And here it is: the interview with the last–but certainly not least–personality behind ‘Unburied Treasures – an illustrated anthology‘. Meet Jonathan S. Pembroke, a hilarious fellow whom you can always rely on for honest, no BS opinions. 🙂 I call him Mr. Axe because he uses Stoneaxe as his handle at the writing forum we both belong to. I really adore his work, particularly his awesome ‘Chronicles of the Autumn Warrior‘ which I hope to see in the bookstores one day!
It’s a pleasure to have you here today, Mr. Axe.
Thank you so much for the opportunity. I appreciate being included in this and other projects alongside the other FWO writers.
Tell us a bit about yourself, what do you do when you’re not writing?
Well, I spent 20 years in the US military and as of this summer, retired from service. My wife Lisa and I moved to the mountains of Arizona and I have spent my time working on rebuilding our ranch house after we had a fire earlier this year. I have also been helping her set up and run her art business. The Dragon on the left there is one of her beautiful fantasy stained-glass pieces.
I spend a bit of time with my son, daughter-in-law and our precocious 4-year old granddaughter, who naturally has me wrapped around her finger. Otherwise, I like to read, watch movies, and do some woodworking. I enjoy gardening and hope to have a nice one set up next spring, once the work on the home is done. I also try to keep up with a witty post or two at my blog, The Flint Hatchet. I chose that title since I’m generally known as Stoneaxe on writing forums.
And then I spent this summer growing a beard for the first time. It may sound insignificant but when you’ve had someone telling you how to dress and groom your entire life (parents and then the military), I found it liberating.
Well in that case, it’s very significant indeed 🙂 Now, Mr. Axe, I really enjoyed your story ‘The Lightning Bears‘. Could you share with us how the story came to be?
I hate to say it, but it was a sarcastic reaction.
Just before I wrote it, I read somewhere that James Cameron was planning a sequel (or series of sequels) to the movie Avatar. Despite the hooplah over Avatar, I wasn’t impressed. I agree that the visual effects were phenomenal and trailbreaking, but the charcters were cardboard cutouts and the plot was full of holes big enough to the fly a dragon through. The story was trite and has been done many times before; they didn’t call it Dances with Smurfs for nothing.
Anyway, I always wonder why the humans in that story, pace Ripley from Aliens, didn’t simply bombard the planet from a sub-orbital height until they had eradicated every form of resistance. I know it wouldn’t make for a good movie but it would have been more logical and I really prefer my antagonists behave in a consistent manner – you know, like they actually want to win.
I’m getting sidetracked. When I heard about the sequel, I thought it could only have one logical conclusion – basically, what I outlined above. I thought about that attack from the point-of-view of the natives, watching helplessly as they saw death coming, and I thought about my granddaughter, and what I would do to try and shield her from knowledge of what was to come. Maybe I could tell a long story so that her last memory in this world would be a happy one, even as everything around us was burning down. Hmm. Now that I put it in those terms, the story is more depressing than I thought!
Haha, true. It’s got some pretty cool special effects though, or side effects, depending how you look at it 🙂 Anyway, you’ve written and published quite a number of short fiction, which one’s your favourite and where can we read more of your work?
It’s funny that you put those questions together because my favorite stories of my own making have been tough to sell or have been so over the top that I haven’t even tried to sell them. Some stories I’ve been less than satisfied with have been snapped up. Just goes to prove that you never know what will appeal to editors and readers, so to my fellow writers, keep pushing your work out there even if you aren’t 100% sold on it, ’cause any given day might be your lucky one, when your tale will strike someone’s fancy.
My personal favorite might be a story called, “Just When I Thought I Was Out,” which I have shared with almost no one. It’s self-indulgent pap but I identify with the main character quite a bit.
I’ve had a steady trickle of short stories come out for the last few years. My latest stories published are You Can’t Beat the Metal in the anthology Luna’s Children: Stranger Worlds, and the flash story Forgive Me in Postscripts to Darkness, Vol 4. The first is a post-WWI werewolf tale, with a steampunk influence. The second is a (in my opinion) very disturbing short tale about an impossible choice made by a mother. I’ll hand it to the publishers: they came up with custom artwork for that tale that was properly chilling.
These magazines look so awesome. Yes to the latter, they did a fantastic job with the black and white illustrations! Now, will you share with us some of your experiences working in the military?
I was in the service for twenty years and my father was in the service for my whole childhood, so it was literally all I knew for over forty years.
I can only speak for life in the American military but I can say that it has high and low points. It is a culture in and of itself and something that folks who haven’t been in the service don’t understand. I pushed my physical and mental limits and got a life education you can’t get in academia. I got to experience life on four continents. I worked with too many great people to count – brothers and sisters I could count on with my life, and at times, did. At the same time, it can be incredibly lonely. I have moved twenty-two times in my life. Three different high schools. I have few lifelong friends. Military life is very hard on marriages and families. I don’t regret making a career of my service but I am also glad it is done and I am happy to answer to no one now – heh, except my spouse.
Oh, I thought I’m the only one who runs my household that way 🙂 And tell us, what’s it like now that you’ve moved to the beautiful desert with your lovely wife?
I’ve been retired for just three months and I love being here. See the image on the right there? It’s of a rainbow over our property. We live in the mountains, so even though it is dry it is more temperate than might be expected.
It is a different kind of living – not just because I am settling down but it’s very small town. Anyone who wanted to be near “civilization” would be disappointed but this is a simpler life. We plan on raising some animals, gardening, setting up some solar power…basically going with a little more sustainable lifestyle. I have my military pension so we might never have to work again, except for ourselves.
That, of course, leaves more time for writing.
Sounds like the perfect life, really. Mr. Axe, tell us about your novel Pilgrimage to Skara. What is it about?
Pilgrimage to Skara is the third novel I’ve written and the first one I’ve given serious effort at publishing.
‘Pilgrimage’ is set far in our future, after civilization has fallen into ruin. If I had to classify it, I would call it science fiction or low fantasy. The protagonist is a man named Pell Wendt, who was once the most preeminent pathfinder in the city of Collum. Unable to resist the call of the only woman he once loved, Wendt is drawn from a life of simple retirement and back into the manuevering of the noble houses of Collum. He agrees to accompany the daughter of his lost love on a journey that may grant the young woman great power or destroy her. Along the way, he deals with his conflicting feelings for his companion and uncovers sinister plans for the fragmented remenants of humanity.
How is that for a back-of-the-book blurb?
Oh yes and I would certainly read that! How are you going with it? Will you share with us some of your experiences searching and submitting it to various agents?
I enjoyed writing the book and so far, my beta-reader feedback has been encouraging. But placing it with an agent has been a challenge. First thing is finding the appropriate agents who are accepting queries at a given time. Google was less than helpful in this regard. I used the Writer’s Market to look up a bunch of agents and scoured books that were of a similar genre for agent acknowledgements (targeting, I hoped, agents friendly to the type of novel I’d written). Absolute Write’s Water Cooler message boards were a great source of not only potential agents, but writers’ experience with said agents – as was the website for Preditors and Editors. So far, I have not gotten past the initial query with anyone but I remain hopeful.
Thank you very much for sharing the links to a fountain of information about traditional publishing. So, last question: what projects are you working on now? What fantastic things can we expect from the great Stoneaxe?
Fantastic? Great? All right, no pressure there.
Absolutely none :p
I haven’t done a ton of new writing lately; work on the house has consumed a lot of my time. I am working on a new novel, which is something of an experiment for me. It’s written from the first person perspective of a young princess over the course of her life. I have four books plotted, going from her childhood, arranged marriage, fight for the fate of the world – you know, the standard stuff. I also have a book plotted out for a fantasy-western with a protagonist that is somewhat of an antihero – and also insane.
After I wrote the werewolf story mentioned above, I started writing a series of short stories set around World War I, in a world where the fantastic creatures of imagination sided with Germany and the allies responded with steam-driven cyborgs. I wanted to write about two dozen stories, telling vignettes from the war with these characters and put them together as a single book. I have four completed, with two more partially written, and ideas for six or seven others.
A while back, I wrote a series of stories about a young girl who is forced out in a fantasy world on her own and has a series of adventures. I have not touched that series in a few years and I think I am much better writer now, so I’d love to get it tuned up, and self-publish the stories as a series of episodes, maybe on a quarterly basis. Each one is 20-25K words, so I think they’d be short enough and easy enough to keep going. My goal would be to pitch it the young adult market. That’s something I need to get back to.
How long will it take for these to see the light of day? I dunno yet. That’s me: long on ideas, short on execution.
I look forward to reading these. I really do enjoy your tales. Best of luck with everything you do and thank you so very much again for the chat!
If you want to learn more about this awesome man, check out his amusing and informative blog: The Flint Hatchet where you can also find links to his fantastic stories.