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 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.
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?
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 firstname.lastname@example.org with any questions or suggestions (including requests to be on the show!).
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.
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 email@example.com. Maybe you’ll win a prize if you guess right!)
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.