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Writer at Work:
Santas, Wizards, & Life behind the Curtain

December 23rd, 2016

jl-santaSo it’s December 1997. I’m driving north out of Oakland, toward Bigelow Boulevard and downtown Pittsburgh. It’s a gray day, light snow falling. Colored lights trim some of the buildings along North Craig Street, but it doesn’t feel like Christmas.

Then I see him.

I clear the rise toward Bigelow Boulevard, and there he is—fourteen-feet high and smiling down from a roadside billboard atop the snowy hillside. Red suit, white beard. It’s Santa. Or is it? I do a double take. This guy’s wearing rollerblades, sporting a Mohawk haircut, and throwing a peace sign. I slow down. Look again. That’s not Santa. That’s my dad!

Backstory: My dad lived a double life. Most of the time he was all pullover shirts, chinos, loafers, conventional haircut. You’d never look twice if you passed him on the street. But every now and then he’d get a call from the modeling agency. When that happened, all bets were off. He could become anything, and for a few years back in the mid-90s, one of those things was a kind of new-age Santa for the shopping district of Pittsburgh’s South Side. He’d go in for the shoot, they’d transform him, and a few weeks later—after he’d gone back to his quiet, nondescript life—his bigger-than-life persona would enter the world on billboards throughout the city.

oz-2In some ways, it’s much the same for writers.

There are exceptions, of course. Writers like Norman Mailer and Gore Vidal come most readily to mind. But most of us prefer living behind the curtain, working the craft’s hidden levers and switches like the great and powerful Oz. “Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain!” we say, speaking through the grand illusion or our creations. It’s the duality that drives our writing lives–the desire to create characters more interesting than ourselves and send them into the world to be known, read, and appreciated while we remain safe behind the veil of fiction.

Which brings us to the picture below.

dream-team-vertical-2It was taken at a gathering for a new project that I’ll be sure to tell you about in a future post. But for now, what you need to know is that the picture shows directors Alejandro Brugués and Ryuhei Kitamura in the front, writers Sandra Becerril and the 21st Century Scop in the middle, and directors Mick Garris and Joe Dante in the rear. We all appear to be on our marks, but something isn’t right. I noticed the discrepancy days after the photo was taken. I looked, then looked again.

Can you see it? Look closely.

Is that Mick Garris’s hand on Alejandro Brugués’s right shoulder. Is that Joe Dante’s on Sandra Becerril’s left? No, that doesn’t make sense. The positions and poses don’t line up.

Looking again, I realized something that should have been obvious. There were eight of us in the photo. Writer Richard Christian Matheson had been standing right beside Sandra, but when the rest of us turned to face the camera, he ducked down and assumed the position of the great and powerful Oz–masked from view but nonetheless manipulating the image, adding touches that revealed his hidden presence. Now there’s a writer’s writer.

So what kind of writer are you? Do you foster a public persona to help promote your work, or do you prefer living behind the curtain? Drop me a comment if you have a moment. Facebook and email links are open (see the icons at the top of this page), as are the comment boxes below. I’ve received some terrific responses on my previous posts in this writer-at-work series. Sometime soon, I’ll have to post a compilation of those comments. Until then, watch out for Santas on rollerblades … and scop on!

Images

J. L. Connolly as South Side Santa. 1997.

Frank Morgan as The Wizard of Oz. 1939.

Alejandro Brugués, Ryuhei Kitamura, Sandra Becerril, the 21st-Century Scop, Mick Garris, Joe Dante, and the hands of R. C. Matheson. 2016

Researching a Novel: My Lost World

July 27th, 2015

mylostworld2-compressed (2)Rain forests, deserts, volcanic mountains, green-sand beaches. They’re all part of the alien landscape of a novel project that links and expands my novelettes “Daughters of Prime” and “The Others” (both of which originally appeared in F&SF). Since the alien setting will feature ever-more prominently in the book-length version, I figured it would be a good idea to experience such landscapes first hand.

lost-world-pterosaurFortunately, I was able to find everything I needed in some remote corners of the Hawaiian islands. Who says research is boring?

Coincidentally, my trip coincided with the Canadian release of the print edition of Professor Challenger: New Worlds, Lost Places, a book that depicts the continuing adventures of George Edward Challenger — a character who is no stranger to wild and alien landscapes. My story in the book is “King of the Moon,” and during my travels I visited terrains that resembled places in that story. I’ll share those photos in a future post.

In addition to its well-known tourist destinations, Hawaii boasts a variety of uninhabited and underdeveloped locations. Among them are the micro-islands of Mokolua, Mokolea, Popoia and some 30 others that are now designated as Sea-Bird Sanctuaries. Landing on them requires a permit and a considerable amount of rowing, but the coast and effort are worth it.

rocky pool on flat islandPopoia Island, also known as Flat Island for a shape reminiscent of the table-top plateau of Challenger’s Lost World (above right), is four acres of rock overgrown with a carpet of coastal plants. Its terrain is remarkably varied, with sandy beaches, overhanging cliffs (above left), and rocky pools (left).  There’s precious little shade, for human’s at least. For avian inhabitants, the eroded rocks offer an abundance of bird-size caves for nesting.

The OthersIn addition to birds, the rocks and surrounding waters are home to black periwinkle snails (pipipi) and cephalopods (he’e) — smaller versions of the mollusks that inhabit the alien planet of the Daughters of Prime stories. Indeed, an illustration from the Russian edition of “The Others” (“другие” in Russian) features these creatures in border designs framing the story’s central character. It was fun seeing these creatures depicted so accurately when the translation appeared, but it was even more rewarding to learn that smaller versions of them inhabit the miniature lost world of Flat Island. 

I have more pictures and impressions to share. Indeed, I plan to spend the rest of the summer sorting the wealth of photographs and notes generated during the trip.

In my next post, we’ll descend into the crater of a volcano. Until then . . . scop on!

Image Credits:
The 21st-Century Scop on Popoia Island.*
The Amazon Plateau from Harry O. Hoyt’s film The Lost World, 1925.
Rock Pool on Popoia Island.*
Cara Gamma (from “The Others”), illustration from Elsi (Если) Magazine, Dec. 2009.
*Copyright © 2015, The 21st-Century Scop.

 

 

Professor Challenger:
New Worlds, Lost Places

June 16th, 2015

Challenger

“The whole matter is very fully and lucidly discussed in my forthcoming volume upon the earth, which I may describe with all due modesty as one of the epoch-making books of the world’s history.”

– Professor G. E. Challenger
When the World Screamed

Featuring cover art by Academy-Award winning artist Dave Kelsey and new fiction from Stephen Volk (The Awakening), Simon Kurt Unsworth (The Devil’s Detective), and others, this new anthology from J. R. Campbell and Charles Prepolic (the same team that brought you the Gaslight series of Sherlock Holmes stories from Edge Science Fiction & Fantasy Publishing) is now available in Kindle from Amazon.

Print editions will be released in trade editions in Canada on July 15 and the US on August 15.

Edge revealed the full Table of Contents at a virtual Kindle release on June 15. If you missed it, here it is:

Foreword – Christopher Roden
Introduction – Charles Prepolec
“Hind and Horn” by Wendy N. Wagner
“The Shug Monkey” by Stephen Volk
“The Crystal Minders” by John Takis
“King of the Moon” by Lawrence C. Connolly
“The Dinner Party” by J. R. Campbell
“The Fool’s Sea” by Simon Kurt Unsworth
“The Eye of the Devil” by Mark Morris
“Professor Challenger & The Crimson Wonder” by Guy Adams & James Goss
“Time’s Black Gulf” by Josh Reynolds
“Out of the Depths” by Andrew J. Wilson

EdgeLogoNew-Tattoo-300pxSquare-300dpiAnd here’s the official press release from Edge Science Fiction and Fantasy Publishing:

Brilliant, belligerent and bearded in equal measure, incapable of suffering fools, or journalists, gladly, the greatest scientific mind of his generation – Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Professor George Edward Challenger returns in ten all-new tales of scientific adventure and wonder.

lostworld1He is the discoverer of The Lost World, the prophet of The Poison Belt, the destroyer of The Disintegration Machine, and the man who made the World Scream! Who can deliver mankind from the shackles of ignorance? Who else but that great self-proclaimed champion of science? We give you, ladies and gentlemen, children of all ages, the one, the only, Professor George Edward Challenger!

This original anthology, from the authors and editors who brought you the Gaslight Sherlock Holmes series, sees Challenger and his stalwart companions including the reporter Malone, big game hunter Lord John Roxton and the skeptical colleague Professor Summerlee, travel across space and witness the ravages of time, narrowly eluding a dinosaur’s bite only to battle against the invasive red bloom of alien foliage, and then plunge deep into the mysteries hidden within the Earth and reach out to the moon and into the heart of the unknown.

prof-challengerStrap yourself in for chills, thrills, and challenges to the unknown in exciting new worlds and lost places with literature’s foremost scientific adventurer.

Featuring stories by: Simon Kurt Unsworth, Stephen Volk, Guy Adams & James Goss, Lawrence C. Connolly, Mark Morris, Josh Reynolds, John Takis, Wendy N. Wagner, Andrew J. Wilson and J. R. Campbell. With an Introduction by Christopher Roden.

Release Dates:
E-book: June 15, 2015
On Kindle
http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00ZEIS7RG/edgescienceficti
On Kobo
https://store.kobobooks.com/en-CA/ebook/professor-challenger-1
CANADA: July 15, 2015 (Print Edition)
USA: August 15, 2015 (Print Edition)

Binge Reading: The Veins-Cycle Challenge

January 31st, 2015

The veins cycle tight (2)Last week, when Google Play announced that they were reducing the prices on all three Veins Cycle Books, I posted the following comment on the Fantasist Enterprises Facebook page:

I’d love to hear from someone who dives in and reads (or re-reads) the entire cycle straight through, letting the central narrative unfold in real time.

Well, yesterday I heard from one such reader.

Turns out it’sPaul Genesse, author the Iron Dragon Series. And not only did he read them all over a 24 hour period, but he lived to blog about the experience. Here’s what he has to say:

 Veins_I read Veins by Lawrence C. Connolly and loved it. I read the whole novel on my Kindle in one sitting starting on a Saturday morning, then immediately read the second book, Vipers, finishing it late that night. I read the third book, Vortex all day Sunday and finished reading it in the late afternoon. I’m fairly addicted to Facebook and I barely even checked it all weekend.

You can read the rest of Paul Genesse’s review here as well as a follow-up interview that he did with me here.

And now I’m wondering who else out there might take the Veins-Cycle Challenge by reading these books in real time.

VIPERS_coverVeins starts at 10:00 on a Sunday night. Vipers picks up before dawn the following day. And Vortex rides the later afternoon and evening, finally ending at 10:00 pm the following night. Given their length, they should be readable in about a day, even if you take time off to eat, sleep, and walk the cat. If you try it, I’d love to hear from you.

And if you’re thinking of picking up the books, you’ll be happy to know that all three are still priced below $2.00 each, with Vortex (which has made the Preliminary Ballot for the Bram Stoker Award) still selling for .99 across all platforms. It’s a great time to pick up all three, but you’ll want to hurry. Fantasist Enterprises tells me that the prices will soon be going back to the SRP.

Vortex-CoverBetter yet, if you’re interested in picking up the books for free and getting some change back in the bargain, you might consider entering what Fantasist is calling the I-Am-Axle Sweepstakes, which could win you a $25.00 Amazon Gift Card — more than enough to purchase all three Veins Cycle books and still have  cash left to spend on whatever.

In all, there’s never been a better time for opening Veins.

I have a few more blog posts waiting in the wings, so be sure to check back here in a day or two, when I hope to have some pictures and audio of last week’s Story Night @ Riley’s Pour House. Until then, consider taking the Veins-Cycle binge-reading challenge . . . and scop on!

Image Credits: Veins, cover at by Star E. Olson; Vipers, cover art by Gerasimos Kolokas; Vortex, cover art by Rhonda Libbey.