Fun with Fiction 26: On Creative Writing Classes


I’m back!  Even though I don’t really have time to be.

See, I’m teaching.  And I’m going to grad school.  And I’m still trying to read, write, and publish as much as I can.  So podcasting has not been a priority for me recently, and probably won’t be at the top of the list in the near future.

That said, when I have something to say, I’ll say it.  Especially when I need a break from all the non-stop work this life entails.

So here I am to tell you about Creative Writing classes – the ones I’m taking (at the graduate level) and the one I’m teaching (at the high school level).  It’s a fascinating subject, if I do say so myself.

Are creative writing classes for you?  Click on some of the pics below for the books we’re using, and decide for yourself!

     

     

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 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 15 – Nanowrimo (and Resources for Authors)

NaNoWriMo has begun!!!

For those who don’t know, Nanowrimo is an acronym for National Novel Writing Month – a time of the year when thousands of writers and would-be writers worldwide accept the challenge to complete a 50,000 word novel rough draft in 30 days.

That’s 1667 words per day.  Every day.  Throughout November.  Cool, huh?

The secret is: Give yourself permission to suck.

Don’t edit as you write.  Don’t censor yourself.  This is a rough draft, which means that no one needs to see it.  EVER.  If you want to make a finished product out of it, that’s what editing, revising, and rewriting are for – and you have the other eleven months of the year to worry about that.

For now – write!

If you’re an author, or want to be one, some super-successful indie authors have gotten together and created a package of three of the best books on the subject for only $0.99.  The books are Write. Publish. Repeat. by Sean Platt and Johnny B. Truant; Let’s Get Digital by David Gaughran; and How to Market a Book by Joanna Penn.  These three books together would normally cost you $16.97.  Get all three now for less than a buck – a 94% discount!

It’s worth it, believe me.  If you want to publish fiction or non-fiction, these are the folks to go to.  They know what they’re talking about.  You won’t find a better deal than this, and it’s only available for a little while.  Grab The Indie Author Power Pack: How To Write, Publish, & Market Your Book now.

And if you want a book of fun fiction for free, don’t forget to sign up for my email list.  No spam, only occasional emails with top-quality material and news for those who love to read or write fiction.

If you do try Nanowrimo, good luck!  Here are a few more resources you may find helpful:

    

Also check out:

I’ve gotta back to work, myself.  I’m write there in the trenches with you.  😉

– Luke

P.S.  If you’d like free copies of any of my books – including an advanced copy of the novel I’m working on right now (when it’s ready) – send me an email at luke@funwithfiction.com, let me know which book you’d like, and I’ll send it to you!   All I ask is that you leave the book a review on Amazon.  Once you do that, email me the link to your review, and I’ll send you another free book.  It’s an easy way to get all of my books for nothing but a few sentences.

Thanks for listening, for reading, and for being you!

Fun with Fiction 10 – Writing Resources for My Fellow Authors

 

 

This one’s for the writers out there!  I’ve gathered some of the best tips and resources I know to help you in writing, publishing, and marketing your work, and I share them here with you, in the hopes that you’ll be able to glean something of value from them as I have.  As this is all about me recommending other people & things to you, I’m posting my show notes raw again, since all you really want are the links anyway.

Thank you all for listening and showing your support!  I can’t wait to see where this podcast might go in the next few years.  Maybe some day soon you and I will be mentioned as a formative influence by another up-and-comer in the fiction world.  🙂

Big news plug for authors:

Great web resources:

  • Networking:

o   Author groups on Linked-In www.linkedin.com

o   Author profile & networking on Goodreads www.goodreads.co (Don’t be a douchebag about this; don’t ‘friend’ people just to recommend your own book to them)

Other podcasts:

  • Informative/inspiring author interviews:

o   The Creative Penn – Fiction/non-fiction author Joanna Penn

o   The Rocking Self-Publishing Podcast – Audiobook reader Simon Whistler

  • Marketing:

o   The Sell More Books Show – Jim Kukral (Author Marketing Club) & Bryan Cohen (http://www.build-creative-writing-ideas.com/)

  • Insights on writing process and self-publishing:

o   The Story-Telling Podcast – Authors Garrett Robinson, ZC Bolger, & Crissy Moss

o   The Self-Publishing Podcast – authors Johnny B. Truant, Sean Platt, & David Wright

Books:

  • On Process:

o   On Writing by Stephen King

o   2,000 to 10,000 (as in words per day) by Rachel Aaron

o   Story Structure by William Bernhardt

  • On Marketing & Sales:

o   Write, Publish, Repeat by Sean Platt & Johnny B. Truant (who wrote 1.5 million words and published something like two dozen books last year alone!)

o   Your First 1000 Copies by Tim Grahl

o   How to Sell Fiction on Kindle by Michael Alvear

o   Let’s Get Visible by David Gaughran

  • Tips and Inspiration:

o   The War of Art by Stephen Pressfield

o   Make Good Art by Neil Gaiman

o   Zen in the Art of Writing by Ray Bradbury http://raybradbury.ru/stuff/zen_in_the_art_of_writing.pdf

Look into these resources, incorporate what works, discard what doesn’t, and add what is uniquely your own.  (Yes, that’s a Bruce Lee reference.)  And if you do get something of value from this episode/post – or if it gives you nothing at all, and you wish I would talk about something else – please email me at luke@funwithfiction.com and tell me about it!  I love feedback of all kinds.

‘Til next time, good luck with your writing, and keep them stories coming!

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!

Fun with Fiction Podcast, Episode 4: Interview with Andrew Flynn – Sleepless in Authorville

Hola Fictioneers!  Been reading/watching/listening to some great stories, I hope?

My guest this week is Andrew Flynn, author of  188: Micro-Stories For Your Macro-Brain and the ongoing serialized novel Clapping: Lose An Arm, Break A Leg.  Drew and I discuss those projects, what they’re about, and what the hell made him want to write the dang things in the first place.

No, it’s not drugs.

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 Odyssey and The Iliad are 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 Kerouac and 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’.

We digress briefly to our recent Las Vegas excursion (which Mo & I discuss in more detail in the most recent episode of the Eyeteeth Podcast), and return to topic with the best book to read in the bathroom: The Signet Book of American Humor.

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 before The Hunger Games came 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 Genesis and 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.

Andrew Flynn can be found at www.drewisawriter.comHe loves to engage with his readers and with other authors, so follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/drewisawriter and ‘like’ his Facebook page at www.facebook.com/drewisawriterAnd don’t forget to check out Clapping and 188!

If you enjoyed this interview, and would like to hear more crazy talk about made-up things, please support the effort by buying and reviewing my books at www.amazon.com/author/lukemorrisAlso review this podcast on iTunes, and email me at luke@funwithfiction.com to let me know what you like about what I’m doing here, what you hate about it, who you’d like me to interview, and what else you’d like to hear me rant and rave about in the world of fiction.  (You can also hit me up in the Twitterverse or on the Facebook at www.twitter.com/jeetkuneluke, www.facebook.com/funwithfiction, and www.facebook.com/jeetkuneluke.)

Thanks for listening, my friends.  Happy reading!