The Hardest Part: Michael Jasper on Finders, Inc.

I used to rely on (former) local author Michael Jasper to help manage magazine deliveries to Wake Forest’s Story Teller Bookstore. Now that he’s been living in Boone for a few years, I can only continue to rely on him for fantastic stories. The author of a fantastic collection (Gunning for the Buddha) and digital comic series (In Maps & Legends), novels of first contact sf (The Wannoshay Cycle) and contemporary fantasy (A Gathering of Doorways, which is excerpted in Bull Spec #1), a YA contemporary fantasy series (“Contagious Magic”), and the best supernatural historical baseball novel I’ve ever read (The All Nations Team), Jasper is back with a new novel, out yesterday, starting a new series set in Boone. Here he writes about the struggles of finding the right voice and perspective for that novel, Finders, Inc.


By Michael Jasper:

While the actual writing, editing, and revising of my novel Finders, Inc. took less than half a year, the book itself required over five years for me to figure out how to write it. That was definitely the hardest part.

The novel is a mystery set in the northwestern corner of North Carolina, and it features two misfits from the mountains: Hank Johnson, a 5’5″ black guy obsessed with fitness and his personal code of honor, and Bim Mayer, a 350-pound white guy with no fashion sense and the ability to connect psychically to other people. Together, they fight crime! Read the rest of this entry »

The Hardest Part: Jim C. Hines on The Prosekiller Chronicles: Rise of the Spider Goddess (An Annotated Novel)

“The Hardest Part” has traditionally been mostly a column for NC authors, with some Bull Spec “alumni” in the mix. Jim C. Hines is neither, but when I read about his plans to release this book I knew I had to ask him for a guest essay about it. I mean, c’mon. Don’t we all want to see our fantasy author heroes’ awful, derivative, early fantasy novels that they have had — until now — the sense to hide from the world? Lucky for us, rather than keep his own RPG character fiction novel closeted, Hines has shown the moxie to take his manuscript out of its safe hidey-hole in cold-forever storage, make himself read the thing, and annotate it for our entertainment and possibly even illumination.

Rise of the Spider Goddess

By Jim C. Hines:

The hardest part of The Prosekiller Chronicles: Rise of the Spider Goddess (An Annotated Novel), aside from figuring out how to fit the title on the cover, was actually reading the story.

This was a manuscript I wrote back in 1995, and is pretty much the very first story I ever finished. As such, it’s also very bad. I spent years writing and learning how to craft a story before finally getting to the point where I could write publishable stories and novels. The thing is, as you get good at something, you also learn to see just how bad those early efforts really were. Read the rest of this entry »

The Hardest Part: F. Hampton Carmine on Abby and the Magic Key

Back in September, Raleigh author F. Hampton Carmine launched his new young reader / young adult novel with a reading at Wake Forest’s Storyteller’s Bookstore. “Abby and the Magic Key is a young adult magical romp through time and space with thirteen year old Abigail Stewart and her royal ancestor, Princess Elizabeth of Scotland. To mend their broken lives, these princesses, one lost to fear and privilege, the other lost to fear and neglect, find each other across time and space by way of a magic key and learn to believe in themselves, and face their fears.” In this guest essay, Carmine — my fellow small-town Hoosier — writes about his point-of-view struggles, the pain of cutting out description, and “the dreaded query letter”.


By F. Hampton Carmine:

I think the hardest thing about writing Abby and the Magic Key was working through the point of view. I wanted to maintain my storytelling style while still presenting a story that would be appealing to upper middle grade and younger young adult readers. I am not fond of first person point of view and actively dislike present tense, both of which are often used in books for these age groups in response to the younger reader’s perceived mindset. I’m sure, however, that the young reader can read and enjoy stories told in a less in-your-face presentation. Read the rest of this entry »

The Hardest Part/Coming to Town: Jaym Gates on War Stories

It’s been a long time since we had a true “NC Speculative Fiction Night” and for the return of the reading series this Saturday, November 22 at Quail Ridge Books, you can blame Jaym Gates as instigator. As she has been as long as I’ve known her, she’s been a busy author and editor of late — most recently and notably a story in Kaiju Rising: Age of Monsters  and co-editing the anthology of which this essay speaks — not to mention her continuing work as the Communications Director for SFWA and several armloads of other projects which she juggles while on horseback, herding rescue dogs away from wildfires. In a pair of badass boots. And probably a corset. Jaym is a force of nature, our very own Kaiju of awesome, and I’m looking forward to settling down with War Stories over the winter months even more after reading her essay. I hope it inspires you to read or write or, as Jaym suggests half-way through, possibly even edit.

warstoriesfront_1024x1024 2012-08-03_14-32-55_832 (451x800) (JaymGates-HP's conflicted copy 2014-02-21)

 By Jaym Gates:

Andrew Liptak and I came up with the idea for War Stories at ReaderCon a couple of years ago, but we’d already been individually noodling on the idea for a while, so once the sparks were struck, the whole thing ran like a freight train. By the time we were done, we’d read over 900,000 words of slush (in other words, about 10 books of short stories), gone through many rounds of wrangling on which ones we were going to accept or reject, an equal number of editorial rounds, lost years off of our lives over the Kickstarter, and were near wrecks with worry over whether or not we’d done good.

See, there’s not really a ‘hardest’ part with a good anthology … there are lots of hardest parts. Read the rest of this entry »

The Hardest Part: Teresa Frohock on The Broken Road

North Carolina author Teresa Frohock’s debut fantasy novel Miserere was published by Night Shade Books back in 2011, and since she has been seen in a couple of anthologies: Manifesto: UF and Neverland’s Library Fantasy Anthology. Now she’s back with a more lengthy tale, this time a novella, The Broken Road, where “The world of Lehbet is under siege. The threads that divide Lehbet from the mirror world of Heled are fraying, opening the way for an invasion by an alien enemy that feeds on human flesh.” Here, Frohock writes about the difficulties in writing a mute protagonist.

By T. Frohock:

The hardest part of writing The Broken Road had to do with my protagonist, Travys, who is mute. In a film, Travys’ condition would be easily rectified, if not eloquently portrayed, through sign language and subtitles. Within a manuscript, Travys’ inability to communicate through dialogue presented several challenges for me. How would he “speak,” and more importantly, how would people unfamiliar with him be able to understand him?

While working on The Broken Road, I had the opportunity to read Robert Jackson Bennett’s novel The Troupe, which I highly recommend by the way. In The Troupe, Bennett portrays a character named Stanley, who does not speak. Bennett’s novel is set in the twenties, so Stanley carries a pad and pen in order to jot down short notes. These brief notes were always written in all caps to indicate Stanley’s words. The notes were succinct, yet Bennett managed to make the best use of a few words. Additionally, Stanley’s written notes were used sparingly. Read the rest of this entry »

The Hardest Part: Stacey Cochran on Eddie and Sunny

Raleigh author Stacey Cochran has written in several genres, from mystery to horror, science fiction to poetry. His latest project, Eddie & Sunny, is a crime novel / love story he’s elected to submit to the newly launched Kindle Scout program, a “crowdsourced slush reading” publishing project from Amazon which puts the choice of submitted books to reader votes; the winners receive a $1,500 advance and editing, design, and marketing support. This would be a big deal for Cochran’s writing career, so if what you read here sounds interesting, visit the Kindle Scout page for his book and click ‘recommend’. You can also read an excerpt from the book, ahd read about Cochran’s inspiration for writing it. Here’s the pitch: “Eddie and Sunny have never had much in life, save for each other’s love. For months they’ve lived out of a car with their young son. A tragedy on the road one night turns the couple into fugitives of the law, separates them, and eventually leads each to believe that the other has died and all hope is lost. A passionate, triumphant conclusion follows as the very essence of love, hope, and the American Dream unite in a novel of beautiful simplicity.”

By Stacey Cochran:

The hardest part of writing Eddie & Sunny was the ending. As the novel started to wind down I could see two logical outcomes for the story, but they were completely different. So I ended up writing both endings and talking a lot about them with my wife and my agent. Aside from that, the book was pretty easy to write. Read the rest of this entry »

The Hardest Part: James Maxey on Bad Wizard

Hillsborough author James Maxey is the author of superhero novels Nobody Gets the Girl and Burn Baby Burn, two epic fantasy series (Bitterwood and The Dragon Apocalypse), and a short fiction collection There Is No Wheel. Here he writes about his new novel Bad Wizard, the story of Dorothy Gale ten years after she returns from Oz. “Oz” has been fertile ground for authors to poke around in, from Gregory Maguire’s Wicked to John Kessel’s The Baum Plan for Financial Independence and Geoff Ryman’s Was, and Maxey’s zeppelin-flying take brings something a little different to all of them. Maxey will host a launch party for the novel tonight, Wednesday, November 5th at the Orange County Library, at 6:30 pm. To hear more about Maxey and his books, you can also check out a podcast of his interview on Monday on Carolina Book Beat.

UPDATE: Nov. 11, 2014: Bad Wizard is currently featured as a Countdown deal, on sale for $0.99 for the next 12 hours or so, slowly increasing in price until it’s back at its regular $5.99.


By James Maxey:

Bad Wizard is the story of Dorothy Gale ten years after she returns from Oz. She’s now a reporter for the Kansas Ear, investigating the United States Secretary of War, Oscar Zoroaster Diggs—the man she met in the Emerald City who called himself the Wizard. Diggs returned from Oz with his suit stuffed full of high quality emeralds and instantly became the richest man in Kansas. His fortune and charisma swiftly propelled him to political power, and now, as Teddy Roosevelt’s most trusted adviser, he’s overseeing the construction of a fleet of rigid airships to spread democracy around the world. Of course, Dorothy knows his real motive. But how can she explain to her editor that Diggs is secretly planning to invade an invisible island in the sky ruled by witches? Stopping Diggs is going to take the help of her silver slippers, old friends, and maybe a Winged Monkey as she chases Diggs across the weird and deadly landscape of Oz.

The easy part of writing Bad Wizard was the villain. Read the rest of this entry »


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