Interview: Kevin McLaughlin on “You Must Write”


 
 
You Must Write is in the is in the NaNoWriMo Writing Tools bundle, a collection of a dozen books on writing. A portion of the proceeds goes directly to the Challenger Center for Space Science Education, a non-profit group created by the families of the crew of the Challenger shuttle. This bundle is only available through the end of November 2018.

Meet Kevin!

Kevin is an amateur astrophysicist whose hobbies include sailing, constructing medieval armor, and swinging both steel and rattan swords at his friends. He wrote his first short story at age seven, and his first novel in 2008 during NaNoWriMo.

You Must Write

No five lines of advice have built more successful writing careers than Robert Heinlein’s five rules for writers.

Whether you are new to writing or the author of many books, Heinlein’s Rules will help you bring your craft and career to the next level. This book delivers the rules in a series of practical lessons, each with exercises designed to help writers build the Rules into their own work-flow. Unlike most “writing rules”, which tend to stifle creativity, Heinlein’s Rules are focused on unleashing the most creative elements of our minds, combating our deepest and most crippling fears, and driving past the greatest obstacles most writers face to reach success.

In this book you’ll learn:

  • What Heinlein’s Rules are, and how they can fit into YOUR writing career.
  • Tools for better engaging your creative mind and shutting out the editorial voice while writing.
  • Methods for identifying and facing down fears that block your way.
  • Chapters on practical application, with examples drawn from the author’s own thirty-two-book career as a bestselling novelist.

Excerpt

The ideas in this book challenge many preconceived notions about the writing process. What you read here will fly in the face of some things you have read or been taught elsewhere. This wasn’t an easy book to write, and I expect it won’t be a simple one to read either. But it will be valuable.

There’s something about being taken outside our comfort zone which helps us to grow. Enables growth, even. It’s what we talk about in the Hero’s Journey, after all: the idea that the protagonist must go beyond their “normal world” – their comfort zone, if you will – in order to become the person they are meant to be.

I’m going to be asking you to do that inside these pages. Some of what you read here will make you uncomfortable.

But none of it is false.

If you read something that feels off to you, consider why. Think about that thing for a while. Ponder it. Try the methods suggested here. You may well find an ability to grow in your own writing practice by stepping outside your comfort zone.

There are many ways to write a book, and none of them are wrong if they eventually lead to a good book that will educate or entertain readers. In these pages I talk about one method, but I want to stress before we begin that this is only a method – not THE method. As we say, there are many roads up the mountain.

This book contains everything you need for one route. It’s a guide to reaching success as a writer that has worked for hundreds of professionals over the last seventy years. There are many ways to reach the summit – but this is a great one.

– from You Must Write by Kevin McLaughlin

The Interview

What are Heinlein’s Rules, and why do you consider them important for writers?

Heinlein wrote down five fairly simple rules for writers to follow, saying that if adhered to they would result in a successful career. Those rules?

  1. You must write.
  2. You must finish what you start.
  3. You must refrain from rewriting except to editorial order.
  4. You must put it on the market.
  5. You must keep it on the market until sold.

But we’re living in a time where common advice passed along over the years argues against this method. We’re told that revision is essential; but most of the professional writers before the advent of computing did not revise heavily, if at all. We’re told that it’s OK to write only when the muse is with us; but most writers who have achieved great success did so based on a strong work ethic.

That doesn’t mean these other bits of advice are always wrong. But neither are they always right. It’s important to have both sides of the story, so that we can learn which practices work best for us as individual writers.
 
 
Why are Heinlein’s Rules hard for most people to follow?

Mostly because fear is a difficult thing to overcome.

It’s fear which holds us back and keeps us from writing, most of the time. It might be fear of success or fear of failure, but it’s almost always fear. Then it’s fear which keeps us from finishing a work we’ve started. It’s not actually that the new idea is any better; we’re afraid that if we finish the book, we might find out it’s actually no good (or too good, for fear of success). It’s easier to never finish and therefore never face that fear.

It’s fear that causes us to revise over and over; because again, if we say ‘it’s done’, then we have to send the work out into the world, and what if it isn’t good enough? What if people laugh at us? What if they don’t, and they expect us to do the same thing again next book?

It’s fear which keeps us from putting our work out there where people can buy it and read it, fear which causes us to give up after a few rejections or a tiny handful of sales when indie publishing.

Fear is a harsh master to live under. The rules require we throw off that yoke. That’s what makes them hard to follow.
 

 
Rule #2 is “You must finish what you start.” Often, a writer will be working on a story, and then get so excited about an idea for a new story that they start working on it and never finish the first one. What tips do you have for dealing with this type of situation?

First off, just don’t do it. (chuckle) Easier said than done, I know! Oh, I get those random ideas all the time. I think most writers do. Every book I write, I seem to have at least three new ideas for something else churn up into my mind, demanding my attention.

What I used to do was write the ideas down. I’d take a notebook and put as much as I could brainstorm of the idea down onto a single page. Then I’d set the notebook down and get back to work. By writing the idea, I was telling my subconscious that I understand this new thought is important, too. That I will get to it at some point. Just not right now.

These days, I don’t even do that much. I’ve become much more ruthless about my ideas. If I have an idea for a new story in the middle of my work, I make a mental note of it and then continue working. I know part of my subconscious keeps working on the idea anyway, so I let it go. I generally have my next three or four books lined up at any given time, so if the idea is still there and still sounds exciting in a couple of months, I’ll probably slot it into my schedule somewhere. If I’ve forgotten it, then the idea probably wasn’t very good anyway.

It’s very rare that I’ll bump an idea into the middle of an existing schedule. I did it recently with the first book of a new series (“The Quantum Dragonslayer”) because I came up with the idea in part to address the trademark silliness going on in the writing community. But it’s also a really cool idea that I’m having fun with. Even then, I still waited until my current work-in-progress was completed.
 
 
Which of the Rules is the hardest one for you to follow personally, and how do you try to manage this?

The first one is the hardest for me. I suspect it is the hardest for most people.

I write pretty fast. I’m cruising along at something north of a NaNoWriMo a month, and working on getting faster – which actually means ‘spending more time hitting keys’, of course.

It’s getting there and hitting the keys that can be the hard part. It’s shutting down whatever cool science fiction TV show is attracting my attention, avoiding Facebook (the bane of all writers!), not playing silly video games on my phone, and actually getting down to work.

I erased all the games from my phone. I erased all the games from my computer. I removed all the social media apps from my phone. I installed internet blockers on my laptop, and then I go out to a coffee shop or the Boston Public Library to write. Even with all of that, it still gets hard sometimes to do as many words as I’d like!

But I persevere. With time, I will get better at this. Practice is everything.
 
 
There are currently nine books in your series Adventures of the Starship Satori. How has the series changed over time? Do you have an ending planned for the series, or do you expect to keep adding to it for the foreseeable future?

Oh, this series has changed a ton! I wrote the first bits of these books years ago when it looked like serial short works might be taking off. Each was about fifteen thousand words long. I launched them just as short serials began tanking (thanks to Kindle Unlimited changing, mostly). Then I got the idea to re-issue them as new books. I merged the first two episodes into one book and the latter three into another, then wrote a third. Now I had three novellas instead of five novelettes, and they started selling.

I made my first four-figure month thanks to those books.

But last November I took it a step further. I’d gotten better at writing in the years since they were first published, and book one was really short. Like, twenty-eight thousand words or so. I took on the challenge of rewriting the entire story, adding entire new chapters and revisiting some of the old scenes to flesh them out more. Then I relaunched them. This relaunch resulted in my first five-figure months of sales.

But wait – doesn’t that violate the Third Rule? I’d say no, for two reasons. First, because I was redrafting large chunks of the book. Redrafting (taking the old thread of an idea and writing a new version from scratch) is still writing in creative mode, rather than editorial (critical) mode. But I’d also learned over the years to split the two up. I went over the book as an editor, noting places it could be improved. Then I went back in as a writer in creative mode and improved those places. In this way I was effectively ‘revising to editorial order’. The editor said ‘make it longer’; the writer made it longer, and the book was much better as a result.

I’m not entirely sure where that series is going. I haven’t discovered yet whether Earth survives the challenges humanity is facing, and if so how. There are going to be at least twelve books before it’s all done, but it could go longer. We shall see what the story demands.
 

 
What’s the most important tip you have for following Rule #4, “You must put it on the market?”

Take the plunge and just do it. Whether you’re planning to submit the work to publishers or publish it yourself, get the work out there where people can buy it. There is a natural hesitation, especially for those first few books. Get over it. That book is not a precious flower. It is (hopefully) the first or second or third of MANY books you will write over the course of your career.
 
 
Why are backlists especially powerful for indie writers?

Well, the Starship Satori series is an awesome example. I’ve repackaged those initial stories twice now. Each time I was able to hit a new and larger audience. In fact, for the most recent relaunch (November 2017) I offered free copies of the new books to my entire mailing list. Hundreds of people took me up on the offer. I felt this was only fair, since many of them had already paid for the stories once. I didn’t want to double-charge fans to read the new versions (even though the new first book was 60% longer than the original!).

Even with the large giveaway, the relaunch was still an enormous success.

Books are evergreen. There’s no reason not to assume I can still be making money from the Satori books a decade or more from now. My backlist is mine to control, to repackage, to relaunch, to schedule push marketing around, and to do whatever else I think will get new readers.
 
 
You co-wrote The Human Experiment with Craig Martelle. What was the most surprising thing to you about the experience of collaborating with another author on this project?

Craig was a good friend who was having trouble with this book. He’d tried working with another writer before me but it ended in failure. I took on the job because the project sounded interesting. Then I ended up getting really sick; our launch was originally supposed to be late December, and it ended up getting pushed back to April. Craig was awesome through the entire time, and I’m really grateful for that.

But the most surprising thing was probably the first chapter rewrite. Craig sent the finished book to some beta readers, most of whom hated the opening of the story. We chatted about it for a bit, trying to figure out how we could punch it up a bit. Midway through the conversation, I told him to give me an hour. I wrote a new first chapter that was a huge improvement over the original and shipped it out to him. He loved the new work, and did the job of massaging the other chapters to smooth it all out.

But without that feedback from the beta readers, the book would have gone out with the original opening. I think the solution we came up with works much better, and the creative process that went into the new first chapter was fascinating.
 
 
How did your hobbies, which include building medieval armor and swinging swords, help you create the setting for your Valhalla Online series?

Well, I like to think I’ve managed to add a few elements of realism as a result! I’ve got a background which includes over a decade in the US Army Infantry, about twelve years of assorted eastern martial arts, and another decade or so of western martial arts (that’s the sword and armor part). Coupled together, I use these experiences to help build realism and believability into my fight scenes and other sorts of combat scenarios.
 

 
What story (or stories) are you working on now, and what’s fun about what you’re writing?

I’m working on finishing up the fourth and final book of the Valhalla Online series. This book has been a long while coming, and I know a lot of folks are really interested in seeing how things wrap up – especially now that Sam is back in the Ghost Wing books! I’ve merged her storyline into the same universe as the Accord of Honor books, creating one big story arc out of all of them: the Ragnarok Saga. I’m enjoying the story again, which is important for me. And since I have big plans for Sam and her friends in the future (Ghost Fleet, and then other books beyond that), it’ll be fun to see how things turn out in Valhalla Online.

What’s fun about writing, for me, is keeping it fresh. If I’m getting bored, I can pretty much guarantee my readers will be as well. I’m always working to push myself in my craft, to build better stories with each book. That is a challenge, and fun. Telling stories that are fun to create is a great part of this job, too. I think if it wasn’t fun to spin these tales, I’d probably go find some other job that was, instead. Fortunately, I love this stuff!

About Kevin

Kevin McLaughlin is a USA Today bestselling author of science fiction and fantasy novels, with over thirty books published. He is a full member of SFWA, and a professional member of the RWA.

He believes in giving back to the writing community that helped him out during the early days of his career, so he uses his experience and to boost others. He has been a speaker at Boskone, Dragon Con, the Nebula Conference, 20Books London, and many other events. A skilled public speaker with experience in education, McLaughlin sees it as both pleasure and obligation to pass along to others the skills he has learned, so that the chain of people helping people continues unbroken.

Find Kevin

Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | YouTube | Goodreads

Interview: Blaze Ward on “Pulp Speed for Professional Writers”


 
 
Pulp Speed for Professional Writers is in the NaNoWriMo Writing Tools bundle, a collection of a dozen books on writing. A portion of the proceeds goes directly to the Challenger Center for Space Science Education, a non-profit group created by the families of the crew of the Challenger shuttle. This bundle is only available through the end of November 2018.

Meet Blaze!

Blaze writes science fiction and fantasy. In addition to his own short stories and novels, he’s the editor of Boundary Shock Quarterly, a speculative fiction magazine with the motto “On theme. With weird.” He also writes non-fiction books for writers. Blaze writes very, very fast!

Pulp Speed for Professional Writers

They’ve told you that writing fast is impossible. They were wrong.

You too can create stories at the speed of the great pulp writers. Not only that, but your craft will actually get better the faster you go. It just takes time and practice.

Come learn the things I discovered as I went from writing at mundane rates to Pulp Speed.

Topics include:

  • Where did the term “Pulp Speed” come from?
  • What are the classifications of Pulp Speed?
  • How does your health and ergonomics impact your speed?
  • What is possible?

Are you ready to break loose and start turning out good stories at amazing speeds? Do you have what it takes to go “All Ahead Crazy?”

Excerpt

We should start off by talking about this thing called Pulp Speed. This is another term for Really Freaking Fast. To understand the background, we need to go back to the era of the pulp writers, which is generally from the end of the First World War, give or take, up until perhaps the end of the Fifties. So about a long generation of time.

In those days, there were not a lot of books published in the field we know today as science fiction. The modern paperback novel, as we know it, came about after World War Two, as a result of all the books that the US Government printed for soldiers during the war. That taught an entire generation of men (and women) to read for pleasure.

Before that, what you had were the magazines. Things like Amazing Stories, Worlds of Wonder, The Black Mask, Weird Tales, etc. They came and went frequently, with a only few of them surviving long, and fewer have made it clear down even to the present. Each tended to lock into a particular genre, and then tried to generate enough newsstand sales to get a subscription base going that could keep the magazine solvent. It didn’t always succeed.

For such magazines, they frequently paid a penny a word (US $) for stories in science fiction. Assuming a short story came in at 5,000 words, the story would earn the author $50. For comparison sake, the median US income in 1940 was $956, or roughly $80/month. Mind you, this is median, so just selling a single story in a month would get you a nice, lower-middle-class lifestyle. And if you sold two, you were living high on the hog.

Not every story would sell, but if you hit once or twice per month, you were set. The key was to write a lot of stories, and send them off. Every story we write is not Pulitzer material. And spending a whole month crafting such a story is no guarantee that it will be any better than one you wrote in an afternoon.

Furthermore, a lot of writers were submitting in those days, and some of them just weren’t that good at their craft. The editors had their favorites, people they could rely on to produce good enough work, on theme, on a regular basis, so they could, it turn, fill a whole magazine. But you couldn’t publish three stories by Bob Brown in the same magazine this month.

You could, however, publish three stories written by Bob Brown, and use pennames on two of them, so “Marc Jones” and “Stan Woods” could also have stories here.

What we had was an ecosystem that favored good writers who could produce good words at speed. They wrote a lot of words. Whole acres of them. Because they treated it like a job.

What does that mean?

These days, you generally go to work and are in an office or in front of a press for eight hours, with a break for lunch and smokes.

The Pulp writers sat down and typed for eight hours.

The new writer, just sitting down and figuring out her craft (and typing on a keyboard, rather than longhanding), will quickly get up to a pace of about 500 words per hour. However, she won’t be able to write for eight hours straight.

Writing for that many hours is a skill, as well as a muscle. Treat your writing the same way you would train to run a marathon. Start slow and careful, and slowly push yourself to greater lengths and speeds, rather than trying to do it all at once.

– from Pulp Speed for Professional Writers by Blaze Ward

The Interview

What is “pulp speed,” and where did the term come from?

Pulp Speed One is defined as One Million Words Per Year, or about 84,000/month. It dates back to the Pulp Writers (1920-1960 more or less) who generated an amazing number of short stories each month and sent them off to all the pulp magazines of the day.
 
 
Can anyone learn to write at pulp speed?

You can. It is a muscle, just like any other. True Pulp probably requires that you have a supportive enough spouse that you don’t have a day job any more. I was writing 450,000/yr with a full time job and a long commute. Once I had the time to think. I more than doubled my speed in about three months, and I have held at 100,000 words per month for six months now, with no slacking of pace.
 
 
Does this work better for different types of fiction, or different lengths of stories?

I write Science Fiction primarily. Dean Wesley Smith writes all over the map. I find it works better for longer pieces, because then you don’t have to spend as much time on administrative overhead (covers, blurbs, formatting, etc.) I also like to write short novels (40-50k) because then I’m in a different universe and different characters every two weeks, so it keeps me from dreading opening a file that turns into a doorstop monolith.
 

 
How do Heinlein’s Rules for Writers help writers get to pulp speed?

  1. You must write.
  2. You must finish what you write.
  3. You must refrain from rewriting, except to editorial order.
  4. You must put the work on the market.
  5. You must keep the work on the market until it is sold.

Quoted more or less above. I have a different mantra I use for writing, because I’m almost completely indie, so 4 & 5 have different meanings for me. “Sit down. Shut up. Write.”

It has to be interesting enough that you wake up in the morning and say to yourself “Oh My God I get to go make shit up for a living!!!” I cycle while I write and have taught myself to write clean first drafts, so I make a single pass after I’m done and send it to my First Reader.

Don’t rewrite. Don’t redraft. Time you spend writing your novel again is time I’m writing a second (and more) novel. Once it is done, I put it out for publication and go on to the next one. I won’t win awards for pretty words, but I make a living from my writing and most of those award winners don’t.
 
 
What inspired you to write Awaken the Star Dragon, and how does Fermi’s Paradox tie in with this?

Fermi’s Paradox: Where is everyone?

Jeffries Corollary: We are the most dangerous, psychotic species in the galaxy and they’re hiding from us.

What happens when a crime boss out there decides to abduct a criminal here? The good guys decide they have to recruit a cop.

I write a lot of so-called military SF, and grand space opera. I wanted to write something that was Pulp in feel. I envision my writer voice as standing in 1950, with the state of culture and technology then, and trying to envision the world as they would have, rather than as a modern prognosticator would. It gets silly.
 
 
Boundary Shock Quarterly is a speculative fiction magazine you started in 2018. What inspired you to start this magazine, and what are you enjoying about it?

I have always wanted to do something like this, but your choices were to either do a crowd-funding thing (Kickstarter, Indigogo, etc.) or run up a massive debt on your credit cards that probably never paid off. But the Seventh Indie Revolution in publishing has finally made the tools available to anyone with enough gumption. I wrote down every one of my steps because once I got there, I wanted others to be able to replicate it (See below) and challenge the major genre magazines. There are quality writers out there, just waiting their chance.
 

 
In addition to creating Boundary Shock Quarterly, you’ve written a book about the process: How to Launch a Magazine for Professional Publishers. What’s the biggest lesson you learned from creating this magazine?

That it was possible. That anyone could do it, if they wanted it bad enough to step up. My Syndicate has been a bit like herding goldfish from time to time (cats don’t move in three dimensions) but they’ve also come through with some quality stories that made it fun.
 
 
What have you found most interesting about the complex world-building you’ve done for your science fiction series Alexandria Station?

Inventing a Cavalry (men and women on horses = Hussar) Legion and invading a planet with it. And building outward from several hundred pages of extended universe bible about details and people. I can’t be wrong with my technology, generally because I never explain how it works. I can only be inconsistent.
 

 
What’s your most important piece of advice for authors who want to achieve pulp speed?

See above. “Sit down. Shut up. Write.”

Pulp speed is a factor of how many hours you spend at the keyboard generating words. And you must find the desire to do this. You must want this more than other things.

I sold my last television four years ago, and I don’t “watch shows.” Those are hours I spend possibly goofing off, but more likely working on story and world-building.
 
 
What’s your current pulp speed, and what do you expect is your personal max?

Currently, I have been holding at Pulp Two (100,000+/month) as a marathon pace. My personal best was Pulp Five (150,000/month) pace, except I intentionally took the last three days of the month off to hold it under that. But it is a muscle and I am writing faster now than I did even two months ago, so I might try pushing at some point, just to see.
 
 
What story (or stories) are you working on now, and what’s fun about what you’re writing?

I got a request to be in a bundle, with the curator sure I had novels he hadn’t seen. But all I have left in the genre were Book Twos+ (the Ones were already in bundles). But I offered to write something on short notice, as I was just finishing a novel that day, and needing a project to start (the writing schedule is always in pencil).

So I’m generating a new Handsome Rob novel (in the Alexandria Station universe) and it has to be done in two weeks. 🙂

About Blaze

Blaze Ward writes science fiction in the Alexandria Station universe as well as The Collective. He also writes fantasy stories with several characters and series, from an alternate Rome to epic high fantasy in the desert.

Blaze’s works are available as ebooks, paper, and audio, and can be found at a variety of online vendors. His newsletter comes out quarterly, and you can also follow his blog on his website. He really enjoys interacting with fans, and looks forward to any and all questions—even ones about his books!

Find Blaze

Website | Facebook | Goodreads

Interview: Simon Haynes on “How to Write a Novel”


 
 
How to Write a Novel is in the NaNoWriMo Writing Tools bundle, a collection of a dozen books on writing. A portion of the proceeds goes directly to the Challenger Center for Space Science Education, a non-profit group created by the families of the crew of the Challenger shuttle. This bundle is only available through the end of November 2018.

Meet Simon!

Simon Haynes is a professional, prolific writer with more than 20 years experience writing fiction. He writes novels in several different science fiction series. His work typically features an underdog fighting for survival against far stronger opponents. He’s a huge fan of Isaac Asimov’s work, in particular the robot novels and the Foundation series. He also enjoys dry, witty comedy, and loves satire.

Simon is the programmer and designer behind Spacejock Software, and is responsible for popular programs like FCharts, yWriter and yBook.

How to Write a Novel

Do any of these sound familiar?

You want to write your first novel, but you don’t know how to begin.

You’ve started writing several novels, but you never finish them.

You’ve written a novel or two, but you want to increase your output and publish more often.

If you answered yes to any of the above, this book might just be what you’re looking for!

I’m Simon Haynes, and I’ve been writing and publishing novels and short fiction for almost twenty years. This guide contains everything I’ve learned about writing a novel, both as an indie and as a trade-published author.

Maybe you want to write a novel which has been on your mind for years. You don’t care how long it takes, you just want to see it through to the end.

Or maybe you see yourself as a career novelist – there’s a real challenge – and you want to write books quickly and efficiently.

I’ve done both, and I cover both approaches in How to Write a Novel.

Excerpt

Okay, we’ve covered plotting and pantsing and there are writers who are firmly committed to each camp, but there is a third choice.

First, let’s recap:

• It can be fun to write without a plot outline, because of the freedom. On the other hand it can take five or ten times as long to write a novel this way, and the rewrites are a big part of that.

• Writing plot outlines can be fun too, because it’s like pantsing an entire novel in a few thousand words. On the other hand, writing a novel from a comprehensive plot outline can become dry and boring.

Wouldn’t it be great if there was another way, where you still had fun but also got your book finished without all that wasted time and effort? That’s where my hybrid method of writing a novel comes in, and if you get nothing else from my book, this next part should be worth the price alone. It’s changed the way I approach my novels, and I’ve gone from writing one novel per year to writing and publishing four novels in the last four months.

They’re not junk, either. The reviews have been overwhelmingly positive, and they’re probably the best-received novels I’ve ever written.

– from How to Write a Novel by Simon Haynes

The Interview

What inspired you to write How to Write a Novel?

Over the years I’ve worked out a pretty good method of delivering a completed manuscript on time. I’ve been applying it to my own work this year, and during the past eight months I’ve written and published seven novels and a 15,000 word novella.

It was after completing the sixth novel for the year that I realised others might benefit from my knowledge, and so I put together How to Write a Novel.
 

 
You often write series of standalone novels, instead of novels where each one is the sequel to the previous book. Why have you chosen to do this for some of your series?

When I was about six years old a well-meaning relative gave me a copy of Borrowers Afield by Mary Norton. It was book two in the series, a sequel to book one in every sense of the word, and I refused to read it until I could get my hands on the first.

Later in life I ended up with two books from a different three-book trilogy. These were re-issues of a 1950’s science fiction series, and the publisher only released the first two books! The front- and back- matter said NOTHING about the third title, which I found out about years later. I ended up having to buy a 1950’s first edition, and they’re as rare as hen’s teeth.

Anyway, I guess the short answer is, I’ve been burned several times by incomplete series and I don’t want to inflict the same torture on my own readers.

(To be fair, missing books is hardly a problem nowadays, thanks to ebooks.)
 
 
If you could go back in time to when you started writing, and could give your younger self one piece of advice, what would that be?

I didn’t start my first novel until I was 27, and didn’t write my first proper short story until I was 18. My advice would be to start sooner and write more!
 
 
You began writing Hal Spacejock in 1994, and are working on the ninth book in the series. What do you enjoy about writing these books, and what keeps you engaged after spending so many years with Hal Spacejock and Clunk the robot?

They’re a fantastic comedy duo (trio, if you include the Navcom). When the three of them get together, scenes just write themselves.

But honestly, I can’t seem to avoid these characters. I managed to work Clunk into my new fantasy trilogy, and all of my novels are interconnected somehow, even the middle-grade titles.
 

 
How to Write a Novel contains a section on facing fear. What’s your most important piece of advice to writers who are dealing with fear?

Most of us worry that our first novel will be a pile of unreadable rubbish. Well, I’m here to tell you … it probably will be! Mine certainly was, and not only that, it was only about ⅓ of a full length novel to boot.

Maybe the second novel is another pile of rubbish, but if you find a story to tell, and write about engaging characters facing interesting challenges, eventually it’ll come together.

Like anything, it takes practice.
 
 
What is yWriter, and why did you create it?

I was a short story writer to begin with, and I’d start writing at the beginning and keep typing until I had 2, 3, 4000 words. Then I’d type The End and start posting it off to markets.

When I started on a novel, with multiple plot lines and points of view, I got to about 20,000 words and it all became too much to handle. I knew I’d written a certain paragraph, but couldn’t find it.

As a computer programmer I deal with software code broken up into small, easy-to-handle chunks. I wanted the same thing for my novel writing, and so I designed yWriter to be more like a programmer’s tool than a document editor.
 
 
Some authors outline their novels ahead of time; others write into the dark. What approach do you use, and do you follow the same approach for each book?

Both, and no!

This is a sore point, because this year I’ve written 3 novels to strict outlines, and another 4 which I just wrote any old how. They all turned out fine, it was just a very different process.

So, with my latest I sat down and wrote a 5,000 word plot outline. It only covered the first ⅔ of the novel. And then, as I started on chapter one, Hal and Clunk kicked the entire outline to the kerb and went off on the adventure THEY wanted to have.
 
 
Tell us about the world’s deadliest paper plane!

Oh yes, true story. I made this acrobatic plane and threw it straight onto the neighbour’s roof. (This was in rural Spain.) They weren’t there, since it was a holiday home in the off-season, so I climbed up the stairs to this kind of rooftop patio, and I could see my plane further up the roof, on the tiles. I reached up to climb past this kind of metal wire fence, then froze. The ‘metal wire fence’ was the overhead high-voltage power lines, which were only about three feet above the roof!

Talk about shoddy building standards. They must have built the house under existing powerlines and just left them there.
 
 
Clunk, the robot in your Hal Spacejock series, also appears in your Robot vs. Dragons series, where you’ve stranded him on a planet that doesn’t have space travel. Why did you decide to create a new series that included Clunk, and has this created any challenges for you as the author–or any unexpected opportunities?

Earlier in 2018 I posted a joke cover for April Fools, the title of which was ‘A Game of Clunks’. There was a shield with a cog on it, and a joke about the robot ‘who couldn’t bend the knee, or anything else.’

The reaction was amazing, with people saying I HAD to write it. I was only 10,000 words in when I realised it had just become a dreaded trilogy. I mean, the books have FOURTEEN sub-plots and a cast of dozens. There was no way I was going to wrap that lot up in one novel.
 

 
What story (or stories) are you working on now, and what’s fun about what you’re writing?

Hal 9, Hal Junior 4 and 5, a three-book series featuring a rookie fighter pilot (scifi), and four adult comedy novels under a pen name. The fighter pilot appears in Hal 9, as an older character, which was a deliberate choice. I intended to include her as a cadet, but decided to make her a senior officer in Hal 9, and a cadet in the series. Same thing I did with the Harriet Walsh Peace Force books.

The variety is what makes it fun!

About Simon

Simon Haynes was born in England and grew up in Spain. His family moved to Australia when he was 16.

In addition to novels, Simon writes computer software. In fact, he writes computer software to help him write novels faster, which leaves him more time to improve his writing software. And write novels faster.

Between 2005 and 2012, Simon completed NaNoWriMo six times. He’s still recovering.

Simon’s goal is to write fifteen novels (quickly) before someone takes his keyboard away.

Update 2018: goal achieved and I still have my keyboard!

New goal: write thirty novels.

Find Simon

Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads

Interview: Dean Wesley Smith on “How to Write a Novel in Ten Days”


 
 
How to Write a Novel in Ten Days is in the NaNoWriMo Writing Tools bundle, a collection of a dozen books on writing. A portion of the proceeds goes directly to the Challenger Center for Space Science Education, a non-profit group created by the families of the crew of the Challenger shuttle. This bundle is only available through the end of November 2018.

Meet Dean!

Dean has written over two hundred novels, and hundreds and hundreds of short stories. In addition to his many original novels, he’s also written film novelizations, Star Trek novels, and has ghostwritten a number of other books. He’s the editor of Pulphouse Fiction Magazine, and is one of the executive editors for the original anthology series Fiction River.

How to Write a Novel in Ten Days

Even in today’s fast-paced world, the myth that writing fast equals writing badly—or, conversely, writing well equals writing slowly—persists. Now, USA Today bestselling author Dean Wesley Smith aims to shatter this myth once and for all with this latest WMG Writer’s Guide.

In a series of blog posts, Smith chronicled his process toward ghost writing a 70,000-word novel for a traditional publisher in just ten days. He wrote about his progress, his feelings about the writing, and how he approached and overcame obstacles. This book takes readers on a journey that demonstrates that writing fast, and writing well, comes from motivation and practice.

Excerpt

This book is pretty easy to explain. It is simply a series of twelve blog posts, one per day, that I did over a stretch of 12 days just under a year ago. The point of the blogs was to detail out a novel I wrote for a traditional publisher in ten days. I had one post ahead of the writing days and one after I finished the book to wrap up.

All twelve are here.

Now granted, as each day went on, I added to the post, and at the end of the day I did a summary on each post. So if you were following this (as thousands were on my web site hour-by-hour), you would see each post grow as each day went on.

The goal of doing the blogs was to help take out the mystery of “writing” fast and show how it can be done easily. You just spend the time. Writing fast is not typing fast, it’s just sitting in the chair and writing for numbers of hours.

A little background: I have written and sold over a hundred novels to traditional publishers over the last twenty-five years. Some years I wrote a great deal, some years I took off during those twenty-five years and wrote no books. But after a hundred plus novels, I know how to write a novel.

I wrote this into the dark, as some writers call this type of writing. In other words, I had no outline. And the novel was published by the publisher with no rewrites from me.

I have left all the blog posts pretty much as I wrote them here in this book, because I felt that would be the best way to detail out the feeling of those ten days.

So I hope this journey through the daily writing process of a novel by a professional novelist is fun and entertaining and enlightening.

I had fun detailing out the process as well.

Enjoy the journey and have fun with your own writing.

– from How to Write a Novel in Ten Days by Dean Wesley Smith

The Interview

 
 
Why did you decide to write a novel in ten days?

Honestly, it was a ghost project and they needed it quickly, then delayed the payment and I never start writing until I have the contract and first payment. Learned that lesson the hard way early on. So by the time the payment got there, I had moved on and just wanted this out of my hair.
 
 
You wrote this book as a way to document your experience ghostwriting a ~70,000 word novel in ten days. Was this an unusual amount of writing for you in this type of time period?

Nope, not at all. About normal for me when I am writing to be honest. I am not a fast typist, so I manage about 1,000 words per hour. For something like this it just means I actually write for more hours is all. Nothing magical at all. I am prolific and fast because I spend more time in my writing chair than others do.


 
 
You write “into the dark,” meaning you don’t create outlines, but instead just sit down and start writing? What type of plan did you have when you started the novel? Without an outline, how did you know the result would come in around the required 70,000 words?

After a hundred novels or so, you tend to know how long a novel will be as you go along, even though you have no idea where the book is going. Just practice, I guess. And a sense of the pacing of the book. A shorter novel has a different form of pacing.
 
 
If you could go back in time to when you started writing, and could give your younger self one piece of advice, what would that be?

Follow Heinlein’s Rules much sooner and never fall off of them for any reason.
 
 
What is the “magic bakery?”

A metaphor to understand copyright. Most writers don’t have a clue about copyright and what they license. The magic bakery metaphor makes it easy to understand and real.
 
 
Your Thunder Mountain novel series combines time travel and the Old West. What inspired this series, and what do you enjoy about writing it?

I have always loved and written time travel, and my families on both sides were pioneers into the Pacific Northwest way, way back. And as a kid my grandparents would take me to old ghost mining towns and tell me what they were like when people lived in them. Also, on one trip into old mining country when I was an early teenager, a friend of mine and I went into an old gold mine (really stupid) and found a bunch of crystals. So that experience and my love of the Old West and time travel just sort of came together. I am working on a new Thunder Mountain book at the moment, actually.


 
 
You and your wife, Kristine Kathryn Rusch, have taught writing workshops for decades, and every year you offer new online classes. What do you enjoy about this?
 
 
The learning. It challenges us both to figure out ways to teach a topic and then I keep learning from the writers taking the workshops as well. We would stop them in a heartbeat if I wasn’t still learning and hungry for the knowledge.
 
 
Pulphouse Fiction Magazine is a reincarnation of a magazine you and Kris offered through the small press Pulphouse Publishing from 1988 through 1993. Why did you decide to bring the magazine back after a twenty year absence? What’s different this time around?

Not much, actually. Crazy, fun stories that are high quality and make people think. What we were trying to do back in the early 1990s. And I thought it would be fun, which after a year, it has been great.


 
 
Your Cold Poker Gang Mystery series is focused around a group of retired Las Vegas police detectives playing poker and solving cold cases. Has what you write for this series since you moved to Vegas? And how does your own expertise as a poker player help with these books?

No poker in the books. The idea was a spin-off of a thriller I wrote called “Dead Money” which was about poker. Nothing has changed since I moved to Las Vegas because I haven’t written a new one here. Plus I really knew Las Vegas before I moved here, so can’t imagine anything changing. I love writing those mysteries. They are so much fun.
 
 
What story (or stories) are you working on now, and what’s fun about what you’re writing?

Working at the moment on a new Thunder Mountain novel. Not sure after that since I never know what I will write until I sit down and start writing. I just like entertaining myself. Figure if I do that, others might like it as well.

About Dean

Considered one of the most prolific writers working in modern fiction, USA Today bestselling writer Dean Wesley Smith published far more than a hundred novels in forty years, and hundreds of short stories across many genres.

At the moment he produces novels in four major series, including the time travel Thunder Mountain novels set in the Old West, the galaxy-spanning Seeders Universe series, the urban fantasy Ghost of a Chance series, and a superhero series starring Poker Boy.

His monthly magazine, Smith’s Monthly, which consists of only his own fiction, premiered in October 2013 and offers readers more than 70,000 words per issue, including a new and original novel every month.

During his career, Dean also wrote a couple dozen Star Trek novels, the only two original Men in Black novels, Spider-Man and X-Men novels, plus novels set in gaming and television worlds. Writing with his wife Kristine Kathryn Rusch under the name Kathryn Wesley, he wrote the novel for the NBC miniseries The Tenth Kingdom and other books for Hallmark Hall of Fame movies.

He wrote novels under dozens of pen names in the worlds of comic books and movies, including novelizations of almost a dozen films, from The Final Fantasy to Steel to Rundown.

Dean also worked as a fiction editor off and on, starting at Pulphouse Publishing, then at VB Tech Journal, then Pocket Books, and now at WMG Publishing, where he and Kristine Kathryn Rusch serve as series editors for the acclaimed Fiction River anthology series.

Find Dean

Website | Facebook | Goodreads

Interview: Jason Chen on StoryBundle

What is StoryBundle?

StoryBundle offers collections of DRM-free ebooks where readers select the price they want to pay for the bundle, and can choose to donate a percentage of the portion of the proceeds to charity. At a certain price threshold, “bonus” books are unlocked. Readers download the books directly to their tablet, ereader, computer, or smartphone.

One of the current bundles is the NaNoWriMo Writing Tools bundle, a collection of a dozen books on writing. A portion of the proceeds goes directly to the Challenger Center for Space Science Education, a non-profit group created by the families of the crew of the Challenger shuttle. This bundle is only available through the end of November 2018.

Meet Jason!

Jason started StoryBundle in mid-2012 because he was seeing people bundle games and other things, but not books.

The Interview

How did you come up with the idea of creating StoryBundle.com?

It’s hard to remember now, in 2018, but back in 2012 there were no book bundles and there were no box sets on Amazon! It was very difficult to find curated sets of books that were both high in quality and sold for a good price. Nobody was putting different authors together back then—as far as most readers knew—so I thought it was a very good market for people who wanted to fill up their ereaders.

So we took this idea for curated books, coupled it with quality authors and curators, plus made an easy delivery system that allowed anybody with essentially any electronic device capable of reading ebooks to enjoy the books, DRM-free!

How do you select curators to create bundles?

We pick our curators from authors we’ve worked with before. This is so that we know how their tastes run, how their promotional efforts go and if they can handle the job of curating, since it’s a totally different set of skills than writing and promoting.

Does StoryBundle put together bundles as well, or are they always managed by outside curators?

We started by curating the bundles ourselves, but as we’ve grown, we’ve moved to an almost 100% author/publisher curating platform.

Does StoryBundle participate in the selection of authors/books for bundles?

We leave most of the curating to the authors/publishers, but we do sometimes make suggestions or try and introduce authors to each other that make sense for different bundles.

If a curator wants to donate to a charity not on your current list of charities, is it possible to add to this list?

Definitely! We’re open to adding new charities all the time, and we work together with the authors to find one that makes the most sense for the bundle theme. And if they don’t have one specifically in mind, we have a lot of charities that we’ve worked with in the past that may fit.

What are the biggest mistakes you see some curators make?

By far the biggest mistake is that some curators think the curation is done after choosing authors to be in the bundle. I would say at least half of the job of curator is to promote the bundle, arrange for authors to promote and figure out how best to get the word out. Because the curator knows the theme of the bundle, how it was assembled and which authors are in it, they’re the best equipped to market the bundle and try and get as many eyes on it as possible.

Is there a limit to how many bundles can be available at any given time?

There’s no technical limit, but the practical limit is that we only launch one bundle a week that go for 3 weeks each. Technically there can be 4 bundles live at once. We’ve also found that it’s good to stagger the bundle themes, so they don’t overlap too much with each other. It’s really no good to have 4 sci-fi bundles live at once, because a potential reader wouldn’t pick up all 4 sci-fi bundles. Instead, we recommend doing a mix of bundles so that readers with different tastes can find at least one bundle they enjoy, and maybe a second in a different genre while they’re here.

How much lead time do you recommend to set up a Storybundle?

We recommend at least a couple months for new curators, but experienced curators with lots of connections can set it up in about a month. Of course the longer the curators have, the better, since it takes publishers often a few weeks to get the books approved to be in a bundle.

What is the minimum and maximum number of books allowed in a bundle? Is there an “ideal” number of books?

The minimum we aim for is at least 8, but there’s no hard maximum. Some bundling sites shove in as many books as they can find for every bundle, but we take the long view that we don’t want to de-value the concept of ebooks. Here’s our thinking: If you can get 25-30 books at once for a really cheap price, how likely is it that you’re going to finish all of them? Unlikely, yes? And how likely are you going to be to buy another bundle when you have 15-20 books in your backlog that you may want to read, but will never get around to? It makes it difficult for subsequent bundles to appeal, and if you’re pricing your books at just cents per book, what message are you sending to readers as far as how much you value those books? And to authors?

Long story short is that just because we’re combining books together in a bundle, we don’t de-value the individual book and we want to make sure we make this sustainable for all our authors and for us as well.

How long are bundles generally available for? Is there a set amount of time, or can this vary

We usually have our bundles for 3 weeks, but certain bundles, like the NaNoWriMo Writing bundles, go for 2 months to cover the ramp-up to NaNoWriMo and the month of November itself!
 
 

 
 
Promotion for bundles is primarily done by the curator and the participating authors. What promotional techniques have you seen people have the most success with?

There’s no one best way to promote a bundle, sadly, or else we would copy and paste the method for every bundle! A variety of things have worked for us in the past, such as involving the charity, getting different blogs to help promote, reaching out to author friends to signal boost, and even getting more notable people to talk about the bundle on social media.

What do you enjoy most about running StoryBundle?

This may be a sappy answer, but the thing I will take away when StoryBundle is over is the friends I’ve made along the way. Getting to correspond with authors has made some friends that I wouldn’t have imagined I would make before I started StoryBundle, and I’m sure these friendships will last when the site is over. It’s been great to get to see different authors’ writing processes from the outside, and I’m cheering for all of them to do well no matter where they’re selling their books!

About Jason

Before starting StoryBundle, Founder Jason Chen covered technology and software as an editor for Gizmodo.com and Lifehacker.com. Before that, Jason was a software engineer, a student, and way before that, a fetus.

Find StoryBundle

Website | Facebook | Twitter | StoryBundle FAQ

Interview: Mark Leslie on the “Books Gone Bad” bundle

Meet Mark!

Mark is an author, professional speaker, and bookseller, with more than a quarter century of experience in writing, publishing, and bookselling. He started writing at 13, and has written three novels, a number of non-fiction books on locations where ghostly and eerie things occur, published numerous short stories, and edited quite a few story collections.

He has a podcast on writing and publishing, publishes a regular video series in which he reads from either his short fiction or his eerie non-fiction, and does many, many other things. Mark loves craft beer, has a skeleton sidekick named Barnaby, and has managed to combine his love of beer with his love of the unexplained.

Books Gone Bad

Books make the world a better place. They are, perhaps, the only thing you can buy that actually make you richer. As Stephen King says, “Books are a uniquely portable magic.”

But what if it were actually true? What if there was actual magic emanating from a book itself? What if a book was sentient? What if a book could actually interact in our world? What if there is something a bit more evil or sinister lurking in the pages?

What if a book doesn’t just open up a world of possibilities to a reader, but, instead, brings the reader into that world? And what about the people for whom books are a central part of their lives? How do they interact with, or perhaps, include books in their magic, their schemes, their lives? How do they protect the infinite possibilities that books store and provide?

This bundle of about 260,000 words from 10 short stories and 2 novels includes explorations of books and the world of books that include magical, supernatural, science fiction or speculative elements. Book nerds will…

The Interview

Books Gone Bad ties the themes of books and magic together. What inspired you to create this bundle?

I have always been a giant book nerd. Books are a special type of magic all on their own. But I have long enjoyed reading stories that center on books and bookish people. I had a short collection of stories on that theme and was trying to figure out a way that I and perhaps some other authors could cross-promote one another. I thought that a themed bundle like this might be just the thing for readers like me.

Having had previous great experiences being part of collaborative BundleRabbit bundles, I thought this might be a great way for me to get my feet wet in curating a bundle to my reading passions.

If this project helps me and the other writers earn a little, perhaps sell more, or attract new fans, then great. If not, then at the very least the project has given me some fun stories to read and enjoy.

This bundle contains your book Active Reader, a collection of three short stories related to books and bookstores. How did your years of experience working in bookstores tie in with this collections?

My experience in bookstores ties in quite tightly with this collection. While one tale (“Browsers”) in the collection is about getting lost in a bookstore (which is more from the browser’s point of view and inspired by an actual experience I had visiting a bookstore in Hamilton, Ontario and getting lost in the store), the other two tie directly to my own bookselling experience. “Active Reader,” the title story, is about the misuse of a bookstore loyalty program (and a story that occured to me when I was in the midst of selling the “Avid Reader” card for a book chain I worked at). And though “Distractions” is about a writer dealing with a combination of writer’s block and distractions, it’s really another cautionary tale about those who follow the advice of self-help gurus (whose books I sold a ton of over the years).

In addition to writing fiction, you have a podcast! On Stark Reflections you interview authors, people in both the traditional and indie-publishing communities, and provide your own reflections on writing and publishing. What do you enjoy about your podcast, and how has it surprised you?

What I love best about the podcast is that it keeps me engaged and learning from authors and other folks from creative industries. With every single chat and interview, I find myself learning something new, or perhaps re-learning something I’d forgotten about. And every single time, the conversation inspires something in me.

While I know the podcast offers quality (ie mean, c’mon, look at the breadth of knowledge that my guests bring) and I know the listener base is constantly growing, I am surprised when I meet someone while out and about, at a conference, etc, who mentions they listen to the podcast and they love the content I provide as well as the open-sharing that I do. I figured my podcast was just another voice adding to an already almost saturated market, but the surprise is how many folks share that they feel it provides a fresh perspective that isn’t offered in the same way elsewhere. Perhaps they appreciate my attempt to balance the traditional and self-publishing perspectives, which I haven’t really seen in the podcasts I have been enjoying listening to.

You’ve combined your love of haunted places with your love of craft beer. Tell us about Spirits Untapped!

I have always been afraid of ghosts, monsters and the unknown and have long described myself as a Book Nerd. So I thought that writing the book TOMES OF TERROR: Haunted Bookstores & Libraries would be the crowning moment of the book I was meant to write.

But then, in 2014, I met Liz, my partner. On our first date, we met up for a beer (both being self-described craft beer enthusiasts) and the rest is history. As our relationship grew out of that first date, our exploration of both ghostly tales and the spirit of beer culture grew from that.

At some point a couple of years ago, we realized that all the traveling that we did together to various beer locations, could be used in a book. So we started the SPIRITS UNTAPPED blog as a way to document some of our beer adventures. While the blog and website itself is for the exploration of the SPIRIT of craft beer culture, the forthcoming book SPIRITS UNTAPPED: Haunted Bars & Breweries, will focus on the ghosts and eerie and unexplained events in bars, breweries and restaurants.
So, apparently, there’s a second “crowning moment” of the book I was meant to write. In this case, Liz and I are writing the book together, so it’ll be a dual crowning moment for us.

How did you select the stories for the Books Gone Bad bundle?

I logged onto the BundleRabbit website and did a few keyword searches for books, booksellers, librarians, then scrolled through the titles available. I also reached out to a few friends to see if they had any titles that might be applicable for such a theme and asked them to submit the title to BundleRabbit so it could be included in the bundle.

It was a fun experience, because as I was scrolling, I picked the stories that were bookish in theme and were ones that I responded to with: “Gee, I’d really like to read that.” So if that were the case, I reached out and asked the author if they would like that story to be included.

You’ve participated in story bundles before, but this is the first one you’ve curated. How has the experience been? What have you learned, liked, or disliked?

Having selected for and edited anthologies, I was already familiar with that type of curation experience. But this one was somewhat easier, because most of the stories were already out there and “completed” and already available. That part was easy.

I think I underestimated the time involved in helping to push and promote the anthology. I created short videos and multiple creative assets for my books as well as the others in the anthology, but, because I’ve been up to my eyeballs with more tasks than I can handle, I let my own promotional efforts slip – I was a bit disappointed to see minimal promotional efforts overall outside of the few things I had done.

There was a really smart curator (you might know her) who told me her method of choosing authors – she shared that she spent a bit of time exploring each author’s own social media and promotional presence as part of her strategy. IE, if they seemed to be active, they were more likely to put some effort into supporting the bundle. I suppose that’s something I learned that I can take with me going forward.

I’m not saying that I’m disappointed, because I think that the stories collected in the bundle are excellent tales by great writers. I suppose I was expecting each author to do at least a bit more sharing of the bundle – but the good news is that soon I’ll likely have time, again, to focus on promoting the bundle (I already have a promo scheduled via a manual request through BundleRabbit), and, since it’s not a limited time release, perhaps different authors will push it at different times, spreading out the effect.

After all, it’s NOT just about the first 30 to 90 days – it’s about long term sales. And it’s a quality bundle, regardless of when or how people discover it over time.

You’ve worked in virtually every type of bookstore, including at an online bookstore – Kobo, where you drove the creation of their author/small publisher platform. What do you miss about working in physical bookstores?

The thing I miss most about working in physical bookstores are the daily interactions with readers and customers and the tactile experience of holding books, unpacking new books and placing books in customers hands.

I created Kobo Writing Life to fulfill a need. I’d been self-published to Kobo, but they didn’t have an easy way for authors or small publishers to get into their systems (not without doing a lot of technical gymnastics) – Also, I had created a similar system for Chapters/Indigo (Canada’s version of Barnes and Noble) about 10 years earlier, so it was using the same methodology – create a FEW platform, let people publish their work and support them in ways to help them grow their sales.

In a nutshell, I created Kobo Writing Life for me to use as an author. Using that as a basis, it’s obvious that there were tens of thousands of other authors who wanted and needed the tool as well. So, like advice writers are given, I focused on a niche and a target audience (me), and many other people like me found it useful as well.

#FreeFridayFrights is an audio and video series where you do live readings of your short stories and your non-fiction about ghosts and eerie tales.

Yeah, I started it back in April 2018 as an experiment of providing something free for two main reasons – 1) to expand and grow my author brand and 2) to give people a free taste of what my writing was like in the hopes that they might consider being a reader/fan of my work.


What story (or stories) are you working on now, and what’s fun about what you’re writing?

Apart from a non-fiction book that outlines my 25+ years of experience as a bookseller, I am working on a variety of short fiction projects as well as finishing up some of the longer/novel length works.

I am the poster child for “do what I say, not what I do” because, despite some of the advice I offer to authors, I have three novels that are the first books in three different series’ out with not a single sequel finished.

For EVASION (Book One in my “Desmond Files” series), I have a ¾ completed COVERSION sequel that I’m working through.

For A CANADIAN WEREWOLF IN NEW YORK (Book One in my “Canadian Werewolf” series), I have a 50% completed draft of FEAR AND LONGING IN LOS ANGELES that I’m working through.

If I were smarter, and followed my own advice, I’d finish off EVASION with COVERSION and the final book in the trilogy, INVASION. And I’d also get my butt back on the “Canadian Werewolf” series which looks like it could be part of something a bit longer. After all, my hero, Michael, has plenty of ways to exploit his “superhero” wolfish abilities.

And that’s not to mention I, DEATH (which I did sell to a publisher – however, I just secured the audiobook rights back from the publisher so do plan on turning that into an audiobook while drafting out the next stories in that series)

Speaking of audiobooks I plan on releasing an audio-book ONLY version of “The Best of Free Friday Frights” – again, just a test concept, since the FreeFridayFrights are mostly previously published stories – I love playing and experimenting with different forms and so compiling an audiobook that combines so many different moving parts could be interesting (especially since I’d already paid for several of the stories I would include to be professionally narrated)

Again, more projects than there are hours in the day. But I love having tons of things to choose from. I never get bored.

About Mark

Mark Leslie would be the first person to admit he’s still afraid of the monster under his bed.

Proudly adopting the term “Book Nerd” for himself, Mark is a writer, editor and bookseller and is most comfortable with a pen in hand, fingers on keyboard or with his nose stuck in a book.

His first book, ONE HAND SCREAMING (2004) collected mostly previously published short stories and poetry along with a few original tales. His other fiction includes I, DEATH (2014), EVASION (2014) and A CANADIAN WEREWOLF IN NEW YORK (2016). Mark’s dark fiction is often compared to “Twilight Zone” or “Black Mirror” in terms of style, exploring “what if” themes with contemporary settings that include speculative elements, gently skipping around the genres of sci-fi, horror and urban fantasy.

Apart from editing science fiction anthologies NORTH OF INFINITY II (2006), TESSERACTS SIXTEEN: PARNASSUS UNBOUND (2012) the horror anthology CAMPUS CHILLS (2009) as well as FICTION RIVER: EDITOR’S CHOICE (2017) and FICTION RIVER: FEEL THE FEAR (2017) Mark writes non-fiction “true ghost story” books that include HAUNTED HAMILTON: The Ghosts of Dundurn Castle & Other Steeltown Shivers, SPOOKY SUDBURY: True Tales of the Eerie & Unexplained TOMES OF TERROR: Haunted Bookstores & Libraries, CREEPY CAPITAL: Ghost Stories of Ottawa & The National Capital Region and HAUNTED HOSPITALS: Eerie Tales About Hospitals, Sanatoriums, and Other Institutions among others.

Mark continues to publish short fiction in small press horror magazines and anthologies and most recently had stories appear in TESSERACTS SEVENTEEN (2015), FICTION RIVER: SPARKS (2016) and 2113: Stories Inspired by the Music of Rush (2016)

Born in Sudbury Ontario, Mark has courted with a serious addiction to reading and writing his entire life. He has called both Ottawa, Ontario and Hamilton, Ontario home and currently lives in Waterloo, Ontario.

Find Mark!

Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads

Find the Books Gone Bad bundle

BundleRabbit | Amazon | Kobo | Barnes & Noble | Apple Books | Facebook

Interview: DeAnna Knippling on “Doctor Rudolfo Knows All” (in Beauty and Wickedness)


 
“Doctor Rudolfo Knows All” is in Beauty and Wickedness, the first volume in the anthology series Ever After Fairy Tales. In this collection, sixteen authors retell and reimagine some of the most enchanting fairy tales ever told – and make up some brand new fairy tales as well. Within these pages, you’ll find beauty and treachery, magic and courage, innocence and wickedness…and at least some happy endings.

Meet DeAnna!

DeAnna Knippling is always tempted to lie on her bios. Her favorite musician is Tom Waits, and her favorite author is Lewis Carroll. Her favorite monster is zombies. Her life goal is to remake her house in the image of the House on the Rock, or at least Ripley’s Believe It Or Not. You should buy her books. She promises that she’ll use the money wisely on bookshelves and secret doors. She lives in Colorado and is the author of the A Fairy’s Tale horror series which starts with By Dawn’s Bloody Light, and other books like The Clockwork Alice, A Murder of Crows: Seventeen Tales of Monsters & the Macabre, and more.

“Doctor Rudolfo Knows All”

On a lark one Black Friday at the local toy store, teenager Connor agrees to earn a little extra cash reading tarot cards, and thus the amazing Doctor Rudolfo is born! But when the good doctor starts getting things a little too right, Connor learns that not everybody likes it when the truth comes out, especially when it involves a bank scam. Can Connor and his little brother Aiden make it back home safely? And maybe keep a little of that extra cash, too?

“Aiden,” I whispered. “Time to get up, bud.”

He didn’t answer me, and I opened the door slowly, pushing something heavy out of the way.

No sign of Aiden—or, should I say, there were about ten thousand too many signs of Aiden. The kid had trashed his room again, and trying to find him in the mess was gonna be an effort.

“Mom’s snoring,” I said, “so we’re going out today.”

He didn’t answer again, but it was a different kind of non-answer. He was considering.

“Where?” came his voice from somewhere under the mess. It could have been from under his bed or above the ceiling. He had this trick of throwing his voice. I’d taught it to him, more fool me.

“Let’s go to Epic.”

To Epic Toys & Games, that was. Which was only two steps down from Willy Wonka’s candy factory in terms of cool places to take a kid on the day after Thanksgiving. They were open early and were doing giveaways and stuff. We’d already missed out on the 6 a.m. doorbusters.

Aiden stepped out from behind the door. For a freakin’ miracle, he was already dressed and ready to go, as long as you didn’t count matching socks or a right-side-out shirt as requirements for leaving the apartment. I made him brush his hair and brush his teeth and eat his cereal while I drank the coffee from the travel mug. I barely had time to finish a third of it before he was seriously ready to go. He did not screw around when the word Epic was being thrown around. He loved that place.

– from “Doctor Rudolfo Knows All” by DeAnna Knippling

The Interview

Connor thinks he’s an average teenager in most ways, even though he can see ghosts. After he experiences what might be called “second sight,” he still doesn’t seem to think he’s exceptional. He certainly could have been giddy with power instead. Why do you think you made that choice?

I wanted to write about two incredibly talented, unique boys who were in a situation where they couldn’t see how amazing they were. A lot of people are literally like that. They feel like imposters, or like the best things about themselves are kind of a waste of time.

You’ve said you plan to write another Doctor Rudolfo story. What special appeal does Connor/Doctor Rudolfo have for you?

I finished the story; it’s called “Dr. Rudolfo Meets His Match.”

I first came up with the story for the fairy tale retelling anthology Beauty & Wickedness, just something to fit the requirements without being too predictable. But I found that Connor’s attitudes toward life—the good ones and the bad ones—really speak to me. He doesn’t believe in himself. He should. He’s finding his way through the impossible mess that is his life, believing in nothing, just knowing that he can’t give up. I think the world of him.

You explain at the end of the story the fairy tale it’s based on. I’m curious about something else in the story, too. Connor says that his grandmother put something in his and his brother’s eyes when they were babies to give them “sight.” What, if anything, was that based on?

I can’t remember now! It was one of those things where the only conscious thing I remember was, “What would really piss off the mom character here? Aha! Putting something in their eyes!” I still don’t know whether that did anything, or it was just something she did that became a family story.

Connor and Aiden are African American, but you are not. As the story unfolds, Connor is always highly aware of how the adults they interact with could assume the worst about them. That must have been an interesting “inner monologue” to explore. What can you tell us about that process?

I think the story came out of the process of re-evaluating how I was raised, in light of a lot of racism that we’re seeing today.

Here’s just one example. There used to be this thing called “the paper bag test” where you could get into a party or a club if your skin was lighter than a brown paper bag. Just…what. When I found out about it, I was ill for a couple of days, not because I couldn’t believe that it happened, but that I’d never known. I keep running into stuff like that. I’m ashamed of the things I don’t know, of the effort that it takes to keep people like me blind and comfortable.

Somewhere in my subconscious, I went, “This whole setup is a fairy tale for white people, isn’t it? Like not a real fairy tale, but an illusion of comfort and charm that has been performed for my benefit.” So putting a couple of black characters in the white-world fairy tale, as legit fairy-tale heroes trying to deal with magic and ghosts and second sight, feels a lot more right than it does wrong.

Because I live in the Denver area, I knew both the bank building you mentioned and the toy store (under a different name, of course), and had always been curious about both of them. Was there a reason you included such distinctive places in your story?

I just think they’re cool. I moved up to Denver from Colorado Springs fairly recently, and found out about both places at about the same time. I want to say that I drove past the bank a few days before writing the story, and it was on my mind.

You are a huge fan of Alice in Wonderland and Lewis Carroll, and have written two novels based on Wonderland. Why do you suppose that world has captured you so?

You may not want to know…

It didn’t come on all at once. The more you peel back from Alice in Wonderland (which I’m gonna say here is the world/series name, where Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland is the book title), the more cool stuff you find. I obsessed with the movie as a little kid, more so than the book, and named our farm cat Cheshire Cat.

Then I found The Annotated Alice, which is Martin Gardner’s annotated version explaining just how brilliant the jokes are.

Then I read The Diamond Age by Neal Stephenson, which is a book about a book that gets given to little girls to turn them into world-wise computer hackers, and I realized that the originals were the Alice in Wonderland books, given to the real-life Alice and other little girls.

Charles Dodgson was always training up girls in how to solve math problems and use advanced logic. Like, stuff that’s beyond me completely.

Then Pride and Prejudice and Zombies came out, and I was jealous. I was just going to rewrite Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland with zombies added, but it didn’t make sense, so I backed up a level of reality and wrote the story about how the book gets written, by a zombie. And that required a lot of research, which was completely fascinating.

Then I wrote a sequel to The Queen of Stilled Hearts, called The Knight of Shattered Dreams, covering the events behind Through the Looking-Glass. But I wasn’t a good enough writer to pull off what I wanted, so I put that book on hold. It needs a complete rewrite.

Then I got bored during Nanowrimo season (National Novel Writing Month, in November), and wrote The Clockwork Alice because I got the image of mechanical Wonderlandians in my head and couldn’t get them out again.

I have to finish up the current novel, and then I get to take another stab at Knight.

What story (or stories) are you working on now, and what’s fun about what you’re writing?

I’m working on book 3 in the Company Justice series, Thousandeyes. It’s giving me fits. I keep thinking I know what I’m doing, and the book is like, “You think too much.” It’s a cyberpunk/near future thriller thingy. I just finished the Dr. Rudolfo story—like, I literally put off writing this interview until I knew I had that done, so the questions wouldn’t affect what I wrote. Then I get to work on the rewrite for Knight of Shattered Dreams. I’m nervous about it.

On the client side, I have a cozy and two adventure stories coming up.

The Company Justice series is fun because it’s both cynical and filled with wonder. And weird murders gone amuck. I’m writing a lot of stories lately based on plans that go awry on the bad guys’ side, making everything ten times worse than it should have been. Having a dry, steady detective in the middle of that is fun. He has a self-deprecating sense of humor, which I always enjoy writing. All hell is breaking loose, and he’s like, “Then the fake elephant exploded. Maybe I shouldn’t have done that, but it was fun watching the bad guys try to cope.”

About DeAnna

DeAnna Knippling is a writer, a parent, and an overthinker who boldly paranoids where no one has paranoided before. Her superpower is speed reading. She ghostwrites novels for fun and profit. She has an essay in the award-winning Women Destroy Science Fiction! collection. She has had stories published in Penumbra, Three-Lobed Burning Eye, Black Static, and more. Her latest novel, Alice’s Adventures in Underland: The Queen of Stilled Hearts, comes out of her obsession with all things Alice. She writes books for middle-graders as De Kenyon.

Find DeAnna

 
Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads

Find Beauty and Wickedness!
 

Amazon ~ iBooks ~ Kobo ~ Barnes & Noble ~ Books2Read ~ Goodreads

Interview: Chuck Heintzelman on “The Author’s Guide to Vellum: Creating Beautiful Books with Vellum 2.0”

Meet Chuck Heintzelman!

Chuck is the founder of BundleRabbit, a do-it-yourself story bundling platform that helps authors create ebook story bundles, and collaborate on collections in both ebook and print. He’s created well over a thousand ebooks with Vellum as part of his work with BundleRabbit.

Chuck is also a very talented writer, and occasionally manages to sneak in some fiction writing as well as spending time with his family, working a full-time job as a computer programmer, and enhancing BundleRabbit.

The Author’s Guide to Vellum: Creating Beautiful Books with Vellum 2.0

Take the pain out of creating books!

Vellum helps you:
– Generate high quality ebooks
– Create professional looking print books
– Assemble boxsets in record time
– Create beautiful books

“The Author’s Guide to Vellum” steps you through the software, explaining each feature, and has tips & tricks that can save you hours of time.

Don’t have a Mac computer? No worries. “The Author’s Guide to Vellum” shows you how to run this amazing software without owning a Mac.

Whether you’re new to Vellum or an Advanced user, you’ll learn something with this book:
– Why do some pages not show in the Table of Contents?
– How can I get a page to appear before the Title Page?
– How can I force my books to have blank paragraphs?
– Which pages can start on the left side of print books?

“The Author’s Guide to Vellum” answers all these questions, and more!

The Interview

What is Vellum, and why is it so awesome?

Vellum is a software package that allows you to import a Word doc and format your doc into ebooks and print books. The great thing about Vellum is it makes creating ebooks super-easy … and the resulting ebooks look simply stunning.

Vellum is Mac-only, but your book explains how to run it without using a Mac. Is this hard?

Not hard at all. There’s a service called MacInCloud that allows you to “rent” a virtual mac. You share files between your local computer and your MacInCloud using DropBox or OneDrive and use the software in the cloud to create your ebooks.

How many books have you created with Vellum?

I don’t have a clue any more. I stopped counting a few months ago when I passed a thousand ebooks created. My guess is probably somewhere between 1500-1600.

Vellum allows you to create print books as well as ebooks and print books. Do you have to set things up differently for each format?

You don’t have to, but Vellum gives you the option to have certain parts of your book only appear in the ebook version or print version. Let’s say you want the copyright page at the back in the ebook, but at the front of the printed book. You simply create two copyright pages, one that only appears in the print version and one that appears in the ebook version.
 

 
There’s a “Tips and Tricks” section in your book. What’s one of the most useful tips you’ve learned?

Probably the non-breaking space trick. Using this hidden character will allow you to add vertical spacing to your text. For instance, let’s say on the print book you want a section to appear at the top of the next page. You can hit the enter key five times to insert five blank lines, but Vellum will treat those lines as one blank line in the formated book. Simply add a non-break space character, hit enter, another non-break space and enter, and now you have three blank lines instead of one.

You’ve created a lot of box sets with Vellum. How does Vellum help make this process easier?

It’s easy as drag-and-drop. You can take individual Word docs or Vellum files and drag them into the box set you’re creating and a new volume is automatically added. With everything prepared I can easily create a five book box set in Vellum in less than five minutes.

What’s your favorite Vellum feature?

The preview. By using the Vellum Preview you can see what your ebook look like on any device. Set it for Kindle Paperwhite, and you’ll see how it appears on that device. Change to an iPhone or iPad and you’ll get a preview of those devices as well. Or, you can see exactly what the printed page would look like in a print book.

About the Author

“His short stories are stunning” — Dean Wesley Smith, USA Today Bestselling Author

Indie Chuck Heintzelman writes quirky short stories, usually with some sort of fantastical element. He’s as surprised by this as anyone. Even after dozens of stories published, he still stays up too late at night, feverishly working on the next tale. Many of his stories can be found in various issues of Fiction River or Boundary Shock Quarterly.
 
Lately, Chuck’s time has been consumed managing and enhancing BundleRabbit, a DIY ebook bundling and collaborative publishing service.

Find Chuck

Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads

Find The Author’s Guide to Vellum: Creating Beautiful Books with Vellum 2.0

Books2Read

Interview: A. L. Butcher on the “Here Be Monsters” bundle

Meet A. L. Butcher!

A. L. (Alex) Butcher has a background in ancient history, mythology, and classical studies – all of which have given her an interest in the fascinating world of monsters. Here Be Monsters is the fifth volume in her Myths, Monsters, and Mayhem series. In addition to her many short stories and the story bundles she’s curated, Alex writes The Light Beyond the Storm Chronicles, a series of adult dark fantasy romance adventures set in a world where magic is forbidden.

Here Be Monsters

Here Be Monsters is a collection of 19 tales of myths, monsters, and mayhem.

We love to fear them and fight them. Monsters come in many forms, from the monsters within to the monsters outside and under the bed. Dare you venture into the caverns and the castles? Dare you enter the darkness of an accursed soul?

An eclectic collection of dark creatures and those who fight them. You have been warned.

~ Here Be Monsters is only available through September 2018 ~

The Interview

Here Be Monsters is the fifth volume in your bundle series Myths, Monsters, and Mayhem. What inspired you to create this series, and this volume in particular?

I love fantasy, and the total diversity of worlds, creatures, people and situations within. Fantasy is by far the widest and most creative of genres, and the possibilities are limitless. In my view fantasy is freedom. I love the old style myths, fairytales and bardic stories, and this series has a bit of everything. Our cultures are saturated with myth, legend and the fantastic – St George and the Dragon (see my blog for an article on the history of this); giants and fairies, even Santa Claus is a fantastical story. These are not only aimed towards children – there are 131 public houses called George and Dragon in the UK, 67 called Robin Hood (or similar), 59 called The Griffin, 51 called The Phoenix, 52 called The Unicorn and 31 called The Golden Fleece. Such tales remain popular, and most if not all countries have a mythic past which still appears in current life.

Here Be Monsters features the darker side of fantasy – those beings and beasties we all love to fear. Not all are bad – In The Stolen Tower (which features in the bundle too), two of the primary characters are Trolls – but not your usual bridge-lurker type of troll. The monsters in this one are taken from their past – at a time before the magical Fae Realm was sealed off, and should not exist in the world they currently inhabit. There’s an earth elemental too – a personification of the mountain. The Keres are nasty, nasty creatures – think harpies with an even worse attitude. But there are also human monsters, and creatures the humans fear which are the good guys.

I know some of the other stories have an array of nasties, but not always those creatures who we would assume are the monsters.
 

 
 
You’ve written a number of stories set in Erana, a fantasy world you created – including “Warrior’s Curse,” which appears in Here Be Monsters. What is it about the world of Erana that keeps bringing you back to it?

Erana is a world of magic – but that magic has been seriously beaten into submission. After years of war between elves, men, fae, trolls and various other magical creatures the fae realm is closed off, the elves fall to a mysterious plague that almost destroys their civilisation, the trolls retreat to the mountains and largely shut themselves off, and martial law is imposed. The Order of Witch-Hunters take charge and blame the elves and magic for the plague (rightly or wrongly – that will be explained in later books), and seek to obliterate magic, and enslave elves where ever they are to be found. Magic, however, refuses to abide by the laws of men, and appears in odd places, and people.

It’s a world of contrasts – magic is everywhere – albeit on the sly – but it’s usage and possession are punishable by death. A person doesn’t choose to be magical – they just are. Most people soon learn to hide what skills they have or pass them off as something else. There are temples to various gods – which not even the Order has the courage to forbid. Many people think the gods are real and it doesn’t do to take the chance they aren’t. Most of the elves live in hiding, or in Enclave (basically ghettos) and have no rights, and are owned by humans. But most humans are peasants and too ignorant, afraid or overworked to see the problems. It’s been that way for three hundred years, it must be the truth. Truth and freedom are relative terms.

Warrior’s Curse starts with some treasure hunters seeking refuge from a storm in a cave. They soon discover bags of shiny loot – but as with most things in Erana such treasure has a past, and is not what it first appears. One of the group (a Troll Past-Seer) recounts the history of the most rare and expensive item and decides she wants nothing to do with it. The menfolk are not so wise… The ‘story within a story’ is set in the past – for there are witches, monsters, and unholy magics – and none of the treasure hunters would even comprehend such things in a world where magic is illegal.

Erana draws me in time after time. It has a dark history, but there is hope for the future. The good guys are anti-heroes – they kill, steal and manipulate but for the good of others and a ‘cause’. The bad guys are bad – but many just don’t know any different or are following orders. Good and bad are not clear. But in many ways it reflects our world – there are oppressed and oppressors, the wise and the foolish, a history saturated with blood, and the indomitable spirit to survive, no matter what.
 
 
Remembering Warriors is a story bundle you organized as a commemoration of the 100th anniversary of the First Armistice Day. A percentage of the royalties goes to the Royal British Legion and Help for Heroes, two charities that support wounded and ex-service personnel and their families. What inspired you to create this collection?

This one is easy for me to answer. My father served in the Royal Army Medical Corps and was wounded in action in 1959 – he lost the sight in one eye. My mother served in Queen Alexandra’s Army Nursing Corp (fortunately she came out unscathed). The Royal British Legion helps ex-veterans and their families in a number of ways. My father currently resides in a British Legion nursing home, and all the residents there have served in the forces.
Help for Heroes is a more recent charity which also promotes rehabilitation and help for those wounded in action.

2018 is the centenary of the end of World War One – the Great War which decimated Europe and led, it’s argued, to the Second World War and the horrors there. In the last century war has continued, although thankfully not a global scale, and men and women return damaged (those who do return). I firmly believe the Great War, and World War Two shaped modern European history, and such horror should never be forgotten. There were villages in England where every man between 16 and 50 was lost. It’s very easy to disassociate oneself from war – which for most of us is fought far away against people we aren’t very familiar with – and we can become blase to it. But these soldiers, no matter whose side they might be on, are someone’s child, sibling, parent or friend. I have seen the price war can exact – and how it changes lives.

The slogan for the Royal British Legion is Live On – that is an important message as those who remain CAN live on, and those who suffer injury can now have worthwhile and valuable lives. We must as humans, as descendants, as free people remember the sacrifices some pay for freedom. I set this bundle up to try and raise awareness of these charities, to stir a thought for the soldiers past and present. The Great War was known as the War to End All Wars – sadly it did not.
 
 
In The Light Beyond the Storm Chronicles, you created a world where magic is forbidden and elves are enslaved. The series starts with Dii, an elven sorceress, fleeing for her life. How did your background in politics and mythology help you craft this series?

One only has to look back on human history to see parallels to the world of Erana – Despotic government, rule by fear, divide and rule, blaming a particular group of people for society’s ills and the list goes on. Politics doesn’t change much, oh yes new leaders and parties come and go but the machine rumbles onward nonetheless. No party/leader will change the system which got him or her elected (assuming they were in fact elected), and no party is likely to radically change the status quo. In many ways it’s a case of better the devil you know. That said there have been uprisings – the French Revolution and the Russian Revolution to name a couple, and there have been individuals and groups who have made a difference but they are few and far between. Certainly with many revolutions the common man or woman has not noticed a great deal of difference to his or her life. And many folks are content with that. Change can be frightening. But also there is always someone willing to fight for the little guy – to stand up and say no more. There is always hope and the human spirit to fight on, to live and to discover a better world. Sometimes it’s so much bullshit, but not always.

Much of the background lore for Erana is similar in form to our own mythology – and of course in myth anything is possible – from vast flying lizards, to demi-god heroes, to the lowliest beating the greatest. It doesn’t have to be true, but it does have to show us the best and worst in ourselves, and that people can be greater than they imagined. The allegories of myth hold moral, and symbolic meanings.
 

 
 
You have a background in politics, sociology, classical studies, ancient history, and mythology. How does your interest in and knowledge of these areas influence your writing?

I love the old Roman and Greek tales and I read a lot of history. Erana is mostly a medieval society, with a few tweaks. As I said earlier myth and storytelling are really important aspects to our modern society – although it’s not obvious at first. I like reading myths, fairytales and the lore-laden fantasy stories and try and style my work in that way. Sociology and politics teach one about societies, relations between classes, people and countries – how government is run, and more importantly how people THINK it’s run – which is vastly different.
 
 
How did you select the stories included in the Here Be Monsters bundle?

Some were from authors I was already familiar with, and some I read the synopsis or the look insides and decided the book was a good fit. Authors can refuse to join a bundle if they feel the vision doesn’t match their work.
 
 
 

You’ve put together a number of story bundles, and have more planned. What do you enjoy about creating these collections?

The Bundles are a lot of fun. They are also a GREAT networking tool. The idea is that readers get a bundle of books for a bargain price and find new authors and the authors get ‘cross-pollination’. I’ve found some great new authors and books to read.
 
 
What story (or stories) are you working on now, and what’s fun about what you’re writing?

Currently I am working on Book IV of the Light Beyond the Storm Chronicles, an Erana novella (currently which is stuck), an historical fiction for an anthology, and a ghost story. It’s all fun – I love creating stories. Except when the story won’t tell me where it wants to go – then it’s annoying.

About the Author

British-born Alexandra Butcher (aka A. L. Butcher) is an avid reader and creator of worlds, a poet, and a dreamer, a lover of science, natural history, history, and monkeys. Her prose has been described as ‘dark and gritty’ and her poetry as evocative. She writes with a sure and sometimes erotic sensibility of things that might have been, never were, but could be.

Alex is the author of the Light Beyond the Storm Chronicles and the Tales of Erana lyrical fantasy series. She also has several short stories in the fantasy, fantasy romance genres with occasional forays into gothic style horror. With a background in politics, classical studies, ancient history and myth, her affinities bring an eclectic and unique flavour in her work, mixing reality and dream in alchemical proportions that bring her characters and worlds to life.

Her short novella Outside the Walls, co-written with Diana L. Wicker received a Chill with a Book Reader’s Award in 2017.

She is also the curator of a number of exciting book bundles on Bundle Rabbit and frequently works with other authors.

She activity supports nature, wildlife and veteran’s charities.

Find Alex

Website | Facebook | Twitter | Pinterest | Blog | Goodreads

Find Here Be Monsters!

BundleRabbit | Amazon | Kobo | Barnes & Noble | iBooks | Books2Read

Interview: Louisa Swann on “Bye-Bye Daddy” (in Beauty and Wickedness)

“Bye-Bye Daddy” is in Beauty and Wickedness, the first volume in the anthology series Ever After Fairy Tales. In this collection, sixteen authors retell and reimagine some of the most enchanting fairy tales ever told – and make up some brand new fairy tales as well. Within these pages, you’ll find beauty and treachery, magic and courage, innocence and wickedness…and at least some happy endings.

Meet Louisa!

Louisa Swann writes genre-bending fiction, including Star Trek short stories, steampunk novels, hardboiled noir, western tales, and space operas. She lives on an eighty-acre ranch in northern California with her husband, her son, two horses, a cat, a varying population of rabbits, deer, coyotes, bobcats, cougars, snakes, frogs, birds, and bugs, and no electricity.

“Bye-Bye Daddy”

As a queen jumps to her death, there’s a giant lurking near the castle. They call him the Black Thief, who steals children and eats them. But is that really who he is? Or could this be a case of mistaken identity? Take a deeper look at this vegetarian half-giant, and find out why the queen held the key to his broken heart.

Some say my heart’s blacker than the ace of spades, but my heart beats red just like everyone else’s.

It’s my mind that carries the darkness.

A darkness with roots buried deep in my soul. But every darkness needs light and Gwendolyn was my light. As soon as I laid eyes on the woman fourteen years earlier, I knew she would break my heart.

Queens are funny that way. Human or giant, queens always act like they own the world and maybe they do.

But the queen splatted on the ground in front of me didn’t own anything. Not anymore.

She was dead as a rotten toenail.

And I was the one who’d killed her.

Grief clouded my head, choked my heart. I knelt by Gwendolyn’s side, fingered the soiled white silk.

Yes, I’d killed her.

Murdered my lady love without laying a hand on her.

All in the name of justice, of course. The kind of justice you’d expect a Black Thief to dish out.

She wasn’t my first killing, though.

My father got that honor.

– from “Bye-Bye Daddy” by Louisa Swann

 

The Interview

Traditionally, fairy tales are told from the perspective of the humans who encounter trolls and giants and other fearful creatures. You chose to tell your story from the giant’s perspective instead. What appealed to you about telling his side of the story? 

Everyone has their own story and while protagonists are generally (though not always) the most interesting characters in a tale, I’ve always been curious about side character stories, especially the nonhuman characters. In this case, I started wondering about the giant’s family. Who were they and what were their stories? Do they fall in love and what happens when they do?

Are there any other stories you’d like to tell from unusual perspectives?

That is an interesting question. Generally, I don’t know if a story is going to come from a different sort of character until I start writing, especially if I start with a scene in my head or a general idea. As I work with that scene or idea, the characters sort of form themselves if that makes sense. Other times, the character infiltrates my head and demands story time. I never really know if I’m going to be writing a human character, or someone like a giant or a horse or a dwarf vampire with a calf fetish, or a man who’s been stuck in a penguin’s body.

You’ve written five novels and dozens of stories. For you as a writer, what are the advantages and disadvantages of longer and shorter formats?

Shorter formats require more skill. A writer needs to get the story across in less words (duh) which means every one of those words has to further the story. I have to decide exactly what story I want to tell and stay focused on that story, not wander here and there. I started writing novels, and learning to stay focused was one of the hardest things I’ve had to do as a short story writer.

Novels allow more of a story to be told. As a writer, I can explore other characters, get deeper into the main character, and utilize setting to maximum effect. There can be subplots and other threads running through the narrative which are a lot of fun to deal with *grin*. I get to spend more time with characters I’ve come to love. Conversely, I have to spend more time with characters I’ve learned to despise.

You write in such a wide variety of genres. Do you have a favorite or two, or do you think you will always explore many different styles?

Intriguing characters and relationships. That’s basically what attracts me to a story and keeps me reading. It doesn’t matter to me what genre the story is written in. The same is true of my writing. First and foremost—What is the story demanding to be told? And once that is determined, then I look at where the story might fit as far as genre is concerned, what genre would best serve the story. Right now, I’m focused on the steampunk/weird west novels. Future novels include an epic fantasy, several mysteries, a thriller series, and possibly, a sci fi series. I’ve also had a request (from my mom) to write a historical novel or two. Plenty to keep me busy!

You’ve previously written mystery and suspense novels, but your latest steampunk novel series, featuring Abby Crumb, are classified as “weird west.” Can you tell us a little more about that genre and what you’re enjoying most about it?

Loosely speaking, steampunk stories are set in the Victorian era and tend to feature steam-driven technology as opposed to electric/gas. Weird West (according to TVTropes.org) stories are set in the American West during approximately the same time period and feature supernatural elements. I grew up with shows like “Wild, Wild West” and loved the gadgets thrown in with the western setting. I also tend to be drawn to “other than natural” occurrences that somehow seem to find their way into my stories. The Abby Crumb series provides an opportunity to combine fantastical gadgets, a western setting, and supernatural occurrences in stories that address timeless issues such as friendships and family with a few “stuck on the horns of a moral dilemma” moments thrown in.

Oddly enough, I find myself enjoying the research element of the stories more than I had anticipated. I love research in general, but I didn’t realize how much research was going to be involved in getting certain things “right” for the time period. I’d never really thought about how different today’s world is from the world of the 1850s. How something as simple as a fork was different in material and often (depending on where in the world you were) uses. Were canned foods around back then? Cigarettes? Jeans with pockets? Belt loops? Not everything has to be precise—this is fiction and sci fi with a fantasy bent, after all—but I find certain historical information fascinating and those readers with a keen interest in history will too (I think). It’s kind of like using the right gun with the right ammunition for the appropriate purpose in a mystery or thriller. Some readers won’t notice, but others will.

You’ve said that the Abby Crumb series started as a single novel, and that the first novel turned out to be the second novel, and then you realized it would be a trilogy. What do you think drove this evolution? Character? Plot? Setting? Other factors?

Some stories just turn out to be “bigger” than the writer intended. A short story will turn into a novel. A novel will turn into a trilogy or a series. Abby’s first draft was a short story. Then I realized there was more to tell in order to get her story “right.” So she became a Nanowrimo novel. When I went back over that Nanowrimo draft, I realized how much was missing and started over again. When I finally finished that version and had my first reader take a look, the manuscript (Night of the Golden Pea) was over 100,000 words. The first reader had a few comments that should have been minor fixes, but in reviewing those comments, I realized I’d left out some important elements, elements that would increase the size of the manuscript more than I felt was appropriate for the genre. So I decided to break it into a trilogy (which has been a huge learning experience :). And thus the first trilogy of the Abby Crumb series was born. Sometimes a story just runs away from a writer.

What story (or stories) are you working on now, and what’s fun about what you’re writing?

Abby’s series is my primary concern right now. I’m also working on another series in the same “universe” with my son Brandon. That will be the Myrtle Creek series. We’re hoping to launch it by early fall. I love working on both, mainly because I never know what the characters are going to pull next. I know the general plot of the story, but leave my characters the freedom to indulge in shenanigans!

Growing up in the wilds of the Sierra Nevada mountains, surrounded by deer and beaver, muskrat and bear, Louisa Swann found ample fodder for her equally wild imagination. As an adult, she interweaves her experiences with that imagination, creating tales of fantasy and science fiction, mystery and thrillers, steampunk and historical fiction. Her short stories have appeared in Fiction River anthologies, including Reader’s Choice; Mercedes Lackey’s Elementary Magic and Valdemar anthologies; and Esther Friesner’s Chicks and Balances. Novels include light-hearted mysteries (It Ain’t No Bull, The Trouble with Bulldogs) and her new steampunk/weird west series, Abby Crumb and Myrtle Creek (with Brandon Swann).

Find Louisa
Website ~ Facebook ~ Goodreads ~ Twitter
 

Find Beauty and Wickedness!
 

Amazon ~ iBooks ~ Kobo ~ Barnes & Noble ~ Books2Read ~ Goodreads