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!
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.[“
“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?
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 firstname.lastname@example.org, 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.
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???
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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?
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?
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 Odysseyand The Iliadare 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 Kerouacand 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’.
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 beforeThe Hunger Gamescame 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 Genesisand 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.