The Hardest Part: Darin Kennedy on The Mussorgsky Riddle

Charlotte “doctor by day, novelist by night” Darin Kennedy‘s debut novel, The Mussorgsky Riddle, is squarely right up my alley. “The Great Gate of Kiev” (part of Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition) is one of my favorite pieces of Russian symphony, and Kennedy turns the mythopoeity up to “11” combining music, paranormal mystery, and classical mythology in a heady, panpsychic mix. All set in Charlotte — and the infinite mindscapes therein. Here, Kennedy writes about the hard part of discovering the first person present tense voice of psychic Mira Tejedor, as she struggles to unravel the riddle of 13-year-old Anthony Faircloth’s catatonia. In person, in addition to appearances at MystiCon, ConCarolinas, and ConGregate on the regional convention circuit, Kennedy will take part in the Bookmarks Movable Feast – Winston-Salem, NC on Sunday, January 25 from 3 pm to 5 pm.

By Darin Kennedy:

Tom Petty said “The waiting is the hardest part,” and I have to agree with him. The writing process does seem to be fraught with lots of hurry up and wait. Read the rest of this entry »

The Hardest Part: Stephanie Ricker on The Battle of Castle Nebula

I met Cary author Stephanie Ricker through publishing her story “Inseparables’ War” in Bull Spec #7, and her reading of the story at a NC Speculative Fiction night event. I was very happy to see her have a story in the Rooglewood Press anthology Five Glass Slippers: A Collection of Cinderella Stories in June of 2014, and very excited when I learned that she would be continuing the universe of her story “A Cinder’s Tale” in a novella series The Cendrillon Cycle. In December, Ricker published the first of those novellas, The Battle of Castle Nebula, and as you might be able to guess from the cover art, this is a planet-spanning science fictional retelling. And here, Ricker tells us about the hardest part of, well, everything.

The Battle of Castle Nebula (The Cendrillon Cycle, #1)

By Stephanie Ricker:

When asked what the hardest part of writing The Battle of Castle Nebula was, I’m tempted to gaze back with haunted eyes and melodramatically whisper, “Everything.” Looking back on the process from a comfy couple months without looming deadlines, I’m forced to admit that’s not really true.

But, wow, did it feel that way. Read the rest of this entry »

The Hardest Part: Bridget Ladd on Ardent Ascension

I don’t have too much of an intro for you this time as I’ve only almost met Raleigh author Bridget Ladd. I can tell you that she came to my attention by way of Bull Spec art director (and fellow ECU grad) Gabriel Dunston, and that her 2013 dystopian Steampunk debut novel The Lotus Effect has received (and continues to pick up) acclaim and readers and reviews, including being named a Cygnus Award Winner. (It’s also available in a fantastic audiobook edition, narrated by Elizabeth Klett.) Last year, Ladd published a sequel, book two in her “Rise of the Ardent” series, entitled Ardent Ascension, and here she writes about “forging” ahead in her series. (For which, incidentally, she’s just unveiled the cover for Soul Arbor, the forthcoming third book.)

The Lotus Effect (Rise Of The Ardent, #1) Ardent Ascension (Rise Of The Ardent, #2)

By Bridget Ladd:

Last night, after what felt like hours of scouring through my extensive Netflix queue, I finally settled for a Nova documentary, Secrets of the Viking Sword, which showcased the legendary Viking sword ‘+VLFBERH+T’ which may have you thinking, what’s that got to do with this article? Well, many things! First off, now you know I’m a dweeb and secondly, I’m going to illustrate how forging a sword (an awesome sword) relates to writing a great second novel. Read the rest of this entry »

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 »


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