Mark Huntley-James in the Spotlight

Welcome to this year’s fun spotlight introduction of Blog Battlers!

Every month we’re shining the light on a participant.

Welcome, Mark Huntley James!

QuestionAnswer
Blog/Website:  https://markhuntleyjames.wordpress.com/
How long have you been a writer? About 40 years, on and off. The “off” was when I went to university and then started that day-job thing, which took up most of my time for nearly ten years.
3 random facts about you! 1. I live on a small farm in Cornwall, south-west England, so I swapped shovelling corporate poo for moving the real thing.

2. My partner calls me a cat whisperer – three out of four of our cats are strays or ferals that turned up here and decided that I was OK. Except for Piper who I got to know over the space of a year only to have him decide that my partner was OK.

3. I used to do English Civil War battle enactments, camping in (usually) muddy fields and running around in period costume, waving period weapons at people.
What genre(s) do you write?I write fantasy, science-fiction, and random anecdotes about the cats or other animals around the farm.
What is your favorite BB story/entry you’ve written? What is the URL?https://markhuntleyjames.wordpress.com/2020/05/11/short-fantasy/
Have you published any books? Self/Indie published? Traditional? Hybrid?I have three books in an urban fantasy series (Hell of a Deal, Road to Hell and Hell of a Bite) and a collection of flash-fiction based in the same world (The Letter Hex) which comprises six letters written by my narrator on things like a complaint about a bad magical nose job and planning permission for the new mountains in his garden. I also have a space-opera (Streamrider) where I reigned in my riotous sense of humour a little.
If you have published books, where can people go to buy your books? Hell Of A Deal http://relinks.me/B01N94VXBC
Road To Hell http://relinks.me/B07BJLKFSS
Hell Of A Bite http://relinks.me/B07SBPDNDC
The Letter Hex https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/992539
Streamrider https://relinks.me/B081Z8XW4M
Who or what inspired you to start a blog and share your writing?This is all my partner’s fault. She told me that I had to have a blog to promote my writing, and I ought to do a piece on “writing” each month. I really couldn’t face that, so I wrote about the first thing that came to mind, which turned out to be my ongoing chat with a feral tom cat when I put food out in the barn for him. After “Feral Conversation” in January 2014, February presented me with Butch, the alpha-ram who lost a fight and discovered that from being top of the pile he was suddenly at the bottom. I wrote that up as “Reached The Top” because I suddenly had Disney’s “Jungle Book” in my head. That pretty much set the tone, until I came across BlogBattle in 2018, and started adding fiction to the blog.
Any advice you could share with your fellow BBers?Have fun, experiment, do something you wouldn’t usually do. When I skimmed back over the last couple of years, I found I’d done something in rhyming couplets about car trouble and a monologue from a serial killer contemplating the heads in the freezer, which are definitely not my usual territory. So, go for it, let your hair down, even if you don’t have as much hair as me.
If you could write from anywhere in the world, where would it be? Why?Here. This is it. We moved to Cornwall in 2005 as part of an unscheduled downsizing. We bought the farm in 2001 expecting to retire around about now and move, and instead we did that fifteen years ago. In the winter I hunker down in the lounge with the stove burning, fending off cats that want to sit on my laptop, and in the summer I sit outside fending off cats and chickens. Perfect.
In your own reading, who has been your favorite protagonist? Why? What makes them stand out?Lois McMaster Bujold’s Miles Vorkosigan [from Miles Vorkosigan’s Adventures series], because he is just insanely relentless, and I suppose that resonates firstly with my peculiar sense of humour, and secondly the many years where I worked with equally strange people, including a fair number of chronic over-achievers.
Where are you strongest as a writer and feel like you could offer help and advice to fellow BBers?This has to be one of the trickiest questions going. I spent years as a working scientist and then in IT, which all takes a very analytical mind, but when I write it is all seriously intuitive and seat-of-the-pants. That’s probably a large part of why I baulked at the idea of blogging about how to write, because really I have no idea how to do it. I sometimes post “advice” on SFF Chrons (https://www.sffchronicles.com/) but that’s very much me offering my own experience on a particular issue.
Where are you weakest as a writer and would like to get more feedback and help with?And this is the other trickiest question, because that whole intuitive writing thing means I have no real idea where my weaknesses are. I mostly relying on my partner reading stuff and saying “that doesn’t work.”
Share any social media links you have where you’d like to connect with fellow BBers and readers.I hang out on Twitter very occasionally as @MarkH_J. I used to be moderately active there, but found it was sucking too much time. I do have a Facebook account somewhere but I can’t remember when I last logged on.
How did you discover BB? (If you’d care to share!)I don’t remember, but my betting would be Twitter. 

Thanks so much for sharing, Mark!

Enjoy March’s stories by tapping here.

And keep your eyes peeled for the next Prompt Word coming Friday, April 2nd!

Q&A Time

Please take a moment to ask Mark some questions in the comments section.

6 thoughts on “Mark Huntley-James in the Spotlight

  1. I go through phases of being somewhat present on Twitter to being completely MIA. It’s not as engaging, I think. And too busy. Or, maybe I’m just not good at it.

    Solid tips. Thanks for sharing. I especially like the “do your own thing/ let your hair down” bit.

    Liked by 2 people

    • I find it’s easy to get sucked in to Twitter and then get trapped in a cycle of feeling I have to be there. For a significant chunk of last year, I ignored Twitter completely and now that we’re coming into summer, when I spend a lot of my writing time on the laptop, outside, out of range of the wifi, my “online time” will be limited.

      My other two big problems with Twitter are the sense of the endless churning of the same things, and people celebrating hundreds or thousands of followers. I just went to look – I “follow” about 450 and have about 400 followers. Out of that, I probably only see/react to a dozen or so people and rarely see any reaction from my followers, but then I imagine my tweets get lost in the deluge since I don’t hammer out tweets every few minutes. It does feel a bit pointless.

      (Of course it may be that I count as an old-fart technological Luddite who only got a smartphone eighteen months ago and absolutely refuses to have anything like Twitter on the phone…)

      Liked by 2 people

  2. The English Civil War reenactments got me wondering if you’ve ever considered writing historical pieces (or at least that part of history). Do you find that experience also contributes to some of your more fantasy related works?

    Liked by 2 people

    • History is a funny thing – it’s the one subject I failed at school, and that’s probably because I found it really boring, which makes the whole ECW reenactment thing weird. The trouble with history at school is that it was all about names, dates and great sweeping events which really gave me no hook to take an interest in. Now roll forwards 15 years to me standing on a hillside in South Wales, where I had been sleeping on the ground for two nights and tending a traditional charcoal heap, talking to a teacher from my old school (schools from all around brought parties to see the strange people in costume doing old-fashioned things) about the hands-on practicality of making charcoal, and remembering to duck when the group in the next clearing send fast-moving sparks through the air from smelting iron using that charcoal. (The teacher, who was the brother of someone I was at school with, did seem a bit horrified by my dirty and distinctly smelly state and asked me it I did this for a living:))

      I do find it useful on the fantasy side of things, because there are so many things to draw on. The one that always really sticks out the most was an event at Babylon Hill near Yeovil. We were all lined up ready for the afternoon battle display and the other side were approaching from beyond the brow of the hill. I know it was just a bit of fun, but standing and waiting, and then hearing the drums followed by seeing the tips of the pikes appearing over the top of the hill was distinctly unsettling.

      I’ve never felt the urge to write historical, although a while back I did get about 8k words into an alternate history set in the mid 18th century where the intellectual descendants of Robert Hooke (who inconveniently had no recorded children) are exploring the “new mechanics” of magically self-winding springs and the Inquisition is pressuring George II to allow them to open up shop in Britain to police the borderline between “new mechanics” (which is clearly a good thing as it has huge commercial value, and potentially far better than those new-fangled steam-engines) and “witchcraft” which is clearly bad. Maybe I’ll find the time to get back to that eventually.

      Liked by 2 people

  3. This was fun to read! What was the serial killer thinking about, in regards to the heads in the freezer? Space? Needing to clear out the ones that have been left in there for ages without use? I could never store any heads in my freezer — it’s a tiny compartment above the fridge, all built in to the apartment. Perhaps if I dissected them to their building blocks — some eyes, a nose, a few cross-sections of brain. Like Tetris.

    Liked by 3 people

    • I never got beyond my narrator having breakfast and talking to one of his frozen heads. (That was another of my forays into creepy.) Like a lot of these flash pieces for #BlogBattle, building on the idea and worrying about how it might really work as a longer story comes later.

      That particular one – I’m not sure I would want to try to expand on writing a first-person serial killer with heads in the freezer. It’s too far out into creepy for my own comfort.

      Probably.

      Perhaps I could combine it with the one about the guy who keeps cloning himself after bad break-ups with the previous clone:)

      Liked by 2 people

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