Interview with Mary R. Woldering, Author of The Children of Stone Series

Can you tell us a little bit about Children of Stone – the Series? 

This is a series more in the category of Historical Epic Fantasy in that it takes place in the real Earth we know but long ago, and with speculative or fantastic goings on. I have published 2 of a proposed 6 book series. Book 1 is Voices in Crystal. Book 2 is Going Forth By Day. I am working on the third and will publish it sometime in 2016 It will be Opener of the Sky. 

The elevator speech is:

Remnants of an alien race of gods, wizards, shape-shifters, heroic mortals, immortals, slowly transform into the gods of ancient days. Like ancient superheroes, they wander through the reality of legend, RESHAPING myth and history. 

What's your background in writing? 

I’ve always written. From time to time I took Creative Writing classes but never received a degree in it. It’s a lifelong hobby/obsession.

Who are your inspirations/influences? 

Robert E. Howard, Evangeline Walton, Edgar Allan Poe, for writers…My Dad and Joseph Campbell as personal “hero” influencers.

What was it like working with Createspace?

Pretty good. For my first book they were very helpful in setup and design, but expensive. For the second book I had a few arguments about cover design, but they were resolved. The tricky thing is that you want to have everything ready to go before you hit “send” because changes cost money.

Who was responsible for the cover/book design?

Createspace for both covers.

What are you doing in terms of marketing/publicity? 

Anything that works. (Not much does) I have an Author Page which is the closest thing I have to a blog, enter takeovers, advertise daily on Twitter, go to any event that might have a potential buyer, give interviews and make speeches. I also give (for buyers of my print copies) handmade one-of-a-kind made to order bookmarks made of stones, glass, ribbon & copper wire as SWAG.

Do you have any stories from book signings/radio interviews/etc.? 

The strangest one was in August, my spouse announces he’s going to the Hewlett Packard Handheld Calculator Convention in Nashville. I state I would take a few books to sell. I’m then told I would have to give a 30 minute or so talk with slides on self-publishing. I did and here’s the link.

What is the name of your blog and what can readers expect to find there? 

I’m severely technically challenged. At this point I do not have a working blog or website and no e-mail list. I’ve never learned how to create an integrated site that does all that for free (they all cost to be fully active.) One can reach me on my Author Page on Facebook

There people see excerpts, a bit of my writing history and influences, music…links to my clowning around the ‘net and really nice photos/hack sketches.

What projects do you have planned for the future? 

Finishing the series about 1 book per year, working on a Steampunk short story, LEARNING TECH, creating a blog and website that work.

Is there anything else about you we should know? 

I’m a grandmother of 3, a retiree, a crone, and an all around crazy person, just loving my writing. I hope I can sell some books.

Thank You
Mary R. Woldering, Author

Quit Flipping Out About Lack of Rey Toys

I've had enough of the #wheresrey fury. Has everybody forgotten what a cruel and hostile place Facebook was leading up to the release of "The Force Awakens." The only thing you saw on there were memes about how you were going to get force choked if you happened to give away any spoilers. Heck, even posting a SPOILER FREE review of the movie could lead to getting unfriended in droves at best, and swift kicks to the nuts at worst.

So just reflect on that state of rage for a minute and then consider the fact that the situation only existed at all because Disney did a tremendous job in keeping the details of the film hidden throughout production. When you look back on it, that is a pretty amazing feat. I mean, it's not as if there weren't journalists, bloggers and fanboys sifting through JJ Abrams trash on daily basis looking for some sort of doodle on a napkin or piece of toilet paper that might give the game away.

Disney clearly had a completely air tight strategy for not allowing spoilers to get out there. Good for them. I didn't know much about the film when I saw it and that's a testament to security.

Part of that strategy was clearly not releasing any Rey figures because after seeing the movie you're going to want a Rey figure equipped with a blue lightsaber. There's no menace here, there's no anti-female agenda (the woman is the lead of the movie after all). All we have is a scenario consistent with airtight security. The conversation probably went something like this:

"So, do we release some Rey figures?"

"WHAT?! With her holding a lightsaber? That will ruin everything, are you nuts? Save them for after release."

"Well, couldn't we have some ready to ship a week or so after the film opens?"

"Are you f#$%ing kidding me? Have you ever talked to a Star Wars fan? Half of them still harbor resentment over the jackass who mentioned Darth Vader was Luke's father. Absolutely not!"

"Well, we can at least get the molds ready and..."

"NO, are you deaf? NO, NO, NO, we are absolutely NOT going to do that unless you proposing burning down the factories afterward and killing everyone who worked there. If you make the molds, somebody is going to talk, if you put the figures in packaging, somebody is going to talk, I haven't taken the absurd, paranoid steps to secrecy for the last 3 years to blow this over an action figure. The secret must remain safe!"

"Well...what about 6 weeks after release?"

"NO, NO, NO! Don't you understand how hard it is to manufacturing the toys, package them, put them on trucks, and have them stocked on store shelves? Once the movie is released, the kids are going to want the toys. They'll wait. It's more important that we don't BLOW THE SECRET!"

So, yeah, I'm sure it went more or less like that. Look, I have two little girls, my favorite part of the film was that the hero is a heroine. It's great my girls have somebody to look up to who kicks ass and keeps her clothes on. And I'm also really happy the truth of Rey's importance wasn't ruined by Facebook or the premature release of any toys. Look, if you're going to demand absolutely secrecy on the internet about a movie, you can't flip out when the production company goes to absurd lengths to provide that secrecy. You can't have it both ways. So can we all just dial down the outrage to about 1? I'm sure there are some kids starving to death somewhere that are much more worthy of your 10 daily memes.

Episode VII is a pro-female film, this is not the injustice you're looking for, you can go about your business, move along...

Review of "Healer's Ruin" by Chris O'Mara

I grabbed this because it was listed at .99 and I was very impressed. In some ways you can tell that Chris O'Mara is a fairly new author, but I always appreciate a kind of raw quality to a book. It's tales like that where the author hasn't quite learned to pull his/her punches yet, and the overall effect is something closer to truth.

"Healer's Ruin" is not your typical sword and sorcery tale with a burly warrior that is basically unstoppable in battle. This book follows a healer or "slinger" named Chalos. Chalos is a powerful healer, but he doesn't possess a lot of offensive magic, so you get a strong sense of vulnerability with him. He is very dependent on the soldiers that surround him, but they are equally dependent on him. It's an interesting dynamic, and sometimes Chalos is forced to do things that he doesn't wish to do.

A novel like this allows you to contemplate deeper issues than the typical "good guy slaughters bad guy" fare. For example, if Chalos is dependent on a group and that group performs some immoral acts, what will the consequences be on Chalos's psyche? I liked being taken to those philosophical drop off points, and I also appreciated how O'Mara let these moments bloom on their own without being forced. There are a few superior scenes in this book, one where Chalos is required to heal some prisoners so that they can get more information beaten out of them stands out.

The world building in this book is very complex, which is both good and bad. I appreciated how well formed it was once I started to grasp the rules, but the first few chapters required a bit more understanding than I had initially. There are getting to be so many fantasy worlds that I'm almost getting to a point of fantasy fatigue. I think a good tactic might be to start things off on a really human level, engage the readers, and then introduce the story elements a little more slowly (you don't know anything about "The Force" in Star Wars until you're well into the movie). However, books like Dune dump you in the deep end and expect you to maybe my tastes are atypical.

In tone, this book reminded me of Master of the Five Magics (Del Rey Fantasy) which is also about a magic user. It's a little dark and the troop seems doomed from pretty early on. I also kind of was reminded of Aguirre: The Wrath of God (although I think my own cobwebby, foggy thinking brought that to the table more than the book did)...I'd be interested to hear if the author has ever seen that. I think it was just the ominous weight that hangs over the proceedings...its not called "Healer's Happy Time" now is it?

All in all, this book is completely worth your time. If it's still at .99 it's a bargain. Grab it, read it, and let your friends know.

Review of "Hell Becomes Her" by R.A. McCandless

R.A. McCandless is a skilled storyteller, and "Hell Becomes Her" is a very good sequel to Tears of Heaven (Flames of Perdition) (Volume 1). These books follow the adventures of Del, a Nephilim assassin who has wandered the earth for centuries and made no small amount of enemies in her long life. In "Hell Becomes Her," a nefarious group makes the mistake of kidnapping her adopted daughter, and very little exists on heaven or earth that can prevent Del from retrieving her charge.

The action is constant and McCandless does a good job of dropping clever lines in to keep the mood light. There's even the occasional Star Wars quote to make you smile. But when things get down to business, McCandless is very good at creating tension. There's a stand-off scene about a third of the way through the book where you get a genuine sense of danger. With as many stand-offs as we are subjected to in novels, film, and television, it's amazing to come across such a scene that brings something new to the table. That scene alone justifies this novel (and it is one of many quality moments).

There's a bit of Lara Croft: Tomb Raider in Del, but she's by no means a retread. This is a unique, nuanced character and McCandless does a nice job of providing backstory to his world building. It's always fun to have a fantasy novel which takes place in modern times, with mythical cities hidden in plain sight among the sights and sounds we recognize.

The Biblical connection is minimal. Biblical stories and places are referenced, but only to establish a social hierarchy and to lend weight to the proceedings. The purpose of this book is to be an action-packed joyride with cool characters spraying hails of bullets from twin pistols upon hoards of bad guys. This book stands alone, but I think I'd recommend you read Tears of Heaven (Flames of Perdition) (Volume 1) first. You won't regret giving either of these books a try!

On Hearing Your Own Audiobook

Last night on my way home from work, I took advantage of an hour drive to listen to the audio version of "Heroika: Dragon Eaters." This is a collection of Dragon themed short stories compiled by the great Janet Morris. I'm proud to say the collection features a story of mine, and though I tried to listen to the recording from the beginning, excitement got the better of me and I ended up jumping forward to my contribution. 

This is actually the second professional audiobook featuring my work. The first is a version of Beyond Birkie Fever that Rhemalda put together back in 2012. I've never listened to that one though as I sometimes have a hard time setting aside the editor part in me and just enjoying the work. However, the free sample of Heroika features the first few pages of my story, and I listened to that without initially recognizing the story as mine. I enjoyed hearing the clip, so that broke through my resistance to settle down and listen to the whole thing. It's always nice when you are exposed to something of your own without recognizing it and your honest thought is "hey...that's pretty good!"

It's pretty exciting to have something of yours packaged up and presented in a way that's so polished and professional. The narrator selected for "Heroika" is Rob Goll and his voice is so good I'd pay to hear him read the phone book. Goll inflections are right on, and that was a tremendous relief. It may not sound like much to expect a professional to read, for example, a question as a question, but you'd be surprised. It has always driven me crazy the way Elijah Wood says, "Do they Gandalf?" in the "Fellowship of the Ring"--and Elijah Wood is an actor I respect. 

What you get in "Heroika" is a very sophisticated reading. My story, "Aquila of Oyos", is written in a kind of classic style that isn't particularly easy to read aloud (I know because I read it aloud about fifty times during the course of composition). Goll hits the rhythm perfectly though, which shows he had a deep understanding of the mechanics of how the story functions. Again, you'd think that would be expected from a professional performer, but believe me it's a relief when it's done well. For example, the pause he throws in before the final word creates a wonderful finality. As a writer, I know the reader gets that same sense of finality simply due to the fact that they can see the text is about to end. That doesn't exist for a listener, so it's up to the narrator to indicate the end has arrived (simply stating "The End" would be a disaster...the listener has to know). 

Of course, even though I read this story aloud multiple times, as I listened to Goll perform I realized I could have made his life easier in about a dozen little places. There are three or four pronouns I should have removed, and one descriptive scene goes on about a sentence too long. Sometimes I wonder, though, if my impulse for constant tinkering actually makes a work better after a certain point. None of what I might change now represents a catastrophic error, and I've found that eleventh hour edits sometimes reduces the effectiveness of the story as a whole. 

Listening to Goll really served as a very powerful lesson for me. There is a precision that must be achieved in the final drafts of your work, and that comes from an almost obsessive attention to detail. I knew this already, of course, but it's valuable to have the lesson repackaged and presented again in a new way that further underscores its importance. 

All that being said, I was really happy how well the story worked. When I set out to write a dragon tale, I decided it must include several things: a mound of treasure, a dragon melting something in the most graphic way possible, and a sense of tremendous age. The last one is the hardest, and I feel that I achieved all of these points. I'm looking forward to applying the lessons learned to my next project, and with the very real possibility that somebody as talented as Rob Goll will be performing...well, there's no better source of motivation!

I'm also looking forward to listening to the works of the other very talented authors in this collection. audiobook of this one would be nice! There will be a Goodreads giveaway of that going live shortly, so look for me on Goodreads here.