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.
Well, Fictioneers, I confess: I did it. I read Veronica Roth’s Divergent. And its sequels.
What can I say? I love a quasi-dystopian adventure-romance told in the first-person present-tense point of view of a repressed and sexually confused teenage girl.
Wait – no I don’t. (But if that’s your thing, have I got a story review for you!)
Please, the next time I get such a notion – slap some sense into me. Before I do something I’ll regret.
I didn’t bother to rewrite my review in pretty prose. Here you can read my notes for this episode in all their raw glory:
My review of the Divergent series (with spoilers!)
o Why the hell did I read this whole thing? It starts out okay, with an interesting (albeit ludicrous) premise – then goes rapidly downhill. It’s like doing a bad drug, getting hooked, and riding it out even after the high isn’t that fun anymore.
o Starts out with the “factions” – Abnegation, Dauntless, Erudite, Candor, Amity – a division of society by virtues they seek to cultivate
o The city is closed. We don’t find out why until book 3. We don’t even know they’re in Chicago until they zipline dive off the Hancock building halfway through book 1. (How do they know the names of buildings & streets in a post-apocalyptic world? How’d all those signs survive?)
o Turns out they’re all part of some grand eugenics experiment by the government – to correct eugenics experiments they’d done generations before.
o The U.S. still exists, but we only ever get a vague idea of what the world is like. Apparently, every place is unsafe, and all violence & misbehavior is blamed on “genetic damage”
o Dystopia done wrong – sending a million & one mixed messages.
“We are all individuals.”
“Those in power distrust those with ‘flexible’ minds.” (What.)
“The truth is dangerous, & some people fear it.”
“Revolutionaries can be just as bad as the system they rebel against.”
“Life is worth living, & some things are worth dying for.”
“In the end, we all have to rely on each other.” (WHAT?!)
o In short, this is a moral parable that doesn’t know what its moral is. At the climax of the final book it seems to justify essentially lobotomizing a whole city of people because many of them hold a wrong-headed belief. “The ends justify the means,” as it were. Huh?
o At least it’s not afraid to kill off major characters – but their loss is more irritating than sad. It tries to strike emotional chords, but its whole tone is superficial.
o Another dystopian YA adventure-romance told in the first-person present tense POV of a teenage girl
o Difference is, this one has a well-built world – though there are conspiracies behind the scenes that are revealed as the books progress, we know from the outset the general structure of the world of the day, & partially how it got that way. Morals aren’t black & white, but it’s very clear that a despotic regime is to blame for the people’s hardship (this is entirely muddled in Divergent). It’s also clear that a rebellion could result in an equally despotic regime – but this may be abated (for a time) if the people are vigilant
o The moral parable isn’t black-and-white, and doesn’t attempt to be – but it’s not nearly as muddled.
Sometimes you have to kill to survive. Still, you should try to do the right thing, to help people as best you can, even in the midst of a brutal reality (the arena of the Games).
There are human beings on both sides of a conflict. The heroine of the Hunger Games series wouldn’t try to justify mind-wiping everyone in the Capital just because she didn’t like their beliefs.
Heroism is about doing the best you can in hard situations.
o It’s not a deep moral tale, though people tend to treat it as one. Still, it doesn’t preach too much, and it knows the story it’s telling – doesn’t get all muddled trying to send a million moral messages.
If you want great dystopian lit that passes its moral along beautifully, try:
o We, by Soviet dissident Yevgeny Zamyatin – the prime inspiration for all anti-utopias to come.
Now, try writing your own dystopia! It’s fun and easy. Make it 500 words or less, and send it to firstname.lastname@example.org. If I like it, I’ll read it on a future episode of Fun with Fiction, to spread the fame of your name far and wide.