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Chrysalides, cusps, and changes

Chrysalides, cusps, and changes

And just what the hell do chrysalides, cusps, and changes have to do with one another, or indeed the next book in the Cortii series?

All right, but they’ve got lovely alliteration. Which is author-y stuff in its own fashion. And they’re sorta-kinda relevant. Read on if you want to gather your arguments with that statement.

So, the chrysalis

I’ve been living in a bit of a chrysalis the last few years, and although one of my pet hates is fluttery things dive-bombing my head, which are on the whole what tend to emerge from chrysalides, I have hopes that I’m on the way to breaking out of mine. 

Maybe to dive-bomb someone’s head. Probably not, though, because although lost idiots who can’t work their cell phones seem to find me utterly irresistible, I prefer to avoid my own species for the most part.

I’d been steadily withdrawing into my chrysalis for most of the past decade. I had stuff to deal with at home, and it was eating increasing amounts of my energy. Add to that a demanding job in less-than-optimal conditions, and my energy dropped through the orange right into the red and started drilling through the bottom of the tank. The idea of going out with friends was enough to make me want to pull a cushion over my head, lock the door, and hide. Going for a walk, with the inevitable human contact, and then having to drag myself back again, wasn’t a relaxing prospect. Doing the groceries was a marathon that I gritted my teeth and got through. Writing was about the only thing I really still found fun, and even that was pulling down resources that were basically dry.

Mix in that I’d been sleeping on a sofabed for the last four – five years, and I wasn’t even doing much for the purely physical side of my exhaustion.

The cusp

Side order of glitterIt became increasingly clear over a period of years that, like so many things in life, no one was going to swan in and wave a wand and make everything better (with a possible side-order of gratuitous glitter, for reasons). If I wanted to not spend the rest of my existence trying to parse out dribbles of energy to deal with the absolute bare minimum of shit that had to get dealt with while being permanently stressed and irritated, I was going to have to bloody well find  some energy, get off my ass, and change something myself.

As most people don’t get a Classical education, some of you may not be familiar with the Greek myth of the fate of Sisyphus. Basically, he was a bastard in life who spent his afterlife doomed to push a big bloody rock up a steep hill – except when he almost had it to the top, it would roll all the way back down again. The Wikipedia version’s a bit less abbreviated.

I had a very visceral understanding of how Sisyphus felt.  Day to day shit was bottoming me out until all I wanted was to find a nice deep pit and pull the top in after me, and I had to come up with enough energy and motivation to make major life changes?

I’ve never had a lot of patience for weeping or screaming as a response to situations. Like thoughts and prayers, it may make you feel briefly better, but it’ll do absolutely bugger-all in any practical terms.

The changes

I therefore got off my ass, put my game face on, or what passes for it, and found a new job. With a boss I like, in a nice office, doing something I actually quite enjoy. That was April. I’d been planning to up sticks and leave town altogether, but was foiled by the fact that unless I wanted to move to Toronto or Montreal, there was basically very little going in terms of jobs I could do that I wanted to do outside Vancouver.

However, that still left my home situation. I was less stressed at work (and given the stress levels in the first three months of any new job, feel free to draw conclusions), but I pretty clearly wasn’t done. I was still hemorrhaging energy, because coming home was not, as it is for most people, relaxing. I was going from my employment, to more stress and no small amount of frustration, to sleep on a sofa, and then going back around again the next day.

In May, I started looking for a pet-friendly rental, in Vancouver, that I could afford. Anyone who’s spent time in Vancouver will be laughing hysterically at this one.

However, at this point I got lucky. There was in fact somewhere available, that had no issue with a pair of cats, it was in an area I wanted to live in, it was possible to get to work from there without spending three hours stuck in traffic each way, and I could even afford it, if I sucked in my spending a bit. It wasn’t available until July, but given Vancouver, hell, I jumped all over it.

What I hadn’t factored in was my complete lack of ability to hurry up and wait. I’d’ve made a very poor soldier. I wanted a change; in fact, given an increasing number of stress-related side-effects that, among other things, put me on steroid inhalers, I needed a change – but it was a tough change to make. I was going to leave a situation that was familiar and take a leap into the unknown. But I couldn’t even take that leap for another two months.

I spent a lot of time the past few months staring that that old line about those who give up freedom for safety deserve neither. I spent even more time staring at the fact that much as I couldn’t go on the way I was, getting somewhere I could cope with was going to involve a lot of upheaval, and not just for me. 

The kicker was that I was also leaving my 18-year relationship, which as anyone who’s been unfortunate enough to have to will tell you, is tough on everyone involved.

I sucked it up, carefully didn’t hit the liquor cabinet, compartmentalised busily, and finally made my move. I’m now, for the first time since I was nineteen, in my own place, on my own (well, with a pair of Siamese cats, who actually own the place and let me pay for it), only cleaning up after and shopping for myself, only organising my own life, and my Fitbit tells me that month over month, my resting heart rate has dropped ten bpm.

It’s going to take a while to build my energy back up, and probably just as long to figure out what I want to do with the freedom I scraped rock bottom and fought to find. The point to the mammoth post is, I guess, that I’m damned lucky. I have that freedom. I have choices. I’ll fight to keep them, and now I know that what looked impossible in the beginning is perfectly doable if I really have to.

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?’

Buy the books!

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.’

Buy the books!

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!

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