Archive for the 'Other Voices: Interviews with Guest Bloggers' Category

Today, I would like to introduct as my guest blogger, author Theresa Crater. Theresa who brings ancient temples, lost civilizations and secret societies back to life in her visionary fiction. In The Star Family, her most recent novel (discussed below) a Gothic mansion holds a secret spiritual group and a 400-year-old ritual that must be completed to save the day. The shadow government search for ancient Atlantean weapons in the fabled Hall of Records in Under the Stone Paw and fight to control ancient crystals sunk beneath the sea in Beneath the Hallowed Hill. Her short stories explore ancient myth brought into the present day. The most recent include “The Judgment of Osiris” and “Bringing the Waters.” Theresa has also published poetry and a baker’s dozen of literary criticism. Currently, she teaches writing and British lit in Denver.The Star Family S

Welcome, Theresa and thanks so much for stopping by my blog and answering a few questions.

1. Do you remember how old you were when you wrote your first story? If so, do you remember what it was about?

I was in high school in a creative writing class. Our teacher would give us prompts. I remember one in particular—a picture of a castle up high on a rock. I don’t remember the story, though.

2. When did you really become serious about your writing?

I’d say when I moved to Seattle. I was teaching mediation and shared a house with a woman who was in graduate school. She taught a creative writing class and I sat in for a while. Then we all started a journal writing group. That really flipped my switch and I was off.

3. What was your first published story?

Still Shots” in a magazine of feminist erotica called On Our Backs, which is a pun for the feminist publication Off Our Backs, which “everyone” was reading back in the day.

4. I grew up in North Carolina and reading your most recent novel, The Star Family, brought back a lot of memories, such as, learning just a little about the Moravians in required North Carolina history in the 7th grade, an 8th grade field trip to Old Salem and bringing home those wonderful cookies and a loaf of that wonderful bread, and years later, another visit to Old Salem that included more baked goods and that coffee. Thanks to you and The Star Family I have learned a lot more about the Moravians and their history.

In the novel, how much is real and how much is legend? How much comes from your own personal history? You grew up in Winston-Salem, and have Moravian roots?

 Much of the actual history of the Moravians in the novel is real and a lot of it comes from new research. The new information is what inspired The Star Family. I was browsing and found a book called William Blake’s Sexual Path to Spiritual Vision. (Blake is a visionary poet and artists from the eighteenth to early nineteenth century.) In the introduction, it says Blake’s mother was a Moravian and that their teachings about sacred sexuality influenced Blake’s art and poetry. Well, that stopped me dead in my tracks, because I was raised a Moravian, my family has been Moravian for several generations, and I’d never heard of such a thing. I had to know.

I discovered that the teachings of Count Zinzendorf were quite mystical. He was raised a Pietist, a sect of Christians that emphasized a heart connection to God. He taught that the Holy Spirit was female, so the Moravians worshipped Father, Mother and Son, not Father, Son and the Holy Ghost. But it was his teachings about the equality of women and the sacredness of sexuality that really caught my eye. The Count taught that there was no shame in the human body. To him, Jesus had redeemed humans and he also lived as a human.

 Zinzendorf said that sexuality between a married couple could be a sacrament if practiced properly. Apparently, he had instructions. In the villages, people lived communally, separated into choirs by gender and marital status. The women ran their own affairs, had choir leaders with power in the community, and many women gave communion and did other spiritual teaching.

 In these communal villages, married couples didn’t actually live together most of the time. They met for their sacrament according to a schedule in a special place called the Blue Cabinet. Turns out the actual instructions for married couples were more practical than mystical, since the Moravians were generally from peasant stock while Zinzendorf was an aristocrat. But I like to imagine something different.

Word got out that the Moravians were weird, and some criticized us for improper behavior. After Zinzendorf’s death, the Moravians pushed these teachings under the rug and they stayed there until quite recently. The height of these teachings was during the 1740s, called the Sifting Times. In my novel I imagined Zinzendorf’s teachings and these mystical practices continued in secret.

 The Moravian Church grew out of the Hussite rebellion against the Hapsburgs and the martyrdom of Jan Hus. Hus preached in Prague in the early 1400s. After we were defeated in the Thirty Years War, we were scattered in Moravia and Poland. In the early eighteenth century, Count Zinzendorf allowed these refugees to build a new village in Saxony called Herrnhut. From there, Moravian villages spread out into Europe and the church sent out missionaries. Villages in two states were formed in the US (after the failure of our Georgia colony)—Bethlehem (1741) and Nazareth (1740), Pennsylvania, and three villages in North Carolina, Bethabara (1753), Bethania (1759), and Salem (1766). These villages were all settled during the Sifting Times.

If you want more, I’ve written a series of blogs about what’s real and what’s legend at http://theresacrater.com.

5. Your work has been described as visionary.  Is the novel a warning? A way to a better utopian future?

I guess both. It seems the country is in gridlock right now, and we have serious issues to consider, especially the environment. If we make the planet inhospitable to human life, well then, what else is there to say? That’s why I focused on the oil and gas industry and creating an alternative with massive solar panel fields feeding into hydrogen cell technology for storage.

As for music and ritual saving the world, I’m a meditation teacher, and the man who taught me to teach TM used to emphasize that governments were a reflection of human consciousness. If we wanted to raise the level of our governments, we should raise human awareness through meditation. In the novel, I focused on music used in a ritual setting. The Rosicrucians and the physicists say the whole of creation is simply vibration. Music is vibration. The ritual focuses that vibration with an intention. Many spiritual groups talk about the creative power of thought, and even physicists discovered that the quantum world responds to our thoughts and perceptions. So in The Star Family, I saved the world through music and magic. Why not?

6. Why did you decide to publish your novel through CreateSpace?

 I talked to my publisher (small press Crystal Star Publishing) and they said that these days, it’s best to use all options. They also have a version on Ingram for bookstores in particular. It’s also up on all the main eBook sites. You can even order a signed copy from me.

7. How would you categorize your fiction? Do you write to and/or for a particular audience?  Is there an overall theme or themes? Why a particular genre?

My work is Visionary Fiction, which is a real category. It’s not something people are generally familiar with, so I call it paranormal mystery or contemporary fantasy, depending on the occasion. I write about sacred sites, ancient temples, secret spiritual groups and teachings—all that kind of thing. Why? It’s just what I’m interested in.

8. What are you working on currently?  Can you whet our appetite with any details?

Another novel in the Power Places series. These can be read out of order quite easily. In The Sphinx Chamber, a house collapses on the edge of the Giza Plateau. With the Egyptian Antiquities Department in chaos, Michael Levy investigates the scene. The residents dug a shaft that connects to a maze of underground tunnels. Michael finds small gold statues and lapis jewelry littering the path, then a sealed chamber that could be directly beneath the Sphinx. As Michael tries to find his way through the maze beneath the Sphinx, his new wife, Anne Le Clair begins to hear whisperings in the night. A voice murmurs, “The time has come. Find my heart.” Anne’s doctor thinks her ill or perhaps suffering a breakdown brought on from the stress of facing her last month of pregnancy with her husband called away to Egypt. But the voice continues, more and more urgent. Anne follows clues left by her great grandfather who as an ambassador to Egypt, but will she find the secret in time?

9. Do you have a particular writing regime, such as writing a certain time of the day or in a particular location? How would you describe your writing process?

 I generally write in the mornings, especially when I’m just starting out on a project. But once it gets going, I’ll write several times a day. I’ve noticed I write in two-hour spurts. I usually write in my home office with a view of the beautiful Rocky Mountains.

10. How does your real life as a teacher intersect with your writing life?

 I read and write a lot. I teach creative writing. All this keeps me wrapped up in the writing world.

11. Any advice for aspiring writers?

Keep writing. Some say you need to write a million words before you get really good. Get critiqued by other writers (not your friends or family) especially people who are farther along than you, but don’t take a bunch of guff from egotistic people who like to be mean. (At first it might be hard to tell the difference between a good honest critique that stings and just plain unkindness.) Learn everything you can about craft and story structure. Join writers’ groups. Try publishing in all its aspects—short stories in magazines, NYC big five, small presses, and indie publishing. But don’t put your stuff out before it’s ready. It’s generally not ready when you first think it is.

Theresa, thanks so much for being a guest on my blog.  Readers, check out The Star Family.  For more information about this author of visionary fiction, please check out these links:

Visit her at http://theresacrater.com.

Twitter:  @theresacrater

Facebook:  Author page   https://www.facebook.com/tlcwrites

Good Reads:  http://www.goodreads.com/user/show/2709251-theresa-crater

Linked In:  http://www.linkedin.com/profile/view?id=36835613&trk=hb_tab_pro_top

 

 

 

I would like to introduce my friend, Mark Allan Gunnells, author of Tales from the Midnight Shift, The Summer of Winters, Asylum, among others which can be found via Amazon at http://www.amazon.com/Mark-Allan-Gunnells/e/B005C18L7Q/ref=ntt_athr_dp_pel_1  .  Mark lives with his partner, Craig Metcalf, in Greer, SC.

For a sample short story, click on this link: http://sideshowpressonline.com/?p=104

For more about Mark and his work, please visit his blog, at http://markgunnells.livejournal.com/

1. How would you characterize your fiction? Are you writing to/for a particular audience or audiences?

 I tend to work mostly in the horror and fantasy genres.  I do branch out from those from time to time, but I keep coming back to horror and fantasy.  For whatever reason, those are the genres that call to me.  As for the audience I’m writing to/for, hokey as it may sound, I think that would be me.  I want my stories to be read and enjoyed by others, but when I’m actually in the process of creating a tale, I’m writing for myself.  I’m writing the stories I’d want to read, stories that entertain and interest me. TALES

 2. What writers have been major influences in your work and why?

I think Stephen King is a master storyteller, creating believable characters you get invested in and grounding his tales, no matter how fantastical, in a realism that makes suspension of disbelief a snap.  Joe R. Lansdale is another storyteller I admire greatly; he writes some of the most natural, authentic sounding dialogue around.  I’m a huge fan of Clive Barker’s short story work.  He creates tales that are bold and original, and as someone who loves the short form, I have to give props to any writer that initially came to prominence through short stories.  Lastly, I’ll mention Robert McCammon, because I respect his choice to step away from Big House publishing and turn to the small press in order to keep true to the stories he wanted to tell.

3. You have had some/or have some forthcoming work.  Tell us about those and what your readers can expect.  Continuing stories? New territories?

I have two new books on the horizon for 2014.  A short story collection titled Welcome to the Graveyard with Evil Jester Press that will offer 21 pieces of short fiction.  I tried to choose tales that would show a range of tone, subject, and even genre.  Also, I’ll have a novel out in the summer from JournalStone called Outcast.  It will be part of their Double Down series, my novel and a novella from author John R. Little in one volume.  We did something interesting here, we both started with an identical prologue, then without discussing it we both came up with stories based off that prologue.  I’m also toying with self-publishing two previously published novellas, Whisonant and Creatures of the Light, in a digital edition.

4.  What advice do you have for new and aspiring writers?

Just write, and write what you love.  Don’t try to write like someone else, don’t try to write what is popular at the moment.  In fact, for me personally, I find it’s best not to even think about publication during the creating process.  That’s for later, after the work is done.  Just find a story that excites you and tell it.  That way, whether you publish or not, you will always have the joy of creating the tale, and that can’t be taken from you.

5. Is there a question you wish you would be asked and if so, what is the question and what might your answer?

 I guess I wouldn’t mind being asked what my current writing projects might be.  Why, I’m glad you asked. Ha ha.  Right now I’m collaborating with James Newman on a coming-of-age horror novella titled Dog Days O’ Summer.  I’m having a lot of fun with this one, and working with James is a pleasure.  I admire him as a writer, and our minds seem to run along the same wavelength.  Once that is complete I’m planning to do a zombie novella called Fort.  It will be a semi-sequel to my earlier zombie novella Asylum and will be set at my alma mater, Limestone College, where I seem to set a lot of my stories.  Call it my own Castle Rock.

6. Anything else you would like to say or comment on?

 I just want to thank you for taking the time to do this interview with me, and I want to thank anyone out there who takes a shot on my work.

I would like to introduce my friend, Sylvia Kelso, Aurealis Award nominee, and author of Everran’s Bane, The Moving Water, The Red Country, The Seagull, Amberlight, Riversend, Source, the Blackston Gold series, and her latest novella, “Spring in Geneva,” all of which are available via Amazon.

Geneva - Cover-3

See more including sample chapters on  http://www.sylviakelso.com/

1. How would you characterize your fiction? Are you writing to/for a particular audience or audiences?

Once I could have said, I think of my work as moral swords-and-sorcery – more emphasis on the ethics of using magic and might than on the tin-clashing. But though that fits even the unpublished Everran novels, the Amberlight series is more of an sf/fantasy genre straddler, and its focus is gender politics. And the Blackston Gold books you’d could only call fantasy crossed with time romance, adding a streak of mystery and police procedural, while “Spring in Geneva” is unabashed swash-and-buckle, with a dash of steampunk. Though like its close ancestor Frankenstein, it is concerned with the morality of science. Similarly, I suppose Blackston Gold is concerned with ecological morality. So maybe a concern with morality is the overall attribute. In my eyes, at least.

Once I used to try to write to an ideal fantasy reader who would get all the allusions and follow all the smart bits. Now, after a bunch of books and some very kind work-in- progress readers, I find myself concerned less with the target audience and more with anticipating clarity. Is this or that going to give a reader the correct meaning at first and perhaps only glance?

2. What writers have been major influences in your work and why?

In fantasy, Tolkien above all others, for the world-building detail, and the way LotR in particular conveys not only a living and loved landscape, but a sense of its long history.

Overall, Mary Renault, who could make dialogue mean more, and leave out more superfluous explanation, than almost any other novelist I ever read. But of course, writers collect something from everyone they read. It’s like spores off plants and flowers on your clothes as you walk past.

3. You have had some/or have some forthcoming work.  Tell us about those and what your readers can expect.  Continuing stories? New territories?

For already-out, 2013 was a good year for me, in short fiction. Two longer short stories written in 2012 both came out in 2013, along with “Spring in Geneva.” I was very happy especially because, unusually for me, all three were written not only in another time, but in settings I’ve never personally seen. I dislike generic settings of any sort, urban OR rural, so when I write anything set in “our” world, I like to visit the place: see the colour ranges, get a sense of the light as well as the layout.

With “The Honour of the Ferrocarril,” however, the Black Gang, or Creative Crew, decided we would write a steampunk vampire story set in the land of real vampires, ie. South America, and I ended up doing big research on the astounding 19th century railways of Peru, a place I have still never been. With “The Price of Kush” the same thing happened, only this time the setting was Africa, around 1500 BC. I was quite happy with the even larger amount of research, but more uncomfortable with second hand sources for the light values and the landscape, alas.

And for “Spring in Geneva,” which is set in 1818 and has the swash-and-buckle’s suitable amount of street chases, duels, and horseback road-hunts, I found myself working out streets in the Old Town of Geneva on Google, and hunting up Net images of the town. Thank goodness FOR Google, but all the same, I wd. have preferred to use my own eyes.

In oncoming work, in December I signed a contract for the 4th Amberlight book, Dragonfly, with Jupiter Gardens Press, who published its forerunner, Source. I was delighted  because Dragonfly is in many ways the Amberlight novel nearest to my heart. Firstly, it’s a daughter-of, second generation story, so it fulfills one of my favourite writing itches, finding out What Happened After the Ending.

In Dragonfly’s case, it was 4 years after Source before the Black Gang had an answer to that. And said answer pushes the envelope for romantic relationships in a way still not much mentioned or accepted, even in these days of race, gender and sexuality awareness. That is, a relationship, as in Lolita, possibly too far across the age barrier.

It proved almost so for at least three of my work-in-progress readers, and I did quite a bit of micro-revision to keep the age difference but make it palatable before I sent off the ms to anyone. So for both those reasons I was very happy to have a contract for this one!

In current works-in-progress, I have two stalled novellas on the blocks, and now an invite to contribute a story to an anthology on “Cranky Ladies in History;” which has led to revising an entire old historical novel, that I think I’d now like to get published in its own right, at least after tinkering. But I’m very little further forward with the short story, alas. It may well prove to be new territory, if I only knew where.

4.  What advice do you have for new and aspiring writers?

As I’ve said before, don’t quit your day job till your advance offer tops $500,000, and never say about a requested revision, It can’t be done.

5. Is there a question you wish you would be asked and if so, what is the question and what might your answer?

One I’ve been asked elsewhere, always helpful to writers, is:

Give me one thing you want readers to remember after they finish this blog?

To which my answer would be:

The names of those latest works? “Spring in Geneva” now, and, I hope, sometime in 2014, Dragonfly.

I would like to introduce my good and dear friend, Catherine Lundoff, the Goldie Award-winning author of the collections Night’s Kiss and Crave as well the short fiction collection A Day at the Inn, A Night at the Palace and Other Stories and the fantasy novel Silver Moon (www.catherinelundoff.com)

SIlverMooncover medium

Thank you for stopping by my blog and for being my inaugural Other Voices guest.

Questions:

1.     How would you characterize your fiction?  Are you writing for/to a particular audience or audiences?

I write in several genres: science fiction, fantasy, horror, romance and erotica, and with all that, I hope I am writing for a range of different audiences. Most of my protagonists are lesbians or bi women, which I think tends to pigeonhole my work into “lesbian fiction.” At the same time, I’ve had work reviewed poorly because it was marketed as “lesbian fiction,” and the reviewers felt that all lesbian fiction had to be romance and all my work didn’t fit comfortably into that category. Given those response, I think I write first for myself, since after all, I’ll likely be the reader spending the most time with the story, and second for the kind of readers who like work that’s just a bit different, work that falls outside some of the formulas that dominate genre fiction.

2.    Silver Moon, which has gotten a good bit of attention, including being an award finalist for the Goldie Awards and the first-ever Bisexual Book Awards, offers its readers an intriguing and arguably unique perspective on werewolves. “Women of a certain age” are the werewolves, yes?  Why and why is this significant and important?

Well, I’m a middle-aged woman myself and there are precious few of us appearing as protagonists in science fiction, fantasy or horror. I wanted to write a character that I could identify with. And amongst the joys of middle age, come a variety of physical changes not unlike those associated with transforming into a werewolf. I thought: why not? Most female werewolves in fantasy and horror are quite young, and the transformation is often keyed in with first or early menses. I wanted to deal with the other big physical “change in life,” and in doing so, apparently came up with something approaching an original idea. I was quite surprised that no one seems to have done it before me.

3.     I hear a sequel is in the works?  Any teasers?

Book 2 (working title: Blood Moon) is in progress as we speak and I’m planning a third book after that one. Then, we’ll see.

From Chapter 1 of Blood Moon (Women of Wolf’s Point 2):

Erin Adams looked out at the mountains and tried not to think about what was in the trunk of her car. At least the mountains around Wolf’s Point were still as beautiful as ever. She wondered if she’d ever get the chance to run through them again, feel the wind in her fur, the ground flying by under her paws. The Pack at her side.

That thought was enough to make her look back at her car. Erin rubbed her aching forehead with one hand and closed her eyes. This was, without question, the worst thing she’d ever done. Even if she couldn’t remember doing it.

But maybe there was still time to call Shelly and get her help to figure a way out of this mess that she’d blundered into. That was what Pack Alphas did, or so Shelly had always told her. But that might make Shelly an accessory if they got caught. When she got caught. The Pack couldn’t afford to be without its Alpha so soon after they got her back from the aspiring werewolf hunters of the Slayer’s Nest, not to mention what it would do to Pete and the kids.

 Maybe there was someone else. Her thoughts turned to Becca, waded through a jumbled mess of emotions and came back with a single realization: they’d suspect her first. Becca was her friend, her housemate. Her…something they still hadn’t defined, but which felt more like girlfriend every day.  Her stomach did a slow, leisurely flip when she thought about that and she almost smiled. But this wasn’t the time to think about Becca. She couldn’t afford to be distracted, to be vulnerable. Not now.

Whatever she did, she mustn’t call Becca. She couldn’t take the other woman down with her. Maybe there was another solution, a way to hide what had happened. But that would leave her to carry the burden of what she’d done, alone. And what if the body was found? The regular wolves would probably get blamed for it. Their state senator was already pushing for a hunting season on wolves; that would put things right over the top.

 She couldn’t think of any other Pack member who’d be able to do anything about this situation, not more than she could do herself, anyway. And it wasn’t the kind of thing she could call her sponsor about. So she was on her own. There was nothing for it but to lie in the bed she’d made for herself.

  She pulled her cell phone out of her pocket and dialed a number. “Hi. It’s Erin. I’ve done something…I need…can you come up to Spruce Point? Yes, it’s important. I want you to see it before Sheriff Henderson does.”

 She clicked the phone off and glanced toward the road. Nothing to do now but wait.

4.     What advice do you have for new and aspiring writers?

Learn to love rewriting. Then learn to recognize when to stop. Yes, I know: easier said than done. But the thing about creating something you can be proud of is that you have to revisit it again and again, to see its flaws, and see where it can be polished and fixed. Knowing when it’s done is more about “done for now,” the best you can do at this point in your writing. It will probably never seem perfect and it probably shouldn’t: there should always be room for, and recognition of, the need to improve. That said, that which is never submitted cannot be accepted. Send your work in when it’s the best you can do, and learn from the process.

5.    Is there a question you wish you would be asked and if so, what is the question and what is your answer?

Where do I see my writing going in terms of genre, style and theme? Mostly because I think having to answer questions like that would make me think harder about the overall direction of my work. Up until fairly recently, I hadn’t given it much thought: my process was to get inspired, write a thing and send it out. Now I’m transitioning from being a pantser to being an outliner in terms of my writing process, and writing longer rather than shorter pieces, I’m trying to plan longer term. I’ll let you know how it turns out, as soon as I know.

6.     Anything else you would like to say? Comment on?

Thank you so much for having me in as your first guest!

And thank you, Catherine, for agreeing to be my first guest and for stopping by and for your thoughtful and intriguing answers.