Today my guest is MuseItUp science fiction and fantasy writer, James Hartley. While James has several books coming up from MuseItUp Publishing, today, he's talking about his most recent release, Ten Years.
AUTHOR: James Hartley
BOOK TITLE: Ten Years
PUBLISHER: MuseItUp Publishing
BUY LINK: not yet on the MuseItUp bookstore
Please tell us about yourself? I am pretty much retired after spending 40 years in the IT industry. Now I have the time to do what I want, and that most definitely includes writing. I do Speculative Fiction, SciFi and Fantasy. Originally from New Jersey, I now live in sunny central Florida near Orlando with my wife and a swimming pool. I have a daughter and four grandaughters in NY, and a son and granddaughter in OH (and we just went to visit them all!).
Tell us your latest news? Since Ten Years is a story about time travel, I would be remiss in not mentioning Lindsay Below's "August Science Fest." I did a piece for her on "Time and Time Travel" covering a lot of the alternate ways time travel has been handled in the Science Fiction field. This was posted on August 22 at http://lbelow.blogspot.com/2011/08/time-and-time-travel.html. I have always been interested in time travel as a sub-genre of SF, and have written a number of stories about it in addition to Ten Years.
When and why did you begin writing? My first attempt at writing was at age 11, when I had the nerve to submit a story, single spaced on both side of a single sheet of paper, to the most prestigious SF magazine in the field. Rejected, of course. I've done some writing off and on since, including tech writing for my job and schoolwork, but I finally got serious about it five years ago. As to why, it would be hard to not be a writer. I've always had stories and ideas floating around in my head, it's just getting them down on paper.
When did you first consider yourself a writer? Like I said, I have always been a writer. But I guess I became a serious writer, an aspiring professional, about five years ago.
What inspired you to write your first book? My first book-length work was inspired by a song, the 1960 pop song "Teen Angel." Incidentally, a revised version of that book is scheduled to come out from Muse in January 2012.
Are experiences based on someone you know, or events in your own life? (Has anyone ever realized it?) Only a few of my stories have anything autobiographical in them, at least anything significant. Of course, I throw in some little stuff, like having my characters driving Mazda Miatas (guess what I drive?). One story I did, "Remembrance of Things Past," is very autobiographical, but that's the exception.
What books have most influenced your life most? This is a hard one to answer. I grew up starting on Oz books, and then moved to the Science Fiction of the late 40's and the 50's. I guess I was most influenced by authors like Heinlein, Asimov, "Doc" Smith, and the others of that era.
What book are you reading now? What do you like, or not, about it? My wife likes mysteries, so we always have a pile of those from the library around, and I sometimes pick one up and read it (I usually go for "cozies"). Right now, I have Mobbed by Carol Higgins Clark, and it seems pretty good. I just finished one a week or so ago that I was chomping at the bit waiting for, Smoking Seventeen by Janet Evanovitch ... man, I really love those Stephanie Plum books.
What are your current projects? Right now I have two major WIPs. One, Magic to the Rescue, is a sequel to Magic Is Faster Than Light but set about 200 years later. The other is Princess on a Quest, a Swords and Sorceress work. And of course every once in a while an idea for a short story will pop up and insist on being written.
If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in your latest book? I think Ten Years came out OK. I don't think it needs anything. Of course, one always has second thoughts when a book comes out ... what if ... One book, I'm not going to tell you which one, has a glaring error in it, but that's OK, because I figure in a sequel I can blame the mistake on one of the characters, rather than admit it was me that made it!
Do you recall how your interest in writing originated? Originated? As far as I know it was always there ... daydreams and fantasies before I could write. Even back in grade school I was likely to be wandering around daydreaming rather than playing in games with my schoolmates.
Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing? I write what occurs to me, what I want to write, what pops up in my mind. In general I don't write to a market, except an occasional themed contest. But it is nice being able to sell and publish the stories, and sometimes the challenge is finding an editor who agrees with me that a particular work is a great story (everything I write is a great story according to me). So if a story doesn't sell, I just send it somewhere else.
Do you ever have problems with writers block? If so how do you get through it? Yes, that happens. I find the best way to handle it is to go do something else. If it's just a little problem, a few games on the computer may be enough. Sometimes I just go work on a different story for a while, and let my subconscious work around the block. Eventually things work out.
What do you do when you’re not writing/editing or thinking about writing/editing? I read a lot, mysteries and re-reading old SF favorites. I also watch stupid movies ... my wife says the stuff I watch is total trash. Things like Hamburger: the Motion Picture, Stewardess School, The Stupids, Flash Gordon Conquers the Universe, or Down Periscope. Not exactly Oscar material, but it relaxes me, and I enjoy it.
Who is your favorite author and what is it that really strikes you about their work? It is very hard to pin down one author. The ones I mentioned earlier, Heinlein, Asimov, "Doc" Smith, are probably tops in the SF field, and there are few who come up to their standards today. For Fantasy, Tolkien and J.K. Rowling. And in mysteries, which I have been reading more of lately, Janet Evanovitch, Joan Hess, and Donald Westlake, all of whom manage to combine murder with humor, which for some reason I find I enjoy.
What was the hardest part of writing your book? The concept for this book ultimately sprung from the movie they were watching and who starred in it (no, I'm not going to tell you, read the book!). This was an idea I had floating around for a very long time. Finding a way to use this took a lot of thinking, but eventually it shaped up and I wrote the story.
Do you have any advice for other writers? First, keep writing - those stories don't do any good floating around in your head, get them down on paper (or computer disk or whatever). Second, keep submitting the stories. Sure, you'll get rejections, enough to paper the walls of your office. But sooner or later you'll send the right story to the right editor, and it will get published. Hey, looking at my records, I have 82 pieces published (and a few more accepted and waiting) but it took over 1100 submissions to get there - persistence is a virtue. Oh, a couple of other pieces of advice: don't pay reading fees, don't pay contest entry fees, and don't submit to markets that want paper manuscripts (the postage costs too much).
Who is your publisher and how did you connect with them? My primary publisher is MuseItUp Publishing, and getting there was a piece of fantastic good luck. I was just getting ready to submit a manuscript, book length rather than the short stories I had been doing, when Lea opened the doors and showed up in Duotrope. It looked good, so I sent the story (The Ghost of Grover's Ridge) and it was accepted. I had another story (Magic Is Faster Than Light) almost ready, so I finished that one up and sent it, and it too was accepted. But don't think that Lea will take just anything, I have gotten rejections from her, she wants quality! Of course I do have stories in anthologies, e-zines, magazines, and one or two short pieces with other e-book publishers, too.
How can we find you? Website, Facebook, Twitter, blog, etc. - please share your public links. My website is at http://teenangel.netfirms.com, and I have a blog at http://jameshartleyauthor.blogspot.com/
Ten Years (excerpt )
by James Hartley
When Peter pressed the switch, everything went dark. Then, as his eyes became adjusted to the darkness, he realized he could see a few things, like the luminous dial on his watch, and, if he twisted his neck a bit, the pilot light on the time machine itself.
As suddenly as it had appeared, the blackness vanished again, and Peter was standing in the lab, but a totally changed lab. It was deserted, and looked like it had been for a long time. There was dust all over everything, what little equipment remained was rusting and broken. Most of the window panes had been shattered. Peter looked around, a cold sick feeling arising in the pit of his stomach. This was not just a single day later.
A quick check of the lab didn't turn up anything useful. The office outside had a faded 2015 calendar on the wall. 2015, he thought, that shows I moved at least two years, and that calendar is anything but new. The office, and several others down the hall, were all deserted, abandoned. He reached the front door and looked out. In front of the building, where Mr. Carlson's prized lawn had been, was a jungle of weeds.
Peter pushed the door open, and there was the sudden clangor of an alarm. Great, he thought, only one thing is still working and it has to be the alarm. He continued out the door and down the path to the parking lot, only to discover that he was fenced in by a tall cyclone fence that had not been there when he started his trip. There was a gate, and he tugged at it, but it was firmly locked. It looked like it wasn't going to matter, several police cars were screaming into view, lights flashing. He stood by the gate and waited.
The first cop to arrive at the gate looked him over, then asked, "Okay, buddy, how the hell did you get in there?"
"I work here, officer. I was running an experiment in the lab, and I seem to have stayed a little longer than expected. Could you please let me out?"
"You work there? Come off it. Nobody has worked there for years, not since the place went bankrupt. Yeah, we'll let you out, and then we'll give you a nice little ride. Straight to the station house."
Another cop came hurrying up with a set of keys, and soon had the gate open. True to his word, the first cop hustled Peter over to a squad car after a quick frisk, and shoved him in the back. "You behave yourself, and we won't have to handcuff you," he said, "but if you give us any trouble, well, you ain't gonna like it. By the way," he said as he slid behind the wheel and started up, "what's in the backpack?"
Uh- oh, said Peter to himself, I have a feeling that telling him it's a time machine might not be the best idea. He thought quickly, then said, "It's some experimental scientific equipment, officer, a, er, a temporal displacement generator. The, ah, calibration was off, that's how I got in there."
"Oh. Yeah. A temporary thingie. If it got you in there, how come you couldn't get out?"
"Once I saw the calibration was off, I was afraid to try it again. Who knows where I would have ended up?"
"Sounds sensible. You just explain all that to the Lieutenant, and you're maybe not in too much trouble." He lapsed into silence for the rest of the drive.
Ten Years (synopsis)
by James Hartley
Peter Ingraham was sitting on a park bench, upset at a newspaper that was dated June 11, 2023, ten years later than it should have been.
* * * *
Peter and Hansen were already celebrating in the lab when their boss Mr. Carlson showed up. They explained the time machine, and how it fit in a backpack. They told him that Peter was going to demonstrate it, going one day into the future.
Peter adjusted the bias control, put on the pack, pushed the switch, and vanished.
The next day Carlson and Hansen were there with reporters, but Peter Ingraham failed to appear. Three hours later he had still not appeared and the reporters left.
The next day, Peter Ingraham had still not shown up, and his wife, Jennifer, was having hysterics and threatening to sue Carlson for kidnapping.
* * * *
When Peter pressed the switch, everything went dark for a short time, then he found himself in s strangely altered lab. Everything was old and ruined, and there was a 2023 calendar. He left the lab setting off an alarm, but was stymied by a fence across the front gate. Soon the cops arrived and took him to the station. They told him Carltronics had been bankrupt and closed for years.
He was questioned by a Lt. Keller and finally admitted that his backpack was a time machine. Keller looked at his old ID and the fingerprints of a man supposedly dead for ten years and, being a science fiction fan, believed him. He let Peter go with some helpful advice.
Peter went to the house where he use to live. Jennifer opened the door, but told him that he had been declared dead, and she had married his old best friend, Ted Benson.
Ted and Jennifer let him stay, sleeping on the living room sofa. He stayed for several weeks, but gradually began to notice things that weren't right. Ted, and Peter's son Petey who was a real baseball fan, insisted that new teams had joined the major leagues even before Peter took his time trip, and that the U.S. presidents back then had not been the same as he remembered.
Finally he figured out that there were multiple time lines, and rather than moving ahead ten years he had jumped to a line that was advanced ten years from the one he left.
Getting Lt. Keller to let him back into the deserted Carltronics lab, he adjusted the bias control and jumped again. He arrived in the lab three weeks after he had left and everything seemed normal.
Normal, until that weekend he and Jennifer watched a video of My Fair Lady and he saw Julie Andrews starring instead of Adrey Hepburn. Monday he went back to work and tried to figure out what to do. He was in a world that wasn't his, but it was pretty close. Should he try for a better one and probably end up worse? He pictured a multitude of Peter Ingrahams hopping from timeline to timeline, each trying to get home.
Finally he came to a decision. This world was good, almost identical to "his" world, chances of finding a better one were slim. He got up and walked over to the tool cabinet. He selected a small sledge hammer, and headed back toward the time machine.