Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Stories of the Week for September 25, 2013

Well, streaks were made to be broken, I guess.  My 5 pages a day writing goal crashed and burned shortly after last week's SOTW.  It was only a matter of time, really, as it had been getting more and more difficult the closer I came to the end of the book.  I'd liked the climax I'd written, but I also thought it could be improved.  So I ended up rewriting the entire penultimate chapter.  I then started work on the final chapter, and it took me many, many attempts before I found a scene that felt right, both in tone and in pacing.

Even with as difficult as this last section has been, though, this particular book has been an absolute delight to write.  It combines horror elements with a sense of adventure and fun that I don't often see combined.

Of course, I'm already dreading the submission process (writing a query or a synopsis is not exactly my idea of a good time), but I really can't wait to start sendin' this puppy out.

Still can't say much about the actual story yet, but here's one of the research topics I checked out this week:

It's all about how people lit their homes in olden times.  I'm not sure how interesting it'll be to other people, but I enjoyed reading about it. 

And the return of Movie of the Week, in honor of Iron Man 3's release on Blu Ray and DVD yesterday:

I loved this movie.  In many ways, it felt like Marvel's take on the Dark Knight.  Tony Stark has no superpowers himself, but he has a ton of gadgets, can think on the fly, his mansion gets attacked (similarly to Batman Begins), and he's a billionaire who's haunted by his past.  He even puts on his detective cap to investigate a crime scene or two. 

There were some laugh out loud moments for me, as well.  Typically, I find scenes with child actors to be a bit painful to watch, but they played it perfectly here. 

And hats off to Marvel for giving the filmmakers free reign to take a fresh spin on the Mandarin character.  I won't say anything about it to avoid spoilers (I love that I went in to this movie without knowing), but Ben Kingsley was excellent, and it seemed like a role that only he could play. 

Arbitrary Star Rating: 5 Stars.  Highly Recommended.  It also might be my new favorite Christmas movie. 

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Stories of the Week for September 18, 2013

 I've added a new link to my page o' links.  It's the brand new blog by author Angelika Rust.  If you like fun fantasy books about criminal underworlds, then I'd highly recommend checking out her debut novel, Ratpaths.

Here's the book description:

The city state of Istonnia is suffering, its people cowering under the thumb of a despotic ruler.

Nivvo is a young thief, not interested in anything except keeping himself and his sister alive. That changes when he accidentally overhears a conversation.

Now Nivvo finds himself up to his neck in trouble. He has only one night to find the rightful heir. He has to smuggle him out of the city before the tyrant and his black-clad soldiers kill them both. And he has to avoid the crime lord's watchful eyes, for if Vicco Cambrosi catches them, they might be better off dead...

As for myself, I'm still plugging along on my Middle Grade novel.  My 5 pages a day writing streak is still intact, though I almost lost it on Saturday.  It was a combination of rampant procrastination, having to rewrite a tricky scene of dialogue, and generally being unsure how the protagonist was going to get out of her current predicament.

For some reason, I keep writing seemingly impossible scenarios for my characters, and then have to rack my brain trying to come up with a way out.  Preferably one that actually makes a bit of sense thematically, and doesn't come completely out of the blue, deus ex machina style.

Areas of research for the week include: – I wanted to see when fortune cookies were first invented.  I ended up not using them as a reference in the book, as they seem like more of an American invention than anything else, and they don't really seem to exist in China.  According to the “In popular culture” section, is says this was mentioned in Iron Man 3 by the Mandarin character.  Twice.  So I'm probably not saying anything most people don't already know. - More food related fun.  I had a scene that included a hot dog cart, but I wanted to make sure that hog dogs existed back in the time my story takes place. Frankfurters date back to the 13th century, apparently, where hot-dog-like pork sausages were made in Frankfurt, Germany.  Instances of the word “hot dog” seemed to have been published as early as the 1890s.

I may have also researched pretzels, while I was at it.  Now I know why research makes me hungry...

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Stories of the Week

After last week's visit with Claire C. Riley—wasn't she delightful?—I'm flying solo in the blog studios again to bring you another edition of SOTW (which, if you're curious, is properly pronounced as “Sot-wuh”).

I was a guest on Claire's own blog recently, as she featured an excerpt from Try Not to Burn, and shared a quick “Getting to know the Author” Q&A session with me.  I dropped 5 facts about myself (like why my lucky number is actually 13, and how I almost died when I was a small child, from a popular Christmas-themed treat). I also mention 5 things that people may not know about my books.  Such as how I originally had a completely different prologue, why one of the characters is named Clarence (can you guess the movie reference?), and what the story began as before it became a full-fledged novel.

This week's writing news:
My 5 pages a day writing goal is still going strong, I'm very happy to say.  I've had a few near-misses, as some days were more difficult than others, but I've managed to stay on track.  As I'm writing this post, I'm currently on page 158, at over 39,000 words.  Since it's a Middle Grade novel, I'm shooting for around 50,000 words total, so the finish line is within sight.

The outline has evolved a bit since I initially wrote it out, but it's still been quite helpful in guiding me through the story, and keeping me to the important story beats.  Without a good outline, there's a danger in focusing on aspects that don't ultimately end up mattering.

And to provide another clue for what I've been working on, here's a couple of the topics I've been researching for the book this week:

The research wasn't quite as fun as it was last week (in fact, it was downright depressing at times, as there aren't a ton of blue whales left in the world), but I did read about some very interesting exhibits, and the whales are fascinating creatures. 

Monday, September 2, 2013

An Interview with Author Claire C. Riley

Hi, Claire! I'm so glad you could join us here in the blog studio. Make yourself comfortable. Would you like some tea? Fresh-baked zucchini bread? Help yourself. And let me know when you're ready. This is a combined interview and game show, where prizes may be awarded for great answers. The grand prize, should you win all of the questions, is a signed copy of my brand new children's novella, “Falling From Tree Houses, and Other Things You Should Probably Avoid Doing.”

Hi, and thanks for having me, Mike. 

I am so going to win this thing, woooo. Let’s do it!... Wait, I need to nip to the loo first, sorry, smallest bladder EVER… Okay, I’m back, let’s do it! Wait…can I have a cup of tea please? Twinnings English breakfast tea if you have it??? Ta’ very much, okay, I’m ready now.

Welcome back.  When did you start writing fiction? Was there anything in particular that sparked your interest?

I’ve always wrote, since being a very young girl. I used to read a series called Point horror, and loved it. I finished the entire series, and then decided to write my own horror called Edge Fear. Original, I know. Anywho, I then went on to write various other horror stories. One in particular called ‘Lips’ where the murderer would take the victim's lips as a memento and pin them on a little bug board. Seriously, I have to wonder why my parents weren’t more worried about me to be honest!

Your upcoming book, Odium, is set in a world that's been devastated by the zombie apocalypse. What's your favorite (or favourite, if you prefer) zombie movie of all time? And what are the first two objects you would grab in your house if a zombie apocalypse broke out?

It simply has to be the old school style of zombies like Night of the Living Dead by George Romero. In fact, I really loved the remake of it by Sam Raimi in…1990? Or something like that. It was actually that version that got me into zombies and all things horror.  I hate all these new style zombies. Super-fast and super-smart. Not only does it annoy the hell out of me because the believability factor goes out of the window (I know, I know)—but seriously, zombies cannot be fast if they are dead, rigor mortis anyone?! Hellooooo? But it also scares the hell out of me on a whole new level. I hated 28 weeks later. I literally ran to my car!!

First two objects that I’d grab? Hmmm, my car keys I guess and a big freaking knife since we don’t really have guns to hand over here. Not including family members of course.

I picked up a copy of your first novel, Limerence, and it was wonderful to see my name listed on the acknowledgements page. No question, really. Just thought I'd point that out. 
Thank you, by the way.  That was very kind of you.

Haha, no problem. I’m all for helping out and thanking my fellow authors. You gave some great advice when I was writing Limerence, and it meant a lot. Especially coming from such a talented writer as yourself. (Do I get brownie points for that one?)

:) And for people who haven't checked it out yet, what's Limerence about?

Limerence is about love, lust and obsession. Limerence is a very over the top intense feeling of obsession towards someone, and I wanted to show how it can take hold of you and stop you from having any rational thoughts—even when you’re a hundred year old vampire-aka Mr. Breckt. On the flip side you have Mia who is trying not to succumb to the powers that Mr. Breckt has over her. Her love for her fiancé Oliver keeps her strong, but will it be enough? 

I tried to change things up a bit. Everyone I spoke to always said the same thing—
I would love to be a vampire. And all the books did the same thing—the character hated being a vampire. So I tried to do the opposite on both counts.

What is the most fun part about writing zombie stories? And what can people expect from Odium and your anthology, Life Ever After?

I love writing crazy and disgusting descriptions of zombies to be honest. Sick? Yeah, I guess I am a little bit, but it really gets the imagination going thinking of new and inventive zombies!

Life Ever After is the prequel to Odium. So in it we meet Nina and see how the events unfold around her when it all goes to hell, and how she deals with that. In Odium it’s several years later, and we see how the world has changed, and how she has changed, and hardened up I guess. It’s about how the world would change you, and what you would be prepared to do for others and yourself to survive. I love Nina. Everyone has been through a hell of a lot in the story, no matter who the character, but she changes throughout both stories and develops into a person she didn’t believe or know she could be. You see her dealing with all sorts of emotions that I think people will be able to relate to on some level or another.

I sometimes try to sneak in little inside jokes or references into my books which only a few people will actually catch (like the colors or mascot from my high school, or using birthdays in secret codes). Do you do this, too, and is there an in-joke or a secret you'd be willing to share with us about your books?

No in jokes as such, but what I will tell you is that 80% of the characters from Odium are based on real people and their real answers. Last year I put out an SOS on my blog and FB page for people willing to fill in a survival questionnaire, and as a thank you I would cast a character as them, or at least put their name in the book in some way or another. Some parts are huge, some parts are very tiny. But most of the story on peoples survival are actually based on ‘real’ answers that were given to me. Real escape plans, and real scenarios that I put out there. Some people basically killed off other characters with their answers haha. I will hold my hands up in defense and say that I never promised anyone that they would survive, though I have had several pleas from some of the people that filled it in to not let them get eaten. I never promised anything though ☺ Mwua hahaha

Cliched question time: Being a mom, is it difficult to find time to write? How do you manage to balance everything?

Haha, yes, very cliché, but a good question. And yes, it’s incredibly hard. I have three young children and I work, so my writing is done when the toddler naps and from about 8:30pm right up to about 2am some days. Then I’m up again at 7am. It’s very tiring, but worth every minute.
And when my kids tell me they want to be authors when they grow up, I couldn’t be any prouder.

What's the dumbest question you've ever been asked? It doesn't have to be about writing.

I was once asked what the dumbest question I’ve ever been asked was. I sat there for like ten minutes thinking of an answer to that one…doh!

Does being British help your writing? It is where the English language comes from, after all.

To be honest I’ve found it a bit of a hindrance. Most of the big book blogging sites and most other writers that I’ve connected with are based in America, so sometimes my humor can get a little lost, and I’ve found that I have to check with some of my American friends now on certain things. Like the other day I had to ask if they had canned prunes over there, and canned rice pudding. There’s a scene in Limerence where Mia is eating Banoffee pie, and I’ve been contacted a couple of times by people asking me what it is. I thought everyone knew! Then there’s the spelling differences etc. I try to make my stories universal to be honest, but sometimes I come across things that I’m just not sure what to do on. Like we say Mum, and you say Mom.

Okay, now what's the dumbest question you've ever been asked?

Well I was once asked if being British helped me in my writing…

And the final question. This one's for one hundred points, and a chance to play for the grand prize. Remember that honesty is the best policy or whatever. On a scale of one to ten, where one is pretty awesome and ten is fully awesome, how awesome is Michael Matula?

Michael who? Naaa, I’m kidding, he’s off the freaking scale!
He (ahem) is a very talented writer, with a crazy and brilliant imagination, and a really nice guy too. A ten easily.

And now, please tell the folks at home about when and where they can find your books, and where you'd like them to look on the internet for your stuff.


You can also find me on which is a fantastic author imprint group that I work with. It’s a bunch of Indie authors who try and help promote each other. In fact, the anthology that I have Life Ever After in is a product of BHB and some of its authors. There will definitely be more from us all in the future.

Thanks very much for having me Mike, it’s been amazing. Please tell me I won that wonderful book. It sounds fantastic!

Congratulations on winning the interview!  You've been an excellent contestant, Claire. Thank you so much for playing.