Author Raychel Rose Shares Her Inspiration for “The Sea of Ghosts”, As Featured in PSYCHOPOMPS: SHEPHERDS OF THE DEAD

It’s fun to have author Raychel Rose guest blogging with me today, as I have enjoyed working with herin conjunction with a new anthology of short stories, which you can can pick up on Amazon: Psychopomps Pram Full Cover 20Psychopomps: Shepherds of the Dead.

Her story “The Sea of Ghosts” caught my interest because it features a more sinister version of a mermaid–or is she? Rose keeps you guessing with this intriguing character, who is also a psychopomp, guiding dead seafarers such as the story’s protagonist (a reluctant pirate!) to either Infernum or Aeternus.

This story is a fun take on the journey one makes into the afterlife.

Here is deeper insight from Raychel Rose herself.


DSC_8084 (2) Raychel Rose

It was a weekday when the main idea of The Sea of Ghosts came. My sister, and two friends, Matthew and Margo, were all sitting in a room where I was present. I’m not sure how it came along, but the main idea–a grim reaper falls in love with their dead person they’re supposed to be guiding into the afterlife–was brought to life.

That was how it first came along.

About a month passed and I was browsing Twitter and saw the submission opening for Psychopomps. I was immediately intrigued and knew I had to enter. But what was I to enter? Ah, yes, the Grim Reaper love story.

Over the next couple of days I plotted with all my might. I gained inspiration from Pinterest, where I find a lot of story ideas. I knew the story had to revolve around some type of made-up creature. But what? I didn’t want the ole’ Grim Reaper in a dark cloak. I wanted something original. A mermaid!

I knew I needed a shipwreck. That was easier said than done. There were thousands of shipwrecks! But a pirate shipwreck? That was even harder to find. I was browsing shipwrecks online when I came upon the two articles on Hunters Galley and I knew I had found the ship. It may not have been a pirate ship, but I could always change that.

That’s a reason I love to work with historical fiction. I can blend fact with fiction.

After the main plot and research were done, I needed to work on the theme. I wanted to focus on redemption and being free from the past. Nathaniel, my main character, carried around a bunch of guilt. And then he died and wanted to be free from his past. But how could he? He was dead.

A lot of my inspiration for redemption came from being a born-again Christian. I wanted a representation that only Christ could redeem Nathaniel, but without being preachy or even mentioning Christianity in it.

A lot of my inspiration while writing The Sea of Ghosts came from listening to music. I have already made a playlist blog post that you can check out below:

My research was done online. I found only two articles on the internet about Hunters Galley. I guess that was another reason I was drawn to it. I felt like the ship and history had been forgotten about. And we should never forget history.

In this anthology, each author also suggests a classic short story that inspired them, and I was impressed when Raychel a tale by Ambrose Bierce, who is far too overlooked in the classic horror / paranormal genres. It’s not all about Poe–though, he’s in the anthology as well!

Find more blog links for this project at the official Misch Masch Publishing site for the anthology –  Pscyhopomps: Shepherds of the Dead.

Get your copy of Psychopomps: Shepherd of the Dead on Amazon

Psychopomps Pram Full Cover 20

Author E.W. Farnsworth Shares His Inspiration for “Mobile Dusters”, As Featured in PSYCHOPOMPS: SHEPHERDS OF THE DEAD

It is my pleasure to have author E.W. Farnsworth guest posting on my blog today. He is one of several authors who has contributed to an anthology I am excited to be a part of.Psychopomps Pram Full Cover 20

You can pick up Psychopomps: Shepherds of the Dead on Amazon, including his story “Mobile Dusters”, which expresses a post-apocalyptic interpretation of who guides us toward death–computers, aliens, and our own thwarted humanity!

At least, that’s my interpretation of his story. Here are his thoughts on the genesis of his idea for “Mobile Dusters” and how he developed the story:

E W Farnsworth ENGEL
I first wrote three stories about the post-apocalyptic landscape developing from my intensive research on the conflict in Eastern Ukraine.  Those thee stories became part of the setting for the end chapters of E. W. Farnsworth’s novel, Bitcoin Fandango, which was published in March of 2015.  Researching the continuing conflict in Eastern Ukraine unearthed the introduction of mobile crematorium units by Russia to destroy the physical evidence of their contribution to the mayhem there.  The haunting image of those all-devouring units led to my “mobile dusters” that have a much broader significance than the current conflict when they are used worldwide more generally in an End Times scenario.  Most have forgotten what the doctrine of Mutually Assured Destruction means for all of us, even in the aftermath of September 11, 2001.
 
At the same time as I wrote about Eastern Ukraine as a metaphor, I was writing five other stories about how brave and determined people would probably have to adapt to survive a similar post-apocalyptic scenario if it were transposed to the United States.  Those stories, centered around a daring, brilliant and beautiful heroine named Nitrous Belle were published inSweat, Steel and Cruise Control Anthology of Horrified Press in the UK last month.  In E. W. Farnsworth’s “Launch of the Spaceship Arcturus,” Nitrous Belle and her cohorts help the heroes and heroines break through the southern US border and make it to the launch site.
 
All of these stories formed the background for other E. W. Farnsworth End-Time stories positing humankind’s inexorable revulsion from technology, particularly Artificial Intelligences.  This led to a sequence of stories about how advanced technology would survive the coming holocaust.  E. W. Farnsworth is now working on an epic poem, The Voyage of the Spaceship Arcturus, about the future of humankind when humans, avatars and artificial intelligences must work together to instantiate a second Eden after the Chaos Wars bring an end to life on Earth.  His story, “The Resurrection Team,” is about what happens after the spaceship has left Earth.  The hero Gabriel leads the team to a horrific discovery about the corrupt leadership after the End.
 
It may help to know that for many years (and continuing till today) I have led teams to develop AI for classified programs for the US military and I have been for many years a student of the biblical Gospel of John and the Book of Revelation, Wagner’s Ring Cycle, particularly Gotterdamerung, and Thomas Mann’s Doktor Faustus, so my factual and biblical/mythical bases for my stories is fairly sound.
 
Not least, as an admirer of the works of Edgar Allen Poe, particularly but not exclusively, “Masque of the Red Death,” which Psychopomps short story I first encountered in my very early teens, I naturally also drew from such dark speculative literary currents as were created by William Gibson’s Neuromancer and Neal Stephenson’s apocalyptic Snow Crash, both of which posit human agents of Apocalypse John Milton’s Paradise Lost and Paradise Regained are the backdrops and inspiration for Farnsworth’s Voyage of the Spaceship Arcturus.  So too are Augustine’s City of God and Edmund Spenser’s Faerie Queen.  In a strange way, Albert Speer’s Memoirs feed into the nexus of influences.
 
I sincerely hope we can avoid the consequences of what we are doing to ourselves. I’m not sure many literary critics understand that technology can be the way out of the destructive, pseudo-deterministic path humans (not deities or devils) we have laid out for ourselves.  I think we have relied too much on theology as a cop-out for being responsible for our outcomes.
 
– E. W. Farnsworth Gilbert, Arizona September 12, 2015

 

Find more blog links for this project at the official Misch Masch Publishing site for the anthology –  Pscyhopomps: Shepherds of the Dead.

Get your copy of Psychopomps: Shepherd of the Dead on Amazon

Psychopomps Pram Full Cover 20

Have a wonderful week! And for those of you going to SL Comic Con, I’ll see you there…

Writing and Fiction Podcasts I’m Loving in 2015

These days I prefer listening to my reading, as opposed to absorbing books, news, and articles with my eyes.

I discovered this while pursuing my initiative to sit less and move more. We’ve probably all heard by now that sitting all day is terrible for us, and as writers we tend to sit plenty! To fight this, I now load up my iPod with audio files and head out for a productive ramble.

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On these Writing Walkabouts, I actually do more than just listen to stuff. I do a fair portion of my writing by dictation while on walks or pacing around at home. If you are interested in how I learned to create this way, check out my guide here (old version: new book version available June 24, 2015).

The Productive Authors Guide to Dictation Full Cover E

As for listening, I consume fiction audiobooks as well as podcasts. The latter are mostly about industry news and writing craft information but I do subscribe to a couple short story fiction channels as well.

So here’s my list of podcasts I’m enjoying in 2015!

1. Adventures in SciFi Publishing

An awesome compendium of industry news and resources for speculative fictionists, including a wonderful guest lineup. Recently, the focus has switched to digital publishing (as opposed to traditional or physical books).

2. The New Disruptors

This one is still on my list for 2015 even though production is on hiatus because I’m still catching up on the archives. From their site: “The New Disruptors tells stories that provide practical inspiration about the way that creative people and producers connect with audiences to perform, cajole, convince, sell, and interact using new methods.”

3. Rocking Self Publishing

From their site: “Interviews with Top Self-Publishers, Every Thursday.”

4. The Creative Penn Podcast

Another option featuring tons of amazing guests, these episodes by Joanna Penn are always interesting and worth a listen.

5. Writing Excuses

This podcast’s episodes are awesome and described by the tagline: “Fifteen minutes long, because you’re in a hurry, and we’re not that smart.” Run by Mary Robinette Kowal, Brandon Sanderson, Howard Taylor, Dan Wells, the episodes feature special guests, a writing prompt, and an audiobook pick of the week.

6. Helping Writers Become Authors

Run by K.M. Weiland, this podcast covers the craft as well as writing lifestyle topics. Weiland is fun to listen to and gives plenty of illustrative examples.

7. TEDTalks Art

This spans more than just writing but I find most episodes very relevant.

8. On Being with Krist Tippett

This award-winning podcast is definitely a topical hodgepodge but somehow its episodes always apply to my projects, and my life! Definitely addictive.

9. Clarkesworld Magazine

I love the fact that this podcast features all of the magazine’s short speculative fiction in audio form, especially since my local library has denied my request to shelve the print copies. A new episode comes out on the 1st, 7th, 14th, 21st and 28th of the month.

10. Lightspeed Magazine Podcast

Similarly, this podcast offers audio versions of some of the fantasy and science fiction short stories featured in the magazine.

11. WIRED’s Geek’s Guide to the Galaxy 

This podcast covers reviews and interviews about works of science fiction, including books, film, and other mediums.

12. Umano 

Not a podcast, but if you haven’t tried this audio news app or something else like it, you should! With Umano, professional actors read me my writing news. It’s awesome! The free version lets me subscribe to certain topic channels for a limited number of articles per day. Users do have to pay for unlimited article access.

Be sure to chime in with your favorites by leaving a comment below. These ears always need new ideas and recommendations!

These 19 Frequently Challenged Books Might Surprise You – Banned Books Week 2014

I’m often surprised by which books are frequently challenged or banned in our society. For example, take these 19 books the American Library Association reports are frequently challenged:

  1. I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou
  2. Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
  3. Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury
  4. A Wrinkle in Time by Madeline L’Engle
  5. Julie of the Wolves by Jean Craighead George
  6. The Face on the Milk Carton by Caroline Cooney
  7. Bridge To Terabithia by Katherine Paterson
  8. A Day No Pigs Would Die by Robert Newton Peck
  9. The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
  10. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain
  11. Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck
  12. The Lord of the Flies by William Golding
  13. 1984 by George Orwell
  14. The Witches by Roald Dahl
  15. James and the Giant Peach, by Roald Dahl
  16. A Light in the Attic by Shel Silverstein
  17. Goosebumps (series), by R.L. Stine
  18. Harry Potter by J.K. Rowling
  19. The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien

While I respect the reservations some have about these books, my stomach also turns a bit at the lessons lost by not reading them. Banned Books Week is a time to push back in the name of dealing with ideas as opposed to hiding from them.

Dangerous Ideas or Pain Avoided?

I’m so glad many of these titles were available to me growing up, precisely because they were more real and gritty. While I also enjoyed the fluffier stuff, books like these gave me traction to deal with my own challenging circumstances and helped me avoid certain mistakes in a way that fluff just can’t.

Banned Books 2

Not Appropriate for Children? Maybe…

Though parents and leaders concerned about age-appropriateness definitely have a point, I think this ought to be dealt with as individual families who know their children best, not through banned book lists. Definitely, some of these book descriptions would concern me as a parent, but in many cases I would read the book myself and make a true assessment, not rely on some banned book list.

Even better in some cases, why not read many of these books with an interested child so that you can discuss the issue you are concerned about? That seems so much more loving than avoiding what our kids are confronting at school or other places beyond our direct influence.

A Better Solution

I say all this even while respecting how media, including books, is powerful and can unnecessarily disrupt our lives through hyper-focus on issues like sex, violence, and tone. I personally am very choosy about what I read because my life’s hard enough without all that mental dead-weight. I’m not saying that every book is worthy of our time or should be dwelt on. I’m just saying that slapping titles on a list is as dangerous as being non-discerning about what you read.

There’s no shortcut to evaluating books one by one. You can see from my list of 19 titles how many exquisitely good books are lost by being lumped onto the same list as more questionable titles, and obviously which are good and which are not good will be defined differently by just about every person. But there’s such a huge spectrum of issues at play among the titles on banned book lists that relying on them obviously kinda freaks me out.

A better way is to rely on reviews from a source you trust, which articulate or warn about content that is potentially bothersome. I like reviews that go so far as to tell you how a subject is dealt with.

For example, one book might mention prostitution as a societal reference or part of who a character is, and that might include its share of gritty realities, while another goes into the details of the prostitute’s day-to-day business transactions. I’m personally probably not going to read the second one, while I might the first one. The first would make me uncomfortable, which I welcome if it helps me understand humanity better, but the second would go to another level where I’d be titillated or manipulated by the content, which doesn’t fit in with my values. My point is, both could easily land on the same banned book list.

Check in with Your Local Library

My local library is doing a bunch of fun things next week including taking mug shots of yourself reading a banned book, drawing a torn page from a jar to guess which banned book it came from, and more. Your local library might be doing something similar.

Banned Books Blog Party

Banned Books 1

The incomparable Hannah Givens of Things Matter invited me to join her Banned Books Week Blog Party so I’ve nominated a few blogs to join. From Hannah:

The “rules” are simple:

  • Choose a book from the ALA lists of banned books, or one that’s been banned/challenged in your area.
  • Share a little about the book and why it’s important to you at your online space.
  • Tag/ping/message other people to do posts of their own.
  • Link back to this post, and leave your link in the comments, so we can all read each others’ responses!

Do this for as many books as you want! Banned Books Week runs September 21-27. I’ll be posting five book profiles of my own throughout that week, and reblogging what y’all post during that week or the weekends before and after. I’ll create a Pinterest board for all the posts. (Feel free to keep the chain going and/or comment below after that. I can’t guarantee reblogs and whatnot, but I can guarantee I’ll visit!)

I’m pinging a bunch of people I follow — book bloggers and people who blog about books on occasion — but everyone is welcome to participate, ping or no ping! If you don’t do tag/award/chain type posts or don’t have time this month, no worries — just consider this a shout-out to your awesome blog. 🙂

On Why We Love Reading the Classics

Even though I read and write a lot of future-focused fiction, so many of my favorite books would be classified as classics. I thought that just made me old-school until Edith Wharton enlightened me today.

Edith let me know I just have a taste for stories with ‘irrepressible freshness’. True, her ‘classics’ were different from those works I now think of as classics, but it still applies.

A classic is classic not because it conforms to certain structural rules, or fits certain definitions (of which its author had quite probably never heard). It is classic because of a certain eternal and irrepressible freshness.

– Edith Wharton

Edith Wharton - Beinecke Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Yale University / Wikipedia

Edith Wharton – Beinecke Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Yale University

 

My Top Steampunk Books of All Time – Reading List

Time Zone WatchSteampunk is a newish trend, but some of the titles on my top steampunk novels have been out for quite some time. Here’s my recommended steampunk reading list: