While a qualified and experienced naval architect and an avid car enthusiast, he always reserved space in his life for a deep fascination with paleontology. This drove his writing process as he strove to write tales of the rich and complex history of life on Earth.”
My current book is The Lazarus Taxa—a tense, science fiction thriller.
“67 million years in the past. Deep time—the true final frontier. But all is not as it seems. Which should be feared most—the dinosaurs… or the people? The Lazarus Taxa follows the first scientific expedition through time to the Late Cretaceous.”
The Lazarus Taxa is available now, having only been released at the start of the year. It can be found on Amazon here: https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/1739750012/ref=cm_sw_r_apan_glt_i_RXG3N1BFQ5FMC8F1E7Q6
Do you write in more than one genre? Yes! While I only have the one book published, my works in progress span sci-fi, fantasy, and horror. I tend to write a story and then worry about what genre it might fit into later, resulting in some “genre-hopping.” I like to experiment with different styles, audiences, and tones; I don’t think any of my current works bare much resemblance to one another.
What is the most challenging part of your writing process? Simply finding the time! Between looking after two children, working full time as a naval architect, and restoring classic cars, it gets a little tricky to get the chance to just sit down and write. Fortunately, I’m somewhat of a night-owl, so late nights are often my writing hours.
How long did it take you to write your first book? From writing the first line to publication took me almost two years. Being my first novel, there was a steep learning curve and many, many re-writes. I think I have my process dialed in now, so I’m hopeful that future projects can be turned around somewhat quicker!
How do you come up with character names? I draw a lot of inspiration from real people. For example, one character in The Lazarus Taxa, Dian, is named after Dian Fossey—I felt both the real life and fictional Dian stood for very similar ethics.
Strong-willed characters. Do yours behave, or do they run the show? They most certainly run the show. One of the most important aspects in character writing, I find, is that characters should make mistakes and bad decisions because that’s exactly what real people do. Sometimes they’ll act rashly, or even cowardly—sometimes they’re just plain stupid. These are core parts of what makes them believable.
Do you ever kill a popular character? If so, what happens to your story? Call me a sadist, but I’m probably more likely to kill off a popular character! Sometimes a death is simply a way to demonstrate danger or to cleanly clean up a character who has served their storytelling purpose. Often, however, a death is used to drive the plot as a motivation to the main characters. The reader has to feel that motivation, too, so the reader should care about that character as much as the main character does.
Do you base any of your characters on real people? I do, but never an entire character. I’ll take the characteristics of certain people and blend them together. It helps to create believable characters; it’s far easier to imagine how a real person might react to the situation you have placed them in.
Do you outline, or are you a pantser? I definitely outline; in fact, I tend to do that long before beginning to write a book in earnest. My phone is filled with skeletal outlines of novels which I note down as they come to me. By the time I sit down to write a new project, I already have a pretty good outline.
What kind of research do you do? It depends on the story, but certainly, there was a lot of paleontological research involved in The Lazarus Taxa. It was important to me to present up to date representations of dinosaurs and not just Hollywood monsters. Hence, months of research went into these animals. Of course, being somewhat of a natural history geek, I had years of pre-existing research to build on.
Where do you place your settings—real or fictional locations? I tend to prefer fictional settings. Perhaps it’s just laziness, but I find researching whether a real life village has, for example, a train station or a hospital in order to fit the story rather tedious. If it’s a place I’m not personally familiar with, it becomes an easy way for plot holes and inaccuracies to creep in. If it doesn’t add to the plot, I’ll avoid real places where possible.
Of course, much of my work in progress is set in the real town of Lyme Regis, but that’s a rare exception.
Looking to the future, what’s in store for you? I have more book ideas than I know what to do with, so I think I will continue to write for some time. My current work in progress is a quirky, family-friendly fantasy novel that I hope to release early next year.
After that, I’ll have to choose between a sequel to The Lazarus Taxa and one of my many scribbled outlines!
Do you have any advice for new writers? I’d say I have two pieces of advice. Firstly, if you have an idea, just write it! It sounds so simple, but for years I sat on what I thought were some great ideas for a story. I convinced myself that putting them in a book was unrealistic, and it took the sheer boredom of lockdown for me to pull the trigger.
Secondly, a professional editor is priceless. Not actually priceless, they’ll definitely put a price on it, but a good editor can be the difference between a good and a bad book. There are so many norms and conventions within novel writing that, as a first time writer, you simply won’t be aware of (I certainly wasn’t).
How do our readers contact you? Facebook is my primary method of communicating with my readers. You can follow me at the link below
The title of his latest book is Florida Grand Theft & Other Tales: Crime and Sci-fi Short Stories.
John G. Bluck is the author of five books, some in the crime/mystery genre and others science fiction. He worked for thirty years for NASA and retired as a public affairs officer. Prior to that, he was the daytime crime reporter/photographer for WMAL-TV (now WJLA) in Washington, D.C. During the Vietnam War, Bluck was an Army journalist at Ft. Lewis, Washington.
Another of his recent books, Death in the Holler, earned praise in a BookLife review printed in the January 11, 2021, issue of Publishers Weekly magazine. “For Southern murder mystery fans, this whodunit and its heart-of-gold protagonist will hit a bullseye. Murder, gangs, and black-market marijuana run rampant in this testosterone-filled thriller. . . . Bluck’s mystery keeps readers quickly flipping the pages with short, fast-moving chapters.”
Tell us about your most recent book. My latest book is Florida Grand Theft & Other Tales. It’s a collection of sixteen crime and science fiction short stories; some are strictly fictional crime stories. Others are solely in the science fiction genre. Many of the yarns combine both crime and sci-fi genres. Florida Grand Theft was released on October 4. The first image below is for the paperback and the second is for the eBool.
I began writing a couple of the stories as long as fifteen years ago when I was working at NASA. Over the years, I edited and revised them numerous times. One of those stories is the “DNA of History.” In it, ant-sized extraterrestrials visit a young boy, affecting his entire life. A second sci-fi story that I began developing a long time ago is “Adventures in Time.” In this story, an astronaut transmits a message as his ship careens toward a black hole.
I dreamed up other stories only months ago. That’s obvious when you read one of them, “Big Brother’s Bracelets,” which is related to the current pandemic and Covid-19. In this story, a feuding couple has to adjust their lives.
In the first story in the book, “Florida Grand Theft,” a young woman short of money tells how she’s tempted to steal a purse. In “Death by Snub Nose,” a hobo is accused of murder. These are among the crime and sci-fi stories I wrote recently, as is “Buzz.” Buzz is a robotic bee who’s an undercover agent.
Why do you write in more than one genre? I spent much of my life in a career path that’s linked to both crime and science-fiction. When I was in the army, I wrote news stories for an army newspaper and read army news on a couple of local radio stations.
After that, I worked a few years in Washington, D.C., as the television daytime crime cinematographer for WMAL-TV (now WJLA). I mainly covered homicides and bank robberies. Naturally, I covered other stories, too, including sports, politics, and even Watergate. I was in a pool of about six or seven still and motion picture photographers who filmed the submission of President Nixon’s letter of resignation.
Then NASA hired me to be a documentary producer. I saw many fascinating things at NASA that were true, but which might as well have been science fiction. I saw huge rocket engines; walked under the Space Shuttle; peered through telescopes, and wandered through laboratories, machine shops, wind tunnels, as well as many other locations.
When I explored NASA and filmed news for TV, I met many kinds of people. Whether they were in bad or happy situations, they taught me about human nature. Covering news “on the scene” in city streets and later working in science and engineering environments gave me a myriad of potential story ideas related to both crime and science.
How do you create your characters? Lately, I’ve been consulting a psychology book to try to shape some of my characters’ personalities so that they are vastly different from each other. This can lead to conflict and drama.
I don’t try to dictate what a character will do all of the time. I like to put characters with different personality traits into the same room or location. I begin to write dialogue rapidly. I permit the characters to talk, to say what they want. This is hard to describe, but it’s as if they wake up and begin to speak. I simply type what they’re saying. That’s why I say I don’t try to make the characters do or say what I want them to say.
However, there are times when something specific has to happen—a climax, a turning point. Then I might dictate that a tree will fall, a ship will sink, or a fire will erupt. The characters then have to react to the situation based on who they are and their personalities, which I have assigned to them. Sometimes, that personality changes when a character starts to act and come alive. I’ve found that if I “listen” to my characters, rather than try to shape them too much, the people who populate my books are more realistic, more human.
Do you outline, or do you write as you go? When I design a novel (plot it), I like to outline “sort of.” That is, I use the Act I, Act II, and Act III format. I know where the climax is supposed to be. I write the beginning and the end first and perhaps the climax, and then I fill in the middle of the story. Each scene is like a bubble or a block. I note what “should” happen in a scene.
But as I go along, I let the characters have a lot of freedom, and they may take me off on a tangent. Also, sometimes when I’m writing, a character will just pop up. This is where the “sort of” comes into my writing process. I then have to decide if an unexpected path taken by a character is good or is merely a diversion that takes the story too far off course.
I like to work in this hybrid—mostly planned—but freewheeling kind of a way.
What’s your next book going to be about? Its potential title is Murder at NASA. Luke Ryder, the protagonist of my last mystery novel, Death in the Holler, is called into work undercover to solve a cold-case killing at NASA Ames Research Center in Silicon Valley, where I worked last at the agency. I’m quite familiar with the Ames campus, which some Hollywood producers have called a great location to make a movie. I doubt that Ames would ever be the set for a major movie, but the place has so many good locations for me to use in a novel. I’m almost salivating; I’m ready to completely plot my ideas and turn the characters loose at Ames.
How do our readers contact you?
Readers can message me through my website: http://www.bluckart.com.
They can visit my Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/JohnGBluckSciFi.
My Twitter page is located at: https://twitter.com/JohnBluck1.
Readers can sign up for my e-mail list by visiting: http://eepurl.com/cJh_pP.
After entertaining on the quilt lecture circuit, we created the new genre of quilting science fiction
It’s great to be part of your blog world, George! Like you, I spent the better part of my life in other fields. While I began college as a poetry major, I graduated with a degree in Russian Political History. My intent was to join the diplomatic corps. But a frank discussion with my dad about life as a civil servant pushed me in another direction. I’ve been a secretary, a teacher and worked in human resources in the biotech and financial industries. My husband’s job brought us to California just in time for the dot-com bust. For many years I intended to return to the working world, but then I met Ann Anastasio, who introduced me to quilting. Together we created Broken Dishes Repertory Theatre, a quilting vaudeville troupe. We wrote one-act musical comedies about quilts and the women who make them. After entertaining on the quilt lecture circuit, we created the new genre of quilting science fiction with Death By Chenille, When Chenille Is Not Enough, and The Chenille Ultimatum, novels about quilters saving the world from aliens disguised as bolts of beige fabric. We thought The Chenille Ultimatum would be the last in the series, but then a friend said we absolutely had to write The Captain and Chenille because it was such a great title. We would have appreciated getting a suggestion for a plot as well, but you work with what you’ve got. Ann has lived in New Mexico since before When Chenille Is Not Enough was published, so we are used to writing long distance, but the pandemic has slowed our progress. We both joined the army of mask-makers in our home states when the need arose, for instance, which made my already messy sewing room a complete disaster. A lot of my creative energy has been shifted from writing to getting my quilting projects under control.
Where do you write? What, if any, distractions do you allow? My husband is a true technophile, so we have computers everywhere. My favorite is in a corner of the family room. It’s close enough to the kitchen to get tea and snacks but far enough away from the phone that I can ignore it. It’s adorable that you ask which distractions I “allow.” Distractions are worse than teenagers. Not only is there no arguing with them, you can’t even threaten to take away their car keys. HOWEVER, if I’m brutally honest, the time that distractions get the upper hand is when I’m uncertain where to go next in the scene I’m writing.
Has an association membership helped you or your writing? Absolutely! The California Writers Club has been a godsend. Ann and I were entertaining a quilt guild in San Jose and casually mentioned we were writing a novel. One of the women pulled out her CWC business card and suggested finding a branch nearby. That happened to be the Mt. Diablo branch, where Igal Levy had just started a critique group. Jack Russ, then the president of Mt. Diablo, established a committee to create what became Tri-Valley Writers. I joined Tri-Valley Writers after my term as Secretary to the Mt. Diablo branch ended. I joined two critique groups with this branch, which gave me the accountability I needed to finish the manuscript of Death By Chenille, which we published on Smashwords after hearing a presentation by Mark Coker, CEO. I’ve also published short stories in almost a dozen anthologies that I heard about through Tri-Valley Writers and a short story on BookTrack after one of their representatives gave a talk to the club.
Do you base any of your characters on real people? Yes, or at least parts of real people. Ann and I will combine the traits of people we know. We try to avoid having too much reality in our characters. Although we write cozy science fiction (meaning even our villains have a soft side), we don’t want anyone to say, “Hey, that’s me” – and not in a happy way.
Where do you place your settings—real or fictional locations? Some settings are real, and some are fictional. Clearly, the alien planets are fictional, but even those planets have elements based on places we’ve known on Earth. All the quilt stores in our books are based on real stores.
Do you have any advice for new writers? Don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good. Becoming a writer means being a life-long learner. Promise yourself that you will learn more and be a better writer for the next project, then submit your work for publication. It doesn’t matter if you don’t win the contest, or land the agent, or make the best-seller list with your self-published book. What matters is that you’ve tried. If you are convinced that this is the best work you can do at this moment, then do what you can to get it in front of readers. No one can tell your story like you can, so give readers a chance to hear your voice.
How do our readers contact you? Your website, blog links, any links you want to be posted? I post twice a week on Lani Longshore’s Blog at lani.longshore.wordpress.com. Mondays are about my writing life, Wednesdays are about my quilting life. There are also posts about the flowers in my garden when I haven’t accomplished anything either at the computer or in my sewing room. The entire Chenille series can be found as e-books on Smashwords.com. The Chenille Ultimatum is also available in a print edition on Amazon.com.
Death By Chenille https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/55823
When Chenille Is Not Enough https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/306399
The Chenille Ultimatum https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/815344
I read to discover, to learn, and to be astonished.
Ed Miracle writes sociological science fiction. He lives with his wife in an adobe house they built together in Northern California. Ed is a university graduate who served six years in the U.S. Navy Submarine Service. Now retired from his computer systems career at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, Ed continues to support his community as a volunteer firefighter and emergency medical responder.
My novel, Maker Messiah, begins when a fierce young man unveils a Trojan horse technology that empowers ordinary citizens to subvert the world’s power elites. All of them. Overnight. Are his 55 million Maker machines destroying civilization, or is he a secular messiah bent on lifting humankind out of our existential ruts? More than a tale of survival, Maker Messiah explores the motives, possibilities, and intensely personal outcomes that arise from one man’s quest for his perfect revenge.
It has come to my attention that many novels are not really – at least not very – novel. Even science fiction has turned dark and fearful, too often derivative or predictable. Where did our visions for a better world go? Maker Messiah is one answer that over 3,000 readers are now pondering. Check it out and add your reviews at http://www.amazon.com/dp/b07wzgnlbv (This story is not religious.)
Years ago, I joined Tri-Valley Writers Club, a local affiliate of California Writers Club, to find a critique group. Forming a sci-fi gang-of-two that expanded to four improved everything about my writing and added three good friends to my life. Not all critique groups are as happy as ours. Still, I recommend every writer regularly swap chapters or stories with other active scribblers. Unless you’re in a bar, then don’t.
I believe writing, as an unnatural act, should be indulged behind closed doors. If only to avoid getting caught with that cute little adverb on your lap. I can’t imagine delivering an unwritten, unpracticed speech, so I plan what I write. Not to limit the possibilities so much as to corral my impulses. If I need to get somewhere, it helps to see a destination with guideposts along the way, especially when detours pop up.
I re-wrote Maker Messiah from scratch five times, not counting multiple edits. I was so relieved to complete the first version, I hoped the product of my long labors would . . . work. Beta readers said it didn’t. I was disappointed, angry, determined to do better, so I got serious. I bought and read Everything About Writing. Basically, through draft after draft, I taught myself what worked and what worked better. A publisher read my third draft and suggested re-writing from a different character’s viewpoint, which I did in six months. “Sorry,” my crit group said, “It’s not that person’s story. It’s this other guy’s.” Back to square four. Moral: it ain’t good enough until it’s way better than good enough. Then push some more. If it’s not everything you’ve got, you’ll only cheat yourself.
Here are my essential writing guides:
- The 10% Solution, Self-editing for the Modern Writer by Ken Rand (My editing bible)
- Story Genius, How to Use Brain Science to Write a Riveting Novel by Lisa Cron
- Damn Fine Story, Mastering the Tools of a Powerful Narrative by Chuck Wendig
- Fire in Fiction by Donald Maas
- Characters & Viewpoint by Orson Scott Card
- Writing Tools, 55 Essential Strategies for Every Writer by Roy Peter Clark
- Deep Point of View by Marcy Kennedy
- Internal Dialog by Marcy Kennedy
Since publishing Maker Messiah, I’ve gathered a fistful of my smaller yarns, a mix of fiction and true events, between the covers of Short Stories with Long Tails. These include “Submarine Dreams,” my award-winning reply to the question, “What’s it like out there on a nuclear submarine?” http://www.amazon.com/dp/b0859r88ys
Finally, readers of this blog may contact me directly by email at firstname.lastname@example.org Flattery and supplication indicate good taste; insults are accepted only if they make me laugh.