Tag Archives: Desolation

Meet the Fictorians: Colette Black

“Come in, — come in! and know me better, man!” -Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol

We’d love for you, our wonderful readers, to get to know us better. That’s why, each month, Kristin Luna will interview a member of The Fictorians. We’ll learn more about each member, such as their writing processes, their work, where they live, and what they prefer to drink on a warm summer’s day. We hope you enjoy this monthly installment of Meet the Fictorians.

Meet the Fictorians:

Colette Black

Author Pic

Kristin Luna (KL): Hi Colette! How are you doing and what are you drinking?

Colette Black (CB): Other than a sudden case of pink eye–how do we contract stuff like that?–I’m doing great. I’m not currently drinking anything, but my most recent drink was almond milk. I’m lactose sensitive, so…

KL: I love almond milk! I’m also lactose sensitive, as my husband would surely attest to. If you don’t mind me sharing, you live in Arizona. Does the landscape influence your writing at all?

CB: On occasion. I’ve set a couple of short stories in Arizona, such as Watchboy, using my knowledge of the geography and climate. I’ve also used that knowledge in other books, such as Mwalgi Justice, when writing about a dry, desert climate. I wouldn’t say that the landscape encourages me to write any more or less in that direction, though. I also spent time in the Philippines, and set a short story there called “Eden’s Hell.” At the same time, there are places I’ve never been, like India, but I did a large amount of research and set the majority of my story, “Beneath the Skin” in that country. Of course, then I had someone who had lived there look over the story for me.

KL: When is your most ideal time of day to write? Do you have a schedule or routine that you like to follow?

CB: My best time to write is evenings, but that’s also usually the best time to spend with my teenagers. It’s a balancing act, and although mornings aren’t my best time to write, I’ve found that I can often make it work and so that’s usually when I get the most done.

KL: You have three books out right now in your Mankind’s Redemption Series: Noble Ark, Desolation, and Mwalgi Justice. Is it a trilogy or can we expect more books in the series?

CB: The Mankind’s Redemption Series will eventually have six books. No more and no less. The fourth book, Lenfay’s Hell, will release in 2017. It’s a wild ride trying to keep humans alive on an aggressive alien planet. That challenge only becomes more important when Lar and Aline discover secrets pertaining to both their races that nobody else knows about.

KL: I noticed that you also have a short story collection out called The Black Side. Which is more difficult: short fiction or long fiction?

CB: For me, short fiction. My brain thinks in over-arching plots and subplots. Skimming that down into an interesting, 3000-5000 word story, which is what most magazines prefer, is one of my greatest challenges. I still do it, because it’s good for honing a myriad of skills.

KL: What writing projects are you working on right now?

CB: I’m focused on Lenfay’s Hell, but I’m also spending time on the second book in The Number Prophecy, Thirteen. I think I’m even more excited about that than Lenfay’s Hell, which is saying something. I also have a couple of short stories that I hope to have published soon.

KL: Have you been doing any interesting research lately for any of your writing projects? Care to give us a little taste?

CB: I found a fascinating story from the 1500’s about a knight that supposedly killed a dragon in the Slavic region of Europe. Using the backstory from one of my other projects that hasn’t released yet, called Moon Shadows, I created a courtship between a half-Mongol peasant and a Ukrainian princess. It’s a 16th century urban fantasy with local shapeshifters, wind dragons from Asia, and the creation of a new power. I can’t wait for this short to be picked up because it’s one of my favorites. Keep your eyes out for “Swan’s Petition”

KL: That sounds great! When did you join the Fictorians?

CB: I actually helped organize the Fictorians. After the first Superstars Writing Seminar, I suggested to the goal-keeping group we’d formed that we put together a group blog. Evan Braun and some others took the reins and started putting the plan in motion; people like Matthew Jones understood and incorporated the technical side, and we started with only 2-3 posts per week, each of us posting about twice per month. It fills me with joy and wonder to see what it has become. We’re more professional, we fill every month with unique and fascinating posts, and we incorporate a multitude of guest posts from talented authors on a regular basis. It’s amazing.

KL: And here we are today! What writing advice have you received that you would pass on to other writers?

CB: BICFOK. No, it’s not a swear word, though sometimes it feels like one. It means Butt In Chair, Fingers On Keyboard. We have to write, keep writing, and write when we may not feel like it. Also, remember to read…A LOT. We can’t improve our writing if we’re not reading.

KL: And finally, what has been your favorite Fictorians post that you’ve written so far?

CB: That’s tough. I’ve written a LOT of posts. In the end, though it’s short, I’d have to say my Gratitude Post is my favorite. If it wasn’t for my family, their encouragement, and their patience, I could have never written the stories that I did. My family is everything to me.

***

If you have any questions for Colette, please leave a comment below. Thank you for reading!

Researching it Old School and a Little New

researchLouis L’Amour talked to every “old timer” he could find so that he could accurately portray how folks used to live in the old west. Nowadays most writers just turn to the Internet.

There are great, insightful websites that offer a virtual experience and allow us to get into the minds of our characters. For example, I was writing about a space station built on the planet Mercury. Using computer software I was able to visit Mercury and see what Earth looked like from her surface. In the right rotation, Earth and her moon looked like two bright stars. This detail added a nice level of authenticity to my story.

A couple years ago, I was researching my family history and came across a gentleman that I may or may not be related to (I still can’t figure that out) but his story is a great one. Commodore Joshua Barney fought in the American Revolution and was one of the first to serve in the continental navy.

I decided to write his amazing coming of age story (and am nearly complete with this endeavor). Though at the time, I hadn’t a clue about ships and sailing in the 18th century. So I turned to the Internet.

Wikipedia is alright for double checking a reference, not hard fast research. But I perused its site first to get some direction.

YouTube offered some interesting videos on ship replicas from that era and I was able to glean some insights into sailing such a vessel. But even the replicas have been modified with gas engines and motorized rudders, so how authentic could that be? Most of the cabins have also been modified to accommodate the 18th century luxuries we now consider necessities like running water and flushable toilets.

I gathered twenty or so books from Amazon on sailing in the 18th century and other period pieces. The first thing I noticed is that folks back then didn’t talk like we do today. Keeping to the historic dialect would probably be more authentic, but I would most likely alienate my middle-grade readers in the process. So I drifted from authenticity in that area and hoped to make up for it in my research of the sailor life: food, sleep, hygiene, and so on.

I went to an antique mall and purchased a few model ships from the 18th century so I could get a feel for their look, dimensions, and layouts. This helped me gain a better prospective than just looking at photographs.

IMG_6211After reading the Amazon books and playing with my model ships, my head was swimming in information, but I really had no way of knowing what was worthwhile and what was rubbish. So I booked a sailing expedition on an 18th century tall ship replica (now referred to as a yacht). I was able to feel the experience, see it, smell it, and taste it. This made it easier to convey sailing in my writing. But I still lacked some aspects of the ship life.

My next research adventure came by surprise. I was visiting Collette Black’s Desolation book signing in Half Priced Books and wondered if they had anything on sailing. I was able to browse dozens of helpful books and elect the ones that were most specific to my project, at a great price. That is something you really can’t do on Amazon. I even found a book that discussed trekking through the Alps during summer in the late 1800s (something that my protagonist did at the age of fifteen in the late 1700s).

David Farland said that I needed to visit the Alps to convey the experience like I had with sailing. I’d love to, and don’t doubt that my writing that particular chapter would be much more convincing and insightful if I did, but I’m going to try writing the chapter from my research first and we’ll see how it goes.

So sure, researching has gotten much easier with the Internet, but researching it old school is still necessary to add levels of depth and authenticity that virtual experience has yet to duplicate. My experience on Mercury would no doubt be a drop in the bucket to what I might actually experience if I travelled to the planet (and lived to tell about it). Bottom line, there isn’t any short cuts. Even a fantasy novel on a made-up world still requires huge amounts of research to capture the reader. Good research facilitates better writing.

jace 1I live in Arizona with my family, wife and five kids and a little dog. I write fiction, thrillers and soft sci-fi with a little short horror on the side. I’ve got an MBA and work in finance for a biotechnology firm.I volunteer with the Boy Scouts, play and write music, and enjoy everything outdoors. I’m also a novice photographer.You can visit my author website at www.jacekillan.com, and you can read some of my works by visiting my Wattpad page.