Wednesday, 24 April 2013

Editorial Opinion: Part 2 of an Interview with Steven Beeho

Part two of my interview with Steven Beeho, author of Sojourners in Shadow, continues with the original CritGit talking about writing and teasing us about what’s to come…

mai-phay:      How long have you been writing, Steven?

Steven:          Since I was a kid. Who knows when it started? Probably going on 30 years. When I was very little I drew a lot of pictures. Nothing artistic - just lots of battles and fights and adventure stuff - mainly stick figures. It was more about what they got up to than the drawing itself. It seemed natural to progress to writing about them when I could.

mai-phay:      Do you ever base characters on people you know and have they ever found out?

Steven:          Nope. Fictional characters and historical figures are far more appealing than mundane, ordinary people.

mai-phay:      So is that where you draw on your inspiration for characters?

Steven:          Yes.

mai-phay:      What's your preferred era of history?

Steven:          Can't say I have one. I’ve read lots on Japan, Renaissance Italy (love the Medicis), Imperial Britain, Ancient Rome and Greece. The Arthurian era is fascinating, as is the Dark Ages.

mai-phay:      I’ve only recently purchased a book about the Medici's.

Steven:          Great bunch of bastards. I prefer them to the Borgias. They set up a lasting legacy. Lorenzo's ingenuity and charm in dealing with his worst moments were brilliant.

mai-phay:      I also saw a book on Catherine, I think her name was, and how she did a lot more than her brothers.

Steven:          Yes, I think she ended up marrying into the French monarchy. Learning about Vlad the Impaler was fascinating, too, the Knights Templar and the Crusades - the mercenary companies who roamed Europe - the English Civil War and Frederick the Great, as well as Hannibal and how he nearly defeated Rome before it could grow up and dominate the Med.

mai-phay:      The Crusades I remember studying at school, but the Knights Templar is something on my list to read more about.

Steven:          You'll see their influence when encountering the Order of Mechanised Tyranny.

mai-phay:      Where did you get the inspiration for Sojourners in Shadow?

Steven:          That stuff started out as something completely different. I decided I needed to write lots of short stories and fire them out there to get published. But I have never enjoyed shorts much and the main problem I had was you often create a whole world for nothing more than a few pages.

To write several shorts I decided I wanted to create a world where lots of things could happen. It didn't matter if that world was shown in the stories, they would all be stand-alone works, but it meant I didn't have to rethink everything each time. So I started off thinking about monsters coming to our world and changing it. That meant I had a world I already knew but changed to however I wanted it to be, putting me in full control.

mai-phay:      I thought you always preferred to write shorts - have you written anything longer?

Steven:          Yes I used to write bigger stories all the time. I have about 7, I think. I wrote some shorts but had a hard time keeping things concise. Plus it annoyed me to lose everything at the end. At least in a bigger story it felt like the characters had a good run.

I wrote a full length story in early 2003 and it was editing my own work later that year when I began to think about the world for shorts. I was editing another story of mine, which was a biggie and was about a chaotic, war-ridden world. Again, that helped influence me.

I'm a fan of many genres and watched a lot of weird stuff growing up. I love comics too and action cartoons based on comic book characters. I hate watching movies set in ancient times where modern day values are placed. People had short lifespans. Dying in your thirties wasn't so tragic. People died a lot for all kind of reasons. Dying in war had a nobility to it we can't see because of how wasted a life would be now. So when I started thinking this up I think many aspects came naturally to me. 

mai-phay:      This is what amazed me about your work. Sojourners in Shadow, if memory serves correct, wasn't a new collection and yet it seemed very current. Then you have another collection, the untitled one, and that is even older, but there are some stand out stories in there and all very current.

Steven:          Yes - some of those are older, some younger. I did try for more shorts after a while, anyway, so I ended up with those and more like them. But those shorts in the first collection for Sojourners was started in late 2003, I think.

mai-phay:      So with the mutations more beings were created all, as you said, unique. The overall impression I got was that this collection has a long way to go, i.e. there are more tales to tell.

Steven:          Sojourners is a part one, there will be more a lot more of Sojourners in Shadows. I think the title will change when the tone or tempo changes. But I have already written second stories for Lotus, Straker and the Accursed. Also, several background characters have reappeared in other stories. Plus people and places get mentioned. Trade Island has a lot going on and I have found I tend to write two stories set there in each group of ten. Not always, but often.

Characters have to talk about things that have happened already. For instance, the Demon King's prince being in prison is a big talking point because something like that has never happened.

mai-phay:      Lotus is one of my favourite characters, even though there is undoubtedly a lot more to discover about him.

Steven:          Oh yes. He has a long journey ahead of him. I have this mapped out for a long way ahead.

mai-phay:      Oooh nooooo! Does Lotus make it, so far?

Steven:          That's giving things away. :P

mai-phay:      Ooooooiiiiiii!

Steven:          But like many major characters he has a long, winding road ahead of him.

mai-phay:      Yeh? Do you know how the whole saga ends or haven't planned that far ahead?

Steven:          I know how lots of mini-sagas will end. Those will have a strong bearing on the whole thing. I know how many characters will end, and when. I have a strong vision of where it will all go. I haven't decided on an ultimate end yet because there is a long way to go and many things may affect it.

But like I said, I originally began it as a series of stand-alone pieces to try and publish in different places. Then I started thinking it all out. The more I did, the more I saw the entire world and how everything connected or interacted.

mai-phay:      Can you give me a sentence to sum up Sojourners in Shadow?

Steven:          Many spheres of influence crowded into one world with individuals trying to pass through them. Expect death.

mai-phay:      Hey that's two!

Steven:          I know. I'm a git. 

I'm a firm believer that a story is about taking a character from A to Z, whether it being physically moving them or not, but certainly moving and changing them in some way.

mai-phay:      Character development?

Steven:          That, yes, but more. They should either suffer or realise or be challenged or something. They can be supermen but not untouchable. They should see how wrong they were or how much they have lost. They should risk a lot. Dare to dream. They should work hard to achieve something.

mai-phay:      If they remained static then it'd get boring, so I see your point. Sounds like a good mantra.

And there you have it.
If you have anything you’d like to ask Steven
he can be reached on twitter as 
or on Facebook as, well, 
Steven Beeho

If you’d like to read more of his ramblings check out his no nonsense blog,

Sojourners in Shadow,
a fantastic collection of post-apocalyptic stories, is available on both Smashwords and Amazon.

Tuesday, 5 March 2013

Editorial Opinion: Part 1 of an Interview with Steven Beeho.

After a couple of months chasing, I’ve managed to catch up with Steven Beeho, a writer and editor at Daverana Enterprises, to ask him a few questions. This was no mean feat – I’ve even had Janrae Frank holding him by the ankles, trying to break him into submission. But he’s a tough one, that Beeho, and when he could no longer avoid the inevitable, he stood up and took it like the cantankerous git he is. 

This week, Steven talks about editing.

mai-phay:      What came first editing or writing?

Steven:          Writing. I never did any editing until I started talking to people online and helping them out. I edited my own work, and did that a lot, so I got to be good at it, but never considered doing it seriously. I just ended up doing it. 

Mainly it changed when I met Janrae and she was stuck on the fifth book of a series. I offered to read it and give some feedback. I kicked her arse into gear and after that she kept turning to me for more of the same. 

mai-phay:      So when the editing work increased was your writing compromised, in terms of time? Did you find it enhanced your writing the more editing you did?

Steven:          It definitely cut down on my time to write. I used to write nearly all the time. Once I was editing an old book of mine while writing a new one, but didn't find the juggling act to work very well. I found it hard to get into the new one while thinking over the older one. But doing editing and being edited has taught me a lot, yes.

mai-phay:      What's your greatest bugbear when it comes to editing and being edited?

Steven:          As a general bugbear on editing, I don't like editors who try to change what the writer did. The writer has a style and a voice. You shouldn't mess with that. 

It makes me think of that episode of The Simpsons where Homer gets a promotion and then an assistant. This assistant sorts his life out for him and takes him out to get a measured suit. When being measured, Homer sucks his gut in. The assistant tells him off. He says, “You let it all hang out.” Then points at the tailor and says, “You hide it.” 
For me, that is how it works between writers and editors. Writers should just let it come out. Editors need to dress it up so no one sees the flaws and joins. That is certainly how I write and edit. I just get it done writing wise and worry about fixing, smoothing, correcting and refining later. 

When it comes to being edited I accept most fixes and will try and improve on anything that doesn't work for the editor. Although I refuse to budge on certain issues if I feel they are integral to the story or are just plain right. 

But then the value of editing is that you take a correction, think about whether what you did is really good and proper and correct, and then can move on. It challenges you. You either come out sure of yourself or you make an improvement. Ideally anyway.

mai-phay:      I agree with you. At the end of the day, if it's integral it would be fruitless to alter it.

Steven:          True.

mai-phay:      Without naming names, what has been the most memorable edit you've done?

Steven:          The only time I kind of gave up on one was when I started reading it, the story was full of repetition and small issues. It was hard to read the story itself.

What had happened was it had been written some time ago by two people, then it had been rewritten by one of the original pair and a new writer. When I talked about the problems I was having, it was taken back so the writers could work on it and brush it up.

mai-phay:      How do you find working for writers?

Steven:          Writers will always be very sensitive about their work. They spend hours and hours thinking ideas up and creating characters, then more hours writing it all, and then more going over it. You work really hard and (you should) love what you do. Then someone comes along and points out every flaw there is. It is never a pleasant experience. You either wonder how you missed them or don't like having something you don't agree with being pointed out to you as a flaw.

mai-phay:      But then doesn't that come back to how you deliver your critique as much as whether they take it in the spirit intended?

Steven:          I tend to always say to writers that what I am doing is more advising and nudging them to what I think is right. Some things I am sure of and, if I know the author, I will make those changes myself. Typos will be the main thing there.

Anything that affects the story or character I never insist on, no matter how strongly I might view the issue. Ultimately it is their book, not mine. I fix and hide flaws, not write it myself.

The more I know a writer the more insistent I can be, but mainly I try to sugarcoat the corrections. It helps the writer to take it in but also makes it more likely that they will accept the fixes. But I will point out any flaw I see and question anything I am unsure of. I believe in making sure of things.

mai-phay:      I can understand their protectiveness, especially with something they've spent serious time in crafting.

Steven:          Exactly. But at the same time you have a job to fix what they have done, not hold their hand and stroke their ego.

mai-phay:      Well, I guess, as an editor you need to be sure because you are as only as good as your last edit, which is pretty much the same for writers and their writing.           

Sugarcoating and Steven. Somehow I can't see it...

Steven:          I do it once and that's it. ;) I got the nickname Git for my editing ways. Guess that says a lot.

maiphay:        I thought it was for your cantankerous nature.

Steven:          That too. That and the Uppity. Maybe I think I am being nice, but to other people I am being strict.

mai-phay:      No, you just tell it how it is. And that is worth shed loads. Editing has made me even more aware of mistakes.

Steven:          Yes it does. I found the more I edited, the more I spotted mistakes as I wrote. Also, I just became more aware of what is right and wrong in writing anyway. Errors should always be pointed out.

mai-phay:      Did / do you find that you're more critical of your work because of editing?

Steven:          Oh yes. Be hard not to be. I almost always write everything down on paper first. Then I read it, then I type it up. When I started typing things up, I found myself really thinking through what I was writing. 

Sometimes a sentence that works on instinct doesn't work when you think it through. Reminds me of what Harrison Ford said on Star Wars, “You can write this shit, George, but you sure can't say it.”

Mind you, my handwriting is scribbles. Sometimes I get stuck trying to figure out what the hell I wrote.

mai-phay:      Hahahaa! Writing really is a lost art. I totally get what you say about writing then refining when typing. It's actually quite beneficial.

Steven:          I think so, yes.

mai-phay:      Do you keep all your handwritten notes or chuck them after drafting?

Steven:          I keep everything. I'm a packrat. I have every full story I wrote stuffed in a draw. The originals for shorts too. The originals for Sojourners are kept together and in groups for future collections. I doubt I could throw them away.

And there you have it.

Steven, one of Daverana’s finest editors and emerging writers, is definitely one to

His enthralling debut collection of post-apocalyptic short stories,  
Sojourners in Shadow, 
is out now and available at Amazon and Smashwords.

In the next post, Steven talks about writing. But in the meantime, find out more about Steven's shenanigans by following @StevenBeeho on Twitter, Steven Beeho on Facebook and his blog,

Be prepared for a no nonsense approach to life.

Saturday, 16 February 2013

Snake Oil: An Interview with Bruno Lombardi

It’s cold, dark and pouring with rain – classic British weather – at 1746 on a Saturday. I’m early, for once, and now I need to find the person I’m looking for: Bruno Lombardi. Three minutes later, we are now chatting away about our respective bad weather (Bruno lives in Canada) and his debut novel, Snake Oil… 

mai-phay: It sounds like you've got a lot of support, which is great - there has been A LOT of interest about Snake Oil and your editor, Steven, speaks highly of it - where did you draw your inspiration from? 

Bruno: It's a bit complicated, to be honest. It was, originally, supposed to be a straight up alien invasion novel - very serious and all that - then after the first chapter, I looked at it and realized that it would work MUCH better as a comedy. So, as a self-admitted fan of Doctor Who, Red Dwarf, Monty Python and everything else, I figured well, why not? 

mai-phay: It really is a great plot; aliens wanting to trade with humans, but there is competition between governments as there is no collective to negotiate with them - how did this develop? I love Red Dwarf, by the way! 

Bruno: Who doesn't love it?! As for Snake Oil, it's a bit of taking a real life historical analogy and applying that to the aliens. There's a scene where Drake, basically, flat out points out to Chambers about how the negotiating tactics of the aliens are almost identical to how the UK and US used to act. My take was, well, if Earthlings acted like that, why wouldn't aliens act the same as well? Especially since the aliens are capitalistic caricatures.

mai-phay: Very good point - having the aliens like this does portray capitalism and greed in a different light, especially as the aliens don't do what we normally expect them to, i.e. dominate by force or annihilate mankind. 

Bruno: Which, if you think about, really doesn't make much sense. Why would aliens want to destroy us? But that’s a topic for another time. 

mai-phay: I guess it all comes down to the fear of the unknown and media focusing on this as a selling point - which is why your novel stands out like a breath of fresh of air. 

Bruno: Indeed. But my take on the story was if sci-fi always goes out of its way to portray aliens as stand-ins for some element of human nature, why not just straight up capitalistic businessmen? Well, business aliens? So, once I had that aspect nailed down - “aliens are used car sales men of the galaxy” - the rest of the story flowed from there. 

mai-phay: That sounds like a logical progression. They've also got a good bunch of support characters, it seems - a varied bunch, to say the least. ElevenEleven sounds intriguing... 

Bruno: Based in part on an amusing troll on a sci-fi forum I hang out on. He was clearly insane but it was a wonderfully insane and amusing troll. He's enshrined as a legend on the forum. 

mai-phay: Are there any other characters that may be based on anyone out there? 

Bruno: Bits and pieces of various friends and posters ended up as characters. Drake is based in part of a friend of mine I met on that board who's ex-military (although almost certainly not Special Forces....I think). Chambers is based on another friend who was voted “Most Sarcastic Man in Existence”. 

mai-phay: Speaking of Drake, both he and Baldwin you describe as two main characters; Drake appears to get allies, some of which we have spoken about, but Baldwin, how does he fare? 

Bruno: Baldwin is a special case...he has an interesting arc in the story as he floats between the two camps - Pro and Anti Alien - for much of the story. In the end, he manages to get the best of both sides. 

mai-phay: So, without giving to much away, does this get resolved to everyone's satisfaction? 

Bruno: I would say, yes. Everyone in the story was clearly looking for something. In the end every single one of the characters does find it, although not necessarily what they were looking for in the beginning. 

mai-phay: Oooh good answer!!! 

Bruno: **bows** 

mai-phay: So, what’s next for you, in terms of writing? 

Bruno: I’m working on quite a few short stories (one of them I wrote last year, in fact, just got accepted for publication in an anthology). But right now I'm working on two more novels. The first is “The Coin”. It's about 3/4 done. It's very different (I hope) from what's out there. 

mai-phay: Congratulations on the anthology publication and it's great to hear you've got more work coming out - how do you fit in the time to write so many things when you're working as well? Do you get ANY sleep? 

Bruno: Sleep? What is this “sleep” you speak of? I know not this strange foreign word. Actually, writing is my hobby. Pretty much the only thing that keeps me sane, although the fiancée may disagree on the degree of 'sanity'.... 

mai-phay: Ahhh, a case of po-tay-toe and po-tah-toe. Hey, as long as the voices in your head say you’re ok, then you're ok. Right? 

Bruno: Indeed. It's only when you ARGUE with the voices in your head that you have a problem... 

mai-phay: So true, so true! It's been wonderful talking to you - everyone who comes into contact with you says that you're such a nice guy and I can honestly confirm this. We do all, sincerely, wish you all the best with Snake Oil - there are just three more things to ask.... 

Bruno: Thank you very much. :) Go ahead.

mai-phay: 1 - How can fans contact you? 

Bruno: I have a Facebook page. 

mai-phay: No twitter or blog? 

Bruno: Alas, not yet. But everyone keeps bugging me to do a blog, so that may be my next project soon. 

mai-phay: 2 - Give me 5 words to describe Snake Oil... 

Bruno: Five individual words… 

mai-phay: Yup 

Bruno: …or one sentence of five? 

mai-phay: Mr Lombardi you are splitting hairs - 5 words! 

Bruno: :D 

mai-phay: But you can also give a sentence consisting of 5 words (this could be interesting…). 

Bruno: Okay…five words - and just for you a sentence of five, just to see if I can. Humorous. Engaging…hmmm...this is hard....I didn't know there was going to be a quiz…gripping… 

mai-phay: Ok, how about 5 words it's not? 

Bruno: Dull ;) 

mai-phay: True... 

Bruno: Cliché 

mai-phay: Most definitely not! 

Bruno: Stale 

mai-phay: Far from it. 

Bruno: Stupid? 

mai-phay: No it's not - it's actually very clever, or should I say very cleverly written? 

Bruno: Oh, “clever” is one of the five that it is that wasn't mentioned, right? 

mai-phay: Hahahahaha - yeh! 

Bruno: As for what it's not - 

mai-phay: Dull, cliché, stale, stupid and..... 

Bruno: My fiancée says unhumorous but I'm sure that's not allowed. 

mai-phay: You can use creative licence - so yeh, allowed!!!! 

Bruno: Woohoo! As for describing Snake Oil in a five word sentence, how about, “What if…aliens *are* us?” 

mai-phay: Nice! Bruno, the last question is this: Is there anything you'd like to say before this interview comes to a close? 

Bruno: Just that I really appreciate everything that your company has done for me in making my dream of being a published book author a reality. 

mai-phay: That's really kind of you to say, but you've done the hard work - we're fortunate to have great material to work with! 

And there you have it. 

If you're looking for something different to read then Daverana Enterprises would recommend the fantastically funny Snake Oil by Bruno Lombardi - you will never see aliens in the same light again...