Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Author Interview Series - William Freedman

Today I have the pleasure of hosting William Freedman.  
William Freedman is a satirist who uses science fiction and fantasy tropes. He is author of Land That I Love and the soon-to-be-released Mighty Mighty, co-author with Ben Parris of Supernaturalz, contributor to the 2005 Spirit House chapbook to raise money for tsunami survivors, and a frequent program participant at genre conventions throughout the northeast U.S. His non-fiction bylines – covering everything from hot stocks for Investor’s Business Daily to the rise of distilled spirits for History magazine to Bram Stoker Awards weekend for Long Island’s Newsday – go back more than 20 years.

JET: Can you tell us about your most recent book?

WF: It’s an anthology called Age of Certainty and it gives ten authors’ answers to the question, “What if God existed?”

JET: What drew you to (genre)?

WF: I’ve always been interested in science fiction and fantasy, but mainly as tropes for my social and political satire. My second novel, a superhero spoof titled Mighty Mighty is coming out about the same time as Age of Certainty, but this anthology is a marked departure for me. First of all, this time around I’m an editor, not a writer. Secondly, I’m doing this with my tongue nowhere near my cheek. Although there are many instances of humor in this collection, it isn’t a joke book by any means. It’s a generally serious exploration of God as a speculative element in genre fiction.

JET: What’s been your most challenging hurdle on the road to publication? 

WF: Here’s a rare case where actually finding the publisher wasn’t a problem. I have a longstanding and entirely cordial relationship with the wonderful people at Rebel ePublishers. I told them I had a gut feeling there’d be a market for this, and they were willing to invest the money if I was willing to invest the time. The call for submissions didn’t go as I expected, though. I requested stories premised on proof one way or the other about God’s existence or non-existence. I was surprised at how few stories took the hard-SF position that God is extraneous and, thus, is unlikely to exist. The few of these Analog rejects I did see were not of sufficient quality to make the final cut. Another hurdle was soliciting pre-orders. We gave Kickstarter a try, and it was a great learning experience, but ultimately we didn’t cross the finish line. We’re still giving away premiums to anyone who comes to the Rebel site ( and pre-orders a bound edition. One thing that was surprisingly not a hurdle was finding the right illustrator. I worked with Elena Nazzaro a few years back on the Spirit House chapbook. I knew she’d be perfect for Age of Certainty. She was my one and only phone call.

JET: What was your favorite moment in the journey?

WF: Gotta go back about a dozen years, when I met James Morrow at a science fiction convention. I think it might have been the first con I’d ever gone to and Jim might have been the first big-name author to autograph a book for me and take the time to just hang out. He was promoting his Godhead trilogy, and his premise really resonated with me: God is dead; here’s the body. When I was in the editing process for Age of Certainty, I sent him a very polite, deferential email gushing with my enthusiasm for his work – which I confessed served as the inspiration for the whole venture – and would he please-pretty-please look over this inconsequential little collection and, if he see fit, give it a blurb? Would I be out of line asking for a few prefatory remarks we could use as a foreword? He declined, but instead he submitted a story that had never seen print before!

JET: Which authors had the most influence over you growing up?

WF: Growing up I read mostly non-fiction, although I’m steeped enough in Bible scholarship to feel qualified to edit Age of Certainty. I was a big Star Trek fan and would watch anything on TV that was rooted in sci-fi – not that there were all that many options back then. I read Jules Verne, H.G. Wells and Aldous Huxley, as assigned. I didn’t start reading science fiction until adulthood, when I fell under the spell of Bruce Sterling. John Varley became a favorite as did Orson Scott Card and William Gibson, and I started to catch up on Frederik Pohl, Larry Niven, Philip Jose Farmer, Robert Heinlein and Arthur C. Clarke. I read Isaac Asimov and Frank Herbert too, because everyone told me how great their books were, but I didn’t really form an attachment to their work.

JET: When did you know you wanted to take the plunge into the writing world?

WF: First grade, but I was too chicken-shit until I was established in a day-job career that would comfortably pay the bills. I have a lot of respect for the people who understood early on they needed this to make them happy, and that happiness beats security every time.

JET:What’s the craziest thing you’ve done in the name of book research? Most interesting fact you uncovered?

WF: Well, I’m here to pump Age of Certainty, but to answer that question honestly I have to talk briefly about Mighty Mighty. There’s a character in there, named Lugh, who’s a parody of the Marvel Silver Age hero Thor. The Marvel character spoke with Jacobean flourishes, as if he were reciting Shakespeare or the King James Bible and, I remember thinking at the time in my early teens, that there was a lot Thor wasn’t saying. The Bible was being written for religious stiffs, and Shakespeare had to bear in mind that there were lots of kiddies in the Globe Theatre’s stands. And, as we all know from personal experience, English is a language rife with expletives, pejoratives, curses, slurs, obscenities and other low usages. We probably have more words for “vagina” than the Inuits have for “snow”. I thought it would be funny to have a guy who spoke the way actual 17th-century folk spoke, especially those who, like Lugh, grew up in a workingman’s trade rather than being born into godhood. And I think it is funny – but it involved a lot of research. Can’t tell you how many times I had to scrub my browser history.

JET: Of all the novels and stories you’ve written - which one is your favorite?  Why?

WF: I love them all equally. They’re all on sale now.

JET: Any advice (from a writer’s standpoint) for the novices out there?

WF: There’s a difference between ideas and craft. Learn what you can from other writers about craft. When they’ve reached the end of their expertise but you still feel you have more to learn, start hanging out with more accomplished writers. But even if you find yourself at Rick Castle’s card table, don’t let anyone else tell you what your ideas should be. Also, there are markets out there waiting for you. Of course, James Morrow can get published anywhere. Other Age of Certainty authors – Jennifer Rachel Baumer, Brandon H. Bell and James Hartley – have got impressive publication credentials. Meanwhile Patrick Evans, David J. Fielding, Ron S. Friedman, Brian K. Lowe, Ian R. Thorpe and Jeffrey Witthauer are largely unknown to genre fans, despite their creative successes elsewhere. Anthology and magazine editors are always looking for the right mix of experience to sell and novices to be able to brag about having introduced. New writers are always sought after – providing, of course, that what they’re writing is as fresh as their names.

JET:All right - now that I’ve hammered you with the big questions, let’s tackle my favorite (and geeky) quick ten. . . starting with:  Paper or Plastic?

WF: PayPal.

JET:Steak or Tofu?

WF: Tofu, reluctantly

JET:Beach or Mountains?

WF: Beach. I’m a lifelong Jersey Shore guy, and seeing the Casino Pier roller coaster collapsed in the surf after Sandy brought me to tears.

JET:Country or Rock-n-Roll?

WF: Rock.

JET:Leather or Lace?

WF: I don’t see that as an either/or.

JET:Angels or Demons?

WF: Demons

JET:Paper or Digital?

WF: Paper.

JET: Silent Film Classics or Cheesy B Rated Horror?

WF: Cherchez la fromage!

JET:Twilight or True Blood

WF: Buffy.

JET:Coffee or Tea?

WF: Coffee, unless chai is an option.

JET: Thank you for indulging me.  Before we wrap this up, can you tell us what you're working on now?  What's next?

WF: Rebel is publishing Mighty Mighty first as a series of three short ebooks, then they’ll be compiled in a bound format. I’ve got a screenplay I’d like to see produced, and three or four novels in various states of disrepair. I’d also like to get some short fiction in print.

Thank you so much for taking the time to chat on my blog.  Folks, you can find out more about William Freedman and his work at the following places:

Rebel’s bookstore:
William Freedman’s blog:

Until next time,

Monday, March 11, 2013

Author Interview Series - PT McHugh

I’d like to welcome debut author PT McHugh to my blog today. 

PT McHugh didn’t start out as a storyteller. He was, however, born into a family that encouraged imagination. He became a fan of history in school and then went to college to become a construction engineer, to build a world of straight lines, angles, and equations.

He was just as surprised as everyone else when he realized that he believed in magic, and might just know the secret of how to jump through time. Since then, he’s been researching the possibility and learning everything he can about history. Just in case the opportunity arises.

PT was born and raised in New Hampshire and currently lives in Raleigh, North Carolina with his wife, two daughters, and a dog named Bob, daring to dream of alternate worlds and cheering for his beloved New England Patriots.

With a wife, two kids, two dogs, and two cats, and a full-time job, how do you find time to write?

This is a great question, and it’s a perfect of example of turning a negative in one’s life into a positive.  I’ve been a chronic insomniac ever since high school. Instead of hitting the pillow and falling asleep, I’d go to bed and stare at the ceiling, worrying about things that in most cases I couldn’t control. Not a good practice, to be sure.  But I’m sure a lot of people out there can relate. Sometimes your brain gets going, and just won’t stop. Game over – you’re up for the night, and it’s going to be awful.

Then several years ago, a doctor and friend of mine suggested that instead of thinking of this inability to sleep as a curse, I should treat it as a positive. After all, Benjamin Franklin only got three to four hours of sleep a night, and he seemed to do okay.  Maybe it didn’t have to be as bad as I was making it. With those comforting words in mind, I set out to find a hobby. Something I could do quietly at night in the comfort of my own home.  Something that wouldn’t keep my family up or damage them in any way.  Something that would keep my mind busy and – maybe – be fun at the same time. I couldn’t paint worth a lick, but I always had an over active imagination, and I wanted to do something with it. 

So I started writing. A lot of it was bad, and very little of it saw the light of day, but it kept me busy, and it was the beginning of a sometimes beautiful and sometimes terrifying relationship with the written word.

When it comes to Stone Ends and Keeper of the Black Stones, the idea started with the realization that most schools weren’t teaching history anymore. At least not to any serious degree. Reading, writing, and linear Algebra were being treated with more importance, and it rubbed me the wrong way. Now don’t take that wrong– I can certainly see why those things are important, but that didn’t mean I liked it. My daughters didn’t know who Napoleon was, let alone Richard III, and they certainly didn’t understand the impact that our founding fathers had on today’s America. We were slowly losing track of our past, and missing out on some really fantastic stories along the way.

I was fortunate enough to have a father who cared deeply about history, and who enjoyed telling me stories about what happened hundreds of years ago.  Those stories had caught me in their spell when I was young, and I became fascinated with the idea of the men and women who created them. What were they like? Why had they made the decisions they made? What if I was in that situation?  What would I have done?  Would the world we live in today be the same?

From there, it was a quick hop, skip, and jump to forcing Jason into those very situations, and making him – and his friends – decide how they were going to handle it. It allowed me to put myself in those situations, and really live them. Getting to tell kids about history is just icing on the cake.

Why did you choose YA, and who are your inspirations?

“Dad, don’t embarrass us!” Those words are uttered quite frequently by my two daughters, who are both my inspiration and my test subjects in regard to how the younger generation thinks and acts.

To be honest, my girls aren’t quite teenagers. Although my twelve year old believes she is in fact going on eighteen, and should have her own apartment and car by now.  Thanks to her, music, movies, texting etiquette, and a refreshed vocabulary for a modern 21st-century teenager are at my fingertips 24/7, providing me with an excellent reference. I just have to look across the table at her to see how a young adult lives and thinks. 

Even with all the differences, though – technology, the world, the quicker aging of young people – I’ve come to realize that teenagers now are a lot like they were twenty, thirty, and even forty years ago.  They certainly have more now than I ever did … computers, iPhones, Twitter, Facebook, instant information at your fingertips (remember when you actually had to go to the library to do your research?).  But in the end, everybody’s teenage years contain a lot of the same problems and challenges – relationships, fitting in, questioning authority (parents), wondering what they’ll be when the grow up, wondering whether they even want to grow up (I don’t believe I ever did). And many of us never grow out of those questions. In that way, we’re all still teenagers at heart.  

That’s why I chose to YA. I can still identify with so many of those questions, which makes it easier to write. What’s more, I know that those years – the years when you’re so lonely and doubtful about who you are – are also the years when you form yourself. It’s when you have your first love, first heartbreak, dreams, anxiety, fear, euphoria … and all those feelings are compounded by a boatload of testosterone and estrogen. It’s a roller coaster on crack, and we’ve all ridden it. All those ups and downs make for amazing, realistic characters and stories, and I can’t imagine writing about anything else.

Now, I realize that I’m forty years old and a lot of people won’t believe that I can remember those years in my own life. But guess what, I do. In fact, some of the characters, the town, and many of the day-to-day situations in my books come from my own experiences.  That means I get to relive my childhood through my characters, and – even better – put them into situations I never had to deal with.   

Which is your favorite character and why?

Ironically, my favorite character in the book wasn’t even in the first version of the manuscript – the one that was signed to Glass House.  When the publisher, editor, and I met face to face, though, I was given a list of ‘notes.’ Top on the list: create a prominent female character to round out the story, and give both boys and girls someone to follow in the story.

“So you mean I have to write the entire story all over again?” I asked. 

“Yes,” was my curt response. A helpful hint to all of you aspiring writers out there – when you feel like your story is done, you might have to take a deep breath and realize that you might have to write it all again.

I argued a bit, because I thought this should be a book for boys, but eventually I realized that my editor knew what she was talking about. And I started writing Tatiana. When I was done, I realized that she was a combination of my wife and my two daughters – tough, sure minded, willful, and stronger than I could hope to ever be.  I have no doubt that the boys reading the story will fall in love with her, and the girls will cheer for her.  She says things that I could only dream of saying, and of course does things that are far beyond my reach.  She was an absolute kick to write, and quickly became one of the characters I looked forward to in every scene.

Where will she go in the future? I’m not sure even I know the answer to that – Tatiana has a mind of her own, and a way of dictating her scenes for herself. She doesn’t always listen to what I think, and she almost never does what I think she will. No matter what she does, though, I’m sure it’ll shock and delight all of us, myself and my editor included.

A Stone Ends Book

Jason Evans, a shy, introverted high school freshman, thought that his mundane life was all there was - girls, golf, physics, and the occasional bully. Until he found out about the secrets his grandfather had been keeping from him ... a set of stones that allowed him to jump through time ... a maniacal madman who used the stones to shape history to his liking ... and Jason’s role as one of the few people in the world who could stop that man.

Against impossible odds, a fourteen-year-old boy must take up his legacy, learn everything he needs to know within one short day, and travel helter skelter into the Middle Ages, to join Henry VII’s fight against Richard III, end the Dark Ages, and stop the man who now holds his grandfather captive. In this romp through history, Jason and his friends must race against time to accomplish not one, but two missions.

Save his grandfather.

And save the world.

To find out more about PT McHugh, please visit

Until next time,

Monday, March 4, 2013

Keeper of the Black Stones review by William F. Houle


I'm pirating my mother's blog so I can tell you about a book I read recently.  One that my mom recommended because she knows I like history and time travel and adventure.  Of course, I was a little skeptical and thought she was just trying to get me away from the video games.

My first thought when she mentioned time travel was the predictable machines you find in every time travel novel these days. However, when I started reading and found out that the stones were the things that allowed time travel, I was impressed. The author created a new and really different take that sucked me in.

P.T. McHugh did a great job pulling me in and the pages flew by. I got lost in the story and opted to read instead of playing my Playstation 3 - which if you know any other thirteen-year-old, you know it takes a lot to pull us out of our gaming world.

The ending was so mind blowing that I'm already looking forward to the next in the series.

As a writer myself, I have a great respect for Mr. McHugh's talent and as I said, I'll be one of the first in line when book two comes out.

Peace Out...
Billy Houle (a.k.a. William F. Houle)