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.

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 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

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