Monday, April 17, 2017

In Your Closet and In Your Head



So, I haven’t talked a lot about this project, but it’s high time I let you know.  Last winter, I was approached by my old writing friend Aaron (A.C.) Hall about an anthology he was putting together with Steve Beaulieu and an "all star team" of indie writers.  They were assembling an anthology of “monster” stories, and I was invited to be a part of it.  It was something I couldn’t pass up, as I continue to get back in the writing game after a few years of limited creation.

So, with invitation in hand, I went to work, creating my first serious piece of fiction in years.  I’ve done monster stories before, of course, though I knew I had to try something a little different.  I wanted to make something special for the anthology, other than your run of the mill monster tale, while returning to my sci-fi roots.  A concept popped into my head rather quickly, and I spent a couple of weeks fleshing it out.  The end result was an alien invasion story with a twist called "Monsters In our Midst."

I had a great experience creating this story, and working with Steve Beaulieu on the editing.  He gave me editorial insight that polished the short to perfection.  It was an important step which I needed after years of growing rusty.  You can edit other people’s work all day, but sometimes fail to see the flaws in your own stuff.

This collection of stories is really amazing, and I haven’t even gotten through all of them (blast this hectic life of mine).  You have some fairly well-known contributors in this anthology, and a wide array of topics.  For a monster anthology, it is very diverse.

This collection hasn’t been out long, and it already has six 5-star reviews on Amazon.  For a multi-author anthology, that’s a really good sign.  I am honored and excited to see the praise these stories are getting, including my own.  It’s a good first step back into the writing field for me.  Being an editor has its ups and downs, but nothing beats creating your own fiction and having people enjoy it. 



Sunday, April 16, 2017

Altered Europa Interview: Sam Kepfield



Hello, and welcome to our latest series of author interviews.  The long anticipated anthology "Altered Europa" was released on April 2, 2017 (ORDER IT HERE), and as we continue to promote the collection we are still running interviews of various contributors.

Today I'm interviewing Sam Kepfield, who contributed Foundation and Evil Empire.

MTI:  For those of our readers who aren’t familiar with you, how about we start off with you telling them a little bit about yourself.

SAM KEPFIELD:  I’m not good at talking about myself.  I am 53, and a practicing attorney.  I keep my sanity by spinning tales about other times and other worlds. 

MTI:  Your story, Foundation and Evil Empire., appears in Altered Europa, an anthology devoted to alternate history and altered reality.  Tell us a little bit more about this contribution, particularly, how does it deviate from known history?

SK:  Isaac Asimov, the Grand Master science fiction author, was born in the Soviet Union in 1920.  His family moved to America shortly thereafter.  I’ve wondered what would have happened to Dr. Asimov had he not moved to America.  With his personality and inquisitiveness and inability to suffer fools gladly, it would have been fascinating to see him function and challenge the Soviet system.  I envisioned him still be a writer, but a sci-fi version of Alexander Solzhenitsyn, revealing truths about the system in his work. 

MTI:  If you could go back to any point in time and change any historical event to create an "altered" world, what would you choose to change?

SK:  Only one? 

I’ve always wanted to go back to 1916 and make sure Roger Casement got his 900 Mauser rifles to the Irish rebels and make the Easter Rising succeed.  Lately, though, there have been thoughts of sending a robot back in time to deal with a certain real estate developer…..

MTI:  For further pondering, if a wormhole leading to an alternate reality suddenly appeared in front of you, would you dare to take the plunge and discover what awaits on the other side?

SK:  I would.

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

SK:  I am working on an alternate-history/political thriller/hard sf novel.  The basic premise is that the USSR did not collapse in 1991, and that it is still alive and well in 2017 and in a race with the United States to reach Mars first.

MTI:  Other than your work appearing in Altered Europa, do you have any other stories being published in the near future?

SK:  I don’t have anything definite, but I have works in submission and in progress.

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

SK:  I don’t watch television.  I’m too busy reading.

MTI:  How about music?

SK:  My musical tastes are stuck in the 1980s.   Hall & Oates, Journey, Genesis, Steve Winwood, ELO, Level 42, Bananarama, Swing Out Sister, Scandal, Thomas Dolby, you name it.

MTI:  Can you name three movies that you’ve enjoyed watching during the past year?

SK:  I haven’t been to a first-run movie (other than a Pixar show with the kids) since 2006, when Peter Jackson’s crummy King Kong remake made me swear off movies.  The news that someone is actually trying to remake 2001:  A Spacey Odyssey has convinced that the terrorists are right, that our culture is decadent and decaying. 

MTI:  Interesting answers.  Thank you for a great interview, Sam.  I hope everyone picks up a copy of Altered Europa, for a taste of your excellent writing!


Saturday, April 8, 2017

Altered Europa Initial Success

Taking a brief moment to review Altered Europa's first week on sale, I note that we are doing well.  At the time of this writing, we're at 15,268 on Amazon Kindle (Altered Europa Kindle version here), and #27 in the "Alternate History" category.  Our initial boost came from the pre-orders, but we've seen a steady flow of sales on Kindle each day since the release.  We aren't seeing the numbers we had with Altered America just yet, but things are going well.  We received our first 5-star review this week!  So far, detractors have yet to appear.

Anything could happen at this point.  The anthology could take off and sell huge, or the sales flow could slow.  We are teetering on the balance at the moment.

Keep spreading the word, and let's make Altered Europa the best-selling Martinus Publishing title yet!
http://www.martinus.us/books.html#ae

Saturday, April 1, 2017

Altered Europa Interview: Bruno Lombardi



Hello, and welcome to our latest series of author interviews.  The long anticipated anthology "Altered Europa" will be coming out on April 2, 2017 (ORDER IT HERE)!  In preparation for this grand release we'll be running interviews of various contributors.

Today I'm interviewing Bruno Lombardi, who contributed The Battle of Tim Hortons (co written with Ben Prewitt), and also co-wrote N'oublions Jamais with Tom Anderson. 

MTI:  We've done a few interviews over the years, but believe it or not there are still people who don't know who you are.  Why not tell our new readers a little bit about yourself?

BL:  I work as a civil servant for the Canadian government by day and am a writer by night. While I’ve been writing fictional short stories for seemingly forever and regaling friends and family with my many misadventures that often sounds comically fictional, it’s only been the last five or six years or so that I’ve actually become published. My writing career seems to have taken off quite a bit since then, with one published novel and over a dozen published short stories since then.

MTI:  Now for Altered Europa, you co-authored two stories.  The first one that appears is N'oublions Jamais,. which you wrote with Tom Anderson.  Tell us a little bit more about this contribution, particularly, how does it deviate from known history?

BL:  Not to give too much away from the plot, as some of the joy of the story is the realization of just how and why everything deviated, the basic idea is a World War One with wildly different and surprising alliances.

MTI:  Tell us a little bit about your other contribution, The Battle of Tim Hortons.  What's the story behind it?

BL:  It’s the late 1980’s, the Soviets have finally decided to take a roll of the dice and start a land invasion of Western Europe and we follow the (mis)adventures of a group of Canadian soldiers in a mechanized infantry unit.

Yes, Ben and I somehow managed to make a comedy out of a WWIII scenario…

MTI:  How much fun is it  to co-write with fellow authors?  How did your collaborations with Ben Prewitt and Tom Anderson come about?

BL:  The backstory of how The Battle of Tim Hortons got written, first off, had a truly hilarious genesis to it. I know Ben from various discussion boards and he knew I was a budding writer. So one day, pretty much out of the blue about 8 years ago or so, he threw me a small snippet of the story.

I laughed my butt off! Ben’s ex-military, so one definitely gets the impression that some of the stuff is, if not based on actual real events and people, is certainly both plausible and familiar to those in the service.  I asked him for more of the story and was annoyed he didn’t have more, so together we fleshed it out into a full length story.

As for Tom, we’ve been collaborating on various projects for years, so when he asked me if I wanted to be co-writer on his story, I jumped at the chance. The fun part of the story was that it was written ‘round-robin’ style, which each of us writing several hundred words, then e-mailing it to the other to do the same and then back again. I think we managed to write the entire story in just under a week.

MTI:  If you could go back to any point in time and change any historical event to create an "altered" world, what would you choose to change?

BL: I’ve read – and written! – enough stories like this to worry about the ramifications of the butterfly effect but if I had to pick one event, it’s be the events leading up to WW1. There were so many ‘Almost WW1’ events and crises that, nevertheless, had cooler heads prevail in the end that one can argue that 1914 could have been avoided as well.

MTI:  For further pondering, if a wormhole leading to an alternate reality suddenly appeared in front of you, would you dare to take the plunge and discover what awaits on the other side?

BL:  Oh tempting! Very tempting! Do I get to come back or is this strictly one way? If I can get back, I’ll only hesitate long enough to pack a lunch. Otherwise, I’ll think I’ll take a pass on it.

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

BL:  A few projects here and there that I hope to submit to various anthologies in the next six months. One is dieselpunk version of the Rapunzel fairy tale, a second is the adventures of a New York Subway technician having to deal with a most unusual problem and a third deals with a perennial favorite topic of mine – time travel.

MTI:  Other than your work appearing in Altered Europa, do you have any other stories being published in the near future?

BL:  By the time this interview sees print, a short story of mine – ‘Devil in the City of Lights’ – will be published in Occult Defective Quarterly #2.

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

BL:  I’ve become absolutely enamored with the show Legends of Tomorrow. It’s an absolutely bonkers show that not only has fully embraced its silly premise but has decided to just drive off into the sunset with it as well.

MTI:  How about music?

BL:  Always have been and always will be a fan of blues and jazz and I’ve been enjoying tracking down all kinds of independent labels showcasing different takes on the genre, including multicultural versions.

MTI:  Can you name 3 good movies you've seen in the past year?

BL:  Rogue One, like for many people, made me feel like a kid again. Alas, I haven’t seen much lately that I enjoyed but hope springs eternal this summer.

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

BL:  This is a snippet from that dieselpunk story I was mentioning earlier:

She runs across cobblestones stained by a century of smoke and sewage and sediment, the moonlight reflected on scum-encrusted puddles of fluids best not looked at carefully.

There is, however, no danger of that happening at the moment, as more pertinent thoughts are foremost on her mind.

The main one being, quite simply, survival.

For the sixth – or perhaps seventh? – time in as many minutes, Valeria looks around the dark streets looking for a sign – any sign – of help or assistance or succor. And for the sixth – or perhaps seventh? – time, she is disappointed.

The streets are empty of human life at this time of night and now the domain of cats, dogs and rodents. The streetlights – those few and far between that are still functional – are haloed by the ever-present haze of smoke and fog that hangs as a shroud over the city.

For a moment – for a brief moment – she snickers. For a City That Never Sleeps, it certainly seems to be napping very hard at the moment.

And then her mind snaps back into the here and now. She takes another long breath and ignores the burning sensation of her overtaxed lungs being forced to go beyond their limits once more. Her leather boots – thankfully chosen for functionality rather than fashion – pound against the ground. She catches a glimpse of her shadow on a brick wall and a small part of her mind notes – with bemused satisfaction incongruous with her present situation – that her flapping overcoat brings forth the image of a giant bat flying through an ancient canyon.

A silhouette appears in the haze a street ahead, an ogre of old carrying a giant crossbow. The haze clears somewhat and the image resolves itself into that of a large man instead. The crossbow weapon resolves into an angry looking large revolver with an equally large rotating machine-gun-like cylinder attached to it.

Even now, Valeria finds her scientific mind analyzing the gun as the man – a gold tooth glinting in the darkness – advances forth.

A Manville Gas Gun? 37 mm, if I’m not mistaken. Twelve rounds. Designed to carry flare, smoke, sleep or tear gas canisters. Rather poor design – kept jamming up on troops during the Battle of Lake Superior last year. 

Valeria twists to her left and down a hidden alleyway, her passage leaving twisting vortexes in the fog in her wake. She had grown up in this part of New York City a lifetime ago and knows these half-formed and unmapped alleys the same way she knew a Coffman engine starter; like the back of her hand.

She has just dodged around a cumbersome pile of crates and was just about to leap over a fence when the man with the Manville Gas Gun appears out of the shadows.

“I grew up in this neighbourhood too,” says the man.

And then he fires the gun.

MTI:  A tempting tidbit!  Thanks for another great interview, Bruno.  Those who wish to read his alternate history stories can pick up Altered Europa.

Monday, March 27, 2017

Altered Europa Interview: Deborah Davitt



Hello, and welcome to our latest series of author interviews.  The long anticipated anthology "Altered Europa" will be coming out April 2, 2017 (ORDER IT HERE), and in preparation for this grand release we're running interviews of various contributors.

MTI:  Today I'm interviewing Deborah Davitt, who contributed Ave, Caesarion.  Starting off, could you tell our readers a little bit about yourself?

DEBORAH DAVITT:  Hi, there! It’s lovely to speak with you. I was born at an Army hospital in Washington state, but spent the first twenty-two years of my life in Reno, Nevada. That’s where I graduated from college—from UNR—and then I moved to Pennsylvania to get my Master’s degree in English from Penn State. My focus was in Medieval and Renaissance literature.

I’ve taught college-level composition, and have worked as a technical writer in three different industries—defense, space, and computer manufacturing. I have an intense love of literature, history, and science, and I currently live in Houston, Texas with my husband, son, and a rather spazzy Norwegian Elkhound puppy.

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

DD:  Honestly, I started writing at such a young age, that it’s sort of hard to recall. But I loved reading, and I wanted very much to be able to write the sorts of stories that I enjoyed reading most. That hasn’t changed much—I love science fiction and fantasy, and I tend to write in those two domains. . . but because I have such an abiding interest in history and science, both of those disciplines always creep into everything that I write.

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

DD:  Just one? That’s the hardest question on earth. Quite a lot of my writing and style is what you might call either an extended homage to writers I love, or an extended argument with authors with whom I disagree. Some of those writers are the same people, because I can enjoy what someone’s written, while disagreeing with them philosophically on almost every level.

I’m going to pick Frank Herbert, and bear with me on this. I watched the old David Lynch Dune when I was fourteen or so, and immediately picked up the first novel of the series. I got through it, but the subsequent books, well, fourteen isn’t the best age to read those. Still, the images haunted me, so I went back to the books in college. And once again, I couldn’t comprehend why these books had such a following.

Still haunted in my late twenties and early thirties, I came back to them, and . . . suddenly. . . all the education and perspective I’d gained clicked, and I understood that Herbert, this man taught by Jesuits, always wants you, the audience, to engage with him. To wrestle with him. To figure out the lesson without him explicitly defining it. To be honest, I still am not sure if I’ve understood his lesson in some of the books, and that’s. . . all right. I’ll keep wrestling with him. Because that’s the joy of it.

My own writing style is not much like Herbert’s. It’s shaped by having written online for many years, both in role-playing game and fiction format. I tend to reach out and offer my reader a hand, so that we can stroll through the story together, and as a tour guide, I think it’s my job to point out to the reader when the footing might get a little uneven, or when they might want to consult the guidebook.

MTI:  Your story, Ave, Caesarion, appears in Altered Europa, an anthology devoted to alternate history and altered reality.  Your tale is actually based on a series you've created, called Edda-Earth.  Tell us a little about that series.

DD:  Well, simply put, in Edda-Earth, Rome never fell, magic and science co-exist, all the gods are real . . . and war is coming. That’s the short version, anyway.

The longer version? I’ve always been a little dissatisfied with alternate history that files the serial numbers off historical events and assumes that “well, Andrew Jackson was never president, but everything else went pretty much the same way.” In Edda-Earth, Julius Caesar wasn’t assassinated. The Roman Empire was taken over after his death by his son by Cleopatra, Caesarion the God-Born, not by Augustus. Caesarion, being half-Egyptian and somewhat more aware of reality outside of Rome’s borders, ensured that the people of the Judean province could practice their religion more or less freely and gave their theocracy more power, eliminating the puppet kings who’d governed them, but retaining a Roman governor in the province.

Rome expanded and did not fall; Germanic and Gallic tribes who wouldn’t submit to the rule of Rome were “encouraged” to travel west across the Sea of Atlas (the Atlantic) and colonize ever further and further away, landing in what we’d call North America some five hundred years after Caesar’s ascension.

Dates are thus delineated as “AC, or after the ascent of Caesar. There is no English language, because Germanic tribes never invaded Britannia. The entire “new world” is a patchwork of Roman and native kingdoms. People like the Aztecs (Nahautl) and Maya (Quecha) still retain their own gods, but Rome has put into place one very firm rule for its client states: No human sacrifice.

Needless to say, that rule gets broken.

MTI:  If you could go back to any point in time and change any historical event to create an "altered" world, what would you choose to change?

DD:  If I changed our reality and, say, Caesar didn’t die, there’s a pretty good chance that I wouldn’t exist, or that if I somehow did, I wouldn’t speak English. But, gun to my head, if I had to pick a major event? I’d prevent the death of Arch-Duke Ferdinand. Because without WWI, arguably, the world wouldn’t be in the shape it’s currently in.

MTI:  Indeed, that is one focal point I myself would consider changing.  Now, for further pondering, if a wormhole leading to an alternate reality suddenly appeared in front of you, would you dare to take the plunge and discover what awaits on the other side?

DD:  Do I get to come back, or is this one of those episodes where my get-home-device is broken as soon as I get to the other side? If I don’t get to come home, can I take my husband and son with me?

(Though that raises the specter of taking a seven-year-old on a trek through alternate universes, when even a tiny change to the routine in this one sends him into a tailspin . . . so perhaps these things are best left to the imagination.)

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

DD:  I’ve been writing a slew of short-stories here at the end of the year. Being self-published is wonderful, in a way; I’ve had a lot of very kind reviews, but a track record in the print world goes a long way towards getting people to see you as a credible author. So that’s what I’ve been working on of late, as well as Book IV of Edda. I didn’t really expect there to be a Book IV; the story can be read as complete as is. Because it is complete at the end of Book III. Book IV . . . heh. Well, it takes the concept of alternate history a step further, let’s just say.

MTI:  Other than Ave, Caesarion, appearing in Altered Europa, do you have any other stories being published in the near future?

DD:  Stories, not as yet. I do have a poem forthcoming with Star*Line in their next one or two issues. The poem actually led me to write a short story that I submitted to the Jim Baen competition, and for which I have hopes. Not high ones. High hopes get dashed on the rocks of reality all too frequently. ;)

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

DD:  I don’t watch that much TV. My husband and I watch about an hour or so a day, pretty much only on Netflix (no commercials, but never up to date), usually before our son goes to bed. I’m usually quite frustrated by the writing in a lot of shows. We’ve been told that we’re too young to sound as much like Statler and Waldorf as we do. I did enjoy Daredevil and the first two seasons of Vikings, and while my husband’s been watching The Walking Dead since it first came to Netflix, I’d avoided it till a few months ago, and then I got caught up on it.

MTI:  How about music?
DD:  Pandora’s introduced me to a lot of artists I would never have heard of before the internet, and my already odd taste has become even more eclectic as a result. Two Steps from Hell, Korpiklaani, Cruachan, Russian Circles, Enter the Haggis, Yoshido Brothers, and some Nightwish and Epica are all additions to my list in the past, eh, four years? Basically, when I write, most of the time I can’t listen to music with lyrics, unless the lyrics are a perfect match for the scene and the characters at hand. Otherwise, the words just get in the way of the words in my head.

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

DD:  I have a seven-year-old son. My sample of recent movies is heavily kid-centric. However, I’d cheerfully put How to Train Your Dragon on my desert-island list. And then I’d toss in the two movies my husband and I generally save for Valentine’s Day—Stardust and Princess Bride, on alternate years. If I could pick a fourth, Apollo 13.

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

DD:  I love samples, too! This is a chapter header in Book I, The Valkyrie. In it, I tried to imagine what fairy tales would look like in a world in which spirits were quite real, and the pagan origin of such tales did not need to be disguised. I hope everyone enjoys it!

___________________

Once upon a time, there were two woodcutters’ children who lived near the Black Forest in southern Germania. Their names were Halvar and Gudrun. Their mother had died when they were young, and when their father married again, it was to the village herbalist. Every day, when their father went into the forest to cut trees for other people’s fires, Halvar and Gudrun followed their step-mother under the shade of the branches that blocked out the sky, and helped her look for mosses, herbs, and mushrooms.

The spirits of the Black Wood were capricious in those days, and a dark mood gripped the forest. The trees whispered of a man with an axe made of steel, who cut too deep, and took too much. The spirits whispered in the dreams of the woodcutter, and showed him blood pouring from the trunks of the trees wherever his axe bit deeply. You have taken our sons and our daughters, root of our root. You will give us yours, in return, or the next time you come to the forest, your axe will turn in your hand, and the earth will drink your blood.

Weeping, the woodcutter knew that he had done wrong, and that he had to make recompense in some way. But he did not wish to give up his son and daughter. He did not speak of the dream to his wife, but rather took Halvar and Gudrun into the forest without their step-mother the next morning, with a piece of bread each. He told them that he loved them, and that the spirits would take care of them. And with that lie, he turned and left them alone in the woods.

But Halvar and Gudrun knew the forest well. Halvar had marked their trail with little cairns of stone, and they skipped out of the forest before nightfall. Their father rejoiced to see them; he thought that the spirits had let them go. But the dream came to him again that night. Give us your children, or your axe will turn in your hands, and the earth will drink your blood.

So the next day, the woodcutter took his children into the forest once more. And this time, he walked so fast that Halvar couldn’t leave cairns of stone behind, or mark the trunks of the trees with his little knife. And again, he said goodbye, and told them that the spirits would look after them. And then he left, weeping.

The children wept, too, because this time they knew it was not a game. As they wandered through the woods, hand in hand, they noticed that birds followed them. Ravens with the eyes of men. But they knew that ravens were the messengers of Odin, and they were not afraid.

After hours of wandering, they found a tiny house, where there never had been one before, in all their wanderings through the woods. A wonderful smell came from the windows of that house, a smell of pies and cakes and all such good things to eat.

Halvar said, “I’m so hungry. Should we knock at the door? Maybe whoever’s inside can tell us how to get home.”

Gudrun shook her head. “No one lives in the forest. Whoever this is, must be an exile.”

“Or a spirit.”

“Or a witch.”

Before they could walk away, the door opened, and an old woman emerged. “Who whispers outside my house?” she demanded. Her eyes were like old gold coins, yellow and a little blind.

The two children remained silent, hiding in the trees. They could feel the forest whispering around them. They watched as the old woman built a pyre of wood in the center of the clearing, near her house. They watched as she wove a little cage made of stout, tough branches. Just the right size for a child. “Come out,” she called towards the woods. “Come out, children. I know that you are there.”

“You’ve made a cage,” Gudrun called back. “What is it for?”

“Why, to hold a little piglet in, when I go to market.”

“You have built a pyre,” Halvar called out. “Who has died?”

“Why, no one, child. I built it to welcome summer next week. Come out, little ones, I have food and drink for you.”

Halvar and Gudrun were tired and hungry, and the food smelled good from inside her house. They came out of the woods, and the woman gave them honey-cakes and cider, and then, quick as could be, she shut Halvar up in her little cage. “See what a fine piglet I have,” she told them, smiling. “When you’re fat enough, I will put you in the cage, on the pyre. I will have my blood, as I did in all the days that went before.” And she put on her tattered cloak, which Gudrun could see now was made of bark and leaves, and the girl knew that this was the Black Forest, the spirit that dwelled at its heart.

For a week, she made Gudrun her slave, and Halvar, she fattened with wheaten cakes. Then she bade Gudrun light the pyre. Weeping, Gudrun did . . . and as the old woman moved the cage to the pyre, their step-mother emerged from the forest at the edge of the clearing. There were good spirits with her—spirits of the deer and the trees—and on her shoulder, a raven perched. The old woman screamed when she saw them, and their step-mother called to Gudrun, “Push her! Push her into the fire!”

Gudrun, who was right behind the old woman, did. The old, withered body fell into the flames, and burned with a smell of wood-sap. Working together, Gudrun and her step-mother released Halvar from the cage, and the brother and sister fell on each other’s necks and wept.

They returned home to their father’s cottage, where he begged them for forgiveness; the raven on their step-mother’s shoulder flew towards him, and plucked out one of his eyes. Their father wept, but he had learned wisdom, and he had his children back in his arms. And once one has suffered punishment, and justice has been done, then forgiveness can be offered.

Willahelm and Jacobus Grahn. Stories for Children: One Hundred Traditional Tales, Ambrones Press, 1888 AC.

MTI:  A fascinating tidbit!  Thank you for a fantastic interview!  Those who want to check out more of Deborah Davitt’s work can pick up Altered Europa!


Saturday, March 25, 2017

Altered Europa Interview: Sergio Palumbo



Hello, and welcome to our latest series of author interviews.  The long anticipated anthology "Altered Europa" will be coming out on April 2, 2017 (ORDER HERE), and in preparation for this grand release we'll be running interviews of various contributors.

Today I'm interviewing Sergio Palumbo, who contributed the anthology.

MTI:  Starting off, tell us a little bit about yourself.

SERGIO PALUMBO:  I was born in Florence, and am an Italian public servant who graduated from Law School working in the public real estate branch. I also like playing boardgames/RPGs games or Wargames, attending Medieval Reenacting shows, building scale models - mainly Sci-Fi or Fantasy - and I really read a lot, both for reasons connected to my job, and also during my free time, in this case especially books, manga and comics.

MTI:  What inspired you to start writing fiction?

SP:  I’ve always been a fan of Sci-Fi/Fantasy/Horror movies and TV series, or Japanese Anime in general, and the first titles that come to my mind are Star Trek, Gundam, etc. But it was when I started reading works by some great authors, like Van Vogt and Heinlein, that I understood that the Fantastic genre might be rendered at its best not only on TV shows but also on paper in literary terms, and that it was not just battles or space fighting, but it might become much deeper in a way.
MTI:  If you had to name one writer who most influenced your writing, who would it be?

SP:  For the authors of the past, I would certainly say: Van Vogt, Heinlein, E.Howard, and that one named Tolkien of course…eh,eh. For the present –or more modern ones: Dan Simmons, Robert Silverberg, E- Feist, Ian M. Banks, Harlan Ellison, Frederick Pohl, P.J. McAuley, Walter Jon Williams, Scott Rohan, Stephen King.
MTI:  Your story, The Forbidden Fuel, appears in Altered Europa, an anthology devoted to alternate history and altered reality.  Tell us a little bit more about this contribution, particularly, how does it deviate from known history?

SP:  As a matter of fact, some huge meta-planes soaring through the skies of the British Empire didn’t ever make their ever-present appearance in 1800s, and this is probably the main feature of the alternate reality depicted in the short-story itself. Though, I didn’t want to make those flying vehicles become the center of it all, as it happens nowadays in too many Steampunk tales, as I liked most to have a look at the world and the town the characters live in, and what they are trying to investigate there. Other than that, the town of Bristol followed a very different course of history from that you can read in the story.

MTI:  If you could go back to any point in time and change any historical event to create an "altered" world, what would you choose to change?

SP:  The betrayal leading to the Battle of the Teutoburg Forest should never be allowed to really take place…eh, eh.
MTI:  For further pondering, if a wormhole leading to an alternate reality suddenly appeared in front of you, would you dare to take the plunge and discover what awaits on the other side?

SP:  Oh, yes, indeed!!! Problem is that, according to our most recent knowledge of the presence of possible wormholes, people are supposed they could get to the middle of one of those from one end, one day, in some fictional way, but they could never get out of it, or reach the other end. Though, you know, our modern science can only explain about 30% of what matter really is, while 70% is still unknown (think of dark matter, dark energy and so on …), so, this conclusion is too highly overrated, and if there are some aliens out there looking at us, they are probably making fun of our science, the same as we would do about the poor science of the old Stone Age…

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

SP:  I usually write some entries for Aphelion Webzine Flash Challenge, every month, and about 1 to 2 short-stories every week, though I change from one genre to another, always in the Sci-Fi/Fantasy/Horror genre, that lately includes also Paranormal Erotica/Steampunk/Historical Fantasy, Weird Western and Urban Fantasy. And I complete a few some short-stories also in Italian during the year, thought I prefer to write in English, truth be told, thanks to my mother that wanted me to learn English since I was very young at school. I must also thank American authoress Michele DUTCHER that, very kindly, has always edited my first drafts and Americanized them.
MTI:  Other than your work appearing in Altered Europa, do you have any other stories being published in the near future?

SP:  There will be at least 8 U.S. and 6 British Anthologies that are going to have some short-stories of mine published in 2017, as far as I know, though the exact time of completion of such books, and the release date might change, as it frequently happens in the literary field. Then, I’ll be co-editing a British Anthology titled “Steam-powered Dream Engines”, with many authors from abroad, to be done in the next months.

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

SP:  Of course. Game of Thrones, Gotham and The Expanse are the first three that come to my mind. The latest, actually, reminds me, in a way, of another great Sci-Fi TV series of the past, the wondrous Babylon 5!

MTI:  How about music?

SP:  I like most of the music genres available, though I prefer British New Wave, Rock music, Classical music and Anime or movies’ soundtracks that I always listen to while freely writing.

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

SP:  Well, they are too many to be listed…In case of a shorter enumeration, I would say Lord of the Rings and the Hobbit (the whole series), Inception, StarShipTroopers, Babylon 5 (the whole series), Predestination, Twelve Monkeys, Aliens, Edge Of Tomorrow, Oblivion, Kill Bill I and II, Ghost in the Shell, Gundam 0079, Gundam Seed and Gundam Seed Destiny (the whole series), Ringu, Blade II and Once Upon a Time in the West that I always watch at least once per year when I want to set my eyes on something really exceptional…

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

SP:  Maybe this would be good enough:

“The wind seemed to become colder, and the darkness grew as those men moved onwards to an area even darker, and the street was in worse condition than where they were before. The sound of their feet over the rough pavement turned to an unending beating that appeared to be the only thing capable of reviving such a silent location, as the detective kept tailing the two at a distance. They definitely weren’t policemen investigating that man, Tyshawn was sure about it.”

MTI:  A nice, short excerpt.  Thank you for a great interview.  Those who wish to check out more of Sergio Palumbo’s work can get a copy of Altered Europa!


Friday, March 24, 2017

Kirton and Nelson Family Photos, 1920's



It has been too long since I last posted about my genealogical research.  It has been sporadic over the last couple of years, as I’ve had other priorities get in the way.  I do still try to find time to uncover new bits and pieces.

A few weeks ago, I was picking through some things and found a few photos my mother received from my grandmother years ago.  I had not seen these before, as my mother often kept these things to herself, since I did not express a keen interest in them when I was younger.  I’m ever grateful that she left these photos for me, as I can now apreciate them.

First off, is a photo of my grandfather, John Julius Kirton.  This photo was taken when he was about 4, which dates it to around 1922.



Second in this batch is a photo of John Kirton and his sister, Mary Alice Kirton, taken in 1927 according to the attribution on the back of the picture.  John is holding baby alligators, it appears.



The third photo was taken at the beach (where is not stated), about 1926. 



This photo has a whole bunch of family in it.  The 3 adults in back are listed as Aula Nelson, Adelaide Nelson, and Elizabeth Urech.  The 3 taller kids in the middle are Ned Nelson, Jr. (Who was killed fighting the Nazis in WWII), Ruth Nelson, and John Kirton.  The two smaller kids in front are Mary Alice Kirton and Richard Nelson.  It looks like Ned is carrying a surf board?

Here’s the family run down:   Ned, Ruth, and Richard are the three older children of Ned Nelson, Sr. (their youngest sister, Aula Joanne Nelson, wasn’t born until 1929).  Aula Steele (Alexander) Nelson is their mother.  Elizabeth Urech is the sister of Ada Belle (Urech) Nelson, Ada being the kids’ grandmother.  John and Mary Kirton were the children of Mary Alice (Nelson) Kirton.

And here’s a small diagram I drew for this very post:



It’s always fascinating to run across old photos like these.  They have survived much, and give us a glimpse into the past.  I hope to share more in the coming years.  If any of you wish to contact me, I can be reached at mtiediting (at) inbox.com.


Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Altered Europa Interview: Mark Mellon



Hello, and welcome to our latest series of author interviews.  The long anticipated anthology "Altered Europa" will be coming out on April 2, 2017 (ORDER HERE), and in preparation for this grand release we'll be running interviews of various contributors.

Today I'm interviewing Mark Mellon, who contributed A Rare Chance at the Enemy.

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

MARK MELLON:  My life has been checkered with previous experience as a mover, skip tracer, soldier, door to door salesman, translator, and teacher. I describe myself currently as a novelist who supports his family by working as an attorney. I live in Falls Church with my wife, son, and two disgraceful dachshunds.

MTI:  Now, the next question I generally ask new contributors is this; what first compelled you to weave fiction, and what's your favorite type of story to write?

MM:  I started writing at the age of seven although none of my juvenilia survives. As to why I write, like Faulkner said, “some people want to write; others need to write.” I fall in the latter camp. All writing is pretty much miserable to me, but I seem to have more luck with crime fiction than anything else.

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

MM:  Anthony Burgess. His autobiography, Little Wilson and Big God, made me decide to try to be a novelist.

MTI:  Your story, A Rare Chance at the Enemy, appears in Altered Europa, an anthology devoted to alternate history and altered reality.  Tell us a little bit more about this contribution, particularly, how does it deviate from known history?

MM:  The story is an excerpt from a novel, Napoleon Concerto, in which a money-mad Robert Fulton decides to stay on in Paris and builds a steam powered fleet that enables Napoleon to invade and defeat Great Britain.

MTI:  If you could go back to any point in time and change any historical event to create an "altered" world, what would you choose to change?

MM:  I’d have Napoleon win at Waterloo, of course.

MTI: For further pondering, if a wormhole leading to an alternate reality suddenly appeared in front of you, would you dare to take the plunge and discover what awaits on the other side?

MM:  Since my body would probably be ripped into subatomic particles if I did so, no, I wouldn’t.

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

MM:  I’m currently trying to write a “cozy” mystery, something I’ve never done before. I like to break the mold.

MTI:  Other than your work appearing in Altered Europa, do you have any other stories being published in the near future?

MM:  The Great Man’s Iron Horse, a steampunk short story, will appear in Third Flatiron’s Principia Ponderosa in March. Annals Of The Allred Clan, a dystopian short story, will also appear this spring as a reprint in an anthology entitled Mother’s Revenge from Scary Dairy Press.

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

MM:  You bet. Every Thursdays on the El Rey Channel, it’s Flying Five Finger One Armed Eight Pole Shaolin Exploding Death Touch. Five kung fu flicks in a row, some of them masterpieces.

MTI:  How about music?

MM:  Pissed Jeans is playing at the Black Cat on the 23rd.

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

MM:
1.      The Wild Bunch
2.      The Adventures Of Baron Munchausen
3.      The Searchers

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

MM:  This is an excerpt from a horror story, Last Of The Aztec Riders, which appeared in Deadman’s Tome in October 2016:

"Buy me a beer and I'll tell you a good story."
            Jack Pilgrim regarded the one-eyed, one-armed, huge man on the barstool beside his. The half of his face minus an eye was scarred almost beyond recognition as human, deformed lip pulled down in a perpetual half scowl. After twelve hours on his hog high on meth, Pilgrim only wanted to focus on the booze before him, drunk to delay and lessen the inevitable bummer.
            "Look at the patch on my cut."
            He turned his back to Pilgrim. On the faded black leather vest, a skull with a feathered headdress screamed. The top rocker read "Aztec Riders;" the bottom said "Tiny."
            "I'm the only one can wear this patch. Nobody left but me. And I can tell you all about it, the whole freaked out story. But you gotta buy me that beer first, man. What do you say?"
            Intrigued and sympathetic to a biker so fucked up he'd never ride again, Pilgrim nodded to the bartender who poured a draught Bud and set it before Tiny. He knocked it back, set the glass down, and wiped the foam from his scraggly beard with his hand.
            "Like I said, I'm the only Aztec Rider left. You should've seen us back in the day, bombing a hundred strong in a tight vee formation at eighty per, total road Nazis, blowing through every traffic light. And no one, not no citizen, not no pig, dared fuck with us. We had Bullhead City under our thumb and most of Nevada and Arizona too, at least as far as pussy and meth went. And it was all because of our Prez, Pothunter. See, we called him Pothunter coz he was always poking around in caves on Federal parks and reserves, looking for old Indian shit, know what I mean? Even if it is a Federal beef. Like we cared about stuff like that. And then he showed up at the clubhouse with this idol, a real idol, you know-"

MTI:  A fascinating excerpt.  Thank you for a great interview.  Those who wish to read more of Mark’s writing can pick up Altered Europa!

http://www.martinus.us/books.html#ae

Monday, March 20, 2017

Altered Europa Interview: Tom Anderson



Hello, and welcome to our latest series of author interviews.  The long anticipated anthology "Altered Europa" will be coming April 2, 2017 (ORDER YOUR COPYHERE), and in preparation for this grand release we'll be running interviews of various contributors.

Today I'm interviewing Tom Anderson, who contributed the solo story A.E.I.O.U, and also co-wrote N'oublions Jamais with Bruno Lombardi. 

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

TOM ANDERSON:  I’m a chemist by trade, having studied at the University of Cambridge, and I now lecture in Chemistry at the University of Sheffield not far from where I was born in Doncaster. I’ve always been an avid reader and I also play the electric organ. I enjoy travel, particularly to North America.

MTI:  Now, the next question I generally ask new contributors is this; what first compelled you to weave fiction, and what's your favorite type of story to write?

TA:  I started probably the way many people do, enjoying stories written by others, acting them out in my head and then taking them to new places. As a scientist it’s perhaps unsurprisingly that I like science fiction and fantasy, and similarly my interest in history led me to alternate history.

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

TA:  J. R. R. Tolkien will always be the gold standard to me, particularly when it comes to worldbuilding (an idea he essentially coined although he called it ‘sub-creation’).

MTI:  Your story, A.E.I.O.U., appears in Altered Europa, an anthology devoted to alternate history and altered reality.  Tell us a little bit more about this contribution, particularly, how does it deviate from known history?

TA:  Real history often seems like it took the most unlikely outcome, and the Seven Years’ War of the eighteenth century is no exception—Frederick the Great of Prussia managed to defy the odds and fight off both Austria and Russia at once, even when at one point he so despaired that he almost virtually committed suicide on the battlefield, and was ultimately saved when the Empress of Russia conveniently died at the right minute. A. E. I. O. U. explores what might have happened if the duller (but rather more plausible!) outcome had taken place with the defeat of Frederick and Prussia and the continued success of the Hapsburgs of Austria.


MTI:  Tell us a little bit about your other contribution, N'oublions Jamais.  What's the premise behind it?

TA:  Without giving away too much of the plot twists, N’oublions Jamais was inspired by the fact that the European alliance system in the years leading up to World War I switched around so much that a very recognisably similar war could have taken place with a rather different lineup of allies…

MTI:  How much fun is it writing a story with Bruno Lombardi?  How did your collaboration come about?

TA:  I’ve known Bruno for some years and we’ve collaborated on other projects before. It’s not surprising he became a writer when his everyday life is more far-fetched than any fiction could ever be. I once met him on a railway in the Canadian Rockies four thousand miles from where I live and two thousand from where he lives, for no reason. Crazy (but awesome) guy.

MTI:  If you could go back to any point in time and change any historical event to create an "altered" world, what would you choose to change?

TA:  Selfishly I wouldn’t because the butterfly effect would probably get rid of everyone I’ve ever known and most of the media I enjoy (we joke that a friend who writes pop-culture alternate history gets more flak from readers for averting the creation of TV shows people like than other AH writers do for nuking China or something). As a purely intellectual exercise, I always think a world without the American Revolution would be perhaps the most fascinating possibility.

MTI: On that note, "The Two Georges" by Turtledove and Dreyfuss comes to mind.  I also have a rough story about an American Indian who goes back in time and kills George Washington which alters the outcome of the Revolution, though that is nowhere near ready for publication.  Further still is Owen Morgan’s story “The Loyalist Washington” from Altered Europa.  The American Revolution certainly is a popular point of divergence for alternate history!

For further pondering, if a wormhole leading to an alternate reality suddenly appeared in front of you, would you dare to take the plunge and discover what awaits on the other side?

TA:  Probably not for the reason given above, though I’d certainly like to send a probe through like in Stargate.

MTI:  Yes, a MALP would make exploring so much safer.  Shifting back to your writing, can you tell us a little about what you're working on right now?

TA:  My current project is called ‘The Twilight’s Last Gleaming’ and, without giving too much away, it can be summarised as ‘Deep Impact if it had happened in Victorian times’. What does the response to a global disaster look like in the 1880s?

MTI:  Other than your work appearing in Altered Europa, do you have any other stories being published in the near future?

TA:  A number of my stories have been published and are upcoming published by Sea Lion Press, which was co-founded by two good friends of mine and fellow writers. My largest project, Look to the West, currently has two volumes published there (out of five and growing…) which describes the very different world arising from the Prince of Wales being exiled to America in 1727.

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

TA:  At the moment I’m mostly into the growing stable of DC Comics TV adaptations, it’s interesting to see how they develop themes and crossovers, and of course especially the use of a multiverse with multiple parallel dimensions.

MTI:  How about music?

TA:  I have eclectic tastes that mostly stop in the 1980s. One good thing about the ‘Youtube generation’ is that it’s no longer considered so odd for people to be fans of music that was released before they were born.

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

TA:  A Night at the Opera, Guardians of the Galaxy and Star Trek: First Contact. I tend to think humour is better for repeat viewings than action alone.

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, but only if you want to share it.)

TA:  Here follows below a short excerpt from The Twilight’s Last Gleaming.

North of Medora, Dakota Territory, United States of America
April 19th 1886

Three cowboys trotted their horses southbound, wrapped up against the chill spring weather of northern Dakota. Well, two cowboys—their names were Bill Sewall and Wilmot Dow—and another guy. This fellow could quite accurately be described as ‘a bespectacled asthmatic from Manhattan who enjoyed collecting butterflies and had a copy of Anna Karenina, in French, in his pocket’. In the same way that Manhattan could quite accurately be described as ‘a small island that last changed hands for twenty-four dollars’.

The gentleman in question was chuckling to himself. “It’ll be a tale for years to come, no doubt about it. Around campfires of the west, or the hearth in a townhouse, even the State Capitol in Albany—I’ll never tire of this one.” His moustache wagged. “And don’t think I’ll ever leave out your part, gentleman! I can’t if I wanted to!” He laughed and patted a pocket. “Photographic evidence!”

Bill and Wilmot exchanged looks. At times like this, it was best to let the boss run on. He wouldn’t really hear anything they said in response anyhow. Not that they didn’t respect him. It was hard not to respect a man who responded to being called ‘four-eyes’ in a Western bar by beating the hell out of some dude twice his size.

“Think they’ll steal our boat, will they—Finnigan and his cronies?” the boss said, as though planning out a chapter in his memoirs. “Well by hook or by crook you boys damn’ well build a new one inside of three days and we’re after the bandits! They didn’t expect that!” He chortled. “Up the frozen river! Through the Badlands, past those Gros-ventre teepees! Steal on them when they least expect!” He mimed holding a rifle. “You took our boat, we’ll take your LIVES! Or at least your freedom,” he said, realised he was getting carried away. “Hands up! Boots off! You won’t get far in cactus country without ’em, my good sir! And off to Bismarck jail with you!”

“It was a good piece of work,” Bill ventured. It had also been several weeks ago, he didn’t add.

“So it was – SO it was,” the boss smiled. “Why, it almost makes me want to—”

He was interrupted by his horse rearing and neighing. Though he had come to horsemanship long after most of the men of the west, he managed to get it under control, as did Bill and Wilmot. “Steady! Steady there! What are you—”

Then they felt it too. It was the same sense of vague but definite dread by which animals seemed to predict thunderstorms and earthquakes, but so strong this time that even humans could dimly grasp it.

Something had happened.

It was not for quite a while till they had any sense of what it was. But then the sound of a loud explosion echoed distantly across the flat landscape of the Plains, lacking much in the way of mountains or other raised features to reflect and confuse it. It was not a bang or a boom: it went on too long and was too complex to be dismissed with those examples of onomatopoeia. The boss, because he was the boss, discussed this excitedly with Bill and Wilmot and eventually concluded it had been more of a “BRAKAKAKAKOOOOOOOOOOOOM”. The spelling with twelve Os won a tiebreaker coin toss against thirteen Os.

“But dammit, men, we have to find out what it was!” the boss said finally. He pointed vaguely to the west. “It was definitely in that direction, I’d swear by it, when a man hears an explosion he should run towards it...”

Bill coughed. “Yes, but we’re low on supplies. And we have our wives and families at Elkhorn, remember.”

The moustache slumped. “Yes of course you’re right,” he theatrically slapped the back of his head, “what am I to forget your loved ones? A plain pig! Come on then—back to the ranch, we’ll see everyone is plumb fine, and then, and then...” He rubbed his hands together, “let’s see about assembling a little expedition.”

Bill and Wilmot exchanged glances again. “OK, boss.”

Theodore Roosevelt grinned. “Bully.”


MTI:  I am suitably intrigued by this sample!  Thank you for an excellent interview.  Those who wish to read more of Tom Anderson’s excellent writing can check out Altered Europa!