The Picture Perfect Writer-Blocked and Anguished

Earlier this evening, I came across an article called “Stock Photos of Scientists Reveal That Science is Mostly About Staring.” It was a collection of stock images hashtagged #BadStockPhotosOfMyJob and quite funny. Because yes, most of the stock photos of scientists show them just…staring at various things.

Okay, I get it; it’s difficult to represent the dynamic undertakings of scientific research in still images. However, it did make me wonder how writers and writing get represented in stock images.

It was quite an eye-opener. Apparently, I’m doing this writing thing all wrong.

I mean, there’s not a single balled-up piece of paper in my entire office. Not even in the garbage can. I looked everywhere, I swear, and it’s obvious from these photos that balled-up pieces of paper are de rigeur in the writer’s environment. I do have pens and paper, but the thing is—I write mostly everything on the computer, my laptop, or my iPad. I hardly ever scribble ideas on actual paper. It’s better for the environment, but in a way, looking at these photos, it’s like I’m not even trying, right?

The second thing I noticed is that I’m far too happy. I’m not saying that the writing life is all rainbows and fireworks, but for the most part, I feel like it’s a pretty sweet gig. I get to do a job I love. I can work in my pyjamas if I want. Occasionally I get a note from a reader who really liked something I wrote. Most of the time, I’m happy. Wrong again, apparently!

Just look at these people—abject misery. Writing or trying to write is just the worst thing that’s ever happened to them. They’re in the pit of despair. And surrounded by more of those pesky paper balls. I’m starting to think the paper balls are somehow connected to demons. Demons who feast on the souls of writers. Also, not a laptop in sight. I’m thinking technology plays a role in the levels of angst represented here.

Finally: beverages. Apparently, writer beverages are either coffee or whiskey. Wine-drinking writers, you’re doing it wrong, too. I’m 1 for 2 on this one, because the coffee is a staple. The whiskey, not so much. But look at that image in the upper left. Coffee notwithstanding, this writer is soon to join his miserable colleagues, because that coffee is so going to spill on his laptop. Who would put that there? He also looks like he’s about to dip his pen into the cup, which is also not going to go well.

Thanks to Shutterstock, CanStock, DepositPhotos, Dreamstime, iStockPhoto, and 123rf for the image fun. But I think you guys might have to try a little harder if you want to avoid the #BadStockPhotosOfMyJob attention. :)

 

 

 

An Interview with Marcelle Dubé – Short Flights Bundle Author

See? I promised another Canadian author interview, and here we are! Marcelle Dubé grew up near Montreal, but now lives in the Yukon. Her novels have been published by Carina Press and Falcon Ridge Publishing, and she has published many short stories, most recently in On Spec and Superhero Universe: Tesseracts Nineteen. (Personally, I can highly recommend her Mendenhall Mysteries!) Marcelle also writes under the pen name Emma Faraday. She keeps a website at www.marcellemdube.com/.

SDR: Marcelle, tell us a little about the story you have in the Short Flights bundle.

MD: In “Chimère,” our heroine Bittan lives in modern-day Montreal. She is the daughter of the high priestess of an ancient god who expects Bittan’s obedience and love, and has sent a mythological guardian to Montreal to protect her. Now Bittan must choose between the power a dangerous, jealous god offers her, and the very fragile love of a human man. And she must choose quickly, before the god destroys him.

SDR: That sounds fascinating! Now, imagine you’ve been kidnapped or trapped by a natural disaster. Which of your own characters (from any work) would you want to rescue you? Why?

MD: Definitely Kate Williams, Chief of Police of Mendenhall, Manitoba and heroine of my Mendenhall Mystery series. She’s smart, stubborn and quick-witted. If anybody can rescue me, it’s her and her team of intrepid constables.

SDR: Since I’m familiar with Kate, I have to agree she’s a good choice. What’s your current writing project? How do you feel about it right this minute?

MD: Right now, I’m working on Book 2 of the A’lle Chronicles, the first of which—Backli’s Ford—came out in 2012. I am little anxious about finishing it because it’s been so long since Backli’s Ford came out. I have been busy in the interim, of course (5 novels and 16 short stories), but there are so many stories to be told in the A’lle Chronicles world that I may not live long enough to write them all…

SDR: I know you’ve written series characters. What’s their appeal for you?

MD: To my utter surprise, I find myself with not one, but two series on the go. Both are mystery series, though one is a police procedural and the other is an alternate history series.

I’m not really a series person, but after I wrote The Shoeless Kid (Mendenhall Mystery #1), with the aforementioned Chief of Police Kate Williams, I found myself wondering what she and her constables were up to now. I liked these people and I wanted to know what was going to happen next. So I wrote The Tuxedoed Man. Then, of course, I was doomed. I’ve just released the fifth in the series, The Forsaken Man.

The second series is The A’lle Chronicles. I can’t lie—I knew exactly what I was getting into when I started the first one, Backli’s Ford. I had so many ideas about the people and events and how they veered off from our timeline… I’m happy to finally be getting back to Constance A’lle and Chief Investigator Desautel.

SDR: Have you had to deal with bad reviews? How do you manage them?

MD: I know most writers say they don’t read their reviews, but that’s not me. I read every single one, good or bad. After all this time, I don’t mind the bad ones. I know not everybody will like my stories, and that’s okay.

SDR: Are you a planner/outliner/architect or a pantser/gardener/discovery writer?

MD: I sail off into the darkness every time, hoping I won’t fall off the edge of the world…

SDR: I have to admit, I’ve been heartened during these interviews by how many other authors give this answer… :)

Do you think there were early influences as a reader that have guided the stories you create as a writer? What were they?

MD: Oh my. I loved the pulp writers: Edgar Rice Burroughs (Tarzan), Lester Dent (Doc Savage), Robert Heinlein (Stranger in a Strange Land, Podkayne of Mars), Robert E. Howard (Conan the Barbarian), C.L. Moore (Jirel of Joiry)… I still love the pulp-style stories and I’m sure that love translates into a lot of my stories.

SDR: Do you think the place where you live (or somewhere you have lived) influences what you write? In what way?

MD: I live in the Yukon and its dramatic landscape and wilderness lend themselves to great fiction. Quite a few of my stories have featured the territory as a character (Obeah, On Her Trail, Ghosts of Morocco, “Jules,” “Going to Liard,” “Root Fire,” “Running Away from Christmas,” “The Man in the Mask,” “A Yukon Christmas,” “Troll Country”).

SDR: And that’s reflected in the tagline on your website, as well… “Writing the North and other fantastic places…” I like that. :)

Do you prefer music, silence, or some other noise in the background when you write? If music, what kind?

MD: I am so easily distracted that I have to work in silence. I can ignore background sounds like traffic or kids playing outside, but any sound in my writing space demands my attention and takes me away from the story. I could never write to a soundtrack.

SDR:, Well, to finish off, tell us about your other works, projects, publications, and what’s on the horizon next. This is the shameless self-promotion portion of the interview!

MD: My most recent novels are Shelter, set in modern-day Ontario and featuring a young woman who stumbles onto a haunted house while running away from an abusive husband; Ghosts of Morocco, in which our heroine finds herself thrown back into a Moroccan nightmare from her youth when she tries to protect the child of her best friend; and The Forsaken Man, in which Chief of Police Kate Williams finds herself longing for a quiet spring after a long, hard winter. What does she get instead? The theft of valuable bull semen from a local vet and increasingly dangerous vandalism at a construction site.

SDR: Thanks so much for stopping by and chatting, Marcelle! And thanks for being part of the bundle.

The Short Flights bundle from BundleRabbit is available now across many online platforms. Along with Marcelle’s story, you’ll find nine more single stories and five full collections in the bundle, enough short fiction to keep you reading for a while! At just $4.99, it’s a real steal, so don’t miss it.

An Interview with Douglas Smith – Short Flights Bundle Author

Well, finally I get to chat with a fellow Canadian (and he won’t be the only one in this series, but you’ll have to stay tuned…)!

My interview guest today is Douglas Smith, an award-winning Canadian author of fantasy, SF, horror, and supernatural fiction. Doug is from Ontario, and his work has been published in twenty-five languages and over thirty countries around the world. He’s a three-time Aurora Award winner and has been a finalist for the international John W. Campbell Award, Canada’s juried Sunburst Award, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation’s ‘Bookies’ award, and France’s juried Prix Masterton and Prix Bob Morane. He keeps a website at http://www.smithwriter.com/.

SDR: As I’ve asked the others, please tell us a little about the story you have in the Short Flights bundle.

DS: In “By Her Hand, She Draws You Down,” Cath, a beautiful sidewalk artist, is driven by a mysterious hunger that feeds from the portraits she draws of her victims. Joe loves Cath, but as Cath’s hunger grows, so does Joe’s fear that one day she may draw him down.

The story was described as “delightfully creepy” by Library Journal, which was just the reaction I was hoping for. It was a finalist for Canada’s Aurora Award and was selected for The Mammoth Book of Best New Horror that year. The following year, an indie film maker adapted the story into a 30-minute short film of the same name that went on to a batch of awards around the world when it toured festivals.

SDR: It does sound delightfully creepy! Do you remember what sparked the idea for this story? What was it?

DS: I was staring out a window, the window of a bus to be exact. I wanted to write a story about creativity, but a form of creativity other than writing. Maybe the constant flow of visual images flashing by the window led to the idea of a story about a visual artist. From there, I thought of the portrait artists that I’d often seen during family visits to Ontario Place, a lakefront tourist attraction in Toronto–and Cath and her situation was born.

I also wanted to try my hand at a pure horror story, something that couldn’t be classified as anything other than horror. I don’t know where the idea came from to start with a poem, and I can’t remember if the poem led to the rather long title, or the other way around. But once I had the poem, I had the story structure: single point-of-view, told in four sequential scenes, each introduced by a line of the poem that opens the story.

SDR: Why do you write short fiction? Love, necessity, marketability, or something else?

DS: I’m writing solely at novel length now, but will always keep my hand in writing short stories. I strongly believe that short fiction can help a writer in their craft and career in multiple ways: learning the craft of fiction; experimenting with styles, voice, story structures and points of view; testing the waters to see if editors are willing to pay money for your work; building your resume of writing sales; exploring and building ideas for novels; using short story tie-ins as loss leaders and giveaways to promote related novels; building a network of editors and contacts; raising your profile with award ballot appearances and wins; learning part of the publishing business, and many more. I go into the benefits of short fiction and how to use short fiction as a foundation for a writing career in my writer’s guide, Playing the Short Game: How to Market & Sell Short Fiction.

SDR: You’ve obviously put a lot of thought into short story writing–what’s the most perfect short story you’ve ever read?

DS: “The Story of Your Life” by Ted Chiang, which was recently adapted into the movie, “Arrival.” The movie was excellent but the story was much better.

SDR: Are you a planner/outliner/architect or a pantser/gardener/discovery writer?

DS: I’m a “headlights on the highway” writer. I wish I could tell you where I first came across that term, but I can’t. But it fits my approach. I think of it as a compromise between outlining and pantsing.

I’m a character-based writer, so I can’t / don’t start until I know my main characters. I know where I want a book to end up at the climax, and I generally know the main “tent pole” events in the book, typically the big turns, events, or surprises that happen, generally end of Act 1, 2, and before the climax. Then I just start writing, usually with the next 2-4 chapters outlined roughly either in the ms or in my head. If I’m happy with where those chapters go, I move on to the next batch. If I’m not, I fix / change / redo that batch.

The “headlights on the highway” metaphor comes from how the approach resembles driving across a desert at night. You know the highway will get you to your destination town, but you’ve never driven it before. You don’t know what twists, turns, crossroads, etc. you’ll encounter. But you can see enough of the highway ahead of you with your headlights to keep driving.

It’s an approach that lets you make discoveries along the way, but still keep control of the overall direction of the book. Most of the cool things that show up in my stories come from this approach. I know I’d never have discovered them in an outline. The story is discovered in its writing, as someone said. Yeah, I’m not great at attributing quotes.

SDR: I might know that first reference (because I used to have it taped to my monitor!). The one I’m thinking of is E.L. Doctorow: “(Writing is) like driving a car at night. You never see further than your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way.” It’s certainly a similar sentiment, anyway. :)

Do you think there were early influences as a reader that have guided the stories you create as a writer? What were they?

DS: Not sure, but I’ve always been fascinated by shapeshifter stories and have my own Heroka series. That fascination might have come from an early love of anthropomorphic animal stories like those of Beatrix Potter and the “Freddy the Pig” book by Walter Brooks, and later the work of Jack London.

SDR: Do you prefer music, silence, or some other noise in the background when you write? If music, what kind?

DS: I tend to prefer to listen to classical music when I write (with headphones, since I’m often writing in a library, coffee shop, or public place). It drowns out the background noise, since conversations can be really distracting to a writer (we love to eavesdrop). Instrumental music, no vocals, and preferably baroque or early classical. Vivaldi, Corelli, Bach are all good. Their music is more cerebral than emotional, which makes it perfect for writing.

SDR: Tell us about your other works, projects, publications, and what’s on the horizon next. This is the shameless self-promotion portion of the interview!

DS: I’m finishing up the second book in a young adult urban fantasy trilogy. I don’t like to talk about WIPs, so I’ll just say it involves mysterious artifacts, a lost jungle expedition, dream walking, astral projection, rune magic, a search for lost parents, and the end of the multiverse. After that’s done, I’ll write the next book in my Heroka shapeshifter series. I’m also planning a stand-alone novel based on my novelette, “Memories of the Dead Man.”

SDR: Well, thanks for stopping by for a chat, Doug! And thanks for being part of the bundle.

The Short Flights bundle from BundleRabbit is available now across many online platforms. Along with Doug’s story, you’ll find nine more single stories and five full collections in the bundle, enough short fiction to keep you reading for a while! At just $4.99, it’s a real steal, so don’t miss it.

An Interview with Blaze Ward – Short Flights Bundle Author

Today, we have Short Flights Bundle author Blaze Ward stopping by to answer my interview questions. Blaze makes his home in Washington, and writes science fiction, superhero tales, fantasy, and alternate history. He keeps a website at www.blazeward.com, and you can find him on Facebook, Goodreads, and other places around the Internet. So let’s dive in…

SDR: To start, tell us a little about the story you have in the Short Flights bundle.

BW: “The Librarian” is the first of the Alexandria Station universe stories I wrote. She’s turned into my narrator for over 10,000 years of human history.

SDR: Imagine you’ve been kidnapped or trapped by a natural disaster. Which of your own characters (from any work) would you want to rescue you? Why?

BW: Vo zu Arlo (Jessica Keller books). Man’s a total badass who will stop at nothing.

SDR: Describe your current writing workspace.

BW: The peninsula dividing my kitchen from the living room. Just the right height to stand and work.

SDR: What’s your current writing project? How do you feel about it right this minute?

BW: Seventh Jessica Keller novel: Lord of Winter. Just started Act 3 and can see the end. Really hyped. Also just wrote a short story in the Fairchild universe.

SDR: Do you remember what sparked the idea for your story in the Short Flights bundle? What was it?

BW: I needed to know more about the AI in Javier’s ship, for The Science Officer. Already knew she survived the galactic apocalypse, so put her in a place to be discovered by my favorite salvager: Doyle Iwakuma.

SDR: Do you remember what sparked the idea for any of your stories? Tell us about one.

BW: The Science Officer was something I wanted to write for years, before I discovered that I could just publish stuff myself and make money. Having a character who was a scientist, a botanist, rather than a Jim Kirk/James Bond action figure. I grow things, and wanted to put that into space.

SDR: Why do you write short fiction? Love, necessity, marketability, or something else?

BW: The ability to take the worlds of my novels and spin off little side things about various characters. Or to create new worlds where I can play.

SDR: Do you belong to any writer’s groups or communities? Do you think these types of social interactions are important for writers?

BW: Got a monthly lunch group in Seattle where we talk business more than craft. Won’t do a critique group. They always fail in rancor, or fall apart in indifference.

SDR: Which one of your characters is the most like you? The least?

BW: Vo zu Arlo, probably. He gets his relentlessness from me. His intensity. Javier’s snarkiness and chaos-surfing. Hard to nail one. Most of my characters are actually amalgamations of people I know, where I take bits and merge them.

SDR: Have you written any series characters? What’s their appeal for you?

BW: Bit stories. Jessica is 6 novels now, and will be nine. The Science Officer (Season One) is eight novellas. Season Two will be nine. Everything tends to be serial with me.

SDR: I understand that feeling…like even when the story’s over, the characters aren’t. Do you remember the first story you wrote? Tell us about it.

BW: Absolutely not. Drek, and the statute of limitations has not expired. :)

SDR: Oh, all right. I’ll give you a pass on that one. :) Have you had to deal with bad reviews? How do you manage them?

BW: I never read a review that’s less than 5 stars. Better that way.

SDR: Are there certain themes that keep coming up in your work? If so, is it intentional, or something that just happens?

BW: “Sticking it to the man.” That’s probably intentional, but no.

SDR: Are you a planner/outliner/architect or a pantser/gardener/discovery writer?

BW: Yes. And. Both. Neither. Have done extensive outlines. Have sat down and discovered the next sentence as I typed.

SDR: Do you think there were early influences as a reader that have guided the stories you create as a writer? What were they?

BW: Doc Smith. Isaac Asimov to a lesser degree. Robert Howard. David Drake. CS Friedman.

SDR: Do you think the place where you live (or somewhere you have lived) influences what you write? In what way?

BW: Lived in a LOT of places. August 1990 – October 2001, moved 17 times. Time zones, three. Zip codes, almost all of them.

SDR: What’s the most challenging thing about being a writer in 2018? What’s the best thing?

BW: I am in control of my own career. Someone else is in charge of me making enough money to survive.

SDR: Do you prefer music, silence, or some other noise in the background when you write? If music, what kind?

BW: I zone out noise around me when I work.

SDR: Many writers also put their creativity to use in ways other than writing. Do you consider yourself a “creative person?” What other creative outlets do you have?

BW: Role-playing games. Poetry. Sewing. Gardening. Zen. Archery.

SDR: Tell us about your other works, projects, publications, and what’s on the horizon next. This is the shameless self-promotion portion of the interview. :)

BW: Book six of the Jessica Keller novels, The Red Admiral, comes out May 10. Going to do a special on the first three books in April as a lead in.

SDR: What question do you wish you’d be asked in an interview, but it never seems to come up? Ask it, and tell us your answer.

BW: “Money or fame?” – Money. You can pursue Traditional Publishing and see your name in the bookstore, but most of the people I know doing that still have to have day jobs. And there are few people making a living in TradPub anymore. I retired from a good job as a database architect in February to become a full-time writer, and most people have never heard of me. Making good money, though. :)

SDR: Well, thanks for answering all my questions, Blaze! It’s great to have you in the bundle!

The Short Flights bundle from BundleRabbit is available now across many online platforms. Along with Blaze’s story, you’ll find nine more single stories and five full collections in the bundle, enough short fiction to keep you reading for a while! At just $4.99, it’s a real steal, so don’t miss it.

Come back next week for more interviews!

An Interview with Linda Maye Adams – Short Flights Bundle Author

We’re back with another author interview today, this time with Short Flights bundle contributor, Linda Maye Adams. Linda lives in Northern Virginia, and enjoys writing science fiction, fantasy, and mystery, particularly military sci-fi, drawing on her own background and experiences. She keeps a website at lindamayeadams.com if you’d like to learn more.

You know, I sent all the authors the same batch of questions and asked them to choose a few and answer them, so I’m really enjoying finding out which ones different authors have chosen to answer. I hope you are, too! Now, let’s see what Linda has to say…

SDR:  Tell us a little about the story you have in the Short Flights bundle.

LMA: My short story is called “Watcher Ghost.” Hope Delgado was recruited by GALCOM, a space military command, because she is the only person who can see and talk to alien ghosts. She is called to an older space station because the ghost haunting it has become violent and she has little time to figure out what he’s trying to tell her.

SDR: I absolutely love the idea of this story! Now, what’s your current writing project? How do you feel about it right this minute?

LMA: It’s the third book in the GALCOM Universe series, called Cursed Planet. Hope Delgado’s on a planet drop to assist Alien Affairs with a mediation over a ghost. But the aliens are hostile to humans and they are difficult to communicate with. I’ve been embracing my nerd side with this one big time—we have zero-gravity, meteorites, and even an aurora. So a lot of fun playing around with the cool side of science.

SDR: Do you remember what sparked the idea for your story in the Short Flights bundle? What was it?

LMA: I was working on the first book in the GALCOM Universe series, Crying Planet, and saw an anthology call. It had just hit me that Crying Planet was actually a series, so I gravitated straight into a short story with the same character for the call. The idea was a haunted space station. The bug sensors came into this story first, so I was adding them in the novel. I think I’ll have one of them floating by in zero-g in my newest story.

SDR: I’m always interested to hear how other writers work. Are you a planner/outliner/architect or a pantser/gardener/discovery writer?

LMA: I’m a pantser. It’s both terrifying and exhilarating to start a story because I truly have no idea what’s going to happen next. I have to write it to find out. It’s kind of like sailors in tall ships going out on the sea with only a general idea of where they’re going and then they discover the island with the lost treasure and gets caught in a nasty storm that hadn’t been there five minutes ago. It’s always an adventure.

SDR: As a fellow pantser, I understand. :)

Do you think there were early influences as a reader that have guided the stories you create as a writer? What were they?

LMA: When I was growing up, there wasn’t much for girls unless it was a romance or Nancy Drew. I liked reading science fiction and adventures, and yet, if there was a girl in the story, she was usually wallpaper. The guys always got the adventures, and the girl got to be rescued. And then I saw Star Trek and Uhura on the bridge in this important and visible role. Even though she didn’t have many adventures, it was a lot more than what I was seeing at the time. So I write about characters I want to see, having adventures.

SDR: What’s the most challenging thing about being a writer in 2018? And what’s the best thing?

LMA: The most challenging thing is discoverability. There’s a lot of books out there, and it’s hard being found in the sea of them. I want to write full time eventually—have always wanted to—but discoverability is happening at its own speed.

The best thing? I can write books about women having adventures and no one’s going to reject them as not being marketable based on an executive’s fear of the risk. Indie really has opened a lot of doors, and places like Bundle Rabbit offer so much exposure.

SDR: Tell us about your other works, projects, publications, and what’s on the horizon next. This is the shameless self-promotion portion of the interview. :)

LMA: I wrote a memoir on what Desert Storm was like, which is currently in a Rabbit Bundle called Remembering Warriors, along with a lot of other great works. Though I confess that adventures are fiction are sooo much better than real-life ones! I also have my GALCOM Universe series, which includes the first book, Crying Planet. That’s about giant yellow alien slugs who are shipping the ghost population to other planets. The second book in the series is Lonely Planet, with a ghost spaceship that collides with the GALCOM space cruiser. It’s up to Hope to figure out how to save the ship. It’s just so much fun having a heroine save the day. I also have a new fantasy short story up called “Dark, From the Sea,” and I bet you never knew the real reason lighthouses exist…

Readers can find more of my writing on my website: http://lindamayeadams.com

SDR: Thanks so much for stopping by and chatting with us, Linda!

The Short Flights bundle from BundleRabbit is available now across many online platforms. Along with Linda’s story, you’ll find nine more single stories and five full collections in the bundle, enough short fiction to keep you reading for a while! At just $4.99, it’s a real steal, so don’t miss it.

Still more interviews to come!

An Interview with Michael Jasper – Short Flights Bundle Author

Today on the blog, we have an interview with Michael Jasper, another author featured in the Short Flights bundle. Mike lives in North Carolina, and “is fascinated with exploring the places where the normal meets the strange.” He should feel right at home on my blog. ;)

SDR: I’m asking everyone the same question to start, so please tell us a little about the story you have in the Short Flights bundle.

MJ: My story is called “Finder,” and it’s the first appearance of my dynamic duo, Bim and Hanky J. These guys have known each other almost all their lives, and now that they’re in their early 40s, they’re starting to find some success with their private-investigation company, Finders, Inc. While Hank is the cut-and-dry fellow who has an unquenchable desire to rescue missing people, Bim is the heavy-set slacker who has a special gift for connecting to people that truly makes Finders, Inc. successful. I’ll let folks read the story to find out how his (somewhat disturbing and gross) gift works. I’ve taken these two characters and expanded their situation into a “slightly paranormal mystery” series called the Finder Team, where Bim and Hank and the rest of their ragtag group solve mysteries and find lost souls in the mountains of western North Carolina, and I’m having a blast telling their stories. The second Finder Team novel, Lost & Finders, is currently underway, and should be done very soon.

SDR: Tell us where you like to write; describe your current writing workspace(s).

MJ: We live in a small log cabin in the North Carolina mountains between the small towns of Boone and Blowing Rock, and my work office and writing office are one and the same: I get exactly half of the loft above our living room and kitchen. I have a combination sitting/standing desk for when I’m doing my day job (I work from home as a technical writer for a software company) and when I’m working on the business side of my fiction writing and publishing gigs. But I usually do most of my fiction writing in my comfy recliner up in the loft, close enough to the window so I can see the outside world (right now, a mid-March snow is softly falling out there), but not too close that I get distracted.

Interestingly, I used to be solely an early-morning writer, but lately I’ve started cracking open the laptop at the end of the day, just to fiddle around with my current project, and I end up writing a short scene or untangling a twisty plot issue, and I’ve been doing that writing work away from my usual writing space, downstairs and usually with my wife and kids around me. I think a change of pace is always good for writers, just to shake things up and to keep us from getting into a rut.

SDR: What’s your current writing project? How do you feel about it right this minute?

MJ: I mentioned Lost & Finders earlier, and it’s the second book in my Finder Team series after Finders, Inc. This book takes place about four months after the first book, but it’s taken me nearly four years to write! I’ve developed a sort of love-hate relationship with it, and I actually didn’t even touch it for over a year because it was frustrating me. So I worked on other projects, but I kept coming back to it. Just recently I figured out what the book was really about, and I am now in the process of finishing it up. I think that it will be one of my favorite creations when all is said and done, just because I struggled so much with it and – more importantly – I learned so much in the process of writing it.

SDR: So you’ve written at least one set of series characters. What’s the appeal of series for you?

MJ: I ended up writing a trio of series by accident, mainly because I kept wondering what those characters were up to lately. My first series, Contagious Magic, ended on a bit of a cliffhanger, so I had no choice but to keep going with book two (eventually!) and then hit book three as well. My other two series, Finder Team and Family Pack, had some interesting side-roads I wanted to take with the various characters in book two, and I’ve been dreaming about a book three where both of those series converge into this nifty crossover event. I look at a series like a really good premium cable TV series, where you can really dive deep with the characters and show them growing and changing as time passes, even more than you can in a single novel. You also get to tell bigger and bigger stories. It’s a lot of fun, and I’m enjoying the learning process.

SDR: Are you a planner/outliner/architect or a pantser/gardener/discovery writer?

MJ: In most of my novels I’ve done serious outlines, which always made the actually day-to-day writing much easier (in most cases!). But lately I’ve been pushing back against detailed outlines and just telling myself the story as I write. It’s scarier that way, and it can lead to a long block of unproductive days if you’re not careful, but I think the stories are always better. I kind of like the risk (if you can call it that) of writing by the seat of my pants.

SDR: As a “discovery writer” myself, I understand (and appreciate) that risk! Now, to finish up, tell us about your other works, projects, publications, and what’s on the horizon next. This is the shameless self-promotion portion of the interview! 

MJ: I’m coming off a year where I more or less had to take a break from fiction writing, because I’d just started a new and very challenging job (as a technical writer at a software company), which I really love. But the job required all of my brain-power and left me a pretty drained, so I couldn’t think about writing fiction when I wasn’t working. But now I’ve got a year under my belt at the new job and I’m finally able to scratch that fiction itch that I couldn’t reach for a long while. So I’m blasting away on my second Finder Team novel and planning out that Finder Team-Family Pack crossover (paranormal private eyes meet a father and daughter who are also werewolves; they fight crime!).

Also, the graphic novel I wrote and my artist friend Niki Smith illustrated was recently optioned for the movies, which has motivated me to start work on Book 2 of that series (the first book was 9 issues, and almost 200 pages of graphic novel adventure). And I’ve got an idea or two for a screenplay. For 2018, I’m planning on publishing my second short-story collection, UnWrecked Tales in April or May, and Lost & Finders comes out in June. Which means I should probably end this interview and get back to my writing. In the meantime, you can follow my writing at http://michaeljasper.net, and keep up with my publishing company at http://UnWreckedPress.com. Thanks!

SDR: Thanks for stopping by and chatting with us, Mike!

The Short Flights bundle from BundleRabbit is available now across many online platforms. Along with Kate’s story, you’ll find nine more single stories and five full collections in the bundle, enough short fiction to keep you reading for a while! At just $4.99, it’s a real steal, so don’t miss it.

We have more interviews coming soon, so stay tuned!

An Interview With Kate MacLeod – Short Flights Bundle Author

Our next Short Flights interview author is Kate MacLeod (whom I already love because I think we’re kindred spirits–half of her answers could have been written by me!). Kate lives in Minnesota and keeps a website at https://www.katemacleod.net/, where you can find her social media information and sign up for her newsletter.

 SDR: Kate, tell us a little about the story you have in the Short Flights bundle.

KM: “Unsafe, Unsound” is a western weird tale of a family on the edge of civilization who catch a glimpse of the other layers beyond this world. It’s told in multiple points of view because each character has an entirely different experience. For a long time it was the darkest thing I ever wrote.

SDR: I love hearing about where other writers write, so could you describe your current writing workspace?

KM: I have a treadmill desk set in a bay window so it’s almost like walking outside while I type or dictate. I need lots of sun and fresh air when I make the words.

SDR: Do you remember what sparked the idea for “Unsafe, Unsound”? What was it?

KM: This was actually the rare instance where I used something from a dream. I had recently moved from a heavily populated neighborhood to one at the edge of the suburbs, surrounded by corn fields and dairy farms. In my dream I had the image of a man walking up my dirt road in the light of the full moon and I just knew that there was something wrong with him. I couldn’t get the image out of my head and had to know what his story was.

SDR: I’m always surprised when some people say they don’t enjoy short stories, so I’m asking writers, why do you write short fiction? Love, necessity, marketability, or something else?

KM: I love short fiction! My reading time is half fiction magazines and anthologies and half novels. As a writer I get story ideas that work best at some specific length and I don’t try to wrestle with that, I just let it be the length it is.

SDR: What’s the most perfect short story you’ve ever read?

KM: It’s either “The Dead” by James Joyce or “A Rose for Emily” by William Faulkner. Don’t make me choose between the two!

SDR: All right, we’ll change the subject. :) Have you written any series characters? What’s their appeal for you?

KM: I’m writing my first series character now. I wrote her first book as a standalone but loved her character so much I had to go back and continue her story. The Scout Shannon books are young adult science fiction and I loved the idea of slowly expanding her awareness of her world, planetary system, and galaxy around her as she grows into it. Plus she has two dogs, who are thinly fictionalized versions of my dogs, and I love writing about them!

SDR: Do you prefer music, silence, or some other noise in the background when you write? If music, what kind?

KM: I like music but I get easily distracted by lyrics so when I’m writing it’s all instrumentals, and generally movie soundtracks. The last novel I wrote I had the soundtrack to “King Arthur” on repeat. Currently it’s “Blade Runner 2049”.

SDR: I also love movie soundtracks for writing music–and also video game soundtracks! You should give some of those a try, too (Assassin’s Creed 2 and Halo are great).

Now, to finish up, tell us about your other works, projects, publications, and what’s on the horizon next. This is the shameless self-promotion portion of the interview.  :)

KM: I’m currently halfway through a young adult science fiction series called The Travels of Scout Shannon. Book 3 of 6, Among Treacherous Stars, just came out on Tuesday. In April I have short stories that will appear in both Analog and Mythic Delirium, which is huge for me!

SDR: Thanks for stopping by and chatting with us, Kate!

The Short Flights bundle from BundleRabbit is available now across many online platforms. Along with Kate’s story, you’ll find nine more single stories and five full collections in the bundle, enough short fiction to keep you reading for a while! At just $4.99, it’s a real steal, so don’t miss it.

We have more interviews coming soon, so stay tuned!

An Interview with Harvey Stanbrough – Short Flights Bundle Author

I’ve asked some of the authors included in the Short Flights (of the Imagination) Bundle to drop by and answer a few questions. I enjoy hearing about how other writers work and think, don’t you? I sent along twenty-odd questions to each writer and asked them to answer a handful they liked.

So first up is multi-genre author Harvey Stanbrough, who keeps a website at harveystanbrough.com. Harvey is no stranger to bundling, and his collection, S, F & H is part of Short Flights…but here, I’ll let him tell you about it…

SDR: Tell us a little about the story you have in the Short Flights bundle.

HS: It’s actually a 10-story collection. This collection of ten short stories spans science fiction and science fantasy with a dash of horror tossed in for good luck. Firefighters are trapped in a burning house, an alien crashes a teen party, and other aliens visit a café in a small town. There’s a robot on a robot horse, a game show called Suicide Watch, and a viral outbreak that wipes out much of humanity. Four other stories round out the ten with more aliens, humor and horror.

SDR: So you’ve got lots of characters to choose from for this next question. Imagine you’ve been kidnapped or trapped by a natural disaster. Which of your own characters (from any work) would you want to rescue you? Why?

HS: Wes Crowley (from my 10-novel Wes Crowley series) because he’s honest, hard, and relentless.

SDR: Describe your current writing workspace(s).

HS: Actually, I write on a dedicated writing computer (no Internet) in The Adobe Hovel, a shed about 200 feet from my house.

SDR: What are you currently working on out in your shed? How do you feel about it right this minute?

HS: A new novel in a pulp-noir detective series. Stern Talbot, P.I.—The Early Years: The Case of the Slashed-Up Secretary. I feel good about it. It’s rolling right along. I usually get around 3000 to 4000 words done on it per day.

SDR: Why do you write short fiction? Love, necessity, marketability, or something else?

HS: I like the challenge of the short form. I have over 180 short stories in around 25 collections. But I enjoy writing novels more.

SDR: What’s the most perfect short story you’ve ever read?

HS: “There Will Come Soft Rains” by Ray Bradbury.

SDR: I agree, that’s a fabulous story. Do you belong to any writer’s groups or communities? Do you think these types of social interactions are important for writers?

HS: No, because most of them are more social groups than working groups. The members tend to talk a lot about writing, but they do very little actual writing.

SDR: You’ve published a lot of titles. Have you had to deal with bad reviews? How do you manage them?

HS: I don’t pay attention to reviews, good or bad. What some like, some don’t. No worries.

SDR: Are you a planner/outliner/architect or a pantser/gardener/discovery writer?

HS: This is very important. I’m just a writer. Like the guy who paints houses is a painter, or the person who works on car engines is a mechanic. That’s all. I adhere firmly to Heinlein’s Rules and I trust my characters to tell the story. After all, they’re the ones who are actually living it. I’m just kind of the recorder.

SDR: I try to follow Heinlein’s Rules myself, although I have the most trouble with #2 (finishing things!).

Do you prefer music, silence, or some other noise in the background when you write? If music, what kind?

HS: I’m down in the story, running through it with the characters, trying to write everything they say and do. That’s much more entertaining for me than any other thing.

SDR: Thanks for sharing your thoughts with us, Harvey!

The Short Flights bundle from BundleRabbit is available now across many online platforms. Along with Harvey’s collection, you’ll find ten more single stories and four more collections in the bundle, enough short fiction to keep you reading for a while! At just $4.99, it’s a real steal, so don’t miss it.

We’ll have another author interview soon, so stay tuned!

It’s a bird, it’s a plane, it’s a…Brand?

So. I’m taking a publishing and marketing course this month, and a recent lesson was about building a brand. I haven’t given branding a whole lot of attention in the past, preferring to think of myself as my “brand” and that it’s fairly evident what that means if you read my work or follow me here or on social media. However, some advice in the course was to consider how “branding” can help convey information about one’s work in a quick and concise way, which can be useful to potential readers. Discussion included logos and slogans or tag lines as part of a brand, among other things.

I was a little surprised to discover that many participants in the course already had logos and tag lines in place.

Hmm. That seemed to put me behind the curve. But I felt a little stumped. I write science fiction, fantasy, urban fantasy, steampunk…I could go on, but you get the idea. I write a broad range of stories under the speculative fiction umbrella. Encapsulating that seemed a daunting task. Thinking thematically didn’t help me out much, either; I don’t know if there are particular themes that run through all or most of my work. So this was me most of the weekend:

via GIPHY

But…I think I did it. I’m going to take a day or two to let it cool and do some tweaking, and then I’ll share it here.

My Address to Grads

Five years ago, I was invited to give the address to graduates from our local high school. I was honoured to do so, particularly since my daughter was graduating, and so I knew many students in the class. Since it’s that time of year again, I thought I’d share my thoughts from that time with everyone. The advice in it is really not only for young people. :)

Good evening, everyone, and good evening especially to you, the graduates of 2012. (And if I’ve been to your English class lately, yes, it’s me again. And I thought talking to twenty of you at once was intimidating!)

Actually, I’m very pleased to have been invited to speak to you tonight. I’ve known many of you since you started school, and I’ve watched you grow into wonderful young men and women. I’ve met more of you through school visits, and I know that this class of 2012 is full of kindness, intelligence, spirit, talent, and potential.

When I was invited to do this, at first I wasn’t quite sure what I should say. My guidelines were to give you some “sage advice.” Now, for one thing, I’m much too young to be giving “sage” advice! But I guess I have learned a few things worth sharing. I think they’re some of the ingredients for a happy life. (Don’t worry, it’s not a long or complicated recipe.)

Learn to say “yes.”
I don’t mean, “be a doormat.” I mean, “open yourself to opportunities.” It’s almost always easier to say “no,” especially if we’re presented with an opportunity that seems intimidating, or outside our comfort zone, or more than we’re qualified for. Say yes anyway. It’s only by taking on things that challenge us that we learn our true capabilities and allow ourselves to grow. So make “yes” your default answer when opportunity presents itself.

Learn to say “no.”
When “yes” is your default, it’s easy to get overwhelmed. So learn to say “no” sometimes, too. I know your life seems quite full right now, but once you add in careers and spouses and children and houses and bills and volunteering and grocery shopping and housework and yardwork and travel and deadlines—it’s going to get busier. And in order to give all those things the attention they need—you need a little time to stop and think once in a while. To refocus on the important things and let go of the not-so-important ones. So learn to balance “yes” and “no” wisely.

Remember that who and what you are today is not necessarily who and what you will be tomorrow.
Life is about change and possibility. There’s a lot of pressure on you right now to decide what you are going to be. Don’t let that overwhelm you. All you are really deciding is what you are going to do—at least for the next little while. If you change your mind later, it’s all right. It doesn’t mean you made a mistake. When I left Memorial, I headed for journalism school. Then I changed my mind and became a lawyer for a time. Then I changed my mind again when I realized that I wasn’t happy—and I went back to writing, because that’s where my heart is. But if I hadn’t gone to law school and worked as a lawyer, I probably wouldn’t have met the person who would become one of my best friends and one of my partners in publishing. So even if your path is a winding one, that doesn’t mean you’ve strayed off course. Very few lives are a straight road—and straight roads are generally not nearly as interesting as winding ones.

Create something.
Without a doubt, we live in a consumer society. We consume material things like clothes and cell phones, we consume entertainment like TV shows and movies, we consume far too much of far too many things that are “bad” for us. So to balance all this consumption, I encourage you to also take time to create something. It’s strange how many people deny their creativity—they say, “Oh, I’m not creative”—when what I think they really feel is that they’re not creative enough to do something that someone else would consider “good.” But I think that making things is good for us. You might be a writer or a filmmaker or an artist or a songwriter. You might build bridges or design buildings or craft a new scientific theory. Or you could be a scrapbooker or a woodworker or a gardener. Or you could take pictures or sew things or make music or restore old cars or make a funny video that goes viral. If you don’t create for anyone else, create for yourself. I like this quote from the American journalist William F. Buckley, Jr. He said: “I get satisfaction of three kinds. One is creating something, one is being paid for it, and one is the feeling that I haven’t just been sitting on my butt all afternoon.”

So even if you’re not being paid for it, don’t just sit on your butt all afternoon. Create things.

Think for yourself.
Every generation probably hears this, but I think it is especially important in the world right now. We are facing a lot of BIG issues—political, religious, scientific, global—and the rate of societal change is possibly the fastest it has ever been. You will have to make decisions on many of these issues, so I urge you to be informed, consider the facts, and decide for yourself. Just because your parents or your friends or a politician or your favorite celebrity or some guy on YouTube tells you something, does not necessarily make it true. You can respect their opinions, but think for yourself, and be true to your own decisions.

Don’t strive for normal.
Since the time you started school, you’ve probably been preoccupied with being “normal” or “fitting in.” But what does “normal” mean? It means “standard” or “common” or “average.” I want you all to do something. Put your thumbs and fingertips together, and look through the opening that forms. That’s “normal.” Now look around you, everywhere else. That’s the rest of your possibilities. Do you really want to fit into that little space called “normal?” Don’t be afraid to live outside the boundaries, even just a little. I think you’ll be happier for it.

You are never too old.
You’ve been told many times in the past eighteen or nineteen years that you’re “too young” to do this or that. And while that is sometimes true—you really are too young to drive a car at age twelve, or get married in Grade Three—before long you’ll start thinking (or society will tell you) that you’re “too old” to do things. Don’t believe it. You are never too old to do things you think you’ll enjoy, and don’t let anyone tell you differently. Want to play on a playground? Do it. Change your job? Do it. Learn a new sport, or hobby, or language? Do it. If you truly believe that you are not too old to do something, then you won’t be. But you have to start believing it now, so that doubts and that tiny space called “normal” don’t hold you back later.

Finally, I want to mention the Ethic of Reciprocity. You may think you don’t know what that is, but I’m betting that you do. You might know it as the Golden Rule, which commonly goes something like: “Do to others as you would have them do to you.” But it’s a concept that goes far beyond that. The idea that the best way to get along in life is to treat others the way we would like to be treated stretches back as far as the ancient civilizations of Babylon, China, Egypt, and Greece, and it stretches across almost every world culture, religion, and ethical code. In Islam, it’s “wish for others what you wish for yourself”; in Buddhism, it’s “treat not others in ways that you would find hurtful”; in Judaism, it’s “what is hateful to you, do not do to your neighbor.” And so on, and so on.

It’s easy to say it, but when you take a step back and look at it, it’s quite elegant in its simplicity. You can hang almost every other moral and ethical principle on this one directive. Take a minute and really think about what kind of world we would live in if we always considered the other in all of our social interactions. In business, in relationships, in our everyday life. If we always took a brief second to judge our actions by that one, simple test—if someone did or said this to me, would it harm or upset me? If you forget everything else I’ve said here tonight as soon as you leave, I hope this one, at least, will stick. I really think it has the power to change the world.

And that’s it—say yes, say no, expect and accept change, make things, think for yourself, forget about normal, never think you’re “too old,” and always consider the other. My recipe for a happy life! You have already made all of us—your parents, your teachers, your families—incredibly proud, and I hope that as you start down your own winding paths, you’ll find some of these ingredients useful.

There’s a quote that goes: “When it comes to the future, there are three kinds of people: those who let it happen, those who make it happen, and those who wonder what happened.”

Go and be the ones who make it happen!

Thank you.