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Saturday, September 20, 2014

Flashpoint Interview: Julie A. Serroul

Today, Third Person Press co-Editor Julie A. Serroul answers our interview questions. Of course we wouldn't let ourselves off the hook! Julie's story in Flashpoint is a rather unusual foray into science fiction for her, titled "Spark."


Third Person Press: Where did you grow up? Do you think your childhood influenced you to be a writer?
Julie A. Serroul: As a young girl, one of the most exciting days of my week was bicycling the 3 km to the end of the road to meet the Bookmobile. Climbing up into that van which was literally spilling books from its shelves onto the floor felt so exciting and looking around in it was like a treasure hunt. Even though I was quite “outdoorsy”, the tree-house that I built was yet another place to hide away and read. My appetite for books never waned, and when you love them that much, wanting to put your own thoughts and ideas on paper has an irresistible pull. Also, when you are a natural introvert, which I was as a child, “speaking” on a page was far less intimidating. After all, in a story you control both sides of the conversation…although some characters are quite willful and disobedient.

TPP: Who were your three favorite writers when you were young? Who are three favorites now?
JAS: As a kid I loved Carolyn Keene, C.S. Lewis and Lucy Maud Montgomery. Now I love many writers, but my lasting loves are Dean Koontz and Bob Salvatore. I have a love/hate relationship with George R.R. Martin who really needs to be less blood-thirsty about killing my favorite characters.

TPP: What are you most likely to be doing when you're not writing?
JAS: Reading, Zumba, Turbo-kick, Drinking red wine, Watching Movies, Four-Wheeling, I have a lot of hobbies, unfortunately, which means lots of distractions from writing. I also have a day-job that allows me to do everything else I love.

TPP: Do you have any writing habits or rituals?
JAS: Pour a nice hot cup of coffee or peppermint tea, depending on the time of day and my mood, and then either stare out the window at the scenery and think for a while, or at some of my lovely fantasy/sci-fi art pieces. I do a substantial amount of “head-writing” before I set pen to paper or fingers to keyboard. And I am sometimes in the mood to curl up in my comfy chair with a pen and paper instead of at my computer keyboard which sometimes reminds me too much of my day job and can stifle my creativity. The process of “head-writing” reminds me of when I was a kid and used to “day-dream”. This practice was hugely frowned on by my teachers, but now serves me well!

TPP: What's your favorite beverage while writing? While not writing?
JAS: See answers above!

TPP: If you were a superhero, what would your name and power/ability be? Or would you be a supervillain instead?
JAS: I’d likely be an Anti-hero named “Crank-porter” and my superpower would be to transport all cranky, irritable, disagreeable people onto the same island where their punishment would be to have to deal with each other!

TPP: What are you working on now? What's your next writing project?
JAS: I am currently revising a story about a couple of Anti-heroes, coincidentally. After that I’m going to re-visit some other stories that I have abandoned to see if I was too hasty. I often fall in love with new work and out of love with the pieces that are at the editing phase - when the fun is over and the work begins…it is a very bad habit!

TPP: Is there a question you've always wanted to answer as a writer? Pose it and then write your answer. :)
Q: Have you ever used eavesdropping on the public conversations of strangers to inspire a story?
JAS: Yes, but I prefer not to hear the whole conversation, only a snippet of something intriguing. Firstly, I don’t want to intrude on people’s privacy, and secondly, what I imagine them to be talking about is usually a lot more interesting and fun than the mundane ordinary thing it turns out to be if you listen to the end!

Thanks, Julie!

Remember to click over and read more about the campaign at https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/flashpoint-anthology/x/1156437 

Friday, September 19, 2014

1001 Ways to Wreck a Story - Part Five

Julie offers this installment:

The Info-Dump – Slamming the Brakes on your Pacing 

There are so many details that need to be in your story to add richness, flesh out your characters, bring in their backstories, explain the history of what brought your story to this point, etc. But inserting these details should be more like scattering bird seed than using a backhoe. In order to understand info-dumping, you really have to have a good grasp on Pacing and its multi-layered impact on your story.

The Problem
If “Pacing” is the car that your story is driving down the road, an info-dump is a fistful of pointy tacks thrown in the way. Whatever the pace of your story at that point, info-dumping will slam on the brakes. The Pacing of your story is its movement and momentum and you want your reader along for the ride. Making them stop to read huge road signs of detailed information will make them get off the ride in frustration.

Here is an example– If your Main Character joins a circus as a roadie and is now on a dangerous mission to steal the abused horses and escape, you, as the writer are going to want to explain how she got there, why she is motivated to do this, the fact that she is very talented with horses, and so on. And your reader will want to know all this. But mostly they want her to save the horses before the one in the worst shape dies, and to get her own butt out of there! Reading four pages about her past and her skills set is going to frustrate your reader. You need to weave it in small bits all the way through, painlessly.  

The Fix There are many tools in a writer’s arsenal to accomplish this, including:
  • External Dialogue with other characters--comments about how differently they used to do things back home on the ranch, or comments about evil bankers foreclosing on hard-working people, and so on, spread into numerous conversations throughout the story. 
  • Internal Dialogue--comparisons in her head of the vast differences between this setting and her past world (this allows you to paint the current setting, and draw in details of her past). 
  • Sensory induced memories--smells in the circus could give her brief flashes of memories from her past. 

These are just some of the ways to scatter the “birdseed” of information throughout your story. If done skillfully, your reader acquires the knowledge without even realizing it. They never get off the ride, and every relevant question is answered by the time the car crosses the finish line. Victory Lap!!

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Flashpoint Interview: Peter Andrew Smith

Next up is an interview with Peter Andrew Smith, whose story in Flashpoint is titled, "Invasive Species."

Third Person Press: Where did you grow up? Do you think your childhood influenced you to be a writer?
Peter Andrew Smith: I grew up in southern New Brunswick in a household filled with books and in a family who loves to read. I can remember weekly trips to the library and eagerly working my way through the bookcases around the house. With a head filled with so many stories there is little wonder I began writing!

TPP: Who were your three favorite writers when you were young? Who are three favorites now?
PAS: As a boy I loved Robert E. Howard, J R.R Tolkien, and L Spague de Camp. I have so many favorite authors now it is hard to name just three so I'll go with the writers of the last three books I read- Mike Moscoe, Larry Correia, and Gini Koch.

TPP: What are you most likely to be doing when you're not writing?
PAS: Playing with, singing to, or chasing my three year old daughter around the yard.

TPP: Do you have any writing habits or rituals?
PAS: I tend to write either early in the morning before everyone gets up or late at night after our house gets quiet.

TPP: What's your favorite beverage while writing? While not writing?
PAS: I never drink and write. When not writing I enjoy a good cup of tea.

TPP: If you were a superhero, what would your name and power/ability be? Or would you be a supervillain instead?
PAS: If I were a superhero I would be "Nappingman" with the ability to sleep at any moment and wake up refreshed and ready to go (did I mention we have a three year old?).

TPP: What are you working on now? What's your next writing project?
PAS: I am currently half way through a draft of a book which needs to be finished and back to my editor by June 2015 (which seemed a long way off when I signed the contract). After that I'm going to pick up some short stories in progress about a war of liberation which only lasted eight minutes and thirty one seconds, a medic trapped in a pregnant giant spider's crashed spaceship, and a dragon staging a protest on the Canso causeway.

TPP: Is there a question you've always wanted to answer as a writer? Pose it and then write your answer.
Q: What inspires you to write?
PAS: Reading. When I read something that is well written and engaging my mind heads off in a hundred different ways and I want to write. When I read something that is poorly written and unengaging I start to think about how I would write the story. Either way the more I read the more I am inspired to write.

Thanks, Peter!

Remember to click over and read more about the campaign at https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/flashpoint-anthology/x/1156437

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Flashpoint Interview: Bruce V. Miller

Next in our series of author interviews is Bruce V. Miller, whose story in Flashpoint is titled, "And Again."


Third Person Press: Where did you grow up? Do you think your childhood influenced you to be a writer?
Bruce V. Miller: I grew up in Margaree, which is quite rural, even by Cape Breton standards. I certainly learned to love reading when I was young and was always encouraged in this by my parents. I recall writing a short story that was a little too strange for my high school English teacher. In retrospect, I took this to be a good thing.

TPP: Who were your three favorite writers when you were young? Who are three favorites now?
BVM: In high school I was big fantasy fan, so I loved Tolkien, and Robert Jordan. I also loved Robert Heinlein after reading Stranger in a Strange Land. I’m not decisive enough to pick favourites, but currently I really look forward to anything by David Mitchell, Malcolm Gladwell, or Thomas King.

TPP: What are you most likely to be doing when you're not writing?
BVM: Teaching school, taking care of kids, cooking, reading, and wishing I had time to play music or write.

TPP: Do you have any writing habits or rituals?
BVM: Sadly, my most recent writing habit is to write a first draft that illustrates very clearly that I am quite rusty and have to re-learn some basics.

TPP: What's your favorite beverage while writing? While not writing?
BVM: Coffee and coffee.

TPP:  If you were a superhero, what would your name and power/ability be? Or would you be a supervillain instead?
BVM: Tangential Man or Captain Non-Sequitor—my super power would be coming up with unexpected ideas or plans to save the world. I suppose this could work just fine for a supervillain as well.

TPP:  What are you working on now? What's your next writing project?
BVM: I had an idea to write a magical-realism biography of Jorge Luis Borges, but so far that’s as far as I’ve gotten.

Thanks, Bruce!

Remember to click over and read more about the campaign at https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/flashpoint-anthology/x/1156437

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Flashpoint Interview: Kerry Anne Fudge

As part of our Flashpoint campaign, we'll be featuring our authors here on the news blog. We sent them all some questions and waited to see what they had to say. As usual, they didn't disappoint! First up is Kerry Anne Fudge, whose story in Flashpoint is titled, "Fever."

Kerry's the one on the left! ;)

Third Person Press: Where did you grow up? Do you think your childhood influenced you to be a writer?
Kerry Anne Fudge: I grew up in a rural area with my mom and dad. My siblings are all older than I am, so I was raised as an only child. Our neighborhood was very small, and there weren't many kids my age. So my imagination had the time to flourish. I was telling stories to my big brothers before I could even put them down on paper. And when I discovered reading, that was better than finding a pot of gold. I devoured books and fell in love with the written word. So yes, I have to say that my childhood influenced me in becoming a writer.
 
TPP: Who were your three favorite writers when you were young? Who are three favorites now?
KAF: When I was young I read anything and everything by R.L Stine. On the complete opposite end, I also loved Lurlene McDaniel. I also discovered the 'Deathlands' series by the time I was twelve. I later learned that they were written by different authors, but the style was similar and I devoured them. As an adult, I have way too many fave authors. But my current three are J.R. Ward, Stephen King, and George R.R Martin.
 
TPP: What are you most likely to be doing when you're not writing?
KAF: When I'm not writing, and have time to myself, I can be found doing a number of things. I love to read on my old-yet-cozy sofa, play video games, write letters (yes, penpalling is still alive and well), work on my smashbooks, have coffee dates with my friends or watch a movie with my fiance. 

TPP: Do you have any writing habits or rituals?
KAF: When I write, there's a few things I 'need'. If I am brainstorming or writing a first draft, I need music and lots of it. When I edit, I need music to start but once I get into the groove I need silence. And I tend to work better in the evening/night time. 

TPP: What's your favorite beverage while writing? While not writing?
KAF: My fave thing to drink when I am writing is iced coffee. When I'm not writing, I love water or pop.

TPP: If you were a superhero, what would your name and power/ability be? Or would you be a supervillain instead?
KAF: If I was a superhero, my abilities would be strength and speed. I think because Superman was my first favorite comic book hero. As for my 'super' name...I'll be honest, names and titles are not my strong suit. I think I'd just do awesome stuff around the city and let the general population name me haha.

TPP: What are you working on now? What's your next writing project?
KAF: Right now I have 'wedding brain'. I recently became engaged so my thoughts keep drifting back to ideas for my big day, even when I try to work on a story. However, I started a short story before my vacation, but I have the feeling it may become a novel. It's a vampire story, but a different world from my current works and brand new characters.

TPP: Is there a question you've always wanted to answer as a writer? Pose it and then write your answer. 
KAF: This is a generic question, but it is one I have never been asked (as far as I remember).
Q: What author influenced your writing the most?
A: Even though I don't write like him, I have to say Stephen King. When I was about eight, I snuck one of his anthologies from my sister. By that age, I already loved Halloween and the creatures that go with it. But he really brought out my love of the supernatural, which is why I now write dark fantasy.

Thanks, Kerry!

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Flashpoint Campaign is Live!

Our Indiegogo campaign for Flashpoint went live today! You may remember our campaign for Grey Area last year, which helped us immensely in producing a wonderful anthology of Cape Breton ghost stories.

Flashpoint is volume 4 in our Speculative Elements series. Each book contains a wide and varied mix of science fiction, fantasy, paranormal, and horror stories for the speculative fiction fan, and its predecessors, Undercurrents, Airborne, and Unearthed have been popular and successful. We have another great lineup of stories in Flashpoint; some old friends from other volumes, and some new voices.

The campaign offers a variety of perks to help thank you for your support. Please visit the campaign page and see what appeals to you. Your support means a lot to us! Thanks for believing in the power of the small press!

Thursday, September 11, 2014

1001 Ways to Wreck a Story - Part Four



Sherry here, with another installment in our story-fix series.

The “Starts-too-early” Story


What's that off in the distance?
You know how some stories seem to take forever to get going? You’ve read a few pages, and even though it might be somewhat interesting, there’s a little voice in the back of your mind saying “Okay, but when is something going to happen?” Maybe you get a few pages in, put the story down, and never pick it up again. Let’s look at what’s going on here.

The Problem
There are several ways this story problem manifests itself. Maybe there are too many pages at the beginning of the story where the characters are simply going about their normal lives. Maybe there’s a lot of explanation, setup, or historical backstory. Maybe the main character spends a lot of time thinking or talking about his or her problems but not doing anything about them. Whatever form it takes, the problem is that the story is taking too long to get moving. The reader might even put it down without ever “getting to the good stuff.” The writer has started the story too early.

The Fix
One way to fix a story with a slow beginning is to start the story in medias res—that is, in the middle of the action. Things are already happening here, and the reader jumps in with both feet and goes along for the ride. Writers tend to worry a little too much that the reader won’t understand what’s going on, or will be confused, but I think most readers are willing to catch a good wave and catch up as the story goes along. Note: this doesn't have to be car-chase-gunfight-explosion kind of action. But something out of the ordinary is happening.

If you don’t have a thrilling event or revelation that can start your story, consider this question: if the main character were looking back on the events of the story, where is the point where he or she would think, “that was the moment when everything changed”? If you can pinpoint that moment, you want to start your story as close to that moment as possible. A little setup to show the world of the story or the main character’s life in its “normal” state is fine, but don’t spend too long on this. Get to the moment of change as quickly as you can.

If neither of these tactics will work for your story and you still think all the front-end information is necessary for the reader, try rearranging things so that it comes later, and weaves into the story naturally through dialogue, character reflection, and interactions. You may find that not all of it is necessary for the story to work, after all. You want *just enough* information to keep your reader from feeling lost or confused, and no more than that. And you don't want to dump it on them all at once, at the start of the story.

I once cut the first ten pages from a short story—ten pages! And although I did add some of the information back in later, I found that most of it, I had written for me, so that I understood the characters and setting I was writing. This is a great exercise and vital for the writer to understand…but your readers probably don’t need that information. So keep that kind of writing in your notes and outlines, and start your readers off at the moment that will draw them into the story, grab them tight, and not let go until the end.