Wendy Hammer is the newest Apocalypse Ink Productions author. She's an excellent writer and a fun person to be around. Here's is what she has to say about THE THIN.
Three Things about THE THIN: Cross Cutting (Book One)
I started the first Cross Cutting story with a clear image of the main character—her personality, appearance, and magic ability. Trinidad’s name didn’t come together until I figured out her history.
That choice started with setting. Her magic is tied to place, but she doesn’t have a permanent bond with one. When I start thinking about stories, contested spaces, displacement, identity, and power, my mind turns to postcolonial theory and literature. I teach literature, so it’s an occupational hazard, I suppose.
My graduate school research had a lot to do with Africa in literature so I turned there first. Then I became interested in the relationship between her magic and island territories, and I eventually turned my attention to the Caribbean. Trinidad, in particular, stood out for its history, culture, and beautiful language. I chose Ireland to pair with it for similar reasons.
Once I could pinpoint where my character came from, the name Trinidad O’Laughlin didn’t take long to come up with.
I like to create music playlists for inspiration. I’ll drive or walk around and listen to that music while I think about character and plot points. I usually have to stick to instrumentals for the actual writing part, but anything goes the rest of the time. The list for the first Cross Cutting novella was a mix of calypso, soca, rapso, chutney, Irish folksongs, contemporary Irish bands, and random songs featuring variations of the word walk. I threw in a few punk songs for good measure—and because I’m a longtime fan.
The inspiration for THE THIN came from walking along the Cultural Heritage trail in Indianapolis. My imagination was fired up by the sight of a bunch of vans parked in a garage at the corner of Virginia Ave and Maryland Street.
Though I fudged a few details here and there, I did use Google Maps’ Street View while I was writing the novella. One of the best surprises was when I noticed that the vans are there.
It gave me shivers. I love that kind of thing.
Wendy Hammer grew up in Wisconsin. She has degrees in English from The University of Wisconsin-Madison and Ball State University. She teaches literature and composition at a community college. Thanks to her job, she's heard all the usual MC Hammer jokes, but figures someone will surprise her with a new one someday. She's mostly cool with that. She writes speculative fiction (fantasy, horror and science fiction) and is an affiliate member of HWA. Wendy lives in West Lafayette, Indiana with her husband.
Q: Now that the Hugos are over, how do you feel?
A: I feel fine.
A: Yes, really. Yes, of course I’m sad I didn’t win—it was a beautiful award and I worked really hard. I wanted to win, but as I said on twitter, I’m happy people voted the way they felt they needed to. There are other nominations and other Hugos. All voices need to be heard. I don’t want to dwell on anything else. It’s done for me.
Q: What about the numbers?
A: The numbers came out exactly as I thought they would. Without “No Award,” Mike Resnick would’ve won.
Q: What about the nomination numbers, discounting the slates?
A: I saw that I probably would’ve been 6th or 7th nomination place in Best Editor, Short Form. Respectable. More importantly, I saw that CHICKS DIG GAMING got 92 nomination votes in the Best Related Work category—second only to Jo Walton’s WHAT MAKES THIS BOOK SO GREAT. Which meant, incidentally, I lost a second time on Hugo night. I lost an Alfie to Jo. Still, that means I probably would’ve been nominated for a Hugo whether there was a slate or not. So, I’m feeling pretty good about things.
A: Go ask GRRM. It was a kind gesture.
Q: Hey, in and around the Hugo stuff, I saw that you’ve become the Managing Editor of Evil Girlfriend Media. What happened to Apocalypse Ink Productions?
A: It’s still there. I’m still the Creative Director of AIP. I’ve just added the job of Managing Editor of EGM to my roster.
Q: Can you do both?
A: Yes. I'm talented that way.
Q: So, what are you going to do now that the Hugo stuff is over?
A: Keep on keeping on. I’ve got my YA SF-Thriller series coming out in October, starting with NEVER LET ME SLEEP. I’m editing NAUGHTY OR NICE: A HOLIDAY ANTHOLOGY for EGM. I’ve signed a contract for something very, very cool that will be announced soon. I’m working on the outline of my next tie-in novel. I’m a busy-busy freelancer. There are some great things to come.
Q: Did you bring home anything cool from the con?
A: I did! Cat Rambo gave me a SFWA 50th anniversary coin. Howard Taylor gave me a couple of “Not my circus. Not my monkeys.” coins. I bought a print by Rob Carlos, the newest Ken Scholes fiction collection, and Apparitions, a book of translated Japanese ghost stories. Also, of course, my little Hugo rocket pin—I earned that sucker.
Q: Are you sure you’re okay?
A: Yes. I promise. I'm okay. I appreciate everyone’s care and concern. I get the warm fuzzies when people tell me how much me and my work meets to them. Yes, I lost three awards this year but I won one and that’s awesome.
Q: Anything else you want to say?
A: Yes. Thank you to everyone for your support. I want to give a special shout out to Howard and Sandra Taylor, Kelly Swails, Jonnalyhn Wolfcat, Minerva Zimmerman, Sarah Hendrix, and Seanan McGuire who were heroes behind the scenes, super kind, and helped keep me relatively sane.
Ari is a friend of mine and someone who has written for me. He’s a great guy and an even better writer. I’m happy to have inspired him in some small way. I really like the Mick Oberon books.
It's both funny and highly appropriate that I'm writing this "Tell Me" post about HALLOW POINT for Jennifer's web site. See, she doesn't know this—or I guess she does by the time you're reading this, but she didn't before I sent this to her—but in a small way, she's part of the reason that my character of Mick Oberon exists at all.
Real quick, first, for those of you who don't know. Mick Oberon is a PI in Chicago in the 1930s, very much in the model of a Chandler of Mammett protagonist. He's also, however, one of the aes sidhe, and a noble-in-exile from the Seelie Court. The books about him—both the new one, HALLOW POINT, and the first one, called HOT LEAD, COLD IRON—are a mixture of gangland/noir mystery and urban fantasy.
Now, I've been asked before how I came up with Mick, and what I tell people is that he's basically an "Athena character," by which I mean he sprang full-grown from my head one day. And that's true, so far as it goes; he really did just pop to mind. I didn't set out tp envision any such character, nor was I planning to write a noir/fantasy mix. It all just came to me.
But part of the reason it came to me is that I was already thinking about fairy tales. And the reason I was thinking about fairy tales is that I'd just been invited to contribute to an anthology of short stories called HUMAN TALES, a book of "reverse" fairy tales. (That is, where the faeries or other supernatural creatures with the protagonists, and it was the humans who were the monsters or the mysteries.) The story I wound up writing for that book, called "Tithe," had nothing whatsoever to do with Mick Oberon; he wasn't really an appropriate character for what I wanted to do with that project.
He stuck with me, though, and wound up developing into a character and an idea for which I've already written two novels, and hope to write a great many more. It's not quite like anything else I've written, and it's not quite like most of the other urban fantasy out there. These books are their own thing, Mick's his own character, and maybe I'd have come up with him even if I hadn't been contemplating fairy tales that evening. But then again, maybe I wouldn't.
So thanks, Jennifer, for this opportunity to talk to him—and just possibly for spurring me to come up with him in the first place.
Read more Ari at his website: Mouseferatu: Rodents of the Dark.
President, Flying Saucer Media
Project: Stage of Development Kickstarter (stageofdevelopment.com)
I was in my first year as Features Editor for polygon.com when I sat with Harvey Smith and Raphael Colantonio in Austin, Texas for an interview about their game, Dishonored. The game was coming out in a few months and nobody at studio Arkane or at publisher Bethesda was sure how well it would be received. Tracey Thompson from Bethesda had called me to ask if I would write a thing about Harvey and Raph to drum up interest in the game’s creators (and by extension the game) and I said yes and so there I was.
We had just gotten back for lunch. I’d eaten a small salad to be polite, but I wasn’t hungry. I’d stopped for tacos on the drive down from Dallas, because I’d forgotten to eat breakfast and was starving. This made me late, and Harvey and Raph had looked a little pissed off when I arrived, but these things happen. I think they were hungry. Now we were settled comfortably in a small room at Arkane, Harvey and Raph had finally eaten, and they were starting to talk.
The interview opened with the usual stuff about how they got their respective starts in games, where they first met and so on. It turned out they had an interesting history of casual encounters and similar life circumstances before ever working together. They could almost have been the same person, apart for one being Texan and the other French. I felt like there was a good story there, and kept asking questions and listening to answers.
Then, without warning, Harvey launched into this miserable and sad tale about how he grew up in a nothing town on the Texas Gulf Coast and his mother died of an overdose and his father commit suicide. How he joined the military to escape a dead-end future. How he barely survived both experiences. And how he now channels this tragedies into his video games. I was in shock. I had never heard such a real, raw and emotional story in a video game interview.
I looked over at Tracey as if to ask “Is this on-record? ”
She looked back, eyes wide and shrugged. She had no idea. Maybe?
So I kept the material, wrote it intro the piece and the result is one of my favorite stories about video games of all time. It got a lot of people talking about Polygon, and Dishonored, and a few months later both endeavors would become hugely successful.
But the whole time I was talking with Harvey and Raph, writing that story and publishing it I was thinking, “F- - -, we should have had a video camera in there. ”
A few months later I got the chance to develop a web series based on what I wish I could have done with Harvey and Raph. Human Angle was just that — the human angle of video games. It featured people whose stories were at an intersection of humanity and video games. People of all kinds. We produced 12 episodes, but I always felt like we had just barely scratched the surface.
Stage of Development is my chance to get back to that, and finish what I started with human Angle. Starting with the stories of Brenda and John Romero and Spry Fox, two stories that are a lot alike in spite (or perhaps because of) their differences.
I’ve been following both stories for some time. I’ve been interested to see how John Romero has handled a transition from making big-budget games to more indie stuff. Seeing how his relationship (and then marriage) with Brenda Brathwaite, now Brenda Romero influenced his work, and vice versa. And now how the two of them, with the launch of Donovan Romero’s game Gunman Taco Truck, have truly crated a family business. To be able to capture their passion for family and video games, and — for them — how the two are inseparable was a privilege.
Spry Fox is a different beast. You probably don’t know much about them unless you’ re a game developer. If you are, though, you know they’re one of the most influential studios in the business. Principals David Edery and Dan “danc” Cook are both highly regarded and well known in the industry. Dan especially is considered one of the brightest developers there is. So many people have told me they look to him for advice and guidance, I’ve often wondered why his own company had yet to see a truly blockbuster game.
When I reached out to Spry Fox about Stage of Development, they were just finishing what they called “a little mobile game” that would become surprise hit Alphabear. I genuinely believe their success story is yet to be fully written, and I wanted to be there to capture it.
If Stage of Development fully funds at Kickstarter, these are only the first of the stories we’ll be able to tell.
Here is my Sasquan schedule. There is, as usual, a no-shyness zone around me. If you want my attention, talk to me. I will have a limited number of my Story Convention Cards with me. Find out how I (fictionally) die at Sasquan. I do have several meetings and Hugo-related things not listed here and I will probably show up at some of the publisher parties.
10:00 am - 6pm SFWA Board Meeting, 304 (CC)
7:00 pm - Role Playing Games as an Author's Tool, 401C (CC)
11:00 am - Comics and Graphic Novels for Teen Readers, 303A (CC)
12:00 pm - Hard SF for Teens, 401C (CC)
4:00 pm - Autographing, Exhibit Hall B (CC)
10:00am - The Range of the Small Press, Conference Theater 110 (CC)
1:00 pm - 3pm, SFWA Business Meeting, 300B (CC)
3:00 pm - Getting Your Game Published, 303A (CC)
6:00 pm - Hugo Pre-Reception
8:00 pm - Hugo Awards Ceremony, INB Performing Arts Center (CC)
11:00 am - Kaffee Klatche - Jennifer Brozek, 202A-KK2 (CC) [Note: This is the only event of mine you need to sign up for.]
1:00 pm - Worlds We Believe: YA World Building, 300D (CC)
In the last quarter of the year, all three of my Melissa Allen books will be released, starting with Never Let Me Sleep. In fact, there is a pre-order page up for it now.
You might notice that this is an ebook only. That’s on purpose—for now. All three Melissa Allen books will be released in ebook form October, November, and December. The hard copy compilation, Never Let Me, the one that will be in bookstores as well as online (and another pre-order page…), is slated for a May 2016 release, and will include a brand new Melissa Allen story.
The release plan is…
October 13, 2015 – Never Let Me Sleep (Set in the town of Onida, South Dakota.)
November 10, 2015 – Never Let Me Leave (Set in an underground lab in North Dakota.)
December 8, 2015 – Never Let Me Die (Set in Richland, Missouri.)
May 3, 2016 – Never Let Me (The Melissa Allen Omnibus with the extra story).
Here is what some people are saying about the Melissa Allen series.
“NEVER LET ME SLEEP is a disturbing glimpse into an unfolding apocalypse. This is genuine nightmare territory.” –Jonathan Maberry, New York Times bestselling author of ROT & RUIN and FALL OF NIGHT
“It's a cliché to say 'I couldn't put the book down,' but greeting the dawn at about the time I read the final words suggests to me that I really couldn't. The situation is downright creepy, the horror rooted in tension rather than gore, and the protagonist is more than a little fascinating in her own right. Definitely hoping there's a sequel on the way.” –Ari Marmell, author of the MICK OBERON and WIDDERSHINS series
“Taut, tense, and terrifying, NEVER LET ME SLEEP grabs you and refuses to let you go until the final page.” –Cat Rambo, author of BEASTS OF TABAT
“The main character in NEVER LET ME SLEEP is irreverent and fun, even if her grip on reality is a little shaky. Teenager Melissa Allen struggles to determine why everyone around her has died. Tension and suspense lead to a satisfying ending.” –H.E. Roulo, author of ZOMBIE DOME
“Action, adventure, humanity, horror, mystery and mayhem mark the pages of the Melissa Allen series. Jennifer Brozek’s deft and exciting writing style keeps you wanting more yet also wanting to get to the finish as soon as possible!” –Jake Bible, author of the Bram Stoker Award nominated novel, INTENTIONAL HAUNTING.
Publication: "Rune's Avatar Cafe" has been published in the Shadowrun Worlds of Shadows anthology. It came out at Gen Con. I haven't seen a link for it yet. I'll post it when I do.
Sold: I sold my story "Feathers in Need" to the latest Valdemar anthology called Crucible. It's also the opening story in the anthology. I'm super happy about that. I will note that it is a happy story, unlike "Written in the Wind."
Kickstarter: Women in Practical Armor. I have nothing to do with this anthology except to cheer it on because I work for Evil Girlfriend Media. It's already funded and it is awesome! I'm all about cheering this one on.
Website: If you love the rain and miss it in this heat, Rainy Mood is the perfect soundtrack for you.
Cover Reveal: Here's the cover for NEVER LET ME SLEEP! It's the first book in the Melissa Allen series. Is it not the best? I have an actual teen on my YA book and she's not a stick figure.
It began in college. A series of ongoing stories about a wandering swordswoman. My version of Red Sonja.
I read through the first three Ace/Lancer Conan books for inspiration and began preparing the world of my swordswoman. The kingdoms and villages and lands she'd wander. The kinds of magic she'd encounter.
Halfway through the third Ace/Lancer collection I stumbled across Lieber's Fafhrd and Gray Mouser, either from a comment in that collection's introductory essay or in some other reading I was doing at the time. Something about that caught my attention. I can't recall if it was a idea of TWO wandering warriors or something else, but it sent me around to local used bookstores to track them down.
After a few hours of wandering between stores, I finally located the first two story collections of those tales. Over the next week or so, I read through Swords and Deviltry and Swords Against Death and my solitary swordswoman took on a companion. Now I had pair of wandering women warriors. By then I had a vaguely sketched out map of a world, a series of names of exotic fantasy cities and towns, and a rough history of the world. I even had some likely scenarios for my adventuring duo.
But I didn't get beyond that.
As it was, Xena and her sidekick, Gabrielle, were already swinging swords on TV. Warrior women duos appeared to be already taken care of so I shelved the premise for the time being.
Fast forward a few years.
1996, if I remember correctly.
I was reading a Gunsmith Cats graphic novel when the wandering women warrior duo leaped back into my mind and the following train of thought occurred to me: Gunsmith Cats was about a pair of female bounty-hunters working the mean streets of present-day Chicago. Xena was about a pair of female warriors in a Greek-myth/medieval-esque/fantasy world. Then an anime series came to mind: Dirty Pair, about a pair of female agents in the far future.
What about a pair of female warriors in the near-future? In the world of cyberpunk?
Enter Kat and Mouse.
I remember the idea grabbing me by the shorthairs in a vice-grip, yanking me close, and a low, breathy voice saying, "Write me. Write me now."
I then remember diving into my bookshelves for my copies of Neuromancer and Burning Chrome, the Mirroshades anthology, and my dog-eared copies of the Cyberpunk 2020 and Shadowrun RPG manuals, followed by furious scribblings as ideas rushed out in a flood. Movies and anime came to mind. RoboCop. Demolition Man. Blade Runner. Bubblegum Crisis. Appleseed. Akira.
It took another four years before the duo's first escapade appeared in an online zine.
Eight years before I decided to turn it into an online serial.
Since it premiered in December of 2008, I've written somewhere around 150,000 words over 25 episodes and 160-something blog posts depicting the pistol-packing, katana-swinging, butt-kicking escapades of these two Sisters in Arms.
Yes, it may be cliche-ridden, trope-filled, and escapist.
But you know something?
It's the most fun I've ever had writing.
I'm not out to change the world or examine the human condition with these stories.
I just want to take you on a slam-bang, catch-your-breath, roller coaster ride with chills, spills, and thrills.
And if you walk away from reading these tales with a smile on your face and the potential thought of "Hey! Let's ride that again!", then I have done my job.
Abner Senires. Fed on a steady diet of SF/Fantasy novels, genre movies and television, videogames, comic books, Saturday morning cartoons, anime and manga, and role-playing games as a youth, the man who would be king Abner Senires eventually grew up into a wombat a tea cosy a strange little brown man.
He has now waged war on has laid siege to laid an egg writes sci-fi pulp adventure (and sometimes ventures into regular science fiction, fantasy, and possibly horror).
He confesses to being a SF/Fantasy/movie/genre TV/comic book/RPG/anime/manga/weapons/firearms fan.
One day he hopes to become a firetruck. He has never stayed at a Holiday Inn Express.
He lives in his own deranged imagination just outside Seattle, WA with his wife and a pair of rambunctious cats.
I am home from Gen Con. It was a very good and busy time. I did not win the ENnie for Best Related RPG Product but with the caliber of the competition, it really was an honor to be nominated.
This year I was both part of the Writers Symposium (run by Marc Tassin) and one of the Industry Insider Featured Presenters. I got to do a lot of panels that were both valuable and hard. Fortunately, my two most daunting panels, Diversity in Gaming and Women in Gaming After Gamergate, both went off without a hitch. I like to think this was because we all did our homework and prepared and we had excellent moderation.
Like most conventions, there’s too much to tell. Here are some of the highlights:
• Chatting with Wesley Chu in the dealers room about working at conventions. This spawned the quote, “It’s all push-ups and prose.” from Wes.
• Sitting in the authors lounge area watching Chuck Wendig and Sam Sykes be themselves. I have pictures…
• Actually sitting down to game with Erik Scot de Bie and Brian Cortijo. I’d not played D&D 5 yet. It’s a good system. Also, I kinda love the dwarf warrior I was playing.
• Having a number of people come to my “office hours” to follow up on panels and to ask me about my writing. Doc Wagon 19 and Discordance (my first Valdemar short story) were highlights.
There were two standout events that made Gen Con awesome for me.
The first is Ingress. I started playing about 3 weeks ago and I was told there was a mission day happening at Gen Con. I had no idea what a mission day was but I was game. I sent out a call for someone to come walk with me because I really have no sense of direction. I was fortunate enough to be answered to by Sarah Babe, Host of Plot Points Podcast. The two of us banded and bonded together to do this thing called Gen Con Mission Day.
It was 13 missions. Walking around, hacking 5-7 portals per mission and answering questions. We started about 8:45pm at night. We ended the last mission at about 1:30am. It was hot, tiring, and sweaty. By the end of it, both of us had blisters and were finishing the quest out of malicious spite. But it was still awesome. I got a bunch of digital badges, leveled up, and despite shredding my feet (30,000 steps that day – 20,000 on the mission day quests), I had a great time. Sarah and I hit it off so well. I look forward to meeting up with her at GameholeCon in November.
The second is my friend Monte. I haven’t seen Monte in years. One of my favorite GMs and friends from the Bay Area, he made it out to Gen Con. Monte is one of those people that I click with. We can go for months without talking, but when we do, it’s like no time has passed.
He decided to introduce me to The Mountain Witch. We played with Albert and Nancy (also friends from the Bay Area who now live in Canada). It was the best time. Sparse on rules. Heavy on the roleplay. Awesome for narrative storytelling. Honestly, this game, with these people, made Gen Con worth it. I will be thinking about this game for a long time to come. I just bought a copy of The Mountain Witch from IPR.
It was a very good time. I’m glad I went. I’m also very happy to be home with the Husband and the kitties.