Monday, April 23, 2018

Paradise Girl

Today is a guest post by Phil Featherstone to celebrate the release of his novel.

Readers often ask me where I got the idea for my novel Paradise Girl. The answer is, it came from a bug. Or, to be more precise, a virus.

Nobody knows how many viruses exist, but scientists agree that they outnumber all other living things put together (actually there’s some debate about whether viruses can actually be considered alive, but for now we’ll assume they can). Only a tiny number of them affect humans, and most of those that do are easily dealt with by the body’s immune system. However, there are a few that the immune system can’t cope with, and these can cause serious illness and, in extreme cases, death. An example is ebola, which is spread through the transfer of body fluids. It’s also transmitted by fruit bats, which can carry the virus without being affected by it.

A few years ago a volcano in Iceland erupted, throwing smoke and ash several kilometres into the sky. A result of this was the grounding of commercial aircraft for several days. I live in a remote farmhouse high on the Pennine hills in the north of England. Usually the only signs of human life outside my home are the vapour trails of planes as they approach or depart from Manchester, or travers the country to and from other places. At the time of the Icelandic eruption, they stopped. The skies were empty, a beautiful, clear blue. For that short time I could have been the only person alive. This started me thinking: suppose that really was the case, where might everyone else have gone? What might have happened to them? Destroyed by radiation? Abducted by aliens? Wiped out by a plague? Ebola was in the news at the time, and so the latter seemed the most likely.

I began to work on the idea. Somebody in such a situation would be subject to unbearable pressures. They would be desperately lonely and terribly afraid, alternating between relief at surviving and the daunting prospect of a future without hope. It would add poignancy if the central character was young, maybe still in their teens with their life before them. Think about an almost endless series of days stretching ahead, with nothing to relieve them or distinguish between them. What dark places might a mind go when faced with that? What terrible dreams might occur?

They would try to cope by writing a diary, which would describe what they saw, heard and thought, and through which they could reflect on their predicament. It seemed to me that this would work best if such a character was female. Kerryl Shaw introduced herself, and I began to write her story. You can read it in Paradise Girl.

Find the Paradise Girl here:

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Hidden Kingdoms

I love fantasy. I write it. When I was young and sad or scared, I would slip into one of my "Book Lives" as I would call them. I would find strength as a warrior princess or an intrepid explorer. I could quiet my fears as I floated amongst cold and serene stars. I laughed with fellow knights and sang the histories of noble ancient peoples. I found acceptance and  love in so many wonderful worlds.
As an author, I love that I get to do that for myself...and hopefully for those who need it. So, be it a welcome respite after a trying day at work or the distraction a worried mind needs in a sterile lobby somewhere, the stories I write are of the same magic that rescued a troubled teen like me. They are tales knitted with strands of hope.

But there are so many stories that I never knew about growing up. And I was a kid who LIVED in the library.  They are the ancient lore of my own people. The ferocious and fascinating history of the Maya.

As I explore this rich, but so far largely hidden culture, I find myself riveted by the complexity of a society I am just discovering. The Maya nation was embroiled in political intrigue, ruthless invasion, and delicate diplomacy across a civilization that, according to newly unearthed findings, was almost ten million strong which spanned multiple continents.

The Maya explored of the meaning of existence and time, the intricacies of nature, and the wonder of the stars. They created one of the most complex languages that rivaled that of Egypt, Mesopotamia, and China. As I read their tales of war and the fight for power, I see Caesars and Hannibals and Rameses. Men of great vision who wielded charisma and intelligence to seize the reigns of one of the most richly vibrant peoples I have ever seen.

And so, as an author, how can I not celebrate this breathtaking world, in all of its contradictions? The more I learn, the more it is evident to me the stories of these kings and queens deserve to be told. Their kingdoms and discoveries shaped the world and so the world should know of them. Where there are Camelots and Mordors...let there also be Xibalba.


Sunday, March 18, 2018

Facebook Groups: An Author's Bread and Butter

I cannot emphasize to you how much connection with other authors and readers on a daily basis truly helps to keep me motivated. From group deadlines, critique circles, conference help, or just a bit of silliness, joining a group that you feel comfortable with is a key part of staying engaged with both your readers and the industry.

I am a part of the Knights of the SciFi Roundtable and though we are both science fiction and fantasy, there is a lot of crossover in terms of advice and world building. I find that joining a group that is specific to your genre really helps to make connections.

I've been able to join co-op giveaways and contests where I learned so much. A fellow Roundtable Knight walked me through setting up a landing page and newsletter on MailChimp...on her own time...over a couple of days.  Talk about really helping out a fellow word-slinger!

Not to mention anthologies and conference booth opportunities. But it also helps you to keep your finger on the pulse of what is going on in the publishing world

This month, I have joined a multi-author giveaway. SciFi Roundtable partnered with Art of the Arcane to put together an unprecedented event with so many authors and contests and giveaways.  I am so excited to see how it turns out as it is my first one of this magnitude.

But more than the technical and business of writing, groups often provide something no one else can. Fellow authors can understand your struggles, your weird sense of humor, and often your doubt like no one else is able.

The Write Life posted a wonderful list of 20 Facebook Groups for Writers You Don't Want to Miss and let me tell you, it is awesome. From motivation to calls for submissions, these groups truly tether an author to the publishing world via a supportive community.

What types of things have you found that truly help your writing journey?  Do you have any suggestions for all of us?