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Interviewing the AH Community: D.G Valdron

Questions from Gary Oswald

Counter factual and Alternate History discussion and fiction is a large and healthy online community. Sea Lion Press has always had the aim of providing a platform for Alternate History Fiction, discussion and essays but it can't fill every niche and there are other platforms doing slightly different things. As a result there are a lot of people involved in other forms of Fiction and historical discussion with a counter factual focus. So I regularly interview various members of this online community about their non Sea Lion Press projects to shine a bit of a light on what else is out there.

This week it is D.G. Valdron, who can be found at his Website.

Hello and thanks so much for talking to us.

Gary, thanks for having me.

First of all, how did you get into Alternate History and what appeals you about writing in that genre?

I was in Junior High, we had a history teacher, a Misses Emery, and she was telling us about the early exploration of North America, which, of course, included the Vikings and how they petered out. I put my hand up and asked, “But what if the Vikings had survived?” Or something like that.

She said “Then we’d all have blonde hair and blue eyes,” and went on with the lesson.

I remember feeling so unsatisfied with that. It seemed that right there, right in that moment, there was a world of possibilities that had opened up and died, and I was fascinated by the idea of where these possibilities might have gone. I think that’s my first brush with alternate history, though I had no idea what it was at the time.

Truthfully, it took me a long time to appreciate what alternate history even was. I was just a big science fiction reader from a young age. I grew up in an industrial town in the forest, I saw a magazine with a Rocketship on the cover, and I just wanted to go there. In a sense, some of what I was reading amounted to alternate history through the back door - works of science fiction decades or a century out of date, which literally became alternate history, because their present had long since passed and now their futures were a different history than we knew.

From there, I think my awareness of it just slowly grew, as alternate history slowly came into its own as a full fledged speculative fiction genre, and as its sibling, counterfactuals became a semi-reputable academic tool. I love the ‘maybe.’ The ‘uncertainty.’ The sense of doubt, the sense of untapped potentials, the roads not taken, the exotic weirdly familiar landscapes. I’m very much into trying to figure out how things work, and putting things together. It’s why I like Speculative Fiction generally. Alternate History has massive potential for this kind of exploration.

A lot of your works, both within and without AH, are about coming up with plausible explanations for monsters and folklore. So Mu, Atlantis, Mermaids or even Care Bears but with more focus on sketching out the evolutionary, geological and geopolitical origins of such things. Do you think that background and plausibility makes the story more effective than if it wasn't there?

My father was a mechanic, my grandfather was a carpenter, and I learned their trades from both of them. There’s a fascination to taking things apart and putting them together so that they work... or don’t work... or don’t work the way you intended in interesting or startling ways (“Hey, what happened to your eyebrows?” “That’s an interesting story...”). I was always interested in history, in that idea of continuity, that everything has a past, everything comes from somewhere, and that those paths can be quite interesting and arbitrary. I love that stuff. That leads into alternate history.

Do background and plausibility make a story more effective? Interesting question. Generally, yes. But I think it’s often a choice as to what to do or how much to do. And it’s a choice dictated by what your goals are as a writer.

If you want to play the academic parlour game of trying to figure out how something works, or make something plausible, that’s a worthwhile game in and of itself, and you don’t need to apologise for it.

I’m a fiend for that. A while back, I found a topographic map of Mars, and realized that I could use it to match the real Martian geography with that of Edgar Rice Burroughs and other pulp authors. I had great fun writing these things years before I found anyone else on Earth who would be even a little bit interested. I like writing these things, just for their sake. And I’m a sucker for anyone who does a well written, well thought out one.

If you’re trying to write a formal story - something with a beginning, middle and end, and a sense of narrative and characters, then this becomes a very important question.

You always have to do it, there’s no getting around it. As a writer, you need to have that background and plausibility done to write convincingly or authentically. If the world and the creatures aren’t well realized in your head, they won’t be in the story. I think every writer knows a lot more about their world and creatures than they ever show a reader.

The real question is: How much do you do, or not do?

Background and plausibility is essential to almost any story you want to tell. Too little and the story will fail, the suspension of disbelief snaps for the audience.

Take Night of the Living Dead, yes it’s media res - zombies are trying to eat you, stop asking questions and deal with it. But at the same time, we’re told or shown what the zombies are and what they do, and once that’s established, it doesn’t change. We have some explanation of how the characters all end up in that house. We don’t ever find out why the dead have risen, or why they want to eat flesh. But there’s still background and plausibility.

The trick is all about where you meet the reader, and how you meet them. Every piece of writing is an invitation, you as a writer are going to the reader, “psst, take a ride with me.” You have to get them going along with you. Too little? Too much? Do it the wrong way? Pick the wrong details? Suspension of disbelief breaks down.

You also want to use it to make your world feel real and vivid. You don’t want beige. Even if your work is set right now, right here, present day, you want to make it vivid. A well realized world, or a well realized creature is just more interesting.

A generic monster, that’s just showing up to be a monster, that can get boring. But a monster with a point of view, a history, a sense of identity, that’s gets people paying attention. A monster that gives you the sense that it existed and was doing stuff on its own before it enters the story, stage left, is simply a more interesting monster. You want to make your monsters feel real to the audience, and you do that sometimes with background and plausibility.

So the trick is just how much detail you want to put in, and how do you sneak it in. Do you stop the narrative and drop in pages of exposition? That’s hard to get away with. How do you work it in, giving the reader or the audience the key information. That’s the art.

Different stories you can get away with different things. Horror, as I’ve said, is often media res, you can just throw the monster at people and let them react. Or action, you just let events cascade. But even there, you’ve got a range, Lovecraft wrote horror almost as detective fiction, with his characters slowly putting clues together. Action stories can dispense with a lot of background and plausibility, Mike Hammer doesn’t need anything but a gun, a girl and his two fists. But on the other hand, techno thrillers are an entire genre of action.

It’s possible to overdo it. I think that’s a neophyte writers mistake. But thinking out loud, both Jean Auel (Clan of the Cave Bear) and John Norman (Gor) had very successful series of novels packed with insane levels of tedious detail.

Ironic, now that I think about it. All the really bad examples of things you shouldn’t do that I want to use, actually come from very successful books or movies, which undercuts the message. But then again, if I reference genuinely unsuccessful works, no one will get the reference and that undercuts the message. Kind of a paradox. Oh well, where was I?

It comes down to choice, I suppose. And what you can get away with. Remember, your only duty as a writer, the only rule that you have to follow, is to make the story interesting. Over and over again as a writer, I keep asking myself, in every scene, every conversation, every character: How do I make this interesting? You can just do it, or you can do it in an interesting way. Always try for the interesting way.

How much research do you end up doing before you write a story?

It all depends. Probably never enough. On Axis of Andes, I spent a couple of years reading up on Latin American history. Still, a real historian reading it would kick my ass.

In a sense, I’m always researching, the world is endlessly interesting in every direction, so you read up on biology, or plant domestication, forgotten corners of history, just everything. And if something tickles you, you just keep following and getting deeper until that turns into a story.

Honestly, most of the time, it doesn’t even feel like research. It just feels interesting, there’s an excitement to it, the thrill of discovery, uncovering the thing, and the next thing, pulling at this thread or that. You can get lost doing that. I have on many occasions.

But good research can inform the story. It provides ideas, sometimes it provides the story idea itself. Other times, it will help you shape how the story works, opening some pathways, closing others. And it always adds colour and vividness to the story.

On the other hand, don’t let it eat you. I had a friend doing a novel about the medieval Norse. In the course of research, she came across one fact that invalidated her central character and made the whole novel unworkable. Ruined the whole thing for her. Me, I would have just slipped that fact under a carpet and when no one was looking, bludgeoned it flat.

If you’re going to write about something, you have to know what you’re talking about. The reader can feel authenticity. They’ll know when you’re out of your depth. But here’s the secret, you only have to know a little bit more than your audience. Think foxes and rabbits. The fox doesn’t have to be super-fast, it only ever needs to be just a bit faster than the rabbit.

The trouble is sometimes, there’s nit pickers. How important a part of the audience are they for you? Depends.

And for god’s sakes, don’t go overboard. Michael Crichton was a crazy research and detail guy. Not only that, he’d put it all in his novels. I can’t argue with his success, but for me, reading a Crichton novel always felt like having my appendix removed.

You're a prolific horror writer and your AH also often tends towards the macabre and the grim. Why do you think that tone appeals to you as a writer?

Unresolved personal issues? At a formative period in my life I was violently bullied and sexually assaulted, very unpleasant, and it left a few scars I think. I grew up, got over it and moved on, or so I thought.

But just a while back, I was looking over a lot of my fiction, particularly the earlier stuff from the first couple of decades and I was startled to see what was looking back at me. Sexual violence is a running theme, not particularly the sexual violence itself, but the emotions around it, the sense of vulnerability, of isolation, of insecurity, the consequences of it, the damage and the ways good and bad of learning to cope with it, even the choice to keep on living.

In a more global sense, it impressed upon me how deeply cruel and arbitrary the world can be. That’s a lesson you don’t forget once you’ve had your nose rubbed in it hard. I think a certain amount of my work is grim, or considered grim, but if you look at history and how people treat each other, what we do with the world, it’s par for the course.

Even nature is grim. Never look up anything about the biology or natural habits of the weasel family, unless you want to hear about surplus killing, spree killing, lining dens with the skins of kills, male on female mating violence, and forced mating of immature kits that don’t even have their adult fur. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre has nothing on these critters.

I’ve read recently about how trees communicate by chemical messaging through their root system, and that’s all hunky dory and touchy feely new agey. But on the other hand, if you’ve ever seen a pine tree, notice how grass doesn’t grow near it, because they literally poison the soil for gras. Or notice how most of their growing or reproductive strategies are basically designed to screw over other trees. It turns out that Trees are belligerent assholes!

There’s a certain truth to nature being red in tooth and claw, and cruelty, randomness and suffering being part of nature and part of humanity. I know it’s not the whole of the story. There’s interconnectedness and interdependence and genuine beauty and fertility in nature. And there’s decency in humanity, people instinctively try to help each other. It’s just that my experiences make me aware of the dark sides, and I’m compulsively fascinated and wary of that.

I’m much better these days, if that’s any comfort.

And by the way, I write comedy too!

You self publish through Fossil Cove Press. I think it's fair to say the current publishing scene has led to difficulties in getting noticed, given how many new books come on the market every day. Is there anything in terms of covers, content, marketing etc. that you know adds a certain amount of sales to a book?

To my shock and astonishment, Axis of Andes has actually sold fairly well. I think the lesson there is a smashing blunt title. I can’t explain it any other way.

That’s why I’ve retitled my upcoming collection ‘Drunken Slutty Elf.’ It’s a collection of funny fantasy and science fiction stories. I’m not always macabre. It contains a few stories that revolve around a Gray Space Alien who ends up in a Dungeons and Dragons world, meeting the titular character and not enjoying any of it. It’s probably not PC, a lot of probing goes on, but the juxtaposition makes for great comedy.

Still looking for a cover artist, if anyone has any recommendations.

Originally, I had a much more respectable title. But I’ve done respectable ‘artsy’ titles and those books didn’t sell, some of them not at all. So this experience has lead me to conclude that perhaps a title should be a blunt instrument to club the reader with and grab their attention.

That’s my best advice. Forget nuance, cleverness, subtlety and wit. Make your title blunt. Make it a big, crude, obvious hammer.

As to the rest, beats me. My LEXX books literally have no cover art whatsoever, they sell. I’ve commissioned expensive beautiful covers, Giant Monsters Sing Sad Songs, particularly, doesn’t sell at all.

I have a theory that people are monkeys, and that they like to look at other monkeys, so if you can stick a person on your cover that will get attention, a face will get more attention, and a prominent set of secondary sexual characteristics, male or female, might get the most attention. Fabio sells a lot of books, more with his shirt off. I think I should test that premise sometime.

Honestly, I’m probably the worst person to ask about marketing. I’m terrible at it. Regularly, I say to myself “I’m going to learn book marketing and promotion.” And then I focus on writing another novel or story instead. Avoiding marketing has actually been really good for me as a writer in terms of getting work done.

Confession time: Look, here’s the deal with Fossil Cove. I’m a chronic writer, I just do it. Sometimes I quit, but it never lasts. After a while, stuff just started to accumulate. Short stories that got published and were now off the market. I did a LEXX book project for Salter Street films where the publisher fell through and the book ended up on my hard drive. Bits of writing on this and that. Just interesting writing projects that I had fun with that didn’t really have a place in the world. I did internet writing for websites or blogs or boards that was all largely ephemeral, even when it was still up.

After twenty or so years, I had a hard drive full of stuff that was doing nothing but gathering dust. Stuff that I thought was pretty good, or pretty interesting. It bugged me that a lifetime of work might end up just sitting there on a hard drive that gets tossed into electronic recycling after I die as part of clearing off the worthless parts of my estate.

I wanted it out in the world. So what if there’s no market for a book about a TV series that’s been dead for twenty years, or an obscure corner of the Doctor Who universe, or for short stories that were already published, even if those magazines aren’t around any more? Didn’t really matter if no one was buying, but it’s out there, not sitting around in a hard drive. If I die tomorrow, they’ll still be out in the world, good for them.

That’s why I set up Fossil Cove, and why I didn’t worry about marketing. There’s stuff I’ve written that I’ll probably never let anyone see. Then there’s projects that I think have genuine commercial potential and I’m trying to shop around. Fossil Cove occupied that sweet spot for me, good enough that I wanted it out in the world, but for one reason or another, minimal commercial potential.

It’s also a learning experience. At some point, I may actually learn enough about self publishing and marketing, that I might take a real project through there. I’m kind of leaning in that direction. But before I self publish a commercial book like Princess of Asylum and try to give it a big push, I’d like to know what I’m doing first.

Obviously, you're a published writer now but you're also relatively well known for writing on amateur writing forums, through projects like Green Antarctica which I don't think you've ever published. How useful do you think spaces like that are in terms of getting feedback and honing your skills and how easy is it to shift from writing in that space to writing published books?

I probably won’t publish Green Antarctica, or Ultimate Thule (Land of Ice and Mice). I love them, it’s an attractive idea, but I don’t see it right now. You know the difference between those two and Bear Cavalry or Axis of Andes? Axis of Andes is a story. It’s got a beginning, middle and end, it’s got a narrative arc and characters. So is Bear Cavalry. They may not seem like it, but they are coherent stories, novels even.

Antarctica and Thule aren’t, they’re more ... progressions. They don’t really fit the story format. They contain stories so far, but the stories are nested in their frameworks, not really strong enough to stand. To publish Antarctica or Thule, I’d have to ... I don’t think I could. The best I could do is use them, write a novel(s) that was large enough to contain them within itself. Then they’d be... research I suppose, or background, for an actual story.

As to your question, I think they’re wonderful. Writing is communication. Almost everyone who writes is writing to be read. They may not have a reader, or an audience, but the hope is there. Forums like Alternate History are wonderfully affirming places, because you get readers. More than that, you get a community.

Will it make you a better writer? Of course. The secret is that the only way to become a better writer, is to write. Write lots. We learn and develop by doing. So a forum that allows you to practice, and provides ongoing interaction and commentary is going to help develop you as a writer.

Do amateur writing forums like Alternate History make it easier for you to transition to other, more professional forms. Yes and no. It’s an interactive community, and those have their own gravity. They become hard to leave, they’re warm, they’re welcoming, there’s a lot of flexibility, so there’s that. It can be hard to let go of an interactive community, and enter the chilly world of the mainstream audience.

And let’s face it, the rules are different, the requirements are different. It’s not automatically portable. But on the other hand, it’s all stuff that we’re familiar with as consumers. I don’t think that there’s a technical obstacle or any kind of barrier, it’s just a matter of making the commitment, learning the new rules, unlearning old habits and doing the work. To transition, you have to make the effort, and yes, it will be tough.

I think what we overlook sometimes is out there in the mainstreams, and that includes the commercial genres, normally written or published books, there is a huge amount of diversity, and a lot of range. And if you’re clever and go about it the right way, you can tease some of what you do in Alternate History forums or any amateur writing forum, into a form suitable for that mainstream.

One of the areas of exploration that are talked about a lot more on those amateur writing forums than in published AH are alternate domesticates, different animals and plants being farmed and so different societies evolving. I know you have an interest in that yourself, your excellent Bear Cavalry revolves around smaller changes to animal husbandry. In terms of published fiction, do you think there is an audience for a full on exploration of alternative farming techniques or do you think that would be too dry and niche?

Wow. Those are deep dives aren’t they? Sometimes I think the bulk of alternate history, certainly the bulk of the mainstream publishing side comes down to only two things: What if the Nazis won? And what if the Confederates won? That’s completely understandable. Those are the two big defining events in recent history.

Things like alternate domestications, that’s typically the deep dive stuff, going beyond the comfortable niches of known history, to look deep into everything from biology to geography to anthropology and building from the ground up.

It’s definitely dry and niche. Is it too dry and niche? No, it’s a challenge. How do you take something like that, and tell a story accessible to the mainstream? Definitely a challenge. But writing is all about taking up challenges. I’ve ended up writing a fair number of stories because someone said to me ‘that won’t work’ or ‘you can’t write about that.’

Thinking out loud, the challenge isn’t the fact that you’ve built an ‘alien’ civilization which has different origins and precepts than anything we’re familiar with. Science Fiction does that with actual aliens all the time. So there’s no reason you couldn’t do it in an alternate history context. The challenge is that depicting such a society isn’t so much a story as a progression. But there are ways to do it.

Ultimately, the only rule for a writer is to be interesting. The challenge is always to find a way to drag the reader along on your adventure. A tough subject can be an inspiration, not a obstacle.

The Axis of Andes duology is probably your most conventional AH story. They're set in a period of history that everyone knows about, WWII, have recognisable societies and personalities and of course feature tanks going boom and I understand they have been among your bigger sellers as a result. Do you feel pressure as a result to produce more conventional AH and less offbeat premises like Cthulhu worshippers as an ancient Egyptian colony? Or is it more important to you to write what you want than chase sales?

Always write what you want first.

Years ago, I had a friend who told me she was going to write a romance novel.

I said “But you hate romance, why would you write a romance novel?”

“I can sell a romance novel,” she replied.

She wrote her romance novel. It didn’t sell. All I could think about was all the time and effort she put into doing something she hated, and for what?

Most of us, most of the time, write because we want to communicate. We want to say something to someone. We want an audience. We want sales.

But you can’t guarantee sales. At least I can’t. Brandon Sanderson and Stephen King can. But most of us can’t.

Even publishers can’t guarantee sales. A few years back, they gave Jay Leno four million dollars for his autobiography, and it flopped. They gave Joan Collins, sister of Jacqueline Susann a million dollars to write a romance novel, and it flopped. And recently they gave Andrew Cuomo five million dollars to write a book about his leadership during Covid, and it sold 276 copies.

Publishers chase sales, that’s their entire business and they have to be reasonably good at it. But they can’t guarantee sales, and even decades in the business doesn’t keep them from wrongfooting it.

Maybe one per cent of writers are able to make a living at it. For the rest of us, its somewhere between a recreation and a compulsion. If that’s the case, should we sacrifice ourselves, sacrifice the thing that we love to chase sales? Should we do things we don’t love, in the off chance that someone out there might like it better than the things we do love?

Writing is about communicating. If all we say are things that we think people want to hear, what are we really doing? For them or for us?

So write what you love. Figure out how to find an audience later. And even if you can’t find that audience, don’t get those sales, at least you’ve done something you loved.

Honestly, when I think of my Cthulhu pieces, I feel glee. I was gleeful writing them, tracking down bits and pieces of ancient history, it almost felt like it was coming together on its own. I enjoyed the hell out of writing it. If the piece works, I think part of it is the reader feels my glee, feels the enthusiasm and the fun of it.

I’m not sure that I’m a good writer, but if I am, it’sbecause I feel something about what I’m writing, glee, or excitement, righteous anger, despair, and that gets invested in the writing. I think that may be the soul of good writing, that there’s genuine emotion in it, that sense that it mattered to the writer, and therefore to the reader.

Don’t get me wrong. I’d love sales. Every writer would. And to some extent, I’ll chase sales, somehow. If I write something I think has potential, yeah, I’d love to realize that potential. We all try and figure out how to get sales, or get noticed or whatever. So yes there’s that element of necessary compromise. But be true to yourself at the front end, compromise at the back end. If you compromise yourself at the front... what was the point of bothering at all?

I suppose it’s about where you are in life and career. I don’t feel any pressure to write more conventional stuff or anything like that. But then again, no one is waving a chequebook in front of me. George R. Martin probably feels a lot of pressure to finish Song of Ice and Fire, so far, he’s been resisting that pressure nicely.

Tell you what, come and ask me again if anyone ever waves a chequebook in front of me. And if my answer is different, feel free to bust me on it.

You've written a lot of short stories for various magazines. Do you find that easier or harder than writing a novel and how do you know how many words an idea can carry?

Definitely easier. I love short stories. They’re like doing push ups, as far as building your writing skills go. The thing with a short story is that you can do anything. Have no dialogue at all. Or entirely all dialogue. Play with fractured narratives. Have any kind of character do anything. All you have to do is take a starting point, an idea, a premise and then you spin it.

Two thousand words or five thousand words later, you’re done. Bingo! Do another, do something completely different. In a hundred thousand words, you’ve got thirty or forty short stories, where you’ve done all kinds of things in all kinds of ways. You don’t get that kind of training and experience from a novel of the same length.

A novel is a different challenge. You have to commit yourself in a novel. You commit to the same point of view for the narrative, you commit to the same characters, the same style of writing, for a protracted spell. It can be exhausting. It’s a lot more ambitious, you can go a lot deeper so there are more opportunities there. And there are more pitfalls. Novels often defeat less experienced writers, sometimes bludgeoning them into sheer exhaustion, sometimes trapping them in their own complexity.

Novels are definitely more commercial nowadays than short stories. I don’t know why that is, and I feel it’s counterintuitive. It strikes me that as the internet squashes all our attention spans, short stories should be making a huge comeback, just because they’re ...short! But paradoxically, the bookstores fiction sections are all novels and novel series. Short stories seem relegated to fringes.

It’s not just literature. I’ve noticed that the way we watch television has changed. We’re less and less bound up with stand alone episodic storytelling. Now it’s all binge watching and narrative arcs, to the point where having to watch a TV series one episode a week is becoming almost traumatic.

It’s almost as if, despite declining attention spans, when we do want to focus on something, we want to focus a lot.

What are you currently working on and what can we expect to see from you in the future?

Writing novels currently, and steadily emptying out the hard drive.

For Fossil Cove, I’ve finished my LEXX stuff. I have a few more collections of short stories to do - funny stories this time, rather than macabre. I think I mentioned Drunk Slutty Elf. A revised edition of my Who stuff, and turn that into a trilogy. I want to fix up my Who/Benedetti alternate history and upload that as a free fanfic novel to Wattpad and places like that. And then just poke around the hard drive, se what’s interesting and fun and what might be put together or refurbished into a book.

In terms of novels, I’ve got two main lines I’ve been working on.

The first are the Orc novels. Technically alternate history, believe it or not, masquerading as fantasy. My idea is that one of the prior ice ages turned out a little differently, and along with species depletion, human populations were isolated from each other in all these different ecological niches. So alongside mainstream humans, you have subspecies that inhabited boreal forest and got smaller and smaller becoming goblins. Out in the steppe, others got very big and became giants, occupying niches similar to bears. Trolls emerged as huge ambush predators akin to big cats. On the plains, humans evolved symbiotic relationships with migratory herds, learning to ride, and adapting to drinking blood and became Vampires, and so on.

They’re fantasy races, but they’re races with history, with cultures and modes of living shaped by their environments and bodies. Each faces the challenge of not just living through the day, but of preserving a society, figuring out how to have the next generation. There are a lot of different cultural pathways - both giants and goblins for different reasons form matrilineal societies. Vampires emerge as a syntheses of Australian aborigine and Masai, forming a materially poor but metaphysically rich culture.

Eventually, the ice retreats, and all these variations on human expand out of their niches, and start to encounter each other. In one place, they all come together to form an iron age city, where they have to each confront the question of what it is to be human, and whether these strange other races are really people.

The Mermaid’s Tale was the first novel in the series, it’s basically a murder mystery, where an Orc gets hired to find a murderer and discovers the world’s first serial killer. Then she finds that because the killer is well connected, no one wants to rock the boat, so she becomes a crusader, and goes through a kind of spiritual transformation from the monstrous to the humane. That was published, great reviews, but the publisher closed, so now its out of print and rights have reverted back.

The prequel is The Luck. It’s basically the Maltese Falcon. The Orc, earlier in her development gets hired by a desperate gnome, and before she knows it, she and the gnome are in big trouble, and they’re caught up in the hunt for a mysterious artifact called The Luck.

I’m currently working on The War, another prequel, where the Orc first comes to the city, and finds it amazing. And then she accidentally starts a civil war....

I’m also doing the Asylum series. The premise there is that it’s the far far far future. Earth’s atmosphere has withered and the continents are like the tops of Mount Everest, the oceans have dried up, and life is now only possible on the former ocean floors, now mostly desert, punctuated with fertile oases and widely separated city states. Literally thousands of civilizations have come and gone. Up in the sky there is a structure called the Web which seems to encircle the globe, and there are stories that if you climb up to the top of the world, traverse the sterile continents, you can still find a stairway to heaven. All this is basically a platform for Edgar Rice Burroughs style adventure.

It’s basically lighthearted action and adventure, a sword and (sort of) sorcery world of martial valour, where the protagonist is a good hearted former actress with no martial skills whatsoever, but with a gift for talking her way out of one situation, only to end up in an even worse predicament. Her motto: Never tell the truth to anyone about anything ever, it’s just better that way.

Two books, Princess of Asylum and Empress of Asylum. After I finish The War, I’ll probably do Goddess of Asylum.

Meanwhile, to take a break from the war, I’m also doing something tentatively called ‘Romance of the Undead’ it’s a novel and a screenplay about a Vampire who is plagued by his fans, very demanding fans who have read way too much Ann Rice and Stephanie Meyer, and who insist that the real thing lives up to those expectations.

And I'm collaborating with an artist, Robert Pasternak, who does groovy sci fi stuff, on a project called Echelon. Three other writers and myself are doing stories based on a series of themed paintings, all of us independent from each other. That should be fun. That's coming from At Bay Press. And I'm trying to move a script I wrote with a friend called Demon Hotel.

I have a friend who is a brilliant writer, and I’ve been trying to get his work assembled and published as a short story collection, through Fossil Cove. Again, it would just be a shame if it all only sits in his hard drive.

There’s a bunch of other things, I’ve got a Kaiju novel sitting in the hard drive, another Vampire novel, some other things on the ‘to do list.’ but those are the big ones. I’d love to get back to doing alternate histories, extending Antarctica and Thule, I have ideas for where I want them to go, and ideas for other projects.

Apart from that, it’s about trying to break into the field. While I’ve been stacking up novels, I’ve been approaching agents, submitting to publishers, applying for grants. It’s tricky, it’s hard to sustain because I’ve got a day job, so my efforts are erratic and half assed, but I’m trying.

And of course, there’s the challenge of learning marketing. Honestly, the business side is intimidating, and sometimes, instead of doing that, I avoid it and go ‘well, I’ll just write one more novel, and then I'll get serious about learning marketing.’



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