Alternate History from the 1960s…
Process and Review
This week’s podcast contains a review of The Man in the High Castle by Phillip Kindred Dick. We’re talking about the book here, not the series on Amazon. The series was fun, and is fodder for a number of discussions, so look for that in the future. The Man in the High Castle is a well-written Alternate History story, and earned Dick a Hugo Award in 1962. The genre has come a long way since then, and it would have been interesting to see what Dick would have done with his universe, had he continued and wrote one or more sequels over time.
We follow the pattern for this podcast series by starting with some process talk. This tends to be rambling/stream-of-conscious talk, so I hope I don’t drive y’all crazy. If nothing else, talking out what the heck I’m doing helps me. This week, it’s a ramble about shifting gears. Just today, for example, it took Lady Editor to reel me in. I have an idea to do an anthology for Elysian Fields Press, and fortunately for me, Dara looks at her editing schedule to keep me on track. It does look like an antho that would drop over next summer, with Dragons2 dropping in the Spring and Talents2 in the fall, might actually work.
The big thing process-wise now is the notion of what happens when the project with the closer deadline produces a bit of writers’ block. Is it OK to shift gears? Is doing any writing better than doing nothing? It’s essentially the process that started the ball rolling on Hidden Talents. I would need a break from the history stuff for the Arcadia books, so I’d go back to thinking about Ren, JJ, and Mike. It worked; as the fiction flowed, it was easy to return to the nonfiction. But there you go, I’m rambling here. Go listen!
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Science Fiction to Fantasy to Alternative History
I came late to Alternative History as a genre. There are two reasons for this. First, one of the most-well-known writers in the genre is Harry Turtledove, and I was never interested in his premise/beginning of the Civil War. For all I’m fascinated with so many periods in history, the American Civil War has never done anything for me.
So, I kind of just put alternative history on the back burner. What brought me back to it was a Steve Stirling novel, The Peshawar Lancers. That’s a story for another post, though.
It started in high school
When I was a kid, I read a lot of juvie SF, most notably the Tom Swift books. I shifted to historical fiction when one of my dad’s friends, a librarian, suggested Hornblower to me. Then I got back to SF via an English class at Brother Martin. This was 1974, and the Cold War weighed heavily on everyone. American involvement in Vietnam was coming to an end, shifting the nightly news from the war and Nixon to re-focus on the bigger picture, potential conflict in Europe between the Soviet Bloc and NATO. Stories with a post-nuclear apocalypse theme were just depressing. Off I went into escape! On the teevee, that mean Star Trek, naturally, with Star Wars not far behind. Mr. Tony Hartigan’s English class got us wound up on Asimov, Heinlein, and Clarke. I was home! No dwelling on tactical nuclear weapons in West Germany. No thoughts on a “winnable nuclear war”. Stories like this one from Dick just didn’t fit my frame of mind. The US losing WWII and is partitioned between Japan and Germany? That was just too fucked up for me.
Then my 21yo called a few weeks back, asking if I’d ever read this novel. The reason, of course, was because Amazon was about to drop a teevee series based on the story.
The “process” portion of today’s Podcast discusses Goodreads and some strategies we’re using for Hidden Talents on that platform.
Book Review – Wicca: A Guide for the Solitary Practitioner
Written by the late, brilliant Scott Cunningham, Wicca: A Guide for the Solitary Practitioner is still the best “how-to” book for those interested in Wicca as a religion. The book has three sections, Theory, Practice, and a Book of Shadows. The chapters in the Theory section explain just what Wicca is, how it’s practiced in a group/coven structure, and how the reader/seeker can modify that practice to become a “Solitary Wiccan”. The author explains the basic tenets of the religion, defines magic, the Goddess, the God, and the days of power. Cunningham’s presentation of the “Wheel of the Year” is solid, giving the seeker a framework to begin a year’s worth of Wiccan observances.
The Practice section outlines a basic format for Wiccan ritual: preparing the sacred space, casting the circle, calling the Gods, the Work itself, and closing the ritual and breaking the circle. Cunningham’s style is simple and clear, giving the seeker what they need to pick up at any time of the year and start “being Wiccan”. The stories of how he acquired some of his tools are wonderful.
The third section of the book is a fully-developed Book of Shadows, which is the Wiccan equivalent of a Christian prayer book, like a Roman Missal or the Anglican Book of Common Prayer. The “Standing Stones Book of Shadows” isn’t merely a template. It’s possible for the seeker to run with this BoS as-is and do good Work.
Cunningham’s language may, in some spots, seem a bit dated. Wicca was about group/coven practice. To be Wiccan, you sought initiation in a coven. The two main “traditions” at the time were Alexandrian and Gardnerian. Cunningham explains how those traditions are not the only paths to the God and Goddess.
From a writer’s perspective, Wicca: A Guide for the Solitary Practitioner gives good information for character development. While writing about coven dynamics and interpersonal relationships in a group are a challenge, this book gives the writer the ability to develop robust characters as individuals.
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The Urban Fantasy novel, Hidden Talents, is available for review on NetGalley!
What is NetGalley?
It’s a site/community that makes books available to book professionals–librarians, publishers, booksellers, book industry writers, reviewers, and bloggers. A publisher pays a fee to list their titles on the site. Members of the site can browse the titles and download the books that catch their eye. Some books are available for immediate download, others require members to “request” the book. They then can download the epub or mobi file after approval.
Review requests for Hidden Talents
This is a big step for Elysian Fields Press. NetGalley is pricey by self-publishing standards. All reviews suggest it’s worth it for the exposure. If you know book professionals who use NetGalley, please let them know Hidden Talents is available for their review. They can click the link/widget below to get there. If you know a blogger that accepts direct requests/pitches, please let me know, I’ll send them a media kit. We’re obviously excited about the novel, and want to get it to as many people in the business as possible. Elysian Fields Press’ ad budget isn’t big! Please help us out by talking up the novel. Word-of-mouth advertising is the best kind. Personal recommendations have value to your friends and colleagues. Help us tap those folks. At the same time, if you’re talking to someone who isn’t the Urban Fantasy type, be sure to mention my nonfiction/history books. When you’re at a party, having lunch, etc., tell people about this great book you’re reading. Facebook friends are always asking for suggestions of books to read. Suggest Hidden Talents! It’s all about the personal touch.
What’s in it for you? Good karma. Be sure to tell your friends that you sent them. I don’t forget these things, and always do my best to pay that back/forward. I’m no longer a member of BNI, but I’m still a big believer in their “givers gain” philosophy. I want to help my friends and colleagues, because I know they’ll return the effort. Everyone wins!
Urban Fantasy set in New Orleans!
Today’s the day! My novel, Hidden Talents is officially released today. When I was having issues with getting the cover to IngramSpark in October, I made the decision to push the roll-out of the book back a month. It was a good move, because now everything is in place. Once the cover art was resolved, it was a matter of verifying the proof copies and release the book into the wild. Ingram’s documentation on their Print On Demand (POD) service said it would take several weeks for that to happen, once you release a book on their site. I don’t know if this book is an exception, but that time lag, from print to distributor, was a matter of days, not weeks. That’s why the book’s been out on Amazon earlier than the release date.
What is Hidden Talents about?
Here’s the back cover blurb:
New Orleans is hot, humid, spiritual…and magical!
Anita Delatorre is a junior executive for a publishing company specializing in Christian books and homeschooling materials. One of her “responsibilities” is to be her company’s liaison with a New Orleans-based radio preacher, whose books her company publishes. A group seeking to discredit her client is all too successful, and Anita must take steps to stop them, using any means at her disposal. And Anita’s means are formidible: She is a sorceress, whose psychic Talents extend well beyond those of most mortals.
Renard Alciatore is a photographer who enjoys using his computer skills to mock Anita’s client, the Reverend Jay Hadley. As Ren begins to receive information of financial and sexual improprieties from inside Jay Hadley Ministries, his life is threatened, and, in the process, his own Talents are revealed. He is placed under the Protection of a shadowy organization known as The Assembly as he learns to use his Talents, to improve his photography, help others when he can, and defend his own life, when Challenged.
What were once Hidden Talents emerge in the hot New Orleans summer. Only one will walk away when the Duel is joined!
What is Urban Fantasy?
The genre, “Urban Fantasy” describes a novel that features supernatural elements, such as sword and sorcery, but in an urban/city setting. This is contrasted to “High Fantasy”, like Tolkien, where the author creates an entire world/universe.
Buy Hidden Talents!
Thanks to everyone for your support in making this project a reality. Now, go buy the book – Kindle/Hardcover/Paperback! If you’re on Facebook, join the Bayou Talents Book Group to talk about it when you’re finished.