Guest Post: Writing for Three by Anne E. Johnson

I had the good fortune to meet Anne at Headhouse Books in Philadelphia, where she gave a spectacular reading from Green Light Delivery back in May of this year.  She’s a fabulous and versatile writer, and I do mean versatile.  She writes short stories and novels for practically all age groups, including children, young people, and adults.  In this guest post, she shows us the fine art of keeping her trio of Webrid Chronicles main characters distinct.  ~~Mo

The Webrid Chronicles are about Webrid, obviously. But he can’t save the world alone. Part of my job as an author is to make sure the reader can distinguish Webrid from his fellow main characters, and to keep those distinctions consistent throughout each novel and the series as a whole.

These Three Musketeers in Space could not be less like each other. Most obviously, each of them has unique physical traits. Let’s say, they would never be mistaken for siblings (except for the way they argue). It’s equally important that these three characters be distinguishable by their speech mannerisms. As is true with every human I know, these aliens speak in a way defined by their upbringing and self-image.

Webrid is huge, bulky, and hairy, with claws and sharp teeth. He couldn’t care less what he’s wearing, and he doesn’t think or speak in complete sentences. He’s clumsy and often hungover, as we find him the morning after a night of partying in chapter 1:

From his vantage point on the floor, he could see his pants from yesterday, poking out from under an overturned chair. They were good as new once he shook the glass dust out of them. He had the claws of one foot caught in the first pant leg when someone knocked on his door.

“Crap,” he said to the universe. “Yeah, comin’!” he called to his visitor. He bumped his head on a wall lamp while hopping down the hallway. “Who is it?” The question was followed by a musical rrrrrip as his claws sliced through the cloth. “Aw, freakin’ hell.”

Stravin, Webrid’s drinking buddy, is slender and neat. He decorates his downy white feathers with expensive, fashionable clothes. He’s an engineering genius and clearly educated at the finest schools. Like Webrid, Stravin appreciates pleasure, but as a delicacy, not a smorgasbord:

“Come in, come in,” urged the slender, feather-coated man. He wagged a long, downy-white finger at the cart. “My dearest Webrid, I thought you’d forsworn this carting nonsense.” Before Webrid could reply, Stravin motioned into the foyer. “Ah, well. Just roll it into the front hallway. Nothing else to be done, I suppose, since I know you won’t leave it outside.” Quietly, but just loud enough for Webrid to hear, he added, “And this way my neighbors won’t see it.”

Once the cart was parked, Stravin dragged Webrid toward a velvet-covered ramp. “Burrow those giant cloppers into the sweet softness, my dear.”

“What?”

“Your feet, you brute. Into the footholds.”

Webrid didn’t see any footholds, but he stepped onto the ramp as he’d been ordered. The velvet swallowed his toes and heels. “Hey!”

“Don’t struggle so, darling. Think of it like sex. Just let it happen naturally.”

And then there’s Zatell. She and Stravin go way back. She has an illegal interplanetary rocket taxi service, and keeps her very own rocket in her back yard. (Never mind that she’s a truly awful pilot.) But the most remarkable thing about her is her shape. Zatell has about thirty little hand-feet encircling her round body-head. She walks by rolling or cartwheeling. And she talks like somebody whose defense mechanisms are always on full-blast:

“You stinky hoongofl!” she cried as she rolled toward the passenger side of Stravin’s car. “I haven’t seen you in ages. What sewer have you been hiding in? Is there even a sewer wide enough to hold your ugly butt?”

Talking to Zatell was like talking to the working girls at Joolo’s Skinny Dip Club. Webrid knew better than to be offended at the trash that spewed out of their mouths. Laughing warmly, he bent way down and gave Zatell’s puckered face a nuzzle. “Hey, sweetheart. Lookin’ good!”

As with all inseparable friends, these three sometimes need to be pulled apart before they blacken each other’s eyes. But they’d also lay down their lives for each other without a moment’s pause.

Thanks for dropping by, Anne!  I can hardly wait to dig into the latest escapades of Webrid, Stravin, and Zatell!  

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You can learn more about Anne E. Johnson at her website.

Purchase Blue Diamond Delivery directly from the publisher, Candlemark & Gleam, or on Amazon or Barnes and Noble.

Don’t miss the rest of Anne’s blog tour stops, which include author AND character interviews, more terrific articles, a giveaway, and a space music countdown!

Guess who’s coming to dinner?

Well, virtual dinner, at least.

Amazing author Anne E. Johnson, will be stopping by tomorrow on her Blog TourAEJohnson small

She’ll be telling us about what it’s like to write a trio of leading characters, which is exactly what she does in Green Light Delivery and Blue Diamond Delivery.

This adult series is lively, fun, and imaginative, and so is the trio of characters in it!GLD-link

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So, get caught up on your reading at Anne’s other blog stops and don’t be late for dinner!

~~Mo

To celebrate the opening of Balticon 47 . . .

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. . . there’s nothing like a cover reveal!  I am in love with what Derek Murphy of Creativindie Covers has done to capture the essence of Incorrigible.

Anne E. Johnson reads like a rock star!

When I heard through a Broad Universe communication that Anne E. Johnson was going to be reading from her science fiction novel, Green Light Delivery, at Head House Books in Philadelphia on May 19th (my father’s birthday), I decided to attend and show some support for a sister Broad.  Dad would have approved of that.  From a purely selfish standpoint, it was one of the best decisions I’ve made in a good long while!

Not only does Anne emit sincerity, she holds a crowd like a rock star when she reads!  Of course, one cannot give Anne’s superior talent for public reading all the credit.  Her writing talent gets a huge kudos for its part, too.  The two excerpts in the reading were crisp, inventive, and  . . . alive!

When Anne stopped reading, I was disappointed, but only until my mind could zoom back to the here and now, riding on the exhilarating knowledge that I could get this talented author to sign a copy of Green Light Delivery!  Turnabout was fair play, after all.  She’d captivated me, and now, I was going to do the same with her.  Non-stalkerishly, you pessimists!  Okay, well, maybe slightly stalkerishly.

Anne was so gracious that I felt guilty afterward, albeit WAY pleased with myself for snagging her autograph, but definitely NOT too proud to get hubby Walt to grab a snapshot WithAnneEJohnsonANDHERBOOK5.19.2013of Anne’s genuine smile and my goofy astonishment (holding the coveted signed copy of the book, which didn’t quite make it completely into the photo…damn you, Murphy!).

Tell me it wasn’t generous of her to give me a chance to retake that photo, and I’ll smack you on the nose much harder than Dorothy Gale from Kansas ever thought of doing to that wimpy lion!  WithAnneEJohnson5.19.2013

It was a delightful way to spend a Sunday evening, and I look forward to reading the novel and its sequel, Blue Diamond Delivery, which is due for release June 25, 2013 by publisher Candlemark & Gleam.

For those of you who love lively science fiction that will keep you laughing and thinking at the same time but couldn’t come out to hear Anne read (so that you could get as lucky as I did in snagging an autographed print copy of Green Light Delivery), I have great news!  Anne uses Authorgraph to sign digital copies of her works.  Get thee to Authorgraph, buy a copy of the book, and Anne will sign it digitally for you!

Get thee also to calendar reminders for June so you can be the second in line for an autograph/authorgraph of Blue Diamond Delivery(Get thee behind me, stalkers.  I was here first!)

The Next Big Thing – Work in Progress

Hello, folks.

I’ve been tagged for a “chain blog.”  It’s called THE NEXT BIG THING – WORK IN PROGRESS, and it’s an opportunity for writers to share with you a little bit about the work they’re currently doing and then tag other writers who will do the same.

I want to thank TS Gwilliam, who tagged me.

She was tagged by Kate Thompson.

I’ve linked to their blog posts, and I hope you’ll drop in and read them and get to know these authors.  At the end of my answers, I’ll tell you who I’m tagging and why.

Here we go!

1. What is the working title of your next book?

Discordant: Kin Foreign & Familiar

Wait.  I’m not done!  I’m not known for short titles, as you can see.

Discordant is Book 2 of The Staves of Warrant trilogy.

2. Where did the idea come from for the book?

Because it’s Book 2, Discordant was a natural offshoot of developing the storyline for Book 1, Incorrigible: Secrets Past & Present.

The idea for the overarching story evolved over a period of about 4-5 years as I played with writing the story as a fantasy before the speculative nature of the tale finally smacked me in the face.  As I toyed with the word “warrant” and the concept of worlds that changed (I’m a big fan of philosophies of change), I began to imagine a “universe” (for lack of a more accurate term) of Shifting Worlds.  I linked that with a character who was a shape shifter (albeit a very lousy one) and the multiple definitions of the word “warrant,” and lo and behold, all kinds of WHAT IFs started popping into my head.

The settings and themes for Discordant also evolved over time, but from some research I did on the Carlisle Indian Industrial School (in Carlisle, Pennsylvania) and the Alien and Sedition Acts of 1798.  Again, all of the WHAT IFs started haunting me, and so I decided to address them in the second book of what I knew would be multiple books.  The story of the Staves of Warrant and the exploration of the Shifting Worlds universe just couldn’t be told in a single novel (unless it was the size of War and Peace … on steroids).

3. What genre does your book fall under?

It’s epic speculative fiction, science fantasy to be specific.  As of right now, the plan is to release the novel in episodes, like I am doing with Incorrigible.  If that plan works out, Discordant will be released in three parts.

4. What actors would you choose to play the part of your characters in a movie rendition?

Gosh.  I hadn’t given that a bit of thought, but I’ll give it a shot.  For Grainne, I’d choose a tall actress, so maybe Caitlyn Larimore or Suzie Plakson, either of whom could pull off the lead role of a female character who grows into her own skin, so to speak.  For Fenn, who is even taller than Grainne, I’d choose Liam Neeson. I’d love to see him in a role that involves magic in the way it does for Fenn.  I’d drool over Johnny Depp (for whom my desktop computer is named), but Mr. Depp isn’t right for that role.  He might make an interesting Paidraigh Keenan, though.

5. What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?

Even pacifists have their limits.

6. Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?

It will be self-published in digital format as episodes and then in digital and print formats once all of the episodes have been released.  All of my works are published by my own company, Bookmite Press.

7. How long did/will it take you to write the first draft of the manuscript?

About 30 writing days, so slightly longer than it did for Incorrigible, which was written in a month (about 25 writing days) from an apartment looking out at the spires of Lincoln Cathedral in England.  I’m an outliner, so I have a good idea of where the story’s going before I start writing.  Then, the muse takes over, and I puke out a first draft.  After that, I may spend months revising before I’m comfortable sending it to critique partners and beta readers.  Then, I revise again like a madwoman until I am sick of it but can live with it out in the world.  Drafts are the easy part for me.  Revision is sometimes fun and sometimes painful, but always the hard work of writing.

8. What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?

Hmm.  I’m not sure there’s another book out there like Discordant, though it does have elements that other novels have.  For instance, it has women protagonists who walk between worlds, like the women in Charles Stross’ The Merchant Princes series.  It’s a cross-over novel, like those of Rosemary Kirstein’s Steerswoman series.

9. Who or what inspired you to write this book?

As I mentioned earlier, this novel is part of a series, and I was initially inspired to tell the story of a woman whose life didn’t turn out quite the way she’d planned. I wanted to show how the world changed around her and how she found strength, despite adversity, to make a socially responsible difference in the lives of those whom social systems and governments treat with indifference and disregard.  But I wanted to say all of that through a story, not a lecture.

I think the world of fiction needs female characters who are strong but also flawed because that’s realistic.  Yes, bad things happen to them sometimes because that’s the state of the world, and I’m not sugar-coating those conditions with prettiness and nice.  Growing up, I had a strong, positive role model in my grandmother, who had experienced sickening social injustices, including being married off to a man more than twice her age when she was only twelve years old.  After she died, I learned she had been a bootlegger during the Depression, because that was the only way she could make money to feed her eight children.  I want readers to meet some women I believe my grandmother would have liked.  Discordant has some of those women in it.

10. What else about the book might pique the reader’s interest?

Hmmm.  My one hint at the plot would be that readers will find out if the person who dies near the end of Incorrigible was a real person or a ka.  Evil of me, huh?

Discordant is narrated from the point of view of multiple characters.  That’s one of the fun things about it.  Readers can get into the minds of several characters who are very different from each other.  At least one of those narrators is not what s/he appears to be, but readers will have to figure out which one that is.  Yes, I am evil to the core.

As a genre-bender, Discordant takes readers on a ride through fantasy and through science fiction.  The Shifting Worlds universe has numerous settings, ranging from medieval to dystopian and from fantasy to high-tech.  The story gives readers pieces of a puzzle that ultimately link all of those settings together.

And now it’s tag time!

I’m tagging Sabrina Vourvoulias, author of Ink, a speculative fiction novel I’ll be reviewing on World Enough and Time in the near future because it is an amazing and terrifying story that every American adult should read.  Sabrina’s blog, Following the Lede, is where you’ll find her Next Big Thing post on April 25th, but don’t wait until then to look at her blog.  It’s full of fascinating posts and honest reviews.  Get to know Sabrina.  Her posts are worth your reading time.

I’m tagging Brian Rathbone, author of the World of Godsland fantasy series and a real-life horse guy (No, HE isn’t a horse.  He HAS horses and loves them.).  Brian is one of the friendliest, most hard-working authors I’ve “met” through social media. Be sure to visit Brian’s blog, where you’ll find all kinds of cool things, including free audiobooks and downloads.  Brian’s Next Big Thing post will appear on April 25th.

Enjoy!!

Mo