Josh Vogt’s Contemporary Fantasy: This is Gonna Get Messy. . .

You may recall that Josh Vogt answered some questions about his Pathfinder novel, Forge of Ashes in April.  Well, now he’s back, this time launching his own fiction, with a truly wacky concept for a fantasy world, the magical realm of The Cleaners!  Read on. . .

Enter the Janitor, first in The Cleaners series about a supernatural custodial firm.

Enter the Janitor, first in The Cleaners series about a supernatural custodial firm.

What was the inception of this project? What were your first steps in building that idea into a viable story?

With Enter the Janitor, I got to thinking about what mages or wizards might be like if they took on different professions. When I realized the mops and spray bottles and plungers sanitation workers often wield could be stand-ins for traditional wands and staves, the idea clicked and I ran with it. Then it was a matter of figuring out the rules of that reality and how a supernatural sanitation company might blend in with modern society.

What kind of research and/or world-building did you do before beginning?

I researched sanitation workers in general, getting an idea of the tools they use and how they’re perceived these days. I also looked into the history of sanitation, plagues, hygiene, and world mythology, finding (or forging) connections between them all to fit into the lore of this story.

What’s your first-draft process? outline, edit as you go, speed-writing?

I do a lot of upfront worldbuilding and outlining until I hit a certain point where I realize that constructing the details is keeping me back from telling the story. Then I take the outline I’ve worked up and fill in the gaps as I draft, giving myself the ability to be creative and make new discoveries as I go.

How do you start revisions?

Enter the Janitor didn’t actually start out as humor-oriented as it is now. It had its funny bits, yeah, but when it was being shopped around to publishers, I got feedback that encouraged me to really ramp up the comic elements—which I did, and which I believe really helped set it apart from other typical urban fantasies.

If you could choose a few descriptors that would go in a blurb on the front cover of your book, what would they be?

This is gonna get messy…

Fun fantasy that takes a unique spin on what it means to save the world.

What cool thing would you put in the DVD extra version that didn’t get into the published work? research or created detail you had to cut or couldn’t use?

I’ve only just begun to explore the world of The Cleaners, so anything that hasn’t gotten into Enter the Janitor is lined up to appear in future stories! The second novel, The Maids of Wrath, will be out in 2016, so get ready!

Where should readers go to find out more about your work?

Most info can be found on my website, JRVogt.com. You can also contact me on Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Goodreads, Amazon, and a few other platforms. Or see me at one of the many conventions I often attend.

Care to share a link (aside from your own work) to something amazing you think everyone should see or know about?

I know some folks are a little leery about Reddit in general, but actually the Fantasy subreddit is an excellent community of people who love to talk about genre authors, books, movies, games, and more. There’s a SciFi subreddit as well that’s equally active.

Josh Vogt's head shot

Josh Vogt’s head shot

Josh Vogt has been published in dozens of genre markets with work ranging from flash fiction to short stories to doorstopper novels that cover fantasy, science fiction, horror, humor, pulp, and more. His debut fantasy novel, Forge of Ashes, adds to the RPG Pathfinder Tales tie-in line. WordFire Press is also launching his urban fantasy series, The Cleaners, with Enter the Janitor (2015) and The Maids of Wrath (2016). You can find him at JRVogt.com or on Twitter @JRVogt. He’s a member of SFWA as well as the International Association of Media Tie-In Writers

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Rehabilitating Medieval Monarchs

At last week’s International Medieval Congress in Kalamazoo, I attended the annual Pseudo Society session, a humorous presentation of papers crafted to resemble the other academic presentations at the conference, but on topics like “Njal’s Flat Pack: The Historical Evidence for Ikea,” in which the presenter linked the strong Nordic heritage of the famous store using runestones and knotted snakes. The final paper attempted to show that England’s King John (John the first, and the only) was, contrary to every Robin Hood film, actually a great king.

A gatehouse in the city wall at York serves as a museum about Richard III

A gatehouse in the city wall at York serves as a museum about Richard III

This is only the most recent, and most light-hearted attempt to reclaim a figure from the past on behalf of a more enlightened time. King Richard III, whose grave was recently discovered, allowing him to be received into the bosom of the nation with the proper respect due to a king, already had his own society, dedicated to greater understanding of this maligned and pivotal figure, and an interesting museum in one of the towers of the city wall in York, where displays about the history of that turbulent time suggest that Richard is innocent of slaying his nephews, the infamous Princes in the Tower.

However, the New York Times recently included an article about an even more unlikely rehabilitation, that of Ivan the Terrible. Now, you’d think that just the appellation, “The Terrible” suggests a problematic ruler. Ivan is, in fact, known for his ruthless slaughter and conquest during his reign (although he does hold a place near to my heart for in 1555 commissioning my favorite building, the iconic Saint Basil’s Cathedral in Moscow).

Why this obsession with revising contemporary attitudes toward long-dead monarchs? I think there are two main reasons. The first, and perhaps the most obvious in the case of Ivan, is national pride or reputation. Imagine the most famous monarch associated with your nation being referred to as “the Terrible.” It’s a stain on the national scorecard. The second most famous, Tsar Nicholas, was killed along with his entire family in a revolution which, in the national narrative, had to look good, so Nicholas must be resigned to the ash bin. But Ivan, a powerful figure in his own right, could be resurrected and used as a rallying symbol for a new era of national pride. And if the nation in question may be harboring new imperial tendencies, then the image may come in handy. In Mongolia, Chingghis Khan is a national hero, less because they have a current desire to conquer the world, than because the image of the great conqueror reminds them that their ancestors were very successful in doing so. For a small democratic nation caught between two giants, a symbol of their national courage and independence is vital.

The other reason for rehabilitating history’s villains is the historian or academic’s fascination with unknown or unconsidered perspectives, the idea that assumptions and prior conclusions should periodically be re-examined in light of new ideas. Hence, we should not passively accept history’s judgement of a leader because, at the time that history was written, it might have been controlled or manipulated by the agendas of the time (The NYT article above contains some quotes to this effect). Since we prefer to submit to only our own agenda, a review of the evidence seems to be in order. The liberal generosity to accept all points of view as valid has lead to re-tellings of Beowulf from the perspective of Grendel and of The Wizard of Oz from the perspective of Elphaba, the Wicked Witch of the West. These characters were the heroes of their own story, and it can be informative to figure out what that narrative might be.

We like to root for the underdog, to come out in support of the downtrodden, even if they have been trod down by their critics over the course of centuries, they may, in fact, in the famous words of Jessica Rabbit, not be bad, they’re just drawn that way.

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Greetings from Kalamazoo!

Here in beautiful (aside from the weather) Kalamazoo, the 50th International Congress on Medieval Studies is, sadly, coming to a close.  Most of the conventions I attend are science fiction and fantasy fan events, like the World Science Fiction or World Fantasy conventions, where I enjoy talking to other writers, meeting fans and participating in the conversations of our genres.

Kalamazoo is a completely different animal (now I am picturing something from a medieval bestiary):  an academic conference which brings together thousands of medievalists from around the world. It is also an amazing place to re-fill the well of my inspiration as a writer.  I listened to papers about the Mongol invasion, and about monstrous babies in the romances of the time. I was sorry the session on Outlaws was cancelled, except that it freed me up to attend a session on astronomical predictions like the conjunction of 1345, later claimed to have presaged the plague.

one of the marvelous medieval streets in York, England

one of the marvelous medieval streets in York, England

I attended a segment of the York Passion Play, performed in Middle English, which always takes me back to an earlier time.  This, I imagine is what Elisha and his friends really sounded like–the language is difficult to read, but hearing it aloud brings out the roots of words and their pronunciations.  This kind of event also creates a sense of communal presence and engagement in entertainment that is lacking in many forms of entertainment, with few boundaries between viewer and performer.  The performers, like the performers of the Middle Ages, were drawn from the attendees of the Congress, our fellows, and I noticed both Jesus and Satan, and some of their respective followers, in plainclothes at other places around the Congress.  The citizens of York would have had a similar experience, seeing their friends and neighbors portraying various roles, with a different Jesus in each of the segments as they moved around town.

Later, after revealing my interest in period medicine, I was drafted to patch up Sir Kay during the annual Malory performance, another highlight, and an interesting linguistic contrast with the earlier pronunciation of the York Passion Play.

The day also held a certain sense of affirmation, beginning with plenary speaker Richard Utz presenting a sort of call to action for medievalists to re-invest in the world (which included references to the Society for Creative Anachronism, which at K-zoo in the past has been a bit of a secret society to which one did not readily admit belonging).  Then came a lunchtime panel with a group of historical novelists.  Someone asked, rather timorously, if they wrote fantasy–expecting to be laughed out of the room.  But several of the authors proudly stated that they did, and one, Lucy Pick, whose first novel, Pilgrimage, is now out, said something especially apt:  the stories they {i. e., the medieval people} tell about themselves contain the fantastic.

And so, thankfully, does Kalamazoo.  If you are a medieval enthusiast, even if not a professional in the field, I highly encourage you to attend, and to leave all the richer with the treasures of knowledge so generously shared.

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Guest author Josh Vogt on Forge of Ashes

Today’s guest is Josh Vogt author of Forge of Ashes, a Pathfinder novel that launches this week!  Dwarves?  Barbarians?  Check it out!

Cover of Forge of Ashes, by Josh Vogt

Cover of Forge of Ashes, by Josh Vogt

What was the inception of this project? What were your first steps in building that idea into a viable story?

When I got asked to pitch a novel idea for the Pathfinder Tales line, I’d already been reading through many of the books Paizo authors had written. None of them had a dwarven-centric story, nor did a barbarian play a particularly key role in any of the adventures. So that became the core of the idea and evolved from there. I worked with James Sutter, Paizo’s executive editor, to nail down some specifics about the people Akina travels with, the beasts she fights, and the larger foes she has to face down.

What kind of research and/or world-building did you do before beginning?

Since this is set in the RPG world of Golarion, the world had already been fleshed out and established well before I came along. But I did have to go through dozens of game manuals to ensure I was familiarized with the setting enough to dive into the drafting. Of course, I did a lot of reading on dwarves as well as the various regions the story would take place in.

What’s your first-draft process? outline, edit as you go, speed-writing?

I’m an outliner by nature and preference. The more intensively I outline a project from the get-go, the faster the manuscript gets written. Paizo also has an in-depth novel outlining process in order to approve the characters and story details. So by the time I sat down to write the novel, I knew almost every detail from beginning to end, and sped through it quite nicely.

How do you start revisions?

I gather a wide range of feedback from beta readers (and my editors), and then look for common themes or issues people point out through the story. I’ll do a revision round focusing on the overarching developmental edits, reworking scenes, characters, and plot elements. Then, once those are dealt with, I can go back in for line edits until it’s more fully polished.

If you could choose a few descriptors that would go in a blurb on the front cover of your book, what would they be?

Monsters, magic, and mayhem!

What cool thing would you put in the DVD extra version that didn’t get into the published work? research or created detail you had to cut or couldn’t use?

In one of the battle scenes, there was a particular construct we originally had duking it out: cannon golems. They were lots of fun to write and are just cool monsters in themselves! However, we had to remove them for a variety of reasons (including legal) and rework the fight in their absence.

Where should readers go to find out more about your work?

You can find out practically anything you need to know about me and my work on JRVogt.com. I also am building a little YouTube channel with updates, event recordings, and behind-the-scenes commentary on the writing career. If there’s anything you want to know that isn’t already there, just contact me here!

Care to share a link (aside from your own work) to something amazing you think everyone should see or know about?

Check out Tabletop Audio! It has 10-minute long ambient music and sound effect audio tracks you can download and listen to for free. Some people use it to set the mood for a gaming session, but it also works marvelously as background noise for writers.

Josh Vogt's head shot

Josh Vogt’s head shot

Josh Vogt has been published in dozens of genre markets with work ranging from flash fiction to short stories to doorstopper novels that cover fantasy, science fiction, horror, humor, pulp, and more. His debut fantasy novel, Forge of Ashes, adds to the RPG Pathfinder Tales tie-in line. WordFire Press is also launching his urban fantasy series, The Cleaners, with Enter the Janitor (2015) and The Maids of Wrath (2016). You can find him at JRVogt.com or on Twitter @JRVogt. He’s a member of SFWA as well as the International Association of Media Tie-In Writers.

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Tribal Rites: Why I joined SFWA

This month, we are celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America with a blog tour–here’s my entry, and you can read more of them (beginning with Robert Silverberg’s comments as a founding member, continuing with great authors like Cat Rambo and Beth Cato) at the SFWA blog.

As a young geek, I excelled at school and struggled in only one thing, really: making friends. Oh, I had one or two, and the occasional furtive acquaintance who was a little embarrassed to be seen with me. It’s a struggle that most adolescents face at one time or another. Thankfully, I had books. I had Ray Bradbury, Stephen R. Donaldson, J. R. R. Tolkien, and Susan Cooper. Through these magical pages, I could enter new worlds, meet people I wished I knew and people I wished I could be. The idea formed that there was a way I could be them—I could be anyone. I could be a writer.

The first fantasy story I wrote was Dragonriders of Pern fan-fic, though I did not know that term at the time, and my then-instructor, unfamiliar with science fiction and fantasy, praised the work as highly original. This praise always embarrassed me—I knew the work was a paean to one of my idols–so I determined that my next project would be new and striking: it would be mine.

My pathway to becoming a writer ran parallel with my course through fandom, starting by attending local Star Trek conventions with a handful of geeky friends (a peer-group at last!). At one of those, I found my first flyer for a general SF convention, a student-run affair called Not Just Another Con, or NJAC. At this, my first “real” convention, I participated in a scavenger hunt which included Pan-galactic Gargle Blaster as one of the items, and got to hear an entire room full of people cheer when Count Rogan, the Six-fingered Man, turns to flee the righteous vengeance of Inigo Montoya. Right in its name, NJAC implied that, wonder of wonders, there were *other* conventions—entire globe-spanning networks of fans who gathered on a regular basis to share their enthusiasm for science fiction and fantasy literature, film, gaming and good stuff.

Within this tribe, I found hints of another, the shamans of the tribe, if you will, the writers, and I heard whispers of their Inner Sanctum, the Science Fiction Writers of America (back in the days we had only one “F”), which one must be published to join. The idea of becoming a member of a group that included so many of my author-heroes, of sharing the trials and joys of writing with like-minded souls compelled me. I’d been submitting short stories forever (I was rejected by Asimov’s when he was still there—yes, I was a precocious toddler at the time). And I had begun to develop a novel, the contract for which finally granted me entrance to the organization I had so often heard of. I had achieved not only the goal of publishing my first book, but also of crossing the boundary between fan and writer, becoming what I had wanted to be.

In SFWA, I found a vigorous, sometimes contentious, group striving toward the advancement of science fiction and fantasy literature. A place where, whatever advice or concern you have, someone else has had it, too. If they can’t help you out, they can at least commiserate. There were times early on when I was not sure I had a place in the organization, when I was still too intimidated by my “baby author” status to think of these elite writers as my peers and my colleagues. I was not always faithful in my membership, but even then, I could see the good the organization was capable of, through the Emergency Fund which supports writers in need, and through Writer Beware, which helps to investigate and spread the word about scams aimed at new writers. When I signed my next contract, part of my advance went toward a lifetime membership in SFFWA, my commitment to the new writers moving up into our ranks, and my pledge to the tribe of authors, of which I am proud to be member.

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Fantasy Novella The Grail Maiden Book Launch Today

I’ve been working on The Grail Maiden, a novella tie-in to the Dark Apostle series, for a little while now. I enjoy exploring the background of some of the secondary characters in my work, and  I hope to do more of this.  (I’m looking at you, Martin!)  This story also goes back to my historical hinge point, during Edward Longshanks’ campaign against the Scots.  In the meantime, here’s the cover by amazing artist Rachel A. Marks!

Cover art for Dark Apostle novella, the Grail Maiden

Cover art for Dark Apostle novella, the Grail Maiden

1307, Carlisle, England

Young Allyson is the first to hear of the death of King Edward II during a battle with the Scots—but cannot reveal her knowledge lest she be exposed as a witch.

When the man she loves, a Templar, returns from France with news of the disbanding of his order and the arrest of its leaders, she realizes that the heir to England might well betray the Templars to his own advantage. She must turn for aid to the one man she dare not trust: her own husband.

Each of them holds a secret that will change the lives of the others as they work to prevent the war with Scotland from becoming the ruin of them all.

40 years before Elisha:  characters you thought you knew, history you’d never suspect.

It also includes an excerpt from Elisha Barber for those who haven’t read the series yet.

You can purchase the ebook at Amazon.com (http://amzn.to/1P4LOy9), Barnes and Noble.com (http://bit.ly/1DDmkD7) or through Smashwords (http://bit.ly/1yKLeBZ)

It’s also available in trade paperback on Amazon.com or directly from me.

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Cover Reveal: Elisha Rex!

And title reveal, too, I guess!  You can probably see why I’ve been keeping this title pretty close, but since it’s time to show off the cover, here goes!

Cover for Elisha Rex, book 3 in The Dark Apostle series

Cover for Elisha Rex, book 3 in The Dark Apostle series

Once again, artist Cliff Nielsen has captured the spirit of the book–we find Elisha a changed man, in more ways than one–but here’s the cover copy to whet your interest:

“Blending magic and history, strong characters and gripping action, E. C. Ambrose brings a startlingly unique voice to our genre.”
—D. B. Jackson, author of Thieftaker

Elisha was once a lowly barber-surgeon, cutting hair and stitching wounds for poor peasants like himself in 14th century London. But that was before: before he was falsely accused of murder, and sent to die in an unjust war. Before he discovered his potential for a singularly deadly magic. Before he was forced to embrace his gifts and end the war…by using his newfound abilities to kill the tyrannical king.
So who is Elisha now? The beautiful witch Brigit, his former mentor, claims him for the magi, all those who have grasped the secrets of affinity and knowledge to manipulate mind and matter, and who are persecuted for it. Duke Randall, the man who first rose against the mad King Hugh, has accepted him as a comrade and ally in the perilous schemes of the nobility. Somehow, he has even become a friend to Thomas, both the rightful king and, something finer, a good man.
But there is another force at work in the world, a shadowy cabal beyond the might of kings and nobles, that sees its opportunity in the chaos of war and political turmoil—and sees its mirror in Elisha’s indivisible connection with Death. For these necromancers, Elisha is the ultimate prize, and the perfect tool.
When the necromancers’ secret plans begin to bear black fruit and King Thomas goes missing, England teeters on the brink of a hellish anarchy that could make the previous war look like a pleasant memory. Elisha may be the only man who can stop it. But if he steps forward and takes on the authority he is offered to save his nation, is he playing right into the mancers’ hands?
Why does it seem like his enemies are the ones most keen to call him Elisha Rex?

Wait–so does that mean the series is over?  I mean, Elisha Rex and all that?  No, indeed.  I am currently drafting the fifth, and final volume, which you, dear reader, must wait until 2017 to read–sorry!  But I promise, it will be worth the wait.  In the meantime, you can pre-order Elisha Rex, and have it show up on your doorstep (or on your device) on Launch day, July 7th!

 

Posted in books, Elisha Rex, fantasy, fiction, historical medicine, history, medieval, The Dark Apostle | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments