Guest Interview: Weird West Writer Gemma Files

Gemma Files is the weird west author of A Book of Tongues, one of the novels included in the

gemma-files

Gemma Files

weird west StoryBundle which a reader can purchase at a very low price. I had the opportunity to interview Gemma recently and she was kind enough to allow me to post it on my blog. I hope you like it, and I hope her interview inspires you to check out the weird west collection from StoryBundle.com as well. Thanks!  –Mark

Mark: Hi, Gemma, thank you for the opportunity to interview you about your work. I’ve looked forward to this opportunity for a long time, so let’s get to it. As a writer how do you define the weird west genre? Why did you decide to set A Book of Tongues in this time frame?

Gemma: Hey, Mark, right back at you–I’ve been impressed by your work since I first ran across the initial short stories that would eventually give rise to Haxan online. Like most people my age (I think), I was first introduced to the weird west genre through Joe R. Lansdale and Jonah Hex, both on their own and in concert, though thinking back, I actually believe my first brush with it came through William S. Burroughs’ The Place of Dead Roads and Michael Ondaatje’s Collected Works of Billy the Kid. So for me, it’s definitely always been best defined as “Western with something extra,” whether that something is psionics, black magic, Mexica goddesses, zombies, alien technology, time travel or just a general sort of…spiritual weirdness, an Acid-soaked 1960s hangover, a Do What Thou Wilt Shall Be The Whole Of The Law deconstructive Southern Gothic ethos that translates from The Outlaw Josey WalesMcCabe & Mrs Miller and Heaven’s Gate on down to The Long Riders and Unforgiven, Deadwood and Carnivale. There’s also a whole lot of fire and brimstone folk-country/spookabilly rock ‘n’ roll in there, too: 16 Horsepower, Murder by Death, Leonard Cohen, Emmylou Harris, Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds. That’s the soundtrack that was hovering in the back of my mind as I was writing A Book of Tongues.
As for why I decided to set the book in that time-frame, well…my previous obsession had been Martin Scorsese’s Gangs of New York, so I’d already done a fair bit of research about the 1860s. But at the moment I began writing, I’d just spent basically a year not writing much except fanfic for James Mangold’s remake of 3:10 to Yuma. So that was the seed everything grew from: a Bible-quoting bad guy in black and the trigger-happy right hand man who was obviously in love with him, with liberal application of other stuff I liked: blood magic, evil dead gods, Pinkerton agents, towns cursed to salt, absinthe, incautious sex, train robbery, wholesale murder. All that.

ABookofTonguesM: A Book of Tongues has many cultural and historical references, some quite obscure or not well known. You kept the western and supernatural elements distinct when needed, or used both to great effect. How did you research this novel, and how did you decide what elements to keep, and what to leave aside?

G: I love history, and I love to know stuff other people don’t. One of my biggest influences was probably either a book called Poe Must Die by Marc Olden, which I got at a rummage sale when I was in my teens and is mainly set in Five Points, New York’s most notorious slum, or Michael Crichton’s The Great Train Robbery, large sections of which are set in the area of London called Seven Dials, which makes an appearance in Hexslinger Series Book Three. Poe Must Die juxtaposes hierarchical black magic and necromancy with “normal” period-specific criminal violence and enterprise, while The Great Train Robbery is about how people’s emotional impulses–venal and otherwise, pre-planned or otherwise–can drive and derail even the most complicated plans. Both were really useful in terms of outlining A Book of Tongues. The other thing that helped was thinking about religion as another form of magic, both in terms of Reverend Rook’s Christianity and the Mayan-Mexica goddess Ixchel’s plans for humanity, especially since both are bridged by various characters’ talent for natural magic–“hexation.” But generally, I just kept the stuff I liked most and threw away the rest, the way I do with almost everything else.

M: A Book of Tongues is the first novel of a trilogy. When you were writing did you know this ahead of time and did it present any problems in structure?

G: I did not know this would be a trilogy, no.;) What happened was that I kept working from exactly the same outline I started with, then getting to 80,000 words out of a potential 100,000 (ChiZine Publications’ official cut-off point) and going: “Oh shit, time to tie it off and write another book.” I like to say it comes from having written screenplays; the three books are like three acts in a classic Syd Field-style Hollywood three-act structure, each sub-divided into three acts of their own.

M: I was wondering what is it about the weird west genre you like? Is there anything you don’t like, or would like to see improved?

G: Like I said above, I think the weird west has an amazing potential for deconstruction, particularly as it applies to some of those old established storytelling tropes which really deserve to be challenged. In a lot of ways, Westerns are a genre of stories America tells about itself to excuse its own actions–the destructive lies behind the idea of Manifest Destiny, for example, of the West as an “empty” frontier, which allow settlers to try to pretend that that emptiness wasn’t achieved by removing indigenous people from their tribal lands, herding them like buffalo, trying to exterminate them. Add in slavery on top of that, and sexual violence, and all the different types of awfulness people perpetrate against each other, and you see that this is a genre ripe for reinterpretation, for being busted down to its component parts and messed around with so different voices–voices other than those of the accepted default–can get a chance to tell stories which imagine themselves as heroes rather than background, or villains. Is it easier to do that when you splice Western DNA with something else, something that cracks the mold a bit? I don’t know. I do know that even in A Book of Tongues, though, I was trying to push those boundaries. I’ve been rightfully called out for not doing it as hard as I might have (the novel’s a pretty shameless bag of dicks, for one thing), but I do think I got a lot better at it by the time A Tree of Bones rolled around.

M: What are you working on now? Can we expect more stories or novels set in the weird west?

G: What I’m working on right now are two contemporary, stand-alone horror tales in the basic mode of Experimental Film, for which I recently won the 2015 Shirley Jackson Award for Best Novel. However, who knows? When CZP asked me to write some supplemental novellas for their Hexslinger Omnibus ebook, which collects all three parts of the series, I had the opportunity to revisit this world and those characters in a way that was very satisfying–I wish more people had gotten to read those tales, because they really do form a nice little epilogue of sorts to the whole saga. Since then, however, I haven’t really done much more in the genre, aside from three fairly obscure short stories (“Some Kind of Light Shines From Your Face,” which I did for an anthology called Gutshot, “Black Bush,” which was in Arcane, and “Satan’s Jewel Crown,” for Dark Discoveries #26). I’d eventually like to do another series set in 1880, mainly focused around New York–characters from the Hexslinger series would turn up in those, definitely. I’m pretty sure I’m not done.
M: Finally, the most important question of the interview. What would you like to hear Matt Dillon of Gunsmoke say if you were suddenly transported to the Old West?
G: Okay, what would I like to hear Matt Dillon of Gunsmoke say if I were suddenly transported to the Old West…well, sad thing to admit, but I’ve never actually seen Gunsmoke. My personal vision of ridiculously cleaned-up Old West media acceptance of choice would probably be the so-called “Brat Pack” Western Young Guns (1988, dir. Christopher Cain), in which characters at least got to say a weird-ass version of “fuck” (“farg,” if I remember correctly). I’d like to be welcomed there by a thin, smirking Emilio Estevez and a vaguely poetic-looking Kiefer Sutherland.
M: Thank you, Gemma!
All Covers Large

Weird West Story Bundle

 

 

 

 

Blood, Dust, Wind! Quaternity, a brand new Haxan novel coming from CZP

From the jacket copy:

Hell is truth seen too late.

Before he became a U.S. federal marshal in Haxan, John Marwood rode with a band of killers up and down the Texas/Mexico border.

Led by Abram Botis, an apostate from the Old Country, this gang of thirteen killers search for the fabled golden city of Cibola, even riding unto the barren, blood-soaked plains of Comancheria.

And in this violent crucible of blood, dust, and wind, Marwood discovers a nightmarish truth about himself, and conquers the silent, wintry thing coiled inside him.

COMING JUNE/JULY 2015 from CZP. Blood, dust, wind!

 

Quaternity by Kenneth Mark Hoover

 

Pre-Order QUATERNITY Coming from CZP — A New Haxan Novel

Hell is truth seen too late.

Before he became a U.S. federal marshal in Haxan, John Marwood rode with a band of killers up and down the Texas/Mexico border.

Led by Abram Botis, an apostate from the Old Country, this gang of thirteen killers search for the fabled golden city of Cibola, even riding unto the barren, blood-soaked plains of Comancheria.

And in this violent crucible of blood, dust, and wind, Marwood discovers a nightmarish truth about himself, and conquers the silent, wintry thing coiled inside him.

COMING from CZP! Please order your copy now and beat the rush. Also available in e-book!

 

Quaternity by Kenneth Mark Hoover

Did you miss the new cover for my upcoming novel Quaternity? Here it is!

Hell is truth seen too late.

Before he became a U.S. federal marshal in Haxan, John Marwood rode with a band of killers up and down the Texas/Mexico border.

Led by Abram Botis, an apostate from the Old Country, this gang of thirteen killers search for the fabled golden city of Cibola, even riding unto the barren, blood-soaked plains of Comancheria.

And in this violent crucible of blood, dust, and wind, Marwood discovers a nightmarish truth about himself, and conquers the silent, wintry thing coiled inside him.

COMING JUNE/JULY 2015 from CZP! I  can’t wait!

 

Quaternity by Kenneth Mark Hoover

Cover Reveal for New Haxan Novel QUATERNITY!

Hell is truth seen too late.

Before he became a U.S. federal marshal in Haxan, John Marwood rode with a band of killers up and down the Texas/Mexico border.

Led by Abram Botis, an apostate from the Old Country, this gang of thirteen killers search for the fabled golden city of Cibola, even riding unto the barren, blood-soaked plains of Comancheria.

And in this violent crucible of blood, dust, and wind, Marwood discovers a nightmarish truth about himself, and conquers the silent, wintry thing coiled inside him.

COMING JUNE/JULY 2015 from CZP!

 

Quaternity by Kenneth Mark Hoover

 

CZP Bought My New Haxan Novel QUATERNITY for July 2015!

A lot of good news on the writing front, recently. Haxan has just been published by CZP last week, and I also learned they want to buy PulpFiction_112013_DSCF0017Quaternity for a July 2015 publication date.

As followers of this blog know Quaternity has a very special place in my mind. I wrote that novel, all 85,000 words, in 19 days. I mean, that was after about a year and a half of starts, stops, thinking about it, etc. Border trips, which I blogged about, and other research and fact finding trips.

Then, suddenly, the flood gates opened and it poured forth. It was an amazing experience in many ways. and as a result the novel became personally important to me. Yes, I think it’s my best. I tried to do something very different in that novel, both substantively and personally. I set out to write an anti-western, even an anti-mythological western. A complete break with the cliches and mythology that has held much of the western genre back for over a century.

That’s what I wanted to do. I will flat out say I think I have succeeded.

Those who know me know I don’t say that lightly.

I knew it was a big goal when I started the project. I was never certain I would find the key to unlock what was holding me back. After all that time spent and no real pages to show for it, I never quit. I never for one moment thought the story idea and what I was trying to accomplish wasn’t worthwhile or didn’t hold up.

That’s not always true with every story. Sometimes a writer learns when to walk away from a story. I never felt that with Quaternity. I always believed there was something special there, if only I could tease it out.

If only I could find the key.

I did. I finished the novel in 19 days and was floored at that process. Submitted it. It went through a couple of rewrites, and now CZP wants it for next year.

I couldn’t be happier!

It’s a validation. A big one. Yes. It’s that important to me.

Kenneth Mark Hoover Writer Biography

Kenneth Mark Hoover

Kenneth Mark Hoover

 

Kenneth Mark Hoover has sold over sixty short stories and articles. His fiction has appeared in Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine, Beneath Ceaseless Skies, Strange Horizons, and many other magazines and anthologies. His first novel, a dystopian SF called Fevreblau, was published by Five Star Press in 2005. He is a member of SFWA and HWA. His interests include Shotokan karate and Nordic Wicca. He also likes beagles and pecan coffee.

His latest novel, Haxan, is a violent dark western published by CZP/HarperCollins in 2014. You can find out more about Mr. Hoover and his work from his blog kennethmarkhoover.me (you’re reading it now!) or his website kennethmarkhoover.com.

Blood, Dust, Wind. An Excerpt from the Novel Haxan.

Here is an excerpt from my new novel Haxan published by CZP. Hope you like it!

–KMH

 

CHAPTER 1

 

Haxan, New Mexico Territory

Spring, 1874

 

I found the old man nailed to a hackberry tree five miles out of Haxan.

They had hammered railroad spikes through his wrists and ankles. There was dried blood on the wood and iron. Blood stippled his arms and chest. He was stripped naked so the westering sun could peel the flesh from his bones.

He was alive when I found him.

I got down off my horse, a blue roan I picked up in Mesilla, and went up to the man. His twitching features were covered with swarming bluebottles.

I swiped them away and pressed the mouth of a canteen to his parched lips. He was in such a bad way, I knew if he drank too much, too fast, he would founder and the shock would kill him.

He took a capful of water and coughed. Another half-swallow.

“I can work those nails out,” I said. “You might have a chance if a doctor sees you.”

He raised his grizzled head. His face was the colour of burned leather kicked out of a prairie fire. His eyelids were cut away, his eyes seared blind by the sun.

“Won’t do any good, mister.” He talked slow and with effort, measuring his remaining strength. He had a Scandinavian accent that could float a ship, pale eyebrows, and faded blue irises. “I been here two days.”

I tried to work one of the nails free. It was hammered deep and wouldn’t budge.

“No use,” he rasped. “Anyway, the croaker in Haxan is jugged on laudanum half the time. And the tooth-puller, he ain’t much better in the way of a man.”

I let him have more water. “Who did this?”

“People of Haxan.”

I tried to give him more water but he shook it off. He was dying and he knew it. He didn’t want to prolong the process.

“Why?”

“They’re scared. Like children are scared of the dark.”

He was delirious and not making sense. “Scared of what?”

“Me. What I know about this place.” His words and his mind grew distant together. “The ghost voices frozen in the rocks and the grass, the water and the sky. The memory of the world carried high on the wind.”

His head dropped onto his naked chest. He was losing strength fast. I tried to give him water again but he wouldn’t take it.

“What’s your name, mister?” he asked in a hoarse whisper.

“John Marwood.” I had other names, but he wouldn’t be able to pronounce them. Sometimes I couldn’t remember them all.

“I waited for you, son,” he said. “I called . . . but you didn’t get here fast enough. This moment . . . in time.”

I felt showered with ice.

“So you help her instead, Marwood. My daughter, I mean.”

“Let me help you first, old man. My horse can carry us both.”

“Thank you for the water. At least you tried.” His head rolled back. His breath sawed in his throat. “Did I tell you it snowed the day she was born?”

He gave a long, trembling sigh. With a sudden jerk his body slumped forward.

He was dead.

I cut him down and buried him in the shade of the hackberry tree. The sky was purpling in the east when I placed the last stone on top of his grave.

An hour of daylight remained. Across the empty landscape a single mourning dove flew to water. I walked over the hard ground looking for tracks. Two single-rider horses, well shod, and a wagon, had come from the north and gone back that way.

Headed for town.

The stirrup leather creaked when I mounted up. It was the only sound in the desert and it carried like a scream.

I shook the reins in my hand and pulled toward Haxan.

…………………

If you are interested in purchasing the novel then please check out these sites. The book should also start appearing in brick and mortar bookstores soon. If you don’t see it, ask for it!

 

Kindle Edition (Amazon):  http://www.amazon.com/Haxan-Kenneth-Mark-Hoover-ebook/dp/B00HCHCLUQ/?tag=westeros-20

Paperback edition:  http://www.amazon.com/Haxan-Kenneth-Mark-Hoover/dp/1771481757/ref=tmm_pap_title_0

Apple iBook (iTunes): https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/haxan/id784425699?mt=11

Google (Play): http://books.google.ca/books?id=60iYAgAAQBAJ

Barnes & Noble (Nook): http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/haxan-kenneth-mark-hoover/1117715955?ean=9781771481755

ChiZine Publication: http://chizinepub.com/books/haxan

 

 

Pre-order Information for My New Novel HAXAN

Thermopylae. Masada. Agincourt.

And now, Haxan, New Mexico.

We go where we’re sent. We have names and we stand against that which must be faced.

Through a sea of time and dust, in places that might never be, or can’t become until something is set right, there are people destined to travel. Forever.

I am one.

—Marshal John T. Marwood

 

Here are the sites where you can pre-order my new novel Haxan published by CZP. Haxan will be launched on June 17, 2014. Hope you like it!

 

Kindle Edition (Amazon):  http://www.amazon.com/Haxan-Kenneth-Mark-Hoover-ebook/dp/B00HCHCLUQ/?tag=westeros-20

Paperback edition:  http://www.amazon.com/Haxan-Kenneth-Mark-Hoover/dp/1771481757/ref=tmm_pap_title_0

Apple iBook (iTunes): https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/haxan/id784425699?mt=11

Google (Play): http://books.google.ca/books?id=60iYAgAAQBAJ

Barnes & Noble (Nook): http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/haxan-kenneth-mark-hoover/1117715955?ean=9781771481755

ChiZine Publication: http://chizinepub.com/books/haxan

 

My new novel Haxan slated for publication by CZP on June 17, 2014

Haxan by Kenneth Mark Hoover, published by CZP

I’m attending the Texas Library Association for CZP Haxan promos!

Wow, this was unexpected but great news. I will be attending the Texas Library Association conference in San Antonio on April 8 and doing Haxan promos for CZP. I will be at the Diamond Book Distributors booth, probably handing out Haxan postcards or something and talking to people.

CZP is also thinking if they download Haxan from NetGalley to read and review it, we can also send them the 1st three chapters of a future novel. Something like that to give them an incentive, maybe. Details are still being worked out but count me on board for this project.

The TLA is a pretty big deal. It influences what other state libraries buy. We are also hoping since I am a local author the librarians will order lots of copies of this violent, dark fantasy western.

I’m looking forward to this trip. I’m excited about the prospect of representing CZP at this conference and I want to do a good job for them.

Just as a quick aside, there is an existing link for the Haxan Kindle edition. The Haxan paperback can be ordered here.

The novel is coming out in May, 2014.

Here are some longhorns to get you in the mood:

Longhorn cattle drive, Stockyards, Fort Worth, TX

Longhorn cattle drive, Stockyards, Fort Worth, TX

Wow, my novel HAXAN is up for preorder by CZP/HarperCollins (plus a shout out)

All right, this is pretty cool. CZP/HarperCollins already has my upcoming dark fantasy novel Haxan up for preorder on Amazon in both Kindle and paperback. Thanks!

Haxan Preorder Page

And another cool thing that happened. My novel was listed (with many other upcoming novels to be sure) on the Westeros.org site. Now that right there made my week because they didn’t have to do it:

Westeros.org List of Upcoming 2014 Novels

Finally, a writer friend of mine, John Zeleznik name dropped me in the Westeros thread. Thanks, John! So, all things considered, it appears we are inching closer to the May launch date for Haxan. Looking forward to it.

So You Wrote a Story. But, Does it Look Right on the Page?

Harlan Ellison once said how he wrote a script and handed it to a director. The director took one glance at the first page and said, “Not filmable.”

Ellison was taken aback. “What do you mean it’s not filmable? You haven’t read it.”

“I don’t have to read it,” the director said, handing it back. “It doesn’t look right on the page. That’s all I need to know to pass on this.”

This may seem kind of goofy to new writers, but there’s a lot of truth in it. Maybe that scares you. But you shouldn’t let it. How a story looks on the page reflects certain attitudes and facets of the story. Maybe it’s subliminal, I don’t know what’s at work here, but it does affect the reader.

It exists. It’s real. A story not only has to be well-written, it has to look “right” on the page.

Yes, you can come up with a lot of writers like Faulkner and McCarthy who have long dense passages in their novels, even at the beginning of the novel. Well, my response to that is “You’re not Faulkner or McCarthy. And neither am I.”

Believe it or not a good editor can tell right away from a glance at the manuscript whether or not the story she has in her hands is worth Oh, good grief, one more thing I have to worry about when it comes to writing!pursuing. I’m not talking about formatting errors here, although they are important as well. No, I mean what emotion or ‘sense of being’ does the story portray to the reader by how it looks on the page?

I’ve seen this very thing happen a lot and it’s happened to me, too.  It still happens to me, especially during first drafts. But I look back at some of my earlier stories and notice right away they’re just shaped all wrong.

The story itself is all right. They just look all wrong on the page.

Writing isn’t rocket science. You don’t need talent to be a good writer, though it helps, I think.* But this is one more facet you need to be aware of. Maybe not consciously. This doesn’t have to occupy the higher tiers of your brain and creative process when you are transferring the story initially from your brain to the page.

But after you finish the story, and the dust settles, and you come back to it fresh in two or three days, take a look at how it appears on the page.

Editors and publishers and agents all want that one story that will stand out over the others in their inbox. Because they receive literally hundreds (if not more) submissions a month, they aren’t first looking for a reason to buy your story…they’re looking for a reason to reject it.

Don’t give them this one excuse. It’s way too easy to fix. 🙂

*I do believe you need talent to elevate writing into a higher art form. But I freely admit that may also be a silly conceit.

Writing is the Art of Reality

I believe writing is the art of reality.Do you want your reader to read the same old boring story?

Writers paint in words. We use the world around us to create, and we create immense worlds. We aren’t constrained unless we let ourselves be constrained. We can take as much as we want, or as little, depending on the story that wants to be told.

We are in complete control. The only limitation is ourselves.

I was talking to a writer friend yesterday. There’s a person in her writing group who does not accept criticism of his work. Every word he writes is gold, every sentence glitters. In his mind he’s a writer, and everyone else, especially the reader, is always wrong.

I don’t have to spell out to you how toxic this is.

Earlier this week I followed a link to a writer’s published work. It was bad. The dialog was cringe-worthy. I honestly felt embarrassed for the writer.

How does stuff like that get past agents and editors? Seriously, how does it? So much for the vaunted gatekeepers.

But these are extreme examples. Most published writers are technically able to turn out a readable story. Readable, yes, but not memorable.

Or maybe the readers keep reading them because that’s the only option they have?

I have wrestled with this my entire life. I always try to challenge myself. If you follow this blog you know my peculiar philosophy. I’m not saying I am successful. I fail more often than I succeed, but I keep trying.

I love and respect writers who elevate their craft beyond the mundane. I like seeing genres grow out of their cliched roots and welcome new readers. That can’t happen unless writers are constantly challenging the status quo, however.

I don’t think I am alone in this. I believe most writers want to write well. I think they want to bring something new to the reader, and I believe the reader wants to be challenged and entertained.

But when writers take the safe path  everyone loses, and the genre is watered down.

Then again maybe I am wrong about every blasted thing we have talked about today. Maybe writing is not art. Maybe it’s only a method to shovel thoughts and ideas down to the reader. But I don’t believe that in my heart. I don’t believe most writers think that way about their craft, and I don’t believe readers think that way, either.

Meanwhile, a lot of people are getting published.

But, by comparison, I am seeing fewer writers in the process.

So my advice, FWIW, is take a chance. Stand out. Separate yourself from the pack.

Look, if all you want to do is get published, if that is your goal…well, anyone can do that. Nowadays it’s not difficult. But if you want to be a writer? That’s something else altogether. You will have to work to accomplish that goal.

Trust me. It’s worth it in the long run. You won’t always be successful and there are never any guarantees, especially in this ego-shattering profession. But when you are able to pull it off….man, is it ever worth it.

Yes, I am going to write The Great American Hobo Novel

I have finally decided I am going to do this for my next big project.

I have been interested in this idea for some time. A bit tongue in cheek, but I have called this idea The Great American Hobo Novel for some time. Mostly as a place holder name. I feel there’s a lot of potential here in this subject that hasn’t been mined. Yes, there have been other novels and films about this subject. I think I have found a way to approach it from a different direction and perspective. I have a plot in mind that may be workable.

That’s the problem. I have a plot. I don’t have a story. Not yet.

Writers will recognize this Catch 22 right away. Usually, we come up with the story first and the plot unfolds from there. This time, I came up with the plot first. But a plot is not a story. It’s a framework of a house. The story is the roof that makes the house.

This can be analogized by a simple plot: A boy finds a dog. He comes to love it. The dog saves his life.. Later, the dog catches rabies and the boy has to shoot the dog.

That’s a plot. Admittedly a recognizable one, but it serves our purpose of illustration. That’s a plot.  It’s  not a story.

So where’s the story in our example? Here: A boy grows up to be a man. That’s the story. The plot can be any framework that reveals the elements of that story. Maybe it wasn’t a dog. Maybe it was a hamster. See? Plots are not stories, and stories are not plots.

Thus, my dilemma.

I have the plot. I don’t have the story. Therefore, these are uncharted waters for me. I believe the story will reveal itself over time as I dig deeper and do more research. But I want to make sure I have it within my grasp before I get too involved with this project.

Meanwhile, it’s not like I’m lying fallow. I am getting prepared to attend several SF/F conventions this year, write more short stories, schedule readings at local libraries, and get more stuff out with Argo Navis Publishing.

A full plate by any standard. But times have changed and writing isn’t only writing anymore. Today writers have to be editors, publishers, marketers…God help us. I don’t like it, but I can’t pretend it’s unnecessary.

All the same I am getting excited about this project. I have been thinking about it for over a year and the idea has held up under scrutiny. That’s not always the case, either. Sometimes I will have an idea and after I study it a while I determine it’ s not worth the attention. I’m very picky and choosy about what I do and do not write nowadays. A lot of that comes with experience, a lot of it is having the belief in yourself to make the right judgments.

Because of the time frame you might expect there to be flappers, a particular subject I am interested in and have blogged about before. I don’t think so for this novel, however. It isn’t coming together in my mind to be that kind of novel. Not yet at any rate.

But it’s early days yet. There is a lot of history and culture which I need to start digging into.

Which is why I need to get started now. 🙂

My Story in The Best of Frontier Tales!

The Best of Frontier Tales, edited by Duke Pennell, has been out a while and I wanted to let you guys know about it. Every story was chosen by  readers as the best of that month. I have a Haxan story in there, but I really wanted you to check out the rest of the fiction as well.

Frontier Tales Magazine is a pretty good site that publishes not only Spur Award winners but lots of other cutting edge fiction in the western genre. The editor isn’t afraid to take on new voices and new ideas for his magazine, and this is what attracts me most, I think. Nor do I mean to imply it is the only western magazine out there doing this, because it is not. But this post is about Frontier Tales Magazine and I want to keep it concentrated on that for today.

So if you want a good collection of western fiction that isn’t wholly dependent on Saturday morning John Wayne cliches, check out The Best of Frontier Tales. And when you do, be sure to give ’em a review!

The Best of Frontier Tales

Chicon7 Update: getting tired but still going

Last night I attended the Chizine party and had a really good time. Talked writing with Janet Harriet and made new friends. Also did some preliminary convention planning with Sandra Kasturi and Brett Savory, the owners of Chizine.

Sandra Kasturi introduced me as a new Chizine author and mentioned the Haxan novel. I talked to other people about it later as the party wore on. I hope the interest continues on their part when the book finally comes out.

I didn’t get to attend as many panels as I wished yesterday because I was busy with other things. But that’s all right because networking, in the long run, is much more important than listening to panels. Even for an introvert like myself. I’ve seen lots of editors and publishers I have dealt with the in the past, I just wish I had time to hang out with them and talk. But they are busy, too. This convention is known for networking since it’s so large and so many people attend.

On a personal note one thing that irks me about Chicago is how difficult it is to find a restaurant to eat at. I mean, it seems there are a dearth of restaurants around the business section where I am staying. Which stupefies me since you would think there would be more restaurants to take care of the influx of weekend tourists who descend upon the city. It’s troublesome because while I have had some very good food here, I’ve also had bad. That kind of experience colors my perception of what is otherwise a fun experience.

Another thing I have trouble getting used to is the noise. It’s SO DAMN LOUD here. Sirens, car honks, people yelling…it never stops. I’m more used to the quietude of the country, I guess, or smaller cities. I guess I would get used to it eventually. I am not sure I want to ever get used to it, is what I am saying.

Well, that’s about it for now. I will head over to the convention tonight and watch some anime, but other than that I don’t have much else planned. I’m kind of tired even though I’ve been pacing myself well. Aside from the restaurant issue I am having a good time. I’m just getting ready to head on home, though, but that’s for tomorrow.

I’m going to write now for the rest of the afternoon. I haven’t been able to get any done since I’ve arrived and I need to get my hand in a little.

My Chicon7 Update

Had a good day today. Go up, ate a big breakfast, and walked to the convention. I checked on my bookmarks and attended a panel on How to Get an Agent. Later I met Jennifer Brozek and Matt Forbeck for lunch and hit the dealer room.

We went through the Dealer Room and I stopped by the CZP table and met with Sandra Kasturi and Brett Savory. These are the editors who will be publishing my Haxan novel in 2014. I offered to help them carry stuff up to the room party tomorrow afternoon and told them if they needed help at the dealer table I was available. After that I attended another panel on how editors fill magazines and returned to the hotel.

Guess what? I was so busy today I forgot to take pictures. Idiot me.

I’ll have supper tonight and may nor may not return to the convention. Thinking about pizza and red wine. I am always reminded I must pace myself because I have overdone these things in the past and then I am too tired to do anything the next day! And tomorrow looks like it might be a long one….

Later: Clouding up. Hope it doesn’t rain, but I think some is expected tomorrow. I need a bumbleshoot!

Guest Blogger: Jenn Nixon’s new novel Lucky’s Charm

Today I am happy to welcome Jenn Nixon as a guest blogger. She will talk about her new novel Lucky’s Charm. Enjoy! –KMH

  Jenn Nixon says:
I started writing at a very young age but didn’t realize I actually wanted to make a living as a writer until I finished my first Star Wars Fan Fiction. It was one of the first projects I started and finished. It was a cohesive story that, to me, was really awesome at the time! Actually, it’s not a bad story, and I’ve gotten a lot of miles out of the set up, the character names, and the plot for other small projects I did afterward.
Lucky’s story came to me one day while chatting with my best friend. I’ve always loved women who can kick ass and take names. Lucky is no exception. The original plot transformed over the course of the books as I introduced more characters who took on lives of their own. Eventually, I was telling their story instead of making up my own story for them!

Lucky’s Charm

To protect her family and find a killer, Felicia “Lucky” Fascino assumed her adoptive father’s identity and joined the network, an organization of moral assassins to finish the job he began. Eliminating the man responsible for murdering her mother has consumed her for the last five years. While keeping her Uncle Stephen and cousin Elizabeth at arm’s length, Lucky begins to feel the weight of her career choice and reclusive lifestyle. Then a chance encounter with an enigmatic hit man, during one of her jobs, turns into a provocative and dangerous affair. Distracted by the secret trysts with Kenji Zinn and mounting tension within her family, Lucky makes reckless mistakes that threaten her livelihood and almost claim her life.

Excerpt:

Lucky watching her next target…

The average person wouldn’t know how to spot someone following them. More often than not, the marks Lucky tailed looked like every other citizen making his way through a herd of bodies on the sidewalks. In a major city like Montreal, it was easy to become lost in the crowd.

Lucky never drew attention to herself, especially while working. The sweater she wore—thanks to Bet—was perfect for the chilly fall weather. It went down to her mid-thigh and covered most of what she wanted to conceal. The self-tinting glasses lightened some when the clouds played hide-and-seek with the sun. Colored contacts and a dark chestnut wig hid the rest of her unusual features.

To the world, Lucky was just another pedestrian, walking down the street.

During her second day in town, she had followed Newton into his office to do some recon. She’d timed the elevators and checked for security cameras in the building and surrounding areas. The fourth day, she memorized the traffic around his office and house, and decided it was less risky in town than his home.

Day six of watching Newton progressed smoothly. He was more difficult than most, constantly searching his surroundings like a Cold War spy. Since he had things to hide, including a thriving illegal pharmaceutical business and murder, she considered it a challenge to go up against him. Lucky liked when a mark tested her abilities because it made her more vigilant.

Newton’s secretary had inadvertently confirmed a meeting for today when she called earlier. Lucky waited all morning to catch a glimpse of him. He appeared close to noon, heading to the corner store. When he vanished into the parking garage to find his car, Lucky backtracked to hers. She didn’t need to follow him. Newton was a workaholic; he never left his office before seven. Meeting or not, he’d be back.

Though she had the time to go to the hotel, she opted to move into the parking garage and wait. The interior had no obvious security, but she wanted to be certain no one watched the lot. Lucky settled in and pulled out the USA Today she’d bought before getting on the plane. She spread the outdated paper over the steering wheel and kept her eyes just above the edge. If there were any kind of hidden security system in the garage, she’d have to change locations. For now, she left the car running in case she had to move fast.

Bio: Jenn’s love of writing started the year she received her first diary and Nancy Drew novel. Throughout her teenage years, she kept a diary of her personal thoughts and feelings but graduated from Nancy Drew to other mystery suspense novels.

Jenn often adds a thriller and suspense element to anything she writes be it Romance, Science Fiction, or Fantasy. When not writing, she spends her time reading, observing pop culture, playing with her two dogs, and working on various charitable projects in her home state of New Jersey.

www.jennnixon.com

www.facebook.com/JennNixonAuthor

Twitter: @jennnixon

Sorry, but this is not why I write. And I can’t change that.

Okay, it’s been a while since an update. It’s not like I’ve been completely lazy. We have a lot of family and personal things going on around here this summer and it has eaten into a lot of my time. I mean, I haven’t been camping this summer (much) so that should give you some idea how busy I’ve been. (And it doesn’t look like I will be going camping until September at the earliest.)

But that’s not what I wanted to talk about. What I want to talk about is a decision I have made about my writing.

I have two or three more stories to get out on Argo Navis Publishing before WorldCon in Chicago this year. That’s cool and easily doable. But after that I think I am going to turn away from self-publishing for a while. If not forever.

I have many reasons for this, and it’s not because I haven’t sold any stories. Actually, I’ve done better than I ever thought. No, it’s because I don’t like it. I don’t like the feel of it. I don’t like the fact it takes away a shit-ton of ordinary writing time away from me.

This decision has not been made overnight. It’s been a long time coming. I’ve been struggling with this, probably way more than I should. But I’m a writer first and not a publisher. It’s not me. It’s not who I am. I don’t feel comfortable in that role at all. Some people do, and that’s good for them and I wish them well. But we’re talking about me.

I am a writer. I am not a publisher. Nothing I can do will change how I view and define myself, and how I have always viewed and defined myself.

It takes away too much time. Writing is more precious to me than self-publishing stories. That’s probably just me but I can’t help the way I feel. I can’t live or do something that goes against my basic nature. It’s not for me. It’s not. It’s just not.

Not to mention I’ve got so much else to concentrate on right now I feel overwhelmed. I don’t know if I will continue writing. Though I suspect I will. Maybe I will chuck it all and drive a truck for a living. My father did. It was good enough for him even though he and I were estranged. Then the new novel Haxan from CZP comes out in a couple of years. I’m not completely stupid. I know the business has changed enough I have to do a lot of promotion for Haxan and that’s fine. I actually like doing that because I like going to cons and libraries and blogging and whatnot. So that’s okay.

The second reason I am thinking about leaving self-publishing is because I have never written anything so I can see my name in print. Hell, when I first started writing professionally I used the pseudonym “Alden Crealock” because I didn’t care about my personal name. That wasn’t my motivation for writing then, and it’s not my motivation now. I only use my real name today because I don’t care whether it’s my name or some pen name up there below the title. For me, the story is first. The name has no bearing.

That’s not why I write.

Finally, it’s too easy. All right, I try to go the extra mile and have good covers, good editing, good style and formatting and all that stuff. Not because that’s my name on the cover (we’ve covered that) but because if I am putting a story out for readers I want them to have the best experience I can provide for them, and enjoy reading it. Because I’m also a reader, as well a being a writer.

To be honest, I think most people in this business feel that way. They want to produce a good product. But for me it feels too easy. That’s how I feel. I can’t help the way I feel. What works for other people doesn’t always work for another.

I can’t help the way I feel. It feels easy. And I kind of know it’s easy because there’s some really bad crap out there. I mean, it’s awful. It’s embarrassing. The writing is appalling…because it’s so easy to publish. Now I must be fair. I’m not giving every publisher a pass here, either. Some publishers make a living, a very good living, publishing really bad stuff. That’s their business model and that’s fine for them. Readers like it and they know their market. I wish them well.Writing is always hard enough anyway no matter what you are working on or publishing. I don’t have to read it, and don’t. But I do understand what writers go through. If nothing else I understand and sympathize with that.

I’m old-fashioned, I guess. I like sending a story in to an editor or publisher and having them decide whether or not my story is good enough to be published. I have always said, and I really believe this, that writers are the absolute worst people to decide whether their story is good enough to be published or not. No one, and I mean no one, is more ill-suited to pass judgment on his own work than a writer. We’re simply too close to it. So I do like having someone else make that call.

Again, just me.

I can’t help but wonder if some people are saying, “Okay, that’s easy for you to say. You’re a member of SWFA and HWA and even if a lot of readers don’t know you a lot of editors do and they know what kind of quality and professionalism you bring. I don’t have a track record and I’m trying to build one.”

I understand that, too. I’m only saying this is not who I am. I’m a writer, not a publisher. I can’t pretend otherwise. Does that mean I no longer want you to buy my stories? Of course not. That’s not what I’m saying.

I am saying I can no longer be someone I am not. I’m a writer, but that doesn’t mean I am going to abandon any story I have put out there for readers.They’re my stories. I’m proud of them. I’m proud of everything I write, otherwise I wouldn’t have published it in the first place. I sure as hell would have never sent it to an editor to be considered if I wasn’t proud of the story.

Oh, well. This is the current state I’m in. I seriously think (about 95% sure) I need to go in another direction. Because this is not me. It…it just doesn’t feel right.

It’s not who I am, and I don’t like it and it makes me feel uncomfortable. It would be like me going out and creating my own Wikipedia page about myself. That’s just…I don’t know. And I don’t care if that’s the way the business is now.

That’s not why I write. It never has been. It never will be.

So. Yeah. Moving on, I suppose.  Of course, this is me we’re talking about so everything could change by suppertime. Thanks for listening, anyway.  🙂

“Western Horror, My Interview with Kenneth Mark Hoover” by Darke Conteur

Darke Conteur interviewed me recently and we talked about a lot of things including the current state of publishing and genre. I had a good time doing this interview and I hope you like it, too.

Here’s the link to the interview. Hope you enjoy it and don’t forget to leave a comment and let her know if you enjoyed the interview!

 

Western Horror, My Interview with Kenneth Mark Hoover

 

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