Author Interview with L. Jagi Lamplighter and LUMINOUS Giveaway

Recently, I was involved with an anthology of Noblebright epic fantasy books called LUMINOUS. A superb bunch of authors collaborated on that project, and today one of them, L. Jagi Lamplighter, is visiting the site for a chat about the Noblebright genre, her book, and other stuff. Speaking of other stuff, before we dive into the interview with LJ, I need to mention that the LUMINOUS project is running a fantastic giveaway. You can win a Lord of the Rings “Not All Who Wander Are Lost” tote bag, a Harry Potter “I Solemnly Swear I’m Up To No Good” journal (perfect for any of my three rascally sons), and some other author stuff. Be sure to check out the end of this post for those details. Anyway, without further ado, let’s chat about Noblebright and fantasy and other things with LJ.

LJ, thanks for stopping by. We obviously want to talk a lot about Noblebright, as that’s becoming quite the burgeoning genre these days, so, first off, what does that term mean to you?

I am a founding member of the Superversive Literary Movement. If subversive is change by undermining from below, then Superversive is change by inspiring from above. I see Noblebright as a companion idea to Superversive stories. Both movements stress heroes, fair play, nobility, bravery, and moral virtue. They offer a tiny spark of light in the darkness, against the overwhelming dark and violent landscape that is today’s popular entertainment.

You’re right on the prevalence of dark entertainment. Entertainment, culture and society in general! We need an antidote. How do you portray the Noblebright ideals in your work in general and the Luminous selection in particular?

Some years ago, my  husband (Author John C. Wright) pointed out that many modern books and TV shows have demons, but almost none of them mention angels and Heaven. (He did not count “angels” who claimed to be on  the side of “God” but basically acted like demons.) They explore darkness but contain very little light. I try to write stories that have moments of brightness as well as darker moments, where wonder and awe bring joy as well as sorrow. This is one of the reason that I so enjoy writing the Books of Unexpected Enlightenment. Dark things happen in these stories, but there are also moments of grace and pure joy—moments that lift the reader out of the ordinary, reminding them that there is something greater—something far better—that occasionally reaches down and touches us transforming our lives.

I don’t know if you’ve finished reading the entire Luminous collection, but do you have a favorite book among them?

I have not read all ten yet, but my favourite so far is Wolfskin. I like the spunk of the girl who wants to be a pirate but who settles for being the apprentice of a witch. I like the subtle way in which the magic works, so that the forest seems to live and pulse around her. The story includes a charming romance, but because of the initial age of the girl , the story is not just a romance but also includes a solid mix of adventure and intrigue. I felt the characters were well drawn, and the magic system was very interesting. The girl had a good heart, which is what leads to her triumph. I really enjoyed the book.

You’ve written quite a few books, among them your Prospero’s Children trilogy based on Shakespeare’s Tempest, as well as the Unexpected Enlightenment trilogy. When you’re writing (and reading–though, I suppose there’s quite an overlap between the two perspectives), what’s your favorite sort of character?

I would say that this question depends on whether you mean favourite protagonists or favourite characters in general. For protagonists, I like intelligent and courageous characters who use their wits to solve knotty problems. I love spirited female protagonists, but I am not a fan of fighting women who basically act like pretty men. I want the girl to solve problems the way a real girl could. My heroines tend to have magic and to be able to do things normal people cannot, but it is usually their intelligence, their cleverness, and their willingness to speak to and occasionally trust people others avoid—rather than their power—that saves the day. My main character in the Books of Unexpected Enlightenment, Rachel Griffin, the thirteen-year-old daughter of an English duke, has a perfect memory. This means that she never forgets any clues. This, combined with her courage and fortitude, makes her a character who is a delight to write. I am also a fan of dark, majestic, impressive male characters. Picture Spock, Dr. Doom, Aragorn (book version, not movie), or Snape (movie version, not book.). I love this kind of character—particularly when they are menacing but noble. I try to make sure that the male characters in my stories actually speak and act like men, which is surprisingly rare in YA literature.

In the Luminous collection, you included your novel Rachel and the Many-Splendored Dreamland, the third book in your Unexpected Enlightenment series. Do you have plans for a sequel?

The Fourth Book of Unexpected Enlightenment, which will be called The Awful Truth About Forgetting, should—God willing—be out this October. Many more volumes are expected in this series. While the series is long, it will be divided into arcs. The first arc follows Rachel Griffin’s freshman year at Roanoke Academy for the Sorcerous Arts. The book that appears in Luminous, Rachel and the Many-Splendored Dreamland, is the Third Book of Unexpected Enlightenment. It takes place during October and early November of Rachel’s freshman year and includes the eerie and delightful scenes of her and her boyfriend crashing the Dead Men’s Ball on Halloween night. (Since the book takes place in New York’s Hudson Highlands, this ghostly event includes a hair-raising run-in with the Hudson Valley’s most famous spook, the Headless Horseman.) Book Four follows Rachel’s freshman year from November to early February. I am particularly looking forward to its release because it is the first book in the series which gives the reader a glimpse of the dangers of the greater universe and the direction in which the series really go.

Noblebright is still a rather young genre in terms of it’s name, even though the philosophy behind it has been around for a long time (Lord of the Rings is a perfect example of Noblebright). That said, how would you describe Noblebright to someone who has never heard the term before?

Have you heard of Grimdark? Imagine the opposite. Noble heroes and heroines. Stories of courage and hope.

Being a writer myself, I’m always interested in how other writers operate. How do you like to write?

I write on a computer sitting at a desk. Once, long ago, that desk was in an office—but when we adopted our daughter, we gave her my office for her bedroom. Now, my desk is in the living room, so sometime it is hard to concentrate. Often, my best writing happens after midnight.

Most midnights, I’m sound asleep. Unless there’s a full moon. So, do you have a perfect writing day?

The kids and my husband are busy and don’t really need me. I go rollerblading—to give me some time to think about what I want to say. Then I sit down for hours and write with very little interruptions. Sadly, this has not happened in…a long time. I thought it would get easier now that the kids are teens, but the last couple of years, it has gotten harder. Currently, I am teaching a writing class three days a week for three teens (two of mine and a friend) so I have very little writing time. But…it’s wonderful, and we’re all learning a great deal. I hope once this year is over, I’ll have more days such as I described above again.

I think if a time machine ever gets invented, it’ll be invented by a frustrated writer who simply wants more time to write. I know that’d be my goal if I was a time machine inventor. Though, if I invented one, I think I’d go back in time and have a stern talk with Robert Jordan. “Robert, please, only seven books in the series. Eight, if you must.” Speaking of long books, are you a speed writer, or a turtle writer?

Both. I write quickly once all my mental cylinders are engaged. Sadly, however, this can take time. So I write quickly if I have uninterrupted periods of time… And if not, then not.

Do you find that music or silence or crickets chirping help you write?

I play music while I write, to help keep the other noises in the house at bay, but it can’t be in English, or I get distracted by the lyrics. So I look around for interesting and pleasant songs in other languages. I currently have in my collection that I play while I write a Japanese song,  a Chinese version of an English song, an Islantic song, and a French one. What I need now is a Gregorian chant.

I think the whole world could use a Gregorian chant right about now. What is your favorite book to re-read on a rainy afternoon?

When I was a kid, if I stayed home sick from school,  I always reread Lloyd Alexander’s The Book of Three. He still is one of my favourite authors. Other books I love include: War and Peace, Gone With the Wind, Nine Princes In Amber, Voyage of the Dawntreader, Harry Potter, and The Fellowship of the Ring. But really, if I actually had reading time on a rainy day—which almost never happens—I’d probably pick a romance by Mary Balogh, my favourite romance writer.

Lloyd Alexander is, in my humble opinion, one of the most under-appreciated fantasy writers of all time. I’m shocked at the number of fantasy readers that’ve never read his Prydain Chronicles. Those are wonderful books. Okay, I guess it’s about time to wind this up. One last question, for the drinkers among us: tea or coffee?

I used to be addicted to coffee. I thought about it all the time. I am sure that it didn’t help that the local Starbucks opened the day after I found out I was pregnant with my second son, and I had to walk by it every day for nine months without having any. Or that Barnes & Nobles has a coffee shop. My friend and I used to spend all our free time at the bookstore, and, as we were poor, a drink was about all we could afford. (I still remember the day I added up our weekly coffee bill and figured out what I was spending on coffee a year. I felt faint for nearly an hour!) However, one day, I was praying about something entirely different and I realized I had stopped thinking about coffee. I just didn’t want it any more. I took that as a sign from on High and stopped drinking it all together. I am now a huge fan of tea. I love drinking teas of all kinds: herbal, black, green, exotic. Mind is my favourite!  Unlike with coffee, however, I seldom think about tea when I am not drinking then, which is a true blessing. Oddly, and rather eerie actually, about the same day I stopped being obsessed with coffee, my husband became obsessed with coffee.

My wife is a coffee and tea fanatic. She drinks enough for both of us, but I drink neither. Oh well, I suppose I’m missing out. Anyway, thank you for stopping by, LJ! Best of luck with your books!

Learn more about L. Jagi Lamplighter and her writing at her website. If you haven’t checked out the Luminous collection, you can get a copy at Amazon, Smashwords, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, or ITunes.

Now, about that giveaway I mentioned! We have an awesome Lord of the Rings tote bag and a Harry Potter themed journal, both yours for the taking. Just click in through to Rafflecopter and toss your name into the ring. You can do it! a Rafflecopter giveaway


The Fury Clock free

…because it needs to be read. The Fury Clock was the most enjoyable writing experience I’ve ever had with a book. Probably because I could, for the most part, write whatever I wanted without the constraints of propriety, common sense, or logic. While I wouldn’t want to live that way, such lack makes the writing process much more interesting than it usually is.

Anyway, this link will take you to various free forms of The Fury Clock. Pass it around.


Friends in Masks

city of masksA friend of mine from the land of Oz, and fellow-fantasy writer, Ashley Capes, has an epic fantasy series called The Bone Mask Trilogy out on Amazon and the various other ebook sites. His books feature a young thief as one of the main characters, just like Jute in my Tormay trilogy. Anyway, the first book in the series, City of Masks, is going to be free on April 4, so check it out if you get a chance.

In other news, I’ve decided to lay claim to Mars as my ancestral home. Just need to find a good lawyer who specializes in that sort of thing. Mars sounds pretty peaceful these days in comparison to all the nonsense going on in these parts!


Aeronaut’s Windlass

By Jim Butcher. Aeronaut’s Windlass. Great book. This is the first new fantasy book I’ve read in a long time that I genuinely enjoyed from page one to the finish. He created an imaginative, accessible world for this story. Solid, interesting characters that don’t feel like a fantasy geek’s typical stereotypes. Thoughtful, fascinating plot. Polished dialogue. I was further intrigued by the overall worldview he used as a foundation for the story: clear right and wrong, but still allowing for internal moral conflicts generated by decent characters operating in bad situations. No whiff of nihilism; refreshing, that, as so much epic fantasy these days is drowning in nihilism.

While I’ve read Butcher’s other books, such as the Dresden Files, I can’t recommend them for various reasons (despite how well they’re written). Aeronaut’s Windlass, however, I recommend.


The Beginner’s Guide to Escaping Dangerous Dates

BeginnersGuideCoverFinalAmznI have not worked much on stories for quite some time now. Various reasons. Anyway, I recently wrote a humorous non-fiction book called The Beginner’s Guide to Escaping Dangerous Dates. Mostly to check if I could still write. Jury remains out on that question.

You can find self-help books on pretty much any topic under the sun. Escaping dangerous dates, however, has been neglected. Until now.

If you do use the methods described in this book, you do so at your own risk. Please consult a lawyer first. By reading the book, you agree to not sue me if one of the methods has adverse results.


Portrait of a Serial Killer

I suppose it’s unavoidable that the majority of serial killer thrillers and mysteries tend to feature the same kind of killer: a depraved murdered with some variety of attendant twists (a fondness for eating his victims, turning their skin into lampshades, getting intimate with their corpses, murdering them in unsettling ways, etc). At the end of the day (or book), these killers blur into the same person. There’s nothing that inventive about them. Oh, one of them might be a supposed devout Christian (always an easy, lazy and fond target) or a white supremacist or a whatnot or a whosit.

But they’re all essentially the same.

Writers of these books must feel compelled to create the most horrific protagonist as possible. After all, they have to shock and compel and carve their name on the genre so readers are inspired to talk about their books to others. “That Hannibal Lecter fellow…” I understand their motivation. I think it unfortunate. It reminds me of the old Soviet-era grocery stores I visited in Eastern Europe: one brand of bread on the shelves, one brand of canned peas…

The problem is, like taking drugs, the high becomes less and less attainable, the more you use. The reader becomes numb over time. Which is one of several reasons why we’ve moved into an era of heroes being just as repulsive as their corresponding villains.

This problem got me thinking recently about the character of the Serial Killer in fiction. Not all of such villains need to be the next Jack the Ripper. I think a blander sort of fellow would be much more terrible in the long run. An acceptable, educated, polished person. An unassuming cog in the machine.

This brings us to Desmond Phipps…

Portrait of a Serial Killer

“Our office has one more suggestion, said Desmond Phipps.

“Yes?” said the chairman.

Phipps cleared his throat and pretended to consult his notes. He was a short, bespectacled man with thinning blond hair and a weak chin that he tried to conceal behind a goatee.

“Dr. Ralston Reed and Dr. George Patterson,” he said, “both statisticians at Princeton, recently published a paper analyzing vehicle speeds on all classifications of roads: highways, city streets, residential, high density urban, rural areas, and how they relate to emissions and climate change. One of the key points they make for the purposes of our discussion is that increasing speed limits within certain ranges reduces carbon emissions due to the improvements in modern engine efficiencies.”

“Increasing the limits by how much?” said the woman sitting three seats down the table.

Phipps didn’t bother looking at her. Melissa Hart. She was the senior aide to the senator from Wyoming and sometimes wore cowboy boots. Her voice sounded like a blender grinding up rocks. Almost certainly a smoker. She was probably was more accustomed to riding a horse than driving a car. He doubted whether someone like her had the intelligence to be on the staff committee for updating national road standards.

“Up to ten miles per hour more for average highway speeds that are still at sixty or below,” said Phipps, “for a national average of seventy. Urban and residential areas would only need an increase of five. The adjustment in urban and residential actually has a bigger impact than the change in highway speed. Viewed on a driver-by-driver basis, these increases really are small, but it’s the small things that count. Collectively, these modifications would result in an annual reduction of six point nine billion tons of carbon emissions at current population levels.”

There was a brief moment of silence as the committee considered this.

“What about school zones?” said someone at the far end of the table.

“School zones would certainly be an exception,” said Phipps quickly. “My senator feels very strongly about education.”

“Did they analyze what their proposal would mean for traffic accidents?” said Hart.

Witch, thought Phipps to himself. “Of course. They calculate a slight increase in mortality from the current level to an additional one per every two hundred thousand. That’s statistically irrelevant.”

“But not irrelevant for that one person,” said Hart sarcastically.

“Per every two hundred thousand,” said the man sitting across from Phipps. He scribbled quickly on his notepad. “Let’s see… point zero zero zero five percent. For a carbon reduction of six point nine billion tons? That’s quite a nice return. I wish my investment portfolio was doing that well.”

Except for Hart, everyone at the table laughed.

“I think Minnesota could get behind this,” said an elegant blonde at the end of the table. “Climate change is polling strongly in our area, even ahead of jobs and immigration, and it is an election year.”

“Any issue you can tie to climate change is a slam-dunk in California,” said another staffer. “Sea levels, kids with emphysema or asthma–hell, find some bald kid with cancer, even if it has nothing to do with climate. Throw in a couple pictures of cute polar bears or dolphins, my boss loves this stuff when she’s out campaigning.”

“Minority kids in wheelchairs,” said someone else. “They’re gold. Do some photo ops with them and you can sit back and watch the polls bounce.”

There were several nods in response. Phipps relaxed in his chair. He didn’t allow himself to smile. He would do that later. In private.

“Alright then,” said the chairman, looking at his watch. “It sounds like we’ve got some pretty good consensus. We’ll add this emissions reductions plan to the list. I’ll have my staff type up the revisions and email them tonight. The EPA will get a copy too. They can come on board early and get their press releases ready. I trust you’ll all brief your senators before the new safety standards go public. Boil it down to talking points so they’ve got a good grasp of what they’re supposed to say.”

“If they ever get asked,” said someone.

Everyone laughed. Even Hart smiled sourly.

Phipps took the train home late in the evening. A sleek white cat met him at the door. It purred and rubbed against his ankles. Phipps opened a can of cat food and dumped it neatly into a blue ceramic bowl. The cat promptly began to eat in neat little bites. Phipps heated up a plate of leftover fettuccine for himself and poured a glass of white wine.

Point zero zero zero five times three hundred and fifty million… No. Point zero zero zero five percent of the population.

He did the math quickly in his head.

“One thousand, seven hundred and fifty, Bella,” he said to the cat. “What do you think of that?”

The cat ignored him.

A chalkboard hung on the side of the refrigerator. It had a long list of numbers, dates and initials on it. He added 1,750 to the list, along with the date and NRSS for National Road and Safety Standards.

He took a sip of wine and finally allowed himself a smile.

“Not bad at all, Bella. And the hearings on trade with China begin tomorrow. Electronics. Electronics have lots of potential, Bella, particularly devices children use. Chemicals, pottery, glass. Toys. Pencils, paper goods. All the everyday small things. It’s always the small things you have to pay attention to.”

The cat stared at him for a moment and then resumed eating its dinner.

“Of course,” said Phipps, “who’s paying attention?” He smiled again.


Volcanoes that are not Vesuvius

Thankfully, there are a lot of them. If one must give thanks for volcanoes, which I’m not sure is necessary. At any rate, we are off to Mt. Lassen soon. Volcanoes, bears, s’mores, large rodents, trails, kayaks, icy lakes, possible snow (so my eldest son tells me), pirates, buried treasure, etc. It should be pleasant.

Speaking of pleasant, I have to recommend Where’s Wallace, by Hillary Knight (author and illustrator). It is one of the best illustrated children’s books ever written, certainly in the league of Potter, Sendak, Ungerer and Company. I even rate it as high as Helen Lester’s Tacky the Penguin books, which are the literary equivalents of the long-lost rubies of Kubla Khan. Knight is probably most famous for having illustrated Kay Thompson’s Eloise books, as well as the original versions of Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle (also a must-read for children with working brains).

Where’s Wallace is essentially a Homeric odyssey, worthy of any Ithacan king’s adventures. The book follows the wanderings of an orangutan named Wallace, as well as quite a supporting cast of characters (the Cat, the Knitting Lady [perhaps a nod to the Fates, in my fevered brain], the Bad Little Girl, the Bad Little Baby, the Cellist, etc). And, of course, the Zookeeper.

Get it now. Now.


Fifty Shades Adaptive Fiction

Fifty Shades of ReckoningWhat is adaptive fiction, you ask? It’s when you take pre-existing works and adapt them to a new storyline, perhaps a new genre. You take them where they should’ve gone in the first place. Adaptive fiction is a subset of parody. Remember, though, parody is not always humorous. It often is, but it sometimes operates purely as a satire, which can be many things other than humorous.

Anyway, I recently wrote a story called Fifty Shades of Reckoning. Why? Because I decided to. Reckoning is a serious parody, a satire. More than that, it’s where the original Fifty Shades storyline should’ve gone. And gone quickly.

In case you’re wondering, Reckoning contains none of the delusional intimacy of its namesake. Give it a read. Feel free to pass the story around to as many people as possible.

Free on Apple.

Free on Nook.

Free on Kobo.

Free on Scribd.

PDF copy: Fifty Shades of Reckoning


Metal and Magic

Metal and MagicI’m currently part of a multi-author boxset of epic fantasy called Metal and Magic. If you’d like a bunch of books about magic and adventure and all those sorts of things, give it a try! It’s free! Get it before the world ends.

The bundle has 6 books in it, including the first book of my Tormay Trilogy (which I hope you’ve already read–if you haven’t, get busy!). Anyway, the boxset is free on most sites:

Amazon

Itunes

Nook

Kobo

Google Play