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Monday, March 07, 2011

Interview - John Bushore

John Bushore writes a variety of genres. I reviewed one of his releases, "Prisoners of Gender," and thought it was a blast (read my review here). I also loved "Friends in Dark Places," published through Sam's Dot Publishing (read my review here). He has a few other books either already out there (links will follow) and a brand-new release from Damnation Books today!

Thank you for joining us today, John. Before we begin, please tell our readers where they can find you and can I have a picture of you in your pirate outfit?

So you’ve heard about MonkeyJohn the Pirate, have you? I work for a public school system and, for the last few years, I’ve volunteered to read Dr. Seuss to grade school children on National Reading Day, which happens to be today. So that’s how I spent my morning, reading GREEN EGGS AND HAM, replete with “arrghs” and other pirate talk. I did seven classrooms today and had a great deal of fun, despite the sore throat.

Your readers can find me at my site (there’s even pictures of my pirate outfit) or at my blog I don’t blog about writing, though; it’s all about my life on a few acres at the edge of the Great Dismal Swamp. But the blog’s been taken over by a four-legged blogger. The name’s Cocker. James Cocker, secret agent P-double-o-P.

I know you've got a couple of new releases. Would you tell everyone a bit about your books including the buy links?

Well, February, Black History Month, saw the publication of my new slavery/historical novel, “…AND REMEMBER THAT I AM A MAN.” Based on the 1843 NARRATIVE OF THE LIFE OF MOSES GRANDY, it explores the cultural, religious and economic pressures allowing slavery to endure in a new nation that promises justice for all, yet allows states to practice slavery.

The mid-grade novel, BOY IN CHAINS, is also available. It’s pretty hard for a teen today to imagine life without computers, video games, electricity and indoor plumbing. But things could be worse. How about being born into slavery? In his teen years, Moses is hired out yearly and experiences both kindly and cruel masters, forging his character and his faith in God, which he will need to fight against slavery.

And then there’s WOLFWRAITH, a paranormal/suspense novel being published by Damnation Books this month. And let me state clearly that, despite the cover, it’s NOT a werewolf novel, but a mystery that combines an exotic location – False Cape State Park on the coast of Virginia– with Native American mysticism, shipwreck legends and Pre-Colonial witches. I volunteered in this wilderness park (where visitors must hike or bike in) a few years back and it has enough “spooky” stuff to make anyone think twice about camping there.

All of my books are available at Amazon. Links are provided below.


"...and Remember that I Am a Man." Where did the concept for the book come about? How long did it take you to finish, from concept to final product?

Years ago, I was researching the Great Dismal Swamp for a location to set a short story. I came across the 1843 Narrative of the Life of Moses Grandy, which fascinated me. I asked around at the school system where I work, and there was little knowledge of his story, even among local black history teachers. I began researching more local history and eventually decided to write a “mid-grade” novel about Grandy’s youth for students. It grew into a 135,000 word fictional autobiography that took 6 years of research and three years writing and re-writing. The title is from a Frederick Douglass quote. I couldn’t get any agents interested and finally decided to publish it myself, using Amazon’s CreateSpace, so I could at least get local distribution. Along with “Remember,” I brought out the original mid-grade novel, Boy in Chains.

Wolfwraith: I wrote Wolfwraith several years ago as a personal challenge. Could I take a locale that I was familiar with and create an interesting story-line? At the time, I volunteered at a remote park, five miles from the nearest road. There were wild horses, feral pigs, weathered cemeteries, the remains of an old church, and plenty of legends and shipwreck lore. The park was named False Cape because the early inhabitants would use torches to imitate the lighthouses that marked the entrance to the Chesapeake Bay. Many captains were fooled into running their ships aground, where their cargoes were “salvaged.” This is how I got interested in Virginia history and I think I came up with a damned good story that will make you think twice about going camping in the wilderness.

The Prisoners of Gender: While I was working on “…and Remember that I Am a Man.”, I needed a break since writing about misery can be pretty bleak. I came up with the idea of writing a bawdy romance spoof where a wizard switches the personalities of a man and a woman. In it, they learn that sexual preferences aren’t as importance as feelings. To my surprise, I got a response from the transgender community. I was called a hack and taken to task for not including “Cartesian Dualism,” whatever the hell that is.

Name a few writers who have influenced your writing and why.

I have to say James Michener, first of all. He managed to take regional history and bring it to life. As a young man, he managed to take me to times and places that made history interesting.

Robert A. Heinlein was a favorite because he brought characters to life. Sometimes the same character was brought BACK to life. His dialogue always sparkled and made you feel like you knew the people in his novels and stories.

Do you have any favorite place where you feel your Muse is more apt to come and play while you write? Or perhaps you listen to music? If so, what do you listen to?

My muse never shuts up. Unfortunately, sometimes, my mouth has the same problem. Part of my job includes local travel between schools and I rarely listen to music while driving. I write and re-write scenes in my head, so when I sit down at the keyboard, it just flows out. I hope I haven’t run over anyone’s pet on the road, because I’d probably not even notice.

Do you have any new projects you're working on at present? If so, what are they?

I rarely have time to write lately because of all the promotion and production involved in bringing 3 novels out in 2 months, which was totally unplanned. But…

I’m hoping to soon bring out an anthology of The Spacemonkey Adventures, which were published in Beyond Centauri magazine. So far, however, I haven’t found an artist to add some color to the stories. I’m also working on a Vietnam war/romance novel, The Summer of Love, but I bog down whenever I write a scene that I actually was part of – and I don’t mean sex scenes, either. It’s just that some of the stuff that REALLY happens in the military is a bit hard to believe.

And the sequel to Wolfwraith, titled Wendigo is about halfway done. I set it aside for a while because I felt like I was wasting time writing a sequel to a work that hadn’t been published. Like I mentioned with the muse, it’s all in my head, just have to put it down.

What tip would you offer to a new writer who is just beginning their submission journey?

Make sure your manuscript and query letter, etc. are in top-notch shape in regards to spelling, grammar and punctuation, dialogue, characterization, plotting and a zillion other things. If you’re not sure, join a writing or critique group or even pay for proofreading. Honest critique is the most valuable thing a writer could with for.

Having said that however, sometimes it’s not HOW you write, but WHAT you write. While I was querying a series of 40 agents for my historical novel, my 23-year-old daughter queried 10 for a young adult romance. I got zero interest, she had 3 agents CALL her within a week. Most agents take what they think is hot. If I’d written my novel soon after Alex Hailey’s Roots came out, I think the tables would be turned. Just so I don’t leave anyone wondering, my daughter signed with a top agent and she’s had interest from publishers, but no contract yet.

If you'd like to add anything, please do so.

Marva, haven’t you learned yet not to ask me an open-ended question? Like I said earlier, I never shut up. Let me just say that, whether dressed like a pirate or not, I can make any woman in my school system hot. Have I mentioned I control all the thermostats?

How about an excerpt or two to tantalize the readers?

Or bore them to death? Writers always take that chance. Here’s something from Wolfwraith:

Alex cut the engine back to idle as they nosed into the marsh grass. Once in position, he steadied the boat with an oar while they considered their find.

“What now?” asked Shadow, feeling uneasy. “Do we leave her so they can get pictures or anything?”

He hoped it would be the case. He'd seen plenty of bodies in his time, but none had been a young woman and he hadn't had to pull them out of a bay. Or maybe the rocking of the boat was throwing his stomach into a cauldron of nausea.

“No, we’ll take her in. It’s obviously nothing more than a drowning.” Alex pushed the boat closer with the oar. “Can you handle it?”

“Yeah, of course.”

Shadow reached out and grabbed the dainty arm with his right hand. Bile rose in his throat at the unnatural coldness of no-longer-quite-human-feeling skin and the sponginess of slack muscles beneath. The corpse emitted no strong odor, but the rotted-fish stench of the tidal marsh, which Shadow normally didn’t even notice, clogged his nostrils. The putt-putting of the idling outboard motor seemed far away, but the reek of the engine’s oily exhaust seared the tissue inside his nose.

He sensed something else, too. His inner soul responded as he touched the cold, dead wrist. He had once shocked himself with a faulty extension cord and this cold feeling was the spiritual equivalent of that physical electrical shock—a shiver of dread whispering its way up his arm. The knowledge of evil having recently been here was intangible, but undeniable. He’d sometimes been present when his grandmother Min had called upon ancient spirits, even though she worshipped alongside her husband at the Baptist church. Now, many years later, he recognized the presence of something not of this world.

Ignoring his emotional turmoil, he concentrated on the job at hand and applied a steady pressure while he pulled the arm closer to the boat. Her brown hair floated in the water, undulating with the waves. Leaning over the gunwale, he switched and grabbed the arm with the claw and reached his clumsy right hand down into the frigid water, searching around for a grip to pull the body up. By accident, he went down into her shirt and under her bra. Suddenly, to his surprise, he cupped a breast in an obscene parody of a teen-age grope.

"He's a pervert you honor. Who knows what more would have happened if I hadn't come in?"

* * *
And here’s the opening of  "...and Remember that I Am a Man."

Chapter One
In the Great Dismal—1792 A.D.

My name is Moses Grandy: I was born in Camden County, North Carolina. I believe I am fifty-six years old. Slaves seldom know exactly how old they are: neither they nor their masters set down the time of a birth; the slaves, because they are not allowed to write or read; and the masters, because they only care to know what slaves belong to them.

The master, Billy Grandy, whose slave I was born, was a hard-drinking man: he sold away many slaves. I remember four sisters and four brothers; my mother had more children, but they were dead or sold away before I can remember. I was the youngest. I remember well my mother often hid us all in the woods, to prevent master selling us.

The Life of Moses Grandy—1843 A.D.

Rebecca looked nervously over her shoulder. Last year, the first time she'd run to the swamp with her children, he'd let her get away with it, but he'd warned her not to try it again, threatening the whip.

A scrawny black woman with close-cut, wiry hair, Rebecca had no idea how old she was, but she'd born thirteen children, counting the two who'd not lived. Her drab, faded dress was of rough hemp. Her feet were bare. She carried a bundle, wrapped in an old blanket.

The Great Dismal Swamp surrounded Rebecca and her family like a damp, steamy section of Hell. The day was growing hot for early summer. As they walked, juniper, gum, and maple trees towered above. Sunlight streamed down on a vast, nearby marsh pond. Baldcypress trees grew directly out of the pond, spaced out like they couldn't stand being close to one another. At the base of each tree, roots jutted from the water like jagged teeth set to protect its privacy. Many were old trees, dead and leafless, their branches emerging like skeletal fingers from behind curtains of hanging moss.

The surface of the water rippled as fish fed on floating insects, causing expanding circles of tiny waves. Near the middle of the pool, the v-shaped wake of a swimming water moccasin moved along, only the snake's head visible. Large turtles watched from fallen logs as the humans passed. Every once in a while, Rebecca would see small birds flitting about in the bushes, but the birds never chirped, as though pleasant sounds were forbidden in the swamp. The world under the trees was eerily silent except for the sucking sounds of footsteps as she and the children followed a faint path through the mire. The dank smell of a primeval world rose about them.

She had awakened the children in the middle of the night and got them started well before dawn. They'd sneaked silently out of the Grandy slave quarters. By daybreak, they'd crossed the fields and entered the swamp.

Benjamin, the oldest child, led the way. He carefully kept to the faint trail they'd used last year when hiding out. Behind him, from oldest to youngest, came Mary, Tamar, Malachai, June, Jebediah and little Moses.

Shortly after entering the swamp, Rebecca had rubbed pawpaw leaves over the children to keep mosquitoes off. It had worked for long enough. By the time the protective coating had been washed off by sweat, the mosquitoes had disappeared, gone into the shady leaves to wait out the heat of the day. But then the biting flies had showed up and she didn't know of any plant remedy to keep those pests away. Soon the children were swatting at piercing bites, ten times worse than the puny stings of mosquitoes. Each puncture mark soon swelled to a lump the size of a half-penny.

The older children didn't complain. Slave children learned to suffer silently. Not the two littlest ones, though, not yet.

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