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!

 

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.

 

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 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 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 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!