Author Archives: lydias

Interview with M.H. Thaung

Say hello to M.H.! She responded to my call for speculative fiction interview participants last week, and I’m excited to share her answers with you today. 

What was the first speculative story you ever remember reading?

The Little White Horse, by Elizabeth Goudge. I’m really showing my age here – must have been about six at the time. A year or two after that, my parents took me somewhere on the train without a ticket (in those days, under-5s travelled for free), but the ticket inspector caught me reading Alice in Wonderland.

Who is your favourite author? Why?

Oof, that’s a tough decision. I’d say Terry Pratchett overall since he wrote so many books, and I can pick one that matches my reading mood. I enjoy him not so much for his humour, but because of his insight into how people behave. All his people are believable people, as well as being vampires, trolls and so on. Roger Zelazny is also high on my fantasy author list. In contrast to Pratchett, it’s because his larger than life characters appeal to me.

What do you like most about the genre(s) you read?

I dip into various speculative genres – SF (on the soft side), alternate history, urban fantasy, low fantasy. There are common aspects to all of them. I like seeing the knock-on effects of whatever is different in that world taken to some logical conclusion. That is, “the different thing” isn’t just cosmetic – it affects the story.

More and more authors seem to be writing cross-genre stories these days. How do you feel about this trend?

It’s not always easy to place a book into a genre (I have this problem with my own writing). I like the idea of experimenting – a bit like fusion restaurants – but you’d need to try a specific combination before deciding if you liked it or not. Something to save for when you’re feeling adventurous, maybe. Given how many books are available, there’s scope for all tastes to be catered to, whether meat and two veg or a combination of eclectic ingredients from five continents. Ok, I’ll stop with the food comparisons now!

If you could name a pet after one character, which character would you choose? Why?

If I had a pet, I might call it Esme (Weatherwax). Why? So I could talk to it and imagine it giving me pithy, unsentimental advice on life in return.

What fictional world would you never want to visit?

Arrakis. Doesn’t seem like a friendly place at all!

What fictional world would you want to visit?

Assuming personal safety wasn’t an issue, I’d like to explore the world of Alan Dean Foster’s Journeys of the Catechist series. It wasn’t the most interesting story I’ve ever read (and I’m sure it’s horribly dated by now), but my curiosity was sparked by the different locations the adventurers pass through.

Sharing spoilers with people who haven’t read the book or seen the film/show is a hot topic on Twitter and across many fandoms. How do you feel about sharing or overhearing spoilers?

I don’t share spoilers since 1. it annoys some people, 2. it feels like there’s little point in talking about a book if your conversation partner hasn’t read it already and 3. I know very few people in real life with similar reading interests to mine. However, I’m not bothered by overhearing spoilers. This might be partly because I only read: I don’t watch TV or films, and it feels like books prompt less discussion in general.

Bonus Questions

What is the most unusual or interesting way you’ve come up with an idea for one of your creative works?

I don’t think any of my story ideas have had unusual sources of inspiration. Random generators are pretty helpful – cards and lists that you might use in RPGs or collaborative storytelling.

Sometimes characters don’t do what their creators want them to do. If this has ever happened to you, how did you deal with it?

I love it when my characters start wanting to do their own thing, but I still tell them I’m in charge. It’s not always that easy! There was one specific incident when I was writing A Quiet Rebellion: Posterity. It’s the final book in my trilogy, so I knew the characters pretty well by that point. One character woke me up and told me she was going to kidnap another character. It complicated the plot wonderfully, and (I hope) got me out of a mid-story slump.

What is your favourite trope?

Not exactly a trope, but I love dramatic irony and my characters (most of whom are supposed to be on the same side) getting in each other’s way, with the best of intentions.

What tropes do you try to avoid in your stories?

I’m not terribly keen on grand, pre-ordained fates or saving the world. My characters might want to save their little part of the world, but their concerns are largely personal.

About M.H.: M. H. Thaung is a pathologist working in a laboratory in London, UK. It’s been over ten years since she cut up a dead body. She started writing for fun about four years ago, and since then it’s turned into an obsession—er, major hobby. She recently released A Quiet Rebellion: Posterity, the final book in her SF adventure/mannerpunk trilogy.

Website.

Twitter

Terry Pratchett fans may be particularly interested in M.H.’s interview with Stephen Briggs. 

Wednesday Weekly Blogging Challenge: Fictional Worlds I’d Love to Visit

Hosted by Long and Short Reviews.

I’m guessing that a lot of people are going to pick the Potterverse, Narnia, and the (safe) portions of Middle Earth this week. Count me in for those places, too, but I’m going to spend most of this post talking about worlds that may not get as much attention this week if my predictions are correct.

The Land of Oz.

Something tells me all of you will catch this reference immediately. I’m the sort of person who senses danger early on, so I’d like to think I could visit Oz without running into any of the witches or other dangerous folks there. It would be so cool to see the yellow brick road in person and meet some munchkins.

The Gatsby Mansion from F. Scott Fitzgerald’s “The Great Gatsby”

While I’m not actually a fan of this story in general, I do think attending one of the parties at the Gatsby Mansion would be a marvellous way to pass a warm summer evening. The one good thing I can say about the Gatsby family is that they sure did seem to know how to throw a party!

In my imagination, every morsel of food and drink there would have been delectable and the live music would keep everyone dancing until the wee hours of the morning.

Pandora from the 2009 film “Avatar” 

Simple things like spending time in nature and exploring new places makes me happy. I’d love to go explore the bright, colourful world that the main character of “Avatar” got to know so well during his stay there. The fact that so many of the creatures there were bioluminescent only makes me more eager to see them for myself!

Pemberly From Jane Austen’s “Pride and Prejudice”

Once again, I was not a fan of the novel where this fictional country estate is from, but that wouldn’t keep me from wanting to visit Pemberly anyway. I value spending time in nature, eating delicious food, dancing, and having some peace and quiet at times. Based on the descriptions of this place, I think I could do all of that stuff with ease there.

Jurassic World (but only after the dinosaurs stopped attacking people)

Honestly, how could you not want to see real live dinosaurs in person? I’d definitely wait until all of the safety concerns had been ironed out, and I’d avoid the Tyrannosaurus area in general. I’d be thrilled to see some Triceratops, Gallimimus, Velociraptors, and other species in person once those precautions had been taken.

How about all of you?

Click here to read everyone else’s replies to this week’s question. The image below is the list of upcoming prompts for this blog hop.

 

Top Ten Tuesday: Auto-Buy Authors

Hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl

Last week I unfortunately didn’t have time to leave comments on everyone’s Top Ten Tuesday posts. Thank you to all of you who commented on mine! I’ll be back to my regular commenting habits again this week.

I’m a frugal, minimalistic, and environmentally conscious person, so this week’s list is going to be pretty short. The vast majority of the authors I enjoy are people I can wait to read until the library has a copy of their newest book waiting for me or until I can get it in e-book form.

(If all writers were immortal, this list would be much longer! Sadly, many of my all-time favourite ones are no longer around to give us new stories).

To be perfectly clear, in no way do I judge what others do. These restrictions are ones I only place on myself because of how much I value being mindful about the resources I use. Buying paper books is a better decision for some people for any number of reasons, and I completely respect that.

With that being said, I find it hard to say no to the following authors. Click on their names to go to the Goodreads lists of their books or keep reading to discover why I enjoy them so much.

Sarah Waters

Most of her books are set in the Victorian era and feature queer women as the main characters. They are richly detailed stories that I read over and over again. She produces new stories so infrequently and I adore her writing style so much that I immediately buy whatever it is she comes up with.

Margaret Atwood

In my opinion, Margaret Atwood is the best living novelist here in Canada. Most of what she writes is speculative fiction, although she has branched out to other genres on occasion. Right now I’m impatiently counting down the days until the release of her next book, The Testaments, this September because it’s a long-awaited sequel to The Handmaid’s Tale and I can’t wait to see what it will be like.

Who else had a short list this week? Are any of my followers also into being frugal, minimalistic, and/or eco-friendly? If so, I’d love to know how you balance those ideals with keeping on top of your reading habits…other than regularly visiting the library, of course!

 

Why You Should Meditate on a Flight (and How to Do It)

I recently arrived home from an Alaskan cruise I went on with my spouse and extended family. It was a wonderful trip that I’ll talk more about in various posts over the next couple of weeks, but I have missed connecting with everyone in the blogosphere.

So here’s an interesting thing about me. I enjoy travelling, but I am not a fan of flying. Between the hassle of going through security, airplane seats that seem to grow smaller and closer together every year, and how quickly I start to feel queasy if there’s any turbulence on the journey, I do not enjoy the process of getting to my destination or back home again.

Normally I distract myself from these unpleasant things with delicious, salty snacks like pretzels and tomato juice, playing games on my smartphone, or reading ebooks. This year I decided to add another tool to my defence against flights that feel like they’re going to last until the end of time itself: meditation.

Thoughts are powerful things. No one can fast forward through time, but you can learn to be less nervous about flying through the air in tight quarters if you learn to sit with your thoughts instead of letting them control the narrative.

How to Meditate in a Human Sardine Can

Photo credit: Truthseeker

I’ve decided that all commercial flights should be renamed human sardine cans in order to better demonstrate what it really feels like to be on one.

Having a good sense of humour about the sometimes uncomfortable realities of flying in Economy Class also helps!

Consider Downloading an App Beforehand

No, this is not strictly necessary. I often mediate without the help of an app, but I did find it nice to listen to a guided meditation routine on my last two flights due to all of the background noise happening on them.

There are several great meditation apps out there that offer free material, too.

Focus on Your Breathing

The easiest method I’ve found for meditating is to simply focus on your breathing. Breathe in and out slowly. Pay attention to the way your chest rises and falls with each breath. When a thought pops up, acknowledge it before returning to the slow and steady rhythm of one of the most basic body functions there is.

This is something I find particularly helpful when there is turbulence.

Do a Body Scan 

If you have an app that offers this, feel free to hit play on that session. If not, simply focus on your breathing for a few minutes before gently turning your attention to the top of your head. Take note of any sensations you may feel there without labeling them as good or bad. Slowly move down the rest of your body, paying attention to each part of it by turn.

If it’s a part of your body that you can consciously move, try to relax it as much as possible before gently moving down to the next part. I find that I can carry a lot of tension in my jaw and shoulders especially when I’m nervous. Sometimes this leads to tension headaches if there was a flight delay or if I’ve been in the same seat for several hours.

Move from the top of your head all the way down to your toes. This could be done in a few minutes, but it could also take half an hour or longer depending on how quickly your attention shifts.

Body scans can be a nice alternative to taking over-the-counter medication for these sorts of headaches for me. As always, consult with your family doctor if you have any questions about what is or isn’t appropriate for you. I’m only speaking from personal experience here.

Visualize Happier Places

I like to end my meditation sessions with a visualization exercise. if you were meditating with your eyes open earlier, feel free to close them now if it makes this easier.

Pick a setting that makes you feel happy and relaxed.

For me, going to the beach fits this bill. This is even more true on days when it’s a little too chilly to get into the water. Swimming is nice, but it’s not strictly necessary when I hit the beach.

I focus on every sense and try to make the visualization as detailed as possible. Sometimes I can almost taste the salt in the air, feel the sand between my toes, and hear the seagulls cawing above me by the time I’m a few minutes into it.

As someone who is not a fan of needles, this is also an exercise I do when I need to have a vaccination or to have blood drawn. It’s a nice distraction from a short period of unpleasantness. This can last for as many or as few minutes as you want it to depending on how detailed you decide to make your scene.

If flying also makes you nervous or uncomfortable, I’d love to hear what other techniques you use to get through it!

Interview with Chris Chelser

Say hello to Chris! she’s someone I’ve known on Twitter for ages, so it was wonderful to receive her submission for my speculative fiction interview series. 

What was the first speculative story you ever remember reading?

Tetful by Eric

A graphic novel about a werewolf: Tetfol, by the Belgian artist Eric. I was six years old and marked as a paranormal horror fan for life. 

Who is your favourite author? Why?

I don’t really have one. When a story strikes a chord with me, it doesn’t necessarily mean the rest of that author’s work does, too. If ‘favourite’ means ‘most read’, it would be Terry Pratchett, but Michael Crichton, M.N. Seeley, R.H. Hale and Laura Purcell are other authors I greatly admire and whose work I love to read.

What do you like most about the genre(s) you read?

The darkness within ourselves. I’m not interested in monsters roaming the forest/sea/house when they only exist to scare the main characters. I much prefer the ambiguity of psychological horror and the surrealistic imagery when that is mixed with supernatural elements.

More and more authors seem to be writing cross-genre stories these days. How do you feel about this trend?

I’m a fan, both as a reader and as a writer. Genre conventions exist, but in and of themselves, there is only so much you can do with them. Cross-genre stories can mix those conventions to create fresh twists and tweaks that keep the audience captivated.

If you could name a pet after one character, which character would you choose? Why?

Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson

Captain Flint. The pirate, not the parrot! In Treasure Island, Flint is a terrifying shadow whose reach extends beyond the grave, never seen but always present. As a kid, I found that influence more fascinating than Jim Hawkins’ treasure hunt. Then Starz’ TV series Black Sails, which tells the story behind that famed treasure, made Captain Flint one of the most complex, well-rounded and realistic characters ever to appear on screen. 

What fictional world would you never want to visit?

I’d say the future as Orwell’s 1984 describes it, but we’re already in the middle of that…

What fictional world would you want to visit?

Discworld! I feel I’d fit in better there than I do in our society.

Sharing spoilers with people who haven’t read the book or seen the film/show is a hot topic on Twitter and across many fandoms. How do you feel about sharing or overhearing spoilers?

Personally, I don’t mind spoilers. I try not to share any because I know many people hate them, but to me, a spoiler can convince me to give that story a go. The premise alone may not interest me, but when I already know the plot twist (or even the ending), I get curious to learn how the writer(s) structured the plot and the characters towards that end.

Which series do you think should be made into a TV show or film next?

Several people have told me my Kalbrandt Institute Archives series would make a good TV show, haha! But in all seriousness, the first story that immediately came to mind as great TV series is the graphic novel Locke & Key by Joe Hill and Gabriel Rodriguez. Luckily, more people thought so, and it is currently in production. 

Which TV show or film do you think should be turned into a book?

I’d love to read the novelization of Black Sails! That would be a Game of Thrones-sized series, given that the show has the same intricacy and complexity as an epic novel. Few series have that, so for the most part I’m not a fan of adapting written-for-screen stories to page.

Bonus Questions

What is the most unusual or interesting way you’ve come up with an idea for one of your creative works?

When I create a story, I collect elements that this story needs to tell itself (events, setting, characters, style) and slot them together like a jigsaw puzzle. Most of those jigsaw pieces result from serendipity or plain old research, but some of the more surreal ideas were inspired by psychotic episodes.

Sometimes characters don’t do what their creators want them to do. If this has ever happened to you, how did you deal with it?

When it does, it means you’ve done a good job with this character and gave them a unique personality that develops as the story does. A side-effect of this is that you may find that the character’s most likely response to a given situation no longer fits the original plot you devised. So, improvise! 

I hold consistency in high regard, so when a character wants to go left instead of right, I adapt the plot accordingly. This often only requires a brief sidestep before they naturally get back with the program, but sometimes their choices influence the entire main plot. That is why I only set the beginning and the end of a book before I start writing: to make room for the unforeseen developments that spice up a story.

What is your favourite trope?

Brooding, tormented male characters searching for redemption. Not for the purpose of redeeming them, but because recreating the blood, hallucinations and anguish that come with drowning in your own nightmares is a big part of the reason I started writing in the first place. 

What tropes do you try to avoid in your stories?

Romantic subplots. I often find those distracting. My characters aren’t virgins and they do have crushes or longterm relationships, but don’t expect them to fall madly in love with each other. They’ve got bigger fish to fry!

About Chris:

Inspired by first-hand experiences, Chris H. Chelser writes supernatural horror about ghosts, history, and the human soul. She lives in the Netherlands with her family, where the demons under the bed keep her company while she works. Her books include Kalbrandt Institute Archives series, her novel The Devourer, various short stories and the upcoming surrealistic novel The Ship That Tried To Sink Itself.

You can find her on www.chchelser.com and on Twitter: @chrischelser. 

Wednesday Weekly Blogging Challenge: Favorite Nonfiction Authors

Hosted by Long and Short Reviews. There’s something about summer that makes me want to read nonfiction. I still read science fiction, fantasy, and similar genres, but I really enjoy learning about things that really happened. Here are several of my favourite nonfiction authors. How many of them have you all read? Barack Obama. Example:… Read More

We Need Movies About Blogging

Today’s post is going to be short and sweet. As I’ve said here before, I don’t believe in stretching out my words if a few hundred of them will suffice. Someone found this site recently by doing a search for movies about blogging. Normally, queries like this happen because of something I blogged about in… Read More