Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Blog Tour: Guest Post by Nathan Crowder, author of Ink Calls To Ink

Title:   Ink Calls to Ink
Author:   Nathan Crowder
Published:  July 23rd, 2015
Publisher:  Crushing Hearts and Black Butterfly Publishing
Genre:  Urban Fantasy
Content Warning:   PG-13 Violence

Franklin the Steadfast Soldier saw first hand what the cold indifference of modern London does to a Fictional Personae–a Fict. Refugees from their respective texts, scratching out a meager existence, the Ficts’ only comfort is the weekly Book Fair.
When a determined Knight of the Round Table hires him to find a missing king, Franklin starts to believe a better world could be possible. But the Knight works for the Host of Heaven, and Medea and Judas warn Franklin: One man’s heaven is not heaven for all. There is no place for misfits and villains in this new world order, their crimes are pre-ordained, written into the very fabric of their being.
To protect their city from a holy war, Franklin and his friends must stop the Once and Future King and an army of angels. Will they find the courage to write their own stories, or will they die slaves to their text and the ink in their blood?

Finding Inspiration

I have this document I’ve updated and maintained for maybe ten years or so now. Its title is “Novel Pursuits.” In this document I’ve listed off every novel I’ve written and, at last count, over thirty that I have yet to write. All of these unwritten novels are notated by some kind of working title. They’re also all roughly fleshed out in my head enough that I could, should I want to, sit down and crank out an outline over the course of a weekend.
Sometimes I think back on when I was halfway through my first novel and worried that I’d never come up with another idea. I’ve long since accepted that I’ll never live long enough to write all the novels I have ideas for.
And let’s not even discuss short stories. I don’t have a list for those. When I get the idea I either sit down to write it or I let it go. The good ones get remembered, the less good ones go back where they come from.
And where is that, I hear you asking? Who is this miraculous idea merchant, dusky coat and velvet voice, peddling inspiration at the crossroads?
Short answer: he doesn’t exist.
Shorter but more complex answer: he’s you.
See, inspiration is a wily, ephemeral bastard. Inspiration never checks his datebook, never shows up when we expect him. But at the same time he’s everywhere at once, existing in a kind of quantum state. Rather than trying to find inspiration, I’ve learned to be open to it. This makes it a passive process rather than an active one, and that has made every difference.
Here’s what works for me in as stripped down manner as possible.
First off, be both curious and aware. Get out in the world and pay attention to your surroundings with your curiosity engaged. Read historical markers. Go to any museum anywhere and read the signs. Pursue your passions and find relevant online news sites or fan pages that post frequently. See something that makes you curious, look it up. Heck, just look at the Wikipedia main page every day for the random articles of the day. Or get a Duotrope subscription (an essential if you plan on writing and selling short stories), and peruse anthologies looking for submissions. Many times I’ve had stories sparked by nothing more than the theme for a particular anthology.
Second, write everything down. I’m a huge advocate for Field Notes brand notebooks because they’re super compact and good quality paper. I can tuck a couple away with a pen or two and not even notice they’re there. I see something that sparks my interest, no matter how small, I write it down. If I get an idea for a story, or a character, or anything really, it goes in the notebook. It doesn’t need to be a full idea for a story. You don’t need to grab ahold of the full inspiration beast for him to be useful. As long as you grab an arm or leg, you have something.
Third, trust the cranial junk drawer to work some magic. Picture a big drawer full of all these various tidbits. Maybe a weird historical idea here, a cool picture you saw there, maybe a line or two of conversation you overhead at the bus stop. All that is packed into this mystery drawer, and every time the drawer is opened to add something new or take something out, everything jostles together. Frequently, several unrelated ideas floating around in there will find each other. Story bits that never made sense might break off and spark off something else creating a whole new idea. That experience is magical. Trust it.
Fourth, learn to tell when things are ripe. Not every cool idea is a story. Sometimes a great character is just a character sketch in search of their story. By way of example, I had an idea for an entertainment android that had gone AI and become this kind of hardened bad-ass bounty hunter. She was inspired by a painting by a favorite artist, but beyond the character idea I had nothing. I tried writing stories for her with that as my starting point for years and got nowhere. Then suddenly I was writing this sci-fi noir story called “Odd Jobs” and realized I needed someone that could very well be an earlier incarnation of this character. It ended up being a perfect fit and I love that story so much more than all the failed attempts I tried to force. The character hadn’t been ripe before. Learn to tell when a cool idea is just a cool idea and not a full story. They’ll find their shot or they won’t. But at least being able to tell the difference will save you heartache and time.
 Fifth, and finally, find other creative people and share ideas. Inspiration doesn’t live in a vacuum and neither should we. Several of my better stories have come from conversations I’ve had with fellow writers either in person or online. My novel Ink Calls to Ink was sparked by a story that was in turn sparked by a conversation about literary figures adjusting to the modern world. That conversation about whether or not Mary Poppins would make a great spy became a story that had nothing to do with spies or Mary Poppins. And when I shared that story with an editor/producer, she suggested that it would make a great novel—something I had never considered for this particular idea.
Hmm…. A miraculous idea merchant, dusky coat and velvet voice, peddling inspiration at the crossroads? There could be a story in that. I should write that down!

About the Author:
Nathan Crowder is a writer of long fantasy and short horror with a love of pop culture and working-class heroes. He currently lives in the Bohemian wilds of Seattle’s Greenwood neighborhood where he blogs about writing, film, and fringe candy, and is known to haunt the local coffee houses, comic shop, dives, and karaoke stages. Nathan lives alone with his cat, Shiva, who is currently managing his career in exchange for fresh kibble.
He has appeared in several anthologies including That Ain’t Right: Historic Accounts of the Miskatonic Valley, Coins of Chaos, and Cthulhurotica.

Excerpt from Ink Calls to Ink by Nathan Crowder:

“What brings you to the Book Fair, Franklin?”

The richly-accented voice snapped the Soldier’s head around. He recognized Judas immediately. While not adversaries by any means, they had engaged in their share of disagreements at the shelter. Franklin didn’t know what it was about the fallen acolyte that set his teeth on edge and, for his part, Judas seemed to delight in testing the Steadfast nature of Franklin’s title. The Soldier said nothing. His eyes narrowed in suspicion when he saw the young Juliet Capulet in the Scripture’s company. “Surely you have nothing to sell,” Judas continued, “and little money with which to buy.”

This last was said without a hint of judgement, and they both acknowledged it as a truth—both men existed largely on the charity of others, and the occasional coin earned from their very specific skills and reputations. “I have been retained by a woman who desired a degree of protection while stepping out this evening.” The soldier indicated the flap of the tent behind him with a tilt of his head. He hiked himself up straighter upon his crutch. “While it is true that I possess skills rarely sought, my courage and integrity bring peace of mind to those who need it.”

Moll chose this inopportune time to fold back the flap. “Only a moment more and you will escort me home before William even knows I was gone,” she said, her tone pitched as though she was addressing a disobedient dog. She retreated back within the tent, ignorant of the flush appearing at the base of Franklin’s neck.

“That is who hired you?” Juliet joined in, pointing towards the tent, with a disbelieving look. Judas offered up a sad smile. “Tell me, Franklin: how much does your integrity cost these days?”

Franklin clenched his jaw. “Even a Steadfast Soldier needs to eat, Judas. We were not all given thirty silver coins.”

Both men glared hard at each other as if willing the other to burst into flames. Juliet looked embarrassed to be seen with either Judas or Franklin, and peeled herself free from their company. The waifish teen made a bee-line for Medea, which didn’t surprise the Soldier in the slightest.

It was Judas who broke the silence first, his voice cold and flat—a sterile scalpel. “How I enjoy these talks, Franklin.”

“And I as well,” the Steadfast Soldier’s voice dripped. “Let us do this again sometime soon.”

Judas ambled in the direction Juliet had gone. He didn’t seem to be following her so much as already heading that way. Franklin waited where he stood, and it was only a few seconds later that Moll exited the tent with a bemused smile. “Good news, I take it?” he asked.

“Great news. Now, hurry me back to my home.”

Scarcely had they taken five steps when a bellowing voice cleared a path behind them. “Moll, you scurrilous wench! You’ll learn the price you pay for cheating ol’ Billy Sikes!”

The Soldier’s head dropped in realization. “And that would be William?” he sighed to his employer.

Moll’s smile as she glanced back over her shoulder at Franklin was all sugar and razorblades. “If you want the rest of your money, you had better make certain he doesn’t lay a finger upon me.”

By the time Franklin had spun around, there was a clear path from him to Bill Sikes. The well-known Dickens rowdy wasn’t particularly tall, but his arms were corded with muscle, and veins bulged in his neck. His face was red with rage as he closed the twenty feet between with an incomprehensible roar. There will be no reasoning with him, the Soldier realized, at least not at this point. Like it or not, Franklin had to fight this madman. He tightened his grip on the crutch in his right hand. Remember, the client paid for courage as well as integrity, he thought distantly as he limped into desperate combat.