Author Interview: David Rae

Today’s Author Interview is going to go a bit differently. Rather than regale you with witticisms and turns of phrase in a fanciful intro, I’m going to let my guest speak for himself.

There are some people when you meet them that have a quiet sense of worldliness that transcends language. Even though our ‘meeting’ was over a few paragraphs across miles, I got that same sense of composure when I ‘sat down’ with David Rae to talk about his dark fantasy novel, Crowman (which I reviewed last week), along with his upcoming works.

Tell us a bit about yourself.

I started writing when I was a child and had a few stories and poems printed in my school magazine. After I left school I really didn’t know what to do with my writing, but still wrote anyway. Before I wrote Crowman, I wrote a Spy thriller, a Science Fiction novel, and a Children’s novel. I’m a bit scared to go back and read them. Then I started to write short stories and I had some success placing them in anthologies and magazines. That led to me writing Crowman and then I managed to find a small publisher that was willing to work with me and bring it out as a novel. I’m hoping we can collaborate further and bring out more of my novels. It’s been a long journey, but I think I still have a long way to go. 

What is your favorite novel, and has it inspired how you write? How?

Just one! I’m going to cheat and use two. I love Gene Wolfe. He’s my favourite Science fiction writer and when I read Shadow of The Torturer for the first time it blew me away. I loved the archaic feel to the world he created and the sense of mystery that seeped out of every line. I love how he made the everyday magical and the magical every day. I loved the beauty of his writing and depth of his characters. I loved the deliberate inconsistencies that made you question every word he wrote. I love how he made reality like shifting sand, and showed that in the end, we make our own reality. 

Another book that challenges your perception of reality is Confessions of a Justified Sinner. This is a story in two parts; the journal of a murderer and the narrative of someone who finds his manuscript. It subverts ideas of right and wrong, good and bad. It challenges the notion of freewill and of the supernatural. God, the Devil, and demons all are dismissed as superstitious nonsense by the narrator, but you can’t help believing in ghosts in the chilling dark when you are all alone. And even if that ghastly apparition is only a figment of your imagination, it does not make it any less terrifying. This is a morality tale, and the moral is, always consider your actions because you are not always in the right even if you think you are.

Tell us about your novel, Crowman.

In North American and Western Pacific myths, the sun used to be kept in a box and was then set free by the crow. I tried to imagine a world of perpetual darkness, and what that would be like, and about how it could be changed and the sun set free.

The story is about darkness. It is set in a world ruled by a dark spirit that keeps the sun captive. It is about how such a world would work and what it would be like. Utas has a daughter that shines like the sun. The Dark spirit wants her destroyed. Utas tries to escape and save her. On his journey he is aided by many people, a dark swordsman, a kindly soldier, a bandit boy. But in the end his attempt to escape is futile and he must face both the dark spirit and the darkness within him. It’s been compared by one reviewer to THE SLEEPING GIANT and HERE LIES ARTHUR was also an inspiration for the writing style. I have tried to layer it with meaning and it could be read as an anti-capitalist fable, or a parable about faith, forgiveness, and redemption. But most of all, I hope it is an exciting and entertaining read. 

What inspired your book, Crowman?

I think I wanted to write a manga book, and certainly there are loads of manga and anime references in Crowman if you can recognise them. Crowman is both a reference to the Crow of North American and Western Pacific legend, a sort of trickster god, and to Tengu, Japanese crow spirits. But what really inspired the book was a story that I felt I had to tell and an adventure that I wanted to share. Ultimately the writer may wish to inspire or change readers, but in the end it is the writer’s job to entertain, and that is the measure of our success.

What are some key takeaways you’re hoping readers get from your books?

I hope first and foremost that readers come away feeling entertained and enthralled. While there are themes in Crowman about darkness and light and it tries to subvert some of the stereo-typical thinking about these things, I don’t want any message to be at the expense of the story. I hope readers are entertaining and find the book thought provoking.

Crowman has some big themes; light and dark, good and evil, redemption, love, hate, men and women. And I hope they make readers re-evaluate some of the certainties that we have about these themes. I’m not saying our preconceptions are wrong, just that we should examine them and make sure we are happy with them and where they lead us. But most of all I want the readers to come to know the characters. There are some great characters in the book, Utas, Eroi, Mukito.  If the readers come to enjoy them just as much as I enjoyed writing about them then I’m happy.

My other stories are not at all dark and believe it or not The Lepidopterist’s Beautiful Daughter has lots of humour in it, as does my collection of short stories Midnight in the Garden of Naughty and Nice. My short stories mostly fall into the category of quirky. You could think of them as magical realism. Most of my stories have an element of truth in them somewhere. 

Do you find that there were any events in your life that have contributed to how you approach your writing, and how you handle your themes?

Yes, of course. I’m not sure I want to dwell on any single event nor can I think of any pivotal moment in my life. But everything that I’ve done feeds into my writing and what I want to write about. Sometimes it is only when I reread the story that I think to myself; so, that’s what that’s about. There are always two sides to everything. Sometimes more than two sides. And I don’t think you can tell a story fully without showing different perspectives.

What is different about your novels?

I try to make myth and mystery central to my stories, but I try to ground them in reality. I try to make these myths relevant to today. I don’t mean retelling them in modern settings. I mean I try to find the myths that we have made for ourselves to help us deal with modern life and explore them. There is an element of me in all of my books, where I try to explore something that  

What are your plans for future novels?

I have a follow up to Crowman called Crowtower which I hope will be coming out next year, and a third book Crowbait is in the works.. But I’ve also recently finished a cyber-steam novel called The Lepidoperist’s Beautiful Daughter, and I really hope that I can share that soon. Wheels within wheels and all that. But I’m optimistic that they will be out as soon as possible. I’m also working on a series of three crime novels the first of which is called Brittle White Bones.

What inspires you to write?

Good question, I’m not entirely sure. Certainly not fame or fortune. There just comes a point when a story has to be told. For years, I wrote little bits and snippets 

What do you enjoy about publishing, and what do you struggle with?

I love writing. I really do. There is nothing better than when the words flow. It really is like being possessed by some divine goddess that takes your hand and writes for you. And then when someone reads it, and likes it or better still loves it, that’s great. But any comment or feedback is wonderful. It’s like somehow our minds have met. And I have made so many great friends on this trip into publishing and writing. I have had so much support and encouragement from the writing community.

I hate it when the words don’t flow, but usually I find this is because there is something I have to write and don’t want to. For example, I was writing this story and was going great until I had to write a scene where a disabled boy is attacked and beaten up. I really had to work that through in my head before I could put it down on paper. It was distressing to write, and it needed to sit and work in my head. Is that writers block, or is it just that sometimes the thought process is more complicated than at others.  

I’m also not great with the business side. I do all the social media stuff and shameless self-promotion, but it just takes so much time, and I’m not really good at it. And you can’t really measure if what you are doing is having an effect. Contracts, promotion, marketing, it seems like I have so much that I need to be an expert on. 

What has been your greatest struggle in the writing process, and how would you inspire other writers to overcome it?

Fear. I think it is what stops all of us. Fear that our work will be poor or fear that we’ll be rejected, or fear that it won’t sell, or fear of bad reviews. Fear is never a good motivation for anything. Be brave, be fearless. But also don’t take yourself too seriously. I’m not saying you will never write anything bad, or that you will never be rejected, or that bad reviews are always wrong, or that your book will sell. I’m saying; so what do it anyway. One of my non-literary heroes is David Bowie, and much as I love Diamond Dogs, Hunky Dory and Low, he also did “the laughing Gnome,”  “ the little match girl,” and Tin Machine. They say it’s a fine line between genius and madness, but it’s also a fine line between genius, and the banal, the ridiculous and the pompous. It does not matter. Keep going and keep doing what only you can do. 

That’s an interesting concept: “there’s a fine line between the genius and the banal, ridiculous and pompous.” Most people would define the dichotomy as ‘greatness’ vs ‘failure’, but do you see it differently?

I think I might. Greatness is overrated. I just mean that for example the self-restraint shown by the likes of Hemmingway, or Steinbeck or Fitzgerald in their writing borders on the banal. The florid lines of Melville, or Wolfe edge close to the pompous and ridiculous. And that we should not be afraid to skirt close to these. We need to be brave in our writing even if that means we run the risk of being pompous or banal. Believe in your own voice and in your own style.

How can we purchase your books?

All of my books are on Amazon and you can find them on my Amazon page. You can also follow my blog where I put loads of free stuff for you to read or follow me on facebook

Very Short Stories Twitter Throwback

Here are just a few of my favorite #vss365 tweets I’ve done. #VSS365 is a hashtag on twitter where you’re given a daily prompt, and writers respond with a story that can fit in a tweet. I’ve admittedly cheated on a few over several tweets, but I generally keep it to one.

August 8, 2019

there are things in life that #evaporate
they’re there, until they’re not
only steam
but a soul like yours
is fire and smoke
if they can’t love you, your fire will warm the earth
until it is uninhabitable
because life without love is only saltwater

August 12, 2019

no matter how long she stared, it didn’t change.
the caption read: anna johnson, #vermillion county, 1905.
the same name on her driver’s license.
the face of the brunette in the photo glared at the camera, daring.
the same face from her bathroom mirror.

August 12, 2019

she gave me a conch #shell
if I held it to my ear I could hear the wind on the shore, the swell of the waves.
I asked her to listen too, but she said the ocean wasn’t hers anymore.
it had taken from her, and all she could hear now were whispers of ghosts

August 28, 2019

“life is full of #fragile moments” her voice is calm, but I can hear the camouflaged pain. “how will I get through this?” I ask. she touches my arm, “you don’t go through it. you make room for it. all you can do is try to love who you become.”

September 3, 2019

she felt #mystery in the moment. like standing on a cliff, the waves crashing below, either she falls and survives something remarkable or the rocks on the shore become her gravestones. like she holds life and death in a box, and will she take a peek?

September 26, 2019

“think about it. blue whales are 200 tons, 100 feet long. what do they eat? krill. that aren’t even an inch long.”
he lays his head on the table, places his palms over his ears.
“nuthin to be done. guys like that #consume the little guy. us. it’s over.”

October 16, 2019

the #chunk of asteroid was tiny in the photo that made the rounds, but with a mass the size of California there was no doubt in everyone’s minds that we were fucked. the psa on our doom was expected. the ad for a new iPhone afterwards? not so much.

October 22, 2019

When the location of the human #soul was found, the news story was put on the back burner in favor of Black Friday deals.
Our legacy is burying the knowledge of what made us under the things we made to destroy us.
Maybe that’s what we deserve.

October 24, 2019

as a teen I finally followed my grandfather into the #cellar, expecting occult trinkets. the rusted toy cars were a disappointment. he avoided me after that.
at 23, I learned my grandfather had died before I was born.
I’d been asking the wrong questions.

October 28, 2019

We walked to my #grave, the sweet pitter patter of the rain—our orchestra, our waltz. She held my hand as I lowered myself into the open pit filled with mud. One last squeeze on my fingers and she was gone- her to life, me to only endlessly watch.

October 31, 2019

I was working my way through his pile of bills when a clak near the window caught my attention. To my surprise, in the open window stood a silken black #raven. I froze for a moment, when the bird spoke. “Say nevermore” it said in a deep voice, not unlike my father’s.
I smiled, knowing the mix of pride and frustration my father must have felt at his failed attempt at living the story. The longing and love hit like a stone in my gut.

Jan 16, 2020

The #yearning clung like a second skin, but she kept her fingers closed over her palms. Her past, their faces, held suspended in the crystal before her. But they were not what she had come for. She forced herself to hear the fortune tellers’ words.
“You’ve lost much,” she says, her fingers covered in thick gold rings running over the crystal before her. “You will you lose yet more.” She bites her lip. It was not what she wanted to hear, but she yet held to hope. “Will it be worth it, everything I have lost?”
The fortune-teller smiles, a cheshire grin of crooked teeth. “The spirits tell me only the future. Not how you will feel about it.”

Flash Fiction

Here are a variety of flash fiction stories I’ve written, most of which were written for the Rue|LouPrompts Series. My favorites have ‘**” for your reference!

Demon Inside
“It grips me in a chokehold, the breath hanging suspended in my throat....”

Enough About Love
“Their footsteps echoed on the steel floor beneath them, a metal clang swallowed by the empty streets. It was morning yet, the sun barely risen, the pinks and oranges reflected back from the galvanized walkway...”

** Fear Not the Gods
“I often wonder what the Gods thought would happen upon their return. Maybe they thought we needed guidance, that their magnanimous but firm hand would turn the human race into something of universal beauty…”

** Flappers & Finches (All That Glitters Isn’t Gold)
“She glittered like gold, and I was the magpie. It could have been love, but gold changes hands, and birds are born to fly. She was gone by morning…”

** I’ll Be Your Misfit
“It wasn’t that the dog was ugly, per se…”

A New Color of Sunrise
“I’ve been staring at my account for half an hour, but it doesn’t change. No matter how much I will it, no money magically appears...”

A New Mountain
“I struggle through the drifts, feet burying into snow up to my knees with every step. ....”

No Roots
My mother once told me, ‘you can cast seeds, but you don’t know which will sprout.’
Her face is draining of color, lips turning blue as I watch...”

Prince of Glass
“‘I’m just young enough to still believe but young enough not to know what to believe in.’
The first words I remember telling you are branded in my memory...”

** Sleeping Dogs Don’t Lie
“The biting air prickled the skin on his face. Caleb saved his hands by burying them in his coat pockets, but the cold still penetrated down to his bones…”

A Space Between the Stars
“‘You’re as dumb as an ox, Cam.’
The other kids, his teachers, his parents, his best friend- they were all in agreement...”

Ten Nanoseconds
“Ten nanoseconds. It’s my mantra. My saving grace and my kryptonite. It alternates between a lifeline and the rope to hang myself with...”

** With the Pieces
“It was a Tuesday when her heart broke…”

Book Review: Crowman

Touch the light. Hold the light. The light burns. The light runs away. Hold the light. Lock the light away.

Crowman by David Rae is an ethereal dark fantasy with a striking cast of flawed characters, immaculate world-building, and a swirling miasma of a plot that left me guessing until the very last word.

The story opens around Utas, a silk merchant on the road to a nearby town. Along the rainy road, he picks up the mysterious traveler, Erroi, tall and thin and of few words. After a bandit tries to hold him up for his wares, we begin to learn there is mystery surrounding both the traveler, and Utas’ cargo.

Utas is fleeing the City of the Sun, where the darkness, Vatu, keeps the Sun in a box and opens it but once a year. Vatu wants Utas’ daughter, why we do not know, but Utas’ will do anything in his power to keep her safe. But Utas’ daughter, Alaba, is weakening in the darkness.

As Utas continues his travels, others are pulled into the gravity of his situation, until we are left with a varied cast of characters that are struggling to survive in a world where survival means that no one’s soul is left unscathed. 

The Good:

Though the cast of Crowman seems ever-expanding, There are no ‘throwaway’ characters. Everyone serves multiple purposes to bring the story forward. 

Mukito became one of my favorites, as we see a transformation in him from beginning to end more than any other character, but each of the main characters had their own time to shine.

The world-building is first rate, Rae crafting a world where the Sun shines only one day of the year down to how the economic system would be affected for different classes and ranges from the epicenter. You can tell there was no stone left unturned as far as research went. It definitely shows that Rae is passionate about this world he’s created, and it’s so easy to get immersed into it.

Should You Read It?:

This story is dark. There is nothing included that seems gratuitous, but there are no holds barred either. So make sure you check the trigger warnings below before you read if you’re concerned.

Some of the truths discussed especially by Erroi and Utas can be like nails to swallow, but it makes the reader think. It’s what I love about Erroi as a character, he’s a mischievous, seemingly erratic character who has a plan that the reader can only guess at, but his truths hit home. That said, I would suggest readers make sure they’re in a good mental place to be pondering such things before tackling such a raw, emotional book.

There are areas of the story that are dream-like and experimental. Along some parts of the journey, the threads never quite weave together tight enough to be certain what is real and what is a fantastical reimagining of events. While I loved the uncertainty personally, if you’re looking for a concrete, straightforward book, this won’t be your cup of tea.

Spark Level: 

I rated Crowman by David Rae as Torchlight, lighting our way as we plumb the depths of what we will become, do, or return to, in order to protect the things we cherish.

The Trigger Warnings: Mentions or Rape, Attempted Rape, Torture

Rue|Lou Prompt Series: “I’ll Be Your Misfit”

For the 6/18/2020 prompt, Rue submitted ‘I’ll Be Your Misfit”

Below are the prompts submitted for this week. Thank you to all the participants!

Click on the links to read each individual submission.

MASTERLIST:

“The book went back with a clunk.
She moved along the shelves, tugging out books that looked useful. Very few actually were.”

I’ll Be Your Misfit, Dew Hargreaves

“It wasn’t that the dog was ugly, per se…”
I’ll Be Your Misfit, Rue Sparks

“”Ah, you bastard,” Nick hisses, throwing down his sewing and sucking his middle finger.
I look up from my book.
He picks up his needle and keeps sewing, pulling thread through glistening fabric.

I’ll Be Your Misfit, Lou Willingham

Author Interview: Kevin Barrick

If you’re not into writing or reading as an active hobby or obsession (stop looking at me like that), flash fiction may be new to you.

It’s a novel concept, one that I expect should have more of a following in the culture of “I didn’t read the article but I read the headline and the first few paragraphs.”

Which is about how much a flash fiction is, little more than a few paragraphs. 500 words: approximately a page and a half of a book. Yet, authors of flash fiction have managed to create worlds and stories in these 500 words that will bring you to tears, or make you snort water (or lattes) out of your nose when you’re supposed to be paying attention in your budget meeting.

And as long as we’re on the subject of lattes, Creativity Brewing (which I reviewed last week) is a great example of what can be done with flash fiction in a variety of genres, subjects, and tones. Kevin Barrick put together an anthology that is as diverse as it is succinct, and I was honored to ‘sit’ down with him to talk more about his history and his future.

Barrick may have cut his teeth on flash fiction, but as I found out in my interview, there’s more to come from this indie author in the near future.

Tell us a bit about yourself.

I am a first time indie author, but I’ve been writing for most of my life. I remember writing fanfiction at first when I was about 8, but that eventually turned into me wanting to write my own story with my own characters. I ventured into a YA novel that has inspired me in my current creative endeavors.

I live in Ethiopia where I am embracing the culture and loving the world. After my time here, I want to travel the world. I even have aspirations to write a collection of flash fiction set in each country I visit!

My favorite thing to do when I’m not writing is to go to the lake and swim for a few hours. At home, I love to cook and experiment with budget cooking and replacement cooking (e.g. don’t have butter? Use oil!). One of my favorite things to cook is pasta, and I enjoy making my own noodles on occasion.

You said that venturing into a YA novel inspired you. Are there specific YA books you think of fondly, or that heavily influenced your writing (either current or past)?

I read a lot growing up, so to say something in particular influences me is something hard to do. I do remember a trilogy that inspired the real world turned fantastical as well as another that dealt with post-apocalyptic survival that loosely relates to the novel I’ve been writing. But I remember more the way I felt reading them than their titles or authors. And I guess at the end of the day that’s the inspiration I draw from: a desire to inspire rather than to become famous. Though that certainly wouldn’t hurt.

What is your favorite novel, and has it inspired how you write? How?

I don’t have a favorite novel, per se, but I do have a few favorite trilogies/series. One of my favorites that have spanned the ages is the unique collection of work by Ted Dekker. He has written a series that is divided into a couple of trilogies. This has inspired my upcoming novella series, where I will apply the same idea by having a trilogy of trilogies sort of series. I am excited to learn from him and see where I can go with it!

Tell us about your short story anthology, Creativity Brewing.

Creativity Brewing is a collection of flash fiction that explores human nature. I explore several situations where humanity is at the forefront as the character tries to figure out what it means to be human and what it means to truly live. Some stories are more like fables where they explore human nature in a more mythical way. Others are stories of adventure, romance, or fantasy that venture into heroism, fear, sorrow, joy, and other emotions.

I decided to write this anthology after a few months of working on my blog where I post other flash fiction. I have always wanted to embark upon the writing journey, but had never really had an opportunity to do so. After some deliberation, this anthology took form and I sent it off into the world.

You say you have a blog. What kind of things can readers expect to see on your blog in the future, and where can they find it?

My blog can be found at www.creativitybrewing.blogspot.com. I have written several flash fiction that runs along a similar vein of my book, but I’m currently working on a new series of retelling popular mythologies. I’m still working on getting my mind to wrap around the myths themselves before putting my version of them down on paper, but that is something to expect in the coming months.

What are some key takeaways you’re hoping readers get from your books?

I want readers to be able to stop and appreciate their humanity and the humanity of other people. I particularly brought this idea into my story “A Fruit-Eating Hyena,” a tale of a strange and different hyena who struggles to fit in. I think this is a rather applicable fable that helps us to see the different people in our lives and compel us to view them as humans and never anything less.

Another thing I want my readers to get from my stories is the beauty of simple things. In each of these 500-word tales, I bring out the excitement, wonder, and beauty of the world we live in and the humanity we embrace. I want my readers to explore their own lives and find the simple, small things that make them excited or brings out their humanity. Whether that is a walk in the park, a cup of coffee, or a comedy movie.

What is different about your book?

The thing that is different about my book, and the books that are in the workshop, is that I express the darkness of humanity with a juxtaposition of the greatness we all have. I don’t write just dark and grim stories, but I take the dark colors we see in our lives and weave it into a tapestry that accentuates that darkness to present the masterpiece that is called life and humanity.

Are there experiences in your life, or that you’ve heard, that influenced how you see the world, and does that come through in your writing?

I believe everyone’s experiences, friendships, and upbringing influences the way they see the world. I was fortunate enough to have an opportunity to go abroad when I was younger that inspired a passion for travel. Through my experiences, some specific and some vague, I’ve been able to see many sides to the same story. Very rarely is an incident an isolated unfolding of events, but rather a network of a lifetime of experiences that lead to the particulars of the incident. Change one variable, and the entire understanding could change of the incident. Life is complex.

This comes out in my writing (particularly my longer works) where the complexity of life fashions the narrative of my story. One character who is deemed the hero could easily be defined as a villain if observed through a different set of lenses, and vice versa. In my longer work, I don’t have villains, I have people who are doing what they find to be right, even if they don’t fall in line with the “public opinion.” No one is evil for the sake of being evil, but because the events of their life have fashioned them and influenced their decisions.

What are your plans for future books?

I have a few plans. One is a sci-fi short story that should be released later this year. I can’t say too much about it, except ROBOTS.

My next project is the first novella in a series called “The Vial of Deziar.” It should be released this summer and is currently in the editing phase. It’s a story of dark secrets, gods and demons, and young passionate rebellion.

I’m excited about both of these and can’t wait for all of you to read it! Stay tuned.

What inspires you to write?

Life inspires me. When I experience fear, I put that into writing. When I see the effects of addiction, I weave that into a tale. When I hear the whispers of the heart, I shape it into a story of passion.

What do you enjoy about publishing, and what do you struggle with?

I enjoy the autonomy of it all. I like being in control and deciding what content I write and what marketing tools I use.

I struggle with the fact I can’t gauge the success of my story until after I start and go through the journey. Through traditional publishing, one would send in a query and then receive an immediate rank of success (acceptance or rejection).

But it’s a joy to write and that’s what inspires me to write also: the act of storytelling and seeing people read and enjoy it.

What has been your greatest struggle in the writing process, and how would you inspire other writers to overcome it?

So far the great struggle, or conundrum, is deciding how much I am willing to spend on a first book in light of proofreading and editing. Recently, I’ve been bombarded by hundreds of opinions on the matter. In the end, I think I will make my own path. However, my advice on the matter is this: YOU NEED A CONTENT EDITOR–even if you decide not to get one. By that, I mean, write and self-edit your book with the mentality that you will be sending it off to be edited for $500 or even $1,000. If you don’t have an endless supply of money, then you will automatically want your work to be as perfect as it can be so that when they edit it, there won’t be a plethora of edits that you could have done yourself.

In tandem with that, accept the fact that your first work isn’t going to be perfect. So if you cannot afford an editor, that’s fine. Find beta readers, use free or cheap resources, self-edit, read it a billion times. Eventually, when money allows, you should get one for your future work, but writing is a journey.. You discover your voice after you write for a while. So it might be better to invest in a future version of yourself as a writer as opposed to the beginner version of yourself.

Publish your best work, and do everything you can to ensure it is your best, but have an understanding that your best today isn’t going to be your best 5 years from now. And that’s how it should be! Write, edit, write, edit, write, edit, publish.

Do you ever plan on pursuing traditionally publishing, or would you rather stick with self-publishing?

I have a book series/trilogy that I am working on that I would like to at least query to be traditionally published. Primarily for the sake of it being handled with more experienced and professional hands as well as being introduced to an already established platform.

For the time being, I’ll stick with self-publishing. I have plans for a novella series as well as a few more flash fiction anthologies, all of which will be self-published.

How can we purchase your books?

You can find my book at Amazon.
Follow my Amazon Author Page for updates.

Flash Fiction: “I’ll Be Your Misfit”

It wasn’t that the dog was ugly, per se.

It’s fur was sparse, mismatched lengths in a mottled grey and brown where it hadn’t been shaved. It’s skin was pink with tiny bumps raised along the shaved areas—the adoption card said it’d recovered from mange. It was medium height, longish but not long, with legs that were shortish but not short. An in between that wasn’t quite enough of either to be cute, but rather came off as odd. In the low light of the shelter, it’s eyes—her eyes, the car said—seemed jet black, like they would suck your soul from your chest. Like she could devour you with just those beady black eyes from where you stood.

Okay. Maybe she was just a little ugly.

But so was he.

He bent down low on his knees, sticking his fingers between the links of the fence. “I’ll be your misfit if you’ll be mine? How does that sound girl?”

She didn’t move. She stayed laying down in her bed, staring at him with those dark, abyss eyes.

Her eyes weren’t black.

He didn’t learn this until the following day, as he sat eating his cereal at his kitchenette table. She’d spent the previous day sniffing through the house room by room, nose to the ground. He’d not been able to shake her from her task.

Today she stared at him—or more likely, his food—with honey brown eyes that melted his heart.

“Where’d those come from?” he asked her, knowing not to expect an answer.

She licked her lips, and he snuck her some toast under the table, even though there was no one to be sneaking from.

He was surprised to learn when her fur started to grow back that the mottled colors were actually a mix of black, white and brown splotches, along with tufts of grey from old age.

By the time it had grown an inch, it looked endearing, and she’d begun to sleep in his bed. When his niece had been spending the night and opened his door to ask for a glass of water, she’d growled at her loud enough to send her running to her bed. He’d tutted at her and left the room to calm his niece down.

When the fur had grown several inches, and she had become fluffy enough for the hair to stick to the couch, Lilah—as he had finally named her—fell asleep on the couch with his niece, and barked fiercely at his brother when he’d come to pick his niece up.

On her adopt-aversary, he went to the local dog bakery to get a special treat for Lilah. He became overwhelmed quickly at all the dog biscuits, peanut butter baked bones, scones, pretzels, and pupcakes, enough that other customers began to take notice.

One in particular took pity on him. The stranger came over, smile wide, shoulders relaxed and held out a hand towards the array. “Having trouble? Want some ideas?”

He let out a sign in gratitude. “Thank you, that’d be a big help. I just adopted Lilah a year ago today, and I can’t decide what to get her.”

The stranger chuckled and nodded in approval. “I love to hear about fellow adopters, and yes, it can be overwhelming. This may sound weird, but all the food can be eaten by dogs and humans, so me and my dog Leto will share a few treats together. The Strawberry Lemon cupcakes are great, so are the Carob Chip and Pretzel Bars. Oh, and we like the Dill Peanut Butter Pretzels. But we’re kind of misfits.”

He smiles, leaning in closer, and hopes that Lilah doesn’t mind sharing.

“I love misfits.”

<Back to Flash Fiction>

Book Review: Creativity Brewing

“Whether you like light roast, medium roast, or dark roast, this collection serves it all!”

Creativity Brewing by Kevin Barrick and Jason Schneider is a flash fiction anthology filled with nuanced metaphor, a swath of genres, and emotionality that drips into every single word.

I was immediately hooked with the first story, Rifts and Orange Orchards, about living between two cultures and what it means to choose diversity and love. I was immersed in stories like The Fruit Eating Hyena that read like passed-down fables. Other stories, such as the darker Losing Control, left me hoping for a full book series of the premise—a testament to how much emotional draw Barrick has been able to introduce in such few words.

The Good:

There weren’t any ‘duds’ in my opinion in this anthology, but there were certainly some that spoke to me more deeply than others.

The Lion Who Forgot How To Roar starts innocuous enough, but hit me in the feels when we got to the crux of his dilemma. My Lighthouse is one that got to me deeply as a widow who’s still in the midst of their grieving. Saturn’s Queen got me pumped to read a full novel of the story (hint, hint, Mr. Barrick!) The Forbidden Library Beneath the Sea was a nice interlude of pursuing our curiosities when the world feels like it’s closing in on us

Despite all the disparate genres and plotlines, I was impressed by how each of the stories still seemed to belong in the same anthology. Barrick and Schneider’s writing styles have certain emotions and lessons that many of the stories come back to. There are also technical tendencies within the actual verbiage, and especially Barrick’s leaning on unique description and metaphor to push the story forward.

Should You Read It?

As always, see the Trigger Warnings section below if you’re concerned about the content within the stories.

Unlike novels, the strength of an anthology is that there’s something for everyone, and Creativity Brewing delivers on this. There are stories across many different genres; from fables to fantasy, science fiction to thriller, murder mystery to horror.

Despite the different subject matter and storyline, Barrick and Schneider do a great job of setting the stories up in an order that keeps the emotionality at a logical level as you’re reading through. It starts off light, gets grittier towards the middle, and ends with a feeling of hopefulness and contemplation. The transition between the three tones is seamless, making it something you could easily read in one sitting without feeling any ‘emotional whiplash’, or one by one if you want to savor it.

That said, if you are a die-hard fan of longer fiction, this may not be your cup of tea. But I would highly recommend watching out for Kevin Barrick’s long-form stories. Keep an eye out on his Amazon Author Page to be updated with future releases.

Spark Level: I rate Creativity Brewing as Hearth Fire. The stories are something that can be read piece-meal in front of a fireplace before bed as a way to escape into something that will entertain you as well as bring you to other worlds. You may accidentally succumb to the one more story motto and read the whole thing in one go, but who am I to judge?

Trigger Warnings: Major Depression, Suicidal Ideation & Attempt

Author Interview: Jaimie N. Schock

I first met Jaimie on Twitter and was immediately tempted into reading the first book in her Talisman Wars series, The Pyre Starter. The book boasts LGTBTQ+ characters, realistic representation of disability, and oh yeah, it’s a modern fantasy. What’s not to love?! It was like all the neurons in my brain were screaming ‘BUY IT’ and I found myself staring at an Amazon receipt on my screen before my mind could catch up. Regrets? None.

You can read my review of The Pyre Starter here. I rated it ‘Wildfire’ for the combination of action-packed scenes and heartwarming interludes that warmed my soul like a campfire.

I was also honored to have a discussion with Jaimie about her writing and her future plans.

Tell us a bit about yourself.

I was a print journalist for more than ten years before becoming an author. I have three cats, a lovely husband, and several children that call me “aunt.” I also have PTSD and am a member of the LGBTQ+ community.

Has your experience as a print journalist influenced how you write/what you write in any way?

I think it has to an extent. I learned a lot while writing in the science and engineering fields, which has been helpful with my current work-in-progress sci-fi story. I wrote pieces that were designed to get into people’s heads and understand them. That has definitely helped me write characters. Also, I did professional editing along the course of my career, helping me edit my own stories later on.

What is your favorite novel, and has it inspired how you write? How?

I actually don’t currently have a favorite. When I was younger, however, my favorite was “Bedlam’s Bard” by Mercedes Lackey. It was a simple two-part book featuring an elf in the real world and a moody Renaissance Fair musician. I connected with the characters on a deep level and felt that I could write characters that were equally relatable. I was also inspired by Lackey’s success and her large amount of published works. I thought to myself “I can do that!”

Tell us about your series, The Talisman War.

The series features multiple main characters as they navigate a growing war between powerful magic necklace users. It has seven books. Book one The Pyre Starter begins with a handful of characters trying to prevent a single bad guy from taking away everything they care about. In the later books, the antagonists become more frequent and more powerful, and it’s up to the characters to try and stop them as society degrades and destabilizes.

What are some key takeaways you’re hoping readers get from your books?

One of the biggest themes in the books is the overpowering need to protect those you love. Dakota, the first main character, adopts a little girl named Kenna and begins to raise her amongst the chaos. He is willing to do anything to protect and provide for her. He acts similarly for his love interests and another daughter he adopts in book five. Later, Kenna does the same thing for her love interest, as does Cameron in book seven The Burning Key.

What is different about your novels?

I have LGBTQ+ people as the main point-of-view characters and their loved ones. My books also feature interracial romance, disabled characters, mentally ill characters, and other diverse characters. Beyond that, the series evolves over time. The stakes change from book to book, and the characters do, too. Dakota and Kenna are unrecognizable to their former selves by the end, but they grow substantially. I also don’t skimp on the intimate scenes or violence. I like to provide all the information needed and not skip over things.

What are your plans for future novels?

Right now, I’m working on a sci-fi story with fantasy and romantic elements. It follows a group of humans and bison-sized, benevolent aliens as they make a trip to a nearby solar system to investigate a planet for life. The main character Cillian ends up with hallucinations, which, among many other things, allows him to “speak” with a capybara. The antagonist is a lovesick priest whose negative attributes change dramatically across the book. I plan to finish it this year.

What inspires you to write?

My husband and my readers. I’ve been a writer for a long time, but for fiction, I want to provide a journey that is enjoyable and engaging. I also try to weave my own experiences in now and then. For instance, one character has PTSD while another attempts suicide (in the first scene of the first novel). These are real problems I have experienced.

What do you enjoy about publishing, and what do you struggle with?

I enjoy seeing my books out there, holding them, and listening to people who have read them. I struggled with finding an agent, and in the end, went with small press companies without one. I queried more than 100 agents and was ignored or turned down by every single one. I believe the sensitive content and LGBTQ+ plot line in my first book was the reason for the rejections and not the writing itself. Thankfully, two press companies accepted the books directly, and all seven are published now.

Mercedes Lackey is also known for diversity and tackling a variety of characters and plots, something you seem to value as well. You say you were rejected by many agents due to the sensitivity and diversity in your content. What made you want to continue on that path even knowing it would be more of a struggle?

I felt my story needed to be told. The characters deal with real issues that are important to me, such as mental health, love, disabilities, etc. I wanted other people to know about these issues and experience them alongside the characters. I also wanted people to enjoy the series I wrote. I spent so much time on it, from 2013 to 2019; I wasn’t going to just give up on it. I would have queried 100 more agents if I thought any would bite. In the end, I’m so glad that small press companies took an interest and published my work.

What has been your greatest struggle in the writing process, and how would you inspire other writers to overcome it?

My own mental health was the biggest struggle. I began writing my series in 2013 and finished in 2019, but I took a year off in the middle because I was simply too sick to focus or find enough energy to write. Now, with therapy and proper medication, writing comes naturally again.

You mentioned that your mental health became a barrier to your writing. What advice do you have for other writers in similar circumstances?

Take your time. Write on your better days. Give yourself breaks. Your mental health is more important than anything you’re writing. If you can, seek therapy and medication. It will help. Once you’re feeling better, it’ll be easier to write, I promise. And if you feel so inclined, write what you know. Your mental health journey is important and can be incorporated into your writing if you want to. I recommend doing that, because it acted as an additional form of therapy for me. Whatever you do, take care of yourself, and your writing will be better for it.

How can we purchase your book?
My books are available on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, JMS Books, and others.

You can also visit my website at: https://www.jaimieschock.com/

Rue|Lou Prompt Series: “Never Seen a Ghost Like…”

For the 6/5/2020 prompt, Lou submitted ‘Never Seen A Ghost Like…”

Below are the prompts submitted for this week. Thank you to all the participants!

Click on the links to read each individual submission.

MASTERLIST:

“Tap. Tap. Tap. He’s still tapping on the window, distracting himself, when the girl, the woman really—Jeannie, she introduced herself as Jeannie—comes over.
The Whispers, Alicja

“My fourteen-year-old daughter pushes grass through wire for our hens to peck at. I watch, eyes soft behind dark sunglasses, as she crouches in the dry grass and whispers to them.
Never Seen A Ghost, Lou Willingham