Author Spotlight: Hildy Silverman

  • a short fiction author and the former publisher of Space and Time magazine

Readers! Let’s give a good, hearty welcome to Hildy Silverman!

For just over a decade, Hildy Silverman was the publisher of Space and Time, a five-decade-old magazine of fantasy, horror, and science fiction.

She is now focused on her own writing and frequently contributes short fiction to anthologies.

Hildy, thanks for agreeing to be here today. Most interviews start off with bios and such, and while I’ll get to that as always, let’s start with the important stuff!

If you could have any pet (real/fantasy/no-allergies/no worries about feeding it) what would it be?

Well, I already had the greatest pet doggo in the world (in my wholly unbiased opinion), who sadly passed away a couple of months ago. But if I could have anything, I’d have to go with a dragon. I could fly around on its back, set my enemies aflame — what could be better?

A good doggo is a wonderful thing. But a dragon is definitely a classic choice around these parts.

What do you write?

As far as fiction goes, I write short stories. I’ve been doing so since I was little, but my first professionally published story came out in the early 1990s. I’ve always loved the short form and the challenge it presents in telling a complete and satisfying story. Short stories require conciseness, yet you still have to create a three-dimensional world and characters. I enjoy that challenge as a writer. 

Short form is definitely its own art, and very challenging! You’ve got amazing skills.

What do you like to read?

As a reader, I also prefer “tight” stories without a surfeit of flowery description or excessive wordiness. As far as genre, I enjoy almost anything that could be considered speculative — horror, fantasy, SF, and their various subcategories. I enjoy books where the author clearly thought out every aspect of the plot, characters, world-building, etc. and constructed a story in which everything comes together in a believable way within the confines of the world they created.

While I wouldn’t put ‘tight’ as a story descriptor for me, I know I have to be in the right mood to be able to make it through some of the heavily lyrically written works. And, I definitely agree, well-constructed world building has a definite appeal!

Name one commonly accepted piece of writing advice that doesn’t work for you.

Show, don’t tell.

Show, don’t tell as a hard-and-fast rule. As a short story author, sometimes you have to tell instead of show in order to keep within the word count allotted. That said, the trick is knowing when to show and when to tell.

For example, if you need to get Character A from room to another, you don’t have to show them standing up out of their chair, taking X number of steps, and arriving in the next room. “Joe went into the kitchen” takes care of it, and the reader doesn’t feel short-changed by the lack of lengthy exposition.

What an excellent point. I try to remind people I beta-read for that we don’t need all the stage directions.

Name one commonly accepted piece of writing advice that they can pry out of your cold, dead hands.

(Have a) clear point-of-view.

I hate “head hopping” and careless errors with POV as a reader — throws me right out of the story. Choose your POV and stick with it, and please, if you choose third-person omniscient, make sure you know how to pull that off so that your characters and their thoughts are distinct from one another and clearly “marked” so I, as a reader, know exactly whose head I’m in at any given time.

I’ve got to agree. If I have to pause after a sentence to figure out which character the thought came from, you’ve thrown me out of the story and made me think about the writing, not the words.


Shameless Self-Promotion time!

I’m honored to have been included in two recent anthologies — The Dystopian States of America, a collection of (mostly) horror and dystopian short stories, with all the proceeds are going to the ACLU.

And, Bad-Ass Moms, which is mixed genre and features awesome moms of all variations.


Project image for LUCKY DEVILS AND WITCHY WAYS

The next anthology coming out with one of my stories is from Espec Books called Horns and HalosIt will feature half-demon themed stories and half angel-themed, and includes the latest in my series of stories featuring a bionic mermaid who helps maintain the balance between Earth’s surface and sea-dwelling inhabitants.


Check Hildy Silverman out across the web!

Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads

Morgan Has A Podcast

All The Social Media Formats!

The social media experts say that you should balance where you spend your time based both on: the media formats you prefer and by where your audience is.

Since my audience could be anywhere, I’ve got a bit of what I like to call the “little mermaid” syndrome — I want to be where the people are.

I’ve been here, sharing writing tips and writerly musings since 2015, I’ve been resharing my Thursday posts in video format over on Youtube since 2017.

And now for those of you who’d rather just listen, instead of reading these posts or watching my talking head?

I’m turning my vlog into a podcast!

I’ve already got 6 seasons worth of material for you to enjoy and consume, on your favorite podcast app.


Check out my new tab: Podcast or head over to my FiresideFM host page to get the link for your favorite podcast app.

Novel, Novella or Short Story?

Welcome to Part 11 of my Virtual Balticon panel writeup. This is my final post from my notes.

The panel description was as follows: What is the right length for your story idea? How does outlining, submitting, revising, and other aspects of the writing craft change with story length? How do you go about rewriting a story for a drastically different word count? Panelists will discuss various techniques they have used and the pros and cons of each.

The panelists were: Don Sakers (as moderator), Monica Louzon, Karen Osborne, Sarah Pinsker, and Margaret Riley.

The size of a story is often dictated by the scope of the idea that spawned it. While some experienced writers can tell from the shape of the concept how long their story will be, it’s often a case of trial and error and years.

Why Write Short Stories?

Writing short stories is the art of writing less. It lets you have fun and explore new ideas. Novels are a commitment, you have to be sure you’re in it for the long haul.

Typically, your short story is going to follow one major thread or concept, within a short period of time, and with minimal characters. Short stories are very zoomed in.

In short stories, you don’t put in huge bits of backstory, although, as always, you can write it for yourself and cut it.

If you keep getting your short stories rejected — it may be time to follow panelist Monica Louzon’s lead and do some research. Look at the anthologies in your genre that are currently selling, then read until you find something that resonates. Then, reread and study those stories — examine where they start, where they end, and their pacing. Or contemplate how you would change things.

Why Write Novellas?

Novellas can zoom out a little, cover more story, more ground. You can concentrate on 1-2 relationships in a novella.

Novellas can cover two or three plot threads, an additional character or two, and a longer time period than the typical short story. But, their scope isn’t quite enough for a full novel. This doesn’t make them lesser in any way. Readers can tell if you’ve padded out your novel for word count, and cutting a true novella down to a short story robs it of much of its plot and heart.

While some people use novellas to write serials, you have to be sure you won’t want to edit earlier episodes to set up later episodes better. It depends on your level of planning and how you deal with plot holes.

If you do write serials — you’ll need spreadsheets and records for every character.

If you find yourself writing too much about a minor character, they might should be the main character. Try switching them.

Why Write Novels?

Novels are more forgiving for description with far more room for character growth and world-building. Novels can carry complex plots, concepts, and time periods that could barely be touched in a novella or short story.

Although, many writers do try to pace their chapters like a series of connected short stories — this works for many writing styles.

Which Do I Have?

If you’re not sure which you have, you can try outlining your story and plot and see how far you get. Under 10 scenes? You’re looking at a short story. Under 20 scenes? Probably a novella. More than 30? We’re looking at novel territory, if these scenes are more than a paragraph or two.

If you’re against planning though? The only way to find out is to write it.


What do you prefer to write?

Is that the story length you prefer to read?

Have you ever been wrong about a story length and had to fix it?

Thanks for reading and I’ll be back again next week with more writing tips and writerly musings.

Author Spotlight: Ty Drago

  • a writer of middle-grade horror and SF, fan of both cats AND dogs

Readers! Let’s give a good, hearty welcome to Ty Drago!

Ty Drago

Ty Drago is a husband, father, grandfather, dog and cat owner, practicing Quaker, and the author of (to date) eight published novels, one novelette, two anthology appearances, and loads of short stories and articles.

His novels include the five-book middle grade horror series, The Undertakers, which has been optioned for a feature film, and Phobos, which has been called by Publisher’s Weekly, “…a strong candidate for SF debut of the year.”

Ty, thanks for agreeing to be here today. Most interviews start off with bios and such, and while I’ll get to that as always, let’s start with the important stuff!

If you could have any pet (real/fantasy/no-allergies/no worries about feeding it) what would it be?

That’s easy: a dragon, and the not the cutesy Puff or Elliot variety either. I’m talking about a full-blown, fire-breathing scaley lizard, thirty-feet long at least. I’d like to see our smug neighbor’s big husky get pushy with me then! Why, you ask? Well, for one thing my last name is simply Italian for dragon. For another, my most recent novel deals with dragons – though not the scaley lizard-kind. But mentioning that does make for a good segue (see the end of the interview).

Dragons are a classic choice. I’m sorry your neighbor’s husky is so pushy!

What do you write?

Mostly, I write kids books and have often gleefully declared that I scare children for a living. But the truth is that I’m a full-time, working writer, which means I write what I think I can sell.

I’ve been “writing” all my life. As a kid, I drew comic books, which usually dealt with a group of child superheroes I invented called “The Kid Kadets” (I was eight, and didn’t know how you spell “cadets.”) In any event, these woefully drawn comics were a hit with the neighborhood kids and helped me work my way up to short stories and novels in my teens and twenties.

But it wasn’t until my thirties, with my wife Helene egging me on, that my career started taking off. I sold my first novel, landed my first agent, and the rest has been a glorious exercise in patience, frustration, triumph, despair, pride, disappointment, and joy.  In other words, life as a writer

The thirties seem to be an excellent time to get serious about one’s writing. Congrats on a fruitful career. And best of luck nurturing that patience and tempering the despair and disappointments.

What do you like to read?

I read all sorts of things. My favorite book is Life of Pi by Yann Martel. But I love the Jack Reacher books by Lee Child and the Dresden books by the great Jim Butcher. Go Mouse!

All that said, I frequently read to Helene at bedtime. It’s a ritual we’ve had, on and off, throughout most of our long marriage. So, as our interests differ where fiction is concerned, I find that my tastes have broadened in unexpected ways. Over the years, I’ve found that I hate Moby Dick but love A Tale of Two Cities, The Count of Monte Cristo, and The Phantom of the Opera. In a more modern vein, I enjoy a good saga, such as the works of James Clavell or Wilbur Smith.

What a lovely way to share your love of reading and your genre tastes with your partner. I might have to try it someday. (And who doesn’t love Mouse?)

Name one commonly accepted piece of writing advice that doesn’t work for you.

Write what you know.

 It’s nonsense. I mean, seriously, where’s the fun in that? Rather, I like to say, “Start with what you know, and then take it further … much further.” That’s where great stories are born.

Fiction writing is the exercise of that muscle in our brains that I call “The Idea Machine.” Keep it churning and your imagination will never starve. However, it can’t live on “what you know” but instead “what you dream.”

What a wonderful way to describe it. Speculative fiction especially doesn’t belong in the confines of a literal interpretation of ‘write what you know’.

Name one commonly accepted piece of writing advice that they can pry out of your cold, dead hands.

Never, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever give up.

Never, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever give up. And if you ever feel like giving up – don’t.

Persistence and hope, the pair of things that keep a writer going.


Shameless Self-Promotion time!

In his 5-book Middle Grade series: The Undertakers

“On a sunny Wednesday morning in October, a day that would mark the end of one life and the beginning of another, I found out my grouchy next door neighbor was the walking dead. When you turn around expecting to see something familiar, and instead see something else altogether, it takes a little while for your brain to catch up with your eyes. I call it the ‘Holy Crap Factor.'”

Forced to flee his home and family, twelve-year-old Will Ritter falls in with the Undertakers-a rag-tag army of teenage resistance fighters who’ve banded together to battle the Corpses.


Project image for LUCKY DEVILS AND WITCHY WAYS

Funded just now on Kickstarter!! Dragons was a stretch goal for the Horns and Halos anthology! Dragons is an SF YA that, on the surface, is kind of a space-age retelling of Kidnapped by Robert Louis Stevenson.

Eighteen-year-old Andy Draco is stolen from his family and his life by a powerful corporation that plans to use him for its own “noble cause.” You see, Andy is not the skinny high school kid he seems to be. Andy is “Kind,” a member of a vanishingly small subspecies of humanity that’s capable of generating enormous amounts of thermal energy. In short: a Dragon. They’ve existed since the dawn of man and aren’t the fire lizards that myth and legend have made of them. Instead, they’re a peaceful, reclusive race who live quiet lives alongside humanity – for the most part, undiscovered. Until now.

Against his will, and in the face of the cultural absolute of concealment under which he was raised, Andy is forced to reveal his power. It seems a mining colony deep below the ice on Europa has been seized by terrorists and the corporate entity that owns the colony needs a Dragon to burn their way down to reach them. After this “simple task,” Andy will be returned to his family. Or so they promise.

But all isn’t what it seems, and before long Andy will face betrayal, wonder, and terrible danger as he begins to grasp just how high the stakes really are. To win the coming battle will take more than a Dragon. It’ll take a hero.


Check Ty Drago out across the web!

Website | Amazon | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Goodreads

Choosing Your Perspective

Welcome to Part 10 of my Virtual Balticon panel writeup.

The panel description was as follows: What options does a writer have in choosing the point of view for their narrative? What kinds of stories are best suited by first-, third-, and even second-person narration? What are some ways that you can combine them, and when should you?

The panelists were: Ada Palmer (as moderator), Meriah Crawford, Jo Walton, and L. Marie Wood.

All stories have a voice and a point-of-view — or POV.

Voice

Voice sets the tone and the attitude, often alluding to a certain social class, a time period, and location.

While describing a room or a fight scene, some writers are lyrical and highly descriptive, while others are short and terse. In this bit of the narration, that’s neither character thoughts, nor dialogue, the level of voice can vary tremendously. Some are neutral, but descriptive, some are judgemental, and some are mocking. Descriptors and creative analogies can go a long way toward creating completely different tones.

Point of View

For the point-of-view, you can have first person — “I ate the cookies”, second-person — “you ate the cookies”, or third person — “She ate the cookies.”

The point-of-view character is who the story’s narrative is following. Plenty of writers switch between characters. It is up to the writer to decide how far into the character’s thoughts they wish to delve.

First Person

First person point of view is intimate, but that doesn’t require the writer to delve into the characters minds, they can choose to simply share the character’s actions and sensory inputs. It’s often used in YA, memoirs, literary fiction, and romances.

Second Person

Second person point-of-view is often seen as gimmicky. If the ‘you’ in the story reacts in a way unnatural to you, it can easily throw ‘you’, as the reader, out of the story. Now, news stories and discussions of trauma are often told this way, and it often feels natural to many people when writing reflective pieces.

Plus, of course, you’ll find second person used in those choose your own adventure stories and games.

In a mix of first and second person point of view are stories told to a specific person, “oh, daughter, when I was your age” or “dear reader, you may think… .” The panelists decided we’d call these “addressee second person.”

Third Person

Third person point-of-view has a huge amount of variety and thus is often the default POV. You can be as intimate and as zoomed in as first person, or you can have an omnipotent narrator, who knows all — past, present, and future. If you play video games, it’s the difference from a view right behind the character you’re controlling/following the plot of, and looking at the full map as everything plays out.

Warnings

Cultural norms change. Twist reveals of “he was secretly gay” or “the main character was a woman” aren’t so surprising or novel.

Head-hopping or switching POV characters mid-chapter is challenging to do smoothly.

Ways To Use Points of View In Your Story

As with switching between point-of-view characters, some writers switch between points-of-view entirely, such as using first person with a main character and third person with a secondary character. Often used in thrillers, to hide the identity of the killer. Switching between POVs can also make a section stand out, so if you want to switch tones, that can help. To either make it more intimate, or to back up a little, so the reader can rest and absorb before the plot picks back up again.

While the story is carrying us along, there’s always the choice to create an unreliable narrator in any voice. There’s a huge difference, though, between a character who doesn’t know the truth, and one who is lying to the audience. If you want an unreliable narrator, it’s best to have a good reason.

On the flip side, you can always have the narration, or use a secondary point-of-view character give the readers information that the main point-of-view character doesn’t know.

Some good examples of this are: Haircut by Ring Lardner Jr., Flowers For Algernon by Daniel Keyes, or The Strange Case Of Jekyll and Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson.

Now, there are other points-of-view writers have used, typically as an exploration of a concept — first person plural — “We are going to the store”.

Plus, there’s always the use of epistolary text — traditionally, a story told through letters, now used with articles, chat logs, and faux-book excerpts. This faux-documentation is also a great way to add world building and introduce new information, without needing to introduce a new point of view character.

There are a variety of ways one can combine both voice and point-of-view to create a story that resonates.


What is your favorite point-of-view?

Do you like to write something different than what you prefer to read?

Any tips I missed?


Thank you for reading. I’ll be back again next week with more writing tips and writerly musings.