Entries tagged with “Aliza Greenblatt”.


by Karen NelsonKaren Nelson Outdoor

I love September because I can go all month singing Green Day’s “Wake Me Up When September Ends“.   (The 9/11 Tribute video is gripping.)  If you slept through any of Flash Fiction Chronicles’ great articles on the writing craft, here’s a recap – and wake up!

We had some pointed advice from Jim Harrington to help us refine our writing through Word Choice (be specific!) and using Inciting Incident and Character Arc to add dimension.  Jim takes apart some sample writing to really examine the nuts and bolts of a piece, and I think you’ll find more than a few ideas for improving your work.

Ever revisit a favorite book and find it, somehow, lacking?  You’re not alone.  In “Writing Ruined My Reading” Sara Crysl Akhtar shares her struggles with Asimov, but finds a redeeming genre that will surprise you.

Beth Lee-Browning gets us digging into our journals and discovering our own potential with “If You Build It, They Will Come“.  Her highlights are worth another look.  (Go ahead, I’ve already clicked on them 4 times… )

•    Savor life – live with humor, joy, and passion.  Use feelings as fuel for creativity and creation.
•    Make something of yourself – do something, be something, make something.  Be who you are and continue to strive to become who you were meant to be.  Don’t be afraid to try, don’t be afraid to fail, and don’t be afraid to succeed.
•    Accept yourself – be yourself, trust yourself, be childlike, own and understand your relationships, be aware and follow your instincts, be accountable, and last but not least, be kind to yourself.
•    Have faith – ask for and accept help, be teachable, life is spiritual, art is spiritual and it is healing. Follow your dreams and treat them as real.
•    We commune through art – when we create from the heart and not from the ego we experience a clarity of purpose and feelings of joy.

INTERVIEWS

For people who like writing, authors sure love to talk!  And FFC has visited with some of the best in the business.  Check out these conversations with industry professionals, and gain insight on the world of publishing…

UNCOV/RD: Susan O’Neill – author of Don’t Mean Nothing

Roxanne Gay – Tiny Hardcore Press

Sumanth Prabhaker – Madras Press

Milo James Fowler – EDF’s Top Author for August

BOOK REVIEWS

Success for one is success for all, and FFC loves to celebrate our colleagues’ success!  Our own Bonnie ZoBell burst into 2013 with her collection of stories The Whack-Job Girls (Monkey Puzzle Press).

“Respect. This is the bedrock of all the stories in Bonnie Zobell’s “Whack-Job Girls.” Her characters demand it, regardless of their situation, social standing and ethos. In fact, ZoBell’s characters come across as people who would sooner hit the reader with a hammer than be pitied.” – Rumjhum K. Biswas

Linda Simone-Wastila shares her thoughts on why Elliot Sanders’ Distance was one of the finest short stories she read this year.  Take a moment as she walks you through the author’s expert use of voice, tension, detail, and theme.

Circle Straight Back by Noel Sloboda just went on my must-read list… if only for the intriguing idea of selling secrets in an online auction.  Don’t miss Andree Robinson-Neal’s fascinating commentary on this unusual book.

Of course, when submitting your flash piece for publication, you want it to look its best.  EveryDayFiction offers these insider tips that will get you that much closer to sharing your work.

The month wound up with a little fun, in Top 10 Reasons to Write Flash Fiction.  Our staff collected their favorites, but we’re still hearing from you on your best – or craziest – reasons to write flash.  Leave yours in the comment section – we’d love to hear it!  And now that September has ended, get ready for a fabulous Fall at Flash Fiction Chronicles!

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Karen Nelson is a writer and teacher in Southwest Missouri, specializing in educational and nonfiction works. She is a staff writer for Flash Fiction Chronicles, Curriculum Coordinator for Goldminds Publishing, author of four books and numerous stories and articles, and serves on the boards of various writing and literacy organizations.  When staring at a computer screen gets to be too much, Karen wanders outside to her chickens, rabbits, and miniature horse, who are always good for gaining perspective.

 

 

by Aliza Greenblatt

Ian Florida left St. Louis for the greener fields of Northern Missouri where he studied History and Philosophy at Truman State University. He still lives there in a small white house at the edge of town where city streets meet pasture and farmland with his fiancé, their two cats and a living mountain of books that seems to take up every room in the house. When not writing or reading science fiction and fantasy he manages a market research team and in his spare time pretends to be a wood worker and outdoorsman.  His story The Only Gifts We Give was the top story for July at Every Day Fiction.

Aliza Greenblatt:  This is your second story at EDF. How long have you been writing fiction and what made you want to tell stories? Do you primarily write flash fiction, or do you like writing stories of various lengths?

Ian Florida:  I started out writing and illustrating “comic books” about a crime fighting, boy robot, when I was seven or eight years old. Ever since then I’ve had the good fortune of being surrounded by family and friends who encourage me to write and be creative. My family is full of musicians and song writers, artists and story tellers so I see it as my own contribution to a family tradition.

As far as my publishing credits go, all of my work so far has been short form, but I have just started the second round of editing on my second novel. It’s a fantasy epic set in modern day Chicago, a city sanctuary for all the Old Gods of religions past and a few present, who are quite unhappy with the state of moral decay in modern America and quite pleased with their decision to do something about it.

As for which I like better, sometimes I have so many different stories I want to write it’s easy to get sidetracked, which makes focusing on just ONE project a Herculean ordeal. But both are rewarding in their own way.

AB:  Can you tell me a little about your writing process?

IF:  My stories are mainly divined via consulting a Ouija board while ritually burning a lock of Ernest Hemmingway’s beard. But when the spirits slumber I fall back on a big list of characters, personalities, inventions, plots, and locations and I generally start by pulling a couple items from the menu and meshing them together. I find that both processes work best between the hours of 3:00 and 6:00 AM.

Reading is also a big part of my process, I read anything and everything. You never know where you’re going to find a great catalyst for a story that isn’t going quite right. My background is in history and that really informs my writing as old history tomes are bursting at the spine with stories and people waiting to be remixed, retold and reborn.

This particular story was a little bit outside my ordinary process. I had some recent events dredge up old memories of sitting by my little sister while she was in the ICU . She was six and I remember my parents standing over her little body, tubes and wires everywhere. This story just flowed out of those old memories.

AB:   You captured the wonderment of a child and the sadness of a parent very well in this story and there were lots tough emotions, as well as a sense of beauty packed into this piece. What were some of the challenges in writing this story? What were some of your favorite bits?

IF:  Knowing the difference between what’s important and what can be cut is always the hardest part for me. I tend to write too much and edit too little and so paring the story down is always my biggest challenge. For this story the challenge was trying to prevent the emotional punch being softened  and slowed down with too much description and imagery. Flash fiction is especially fickle in that regard, you have so few words and every single sentence has to carry so much weight that there’s no time for needless things, no matter how much you love them and want to keep them wrapped up nice and warm in your story.

My favorite part about writing this story is being able to come back to it two months after I’ve put it down, rereading it, and still having it invoke the emotions I wanted it to invoke. I knew  I found a story that was important to me when I could read it six, seven, eight times and still have it punch me in the gut.

AB: The narrator’s identity was not revealed right away to the reader. I initially thought that this was a husband-wife relationship at first, but realized my mistake as the story progressed. Why did you choose to tell this story in second person?

IF:  I tried writing the story in first person before anything else, but it didn’t come off sounding very genuine. I could tell right off it needed to change. Second person gave it the power and flow I was aiming for, it turned it almost into a speech or a soliloquy.

Sometimes when you’re confronted with challenges that seem impossible, that are just too hard, that wear you down, mind, body, and soul you have to take a deep breath and remind yourself what you’re doing and why. You take a look at the people you love and remember how important they are to you and that no matter what happens you’ll do anything you can to make their lives just a little bit easier, and then you get back down to work. This story was that man’s second wind.

AB: The power of memories and imagination is a main theme in the story.  But your narrator implies that experience comes at the price of hope, so instead he tells his daughter stories. Why did he pick planets for the basis of his stories verses traditional stories like fairytales? Why were they things neither of them could reach?

IF:  I don’t think he believes in fairy tales anymore and he really needs to tell a story that he and his daughter can both believe in. The story is just as much for the teller as for the listener, maybe more so. Also, I don’t think he tells her fairy tales because happily or unhappily those kinds of stories end and he doesn’t want his story to end yet. He’s too afraid of how it might turn out. The worlds up there are fresh canvas, he can build a story from scratch, he can decide when, how and if it ends.

AB:  What other projects are you working on now? Are there other stories of yours, either upcoming or published, that you can point readers to?

 IF: Aside from cleaning up my second novel I’m working on a children’s book about a long haired wild child and his attempt to stop a sun sized, world eating, monster. Sad to say my illustration hasn’t really progressed too far past that eight year old self but luckily I have a very talented friend that have been gracious enough to put up with me for several projects. You can find links to my published work as well as a whole host of unpublished material at my website www.ianflorida.com

AB:  Thank you very much for taking the time to chat with us. Best of luck with all your writing endeavors. 

IF:  Thank you for taking the time to interview me and big thanks to all the staff and readers at Every Day Fiction!

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Aliza profile-pic-2

Aliza T. Greenblatt works in a firmly non-writing field when the sun is up and writes under a desk lamp at night.  Fueled by a sheer love of books and a tyrannical imagination, she writes the stories that appear over her morning coffee and won’t leave her alone until they are put down on paper.  She writes, raves, and blogs at http://atgreenblatt.com. and on Twitter @AtGreen

by Aliza Greenblatt

Flash Fiction Chronicles interviewed Lynn Vroman about Every Day Fiction’s Top Story for June, “In Her Eyes“ a tale about love, guilt, and redemption.  Lynn Vroman lives in the Pocono Mountains with her husband and four awesome kids. A recent college grad with a degree in English Literature, the only thing she’s ever wanted to do was write. She has been writing seriously for the last five years and has had four of her stories published in online magazines, including Every Day Fiction. Though many of her short stories are literary, her passion is writing science fiction and fantasy. A voracious reader, she is always on the lookout for authors whose stories inspire her to keep writing. Vroman is currently working on the final edits for her first novel and drafting the second. With any luck, she’ll be querying agents in the near future.

 Aliza Greenblatt:  How long have you been writing fiction? What made you first want to tell stories? For you, what is the appeal of flash?

 Lynn Vroman:  I started writing in high school, but didn’t get serious about it until four or five years ago. Since I’ve rekindled the passion, I try to write every day. I love experimenting with both literary and genre fiction, but the fundamental goal when I write stories is to get readers to connect with the characters. When I tell a story, I try to make sure the people I create are complex and flawed like all of us. I want readers to have an emotional connection, even if the emotion they feel isn’t all positive for the protagonist. When writing flash, the challenge to create people with layers in a short space is difficult. I think that’s why I love writing it because sometimes the story works and sometimes it doesn’t. For any writer, it’s a great accomplishment when an idea works using a minimal amount of words.

 AG:  Can you tell me a little about your writing process?

 LV:  I wish I could say that my process is orderly and structured. I’ve tried outlines and plotting, but going that route isn’t for me. I do character sketches when writing longer pieces of fiction because I believe a story isn’t worth reading if the characters are stereotypical archetypes. However, that’s as structured as I get. I try to let the story flow organically just to see where the characters take me. Of course, there is a lot of revision once first drafts are done.

One thing I’m known to do is study people. Going to a public place to study habits and mannerisms of strangers probably sounds odd, but it’s a great tool! Many people I know end up being the basis for quite a few of my characters. People close to me—namely my teenage daughters—beg me to keep their friends out of my stories.

 AG:  I loved the complexity of this story, all of the swirling emotions, and how Rob’s both detestable and empathic character for the reader. What were some of your favorite elements of the story? What were some of the most challenging?

 LV:  When I began writing this story, Rob’s wife was already dead and the plot centered on him missing her. The story started out as just a free writing exercise to get the juices flowing. Yet, while writing, I thought what if his wife was still alive? Would he still cheat? And so, my favorite element of this piece was how I managed to turn a cliché story into one with layers. Rob isn’t admirable—I wouldn’t want him to be my husband—but he does have real feelings and compassion.

The biggest challenge was to show this guy doing something so abhorrent without making him completely unlikable. Yes, he’s weak, but he also loves his wife. He feels empty and helpless and tries to erase those feelings with physical contact. Dumb rationalization on his part, but he knows that.

 AG:  There is almost no physical description of the characters in this piece, expect for their eyes. Consequently, the reader understood each woman in this story through her eyes. But I wondered, how would Rob’s wife describe his eyes? How would his mother-in-law or his lover? How would he describe his own?

 LV:  Great question! I believe his wife would see a strong man whom she loves and be grateful that he has stayed by her side. She would see the father of her children, but mostly she would see the boy she grew up with and feel content.  The lover would see maturity that goes along with a middle-aged man—at least a perceived maturity. She would see stability, maybe a future with financial security and children. I believe the mother-in-law sees the truth, yet distorts it due to her grief. She sees a weak man who is putting his own feelings of loss ahead of the emotional needs of her daughter. She sees the guilt, but doesn’t care.

AG:  This story created quite a debate for many readers because the main character’s actions were unappealing and yet he manages to win the readers’ sympathy. Was it a challenge to write a character that does wrong, but knows that he’s doing wrong and is consumed with guilt because of it? Were you surprised by readers’ responses?

 LV:  His whole sense of self is anchored on the admiration of his wife. He liked who he was when he was with her. With the knowledge that he was losing her, his life unraveled, which led to stupid decisions. Showing this was extremely difficult, as I wanted readers to understand that he wasn’t evil or unfeeling, just desperate to fill a void.

I can’t say I was surprised that some readers didn’t like him. No one likes to feel betrayed by the people they love, and no one likes to see an innocent person being betrayed. And so, when readers had strong negative reactions towards him, I understood. But we are all flawed and have done or said things to people we love that we regret. Rob is no different. We are all capable of mistakes. Hopefully we can all be capable of forgiveness, too.

 AG:  What other projects are you working on now? Are there other stories of yours, either upcoming or published, that you can point readers to?

 LV:  Right now, I’m finishing up the edits for my first novel while working on the draft of the second. Two of my short stories can also be seen in the Penmen Review, an online journal.

AG:  Thank you very much for taking the time to chat with us. Best of luck with all your writing endeavors.

LV:  Thank you!

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Aliza profile-pic-2

Aliza T. Greenblatt works in a firmly non-writing field when the sun is up and writes under a desk lamp at night.  Fueled by a sheer love of books and a tyrannical imagination, she writes the stories that appear over her morning coffee and won’t leave her alone until they are put down on paper.  She writes, raves, and blogs at http://atgreenblatt.com. and on Twitter @AtGreen

 

by Aliza Greenblatt

Flash Fiction Chronicles interviewed Don Raymond about Every Day Fiction’s Top Story for May, “A Map of Unknown Places“ a story about a teacher, a madwoman, and the words that want to escape.  Don lives in the tiny, cow-intensive hamlet of Alturas, CA, where he works as a statistician and accountant at the local casino, which means his boss never asks him what he’s working on – in fact, he’s writing this at work. He originally hails from San Jose, CA, where he suffered through the usual panoply of weird writer jobs – security dispatcher, manager at an Egyptian museum, and lightbulb salesman, among others. He has also been a pirate, but this was for a wedding, so it might not count.
His perpetual poverty is due in part to the lack of Hollywood screenplays, and mostly due to the rising price of cat treats. His sense of humor gets him in more trouble than it’s worth, but they won’t give him medication.

Aliza Greenblatt: From the list of magazines you’ve been published in, I see you have an affinity for writing surreal stories. For you, what is the draw of these types of stories? What are some of your influences? Does your poetry also have surreal elements?

Don Raymond:  It’s the craziness – they say to write what you know.  Between anxiety disorder, OCD, a soupcon of bipolar, and that weird sleep disorder where you think you’re being abducted by aliens, I’ve never been able to treat the world as real – everything, for me, is filtered through my not-very-reliable senses, subject to mood swings, organic brain disorders, hallucinations, and hypnagogic fantasias.  I’ve always had the feeling that if I turned around fast enough, I might see the audience watching me.

Combine this with learning more than is healthy about mathematics and quantum physics, and it’s no surprise I’m drawn to fiction that explores the boundaries of what is real.

Thematically, my major influences were Lovecraft and Zelazny – their style, their mythopoeia, and the sheer grandness of their vision appeals to me, plus I share Lovecraft’s birthday.  I tend to reference Zelazny more just because Lovecraft is so recognizable.  When the narrator in Maps breaks the fourth wall to say “I’ll not repeat it in polite company,” that’s inspired directly by Corwin’s narration in the Amber series.  Hunter S. Thompson and Phillip K. Dick also fuel my sense of doomed paranoia … and on the more whimsical side, Bloom County and Looney Toons.

My poetry is completely different, at least the published stuff.  I didn’t start writing serious poetry until after I’d read Sarah Lindsay’s phenomenal Primate Behavior, so I took her cue and wrote about natural science.  And about rockabilly alcoholism (Thompson again, along with Langston Hughes) … my first published poem was about a cocktail waitress.  I’ve always favored poets who went out and did something in the world; I think it gives their writing depth.

I’m also a great fan of Kay Ryan, who has done her share of detached and surreal poetry … but you can’t write like her without risking serious injury.

AG:  Was there any particular prompt or inspiration for A Map of Unknown Places? Did you have any specific goals when writing this story?

DR:  In some ways, this is a non-fiction story; only the final weirdness at the end was invented.  Years ago, at a downtown bus stop, I came across a man yelling out capital cities and their associated countries.  I was tempted to ask him what the heck he was doing (lost a bet? extreme geography?) but the cynical part of me knew the answer: unmedicated schizophrenia.  So, like most city dwellers, I carefully avoided eye contact and got on the bus.

There really was a schizophrenic woman who lived on my street, and tried constantly to first bum, then buy smokes from me.  (And sadly, I am a smoker … quit once but it failed to stick.)  I had to be quite rude to make her leave me alone, because bumming smokes became borrowing the phone, then asking for money.  In some ways, the narrator’s fate is my literary penance for being mean to someone where there was no social consequence for doing so.

Finally, I  learned about the Capgras Delusion while browsing Wikipedia’s “Abnormal Pyschology” pages (a must-read for any horror writer.)  It’s a disorder where people believe their friends and family have been replaced by strangers.  It’s caused by the facial recognition portion of the brain failing to communicate with the emotional centers.  You see the person, but feel nothing, so your brain interprets them as a stranger who looks like a person you know.

All I did from there was combine the three. My hope in writing this, beyond hopefully disturbing the reader, was to work narratively with insanity – to explore schizophrenia and cognitive disorders, and hopefully grant some measure of heroism to one of its victims.  I’ve always enjoyed playing Devil’s Advocate – turning the villain into the hero, telling the story from the other side.

And I also like to try to make everyone’s day a little more surreal.  You never know what might be on the other side of a door…

AG:  Can you tell me a little about your writing process?

DR:  “Cultivating Inspiration Like Addiction.”

When I was eighteen and reading Byron, the Romantic poets all talked about the unstoppable torrents of inspiration driving them, and I wanted that so bad I could taste it.  I didn’t have it.  Eventually I just started writing with what little ideas I had.  As I did, more and more began to come – torrents, in fact.  I have to keep a Sharpie near my bathroom mirror now.

That’s the easy part.  The actual writing …

It’s a lot of sitting at the computer and hating myself.  Sometimes, rarely, the words flow.  Mostly I have to go into the underbrush and drag them out.  Peck peck peck go the keys.

I try, as much as possible, to follow Steven Barnes’ advice for writing: one day for writing and one for editing.  On the writing day, sit and write as fast as you can.  Let the words flow – don’t worry about style, or quality, or whether it makes enough sense.  Just let your inner five year old run amok.  When it works, you enter a “flow state” where your unconscious mind is free to work at top speed – it’s the real reward of writing, that feeling that you are just a channel the words move through.  It doesn’t happen often enough.

The next day I revise, edit, delete, and try to make what I wrote yesterday work within the context of the story.  In some ways, I’m really writing several different stories, all going off on different tangents, and I pick and work with the one that best moves the story along.  Writing is as much about deletion as creation, for me.  Perhaps the first third needs to be reworked to improve the prose; this was settling into the flow state.  The middle third, hopefully, survives without tremendous editing, and very often the third part has to be removed entirely.

After the editing is done, I try to map out the plot for the next day’s writing.  Inevitably, no matter how carefully I think I’ve planned, I find something doesn’t connect logically, and I have to stop and figure it out.

This story was an exception to the rule, as it was written, along with several other flash pieces, in one sitting on a strange summer night.  It was more like a poem than a story in that regard – the ideas gelled and the words followed inevitable from there.  Of course, there is always editing, especially following the editors’ feedback, where I realized the story contradicted itself three times.  My inner five year old isn’t always big on consistency.

AG:  This piece starts off fairly whimsical and slowly transforms into frightening, which is something I really enjoyed about the story (a horror tale in disguise!). Was it tricky to find the right tonal balance for this piece?

DR: Well, life is a bit of a horror story in disguise, isn’t it?  I mean, everyone dies at the end.  Wrought through with morbid and occasionally slapstick bits of humor …

Part of my intention here was to turn around the reader’s point of view.  The narrator’s transition into madness (from one perspective) or descent into strangeness turns him from judge into judged.  The tone is taken from the narrator’s increasing knowledge; the more he learns, the more ominous the world becomes.  I think part of this might come from my experience as a teacher – start off slow, hit them with the Hard Stuff, then leave them there.

The setting of the story also helped determine its mood: the farther he goes from home, the stranger the world becomes, until he finds he can’t go back anymore.

Of course, having said that, I have dozens of other failed short stories that will never see the light of day, where the right balance wasn’t so easy to find.

AG: The idea of capitals somehow taking over your mind and itching to get out is terrifying.  But I couldn’t help wonder, why capitals? Is it because they’re fixed landmarks and the idea of them changing on a whim goes against everything the narrator was taught? Or is it only the narrator’s perception that’s changing?

DR: Well, because that’s the way it happened.

Actually, between the bus stop and meeting the Cigarette Smoking Woman, I had explored a number of options for what Bus Stop Man was doing  – having all knowledge come alive, for instance, with memes acting like viruses.  It wasn’t until I realized that the world itself was changing (at least, that’s one interpretation) that I had a working plot, one that would explain the Capgras Delusion from a different perspective.

I might someday revisit the idea of knowledge independent of mind – one theme I have noticed in my writing is inappropriately animated objects.  But that’s probably just my tech-geek animism showing.

AG: What other projects are you working on now? Are there other stories of yours, either upcoming or published, that you can point readers to?

DR:  Sadly, the exigencies of life have forced me to concentrate on my day jobs.  I’m hoping to get back to writing Real Soon Now.  In the meantime, Salvation-7, over at the Molotov Cocktail, was written the same strange night as Map, and has some of the same flavor:

For poetry, “Storm Season” came about when I first began trying to incorporate surrealism in my writing.  Once I month, I had a “think like a schizophrenic” day, where I would try to find unusual connections between things.  I was looking at the clouds, and I realized: Holy Moses! They’re Giant Sky Walruses!:

AG:  Thank you very much for taking the time to chat with us. Best of luck with all your writing endeavors. 

DR:  Thank you!

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Aliza profile-pic-2

Aliza T. Greenblatt works in a firmly non-writing field when the sun is up and writes under a desk lamp at night.  Fueled by a sheer love of books and a tyrannical imagination, she writes the stories that appear over her morning coffee and won’t leave her alone until they are put down on paper.  She writes, raves, and blogs at http://atgreenblatt.com. and on Twitter @AtGreen

 

by Aliza T. Greenblatt

Flash Fiction Chronicles interviewed Todd Wheeler about Every Day Fiction’s Top Story for April, “The Wolfsbane Incantation“ a story about skinheads, tattoos, and maybe a little justice. 

Todd Wheeler writes stories and books set in the near future which address how technology affects us and its humorous and absurd consequences. His stories have appeared in online and print magazines, including Atomjack Magazine, On The Premises, and the anthology Retro Spec: Tales of Fantasy and Nostalgia. In 2012 he released his novel Garbageland and a short story collection Dreams Like Snowflakes.
Each year he runs a virtual Summer Reading Program to benefit library and literacy charities. Additional information about him and his writing can be found at http://todd-wheeler.com.  His responses to staff writer Aliza Greenblatt follow.

Aliza Greenblatt:  According to your bibliography, you have been publishing fiction since 2006. In addition to being a short story writer, you have also penned a novel. What made you decide to become a writer? At first, did you start with flash stories or novels? What are some of the advantages and challenges of writing flash fiction?

 Todd Wheeler:  I’ve wanted to be a writer as far back as about eight years old. At a certain point in life one has to either commit to it or let it go. So in 2004 I started writing consistently and approached my effort in a professional way. The short stories and novels have been written alongside each other, though early on short pieces were my main focus and now novels take up much more of my time.

Flash fiction has the advantage of being done quickly! I can see the whole story easily, sometimes literally on a single page. The challenge of course is to select every single word with care, to squeeze as much meaning and intent into each sentence.

AG: The narrator in this story admits he has a “darkness in his soul,” which is necessary for the power tattoos he creates. Throughout the piece, he is trying to repent for some of his past deeds and yet he knows that his actions might make him a murderer. Was it a challenge to write a morally ambiguous character?

I think the one rule that applies to all writers is figure out what works for you.

 TW:  Not really. Characters are people and people have depth and contradictions, failings and successes. Perhaps it is my outlook on life that helps me in this regard. I encounter very few people in life who I dislike. People, and characters, are weird and amazing, curious and multilayered and can surprise you in wonderful ways.

 AG: Can you tell me a little about your writing process?

 TW:  First, always have pen and paper handy because ideas can strike at any time. Second, edit, edit, edit, and edit some more. Then put it away, don’t look at it for a while. And then edit, edit edit, and edit until I’m sick to death of the thing. At that point it’s probably done.

As for writing, no one method seems to fit. Sometimes mornings work better, other times evenings. I might write for a month straight or pen no new words for weeks. I know, heresy for a writer! I’m supposed to write EVERY SINGLE DAY! That has never worked for me. I think the one rule that applies to all writers is figure out what works for you.

AG:  Wolfsbane is a poison that, at least in literature, is often used to do harm.  But in this story, the flower is used as an antidote, an attempt to heal some of the damage that has been done.  Was there any particular reason why the main character chose wolfsbane over other types of poisonous flowers?

 TW:  Many (probably most) poisonous plants have medicinal uses as well as toxic effects. I can’t remember what led me to using wolfsbane. Perhaps it was the name itself, bane of the wolf. It would be either the bane of the violent character, Dogspit, or his salvation.

AG:  On your blog, you say your stories usually have an element about the way that technology affects our lives.  Tattooing has been around for centuries, but in this piece the narrator creates tattoos using modern tools like battery-powered needles and synthetic inks.  It made me wonder if the power tattoos in the story are the results of new technology or if they are just more dangerous now that things like guns and cars are more accessible to the people who get these tattoos?

 TW:  This story is more fantastic than scientific. The idea that a tattoo in some way confers super human powers was just too good to not use. I must admit there is a bit of hand waving in the story as to how it is supposed to work.

That said, our understanding of brain chemistry is evolving rapidly and not always for the good. For example, designer drugs like “bath salts” are increasingly sophisticated. It’s not hard to imagine how drugs in the future will affect brain/body chemistry in pinpoint fashion.

AG:  What other projects are you working on? Are there other stories of yours, either upcoming or published, that you can point readers to?

 TW: My next novel, Dragonfly and River Stone, should be available in early August. Also, each summer I run a Virtual Summer Reading Program where you can win prizes and help a charity just by reading books! More info about both can be found at my website:

http://todd-wheeler.com

AG:  Thank you very much for taking the time to chat with us. Best of luck with all your writing endeavors. 

 TW:  Thank you!

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Aliza T. Greenblatt works in a firmly non-writing field when the sun is up and writes under a desk lamp at night.  Fueled by a sheer love of books and a tyrannical imagination, she writes the stories that appear over her morning coffee and won’t leave her alone until they are put down on paper.  She writes, raves, and blogs at http://atgreenblatt.com. and on Twitter @AtGreenblatt