Thursday, July 18, 2013

Author Insides - Kevin R. Doyle

Kevin R. Doyle is a native Midwesterner. For the last sixteen years, he has worked as a teacher at the high school and community college level. He currently teaches high school English and speech at a rural school in Missouri.

Born and raised in Wichita, Kansas, he received both his bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Wichita State University. He worked his way through college in a candy store, about the same time he began attempting to write short stories. He had his first story published way back in the late eighties in a small Southern publication called Starsong.

Ten years ago, he moved to Columbia, Missouri, only intending to be there for about four years before moving on. He had no idea how much he would fall in love with the area. During the summers, though, he gets as far away as he can, usually to somewhere along the Gulf Coast.

His novella, One Helluva Gig, is available at Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?
I first started dabbling with it when I was around nineteen years old. I’d always enjoyed reading, but as a kid hadn’t really thought much about writing. I do remember one time when I was about eleven and I first read "The Star" by Arthur C. Clarke. When I got to the end of that extremely short story, I thought at the time how cool it would be to be able to create something with such impact.

Why do you write?
I really don’t have a clear answer for that. It sounds kind of corny to say "because it’s what I do," but that comes close to being the truth. It’s simply something that’s been a part of me for a long time, and as of now I don’t see it going away any time soon.

Is being a writer anything like you imagined it would be?
Heck, no. When I first started this, in my late teens and early twenties, I naturally figured that at some point, say around twenty-five, I’d be famous and rich. It too a couple of years to realize that the fantasy that most people have comes along very rarely in the real world. When I was around twenty-nine, I pretty much gave up on that kind of dream and began to look around for a real career. A few years later, I accidentally ended up in teaching and figured that the best I’d ever do, as was true for several years, was managing to publish one or two short stories a year.

What was the inspiration for Helluva Gig?
It’s kind of hard to believe, but the basic idea came to me while I was watching a late night rerun of an old Married with Children episode. It was one of the earlier ones, back when it was at least partially realistic, and involved Peggy finding a sweat stain shaped like Elvis on one of Al’s shirts. That got me to thinking about Elvis impersonators, and the way people try to hold on to their celebrity icons even after they pass, and the story came from there.

Have you ever worked for a tabloid paper?
No. The closest I’ve come was a couple of years serving as the advisor to a student newspaper at a small community college. And I didn’t do a very good job of that.

If you were to write a tabloid story, what would it be about?
UFO’s because it’s so easy to get people to believe in them.

What sort of music are you into?
Mainly soft rock, what used to be called adult contemporary, and oldies, from the sixties and seventies. I’m also a big fan of a syndicated radio program called Hearts of Space.

Which celebrity would you like to see impersonate him/herself?
That’s a tough one. I would say, going back to the classic TV of the seventies, either Carroll O’Connor or Henry Winkler, mainly because they played such broadly-defined characters.

What musician would you most like to interview?
Without a doubt, the main crush of my youth: Olivia Newton John.

What do you think makes a good story?
If I knew that, I’d probably be able to produce more of them. For one, things have to be as realistic as possible. The various elements of a story should, even in something fantastic, hew as closely as possible to reality. In other words, the characters have to act and speak the way that people act and speak. One of the biggest things that turns me off from a story is when the dialogue isn’t realistic. If characters aren’t speaking the way people really speak, I can’t finish the story.

And if you’re doing horror, as most of my shorter work is, for Heaven’s sake don’t show us everything. Give us something to imagine and figure out.

What's your favorite genre to read?
It depends on the format. For short stories, I prefer horror or dark fantasy. For novels, I’m more into suspense. I still read a lot of the old paperback men’s adventure series that I collected as a kid, and now and then I go on an Edgar Rice Burroughs tear for a few years, but I can’t really tolerate any of his imitators. And really stretching it back some, I’m still trying to add to my collection of the old Doc Savage paperbacks.

Who is your favorite author?
If I had to pick one single favorite, and it would be tough, I’d probably go with Don Pendleton. When I was younger, I couldn’t get enough of his Executioner books, but when he stopped writing them I kind of lost interest.

What books or stories have most influenced you the most as a writer?
"The Star" for sure. That’s an almost perfect example of the precisely-written short story. Because most of what I do is in the short story field, anyone who can write a subtle, get-under-your-skin tale ranks right up there for me.

What books or stories have most influenced you as a person?
Although it’s not what people consider "great literature," I’d have to go back to Pendleton’s early Executioner books, up to number thirty-nine when new writers took them over. As a young teenager, and a rather weakly, awkward one at that, Pendleton’s books provided basic lessons about how a man’s supposed to act, not in physical terms but morally and intellectually. Then again, for anyone at all interested in language, Leslie Charteris’s Saint stories and books test how many pages you can get through without grabbing a dictionary.

Where/how do you find the most inspiration?
Basically just all around. It took me a while to develop the knack, but if you go through the day with eyes and ears wide open, you can find inspiration anywhere. As just two examples, driving through Iowa several years back I saw an old wall, the last remnant of a barn, standing in a field. That inspired my short story, "Visage," which got me my first Featured Story slot in a magazine (The Edge: Tales of Suspense). One time I stumbled upon this old, quaint inn in a coastal town in Texas, which eventually led to a piece called "The Dead Spot." So, lame as it sounds, inspiration is everywhere. You’ve just got to open yourself up to it.

What does your family think of your writing?
It’s better now. Way back when, the idea was met with about equal shades of disgruntlement and skepticism. Nowadays, possibly because I’m actually making some progress, things have become more accepted. The biggest problem I’ve had over the years is the constant comments about my writing "Stephen King stuff" when I’ve never done anything even remotely along his line.

What is your work schedule like when you're writing?
It depends on the time of the year. During the school year I have a full-time job at a high school and usually teach college courses at night. So basically, I just try to do a page or two a day, but sometimes don’t even get that much done. If I have a slow weekend in terms of grading or lesson prep, I may be able to crank out eight or ten pages. But when school’s in session, it’s basically whenever I get a few free moments.

During the summer, I have a much more regular schedule, usually working in the afternoon or early evening. This last summer, with the severe drought and heat, I would usually get up early, do an hour of so of walking or hiking and close to an hour in the swimming pool, then end up in front of the computer by nine thirty or so, refreshed and energized. Some days, if I focused enough, I could sometimes get a good ten pages done. Unfortunately, that whole time I was in the revision stage of my current project, so it wasn’t really that exciting.

Do you have any writing quirks or rituals?
Not really. I basically just sit down when I can and go to it.

Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing?
Continuity. Lately, I’ve been working on longer works, primarily novels, and I find it kind of difficult to keep timelines straight. I’m not a very organized person, you should see my apartment or my desk at work, and I tend to just start typing and gush stuff out. Then I have to go back and spend a lot of time making sure that dates, ages and time spans all match up. For example, in "One Helluva Gig" the project editor caught that at one place I have a character’s age about ten years off from what it was in the rest of the story. I’m trying to get better at this, trying to train myself to work off outlines and notes, but it’s not in my nature so I’m finding it rather difficult.

What are your current projects?
I’ve been spending most of this year trying to hammer out a suspense novel that involves political advertising and a serial killer. I’m currently about a third of the way through what I hope to be the final draft, and hope to have it done by the end of December.

I also have an idea bouncing around in my head for a short horror piece concerning the drought that the Midwest has gone through this year and hope to have a few days soon to pound out at least the first draft of that. And a few weeks ago, while driving along the Mississippi River, again heavily impacted by the drought this summer, I had a great title pop into my head. I think it will work for a new novelette, but I don’t have even the beginning of the story, just what I consider an awesome title.

What are you planning for future projects?
I’ve had a dearth of short stories lately, mainly because so many have been published in the last year or so (a rare event to be sure) and really need to get a handful of new ones generated. And if "Helluva Gig" does well, I’d like to tackle a few new novelettes. I have some notes generated for a novelette, or novella I’m not quite sure which, set in Hollywood of the late thirties and concerning a B-list actor who seemingly returns from the dead.

Do you have any advice for other writers?
In the most general terms, the oldest cliché still holds true. Don’t plan on doing this for a living. My first short story was published over twenty years ago, and if I had to live off my writing I’d be hungry and homeless within a week. Often acquaintances will say to me "well, yeah. But what about (insert name of rich and famous author)." At which point I smile and ask them to name a second one, which they usually can’t. Mainly because rich and famous authors are just too freakin’ rare. I had two short stories out in September, one an original and one a reprint, and between the two of them I could possibly afford to treat myself to a decent dinner. But just myself. I couldn’t bring a date along.

When it comes to short stories, which is still my main area of interest, I’d have to say not to ignore the "for-the-love" markets. Just because they don’t pay (as the majority of short fiction markets don’t), doesn’t mean that they don’t have standards. Over the years, I got tons of help and advice, plus more rejections than I could keep track of, from editors of markets, both print and online, that didn’t pay anything to publish my stories. And in the last few years several of those pieces that originally appeared "for-the-love" have been accepted and reprinted by semi-professional mags. I still haven’t made a lot off them, but I have made some, hence allowing me to eat out from time to time.

Where else can we find your work?
Because I’ve been so tied up with the current mystery novel, 2012 has been a rather soft year in terms of new publications. At least, compared to the two previous years when things really began popping. Compared to most of the time I’ve been involved in this, 2012 has been phenomenal.

Currently, I’ve got what I think is a rather neat story recently released by Allegory. It’s called "Eighty Feet Deep" and can be found through December at After that, it will be in their archives. Also this fall, what I personally consider to be one of my most unsettling stories ever, and definitely probably the hardest I’ve ever written (mainly because I had to keep walking away from it because it was creeping me out too much) has been reprinted after being originally available online about five years ago. It’s called "The Old Dogs" and appears in the current issue of Cover of Darkness.

Also, my one and only ever attempt at poetry "Nocturnal Retribution," was reprinted in the summer issue of Illumen.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Sarah-Jane LeHoux resides in Southern Ontario with her husband, and her ever growing horde of Machiavellian cats. For more information, please visit

Her young adult novella, MY SANCTUARY, is available on Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?
I’ve always enjoyed creating stories. I am a natural introvert, and as a child, I’d spend hours reading and day dreaming. As I grew older, I took up a pen in place of my dolls, and would write little stories that I’d read out in class, much to the chagrin of my teachers. However, it wasn’t until I was in my mid-twenties that I began to write in earnest, and only after finishing my first novel, Thief, did I realize that I wanted to make my writing more than a hobby.

Why do you write?
I write to express everything I’m not able to express in real life. As I’ve mentioned, I’m an introvert. I have a difficult time in social situations, and keep a lot of things bottled up inside. I write as an outlet, as a way to work through various issues, both current and from my childhood. Or to be blunt, I write to shut up all the voices in my head.

What was the inspiration for My Sanctuary?
The inspiration for My Sanctuary, like most of my work, was a dream. I have no idea what that dream was now, but I remember it happened on a Saturday night. lingered from my dream was a sense of loneliness and depression, and the next morning, I began to research orphanages. I read true life accounts from a man who had been in and out of orphanages all his young life, and I felt that same sense of loneliness. I realized that I wanted to tell the story of a female orphan. It wasn’t long after I started work on My Sanctuary, that I realized it went beyond the orphanage, that it was, at its heart, a coming of age story.

What sort of research did you do for the project?
I was raised Catholic, so it seemed only natural to have the Church be the back drop of my story, considering the issues the story raised. I relied on my memories and childhood beliefs to flesh out the details. I also did a good deal of internet research on the 1950’s, the time in which the story is set, in order to make the dialogue as realistic as possible.

Do you see yourself in your work?
I don’t see myself, per say, but I do see aspects of myself. I am a survivor of childhood abuse, so I drew on that to help me create not only Dot, but the other children and even the adults as well. Each character has some piece of me in them, be it sadness or anger, hope or despair, victim or abuser.

What do you think makes a good story?
I think a good story is one that is more concerned with character development than plot. Just look at Hollywood movies as proof. All the explosions and car chases and special effects in the world don’t leave the indelible mark that a truly well-rounded, well developed character does.

What's your favorite genre to read?
Horror is my genre of choice, judging by the number of horror titles I have on my book shelf. But if I go by what books I reread until the spines break and the pages rip, it’d have to be historical fiction, particularly women’s historical fiction.

I also read a lot of non-fiction books about mythology and folklore.

Who is your favorite author or poet?
Again, it’s hard to pick a favourite. I don’t really pay much attention to who the author is when I pick out a book to read.

What books or stories have most influenced you the most as a writer?
I think it is the non-fiction I read that influences me the most as a writer. They make me want to explore different themes, and not just rehash the same old stories I grew up with in my culture. They also help me to understand universal truths, such as love and death, which helps me create realistic motivation and character arcs.

What books or stories have most influenced you as a person?
This is going to sound kind of silly. I don’t even remember what the name of it was. When I was in grade school, we read a story about a young girl collecting water for her family. She finds a small glass bead on the river bank, and picks it up. She then saves a woman from a crocodile attack. When she gets home, the first thing she does is tell her mother about the bead.

I remember my teacher telling me that, even though a crocodile attack sounds terrifying and fantastical to us, it was of little significance to the girl because it was a part of her daily life. The bead held more importance to the girl because it was something out of the ordinary.

It was that story, and that teacher’s explanation, that made me think about my life, and realize that my way of living was not the way other people lived. I think it was the beginning of my understanding that I was not the centre of the universe.

I wish I knew the name of the story and of the author who wrote it because I’d love to read it again.

Where/how do you find the most inspiration?
Most of my inspiration comes from my dreams. I have, for as long as I can remember, had very vivid dreams. I also experience sleep paralyses on a regular basis. This is when the mind is awake but the body is still asleep. It can create some pretty intense hallucinations, and is what many scientists believe is behind many ghostly encounters and astral projection.

I’ll either have a great that I remember in great detail from beginning to end, or I’ll have a dream that leaves me with an emotional response to a few fleeting images. Of course, when I wake, these dreams are at the forefront of my thoughts. I go over them, try to interpret them, expand upon them, and suddenly want to write them down in the form of a story.

Usually, a story will start with one dream, but then be expanded upon with numerous other dreams by the time it’s finished. It never ceases to amaze me how all these dreams, sometimes months apart, can join together to create one cohesive tale.

What does your family think of your writing? My husband is very supportive of my writing. He’s the first person I show a new story to when it’s finished, and he’s gotten used to it when I start talking about my characters as if they’re real people. I don’t think I’d have accomplished as much as I have if it weren’t for his encouragement.

What is your work schedule like when you're writing?
I have a very physically and emotionally demanding day job--I work at a veterinary hospital—so my biggest challenge is not only finding time to write, but finding energy to write. I try to write at least five days a week, but I only write for as long as I feel up to it. It’s very important for me not to try to force a schedule on my writing. Although it is work, I don’t want it to become a chore. Sometimes I can write for hours on end. Other times, I’ll write five lines and call it quits for the day. This means that I don’t get a story done as quickly as some other authors are able to, but it does mean that I keep my sanity.

Do you have any writing quirks or rituals?
Not really. I don’t want to become dependant on any one thing to write, so I don’t have any rituals associated with my writing. I’d say the only thing that is a must is music. I need it both as background noise to drown out neighbors and traffic, and also to help get me in the right frame of mind. If I’m writing a sad scene, I’ll put on a play list of sad songs to help set the mood. Sometimes, one song in particular is key to helping me finish a scene, so I’ll play it on repeat until the job is done. Thank goodness for headphones, or I’d drive my husband mad.

Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing?
Writing is a solitary activity, by nature, and sometimes it’s hard to keep going without feedback from others. I want to make sure I’m doing a good job and that I’m on the right track, but I also can’t stand the idea of anyone reading it until it’s finished.

I’m also a bit of a perfectionist, and if I can’t get a scene right on the first try, it leads to much moaning and groaning about how much I suck. Never mind the fact that I know it’s a work in progress and that there’s a little thing called editing. I can’t go further with the story until I make each section as good as I can. This causes a lot of delays, and I end up obliterating all the deadlines I set for myself.

What are your current projects?
Currently, I’m editing Masquerade, the third novel in the Sevy series. The publisher, Mundania Press, hopes to have it ready for release in the near future. I’m also working on the first draft of a comedic fantasy called Red Rover.

What are you planning for future projects?
I currently have a list of fourteen story ideas that I’d like to someday write. I’ve made mini-synopses of each and ranked them based on how complete the ideas are and which ones I think will take priority. Once I’m finished with Red Rover, I’ll choose my next project based on this list. Any other plot bunnies that hop my way in the meantime will go onto the list and be ignored for the time being so that I concentrate on my story at a time.

Do you have any advice for other writers?
Write a lot. Most of what you write will be garbage, but some of it will be gold. Get used to reviewing your work with a critical, objective eye. Learn how to separate yourself emotionally from your work so that you can see its flaws and correct them instead of defend them.

Research the industry, and learn the steps involved in getting a story published. Be polite and professional in all your correspondences.

And most of all, keep your chin up. This is a rough job, from start to finish. You will get your feelings hurt and your ego will take a beating. Develop a tough skin and believe in yourself.

Where else can we find your work?
My novels, THIEF and SHADES OF WAR, are available at a variety of book retailers, including Amazon, Chapters, and Barnes and Nobles. Please visit my website for links to purchase either the paper back or e-book versions. Also on my website, you’ll find links to a list of published short stories and flash fiction I’ve written that are free for you to read and hopefully enjoy. J

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Author Insides - Christopher McKittrick

Christopher McKittrick was born in Long Island, New York and currently lives in Queens. His short stories range in style from fantasy to literary fiction and have appeared in The Adroit Journal, Burnt Bridge Literary Review, and the By Mind or Metal and Powers anthologies from Static Movement Press. His nonfiction work has appeared in Newsday and Good Times Magazine. He also contributed an essay on director Terry Gilliam to Roman Catholicism in Fantastic Film from McFarland Press and he is a regular contributor to, a website focused on the film industry and, a website focused on acting in all media. He has spoken about literature, film, and comic books at various conferences across the country.

His novel, Montauk, is available on Amazon.

When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?
I grew up being a voracious reader, which was thankfully encouraged by my parents and my older brother. At some point – I’m not sure when – I went from devouring all the books on my bookshelf to coming up with stories on my own. Even when I used to play with my action figures I would write down – in my little kid handwriting, of course – what happened during this playtime session so I could continue the story the following day. I’m not sure if any other child was as obsessed about playtime continuity as I was!

Why do you write?
I’ve always been encouraged to do so. As long as people keep complimenting what I write I am going to keep writing. Actually, even if people trash my work I’m sure I won’t stop. I feel compelled to always write down a funny bit of conversation I overhear on the subway, as if it deserves to be recorded by someone. I might as well keep being that somebody.

What was the inspiration for Montauk?
It seems as I was growing up in the mid-1980s to the late 1990s a new approach to parenting developed in middle and upper class society that told children that they deserved nothing less than the pinnacle of success because everyone is special. I’ve seen people use that as a driving force to realize their goals and people who sit around expecting success to come to them – after all, it has been promised to them all their lives, so why work for it? Reality shows teach us that anybody can be a star no matter how talented or untalented one is; social media promotes the idea that everything one does is important and worth bragging about. For many people the fantasy lives they construct and promote online are far more important to them than what happens in the living, breathing world. I wanted to write a character that came to a moment in his life when he realized that real-world success was not guaranteed and is not often fulfilled by the instant gratification expected in today’s society. While we should celebrate the accomplishments of an individual, it’s far more meaningful when it is well-deserved and earned, not because we feel compelled to boost self-esteem for someone whose accomplishments are remarkably average. Why reward mediocrity as if it is the equal to success?

Do you see any of yourself in your character and his struggles?
I’ve had people who had read parts of this assume we’re one and the same and that the story is autobiographical – I even had people express sympathy in regard to the death of my father, who, thankfully, is very much alive! However, I definitely see the character and myself sharing the same DNA, except that perhaps the character has, for one reason or another, not had some of the more positive experiences that I have had. I guess you could say that I created a character very much like me but I made his life a bit more tortuous. Since I created him, I can put him through the wringer, right? No hard feelings, I hope.

Do you have any siblings? If so, how would you compare your relationship with them to the one of your main character and his sister?
Unlike my protagonist, I am the younger of two brothers. Since I’ve never had a sister – or a younger sibling for that matter – I thought it would be fun to explore a totally different relationship than the one I have with my own real-life sibling. I just hope it came off genuine.

Your character does some emergency thrift store shopping? Have you ever done the same? If so, what’s the most unique item of clothing you’ve found in a thrift store?
Never in an emergency, but there was a magnificent thrift store right by my college (and later my first apartment) that had a fantastic selection of oddities. I have to admit that one of my favorite purchases were the white Levi’s I mention in the story, which were about as fashionably out of it as you’d expect. But that’s why I bought them!

What do you think makes a good story?
A character worth reading about. Plot is obviously important, but a rich character will generate the plot. I taught literature in college for four years, and I would frequently point out to students that the plot of The Catcher in the Rye is actually rather pedestrian – but Holden Caulfield and his cocktail of inner conflicts makes the novel one of the best ever written, and the more interesting aspects of the plot come from his character. I hope that my protagonist is someone readers will connect with, which will engage them in the plot.

What's your favorite genre to read?
I’m actually more of a non-fiction reader than a fiction reader, which drove one of my creative writing professors insane. I just find that there are so many great stories stemming from real-life experiences that are more interesting than anything anyone could have made up. I guess that’s why when I do read fiction it tends to be more genre-based. For example, I read a lot of comic books (both superhero and non-superhero), simply because the stories in them often take great liberties with reality.

Who is your favorite author or poet? What books or stories have most influenced you the most as a writer?
The one book which has continued to influence me, even though I first read it a decade ago (and about a half-dozen times since), is The Great Gatsby. I explained before how important character was to creating a story, and with Gatsby we have one of the most fascinating characters in fiction. We often look at Ahab as an example of a character driven by his obsessions, but I don’t see Gatsby as any less obsessive. I also connect with it because I grew up on Long Island and have spent my adult life fascinated by New York City, and I think this region offers writers the richest potential of settings and scenarios to work with. I frequently find myself completely engaged by Fitzgerald’s work.

What books or stories have most influenced you as a person?
The earliest non-children’s books I can remember reading are adventure stories like Robin Hood and Jules Verne and Superman and Batman comic books. While they didn’t inspire me to jump off of buildings or go on incredible adventures, I feel they shaped me in a certain mindset to explore the unexplored in life.

Where/how do you find the most inspiration?
It sounds cliché, but I honestly find the most inspiration in the world around me. A personal character quirk that I gave my protagonist in Montauk is that I am a huge music fan but I’ve never owned an iPod because I don’t want to cut myself off from the world around me when I ride the subway or walk down the street. There are dozens of potential story that surround me wherever I go, and why deny myself that?

What does your family think of your writing?
I think my parents wonder where it comes from. They’re both very intelligent, but neither has a creative knack in that way.

What is your work schedule like when you're writing?
Generally I write most of my work longhand first. I feel more creative with a pen in my hand. After I have accumulated a few paragraphs or pages I type it up, and not only do I edit my work while I do that but I tend to continue where I leave off. I gradually become immersed in the story – perhaps for a week I might only writer two or three paragraphs, but a few weeks later I’ll find that I suddenly can’t stop myself. Of course, the more I write, the more than needs to come out in editing later, because I get carried away when I am on a tear.

Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing?
I have several jobs that all involve writing, so by the time I have some free time to work on my own writing I’ve probably have already written at least a thousand words during my day jobs. There’s no switch inside me to go from "work writing" to "creative writing," so sometimes I’ll sit down to write but I’ll find myself writing in a style that’s very dry and inappropriate for fiction.

What are your current projects?
I have about four short stories in various states of incompletion. At least one might grow into something longer, but we’ll see how it plays out.

What are you planning for future projects?
I’d like to tackle a project that is about double the length of Montauk, but I haven’t found the right character yet. Obviously the longer the work, the stronger the character I’ll need to sustain the narrative. I’m sure he/she is out there, somewhere; I just have to find that character.

Do you have any advice for other writers?
I was hoping they would have some advice for me! I’m no expert, but the best advice I could give is to keep reading. See how other authors write, but don’t consciously try to copy their style. I’ve read too many awful Hemingway pastiches to know that the only person who ever could really write like Hemingway was Hemingway himself. Anyone else seems like they’re just forgetting words.

Where else can we find your work?
Check out

Author Insides - Laury Egan

Laury A. Egan is the author of Fog and Other Stories, published in 2012 by, and two books of poetry, Snow, Shadows, a Stranger (2009) and Beneath the Lion’s Paw (2011), issued by FootHills Publishing. Her poems and short stories have appeared in over 30 literary journals and numerous anthologies. Web site:

Laury's highly regarded LGBT suspense novel, JENNY KIDD, is available from Amazon, Barnes & Noble and Powell’s Books.

What inspired the idea of Jenny Kidd?
I’ve visited Venice on three occasions, the last for over two weeks while teaching a photographic workshop. Focusing on the visual aspects of the city made me acutely aware of colors, textures, architecture, the changing light, as well as the behavior of its inhabitants. Venice is sublimely romantic and ephemeral, yet if you wander into a dark street at night, it can suddenly shift into a claustrophobic and frightening place. I loved this dichotomy and wanted to portray it in the novel, exploring a similar duality in the characters.

Did any of the characters surprise you while writing?
The reader may find that Sebastiano Barbon and Randi Carroll transform into somewhat different characters by the book’s end. Although I didn’t have strict intentions regarding them, I was a bit surprised how they changed. And Jenny Kidd also showed unexpected strength and growth.

What other writers do you read?
I’m an avid fan of Donna Leon’s series set in Venice, which allows me the pleasure of "returning" to the city. For mysteries, Patricia Highsmith and Martha Grimes are favorite writers. Other much admired titles are Michael Cunningham’s The Hours and Jim Grimsley’s Dream Boy; Virginia Woolf has always fascinated me and is incorporated, in a minor way, in my newest manuscript, Wave in D Minor.

Will there be more Jenny Kidd books?
There might be a spin-off story featuring Randi Carroll, one of the more interesting and quirky characters, but at the moment, other manuscripts are in process.

Who is your main audience?
Good question! I love to explore the spectrum of sexuality and to create characters who struggle to define their orientation, sometimes decisively coming to grips with which gender they love, and sometimes remaining fluid. Most of my novels have strong psychological elements that appeal to mainstream readers, though gay and bisexual readers might find sympathy with some of the protagonists. However, I prefer not to write for a specific market because labels feel restrictive.

What was it like seeing your book in the bookstore for the first time?
Perhaps the better question starts earlier in the process: what is it like to read a bound, typeset copy? Even though I edit and polish my work over and over—sometimes reading a manuscript and proof 75 times or more—it is a different experience having a book in hand. Very much like someone else wrote the novel. When I do readings from my two poetry books, Snow, Shadows, a Stranger and Beneath the Lion’s Paw, for example, I am frequently struck by the bizarre sensation of foreignness, of quiet surprise to find a new poet that writes much like I do!

Do you find writing novels different than short stories? And poetry?
In many ways, I feel freer to take chances, to experiment with style, characterization, place, and plot in a short story because there is less commitment. My collection, Fog and Other Stories, is very diverse and allowed me to play in ways that a novel doesn’t. That said, it feels great to bear down and immerse myself in a long work, to achieve an arc and final closure after so many pages and so much effort.

As for poetry, it is difficult to switch from prose to poetry or vice versa within a close period of time. Because I am also a fine arts photographer, I’ve noticed it’s hard to go out and spend time making images and then later sit down to write poetry, though what I see and capture on camera frequently inspires me to try. The verbal/visual processes don’t usually flow together very well.

What is your writing process?
I tend to work all day, most days, combining new writing with the tasks of editing, proofing, and assisting in a book’s publicity, a demanding job for authors these days. My ideas come from many sources. As in the case of Jenny Kidd, the setting of Venice was a dominant inspiration—I am frequently seduced by place. Other times, a character or a character’s name might pop into my head and demand attention, sometimes entering my mind almost fully realized.

Why are you a writer?
I began writing poetry at seven, and a first novel was begun at twelve, so the urge to create was strong at an early age. As an only child who lived in a spectacularly beautiful place with views of the ocean and forests, I was deeply sensitive to my surroundings. In many ways, nature was my friend—there weren’t many children who lived nearby and my family was essentially limited to a triangle. I became an observer, like many only children are, and found that writing was my strategy to make sense of an often complicated world. As an adult, I spent my career in publishing, but only in the last eighteen years have had the opportunity and means to devote myself to the craft of writing fiction and poetry.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Author Insides - Nicholas Carter

Nicholas J. Carter is a UMass Boston alum, currently living in Massachusetts with his wonderful wife. He credits his mother, a librarian, with his love of words, and his father, a smartass, for showing him how they don’t always mean what they should. Outside of his family, nonsense and chaos are the two things he loves most. His blog may be found at

His tongue in cheek dystopian, JAM DON’T SHAKE, is available from Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?
It didn’t really strike me until I was about halfway through college. I had all the usual boyhood dreams: fireman, comedian, post-apocalyptic barbarian chief; but I’ve always read a lot and writing felt like the next logical step.

Why do you write?
I needed a creative outlet and lack the steady hands of an artist, the keen eye of a sculptor, or the massive balls of a comedian (can I say that here?). My mother is a librarian, so we always had books in the house. My father is a smartass so there was always someone around to show me the many-faced aspect of words. I felt like I was most prepared to write, if I was prepared to do anything creative.

Is being a writer/poet anything like you imagined it would be?
It’s more work, and not just on the stories themselves. The search for places to publish that work never ends.

What do you think makes a good story?
I like a story that begins halfway through the wringer, or even all the way through. A story where the farm boy finds the magic sword, defeats the troll and saves the princess can get boring. One where the sword breaks and then the troll marries the princess and beats the farm boy until he’s so disfigured his own people shun him, is interesting. That is to say, I find the motivations of ruined characters make for great stories, because why should they do anything when they have nothing left?

What's your favorite genre to read?
Fantasy, typically. I like to see things that I can’t find in this world. Anything a little left of reality works for me.

Who is your favorite author or poet?
Terry Pratchett. I think he doesn’t get as much respect as he should just for being a fantasy author and a humorist, but no other writer comes anywhere near his understanding of human behavior. His characters feel very real. You can open up a Discworld novel and say "Hey, I know somebody like that!" even if said character is eight feet tall and made of stone. If we want to go a little more mainstream, gotta go with Kafka. I empathize with the anxiety and absurdity in his stories.

What books or stories have most influenced you the most as a writer?
Most recently I was heartened to hear the story "Toaster of the Gods" by Randall Coots. It came at a time where I wondered if I should write a little more "normal," and ditch the stories about ghostly dogs and UFOs made of cheese, and convinced me that there really are people who want to read strange fiction. Stories about sentient toasters will do that I suppose.

What books or stories have most influenced you as a person?
That’s harder to say. There was a time in my life where I was reading books on Zen Buddhism, and I read in one that if you read books on Zen you learn about those books, but not how to live. I put them down and can’t recall what the book was, which I think was for the best. I like to believe that the best way to learn anything is by direct experience.

Where/how do you find the most inspiration?
Music. Which probably sounds like a cheap answer, but is the truth. I have plenty of ideas but I find that the best ones come as little flashes of light when listening to the right words and the right instruments at the right time.

What does your family think of your writing?
My parents are proud, though I think only my father enjoys my stories. Mom reads a lot but isn’t much for odd or dark fiction. My wife is willing to read anything I write but usually just comes back with a playful "What is wrong with you?" My extended family has been pretty supportive too.

What is your work schedule like when you're writing?
Well, sad to say I’ve only been sporadically employed since graduating college. This means I can usually get 3-4 hours of writing done per day. If my attention span allows, these will be consecutive. If it’s acting up, it’ll be in 10-30 minute chunks scattered through the day.

Do you have any writing quirks or rituals?
None that don’t involve pig’s blood.

Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing?
Figuring out characters. It’s incredibly hard to make a character psychologically real, and I envy those who can manage it.

What are your current projects?
Taking up most of my time lately is a project with the tenuous title of "Up in Hell", which is a full-length novel about the adventures of several puppets in, you guessed it, Hell. It’s my first attempt at a full length novel, and a first draft is only a scene or two away from completion as of this moment. I’m both excited and terrified about it. Other than that, I recently realized I have an enormous backlog of half-finished short stories that could stand to be fattened up and sent to market.

What are you planning for future projects?
In the works is a side story for "Up in Hell," and possibly a sequel if it seems worthwhile. As I’ve said above, there are a number of stories just sitting on the metaphorical shelves of my hard drive. Some of them were from several years ago and I’d love to revisit the ideas in each and give them full rewrites.

Do you have any advice for other writers?
The usual things: read a lot and edit often. Also, don’t get too attached to your story as it is or how you think it should be. There’s always something that needs tweaking but if you never stop you’ll never finish anything. Be ready to go where the story takes you.

Where else can we find your work?
Most recently on the podcast Escape Pod, where my story "Wheels of Blue Stilton" took second place in their flash fiction contest. I’ve also been in Dog Eat Crow, Antipodean Sci Fi, Everyday Weirdness and a few other places, and I occasionally show up in Flashshot.

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Strange Blog – or how I stopped worrying and learned to love blogging - Guest post from J.S. Watts

Strange Blog – or how I stopped worrying and learned to love blogging

By J.S.Watts

Blogging hasn’t come naturally to me. My website may be hosted by Blogger, but it’s first and foremost a static website, rather than a chatty blog. My posts tend to be brief news items and updates, not opinion pieces or diary entries. Until 9th June last year I had never actually written a real blog post.

My first post, written for a writers’ online colony that I belong to, actually focussed on my blogging virginity and the losing of it. It was fun. I enjoyed writing it, but it didn’t exactly unleash a torrential flow of pent-up blogs.

It was a month until I managed another post. In fact, spurred on by an imminent trip to the 2011 Edinburgh Fringe Festival to read some of my poetry, I managed two posts in July and one in August. Then my usual blogging lethargy returned and I didn’t write another post until December.

Almost a year later and by the beginning of October 2012, I had written the grand total of just six blog posts. That’s less than one piece every two months. I clearly wasn’t at risk of writer’s cramp, or its modern equivalent, RSI, when it came to blogging. So what was the problem?

Obviously, it’s not that I don’t like writing. I’m a poet and author; it’s what I do. I love writing, but blogging somehow worried me. It seemed to require an opinion, something factual to comment on and I didn’t think I had that much to say that would interest readers in the Blogverse. Plus, with so many blogs already out there, why write even more?

I was happy writing book reviews for various literary and genre magazines. There were my poems, poetry books and short stories and a brand new novel. I wasn’t exactly short of things to write and publish. Blogging was a worry I didn’t need.

It was the novel that finally propelled me into the world of blogging: the novel and its publisher, Vagabondage Press. Thanks guys…

There I was, hard work done: novel written, edited and about to be published. I was looking forward to putting my feet up for a bit when Vagabondage effectively said, "Great book, J.S. We love A Darker Moon and want others to love it too. You’ll help getting the word out, won’t you?" What could I do, but say, "Yes". The next thing I knew, there was a growing pile of interview and guest blog-post requests and an enthusiastic publisher telling me how great it was that we’d got so much upfront interest.

The interviews were fine. All I’d got to do was answer the questions provided and chat about A Darker Moon. The blogs, however, were another matter. They were blank, structureless pages waiting to be filled with comment and opinion. Yes, I wanted to promote A Darker Moon and talk about its mythic literary fiction qualities. As a result there was bound to be some similarity between posts, but I couldn’t churn out the same thing. I needed to do original pieces, find original things to say, write from different angles and do it differently over and over again: I needed to become a regular blogger.

I hesitated, dithered and worried and then I realised something so obvious that I can’t believe I hadn’t thought of it before. I am a writer. Writing, laying down and shaping words is what I do. Blogs are written pieces, collections of words laid down on the page and shaped. So where is the problem?

I picked up my pen (I always do first drafts in long-hand. I think better that way) and then I moved to the keyboard. I adored the stunning cover of A Darker Moon that the talented Art Director at Vagabondage had come up with. I loved the glowering, wide-eyed owl, the full moon and the black yet moonlit water because they are visually awesome and because they are brilliantly selected key motifs from the novel itself. I wrote about this and the importance of book covers in general. One blog post successfully completed.

The next piece looked at the significance of the novel’s London location (that’s London, England to anyone reading this in The States. I’m a British writer). Then came writing about myth and fantasy, followed by my personal take on the modern horror genre and another piece on the range of myth and legend I had drawn on to shape the dark psychological fantasy of A Darker Moon.

In a little over one month, and including this piece, I have written six full blog posts. That’s as many as I had previously written in sixteen long months. And I haven’t lost the urge to blog. Indeed, the more I write, the more I find I have to write about: the importance of fine art to A Darker Moon, the essence of memory, writers writing about writing (my anti-hero, Abe, is a compulsive writer), the psychology of religious delusion, the impact of family and the implications of writing both poetry and prose. Such is the joy of a multi-layered story: there’s always another topic to pontificate on. I’m seemingly on a roll and if any blogger out there is looking for someone to write them a guest post , I’m your woman! So thank you, Vagabondage, for releasing my inner blogger. I just hope the Blogverse is ready and braced.


J.S.Watts is a British writer. She was born in London, England and now lives and writes near Cambridge in East Anglia. In between, she read English at Somerville College, Oxford and spent many years working in the British education sector. She remains committed to the ideals of further and higher education despite UK governments of assorted political persuasions trying to demolish them.

Her poetry, short stories and book reviews appear in a variety of publications in Britain, Canada, Australia and the States including Acumen, Envoi, Mslexia and Fantastique Unfettered and have been broadcast on BBC and independent Radio. She has been Poetry Reviews Editor for Open Wide Literary Magazine and, until its demise, Poetry Editor for Ethereal Tales. Her debut poetry collection, Cats and Other Myths and a subsequent poetry pamphlet, Songs of Steelyard Sue are published by Lapwing Publications. Her novel, A Darker Moon, is published by Vagabondage Press Further details of her books can be found on her website: . You can also find her on Facebook at

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Author Insides - Jon Hartless

Jon Hartless was born in the 1970s and has spent much of his life in the Midlands and Worcestershire, England. He is the author of three bleakly humorous science fiction books under his own name, and two even bleaker works under the pen name Barnabas Corbin.
His humorous historical satire, Jack The Theorist, is available on Amazon.

When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?
About the only time I was happy at school was when I could write a story, so I suppose it grew from there.

Why do you write?
I simply enjoy it enormously.

Is being a writer/poet anything like you imagined it would be?
I never imagined the attitude of most publishers and agents, who simply reject your work out of hand without even bothering to read it. In the past, I’ve sent stuff off via snail mail on a Monday and get it back by Wednesday with the claim it ‘wasn’t right’. The quickest rejection, however, was by email; just under ten minutes.

What do you think makes a good story?
Simply ask: does it work by its own logic? If the answer is no, it has failed.

What's your favorite genre to read?
Probably murder mysteries, but recently I have been drifting more into factual works.

Who is your favorite author or poet?
Arthur Conan Doyle, for his brilliant style, characters, and ideas. EF Benson, for his wit and satire.

What books or stories have most influenced you the most as a writer?
Probably a mix of the above, plus some of Oscar Wilde’s work. I also enjoy the 1890s as a period, so the fin de siècle is bubbling about somewhere in the subconscious. Certainly my one book, Romanticism Lost, was inspired by popular figures from nineteenth century literature; Sherlock Holmes, the Phantom of the Opera, Frankenstein etc. I just wondered how such characters would fare in today’s grey, bureaucratic, health-and-safety world…

What books or stories have most influenced you as a person?
I’m not sure I could isolate any; we’re all a product of so many influences…

Where/how do you find the most inspiration?
Sometimes from a direct source, sometimes from years of seeing things, reading about a subject, hearing things etc, until they all mesh together. My YA novel The Wolves of Androcolus combined both these elements.

I was watching a documentary about BBC children’s television from the 1950s to the early 00s, and Jacqueline Wilson popped up to explain the concept behind her Tracy Beaker series.

As often happens in the modern media, where the audience is treated as a brain dead entity, we were only given a brief snippet of Miss Wilson before we jumped to another scene, so all she had time to say was that the story revolved around a girl in a foster home that nobody wanted, and then the scene shifted to something else.

This, however, left me with practically the whole plot laid out in my mind for my story. Why would no one want a girl from a home? Because she was an ex-junkie. Who would want her? Someone with very dark intentions. Who are these people with dark intent? Religious werewolves. Why religious werewolves? Because of what I’ve seen and read on religious fundamentalism over the years. It was all there, laid out, ready to be written…

What does your family think of your writing?
My big brother is very proud.

What is your work schedule like when you're writing?
Hectic. I work full time, so I have to snatch whatever time I can to write. My latest project has been mostly written in my car between jobs.

Do you have any writing quirks or rituals?
The nearest thing to a ritual I get involves getting distracted from doing any work…

Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing?
Good grammar. I have to edit time and after time to get the prose flowing.

What are your current projects?
I’m writing a YA novella that reworks the Pandora myth. In it, we see what the world would be like if the moral minority were to attain supernatural powers that enable them to recreate the world as they think it should be.

What are you planning for future projects?
I must try and get started on the sequel to The Wolves of Androcolus, but it is finding the time.

Do you have any advice for other writers?
Edit ruthlessly, get some input from someone who knows what they are talking about and who will give a truly honest opinion, and keep trying.

Where else can we find your work?
At Double Dragon Ebooks, and also third party retailers such as Kindle, Nook, Fictionwise etc. I am also published under the pen name Barnabas Corbin.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

The Importance of Being Ruthless - Guest Post from Corinna Weyreter

The Importance of Being Ruthless
Corinna Weyreter

The problem with entering stories into competitions, or submitting them to magazines, is that most editors lack either the time or the inclination to enlighten the unsuccessful writer as to where she’s going wrong. If the rejections keep rolling in there comes a point when, clearly, she needs to know.

When I found myself in this situation, a search of the web led me to YouWriteOn, a peer review site for writers. Members can upload a short story, or the opening chapters of a novel, and receive one critique in return for each they write, with assignments allocated by the system at random. It’s an excellent way to improve your writing, not only because people highlight the weak points in your work, but also because you learn from seeing the weak points in theirs, which can often be the same. To be a good writer you need to be an avid reader, but high quality novels are written by experienced authors and have been edited several times before publication. They make writing look easy. So it’s extremely useful to also read the work of aspiring authors, where problems with plot, pace, characterisation, clichés, similes, overused adjectives and adverbs abound, because if these things are sabotaging your own manuscript, you’ll be primed to root them out.

Inevitably some critiques are less valuable than others, usually because the writer is keener to receive a review than produce one, but by the time you’ve amassed ten or so, valid criticisms start to recur. In the case of my stories, these were of dialogue that didn’t sound realistic, and a lack of description that prevented the reader from being fully drawn into the story. I was told that one character was too much of a caricature, and that another behaved in a way that seemed inconsistent with his nature. There were also some positive reviews that made me feel good but ultimately left me no wiser, and others that simply disliked the plot, but what could I do about that except write a completely different story? No writer can please everyone. It was the hardest reviews to read that were usually the most useful, and once the dejection started to wear off, I could see that the criticisms were valid. In fact, not only were they valid, I’d actually been aware of them myself but had chosen to ignore them.

I realised that the main reason for this was I hadn’t always trusted my instincts when I was editing. A devilish voice had persuaded me to spare those clichés that caused a twinge in my gut the instant I reread them, insisting they really were sentences of poetic beauty. Not trusting my instincts prevented me from cutting out words that I’d spent hours writing, and from investing even more time knocking others into shape. It was only when reviewers confirmed my suspicions, and after I’d seen similar mistakes in others’ work, that I learnt to stop listening to that fiendish voice. Reading the stories aloud proved to be a great help in doing this. Any problems with the flow of the prose quickly became apparent, and unrealistic dialogue in particular was impossible to ignore.

It’s sometimes hard to see what’s going wrong with a story when you’re so involved in it. Only an outsider can tell you if it’s really working the way you want it to. Other writers helped me face up to aspects of my writing that I needed to work on; I wasn’t going to get away with not putting more effort into it. I began to examine my writing with a more critical eye, to be on the lookout for common mistakes, and to edit it more ruthlessly before being satisfied. Because it didn’t matter how much time I’d invested in it up until then, if I didn’t really believe it was perfect, why would anyone else?

Corinna Weyreter won the 1998 Bridport Prize and has had several short stories published. She worked in the oil business for fifteen years before resigning to sail around the world with her boyfriend. Her book about their trip, Far Out: Sailing into a Disappearing World, was published this year by Sunpenny Publishing. 

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Why I Write Sad Stories - Guest Post from Darci Schummer

Why I Write Sad Stories
Darci Schummer

On 1st Avenue and 28th Street in Minneapolis, a house catches fire.  Fire trucks arrive in a blur of lights and a wail of sirens as flames cut the early morning sky. In housecoats and slippers, the neighborhood watches from living room windows and front yards.  Sweat gathers on its lip.  Smoke fills its nostrils.  Its children, woken from their dreams, point at the flames and vibrate with terrible excitement.  A group of firefighters battles the flames from outside while another group walks into the fire to save those who can be saved.  They rescue one person from inside the house and then another.  Then, they rescue two more people from a second story window. 

But by the time they rescue Jenny, it's too late.
My stories have been called bleak, brutal, depressing. And I have been asked why I write such sad stories. 

I have a one-word answer:  Jenny.
I write sad stories because of ghosts, ghosts of the living and of the dead. I write sad stories to give voice to ghosts and to give voice to those who live with the ghosts of their dead, and the ghosts of their former lovers, estranged children, chances not taken, aborted opportunities. I write sad stories because they are the adhesive that binds people to ghosts.  I write sad stories because the stories themselves are my ghosts that, as Edna O'Brien writes, "are like dogs that bark intermittently in the night." 

Moreover, sad stories prepare us for futures we are too brittle to imagine or too ignorant to recognize as possible.  They allow us to experience death and loss and desperation with only a modicum of actual pain.  They are precursors to seasons not yet lived. 
I write sad stories because I want to live in the past, present, and future simultaneously.
On a perfect July morning, I am walking down 1st Avenue in Minneapolis.  In front of a burned out 2 and 1/2 story house near 28th street, an empty mailbox gapes like an open mouth, it's red flag 90 degrees in the air.  Mylar balloons tied to the front gate bob in the breeze. Affixed to the gate as well is a red sign that reads, “Hi Jenny, All students at Magic Beauty School miss you!”  On the front stairs at the foot of the gate, a plate of spring rolls sits untouched among bouquets of chrysanthemums.  An open bottle of water and an open can of juice wait among burning candles and incense.  And in the middle of these funereal offerings is a picture of Jenny, of beautiful olive-skinned, black-haired Jenny.   

The air still smells of fire.

I stoop down and leave a dandelion between two candles that will burn for her until their wicks are spent.  Then, I walk home on my strong, good legs, the breeze whipping all around me, a new ghost whispering in my ear.  

At home, I will work on another sad story—a story where there aren't neat explanations, a story where calculations and probabilities all prove incorrect. 

And Jenny, my beautiful olive-skinned, black-haired Jenny, this new story, a story where in the space of one night the whole world trembles into darkness, this is the story I am writing for you.

Darci Schummer lives, writes, and teaches in Minneapolis, Minnesota.  Links to her work can be found here:

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Author Insides - Brian D'Eon

D’Eon lives with his wife and two cats in one of the world’s true Shangri-la’s: Nelson, British Columbia, Canada.

His writing pursuits have been forged largely in the fires of live theatre where, for thirty years, he has participated as an actor, director and playwright. Four of his stage plays have been produced locally and one in St. John’s, Newfoundland. He also produced more than a dozen original radio dramas plus radio adaptations of famous classical scripts like Oedipus Rex and Macbeth.

In recent years Brian has focused his attention more and more on fiction, and his short stories and poetry can be found in a variety of publications. Brian’s story Sun Dancer won the 2009 Okanagan short story contest. In 2011 his story Badlands won the fiction prize in the Kootenay Literary Competition.

Brian likes to write stories that are speculative or which, at least, have elements of magic realism in them. For more information about his projects, check his website:

When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?
I don’t think there was ever any one "eureka" moment. It has always been the natural way for me to interact with the universe. Even as far back as elementary school, if a notion excited me, my first response was to write about it.

Why do you write?
I write because I am "compelled" to. I start to feel antsy if I haven’t written for a while. More than that, it’s also an act of adoration, my affirmation of the great mystery of things and my gratitude to be included in the mystery.

Is being a writer/poet anything like you imagined it would be?
I don’t think I ever spent time imagining it. Except perhaps thinking that maybe, some day, I would be interviewed on a national radio show—one that I have been listening to all my adult life—that would be sort of surreal.

What do you think makes a good story?
My views about this are old-fashioned and hark right back to Tolstoy’s little book on aesthetics—What is Art? A good story must be uplifting in some way. If I can’t find somebody I truly like or admire in the first fifty pages of reading, I’m not likely to finish the story, no matter how well written. And, finally, a good story must make me think. In new ways, or about new things or, at the very least, take me to places I’ve never been.

What's your favorite genre to read?
In truth I read more non-fiction than fiction. There’s just so much to learn out there! But when I do read fiction, I like a good science-fiction piece, hard science fiction mostly, and am also very partial to well written magical-realism. All that being said, it’s very hard to beat the great classics: I still believe William Shakespeare is the greatest writer in the English language ever. Period. Case closed.

Who is your favorite author or poet?
Shakespeare, Homer, Cervantes, Tolstoy. But, in more contemporary terms, I’ve long been a fan of the writings of the Greek writer, Nikos Kazantzakis. My favourite poet is Dylan Thomas. I seem to be partial to dead guys.

What books or stories have most influenced you the most as a writer?
The lyricism and utter musicality of Dylan Thomas has influenced my work greatly, I think, and Shakespeare too, for similar reasons. If a work doesn’t "sound" beautiful when read out loud, it doesn’t really work for me.

What books or stories have most influenced you as a person?
Well, if I had to point to one book, I might have to choose Zorba the Greek, by Kazantzakis. The central character, Zorba, is a man larger than life, an older man (like me now!), but nonetheless with relentless energy, ambitions and appetites. This story ends with the narrator getting a letter from Zorba, whom he hasn’t seen in years. Zorba tells him to drop everything and come and see him at once. Why? Because he has discovered an extraordinary green stone…

For me, the human condition can be summed up in that one scene. Are we willing to drop everything for the sake of a green stone or not? It’s a big question and a mistake to dismiss it.

Where/how do you find the most inspiration?
Nature, the world at large, the night sky, the laugh of a five-year old, any human being in the midst of doing what they love.

What does your family think of your writing?
Ha! I am pretty much the last one on their reading lists! To be fair, my son, Jonathan—himself a fine writer--is a very careful reader of my work and, generally, very encouraging.

What is your work schedule like when you're writing?
I very definitely prefer to write in the morning and I need quiet. Can’t have music of any kind playing. I have to close the door so my cats won’t bother me.

Do you have any writing quirks or rituals?

I always like to read what I have written during the day, just before going to bed, so it can stew in my subconscious overnight. Also, during the day, I will take little breaks in the writing by playing a game of Hearts on my computer. I have named my opponents Einstein, Archimedes and Curie.

Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing?
I have to be careful not to let the musicality of the writing get in the way of the meaning. It can be hard for me to let go of a phrase if it "sounds" beautiful. I blame Dylan Thomas for this!

What are your current projects?
I am working on a historical-fiction novel, called Big Ledge, based on the true story of a murder that took place at the Bluebell mine in 1885, not far from where I live in British Columbia. I try to tell the tale from three different voices, but mostly from the POV of the man accused of the murder, Robert Sproule. I sneak a little magical-realism into the story as well.

What are you planning for future projects?
I’m still working hard to peddle my novel, Lunatics. And then, after finishing with Big Ledge, I think I might like to go back to Australia. To the year 1994, pre-Facebook, to follow the fortunes of a somewhat alienated exchange-teacher, on the eve of a remarkable celestial event: the first observation of a comet crashing into another planet.

Then there is my collection of short fiction to polish.

And maybe a children’s fantasy, something after the fashion of C.S. Lewis whose work I greatly admire.

Do you have any advice for other writers?
Oh, heavens! There are so many paths to follow. I might only argue against the advice sometimes given to write "only about what you know". How dull the world would be if we all adhered to that tenet. I would alter that advice to: "write only about what you have a passion for." You can get to "know" about it as you write.

Where else can we find your work?
The best place to start would be my website,


Saturday, May 4, 2013

Re-Thinking Revision - Guest Post from Tina V. Cabrera

Re-Thinking Revision
Tina V. Cabrera

Some writers find revision the best part of writing. They say it’s that space just above comfort because you now have something concrete to work with, that you get to flex different muscles than when staring at a blank page. That may be so, but it can also fill up that space just below the highest level of anxiety because of the fact that you have no idea of what to do with it. Then too I’ve gone back to revise a story, only to see the final result as lacking the original power or imagination that I had first begun with – the life sucked out of it. Or I find myself completely confused as to which draft is the better out of the two or three or more. And now, here I am looking forward to stolen moments of revising time, and here’s why. After several attempts at catching a publisher’s eye with various draft of my latest novella, some kind of science fiction/literary fantasy hybrid, I’m working on what I hope to be the final version. This after hearing from a couple of editors specifically pointing out what works well and what not-so-much. The consensus seems to be that the complex cerebral world that I’ve created manages to hold reader interest, but takes too long in getting there. The voice is distancing, removing the reader from the immediacy of the world. At first, I resisted the idea of going back yet again to what I thought was a done deal. Then after months of having let it be, I read my latest draft over and saw what the editors had concluded. Now I’m happy to say I’m halfway through revision and actually enjoying the process. I’m discovering it’s not ‘finished’ after all, and beyond a cosmetic re-working, I’m even adding to scenes that I had thought for certain were forever concluded. So is revision the best part of writing? To each her own, but once you get going you may find it absolutely necessary.

For more of my writerly musings, visit my blog at:

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Process? - Guest Post from April L. Ford

April L. Ford

As a creative writing teacher, I am a font of advice for my college students; I can talk about process until I turn purple.  As a practicing writer … what’s that about process, you asked?

I’ve been writing professionally since 2002, and unless I’m romanticizing my past, I had a more inspired and energetic strategy at the start of my career than I do now.  It consisted of coffee, chocolate bars, cigarettes, and compulsion.  I wrote my first successful short story that way—on a weekend binge, to be exact—and then two more later that year.  And I’m talking long short stories, almost novellas.  My practice was to write whenever the urge seized me, to put everything aside (including college homework) and sit at the computer until I had purged all the good stuff.  That worked fine when I was in my early-twenties and single; now that I’m in my mid-thirties, married, a full-time caregiver for a parent with dementia, and a college teacher, I have to be more methodical.

Last November I was flipping through an issue of Poets & Writers magazine and came across article about one author’s process.  She trumpeted a computer application called “Freedom,” which one can use to block Internet access while one writes.  You tell the application how long you plan to write sans the distraction of online shopping, and the only way you can access the net is to save your work and restart your computer—there’s no way to log out of Freedom.  Brilliant!  I downloaded the application for an easy—and worthwhile—ten bucks and was on my way.  I set it for two hours and set a goal of writing one thousand words.  Success!  I repeated this the next day and the next, and suddenly it was a month later and I had succeeded in writing more than a hundred pages of my first novel, Gentle.

Setting aside specific days and times also helped me.  As writing is not yet (and may never be) my primary source of income, I don’t have too many ideal time slots in the week from which to choose.  So for me, three weekday mornings (usually every other) for two hours (6:30 – 8:30 seems to work best) has proved to be my most successful writing schedule yet.  I wake up, eat breakfast, brew coffee, and then sit at my computer and activate Freedom right away—I don’t permit myself to read emails or the daily news.  After my two hours are up, the day is mine; knowing I don’t have to fret about my writing for the next 22 hours is a welcomed stress-reliever.  Think about how much time writers spend thinking about writing; it’s a necessary part of the process, but I dare say many of us spend more time fretting about our process than our writing.

I’ve taken an unplanned hiatus from Gentle since September; I’m but 15 000 words from the end, but my teaching load has gobbled up the weeks.  No excuse, I understand, but it’s my present reality.  And the longer I stay away from my novel, the harder it is to go back.  My characters, whom just a few months ago I knew better than my best friend, are starting to feel like distant in-laws, and the plot … wait, there are sub-plots, too?  Sometimes long breaks are inevitable.  We’ve all heard about great writers who spent years between novels being depressed, politically active, consumed by new religions.  I used to panic if I couldn’t write for a week, so you can imagine how I must be feeling about my current predicament—I’ve broken the generous “rules” of my process.  But a day hasn’t passed when I haven’t thought about Gentle, and I’m sure that after I spend an hour breezing through my manuscript, I’ll reconnect with my characters and the story, and the rest will happen swiftly.  A throwback to the days of binge-writing (minus cigarettes and chocolate bars).

So what am I suggesting, then?  To follow a schedule or to blow the wind?  A bit of both!  A writer needs to pay as much heed to the demands of her life as to those of her process; sometimes the two are incompatible, sometimes they are harmonious.  Most times, negotiations are necessary.  As for what I tell my Introduction to Creative Writing Students, it’s vague yet specific and seems to satisfy them more than a bullet list of instructions: Do whatever gets you to write.  It might be different every time, and that’s okay; eventually you’ll discover patterns.  As long as you write something every day—a post-it note, a grocery list, an email—you’ll eventually find your way to (or back to) your story.  Or, it will find its way to you.    

April L. Ford teaches creative writing at State University of New York at Oneonta.  She received her MFA from Queens University of Charlotte, where she worked closely with Jonathan Dee, Fred G. Leebron, Naeem Murr, and Pinckney Benedict.  Her writing has appeared in Short Story magazine, r.kv.r.y. quarterly literary journal, and The Battered Suitcase, among others, and she has an article forthcoming with Ploughshares magazine.  She recently completed a short story collection called The Poor Children and is ready to query publishers.  Her first novel, Gentle, will be up next.