eyE[before]Olivia Stocum

First off, allow me to apologise for my unexpected hiatus from eyE. I hadn’t planned it, but as the old adage goes, ‘life is what happens when you’re making other plans’. In between my aforementioned ‘life’ and trying to get BaCwS finished I’ve been a bit short on time, and it doesn’t look like I’m going to have an awful lot more time in the near future either. But nonetheless, I shall endeavour to continue posting when I’m able.

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Now, on to more important matters. As a reward for your patience, I was recently afforded the opportunity to interview the brilliant Olivia Stocum. Olivia is a historical romance author whose debut novel, ‘Dawning’, comes out in just a few days on July 17th. Many of you may know Olivia from her awesome blog, of which I am a big fan, titled ‘The Claymore and Surcoat’. Many more of you will get to know Olivia, through her fantastically impassioned portrayal of love and devotion set against the backdrop of the rolling Scottish countryside in the 16th century.

A lover, dreamer, archer and artist; the auspicious Olivia Stocum.


What first made you want to become a writer?

“When I was a kid my dad told me I had to start living in the real world, because my uncanny ability to fade into La La Land would get me nowhere in life. I saw this as a challenge. Once he said that, there was no going back. I HAD to turn my overactive imagination into something useful. Judging by how proud he is of me now, I have to wonder if he was using reverse psychology.”

As a writer of historical romance, how much research do you usually put into your story’s background? How do you find the balance between fact and interpersonal fiction?

“Sometimes history can get in the way of the story. When this happens, I think it’s better to tell an engaging story. To some degree you have to create your own reality when you write about a time and place 400 years ago anyway. There’s no way to know every tiny detail of your characters’ daily lives without having to fill in some blanks. Consistency is the key. Decide what’s right for your world and stick with it! Also, make sure you don’t make any obvious changes to the setting or history buffs everywhere will fall into a dead faint.”

As someone who has declared themselves an adamantly independent author, what do you think the advantages and disadvantages of the independent marketplace are for newcomers?

“The indie market evens the playing field. Now, anyone with an imagination and a willingness to work their arse off can make a go of it. No more emptying the bank account to hop a plane to some writers’ conference where you will have to lick shoes all week in hopes someone with a pie chart and a list of acceptable plotlines will confirm that you are, in fact, a novelist. The downside is that the market is flooding with writers who probably should have taken a few more workshops, or joined a critique group, before publishing.”

What do you think are some of the most commonly mistaken or misleading ‘rules’ you’ve been told about writing? What lessons have you learned from your own experiences?

“Oh wow. I’ve struggled with this a lot. At one point I allowed stringent contest judges (to) critique my work to a stagnant death. Sure, I had a clean manuscript, but it lacked the ability to elicit an emotional response in the reader. Take a look at some of the greatest writers throughout history. Guess what? They broke rules. Lots of them. But like many things, you have to know the rules before you can break them. I would tell any newbie out there to study the rules, but keep in mind that they’re really more like suggestions.”

If you could visit any place, at any time period in history, but could only do so trapped in the body of a marmoset, where and when would it be?

“A marmoset is some kind of monkey right? Let me see… little monkeys make me think of Indiana Jones because there was a little monkey in ‘Raiders of the Lost Arc’, which makes me think of Egypt, which reminds me of my belly dancing days… wait, what was the question?

“Oh yes, trapped in the body of a marmoset. Well, if I went to historic Scotland, I’d probably end up rotting in a cage because they wouldn’t understand me. (Not their fault, mind you). So I would stick with the Middle East, India, or Africa. I’d be the favourite pet of some young lady who dressed me up cute and carried me around with her all day long. Yes, I could do that, look cute, and have no responsibilities beyond that.”


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Once again, Olivia’s debut novel, ‘Dawning’, is officially released in paperback on July 17th, but can be pre-ordered on Amazon here. (EDIT: Olivia has corrected me, it will also be available on Kindle as of the 17th! :)) Also, make sure you check out Olivia’s blog, ‘The Claymore and the Surcoat for regular updates on her work. Thanks again, for your time, Olivia!

eyE[before]Justin Bog

JB2Allow me to suspensefully assault the drum before me as I introduce you to the exceptional Justin Bog.

It is a great honour to get the chance to interview Justin, who is based out of the San Juan Islands, north of Seattle. I was just recently afforded the opportunity to beta-read his newly released novella ‘The Conversationalist’ and am a big fan of his dark psychological thrillers. He currently has a short story collection in print titled ‘Sandcastle and Other Stories’ and his debut novel, ‘Wake Me Up’, will be published by Green Darner Press in 2014. Aside from writing fiction, Justin is also the Senior Contributor and Editor at ‘In Classic Style’, and he also maintains a blog over at JustinBog.com.

And so, here he is.

The perceptive, pensive, and e’er poignant Justin Bog.


What first made you want to become a writer?

“As a child, this want remained undefined until I found a typewriter in the attic. After that, I never stopped writing, but I didn’t share my work with others very much. Once I learned how to read, early in the first grade, I always had my nose in a book—this was much preferable to math studies, even though I enjoyed the puzzling world of mathematics as well. Because I loved books so much, I dreamed of working in bookstores. I never dreamed of owning one, just had my heart set on being in the fiction department of a cozy bookstore like the basement bookstore in my hometown. That dream did come true; I worked in one large bookstore throughout college and then for three terrific independent bookstores over the next twenty years before moving to the Pacific Northwest to concentrate solely on my writing. I applied to MFA programs two years after graduating from the University of Michigan, where I had taken three years of creative writing courses. I was accepted into two programs and chose Bowling Green State University because it has a small, almost boutique, program. There is also a Visiting Writer year and Dan O’Brien, author of ‘Eminent Domain‘ and ‘Buffalo for the Broken Heart: Restoring Life to a Black Hills Ranch‘, took over the writing workshop one term. Even though I moved away from Harbor Springs, Michigan in 1993, and ‘Between the Covers Bookstore’ has changed ownership, I will be doing a reading and signing for the new proprietor on July 10th. I can’t wait to go back to northern Michigan.”

‘The Conversationalist’ being your second publication, did you feel any of the ‘2nd book’ stigma that writers often complain hangs over them after their first literary foray?

“Not at all. ‘The Conversationalist‘, a novella, would’ve fit well as the final piece after ‘Train Crash’ in ‘Sandcastle and Other Stories’, since it also has a character who seems obsessed by trains and how destructive they can be. I’ve been ready to publish my first novel since 2011, but decided to postpone that until after I introduced my work through a short story collection. I’m very happy with the choice I made. People seem to like my dark off-center tales, and I hope they enjoy meeting my new characters in ‘The Conversationalist‘. This one has a more direct plot, and a main character who is just sketchy enough to make me want to write about.”

How important do you believe observation of people to be when writing a story focused on interpersonal relationships? How much do you borrow from real life?

“Observation is paramount in most of the stories I tell. Someone even called them observational tales. I try to reveal character through observation—get into the psychology of what motivates certain broken types, or even the person we all walk by in everyday life without a second glance (or even a first). Everything comes from real life, but that’s just a jumping off point. I don’t write about friends, family, or acquaintances. ‘On the Back Staircase’ (is) the most autobiographical (short story I’ve written) because it is set in my childhood home and has a similar family of seven people, including two sets of twins, (but it) is not about my siblings or parents. I just talked about this with my twin brother. It’s not us, I said, and I stand by that. There are touchstones in the tale taken from my past, but the characters are fictional. All the characters in my writing are usually created out of thin air.”

Do you believe digital media (e-books) have changed the execution, demand, and ultimately the public reception of short stories and novellas?

“EBooks have changed everything about publishing, and maybe make shorter work, short stories, ‘singles’ and novellas readily available to readers in larger numbers. Short story collections, in general, did not sell well when I worked in bookstores. I read them, and believe other writers are the ones who read short fiction. eBooks are beginning to change this, make shorter work appealing because people can read them on their iPhones when waiting in any office, or in line at the Post Office—I do this, and love it. I hope to discover many more authors’ work this way. I love reading eBooks and print paperbacks in even measure. There’s nothing like the feel of turning real pages, and that’s why I am not bemoaning the loss of “real” books just yet. I’ll always buy them.”

If you could have a conversation with anyone, real or fictional, from throughout the span of human history, who would it be (bearing in mind that you have to murder them upon the conversation’s completion to ensure the preservation of the existential continuum)? 

“A macabre question to finish this interview off is perfect. But first I want to thank you Ryan for allowing me to share my writing thoughts here on your blog—kind of you.

“I have to choose someone to speak with, and in doing so, execute this person . . . sad for him, and I will choose someone fictional since then the murder aspect isn’t criminalized… I would love to have dinner (adding a meal in since it’s this character’s last supper) with The Count of Monte Cristo, Edmond Dantès. His story, told to perfection in what is my favorite classic novel of all time, the very first suspense novel written, is so complex, I know there are many other stories he could tell, and the more he reveals over this really long dinner will help prolong the grim reaper’s appearance. I should’ve chosen Scheherazade. :)”


conversationalistbookcoverjpgJustin Bog’s new eBook ‘The Conversationalist‘ is available for purchase from Amazon.com here. His collection of short stories, ‘Sandcastle and Other Stories‘ are available in both paperback and eBook form. His debut novel, ‘Wake Me Up‘ will be out in 2014, and you can follow his blog, JustinBog.com, for further updates and information on the up-and-coming projects of this very talented author. Thanks again Justin for making the time to speak with us. 🙂

Bastion

the-last-human-on-earth

Set in stone, bronze, iron and gold,

The last legacy of man and God,

Bears witness to his dynasty’s demise.

Arms upheld denying chaos’ rise,

Crook laid down, with none to terrorise.

The epitome and essence of the human condition,

As slowly solitude aids orders expedition,

And humanity’s witness becomes history’s patrician.

Survival, endurance, and beastial roar,

Self styled God is made man once more.

But survival’s ward wears through self-contemplation,

External durance turns to internal altercation.

The garden of earthly delights is not dead,

While sap’s sickly sweet smell swims free through the head,

Flowing forth from the corpses now charged in his stead.

And in narcissistic utopia,

A unique cornucopia

Of insanities beset history’s end.

A life taken corrupts life’s rise and fall.

A punishment paid with no heed at all.


If you guys enjoyed this poem I wrote some time ago (which, incidentally, is about the last human), then be sure to check out the article I just wrote for Warhols Children, ‘The S.S. Pornocopia and Other Erotic Tales‘. It’s been a while since I’ve written an article for them, this one is about the ingrained role of pornography in modern culture. Enjoy! 🙂

Martyrs and Masochists

blood-knifeWhat currency is worth more than human blood?

Horded by misers,

fearing red river’s flood.

Who won’t risk a spill

in spite of blood’s call;

Ever beating twin drums

of love and lust’s thrall.

Where passions price

comes in carnage and gore,

Martyrs and masochists will always pay more.

Bloodletting release after eons of pain,

Barters bliss

and the thought

that it ought not

be in vain.

But shaving life’s mane

tempers power in paw,

As angels and thorns

raise a differing roar,

And spent blood is in circulation once more.

eyE[before]Charles

Thcharles-yallowitzis week, I interviewed a regular fixture within the blogging community; the very talented Charles Edward Yallowitz. Though I have been all too certain Charles and I would cross paths eventually due to our mutual love of the fantasy genre, the chance to finally grill him is an exciting one. Charles is a fantasy author from Long Island who published the first book in his Legends of Windemere series at the start of this year, ‘Beginning of a Hero‘, which I am happy to say I recently added to my Kindle reading list. Charles also maintains a dedicated blog, featuring updates on the Legends of Windemere series aswell as tales about his trials and tribulations as an author.

A gifted story-teller, enigmatic blogger and esoteric imaginator; here are a few words from the fantastic Mr. Charles Yallowitz.


What first made you want to become a writer?

“At the age of 7, it sounded like it would help get women and free drinks. Seriously though, it really was a spontaneous spark that I couldn’t get out of my head. I still haven’t got it out of my head. I was 15 and I had just finished reading the first volume of Fred Saberhagen’s ‘Book of Lost Swords’. The idea that I could write popped into my head and I started designing characters for a book. I began writing short stories and excerpts for my English classes which got praise and it kept rolling from there.

“I think… it just kind of happened, and I found that it made me very happy. The idea of entertaining and inspiring someone with a story really connects with me. I’ve escaped into books since I was a child, so maybe part of me thinks this is a way to continue that tradition… the spark got set off in my brain and took over.”

Why appeals to you most about fantasy as a genre?

“The fantasy genre has a lot of standards, but a lot of flexibility. There are the traditions of swords, magic, dragons, and various other races. It’s a very time-tested genre. Yet, you can get away with more awe-inspiring moments than in other genres. A character diving into shadows as a mode of transportation is easier to explain through magic than technology. We have technology in our world, so you have people trying to figure out the physics. When you use magic, people are more willing to suspend disbelief.

“In terms of the flexibility, you can get away with changing the standards. In my world, I made orcs different than the wild marauders that most worlds use them for. They’re civilized even though they live in the wild and their species has a beauty and the beast thing going on. The males are ugly, brutish, powerful beings and their women are gorgeous Valkyrie-like beings. In a fantasy world, you can get away with altering stuff like this because there is nothing in the real-world for people to compare it to. If you try to have a human fly around space without a suit then you need to know your science and explain everything. People are a lot more critical of genres that take place anywhere near our reality.”

What do you think is the most important or defining aspect of a good fantasy novel?

“I’ve actually written and deleted so many things here because I can’t think of a defining aspect of fantasy. Typically, fantasy is a story that takes place with magic, or at least in a medieval-type setting. When you get into the future and technology, it becomes science-fiction. Unless it’s Star Wars, because the Force (essentially) turns that into fantasy… but (truthfully), I think it’s just in a genre all its own.

“I think the sign of a good fantasy novel are the heroes. Not so much that the heroes are brave and noble, but believable. A pitfall of fantasy is that you’re working in the genre that is the farthest removed from our reality. The heroes are the bridge between the reader and the world you’ve created. They need to feel relatable to the reader or you won’t draw them into the world. This can be done with flaws, quirks, and anything that makes the character more human. For example, Luke Callindor is cocky and brave, which makes sense for a new hero. To make him believable, I rarely let him get out of a situation unscathed. He screws up a lot, which has led to many readers telling me that he’s a character they can stand behind. The hero doesn’t have to be infallible for the story to be good. In fact, a character like that tends to hurt the story because the reader feels like there’s no risk of failure, so the ending is predetermined.”

As genre definitions continue to blur together, and it becomes increasingly popular to blend traditional fiction categories together (such as science fiction and horror, etc), where do you see the future of the fantasy genre heading?

“Fantasy has blurred with other genres for a long time, so I think it’s going to stay the course. You already see a lot of technology slipping into fantasy with the use of airships and lanterns appearing. The alteration of these objects is that they are powered by magic, so it’s more of a magi-tech society. It could lead to a sub-genre of magi-tech books within the overall genre. The sub-genre trend is probably going to be the big change.  Some people don’t even realize when they’re crossing genres now. For example, having a cowboy in a fantasy setting isn’t far-fetched thanks to Stephen King’sDark Tower. The same is going for zombies appearing in fantasy.”

You have to fight Luke Callindor (the main character from the ‘Legends of Windemere’ series) to the death, armed only with whatever you have in your pockets right now. Go.

“*looks down at pajamas* Well . . . I guess I’d run until I could find something to fight back with. Luke’s dual saber, flipping, jumping style isn’t easy to predict, so I’d probably keep tossing stuff at him. Try to keep him on the defensive with whatever I could get my hands on. I could throw him off his game by yelling secrets or see if I can rework him in my head to change him. You know, get rid of a leg or turn his swords into a pair of live eels that slip away. I wouldn’t win, but I’d like to think the moment Luke kills me, he’d blink out of existence too. Kill your creator and you go down with him.”


Charles’ blog can be found here – Legends of Windemere

And the first book in the Legends of Windemere series is available for purchase here (on sale for $2.99) – Beginning of a Hero – Book 1 of Legends of Windemere

eyE[am]Hannah – Time Dilation

Very excited today to hand y’all over to a close friend of mine; one Miss Hannah Leigh Yarbrough. Hannah is an exceptionally talented musician, writer, poet, astronomer,  historian and philosopher (among many other things) who continues to impress me with her broad and intimate knowledge of causal reality and all its mysteries. She has graciously agreed to share her musings with you guys in true eyE[before]E style, following on from my ‘Welcome to Atlantis‘ post last week. I, for one, hope this post isn’t her last.

It is my pleasure to give you the quixotic mind of the querulous Hannah Leigh Yarbrough.


Time Dilation: Ancient Crystalised Thoughthannah

By Hannah Leigh Yarbrough

In reading Ryan’s eloquent posts of late, delving curiously into the lovemaking of science and the metaphysical, my own thoughts swim with potential underwater causality. Come, let us splash for a moment inside the flaming gaze of the Vitruvian Eye.

There’s a Hindu tale of ancients from 700 BCE of King Kakudmi of Kusasthali (an underwater kingdom) and his daughter Revati. King Kakudmi, a mystic, took his daughter dimension travelling to see the Creator, Lord Brahma. After visiting with Lord Brahma regarding a suitor for his beloved Revati, the Creator laughed and explained that time worked differently between planes of existence. The suitors King Kakudmi asked of were now dead. 

In the mere moments they’d been in Brahma-loka, many years already passed upon Earth and under the Sea. This is the first recorded tale of time travel that we know of.

In another Japanese legend from around 720 CE, Urashima Tarō speaks of a fisherman, who travels to an undersea Dragon Palace. He stays 3 days and finds his village 300 years into the future when he returns.

Let me, if you will, enter my metaphysical-making-love-to-science thoughts. Neutrinos and tachyonic particles – both travel faster than the speed of light. What, if inside us, traces of such cosmic particles exist?

In Puerto Rico today, there are three Bioluminescent Bays, which glow indigo blue, filled with prehistoric one-cell organisms, half-plant and half-animal. What if all of us were also bioluminescent when stimulated by particular photonics crystals (which are three dimensional)? Do such key crystals lie beneath the seas, waiting to fuel our travel between dimensions? I must wonder, if our bodies aren’t part-cosmic, part earth, part-water, part-past, part-future?

Time, the starkest illusion.

Atlantis, where art thou?

king-kakudmi

(Image credit to Matho Mathis)


Hannah can be looked up on Twitter. I highly recommend dropping her a line, if only to listen to her e’er enchanting thought processes and her eloquent command of forgotten tongues.

Gratias, Hannah. 😉

eyE[before]Tammy

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This week, I put the inquisition to the talented Tammy Salyer. Tammy is an independant author, editor and all-round awesome human being. A former para-trooper in the 82nd Airborne Division, Tammy has a uniquely gritty writing style which makes me personally a big fan of her speculative fiction. The debut novel in her Spectras Arise science fiction series, ‘Contract of Defiance‘, dropped last year, while the sequel, ‘Contract of Betrayal‘, hit Amazon in February this year.

On top of all this, Tammy maintains her blog and runs an editing service called Inspired Ink Editing, available for proofreading, copy, and manuscript evaluation. She is also an avid cyclist and has asked me to drop the secret cyclist’s code word: Wiggo (or Cadel for Australian readers). I don’t know what this means, and if I have offended anybody, it’s Tammy’s fault. 🙂

Without further ado, the brilliant, beautiful and definitely-not-bombastic Tammy Salyer.

What first made you want to become a writer/author?

“Someone said that they write to quiet the voices in their heads, and in short, that’s true for me as well. If I hadn’t become a writer, I would have become a linguist. First, because I think Noam Chomsky is super cool, but second, and more germane, I think humans have access to few things more powerful than words. War and peace (negotiations) hinge on language; marriages, births, and deaths, are memorialized with words; all our memories and the events of our lives are conveyed to others and made immortal through communication. Words are our link to the future and past, and those truths have always fascinated me. I didn’t become a writer because I have a vivid imagination (though that’s part of it); I became a writer because it is a good way to live forever in the absence of becoming a member of the living dead (which, in many respects, I hold out hope for).”

You are predominantly a science fiction author. What is it about speculative fiction that most appeals to you?

“I grew up reading science fiction, fantasy, and horror, and I believe all those stories severely warped my grip on reality. Writing speculative fiction, besides being loads of fun, lets me access things that are firmly rooted in real life, yet still transcends these quotidian tropes in limitless ways. Also, when I get tired of doing research on any particular topic, speculative fiction gives me the nod to go ahead and make up what I need to.”

How important a role does ‘world-building’ play in your writing? How much time do you spend constructing fictional settings, and what processes do you go through?

“The world of a story is just as much of a character in any story as the people who populate it. For me, the world-building part of writing is an ongoing and integral part of the process that is consistently unfolding in my subconscious. I’m very much a discovery writer, so I rarely sit down with the sole purpose of designing aspects of the events and social structures of my fictitious worlds — until I hit a plot question that requires my undivided focus on knowing some specific detail of the world in question to keep moving forward with the story. For more on my process and questions regarding world-building, I recommend reading a guest post I wrote for mystery author Susan Spann here.”

As a science/speculative fiction author, how much do you borrow from modern social and technological conventions to build a futuristic world? How do you see our species evolving culturally, technologically, or otherwise?

“Wow, great question, and one that could be an entire post all on its own. I think it’s best to just take a couple of points. My military science fiction trilogy is heavily influenced by some of the experiences and stories I heard from other soldiers during my time in the US Army. I don’t know if “borrowed” is the correct term, but definitely influenced by and extrapolated from. I’ve always been a technology buff, too, so I really enjoy challenging the limits of known physics and technological innovations to bring in new inventions.

“As far as our species evolving, I firmly believe that there will eventually be some type of whole-planet unification once we get to the point of realizing that continuing to exist as independent cultures and corporations is going to end up with us fighting against unbeatable odds for the last scraps of resources and physical space. Our evolution, if we’re lucky enough to get there, will be a giant kumbaya of homogenization. That, of course, can play out in myriads of interesting ways. I guess it will all depend on who has the best-smelling peace lilies.”

The crew of your interstellar survey vessel, the ‘S.T.S. Melchizedek’, have succumbed to violent food poisoning, congesting the air recycling vents with their stomach bile. In accordance with Star-Trans protocol, what is the appropriate action you should take in order to resolve this crisis?

“Clearly, in a case such as this, it would have been better if Star-Trans had given me that raise I requested last year, and the captain and first mate really ought not to have barred me from the bridge and denied my request for leave when we’d overnighted on planet Kali. If these fops had done the necessary, I would not be quite as inclined to jettison the entire crew during one of their goosestepping vomit party dropout sessions (nodding to the Breakfast Club) and take the STS Mikshake to my shady cousin Viggo, who can part out and scrap a Class D freighter faster than you can say “My King Most High“. I really could use the money. After all, vacationing on Kali isn’t cheap.”


Tammy’s blog can be found here – Tammy Salyer: Alternative Reality Engineer

The first Spectras Arise book can be found on Amazon here – Contract of Defiance

The second Spectras Arise book can be found on Amazon here – Contract of Betrayal

And Tammy’s editing service can be found here – Inspired Ink Editing

Also, feel free to look up Tammy on Twitter here. She is lovely, and will probably not hurt you unless you are a zombie.