Okay… so it’s not as scary as it sounds… It’s just the way my new year is shaping up.
I’m talking about my expanding world of developing characters, and if I’m honest, it feels closer to being invaded by a litter of 99 Dalmatian puppies frolicking and vying for a standout place in my stories than impregnation by horrific alien parasite beasts.
If you’ve been following this thread of musings, you know I’m fond of expounding on how my burgeoning characters mysteriously began showing up only a few short years ago when I inexplicably began writing fiction, which led me to conclude they must have been seeded by aliens who conspire to use the human race to produce their entertainment.
I say keep it coming, Pod Seeders!
But what I’m really talking about here are all the short story submission opportunities that seem to be due almost on top of each other. Do they all get together and plan it this way? Every magazine or competition I’m interested in has a deadline in February, pretty much all at once. But that just means my little podlings are popping out right and left from the deep recesses of my mind. I’m good with that. I hope the stories never stop coming, the characters never stop developing, and I always have too much to write. That is my idea of a good life. And that is what I’m looking forward to in 2023.
I’ll let you know around April if I survive the first quarter.
Now, if I could just get to that point where I didn’t have to spend forty hours of every week working for someone besides my Pod People… oh, what I could do with that time…
I’m so grateful to be able to chat with Lucky on a regular basis. Our conversations have been one of the highlights of my writing journey this summer. I’m so new at the craft, and though he’s from a younger generation, he’s never short on wise counsel and encouragement. So, here is some of that for you.
I’m also pleased to share Lucky’s character sketches from some of his works in progress.
I love the sweeping expanse of your fantasy worlds and epic stories. Can you talk a little about how long you’ve been writing and what inspired you to write fantasy? What fantasy genre best describes your stories?
Thanks for the compliment, nice words are always welcome here and thank you for setting up this Q&A. Where would the Alliance be without you?
It’s hard to imagine that I’ve been writing for eight years now. It still feels like yesterday… Reading built my desire to write. I enjoyed Jim Butcher’s Dresden Files series, Glen Cook’s The Black Company, Steven Erikson’s Malazan Book of the Fallen and of course the fantasy bible: The Lord of the Rings. Apart from Butcher’s work, you’ll discover all the authors I mentioned above built vast worlds and their storytelling was top notch, too. So, one day, while reading A storm of Swords by R. R. Martin, I was like, “I think I need to write a book.” My mind grasped that idea and nursed it for weeks. I tried writing some stories but discovered I was writing what I’d read from other Authors and there was no originality… Oscar’s Wilde’s famous quote: “Most people are other people. Their thoughts are someone else’s opinion, their lives a mimicry, their passion a quotation,” came to mind and I began to focus on new ideas. It wasn’t easy at first, but I managed to bring my ideas to life. Indeed, while I was influenced and inspired to write by the authors I mentioned above, my real inspiration came from being different. Writing something original. And though it can be argued that the two are intertwined, I believe the latter helped me hone my skills through the years.
To answer your last question here, I’d like to point out that I love dark stories. Every time I tried to make my stories into sunshine and rainbows, I failed with the plot. Over the years, I tried to perfect the art of dark fantasies, and of course my stories are always high fantasies, too.
Who is your favorite author(s)? What was it about his/her writing or characters that inspired you most?
Favorite author has to be R.R Martin. His ability to tell a story from ten to fifteen points of view is second to none in my opinion. Plus, like I said earlier, I love huge detailed worlds… and worlds don’t get bigger than Esteros, and Westeros.
D. You got that right. Well. I think you’re on track for developing worlds in that magnitude!
The New Defeat is such an awesome title. Can you tell us a little about it and where the idea came from?
The New Defeat… hmmm. December 2019, I wasn’t feeling too well, and was down for about two weeks. While sick, to lull myself to sleep when movies and music failed, I formed up stories. One story stood out which later became the title mentioned above. It was meant to be about a peculiar race, called the Zoryks. Their existence was one of survival as they’d lost their traits or superpowers. They were preyed upon because of this weakness and envied by most around them. Our protagonist had the great destiny to save his world while many only saw his poor mental health. The new defeat was supposed to reflect the sadness of being weak and misunderstood. I for one enjoyed building the world of the be defeat called the Paraworld. A continent made up of six races namely the Zoryks, Lerans, Yubs, Wingyads, Kraskors, and Solbies. Each race had its peculiar trait, and some traits were funny. For example, Zoryks became drunk from drinking honey, and had diseases like the sad sickness, the falling fingers… Other races like the Yuban (Yubs) were naturally bald, head to foot, while Wingyads had the ability to fly. There’s a lot of political intrigue too, and the villains had reasonable personalities. Book two should be out soon.
D. That’s a great story. Our readers can click on your book cover at the end to link to The New Defeat on Amazon.
I’ve had a chance to preview some of your current works in progress and I’m excited to see them in print. Can you tell us about some of your favorites?
I’m excited about a few stories, like Thirty: Rise of the Dead which is the book of Thirty: XXX released last year. However, I’m more excited about When a Kingdom Bleeds Lords Weep. I’ve been working on this for 8 years. I’m after perfection with this story though I know it’s impossible to write a perfect book. I poured my heart into this up to a point where in 2018 I went through books one and two (over 200k words at the time) and burnt both manuscripts. Everybody says, “You’re allowed to have shitty first drafts,” but I was having none of that. I started the project again, and I think its release is coming soon.
D. I was hoping you would share this story. When you first told me that, it impressed the heck out of me. You literally burned your manuscript to force yourself to start from the beginning again. It’s the kind of thing many of us might have wanted to do ourselves at one point but lacked the courage. Lucky is giving us a sneak peek at his cover for When Kingdom Bleeds!
The New Defeat is just one of your published books. Where can we find others? Can you point us to your short stories?
Thanks Darci, for this opportunity to point a finger toward my short stories. I have a few available here.
Which of your characters in all your writing is your favorite, and why?
That’s an exciting question, Darci. I’d like to go with Julian Mars-Stalker on this one. He’s the first son of a popular lord in the Province of Samolin. Samolin is a province in the Kingdom of Markia, and they belong to the Sanem Continent. The Continent where When a Kingdom Bleeds is set. His father had high hopes for him, whereas Julian desired the simple things in life. What I really loved about Julian was his ability to rise to every scenario thrown at him. I also liked the way he talked. Sometimes he came off rude, and at other times he was like an angel. My favorite quote from him is: “When the young do their business which the old call folly, the old should stick to their wisdom and preserve their warnings for those without lust.”
D. I love that line. What an elegant way to tell someone to stick to their own business!
You are also so creative in illustrating your worlds with AI digital art. Is that something you do to relax and want a break from writing, or is it a passion of its own? What other creative outlets do you like to explore?
Thanks for the compliment again, Darci. I think writing as a form of art should be expressed in other forms too. I love the idea of creating and I’m not good at drawing nor experienced in making state of the art videos. A.I art can come a long way to make it seem like you know what you’re doing when creating, and that’s why I use it as a tool. But if I had the experience or enough dollars to hire professionals, I’d stick to my writing.
D. What I love about your images is the drama they convey. I’m drawn to the dark portentous things going on and want to know what will happen next.
One of the things I’ve enjoyed most about meeting you and other writers in our Fantasy Sci Fi Writers Alliance is that we are from all over the globe. So many different experiences! How did you first come across the group, and what perks have you discovered from being involved with a writing community?
It was all down to Eric B. Hunter’s effort. He invited me and helped me through with the basics. He’s such a nice guy, and I like the community which grew afterward in the name of Fantasy Sci Fi Writers Alliance. I think the Alliance has been fun. You get to meet nice people from everywhere and it’s been a very supportive community.
D. Yeah. This is a good place to note that the original group has been around for a while, before Eric and Anna got the brilliant idea to brand us as the Fantasy Sci Fi Writers Alliance. And with that branding and all the current events inspired by it, the group is growing fast. If you want to learn more, click on my Alliance page.
● What has been your biggest highlight of the last year?
D. I’m with you there, my friend. These past few years have been tough. Here’s to celebrating still being around!
What are you most excited about over the next year?
I really can’t say because life changes in a heartbeat. I’ll keep things simple and hope I become a better writer.
D. That’s a good way to go. And all the best to you.
● What are your plans for future publications?
I’m working toward releasing Thirty: Rise of the Dead, The New Defeat two, When a Kingdom Bleeds Lords Weep and The Château between now and next year. A publishing deal? Maybe… Ha, laughs an indie author.
D. I know you’re close on many of those. Even one publication down will be a huge accomplishment. You’re always reminding me that it will happen in time and that’s good advice. I know it will happen for you, too!
● Any parting advice to those who dream about writing?
I’d go with R. R Martin’s advice, which has helped me through the years. “Write every day, even if it is only a page or two. The more you write, the better you’ll get. But don’t write in my universe, or Tolkien’s, or the Marvel universe, or the Star Trek universe, or any other borrowed background. Every writer needs to learn to create his own characters, worlds, and settings.”
D. And that does sum up the challenge for a fantasy writer. This has been great, Lucky. Thank you so much for the conversation. All the best!
Joey is one of the chillest people I know – And his photos blow me away…
I was thrilled to catch him on a break from climbing mountains to get this interview, so I could learn more about the artist side of the guy who’s marrying my niece next year. Here’s our conversation.
As they say, a picture is worth a thousand words. Which means your photographs already say so much about you, Joey. It also means that this is a great opportunity to learn more. Can you first share a bit about how you came to love photography and your background?
I grew up in Northern California in a family that loved to get outdoors. Whether it was fishing, camping, or just barbecuing, we spent a lot of our time outside with others. This instilled a love for nature and being able to share that space with the people in my life. Photography was something my grandfather was a natural at, but it came to me before I even knew he had a passion for it when he was a young adult. I didn’t really start to shoot consistently and develop my own style until I was a sophomore in college. From there it inspired me to pursue more remote places. Documenting and sharing my experiences with my friends and family then became my routine.
D – I for one appreciate that you share such amazing things with us through your lens, and how special is that to discover your grandfather enjoyed the same thing.
Obviously, you have a love for the adventurous life and the outdoors. But besides that, what inspired you to make it your preferred genre?
I realized that every time I’d reach the city limit, breathing in the fresh mountain air and finding a sense of solitude, I would feel a sense of good energy rush over me. Simply put, at this stage in my life, I got happier when I could escape the chaos within the city.
Engaging in the kind of epic art you do, it must be hard to focus on the business end of things. I know for me, I could hide away and write all day long. But it doesn’t pay the bills. What are the top three tips you can share to help creators balance their passion in art with other aspects of life?
Honestly, I’m still not very good at selling myself regarding my art. However, I have always worked hard with various jobs I’ve held to allow me to continue doing what makes me happy. I’d say it should be a big priority to take the time to reflect on why you do the things you do. Spend time creating the space to really think about the why. Once you can find a strong reason, it is easier to make the choices that set you up for success.
It has been a lot of fun watching you and Ana taking all those steps and finding your niche while you’re young.
The kind of photographs you take require being in the right place at the right time. What are your tips and preferred techniques for getting those great shots?
Do what others are not willing to do. It’s not my phrase, but it’s something I’ve seen ring true more times than not. More specifically, if you put yourself in good positions to get those perfect conditions by hiking through the night or waking up before the sun, you’ll be provided with more opportunities to get a great photo.
D – I love that you have a passion for film cameras. Can you tell us about your favorite equipment? How much do you haul around trying to get those shots? Does Leo help out? Sorry, but I had to get a mention in for your awesome German Shepherd, whom I’ve known since he was a pup.
I’ve always focused more on the action of taking the photos and not on the gear I use to get there. That being said I use a Leica M6 primarily for 35mm film and a Pentax 67 for 120mm film (medium format film). Leo doesn’t help much, it’s a surprise I don’t charge him rent at this point haha.
You’re originally from California, and explored the beauty of that state and the surrounding ones extensively with your camera. What compelled you to make your home in the Pacific Northwest? Are there other parts of the country… or the world you’d like to explore?
I needed a change from where I was living. My fiancé(Ana) and I were living in Sacramento California, but we were constantly traveling north to Oregon and Washington. We both decided it would be fun to simply pick up and move. Not a whole lot more thought went into it at that time. Just a spontaneous choice that left us very happy.
As far as other parts of the world, I’d love to see as much as I can in my life. Scotland and Ireland are higher on the list because of mine and Ana’s family history there.
D. I’ve experienced that kind of spontaneous move myself, and often it’s the best kind. Still, I’ve never been to Washington State, and that’s another reason I enjoy your photos. But I will come for a visit and a tour one of these days haha.I sincerely hope you get to travel abroad with my niece someday… And though I’ve said it in person, congratulations on your upcoming marriage!
What has been your biggest highlight of the last year?
Attempting to climb Mt. Tahoma (Rainier) and learning a lot about the mental toughness it takes to document the experience while being fairly uncomfortable.
D – I love that. Can you share a little more about what you took away from the experience?
Yeah, it was one of those experiences that shows you how much you don’t know, the more you know haha. Basically being physically fit is only a small percentage of climbs like Rainier. The rest is about maintaining a positive outlook when setting up camp in the snow, the sun is going down, and your beginning to get weary of how cold you’ve gotten. Thankfully I have amazing friends with more experience and who were able to show me little tricks to make life smoother out there.
What are you most excited about in the next year?
I plan to race my first Ultra marathon this year, along with a few others soon after. I’ve developed a love for all forms of movement in the mountains. Running and climbing are simply amazing, and they’ve taken over my life haha.
D – It shows in your photographs. Wow! All the best in those endeavors.
Where do you want to be as a photographer in five years?
I’ve come to learn that I’m happy just having a camera around and not taking it too seriously. I decided not to worry whether or not I make a living with photography, but rather just to enjoy it for what it is. A passion.
D – I am truly happy that you get to follow your passion freely. Again, it shows in your work.
Do you offer your art commercially? If so, where can we find it?
I have a print shop where I occasionally add new photos too. I’d like to open a new selection this year and use the funds to donate for ALS research. My lifelong friend’s mother has bulbar ALS and has been showing immense strength in her fight against it. That shop will be available through my website at joeymaclennanphoto.com
D – That is another wonderful reason to follow Joey and watch for those photos. Where can we find you besides your website?
Instagram is basically my only other online presence. That is @joeymaclennan
Any parting advice to those who dream about pursuing a creative and/or an adventurous life?
Get outside, care about the environment, and don’t be afraid to fail in pursuit of things that make you feel alive.
D – Great advice! Thank so much for dropping by, Joey.
Thanks for talking with me!
Click on any photo to link to Joey’s website and don’t forget to follow him on Instagram for those inspiring posts!