Meet The Alt.Historians — Rysa Walker

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ALT-History-102-eBook (1)Another day, another introduction to an author for the upcoming anthology Alt.History 102. Today we hear a little from perhaps the most established of all the Alt.History writers — Rysa Walker.

If you aren’t familiar with Rysa, go check out her writing now. Seriously. Timebound was a phenomenal novel and she puts out some great work in science fiction, and specifically time travel. With her stomping about in the past so much, it makes sense that she gets a chance to change it up in Alt.History, which she does wonderfully in her story revolving around Lizzie Borden.

Alt.History 102 publishes on Sunday, January 31 and we’ve had a few other interviews already this week — me, Drew Avera & Asha Bardon, J.E. Mac, and Hank Garner & Therin Knite.

But now, it’s my privilege to introduce you to Rysa Walker…


 

Rysa Walker

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Give us a brief introduction to you. Who are you? What else have you written? What brings you to Alt.History 102?

I’m Rysa Walker, author of The CHRONOS Files series, which is time travel…but also, alternative history, since my characters do quite a bit of mucking around with the timeline. This is my second story in the Future Chronicles.  In my pre-writing life, I was a history professor, and I’ve always enjoyed the “What if…” questions the most, because there are so many aspects of history where a tiny change could have made a major difference.  And so much of the history we study is really “alt. history” anyway, because–as was the case in this story–the details that end up being accepted as “history” are often exaggerated or flat-out wrong.

What’s your story about? What gave you the idea for your story?

Simon Rand is one of the key characters in my CHRONOS Files books is Simon Rand. He’s a villain, but history junkies like me will probably find it hard to entirely hate Simon.  Yes, he alters the timeline a bit. And yes, he’s got a bit of blood on his hands. But hey–that’s his day job.  If he had his way, he’d toss all that aside and be a full-time time-tourist.

This is the second Simon story I’ve written, and there’s a third one planned for late spring. When I finished the final book in The CHRONOS Files, Time’s Divide, Simon was the character who just wouldn’t shut up and let me move on to The Delphi Project.  Both of these stories, and a third one that I plan to write this spring, show readers a side of Simon that wasn’t fully explored in the main books of the series.  And I think “Whack Job,” in particular, helps explain why Simon developed his taste for extreme time-tourism, where he lands right in the thick of the action.

If you could pick a previous Chronicles anthology that you could alter history to go back and be included in, which one would it be and why?

Hmm…tough call.  Probably Robot Chronicles or A.I. Chronicles.  I have a story idea that I think would have fit well in both of those.

Anything else you’d like to plug?

The first book in my new series, The Delphi Project, will be published by Skyscape in October. It lies somewhere in the nexus of the X-Files and X-Men.  Readers who enjoyed “Whack Job,” will probably like my CHRONOS novella, Simon Says: Tips for the Intrepid Time Traveler, which was published back in December on Kindle and which will be released on Audible in the next few days. Simon will also be featured in an upcoming graphic novel project that I’m working on.

 

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Meet The Immortals — Will Swardstrom

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Hey look, it’s my turn! I’ve taken time and used this space to interview each of the other eleven authors featured in The Immortality Chronicles. I thought it only fair that I got to cap the interview series today.

Don’t forget to pick up your copy of The Immortality Chronicles for just $2.99 for a limited time. To check out the other author interviews, just click on their names: Patricia Gilliam, John Gregory Hancock, Drew Avera, Gareth Foy, D.K. Cassidy, Thomas Robins, E.E. Giorgi, Harlow C. Fallon, David Bruns, D. Robert Pease & Paul B. Kohler.

And now…me!

11796327_10153423837640170_1900403244562143189_nWho are you?

Okay…okay. I’ve asked this question of enough people at this point, I should have this down pat. I’m…24601. Shoot. That’s not right.

Okay…my name is Will Swardstrom. I’m a husband, father of two, high school history teacher, and author. Since 2013, I’ve written two novels and a couple handfuls of novellas and short stories. I enjoy teaching for my day job, so there isn’t a huge rush to quit and focus entirely on writing, but perhaps one day… Until that day, I’ll continue to find a balance between my two careers.

Why are you writing for The Immortality Chronicles?

I was on board with The Immortality Chronicles from the get go. Chronicles curator Samuel Peralta approached me about a volume that would act as a vehicle to foster charity donations and he chose Immortality for that. I’d done a previous anthology with my LOOW writing group, so he worked with me early on that side of the book. Eventually I was able to write my own story to help benefit First Book and contribute my third Chronicles story (I’ve also appeared in Alien and Z).

Also, now that I’ve read the entire collection, I’m thrilled to be sharing page space with these immensely talented men and women. Each time I get a story in a Future Chronicles anthology, I am just in awe of the words that surround my story on all sides, from the Foreword to the final acknowledgements, each book is a work of art.

11936983_10207733939815640_650787208_nWhat did you write for The Immortality Chronicles? 

My contribution to The Immortality Chronicles is a story called The Control. It spans much of human recorded history going back to ancient Egypt. I guess I started with the idea that aliens were behind the construction of the pyramids and the other monuments scattered around the Old Kingdom upwards of 5,000 years ago. From there my protagonist goes through history, always alive, but not always living. Not when your life is under someone else’s control. 

How can we find out more about you and your writing?

Well, right here is a great place to start! Up above there are links for many of my books and stories (although I have been terrible at updating this site in the past year or so.) Ultimately to check out my current works, visit my Amazon page HERE. I’m fairly active on Facebook and I can guarantee there aren’t any other Will Swardstrom’s out there. Just search and find me. I’m also on Twitter, but I am a terrible tweeter.

What’s next for you?

Oh boy. Here we go.

My brother, Paul, and I are co-authoring a book. I started it on a whim and he asked to help out and now it may be the best longform fiction I’ve been a part of. We’ve got nearly 83,000 words as of the start of September and I have a goal to finish it by the end of the month.

After that, I’ve got a few short stories to write and/or finish. One I can’t really talk about quite yet, but I can mention the story I have planned for the Alt.History 102 volume coming up. My deadline for that is November with a publication date of early 2016. My working title is “Requiem for an Austrian Princess.” (I’ll leave it there for now and reveal more details later.

In terms of anything else, we’ll just have to see what time allows for. I’m always up for something new, but I gotta make sure I take care of the day job, too.

Anything else we need to know about you and your story?

I was really drawn to The Immortality Chronicles by the epic tale of Gilgamesh. An ancient Sumerian story — in fact, the oldest story we have on record — that tells about Gilgamesh as a king in the Sumerian city of Uruk. Gilgamesh is a great king, mighty and powerful, but he has flaws. Eventually those flaws attract the gods who send him a friend, Enkidu. The two have a great bromance and go on epic adventures, but Enkidu eventually dies and much of the blame can be laid at the feet of Gilgamesh. In order to avoid Enkidu’s fate, he embarks on a search for immortality. The journey is long and tough, but he eventually learns man cannot become immortal, but immortality happens for those who live full and complete lives, allowing others to remember their deeds long after their mortal death.

How can we become immortal? Ultimately we can search for man-made ways — faster than light travel, gene therapy, freezing your body, etc. — but the true way to achieve eternal life isn’t found there.

New Release – Jam Night

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Jam NightAbout a year ago, I wrote a short story inspired by things that were going on at the time. There had been some Internet bullying of indie authors, so I worked out some demons by writing a fictional story informed by my time in junior high. I can’t say by any stretch that I enjoyed junior high (with the exception of Mr. Henry’s Geography class and my 8th grade band trip to Michigan), but my experiences developed who I am.

Who am I?

I am a person who was bullied. Even now, over 20 years later, when I write that statement, my heart hesitates. Even admitting it makes me wonder if someone will retaliate against me. You might scoff, but that fear still runs through me to this day.

I was going through my blog the other day and found the story I’d posted, which I called Jam Night. I read through it, dusted it off a little, tightened up the wording and added a few hundred words to the narrative. It isn’t a long story — coming in just under 2,500 words, but it is one I needed to tell. I don’t care if anyone buys it or even reads it, but I wanted to put it out there for anyone who might be going through a tough time at school, or in their personal life with bullies. It is a trite saying, but it does get better. The first couple years of high school were no treat, either, but I can honestly say that a small group of friends made my final few years in high school some of my favorite memories.

Ultimately, writing the story helped me to tackle a few of my own demons left over from junior high. Will I ever be rid of all of the demons? I doubt it, but maybe that’s a good thing. Maybe those demons are there to remind me what it’s like to be on the side of the bullied. As an adult, it’s easy to say kids should just “suck it up,” but for them, the fear can be crippling and debilitating. I hope this story can at least help one person in that regard.

Reader Requests #3 — Trad-published books, my students, and my writing fears

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Time for another Reader Mailbag! I put out a call for blog ideas on Facebook and got some great ideas. I’ll answer three questions tonight.

#1 – Traditionally published authors who have inspired you to write and/or continue as a reader. You’re full of love for the self-published (a lot of whom are just as good if not better than traditionally published) so who do you love in the traditional published world?

— Carrie Gillette

Great question. Obviously most people grew up on traditionally-published authors. It wasn’t until recent years when independently-published authors could realistically put their book in the hands of the reading public. My biggest influence when I was a teenager was Isaac Asimov. By the time I really got into his work, he’d already passed away, but I can’t deny his Foundation and Robot novels left a huge impression on me. I read about his writing process and how prolific he was and that really started my dream of becoming a writer.

ImageAs for contemporaries, I can’t talk about traditionally-published authors without mentioning Stephen King (although he has also independently-published). If anyone is EVER interested in writing, they should read King’s autobiographical/how-to On Writing. It was probably the first time I realized I actually could be an author. I was already a writer at that point (working in newspaper), but novels was a far cry from high school football articles.

As for authors that I will read no matter what – Lee Child’s Reacher books, Clive Cussler’s Dirk Pitt and NUMA Files books, Dean Koontz, John Scalzi, J.K. Rowling, Suzanne Collins, to name a few.

I will never give up traditionally-published books completely. There are dozens of traditionally-published authors I will continue to follow and read, and I doubt I will ever give them up. There is a reason why they were published in the first place, after all.


 

#2 – What you’ve learned from your students.

— Christy Winemiller

As many of you know, I’m also a high school history teacher. This semester I am teaching U.S. Government, Economics, Modern World History, and World Geography.

High school kids are a trip sometimes. I love teaching and being a positive influence on students as they are trying to figure themselves and the world out. One day they will amaze you and the next they will confuse you. Science tells us that the teenage brain is not fully formed. That they can’t make the same logical conclusions that adults do. As teachers we often commiserate that we can see the logical and best answer to a problem but sometimes a kid doesn’t do it, even if it stares them right in the face.

But, what also comes along with that aspect of adolescence is passion. The logic isn’t always there. Their emotions often control their decisions instead. As teachers we see disregard for authority, an irrational sense of invincibility, and unreasonable passion over the silliest things.

Sometimes I’ll read a critique of young adult books by some stuffed shirt in New York and the complaint often is that they are not logical and too emotional. But that’s exactly what teenagers are. They ar passion to the nth degree. There was a girl in one of my classes a few weeks ago after Duke lost their first round basketball game. She was forlorn, in spite of the fact she will never go to school there (she admitted herself), we multiple states away from North Carolina, and she has no ties to the school. But she was just shaken by the loss.

That’s what I’ve learned – that as an adult logic comes back into play, but I can’t forget the emotion and passion that life needs sometimes. We can’t forget the wonder and magnificence of life just because we have a mortgage payment due at the end of the month.


 

#3 – Greatest fear when it comes to writing.

— Stefan Bolz

My greatest fear? Wow…I’m not really sure if this is my greatest, but I’ll share some fears I’ve had while going through this writing process.

Last year about this time I was probably 85-90 percent done with my first novel, Dead Sleep. And then I just sat on it. I made excuse after excuse as to why I couldn’t write that day. Days turned into weeks and eventually I hadn’t written for probably a month.

I was scared to finish. I couldn’t bring myself to let these characters go. Even thinking about it now, I still have a tear that is working its way to my eye. There was a finality to it that I wasn’t ready for. In fact it was earlier question-asker Christy Winemiller who assured me, telling me I would see them again the sequel. Once school ended for the year, I plunged back into the book and finally finished. On one level, it wasn’t hard, but on another, it was some of the most difficult writing I’ve ever done.

And part of it was the characters, but another part was simply finishing the book. There are more than a few projects that I’ve started and not completed in my life. It can be easier that way. You can’t fail if you don’t finish. What if you finish and people hate it? I think I have pretty decent taste and I like my book, but what if the world hates it? What if this book will be your last book?

I suppose there are a lot of fears rolled up into one situation, but there you go.


 

Some serious topics tonight, so I’ll leave you with the creepiest picture of a taco I could find:

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I am Inadequate

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I am Inadequate. 

As a teacher, a writer, a friend, a husband, a father, a Christian, a son, and a brother. I will never live up to the standards the world has set up for me. I’ll never look like Channing Tatum. Shoot, I’ll never look like Jonah Hill for that matter. Even Charles Barkley has outdone me in terms of weight loss. 

I waste time like nobody’s business. Candy Crush? Oh yeah…totally killed that game. Until it stopped me on Level 275. Bejeweled Blitz is my weakness right now. I got time for a one-minute game…and then it turns into 5 and then 10. Television sucks me in and suddenly I’ve wasted an hour sitting watching something I really didn’t care about. 

I purposefully limit TV shows I record on my DVR and I have intentionally NOT subscribed to Netflix. I know I could burn through seasons of a TV series in a few days’ time, so I stay away. 

I am Inadequate. 

I’m a pretty good teacher. My last few evaluations have come back with some pretty good marks, but at the same time, I know of my weaknesses. I am great teaching out of a book. I am not great with classroom conversations. 

As a writer, I wish I had the ability to weave words like others. I find myself reading certain books and becoming jealous of the amazing writing ability of other writers. Why can’t I write like that? 

I am Inadequate. 

As a child, my family moved around a few times. I was lucky enough to experience life in a few different places in this great nation, but at the same time, I left friends behind. Friends I never got back. Facebook and email didn’t exist then. I didn’t call. I didn’t write letters. I lost those friends. Even years later when I met up with them again, there was something gone. Something missing. I failed as a friend. 

I am Inadequate. 

I live in an area now where a lot of the people I know have family nearby. My best friend lives across the street from his parents. (like Everybody Loves Raymond. Seriously.) Another friend has his grandmother at his house nearly every day. The closest family member to me is almost 6 hours away. I sometimes don’t call my mother for weeks at a time and the time between calls for my brothers and sister can be even longer. 

I am Inadequate. 

Everyday on Facebook, I find links to blogs for “simple solutions” and “life hacks” to make your life a better place. I see recipes and parenting blogs. Recipes I can’t possibly master and parenting advice I probably won’t remember when the time is right. Every link is a link to make your life better. A link to your perfect life. 

I am Inadequate. 

…But that’s Okay. Life is full of inadequacies. Life is full of failure. We shouldn’t accept it, but we shouldn’t obsess about it, either. 

I came to the conclusion long ago that I wouldn’t ever be a master carpenter. I would love to fix plumbing and carpentry problems myself, but I just can’t. It isn’t a failure on my part, as much as HGTV and Bob Vila would make me think so. I could be the best teacher in all of Southern Illinois, but I wouldn’t be married for long. I wouldn’t have a family because I would spend all my free time consumed with the desire to be the best teacher I could possibly be. I’m a good teacher and that’s got to be good enough. 

I am Inadequate and that is just fine. I can’t possibly be perfect in all phases of life, but I can be the best person I can be. It might mean failing from time to time. It might mean admitting I can’t do something. But, getting up each day, aware of those failures and striving to overcome them is the goal. Being the best teacher…the best writer…the best father, brother, husband, son…all key to accepting my inadequacies and moving forward. 

When I go to bed each night, I take with me the failures and regrets of each day. I could have spent a few more minutes editing my book…writing a lesson plan…cooking supper…paying attention to my wife and children. What I do with that regret is to put it to bed with me and let it go. When I wake up the next day, that regret has slithered off into the hole it belongs in. I have enough regret and failures tomorrow. 

I am Inadequate. And that’s just fine. 

Writing is Writing, Right?

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At age 34, I’ve had three definite careers in my life. Not jobs — had a ton of those, but careers. At the time I was in each one, I thought I would do them for the rest of my life. Obviously, I changed my mind, whether my choice or force.

I started off with the plan of working radio at Olivet Nazarene University in Kankakee, IL, just south of Chicago. The radio station on campus actually has a 35,000 Watt tower, so we reached well into Chicago. I worked there throughout college and a year afterwards. 

Then came newspaper. My wife and I moved to Southern Illinois, the land of few radio stations. I got a job quickly at the local newspaper as the sports editor and toiled there for over six years. Good job, but the pay wasn’t what the family needed and I always wanted to teach, so….

Then I got a degree to teach. Since 2007, I’ve been teaching high school social studies and have loved it. 

All three — definite careers. And now I’ve got a fourth. Writing books. 

But, as I’ve learned, I’ve been writing all along. In some careers, more than others, but the writing has never really stopped. 

When I was in college, learning the broadcasting trade, one of my professors told us that being a broadcaster was “writing in your mind.” He said all good broadcasters are good writers. The writing simply takes place in your mind and then out through your mouth for the audience to hear. 

Obviously, when I worked in newspaper, I wrote. I wrote a lot. Between baseball, football and volleyball stories for the sports pages, feature stories on 93-year-old harness racers and guys that make shelves out of wrought iron and even the occasional news story about taxes and school boards, I was constantly writing.

Even teaching takes writing. A lot like broadcasting, when you are lecturing or preparing lesson plans, there is a lot that takes place “in your mind,” but there is certainly tests and worksheets to write and other parts of the job that take a writer’s touch.

Now that I’m also writing books, it kind of brings it all together. The experience of writing in my mind, so I can prepare the story before I put it on paper — the varied stories I had at the newspaper that have given me a broader perspective on life, and the organization it took in teaching to form it all together.

In each job, writing was essential, but each piece alone wasn’t enough to get my writing career as an author kickstarted. I am thankful for each step along the way and know that without each piece, the stories I tell today would be just a little more empty.