Earbuds 1

Michael Jordan via Creative Commons

“Zach, dude, take those headphones off while we’re robbing this bank.”

“They’re earbuds.”

“Excuse me?”

“These aren’t headphones, they’re earbuds.”

“I don’t care what they’re called! Take them out of your ears before I slap them out.”

“How do you even know they’re in? You can’t seem them through the mask. (Do you have the bags?)”

“(Yeah, right here.) Look, I can see the white cord. Just shut up and do as I say before you get us both arrested.”

“Fine. Here. Happy?”

“Ecstatic. What are you always listening to, anyway? And don’t you dare say ‘Justin Bieber’ or I will shoot you in the face right now.”

“Books on tape.”


“On tape.”

“You listen to books?”

“Why? Is that weird?”

“Yes. Yes, it is weird. (Watch this guy. Don’t let him near the alarm trigger.)”

“Books ain’t weird.”

“(Here, put this bag by the door.) They are weird because no one walks around listening to books all the time.”

“I do. (Here, give me the other bag.)”

“What kind of books are we talking?”

“Crime fiction.”

“Liar. You’re lying! I can tell!”

“Okay! Fine. It’s Danielle Steele.

Not a fucking word, Jace.”

“C’mon. Let’s go. I hear sirens.”

Regular readers may remember this week’s Aspiring Voices spotlight writer from her excellent guest fiction post, The Gun’s Fear, earlier this month. I chatted with her about her past life as a dancer, the role of criticism in improving your skill, the nature of success and how one defines “making it” as an author. Plus, she teaches me about Kinetic Fiction.


John via Creative Commons

Paul: What was the first story you remember writing where you finished and thought, “Yeah, there’s something here”?

Alisia: The first story that really changed my view on writing was something I wrote in ninth grade. I had just finished reading On a Pale Horse by Piers Anthony and was inspired to write my own short introduction to Thanatos. The piece was only about 500 words, but it was the first time I had finished a story with a sense of accomplishment. I had never had the urge to share any of my previous writings, but I was so proud of this piece that I mustered up the courage to post it on Fictionpress. I didn’t get many views on my story, but one person left me a very flattering comment. She told me my story was the best she’d ever read on the site and she urged me to write more. Sometimes all it takes is a kind word from a stranger for you to realize that not everything you write is complete garbage.

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Aspiring Voices is delighted to welcome Krista Quintana to the interview chair this week. I asked Krista about finding theme in her writing, dreams as story fodder, and the special role of color to her life and work.

Colorful shutters

slack12 via Creative Commons

Paul: So I noticed that color seems to play a big role in your site and in the way you organize information; even referring to your in-progress novels by a color coding. Has a colorful aesthetic always been something you’re drawn to or is this a newer development? Do you use color as a theme or motif within your writing or is it more of a trait external to the writing itself?

Krista: I think color has always been very integral in my life.  When I was younger (less so now), I classified memories and people by color.  And important memories are still to me, red, black, whatever emotions it evokes.  With people, as I got to know them, I began to think of them as a specific color.  It never really had any meaning, it just was what they ‘were.’  My mom used to be able to see people’s aura’s, and my dad had perfect pitch, assigning each note with a different color.  So I think I was really destined to think in colors.

I have used color quite often in writing, often without realizing it.  Probably the first novel that I wrote, I had a whole society separated in classes by what color they wore.  When I edit, I have to use a lot of colors, and I’ve color coded my editing as well.  Using a specific type of blue to focus on to be verbs, or a green to focus on dialogue.  By the end, my page is colored and crazy, but it makes sense to me.

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In this edition of Aspiring Voices I sat down to chat with ED Martin, author of the forthcoming novel The Lone Wolf. We talked about humanistic psychology and its role in her writing, how finishing her first book led to ideas for more, and the downside of having creative impulses in the morning.

Love and Redemption, Part 3

J. Star via Creative Commons

Paul: So I was kind of drawn to the tagline on your website that reads, “…stories of love and betrayal, sacrifice and redemption”. What is it about those things that attracts you as a writer?

ED: I have a degree in psychology, and I really enjoy examining people’s motivations for their actions and reactions. The themes I write about are universal, no matter the genre. So many conflicts people have revolve around love, but for me there’s no story in that. For me, it gets interesting when you have a character who loves someone, but maybe he betrays her somehow. How does she react to that? Or a character loves someone, but her goal isn’t the same as his. What’s he willing to give up to help her? And more importantly, why does one character react one way but another reacts differently? These themes are something we can all relate to; by writing from different perspectives, maybe I can help readers open their minds and better relate to other people.
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This week I’m welcoming the wonderfully thoughtful Lea Grover to the Aspiring Voices hot seat. Lea is a prolific blogger over at Becoming SuperMommy and writes fiction on the side. Lea and I had a chat about historical fiction as a connection point to your past and present, the paradox of wanting your children to understand suffering without having to suffer, the social aspect of writing, and why you can’t believe anything anyone says over the phone.

Vintage Series -- Adams Lake c. 1950, My mother

Mark Kortum via Creative Commons

Paul: You’re a blog writer and have done work on a number of sites, many in the so-called mommy blogger realm. What is it about fiction that attracts you? Does it scratch a particular itch that slice-of-life or journal-style non-fiction doesn’t? If you had to choose only one, which would you pick?

Lea: Fiction has always attracted me. Making up stories, inventing characters… it gives you control over not only some version of the physical world, but over your own emotions as well. It definitely allows for a creative expression that non-fiction doesn’t. If I had to pick only one, I would probably pick fiction, but that’s only because I’ve had the opportunity to write about my life—which has had its fill of extraordinary events. I feel like my non-fiction is something that I write because it can be used to help people, and my fiction is what I write because I quite simply can’t not write.

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avoided symmetry

Nephogram Label via Creative Commons

The pedestrians scowled to look busy beyond the usual realm of preoccupation. Their expressions were deliberately set in a way that was supposed to read, “the person behind this expression is extremely busy and very important.” The old woman ignored these airs of feigned dignity; suits or sportswear or filthy rags, she knew no one of any real import would be walking the street at nine-thirty in the morning. Her clever eyes picked out a reedy looking woman with an upturned nose and a slouching gait.

“Could you let an orphan boy starve this afternoon?” the crone asked, her voice gravel-soaked.

The reedy woman stopped. “Beg pardon?”

“Could you let a starving orphan die today?”

“I—“ the woman stopped. “How am I supposed to answer that question?”

“It’s a yes or no—“

She interrupted, “—If I answer ‘yes’ then I’m saying, ‘Yes, I’ll let a starving orphan die.’”

“So I guess—“

“—But if I say ‘no’ that implies I’m willing to give you money.”

The old woman waited for a beat, not wanting to be interrupted again. “I didn’t ask for money.”

“Here,” the younger woman spat, thrusting out twenty dollar bill. The old woman snatched it up.

Today’s installment of Aspiring Voices showcases Maggie Giles, a world traveler and fellow design school graduate. I caught up with Maggie and picked her brain about managing the research required for historical fiction, the influence of travel on writing, and how writing has changed the way she looks at the world.

Photo courtesy Maggie Giles

Photo courtesy Maggie Giles

Paul: I saw from your website(s) that you’re a multimedia designer. Do you think you ever bring a design sensibility to your writing? How is the process for doing design work different from your process for writing?

Maggie: I went to school for Multimedia Design. I did everything from animation to web design to 3D modelling to programming. It was a blast! Now I work in Marketing.

I can’t say I really bring any of my design or schooling to my writing since I feel like it uses two different versions of my creativity. Painting a picture in my head is different than designing a visual for me to analyze.

That being said, my process for both is pretty similar. Each has a planning stage. I need to make a skeletal outline before getting the details added. Although, one is usually diagrams and site outlines, and the other is character backgrounds and plot lines. [laughs] Eventually it becomes a finished piece of artwork.
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An effervescent Callie Hunter is my guest today for Aspiring Voices. I chatted with Callie over breakfast about living inside your fictional characters, letting your characters live their own lives inside your head, the differences between writing screenplays and novels, and why going to nursing school may be just the thing her writing career needs.

Journal BW

Walt Stoneburner via Creative Commons

Paul: Tell me a little about what made you start writing with the intention of sharing with other people.

Callie: Even as a kid I liked to write stories, but it only became an intention to share when I wanted to build on the foundations of my characters. Sure, I have a character, but how would they interact with others? How would they grow and adapt to new challenges? I really learned that sharing my writing was a good idea when I discovered roleplaying. But that didn’t teach me the correct way to write, and taught me very bad habits. But with that practice, I learned to build a good character and give them elements of realism.

It wasn’t until I turned that character into a novel that I desperately wanted to share with writing workshops, mostly online, as there aren’t many close to where I live, sadly. If I share my writing and other people enjoyed it? That’s what drove me to keep trying, learning from mistakes and producing higher quality work.

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This week’s edition of Aspiring Voices finds us talking to the fascinating George Wells. George’s work has been featured in Spark: A Creative Anthology. We collided minds to talk about using personal experience as fuel for writing, using family and friends as blueprints for characters, how to establish a setting so that readers will accept implausible events and what inspired him to move south of the border.

Pared - Guadalajara México 2007

Lucy Nieto via Creative Commons

Paul: I saw from your website that you were told by teachers growing up that you were a writer, but it took until you were around forty years old to sort of own that label. What do you think made being a writer a thing that you feared and what allowed you to overcome it?

George: I’ve suffered from self-esteem problems and social anxiety disorder for most of my life, something that I still struggle with. I was a terrible student, but when I did do my assignments, my teachers praised the potential of my work. My reaction to that, given those problems, was a fear of the attention I was receiving. Instead of focusing on the positive attention, my mind went straight to “attention”, and I backed away quickly. 

When I went to college, I was doing a little better, and signed up for a creative writing class. I dropped out after a month. Again, I was getting a lot of positive feedback on the few opening scenes and character sketches, but I felt so under the microscope that my old anxieties were plaguing me again. I started to get sick just thinking about the class. I wouldn’t write another word of fiction for 20 years.

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Daniela Martinez via Creative Commons

Chris was moping again. Sherri shook her mop of purple hair and plucked the pen from his hand, replaced the legal pad in his lap with her person. She tasted his lips and waited for him to abandon his sour mood and begin to chase her mouth when she pulled back. Standing up, she grabbed his wrist and pulled him to the front door.

“You need to go outside,” she said brightly.

He glowered. “I need to finish this poem.”

“It can wait. What about adventure? What have you always wanted to do?”

“I dunno,” he said.

“C’mon! Think. Anything. What’s on your bucket list?”

He shrugged, an angry gesture. “I don’t have one; they’re cliché.”

“I’m sure there’s something you want to do before you die.” Sherri maneuvered him onto the porch.

“I guess I’ve always wanted to…”

“Go on.”

“I guess I want to see the redwoods out in California.”

“There you go! A road trip to California! Time to get started!” She began to close the door.

“Wait!” Chris said, “Aren’t you coming?”

Her expression turned stoic. “No. Live your own adventure. I’m not here to save you. I have work in the morning.” The door slammed.