This Monday, we have the privilege of welcoming science fiction and fantasy author Charles Barouch to Dropped Pebbles. Charles has experience with many different forms of writing, including Manga and Children’s Books, so please stick around to discover what he has to say to say about his first creative love as well as what other projects he’s working on.
Good Monday, Charles. Thank you so much for stopping by to chat with us. Can you start by telling us a little about yourself?
Since, for me, writing is like breathing, I feel obligated to have something interesting to say. Combine that with my paranoia about holding just one job at a time (I’ve got 80 years experience on my resume) and I have a very wide array of experience to draw upon.
Are you interested in other forms of artistic expression besides writing? Where does writing fit in, and why are you drawn to it?
Interested, yes. Skilled, not so much. I am a good designer but I am not good at translating that into paint or clay or skyscrapers. For me, writing is more craft than art. I guess it ‘fits in’ to editing, layout, and teaching — writing as a technical skill with a strong artistic aspect.
What forms of writing and genres do you prefer and why? What can you never see yourself writing?
I write everything. Science Fiction, Fantasy…I have completed draft of book one of a Manga series (I just need an artist). I have six months of a Web Comic written (I just need an artist). I have over fifty print articles to my credit as a journalist. I just finished writing a Children’s Book (That one does have an artist). I used to teach poetry writing.
I can’t see myself writing Erotica or Romance. Otherwise, fiction and non-fiction are both wide open.
To you, what makes a good story? What’s one thing a ‘bad’ book taught you to not do in your own writing?
Almost everything I have ever written has started with annoyance. I wrote my second novel because Isaac Asimov wrote something about the rules of writing which ticked me off. I wrote one of my best short stories because a book set up a great scene and then simply changed chapters without ever taking us inside the ruins by the side of the road.
A good story has characters and situations which resonate with the reader. A great story compels you to read even when you have nothing in common with the characters and the events.
As a reader, pacing and continuity are really important.
As a writer, what elements do you find are the most crucial to include in your stories? What are your strengths and weaknesses?
My weakness, as my wife continually points out, is too little description. Defining my strengths is harder because it comes out like a brag. I am really good at managing the pace of my stories. I write runaway trains that drag the reader along, gasping for breath.
By the time they are edited, they are a bit slower and cleaner, but still have that underlying roar of the engine.
Who/what are the biggest influences in your writing? How do they influence what your write?
I’ve dwelt on the negatives enough. Positive influences: Nancy Kress — I want to be her when I grow up. Andre Norton. C. J. Cherryh. Robert Heinlein. So very many amazing writers. Aside from the known names: my mother, who encouraged my love of Science Fiction even though she wasn’t particularly fond of it. My wife, who pushes me to always do better. She reads a lot of what I read. We have a huge pool of common reading. My kids, who let me get away with NOTHING. They are very gifted beta-readers.
More recently, I’ve started a writing community on G+. The Theme-Thology folks have been a huge positive. Likewise, the communities run by John Ward, Traci Loudin, and others have been very helpful.
What draws you to your preferred genre? What do you think makes your genre unique? And why is it so popular? (Or perhaps less popular than it could be?)
I have a lot of genres. I like Science Fiction and Fantasy because they free me to frame my ideas in the most amazing contexts. I can talk about racism, greed, power, relationships, spirituality — anything that speaks to the human condition — and it has a million ways to be expressed.
Can you tell us about your books? What other projects are you working on?
The business of Teleportation.
Imagine if someone invented a teleportation device and their first thought had to be: How do I market this? What if you couldn’t use a teleporter because governments are still trying to figure out how to regulate it? Rama and Walter are standing at the cusp of changing the world – if they can just get the funding.
I should have the sequel to Adjacent Fields — Adjacent Memories — out by middle 2014.
Theme-Thology: Invasion will be on sale September 28th, 2013. Theme-Thology: Day I Died will be out in November 2013. Theme-Thology: New Myths will be out in January 2014. Reality Breaks, which is a shared universe, will have its first book out in early 2014. Tales of Kassa: Kraken (I’m an editor only on this one, Madre Knight wrote it) will be out early 2014 as well.
Why is social networking and the promotion of other writers important to you?
The reason I built a community on G+ was to help people tell their stories. I routinely promote projects that I don’t publish. Writers need readers. I do what I can.
What do you find is the most difficult aspect of writing and how do you cope with it?
The most difficult part is wrestling with my characters for control.
A good story requires continuity. I often find that my characters can’t follow the plot I expected to write without being wildly inconsistent. So, I sit down with a plot, lose all control to my characters, and then try to pull it all back together at the end.
Who are your favourite writers and why?
The folks I mentioned before, plus too many more. I read very broadly.
What advice would you give to new writers?
The best advice is: write, write, and write some more. Get a critiquing circle. PAY FOR REAL EDITING. Most of all: just keep writing. The first couple of novels you produce should probably never leave the drawer.
How can readers get into contact with you?
My contact information and my works in print can both be found here: hdwp.com/r/cdb
It was great to have you with us, Charles. Readers, I hope you enjoyed reading about our guest and will look him up on his site or drop him a line here. Thanks for reading!
What follows is a snippet from my upcoming book, The Purple Morrow. It’s taken from Chapter 14, Crossing Paths, where my fabulous men and bitter enemies, Jeru and Kelen, meet for the first time. And yes, they mean to fight.
Some images to stir the imagination…
“You were supposed to be on a scouting mission to search out the lay of the land and to discover the strengths and weakness of our enemies. Instead, you have brought me back a woman!”
Olef pointed a grubby finger at the woman. “Not just any woman, Commander. The one we chased through the woods after she escaped.”
“I know who she is, worm!” Kelen shouted. He took a step towards the scouts.
Olef looked at his companion for support. But Gall, who was no fool, read the displeasure in Kelen’s face and he only shrugged his shoulders. “It was not my idea,” was all he said.
They are young and inexperienced and probably only wanted to please me and their friends, Kelen thought. But it doesn’t excuse that it was a stupid thing to do.
“Olef, have you lost your mind? Secrecy and stealth are our strongest weapons against our enemies. It means we take them by surprise, minimizing our losses and ensuring that our victory is swift and complete. Was she alone, at least?”
“Uh…no,” he answered, drawing out the last word. He shifted his feet, probably realizing where Kelen was taking the conversation. “There was another with her. She-she got away.”
In a flash, Kelen’s fist was in the air and swinging in a wide arc before it connected with Olef’s chin. “Idiot! Who knows how much time we have before her people come to claim her!”
Olef rubbed his chin. The blow had sent him back two steps, but he still stood on his feet.
“We don’t know that they will. She’s just a woman, after all.”
“She may be just a woman to you, but she may be more than that to someone else.” It was Olly who had spoken. He was seated amongst his brothers in arms and, until then, had remained silent. Though Olly had spoken in his favour, Kelen knew he was watching him, carefully.
“You two,” Kelen said, addressing the scouts, “take her to my tent upstream.”
“But that’s almost an hour away,” Olef complained.
Kelen turned on him, his face flushed with anger. “You, in your stupidity, have brought potential calamity on us, so assume the punishment like a man. And if I find you have spoiled her in any way, this may be the last day you lay eyes on the sun. You have failed me once today. Do not fail me again.”
Kelen looked at the woman. Her hair was a tangled mess and her arms and legs scratched and bloody. She had looked similarly the night they had tracked her down in the woods. He blinked, surprised by a stab of remorse. Heat, like the burn of shame, tore through him, and the longer he considered the woman, the more he found he wanted to say he was sorry. He wanted to tell her he was not really the man who had done those terrible things to her and to those she loved. In fact, he even imagined they were in a safe, beautiful place where she was not bound, but sat beside him by her own will, listening to him as he told her of his hurts and regrets. He pictured her reaching out a hand, touching his scarred, ugly face, and telling him none of it mattered, that she understood a man could change. That in fact, she saw he had changed.
“My kin will come for me.” She had managed to work the cloth back from across her mouth again. Her eyes gleamed at him with angry tears. “And when they do, I hope with all my heart they kill you! All of you!” She spat at his feet.
The words were spoken in the rhythmic, soothing tones of the Water Clan language, but its beauty could not shield him from her venom. The force of her hatred washed over him, searing his skin like fire. Kelen’s fingers tightened into fists.
“Olef. Take her now. And make sure she’s properly bound. Especially that mouth of hers.”
The scouts obeyed. Once again, the woman was hefted onto Olef’s shoulder, and the three of them headed into the woods. Kelen glanced at Olly who was still watching him. The second in command nodded curtly in return, indicating his agreement with how the situation had been handled. Kelen then excused himself and entered the trees in the opposite direction the trio had gone. As he walked, crushing the ferns and struggling saplings underfoot, his thoughts were filled with memory of the captured woman, pondering how strange it was that he felt so much for her, yet he did not even know her name.
A little while later, Kelen emerged from the stream, his body scrubbed clean and his mind partially at rest. Raised scars, morbid souvenirs from numerous battles, marked him, winding across his skin like pale snakes. He threw himself onto the grass, grateful that the ground had managed to retain some of the sun’s heat, though it had long passed the tops of the trees on its way west. He breathed slowly and deeply, letting the fresh air enter and leave his body in long, even streams while he rested by the water’s edge.
A sudden scattering of some forest animals caught his attention. Immediately alert, Kelen rose to his knees while scanning the tree-line. His eyes still trained on his surroundings, he dressed quickly, but before he could secure his armour, the sound of a footstep reached his ears. He spun around.
There, about twenty feet in front of him, stood a man. His long, black hair was caught up at the nape of his neck, and his green eyes blazed at him like living chunks of emerald. He carried a short sword in each hand.
In the few seconds it took for Kelen to take up his axe, he had already assessed his foe. The man was strongly built and was as lithe as a panther. He stood with his weight balanced between his feet, and from the stance alone, Kelen gleaned he was trained in some form of the fighting arts. The man’s breathing was steady, unhurried. He grasped his swords comfortably, ready to change grips at a moment’s notice. For a moment, Kelen concluded that the coming fight would not be fair. He knew he outweighed the other by at least fifty pounds and that a good, solid blow to the chest or head would quickly end the contest. But as he assessed the look in the other man’s eyes, Kelen checked himself. The clansman showed no fear. He is dangerous, either desperate and not caring about his life and is therefore ready to throw it away. Or he is a man that has something to fight for and is willing to do whatever it takes to get it.
Kelen liked these new odds.
“Beast-man of the North,” the man said in an even tone. He raised his right hand, pointing a sword-tip at him. “I have come to reclaim what you have stolen from me.”
Kelen smiled to himself, satisfied that his hunch had proven correct. He had come for the woman. Was he her husband? Her lover?
Kelen took a moment and formed a response in his mind. He had always been amazed that he could understand the Southernland’s languages and dialects with an ease that surpassed his brethren. To him, accessing the skills needed to understand and to speak to them was like delving into a long-forgotten chest which had suddenly sprung open, revealing its secrets to him.
“What have I…stolen…from you?” he asked with only a little difficulty.
The man advanced a step. “A woman. She was taken from our woods. I want her back.”
Nonchalant, Kelen lifted and dropped his shoulders. Then he swept a hand in a semi-circle, indicating they were the only ones in the area. “There is no woman here.”
The black-haired man advanced a few steps more, his sword still pointed towards Kelen. “You are a liar. I know she was taken by your people. You will return her to me.”
“Ah, yes. I seem to remember the face of a pretty, new slave. I was thinking she might make a good wife.”
“Release her to me!”
The Rover laughed. “If you want her, you will have to go through me.”
A thin, mean smile carved itself across the clansman’s face, and his eyes glittered. Green eyes, Kelen realized with some surprise. He did not have long to consider this, as the man flicked his wrists, propelling the swords into a series of arcs. The blades split the air with sharp sighs as they spun.
Kelen felt the thrill of the impending clash pulsing through his veins. He lifted his axe into position.
Yes, he liked these new odds very, very much.