Guest Author Beth Cato: Five Influences
Hello! I’m Beth Cato, author of The Clockwork Dagger duology and the in-progress Blood of Earth Trilogy from Harper Voyager. The first book in that series, Breath of Earth, came out last year, and Call of Fire is out on August 15th. Both of my series are classified as steampunk, which means they take basic Victorian and Edwardian historical elements and add some retro-futuristic twists, like airships and other fantastical elements. My books always mix in magic, too.
I’m known for mashing together genres in both my novels and short stories. I draw inspiration from all sorts of things, but there are five major sources that have had an undeniable influence on my work.
– Star Wars
I was born in 1980, and into a household that my older brother already had lined with stormtroopers. The Star Wars soundtrack record album was on constant play. There was never a time I did not know Luke Skywalker or Darth Vader. In my writing, I love to cheer for the underdog. I love to see my bad guys have a shot at redemption. And yes, I enjoy a chance to play with the magic/the Force.
I was horse-obsessed as a kid. I read every horse book in the library, and bought new and used books galore. I’d pick up anything with a horse on the cover. This helped me to read widely, from historical fiction to Serendipity fantasy books to the Black Stallion books. I took riding lessons for a few years but never had the chance to own a horse of my own. Even so, the love has never gone away. I often draw on my knowledge of horses in my current writing.
– Final Fantasy games
Role-playing games for the Nintendo and Super Nintendo were my gateway to fantasy literature in my teens. Games were like living books for me, and none snared me like Final Fantasy IV did (known as 2 in its original American release). I was 11 when it came out. That game was my world. I did artwork, fan fiction, everything. Within months, I had started writing a fantasy novel of my own.
– Laura Ingalls Wilder
I first picked up Wilder’s books because of a horse on the cover. I soon found myself enthralled by Pa’s fiddle and locust invasions and dire blizzards. Those books started a full-on historical fiction and nonfiction obsession that continues today. Steampunk involves a major historical element, and that’s especially true with my current series set in an alternate 1906.
Baking? Yes, really! Food is a huge part of world-building in my books. It’s an important part of life, period. I maintain a food blog at BethCato.com and post a new recipe each Wednesday. I’m known for my decadent cookies and other baked goods. Such goodies are of vital importance in my new release, Call of Fire. How they are important? You’ll need to read the book to find out… and if you want to nibble on some cookies as you read, drop by my site for some recipes!
So I realized that I haven’t posted yet this year. Things have been a bit hectic and I have struggled a bit with thinking of what I wanted to talk about.
Well for me, January ended up being a bit of a mixed bag. On the one hand my wife Andrea won a scholarship to the Amazing SDSU Writer’s Conference. A great opportunity for her to learn about the writing craft and an excuse for me to get away for a weekend vacation. She had a great conference and I got time away from the distractions of home and got a good bit of reading and relaxation in.
Sadly while we were enjoying our weekend in San Diego we were also losing a friend. Local author, friend, and first author guest blogger Alan Black died on January 21, 2017. Though I had only known him a few years, he was a fun and funny guy to be around. He was also one of my best and most encouraging authors to work with at local events. He appreciated that I took care of the money and taxes and let him concentrate on talking to his fans. As he said, he “Never met a good story I didn’t want to tell.” His lovely and equally wonderful wife and editor Duann Black has promised to take over and offer Alan’s books at events. Far more eloquent people than I have said wonderful things about Alan and I agree with them all. He shall be greatly missed.
This was not to be the only personal loss I would suffer in January either. A long time and very dear friend went in for heart surgery and devastatingly never recovered. After several days of not responding well, her family had to make the decision to let her go. A friend who very much lived up to the friends are family for me, she too will be very greatly missed.
And finally after research, I’ve come to the conclusion that the only way I can raise the capital I need to acquire more inventory and make this website and blog into everything I’d like it to be is through crowdfunding. To this end I recently started a gofundme https://www.gofundme.com/duncans-books-and-more-expansion. If you would like to assist in my endeavor, know that anything is greatly appreciated. Please share it to your social media sites and anyone you think might be interested in helping a little bookstore to become a bit less tiny.
As always, thank you for taking the time to read my thoughts and I’ll see you among the stacks.
If you’ve read my past blog posts, you know I’m a fan and friend of the Alien Series by Gini Koch. Fast, fun and funny reads with a very engaging story line. Book 14 Alien Nation is set for release on December 6, 2016. If you’re a fan of the series and not lucky enough to be able to catch Gini Koch at any of her signings but would love to have a signed paperback copy, I’ve got your hook up. I am taking preorders for signed copies of book 14 or orders for any of the previous 13 books. Best of all, you don’t have to pay a mark up to get a signed and personalized copy just for you. Cover price plus shipping is all you pay. Want to order more than one book? I am happy to discuss quantity pricing for multiple books. Drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org and we can discuss the details.
Next, I wanted to say welcome to everyone that follows this modest little blog. I hope you are enjoying these posts. I’m not naturally the most outgoing person, but I’ve found in recent years that I love talking books and entertainment with people. That said, blog format is still a bit of struggle for me. I really want to start a discussion here, but that requires more than just me typing out into the internet. I’ve opened up the comments, but will still intend to keep a watch out for spam and off topic responses. I want a civil friendly discussion. I welcome constructive feedback. Share your opinions about the topic at hand, but please remain respectful of everyone. Author, artist, game designer or other creative entertainment type? Have something related you’d like to share? Contact me and we can talk about guest posts. I’d love to bring more content of interest and help get the word out about what you do. Seriously, I’m just one guy here and trying to think interesting things to say and get them written has proven a bit daunting for me. Enjoying these posts, please let me know.
Lastly, I want to ask what else you’d like to see on this website. I’m currently planning to put a store front up where I could offer the books that I’m simply can’t offer on sites that take a commission at the prices the megasellers offer. Books and such that can be found for $0.01 plus shipping. I could offer them here for $4-$5 with shipping and only have to pay a CC processor a much lower rate. Of course I already offer direct pricing for anything I have available with just an email of this is what I’m looking for, but I was thinking of seeing if I can make this little site a way to grow the business. I also envision an events page and maybe a way to help my amazing local authors more. I want to provide interesting and worthwhile content for those who take their time to visit.
That’s all for now. Thanks for reading. Until next time.
See you among the stacks,
Another Thursday rolls around and I find myself even busier than I expected. I acquired lots of books to sort and list this week. Enough that I expect to be still working on them through next week. This of course push all thoughts of this week’s post out of my mind. Consequently I have decided to give you an off the cuff post about my little business and some thoughts for what I’d like to do with my website moving forward.
I started off selling used books on Amazon in late 2007. I had been working for another online used bookseller for about a year and had decided I wanted to supplement that income with my own store. I started with about 300 books purchased from a coworker of my wife’s. Over the years I’ve stretched my inventory to a few thousand books and expanded from Amazon to multiple online book sites and recently started up this little website and blog. I’ve also moved from selling exclusively used books to a small number of new books.
In 2014 at the request of the ever amazing Gini Koch I made the move into being an event bookseller. In this capacity I assist authors by providing required business and tax-licenses and cashier services, freeing them up to talk to fans about their books and concentrate on the pitch. I’ve gotten to work with some wonderful local authors and really enjoy this aspect of the business.
My next local event is fast approaching in November. I will once again be helping the wonderful authors of the Desert Rose RWA for the 11th annual Free Writer’s Workshops. If you’re in the Phoenix area Nov 5, come on out and check out this great free resource for aspiring writers at the Scottsdale Public Library. If you do be sure to stop my table in the author’s signing area and let me know you read my blog.
As to the future plans for the website, I’m hoping to add more content in the near future. My thoughts include a page for local events I will be selling at or other events I think might be of interest. I would also like to add a store where you can purchase books from me directly. If you have something you’d like to see, feel free to let me know.
That’s about it for this week. Thanks for reading.
Until next week, see you among the stacks.
I was thinking recently about some of the books I read growing up that I still feel the impact of today. I thought I’d share them with you.
Matthew Looney’s Voyage to the Earth by Jerome Beatty Jr.
Matthew Looney’s Voyage to the Earth tells the story of a boy living on the Moon who has always dreamed of space travel. Matthew is a typical Moon boy with a family, a pet, and a plan to fill a summer position at his father’s work. That is, until his world turns upside down when he learns of a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity: the chance to be the cabin boy on a space expedition to the uninhabitable planet Earth.
I remember this a fun little series of children’s books and certainly played into my early fascination with space.
Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson.
This Newbery Medal-winning novel by bestselling author Katherine Paterson is a modern classic of friendship and loss. Jess Aarons has been practicing all summer so he can be the fastest runner in the fifth grade. And he almost is, until the new girl in school, Leslie Burke, outpaces him. The two become fast friends and spend most days in the woods behind Leslie’s house, where they invent an enchanted land called Terabithia. One morning, Leslie goes to Terabithia without Jess and a tragedy occurs. It will take the love of his family and the strength that Leslie has given him for Jess to be able to deal with his grief. In addition to being a Newbery Medal winner, Bridge to Terabithia was also named an ALA Notable Children’s Book and has become a touchstone of children’s literature, as have many of Katherine Paterson’s other novels.
This one has stuck with me largely because of the beautiful way it deals with friendship and tragedy. The times when I had few friends my imagination became a place of refuge. I also thought the movie adaptation was quite well done and loved getting to see into the world of Terabithia.
The Cay by Theodore Taylor
Phillip is excited when the Germans invade the small island of Curaçao. War has always been a game to him, and he’s eager to glimpse it firsthand–until the freighter he and his mother are traveling to the United States on is torpedoed.
When Phillip comes to, he is on a small raft in the middle of the sea. Besides Stew Cat, his only companion is an old West Indian, Timothy. Phillip remembers his mother’s warning about black people: “They are different, and they live differently.”
But by the time the castaways arrive on a small island, Phillip’s head injury has made him blind and dependent on Timothy.
A required reading book in school, the themes of this beautiful story have stuck with me. I loved the transformation of Phillip in the story and the growth. I had forgotten the name of it until I acquired a library-bound copy earlier this year.
The Forgotten Beasts of Eld by Patricia A McKillip.
Sixteen when a baby is brought to her to raise, Sybel has grown up on Eld Mountain. Her only playmates are the creatures of a fantastic menagerie called there by wizardry. Sybel has cared nothing for humans, until the baby awakens emotions previously unknown to her. And when Coren–the man who brought this child–returns, Sybel’s world is again turned upside down.
One of my first YA books. I came across this book at a library that had a small section for YA books. I wonderful fantasy book that I still have fond memories of.
Feel free to share your thoughts or any books you read growing up that still effect you today.
Until next time, see you among the stacks.
I’ve been an avid reader and fan of Science Fiction and Fantasy for most of my life. It is the genre that really grabbed my attention and nurtured my love of reading and books. They are the books and movies that gave me refuge in the most challenging times of my childhood. It is responsible for a myriad array of fan groups and wildly devoted followers. Yet for me, I never quite belonged to one of these groups. I have friends who shared interests and loved many of the same things, but never really a group of people I knew because of a shared love of a book or series of books, movies or TV shows.
That changed for me a few years back when my wife the aspiring author found herself a mentor in local author and all around amazing lady Gini Koch. Suddenly I was part of The Alien Collective so named for her Alien Series. I rather came at it sideways as I didn’t start reading the series right away. Eventually I had to start reading so I could understand all the references to the diverse worlds in the series rather than sit around clueless. I have come to enjoy the series though I am still quite a bit behind.
I recently started connecting more with the various fans on Facebook. One of these was devoted fan Elizabeth “Beth” Vrabel. She was part of the Collective so long that Gini herself doesn’t remember exactly when she joined. Sadly Beth died suddenly on Sunday. I’ve read several moving goodbyes from people who knew her far better than I. She supported numerous Kickstarter projects that included Gini Koch in their number, often grabbing up the opportunity to name a character in whatever story Gini was presenting to us. I wish I had known her better. I know even through our little online interactions she brightened my life and had an even bigger impact on the lives of those who knew her better and longer.
So I puzzle over how to say goodbye to someone I barely knew. I try once again to remember to tell those I care about just how important they are to me. I continue to do what I can to help promote those creative types around me that have become valued friends. I move forward with life, but know that there is one less fellow fan to share a love of books with. Thank you Beth for all that you shared.
Till next time.
See you among the stacks,
My first Author to guest blog for me Mr Alan Black. Author, friend and pretty great guy. I definitely recommend seeing if any of his books catch your interest.
Influences on an author
My earliest influences as an author were all of the young adult classics written by Mark Twain, Robert Louis Stephenson, Nathanial Hawthorne, and Alexandre Dumas. They all taught me the benefit of action, character, and storytelling…some in odd ways, more so than the others. I was also deeply influenced by the back of cereal boxes, the Kansas City Star’s twice daily newspaper, and most notoriously, The TV Guide.
Then came that weird, wonderful, and totally magical day. While in the seventh grade, browsing through the school library bookshelves, (obviously avoiding doing my math homework) I picked up a copy of Robert Heinlein’s “Tunnel in the Sky”. Amazing! I was simply overwhelmed by the possibilities of worlds beyond ours. Science fiction! Who knew such a thing existed! And on that day, I also picked up a western by Louis L’amour. “Sackett” stunned me. I loved westerns on television…who didn’t at that time? After all we were in the midst of classic western television in the mid-sixties. But this—this was more than television. This was a whole world—one I already loved—given to me on paper, running fast from word to word through my brain without commercial interruption and without my brother trying to sit on my face to fart during Bonanza commercials. Who knew such a thing was possible!
Many people say that these writers, Heinlein and L‘amour wrote in divergent genres, but I heartily and sometimes, not so respectfully, disagree. Science fiction and westerns are separated only by time and location. They are (or were) simple melodramas of good versus evil. This may have changed some in the past few years as new and exciting authors join us in scifi and the wild, wild west.
Who influences my writing these days? Readers do more than writers. What do you like? What are you reading now? I enjoy reading a wide variety of independently published authors, as their creativity and ingenuity is often far outside of the box of what a traditionally published author can offer. Today’s writers can cater to a more sophisticated audience, given well-defined nuanced characters and intricate stories, yet I find that most readers still enjoy that simple entertaining story of good versus bad. And here’s to hoping that the good guy still wins.
is a multi-genre author who’s never met a good story he didn’t want to tell.
Quest for the White Wind,
This week I thought I’d take up the suggestion from my lovely wife and talk about my favorite authors and books series.
Of course I have an amazing number of wonderful and supportive author friends who I could certainly say are among my favorites simply for being the wonderful people they are, but for this post I will stick with a few of the authors who’s books have had an impact on me.
My first author has both a series I very much enjoyed by him and a couple of series written by other authors, but using his creation, the rather iconic science fiction master Isaac Asimov. I started reading Asimov in high school courtesy of a birthday gift of 3 books from my father. I received the 1st book in the Robot City series, the 2nd book in the 2nd series Robots & Aliens. These series marked the 1st time Asimov had allowed other authors to use his positronic robots and the 3 laws of robotics. I set down and plowed through the 1st book in a matter of hours the very night I received it, which was quite an achievement for me. I then had to set about finding the other five books in the 1st series, then at least the 1st book in the follow up series. I enjoyed them immensely and credit them as part of the reason why I delved into reading books by Asimov himself. The other part would be, of course, the 3rd I was gifted. Robots & Empire is the 4th book in the robot detective novels. Not being much of one to jump into any series without starting from book one, I had to find and read The Caves of Steel. This series really did combine two wonderful elements for me, mystery and science fiction. The finish of the 4th book is my first memory of wanting to throw a book from the shear punch of the ending. I could not argue with the beauty of the ending, but it was frustrating none the less. Still, a reaction which marks an investment in the story and characters and a sign of great writing. I am also a fan of the robot short stories Asimov wrote with my personal favorite being Bicentennial Man. The novelization done by Robert Silverberg is to me a masterful expansion of a beautiful story about what it is to be human. Sadly, much as I enjoyed Robin Williams in the title role, the movie falls well short of what I loved about the source material. For me, Data from ST:TNG is the best example of what I loved about the story.
Next, is more from a series stand point than necessarily the authors, the Dragonlance series. My favorites of this shared world series are easily those by Margaret Weiss & Tracy Hickman. Dragonlance represents a rich fantasy world with some really great characters. I haven’t read everything set in the Dragonlance world, but I did enjoy most of what I’ve read.
Now, on to the 1st of the three authors I am currently actively reading, the somewhat infamous George RR Martin. My first introduction was when a friend in part responsible for me becoming a bookseller handed me a copy of Game of Thrones, the first book in the Song of Ice and Fire series. I started reading the series long before the HBO series was even being hinted at. I was captivated by the world and the expansive cast of characters. Of course, as with so many fans, I found favorite characters suddenly dead by the end of the first book. Even starting the 1st book around the time the 4th book was released, I have not been immune to the pain of having to wait years for the next book to hit shelves. I look forward to the conclusion of a story that I am enjoying in two formats now. I am also currently reading the Wild Cards series which Martin is an editor of.
The second of my 3 currently reading authors is Jim Butcher of The Dresden Files fame. I was introduced to Jim Butcher by a good friend of mine years ago via The Dresden Files. Again, I was given 2 great loves combined in one series, this time fantasy and mystery. Harry Dresden Wizard P.I. was an instant love for me. Butcher has also written the Codex Alera series which apparently stems from a challenge on the worst possible combination discussion on the internet. In this case, Pokemon meets the lost roman legion. Proof that a good author can find a way to turn a terrible idea into a wonderful story. While I initially waited till the 1st book came out in paperback, it quickly became a series I did not want to wait for the subsequent books to be released in paperback and bought the rest of the series as they were released in hardcover. Most recently released was his first book in his newest series, The Cinder Spires. The Aeronauts Windlass is Butcher’s take on Steampunk. Again, great characters and a use of language that just grabs me and doesn’t let go. Jim Butcher definitely ranks as one of the authors that I love everything of his that I’ve read.
The final of my 3 current authors is the amazing Gini Koch. Funnily enough, it was a chance to meet Jim Butcher at a local convention that led to discovering Gini Koch who in turn led to me writing this very post. An extremely prolific author (read 2 books/year just from her main series), I was bit slower to start reading Gini’s books. I started with Alexander Outland: Space Pirate, a fun rollicking book reminiscent of what I loved about Firefly and Han Solo. Fast paced as is all of Gini Koch’s writing, Alexander Outland was a fun, easy read that I truly hope is given the chance to get the rest of series it deserves. Next, I read The Night Beat, 1st of the Necropolis Enforcement Files series, a great take on many of the iconic “undead” and creatures of the night. The second book in the series Night Music is forth coming if not official released yet (not quite sure on this point). Of course this all leads to the big series from DAW Books The Katherine “Kitty” Katt Alien Series currently at book 13 Camp Alien and book 14 Alien Nation due out in December. I’m a bit behind here, still working my way through book 6 Alien vs Alien. The first book Touched by an Alien introduces us to the gorgeous aliens from Alpha Centauri living on earth and fighting “fuglies”. Katherine “Kitty” Katt is the earthling main character who stumbles across a world she didn’t know existed and takes us along for the ride. Fast paced and funny, these books are a great read that just keeps getting better. I definitely recommend that people check them out. Beware that they are a bit steamy Sci-fi/Romance books and contain sex scenes.
Finally, I come to possibly the author who might be my top favorite, the amazing and funny Terry Pratchett. A brilliant man and writer who was lost to us far too early and way too recently. Many people will know him from Good Omens written with Neil Gaiman. For me, he is the brilliant mind behind one of the funniest and thoroughly enjoyable series I’ve every read, The Discworld Series. I stumbled across the Discworld series practically by accident on my way home from visiting family in England back in 1991. Browsing through the airport bookstore, I found an intriguing sounding book called The Colour of Magic. It was a captivating title with great cover art. Rincewind the inept Wizzard instantly grabbed my attention and I had to hunt through my local library for quite some time to get the follow up book The Light Fantastic. Down through the years. I have continued to love the books in the Discworld Series and the many wonderful funny characters Pratchett created. Like so many of my fellow Terry Pratchett fans, I was saddened by news of his passing last year. I was never so lucky as to have met him in person, but he certainly had a long and lasting impact on my life through his writing and satirical humor. I am a few books behind in the series so have some adventures yet left to me. I will have to reluctantly leave Discworld to fond memories when eventually I read the final words of the final book in the series.
I look forward to continued enjoyment of my favorite authors still tapping away at their keyboards with the stories they are driven to tell. Should I manage to get caught up with my current back log of books to be read, I look forward to discovering new favorite authors among the many I find myself surrounded by. So now in the interests of creating a discussion rather than just “talking” to myself for your hopeful enjoyment, I turn the question to you. What are some of your favorite authors or series of books?
Till next time, see you among the stacks.
Welcome to the Duncan’s Books and More Books & Entertainment Blog. My intent is to start a discussion about books and other forms of entertainment. I hope to show a little more of who my guest bloggers are and generate interest in their books without the constant “go check out these books”. Disrespectful or off topic comments will be deleted. This is my space to encourage reading and other forms of entertainment and I am the ultimate arbiter of what content I feel appropriate. The current plan is do have a weekly post on a given topic. I want to encourage guest posts from the many amazing authors I know and welcome topic suggestions from readers. Most of all, I want enjoyable lively discussion about the topic at hand.
That’s all for now. Unleash the suggestions. See you among the stacks.