Author Archives: lydias

Interview with Matthew Kagle

Photo of the right half of author Matthew Kagle's face.Say hello to Matthew! He signed up for  my speculative fiction interview post last week, and I’m thrilled to share his witty answers with all of my readers today. 

What was the first speculative story you ever remember reading?

Green Eggs and Ham. It’s a powerful dystopian novel about the dangers of factory farming and not maintaining public transportation.

Who is your favourite author? Why?

J. Michael Straczynski. I’m reasonably sure I’m going to like whatever of his I pick up.

What do you like most about the genre(s) you read?

Science fiction/fantasy lets me look outside of reality. I read a mainstream book once and disdainfully thought “But this could have actually happened!”

More and more authors seem to be writing cross-genre stories these days. How do you feel about this trend?

The idea that a genre is a narrow, easily-defined thing is laughable. Science fiction stories often have psychic powers. Fantasy novels sometimes add elements of technology. You change a few words, and you can swap genres.  For example:
It was dark. I saw an [ALIEN/DRAGON/DEMON/EX-GIRLFRIEND]. I attacked it with my [BLASTER/SWORD/PENKNIFE/CHARM]. It howled with rage and retreated. I raised my [FORCE FIELD/SHIELD/BROKEN BODY/LONELINESS] in triumph.

If you could name a pet after one character, which character would you choose? Why?

I’ve named several pets after characters. I named one pet Lily after the Harry Potter character and another after an obscure comic character named Winslow.

Logo for Buffy the Vampire Slayer TV show. The title is written in a fancy script against a plain, white background.What fictional world would you never want to visit?

The Buffyverse. If you go to high school, you die. If you’re one of Buffy’s friends, you die. If you live in 50 miles of the Hellmouth when they close it, you die. If it’s Tuesday, you die.

What fictional world would you want to visit?

I suppose Star Trek. Morality is nearly universal. The good guys almost always win. Every race is sexually compatible.

Sharing spoilers with people who haven’t read the book or seen the film/show is a hot topic on Twitter and across many fandoms. How do you feel about sharing or overhearing spoilers?

It’s hard not to share them because it’s damned fun to talk about the things that enthuse you. If there was some way to put a filter on my browser to avoid spoilers until I was ready, I’d love it.

Which series do you think should be made into a TV show or film next?

My first novel would make a killer non-linear web series…
Other than that, I’d like to see a Demolished Man 4D show that uses touch, feel and smell to represent psychic powers.

Book cover for My Dinner with Andre by Wallace Shaw. It shows two men sitting at a restaurant table having a conversation.Which TV show or film do you think should be turned into a book?

That’s tough, because I can’t think of any examples of novelizations turning out well. My Dinner with Andre, maybe?

What is the most unusual or interesting way you’ve come up with an idea for one of your creative works?

I’ve gotten a lot of story ideas from vivid nightmares.

Sometimes characters don’t do what their creators want them to do. If this has ever happened to you, how did you deal with it?

Not really. Sometimes I choose to develop a character further, and I end up taking him or her somewhere new.

What is your favourite trope?

Villains turning into heroes and vice versa.

What tropes do you try to avoid in your stories?

Shrinking. Swapped bodies. Deus ex machina. Mistaken identities. Prophecy/destiny. Meet cute. Manic pixie dreamgirl.

About Matthew: Matthew Kagle was born in 1972 and raised by his grandparents after his parents died in a car crash.

He graduated from University of Amherst with degrees in philosophy and comparative literature; then studied at the School of Hard Knocks.

He currently lives in Baltimore with his beagle, Melchior, and mountains of student loans.

Matthew can be found on Twitter and his website.

His most recent books include The Loom of Sorrows and A Thousand Secret Sorrows.

Wednesday Weekly Blogging Challenge: What I Read When I’m Not Feeling Well

Hosted by Long and Short Reviews.

There are three different types of things I like to read when I’m not feeling well. I’ll give everyone a few examples of each one.

Comic Strips

All of these comic strips tend to be a mish-mash of whatever it is their creators have been thinking about recently. There are few if any continuous storylines in them. That makes it hard to explain them to new readers but also a great deal of fun to explore. We never know what might pop up in them next!

The Oatmeal.

Will 5:00 Never Come?

War and Peas.

Humorous Blog Posts and Essays

Doctor Grumpy in the House.

If you enjoy medical humour, this doctor’s blog is fantastic.

The Red Brick Blog.

Sadly, this hasn’t been updated in almost two years, but the archives are filled with some wonderful posts.

Mock Ramblings.

Michael and I have been friends for so long that I no longer remember how we met. If you haven’t already scrolled through his site after reading his previous WWBC posts, I highly recommend doing so sometime. He blogs about everything from his strange dreams, to snippets of the stories he’s working on, to recaps of the amazing D&D games he organizes for his kids.

Not everything he writes is necessarily funny, but when he writes humorous stuff he truly excels at it.

SFF Stories

I’ve chosen not link to specific tales from these magazines because of how particular I am about my science fiction and fantasy. In general, I find that all three of these publications do an excellent job of selecting unique, well-developed stories that show off under-appreciated authors in the SFF genre. If you have any interest at all in speculative fiction, I do recommend scrolling through these links to see what might appeal to you.

Fireside Magazine.

Syntax & Salt Magazine.

Lightspeed Magazine.

Click here to read everyone else’s replies to this week’s question. The image below is the list of upcoming prompts for this blog hop.

Top Ten Tuesday: Favorite Tropes

Hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl

I had such a good time putting this list together. How many of these tropes do all of you also enjoy?

1. Unseen Antagonist

This trope tends to be most common in the horror genre. The main characters either never meet the antagonist or have encounters with him or her that the audience only gets a partial viewing of. Sometimes it’s scarier to imagine what the bad guy looks like than to have that character described in full detail. 

2. Don’t Go Into the Woods

My family lived in all sorts of places when I was growing up: on farms, in the suburbs, in a bigger city, and in small towns. Sometimes we lived right next to a forest, and sometimes we had to drive for a while to find one. Either way, I was so comfortable in nature growing up that I’m now fascinated by the thought of the woods being a dangerous place.

Yes, in some plots it absolutely is something to be avoided. This trope is just so different from my personal experiences that I can’t stop reading about it. 

3. The Old Beggar Test

Do you remember how many fairy tales include a scene where the main character comes across an old beggar who asks for help but who can give you nothing in return for your kindness? I love seeing character react with empathy and kindness to these interactions. 

4. Helpful Aliens

This isn’t a plot twist that happens as often as I’d like it to, but I always enjoy reading about aliens who want to help humanity in some way. 

5. Spooky Paintings

Going to the art museum is my idea of a good time, especially when it comes to the anything from the Romantic era. There’s something about Victorian paintings in particular that I really like. This is even more true when an author describes them in spooky ways. 

6. Unsympathetic Victims

Occasionally, I like to read short murder mystery stories. The most interesting ones to me involve victims that were honestly pretty terrible individuals when they were alive. Anyone can have sympathy for a victim who was pleasant and helpful. I appreciate the much greater effort it takes for a writer to create sympathy for a victim who had trouble getting along with others. 

7. Historical Fiction that Explains Our Past

For example, I truly enjoy reading stories about how humans built Stonehenge, domesticated dogs, or invented ships. Fiction can be a great way to explore why and how they did these things since not everything they knew about these topics was passed down through history. 

8. Feminist Retellings

I love fairy tales…even the ones that can have some problematic elements. So it’s always cool when authors retell those old classics in ways that remain true to the original message while at the same time changing the parts of the plot that are understood in a totally different light now than they would have been many generations ago. 

9. Humorous Twists in Serious Moments

I’ve discussed my general loss of interest in the horror genre on this blog before. One of the reasons why I still do read it on occasion is that some authors are really good at mixing humour with horror. The gory stuff still doesn’t appeal to me, but I do like laughing and feeling a little fear at the same time. 

10. Drool-Worthy Fictional Food

The butter beer and many different types of magical candy in Harry Potter is a classic example of this. Basically, I like reading about types of food or drink that didn’t exist in our universe when that book was first printed. Often, the really delicious-sounding stuff eventually becomes as real as it can be in our universe either through companies mass-producing it or through fans coming up with recipes that make it taste as close to the descriptions in the book as possible. 

We Need More Response Posts

Woman sitting on edge of white concrete stairs and looking at her laptop.I started blogging back in the early 2000s when most of the bloggers I knew used Blogspot. One of the things I miss the most from that era are response posts.

If you don’t know what a response post is, here’s an example of how this sort of thing works.

Finley: Here are seven reasons why Picard is the best Star Trek captain of them all. 

Rory: The other day I read Finley’s post about why Picard is the best Star Trek captain of them all. Here’s a link to their post for anyone who hasn’t read it yet. While I agree with most of their points, today I wanted to talk about why Captain Sisqo was an even better example of top-notch Star Trek leadership. 

That is, Rory noticed something in Finley’s original post that made them decide to write a response to it in order to dig more deeply into the topic of which Star Trek captain is the best of them all or to explain where their opinion differed from what Finley thinks about that universe.

Just like WordPress today, some blogging platforms back then had notification systems that would let the original blogger(s) know someone had linked to their work. Other bloggers could read both of these posts and then write their own replies about which captain they thought was the best. Sometimes this sparked conversations that lasted for weeks or months and took place over many different sites as new people added in their opinions and the original participants replied again to clarify their point of view or ask a question.

I’ve seen echoes of this phenomenon on occasional Tumblr posts, but I’m not seeing it happen in the blogosphere much at all these days. If someone strongly agrees or disagrees with a post, they tend to create Twitter threads or leave a comment instead. 

Comment sections and Twitter threads are fun, but I prefer blog posts for discussions like these for a few different reasons.

Longevity

 It’s been my experience that responses last longer and are easier to find if they’re turned into a blog post. Few people scroll months or years back into someone else’s Twitter stream, and I’ve had experiences in the past where old comments on my various blogs disappeared with site updates. 

Blog posts have a way of sticking around on the Internet for years after their publication date. Occasionally, I still find references to posts that went “viral” in the blogosphere many years ago.

In addition, one of the first things I do when I discover a new blog is to poke around their archives and see what they were talking about months or years ago. There can be posts there that I’ll then share with the people I know who are interested in comparing Star Trek captains, for example.

More In-Depth Discussions

There are many things I appreciate about social media, but it’s hard to fit complex ideas or discussions into a few 280-character tweets. The beautiful thing about the blogosphere is how much more room there is in a blog post to add subtley to your point of view. 

A tweet might only have room to mention one or two things you loved about Jean Luc Picard. In a blog post, you could mention everything you admired about him, compare it to the strengths and weaknesses of other captains, and respond to someone who had complained earlier about how silly is it for him to specify every single time that he wants his Earl Grey tea to be hot when that’s something that the replicators on the Enterprise really should be able to assume based on that captain’s long history of drinking hot tea.

Any Trekkie who stumbled across this hypothetical response post could share it on social media and ignite an entirely new round of discussions on the strengths and weaknesses of all of the Star Trek captains.

Community Building

Image of legs of people standing in a circle and pointing their toes to each other. Yes, communities can and absolutely do exist on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, and other social media sites.

One of the biggest differences between building an online community on social media and in the blogosphere lies in how easy it is to keep up with everyone. I’ll take a step back from my Star Trek analogy for a moment to discuss something serious that actually happened in one of my social circles recently.

Without giving away too many identifying details, a friend of mine recently went through something difficult. They talked about it on social media, but because of the time of day they shared them as well as some of the silly marketing gimmicks on that site I – along with many other friends of theirs – never saw their updates. 

It wasn’t until they shared another status update talking about how lonely they felt that most of us realized something was wrong. Had this been a blog post on my RSS feed instead, I would have seen and responded to it within a day or so of it being published. 

I Want to Write More Response Posts

As the saying goes, “be the change you want to see in the world.” While that phrase was originally coined to describe far more pressing issues than this one, I think I’m going to start shuffling my editorial calendar around on this blog a bit to allow for occasional response posts.

Maybe they’ll come back into fashion again if more bloggers realize just how useful they can be. If you write something thought-provoking, your post just might be the one I pick! 

For those of you who have experience with them, what do you think of response posts? Are you also interested in bringing this style of blog post back? 

I’ll Tell You About My Drafts Folder If You’ll Tell Me About Yours

Robot fingers gently touching human fingersIt’s been a long time since this blog published a lighthearted writing post, so let’s change that.  Lately, I’ve been gently poking my drafts folder and trying to decide which posts in there, if any, are ready to finish and share with the world.

On a related note, finding an appropriate stock image photo for this post was tricky. It turns out that there is not a lot of demand out there for picture of draft folders!

I’d like to think that if draft posts literally had hands, they’d have five digits just like people do. Yes, I anthropomorphize everything. It makes life more interesting, and also gives me a better reason for using a photo of a robot and a human gently touching each other’s fingers.

But before I get too off track here, let’s talk about draft folders. Most of the time, I have half a dozen or so finished posts sitting in the queue waiting to be published. I also have dozens more posts in various stages of completion. Some of them might consist of a couple of words thrown into my list of ideas. Others have grown large enough to warrant a draft post in the backend of my blog.

Not everything on my ideas list becomes a post, story, or book, but their chances of being written into their final form jumps once I create a draft post for them. This can happen because I need to publish that post at a specific time of the year, or finish reading a book for it (in the case of reviews or recommendations), or have some other experience that would enrich my words.

I thought it would be entertaining to give all of you a peek into my drafts folder for my blog. There are fourteen posts there in various stages of completion or contemplation.

 

1. Title: Book review for Chesya Burke’s “Let’s Play White” (I’m sure I’ll think of a better title for it by September)

Publication Date: September 5

Why: Earlier this year, Apex Magazine asked for volunteers to participate in a huge blogging bash that’s happening in September. I chose to review this book as my contribution to that bash.

 

2. Title: Autumn Worlds I’d Like to Visit

Publication Date: September 23

Why: This is the final part of a short series of posts I’ve done on books that remind me of specific seasons. It feels right to wait until autumn has officially began to publish it.

 

3. Title: Characters I’d Never Invite to Thanksgiving Dinner

Publication Date: October 14

Why: The idea for this post came from reading my search engine log. I thought it would be great for Thanksgiving (which happens in October in Canada).

 

4. Title: Mindfulness and Difficult People

Publication Date: December 2 (tentative)

Why: It’s a great topic, but I think it would have an even bigger impact during a time of the year when some of us may be spending time with folks we may not normally associate with.

 

5. Title: Fitness and the Holidays

Publication Date: December 16 (tentative)

Why: This is one of those ideas I’ve been playing around with for years. Maybe 2019 will be the year I actually publish it? Every December, I take a two week blogging break. I generally write lighthearted roundup or similar posts well ahead of time for that break, so you’ll see a lot of entries from late December and early January on today’s list.

 

6. Title: Search Engine Questions from 2019

Publication Date: December 26

Why: I need to wait until as late as possible in the year in order to make this post as funny and as accurate as possible.

 

7. Title: My 20 Most Popular Posts of 2019

Publication Date: December 30

Why: Obviously, this is a post I can’t put together or publish until the end of the year.

 

8. Title: What I Read in 2019

Publication Date: January 2, 2020.

Why: It’s not January yet. Unless someone has a crystal ball, I don’t see how I can write a post about what I’ve read ahead of time.

9. Title: 5 Places You Should Visit on a Trip to Ontario for Canada Day

Publication Date: Unknown.

Why: As I was writing it, I realized that my answers were very Toronto-based because I spend so little time outside of my city. I think I need more experience visiting other parts of this province before I can say for sure where everyone should go.

 

10. Title: Modern Classics Series (tentative title)

Publication Date: Unknown.

Why: Eventually, I hope to start recommending science fiction and fantasy books written in the last 20 years that I believe will be considered classics in the future. I need to do a lot more reading before beginning this series, though!

11. Title: 3 Benefits of Taking a Yoga Class

Publication Date: Unknown.

Why: Earlier this week, I had originally planned on taking a yoga class and then blogging about it. I woke up with a sore, spasming muscle that morning and decided it was better to rest my body and try again at a different time. Maybe someday you’ll see this post go live!

 

12. Title: How to Find Your Way Home in Minecraft

Publication Date: Unknown

Why: I’m an intermediate Minecraft player, so I’m still deciding if the Internet needs another post about how to get un-lost in that game.

 

13. Title: Mindfulness Exercises for a Bad Mood

Publication Date: Unknown

Why: People keep finding my blog with phrases like this one. Eventually, I do hope to write a full post about it once I’ve tried enough exercises.

14. Title: The Various Sock Choices of Harry Potter Characters

Publication Date: Either never or ASAP. There is no middle ground.

Why: I’ve gotten multiple hits on my blog about Harry Potter characters wearing socks, Harry Potter characters who won’t wear socks, socks that feature Harry Potter characters, fuzzy socks, hand-knit socks, and just about any other sock-related query you can think of that so much as glances in the direction of the Potterverse. I am so tempted to write a full-length post on this topic. Would you write it?

 

Okay, you’ve seen my long list of drafts. I’m editing this post to include links to other people’s draft lists as they share them with me.

Patrick Prescott’s Work on Hold.

Hopeful Science Fiction: The Toynbee Convector

In June of 2018 I blogged about my desire to read more hopeful science fiction. Since then I’ve talked about Woman on the Edge of Time, The Lovely Bones, Semiosis, and Astraea. Today I’m back with another recommendation for hopeful sci-fi. This time it’s a short story!  If you have recommendations for future instalments of this series, I’d sure… Read More

Unlikely Allies: A Review of Pads for His Throne

Content Warning: Blood. This is otherwise a spoiler-free review. Title: Pads for His Throne Author: Olli Crusoe Publisher: Self-Published Publication Date: 2016 Genres: Science Fiction, Horror, Humour Length: 33 pages Source: I received a free copy from Ollie. Rating: 5 stars Blurb: A regular night at the office changes Louise’s life, when a running gag… Read More

Wednesday Weekly Blogging Challenge: Books I Loved But Never Wrote Reviews For

Hosted by Long and Short Reviews. I’ve written countless books reviews over the years, yet there are still plenty of books out there I love but have not written reviews for. There simply isn’t enough time in the day to do everything! Sometimes I also question if it’s ever a good idea to write reviews… Read More