Friday, August 22, 2014

It’s the END of the Summer Soon…

Hello darlings,

Yes, we at the MHFRU get really quiet over the summer.  We take it as our time off and do a lot of fun personal stuff before we hunker down and get back to work. 

The Roundup this year was a success and we hope to grow that success next year.  So here’s a general list of things that we will be starting to do and will be discussing at our first meeting.

1.  Setup 2015 meeting #1 in September.  Looks to be September 6th at the MH College – Room and time TBA.

2.  Garner new volunteers, interns and executives. (There is a MHC Club Fair in September we want to attend, a Government bursary program we are signed up for and a general invitation through Facebook and last years volunteers we have in the works)

3.  Finalize MHFRU date.

4.  Redesign Website.

5.  Plausibly consider new Special Guests (we have 1 tentatively booked and we could gain maybe 1 more with a proper Sponsor!)

6.  Look into Extra-Life game party

7.  Look into New Year’s Eve Costume Ball?

8.  Plan out our Convention Tour for the new season.

9.  Discuss the Quality over Quantity approach we have – general idea of how much less we want to have and what worked best this past year.

10.  Budget!!

11.  Discuss Otafest Aurora – table?


Definitely more to it than that but I have to remember it to add it! :)

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Thank You Part 2

A big glaringly obvious piece of the puzzle was missing from our wrap up letter from last week.


Before I begin my long and heartfelt swoon monologue for the 2014 volunteers I would like to remind everyone that we always need volunteers.  We need them from the planning phase to the day of to the days after.  We look good on a resume, we can give you a reference, AND we are working to register with a government bursary program where we can take on students as interns so it will help with specific areas we need that you can benefit from!  Stay tuned for that (I hope we qualify!)…oh and like this year we will probably have a Volunteer Prize Draw Basket again!

It is not enough to say thanks to the few people that stepped up and helped us out. It was no small task and having just even a small amount of pressure off was greatly appreciated. 

We had our parents come and help, my husband, friends and several genuine volunteers.  I wanted to tell a little bit about my personal experiences during the convention because it really truly meant a lot that we had a couple absolute stand outs.  This is not to lessen any of the other volunteers contributions just know that we loved you all no matter how big or small your portion of the load was – we needed everyone!

The day of the con I ended up with 2 sets of minions. 

The first set a girl named Tailar and her little elf friend whom I don’t remember her name came to my rescue and helped setup the Cosplay room minutes before the event was to start.  Somehow we forgot to get someone in there and arrange all the chairs and move the tables.  >.<

I only found out afterwards they were friends of Keanna (one of the executives) and Tailar had plans to help out anyways, however, from my view of things all I saw was two attendees just walk right in and help me out.  They kept helping out the rest of the convention from 1pm onwards to closing and take down.  I was very impressed.

My second set actually can technically be my first since they were there for pre-setup day and during setup.  Allie M and Mary popped up like wack-a-moles awaiting tasks, they’d be set off to do them and BAM they would pop up again waiting to do more.  They moved tables, assigned badges, cut the badges when we found out I had misprinted and missed some all together, they ran back and forth for me to the storage room (I’m a gimp so they were much faster) and they did so much else.  Allie was also a Maid (1 of 3) for our café!  They put in several hours of work and always seemed up for more.

I was just so impressed by all our volunteers being so eager to help and I mean GENUINELY help.  I would have probably fallen apart by 2pm if they were not there to lend  a hand.  THANK YOU SO MUCH. 

From my tally we had 7 volunteers who had no association to the executives prior to the event.  It’s a small pool of people to pull a draw from.  Did you remember that part?  Any person that was a volunteer (NOT an exec or parents, sorry!) were entered in to win a prize basket we slowly collected over the past year.  The winner?


(sorry no photo of her outfit ;_;)


There may be more in this basket than what is shown…

Thanks again to all our volunteers, friends, family, exhibitors and everyone who came to check out what we worked hard to put forth!

Caio for now

Cap’n Krys Christoffersen

Friday, July 11, 2014

Overdue Thank You!

Dearest Darlings,

Thank you for attending The Medicine Hat Fan Roundup 2014!  It was a lot of work and a lot of fun with the best outcome possible: success!

I have a large bulk of thanks to give out to specific people that I initially started writing at the beginning of this address but decided to move it down more since it’s a little long and everyone really wants to get to the meat of this off the bat.  If we didn't thank you below you should have received or will receive an email thanking you personally.  

So here it is:

Attendance: 179 people attended!  My personal goal was 200 but that just means next year we need to work a little hard to get you guys to come out.

Amount raised for The Women’s Shelter: $500

Our local Panago owner, Barb, has also expressed interest in continuing our relationship for years to come so we can continue to support our local charities and help in our community more!

Maid Café Tickets: 36 out of 39 tickets sold!  It was supposed to be 40 but Neoko got hungry -.-

Fan Favorites: Name That Tune, Cards Against Humanity, Big L Match Game, 404s Comedy Troupe

Fan Unfavorites: Distance between events (we hear you -.-), too many events not enough time, more food options

Cosplay Contest Winners:
Best Craftsmanship

Best Performance

Best in Show

We also had several honorable mentions that we made sure to have a group shot with!

AMV Contest:
1 Emma Browning - (AnoHana - Rubix Cube): Best Drama AMV
2 Kemar Cunningham - (Attack on Titan - The Phoenix): Best Action AMV
3 Emma Browning - (FMA -The Phoenix): Judge's Choice

All three can be viewed on our Facebook Page

Next Year's Theme: 

Lessons Learned This Year:
We learned quickly this year that we had a lot of content which for the amount of attendees we are pulling is actually a bad thing.  Next year we will be reducing the amount of panels and taking the "Quality over Quantity" motto to heart.  Filling up the panels we have is a priority!

We also know all too well that the event was spread too far across the College.  This is not exactly a lesson learned as more of - This is what we were given to work with.  Like every year, we will aim to get the S wing because it is the most ideal location for our event.

The Thank Yous!

We want to thank each of our exhibitors for coming out and supporting the event.  In particular we wanted to show appreciation for:

Ed Lukowich and Edge Publishing – Edge Publishing has continued to come out and support our convention year after year and it’s due in part to them that we were able to make contact with Ed.  Mr. Lukowich was also a wonderful person to meet and talk to and I hope the experience was a good one.

Helen Stringer – You are simply adorable.  I could not describe you any differently if I had only 1 word to do it.  We appreciate you coming and your enthusiasm towards us and the attendees was a bright spot.

Thomas and the Force Start Entertainment team – This year may not have happened without your support and your offer to help us so much.  We love you guys and want to keep working with you!

Jesse and the Red Rage Comics Crew – The Cosplay Contest saviors!  Getting you on as our sponsor and as a judge got the ball rolling very fast for other judges and the ability to make the Cosplay Contest the success it was! 

Ballto and Big L Productions – Same as above! You helped us out a lot with the Cosplay contest not only judging but basically M/C’ing it as you went – and your one Pinky Pie actress was a very enthusiastic and unexpected entertainer during the intermissions.  We also loved the Match Games and hope you bring it back for us again.

Tony Allen – our local radio DJ was an enthusiastic participant as a guest judge and he filled out our Guest Judge Panel well.

I obviously can’t thank everyone individually here but I have and am continuing the individual thank you’s personally to everyone I have contact information for.  

I would be remiss if I didn't give a shout out to our performers of the day Fire Dragon Taekwando, Ka Muso Kai and Olwyn Supeene.  You guys were all fantastic!

Thank you to all our attendees and to everyone who made this event what it is.  We hope you come out again for 2015 with a smile on y'arr face. XD

Krys and the MHFRU Crew

Friday, June 20, 2014

Twas the night before the Roundup
And all through Med Hat
People were scared of FLOODING
Now what good was all that??

The signs will be pinned around as they may
But some will get lost no matter how many we lay
The events are all set and the tables prepared
In the hopes that our vendors will soon setup there

Now we hope and we pray that guests will come soon
No flooding, no tornadoes, no bloody monsoons.
If we are lucky none of this will transpire
We said this con would happen don't make us a liar!!

Thanks to you and to all for coming this time
We want the masses, the crowds, the huge freaking lines!
If we don't we are sad and will pack it all in
But if we are great we will leave with big grins!

So come in and come stay for the event all day
Women's Shelter will get proceeds from the pizza hoo-ray!
And if we succeed like no other year before
2015 will happen much bigger, much more!!

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Interview with Ballto of Big L Productions

To end our little section of interviews we sat down on Facebook with Ballto of Big L Productions for a candid talk.

So Ballto hello and thank you for the interview. Let’s start with the basics. What is Big L Productions and how did you get involved?

Well, Big L Productions at its very core is really Fans making their Fandom dreams comes true. A production company that will be making the videos that all fans want to see of their favourite characters, quite possibly in ways they never thought of before.

We're all fans of something, and as such we all have things we would like to see our characters do. Because of this we've started with making our first web series be "Casual Fridays", where we explore what our favorite comic book, Video Game, Anime, And TV characters all do on their day off from whatever it is that they do.

Allowing us to see our favorite characters in ways we might not have before.

As for how I got involved with it, as I said before, we're all fans of something. And like all other fans I said to myself "I wonder what The Borderlands Crew does on their day off from being Bad asses?" Wondering on this further I realized that I'm not the only one who wants to see this sort of thing. And from there the idea of Starting Big L Productions was born, utilizing the skills I've learned from attending both the Lethbridge College and Universities Multi-Media, and New Media programs respectively. This all began about 10 months ago with me putting my idea's out there and promoting them to find other people with similar passions, and now we're more than proud to premiere our first Video of the Casual Fridays series at the Fan Round Up.

Excellent. So does Big L have a large production group besides the various actors?

Well, our actual Production crew is relatively small at this point. I have a small handful of general purpose crew members for things like setting up our sets, simple camera operations, blocking, and things like that. But we also benefit from having the advice of some professionals as well. My good friend Emerson Scott is a lighting expert, and we have the advice and support of Make Up expert Katt Panic, as well the advice of my previous "internet Television" professor from the university Ryan Harper, whom after hearing about my project wanted to help in any way that he could. And with such high praise from someone like him, a veteran of the Television industry, it only worked to make me want to strive to do that much better.

I think it's also worth mentioning that in our short time we've also recruited some Cosplay Veterans who are interested in working with us, such as Andy Rae from Andy Rae Cosplay, and fast up and comer Dorothy Thicket, who has already won multiple awards for her Cosplay, one of which given to her by Yaya Han herself!

Wow nice maybe one day Yaya will knock on your door?

Yeah, I think if Yaya ever knocked on my door I would be knocked flat on the floor with excitement!

But people should also know that we're always looking for both people to join our production crew, which includes people for lights, camera's, props, Post production editing, as well as costume making.

Ha. So as far as recruiting goes are you looking for experience or a certain je ne sais quoi?

Well I find that when you work in any creative industry both experience and what I call your "creative talent" go hand in hand. A lot of people might not understand, but when you work with your creativity it's almost like a muscle, the more your work it, the better it gets. So I find that someone's experience, as well as their creativity in flexing that imagination muscle goes hand in hand. So experience comes in all of its forms when you work with creativity.

Ok so...we hear you are looking for that creativity here at our con this year. How do you think you will go about finding new talent and what can someone do to impress you?

Well, I and all of the Big L crew that I will bring with me are actually quite honored to give people who share our vision of Big L the chance to contribute their thoughts and ideas to it. As I said before, we're all Fans doing work that our other fans should be proud of, so there is a certain level of Fandom comradery that we want to share with our fellow fans. At the Round-Up this year we are primarily looking for Cosplayers who want to take their Cosplay to the next level and start actually becoming their characters for our episodes, and at the heart of it that's what burns the passion in my heart. For me, Cosplay has always been about fully immersing yourself into becoming your favorite characters. Not to say that proper costume design and making isn't important as well, but for me I want to see the passion and love in people’s eyes when they get to become their heroes.

As for production crew members, my several years of schooling in all things media has taught me more than a few things for what to look for when I'm looking to share a project with others. They need the talent and know how to know what they are working with for sure, but more importantly is that they have their own visions, and aspirations that they can bring to Big L to make us better by adding it to our own. Even if I worked with the most talented people on the planet at what they do, if they don't share in the imagination of the world we're trying to create with Big L, ultimately they won't be able to work with us.

And that's something that I want the world to know when it comes to Big L.

We're not just creating "short little funnies" for people to watch on the internet and get a laugh out of. We're trying to create a whole world where all of our favorite characters live together.

A world where Frank West playing at a Poker game with Princess Bubble gum, and Sailor Mini-moon is no stranger than seeing anyone else do the same.

So you mentioned earlier that you really love to get into the role of the Cosplay. I assume you enjoy dawning the apparel. How far do you get into character at a typical con and can we expect to see that at the Roundup?

Well, for the Roundup I plan on coming as the Heavy Weapons Guy from Team Fortress 2, or to be more precise MY version of the heavy from Team Fortress 2. Anyone who plays the game will know that there is a plethora of ways to change the appearance of your character in the game, and I will be coming as the way I dress my Heavy when I play as him. Though some people might be surprised that this will only be the third Cosplay I've ever done. The first being Heat from Bust a Groove when I was 14 going to Animethon 9, the second being Salvador from Borderlands 2 for the launch of the game a few years back, and now the Heavy from TF2.

The costume I'll be wearing was actually made with the assistance of lots of my friends, as I personally don't have the costume making experience that I wish I had, but what I lack in costume making skills, I assure you I will make up for in my ability to properly play the character, and invite everyone to come see firsthand when we host the Cosplay Match Game.

Let's just say you shouldn't be surprised to find that "Sandvich and me going to beat your ass!"

Ha, that will be something to see. So Big L has a whole room to themselves. There will be two Cosplay match games that are taking place and the actors will be the celebrity panel. Who can we expect to see, character wise, on this panel and will they be in character during these games?

Big L will be represented by The Heavy Weapons Guy, Human Pinkie Pie, Dovakiin, and Sailor Mini-Moon. And I don't know what you mean by "in character", these are the real people, pulled strait from the Big L World. Maybe people should get an autograph while they have the chance. I'm sure if you asked The Heavy nice enough too he'd let Sandvich give autographs too.

 Oh my, the real deals. I might need to fan myself for the vapors! So, one question that's been burning for me is I've been dying to know. When these characters are not working on the match game what do they do? Just like the premise of Casual Fridays I want to know what these guys are up to when not in the lime light!

Well, not many people know this, but Heavy Weapons Guy is actually a poet in his spare time. He is actually quite the masterful poet in his native tongue. Pinkie Pie works the pizza kitchen with Mad Moxxi over at Moxxi's bar, and likes to go out dancing in public. I hear there's a laundry mat in particular that she likes to strut her stuff in.

Mini-moon likes to ride horses and participates in weekly fight clubs, and Dovakiin recently tried to see what life would be like Outside of Skyrim and move into the city.

Sounds like they lead full and...Interesting lives! So, while everyone is at the con do we need to have security make sure they don't start a brawl with our vendors or will they be behaving? I sure hope that The Heavy personally shares a poem or toe with Helen Stringer - I'm sure she'd love a serenade.

Well, some of them are more.... Rambunctious than others, personally I wouldn't trust Mini-Moon near sugar and a broken bottle, but that's just me. As for the heavy sharing some of his poems, I'm sure if you asked nicely, and had Sandviches permission he'd love to share. Ask him to tell you a tale or two and you might even get a song out of him.

 Well I'm sure the con goers will be very happy to bump in to any of the characters and grab a photo op or two. So, with all that happening you are also premiering the Casual Fridays episode "Poker Princesses and Frank" closer to the end of the day. How did filming go on this first outing? Any issues or funny stories happen during filming?

We suffered the normal problems that could be expected from filming anything, but we did run into a few extra Complications. Princess Bubblegum got held up in the candy Kingdom and ended up being nearly 5 hours late, and Wolverine just couldn't stand playing poker with the player so he left. Then there was the fact that Mini-moon had to leave so she could go join in Mortal Kombat, so we were really pressed for time.

That's why in the end we had to finish filming before 7pm. Hence why the episode was changed from its working title of "Poker Night" to "Poker Princesses and Frank" because with all the summer time filming it was still light out when we wrapped at 7

 Any divas on the set? I'm looking at you Frankie boy.

Well, all of the characters live in their own little world most of the time and are used to being the stars of their own shows, some sparks are bound to fly when you have such Huge Ego's all together in the same room. Oddly enough Frank was the least of our problems, though I feel like that may be because no one could understand him all day.

 Well I'm sure after the premiere everyone will be chomping at the bit for the next episode. When can the fans expect more of Casual Fridays?

I will be Filming on location in Skyrim the week after the Round Up, so with any luck you can expect to see the next episode be up the Friday after.
Will you be trying to release all your episodes on a Friday?

Well, it's not called Casual Monday's.

Well I'm very glad to say that the Medicine Hat Fan Roundup is privilege to have you and all our special character guests coming for a visit. At this point we should let the readers know where they can find more on Big L and Casual Fridays.

We have all the mediums you would expect, Facebook, Twitter, Youtube, the whole thing.

and we're on Twitter @gottothinkbig

And if they want to talk to any of us personally we'll have a table all day at the Con.

As well as the events happening in the Big L Room.
That's right. Big L can also be found in the vendor’s hall
Good stuff. So before we let you go is there anything else you might want the fans and con goers to know?

Only that Big L is looking for not only new members to swell its ranks, but we also would love to hear suggestions from people on what kind of episodes they would love to see. And remember... "Gotta think big, BIG!"

Because Bigger is Always Better well thanks for taking the time to talk with us Ballto and we'll see you at the con!

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Interview with Ed Lukowich

Trillionist Interview Questions

 1. Did any particular scientific or social concepts act as foundational inspirations for Trillionist?

Yes, mostly on the scientific side. There was plenty of science that provided a strong base, such as: the speed of light; the bending and slowing of light; the discovery by astronomers of black holes that still awaited a true purpose; the similarity of spin right from atoms to solar systems to galaxies; the gravity glue that holds things in place; the lack by space of having any real properties as if they had been stolen away. As the reader will discover, my explanations of light, space and time are quite unique. Then you take the orbs (moons, planets, stars and galaxies) and discover how they relate to light, space and time in a whole new way. My new physical universe theory, how our universe was created and operates over many recycles, is indeed ‘out-of-the-box’ thinking. Time will tell if that thinking has a basis? The question will be: Is this new provocative theory believable or just a really good story in ‘The Trillionist?’

 2. What major topics did you have to research for this story? How much did you try to stay accurate to known scientific principles?

Research. Over my years of reading sci-fi, plus hundreds of science and astronomy magazines, I began to formulate my own ideas. Some things I read seemed right to me, but others seemed wrong. In particular, the Big Bang Theory (not the comedy show which I adore), but rather the actual theory depicting creation of our universe, seemed preposterous to me. As far-fetched as the old crazy idea 800 years ago making people think our Earth was flat and they would sail over the edge. Of course we now know Earth is spherical. So, I thought deep and long as to various ways creation may have occurred rather than from a big bang explosion. For some reason, notions began to crop into my thinking, and every time I read a new science or cosmology magazine, I discovered another thread that either fit or didn’t fit into my new universe theory development.

 3. Trillionist possesses a unique cosmology. Is it based on any common mythology, philosophy, or otherwise?

The unique cosmology within the ‘Trillionist’ novel is my own inspiration thoughts developed of two decades of reading, thinking, analyzing and writing. Yes, we still have light, space, gravity, moons, planets, stars, and galaxies, but their functions and methods of operation are greatly expanded beyond current universe theory. The ‘how’ of why our universe is much older than our present 15 billion year cycle, is the essence of my new universe theory.

 4. Trillionist has a massive scope, what with countless lives and universal lifecycles involved. How much detail did you develop behind-the-scenes that we only glimpse through Sage’s eyes?

I wanted this novel to be about the story: ‘Sage Rojan, a boy born different than any human ever. His mind already loaded at birth.’ My motive was to introduce my universe theories in story form with Sage Rojan as the vehicle. The goal of the ‘Trillionist’ novel is to entertain and then also entice the reader’s thinking. That is why the QR codes within the book lead the reader’s cell phone to my website and universe theories. Also, my science book ‘Trillion Theory,’ once made available, greatly expands the ideas behind each new concept and universe theory.

 5. How did you go about taking various religious or supernatural concepts and transform them into scientific mechanisms?

 The ‘Trillionist’ novel makes every effort to steer clear of religion; because there are so many different religions on our planet. However, the novel shows that I do have personal belief in a power greater than us. Within the novel there are concepts borrowed from various ideas, such as: the concept of an Empyrean and Firmament over-looking our universe through our many reincarnations; the concept of our lives being tied by a tether type of invisible apparatus to this Firmament. I find it a fascinating and plausible concept; that our lives are recorded by some apparatus. But in reality, a ‘greater power’ likely does it much different yet than I or others have been able to depict. ‘We are just dusting off the bench, yet to discover the really good parts of our existence.’

 6. What was the biggest challenge this story presented?

Oh my gosh! This novel was trickier than ever. Just imagine, a ‘curler’ turned writer. Now, that’s reinventing oneself. To attempt to write ‘outside –the-box’ of our normal traditional ideas was my goal. Trying to be realistic on the one hand, yet mind-expanding on the other; somewhat believable yet chasing the fanciful.

 7. Did you struggle with making Sage sympathetic even as he makes questionable or terrible choices?

Sage is so complex. Just imagine two totally diverse entities (spirits) sharing one mind. Therein, pure sympathy was difficult for Sage to deliver when there was in fact a spiteful non-caring beast residing within him and sharing his pad.

 8. What prompted you to base the story on Earthlike technology, while transplanting it to another world altogether?

The reason for moving the story to a faraway planet was to keep actual Earth events from confusing the story. Yet, I wanted the similarity to emulate Earth and be close to our hearts. ‘Faraway, yet near.’

 9. Did any major historical figures act as inspiration for Sage’s character?

No. Sage is painted as a character different than anyone who has ever lived. He was born with incredible knowledge already supplanted inside his mind. The rest of us mere mortals came out of the womb naked as jaybirds; in both body and mind – no clothes and no immediate knowledge.

 10. What element did you enjoy writing the most in Trillionist?

I enjoyed each and every attempt to show that our physical universe – and also our spiritual lives – are far more complex than we have ever imagined thus far. In my humble opinion, ‘The Creator or Artisan of our universe used the ultimate in complexity; a complexity marvelously hidden inside of atoms, solar systems, gravities, galaxies, black holes, and the super- power properties of light. Then consider organic life and toss it into the mix. We are just beginning to grasp the wonderment. It was Einstein, and those before him such as Newton and Copernicus (just to mention a few) who unlocked just some of the early secrets. We still have far to go. But, the fun of course is in the journey. My goal is to expand our thought processes as we make that journey.’

 The pen name Sagan Jeffries. Provides the author with a new identity, separated from the curler Ed Lukowich. Ed’s favorite writer was Carl Sagan, so the name Sagan was borrowed. Ed had two teenage cousins by the name of Jeff, so Jeffries is in their memory.

Ed Lukowich Author of futuristic novel by Sagan Jeffries - 'The Trillionist'

Monday, June 9, 2014

Interview With Helen Stringer


We have interviews lined up with a few of our guests and we are starting with Helen Stringer.  Currently her work, Paradigm, is available for FREE download on

What inspired you to write your first book?

It was a bit of a fluke, actually. I was going through some boxes of junk and came across a story I had written some years ago about a boy who lived in a house so big that he lost his parents. It was intended as a picture book, but when I reread it I had the idea to write a collection of stories all set in the same strange town. The first one I thought of was about a girl who could see ghosts, so I started writing. After about 100 pages, I realized it wasn’t going to be a short story! The whole thing just flowed out. I’ve always loved old cemeteries, particularly the ones with gravestones that tell you about the person, so the idea of a girl who could see the people was really appealing.

Do you have a specific writing style?

I write the way I talk, as if I were telling the story out loud. I’m also very visual, which probably comes from my filmmaking background, so I really see the places in my head, which is very helpful when it comes to describing the worlds of my characters.

How did you come up with the title?

Ugh! Titles! The original working title for Spellbinder was The House of Mists. My publisher didn’t like that and suggested Spellbinder, which was fine, but then my UK publisher wasn’t keen, so my agent and I brainstormed some ideas and came up with The Last Ghost. In France it’s Belladonna Johnson Parle Avec Les Morts, which is a bit too literal! My title for the second book in the series was The Queen of the Abyss, which I still love. But the publisher said it sounded like a fantasy novel. Me: Um…it is a fantasy novel. Them: It sounds too much like a fantasy novel. So another brainstorming session led to The Midnight Gate. My latest novel, Paradigm, is self-published, so there was no one to argue with me over that. The word means a pattern or example, and in the book the paradigm device is a kind of machine. I’m not saying any more about that because it’ll get too spoilery!

Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?

There is a message in Paradigm, but I don’t hit readers over the head with it. Many dystopian novels are pretty vague about what led to the collapse of our current civilization, or they go for a single apocalyptic event. But if history teaches us anything, it’s that civilizations fall as the result of a variety of factors and that’s the way it is in Paradigm – it’s how the world might end up if we continue to do nothing.

How much of the book is realistic?

It’s as realistic as I could make it. I think when you’re telling a science fiction or fantasy story, you are already asking your readers to take a leap of imagination with you. When your story is grounded in a recognizable reality, it makes that leap much easier. In Paradigm, the story is set in California. It travels from Los Angeles to San Francisco (up the I-5, a road I have driven a hundred times) and on to Lake Tahoe. Time has changed the places, but there are still elements that are familiar. As to the science, that was easy as my father was a very prominent scientist working in energy research and was always available to answer my questions. Scientists love acronyms almost as much as the military, so he came up with most of those as well. My favourite is Devastation Engineering And Tactical Havoc, Inc.

Are experiences based on someone you know, or events in your own life?

Well, I haven’t actually traveled to the Land of the Dead or lived in a post-collapse America (*grin*), but quite a few of the characters are based on people I know. Being a writer is more than locking yourself away and writing, it’s also about observation. Watching the people around you and trying to understand them, imagining how they feel in certain situations. It’s also about remembering how you felt at a certain age and how you reacted to challenges. In the Spellbinder books, Belladonna and Steve are 12 and 13. It’s been quite a while since I was that age, but I can recall how I felt and why I did some of the things I did. I was the kid in school who was always in trouble and practically everything Steve does in those books is stuff that I did. I usually didn’t get caught – which is just as well!

What books have most influenced your life most?

Ooh…hmm. There are quite a few books that influenced me but that I no longer think are very good. Dune would be a good example of that. I must have read it four times in my early teens, but I picked it up a few years ago and just found it annoying. The same thing applies to the Narnia books. They were tremendously influential, but they’ve dated terribly – particularly in the way Lewis condescends to the reader. You can’t get away with that stuff now. Philip Jose Farmer’s The Green Odyssey was a big influence – I loved the mischievous humour, something that is in everything I write. When I was at school I hated Jane Austen and Dickens, but now I love them both. Austen for the way she can create completely believable characters with only a few words. She never actually describes what anyone looks like, yet the reader can see them as clearly as day. Dickens is the uber-observer. I’ve learned more from his descriptions of places and things than from anyone else. And both Austen and Dickens also wrote with a twinkle in their eye.

If you had to choose, which writer would you consider a mentor?

Ooh, that’s a hard one. I think it would have to be Alan Garner. When I was young, I devoured fantasy stories, but they were always set in London or some world of privilege that I didn’t recognize. But Alan Garner is from Manchester, just up the road from Liverpool, and his books were set in the north west of England in grubby cities with derelict buildings and rotten weather. It was reality, yet magical things still happened.

What book are you reading now?

I’m reading a book on the mythology of Mesopotamia. This makes sense if you’ve read the Spellbinder books, but it also factors into my current project The Gloaming. I’m also reading Catherine Fisher’s Incarceron.

Are there any new authors that have grasped your interest?

Yes. I love John Nelson’s Where Excuses Go To Die, which I didn’t expect to like at all. It’s about his time in prison (he robbed book stores and then moved up to banks before he was finally caught at 24), but is completely different from the usual prison memoir – it’s funny and touching and appalling all at once. Really excellent. I also just finished Julian David Stone’s first novel, Justice Girl, and am really looking forward to the follow-up to that.

What are your current projects?

I’m working on a web series called The Gloaming that combines elements of many of the stories I love. It’s structured like Classic Doctor Who, with six 20 minute episodes, and I’m currently trying to raise funds on Kickstarter so I can get it made. The story combines ghosts, the Land of the Dead, quantum theory, and wormholes. I’m contemplating throwing in the kitchen sink as well.

Name one entity that you feel supported you outside of family members.

That’s easy – one of my co-workers. Back when I started writing Spellbinder I was working at a “boutique” entertainment law firm. One of the lawyers liked almost all the same things as me: Doctor Who, Star Trek, fantasy and scifi books, etc., etc. Once I’d finished the first five chapters I took it into work and asked if he’d mind reading it and letting me know what he thought. He said that he was really busy and had a ton of scripts to read (he mostly represents screenwriters and directors), but that he would be happy to. I thought he wouldn’t get back to me for weeks, but he walked into work the next morning, brandishing the pages, and said, “Would you like me to help you with this?” From that moment, he not only helped me find an agent, he also bugged me constantly for new chapters. I’d started a lot of books and never finished them, but his encouragement and belief really kept me going. He’s my lawyer now and is still a great believer. He was the one who suggested I self-publish Paradigm, and he’s 100% behind The Gloaming as well.

Do you see writing as a career?

Yes, but these days it involves a tremendous amount of work that has nothing to do with the actual writing part. The traditional publishers are struggling and most have drastically cut back on their marketing departments (Macmillan in the UK actually told me “We only promote our A-list writers”), so writers have to take charge of their own publicity and really work to bring their books to the attention of readers.

If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in your latest book?

I wrote eleven drafts of Paradigm, and got a lot of input from a variety of beta-readers on Facebook, so I’m happy with the story. The one thing I would change, though, is that I would buy my own ISBN number and not use one of Amazon’s. Brick and mortar bookshops are boycotting Amazon, and that includes refusing to shelve any authors who use CreateSpace to publish their books. If you buy your own ISBN number from outside Amazon, the stores will accept the books. It’s ridiculous to punish authors for using the only service that many of us can afford, but that’s the way it is and I’ll know better next time!

Do you recall how your interest in writing originated?

I’ve told stories for as long as I can remember. First to my younger sister and then to anyone who would sit still long enough. I wrote stories, plays, films, episodes for my favourite television shows – everything. I also made up stories to scare my sister. My greatest triumph in that particular arena was the genie in the toilet. Heh. I told her that there was a genie that lived in the toilet and if you didn’t flush and get out fast, it would leap out and pull you down. It worked so well that I started believing it myself, with the result that Becky and I spent the best part of a year, racing out of the toilet and slamming the door, before our parents figured out that something was up.

Can you share a little of your current work with us?

Sure! Before I decided to make The Gloaming as a web series it was going to be a book. I wrote this first few chapters of it. Here’s chapter one.

Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing?

The biggest challenge for me was getting back in the swing of writing descriptions. Screenplays don’t include detailed descriptions (it’s actually frowned on), so my early drafts of Spellbinder were very dialogue-heavy. It took a while to figure out the best approach!

Do you have to travel much concerning your book(s)?

I’ve had to travel a bit to promote them. I even organized my own UK book tour for Midnight Gate. I’m planning a road trip on the east coast of America to research the second Paradigm story. I really want to set it in and around New York and Philadelphia, but I don’t know the area well at all. I’m hoping to be able to combine it with some book club and school visits.

Who designed the covers?

Eric Fortune designed the hardback cover for the US edition of Spellbinder. The paperback were designed by David Wyatt. I really love his work. I came up with the concept for the Paradigm cover, but don’t have the PhotoShop skills. In the end, the front cover photograph was taken by Diana Brown, a wonderful photographer who lives in Los Angeles. The back cover photograph is of the paradigm device, which I built. The whole thing was then made amazing by designer Josef Richardson.

What was the hardest part of writing your book?

Revisions are always hard. There’s the euphoria of actually finishing a draft, then the slow realization that it could be better. I always read my books out loud to someone. It’s a great way of proofing, but the responses of whoever is listening is a great help in identifying what does and does not work.

Did you learn anything from writing your book and what was it?

With Paradigm it’s been weird. Because it’s set in a future where people are living with the results of climate change, mass die-offs, and all-powerful corporations, it involved a lot of research and then extrapolation out as to how things might end up. I thought I was writing about things that could happen a hundred or more years in the future, but there are stories in the news almost every day that show that my imaginary future might not be very imaginary at all, and not so far in the future either!

Do you have any advice for other writers?

Make your own rules. There’s tons of stuff out there saying that you should write so many pages a day, write even when you don’t feel like it, write a detailed outline, etc., etc. I think you should figure out what works for you. I never write outlines, I just dive in and go. Once I’ve written a few chapters, I might sketch out what’s coming, but mostly my first drafts are very much “make it up as you go along.” Some days I’ll write screeds, and other days just a few paragraphs, or nothing at all. I do always have the file open on my laptop, so I see it every time I pass. I find that I’m most productive in the earlier part of the day, but I know many people who do their best work at night. (Anything I write at night is destined for the bin the following morning!) I also make playlists for whatever I’m working on. The key is to find what works for you.

Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?

I love talking to readers of my books – I spend big chunks of my day doing just that on Facebook. Often they see things in them that I didn’t realize were there, or ask questions I can’t answer. It’s inspiring and wonderful and many of the people I have met through my books are now good friends. If it wasn’t for fans of Spellbinder and Midnight Gate volunteering to proof and critique the early drafts of Paradigm, the world of Sam Cooper and Alma might never have seen the light of day.

What were the challenges (research, literary, psychological, and logistical) in bringing it to life?

Paradigm involved a lot of research and ploughing through scientific journals. My dad would clip articles and studies and then hand me massive folders whenever I popped around. Getting my head around some of that stuff was hard (although not as hard as getting my head around quantum theory for The Gloaming!). With a book like Paradigm it’s important not to get drawn into explaining things in too much detail, while at the same time understanding the minutiae of how the world you have created works. It was the same with the main characters. Sam is 17, but he’s been surviving on his own since he was 11, so although he is still an ordinary kid in many ways, he’s also savvy and a survivor. Alma is young, too, but she’s a Maori warrior who was raised fighting in the last global conflict. She witnessed her beautiful homeland being turned into a blasted wasteland. Those experiences affected her deeply and her response is to keep her feelings tightly controlled. I want the reader to identify with Sam and Alma, while appreciating the way their experiences have made them who they are. For me, the key to telling a fantasy or scifi story is making sure that the people who inhabit the world I am creating are as real as possible, with feelings and reactions that ring true. If I can do that, then the reader can sit back and just enjoy the ride.

Thank you Helen for taking so much time out to let us know more about you and your work!  Don’t forget to check out her Kickstarter and help get it into production!