Interview with Joshua Cox-Steib

What are you working on next?
A serial literature anthology has been my main focus of writing recently. Modern Magic is an urban fantasy series being published in individual stories, ranging from long shorts to short novelettes. The story arc is set for twelve stories, and once completed will be published as a complete anthology; until then the individual stories are available through most eBook distributors as I finish them.

The series focus upon conflict between magic wielding humans, and the beings of mythos that actually are magic. In this reality Merlin cast a spell long ago, a spell that insulated those humans that couldn't wield arcane power from being effected by magic at all. This protection of the humans from all the monsters of the night is now in peril, and it falls to a series of anti-heroes to save the day.
Who are your favorite authors?
This is a tough one. I've no shortage of names, but with so many in mind I'm not going to recall the ones that I haven't read in a while without tearing through my bookshelves and e-libraries. okay, off the top of my head (not in rank order):
Frank Herbert, Douglas Adams, Asimov, Brent Weeks, Brandon Sanderson, Jim Butcher, Michael manning, Maggie Furey, Mickey Zucker Reichert, David & Leah Eddings, Stephen Baxter, Diana Wynne Jones, Robert A. Heinlein, Trudi Canavan, Karen Miller, Neil Gaiman, Jack Vance, Kate Griffin. I should stop there, and go get a band-aid for a cut on my finger that just reopened with morbidly convenient timing.
When you're not writing, how do you spend your time?
It seems like I'm always writing - if not at my computer, then on a notepad, or just in the back of my mind. There is plenty of time when it's not my dominant activity, though. I spend as much time as possible with my wife, and our pets. This usually involves a little bit of television, and a whole lot of reading - heavily interspersed with discussion (I like to talk at least as much as I like to write). My wife works for a non-profit organization that provides after-school programming for children that have, or have had, an incarcerated parent. She is their volunteer coordinator, which puts me in the role of perpetually volunteered spouse - something that I love to grouse about, but not-so-secretly really enjoy.
Do you remember the first story you ever wrote?
Not at all, but my mother likes to bring it out around thanksgiving. Based on what I can decipher from my childhood scrawls, it was a story about a delicious turkey dinner followed by a visit from a surprisingly (considering we ate it) friendly turkey ghost. Large misspelled words, written in crayon, take up the front and back of an aging and discolored piece of paper. I'm given to understand that it was some kind of assignment in elementary school.
What is your writing process?
I write in stages, which seems somewhat inevitable. New stories either start with a few pages detailing the creation of a culture, and society - often accompanied with maps, parameters on technology and magical systems, and some basic social statistics to give me an idea of who is filling up this particular world, and what they can do. Sometimes, though, it just starts with a pretty sentence. Either way, from there comes the first page or two -- a flowing narrative that will contain the axioms that determine the rules for the rest of the story (this is often my favorite part, and in many ways the most liberating). After that it becomes necessary for me to decipher, or construct the plot if I haven't done so already; usually involving surrounding myself with notebooks to fill, and coffee (or hot chocolate) to drink, interspersed with brain breaks to soak up the creativity of others, whether that be from a particularly enjoyable and cleverly written TV show, or from a cherished novel from authors who inspire me. After that it's back to the grinding stone, writing flowing narrative that conforms to those first couple of pages, the social and cultural parameters I've created, and shaping itself to the plot. These last two steps dance around each other until I've finished the story, usually. Once the first draft is done, I print myself a copy, and read through it with pen in hand -- looking for errors of grammar, and syntax, disruptions of tone, inconsistencies in plot, and all those other things that need careful tending to hold a story together. Then I apply those revisions to a digital copy, print it, and repeat. I try to do this until I can read through it with a critical eye and spot close to none of these problems present. This is by far the most difficult part for me. Editing your own work is an important thing to learn, but applying perfectionism to your work is a problem. There will always be ways to improve it further, and every time you edit something you will grow in both your ability to spot "errors", and to correct them. This could lead to that dangerous path of perpetual editing -- a path that can consume all of your time, and keep you from writing anything new. SO; once I'm happy enough with the work, by whatever standard, I go digging through the internet for royalty free digital artwork that is permitted in commercial use, try to create a cover from it, and nearly always end up sending my humorous attempts at cover design, along with the assets used, to a friend of mine who has professional experience with digital photography -- he's why some of my covers look prettier than others. After that, it's time to publish.
Describe your desk
I would if I could see it. However, the darn thing is completely covered in carefully stacked folders, marked up manuscripts, notebooks, drawing pads, and other such wonderful toys of stationary -- all in the ordered chaos of my creative mind. I have a small dry erase board, and a couple of cork boards set on the corner walls, where my desk rests. They, like my desk, are overflowing with plots, world settings, musings, and lists -- all contained in a diverse, and colorful array of paper. So... Describe my desk... My desk looks exactly like my mind: inundated with frameworks, and conceptualizations for a life of endless projects of passion. Here's to finding your passion, and being able to immerse yourself in an environment suited to it.
Where did you grow up, and how did this influence your writing?
I grew up in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Indeed, I've spent most of my life there. It's had a few very noticeable (to me) impacts on my writing.The strongest of which pertains to my perceived limitations for writing urban fiction. I really enjoy both reading, and writing, urban fantasy, and yet I've very little familiarity with any real world settings that I might choice to anchor my stories in, besides my hometown. I could, and sometimes do, do the research to settle a story into a city that I've never lived in, but I can't get comfortable with this -- I want to be able to go out in the middle of the night, and walk the silent streets while I craft prose to describe the hidden world of the supernatural flourishing around me. I like going to the river in Tulsa, sitting by it alone in the night, and envisioning my characters duking it out with monsters across the waters, or you know, buying cheese from a troll under the bridge. Whatever, the point is that I like doing more than researching a place, I want to experience it.
What motivated you to become an indie author?
I like innovation, and I like seeing the cultural shifts that go along with modern technological growth. In part it's the sociologist in me, but some of it just me being a little boy unattended in the candy shop. I LOVE sharing ideas, and generating discussion. At the core of most of my stories is a single idea that I want to play with, and the way that I like to do that is by embedding that idea into a story, and seeing what happens to it; how it is affected, and how it in turn effects other ideas. It's not always obvious, and it doesn't always require that much of the word count, but the ignition spark for each story is always a single idea, no matter how removed from the end result it may seem. For instance, The Inn of Adventures stories started out with me feeling nostalgic about my youthful days of tabletop gaming with old friends, and thinking up silly names and titles to go along with player character party compositions. This is where Drudge, Randell, and Tarly all came from; the curator emerged as a corollary to game masters/dungeon masters/primary quest givers, etc.
How has Smashwords contributed to your success?
Smashwords has been a truly amazing asset for me. It opened a door, and showed me a giant audience that was eager to read nearly any and all books that they could get their hands on, and then it showed me the incredibly steep learning curve for reaching that audience without being inadvertently rude. The steep learning curve of properly structuring a manuscript file such that it wouldn't go absolutely haywire when converted into numerous different file types, all designed for different e-reader software. I've learned much from this, and have reached a far broader audience doing this than I could have directly through amazon (without paying a ridiculous sum of money, at least). On top of all that, they gave me hope. Hope in a strong company that was honestly and truly putting authors and the readers above all others, and it managing to do so without hurting the business of itself, or the companies that it distributes to. Smashwords has been more than a platform for me, it has been a friend, as have all of the fellow readers and authors that I've met through it. Cheers, and keep being you.
What is the greatest joy of writing for you?
I think I drive my wife to distraction with this. No matter what I'm working on with writing, it is inevitably my absolute favorite, and I get quite loquacious about it. Started a new story from scratch, and I have no clue where it's going? Fantastic, that's my favorite! Halfway through a solidly plotted story, and trying to craft the next chunk so that the narrative transitions smoothly into what you need in order to prepare the reader, and the characters, for the section after that? What luck, I'm never happier than when combining my logic brain, and my creative brain to unravel and apply nonlinear progressive thinking! It's pretty much all like this, I've even became this way about revisions -- finally, and through no small amount of effort, and self-manipulation. In short, the greatest joy of writing, for me, is writing itself.
Published 2016-10-25.
Smashwords Interviews are created by the profiled author, publisher or reader.

Books by This Author

A Meeting of Villains
Series: Modern Magic, Book 5. Price: $0.99 USD. Words: 3,520. Language: English. Published: March 7, 2017. Categories: Fiction » Anthologies » Short stories - single author, Fiction » Fantasy » Urban
The heroes have gathered, but their endeavors have not gone unnoticed. Those who would bring done the magic of Merlin that protects humanity are brooking no interference. Indrajit, Rezlaquin, Morgan Le Fay, and the Goddess Circe form a council of war to pool their efforts in laying humanity low. When they learn of the group of heroes forming against them there is only one thing to do...
Just Another Case
Series: Modern Magic, Book 4. Price: $0.99 USD. Words: 7,160. Language: English. Published: March 7, 2017. Categories: Fiction » Anthologies » Short stories - single author, Fiction » Fantasy » Urban
This is the fourth story in the Modern Magic series, and in it we meet our final protagonist. PI, sorcerer, morally ambiguous, and just looking to solve a case. This story marks a pivotal turn in the series, as after this the pace picks up, the protagonists move towards collaboration and the villains up the ante.
Simply Enchanting
Series: Modern Magic, Book 3. Price: $0.99 USD. Words: 4,290. Language: English. Published: February 2, 2017. Categories: Fiction » Anthologies » Short stories - single author, Fiction » Fantasy » Urban
Two enchanters, Gregor and Anthony, are enlisted in a secretive project that will test their skills to the limits. In the secluded kennecott mining town of Alaska, they set to work. Things are going well until winter sets in, and things with their employer take an unexpected turn. This is the third story in the Modern Magic series.
A Witch's Lament
Series: Modern Magic, Book 2. Price: $0.99 USD. Words: 4,220. Language: English. Published: October 18, 2016. Categories: Fiction » Fantasy » Dark, Fiction » Fantasy » Urban
The second installment of the series "Modern Magic" introduces us to a young witch with an unusual past. We meet here shortly after her twenty-sixth birthday. It was this day that started it all. This story is written in a style that eschews declarative gender labels for the protagonist within the narrative; as such, it is up to the reader to choose what labels they see fit.
Prey to the Aswang
Series: Modern Magic, Book 1. Price: Free! Words: 4,430. Language: English. Published: September 29, 2016. Categories: Fiction » Fantasy » Urban, Fiction » Fantasy » Dark
With a deadly monster hot on his heels, Gareth flees through the streets of Chicago. It's taking all of his shamanic abilities just to keep him from death. And then his salvation arrives, but it may be too good to be true.
The Early Works, an Anthology
Price: $2.99 USD. Words: 44,170. Language: English. Published: June 30, 2016. Categories: Fiction » Anthologies » Short stories - single author, Fiction » Adventure » Action
A collection of short fiction. Ten stories ranging from the fast paced action of Spell Wars, to the satirical comedy of The Inn of Adventurers, and into the complex character entanglements of Welcome to Tulsa. This anthology contains the early publications of Joshua Cox-Steib, and shows firsthand the evolution of his writing as he crafts and creates fantastical worlds of the bizarre.
The Inn of Adventurers: Teatime for the Dead
Series: The Inn of Adventurers. Price: $0.99 USD. Words: 10,930. Language: English. Published: June 17, 2016. Categories: Fiction » Fantasy » General, Fiction » Adventure » Action
In this, the second installment of The Inn of Adventurers, Tarly, Drudge, and Randell set out on a journey that may very well cost them their lives, and more besides. With the ire of the Curator egging them onward, they have little choice in the matter. Are they up to the challenge? Or will they fade after a one-time appearance, like so many adventurers before them. Tune in, and find out.
The Fortune of Goblins
Price: $0.99 USD. Words: 4,520. Language: English. Published: June 3, 2016. Categories: Fiction » Fantasy » Dark, Fiction » Fantasy » Short stories
A strangely suspenseful tale of bigotry, guile, confusion, and unusual creatures. This tale features a fictional, condensed caricature of the city of Tulsa, Oklahoma - cast into a setting of mythical creatures, and disturbingly human social issues.
Life within the Valley
Price: Free! Words: 640. Language: English. Published: June 2, 2016. Categories: Fiction » Literature » Literary
A descriptive narrative of scenery, and the dance of life contained within. This is something of a literary adaptation of visual art akin to those belonging to the Hudson School of Art. The narrative imagery is designed to provide a coexistence of stillness and movement, without creating a conflict between the two.
A Change of Pace
Price: Free! Words: 580. Language: English. Published: June 2, 2016. Categories: Fiction » Themes & motifs » Spiritual & metaphysical
A short story exploring transitional narrative, and intended as a metaphorical presentation of not settling for the familiar, but bravely pursuing a path into the unknown in hopes of finding something more.
Just a Little Graveyard Fun
Price: Free! Words: 530. Language: English. Published: May 26, 2016. Categories: Fiction » Horror » Weird fiction, Fiction » Horror » General
(5.00 from 1 review)
A flash fiction piece depicting what turns out to be a rather unpleasant graveyard adventure for our poor protagonist, Jeremy. This is an exploratory piece into unusual styles of presentation - playing with the ways visual depiction of text can affect the surrounding narrative. Fast paced, dark toned, and thoroughly creepy; this should be an interesting, and very quick read.
The Inn of Adventurers
Series: The Inn of Adventurers. Price: Free! Words: 7,590. Language: English. Published: May 10, 2016. Categories: Fiction » Fantasy » Short stories, Fiction » Adventure » Action
Overpowered wizards with far too little sense. Angry axe-wielding dwarves covering hearts of gold with the bellicose violence of fragile masculinity. Pessimistic clerics who surrender on sight and find reassurance in misfortune. An innkeeper who's more than he seems. The Inn of Adventurers is a story flavored with the stylings of a traditional fantasy rpg and cast through dark humor and satire.
Price: $0.99 USD. Words: 2,360. Language: English. Published: April 28, 2016. Categories: Fiction » Fantasy » Short stories, Fiction » Adventure » Action
(5.00 from 1 review)
Follow the exploits of two outlaws as they navigate a partnership fraught with danger while attempting the heist of their lives.
Agent Hilch: Troll Trouble
Price: $0.99 USD. Words: 7,380. Language: English. Published: March 31, 2016. Categories: Fiction » Mystery & detective » Short Stories, Fiction » Science fiction » Short stories
Hilch responds to what he thinks is a simple case of foolish citizens becoming troll food, but things get complicated once he explores the crime scene. With no sign of the trolls in question he has to use every tool at his disposal (and some that aren't) to solve the case. With a no-nonsense approach, and little regard for rules and protocol Hilch goes after the culprits in style.
Welcome to Tulsa
Price: $0.99 USD. Words: 8,070. Language: English. Published: March 18, 2016. Categories: Fiction » Fantasy » Urban, Fiction » Fantasy » Short stories
A young Mystic has an unfortunate crossing of paths with his professor, and ends up bewildered and stranded on Earth. After growing up on a world where magic, and not technology is the basis of social power this planet presents him with near endless possibilities.
Spell Wars
Price: Free! Words: 1,940. Language: American English. Published: March 9, 2016. Categories: Fiction » Fantasy » Short stories, Fiction » Adventure » Action
A quick read set in a world where magic rules the day, and capricious mages vie for dominance.