Monday, March 21, 2016

Sharing My Favorite Things...

Here it is, the second day of spring, and it's snowing.  What do you expect for Maine?  So, today I find myself a bit under the weather, both figuratively and literally, as my throat is sore and I'm feeling a bit flushed.  It's a dreary day all around.  What better time to ramble on about myself?

I know a few of you still read this blog, though I don't post nearly enough to expect a dedicated following.  While I'm slowing coming out of my post-divorce rut, I still have a long way to go.  You don't get over something like that overnight, but there is light at the end of the tunnel.  Mind you, it may still be a few years before I'm truly myself again.

In life, I am sometimes seen as standoffish, or distant.  It comes from my introverted personality, which is a core part of who I am, and not something I can turn on and off. For the longest time, I am kept to myself.  Though at times I am able to expose bits and pieces of myself through writing or online exposure, it is not so easy to put myself out there, or share what lurks inside my heart.

Going into my personal life, there are times I have found it particularly uncomfortable, scary even, to reveal myself, my like and dislikes, my favorite things; that which I most enjoy.  Or rather, I find it difficult to share what I like with those who are closest to me.  With strangers?  Sure, I can say I like xyz.  But when it comes to those who are important to me, with those I love the most, there are times I am afraid to share.

I remember when I was growing up, I would sometimes feel embarrassed to share what I was doing with my parents.  I would shut off the television or record player when they came around.  I would pause a video game and turn the screen off, so as not to be asked what it was I was watching or doing.  I wasn't even doing anything they'd find objectionable; I just felt silly letting them know.  Don't ask me why.

In later life, as I grew up and got married and had kids, I started to feel a little more willing to open up.  I shared my activities with my wife, though in many cases she wouldn't enjoy what I was doing.  After we had kids, she lost interest in the seemingly insignificant things that I enjoyed, though she never really cared that I did them, except on occasion when she'd say they were either boring or stupid.  It didn't hurt me at the time, because I grew accustomed to doing things by myself again—and so the television programs I loved the most and the games I liked to play, and the hobbies and projects I played around with all ended up being done in private, away from prying eyes.  I can't count the hours I spent in my office watching Doctor Who or Stargate, or some other damn thing when I didn't feel like writing.  Or the hours I spent working on my cars out in the yard.  Or the time I spent working on watches, or guns.  Or the odd hour I spent playing some "boring" video game like Sid Meier's Civilization.

I won't complain that my ex-wife drifted away from me.  That's all over now.  But I find that I still have a problem sharing my life with certain people.  It may seem stupid, but the shows I watch, the games I play, the stuff I do for fun; it's all an integral part of who I am, and sharing that can be scary, especially when the person you're sharing it with is important to you, and you want to spend time with them, and it can hurt when they say "I can't get into that."  If they say it enough, it ends up being a rejection of who I am, and so I return to my familiar pattern of hiding and doing things by myself.

Okay, maybe I'm getting a bit carried away here, but I'm feeling feverish, so cut me some slack.

Overall, I am a sensitive fool, who keeps everything to himself because he doesn't want anyone's rejection to hurt him.  It's just who I am.

Yeah, so the point of all this comes down to something quite simple, and only really applicable to those close to me.  It is an effort for me to share things.  Something as trivial as a song, or a movie.  So, when I take this leap, to share something that I enjoy, please try to realize how big a move that is on my part, how much I'm putting myself out there.  Understand that my wanting to do something with you is special, as I'm someone who has spent a lifetime enjoying things alone.  Please know how rare you are, if you have the opportunity to have me ask you to sit down and watch something with me, and humor me if it's not something you're accustomed to, as I have done for those few people who are important to me.  I remember many shows I would never have watched, if not for my kids or ex-wife, or someone else special to me, who wanted to share.  That's what relationships are all about.  Sharing.  Because what's the point of being with people who are so alien in their tastes that they can't tolerate each other's favorite things?

Damn it, I really feel like watching Doctor Who about now...

Saturday, March 12, 2016

We Were Heroes Interview: Gary Budgen

Hello, and welcome to an all new series of author interviews.  The long anticipated anthology "We Were Heroes" is now available, and to help promote that  release we're running interviews of various contributors.

MTI:  Today I'm interviewing Gary Budgen, who contributed "Exile." Thank you for being here.

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

GARY BUDGEN:  I grew up and live in London, UK, where I have spent most of my life except for a couple of stints away at universities in Norwich and Staffordshire. I live with my partner and daughter in north-east London but originally come from the other side of the river in south-east London; that has no significance to anyone except people who live in London. The best expression of this is on the first page of Angela Carter’s novel Wise Children. I’ve been writing fiction for years and have a fair amount of short fiction published. I like writing science-fiction, slipstream, horror and fantasy. A few years ago I took a Master’s degree in Creative Writing at Middlesex University.

MTI:  Now, getting down to business; what first compelled you to weave fiction, and what's your favorite type of story to write?

GB:  I remember being under five and going to school. On the first day I wrote a story about a robot. I asked if I could write another story, it didn’t seem like work to me. It never has. At primary school I wrote stories, plays, comics; people seemed to like them so I realized it was something I could do. As life has gone on I’ve realized that it is something I couldn’t NOT do. I need to do it to make sense of the world. My favorite type of story to write is one where as I’m writing it I begin to get a feeling that it means something much more than when I started, that perhaps, in there, there was something I’ve been trying to say for a while. The story itself could be in any genre but I do have a love of slipstream or at least genre fiction which is in some way aware of its own devices. Good fantastic fiction to me is always, in some sense, also about the nature of the fantastic.

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

GB:  Well, without doubt, Allen Ashley, prolific short story writer and editor. His ‘Once and Future Cities’ is an exemplar of a certain type of slipstream fiction that I love. I’ve got to know Allen over the last few years in Clockhouse London Writers and he has been very supportive of my work. However it feels slightly dodgy picking someone I know, so I hope you don’t mind if I cheat and mention another writer: Barrington J. Bayley whose short story collections ‘The Knights of the Limits’ and ‘The Seed of Evil’ were something that made me reconsider what science-fiction could be about.

MTI:  Your story, The Exile appears in We Were Heroes, an anthology devoted to the theme of aging, retired, or out of their element superheroes and villains.  Tell us a little bit about your contribution to this collection.

GB:  First of all it’s a great theme for an anthology. I love the idea of what happens to superheroes after the adventures have ended, or they think they are. The places in the story are real. The Isle of Sheppey is an hour’s drive from London, but is a world in itself. I spent a lot of time there as a kid on holiday. The Church of St Thomas is so isolated it could be at the end of the world so I’ve always found it magical. The other side of the island is where the holidaymakers go. It was thriving up until the ‘80s but has declined as people have gone on cheap holidays to Spain, Greece etc. It is fairly run down now although I still like visiting. Somewhere in my head I always feared I might end up retiring there to some shack, a lonely old man who spent his days writing and evenings in the pub. I put that situation at the heart of the story. But this old man is someone who was once extraordinary. And there will always be one last adventure.

MTI:  Who's your favorite superhero (or villain)?

GB:  That’s hard to narrow down. Does Man-Thing count? I love Steve Gerber’s stuff from the seventies. And I love superheroes. I was an avid collector of American comic-books when I was a kid and lots of the characters have a real place in my heart.  

MTI:  If you, yourself, could have any superpower, what would it be?

GB:  To be able to breathe underwater, then set off to explore the oceans.

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

GB:  I’ve been trying to work on a novel while at the same time keeping up writing short fiction.

MTI:  Other than Exile appearing in We Were Heroes, do you have any other stories being published in the near future?

GB:  There are a fair few stories coming out in various anthologies. I list them on my website: What I’m most excited about is that Horrified Press are bringing out a collection of stories of mine. Hopefully this will be published in early 2016.

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

GB:  I’ve watched a lot of Doctor Who with my daughter lately. Enjoyed the first series of True Detective. Utopia was great too. River, a UK detective series, was also very good.

MTI:  How about music?

GB:  Music has always been important to me. Ska, reggae, soul-music, jazz, garage-rock.

MTI:  Can you name three movies that you could watch over and over again and not be bored?

GB:  Melody (1971), Quintet (1979), Dark City (1998)

MTI:  Readers love samples.  Do you happen to have a story excerpt you'd like to share with us today?  (If you'd like to share a few paragraphs or a page of writing, this could be a good place for it.)

GB:  This is from the opening story of my forthcoming collection. The story was originally published in M-Brane Science Fiction.

Salt Cellar
Because you love me you are going to have to kill me and eat me. You mustn’t be sorry. I would not have you being sorry. I would not have it any other way. 
            This morning I watched Neptune rising, blue, flecked with ice geysers, like the pupil in the eye of a god with a stigma. It had seemed magnificent once. I waited before I turned, knowing that once I did, once I saw you, the glory before me would shrink to insignificance. I had come to Triton for the awe of the outer planets, and found instead the intimacy of your embrace.
            So I turn and look. You are atop the hillside that I think of as our place. The great dome of your carapace fills the short horizon. Your shell is the blackest void, sucking in light, pulling the stars to it. Then you touch me with your mind as you have done every day since we found each other. Sometimes you have granted me visions of your home world, light years away, the liquid metal oceans and cities that rise up in crystalline knots. But today it will be past lovers. It will be a lesson.
            Your courtship is majestic, a work of art. When the final moment comes your mates give up their psyche to you and you both rise through the ice beauties of n-dimensional mathematics. There is a moment of communion. Their philosophies, theories, memories and pleasures will be passed onto your children. And when you are seeded you feel the urge don’t you? If you were to deny it you would die. It’s all right. I understand. It is an itch that can only be scratched in one way because however godlike you are your children need physical as well as spiritual nourishment. So in ecstatic misery you consume the bodies of your lovers.
And I am sitting in a café in the East End of London near my studio and Stephen is telling me that he is leaving.
            “Your work,” he says.
            His eyes are puffy where he has been crying or drinking too much or both. He tells me he can’t compete, that he always feels second best. Even as I try to reassure him that it isn’t so, part of my mind is focused on the oddly shaped salt-cellar that when he has left I will steal and use of part of my sculpture.
            You love this about me don’t you? It is something you could never get from one of your own. The little details of a human life are seasoning on the vaster dish that is your higher understanding. When I remember Earth, my old life, it fills you with pleasure. A rush of psychic feedback floods back into me. I run up our hill, towards you and you hold me in the great girders of your mandibles. I look into your jaws and the infinite depths beyond.  Will it be now? I want it to be now.

MTI:  A tantalizing sample!  Those who'd like to check out Gary's latest short story release can pick up a copy of We Were Heroes!

Friday, March 11, 2016

Crime and Punishment and Martinus Publishing

It's hard to believe it's been over 3 years now since Martinus Publishing first came into being, and our first short story anthology, The Temporal Element, hit bookshelves.  A lot has happened in that time, and not all of it good.

Today, a shocking news article was brought to my attention, which apparently involves one-time contributing author, Steven Gepp, who has a story called "Extinction" in The Temporal Element.  In the news article, it is revealed that one Steven Craig Gepp was convicted of molesting teenage girls in 2014, over a year after I published Extinction.  The individual who brought this news story to my attention claimed that my "interview" with Steven Gepp, a full year before he was prosecuted for these crimes, is "inappropriate" and that I should remove said interview.

I will point out that my interview with Steven Gepp has nothing criminal or inappropriate in it, and I would never condone or promote any form of sexual abuse.  I will further say that while I am inclined to believe that the news article is factual, I cannot with certainty say that this is the same Steven Gepp who wrote "Extinction" for The Temporal Element.   I cannot say with 100% certainty that it is the same individual.  Mind you, stranger things have happened.

So, here is where I stand on this whole thing.  Firstly, Mr. Gepp sold me the right to use "Extinction" in The Temporal Element in 2012, over a year before this news was released.  Furthermore, his fiction has nothing sexual or inappropriate in it, nor does his interview on my blog.  As I said, the interview was published over a year prior to Steven Craig Gepp's conviction, and since he sold me his story outright, he is receiving no more remuneration for this story contribution.

I can understand where some people are coming from when they say I should delete his interview and withdraw The Temporal Element from publication.  Certain people see that allowing his fiction and his interview to remain published is somehow "promoting" him as an individual, and that he doesn't deserve that publicity.  However, I am no fan of censorship, and I also will not be held responsible for a writer's actions when I am not made aware of said actions until years after their work is published.

At this time, I have no intention of pulling "The Temporal Element" from publication, and I furthermore have no intention of deleting my interview with Steven Gepp.  I will not punish the many other contributors to The Temporal Element who deserve to have their writing read, and I don't recognize how having a writer interview on my blog is in any way inappropriate.

I am still left with a nagging question as to how many people are going to be on my side with this decision.  Personally, I would be disinclined to publish the work of a sex offender, but when you're taking open submissions from people you do not know personally, you're bound to get stories from all kinds.  Though almost all Martinus contributors are upstanding citizens, there could be one or two with questionable morality (but that's none of my business).  I'm a fiction publisher, not a prosecuting attorney or judge.  It's not my job to "punish" Steven Gepp or any other writer.

I can only be expected to know so much, and I can't allow things that happen to contributors in the future to affect my publishing decisions.  I apologize to anyone who might be offended, but what is done is done.  Steven Gepp's interview and his fictional story were both published, and that's just the way it is.

Monday, March 7, 2016

We Were Heroes Author Interview: John Vicary

Hello, and welcome to an all new series of author interviews.  The long anticipated anthology "We Were Heroes" is now available, and I'm wrapping up the last interviews with the collection's various contributors.

MTI:  Today I'm interviewing John Vicary, who contributed Her Game. Thank you for being here.

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

John Vicary:  Hello, and thank you so much for having me. I write under the pseudonym of John, but I'm actually a wife and mother of five. I own my own editing business, The LetterWorks, and I am the submissions editor at a small publishing company called Bedlam Publishing. In my spare time, I enjoy playing classical piano and I am learning to speak Russian.

MTI:  Now, getting down to business; what first compelled you to weave fiction, and what's your favorite type of story to write?

JV:  I've been writing for as long as I can remember! It seems like it was a natural outlet for me since I was very young. I like to try my hand at all different genres, but I tend to gravitate towards literary fiction and more recently I have had success with creative nonfiction.

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

JV:  I have to pick John Irving. As a youngster I was in love with the classics, and I read a lot of authors who had been published many years before I had been born. John Irving was one of the first authors I read who is still alive and publishing today who I consider an absolute genius. I was so impressed by his unique style. I find that he is very polarizing; people either love his stories or they despise his work. My own style is not like his, but if I could imbue my stories with as much heart and humor as he does, I would consider myself a success.

MTI:  Your story, Her Game, appears in We Were Heroes, an anthology devoted to the theme of aging, retired, or out of their element superheroes and villains.  Tell us a little bit about your contribution to this collection.

JV:  I was so excited to write for this collection because it is an unusual and interesting subject. My story is a little tongue-in-cheek, but I think that underneath it shows the pain of aging in this society. We tend to neglect our elderly, and I think the transformation into an old, and therefore useless, person must be very difficult for those people who were revered as celebrities, as superheroes are. This story uses humor to underscore that point.

MTI:  Who's your favorite superhero (or villain)?

JV:  When I was little I adored Wonder Woman. And She-Ra, Princess of Power!

MTI:  If you, yourself, could have any superpower, what would it be?

JV:  I rather think it would be fun to fly, don't you? If I didn't have to worry about the wax melting, like Icarus, then I might choose that. If flying were like swimming in the air, I don't know if I could turn that down. Then again, I could wreak a lot of havoc by shape-shifting, and I'm not normally mischievous but that sounds like limitless fun for a creative person! Tough choices!

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

JV:  It sounds terribly pretentious, but I am working on my memoir. It has received some positive reviews, and I am hopeful that people will find it interesting.

MTI:  Other than your contribution appearing in We Were Heroes, do you have any other stories being published in the near future?

JV:  Yes, I have just published my fifty-second story with “Shenandoah”, and two of my stories are shortlisted for the 2016 Charter Oak Best Historical Fiction Award and will be published as part of Alternating Current's annual literary journal.

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

JV:  It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia's 10th Season just came out. So funny! I also just finished this miniseries called Poldark. It wasn't bad.

MTI:  How about music?

JV:  I have diverse tastes in music. My kids are really embarrassed by what I listen to. I like everything from 70's disco to classical. My favorite genre has to be Bollywood soundtracks, though. If you haven't danced in your kitchen to Chammak Challo or the Lungi dance, you're missing out. Fun stuff!

MTI:  Can you name three movies that you could watch over and over again and not be bored?

JV:  #1 The Lord of the Rings trilogy extended version, #2 Om Shanti Om, #3 The Matrix

MTI:  Readers love samples.  Do you happen to have a story excerpt you'd like to share with us today?

What Remains

            They threw me off the hay truck about noon after we’d been riding the rutted roads for the better part of six hours. They gave me a dented canteen still mostly full of warm water and pointed me north to a border that no one but me wanted to cross. I shook hands with all of them except Wilford and I would have watched them pull away, but there wasn’t any point. They were already gone, whether I watched it happen or not. I hitched my pack onto the shoulder that wasn’t broken and started walking.

            A different sort of man might have enjoyed the scenery; the ruined path that had proffered pain in the riding now provided a breathtaking vista by foot. Perhaps that same man would have taken the chance to turn inward along the way to examine the thoughts and conscience that had led him to undertake such an arduous journey. I was not such a man, however, and I walked northward with a numbness of purpose. Each step was a buffer against pangs and ruminations until I found myself alone in some dark unknown place.

            Even a man such as I must rest sometimes, and that place between sleep and dreams is when memory lays down the weapons of day and allows unwelcome remembrance to breach the gate. There is nothing left in this wide world during the nighttime except the star lanterns shining overhead; that is when what is left of you crept in. I saw your face in Andromeda and Virgo, and the cloud veil hid your smile. I knew then that they were right to leave me at the border. They were right about all the things they’d said. Even Wilford hadn’t been half wrong, but I’d broken my hand in two places against his jaw trying to shut him up and make the words stick in his throat. It hadn’t worked.

            The next morning the stars had burned themselves out against the trenchant dawn, and I was alone again. This time, I hefted my pack onto the injured shoulder and pretended the tears were for that tender broken spot. A slight breeze brought the smell of hay from the west, where I imagined they had made good time and were safe by now. But, then again, it might have been my imagination and I was just picking up a whiff from a fallow field down the road. Whatever the case, I had my own sojourn to make. I drained the last sip of water from the canteen and left it in the hollow where my head had rested last night. If my finger lingered in the dent, it was just for a moment, then I placed it with care against the cradle of dry prairie grass. I turned my back to the rising sun and headed into the unknown to find you in the missing blue of every day.

MTI:  That's certainly an intriguing piece.  For those who want to read more work by John Vicary, they can pick up We Were Heroes now, in print or kindle format!