Issue 20: Risky Business

Back before Christmas, but after I’d made my 2018 recap, I had a chance to read Imogen’s Secret  and Imogen’s Journey. Absolutely could not put these novels down, so I reached out to the author to ask a few questions and B Fleetwood talks about how a novel became a trilogy and what’s next for Imogen.

Micah Dean Hicks picks the Playlist for Break the Bodies, Haunt the Bones. And note: tonight Micah Dean Hicks has an event in Florida. Details at the end of the playlist.

Of Elections and Influences: How the 2016 Election Inspired Libby Fischer Hellmann’s HIGH CRIMES

Barbara Winkes chats about her new book, Killer Instinct, and talks about her writing spaces.

Almost forgot … my review of The 19th Bladesman. It should have run elsewhere, but the site wasn’t one I wanted to continue working with, so here it is.

Did You Miss It?

Brian wrote about his favorite TV Characters, posted another Eclectic Mayhem and shared his best reads of 2018.

Plus, Issue 19 went live a few weeks ago, with Isabella Maldonado, Dana King and Susanna Beard.

Risky Business: Stepping Out Side Our Comfort Zones

Screenshot_20190206-183127_Twitter

 

There will always be something to react to on social media, and the publishing world has given us plenty lately.

Yesterday, when I saw saw some of the responses to Jason Heller’s thread, the top tweet here was the one that had been retweeted. Now, if you go to the thread this is part of and start at the actual top, the response made more sense.

But as it was, what I saw that seemed to be the source of ire was these two tweets. And I have no issue with them at all. Heller is absolutely correct – each person makes a choice about how to approach their craft.

He’s also very right about something else that doesn’t have to do with money. He’s right about the fact that writers are often approaching their craft from a comfort zone and afraid to take risks. I’m not talking about with earning a living; I’m talking about taking chances to blend genres and push boundaries.

To even push ourselves.

There’s a real wisdom here that has been obscured by the tweets that came before. I get why some people are defensive about the money thing (Heller encouraged quitting the day job and writing) and unwilling to go there. Forget about that. I am not talking about that.

I am simply talking about the balls-free approach to writing that so many have settled for. In this past year I wrote a manuscript outside my genre. So far outside it scared the crap out of me. It ended up being a passion project that I fell in love with. It forced me to stretch as a writer.

I didn’t want to let it go. I was ready to be done writing police procedurals, to put crime writing behind me.

And then along came another character. Something I learned in the process of writing that passion project infused with this character and she didn’t just tap on my shoulder and suggest we spend some time together. Nope. She showed me the story.

I started writing January 9. Yesterday, I finished what I’m calling an unprocedural. It may be crime, and the character may be a cop, but it is far outside the lines of what I’ve done with any of my books to date. It’s personal and messy and – like that passion project I penned last year – it made me cry writing it.

Again, I have a manuscript I don’t want to let go of. For the second time in less than a year I’ve finished something I’m voluntarily re-reading. Since I re-read and revise as I go I’m usually sick of it by the time I’ve written the final words.

Not this time.

I credit how I feel about these two books to taking personal risks and infusing more of myself into the narrative. Not that the books are about me, but because I have found my emotions that connect to the character’s stories and channeled that into them.

Even at the end of this story, I wrote the last chapter and then the next day had to sit down and write it again, because there’s a second POV character in this book and I realized that I’d sidestepped the emotional depth of the scene by looking at it through the wrong eyes.

Will it matter to anyone else? Who knows. What I know is that I am most proud of these two manuscripts, and the short story I wrote last year, Crossing Jordan. That was very personal, because one of my parents is trans, but still very much in the closet day to day.

Frankly, the overwhelming majority of us aren’t making much money writing. Why should I worry about writing to formula, convention or expectations when there’s so little to gain from it?

Instead, I will take those risks, step outside my comfort zone, push myself to grow. I may not have royalty checks to cash, but I’ll have the satisfaction of knowing that I didn’t play it safe.

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Micah Dean Hicks picks the Playlist for Break the Bodies, Haunt the Bones

Final for Online

 

 

One of my front teeth is half fake from a knife-throwing incident when I was a kid.” – Micah Dean Hicks

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

If readers were listening to music as they enjoyed your book, what song would be playing with the opening scene? Why?

Tricky, “Hell Is Round the Corner”

 

This is the perfect song to open the book. Eerie, cautious, a warning. Martina Topley-Bird’s ethereal voice and Tricky’s prophetic chant. “Hell is round the corner where I shelter,” and it is for Jane and her brother Henry, living amongst the ghosts of Swine Hill. The spirits are swallowing the town, growing restless, drawing closer. Bad things are coming.

What song do you think best illustrates your protagonist’s emotional state during the first part of your book? Why?

St. Vincent, “Fast Slow Disco”

 

This is a great song for Jane. Possessed by a ghost that allows her to read people’s minds, Jane is always “thinking what everybody’s thinking,” even when she doesn’t want to. She’s stuck in a town she desperately wants to leave, her ghost her only friend. Still, the spirit is better than nothing. And maybe there’s reason to be hopeful. She just met someone new.

There are often significant turning points in a story that advance the plot. This can coincide with an emotional shift for a character. Do you feel like there’s a song that illustrates a defining turning point for your character? If so, which one and why?

Portishead, “Mourning Air”

 

After Jane loses everything and with nowhere else to go, she drives to her ex-boyfriend Trigger’s house. The two of them were only together a short time, “a moment … in a half lit world.” She’s almost completely alone, “reaching out in this mourning air.” Jane knows they weren’t great for each other, but Trigger is someone she can depend on. He’ll be there for her, won’t he?

Are there other songs that you imagine would be really fitting for specific scenes in your book? If so, feel free to share the songs and a little about why these songs would be fitting for your soundtrack. (For example, they can illustrate the emotions of your protagonist, antagonist, or another character, or fit thematically with an event in the story or the plot.)

The Noisettes, “Scratch Your Name”

 

This song is for Bethany, the unbeatable girl trailing thousands of ghosts in her wake. The dead won’t let her leave the dying town of Swine Hill, though, so Bethany’s stuck. She can fight and claw and rage, but nothing she does, no matter how big, seems enough to save her.

Maddie Medley, “Coming of Age”

 

This might the theme song for Jane’s boyfriend Trigger. Jane wants to know everything about him, but Trigger has secrets. No one visits his house. Something bad happened to his family, and they don’t talk about it. Still, even if he feels like he can’t tell Jane everything, he loves how she puzzles over him.

Santigold, “Creator”

 

This is Henry’s anthem. A boy possessed by a ghost that helps him build impossible machines. Henry is all unbridled confidence, thrilling in what his hands can make. He doesn’t ask should I, only can I, and the answer is always yes.

What song would be suitable for the conclusion of your novel?

She Keeps Bees, “Radiance”

 

This song is an ending. Triumphant and sweet, but so sorrowful too. How much did Jane lose to get here? What was she able to keep in the end? Read and find out.

Do you have any special events coming up? Where can people catch up with you in person or on a podcast?

On February 7th at 7pm, I’ll have a release party in Orlando, Florida, at Writers Block Bookstore. And on March 20th at 7pm, I’ll be doing an event at Joseph-Beth Booksellers in Cincinnati, Ohio. I’ll have a bunch of other events all through the spring. I should have an updated event schedule up on my website soon

 

Micah_Hicks_1087_Email

Micah Dean Hicks is a Calvino Prize-winning author of fantasy, fabulism, and fairy tale retellings. His writing has appeared in The Best American Science Fiction and Fantasy, The New York Times, Lightspeed, and Nightmare, among others. His story collection Electricity and Other Dreams is available from New American Press. Hicks teaches creative writing at the University of Central Florida. His novel Break the Bodies, Haunt the Bones is coming February 2019 from John Joseph Adams Books.