FwF 30: Christmas Calamities, Part 2: The Lost Helper (continued)

Here’s the rest of ‘The Lost Helper’, a tale of a poor elf left behind in a family fireplace on Christmas Eve.  Listen and enjoy!

If you like this tale, and want to read it and a couple others in a similar vein, pick up my book Christmas Calamities today!  I appreciate the support, and you’ll enjoy the book.  🙂

Until next year, Fictioneers, from me to all of you, have a very merry Christmas (or whatever holiday you celebrate). And if you find an elf in your home, please – treat it nicely.

FwF 29 – #Christmas Calamities, Part 1: The Lost Helper

Happy Holidays, Fictioneers!

I start off this episode with a shout-out to some awesome author friends of mine who have been doing dynamite work recently: children’s author (and my illustrator for Hello, Halloween) Donovan Scherer; award-winning horror author Matthew Harrill; and hilarious master parodist Paul Erickson.  Pick up their books for your loved ones this Christmas!

      

Now, on to the meat of the show, where I read you the first story from my book Christmas Calamities.  ‘The Lost Helper’ tells the tale of a poor elf left behind in a family fireplace on Christmas Eve.  Things only get worse when the household children discover him.  Will he be able to get back to Santa in time?

Listen in to find out! 

And while you’re at it, pick up the book!  ‘The Lost Helper’ is only one of several fun holiday yarns therein.  It’s inexpensive, easily transportable, and makes a great stocking stuffer.  Enjoy!

 

FwF 28: Matthew Harrill returns to Hell

He’s back!

Matt Harrill

Yes, ladies and gents, your favorite Englishman Matthew W. Harrill has returned to the show.  Just in time for Halloween, he’s plugging the release of the final novel of The ARC Chronicles trilogy, Hellbeast.  It looks awesome!

Here’s the Amazon description for it:

The fate of the world is balanced on a knife-edge. Despite everything Madden and Eva have been through to prevent it, the ARC Council is in disarray, demons roam the Earth.

The Apocalypse is closer than ever. The solution couldn’t be further from her grasp.

Enter the final chapter of The ARC Chronicles, where Eva throws off the yolk of personal tragedy and follows her destiny to the one place she doesn’t want to go, the one place she cannot hope to avoid.

Hellbeast: Heroes don’t always walk in the light.

Awesome, right?  I can’t wait to read it!

If you’re new to the ARC Chronicles, begin with the award-winning book 1, Hellbounce.  Here’s my Amazon review for it.  If you’re willing to write a review for that one, Matt will send you a copy for free.  Just sign up for his newsletter!

Hellbounce award

Go pick up Hellbeast now!

Find out more about Matt Harrill at:

Matthew Harrill dot com

Matthew W Harrill on Facebook

@matt_harrill on Twitter

See ya next time, Fictioneers!  Until then, as Matt says, remember:

Heroes don’t always walk in the light.

Fun with Fiction 27: Literary vs. Popular (Genre) Fiction

What is “literary” fiction?

Per Wikipedia, “Literary fiction is a term principally used for certain fictional works that hold literary merit. In other words, they are works that offer deliberate social commentary, political criticism, or focus on the individual to explore some part of the human condition. Literary fiction is deliberately written in dialogue with existing works created with the above aims in mind. Literary fiction is focused more on themes than on plot.”

What is “popular” fiction?

Also per Wiki, “Genre fiction, also known as popular fiction, is plot-driven fictional works written with the intent of fitting into a specific literary genre, in order to appeal to readers and fans already familiar with that genre.[“

Per Harvey Chapman at Novel Writing Help,

“Literary fiction is more character-driven and less concerned with a fast-paced plot than genre fiction… [but…] Just as the best genre novels are populated by well-crafted fictional characters, so the best literary novels have page-turning plots.”

Exactly. I find this whole distinction suspect. Read Faulkner, then Dunsany. What makes the first “literary” and the latter “genre” fiction? Who’s to say the Faulkner is better?

            

On my bookshelf, Seamus Heaney’s translation of Beowulf sits next to Tim Powers’s The Anubis Gates. Dostoyevsky’s Notes from Underground butts against Robert Ludlum’s The Bourne Identity, Dickens’s Great Expectations shares shelf space with Stevenson’s Kidnapped, Thomas Mann’s Death in Venice kisses up to Ian Fleming’s Dr. No, and the shadow of Robert Heinlein’s Stranger in a Strange Land falls upon Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness.

     

Here’s the thing: I don’t think any one of these tomes is necessarily, objectively better than any other. I enjoy some more than others, and some I appreciate more at certain times than others (depending on my mental state and emotional mood), but none of that shows that Dickens is somehow more “literary” – that is, of higher quality – than Heinlein. They were both popular authors of their day. They both have something to say, a worthwhile message to pass along. They both use the tools of language and story to convey it. Why do snooty English majors turn up their noses at one, but not the other?

           

Case made. Do you disagree? If so, email me at luke@funwithfiction.com! I’d love to hear your thoughts.

 

Fun with Fiction 26: On Creative Writing Classes


I’m back!  Even though I don’t really have time to be.

See, I’m teaching.  And I’m going to grad school.  And I’m still trying to read, write, and publish as much as I can.  So podcasting has not been a priority for me recently, and probably won’t be at the top of the list in the near future.

That said, when I have something to say, I’ll say it.  Especially when I need a break from all the non-stop work this life entails.

So here I am to tell you about Creative Writing classes – the ones I’m taking (at the graduate level) and the one I’m teaching (at the high school level).  It’s a fascinating subject, if I do say so myself.

Are creative writing classes for you?  Click on some of the pics below for the books we’re using, and decide for yourself!

     

     

FwF 25: Hemingway’s Cheerful Thoughts About Nothing (and FREE BOOKS!)

Welcome back, Fictioneer!

Today I read and discuss one of my favorite short stories: Ernest Hemingway‘s “A Clean, Well-Lighted Place“.  This tale poses the Existentialist question: What is Nothing, and what can we do about it?

                  

 Enjoy my lecturings!  I gave this talk to a group of 9th graders a few weeks ago, and they got a kick out of it (though I think I kind of terrified them).  Now it’s your turn to listen in, read along, and enjoy the fun.

And an announcement:

This weekend – Friday, February 27th through Sunday, March 1st – the books below are available for FREE on Amazon.  Pick them up!

     

 And for the next five days (through March 4th), the books below are ONLY $0.99!!  Grab them as well.

     

Enjoy the reads, and thanks for listening!

If you do like my books, please review them on Amazon!  And if you like the podcast, please rate and review it on iTunes, comment below with what you’d like to hear me talk about, email me at luke@funwithfiction.com, and most importantly, subscribe to the Fun with Fiction newsletter!  I’ll send you all kinds of free stuff and good news (but no more than once a week), 100% spam-free.

Once again, don’t forget to:

‘Like’ Fun with Fiction on Facebook.

Follow me on Twitter.

Pick up your free and discounted books, and…

Sign up for the newsletter!

Thanks again, Fictioneer.  Keep reading, keep believing, keep on rockin’.

Luke

FwF 24 – Dark Optimism: An Interview with J. Thorn

 

Dark greetings, Fictioneers!

First off, I apologize for taking so long to get this episode out.  I actually did this interview a while ago, but since then I’ve been in the midst of a move from Chicago to Phoenix, and I only just got my internet hooked up in my new location, so…

Here it is!  [I know, I know, I already broke my New Year’s resolution to publish one episode a week.  (But aren’t such resolutions made to be broken?)  They’ll get more regular from here on out, I promise!]

A few weeks back I had the honor of speaking with J. Thorn.  J. is a best-selling horror author whose name has graced the top of the charts alongside the likes of Stephen King and Dean Koontz.  How epic is that?

      

What has rocketed J. to a permanent place in the list of the top 100 (and occasionally the top 5) horror authors on Amazon?

In part, it’s how great his books are.  Just look at how readers and critics rave about the Portal Arcane Series and the Hidden Evil Trilogy.

      

And check out my review of J.’s children’s/YA novel, The Monroeville Monster.  It’s a great read for kids of all ages.  Definitely worth the buy!

In addition to the quality of his work, though, it helps J.’s sales that he is incredibly prolific.  I count over 20 separate (non-overlapping) titles on his Amazon page – many of which are full-length novels.  Not bad for a career that only started in 2011!  J. also has a great head for book marketing, and, being a friendly and cooperative soul, he has joined with other great horror and dark fantasy authors to create bargain book bundles, each of which costs only $0.99, and each of which features 7 or more funtabulously frightening novels.  (Click the pics below for those great bargain buys.)

Last year J. got even more ambitious in his collaborations, and became one of the authors (as well as the compiler/editor) of a 10-author collaborative novel, The Black Fang Betrayal.  It’s a fascinating dark fantasy, blending the imaginations of some great modern authors into a single cohesive story.  (I compare it to George R.R. Martin & friends’ Wild Cards series.)  Grab that one now.  It’s seriously cool.

Speaking of collaborations, if you want to be a good person, why don’t you drop $0.99 to join J. and other great horror-makers as they Scare Cancer to Death?

Now, if you haven’t already, listen in as Mr. Thorn and I discuss the business aspects of being an independent author, the good feelings even the tiniest bit of success can give us, our favorite horror/dark fantasy books and movies, and many other weird topics.

J. lives in Cleveland, where apparently no one but him rocks anymore.   But the man has spent large parts of his life performing heavy metal – so, of course, we talk about our favorite metal bands, and how they may or may not inform our literary tastes.

Along with everything else he’s done, J. was the co-host (with Richard Brown) of the Horror Writers’ Podcast.  That ‘cast is sadly no longer going – and of course I give J. a hard time about that – but I encourage any fiction writers out there to listen to the back episodes!  It certainly informed and inspired me in its brief run, and I someday hope to hear J. once more sharing his wisdom in the podcastsphere.

As I said, J.’s a good dude, and he proves it by looking out for his fellow indie authors.  Check out his thoughts here:

         

So what is the dark Mr. Thorn doing these days?

I hope you enjoy this conversation as much as I did!  J.’s a fantastic author, a hell of a businessman, and an all-around cool guy.

Comment below or shoot me an email at luke@funwithfiction.com and let me know what you thought of this episode!  And while you’re here, don’t forget to sign up for the Fun with Fiction Newsletter – your way to keep abreast of all the awesome stuff going on in the made-up world.

‘Til next time, keep on reading!

– Luke

FwF 23: Fun Fiction Books to Read in 2015

Happy New Year, faithful Fictioneer!

To start off, as a post-holiday gift, Cthulhu 4 Kids: Old Ones at the Beach is available FREE on Amazon today and tomorrow (January 2nd and 3rd) only. Go pick it up!

Now to business. After a two-week holiday hiatus, I have returned with a vengeance, ready to kick 2015 in the arse in the best way possible. And what better way to start the year than by listing some of the great books I plan to read in the next 52 weeks?

To begin with, I have had such a blast interviewing and getting to know so many cool authors these past few months, that I will be digging into their stuff post haste.

Right now, for instance, I am in the middle of Matthew W Harrill’s Hellbounce, book 1 of The ARC Chronicles. I interviewed Matt back in early November; if you haven’t heard that episode yet, go back and listen! Matt’s a Brit, so his accent alone is fascinating. Plus he’s a hell of a horror author and an all-around outstanding gent. And seriously, Hellbounce is wonderfully terrifying. Grab it now!

Next I intend to read Blur, by Orlando Sanchez. I did a two-part interview with Orlando back before Thanksgiving, and he’s a man after my own heart: a martial artist and unapologetic fantasy geek. He blends these together beautifully in his fiction. I’ve read his two $0.99 shorts, The Deepest Cut and The Last Dance, and now I’m looking forward to diving into his full novels.

Sometime this year I will crack Paul Erickson’s The Superfriends of the Ring. I have a paperback of the book that Paul signed for me at last year’s Chicago Wizard World Comic-Con, and I laughed out loud at his first novel, The Wobbit, so this will no doubt cheer up my winter. Paul and I spoke in early December about what the hell was so hilarious about Tolkien, and it’s one of the funniest conversations I’ve ever recorded.

Donovan Scherer signed a copy of his book Fear & Sunshine for me at Mighty-Con Comic Show shortly before I interviewed him on the weird and wonderful world of children’s horror. I read (and loved) the Prelude to the series (which is FREE on Amazon), so I eagerly anticipate what the series proper will deliver.

And here’s a list, in no particular order, of some other great fiction I look forward to devouring in 2015:

In truth, I have a lot more on my “to read” list (not even including all the non-fiction I have to dig through!). But I’d say that’s a good start, wouldn’t you?

What fun fiction are you most looking forward to devouring in the coming year? Let me know in the comments, or send an email to luke@funwithfiction.com and tell me there.

I have more great guests already lined up for early 2015, so make sure to keep tuned in! Subscribe and review the podcast on iTunes (if you haven’t already) to be sure you don’t miss an episode. And to really stay updated (and receive great free content), join the Fun with Fiction club!

Lastly, what would a New Year be without resolutions?

This year, I, Luke J. Morris, resolve to:

  • Post at least one Fun with Fiction podcast episode per week.  (Sorry if I’ve been bad about consistency.  I’ll get better!)
  • Publish at least six books, including:
    • Two full-length novels
    • Three children’s/young adult books
    • One non-fiction book
  • Get to know and interview at least twenty more great authors, delving into what makes them great
  • Meet a hundred or more fans and build a community of fellow acolytes of awesome who will spread the word about Fun with Fiction (and how great stories make all our lives better)

This I do resolve.  HOLD ME ACCOUNTABLE!  Don’t let me get away with short-changing listeners, readers, fellow authors, and everyone else who deserves my very best.  Contact me and call me out on any b***s*** I try to pull.  Tough love is the love that really counts.

How about you?  What outstanding resolutions will you follow through on in the coming year?  Is there some way I can help you pursue your goals?  Let me know!

Thanks for making 2014 fantastic, Fictioneer!  Let’s make 2015 even better.

– Luke

FwF 22 – Donovan Scherer on Comic-Cons and Children’s Horror

 

Happy Holiday shivers, Fictioneer!

My guest for this episode is Donovan Scherer, who does it all.  I mean, like, everything.  This is a guy who’s mastered all the levels of indie publishing, from writing (and illustrating) great stories to designing awesome covers to building wicked cool websites.  Now he’s moving beyond his graphic design background to start his own publishing company, all while packing guitars for Amazon during the day.  He even created a free video game (Zombeans) to promote his books.  How cool is that???

Scherer campfire

I met Donovan online a few months ago, and in person this past weekend at the Mighty-Con Comic Show.  Let me tell you, this guy is a pro.  His display was fantastic, with everything from handmade buttons to books to bookmarks to Zombeans plushies to an actual mounted iPad featuring the Zombeans video game.

zombeans

But he’s not all style and no substance.  I have read the first book of his Fear & Sunshine series (pitch: “It’s like slasher films for kids!”), and let me tell you, it is good.  It’s a kids series, sure, but it’s a lot more complex (and dark) than you’d expect from standard children’s fair.  The mythology is deep, the characters – including Death – feel very real, and the story keeps you turning pages and wanting to know more.  And the illustrations only add to the fun-but-threatening mood of the books.

   

Here – read my Amazon review of Fear & Sunshine: Prelude to see what I mean.  Then pick up the book for FREE!  You have no excuse not to give it a try.

Mr. Scherer and I talk about his formative influences – which were cartoons that both he and I watched growing up in the ’90s.  Shows like the Rescue Rangers and Darkwing Duck.  True classics.  He and I are also fans of some of the big names in modern indie fiction, including Sean Platt, Johnny B. Truant, and J. Thorn, all of whom have had covers designed by Donovan.

We also discuss comic-cons and other art shows, and the great times we have interacting with our fellow acolytes of awesome there.  Donovan runs an insane show schedule.  He has a booth at nearly every con in the Chicago and southern Wisconsin area, as well as one every weekend throughout the summer at the Harbor Market in Kenosha, WI.  If you’re in the neighborhood, look him up!  He’d love to meet you, nerd out with you, and sign one of his beautiful books for you.

Find Donovan Scherer at:

Don’t forget to pick up Fear and Sunshine, as well as Donovan’s latest book Monsters Around the Campfire – a creepy short story collection reminiscent of my favorite Boy Scout trips, available now for only $0.99!  Totally worthwhile.

Thanks for listening as always, Fictioneer!  I hope to get you at least one more mayhem-filled podcast before the Xmas takes us all.  Stay tuned, and be wary.

And don’t forget to sign up for the Fun with Fiction newsletter!  It’s free, and you get occasional emails from me with fun free fiction and news about what’s going on in the made-up world.  Totally worth it, right?  Exactly.

‘Til next time, my friend…

– Luke

FwF 21 – TV, Branding, & Michael Bay: Discussion with Mo Simpson

 

First off, an announcement:  I (your host, Luke J. Morris) will be at Mighty-Con Comic Show in Wheaton, IL this Saturday (12/13/14).  The show takes place at the Dupage County Fairgrounds, building 1, from 10 AM to 5 PM.  I’ll be selling and signing copies of five of my best books, as well as posing for photo ops, networking with other creatives, and generally nerding it out with all the great fans who drop by my table.  So come on out and say hi!  I’d love to see you.

Now, on to the podcast.

Happy am I to welcome my best friend and illustrator Mo Simpson back to the show!

Mo, in case you’ve forgotten, is the guy who drew all those pretty pictures for Cthulhu 4 Kids 1, Cthulhu 4 Kids 2, and Tales from the Teeth.  He’s also the host of the Eyeteeth Podcast, a multi-themed NSFW show that I sometimes co-host with him.

   

Eyeteeth Podcast

This episode is similar to an Eyeteeth outing, in that we talk about everything.  Well, almost everything.  I think my initially-planned topic was going to be “favorite Christmas movies”, but we never touch on that at all.

We do discuss reality television, the nature of fame, the idea of branding yourself (no, not like a horse), and the benefits and hazards of building that brand.  Steven Pressfield‘s The War of Art comes up repeatedly.  I point out the similarities between the Kardashians, Honey Boo Boo, and Madonna – using Pressfield’s idea of employing yourself – and your image – as a brand (separate from your true identity as a person).

Mo laments Tim Burton‘s lack of fulfillment on his early, Batman-era promise.  Is Johnny Depp to blame for his recent string of less stellar movies?

      

And what’s wrong (and right) with Michael Bay?

Mo and I both hates us a poorly-written book.  (On an entirely unrelated note, Dan Brown will probably never come on my show.)  But we often love bad movies, and we tend to appreciate things that are over-the-top, a la Meat Loaf.  See the great Mr. Loaf team up with Michael Bay (and a young Angelina Jolie!) here:

We talk about a lot more stuff in our compact hour, but I’m tired of writing about it.  Listen to the podcast!

And once you’ve done that, rate it on iTunes.  Please tell your friends about us.  Spread the word that Fun with Fiction rocks!  (If, y’know, you think it rocks.  If you think it sucks, just keep your big mouth shut.  Thanks luv!)

As long as you’re here, sign up for the Fun with Fiction newsletter, why don’tcha?  You’ll get some great free fiction, and news about upcoming events and things that be going on with the podcast.  Don’t you owe it to yourself to know all that?

Again, don’t forget to visit me at Mighty-Con this Saturday!  It’ll be an awesome time.

Peace!

– Luke

FwF 20 – What’s so funny about Tolkien? An interview with Paul Erickson

 
My guest today is Paul Erickson, master parodist and author of The WobbitThe Superfriends of the Ring, and the upcoming The Two Towers Strike Back.  He’s also been contracted by a German publisher to write a parody of Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope.  It’s entitled Jar Jar Wars, Episode IV- A New Dope, and it should be released (in German translation, anyway) in April or May of next year.

                  

Paul has lived all his life in my own hometown of Oak Park, IL – land of Ernest Hemingway, Edgar Rice Burroughs (Tarzan), and Homer Simpson.  In fact, Paul was in a production of Man of La Mancha with Dan Castellaneta at Oak Park and River Forest High School (our mutual alma mater).
 
I met Paul at the Chicago Wizard World Comic-Con last year, where he hosted a panel on “Self-Publishing vs. Traditional Publishing”.  We immediately hit it off – both of us being indie authors, native Oak Parkers, and Tolkien geeks.  We’ve had several hilarious discussions on Middle Earth and George Lucas, so I was thrilled to finally get one of those talks on the record for you, my lovely Fictioneer.  Enjoy it well!
IMAG0750
 
And if you want to pour yourself a tasty adult beverage while sampling this geeky aural debauchery – go right ahead.  Paul and I were each indulging in a drink, and I believe it gave our talk a touch of the savoir faire that all discourses of great pith and moment need.
‘Like’ The Wobbit A Parody and Jar Jar Wars on Facebook.
Visit Paul’s website, The Wobbit: A Parody.
And if you’re in the Chicago area in April, come see Paul (and hopefully me) at C2E2!  It’s a blast, guaranteed.
Speaking of blasts, drop by Mighty Con in Wheaton this coming Saturday!  I’ll be there selling and signing paperbacks of some of my best books (including the ones below).  The whole Parable Comics crew will be there, as well.  Come check it out!
 
    
Thanks for listening, my friend.  Don’t forget to sign up for the Fun with Fiction newsletter to receive some fun free fiction, along with breaking news and updates.  And email me at luke@funwithfiction.com with any questions or suggestions (including requests to be on the show!).
Peace!
– Luke
P.S.  Oh, and lastly, your moment of Zen:

FwF 19 – Fighting and Fantasy: An Interview with Orlando Sanchez (part 2)

 

Hola, Fictioneers!  Here is part deux of my fantastic interview with fantasy author and all-around badass Orlando Sanchez.

In case you missed it last time, these are Orlando’s books:

       

And his magnum opus, The Spiritual Warriors (Book 1 of The Warriors of the Way), is being re-edited and re-released in January, with the next two books in the series to follow shortly thereafter.  Can’t wait for that!

As you can probably tell, Orlando likes to incorporate martial arts philosophy into his fiction (whereas I tend to keep them separate).  We discuss how he accomplishes this, making his books read like mystical kung fu films for the modern age.  (Think Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon meets The Matrix.)

We also praise some of our favorite fiction and talk about how it inspires us.  Names like Douglas Adams, Jim Butcher, and Bob Kane get dropped shamelessly.

             

Returning to the writer’s perspective, we talk about how horrible it is to get a great story idea while you’re in the middle of writing another story (I’m sure our fellow writers can relate).  What can you do?  Keep on pushing through, no matter how much your ADHD and self-doubt scream at you to change course.  Remember, though it is art, you must treat it like a job.  And sometimes, jobs just suck.

And the rough draft (a la NaNoWriMo) is just the beginning.

Then comes the editing, and the wretched pain of murdering your darlings (meaning your words, not your children).  As Bruce Lee put it: hack away the inessentials, and let the beautiful tree within flourish.  And in a rough draft, there are a lot of inessentials.  Only once a book has been thoroughly edited and revised is it ready to show to the world.

But you also can’t show it to the world without a great cover.  Sure people say you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover… but everyone still does it.  Since the great book cover designer and book publishing/marketing master Derek Murphy introduced us, it’s only fair to give him a shout-out here, as well.  (Derek designed the new cover for The Spiritual Warriors.  Take a look at it in this post’s featured image!)

Yes, all of this is a lot of work.  But hey – no one said writing was easy.  (Well, actually, a lot of people say that – but they’re not writers.)

As stated in the last episode, don’t forget to…

Read Orlando’s blog.

Follow him on Twitter.

Like him on Facebook.

Fan him on Goodreads.

Connect with him on LinkedIn.

Do it.  Do it now.  …  What are you waiting for?  🙂

 Thanks again for listening!  Please email me at luke@funwithfiction.com if you’d like to be on the Fun with Fiction podcast.  If you’re an author, an avid reader, or just someone with an interesting take on storytelling, I’d love to talk to you.

Peace out and read on,

– Luke

[P.S. – I know I say this EVERY time, but I’m going to keep doing it ’til everyone signs up:  If you want some great FREE books, other give-aways, and to hear all the latest stuff going on in the Fun with Fiction world, CLICK HERE.  Thanks!]

FwF 18 – Fighting and Fantasy: An Interview with Orlando Sanchez (part 1)

 

Today I had the great pleasure of talking to Sensei Orlando Sanchez – a fellow independent fantasy author and martial artist with a lot of insight on what makes fiction fun.

Orlando Sanchez

Seriously, we talked for over two hours, and I (devout professional that I am) decided to simply hit the record button in the middle of our conversation – so the “interview” begins with Sensei Orlando in the middle of a sentence about the need for an editor.  Our talk moves on to a whole range of topics, from our favorite authors (including J.R.R. Tolkien and Jim Butcher) to the horrific despair we writers feel when we’re 30,000 words into a manuscript and we positively HATE our novel.  (I blogged about that just yesterday here.)

I’ve had to split this interview into two pieces due to system constraints – but both halves are well worth the listen!  Entertaining and useful information for readers and writers alike.

If you want to try Orlando’s writing out, click on the pics below to pick up these short stories for $0.99 each.  They’re tons of fun.

                       

If you’re ready to dive into the novels (I know I am!), grab these:

                      

And keep an eye out for the newly-edited 2nd addition of The Spiritual Warriors – coming in early January 2015.  (See his Facebook post about it below)

Read Orlando’s blog.

Follow him on Twitter.

Like him on Facebook.

Fan him on Goodreads.

Connect with him on LinkedIn.

Hope you enjoyed this interview!  Don’t forget to tune in tomorrow for part 2, where we dig deeper into Orlando’s own work.

– Luke

[P.S. – If you want some great free books, other give-aways, and to hear all the latest stuff going on in the Fun with Fiction world, CLICK HERE.]

FwF 17 – Fun Fiction for Fall: Ghost Stories

 

It’s mid-November, Fictioneer.  What do you like to read at this time of year?

Okay, okay, I’ll tell you my favorite Fall fiction first.

Everything’s dying, so the horror & dark fantasy genres are perfect (yes, even after Halloween) – particularly the ghost story.

What is a ghost story?

Definition from Merriam-Webster Dictionary:

  1. a story about ghosts
  2. a tale based on imagination rather than fact

(Incredibly helpful, that.)

From Dictionary.com:

  1. a tale in which such elements as ghostly visitations and supernatural intervention are used to further the plot and a chilling, suspenseful atmosphere.

(That’s a bit better!)

From Wikipedia:

A ghost story may be any piece of fiction, or drama, that includes a ghost, or simply takes as a premise the possibility of ghosts or characters’ belief in them.[1][2] The “ghost” may appear of its own accord or be summoned by magic. Linked to the ghost is the idea of “hauntings”, where a supernatural entity is tied to a place, object or person.[1]

Colloquially, the term “ghost story” can refer to any kind of scary story. In a narrower sense, the ghost story has been developed as a short story format, within genre fiction. It is a form of supernatural fiction and specifically of weird fiction, and is often a horror story.

While ghost stories are often explicitly meant to be scary, they have been written to serve all sorts of purposes, from comedy to morality tales. Ghosts often appear in the narrative as sentinels or prophets of things to come. Belief in ghosts is found in all cultures around the world, and thus ghost stories may be passed down orally or in written form.[1]

(I guess that’ll do.)

For me, a ghost story isn’t just a story with a ghost in it, or just any scary story. A true ghost story requires three elements:

  1. A supernatural visitor. This may the spirit of a dead person (most common), an invisible malevolent entity (such as a poltergeist), the mystical personification of an idea (the spirits of Christmas Past, Present, & Yet-to-come), or the spiritual energy inhabiting an old house (as in the traditional haunted house tale).
  2. A human (or otherwise ‘normal’) protagonist. A tale of a group of ghosts hanging out and getting on each other’s nerves may be a “ghost story” in the prosaic sense, but it’s not the kind of lore you share around the campfire on a dark night.
  3. An eerie mood, a creepy vibe, a haunting atmosphere. This is a more esoteric element, harder to pinpoint than the other two. It must be conveyed through the interactions between the humans and their supernatural foils, and the time and place in which those interactions happened.

Word choice is crucial in creating the atmosphere. The order of events is very important in conveying the story effectively. Establishment of character is important in making the haunting real to the reader, and in making the reader care about it. (Yes, these things are important in all forms of fiction – but in the ghost story they are crucial.)

So, let’s have some examples!

To begin with, I disagree with Wikipedia that a ghost story has to be short. A ghost story can be any length, from a single sentence to a series of novels.

I’ve already talked about Poe, Lovecraft, & Stephen King ad nauseum (that doesn’t mean I’m going to stop).

Most of Poe’s & Lovecraft’s works have elements of the ghost story in them – though in Lovecraft the supernatural goes far beyond ghosts, while in Poe most of the ghostly elements are in the characters’ minds. That doesn’t diminish their power or disqualify them as ghost stories, however.

          

Outstanding modern, full-length novel ghost stories include King’s The Shining and Neil Gaiman’s The Graveyard Book. (Yes, Gaiman’s tale does feature a bunch of ghosts hanging out with each other – but there is a human protagonist, a haunting atmosphere, and a human antagonist more threatening than any ghost.)

          

The best full-length work of the genre, though, may be Peter Straub’s Ghost Story. Hell, that may be one of the best horror novels of the twentieth century. Why is it so effective? Because it begins with characters that seem like real people. Characters with good points and flaws and human emotions. Characters that we, as the readers, can’t help but care deeply about. When horrible things start happening to those characters – when they start to become haunted – we want to know how, and why. As the ghost is revealed, bit by bit, the mystery deepens, the danger increases, the atmosphere becomes more oppressive. Straub ratchets up the fear with an expert’s touch.

But it’s true, ghost stories more often play in the short form rather than the long.

Ghost stories may be my favorite form of horror fiction. When I say horror, I’m not talking about gore – I’m talking about psychological horror (with or without paranormal elements). Ghost stories usually do feature the supernatural – but sometimes (as in Poe) the ghost’s are all in protagonist’s mind.

In some of the best of the genre, you don’t know for sure whether the ghosts are real or not. Classic ghost stories like The Turn of the Screw by Henry James leave it an open-ended question.

Other great ghost story authors include:

  • M. R. James (author of Ghost Stories of an Antiquary and other collections; huge influence on H.P. Lovecraft)
  • Algernon Blackwood (author of “The Willows” & another influence on Lovecraft)
  • Ambrose Bierce (author of “The Damned Thing” and The Devil’s Dictionary)
  • Lord Dunsany (influence on nearly every great horror & fantasy author of the 20th century)

Many others – too many to count.

If you want a free book of some of my favorite ghost stories of all time, sign up for the Fun with Fiction newsletter!

And don’t forget to email me at luke@funwithfiction.com and tell me all about your favorite ghost story.

Read on and stay frightened, my friend.

– Luke

(As long as we’re on the topic, check this out – your moment of Zen.  😉 )

FwF 16 – Interview with Matthew Harrill: What if Hell Froze Over?

 

I have a special treat for you Fictioneers!  In this episode I interview Matthew W. Harrill – award-winning author of The ARC Chronicles trilogy: Hellbounce, Hellborne, and the upcoming Hellbeast.

        

In this brilliant horror series (I’ve just started the first book, but I already know it’s brilliant), Matt answers the question we’ve all been pondering:

What if Hell really did freeze over?

The ARC Chronicles is a modern dark fantasy of angels and demons and everyday people, all caught up in a terrible conundrum. It was inspired by a two-hour brainstorming session between Matt and his mentor, David Farland (competition judge for L. Ron Hubbard‘s Writers of the Future contest, teacher of Brandon Sanderson and Stephenie Meyer, and author of the Runelords series).

That mentorship obviously did well for Mr. Harrill, as Hellbounce went on to beat several hundred entries to win runner-up in Horror at this year’s Halloween Book Festival.

Hellbounce award

Matt cites influences as diverse as Robert Jordan (The Wheel of Time) and H.P. Lovecraft (Call of Cthulhu and… c’mon, we all know who he is).  He’s learned a great deal about writing from his friend Juliet E. McKenna (Tales of Einarinn, The Hadrumal Crisis, etc.) and from Hank Moody (David Duchovny’s character in the TV show Californication).

This interview covers a ton of great stuff for fans of horror and fantasy fiction, as well as touching on tips for aspiring authors.  Give it a listen!

Once you do that, don’t forget to:

Lastly: if you love fiction like Matt and I do, sign up for the Fun with Fiction newsletter.  Get two FREE books of some of my all-time favorite short stories, exclusive offers, and be the first to hear about upcoming FwF events and releases.

Thanks as always for listening, Fictioneer!  Enjoy the horror.

– Luke

FwF 15 – Nanowrimo (and Resources for Authors)

NaNoWriMo has begun!!!

For those who don’t know, Nanowrimo is an acronym for National Novel Writing Month – a time of the year when thousands of writers and would-be writers worldwide accept the challenge to complete a 50,000 word novel rough draft in 30 days.

That’s 1667 words per day.  Every day.  Throughout November.  Cool, huh?

The secret is: Give yourself permission to suck.

Don’t edit as you write.  Don’t censor yourself.  This is a rough draft, which means that no one needs to see it.  EVER.  If you want to make a finished product out of it, that’s what editing, revising, and rewriting are for – and you have the other eleven months of the year to worry about that.

For now – write!

If you’re an author, or want to be one, some super-successful indie authors have gotten together and created a package of three of the best books on the subject for only $0.99.  The books are Write. Publish. Repeat. by Sean Platt and Johnny B. Truant; Let’s Get Digital by David Gaughran; and How to Market a Book by Joanna Penn.  These three books together would normally cost you $16.97.  Get all three now for less than a buck – a 94% discount!

It’s worth it, believe me.  If you want to publish fiction or non-fiction, these are the folks to go to.  They know what they’re talking about.  You won’t find a better deal than this, and it’s only available for a little while.  Grab The Indie Author Power Pack: How To Write, Publish, & Market Your Book now.

And if you want a book of fun fiction for free, don’t forget to sign up for my email list.  No spam, only occasional emails with top-quality material and news for those who love to read or write fiction.

If you do try Nanowrimo, good luck!  Here are a few more resources you may find helpful:

    

Also check out:

I’ve gotta back to work, myself.  I’m write there in the trenches with you.  😉

– Luke

P.S.  If you’d like free copies of any of my books – including an advanced copy of the novel I’m working on right now (when it’s ready) – send me an email at luke@funwithfiction.com, let me know which book you’d like, and I’ll send it to you!   All I ask is that you leave the book a review on Amazon.  Once you do that, email me the link to your review, and I’ll send you another free book.  It’s an easy way to get all of my books for nothing but a few sentences.

Thanks for listening, for reading, and for being you!

FwF 14 – Happy Halloween with Mo & Tyrion

 

Happy Halloween, Fictioneers!

Mo Simpson and Tyrion Morris return in this episode to discuss our all-time favorite stories and movies for All Hallows’ Eve.  And I plug my brand new release, Hello, Halloween: A Monsters & Kids Novella.  (I talk about the book in a blog post here.)

We talk Stephen King, Edgar Allen Poe, Dean Koontz, and Ray Bradbury.  And of course, for kids of all ages, we can’t forget Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark.

        

The conversation moves to movies.  In this medium many of our favorites tend more towards the humorous than the horrific.  I personally think the combination of horror and hilarity is one of the most effective in all of storytelling.  Make ’em laugh, and you can make ’em scream (and vice-versa).

Also check out Tyrion and I on the latest episode of Mo’s Eyeteeth Podcast!  You can hear that here:

Thanks for listening, Fictioneers!  Have a happy and safe Halloween.

Read on!

– Luke

P.S. Your moment of Zen:

FwF ep 13 – Gods & Monsters with Mo Simpson

Welcome back, Fictioneers!

In this episode of the Fun with Fiction podcast, Cthulhu 4 Kids illustrator and Eyeteeth Podcast host Mo Simpson returns to give us his thoughts on some of the best fiction for Halloween.

Yes, a lot of it appears on Fox News.

But beyond that, Mo has radical recommendations for October entertainment.  (Click on any of the links or pictures in this post to find out more about the item and pick it up from Amazon.)

Mo’s top picks for scary stories include Chuck Palahniuk, Neil Gaiman, and The Walking Dead.

Of course no discussion of Halloween would be complete without recommendations for great horror movies.  Mo and I both highly recommend Cabin in the WoodsJoss Whedon‘s twisted meta-horror take on the entire ‘cabin in the woods’ horror genre.  Seriously, even if you’re not a horror fan, watch this movie.  It’s so much more than you expect!

Back to books!  Mo delves into the mystical creepiness of Aleister Crowley, occultist and contemporary of the great H.P. Lovecraft.  Seriously – if you think Lovecraft and his creations (like Cthulhu) are weird, you ain’t seen nothing yet.  Crowley is the godfather of magick and the occult movement.  Wonderfully whacked out, and frighteningly fascinating.

Our conversation turns well beyond fiction and delves into the realms of religious tradition, philosophy, and the argument of free will vs. determinism.  We draw the connection between superheroes and gods, gods and monsters.  Examples range from the adolescent wish-fulfillment of Superman to the superhero deconstruction of Watchmen.

Mo and I each have viewing recommendations for this best month of the year.  His main squeeze is the Walking Dead TV show.  One of mine is John Carpenter’s Halloween – the only ‘slasher’ flick I’ve ever found worth watching.

Oh – regarding Mo’s top obscure suggestion of the day – click the pic below to get an illustrated collection of some of Aleister Crowley‘s best works – including the Book of Lies, which Mo most highly recommends – for only $0.99!

For this Halloween season Mo and I also recommend our own book, Cthulhu 4 Kids: Old Ones at the Beach!  (Totally unbiased recommendation, we swear.)  Cthulhu 4 Kids II: A Day in R’lyeh is coming out later this month, so grab the first one today.  We think Lovecraft would approve.

And lastly… this conversation isn’t over!  We continue our discussion into the Eyeteeth Podcast.  Mo and I start that episode with a discussion of troubles going on in the world today, but quickly transition into the much more fun topic of superhero movies.  If you like Fun with Fiction, you’ll love this!  Give it a listen below, and subscribe to the Eyeteeth Podcast on iTunes.  (And while you’re there, don’t forget to rate and review Fun with Fiction.  This helps me keep this podcast alive.  Thanks!)

Thanks for listening, Fictioneer!  Keep on reading, keep believing.

‘Til next time,

Luke J. Morris

P.S.  If you want to meet me, and get gorgeous prints and signed paperbacks of mine and Mo’s books Cthulhu 4 Kids and Tales from the Teeth, come out to Ultimate Con tomorrow!  The comic-con takes place at 3601 N. Milwaukee Ave, Chicago, IL, on Saturday, October 11, 2014 from 10 AM to 5 PM.  I’ll be at the Parable Comics booth with some fantastic artists.  Hope to see you there!

FwF Ep 12 – Top 5 Fiction Authors EVER

 

Hello Fictioneers!

I had lots of fun putting this week’s show together for you.  That’s because this time I lay it all on the line and tell you my top 5 favorite fiction authors ever.

Okay, to be fair, the list is always adjusting, and picking an all-time top 5 is actually an impossible task… but I did it anyway!  Check it out below, and click on the pictures if you’d like to buy the books at Amazon and find out what all the fuss is about.

Also, let me know: do you agree with my picks?  Disagree?  Want to murder me with a hatchet for having such horrible taste?  Who are your top 5???  Comment below, review me on iTunes, and email me at luke@funwithfiction.com to tell me off.

Before I get to the list, though, one quick announcement: I will have a booth at Mighty Con Comic Show at the DuPage County Fairgrounds in Wheaton, IL this Saturday, 10 AM – 5 PM.  If you’re anywhere near the Chicago area, come on out and say hi!

Okay then.  On with the show.

  • I ordered my top 5 mostly arbitrarily, but I can say with near-certainty that my favorite fiction pharoah is and always has been J.R.R. Tolkien.  Author of The Hobbit, The Lord of the Rings, The Silmarillion, and other masterworks, he is the father of fantasy and one of the greatest minds to ever put pen to paper.
  • Next on my randomly-ordered list makes the giant leap from fantasy to sci-fi: Robert Heinlein.  The founder of future history is one of the primary reasons science fiction became a major force in contemporary literature.
    • The greatest American author: Mark Twain.  (‘Nuff said.)

That’s my list!  I call out a dozen runner-ups in the show, and have another hundred that I could add (since truly picking a top 5 is, as I said, impossible), but I’m sticking to my story.   If you haven’t read any of these authors, click one of the pics above and grab it on Amazon (for cheaper than you’d get it in most brick-&-mortar bookstores).  This helps the Fun with Fiction podcast out, and doesn’t cost you a penny more.  🙂

What, you want to challenge my palette?  Bring it!  I’d love to hear from you.  (Also don’t forget to sign up for my newsletter for free books and stuff!)

Thanks again for listening, my friends.  Read on!

Luke J. Morris

 


FwF ep 11: Guardians of the Galaxy, Comic-Con, & Other Awesome Stuff

Hey Fictioneers, guess what?

That’s right – Fun with Fiction is BACK!!!

I apologize for my summer-long hiatus, and I hope you returning listeners will forgive me and stick around for some of the great stuff I have planned.  And for you new listeners – welcome!  I shall strive to keep you informed and entertained beyond your wildest imaginings.  Or somethin’ like that.

To begin with – in order to make up for my fair-but-harsh treatment of Divergent a few months back, I here offer a far more positive, uplifting review of Guardians of the Galaxy – both the movie, and the comic books.  They are excellent.  Read them.  And watch the film (still in theatres, I believe).  It’s totally worth it.  The combination of humor, action, and pathos is on a par with Casablanca.

Except in space.  With a talking tree.

You’ll love it, I swear.

Let me know what you think about this episode!  Comment below, email me at luke@funwithfiction.com, and sign up for my mailing list to get the latest news and cool free stuff.

Also, just so you all know, I will be at Mighty Con Comic Show in Wheaton, IL on September 27th (less than two weeks away!), signing books and meeting fans and fellow creatives/enthusiasts of awesome.  If you’re in the Chicago area, I’d love to see you there.  Stop by my booth and say hi!

Thanks all!

‘Til next time… read on.

Luke J. Morris

Fun with Fiction 10 – Writing Resources for My Fellow Authors

 

 

This one’s for the writers out there!  I’ve gathered some of the best tips and resources I know to help you in writing, publishing, and marketing your work, and I share them here with you, in the hopes that you’ll be able to glean something of value from them as I have.  As this is all about me recommending other people & things to you, I’m posting my show notes raw again, since all you really want are the links anyway.

Thank you all for listening and showing your support!  I can’t wait to see where this podcast might go in the next few years.  Maybe some day soon you and I will be mentioned as a formative influence by another up-and-comer in the fiction world.  🙂

Big news plug for authors:

Great web resources:

  • Networking:

o   Author groups on Linked-In www.linkedin.com

o   Author profile & networking on Goodreads www.goodreads.co (Don’t be a douchebag about this; don’t ‘friend’ people just to recommend your own book to them)

Other podcasts:

  • Informative/inspiring author interviews:

o   The Creative Penn – Fiction/non-fiction author Joanna Penn

o   The Rocking Self-Publishing Podcast – Audiobook reader Simon Whistler

  • Marketing:

o   The Sell More Books Show – Jim Kukral (Author Marketing Club) & Bryan Cohen (http://www.build-creative-writing-ideas.com/)

  • Insights on writing process and self-publishing:

o   The Story-Telling Podcast – Authors Garrett Robinson, ZC Bolger, & Crissy Moss

o   The Self-Publishing Podcast – authors Johnny B. Truant, Sean Platt, & David Wright

Books:

  • On Process:

o   On Writing by Stephen King

o   2,000 to 10,000 (as in words per day) by Rachel Aaron

o   Story Structure by William Bernhardt

  • On Marketing & Sales:

o   Write, Publish, Repeat by Sean Platt & Johnny B. Truant (who wrote 1.5 million words and published something like two dozen books last year alone!)

o   Your First 1000 Copies by Tim Grahl

o   How to Sell Fiction on Kindle by Michael Alvear

o   Let’s Get Visible by David Gaughran

  • Tips and Inspiration:

o   The War of Art by Stephen Pressfield

o   Make Good Art by Neil Gaiman

o   Zen in the Art of Writing by Ray Bradbury http://raybradbury.ru/stuff/zen_in_the_art_of_writing.pdf

Look into these resources, incorporate what works, discard what doesn’t, and add what is uniquely your own.  (Yes, that’s a Bruce Lee reference.)  And if you do get something of value from this episode/post – or if it gives you nothing at all, and you wish I would talk about something else – please email me at luke@funwithfiction.com and tell me about it!  I love feedback of all kinds.

‘Til next time, good luck with your writing, and keep them stories coming!

FwF Podcast 9 with Mo Simpson: The World is the Best Fiction (part 2)

Welcome back, Fictioneers!

Part 2 of my conversation with Mo Simpson starts off on a brilliantly blasphemous note, introducing a neo-pagan interpretation of Biblical scripture and an insane but believable etymology of the word “Hollywood”.  Did you know Hollywood, the right arm of the government, was founded by Druids?

You do now.  Consider yourself edumacated.

Speaking of Hollywood, we can’t resist discussing the tenuous relationship between comic books and the movies.  Just how unfaithful is Hollywood’s recreation of Watchmen?  Is Alan Moore right to condemn the medium of film for corrupting the art of the comic?

From there we transition to a discussion of the various film incarnations of a certain nocturnal superhero (I’ll give you three guesses).  Who was the best Batman?  The best Joker?  The best supervillain in general?  And the controversial topic of the day – Ben Affleck as the Dark Knight:  horrible mistake, or spitting in the face of God?

While we’re on the subject of gods, does anyone else think that superheroes are our modern versions of the ancient Greek deities?  (I mean, heck, some of them are ancient Greek deities!)  I do, and I make my case fantastically, if I do say so myself.

This leads to a discussion of mythology and the necessity of myth in providing meaning to culture.  No one recognized this better than J.R.R. Tolkien, who created his Middle Earth to provide a new mythopic structure that Britain was sorely lacking.  Granted, he did this in a very Catholic way (see my friend Brad Birzer‘s book J. R. R. Tolkien’s Sanctifying Myth: Understanding Middle-earth for a better understanding of that), but it’s hard to deny the brilliance of his symbolism, no matter what your beliefs are.

We talk about varieties of myth throughout the ages, the benefits of reading The Bible and other spiritual texts as literature (whether or not you believe they are literally true), and what makes myth still essential to the modern man.  Calling something a myth, in the traditional sense, is not saying that it is untrue.  Myth was rather a way of stating the truth – that is, telling the truth through a story that people could relate to and understand.

People need myths.  This is why Nietzsche, anti-Christian that he was, lamented the “death” of God.  While Newton’s mechanistic view of the universe might have had the positive result of turning many people away from irrational superstitions, it left a void; it left people with nothing to believe in.  Those of us who no longer hold to religion – or no longer hold it as a dominant force in our lives, whether or not we nominally believe in it – must find a new locus of meaning.

Throughout this discussion, Mo peppers us with historical etymologies of numerous terms, including “Lord of the Rings” (Saturn?), “Luke Skywalker” (Horus, Loki, or Lucifer?), and “The Holy Trinity” (um… you just gotta listen to this one).  I point out the difference between symbolism and allegory, and Mo adds that his favorite fiction is the real world that we face every day.

That last happens to be my least favorite fiction, as media-fed B.S. is more depressing than enlightening.  This is why I read (well, one reason of many).

What do you think?  Does myth have a function in the modern world?  If so, what kind of mythology do you turn to – religion, superheroes, esoteric theories, or some other collection of weird and wonderful concepts?

For more such enlightening and lively conversations, catch Mo on the Eyeteeth podcast.  And don’t forget to check out our books Cthulhu 4 Kids and Tales from the Teeth.

[Yes, Cthulhu 4 Kids II is still in progress.  It’s coming, we swear!  Please be patient.  In the meantime, give us reviews for the current books on Amazon, and for our podcasts (Fun with Fiction and Eyeteeth) on iTunes!  We’ll love you forever.]

Speaking of books, I have a new one out!  It’s Captain Napalm vs. the Grungious Gundabad, based on disturbingly hilarious superhero stories I’ve been telling my son at bedtime.  The Kindle version is available on Amazon for only $0.99, so if you want to support the Fun with Fiction podcast, pick it up today!

Or here’s an even better option: if you’re into superheroes and sophomoric humor, you’re interested in reading Captain Napalm, and you’re willing to write it an honest review on Amazon within the next month (it’s not a long book), send me an email at luke@funwithfiction.com, and I’ll send you a free review copy!  (In the interest of sanity I have to limit this offer to the first 25 people who email me, though – so shoot me a message today.)

Thank you all, Fictioneers!  I hope you’re enjoying my ramblings.  If you have anything to say – what you like, what you hate, what you want more of – let me know.  Comment below, review me on iTunes, or just shoot me an email.  I’d love to hear from you.

Until next time – happy reading, my friends.

FwF Podcast 8 with Mo Simpson: The World is the Best Fiction (part 1)

Guess what, Fictioneers???

That’s right – Mo Simpson is back on the Fun with Fiction podcast, talking to Luke J. Morris (yours truly) about the struggles of artists, the connection between religious texts and ancient mythologies, the shortcomings of the classical “hero’s quest” version of story, the tenuous relationship between books and the movies (or TV shows) they spawn, and the great weirdness that is Chuck Palahniuk.

This is a two-parter, folks, so don’t forget to tune in next time, when things get even crazier!

Fun with Fiction Podcast ep 7 – Divergent: A Dystopia Done Wrong

 

Well, Fictioneers, I confess: I did it.  I read Veronica Roth’s Divergent.  And its sequels.

What can I say?  I love a quasi-dystopian adventure-romance told in the first-person present-tense point of view of a repressed and sexually confused teenage girl.

Wait – no I don’t.  (But if that’s your thing, have I got a story review for you!)

Please, the next time I get such a notion – slap some sense into me.  Before I do something I’ll regret.

I didn’t bother to rewrite my review in pretty prose.    Here you can read my notes for this episode in all their raw glory:

  • My review of the Divergent series (with spoilers!)

o   Why the hell did I read this whole thing? It starts out okay, with an interesting (albeit ludicrous) premise – then goes rapidly downhill. It’s like doing a bad drug, getting hooked, and riding it out even after the high isn’t that fun anymore.

o   Starts out with the “factions” – Abnegation, Dauntless, Erudite, Candor, Amity – a division of society by virtues they seek to cultivate

o   The city is closed. We don’t find out why until book 3. We don’t even know they’re in Chicago until they zipline dive off the Hancock building halfway through book 1. (How do they know the names of buildings & streets in a post-apocalyptic world? How’d all those signs survive?)

o   Turns out they’re all part of some grand eugenics experiment by the government – to correct eugenics experiments they’d done generations before.

o   The U.S. still exists, but we only ever get a vague idea of what the world is like. Apparently, every place is unsafe, and all violence & misbehavior is blamed on “genetic damage”

o   Dystopia done wrong – sending a million & one mixed messages.

  • “We are all individuals.”
  • “Those in power distrust those with ‘flexible’ minds.” (What.)
  • “The truth is dangerous, & some people fear it.”
  • “Revolutionaries can be just as bad as the system they rebel against.”
  • “Life is worth living, & some things are worth dying for.”
  • “In the end, we all have to rely on each other.” (WHAT?!)

o   In short, this is a moral parable that doesn’t know what its moral is. At the climax of the final book it seems to justify essentially lobotomizing a whole city of people because many of them hold a wrong-headed belief. “The ends justify the means,” as it were. Huh?

o   At least it’s not afraid to kill off major characters – but their loss is more irritating than sad. It tries to strike emotional chords, but its whole tone is superficial.

o   Another dystopian YA adventure-romance told in the first-person present tense POV of a teenage girl

o   Difference is, this one has a well-built world – though there are conspiracies behind the scenes that are revealed as the books progress, we know from the outset the general structure of the world of the day, & partially how it got that way. Morals aren’t black & white, but it’s very clear that a despotic regime is to blame for the people’s hardship (this is entirely muddled in Divergent). It’s also clear that a rebellion could result in an equally despotic regime – but this may be abated (for a time) if the people are vigilant

o   The moral parable isn’t black-and-white, and doesn’t attempt to be – but it’s not nearly as muddled.

  • Sometimes you have to kill to survive. Still, you should try to do the right thing, to help people as best you can, even in the midst of a brutal reality (the arena of the Games).
  • There are human beings on both sides of a conflict. The heroine of the Hunger Games series wouldn’t try to justify mind-wiping everyone in the Capital just because she didn’t like their beliefs.
  • Heroism is about doing the best you can in hard situations.

o   It’s not a deep moral tale, though people tend to treat it as one. Still, it doesn’t preach too much, and it knows the story it’s telling – doesn’t get all muddled trying to send a million moral messages.

  • If you want great dystopian lit that passes its moral along beautifully, try:

o   We, by Soviet dissident Yevgeny Zamyatin – the prime inspiration for all anti-utopias to come.

o   George Orwell’s Animal Farm and 1984 – if you haven’t read these yet, you must

o   Brave New World, by Aldous Huxley – Long before Prozac, there was Soma…

o   To a lesser extent, Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale

A Canticle for Leibowitz, by Walter Miller – not a dystopia exactly, but a good cautionary tale

o   For a more uplifting vision of the future, try Robert Heinlein’s The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress

  • Now, try writing your own dystopia! It’s fun and easy. Make it 500 words or less, and send it to luke@funwithfiction.com. If I like it, I’ll read it on a future episode of Fun with Fiction, to spread the fame of your name far and wide.

 

Fun with Fiction ep 6: Lovin’ on Lovecraft (and Cthulhu 4 Kids SALE!)

 

 

Special Announcement!  Cthulhu 4 Kids: Old Ones at the Beach is on sale, this week only, for only $0.99!!!  Grab it here:

Written by Luke J. Morris (yours truly) and illustrated by Mo Simpson (of Eyeteeth Podcast fame), this is the perfect piece of Lovecraft lore for all ages.  As one reader says, “It’s got everything I wanted: extra dimensional gods, lost cities, destruction, insanity, and parents that are worse than me.”  What more could you want?

It’s our mission to bring the message of the Old Ones to new generations – but we can only do that with your help!  So please, consider dropping your one buck on our book, and giving our demented storytelling a try.  You’ll be glad you did!

(Note that this sale is only good until 11 PM Pacific time on Friday, April 11th.  So jump on it now before you forget and miss out!)

Okay, shameless self-promotion aside – in honor of the above-mentioned sale, I dedicated this podcast episode to all things Lovecraftian.  I discuss the mad genius that is ol’ H.P. Lovecraft, including his concepts of the Old Ones, the Elder Gods, Cthulhu (of course), R’lyeh, the Deep Ones, the Shoggoths, and other things that drive men to madness in the midst of their dreams. 

To the entities of the Cthulhu Mythos, we are as ants.  Less than ants.  Worthy of no notice whatsoever.  The horror of the Old Ones and their ilk lies in their entire alienness to us.  We are bound, in our puny mortal sphere, to the perception of 3-dimensional space and pure Euclidean geometry.  But what about beings who live among us, but exist in dimensions separate from and beyond those we can comprehend?  Dimensions where acute angles behave as if they were obtuse, and where the smallest beings are so massive in size they make Godzilla look like a chihuaha?

This was the world as Lovecraft saw it.

But my thesis is: the very fact that he could imagine such things proves that humans are far greater than he gives us credit for.

In this episode I give you readings from Lovecraft’s The Tomb, Azathoth, The Shadow over Innsmouth, At the Mountains of Madness, and (of course) The Call of Cthulhu.  I also read from my own Cthulhu 4 Kids: Old Ones at the Beach ($0.99!  Pick it up!   😎 ) and our upcoming Cthulhu 4 Kids II: A Day in R’lyeh (available soon!).

Enjoy your eldritch dreams, my beautiful Fictioneers!  May you have some happily horrified readings.

– Luke

FwF Podcast, Ep 5: Interview with Mo Simpson – Storytelling through Art

 

Question for you, Fictioneers:  What are your feelings on art?

You don’t know?

Well, lucky for you, this week’s Fun with Fiction podcast guest is an expert on the subject!

Mo Simpson – host (with yours truly) of the Eyeteeth Podcast, illustrator of Cthulhu 4 Kids and Tales from the Teeth, cover illustrator of 188: Micro-Stories For Your Macro-Brain and Clapping, and designer of the Fun with Fiction graphic you see here all the time – lays out what it’s like to tell stories through pictures.

Eyeteeth Podcast Eyeteethulhu

 After a fun and edifying discussion with Mo and his son Miles, we dig into the heart of it – fun with new art tools, what the Cthulhu 4 Kids project is all about, how to do creative work with a baby around…

And then the fun starts.

Mo goes on a rant – and I mean a passionate, no-holds-barred tear-down (with only occasional edifications from me) – on what’s great about weirdness in art, what sucks about “Modern Art”, and the many ways illustration can be used to enhance a story (or tell a story of its own).

Somehow, we never do get around to talking about our favorite works of fiction.  But who cares!  The convo is as lively, hilarious, and insightful as ever (as Eyeteeth Podcast listeners would expect).  And we have plenty to talk about next time!

Like: What is Mo’s favorite book???  (Email your guesses to luke@funwithfiction.com.  Maybe you’ll win a prize if you guess right!)

Check out Mo’s work on his old art blog, Mozarknation.  Also be sure to follow him on Twitter (@michaelosimpson), ‘like’ the Eyeteeth Facebook page, and give the Eyeteeth Podcast a listen (and subscribe on iTunes!).

Morning Jitters 1

And as long as we’re talking about Mo’s work, here’s a teaser for our upcoming collaboration, Cthulhu 4 Kids II: A Day in R’lyeh

c4k2.01add

 Awesome, right???

So go pick up Cthulhu 4 Kids: Old Ones at the Beach, and whet your appetite for more awesome stuff to come!

 And please don’t forget to subscribe to Fun with Fiction on iTunes, ‘like’ our page on Facebook, and follow me (@jeetkuneluke) on Twitter!

Thank you, Fictioneers.  You make this whole game worthwhile.  Enjoy the podcast!

Comedy Drama Special Edition: The Eyeteeth Podcast does Greek Mythology

Hello Fictioneers!

In this special edition of the Fun with Fiction blog, I, Luke J. Morris, am giving you an episode of my other podcast: Mo Simpson‘s Eyeteeth Podcast, which I co-host.  We don’t always talk fiction over there, but when we do – well, we don’t bother talking about it.  We make like Nike and just f*ing DO IT.

If you like your fiction in the form of a multi-cast dramatic reading – be that plays, movies, TV, or audiodramas – you will love this.

Unless you hate comedy and Greek mythology.  Then you won’t.

This is one of our most popular Eyeteeth episodes ever – for reasons that have we may never understand.  Suffice it to say, it’s me, Mo, and Eily Hallagan, giving a full-character reading of a segment of The Greek Mythology Olympiaganza by Don Zolidis.

 The three of us voice all of your favorite characters, including:

  • Cronos and Zeus (Mo)
  • Rhea and Pandora (Eily)
  • Uranus (ha!) and Prometheus (… yours truly)
  • Two narrators (Eily and I)
  • … and many more!

Give ‘er a listen!  You won’t be dissappointed, I guarantee.

Once you’ve done that, go ahead and subscribe to the Eyeteeth Podcast on iTunes or on another feed reader.

To support our continuing podcasting efforts, please pick up Mo’s & my books Cthulhu 4 Kids and Tales from the Teeth.  You’ll love ’em!

And don’t forget to subscribe to the Fun with Fiction podcast, as well.  😉

Thanks to all you listeners and fellow fiction fans!  Please hit me up on Twitter, on Facebook, or send me an email to keep in touch.

Peace,

– Luke

 

 

 

 

Fun with Fiction Podcast, Episode 4: Interview with Andrew Flynn – Sleepless in Authorville

Hola Fictioneers!  Been reading/watching/listening to some great stories, I hope?

My guest this week is Andrew Flynn, author of  188: Micro-Stories For Your Macro-Brain and the ongoing serialized novel Clapping: Lose An Arm, Break A Leg.  Drew and I discuss those projects, what they’re about, and what the hell made him want to write the dang things in the first place.

No, it’s not drugs.

Turns out he wrote Clapping because he really likes comedy, and he noticed a dearth of fiction works dealing with the lives of improv comedians.  He’d also never written a children’s/young adult book before, and he wanted to try his hand at that.  So naturally he penned a 4-part novel about a boy who loses an arm in a horrific accident.  The best of both worlds!

(And honestly – if you don’t want to read the book after a pitch like that, why the hell are you listening to my podcast?)

As for 188 – that’s just Drew trying to mess with our heads.  He tells 188 stories of 188 words each, but they’re actually the disconnected pieces of 47 stories, which all fit crazily together into one larger narrative.  I think he just hates the concept of linear time.  But so did Homer, and The Odyssey and The Iliad are still pretty popular.

Drew’s favorite author is Wilson Rawls, author of Where the Red Fern Grows, one of the most painful children’s novels ever written.  (Seriously.  I still get teary-eyed when I think of it, and I don’t think I’ve read the book in two decades.)  It’s beautiful storytelling – with a beginning, a meaty middle, and an end that punches you in the gut hard enough to knock your spine out your back.

In a work of fiction, Drew says, “I want to be transported to a place I’ve never been before; and if I have been there before, I want to learn something about it that I didn’t know before – something that may or may not even be true.”  I think a lot of us can relate.  Otherwise, why read fiction?

What would you like to see more of in the fiction world?  For Drew, “People need to get a lot more weird.  And they need to be comfortable with being weird.”

Amen, my brother.

To that end, we discuss authors as diverse as Jack Kerouac and H.P. Lovecraft, with a nice plug for my book Cthulhu 4 Kids  – my Batman Begins, as it were.  And he raises a few good questions, like: How do you pronounce ‘Cthulhu’?  Are there boat tours to the sunken city of R’lyeh?  What’s the connection between Lovecraft and Gene Roddenberry?  We also discuss Metallica‘s brilliant Lovecraftian tribute songs ‘The Call of Ktulu’ and ‘The Thing that Should Not Be’.

We digress briefly to our recent Las Vegas excursion (which Mo & I discuss in more detail in the most recent episode of the Eyeteeth Podcast), and return to topic with the best book to read in the bathroom: The Signet Book of American Humor.

So if weirdness and transport to a new place or new perspective are what’s good, what sucks in fiction today?  Drew’s answer: derivative work.  Veronica Roth‘s Divergent, for instance, is the latest instance of a formula that was already overdone before The Hunger Games came out.

This leads, of course, to talk of Hollywood, and how almost every film released is either a sequel or a remake of some previous work.  The upside of this is Quentin Tarantino – one of the greatest storytellers in the medium of cinema today.

Tarantino knows how to tell a story – from quirky badass characters to mucking around with time to leaving the right things out to entice the viewer’s interest – that sucks you in and won’t let you leave till the credits are done.  (I use the word “brilliant” about 15 times in about two minutes, but that’s okay, since the subject deserves it.)

But back to the written word…

Drew’s plans for the year – once Clapping is complete – include delving into the Book of Genesis and rewriting the story from an altered perspective.  He doesn’t mean to insult religion outright, but he does want to challenge readers to think about deeply held beliefs and ideas in a new way.  (And really, look at the source: talking snakes and massive floods and 600-year-old men.  What’s all that about, huh?)

Like any dedicated writer, Mr. Flynn is constantly working to improve his craft.  To that end, his (and my) advice to fellow authors is to…

  • Keep writing.  Write as much as you can, as often as you can.  (Every day if possible.)
  • Keep reading.  Fill your brain with good stuff – the quality of work you’d like to produce.
  • Get feedback.  Have editors and beta readers that you trust read your work and give you their honest reactions to it.  What’s good about what you’ve written?  Where could it be better? 
  • Use proper grammar, dammit!  If you are going to break the rules, make sure you do it consciously, in the right way and for the right reasons.

Andrew Flynn can be found at www.drewisawriter.comHe loves to engage with his readers and with other authors, so follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/drewisawriter and ‘like’ his Facebook page at www.facebook.com/drewisawriterAnd don’t forget to check out Clapping and 188!

If you enjoyed this interview, and would like to hear more crazy talk about made-up things, please support the effort by buying and reviewing my books at www.amazon.com/author/lukemorrisAlso review this podcast on iTunes, and email me at luke@funwithfiction.com to let me know what you like about what I’m doing here, what you hate about it, who you’d like me to interview, and what else you’d like to hear me rant and rave about in the world of fiction.  (You can also hit me up in the Twitterverse or on the Facebook at www.twitter.com/jeetkuneluke, www.facebook.com/funwithfiction, and www.facebook.com/jeetkuneluke.)

Thanks for listening, my friends.  Happy reading!

Fun with Fiction Podcast, Episode 3: A Passionate Late-Night Rant About Style

Welcome back, Fictioneers!

In this episode I went a bit off the reservation.  See, I recorded it on Sunday night (the night before Saint Paddy’s Day) – and it was late that night.

No, I wasn’t drunk.  Yes, I was tired.  And when I get tired, my filter dissolves, and you get to hear my wit and rage in all its unabashed, sardonic glory.

You’re welcome.  And I apologize.

It starts well enough, with a simple discussion of what makes a story pop.  I give my list of the five key elements of great fiction, which are:

  1. Writing Style
  2. Character
  3. Action
  4. Conflict
  5. Story/Plot

I then go into an educational exposition about point 1 – style – that devolves into an emotionally-charged rant on the beauty of great prose and the evils of bad writing.

My ego wants to think that this proves how much I care and how much I know about the written word… but it probably just proves what a horrible human being I am.

So I get passionately up in arms about writing style.  Is that so wrong?

If so, I blame E.B. White.

White, along with William Strunk, threw down the gauntlet for writers in their classic guide The Elements of Style.

 According to Strunk & White,

[cryout-pullquote align=”left|center|right” textalign=”left|center|right” width=”100%”]”Style is an increment in writing.  When we speak of Fitzgerald’s style, we don’t mean his command of the relative pronoun, we mean the sound his words make on paper.”[/cryout-pullquote]  [emphasis mine.]

That’s about as fine a definition I think we’re likely to get, so we’ll go with it.

But just what is it that makes a writer’s style “great”?

In his nonfiction writing bible On Writing Well, William Zinsser says,

[cryout-pullquote align=”left|center|right” textalign=”left|center|right” width=”100%”]”The secret of good writing is to strip every sentence to its cleanest components.   Every word that serves no function, every long word that could be a short word, every adverb that carries the same meaning that’s already in the verb, every passive construction that leaves the reader unsure of who is doing what – these are the thousand and one adulterants that weaken the strength of a sentence.”[/cryout-pullquote]

And that sums up what my rant is about; I merely add details, examples, and colorful language (aka: swear words).

Cool, huh?

The examples of great style I read you come from Edgar Allan Poe, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Tom Stoppard, Mickey Spillane, Herman Melville, Anthony Burgess, and Douglas Adams.  These are some of the gods of fiction.  Though I don’t recommend any of them without qualification (listen to the podcast for my caveats), if you want to read great stories told well, you have to try some of this.

[Did I sound like a drug dealer just then?  I did??  Cool.]

 

As for the other side of the coin, well, the literary world today drowns in a festering bog of bad writing.  But I make it a policy not to dwell on the negative, nor to keep much of it on my book shelf.  Granted, I could have picked a number of inexpensive indie books from my Kindle to serve here, but, a. I don’t want to knock indies, since I am one myself; b. there’s plenty of great indie work out there, and you don’t have to look hard to find it; and c. traditional publishers were bringing hack crap to market long before the indie explosion began.

So I limit myself to only one example of bad style.  One passage that epitomizes everything wrong in writing.

Sorry, Tom Clancy.  But you kind of asked for it.

 I hope you enjoy my nerdy ramblings, angry tirades, and dramatic readings of great (and awful) flashes of fiction.  If I’ve killed any sacred cows here, I’m sorry… but I’m not sorry.  Not really.

Because considerations of style, in the end, come down to opinion.  How a writer’s language sounds on the page ultimately depends on the reader.  And no matter my feelings about Clancy, his sales prove that millions of readers out there disagree with me – or that they’re willing to overlook a plethora of stylistic flaws for the sake of a fun story.  If that’s the case, who am I to judge?

I’m me.  Luke J. Morris.  Just a dude with an opinion.  While I think it’s an informed and well-educated one (at least where fiction is concerned), even if I’m right about that, it’s still not the only right opinion.  In fact there is no “right” opinion.  Literary aesthetics is far from an objective science.

And as we all know, there’s no accounting for taste.  😉

P.S.  If you enjoyed this podcast and blog post, and would like to hear me continue to rant and rave about all things fictional, please consider picking up one of my books.  Or grab another author’s book from my recommendations pile.  Every little bit helps!

And if you haven’t yet, please subscribe to the podcast, and leave me a rating, a review, or a comment on iTunes, on this blog, or wherever you get my content.

Hit me up on Twitter, ‘like’ the FwF page on Facebook, and send me an email at luke@funwithfiction.com.  I’d love to hear from you!

Thanks again, my friends.  Happy reading.  🙂

Fun with Fiction Podcast, Episode 2: Interview with Tyrion – What Makes Good Fiction?

Hello my fellow Fictioneer!

Welcome to episode 2 of Fun with Fiction, the podcast that’s all made up.  In this episode I interview one of the most rabid readers I know: Tyrion Morris.

Tyrion has read more in the past seven years than many adults have in their whole lives.

He began his love of books with George Seldon’s The Cricket in Times Square.  He and I both remember loving that book, but neither of us remember the plot.  (I’m pretty sure my first book was The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, part 1 of C.S. Lewis’s The Chronicles of Narnia.)

[Do you remember your first read?  Tell us about it in the Comments!]

We discuss what Tyr is reading right now – including Robert Jordan’s epic The Wheel of Time fantasy series and Erin Hunter’s Warriors – a collection of illustrated Young Adult novels and novellas involving warring clans of forest cats.  (Yes, you read that correctly.)

At Tyrion’s request, I do a reading of one of his favorite books from his younger days – WHAMBAMBOOZLE!

If you haven’t read that book, check it out below.  The art and concept alone make it worth a buy.  (It’s out of print now, which is a bummer – but you can get a used copy for practically nothing!)

Now, let’s get to the meat of this post: What makes a good story?

Tyrion’s answer is: Conflict.  Conflict that is well set up, believable, and requires a struggle to resolve.  Conflict between two characters, such as Rand and the Dark One in Wheel of Time; between two groups, such as the cat clans in Warriors; or within one person, such as the Slinker/Stinker aspects of Gollum/Smeagol in J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings.

So if conflict makes for a good story, what makes a story bad?

Tyrion’s answer:  Twilight.

An excellent summation!

I close this episode out with another reading from my book Twisted Shorts: The Kill and Other Stories (available for FREE on Kobo and only $0.99 on Amazon Kindle).  The story is entitled End of Life, and I wrote it from an idea Tyrion gave me last year.  (You can read a rough draft of that story here.)

Going back now – can you remember your favorite tales from your youth?  What were they, and why did you love them so much?  Do they still hold up today?

Think about that, and leave your comments below, or on the FwF Facebook page.  Or just send me an email at luke@funwithfiction.com.

Until next time, my friendly Fictioneer!

– Luke

 

Fun with Fiction Podcast, Episode 1: The State of Fiction Today

Hello, fellow fiction fanatic!

Welcome to the very first episode of Fun with Fiction – the podcast that’s all made up.

What is this podcast about, you ask?  I’m glad you asked!  I make my best stab at a complete answer here, but to sum it up: this is a podcast (and a blog) 100% dedicated to stories.

But not those real-life, boring-ass news stories.

No, this site is about stories that are 100% made-up, unreal, far more fun, and arguably more important than mere fact.

Yes, I’m a writer.  But more importantly, I’m a reader, and a fan of (almost) all genres of fiction, in all the various media such weird and wonderful tales may present themselves.

Here in Episode 1 I narrow my focus to the fiction world today, pointing out the wonderful and horrible possibilities that the self-publishing movement brings to the fiction landscape, and giving a brief overview of a few of my favorite contemporary authors – particularly Chuck Palahniuk and Neil Gaiman.

After a brief review of both, focusing on Gaiman’s Sandman work, I give a short reading from Neil’s short story collection Smoke and Mirrors (very short, Neil – please don’t sue), and let your minds melt on that for a minute.


After geeking out on Gaiman for a bit, I discuss various ways one might consume fiction – be it novels, short stories, plays, movies, or television.  I also bring up some resources for readers, including Goodreads – one of the best social media sites for readers – and Bookbub, a  service for finding good books on sale for nearly nothing.

I follow that up with a teaser for potential guests for next time (book illustrators!), and a topic to consider for next time, which is:

What makes a story good, and what makes it bad?  How do you determine that?

I then close this episode with a personal plug: a reading from my own book, Twisted Shorts: The Kill and Other Stories:

Check this episode out, and let me know what you think!  (Feel free to comment below.)

Good reading, my friend.  Talk to y’all soon.