Author Spotlight: Jason Fregeau

Jason Fregeau picture

Annie’s Book Stop of Worcester is happy to shine our Friday spotlight on Jason Fregeau, a “60 year old retired consumer law attorney who now dabbles in the written word.”  When we asked him about himself, this is what he had to say:

 The Third Kzin is my first and only published work, and I’m pleased that it has been favorably reviewed. I think litigators try their hands at fiction writing not only because we are exposed to great stories — and practice telling those stories to juries — but also because we write a lot. I estimate that, in my career, I have written over 100,000 pages of memoranda, briefs, and other story-telling documents. At this point, writing comes naturally. Now all I need is something to say….”

Thanks for being with us today, Jason. Our first question for you is: Where can people find your work? (Besides Annie’s Book Stop of Worcester –though they should totally check here first!)

All the usual places, including the publisher’s site, Baen.com. The book is available in paperback and as an eBook.

How can we follow your work and share your awesomeness?

While I am pleased at my first publication, I am chagrined that I do not have more to share. I have had two short plays produced — Another Dover at the Valley Repertory Company in Enfield, CT, and Barbie Dress-up at The Theatre Project in Maplewood, NJ.

What was the inspiration for The Third Kzin? What were the steps you took to bring it from initial inspiration to the finished book?

I was watching “The Third Man,” a movie adapted by the author Graham Greene, one of my favorites. I was struck by the similarities between a tired, post-war Vienna and a tired, post-war Munchen. To my memory, no writer in Mr. Niven’s universe had addressed the spirit of a people so long oppressed but now free.

At first I wrote from the perspective of the detective, naming the obese “Schriebman” in honor of my then obese self (please let me boast: in the last three years I’ve lost 65 pounds and weigh less than I weighed in college). He did not, however, work as a the main character, so I went back to source and wrote from the viewpoint of the naive visitor. By echoing the broad strokes of The Third Man — deceased friend, mourning lover, overwhelming circumstances — I had a framework on which to pin a creative divergence into the Man-Kzin world.

Fun facts: Martin Cheshire is named for Joseph Cheshire Cotton, who played Holly Martins. Lim Welson is, of course, a bastardization of Orson Wells’s name. Wells played Harry Lime.

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What piece of advice would you want to share with other writers?

In addition to the usual — read (especially in the genre of your interest) and write every single day — I would add the following, taken from my farewell email when I dropped out of an MFA program: 

Composition is important. You cannot build a house without learning the basics of measure and cut. If you build without the basics, then the house will look like shit before collapsing. Likewise in writing, if you don’t know the basics, your work will look like shit before collapsing. By “composition” I mean not only grammar, but also clean sentence structure, e.g. avoiding passive voice or cutting unnecessary words.

Explore books on writing. I suggest, On Writing by King, The Art of Fiction by Gardener, The Elements of Style by Strunk & White, and Style: Toward Clarity and Grace by Williams (There are about a dozen flavors of this book. The only one I’ve perused has this exact title and was published in paperback in 1995.) Elements is terse but lovely, and Style is verbose but educational. Read them both.

In regard to craft, there’s just so much! A wonderful book I stumbled onto (and was used by a mentor to teach me the ropes) is Literature: Craft and Voice, Volume 1 by Delbanco and Cheuse. Plot, character, setting, voice, point of view — these are the elements used to design what we build. Also, there’s pacing, rising action, built tension, serial climaxes, etc. These elements of craft verge upon content — perhaps they can best be seen as a bridge between composition and content. King and Gardner discuss craft, and I respectfully suggest you pay attention to what they have to say. Writers not only have to know how to cut and measure, they have to know how to draw blueprints.

Finally, content, which stymied me for decades. Even with decent composition, everything I wrote felt flaccid, pedestrian, and facile. Then I found From Where You Dream: The Process of Writing Fiction by Butler, which helped me understand what is meant by “character driven fiction.”

Emotion drives our stories. We must do more than place a character into a scene and say, “She did this, then this, then this.” We must show the character’s emotional reactions to the events and to the surrounding characters. Easy, right? Just say, “She felt happy in his presence.” I won’t say that sentence is wrong, but I will say it’s flaccid, pedestrian, and facile. We need to chew through the bone to the marrow, to the slippery blood and sticky pap of emotion: “She settled next to him on the creaky leather sofa. The heat of his thigh seeped to hers, and she shivered, secret and delicious.”

I won’t go into detail about Butler’s methods, which the book can explain far better than I. Instead, I’ll point out his most important lesson: yearning. Every person — and by extrapolation, every character — yearns for something. This yearning is beyond want: I want to solve the murder because, if I do, everyone will like me. In this character’s case, the yearning is the need to be liked. Yearning is the abstract need that haunts a character’s psyche, feeding the wants that push her into action.

What has been your favorite adventure during your writing career?

I was fortunate in my MFA program to have a week in Dublin. My wife and I extended that week to another week of vacation, during which I was inspired to write. Now, to write, I must have a cigar in hand. My writing sessions usually last about the length of of stick. In Dublin, however, there is no smoking anywhere in-doors, and we were visiting in January, so I searched out heated patios in pubs that allowed smoking.

One evening I was busy at work (on The Third Kzin, as a matter of fact) when two fellows took a table not far from me. Patios in winter, heated or not, are not popular, so we were the only ones in the space. Eventually, one fellow said, in a pleasant Irish accent, “Hey, that’s frowned upon around here.”

“The folks at the bar said I could smoke.”

“Not that. The computer. That’s anti-social, mate.”

We then had a long conversation about writing and about how “someone ambitious” (me) should write a screen-play about his uncle who had done something so “weird” and “extraordinary” that I can’t remember what it was. A diversion from an evening of writing and a lesson as to how others view social spaces. I love Dublin, and we will go back some day.

Jason, thanks for taking time out of your busy schedule to answer our questions. We are looking forward to seeing you here on March 29th!

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Events Buzz Monday: Salamander Alert!

VERNALPOND

The month of March is speeding by, with an equal mix of sunny and slushy days, punctuated by wind.  Here at our little bookstore that’s bigger on the inside, we’re keeping ears and eyes on our local wetlands, since it’s almost time for BIG NIGHT… the annual migration of amphibians and reptiles to their vernal ponds.

Many thanks to everyone who attended the Rainbow Readers of Massachusetts book discussion of JUST FOR SHOW by Jae this past weekend.  We still have copies available for purchase, as well as copies of HIS QUIET AGENT by Ada Maria Soto, the title for the April meetup on April 13th.

As a reminder, the majority of our events here at ABSW are free and open to the public. Check out our page on SocialWeb.net!  

Here’s our schedule of upcoming events for the remainder of March:   

RECURRING EVENT: TONIGHT! Monday, March 18, 7PM-9PM – Spinning Yarns Craft and Audiobook Social! Bring a craft and enjoy an audiobook or audio drama with other crafty booklovers!

RECURRING EVENT: TONIGHT! Tuesday, March 19, 7PM-9PM – Game Night! Bring your favorite game or try a new one. Stop by the store to socialize and play!

SPECIAL EVENT: Saturday, March 23, 1PM–3PM – Book Signing with Jason Fregeau! Join us in welcoming science fiction author Jason Fregeau, contributor to the long-running MAN-KZIN WARS series of short story anthologies.

RECURRING EVENT: Monday, March 25, 7PM-9PM – The Free People’s Artists Workshop! This critique group meets on the fourth Monday of each month. Networking and feedback from other artists and creators of all types. Co-sponsored by the Worcester County Poetry Association.

RECURRING EVENT: Tuesday, March 26, 7PM-9PM – Game Night! Bring your favorite game or try a new one. Stop by the store to socialize and play!

RECURRING EVENT: Sunday, March 31, 2PM-3PM – Doctor Who Monthly Meetup! Join us for a monthly meeting of fans as we talk about the world’s longest-running science fiction series and its classic and modern incarnations – television, novels, audios, comics, and more. This is a kid-friendly and adult-friendly gathering; all are welcome.

Exciting things are happening at our little bookstore that’s bigger on the inside… more opportunties to serve the Worcester community… more book talks, more author signings, and more workshops.  Keep an eye on the Events Calendar on our website for more details.

May your world be filled with wonderful words!

 

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Author Spotlight: Jack Gantos

Jack Gantos Pic

Annie’s Book Stop of Worcester is happy to shine our Friday spotlight on children’s book author Jack Gantos.  Jack is the author of fifty books for children from the Rotten Ralph picture books, collections of Jack Henry short stories, upper elementary and middle school Joey Pigza and Norvelt novels, to middle school and young adult books—Love Curse Of The Rumbaughs, Desire Lines, Hole In My Life and The Trouble In Me. His work can lead readers from the cradle to the grave.

Mr. Gantos was a professor at Emerson College where he developed the Master’s Degree Program in Children’s Literature, Writing and Publishing. He now spends his time writing and is an active speaker at book and literacy conferences, schools and libraries. His works have received numerous awards, including a Newbery Award.

His highly regarded book on writing for young writers is titled: Writing Radar: Using Your Journal to Snoop Out and Craft Great Stories. In September of 2018 an Original Audible book, The Dented Head Of Joey Pigza, was released. A Pain In The Pigza, also an Original Audible, will be released in the spring of 2019.

writing radar

 

Thanks for answering all these questions for us, Jack. The first one is, where can people find your work? (Besides Annie’s Book Stop of Worcester –though they should totally check here first!)

 My books are available at most book stores—especially those that serve young-to-teen readers, and on line.

How can we follow your work and share your awesomeness?

 If you go onto http://www.jackgantos.com you can find all my titles, and materials on my books and contact information for school visits. I live in Boston so am easily available in New England.

What kind of research went into writing your books?  What is your favorite research story? What cool facts and findings didn’t make it into a book, but you loved discovering?

The five volumes of Jack Henry short stories (4th, 5th,6th,7th, 8th grades) are family stories from those early years of my life—stories that capture a range of humorous and testy events—and a lot of craziness.

When I wrote Dead End In Norvelt I read a lot of US and World History in order for Ms. Volker to write all of her “This Day in History” entries for the newspaper which then matched up with the obituary section, that when a person died in town she could trace their history.

When I wrote the Joey Pigza novels I had to research ADHD in kids—had to go live in his town (Lancaster, PA) for a while in order to fully duplicate his world into words in a book.

Hole In My Life, The Trouble In Me, Love Curse Of The Rumbaughs and Desire Lines are all YA/Middle school titles that entirely reveal events of my life that happened directly to me, or reveal events I know about through my life.

What was the inspiration for Joey Pigza? What were the steps you took to bring it from initial inspiration to the finished book?

I’m writing three Joey Pigza Original Audible books, for Audible. I then record them for Audible and for a while they will be on the Audible list (the first two are finished and the third one I am writing). Eventually they will then also come out as printed Joey Pigza books.

What was the biggest challenge in writing and putting out Joey Pigza?  How did you overcome that challenge?

The challenge with writing a book is most always the same. Start with a scrap of an idea and work it day in and day out and be unrelenting. Get the characters, setting, problems/plots, rising actions, crisis, resolutions and make sure there is great physical detailing and emotional depth.  I always figure 50 to 100 drafts per book.

 

What character did you love or hate the most while writing? And why?

I don’t hate my characters. Even Mr. Spizz, who is a pain in the neck, is lovable to me. Gary Pagoda was a bully, but he was charismatic and masterful. The Rumbaugh twins were enigmatic, odd, perverse, but they captured me. It is hard for me to both create and hate a character.

What draws you to the particular genre or style that you write? What do you think draws readers to these kinds of books?

I write mostly realistic fiction. Readers who find engagement in the deep depths of the real world—the humor and pathos—usually they like my work. I’m not a fantasy writer.

What is your favorite part of being a writer?  Of the whole writing and publishing process?  What do you think has been your greatest lesson in the journey thus far?

I’ve published over fifty books. The lessons I’ve learned have overlapped a number of times. What I do know is that readers like great characters, terrific sentences, a story line that is engaging, and language that paints their imaginations, and creates a theater of the mind when they read.

What piece of advice would you want to share with other writers?

Expect to work hard. Set up writing habits and meet them. Be unrelenting with yourself. Don’t slack off. Read more books than you write.

How important has the New England setting been to your writing?

Not very.

What piece of advice would you want to share with other writers?

Nothing I do is exceptional—the books themselves are a vault of well organized words. I’m just a writer trying with intent to carve out a story from the vast imaginary possibilities of language.

Rotten Ralph

What question do you wish interviewers would ask you, and what would the
answer be?

I think they should ask what they want and I try to answer as best I can. Writing is a hard job, and should not be confused with working a Ouija board all day.

What else can we expect from you in the near future?

Books that fewer people like right away, but then through the reading they fall in love with them—the books cast a spell on a reader who is willing to be captured by the story and language.

What is/are your passions when you’re not writing? How do you make time for your non-writing hobbies/things you love?

Mostly it is family, cats, friends, writing, reading, and just remaining open to ideas that are not always obviously great at first glance

What are some of your writing-related hobbies, crafts, addictions?

Collecting some books. But I’m getting out of the business of more is more. I’m now on the less is more side of the mountain.

What does your writing space look like? What do you need to have around you while writing or editing?

 I write in the library. Neo Classic. Quiet. No cell phones. No talking. Good books. Smart librarians. That covers it for me.

What is one thing that most people don’t realize about you?  

I wouldn’t know. I’m so obscure to myself.

What has been your favorite adventure during your writing career?

 A very thorough tour of the Library of Congress

While you’re writing, do you prefer music, silence, other? Please elaborate!

 I frequently wear headphones and depending on my mood. I listen to Bruckner or Amy Winehouse.

Writers very often have furry or feathered or otherwise non-human companions to “help” them through their work.  Do you? What do you have? How do they “help” (or, “not-help”) with your writing?

No furry friends to help. I have cats. They may pay attention at times, but like anyone smart, watching a writer work is like watching paint dry, so they would rather sleep than be bored.

Do you have any favorite foods or drinks that must be in the vicinity (or must be avoided) while you’re writing or editing a piece of work?

A lot of drinks must be avoided while working—all the after 5pm types. Water and tea and coffee during the writing hours.

Jack Gantos B&W Pic

What do you consider the most challenging part of the writing process? And how do you overcome that?

 I’m always looking to be excited by the extraordinary possibilities of the work. But its not always possible to be excited about it every day.

What is the greatest lesson you’ve learned, thus far, in your writing career?

That other people’s opinions rarely move me and so I don’t share my work as I
write it.

Are there any groups, clubs, or organizations that you would recommend to other writers that have helped you in your career?

 I don’t belong to any but I’m sure there are many groups that are vastly helpful.

Jack, thanks again for taking time out of your busy schedule to answer our questions! We hope to see you at our store sometime in the near future.

 

 

 

 

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Events Buzz Monday: Springing Ahead, Looking Forward

Daylight Savings Time has started once more, giving us a glimpse of warmer and brighter times ahead.  We’ll be freshening up our displays with new product, doing our spring cleaning in all our sections, and preparing our sidewalk sale carts to go outside on the first of April… as long as we don’t have another April Fool’s snowstorm like we did in 1997!

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As another sign that Spring will soon be here, we have brought in a new selection of  seasonal kitchen towels by local crafter Katie Giroux.

2019_birds

2019_home

Our thanks to everyone who came out this past Saturday to meet Tom Straw, the author of THE BUZZ KILLER as well as the Nikki Heat novels by Richard Castle.  We are working on bringing in even more mystery writers in the months to come.

As a reminder, the majority of our events here at ABSW are free and open to the public. Check out our page on SocialWeb.net!  

Here’s our schedule of upcoming events for the remainder of March:   

RECURRING EVENT: TONIGHTMonday, March 11, 7PM-9PM – Spinning Yarns Craft and Audiobook Social! Bring a craft and enjoy an audiobook or audio drama with other crafty booklovers!

RECURRING EVENT: TOMORROW! Tuesday, March 12, 7PM-9PM – Game Night! Bring your favorite game or try a new one. Stop by the store to socialize and play!

SPECIAL EVENT: Saturday, March 16, 6:00 – 8:00 – Rainbow Readers Discusses Just For Show by Jae. The Rainbow Readers of Massachusetts is an LGBTQIA book club that meets once a month, usually on the third Saturday. All are welcome!

RECURRING EVENT: Monday, March 18, 7PM-9PM – Spinning Yarns Craft and Audiobook Social! Bring a craft and enjoy an audiobook or audio drama with other crafty booklovers!

RECURRING EVENT: Tuesday, March 19, 7PM-9PM – Game Night! Bring your favorite game or try a new one. Stop by the store to socialize and play!

SPECIAL EVENT: Saturday, March 23, 1PM–3PM – Book Signing with Jason Fregeau! Join us in welcoming science fiction author Jason Fregeau, contributor to the long-running MAN-KZIN WARS series of short story anthologies.

RECURRING EVENT: Sunday, March 24, 2PM-3PM – Doctor Who Monthly Meetup! Join us for a monthly meeting of fans as we talk about the world’s longest-running science fiction series and its classic and modern incarnations – television, novels, audios, comics, and more. This is a kid-friendly and adult-friendly gathering; all are welcome.

RECURRING EVENT: Monday, March 25, 7PM-9PM – The Free People’s Artists Workshop! This critique group meets on the fourth Monday of each month. Networking and feedback from other artists and creators of all types. Co-sponsored by the Worcester County Poetry Association.

RECURRING EVENT: Tuesday, March 26, 7PM-9PM – Game Night! Bring your favorite game or try a new one. Stop by the store to socialize and play!

Exciting things are happening at our little bookstore that’s bigger on the inside… more opportunties to serve the Worcester community… more book talks, more author signings, and more workshops.  Keep an eye on the Events Calendar on our website for more details.

May your world be filled with wonderful words!

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Author(s) Spotlight Friday: The Gordian Protocol by Weber & Holo

9781481483964-The Gordian Protocol Cover

Annie’s Book Stop of Worcester is happy to shine a double spotlight on a couple of our beloved Baen authors, David Weber and Jacob Holo. They collaborated on the novel, The Gordian Protocol, a new twist on World War II History and time travel where a temporal not in the 20th Century threatens to destroy whole universes—including our own!

The Gordian Protocol releases on May 7, and we’re looking forward to carrying it. If you want to secure yourself a copy, we’re happy to pre-order it for you! To get you as excited as we are, we’ve got a fantastic interview with both authors, giving some insight into how they came to this horrifying scenario…

How did the two of you meet?

Jacob: My wife Heather was recovering from surgery at the time and contracted a severe case of cabin fever. As a cure, we went to a small local convention where David was signing books. He signed my old dog-eared copy of In Death Ground, and we probably exchanged about ten words total that day.

David: Jacob must be mistaken on at least one point of his otherwise admirable answer, because I have never in my life exchanged only ten words with anyone!

How did the discussion about this subject come about?

Jacob: Over birthday party milkshakes, actually. This was one of your original series proposals to Baen, right David?

David: Yes, it was. Both over the milkshakes and one of my original series proposals. To be honest, part of my thinking when I proposed the collaboration to Jacob was that we’d known each other for a while, I really liked him, and I thought it might make a decent birthday present. Cheaper than buying a card, too!  : )

On a more serious note, The Gordian Protocol was actually a story I had pitched to Jim Baen about the same time that I pitched the Honor Harrington storyline. I wanted to write it for a long time (obviously, since I first came up with the idea twenty-five years ago), but I’d never found the time or place to do it on my own. From conversations with Jacob and how well I’d come to know him, I thought he might be the perfect guy to help me get it told. Which he did even better than I’d hoped.

Had you read each other’s work before?

Jacob: Absolutely. David’s books have been a huge influence me. In fact, one of my earliest novel-length works was directly inspired by In Death Ground.

David: I’d read The Dragons of Jupiter, and liked it a lot.

When did you decide you wanted to collaborate?

Jacob: About a nanosecond after David proposed the idea. : ) Though seriously, I’ve been interested in working with David for years, but I didn’t feel comfortable broaching the subject. I believed if he felt I had what it took to write with him, that he would propose a project in due time. And he did!

David: I decided that I wanted to collaborate with Jacob less because I had read Dragons than because I had come to know him and Heather so well. They are very local (like — what? Ten miles from the house?), we like them both a bunch, I’d done a youth writers workshop project with Heather at one of our local libraries, and maybe most important of all I’d come to respect both Jacob’s imagination and his work ethic. Jacob is incapable of giving any project less than a 1000% effort, whether it’s his “day job” or his writing, and he has a fantastic ability to visualize the bones — or the nuts and bolts — of a concept from a standing start. There are some people in the world with whom you just “click” in a brainstorming session, and Jacob is one of those people for me.

What were the logistics of your collaboration?  Did one of you do an outline or a synopsis?

David: I think it’s fair to say that I did the original synopsis (although that’s probably too finely developed a term) for our initial book. That’s different from actually building the chapters, of course. The final plot for the novel evolved from a lot of mutual discussion. We sent reviewed memos back and forth, we discussed plot elements over the dinner table both here at the house and at our favorite restaurant (with kibitzing from Sharon and Heather), and we watched the final plot come together out of my original concept, those discussions, and the actual process of writing, which tended to reveal a few plot holes we needed to fill in or an additional scene we needed to add here or there.

Does one of you start a chapter or a draft and then hands it over to the other?

Jacob: David was really smart with how he divided the workload because it played to each of our strengths. For example, as the engineer in this partnership, I performed the detailed design work on our two versions of the 30th century, their respective technologies, and the time travel mechanics. On a lighter note, if you see a bowtie in the book, it might be in there because I really like wearing them. : )

David: As Jacob says, he’s the engineer and I’m the historian, so the story elements sort of shook down naturally in my mind. As far as the actual draft is concerned, I did the first couple of chapters, because that was where the differing histories had to be set up. I also wanted to sort of set the tone for the overall story and — especially — to introduce Benjamin, who is much more my viewpoint character than any other individual character in the book. After that, Jacob wrote (I think) all the rest of the first draft. I may have done one other chapter here or there; I truly don’t remember. My function at that point was more to coordinate and edit and to help structure both our history and that of the various thirtieth centuries involved, with maybe some particular attention to “my” characters’ dialogue, in particular. We sent material back and forth, and reviewed it so thoroughly from both ends, that it’s really difficult to pick any point in the book that doesn’t have both of our fingerprints pretty thoroughly blended.

When there is a conflict of an idea, how do you resolve it?

Jacob: David is the senior partner in this collaboration, so he gets the final say. That said, there were parts of the story and world he felt very strongly about and parts he set aside to be my sandbox. Once I picked up on which was which, things really kicked into high gear for us.

David: I think that’s probably fair, although I also think that there are aspects of the entire process which lie very strongly in Jacob’s strength areas, and not mine. I try to defer to him in those areas, although sometimes it takes longer than other times for him to explain his thinking to me when it’s something that seems counterintuitive from my historian-not-engineer perspective. I’d say that this far, at least, in our writing partnership I’ve been more in control of the story’s direction then he has, because I’ve had a vision for so long of where I want this series and these characters to go. Having said that, we just spent a couple of hours this past week sitting in my office while we completely took one story line apart and basically built another out of the disassembled parts, and the reassembly was only possible because Jacob had given the original storyline a well-articulated skeleton on the basis of our earlier discussions. Any successful collaboration needs a resolution process, and I think that the foundation for any sound resolution process needs to be a mutual respect between the writing partners. If either one of us feels really, really strongly about something, then we both need to articulate and defend our position rationally (not just “because I want to do it this way”) and we both need to listen and be willing to be convinced if the other guy has a point. For example, there was a character in this book that I had originally envisioned living, because there was a plot hook I wanted to create later, at the very end of the story. Jacob had killed that particular character in his original rough draft, however. I started to argue that we needed to go back to my original concept when I realized that what he had done might actually work even better, so we kept it. Instead, I went in and tweaked it to make sure there wouldn’t be any dry eyes in the house after the readers found it!

How long did it take to finish the completed manuscript?

Jacob: About a year, I’d say. A lot of that is the initial planning and outlining, as well the editing and fine-tuning afterwards. My portion of the first draft took me about five weeks to crunch through.

David: I think Jacob’s about right. He’s a very disciplined and fast writer, but I think another factor was that we had so thoroughly planned, discussed, and outlined before we started writing the actual novel. My own books have a tendency to grow organically as I go along. I have a beginning point, an endpoint, and certain things I want to do in the middle, but I’m writing the book at least in part to find out how all of that goes together. In this case, more so than in any of my other collaborations, we had very thoroughly nailed down where we wanted the story to go because the plot is complex enough and has enough moving parts that we couldn’t let it “just grow.” So the actual writing went much more rapidly than it otherwise might have. As Jacob says, we spent more time planning and then editing and fine-tuning than we did in the heavy-lifting phase of the writing.

Will this be a continuing series or a stand alone?

Jacob: We’re already hard at work on the sequel!

David: Absolutely a series. The framework of this literary universe means that while future stories will be built around the same cast of characters, the nature of the problems they have to solve can be very, very different. It’s not like the Honorverse or my Safehold books, where the series has a clear beginning point and is working steadily towards an equally clear endpoint, with each book building directly upon the ones which came before it. The direction of this universe is much more open ended, which gives us a lot more room to maneuver.

What did you enjoy the most by writing together?

Jacob: The “oh, shiny!” moments, as David likes to call them. There’s a special kind of chain reaction that gets set off when we’re bouncing ideas around, ideas that we would have never thought of alone. There’s a rescue scene in the novel that evolved this way. David picked up on a minor bit of lore from my 30th century notes, and the rapid fire emails that followed evolved into what I believe is one of the best scenes in the novel. You’ll know it when you get to it. : )

David: I would agree with Jacob about the “oh, shiny!” moments. To me, that’s the moment in any collaboration where the partners are having the most fun. And I know exactly which scene he’s talking about. I think the Wagner makes it perfect! However, I would say that my greatest personal enjoyment out of writing with Jacob is watching him blossom as a writer. I’ve been doing this for going on 30 years now; he’s been doing it for about five or six, but I have never worked with someone who was more actively and energetically involved in mastering his craft. He is smart, he’s funny, he’s talented, he’s not afraid to argue with the “senior partner,” and I don’t believe I have ever had to explain a single thing to him twice. I think he has the potential to be one of the really, really solid writers in our field.

Thank you both so much for the great interview!  We at Annie’s Book Stop of Worcester are eagerly anticipating The Gordian Protocol and sharing it with our patrons.

 

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Events Buzz Monday: Plowed Out And Ready To Serve!

Hello again from snowy [AGAIN!] Worcester, where we are undaunted by the weather here in our little bookstore that’s bigger on the inside.  Many thanks to those who came out for our Dr, Seuss Celebration and to hear Donnie O. Steiger’s book talk this past weekend.  

Slush and ice without just means more warmth and creativity within… come down to see our newest displays of all kinds of reads.  We have Easter and Passover books in places of honour, as well as mysteries like the CASTLE tie-ins and the LONGMIRE titles; in addition, we’ve just reassembled our “Art Cart” in anticipation of the coming warm weather, when we can hold our seasonal sidewalk sale.

suspense_romance

 

Here’s our schedule of upcoming events:   

RECURRING EVENT: TONIGHT! Monday, March 4, 7PM-9PM – Spinning Yarns Craft and Audiobook Social! Bring a craft and enjoy an audiobook or audio drama with other crafty booklovers!

RECURRING EVENT: TOMORROW! Tuesday, March 5, 7PM-9PM – Game Night! Bring your favorite game or try a new one. Stop by the store to socialize and play!

SPECIAL EVENT: Saturday, March 9, 1PM–3PM – Book Signing with Tom Straw, also known as Richard Castle! So you think you know all about the mystery writer Richard Castle, best-selling novelist and creator of the NIKKI HEAT and DERRICK STORM series?  Meet Tom Straw, the man behind the mysteries, as he signs his newest book BUZZ KILLER, as well as his backlist of Castle works.

RECURRING EVENT: Monday, March 11, 7PM-9PM – Spinning Yarns Craft and Audiobook Social! Bring a craft and enjoy an audiobook or audio drama with other crafty booklovers!

RECURRING EVENT: Tuesday, March 12, 7PM-9PM – Game Night! Bring your favorite game or try a new one. Stop by the store to socialize and play!

SPECIAL EVENT: Saturday, March 16, 6:00 – 8:00 – Rainbow Readers Discusses Just For Show by Jae. The Rainbow Readers of Massachusetts is an LGBTQIA book club that meets once a month, usually on the third Saturday. All are welcome!

RECURRING EVENT: Monday, March 18, 7PM-9PM – Spinning Yarns Craft and Audiobook Social! Bring a craft and enjoy an audiobook or audio drama with other crafty booklovers!

RECURRING EVENT: Tuesday, March 19, 7PM-9PM – Game Night! Bring your favorite game or try a new one. Stop by the store to socialize and play!

SPECIAL EVENT: Saturday, March 23, 1PM–3PM – Book Signing with Jason Fregeau! Join us in welcoming science fiction author Jason Fregeau, contributor to the long-running MAN-KZIN WARS series of short story anthologies.

RECURRING EVENT: Sunday, March 24, 2PM-3PM – Doctor Who Monthly Meetup! Join us for a monthly meeting of fans as we talk about the world’s longest-running science fiction series and its classic and modern incarnations – television, novels, audios, comics, and more. This is a kid-friendly and adult-friendly gathering; all are welcome.

RECURRING EVENT: Monday, March 25, 7PM-9PM – The Free People’s Artists Workshop! This critique group meets on the fourth Monday of each month. Networking and feedback from other artists and creators of all types. Co-sponsored by the Worcester County Poetry Association.

RECURRING EVENT: Tuesday, March 26, 7PM-9PM – Game Night! Bring your favorite game or try a new one. Stop by the store to socialize and play!

And in a look ahead towards the upcoming months of Spring, Summer, and Autumn here at Annie’s Book Stop of Worcester, we will be adding more book talks, more author signings, and more workshops.  Keep an eye on the Events Calendar on our website for more details.

May your world be filled with wonderful words!

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Artist Spotlight: Rick Sternbach

Rick head shot

 

Annie’s Book Stop of Worcester is happy to shine our Friday spotlight on Rick Sternbach, space and science fiction artist. He has a long list of impressive clients including  NASA, Sky & Telescope,  Smithsonian, Analog, Time-Life Books, Science Digest plus many more. Beginning in the late 1970s Rick added film and television illustration and special effects to his repertoire, with productions like Star Trek: The Motion Picture (He was with the Star Trek franchise for 15 years), The Last Starfighter, Future Flight, and Cosmos, for which he and other members of the astronomical art team received an Emmy award, the first for visual effects. Rick also twice received the coveted Hugo award for best professional science fiction artist, in 1977 and 1978. When we asked him about himself, this is what he had to say:

It all really started for me as a kid growing up in the 50s when the space program was just beginning and there was nothing man-made in Earth orbit. Seeing all of that happen, with an added dose of SF films and TV shows, really set in my mind what I wanted to do. Okay, with a short-lived switch to being a bio major in college, but the science and technology and learning about the world was always there. My dad was an architect, so the art side originally came from him, and along the way I was lucky enough to meet up and learn from a number of other very talented artists, writers, scientists, and engineers, all generous with their time and knowledge.

Where can people find your work? (Besides ABSW ;)–though they should totally check here first!)

I’ve got a few bits ’n’ pieces up on ricksternbach.com, but it’s a terribly old website that I haven’t  updated. Folks who read science fiction and astronomy magazines in the 70s and early 80s saw my cover and interior illustrations, before I made the switch to designing for television and film in Los Angeles. If you’ve seen shows like the original COSMOS, and “modern” Star Trek like The Next Generation, my work is all over those productions. A nice look back from not too long ago is up on https://www.siggraph.org//discover/news/spotlight-art-interview-star-trek-artist-rick-sternbach .

Cover of Galaxy - credit Rick Sternbach 2019

Copyright 2019  Rick Sternbach

How can we follow your work, share your awesomeness?

There’s not a great deal of new artwork to follow these days, though I’m pursuing some scale model space projects that I’ve shown off on Facebook. Performing Google searches for general information and images specifically connected to my name does result in a lot of hits, even some that I’ve totally forgotten about over the years. Pretty amazing tech to preserve the past. 🙂

For readers unfamiliar with your work, how would you describe what you do?  What can readers expect from you next (Latest cover, book, comic, movie, etc?) or what is the last thing you worked on?

I don’t think there’s a single label I’d attach to my artwork, though I suppose everything I’ve done has been connected to taking a thought, a concept, and making a visual statement or explanation that will make the concept more real. I did this with certain written passages in science fiction as well as with real science and engineering ideas, and later with popular media, which was full of spaceships and props and visual effects. I can’t say that I know what sort of work people will see from me in the future; the last few years have really been spent exploring personal design and modeling projects, and it’s been a nice bit of down time.

What kind of research went into your last project?  What is your favorite research story? What cool facts and findings didn’t make it into the final product, but you loved discovering?

My last project is actually my current project (the first doodles came in 2004), imagining what an interplanetary human expedition spacecraft might look like, based on available and almost-here technology, and built upon some seventy-plus years of ideas on the subject. The research into such a ship is really the territory of trained engineers, but I’ve had a great of fun reading up on structural requirements, propulsion systems, environmental control, crew health and nutrition, and other topics, and consulting with my professional colleagues. I can’t say that any single bit of research has been the most exciting, since everything is coming together piece by piece, though I was particularly satisfied when I finished the first rough scale model. Will we ever build a real Solar System Explorer? No idea, but all of the individual parts could be made in the next thirty years or so.

Rick's personal voyage to the stars credit Rick Sternbach 2019

                                                          copyright 2019  Rick Sternbach

What draws you to the particular genre or style that you create? What do you think draws readers to these works?

That’s an easy one. Space and science fiction have been favorites of people like me who have lived through the beginnings of human space exploration, professionals in various fields of real science and technology and interested followers, and readers who have absorbed stories of events that don’t usually happen in their daily lives. Most people I’ve known since I began working as an artist (and even as a kid) have craved those sorts of experiences, and I’ve had a great time helping to make some of the visual aspects come to life.

What is your favorite part of being an artist?  Of the whole art and publishing process?  What do you think has been your greatest lesson in the journey thus far?

Taking a concept and turning it into either a two dimensional drawing or painting, or even building it up as a three dimensional model is one of the big attractions for me. I think that having a finished piece, with all of the preliminary research and gathering of tools and materials, and finally having it become a physical reality is amazingly satisfying.

While you’re working, do you prefer music, silence, other? Please elaborate!

Music for most drawing and computer graphics work, you bet. And I’ve got pretty eclectic playlists full of classical albums, rock, jazz, new age, TV and film soundtracks, anime. I’ll occasionally switch it all off if I’m working through some work involving a lot of math, but as soon as that’s done it’s back to the tunes.

What is the greatest lesson you’ve learned, thus far, in your career as an artist?

Interact, and pass along what you know. I have been amazingly fortunate to have been accepted by artists, editors, scientists, and engineers who I would describe as “old school,” willing to give of their time and knowledge. A favorite story involves my first meeting with artist Paul Calle, who in the days of the Apollo moon landing program I discovered lived only a few blocks from me in Stamford, Connecticut. Aside from generally being an extraordinarily talented artist, Calle had done wonderful paintings and pencil drawings for NASA, and as an 18 year old hoping to get to Florida to see Apollo 11 leave the Earth in 1969, I politely cold-called him and was invited to meet up at his studio in neighboring Weston. After seeing all of his artwork and talking about various techniques and subjects, he suddenly stopped and asked “You realize why I’m doing this, don’t you?” I gulped a bit and shook my head, and he said “Because you’re going to have to do it, too.” That directive could have been permanently riveted to my forehead, and it is something I’ve followed ever since.

Rick, thanks for taking time out of your busy schedule to answer our questions!

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