Monday, October 01, 2018

Love a Rainy Day

It’s a dreary rainy morning. I LOVE this weather! I can hear the water trickling along the downspouts. There’s a soft glow of light from the lamps in the front room. The smell of coffee leads me to the kitchen for a refill. Only to be pulled back to my den where my black gooseneck spotlights the fresh white screen dotted with…what is that…whatever. I’m ready to spend a few hours tapping the keyboard.
These overcast days have always proved my most productive. Not just for writing – although I need to write a new short story soon – but it’s my favourite time to slice and dice and simmer, clean out closets, curl up with a book... I just love the rain.
There’s another reason I’m giggly happy today. I received word from Devil’s Party Press in Delaware USA that I placed second in a crime anthology contest. Yes! I love winning contests. But not as much as I love writing crime stories.
There’s something about writing crime that makes my heart beat a little faster, and sets that devious part of my brain racing. I’ve been told more than once that humour is more my genre. That’s a laugh. Pardon the … you know.
To be honest, I enjoy writing all genres. The contest winner was what the Devil’s Party Press considered ‘hard-boiled detective’. I like that. It was fun researching the era and developing the voice. And making up stories is always a hoot. I probably wrote it on a rainy day.
I’ll let you know when the anthology, Suspicious Activities,  is released. In the meantime, grab your umbrella and those shiny red boots and make a splash.

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

When Life Gets Too Real to Write Fiction

Theres good news and theres not so good news. Lets get all the not so good stuff out of the way because this blog post ends well. Very well!

Commitment is important to me. I’m a stickler – anal actually – when it comes to any kind of obligation or responsibility. I always strive to do my best in a professional manner. When health issues affected my dependability, I resigned my Board and Committee positions. A tough decision in that I’d genuinely miss the creative energy of the talented and convivial members of these groups. They inspired me.
Feeling I was letting everyone down, I grew depressed and anxious. Some of  you are nodding your heads. You understand. You’ve been there. To make matters worse, my husband and I left our home of 21 years. Never mind that we were looking forward to it. Most of you have been through a move so I don’t need to elaborate.
When it couldn’t get any worse, I experienced writer’s block for the first time. Had fatigue dried up my creative juices or was there too much reality on my mind? I still managed – it was challenging some months – to write my chatty column for First Monday magazine.
I’m not worried about my fiction writing. Without a doubt, as my life settles my imagination will kick in and my usual unusual stories will spew forth. 
And my enthusiasm is growing almost to the point of giggles since I’ve returned to work on a huge project (you’ll hear more about it in the coming months). I’m elated!
To bring you further up to date, just over a year ago, (before my life tilted) I was invited to collaborate on an anthology of short stories by three Canadian and two American authors. Of course, I agreed. 

Now, ladies and gentlemen, (drum roll please) the anthology ‘Our Plan to Save the World’ is out there. Its available on Amazon, Lulu, and Barnes & Noble.
You can acquaint yourselves with Steve Nelson, Frank T. Sikora, Michael Joll, and Nancy Kay Clark by reading their interviews from blog posts right here on The Write Break.

This is exciting news! At 1:00 on Saturday, August 25th I will be joining Writers on Tour at the Sarnia Library on Christina Street in Sarnia, Ontario. It will be my pleasure to read excerpts of my stories from this publication and there are a handful of books available for purchase.
If you’re in the area, stop by to say hello. I’m looking forward to seeing you and introducing you to the new anthology Our Plan to Save the World.
Here’s some info on the authors who will be reading on August 25th!

Tom Gannon Hamilton         Heather Robert Cadsby          Phyllis Humby
Heather Cadsby reads Standing in the Flock of Connections. Tom Gannon Hamilton contemplates El MarilloPhyllis Humby offers Our Plan to Save the World.
In the 1980s, Heather co-produced Poetry Toronto and founded the press Wolsak and Wynn. She also organized poetry events at the Axle-Tree Coffee House in Toronto and Phoenix: A Poet’s Workshop. In recent years, she’s served as a director of the Artbar Poetry Series. Standing in the Flock of Connections is her fifth poetry collection.
Tom is a poet, a musician, and the organizer and host for the Urban Folk Art Salon in Toronto which combines words and music. His poetry in El Marillo reveals the experiences of relief workers with Salvaide in El Marillo, El Salvador during the 1980s. His list of books includes: Panoptic, Aeolus Press (2018) and El Marillo (2018).
Phyllis lives in Lambton and is a well known blogger @ The Write Break, a columnist @ First Monday Magazine, and a member of Crime Writers of Canada. However, Our Plan to Save the World, may be the first time that four of her stories are collected in one place. Our Plan to Save the World is an anthology that features five authors.
Sarnia Public Library     August 25, 2018     1 PM

Wednesday, February 07, 2018

Anthology Collaboration - Steve Nelson

Getting to know you  ♫♪♫♪  Getting to know all about you  ♫♪♫♪   We’ve come a long way since that first email in April/17 about collaborating on a book.
 Our anthology, an eclectic mix of short stories entitled (drumroll please) Our Plan to Save the World, is thisclose to being released. You’ve read my Q & A’s with Frank T. Sikora, Nancy Kay Clark and Michael Joll. Really? Why not?? This is a great time to check them out.
Now it’s time to visit with author Steve Nelson.
I sense that Steve is a busy man. His e-messages are concise. Almost as if he’s saving his words for the short stories he writes so beautifully. He’s congenial – maybe even gentle and caring. Or was that only an impression from when he edited my stories. A mild suggestion here and a nudge there. His perceptive approach led to the elimination of a minor character in Birds of a Feather. He’d obviously gained my trust.
Aside from writing and editing, the only thing I know for sure about Steve is that he’s the proud papa of twins. When I received the emailed picture of the beaming daddy with his babies, it totally made my day. J

I’m hoping this candid interview will shed light on Steve Nelson’s work, aspirations, and goals.

 P: Steve, your story Our Plan to Save the World was chosen for the title of our anthology. Congratulations! Without giving away too much (wait for the BUY ME link) tell us if your inspiration for this story was based on a life experience or just life.
S:  This was based on a news story I’d read about that happened right in our neighborhood in Chicago. I didn’t know the details but I figured they must be interesting and thought it would be fun to write a story based on it set in our neighborhood. I wrote this at a time I hadn’t been writing much and had made a deliberate effort to finish some stories. My plan was to write a whole series of stories based on news stories, using a few details and inventing the rest. I think I started some others but “Our Plan to Save the World” is the only one I finished. It was fun to write and see the characters come to life. I am excited and honored that it is the title story of our anthology.

P: You create interesting characters for your stories and I believe that’s part of what draws me to your work. Irish Literature, one of my favourites of your submissions, is not part of the anthology. Has that story been published elsewhere and if not, do you have plans for it?
S: I’m glad you liked that one (the full title is “My Contribution to Irish Literature,” which readers will appreciate if they read the story). I wrote that quite a while ago when I was in grad school and taking an Irish Literature course. My professor gave us the option to write a creative work instead of a literary analysis and that is what I came up with. It was published in Storyglossia, an online journal. Here’s the link:  My Contribution to Irish Literature - by Steve Nelson

My Contribution to Irish Literature - by Steve Nelson

By Steve Nelson
My Contribution to Irish Literature is a story by Steve Nelson.

P: Some authors write for a particular amount of time at a particular time of day. Some have music in the background, some write in coffee shops, and some scribble in notebooks at every opportunity. Do you have a preferred process for writing?
SI like to write in the mornings—that’s when I have the most creative energy and the clearest thoughts. Over the course of the day these degrade pretty reliably. Ideally, I’d write from 7-11 or so, or maybe stretch it out to 1 o’clock if I am having a good day. But I only write when I have a project I’m working on. I respect the writers who do it every day and I’m sure I’d write more and better if I did that, but I’m generally either on or off—when it comes to creating, that is, first drafts, discovering the story. Editing is a little different, a little easier. I also don’t like to start anything unless I know I can spend the time I need to accomplish what I want to. For example, I’ve got an idea for a novel now that I’m excited about, but I know I don’t have the time to write it now, with the babies (4 months old already!) and the new semester starting. Some days I wake up with the narrator’s voice telling the story in my head, but I’m just going to leave it there until the semester is over, when I have time to write it.

P: Could you provide a detailed (because I’m a detail person) description of a typical day in the life of Steve Nelson?
S: Every day is different. The best part of my day now is waking up with my wife and enjoying the morning feeding the babies. They’re all smiles in the morning and we’re all just so happy to be alive (honestly, babies can do that to a person). After that, well, it depends if I am teaching that day, or what kind of workout I want to do, or what errands need to be run, or if I’ve got papers to grade, et cetera. I could give you a list of things I get done in a week (though it wouldn’t be very interesting), but there is no “typical” day. 

P: You and Frank Sikora are our two American authors in this anthology. According to Frank, you’ve known each other a long time. Do you recall when you first met? Were you aspiring writers at the time?
SFrank and I have been friends for a long time. In the past we spent time together running and worked together delivering pizza. I don’t think either one of us knew the other was a writer until years into our friendship. I was getting my PhD in Creative Writing and Frank mentioned that he did a little writing too. When we started exchanging stories I was super impressed with his work. And he’s such an interesting, multi-talented person. Did you know how smart he is? A while back he was working as the graphic designer for an aerospace company and he and a bunch of others at work all took an online IQ test and he got the highest score, beating out, literally, rocket scientists! His co-workers couldn’t believe it. Another year he was in a string of bad, serious car accidents. He was proven to be not at fault in all of them but he lost his insurance because he was deemed “statistically unlucky.” You can confirm these stories with him if you want, but he’s certainly one of a kind. It’s exciting to be in this anthology with him.

P: Do you compartmentalize your life and if so, how many compartments does it have?
SThat’s an interesting question. On one hand, I feel like I don’t compartmentalize, that everything in my life affects and is affected by everything else. Whether I’m working, teaching, taking care of the kids, or taking out the trash, I believe if I can do one thing well, it can help me do other things well too (of course, I’ve only come to this conclusion because I’ve done things poorly and failed so many times in my life and continue to do so) (but luckily, I’m good at not dwelling on those failures). On the other hand, I’m good at forgetting about everything else in my life when I’m doing something. When I am writing, that’s the only thing on my mind. Sometimes I’ll find myself in the middle of a run and suddenly “remember” that I’ve got twin babies at home. Of course, I don’t want to give the impression I’m always this way—there  are lots of times I’m distracted, feeding one of the babies and playing Words with Friends on my phone. I burn a lot of toast and have a lot of unfinished projects and I.... I fear this answer is getting confusing so I think I better stop now.

P: Okay, Steve, imagine this. You get a phone call from Frank telling you that he’s bringing Nancy, Mike, and me to your place for dinner. We’ve never met. Your wife and family are away. What would you do in preparation of our visit and what meal would you prepare? Can you describe the evening?
S: Well, first of all, it’s really a shame my wife and the kids are gone because I would have loved for you all to meet them! As far as dinner goes, I’ve got a few good recipes, but if I had the time I’d make a big pot of my south-of-the-border chicken chili (that’s south of the US border). This is pretty good, very healthy, and I can make it in advance of your arrival so I won’t be busy in the kitchen when you all arrive. I’ll have some drinks available, beer, wine, water, soda. I’d hope we could sit around the table chatting a long while before we ate and then again after dinner. And ideally, at the end of the night, you’d offer to host us all at your place for the next meal and Nancy, Mike, and Frank would follow suit and it would be the start of a great tradition.

P: This is your chance to tell the world (in 500 words or less) something we should know about you that we haven’t already covered. A new story or publication in the works, perhaps?
S:  As far as my writing goes, I have finished a book for composition teachers titled  “Teaching the Way:  Using the Principles of ‘The Art of War’ to Teach Composition” and I really want to find a way to get that to readers. I’ve been sending it to agents and publishers but haven’t had any luck yet. In the past when I’ve tried to get other things published and haven’t been able to do so, I inevitably get to a point where I say to myself, well, okay, I guess the world doesn’t really need my novel (there are so many good ones out there already). But it’s different with this because I think this book could be a really valuable resource for teachers—one that could make their lives better, make their students’ lives better, and  make the world a better place (better writers being better thinkers being better people is the root of that argument), so I’m going to keep trying to get this one published. That’s my main writing-related goal right now. In the meantime, I am looking forward to sharing “Our Plan to Save the World” with readers. Maybe that can make the world a better place as well J

Steve Nelson lives and writes in Chicago.  He earned his PhD in Creative Writing from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee and have had work published in The Rambler, Storyglossia, eye-rhyme, The Absinthe Literary Review, The Rathalla Review, and elsewhere.  His essay “Mind Wide Open” is included in the anthology The Runner’s High:  Illumination and Ecstasy in Motion and “Night at the Store” was published in Phantasmagoria and nominated for a Pushcart Prize. 

Saturday, November 11, 2017

Anthology Collaboration - Michael Joll Interview

Getting to know you  ♫♪♫♪  Getting to know all about you  ♫♪♫♪

I’m anxious to learn about my collaborators in the soon-to-be-released anthology. 

My interviews with Frank T. Sikora and Nancy Kay Clark were great fun and inspirational for all writers (and readers). This is my opportunity to get an intimate glimpse into the life and mind of collaborator and fellow Canadian Michael Joll. After only a couple of emails back and forth I felt a warmth of personality. He was someone I’d love to meet over coffee at a local Timmie’s to swap stories of our mutual love of writing.
My Google research has resulted in many interesting facts about Michael. Born in England, Michael spent part of his childhood in India and Pakistan. And then he …. Well, I’m just saying that he had a lot of great background for interesting and exotic stories. Let’s find out more about what makes him tick.

P: Michael, I learned that you started your writing career as a playwright. Can you tell us a bit about that and your successful transition to short stories, of which you have umpteen in publication.
M: I disliked the theatre right since childhood. It wasn't until I was in my fifties that I started going to The Shaw Festival in Niagara-on-the-Lake on a regular basis. I think it was a Noel Coward play which eventually lit the light bulb. "I can do that," I told myself. My first effort, a neoclassical Greek tragedy in five acts (nothing like starting off big), was a disaster. I rewrote the play as a mini series for radio (the first of four radio dramas I have written) and it was eventually recorded and aired, as were the next two. However, there is not a large market for bad plays, so I took inspiration (!) from one of my favourite authors, W. Somerset Maugham, a prolific writer of short stories in the 1920s and 1930s, and began to write short fiction soon after I retired. My first published story, 'Officially Old', which carried a US$100 prize in a competition, came out in 2011 and remains one of my favourites. Several other short stories followed into publication. I really enjoy writing in the genre. It forces me focus and chastises me for wasting words and wandering down rabbit-hole subplots. 

P: I loved all of your story submissions to the anthology. My favourite was chosen as one of the four for publication. Can you reveal your inspiration for ‘With Regret’?
M: I didn't submit my favourite short story, 'The Summer I turned Eleven' for this anthology. It has appeared on CommuterLit and in hard copy, but I wasn't confident it would have as broad an appeal as others. 'With Regret', while almost a complete fabrication, has a true story at its heart. I read a newspaper article several years ago about a 101 year old Englishman who had received a Rolls Royce for his twenty-first birthday. He still had it 80 years later. The story flowed in about two hours of writing time and won First Prize in the Elora Writers' Festival in 2012. It was fun to write and allowed me to be thoroughly and unapologetically English. One reviewer sniffed that the story used the Rolls Royce 'as both pimp and pillow'. I couldn't agree more and I'm proud that she disapproved of it! 

P: Can you tell us something about yourself that your readers would be most surprised to hear?
M: I won't divulge my darkest secrets as they would no longer be secret, and everyone needs one or two to keep him, or her, honest, don't you think?  But if I hadn't done the things I ended up doing over the past 70+ years, I would have chosen to be an opera singer. My bathtub tenor, while soaring to great heights, if only in my imagination, would have undoubtedly brought me crashing down to earth when confronted with reality. In a profession as talent-rich as opera, to rely on a one inch strip of larynx for one's livelihood is to court disaster. I salute those who have made it. Fortunately for the ticket-buying public, my singular lack of vocal talent was spotted at an early age.

P: Think back to your earliest childhood memory. How old were you and what do you remember?
M: I think it was in 1948, and I was three. We lived in Karachi, Pakistan, where my father was working in those days. On occasion my father would drive my mother, my baby sister and me down to the docks. Why escapes me. It probably was for something to do on a Sunday afternoon and for no higher purpose. A railway spur ran from the main docks out to a point on the Arabian Gulf. A shunting engine chugged its way slowly along the track and came to a stop a short distance from us. I remember my father waving to the engine driver, who responded with a long toot of the engine's whistle. It scared the living you-know-what out of me, and I remained afraid of trains for years afterwards.

P: Do you have tattoos? If so, what is their significance? It's all I can do to stop myself from asking where they are.
M: You would think that after a stint as an officer in the Royal Marines Reserve force in my early twenties, and thirteen years as a police officer in Canada, I'd have some ink art. But, no. I don't have a tattoo. After I lost my Springer Spaniel and my Golden Retriever barely six months apart this year, I seriously considered having tattoos of both done, one on each shoulder. For once, my better judgement prevailed, and I bought a six pack of beer instead. It's hard to be disappointed with a beer, and I could always give them away if I had a change of heart.

P: Do you currently have a writing project (of course you do) and could you give us the elevator pitch?
M: After receiving a professional 2nd draft critique of a novel, I am working on the 3rd draft. The neoclassical Greek tragedy in five acts I mentioned earlier? I rewrote it as a novel using the play as my outline. About a decade of revisions later, all that remains of the original play is the title, 'For Valour', and the names of a couple of the characters. 'For Valour' is a Romance which turns into a love story between an aristocratic and wealthy English army officer, Harry, and his wealthy American fiancee, Athena, woven into the fabric of the First World War. With their plans to marry thwarted by the outbreak of the war, Harry finds himself entangled in a love affair with a young French war widow with whom he fathers a child. His affections for Athena cool with time and distance, but two years after their engagement he goes through with the wedding, hoping his love for Athena will return. Harry is badly wounded during the Battle of Passchendaele in 1917 and returns to England to recover. While there he makes an astonishing discovery about his father. His love for Athena intensifies and the story ends happily, though not in the manner one might expect. 

P: We all have experienced heart racing moments. Does one come to mind that you could share with us?
M: But the scariest moment came in 1988. I was a police officer on the late afternoon shift, working the factory areas. Around 2:30 a.m. on a windy and rainy night, the officer who patrolled the neighbouring area and I were pulled up in our cruisers side by side, looking for nothing to do before we went off shift at 3:00. I received a radio call - a burglar alarm gone off not far from where we were idling and gossiping. No way to avoid the call, so we responded. We arrived within a couple of minutes and split up to check the perimeter of the building. I quickly found an unlocked door and I waited for my partner to arrive before entering. One officer into a building in such circumstance was an invitation to a stomach full of bird shot. Two, and the second would probably live to tell the tale. After much discussion as to who should enter the building first, he pulled seniority on me and let me have the honour. The building, a small warehouse, seemed empty. We checked the office area with our flashlights and were about to leave and make the building secure when a door crashed closed. Billy the Kid and Matt Dillon of 'Gunsmoke' never cleared leather faster or got into the crouch position with less grace and dignity than we did. Nothing. Nobody. The wind had taken a second insecure outside door, which neither of us had reached on our perimeter check, and slammed it closed. Sheepishly, we holstered our service revolvers and agreed we had never drawn them, unless we wanted to be filling out paperwork in the style of, 'herewith the reason for drawing my service firearm' for the Provincial Special Investigations Unit, until the middle of the next day. It still makes my heart race when I think about it.

Michael Joll only came to serious writing in retirement. After forty years too many in the work force, from selling Continental Delicatessen in Selfridges on London’s Oxford Street, to part time temporary deck hand and purser on a car ferry plying the north reach of the Bay of Quinte, he brings a lifetime of variety and experience to his stories. In retirement, the most fulfilling job he ever held, (“The hours are great. The pay less so.”), he has spent the past dozen or so years writing, everything from stage and radio plays (disasters) to short fiction (more successful) and novels (still trying). For most of the past 45 years he has lived in Brampton, Ontario, with a wife (his own), a laptop, and memories of all the dogs whose lives he has been privileged to share.

Saturday, October 14, 2017

Anthology Collaboration – Nancy Kay Clark Interview

 Getting to know you  ♫♪♫♪  Getting to know all about you  ♫♪♫♪

I’m anxious to learn about my collaborators in the soon-to-be-released anthology. 

My interview with anthology mastermind Frank T. Sikora gave me (and you) many insights into the man and writer. This is my attempt to know Nancy Kay Clark better.

When I think of Nancy, I imagine a person driven by a relentless passion for literature. Nancy runs CommuterLit, an e-zine featuring short stories and poems. But that’s not where the genius ends. Nancy is a writer and editor. She also critiques fiction manuscripts. I personally recommend her services. She’s good! Plus, she’s the driving force behind two anthologies, Commuterlit Selections Fall 2013, and Arrivals and Departures. Buy Here
I knew Nancy through my story submissions to her publication. I liked her without ever having met her. She’s an encouraging and supportive voice in a publishing business that exists mostly on form rejections and unanswered queries. Nancy remains personable in the impersonal world of publishing.
I deleted some of my intended questions for Nancy when I came across this blog Six Questions for Nancy Kay Clark . Check it out.
Now, let’s delve a little deeper into Nancy’s psyche.

P: Nancy, how do you clear your head of the editing, publishing, and critiquing - not to mention hearth and home plus your civic volunteer work - to write mind-blowing imaginative story lines? Do you binge write? Write thoughts and words on coffee-ringed napkins?  Take retreats?
N:I have no set way of writing. I tend to churn a character or a theme or a premise over in my head for a while — days, months, years — before writing it down. And I usually don’t have the entire story set. I write down the beginning, and sometimes the middle, in one go, when I have a spare few hours and then I wait for the ending to come to me. I find endings give me the most trouble. Sometimes I try to force an ending on a story, and it just doesn’t work. Sometimes I’ll wait for years for an ending — I’ve struggled with one story for at least a decade and I just can’t get the ending right. Maybe there is no ending. Maybe it will remain unfinished. I tend to stockpile a whole bunch of beginnings, and every once in awhile, I’ll reread the beginnings and if one calls to me, still excites me, I will continue writing it — inching it towards an ending that feels right. This is not a very efficient way of writing. Fellow writers have often suggested I create a detailed outline before writing a story. But I never take that advice — I think I enjoy groping in the dark, until I see the light. If I knew how everything turned out before I wrote the first line, I don’t think I would enjoy the process as much as I do.

P: There are no do-overs in life. But if there were, are there any steps in your writing career that you could have skipped, or is there something you wished you’d known from the beginning? How would you do it differently the second time around?
N: I think I would have embarked on my literary life earlier. I started writing as a kid, maybe ten or so, but when puberty hit, my self-confidence plummeted and I stopped writing. I just didn’t think I had lived enough — had enough life experience to write about anything important — least ways anything anyone would be interested in. It took me decades to regain that self-confidence. If I had a do over, I would try harder to hang on to that exuberant kid who had all the self-confidence in the world, who didn’t even question or care whether what she was writing was important or literary or interesting. She just wrote because she loved writing.

P: Which three adjectives best describe you, and if you could change something about yourself, what would it be?
N: Tenacious, do-it-yourselfer, daydreamer. I would change how impatient I am — I try to all the time, I try, I desperately try to be more patient, I fail most of the time.

P: Describe your utmost favourite meal. With whom would you like to share it? This person could be anyone past or present.
N: Oh, something chocolatey and decadent — at a little cafe in Paris, with my husband and best friend Doug Bennet. I know, I know, not very exotic choice of partner, but even after more than 20 years of being together, I still love hanging out with him. 

P: If you had a three-day pass to go anywhere in the world, or out of this world, where would you go?
N: Well, it’s not three days, it’s six weeks — there’s this Odyssey Sci Fi Writing Workshop in New Hampshire every summer, which I’d love to go on. I just can't afford to take off for six weeks.  

P: You’re an incredibly imaginative storyteller. I’m itching to ask how your ideas originate. Not an original question, but I’d love to know. Of the four stories in this anthology, is there one that you could focus on and share its source? Did it begin with a character, a place, or an experience?
N: Well, I’ll tell you about how Penetanguishene came about. Years ago, when our kids were young, Doug and I took them on a road trip round Midland and Penetanguishene. We ended up touring this re-creation of an early 19th century British Naval Base on Penetanguishene Bay on Lake Huron, called Discovery Harbour. And, just like in my story, our tour guide was this young woman dressed in period costume. She told us about the Base commander (circa 1820s) Captain Roberts, and his family, his wife Rosamund, and her sister Letitia. As the tour guide was telling me about this family, particularly how circumspect the women’s lives were at the base (two well-bred, educated English women stuck in the middle of the wilderness, not being able to go anywhere, or do much), I began to think how bored these women must have been. 
That was enough for my imagination to take flight, and I began to envision these people and their lives. I confess, I didn’t do much research on them as historical figures. I didn’t want the facts to interfere with what I imagined them to be like. So most of the characters in that story are historical figures, they just aren’t portrayed accurately according to the historical record.

P: What is your goal as a writer? And is writing the most important aspect of your work. If not, what is?
N: To finish all my stockpiled story beginnings, and to share my stories through being published, or self-publishing, online or in print, or in person through public readings (which I love doing).

After many years as a magazine writer and editor, Nancy Kay Clark began to write fiction, but couldn’t settle on what kind—literary, children’s, sci fi or speculative (so she writes all four). Her short fiction has been featured in Neo Opsis magazine. She launched her own online literary magazine,, in 2010 (it’s still going strong); creates chapbooks to sell, and in 2018 will-publish a middle-grade novel, tentatively titled Gus the Fuss. You can find her stories on CommuterLit, and on Wattpad.

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Anthology Collaboration - Frank T. Sikora Interview

Getting to know you  ♫♪♫♪  Getting to know all about you  ♫♪♫♪
I’m anxious to learn about my collaborators in the soon-to-be-released anthology. Let’s start with the Mastermind.
Frank Sikora was intimidating and focused. That was my impression. And even more daunting, his genre differed greatly from anything I’d written. After numerous emails, humour emerged from that intensity. I’d like to know more about him. Here goes:
P: According to Google, there are a zillion Frank Sikoras and a million of them are authors. That might be an exaggeration, but for the sake of idle curiosity, are you related to any of the authors?
F: I don’t think so. Here’s a mostly true story: I do have a hand-me-down name. My father’s name is Frank, and so is my grandfather’s and my great-grandfather’s. Because our middle initials are different, I can’t officially go by Frank the Fourth.  When I was young, I tried to convince my parents to call me by my middle name, Thomas, but they refused. I hate my name, but my wife loves it. She loves old-world, just-off-the-boat, welcome-to-Ellis Island names. She wants to be known as Maude even though her name is Holly. The kids I coach don’t call me Coach Frank or Coach Sikora. They just call me Frank. Sigh.
P: Do you keep a personal journal? If so, do you think this is an important exercise or habit for writers?
F: I keep multiple task journals, mostly because of my poor memory and my obsession with being organized and timely. I have three jobs. For each job (substitute teacher, graphic artist and track coach), I keep a daily notebook of what I need to accomplish that day.  Otherwise, I would forget everything. In another notebook, I keep ideas for stories or personal comments. Unfortunately all my note-taking efforts go for naught. My handwriting is so bad that I can barely read my scribbles. My typing is not much better. I love irony.
When it comes to writing, I consider myself a lifelong student and not qualified to give advice. If a student insists on one piece of writing advice, I offer what those much more talented than I suggest: 1. Read everything, including classics, genre, pulp, nonfiction, satire and Russian (especially Tolstoy’s short stories). This is why our anthology is interesting—it’s composed of multiple genres and styles. 2. For every 1,000 words you write, read 20,000 or more.  
P: You have four stories in the anthology. Intriguing stories, I might add. Why don’t you tell us about one of your works, like maybe Bozeman Before the Fire – just for instance – and, without giving away the story (I’d rather they buy the book), tell us what sparked the muse.
F: Side note: I think I write great titles. I have a personal rule: All my titles have to come from the story, lifted right out of the text. I use my notebook for the first few drafts (even though I can’t read most of it, which is fine). The early drafts are usually incoherent rants, half-baked scenes, and bits of dialog. I’m searching for an idea or a reason to hang out at McDonald’s for a few more minutes in the morning before work.
Back to the question regarding Bozeman:  One of my favorite books is Slaughterhouse Five by Kurt Vonnegut, which, among other themes and ideas, deals with the bombing of the German city Dresden during World War II and the morality of doing so when the city had no strategic military value. From this story and other readings, I have come to believe that morality is an evolving entity, a necessary adaptive component for survival, from an individual level to a societal level. The two main characters in this story, a young witch (yes, it’s a story with witches) and a warlock (an old man) deal with the consequences of individual decisions that govern the lives of many others. The young witch wants to destroy all that is old and corrupted in the world(s) she occupies. Naturally, the old man and his ilk have other plans. It’s a conflict of ideas, sexes and generations. I think it is also a love story (parental love); both characters are incredibly lonely, and both must give themselves completely and reluctantly to the causes each represent.
P: Would you describe writing as your passion and do you favour one genre over another?
F:  I’m not a big fan of the word “passion.” To me, it implies an endeavor without reason—one that is purely emotional. If I must use that term, I would say I’m more passionate about reading. I want to write good stories, but I prefer reading them, which is why I am excited about this anthology. BUY THIS ANTHOLOGY!
I love speculative fiction, yet my second favorite story is Moby Dick. My favorite is Hyperion by Dan Simmons.
P: We’ve never met. How would you describe yourself so I’d recognize you in a restaurant.
F: If it’s a fast-food restaurant, I’m the guy who is complaining about the people in front of me who
are not stepping up to provide an order and keep the line moving. If it’s a sit-down place, I’m the guy who is setting the alarm on my phone to time the lackadaisical wait staff. I am all about efficiency, even if I can’t read my own notes.
Physically, I am as tall as Steve Nelson (look him up on Google), but he is thinner and handsomer (I mean he is really thin, fit and handsome). I am reasonably fit but with a lot more hair (gray). When young, we delivered pizzas together and ran together. I’m indirectly responsible for his children, but that is another almost true story.
P: If you could re-visit a year in your life, how old would you be and what is the purpose of this visit back in time? Actually, Frank, judging by your work, you might prefer a trip to the future, well beyond your years in this world. Well?
F: I would go back to the beginning of the eighth grade and prevent my brother’s death. I am haunted by my inability to prevent his accident and by the last words I said to him on the morning of his demise. He was truly gifted. He could sing beautifully and play multiple instruments. My brother was a deeply caring person, emotionally strong and filled with empathy. My wife has said that every story I have ever written has touched on his passing in one form or another, which I don’t necessarily want to agree with, but it is an idea that does feel truthful. If you read Bozeman Before the Fire, you may get that notion.
P: Work with me here, Frank. Picture yourself walking in the woods. You find a treasure. Describe that treasure for us.
F: It’s a time machine. See my last response.
P: Last question. What have you been bursting to say, but I just haven’t asked?
F: You mentioned before that I appear extremely serious, but I’m generally good-natured with the annoying habit of trying to be the funniest guy in the room. When I am in the classroom or coaching, I try to infuse the room with humor and joy.
P: I want you to know, Frank, that I deleted a few of my questions, as you have addressed them in a preface you wrote for the book. A preface that moved me and I know will tweak the hearts of all readers in bookland. So we’ll save that until we have a BUY ME link. J

Frank Sikora is a graphic artist, writer, substitute teacher, and track coach. He lives in Waterford, Wisconsin, with his wife, Holly, an English teacher. His work has been published online and in print in Canada and the United States, and every once in a while one of his flash fiction pieces will win an award, which his wife will acknowledge with a smile and a comment, such as, “It still needs a middle, Sweetheart.”

Monday, September 18, 2017

Anthology Collaboration – Authors

If you’ve been following my posts, you will already know that there is an anthology due out this year. A special anthology. Not just because I have four stories in the book (although that helps) but because it is the brainchild of author, Frank Sikora.
It is also special in that it brings together five authors who would otherwise not personally know each other. Five authors from two different countries. That’s another unique feature.
I’m proud to be sharing ink with (imagine a drum roll, if you will) Nancy Kay Clark, Michael Joll, Steve Nelson, and, of course, mastermind Frank Sikora.
Through this collaboration, I’ve come to know personal bits and pieces about these writers. I’m a curious sort and hope to know a lot more about them soon. I’ll pass along their bios along with a fun Q&A over the next few blog posts.

In my next post, we will begin with the man who is making his literary dream a reality – Frank Sikora.