Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Guest Blogger: James D. Sanderson

Welcome James D. Sanderson to my blog today.

Had the great pleasure being on the Tony Angelo radio show last Saturday, and I wanted to share some of the things we talked about (and have added some other things we didn’t talk about). If you have any comments or questions of your own, please add them in the comments below.

Why do you write? A person must be crazy to want to write, and I mean that literally. When I was a kid my Dad was such an overbearing and dynamic force in my life – and I don’t mean to say he was abusive, really – that I couldn’t seem to find a voice for myself. When he argued with my mother I remember scrunching down into the corner of my bedroom and making myself very tiny. Then, when I learned to write, my writing was very tiny as well. People still comment on it today. My script is almost microscopic and all pinched together. It was as if I was trying to express myself but I didn’t really want anyone to be able to see what I was trying to say. So, I guess to keep expressing myself, I had to write.

How do you come up with story ideas and characters? It takes me a long time to come up with story ideas – and I mean years – and they almost always come from character. Characters develop from people I know, or from my own experience, but I don’t believe any of my characters are based on real people. They are more like composite people. Then, when I know my character, I begin to wonder how they would act or react in this situation or that. The story usually emerges from that.

When and how do you write? I have the great luxury now of being a full-time writer, but if I’m not careful my time can go away just as fast as anyone else’s. I usually blog ‘The Angelic Mysteries’ – my novel coming out in August - on Monday. Then I work on the next chapter of my latest novel on Tuesday and Wednesday. Then on Thursday I blog ‘Literary Greatness’, which is my blog about great authors, literature, books, and writing. I promote my work online anytime I get a minute. For the modern author, marketing and promotion must be part of the writing process.

What authors inspire you? I have a library full of authors I refer back to often. Tolstoy. Dostoevsky. Hemingway. Faulkner. Steinbeck. Melville. The complete Shakespeare. Henry James. Of course any I don’t have right on the shelf I can usually find online now. That is a great benefit of reading classic literature – you can usually get it free or very cheap on the library giveaway shelf or the used bookstore or online.

What are you working on now? ‘The Angelic Mysteries’ is a novel about a man who meets a woman who believes herself to be an angel. They are being pursued around Europe by a psychopath she believes in an anti-angel – an angel from hell. It is a thriller and a love story, but also a novel of ideas: about the thin line between sanity and insanity. It’s due out August 18th.

How long does it take you to write a novel? Oh goodness, there is no time limit. ‘The Angelic Mysteries’ came out in a limited edition literary paperback in 1994. I have been working on it off and on ever since. The edition due out in August is my final draft however.

What is your next project? I have been working on a series of short stories about nonviolent direct action as it has been used around the world, and the collection, as yet untitled, is due out in the spring (March 2012). Meanwhile some of them are being published in small press magazines.

How long have you been writing? Well, as I said about being a kid hiding out in my bedroom from the fights my parents had, I began to write stories almost as soon as I could write. I remember my twelfth year in particular. I always read classic literature too, so I was considered somewhat weird by my young friends.

How does your background influence your work? I know I have always wanted to be a writer, and the fact that I read classic literature from an early age has had the most influence on my work. Whenever I read I am making mental notes about how this or that style or technique might be useful to my work in the future. I believe that novels should express great ideas because the written word is just too important to waste on only entertainment.

How do you research? Plain old library time. Of course it is a lot easier to get books now through inter library loans and so on, and I use the internet extensively. A writer simply must use the internet to help with research. There is no reason for a writer to miss some important detail.

Give some facts and juicy tidbits about your work. (Laughs). I don’t know how juicy it is, but when I was writing ‘American Masters’ I came to the chapter about our American State Papers as Literature. It occurred to me that Benjamin Franklin, because he had access to his own printing press, was able to go directly to his readers with his story. Who knows what would be known of him today if he had had to go through some convoluted publishing process to get his work out. In France especially he was able to influence people directly with his writing. I think we authors need to start looking for ways to write directly to our readers. Of course the internet is making great strides at helping us do that.

What are you reading now? I am reading ‘Anna Karenina’ for the umpteenth time. It is really my favorite novel. On my shelf are also ‘Middlemarch’ and ‘Vanity Fair’, which are also long reads. So, I’ve got my reading time mapped out for me for quite a while.

Do you have any concluding remarks? Only that we writers need to hear from our readers. If you are reading a blog or are meeting an author on Facebook or wherever, don’t be afraid to speak out and say what you think about our work or about reading and writing in general. (Be kind, but be real). We are just breaking into the idea of being able to speak directly with our readers, and we need to know what you are thinking. It will help us create our future works and it will keep us honest about why we’re writing, and who we’re writing for. I would love your feedback at either of my blog sites: Literary Greatness - or You may also look for me on Facebook (James D. Sanderson).


This excerpt is taken from Chapter 23 of ‘The Angelic Mysteries’. It is Copyright © 2011 by James D. Sanderson. All Rights Are Reserved.Daniel Allman and Sarah have been fleeing across Europe to escape the huge anti-angel Morton Toombs but here in Chapter 23 he finally catches up with them:

At last they came out on the Grand Canal. A boatman was standing at the ready. “Can you take us to Santa Lucia Station?” Daniel asked him.
“Of course,” the boatman replied. “I can take you anywhere you want to go.” The boatman pointed across the canal.
Daniel seemed perplexed. “I thought it was on this side.”
“No, my good sir. It is across over there.” He pointed again, as if they might be able to make it out in the darkness. “Step in; I’ll take you straight to it.”
“Very well,” Daniel said.
“Where are we going?” Sarah asked.
“We need to get over to the other side.”
“What’s wrong with this side? Going over there doesn’t seem right to me.”
“No? Well, unless you have a better idea, that’s where we’re going,” Daniel said. “We’ve been lost for hours.”
“I don’t know which way to go.”
“Just follow along, then. One way is as good as another.”
“This is the way,” said the boatman.
They stepped down into his vaporetto and a moment later they were off across the swampy-looking water.
“This place smells like hell,” Daniel remarked.
The boatman nodded sincerely. “These canals have become like swamps. They are like Styx itself.”
“Is that where we are?” Sarah asked him. “Are we entering the gates of Dis?” A black water snake shagged by in the silence. “Has he chased us into hell’s black capital?”
“Few return,” the boatman said.
“We’re at the gate,” she said. Red flames were reflecting on the walls of the buildings ahead. Toombs was on the other side, waiting for them.
“Welcome,” he said.
“You!” Daniel said.
“Weren’t you expecting me? Fallen angels are the first here. We have rebelled against Himself.”
“So you admit it. Sarah was right all along.”
Toombs laughed maniacally. “Right. Wrong. Makes no difference here.”
“Why have you brought us here?” Sarah asked.
“Ah, a sensible question. You have brought yourselves here, actually. I am here to conduct your tour for you. That’s all.”
“What if we don’t want the tour?” Sarah demanded.
“Don’t worry. You have nothing to fear, being here. Not yet.”
“What is this about?” Daniel asked.
“You have begun your inquiries. Now you must learn the truth.”
“Don’t follow him,” Sarah cautioned. “He knows nothing of the truth.”
“As I told you,” Toombs picked up smoothly, “there is no reason to hesitate. You have a free passage here. No one will detain you.”
Without another word on the subject Toombs turned and made his way up the street. Daniel followed him and Sarah tagged along after him. They were unable to resist his power which was drawing them onward. Wild birds were screeching somewhere ahead in the distance.
“Tell me, where are the other fallen angels?” Daniel asked Toombs.
“They are all above, on your good earth, doing whatever tasks have been assigned them.”
“What kinds of tasks are those?”
“They have tasks similar to mine.”
“What exactly is your task?”
“You still need to ask? It is just as your girl here has supposed all along. We have become very good at trapping these risen angels and bringing them back here.”
“What happens when they get here?”
“They are held in captivity until they come to recognize the true way.”
“The true way?”
“The way that leads to the great one – Satan himself.”
“Don’t listen to him,” Sarah interjected. “His words twist everything.”
“Quiet,” Toombs shouted. “Life here is not as she would portray it. This is a good place. A place of sensual delights. Unlike the sterile silence of her heaven.”
Sarah began to object again but the big man raised his hand and shouted, “Silence!” Sarah found she could no longer speak. “You have no power here.”
“What have you done to her?” Daniel asked.
“She talks too much. You have come here to learn, and learn you shall. You must decide for yourself. I think you’ll find that hell is very much for people like us. It is a place of power.”
“Is it all about power, then? I thought hell was about punishment.”
“Dantesque clap trap,” Toombs snorted. “Some are punished here. But not those who have power. We are Satan’s chosen.”
“You keep saying ‘us’.”
He gave Daniel a libidinous wink. “You too can be here, in the halls of power.”
Sarah grasped his arm between her two hands but Daniel pulled away brusquely. “And you say you have risen angels held captive here?”
“Only the ones who refuse to convert. Foolish, really. We all serve a master, do we not? What difference does it make which one?”
“But… I don’t see any of those captive angels around anywhere.”
Toombs stamped his foot. Daniel followed his eyes downward. “In the cement.”
“In the cement?” Daniel did not understand.
“We mix them in the cement we use to build our roads. None ever escape.”
Daniel was horrified. “So, we’re walking on them right this minute?”
“Don’t worry about offending them. It’s their punishment. Those who have risen so high must now lay there while we tread on them. Just punishment, don’t you think?”
“Are they never released?”
“Of course they are,” the big man smiled. “Some are released every day. They have but to pledge their allegiance to their rightful King, the Prince of Darkness, and they fly out of the roadway complete and unharmed. It’s quite a spectacle.”
“I can imagine it is.”
Toombs continued to lead the way. “Ahead here is the Park of the Suicides.”
Daniel caught his breath. It was from this park the sound of the screeching birds was coming.
“This is one part Dante actually got right. The leaves of the trees trap the souls of those who have committed suicide, and the Harpies eat the leaves.”
“Is my father...?”
“You father committed suicide, didn’t he?”
“Is he here?” Daniel whispered.
“He’s here. In one of these trees. But he doesn’t have to be, you know.”
“How do you mean?”
“Those of us with power can have things as we wish them.”
“You know what I wish…”
Morton Toombs cocked his head to one side. “What do you wish?”
Daniel caught himself and shook his head. “Nothing. It’s only that this has something to do with my dream. I don’t know what exactly.”
“A dream?”
“A recurring dream,” Daniel said. “In the dream I am confronted by two knights on horseback; a white knight and a black knight. The black knight is first. He charges his horse at me and lowers his lance. At the last possible moment I leap aside and, using my staff, pin his lance against the trunk of a tree, breaking it. The white knight then turns his horse and rides away.”
Morton Toombs nodded his head reflectively. “It’s a funny thing.” He motioned to the leaves of the trees. “All any of them have to do to escape is to desire it. But none of them ever does.”
“Because of pride?”
“I suppose so. But I don’t really know. Only they know, and they’re not talking.”
Just then a great pit began to open up at their feet. Sarah became frantic trying to pull Daniel back from the edge.
“Where do you think you’re going?” Toombs asked.
“This is far enough. I’m going back.”
“Oh, so you’ve decided have you? Don’t you want to see more?”
“I’ve seen enough.”
“That’s a pity, but there’s no going back from here.”
“I thought we were immune…”
“Who told you that?” Toombs asked. “Oh, I did, didn’t I? Well, I lied.”
“I want to go back.”
“Of course you do.”
The mouth of the pit opened up like the aperture of a giant camera lens. Daniel turned to Sarah. She needed no prompting. She was running already. There was a tremendous crashing noise all around them. The earth crumbled and fell away. Toombs’ laughter was in their ears. Toombs reached out and grabbed Daniel’s leg. His grip could not hold. His nails left a nasty scratch. Daniel and Sarah continued to lose ground, like ants in an ant lion’s trap.

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