Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Author Interview: Mary Pletsch

Martinus Publishing’s latest anthology, VFW: Veterans of theFuture Wars, is coming out in February 2014.  To kick off this new book release, I’ll be doing interviews with some of the authors who have stories featured in this collection. Today, I'm interviewing Mary Pletsch, an exceptional author who contributed the story “The Last and the Least.”    Thank you for taking the time to be interviewed, Mary.

MTI:  Starting off, could you tell our readers a little bit about yourself?

Mary Pletsch: I joined the Royal Canadian Air Cadets when I was 14 and got my glider pilot’s license at 16 and my private pilot’s license at 17.  I love video games like Halo and Mass Effect, and I collect 80’s toys.  I don’t collect cats; we just happen to have four of them.

MTI: I know how cats are, more like they collect us.  Now, getting down to business; what first compelled you to weave fiction, and what's your favorite type of story to write?

MP:  I don’t remember when I first wove fiction, but I know that I was too young to make letters.  I’d grab a pen and fill pages and pages with up-and-down zig-zag lines.  When asked what I was doing, I said I was writing a story.  When asked to read what I’d written, I promptly recited an original story.  My ability to read the same story every time improved immensely when I learned to print.

As for what’s my favourite type of story to write, I’d say a story that lets me experience the way the world looks through a character’s eyes.  That’s why I write tight third person point of view– the story is told from the character’s point of view, and everything in the descriptions, the events, what’s noticed and what isn’t, is affected by the way that character perceives the world.  I don’t want to write characters who think and act just like I do.  I want to explore how it feels to live someone else’s experiences.

MTI:  Tell me, if you had to pick just one author who has influenced or inspired you, who would it be?

MP:  Karen Traviss, author of “City of Pearl.”

MTI:  “The Last and the Least” appears in VFW, an anthology of military science fiction stories that honor soldiers and veterans.  Was there any particular inspiration for this story?

MP:  I was visiting the USS Arizona Memorial at Pearl Harbour, standing in front of the shrine where the names of all those killed on the Arizona are inscribed, and I saw a plaque off to the side.  The plaque holds the names of Arizona survivors and veterans who’ve chosen to have their ashes interred within the ship (or in the cases of veterans who served on the Arizona but were not posted to her on the day she sank, their ashes are scattered on the water over the ship).  I thought about those survivors who went on to fight through the war, lived for decades after the war, and then chose to come back to the ship in death, to join their shipmates.  And I hoped those men were able to find something good in those decades, that they didn’t spend their whole lives waiting to go back.  “The Last and the Least” ended up being about when your unit becomes your family, and survivor’s guilt, and how heroism sometimes doesn’t feel heroic from the inside, and why veterans need society’s support and understanding.

MTI:  Quite profound.  Now, if you could go back to any point in history, when would you visit?

MP:  I’ve always loved First World War air combat stories.  I adored Captain W.E. Johns’ “Biggles” books as a teenager.  To get the chance to fly an Albatros D.V. or Sopwith Camel for myself... I couldn’t turn that down.

MTI:  If you could meet anyone, living or dead, who would it be?

MP:  Probably Captain W.E. Johns. 

MTI:  Shifting back to your writing, can you tell us a little about what you're working on right now?

MP:  2014 is going to be my novel year.  I’ve written a lot of short stories and novellas, and this year my main goal is to complete a longer work.  That being said, there are a few short story calls for submissions that are very enticing...

MTI:  Other than “The Last and the Least”, appearing in VFW, do you have any other stories being published in the near future?

MP:  I’ve got a horror story called “Mishipishu:  The Ghost Story of Penny Jaye Prufrock” that came out in January 2014, in a collection called “Fossil Lake:  An Anthology of the Aberrant” by Daverana Press.

MTI:  Your biography says you are a graduate of the Royal Military College of Canada.  Would you be able to elaborate a little about that experience?

MP:  Sure.  Mine wasn’t the usual experience, going in as a recruit.  I did my undergraduate elsewhere and went to RMC for a master’s degree in War Studies as a civilian student.  My thesis was about the ground crew of 6 Group during the Second World War; there’s been a lot of research about the flight crews, but very little about the ground crew, who played such an essential role. 

MTI:  On a lighter note, have you watched any good tv lately?

MP:  I actually don’t watch TV very much.  I saw the Doctor Who Christmas Special with my family... yes, I know that was a month ago.  I could talk about comic books?  I’m reading James Roberts and Alex Milne’s phenomenal Transformers: More than Meets the Eye series.  The characterization is absolutely delightful, and the storytelling is top-notch. 

MTI:  What sort of music do you enjoy?

MP:  My music collection’s a strange mix of metal – Sabaton, Iron Maiden; East Coast – Rawlins Cross, Great Big Sea; and 80s classic rock.

MTI:  And if you would, name three movies that you could watch over and over again and not be bored.

MP:  Top Gun, Memphis Belle and Stalag 17. 

MTI:  Three excellent choices.  Memphis Belle is an underrated classic.  You have the attention of potential readers.  Are there any great words of wisdom you’d like to share with them?  Perhaps something that would persuade them to purchase your work?

MP:  I think all I can do is go back to the themes in “The Last and the Least.”  If a country asks for volunteers to serve in its military, to fight in its name, I think that country and that society have an obligation to take care of their veterans.  Support for those who come home with mental as well as physical injuries has to be there.  It’s our responsibility as citizens to demand this of our policy makers. 

MTI:  Indeed.  Readers love free samples, so on that note here is the first paragraphs of “The Last and the Least.”

            If we had only known.  That’s what all the politicians’ speeches said, and all the calls to arms, and these decades later the holograph documentaries and the history books.  If we had only known what the colonials had been planning, we would have been ready.  If they’d had any honor, they would have declared war with digital signatures.  Instead, their proclamation was written in the wreckage of Her Eminence’s Starship Canada, in the sleepy quiet of a Saturday morning on the Milky Way Hub.

            If we had only known, I wouldn’t be lying here now, an old woman who can’t sleep through the night, watching my chronograph glowing softly in the dark and asking myself, what if.  It is the same question the holodioramas and webstreams ask, except they ask what might have been if various Terran heroes or key political figures had discovered the Colonial plan before their attack took us all by surprise.  I ask what if I—only I—had been granted precognition.

This has been a thoroughly enjoyable interview.  I’d like to thank Mary Pletsch for taking the time to answer these questions.  Those of you who want to check out some thrilling, insightful, and imaginative military sci-fi, check out VFW: Veterans of the Future Wars today!

Monday, January 27, 2014

Postcards: Noge Hill, Yokohama, Japan

To kick off the last week of January, here are a few fascinating specimens from my postcard collection.  These are of Noge Hill, Yokohama, Japan.  It’s hard to find any information on this little suburb of Yokohama, and the best I could dig up on short notice via the internet is here, which gives a brief footnote of its post-WWII history and current status.  It would be interesting to see more of what it looks like today, and know if the temple is still there.

So, going back to the turn of the 20th Century, here are four views, mostly of the “Temple” area at Noge Hill.  These cards date circa 1900-1910:

Cherry Blossom at Noge Hill, Yokohama

Stone steps, Noge Hill, Yokohama

Noge Hill, Yokohama

Temple at Noge Hill, Yokohama

You may notice the coloring on these postcards. They pre-date color photography, and each one of these was hand painted.  They would take the black & white cards and color in different parts of them for this unique look.  I have quite a few unpainted, as well, which will be displayed as time goes by.

Friday, January 24, 2014

Postcard of the week: GE Lampworks 1914

For the foreseeable future, each week I will be sharing a scan of an “antique” postcard.  I have hundreds of these old things, most of them over 100 years old, many from India, Japan, Indonesia, and all over the pacific.  A few, like today’s example, are from here in the United States.

The value of these postcards are unknown.  I’ve never sought to appraise them, and I am really not interested in making a fast buck that way.  Most of these came from my father, and they’re little pieces of history which I intend to cling to, and pass on to my posterity.  The rarity of these postcards is also unknown, but it’s quite possible that some of these are unique, or among a handful of examples still surviving.

Today’s example is probably more common than most of the others in this collection.  It’s the Lamp Works of General Electric in Fort Wayne, Indiana, circa 1914:

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Martinus Books for Soldiers

In February, the VFW:Veterans of the Future Wars anthology will be released, becoming Martinus Publishing’s 4th short story collection and the first release of 2014.  This collection was first envisioned to be a tribute to the men and women of America’s armed forces (and allied soldiers worldwide).  The stories contained in this collection are respectful of the soldiers and veterans who serve.  Some are exciting and adventurous, others are insightful and introspective, examining the hearts and minds of future soldiers and veterans.

I’ve known many veterans over the years, and always held the greatest respect for those who have served in the armed forces.  That was the impetus for this collection; an anthology to both honor veterans and to showcase entertaining military science fiction.  I expect this will satisfy on both counts.

Now, I would like to go one step further in helping to get these stories, and other Martinus titles, into the hands of our soldiers and veterans.  To that end, I will need your help.  There is only so much a single man and a small press publisher can afford to do, but with your assistance we can spread the word.

There are many good groups out there who help to supply the wants and needs of active duty military personnel.  One in particular is, where military personnel post requests for various books and other items.  Some want specific titles, others ask for various genres or themed material.  There are many American soldiers across the globe who would enjoy reading VFW or other Martinus titles, if only someone would send those books.

If you’re involved in donating books to soldiers yourself (or decide you want to start doing it), you can purchase books from MartinusPublishing to send.  If you purchase multiple copies of any title, there will be a discount.  Just email info (at) regarding bulk pricing.

If, on the other hand, you’d like to help but don’t want the hassle of packing and shipping books yourself, considering buying Martinus titles and asking that they be donated.  Any book purchased from our website can be “gifted” to the troops.  Just put a note in the comment box during the paypal checkout, saying you want your purchase to be a donation.  Any books purchased in this manner will be given to soldiers or veterans desiring the reading material.

Regardless of the number of sales/donations that come in from this request, I will personally be sending Martinus titles to soldiers.  They’re fighting for us, and they deserve every bit of support we can send them.  The momentary escape of a good book could make a world of difference in their lives.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

A New Year and New Anthologies

It’s 2014, and the fun has just begun!  I still have a final “Ice Storm Chronicles” post to share at some point, along with some very pretty pictures of the icy devastation, but that will have to wait.  Right now, it’s about time we got back to Martinus Publishing and the anthologies that will be coming out in the next couple of months.

Over the last 48 hours, I have burned my eyes and brain, reading through the last flood of submissions that came in this past week.  I have only 1 more story to read for Altered America, and the pile will be filed.  I still have quite a few stories for the other anthologies (Life of the Dead, To Hell with Dante, & We Were Heroes), but after this last batch of slush I may take a break tomorrow.

So, how are things shaping up?  Well, the Veterans of the Future Wars anthology is now in the middle of formatting, with the final stories added, bringing the total to 16 stories, 234 pages, and just shy of 88,000 words in length.  The submissions for this anthology weren’t as heavy as Altered America, but many of them were a bit longer, as military sci-fi often is.  I expect to have the final formatting for the manuscript done next week, and pre-orders will be accepted after that.  We’re looking at a February 14 publication date for VFW.

Altered America, meanwhile, is currently sitting at 21 stories.  The word and page count will be known once I get to the formatting process, which will probably be later in the month.  Probable release date for Altered America will be the end of March.  This anthology will see several recurrent Martinus authors, including Bruno Lombardi, Lauren A. Forry, and Edmund Wells, among others.  We also have some exceptional new talent contributing to this collection, so it’s bound to be a hit.  There will be plenty of time to share teasers of the various alternate histories contained within this tome, so keep your eyes peeled for future updates!

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I am in need of a well-earned break.  The rigors of editing can be exhausting.

For our open anthologies, see Martinus Publishing Submissions Guidelines