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Ancestry again

Ancestry again

Ancestry – again

About a year ago, I wrote a post about finally taking the plunge on an Ancestry DNA test, and my intermittent interest in unearthing my likely unholy family history.

Sadly, the family myth about Peruvian ancestry was emphatically debunked – I appear to be a Northern European achievement, largely Anglo-Scots with some Irish and Germanic-Central European mixed in. Oh, and 2% Norwegian, which I can only assume equates to ‘Viking plus slowest woman in her village’.

This past few weeks, owing to a dry spell in my ability to convince myself to get stuck into the editing for Book 5 in the Cortii series, I’ve found myself back in Ancestry, knocking around and tidying up loose ends. Among other things, my direct paternal line appears to have sprung, fully-formed, from the nearest public house sometime in the mid-1700s somewhere along the much-disputed line marking the England-Scotland border. (Still haven’t cracked that one.)

What I did turn up, much to my entertainment, was a bunch of job ads from the New Scientist magazine archives, from when my father founded Servomex Controls Limited in 1952. As I didn’t meet my father until several years after his retirement, the only thing I really knew about his company was that a. it existed, and b. his secretary was so bad at typing that Dad, at the time the Managing Director, used to type up all his own letters. I have that typewriter in my cupboard – it still works.

By the time I met my father, he’d sold his stake in Servomex and retired onto a one-off Mudie-built wooden ketch named Gub-Gub. Since I think I’m the first to dig into the family history, he may or may not have known that the family, in the 1800s, had a branch in merchant shipping out of Liverpool, but judging by the generous splash of Irish / Northern European in my genetic heritage from his side of the family, I strongly suspect that if I ever manage to put together the lineage past the 1700s, I’m going to find a few more merchants / soldiers / other stripe of travellers.

Probably this goes some way to explaining why I’m currently based out of Western Canada and my nearest relations are my half-brother, in the Caribbean, and a branch of the family descended from one of my great-uncles who never came back from South America, in Santiago.

You’re a writer? Grow up

You’re a writer? Grow up

You’re a writer? Grow up!

What, you think you’re going to make money doing that?

Oh, wait, you’re indie? Can I actually, you know, buy your stuff anywhere?

Books are boring, I’d rather see a movie.

Spend enough time writing and publishing, and you’ll hear at least one of the above.

I’m lucky enough that I have to respect a person before their opinion is much more than noise to me, so water and ducks’ backs is pretty much the result if someone lays one of these on me. I have fun writing, and based on reviews, at least a few people have fun reading what I publish. Good enough for me.

I was talking to someone the other day, and they asked me what my passion was. I told them it was writing (in point of fact I was speaking with someone on an HR team, which was mildly worrying given the sequel…). They responded that they used to write, but “then they grew up”.

Not invariably, but often, that kind of reaction points to somebody in the past having managed to seriously hurt the feelings of the person having the reaction, which made me wonder what kind of person listens to someone else tell them that creating art is immature, and internalises it to such a degree that they feel they have to repeat it to anyone else who may still be childish enough to be wasting their time in a similar field.

I concluded, after a bit of staring at a ceiling, that I feel sorry for them. It must be tough to take everyone’s opinions so seriously that you give up something harmless, that you enjoy, over them. After all, everyone has opinions. Having one doesn’t make them worthy of being taken into account.

Thank all and any gods, I have highly selective deafness… thanks, Dad, you were in some respects an awesome role model.

In short, I’m working my way around to a theme that’s fairly common to indie authors, which is IDGAF. I have fun, some other people have fun, if you don’t like it don’t read it… I’m pretty sure there are many, many permutations on this one.

Of course, I’m lucky enough to be an introvert, so I care less about what the rest of humanity thinks of me than I do about avoiding having to interact with large numbers of them, and I’m also lucky enough to make enough in my day job that I’m not dependent on some other schmuck; I don’t have to set a single, solitary fuck into flight (yes, my fucks are probably just as lazy as the rest of me).

It came to me, as I contemplated this person’s dismissal of an entire art form, that extroversion, FOMO, etc. must make for a very nervous lifestyle. Extroverts seem to actually need other people’s approval of them and their lifestyles. It may go some way to explain why there are so many people out there looking for someone to copy.

However, me…I’m immature and happy to be so. I’ll be in my room, playing with my words.

F Stephan, Galaxy of Authors

F Stephan, Galaxy of Authors

F. Stephan

‘Only augmented pilots can cross space. But at what cost?’

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In the beginning…tell me what made you decide to start writing?

It had been a dream dormant for many years. The day my mother had a severe health problem, the time came to face this envy and begin writing. It was also a way to work with my father, an illustrator.

And when I began, my friends said “At last, we told you so …”

Are there any authors or artists who influence(d) you?

Recently, I’ve read a lot from L.E. ModesittJr and I love both the coherence of his worlds and the philosophy behind. I’ve also read a lot of the classics (P Anderson, R Heinlein, J Vance, …).

Tell me about your book / series.

Six student fly to a distant planet to become starpilots, the first from Earth, charged to help their planet surviving from ecological collapse. Do they have what it takes to succeed?

In one hundred years, Earth is falling into an ecological collapse, looking for a way, any way, out. When an alien Star Federation offers assistance, the planet jumps on it. There’s only one catch. This Federation desperately needs Star Pilots, and very few individuals can sustain the nanorobots required to perform this job. Earth will receive all the help it requires, provided its inhabitants can prove future pilots. Six are chosen to go. This is their story.

In Human Starpilot, they will face the first stage of the training on distant Adheek and learn to manage their nanorobots.

In Interstellar Starpilot, two students go on to the Core Worlds of the Federation to further their training and face new dangers.

In Space Station Acheron, the other four return to Earth to build and run the first station to link Earth and the stars.

How many unpublished and half-finished books do you have?

Interstellar Starpilot is just out of structural assessment and will be a month in copy editing. It should be live in June or July.

Space Station Acheron is 50 000 words strong and fully outlined. It could be released in late fall.

The next one is only at outline level with a thousand words of intrigue.

What’s your opinion on the practice of ‘banning’ books?

Books shouldn’t be banned. It’ll always remember Usher II from Ray Bradbury in Martian Chronicles. If you haven’t read it, well, you don’t know what is in for you.

But at the same time, some books aren’t meant for all and some warning should be given to readers either when content can be offensive to certain belief or dangerous to certain age, or common readers. As a reader, I would appreciate it. I believe this transparency is important to keep book from being banned.

Tell me about a principal character in your book(s). What makes them memorable?

Brian has chosen his life, got a degree and is suddenly thrown into another career, as space pilot, sent to another planet and injected with nanorobots which can destroy him. He isn’t a super hero, someone normal thrown into an abnormal situation and trying to survive the adventure. He’s also thrown out of his universe into another one and trying to find his place in it.

Indie, or traditionally published – and why?

Indie.

I’m learning the trade and there’s only one way to it: write, write and face readers. Listen to what they like or don’t like and work, again and again.

I have no issue with traditional publishing and would be delighted to enjoy this type of support.

It’s said that to write well, you need to read a lot. What do you think?

100% aligned. I have been a ferocious reader for years in many fields. I began with a lot of classic books both in French and English, then I went into different styles and type, from mysteries, thrillers, sci-fi, fantasy, and many other.

Tell me what you feel the worst, and the best, aspects of being an author are, and why.

The best, first, is to be able to share your dreams and ideas with others, and not just play with them in your head. And, meeting others, talking with them about your books is an incredible experience.

The worst is when someone, after reading twenty-five pages, tells you your book is crap because he wants murder and gore first and then explanations. This is very hard after so much effort into a book.

Are you a plotter, or a pantser? What do you think of the opposite approach?

Plotter, absolutely. I would love to be a pantser but it doesn’t work for me right now. I can focus on the scene I write once I know where it starts and where it leads, not before. But it goes beyond that. Some sci-fi books are ever expanding. The universe keeps growing as the author adds features after features and it has often left me disappointed. I want a tighter story.

Do you hide any secrets in your books that only a few people will find?

Not really, there are clues into the next books, but they aren’t secrets per se.

Tell me about one favourite hobby or pastime that isn’t writing or reading.

I’m part of the theater amateur group, with a focus on improvisation. This is shared creativity, beginnings, ends, small snapshots of stories. I love the gifts of stories and emotions that come out in these sessions.

What are you writing at the moment?

Right now, I’m revising my second book. The pure writing is on the third one. How do you build a station on a planet under global warming where resources and popular support are scarce? How do you come back to your birth place after seeing a wide universe and find your place again?These are fantastic themes to explore!

What’s your opinion on the belief that indie books are badly edited and lower quality than traditionally published?

Editing is a real art and very expensive. I once delivered a book of a quality that shamed me, not running a second editing after the initial assessment. This was a mistake. I learned that lesson the hard way.

But on that same occasion, I also found a good team to help and support me on editing. It’s hard because as Indie you don’t “know” the process, the right steps. I have had the chance to find people who suggested a more professional approach, more cost effective. It remains a huge investment for me now on each book, making this writing endeavor absolutely not profitable. But if you do something, do it right!

What is your favourite genre to write, and why?

For now, I love to write science fiction for the freedom it gives in the world building activity. I want to travel to foreign places when I read, and this is what I want to provide my readers.

This may change over time, naturally.

If you could, would you live in the world you’ve created? Why / why not?

I’d want to travel in the Federation’s worlds and especially its center, which is the focus of Interstellar Starpilots. First, because it boasts the last working star elevator in the Federation and I’d love to ride it, second because this is a beautiful place from where you can travel anyplace.

If you could go back to the start of your writing career, what is the one piece of advice you’d give yourself?

There are so many lessons learned in that career, so much advice I wished I had had or understood sooner. The only give I would is: Go. Do it. Write, publish, you’re going to love it.

Do you listen to music when you write, and if so, what do you like?

I listen to all sort of contemporary music, played at random. Some scenes have a musical theme in my mind when I write. But, I don’t often listen to it while I write, maybe just before.

What was one of the most surprising things you learned in creating your books?

Characters have a life of their own which is, nearly, out of the author’s control. You set up a character initially for a scene. Then, you need someone in another situation and you bring him or her back. And suddenly, someone is there, facing you, with its own motives and desires, and will move on his own course from now on. You may not call the character again or another scene may lead to an intervention.

Tell me three unique things about you.

I was born in the USA and raised in France, and I love both countries.

I’ve worked and lived in many countries, been part of a student organisation whose aim was to reconnect Eastern and Western Europe and went even Down Under in Australia on a job.

I was in West Berlin 2 month before the Wall fell.

Fabrice, thank you for participating in Galaxy of Authors!

C Rene Astle, Galaxy of Authors

C Rene Astle, Galaxy of Authors

C. Rene Astle

‘It’s hard to heal when your head has been severed from your body.’

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In the beginning…tell me what made you decide to start writing?

I can’t say I actually decided to start writing. I’ve written for as long as I can remember. I have a box full of story ideas that go back to when I was growing up. I have so many stories waiting to be written that I haven’t opened the box in a long time; I’m not sure I want to.

Are there any authors or artists who influence(d) you?

Probably every book I’ve read has influenced me in some way, but not the answer you’re looking for 😊. Certainly, books like The Lord of the Rings and the Chronicles of Narnia had a big impact. My mom (also an author) read those to us when we were kids, and that gave me a lifelong love of fantasy. On the other side, my dad had a telescope and we spent some cold night star-gazing, and I remember reading Cosmos by Carl Sagan, which is non-fiction, when I was still fairly young. I didn’t read a lot of science fiction until I was an adult, but I think that love of Space and a childhood watching ‘Star Trek’, ‘Star Wars’ and ‘Battlestar Galactica’, led to reading and then writing it.

Tell me about your book / series.

Mina’s dying for life to get back to normal.

After the sudden death of her mother, all she wants is to get back to art school and work at the tattoo shop. Unfortunately, her roommate convinces her she needs a night of dance, drink and debauchery. When she wakes up, she finds that she’s not only a vampire but has been recruited into an eternal fight to protect the humans from the things that go bump in the night. And now an ancient terror awakes. 

How many unpublished and half-finished books do you have?

Hmm, what counts as half finished? Let’s say more than 50% done. Four, I think? Maybe five. I used to be really good at starting books but not so good at finishing them. Luckily I’ve become much better at finishing books, but I still have a few from that phase where the characters are waiting in limbo for their tales to be wrapped up. But now I have so many scraps of paper with new story ideas to get to.

What’s your opinion on the practice of ‘banning’ books?

As a general rule, I don’t agree with it. For most books, I’d rather see open discussion – why are people upset about the book or the subject matter or the author. This helps us develop our ability to think critically and learn discernment.

Indie, or traditionally published – and why?

Indie. Like A.M. Rycroft, I didn’t have the patience to wait for submission, rejection, submission, revision, submission. At the time, I was also hearing from fellow writers that they were being asked for marketing plans and what not…and that’s the part I hate. So if I have to do a lot of the marketing stuff anyway, I might at well just do it all.

It’s said that to write well, you need to read a lot. What do you think?

Yes. I absolutely agree with this. I don’t understand when I hear writers say they don’t read. Besides loving books, I think it’s critical to honing my craft, and one of the best ways to make the mechanics second nature. Reading deeply in my chosen genres is important but reading broadly is also valuable. I find it hard to read critically (as in discerning), because I get lost in the story, but it’s important for me to understand what I like and don’t like and what works for me as a reader and why.

Tell me what you feel the worst, and the best, aspects of being an author are, and why.

I don’t know that there is a worst, other than not being able to make a living at it…yet. I love entertaining people and being able to connect with people from around the world over a shared interest. I love bringing characters to life and then living vicariously through them.

Are you a plotter, or a pantser? What do you think of the opposite approach?

I used to be a pantser. My first novel took at least five years…I needed to be a more efficient writer to be able to get all these stories rambling around my brain on paper. So I started a journey to becoming more of a plotter. For me personally, I don’t think it stifles creativity; in fact, I think it gives me more space to be creative because I don’t have to worry about the framework – it’s already there.

As for the other approach, I don’t think anything. People need to find what works for them to get their stories written.

Tell me about one favourite hobby or pastime that isn’t writing or reading.

I have what’s called an allotment or community garden plot. It doesn’t take a lot of work in winter, since my particular plot tends to flood. But during the summer, I’m out there a lot, getting my hands dirty, listening to the birds, talking to the bees and the earthworms. It’s very different from the stories I write.

What are you writing at the moment?

Right now, I’m wrapping up book 3 of my Bloodborne Pathogens series. Then I can get back to work on the first book in a space opera series – one of those unpublished books from question 4.

Tell me three unique things about you.

I talk to bees and earthworms…I’ve already mentioned that.

I think octopuses are phenomenal creatures.

I love watching British mysteries…who knew those quaint towns were so deadly.

C. Rene, thank you for participating in Galaxy of Authors!

M J Stoddard, Galaxy of Authors

M J Stoddard, Galaxy of Authors

M. J. Stoddard

‘The calling of an author is more than just to entertain, but also to share one’s experiences with the world.’ ~M. J. Stoddard

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In the beginning…tell me what made you decide to start writing?

I just love to create, in elementary school I wrote TMNT fan-fiction and during my freshman year in high school, I wrote a Christmas themed sci-fi short-short story. My sophomore year, I knew I wanted to be a full-time author, I knew I had a gift, being a major sci-fi/fantasy buff in all aspects from movies to video games, I wanted to take my writing to the next level and create an original epic sci-fi/fantasy.

Are there any authors or artists who influence(d) you?

Yes, Frank Herbert, J. R. R. Tolkien, Orson Scott Card, Stan Lee and more.

Tell me about your book / series.

A jaded mercenary…a corrupt military official…and an ancient  artifact known as…The Sixth Eye.

The fate of the galaxy hangs in the balance as tensions escalate between the United Terran Confederacy and the Independence Mining Corporation.

An elite pilot and mercenary known as Blain Ross confronts a formidable enemy ahead, so must he confront the enemy within himself and thwart his former Commanding Officer’s hellbent agenda to obtain an ancient artifact with dark, mystical powers that would bring total anhillation across the galaxy and the universe. The artifact is known throughout the galaxy as…The Sixth Eye.

How many unpublished and half-finished books do you have?

I have several, two of which are series: Gemini Continuum and the Shadowbane Chronicles. The others I’ve started are stand-alone stories, but still have a connection with the Twilight Legacies multi-verse.

Tell me about a principal character in your book(s). What makes them memorable?

My principal character goes by the name ‘Blain Ross’, who is an expert marksman, martial artist and star pilot. What makes Blain Ross memorable is his quick wit, intelligent and his innate knowledge of an ancient magic.

Indie, or traditionally published – and why?

Indie, because as an author, I keep all my rights and royalties are descent.

It’s said that to write well, you need to read a lot. What do you think?

I agree and not necessarily in the genre that you are writing. I know during my times of liesure, I read a bit here and there; historical fiction, adventure, besides sci-fi and fantasy. I also read books that are more academic in nature – primarily for research for the series I am working on.

Tell me what you feel the worst, and the best, aspects of being an author are, and why.

The worst aspect of being an author is not having enough time in the day to finish the next chapter. This is discouraging, especially when working a full-time job to provide for the family and pay the bills. The best aspects of being an author is creating, designing and moreover, the payoff of such an investment; which can take a lifetime before coming to fruition.

Are you a plotter, or a pantser? What do you think of the opposite approach?

I am both a plotter and a pantser.

Do you hide any secrets in your books that only a few people will find?

Absolutely, I have so many woven into the plot.

Tell me about one favourite hobby or pastime that isn’t writing or reading.

I love to spend time with my family, I am a martial arts instructor and co-founder of Bastress Stoddard Hogosha Samurai Karate Jutsu and I love to design starships, logos and book covers. I’m also a musician – I play the electric guitar.

What are you writing at the moment?

Currently, I am working on Book 2 of The Twilight Legacies, entitled Crimson Vortex, Gemini Continuum: Empire of the Gods and Shadowbane Chronicles: Prophecy.

What’s your opinion on the belief that indie books are badly edited and lower quality than traditionally published?

I don’t believe that’s the case, that is a stereotype. I have read some traditionally published books that have a few grammatical errors or typos, but it doesn’t take away from the quality of the story.

What is your favourite genre to write, and why?

I love to write sci-fi/fantasy because there are no limitations on how the stories evolve and so much can be expounded upon from a single premis or idea.

If you could, would you live in the world you’ve created? Why / why not?

Yes, because I’d love to travel the stars and explore the universe.

If you could go back to the start of your writing career, what is the one piece of advice you’d give yourself?

The one piece of advice I would give myself is not all publishers are as they seem – Do more research.

Do you listen to music when you write, and if so, what do you like?

Yes, most of the time. I prefer game tunes, like AVP, Dark Star One, Freelancer, classical music every now and again.

What was one of the most surprising things you learned in creating your books?

One of the most surprising things I learned in creating The Twilight Legacies: The Sixth Eye Special Edition is a new way of storytelling.

M. J., thank you for participating in Galaxy of Authors!

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