely limited access to “in store” and “on shelf” placement in bookstores. That’s one area where traditional publishing outshines self-publishing significantly.

Traditional Publishers are part of an “old boys” network of a complex and often confusing supply chain requiring warehousing and returns (a business practice instituted during the Great Depression and which remains to this day). But they are the best way to get your books into bookstores.

Dundurn, the largest traditional publisher I work with, not only gets my books onto the shelves of chain and indie bookstores, but has also gotten my books onto the shelves at Costco and Walmart. That’s something I’d never be able to afford to do as an indie author publisher. But with this type of distribution comes setbacks, that I’ll get to shortly.

Another great benefit of working with a traditional publisher is they take care of the majority of the business aspects. They have in house or hire out all of the professionals needed to bring a book to market. From developmental, copy, and line editors to proofreaders, to professional book formatters and cover designers, to in house marketing and sales (to pitch your book to bookstore buyers), they not only project manage all of that, but, more importantly, they pay for all of those services.

The advance an author receives from a traditional publisher is, typically, significantly smaller than it used to be. There was a time when a midlist author could make a full-time living off of their book advances alone. That has not been the case for many years.

Authors also have no idea how their book is selling. They may receive an annual, or perhaps twice-annual statement of their book sales, and are perhaps paid once or twice a year for the previous year’s sales. There is also a 30% withholding on those payments against the aforementioned returns. This means, for every $100 owned to you in royalties, they hold back $30 as protection against the cost of returns.

If I can use two examples of my own books, here’s a bit of a breakdown on earnings.

For one of my traditionally published books that sells for $24.99 in print, I earn 8% on each sale, which is about $2.00. I get paid for that once a year with 30% withheld for a full year. I’m not even going to talk about the eBook sales as that’s a joke and barely adds up to enough sales to even talk about (because most traditional publishers don’t sell a lot of eBooks because they price they high enough to drive people to buy the print version, which is often cheaper, or just a dollar or two more than the eBook price).

For one of my self-published books, which sells for $14.99 in print, I earn $3.20 per sale. But I don’t sell a lot of print on my self-published books. The majority of my sales come from eBook sales. When I sell an eBook for $4.99, I earn $3.49. And I get paid on those sales every month, as opposed to once per year.

One thing most authors misunderstand is that they think working with a traditional publisher means you won’t have to do marketing. That couldn’t be further from the truth.

Authors have to do their own marketing regardless of how a book is published.

One last thing I always consider when thinking about the pros and cons of traditional publishing versus self-publishing:  If it’s important for me to earn money and sell a lot of units in a digital manner where I’m in control, then I self-publish. If it’s important for the book to be in print and on bookstore shelves, then I look at traditional publishing. Because each book I write, or plan on writing has its own unique path often depending on my goals and how they relate to those factors.

Which formats are your books available in: ebook? Print? Audio? Hardback? Large print? NFTs?

Mario Acevedo: My books are available in print, ebook, and audio. My few hardbacks are out of print.

Paul Kane: All kinds, it just depends which book it is. Most are ebook and print. Some have had audios made of them, like The Rot from Horrific Tales. Encyclopocalypse have turned a lot of my back catalogue into audios, but also published a recent collection called The Naked Eye as an ebook and print, paperback and hardback. So it really does depend on what book it is and who brought it out. Doing searches for Paul Kane, PB Kane – my YA pseudonym – and PL Kane will come up with a bunch of stuff from me.

Bobby Nash: I have books available in hardcover, paperback, ebook, and audio. For BEN Books, I make an effort to get the books in as many formats as I can so readers can find it. On projects I do for other publishers, I don’t always have a say in format.

Robbie Cheadle: My YA and adult books are available as ebooks from Amazon and Lulu.com and as paperbacks from TSL Publications in the UK, Lulu.com, and Amazon. My children’s books are available as ebooks from Lulu.com and as paperbacks from TSL Publications in the UK, Lulu.com, and Amazon. My two poetry books are available from Amazon as paperbacks and ebooks and Behind Closed Doors is available through a variety of other distributors too.

Nancy Oswald: Ebook, print, both hard back and soft cover. It has varied from book to book. I’d love to have audio versions of my books, but I don’t think there would be a market for the ages I write for.

Mark Leslie Lefebvre: My books are available in eBook, Print (trade paperback, hardcover, large print) and Audiobooks. Not all titles are available in all formats. And, ironically, my self-published titles are available in more formats than my traditionally published books.

I also have a small selection of self-published titles available in an NFT-type model and will likely expand that over time.

If your books are available in audio format, which distribution platforms do you use? Can you tell us about your audio book experiences?

Paul Kane: Usually Audible, though a few have come out as CDs as well. Her Last Secret was a CD release, as well as a download. I tend to just let the publishers get on with that, as they know more about it all than me. Sometimes I get sent audition clips from people who want to do the narration, and indeed I was put in touch with the guy who did the narration for Arcana from Wordfire Press, Robert Power, because he wanted to ask some questions and I spent a very pleasant evening on the phone chatting to him. But generally, I don’t really have anything to do with it, other than I might listen to some actors reading bits of the book and say which one I prefer or who I think suits the story best.

Bobby Nash: Audible is the biggie. We have also experimented with other audio publishers. I love audio books and have been blessed to work with some fantastic narrators. I love audio and will keep putting them out in that format as long as I can.

Mark Leslie Lefebvre: I primarily use Findaway Voices for audiobook distribution to more than 40 retail and library markets.

When it comes to audiobooks, the expense to produce them is quite high and I’m currently in a position where I’m thousands of dollars in the hole on earning that money back. But for me it’s a long-term thing, that I know will earn out over time. For me, it’s a long-term investment.

Are your books available wide or exclusive to Amazon? Or a combination of both? Why?

Paul Kane: Most, if not all, of my books are on Amazon, but also available from the publishers themselves too – as well as from all good bookstores. Again, I don’t really have much to do with all that as bookselling isn’t my field. I leave it to people much more qualified than me to sell my wares, I just write them in the first place!

Bobby Nash: A little of both. For BEN Books titles, the ebooks are exclusive to KDP so they can be enrolled in Kindle Unlimited. This is a way for me to promote the books to those who subscribe to KU to try my books for free and still make a few pennies. Paperbacks are at Amazon, B&N, Books-A-Million, etc. I also have an on-line store where you can buy autographed books from me directly.

Nancy Oswald: Back to marketing—Amazon on all of them, but I have them in as many local venues as possible; Book stores, gift shops, local stores.

Mark Leslie Lefebvre: I am wide beyond the limited perspective of “wide or exclusive to Amazon.” I could go on for hours, days, and weeks explaining it. You’re better off reading my budgie-basher of a book released in 2021 called Wide for the Win: Strategies to Sell Globally via Multiple Platforms and Forge Your Own Path to Success.

What factors help to determining the pricing of your book?

Paul Kane: I have absolutely no idea honestly. My second thriller, Her Husband’s Grave, has been available for about a year now at just £2 in paperback – and I have no idea why. I’m just delighted it is, because it’s been my biggest seller to date. It’s something to do with price matching, but I have no idea how it all works.

Bobby Nash: The base cost is your starting point. From there, you see the cost the bookstore or Amazon will take. Then, I round up a bit. I make about $1.50 profit per book. That’s why sales quantity is important.

Robbie Cheadle: My publisher prices my books and I am not able to run promotions for free or discounted downloads of my ebooks.

Nancy Oswald: I look at similar books and make my best guess about the market. On my two most recent books, I considered inflation.

Mark Leslie Lefebvre: When it’s a self-published title (ie, when I get to determine the price), it’s a combination of understanding the markets (the global markets, and not just the US markets) and the genres. So country, genre, size and format of the book all play a factor in determining the right price.

One thing I like to remind authors is that they should think of price as a verb rather than a noun. It’s fluid, and can and should change over time to match market conditions and other factors.

Which self- publishing platforms have you used? Please tell us about your experiences with them?

Bobby Nash: I mostly use Amazon/KDP. I have used Smashwords for ebooks in the past and Lulu for hardcovers. The experiences are generally good.

Robbie Cheadle: I have only self-published through Amazon, but I had assistance with the typesetting, cover, and administration.

Nancy Oswald: Only KDP (Create Space first, then KDP) Great experience both times. Books look good, hold up, and I like the POD aspect of ordering.

Mark Leslie Lefebvre: Again, for a blow-by-blow of the majority of them, read Wide for the Win. It’ll take dozens of pages to try to go through them in detail.

But in a nutshell, by default, here’s how I self-publish.

  • I publish direct to Amazon via KDP (Kindle Direct Publishing) for eBook and Print
  • I publish direct to Kobo via KWL (Kobo Writing Life) for eBook (and for selected audio titles)
  • I publish direct to Google Play for eBook (and for selected audio titles)
  • I use Draft2Digital for distributing to numerous other eBook retail platforms (Apple Books, B&N Nook, a handful of others), and most of the major library platforms (OverDrive, Baker & Taylor, hoopla, Bibliotheca, BorrowBox, etc) as well as for print via D2D Print (which is partnered with Ingram Lighting Source)
  • I also do print distribution via a combination of Ingram Spark and Ingram Lighting Source direct. (This is a side effect of being doing it for so long that I have different titles in different systems based on what was and wasn’t available at the time)

When seeking out a traditional publisher, what should an author look for? What should they beware of?

Paul Kane: I think you need to look at the publishers who are releasing books like the one you want to write and sell. You probably wouldn’t approach a religious publisher with a book about demons or zombies, say, but one that’s had some success in this area would definitely be more open to it. As for things to be aware of, run a mile if any agent or publisher asks you for money to look at or publish your book. They should be paying you, not the other way around.

Bobby Nash: What does the traditional publisher offer? If you like what they can do for your book, then go for it. Do they help with promotion? Do they offer an advance? What is their distribution platform like? Where are their books sold? Ask questions and research before signing. Reach out to other authors they publish and ask questions. Never pay to be published though. That’s not traditional publishing.

Robbie Cheadle: I am very careful of the publishing contract. I do not want my characters and ideas becoming the property of the publishing house and my stories continuing to be written by another writer if I die. I retain the rights to my characters in my publishing contracts.

Nancy Oswald: For me, I was lucky to find a small publisher who liked what I wrote. So, I’d say look for a good match. Do your homework in terms of other books the publisher puts out. When I started out, I targeted only big companies with a name, but have since learned that there are lots of small and mid-press companies that can be rewarding to publish with. With that said, trust is a huge issue. I entered into one joint publishing enterprise with my small press publisher, but that is only because we had similar goals and years of trust built up before we agreed to do this. There’s never a crystal ball, and I was lucky. Besides researching the publishers and their lists, you might consider locating and reaching out to some of the authors a certain publisher has worked with and ask them about the publishing experience they’ve had with company X. I have a friend who publishes with X Libris which some experts say you should NEVER do. But she has had a great experience, now has 6-8 books out and is completely happy. Find the publishing match that fits your goals and project.

Mark Leslie Lefebvre: First and foremost, if it’s a proper traditional publisher, the money should always flow TO the author from the publisher, and NEVER, EVER, from the author to the publisher. No exceptions. If there’s any money paid to a publisher, they’re not a real publisher, no matter how much they protest or wave their arms around and explain some asinine and convoluted reasons for it. End of story.

Anyone can hang up a shingle and call themselves a publisher, but if they do not have “old school” traditional publishing supply chain distribution through bookstores where there’s a very likely chance and easy availability for the book to be stocked in a bookstore, they’re typically not offering you any better chance of having a book in stock in a bookstore than you can do on your own. (Yes, they might pay for editing, design, etc, but the “in store” distribution is a MAJOR hurdle).

Also be aware of signing over the rights to formats that the publisher is not actually using. IE, if they want audio rights but don’t publish audiobooks, don’t sign away your audio rights. You can earn more selling them to someone who does.

Any publishing advice for new authors?

Paul Kane: Just to hang in there, and never give up. It can be a hard business with ups and downs, so you need a thick skin and you need staying power. It’ll happen for you eventually if you’re good enough and just keep going. Also, don’t take rejections personally; it’s all subjective and what one editor hates another might love. Just look at some of the big releases that have been rejected so many times before being given a chance.

Bobby Nash: Have fun and enjoy the experience. Yes, writing is my job and there are days it’s a tough job, but t’s still a job I love. That’s what keeps me going.

Nancy Oswald: Just start, and don’t be afraid to make mistakes along the way. Do your homework if traditional publishing is what you want to do. Go to conferences and take advantage of one-on-one interviews with publishers and agents. When a book is returned, even if it’s a form letter without comments, sit down and re-write your book all the way through. You’ll be surprised at how those re-writes will improve your writing.

Mark Leslie Lefebvre: Patience, Practice, and Persistence are three of the main traits needed for a long-term publishing career. Also, you’ll never stop learning and there is no magic bullet for any of the hard work that is required to be successful. So, stop wasting your time looking for one.

Publishing, regardless of whether or not you choose traditional publishing or self-publishing/indie publishing (or, ideally, some combination of both), takes a lot of work, a lot of constant learning and re-learning, and dedication to continuing to work at it even when nothing seems to be working or all the cards are stacked against you.

To get through those times, which will happen to every single writer as the markets continue to shift and change and bend and flow, you need to believe in yourself and never give up on the dream and desire. And, ideally, if you get intrinsic pleasure in the act of actual writing itself, that could be enough to sustain you through the process during those “dry” periods.

What are the advantages of creating your own publishing imprint? Do you recommend it? Why or why not?

Bobby Nash: I started BEN Books to get some of my older, out of print works back into print. Eventually, I realized that I could launch projects there that I might not be able to pitch to a traditional publisher. When I started writing crime novels, I was known for doing comics, sci-fi, horror. It was a hard sell to convince publishers I could write a crime thriller. BEN Books became a way to get those stories told. Now, I’m more known for the crime thrillers. Go figure.

Nancy Oswald: The jury’s out for me on this. I just recently created an imprint and registered it with the state of Colorado. I have no idea what I’m doing, and it’s weird for me to associate with and imprint and not myself as an author which I’ve done most of my years publishing with a small press.

Do you use crowd sourcing or subscription services to fund your publishing endeavors?

Paul Kane: A couple of things I wrote have had Kickstarters, but they’ve been a short film and a comic and the people behind bringing them to life have handled the campaigns. All seemed to go well, though, so I can’t complain.

Bobby Nash: I haven’t crowdsourced any novels yet, but I’m considering it for a box set next year. I’m still working out the logistics. I do have a Patreon page ( www.patreon.com/bobbynash ) that works like a subscription service.

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That’s all for this week’s “Ask the Authors” blog segment. Thank you all for hanging with us. Next Saturday we’ll be wrapping up this Saturday series with an introduction to YA and middle grade author, L. Jagi Lamplighter, whose anthology contribution discusses “The Trouble with Troupes”, and a Q & A session on the most formidable of subjects, book marketing.

This must have writing reference is available through Barnes & Nobel, Rahkatan Kobo, the Apple Store, Amazon, Scribd and many more. As the “Ask the Authors 2022” blog series is drawing to a close, be sure to get your copy of Ask the Authors 2022 at the special send-off price of $3.99 for the digital edition, from your favorite book distributor through the Books2Read UBL: https://books2read.com/u/3LnK8e

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Join Kaye Lynne Booth & WordCrafter Press Readers’ Group for WordCrafter Press book & event news, including the awesome releases of author Kaye Lynne Booth. Get a free digital copy of her short story collection, Last Call and Other Short Fiction, as a sampling of her works just for joining.


Day 5 of the WordCrafter “Will Write for Wine” & “Stories I Stole From Lord Byron’s Bastard” Book Blog Tour

Will Write for Wine & Stories I Stole From Lord Byron’s Bastard Book Blog Tour

Day 5 of the WordCrafter Will Write for Wine & Stories I Stole From Lord Byron’s Bastard Book Blog Tour finds us over at Zigler’s News with another wonderful guest post from author Sara W. McBride and a review of her short story collection by Victoria Zigler. Join us to learn more about this author and her delightful books.

https://ziglernews.blogspot.com/2022/07/wordcrafters-book-blog-tour-for-will.html


WordCrafter “Will Write For Wine” & “Stories I Stole From Lord Byron’s Bastard” Book Blog Tour Day 4

Will Write for Wine & Stories I Stole From Lord Byron’s Bastard Book Blog Tour

Stories I Stole from Lord Byron’s Bastard is a collection inspired by Venetian history. The fictional character, Alexis Lynn, wrote these stories in the novel Will Write for Wine by Sara W. McBride, but they are fun stand-alone adventures to be enjoyed with an excellent glass of Italian wine.

https://www.puckpublishing.com

Today’s tour stop comes with a fun interview with author Sara W. McBride in addition to her guest post. So kick back a while and enjoy the tidbits offered here as you learn more about Sara and her wonderful books.

Introduction

Sara W. McBride, like many modern-day biological researchers, invents new swear words to sling at million-dollar machines while locked in a dark hole of a decaying academic hall. This has caused her to witness ghosts and create a romantic fantasy life within her head, which she now puts down on very non-technological paper with her favorite Jane Austen style quill pen. 

Her first novel in the Alexis Lynn series, Will Write for Wine, and the companion short story collection, Stories I Stole from Lord Byron’s Bastard, both set in Venice, Italy, were recently released by Puck Publishing. She’s hard at work on the second Alexis Lynn novel, a Regency mystery series, and a haunted play. She strongly feels the world needs more haunted plays.   

https://www.puckpublishing.com

Give-Away!

Don’t forget the awesome giveaway Sara is running on this tour, with a digital copy of each book up for grabs. You can enter the give-away for a chance to win at the link below:

http://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/display/d9280cae1/?

Image of Lazzaretto Vecchio
Credit: Wikipedia, Lazzaretto Vecchio Island, Plague Hospital

Interview with author Sara W. McBride

Why do you write?

Sara: To be immortal! Just kidding. It’s my fabulous mental escape into worlds and lives that I wish I could live.

Please tell us a bit about your publishing journey?

Sara: In 2014, I organized, edited, and published the first two NaNoWriMo Los Angeles anthologies. Then I helped with the next three. The group is still producing an annual anthology. It was a great way to learn the logistics of self-publishing and how to shape short stories. This year, my husband and I launched Puck Publishing, and we’re hoping to publish something every month. 

Over the past twenty years, I’ve written fourteen bad novels that I’m glad I never published. LOL!

What made you decide to self-publish?

Sara: In the late 1990s, I was an assistant to a Hollywood book agent and I learned the ins and outs of traditional publishing and movie book deals. The agents and publishers were so parasitic on the author, it gave me the willies. In those days, traditional publishing paid high advances, but the treatment of the authors still put a bad taste in my mouth.

Today, they rarely pay above a $10,000 advance to a new author, they expect the author to do all the marketing, and then the publisher keeps the copyright and sells it off whenever they like, to whomever they like, and the book goes out of print. 

I’ve seen too many friends get screwed by traditional publishing.

Will Write for Wine takes place in the artistic and romantic setting of Venice. Have you explored the physical locations for your books in the flesh, in order to get the details right when writing about these locations? Have you been there? Have you lived there? Why did you choose this setting?

Sara: I’ve had five research trips to Venice, totaling about five weeks. I’ve been in almost every church and museum of Venice, and a few places I probably wasn’t supposed to enter. I apparently don’t understand the meaning of yellow caution tape or closed doors.

Most of the Venice locations in the book are real places, but Manu’s osteria is fictional. However, I stole menu items from many of my favorite osterias in Venice.

I think Venice is one of the most magical and haunted cities in the world. Many people describe it as a floating museum; the entire city is trapped in the Renaissance. But if you simply sit still, sip a glass of wine in a campo or piazza, listen to the opera singers, and watch the people and pigeons, there’s a vibe that sinks into you. Every part of the city is simultaneously dead and alive. It is that barrier, that thin line between life and death that pervades every stone, stench, and serenade of Venice. Delicious!  

Stories I Stole From Lord Byron’s Bastard involves Venetian history. What is the fasciation of this area for you?

Sara: I’m a history nerd! Venice is one of those cities that drips with history, but not just through architecture and museums, through the people, the food, the many generations that still live in the same house, the ghosts that are accepted as common place, and the street signs. Ponte del Diavolo, the Devil’s Bridge is bound to inspire a story in anyone. Gheto Novo, or the New Ghetto, caused me to question the history of the Jewish community within Venice.

It’s difficult for me to walk from one piazza to another in Venice without my mind percolating a story based purely on the sights, sounds, and smells. And I love the smells of Venice. Both the good and the bad. Only Venice can induce an entire story purely through its smells. I’ve learned to navigate the labyrinth of Venice by sniffing the air. How is that not a story!

Is there anything unique or unusual about your writing process?

Sara: I don’t know the end until I get there. I just write into a dark void and somehow it all works out. It keeps the process magical and fun. I used to outline, but I always got bored with the book before I finished it. Outlining turned writing into work. Ick! Writing needs to be fun for both the writer and the reader. 

Is your writing process plot driven or character driven?

Sara: Character driven! Definitely.

Do you write with music, or do you prefer quiet?

Sara: Quiet! Or the hubbub of a coffee house crowd, hotel lobby, airplane terminal.

Atmosphere is important. What do you do to get into the writing zone?

Sara: There’s a zone? How do I find that? I want a writing zone. I just go about my day and jot down paragraphs, dialogue, and then type them in when I’m next at my computer.

How much of the story do you know before the actual writing begins?

Sara: NONE! Okay, maybe the opening scene. But usually not even that. Just a character in a place, who is feeling something.

Wine plays a big role in your character, Alexis Lynn’s life. What is the attraction?

Sara: I love wine! I also love beer, whisky (Scottish spelling), Compari cocktails, and most dishes cooked with truffles. However, to preserve my liver, I typically only drink once-a-week, so it’s a big event for me. I cherish my weekly glass of wine and how it complements my meal. Alexis drinks way more than I do. Fictional wine can’t damage a fictional liver.

Are you a wine connoisseur? What is your favorite wine?

Sara: I love wine! I once dreamed of becoming a wine sommelier. Isn’t my favorite wine obvious? Soave! Like Alexis Lynn, I also discovered Soave on my first trip to Venice. It’s been a favorite ever since, but difficult to find in America. Hence, more motivation to travel!

What’s something most readers would never guess about you?

Sara: My husband and I got engaged four days after we met. Unlike Alexis Lynn and her marital troubles, my husband and I have had a relatively easy, adventurous, crazy, happy and supportive marriage. This summer, we’re celebrating out twenty-five year anniversary. But I don’t know how we’re celebrating. Any suggestions?

You’ve got a scientific background, like your character. How much of Alexis Lynn is you?

Sara: Um … She’s totally me! Are authors allowed to confess that?

What time of day do you prefer to do your writing? Why?

Sara: Morning, if given a choice. But it happens all day.

What’s the hardest part of the story for you to write: beginning, middle or end?

Sara: I write chapters as if they are short stories, and then I arrange them into a book when I think I’ve developed something that has a beginning, middle or end. Is that weird? I don’t write chronologically. And I have chapters/stories that didn’t make it into this book that will be in the next one.

Alexis Lynn has a conversation and wine tasting with Casanova. Would you like to talk a bit about the inspiration for that scene?

Sara: I was enjoying my weekly glass of wine while reading the memoirs of Casanova and thought, “Man, this guy would give horrible marriage advice!” Then I grabbed my computer.

Besides Casanova, which author, poet or artist, dead or alive, would you love to have lunch with?

Sara: Lord Byron, or course! He’s bloomin’ brilliant, but people only remember him as a seducer. Sure, he seduced a few women, usually married ones, and has some famous bastards; the famous mathematician, Lady Lovelace, is one of his illegitimate children. But he also wrote the first English-Armenian dictionary, and was a very, charming, intelligent debater. His letters are filled with wisdom and humor. In an incredibly elegant manner, almost complimentary, he was able to inform someone of their idiocy. I would love to have lunch with Lord Byron, even if he spent an hour politely insulting me.

Besides writing, what are your favorite things to do?

Sara: Travel! I also love hiking, playing board games, reading every genre, watching cheesy Hallmark Christmas movies in the middle of summer, and learning Italian so I can one day move to Venice.

What is the biggest challenge of being a writer?

Sara: Pulling together a bunch of short stories into a cohesive novel and then figuring out what scenes are missing.

It was funny with Will Write for Wine, my husband included a little gondola and gondolier on the cover, and I suddenly realized that I didn’t have any gondola scenes in the book. Both the gondola scenes were the last scenes I wrote.

If writing suddenly made you rich and famous, what would you do?

Sara: Move to Venice and write more!

What’s the most fun part of writing a novel or short story/screenplay? What’s the least fun part?

Sara: Most fun? Dialogue! I’m originally a playwright, so I love dialogue. 

Least fun? Killing a character I like. Killing a nasty character is delightful, but killing a kind character, or a character I’ve spent years with, is heart-wrenching.

How much non-writing work, (research, marketing & promotion, illustrations & book covers, etc…), do you do yourself for your books?

Sara: I do everything myself, but my husband does the cover art and most of the website maintenance. We have fun working together.

If your book was made into a film, who would you like to play Alexis Lynn?

Sara: Oh! Juicy question. Reese Witherspoon. Yep, definitely Reese Witherspoon. Mid-40s, cute, and like Alexis, she exudes positivity even when her world is falling apart.

What goals do you set for yourself in your writing?

Sara: Don’t plan ahead. If I don’t know what’s going to happen, neither does the reader. This is really funny because I’m writing a murder-mystery right now and halfway through the book, my murderer, who I didn’t know was the murderer, just totally confessed to the murder. So, um, geez, I guess that book is going to be a different style of murder mystery. LOL! So, I guess my goal in writing is to always be surprised.

Stories I Stole From Lord Byron’s Bastard

Buy Link: https://www.amazon.com/Stories-Stole-Lord-Byrons-Bastard-ebook/dp/B0B27TS5GL

As you can see, Sara is an author who loves what she does ad is pretty comfortable in her own skin. Now, let’s hear about her inspiration for the fourth story in Stories I Stole From Lord Byron’s Bastard, “Lazzaretto Vecchio: A Dowry for Saffron”.

Guest Post by Author Sara W. McBride

Inspiration for “A Dowry for Saffron”

What inspired the story, “Lazzaretto Veccchio: A Dowry for Saffron?”

“Sia laudato il signor Iddio non ci sono stati morti.”

Bless the Lord, there have been no deaths [today].

December 24, 1630, in Sant’Eufemia, Venice.

* * *

This quote is from the opening of a Nature paper, “A digital reconstruction of the 1630-1631 large plague outbreak in Venice,” by Gianrocco Lazzari, et al. Published Oct. 20, 2020.

* * *

I’ve always been fascinated by the European plagues, but when I read the above Nature paper, the effects of the 1630-31 plague on Venice consumed my mornings for several weeks. This especially seemed relevant while living through a new global pandemic, thankfully with much lower mortality rates.

In 1348-49, bubonic plague killed one-third of the European population, up to 25 million people, and Venice, as a crossroads for international trade, lost half its residents. Imagine living in a bustling city of 100,000 people, and half of them die within 18 months. It would be horrifying and haunting.

In response to the devastating plague of 1348-49, Lazzaretto Vecchio was established in 1423 as the first quarantine island in the Mediterranean region, and was used to separate the healthy from the sick during Venetian plagues. Lazzaretto Nuovo was established shortly afterward as a place where ships suspected to carry sickness among their passengers or crew were anchored for 40 days. English acquired the word “quarantine” from the Italian term for 40 days, quaranta giorni. The lagoon island of Poveglia also became a quarantine outpost sometime in the 15th century. It’s rumored that half the soil of Poveglia is human ash from burned plague corpses. Then it became a mental hospital from 1922-1968. No wonder the place is one of the most haunted locations in Europe.

Considering the 15th century world had no idea how disease was spread, the idea of quarantining the sick or foreigners arriving from plague stricken areas was very innovative.

The story, “Lazzeretto Vecchio: A Dowry for Saffron,” takes place during Venice’s plague of 1630-31, which killed a third of the city’s population. Both plague islands were used to isolate and treat the sick, however, caregivers were needed to work at the island hospitals, mostly because, I assume, workers kept dying of plague. 

The Italian city of Ferrara had a long history of successfully avoiding plagues that ravaged other parts of Italy. They closed their city gates and screened all arrivals for any signs of disease. They insisted that Fedi, proofs, identification papers from a plague-free zone must be presented. Ferrara, starting as early as medieval times, engaged in public sanitation campaigns, sweeping away garbage and liberally spreading lime powder on any surface that had come into contact with an infected person.

When an Italian physician, Girolamo Fracastoro, published a text in 1546 describing the “seeds of disease” as something that could stick to clothes and objects, Ferrara increased their sanitation practices during plagues and burned the clothes of any infected people. Removing garbage, spreading lime powder and burning infected clothing probably reduced the flea pestilence that actually carried Yersinia pestis, the bacterium that causes plague.

Many natural remedies were prescribed for protection against the plague, but a medicinal oil designed by a Spanish physician, Pedro Castagno, was written into Ferrara’s, “Reggimento contra la peste,” regimen against the plague. The oil, called Composito, was recommended to be applied to the body.

“Before getting up in the morning, after lighting a fire of scented woods (juniper, laurel and vine shoots), warm the clothes and above all the shirt, rub first the heart region, near the fire to ease balm absorption, then the throat. [Afterwards], wash hands and face with acqua chiara (clean water) mixed with wine or vinegar of roses, with which sometimes all the body should be cleaned, using a sponge.”

Ferrara city’s regimen against the plague

The contents of Composito was never fully disclosed, but researchers examined the records of materials ordered by Castagno and determined that the oil contained venom from scorpions and vipers, and myrrh and Crocus sativus, which is a saffron flower from which the filaments produce the golden spice saffron. Both myrrh and saffron are known to have antibacterial properties, as does scorpion venom with the bonus that it’s also a pain reliever. So basically, Composito was an early antibiotic and pain reliever combo. Pretty nifty!

According to census records, Venice’s population was around 140,000 in 1624. By 1633, that number had fallen to 102,000. More than 43,000 deaths were recorded over just three years, with nearly half of them taking place between September and December 1630. The city of Venice began several public works projects, like the grand Baroque church, Santa Maria della Salute, greeting guests at the entrance to the Grand Canal. The church’s construction began in November 1630 with the goal of keeping citizens employed and maintaining art and labor skills.

The city of Venice also purchased food for the quarantined, both in the city and on the plague islands. It is logical to speculate that in the early months of 1631, Venice might have asked Ferrara, a city with success at conquering the plague, if their convents could be paid in order to encourage volunteers to work at the plague islands. My story is fictitious, but the stage was set for the events I describe in the story. I also talked about pirates in the story. Yes, there were pirates at this time: mercenary pirates and government deployed pirates (particularly from England).

My story focuses on a group of nuns who have been “volunteered” by their convents, and how they sacrifice one nun into a marriage in order to secure their much needed ingredient of saffron for Composito, their only hope for survival on the plague islands. The politics and finances of Venice in 1631 created a world where this story could have happened. There’s a lot of history not recorded in text books, and this is a story that no one would want recorded. 

Something fun for readers:

In my research of the plague islands, I was surprised by the lack of ghost ship stories haunting the Venetian lagoon. If you know of any, please write me at sara@puckpublishing.com. If you’ve ever visited the eerie lagoon island, Poveglia, the plague island, turned insane asylum, turned old-folks home, which now stands empty—less the chilling screams on foggy nights—I want to hear about it.

Will Write for Wine

Buy Link: https://www.amazon.com/Will-Write-Wine-Alexis-Novel-ebook/dp/B09XVM6Y38

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Welcome to the WordCrafter “Will Write for Wine” & “Stories I Stole From Lord Byron’s Bastard” Book Blog Tour

Will Write for Wine & Stories I Stole From Lord Byron’s Bastard Book Blog Tour

Stories I Stole from Lord Byron’s Bastard is a collection inspired by Venetian history. The fictional character, Alexis Lynn, wrote these stories in the novel Will Write for Wine by Sara W. McBride, but they are fun stand-alone adventures to be enjoyed with an excellent glass of Italian wine.

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Welcome to the WordCrafter Will Write for Wine & Stories I Stole From Lord Byron’s Bastard Book Blog Tour. This is going to be a fun tour because we have two fabulous books to celebrate by a wonderful new author Sara W. McBride. Will Write for Wine is her debut novel about a writer, Alexis Lynn, and her funny and romantic escapades when she moves to Venice to start a new life. Stories I Stole From Lord Byron’s Bastard is the recently released short story collection and companion to the novel. Her fiction is well researched and presented with a witty flare which I find refreshing and I think you will too. I hope you’ll follow the tour and join us at each blog stop. You’ll find the schedule and links below.

Blog Tour Schedule

Monday, June 27 – Opening Day Post – Writing to be Read – Guest Post: Inspiration for the Devil’s Bridge” & Review of Stories I Stole From Lord Byron’s Bastard

Tuesday, June 28 – Showers of Blessings – Guest Post: Inspiration for “Stealing Georgione’s Mistress”

Wednesday June 29 – Carla Loves to Read – Guest Post: Inspiration for “The Masked Kiss”

Thursday, June 30 – Writing to be Read – Guest Post: Inspiration for “A Dowry for Safron” & Interview with Sara W. McBride

Friday, July 1 – Zigler’s News – Guest Post: Inspiration for “The Pregnant Man” & Review of Stories I Stole From Lord Byron’s Bastard

Saturday, July 2 – Annette Rochelle Aben – Guest Post: Inspiration for “The Haunted Palazzo”

Sunday, July 3 – Roberta Writes – Guest Post: Inspiration for “The Secret Vault”

Monday, July 4 – Wrap-Up Post – Writing to be Read – Guest Post: Inspiration for Will Write for Wine & Review of Will Write for Wine

Give-Away

In addidtion, to the awesome guests posts, interview, and reviews at each tour stop, Sara is offerin a chance to win a digital copy of each book, Will Write For Wine & Stories I Stole From Lord Byron’s Bastard. Leave a comment and click on the link below to enter for a chance to win:

http://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/display/d9280cae1/?

Introduction

I must begin by giving kudos to Sara W. McBride for the clever way that she has braided these seven short stories in this collection in with her debut novel, (and I’m told that she is currently working on a companion wine tasting journal). While both of these books stand alone easily, they really should be consumed together. In the novel, Will Write for Wine, we see the story of how Alexis Lynn comes to write these stories, but we don’t get to actually see the stories. For that, you must read Stories I Stole From Lord Byron’s Bastard, which offers not only the stories, but the true inspiration behind them. After reading her delightful novel, and seeing Alexis’ digging up the background for the stories and seeing Manu’s reaction to reading them, one can’t help but be curious about the actual stories and want to read the collection. It’s brilliant!

Now let me turn things over to the author, Sara W. McBride, so she can share her inspiration for the story.

Ponte Del Diavlo – The Devil’s Bridge

https://www.puckpublishing.com

Inspiration for “Devil’s Bridge”

Guest Post by author Sara W. McBride

What inspired the story, “The Devil’s Bridge?”

The moment I saw the sign “Ponte del Diavolo,” I knew I had to write a story. At the edge of the bridge sits Palazzo Priuli, home to several Doge Priulis and is now an elegant hotel (www.hotelpriuli.com) in the Castello area of Venice. I had already been researching the tragic death of Antonio Foscarini, and then I discovered that the doge—Basically the president of Venice—who had him executed lived in the palazzo at the edge of Devil’s Bridge. It’s not often that history simply hands me a story, but there it was, burning bright in the Lancet windows of a 14th century palazzo. Here’s the real history behind the Devil-possessed Doge Priuli and his most famous victim:

Antonio Foscarini, executed on April 22, 1622, was a Venetian ambassador to London (1611-1615) and is rumored to have had an affair with King James’ Queen, Anne of Denmark. He returned to Venice during a “Spy War” with Spain and was suspected of betraying Venetian secrets to Spanish officials. Someone who knew about his affair with the Queen of England might have seeded this rumor. Upon his arrival in Venice in December 1615, he was arrested and held prisoner for three years under Doge Bembo, who uncovered the Bedmar plot which would have permitted Spanish mercenaries to march on Venice. In the midst of the crisis, Bembo died—or was possibly assassinated by the Spanish—and Doge Nicolo Donato reigned for a mere 35 days before he died. I believe he was assassinated by the Spanish, but have found no clear evidence for such a claim.

I’m considering writing a novel on the Venice/Spain Spy War of 1615-1622 because it’s super fascinating and an interesting statement on what fear does to a governing body.

Antonio Priuli (1548-1623) was elected doge in 1618 and released Foscarini in order to monitor him and his activities. Priuli was a brutal doge who arrested hundreds of innocent Venetians suspected of plotting against Venice. Was he possessed by the devil? Probably not, but how Devil’s Bridge earned its name is a mystery, so I took license and speculated that the devil enjoyed his residence at the bridge’s end.

On April 8, 1622, Foscarini, then a Senator of Venice, was arrested and accused by the Council of Ten—basically the governing body of Venice, particularly over state security matters—of meeting with ministers of foreign powers and communicating the most intimate secrets of the Venetian Republic. The evidence was weak and Foscarini denied all charges, yet he was still condemned to a public execution for high treason. Why? The answer will never be known, so I had fun speculating that perhaps a guest of his, under her own volition or persuaded by a demonically possessed doge, provided false evidence to seal his fate.

By the end of 1622, Doge Priuli showed signs of illness. In January, 1623, the same Council of Ten revoked Foscarini’s guilty verdict—Whoops, they were wrong—and reinstated the family’s honor with a posthumous exoneration. His bust and tomb can be found in the Church of San Stae in Venice. There’s more on Foscarini’s final resting place in “The Masked Kiss,” another story in this collection.

Doge Antonio Priuli died on August 12, 1623, but oddly, I am unable to locate his tomb. It’s usually pretty easy to find a doge’s tomb. I would have thought him to be buried in Santi Giovanni e Paolo (aka San Zanipolo), which houses tombs of 25 doges, but I haven’t found him there. The art and sculpture in this basilica-sized ediface is amazing! This behemoth church manages to hide on the North side of the Castello and is off the beaten tourist path, but you should definitely seek it out.

Two other Priuli doges, brothers Girolamo Priuli, 1486-1567, and Lorenzo Priuli, 1489-1559, are buried in San Salvador, but apparently there was no space remaining for their Priuli descendent, or perhaps the family just didn’t like Antonio.

Another source claims that the spy-hunting doge is buried alongside Marco Polo in the Church of San Lorenzo in the Castello district, but San Lorenzo has been closed for over a hundred years, only recently reopened, and I have not seen or read any evidence of the doge’s tomb being contained within. They couldn’t find Marco Polo either.

If you find the tomb of Venice’s 94th Doge, Antonio Priuli, please write to me at sara@puckpublishing.com. Otherwise, I’ll just have to assume he’s buried in the depths of the canal under Ponte del Diavolo.

Stories I Stole From Lord Byron’s Bastard

Buy Link: https://www.amazon.com/Stories-Stole-Lord-Byrons-Bastard-ebook/dp/B0B27TS5GL

My Review

Stories I Stole From Lord Byron’s Bastard

Stories I Stole From Lord Byron’s Bastard is a short story collection by Sara W. McBride which will tickle your sense of adventure and discovery, and perhaps, your funny bone. A companion to her debut novel, Will Write for Wine, these stories bring Venetian history to life with a personal touch of humor, adding in the missing details which historical archives and family histories only elude to. Each story is accompanied with the history and inspiration behind it, and it’s fun to see how McBride crafted in characters to transform legend to story.

Included are tales of an unsuspecting hero who gets the girl, in “The Masked Kiss”; an apprentice who betrays his master in the name of love in “Stealing Giorgione’s Mistress”; a bridge occupied by a demon, in “The Devil’s Bridge”; a nun who chooses life on a plague island over marriage in “Lazzaretto Vecchio: A Dowry for Saffron”; a smuggling operation gone awry in “The Secret Vault”; and a delightful tale of a young artist forced to masquerade as a male in order to ply her trade in “A Gentleman’s Portrait by a Pregnant Man”. But, I’d have to say my favorite story in this collection is “The Haunted Palazzo”, because I’ve always been a sucker for a good ghost story, and the mysterious specter and wet windowsill are certainly prime food for ghostly fodder.

Stories I Stole From Lord Byron’s Bastard is a collection of short historically inspired stories which are light and entertaining reads. Fun and enjoyable. I give it five quills.

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Ask the Authors 2022 contributor Kevin Killiany shares more writing expertise on Authorsphere with Dan Alatorre

Ask the Authors 2022

Hey! One of the contributing authors for Ask the Authors 2022, Kevin Killiany is sharing his expertise and discussing writing life with Dan Alatorre on the Authorsphere podcast. They even talk about me. Drop by and give a listen. You might learn something. I did.


Ask the Authors 2022 Book & Blog Series: Editing & Revision

Ask the Authors 2022

Hello and welcome back to Segment 8 of the “Ask the Authors 2022” blog series. This week brings an introduction to speculative fiction and horror author, Jeff Bowles, who shares a his thoughts on editing in the anthology, “Contrary to Popular Editing Beliefs”, & a Q & A session on editing and revision.

If you missed any of the previous segments, you can find them here:

Segment 1: Introductions to Kaye Lynne Booth & Kevin Killiany/Writing Life Q & A session.

Segment 2: Introduction to Bobby Nash/Pre-Writing Rituals Q & A session.

Segment 3: Introduction for Roberta Eaton Cheadle/Plot & Storyline Q & A session.

Segment 4: Introduction for Paul Kane/Character Development Q & A.

Segment 5: Introduction for Mario Acevedo/Action, Pacing and Dialog Q & A.

Segment 6: Introduction to Nancy Oswald/Tone: Voice, Person, Tense and POV Q & A.

Segment 7: Introduction for Chris Barili/Setting & World Building Q & A.

And now let’s move right into this week’s segment.

Meet Jeff Bowles

Jeff Bowles is a science fiction and horror writer from the mountains of Colorado. The best of his outrageous and imaginative short stories are collected in Godling and Other Paint StoriesFear and Loathing in Las Cruces, and Brave New Multiverse. He has published work in magazines and anthologies like PodCastle, Tales from the Canyons of the Damned, the Threepenny Review, Dark Moon Digest, Whispers of the Past, and Spirits of the West. His story, “A Peaceful Life I’ve Never Known” was the winning story in the 2019 WordCrafter Short Fiction Contest.

Jeff earned his Master of Fine Arts degree in creative writing at Western State Colorado University. He currently lives in the high-altitude Pikes Peak region, where he dreams strange dreams and spends far too much time under the stars. Jeff also has two novels published, God’s Body: Book One – The Fall, and Love/Madness/Demon.

On to the Q & A.

Editing and Revision

How do you feel about the editing process? Love it or loathe it?

Mario Acevedo: The editing process is what turns the rough clay into art. The second draft is when your story begins to shine.

Paul Kane: I really enjoy the editing process. I don’t find it half as much work as getting the words down in the first place. I know for a lot of people it’s the other way around, but I like having written, when I’ve got the chunk of words down and I’m going through, refining it, making it better with each edit or pass. It’s like a sculptor with a lump of stone, each time you chisel some of that away the sculpture starts to take shape. The more you work on it, the better the shape becomes. I like having that lump of stone to work with, I’m just not that mad on getting the stone and carrying it to the studio or workshop in the first place, if you see what I mean. 

Bobby Nash: Editing is part of the job. A novel gets multiple edit passes. I do a self-edit while writing it, usually going over yesterday’s work before starting on today’s writing. Then, I give it another edit after I’m finished. Once I’m satisfied, it goes to the editor then back to me for adjustments, changes, discussions. There may be two edit passes here. Finally, there’s the galley edit, which is my chance to look the story over in the form it will be printed to make sure it looks good.

Robbie Cheadle: I enjoy editing and I find it easier than the initial writing process. Re-writing and amending to create a better story is rewarding and satisfying for me. I edit as I go along and at the end of each chapter. If something changes in the story that effects what I have already written, I go back and update it. I cannot leave a change undone and just move on like some writers do. It bothers me too much.

Nancy Oswald: I look at it as an opportunity to make your book better, but there are times I’ve loved it and other times, not so much.

What roles do alpha and beta readers, critique partners, proofreaders and professional editors play in your editing and revision process?

Mario Acevedo: All are necessary and have helped improve my stories. My critique partners are my beta readers.

Paul Kane: I don’t really use alpha or beta readers. It works for some people, but not for me. I find if I get too much feedback, especially if it’s conflicting, it just confuses me more than it helps. I prefer to trust my own judgment initially, or – if she has time – my wife Marie has a read before it goes off somewhere. The editor you’re working with, especially if it’s a bigger publisher, will have things they want you to change or cut or whatever, which is absolutely fine. That’s the process for me, and part of the job. I just prefer to not let anyone see it before then. I think maybe it’s bad luck or something, as I am quite superstitious.

Bobby Nash: I have used beta readers, but not often. I do have a small group of patrons that get stories early. Some offer feedback. I work with editors, proofreaders, and others to get the books as close to perfect as I can make them.

Robbie Cheadle: I am part of an   on-line writing group which meets for 2 hours every second week. We all read excerpts from our stories and give each other advice and feedback. One of the members of this group, beta reads each chapter of my novels as I go along and gives me constructive criticism and feedback.

Once the book is complete and I’ve edited it to my satisfaction, I send it to my developmental editor who provides feedback on structure, plot holes, loose threads, unnatural dialogue, and other important elements of my writing and story.

Once I’ve updated the novel for her comments, I send it back to her for a final read and make any last changes.

I then send it to a proofreader who helps pick up spelling and punctuation errors which I correct before sending the book to my publisher who does a final read and edit.

How do you handle your editing: hire professional editors? Trade-off with other authors? Critique partners? Beta-readers? Self-edit? Have a publisher that handles those things?

Paul Kane: I self-edit until it’s time to send it off to my actual editor at whatever publisher I might be working with at the time. If she has time, Marie has a look through and does a pass, but more often than not it’s me who goes through and does the drafts. Then it might go through several more once the editor has come back to me with notes, then finally the proofing and final editing stages.

Bobby Nash: I have editors I work with on my creator-owned projects. For books I do for other publishers, they provide the editor I will work with on the book. Before it gets to them though, I have done a self-edit pass or two.

Nancy Oswald: All of the above at different times, but bottom line, I like to be involved in all phases.

What do you look for in an editor?

Paul Kane: As I say, I don’t send it to an editor I pay or anything. It goes to the editor at the publishers, and you don’t get a choice in that, seeing as their company is paying you for the story or book. Having said that, I’m very lucky to have worked with some of the best editors in the business and there’s been nothing that’s really had me tearing my hair out. So, I guess what I’m looking for with an editor is someone who’s easy to work with, and we can go back and forth on changes or edits that will hopefully make the whole thing better in the long run.

Bobby Nash: Editing is more than catching typos and grammar errors. A good editor asks questions about story, points out inconsistencies, and offers advice and solutions. It’s a partnership. The writer and editor have the same goal. We both want to put out the best book we can.

Robbie Cheadle: In a developmental editor, I looked for someone who could help me resolve issues with my story without changing my voice and writing style. I found a ‘good fit’ editor a few years ago when I was writing Through the Nethergate and used the same lady to assist me with A Ghost and His Gold. While the Bombs Fell was developmentally edited by a different person. I was very happy with her feedback, but she was not available to help me with my most recent two books.

Nancy Oswald: Editors need to “get” the book. They need to be attentive to details, but not insert themselves into the MS to the extent of it sounding different.

Have you ever received an edit where it was obvious the editor didn’t get what you were trying to do? How did you handle that?

Paul Kane: I’ve had edits where I’ve felt the need to explain certain things, or argue my case about a specific point, but that’s only really been a small part of the overall edit. I’ve never had an editor do a complete hatchet job on one of my books, and for that I’m truly grateful.

Bobby Nash: It happens. Did I not explain it well? If so, then a rewrite needs to happen. The writer and editor talk. You discuss and work it out. As I mentioned above, the editor and writer are partners. The editor is not my enemy. We both want the book to be the best it can be.

Robbie Cheadle: This has not happened to me. Both developmental editors I have worked with have helped me tremendously and so does my beta reader. I am very open to suggestions and comments to help me improve my writing and stories.

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That wraps up this week’s “Ask the Authors 2022” blog series. Be sure and drop by next Saturday, when we introduce author and industry expert Mark Leslie Lefebvre and share a Q & A session on Publishing. You won’t want to miss all the useful information in that one. See you there.

Ask the Authors 2022

But first, just take a minute to grab your copy of this writing reference anthology which no author should be without from your favorite book distributor at the special send-off price of $3.99, using the Books2Read UBL: https://books2read.com/u/3LnK8e

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Join Kaye Lynne Booth & WordCrafter Press Readers’ Group for WordCrafter Press book & event news, including the awesome releases of author Kaye Lynne Booth. Get a free digital copy of her short story collection, Last Call and Other Short Fiction, as a sampling of her works just for joining.


Once Upon an Ever After available for Digital Pre-Order Now

Once Upon an Ever After

I am pleased to announce that the first WordCrafter fantasy anthology, Once Upon an Ever After: Modern Fairy Tales & Folklore is scheduled for release on August 23, and is now available for digital pre-order through this Books2Read UBL: https://books2read.com/u/mKdWGV

Once Upon an Ever After: Modern Fairy Tales & Folklore

This unique and imaginative collection of eleven thought provoking fantasy stories will delight readers who enjoy stories of wishes gone awry.

What happens when…

A woman desires to carry on her family’s legacy, uncovering a long-buried curse?

A not so perfect witch casts a spell to defy age and preserve her relationship with her handsome shapeshifting familiar?

A time traveler longs to be the savior of knowledge lost?

An incompetent delivery boy becomes an unlikely savior of forgotten artifacts?

A magic mirror yearns for a different question?

A tiny story witch desires to share her stories with the world?

Spells are cast, unlikely alliances made, and wishes granted, sometimes with surprising outcomes. You’ll love this anthology of modern myths, lore, and fairy tales. Once you read these twisted tales, you’ll be sure to be careful what you wish for….

If you liked Gilded Glass, you’ll enjoy Once Upon an Ever After: Modern Myths & Fairy Tales, short stories with thought provoking themes, captivating characters and diverse cultures, from humorous to horrifying, from the legendary past to possible futures and back to the here and now.

Reserve your copy today! : https://books2read.com/u/mKdWGV


Ask the Authors 2022 Book & Blog Series: Setting & World Building

Ask the Authors 2022

Welcome back to the “Ask the Authors 2022” blog series. This is segment 7 of this Saturday series, which brings you a glimpse of the fantastic writing tips and advice featured in the Ask the Authors 2022 writing reference anthology, and today we introduce contributing author Chris Barili, who shares his thoughts and methods for character development in his own “Character Blueprint” in the anthology, and a Q & A session on setting & world building.

If you missed any of the previous segments, you can find them here:

Segment 1: Introductions for Kaye Lynne Booth & Kevin Killiany/Writing Life Q & A session

Segment 2: Introduction for Bobby Nash/Pre-writing Rituals Q & A session

Segment 3: Introduction for Roberta Eaton Cheadle/Plot & Storyline Q & A session

Segment 4: Introduction for Paul Kane/Character Development Q & A session

Segment 5: Introduction for Mario Acevedo/Action, Pacing & Dialog Q & A session

Segment 6: Introduction for Nancy Oswald & Tone: Voice, Tense, Person & POV Q & A session.

Let’s get started.

Meet Chris Barili

Chris Barili is a speculative fiction and romance author who was also my cohort in the M.F.A. in Creative Writing program at Western. He writes in a wide range of genres, including weird western (Hell’s Marshal series), and science fiction (Shadowblade) under his own name, and romance (Smothered) under the pen name B.T. Clearwater. Chris was a presenter and panel member for both the 2020 WordCrafter Stay in Place Virtual Writing Conference, and the 2021 WordCrafter New Beginnings Virtual Writing Conference.

Besides writing, Chris lifts weights, mountain bikes, practices martial arts and battles with Parkinson’s disease. Writing just may be his salvation. Chris also was a contributor to the original Ask the Authors writing reference project, back in 2018. When asked about a future where writing left him rich and famous, Chris said he would write more.

Now let’s see how our contributing authors responded in the Q & A.

Setting & World Building

What elements do you take into consideration when creating a new world?

Mario Acevedo: Time, place, setting, and the one many writers forget, mood.

Paul Kane: I’ve very rarely created entire worlds, but the ones I do write about – even in crime stories – I always view as just slightly to the left of ours. Alternate worlds that look very much like our own, but are just slightly different. I always make up locations, such as Norchester in The Gemini Factor, or Redmarket, Golden Sands and Green Acres in the PL Kane thrillers, simply because then you own those places and can do what you want with them. It’s much harder with real places like Nottingham or Sherwood, because someone might spot a mistake you made, even if you’ve done tons of research – for example we went on a private tour of Nottingham Castle just to make sure I could accurately describe things in Arrowhead. Nobody’s going to question something you do in a made-up place, that a street shouldn’t be in a certain spot or whatever. I like creating places anyway, though, because they very often feel like characters themselves. Norchester, for instance, is very much a character in The Gemini Factor. It even has two ‘faces’ as I say in the first chapter: the nice side that most people see, and a seedy underbelly that’s not very nice at all, full of drug-pushers and pimps. Or in this case, where a very unique serial killer operates. 

Chris Barili: As many as the world requires. If I am sculpting an entirely new world, as I did in Shadow Blade, I consider everything from culture to economy, clothing to foods, and so on. Kevin J Anderson covers this really well in his book on world building, and I’ve been lucky enough to learn under him a bit.

Bobby Nash: Most of my stories take place in the real world so I start with the parts that are familiar. The basis for a town is the same in medieval time, modern day, and on another planet. Start with the familiar and build from there.

Nancy Oswald: Since I write historical fiction (mostly) the world has already been created, so the trick is to get to the heart of the historical period and let some of the actual history dictate parts of the story. For instance, the two fires in Cripple Creek in 1896.

Do places that you’ve traveled to ever end up in your books?

Mario Acevedo: Yes. Los Angeles, Hilton Head Island, Florida, St. Louis, Pacoima, New Mexico, Iraq. Haven’t been to outer space yet.

Paul Kane: It’s the same thing I talked about with characters, I put bits of places I know in stories. Unless they’re actual places like Nottingham, then I’ve made them up of various places I know. Redmarket is very much a mish-mash of Northern towns I know very well, Golden Sands is an amalgamation of various run-down seaside towns I’ve visited, mixed with dollops of other fictional towns like Broadchurch from the famous TV series. When I was writing about Glaive City in my comic book stories based around the gothic superhero Mortis-Man, I was very much thinking about cities from famous comic strips I read as a kid, and still read, which might resonate with readers. To give them a certain flavour of what the tales will be about, you see. So, I guess you could say I visited those places, only I did it through the medium of comic books and graphic novels.

Bobby Nash: Oh, yes. I often take photos while on a drive and have found locations that spark story ideas.

Robbie Cheadle: I do include places I have visited in my books. It is easier to describe a place and give a ring of authenticity if you have visited the setting from your story. I have also included places I have not visited and that required a lot of research of various crucial elements like climate, vegetation, and lifestyles.

Nancy Oswald: Yes. Visited the Sand Creek Massacre site, explored Cripple Creek, and the Jewish Colony is practically in my back yard.

What type of details do you add to help create a mental picture for your readers?

Paul Kane: I think the key is not to overdo it, just a splash here, a splash there. That builds up a picture in a reader’s mind, and very often they supply the rest from places they might know. If I say that Golden Sands has a Fish ‘n’ Chip shop, like I’ve just done in the novelette Corpsing, then I don’t need much of a description because chances are the reader will have been to a seaside chippy themselves at some point in their lives. All you need are broad strokes to paint that picture. Unless you’re doing something very specific with a place, making a certain point. If you’re going to have a character get thrown off a building, you need to describe how high it is in order for a reader to know they probably wouldn’t survive the fall. Things like that.

Chris Barili: Again, whatever the story needs. For example, in Hell’s Marshal, I opened in old wet Tombstone, right near the OK Corral, so a detailed description of the saloon in which the story opened was needed, but since many readers have at least seen a recreation of the corral itself, I was able to use fewer details.

Bobby Nash: I describe people and locations pretty well, I think. I try not to overdo it though. If I say a character walks into a bedroom, I don’t have to describe every item in it. The readers know what a bedroom looks like. They will fill in the details from their own experiences.

Robbie Cheadle: My writing style is descriptive, and I try to incorporate all of the senses into my stories.

Nancy Oswald: In my genre, this is a place where historical photos are invaluable, but I don’t see why historical photos or other photos couldn’t be helpful for fantasy and other types of world-building. They would just need to be tweaked appropriately.

Would you share a brief excerpt from one of your favorite setting descriptions? What is it about this setting description that you like?

I received several examples of setting description from contributing authors which made this section too lengthy, so if you want to see them, you’ll have to buy the book.

How do you choose the right sensory details for your story?

Paul Kane: It depends on what you’re trying to say, you have to pick and choose what’s important again – or what feels right. That’s something you only really develop over time, I think. Don’t feel like you have to throw everything in there: sight, sound, smell, touch, taste or whatever. It might be that less is more again, so you have to decide what it is you’re trying to say about a place or person. I don’t tend to put smell in there much, as I don’t have a sense of smell myself – so I’d only really be guessing. Obviously, if someone was near to a chemical plant, or a sewage works, I could probably hazard a guess that the smell is bad, but having never smelt that before, my description would be loose at best. Ask yourself what it is that’s important about a scene, because that should help you decide what to put in and leave out.

Bobby Nash: It’s all by feeling. Senses are important so I use them where I feel they work best.

Robbie Cheadle: I try to use all the sense in my writing. If the circumstances lend themselves to the incorporation of descriptions relating to smell, taste, or touch I try to bring them in. Descriptions involving sight and hearing work their way into my stories easier than the other sense.

Nancy Oswald: Try to stay character driven and historically accurate.  

How do you communicate the rules of the world that you’ve created to your readers?

Paul Kane: The rules of most of my worlds tend to be the same as the one we’re living in, so it’s not that hard in most cases. If you’re writing something like a SF story, you’ll have to give the reader a sense of how that world works obviously, but it should be as the tale goes along – they’ll see through the telling of the story – rather than an info dump. So, in Arcana – which is a parallel universe – I had to show how the magic worked through the course of the story. I do have one bit near the beginning which is a flashback to a school classroom, but that was just to establish we’re not in this universe and that the history of it is different. The vast majority of what I set up in that novel comes through the telling of the story, that way it’s not too obtrusive. It’s not wise to have so many chunks of exposition or explanation too often or the reader will get bored.

Chris Barili: Through character actions words, and interaction with the world. Never by rote exposition.

Bobby Nash: I write the details, flesh things out with dialogue, stuff like that. I’m not a fan of the info dump, so I try to make that happen organically.

Robbie Cheadle: The Boers and the British soldiers in A Ghost and His Gold have their own codes of conduct, religious beliefs, and lifestyles. I bring these elements into my stories through descriptions and also through the use of thoughts and dialogue.

For real settings, do you explore the physical locations in which your stories are set?

Chris Barili: Usually just via the internet.

Bobby Nash: When I can, I do. That isn’t always possible though.

Robbie Cheadle: I explore the physical location when it has been possible for me to do so. Through the Nethergate is set in the English town of Bungay in Suffolk. I have visited Bungay twice as that is where my mother comes from. We have looked around the town and visited the churches, pubs, and the ruins of Bungay Castle.

A Ghost and His Gold is set in South Africa, and I have visited several of the places featured in the book including Irene, Pretoria, Mafeking, and Kimberley. It is easier for me to write about places I have visited, especially as I take lots of photographs.

Nancy Oswald: Yes, whenever possible.

Have you ever had a reader tell you that you missed the mark on a particular detail?

Bobby Nash: Sure. It happens. Sometimes they are right. Sometimes they aren’t. I’m happy that my story moved them enough to take time to let me know what they thought.

What techniques do you use to help readers visualize your world?

Paul Kane: I think it helps to see the world through a character’s eyes. A good device might be to take a ‘fish out of water’ character and throw them into this setting, so that you’re learning about the world as they do, as they go along. If you think about characters like Buck Rogers who gets flung into the future, or Stallone’s cop in Demolition Man, you get the picture. Hopefully then, if you’re giving the reader the right amount of information in the right way, they’re right there with the character seeing what they see.

Bobby Nash: Words and phrases. It’s my job to paint a picture with these words. The reader also helps by bringing his or her imagination into it as well.

Nancy Oswald: Always watch the verbs and passive voice.

Do you plan out your world or build as you go?

Paul Kane: It depends on the kind of world you’re building. If it’s a place that’s going to be a sprawling metropolis that you’re going to need to know inside out to tell your stories, it’s probably a good idea to know which bits are where. Is a new bit next to an old bit, are dangerous bits just a hop, skip and a jump from a nicer bit. I have a place called Graffitiland which is mentioned in my PL Kane books, and was the focus of the novelette of the same name. As you can imagine, this bit of wasteland is so-called because it’s covered in graffiti, so quite rough, but I also wanted it to be within spitting distance of some of the newer parts of the town I was writing about for plot purposes. I didn’t have any maps drawn out or anything, but just needed to jot down that this was the case – especially if I write about it again down the line. But if the whole story revolved around that sprawling city I was talking about, then you might want to start mapping bits out so you don’t contradict yourself.

Chris Barili: I start with an initial world-build, adding to it or changing things as the story progresses.

Bobby Nash: A little of both. When I created Sommersville, the county and town in several of my stories, I went in with a pretty well-established map, but I reveal important places, landmarks, etc. to the reader as needed in service of that particular story.

How do you keep track of the details of your world to avoid inconsistencies in the stories?

Mario Acevedo: Through rewrites and multiple drafts.

Paul Kane: By jotting down notes, essentially, or creating maps. Personally, I wouldn’t spend ages doing all this, because it’s enough to know roughly where things are for the purposes of my writing. But I do know other writers, especially if they’re writing Fantasy say, who spend a long time getting all these details right and recording them. It depends what kind of genre you’re working in.

Bobby Nash: I try to keep good notes.

Robbie Cheadle: I have a spreadsheet for my work-in-progress The Creeping Change as it involves a large number of characters. I write down the names and descriptions of certain supporting characters in my books, so I remember the details correctly.

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That’s it for this week’s “Ask the Authors 2022” blog series. Drop by again next Saturday for an introduction to Jeff Bowles, whose essay contribution, , offers up a view on editing & revision, along with a Q & A segment on the same topic.

Ask the Authors 2022

“Ask the Authors is an up-to-date and broad-based compendium of advice from today’s working writers, to help you with understanding your own writing career. Great information!”

—Kevin J. Anderson, New York Times bestselling author of Spine of the Dragon

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