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Author Interview: Eli Nixon

I asked Eli how he would describe himself as a writer and he replied: I like to make bad things happen to good characters, and I like to do it in places that don’t exist in this world. Sounds like a science fiction writer to me! Please welcome Eli Nixon to No Wasted Ink.

Author Eli NixonWell, my name is Eli Nixon. I live in North Carolina with my wife and five-year-old daughter and a dog and the world’s smallest flock of one chicken (that nobody can seem to find) and a garden that somehow grows rocks and I love all of it. I spent a few years in Costa Rica pretending to learn Spanish while actually learning how to surf. I try to keep things simple, and as a result there’s not a lot to me. My joy comes from the little things I have and, of course, writing.

When and why did you begin writing?

When I was a kid I’d always scribble down these little stories, and I was a ravenous reader, so I think it’s always sort of been there, just waiting for me to acknowledge it. I actually began trying to make money writing as a copywriter for website content. I was working in a call center at the time, hated it, and had a ton of free time, so I started doing that in the evenings. I think it was about a month later that I quit the call center and started writing full time. Not fiction, right, but sales material and product descriptions. But I think that paved the way for getting back into my childhood fantasies of fiction.

When did you first consider yourself a writer?

When I stopped writing copy, ha ha. I think it was when I first self-published a collection of short stories on Amazon (under a pseudonym, of course. Nobody was ever going to know I wrote that). But the first sale of that Kindle book sort of drove it home: I can do this. I’d called myself a writer before that whenever someone asked the ubiquitous “So, what do you do?” but after that I sort of believed it myself. It was slow going, but now I’m working Son of Tesla, the first book in a trilogy about Nikola Tesla returning from another dimension to enslave humanity, and although my ideas haven’t gotten any better, I feel better about referring to myself as a writer.

Can you share a little about your current book with us?

It’s a futuristic story about a drug addict in a world where a plague killed all the animals about a decade previously. He goes outside one morning, and there’s a parrot on his front porch. It tells him he’s going to die unless he kills a specific list of people. It’s called Pretty Bird.

What inspired you to write this book?

I walked out my front door one day and thought, what if all the animals were gone, and there was a parrot here telling me I was about to die? That’s essentially it.

Do you have a specific writing style?

I’ll admit to being sort of a leech. The writing style of whatever I happen to be reading at the time tends to seep into my writing. I can’t give any specific examples for Pretty Bird, but for a portion of the novel I’m writing now, Son of Tesla, I was reading Kathy Reichs’s Bones to Ashes. Her writing style is often short and punctuated, and some of that got into the middle chapters of Tesla.

Other than that, I’m a sucker for poetic prose, metaphors, similes, and hyperbole, for better or for worse (i.e. “The sun hung over the horizon like a bruised tangerine, limp and cheerless.”). It doesn’t always work, but I like writing it, and I’ll probably stick with it for awhile. So if you’re planning to read my books, sorry in advance.

How did you come up with the title of this book?

For awhile the working title was simply “Parrot.” A lot of the other story elements came about during the writing process, and at some point the phrase “pretty bird” popped into my head. It’s a cheery phrase, and I went with it as a title because it belied the rather dark atmosphere of the story and, along with the cover design, it gave a hint of some plot elements without giving away anything terribly important. I wanted it to be a title (and cover) that you could look at after finishing the story and going “Ah, well that makes sense now.” Whether or not that worked, I can’t say.

Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?

Don’t do drugs, ha ha. No, I think if there was a single message, it would be to be careful with technology. The story’s not anti-tech, because I feel that technological advancements are very important to our culture, but just to consider the possibilities of what any given technology can achieve. If it helps sick people, gives a cancer patient more opportunities for treatment, awesome. If it dampens the spirit of a person or population or even an animal, just be aware that it can do that. Don’t stop creating it, but be careful with it. Nuclear technology is probably one of the most important achievements we’ve made the past century, but it’s also mind-numbingly tragic when used as a weapon. I say understand the bad because that’s the only way you can avoid it. That’s one of the big themes in Son of Tesla, too.

I also don’t like anonymity in corporations, but that’s just a small part of the story.

Are experiences in this book based on someone you know, or events in your own life?

I think everything is. No, I’ve never been a drug addict in the future who has to kill people because a parrot told him to. But locations, sure. Mannerisms, yes. Descriptions of characters? Absolutely. Some are amalgamations, some I’ll just pull up a photo of someone I know and describe them. If my friends ever knew I was watching the way they stuck out their tongue a little when they were thinking, or sort of scrunched their nose sideways, or put a certain inflection in the way they said “dinner,” I think they’d lynch me in the town square.

A good example of this is Lazarus, a character in Pretty Bird. He has a very distinct way of talking. I got that from a friend I’ve known since elementary school, and he has no idea. Nothing else about Lazarus mirrors this guy, but all of his dialogue comes out the way I think I’d transcribe this friend talking about his day at work. It’s…sneaky, sure, but there’s inspiration all around you if you want to be the asshole that finds it.

What authors have most influenced your life? What about them do you find inspiring?

Life? Jack Kerouac (not a good thing), Hunter Thompson (arguably a worse thing), and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. The first two lived their lives with pure, unrestrained freedom, and while I haven’t necessarily followed the specifics of what they did, I try to live each day with that encompassing sense of moving forward. There’s always something new; life is short, and I don’t want to sit in a rocker on my front porch and watch it drive by.

As for the third, the Sherlock Holmes stories force you to look past the obvious for the subtle details. That’s never a bad habit, writer or not.

If you had to choose, is there a writer would you consider a mentor? Why?

Well, Stephen King’s On Writing was a huge inspiration for me to start writing fiction again, but I’ve never met a writer in real life, so I can’t say I’ve had a mentor, per se. I’d say that the books I grew up on as a kid – Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card, Tom Sawyer by the incomparable Twain, and a neverending supply of Stephen King novels filched from my big brother’s room – shaped my fascination with what could be done with the written word. These guys took something that every child learns in school, grammar, spelling, punctuation, they took these tools and they used them to craft stories and characters that can never die. Except the Stephen King ones, where most of the characters seem to die in the first few chapters.

Who designed the cover of your book? Why did you select this illustrator?

I designed it myself for the dual reason that A) I have a fatal attraction to doing everything myself, and B) I can’t afford a designer or illustrator anyway, so that was just how it had to be. The weird thing is, I made the cover before I knew how the story was going to progress, and some of the random design elements I chose ended up in the story. You never know what’s going to get you there.

Do you have any advice for other writers?

Think about the “what if’s.” If you’re writing a sci-fi novel, or a horror novel, or adventure or romance or anything besides literary fiction, chances are what happens to your characters isn’t something that’s ever happened to you. The exception to that may be romance, but I skimmed my wife’s copy of 50 Shade of Grey and I have my doubts, Ms. James.

And when I say the “what if’s,” I mean what could happen? There are opportunities for that every day. If you’re driving to the store for a gallon of milk and you see a stray dog beside the road, hey, what if that dog lives its life running in front of cars to cause accidents because it feeds on death? What if you stopped, brought it home, and suddenly everything you ever wanted started happening to you? It’s about seeing something different in what’s in front of you. So many of my stories have started with that simple question: What if this happened?

Besides that, I’ll just echo King: Read, read, and read. Never stop reading. And don’t start drinking until you’ve written at least 500 words.

Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?

Just start writing. It doesn’t matter if it’s good or bad, just stick those fingers on a keyboard, close Facebook, and string some words into a sentence. Then string those sentences into a paragraph, then a chapter, and before you know it, those tiny, insignificant words are going to become a book. Maybe the book sucks. That’s okay. Write another one. Each time, it’ll get better.

Book Cover Pretty BirdEli Nixon
Mocksville, North Carolina

Pretty Bird

AMAZON

No Wasted Ink Writer’s Links

writers-linksWelcome back to another Monday filled with writing related links. There are some interesting ones this week. A comparison of Tolkien’s time in battle during the world war and his descriptions of the battle of five armies in The Hobbit, the benefits of writing longhand and several on general writing techniques. I hope you find the articles to be useful and entertaining.

Some Tips for Aspiring Authors by Carol Browne

7 Fun Facts About Isaac Asimov

A bit on Literary Techniques

9 Things You Need To Know About Review Swaps

3 Secrets of Writing Longhand

The Hobbit: Real life battles that inspired wars of Middle Earth

How are eBook Covers Designed Today?

How to Integrate Collins Dictionary and Thesaurus with MS Word for Free

essay: On the Art of Poetry

See How Easily You Can Track Your Character’s Emotional Arc in a Scene

No Wasted Ink Writer’s Links

writers-linksNo Wasted Ink proudly presents another Monday filled with articles about the writing process. I hope you enjoy my hand picked list of links! Enjoy.

5 emotional things every novelist needs

Top 3 Writing and Marketing Tips For Any Author

The Avengers Director Tells You The 5 Things Your Script Has To Have

What It Really Takes to Be an Artist

21 Women Writers From Before 1500 That You’ve Probably Never Heard Of

2014: The year when science fiction and fantasy woke up to diversity

For The New Year, Ray Bradbury’s Buoyant Vision Of The Future

HOW TO WRITE 4,000+ WORDS A DAY

The Five Top Tips for Turning Memories into a Book

The Trouble with Writing

Guest Post: How Far Do You Stretch It? by Raymond Bolton

Fantasy Ship

Raymond Bolton is an up and coming Fantasy Writer who has been gracious enough to grant No Wasted Ink an interview about his new book Awakenings. I’ve asked Raymond to return and give us his thoughts on writing in the fantasy genre.

One of the more important tasks of writing fantasy is that of world building, in other words, helping the reader see those elements of the story’s setting that have heretofore existed only in the author’s imagination. Dropping the reader into this world, if properly executed, becomes an immersion process and the reader soon finds himself at home in an unfamiliar universe. When the author fails at this—and there are many ways to fall short—she leaves the reader hovering outside the story, viewing everything as a spectator rather than as a participant.

Recently, I was talking to two individuals who were considering a maiden fantasy project. They were debating about how bizarre they should make their world. They wanted to create fantastic creatures doing unsettling things and speaking in an unearthly manner to the point nothing would remain recognizable. I disagreed with their intended approach.

Clearly, the point of fantasy is to remove the reader from his every day world and transport him to a place he’s never been. Whether the intent of the author is merely to provide an adventure into places unknown, or to provoke questions about the “reality” the reader confronts daily via contrast with this super normal world, the story’s other-worldly setting provides a dreamscape on which to hang the content. And while dreams are part of our everyday existence—the flip side of our waking life—I cautioned against crafting a world so far removed from what the reader is accustomed unless they possessed the story telling mastery of, say, Gabriel Garcia Marquez.

They complained that I was suggesting they stifle the creative process and one of them cited an obscure work where he felt this had been done successfully. In turn, I argued it was probably one of the reasons the work he cited was obscure and suggested they consider how masters of the genre deal with this issue.
Anne McCafferey’s Dragonriders of Pern is a story of knights errant, familiar in most regards except for the fact that her knights ride dragons instead of horses. While J. R. R. Tolkien’s Gollum is far from human, the creature is the embodiment of all human failings and the world he inhabits, while very alien to the one we in which we abide, is nonetheless a land where men go to war and gather in inns to escape the night’s perils. When Lucy, Edmund, Peter and Susan emerge from the wardrobe into C. S. Lewis’s Narnia, they do step into a land dominated by animals and monsters, but the conflicts are nonetheless familiar. Even when Lewis Carol drops Alice through a rabbit hole into a world so surreal it is best depicted visually in a Disney cartoon, the royalty and other institutions he parodied are at once recognizable.

The question then becomes, for whom do you write? If it is only yourself or perhaps a few others, then discard convention to your heart’s content. If, on the other hand, you want to entice as many as possible into the world you create, then you will have to draw a balance between the unworldly and the familiar.
I am of the opinion that depicting the surreal is best handled by placing it in a recognizable context. The contrast thus created amplifies the difference. Paint the sky green and hang two suns in it, if you will—I do—but rather than labor to point out the incredible, handling the unbelievable as if it were to be expected is subtler and won’t alienate the audience. In fact, if the writer’s primary purpose is to entertain, he should endeavor to make the read as effortless as possible. Many readers balk when they have to work too hard to understand what the author has created.

The masters achieve their goal by relating the other-worldly as an everyday experience. Let the protagonist, rather than the reader, protest any departure from reality, as Richard Mayhew does, in Neil Gaiman’s Neverwhere, when he demands to have his life back, or as Alice does when she argues with the Mad Hatter. After all, the fantastic is less the point of the tale than the context in which the underlying story is set.

Author Raymond BoltonRaymond’s goal is to craft gripping stories about the human condition, whether they are set here or another world. He has written award-winning poetry and four novels. Two are explorations in fantasy: Awakening, an epic, released in January, 2014, and Thought Gazer, an adventure and first volume of a prequel trilogy, which will be released on January 1, 2015. Under its working title, Renunciation, Awakening was one of eight finalists among 950 entries from the U.S., the U.K., Canada, Europe and Australia in the Pacific Northwest Writers Associations Literary Contest. Hailed on BookViral.com as “a grand debut… [that] breathes originality into the genre”, Awakening has received almost all five star reviews on both Amazon and Goodreads.

Awakening 4x6-seal-Amazon ThoughtGazer 4x6

Author Interview: Eileen Schuh

I asked Eileen how she might describe herself as a writer. Her response was: I am a writer of powerful psychological thrillers, luring readers into the action and then compelling them to ponder. Please welcome science fiction author Eileen Schuh to No Wasted Ink.

Author Eileen SchuhI was born Eileen Fairbrother in the small prairie town of Tofield, Alberta Canada. I now live in the County of St. Paul in Alberta’s northern boreal forests and write under my married name, Eileen Schuh.

At the age when most are planning their retirement, I launched my writing career with my debut novel, THE TRAZ, the first in my young adult BackTracker series. Flicking through the pages of a book with my name on the cover as the author, was the fulfillment of a life-long dream. With half a century of stories pent up inside me, THE TRAZ was quickly followed by my first adult Sci-Fi and just 4 short years later, I have 6 published books to my credit.

When and why did you begin writing?

I wanted to write novels since I learned to read, which was before I started school. I was raised on a small dirt farm with no conveniences and little entertainment. Reading opened the world to me; I was mesmerized by the magic of the written word and by the power stories had over me. I wanted to wield that power.

When did you first consider yourself a writer?

I’ve been a writer since the age of four. I have letters I wrote to my mom when I was in Grade I. I was very homesick when I was sent off to school (which was about a two-hour bus ride each day, one way). Mom told me when I got homesick to write her a letter. She kept some of them. Throughout my school years, I excelled at reading and writing and won many competitions. When I was in Grade 8, one of my short stories was published in the Wee Wisdom Magazine for Children.

I eventually got my Journalism Diploma and off-and-on throughout my child-rearing years, I plied my trade as a journalist, editor and feature writer. I also dabbled a bit in creative writing. However, with little uninterrupted time to hone my skills, I was never able to bring those early stories to fruition.

Eventually, with my children all successfully reared and on their own and the family business financially secure, I got to pursue the dream of being a novelist,

Can you share a little about your current book with us?

My latest release is my second adult Sci-Fi, a little near-future romance, entitled DISPASSIONATE LIES.

What inspired you to write this book?

I’m really worried about the inherent insecurities in the World Wide Web. We seem too dependent on a technology few understand. The internet is a more powerful tool than the atomic bomb, yet we don’t know who is controlling it. I let my imagination run wild as to what might happen in the near future if the web were to collapse, hoping society might take note and do something to strengthen internet security.

I realized that the shortfalls of cyberspace might be a dry topic to most readers so I decided I ought to spice my story up a bit. I had been told sex sells, so my original intention was to make my novel a bit steamy. However, my muses (as they often do) played a trick on me and my young heroine turned out to be a member of what the media in the year 2035 dubbed the ‘eunuch generation’—a generation of females born infertile and without libido.

Of course, the forbidden relationship is always the most alluring and I found a way to get around my muses.

Do you have a specific writing style?

My novels, whether gritty contemporary novels for teens (like my BackTracker Series) or science fiction for adults, are marketed as psychological thrillers. It is my firm belief that the most exciting and interesting things in life occur in people’s minds and hearts. I try to write my novels with a lesson for those readers who want one, and pure adventure and thrills for those seeking entertainment.

How did you come up with the title of this book?

I actually crowd-sourced the title on my facebook author page. Without telling my fans anything about the book, I asked which of four titles (all related to the novel) would make them most likely to pick up a book and read the back cover copy. DISPASSIONATE LIES got the most votes. Dispassion of course refers my heroine’s asexuality and lies…well, you’ll have to read the novel.

Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?

I really want people to not only consider the pitfalls of cyberspace, but also the environmental and biological risks inherent in our pharmacology industry. Perhaps the biggest message, though is: We ought to be more worried about who’s developing the quantum computer than who has weapons of mass destruction; quantum computing is where power of unprecedented strength will lie in the near future.

Are experiences in this book based on someone you know, or events in your own life?

Very much so. I have an entire section at the back of the novel with links to news and science headlines supporting the premises explored in my story. DISPASSIONATE LIES is eerily realistic. Take note.

What authors have most influenced your life? What about them do you find inspiring?

Jay Williams’ Danny Dunn series of children’s Sci-Fi got me hooked on that genre back in middle grade. Williams took science out of the boring textbooks and classrooms and made it fun and relevant. He made the possibilities for the future intriguing. His stories stayed with me and now I want to make today’s science fun and exciting for adults.

If you had to choose, is there a writer would you consider a mentor? Why?

I give much credit of my success to best-selling Canadian author, Cheryl Kaye Tardif, who has helped me immensely for many years, with everything from establishing my website to participating in the social networks, to believing in my work. When the time was right she also, through her company Imajin Books, became one of my publishers. My other publisher, Carol Hightshoe from WolfSinger Publications, is also an author and gave my science fiction dreams their voice.

Who designed the cover of your book? Why did you select this illustrator?

Lee Barlow Kuruganti is the cover artist for DISPASSIONATE LIES. Sci-Fi covers are notorious distinct with their digital other-world auras. Although the sexy lady on the cover surprised me utterly, I quickly came to accept that Kuruganti had done an excellent job. She incorporated many of my suggestions such as the sodium streetlamp lighting and the code markings. As is somewhat standard in the industry for traditionally published novels, my publisher chose the cover artist but did ask me for input on the design.

Lee Kuruganti’s claim to fame is that she won the competition to design the 2008 Hugo Award statue base. I feel quite honoured to have had her design the cover of my novel.

Do you have any advice for other writers?

I frequently lament the decades of writing I lost to raising kids and undertaking other major life adventures but I understand now why that was exactly the right path to follow. I urge all those for whom writing is an obsessive passion to ensure that they sacrifice their keyboards to live fully and abundantly and to not be unhappy doing so. As intriguing as the imaginary world of words is, reality is infinitesimally more rewarding and important. LIVE IT!

Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?

Please, please leave me a review. It doesn’t have to be anything fancy, just saying if you liked it or not and why. Not only do I thrive on feedback but research shows reviews, good, bad, or indifferent, attract readers and I want everyone in the world to read DISPASSIONATE LIES.

Dispassionate Lies Book CoverEileen Schuh
St. Paul, Alberta, Canada

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DISPASSIONATE LIES

Cover Artist: Lee Barlow Kuruganti
Publisher: WolfSinger Publications

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