Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Guest profiles for April: Irene Radford and Bob Brown

This month we have a two-for-the-price-of-one interview, with a Q and A from practitioners of a writing method I've always envied, that is, collaboration.
Herewith, let me introduce Irene Radford, novelist, short story writer, and editor, and Bob Brown, novelist, short story writer, and children’s author.
And Collaborators.
Bob Brown lives, works, and writes with his two pugs, two cats, and several dozen chickens in Washington State. He is the author of numerous short stories and the recently released children's book, The Damsel, the Dragon, and the Knight. He is well known in the science fiction convention community as RadCon Bob, due in part to the nature of his work as a Health Physicist at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation, where he supports clean-up of nuclear waste left over from the Cold War. Bob is an avid gardener and a teller of chicken jokes.
You can follow Bob on Facebook: Bob Brown or

Irene Radford is a member of an endangered species, a native Oregonian who lives in Oregon, she and her husband make their home in Welches, Oregon, where deer, bears, coyotes, hawks, owls, and woodpeckers feed regularly on their back deck.
A museum-trained historian, Irene has spent many hours prowling pioneer cemeteries deepening her connections to the past. Raised in a military family, she grew up all over the U.S. and learned early on that books are friends that don’t get left behind with a move. Her interests and reading range from ancient history to spiritual meditations to space stations, and a whole lot in between.
In other lifetimes she writes urban fantasy as P. R. Frost and space opera as C. F. Bentley.
You can follow Irene Radford on Live Journal: rambling_phyl or on FaceBook: Phyllis Irene Radford, or at and

And here are the questions and their answers:

1) When did you know you wanted to be writers?

Irene claims she’s wanted to write stories ever since she figured out which end of a pencil made marks and which end removed them.
For Bob it was when he was around eight years old.  He discovered the joy of reading with Tom Sawyer, which lead to Edgar Rice Burroughs, coming to rest on Heinlein and Fredrick Brown. Also in this was a great love of the stories from the Old Testament. Fantastic stories of fantastic heroes.  He wrote his first story at eleven. He began to write seriously after high school and six years in the Navy.

2) What is your collaboration process? How does it differ from your solo writing?

With a collaboration, both authors have to work on the same path. Allowing a plot thread or character to wander off in a new direction, no matter how right it seems, has to be considered by both. The consequences of that meandering prose needs discussion. Therefore we both commit to a lot more prewriting and outline development before a single scene is written. The muse has to be more tightly reigned than on solo expeditions.
Equally important in the process is the collaboration process itself. The old saying, two heads are better than one, truly applies to the collaborative process, especially when the strengths and weaknesses that every author has are complimented by the partnership.  This means when you are stuck, you are not really stuck, you just have likely reached the point where help is needed. As a collaborator, you have to know when to pick it up.

3) How would you characterize your fiction? Are you writing to/for a particular audience or audiences?

Our collaborative fiction is best described as near future action adventure. Bob’s background as a health physicist for a nuclear reservation gives us a natural tilt toward adding hard science in interesting ways. We have bits of space opera, bits of thriller, and bits of romance. We aim to tell a good story that makes the most of both our talents and what fell out was an intrepid group of characters trying to prevent an exiled alien warlord from planting a nuclear bomb beneath old Jerusalem. We solve the problem in an interesting way keeping within the parameters of known science.

4) What writers have been major influences in your work and why?
Reading is a personal thing, early on we discovered the Venn diagram of our reading lists had overlap but distinct difference. While both are omnivorous readers, Bob spices his reading with history, politics and the occasional Robert B. Parker and Stephen King, and Phyl likes the cozy side of mysteries and paranormal romance. The overlap is a long list; both have read and loved Heinlein, Tolkien, McCaffrey, Zimmer-Bradley, Haldeman, the Niven Pournelle collaborations, Bujold, McIntyre, and it goes on and on and on. This varied reading style, combined with overlap in the area of recognized masters is a recipe for successful integration of writing.

5) What is your most current project?

The Lost Enforcer hit internet book stores and POD in February. Now we have to browbeat Enforcer Rebirth into submission while working around other individual deadlines, day jobs, and family obligations.

6) What was the inspiration for the project?

Bob started this as a short story that grew and grew and grew. At 300 pages, single spaced he knew he needed help. We’d already decided that our working styles were compatible and we wanted to work together on something. We had drafted a collaborative project that had, and still has great promise. But when Bob, who could sell sand in a desert, pitched the project to Toni Weisskopf, he described the experience as watching her glaze over. In desperation he pitched The Lost Enforcer, and heard those words everybody wants to hear from an editor, "I'd like to read that."  Ten minutes later he was asking me to come on board and turn it into a real book.  Several rewrites later, we sold the book.

7) What one book would you save from a burning library, and why?
For Irene, it is The Complete Works of Shakespeare. You can never have too much Shakespeare and every reading or dramatization reveals something new.
For Bob on the other hand found his love of modern fiction in Joe Haldeman's The Forever War, a book he admits to having read almost a dozen times.

8) If you could talk to any writer (living or dead) what one question would you ask, or what one thing would you say?
That is such a hard question, it defies an answer. Hemingway might be that writer, but I wouldn't make the conversation about writing, because Hemingway, like all great writers, was more than text. They were people, and what you can draw from real people is the fodder that feeds the creative mind. A chance to dinner with Mr. Hemingway would open our world to the fantastic vista of his life. Fiction is not about telling somebody else’s story, but the ability to show your world in a way that it becomes the reader’s world.

9) Favorite planet or fantasy world you'd like to live in?

Irene’s,  Dragon Nimbus of Coronnan. Dragons, magic, and a benign Pacific NW climate.
For Bob, the future history of Heinlein, The Past Through Tomorrow, showed me a world where I think, were I one of Methuselah's Children, I might find a bit of fun. It isn't too dark, I wouldn't have to have swords swung at my head, and all is possible.

10)  What advice do you have for new and aspiring writers?

Read everything, and write. You can only learn to write by writing.  Studying other writers helps but only goes so far. You have to apply butt to chair and hands to keyboard and finish the draft. Then rewrite, send it out to beta readers, work on something else while the book is out, then rewrite again. Lather, rinse, repeat.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

LIlian Cooper and Josephine Bedford: Writing a Cranky Lady of History, Two

This post is written as part of the Women's History Month Cranky Ladies of History blog tour. If  you would like to read more about cranky ladies from the past, you might like to support the FableCroft Publishing Pozible campaign, crowd-funding an anthology of short stories about Cranky Ladies of History from all over the world
In the previous Cranky Ladies post I talked about starting the story I'm submitting for this anthology. This time I'm going to move around another aspect of writing the story, one that's important to any narrative fiction: that is, figuring who the narrator will be.
Any story about Lilian Cooper automatically includes Josephine Bedford. They met as young women, somewhere around 1885 or 86, while Lilian was trying to figure a way into medical school, and as I mentioned, Josephine actually suggested a way to do it. When Lilian began her studies, Josephine decided it was time to enter the outside world too. She enrolled in a painting course in Slade School, and she and Lilian shared London lodgings. Thus began a friendship that, unlike many marriages, did last till death parted them, and then only when Lilian, her 50 year medical career over, retired at 80, and died 5 years later, in 1947.
The cover of the "official Lilian Cooper biography" has full face portraits of them both:

Lilian's picture draws on a later source than the one in my previous blog. She's kept the almost clerical collar, but the dress or coat is very plain, her hair is greyer as well as considerably wilder, and her face shows signs of age, though the jaw is still very evident.
The smaller portrait of Josephine epitomises the official biographer's description of her as "dark-haired, small, sedate, but full of the joy of life."  This face speaks to me of serenity, quiet rather than iron determination, and probably a strong if subtle sense of humour. It's the image around which I assembled my first vague notions, via a bath of data, into a hypothetical story arc. With that came the first problematic question: Who is this story's narrator?
Usually, narrators for my fiction find me, bringing the story with them. The trouble comes in building past the opening, "given" segment that the Black Gang, my creative crew, will suddenly land on me out of some Other Place. But with Lilian's story, I was left with a bunch of White Gang - the editorial component - questions about, Is it to be first person or third? Told from where? And whose pov should it be?
I considered third person, omniscient or otherwise. Then, Lilian herself as a narrator. Only the first scene's arrival showed the obvious choice: somebody who knew Lilian well, who lived with her on a day to day basis, someone who, though much less flamboyant, must have had amazing composure and equal determination, who could act as a foil to Lilian's masculinised persona, yet could reveal the complexities behind the brusque medical facade. Well, yes. Who but Josephine?
When the first words actually  hit the page, they were almost inevitable. Lilian, driving somewhere, in her perennial haste to an emergency, Jo with her, doubtless as always. And a fresh confrontation heralded over Lilian's speeding:
“Damn and blast it, Jo, it’s that bloody Higgins again!”
“Now, dear, do try to contain yourself. The man’s only doing his job -!”
Once actually heard, Jo's voice functioned effortlessly, almost as she must have in real life: the quiet but neither passive nor obliterated partner, the one who probably nursed Lilian through her fractured skull after her buggy-horse bolted - and then assumed the job of driving Lilian on her rounds. The one who learnt to change tyres when Lilian bought her car; the one who almost certainly managed their home life, yet shared every social occasion, from play openings to medical association meetings to overseas trips. The one who maintained her own life as a social activist, who unfalteringly supported groups like the SPCA in Brisbane, and the Creche and Kindergarten Association, as well as sharing Lilian's medical interests.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Guest Profile for March: Friend and Writer Deborah J. Ross

As guest for this month I would like to introduce my friend, the prolific writer and sapient editor Deborah J. Ross.

My first encounter with Deborah's work was many years ago, with her first SF novel, Jaydium, but there's a whole lot more. Her short fiction has appeared in F &SF; SF, Asimov's, Star Wars: Tales From Jabba's Palace, Realms of Fantasy, Sword & Sorceress, and various other anthologies and magazines.  Her most recent full-length fiction includes the Darkover novel, The Children of Kings (with Marion Zimmer Bradley, (Amazon, Barnes and Noble); Lambda Literary Award Finalist Collaborators, an occupation-and-resistance story with a gender-fluid alien race (as Deborah Wheeler,(Amazon, Barnes and Noble); and The Seven-Petaled Shield, an epic fantasy trilogy (Amazon, Barnes and Noble). She’s also the author of Azkhantian Tales and Ink Dance: Essays on the Writing Life, (Book View Café, Barnes and Noble).
Deborah's editorial credits include two volumes of Lace and Blade, The Feathered Edge: Tales of Magic, Love, and Daring (Amazon, Barnes and Noble,)  Beyond Grimm (with Phyllis Irene Radford) (Book View Café,  Amazon, Barnes and Noble), Mad Science Café (Book View Café, Amazon, Barnes and Noble), Across the Spectrum (with Pati Nagle,(Book View Café, Amazon), and the forthcoming Stars of Darkover (with Elisabeth Waters). She’s attended Launch Pad Astronomy Workshop, served as Secretary of SFWA, and is a member of the online writer’s cooperative publisher, Book View Café

Deborah's Blog: http://deborahjross.blogspot/com

The Questions:

1)When did you know you wanted to be a writer?

In fourth grade, I wrote and illustrated a little book about a horse who saved the world by stopping all the animals in Africa from fighting with one another. Ever since then, writing was what I loved to do, even if I feared I would never be any good at it. Happily, I am, but I've also had a lot of practice. When my first child was born and I hit career burnout, I joined an informal writers group and shortly thereafter made my first professional short story sale to Marion Zimmer Bradley for the first volume of Sword & Sorceress. That was thirty years ago and I’ve been writing up a storm every since.

2) What is your writing process? When do you write?
I wish I could say I followed a disciplined schedule because part of the time, that’s true. The other part of the time, I “settle” at different times during the day, and work in different places and for different lengths of time. The only consistent principles are that I work every day, even if it’s only contemplating the next scene while walking the dog or washing the dishes, and I don’t work well at night. As I’ve gotten older, I also don’t work well first thing in the morning, either. I need my tea and yoga stretches first. It isn’t fair, but there’s no benefit in pretending otherwise.

3) How would you characterize your fiction? Are you writing to/for a particular audience or audiences?
I'm interested in a lot of different things and write for readers who are, too. My first two novels, Jaydium (an adventure through alternate time paths, complete with six-foot silver slug-like aliens) and Northlight (set on a lower-tech world, with romantic, ecological and spiritual themes) were science fiction. Besides six Darkover novels, I’ve written epic fantasy featuring strong women heroes, science fiction dealing with gender and power, and some rather oddball young adult fiction that turns the usual paranormal tropes inside out.

My short fiction has provided me a place to be wildly inventive. I've written a Star Wars story (Tales From Jabba's Palace) and whimsical fantasy, vampires (funny ones in Sisters of the Night, or a friendship between a vampire and an observant Jew in "Transfusion" in Realms of Fantasy), I've done kids' stories (in several Bruce Coville anthologies), and almost-not-science-fiction pieces about grief and obsession and courage, grim near-future dystopic sf, and epic fantasy. Then there’s wacky stuff like "Harpies Discover Sex" for Olympus. A historical fantasy based on the life of Dona Gracia Nasi and another from the Indus Valley civilization. A story for Marion in Return to Avalon, based on the history of opera. My most recent short fiction has included “Among Friends” (F & SF) about Quakers, the Underground Railroad, and a slave-catching automaton, “A Borrowed Heart” (F & SF), which pits a prostitute against a succubus, and “The Hero of Abarxia” (When the Hero Comes Home 2) in which the hero, of course, is a horse.