Friday, February 22, 2019

Welcome Nora Pace, our New Poetry and Non-Fiction Contributor!

Nora Pace is a high school English teacher whose teaching philosophy centers student writing, social justice, and creative communities. She is a graduate of The College of William & Mary (B.A. English and History) and of Brown University (M.A.T. Secondary English). She teaches a semester-long poetry course for high school juniors and seniors in which she writes beside her students and debates whether crabs think fish are birds. Her poetry is concerned with nature, love, duality, queerness, and wonder. She lives in Providence, Rhode Island. 

When did you first know you wanted to be a writer?

I have been writing since I was a little kid, sitting out in my backyard with chocolate and a notebook and writing fantasy stories for hours. I developed a dream in those early years of BEING A WRITER: getting published, being famous, living this fabulous life where I was enjoying the fruits of what I was created. But as I held on to that ideal, somewhere along the way I ran out of time to write. I wrote a few angst-ridden poems in high school and worked on a novel in tiny increments in college, but my academic life and career goals got in the way of time to actually write. So I had the idea of wanting to BE A WRITER but without any meaningful writing practice. This lasted until the Spring of 2017 when two things happened: first, my school implemented semester-long choice-based English for 11th and 12th grade, and I won the privilege of designing a poetry course. And second, I went through a really tough break-up. I started writing poems every day because I needed to reconnect with my heart, and I realized that it would be impossible to teach the poetry course I wanted to teach unless I was an actual practicing poet. So I decided to try. Now with my first publication around the corner, I can call myself an author, but I can call myself a WRITER because I write. 

What draws you to your particular genre? 

Poetry brings me so much joy! I am fascinated by what people can do with language, and the way that poetry is at once challenging and liberating. You can write anything you want, break the rules, invent love languages, burden objects with emotions, and shout! But it also takes so much intense skill to pull off a poem that is truly great. 

My second favorite genre to write in is nonfiction. Like poetry, writing essays requires a willingness to notice things about the world around us; to read into culture, memory, language, history, and politics. I find that my nonfiction writing is a way to work out the things that puzzle and bother me. It also helps me draw connections between myself and my world, and to ask challenging questions about life and society and answer them. 

What can the readers of The Aspiring Author Blog expect to gain from your posts?

As I've explained above, my writing journey took the conscious choice to write often and to create a space for writing in my life. If you're looking for ideas about creating or revitalizing your own writing practice, I can help with that. I'll write about internalizing reflection and where poetry comes from, about the struggle of revising and listening to oneself, and about the ways that poetry surprises me every day. I believe writing is such a personally enriching thing that it's worth doing just for yourself. I also think that writing wants an audience to complete the cycle, so I'll have advice on making your writing the best it can be so that you can share it with the universe.   

What is one tip you have for aspiring authors in your genre?

You become a writer by writing-- so write a lot! I didn't know I could really write poetry until I wrote a poem every single day for a month. And I didn't come into my own as an essayist until I had a topic that engaged my entire heart (school shootings), and I just had to write about it night after night.  It takes time and, like any art, practice! 

On the other hand, you become an author by saying boldly, "here is my work, and I love it; do you love it, too?" It's going to take a lot more submissions for me to get published consistently. Especially with poetry, there are so many journals out there that might want to read what you have, and it's really about volume and bravery. I think persistence is an underrated virtue. So if you are aspiring and not calling yourself an author yet, just keep going. 

You can read Nora's Poetry and Non-Fiction posts on the fourth Thursday of the month!

Connect with Nora:

Website   Twitter 

Monday, February 18, 2019

Regrets, Golden Hair, and Long Kisses by Elizabeth Sloan

Jack gripped the steering wheel until his knuckles turned white. He thought of only one thing: How much he was going to regret this.

Will sat in the back side of the convertible, looking out the window. His golden hair seemed to shimmer in the light. Jack snuck in as many glances as he could without getting into a car accident.

Jack parked the car at the most expensive, luxurious apartment complex in the entirety of New York. It was taller than the sky and the cheapest room cost more than Jack made in a year of being a chauffeur. Upon entering the apartment complex and riding up the elevator to the top floor, Jack and Will entered the living room of the Whitehorn family.

Mrs. Whitehorn was wearing a purple cocktail dress that clung to her figure in a way that it shouldn’t for a 47-year-old woman. She sat on a chair Jack could swear was made of gold. Mr. Whitehorn was standing over her with both hands on her shoulder. His salt and pepper mustache sat on top of something uncustomary for a Whitehorn - a frown. The oldest brother and daughter of the Whitehorn family sat on a white, satin couch, their golden hair shining in the light of the balcony window. All of them were turned in the direction of the door, as if expecting someone.

“What-” Will began, but he was interrupted by his mother in a soft yet serious tone, “Thank you, Jack, for bringing my son here.” To Will she spoke, “Will, I know you’re surprised, but we have something very im-”

The older sister, Millicent, interrupted, “Get to the point.” She blew on her still-wet, red nails.

“Son,” Mr. Whitehorn said instead, “we don't like you being in a… Relationship with this ‘Harold Guant’ fellow. It doesn’t seem right.”

Will was struck speechless.

“How dare you!”

Maybe not so speechless.

Will, the normally sweet-tempered young man, continued, “You’re just saying this because we’re both men!”

To this, the other son of the Whitehorn family replied, “Of course not, you dummy! We literally don’t care about that. At all. Harold is just really, really creepy. Millicent’s boyfriend at least gives me video games and stuff. The last time Harold came, he wiped off his hand after giving me a handshake.”

His mother continued the thought earnestly, “He’s not good for you.”

“Isn’t he too old for you anyway?” Millicent added, “He’s, like, 40.”

That was the final straw.

Will groaned and left the apartment, and the apartment complex, in a huff. Jack followed him and opened the car door, just in time for Will to enter the back seat.

Both sitting in the car in silence, Will peered up at Jack and asked him, “We’re about the same age, right? So you’ll understand. My family’s just acting crazy right?”

Jack was quiet for a moment and thought back to the last time he saw Harold, the rich, businessman in question.

It took everything in Jack not to look at the car mirrors and see Will and Harold interlocking their lips in the back seat of the convertible.

Thankfully for Jack, the torturously awkward encounter soon ended with Will leaving for a family dinner. That left him to drive Harold home.

Harold, the nearly middle-aged man with slick black hair and piercing, one could say calculating, blue eyes, wiped off his mouth. The charming expression he wore when he was with Will left his face and was replaced solely with apathy. He muttered something under his breath hard to distinguish.

‘Disgusting,’ Jack finally determined.

Harold locked eyes with the chauffeur and said, “You tell anyone, you lose your job.”

Jack nodded, but, inside, he thought, Hell no.

Will looked up at Jack expectantly.

I’m going to regret this, aren't I? Jack thought.

Tentatively, Jack suggested, “Maybe, he isn’t exactly who you think he is?”

“What’s that supposed to mean?!” Will retorted, then paused for a moment and looked away, blushing, “Er - Sorry.”

A coy smile formed on Jacks' lips and he said, “What’s wrong with being passionate?” His smile faded. He hesitated before saying, “Just… Be careful about who you let into your life.”

It took several moments for Will to reply. Finally, he said with conviction, “I want to marry him. I just really want to marry him.”

Jack flinched and bit his lip.

He said with bitterness in his voice, “Tell him.”

Jack parked near the entrance to Harold’s building and let Will out.

15 minutes past since he entered. Jack began to fiddle with the steering wheel.
On 30 minutes, Jack thought, Something's wrong.

Jack exited the car raced up the steps.

He ran up to the 16th floor, slamming the door open to Harold’s room. He gasped when he saw Will in a heap on the floor, a red mark on his cheek. Harold himself stood above him, screaming insults too wicked to repeat. There was one thing for certain he said:

With that, Jack darted toward the screaming man and punched him square in the face. Harold came stumbling down and hit his head on his desk. He moaned in his unconscious state.

Jack grabbed the disoriented, sobbing Will by the wrist and road the elevator down to his car. There he began patching up the bruise on Will’s face.

Will began to say something but Jack interrupted him, saying, “Don't speak. You’re hurt.”

Will pushed away Jack’s hand and wiped the tears from his eyes, “I made a mistake. He didn’t care about me.” His voice trembled.

Jack hesitated, then caressed Will’s unhurt cheek and, with his other hand, without thinking of consequences, brought his face closer to his own in a long kiss.

Will opened his eyes wide in surprise, but he didn’t pull away. Will quickly melted in his grasp.

There they stayed for a long, long time.

Elizabeth Sloan is a teen, unpublished writer. She writes novels in various genres, including: YA, Dystopian, Fantasy, and LGBT Romance. Elizabeth enjoys cold drinks when it's snowy out, spends her free time acting in her school's drama program, and loves the color blue. She is currently writing a novella that will be self-published as an ebook by the end of the school year.

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Thursday, February 14, 2019

Heart Keeper, a Short Story by the Aspiring Author Blog Contributors

Angelo picked up his sculpting knife and observed the large block of dark grey clay before him, studying it around the edge of the blade. As he approached it, the plastic covering the floor crinkled beneath the weight of his footsteps. He slowly circled the clay, fondling it with his fingertips. 

What was he going to create?  He didn't know. He never knew. He just worked until it was done. Until the form took shape. Until the clay told him its hidden meaning.

With one hand he held the clay and with his other, he lifted his knife and nimbly began carving. Angelo's fingers scooped, pulled and pressed against the soft clay until he started to see a nose beginning to form. Gentle curves of flesh revealed themselves as a feminine face took shape. 

She looked up at him as he added more definition to her soft, almond eyes. It was a familiar face. He stood back to consider it, wondering where he had seen her before. He kept working and the clay face began to smile at him as he formed full lips wearing a hint of a loving smile. Ribbons began to show up as his fingers worked through the long flowing waves of her hair. 

He moved his thumb under her cheeks smoothing the lumps in the clay, gazing at the exquisite face that sat quietly in front of him, he sighed in recognition and sat down on the plastic, wrapping his arms around his knees.


They’d met on a blind date two years ago and from the first moment, she’d captured him. Soft light drifted down from the skylight overhead and he looked up to find grey clouds forming, reviving his memory of the first moment they met. She’d been holding an umbrella. A ridiculous thing. A wide pink parasol with frills, torn ragged by the afternoon thunderstorm. She’d crashed into him under the awning of his favorite coffee shop, exclaiming, “Holy fuck, I just cut the shit out of my finger!”

She’d held up her hand for effect. In the battle with the wild wind to save her ridiculous umbrella, she’d been wounded and was bleeding. Angelo had reached for her hand without thinking and in that one touch, he was hers.

Weeks of blissful caresses past. Long, loving nights filled with philosophy and laughter. She was unlike any woman he’d ever met before or since and he’d never forgotten their time together. When she’d left Portland for Orca Island off the coast of Seattle, he’d expected to have her back in his arms within three weeks’ time. But she hadn’t returned. She had simply vanished without any explanation.

Concerned for her wellbeing, he’d gone to the San Juan Islands himself, playing amateur flatfoot in a futile attempt to find her. All he’d gotten for his trouble was a bout of seasickness on a rough ferry crossing and the news that Rebecca hadn’t spent her time on Orca Island alone. She’d been in the company of an older man. They’d arrived together and left together.

Brokenhearted, Angelo had returned to Portland and struggled to pick up the edges of his life. 

He studied the clay dried to his fingers, rubbing the rough mud over his skin. He’d always felt that he was of the earth. Solid. Nurturing. Grounded. Rebecca was something else entirely. A fire that burned fast and fixed him in place, forever scorched by her absence.

Looking up into the face of the woman he still loved, he asked. " Whatever happened to you?" 

Silence was his answer.

Despite the ache in his heart, he let his hands work their magic on the clay, down to the last frekle. When he had finally finished, he knew exactly what to do with his carved beauty. 

A month later he found himself making small talk with the patrons visiting his art exhibit. The buzz about the bust in the center of the room was all anyone could talk about. 

“I simply must know more about your muse!” a man Angelo barely knew said as he patted him on the back, almost making him cough up his wine. “Stunning, simply stunning. And the name! Heart Keeper! I know there is a story behind that,” he finished with a mischievous smile. 

“I really better go mingle. Lot’s to do.” Angelo began backing up, his body halting midstep as he collided with someone behind him. 

As he turned around, eyes on the floor, he noticed a shattered glass and spilled wine, his ears flooding with commotion as everyone turned to see what had happened.  

“Excuse me,” he managed as he looked up into the eyes that had been haunting ever since he'd touched that lump of clay months before. 

“You always knew how to greet a girl,” Rebecca said, her eyes twinkling with laughter as she leaned on the long handle of her umbrella. 

“How did you- your dress! Oh, I’m so sorry.” His hand voluntarily reached to wipe her gown, but he caught himself and pulled his hand back, rubbing the back of his neck instead. 

Rebecca stepped closer, making Angelo’s body vibrate with attention. “I went looking for you,” he heard himself say. 

“I know.” 

“They said-...“

“I know. I can explain.” His finger touched her lips, he needed no explanation. His heart was dancing, singing, and rejoicing that fate should bring her back into his life. He took her hand and brought it up to his heart. 

“You found me here, but you have lived in my heart ever since that bloody pink umbrella cut your hand. What a ridiculous umbrella. My cup of coffee gone to waste. Pants ruined with blood. It was the best day of my life.” With one hand clasped with hers on his heart, he took his other and softly caressed her cheek. Her face had haunted him for months, and now to see it again, he felt his sculpting could never do it justice. 

"I'm here now Angelo. Here to stay." 

"Oh Rebecca, you never left," he leaned in and kissed her lips softly. The pair walked together out into the rain, leaving her ridiculous umbrella behind. 

Wednesday, February 13, 2019

Book Spotlight on Once Upon A [Fallen] Time (Stolen Series II) by Samreen Ahsan

All her life, Myra Farrow has been obsessed with medieval castle-and the kings and princes who once inhabited them. When Steve Bernard, a wealthy videogame designer offers her to model for a princess character in his new game, Myra can't resist his offer to enter the mysterious, colourless, and cursed Hue Castle. But unknown to Myra, her soul is bound to it by blood and sorcery. When she enters the castle's doors, she awakens dark powers, time travelling through a cursed mirror, torturing her present, and rewriting her future, leaving Steve Bernard with millions of questions. 

Edward Hue, the last of the Hue royal bloodline, has never stood in the sunshine, nor felt the rain, or held a living flower. Cursed from birth to live in darkness and bring death to all he touches, he is at the mercy of his cruel, tyrannical father King Stefan, who will not rest until he shatters Edward's soul and makes his son into a diabolical copy of himself. Edward's one hope is the mysterious woman, who walks into his life through a cursed mirror, out of his dreams, and introduces him: love. 

Will Myra break Edward's curse and bring him out of the darkness, or destroy him utterly? Will Steve ever be able to finish his game without Myra? Past and future collide in a tale of love, obsession, betrayal, and the hope for redemption.

This is book 2 of [STOLEN] SERIES 


History, art and literature are my passions. I love digging out information about prophecies, divine miracles and paranormal events that are mentioned in history and holy books, that don't sound possible in today's modern world. 

Since childhood, I have been into reading and writing—and yes, it can't happen without imagination, which luckily has no boundaries. Dance and music are also pastimes I enjoy, as well as reading romance fiction. I love to travel and explore historical cities. I currently live in Toronto, Canada. 

Monday, February 11, 2019

Setting the Scene

In a good mystery, we are given the opportunity to explore so much of the human experience. What fuels us. What corrupts us. How we inflict pain on our ourselves and others. Our wicked little paths to self-destruction. It’s why I can’t break away from writing within this genre. I just love it so.

But a part of that exploration of our inner corruption, is how the environment in which we live influences our behavior. This provides a unique opportunity to explore a location and its culture. In my favorite mysteries, the setting is as much a character as any man, woman, or child.

It’s the love/hate relationship with the city of Boston that Dennis Lehane explores in the Kenzie & Gennaro books. It’s the unearthly peace of a New Iberia bayou that James Lee Burke taps into for the Dave Robicheaux mysteries. It’s the color and joie de vie of Botswana that Alexander McCallSmith paints in The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency.

In all these stories, the events and characters could only exist in their unique locations. Put them anyplace else and the characters would be different people and the events would unfold in another pattern.

Choosing the location of your mystery is critical to it being emotionally evocative. But there is a secret to this success: you, as the author, must be intimately familiar with this location and you must love it.

Before anyone flies off the rails, I’m not saying you have to live there, but you should have at least visited…a lot. Don’t believe me? Well, I have a story for you.

I grew up in Missoula, Montana. One of the few people on earth who has lived in this very underpopulated area of the country. I know it. I can close my eyes and see the sky. I can see someone at an airport and guess if they live there. People talk a specific way. They dress in a certain style. They eat certain foods. They have the sky in their eyes. I know them because I used to be just like that.

James Lee Burke knows them, too. He visits Montana, he has a second home there. So when he moved Dave Robicheaux to my hometown? Well, those books sang for me just like the ones set in my adopted home of Louisiana. Burke is a Louisiana native with an affinity for Montana and I am his mirror image.

Now, every year I participate in a Jolabokaflod book exchange with my online book club and a few years ago, I received what looked to be a deliciously intriguing mystery set in Bozeman, Montana. It was written by a fellow independent writer, so I instantly dove in, hoping to give them a glowing review on Amazon (seriously, dear readers, if you’re not doing this for every indy author you read, stop reading this and go write some reviews – like now… go on, I’ll wait). The problem was that it became immediately obvious that the author had never been to Bozeman. Or if he had, he didn’t spend a long time there.

Sure, he’d probably watched a River Runs Through It. Maybe seen Brokeback Mountain. But this lovely Scottish man has never, ever, ever been to Bozeman, Montana. He’s never seen the mountains or the wide open sky. Because if he had, he would have mentioned it. It’s impossible not to notice, even if you’ve seen it every day of your life.

And I couldn’t read it. I couldn’t get into it.

I think as writers we want to pick a unique location for our mysteries. Something that will transport the reader to another place. And to that, I posit you this: What’s wrong with the place you’re at now?

Right now, wherever you are reading this, I can guarantee you there is something unique about your current home. Right now, there is unseen violence happening all around you. Right now, there is a mystery waiting to be solved.

The Clementine Toledano mysteries that I write are all set in New Orleans for a reason. I lived in New Orleans for many years. I was a musician there. I’m still very actively involved in the life of that city even though I live sixty miles up the river in Baton Rouge. And I am in love with New Orleans with my entire being.

Were I to set a mystery in Baton Rouge, it would be a different type of story. It would actually be a pretty awesome location for a mystery, just not a Clementine Toledano mystery.

And that’s not to say you can’t move your characters around. I’m working on Book 6 of the Clementine Toledano Mysteries now (tentatively titled ‘Devil in Exile’) and it’s not set in New Orleans. At the end of Until the Devil Weeps, I put Q on a plane bound for Grand Cayman and that’s exactly where she lands in my latest story.

Because as much as I love New Orleans, New Orleans beat my heroine’s ass from That Old Devil Sin all the way through Until the Devil Weeps and Q Toledano deserves a little break in a tropical paradise.

But I didn’t choose Grand Cayman on accident. I’ve been to Grand Cayman over a dozen times. I spend a week there every November. I can close my eyes and see the vibrant sun and feel the wind kiss my shoulders. I know the roads and the smells and the smiles and the birdsongs.

And that’s really the trick when picking your location. Pick a location that you know. It doesn’t have to be someplace you’ve lived, just someplace that you’ve loved.

Saturday, February 9, 2019

Romance Writing Prompt Challenge

Who doesn't love a challenge? Last year the contributors all worked together to write a Halloween short story and loved it! We wanted to continue this tradition of writing together, but this time, open it up to anyone and everyone! 

For us contributors, writing romance is not the main genre we write in. In genre writing, romance often plays the role of a subplot. Not this time! Now is the time to push ourselves as writers and write a full-on romantic short story. I was able to find this awesome list of romantic writing prompts from Lady Writer

So here is the challenge:

  1. Click on the list above and pick a writing prompt. 
  2. Write for no more than 30 minutes. 
  3. Edit your story. If it's longer than 1,000 words, cut it down to 1,000 (if you want it published on this blog.)
  4. Send your story to us! I will post any stories we receive on the blog.  
Few things to keep in mind:

  • Keep your story PG-13 ish. No exotica stories, please. 
  • Keep story at or under 1,000 words
  • Curse words are fine.
  • If your story does not fall within the rules stated above, it will not be published. 
  • Entries will close on Feb. 14th. All stories will be published after this date.
To send us your story, simply click on the tab that says Story Submissions and fill out the form. 

That's it! Think you're up for the challenge? 

Friday, February 8, 2019

Author Interview with Author Matt Doyle, Author of Wick

Tell me a little about yourself and your background.

Hi there. So, what should I say here? Well, let’s start with the basics. I’m a UK-based author, though I’m technically a dual-national due to my parent’s being from Ireland. It’s odd, but despite being born in England, I’ve always been proud of that heritage, and actually ended up with an Irish passport. No, I don’t have the accent though. I used to, but it faded over my early school years. Like many of us UK-dwellers, I have a love of tea too (of most varieties, if I’m being honest).

I’m a big fan of sci-fi, fantasy, horror, basically anything that creates a nice little escape from the real world. Anime and video games feature heavily for me too; I actually run a pop culture site where a lot of the posts relate to anime and gaming. I’ve never really grown up when it comes to what I enjoy. Sure, some of the not-for-kids series on Netflix are entertaining, but I do still love cartoons and comics too. I’m an ex-pro wrestler, having spent around ten years in the business before retiring. Oh, and I’ve been a furry since the ’90s.

I’ve been making the effort to be a little more open in recent years, so I’m happy to say that I identify as pansexual and gender-fluid. As such, my more recent output has tended to feature LGBTQ+ characters in lead roles. I tend not to make their orientation the focal point, but I do think that the representation is important.

Do you have a favorite book that you always go to? One that you always turn to for a good escape?

There are two that I revisit quite a bit. House of Leaves by Mark Z Danielewski is probably my most read book. It’s a wonderful creation. The book goes through pages of having three things going on at once (such as a transcript, notes, and notes on the notes) then somewhere there are only a few words on the page, and so on. Once you get into the rhythm of following it, it’s a really rewarding tale about an impossible hallway.

I also go back to Men At Arms a fair bit too. It was second of the City Watch books in the Discworld series. It also introduced a couple of new characters, including one of my all-time favorites, the werewolf Angua. It’s such a good example of how Pratchett blended comedy, fantasy, and just plain fun storytelling.

Outside of that, I tend to gravitate towards the Mercy Thompson books whenever a new one comes out, and also sometimes head into SD Perry’s Alien vs Predator novels. The first and last Machiko Noguchi stories are really good, and I felt like I got a lot more out of the novels than the comics there.

How did you get into writing?

That was way back when I was little. See, I was always an advanced reader in school, and when I was around nine or ten, I was off sick. Somehow, I ended up convincing my Mum to buy me one of Terry Pratchett’s Discworld novels, and I got hooked. After that, if I was ill or low, I’d hand over my pocket money and send her down to the local WH Smith to pick up the next one in the series. So, since reading had been such a big solace to me, I got really excited when we were given a few creative writing assignments. At eleven, I was writing horror, believe it or not. It was actually pretty creepy stuff for my age, and to be honest, I’m surprised my parents never had a call home about it.

I kinda realized that I was enjoying working in that sort of style early on, and when our first assignment in high school turned out to be a short story one too, I was thrilled. Of course, once I read the story out to the class, it freaked people out quite a bit. Everyone else was writing about finding their prince or playing for their favorite football team, and there I was writing about a killer in an alley. It left me in an odd position because the teacher really loved it, but it got me a bit of a reputation for being ‘the weird kid’ for a while. I made sure that the next one was a sentimental fantasy piece, but nothing could save me by that point.

I didn’t really start taking writing seriously until much later though. My early forays into submitting stories to places led pretty much nowhere. Looking back on it, I think that while my ideas were good, the execution was so clearly a pastiche of what I was reading at the time that it really wasn’t up to the standard needed. It was when I decided to write sci-fi that I developed my own style and started throwing different ideas out there.

I’m impressed that you remember the earlier stories you’ve written, did you keep them or ever re-read them as an adult?

The really early ones from school? No. But I remember the bare bones of what they were, largely because they seemed to have such an effect on people. The ones that I submitted but had rejected years back I thought I’d lost, but I found a stack of prints of them early last year. Re-reading them, I think that I could work with some of the core ideas a little better now, it’s just finding the right story to fit them too. It’s interesting looking back on them though, as I can see where I’ve changed habits in terms of style.

What is it about writing series, as opposed to stand alone novels, that you enjoy? What do you think is more challenging?

Writing a standalone at all is sometimes the most challenging thing for me. I think that what basically happens is I set up a story and, when I start planning things, it just goes beyond the scope of a one-shot thing. I want to change that a little this year and intend to start working on some standalone things, but mostly, series seem to fit better with me. I like the freedom of it; I can come up with all the different details but work them in over the course of several books rather than have to fight my compulsion to reveal everything.

Do you know where your series will end when you start it or does it take you places that you didn’t start off with the intention of going?

With The Cassie Tam Files, there was always a set endpoint in mind. I knew exactly where I wanted to take that if I could get Addict signed, and we’re on course with that now. It’s expanded a fair bit, and some of the things that I hadn’t fully fleshed out yet are now in a much better place, the overall endpoint remains the same. Honestly, you can tell what sort of stuff I was watching when I planned that bit, I think. As it stands, the series is meant to be five full-length novels. Again, that was always the plan. Book four is almost ready to submit to the publisher now, and I’ve almost finished a spin-off novella set between books three and four too to flesh out Cassie’s girlfriend, Lori.

The Spark Form Chronicles were a little different because I intended it to be a duology. By the end of book two though, it was clear that there was a want for a little more, and I had left a few plot points hanging. So, I sat down and planned out a proper end to tie things up fully. GIFTS, the Christmas novella set after book two was meant to add a little while I worked on book four, and that’s almost ready to go now too.

I think that, when it comes to series, you either have to plan ahead for a set finish or just keep going. I prefer to have a finish in mind, though one that would allow me to revisit things if needed.

Let me first ask you about the Spark Form series, what gave you the idea to create this world? (It’s very yu-gi-yo-esque.)

It was actually an accident. WICK, the first book in the series, was actually my first full-length novel. When I started it, it was actually a very different story and was based around a book long space battle between two characters, Fahrn Starchaser and Meera Thorne. It was when I sat down and started writing it that I realized it was never going to be a full-length piece. Oh, and it became clear that some of the things happening were essentially lifted from a single episode of an anime I’d been watching. So, I scrapped the idea and decided to try something completely different.

I always liked card games. I used to play Pok√©mon as a kid – I still do online sometimes – and was a fan of Yu-Gi-Oh growing up too. I even gave Magic The Gathering a crack in the early days. So, I figured why not write a story based around a card game? As I started noting down ideas, it dawned on me that I could make sure of my wrestling experience in there too. You see, I’d wrestled, but I’d also trained people and ran shows, so I had a fairly broad amount of knowledge to draw on. Then the whole AI idea crept in too, and things started to take shape. Fahrn and Meera stuck around too, though Fahrn now is more like Meera from the first attempt, and Meera is completely different.

The hardest part was actually the card game aspect though. I knew that I wanted it to feature a system that worked, so I actually came up with four or five different sets of rules and mock decks and just continually tried them out until I had one that felt right. The difficulty was having rules that weren’t identical to other games, and there are a lot of card games out there to check that against! If anything, Spark Forming as a game would probably sit well with fans of Jasco Games’ UFS, though it is way different in set-up.

Since there are so many individual characters in the story, is there one that you created first that you feel most connected to?

While Fahrn and Meera were around in the early attempt, John Forrester was actually the first one I created for what the story became. I’ve always had a soft spot for him. His hyperactivity is infectious, and he’s really quite a sweet character when you look at how he is with Carnival.

It’s Carnival that seems to get most of the love from readers though, and I love her for that. For a non-human hologram that doesn’t really speak, she certainly seems to make a lasting impression. I think it’s her quest for acceptance that does it for people, you kinda feel for her, you know?

On to the Cassie Tam Files, what do you think inspired the character of Cassie Tam?

Now, that’s an odd one. What basically happened was that I was playing Blazblue Chronophantasma Extend online – you can read playing as losing in quick fashion over and over again – and while I watching my character take another knock-out blow, a little voice in my head said, “You’re going to write a mystery next.”

Now, I hadn’t done that before, so I decided to research the more noir end of things by binge-watching the film versions of The Maltese Falcon and L.A. Confidential. Being primarily a sci-fi writer, I threw Blade Runner in too. Once I got through those, I started plotting out a few ideas. I knew that I wanted the book to be a standalone, but with a few hints at a bigger story hidden away in there. My reasoning was that I wanted to sell the book to a publisher, and unless I could do that, I didn’t want to commit to a series. So, the idea was to give readers a clear end but leave myself space to build the world up more as I went.

At that point, I knew that I wanted to write an LGBTQ+ lead, but that was pretty much it. I sat down to start writing with the intent of just seeing what comes out, and Cassie pretty much walked into my mind and told me in no uncertain terms that this was her story now. I didn’t want to argue, so I went with it.

Was there a real woman that you based her off of?

I didn’t realize until talking to a few people close to me that she actually has a lot of cross-over with me. The way she thinks at times, and the way she approaches life, in general, is pretty much me, I just didn’t notice until it was pointed out. Not all of her fits that though. I’m pretty sure that I must have gotten some of her traits from somewhere else, but it’s not anyone real that I know. I think it’s more of a subconscious trying to capture the feel of certain fictional characters that I really like and then making those traits more how I’d picture Cassie approaching them, if that makes sense? Characters like Ellen Ripley, Kara Thrace, Aeryn Sunn, and Mercy Thompson all kinda come into play there.

Since you say that she thinks like you, is she a character you see yourself most in, or is there another character, in anything that you’ve written, that you feel has the most you in them?

In terms of novels, Cassie is definitely the one. Overall though, it was probably the nameless lead character in my story Dear Sis. The story appeared in the anthology ROAR Vol. 9 from Bad Dog Books and is about a gender-fluid teenage fox writing a letter to his sister. Now, obviously, I’m not a fox. At 34, it’s been a long time since I was a teenager too. Despite the set-up being very different from my real life though, it’s still easily the most personal story I’ve written. It was kinda my way to start being out in that regard and dealt with a lot of the confusion that I had growing up.

Do you find it difficult, as a man, to write for a female character? Did you find it different than writing male characters?

That depends on your viewpoint. The thing is, I’m biologically male, but identifying as gender-fluid, how I see my gender changes over time. So, whether I’m a man writing a female character or not really depends on the day, from a personal standpoint. From other people’s viewpoints? That’ll vary from person-to-person.

Regardless though, as a general rule, I don’t find writing one gender more difficult than another. People are all so unique, and I don’t like getting drawn into working with stereotypes, so it really just comes down to respecting your characters. I try to write each one in a way that makes sense, regardless of who they are. That makes it all the easier, I find.

What is your favorite character that you’ve ever written, whether it be in a published or unpublished work?

Oh, that’s so hard! For most readers, it tends to be either Cassie’s robot gargoyle Bert or Carnival from The Spark Form Chronicles. I don’t know what it is about my AIs, but people seem to enjoy them. I do love those two. That being said, both Cassie Tam and John Forrester are wonderful to write, and I do feel close to the Dear Sis fox. I just can’t choose!

What is the best piece of advice that you wish you would’ve received when you were first thinking about becoming a writer?

I’m a big believer in the idea that there isn’t one right way to do things, so my stock answer is usually: listen to those around you and find the bits that work for you. In the interest of doing something a little different though, I’ll go with this:

It’s a lot of hard work, but it’s not as scary as you think.
I heard a lot of horror stories about agents and publishers, but my experiences since braving it all have been almost entirely positive. Rejection letters are disheartening, but they haven’t been as cruel as I expected. I’ve actually had a few really nice ones. The thing is, as long as you’re acting in a professional manner, the professionals will treat you the same. Behave yourself and concentrate on the story you want to tell. You may get the odd bad experience out of it, but you can get there. Whether writing becomes your primary income, now that’s where results may vary.

This interview was done by MJ. You can follow MJ on Twitter and Instagram

Matt Doyle lives in the South East of England. His house is inhabited by a wide variety of people and animals including (at time of typing) his partner, his three kids, two dogs, a cat, a snake, and a rabbit. Oh and a lot of tea.

He has spent his life chasing dreams, a habit which has seen him gain varying degrees of success in a great number of fields. This has included spending ten years as a professional wrestler (both working shows under the ring name Tad, and working backstage booking and running several successful shows in his local area), completing a range of cosplay projects and scripting the webcomic ‘Tales of the Winterborn’.

His latest venture involves diving headlong into another world he has wanted to be a part of since childhood: that of an author.

Website   Twitter 

Thursday, February 7, 2019

Book Review of Wick by Matt Doyle

How do you define a life?

With overblown visuals, stunning entrances and bloody battles played out in real time by holograms, Spark Forming has become far more than a simple card game. Drawing in fans from across the Colonies, no other sporting event creates a bigger buzz than the annual two day tournament to crown a new Spark Form World Champion. Yet the scramble for the title is not the only source of conflict this year, and for some competitor’s the real battles will take place away from the TV cameras.

What defines a person’s life and drives them to keep moving forward? When a game grows to reflect a society struggling to hang on, are some lives more valid than others? Can an AI ever truly be alive?

*We were given a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review*

A futuristic look at professional gamers. That's one way to describe it. Written from many POVs, including a 3rd person narrative that reads like a DVD commentary, I love the way the book is written. There are so many great characters and I really enjoyed seeing their different perspectives and learning about them. 

Each character has a distinct voice and purpose in the story, and you get to see more and more of their background as everything progresses. The world building is great - relate-able and familiar but with enough elements to let you know you're in the future, and the world is actually very different.

At first, I wasn't sure how I felt about having so many POVs, but it does work and gives the opportunity to see each character as there own person and having their own motivations; you can even find yourself rooting for a more unappealing personality. There also is a good amount of diversity, as it applies to their world and demographics, so it's nice to hear how someone on more of the societal fringes views something different from a real "insider".

The book does end on a bit of a cliffhanger, but that's ok because I liked it enough that I'll go out and read the next one! 

This review was done by MJ. You can follow MJ on Twitter and Instagram.

Matt Doyle lives in the South East of England. His house is inhabited by a wide variety of people and animals including (at time of typing) his partner, his three kids, two dogs, a cat, a snake, and a rabbit. Oh and a lot of tea.

He has spent his life chasing dreams, a habit which has seen him gain varying degrees of success in a great number of fields. This has included spending ten years as a professional wrestler (both working shows under the ring name Tad, and working backstage booking and running several successful shows in his local area), completing a range of cosplay projects and scripting the webcomic ‘Tales of the Winterborn’.

His latest venture involves diving headlong into another world he has wanted to be a part of since childhood: that of an author.

Website   Twitter 

Friday, February 1, 2019

Should You Write for Trends or Yourself?

Just like any genre science fiction has trends in it as well. From dystopian to aliens, following trends can seem like a way to give your novel an edge when it comes to getting it published. But is it a good idea to go this route? 

Sci-fi and Fantasy section at Powell's Books
If your goal for your novel is to sell a lot of copies and make money, then writing to the hot trend of the day may seem like a good idea. Really though, it depends. If you plan to self-publish, and can get your novel out quickly with a good cover and editing done, you might be able to get it out while the trend is still hot. If you decide to go the traditional publishing route, your novel will probably miss the trend train due to how long it takes a traditional book to be published. 

Dana Isaacson wrote, "It’s tougher for the individual writer attempting to hop aboard a literary bandwagon. First, they must finish their trend-targeted novel, get it to an agent who sells it to a publisher, who edits, markets, prints and ships it. Eighteen months might pass and this enterprising writer’s trend-driven book may no longer be part of a trend. And nowadays we know how fast trends cycle."

The other option, of course, is just writing what you want to write, despite the fact it might not be on trend. There is always the chance it may become part of a trend by the time it reaches publication, or even start a trend! Even if neither happens, writing from the heart is always a good choice. 

When you write from your heart and what interests you, you become more invested in the story. It is always going to be a bumpy ride trying to publish, trend book or not. In the end, do what you feel is best, and stay writing!