Welcome back to any readers I have after that obnoxiously long hiatus … Our radio silence was for a good reason. We recently moved the entire Traveling Circus and Menagerie from one coast to the other, and have finally gotten settled in. I wanted to share an interview with author Clay Gilbert, who has been quite patient with me as I pulled myself and my interview list together. His a recent release, Cassie’s Song (Tales of the Night-Kind Book Two A Modern Vampire Novel), came out June 8. It’s the second in a series that gives a unique take on vampire fiction. I invited him here to talk about the series, as well as a little bit about writing in general. I highly recommend you pick up a copy of the first book, Dark Road to Paradise, and check it out.
And now, without further ado or excuse, a conversation with Clay Gilbert!
Q (Infamous Scribbler): First, can you provide a short bio/insight into your writing career?
A (Clay Gilbert): Sure. I’ve always loved stories; I was reading and writing at a very early age. I wrote my first short story—I’m not sure what else to call something that’s only five page long other than ‘short’—when I was four. I know I was four because, at the time, I was in the habit of putting my age along with my name on the story. It was a science-fiction story. I don’t remember the title. I do remember the title of another one I wrote when I was thirteen; another sci-fi story called “The Computer Conspiracy”, about a shy, outcast boy who finds a way to live inside his computer. Scholastic Magazine liked that one; they paid me $25 for it and published it. From the time I realized writing was something some people did for a job, the way my father went off to his office every day, that was the job I wanted to have. Pretty much everything I did in my life from that first sale to Scholastic, through two master’s degrees and a handful of other publications, was setting the stage for finally getting my first novel published in 2013, even though I took some other professional side-roads along the way. Writing was a goal I never really let go of.
Q: In your novel, you tackle a number of weighty issues, from topics such as living with HIV to issues of adhering to the unspoken rules of a tribe or in-group, and the consequences that result from transgressing those rules. Are these themes that you sat down to consciously write about? How did you develop them? Where might we see them go in the next book?
A: I’ve always loved vampire novels and vampire movies, and I had toyed with the idea of writing my own spin on the genre. I began working on Dark Road to Paradise in the early Nineties, using some characters I’d come up with for the live action role playing campaign of “Vampire: the Masquerade” I was playing in downtown Auburn, Alabama, once a week with some friends. One of the things that concerns me as a person and as an author is the experience of life as an outsider, or life on the fringes of mainstream acceptance. That certainly was a conscious concern in Dark Road, but it was also something I grew up with. I was born with hydrocephalus, and growing up with that experience taught me what it was like to be pushed to the fringes. It’s hard to be that one kid who doesn’t participate in gym class because his parents are afraid (and rightly so) that he might injure his head, or to be someone who people slow their cars down on the road to ask ‘why’s your head so big’? True story.
Cassie’s health concerns are different, but they came both from wanting to explore my own experiences as an outsider and the empathy I felt for the lack of understanding I saw HIV patients being treated with in the late Eighties and early Nineties. Finally, there was the historical fact that Dark Road was begun before any of the “Twilight” books were published, and a romance between a mortal girl and a vampire wasn’t all that common in fiction at the time. Perhaps even more significantly, I recognized that somehow, there had never been another vampire novel focusing on HIV/AIDS in an actual, literal way, as the central concern of a story–and there still really hasn’t, even now, in 2018. As for where the themes of Dark Road end up going in the next book, Cassie’s Song—Cassie grew up not really feeling like she had the freedom to make her own choices or live her own life. What will it be like for her to have that freedom? I think that’ll be as fun for readers to find out as it was for me.
Q: You’ve published a number of books in a variety of spec fic genres. What draws you to creating other worlds? What are some aspects of worldbuilding that you find essential when writing in these genres?
A: ‘Worldbuilding’ is something I find myself speaking about on Con panels a lot, as I guess kind of makes sense for an author of speculative fiction. And this may be an unpopular opinion, but in talking with younger writers, and particularly with would-be writers, I find that ‘worldbuilding’ is the thing that bogs down beginning genre writers most of all. For me, characters are most important. I care about the people in my stories first and foremost. Once I know who they are, they can tell me about the world they live in. Everyone does this thing called writing differently, but I’ve seen people spend so long on building the world of their story that they end up having no idea what the story is, or who it happens to. People in a story are just like people in our world—they don’t live in a vacuum; they have histories, fears, hopes, likes and dislikes—but if you find out about the people in your story first, knowing about them will supply everything else you need. That’s what happened when I started writing about an eighteen-year-old girl named Annah in the book which became Annah and the Children of Evohe. I didn’t spend any time thinking about the world of Evohe in advance; instead, I got to know Annah as best I could, from her upbringing as someone whose odd opinions and obvious birth defects got her ostracized in her small community, to her claustrophobia, dislike for raw fish, and love of music. She filled in the rest of her world for me. I would advise aspiring writers to build their stories around the people in them, not the world they take place in.
Q: You have an MFA from the University of South Carolina; academia also plays a part in your novel, as well as your professional career. What are some of the insights into writing that going through a program like an MFA provides? What are some of the advantages? As a professor, how have you communicated some of those lessons to your students?
A: I wouldn’t undo the time I spent in academia, although I don’t teach anymore, and haven’t done that since I became a full-time author in 2015. I will say, though, that I find snobbery toward genre fiction to be alive and well in the academic arena. Dark Road to Paradise was my MFA thesis, and it was a real struggle to convince the professor who eventually became my thesis advisor that there was any literary merit to a story with vampires in it. I feel that any kind of story, whether it has vampires or aliens in it, or features people who could live across the street, must be rooted in human concerns to have any weight to it. I’m not interested in writing purely escapist fiction with no relation to the real world. I’ve always found that the imaginative distance a writer gains in the genres of speculative fiction provides a great lens for focusing on the best and worst that the ‘real world’ has to offer, and enables an author to suggest ways that things might be made better. As far as advice to my students, or to aspiring writers–if you have a dream, go for it. Don’t compromise. Don’t settle. And don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t do it.
Q: What is some of the best writing advice you’ve received? What’s some of the worst?
A: Stephen King advised me, when I met him when I was thirteen, that he tried for ten pages every day. I adopted that, and I still follow that. Ten pages a day adds up fast. Ray Bradbury added to that when I met him three years later, by advising me that it was important to be regular about writing—do it every day, in the same place, at the same time. I still follow that advice as well. Worst writing advice? Whatever that was, I’ve forgotten it already.
Q: What can your readers expect to see coming up next?
A: I’ve got an urban fantasy novel coming out real soon called The Kind Book One: The Golden Road. It and its sequel, Terrapin and Back Again, comprise a two-part story mythologizing my own experiences following the Grateful Dead on tour during my college years, although the band in the book is called Coventina’s Well. It also has a little to do with the value of myth in culture and history, and hopefully has as much fun in it as ‘meaning.’ I’ve also got a fourth Children of Evohe novel coming out called Annah and the Arrow, a third Night-Kind novel called Heartsblood planned for next year, and also next year, a standalone monster novel set in East Tennessee called Pearl. I like to stay busy.
Q: Anything to add?
A: If you want to be a writer, remember this: you can do it, if you have the drive and put in the time. Don’t wait for ‘inspiration’ to come; make it come to you. There’s no such thing as writer’s block; that’s an excuse people make for not doing their job. Just imagine if you had a stopped-up toilet, and the guy you called told you he couldn’t fix it because he had ‘plumber’s block’ that day. You wouldn’t stand for it. Don’t let yourself get away with anything like that as a writer, either.
Actually, I do want you to look.
Hideous Progeny: Classic Horror Goes Punk launches today from Writerpunk Press. This is the fifth in a series of seven planned charity anthologies that pay homage to classic stories by re-imagining them in a variety of literary punk genres.
The fiction included in this anthology spans the gamut from steampunk to clockpunk to biopunk … and even some carniepunk. Anthology authors have drawn their source material from a wide array of classics and classic horror authors. Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein receives a bio-cyberpunk makeover from K.M. Vanderbilt. Ambrose Bierce’s “An Occurrence at Owl Creek” is no less chilling re-imagined as steampunk in “After the Occurrence” by Teel James Glenn.
As with previous anthologies, all proceeds go to benefit PAWS Lynnwood, an animal shelter and wildlife rescue located in Lynnwood, WA.
My own contribution to the anthology is a carniepunk homage to Gaston Leroux’s Phantom of the Opera. This was a challenging project for a few reasons (that I’ll talk about below), but I wanted to complete my hat trick of contributing to the Writerpunk Anthologies. (See my steampunk detective story in Poe Goes Punk, and my dieselpunk Beowulf in English Class Goes Punk.) My short story “The Carnival Ghost,” was accepted, so if you happen to pick up a copy (HINT*HINT*HINT), I hope you’ll check it out. *puppy*eyes*
About those challenges …
I was really, truly trying to make this a steampunk story. I had a few ideas clanking around the ol’ noggin, none of which ever coalesced into an actual story. Or even a note. Most of them are still half-formed blobs of bad penmanship scattered around my bullet journal. The two strongest images that persisted even through the false starts and decisions that I wasn’t going to submit were: 1. Female patron. 2. A carnival.
I couldn’t get the idea of a woman phantom out of my head. It made sense. Someone who would serve as a platonic mentor, without the complications of romantic interest or jealousy, could actually take a student further, to higher heights. They could put all their energy into the development of their protegee, seeking only the reward of their success. At the same time, this would require a degree of ruthlessness from both mentor and mentee, and there were so many depths to explore there.
And–a carnival. I love carnivals and fairs and circuses, even though I’ve always felt they are slightly creepy. Too many shadows. Secrets. Basically, whenever I think of a carnival, I think of HBO’s series Carnivale, and how fascinating and horrifying they can be. Somewhere around this time I re-read the Carniepunk anthology, and that solidified that image and thus, the story.
The challenge? Explaining carniepunk. It’s not a typically category of literary punk, and I wasn’t sure that the anthology editors would be interested in a story that pushed the boundaries of what we included.
On the other hand, we’re not punks for no reason. \m/
“The Carnival Ghost” in all of its creepy carnival glory is part of your reading pleasure.
So, if you like stories that will entertain you, challenge you, and possibly creep you out, pick up a copy today. And let us know what you think.
Rock on, my friends!
Short term memory loss and an inability to look at herself in mirrors or old pictures–this is college sophomore Klarissa Bloom’s life after surviving a physical assault in her freshman year. However, she’s now determined to prove to her parents that she can handle her return to school.
But recovery is not a straight path, it’s one with dips and twists. A journey, not a final destination. With the help of her friends Ravyen, Xander, and Julian, Klarissa finds strength to identify with her passion for dance, not the assault…
But will she be able to pick up the picture and see who she was before, while trying to build a life that’s new?
~ ~ ~
Want to know more? Check out the Kadupul Trailer on YouTube. Take a peek at the poster, created by the awesome graphic artist Rylee Hunter and trailer below by the talented cinematographer Alex Espinoza. Stay connected and leave a like for updates on events, releases and giveaways at 4CWMedia Productions on Face Book. And check out what the filmmakers had to say about the project in a previous Infamous Scribbler interview.
Let Your Passion Define You
Release date July 24th!
Produced by 4CWMedia Productions and BRJProductions
Cinematography by Luz Pictura Productions
Check it out! Christy Mann, author of the Fogoyle series, has a new July release coming up. Take a look, then swing by social media and give her a follow. You can pre-order Death of Secret on Amazon, May 15. Enjoy!
Death of a Secret
By Christy Mann
Sarah Rosenthal is a Senator’s daughter. Despite the high-profile lifestyle that comes with her father’s political career, she has managed to avoid most of the chaos.
On the surface, things seem perfect, but perfection never lasts.
When a stranger comes knocking, blackmail in mind, Latham Buchanan steps in to clean up the mess and Sarah’s life takes a dark turn. Her intention to end the madness may just be the end of her.
Release Date: July 15, 2018 on Amazon
Pre-Order May15, 2018
About the Author
Christy likes the finer things in life. Taking walks on the beach, tall cups of coffee, and hitting her friends with sticks. She really enjoys writing things intended to take readers on emotional roller coaster rides.
She spends most of her days sitting in front of a laptop screen yelling at her brain to produce the words while scrolling through Facebook. Sometimes, it does, and from time to time, the words are worth sharing.
As a relatively new member of the SCA, you can find her on the tennis courts at her local park dressed in armor and swinging a “sword” at least one night a week, attending SCA events, or providing heraldry assistance and teaching historical accuracy about shield symbols and name creation. She enjoys the hell out of it too.
If she had any doubt about it being Latham, she wouldn’t have stopped. Latham was a big guy, but her father was a powerful man and he could take care of this guy for her if it came to that, but she was a big girl now. She was going to fight her own battle.
He was no stranger, and right here right now, she was going to give him what for. She did not get treated by people the way he treated her on Saturday, and he would not treat her like that again.
She steered her car to the grassy shoulder and made an immediate stop. He was driving close enough that she expected him to fly right on past her. Instead, he pulled in behind her and slid to a stop a few feet behind her. His high beams glaring in both mirrors again.
Fire burned in her eyes and nostrils. She swung her door wide open and stepped out, slamming the door shut behind her. She stomped back toward the truck. She reached the driver side door at full steam.
The driver swung his door wide open at just the right moment. The door smacked her in the face, splitting her lip, and sent her flying backward. She landed flat on her back with a thud.
Follow Christy online:
Author webpage https://christymannauthor.wixsite.com/mysite-1
Amazon’s Christy Mann Page https://www.amazon.com/Christy-Mann
Facebook: Christy Mann-Author page https://www.facebook.com/christylynharu/?ref=aymt_homepage_panel
Other books available by Christy Mann:
Rick Keller–werewolf, secret agent, Cold War weapons experiment–has been running by himself long enough.
When we last left our intrepid and crotchety–mostly crotchety–hero, he was getting the heck out of Dodge City, which looks a lot like NYC in this case, and heading up to the North Country to find a new pack to run with. He intended to hang out up there, under the radar of MONIKER, the agency that he used to work for, that can’t seem to just let him live his life.
Thanks to Untold Press and cover artist Lia Rees, Rick is getting back in the game. First, we’re giving him and fellow main character, Dr. Karen Willet, a spanking new cover for Cold Run (The Rick Keller Project Book 1).
Second, we’re officially re-launching the series with a mid-April sale, so if you’re thinking about getting a copy, click the link on April 15 and grab a Kindle or paperback copy.
And finally, we aren’t just re-launching Cold Run, but we are going to be bringing you the rest of the Rick Keller Project series. To give you an idea of what’s coming up for Rick and the gang, here is a tentative schedule.
APRIL 2018 – Cold Run Re-Launch!
A secret agency reels its first supernatural agent back in from the cold. Where he likes it.
MAY 2018 – Night Run (Rick Keller Project 1.5) A short story to tide you over until…
JULY 2018 – Vegas Run
MONIKER catches back up with Rick, and an old friend calls in a debt.
AUGUST 2018 – Trial Run (Rick Keller Project 2.5) A novella to keep your appetite whetted…
OCTOBER 2018 – Winter Run wraps up the project series!
Rick finds out you can’t go home again, even if your family drags you back in silver chains.
Throughout the next few months, I’ll be offering ARCS to selected readers, sharing news about launch specifics, and sharing information about what’s happening next. If you’d like to stay in touch and not miss any updates, sign up for my mailing list, and I’ll keep you in the loop.
As most of the readers of this blog are aware (all three of you…), I often post reviews and author interviews, here and on Medium (if you happen to be writing as a member of the military or military-affiliated community). I like doing this because a., free books, and b., I like doing it. I am an author for two small presses, and a member of a number of groups of authors of like-minded backgrounds (enjoy writing spec fic or are military veterans), and so I usually go ahead and see if anyone has something new they’d like me to spotlight. That pretty much fills my review/interview quotient.
On the rare occasion, however, someone will reach out to me via Goodreads, or LinkedIn, or even Amazon, and offer me the chance to read their book for a review or interview. I don’t mind this at all, as it gives me a chance to meet new authors and check out their stuff. And, let’s face it, it provides me with content when things are slow (or a chance to procrastinate if I should be writing.) Some authors, or future authors, may be reading this blog post to find out what they need to do to get me to review their book, so here it is, broken down…
I was perusing Twitter today, and an author mentioned that bloggers who do reviews would be helpful if they mentioned whether or not they were interested in stories from diverse authors. I know that publishing outlets still consider stories with persons of color and LGBTQ+ characters to need their own subcategories and different spaces, but this space is for stories of all shapes and sizes, so if you are wondering whether you should send your SF story here, even though A,B,C, feel free to hit me up.
I hesitate to speak for other online reviewers, and so I don’t know if all of them prefer these guidelines, but I can say that if you are interested in striking up a conversation with me, and getting me interested in reading your book and doing an interview or review, this is the way. I need to get back to writing words for a project, and not for a blog, but if you’d like to send me something, email me at infamous_scribbler ~at~ yahoo, or fill out this handy Google form, and let me know what you’ve got.
We’ve got some awesome things coming, like more interviews, new covers, a plan for the release of the rest of the Rick Keller Project, and of course reviews.
Also upcoming this year: a cross-country move, pitching two new series, writing more words, and all the other things I’m checking off in my bullet journal. Speaking of which, does anyone else find that the more you check off on your to-do list, the longer it gets?
For example, I just finished the first draft of Vegas Run. So … now I have to rewrite, revise, send for edits, search stock photo sites for ideas for my cover design, get edits back and revise some more, plan my launch/ads/reviews, etc. Please tell me I’m not the only one.
Still, the work is fun, even if writing is still my full-time job that pays me like an internship. And eventually I might even get promoted to paid intern! At least my boss lets me work outside, and doesn’t mind if I occasionally drink on the job.
Hope everyone is enjoying the weekend!
… or, “My Life Never Turns Out Quite Like I Planned.” Also, “It’s A Little Too Quiet, What Are They Doing Now?”
Prior to giving birth to two perfect little girls, I had many ideas of how perfect our perfect lives would be. One of the things I swore up and down I would do, had to do with how much screen time I would allow the children. They would definitely never watch more than an hour—per week! And it would only be shows that my spouse and I deemed educational, or with merit. Our logic went, if we never let them watch anything except what we let them, then how would they know to ask for anything else?
What ever are those vibrations? Could it be the combined laughter of those experienced toddler parents out there, admiring our goals? Possibly. They were lofty, perhaps a little naïve, but we do our best to balance them with the reality of keeping two little people alive—and also keeping a little bit of our sanity.
We do our best to place controls over what our kids watch—guided access on the phone, no YouTube, not letting them watch television unsupervised. We–and by “we”, I mean “me” as I’m also trying to get in my 2,000 words a day and plan a re-launch of my urban fantasy series–do our best, also, to re-direct and get the kids playing with their toys or each other. Sometimes it works.
Sometimes it doesn’t. What to do when they come to you with the need for attention and the desire to give theirs to the screen? Our oldest is currently in an obsession with a show that features puppies who talk and go on adventures, and so I’ve tried to come up with a few alternatives to watching the same thirteen downloaded episodes over and over.