Writers Ink

Writer’s Ink: Myke Cole

Myke Cole is the author of the Shadow Ops series, which he’s described not as military fantasy, but more as fantasy with the military experience. It’s experience that draws on his own life, including three tours in Iraq, and serving in the U. S. Coast Guard. His next book, Gemini Cell [Amazon | B&N | IndieBound], comes out on January 27.

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Here’s Myke talking about his tattoo:

This is the progress of my quarter-sleeve thus far. I thought about tattoos for many years, making sure the idea is fixed firmly in my mind before finally getting it inked on. My second requirement for a tattoo is that it mark an event in my life I will want to remember forever, no matter how its character may change.

The Eagle & Anchor is the symbol of an officer in the United States Coast Guard. The device appears in a few places, on badges, on our hat-bands, and in many plaques and decorations. After six years in uniform, I finally decided that, even if I should be turned out of the guard tomorrow in disgrace (don’t worry, that isn’t happening), my attainment of an officer’s commission is one of the watershed events in my life. It is one of the things I am most proud of, a thing I will cherish forever.

The text across the top is from General Douglas MacArthur’s famous 1962 speech to the cadets of West Point as he accepted the Sylvanus Thayer award. The speech is incredibly stirring.

I was particularly struck by this passage: Let civilian voices argue the merits or demerits of our processes of government; whether our strength is being sapped by deficit financing, indulged in too long, by federal paternalism grown too mighty, by power groups grown too arrogant, by politics grown too corrupt, by crime grown too rampant, by morals grown too low, by taxes grown too high, by extremists grown too violent; whether our personal liberties are as thorough and complete as they should be. These great national problems are not for your professional participation or military solution. Your guidepost stands out like a ten-fold beacon in the night: Duty, Honor, Country.

There are many ways to interpret these words, but mine is this: That as a military officer, it is my duty to act on the will of the civilian government, to carry out and not set policy. In the end, professional violence must serve the will of civilian masters, else we have military dictatorships like the one presently governing Thailand. That must never be the case in the United States, and these words are my reminder that my first obligation is to the American people.

The tattoo isn’t done. Hopefully in the next year or two, I will be adding a life-ring on the opposite side of that arm. Behind the life-ring will be a crossed boathook and oar. Printed on the life-ring will be the words: SAVE AS MANY AS YOU CAN. Because being an officer is only one point of pride in my military service. Another is that I am a Search-and-Rescueman. Where members all military branches must put their lives on the line to slay others, I have the distinct honor of putting mine on the line to save them.”

Writer’s Ink: N. K. Jemisin

N. K. Jemisin recently posted a pic of her brand new tattoo on Facebook. Naturally, I immediately asked if she’d be willing to talk about it for Writer’s Ink 🙂

For those of you who aren’t familiar with Jemisin … where exactly have you been? I’ve reviewed her books here and here. She’s a good writer, both in her fantasy novels and with her blog. Her next work is a novella called “The Awakened Kingdom,” coming out in December.

Here’s Jemisin talking about the inspiration behind her tattoo:

I’ve never really wanted a tattoo just to have a tattoo, even though I’ve liked and admired them on other people all my life. I’m a big believer in acknowledging life-milestones, however, whatever those might be — and on the day I sold my first novel (in 2007) and thus began my career as a professional writer, I decided that I wanted this tattoo. For those who’ve ready my Dreamblood duology, the inspiration for the tattoo is probably obvious. In the novel, Gatherers are symbols rather than people, and thus they’re known more by the unique tattoos they wear on their shoulders than by their faces. Nijiri, a young apprentice Gatherer, is “the blue lotus”. I chose his tattoo rather than that of Nijiri’s master Ehiru — “the black rose” — because even though I’ve achieved a lifelong dream, getting published was only the beginning of the next stage of my life; I have a lot to learn, still. It’s possible that at some point in the future, when I feel like I’ve achieved some major goal as a writer, I might add Ehiru’s tattoo to the other shoulder. For now, I haven’t earned that yet.

This was to be my first tattoo, and I’m picky, so I chose to wait several years to find the perfect design rather than go ahead and get something I might be less than happy with. After awhile I started to despair of ever finding a design I might like — and then, out of the blue, in preparation for Arisia (where we’ll both be Guests of Honor), I saw a blue lotus that artist Lee Moyer had created based on my descriptions of Nijiri’s tattoo. That was it! And hey, I had a birthday coming up on September 19th, which meant it was time to treat myself to a very special present. So with Lee’s gracious permission, I took the design to Willie, the tattoo artist I’d researched, and he modified it slightly to suit my skin tone, etc. (He’s awesome, BTW.) It took 3.5 hours in the chair, and it’s only now stopped peeling, etc. I’m super-happy with it. Been wearing sleeveless stuff more than usual, lately, to show it off all the damn time.

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Writer’s Ink: Sean Williams

Today’s episode of Writer’s Ink features Sean Williams, an Australian author with a Whole Lot of published fiction, including the #1 New York Times bestselling The Force Unleashed. One of his latest books is Twinmaker [Amazon | B&N | Mysterious Galaxy], “set in a future where “d-mat” technology, which allows for cheap teleportation and item replication, has created a seeming utopia of plenty.”

Here’s Sean showing off his ink:

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In his words:

My plan is to get one tattoo for every book I have published. Unfortunately, because I’ve had trouble coming up with designs, I’ve fallen a bit behind. I currently have one tattoo. My forty-seventh book comes out in November.

I didn’t get my one and only tattoo until I turned thirty, after a string of failed romances. I was feeling pretty glum and needed to do something for myself, something defining and privately declarative, and eventually I came up with the perfect design for a place that normally only someone close to me would ever see. This was way back in the dawn of time, before everyone had a Chinese character on their upper shoulder.

The design comes from the I Ching. Hexagram 23, “Splitting Apart”, is usually associated with disintegration and decay, which seemed appropriate after all that heartbreak. It has a deeper meaning, though, as all hexagrams do, and it is this meaning that I wanted to be permanently etched into me. It goes something like this:

You have a cherry tree. It’s diseased and dying, which is obviously bad. But as long as there’s one cherry left on it with a viable seed, you can start over. You can grow a new, healthy tree from scratch to replace the old tree.

Repeat.

My tattoo is the character associated with that hexagram, since hexagrams themselves are hard to tattoo well and tend to warp with age. I may have got it wrong, it may mean “massive prat” if you say it the wrong way, but the story behind it has got me through some very difficult times in my personal and professional life. I’m glad it’s there.

My next two tattoos will be an infinity symbol and the outline of Mr Mischievous’s grin. All I have to do now is figure out where to put them. Decisions, decisions.

I told him that if he decided to catch up on those 46 other tattoos all at once, I’d be happy to have him back for a special edition of Writer’s Ink. But in the meantime, here’s a close-up of his tattoo:

Sean Williams Tatto

Writer’s Ink: Elizabeth Bear

Elizabeth Bear is the award-winning author of a whole bunch of stuff! How’s that for specific? Her most recent book is One-Eyed Jack [Amazon | B&N | Mysterious Galaxy], one of her Promethean Age novels. She’s part of SF Squeecast, co-created the Shadow Unit web serial, and has taught at a number of different SF/F writing programs and workshops.

She also has a spider on her arm, which she explains thusly:

As you can see, my body doesn’t have much use for colored ink, especially red. So much for permanence!

I got this after I moved back to New England. The spider is a local wall-crawler: I’ve always had a fondness for spiders, and they’re a bit totemic for rock climbers, which happens to be my sport. And the sugar maple leaf is a reminder of home: this is the place I have always been happiest, and autumn is my favorite season. I actually brought in a particularly spectacular maple leaf for the tattoo artist, Steve Gabriel of Guide Line Tattoo in East Hartford, CT, to copy.

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I definitely recommend clicking to enlarge the picture and see the details. The one on the left is when the tattoo was brand new. The one on the right was taken a few days ago for this post. My theory is that the spider has been waking up at night and feeding on the red ink. Makes me wonder what it will eat when it runs out…

Writer’s Ink: Anne Harris/Jessica Freely

Michigan author Anne HarrisAnne Harris, aka Jessica Freely, has spent more than fifteen years searching for a home for her latest novel, All the Colors of Love [Amazon | B&N]. But before we get into that, let’s hear about that frisky-looking devil tattoo…

My tattoo is a doodle of a little dancing devil I’ve been scribbling since I was in fifth grade. I got it when a good friend learned to tattoo and she desperately wanted to get ink in me. I’d never planned on having a tattoo, and was a bit skeptical, so I made sure to get something that was uniquely mine, and to get it on a part of my body I wouldn’t see all the time. As it turned out, however, I love it. Sometimes I do forget it’s there and it’s always a nice surprise when I glimpse it again. I’ve thought about getting more tattoos but I’ve never followed through on it. I may wind up being one of those rare folks with just one.

Anne/Jessica asked if she could talk a little about All the Colors of Love, which is a YA gay science fiction romance about Harry, the son of a supervillain. Harry veers between suicide attempts and futile plans to kill his abusive father.

Colors is a sequel to her first novel, The Nature of Smoke. It’s also the first gay romance she ever wrote, and changed the course of her career.

In her words:

I wrote the first draft around 2000 or so, when I was still firmly ensconced in traditional NY publishing. My mother had just passed and my dad was dying and I needed something to lift me up, so I gave myself permission to write anything I wanted. That turned out to be Colors and writing it was more fun and freeing than anything I’d ever done before. I was as surprised as anyone else, especially since working with these characters felt like invisible shackles had been taken off my wrists and for the first time I could just write.

I knew I had to pursue it.

Unfortunately, at that time there was no commercial market for gay romance, let alone a gay YA science fiction book written by a woman. My sf editor wanted me to make the characters straight and my agent convinced me to write Libyrinth instead, which I did, but I wrote Colors too, and I started the long search for a market. When one finally did develop, it was for gay erotic romance, not YA. I set Colors aside again and went on to published over 15 short stories, novels, and novellas (many of them sf/f) in that genre. Fortunately, markets change and now some publishers are taking non-erotic gay romance and several have started YA imprints. Finally, fifteen years after I first started this journey, Colors is out in the world. To say I’m pleased to share it with readers is a vast understatement.

Writer’s Ink: Saladin Ahmed

Saladin Ahmed

Saladin Ahmed is the author of the award-winning Throne of the Crescent Moon [Amazon | B&N | Mysterious Galaxy] (reviewed here), in addition to a number of short stories. You can find some of those stories in his free collection Engraved on the Eye.

He also offers editing/critique services.

From Saladin:

My tattoo says “Hurriya” – roughly, “freedom” – in very stylized Arabic. It’s based on calligraphy by Nihad Dukhan.

It’s green because green is significant in Arab and Muslim cultures and in Irish culture (I’m Irish on my Mom’s side). It’s on my left arm for political associations and because I’m a southpaw.

The work was done by the late great Ann Arbor tattoo artist Suzanne Fauser. And it was a gift from my father for graduating college.

 

Writer’s Ink: Christian Klaver

Christian KlaverChristian Klaver has been selling SF/F short fiction since the early 80s. Some of his recent work includes several Supernatural Case Files of Sherlock Holmes, and the fantasy novel Shadows Over London [Amazon | B&N | Mysterious Galaxy]. He lives in Dearborn, Michigan, with his wife and daughter and a group of animals affectionately known as “The Menagerie.”

Klaver’s tattoo is one of three dragons he wears, and apparently began a bit of a family tradition. In his words:

I got this tattoo on my 30th birthday. (I have a smaller version on my chest.) My daughter liked the dragon so much she ended getting her own version for her eighteenth birthday. She liked *that* one so much she wanted another one for her 21st, and talked both me and my wife into a family tattoo party, which is why I now have a much larger version on my back.

 Am now kicking myself for not asking to see the back tattoo. I mean, just because we were in the middle of a restaurant at the time…

Writer’s Ink: Merrie Haskell

WI-HaskellMerrie Haskell won the Detcon1 award for middle grade literature last month for her book Handbook for Dragon Slayers [Amazon | B&N | Mysterious Galaxy]. That book also earned her the Schneider Family Book Award for Middle Grades (for “artistic portrayal of the disability experience”).

Her tattoo celebrates her first published book, The Princess Curse [Amazon | B&N | Mysterious Galaxy]. (I’ve enjoyed and reviewed both this one and Handbook for Dragon Slayers, if you’re curious.) Her newest title is The Castle Behind Thorns [Amazon | B&N | Mysterious Galaxy], which I’m told was never intended to be a Sleeping Beauty retelling, but it happened anyway.

I asked Mer to tell us a bit more about her tattoo.

It’s is the Library of Congress call number for my first book, The Princess Curse. We laid it out like it was an old label on a well-used library book by tattooing in the border on the stencil.  I dithered for months on whether to lay it out like a spine label or just a string of text, and I chose that over authentic labeling for…  aesthetics? Personal aesthetics entirely. The font is called Old Typewriter. I had always told myself I’d have to want something for longer than a year to get a tattoo of it; after a year of thinking about this, I realized: My first book will never NOT be meaningful to me, and after working in a library for 20 years and counting, call numbers will also always be meaningful to me.

And here’s a close-up:

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Writer’s Ink: Tobias Buckell

Hurricane Fever - CoverTobias Buckell is the New York Times bestselling author of such books as Crystal Rain, Halo: The Cole Protocol, and most recently, Hurricane Fever [Amazon | B&N | Mysterious Galaxy], a techno-thriller about heavy weather and Caribbean spies. Toby and I have pretty much come up together as writers, and it’s been great to see his success over the years. He also has a pretty badass writing tattoo, which he talks about below. (Click the picture for a close-up.)

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WI-BuckellI’d been planning to get my tattoo to celebrate my fifth year of being a full time freelancer, but couldn’t set aside the money for it until my sixth year celebration.

It’s a memento mori of a skull and crossbones, a call out to my growing up on ships in the Caribbean. And then underneath, instead of crossbones, I have a pen and a pencil. And then in bastardized Latin I have the phrase “CREO AUT MORI.” Rough translation: “Create or Die.” I got it to remind myself to keep creating.

Latin purists will ding me for the translation, as AUT MORI is infinitive, meaning it very technically translates as “I create or to die” but AUT MORI was often shorthanded on coats of arms as “OR DIE” so I used it. I like the 4 letter word 3 letter word 4 letter word symmetry when doing the visual design.

I got it while on a writing retreat in North Carolina. It took about three and a half hours, which is wild as I used to be absolutely terrified of needles.

Writer’s Ink: Nnedi Okorafor

Nnedi Okorafor - TattooWhile I was at Detcon1, I noticed how many of my writing buddies had tattoos, and an idea was born…

Introducing Writer’s Ink, a feature I’ll be running more or less weekly for a while, until such time as I stop doing it. (How’s that for specific?)

I’m going to start with Nnedi Okorafor, who was the YA Guest of Honor at Detcon1. Her novels include Who Fears Death (winner of the World Fantasy Award for Best Novel), Akata Witch (an Amazon.com Best Book of the Year), Zahrah the Windseeker (winner of the Wole Soyinka Prize for African Literature), and The Shadow Speaker (winner of the CBS Parallax Award). Her short story collection Kabu Kabu was released in October, and her science fiction novel Lagoon was released in April, 2014. Her young adult novel Akata Witch 2: Breaking Kola is scheduled for release in 2015. She has a daughter named Anyaugo and is an associate professor at the University at Buffalo, New York.

I asked Nnedi to tell us a little about her tattoo:

It’s an illustration from my first novel Zahrah the Windseeker [Amazon | B&N | Mysterious Galaxy] (found on page 63 of the paperback). My character Nsibidi was a windseeker (a person who can fly) who worked with fortune-telling baboons. She had this drawing tattooed on her chest; it means “storyteller.” The drawing combines the Nigerian writing script called nsibidi and the creative ideas that I gave the book’s spot artist. My tattoo artist was Chicago-based artist Ryan Henry. I learned about him in a documentary about Black tattoo artists called Color Outside the Lines. It was screened at a conference to which I was also and invited guest. I love how everything is connected.

Thank you, Nnedi, for letting me show off your art! Click the photo to embiggen and get a better look at the tattoo. I also snapped a pic of page 63 for comparison, since I just happened to have the book sitting on my shelf…

Zahrah the Windseeker, Page 63

The only danger I see with this series is that by the time I’m done, I may need to get a tattoo of my own. Because there are some writers out there with seriously cool ink.

Jim C. Hines