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!
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.
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 email@example.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.
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.
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.
Of course no discussion of Halloween would be complete without recommendations for great horror movies. Mo and I both highly recommend Cabin in the Woods – Joss 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.
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.
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!