GOOD MONDAY MORNING As an indie writer, I get involved in all kinds of projects with fellow journey writers. This week, I am pleased to participate in WINTERVIEWS, a series of Q & A’s about community and how it influences the writer and the writing. Today, I field questions about #Thurds Words @thurdwords on Twitter, a hashtag game I created four years ago. Hashtag gaming has done a lot for me. It put me in touch with kindreds and it kept me writing. As important to me as my writers group, hashtag gaming keeps me connected and it helps me #finishthatwip. Many thanks to Lexi Miles @leximilesbooks for connecting me with WINTERVIEWS. Here’s the link winterviews.org/winterviews-communities-thurds-words/
While researching book clubs for a panel I’ll be moderating, I came across lists of club questions members use to facilitate meaningful discussions about the books they select. If Scooter Nation was a choice, it would be pitted against queries such as:
Is the book plot or character driven?
Are the characters relatable?
Can the story be set elsewhere?
and—here’s the trick question—What genre is it?
Scooter Nation is a darkly bent romp centered around a cadre of eccentric funeral directors struggling under great threat. What does that mean? Is it a comedy? Thriller? Mystery? and if so, is it a cozy?
There’s the rub.
Since releasing Scooter, I’ve had the privilege of receiving first-hand accounts from readers detailing what the book is about, what it essentially means, and what genre it conveniently fits into. Some found it “hilarious” while others found it “chilling.” Characters were deemed “not always sympathetic” or “morally elastic” and with goals ranging from “altruistic” to “self-serving.” Others saw it as “irreverent,” “heartbreaking,” “ground-breaking” and “well-worthy of a second read.”
All instructive, but not helpful when trying to boil the book down to one thing: genre.
The story begins with a vengeful harridan plotting and scheming from her second-floor office in the funeral home where she works. As the illegitimate and unacknowledged daughter of the larger than life patriarch who is long dead and has inconveniently left behind two singly unworthy sons to inherit the lot, she has much to chew over. Add to the mix, a collection of decades-long funeral directors dedicated to the establishment as only long-serving employees can be, and the reader winds up in the middle of a perfect storm of death, regret, self-entitlement, and fear of the unknown.
On one level, Scooter Nation is a love story with the weather-beaten funeral home as a forlorn and threadbare heroine-protagonist. Standing her ground on a street that has outgrown her, she is threatened by the shiny new high rises that grow up around her and the people who embrace ferociously the change that modernity is sure to bring. With her faded awnings and peeling paint, the building is a symbol of death, decay and esoteric practice that happier times have left behind. But inside, she is history; a living, breathing record of people past and present. Mistakes, triumphs and above all, tradition, live here, supported by the curators who have seen much, suppress more, and struggle to keep alive the one thing that gives meaning to their lives: history.
In that sense, Scooter Nation is a journey story, with its funeral director hobbits laboring their way from the basement to the summit of Mount Doom—the top floor, and the woman who presumes to take by force what is hers and then rule from lofty heights. As villain, the heir presumptive will remodel, reface, redo, and do all but tear their beloved funeral home down.
Enter then, the elements of revenge and murder. How far will the staff go to protect their livelihoods and the community that has grown from them? The funeral home, more than just a ladylove of a building, is also an anchor that holds in place like-minded people. Rightly or wrongly, they will do just about anything to stop the scourge that threatens them, even if it means aligning with persons more dubious than the woman who tries to control and change them.
Innocence and the loss of it over many decades also figure prominently, and while the historical references do not make Scooter a work of historical fiction, it lays the groundwork for the next novel that actually is. Poor Undertaker, Scooter’s follow-up, takes the reader back to 1947, where the grand old building is at her zenith, the profession she houses is held reverently, and the staff operating behind closed doors burst with pride under their pristine English-style morning suits.
As a comedy, Scooter Nation longs for the good old days every bit as much as it pooh-poohs faux window treatments and LED lighting. Yet there is poignancy too. People die in Scooter Nation not because they invited it, but because they must so that the story can move forward. There is no mystery here, only sadness followed by revelations leading to a blissed-out ending.
Scooter Nation relies heavily on its characters to deliver the emotional wallops needed to elicit varying responses from those who pick up the book. Whether readers are looking for laughs or knowledge about what morticians do behind locked doors, they will find in this read something removed from pure genre.
Toronto born author A.B. Funkhauser is a blended genre novelist who has won both humor and horror prizes for the same work. Her next novel Poor Undertaker examines the life and times of staff at Weibigand Brothers Funeral Home CE 1947.
Posted by Literary Titan
Scooter and Carla have to deal with lots of drama and backstabbing behind the scenes. They face off with Jocasta Binns. On the other hand, there is also a scooter bound gang led by a silver haired goon wreaking havoc on the gardens in the most contemptuous way. The Funeral Service is saddled with tension between the “siblings”.
The author has weaved quite the hilarious tale set in a funeral service establishment. The story highlights the inner workings of managing such an establishment which, it turns out, is like any other family business. The story is so vividly narrated that the reader cannot help but join the world.
The plot is well developed and fast paced and the characters are multi-dimensional. This makes it easy for the reader to visualize them and get acquainted. It is particularly interesting how Jocasta is introduced to the reader. She is introduced with her crackling fingers and her scandalous origin. She is not fazed by her old age and remains stoic and a force to be reckoned with. The Jocastrator can withstand anything and anyone. She inspires the kind of admiration that is mixed with fear. Then there is Scooter, who seems very sweet and charming. He is like the sunshine that peeks through the curtains in the morning. Then Charlie, the poor old man who has been turned into a mere informant for the brothers. Every character has a backstory and their uniqueness shines through regardless of their role in the story. This is one of the biggest strengths of this book.
Scooter Nation contains all the elements of a great novel. Thoughts and ideas flow seamlessly while moments of laugh out loud humor keep you engaged in a story that is surprising at every page turn.
This is a book I can see myself reading again because the characters, incontinent though some may be, make you want too keep coming back. It has managed to surpass expectations which were already high from the first installment in the series. A perfect book for a good chuckle.
Pages: 196 | ASIN: B07RQ92W83
The decision to give up the traditional publishing route was taken after a great deal of thought. But what’s it really like going it alone? Multi-genre authors Lexi Miles and A.B. Funkhauser tell all in a candid Q&A.
You worked within the perimeters of a traditional publisher but opted to go the indie route after the fact. What shaped your decision?
AB: Publishers, large and small, are like any other organization. They have guidelines and rules to follow. You need those, especially when you’re starting out and really don’t know what you’re doing. Friends will call you out on things, and you say to yourself “do they really know?” When your fellow authors at the publisher and the publishing team call you out, you listen because it’s part of the exercise, part of belonging, part of learning.
Again, publishers are like all other organizations. Think in terms of a condo association or even a cemetery. (I’m a mortician so I can’t resist including the graveyard.) A condo has rules about what you can and cannot put on the balcony. A cemetery has rules about what kind of florals you place and when they must be removed. Same with the publisher. A publisher will have rules about covers; how they’re supposed to look, how many colors are permitted, what kind of fonts are allowed. This is because the publisher wants to achieve a specific look for its brand. There’s nothing wrong with that. It’s all agreed upon at the time of signing.
Indies have the freedom to write their own rules about content, layout, and cover design. I wanted to try that for myself. However, my biggest caution to authors who want to try this is that they not jump in “boots first” but do their research before anything else. It’s a lot of work being your own publisher and promoter. It can get you down if you don’t know what to expect.
Lexi: I felt constricted in many ways from cover art, release dates, and overall content. I also felt like I wanted better promotion for my work and wanted to release more works (not according to the houses allotted schedule). There are a lot of options on every front when you have more freedom.
What are some of the pluses that come with independence?
Lexi: I am what you call a hybrid author (both traditional and indie). With more independent publishers you have a lot more control over the details of your books. From length to content of the story. Yes, I still adhere to the guidelines of mainstream publishers and work with editors that do the same. Let me offer an example. As a romance author if I don’t want the standard girl meets boy and boy rescues girl scenario, I can have a story that is slightly more imaginative and realistic. I can say that they have a meet cute and she is already strong on her own and he’s not emotionally unavailable (aka robotic). They both meet challenges, but their love and support for each other helps them to conquer them. (Make no mistake, I do love those types of stories. I just like it to have more dimensions.)
AB: The same pluses that come with being your own boss. You can show up to work when you want. You can choose not to work when you want. I tend to go hard when working on a project. From concept to finished manuscript to publishing to marketing. It can be a grind. There are so many theories out there about how often to publish, how best to affect the algorithms. I did that for three years at the end of which time I had to stop for almost a year. I needed to set a new pace for my work and for me as a person. I’m doing that now. It’s wonderful.
Is there anything you miss about traditional publishing?
AB: I miss the team and the camaraderie. From the moment I signed, they were all there ready to field my untutored questions and reassure me when I got lost. As an indie, I felt like a group of one for a long time, but over time I’ve found other like-mindeds; other indies working toward the same goal: generating quality work and getting it out there. I have peeps again. I don’t feel alone at all.
Lexi: With traditional publishers you have their audience built in. When you release your sales are more predictable, you are releasing to readers who know and trust their brand. Also, in most cases editors come with publishers. The tricky part there is finding one that works well with you and understands the voice of your story. I have a professional editor that I work with either way, so for me I don’t lose anything.
Some indies create their own imprint or use smaller more independent publishers. Can you tell us why you did that?
Lexi: First, people instantly look for publishers and imprints. It tends to signal quality of work and indicates a more professional work. Two, the freedom. I like being able to control the various aspects of my work and when you go that route you have complete creative freedom. That is an incredibly freeing feeling. That makes me confident to release all of my work because it is the exact voice I want out there.
AB: One of the things I noticed on the book fair circuit was that potential readers would turn the book over and then say, “Oh, you’re independent.” The first couple of times it happened, I took it as an invitation to sell my virtues. The next time it happened, I asked the person what they were looking for and they said, “the publisher.” What is the publisher on the back of a book? It’s the imprint. My imprint is real; it’s registered in my country of origin and all my promo materials carry it plus the Independent Author Seal I designed. But I find having the imprint logo gets me past the first hurdle in a face to face. Rather than say “Oh, you’re indie” they say “Cool” or “What?” and then we can talk about the books. It’s a great icebreaker.
What advice do you have for authors who wish to follow your example?
AB: If you are already with a publisher, you must ask yourself why you want to DIY and then be prepared to do the research. Do you: know how to format a book; design covers; format your book into all formats (there are a few); know a good printer for your paperbacks; need to hire a professional editor or a professional cover designer; have a budget that can cover all your wants v. your needs; know how to use the advertising features across the platforms; understand the algorithms; have resource people who can guide you? And so on. I don’t want to mislead. It’s daunting.
Lexi: First, write the book. Second, spend time editing so that it is a high quality book. Third, learn the ins and outs of what you need to do to publish it (formatting/covers), protect your work, and promote it. And finally, GO FOR IT!
What one thing (or things) did you change that leveled up your writing?
Lexi: I am always looking for new ways to level up my writing.
One, I write daily for at least an hour or more. This helps me to stay in a great groove while writing and to get a lot of high quality content in each day.
Two, after writing a section, I reread it as well as get outside eyes on it to plug any holes or to help strengthen the storytelling.
Three, I utilize lists/charts with a variety of commonly used words (words like more, said, very, etc.) to really help me say it like I want to bring it across (with impact).
Four, I spend time in the world that I am writing. It is what I call touch/sense writing. I do this in many ways. I may listen to beach, airport, or car sounds, visit Pinterest for clothing/setting ideas, mimic a scene in some way to bring it to life (ex: workout if my character is working out), drink a beverage like the one in the story, listen to music that defines the character (character playlist), and the list goes on.
AB: I go slow and slow=better. Being my own boss now, I don’t feel the pressure to deliver a new book each year. I wish I could, but I find that if I take the time to send the manuscript out for editing by someone with cred and then shop the cover and blurb for feedback before going to print, I get a more effective piece of work; effective in the sense that I don’t have the goofy spelling errors (pore and pour—OMG!) or awkward paragraph splits to name a couple. It really takes time to catch these things. That means, no more rushing.
Switching gears a bit, what is the one thing you tend to work into your book when possible?
AB: There are two things that have been there from the get-go. The first is the oft complained about omniscient narrator. Dunno why poor omni is disliked. For me, omni entertains as I create, dropping dollops of knowledge onto the reader above what the characters know. I just love having secret knowledge and sharing that with the reader. The second thing readers will find is treachery of the old Byzantine kind. I’m a history nerd, and old Byzantium—fair or not—is renowned for its ability to hatch incredibly complex plots with ease. I don’t write complex plots per se, what I write are characters who are either complex and don’t know it or presume to be complex and aren’t but credit themselves with being crafty. That’s fun stuff to write and it’s going to be there every time.
Lexi: I like to show that my lead females are not in need of being rescued, but are looking for an intimate partnership. One that makes them stronger and helps both characters face some sort of challenge and to do so by finding the strength in their love.
I also like to work in characters big or small that we all have met in our daily lives (judgmental relative, snippy boss, big personality, etc.).
A good plot with some sweet or hot romantic moments.
What is the most rewarding aspect of publishing without a publisher/traditional (indie/smaller house)?
Lexi: I deliver the exact book I envisioned on my terms.
AB: That’s easy: getting to know the other side of the business. I can say this without exaggeration. After getting my first book to market under the new imprint, I was left with the feeling that writing the book was the easy/fun part. The steps required to deliver a quality piece of work (now called “the product”) were numerous, involved and filled with “either/or” choices. I’m looking forward to smoother sailing on the next ones, but that, I’m pretty sure, will take some more time to get to. Learning. Never. Stops.
What is one aspect of indie publishing you did not expect?
AB: The speedy turn around time with the printer for paperbacks. Learning the formats for all the digital platforms was so all-time consuming that I just assumed that printing would take weeks. It doesn’t. It takes days. But knowing this, I had to slow right down. I had to make sure that the pdf format for the printer was pristine. Sure, they run a preview copy, but I can’t allow myself to get it wrong. That would be a waste of precious paper. It must be absolutely ready to go before I send it to the printer. Turn around can be as fast as 48 hours for a small run.
Lexi: All the work and research that goes into every aspect, especially promoting. When going at it as an indie, even with a publisher’s backing, you have to promote, promote, PROMOTE.
In what way have you stretched yourself as a writer recently?
Lexi: I write goals daily/weekly and stick to them (writing, promoting, and connecting with readers).
AB: My first six books are blended genre pieces that embrace satire fiction and dark humor. Some, but not all, veer into a literary stream, but that’s more because of the characters’ inclinations. For example, the hopeless romantics go on and on about the trees and what they mean, while the egomaniac sees the end of days when the squirrels arrive.
Blended genres are a joy to write, but it’s not always easy to find the audience for them. In fact, it takes years of work to do that. So, for a change, I’ve decided to give pure genre a try. My first mystery, Self-Defense from the Kirsti Brüner Mortuary Mysteries Series, should come out later this summer. It’s kind of a funeral directors drum up business whether the business likes it or not scenario. There’s some grit as well as some laughs to be found in it.
What is the one thing readers should know when reading one of your books?
AB: Know that I write because I enjoy it and I have a lot of fun doing it. Approach the work with an open mind. Characters, like people IRL, don’t always tell the truth and they won’t go out of their way to help you figure them out. But do know that by the last page, all is explained. It’s important to me to give that.
Lexi: First, thank you for reading it. Second, I hope you connect with it and can see yourself in the story. Third, I have more books due out soon! Four, strap in and enjoy the ride! And finally, there are sure to be a lot of fun, blushworthy, and intense moments. It will be rewarding!
Lexi Miles currently lives in California, has one sister named Cat, and is a proud pup mom of two mischievous Yorkies. Tropical warm spots and out of the way ranches are Lexi’s favorite escapes. Lexi loves to giggle. She’s a huge fan of positivity, and she is delighted when she can help someone else smile. Lexi loves a good in home TV/movie binge. She also enjoys music (all genres), baseball, bubble baths, cooking, and long walks on the treadmill (aka working out). As far as writing, she fell in love with it from when she was a kid, and she still finds that she falls more in love with it every day. Lexi is growing a cult following for both her poetry and romance novels (sweet to alarmingly spicy) and believes that love—all forms—is the most precious gift that we are given in life. She is thrilled to pen romance (multiple published titles), and all of that comes with it on paper! To find out more about Lexi, please go to www.LexiMilesAuthor.com.
Toronto born author A.B. Funkhauser is a mother, mortician and monkey who favors cats but still loves dogs. Dedicated to spreading the word on matters serious, she believes that the best way to get a point across is with a hefty dose of humor. Her fourth novel, SELF-DEFENSE, is the first in a mystery series headed by intrepid mortician Kirsti Brüner. For more information, please visit her Amazon author page and this site.
Scooter Nation, Unapologetic Lives Series Book 2
Writing is a marvelous thing because of the freedom it confers. The late Hunter Thompson proved that when he created his own genre—gonzo journalism—and pushed it well beyond anything anyone had ever seen before.
I wouldn’t presume to be on the same level as Thompson—that would jeopardize my health. But I did presume to reach the first time I took up the laptop, and I continue to do so with the newly released second edition of Scooter Nation under the Out of My Head Publishing imprint.
Scooter Nation is many things. Part humor, part social commentary, it even hints at a bit of magical realism. This is blended genre, I’m told. It is a thing that doesn’t fit squarely into a box. But it does offer a world peopled with living, breathing protagonist-antagonists searching for two things: meaning and affirmation.
Scooter has won humor prizes while its prequel won horror prizes. Go figure?
SO, WHAT KIND OF BOOK IS THIS ANYWAY?
The world of Scooter Nation is a very old and mysterious one. Steeped in tradition and couched in secrecy, funeral service, as we morticians like to call it, is carried out behind locked doors under gilded chandeliers.
There are several reasons for this, all of them necessary and good. But there is one single factor that trumps them all. Morticians the world over are governed by privacy laws, professional association by-laws, and codes of ethics that add up to the same thing: Protect the dignity of the deceased and the privacy of their survivors at all times.
Our duty to protect what my ethics professor called “the most vulnerable people on earth” can, at times, be misconstrued by the untested, fearful or conspiracy-loving among us. Obfuscation, fiscal malfeasance, a lack of integrity, and professional coverup are popular charges bolstered by often humorous and satirical literary offerings and television programming.
Fair enough. If we cannot talk about what we see and do, how can we defend ourselves against misinformation?
It was deep inside this question that Scooter Nation, a work of satirical fiction, was born.
Imagine a neighborhood establishment that has been part of the street for nearly seventy years. During that time, it has seen many coats of paint and many different faces as staff cycle through with the passing years. Those on the street who do not have business with this business never venture inside. The only living beings that do, have congress with the dead.
What are they like? The fictional funeral directors at Weibigand Brothers Funeral Home are inherently self-aware. Owing to the nature of their work and the long-evolved traditions that back them, they take pride in their old-fashioned livery and deep-seeded altruism that reinforces what they know well: They are doing lasting good, if only for the few short days they spend with each of the families they serve.
Embalming may have changed drastically since the days of ancient Egypt, but these morticians know that they belong to something old, perhaps even mystical. This is why they fight back as viciously as they do when a self-entitled “upstart” bullies her way in and tries to change things in the name of transparency and accessibility.
There are a lot of themes at play in Scooter Nation: tradition v. modernity; secrecy v. openness; beauty v. utility; kindness v. cruelty.
The old ways teeter on the brink as big and shiny moves in. Buildings will be bull-dozed and great tabernacles will be erected to honor brand and market share. But can our brave warriors survive the gloss of bolder and greater social policy, or are they destined to disappear along with rotary dial phones and face-to-face friendships?
Not for a second. Characters must change in Scooter Nation. Their survival depends upon it. But what passes for a makeover cannot alter what lurks deep inside.
Do you want to know what really goes on? Step into my parlor and find out.
“Unapologetic, beautiful and crazy.”
“Who knew that funeral homes could be so entertaining?”
A.B. Funkhauser is a dark humor, satire fiction author with three titles to her credit. Her fourth novel, Poor Undertaker, is a prequel prequel to Scooter Nation due this fall, 2019.
Amazon Author Page: https://www.amazon.com/A.B.-Funkhauser/e/B00WMRK4Q4
A writer takes a leap
There are many reasons why I decided to go indie and not one of them had anything to do with my original publisher, who was great and very supportive. In fact, if there’s anything I miss more it is the community that came along with them. So many writers came up with me and it was from one another that we learned how to write better books.
I’m on my own now, and with that isolation comes the daunting task of self-teaching through trial, error, tears and YouTube “how to” videos. How to format. How to submit. How to deal with roadblocks. It wasn’t easy.
Perhaps the biggest lesson I’ve learned so far is that publishing platforms accept or reject works based on their own set criteria. For example, what some may see as funny or amusing others could interpret as insensitive or offensive. When that happens, it is up to the writer to decide whether to alter the work or move on to the next platform.
Rejections can occur for simple things, too, like submitting confusing keywords or author names. What if your legal name differs from your nom de plume? Be prepared to explain and explain again until someone actually contacts you from the mothership.
It all takes time and a level head.
Which brings me to my next points: go slow and be patient. Imagine working on a platform’s unique formatting program only to find that it’s an older version and won’t upload the finished book because of it? When this happened the other day, I had to let out a huge yell. Then I downloaded the current program version and started all over again.
Note: I ran into a lot of trouble using open source programs as well as sanctioned proprietary ones. This was because of my laptop’s unique firewall configuration. To download formatting software successfully, it may be necessary to turn off your firewall. I had a pro do that for me for the price of food and beverage. I strongly recommend this.
Because the process is slow and precision driven, I would recommend engaging a professional for some elements of the process. For my first release, I went with a fantastic cover designer who took my vision and turned it around in a matter of days. I would have taken weeks had I dared to try that myself. For my next release, I will employ a line editor. No matter how good a writer thinks they are, there is nothing better than a fresh set of eyes. Grammarly is great and I wouldn’t send anything to the line editor without running it first. But it doesn’t catch everything: pore and pour. The difference is huge when it appears in a paperback glaringly out of context. Cringe is all I’ll say about that.
I’m told by those that know that the first self-published book is always a hair puller. Until the DIY author masters the rules of pagination, kerning, cover trims, and—here’s the big one—different formats for different platforms, it’s going to be a long march to getting everything out there in a way that we like. There will be do-overs a plenty. I left two family members out of the acknowledgements section in the ebook. Luckily for me, they are back where they belong in time for the print version.
Whether the writer is indie or trad, the pure act of creation is what makes all this worthwhile. We are lucky to be living and writing in year 2019. More than ever before, we have outlets where we can offer our creations for sale at prices we choose.
That is the stuff of variety.
Write on everybody and keep learning.
Adult, unapologetic and wholly cognizant (I wasn’t the other day, believe me),
May 11, 2019
A.B. Funkhauser is a multi-genre author with three titles currently undergoing do-overs and three new unreleased works that may see daylight before the end of the year.
Morticians and Mayhem: Take a walk on the wild side of funeral directing.
FREE with Kindle Unlimited for limited time only
It was my great pleasure to be interviewed by Tony Eames of NF Reads, a general interest site that explores the creative process and stories behind the lives of the people who pursue it.
Past interviewees have included scientists, business leaders, health professionals, politicians, and www influencers. Learn more about NF Reads here: https://www.nfreads.com/about-contact/
The interview is reproduced below.
Please introduce yourself and your book(s)!
I’m A. B. Funkhauser and I’m delighted to be profiled here on NF Reads. My on-line biographies variously describe me as an outdoor enthusiast, classic car nut, mother, mortician, monkey and purveyor of gonzo mortuary revenge fiction. What that actually means is that I write blended genre fiction based on what I see and hear and then I warp and bend everything to the peril and salvation of my morally flexible characters.
I’m currently working on a series of books, some with interrelated plots, others not, each with large casts and a vaguely menacing omniscient voice to taunt and trick along the way. The common thread they all share are characters that are unapologetic and very often chaotic in their life choices. They are not wholly villains or angels but somewhere in between, and the results of their actions can only be guessed at until the last page is read. The thing I get most from readers is that while they may not like all the characters, they inexplicably find themselves rooting for them. I think that’s cool. The other draw is the setting: a funeral home over many decades with a revolving door of staff cycling through, each coping with life and death and their own well-being. A reader needn’t tackle the books in order—they stand alone. In fact, I’d recommend going at them out of order. The character that dies in book two is back alive and well (and doing a great deal of damage) in book four. That’s fun to write, let me tell you!
What inspires/inspired your creativity?
A combination of work life, family folklore and an overall love of world history collided to produce work that is equal parts dark and light. I drew a lot of inspiration from Jerry Seinfeld and Kurt Vonnegut in early days; the former writing voluminously about nothing, the latter about things both profound and irreverent. Both made anything possible in the sense that nothing was off limits and everything could be grand or ridiculous. Likewise, QuentinTarantino. His non-linear storytelling that enabled a dead character to walk away alive and well in the final act opened my eyes to all kinds of possibilities.
How do you deal with creative block?
I stop and push away from the keyboard. I can’t force it to happen. It has to appear, and it always does.
What are the biggest mistakes you can make in a book?
Rushing—Not taking the time to read it through one more time before hitting the send button and not taking the time to read it again after it’s printed. Spelling and grammar matter and it amazes me how many errors actually sneak past the spell checker, beta readers and Grammarly-type programs.
Editing while in a terrible mood—You will do more damage to a work with a fractured lens than you will after a short break. Take a week off to clear your head. The manuscript will still be there waiting for you.
Rambling on—It’s one thing if a character is fatuous in speech and manner; it’s another if the writing is. Trim those sentences. You don’t need to go on and on.
Beware the expository paragraph—There are underpinnings to every tale (the backstory) but unless it’s an essential “tell” (sometimes you just need to say it in order to get on with things) leave it to the characters to show it through action and dialogue.
Do you have tips on choosing titles and covers?
If the writer has something specific in mind, something from the gut, they probably have 50% of it right. The cover and title are not for the author but for the reader. Whether designing it yourself or choosing to go with a pro, take the time to shop the concept. Run it by the betas, your writer’s group, family, friends and CRITICS to get a temperature. And be prepared to change the cover a couple of years post pub. I’m doing that right now. What I believed to be grand and clever five years ago really doesn’t work now.
How do bad reviews and negative feedback affect you and how do you deal with them?
Criticism is essential to becoming a better writer. Trolls notwithstanding, a tough review almost always has merit. Do not rush to make changes after a heavy critique. If time allows, let it sit, let it percolate. I’ve gone back to a manuscript after a month-long break and have found that the feedback was usually correct. It’s tough to learn this, but it will save the writing.
How has your creative process improved over time?
I’m faster. The first book took five years, the second and third a year each. This is because I managed to figure out how to do it. But fast isn’t necessarily good. My next book will take longer because I’ve learned the importance behind taking the time. (See above)
What were the best, worst and most surprising things you encountered during the entire process of completing your book(s)?
One thing I’ve learned from reading Hunter Thompson’s gonzo journalism is that the best way to tackle serious issues without being preachy is by shining a light on them with humor. By creating morally flexible characters in absurd/exaggerated circumstances, I was able to get my points across without scaring the reader away. That was and continues to be the best thing.
The worst thing might have been formatting, but that gets better with practice. I’ve taught myself to like formatting by chalking it up to another opportunity to reread the text and catch those hideous spelling mistakes that spellcheck misses. Pore and pour. OMG!
The most surprising thing has been the way the work has been received to date. Make no mistake, a book is NEVER completed. It’s published, promoted, critiqued, and, if the writer chooses, improved with new cover designs, back jacket blurbs and layouts. I released my first book believing I had written a paranormal romance. It went on to win horror prizes. My second book, a sequel, won multiple humor prizes. This led me to a very valuable lesson learned: my books aren’t what I say they are but what the reader believes them to be. That journey continues to be amazing.
Do you tend towards personal satisfaction or aim to serve your readers? Do you balance the two and how?
I’m currently working on book four in my series and I still aim for personal satisfaction before getting to the business of making it accessible for readers. It’s important to me to love the book first. How else can I expect a reader to feel something similar? However, after the first, second and third draft “love-in,” I step back, wait, and read through it again to see if any of it makes sense. I clear up the vague spots, kill some darlings, and trim the back story. Then I let the betas have at it. That’s how I balance.
What role do emotions play in creativity?
A great deal, but these are tempered by structure, pacing, arc and characters. Emotions can blind and if they’re not in their place, you can wind up with a mess.
Do you have any creativity tricks?
Be honest and tell the truth in the first drafts; then decide if your truth will serve readers in a meaningful way. There’s a fine line between truth and rant. I don’t rant in my fiction, but my characters often do.
What are your plans for future books?
I have four lengthy unfinished manuscripts screaming for attention. These compete with the new work generated during NaNoWriMo. I’m currently sprucing up the back catalog with new covers and layouts and find that one in particular has inspired a return to a trunk book. It’s been collecting dust for about four years. Its time has come, I think.
Tell us some quirky facts about yourself
I write fiction but read mostly non-fiction these days.
I enjoy binge watching series from multiple genres. Netflix is my university.
I go south to the hot ocean in summer but gladly hole up with the snow in winter.
I love vintaging. I can’t remember the last time I bought something new.
When will your books be available on-line?
The first three books should be available on Amazon by mid-summer 2019. Paperback versions will follow thereafter. The best way to find out what’s going on is to visit my website https://abfunkhauser.com/
I tried to watch the first episode of Season 7 after a three-year break and was reminded in the first two minutes why I had quit in the first place: the showrunner’s preoccupation with fecal matter and mangled human bodies. All that poo before the opening credits invaded my senses and put me right off my food. The autopsy scene that followed was just the icing on the cake.
The fact that three scenes in took me right back to where I’d left off three years ago (with
a reference to the red wedding) told me that not much had happened on Thrones during my hiatus and that the show moved slower than Harry Potter’s battle with Lord Voldemort.
Glacial pacing notwithstanding, how much longer will Queen Cersei hang in there? She has a new do and her stylist is fabulous, but all those scowls and scene chews wore thin by S7 E2 at just past the 30 minute mark. At least I didn’t have to suffer another randy legover between the siblings in front of a dead son’s casket (that one was over the top and too cloying even to shock).
I had to eventually skip to S7 E7 and fast forwarded a couple of times before the wall
came tumbling down. Winter has finally come and the zombies are on the march.
Very, very slowly.
Like this show. In its last gasps.
Someone win the game, already. I’m worn out.
Hello, and welcome to my world. Back in 2010, I had no idea I’d be penning cross-genre novels dealing with anything from death to revenge to mail fraud. Perhaps it’s in my genes? I’m a funeral director by trade so lives lived are my primary focus, even if I like to mess my characters up a little bit along the way!
I am a gonzo writer (see article below), which means I’m influenced by the late great Hunter Thompson, whose unique brand of storytelling opened the door for my brand of mortuary revenge fiction.
Death is tough, surviving it tougher, unless we let the dark in and kick it in the face, hard and with humor.
A. B. Funkhauser
April 9, 2019
What’s New in Funkhauser’s World?
Self-Definition and a New Imprint!
I’m stoked, not just because the snow’s gone and I’ll soon be swimming in an ever-cleaner Lake Ontario, but also because I’m giving my old books—my companions, my darlings—the facelift they deserve.
It’s been almost a decade since I took up the digital pen and started writing things down. I journaled, I made up words that existed nowhere else on the planet, and I mucked around with blended genres in a way that drove my writing teachers crazy.
Somewhere in all the lessons—formal and informal—I got hints of where I needed to go with this thing called writing.
Was I writing a series? Was I a horror author? Was I a true gonzo? Did my covers make sense?
The answer was “yes” and “no” to all the above. A frustrating place to be some days, kinda cool on others. I jumped in “boots first” all those years ago, never giving a thought to commercially viable fiction writing or monetary success. If I loved the book, it was good enough, wasn’t it?
“Yes” and “no.”
It’s now 2019 and I have three books “out there” and four more in production. After a six-month hiatus where I repainted the house and crocheted an afghan while binging Sons of Anarchy and Ray Donovan, it hit me that some of the old ideas had to go. “100% Certified Zombie-Free Paranormal Romance with Happy Ending” read one of my more craftier tweets, but did it get at the core of what I was doing?
My covers said otherwise:
While it was true that the first novels centered on a funeral home where the paranormal walked in lockstep with the day-to-day doings of living beings, Heuer’s ghostly door—so compelling to me nine years ago—really didn’t do the contents justice. Reviewers consistently talked about the main protagonist and his rather unique predicament: being stuck in a room with his own moldering dead body and no one on the outside caring to look for him. Some reviewers found the set up dark and funny, one going as far as comparing the work to Carl Hiaasen; others described it as heart-breaking, haunting and horrific.
I thought I was writing comedy.
My favorite comment was “poignant, smart, wunderbar.” Was it true for the other books? Did readers have a different take on what I thought I was saying, and did that impact the way the books were being presented?
Scooter Nation, my follow up to Heuer Lost and Found, also has a door on its cover. At the time I thought it was a clever pairing with the first book, but then the reviewers said things like “Chilling”, “Irreverant” and “Visceral.” The package didn’t match the contents. A remodel was needed.
I love the new Heuer cover. It is dark and mysterious and features the strange protagonist who longed to be loved while hating everybody at the same time. To me, it is a more honest and authentic representation of what the story is about. More importantly, it is worlds away from that sad little door that said nothing at all.
Sometimes a photo doesn’t do the contents justice. Sometimes you just have to go to the drawing board and with Scooter, I got inspiration from Hunter Thompson’s cover artist Ralph Steadman. Quirky, simple and suggestive comes to mind. The digital artist “gets it” and with extreme longing, I wait for the new cover to arrive sometime in early May 2019.
In addition to being described as funny and gory gross, Scooter Nation has also been tagged as mysterious with twists and turns aplenty. Blended genre again. Years ago, I was warned about blending and mashing. “No one will know where to put you,” was the prevailing wisdom. No kidding. My third release, Shell Game, jumped on the scene with tags like:
When a black cat appears on the swinger’s front lawn, neighbors die in search of meaning.
When a cantankerous know-it-all falls into a pile of sheep manure, a clueless neighbor wakes up.
When a secret society takes her cat and her man, a grieving widow fights back.
When my then publisher asked me to select a genre, I went with “humor” and “satire,” labels more fitting a “psycho-social cat dramedy with death and laughs.”
It held up. A reviewer called this one “dark and excellent” which told me one very important thing, that I was getting closer to figuring out what my books—past and present—are actually about.
I am an indie author now with my own imprint which means I have the power of choice over cover, fonts, layout and genre delineation. But as I reformat and repackage what already exists and make plans for future work, I will apply what took almost ten years to figure out:
My writing isn’t what I say it is. It’s what the reader decides.
To that end, I will dedicate whatever time and energy is required to getting it right.
Adult, unapologetic, and wholly cognizant, I am
A. B. Funkhauser
Dark humor and satire fiction author A. B. Funkhauser is currently prepping her back catalog for release under the Out of My Head Publishing imprint. Her first mystery novel, Self Defense: A Kirsti Bruner Mortuary Mystery is expected this summer. Look for all her titles on Amazon. Coming Soon.
Leigh Podgorski sets the stage for romance out west in the 21st Century.
As Song discovers the true power of freedom, Weston discovers he’s lost his heart.
When rodeo clown Cody Goode is killed by the notorious bull, Baby Face, a maelstrom of events unfolds in the small town of Wild River, Wyoming. The arrival of Cody’s secret Thai mail-order bride Song throws it and especially Weston Beaudurant into chaos. Immigration issues and Native American gambling explode. But at the heart of this poignant tale is the love story that emerges between the lonely cowboy and lovely Thai immigrant. The novel soars with romance, rodeos, Native Americans and cowboys who ride the range, rope, and even throw punches in a quintessential barroom brawl. Complete with a diverse cast of unique characters, this American saga plays out beneath the wide Wyoming sky tossed with stars.
About the Author
Leigh Podgorski is an award- winning playwright and screenwriter. Among her favorite projects are a play and documentary on Cahuilla elder Katherine Siva Saubel entitled We Are Still Here and the one-act play Windstorm for which she interviewed Dr. Elisabeth Kubler Ross. Leigh’s novels include The Women Debrowska that is loosely based on her own Polish ancestry, Ouray’s Peak which follows the story of one matriarchal Ute Indian lineage, and the Mystic Mystery Stone Quest series that includes Desert Chimera, Gallows Ascending, and the newly released Neuri Shape-Shifter. Her most recent novel is Western Song, published by Solstice Publishing who has published novellas My Soul to Take and The Season of the Neuri Knight as well as her short story Silent Night. Currently she is working on a murder mystery adapted from her play, Amara.
If you like witches, sentient kitty cats and gritty murder in a contemporary setting, this writer is for you!
Formerly a Manhattan entertainment attorney and a contributing editor to the quarterly art magazine SunStorm Fine Art, Susan Lynn Solomon now lives in Niagara Falls, New York, the setting of many of her stories. She is the facilitator of the Buffalo Writer’s Critique Group.
Since 2007 her short stories on serious topics have appeared in numerous literary journals. These include, Abigail Bender (awarded an Honorable Mention in a Writers Journal short romance competition), Ginger Man, Elvira, The Memory Tree, Going Home, Yesterday’s Wings, Smoker’s Lament, Kaddish, and Sabbath (nominated by the editor of Prick of the Spindle for 2013 Best of the Net and winner of second place in the 2017 Word Weaver Writing Competition). A collection of her short stories, Voices In My Head, has been released by Solstice Publishing.
Susan Solomon is the author of the Emlyn Goode Mysteries. A finalist in M&M’s Chanticleer’s Mystery & Mayhem Novel Contest, and a finalist for the 2016 Book Excellence Award, her first Emlyn Goode Mystery novel, The Magic of Murder, has received rave reviews, as have the novelettes, Bella Vita, and The Day the Music Died. The second Emlyn Goode novel, Dead Again, was a finalist for both the 2017 McGrath House Indie Book of the Year and the 2018 Book Excellent Award. In the latest Emlyn Goode Mystery novel, Writing is Murder, Ms. Solomon once more demonstrates that murder has a sense of humor.
Cursed by a Native American, the Bennet House is one of the most haunted locations in Niagara Falls. This is where Emlyn Goode and all but one member of her writers’ group hunt for ghosts on Halloween. What they find in the house, isn’t a ghost, though. It’s the body of Daniel Bennet, the missing group member.
A few days earlier, Daniel had shown Emlyn a document he’d found in the Bennet House, and told her it would anger people if made public. When the body is found, the document is missing. Accused of Daniel’s murder, Emlyn is certain that document will identify the true killer. But her search for it becomes dangerous when her lover, police detective Roger Frey is shot in the Bennet House and then the killer comes after her. Without Roger’s protection can anything written in her ancient relative’s Book of Shadows save Emlyn this time?
Amazon Author Page: https://www.amazon.com/A.B.-Funkhauser/e/B00WMRK4Q4