Sunday, January 31, 2016

Sunday Musings: Resolutions for our writing

Hello again, hope you've missed us these last couple of weeks.

Time has a way of slipping by before you realize it's gone and not coming back. At no point is this more obvious than the new year when we're making new promises and resolutions. Well, today's musings comes from our newest Muse Family Author, Terri Bertha:

What resolutions can we make to push/improve our writing...move our writing forward?

Let's see what's been musing:


TERRI BERTHA, Mainstream NEW author

I always read my manuscript out loud.  If I find I'm stumbling over the words, then the sentences definitely need to be rewritten.  This year, I want to incorporate stronger verbs in my writing so the reader can completely 'see' the story in their mind and be able to 'step into what my characters are seeing and feeling' for their reading experience.


A resolution to move my writing forward for 2016 includes spending time analyzing writers of both commercial and literary books, looking at what people today want to read, why, and how they read, and trying to meet them there.



Just once I wanted to write a book for adults. I’d love to be able to write amazing love scenes, with deep plots and lots of soul-searching depths. Instead, while working on an article for Dog Fancy, a large nosed Basset Hound shoved his muzzle into my face and insisted I write his story. After all, he is the world’s most important, most brilliant, most well-designed creature ever to grace the planet. With grace. And magical drool.

I’ve managed to evade him, the third book of the Magical Drool Mysteries is on the back burner. Now I’m working on a book with a werehuman who is normally a SAR springer spaniel.

Yeah. I’ve gone to the dogs.



This year, I'm simply going to make more opportunities to write. I intend to take advantage of the suggested writing prompts given out during my writers' group because they give me ideas that I possibly wouldn't have thought of myself and I sometimes come up with a story that surprises me.

I'm also going to complete all those half-finished stories in my writing folder.
And if there's any time left over, I'm going to read, read, read!



Resolve or determination?

Do you have favourite words or expressions that you use a lot? As a writer, I try to vary my vocabulary but those habits of speech will come through. One helpful aspect of using a word-processing programme is that you can check up on yourself. I had a look at my use of “resolve” or “resolution” in the sense of determination and found I’ve used it at least once in all but one of my novels. Running the same check for variants of “determination” showed much greater usage, at least 10 times in most of my novels, in one case 20. Mind you, out of approximately 90,000 words that’s not too bad. However, I will now be very self-conscious about using either word, and I may show determination to increase my resolve—at least that ambition will be my purposeful intent as I pursue my aim to vary my vocabulary.



My resolution to help push my writing forward is to develop a Blog.  This might not seem like much too many of you, but for someone like me who is technically challenged, it is a major undertaking!!  Not only will this help me to get "out there," but it will also allow me, with a clear conscience, to guest on the blogs of others since I will be able to reciprocate by having them on mine. 


Dear reader, thank you again for joining us and we’d love to hear from you. Keep smiling and have a fun week. Never stop believing. See you next Sunday…nothing better than being cozy in bed with some Musings.


If you have a question or comment you’d like us to muse upon, do not hesitate to contact me Christine Steeves-Speakman  at MuseChrisChat@gmail.com

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Interview with PM Griffin






 Today, we welcome multi-published,
award-winning author, 
PM Griffin


Pauline (P. M.) Griffin has been writing since her early childhood.  She enjoys telling a good tale, and since she always works with characters and situations deeply interesting to her, she finds the research as rewarding as the scribbling/keying.
Griffin’s Irish love of story telling coupled with her passion for history, the natural world, and the above-mentioned research have resulted in sixteen novels and nine short stories, two Muse Medallion Award winners among them, all in the challenging realms of science fiction and fantasy.
She lives in Brooklyn, New York, with her cats Nickolette, Jinx, and Katie and three tropical fish aquariums.


Who are some of your favorite authors?
J.R.R. Tolkien
Andre Norton
Jane Austin

What motivated you to become a writer and at what age?
That’s hard to answer.  I was playing with my own stories preschool.  I began writing “real” stories mid grade school, about fifth grade, my first novel in sophomore year high school.  (All of these were learning experiences, totally unpublishable.)  However, the moment when I knew I must write is fixed in my memory.  I was in the second grade, 7 years old, and I had borrowed Andre Norton’s STAR RANGERS on my first visit to the public library.  One scene so affected me that I knew I had to do the same thing, that I had to create on the same level, had to give on the same level.  I describe all this as an adult, of course, but I’ve never seriously wanted anything else.  That does not meant I did not intend to support myself and live as a decent, functioning human being as well.

What 3 words describe you as a person?
Animal lover
Responsible
Serious minded

What 3 words describe you as a writer?
Enthusiastic
Dedicated
Just plain happy writing (well, that’s more than a word, but it’s accurate)

When not writing, how do you spend your time? Hobbies?
I read, mostly nonfiction, interact with my cats, tend and watch the fish, listen to music.  I also speak with (via telephone or e-mail)  or see my brother and friends frequently.

Do you remember the first story you ever read, and the impact it had on you?
No.  I was reading preschool, at about 4 years old and had stories read and told to me prior to that.  I do know that I almost always took the tale in question, say “The Tree Little Pigs,” and carried it on in my mind, working out what the pigs and the wolf did next.  I would also try to figure out how the wolf came into the neighbourhood and set him on their track in the first place.

Describe your desk.
My desk contains the computer and peripherals, printer, some general reference material, and my pencil mss.

Who is the main character?
In HAUNTED WORLD, Ranger-Colonel Dermot O’Donnell, commander of the Fivenations’ Fourth Regiment.

What is his story?
O’Donnell was a Ranger occupied with wildlife study and restoration until the outbreak of a war propelled him into a combat command.   Currently, he is on assignment to prevent an anticipated invasion.  He must also interact with a large number of incorporeal neighbours while his regiment labors to raise the required defences.

Where/when does the story take place?
HAUNTED WORLD takes place primarily in a vastly altered continent that was once Europe  some six centuries after the near-simultaneous eruption of three supervolcanoes almost completely destroyed the earth and most of the life on her.

How did the story come to you?
The core situation for HAUNTED WORLD arose out of an article I had read.    It fascinated me.  I played with it for some time before the spark tying everything together arrived.  At that stage, I sat down and wrote the book.

Who is your target audience?
Since I write primarily in the fields of science fiction and fantasy, I naturally attract people who read speculative fiction.  However, anyone who enjoys a good story and reads reasonably well should enjoy these tales.  I know from my mail that men and women of every age and a multitude of professions are numbered among my readers.

What makes your book different from other similar ones?
The fact that my work is centered on the characters, human and animal, and carried by them rather than being focused on the dramatic events and conditions around them.  This is frequently not the case in speculative fiction.

The research is also thorough, and I respect my findings particularly in regard to the natural world and forces of nature featured in the tale.

What do your fans mean to you?
My readers are very important to me, especially those who take the time and effort to contact me with comments and/or questions.  I always respond and answer the inquiries to the best of my ability.  I take their ideas seriously and incorporated some corrections and suggestions in the later books of the Star Commandos series.  I’ve also entered into ongoing, long-term correspondence with a number of readers.

Where do you get the inspirations for your book(s)?
The ideas come as a flash, often no more than a line of dialog.  That’s what happened for STAND AT CORNITH, something the protagonist said near the end of the novel.  For HAUNTED WORLD, it was the idea of the lake’s erupting.  As I worked the scene in my mind, I could watch and feel along with the characters.

Any advice for new writers just beginning this trek down the wonderful world of publishing?
Write.  It’s the only way to learn how to use words, how to get them to convey your ideas and emotions to others.  They are to us what notes are to musicians and paints are to artists.

Remember, once you seriously begin to write, you may have to wait awhile to be a published author, but you are an author.  Don’t lose that knowledge.

Thank you for your time, Pauline. For more information on Haunted World which released today and Pauline's full list of published books with MuseItUp Publishing, please visit her AUTHOR PAGE.



Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Horror: What Are They?



          Science fiction, fantasy, and horror are like love and good sex.  Most of us assume we know what these terms mean, but when we try to formulate mutually acceptable definitions and reach a shared understanding, we are likely to find ourselves hopelessly divided.  Many authorities in these fields even argue that there are no completely acceptable definitions, and that even the best ones will be somewhat inaccurate or misleading.



          Within literature and the arts, such a situation is fairly common.  For example, there are scholars who contend that even the best definitions of Romanticism and Classicism will be somewhat wrong.  Closer home, we may not even be able to agree on a label for a work that most of us love.  Consider the movie The Wizard of Oz, in which a girl is knocked unconscious and transported in a dream to a wondrous land in which a scarecrow longs for a brain and a tin man pines for a heart.  Most of us might classify this classic as escapist fantasy, but think again.  If we consider Dorothy’s nightmarish encounters with a wicked witch, flying monkeys, and all those imaginary “lions and tigers and bears,” can’t a case be made that the movie is actually dark fantasy or horror, at least when seen through a child’s eyes?  Or what if Dorothy boarded a spaceship and flew to Oz (located on a planet beyond the Milky Way) and returned the same way?  Would the movie then be science fiction or a mixture such as

science-fantasy? 



          What I am suggesting is that some of the art we love may be hybrids, as heterogeneous and ultimately unclassifiable as the complex people we know.  Still, human beings crave the comfort, even illusory, of consensus, and they insist on defining their terms.  In that spirit, I will try to define briefly what science fiction, fantasy, and horror are, as long as it’s understood that any definition, even the best, will be somewhat deficient.



          To do so, I will talk about the ignition switch on my car.  For months, it’s been giving me fits, for it has been difficult and at times even impossible to turn it off.  I’ve taken the damned thing into the shop half a dozen times and spent a small fortune getting it repaired.  Yet after driving home today, I still had to spend five minutes turning it off, and it appears that more costly trips to the shop await me.



          Now, if I were to write about this problem as a mainstream, “traditional” writer would, my treatment of the subject would reflect a realistic world we all recognize.  Perhaps a thingamajig or a #9 widget in the steering column caused the problem, or the man who sold me the car in the first place knew my car was a lemon, and simply didn’t tell me.  Whatever the case, there would be a prosaic, everyday explanation for my woes, one very much in keeping with what we know and accept as reality.



          But let’s look at my ignition switch from the standpoint of fantasy, which is perhaps the oldest art form there is.  Long ago, when cavemen looked up at the dark, thunderous sky, they probably imagined fearsome giants warring against each other.  Such an explanation for the unknown fits in well with The American Heritage Dictionary’s definition of literary fantasy as “Fiction characterized by fanciful or supernatural elements.”  Fearsome, warring giants are certainly fanciful or supernatural, and if my explanation for my ignition problems was fantastic in nature, I might invent all sorts of fanciful or supernatural causes.  Perhaps my ignition didn’t turn because of those ubiquitous gremlins we always hear about.  Or some wizard or sorcerer cast a spell on my machinery.  Who knows, if I’m paranoid or deranged enough, perhaps I’ll conclude that my car is alive and simply doesn’t like me or misses its former owner.  Either way, my explanation won’t be a “realistic” one, though it had better have a realistic consistency and internal logic of its own.  For example, if I say the ignition switch acts the way it does because it doesn’t like me, I can’t suddenly show it being nice to me and working well without a valid reason.



          Next, let’s look at my ignition sorrows from the viewpoint of horror. 
But first, a warning: strictly speaking, horror may not even be a genre, for it is primarily an emotion that one finds universally in everything from Hamlet to “Hansel and Gretel.”  Our friend, the dictionary (at least the one I use), doesn’t even provide a literary definition of it.  For practical purposes, let us define horror as art whose major effect is to frighten and terrify, using everything from subtle, creepy mood and atmosphere to gore, vomit, and assorted gross-out effects.  In keeping with this definition, I may sense an eerie, intangible presence in the front seat that interferes with the ignition switch’s proper function.  Perhaps that presence slowly grows in haunting, ghostlike fashion and one night, I even feel phantom fingers lightly brush the back of my neck.  Or, if I want to describe my ignition switch in such a way as to fill you with gut-wrenching horror, I might have blood or a long, slimy tongue ooze out of it, just before I insert the key.


          On the other hand, I could approach this situation from the standpoint of psychological horror – that is, horror that reveals, in Poe-like fashion, my psychic sickness, the deranged and demented recesses of my diseased mind.  If so, I might conclude that my ignition switch was tampered with by one of my Muse friends because he – or she – has always hated me and delighted in causing me trouble.  Indeed, perhaps that Muse friend is someone I talked to just recently, and I know who it is.  The only question is, should I seek my revenge with poison, an axe, or through some more diabolical means?



Here’s one last horrific possibility: it’s late at night and I’m stranded on a back road way out in the boondocks because, for a change, my ignition switch won’t turn on.  Perhaps the situation makes me feel like Pip in Moby-Dick.  Like him, I feel all alone in the universe, which is completely indifferent to my fate.  As the wind howls, I realize I could die and rot out here and never be discovered.  The world itself would proceed just as before and wouldn’t even miss me.  Certainly that is scary, isn’t it?  Certainly that is horror.  Now imagine I receive a visitor, one of the “Old Ones” from H.P. Lovecraft’s Chthulu mythos.  The creature is from another planet, and it belongs to a mysterious race far older and more intelligent than our own, and with far greater powers.  What’s more, it is so strange and hideous in appearance as to have a Medusa-like effect upon the beholder.  Merely to look at it, is to be driven absolutely and irrevocably insane. 



          We’d all agree, I believe, that this last situation certainly qualifies as horror.  But note that I described the creature who comes to keep me company on that lonely road as being “from another planet.”  Doesn’t his extraterrestrial nature and origin make the scene belong more to science-fiction, or, to mention a new hybrid, to science-fiction horror?  Again, if I give that creature a more supernatural, fantastic twist, perhaps we should opt for the label of “dark fantasy.”  As I mentioned before, sometimes these terms can be slippery.  Who knows?  If the creature’s funny or humorous, the whole thing might even be comic fantasy or comic horror, along the lines of Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein.



          Last, let’s consider my faulty ignition switch from the standpoint of science fiction, which the dictionary defines as “A literary or cinematic genre in which the plot is typically based on speculative scientific discoveries, environmental changes, space travel, or life on other planets.”

Instead of Lovecraftian Old Ones from another realm, perhaps my ignition switch is recalcitrant because a nearby wrecked (but undiscovered) spaceship from a distant galaxy is trying to contact me on the car radio, which I have yet to turn on because I don’t like either news or music.  Another possibility is that the malfunction is caused by local environmental changes that are caused in turn by global warming that presages a worldwide catastrophe, and my defective ignition switch is simply the very first symptom of humanity’s looming fate.   



          Here I would like to make a statement that may sound extreme but that I think is important.  Because science fiction is so “speculative,” so concerned with infinite possibilities and alternate realities, it possesses a conceptual richness or potential that transcends what we find in all other literature, including that which has been traditionally taught in classrooms.  The scope of science fiction is so vast and limitless that it embraces not only this world and universe but others; not just this time period but the distant past and the remote future; not just outer space but the inner space of the human body or a drop of water, which may be inhabited by microscopic beings much like ourselves.  There is African science fiction, Jewish science fiction, feminist science fiction, humorous science fiction, and science fiction for juveniles and children.  Moreover, science fiction may be “soft” and so nontechnical that anyone can read it.  Or it may be what’s called “hard” and based so much on current science and scientific extrapolation that you almost have to be a scientist to understand it. 



          Indeed, science fiction embraces so much, that I might not even have an ignition problem at all.  The switch I’ve been complaining about may actually belong not to me but to another John B. Rosenman on a parallel or alternate Earth.  Back here, in this Virginia Beach, Virginia, my car works fine and has never required even one repair.



          Oh well, it doesn’t hurt to dream.



          In closing, I hope I have helped to clarify what science fiction, fantasy, and horror are, and shown how they sometimes intermarry and have very interesting children.  Considered together, these three art forms offer endless possibilities for the creative imagination, which I believe is amply demonstrated by the books MuseItUp publishes.

Author Bio:
John, a retired English professor from Norfolk State University, has published over three hundred stories in The Speed of Dark, Weird Tales, Whitley Strieber's Aliens, Galaxy, The Age of Wonders, and elsewhere. He has also published twenty books, including SF novels such as Speaker of the Shakk and Beyond Those Distant Stars, winner of AllBooks Review Editor’s Choice Award (Mundania Press), and Alien Dreams, A Senseless Act of Beauty, and  (YA) The Merry-Go-Round Man (Crossroad Press). MuseItUp Publishing has published four SF novels.  They are Dark Wizard; Dax Rigby, War Correspondent, and three in the Inspector of the Cross series: Inspector of the Cross, Kingdom of the Jax. and Defender of the Flame. MuseItUp has also published The Blue of Her Hair, the Gold of Her Eyes (winner of Preditor’s and Editor’s 2011 Annual Readers Poll), More Stately Mansions, and the dark erotic thrillers Steam Heat and Wet Dreams. Musa Publishing gave his time travel story “Killers” their 2013 Editor’s Top Pick award. Some of John’s books are available as audio books from Audible.com. 

Two of John’s major themes are the endless, mind-stretching wonders of the universe and the limitless possibilities of transformation—sexual, cosmic, and otherwise. He is the former Chairman of the Board of the Horror Writers Association and the previous editor of Horror Magazine.