Today’s Featured Author – Grant Kniefel

Please welcome author Grant Kniefel to my blog. His short story, The Soundtrack of Life, was released in September. You can find it on Amazon.

Interview

Tell us a bit about yourself.

Hi, my name is Grant Kniefel. I am 18 years old and was born in Anchorage Alaska.

When did you first consider yourself a writer?

I started writing in 2nd grade. I would hang out with my dad when he coached wrestling at the high school he worked at, so I would write a lot. When I was in 9th grade, I wrote my first real short story called She Married Kevin. I Am Fine Now. I think that was the point where I really started considering writing as the thing I want to do with my life.

Have you started your next project? If so, can you share a little bit about your next book?

My next project actually isn’t a book. I am currently trying my hand at stage directing and script writing. I am currently tied to an original project entitled Rylan and Bec which deals with a teenage romance in the confines of a treatment center. I am also directing the film adaption of my short story The Soundtrack to Life.

Do you write full-time? If so, what is your work day like? If not, what do you do other than write and how do you find time to write?

I am currently attending high school actually. I write during the free periods I have. I tend to sit down for at least 45 minutes a day and do something with the piece whether it’s editing or writing new content.

Please tell us about your current release.

My most recent and current release is called The Soundtrack to Life. It deals with the journey of a young musician who releases that his own narcissism is ripping apart every relationship he has. In doing so, he finds solace and therapy in writing music and begins to truly love himself and creates his magnum opus, his “soundtrack to life”.

Did you base any of your characters on real people?

Yes. The main character, Jeremy Cabb, is actually based on my own personal journey through the landscape of arrogance and narcissism. The female lead, Ramona, is based on a dear friend I once had and how I ruined that relationship. Their conversation that opens the story was similar to that of which we shared together.

How did you come up with the title?

This is my favorite story out of writing it. So I was on my way to church with my grandmother. I told her that I was writing a new short story and that it wouldn’t be overly inappropriate. (My last two were so much so that she read through the first few pages and stopped). So I was originally going to call it “This is Not for Stupid People”. She said it didn’t really fit with the story so I shouted out some ideas. At one point I said, “Jeremy Cabb and the Soundtrack to Life.” She said “How about just the Soundtrack to Life?” and it has stuck ever since.

What was the most difficult thing/scene to write in this story?

I think that the hardest was the ending. In retrospect, I honestly hate it. I find the whole chapter to be hokey and fake. However, in that I find that the epilogue is much better at representing what I wanted to write.

If you could be one of the characters from any of your books, who would it be and why?

I think that the best person to be would be Jessica Riley from my short story She Married Kevin. I Am Fine Now. This is due to the fact that she is a nymphomaniac who torments the hero, Blink. The whole story is dedicated to how much she screwed him over and so I think it would be interested to see what it would be like to be in her head as she is not too unlike Amy Dunn in Gone Girl.

Do you have an all time favorite book?

I go through books like they’re pizza. It is always so hard to come up with simply one all time favorite. Currently it’s a small list which includes The Fault in Our Stars by John Green, The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald, It’s Kind of a Funny Story by Ned Vizzini, Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn, and Me and Earl and the Dying Girl by Jesse Andrews. Which leads me to…

If you could meet two authors, who would you pick and why?

Firstly, F. Scott Fitzgerald. I love his work as a whole. He is who I consider to be my favorite author. He is a master of description and his pieces make me want to go back in time and live in the Jazz Era. The other one would be J. D. Salinger. This is because, while not included, The Catcher in the Rye has had a complete and utterly life changing effect on me. I want to thank him for giving his piece to the world.

Tell us a random fact about you that we never would have guessed.

In my opinion, the best part of the writing process is listening to music. I never write without music. My current favorites are Coldplay, Mumford and Sons, Kanye West, Childish Gambino, Neutral Milk Hotel, Two Door Cinema Club, Phoenix, and the soundtrack to the film La La Land. These are all so incredible and so diverse that they create a whole universe when combined together.

Book Blurb

The Soundtrack to Life by [Kniefel, Grant]Jeremy Cabb is making it somewhere. But when his own ego threatens to rip everything to shreds, he finds himself looking inside to find the answers he needs and to help create his best album ever.

About the Author

grantGrant Kniefel is an 18 year old who lives in Alaska. He has written and published short stories, articles, and reviews, and currently attends to his blog entitled “Movies That Aren’t That Bad”. He tends to find himself writing more and more and likes to push boundaries to create raw and emotional pieces. You can find him on instagram(@suburban_yeezus), where he is much cooler than he is in real life.

You can purchase The Soundtrack to Life on Amazon.

Today’s Featured Author – ML Kennedy

Please welcome author ML Kennedy to my blog. His book, 100 by 100: Stories in 100 Words, came out in August. You can purchase it on Amazon.

Interview

Tell us a bit about yourself.

My name is ML Kennedy. I’ve written three books. The first is a road trip novella starring a vampire called The Mosquito Song. The second is a book called Thanksgiving for Werewolves and Other Monstrous Tales which is a collection of short stories anchored by a novelette featuring an independent pro-wrestler battling vampire terrorists. The third is a collection of 100 word stories called 100 by 100.

Additionally, I help run a writing group in Chicago on the South side called the Indie City Writers. We’ve held reading in bookstores, flower shops, and occasionally the basement of a grocery store. Our writers are aspiring, small press, independent or self-published authors, but there are over a hundred thousand copies of our books out there. With modern technology, there is virtually no gateway now between an author and his/her audience.

When did you first consider yourself a writer?

As a kid, I always wrote stories. They were usually two-page rip offs of one of the Hardy Boys Casefiles or homemade comic books starring Marvel super-heroes fighting some supervillains I made up.

I don’t know if any writer ever feels legitimate, but I did feel like I was on to something when I got an Honorable Mention in a Disney Adventures story contest back when I was eleven. Stephen King picked the winner! And now, to come full circle, I’ve seen my books next to his on bookstore shelves, though admittedly his are on many more shelves than mine.

Have you started your next project? If so, can you share a little bit about your next book?

I generally have two or three projects going at once. I’ve been doing world-building for a cheeky fantasy series based on one of the short stories in my book Thanksgiving for Werewolves. That’s way down the pipeline.

I am also about two-thirds of the way through a first draft of a time-hopping, existential crisis, soft sci-fi novel. You know the sort of thing that is always called “Such and So’s Wife” or “Such and So’s Daughter”? Well, this time the woman gets to be the “such and so” and the men don’t get to take center stage.

How do you conceive your ideas?

I am often inspired by criticism. Critical analysis of a story, is a big muse for me. Mostly it serves as a jumping off point. For instance, I acknowledge a plot hole in a movie I’m watching. Then I think, “what would happen if the characters behaved logically in that moment instead of just doing the things they did to move the plot forward?” That would change X, Y, and Z. Then it becomes an instance where I start asking, “Well, does this character need to be this type of person?” “What if this situation were closer to mythology?” “Why hasn’t anybody done it like this?”

Then again, my first book was inspired by a road trip I’ve taken a hundred times, Penn Jillette, and a Talking Heads song. Basically, ideas are everywhere.

Please tell us about your current release.

My latest book is 100 by 100: Stories in 100 words. Just like it says on the label, it is a collection of 100 stories that are each exactly 100 words long. I was writing them for fun, and started using these 100 word stories as a gimmick for hosting readings with the Indie City Writers. They generally get a good response, so I figured I’d bundle them for the Kindle.

Most of the stories are light-hearted sci-fi, horror, and fantasy. It’s kind of amazing what you can accomplish with 100 words.

What kind of research did you do for this book?

I research a little bit of everything, often for background details or stuff left in the subtext of the book. For Thanksgiving for Werewolves I researched Native American skin-walker lore, baseball, terrorism, pro-wrestling, hostage situations, and other stuff that probably put me on some NSA watch-lists.

The 100 word stories require the shallowest amount of research as there is no time for a lot of exposition. So instead of a normal research routine, I often ended up incorporating things I was reading at the time like Packing for Mars by Mary Roach, Smoke Gets in Your Eyes by Caitlin Doughty, a book by drive-in aficionado Joe Bob Briggs, and Lawrence Krauss’s A Universe from Nothing.

Did you base any of your characters on real people?

According to my wife, yes. She always tries to equate my characters with our friends. “He’s just a nicer version of Bob.” Or “I can’t believe you killed off Meridith!”

What book are you reading right now?

My stack of books currently consists of a history of recent horror films called Shock Value, books by fellow Indie City writers like KB Jensen and Jennifer Bisbing, and one of the few Roger Zelazny books I’ve never read that I found at the local Powell’s bookstore. I’m on a never-ending mission to find all the Roger Zelazny books I can get.

Book Blurb

100 by 100 Cover FINAL100 by 100 is a collection of 100 stories that are each 100 words long. Mathematically, that makes each worth 1/10 of a picture. Some of these 0.1 pictures are scary, some are funny, some are funny and scary, while others are just odd.

Possible uses include: 
Causing bad dreams
Prompts for community college writing group
Bedtime stories for children with narcolepsy
Reading aloud to cats to curtail crippling loneliness
Inspiring new videos on your unpopular YouTube Channel
Conversation starters at the weddings of your spouse’s co-workers
A story-a-day calendar from January 1st until April 10th (non-leap years)

General entertainment

About the Author

M.L. Kennedy was born in Buffalo, New York, land of chicken wings, kimmelweck rolls, and Super Bowl disappointment. Currently he lives in Chicago, land of thick pizza, Italian Beef and rebuilding years. 100 by 100 is his third book, following his debut novella The Mosquito Song and his short story collection Thanksgiving for Werewolves and Other Monstrous Tales.

No, he doesn’t think that was a silly thing to call a book.

(Yes he does.)

Follow Kennedy on Twitter.

You can purchase 100 by 100: Stories in 100 Words on Amazon.

 

Today’s Featured Author – Michael K. Eastman

Today, I welcome author Michael K. Eastman to my blog. Here is an excerpt from his short story, The Story of Little Beth.

Excerpt

“I’ll tell you how it all began… “

Uncle stood and walked towards the window, taking a long puff of smoke with him. He held out his pipe and gently tapped it against the glass bubble.

“It’s been almost twenty years since that day… I shall always remember we gathered at the harbour inn to bless and celebrate our newly built boat. We named it the Pelican. It was a fine specimen with many sails. There were ten of us including myself. All the necessary provisions had been taken on board and we set forth on the following day.”

“The clouds finally cleared and gave rise to a gentle breeze that filled the sails. Our new ship had bought us good luck. It seemed our labours had rewarded us all with an abundance of good stock… Several days later, our fishing boxes were full. Our skipper was an old sea dog, a sailor of old  traditions… to celebrate our success he cracked open barrel of rum and gave each of us a noggin.”

“Good luck and fortune had been with our ship for most of the voyage. We made good progress on the last day of our fishing, but our stores were now full to the brim, so being left with no further room to keep any extra fish, the skipper gave the order to pull up the nets, and prepare for our voyage home.”

“It was then we saw them…I couldn’t believe my eyes. Everyone gathered round. There was seven or more. They cut through the swell like a spear …They were keeping a fast pace as fast as our ship.…”

“What did they look like?”  asked Beth

Uncle opened a locked draw and removed a wrinkled rolled up canvas. “I’m showing you and Billy a true painting of a mermaid… No one else has ever seen this apart from your auntie.

As you can see for yourself, they look beautiful…Long slender faces large wide eyes and long silver hair… Legends say they will live for one hundred years and have magic powers to heal the sick.”

Uncle’s face suddenly turned to sadness. “That dam cutthroat of a man, he nearly killed one of them…He wanted to catch one and take it back…We tried to stop him but he overpowered everyone. And before we got on our feet, he callously fired into her side…I shall never forget that awful sound she made…I jumped over the side of the ship and swam towards her. Holding her in my arms, I could see her blood on my hands. I shouted to my shipmates for help, but their hands were full keeping this cut throat at bay.”

“Suddenly out from nowhere a huge wave fell upon the ship. It creaked and snapped and rolled from side to side splitting the thick wooden masts as if they were made of straw. As much as I wanted to help I couldn’t have done anything for either of my shipmates, but I was determined to save my ocean friend. ..She laid her head back and closed her eyes.”

“I prayed to the Lord to save her…give me the strength to hold on I ask of him. My last thoughts during that terrible time were of holding her tightly and praying that if fate has destined to take a life…Take mine alone.”

Book Blurb

Little Beth_Take your imagination back a hundred years to the rugged shores of wildest Cornwall, where the adventure and mystery of the dark currents enthrall two young children with ancient mermaid legends you would swear are true… Thus begins ‘The Story of Little Beth,’ the first in two captivating tales in this magic fantasy collection of short stories, where mermaid legends and black magic sit side by side with a hoblin’s adventure. The dark currents of fate twist in strange ways about our heroes, inexorable and inescapable. Let the lives of these strangers mingle as their extraordinary stories unfold in this fantasy collection of short stories by Michael K. Eastman, woven with secrets of magic, myth and legend to tempt any reader.

You can buy The Story of Little Beth as part of a collection that also includes The Story of Plum and Pepper on Amazon and Amazon UK.

Short Story, Novella, Novel – what’s the difference?

Many new authors ask, “How long should my story be?”

The simple answer is as long as it takes to tell the story. Unless you are specifically looking to write a novella or a short story, you should be more concerned with telling the story than the word count.

But in case you are wondering, here is a guideline for story lengths. Note though that there is no unanimous consensus on the length of each of these.

Flash Fiction – under 1000 words

Short story – 1,000 to 7,500

Novelette – 7,500-20,000

Novella – 20,000 – 50,000

Novel – Over 50,000

After looking over this list, I decided to take a look at my own books. My full-length novels definitely meet the guideline for novels. Quietus (Book 2 of my trilogy) is the shortest at 81,800 words. My latest release, The Heir to Alexandria, is the longest at 95,800 words.

Book lengthsBut I wrote what I considered a short story as a prequel to my The Elemental trilogy. And compared to books that are on average 88,000 words, a mere 12,200 words is short at about a fourth the length of my novels. But according to the list above, my “short” story, The Search, is actually a novelette.

Be that as it may, I am still marketing it as a short story. I don’t figure many readers will know what a novelette is. (Either way, The Search, is FREE everywhere except for Amazon. Who can turn down a free book?)

But it is more than just about word count. Each of these classifications brings about different images.

Short Story

Often these are meant to explore a particular situation or set of circumstances. Of course, there may be no “purpose” to the story. It could be a simple sketch of characters or situations. They are short enough to be read in a single sitting and typically only have a handful of characters.

Novella

Unlike a novel which may contain more characters and subplots, a novella focuses on a particular point or single issue. It typically does not contain the variety of subplots found in a full-length novel.

Novel

A novel is a long fictional narrative and usually involves more than just a few characters. Compared to a short story or novella, it has a complex plot.

When looking at word length, the genre of the book should also be taken into consideration. Young Adult books tend to be shorter (50,000 to 80,000 words) while science fiction and fantasy tend to be longer (up to 125,000 words).

If your story goes over 110,000 words, you might consider either cutting some words or perhaps splitting it into two books or even expand it into a trilogy.

Remember all of these are merely guides. The most important thing is telling a good, compelling story.

Today’s Featured Author: Rebecca Burns

Today, please welcome author Rebecca Burns to my blog. Here is an excerpt from The Settling Earth, her collection of short stories.

Excerpt

A PICKLED EGG

Sarah woke to a fierce north wind. She lay in the creaky marital bed, listening to the wind whip about the little wooden house and, watching the pasted wallpaper billow and bulge as warm air wove between the slats, decided to bake a pie. The bed was deep and comfortable-they had taken an extra trip up to Christchurch to fetch the iron frame, William had insisted upon it. He’d stuck out his chin, a jutting corner of stubbornness. Of course, the bed had made it down to the station-somehow it hadn’t dared break. As a rare indulgence, William had ordered a feather mattress from Wellington, and it now lay on the frame like a delicate fruit topping on a sponge base. Sarah pondered. Maybe a fruit pie would be too light after William’s long trip.  Mutton would be more satisfying.

Her grandmother’s carriage clock ticked on the dresser and Sarah turned her gaze from the wallpaper to its opal face. She felt a faint pang when she saw it was a quarter past nine in the morning. She had gone to bed early the night before, but these days she felt so tired. Her limbs and thighs ached as she wriggled beneath the bedspread. Perhaps it’s the weather, she reasoned. It had been oppressive recently; the air hung about the house and garden with a stifling heaviness. Yet it was dry, almost unbearably dry, and the heat accompanying the wind felt like blotting paper on the skin, drawing out all moisture. It had turned the dogs crazy-even Bessie, her favourite. The shaggy black-coated animal had lain panting beside her pen and then, in a thrash of foaming energy, had run off, barking and growling. Sarah hadn’t seen her for days. And hadn’t she changed her own clothes three times yesterday? Finally she’d removed her corset altogether and sat around the house in a white linen underdress. Sarah nodded to herself and stroked her stomach absently. Perhaps a mutton pie could be baked and left to cool. Hans had slaughtered a wether only yesterday. William might like a cold mutton pie, served with a pickled egg.

But were there any eggs left? Sarah frowned and shook her head, trying to clear the fog in her mind. She could almost see the little cupboard in the kitchen where jars of jams and preserves were neatly stacked, but when she tried to focus on the row of pickled eggs, a cloud obscured her view. It was quite maddening. A shapeless grey mass drifted in front of the labels on the jars. In fact, not just in front of the jars. This baggy grey haze seemed to be there all the time these days. Sometimes, if Sarah tried to remember something important William had said-like when he would leave for town or what shirts he needed her to darn-she could see his mouth and lips move, but the grey cloud would obscure his tongue and suck up all the instructions. It seemed malevolent.

But hadn’t she pickled a dozen eggs just last week after wrestling them from the defensive hens as they strutted about in the backyard? She could distinctly remember standing by the fence, watching intently for her moment before shooing away the birds (especially that arrogant speckled one who always seemed to know how to frighten her) and braving the pen where warm brown eggs waited for her. She was sure she had bundled them into her apron, deliberately avoiding the baleful gaze of the birds. Well, hadn’t she fed them and kept them clean? Hadn’t she protected them from rats and hawks that pecked, pecked, pecked the chicks until their soft yellow bodies fell to the earth? Eggs are eggs, she reasoned, and these eggs are my payment. Still, she hadn’t looked back at the hens once she’d left their pen, and she was sure they were still cross with her a week later.

But the fact remained that she had collected a dozen eggs. Hadn’t she? She remembered the pent up energy balling in her stomach that day when William had gone away again, and Hans had been on the prowl. Remembering, Sarah sat up a little in bed. She recalled that William had risen early and flapped around the bedroom in his nightshirt, muttering about saddling his horse ready for the trip. She had watched him sleepily, sensing that she should get up and make him breakfast-indeed, that William expected her to-but somehow, she just couldn’t. Instead, the vivacity that should have gone to her legs gathered at her centre in a tense, tight knot. It gnawed all day, prompting indigestion that would not shift even after drinking a large glass of warm milk. She had been restless and strolled around house, moving from bedroom to parlour, parlour to kitchen, kitchen to scullery. And, when Hans slid into the kitchen, his eyes wandering over her dress and mumbling something unintelligible, Sarah finally burst into movement. She had hurried out of the way, shrugging off Hans’s fingers on her arm, and bustled into the yard. She gazed out at the run, spying the white merino sheep grazing on the horizon. The Southern Alps were pale and blue in the distance, and she lifted up her hands, cupping their silhouettes in her palms. She felt a sudden desire to run along the burnished flats in her bare feet, feeling the rough grass push between her toes, running to the bottom of the hills where jagged grey rocks marked the beginning of the trail. Would the rocks be sharp against her skin? Would they cut her if she scrambled up the mountain? Would they tear her clothes to pieces? She stared at the unreadable hills in the distance, feeling a trickle of perspiration prick her skin. Her clothes felt tight on her body.

Book Blurb

The Settling EarthMarriage transplants Sarah thousands of miles from home; a failed love affair forces Phoebe to make drastic choices in a new environment; a sudden, shocking discovery brings Mrs Ellis to reconsider her life as an emigrant – The Settling Earth is a collection of ten, interlinked stories, focusing on the British settler experience in colonial New Zealand, and the settlers’ attempts to make sense of life in a strange new land.

Sacrifices, conflict, a growing love for the landscape, a recognition of the succour offered by New Zealand to Maori and settler communities – these are themes explored in the book. The final story in the collection, written by Shelly Davies of the Ngātiwai tribe, adds a Maori perspective to the experience of British settlement in their land.

About the Author

Rebecca BurnsRebecca Burns is an award-winning writer of short stories, over thirty of which have been published online or in print. She was nominated for a Pushcart Prize in 2011, winner of the Fowey Festival of Words and Music Short Story Competition in 2013 (and runner-up in 2014), and has been profiled as part of the University of Leicester’s “Grassroutes Project”-a project that showcases the 50 best transcultural writers in the county.

The Settling Earth is her second collection of short stories. Her debut collection, Catching the Barramundi, was published in 2012-also by Odyssey Books-and was longlisted for the Edge Hill Award in 2013.

You can find out more about Rebecca on her website or follow her on Twitter or Facebook.

You can buy The Settling Earth on Amazon UK & Amazon US.