Jack Mackenzie & G. W. Thomas Shoot the Poop!

The publisher of Rage Machine Books, G. W. Thomas and I sat down and had a bit of a back-and-forth about writing: Here’s how it went:

 

 

GW: How did you ever decide to become a novelist? Certainly there are easier ways to express yourself. Finger painting. Interpretive dance?

Jack: Well, as much as I love interpretive dance as a medium for expression (and, honestly you should see my “Dying Swan” It brings people to tears), my chief medium for expression has always been words. And, I’ve always loved books, chiefly Science Fiction novels. The authors who wrote those books were my heroes growing up, so it was natural that I would try to emulate them. Short stories are great, sure, but novels are like a big canvas. That’s where you get the chance to stretch out and do world building.

It all boils down to not stopping, I guess. You just write. As Neil Gaiman says writing is like laying bricks. You pick up a brick, you lay it down. You pick up another brick, you lay it down beside the first. You keep doing that until you build a wall. With writing you write a word. Then you write another, Then another. Then another. It’s that easy and it’s that hard. It’s all about how long you can stand to keep doing that. I found that I could stand to do it for long stretches at a time. How about you?

GW: I’m not sure I’m really all that fond of the full-blown novel. The 20,000 worder seems more fun to me. Sadly, the Pulps are gone so no one is going to call it a “brand new novel” by G. W. Thomas. They were pretty loose with that term.

Jack: Well, they keep saying, with the rise of e-books, that shorter, tighter works are becoming popular again. Do you think that is the case or is Google just giving everybody short attention spans?

GW: I do think that ebooks do open up a door for shorter works. The issue in paper publishing is: what do I do with less than a 50,000-80,000 word piece? Different people tried small paperbacks or small brochures. Think of the Dime novels. They were saddle-stapled booklets. Hugo Gernsback supplemented his Pulps with a booklet series. (Those are incredibly hard to find now.) The 1980s small press horror field exploded with saddle-stapled booklets. (I miss those!) But nobody has made any real money on small books. With ebooks now, books can be any length. And priced accordingly.

Jack: What’s your process for writing?

GW: The fiction writing process for me has been a binge thing. With a day job, you grab time where can. When I was young and poor this was pretty easy. I’d write at the dentist office, on the bus. Now that I am old and fat, the distractions are more difficult. Mostly wasting time on my computer or phone. Or watching Netflix. I have to leave my house and go to a coffee shop.

Is your process for nonfiction the same as fiction?

 

Jack: My process for writing nonfiction is different from my fiction writing process. Currently I am treating my fiction writing process like a job. I start at a certain time, I have a target for the amount of words I want to get done. I tend to work at it every day from Monday to Friday and take weekends off. Within that writing time I will block out some time for nonfiction. For me most of the time I spend writing nonfiction is doing research. Once I think I have what I want to say worked out then I will sit down and start writing. The actual writing doesn’t take a lot of time. Sometimes I’ll have to spend some time doing supplemental research while I’m writing which slows me down a bit but for the most part the nonfiction writing itself happens fairly quickly.

And, yeah, Facebook, Netflix and phone are all big hazards for any kind of writing.

GW: My non-fiction process is messy. I start lots of pieces and finish them as the reading gets done. For instance, I have a piece on Francis Flagg that is two-thirds done. But I need to read any eight stories first to finish it. When will that happen? As the mood catches me. There’s no dire consequence to finishing it, so I guess that makes me a hobbyist. Of course, three other pieces may get finished this week instead.

Well, it’s been fun yakking. We’ll do it again soon.

 

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Whiskey Jack

gray-jay

Let’s take a break from fear politics and science fiction and fantasy (don’t worry, I won’t stray too far away).

Let’s talk about birds.

Specifically, let’s talk about the gray jay or, as it is commonly known, the whiskey jack.

The gray jay (Perisoreus canadensis), also grey jay, Canada jay or whiskey jack, is a member of the crow and jay family found in the boreal forests across North America, mostly in the northernmost parts otherwise known as the Great White North or, as those of us who live here like to call it, Canada.

Why, you ask, am I suddenly talking about gray jays?

Well, you see, in January 2015, the Royal Canadian Geographical Society and Canadian Geographic magazine announced a project to select a National Bird of Canada, dubbed the National Bird Project, consisting of an online poll inviting Canadians to vote for their favourite bird. The poll closed on August 31, 2016, and a panel of experts convened the following month to review the top five selections: the gray jay, common loon, snowy owl, Canada goose and black-capped chickadee.

This month the project announced that the gray jay was selected as the winner of the contest, and will recommend that the Canadian government make the selection official as part of Canada’s sesquicentennial celebrations in 2017.

The gray jay takes advantage of man-made sources of food, hence the names “camp robber” and “whiskey jack”. Human observers do not inhibit gray jay’s feeding behavior; however, once having identified man with food it does not forget. This is probably the reason why the whiskey jack beat out the other contenders for Canada’s favorite bird. While camping or just being out in the wilderness, a favorite Canadian activity that is practiced both summer and winter, encounters with the whiskey jack are commonAsk most any Canadian about it and they’ll tell you stories about whiskey jacks stealing food from their camps. A friend of mine recently told me about a whiskey jack who stole a whole strip of bacon from a frying pan while he was cooking it in his campsite. (Yes, Canadians cook bacon while camping. We’re not savages)

The name whiskey jack is a corruption of an Algonquin word, Wisakedjak. Wìsakedjàk (or Wīhsakecāhkw in Cree and Wiisagejaak in Oji-cree) is found in northern Algonquian and Dene storytelling, similar to the trickster god Nanabozho in Ojibwa sacred stories and Inktonme in Assiniboine myth. He is generally portrayed as being responsible for a great flood which destroyed the world originally made by the Creator, as well as the one who created the current world with magic, either on his own or with powers given to him by the Creator for that specific purpose.

The Cree people believe the wīhsakecāhkw is a benign spirit, fun-loving and cheerful. The name was Anglicized as whiskey jack.Indeed, the bird is seen in Cree stories as an example of good manners and good company. Very Canadian

Wisakedjak shows up as a character in the book American Gods by Neil Gaiman, where he is frequently referred to as “Whiskey Jack” (See? I told you I wouldn’t stray far away from fantasy). In the book, he appears as a native old man, who lives in a mobile home, somewhere near a Lakota reservation in the badlands with Johnny Appleseed.

So next time you are in the remote boreal wilderness, keep and eye out for the gray jay or whiskey jack.

Or just cook up some bacon and he’ll come to you.

Time Like Broken Glass

Time Like Broken Glass_Cvr

Okay. This is the post where I say: Buy my book. You can click away if you want. I’ll understand.

On the other hand, if you’re on the hunt for a book for your Kindle or other e-reader and you like fantasy novels, then this just might be the post for you.

Time Like Broken Glass is a fantasy novel but it is also a time travel story. If you like Doctor Who, you might like this book. If you like fantasy novels with lots of magic, then you’ll like this book. If you like urban fantasy… if you liked Neil Gaiman’s Neverwhere… then you may well like this book.

It has elements of Medieval fantasy, Elizabethan fantasy and Urban fantasy all mixed together. And it has time travel.

If you like any of those things then you may well like Time Like Broken Glass.

So… buy my book!

http://www.amazon.com/Time-Like-Broken-Glass-Magistria-ebook/dp/B00XT97DKO

There. I said it. Now let’s move on to something else…