Imogen’s Story: B Fleetwood talks about how a novel became a trilogy and what’s next for Imogen

Haven’t heard of B. Fleetwood? Let’s correct that right now. I had the opportunity to read both Imogen’s Secret and Imogen’s Journey not that long ago and they are already perched on top of my best 2019 entertainment list. I could not put these books down. Ya/Coming of Age Sci Fi with a bit of romance, some tremendous worldbuilding and a riveting plot that keeps you turning the pages all hours of the day and night. I finished both books in a matter of a few days and just had to catch up with the author to find out a little more about Imogen, the idea for the story, and where things will go in book 3.

Buy Imogen’s Secret

Buy Imogen’s Journey

51jg7gt99tlThere’s a lot of worldbuilding in the Chroma series books, and there’s also a very compelling cast of characters. What came first for you – the worldbuilding or Imogen? How did Holis affect Imogen’s character as she took shape?

Imogen came first. I had imagined a character with the ability to ‘see’ lies for many years, long before I put pen to paper.

When I began to seriously consider why my main protagonist would have the ability to read Chroma, or auras (I did not want this to be a magical power), I decided there needed to be a genetic reason for her gift. Writing the first chapter, it came to me; Imogen had to be of another race, a race that had been genetically engineered. This would allow her to have all sorts of other differences, like her ability to absorb information, ‘read’ thoughts by touch and for her body to self-heal.

It became crucial to her character development for the truth to have been hidden from her; she could not know she was from the planet Holis. I wanted her and the reader to fathom it out together. As Holis developed as a tangible place, Imogen’s abilities crystallised on the page. As a new author, I am rather in awe of how her character evolved.

 

515lgq7ukalConsidering all the talk about global warming and damage to our planet, your series is both incredibly entertaining and captivating, and also timely. Every now and again we hear about other planets that have been discovered that might be capable of sustaining life. Do you think if we had the capability to reach such a planet that we’d learn from our mistakes or repeat them? Was this something that inspired you as you developed the series? (What did inspire you?) 

I studied Sociology at University, fascinated with what makes a society ‘tick’ and conversely, what makes societies break down.

I believe there must be planets out there that would support human life or alien lifeforms.

Would we make the same mistakes if we reached them? This intrigues me. I don’t have a clear answer. Do humans have a basic destructive nature they cannot escape or a capacity for nobler action? The optimist in me wants to believe humans are capable of rising above greed, self-interest and perpetuating differences. In Chroma, my superior Holans look at Earth with much disdain. And whilst it’s easy to despair of our race, I believe there is an integrity / spark within us all which, if encouraged, will allow the human race to advance to a point where we would learn from our mistakes.

 

You’ve billed this as a trilogy. Did you have a clear plan for all three books from the start? How much advance plotting did you do before you started writing? 

My decision to create Holis transformed Imogen’s Secret from a standalone novel into the first of a trilogy – I had not planned this in advance. It honestly just ‘came to me’ with an unshakeable conviction: it had to be more than one book. I knew if I was the reader, reading Imogen’s Secret, I would want to go to her home planet and see how it all worked. For a few weeks, during the writing of Imogen’s Journey, I considered finishing the tale in two books (I think I was feeling rather daunted by the task!) but as Holis became more than a vague imagining, I realised there would have to be a third book in order to do justice to the story.

 

Which character do you relate to the most in the books and why?

It would have to be Imogen. She finds out there is a whole new world out there and she cannot take things at face value if she wants to uncover the truth. She goes from being passive to active. This directly relates to the revelations I experienced at University – my coming of age –discovering the world was not all as my parents had painted it and the start of questioning everything!

 

There definitely seems to be a connection between Imogen’s people and sites on earth, such as the pyramids. Some people do believe the pyramids were built by aliens. What do you think? Or is this something you just wanted to play with in the story?

I have visited Egypt and been astounded at the building of the pyramids, temples and obelisks. The race was so advanced for the time. Do I believe aliens intervened? Not really, but I decided to play with this in the story. It makes a great link to how Holan folk ended up on Earth (more to be revealed in Book 3!).

 

There are five personality lines on Holis – Ra, Iris, Nut, Hathor and Amon Anon. If you could only choose one of those personality lines to be, which one would you pick and why?

The five lines have been lifted from general psychological theories (still used in management evaluations today). Whilst I don’t like putting people in boxes, I can see that personality traits are more dominant in some folk than others. If I had to pick just one, I guess it would be Iris (creative and imaginative – or over imaginative perhaps?) or maybe I’d be a Bi-Crypt with Hathor (compassionate and caring – I cry at the slightest thing!) as the other line? This is mainly because I don’t fit the other lines; I’m neither dominant or decisive, calm or disciplined!

BTW: the name, Iris, was originally Isis (the Egyptian Goddess) but I felt compelled to change the name to Iris after the militant terrorist group took Isis as their name. Grrr… An example of how politics influences writing!

 

If you were Imogen would it be Araz or Tarik?

Araz! The chemistry is compelling; however, he would need to lose his arrogance and grow Tarik’s sense of humour to be completely perfect!

 

Whether intended or not, there’s certainly some political commentary the books make in a subtle way. The people from Imogen’s home planet don’t even seem to question their leaders, which leads to abuse and manipulation from those in power. Was this intentional or is it just coincidence that it feels so timely given the current state of politics around the globe?

The lack of challenge by the Holan populace was intentional. With no conflicts, no disparity and no enemy, I decided to portray Holans as having become complacent in their ‘idyllic’ lives. I am also influenced by the political state of the world and the seemingly incomprehensible decisions made by supposedly intelligent beings. Just because a race is superior in intellect, it doesn’t necessarily mean they would not make the same mistakes.

 

Give us a teaser for book 3. What do we have to look forward to? What do we have to fear?

Imogen, separated from Holis and Araz, must unlock Kekara’s secret, stolen from her chambers. Could it have anything to do with the new direction being taken by the Holan regime? The reason the history of Holis has been re-written?

Imogen is unaware the regime has developed a hybrid version of the Repros. Will they follow her and can her family keep her safe?

Desperate to see Araz again and unsure if the Tractus link will be broken between their two planets, Imogen fears for Araz’s safety. She also cannot squash her unease knowing he is twenty light years away with Naomi – a penta-crypt just like her. Could this clone replace her in Araz’s affections? And is the prophecy true? Either Imogen or Naomi must die?

As the growing evil on Holis threatens to come to Earth, Imogen must fight to decide where her true destiny lies.

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Writing Spaces: Where Barbara Winkes Pens Her Works

My office

My wife told me that before I moved in, she never know what to do with this room. It used to be a music room, a game room, the cat’s room—and then it became my office. My father-in-law built the shelves, and I added some decoration later, like a Women’s Murder Club poster and some photography. We both have our separate offices, which, I think is a good thing when you work 100% or even partly from home.

The Kitchen

As much as I like to have my own professional space, it’s fun to write there sometimes (hey, snacks, coffee and tea are close). I do it more often in the winter, because I have a nice view on where we put our Christmas tree.

The backyard

Obviously, only in the summer. I feel privileged to be able to do what I do, but even more so when I set up on the deck to write.

What are your ‘must haves’ that make up your writing space?

The spiral notebook with the notes for the book I’m working on, and some pens. That’s pretty much it.

A

 

Barbara Winkes writes suspense and romance with lesbian characters at the center. She has always loved stories in which women persevere and lift each other up. Expect high drama and happy endings.

Discover a variety of genres, serial and standalone. Women loving women always take the lead.

http://www.barbarawinkes.wordpress.com

Favorite TV Characters of 2018

I briefly flirted with the idea of writing a piece on my favorite TV shows of 2018, but decided that was boring. Later, I decided that it might be fun to approach the topic through a certain filter, like my favorite TV characters in 2018.

What makes a good TV character? I’m not sure it is any one thing. Sometimes it is the appearance of an actress who is past her popular prime and is carving out new creative space for herself in a way different than before. Sometimes they are so far removed from the bland conventionally attractive faces we so often see. Some characters retain their interesting edges, not having everything sanded smooth. Sometimes they play against type, sometimes they are the vulgar jester who pokes holes in the pretense of a main character.

There’s something refreshing about these characters, you look forward to their appearance in a scene. There’s an X-factor quality, you just can’t take your eyes off of them.

Point is, there isn’t any one trait that defines a great TV character (although, in my case I do tend to be drawn towards the supporting cast).

In no particular order, here are my favorite TV characters from TV shows I watched in 2018.

Continue reading “Favorite TV Characters of 2018”

Eclectic Mayhem three: tables do turn and labels do burn

51v9inwmjllThe Way We Came In by Kelby Losack

The Way We Came In takes an old framework: low level criminals, trying to survive, pull a job, things go sideways, and juices it with energy, style, and an easily recognizable voice.

At 63 pages, this is a short work.  I view it as partly a kind of proof of concept book. Losack is here making his mark and he’s got something to say and something to contribute. And partly, a transitional work as Losack moves towards his next stage. Frankly, I can’t wait to see what comes next.

Bottom line is that this is an interesting book and The Way We Came In is crime fiction for the next generation.

 

the seaThe Sea Dreams It is the Sky by John Hornor Jacobs

I won’t sit here and tell you that I’ve read every book by John Hornor Jacobs. I’ve been a fan since his Southern Gods came out and I know I still have a couple of titles to catch up on. I only mention this to say that I’m no expert on his growth as an author but I am certainly a fan.

Yet, I was surprised when I read The Sea Dreams It Is the Sky. The writing, often at a sentence level, is clear and beautiful.

The sense of place is so strong that you immediately feel the setting and surroundings that these characters inhabit. This is coupled with a sense of longing and wanting to return home that oozes from the characters. It makes for a heady mix. I do not know what it is to feel a part of a diaspora, but some of what was captured here was a feeling of being unmoored from everything and having a part of yourself missing with nothing being able to fill the void. This is a book that beautifully hurts.

This is also a story of subtle (at first) cosmic horror, war torn countries, refugees, South American countries and their politics.

If you haven’t read John Hornor Jacobs, you really need to fix that.

 

cosbyMy Darkest Prayer by S.A. Cosby

Nathan Waymaker, the main character in Shawn Cosby’s My Darkest Prayer, is a character type that, quite frankly, isn’t really represented as much (and too well) in crime fiction. If at all.

Rural crime fiction under serves the African American population that live in rural areas, especially in the south. Dave Robicheaux has some acquaintances in the black neighborhoods but those characters aren’t given agency. Hap & Leonard show these characters as well, but the entire book series is told in first person from Hap’s perspective. These are just two examples, and, let me be clear, I enjoy both of these series and authors. It isn’t about that, it’s about a space where black authors from more rural areas, can create black rural characters and their perspectives. Rural noir, as much as it is an established story type, isn’t always that space. But it should be. It can be. And that is partly why this is an important book. There is a perspective here that has been absent, but isn’t any longer. And Cosby is carving that space out for himself.

That’s not to say that this book is perfect. It isn’t. For example, it suffers from some wish fulfillment fantasies by protagonist proxy that are common  sometimes in the genre. These aren’t weaknesses though, but things that I expect will be outgrown as Cosby grows as a writer. But they are worth mentioning.

Enough of that, this book hums. It moves a long at a quick pace, and Nathan Waymaker is a great tough guy character unlike others we’ve seen in the genre.

Shawn Cosby is a welcome addition to the genre and I can’t wait to see where he goes from here.

Favorite books of 2018

“What does that mean? Whatever you want it to mean. Are these movies “the best”? Are they our favorites? Are they “movies we got to see before the deadline”? In my case, it’s some combination of all three — but I’m really quite happy with the aggregate results.” — Jim Emerson

This year’s end of year piece is bigger than previous ones I’ve written. 2018 was my biggest reading year in a long time. My job duties changed and I am spending more time driving, so I decided to make the most of it and started listening to audiobooks. By far, my greatest consumption was audiobooks. Because of the higher number I decided that I would err on the side of robustness for my end of year round up.

The form I eventually settled was: Book of the Year (on because there was one), top reads of the year (not limited by release year), and finally a longer list of notable reads (2018 releases, re-reads, older releases, graphic novels, and non-fiction).

Book of the year: Indian Horse by Richard Wagamese – On the surface, Indian Horse is about hockey and the Indian Residential School system in Canada, but it encompasses so much more: trauma, loss of culture, loss of identity, growing, and the long hard path to righting your ship when so many forces were hell-bent on sinking it. It’s told in an intimate, confessional way that draws you into the narrative, deeply investing the reader into the story of Saul Indian Horse.

Top 10 read of 2018

Animals Strike Curious Poses by Elena Passarello – This fantastic essay collection uses the form of a bestiary and well known animals as a starting point to explore various topics. It is witty, insightful, and entertaining as hell. If you ever have  chance to hear/see the author perform the final essay, do so (Koko the gorilla using her limited vocabulary to tell the infamous joke, The Aristocrats).

Brother Anhia Ahlborn – Brother is sharply told, has characters that will evoke strong feelings, some you will support, some you will loathe. By the time you suspect where the story is heading it is too late, you are strapped in for the ride. And as bad as you think it will get, it winds up being worse.

The Cabin at the End of the World by Paul Tremblay – Potent mix of home invasion story and end of the world story. Probably the tensest book I read all year.

Cockblock by CV Hunt – Cockblock is a fresh take on the zombie story, one for the Me Too era. It also acts as a critique on the pervasiveness of technology and how quickly information can spread. The world created here is a patriarchal system cranked up to 11 with women leading the larger resistance that must take place to stop the President. It veers from the horrific to the humorous while maintaining a relentless drive forward.

The Fifth Season by NK Jemison – NK Jemison won the Hugo award in 2018 for The Stone Sky, the third book in the Broken Earth series. Her consecutive wins  courted some backlash from those against a more inclusive genre. This seemed to be the perfect time to read one of her books, so I went to the library and grabbed a copy of The Fifth Season. The Fifth is a sophisticated book that demands the readers attention. You start off in the deep end of a of a new world and Jemison masterfully doles out information and developments as needed to control how the world expands and opens up and succeeds in keeping the reader hooked.

The Last Cowboys by John Branch – An insightful book about a multi-generational ranching family increasingly relying on a multi-generational dominance in the sport of rodeo. This is a fascinating peek into a world that is shrinking with time.

Sisyphean by Dempow Torishima – The most original piece of fiction I read all year. There is an astounding amount of imagination on display here.

Spy of the First Person by Sam Shepard – A fractured narrative about a dying man, written by a dying man, each fracture is a crystalline moment that provides yet another fleeting glimpse of the themes that Sam Shepard grappled with. No conclusions are reached at the end of a life examined. We wouldn’t have Sam Shepard’s final book any other way.

The Stars Are Legion by Kameron Hurley – I was a big fan of Hurley’s God’s War from a few years ago and I look forward to each new book she writes. This one is from last year.

There There by Tommy Orange – Tommy Orange takes a braided approach to give the reader a cross section of modern Native American life in America, specifically in Oakland California. And it ain’t always pretty. Sometimes it is messy and sometimes it is raw. But it will always be real.

Notable Books by Category

Notable 2018 ReleasesThe Lamb Will Slaughter the Lion by Margaret Killjoy, Space Opera by Catherynne Valente, Green Sun by Kent Anderson, Sunburn by Laura Lippman, The Line That Held Us by David Joy, Where the Bullets Fly by Terrance McCauley, Coyote Songs by Gabino Iglesias, Lost Films anthology, Pull & Pray by Angel Luis Colon

Notable re-readsSadie When She Died by Ed McBain, The Postman Always Rings Twice by James M Cain, Shane by Jack Schaefer, Lew Griffin series by James Sallis, Fat City by Leonard Gardner, Geek Love by Katherine Dunn, Warlock by Oakley Hall, A River Runs Through It by Norman McLean

Notable older releasesThe Dead Mountaineer’s Inn by Boris and Arkady Strugatsky, The Rider by Tim Krabbe, Death Wish by Brian Garfield, The Day the Cowboys Quit by Elmer Kelton, Certain Dark Things by Sylvia Moreno-Garcia, My Best Friend’s Exorcism by Grady Hendrix

Notable Graphic NovelsTetris by Box Brown, Paper Girls by Brian Vaughan and Cliff Chiang, Saga by Brian Vaughn and Fiona Staples, The Comic Book Story of Professional Wrestling by Aubrey Sitterson and Chris Moreno, Cousin Joseph by Jules Feiffer

Notable Non-fictionKillers of the Flower Moon by David Grann, I’ll Be Gone in the Dark by Michelle McNamara, The Soul of an Octopus by Sy Montgomery, Lady Killers by Tori Telfer

Advent Days 10, 9 & 8: Horror

There’s a slim possibility that I may have to adjust my advent list before I’m finished, and not for the first time. Blackkklansman was something I watched less than a week ago, and we’re on a new show now that just might make the cut.

So, it’s a bit of a gamble putting all three of these movies out there already because it limits what else can be taken off, but I figure if I really get stuck I’ll just add a bonus item.

This was the year that I finally let Brian indulge his inner horror film geek in October, although only one of these three films is from that month. I honestly don’t think much of slasher flicks. Back when they were new, the 80s versions of Friday the 13th and Nightmare on Elm Street and Chucky freaked me out, and not in a good way.

This year, I watched a number of horror films that I liked. Three made my list.

Hereditary

This likely comes as no surprise, since it was a big hit this year. I had to pick up a dead bird’s body the next day at the dog park, though, which was not cool. Not cool at all.

It Comes At Night

Psychological horror at its best. I was really surprised by this story. Some aspects of it are beautifully simple, but I think that’s the key.

It

I never watched the original and I saw this version alone. Really well done. Strong cast. No surprise it was well received.

 

PS: If you’re in the mood for more horror, Hulu had a strong showing with Castle Rock. There’s an episode with Sissy Spacek that’s absolutely amazing. If I was doing a list of the best episodes of the year, there’s no doubt in my mind that episode would be on it. The entire season would be worth watching  just for ‘The Queen’, as though the amazing cast and fascinating storyline wasn’t enough of a reason to watch already.

Advent Day 11: Barry

Advent Day 12: Salt

Advent Day 13: Blackkklansman

Advent Day 14: Dark

Advent Day 15: Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown

Advent Day 16: Terror is our Business: Dana Roberts’ Casebook of Horror

Advent Day 17: Freeze-Frame Revolution

Advent Day 18: Haunting of Hill House

Advent Day 19: Wind River

Advent Day 20: Letterkenny

Advent Day 21: Black Mirror

Advent Day 22: The Oddling Prince

Advent Day 23: The Americans

Advent Day 24: Fight Fascism

Advent Day 25: Bodyguard

Advent Day 26: Baskets

Advent Day 27: Literature

Eclectic Mayhem 2: The Native Flu

coyoteCoyote Songs by Gabino Iglesias

On a map it’s easy to look at a line and call it a border. Down on the ground though, borders are amorphous spaces where people and things blend and mingle and aren’t always so clear cut. Within that blending, magic happens. That’s one reason why walls suck. Coyote Songs takes a mosaic approach to showing us some of the stories on the border. Stories with heart that have some genuinely awesome moments and some genuinely moving moments.

Coyote Songs at times occupies some of the same limnal space as “The Cowboy Bible” by Carlos Velázquez and “The Kidnapped Space” by B Traven. Which, to be clear, isn’t to suggest that Coyote Songs is derivative in any way, but only that this mosaic novel is itself, one tile of a larger mosaic of Border fiction.

brotherBrother by Ania Ahlborn

The great writer Derek Raymond, influenced by classic 20th Century American hardboiled crime fiction wrote of the black novel. He said, in part, that, “The black novel…describes men and women whom circumstances have pushed too far, people whom existence has bent and deformed. It deals with the question of turning a small frightened battle with oneself into a much greater struggle — the universal human struggle against the general contract, whose terms are unfulfillable, and where defeat is certain.” The black novel is similar to noir.

Sometimes the best noirs are what I call accidental noirs. Meaning, the author didn’t necessarily set out to write a noir story, but one emerged out of the darkness. I’m often wary of noir used as a descriptor or marketing term. If an author or the marketing surrounding a story categorize it as noir, I’m skeptical. But those accidental noirs, the venture out into the darkness? Those are special. Brother isn’t, strictly speaking, a noir. But it is a black novel and any basement noir crazies out there should check it out.

Brother is sharply told, has characters that will evoke strong feelings, some you will support, some you will loathe. By the time you suspect where the story is heading it is too late, you are strapped in for the ride. And as bad as you think it will get, it winds up being worse.

lineThe Line That Held Us by David Joy

The Line That Held Us got me thinking about the Lindenmuth men in my own family. My great-grandfather, Old Heck, was a trapper in the mountains of Pennsylvania. He would spend months at a time out trapping, come back to town to sell his pelts, drop off some money to my great-grandmother (presumably), and head back out. My grandfather had a large nose, so people around town started calling him Old Hook. He was an avid and life long hunter. My grandfather took my Dad hunting when he was a boy. He sighted a deer and, in that moment, realized he didn’t want to shoot it. He also realized that he couldn’t tell grandfather this so, in an elegant solution, shot the ground off to the side of the deer, scaring it. You see, he realized that the most important thing for him to do, in the moment, was to pull the trigger. It was better to pull the trigger and miss then to not pull the trigger at all. And I have never been hunting (but I have no problem with it, to be clear).

Over the years this progression has been jokingly called both the evolution of man and the de-evolution of man. While it makes for a good punch line, it sacrifices accuracy. If one is feeling generous, they could place the Lindenmuth men along a kind of continuum that might represent the wild on one side and something like civilized on the other.

The three main male characters in The Line That Held Us fall at different places along a similar continuum. Dwayne is wild and not fit for town living. He follows more primal ways and cuts right through the often unspoken norms that bind a society. Calvin is a guy who lives and works and succeeds fully within the bounds of society. He has a job, a woman that loves him, and goals and things he wants to accomplish. In a way that most of us understand, he has the most to lose. The man that connects them is Darl, who has a foot in each world. He wants to spend as much time as possible out in the woods, hunting. But he needs his connections to those in his small circle of family and friends. His presence in each world recharges his battery for his presence in the other.

The men on this continuum will clash and the outcomes won’t be neat. How they clash and the messiness that ensues is for the reader to find out.

8193+a8LxALIndian Horse by Richard Wagamese

On the surface, Indian Horse is about hockey and the Indian Residential School system in Canada, but it encompasses so much more: trauma, loss of culture, loss of identity, growing, and the long hard path to righting your ship when so many forces were hell-bent on sinking it. It’s told in an intimate, confessional way that draws you into the narrative, deeply investing the reader into the story of Saul Indian Horse.

Richard Wagamese died in 2017 and I’m sorry it took this long to read him, I’m now a fan and can’t wait to read his other books. He has said on numerous occasions that Indian Horse, originally, was intended to be a “Shoeless Joe does hockey” novel. I have no doubt that Kinsella’s novel was the starting point and structure and inspiration for Indian Horse but it is more akin to Norman Maclean’s A River Runs Through It, especially in the sections of the book that describe hockey and everything that it means and is capable of. But also in the way the it deals with the helplessness of wanting to help someone but not being able to or knowing how.

Upon finishing Indian Horse I had the rare feeling of wanting to immediately read it again. And I’m sure I will again, soon.

Side note: The hilarious and profane Canadian TV show Letterkenny has a running joke about the Native hockey teams. In the world of the show, the Native teams are so tough and so feared that when teams have to play them, some players are inevitably sick and can’t play those games. Those players that call out are said to have “the native flu”. After reading Indian Horse, and its representation of how the Native players learn the game, and the conditions they play under, especially when compared to their white counterparts, it’s easy to see how that reputation can develop.

Indian Horse was made into a movie and released earlier in 2018. I look forward to checking it out when it becomes available.