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Interview with Chris Stevenson

Today we're talking with multi-published author Chris Stevenson about his latest release, PLANET JANITOR: CUSTODIAN OF THE STARS.

File 217Welcome, Chris. Tell us a bit about yourself.

I'm California born and raised, and have just moved to Alabama, which is quite a culture shock for me. I've been a mechanic most of my life (35 years), having served in all areas of auto repair, products, management and sales. I served as a federal police officer for three years, responsible for patrol and post duties for the U.S. Geological Survey in Menlo Park and Palo Alto, California. The law enforcement gig was the most exciting and interesting. I received a commendation for bravery from the government, for putting out a building lab fire and evacuating the area.

How long have you been writing?

I've been writing for about 36 years, but only began submitting material to agents and publishers 23 years ago. I read my first short story in Twilight Zone magazine and got the notion that I could write just as well as the author did, and proceeded to do so. It took me a year and about 90 rejections to sell about 18 short stories, three of which were prestigious enough to land me in the Science Fiction Writers of America. I've written about 18 novels and non-fiction books, seven of which have sold and are published.

PLANET JANITOR: CUSTODIAN OF THE STARS is certainly an interesting title. What’s the story about?

Captain Zachary Crowe and the crew of Planet Janitor Corporation are adept at handling environmental clean-ups and close system jumps to collect precious ores and space trash. The problem is they have yet to complete an assignment without a mishap to add to their not so stellar record. Scraping the bottom of the barrel, Orion Industries contracts Planet Janitor for a clandestine operation that no one else wants, offering them more money than they could spend in three lifetimes. The mission entails a 12 light-year trip to a newly found habitable planet in the Tau Ceti system. The crew will lose 26 years on Earth due to the cryo jump, but that is the least of their problems. What they find on Tau Ceti will rattle their wits, test their courage, and threaten their very survival.

How did the idea of the story come to you?

I really wanted something different about Planet Janitor to stand out. The original idea did not spring from my forehead all at once, but came in stages. I had a friend who wanted to start a water ionization business called Planet Janitor, 15 years ago. He never started the company but I never forgot the company title – it had an environmentalist quality about it. Fast forward 14 years; I thought what would happen to a crew who landed on a planet that was knee-deep in skeletons from horizon to horizon? That idea simmered. A few weeks later, I read an article about space junk, reclamation, retrieving and recycling precious metals, like titanium, gold, silver, magnesium and aluminum. This gave me the idea for a crew who were adept at capturing space trash. Suddenly I knew I had the entire plot structure and outline for a book. I had a planet besieged by a genocide and a naive crew of environmentalists. Land the crew on the planet, to accomplish a routine mission, but confront them with the planetary killers responsible for the genocide. That’s when I knew I had a Starship Troopers meets Robinson Crusoe on Mars.

What are you working on next?

I'm putting the final editing touches on a YA distopian tale. It takes place in the near future, when the economy has tanked, over-population and housing is stressed, and we've had yet another stock market crash. A system is devised by which heads of households can pawn off family members to a corporation called Family Trade and Loan, so they can pay bills and avoid prison terms. So dad gets it in his head to pawn off his only daughter to cover gambling bills and back-taxes. My MC is an 18 year-old female, who is ranked 8.5 on the talent and desirability scale, sent off to the Tranquility Harbor Moon base, which houses a huge mining facility. My gal ends up as an exotic dancer, forced to entertain the grubby, disgusting (but filthy rich) miners, who are called Prairie Dogs. Of course, her father defaults on the loan and she becomes temporary property of FTAL. She then has to devise a way to escape this brutal and possessive company.

Besides your agent, do you have a critique group/partner or beta readers, or do you self-edit?

My beta readers are mostly women who help me put essential character touches on my female leads. I need help with female emotion, sensitivity and motivation more than anything else in my writing. I wrote a book that was a cleverly disguised female "Iron Man" which everyone is chomping at the bit to read. Alas, my paraplegic female lead needs that critical emotional essence before the presentation is perfect. I've got to take some of the Terminator edge off of her before she is believable and simpatico with the reader. Otherwise, I'm a lone wolf editor, praying for the best. My agent does give me some help, but not in a detailed copy-edit venue.

Are you a planner or a pantser?

I definitely fly solo without an outline. I find that if I outline my plot, I most often deviate from it because I feel trapped or confined. The characters most often run away from my plots, doing things that I least expected – changing the storyline, creating new sub-plots, acting out of character, and just plain being unpredictable. I’m too safe when I outline. I take great risks when I fly by the seat of my pants. Great stories demand risk, with a certain breeziness and non-conformity. I'm usually two chapters ahead in my plotting, and that's the way it's always been for me. While I'm writing one, I'm thinking how it will spill into or dovetail into the next. I believe in really prominent chapter hooks, ala Dan Brown.

What’s the hardest part of writing for you?

I love to write; it's no chore. Editing is a necessary bother. I'm totally in love with submitting to agents and editors, and that's where I differ from the normal writing crowd. But promotion and marketing are the most time and labor-draining aspects of this entire business for me. Marketing online is an art form that requires finesse, maturity and persistence. Social networking is so important for an author’s book launch, that without it, sales and reviews can suffer in direct relation to its neglect. Conference attendance, radio and TV interviews, book signings, answering fan mail – all of it is so important for effective promotion and marketing, yet it is so devastatingly, so emotionally and so physically draining for me that sometimes there is not enough time in the day to craft one sentence, let alone fill a word quota.

What do you absolutely have to have nearby when writing?

Must haves: fresh coffee, a line-ruled notebook and a pen that won't skip, and Roget's thesaurus. I also have my time-out set for five minutes, so if I'm blocked or stuck on a passage, my screen goes to my default picture, which has the lovely Judy from Lost in Space, smiling at me and telling me to get back to work and stop mind-wandering.

Best cures for writer's block?

Sit down with an entirely different attitude when you're blocked. Writer's block is nothing more than work avoidance. And there lies the problem--don't look at writing as work. Consider it an escape, guilty, sneaky pleasure. Fun. Before you begin your first sentence, repeat after me, "I don't even have to do this, so I'll just mess around for now." Give yourself that slack to play with it. Writing is play time, writing is play time. Try and impress yourself with a stunning first paragraph, if you're the more serious, disciplined-type writer. Then tell yourself you can do that again. It won't be long before you convince yourself that the ink you've just splashed is a keeper.

If you could have any super power, what would it be?

I'd like to be Flash so I could write a hundred books a year. And out of that hundred I would hope that one was good enough for New York. Even if it took me five years. Oh, and I could speed-read too, catching up on ALL the latest bestsellers, allowing me to study and learn from them.

Can I have those powers too? LOL. What's the weirdest thing you've googled?

"Green Boots." Green Boots is the story of a mountain climber who to attempted to scale Mt. Everest, but froze to death during a storm. Nobody could get this poor man down into the safety zone to save his life. They had to pass right by him from both directions, knowing that he would soon die. Green Boots did die, and he still is up on the mountain, along with 202 other individuals, all frozen in some horrific death poses. So sad.

That's awful, wow. Switching gears—Quick writing test! Use the following words in a sentence: monsoon, escalating, and exclamatory.

The escalating monsoon prompted the captain to give out an exclamatory order. "Slacken the main, pull in the mizzen and hoist the storm jib, mateys. We're if for real blow!"

Great sentence! Here’s the part where you thank the people who are supporting you. Let's hear your shout outs.

I want to thank everybody that has bought and reviewed Planet Janitor Custodian of the Stars. It has recently rose in sales beyond my expectations, until readers began to take notice, and this has been just recently. Thanks for pushing me in the top 100 lists. Thank you for the word of mouth praises. Thank you for your ideas and support.

SPECIAL THANKS TO DOROTHY FOR ALLOWING ME TO SPLASH INK HERE!

You're welcome!

I feel I'm not worthy of these holy pages, so I have to thank God I'm here.

And finally, where can people find you online?

I've spammed myself to the world, so there's several places:
My blog, Guerrilla Warfare For Writers:

My cheap, no nothing website:

My Planet Janitor Website, which has some astonishing artwork:

I'm a senior member of the AbsoluteWrite forum. My handle is Triceretops (yep it's spelled wrong).

It was great having you on the blog today, Chris. I wish you lots of success with all your books!

To get a copy of Planet Janitor, click here.

To see the original article by

 

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Chris Stevenson Interview on Planet Janitor

Ink Drop Interviews Presents...

Chris Stevenson

Well, another Valentine’s Day behind us, taking with it the hearts, chocolates and Cupid. Today, it’s back to business as usual and I’d like to get right to business with this week’s guest, Chris Stevenson, author of ’Planet Janitor’.

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IDI – Chris, tell  us, at what point did you know that you were meant to be a writer?

CS – That would be in 1987 when I read my first short story in Twilight magazine. I was completely bowled over, entertained by a new medium. I thought, rather egotistically, that I could write such stories and be easily published. I did attain print, but it took a year and over 80 short story submissions to the small press and slick magazines. I immediately realized the persistence required for this craft and decided to forge on.

IDI – What are you working on now? Can we get a peek?

CS – I’m putting the final touches on a YA dystopian tale. It involves a future of decline, hardship and crumbling economy, where a new system has been devised that allows heads of household to pawn out family members, to cover debts and avoid prison. It’s called ’Family Trade and Loan’, kind of a play on words. My MC is an 18-year-old female, who is pawned to the company for six months by her father. She ends up becoming an exotic dancer on the mining moon colony, Tranquility Harbor. Her father defaults on the loan, and she becomes property of the corporation. She must somehow escape from this wicked corporation, hide and start a new life without being discovered.

IDI - That sounds very interesting. What was the mind-thought behind your latest book, ‘Planet Janitor’?

CS – I really wanted something different about Planet Janitor to stand out. The original idea did not spring from my forehead all at once, but came in stages. I had a friend who wanted to start a water ionization business called Planet Janitor, 15 years ago. He never started the company but I never forgot the company title – it had an environmentalist quality about it. Fast forward 14 years; I thought what would happen to a crew who landed on a planet that was knee-deep in skeletons from horizon to horizon? That idea simmered. A few weeks later, I read an article about space junk, reclamation, retrieving and recycling precious metals, like titanium, gold, silver, magnesium and aluminum. This gave me the idea for a crew who were adept at capturing space trash. Suddenly I knew I had the entire plot structure and outline for a book. I had a planet besieged by a genocide and a naive crew of environmentalists. Land the crew on the planet, to accomplish a routine mission, but confront them with the planetary killers responsible for the genocide. That’s when I knew I had a Starship Troopers meets Robinson Crusoe on Mars.

IDI – Would you say your stories are plot or character driven?

CS – Although I love my characters and try to inject as much wit and irony in the storyline as possible, I’m forever taking them on extravagant adventures that require a lot of transitions and movement. I’m deeply interested in science and nature, and this also affects the outcome. I also have a bent toward very strong visuals, so I would have to say that I’m plot-driven. I would love to attempt a character-driven literary piece, but my heart and soul lies in creating spec worlds, fantasy or paranormal, from the ground up.

IDI – I’m sure you’ve been asked this many times before, but I’m interested in the answer. Where do your ideas come from?

CS – I bring my family members and friends together for a bull session, where we all toss around a ‘what if’ scenario. the grand prize goes to the one with the most unusual premise. I am totally fixated on developing the most original, unique ideas, and using props that have never been used before. I just did something with a dream catcher that the entire writing/author community has failed to use in the past or present. It was truly a eureka moment. I live for those moments of discovery.

IDI – I’ll bet more than one reader is wondering now in exactly what unique way you used a dream catcher!

I’ve heard arguments for each side, but when writing, do you outline or sketch the entire book before you feel comfortable enough to begin your draft or do you prefer to fly by the seat of your jockey’s?

CS – I definitely fly solo. I find that if I outline my plot, I most often deviate from it  because I feel trapped or confined. The characters most often run away from my plots, doing things that I least expected – changing the storyline, creating new sub-plots, acting out of character, and just plain being unpredictable. I’m too safe when I outline. I take great risks when I fly by the seat of my pants. Great, classic stories demand risk, with a certain breeziness and non-conformity.

IDI – Favorite author, and why?

CS – Easy, the late, great Poul Anderson. He was my mentor for many years, sharing with me his thoughts and advice on writing and publishing. Reason? turn of phrase, voice/style, irony, and a subtle humor and introspection that just had me gob-smacked. There’s a beauty in his writing that’s hard to describe, other than to say he used just the right words and created full-blown, 3-D imagery that could heave you breathless. I’ve remembered sentences, words and full paragraphs of his that have remained with me to this day; such was his impact on me.

IDI – We all draw from within and I believe there is an element of ‘us’ in everything we write. How much of you will a reader find in any given book?

CS – I play every character role as a stand-in. My world views are crammed into the pages but you’ll find it very difficult to identify them, since they will be camouflaged and subtle in nature. Unlike writers like Robert Heinlein, I’ll play hide and seek with you and dare you to find me. Except for one thing: I love tall platinum blondes, who aer tough and innovative. You WILL find that tag in many of my books.

IDI – What advice would you give to unpublished/new authors?

CS – So you want to be a writer and garner publication? Take two aspirin, go into a dark room, lay down and wait for the feeling to pass. Seriously, if you intend to write, you better read more than you write and write more than you think you possibly can. Determination and persistence is the name of this game. You’re fighting for a spot in the entertainment industry and it takes guts, just as though you were reading for a part or cutting a demo. Only you’re doing it with words, imagination and intellect. Once on the writing road you will have to resist looking in the rear view mirror. Your goal is straight ahead. No one will/can deter you from your aspiration. Don a suit of armor – you will need it to cast off the rejections from peers, agents and editors. Keep your family out of it, until you’ve reached a small publication pinnacle.

IDI – What was the best advice ever given to you, and by whom?

CS – I believe it was Alan Dean Foster, but I’m not sure. He said that if I was interested in publishing in book length, to write non-fiction first, using a solid platform. Non-fiction outsells fiction 3 to 1. He was absolutely right. My first two non-fiction books were instantly snapped up, with great advances. Interviews, dozens of radio programs and TV spots followed. I hit the limelight rather early. This gave me the confidence – the boost – to pursue novels. The novels were much more difficult to get published, but by that time, I was a ‘known quantity’.

IDI – Who is your favorite character creation in any of your books?

CS – Galoot, from ‘Planet Janitor’, takes those prestigious honors. “He’s a galoot!” was the first thing  his mother cried out upon the child’s birth. The father, a large man by any standards, knew that his son would be very special some day. Galoot’s first baby rattle was a piston from an old diesel engine. As the child grew, his interest in anything mechanical blossomed. After working in the space port ship yards for 20 years, Galoot earned his master’s certificate in aerospace engineering and function. When he joined the Planet Janitor crew, Galoot was single, lonely and almost eight-feet-tall and 500 pounds. Shunned by those who feared him, rejected by women for his awkward mannerisms, Galoot would find his real home in the company of true friends aboard the Shenandoah. He would also find the love of his life.

IDI – One more question, Chris. What is the hardest or most frustrating aspect of writing? Ideas, getting started, writer’s block, re-writing?

CS –  Easy: promotion and marketing are the most time and labor-draining aspects of this entire business for me. Marketing online is an art form that requires finesse, maturity and persistence. Social networking is so important for an author’s book launch, that without it, sales and reviews can suffer in direct relation to its neglect. Conference attendance, radio and TV interviews, book signings, answering fan mail – all of it is so important for effective promotion and marketing, yet it is so devastatingly, so emotionally and so physically draining that sometimes there is not enough time in the day to craft one sentence, let alone fill a word quota.

Authors Note: ‘Planet Janitor, Custodian of the Stars’ is my latest release and can be found at Amazon.com books and Kindle. the Kindle price for the eBook version is $2.99. You can also visit the Planet Janitor website and see the beautiful artwork (26 illustrations all told), and read the character profiles of the crew.

See the original Ink Drop interview here.

 

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Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows

Pull out your pipe, dust off your magnifying glass, and get ready for a rollicking adventure.

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Surprisingly for a sequel, Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows, starring Robert Downey Jr., and Jude Law, has gotten better ratings than their first foray into detective work. This is likely due to the wide breadth of story possibilities and characters to pull from Arthur Conan Doyle's original stories. In fact, two famous characters from the novels make debut appearances in this movie, Sherlock Holmes's brother Mycroft Holmes played by Stephen Fry, and the infamous villain Professor James Moriarty played by Jared Harris.

Guy Ritchie has focused more attention on the story, less on camera tricks, while still maintaining strong action sequences. Holmes ability to survive a four-against-one fight, explosions and fireworks, and dodging artillery rounds while racing through a forest will satisfy hardcore action buffs, while an excellent plot, strong acting and character development fulfills the needs of even the staunchest critic. The movie includes various elements from the original stories, including the famous encounter with Moriarty in The Final Problem from The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes, and Holmes knack for disguises from The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, and The Sign of the Four.

With a third movie currently in the works this is a perfect time to brush up on Holmsian lore with Conan Doyle's original stories.

File 303 File 293 Compilations:
The Adventures and Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes.
Paperback, Hardcover, Kindle.
The Complete Novels of Sherlock Holmes.
Paperback, Hardcover, Kindle.

 

 

 

File 55 File 121Or get each book separately:
The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes.
Paperback, Hardcover, Kindle.
The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes.
Paperback
, Hardcover, Kindle.
A Study in Scarlet.
Paperback, Hardcover, Kindle.
The Hound of the Baskervilles.
Paperback
, Hardcover, Kindle.

 
 

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The Three Musketeers 3D

With the release of Hollywood's 2011 version of The Three Musketeers, it is a good time to dust off Alexandre Dumas' 1844 novel.

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Directed by Paul W. S. Anderson and starring Orlando Bloom, Milla Jovovich, Luke Evans, Ray Stevenson, Matthew MacFayden and Logan Lerman, The Three Musketeers 3D "is an enjoyable romp reminiscent of some of Hollywood's Golden Age excursions" (CineVue). Ebert Presents praises the action packed film, telling moviegoers that "if you want over-the-top entertainment that doesn't respect the laws of physics, you can't do better than this."

However, if you are looking for a faithful adaptation of Dumas' novel then you will be disappointed. According to Movie Cynics "The film’s story is a bundle of clichés wrapped in historical inaccuracies and sprinkled with straight up rip-offs of other action films. D’Artagnan even asks the local bully to apologize to his horse, just like Clint Eastwood in “Fistful of Dollars.” All told, it rips off nearly every major action franchise in the last 40 years, from “Raiders of the Lost Ark” to “Pirates of the Carribean.” The attempt to tell an original story is clearly less important to the filmmakers than random stylized action and trite one-liners."

File 235There is no question that a seventeenth century automatic rapid-fire cannon would be great to see on the big screen, but there is something to be said for picking up the original novel and experiencing the swashbuckling-spirited adventure for yourself.

The novel is available in Paperback, Hardcover or on the Kindle.

 

 

 

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Planet Janitor: Custodian of the Stars

Engage Science Fiction Releases First Science Fiction Book, ‘Planet Janitor: Custodian of the Stars’

How will we clean up the Gulf of Mexico oil spill and space junk in the future? Chris Stevenson addresses these problems in his latest novel.

What if an experienced crew of trained professionals were on-hand to plug the Gulf of Mexico oil spill, and clean up the ocean? In his new science fiction book , "Planet Janitor: Custodian of the Stars ," author Chris Stevenson poses the pertinent question of how we will solve environmental disasters in the future. How would we handle an oil spill in space that threatens to enter our atmosphere?

Stevenson says that we have other environmental problems that are just too big for current technology to handle. According to NASA, there are 19,000 objects larger than four inches in Earth’s orbit, just waiting to hit a satellite or spacecraft. In fact, the National Academy of Sciences calculated that the International Space Station has a one in five chance of being hit by rogue debris within a ten-year period.

The Aurora Reviews gives Stevenson “The highest praise... You would absolutely buy everything else this author had to offer." And Stevenson delivers in his latest novel “Planet Janitor: Custodian of the Stars,” which explores the possibilities faced by a future clean up crew. Stevenson got the idea for "Planet Janitor" when he “wondered who was going to clean up space junk, or at least reclaim it. How hazardous could or would it be to our future space missions?”

Stevenson has published numerous short stories for magazines like Amazing Stories, and Space and Time, nearly 350 newspaper articles for Sunset Publishing, and several fiction and non-fiction titles, including a collaboration with Ralph Nader. In his 1988 book “Garage Sale Mania,” about reclaiming and refurbishing junkyard parts, Stevenson stressed how important it was to recycle and fix everything before it was discarded.

"Planet Janitor" will be the lead hardcover for January 2011 from Vancouver’s first and only science fiction press Engage SF , which is distributed by Ingram. With such shows as the X-files, Outer Limits, and Battlestar Galactica shot it Vancouver, B.C., the city has been screaming for a science fiction press for years.

Stevenson was a finalist in the L. Ron Hubbard Writers of the Future Contest, and is praised by author Jim Melvin, of “The Death Wizard Chronicles”: “In the imagination department, few active writers can hold their own against Chris Stevenson. His mind goes places that the rest of us reach only in our dreams. I thoroughly enjoy his work.”

Usually authors sit in a cozy armchair dreaming up heroic actions for their characters. Stevenson is unique in that he received a commendation for bravery from the U.S. Department of the Interior, for evacuating a burning building with a bullhorn, putting out the fire, and being hospitalized for injuries sustained in combating the fire.

“Planet Janitor” follows a crew of environmental heroes, who clean up space trash, divert rogue meteors from shipping lanes, and clean the Earth’s atmosphere and oceans. Their latest mission involves a clean up job that no one else wants, a 12 light-year trip to a newly found habitable planet in the Tau Ceti system. What they find will pose an ethical dilemma, test their wits, and threaten their very survival.

According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration 75% of the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico is unaccounted for. According to the U.S. Congress, the amount of space trash in orbit will double within seven years. In a world where environmental disasters are destroying our ecosystem, we need a specialized crew like "Planet Janitor" that can get the job done.

To order  your copy of Planet Janitor, click here.

Members of the media who wish to review this book may request a complimentary copy by contacting Engage Science Fiction at info(at)engagebooks(dot)ca.

http://www.planetjanitor.com
ISBN: 978-1926606415

INTERVIEWS with Chris Stevenson: stevenson_333(at)msn(dot)com
MORE INFO book cover, and author photo: planetjanitor.com
QUESTIONS contact Alexis Roumanis: alexis(at)engagebooks(dot)ca
ORDERS contact: info(at)engagebooks(dot)ca

The original press release is available on PRWeb

 

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