Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Readers' Mailbag

"Real questions from fake people"

QUESTION: So Matt, you wrote this one blog post about office work. And in that blog post, you mentioned that you should have a dedicated email for your writing work. Why do you post at The Flying Trapeezius under the name "Studicus?" Isn't that the exact opposite of your advice? And why is your Twitter handle @statomatty? Shouldn't it be like @MattAdamsauthor or something? Or at least @Studicus?

Phil from Punxsutawney, PA

ANSWER: Um, good point, Phil. I've been thinking about this a lot. Studicus is an internet handle I've had for a long time and I don't want to give it up. It's a nickname that's stuck with me since high school. When I first started blogging, I was very paranoid about what I posted and didn't want to "expose" my public identity. I don't really care about that now. Statomatty is another nickname I had in high school and I use it for email and such. It seemed a unique Twitter handle...after all...there are soooooooo many out there. I'm still getting a handle on establishing an internet presence...and you've given me some real food for thought. I suppose The Flying Trapeezius doesn't scream "author blog," does it?

QUESTION: So I see there's a link to another blog called I, Crimsonstreak. It has two posts and the interface is ugly. What gives?

Dean from Lincoln, IA

ANSWER: About two years ago, I discovered the infinite power of internet marketing. I thought I could use that to get buzz for my book I, Crimsonstreak. So I made a Facebook profile and started a blog. Then I realized how much work that would actually be and gave up. Yeah, after two posts. I was also concerned that publishing excerpts of my novel could hurt its chances of being published. That's probably rubbish, but it was a concern at the time. I haven't deleted the blog yet because I keep thinking there's untapped potential there. It just takes a lot of time and effort that I'm devoting to my other writing endeavors and The Flying Trapeezius.

QUESTION: Why do you think you're a writer? I've never heard of you. Along those lines, I've never heard of any of the publications where your "stories" have appeared and the ones I have heard of are way past their prime.

Rachel from Cleveland, OH

ANSWER: Thanks for reading, Rachel. Obviously, if you're sending me questions, you've read something I've written. And if I've written something, then I'm a writer. Coincidentally, the fact that you haven't taken the time to read the excellent stories at A Thousand Faces or Wily Writers for Speculative Fiction isn't my fault.

QUESTION: I'm a prospective author seeking advice for my career. Since you've had so many stories published and you write like you know what you're talking about, you've obviously figured out the publishing business. Will you help me?

Balian from Jerusalem

ANSWER: Well, Balian, I've had six short stories published. That hardly qualifies me as an expert on publishing! I'd be happy to read a sample of your work and critique it if that would be helpful. No charge, of course.

QUESTION: Do you ever reuse character names? Like, do you get fixated on a name and it appears in a ton of your work?

Alan from Snakewater, MT

ANSWER: Oh, heck yeah. A few of my go-to names include Sid Lumpkin, which is a name I give to a slightly overweight, bureaucratic boss. He appears in one of my books and a short story. The SimCo company also appears in a couple of stories and is quickly becoming the "ACME" of my writing portfolio. In two of my stories, the company manufactures robots that have a tendency to malfunction. A character named Baron Gallant originally appeared in a story I wrote long ago in college; the name resurfaced in the superhero farce "The Bank Loan." In that story, Baron Gallant was a gruff, unappreciative, and stressed-out hero in need of a loan. So, yeah, sometimes I recycle for my own amusement.

QUESTION: Can I get a Flying Trapeezius hat? Preferably one with your picture on it? And could you autograph it?

Lois from Metropolis

ANSWER: The Flying Trapeezius does not currently sell merchandise. After all, three people read this website. However, if you're dying for a piece of Studicus, you can always order this stylish hat with the logo of my fantasy football team.

QUESTION: In your story "Absolution," what's the deal with the Notre Dame stuff? I mean, the family's name is O'Riley. You mention pubs and Catholicism and wakes and stuff. It's pretty obvious the family is Irish. Why bring the Fighting Irish into it? Don't you owe Notre Dame money now?

Rudy from South Bend, IN

ANSWER: RUDY! RUDY! RUDY! Thanks for writing. Sure, the O'Riley family is clearly of Irish descent in a kind of Bizarro Boston world, but I like to add sports references to my work. Odd as it sounds, making the family a bunch of Notre Dame fans helped me connect with them. You see, I tend to categorize people by their sports affiliations because I'm shallow like that. And I don't think Notre Dame can charge me for mentioning the university.

QUESTION: So what's the deal with the ending to "In Memoriam?" Is the guy dead or not? I need to know now! He faked his own death, didn't he? C'mon, man! Tell me!

Barry from Central City

ANSWER: Okay, Barry. Slow down! I'm afraid I can't tell you what happened at the end of "In Memoriam." It's completely up to the reader. Did Clinton Abernathy Warner fake his own death? It's possible. Is he still alive? It's possible. Did the crowd simply see what it wanted to see? That's another possibility. I really like that story because of the ambiguity of the ending. You can interpret it in several ways.

QUESTION: You've posted a long list of your current projects on your blog. If you had to pick five favorite short stories, what would they be?

Anna Marie from Caldecott County, MS

ANSWER: Wow. That's a tough one. I become pretty attached to my stories...I hate it when they get rejected. It truly feels sometimes like your child just got cut from the varsity basketball team. However, if I had to pick my favorites, they would be (in no particular order):

Swatch: Guardian of Time. With most members of the Time Rangers on vacation, Madame Timeweaver begrudgingly enlists Swatch to preside over a vital mission. Determined to prove his worth, the easily-distracted Swatch screws up the mission and scrambles to find a solution in the Temporal Mists.

In Memoriam: The loss of a firefighter stings a community; more so, after the man's double-life as the mysterious "Wraith" is revealed. Those who know the man mourn his passing during a memorial service and all witness a chilling sight that defies explanation.

A Wing and a Plan: A super-intelligent penguin declares war on humanity, citing the human race's mistreatment of penguin kind. He works to raise an army of penguin super soldiers, until the foibles of his own kind unwittingly befall him.

Should've Stuck with the Chicken Story: A TV news reporter and his trusty photographer scoff at the chicken wing shortage story they're forced to cover...until a strange outbreak of mindless, hulking creatures leads them to reconsider their opinion of the story.

I Took Over the World for This? Dementius has finally beaten the good guys and taken over the world. Instead of groveling at his feet, his subjects seem more concerned with border disputes, petitions for universal health care, and other petty concerns, leaving the ruler to wonder what compelled him to take over the world in the first place.

To the Infinity Room! A man named Mervin Garth collects items from alternate universes using a device called The Infinity Room. He cares so much about this collection that he sometimes neglects his dim-witted assistant Nathaniel. But when the boy goes missing, Mervin realizes that the priceless items in his collection have little true value and begins a desperate search through the infinite cosmos to find the boy.

Yes...that's six stories, not five. I've never been great at math...just ask my high school calculus teacher.

QUESTION: What's with the Reggie Miller Writing Continuum and wouldn't you be better served, I don't know, actually writing something instead of making up a stupid readers' mailbag?

Conrad from St. Louis, MO

ANSWER: The Reggie Miller Writing Continuum is an informal tool I use to track my daily writing progress. That's all it is. As for the question of whether I should've focused on something a little more substantive...well...yeah. I probably should have. I just didn't have the inspiration to write much tonight in terms of a story. At least I've written something.