Tuesday, October 21, 2014

How Novel: On Short Stories...

Much of my literary focus has been around my novel(s) but I've always loved short stories--reading and writing them--and got some nice news today from Glimmer Train, an esteemed publication I've tendered a handful of submissions to in the last year. My short story "Devil and the Blue Ghosts" won Honorable Mention in their Short Story for New Writers contest. Didn't quite make it through to publication but made top 5% out of over 1,000 submissions, so , that's cool. :)

Will decide what to do with the story now--shop elsewhere, self-pub, what not--and much as I wish I'd won, that's still encouraging. And congrats to my fellow honorables on this list. :)

Bit of a lesson in perseverance: no action with my first several submissions to them, but I've wanted to break through with them, and with this news, I'm at least getting closer. Whatever your goals, stay the course and keep fighting. 

So, fellow scribes and readers--what's your take on short story as a form? Enjoy it? More or less than novels? Some of your favorite short stories?

Anyway, thanks, and here's the Glimmer Train posting where I'm listed:


Saturday, September 27, 2014

Why I Write: Blog Hop Post




I don’t know that there’s a day I am not grateful for Jessica West. Great writer, better person. Her friendship is sacred to me. As if I were not already possessing of ample reasons for this gratitude, add to that my heartfelt appreciation to Jess for nominating me for the Why I Write Blog Hop. That someone I think so much of thinks enough of me and my work to have nominated me is very humbling. I hope I may do justice to the question at hand. For it is in many ways akin to inquiring of me, Why Do I Breathe? Ya know: I write, therefore I am.  Alas, let’s see if we can unearth a tad bit more than that.

To do so, we must do a little time travel. 35 years back, give or take. My nascent penchant for the written word had in fact burgeoned even earlier—I recall as a six-year-old scrawling 3-sentence long “stories” on any surface I could find, even if said tales more often than not were comprised chiefly of baseball stats. But it was at around 10 or so that something began to percolate inside me. Began to spark. We all need to belong in this world, to be wanted, needed, cherished, valued, appreciated, loved. “That the powerful play goes on, and you may contribute a verse.”  We all want to be good at something, to contribute. To find our calling, to find ourselves. From my earliest memories I understood there were many things I was not adept it, but perhaps a few things I was. Even as a young kid, I could hit a baseball a damn sight far; and, I could write.

I could write. How well, is for others to decide but all I know  is from those earliest days, when I found myself writing, I had found myself, and to this day there is no other occupation in which I feel more me. I was a painfully shy kid and we often presume those kids have nothing to say but I bet most do. I bet most have plenty to say because they’ve held so much in but they’re watching and learning and soaking it all in. They’re burning with thoughts and feelings and life and voice. I had plenty to say.  I have had the good fortune of hitting a few balls over the fence in baseball games, and crafting a good sentence—I mean a really good sentence—is that same kind of magic. Every writer reading this knows what I mean. A great sentence is your home-run, so circle the bases, or smoke a cigarette, pick your poison, but relish it. Then keep writing.

It’s funny because the real question for me might in fact be not why I wrote but rather why, for so many years, I didn’t? Excuses walk, but I reckon on one level, life happened—school, work, marriage, family—and these are all great things and take time but deep inside I knew—I’ve always known—I wanted to embed my literary dreams fully into my life. And so the real reason for the delay (a decades-long delay, mind you), was fear. Maybe a little laziness but mainly fear. When you understand you may be good at only a few things, it is a daunting notion to potentially discover you may not even be good at those. To try to realize your dream, and fail. To be judged, rejected. It is a real and understandable fear. But I’m a dad, and as a parent you know your kids are watching you. Less important than whether you succeeded, is whether you tried. Seven or eight years ago I got a great idea for a Young Adult Fantasy, inspired by the protective relationship between my eldest son and his little sister. I’d dabble, penning a page or two but then my energy and focus would wane, life would happen, and I’d drift away from it. For years. Around four years ago my young daughter—whose own literary embers were already beginning to glow—inquired of me why, in essence, I had given up on my dream. A year and a half later I’d finally finished a draft—an unceremoniously rough, crappy draft, as any first draft of literary mortals like me invariably is—but a completed draft nonetheless. In the last two years I’ve revised it several times, completed a draft of a literary novel, penned a dozen short stories, had the privilege of publishing some articles and short fiction, and will have my YA Fantasy book(and hopefully the sequels) published by Booktrope. I am grateful for the opportunity. I am grateful to Jessica West for being my friend and asking why I write, and to my brilliant and beautiful daughter for asking why I didn’t. I am proud of what I’ve accomplished in a few years’ time but also suffused with the urgency of a middle-aged scribe (being perhaps polite to myself there) who realizes he has lost so much precious time and must now make the most of every second. I should be so much farther along in my journey but instead I am like a 45-year-old rookie, and maybe that’s okay too. For that passion still burns, and makes me believe it is not when you start but that you start and then, that you finish. That you write that story—that crappy first draft or if you’re one of those elite talents, maybe a great first draft. Whatever the case, do it. My daughter is anything but the painfully shy kid I was, but still, I want to be careful in how I support her dreams. I do not want to live vicariously through her or push her but rather, just cheer her on and help her enjoy the journey and stand by her through all the twists and turns. Cherish each moment as she shares her own unique voice.

So I write, I reckon, because writing is what I do. It’s me. And I hope to do as much of it as I can for the rest of my life. When all’s said and done, the totality of what I’ve written in some ways may compromise the fullest answer to why I write. Here, this, this is me. I guess that’s true for each of us, whether speaking literally of writing or of the pages we pen in the hearts and minds and lives of others, on the canvass of this thing called life. We all make our mark, contribute our verse. May we all find the freedom and opportunity to pursue our dreams, and find our voice.

Another dear friend—and absolute mega-writing-prodigy --who helped me find mine, is the amazing Amira K Makansi, who—like Jessica, is a rare and beautiful soul whose talent may be eclipsed only by her character. I know Amira is in the midst of an extremely hectic time in her life presently, so she should feel free to take her time with this, but I could not in good conscience fail to nominate her.

Thank you Jessica, thank you Amira, and thanks to all of you who comprise the myriad stars of the literary universe—writers, readers and dreamers alike. We need every one of you. You shine.

The Adventure Continues: David Rose and the Forbidden Tournament


 The wrought-iron, steeple fencing surrounding the cemetery rose coldly above them, tall and coal-back, but David no longer placed much faith in the barrier between the two worlds.
So begins Book II in the David Rose series: David Rose and the Forbidden Tournament. 

The adventure continues not only for David, Rachel and the rest of the gang, but for me too. An author lives the adventures of his characters--and vice-versa, I reckon--or else the damn thing won't have a pulse.

Thrilled and grateful that Booktrope will be publishing the incipient tale in the series, my YA/Fantasy Novel, The Awakening of David Rose. I'm excited to have just commenced the first sequel(there will be four books in all). Excited and a bit daunted. Sequels present a unique amalgam of opportunity and challenge, I think. On the one hand, you've  introduced your main characters and primary or at least original conflict, and have much on which to build. On the other hand, you want to build effectively, offer a fresh take, keep the reader entranced. In the first book I introduce magic and mystery, but have constructed the foundation upon  developing the main characters and their conflicts. All along I've intended the sequels to dive right into the action, hit a fever pitch, up the fantastical ante...but all along I've suspected I shall need to remain vigilant against over-reliance upon  bells, whistles and rollicking action devoid of depthful characterization and story-telling. The JK Rowlings of the literary world have captured this elusive balance, but I know for me it will take yeoman effort. At the end of the day, I want each book to remain anchored in those things which matter most to the main characters. I look forward  to giving it my all.

Have you written sequels? You've surely read some. I'd welcome your thoughts on your favorites, and what traits in your opinion set apart the really great ones.

Thanks for your support, keep doing what you do, and stay tuned for updates on a publication/launch date for the first book! Thank you!

PS The image here is just a stock one and hints at a key element of the story as Book II opens--the notion of a magic mirror which portends a crucial but dangerous portals between worlds and lives. I look forward to working with my team(and I always welcome suggestions) on building the actual cover design when the time comes.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Author Interview: D. Emery Bunn

50 years ago, the dawn did not come. Again. Everyone in Telthan knew it would happen. Monsters roamed the land, killing virtually everyone in their path, laying waste to anything in their way. Only a precious few survived to rebuild the wreckage of civilization, just like last time. No one questions the Darkening. Not even the children.

That is, until four strangers set off in search of answers, braving a forbidden city, a forgotten library, and foreboding mountains for the truth that has to exist. But the past does not give up its secrets easily, and the truth is far darker than the blackest night.


The teaser from my friend, the talented D. Emery Bunn, whose debut novel Darkness Concealed launches in a few short days. He was kind enough to stop by my blog for a visit. Enjoy!

Welcome to my blog. Thrilled to have you. Before we introduce your book, let’s introduce you—who is D. Emery Bunn?

I could steal my official bio, but that's boring. My day job is engineering, ironically civil despite my degree being in electrical. I love it anyway. In my free time I play video games, read, play tabletop, and of course, write. I also do editing for folks on occasion. My current domicile is Clovis, New Mexico.


Writing a book is a monumental undertaking—congrats on completing yours. Why did you write it?

Thank you! Originally, I wrote it because I had come up with a cool setting for D&D...that ended up not being very well-suited for actually playing through. There was an awesome story, a very long arc, but I was too specific about what I wanted to happen with the overall plot. For those who don't play D&D or similar, that's very bad, because it means the players have no agency for deciding the movement of the plot.

Thus was the first draft. But with the second draft, I realized that a lot of things about my base assumptions on the world were wrong; they didn't jibe with the overall arc. So I threw them out and went with a more philosophical angle instead of a "let me tell you the horror." For sake of spoilers, I won't say what they are, but suffice to say that it's all across the trilogy and not just this first book.


Why about dark fantasy grips you? 

Classic epic fantasy is somewhat boring to me. It's good, sure, but the guarantee that the characters will go through hell but still end up triumphant just by genre association is a turn-off. Dark fantasy throws that presumption out the door, and layers on extra amounts of hell as well. On top of that, epic fantasy is almost always black vs. white morality. Dark fantasy has more play for gray morality to come into the picture.

What is going to keep folks turning the pages of Darkness Concealed?

Several things:

- Each of the characters has their own motivation for being in the group, and very often those motivations clash. There will be fights, both amongst each other and within themselves. This becomes clearer as what they find out starts making them question everything they ever believed.
- The mystery of the Darkening and Telthan gets deeper as the story unfolds. Every answer will raise more questions, making the truth seem further and further away. Everything they discover fits into the bigger picture, and it is possible (though very difficult) to deduce the truth ahead of time.
-
 Darkness Concealed is more properly a dark epic fantasy. I twist a gargantuan pile of stock fantasy tropes, or call them out for laughs. Where before the guy from a small town just knows he's meant to be a hero, my story has him unable to wield a weapon (or magic) and so socially awkward he stutters constantly. Oh, and he has zero self-confidence.


I think the Quotables Campaign is pretty damn cool—tell us about that.

I love writing dialogue, and my characters all have very clear voices. As a result, Darkness Concealed is positively overflowing with quotables. Either cases where the characters are arguing with each other (which happens often), or bold declarations of character, or witty observations about the absurdity of what they're encountering.

“Which is to say, no one ever named it. Dibs! It’s called Tealbride.”

“Wh-why?”

“It sounds cool.”

Liz.


Knowing all of that, I found it a no-brainer to dig through my text and pull out several quotes that grab the reader and make them ask questions. I ended up with a set of 8 that don't spoil anything and yet give a good picture of every major character and some of the things they do.

Creeps know no mercy. I won’t show any in return.”

Alexandra.


What aspects of your story were smoothest for you to write, and what were most challenging? For example, I usually get on a pretty good roll with dialogue, but can stumble with description a bit.

My smoothest was dialogue. If I had the characters going at it, or working through the explanation of what they're seeing, the word count flew. Even in the second draft, where I didn't have a full grasp on their character, they still made it easy to know what to say.

I dodge the description difficulty by deliberately being description-light. I give enough to have a sense of the scene or appearance, and leave it at that. I let the reader fill it in as much as they desire to.

My roughest was internal dialogue. A large amount of the impact of the story is measured by what the characters think to themselves, and I made a style choice to show that dialogue directly in
 italics instead of nestled within description. Since I have dialogue, internal dialogue, and description interleaving through the vast majority of the book, I needed to keep them all clear. It takes some adjusting on the reader's part, but it makes perfect sense after a chapter or two.


I admire dark fantasy scribes; one thing I’ve often wondered is whether I could find that elusive balance of penning those great fantastical and dark elements, but still building the tale on the strength of story and character. How do you navigate that balance, or perhaps you view the whole premise a bit differently?

I avoid that balance problem with Darkness Concealed. Essentially, the dark is so obvious, so ever-present, that if the characters do anything at all it's an act of heroism. Add in that the dark seems to get deeper the more they shine a light on it, and their willingness to keep going anyway speaks volumes.

But in the sequel, I'll have my work cut out for me. I'm not calling it
 Darkness Revealed for nothing. I'll have to strike several different balances to have the characters' arcs believable, the philosophy impactful without browbeating, and to pull off the absolute horror at the center of all the secrets.


OK, although you are welcome to share what authors have inspired you, I fear the entire readerly universe may have tired of that maudlin inquiry; instead, what do you hope for most as a reader? What do you feel is your most compelling offering as a writer?

What I hope for, and what I hope to offer are one and the same. I love defying the existing convention, taking stories in directions previously unexpected. A great example for me is The Hunger Games. Whether or not one likes the end of the series, she knew what the expected end was, and didn't do that.

And that's what I've aimed for with
 Darkness Concealed. I know the expected ends, the stock successes and failures. I avoid those, and in some cases point out specifically that I'm avoiding them. I want things to be fresh and unexpected, not just in the plotline, but in what is being told.

What’s next for you? Is there a sequel in the offing? Other projects?

Immediately next up is the second draft of a novella entitled Nikolay I penned at the start of the year, set in a cyberpunk dystopia/utopia where everyone is mandated to be "normal" according to a computer algorithm and deliberate deviations are punished. Nikolay is a teenager who decides that being normal, even with all the supposed advantages (do whatever you want not against the law, and have all your needs provided for), is not for him. He starts seeking for a way to break out of the norm before his negative self-esteem destroys him.

Darkness Concealed launches September 23. Very exciting: tell us how to get the book, whether you are looking for reviewers, how they may learn more and connect with you, and anything else you’d like folks to know.


I'm releasing the book on Amazon [http://www.amazon.com/Darkness-Concealed-Book-Trilogy-ebook/dp/B00NLZ02YK/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1411321668&sr=8-1&keywords=Darkness+Concealed], Google Books [https://play.google.com/store/books/details/D_Emery_Bunn_Darkness_Concealed?id=4PaHBAAAQBAJ], and Kobo [http://store.kobobooks.com/en-US/ebook/darkness-concealed]. I will also be releasing a PDF of the text on my site, for free, on release day. I believe in free culture, and want to make it an option to people whether they pay me for the story or not.

As for reviewers, I'm more than happy to keep on sending out ARCs (or as of
 tomorrow review copies), though I ask that when you do review that you tell me where it is so I can link to it in some way or another. I also ask that if you can put the review on one of the retailers I'm using that you please do so.

I'm available most directly at
 www.DEmeryBunn.com, where I blog about writing, editing, and whatever else comes to mind. I also maintain an active Twitter presence as @DEmeryBunn.

Thanks for having me on your blog!




Monday, September 8, 2014

To Build or Not to Build--Guest-Post for Rachel Thompson/Badredhead Media

Grateful to have the chance to guest-post for my amazing, talented friend Rachel Thompson, and her discerning audience.

Important topic(of which Rachel herself is considerably expert)--author platform-building and the related social media and technological aspects. 

As always, your feedback is welcomed and appreciated!



Saturday, September 6, 2014

MAJOR ANNOUNCEMENT!



Go confidently in the direction of your dreams. Live the life you have imagined.

Henry David Thoreau

Perhaps a few decades later than originally intended, I aim to do just that. Don’t get me wrong: the most important and heartfelt dream of my life has been realized—to be a father—and for that I am beyond blessed. But another dream long-harbored—of being a writer and published author—has achieved a hard-fought crucial step—I have found a publisher for my nearly decade-long labor of love, THE AWAKENING OF DAVID ROSE, a YA/Fantasy which is first in a series of four.


A good publisher at that. An innovative, exciting, hybrid publisher run by great folks who genuinely support their authors.

 Booktrope was founded in 2011 in Seattle, WA. Booktrope has pioneered a new type of book development process called Team Publishing which leverages their proprietary technology platform Teamtrope. Booktrope is committed to the creation of quality books via a low-overhead collaborative approach resulting in affordable prices for today’s reader. A quick online perusal reveals a number of articles delving into the emerging world of such hybrids, highlighting leading examples like Booktrope; here is a good piece from Forbes.

The same day Booktrope offered publication, my friend and fellow Booktrope author Rachel Thompson broke some pretty big news.

I am excited to partner with Booktrope to carry my book—my dream—to publication. All writers must stand humbly before the judgment of readers—I am grateful I am going to get that chance.  We are just getting started—and there is much work to be done—so more details shall be forthcoming. But thank you all for your support—and keep doing what you do and believing in your dream.


It’s never too late.





Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Bane of 5-Star Reviews, Redux

A few months ago the uber- wonderful KM Weiland published my piece on 5-Star Reviews. Humbled today that top journalist and Fellow at the National Critics Institute, Porter Anderson, included prominent references to that piece in a terrific article he penned. Enjoy!