Tag Archives: interview

Interview With Clay Howard (Three Questions)

(This is part  “Three Questions With Xxxx“. If you’re interested in taking part click here and fill out the form.)

I’ve gotten to know so many cool creators in my life. The interesting thing is, you never know when you’re going to meet the next one. I encountered this particular rock demi-god at a school function. We had kids in the same school at the time. I saw someone taller than me (no mean feat) and naturally asked him what the weather was like up there.

1) As someone who has a similar lifestyle (day job, creative job, family) I often wonder about how others balance their those three things in addition to all of the other bits of life that come along. What;s that look like in your life?

For a long time I had gotten away from what I love. Even though I was writing and performing music, I thought of myself as a “insert job here” who dabbled in music rather than what I am- a musician who also has a full time job ( and a part-time job.) I finally put that back in order in my mind 2 or 3 years ago, and have found it a lot more freeing- less stress in my job, etc.

Of course, before all of this, I am a husband and a father, so my creative times flow around that. Writing music does not necessarily require tools, although I prefer to do it with a guitar in hand, so for a lot of my songs, a melody line and lyrics might be worked out internally while I work, and then fleshed out after I have seen the last kid go to bed, or in an hour or two stolen downstairs at home in my music room. My kids are very used to dad sitting downstairs and singing, and me being down there gives my wife some alone time, as well.

The kids are so used to it, in fact, I remember Ian sitting on my lap as I recorded every vocal on stratocruiser’s last 2 records!

2) I see more and more artists (be they musicians, visual artists, or writers) going independent in their production models. I think there’s a longer tradition of that in music. What are the benefits and difficulties of doing it yourself?

Being independent… I would be lying if I said I wanted to control everything. I would absolutely love for someone else to promote, pay to manufacture, etc… but that is not the way it works anymore- especially for someone who is not 24 and able to drop everything to tour. So- difficulties: money, money and then maybe…um, money. Soliciting press and reviews…soliciting independent radio/podcasts, etc. In short- the work is difficult. 🙂

Benefits: I can release something whenever I want. I can record with whoever I want. I can say no to whatever I want…control is the biggest benefit.

3) You seem to be releasing EPs rather than full albums. What’s the drive behind that?

People do not buy music anymore.

But for someone like me, a virtual unknown, releasing singles is useless- like putting a single drop of water into a pond and expecting people to find it. When I released my first solo album, I found it was very easy to get people to review it, as it was something people understand- an album, a collection of 10 songs, etc. People understand this, they just do not buy them.(well, vinyl collectors do, and old people like me..)

My decision to release EPs was truly based on being able to release things more frequently AND have something that journalists and consumers understand- a collection.. Attention spans are also pretty short these days, and the lifespan of a new release (which used to be up to a year) is now less than 90 days. Crazy, huh- a new record is old news after 3 months have passed. smh..

So, I am going back to the 70’s model of releasing product often, keeping my name in front of people, and smaller collections of songs take less time to write and record.

Clay’s website(s):

Clay’s webstore:

Clay’s bio: Take one washed up college basketball player and give him a guitar and a microphone…

Interview with Doc Coleman (Three Questions)

(This is part  “Three Questions With Xxxx“. If you’re interested in taking part click here and fill out the form.)

Doc and I have worked together on a number of projects and I love his imagination. His writing style is full of wonder and I’m looking forward to his new book launch. So, to let you get to know him a little bit, I asked him some questions. Enjoy!

1)Much of what you’ve written falls into the steampunk “genre”. What appeals to you about it?

For me, part of the allure of steampunk is that anything can happen. Nothing is out of bounds. You have mad scientists who can create futuristic technology, or bizarre life forms. You can have aliens come to earth, or humans go to their planet. On top of that, you can have eastern mysticism, ancient magics, fairies, werewolves, vampires, mummies, and anything else that goes bump in the night. It is pretty much the genre where all other genres meet. You can have adventure, romance, intrigue, and horror. Or all of them at once. The possibilities are just endless. And sorting through them is a ton of fun.

Writing Perils of Prague, and building the world of the Eternal Empress, I concentrated more on mad science and adventure. In the process, I kind of stepped on some of the characteristic mad technology that one usually sees in a steampunk world, but we’ll see some of that in future stories. A Walk in the Park, the short story I wrote for Flagship, had more of the tech, and just a touch of magic. That story is actually going to become part of the introduction for the fourth Crackle and Bang adventure, A Cuckoo in the Nest. The story I did for The Way of the Gun, The Shining Cog, is much more of a gadget-driven steampunk story, but also takes a look at religion and philosophy, and has a very different flavor.

2) As a new author you’ve elected to self publish your upcoming novel. Why go that route as opposed to shopping it around?

I blame Tee Morris for that one. I considered shopping Perils to traditional and small publishers, but I saw what happened to Tee with his Billibub Baddings novels. His rights got tied up with a publisher that wasn’t willing to support the series, and it hurt the property. By the time he got his rights back, Tee had other properties that were selling better and he felt he couldn’t continue with the series. While I don’t fault Tee for his decision, I didn’t want to lose control of the Adventures of Crackle and Bang. I knew from the get-go that it was going to be an open-ended series, and I always wanted to be able to put out a new book when I was ready. For me, the only way to be sure of that was to hold onto my rights and self-publish.

This also means that when I get ready to shop another property out to traditional publishers, I will already have built an audience and a following, which should make those properties more appealing.

3) As a voice actor, writer, and podcaster you’ve engaged in a lot of creative pursuits. How do you balance your time between them/prioritize them?

Poorly. Between the day job and spending time with my loved ones, it doesn’t leave a lot of time to pursue my creative pursuits. When I’m in a writing phase, I try to make an hour a day to work on writing, but it doesn’t always happen. Podcasting can often take more time. It is easy when someone else is doing the editing, as you just have to show up to record, but when you have to edit episodes, that really needs a block of time to really focus on the audio. Narration and voice acting is pretty much the same. I love jobs where I just have to record my lines and send in the raw audio, then I’m done, unless there are re-takes. For a while, my wife was doing my editing for me, but she hasn’t been able to do that in a while and I’ve had to really cut back on my audio production for the past year. I hope I’ll be able to get back into doing more audio after Perils gets published.

As for priorities, pretty much family comes first. After that, I was working on the Balticon Podcast, but last summer I realized that I needed to focus on publishing Perils or I would never get it done. With Perils almost done, I want to try to catch up with the podcast, and maybe look at picking up some narration work this summer. But I also have another writing project that another author really wants to work on with me. So, I’m going to have to figure out what project I’m going to put first, and plan how much time I am going to have for secondary projects. It is a balancing act, and the balance is always changing.

Twitter: @scaleslea
email: Doc@swimmingcatstudios.com
Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/34659094-the-perils-of-prague


Interview with Lauren Harris (Three Questions)

(This is part  “Three Questions With Xxxx“. If you’re interested in taking part click here and fill out the form.)

I’m a big fan of Lauren Harris’ work. One need only look here and here for reviews of her previous books.

1) Your previous books involved life in a small southern town with high school students. This book seems radically different. What did you enjoy most about shifting to more adult characters and situations?

It’s funny because the characters in UNLEASH are only a year or so older than those in MAE, but their life experiences and the gravity of their respective situations are totally different. Now, I don’t hold back on cussing or euphemism in my YA, because I think most teens can handle it and often enjoy reading about characters who talk like they do. I wouldn’t say I actually held back on anything, but the stories felt different. UNLEASH is darker and grittier, and I enjoy writing longer books where I can explore the worldbuilding and magic systems more in-depth. There’s a whole lot of really cool magical history in UNLEASH that I’m super excited for readers to encounter.

2) It sounds like this book involves a small town setting as well. Horror/the paranormal and small towns have a long history. What do you think is unique about that setting that lends itself to those genres? 

I think the sense of isolation is what really lends itself to the genres. There’s a feeling that no one is around to help you. No one is around to hear you scream and, if you’re an outsider, it may be that no one will care or come investigate even if they do–not even the police. UNLEASH actually starts in Miami, but takes place in a small college town in Minnesota, where the main character is trying to hide.

3) This is the first book in a new series as I understand it. Do you plan out series arcs or does that come organically? Bonus question; in either case, do you envision these series as having a definite number (eg a trilogy) or more open ended?

I wrote UNLEASH as a standalone. As I’ve been revising, however, I realized the story could easily continue if there’s demand for it. There are a lot of events in the story that create juicy conflict for further books.

If I were to plan it as a series from the start, I would probably plan the whole thing, which is what I’ve done with my current work in progress. My strategy with UNLEASH will have to be different, but I’m okay with that. Like I said, there’s plenty of room for brand new conflict, and the story was always meant to have series potential.



Keep up with Lauren on the Words of a Feather podcast, her Patreon ( https://www.patreon.com/laurenbharris), or her website, www.laurenbharris.com

Join Lauren’s mailing list to for an exclusive excerpt and a reminder when the book is out!

Interview with Morgan Elektra (Three Questions)

(This is part  “Three Questions With Xxxx“. If you’re interested in taking part click here and fill out the form.)

I’ve gotten to know such a great variety of talented people through social media. One of those people happens to be Morgan Elektra. I’ve read “Big Teeth” (see my review here) and I’m in the process of reading the novella that brings her to my blog. Expect a review of that soon. Enough about all of that. Let’s bring on the questions!

1) Why did you start writing romance/erotica?

The short answer is: I thought I would be good at it.

Long story longer though…

Growing up, I was incredibly dismissive of romance as a genre. I liked horror and fantasy, and like any naive person, I believed those were the best genres and everything else was crap. (Hey, I was young and stupid.)

In my early teen years, my family moved into a new house. All my books were packed away, and I was desperate for something to read. (I am old, so this was before the days of ebooks.) The house we were renting had previously been inhabited by the elderly grandmother of a friend of my brother, and there was some furniture and things left behind. On one small bookcase in the hall was a single book, Sweet Fierce Fires, by Joyce Myrus.

It was a total bodice ripper but I needed something to read, so I sucked it up. And, by the end of the book, I found myself with a new obsession.

Being a teenager, part of what kept me seeking out romance novels was the thrill of the illicit, of course. But there was far more to it than that. For instance, because most of what I read was historical, there was a lot of vocabulary and references to people and events that actually engaged me in a subject I had previously not had much interest in. And I found myself intensely emotionally engaged as well.

The stories in romance may be smaller than an epic fantasy quest, space marine battle, or sweeping dystopian horror, but I felt I could relate so deeply to the emotions the characters were experiencing. And during a time when my own emotions were so hard to quantify and give voice to, romance often did that for me. Even though it often made me cry, it also cheered me and gave me hope during a time in my life when I felt very alone and misunderstood.

All that said, when I thought of pursuing a writing career, I imagined myself writing horror. That was my first love, and my sensibility is still very dark. I’m much more Grimm than Disney. (As anyone who reads my self-pubbed short story Big Teeth: a dark fairytale will learn.)

But when I began ghostwriting, the majority of jobs being posted were for romance & erotica. I decided to go for it, since people had often commented on the sensuality of some of my darker pieces before.

I think that it’s my earthy Taurean manifesting. We’re known for being creatures of sensation, and that definitely fits my personality.

And it turns out I really enjoy writing sex and love and emotion. Like, a lot.

Sex, good sex at least, is such a personal thing. Even if you’re with a stranger and you barely speak, you reveal so much more of yourself than just your physical body. I love exploring that. And I love sharing what I find with others.

The world needs more love and great sex. Now more than ever.

2) One thing I’ve noticed in this genre is that some authors end up rehashing a lot of tropes and even reusing situations/scenes. How do you avoid being too formulaic or relying on the tropes too much while still giving fans what they want?

Does it sound terrible if I say I don’t worry about that? The way I see it, there really aren’t all that many unique stories under the sun. We’re more similar the world over than we are different. Humans has been telling stories literally since the beginning of civilization. Everything has been done at some point, in some form or another.

One of my first steps into the world of writing romance & erotica was reading a lot of fanfiction, and the fanfic community is happily and unapologetically trope-central. They have trope fests, where everyone writes ‘fake boyfriend’ or ‘accidentally bonded’ or ‘college roommate’ stories. They celebrate the tropes. But that doesn’t mean the fic community isn’t full of amazing stories. I’ve read so many that I was blown away by. It’s not the trope or cliche, it’s what you do with it.

A Single Heartbeat, for instance, could easily be tagged with the ‘enemies to lovers’ trope. And that is essentially where I started when I came up with the idea.

But I didn’t think, “Oh but there are so many enemies-to-lovers stories out there!” I feel like if I had, I would have talked myself out of ever writing it at all.

What I try to do is make my characters as real as possible. Like they’re ready to walk right off the page, sit down beside the reader, and ask for a drink. To tell you about their crappy or amazing day.

Because people may have read a ton of enemies-to-lovers stories before, they may even have read a bunch of vampire & vampire hunter romances… but they’ve never read Reese and Will’s story before.

3) Your most recent book was published by MLR Press. You’ve also self-published some works. What’s your experience in both realms been like and do you have a preference?

I am admittedly a baby in the publishing world. I self-pubbed two of my short stories (Big Teeth: a dark fairytale and Candy) just to see what the process was like and get an idea of what was involved. It was nerve-wracking, honestly. I would do it again, but it’s not my favorite thing to do. I stress about every little thing too much.

Working with MLR, on the other hand, has been amazing. Everyone has been kind and willing to answer questions for the newbie, and they’re very encouraging and supportive. I didn’t have to worry about things like formatting, which I’m not really comfortable with. And I got to have quite a lot of input in things like cover design, which was a nice surprise.

I’m definitely hoping to work with MLR more in the future. I’ve just completed a connected follow-up story to A Single Heartbeat that they are considering, and I have a few more in mind in the same universe, so I’d be thrilled to have all those at MLR.

That said, MLR only publishes M/M romance and erotica. As much as I love writing that, I don’t think I’m going to stick exclusively to that sub-genre. I have a handful of short stories already written that aren’t even romance/erotica, let alone M/M. I’m looking for homes for them in online and print publications.

While I overall prefer working with a publisher, I see myself being a hybrid author going forward. Primarily working with a publisher, but putting out something on my own every once in awhile. That seems to me to be the best route for balancing my need to be in control with my desire to just write.

I’d much rather concentrate on creating new stories and engaging with people on social media. Those things feed my soul more than formatting and cover design.

Which is my round-about way of saying everyone should follow me on my various media platforms and say hi. I’m a bit awkward and shy in person, but online I love to chat!

Thanks for taking this time to read this! You can find Morgan around the internets at these places:
Website – https://bymorganelektra.wordpress.com/
Patreon – https://www.patreon.com/MorganElektra
Twitter – www.twitter.com/MorganElektra
Facebook- www.facebook.com/ByMorganElektra
Instagram – https://www.instagram.com/morgan_elektra/
Goodreads – https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/13886167.Morgan_Elektra
Amazon – www.amazon.com/author/bymorganelektra
QueeRomanceInk – https://www.queeromanceink.com/mbm-book-author/morgan-elektra/

You can buy her newest book at these fine bookery establishments:
Direct from MLR Press: https://mlrbooks.com/ShowBook.php?book=MESNGLHB
Amazon: http://amzn.to/2iohS9b
B&N: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/a-single-heartbeat-morgan-elektra/1125410790?ean=2940157434557
Kobo: https://www.kobo.com/us/en/ebook/a-single-heartbeat-1 

Interview with AF Grappin (Three Questions)

(This is part  “Three Questions With Xxxx“. If you’re interested in taking part click here and fill out the form.)

I’ve been friends with and a fan of Gus for a long time. He’s multi-talented and insanely creative, so coming up with questions was easy. Let’s get to the interview!


91014051) You’re what I like to call a triple threat when it comes to creatives; crafter, voice actor/podcaster, and writer. Do you find this spreads your time thin or does it actually make the whole of your creative experience more than the sum of its parts (or both)?

Oh, man. If you happen to have a time machine, that would be great.

In some ways, I do think it spreads my time thin, but then I really think about it, and each of these individual creative endeavors (hereafter referred to as “hobbies”) have their own space in my life. I’m a morning writer, for the most part, which leaves evenings free for other hobbies. My crafting (I make chainmail, for those who don’t know) is what I do when my brain needs to do nothing but I don’t want to sit idle. My hands still need activity, if the family is at home watching TV. We have our few regular shows, and those are golden times for me to make things. Audio work (voice recording, audio editing) is mostly a night kind of thing, really, when the family’s wound down and we just kind of want to do our own thing. Sure, my cohosts and I record together, but editing is solitary, so that’s automatic alone time right there.

Having all my time spread out like that stirs my creative juices. It’s easy to get bored with a hobby and then just… be bored. But I can always switch to something else rather than languishing in ennui. In particular, my podcast and my writing feed into eac9432139h other. I’ve had a few of my own pieces featured on the podcast, but it’s also a great way for me to explore short works by different authors. There’s nothing quite like reading something aloud and making it into a whole, cohesive audio work to help learn more about the writing craft. And it’s always refreshing to have a new story to do every month.

My chainmail though… that’s my immediate gratification hobby. Writing takes time. Publishing takes time. Recording and producing audio takes time. It all takes a lot of it. But I can make a bracelet in an hour or two. I can make big wall hangings and little keychains, and working with the hands, on something I can actually touch… it’s cathartic in a whole different way than the words are.

So I guess I would say my inability to stop creating is both the whole AND the sum of its parts. If that makes sense. If it does, explain it to me, because I don’t know if I get it. I just know that if I had to give one of them up, it would be difficult to pick which one.

2) When you get a new idea – whether it’s a chainmail piece, a story, or one for your show – do you jump on it right away, or do you let it sit for a while?

Chainmail1With my podcast, I want to do new things immediately. The Melting Potcast is a variety show, so coming up with a new kind of segment is something it’s easy to follow up on. In that kind of situation, I tend to jump on it right away. Like when I came up with our madlib segment. I started pretty much the day I conceived of it. Getting new submissions… not so much. I get more concerned about producing the next episode than starting work on a brand new story. Plus, we’re at about a 4-6 month or so turnaround time from when a story is accepted to when it’s released in an episode, so that’s all an exercise in patience.

My own writing… if the idea is for something short, like a flash fiction story or even a short story, I may go ahead and do it, or at least get started, just to get the ideas down while it’s still fresh. Novels… I’m at the point right now where if I started every little novel idea I got, I’d never finish anything. It took me quite some time to learn to put new novel ideas aside, and I got a little notebook to write down the basic ideas in. Just for the future, if I ever needed them again. It’s easier to let go of new time stealers that way.


Again, the chainmail is the different story. If I see something new I want to make, or get an idea, I want to make it NOW! I want to go through the process of making it so I can hold it when it’s finished. Luckily, I usually only have one project going at a time, so it’s easy to just finish whatever thing I’m making and then pick up on the new idea. The only real holdback I get is if I don’t have the right size rings or whatever I need to make the thing in question. It takes about a week or so for me to get in new supplies when I order them, so sometimes that wait is agony. What’s worse is when I’m halfway through making something and I run out of the rings I need… and then my supplier is out of stock. But I always have something else I can make.

3) As someone who publishes works by others, what’s your favorite and least favorite part of the process?

I’d say my favorite part of the process is finally being finished! While I love casting and recording the stories and characters, and putting it all together can be a great creative blast, the best part is finally having the whole picture completed and being able to listen to it.

That and maybe adding sound effects when they’re warranted.

My least favorite part is definitely reading through submissions. I tend to fall behind on that. And it’s not that I don’t want to do it or that I’m afraid everything we get is crap. It’s not. I love to read. But there’s that lingering fear that I’m going to have to reject something because it doesn’t fit with us. I would rather be producing episodes than going through the logistics of picking what stories we do. I’ve actually been really lucky so far. What we’ve had submitted to us is great. Also… I’m not a huge fan of the grunt work of initial audio editing, weeding out the bad takes of readings so Chainmail2I’ve got usable audio. That’s tedious. But then I get to sift for bloopers, so there is an upside.

So if you submit to us and don’t hear anything for a while, it’s nothing against you. I just get lazy, let them build up, and then binge read submissions.

Amazon Page
The Chain Nerd Chainmail
The Meltingpotcast

Interview With Michael Underwood (Three Questions)

(This is part  “Three Questions With Xxxx“. If you’re interested in taking part click here and fill out the form.)

Headshot FountainI became aware of Michael and his talent through podcasting and mutual friends. When I saw the concept behind his series Genrenauts and learned about the Kickstarter he’s running to fund it, I immediately wanted to ask him some questions.

1) I love shorter fiction. Doorstops turn me off, so short stories and novellas are my cup of tea. I’m starting to see more and more shorter works published, perhaps at least in part because of the ease of publication these days. What is it about this length/format that appeals to you as a writer (and perhaps as a reader)?

MU: Like many writers, I started with short fiction before I tried my hand at writing a novel. Once I got into long form, I mostly stayed there, since most of what I read growing up and most of what I read now is longer-form. I got into novellas through my first series, the Ree Reyes urban fantasies, when my publisher asked me to write a novella to tide the series over while I tried out another idea. It was really fun for me to investigate that middle format, with some of the density and focus I associate with short fiction while still having the space to develop a longer plot, to include action sequences, and other aspects that I hadn’t really been able to do in short fiction.

Genrenauts 2.5 - There Will Always Be a MaxAs a reader, I’ve become more and more fond of novellas as I’ve been reading other works from my fellow Tor.com Publishing authors – it’s really fun to see how much variation there is even within the constraints of the novella format – a one-POV novella of just between 18K and 20K words (like Binti by Nnedi Okorafor or Domnall and the Borrowed Child by Sylvia Sprunk Wrigley) is a very different beast from an almost-40,000-ish word work that’s as much short novel as long novella (like The Sorcerer of the Wildeeps by Kai Ashante Wilson). The novella is an incredibly flexible format, and every one I read, I come to appreciate it more, and agree even more with scholars and legends who hold it up as the perfect length for speculative fiction.

In addition to appreciating that variation, I love novellas as a palate cleanser. I can read a 120,000 word serious, deliberate book, then breeze through a 25,000-word adventure to clear my head, to round out my emotional landscape. Or I can set up a stack of three novellas and read them all over a long weekend without that being all I do over those three days.

In a world where there are an infinite number of shiny things vying for our attention, novellas are even more appealing as a form of written storytelling – they’re the Goldilocks planet of fiction – not too long, not too short – they’re just right.

2) Serial fiction is nothing new. This approach to writing and releasing prose is likely as old as writing itself. Then, as you pointed out on your Kickstarter page, is also thanks in part to television. What challenges do you face in putting out serial fiction and how have you overcome them in this series?

Genrenauts 1 - The Shootout SolutionMU: The Kickstarter is in no small part a direct response to the challenges of serial fiction – I had a serial work that I wasn’t able to publish fast enough to operate the way I felt it needed to. Tor.com invested a lot of resources and gave me support, but they weren’t in a position to publish all six novellas of season one in rapid succession. The Kickstarter, if successful, will give me the means to publish episodes 3 through six in rapid succession.

Another challenge for serial fiction, I think, is binge watching culture. Thanks to Netflix and to some notoriously unfinished prose series, a lot of people prefer to consume an entire series all at once, or at least a large portion of narrative all at once. Reading 150 pages per chunk is outside the normal reading habit for a lot of people, so working in a serial fiction space carries some effort to reorient readers into this older form of reading (though it is the dominant way a lot of the first, truly broadly English-language commercial fiction was consumed). I’ve tried to plan for that inclination to want to read in big chunks by balancing my stories between the serial and episodic modes. The episodes all feed in together to larger stories, but each episode has its own internal arcs, largely framed by the ‘case of the week’ structure of the Genrenauts’ field missions.

Genrenauts 2 - The Absconded Ambassador3) This series was originally being published by Tor. Due in part to a desire to release these with greater frequency, you’re publishing the next several “episodes” independently. As you’ve said, Tor was okay with that. Did that reaction surprise you and what challenges do you think you’ll face as a result of this change?

The possibility of continuing the series on my own was a part of the conversation with Tor.com from the beginning. Being a publishing professional in my day job, and having worked with my editor previously as a colleague, it was easier for my agent and I to talk very frankly about the different possibilities of what might happen down the road with the series. The permission to republish the Tor.com episodes in a collected edition was in the contract from the very beginning, which has made this transition much easier (it wasn’t a surprise, it was option #2 on a list of several options, all of which were discussed before I signed the contract for Episodes 1 & 2.)

There are, however, still challenges. From what I’ve learned about indie/author-publishing, not having direct control of every story in a series makes some strategies and tactics that have worked well for other authors more difficult for me – I have to work with the Tor.com model and make what they’re doing into strengths for the series. The Tor.com business model is digital-leaning, which lines up well with the also digital-leaning indie publishing. The first two episodes got much more of a buy-in to libraries thanks to Macmillan’s strength in that field, so I know that I can and should be on the lookout for ways to support and reach out to libraries. Since I work in publishing, I feel fairly confident that I’ll be able to build my indie-published episodes and collections on top of the platform for the series that Tor.com and I built together with the first episodes, especially as they continue to support them and the series writ large.

BONUS QUESTION – Since this is an effort to crowdsource the rest of the series, I wanted to know if this is successful (and I hope it is), whether you intend to do more independent publishing as a result and what you think about the future of “hybrid” authors (those that have been published both traditionally and independently).

MU: I definitely plan to continue publishing some of my work independently. I have tried to approach my writing career using a hybrid author mentality for most of two years now, though this is my first independent publishing project (I self-pubbed a short story to my mailing list a while back, but that was a very small, ‘thanks for being awesome gift’ kind of affair). I wholeheartedly agree with the hybrid publishing pioneers who have called for authors to broaden our perspective, to take control of our publishing careers and destinies, in order to better weather the tides of publishing.

For me, more hybrid authors means more authors thinking about the business side of their careers. Which then means means more authors confident to push back on bad clauses in publishing contracts, more authors who know there are other options if a deal falls through. It means more careers that survive a dip due to one poorly-selling book or shift in the market. It means more independently-published authors making smart choices on when and why they might want to sign a traditional contract in order to gain the reach and support that traditional houses can offer. Add in crowdfunding tools like Patreon and Kickstarter and there are really enough option to build a publishing career in a very deliberate, efficient way, and I hope that we see it continue to pay off for a lot of writers. There are always going to be writers that aren’t interested in the entrepreneurial mindset that helps make selling indie more viable, but those who have the flexibility and patience to use each path for its advantages to weave together a diverse publishing portfolio will, I think, find a lot of opportunities and more chances to make a sustainable career.

Michael R. Underwood is the author of seven books, including the Ree Reyes Geekomancy series, superhero fantasy Shield and Crocus, and Genrenauts, a sdience fiction adventure series in novellas. By day, he’s the North American Sales & Marketing Manager for Angry Robot Books. Mike grew up devouring stories in all forms, from comics to video games, tabletop RPGs, movies, and books. Always books.
Mike lives in Baltimore with his wife and their ever-growing library. In his rapidly-vanishing free time, he geeks out on comics and games and makes pizzas from scratch. He is also a co-host on the Hugo-nominated Skiffy and Fanty Show and Speculate! The Podcast for Writers, Readers, and Fans.

Amazon Page
Kickstarter Page for Genrenauts

Interview with Jean Marie Bauhaus

I was so excited by the idea of a possible new book in this series and the Kickstarter campaign that I wanted to ask JM a few questions. Watch the video and then have a read!

1) Is the mystery genre one that you’ve always been interested in writing in? Who are your favorite mystery writers?

It’s funny, I’ve never thought of myself as a mystery writer. I didn’t set out to write a mystery with Restless Spirits, but I guess it definitely has elements of that. The sequel, if I write it, will be even more of a whodunit–that’s one of the things that really tripped me up when I tried to write the original draft without an outline. I got about 30,000 words in and had to throw it all out and do an outline to untangle the knots of the mystery aspect of that whole story.

I don’t really read the mystery genre, outside of Sherlock Holmes–although I’m a big fan of The Dresden Files and I guess those qualify as mystery (and were undoubtedly a big influence on my writing at the time). I also occasionally read suspense thrillers like Tess Gerritsen’s Rizzoli & Isles series, which definitely have a crime solving aspect. But for me, with this book, the mystery aspect was just a backdrop for the characters to be interesting. It wasn’t really at the forefront of my mind when I wrote it.

2) I like the way the romance is worked into the story very organically and how it ties into other plot points. It’s not just “tacked on”. Was that romance part of your early planing?

Restless Spirits happens to be the one and only book I’ve ever managed to successfully pants (i.e., write with no planning or outline). So everything did unfold very organically. Once I started writing Ron and got into her character and her voice, everything just clicked and I just let her tell her story. I was more or less along for the ride on that one.

3) What challenges have you faced getting this out there, as you aren’t only the author here but also the editor and publisher?

This was the first book I self-published. It was my NaNoWriMo project way back in ‘08 (the first time I “won” that event, too–lot of firsts with this book), and in 2009 I made my first foray into self-publishing by posting it on a blog (I come from a fan fiction background so that felt really natural at the time). When people complained that it was hard to read in that format, I posted it on Scribd, and after a while I tried charging for the full download.

Around this time, there was a big movement in postcasting, where folks like J.C. Hutchins and Scott Sigler and Mur Lafferty were doing really neat things with serial podcast fiction. So I tried that next, but I only got two chapters recorded and edited before I knew that podcasting and I just weren’t a good fit.

Fast-forward to 2011, when Kindle Direct Publishing and Createspace were starting to be seen as legitimate roads to publishing. By that point I had taken my book (back then it was titled This Old Haunt) off of Scribd because it wasn’t really selling, but I’d gotten a lot of good feedback on it. So I decided to do another revision and release it as an actual book under its current title.

It got some great reader reviews right off the bat, and sales were small but steady for about the first year. They picked up a bit after I wrote my second novel, but it didn’t really gain traction until I made it “perma-free” on Amazon. Since then, I’ve given away probably a few thousand copies, but it’s garnered a respectable number of positive reviews and has done a lot to drive sales and borrows of my other books.

4) You’ve decide to put together a Kickstarter to fund the second novel in this series. What made you decide to go this route?

People have been asking me to do a sequel almost since the current version was first published, but for a long time I just didn’t see where the story could go from there. I felt like Ron’s story was done, and I had other story ideas I wanted to write. But then last year I was struck with inspiration for not just a sequel, but a whole series–at least four books, if not more.

So I tried to write the second book, and hoping that lightning would strike twice, I attempted to pants it. As I said above, that didn’t go so well and I had to throw out most of that first attempt and do an outline. But unfortunately, I haven’t been able to write any more on it, because life.

I would really like to write this series, but although requests for a sequel have been passionate, they haven’t been great in number, and since work forced me to put it on the back burner I’ve had inspiration for a number of other books I’d like to write.

I thought doing a Kickstarter would kill three birds with one stone; if successful, it would let me cut back on my freelancing hours and finally write the book without having to worry about how we’re going to buy groceries for the next three months, and also provide the needed funds to produce a big-publishing-quality book. It would also tell me whether there’s really a viable audience for this series. If there is, then I’ll know what I’ll be working on for the next year or two. If there’s not and the campaign doesn’t reach its funding goal (or even come close), then I can move on to one of those other projects with no guilt.

5) How will you be using the funds that you generate?

Whatever’s left after Kickstarter fees, processing fees, and order fulfillment costs (i.e. shipping, etc.) will have a sizeable chunk set aside for book production costs–editing, mainly, but I’d also like to see what a professional illustrator could do with the cover. I’ve always designed my own covers and I’m kind of a control freak in that area, but I don’t have a lot of ideas for this one that I’d be able to pull off well with my graphic design skills alone.

If there’s enough left over (in terms of either money or time), I’d also like to re-format the original Restless Spirits. I made a lot of amateur formatting mistakes with the paperback version that I haven’t had time to go back and correct now that I know what I’m doing. If I ever put out a boxed set I want everything to be consistent in terms of quality.

If we reach my initial funding goal, then the rest will help cover living expenses while I actually make the book. If we go over, then I’ll put together some stretch goals and new prizes. I’d like to do fun stuff like swag–I know a local artist who creates awesome jewelry around literary and fantasy themes–and maybe some kind of book launch event. I think it would be a lot of fun to get together with the local paranormal society and do a ghost tour that culminates with a reading and book signing at this local haunted theater; but that’ll be a big stretch goal, if my campaign ever reaches that point.

Thanks for coming on the blog! I wish you great success.

Back the Kickstarter
Get the e-book!
JM’s Author’s Site
JM’s Twitter

Interview With Jared Axelrod (Three Questions)

(This is part  “Three Questions With Xxxx”. If you’re interested in taking part click here and fill out the form.)

Headshot I’ve had the pleasure of knowing Jared for a few years through his works and having met him at Balticon. He’s easily one of the most multi-talented people I know. Costumer, puppeteer, writer, visual artist, journalist, model, and voice actor cover just a few of his roles.

CCAcoversmall 1) You are a multi-talented creator. You’ve created podcasts, short fiction, awesome costume pieces, and graphic novels. It seems like you’ve woven all of those things together to form the narrative around and behind the character of Comrade Cockroach, a retired Russian super villain. What drove you to tell his story?

Neil Gaiman. Honestly.

Y’see, DC Comics hired Gaiman to write “Whatever Happened to the Caped Crusader?” the “last” Batman story. The idea was it was going to be similar to Alan Moore’s “Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow?” “last” Superman story. Just as Moore focused on Superman’s capability to inspire, Gaiman was tasked with finding the essence of Batman. While Gaiman’s story is beautiful in so many ways, he can’t quite nail the dismount. The essence of Batman, according to Gaiman, is that he doesn’t give up.

Which to my mind is ridiculous. OF COURSE he doesn’t give up. He’s had, what, one defeat? Two? (the death of the 2nd Robin and that time Bane broke his back, for those following along at home) Compare that to the countless victories he’s had. Why would he give up, if all he’s known is success?

(I get what Gaiman was aiming for, that appeal of Batman is not in his success, but in his struggles, but that’s not really what’s presented in the story.)

Which, contrarian that I am, sent me thinking about the kind of person for who the statement “they never give up” WOULD mean something. Obviously, it would be a supervillian, for whom failure is a way of life. And from that rude clay, Comrade Cockroach was born.

ccmucolorsmall 2) One of the pieces of advice I often hear is “write what you know”. I think that advice, as it’s commonly understood, is more than just a little ridiculous. As a creator, you strike me as the kind of person who, if they don’t know something, will do whatever it takes to find it out in order to tell the story. What skills and knowledge did you acquire in order to bring this character to life?

Very little that I didn’t have already, I’m sorry to say. Comrade Cockroach has always been a love-letter to all the pop-culture elements I love. He crawls on walls like Spider-Man and heals from any wound like Wolverine. He costume purposely evokes a Luchadore outfit. He’s Russian, like so many Captain America villains of my youth. Comrade Cockroach is all of these things because I love all of these things. Any research involved happened long before I thought him up.

Take the Russian element, for example. I’m of Russian descent myself—my ancestors, Mensheviks, every last one of them, left for America once it became clear they were on the losing side. Part of me is curious, I suppose, about what they missed by coming over here to lead far better lives then they ever would have had they stayed. The USSR under Stalin was this weird sort of history gift that keeps on giving; it’s fascism, make no mistake, but it’s fascism that grew up with the Nazis, so it’s desperate not to make the same mistakes. So you have things like giving medals to mothers for raising their children, and encouraging literacy, and the beautiful hubris of the space program, but also the gulags and airbrushing people out of photographs, and the immense corruption. Trying to make a better world and going about it in the worst possible way. All of that, all of the kaleidoscope of conflicting ideals, that is irresistible to me.

Comrade Cockroach is not so much a reason to research, but rather, a release valve for all the research I’ve got pent up inside.

CScover3small3) Most people, when they write stories, chose to tell the hero’s tale. With the good Comrade, we’re getting a decidedly non-heroic story. What were the challenges for you in that?

I guess it all depends on your definition of heroism, doesn’t it? Comrade Cockroach does think of himself as heroic, and he carries himself that way because of it.

What makes him fun is that sense of purpose, of heroism, is put in the service of goals that are usually petty, sometimes monstrous. Cockroach believes that the ends justify the means, but he is also guilty of over-inflating his ends. His primary goal is to destroy the American superhero the Bold Eagle, and in his mind, this is an epic quest, the kind you write operas about. Nevermind the regime that gave him this order is no longer around, and the current government wants nothing to do with him. Nevermind that the Bold Eagle who patrols the streets now is literally a different man than the one Cockroach was ordered to kill. And even if those things weren’t true, it would still be murder with the flimsiest of motives.

The nice thing about Cockroach is that he’s not a crazy person. He does regret the things he has done. And this regret, I believe, is the key to the character. He knows he’s done bad things, and he doesn’t even have the salve of success to tell him that he was right to do them.

Cockroach is a tortured everyman in the vein of —if I’m allowed to be so lofty—Arthur Miller’s Willy Loman. He has a job he’s not sure he believes in, for a goal that seems more uncertain by the day. But he doesn’t know how to do anything else. For all his power, he doesn’t have the strength to be anybody other than what he is. Because then everything he’s sacrificed up into this point would truly be for naught.

What’s weird is that all of these elements of who Comrade Cockroach is have come together from various small, short pieces. None of them have everything that is Cockroach in them, but all have contributed a piece. One of the fascinating things to me about this character has been watching him evolve as each layer of story has been put upon him.

But to get back to your question, because of the world he lives in, Cockroach must always lose. So the challenge with his stories is to make the plot come to a triumphant conclusion, but at a horrible cost to Cockroach personally. It’s not by accident that THE COCKROACH STRIKES ends with Comrade Cockroach figuring out what was going on, but at the cost of one of his few friends and his own sense of identity.

Comrade Cockroach must always lose. But he never gives up.


You can find Jared at http://www.jaredaxelrod.com/
Follow him on Twitter at PlanetX

Interview With Jeff Hite (Three Questions)

Jhite (This is part  “Three Questions With Xxxx”. If you’re interested in taking part click here and fill out the form.)

Jeff and I have been friends for years. He was part of the staff at Flying Island Press and his love of the short story form is nigh legendary.

1) You’ve written a lot of short fiction and have been an editor in the short fiction market. That makes you something of an expert in my book. What is it that you love so much about the format?

Short fiction gives you just a glimpse, just a taste of a world, but when it is done right, it gives you the whole story, in a format that you can easily digest in one sitting. I really enjoy that part of it. I think some of it comes from having a busy life, some of it comes from my short attention span, and some of it just comes from being able to get the whole story in one shot. Make no mistake I like really in depth stories, and really enjoy novel length stories but there is just something about the shorter stories that draw me to them.
Why do I write them? Well, I think that is simple, because of all the reasons above, and one more, they challenge me to fit an entire story into a small package. I have to cut all the fluff, and all the extra stuff, and just tell a story, and I like doing that.

2) It’s not a great paying market these days, though there are ways to sell them. Why do you think that is?

It really comes down to delivery method. The short answer is ebooks and podcasts. It is more complicated than that, but really it is the ability to publish a single short story and get it out there, that was really not available 10-15 years ago. Before the popularity of ebooks and podcasts, if you wanted to sell a short story you had to go to a magazine, Of which there were very few, and their slush piles must have been huge, because publishing and printing a short story yourself just didn’t make any sense economically. Now you can write a short story and publish it yourself in ebook format. To the end “user” there is no difference other than cost, between buying a short story or buying a novel length work. Now that these outlets exist, there is a market for them, and you can see that in the rise in the number of emagizines, that just didn’t exist 15 years ago, and short fiction podcasts such as the Escape Artist series, The DrabbleCast and even Cast of Wonders, they, while “free” to the consumer, are paying markets.

3) In moving from writing short fiction to longer form fiction what are the challenges you face?

I really like longer stories. I love the way that you can dive into someone else’s world and get completely lost. That is the great thing about novel length works. And short fiction is not just a shorten version of a novel length work. I think that idea has been the hardest one for me to over come. As I have said many times before, I am a, “by the seat of your pants” writer. I very often have no idea of what a story is actually going to be about when I start writing it. That presents a real problem when you start to write long works. You have to not only know where the story is going, but also be able to hold all of those ideas in your head while you are writing. See my above note about short attention span, and just repeat that here about 5 times. Most of my short fiction works are under 10,000 words. That length I can keep in my head without notes, longer than that I have to keep some sort of notes, and referring back to those notes while I am writing or editing, really kills my momentum. So learning to control a story, and plan it out have been my biggest challenges when working on longer works.

I am a little busy right now, please leave a message at the beep?


But I am really busy..


Still not buying it huh?

Ok then I guess…

Jeff Hite, A.K.A. The Dark Lord Hite, A.K.A. Dr. Evil-n-Carnate, A.K.A. Steve Wolencheck, current occupant of cubical 3257J, affectionately referred to as “that jerk who eats lunch in his cubicle even though we have a lunch room and he really should eat there,” is first and foremost a husband and father. He and his wife and their ten minions I mean children, live in their orbiting space station. No, that burned up in the atmosphere last year. They live in their undersea lab. No, that is not right either, it fell to crush depth three months ago. Well where ever they live that is where you can find them.

By day he is an IT professional, by night When he and his partner in crime, Alex the 486 Beowulf Super cluster are not trying to take over the world they run the “sheep dating service,” also known as sheep breeding, for the local farming cooperative. When he can fit it in he writes short fiction about the fantastic, is a reader with Cast Of Wonders, and an assistant audio producer for Get Published.

He and his alter ego Michell Plested are Co editors of A Method To the Madness: A Guide To the Super Evil and the forthcoming book There is a Magic Portal Under My Sink.

He and his wife home school their minions, I mean kids and teach NFP to anyone who will listen. The rest of his life is devoted to his first love, his family, their chickens, sheep, dogs and now to appease the cat owners, one of those as well.

Other projects:
A Method To the Madness: A Guide To the Super Evil
There is a Magic Portal Under My Sink
Cast of Wonders
Get Published (Audio Production)
Flying Island Press

Interview With JRD Skinner (Three Questions)

Skinner Co - Text (This is part  “Three Questions With Xxxx”. If you’re interested in taking part click here and fill out the form.)

I’ve been a fan of Skinner Co’s podcasts for a long time. The writer for the show, JRD, is a admirable for a number of reasons, not the least of which is the mountain he’s climbing with his co-horts (whom I hope to have interviews from in the near future). Creating hundreds of interlinked stories, voicing them in a compelling way, and putting out quality audio is a challenge I’m somewhat familiar with. So, I’m happy to bring you this interview and encourage you to subscribe at http://flashpulp.com.

1) All of the stories I’ve seen from you are ultra short aka flash fiction, thus the name for your podcast. What is it that you enjoy so much about this format?

I’ve always been a sucker for the short story format, and one of the things I really wanted to work on when I started Flash Pulp was my density. Two of my cardinal genres, fantasy and science fiction, suffer from chronic bloat, and I was getting to a point where I was suffering page-turn fatigue just from reading the location descriptions of Frank Herbert, Neal Stephenson, Robert Jordan, etc.

On the whole I think “genre fiction” is on the rebound back to a reasonable size, something that’s certainly been aided by the current boom in digital sales.

I want folks to feel like they can depend on us to plant a flag and scale a mountain in fifteen minutes or less.

2) Pulp is one of those words like science fiction or pornography that has no widely accepted definition per se. They are what we point to when we say them. Having said that, I’d like you to define it.

By my thinking there are two aspects to this one: Pulp needs to be easy/cheap to widely distribute – I’m thinking of the mags and dime novels of the ’30s and ’40s, the cheap to-make shadow plays that were the noir movies of the ’40s and ’50s, the drive in flicks that followed, and even the direct to VHS shelf-fillers of the ’80s – and, as a more philosophical matter, it must have a certain sort of romanticism at its core. You can frame it in terms of swashbuckling, or idealism, or even actual romantics, but there’s got to be enough room to allow for some wonder, (be it in the notion that one man really can take on innumerable odds, or that the heroine can escape the fiends chasing her through the graveyard, or even the basic notion that there’s more to the world than we can see with a natural eye.)

3) What are you doing with your podcast that you didn’t think you would and how do you think the podcast will affect/influence any future non-Flashpulp projects?

I’m making a lot more friends through the project than I thought I would. I had only a fuzzy understanding of what exactly the end goal looked like when I started, but I certainly didn’t expect to be surrounded by so many fantastically like-minded folks. Whatever the future project, I’ll definitely be looking for this sort of feedback, both good and bad.

JRD, when not hammering at his keyboard, sells maple-flavoured beaver meat to school children and brags about it at Skinner.fm/FlashPulp.com