Monday, August 24, 2015

PJ Lamphear , Eme: The Protocol

AUTHOR: PJ Lamphear  
GENRE: Soft Science Fiction…more techno fiction, although that’s not a known genre…YET!
PUBLISHER: Create Space

1.     Please tell us about yourself.

I am the author of a soft science fiction series (Eme), a screenplay (Beneath Shamaroon), the developer of several classroom programs: Messy Math, a program that had my 2nd graders off their fingers and through division facts, in ten minutes a day, by the end of the term; It Takes a Village to Teach a Child, or how I survived in a capitalist classroom; and Spelling by the Numbers, a systematic approach to spelling.

Besides my writing hobby, I spend time volunteering at school and church, and am slowly immersing myself in the exhausting world of Social Networking. (Actually, a friend threw me in head first, and I’m slowly drowning.)

I am the proud mother of four beautiful and wildly successful adults and grandmother to seven adorable and brilliant children. A native Californian, I was raised in the gorgeous Napa Valley, graduating with the Napa High Class of '61. After four years of education and art classes at Chico State, I received my BA and teaching credential and was hired as a classroom teacher in the Fairfield/Suisun Unified School District where I taught for over thirty years. After retiring in 1999, the stock market retired our retirement account, so my husband and I returned to my former school and taught fourth grade for another three years, next door to one another. We had a great time; he was commander of Seabee City, and I was head fowl in Ducky Village—we were the birds and bees of Suisun Elementary.

When we re-retired, my husband, two dogs, and I finally escaped the summer heat of the Central Valley to bask in the fog and rain of the Oregon Coast. Great writing weather! Throw in a view of the ocean, and…well, it’s almost perfect—I just need to convince my family to escape California and join us!

My Motto: Writing, like Life, is a road trip, best experienced at full throttle, shifting gears before steep hills and sharp turns, braking only at The End.

2.     Please tell us your latest news.

Eme: the Protocol was published by Create Space in 2013. I recently finished Eme: Swiss Family Fugitives which I will publish as soon as I finish Eme: And Now it’s Tomorrow—I don’t want to box myself in, just in case my Muse, Hijack, leads me astray of what I’ve already written in Book 2. Seriously, Eme is nothing like I originally imagined; Hijack commandeered my keyboard, and I just sat back and enjoyed the ride! When she’s not onboard, I’m dead in the water.

3.     Are you a full-time writer or part-time, and how do you organize your writing time?

I’m a part-time writer and full-time procrastinator. Setting a word-count goal worked for a while, but I think I’m too rebellious; I hate schedules now that I’m retired. In a way, I wish I had a collaborator who could keep me on track.

4.     When and why did you begin writing? And what inspired you to write your first book.

The year before I retired from Ducky Village, the name of my capitalist classroom, I looped my entire second grade class to third grade. We hit the ground, running; they knew me, I knew them, and, since we were already authors (we collaborated on two fairytales the previous year), I taught them how to write news stories. We produced a classroom newsletter: Duck Tales from The Village which we entered into a contest sponsored by Kellogg and Scholastic. Since we were really into investing in the stock market with our Ducky Bucks, the prize of a class trip to NY City, and the New York Stock Exchange, was enticing. (No, all we won were Kellogg’s cereal bowls.) Anyway, our resident artist, Tony Nguyen, suggested we add a comic strip to the newsletter. Since it was 1999, and Y2K was the buzz, the kids came up with this cartoon: A duck is sitting at the computer at one minute to the new millennium, as depicted with a clock and calendar over the computer. Another duck is standing in the doorway, asking, “Aren’t you afraid to be working on the computer? Look at the time!” Computer duck asks, “What could possible happen?” Last frame of the cartoon shows his little duck butt disappearing through the computer monitor.

I then asked the kids if they would like to travel by e-mail, and we spent a few minutes speculating about how that might be possible. The name, E-me, popped into my head and wouldn’t leave me alone; however, it took me ten years to actually sit down and write the story—a story that was nothing like I imagined for all those years; it was hijacked by my Muse. Instead of computer genius Eme and her teenage friends finding CIA agents emailing themselves in the basement of an abandoned neighborhood house, Hijack decided that Eme was the daughter of famous movie stars.

Seriously, I have no other explanation for how this story unfolded the way it did, except to say that it was hijacked! Now, the set-up for the story:

Because Eme’s twin sister was lost during the 9/11 attack on the World Trade Center, her parents keep Eme shielded from the paparazzi and other unknown entities. To escape her “prison,” her great-grandmother helps Eme concoct a wild scheme that eventually finds Eme Venture on a plane bound for a renowned Swiss Technical Summer School.

Because a message from the future prompts the designer of an e-mail protocol to rename his program, Venture: Eme, Eme is kidnapped by two Rogue CIA agents. Gunter Dexter and his partner had the computer programmer under surveillance for many years, waiting for him to complete this program which digitizes solid objects, allowing them to pass through a hologram port of the computer and travel as emails. When Gun learns that Eme Venture is on the plane bound for Switzerland, he panics, orders the plane down in Bermuda during a hurricane, and takes her prisoner. Murder and mayhem ensue when the teens rescue Eme and the Venture: Eme designer through the protocol. They race through cyberspace to keep the programmer and his protocol out of the hands of terrorists and world governments, while they try to determine what happened in the future to end the world and how to keep the same thing from happening again.

5.     What do you do when you’re not writing/editing or thinking about writing/editing?

I’m an incurable Potterhead! My students talked me into featuring The Sorcerer’s Stone in our Literature Circle, and I was hooked.

After I retired and reread all the HP books for the fourth time, I discovered fan fiction. My all-time favorite HP fan fiction story is “Nightmares of Futures Past” by Matthew Shocke. Since it takes him so long to update, I have fun rereading it while I do my own personal editing—you can take the teacher out of the classroom, but you’ll never pry the red pen from her cold, dead hand! I thought about writing my own HP fan fiction; however, Eme is always in the back of my mind.

5.     What are your thoughts about promotion?

After I win the lottery, I will promote Eme. Until that happens, it will languish on Amazon. Actually, I have been doing some promoting on social media, to little avail.

    6. What was the toughest criticism given to you? What was the biggest compliment?

Toughest review was 3 stars… “There’s no sex...”
Greatest compliment was 5 stars… “As a fan of dystopian fiction, I try many new authors. I can honestly say this book is one of the best, if not the best start of a series I have read in a long time.”

7.     Did those change how or what you did in your next novel?

Yes, I added a fairly steamy scene to book 2—two of the parents of one of my teenage protagonists get stuck in a traffic jam during a hurricane, and... Well, my husband thought I went overboard with the sex in a YA novel, so I cut it! Darn, it was good, too! J

8.     Do you ever have writer’s block? If so, how do you get through it?

Oh, yes, I certainly do get writer’s block. When Hijack escapes to her favorite bar in the Outback, I am scre…er, sunk! I find this especially true when I’m in edit-mode. Since creative writing takes right brain engagement, and editing is a more analytical, left brain task, I suppose it makes sense…at least for me. Since I have trouble focusing, I have a routine that works fairly well. When I was a kid, I set my alarm for 4 a.m. to get my homework done…any distraction kept me from focusing. Now, with noise-canceling headsets, I plug them in, turn on my Brain Wave Generator program, set it to “Creative Increase,” turn on my “Focus for Clarity” program by Mozart, and let Hijack take me away.

9.     Who is your publisher and how did you connect with them?

I gave up trying to find an agent, and I uploaded everything to Create Space. I will probably do the same with the rest of the series.

10.  What do you hope your readers will take away from this book?

I hope that readers will enjoy the ride through cyberspace with the teens and their families. Reading about the resourcefulness of the teens as they triumph over evil while having fun saving the world from destruction is inspirational. Even though the readers would never find themselves in this exact situation, the underlying theme of perseverance and friendship may be encouraging if they are ever faced with adversity.

11.  What was the process of creating this book from the first idea to the final published book?

This isn’t true for everyone, but it is for me, an unfocused/ADD writer. A friend once chided me for editing while I write, and he was right. As I said before, if you’re writer, your right brain should stay fully engaged, and if you switch into edit mode, it can take you from the right side of your brain to the left side, consequently quelling the creative drive. An outline can do much the same. So, I let the creative juices lead the way. Once the rough draft is complete, it’s time for me to fill in the holes and tighten up the prose.

12. What was the hardest part of writing your book?

The hardest part of writing Eme was making up my mind that the creative process is not a Dementor. Once I sat down and started typing, my muse did the rest. Seriously, the writer’s subconscious is the best creator—give it a go and have fun.

13. Do you outline before you write?  If not, what’s your initial process?
What comes first: the plot or characters?

In this case, the character and the plot were simultaneous. What if you could travel by email? Eme. They went together like mac and cheese!

14. Which characters were the hardest to develop and why?

Rafe was difficult. I fashioned him after a computer hacker by the name of Damien Spinelli on General Hospital…my favorite soap opera. His hacker name was The Jackal, and he loved quoting Shakespeare and speaking in the third person. I made Rafe a bit more roguish and romantic, but just as ingenious. Since I’m neither a computer nor a Shakespearean expert, I had to put in many hours of research to pull off a believable story.

15. How did you decide how your characters should look?

I loved Ginny Weasley, in the HP series and just had to make Eme a redhead. Rafe needed to look like Romeo with long wavy black hair and blue eyes. No looks like my first boyfriend…tall, blond, athletic, and sarcastic.  Kala, who is part Aboriginal, had to come from Australia. She is blonde, amber-skinned, heavy-set, and has a photographic memory. There is a lot more to Kala’s family history that will be revealed in the third book.

16. Do you have any tips for writers who are new to children’s literature?

My best advice to future children’s writers is to first remember why they liked their favorite childhood books. Was it the characters? The plot? The setting? Borrow some of the elements and come up with a wild idea that starts out: “What if a boy/girl/antelope/mosquito/robot, etc. wanted to…” Once they have the basic plan, they should sit down at the computer, and let Hijack do the rest!

1.     What do you do when you’re not writing?


2.     What do you look for in a book when you sit down to read for fun?

I want something to take me to a place I’ve never been to before. That’s what drew me to Harry Potter. The idea of attending a boarding school has always intrigued me. Too bad they aren’t mandatory here in the US; it would take kids out of their safe or not-so-safe environments. All kids would be on an even keel in a new environment. I also have a curriculum in mind: Along with the basic educational requirements, the kids would learn physical training, personal economics, household skills, auto mechanics, a hobby, child rearing, sensitivity training, pet care and training, and the importance of community volunteer work. It would never happen here—too costly. But think of the problems that could be solved!

3.     What, if anything, bugs you when you read a novel?

The indiscriminate use of the past perfect tense really bothers me; also, authors of series who take 17 books to tell a three-book story. That’s not an exaggeration either…I just finished such a series.

4.     What book are you currently reading? What do you like or not like about it?

I’m not in reading-mode at the moment; I’m still reeling from the last series mentioned above.

5.     What books have most influenced your life?

I read The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand when I was in the eighth grade and decided I wanted to be an architect. I signed up for a drafting class in ninth grade. Since I was the only girl, I really believed I was on to something. Then, when I told my counselor what college major I was set on, he looked at my math and art grades and told me that I’d build beautiful buildings, but they’d all fall down. So, I majored in elementary education. My father was furious. His comment: Them that can, do; them that can’t, teach. Thankfully, I didn’t listen to him; I really enjoyed all of the years I spent teaching children.

6.     What seven words would you use to describe yourself?

Pam is: personable, patient, patriotic, polite, passionate, playful, and a procrastinator.

7.     Describe your writing space.

I love my new office that overlooks the Pacific Ocean...especially on stormy days, as long as the power doesn’t fail.

8.     What has been your favorite part of being an author? What has been your least favorite?

My characters are like my imaginary family. Their lives are in my hands, and their happiness or misery depends on my mood. That’s a weird feeling. But it’s also very satisfying to deliver them safely to the last page. Also, it’s true what they say: Never anger an author; a writer will name a character after you then immortalize you by killing that character gruesomely, lingeringly, before millions of readers. (It's very satisfying.)

My least favorite part of being an author is my undisciplined writing habits. When I set a schedule or a word-count goal, I’m pretty good at looking for an activity or chore that interferes with that schedule. Maybe I haven’t outgrown my rebellious teen years.

9.     What was your most embarrassing moment as an author?

I think I’m the only author who has misspelled her granddaughter’s name…seven times. Her name is Shae and I spelled it Shea. My daughter wasn’t amused when she read my rough draft.

Thanks, Penny, for interviewing me. Putting all the answers to your questions on paper was very enlightening (for me) and very cathartic!

Most of us receive and send emails every day; however, have you ever wondered: what if it were possible to send and receive solid objects by email? Would your spam filter stop unwanted cyber-terrorists, cyber-bombs

1 comment:

  1. I have to admire anyone who enjoys teaching children for thirty years!

    Sounds like some good books!