Archive for the ‘On Writing’ Category

Don’t Talk Yourself into ‘Writer’s Block’

 

Here’s what I think of writer’s block:

I don’t.

I don’t think of writer’s block. I don’t think about it. I don’t expect it. I don’t believe in it. I don’t get stuck in it. Ever.

Let me be clear. The state of staring at a page and having nothing to write there isn’t foreign to me. The experience of not knowing how the hell to solve this plot problem or how to answer this story question or what word to choose here — all familiar. 

But I don’t acknowledge that experience as a “block”. It’s just something that happens. I’m not actually stuck. If I talked myself into getting stuck, it’d become a bit like agrophobia (which is the fear of having a panic attack, a self-fulfilling condition).

The phenomena people call writer’s block is really a bit like being on a three lane highway and finding your lane has come to a standstill. But there’s a lane either side of you that’s moving. So it’s your choice: you can sit in that blocked lane if you want and you can change lanes if you want. Completely your choice.

Do NOT talk yourself into writer’s block. There are so many other things you can do besides freaking out that you can’t you can’t you can’t or the words won’t won’t won’t:

  • Lane 1: another project: getting out of one headspace and into another: notes for a story idea, a fun scene in another project that’s easy to write, etc, etc…
  • Lane 2: a writing exercise that breaks through the blockage: for example, asking yourself what are four other options here, or WWSKD (What Would Stephen King Do), etc…
  • Lane 3: Letting your mind wander: lying down with music you like playing and letting your mind wander until it comes up with cool ideas … or it takes a nap … win win …
  • Lane 4: Doing something else and coming back to it later…
  • Lane 5: Forcing your way through the block: just write something and don’t worry if it’s complete crap or doesn’t work; just write something that moves you on through the tough place and into an easier part of the project to write.

My long-suffering writing buddies are familiar with seeing me do this in the middle of a draft: “[INSERT SMART SOLUTION HERE]. Tony picked up [SOME KIND OF GROOVY WEAPON] and threatened the zombies with it.” Those [placeholders] are a way to keep me moving instead of getting frustrated because right then and there I don’t know the SOLUTION and I haven’t chosen a GROOVY WEAPON.

Fellow wordsmith, do not talk yourself into a block. Keep moving. You can do it.

Shannon Lawrence: Four Ways Horror Can Be Beneficial

Blue Sludge Blues & Other Abominations
by Shannon Lawrence

Release Date: March 15, 2018
Horror short story collection
A collection of frights, from the psychological to the monstrous. These tales are a reminder of how much we have to fear: A creature lurking in the blue, sludgy depths of a rest area toilet; a friendly neighbor with a dark secret hidden in his basement; a woman with nothing more to lose hellbent on vengeance; a hike gone terribly wrong for three friends; a man cursed to clean up the bodies left behind by an inhuman force. These and other stories prowl the pages of this short story collection.

Four Ways Horror Can Be Beneficial

1. People enjoy a good fright. We feed on the adrenaline. Horror is a safe way to get adrenaline pumping while not actually being in danger. Guess what follows that adrenaline? Dopamine, known as the feel good chemical in our bodies.

2. Satisfaction. We love seeing the monster get obliterated, the psycho killer caught, the ghosts banished. Humans seek justice, and there is something intensely satisfying in seeing justice delivered in whatever form that might take. If we can’t have justice, we’ll happily take catharsis.

3. Horror often reflects the fears of current day issues. People are already thinking about these things, worrying about them. When a horror story comes out that addresses our base fears, we get justification for our fears and can often see at least that single survivor make it through, which gives us hope where we might not have had it before.

4. Distraction. Don’t want to think about the stresses of your daily life? Read some horror. Focusing on these false fears can be a perfect way to avoid thinking about other things stressing you out, and the release provided by tensing and relaxing as the story moves like a roller coaster can relieve some of that real life tension.

Bonus: Horror burns calories. While they haven’t done a study on reading horror, one was conducted on folks watching a horror film. They burned off up to 184 calories during the course of The Shining. Just think how many calories are burned when that two hour film is replaced by a book that takes longer to read!

Excerpt

From Faceless:
“A hand with cherry red nail polish reached over and touched Suzette’s arm, and her face blurred, the features disappearing into a flesh colored void. The blond hair framing where her face should be turned in Delilah’s direction.

Buy the Book

Also available from Apple and other countries through Amazon

About the Author

A fan of all things fantastical and frightening, Shannon Lawrence writes mostly fantasy and horror. Her stories can be found in magazines and anthologies, including Space and Time Magazine, Dark Moon Digest, and Ember: A Journal of Luminous Things. When she’s not writing, she’s hiking the wilds of Colorado and photographing her magnificent surroundings, where, coincidentally, there’s always a place to hide a body or birth a monster.

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Why Did I Write a Werewolf Novel?

I have been asked this. More than once. Sometimes by people who don’t know why I “waste” time writing speculative fiction anyway. Sometimes by people who think the genre isn’t popular). Sometimes by people who are genuinely curious.

There are two answers to this question.

The first answer is: I wanted to and an idea came to me and I acted on it.

In fact, through there are of course many changes from the initial draft of Black Marks to the final production, the guts of the story remained the same: a man with a problem whose desire to be good makes life worse for him and for someone he cares about.

There were also the details such as the silver allergy, and the curse hitting the sufferer on three nights a month rather than one (so we could have more werewolf action and more complexity than just that one night). When you have something as clear as I had it then, you have to write it. Or at least, try.

The second answer is: I could not find a werewolf novel I enjoyed.

As a youngster, I enjoyed several werewolf movies, comics and also a TV show. But everything I read as a “mature” adult left me either pissed off or bored. Where was the thrill? Where was the polished prose? Where were the interesting characters and the subtle menace and the human being wrestling against his demon?

I started and stopped so many MANY books after the first sixty or sixteen or six pages (and sometimes after the first page).

Because I could not find what I loved, I wrote it instead. And while it’ll never win me a Booker or Pulitzer, Black Marks became and is that thing that I love. I’m proud of it and I’m glad it’s brought pleasure to so many others.

Since writing it, I’ve fortunately discovered several shifter/werewolf novels I truly enjoyed cover to cover. You can find my list of completed reads here. There’s not many books on it. And each one is VERY different from the ones around it.

In conclusion, I am always ALWAYS fascinated by the wrestle between our inner selves and outer selves and I think it’s this that I look for in a wolf novel. How about you? What do you look for?

5 Questions, 1 Statement: Claire Fitzpatrick

   cowp

Claire Fitzpatrick is a writer, an editor, all-round awesome human being. Recently, she launched Oscillate Wildly Press .

We caught up on good ol’ Facebook recently whereupon I asked Claire some questions and invited her to respond to a statement. This is what happened …

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Pete: What led you to creating your own publishing press and what are its goals?

Claire: In early 2015 my novel was accepted by a small North American publishing company. Naturally, I was elated. Over time, I worked with two editors, and the novel went through various stages of evolution. However, a few claire months ago, I found out the publishing company had closed, without any warning, or correspondence to me.

Pete: Ugh! I am truly sorry to hear that!

Claire: I was furious. I didn’t want to let all that hard work go to waste. Time passed, and I started looking for potential publishers for ‘The Body Horror Book,’ another project I am working on, and when I couldn’t find one I thought best matched the project, I realised I could just publish it myself. At this time, I started thinking about my novel again, and instead of giving up, I decided to create my own company, and proceed with publishing my book as well as ‘The Body Horror Book.’ Of course, I could have simply self-published it, but I realised there was potential for a new small publisher in Australia, and that I would have the support from the Australian Horror Writer’s Association.

I am a massive fan of The Smiths (I have a framed poster of Morrissey and Marr in my lounge room with Johnny Marr’s guitar pick he personally handed to me!) and I wanted to incorporate something from my obsession into the publishing press. I chose ‘Oscillate Wildly,’ as it is a pun from Morrissey’s enigmatic hero, and also the song was recorded without lyrics as Morrissey believed the song could stand on its own. This idea of a song standing on its own motivated me, and gave me the courage that I didn’t need my former publisher to release a successful book. I hunted around for a few editors-people I 100% trusted-and with that Oscillate Wildly Press was born!

Its goals are simple! I’m planning to focus on anthologies, and release perhaps one or two novels a year. Nothing big, nothing overwhelming. I don’t want to put too much pressure on myself or my little team. 50% of royalties will go to authors who choose to publish with us, as a book is part of someone’s soul they choose to share, so they should reap the benefits. I’d love to focus on horror and science fiction, but we’re open to anything and everything! (My own novel is a combination of historical fiction and horror).

Pete: That sounds likes a fascinating blend, Claire. So, what excites you most about Australian speculative fiction?

Claire: There is such a massive market for Australian speculative fiction! I’ve been writing non-fiction for Aurealis since late 2015, and I love reading ‘The Year Ahead in Australian Speculative Fiction.’ It reminds me of the amazing talent in Australia, and keeps me in check with what people want to read!

There are many amazing writers in Australia, and I love that speculative fiction means more than just science fiction, fantasy, and horror – it’s everything in-between that writer’s might have felt wouldn’t fit anywhere, and it gives people hope their ideas and stories are wanted. One of my short stories ‘Yellow Death’ was deemed speculative fiction by the editor of Heater magazine, and I felt like I had tapped into something I had been working so hard to get to. Made me feel all warm and gooey on the inside.

I think the Australian Shadows Awards is also fantastic for speculative fiction. Yes, I’m biased, as I’m this year’s Award Director, but it really is an excellent chance to showcase all the amazing, talented stories produced by Australian writers. NZ might have Lee Murray, but Australia has Kaaron Warren! So there!

Pete: What are your own writing goals for the next year or so?

Claire: I need to release my debut novel, ‘Only The Dead.’ I can’t move on from it to something else until I release it. I write short stories in between, but I can’t seem to work on another novel! I’ve written two novels in the past that are god-damned awful, and I’d like to revisit them one day. But maybe I’ll burn them. It’s infuriating haha. But ‘Only The Dead’ will be out very soon. At the moment, I’m working with artist Shane K. Ryan on the cover, so when that’s done I’ll be able to start on the promotional side of things! (Shane also illustrated my eBook ‘Of Man And Woman.’ Check out his work, it’s amazing).

claire2I’ll also be releasing ‘The Body Horror Book’ early next year sometime. Marc McBride-illustrator of Emily Rodda’s ‘Deltora Quest’- has come on board to illustrate a few chapters, however he can’t get stuck into the project until January. But that’s not really a setback, since I want everything to be perfect before it’s published. I’m hoping to enter it in next year’s Shadows Awards for Best Non-Fiction. Fingers crossed it’s worthy!

I also have two short stories in ‘Remixing The Classics,’ an anthology printed by the University of Queensland Writer’s Club. That’ll be out soon, which is exciting. My stories are horror versions of Peter Pan and Hansel and Gretel.

As for other things, who knows? I’m working on a story specifically for an anthology at the moment, so I have to get crackilackin’ and get it done! Life gets in the way. I wish it would move off the sidewalk and let me through!

Pete: Beef, chicken or vegan?

Claire: Vegan. Save a cow, eat a human.

Pete: You get dumped on a desert island and you can only take that one book, that awesome book, the one you could read over and over for years to come. What is it?

‘Black Foxes’ by Sonya Hartnett. It’s been my favourite book since I was a teenager. Sometimes I think all my characters have a bit of Tyrone Sully in them. I would cut off one of my fingers if it meant I could interview Sonya Hartnett. Joking! But maybe not.

Pete: Please respond to this statement: horror is not real literature

Your mum’s not real literature!

Seriously, though, horror is amazing. Horror can be philosophical, artistic, political….it can incorporate so many different elements. The world is a scary place, and horror often reminds us there is light within the dark, if only one knows how to turn on the light (and it’s one of those quirky Goosebumps book lights from the ‘90s!).

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These interviews are purposefully short but occasionally I conduct one with someone I could talk with all day. Claire has interesting ideas, projects and experiences! If you want to connect with her, look her up on FB or at www.clairefitzpatrick.net.

And Claire, I speak for all of us when I say, “Get that novel published, dammit! I wanna read it!” 😉

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See also:

What’s the Good of a Short Story?

 

I have heard people say at Cons, “The only people reading short stories are writers” or comments like this. I’m not sure that’s true at all. But I would certainly accept that novels/novellas outsell short stories. Readers prefer long fiction to short. This is the way of things.

So I present a defence for the short story and why we all should spend more of our money on magazines and anthologies that publish them…

 

Short Stories are a Quicker Read

Can I put it any simpler? I can fit one or two short pieces into my morning train ride whereas I’m only ever going to get a few chapters of my novel read. That means reading something (or somethings) from end to end between stops, covering off an entire story arc, having closure, taking the story with me through the day to ponder. In a short piece, I get a world + a character + plus a challenge the same as I would a novel, but it’s resolved quickly and I’m on with my day.

 

Short Story Collections Expose the Reader to Multiple Authors

Nothing beats burying myself in my favourite author’s latest 400-page novel, savouring a long journey through a new world toward the resolution of conflicts and quests. But an equal-length anthology enables me to meet 10 or 20 different authors with a variety of styles and creations and themes and characters in the same amount of pages and time and $$. There are some incredible writers out there who are only writing short fiction. I mean this. If I didn’t read shorts, I’d have been deprived of ever discovering them.

 

Short Stories Maintain Tension and Pace better than Novels (mostly)

It’s tough to maintain high tension and high pace on every page of a 450 page paperback. But ten or twenty pages of short fiction can do just that.

 

Short Stories = Exposure for Authors

Many many authors get their start in short fiction before selling their first novel. Story sales and readers for them create a meaty portfolio, enable them to develop their art and platform, bring them into community with other great writers and editors. Whenever you or I purchase a short story magazine or anthology, we support this “farming” of talent.

 

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Where I’d start reading if I was starting on short fiction now…

Writers Circles, Workshopping and Crit Buddies

 

Writing groups. Love them? Hate them? Love to hate them? Whatever the case, we all need feedback as writers.

I was amazed to meet a couple of writers last year who never showed their work to anyone. While showing my writing to other writers is scary, confronting and only occasionally unhelpful, by and large it’s been the #2 thing that’s kept my writing improving over the past few years. (#1, of course, is actually writing).

I must say, though, that in the early days, I did allow a few people’s opinions to really get me down. But that was largely because I cared too much, and because those particular people weren’t actually adding anything constructive to the mix. It’s been helpful to me to make it clear to my critiquers what kind of feedback I want from them, and also to keep my selftalk in the vicinity of “Learn from everything they tell you”.

For more:

Where do characters come from?

 

Great characters make great drama, great fantasy, great adventure.

So where does the writer draw them from? For me, it’s from one of two places:

1.Copying them from other works of fiction.

This is — as I’m sure you’d expect me to say — not a good idea. And yet, how often do we see Indiana Jones and Bridget Jones dressed up in a different costume and given a different name? How often do we see cliches such as the expendable yet funny African American repeated over and over? This is, I believe, often unintentional; the writer simply saw a character they loved and reproduced it. Lazy writing.

2.Drawing them from one’s own inner world.

The characters I love creating are usually subconscious in origin but occasionally conscious.

The subconscious come from the real-world people/behaviours that make me angry (usually the abuse of power in some form); combinations of my own philosophies/flaws/strengths/aspirations; ideas I’d like to explore.

The conscious ones: I find myself more and more attempting to stretch myself. Say I want to write a story about a swordsman. I’ve done it. Thousands of other writers have done it. It’s a well-used character/type. But dammit, I have a good idea for a story about a swordsman. So rather than reinvent a Kurasawa or Martin character, I will try to find some points of difference for mine. He may have diabetes (though it wouldn’t be thought of as such back then). This will drive certain behaviour, create inner and outer conflict, create need in his routine. He may also have lost something he wants to get back — another common trope. Well, this time, how about I don’t make it his wife, or his son, or his magical item? What if it’s his horse? No wait. What if it’s his dog?! He loves that damn attack dog that the raiders stole. It’s not just great breeding stock; it saved his life as a boy; it’s his best friend. You’ll see, already, just by tweaking some things about him, I’ve created lots of scope for a deep emotional story. … And what if I made him a her? Or transgender?

Your characters.

Try it. Pick a character and tweak them. Make em different. See what you come up with.

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More? Try…

Guest Post: Kevin Ikenberry — How has science fueled my fiction?

 

When Pete put this question to me, it took a bit of time in hospital for me to fully grasp it.  The question wasn’t the cause of my medical issue, but laying there without much to do besides think and dream gave me the chance to realize that there are three ways that science (hard or speculative) has fueled my fiction.

1.  Endless possibility. 

We live in a time where major scientific advancements that will affect our future generation happen nearly every day.  We may not hear of them for years, but they are out there.  Whether it be a medical advancement in the treatment of a disease or a proposal for a hyper loop transportation system, we may not see the fruits of those labors during our lifetimes, but our children and their children will know them as the norm.  Take a look around you.

When I was growing up in the 1970s and 1980s, the idea of a computer in your hand was absurd.  Computers during those days still took up portions of large rooms.

Or, consider that humanity went from the first powered flight in 1903 to the moon in 1969 and you’ll see what I mean.  Imagining the progression of our current norms toward the future breeds endless possibility.  We may get a portion of that future right based on what we know of the science now, or we may botch it enough that our future generations will read our work and laugh at our innocence.

I tend to look at our sciences today as a keyhole to the future.  We cannot unlock the door, but our understanding of things now provide us a way to see into the future and what might be.

2.  The occasional moment where your idea becomes reality (in a way).

Several years ago, 2009 in fact, I wrote a story entitled “Digger Girl” that took place on an asteroid converted for interstellar flight.  The idea seemed logical to me.  The heavy shielding necessary would mostly be in place, depending on the thickness of the asteroid in question.  Propulsion would have been an issue, but the orbital mechanics of speeding up an asteroid to fall towards the Sun and receive a gravitational assist from several planets were sound.  Attach a reaction control system to the beast and a theoretical propulsion system that could perpetually thrust the asteroid forward and a mission to proximal could take a couple of hundred years.  The asteroid became a generation ship without the nasty business of lifting all of that mass to orbit.

Imagine my surprise late last year when a scientist postulated the same thing and it reached the press.  For that brief moment in time, I knew what it must have been like for Clarke and others to have predicted something that became reality (in a way).  To me, that’s one of the thrills of writing science fiction.  Your dreams have a chance of being reality.  To me, it doesn’t matter that this scientist proposed the same thing, and for all I know it was postulated a long time before 2009 (remember, all good science fiction stories have been told before).

That brief connection to a possible future made my day, and I hope to have many others before I reach the “clearing at the end of the path.”

3.  Science is how we take destiny by the horns.

I’m inspired every day by some aspect of science, especially when I look at the collective mess we are as a species.  Without waxing political, I worry about the future that my children are growing up into.  We live in a world that still thrives on conflict to no end.  Our world, the very ecosystem, is in chaos.  This may be the cyclical nature of things or it very well could be manmade, but the argument is the same nonetheless.  I am a firm believer in a statement from Tsiolkovsky that “the Earth is the cradle of humanity, but one cannot remain in the cradle forever.”  Time is against us.  The Sun is going to die.  It doesn’t matter that it may be billions of years until then.  We have a lot to do as a species before then, and I believe we will get there, but the goal must be to leave this planet behind.

Science provides the progress to change our basic human needs – longevity, better shelter and clothing, better foods.  I try to look beyond the political machinations and global profiteering of our current society in the hopes that science has the impact it should, to take our destiny by the horns and propel us to the stars.  I will never see it, but I can dream about a time when the world pulls together and all of humanity reaps the benefits versus a tender few.  That motivates me to write.

In all, I tend to tell very human stories that hopefully reflect how science is a benefit to our ever-changing humanity.  Science inspires me because it continues to move forward.  It does not stagnate.  There is always someone, somewhere, thinking and postulating and experimenting.  Let us hope that never changes.  If science stagnates, humanity will stagnate.  Bringing a bit of science to the forefront reminds a reader how much that science has changed their lives.  We take our technology for granted now, when a few decades ago, we had nothing of the sort.  That progress came from science.

Think of where we can be in another hundred years. I know I do.

Kevin Ikenberry

Editing Capers

 

It’s incredibly humbling when you read back through your first draft and realise just how truly craptacular some of your initial writing was. The only other process that brings you face to face with your flawed- humanity-as-a-writer (apart from editing your own second draft) is the first time you send the project out for critique partners to give feedback on. Then you get questions like, “Why has this character inexlicably changed clothes (or gender?)?”, “Didn’t this character die two chapters ago?”, and “Shouldn’t you stop saying ‘He saw’ every third paragraph”. (Oh, and comments like “Way too many adverbs dude.”)

 

In today’s post, I thought I’d share some not-so-gems from my own editing of my first drafts – things I came across and changed wearing a scowl on my face as I contemplated my own craptactularity as a writer:

 

  • she smiled vaguely – what the hell is a vague smile, Pete? Is it a smile or isn’t it? (I cut the word vaguely)
  • he was hit with a cacophany of odors – I know what I was going for here, but cacophony just wasn’t the right sensory word. I change it to collision for the moment, but I’ll still have to go back and finesse.
  • Donnici’s backside found his chair once more, expression incredulous. – er, Donnici’s backside had an incredulous expression?? Note to self: don’t make people’s bottoms the subject in a sentence.

Thank God that in writing, unlike real life, we get the chance to redraft…

Jason Franks: 5 Questions & 1 Statement

 

A talented writer and artist, Jason Franks is the energetic force behind comic series such as McBlack and Left Hand Path, as well as the novel Bloody Waters (which I am halfway through at-time-of-writing and absolutely loving). I’ve been lucky enough to pre-read the first two chapters of next year’s release: Shadowmancy which kicks butt…and I’m doubly lucky to belong to the same writing group as Jason.

I caught up with him recently and pitched five questions and a statement his way …

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1.  Can you tell us something of your creative process: what happens between the genesis pool of ideas and completed, polished projects?

Usually, an idea will roll around in my head for a while before I start writing. Unless I’m working on a commissioned project with a deadline, this process will usually continue for months, or even years. I let my subconscious do most of the work at this stage. Mass accumulates–more ideas adhere to initial thought–until there’s a story there. Then, suddenly, I need to get it out. I guess it’s like a kidney stone in that regard.

The joy is all in the first draft, for me. I like to write my way into the characters and settings and they often surprise me. I do not generally outline my stories, but I do almost always know where they’re going and I just strike out towards the destination.

Then, the long hard slug of editing and polishing. I’ve completed some of my more recent stories in four or five drafts, but I’ve been known to do 15 or 20 before I am satisfied. I am currently looking for ways to streamline this part of the process.

 

2. Apart from the pictures, what’s different about writing for comic/graphic novel and writing pure prose (short story or novel)?

It’s a very different discipline. You can’t really say ‘apart from the pictures’ because 90% of a comicbook IS the pictures. Even if you’re not drawing them yourself, you need to communicate to the artist how to visually tell the story–how to break it up into images. As a comics writer you may or may not contribute to page composition but you will usually control pagination and panel density, and those are they key elements in pacing. Learning to pace a comic with a fixed pagecount is very different from learning to pace a prose story.

Comic script has that increased overhead and requires more planning, but you don’t have to worry as much about polish–so long as your descriptions are clear to the artist your script does not have to be beautifully written. Copy that will appear on the comics page is only a tiny fraction of the writing. With prose every word needs to be perfect, which for me requires a lot more editing. Usually I will nail a comic script on the second pass.

Also, comics works tend to be shorter. You will usually have a limitation in the amount of page real estate available and that limits he amount of story you can tell. Detail belongs in the artwork.

 

3. McBlack remains your most popular comic work: what’s it about and what’s the inspiration for it?

McBlack concerns the metafictional adventures of Whiteface McBlack, a freelance thug. McBlack will take on any kind of dirty job: detection, skip tracing, sabotage, arson, murder–provided it promises the opportunity to shoot some dudes or blow up some stuff. This is me smashing genres together to see what breaks. In the first book, McBlack is hired by a dame to find her missing husband. He’s assigned the role of a Phillip Marlowe (hero of The Maltese Falcon), but his behaviour is closer to that of Angel Eyes (the villain from The Good, the Bad and the Ugly). You’re expecting a noir mystery, but instead McBlack rides the story roughshod over tropes more familiar to the SF, fantasy, horror and western genres.

What was the inspiration? Well, I noticed how many independent comics writers go directly to The Maltese Falcon when they need a plot (“It’s the Maltese Falcon–but Marlowe is a Samurai!” “It’s the Maltese Falcon–but Marlowe is a Talking Cauliflower!”) and I decided I was sick of it–so I guess this was me over-reacting to that. (“It’s the Maltese Falcon–but Marlowe is a bodiless murderer with a grudge against the Fourth Wall!”).

The colour one-shot stories are discrete missions, in which McBlack takes on different modes of storytelling (video games; dreams) and different tools employed in comics (voice-over captions; thought balloons).

Lady McBlack, the new series, is a continuation of the main story–this time looking at romance in these genre stories. (Yes, really!)

 

4.  How much of your own interests and experiences are in Bloody Waters? (My son has a guitar with a Floyd Rose Tremolo, btw, just like Clarice).

Well, I guess it’s fairly obvious that I’m a music nerd. I play the guitar–badly–but I’ve never been in a rock band. I’m interested in writing music, but I completely lack the desire to perform in front of an audience.

I’ve never tried to summon the devil, but I do have a particular interest in villain characters and Old Scratch is pretty much the logical endpoint of that line of inquiry, so he turns up quite a lot in my fiction.

I did play trumpet in various high school bands, so a lot of that stuff comes from life. I’ve spent a lot of time hanging around in guitar shops and reading guitar magazines and I know a bunch of people who have and do play in legitimate rock bands, so hopefully my descriptions of the gear and the music is reasonably accurate.

Aside from that, I guess you can see a bit of the creative artists’s wish fulfillment in there. I wish I was as good a writer as Clarice is a musician. I wish I had the kind of career she does. I wish I was as talented and driven and confident. I also wish I was as laid-back and patient and pleasant as Johnny. There’s a bit of me in all of the principle characters–and that most certainly includes Satan.

 

5.  What can we look forward to in next year’s novel Shadowmancy (and what’s the title about anyway)?

Shadowmancy began as comic serial which was to run in my regretfully short-lived Terra Magazine. It’s a ‘dark urban fantasy’ about a damaged boy who is enrolled in a magicians’ Academy after his disgraced father is kicked off the faculty. It’s more Ursula Le Guin than Harry Potter–by way of Cormac McCarthy, maybe. This is not a book full of whimsical hijinks; it’s about damaged families and institutional power and coming of age and… well, it’s about magic. I wanted to take a deep dive into the discipline of a magician. The story is written in the first person, by a protagonist who has some pretty heavy duty baggage, so there’s a lot more introspection than spellcasting. I want to give the reader a taste of what it feels like to have power, but to yet be powerless. It’s not for children. I hope it’s not boring.

The title refers to magic that is based on the manipulation of shadows–literally, metaphorically, and all of the Jungian stuff in between.

 

Statement: “It’s impossible to make a living as a writer in this day and age.”

I don’t think it’s impossible, but I think it’s becoming increasingly difficult. During the years in which I was pitching Bloody Waters I noticed more doors in traditional publishing closing than opening and I think that continues to be the case as the big five struggle to come to terms with the evolving market. There are more opportunities than ever to get work out there, via small press and self-publishing, but that also means there’s more competition. I hope it is still possible to make a living as a writer and I wish I could–but I am certainly not at that point yet.

Thanks, Jason!

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