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Robert Redford has always been a favorite actor of mine, from Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid onward, to the wonderful film Sneakers to the upcoming Captain America: The Winter Soldier he has always embodied the last hurrah of the old studio system to me, the time of the great film stars. Not to mention he is also portrayed Roy Hobbes, which I’ve blogged about elsewhere. 🙂

It has a lot to do with his good looks but also his altruism and integrity, his simple genuineness. There’s the old game you play where you are asked if you could have dinner and conversation with someone from history, Mr. Redford is one of those on the top of my list.

I can identify with every one of the characters that the man has portrayed on the big screen. Their flaws, their struggles. Not his fantastic looks though, unfortunately 😉

In 2013 Mr. Redford was in the film All is Lost. It’s a survival film, and in short is about a man who is on a journey, only to find – through circumstances he had little to no control over – that his survival is threatened and that death is almost certain. Much like Cast Away or Gravity or The Life of Pi or the magnificent The Grey , the film is about fighting to live against insurmountable odds.

Luckily, I haven’t found myself in such dire circumstances, or even had my life seriously threatened to the point where I felt that my death was imminent.

I have, however, been struggling to survive.

There is an image that gets posted to FB or Pinterest quite a bit, and the image is one variation or another of one of those ‘be positive’ or ‘motivational’ quotes: Everything you do is based on the choices you make. It’s not your parents, your past relationships, your job, the economy, the weather, an argument, or your age that is to blame. You and only you are responsible for every decision and choice you make, period. – Anon

everythingchoice

And while this is true, you make the choices in your life, you and only you – not every consequence of a choice you make is yours, is it? The person who loses their life because a drunk driver jumps the median and plows into them because they happen to be in that spot that exact moment – how are they responsible for that decision or choice. PERIOD?

Or boarding a plane for a destination because its on the leg of a vacation or business trip and the plane is hijacked or disintegrates mid-air because of a flaw in construction or a dozen other scenarios you could imagine – how are they responsible for that decision or choice. PERIOD?

I see that my position in life at any given time is a result of choices I make. I get that. But I don’t exist in a vacuum – there are other people around me, who I interact with, who affect my choices or decisions on a daily basis – and though I may make a choice which appears to be safe or beneficial to my health or security or happiness – it can at anytime be wiped away by the actions or choices of another.

In the film All is Lost, Redford is sailing alone and his ship is damaged by a floating cargo container – a huge metal box that has fallen off a cargo ship. The container is filled with tennis shoes, en-route no doubt to some mall or store so that people Redford’s character will never know or meet can purchase or wear them. So the choice he made, the path he took is suddenly a danger to his survival because of something he had nothing to do with – it was just bad luck. It wasn’t destined or written in stone was it? Is anything?

If you detect a note of anger in these words you wouldn’t be mistaken.

As I said, I find myself struggling to survive – and by survive, I mean the day to day struggle to achieve balance and happiness – and I find I am dealing with cargo containers that rip into my hull just when I thought I was finally on a path that was free and clear of obstacles. And while the circumstances are vastly different than what I described of Redford’s movie, and I am very much responsible for my actions or choices and responses to the obstacles that have impeded my progress or growth or happiness… I still find myself so incredibly angry over certain circumstances that have nothing to do with me, but are the result of what others have chosen or decided.

I do my best to live positive, to strive to be good and fair to everyone around me. I am overly sensitive to things and find that I have very little patience for rudeness, or people who are unaware of their surroundings or how they intrude or affect those around them – of the propensity of most of humanity to move through their day with this ‘me first, fuck you very much’ attitude – whether it is dealing with someone who is driving below the speed limit because they think they are the only ones on the road and don’t have to be anywhere right away, or walking through a store behind someone blabbing on their phone or finding that they are blocking the aisle with their cart while they taken an eternity to choose which brand of soup to put in their cart.

Maybe I am just being overly sensitive to this sort of behavior – and that is my choice – and if we hold to the “truth” I stated above, then the result is that my choice to try and be the better person, to step aside to allow someone else access to a row of items or to move along quickly so that others may also arrive at their destinations in a timely manner – that is a WRONG choice, because it ultimately results in a detriment to my life or my life’s journey.

I guess the choice I should make is to just not care – to not feel, to not participate at all in this bullshit any longer, because obviously I am am simply a prick and all this ranting about it proves it. What a horrible horrible person I must be to whine about my life being turned upside down because someone else chose to make a left turn instead of a right turn and now I am left picking up the pieces.

A year and a half ago I wrote a post about something that at the time was so full of hope and promise. And now, after trying hard to make it a reality, I have to let it go.

It isn’t anyone’s fault really – at the end of it all it comes down to the old chestnut that life is just not fair.

It rips me up because I feel I didn’t make the right choices, couldn’t rise above my circumstances and make it work. That the work I was trying to achieve never materialized, that a boss decided that my position wasn’t needed after all, that the wage I was earning just didn’t cut it in this present economy and I could not afford to make things happen that might have resulted in a better set of circumstances for myself – or for her.

So in the end, my choices created this present situation – if I hold true to the ‘everything I do is based on the choices I make’ line of thinking.

The trouble with that is I didn’t make them alone. There were other choices made, by others than myself and they too affected the situation and contributed to the final outcome.

It doesn’t make it any less painful or sad, or help diffuse the disappointment I feel because of it.

Back in November the location I am currently living in experienced an ice storm that left us with out power for four days. To occupy ourselves during those cold and electricity-free hours, we played Milton Bradley’s The Game of Life. In the ten or twelve rounds we played, I never won once.

And that’s what I’m feeling right now… that I just can’t win at this game.

I find the following kind of video (and those like it) fascinating and breathtaking:

Huelux by Randy Halverson, music by Peter Nanasi

I’d like to add images and screengrabs from some of his other videos but don’t want to infringe on any copyright – you can view more of them here:

http://dakotalapse.com/prints-and-stills/

and here:

https://www.facebook.com/dakotalapse/photos_stream

From a very young age I was fascinated by thunderstorms, their violent beauty was something I sought out, because they were only around for a short time. They didn’t last. They weren’t terribly scary or something to be afraid of, but more of – at least to me – a connection to something bigger than myself. I imagined they were gateways to other times – because they were dramatic and my view of what life was like during times past was informed by various media (mainly books and film) and very dramatic things occurred during storms filled with thunder, lightning and rain.

And here, through the magic of digital timelapse, you can see that not only do storms contain thunder, lightning, rain and wind – but the stars and the heavens as well.

What blows my mind is that those images happen every single day – only they happen too slow for my eye to see them. Every day there is beauty and majesty that I miss and yet am a part of, because I exist at the very same moment that they do – in a sense. It’s easy to forget that the world is bigger than you are – that your time and your troubles, your success and your failures are but a blink of an eye to the rest of the universe.

Several years ago I was told I was not experiencing life, that I was a hermit and I disdained travel. I happened to disagree with that viewpoint – still do.

My childhood was spent traveling – my father was in the Air Force, so every two years or so, we were moving to a new location – packing everything into suitcases and piling into the car to drive to another state, another home. There were a lot of sights and scenery I experienced, my family’s photo albums are filled with images of Mount Rushmore, the Badlands, the Garden of the Gods, StonehengeAcadia and many a roadside attraction and quite a few of the seemingly ubiquitous Stuckey’s. I was also privileged to have spent time in my mother’s homeland, (England) and starting my school years attending Welldon Park First School in South Harrow, Greater London. I remember it differently than the images I was able to find – I remember the building seemed to be of a redder brick and playing on an all asphalt playground and running in race for some sort of athletic competition where ribbons were awarded.

I’ve visited, driven through or lived in almost every state in the continental United States. If fate is kind, I’ll get to Alaska and Hawaii some day.

True, I have not seen Paris, Berlin, Rome, Tokyo, Moscow, Mexico City, Cairo, Seville, or any of the hundreds of towns and cities across the globe. But I don’t think that makes me a hermit or someone who disdains travel. Truth be told, I like to travel. In the right company, travel can be a fun and exhilarating experience.

Like many things, I’ve given thought to the claim that I am not experiencing life. I’ve come to the conclusion that it was said to me out of frustration, pettiness and an unhappiness with their own experience and didn’t rally have anything to do with me. Some people feel it necessary to try and make everyone around them fit into their worldview and can’t accept them for who they are. Their unhappiness was created by their own expectations.

In the last eight or nine years I’ve run into a number of people like that – who have a narrow view of others and who poison the atmosphere around them with their singular view of how things should be. They detracted from my experience, they did not add to it or expand it.

I guess people might have that view of me as well, though I will not ascribe to that, that’s not who I am. People see what they want to see.

I could very well be wrong in my assessment of why that was said to me. I’ll never really know and choose not to concern myself with it any longer.

Videos and images like Mr. Halverson’s expand my worldview, my experience and my enjoyment of this life. I share this space and time with those images and everyone who sees them along with me.

To me that makes apart of them – not secluded from them.

I may not currently have the ability or means to travel, to see for my own eyes the Arc de Triomphe  or the Colosseum, the Pyramids or the Great Wall.

But I have seen them, I have viewed them through the lens of both the amateur and the professional. I have driven through the streets of Paris with Amelie and Nino, I have jumped from the edge of the stratosphere with Felix Baumgartner, sailed the Caribbean, skied and snowboarded the Alps and dived along the Great Barrier Reef.

You may not agree with that viewpoint. You may hold that in order for me to be truly I happy I have to do those things for myself. And to you I will just have to smile and respect your view, though you do not respect mine.

simple rules

Definition of QUINTESSENCE

1: the fifth and highest element in ancient and medieval philosophy that permeates all nature and is the substance composing the celestial bodies
2: the essence of a thing in its purest and most concentrated form
3: the most typical example or representative <the quintessence of calm>

So recently I watched the Ben Stiller film The Secret Life of Walter Mitty. And the word quintessence is at the heart of the movie, and I found myself afterwards kind of confused by it.

I wanted to see this film since I first saw the trailer and heard the song “Dirty Paws‘ by Of Monsters and Men – which is terrific and my cat’s theme song 🙂

There was a lot I liked about the film and the landscapes used to tell the story – the footage of Greenland and Iceland in particular was stunning and beautiful – you’ve seen the images of him skateboarding down the highway? Fantastic.

To say I identified with the film is an understatement – first and foremost because of the whole life in transition thing and losing a job, yet finding yourself thing. But I’ve wrote about that b.s. enough so on to this thing about quintessence.

In the film, the Walter Mitty character goes on a terrific trek to find a photographer whose last roll of film has a single image that will be used to grace the last ever print copy of Life magazine. This movie scream metaphor in your face, it’s incredibly hard to miss. One thing I loved about the film was how some of the messages would appear as actual text in the landscape, written on walls or mountainsides, etc.

If only we could see the writing on the wall like that.

The reason this single image is being sought so desperately is that it is supposed to capture the QUINTESSENCE of Life, the magazine and the experience of being human.

When the Mitty character finally catches up to the photographer he is in the mountains of Afghanistan trying to take pictures of the elusive snow leopard, the ‘ghost cat’.

All through the film, this photographer – Sean O’Connell – is presented as the ultimate manly adventurer – and it is played really well by Sean Penn – he looks the part, craggy, experienced, world-wise. And he is sort of held up as this ideal – that he is living life to the max, traveling the world soaking everything up and then sending it back out in these well framed black and white images. He is also kind of sage or shaman like – being able to anticipate encounters and have just the right thing to grant him passage to the places he needs to get to in order to shoot his pictures (a particular type of cake used to bribe Afghan warlords for example) and which Walter adopts to help him on his own journey.

Yet, when Mitty finds him, this photographer is presented in a way that seems to undercut this image they have built up about him – he is alone, solitary and seems to have rejected society. It is implied he isn’t living life, merely observing from a distance – he even rejects taking the picture of the snow leopard. When Walter asks him when he is going to take the picture he replies:

Sean: ‘Sometimes I don’t. If I like a moment, I mean me, personally. I don’t like to have the distraction of the camera. I just want to stay… in it.’
Walter: ‘Stay in it?’
Sean: ‘Yeah, right there. Right here. Now it’s gone. It’s gone.’

The first line is punctuated by the distance cry of an eagle, and the last line is said as the snow leopard disappears – so the art of film-making shines here, as the images, the lines and the sounds all come together to create a moment of significance for the character and the viewer.

I guess the moment stuck with me – here I am writing about it days later – because at first glance the whole film up to this point had been about “don’t sit on the couch – get up, get out and experience LIFE!”

Yet here, in this moment at the climax of Walter’s journey – this tutor/mentor/sage character says – selfishly – that some moments are just not good enough to share – they are to be captured for the self, for you alone.

(Spoiler follows: sorry if you haven’t seen the film) Even the image that is supposed to be the quintessence of what life is about – both the magazine and life that is lived – is represented by a man sitting on a bench looking at photos of life being experienced by someone else. It’s a good photograph, a great image – and also very personal for the lead since the person in the image is him.

So what is the message? If the quintessence of life – the essence of a thing in its purest form – is the image of someone just observing life, looking at moments, not experiencing them – what is really being said about life?

I guess it’s that Life is both these things. Its venturing out into the world, living life. And also keeping things for yourself – things no one will ever see or know.

It’s the duality of being human – you are here and a part of everyone and everything and also that you are here and apart, separate from everyone and everything else.

Which is heart wrenching to be honest.

This is my fourth blog/interview for Dark Oak Press to help promote their upcoming steampunk superhero collection entitled Capes & Clockwork.

It’s my pleasure to present my conversation with Robert J. Krog, author of The Stone Maiden and Other Tales. Alexander has an impressive list of stories and published works and you can read more from him here http://krogfiction.yolasite.com/

So without further ado I’ll just let the author tell you in his own words about himself and his writing:

Tell me a bit about yourself – who are you, where are you currently living, how long have you been writing – a short bio, in other words.

Robert J. Krog and the OED

My Name is Robert J. Krog. I’m an author living and working in Memphis, TN. I’ve been writing since seventh grade, but only started seriously trying to get published in the last 12 years. I self-published a collection of short stories, The Stone Maiden and Other Tales, and took copies to Midsouthcon here in Memphis where I sold some copies, met some publishers and found out how do things professionally. I’ve since had numerous short stories and a novella published professionally. I’m also an editor for Dark Oak Press for the anthology A Tall Ship, a Star, and Plunder which contains multi-genre stories of piracy. It’s due out from Dark Oak Press late 2013 or early 2014.

You have a passion to write – what inspired you to write your first story? Do you recall a specific story or incident that inspired you to put words on a page?

I’ve always loved to read, and I’ve always been fairly critical, so at some point in sixth grade I had the childish arrogance to say that I didn’t like a book and could write a better story, myself. Sometime in seventh grade I finally tried and wrote a really horrible short story inspired by the AD&D games in which I participated. I kept trying to tell stories, despite school and, later, full time work and college, and eventually became adequate enough to get published.

Stone Maiden Finished Cover

Do you need to have a certain atmosphere when you write? Or, what is your ideal writing atmosphere?

Once I’ve kept my hands busy enough to free my mind and daydream a story, I like quiet and a computer screen. I tend to keep the radio and television off. A little background noise from another room, the children playing or something is fine, but I don’t like any noise directly in the room with me.

Have you read anything that made you think differently about fiction?

Yes, fairly often. I have a tendency to think I’ve got it all down and know all the variables, only to read something, usually by some author I thought I had pegged that changes my mind and reminds me I don’t know it all by a long shot. The most recent books to surprise me were Vine: An Urban Legend, by Michael Willliams, and Speaker for the Dead by Orson Scott Card. I recommend both, of course.

Is there a message in your story(s) that you want readers to grasp?

There is, but I try not to say it directly. It’s much better, in most cases, to get the message out obliquely.

What are your current projects?

I’m working devotedly, despairingly, and desperately, at times, on a novella or short novel, titled Penultima. It’s a post-zombie apocalypse story complete with a prophet and flying trains. I love it, but I’m having trouble finding the time to finish between family and work. The anthology, A Tall Ship, a Star, and Plunder, of which I am the editor is due out in the next few months.

What was the hardest part about writing for you?

Finding the time while taking care of family and working full time is the hardest part. I have a wife and three, wonderful, young children, and they take priority.

Did you learn anything from writing your story and what was it?

While writing, Thursday Morrow: The Self-Winding, Mechanical Man, my story for Capes and Clockwork, I learned a bit about the limits of imagination and research. There was nothing I could find about how to build artificial intelligence with purely mechanical means. (I probably missed something somewhere.) I also learned how hard it is to articulate argument about absolute truth and relativity without being offensive to one side or the other.

Rewrites can be tough sometimes – what, if anything, did you find you had to edit OUT of your Capes & Clockwork story?

I had to take out the preaching I first put into it. Folks don’t generally read fiction for sermons. I found that I had first articulated the characters’ philosophical arguments as sermons. I had to tone that down.

What is the most important thing that people DON’T know about your subject/genre, that they need to know?

I don’t know. That may be terrible, but I really don’t know.

I so loved the idea of superheroes in a steampunk setting – what was it about the Capes & Clockwork project that inspired or excited you?

The challenge was most exciting, because it forced me to work harder and expand my knowledge and repertoire.

What challenges did you find, working with the specific framework of Capes & Clockwork?

I’m a historian but not a specialist in Victorian Times. I’m a writer, but not terribly familiar with the style and feel of Steampunk. These two elements were most challenging. The knowledgeable reader will decide if I did well on those counts.

~~~

Thank you so much Robert!

Check out Robert and all the other authors – including yours truly, in the upcoming Capes & Clockwork collection.

This is my third blog/interview for Dark Oak Press to help promote their upcoming steampunk superhero collection entitled Capes & Clockwork. 

It’s my pleasure to present my conversation with Alexander S. Brown, a published author from Mississippi.  Alexander has an impressive list of stories and published works and you can read more from him here http://www.traumatizedalexandersbrown.webs.com/

So without further ado I’ll just let the author tell you in his own words about himself and his writing:

Alexander S. Brown

Tell me a bit about yourself – who are you, where are you currently living, how long have you been writing – a short bio, in other words.

I am a Mississippi author who was published in 2008 with my first book, Traumatized. Reviews for this short story collection were so favorable that it is being released as a special edition by Pro Se Publishing. I am currently one of the co-editors/coordinators with the “Southern Haunts” anthologies published by Seventh Star Press. My horror novel, Syrenthia Falls, is represented by Dark Oak Press. I am also the author of multiple young adult steampunk stories found in the “Dreams of Steam” anthologies and “Clockwork Spells and Magical Bells”.

What inspired you to write your first story? Do you recall how your interest in writing originated?

My first short story was inspired by a news article I read on a local dog fighting ring that had been busted. At this time, I was reading a lot of Stephen King and wanted to write something that could comment on society.

Do you have a specific writing style?

My writing style is extremely diverse and there isn’t exactly one style that I prefer over another. I just go with the flow on how my characters prefer the story to be told.

How did you come up with the title?

Indestructible came to me because it meant multiple things for my lead character. Physically, Hester is indestructible but emotionally she once was destructible. It wasn’t until Mr. Avery came into her life that her self-esteem improved. Eventually, her drive to live and rescue becomes just as indestructible as her physical attributes.

Is there a message in your story(s) that you want readers to grasp?

Yes, I built Hester as a child who was handicapped and suffered abuse. Before the story ends, Hester transforms into an individual who is no longer handicapped or abused. She overcomes her past, finds herself, and becomes a hero. The message is the underdog can always rise above.

What are your current projects?

I am currently editing the sequel to Southern Haunts: Spirits that Walk Among Us. The sequel, Southern Haunts: Devils in the Darkness, is an anthology composed by editor Louise Myers and myself. I recently finished a vintage Halloween collection called The Night the Jack O’ Lantern Went Out which I believe Pro Se Publishing is going to grab. I have my manuscript Looking Glass Creatures in the hands of Seventh Star Press, and I’m outlining the sequel to my novel Syrenthia Falls for Dark Oak Press.

What was the hardest part about writing for you?

Finding my voice. I was writing for years until I actually found my voice. Thank God none of that work has been published.

Did you learn anything from writing your story and what was it?

From my story, I learned that sometimes if you can’t help yourself, it’s okay to receive help from others. However, although you’re receiving help, you cannot just sit back and let the other person do all the work. You have to have the drive for self-improvement.

Have you ever hated something you wrote?

Yes, and no one has ever seen it.

What is your favorite theme/genre to write about?

Horror is my one true love. Even when I write steampunk stories, there are horror elements to them.

What was it about the Capes & Clockwork project that inspired or excited you?

Although I have enjoyed writing steampunk stories, this is the first time I have been able to create a superhero, which is something I have wanted to do for a while. I did draw minor inspiration from the movies Freaks and Ironman.

What challenges did you find working with the specific framework of Capes & Clockwork?

There weren’t any real challenges. When I sat down, Hester instantly came to life and my fingers typed as she told me her story.

~~~

Thank you so much Alexander!

It’s a great pleasure to be among the company of the authors included in the forthcoming Capes & Clockwork collection.

This is my second blog/interview for Dark Oak Press to help promote their upcoming steampunk superhero collection entitled Capes & Clockwork. 

It’s my pleasure to present my conversation with John A McColley, a published author from New Hampshire.  Like myself, John is also taking part in this year’s NaNoWriMo, so if you like what you read of here, hop over to his page at NaNoWriMo and lend him some encouraging support!

So without further ado I’ll just let the author tell you in his own words about himself and his writing:

2013SBBLongestHourFront

Tell me a bit about yourself – who are you, where are you currently living, how long have you been writing – a short bio, in other words.

My name is John A. McColley.  Experience in hospitality, education, science and retail jobs has left me with a range of experience I pour into my writing.  I write primarily SciFi and Fantasy with the occasional foray into Horror and Mystery.  I’ve been writing, with long breaks, since grade school, but now I’m back to stay.  I’ve just this year begun sending stories out in earnest and had seven pieces accepted thus far.  I live in New Hampshire in the northeast of the USA, where I’ve spent most of my life.

What inspired you to write your first story?

My earliest stories were little tales I told myself about characters on television. This was fanfic before there was such a thing as fanfic. I’d fight bad guys with the Superfriends, G.I. Joe and the Autobots as I lay in my bed trying to fall asleep.

Do you recall how your interest in writing originated?

The actual process of writing stories down began for me during a summer school short story class in jr. high.  It was the last time that class was taught, as the teacher was leaving the district. Before that, I’d only held my stories in my mind as long as they entertained me and played around with poetry.

Do you have a specific writing style?

My style is still evolving, I think.  I can imagine that I have my own unique voice based on my own experiences, the literature I’ve read and the amount of practice I’ve given myself with the language.  Focusing on my writing, I’m becoming more aware of my voice and style, but I don’t think I’ve arrived at something that is completely ‘me,’ yet.

How did you come up with the title?

Titles are often my starting point.  A juxtaposition of ideas which sparks the flame which leads me through the story, how those ideas fit together or compete.  In this case though, the title came later, after I’d finished the tale.  It’s simply the names of the most important characters.

Is there a message in your story(s) that you want readers to grasp?

I think this particular story tells the readers to follow their dreams and not let anyone railroad you into a life you don’t want.

What are your current projects?

I’m currently working on a few short stories for calls this month, including my next steampunk story, a Bizarro novella and prepping for NaNoWriMo.

2013WhortleBradburyFront

What was the hardest part about writing for you?

Often it’s just finding the time to sit down and concentrate. I distract myself and life is fairly chaotic right now.

Did you learn anything from writing your story and what was it?

I think I learn a bit more about storytelling in general with each story I finish.  With this one in particular, I think it’s being comfortable with strong characterization in the narrator.

Have you ever hated something you wrote?

Nothing comes to mind right now that I’ve /hated/ but I’ve certainly looked back at something I wrote years before and rolled my eyes at how simplistic, incomplete or otherwise raw the work was.  I think that’s part of the process, though, and reinforces the path of improvement we move along.

What is your favorite theme/genre to write about?

I really finding the human in non-human subjects.  I’m working on a story right now in which the snow is not only a character, but is revealed later in the story to be the narrator.

What was it about the Capes & Clockwork project that inspired or excited you?

I’ve always been attracted to the steampunk aesthetic, the “how the world could have been” ideas.  We all do that for ourselves. “If I’d gotten that job, I’d be XYZ right now.” etc, but this addresses those same feelings on a world wide scale. I also love superheroes.  Back when I had disposable income, I’d read comics. I was never a serious collector, but I loved the idea of people who could transcend the normal world and make a difference.

What challenges did you find, working with the specific framework of Capes & Clockwork?

I think the most challenging thing with steampunk and superheroes both is coming up with something I feel is original enough, to go beyond what I’ve seen out there and still meet both genre demands.

~~~

Thank you so much John!

The more I learn about the other authors i the collection, the more excited I am for Capes & Clockwork to be released.

Earlier this spring I came across a story call from Dark Oak Press for short stories for a couple of anthologies they were planning to publish. Two caught my eye and I immediately began writing stories for them – one was a horror-themed Werewolf collection and the other was for a steampunk superhero collection entitled Capes & Clockwork – which is a great title by the way :). I didn’t finish my werewolf story by the deadline (much to my chagrin) but did finish and polish my superhero story At the Quiet Limit of the World (because I love superheros :)).

As a way of promoting the upcoming release of the anthology, Alan Lewis the editor (whose upcoming work The Lightning Bolts of Zeus looks amazing by the way) has asked us to interview other authors in the collection and to blog about the book.

I am pleased to present my conversation with Konstantine Paradias, a young author from Greece – and Konstantine, if you really want to trade living spaces with someone, let me know –  I have always wanted to visit Athens 😉

So without further ado I’ll just let the author tell you in his own words about himself and his writing:

~~~

Tell me a bit about yourself – who are you, where are you currently living, how long have you been writing – a short bio, in other words.

profilepicMy name is Konstantine Paradias and I am a jeweler by profession and a writer by choice. Currently, I am living in Greece, in the not-so-glorious capital of Athens, a 30-minute walk away from the Acropolis, though I like to think that someday I might get to live someplace else, preferably paying the rent via my writing.

I have been writing fiction since I was 14 years old and had just blasted through Wells’ War of the Worlds and the Invisible Man, with a very shady grasp of what the Old Man and the Sea was about (I remember the book infuriating me, as I didn’t want to grasp the futility of the man’s struggle against his nature and his ambitions. In an unpublished review of the book for a school paper that never made it to print I had called it ‘absolutely unfair’). I can’t recall the specifics of the very first story I wrote, except that it was terrible. It was also slightly related to the Moonlight Sonata (the poem by Yiannis Ritsos, in turn inspired by Beethoven’s work of the same name).

I didn’t begin writing in English until I was 17, when I tried my hand at writing a few pieces of fanfiction which were, of course, terrible. It wasn’t until I was twenty (3 failed attempts at a novel and a bazillion unfinished short stories later) that I earnestly began wanting to make something out of my writing and I decided to try my hand at writing fiction in English.

What inspired you to write your first story? Do you recall how your interest in writing originated?

I knew I wanted to write ever since the very first Martian grunt slid out of his cylinder-dropship and opened its horrible V-shaped mouth to howl at the poor bastard who had walked up to greet him. It became a certainty when I put down The Stars my Destination and I KNEW I just had to make it up to all those awesome people by chipping in, giving my two bits in echange for them planting all those wonderful, terrible sights in my head.

My VERY first story (my very first actual, finished one, half-formed incoherent messes notwithstanding) was based on the poem Moonlight Sonata by Yiannis Ritsos, which, while being an absolutely haunting work of art, was turned into a drag as it was mandatory reading for our Greek Modern Literature class. Our teacher, despite having the best intentions at heart, was following this ancient textbook that overanalyzed every damn line in the poem to the point where it had lost all luster and meaning and we were all going through the motions.

So what I did was, I read the poem and I realized that the young man listening to the old woman as she rambled on about her life could be non-one else than Death, come to claim her. I think I wanted to write this story because I liked the poem and hated the class and I felt like I wanted to do it some justice.

Do you have a specific writing style?

I think it started off with me wanting to grow up so I could be Michael Moorcock already. Then, I decided I should take a page of Vonnegut after (failing at) that, I said ‘why not steal the best bits out of Chuck Pallanhiuk’?

And then came the comics. And Alan Moore and Garth Ennis and Mark freaking Waid. Oh God, there was a mess in my head.

I hope it looks better now.

How did you come up with the title?

Well, back when I was a clueless 17-year old boy, I had bought this graphic novel that was called The Swamp Thing, written by Alan Moore. It just so happened this was the 6th in the series, but I didn’t know how comic books worked back then so I just picked it up because the art was haunting and it featured Darkseid somewhere in the middle.

While the book is excellent, there is one thing that stuck with me: Moore used to add these bits of subtle exposition in the background of his stories, as a means of build-up to the main event. The opening page featured Adam Strange, running through a mall in the Australian Outback like a madman, overshadowed by a billboard that read: REKINDLE YOUR OLD FLAME BENEATH FOREIGN SUNS!

It was a message of homecoming, but also of self-imposed exile for the greater good. Beneath Familiar suns was a message also of homecoming, but of an engineered return, that would only bring terror in its wake.

Is there a message in your story(s) that you want readers to grasp?

Not in all of them, that’s for sure. But in Beneath Familiar Suns, I wanted to have the two theories that ran Newton’s life to duke it out. On one hand, phlogiston (the semi-real substance that facilitated ignition) and on the other, gravity (which was proven to be one of the fundamental forces of our universe and was more of a past-time project for Newton).

Also, I kind of looked for an excuse to put the planet in danger. Because I like my superheroes to be as bombastic as possible.

What are your current projects?

chromehordeAt the moment, I am working on a novel, titled the Chrome Horde. It features a world 16 years into a fossil-fuel apocalypse, where the Mongol horde is restored through the industrious means and the tenacity of the Batu-Khan, descendant of Genghis, seeing himself as the ultimate force for order in those troubled times.

invictusI am also working on a limited comic book series, titled Invictus: The Irresponsible superhuman, featuring a supervillain-turned-superhero, returning to Earth to alleviate his endless boredom after a decade of traversing space and time and finding less than a hero’s welcome waiting for him back home.

What was the hardest part about writing for you?

How to not stop, really. I had taken a near 5-year hiatus from writing for personal reasons and it took a lot out of me, to start working on fiction again, nevermind in English, which is not my first language.

Problem is, I find it very hard to not consider myself a slacker, too, as a result.

Did you learn anything from writing your story and what was it?

That true catastrophe is without rhyme or reason. That the destruction detailed in beneath Familiar Suns was two-fold, the deterrent providing a far worse alternative than the course of destruction. I think I was initially going for science VS magic, but it wasn’t long before I realized that this was a disaster I could stem.

And that underdogs can make for better heroes than the big-hitters themselves.

Have you ever hated something you wrote?

Oh God, yes! It was a 200,000 word (unfinished) work of fanfiction that I cringe just thinking about it. It was terribly written, it was hammy and it is embarrassing to look at, nevermind actually read through.

I still keep a copy on a drawer, somewhere. Just to make sure I won’t do it again.

What is your favorite theme/genre to write about?

For genres, I’d say superheroes and science fiction. I think it’s mostly how these two are the mythology of our times, describing flying overmen streaking across the heavens and weapons shooting invisible rays that reduce rocks to fine white powder. It’s exhilarating, to be able to make fun of the things I love (and myself) when I write these kinds of stories.

As for a theme, I guess I’ll have to go with futility. I love me an optimistic story with a happy, fulfilling ending, but I like to think that even the mightiest of heroes will eventually fall and will, at best, draw their last breath on a comfortable bed, surrounded by their loved ones.

Now, if that bed is held up by anti-grav thrusters at the perihelion of a distant star, that just makes it so much better.

What was it about the Capes & Clockwork project that inspired or excited you?

Superheroes, man. In a pseudo-scientific setting. Steam and aether, phlogiston and the alchemical humors, brass and glass void-ship slingshotting from orbit and things slipping into out reality though miniscule faults in LaGrange space!

What wasn’t there not to like?

What challenges did you find, working with the specific framework of Capes & Clockwork?

This was my first attempt at writing steampunk, to be honest. I wasn’t familiar with the genre, which lead to days of going through anthologies and short stories online, checking related art and props, looking into crackpot scientific theories, Newton’s old projects, the works of Paracelsus.

Then, it was the idea of fitting superheroes in this that daunted me. Occult superheroes had always been a tough sell for me, but this? This required cosmic threats that could be resolved in context, this needed quartz-brain supercomputers and amber-powered fully operational battle-stations!

The possibilities boggled the mind! But I like to think that I pulled through…

~~~

Thank you so much Konstantine!

I am looking forward to reading your story when Capes & Clockwork is released. 🙂