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October, 2018

Didn’t you notice November started a week ago, Catherine. What’s up with that?

I took a little extra time to post this because I wanted to be able to post this news: Abigail Rath Versus Mad Science finally has a viable draft that is off to my beta readers. Yeah. That feels pretty good.

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October was an eventful month, even if you don’t take it from a fake 5-week long perspective. First off, there was Icon, which also meant the writers workshop I run every year. It was great to reconnect with friends and see what kinds of projects they’ve been working on. I tried out the first installment of my upcoming serial on them, and got some solid advice, and a good time was had by all.

In the middle of the month, I had the good fortune to attend the Surrey International Writers Conference, which was a wonderful educational experience. I met many fellow writers, agents, and publishers, and learned a lot. Plus I got to hang out with my good friend Chris Cornell and meet some wonderful Canadian writers I know from online forums I’m involved with. So…all around a great time, one I would highly recommend to anyone who’s ever thought of going. I found it very useful in rekindling my desire to write, and giving me some direction regarding my writing career.

Events were rounded out with a brief book fair at my local Barnes and Noble the first week of November. I do not have any events planned for the foreseeable future. In December, I am visiting Brazil in my capacity as an English professor for Kirkwood and teaching a class, so I doubt I will get much new work produced, but I do have some plans.

I joined the Horror Writers of America, so now I belong to that august organization, as well as the Science Fiction Writers of America.

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This is the part of the update where I give you some ideas about my plans to take over the world my upcoming release/writing schedule. What’s going down?

November: The Pawn of Isis, after being turned down by Curiosity Quills, will be self-published. This month it is with my editor getting a thorough read. Also this month, Abigail Rath Versus Mad Science is being read by my good friends who do beta reading for me. This month I plan to practice self-publishing by curating, editing, and publishing a collection of short stories many friends have been asking me for. Look for the short story collection to be published in early December.

December: I will be soliciting a cover for The Pawn of Isis, and spreading the word about my short story collection. I look for this to be a low key month regarding writing, given the obligations of my other life.

January: This month, I will be doing the interiors for, getting out ARC copies to readers, and releasing The Pawn of Isis. There will be some publicity. I will also be working on revisions of Abigail Rath Versus Mad Science, preparing it for solicitation to agents.

February: I imagine I will be finishing up Abigail Rath Versus Mad Science. This month, I intend to start writing new material. It looks like Klaereon 3 will be entitled The Wrath of Horus, and I will also be working on the first installment of my serial The Poet and the Navigator, which takes place in the same world as the Klaereon Scroll series.

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Idealistically, 2019 will see the publication of The Pawn of Isis, four installments of The Poet and the Navigator, and most, if not all the writing of The Wrath of Horus. No plan like this ever survives contact with real life, but it’s what I want.

See you at the beginning of December, mostly with information about the short story collection, and my upcoming foreign travel. Enjoy Thanksgiving. Eat lots and lots of turkey.

Fantastic History #18: Alice Payne Arrives by Kate Heartfield

Today is the book birthday of Alice Payne Arrives, which I’ve been holding onto my opinions about for a while now, except for the 5-star rating I left of it over on Goodreads. I do like Kate Heartfield’s work, and she had been a frequent contributor here at Fantastic History.

Let me just put this out there for the purists on the blog; this is not only history, okay? There is a fair amount of science fiction in the mode of time travel, so if you’re coming to this book looking solely for the ramblings and adventures of a female highway-person in 1788, you might look at the work askance. That said, Alice is an interesting character study in a woman who must carve out her destiny in a time ill-suited for her. Part Jamaican in England, gay, and seeking adventure, the life to which she has been born is not the life she wants to have, Ergo, Alice takes matters into her own hands.

Alice becomes entangled with time travelers, notably Prudence Zuniga, who is battling to save the world, over and over again. This interesting alchemy produces a novel that is part science fiction, party history, and part steampunk (if anyone really knows what that is). The novella feels dense and there are a lot of unanswered questions, but I believe the second Alice Payne novella may answer some of them.

If you are looking for a book that does some interesting things with history, but stretches it out, this is a good read for you.

Fantastic History #17: The Elephant and Macaw Banner by Christopher Kastensmidt

My journey with Gerard Van Oost and Oludara has been five years longer than their fictional journey. Traveling back to 2010, I first met Christopher Kastensmidt, as we were both authors at a small press called Cats Curious. That same year, the first of these novelettes came out in Realms of Fantasy and was nominated for a Nebula. I was hooked.

Most of you know my twin infatuations with historical fiction and fantasy. Historical fiction AND fantasy are a combination I can’t resist, much like chocolate and peanut butter. One of my favorite authors is Alexandre Dumas, and Christopher Kastensmidt is a direct heir to him.

Kastensmidt has written a series of novelettes that span eight publishing years. The main characters, Gerard Van Oost and Oludara, capture the true spirit of early Brazil: itinerant hunters of folkloric monsters who set out to explore the wilds of the jungle in the early days of colonization, using their strength, skills, and wit. The two of them seem more than a match for anything they meet in the end, and their heroics are epic, considering they only two under the Elephant and Macaw banner.

Each novelette explores the beauty of the Brazilian landscape, explores Brazilian folklore, and reveals the texture and tapestry of the early settlers of Brazil. The research is painstaking; the content is woven together expertly. These novelettes are an immersive experience with characters you truly care about. Kastensmidt is committed to inclusivity in his series, and writes other cultures with care and grace.

Your entry point to these amazing adventures is now. Guardbridge Books is collecting the entirety of the series and is releasing it as a collection, which will be released on November 5th. To read more about the amazing journey Kastensmidt’s story has taken in Brazil, check out this entry in Fantastic History about Elephant and Macaw, as well as our Unreliable Narrators interview with the author.

Fantastic History #16: Creating Geomancy from the Ground Up–Beth Cato’s Blood of Earth Trilogy by Beth Cato

My Blood of Earth trilogy started with a single vague idea: the 1906 San Francisco Earthquake, steampunk style. The only other certainty in my head was that it needed to also involve magic, but I needed to make the magic distinct from the healing powers in my novel The Clockwork Dagger, which was just starting to get offers from publishers at the time. My new project was intended to keep me occupied and somewhat more sane during the forthcoming months of existence under an agent-imposed gag order during contract negotiations. I couldn’t talk about The Clockwork Dagger in public until everything was official, but I could discuss my new book in the works. That project was soon titled Breath of Earth.

As I sat down to develop the concept, my first priority was figuring out how magic fit into this alternate history. Once I knew that, I needed to determine how that impacted my heroine. I began to ask an endless sequence of “What if” questions. What if she caused the earthquake somehow? What if something else did? What if the earthquake itself embodied magic?

I suddenly knew the kind of magic I was working with: geomancy. Not only was it a starkly different magic than in The Clockwork Dagger, but it was also a type that I hadn’t seen used much in fantasy fiction.

With geomancy in mind, I then had to look at the world I was building. If this was known magic–not a secret history kind of situation–how had it changed the world? Slowly, gradually, the pieces came together in my notes. Geomancy had a long history. The Romans used it–and even created airships! That painted a ridiculously cool picture in my mind. But with the fall of Rome, the technology was lost. But why? How?

I considered how materials might be necessary to practice geomancy, and that the loss of that resource could have contributed to the Dark Ages. I thought of the Final Fantasy role-playing game series, where I first fell in love with airships as a kid, and how crystals have important roles in various games.

I pieced elements together to form my own magic system within the context of my alt history. Geomancers were sensitive to earthquakes and other outflows of earth energy. They stored that energy as a fever. In an especially bad earthquake, the flow could kill them almost instantly. However, they could save themselves by breaking contact with the ground, or by having special crystals on hand, which I dubbed kermanite. Rome exhausted their original kermanite mines and soon thereafter collapsed as a civilization. In the 19th century, rapid technological developments occurred in America after kermanite was discovered in the California desert. Kermanite charged with earth energy can be used as a battery for everyday objects as well as new advances like airships, autocars, or tanks. That integrated the steampunk genre into the plot, right along with the magic.

That plot included a version of history where the American Civil War ended early due to an alliance between the Union and Japan. By 1906, that cooperation had been formalized as the Unified Pacific, a global superpower currently trying to complete its dominance of mainland China. This had major ripple effects on San Francisco with its high population of Chinese refugees.

Oh yes, and then there was my heroine, Ingrid Carmichael. Not only was she a woman of great geomantic skill–something thought to only be the domain of men–she was also a woman of color. Her understanding of geomancy has evolved with each book. In Breath of Earth, she endures the San Francisco Earthquake–which happens for more complicated reasons than mere plate tectonic action. The second book, Call of Fire, takes her to another geologically volatile region, the Pacific Northwest.

Of course, as a writer, I have to escalate the stakes, which is why the finale in the series, Roar of Sky, ventures to the Big Island of Hawaii to the Kilauea volcano. That book was just released on October 23rd.

Countless “What if?” questions guided me from my initial concept and through about 300,000 words of text. The complex alt history felt as if it broke my brain more than once, but the end result is a complete trilogy that melds geomancy and history in some fun, fantastical new ways.

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Beth Cato hails from Hanford, California, but currently writes and bakes cookies in a lair west of Phoenix, Arizona. She shares the household with a hockey-loving husband, a numbers-obsessed son, and three feline overlords.

She’s the author of THE CLOCKWORK DAGGER (a 2015 Locus Award finalist for First Novel) and THE CLOCKWORK CROWN (an RT Reviewers’ Choice Finalist) from Harper Voyager. Her novella WINGS OF SORROW AND BONE was a 2016 Nebula nominee. Her new alt-history steampunk series began with BREATH OF EARTH and continues with CALL OF FIRE and ROAR OF SKY (out October 23rd, 2018).

Follow her at BethCato.com and on Twitter at @BethCato.

Fantastic History #15: Seven of my Favorite Research Books by Kate Heartfield

Seven of My Favorite Research Books

Like all writers of historical fantasy, I know that every book I write stands on a teetering tower of other books. Each book has its own particular (and sometimes incredibly specialized) stack of research material, and I am so grateful for libraries, librarians, and everyone who has helped make books and articles available online. I’m also grateful to the academics and the other writers of non-fiction whose work informs every story I write.

In my little writing room, I have books on military tactics, clothing, folklore, food, gender, machines, politics… plus, of course, the standard reference books, from dictionaries to bird guides. There are all the primary sources: my copy of the Malleus Maleficarum is particularly well used, as I write about witchcraft a fair bit.

But there are some less obvious books on my groaning shelves that I find myself consulting over and over. I thought I’d give you a short tour of a few of these from my shelves.

These are just a few of my personal favorites, and this is emphatically not a balanced, curated guide or definitive list for other writers. They skew European and North American, for one thing. But they’ve been useful or inspiring to me, and they demonstrate how the research for historical fantasy often ranges beyond a specific setting, era or set of characters.

1. Holy Sh*t: A Brief History of Swearing, by Melissa Mohr. Swearing can be tricky in historical fiction. Readers tend to trip on “bad” words, assuming they’re more recent than they generally are. Most swear words in English (and this book does focus on English) have been around for a very long time. That said, they didn’t necessarily carry the same heft that they do today, while other words (generally blasphemous ones) were more serious than they are now. Conveying the emotional and social significance of a bit of dialogue to a modern reader, while keeping true to the period, is a feat. Mohr’s book has been a great guide to those choppy waters.

2. A Dictionary of Chivalry by Grant Uden. I’ll be honest; the main reason I love this book is because I love this particular copy. It belonged to my late grandfather. And I adore how tricksy it is: The binding is a library discard of glaring plain orange, but inside, it’s full of gorgeous illustrations by Pauline Baynes. These days, I’m probably more likely to consult Google if I want to know what a “ricasso” is or what happened at the Field of the Cloth of Gold, so the dictionary tends to be a flipping-through, inspirational book rather than a pure reference guide.

3. Indigenous Writes: A Guide to First Nations, Métis & Inuit Issues in Canada, by Chelsea Vowel. My main settings so far have tended to be northern Europe (where my family’s from) and North America (where I was born and raised.) Intrinsic to the histories of both those regions is the colonization of Indigenous people. Vowel’s book is a wealth of information and analysis on matters that will (or should) pre-occupy writers of historical fantasy, from cultural appropriation to respectful terminology.

4. Herbs for the Medieval Household for Cooking, Healing and Divers Uses by Margaret B. Freeman. This is another gorgeously illustrated book; it was, in fact, printed by the Metropolitan Museum of Art. I do use this book for reference — if I want a poison or potion, for example — as it is full of references to primary sources. But it, too, is mainly for inspiration. The woodcuts that illustrate each entry are from 15th century sources themselves.

5. The World Guide to Gnomes, Fairies, Elves and Other Little People: A Compendium of International Fairy Folklore by Thomas Keightley. This one was originally published in 1828 as Fairy Mythology. Despite the title, I don’t really use this as a guide to the folklore itself, but rather as one window onto how that folklore evolved and spread, and how it informed the fantastic in the 19th century. (Keightley was a friend of Dante Gabriel Rossetti’s family.)

6. The Art of Blacksmithing by Alex W. Bealer. Smiths tend to turn up in whatever I write, or their work does. (For example, a water-powered forge hammer plays a role in my novel Armed in Her Fashion.) Metal is very important to both the history and folklore of Europe, and this illustrated guide has helped me with everything from nails and horseshoes to swords.

7. Scourge: The Once and Future Threat of Smallpox by Jonathan B. Tucker. This one might seem an odd choice, but smallpox has loomed in a few of my books (especially the ones that haven’t come out yet, which are set in 18th century Europe.) It’s hard to overstate the effect that smallpox has had on the history of the world. Beyond that, the history of smallpox is a microcosm of the history of disease and of immunization in general, and the more recent history of how humanity has tried, failed, and occasionally succeeded to work together for a common goal.

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Kate Heartfield’s first novel was Armed in Her Fashion (CZP 2018). She is the author of two time-travel novellas coming soon from Tor.com Publishing, beginning with Alice Payne Arrives in November 2018. Her interactive novel The Road to Canterbury was published by Choice of Games in 2018. Kate is a former journalist in Ottawa, Canada. Her website is kateheartfield.com and she is on Twitter as @kateheartfield.

Fantastic History #14: Masterpiece Theater by Catherine Schaff-Stump

About a month or so ago, I was hanging out with the other Unreliable Narrators, and we were interviewing Gail Carriger. Gail Carriger is the author of a great many books that take place in a peculiar place readers like to call her Parasol-verse, and at some point in the interview, Gail mentioned she liked her books to seem historical in the sense of Masterpiece Theater—not exactly authentic, but somewhat historical.

And I thought, yes, this is what I do. I try to create the mood of a historical novel. Oh, don’t get me wrong. I do a lot of research. I have a book that is a canal-by-canal photo album of Venice, which talks about when each building went up. I read general histories, look at old maps, try to dig into what kind of police force was in Gibraltar in the 19th century. I do the research things.

I also realize I am a 21st-century American woman, and there are many things I will get wrong. I will make many stylized choices a reader might not appreciate as accurate. I simply can’t make one hundred percent historically accurate choices because I am a creature of my time, AND I am writing fiction. Woah is me, but my first hope is to be entertaining, and I cannot escape who I am, where I am, or what my culture tells me to think.

In this regard, I think, Gail Carriger has it right.

Now, lest I am wrong, and I think I am, given the crazy popularity of, say Downton Abby, you might not be familiar with IPT’s Masterpiece Theater, which showcases a great many historical dramas, largely British, based on great(ish) works of British literature, or scripts meant to emulate the great works of British literature. Masterpiece is not the only avenue for these shows, as my third copy of A&E’s 1995 Pride and Prejudice attests to, but it is a handy shorthand for a certain kind of costume drama that recreates, within certain cultural standards, literary drama. I am a fan, and I should point out why I prefer writing with a certain entertainment flair, rather than historical accuracy.

I write fantasy: Not only am I writing historical stories, but I am writing fantasy stories. Even in the realms of alternate history or secret history, there is some amount of fudging the facts, or making assumptions. With fantasy, I am directly inserting the impossible (Egyptian gods banished for their presumption; trolls that traveled to the U.S. with immigrants; post Napoleonic French sorcerers.) into existing history. Accuracy is impossible when parts of your world are made up, although you can try to make your impossible seem plausible within the constraints of history.

Historical recreation sometimes makes for stiff drama: Not always. History can be pretty amazing. But sometimes what actually happened isn’t the most dramatic, as Hollywood reminds us with all of its movies based on true events, sometimes loosely. Adding pizzazz, angst, and drama serve the purpose of a story or novel, to entertain and involve us, the readers and viewers, in the human struggle of a story.

The look is the thing: One need only take a look at Gene Kelly’s version of The Three Musketeers and compare it to the 1993 The Three Musketeers to see what I’m talking about. Yes, we interpret history once again through the lens of our time. Lady deWinter’s crazy 1948 hair with jaunty hat, versus Lady deWinter’s low key long hair, unornamented in 1993, show what’s stylish in each time frame, not in the time Alexandre Dumas is setting the story. Sometimes we are closer to accurate, and sometimes we are way off base, but we do try to get a look we like that evokes the time of our historical drama.

I have to take my modern audience into account: This last one? Well, would you really want to read a story where people acted with past biases and prejudices rather than focused on entertainment? Some of the tensions and predilections of the past make for interesting drama, like The Crown’s revelation that Edward, Elizabeth’s uncle who gave up the throne for Wallace Simpson, thought Hitler was kind of all right. But others make modern viewers cry foul. In Downton Abby, how would we have felt if Sibyl and Thomas didn’t get to make their “unsuitable” match? Modern viewers were rooting for them! So yes, we tinker as dramatists to good effect.

Right now I am about to embark upon the third Klaereon Scroll book, and it will involve two characters from other countries: India and Martinique. I will be doing research into those countries, but I will borrow what works and modify what doesn’t in the tradition of all good historical novelists. So the overall effect might not be scholarly, but if you would pick it up after seeing it on public television, and if the costumes are good, well, my work is done.

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Cath Schaff-Stump writes speculative fiction for children and adults, everything from humor to horror. Her YA Gothic fantasy The Vessel of Ra is available from Curiosity Quills. Catherine lives and works in Iowa with her husband. During the day, she teaches English to non-native speakers at a local community college. Other recent fiction has been published by Paper Golem Press, Daydreams Dandelion Press, and in The Mammoth Book of Dieselpunk. Catherine is a co-host on the writing and geek-life fan podcast Unreliable Narrators. You can find her online at Facebook, Goodreads, Amazon, @cathschaffstump, cathschaffstump.com, and unreliablenarrators.net

September, 2018

October is tomorrow. For the spookiest of months, I’ve taken some new author pics that fit the mood and the horror novella. I’m still plugging away on Abby Rath Versus Mad Science. I’ve been getting ready for the Paradise Icon writing workshop. And there was a pretty lengthy cold, and a bit of excitement with my mother-in-law (Good news! She’s still with us, but there was a roller coaster week in there.) In short, life can sometimes interfere with the best plans writers have.

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So…the reading at M&M was a success. It turned out I was their first reading EVAIR, and I really appreciated the opportunity to be so. We had a good time at the North Liberty Author Fair too, seeing some friends.

October is a busy month here, with a lot of travel and events. We’ll write as much as we can. But next weekend is Icon 43 in Cedar Rapids. And there are a lot of events:

Oct 4: Signing at Cedar Rapids Barnes and Noble at 6:30-8
Oct 5: Paradise Icon Author Critiques
Oct 6: Author Meet and Greet at 10-12
Oct 6: Abandoned Places Reading at 7-8
Oct 6: Paradise Icon Reading at 8-9

If you’re attending Icon, maybe we’ll see you there.

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From October 17-21, I’ll be in Vancouver attending the Surrey International Writer’s Conference. It’ll be a great weekend of writing instruction, and a chance to pitch a bit. I’ve never been to Vancouver, so I’m looking forward to it.

As an added bonus, although it has nothing to do with writing, Bryon will have his Halloween extravaganza at the end of the month, so I will share some pics of that. Keep writing, my friends, and so will I.

Fantastic History #13: An Interview with Kate Heartfield

Cath: Almost everything I’ve ever read of yours has some aspect of history coupled with fantasy. What do you find attractive about blending historical and fantastic fiction?

Kate: I remember walking through the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City for the first time when I was a teenager and experiencing a kind of frisson I’ve noticed many times since: I was feeling deliciously creeped out by the oldness of the things around me. There’s an uncanny quality to the past, or maybe to our awareness of the past. The pavement under my feet both is, and is not, the same street that bore the footsteps of people long dead. That duality feels inherently fantastical to me. So it feels like a natural fit. Real history is so very weird and sometimes the best way to illuminate that is to hold it up against something that’s obviously invented.

Cath: Much of high fantasy is considered to be about medieval Europe. Yet, your works “The Course of True Love” and “Armed in Her Fashion” much more accurately portray what the medieval period is documented to be like historically. Do you have a historical background in this time frame? What helped you to get this tone and accuracy?

Kate: I’m not a historian, but I am a journalist by trade, so I suppose my instinct is always to go to the source. Both of those books were inspired by other works. The Course of True Love was an homage to Shakespeare, so I reread the plays and tried to imagine what Shakespeare would write if he were reincarnated as me. (This made sense in my head, I swear.) Armed in Her Fashion was inspired by a 16th century painting by Pieter Bruegel and by the kinds of stories people were telling in 14th century Europe: stories like the bizarrely legalistic Reynard the Fox cycle, for example, or legends about revenants and sea snakes. The Middle Ages and the Renaissance were full of fascinating notions, technologies and stories, many of which haven’t been fully mined in medieval-inspired fantasy.

Cath: Can you talk a little bit about your game The Road to Canterbury? What are the objectives of the game? How much does it borrow from Chaucer?

Kate: The Road to Canterbury is a text-based game you can play on your computer or phone; it’s interactive fiction, which means you make choices as you read to determine the path of the character. That character is a weaver in London in 1375, who goes on pilgrimage with a civil servant and occasional poet named Geoffrey Chaucer. I had fun with the fact that in 1375, Chaucer’s wife, Philippa de Roet, is arguably a more important person than her husband, and she’s the one who drives much of the story. It’s a game about politics, economics and the role of the individual in history, but there’s a lot of just plain fun medieval stuff: I actually coded a version of the medieval dice game Hazard, for example. And there is a lot of story-telling, naturally. There are many references to Chaucer’s work, but the story in my game is its own thing, and many of the characters bear only a passing similarity to the characters in The Canterbury Tales. My editors at Choice of Games made writing the game a wonderful experience.

Cath: Both Alice Payne Arrives and its sequel are set in many time frames. I want to focus on Alice as a highway robber. Why did you choose to set her part of this story in 1788 and make her a robber? What are good places to learn about how to portray highway”men”?

Kate: The germ for this story had nothing to do with time travel and little to do with any particular period: I was struck by the idea of a highwaywoman leading a double life, who has to solve the mystery of a murder or disappearance to throw the local authorities off her scent. I suppose I liked the idea of the same person being both criminal and investigator. I still have my notes, in which I considered the 1580s, the 1640s, the 1810s, and several different countries. In the end I settled on England in the 1780s because it allowed me to create a very recognizable “highwayman” and because I had read a lot about real English highwaywomen in my initial research. I talked about some of those real-world examples in a recent Twitter thread.

Cath: Alice and Jane are together in these books. Can you discuss how you used history to both bolster and impede their relationship?

Kate: In the draft of the second Alice Payne book, there’s a cameo appearance by two elderly lesbians who are inspired by the real-life “Ladies of Llangollen”, Eleanor Butler and Sarah Ponsonby, who lived happily together in the late 18th century. The sculptor Anne Damer was another example I drew on of a probably-queer woman in 18th century England; Emma Donoghue’s novel Life Mask is about her. There are many such examples, and they suggest to me that two women in love could be fairly open about their relationship in certain circles and with certain friends; on the other hand, the dangers were real. This is all background to the relationship in Alice Payne Arrives, though, rather than foreground. Jane and Alice are together, they’re in love, and they’re having perilous time-travel adventures.

Cath: Alice’s backstory is an interesting one. What can you tell us about Jamaica in the 18th century?

Kate: The history of Jamaica in the 18th century is amazing; I think it says something about the history we learn that I was well into middle age before I learned anything about the enslaved people who rose up for their freedom there more than once, and who formed lasting, sovereign communities within colonized Jamaica. Alice’s family life and upbringing was partly inspired by that of Dido Elizabeth Belle, who lived in late 18th century England and was the child of a white Englishman and an enslaved black woman in the British West Indies. Colonial efforts to define racial categories in service of slavery-based economics had to contend with a steady migration of people of colour from Jamaica to England, usually so they could be educated with their father’s families, and sometimes so they could apply for the privileges of whiteness on their return. Daniel Livesay’s book Children of Uncertain Fortune is a fascinating look at those families and at the social and political creation of race in that era. I didn’t want to write a book about that dynamic per se, as it is very much not my story to tell, as a white Canadian. But at the same time, it would be dishonest to write about 18th century England and have everyone be white; that just wasn’t how it was. So while the books are not really about Alice’s position in English society as a woman of colour, her Jamaican origin is definitely an important aspect of her life, especially when it comes to her complicated relationship with her father.

Cath: Having read your work set in the time frames we’ve discussed above, plus the writing you’ve done regarding Marie Antionette, I have to ask: do you have a favorite historical period? Do you have any other historical periods you would really like to write a story in?

Kate: I don’t have a favourite, really! I bounce around, when it comes to time. As for space, although many of my short stories are set in Canada at various points in history (and the Alice Payne books come to North America for some scenes) all my published novels and novellas so far are set mainly in Europe. That’s partly because that’s my own heritage, both in a literal sense (my dad emigrated from the UK) and in the sense that those are the stories that I have an itch to explore and subvert. But that’s not really by design and could change.

Cath: Tell us all about the release details for the Alice Payne books.

Kate: Alice Payne Arrives will be out in paperback and ebook from Tor.com Publishing on Nov. 6, 2018; it’s available to pre-order now. Alice Payne Rides will follow in March 2019. Each is a novella of about 30,000 words. Each book is written to stand on its own, but there is space for the story to continue, if readers respond to it. We’ll see.

Cath: Are you at liberty to talk about any of your future projects?

Kate: The other book I have written and sold is a full-length novel called The Humours of Grub Street. It’s coming in 2019 or 2020 from ChiZine Publications, which published Armed in Her Fashion. It’s set in London in 1703. I’m currently revising another 18th century novel, and I’m working on a second game for Choice of Games. That one is set in Renaissance Florence and will be out sometime in 2019, if all goes well. After that, well, I have some plans but they’re still in the delicate secret stage.

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Kate Heartfield’s first novel, a historical fantasy called Armed in Her Fashion, was published by ChiZine Publications in 2018.
Tor.com will publish two time-travel novellas by Kate, beginning with Alice Payne Arrives in November, 2018. Her interactive novel for Choice of Games, The Road to Canterbury, was published in 2018. She’s working on another.Her short fiction has appeared in magazines including Strange Horizons, Lackington’s and Podcastle, and anthologies including Clockwork Canada and Monstrous Little Voices: New Tales from Shakespeare’s Fantasy World. Her stories “The Seven O’Clock Man” and “Not Valid for Spain” were longlisted for the Sunburst Award. Until 2015, Kate was the opinion editor for the Ottawa Citizen. She was shortlisted for Canada’s National Newspaper Award for editorial writing in 2015. She now teaches journalism at Carleton University and creative writing online for the Loft Literary Center. Her agent is Jennie Goloboy at the Donald Maass Literary Agency.

Guest Post: Travis Heerman

Please welcome Travis Heerman. Travis is the fine writer who shares credit with me in Alembical 4. His novella, Where the Devil Resides is a dark examination of a character’s descent into the lawless Everglades of Florida, and what he finds there. I’m going to let Travis tell you all about it.

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The Devil Resides in a Ground Full of Teeth

I’m delighted for my novella “Where the Devil Resides” to share Alembical 4 with a story like “The Ground is Full of Teeth.” As I was reading Catherine Schaff-Stump’s dark, disturbing piece, I couldn’t help but recognize a fellow writer who also grew up in a very small town. Her keen eye for the details of small-town life spring out of every page.

Astute readers will recognize also the thematic resonances between the two stories. You can thank a couple of awesome editors for that, Lawrence M. Schoen and Arthur Dorrance.

So when Catherine suggested we trade blog posts talking about the geneses of our respective stories, I got to thinking about where I initially thought the story was going, and where it ended up.

It all began with a phrase in my head that sounded cool: Black Rose in the Garden of Eden. This became the title of the story, until the editors talked me into changing it as the story neared readiness for publication.

I started off writing what I thought was a short story. I was aiming for a kind of neo-pulp hero for the modern age, the kind of character who was larger than life, who could carry over into multiple stories, walking in the shoes of old, pulp icons like Conan, Doc Savage, the Shadow, and Jirel of Joiry, but with more modern sensibilities. What emerged was Black Rose, so I definitely got what I was after. But then I had to create a world that was worthy of her, and what came together was a steampunk-noir, alternate history where the American Civil War never really ended—in many ways, just like today.

Just a couple of scenes into the writing, I had to accept the fact that it was going to be too long for a short story. Maybe I could get it in ten or twelve thousand words. When I passed the 15k mark, I thought maybe I could do it in 20k. But then I hit 30k, and I was almost done. The story’s thematic foundations had become much richer and more complex than I was expecting, and there was nothing else to do but finish it.

Writing this story was as immensely disturbing as it was immeasurably satisfying. Some Very, Very Bad People do some Very, Very Bad Things—and then they get what’s coming to them. Rereading the story now, I still feel the drive for justice that was almost palpable during the first drafting. The trouble with comeuppance, however, is that the evil leaves its mark anyway. It is not a comfortable thing to sit back in one’s writing chair and gaze into The Abyss, because, as we all know, it gazes back into you.

The initial idea for the plot came from reading Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness. Of course, I had to follow that with a viewing of the film Apocalypse Now, a modern retelling of the same tale, where the river is the Mekong, not the Congo, but both are metaphors for rivers into Man’s darkest heart. And I use “Man” here specifically to mean the male of the species, because there are certain kinds of atrocities unique to men. In “Where the Devil Resides,” the part of the metaphoric river is played by the Everglades. Just how far could men fall on the scale of depravity if they have no fear of law or reprisal?

Like Catherine’s story, “Devil” is about abuse, and the ripple effects it has on the world even after the abuse is ended. It is also about the lengths that men will go to control women, and the stunting effects of certain narrow-minded, lazy ways of thinking. This is the story in which my neo-pulp heroine, the Black Rose, is enfolded, like a corpse-dark flower waiting to open and lash out with her whip.

Since the story’s acceptance, I’ve had some time to do more with it. I developed the novella into a screenplay of the same name. The screenplay won the Best Horror/Fantasy Screenplay at the 2018 Famous Monsters Silver Scream Fest, and, as I write this, is a finalist in the Feature Screenplay category at the Shriekfest Horror Film Festival. I’ll be traveling to Los Angeles for the festival October 4-7, 2018, hoping to meet some filmmakers, and if luck is with me, bring home the win.

I hope you’ll procure yourself a copy of Alembical 4. If you like to squirm a little as you read, you won’t be disappointed.