5 Questions in 5 Minutes with Myke Cole

150803-KM-MYKE-COLE-d-17-150x150 I had the opportunity to meet the fascinating Myke Cole at DragonCon.  I immediately knew I wanted to read his books and interview him for Slippery Words as soon as I heard him speak on a panel. Myke has a lot of military experience and has meshed that knowledge with his love of fantasy literature.  Enjoy!

Here, we talk about Gemini Cell. Visit here to learn about Myke’s books. 

  1. I know the answer is “magic” but how is it that Jim’s body, his skeleton, muscles, etc, and withstand the strength of the jinn?  If he jumps from a plane, wouldn’t he still break a leg?  I like to call this Six Million Dollar Man syndrome. Steve Austin ran impossibly fast, but how come his sneakers never shredded?

 It’s only partly magic (particularly for the way in which muscle contracts to support bone to prevent it from breaking). I mention in the text that glycerol is used in place of embalming fluid (what’s normally used for corpses). Glycerol is hygroscopic, a lubricant and moisturizes that also works as an anti-freeze (Gemini Cell Operators are stored in refrigerators and are often frozen). The addition of this to Schweitzer’s body helps keep his flesh elastic and supple despite being dead. I am also careful to mention the use of metal in effecting repairs, not only on him, but on some of the Gold Operators you meet as well (there’s more of this in JAVELIN RAIN).

Lastly, a lot of human physical limits are due to two things that don’t bother Schweitzer: 1.) pain and 2.) the knowledge that we’re injuring ourselves. Freed from these constraints, Schweitzer is able to push his own body like you or I would a rental car. 

  1. I really enjoyed the moment when Sarah held the can of ashes and thought about Jim popping out of it…like a genie (jinn) in a bottle.  That was really clever.

Thanks. That was actually incidental. I often find that some of my best double-entendres, foreshadowing and turns of phrase are the result of my trying to do something totally unrelated. Not sure if that’s a good or a bad thing.

3. I also really enjoyed the symmetry between Sarah’s story and Jim’s. She finds out he’s most likely still alive immediately followed by a scene in which he finds out she might  be alive.  Did you plan that from the beginning or did that happen organically as you wrote the book?

It happened mostly organically (see my response to your comment number 2), but you also have to remember that the love between Schweitzer and Sarah is a magic unto itself. They are linked by it, and it has real physical implications (the ability to locate one another, for example, and some limited empathic communication). So, it made sense that, as one made discoveries or experienced particular stresses, the other would react. Have you read Sabaa Tahir’s An Ember in the Ashes? One of the devices she uses in that novel is the protagonist somehow being sure that if her brother were dead, she would just know it. This is a phenomena frequently used in fantasy and romance, and also often commented on in real life. I wanted to explore that a bit in my own work. There’s a lot more on it in JAVELIN RAIN.

  1. I was unaware that Waziristan was a real place. I had to Google it.  From the detail you provide, I assume that you’ve been there?

 No. I did all three of my tours in Iraq (the first and third in Baghdad, the second in Balad). That said, the United States’ counterinsurgency operation is all of a piece, and so you can’t fight al-Qa’ida in one theater without knowing a lot about the other. I spent a LOT of time reading about and planning against units and individuals in Waziristan, and came to know it well enough to accurately (I hope) represent it in the book.

  1. When did you start writing? Were you writing during your military career? I’m trying to picture you out in the sandbox with a pen and a pocket notebook sketching out your ideas…with your AK by your side.

 I’ve fired AKs, but I never carried one. That’s the weapon we commonly associate with our enemy (but was also used by some of our allies, like the Georgian soldiers I served with). I carried either an M4, or if I was lucky, an HK416, which is a far more sophisticated weapon that I much preferred. The M4 uses the gas from the firing bullet to operate the bolt, which means it needs a LOT of cleaning. The HK416 vents the gas and uses a spring, which means it never jammed and needed almost no cleaning. Also, the heavy bolt made it sit down in my hands and made it more stable.This helped me shoot more accurately.In the Coast Guard, I carried the M16, which I wouldn’t use to prop open a door. What a piece of junk.

I started writing as a kid, when my mom got me a vinyl record of the audio for Ralph Baskhi’s animated Lord of the Rings. There was a transcript of the dialog, and I asked my mom for pen and paper, went to my room and copied it word for word. Then I brought it downstairs and proudly told her, “I wrote a book!” It’s all I’ve wanted to do since then.

I wrote throughout my military career. I did a lot of commenting on Peter V. Brett’s THE WARDED MAN and writing my own book titled Latent (it became CONTROL POINT after it sold) during my time in Iraq. I worked 18 hour days as it was, and then still found time to write. I don’t know how I survived for all those months without sleeping, but I did. It wasn’t an environment conducive to sleep even if I didn’t have a dream I was chasing.

Visit Mike at www.MykeCole.comBreachZone_FinalUKCover.jpg-copy BreachZone_Final-1 ShadowOps_FortressFrontier_US_Final1GeminiCellFinalCover


Librarypunk: The New Thing

inkandbone_revisedRecently, I had the opportunity to interview Rachel Caine about Ink and Bone.  In Rachel’s book, the library in Alexandria plays a central role, and books are considered so powerful that they are forbidden and the focus of large-scale smuggling operations.

In our discussions, I asked Rachel if she had read Jim Hines’ Magic Ex Libris books, which also have to do with the power of books and the printing press.  She is also a fan of Jim’s books and mentioned that we should call the genre Librarypunk.

While promoting Rachel’s interview I tweeted the term Librarypunk and was shocked when I received a tweet back from a genre researcher, Klaudia Seibel, who is writing a paper called  “Fantastic Libraries: Changing Knowledge Spaces in the Digital Era” for a German conference sponsored by the German Research for Research in the Fantastic.  First of all–genre researcher is a job?  And a whole conference on RESEARCH IN THE FANTASTIC…wow!

But I digress. Her thesis is really interesting.

“My thesis is that during the last couple of years there has been a shift in ‘bookish’ fantastic literature from being centred around a single special/magical book (like portal books as in ‘The Neverending Story’ or ‘Inkheart’ or magical/cursed books as in ‘Endymion Spring’) to texts that deal with the power of books/libraries in general…Read against the background of the ongoing debates about the death of the printed book and about library funding, all these texts describe libraries as special places (heterotopias) that are more than just ‘book warehouses’ (e.g. repositories of knowledge, portals to other worlds…) and emphasize the materiality of printed books (with libriomancy actually reaching into books, descriptions of bookish smells, books described as body extensions…)…Speaking as genre theorist I’d say that this looks a lot like a sub-genre being born – whether it will really establish itself only time will tell.”

So who knew?  Librarypunk is a real thing.

An Exclusive One on One Interview with Jim Butcher

Jim Butcher_Aeronaut's Windlass_199x300I had the amazing opportunity to meet 1:1 with Jim Butcher at DragonCon this year.  We were in the bar of the Westin Hotel at lunch so it was really noisy.  I have done the best I can to remove some of the background noise and I think Jim comes through loud and clear.

We talk about the Aeronaut’s Windlass, the first book in his new IMG_2144Cinder Spires series, a little bit about writing process, and I ask one question about The Dresden Files.

The photo above is of me, Jim and his lovely wife-to-be, Kitty.  They were dressed as Morticia and Gomez.  I was dressed as me.

The photo to the right is the beautiful Kitty as Mrs. Cavendish, a main character in the book.

Visit Jim’s website to learn more. The book’s release date is September 29.

In Which Kat Richardson And I Chat About Writing

Revenant-99x150Hi Kat!  Thanks for being with  me on SlipperyWords.  You have a number of exciting releases coming out soon, but…we’ll talk about those as they arrive. And of course, there is the famous Greywalker Series.

Today, let’s talk about writing. The art of writing. The psychology of writing and the craft and business of writing.

First question…1) I was thinking about one of the hardest things I’ve found about writing.  The waiting.  The waiting for the story to take shape as you struggle with it. The waiting to hear about the story from beta readers. The waiting to hear from a publisher.  It is all a waiting game.  How do you deal with that? Any advice?

It’s easy to fall into the idea that the current project is the Whole of Everything and let just that one thing dominate your life, but writing as a career can’t focus on just one project at a time. You’ve got to have longer-term plans. Trite as it sounds, the thing that works for me is to have other things to work on, other projects in the hopper, other personal goals to achieve, and–this is important–the ability to switch off and enjoy non-writing things, like family, exercise, hobbies, travel… Publishing now responds to some things faster than ever. Back when I started, no one did anything by email, for instance, and all manuscripts had to be printed on paper and mailed the old-fashioned way–that is, by strapping it to the back of a tortoise and pointing the beast toward New York with a carrot dangling from a stick in front of its nose and hoping the critter made it. But, no matter how fast things move, they can still sit for a while and you need to have other things to rely on. If you get a “yes” on a submission, that’s cool, but you still need things to do after the initial excitement winds down. And if you get a “no” you need to have something to do so you don’t drown in self-recrimination. There’s always more to do: more phases, more projects, more options, more work….

That’s not to say this is easy. I finished some major work on a huge project earlier this year and had to put it into other peoples’ hands for a while. I’d been so immersed with those characters and issues, that focusing on something new was hard, but I had a bunch of other projects waiting, so I forced myself to work on those instead of just sitting and waiting. Now I’m having a lot of fun with those other things–they’re challenging and different from what I’ve been doing for so long–and I’m not as worried about what will happen with the first project. If it bombs, I have other things, and if it flies… I still have many other things to play with for the future. That’s how you keep from losing your mind during the waiting–you turn it into an opportunity, instead of a slog.

2.  When you begin to write a novel, do you outline in detail? Write character biographies?  I know everyone’s style is different, but I want to know what Kat does.

It depends. I usually have a rough idea and a roughed-in character, or a character and a situation and I story/write/spiel a bit until I either hit a wall or the idea starts to have some momentum on its own. Then I pull back and start analyzing, outlining, making notes, etc. (Well, except for the screenplay project–that really needed a synopsis and outline.) I used to do a lot of things like bios and background development and then I’d write from a fairly vague outline (or none). Then I stopped using that process and went into a heavier outline mode with less of the backgrounding and character bio stuff, but a lot more research–Greywalker had a 32-page outline (though most have been a lot shorter than that). And it’s interesting that the first thing I was ever able to sell was based on an outline, rather than free-formed, and all the Greywalker novels have had outlines–even if they were a bit shorter than the first book’s.

I switched to Scrivener last year and now I’m currently doing a lot of loose outlining and then shuffling things around afterward because Scrivener makes that very easy. But I’ve started doing bios again (another thing Scriv makes easy) and then writing lots of vignettes and short stories about the characters doing things that don’t happen in the main novel, but help me understand them, their quirks, their history, their world, and their problems much better. I store all that stuff in a project folder called “Scratch” along with everything I take out of the main manuscript–just in case I want it some other time. I’ve also taken on a screenplay and a lot more short stories recently as a way of challenging myself to write in different modes, or different types of characters, different styles, and so on. My current goal is for each project to be new in some way that will hone my craft or stretch my limits and that often means that the whole process is new for me each time.

3.  You were just very open about a project you submitted not getting interest on the first try.  I haven’t had that experience yet as I’m working on my first novel now, so it was truly inspiring when you so were honest and shared that.  I know the answer is to get back on the horse and try somewhere else, but how do you motivate yourself to do that? And do you start writing something else in the meantime?

That particular situation was rough, I admit–I had to manage some pretty harsh circumstances last year and in the early parts of this year, so that rejection threw me harder than I should have let it. But, writing is my job and I can’t let a normal part of the process derail me–and rejections are normal. Rejections can make you downheartened–that’s just the truth of it. If you didn’t think well of the project, you wouldn’t have submitted it, so having someone you really wanted a positive response from say “no” hurts. But here’s the thing: it’s not you who is being rejected. It’s the work right now, in this state, and with this editor or publisher. That “no” may have very little to do with you or the project, but whether it does or not, it’s an opportunity to try something else, to learn, and to improve. So I take the same view I take with losing out on a job opening–it might not have been a step up. While its not always true, I prefer to think so, and then I go on with other projects and the rest of the submission or publication process, and I strive to do better every time. Notice I don’t say “while I wait.” I don’t wait. I’m always busy doing other things while I have various projects on submission or at different points in the publication process. I–and every other writer or creative professional–have to be ready to go forward when the opportunities are there and use the “downtime” to make ready for those opportunities. In the long run, that perpetual state of readiness will pay off. Several people–from Samuel Goldwyn through Thomas Edison–have been credited with the quote “The harder I work, the luckier I get,” and, no matter who really said it, that’s how I see it. Work hard; get lucky.

4.  I had a very big moment a year ago, when, not having written in years, a new friend made me practice saying, “I am a writer.”  I actually couldn’t say it at first.  I think there is a real empowerment that came with being able to claim that I am a writer, even without having published.  Do you have any similar story?  Some moment when you claimed your identity as a writer?

Oh boy do I. Two circumstances banged into each other and kind of drove me to claim the title of “writer” after many years of letting that languish.

First, I had a friend I’d worked with on a short film project and I’d thoughtlessly hurt his feelings, but he’d still call me up and pester me about getting a job. One day I told him off. I said, “I’ll get a job when I finish this stupid project!” and he said “Oh, you always have some excuse!” That hurt. But it did get me off my ass: the project was Greywalker. I finished it.

Then I let it sit and got a job working as a technical editor for Microsoft. I was making money, but not doing what I wanted. And then the second thing happened: I needed to renew my passport so I could go to a business conference. I looked at my passport and noticed it said “Occupation: Writer.” Not Editor. Writer. And I thought, “I can’t call myself a writer if I don’t do it and don’t send stories out so other people can see that I am a writer–not just a procrastinator.” That was when I decided I would be a Writer.

So I cleaned up the manuscript and started sending out queries. And someone said yes. But had it not been for my friend giving up on me and me almost giving up on myself, I wouldn’t have done it. Now I like to hold onto something Delilah Dawson said to a young woman at DragonCon in 2014. The young woman started to ask a question after a panel and she predicated it by saying “I’m not a writer, I’m just aspiring–” and Delilah cut her off and looked her in the eye and said “Honey, you’re a writer. You’re just not published yet.”

See: Writer is someone you are, not something you do. So be that with all your heart and be that all the time. Don’t let other stuff own you. Be a Writer.

5.  My favorite thing about being part of a writing community is the support and encouragement everyone gives each other.  I think Facebook has really changed the way authors interact with each other as well as with readers.  Do you agree?

Not entirely. I love the easy contact and support among networked friends. The chance to connect to other writers and other people in the industry is useful and can be very supportive.

But at the same time I kind of hate Facebook and a lot of the social media. I find it not only a time-sink, but an easy place to fall into the trap of comparing yourself to others and judging yourself wanting. We’re constantly urged to speak only of the positive things–and that’s encouraging and good business–but it also gives the impression that everyone is doing better than you and is having so much better or easier a time and you’ll never measure up. It feeds “Impostor Syndrome”: that feeling that everyone is more successful, or more artistic, or more beloved, or more literary or…whatever thing you feel insecure about in your own work. These crazy ideas are almost never true. Every writer struggles and has bad days or bad luck or frustrations, and we are often reluctant to be negative in public or to admit to failure. While it’s good to limit negativity, the lack of reality-check can give the impression that the negative aspects are yours alone–and that’s horrible.

The trick is to pick and choose your contacts and to limit your time and interaction to what is useful and encouraging for you. Not to be drawn into negativity, or time-wasting, or dead-end competition. Use the network to support and encourage and to find people you can connect to in person. That’s where it’s really good–when you can “meet” someone online who then becomes a friend and supporter in person. Connect. Don’t compete.

6.  Last, what else is going on that you’d like to mention?

So many things. Wow… I’ve written five short stories this year for various anthologies, and parts of two novels–or is it three now…?–as well as working on this caper-flick screenplay. I got to work with Catie Murphy on one of those short stories and I’m part of an outrageously fun project called INDIGO with Christopher Golden, Cherie Priest, Charlaine Harris, Tom Lebbon, Chuck Wendig, James A. Moore, Jonathan Maberry, Mark Morris, and Kelly Armstrong.

I’ve been revising a big, new novel project and trying to advance my craft with every one of these projects. There’s also been some exciting developments I can’t really discuss yet, but they’re cooking in the background. I recently found out that my first three Greywalker novels came out in Czech translation.  And the Greywalker novels were recently listed on the Barnes and Noble SF Blog’s “Six Gritty Supernatural Crime Novels” (http://www.barnesandnoble.com/blog/sci-fi-fantasy/6-gritty-supernatural-crime-novels/) list–which makes me really happy! It’s been a rollercoaster of a year, but the ride’s definitely been amazing so far. I can’t wait to see what happens next!

Thanks for letting me blither all over your site. 🙂

Thanks so much for being here!

5 Questions in 5 Minutes with Rachel Caine–Let’s Talk Ink and Bone

inkandbone_revisedSlippery Words is delighted to have the funny, thoughtful Rachel Caine here today. We are talking about Ink and Bone, your newest novel.  Thank you, Rachel for participating in 5 Questions in 5 Minutes.

SW: This book utilizes themes from many different genres.  When you were planning the book, did you know you were going to create a cross-genre work or did that happen as you wrote it? 

RC: I generally don’t think about what slot a story will fit into, to be honest (sometimes to my detriment!). I tell the story as it unfolds for me, and almost all of my stories end up being cross-genre in some way or other. In fact, when I was writing the proposal for the Weather Warden series that landed in Urban Fantasy, that was also cross-genre–magic, in a contemporary world? MADNESS! Dogs and cats, living together! It just so happened that Urban Fantasy became its own defined genre about that time. (Lucky!) I read across genres regularly, so cross-genre stories seem fun and interesting to me.

SW: Recently, I’ve read several online articles relating to Harry Potter and JK Rowling’s work in which some adult readers worry that children can’t handle the number of deaths in her work.  You, also, have some tragedy in which children die.  What is your thought on this?

RC: I think adults can’t handle the idea of children reading about death. We live in a multimedia-saturated world in which even quite young children have seen a great deal of visual depictions of violence and death–and, in a world where the news constantly carries stories of war, terrorism and death, I think it’s all but impossible to avoid, and yet devoid of real context and empathy. Young adult fiction exists, in no small part, to introduce young people to problems, concepts and issues that they may NOT face in their lives, so that they can begin to understand them and form their own responses to them before they have to deal with it in an immediate, traumatic, and inescapable way. Novels have a unique ability to place the reader not just in the situation, but in the mind of the person, not just the situation. They convey, and teach, empathy.

I understand the protective impulse, but I think it’s wrong. Why not use a book that children might be uncomfortable reading as an opportunity to have a discussion about those issues, and fully explore them? SW: I was struck by the fact that the name Jess could be a female name or a male name. Was there any consideration to making the main protagonist a girl?

I didn’t decide on Jess’s gender until the very last minute. Rather than base characters on gender, I like to think more about what they do, what they face, where they come from, and where they’re going.

In this case, when I looked at everything, I had a clearer idea for Jess’s voice as belonging a boy than I did as a girl (I wrote it both ways, experimentally). You’ll notice that Morgan is also a name that could be assigned to either a boy or girl.

I also probably favored Jess as a boy a bit more because I’m breaking the mold I’ve had for many books now of female POV characters. It’s a nice stretch for me as a writer.

SW: You are very deliberate about bringing together many characters of different nationalities and cultures. I am assuming this was an important part of the book for you, to show this international representation?

RC: It is important to me, but it was also practical for the story. The Great Library exists in every country in the world … and that being said, it would draw the best minds from across the globe, regardless of nationality, religion, sex, disabilities–any consideration you could name. It would have been artificial, I think, not to make it a diverse landscape of people!

SW: Have you read Jim C. Hines’ books?  He also deals with the power of the printing press, although in a completely different way.

I love Jim’s books! I hadn’t actually thought much about that, because I was thinking about the press as a plot point, when the book was really about the library (or about the internet vs. paper), but yeah, cool! I get a lot of people talking about the TV show THE LIBRARIAN, too. And Genevieve Cogman has a book out called THE INVISIBLE LIBRARY as well. Maybe we’ll put together a sub-genre! Librarypunk!

Thanks so much for the questions! I truly appreciate it, and I hope you enjoyed the book!

Thank you SO MUCH for being with me on SlipperyWords! And I loved the book!