Suzanne Church’s Elements

Today, I’m delighted to bring my Dragon*Con buddy and friend, award-winning author Suzanne Church, to the Lair.  This will be a slight change of pace because Suzanne’s focus is speculative fiction ranging from horror to science fiction to fantasy.  She has just released her first short story collection, Elements

Welcome, Suzanne!  I hear you’re a Game of Thrones fan.  Since many of our regulars also love it, how about telling us why you like?

color_headshot_2012_googleThe HBO series is such a pleasure to watch. The sets, costumes, locations, actors, and scripts are all of the highest quality. Every episode feels like a feature length movie.

 I’ve read almost all of the “Song of Ice and Fire” novels and I’m pleased that George R.R. Martin waited to select the perfect home for his saga before agreeing to the project.

I think the strongest acting performance is Peter Dinklage’s portrayal of Tyrion Lannister, but so many other actors dominate their scenes. My favorites from among the list of exceptional actors include Lena Headey (Cersei), Charles Dance (Tywin), Nikolaj Coster-Waldau (Jaime), Rose Leslie (Ygritte), and Gwendoline Christie (Brienne).

Part of what makes the show so appealing to me are all of the strong female characters. Traditionally, epic fantasy stories tend to focus on the male heroes who save the female damsels, but Game of Thrones has plenty of strong women–some you love, and some you love to hate!

Did you read science fiction and fantasy growing up?

 I remember reading “The Chronicles of Narnia” by C.S. Lewis at a very young age. Once I had my own children, I re-read the books to them and was able to appreciate more layers of the series that I’d been too young to grasp the first time around.

 In my teens I remember reading books like “Carrie” and “Salem’s Lot” on the sly because I didn’t want my mother or my friends to chastise me for reading horror. Stephen King is such a master of story and with every one of his novels he captured my attention right from the get go.

What role, if any, did these influences play in your decision to write fiction?

 I’ve always wanted to write like Stephen King. His talent for pacing and plot development is spectacular. The hardest part is studying his prose. Even though I begin with a pencil behind my ear, ready to make notes about how he introduced this character or developed that subplot, before I can stop myself I’m so absorbed by the book that I race euphorically through the pages.

 Another reason that I write is to attempt to harness my imagination. My brain seems to never turn off, even when I sleep. I dream so often (usually nightmares) that I sometimes wake exhausted. One of my long-term writing goals is to try and bring even a fraction of those late-night strange worlds and their haunting characters to life.

Elements-5_5x8_5-100dpi-c8Tell us a bit about Elements, please.

 Elements contains 21 short stories — 14 are stories originally published in other anthologies or magazines and 7 are new to the collection. The subtitle for ELEMENTS is “A Collection of Speculative Fiction” and that sums up the project. You’ll find some Science Fiction, some Fantasy, and a little Horror (although it reads more like Dark Fantasy). Overall, the tales are connected to the Elements in one way or another.

 As a sampling, “Storm Child” is a Rwandan myth retelling, “The Wind and the Sky” explores how futuristic androids might react to primitive humans, and “Soul Hungry” is the paranormal story I wrote inspired by Neil Jackson’s fantastic cover art.

Also included in ELEMENTS are three stories from my Couch Teleportation Universe where humans interact with a number of whacky aliens.

Would you like to share an excerpt?

I’d love to. Here’s the first scene in the Fantasy story, “Courting Ice”

COURTING ICE – From ELEMENTS

To an ice courter like Faya, all frozen water was uniquely magnificent, from the great bergs that floated past the cape to the thin skins on late autumn puddles. She adored her gift, for it allowed her a connection as splendid as the love she had once shared with her long dead mother. All her life the ice had proven pure and true, until the spring when she fell in love.

The morning after the spring equinox she stood in water up to her knees, daggers of cold slicing through her calves, her heavy furs piled on the shore several arm’s reaches away. With water all around, she linked with the ice. A large mass had formed in the shallows at the other side of Ranglien Cove. Tendrils of comfort drifted to her from the mass as it felt its way through her. It longed to join with her, to be loved as only ice can be adored by its courter. With arms outstretched, she urged a small piece of it closer, coaxing it to break free from the massive formation. Crevices ruptured, screaming with the effort of separation. Heartbeats later, the separated chunk sailed over to her waiting embrace.

“Nice work.”

Releasing her hold on the ice, she turned to see a man, naked from the waist down. He wore a loose cotton shirt, too thin to provide much warmth, and he had tied the bottom edge in a knot to keep it out of the water.  Settling into the shallows behind her, he washed himself at the edge of the clear, frigid waters.

With a quick return to her task, she rotated, twisting the waist-high chunk onto shore and turning her back on this stranger. He should have been shivering from the cold, yet he cleansed himself with a strange mixture of calm and grace. The water misted above him like a perilous fog.

She said, “A courtship isn’t meant to be shared.”

“Ah, but a courtship is, by definition, sharing, is it not?”

She stepped ashore, courted the piece onto her sled, and wrapped oiled leather around it. “Witnessed, then.”

“Despite your objection, I rather enjoyed the moment. I’m Lebno.” He extended a hand towards her.

She paused, staring at his hand, then stepped back into the water to grasp it. His palm was warm. It felt comforting. “Faya,” she said.

“Pleased to share your courtship, Faya.”

“Aren’t you cold?” This man seemed too content in the water, but with her own abilities, she would have been able to sense if he, like her mother, had courted it.

He shrugged. “I needed solace, and I thought this cove deserted.”

“In my experience, those who seek isolation are avoiding an unsolved quandary.”

“You’re an observer, as well,” he said. “But incorrect. I’m here for a simple rinse. I’ve tasks, not quandaries, to evade.”

“The sooner you’re at the work, the quicker you’ll finish.”

“And now you’re a philosopher.” The water misted, almost boiled as a blush tore its way from his face down.

Despite her courtship with the ice, her legs had had enough of the cold and urged her to exit the water. A gust of wind tore through her. She shivered, not once, but twice. The elements demanded much of their courters.

She returned to shore, finished binding her ice to the sled, and donned her heavy furs. She could not help but look at him. The man’s muscles bulged through the thin shirt. A sprinkling of gray painted his dark beard. He caught her eye and smiled so brightly that if he’d been a fire, sparks would have popped in every direction.

Fire!

Faya slumped to the ground in surprise, hitting her tailbone hard enough to send spikes of pain along her spine. It can’t be. They are so rare, so few.

“You’re a fire courter,” she said.

His face showed no emotion, no acknowledgment.

She hadn’t meant to say it aloud, to speak of his gift so openly. Many of his type had been corrupted by their power, using it to conquer, or worse, to kill. Fear had spread from one village to the next, until the great cleansings had taken many of the fire courters’ lives. The ones who remained were forced to serve multiple communities, while at the same time they lived under constant scrutiny of the ever-watching councils.

She swallowed, and stood, “I didn’t know that Daslak’s council had called you to serve.”

“I’m only here for a short while, to tutor your apothecary. I’ll soon return to Cape Trebnay.”

“Oh.” Pressing her lips shut, she thought, I hope that means I will see you again. Keeping her face as neutral as she could muster, she nodded respectfully, and then pulled the sled’s strap over her shoulders, settling into the yoke. “Well … Good travels to you, Lebno. If I were you, I would finish rinsing soon, or you might lose your feet.” With closed eyes, she sought an inner peace, forcing rogue thoughts back while she carried her load forward.

Very cool! What’s next for you (besides a trip to Dragon*Con 2014)?

 I’m always writing and editing.

At the beginning of the year, I set a writing goal to pen at least four short stories. I’m a bit behind on that deadline, but I’ll catch up.

I’ve been focusing on novels lately. I have two completed novels, although that word “completed” always feels a bit overstated to the inner editor in me.

Over the last few weeks I’ve been planning and outlining a new novel based on the world and characters in “Destiny Lives in the Tattoo’s Needle” one of the short stories from Elements. If all goes well, I’ll complete the first draft by the end of the year.

 Some of the reviews for Elements speak about the many unique and cool worlds you’ve created for the stories in the book. What are the origins of some of your stories?

 Like most authors, much of my fiction comes from tiny fragments of my own life. Don’t get me wrong, these characters are make-believe, but some of the settings and influences trace back to places I’ve grown up or people from my past.

To connect the readers to the stories, I’ve posted origin details including many “Fun Facts” about the collection. Readers can find links to these stories-behind-the-stories from the Table of Contents for Elements post on my blog.

Romance Bandit readers love free stuff! Can you help us out?

 Great, because my publisher, EDGE Science Fiction and Fantasy Publishing, would love to offer one copy of Elements to a Romance Bandits commenter today.

 Thanks so much to Nancy Northcott and all the Romance Bandits for inviting me into the lair.

Thanks for being here, Suzanne!  

For more information on Suzanne and her work, check out her website: http://suzannechurch.com/wordpress/ or her Amazon author page.  You can also connect with her on social media via Facebook, Twitter (where she’s @CanadianSuzanne), Goodreads, and Google Plus.

To enter the drawing, leave a comment on today’s blog.  If you like Game of Thrones, tell us why (or, if you don’t like it, why not).  Or you can tell us what stirs your imagination, whether it’s for writing, drawing, crafts, cooking–anything you love to do.

 

 

 

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Comments

41 Comments

  • Helen says:

    Is he coming to my place ?

    Have Fun
    Helen

  • Helen says:

    Hi Suzanne and Nancy

    Oh this one sounds good I am not a horroe reader and I honestly can’t remember how long ago I read a book other than a romance 🙂 I really need my HEA and I don’t watch TV progammes either I have way too many books on my TBR pile for TV although as a young teenager I would watch a lot of scary movies and I did enjoy them but not these days and I have not seen or read the Game of Thrones although my daughters have and loved them. What stirs my imagination is a really good romance and I do love all the genres of romance these days.

    Congrats on the release

    Have Fun
    Helen

    • Helen, we don’t watch a lot of TV, though there are some shows, like Castle, NCIS:LA and Grimm, the dh and I make a point of watching together. The way US networks do their “seasons” now, running only 10 episodes or so of a show and then running something else for 10 weeks, or else throwing in multiple weeks of reruns between new episodes, we have maybe 3-5 shows a week, if that, we like to watch.

      I can read and watch TV at the same time, but only if I’m not truly absorbed in either. And some books just demand that absorption, you know? I find more books than TV shows that just require full attention. I’m not sure whether that says more about the quality of TV or about my brain. 🙂

  • flchen1 says:

    Game of Thrones sounds like something I probably wouldn’t love (introduce lots of characters and kill them off imaginatively…) but DH has enjoyed both the books and the TV series. Like Helen, I love romance, and love all its varieties. I grew up reading and watching a lot of scifi, and am thrilled to see how much scifi romance there is now 🙂 Woohoo!

    • The “imaginative killing” of characters in Game of Thrones is disturbing for sure. But sometimes the character totally deserves what they get!

    • Fedora, I also like a dose of romance with my science fiction. I read thrillers and SF/F that have virtually no romance in them, but I always circle back to romance.

  • Amy Herring says:

    I already own a copy of ELEMENTS so please do not add my name to the drawing.

    I have read all the GoT novels and watch each episode of the HBO series with delight in spite of the growing divergence from the novels’ story arc. With hubbie Bryan and friend Lynda, we will attend ConCarolinas in Charlottelater this month to hear GoT author George R. R. Martin speak. So excited!

    ELEMENTS does have romance, but of the weird variety, including “Courting Ice” excerpted above and the zombie tale “Gray Love.” Suzanne (I call her “Zed”) brings her strange blendings of speculation and emotion to all her fiction (and the tales are getting stranger.Try out her Aurora-nominated story “Living Bargains” if still posted at her website. If it’s not an ecpression of true love in the face of adversity, please let me know what says “I love you” with more intensity.)

    Just call me a true Zed fan. If the Z fits, wear it!

    Amyz

    • Ah shucks!

      Amy’s right about “Living Bargains” being a love story but beware…it’s also rather dark.

      Thanks for sharing my visit to the lair!

    • Amy, you didn’t tell me you were going to ConCarolinas! The boy and I are going, too. So is one of the other bandits, along with her hubby. Is this our mutual Lynda who’s coming? Email me details!

      I totally agree with everything you said about Suzanne’s writing. My favorite story from the collection, though, is “Storm Child,” which has long been a favorite of mine.

      • Amy Herring says:

        Yes, origladycat, B, and I are all going. We meant to email both GV and you. Will correct that omission today!

      • Amy Herring says:

        I have so many favorites in Zed’s work but have to admit a long-term partiality for “Coolies” and so proud it heads off the collection. Other favorites are “The Wind and the Sky,” ‘The Flower Garden,” and “Destiny Lives in the Tatoo’s Needle.” A few I won’t name give me the creeps, eyes and a certain radioactive monkey involved, but I still devour them, a chance to live on the edge perhaps?

  • Deb says:

    I don’t read horror nor watch movies or shows of that nature. I just don’t like to be creeped-out. I have to go to the bedroom when my husband and daughter watch a scary movie or when “The Walking Dead” is on t.v.!

    On the philosophical side, perhaps imagination is stirred depending on the circumstances. Mundane as it sounds, I am actually sitting here this morning thinking about where to transplant my painted daisies, yellow buttons, and blazing stars. I am usually creative, but my flower beds are just a hodgepodge of this and that, plopped here and there. 🙂

    I think my creativity comes out through my bulletin boards at school. I involve the kids by having them make things to plop up on them.

    • Deb, I generally stop short of horror on the speculative fiction continuum, but letting me loose in a garden would qualify as a different sort of horror for any true gardener. If you’re good enough with plants to be thinking about transplanting and rearranging, I’d bet your hodgepodge is gorgeous!

      There’s a knack to making bulletin boards or scrapbook pages attractive. I envy people who have it.

      • My gardening involves buying perennials and then hoping that I don’t accidentally pull them a few years later because I mistake them for weeds.

        When people ask what kind of plant this or that is, I usually say, “I pink one” or “that grassy looking one”

  • Shannon says:

    There have been points in my life when I have read a bit of sci-fi, paranormal, and fantasy. I have read all the Game of Thrones books, but have only seen the first season. (I have 2 and 3 on DVDs, but the DVD player quit. The new DVD player needs a digital TV. Sooner or later, I will buy the TV.)

    My favorite sci-fi is Peter Hamilton’s Commonwealth series. Orson Scott Card is another favorite. Long ago it was Heinlein, Asimov, and Margret Atwood. In between, I read every Pern book that came out. As you might guess, I like big, meaty books.

    I’m not a terribly creative person. I’ve made several beautiful wreathes for the door. Cooking is only fun when you’ve got someone to eat your creations. I’ve dabbled with writing but never have stuck with it to the end. I do “fanzine” writing in my head when I take my walks. Secondary characters deserve their HEA.

    • Shannon, if you can make door wreaths, you’re creative. I look at stuff like that in Michaels and wish I knew what to do with it! The dh and I tuned into the first Game of Thrones, but it was so dark that we decided not to stay with it, somewhat reluctantly since we liked many of the actors in it.

      I know what you mean about the TV. We held off buying one until our old TV died. We turned it on one day, and all we got was a 1/4-inch-wide, horizontal green line. Yeah. Time to concede defeat. But we still have the non-digital satellite box, which we keep meaning to have changed out, and so are not yet reaping the full benefit of the TV.

      I think it’s cool that you write in your head when you walk. The first things I wrote were fan fiction, so I naturally think that qualifies as creative, too.

    • That’s how I got my start writing…by daydreaming characters in my head while I was doing something else like walking, doing the dishes, etc.

      You never know when one of those ideas can blossom into a book or a short story that other people would love to read.

  • catslady says:

    I started out reading horror/science fiction and it remains a favorite. I have almost all of Stephen King’s books. Romantic fantasy and paranormals are also something I enjoy. I love being taken to really different worlds 🙂

    • Catslady, fantasy and science fiction have also been favorites of mine since childhood. I also like exploring other worlds.

    • Cool!

      I believe that most readers will enjoy just about any story that transports them away to some other world. Even if that world happens to be a historical version of Canada or a far corner of unexplored Africa or Paris in the roaring twenties!

      And most horror literature is more about being “uncomfortable” rather than what slasher/horror movies are made of.

  • Caren Crane says:

    Suzanne, thank you so much for being with us today! I was intrigued when I saw you wrote speculative fiction. As a long-time sff reader (cut my teeth on it as a preteen), I enjoy the far-ranging elements of speculative fiction. So glad to see yours getting out into the world!

    As for GoT, I have read the series (as much as there is so far) twice. I’m only on Season 2 of the show, but I have few quibbles with it. My biggest quibble is all that is not explained. Which is A LOT. Casual watchers wouldn’t notice, but I sure do. My husband and I both read the books, so we’re always saying, “So whatever happened to (insert character name and/or subplot)?” or “Did they ever explain ANY background on (X, Y or Z)?” It’s maddening.

    But the constraints of the medium sort of limit how much story can be told in 53 minutes. The show is great for what it is. The books (except for some serious bloat in Books 4 and 5) are fabulous!

    • Caren, you’ve read all those honking’ big books twice? That is serious dedication. The dh and I had similar “what happened to—?” reactions when we first saw The Fellowship of the Ring. The absence of Tom Bombadil was choice that remains hotly debated by fans. We missed him.

    • Caren, I think what I’ve appreciated the most about the HBO series is the way that each cast member has brought the characters of the books to life. At one point, I gave up on “A Feast for Crows” because so many of the characters had similar names and I was horribly confused about who was who.

      Now that I’ve watched several seasons of the show, I’ve gone back and read “A Feast for Crows” and was much more engaged in the plot since all of the characters were more distinct in my mind.

      • Caren Crane says:

        Suzanne, I’m totally with you on A Feast For Crows. Even the second time through, I had to come up with ways to remember who was who. All those names. A cast of thousands! When the wildlings all got thrown in the mix, with all those families and clans and alliances, I was done for. Putting faces to the names certainly helps!

        Plus, I adore the girl who plays Ygritte. I loved her character on Downton Abbey and was sorry when she left to be a typist! 🙂 Also, I think Nikolaj is a delightful Jaime Lannister. He IS Jaime to me now!

        I don’t love how they have made Cersei more sympathetic than she is in the books, though. They really have played up her scenes. Lena Headey is a wonderful actress and truly beautiful, but I still want Cersei to be as big a beyotch on the show as she is in the books. She usually is, but then they really cue the violins for her sometimes when they didn’t need to. Ack!

        I also don’t love all the extra Littlefinger scenes. They have puffed up his part so much in the series that I’ve almost started disregarding his scenes in the show as “not necessary.” It’s a shame!

        And, btw, I was only glad they didn’t have Tom Bombadil in the Hobbit movies because he wouldn’t have been as awesome as in my mind. I adore Tom! That is all. 😀

  • Maureen says:

    My imagination takes off when I visit a museum and see the everyday items that people used many years ago.

  • Why I love Game of Thrones? One word

    Dragons

    • Donna, thanks to not watching, I didn’t realize they had dragons.

    • Annie West says:

      Dragons! Me too, Donna!
      I’m a Game of Thrones novice, having only seen the first season, but it’s the sort of rich, multi-layered story I love. Thanks for sharing, Suzanne!

    • Yes, Donna.

      And as the seasons progress, the dragons grow and the special effects people show off their talents again and again.

      In some scenes I am amazed at how realistic the dragons are. There’s never a moment where I think, “yeah, that looks like CGI”. Instead, I am totally there, believing that Dany is petting her dragons.

  • bn100 says:

    haven’t seen the show yet

    • Bn100, a lot of people at least checked it out, but I know others who didn’t care to. Is that the case for you–just not your thing?

    • It’s not for everyone. There are scenes that are rather violent.

      And since it’s an HBO series, you can probably guess (expect?) that there’s plenty of nudity and rather graphic sex.