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!
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 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:
J. convinced me to join Pinterest a few months ago, though I confess I still have no idea how to use it. He does, however, so go ahead and follow him on Pinterest. It’s hella-entertaining.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org 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.
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!
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.
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!
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.
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 email@example.com with any questions or suggestions (including requests to be on the show!).
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.)
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.)
Thanks again for listening! Please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org 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,
[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!]
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.
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)
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:
a story about ghosts
a tale based on imagination rather than fact
(Incredibly helpful, that.)
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!)
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. 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.
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.
(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:
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).
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.
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)
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.
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 email@example.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!
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 Mountainsof 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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org. Maybe you’ll win a prize if you guess right!)
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.