Category: Book Reviews & Interviews Page 1 of 5

The Write Stuff Interviews Advice for Writers

Are You Ready to Publish?: Interview with Author DeAnna Knippling

Writing Craft Are You Ready to Publish by DeAnna Knippling Cover Image

Are you ready to publish? Why is it so much harder to get published all of a sudden? What should you do if you get asked to do a freelance project on the side? How do you get any better when you already read all the “good” writing books?

What if you screw something up?

Sometimes when writers have writer’s block, it’s because they’re struggling with the questions surrounding their writing, not with the writing itself.

This book is about getting your head clear so you can learn your craft without side issues derailing you and your career.

Writing Craft: Are You Ready to Publish? & Other Burning Questions is part of the Write Stuff Storybundle, ten works on the craft & business of writing fiction available for a limited time.

UPDATE! The Write Stuff Storybundle is over, but you can still find my book at the updated link below:

Everyone else who gave me answers got to have an interview! So I’m gonna “interview” myself, too. >.>

1. What type of writer is your book aimed toward? 

My book is aimed toward intermediate writers, that is, people who feel like they’ve heard the information found in most books on the craft of writing, but who aren’t ready to call themselves masters of the craft yet.

If you know what the “rules” are and have started to break them, you’re probably an intermediate writer.

 2. What problem does your book solve for those writers?

I wrote this book to help clear writers’ heads so they can focus on their craft.

It’s really easy for writers to get spun up about something and avoid writing because it brings up uncomfortable situations and associations. This book goes through the main issues that I experienced or that multiple other people experienced or asked me about.

3. Who do you consider your writing mentors? 

Kris Rusch and Dean Smith are my main writing mentors. I go to their in-person classes whenever I can, and I’ve taken a ton of online classes of theirs, too. Good stuff.

I’m a huge fan of studying other people’s work, though, so any writer who writes well is subject to getting fangirled by yours truly as I go through their work <3

On the copywriting side, I’m a big Gary Halbert fan. Studying his material felt like learning from a master con artist, and I’m a fan of that.

4. What else would you like readers to know about?

When you go from beginning writer to intermediate writer, there’s a big jump in how difficult it is.

It can seem almost like you’re being sabotaged, like other people are only succeeding because they know the right people.

That kind of thing does happen, but it’s mostly about editors (and Amazon algorithms!) trying to sell more copies.

Generally, writers either quit writing or move into an intermediate stage, then stay there a long time. Learning how to truly please readers takes a while. That means you’re likely to be competing against people who have been doing this longer than you, network better than you, and who have more skills at pleasing readers than you.

Keep at it! Study your craft, take your successes, and expect to get knocked on your butt every time you try to succeed at a bigger level.

Also, on my Patreon I post the draft versions of the subsequent Writing Craft books twice a month; I’m working through how to write opening sentences and sections at the moment. (The short version: prioritize elements that confirm the reader is reading the right genre.) If you’re struggling with craft and don’t mind my mad-scientist approach, check it out.

My bio:

DeAnna Knippling lives within easy driving distance of the soft white sands of the Florida Gulf, where she can be found on an old beach blanket reading science fiction, fantasy, horror, and geeky nonfiction on her waterproof e-reader. Join her at, where she builds her mind-bending castles in the sky, or where she investigates the foundations of the art and science of writing. Or check her out at Facebook, where she posts collections of stories that people wish would get written.

You can find me at:

This website!



The Write Stuff Interviews Advice for Writers

Create a Character Clinic: Interview with Author Holly Lisle

Create a Character Clinic by Holly Lisle Cover Image

Struggling to create a character in your fiction? Feel like they aren’t quite as cuddly (or stabby) as you’d like?

Or do you know you have a great character, but you struggle to show the reader how great they are?

Holly Lisle is a long-term professional writer who also helps coach writers through difficult issues from writer’s block to revision. Here, she walks writers through several ways to develop their characters and bring them to life, instead of just fumbling around with lists of traits and appearances.

If you’ve ever said to yourself, “But in my head they were interesting,” then give Create a Character Clinic a try!

Create a Character Clinic is part of the Write Stuff Storybundle, ten works on the craft & business of writing fiction available for a limited time.

UPDATE! The Write Stuff Storybundle is over, but you can still find Holly’s classes at the updated link below:

I got to ask Holly a few questions for the StoryBundle!

Holly says:

At the point where I decided to go indie full-time (after many years as a commercially published author), I’d already written some online ebooks for writers who’d been asking me writing questions for years.

The first of those, Create A Character Clinic, answered many, MANY questions the fiction-writing part of my readership had been asking me. The book has had a number of updates to fix links and make the worksheets easier to get, as well as to add in some new techniques (and fix typos).

1. What type of writer is your book aimed toward? 

Create a Character Clinic is solely for fiction writers, and while I initially wrote it with beginners in mind, I’ve expanded bits of it as I’ve developed new techniques — it’s now a nice reference book for anyone who would like some new approaches to creating characters, and who would like to avoid some of the gawdawful mistakes writers from beginner through the occasional published pro make when building and writing fictional folk. 

 2. What problem does your book solve for those writers?

Character Clinic eliminates the “character sheet” approach that starts with giving fictional folk height, weight, eye color, and other absolute non-essentials of character creation. 

Instead, my process presents the writer with questions in seven critical areas of character development, shows the writer how to get answers to these questions, then walks the writer through  bringing the character to life in ways that use those answers to create great story conflicts.

I also demonstrate how to use Maslow to build better conflicts, and how to SHOW your readers a character, rather than telling them.

[“Maslow” refers to Abraham Maslow, American psychologist, who established a famous “heirarchy of needs” model of psychological processes.–Ed.]

In the third section of the book, I demonstrate The Sins of Characterization, and How to Commit Them RIGHT (though one sin is only, always, EVER a sin, and should never appear in published, professional fiction). 

So to sum up, you’ll learn to imagine and write living, breathing folks who face real problems… and who don’t cheat getting through those problems to satisfying resolutions at the end.

3. Who do you consider your writing mentors? 

The folks whose books and stories and writing articles I read while teaching myself how to write fiction… Primarily:

4. What else would you like readers to know about?

I’m currently writing (under a pseudonym), a five-novel urban(ish) fantasy series set in a small town in Ohio — my home state, and one it took me forty years to get back to. The series includes aliens and monsters, inhuman allies, both bright and dark views of humankind and alienkind… a disturbing pet cat who’s more than he seems… and cookies that might just save the world.

I’m halfway through the first draft of book five, and will be publishing all five novels at a rate of one per month when they’re done.

Interested readers OR writers can get a free story or writing class and find out more here. I’m the face in the picture.

[She has a free flash fiction class available here, too!–Ed.]

Side note: Holly has some great examples of copywriting on her course website, too. She has over 20 classes to take…and she makes them very hard to resist!

Holly’s bio:

I’ve been writing with intent to publish since January 1st, 1985 when my New Year’s resolution was to write a novel before I turned twenty-five (ten months later, more or less).

I hit my resolution with a few days to spare, but the book, Hearts In Stitches, sucked.  I wrote a LOT after that, accumulating a big shoebox with well over a hundred rejection slips in it before anybody decided I was good enough to pay for fiction.

I actually started selling in 1991, and I broke in with with the fantasy novel Fire In The Mist (which won the Compton Crook Award for Best First Novel), and with a couple of sonnets I sold to the SF magazine Aboriginal.

It was a long hard slog between intent and realization.

It’s been a rollercoaster ever since.

But I love telling stories.  In fiction, I’ve found the work I want to do for the rest of my life.

You can find more about me (and a ton of free articles I wrote about writing fiction) at

I am not my work.  But my work is me.

You can find Holly at:

Her website:


The Write Stuff Interviews Advice for Writers

Domesticate Your Badgers: Interview with Author Michael W. Lucas

Domesticate Your Badgers by Michael W. Lucas Cover Image

Professional writers have to learn a lot of different techniques, many of which aren’t written down in books or taught in classes.

How do they learn those techniques, then? Read a bunch of good fiction and hope for the best?

Not exactly.

Michael W. Lucas writes both fiction and nonfiction, writing across multiple genres and always with a twisted, unique sense of humor. He takes “taking things to their logical extremes” to a new level.

If anyone has had to learn how to learn good techniques while still going completely off the rails with the content of their fiction, it’s him.

In Domesticate Your Badgers, Michael takes apart the process of learning good writing craft, approaching it from multiple directions to help you craft a plan to stop spinning your wheels and move forward as a writer.

And he’ll show you how to do it without pigeonholing you into concepts or plans that will restrict your creative imagination.

Domesticate Your Badgers is part of the Write Stuff Storybundle, ten works on the craft & business of writing fiction available for a limited time.

UPDATE! The Write Stuff Storybundle is over, but you can still find Michael’s book at the updated link below:

I got to ask him a few questions for the StoryBundle!

1. What type of writer is your book aimed toward? 

Domesticate Your Badgers is aimed at writers of all levels. I
deliberately wrote the book I wish someone had given me fifty years
ago, but it would have been helpful in college or even a few years
ago. If you want to become a better writer, and need to create a plan
that targets your personal weaknesses, this can help you. Fiction,
nonfiction, it doesn’t matter.

 2. What problem does your book solve for those writers?

DYB attacks two problems.

First, the world is full of writing advice. Some of it is actively
terrible. Some of it is good, but not for you. Some of it is great
advice for your field, but you needed it ten years ago–or, worse,
you must learn something else before you can take advantage of it.

Second, writing is an art like pottery or painting or music. Unlike
those fields, it’s very hard for a writer to judge their own work. A
student painter can look at their work and say “That looks like a
really nice apple. Too bad I wanted an armadillo.” They see their
problem and can try again. Musicians train their ears to hear
problems. Unlike those arts, the act of writing is completely detached
from the experience of reading. The student writer needs a unique
mindset to polish their craft.

Between these two problems, I’ve seen so many writers with a special
spark spend decades spinning their wheels. I should know–I was one of

I wanted to help writers develop the way of thinking that lets them
recognize useful advice, practice those skills, and get useful
feedback that will improve their work.

Plus, the world needs more badgers.

3. Who do you consider your writing mentors? 

I’ve gone out of my way to study with anyone who would have me, but
I’ll drop a few names: Tim Powers, Joe Haldeman, Kris Rusch, Nancy
Kress, Dean Smith, and Samuel R Delany.

4. What else would you like readers to know about?

If you’re reading about this bundle, you need to know about Alex
Kourvo’s Writing Slices blog. As far as I know, it’s the only blog
dedicated to reviewing books about writing. She’s saved me from
wasting a bunch of money on bogus books, but that’s probably countered
by how many titles I’ve purchased based on her recommendations.

And I would say this even if she hadn’t given five stars to my Cash
Flow for Creators

[Side note, I know Alex, and she is amazing. At one point she dead-ass looked me in the eye and criticized something I wrote, totally expecting me to go off on her. She has that kind of integrity. She was right, too! I can’t remember what it was now, just the look on her face.–Ed.]

I really liked Cash Flow for Creators and recommend it!

Michael’s bio:

As Michael W Lucas I write books explaining exactly how computers were a mistake. As Michael Warren Lucas I write SF, thrillers, mysteries, the odd tidbit of romantic suspense, and a bunch of other stuff. To find out when I release a book, sign up for my topic-specific mailing list.

You can find Michael at:

His website:



The Write Stuff Interviews Advice for Writers

Do…Quit Your Day Job!: Interview with Author Christina F. York

Do...Quit Your Day Job by Christina York Cover Image

You want to quit your day job and start a creative career for yourself. You’ve run the numbers. You think it might be logical and doable. Maybe even profitable.


You’ve been here before, where the logical and practical don’t coincide with actual reality. It feels like any day now, another shoe is going to drop.

What’s missing?

Christina F. York is one of the most practical, logical people I know, as well as one of the most widely written. It seems like she can pick up almost any genre and do it well, although she tends to spend her time most notably with mystery stories.

In her book, Do…Quit Your Day Job!, she writes a series of old-fashioned essays, the kind where the writer writes in order to clarify their thoughts about a subject and polish something so finely that it reflects a larger truth.*

Here, Chris writes about how she’s navigated her creative career. The bigger truth that these pieces reflect–well, in my opinion–is that a creative career has to have not just logic but emotional preparedness and resiliency in order to succeed. Spiritual resilency, too.

Here’s a quote:

I left school years ago, and though I am still a mother my children are grown and on their own.

The business we owned then died many years ago, before that marriage did.

Even the job I held for the last 21 years is now in the past.

So who am I now?

from the “Who are you” essay

These were the types of questions I didn’t answer in time to save my business when I got divorced. I can recognize that now. But reading parts of Chris’s book makes it hit home all over again.

Do…Quit Your Day Job! is part of the Write Stuff Storybundle, ten works on the craft & business of writing fiction available for a limited time.

UPDATE! The Write Stuff Storybundle is over, but you can still find Chris’s essays at her Patreon link below:

I got to ask Chris a few questions for the StoryBundle!

1. What type of writer is your book aimed toward? 

Do…Quit Your Day Job! is aimed at writers at all levels from beginner to seasoned professional. It’s for anyone contemplating leaving the “day job” world for the life of a full-time creative, whether as a retiree for whom writing is a fulfilling hobby, to the pro with a day gig looking to make the leap to full-time writing. 

 2. What problem does your book solve for those writers?

I wish I could claim this book solves problems, but one thing I have found over the years is that every writer is different, their issues are different, and therefore their solutions are different. In Day Job I have tried, rather than offering hard-and-fast solutions, to provide a framework for approaching and weathering the change: what questions to ask yourself and your family, what your needs are and how will you use your unique skills to meet those needs. I have tried to provide real-world examples, including the mistakes I have made in my first two years of retirement, to help writers find the answers they need.

3. Who do you consider your writing mentors? 

Dean Wesley Smith and Kristine Kathryn Rusch of course. They have been my friends for decades, well before I started seriously writing, and have provided encouragement and swift kicks in the backside as each was needed. In addition I owe a huge debt to Denise Little. While not a writer herself, Denise is one of the wisest and most generous editors I have had the pleasure to work with. She taught me more than I could have imagined over the course of writing several books with her as my editor, and she guided me through the process of traditional publishing with patience and amazing kindness.

4. What else would you like readers to know about?

Coming through the period of change that is documented in Day Job forced me to seriously examine how we approach a major life change, and the pitfalls and roadblocks we don’t see coming. There is one big lesson I took away from that experience:

Know that you are not alone, that others are facing the same challenges and there is someone out there who understands your situation and faces the same questions and challenges you do.

Trying to combine creativity and daily life is a huge challenge – one we need to acknowledge and examine – and there is no right answer. Your situation, your life, will always be a unique combination of you and your world, so don’t let anyone else dictate what is “best.”

I have a Patreon channel, Dispatches from the Tsunami Zone, which was the inspiration for Day Job and where I post every week about the creative life. I would love to have anyone who finds Day Job of value join the Patreon crew!

My choice is to build my full-time career with the release of the fifth book, Murder Buys a Lemon, in my Haunted Souvenir Shop cozy mystery series. This is the first book in the series to be released as an indie publication (books 1-4 were traditionally published). [Murder Buys a Lemon is currently exclusive to Chris’s Kickstarter supporters at the moment but will be released soon! You can sign up to find out more by clicking the SUBSCRIBE button here:–Ed.]

I just joined the collective of writers at Mystery, Crime, and Mayhem Magazine, a crime-story quarterly, and I hope to finally launch the Spy Girls mystery series, as well as at least one more cozy series over the next year or so.

*She probably rolled her eyes when she read that, but it’s true. I think this one’s going after Johanna’s book. Fun fact, after Chris read Johanna’s interview she got, well, a bit jealous and rewrote her answer for question 4, too. I’m glad she did!

Chris’s bio:

Christina F. York, best-selling writer of mystery, romance, SF/F, and historical fiction, writes under her own name as well as mystery alter egos Christy Fifield and Christy Evans. York says she never met a genre she didn’t like to write, with the possible exception of horror. Even that changed when she was short-listed in the Year’s Best Horror a while back (she didn’t know it was a horror story, but the editor clearly did).

Evans wrote the popular Lady Plumber Mystery series, and Fifield writes the Haunted Gift Shop Mystery series.  Fifield is also launching a new Spy Girls novel series soon with Tsunami Ridge Publishing (

Retired after more than 50 years as an accounting and finance professional, York no longer has to balance accounts and now spends her time balancing the other parts of her life: writing and other creative interests, family, friends, reading, and falling down Internet rabbit holes in pursuit of obscure knowledge.

Like so many others before her, she says she doesn’t know how she ever found enough hours to hold down a full-time day job.

You can find Chris at:

Her website:



The Write Stuff Interviews Advice for Writers

A Freelancer’s Survival Guide to Starting Your Own Business: Interview with Author Kristine Kathryn Rusch

Freelancers Survival Guide to Starting Your Own Business by Kristine Kathryn Rusch Cover Image

Starting your own business as a freelancer isn’t easy…

…wait, what am I talking about? It’s not that hard. There are some hoops you really ought to jump through, but the real hurdles of going freelance involve a couple of mind-shifts. Your employer is no longer responsible to solve business-related problems for you or to put a chokepoint on what you can do.

Kristine Kathryn Rusch has been a professional freelance writer on both the traditional side and the indie side for quite some time. (Yes, being traditionally published is still freelancing!)

In A Freelancer’s Guide to Starting Your Own Business, she talks about starting a business, quitting your day job, and navigating the rocky shores of other writers, who may or may not have your best interests at heart.

I consider Kris a writing mentor of mine, specializing in writerly perspective adjustment. Get a real look at what it takes to go freelance and stay that way.

It’s the staying part that’s difficult. But maybe not as hard as you think!

A Freelancer’s Guide to Starting Your Own Business is part of the Write Stuff Storybundle, ten works on the craft & business of writing fiction available for a limited time.

UPDATE! The Write Stuff Storybundle is over, but you can still find Kris’s book at the updated link below:

I got to ask Kris a few questions for the StoryBundle!

1. What type of writer is your book aimed toward? 

My book is geared toward writers who are serious about having a long-term career. It’s probably better if new writers read this, but the book can help established writers tweak their systems.

 2. What problem does your book solve for those writers?

Most writers are not business-minded. That’s something anyone can learn. So this book gets them started on building a business, which is what a writing career is.

3. Who do you consider your writing mentors? 

Damon Knight, Kate Wilhelm, Jack Williamson, Harlan Ellison

4. What else would you like readers to know about?

I have a book, Killer Advice, in another Storybundle. This bundle is space opera. So you can see what I write, and how I write it if you get both bundles.

[There were issues with my website, and this post didn’t go up when it should have! That StoryBundle is closed. You can find Killer Advice here instead.]

Kris’s bio:

New York Times and USA Today bestselling author Kristine Kathryn Rusch writes in almost every genre. Generally, she uses her real name (Rusch) for most of her writing. Under that name, she publishes bestselling science fiction and fantasy (including the Fey series, the Retrieval Artist series and the Diving series), award-winning mysteries, acclaimed mainstream fiction, controversial nonfiction, and the occasional romance.

She also edits. Beginning with work at the innovative publishing company, Pulphouse, followed by her award-winning tenure at The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, she took fifteen years off before returning to editing with the original anthology series Fiction Riverpublished by WMG Publishing. She edits a wide variety of projects, including the Holiday Spectacular for WMG Publishing.

She lives and occasionally sleeps in Las Vegas.

You can find Kris at:

Her website:



The Write Stuff Interviews Advice for Writers

Publishing Pitfalls for Authors: Interview with Author Mark Leslie Lefebvre

Publishing Pitfalls for Authors by Mark Leslie Lefebvre Cover Image

Want to avoid the publishing pitfalls that nearly ever author seems to be prey to, sooner or later?

The letter p is for the pitfalls of…

  • perfection
  • practice
  • productivity
  • proofreading
  • predators

And more!

Mark Leslie Lefevbre is an indie author and publisher himself, a great podcasters, amd has worked with a number of companies in the publishing world, like Kobo and Draft2Digital. He also has a very, erm, abundant sense of humor, and uses it to defuse tension around difficult topics.

When you’re facing a problem as a writer and you suspect you might not be up for “tough love”…maybe go with the funny, encouraging support of Mark’s advice instead. “Tough love” can be overrated.

Publishing Pitfalls for Authors is part of the Write Stuff Storybundle, ten works on the craft & business of writing fiction available for a limited time.

UPDATE! The Write Stuff Storybundle is over, but you can still find Mark’s book at the updated link below:

I got to ask Mark a few questions for the StoryBundle!

1. What type of writer is your book aimed toward? 

All writers (traditionally published, self-published, beginners, and experienced). The pitfalls can happen to any writer at virtually any time.

 2. What problem does your book solve for those writers?

It helps them to be aware of potential traps, dangers, and habits that could get in the way of building long-term author career success.

3. Who do you consider your writing mentors? 

While there are too many experienced and wise mentors for me to mention, I also consider virtually any writer I meet to be a mentor of some sort. There isn’t a single writer, regardless of their experience, path, etc, that I can’t learn something from. I take Michael Connelly’s Harry Bosch principal that “Everybody counts, or nobody counts.”

4. What else would you like readers to know about?

That it’s not too late. It’s never too late. Don’t fall prey to FOMO and the belief that you missed out on the “Kindle Gold Rush” or any of that. New opportunities and options for writers open up every single day. Go forth and conquor.

I love that quote 🙂

Mark’s bio:

Mark is a writer, an editor, a professional speaker, and a book nerd with a passion for craft beer.

You can find Mark at:

His website:



The Write Stuff Interviews Advice for Writers

Clean First Draft Writing: Interview with Author Dean Wesley Smith

Clean First Draft Writing by Dean Wesley Smith Cover Image

Clean first draft writing is not a myth!

Because I’m stubborn, I always have to circle around an idea and test it out a few times before I trust it.

So when Dean Wesley Smith, someone I consider an excellent writing mentor, told me to staaaaaaahp with all the editing and just let my subconscious take over on the writing, I took my sweet time trying it out.

I didn’t really want to. It’s intimidating.

Eventually, I got to the point where I tried it, mostly because I had too many ghostwriting projects to get done in too little time.

This method 100% works. Do I use it 100% of the time? No. I get insecure. But I use it as much as I can stomach it, 80% of the time. And I’ve been very prolific because of it, even counting [cough] that one book I rewrote like seven times and never finished.

That one book where I didn’t use the damn method.

So if you’re spinning your wheels on rewrites, give this a try. There are several techniques involved to help make it easier and more efficient. It’s not comfortable at first, but it’s a good path for repeat success as a writer.

Clean First Draft Writing is part of the Write Stuff Storybundle, ten works on the craft & business of writing fiction available for a limited time.

UPDATE! The Write Stuff Storybundle is over, but you can still find Dean’s class at the updated link below:

I got to ask Dean a few questions for the StoryBundle!

1. What type of writer is your book aimed toward? 

The class is aimed at helping all fiction writers with getting past some myths and saving a lot of time in their writing by writing clean to start with instead of the myth of first, sloppy drafts. So any fiction writer will benefit.

 2. What problem does your book solve for those writers?

The problem the class helps solve is to allow fiction writers to write from their creative voice, keep the creative voice in control, and not write sloppy and cause their creative voice to quit and cause the writer more work later. Plus writing clean the first time through is a lot more fun because you get to more stories instead of wasting time churning over old ones.

3. Who do you consider your writing mentors? 

I was lucky with my writing mentors. I learned from (and was friends with) Algis Budrys, Jack Williamson, Harlan Ellison, Damon Knight and Kate Wilhelm. All wrote clean drafts of their stories.

Clean writing is also a lot more fun because you eventually learn to just go with the flow and be entertained as you write!

Dean’s bio:

Considered one of the most prolific writers working in modern fiction, New York Times and USA Today bestselling writer Dean Wesley Smith published far over two hundred novels in forty years, and hundreds and hundreds of short stories and non-fiction books. He has over twenty-three million copies of his books in print.

You can find Dean at:

His website:

His Facebook:

Business of Short Stories Shannon Lawrence 2D Cover

Shannon Lawrence Interview: The Business of Short Stories

Welcome to an interview with fellow author Shannon Lawrence!  Previous interviews with Shannon for her short story collection Blue Sludge Blues and other interviews with Richard BambergRob ChanskyP.R. AdamsMegan RutterJason Dias, and MJ Bell are also available.

The Business of Short Stories

Whether you’re looking to add short stories to your repertoire as a solo pursuit or in addition to novel writing, The Business of Short Stories covers every aspect from writing to marketing. Learn the dynamics of short story writing, where to focus your editing efforts, how and where to submit, how to handle acceptances and rejections, what to do with reprints, and how to market yourself and your stories online and in person. The information in The Business of Short Stories has been distilled from over a decade of short story publishing experience so you don’t have to learn the hard way. You’ll find information on submission formatting, cover letters, querying a collection, sending proposals to writing events, how to create a website, SEO, social media, and so much more. This is an invaluable resource for short story writers.

There’s never been a better time to get into short stories!

[Or see below the interview for a sample!]

I have known author Shannon Lawrence from the Colorado writing community for quite some time, and have loved her short horror fiction ever since I heard her read the title story from her collection Blue Sludge Blues. She is a powerhouse of writing and hustling her short fiction (among other talents), and I’m pleased to share this interview with her about her new book on writing, selling, marketing, and promoting short fiction, The Business of Short Stories.

Writing and publishing short fiction isn’t just a labor of love, but an awesome training ground for a career in fiction. The skillsets you learn as a short fiction writer–and which Shannon covers in her book–are the basis for successful fiction writing in general.

Learning how to sell your fiction is a key skill. Unfortunately, writers don’t get to just write their stories, even in the traditional publishing world.

Mastering the techniques Shannon describes will help you move forward with your whole writing career. It’s solid stuff (if not always romantic).

See below for the description and sample of The Business of Short Stories. It goes live on February 1, 2020.

1. You have written a LOT of short stories. How many have you written, total? What’s the guesstimate? And which one is your current favorite that you’ve written?…and which is your favorite that someone else wrote? 

Oh, wow! That’s a tricky question. I imagine the number I’ve written is somewhere around 100. Probably more. There have been stories that were never meant to see the light of day and stories that just never have. I currently have over twenty out on submission.

My current favorite may never see publication, because it’s a light fantasy piece. It’s more emotion than anything else. It’s called Inked Soul. Of course, it may be that I’m submitting it to the wrong type of markets, so I’ll be switching it up soon. It has a lot personal to it, and it feels oddly beautiful to me.

I have so many favorites by others! But I’ll name one that most people will recognize in some way. The Tell-Tale Heart, by Edgar Allan Poe has been a favorite for so long, since I was a kid. The buildup is perfection. You’re watching a man lose it in real time, full of paranoia and smugness. He starts out confident in himself and what he’s done, but it eats at him the longer he sits there. So well done.

2. In your new book, you tell writers not just how to write a short story, but how to get started in a short story career. You covered a LOT. I kept trying to come up with things you hadn’t covered, and it would be literally the next chapter. So tell us which writers will be best served by your book, and what problem it solves for them. Basically, who should read this and why?

First of all, that’s awesome to hear. One of the things I did with my beta readers was to ask them to write down their questions before they read it, so that if there was something I hadn’t covered they could tell me. It’s too hard to remember what you wanted to know afterward unless it’s glaring.

The book is intended specifically for beginning writers, but it should appeal to intermediate writers, as well. For beginners, my intention is for them to not have to learn everything the hard way like you and I did. The focus is more on what comes after the writing, even though I do cover the dynamics of short story writing. I feel like the writing is such a personal thing that less of it can be taught compared to the rest of what writers need to know. Like how to find places to submit the stories and how to go about it. How to write a cover letter. What to do if you never hear back, or you hear back and it’s a rejection, an acceptance, or a rewrite request. What to expect after that. How to tie yourself into accounts that already exist to get the word out about books (BookBub, Amazon’s Author Central, Goodreads) so you can get anthologies and magazines connected with your name. Tips on social media and public appearances. Business tips, such as setting up a website and a separate email. I tried to cover as much as possible that would help set writers up for success so they wouldn’t have to scramble to make up ground or to change things that had been done incorrectly early on (you know, like I’ve had to do with some things, or had to just deal with on other things).

For intermediate writers, I was surprised about some of the things that weren’t common knowledge, so there are resources there for them, too. For them, it might work more as a checklist, to figure out what steps they might have missed and where to look. The marketing section is meant to serve as first steps for beginning writers, but also some deeper steps for folks who haven’t taken that big dive into marketing or need to make their next moves because they’ve learned the beginning steps. Even novelists can find helpful information in the marketing section, because I intended the information there to grow with writers/authors as they move forward in their careers. It helped that I have a background in booking speakers, so I could give feedback on that from both the perspective of an author making appearances and the staff facilitating those appearances.

3. What does your writing process tend to look like for short stories? And would you say you spend the most time writing, editing, marketing, or promoting your stories?

I tend to be a sprint writer and a panster, so I’ll go a period of time without writing until desire and time meet up just right. But when I do sit down to write, I can get a massive number of words down in one sitting. Short stories usually only take one to three sittings, but those sittings are several hours each. If they wallow there too long, I feel like it impacts the final product. (To be clear, this is just for my writing. Everyone writes differently.) A lot of my writing is done in front of a movie or with music playing. Though I’m noticing that silence is appealing to me more and more now, so that may be changing. It used to be that I couldn’t deal with a quiet room, even when working. Editing still needs to be done in silence, though, so even music can’t be playing.

I’d like to think I spend more time writing than anything else, but that balance sways sometimes. Luckily, I write pretty clean in terms of grammar, punctuation, etc., so my editing mostly comes down to content, wording, pacing, and that sort of thing. I read a lot of short stories, and I’ve now written enough of them that the rhythm of a short story comes more naturally, which means less editing on those aspects is required. At the very least, it means not having to spend a ton of time cutting down or building up to word count, so I can focus on the story itself.

Then again, right now most of my time is going into marketing, but some of that is updating and making long-term changes that will remain for a while. It also comes down to the difference between marketing short stories and marketing a book. Both involve having a consistent presence online, which I’d say takes more time than what we read as actual promotion, which is the visible push. But learning to preschedule and spend a limited time on marketing/promotion has helped with that, and I’m more comfortable with the time balance (when not launching a book).

4. Where do you feel most short story writers struggle the most? And what’s your top short advice to address that struggle?

I think marketing is the biggest issue, but when we skip that, the hardest thing is the actual submission process. I know SO many writers, but very few of them are actively submitting the short stories they write. I don’t believe that’s because they can’t figure out where to possibly submit, but because they lack confidence in themselves and their writing, so they simply don’t do it. And when they do, a single rejection may be the thing that derails them.

So my short advice is to submit. Period. Get yourself out there. What we tend to fear is rejection, because we’re human. It hurts. But the worst thing that’s going to happen is that an email will come in that says, in short, “No, thank you.” There’s no shame in getting a rejection. Turn that story right back around and resubmit it. Don’t let rejection beat you down. The more it happens, the easier it gets. Someone wants to read your writing. Many someones. So submit. Then submit again.

Random side note, but notice how the two hardest aspects typically come down to the two that require us to believe in ourselves? Marketing and submitting both mean believing in yourself enough to believe someone else will be interested, too. I’m here to tell you that they WILL.

5. What would you say is the best way for a writer to know that their work is ready to submit to a short story market? And does that mean their story is also ready to indie publish?

I believe in letting a story sit for a bit before coming back to it, so that it’s viewed with somewhat fresh eyes. If a writer lets that sit for whatever period they’re comfortable with and they come back to it and it reads well, is clean, has good flow, is nicely paced, and they would be happy to read it if it were someone else’s story, it’s ready. It helps to read it out loud or have a machine read it aloud, too. It also helps to get someone else’s eyes on it, such as in the case of a critique group or beta readers. But ultimately it comes down to reading it and thinking it reads well.

That second question is harder to answer. I know that I go over something more if I’m going to publish it without it having been through someone else. I can definitely say that if a writer doesn’t typically send a story out for feedback in one way or another, they should absolutely do so before they indie publish. The more feedback you get, the more you learn what to look for in your own writing. The industry looks a lot harder at indie published writers than they do traditionally published. Typos that are forgiven in a Stephen King novel will not be forgiven in an indie writer’s book, and it will be held up as a reason indie publishing isn’t valid. If you aren’t confident that you can edit yourself, hire an editor. They’re incredibly valuable. In fact, I recommend that nine times out of ten.

6. Is there any note you’d like to leave our readers on?

In addition to The Business of Short Stories I have three solo horror collections available on Amazon and from Kobo, Barnes & Noble, and other platforms: Blue Sludge Blues & Other Abominations, Bruised Souls & Other Torments, and Happy Ghoulidays. Plus, a true crime podcast with a sense of humor: Mysteries, Monsters, & Mayhem, which can be found on all podcast platforms, such as iHeartRadio, Spotify, Pandora, and others.

[Editor’s note: I love Shannon and M.B. Partlow’s podcast! Even if I am behind. I recommend it!]

Business of Short Stories Shannon Lawrence 3D Cover

Excerpt from Chapter 1: Defining the Short Story

Character, setting, and plot are just as vital in short stories as they are in novels. They are possibly even more important, because they must be used to immerse the reader in the story immediately. This doesn’t necessarily mean starting in the middle of physical action, which people often default to when they try to address creating an immediate hook. It means that the writer must find a creative way to introduce the reader to the main character quickly and give the reader a reason to keep reading. It might seem like a reader would give a short story an equivalent amount of time to get engaged as they would require from a novel, but this isn’t true. When someone sits down to read a short story, they expect to finish that story in one sitting, possibly with the idea of reading several short stories in a row. Which means they’ll put the story down faster if they don’t read something right away that makes them want to proceed.

The reader needs to be intrigued as soon as they start reading. This can be done by creating such an interesting character that they want to know more about them and what they’re about to face. This requires skipping the useless appearance descriptions and diving into the meat of the character, their skeletal structure. What makes them tick? Are they facing a moral dilemma, a crush, or a dangerous situation? Perhaps the story starts with the character caught up in trying to make a difficult decision. Maybe they’re fleeing something. It could also be that they’re funny and charming, and the reader wants to get to know them.

I’m speaking in the singular here, because that’s the best way to start out your short story writing. If you plan on having more than one important character (hopefully no more than two in this case or three if you’re stretching), you’ll have to introduce the other characters in rapid succession. If they pop up in the middle of the story, there had better be a good reason for doing so, and they must be introduced so the reader has an instant feel for them. A good way to introduce any character is through dialogue and actions. Presenting their current view through thoughts, observations, and reactions, whether thought or spoken, can be effective, as well. What this is doing is showing the reader who they’re dealing with and what that character is facing, rather than telling the reader. It’s an organic way to set the characterization right from the start, and hopefully draw the reader into their world.

The scene must also be set quickly. This can be done through the senses of the character and brief description. Don’t spend even a single paragraph on scene description. The introduction of the character, the setting, and even the conflict, at least in part, can be addressed right away through what is occurring in the now.

Using the senses to pull the reader in can help get to the meat more quickly, as well. It’s setting the scene in a few words. Brevity doesn’t mean dropping all description. If that description is helping to introduce a character, setting, or situation, it should be included, but kept brief and wrapped in with the rest of the text.

Addressing the conflict early on is another way to set up the story quickly and intrigue the reader right away. Making the conflict apparent also helps to set the tone and plot of the rest of the story, showing the reader what kind of ride they’re in for. To repeat myself once again, this doesn’t mean there has to be immediate physical action. What I mean by physical action is someone running or fighting or doing something physical that’s meant to get the reader’s heart pumping and flat out stick them in the middle of a fight or scary incident. Trying to do this often leads to an empty or useless scene that conveys little about the ultimate conflict or the character. There are all kinds of ways to get the reader’s heart pumping, whether through fear, excitement, or lust. It depends upon what kind of story they’ve signed on to read, but it should involve some kind of suspense.

Want to find out more? You’ll have to read the book!

Shannon Lawrence Author Photo Business of Short Stories

Shannon Lawrence has made a career of short stories, with over a decade of experience and more than fifty short stories published in magazines and anthologies. In addition, she’s released three horror short story collections with a mix of new and previously published stories. Her true crime podcast Mysteries, Monsters, & Mayhem is going into its third season. 

Podcast Website:

Book Review: Wonderland by Jennifer Hillier

Book review: Wonderland by Jennifer Hillier

Wonderland by Jennifer Hillier

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

A decaying theme park…a cop looking for a second chance…a right-hand man whose loyalties have already been tested…and the wrong murder.

Okay, this wasn’t the most shocking thriller, but it was perfectly put together. I saw it coming, but had no regrets. Your every expectation is expertly calculated and used against you, from the opening scene to the chapter points of view.

My only question is,

Where’s the movie? It’s perfect Hitchcock material. On

Recommended if you liked Knives Out.

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Five Excellent Weird Fiction Novels in Translation

Now You're One of Us, from Five Weird Fiction Novels in Translation
Now You’re One of Us, by Asa Nonami, translated by Mitsuko Volek

Tired of reading the same plots by the same types of authors? Need a palate cleanser? Want to interject new life into a reading group that thinks The Help is a controversial title?

Looking for an author that can really describe the unsettling, creepy feeling of not knowing whether the people around you mean well or not? Of not knowing whether the things your soul craves most are good for you or not? Of not knowing whether your craving to belong will help you—or hurt you?

If so, I have some lovely, dark, and wonderful weird fiction novels in translation for you!

I tried to organize this list in order of shorter, easier reads that might lead to book club discussion, to more complex reads that require time to unfold.

1. Now You’re One of Us, by Asa Nonami (Japan), translated by Michael Volek.

Now You’re One of Us is the tale of an upper-class Japanese family gone wrong. So wrong. This book is like a combination of Liane Moriarty (Big Little Lies, The Husband’s Secret) and an instruction novel on how to run a profitable family cult. While other books on this list are weird and surreal, this book is weird and juicy, scratching the itch for scandal in a way that’s so over the top that it becomes almost a satire.

2. The Vegetarian, by Han Kang (South Korea), translated by Deborah Smith.

The Vegetarian is the tale of a woman who, against her family’s wishes, decides to stop eating meat, after a series of sensual nightmares leads her to worry about the darker side of her nature. The strongly feminist story feels like a combination of Franz Kafka and Virginia Woolf. It’s short, and written in a clear, direct style that lends itself to book club mischief.

3. Amatka, by Karin Tidbeck (Sweden), translated by the author.

A marketing researcher in personal hygiene products travels to a farming community, Amatka, to see whether any of the products they make can be used in her home town. However, Amatka mainly farms fungus products that turn into goop if they aren’t properly cared for. Another short book that is clearly and directly written—deliberately so, in a way that becomes horrifying as the story progresses. The story reads like a combination of 1984 and Stanislaw Lem’s alien novel Solaris.

4. The Memory Police, by Y?ko Ogawa (Japan), translated by Stephen Snyder.

Unlike a lot of weird fiction, which can be skimpy on descriptions, this book is invested in incredible details. It feels like the difference between a concrete bunker and a Miyazaki movie like Spirited Away. However, because this is a book about how remembering the wrong things can cost you, the details serve to increase the tension of the book. I recommend this one if you liked Japanese classics by filmmaker Akira Kurosawa. It feels like his kind of story, zooming in on the small details and exploring conflicting points of view.

5. Kalpa Imperial: The Greatest Empire that Never Was, by Angélica Gorodisher (Argentina), translated by Ursula K. LeGuin

This book is more challenging than the previous two, more complex, and less direct and clear in its writing (and translation). It’s also more of a mouthful, something to savor and consider, and enjoy reading just for the pleasure of seeing the author and translator turn a phrase. The book is the history of an unnamed empire over its various ages, seen from after its fall, and from another country. (“Kalpa” means “aeon” in Sanskrit; the title loosely translates to “The time between the creation and recreation of an empire.”) I don’t recommend this one for your book club; it’s book more meant for leisure reading. There’s a twist to the book that slowly becomes apparent toward the end. Read this if you like Ursula K. LeGuin’s books or Gene Wolfe’s Solar Cycle.

Bonus Book:  The Complete Stories of Leonora Carrington (Mexico), translated by Katherine Talbot, Anthony Kerrigan, and Marina Warner.

Leonora Carrington was a surrealist writer and painter who wrote short fable-like stories for adults and children as strange as anything Salvador Dalí ever painted (or wrote). Each story seems, at first glance, to have been sloppily tossed together, but in a way that makes perfect sense and never wastes a word. I found myself reading these tales not so much for their meaning (there is meaning!), but as a sort of brain-refresher, clearing out the daily dust that had gathered in my brain. Read these if you like Dalí or Frieda Kahlo.

If you’re interested in weird fiction written by yours truly, check out The House Without a Summer, describing what happens when an asshole gets his hands on the spacetime continuum. It’s set in England in the year 1816, the real-life year without a summer (and the year that Frankenstein was written). It has not yet been translated out of English, but I promise you it’s off the beaten path! I recommend it if you liked Black Tom by Victor Lavalle or The Intuitionist by Colson Whitehead. You can find out more about it here.

And now you must excuse me; it’s time for me to read the next book on my weird fiction novels in translation list, Flowers of Mold by Ha Seong-nan. I’ll let you know if it’s good.

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