Name: Charles Freedom Long
Book(s) Title: Alvar’s Spear, Dancing With The Dead
Series Title: The Seven Worlds Series
Genre(s): neo-retro science fiction
Tell us a little about yourself? Perhaps something not many people know?
I have one piece of paper that says I’m a psychologist, and another that says I’m a medium. I spent two years in a monastery. I’ve lived life as an adventure, and had some unique experiences, good and bad, as a result. Including staring down the wrong end of an AK-47 once.
I’ve lived and worked in four states, five countries, and three continents, including Africa. And now, I live the happy life of a hermit in a little village in the boonies of Western New York where there are more cows than people.
What made you want to become a writer?
I wanted to write from a very early age. Life intervened.
After all my travelling and living in foreign cultures, particularly the third world, most of the fixed ideas I held about “the ways things are, or should be,” have been shattered. I find science fiction is a natural place for me to write, since its boundaries of imagination are limitless.
I talk with deceased people all the time. After years of seeing the dead portrayed in countless fatuous ways, I decided it was time for someone to show them in a manner some might consider more truthful. That is, life continues beyond the change we call death, the personality survives passing beyond the earthly life and moves on into other dimensions. So I write science fiction. Fiction, to be sure, but from a spiritualist point of view.
Million dollar question, are you working on another book?
Million dollar answer—of course. The prequel to Dancing With The Dead and Alvar’s Spear. Where my characters become who they are, especially Aidan Ray Good, the Vita-Kor adept who ‘dances with the dead,’ and Reverend Doctor William Peebles, the “irreverent reverend” and physician who commands the Terran Eagle Legion of the Krieg war fleet.
Have you written any other books that are not published?
My first novel, written just after I left college, and sent to a friend with publishing connections, was a stream of consciousness mess. My friend actually kept the MS and gave it to my son almost forty years later, on a visit. I have it safely stowed away in the basement.
My second novel, written over a period of four(?) years, eight years ago, ran 750 pages long, with enough material for three or four novels and more gaffs than a fisherman's convention. After taking a few chapters to my writer's group-- and now having to live with the occasional comment, "Are you glad to see me or is that a chicken in your pocket?" --Don't ask-- I decided it would be better to begin a new novel. The chicken in the pocket novel has become the back story for my current series.
What is your advice to Indie Authors? On writing? Marketing?
I believe self-publishing is a wave of the present that will become a tsunami. But it requires entirely more self-discipline than traditional publishing. I review Indie books professionally—have for four years now—and I have seen a great improvement in the general quality of the books I’m being asked to review. The wealth of unique ideas and approaches is, I believe, the Indie world’s greatest asset. Thoughts that would never make it past the hurdles of traditional publishing. Of course, there are also still too many slap-dash, poorly written, awfully edited books coming out.
So, first and foremost, hone your writing skills. Learn to write well. Then learn to write better. Read the books on technique. Find a writer’s group that writes more than it talks about writing—and ruthlessly harpoons any bloated whales you put on paper. Better to get constructive criticism from them than from readers who have plunked down their hard-earned money on your books and been disappointed by a lack of craftsmanship.
And, like it or not, Indie writers must learn how to market their books. To my mind this does not mean you need to be something you are not. In my experience, most fiction writers are introverts. So you have to find a way to remain who you are while getting the word out about your writing –
Preferably in a way you will be proud of when this short life on earth ends.
What tactics do you have when writing? (For example: outline or just write)
I have a unique writing method. I begin with an idea, flesh it out, do a plot sketch and (usually) a bare bones, one or two sentence, chapter by chapter outline, and then let the creative juices take me where they will.
The unique part is that I’m often actively involved with individuals from the other side of the veil called death in the process. So, with a little help from my friends, I write science fiction with a distinctly spiritualist theme.
I’m not trying to write best sellers, but meaningful, entertaining science fiction that gives you more than you bargained for. More than just an exciting page turner. Without any preaching, I weave in concepts of spiritualism and responsibility for one's own actions that will be both interesting and thought-provoking.
I edit and re-edit, using voice readings, computer text, and hard print copy. (I was a professional editor for a while). I have a writers group that reads my copy. I have the text beta-reviewed by other writers, (yes, live ones here on planet earth). I listen to 100% of their comments and suggestions. I’m open to changing what I wrote. Telling the story is one thing. Telling it in a way the reader gets it is quite another. But there are some risks I choose to take in what I say or how I say it.
What is/are your book(s) about?
I write about what might be, to challenge readers’ fixed ideas in a way that will make them consider other possibilities, particularly about sentience, free will, and life after death.
Much of what I write is about things that are not what they seem, but might be. Psionics, multi-sensory human beings, telepathy, telekinesis, precognition, clairsentience, energy medicine, awareness and ongoing communication between the living and the dead as a fact of daily life, and how that might affect the life and philosophy of a world.
Alvar’s Spear, recently released, asks the questions, “What if planets were the bodies of sentient beings,” and “What if they had emotions and desires, just like us?” Gar, a geneticist who is half Terran and half Antal (a bipedal catlike race), is tasked with saving the planet, Alvar who has sworn to hurl herself into the gas giant she obits rather than let a mutant conspiracy turn her into a fetid swamp and enslave the Antal hive. To become the planetary savior, Alvar’s Spear, Gar must confront enemies, assassins, a traitor, and a beautiful, brilliant, Terran geneticist. He must travel into the mysterious Forbidden Mountains of the vild, from which no one has returned. If successful, he will save Alvar.
But the danger of creating a savior is that he will be his own person. He will do what he will, and whether his acts are judged good or bad will only be known in the unrolling of time. Time is not on gar’s side. But time does unroll. What it reveals may not be to everyone’s liking.
Dancing With The Dead, which has won three awards, and has been favorably compared to the work of Isaac Asimov and C.J. Cherryh, will challenge your perception of death, life after death and the quest for truth that continues after the change called death. Its about Fahd- al-Sharfa, a jihadist whose mission is to destroy two space stations and a thriving city on the moon. He begins questioning his own beliefs when he meets and falls in love with a coworker: a cat-like, bipedal alien named Quenby. She is an Antal; seven-feet tall, white haired, white skinned, and “intoxicatingly sensual.” Their physical chemistry is undeniable—as is their spiritual connection—and Fahd realizes that he must choose between his mission or love. The complex political situation surrounding Luna and the space stations complicates matters, as does the existence of “peebs”: those passed-beyond who, although dead, are still actively participating in society.
Does your book have a lesson? Moral?
There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy.
If you could spend time a character from your book whom would it be? And what would you do during that day? (PG-13 please :) ONE OF MY FAVORITE QUESTIONS TO ASK.
I would go with Vitok the Va-Tor Master to the sacred Yarr-Tun Mountain on Narr, home planet of the Nord, in the Anthelion Galaxy. To see the spectacle of the granite peak of Yarr-Tun set against the glow of two beautiful red suns that shone on them, casting two shadows across the majestic Yarr-Tik mountain range. Since I had to travel there by quantum intrusion, (riding a quantum wave until I took on particle form at my destination), I would have taken a Nord body--a beautiful, brilliant translucent being of what we would mistakenly call semi-viscous liquid-gas within a semi-permeable shell that resembles a clear veneer. I’d be almost eight feet tall and deep blue in color.
We would sit in a cave and discuss life and death. Then we’d go for a run in the forest with the narrbears. Twelve feet tall, grizzly brown and black adults, swatting the air with their massive paws and roaring as we ran, with several golden-haired cubs trailing along beside us.
Then an aircar ride across the surface of the rainbow planet. The lush green equatorial strip that ranged across the planet’s middle, set against a blue ocean on the southern side and an orange ocean on the north, then the glistening white ice of the southern pole and the hot red-orange rock of the northern pole.
Finally, we’d settle in for a dinner on the patio of his home in the foothills of Yarr-Tun. Little brown cakes with green topping that tastes like rich, dark chocolate, scones filled with some kind of black berry that oozed out the sides. Biscuits with a creamy spread that was like pistachios, and shaved almond-like nuts spread over them. Bite-sized sandwiches of various vegetables, whole or pureed into a spread between thin flatbread slices. And handle-less, clear porcelain mugs of richly scented mint tea. (Though the narrbears are omnivorous, the Nord are vegans).
Until, my senses filled with food, drink, a spectacular evening, and the warmth of the Nord, I would be struck by the thought, I might not want to leave here.
What has been the best compliment?
I think the best compliment I’ve gotten was from Temple Emmet Williams, former editor at The Reader’s Digest—He compared me to Isaac Asimov:
“Charles Freedom Long has written an exceptional book in Dancing With The Dead. The writing is crisp, clear, and powerful. The science fiction world he creates contains sufficient remnants of today to capture readers with honesty, believability, and trust. In this respect, shades of the great SF writer, Isaac Asimov, appear. I once asked Asimov, over lunch, how he could create his worlds of the future with such honesty. He told me to read the non-fiction university textbooks he wrote. Truth is always borne of reality. Even piercing the veil of death, Charles Freedom Long manages to hold our credibility. He coats the sometime-overbearing spiritualism of the afterlife with intelligence, change, growth, and love. He turns Scandinavian traits into an alien race of goddesses. And because his writing approaches literary magic, he makes us believe in languages we have never heard and ideas we can only hope to grasp. Well done, Charles Freedom Long." (Temple Emmet Williams, former editor at The Readers Digest, award-winning journalist and author)
Could you tell us a bit about your most recent book and why it is a must-read?
Alvar’s Spear is the book that got the tag neo-retro science fiction hung on it.
And I have to say, that does seem to describe what I’m doing. I write to put readers in a frame of mind where they will consider possibilities they have not previously given a lot of serious thought. So, in a sense, it is neo-retro, since it brings new ideas into a classical science fiction modality.
International Writers Inspiring Change has said, it is “Wonderfully written. On a par with Star Wars. This is high-octane sci-fi fantasy which not only entertains, but cracks open new doors of thought.” That sounds like neo-retro to me.
Blueink review, which hung that tag on it said: “Alvar’s Spear is archetypal science fiction: wildly imaginative, thought-provoking, and thematically profound . . . Similar thematically to Ursula K. Le Guin’s seminal novella The Word for World is Forest (1972), the story is undoubtedly a powerful read. Ideas explored include prejudice, acceptance and unity, but ultimately, the questions asked are deeply spiritual in nature. . .The philosophical undertone (quotes from Nietzsche, Cicero, Sun Tzu, Sitting Bull, Malcolm X, Sartre, etc. serve as chapter headers) adds a deeply contemplative layer to the narrative tapestry. Readers who are looking for neo-retro science fiction—especially those who enjoyed Ursula Le Guin’s early works—will find this novel both entertaining and enlightening.
Any website or resources that have been helpful to you as a writer?
Goodreads. Above all else. I agree with the professionals who say this is the one mandatory site for writers. (It’s all readers). If you’re a reader as well as a writer—and you should be—you will find a world of new and old writing discussed here. Stephen King is only one of the great authors who has said if you want to be a good writer you must become a great reader. I will add this—I believe the level of your writing raises or lowers to the level of your reading. If you want to write better, read masterful writing.
You can find me online at my website: http://www.charlesfreedomlong.com/ where I post stories about my characters and worlds, more often at Goodreads, where I share ideas and comments with other readers and writers, or on Facebook, where I let myself indulge in social comment.
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Facebook Page Link: https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100010480393544