We thank everyone who submitted material to the first issue of the Scaffolding magazine. Currently the submissions to the first issue, scheduled for December 2016, are closed, however we are accepting submissions to the next issue, scheduled for March 2017. The deadline is January 5, 2017. To submit, use the submission page.
Regarding the status of submissions, we will shortly get in touch with the contributors. If your submission is accepted, you will receive a contract. This contract, among other things, specifies two important things:
The authors retain creative and legal control over their works. This means that you can publish your work elsewhere, no limitations.
You will receive royalties from sales.
The Mars Run had a lasting impression on me. It is an imaginative and incredibly well written debut novel. When I finished the novel, I decided to find out more about the writer. Chris, thank you for finding time for an interview. So, let’s get right to it!
E.M.: First of all, Chris, tell us a bit about yourself and your path to becoming a fiction writer. When did you start writing and when did you realize that you want to take it to a professional level?
C.G.: I tried to write a murder mystery in 5th grade, and made a couple of other half-hearted attempts, but I didn’t get serious until 2001. That year, a columnist in the Chicago Tribune was doing his “someday is now” campaign – the idea that whatever thing you were going to do someday (in his case run a marathon) you should do now. So, I’d always said I’d someday write a novel and I did.
E.M.: How did you come up with the idea for The Mars Run and how long did it take you to write it?
C.G.: As part of my “someday is now” program I bought a book called The Weekend Novelist. That book told one how to write a first draft of a novel in 52 weekend sessions. I more-or-less followed that plan, and a really bad novel about a family traveling to Mars was born. Think Heinlein’s The Rolling Stones (a trip to Mars by a Moon-based family) but with pirates and done really badly. Seven or eight drafts and five years later, it had morphed into a version of the Mars Run, in which Janet goes to Mars and gets pirated. I self-published that version, then, in 2015, I was approached to re-release a conventionally-published novel, its unpublished sequel and The Mars Run. I did a 30% or so rewrite of Mars Run as part of that package.
E.M.: You have written a story from a point of view of Janet, a young astronaut caught in unfortunate circumstances. Was it difficult to write in the point of view of the opposite gender? And was it difficult to write from the first person point of view?
C.G.: It was difficult enough that I swore to never do first person again! Like many beginning writers, I thought first person would be easier. (I came, I saw, I conquered. How hard can that be?) News flash for those reading this – it’s not nearly as easy as it looks. As far as opposite gender, that was another rookie mistake. In The Rolling Stones, the family has two teenaged boys. I said, “hey, just flip it to girls!” I’ve been digging myself out of that hole ever since.
E.M.: If your book gets a movie deal, who would you like to act in the key roles?
C.G.: I envisioned Janet to look like Leann Rimes. Gus I thought should be whoever played the tall aboriginal in the Crocodile Dundee movies [David Gulpilil – E.M.]. The pirate Rachel Storey was modeled after Traci Lords (she was a redhead in a few episodes of an otherwise forgettable SF TV series.)
E.M.: You write about events happening on Earth, in space, on Mars, and somewhere in Africa. Which one of these settings you loved to create the most?
C.G.: Actually, in this book, Africa and Chicago were my two favorite settings. I’m based in Chicago, so what you see is my vision of what will be there, and there’s a country in Africa called the Central African Republic. For a brief period of time in the 1960s, it was the Central African Empire, propped up by the French Foreign Legion.
E.M.: Where did you get the inspiration for such vivid descriptions of African events?
C.G.: The old-fashioned way – I went to my local library and did my research.
E.M.: What are your plans for the future? What are you currently working on?
C.G.: Pamela’s Ghost, an alien invasion novel, will be out this year, and I’m shopping a space mystery One of our Spaceships is Missing.
E.M.: Do you have any tips for the aspiring writers on how to get where you are at, which is an accomplished writer with several books in print?
C.G.: A bunch of advice. First, write what you love to read. Second, sit down and write it and finish it! You can fix a finished work, but you can’t fix an unfinished one. Until draft one is done (i.e., your story has a real ending) don’t rewrite. Third, you cannot edit yourself. You must get a critique group (online or physical) that meets regularly. And here’s the important part of a critique group – your critiquing of other people’s writing – saying why it does or does not work – will help you understand your stuff.
E.M.: What do you think of a self-publishing route for the writers? Do you find it rewarding or tasking?
C.G.: Writing is an art, publishing is a business. If you decide to self-publish, you are going into business with yourself as boss. Treat it as such.
E.M.: Where can your fans interact with you in the nearest future? Where can we track your appearances?
C.G.: I need to get a calendar up on my website. In the meantime, I blog about where I am on my blog, and I’ll be at Windycon (windycon.org) in Chicago in November.
It turned out to be an interesting interview. I decided to help you guys visualize what’s going on in the book with the help of Chris’ ideas about the cast of the ‘would-be’ movie based on The Mars Run. Here’s what I came up with:
Special attention to the book reviewers! If you have read and reviewed recent (defined loosely) novels that blew your socks off and you are really passionate about them, you can publish a review in the Scaffolding magazine! Send your proposals to the email EllieMaloneyFiction@gmail.com with the links or attachments of your reviews. Note: the review may not be sponsored; a review in return for a free copy of the book is perfectly acceptable.
Let me tell you a few words about this magazine. I am starting a periodical issue ‘Scaffolding’ and inviting you to participate in this startup. I have ambitious plans to make it both l…
We continue accepting submissions for the short stories, photography and illustrations! The deadline for the first issue is August 25, 2016 (if you need a day or two extra – let us know!), after which period we are accepting submissions for the subsequent issues. Scaffolding is a quarterly periodical geared toward indie authors and visual artists. Simple submission guidelines, most relaxed rights policy!
Let me tell you a few words about this magazine. I am starting a periodical issue ‘Scaffolding’ and inviting you to participate in this startup. I have ambitious plans to make it both l…
I arrived in DC late at night and stopped long before Capitol Hill where I eventually headed, picking the first Motel 6 I came across. I was exhausted and afraid of getting into an accident, so I just exited the freeway as soon as I had a chance. Not to mention that I absolutely could not afford staying in the Capitol Hill district, or any place reputable for that matter.
I entered the tiny hotel room and crashed on the bed without taking my clothes or shoes off. The lighting in the room was dim, with no overhead lighting, and one of the two nightstand lamps not working. To my surprise, I found myself unable to fall asleep. I was exhausted, my eyes burned and I couldn’t keep them open, but I was not out.
Begrudgingly, I picked myself up and made an effort to remove my clothes. Shoes had to go first. There is no pain quite like wearing cheap ‘vegan leather’ shoes with the rubber soles for over 12 hours. When I dragged my socks off, I realized that I had liquid-filled blisters and imprints of stitches and patterns from both my shoes and socks, sketched on my feet with the transferred black paint that came off the cheap shoe material, mixed with a day’s worth of sweat.
My feet didn’t really smell. They were just swollen and in pain. No way I could possibly wear these ridiculous shoes tomorrow, as I had to spend a whole day walking miles and miles of DC pavement and hallways.
Somehow miles in DC feel longer. I thought about it when filling the tub and soaking my exhausted body in nearly boiling water. At least one blessing for the day – DC does not run out of hot water.
I was also thinking about why I decided to drive 11 hours straight from Nicole’s house in the Appalachian Mountains all the way to the Capitol City. I guess subconsciously I knew the answer, but articulating it to myself made it seem like a frivolous whim, an emotional throw, rather than a practical step.
The tile in the bathroom was covered in rich steam, so was the small mirror above the sink. It was a good thing that I couldn’t see my own face. Standing there, naked and exposed, in every sense of these words, I couldn’t face what I was about to do.
“I want him to pay for this”, Quietly whispered Nicole after a long awkward pause. “I want justice, but not the kind of justice that the court can provide. I want real retribution.”
I knew exactly what she meant. I always thought that the word ‘justice’ was tainted by the ignorance and narrow-sighted formal justice system, with all it’s prosecutors, judges, courthouses and taxpayer-funded meals for the bastards who eventually end up in the prison. I knew based on my own experience, that in the court of law, justice is not equal retribution.
Nicole wanted retribution. She wanted to balance the accounts with the person who once spoke wedding vows, promising to cherish and protect her. To Nicole, those vows were more sacred than any state or federal law that prohibits a man to abuse his wife. The vows are sacred because they are built on trust, and Gabriel Sorvino broke that trust.
Gabriel Sorvino was an ivy league graduate, holder of a prestigious MBA, a refined specimen of the upper middle class society. He did not drink and did not smoke. He had no drug or porn addictions. He probably did not even cheat on Nicole. He swam every day in their estate pool for thirty minutes after a round of exercises on a treadmill and lifting weights. He was handsome as the devil himself.
“Handsome devil, I gave him this nickname.” Reminisced Nicole with her eyes looking down at nothing in particular. “He was the heartthrob in college. We met when I was in my second year. My field was in public relations.” At that she paused as if something just occurred to her. Then she lifted her eyes and looked straight at me, probably for the first time. “Ironic, isn’t it? I studied public relations, when I should have studied something about the private ones…”
Finally I managed to get a few hours of sleep. I checked out early, being the first person to grab a toast and a banana in the small kitchen area; pocketed a few small cartons of peanut butter and jelly, meeting with a disapproving eye of the help who served in the breakfast area, and hit the road. No need to pass on free food, I thought. After all, bananas and bread are all the same, whether they are served in the Five Star Hilton, or in this run down Motel 6. I drove the same Chevy that years ago I appropriated from my dad on a way out of his life. Sometimes driving this piece of junk bothered me, mostly because it reminded me of him, but most of the time I did not give it a second thought. It was just a car, a necessity for someone who is marginally employed and needs to get around. Beggars can’t be choosy.
I parked my car several blocks from the Capitol Hill, because finding a free parking spot in DC is no easier than ordering a can of cold coke in hell. Wearing the same damned shoes and twisting my toes to avoid the contact with the shoe surface that rubbed on the raw blisters, which already burst and spliced with my socks, I walked into the Library of Congress.
The registrar asked for an ID, and together with the driver’s license, I passed her my public defender’s license, which allowed me to wave the fee, and headed to the floor designated for the law section.
The floor was empty of visitors. Normally lawyers don’t visit the Library of Congress to brief for their cases. They use Lexis Nexus online libraries and eBooks, because, first of all, it’s the 21st century, and second of all, they have caseloads that would make such a day trip to DC a frivolous waste of time.
I, on the other hand, had no caseload. I only had one single case, and my first case at that. Cutting corners on my education, something told me that I had to get this one right. I had to feel the spirit of the law hovering in the dusted volumes of the Supreme Court almanacs and various law journals. I had to feel the justice system in my veins for this one.
Because how else to defeat it?
I thought of the strange menagerie of the current U.S. Supreme Court justices, who are setting in stone landmark decisions that very moment while I was perusing the Library of Congress to take them on. I was thinking of their strange obsessions with the loopholes and man-made doctrines which so often colored white into black.
… while the victims of domestic violence proudly carried blue-black flags of injustice on their faces and bodies …
… while ‘justice delayed is justice denied’ was only good for plastering across the government websites …
… while my feet hurt and my heart hurt even more, for Nicole and for my murdered mother …
… while the victims were put under scrutiny of a trial, taking upon themselves heat of the judicial zeal instead of their abusers, like human shields for our societal shame …
… while I was crying in the dark corner, between the two rows of bookshelves, on the faded carpeted floor, that absorbed the sound of the footsteps just as well as it absorbed the common sense portraying it irrelevant …
I took the damn shoes off, extracted a legal pad with lined yellow pages, and a ball pen, and armed myself to defend Gabriel Sorvino against the grip of the North Carolina death penalty.
What would happen if you were an 18-year old teenage girl living in a loving, but truly dysfunctional family? What if your father adventurously invested all the family assets, including your college fund, and, obviously blew all of it? What if you still want to go to a reputable college and get the hell out of your family house as soon as possible? If you live in the space-age future, you enlist as an astronaut.
In this story, being an astronaut is not glamorous. You don’t get world’s admiration and prime time broadcasting from space. You work. You work hard, long hours, with little training, risking your life, and all of that for not that much cash. But Janet Pilgrim really saw no other way out of her predicament. She didn’t back down even when still at the Academy, her boyfriend died during the training exercise. Yes, she grieved, but keeping here eyes on the prize, she took off on a long commercial flight to Mars. After this flight, she would have had all the cash she needs to go to college and be a normal teenager, but it was never meant to be. Apparently, space is a dangerous place, crawling with pirates and marginal folk who don’t give a damn about Janet’s college plans.
The author takes us on a wild journey all the way to Mars, back to Earth, and again back to Mars. There is hardly time to breathe while reading.
Plot. The story is set in an interesting world with robust science premises. The pace never slows down, and half of the time I forgot to exhale. Some of my favorite parts had to do with the world-building elements of Mars – it’s society, the premise, and the promise of further adventures. I left Mars begrudgingly, hoping the story will bring me back to it in the subsequent books. I loved the author’s attention to the detail and how he described the ships and the crew. I felt like I had a good visual picture of what they are like.
I wanted to hear more about Janet’s Grandfather, a former space traveler, who I expected to come and rescue poor girl any time. Eventually I realized that it was a pretty good false lead for the reader, and I fell for it.
I also loved the events unfolding in Africa. The author did an admirable job using a lesser exposed setting in literature and bringing it to life. Indeed, I cannot think of another sci fi novel, drawing a connection between Mars and Africa. Brilliant!
Characters.Janet is an interesting character. We definitely see a character arch as she develops from a naive teenager, to a brave fighter, to a broken victim of circumstances, or so we think, and finally, to a strong confident woman, who after all that this forsaken trip dished her out, could take just about anything. However, it seemed to me that Janet was not fully in touch with her emotions, as if compartmentalizing her circumstances and relating the story to the reader in a somewhat removed manner, as if merely an observer, and not the direct participant of the events. This is common for the victims of traumatic circumstances of such proportions, but I am hoping that in the subsequent books Janet will snap out of her detachment and face her emotions.
I really grew to hate John for all the sick sadistic stuff he had done to Janet, and all the humiliation he put her through. Without revealing too much, I will only say that the ending was rather satisfying.
Other characters were outlined well enough to give the main character depth. Janet’s involuntary girlfriend/captor Rachel, for example, is one of them. I was a bit shocked when poor Janet, who so little knew bout relationships, was forced into a relationship with space pirate Rachel. Later I grew to appreciate what this plot line accomplished to define Janet’s character. Because of this eery plot twist, we saw Janet as both calculating and rational, deciding to go along with the unwanted romance, and, at the same time, scared and confused, tricking her mind into liking the abuser. This is a well documented array of behaviors displayed by the victims of sexual violence and hostages. In this respect, it makes sense, that even Janet is unsure of what Rachel means to her, and this is not explicitly communicated to the reader through Janet’s point of view narrative.
Writing. The writing is one of the strongest parts of the novel. It is so lean and descriptive, you’d be hard pressed to remove any words or sentences without hurting the narrative. It carries you from chapter to chapter easily, and makes you really appreciate what an incredibly successful debut The Mars Run is.
Conclusion: Overall, an engaging read with the world worth returning to. There is a small reason why I deducted one point, and it may just be my personal point of view. Also I want to note that it is not a reflection of the book, but of the way it is marketed. I refer to being upfront with the reader about graphic and explicit content. Without applying a value statement to this content, I must say that it is only a responsible thing to alert the readers to potential triggers. Recovering victims of abuse hang on a delicate emotional balance, which is easily destroyed, and takes time to restore. On the other hand, there is definitely a category of readers who will find this type of reading enjoyable, and they will not select this book just based on it’s description. This is a good book that needs it’s own reader, and bringing the right reader will lead to better and more consistent reviews.
This review features my honest opinion, it was not sponsored by the author or the publisher. The author generously agreed to provide a digital copy in return for a review without stipulating any conditions or deadlines.