A Fond Farewell

Happy Halloween!

Happy Halloween!

It’s the night of ghouls, goblins and ghosts. And like them, I’m gone in the morning.

I’ve had a tremendous amount of fun finding and interviewing artists and writers. But as much as I’ve enjoyed it, it’s time for me to get back to focusing on my writing career. I’m stepping down as the main content provider for the Bolthole blog.

So what does that mean for the blog? Well, the community has pitched ideas and concepts. Many of which sound great and promising. And I’m sure the RiaR will continue. I hope they have an easier time overcoming some of the challenges and issues I faced, and hope they can find an enduring passion for it.

Time will tell.

But before I go, I wanted to give a huge thanks to every author, publisher and artist who contributed to the blog. Their time and insight have made this a treasure trove of lessons and wisdom. A titanic thanks to Manuel Mesones for the background. And both he and the rest of my friends for their enduring support in trying times.

It’s only fitting that it should end on the only holiday when we take off our costumes and wear our real faces, as Zac Gorman perfectly explained. Even if others don’t realize they do it.

So own the night while you can. Happy Halloween!

-James Fadeley

“Marching Time” Author Thoughts

And now, a special anthology interview with some of the writers of Marching Time.

Literary leader, Mark Steven Thompson.

Literary leader, Mark Steven Thompson.

Mark Steven Thompson:

I didn’t need much inspiring to have a go at writing a time travel story, particularly one which focused upon its use in war. The idea was just too cool to pass up. In hind sight however I can see now that taking on such a concept was massively underestimated by me in the sense that it’s just such a difficult premise to get your head around. I spent countless hours pondering what-if scenarios before I could even put pen to paper, or rather, finger to keyboard. I have a folder on my PC with several unfinished attempts to crack the theme of time travel. I think the single biggest inspiration for me personally was the fact that my work might end up in a published anthology.

This gave the whole project a sense of professionalism and made me ‘up my game’ as it were. I think the Bolthole forum has really created something special here, and I’m not just talking about this book. They’ve created an exceptionally friendly, nurturing environment for new writers to find a voice and feel supported. That’s a major inspiration to me and I’ll certainly be looking forward to contributing to their next offering should I make the cut!

In the end I suppose the inspiration for Ultionem Lapsis came from a dark place in the back of my mind where I’d taken a ‘what-if?’ and asked myself if I was Gideon, what would be the worst thing that I could imagine happening to me? For Regicide, it was simply a piece of music that I have on my writing playlist. As it played I just couldn’t shake the idea of a guy from the future wading into war in a medieval era.

I don’t want to give anything more away than that because I like my tales to have a sting in the tale, a sudden twist that takes the reader somewhere they weren’t expecting to go. Sure, my ideas are often dark at times, but there’s often a message in there too which is what writing or story telling is really about.

Mastermind Jonathan Ward

Mastermind Jonathan Ward.

Jonathan Ward:

When the theme for the second Bolthole anthology was announced, my only real problem was deciding which idea to go with! A collection of short stories themed around time travel and war was a tremendously fun concept, and I knew the writers were going to come up with a huge variety of tales.

In the end one idea kept coming back to me: the question of how battles would be fought if time machines existed, and tactics could be tried then edited out of existence if they didn’t work?

Combine that with my love of stories set on distant worlds in the far future, and Ripples was born.

Story master, Mark Grudgings.

Story master, Mark Grudgings.

Mark Grudgings:

I’d like to think that writing for the Marching Time anthology changed my rather jaded opinion of time travel entirely.

I was very much of the fixed mindset that sees time travel as either A) A lazy plot device B) An easy-out for script writers C) An over saturated media format. When I see ‘time travel’ as a movie sub-genre it makes me wince, wishing for someone to look slightly outside of the opportunity simply to get a re-use from that damned period drama set.

Give me linearity and formula any day. Characters rather than character.

And yet, when viewing our editor Ross’ carefully worded recruitment poster that emphatically stated; “we want war stories” I felt the pocket of bile that I’d reserved for said topic dissolve into my intestine with nary a pop nor poke. Perhaps this was how to dissolve my disaffection. Perhaps now that time travel was a far less significant part of the story would I enjoy writing around it, rather than against it.

So I sucked up my own reservations and pitched a story. Thanks to the editors everything went well.

Mister plot twister, Griff Williams.

Mister plot twister, Griff Williams.

Griff Williams:

I think it’s common practice for parents, teachers and other well-meaning adults to take aside any child who has started to show an interest in writing, that two great lessons might be imparted. Never end your story with ‘then he woke up and it was all a dream’, and stay the hell away from time travel. And I think I understand why: there are a great many ways for a time travel story to go wrong, and very few ways for it to be pulled off.

There is the risk of the deus ex machina on one end of the spectrum, and absurdly convoluted rules, regulations and temporal bureaucracy on the other. So going into my project for Marching Time I was treading very, very carefully. If there was one inspiration guiding me, it was fear – fear of being right back in that primary school classroom and making the rookie mistakes all over again.

A large part of Hero of Magong‘s development was therefore my attempt to deal with this major concern, and the fact that the editors were looking for a primarily character piece was a definite life-saver. The time-travel really became more of a background element – the complication at the start of the story, not the solution at the end – with the bulk of the narrative instead focusing on the consequences of traveling.

From the beginning I wanted to do a story where the protagonist is forced to literally confront himself, or at least a younger version. How much more ‘character piece’ can you get? On top of that core I spread a generous helping of World War Three, using a NATO-Chinese conflict for both the source and destination of the time travel. With its scale, technology and underlying nuclear threat, it was about as pressing a reason for tearing great chunks of the space-time continuum a new one as I could imagine. I didn’t want protagonists returning from some pristine far-future with only a distant interest in events; this was going to be dirty, close-quarters time travel with personal stakes.

Finally, because I love working weird and blasphemous designs with narrative, I twisted some of the tenses around so the reader would get the disjointed, unnatural, stranger-in-a-strange-land feel of a time traveler’s perspective. Then it was just a matter of bashing my head against the keyboard and a brick wall alternately.

The rest is history. For now…

Writing warlord Lauren Grest.

Writing warlord Lauren Grest.

Lauren Grest:

As with most writing, it was about 50% inspiration and 50% cold calculation. I knew I wanted to use time travel as a sort of take on post-traumatic stress disorder as I think in a very pedestrian way, most of us go through periods of being depressed time travellers.
We mentally relive and revisit unpleasant events in our life far more regularly than going over our triumphs.

I knew I wanted to take it further and have people actually physically revisit these sort of events and get ‘stuck’ in the past. So that was my starting point. I also had an image of someone whose scars would disappear, which sparked the idea for the nocturnal battles with the protagonist and her veteran father. Which brings me to the calculation part. Those who have read the story will notice that it is quite small scale/domestic compared to some of the others which are more epic story arcs.

This was partly to cover up my poor knowledge of military history/ warfare (sorry) but also to suit the limitations of a short story.For me it was far easy to keep the word count down by stripping down the cast to a minimum and having a first person narrative.  I also decided to make time travel an inherent ability, in part because of the relationship between the characters but in part to cut down pages of explanation about how a time machine might work.

I think my favourite element of how the story turned out is down to the input of Ross. He suggested I change my initial idea to have my main character become a soldier too. I was reluctant at first (see lack of military writing experience) but in the end it really added something to the relationship between daughter and father, allowing some character development as the daughter gains an understanding of her father’s behaviour. We also see her recognise similarities with him when put under the pressure of military life.

Overall, I enjoyed the experience of writing something new and out of my comfort zone but I have to say that time travel is a hard theme to work with… Throughout the writing process I would tie myself into knots trying to get my head around the many, many potential plot holes opened up by time travel. I’m not sure I’d rush back to time travel but I’d definitely be interested in pitching for other Bolthole anthologies.

Dinosaur riding cowboy, C.L. Werner.

World crafting cowboy, C.L. Werner.

C.L. Werner:

My story for Marching Time is an idea that has been kicking around in my head for at least  a decade at this point. The Lost Blitzkrieg grows from two of my great passions: WWII  history and old monster movies. Bringing the two together felt especially exciting and in plotting out the story I wanted to not only be true to the setting but also to evoke the feel of all the films and pulp stories that inspired it.

I was less concerned with current scientific theories and more on the fictional creations of men like Ray Bradbury and Ray Harryhausen – the menace faced by the characters in the story isn’t meant to match up with what you’d see on the Discovery Channel or a BBC documentary, but rather a crackly black-and-white movie or in the mouldering pages of some forgotten issue of Unknown or Amazing Stories. It is escapist fun, after all, not education!

I will admit to being a good deal more judicious in my presentation of the German Wehrmacht in the early days of WWII. I’ve read many memoirs from soldiers of the era and viewed copious amounts of documentary footage, including the Nazi films Sieg im Westen and Stukas which really helps to delve into the Fall of France from not merely a German perspective but the German perspective as these events were unfolding.

One of the big challenges for any writer is to get inside the heads of his characters, to present them in ways that are accurate for both who and what they are. In resisting the temptation to abuse the authorial voice and allow the actions and thoughts of the characters themselves to illustrate the time they live in, I think a writer both challenges himself and encourages the reader to look at the story with a more insightful eye.

The old mantra of ‘show don’t tell’ is never more important than when it comes to philosophy and history. The lens of time inevitably distorts the image, but I hope I’ve created a vision of that moment which is at least vibrant enough to be engaging.

Interview with Josh Reynolds

Our final interview of the month is with an author who hold one of the longest bibliographies you will ever see. With 13 novels, over a hundred short stories and even some non-fiction under his belt, not many can claim to have accomplished what Josh Reynolds has done. And that list is only going to get longer. But first, he has a few words for us.

Josh Reynolds. It's still possible to read everything he's written in this life time. But you better get started...

Josh Reynolds. It’s still possible to read everything he’s written in this life time. But you better get started…

He2etic: What is the writing process like for you? If you were to describe the process in one word, what would it be?

Josh: I treat it like a job. I set a word count goal for a particular project, I reach it, I move on to something different. Sometimes that’s research, sometimes it’s working on another project, sometimes its promotional stuff.

If I were to describe it in one word, it’d be ‘mechanical’. I get up, I write, I have some coffee, I write some more, I have some coffee, etcetera ad nauseum. It’s all very boring, unless you’re me, and then it’s awesome.

He2etic: How do you approach character development? Do you prefer to see how the character evolves as you go, or do you put more planning into it beforehand?

Josh: It depends on the character, and the type of story it is. Some characters have evolved, some I’ve had to plan. I generally err on the side of having a basic personality-type in mind, and then letting the character work out his or her own voice as the plot unspools. It’s easier than it sounds.

“When in doubt, have a man with a gun come through the door. If that doesn’t work, try a monkey with a switchblade.”

 

He2etic: You’ve written work primarily set in the Warhammer fantasy universe. In ideas as to what you’d do in the Warhammer 40,000 setting?

The Whitechapel Demon, by Josh Reynolds! Coming soon.

The Whitechapel Demon, by Josh Reynolds. Coming soon from Emby Press.

Josh: Lots. Mostly involving big dudes in power armour hitting each other or other, smaller dudes. At the moment, I’d really love to write a Space Marine Battles book, just for the experience.

Or something with a Necron as a protagonist, because why the heck not, right? I bet I could get a series out of Trazyn the Infinite just wandering around the galaxy, stealing stuff and leaving sarcastic notes. Eight, nine books easy.

He2etic: If you could cast anyone to play the roles of main characters in your work, who would you pick?

Josh: Honestly? I’d pick the person(s) who could guarantee the biggest ratings/box office draw. I want that sh*t to do well opening weekend, you know?

He2etic: Do you have any long term projects for writing? For example, do you intend to someday spin your own franchise or complete a long novel series?

Josh: Oh several. I always have a number of long term projects on the go. Franchise-wise, I’ve already got the makings of a good one in the Royal Occultist series, I think.

“Don’t argue with the editor, unless you know you’re right, and not even then, unless you absolutely have to.”

 

The Royal Occultist is the man or woman who stands between the United Kingdom and dangers of an occult, otherworldly, infernal or divine nature. Whether it’s werewolves in Wolverhampton or satyrs in Somerset, the Royal Occultist will be there to confront, cajole or conquer the menace in question.

There have been many Royal Occultists, and there will be many more, thanks to the strong British sense of tradition, bloody-minded necessity and the ridiculously short life expectancy for those who assume the post.

Knight of the Blazing Sun, by Josh Reynolds.

Knight of the Blazing Sun, by Josh Reynolds.

The current Royal Occultist, Charles St. Cyprian, is basically Bertie Wooster by way of Rudolph Valentino. His assistant, Ebe Gallowglass, is Louise Brooks by way of Emma Peel. He’s the brains, she’s the brawn. He likes to talk things out, preferably over something alcoholic, and she likes to shoot things until they die.

I suppose the stories could be called ‘urban fantasy’, or even ‘historical fantasy’, what with them taking place in the London of PG Wodehouse and Evelyn Waugh. That’d be the 1920s to you or me. The ‘Inter-War Period’ as historians call it. If that sounds interesting, you can find out more.

The first novel-length Royal Occultist adventure, The Whitechapel Demon, will be released sometime in the next two months by Emby Press and I’ve sold close to thirty short stories about St. Cyprian and Gallowglass since I wrote their first adventure, Krampusnacht, in December of 2010.

Several of these stories are available for free at the website above. There are also several audio versions of some of the stories available, which can be found here with more to come in the near future, and there’ll be graphic (i.e. comic) versions of one or two of the short stories coming some time in 2014.

He2etic: Who are your favourite characters amongst both those you’ve written, and by other authors?

Josh: Okay, lessee…

Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes, William Hope Hodgson’s Carnacki the Ghost-Finder, John Sandford’s Lucas Davenport, Caitlin Kiernan’s Dancy Flammarion, Manly Wade Wellman’s John Thunstone, Peter O’Donnell’s Modesty Blaise, Derrick Ferguson’s Dillon, Chester Himes’ Gravedigger Jones and Coffin Ed Johnson, Richard Stark’s Parker, more, lots.

I don’t believe in guilty pleasures. If you enjoy it, own up to it, unless it could get you arrested, in which case we shouldn’t be talking about it.”

 

I really dig series characters, so I’ve got a lot of favorites. More than I could comfortably list here.

As to those I’ve written? I think my top three are Mr. Brass, the American Automaton, John Bass, the Ghost-Breaker and St. Cyprian and Gallowglass, from the Royal Occultist stories. Mr. Brass is, in essence, ‘steampunk Robocop’ set in a League of Extraordinary Gentlemen world. That’s the high concept pitch.

John Bass is a darker character—a crotchety old farmer who fights ghosts and evil spirits in the Depression-Era southern United States. And Charles St. Cyprian and Ebe Gallowglass, as I mentioned above, are occult adventurers who fight monsters, magicians and madness-inducing entities in Jazz-Age England.

Neferata, by Josh Reynolds. Coming soon from the Black Library.

Neferata, by Josh Reynolds. Coming soon from the Black Library.

He2etic: Are there any books, movies, television series or even games that you think are mandatory viewing for struggling writers?

Josh: All of them? If you’re writing in a particular genre, it behooves you to read widely in said genre—old stuff, new stuff, indy stuff, popular stuff. Read all of it.

Television is good for helping you with dialogue and condensed plotting, especially sitcoms or family dramas—they’re not to everybody’s taste, but think about how little time the average sitcom has to tell a story, and how they go about doing it. That’s a lesson worth learning.

Movies are good for helping you understand how to plot longer form stories (or how NOT to, depending) and how to set mood and scene, if you’re attentive.

Basically, if you think you can learn from it, go with it.

He2etic: Is there anything you consider to be a guilty pleasure? Something that is trash, but you love reading it anyway?

Josh: I don’t believe in guilty pleasures. If you enjoy it, own up to it, unless it could get you arrested, in which case we shouldn’t be talking about it.

Also, don’t try and rationalize the problematic aspects of said pleasure in order to make yourself feel less guilty about enjoying it. That never works out. But to answer the question, I love me some sitcoms. I will devour whole DVD box sets of everything from Leave it to Beaver to Amen, the latter starring the irrepressible Sherman Hemsley and lasting five glorious seasons.

He2etic: Any advice for new authors?

Dracula Lives! by Josh Reynolds.

Dracula Lives! by Joshua Reynolds.

Josh: Write everything. Try your hand at every genre, especially ones you don’t like. Don’t argue with the editor, unless you know you’re right, and not even then, unless you absolutely have to.

Embrace formula, cliché and stock characters. They’ll make your job easier, when you start out. When in doubt, have a man with a gun come through the door. If that doesn’t work, try a monkey with a switchblade. Everybody writes something a bit crap on occasion. It happens. Move on, do better next time. Last but not least, always get paid.

A giant thanks to Mr. Reynolds for his time! Follow the Bolthole at @BLBolthole. And follow Josh Reynolds @JMReynolds.

Writing Market News – 10/25

I was very pleased to see the positive response to the inaugural writing news post here on the Bloghole. It makes the work of putting this together seem much less daunting knowing that people are putting this information to good use. Good luck to those who already put in submissions for last week’s markets. (If anyone has a submission accepted from a market listed here, please share in the comments.)

This week we have a very diverse spread of opportunities, from speculative fiction set in the Garden of Eden to modern humor and satire.

Flytrap Magazine Issue #11

First up today is a very short notice call for a successful Kickstarter project to publish another issue of Flytrap Magazine, after the series had been on hiatus since 2008. All styles and genres are accepted, but the editor has this to say, “I like stories with sex and feminism and apocalypses and snarky humor in them, but don’t let that limit you.” Only one week left for submissions on this, so get writing if you’re interested.

Deadline: October 31, 2013
Words: Under 5000
Pay: $.05 per word

Garden of Eden

The first of a series of biblical themed anthologies from Garden Gnome Publications, Garden of Eden is seeking stories set in the Garden. The publisher doesn’t want simple re-tellings of the known story, however. They want stories of other characters who existed in the Garden, what they were doing there, and how they interacted with Adam and Eve.

Deadline: November 23, 2013
Words: 300 – 10,000
Pay: $3 for up to 1,500 words, $7 for 1,501 – 10,000 words

Fae

Fairies tend to occupy the realm of children’s stories, but Fae is looking for adult fiction centered around the tricky little creatures. Desired are stories that are true to established Fairy lore, but presented in new settings and with new twists. Sprites, pixies, gnomes, imps, and other fairy-like creatures are also acceptable. The anthology is to be published by World Weaver Press.

Deadline: November 30, 2013
Words: Under 7,500
Pay: $10

Krampus

Also from World Weaver Press, in partnership with Enchanted ConversationKrampus will feature the mythological figure that shares the name. For those of you who aren’t familiar, Krampus is the European counterpart to Saint Nicholas. Instead of rewarding well-behaved children, Krampus tortures and punishes misbehaved ones. He is traditionally depicted as a fairly standard devil. Horns, cloven hooves, all that. WWP would like to see adult stories centered around this diabolical creature.

Deadline: November 30, 2013
Words: Under 10,000
Pay: $10

OutFunny

In a bit of a deviation, today I also bring you OutFunny, a fledgling humor and satire website. The site focuses on short, quick hitting humor stories, comparable in content to Cracked or The Onion. Users then have the opportunity to append one liners to the stories, in an attempt to gain votes confirming their hilarity. The submission guidelines specify that submitted content will be prioritized toward users who have been active in trying to “outfunny” the writers by penning one liners. One caveat here is that linking with a Facebook account seems to be the only way to sign up for an OutFunny account.

Deadline: Ongoing
Words: Around 150
Pay: $25

Bonus – Angry Robot Open Door

Angry Robot Books is currently accepting novel submissions from writers without agent representation through the end of the year. Angry Robots has published several familiar authors such as Dan Abnett, Gav Thorpe, and other Black Library authors, as well as the unavoidable Chuck Wendig. Submissions should fall under science fiction, fantasy, or horror, and all sub-genres thereof. There are a slew of guidelines, so check out the submission page if you have a novel lurking in the shadows.

Deadline: December 31, 2013
Words: 75,000 – 140,000 (approximate)
Pay: Variable

Bolthole Halloween Special

Halloween Wallpaper.

Happy Halloween from the Bolthole!

 

It’s almost that time of year again. To celebrate, we’ve reached out to members of the Bolthole and asked for their take on great scary fiction, be it games, movies or stories. We’ve emphasized shorter material, but here’s some reading music.

He2etic, here from space to scare the living hell out of you.

He2etic, here from space to scare the living hell out of you.

He2etic: If you’re looking for a great horror movie to check out, it’s got to be Stephen King’s The Mist. The story involves a number of survivors trapped in a grocery store, their town covered by a thick fog that hides predator monsters. But only half the hero’s problems come from outside, as fear gives a zealot antagonist undeserving power.

The film deserves high marks in every aspect. The special effects and variety of monsters are intriguing to admire. The actors and actresses fill their roles with rewarding efforts.

The plot explores its themes well and moves at the right pace, giving the characters time to reflect and react. Perhaps best of all, even King admired the changed ending. As King said, “The ending is such a jolt—wham! It’s frightening. But people who go to see a horror movie don’t necessarily want to be sent out with a Pollyanna ending.”

The Mist isn’t just a good horror movie, it’s a good movie in its own right. However, if you’re looking for something more traditional with monsters, check out Vampire Hunter D: Bloodlust.

LordLucan, tentacled terror tormenting tale tellers totally!

LordLucan, tentacled terror tormenting tale tellers totally!

LordLucan: For classic haunted house kinds of horror stories, I found The Others, starring Nicole Kidman, and The Woman in Black to be quite well accomplished movies, that are great atmospheric films that build the tension and sense of bleak desolation and isolation of their characters well, and they don’t make the cardinal sin of overusing their ghouls.

Wolf Creek is another good Australian horror movie, which is very reminiscent of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, and the slow build up is the most effective part.

I feel the best horror stories are actually unnerving and work best when a reader or viewer does not realise until later than something is terribly wrong. Too many lazy horror movies recently rely upon either excessive gore, or on the jump scare chord. Such films aren’t scary, they are startling, which is very different.

On youtube, there is a series called Marble Hornets, which I recommend folks check out if they haven’t all ready. Sometimes it falls back on the jump scare, but I find this series is scariest in the videos you have to re-watch. Then you start noticing somethig going on in the background. Something the characters in the videos don’t seem to realise is there… (gotta love the Slender Man, the greatest of the creepy internet memes)

The most horrifying film I’ve seen though, I would say, is Threads. However, don’t go into that film expecting to be entertained. Harrowing, relentlessly bleak and it gave me restless nights when I first saw it, I can tell you.

While I don’t recommend it for its actual quality of the story itself, folks should read Horace Walpole’s The Castle of Otranto, as it is one of the earliest examples of a Gothic Horror story, the ancestor to later horror staples like Dracula, Doctor Jekyll and Mister Hyde*, and Frankenstein.

*(Incidentally, it bums me out that Doctor Jekyll and mister Hyde’s has been permanently and culturally spoiled for every single person in the world. When I read this book, it didn’t really work for me, but in the day, when nobody actually knew who Hyde was, it would have made for a brilliant mystery story, with the mother of all twists.)

Vivia, because the Robot Devil says HELL...o.

Vivia, because the Robot Devil says HELL…o.

Vivia: Great finds on iTunes: The Twilight Zone Radio Dramas app! It has the well-known opening sequence and actors of all kinds. It looks awesome and what is not to like about radio dramas? Not cheap though.

The H.P Lovecraft’ Collection for 22 SEK!  As usual the Swedish rating is totally bonkers: 4+. Yeah, I’m sure of that, because  children of that age can read and want to read horror stories.

The Year Walk, a game based on Swedish folklore in the 19th century, the worst type of century. I’m so tempted to buy it, the graphics look nice and I read all about the beings in the game (Scandinavian type of faeries). But reading from the reviews it’s a horror game with supernatural elements and better played with ear phones. Snow, red cottages and things, I know all about and it frightens me. It’s a unique game play experience, art mixed with story. The indie game The Path comes to mind, another creep game I recommend.

House on Haunted Hill, with the wonderful Vincent Price. He is a must-see on film and TV. Watching his films were big entertainment during Friday evenings when we were children (not entirely healthy for small kids I admit). His films are on YT so go there to take a look.

He is also on ITunes. Classic BBC Radio Horror: The Price Of Fear among many.

The incorrigible Corrigan Phoenix!

The incorrigible Corrigan Phoenix!

Corrigan Phoenix: For a game, try Slenderman: The Eight Pages. You can generally get it for free with the right google search, and for scares its perfect.

You are a lone man, deposited over a razor-wire topped wire fence into a compound. Your goal is to find and collect the eight pages that all hold facts on the legendary slenderman. The trick is, as you collect more pages, the man himself begins to follow you – the more pages you collect, the less time you can spend standing still.

The creepy setting coupled with a fantastic score and decent lighting graphics make this my top-scariest game ever. Give it a try, let me know what you thought – even better, film your own reaction whilst playing it and share – give us all a laugh!

Mossy Toes. Because! ... just because.

Mossy Toes. Because! … just because.

Mossy Toes: “Hobo Lobo of Hamelin” is an anthropomorphized animal tale retelling of the Pied Piper tale. It appears to be a work in progress, so it isn’t complete yet, but is an almost wholly new use of the medium of webcomic-ery. Dynamic, shifting page environment, redolent with symbolism and layered imagery; heavy and cynical political allegory/disenchantment; the best use of music in an interactive medium since Bastion; I could go on, but I’ll let you explore it for yourself.

The Passenger, a short animated film about the perils of goldfish, the listening to of music, etc.

The Mysterious Explorations of Jasper Morello, the real coup de resistance. Half an hour of steampunk silhouette joy. With floating islands that have volcanoes on them (don’t ask how it works), floating balloon buoys that stay stationary without being anchored (don’t ask how it works), mad scientists, horrific creatures, virulent plagues, airships… and so on.

Check out the rest here! And be sure to check out Read in a Rush: Haunting for fresh stories!

Interview with James Swallow

He’s written for Warhammer 40,000, Stargate, Star Trek and Doctor Who. He’s worked on Deus Ex: Human Revolution. A BAFTA nominee and a New York Times best selling author. Today, James Swallow has a few minutes to tell us about some of the work he’s done and his thoughts on writing.

James Swallow. Because the world is his (to create).

James Swallow. Because the world is his (to create).

He2etic: What is the writing process like for you? If you were to describe the process in one word, what would it be?

James: That’s a difficult question to answer. You know, I can’t describe it in just one word. There are so many aspects to the job of being a writer, it’s not just the act of putting a pen to paper.

There’s also the research, the “brain time” required to let your story percolate, the whole act of losing yourself to the narrative involved.

He2etic: How do you approach character development? Do you prefer to see how the character evolves as you go, or do you put more planning into it beforehand?

James: A bit of both, really. You have to have an idea as to who a character was before you let them step onto the scene. But, at the same time you can’t put everything in there straight away because they have nowhere to go.

“The problem of being a writer is that there is not a shortage of awesome ideas to write about.”

 

You can have a character begin in one place, but you also have to give a character a direction toward an endpoint. It is a really bit of both. They have to evolve and fill their role naturally, but sometimes you realize you have to make the character move in the right direction for the needs of the story.

Red Fury, by James Swallow.

Red Fury, by James Swallow.

He2etic: If you could cast anyone to play the roles of main characters in your work, who would you pick?

James: I originally modelled Rafen after Daniel Craig, but now, I’d probably choose the late Andy Whitfield from the TV show Spartacus: Blood and Sand. For his brother Arkio, a younger Rutger Hauer from the movie Flesh & Blood.

He2etic: Sometime back, a question was posted your way about what kind of Imperial Guard regiment you’d like to write about and your answer was ‘The
Framlingham Rifles.’ Is that still true? How would you envision them?

James: I picked them because there was no background about them!

I like the name because it has a kind of Old English feel to it. If I could, I would use something that has not been done before. I’d try to do something new, a new theme. It would probably be very British, like something from the era of the Raj.

“I can’t pick [my favorite] from my own characters. It’s like picking out your favorite child.”

 

He2etic: Do you have any long term projects for writing? For example, do you intend to someday spin your own franchise or complete a long novel series?

Peacemaker, by James Swallow.

Peacemaker, by James Swallow.

James: Yes! Many projects. Lots of different things. I’ve been working on a thriller novel, a contemporary action adventure story for a while. And have been doing some work on a science fiction project too. The problem of being a writer is that there is not a shortage of awesome ideas to write about!

He2etic: Who are your favourite characters amongst both those books you’ve written, and by other authors?

James: I can’t pick from my own characters. It’s like picking out your favourite child. But from the rest of the Warhammer universe?

Horus Lupercal is a great character, and so is Erebus. We have so many good books, and so many great writers. I always want to see where the other guys want to go with their stories – Dan Abnett with Ibram Gaunt, Honsou in Graham McNeill’s novels, Sandy Mitchell with Ciaphas Cain, Sarah Cawkwell’s Silver Skulls…

Beyond that, I enjoy William Gibson’s characters from Neuromancer, the work of John Brunner, Harry Harrison… If a character is compellingly written, if he speaks to me as a reader, that’s a good piece of work. I’m always going to try and do the same thing, make a connection to my reader and engage them.

Flight of the Eisenstein, by James Swallow.

Flight of the Eisenstein, by James Swallow.

He2etic: Are there any books, movies, television series or even games that you think are mandatory viewing for struggling writers?

James: In terms of good writing on television, I’d mention about The Sopranos. Hill Street Blues, Firefly. The Twilight Zone is a great example of really short compact stories with great characters.

I’d recommend a book about how to write rather than fiction. J.Michael Straczynski’s The Complete Book of Scriptwriting and Ben Bova’s work on writing science fiction.

He2etic: You had an opportunity to work on Deus Ex: Human Revolution, designing the story for the game. What can you tell us about that and some of the themes that went into it?

James: I worked on that project an external writer, developing the characters, the core narrative and the game world along with a team of other writers. I also worked on the mobile phone game Deus Ex: The Fall and the DLC pack The Missing Link. I also wrote a novel, called Deus Ex: Icarus Effect, that spun out of that.

The themes of Deus Ex are all about human augmentation, about allowing people to become more than they are. We talk about cybernetics, neural implants – how do those things change the way people see you? We touch on a kind of “cybernetic racism”… It’s all about how society is changed by technology.

He2etic: Do you consider Deus Ex: Human Revolution to be post modern?

Deus Ex: Icarus Effect, by James Swallow.

Deus Ex: Icarus Effect, by James Swallow.

James: It’s not post modern, it’s modern! We thought it was sci-fi when we started writing the storyline, but over the four years during the game’s development, a lot of the things we wrote about began to come true.

The prosthetic technology that has become so common, the limb replacements for veterans of the Gulf War, Iraq and Afghanistan and so on… It all reflected back on real issues of the time.

He2etic: When it comes to reading, do you have any guilty pleasures? Stuff you know is trash but read anyway?

James: I’m guilty about nothing! I like chunky thriller novels from the 70s and 80s, the Tom Clancy-style techno thriller about jet pilots, guys in submarines or tank crews – all that military hardware pornography! That and classic pulp sci-fi would be the closest!

I don’t like it when people say something is a “guilty pleasure”. If you like to read something, you should just embrace it, don’t worry about what others might think of it! At the end of the day, if you enjoy reading a book, that’s the most important thing.

A huge thanks to James Swallow for his time today! You can follow him @JMSwallow. Want more news and updates? Follow the Bolthole @BLBolthole.

Writing Market News

This will be the first of a weekly series of posts highlighting what I feel are some interesting short story writing opportunities. There are many open calls out there, but it can be hard to find and keep track of them all. Given that a disproportionate number of them seem to be for mature romance and erotica (sorry, I won’t be highlighting those categories), that makes finding the pertinent ones even more difficult.

As long as there are enough calls available to put a decent list together each week, I will be focusing on markets paying at least token rates. I think it’s important that authors get paid for their work, and I think you probably are more interested in paying markets than otherwise, so that will be the priority.

First up today, we have a pair of apocalyptic open calls.

Vignettes from the End of the World

Vignettes will be a collection of flash fiction to be published by Apokrupha, focusing on the end of the world, of course. Any form of apocalypse is acceptable, but they caution against zombies, unless done extremely well. Depending on the length of your story, this call is also paying into the upper reaches of pro-pay, so that’s not too shabby.

Deadline: November 5, 2013
Words: 500 or less
Pay: $20

Fat Zombie

The other collection of death and destruction takes an interesting look at those doing their best to survive. Fat Zombie, an anthology presented by Permuted Press, wants stories of unlikely survival. People no one would expect to make it through the end of times. Losers, geeks, freaks, handicapped, or otherwise physically or mentally incapable protagonists are the goal. An apt comparison was made to me that this sounds like the movie Zombieland. All types of apocalypse are acceptable, including zombies.

Deadline: November 30, 2013
Words: 3,000 – 10,000
Pay: $25 (not listed on website, but confirmed with the editor)

Catch me when you can… Jack the Ripper

The iconic serial killer Jack the Ripper stars in our next collection, which should well suit those from the UK. Catch me when you can is an anthology to be published by KnightWatch Press, an imprint of Fringeworks. Desired are stories in a broad spectrum of genres focusing on Jack the Ripper’s return. The idea is a new perspective on the famous serial killer, causing mayhem in a new setting, while remaining true to his defining characteristics. This is a Jack the Ripper anthology, not a general serial killer anthology, and the publisher is clear on that.

Deadline: November 30, 2013
Words: 3,000 – 6,500
Pay: 4% profit sharing
Other: Submissions must be in British English only

Far Worlds

Finally, I thought it fitting to highlight to current effort of the Bolthole publishing team, the Far Worlds anthology. There are some very interesting aspects of this collection. Stories may be of any genre, but may not be set on Earth. The intent is for stories to focus on one or more non-human races entirely. Who are they? What do they look like? How do they act? There are infinite stories to be told, but it will be a challenge to make these alien characters unique, yet still relatable to readers.

At some point in the story, a mysterious device called the Drift Engine must make an appearance. Not much is known about the device, other than it will enter and leave the area without stopping or interfering in anything going on around it. Another rule of the collection is that no faster than light travel is available in the setting.

In order to be included in this anthology, you must be a member of the Bolthole. If you aren’t already, it’s easy, so move on over here and sign up. You must must also pitch a short synopsis to the editors. Upon approval of that, you can proceed with writing the story.

Deadline (Synopsis): November 20, 2013
Deadline (Story): December 15, 2013
Words: 2,000 – 10,000
Pay: Profit sharing depending on number of authors