Monday, September 30, 2019

Interview with poet Roger New

My special guest today is Roger New. He’s here to chat about his chapbook, Chinese Poetry for Students of Chinese.

Welcome, Roger. Please tell us a little bit about the book. It is an anthology of Chinese poems, mostly from the Tang Dynasty, chosen to give students an intro into aspects of the culture which influence Chinese society to the present day. The poems are all provided in the original Chinese, but vocabulary and explanations are given so that anybody can decipher the poems, whether they understand Chinese or not. And there are renditions in English at the end if anyone gets stuck.

The book draws the reader on from poem to poem, and by the end they will unconsciously have gained an insight into Chinese religions, education, history, geography and the roles played by women in Chinese society throughout history. That is, if they don’t get distracted by the pictures – mostly Chinese water-colours – there are over sixty in each volume.

The author has lived and worked in China since the early nineteen eighties, spending extensive periods of time in Guangdong and Xinjiang, as well as Beijing and Shanghai. He is an academic, starting out at Oxford and London, with a PhD in immunology in 1975, pursuing a varied career in science, and setting up a biotechnology company in 2000, where he is currently working. In addition to fluent Mandarin, he speaks Russian and Portuguese, and has lectured in all of these. It is the experience of studying these languages which he considers most qualifies him for the writing of this book.

What do you enjoy most about writing?
As an academic, I enjoy explaining things to people, and making the knowledge I have acquired interesting to other readers.

Can you give us a little insight into a few of your poems – perhaps a couple of your favorites?
Every poem in the two volumes has been chosen because there is some special feature which makes it interesting and unusual, and makes the student feel it is worth memorizing.

The two poems below are selected because they remind me of my time living in China in the early 80s, in a university campus in a rural setting.

Having an appointment – Zhao Shi Xiu (Tang)

It’s the season of yellow plums, and rain is everywhere in the village.
Frogs abound in the green grass around the pond.
My visitor has not arrived, and the evening has half gone.
As I idly knock over a chess piece, ash falls from the candle.

Clear Spring – Wang Jia (Tang)

Before the rains come, every detail of the flowers is seen.
After the rains, the leaves are all gone, flowers cover the ground.
Butterflies haphazardly cross over the wall, suspecting
That the Spring has gone into a neighbour’s garden.

What form are you inspired to write in the most? Why?
Anything in Chinese.

What type of project are you working on next?
My latest project is a children’s book, written in Chinese, called The Doctor and the Dragon. The dragon is young and still growing up. He is also a bit deaf, so there is plenty of opportunity for puns and Spoonerisms, which in Chinese is quite a challenge, but great fun. There is also a translation in English, so the two together will hopefully be a good primer for both English and Chinese students to use.

When did you first consider yourself a writer / poet?
I have always written a lot of non-fiction material as part of my academic activities. I started writing fiction in Chinese as a way of practicing and improving my command of Chinese characters, and I was amazed at how things just began to flow.

How do you research markets for your work, perhaps as some advice for not-yet-published poets?
The obvious markets for these books are students learning Chinese, but those non-speakers of Chinese who want to delve more deeply into an important Chinese literary tradition will find them fascinating as well, and those readers are currently an untapped market.

What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?
Still developing, but my ultimate aspiration is to be the Chinese Terry Pratchett.

As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
A scientist and inventor, which, in my other life, is what I am.

Anything additional you want to share with the readers?
Don’t be put off if you are not a Chinese speaker. Read the books – there is plenty there for everyone.


Thanks for joining me today!

Wednesday, September 11, 2019

Interview with novelist Olga Werby

Novelist Olga Werby joins me today and we’re chatting about her new hard sci-fi novel, Harvest.

During her virtual book tour, Olga will awarding 2 books to a randomly drawn commenter (Lizard Girl and Ghost, and Suddenly, Paris
. To be entered for a chance to win, use the form below. To increase your chances of winning, feel free to visit her other tour stops and enter there, too!

Olga Werby, Ed.D., has a Doctorate from U.C. Berkeley with a focus on designing online learning experiences. She has a Master's degree from U.C. Berkeley in Education of Math, Science, and Technology. She has been creating computer-based projects since 1981 with organizations such as NASA (where she worked on the Pioneer Venus project), Addison-Wesley, and the Princeton Review. Olga has a B.A. degree in Mathematics and Astrophysics from Columbia University. She became an accidental science fiction indie writer about a decade ago, with her first book, "Suddenly Paris," which was based on then fairly novel idea of virtual universes. Her next story, "The FATOFF Conspiracy," was a horror story about fat, government bureaucracy, and body image. She writes about characters that rarely get represented in science fiction stories -- homeless kids, refugees, handicapped, autistic individuals -- the social underdogs of our world. Her stories are based in real science, which is admittedly stretched to the very limit of possible. She has published almost a dozen fiction books to date and has won many awards for her writings. Her short fiction has been featured in several issues of "Alien Dimensions Magazine," "600 second saga," "Graveyard Girls," "Kyanite Press' Fables and Fairy Tales," "The Carmen Online Theater Group's Chronicles of Terror," with many more stories freely available on her blog.

Please share a little bit about your current release.
“Harvest” was published in May, 2019, after almost two years of writing and editing and illustration. It got three 5-star reviews from ReadersFavorite and has been entered into a few completions.

What inspired you to write this book?
I’m a scientist. I’m very interested in the development of life, consciousness, and civilization. Over the past several decades, we’ve learned a lot about human biology not only on the molecular level (DNA) but also the chemistry and physics of biology. We can see the range of possibilities for behavior and emotion programmed into us by our evolutionary development. We’ve also learned about other human species that didn’t survive to the present day but whose echoes we carry in our very genes—Heanderthals, Homo floresiensis, Homo denisovans, and the newly discovered Homo luzonesis. There are many more, of course, but it takes time and luck to find evidence.

Only the Homo sapiens are alive on our world today. And only a small percentage of those developed the capacity or desire to take over the world and impose their culture on the rest of the peoples. Why? Why did some Hominids made it and some didn’t? Why did some civilizations flourished and others fell? We can answer some of these questions with psychology, sociology, paleontology, anthropology, biology, and simple luck.

Luck seems to have played a huge role in human evolution and survival on our planet. Those who were lucky enough to live in fertile environments with species of plants and animals that were easy to domesticate won the life lottery, so to speak. The unlucky ones didn’t make it to the present day or ended up colonized…

We have some ideas about what it takes to survive and thrive on Earth. But what does it take to survive in the galaxy? Can we use the same principles and apply them on a larger scale? “Harvest” is a book that focuses on galaxy-wide civilizations and what it takes to become one.

Excerpt from Harvest:
(Please note this book is fully illustrated.)
Chapter Two
Vars slept on the plane…or tried to. She was too confused, too keyed up to really sleep. That coffee might have been a mistake. Ian said that he couldn’t tell her anything until they arrived at his EPSA office in Seattle, which was conveniently her own hometown where she lived with her dad. The man just smiled a lot and talked about how much he had enjoyed reading Vars’s new book.
There was a strange edge to their interaction. If Vars hadn’t believed Ian’s credentials, she would have bailed on him a long time ago. Even so, she felt like she was being kidnapped. And, in a way, she was. She’d had to cancel the last two lectures of her book tour and apologize to her agent over and over again. Ian had promised that EPSA would send an official excuse letter, but Vars still felt like she let her agent and publisher down.
They landed at a general aviation airport, and another black car whisked them to EPSA’s headquarters, just outside of Seattle’s city limits. She was taken to a conference room on the top floor of the EPSA science building, which Ian called the “tree house.” She immediately understood why—it was surrounded on all sides by a balcony planted with a row of trees and some shrubbery. It was quite nice, but Vars couldn’t enjoy it; she was simultaneously exhausted and adrenalized. It was just a matter of time before she crashed.
She must have looked it, too, because someone handed her a very big, very steamy cup of coffee. She sipped it gratefully, completely oblivious to how she came to be holding it. It was still very early in the morning, way before Vars even liked to get up, much less attend a meeting.
About a dozen EPSA people joined her and Ian around the conference table. Vars noticed that several paper copies of her book were laid out; some even looked read, with cracked spines and dog-eared pages.
“So,” she said to Ian. “Is now a good time and place for you to tell me what this is all about?”
“Now is perfect,” Ian said with a big smile. “We are very grateful to have you with us today, Dr. Volhard. This is my exobiology team.” He pointed one by one to the people on one side of the table. “Dr. Alice Bear. Dr. Greg Tungsten. Dr. Bob Shapiro. Dr. Saydi Obara. Dr. Evelyn Shar. And Dr. Izzy Rubka.”
Vars had heard of some of these people by reputation, of course, but never met any of them personally. EPSA people were a reclusive bunch, tending to mix with their own to the exclusion of others, even with the same research interests. It was one of the reasons Vars always wanted to join the organization—to get access to the best and the brightest minds and a chance to discuss the origins of life over coffee... But the introductions were happening so fast, there was no chance that she would remember how any of these names linked up with faces. Vars doubted she would even recognize these people walking down the street.

What exciting story are you working on next?
I’m currently finishing up “God of Small Affairs.” In some ways, this is the opposite story from “Harvest.” While “Harvest” focused on real science and extrapolated it as far as possible, “God of Small Affairs” is about mythology, about gods who walk the earth and help shape the human race into what it has become. It is a more intimate story. It focuses on a small town in Wisconsin and it’s aging population that is in the process of becoming irrelevant due the pressures of civilization and progress. During a murder investigation, a god tries to find the best path into the future for this community. It’s human drama with a mythical twist.

When did you first consider yourself a writer?
I wrote my first full-sized fiction book in 2009, “Suddenly, Paris.” I wanted to write about a strong, smart girl who was up to the task of saving the world by herself, if necessary. In some way, it was a rebellion to “Twilight.” As a teacher, I saw lots of middle school girls reading that book. When asked, they tended to reply that what attracted them the most to “Twilight” was the idea of someone loving a girl like that and providing for her and protecting her. From the psychological standpoint, the relationship described in “Twilight” is not a healthy one. No girl/woman should feel like she is going to do die if her current romance doesn’t work out. I wanted to write a character that showed another example. In my story, the heroine is very much in love, but she is willing to fight and to save the world. She is willing to do what’s right. She doesn’t sulk…well, not much.

So that was my first book. Since then, I’ve focused on developing strong characters, interesting plots, and ideas that are heavily influenced by real science and current events. Humans learn best when information is wrapped in a compelling story. I also wanted to write about people that are not the usual heroes of books—homeless kids, misfits, grandmothers, mobility-impaired, autistic, the underclass of our society, the forgotten. Fiction is great at developing empathy. I wanted to turn the full power of fiction into empathy engine! Sounds a bit preachy, I know, but I think my stories are good and fun read in addition to being meaningful.

Do you write full-time? If so, what's your workday like? If not, what do you do other than write and how do you find time to write?
I would love to write full-time. But I do have other work to do.

But even those lucky to devote their lives to creating fictional universes and amazing characters to populate them have to do more than just write. A modern writer has to do more. She has to promote and market her books. She has to talk about herself and hopefully inspire readers to pick up her book next. She has to be on social media and post and tweet and talk, talk, talk, talk… For a shy individual, this is a very hard thing to do. I try…

What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?
Here’s something that blew me away. The fictional characters in stories I write have a lot more power over their fate than I thought they would (or should). I always knew that stories changed when they were written down in a tangible form. That’s true for paintings too. What’s in my head is not necessarily going to be what’s on paper. But it surprised me the extent to which characters take on a life of their own. Oh I can try to push them in the direction I thought I wanted them to evolve, but it never works out. When I push, the characters rebel. When a hero of the book is well-drawn, she doesn’t allow the writer to pull strings for her. And so the story tends to change…sometimes drastically. Is that just my writing quirk? I don’t know. Perhaps other writers fight with their characters too. Somehow I think it is a very common phenomenon.

As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
I first thought I was going to be a children’s book illustrator. Then I was “taught” a thing or two. I freaked out and double majored in math and astrophysics, working at NASA while still in college. I decided that I wanted to be an astronaut. But I was a girl, and soon after graduation I was runover by a car and now have to use a cane to walk. I don’t think these should have been showstoppers. I still wanted to go into space. But then I get to do that by writing about it. I go farther in my books than I can in any of the latest rockets. So I’m living my dream, right?

Anything additional you want to share with the readers?
Read more. Review more books. As readers, we have an incredible power to shape the societal discourse. By shining light on ideas and characters, we can change the direction of the world. There are books that changed my life…again and again. It is incredible that a story can make such an impact. I feel grateful every time I find another amazing book. And as soon as I do, I tell everyone about it. Perhaps they will be just as taken and fall just as much in love with it as I did. It is an incredible power.

Thank you for being a guest on my blog!
Thank you! This was a very thoughtful interview. I loved your questions. I am grateful for the ability to talk about my stories. I hope my answers have been interesting enough to read some of my stories!


Thanks for being here today!

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Monday, September 9, 2019

Interview with YA author Dmitriy Kushnir

Novelist Dmitriy Kushnir joins me today to chat about his new YA fiction, Thea Reeves and The Tear of the Morning Star.

During his virtual book tour, Dmitriy will be awarding a $25 Amazon or Barnes and Noble (winner’s choice) gift card to a lucky randomly drawn winner. To be entered for a chance to win, use the form below. To increase your chances of winning, feel free to visit his other tour stops, too.

Dmitriy Kushnir is a Sarasota, FL local and is a student of life. In his younger years, he had served in the military and received various degrees from multiple universities. One day, Dmitriy Kushnir realized that he had just too much to share with the world and began writing in the fields of philosophy, business, religion, history, fantasy and science fiction. To this day, he has written more than 40 books under various aliases.

Welcome, Dmitriy. Please share a little bit about your current release.
I chose to write Thea Reeves series in order to inspire my daughter to read. I created a character, Thea Reeves, as a hero a young girl could look up to. It is a story about an ordinary teenager, who is entangled in extraordinary circumstances with mythical creatures and beings.

What inspired you to write this book?
I was inspired by my young daughter. I also wanted to write a series with a female character in the lead, and to have a book that is easy to read and does not leave a bad aftertaste.

Excerpt from Thea Reeves and The Tear of the Morning Star:
The girl took her eyes away from the pug and redirected all of her attention toward the raven, who sat just a few feet away from her. She talked softly, so no one, especially not even one of her neighbors or her parents would overhear. People these days may get the wrong idea from just a few misheard words, and the witch hunts and trials can begin again. Women have always been identified as the weaker sex throughout the centuries, and every time a woman spoke out or displayed any kind of strong character, she was met with oppression ... especially from the side of organized religion. Not long ago, Thea learned about Salem Witch Trials a few centuries back, and about how many ordinary women were tried by the church and by their neighbors and were executed. History tends to repeat itself.

I am no longer ordinary. Thea thought to herself, and immediately understood that no longer being ordinary could actually have a negative impact, rather than a positive one.

What exciting story are you working on next?
This will be a bit of the spoiler, but the next book (this will be book 5 of the Thea Reeves series) will be about Thea Reeves meeting the dwarf king.

When did you first consider yourself a writer?
The first time I earned a royalty from the sale of my first book, I considered myself a professional writer. Only once you earned any kind of income/royalty/commission, can you consider yourself to be a professional in any kind of venture.

Do you write full-time? If so, what's your work day like? If not, what do you do other than write and how do you find time to write?
No, I have other ventures I pursue full-time. Writing has always been a hobby, even if I spend ten or twelve hours a day writing, it will always be a passion and a hobby.

What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?
We have a vacant RV trailer on our property. If it ever gets too loud or too crowded in the house, I usually escape to the trailer in order to write. Once I went an entire day with my family thinking I was in the city, when I was only a few steps away in the trailer ... writing.

As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
I honestly do not remember, but definitely not the individual I currently am. I currently inspire thousands on daily basis and have the thousands I inspire, inspire me in return.

Anything additional you want to share with the readers?
The reason I do not include images in my books is because images kill imagination. So put your tablet or smartphone aside, pick up a book with no pictures and give your imagination a mental exercise.


Thank you for being a guest on my blog!

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