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Author Spotlight: Jean Lamb

Jean Lamb decades ago

Welcome to my weekly Author Spotlight. I’ve asked a bunch of my author friends to answer a set of interview questions, and to share their latest work.

Today: Jean Lamb is an author best known for her fantasy, though she has an SF story called “Galley Slave” which was in MAN/KZIN WARS VIII (edited by Larry Niven), and a couple of horror stories (“The Broom’s Tale in Cemetery Dance and “Esprit de Corpse” in Women’s Revenge Stories). 

She lives in southcentral Oregon, and is retired from work, but not from writing. Up until the end of 2022 she was her husband’s caregiver (a marriage which lasted nearly 50 years). She met him at Oregon State in fencing class at sword’s point! She has to admit the photo here is from quite some time ago. She has been active in fandom since the 1980’s, though she grew up reading SF since her father collected it (yes, she inherited those books and won’t tell anybody where they are). She has two children, a son who lives in town and her daughter who lives in San Diego. 

The volume she is promoting today is the fourth in the Tameron series, which begins with Hatchling. Her other series is about Ravin Gambrell, who lives somewhat south of where this current volume is placed, but in the same universe. She has a big spreadsheet so she has a good idea of where everyone is at a particular time, since she plans for people from both series to run into each other eventually. 

Ah, yes, spreadsheets! Jean was in accounts payable and in accounting while she worked for a large door and window company, and often uses them for non-job-related purposes. She even has a spreadsheet of all the books she plans to write and to mark off the ones she has written. 

She was also in the US Air Force for four years after four years in AFROTC at Oregon State. She was in Procurement (currently known as Purchasing and Contracting) at Little Rock AFB in Arkansas, which was great since most of her mother’s family came from there. She and her family returned to Oregon after four years of dodging tornadoes (one went right over the duplex in Base Housing). 

She was also active in the local Jaycees for nearly two decades and was chapter president of the Klamath Falls Jaycees. She won a couple of writing awards for the state of Oregon and learned how to become better organized that way. Her first project was an Easter Egg Roll which was supposed to be at 1 pm, but the local newspaper listed it the night before at 11 am. This required lots of phone calls and improvisation, skills which have come in handy all her life. 

She has had a number of different jobs—nurse’s aide on various shifts, USAF officer, janitorial (buffer machines are fun, as so many saw in Ernest Goes to Jail), selling World Book door to door, typing papers for students (before the word processor age), distributing phone books, at the local library, and finally at the window/door place. 

Jean is active on FB and in HP fandom—she writes fanfic using the name of excessivelyperky for fanfiction.net. She can be found on Quora as well. She is also busy with local politics, especially this election year. In her copious spare time, she reads a lot, plays Final Fantasy XIV, and occasionally works on a latch hook rug project. 

Thanks so much, Jean, for joining me!

J. Scott Coatsworth: When did you know you wanted to write, and when did you discover that you were good at it?

Jean Lamb: I wanted to make up stories as a child. I often talked my friends into following scenarios I made up, including Barbie doll soap operas. I briefly thought of a truly terrible musical called “Gilbert and the Queen” in junior high, which I have mercifully forgotten almost all of it. I even sent truly awful stories to magazines in high school, including, yes, the notorious “And their names were Adam and Eve” scenario. Well, I thought it was cool at the time, and my dad was kind and didn’t tell me it wasn’t. The preprinted rejection slips didn’t stop me, though. I attended a few cons in Little Rock when assigned to that state by the Air Force, but didn’t really become active in fandom till the mid-to-late 1980’s when the kids were a little older.

JSC: What’s the weirdest thing you’ve ever done in the name of research?

JL: I had to research methods of execution in the Midwest during the Great Depression for a story called “Riding the Lightning”. I ended up on some very strange websites while doing so. Fortunately, my daughter gave me a t-shirt which says, ‘Ignore my browsing history, I’m a writer, not a serial killer’. For the Gambrell books, I looked through sailing resources all the way from the Junior Golden Book of Sailing to actual sailing manuals. The Visual Dictionary is an excellent place to look at the names of things for boats and ships, along with a coloring book I snagged at a garage sale. I’m not proud.

JSC: What is your writing Kryptonite?

JL: Going online for anything. I used to spend far too much time on MSN comment boards, but now do that on Quora and Newsweek. However, I do wait till most everything is done before getting on FFXIV. Right now I’m in the middle of a project for the local political party which is cutting into my actual writing time—it’s not that time consuming, but I get terribly distracted.

JSC: If you could tell your younger writing self anything, what would it be?

JL: Take an iron supplement, and some herbal supplements I now use. Get more sleep. While the kids are young, realize that this too will pass and that you will have time later on. Do more outlining while in waiting rooms and the middle of other things (though I did some of that while younger anyway). Put up better boundaries for certain things in my life. And definitely get more sleep.

JSC: Do you read your book reviews? How do you deal with bad or good ones?

JL: I do read my book reviews. One actually told me something I needed to deal with by updating the book, and I told that reviewer so. Now we can’t reply to book reviews, but it’s probably just as well. I disagree with some reviews and do some fuming at home, but never let it be public. Some authors have made idiots of themselves by a) obsessing over bad reviews, and b) being public about the bad ones.

JSC: What do you do if you get a brilliant idea at a bad time?

JL: I jot it down, put in my file, and try to dream about it later when I can. I have 20 books to write, possibly more, while I have some original universe short stories as well. I also have a lot of fanfiction story ideas in a file called “Plot Bunnies”, and I have over 100 of them right now. Fortunately, my Nana lived to be 97 and was doing a crossword puzzle the night before she died, so if I have the same genetic luck I have at least 20 years to work with.

JSC: Are there underrepresented groups or ideas featured in The Dragon’s Warrior? If so, discuss them.

JL: One of the key secondary characters in the Gambrell books is Spandar Ishan, musician and spymaster for the Duchy of Argnon. He’s a very strong, stocky gentleman with a splendid taste in ball gowns (though Gambrell is forever harassing about him wearing colors that don’t work with a ruddy Caucasian complexion). Spandar also favors young gentlemen, though sometimes he worries if they seem to like his company to spy on him. Ishan is a major figure in the art and musical scene of Argnon, though since everyone knows he’s a favorite of the Duchess, not everything he gets told is accurate. He runs a spy network in various places around the Inner Sea and is very pleased when Gambrell makes good friends in the Empire of Mintar.

Tameron himself has a gay father with a loving companion. His home in Fiallyn Mor often becomes home to refugee witches and wizards from Outside, so when he leaves there, he is used to seeing people of all skin colors and orientations. As a young man, he’s only interested in girls who are interested in him, so he’s self-centered enough not to care about what other people do unless they’re interested in him. Since the marriage system in Talisgran allows for gay marriage anyway, it’s the idea that a person can marry more than one way at the same time that hurts his brain, not who can get married.

JSC: Are you a plotter or a pantser?

JL: I’m a plotter. And then my characters do stupid things like run into burning buildings. I normally have a clear idea of where I’m going to end up, and I often get there, but then I get a Better Idea. So, I guess I’m a plotser?

JSC: How do you approach covers for your indie stories?

JL: I look first for premades which look good, because I’m cheap. I have contracted to artists like Malcolm Horton and Bob Eggleton for covers because they were also reasonable and understood what I was wanted. Apparently even Hugo winners like Bob Eggleton has rent to pay and will take money for books covers, yay! I have used cheaper premades when I’ve had a money crunch. The Dragon’s Child was one like that (Spittyfish designs, check them out!). The Dragon’s Warrior was also done by a friend (Sarah Waldock) who understood that the horse Tam rides in it likes to bite and that Tam himself is not entirely sure he did the wise thing by fighting in Lemgol one winter.

JSC: What are you working on now, and what’s coming out next? Tell us about it!

JL: Most people have heard, if only vaguely, of Dante and his Divine Comedy, Infernoland is usually the only bit they remember. Most people have not read anything by Dante.

Let’s face it, almost nobody is a genius poet in any language, let alone two, as most translators would have to be. Flipping back and forth between the poetry bits and the footnotes is a pain with a deadtree book, and let’s not even try with an ebook.

I think the world is ready for a readable prose version of the Divine Comedy, with the footnote material being worked in as part of the direct narrative. The reader will learn the history of the people they meet as they meet them instead of asking themselves, ‘Who are they?’. I plan to follow this method through all three parts of the Comedy, in hopes that people will actually read the second and third bits and not just the first.

Here is my history with the Comedy: I first read through the Penguin version in high school, slogging through and determined to finish. In one part, I distinctly recall the translator/poet tell us, “I have translated the following verses with somewhat more freedom” and discovering they were wonderful. Then I was angry because he hadn’t done it for the whole book. I also did not quite ruin the library paperback by going back and forth to the notes. A cheaper edition might have suffered permanent damage, but high school librarians know their stuff and had reinforced that volume bigly. Frankly, the English translation of Faust I read later that year, at least the first part, was quite a relief in comparison.

I enjoyed other editions of the Comedy later on. The Ciardi poetic translation was superior to the non-freedom Penguin one, though I found the notes fairly pedestrian. The Sayers poetry was well, ok, but her notes were often both informative and witty.

I hope a prose version will suit a literate audience who is interested in Dante’s work, but would prefer to read the story without being pursued by footnotes. I might add that such versions of both Chaucer and Beowulf have found a ready market with a more modern treatment.


The Dragon's Warrior - Jean Lamb

And now for Jean’s new book: The Dragon’s Warrior:

Tameron, his friend Julian, and Elian Darturon, the second daughter of the Duke of Argnon, go their separate ways through most of this book but join forces close to the end to save all of them from the Baron of Mayellin.

Navarre, the little dragon who loves Tameron so much, accompanies her beloved Tam through several different provinces of Talisgran on their adventures. From a sinkhole in the village of Langstroth to winter warfare in Lemgol, to the province of Horbdin and then down the Talis River running for their lives, these characters are involved against their will in political intrigue and deadly situations.

Julian learns that being a fire mage can be deadly to him and not just to others, while Elian must marry the man chosen for her for the sake of Argnon. Tameron himself makes a place for himself and not just as Navarre’s human adjunct.

Amazon


Excerpt

Tam felt foolish for wearing full armor as he rode down the hill with his little dragon wrapped around his throat. Chilly rain fell which turned early snow into slush, except where it was piled up against the trees. He passed the gates, which looked to be mostly repaired by now, and into the village. He heard lots of shouting once he was in the widest lane full of mud. He and Navarre rode towards the small crowd gathered in a circle near a ruined house where some new construction stood near Dame Kellan’s place. It was hard to tell what was going on with so much rain. The horse nearly slipped and fell in the mud. He dismounted and led the beast over to the other people. He recognized the headman, the blacksmith, and a few others. One man held back a woman clawing to get free. 

“What happened?” he asked. 

“Iselda’s youngest boy crawled in there and we can’t see or hear him,” the blacksmith said. “We can’t move any of the timbers or they might come crashing down on the lad.” The older man glanced at him. “You’re too big to get through there, don’t even think about it.”

Navarre flew out on her golden wings and said, “Do you want me to look? I won’t touch anything.”

Everyone looked startled. Even the crying woman stopped weeping and her mouth gaped open. “If you could look…find my little Toby…” she gasped out. 

“I remember him!” Navarre said. “He has yellow hair and likes to chase me, but he doesn’t run very fast.”

Tam was glad his dragon recalled the child. “Navarre, please go down there and find him. Come back up and tell us how he is.”

Iselda gulped and said, “And tell him that we’ll have fried fish for dinner, the kind he likes with red sauce.”

Navarre dove down into the darkness below the burned timbers. Tam and the others heard her call out as she flew away. She also sang a song, though he wasn’t sure which one. Everyone fell silent. 

The boy’s mother wept for joy when everyone heard a small, piping voice joining in with Navarre’s. 

The dragon came back up. “He hurt his leg and can’t walk. He said he would try to crawl back up the way he went in. He just wanted to find some treasure.”

“Please go back and keep talking to him,” Tam said. Someone put a rope into his hand, and looked around for someone whose weight wouldn’t shift anything. He had to learn that he didn’t have to do everything himself. The crowd formed a line, from a youth not much older than his little brother, to the blacksmith holding the far end. The little dragon flew down into the hole. 

The skinny boy began to ease himself down with the rope tied around him, with his mother holding the line right after and Tam next in line. “Stupid brat,” the older boy muttered to himself. “He’s always getting into things…”

“I heard that!” said the mother. “At least he’s never climbed on the roof and had to be talked down the ladder.”

“Yet.” The boy went down into the darkness between the timbers. Tam was glad the lad took care as he did so. 

Navarre called out from underneath. “Over here!” said the dragon’s high voice. 

The older brother grumbled some more, but by the sound of his movements, worked his way towards the fallen boy. 

 am itched to be down there himself, but when one of the timbers began to tremble, decided it was better that he wasn’t. That was ten times harder than being in the forefront. He glanced back at the blacksmith and saw the older, larger man nod at him, as if he felt the same way. 

He didn’t bother looking at the mother; there was no doubt in his mind about her. If things went wrong, she could lose both children. You heard stories about mothers and fathers who showed superhuman strength in times like this. He resolved to save her the trouble.

Then one of the timbers did start to fall. Tam slid past Iselda and crouched under it. The blow struck his back, but he hardly felt it. For a moment all the timbers shivered…and then lay still. 

The weight was hard, but not beyond his strength. Everyone who was close heard the voices as they came closer. The older brother used both threats and promises. The mother’s face twisted, as if she wasn’t sure if she wanted to laugh, cry, or yell at both. 

“Pull on the rope, Ma,” said the older brother. “Toby’s heavy!”

She did so with a will. Tam kept the timber steady, though it felt heavier every moment. His hands were nerveless, but he tried to pull anyway. Fortunately, the people behind him took over and the rope slowly passed by. He shivered. Even with all his gear on, he was cold. 

Everything happened at once then. Iselda swept up both of her children in her arms, with Navarre eagerly chattering her joy as she flew near them. Then Tam himself was pulled away and the timber fell to the ground with a thud. That set the others to tumble, till at last the place was still except for the mud churned up into the air. 

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