W H Mitchell, Galaxy of Authors

W H Mitchell, Galaxy of Authors

W. H. Mitchell

‘Explore the stories of W. H. Mitchell’s dark, dry humor.’

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

I drew a lot as a kid, even making long picture stories with plots and different characters. Once I started writing, I began doing that a lot more than drawing, and things just grew from there.

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

I read fantasy when I was younger, including the works of Lloyd Alexander (The Black Cauldron). Although I watched a lot of sci-fi (Star Wars and Star Trek), I didn’t really read much of it until I was much older (Douglas Adams among others). Shakespeare, especially his use of tragedy and comedy, was also a big influence on me.

Tell me about your book / series.

The Imperium is in turmoil! Seven centuries after the sleeper ships brought us to Andromeda, our human empire is plagued by war, intrigue, and a mysterious secret that may tear it apart!

The Imperium Chronicles follows the citizens (human, alien, and robots) that live in the Imperium. From the highest nobles of the aristocracy to the lowest dredges of the Underclass, we learn the stories of their lives.

How many unpublished and half-finished books do you have?

I’m currently working on a novel called the Robots of Andromeda, the third book in the Imperium Chronicles series. I self-publish so I really don’t work on anything that I don’t intend to publish myself.

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

I think you’d be hard pressed to find many writers who are in favor of banning books. I’m a very strong believer in freedom of speech, regardless of whether people like what’s being said. I remember getting a little too zealous with a fellow high school student who had issues with all the sex in A Brave New World. I guess the idea of stopping people from reading or even having access to stories is something that triggers me on an emotional and intellectual level.

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

I have many characters, probably more than I should if my reviewers are right. One of my favorites is Magnus Black, an assassin who appears in my first two books. He’s kind of the personification of Death; outside of our definitions of good or evil. He’s very much how I view the universe in an existential nihilist sort of way. 

Indie, or traditionally published – and why?

I’m 100% indie. I didn’t want to wait for an agent and then a publisher to deem my works acceptable or not. This allows me to tell the stories the way I want. On the other hand, indie authors are viewed differently than traditionally published writers so getting recognition is an even greater, uphill battle. 

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

Well, I could tell stories before I could read, so there’s some innate narrative skills that we are born with. However, I think reading is a great way to learn the craft. My only issue would be if you started imitating someone else’s writing. It’s important to have your own voice, even if that means writing more and reading less.

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

For me, the act of imagining and having a finished product brings me the most happiness. The process of writing itself, however, is like torture much of the time. I often have terrible trouble writing, partly due to my dyslexia and attention deficit, but sitting on the toilet and having the solution for a plot pop into my head is a lot of fun.

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

I’m both. I have a very loose plot structure in mind without necessarily knowing how it’s going to end. While I’m writing scenes, ideas present themselves naturally, and I try to use those in the rest of the writing.  I call it emergent writing/narrative because it comes into existence without planning it.

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

Yes, I’ve hidden references to things, especially from my favorite show Futurama. Sometimes I just put it in for my own amusement, knowing that no one else will notice or even give a damn if they did.

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

I play video games, either strategy or first-person shooters. I used to play MMORPGs but I’ve been playing mostly solo games the last few years.

What are you writing at the moment?

I’m working on the third book of the on-going Imperium Chronicles series. It’s been much more difficult than the first two novels, partly because I didn’t have existing short stories or ideas to draw on. Most of what you’ll see in the book is brand new.

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

Well, editors and especially good editors cost money. Most indie authors, myself included, lack the money to pay the prices necessary for the really best editors out there. With that in mind, it’s entirely possible an indie book is going to have more errors than one published by a large publishing house (who can afford the editors they have on staff). My question would be: is bad punctuation or typos more important than the narrative? It’s really up to the reader to decide.

What is your favourite genre to write, and why?

I write mostly science fiction, although I purposely include fantasy tropes into what I write. I have space elves and space dwarves / orcs, and I have starships called the Gorgon and the Sorcerer. I even have an evil mega-corporation called Warlock Industries.  I’m attracted to sci-fi, but I read tons of fantasy when I was younger. I guess I just enjoy mixing them up.

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

Absolutely. I love fictional robots and to live in a world where I could interact with them daily would bring me great joy (compared to interacting with humans that is).

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

I probably would have suggested writing books sooner. It takes a long time to build up an audience and, at my age, I might be dead by the time I reach that goal.

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

I listen to music to help drown out other sounds. However, I can only listen to music without words because that distracts me too. I ended up listening to Bebop Jazz because of the energy and lack of singing.

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

I lived half my life thinking I couldn’t write a novel and now I’ve written two in only a couple of years. No one is more surprised by that than me!

Tell me three unique things about you.

I have a dark sense of humor/worldview, but I also love cute things like Hello Kitty!

When I started college, I was a Physics major before switching to English.

In the 90s, I co-founded a poetry magazine called The Wolf Head Quarterly (now defunct).

W. H., thank you for participating in Galaxy of Authors!

Types of spaceship in the Cortii

Types of spaceship in the Cortii

So what types of spaceship are there in the Cortii?

Actually, there are quite a few types of spaceship maintained by a Base. While the Cortii are primarily infiltration and shock troops, most Bases maintain a sizeable fleet, for defence and to service their contracts.

Canta Class

The most common type is the Canta class. As their hull title suggests, they’re rated for five occupants and carry deepspace drives as well as in-system and atmosphere options. They’re heavily armed by humanoid standards for their size, and it shows in the living spaces: there’s a pilot’s cabin with space for a pilot and a co-pilot, five bunks, and a med-bay that’s essentially a sixth bunk with a lot of med-tech built in. Aside from that, at the further end of the bunk corridor, there’s a cross-section that leads to the sanitary unit (be flexible) on one side and the airlock on the other. On the aft wall, there’s a pair of holosuits for training and entertainment. Because the Canta class is rated for atmosphere, it’s a fairly basic delta-shape.

Fighter class

After the Canta class, there are two single-occupant hulls that serve very different purposes. One, the smallest of the Cortiian fleet, is really a cockpit on a whole lot of armament and a massive in-system drive. This is the fastest of the Cortiian ships, and because of its size, unless its drives are running full-bore, it doesn’t show up very well on most types of scanner even if it is being actively hunted. It is not deep-space capable, although it is just about atmosphere-capable. They can’t take a lot of damage, but because they’re almost impossible to pinpoint on weapons targeting and can out-accelerate most tracking estimates, it takes a lucky shot to damage one.

Scout class

The other single-occupancy hull type in the Cortii is known as a scout, and it does exactly what it says on the packet. It’s based on the same hull as the fighter, but with about a quarter of the armament and a deepspace drive and a lot of stealth tech instead. It also offers an extended cockpit that allows for a bunk unit and very basic sanitation behind the pilot and surveillance area. Because there’s a whole lot of active and passive jamming systems bolted onto a hull that’s close to impossible to catch on a scanner in the first place, these are the ship of choice when a Base needs eyes on something and doesn’t want anyone else to know about it. They have basic armament, but the main idea with this ship class is not to get caught in the first place.

Cortia class

These are the Cortiian equivalent of a battle platform, at about a quarter the size of the FPA equivalent. As the name suggests, they’re intended for a Cortia-unit, but can be handled short-term by as little as a single Canta. They are only borderline atmosphere-capable (as in, you’ll probably survive re-entry with a good pilot, but getting off again might be dicey), and can be configured differently for different missions. They’re designed to operate independently for extended periods of time, and can carry twenty fighters in their bays if need be. Because they’re capable of taking out anything up to and including a planet, they tend to induce anything from extreme respect to outright panic.

Short-haulers

There are some, but they’re the Cortiian-manufactured equivalent of load-haulers anywhere, and are mostly drives. If they’re going anywhere where they might conceivably run into danger, they’re escorted. The Cortii use an instantaneous transport system under treaty from the species that invented it, unlike most of humanoid space, so unless there’s some actual reason to send items via a shorthauler, by and large they’re sent through that system.

Accidents, unfriendly fire, and escape pods

….Cortiian ships do have them. All except for the fighter class, which simply doesn’t have space aboard and which requires a spacesuit to pilot, the bunks serve as the escape pods. They’re built as self-contained cryo units, and if jettisoned, will seal and put their occupant into deep-sleep. There’s enough of a drive to get them away from an exploding hull, and enough of a sensor array to look for breathable atmosphere. However, as they only broadcast to Cortiian receivers, and tend to explode if tampered with, getting picked up in one relies on a Cortiian ship being the in right place with its scanners turned up to full gain.

Why sci-fi?

Why sci-fi?

Why sci-fi?

I saw this in a post somewhere online today, and it made me blink.

It was quite literally a question I’d never asked myself – and as I’ve been writing at this point for about twenty years, you may well be asking yourself if I’m quite right in the head. (Good question, but let’s not go into that one here.)

I’m kind of feeling that it’s a positive thing that I never even stopped to ask why sci-fi, or even if sci-fi, given that I’ve got four sci-fi novels published and several more struggling through the drafting and editing process. That, or possibly evidence of a blind spot the size of the Bermuda Triangle. …Actually, I’m sticking with positive.

So, really, why sci-fi? Honestly, it never occurred to me not to.

The stories I started out telling myself, aged about five or so, weren’t recognisably sci-fi, although several of the characters in the Cortii Universe figured in them. However, sometime around age nine or ten, I ran into Anne McCaffrey’s Dragonriders of Pern series (like all the good books, my parents had inconsiderately stored them right at the top of the bookshelf, so when I say ‘ran into’ I mean I climbed a shelf and saw something new and interesting…). After that, my daydreams took a definite left into space and never came back.

If I really had to pin down a ‘why’, I suspect it has something to do with the chance to write a civilisation where there’s still space to explore, and where the people, the places, and the cultures are all for me to fill in on the map. Sci-fi is one of the best genres, in my completely biased opinion, to sit down and write ‘what if’.

Independent Extra-Sensory Regulatory Organisation

Independent Extra-Sensory Regulatory Organisation

What is the Independent Extra-Sensory Regulatory Organisation?

Perception is strength. ~IESRO doctrine

The Federated planets Alliance definition says that it’s ‘an organisation of allied species focussing on the training and control of certain categories of mentally divergent sentients’.

In actual fact, the Independent Extra-Sensory Regulatory Organisation, better known in humanoid space as the IESRO, is something more like a Star Chamber for entities gifted with mental Ability.

At the highest level, it’s controlled by the Satai, the most Ability-heavy species in civilised space. Because the Satai out-gun every other known species on a purely mental level, they can’t be lied to, and they can’t be evaded. This gives the IESRO the ability to absolutely guarantee the accuracy and ethics of anyone they register. The Satai took on this role voluntarily; in human terms, they have a species aversion to a lack of order, and they see abuse of mental Abilities as a disturbance in the energies of the universe.

On the opposite side of that, the IESRO is only concerned with Abilities powerful enough to merit their attention. While humanoid populations show an average 31% incidence of individuals with some discernible trace of Ability, one of the highest for any known species, only 0.8% of that demographic falls into a range to be eligible for IESRO registration. Compared to the Artan, where an average 8% of the population carry the genes for Ability but 28% of the entities showing Ability are eligible for registry, most humanoids don’t figure on the IESRO’s scan.

At the most basic level (and the only one the Satai are concerned with) an Ability is IESRO-level if they can interact with Abilities of the other species without having a stroke. The more official wording has it that ‘to be IESRO-eligible, an entity’s Abilities must be of a strength able to survive interaction with other species’. That’s the only criteria. As humans are fond of warning signs, the Federated Planets Alliance government has come up with an elaborate testing and ranking system to help humans with Ability determine how likely IESRO registration is to be fatal to them.

Practically speaking, the IESRO is also one of the highest legal authorities. An IESRO-registered and certified Ability’s reading of a public figure or an accused criminal is guaranteed to be accurate by the IESRO – because a registered Ability whose statement is disputed can be telepathically read at any time by a Satai. Oddly enough, very few public figures or accused criminals in humanoid space actually opt to have their minds read by and IESRO-registered humanoid.

Someone’s about to ask ‘quis custodiet‘, and the answer is that indeed, no-one aside from another Satai can guarantee the honesty of a Satai. However, while as a species they’re demonstrably capable of withholding information, several millennia of evidence indicates that when they do make a statement, it’s invariably been accurate.

While the field of comparative psychology struggles to fully understand and translate what makes other species react the way that they do, study indicates that for a Satai, the only known completely telepathic species, lying as humanoids know it may not be possible for them. While a Satai can understand and explain the concept of saying something that is not factually accurate, actually doing so themselves appears to beyond them on a hard-wired level.

The IESRO show up early on in Wildcat Cortia’s career. No-one’s entirely certain what their interest in the Cortia is, aside from its (very) uncharacteristic proportion of high-level Abilities, but out of the twenty-five riders originally in the unit, eight were IESRO-eligble, and most of them were registered, including Khyria herself.

How (not) to write a series – a pantser’s guide

How (not) to write a series – a pantser’s guide

How (not) to write a series – a pantser’s guide

Definitely, at all costs, avoid the planning. With this one simple tip, a writer can avoid months or even years of worry, save themselves from the dreaded note cascade whenever the cat crosses the desk, and, best of all, begin writing sooner.

As award-winning authors Claire Buss and J C Steel can attest, it is hard to over-emphasise the savings in time spent not writing your next masterpiece this one piece of advice can provide. Please note, when we say ‘don’t plan’, we do indeed mean no series arc, no tedious deciding in advance whether your protagonist should have a mole somewhere interesting, and most certainly no poring over a map trying to figure out why cities that famous people are born in exist at the top of mountain plateaux with no nearby water.

Complicated things like these tend to take care of themselves. You had no plan for book one and everything worked out just fine. Repeat this method when writing subsequent books and in no time at all you’ll have a multi-book series and maybe even a box set. Planning takes up valuable time when you could be inventing twenty new characters who bear no relation whatsoever to the main characters in your first book. It’s important to keep things fresh and interesting.

Planning is one of the secret tools of procrastination. Authors who swear by it are really admitting to being closet-procrastinators and they probably don’t even like cake.

How not to world-build

J C Steel maintains that it’s possible to learn everything you need to know about your characters and your world-building by climbing a mast, wedging yourself comfortably above the radar, and chatting with the voices in your head. Not only does it pass the time when the yacht isn’t going anywhere, but when you do this regularly, the character, the secondary characters, and the world they live in become so internalised that the entire setting and cast is ready for you when you reach deck level and reach for your pen (or keyboard, or magic wand, or inscription instrument of choice). Better yet, again, no notes required.

Health and safety tip: Of course, for the younger writer, it is important not to confess to anyone that you are, in fact, chatting with the voices in your head until you reach the local age of indiscretion. Otherwise adults (defined as those who have been doing it wrong longer) have a tendency to over-react.

There is no need to re-read your previous book(s) and re-familiarise yourself with the existing world you built. After all, you wrote it in the first place and you never forget salient details, ever. By continuing to have regular chats with your characters you will have an in-depth understanding of their personality and why they react to things the way they do. Seeing as you have all this information at your fingertips it will become obvious to the reader as well, this is down to secret osmosis of thought. That elusive yet unique connection authors have with their readers which allows them, the reader, to understand every nuance, every subtlety and every hidden meaning. That connection is so strong there is no need to describe buildings, cities, infrastructure or even what your characters look like. All those world-building aspects come under planning and as stated previously, there is no need to get bogged down by any of that.

How to not delay the writing bits

So how does one get from chatting with the voices in your head to successfully writing a series? You may well ask. We feel that the key ingredient for this harks back to our very first piece of advice – don’t plan – freeing up more time for actual writing. Bum on seat and fingers on writing implements is how the words are made to go. A pantser is, therefore, always at a near-infinite advantage. While the plotter is still working out whether using shell pink Post-It notes for the kinky scenes is too precious, the pantser has already powered through that all-important opening scene and is trying busily to get their characters to slow that duck down so they can write down the awesome one-liner someone yelled halfway through the last chase.

There is no need to worry about subsequent books making sense with regards to the entire series or indeed as stand-alone novels. Readers will, of course, read each book in the series in the correct order and will have already established their psychic link with your inner monologue and completely understand all the back story you’ve thought about and not yet written down. This means, again, the pantser wins at writing as they do not have to delay getting on with the actual writing.

Health and safety tip: We refer you to the great Oscar Wilde on the importance of making time for what is most important to you – “Work is the curse of the drinking classes.”

How not to get buried in the details

Detailed descriptions are so last century. Your enlightened reader just wants the juicy bits, never mind sixteen pages detailing the lavish surroundings your average planner has constructed. Which by the way, took them two weeks to thrash out while you, the pantser, released four novellas.

It’s absolutely true, the Devil’s in the details. In case no one has ever imparted to you the key to lying successfully (and what is fiction writing, if not the art of lying to better convey meaning?), it is Keep It Simple, Stupid – also known in professional circles as the KISS and tell principle. By avoiding the wall covered in sticky notes, and the ensuing panic whenever the air, the cat, the offspring, or the summoned entity moves through the room, we have also successfully avoided not one, but two story-killers; the smothering alive of the story pacing in irrelevant detail, and the trapping yourself in a plot web of such intricacy that the temptation to disprove the old adage that the pen is mightier than the sword is put to extreme test.

How not to listen to advice on how to write

Last but not least (by far not least) it is vitally important to ignore other people telling you how you should write. What works for them is highly unlikely to work for you, and as we’re looking at not just a flash fiction piece, a novella, or a single book, but the writing of an entire series…it is extremely important to settle on a method that works for you over weeks, months, years, and even more importantly, a method that doesn’t get in the way of your writing, but which facilitates it. So planners – plan to your little heart’s content and pantsers – blag it all the way!

The related ability to ignore people, no matter what the topic, is another that we highly recommend to aspiring series authors. In fact, it is a skill that will generally make your life better all around. Most great artists became famous long after they were dead, so it stands to reason if they’d listened to the people telling them how bad they were while they were alive, they would never have persevered until the very end.

Meet the authors

Claire Buss: ‘Books and cake.’

Claire BussClaire Buss is a science fiction, fantasy and contemporary writer based in the UK. She wanted to be Lois Lane when she grew up but work experience at her local paper was eye-opening. Instead, Claire went on to work in a variety of admin roles for over a decade but never felt quite at home. An avid reader, baker and Pinterest addict Claire won second place in the Barking and Dagenham Pen to Print writing competition in 2015 setting her writing career in motion.

You can follow her on Twitter and visit her website for more information about Claire and her writing.

J C Steel: ‘Knives, spaceships, and dirty fighting – who says a mercenary cult can’t be fun?’

J C Steel authorBorn in Gibraltar and raised on a yacht around the coasts of the Atlantic, I’m a writer, martial artist and introvert. In between the necessary making of money to allow the writing of more books, I can usually be found stowing away on a spaceship, halfway to the further galaxy.

Find out more about the author and the series at jcsteelauthor.com.

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