Thursday, June 14, 2012

Guest Blogger Graeme Smith

Today I delighted to introduce to you a most witty fellow indeed, and a clever author. His name is Graeme Smith, and he is not only going to talk about his new release, A Comedy of Terrors, he is going to answer my infamous Rick Reed questions. While he and I enjoy a libation at a local place he told me of, I'll let him start with the questions. Oh, and later on, pay attention, there'll be a contest!

The Questions
1)      You’re marooned on a small island with one person and one item of your choice—who is that person and what item do you have?
Hmmm. Can I have a solar powered computer with a satellite Internet connection? Then I might actually get a chance to _write_! In which case, the ‘other person’ becomes moot :-). Setting aside satellite links (and Star Trek transporters – I might _like_ my island!), I’ll not trouble my wife – she’s safer in civilisation. I’ll leave behind Captain Nemo and the Nautilus, and I’ll have Sandy (from ‘A comedy of Terrors’). Why? Well, who wouldn’t want a talking dragon? And the item? An umbrella. One of those where the material has all torn away, and only the spines remain. It won’t keep off the rain, nor the sun. So it’s probably a good metaphor for life. Now. Where’s that solar powered, satellite linked computer? :-).

2)      Which musical would you say best exemplifies your life – and which character in that musical are you?
Well, my step-father plays the trombone in a jazz band – and I’m really easy to push around. Or pull… But I don’t think it’s the trombone. I could be a keyboard – but too many people know my buttons already :-P. And when you write, ‘keyboard’ can get confusing. I’d love to be a saxophone, because I think it has one of the best emotional ranges of any instrument. So if I may, I’ll be a saxophone. And at this point, I’ll realise you said ‘musical’ and I read ‘instrument – so I’ll start over (blushes). For a musical? I’ll take ‘Fiddler on the Roof’. I’ve moved around a lot, sometimes by choice, sometimes sent like an errant ball on a pool table. And, if I may, I’ll be, not Tevye, but the character seen in the opening (or closing – I forget) credits. The anonymous fiddler, sawing his strings, and dancing on the roof. Feet set to a footing that may fail any moment, but set in that moment, and the bow’s dance.

3)      Take these three words and give me a 100 word or less scenario using them:  feminist, latest, guard
I grinned. “So this is your latest, huh? You’re a feminist now?”
She scowled. Seventeen year olds are good at that. “So what if I am? Men are the reason things are the way they are.”
I grinned at the photograph of her mother on the mantle. “Yes. I suppose you’re right.”
“Daddy! I didn’t mean… ewwwww!”
“So this feminist thing. Can anyone join?”
She knew me too well. I could almost feel her guard rising. “What do you mean?”
I shrugged. “Because if I have to be on anyone’s side, I want to be on yours.”

4)      You’ve just been let loose in the world of fiction, with permission to do anyone you want. Who do you fuck first and why?
Me. I’ve spent most of my life fucking me up, and I don’t see why I should stop now :-). Besides, someone has to do it, and I’m better than anyone else! If I don’t count – then that’s nothing new either  :-). If it can’t be me – then I’d go for Jeanne Antoinette Poisson, Marquise de Pompadour. Not the historical one, for all her merits, but the one portrayed in Stephen Moffat’s Doctor Who episode ‘The Girl in the Fireplace’. And not so much for the act, but for the conversation we would have all night afterwards, as neither of us drifted off to sleep.

5)      What is your idea of how to spend romantic time with your significant other?
So many :-). Making her breakfast before she gets up. Waking up in the middle of the night and not sleeping for the next who-knows-how-long just because I want to watch her lie there breathing. Making her laugh. Remembering something she said she’d like, waiting weeks, and bringing it home ‘just because’. Shopping for things we’ll never buy, but pretending we might. Scratching her back for her before she knows it’s itching. Oh – and being the place her cold feet stop being cold :-).

6)      When you start a new story, do you begin with a character, or a plot?
Not really either. Mostly, it starts with an image. Or an event. ‘A Comedy of Terrors’ started with a line in a letter I sent the Query Shark, trying to get her to look at a very, very, _very_ bad Query (well, it was my first :-P). ‘Let me introduce myself. I’m an Idiot.’ Lady Shark loved the intro letter – and quite rightly tore the Query to shreds. But the Idiot was born there… so maybe that’s character. ‘Road like a River’ started while I was chopping onions for dinner. I started thinking about a truck driving down a dark road, the black lily swinging from the dash. What if…. But that’s another story. Coming from Museitup in December, if that’s not too much advertising :-). ‘Night and Day’ – a more classic type fantasy I play with from time to time – came from a mental image of a hill with a big old oak tree, and a shadowed figure under it, listening to the screams from a cottage below the hill. Does the shadowed figure run to save the woman screaming? No. You can’t save anyone from childbirth. No – he kills himself. And the oak tree – waits.
Plot? I’m a panster. Plotting is for clever people, not me. Characters? Sometimes. But Mostly, it’s a starting image, a concept. The rest – well, the rest will become history. As soon as I’ve written it… :-).

7)      If they were to make the story of your life into a movie, who should play you?
Charles Spencer ‘Charlie’ Chaplin :-). Eternally hopeful, eternally travelling.

8)      Who’s your favorite horror villain and why? 
Hannibal Lecter. Not for his diet – more for his apparent normality, under which lurks what, to him, is entirely normal. I think some of the most horrible things in history have been done by people who, to themselves, were being normal.

9)      Do you have an historical crush and if so, who is it?
Not so much historical – more hysterical. All the girls I asked out when I was about seventeen :-). OK - _both_ the girls I asked out when I was seventeen. My mother told me ‘if you can make a girl laugh, you can make her do anything’. Trust me – it isn’t true :-). To be fair, they admired my approach. Just preferred to examine my departure… :-P. If we have to stay with ‘historical’ history – I’d say no crush as such. Though any woman who made her way and did it her way (with apologies to the ghost of Lord Sinatra) would go along way to getting my attention. Yes, I’m looking at you, George Sands. Among others… :-).

10)   Is there a story that you’d like to tell but you think the world isn’t ready to receive it?
The easy answer is – ‘probably’. I just haven't thought of it yet :-). Some elements of ‘Road like a River’ could fall into that category. Not so much the story, but more the, um, style. I call it my ‘Commitments’ moment (blushes). But since Muse have taken it on, that one doesn’t count. There’s the Trilogy of which, so far ‘Thunder and Lightning – Storm rise, Storm Waking’ is the only written part. That one, for many, has been found too ‘thusly’. I think the story there is worth telling. But the real one the world isn’t ready to receive? Maybe the next one I’m going to write – or the one after. But I’ll just keep talking until they give in… :-P.

I love your answers, Graeme! Up for another drink?  

Ah, much better, now tell us about a Comedy of Terrors, please.

To Segorian, women are an open book. The problem is, he never learned to read.

Segorian Anderson’s an Idiot. But that’s fine with him. It’s a well paying job with no heavy lifting.

Nobody ever remembers Segorian. It isn’t magic - he just has the sort of face his own mother could forget, and she’s been trying to for years. But being forgettable is a job requirement for an Idiot.

No, he's not the Court Jester. He doesn’t wear motley (whatever motley may be). That's a different union. He’s the Idiot. In a Queen’s castle, wine spilt down the wrong dress can lead to war. So someone unimportant has to be blamed for it. That’s the Idiot’s job. He’s the Idiot that did it, for any value of ‘it’. Of course, as soon as he’s exiled-for-life out of the castle gate, he uses his back-door key and sneaks back in.

But that's not all. Someday, something really bad will happen. Really, really bad. Badder than a bad thing on a very bad day. With extra badness. When the world’s about to end (or the washing up won’t get done – whichever comes first), who you gonna call? No, not them. They haven’t been invented yet. You call the Idiot. Someone nobody will miss if things don’t work out. And now Peladon has a case of dragon.

But the dragon may be the easy part. Segorian has woman trouble, and he’s the only person in the castle who doesn’t know it. Because to Segorian, women are an open book. The problem is, he never learned to read.

Mini excerpt:
Everybody needs an Idiot. Not only to blame things on. It’s in the small print when you take the job. Some day—and perhaps that day will never come—there will be something. Some manner of thing that must be done for the good of the Realm. Something only an Idiot would take on.
No. Not Her Majesty's Most Secret Agent. Not a highly trained assassin. Not a seemingly ordinary yet really mysterious master of magic. Not even someone with one single strange spell stuck in their head they can never actually use. Those have all been tried. And they didn’t work. So someday, someday everybody hopes will never come (especially the Idiot), there’s only one thing left. One last chance to roll the dice against near-impossible odds and wager something nobody will miss if you lose. An Idiot in this case, an Idiot with a big sharp pointy stick thing, wearing unfamiliar armour and sitting (well, mostly sitting—I have an advanced degree in falling off) on a horse he can barely ride.
I'm the Idiot.
Like I said. It's a well-paying job and no heavy lifting. Well, not much. But don't tell my mother. She'd be rooting for the dragon.

Full excerpt:
A bush at the side of the road hissed at me. “Psst!”
I tried to examine the bush with the eye of a highly trained botanist. Unfortunately, I didn’t have one. I was fairly confident it was a bush. And green. Deciding for once to do what any sensible person would do, I ignored the bush and started to walk towards the postern gate.
Whatever type of bush sprouts short legs and runs after people, this was clearly that type of bush.
Idiots are well trained to handle nearly any type of situation. Well, any type of situation which might involve being exiled-for-life. Lots of crazy people do things that end up with other people knocking at my door with a fresh costume. Crazy I can do. So I stopped and walked over to the bush. “You—er—hissed?”
The bush shook. The charitably inclined might call it a nod. I stepped a little closer, the better to examine the bush. I thought I could hear a stifled gasping.
“Fire in of the hole!" the bush shouted.
This wasn’t just the type of bush that sprouted little legs and ran after people. Not even the type of bush that talked as well. It was also the type of bush that appeared to be able to produce a bucket of water from nowhere reasonable. Produce it, and deposit it on an Idiot. And it wasn't even June yet! I made a mental note my bath had come early this year.
“No need to thank me. No, no need at all. Worry not. Ye be safe now." The bush was determined, logic and reason aside, it was going to carry on talking.
“…you drowned me!" I ran my hands through the bush, looking for the bucket.
“Oy! Bad touching!" It occurred to me I was talking to a talking bush. Searching the bush for the bucket it had emptied on me, my hands found something very not-bushy. Or at least, not leaf-and-spiky-twig bushy. I tried to work out what it was.
“Let. Go. Of. The Beard." The bush began to shed parts of its self. Leaves and twigs fell to the ground. Fall was falling early this year. Like baths.
A dwarf with twigs stuck in his…in her…in…Dwarves are hard. Both kinds have beards. I watched a dwarf with twigs stuck in ‘its’ hat and jerkin stop being a bush. My hands had hold of the dwarf's beard. I think that meant we were married. Or that we ought to be...then I felt a lump in my throat. It was the head of a large hammer the dwarf had produced from somewhere impossible.
I let go of the beard.
I tried again. “You drowned me!”
“Drowned you? Gods below! You try to save an idiot ‘too-tall’, and what happens? They complain!”
‘Too-tall’ is what dwarves call anybody who isn’t a dwarf. Because they’re, um, too-tall. It’s not very polite, but dwarves don’t think anybody else notices. It would be like the English, if we’d invented them yet. “That’s Idiot, thank-you. Not idiot. My employer is a stickler for protocol. And I wasn’t aware I needed saving.”
“Look. I’m a dwarf. And I know fire-gas when I smell it. And when a dwarf smells fire-gas, it’s bucket time!”
Smelled? I sniffed. Only once. Once was all it took. After my stomach had finished, I decided I hadn’t liked my breakfast much anyway. “That’s not your fire-gas! That’s—that’s eggs! I’ve been egg-siled, you see?”
“Egg-siled? Oh, right. You’re the Idiot. Exiled. Got it. No, laddie. Eggs it might be to you. But to a dwarf, it’s fire-gas. There’s caves we used to have, we don’t have now, to prove it. They egg-splod…Bugger! You’ve got me doing it now! They exploded! Boom! So you’re lucky I was here! Fire-gas. Water. No boom today!”
“I see.” I didn’t, but saying so might make the dwarf egg-spla…dammit!...explain more. And the headache I didn’t have yet would change its mind and come visit. I hesitated. I was probably going to regret this. “So what brings your bucket here, Mr…Miss…so what brings your bucket here?”
Of course, I was right. Without the probably.
“If you’re going to be an Idiot, laddie, then I’m going to have to be First Pick. First Pick Gunder.”
It sounded a very dwarf-y title. Dwarves are miners. Which doesn’t mean they’re all too young to do things they won’t be interested in doing when they’re old enough to do them. It means things like picks are really, really important. “First Pick? Is that like Queen Sonea?”
“Queen? Oh, yes. The too-tall…lady? Man? You too-talls are hard. Not enough of you have beards. The one who tells you what to do?”
“And you do it?”
“Yes. Well, mostly. Or it’s exile. With an axe.”
“Huh. Then no. Of course, I can tell dwarves to do things. Dwarves like a good laugh. But nobody has to do them, the things I mean. No. I’m the Sorter.
See, when dwarves have something that needs sorting out, the Lowest and his (well, or her, but that’s dwarf business, laddie) Low Council put everybody who doesn’t want to do it in a big cave. The Lowest asks for a Volunteer, and everybody who doesn’t want to do it (which means everybody, because dwarves aren’t stupid) tries to run away. As soon as they start running, the Lowest grabs the first one. First Pick, see? The First Pick gets to sort it out. Somebody tripped me.”
“And if you don’t sort it out?”
“I get to pick the axe.”
Like I’ve said before. Everybody needs an Idiot. I raised one eyebrow. Unfortunately the other one followed it so it didn’t feel lonely. First Pick Gunder didn't seem impressed.
“I heard you know about dragons.”
I could almost hear mother laughing.


This is me. Graeme Smith. Fantasy writer. Mostly comic fantasy (which is fantasy intended to make you laugh, not fantasy in comics). 
When I'm not writing (well, or editing my writing. Or re-writing. Or editing my re-writing. Or... Quite. You get the picture), I'm doing other things. Things like wishing I could play keyboards. And not playing them, not even very badly. Things like online gaming (If you know Bard Elcano, you know me. If you know a grumpy old dragon called Sephiranoth, you know me. If you know a tall, dark, handsome but brooding vampire, charming witty and brilliant - we never met. That's someone else.) And strange midnight practices involving mushrooms. And garlic. And knitting needles. But the less said of my cooking, the better.
So there you are. This is me. Graeme Smith. Short, fat, bald and ugly (fortunately my wife has lousy taste in men). Time was, I worked on a psychiatric ward. Now I write about people who believe in magic and dragons, and who live where the crazy folk are the ones who don’t.

Haha, I think your wife has wonderful taste in men! Another drink, sir?  

Do you have any questions for Graeme before we toddle off? What's that? You want to know about the contest? Oh yes, dearie me, how could I forget? Graeme, please tell us about the contest!

"The Idiot's job is to be blamed for things that might otherwise embarrass or cause difficulty for the Queen. Of course, once the Idiot has been exiled-for-life as punishment, they sneak back into the castle through the Idiot's gate. To wait for the next time. Because there's always a next time - and everybody needs an Idiot.

So. How brave are you feeling? If the answer's 'lots—and I love free stuff!'—then here it is. A challenge. What is the most memorable time (embarrassing or otherwise :-P) you have taken the blame for someone else, and what happened to you as a result? And what was the most memorable time someone did it for you, and what happened to them?

A winner will be selected from those who choose to answer, and a free copy of 'A Comedy of Terrors' provided, behind which they may hide their blushes :-)."

You have until midnight Sunday, June 17th, to enter. Don't forget to leave your email address, or you won't be able to win!

It was fabulous visiting with your, Graeme, we should do this more often!

Until next time, take care!

♥ Julie

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