Thursday, July 29, 2010

Browncoats: Redemption - Interview with Michael Dougherty and Heather Fagan

Before Browncoats: Redemption neither Michael Dougherty nor Heather Fagan had worked on a fan-made production. But they certainly picked the right franchise and the right fans to appeal to. Never underestimate the power of the Firefly 'Verse and its fans, the Browncoats. I suspect they will have no trouble making money on this project. Here's another trailer to set the mood.

AW: How long have you been doing pre-production work on this film?

MD: We started back in August 2008 with an idea, pitched it to the Browncoats in September, of the same year, at Dragon*Con and then did about eight or nine solid months or pre-production from then on till we filmed in April of 2009.

AW: How long in production?

MD: It ran about four months of evenings and weekends. We were very fortunate that all of our locations, except for the ship, were pre-existing so that cut down on overall construction. We filmed the entire movie over ten or eleven days at about eighteen to twenty hours a day. We wrapped filming at the end of July 2009 and moved into post-production in August of the same year.
AW: Heather, what's the deal about the flying props?

HF: One scene required a prop gun to be thrown towards me and swatted away. Unfortunately, one of the the first throws (on the first day of filming) went a little wild, the swat didn't connect, and the hard resin gun hit my head. The entire set - the entire main cast, about 80 extras, and numerous crew members - went silent while I curled up into the fetal position. Thankfully, instead of trying to figure out how to put me back together again, we had to figure out how to put the gun back together again as it had broken into at least three pieces. Ironically, Mike took over throwing the gun, and there was another fumble later in the day where the gun hit the same spot. My mom and dad always said I was stubborn, but I guess we proved that day that I really do have a hard head.

AW: Why is the Old West and expansion into space such a cozy pairing?

HF: Before Firefly aired, I was skeptical. I remember watching some ads and wondering exactly how a space western would work. And then I saw it, and it just made sense. It's easy to see how, even with all our technology, we would go back to our roots, so to speak, when colonizing other planets.

MD: I’d have to agree with Heather on this one. Old West and Space movies/shows just visually clash, prior to Firefly/Serenity, when you think of the two.

For me, Joss created a universe that allowed you to suspend your disbelief and really think that this could be what it would be like five hundred years in the future. Because of that, you stopped focusing on the fantastical settings and the story of the people became your focus.

AW: What do each of you enjoy most about the Firefly universe?

HF: The interactions between and the growth of the characters. Plus, the characters are all pretty easy on the eyes. Joss Whedon certainly picked a pretty crew.

MD: The characters are always at the top of the list, but for me it’s the stories. Firefly gives you just enough of a story that it leaves you wanting more. You want to follow this crew and their adventures, not because you’re waiting to see what aliens they will run into, but you want to learn more about the story of each character.

AW: In what ways does Heather's character, Laura Matthews, differ from Captain Malcolm Reynolds of the TV series and Serenity (besides the obvious gender thing)?

MD: I’d have to say the choices she makes. Laura doesn’t have the deep connection to the war that drives Mal. She’s had her own experiences that shape the choices she’s made. She puts ship and crew first and not always in that order. If there’s something’s wrong with the ship or the crew, she gives them what they need to repair it. She hates being diplomatic and realizes that sometimes she’s not the best person to make the deal because of that. Laura is Mal’s opposite in many ways. I often wonder what they would be like sitting across the table from each other in a bar.

AW: Does this crew have a wild card: A mysterious crewmember or an unstable one?

MD: They have a new crew member, Petra Jo Chen, which is forced upon them because they accepted a job. The crew is mostly happy with the new addition, but she rubs Laura the wrong way because she’s loud, brash, and everything that Laura is not. I wanted to stay away from the expected “unstable” character like River. It wouldn’t make the characters special just to have them be one off’s of the original characters.

AW: Is there a new enemy or someone new behind the alliance?

MD: There are some new faces behind the Alliance that are the source of the trouble for the crew of Redemption. The ‘Verse doesn’t know that Mal is the one that sent out the signal and the Alliance is looking for a public scape goat for the trouble the signal caused them. The crew of Redemption gets caught up in the whole situation by being in the wrong place at the wrong time.

AW: What can fans do to support this project? To spread the word?

MD: They can visit our website at or support us by following us on Twitter or Facebook, which can be reached through our website. This project will live and die by the Browncoats so we need their help to rally the troops to move the 32,000 DVD’s we need to make our goal in one year's time. Browncoats are pretty creative in how they get the word out to their friends and fellow fans. We want to make sure they have just enough information to help make the message their own.

AW: What did you most enjoy about Comic-Con?

MD: Everything. The biggest for me was meeting Joss Whedon in person, albeit briefly, and having him autograph the initial email where he gave his blessing on the project back in 2008 when we reached out to him. Hands down that brought home the scope and size of what this project means to me.

Second only to that is speaking to over 250 Browncoats about the film during the California Browncoats panel on Sunday. The overwhelmingly positive response we got to the film and the cameo announcements was worth the trip out. Hats off to the California Browncoats for having us out.

HF: Oh, wow. Where to start? There was just so much to take in, but I'd have to say that meeting Joss Whedon, even as brief as it was due to the size of his autograph line, was the icing on the cake for me.

AW: What surprised you about Comic-Con?

MD: That people would stop Heather and I to let us know they were aware of the film. It was completely unexpected, since we didn’t have a booth, but it means we, and the Browncoats that supported us, are doing an amazing job raising awareness of the film.

HF: Even though I had heard about the scope of things, and been warned about the sheer volume of people and things to do and see, it felt much more like an expo to me than a convention. I didn't expect that, although in retrospect I should have considering all of the big names that have booths there.

AW: Can you each tell me about the best thing you took away from the event and what you might do differently next time? You're going next time, right?

MD: We definitely have intentions of going next time. I think the biggest take away is to never underestimate San Diego Comic Con. We could have done more there to get the word out, but it was our first time there and we had no idea what was in store for us. We have some interesting ideas that we can’t wait to share, along with the film, at next years Comic Con.

HF: We're definitely already planning to go back. The best thing that I took away would be the same as I answered above (meeting Joss). As far as doing things differently next time, if there's ever something in Hall H that I'm interested in, I plan to camp out there all day, not just try to get in line three hours early. I'd also figure out how to make my shoes more comfortable. I thought my hiking boots and gel inserts were nice and comfy before the con started; little did I know that my feet would hate me by the end of the weekend. What I wouldn't do at the moment for a good foot massage!(Maybe I shouldn't admit that...)

AW: What's next for you, Heather?

HF: In addition to helping promote Browncoats: Redemption, I'll be filming an independent horror film in August for Nevermore Films called Metamorphosis. It will be directed by Todd Broadwater, who has also been the Art and Design Director for a number of games and action figure toy lines, including Oblivion and Fallout 3. I'll be playing the lead female role, the wife of a man going through a rather unique metamorphosis (hence the title).

AW: And you, Michael?

MD: Some mandated rest after the release of the DVD. Browncoats: Redemption has been my life, besides my wife and my day job, for two years. I'm not sure how I'll manage not working on something for a bit, but I would hate to go right into a new project without a fresh point of view. I have a script for one of our actors I'm working on tightening up and finishing up the outline for the script to the sequel for when we come around to it.

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Monday, July 26, 2010

SFOO makes top 45 SF blog list!

Thanks fans, writers and sf geeks alike. Science Fiction and Other ODDysseys has been awarded the 2010 Top 45 Sci-Fi Book Blogs award from Awarding the Web. See the whole list.

Let the voting begin! and Lucasfilm announced the finalists for their ninth annual “Star Wars Fan Movie Challenge”. You can view the finalist fan-made films at and vote for your favorite. Voting ends on August 2nd. Some of these are on the long side, so schedule a good time to watch and pop some popcorn and settle in, enjoy and vote.

Comic-con was in the news this year for the protests and counter-protests, and again because of a violent episode on Saturday. Someone got stabbed by a ballpoint pen during a screening.

The protest footage at Comics Alliance is hysterical. One would hope that the protestors from Westboro Baptist Church could find real evil to wage war on instead of facing off over comic book heroes. They do know it's fiction, right?

Finally, how about some great mysteries for you to chew on? I know this is a sf blog, but I'm very tempted to run another flash fiction contest around these two events. I think our incredible imaginations can conjure some great fiction using these as jumping off points. Of course, I may just decide to do a story of my own instead. I love a mystery -- especially a science-fictionalized one. ;)

First up is the Money Pit. The biggest treasure hunt of all time. Treasure hunters know where the treasure is, but do to the magnificently engineered booby traps, none have been able to reach it. They're starting again after their permit was granted on July 15th. The Money Pit, located on Oak Island in Nova Scotia, is conjectured to be a treasure hidden by pirates, the Knights Templar or Francis Bacon. It's all just guesswork at this point. A few artifacts from the higher levels of this incredibly deep pit have been recovered. Men have died trying to reach the bottom. Read all about it at

In England, a second circular grouping like Stonehenge but made of wood has been discovered near the first. This CNN story has pictures of the second site.

Great grist for the mill. Hey, why not link the two...

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Friday, July 23, 2010

Far flung tales - Eight Against Reality

I've decided to do a bit of book reviewing here in addition to Mostly Fiction. First up is a collection edited by Dario Ciriello, Eight Against Reality (Panverse Publishing 2010). I ripped right through this little collection not just because of its size. The complex characters in the majority of the stories face life and death situations with courage and fortitude and their reactions are felt on a visceral level.

Eight Against Reality is a collection of stories set on far flung worlds – either in an imagined future, an imagined past or on a distant planet. In spite of their alien environs, these character-driven stories are very human. Many of these dark tales are down-right disturbing. I do recommend this collection be read, but not at bedtime.

In "The Eminence's Match" by Juliette Wade, we meet the leader of a clan on a distant world who has a very human affliction: obsessive compulsive disorder. He's on a quest for the perfect man-servant, one he can bend to his will, who will not let anything be out of place – ever. Unless he finds the perfect servant, the halls of his palace will be soaked in blood. Almost as disturbing as the Eminence's cruelty is the new candidate's desire to please, and indeed love, this tyrant. The inner dialog and the fixations are portrayed most credibly.

Extreme sports enthusiasts will enjoy Genevieve Williams' "Kip, Running", in which a girl traverses the cityscape of future Seattle virtually invisibly clinging to trains, maglevs, airships, bubblevators (way cool!) and more. They even have flying squirrel-like wings on their camouflaged suits. It's an illegal sport, which raises the adrenalin even further. Kip hopes winning will get the attention of someone she worships from afar. But does Lily even notice?

"The Lonely Heart" by Aliette de Bodard is set in China with mystical beings and terrible curses. What's worse than the local pimp, an infinitely dangerous person who knows where you live, knowing that one of his girls has sought refuge under your roof? The emotions in this piece soar. The author plucks on the strings of pity, empathy, terror, betrayal, forgiveness, determination, loyalty and resignation. It's a symphony of the soul.

"The Flying Squids of Zondor: The Movie Script" by Doug Sharp is something like Monty Python meets Ed Wood. Sex-crazed tyrants are ensnared by a giant alien squid's love potion gas. Really. 'Nough said.

"Spoiling Veena" by Keyan Bowes looks at what might happen when all genetic traits can be programmed and reprogrammed. Letting your daughter change her sex at age twelve isn't nearly the same as letting her dye her hair or get a piercing. And a lot more expensive.

Dogs have become mutant monsters in "Man's Best Enemy", a post-apocalyptic tale by Janice Hardy. The human struggles to fit in, to prove one's skills and to contribute to society are the themes woven into a terrifying fight for survival.

"Love, Blood and Octli" by T.L. Morganfield is by far the most disturbing of all, and yet, the most compelling. Set in ancient Aztec times, this is a story of a girl who is befriended by a god and becomes a priestess. Her brother follows his own avarice and the darkest of the gods. Readers get a glimpse into what might have motivated that ancient race to follow such blood-thirsty gods and live in such fear. Is this what happens when humans become playthings of the gods?

What if you could visit your other selves in other realities? Would dipping into those strange worlds become addicting? Where might it lead if you taught your other selves how to surf realities, too? Find out in "Dancing by Numbers" by Dario Ciriello. Who is the real Lyra? Will she lose herself to these others?

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Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Comic-Con sneak previews

I received an offer today to try out an iPad app. Too bad it wasn't sci-fi related and they didn't offer me an iPad, too. Now that would have gotten my attention.

Have you heard of motion comics? As comic book fans are packing their bags for Comic-Con in San Diego, M2 is set to launch DeadTown, its 3D motion comic to showcase this new medium. DeadTown combines the Sam Spade detective stories of the 40s with Dawn of the Dead. They have that black and white film noir feel with the red/blue 3D colors added.

“Motion Comics are a new, legitimate storytelling medium that has yet to be realized as it’s own entertainment form,” said M2 Partner, Eben Matthews. “The sweet spot of the medium is still being defined and, with DeadTown, we believe we define it.”

Learn more about M2 and their other projects at If you're so inclined, they're still looking for investors through Kickstarter.

Now grab your 3D glasses. I know you have them. Look in the Shrek 3D DVD case. I won't tell. Here's the DeadTown teaser.

DeadTown Motion Comic Teaser in 3D! from M2 on Vimeo.

And the Browncoats are coming! Check out this first full trailer for Browncoats: Redemption, a fan-made feature film that takes up where Serenity left off. Later this week, I'll be interviewing its star, Heather Fagan and Writer/Director/Producer Michael Dougherty. They'll be chatting with me from Comic-Con. I'll also post more trailers. The direct-to-DVD movie releases Friday, Sept. 3, 2010. Proceeds go to charities selected or created by the cast and crew of Firefly and Serenity. If you're not a Browncoat yet, you just haven't seen Firefly (TV series) or Serenity yet. They're both produced by Joss Wheaton and they're awesome! Best darn sf in the 'verse!

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Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Patrick Swenson - publisher, editor, writer and more

Patrick Swenson is a bit of renaissance man. He's a publisher, editor, writer and retreat organizer. And a doting father, as you can see by the photo with his son, Orion. I met Patrick at a room party at Radcon, where I scored an ARC of Jack Skillingstead's Harbinger. I asked for his card and he gave me three. Visit Patrick at Fairwood Press, at Talebones where you can get back issues of his late magazine or at the Rainforest Writers Village.

And here he is in that element with fantasy author Mark J. Ferrari at that very room party. It was the small publisher's party.

AW: As a publisher, how do you research what's selling? How hard is it to hop a trend before it fizzles?

PS: In my niche as a small publisher, I'm afraid I can't worry too much about trends. Trends are not going to affect my sales, really. And since I’m just one guy with a full-time teaching job, I don’t have the time to do that sort of stuff anyway. What I look at is: What authors have gathered a following and are visible? Who are the authors I like? Which of them are willing and able to help promote their titles?

AW: Do you only publish collections?

PS: I do mostly collections. Out of the 35 titles I’ve done so far (not including the six coming out this year), there have been eight novels, four writer reference books, two poetry books, and one book about diabetic eye disease! (I knew the eye doctor who wrote it, and I helped him with it). Anthologies and poetry collections are hard sells and don’t make money, for the most part.

AW: What is your favorite book Fairwood Press has published? Was it the top seller?

PS: I have a lot of favorites, to be honest. All four books I’ve done with James Van Pelt, for example. His collections are dynamite; he’s a fabulous story writer. I have to put his novel Summer of the Apocalypse, which is my top seller, near the very top. It was published in 2006 and it is still selling better than most of my newer titles! I love Ken Scholes’ first collection, Long Walks, Last Flights and Other Strange Journeys. I’m working on Ken’s second collection, Diving Mimes, Weeping Czars and Other Unusual Suspects, and I think it’s even better.

AW: Do you accept unsolicited manuscripts? If so, how does a novel slush pile differ from a short story one?

PS: I don’t accept them. I get all of my book projects on my own. Mostly I ask writers I know, and mostly these are writers who had stories in Talebones. Sometimes an author will ask me. Nina Hoffman approached me at Orycon last year and asked me about a collection. How could I say no? Actually, I picked up four book projects at Orycon. They are all Talebones alumni.

Someone like Jack Skillingstead, who tried to sell me stories at Talebones for years, eventually sent me a story I really liked. He was always “so close,” and I did like his writing style. Later, we became friends. Did being friends with Jack make me more likely to publish his novel Harbinger? Maybe a little, but I also had to like the novel (which I did a lot).

Closing down Talebones last year effectively stopped my R&D department for Fairwood authors. This is why I’ve toyed with the idea of doing a yearly Talebones anthology. It would be open to submissions for a limited time and I’d probably do a few more invites.

AW: Which do you prefer reading – novels or short stories? Do you have time to read for pleasure?

PS: I love novels. I grew up reading the classic science fiction novels by Clarke, Heinlein, Dick, LeGuin and Herbert. I just don’t have nearly enough time to read for pleasure any more. I’ll have a book on my nightstand and it will take me a loooong time to finish it because I have too many other things going on; too much other reading I have to do. I don’t own a Kindle, but I recently downloaded the free Kindle for Android application for my phone, and I’m going to try reading a few books that way. Because I’m so far behind with some authors, their books are now in paperback, or their Kindle prices are now cheaper than a lot of the newer releases.

I do love short stories, naturally, or I wouldn’t have taken up magazine editing. I wasn’t much of a short story reader when I was younger, although I do remember devouring the SF Hall of Fame and the Hugo Winners anthologies and being blown away by so many stories. It’s that sense of awe and wonder I fell in love with in science fiction. Nowadays, I can always take the time to read one or two short stories in a sitting and feel satisfied.

AW: Do you get involved with changes to the title of a book? Have you ever thought of a perfect title for a book after the fact, when it's too late? Can you "say" a few words about the qualities of a good title and how important a title is? A cover?

PS: I always work with the author on the title. For a story collection we usually try and figure out what story in the collection would be the best title to draw readers in. Sometimes a book title comes with the manuscript, and it’s already perfect. Jay Lake’s Rocket Science. Jack Skillingstead’s Harbinger. But sometimes they need a tweak. James Glass’s original title for his Fairwood novel was Culebra, which was the name of the main character. In the novel, Culebra means “viper.” The character’s home was a planet called Portello, so the title eventually morphed to The Viper of Portello. Had a nice rhythm to it, too. I’ve so far never had to second guess a title.

I can’t stress enough the importance of a good cover. I’ve been pretty lucky with my covers. I have a few artists I work with who do great stuff. I often I do my own covers using stock images. I’m particularly pleased with Louise Marley’s omnibus edition of The Singers of Nevya, that consisted of three stock images. The cover really pops, and it didn’t cost me an arm and a leg. Put a bad cover or a bad design on a book, and readers are going to pass it over. Everyone with a desktop publishing program and access to the Internet can get a book published, but believe me, I’ve seen some of those covers, and they are not pretty.

AW: What do you think about mash-ups? Do you think Tolstoy and Austin would be offended or amused by Android Karenina and Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, respectively?

PS: I’ve never read any of them, but I always see them, and I’m definitely amused. I have to think the authors would feel much the same way.

AW: Tell us about Rainforest Writers Village. What makes it special?

PS: The Rainforest retreat has really grown. The retreat for next year sold out in just over a day. So many people wanted to go and didn’t have a chance to sign up, that I decided to add a second session the following week. I’m a glutton for punishment. But really, I love it. And the writers who’ve been to it love it, and the whole thing’s infectious.

When I did the first retreat, I had this idea that writers would hang out in their rooms and cabins and write, eventually coming out for air and group activities, but what happened was that they immediately gravitated toward the whole community writing thing. Nearly all of them ended up in the resort’s lounge (which is reserved for us during the retreat) and were writing most of the day, at the times most conducive to their sleep patterns! Night Owls and Early Birds. I’m always in charge of the Night Owls, and I leave the key to the lounge in my cabin for the Early Bird in charge to pick up.

I came in one morning (late morning, that is) that first full day of the first retreat and there were about 20 writers in the lounge. It was amazingly quiet at that moment, the only sounds the click clack of the laptop keys. Some folks were staring out at the lake through the big picture windows. It rained a lot that year, and there was this warm, cozy feeling that welled up in me watching this scene and it about moved me to tears.

AW: How far people come to attend?

PS: A lot of writers are local to the Seattle-Portland area, but the retreat gets a few writers from locales far and wide. And of course there’s our crazy Calgarian contingent. This Canadian group loves the retreat and they keep telling their other writer friends about it. As long as they keep bringing their special Canadian Coke (the carbonated kind), we’re good with that!

AW: Can you give us the particulars?

PS: The retreat is $150 for five days, and includes breakout sessions (I only schedule two one-hour sessions each day because the main event is of course writing). It includes three breakfasts, one other group dinner, and drinks and food in my big cabin which doubles as the retreat office, hospitality room and sometimes a writer presentation room. Some of the cabins have kitchens and there's a restaurant on the resort and a few others nearby.

AW: Tell us about your writing.

PS: About the time I consciously decided to get back to my own writing was the time I decided I would close down Talebones magazine so I could get more time to write. It was also right around the start of the 2009 Rainforest Writers Village. Even I get to sit down and write at the retreats sometimes.

I got going on a novel that had been languishing for years, and after that retreat, I vowed to finish it before the year was up. I’ve rewritten and edited it and sent it to first readers, and written the synopsis. It’s about ready to go out to an editor who asked for it. Meanwhile, I had another novel that only had a couple of chapters that I hadn’t looked at for a long time. I started that one again at the 2010 retreat.

The finished book is called The Ultra Thin Man and is a science fiction noir mystery. (Do you want the little few sentence pitch I gave? It’s here: Two ex-private eyes who used to work together now contract for a large intelligence organization, and they’re set up to take a fall for something larger than they can possibly imagine. They’re on the run, split up on different colony worlds, trying to solve the mystery while staying alive and one step ahead of the bad guys. The problem is, they don’t even know who the bad guys are.)

The newer novel is a ghost murder mystery set around the area of the Quinault Rainforest where the retreat is held. I taught my first three years of school here and worked in the summers at the resort, and the novel pulls in some things that actually happened during my time there. The working title is Rain Dance.

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Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Broad pod and pictures worth more than 1K words

Broad Universe (I'm a proud member) has just launched another Broad Pod with female authors reading military spec fic. Listen now.

I mentioned all the new additions to our family in a previous post. I thought pictures might be in order. All photos, but the newborn baby Noah, were taken by my talented husband, Patrick. He even managed to get the dogs to pose.

On Sunday, April 4th, my daughter gave us our first granddaughter, Lynnea. Here she is at her Uncle Wes' wedding.

Her Uncle Brian was supposed to be in her Uncle Wesley's wedding, but something came up -- or rather someone came out. Meet our youngest grandson, Noah, born on June 26, the same day as Wesley's wedding.

Here he is again. Gpa Patrick took this one a week later.

And here's Wes and his bride, Gina.

Our house is empty, but for our furry children. Aren't they gorgeous?

If you'd like to see more of Patrick's photo's visit his dotphoto site. His more current photos are on facebook. Feel free to friend him.

I got my work area whipped into shape and populated my wall of fame. I've been meaning to do it for months. Here it is, though I still left out my newest anthology. I got the idea from Steve Hockensmith. It's great for those days when you begin to doubt yourself. You have only to look up and realize. Yes, people like it enough to publish it and even, occasionally, pay me for it. These are taken with my Blackberry since I still haven't replaced the camera (see TSA stole my camera post) and hubby was out of town at the time.

My antho shelves...

Books and mags...

The big picture....

Finally, no self-respecting writer, or bookworm for that matter, would be without a cat. Here's our shy Lynx-point Siamese.

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Friday, July 9, 2010

Publishing news, interviews and writing advice

My story, "Trapped Star", will be in the upcoming anthology, Beauty Has Her Way, by Jennifer Brozek, published by Dark Quest Books. See the whole table of contents on Jennifer's blog.

Any spy thriller fans out there? I just reviewed The Book of Spies by Gayle Lynds and interviewed her over at Mostly Fiction. What a ride that book was. Maybe reading it will infuse more immediacy and action into my sci-fi.

Tune in on Thursday for an interview with Fairwood Press' Patrick Swenson. Coincidentally, Locus reports that James Van Pelt's The Radio Magician and Other Stories (Fairwood Press 2009) won the 2010 Colorado Book Award. Patrick mentions Van Pelt in the interview as one of his favorite authors. Patrick is a publisher, writing retreat organizer and writer. He was also editor of Talebones.

Here's a treat: A video of David Brin giving advice to aspiring writers.

I would like to add that OWWW (Other Worlds Writers Workshop) will give you better feedback than you will find at Critters, in my opinion. And the formatting requirements aren't nearly as painful.

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Friday, July 2, 2010

Louise Marley on Mozart's Blood and writing

Louise Marley draws on her background in music in many of her works. She writes strong, female protagonists who don't wilt when a man shows up. I admire that. I met Louise at a convention. I asked her for an interview when I saw her again at World Fantasy Convention in San Jose last year. Since her latest book just launched yesterday, it seemed the perfect time to interview her. Learn more about her and her writing at

AW: What originally drew you to science fiction?

LM: Like so many of us who love the genre, I read it as a child, then as a girl, and as a young woman. I read all the Oz books when I was in third grade, all eight of them or whatever there were. As a teenager, I devoured the Darkover series, and of course when we were assigned books like 1984 and Brave New World I was in heaven. I read everything else Huxley and Orwell wrote, and probably didn’t understand much, but no doubt the reading helped my writing later.

AW: When did you start writing? Was it always science fiction?

LM: I started writing one summer when the musical season was over (I was a professional singer.) I thought I wanted to write children’s books, but then this idea came to me of singers with special powers . . . I was off and running. I never really considered writing anything else, so now that a lot of my books have historical elements, that’s something of a surprise. I think my stories will always be speculative, though, because I love that feeling of wonder and mystery—never knowing what might happen.

AW: Congratulations on the launch of Mozart’s Blood. Can you tell my readers about it?

LM: I have always been fascinated by the phenomenon of very long life. The career of an opera singer, as I can attest, is relatively short, limited by age and strength and, frankly, competition. I wanted to write about an opera singer who gets extra chances. Unfortunately, becoming a reluctant vampire was the way to do that for her, and so Mozart’s Blood came to be. My protagonist is based on a real-life singer, Teresa Saporiti, who was the first Donna Anna in Mozart’s opera Don Giovanni. The book is loosely based on the story of that opera, but it covers about four hundred years of musical history as well.

AW: I loved your protagonist in Maquisarde. Were you surrounded by good examples of strong women growing up?

LM: I loved Ebriel, too! And as you’ve noticed, I do love to write about strong women. Yes, both my mother and my grandmother were very strong, even tough, though in different ways. My grandmother was a painter with a studio in San Francisco. We all used to say she was the first hippie—wore slacks, hung out with bohemians, and refused to stay married even during the Depression. My mother was a child of the Depression, and had a seriously hard life. I never heard her complain once, and I still don’t, although old age can be hard to bear. She’s the most amazing 89-year-old you could ever hope to meet, and I still turn to her for advice and guidance. She’s also been the first reader for a number of my novels.

AW: What other genres do you write in? Which is your favorite to write? To read?

LM: I read in all genres, really, including literary novels. I’m impatient with some, because as a genre reader I like plot and substance, but there are some literary books that provide those. I write fantasy, science fiction, and historical with a paranormal element. I just love the weird! I haven’t written a “straight” historical yet, but that may happen. As to my favorite, I have to say that whatever I’ve just finished is usually my favorite. The book I’m working on always seems lame to me while I’m in the process. This would be scary, except that my family reminds me every time that I have the same anxiety with every book.

AW: What would you say your ratio of writing vs. rewriting is? Do you outline?

LM: I do outline, rather loosely, but I like to know where I’m going and have some idea of how I might get there. Rewriting is my favorite part of the process; I love playing with text, tightening, enriching, listening to the poetry of prose. Writing first drafts is so hard! It takes me a lot longer to write that first draft than it does to polish the second and third drafts of a book or a story.

AW: What was your most memorable book signing or convention experience?

LM: I did a signing in Spokane, Washington at a lovely independent bookstore called Auntie’s. The Glass Harmonica had just come out, and my collaborator, a glass armonicist, joined me there. We had more than a hundred people at that event, and it was grand. Book signings have fallen out of favor for the most part. Now I do launch events, and the occasional signing, but not nearly so many as in the past.

I love conventions. I didn’t discover them until I attended Clarion West in 1993. I’ve had some wonderful experiences at conventions, but perhaps the best was in a restroom at Readercon, outside of Boston. A charming young woman accosted me, apologizing for the “fan girl” moment, but having nice things to say about The Terrorists of Irustan. It was delightful. Such things make me want to paraphrase Dorothy Parker: I hate almost all famous (Parker said rich) people, but I think I’d be darling at it!

AW: Do you write character driven or plot driven stories? Or both?

LM: I suspect we all like to think we’re writing both, but I’m aware that character development is my strength. It’s all that time with the opera! I struggle with plot, but I suspect everyone does. When I get it right—when the pace and the build-up of tension are in the right places—it’s such a huge relief.

AW: What are you working on now?

LM: I just received a two-book contract with Kensington, I’m happy to say. They’re both follow-ons to Mozart’s Blood. The first is The Brahms Deception. The second doesn’t have a name yet, but it will be either Puccini or Verdi. I have to do some research so I can decide! It should be fun, because I love doing books based on real people, and then adding some sort of strangeness to their lives. I’ve done Mozart twice now (The Glass Harmonica features him as a child) and it’s time to get to know some of the other big names!

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