Author: Angeline Trevena

Story Worms: Lessons from Lockdown

As the world begins to emerge from lockdowns—tired eyes blinking, hair unkempt, fashion more questionable than ever—it’s normal that things feel different. It’s bound to feel like things have shifted: the world, ourselves. We may have changed our focus, or shifted our priorities. We may be feeling that everything is futile, or we might be filled with new passions and vigour. There’s no right or wrong. We feel what we feel.

There are hints of normality, but it’s still wrapped up in an overall strangeness. Change can be difficult, so don’t put too much pressure on yourself. Don’t think that you have to instantly bounce back, slipping flawlessly into the life you had before. Take your time. Reflect. Breathe.

I’ve just returned to the slimming group that I’m a member of; a tiny slice of my previous life restored back to me. In our first session, our consultant asked us two questions: “What do you want to leave in lockdown?” and “What do you want to bring with you out of lockdown?” She encouraged us to think of bad habits we may have adopted through the pandemic, or lifelong habits that, through the filtered lens of lockdown, we had reconsidered. She also urged us to find good habits that we wanted to continue, or something we wanted to start doing from now on.

And it got me thinking about these questions in regards to my writing.

The World’s Most Magnificent Libraries

Like many avid readers, my love of books began at my local library. I grew up in a small town, and our library was equally small; a single room below the town hall, just over a bridge which was the subject of a scary local urban legend! And it had the best thing any library can ever have: an amazing and passionate librarian.

When people think of libraries, they often just think of a room with lots of books. But it’s the people that really make it. You won’t remember all the books you borrowed, but you will remember a great librarian. Forever.

But libraries don’t only hold books. There are many more reasons that people visit libraries, and a lot more that they can see there. From comic books and maps to wolf pelts and smells, The World’s Most Magnificent Libraries (Great Big Story) explores the most awe-inspiring and unexpected of libraries from around the globe.

Taking Submissions: The Rebel Diaries

Deadline: June 30th, 2021
Payment: Royalty Split
Theme: What happens when the villain wins?

What happens when the villain wins?

Sick of dashing debonairs? Fed up of being blinded by shining armor?

Sometimes, all a girl wants is a villain for a hero. The Rebel Diaries is looking for stories starring characters with a dubious shade of morals. We want characters who aren’t afraid of getting what they want, causing a bit of chaos, dabbling in mischief and mayhem, and slathering on the sarcasm.

We want stories that slip into the grey areas, that are bulging with villains, deviants and rebels. We’re after sassy tales littered with questionable morals and happy endings—for the villains anyway.  

We are not looking for horror or gratuitous violence, but dark stories that are fun, light hearted explorations of the characters usually hidden in obscurity. 

Story Worms: You Can’t Kill Zombies

For as long as I can remember, I’ve been obsessed with horror. The macabre. The spooky. My teens were spent working through the horror classics with my brother, and completely obsessing over The X-Files.

But there is one monster that I just keep coming back to. The zombie.

I often hear it claimed that the zombie genre is dead, no pun intended. That everything that can be done with it, has been done with it. That the only option left is to keep rolling out the tired, old tropes we’ve all seen before.

Now, for one thing, people love tropes. Tropes are too often confused with cliches, but these are two very distinct things, although there is crossover, and tropes can end up becoming cliches. Think of tropes as route markers, as milestones. They are clues and hints, given to your readers, to let them know that they are reading a book of a particular genre. A genre they love. They are simply clues to your reader to read on, because you promise they’ll enjoy it.

We are, by nature, creatures of habit. We like the familiar. The familiar is safe. And so, we love our genre tropes. The elderly mentor or the chosen one in fantasy, the corrupt government and intrusive surveillance in dystopias, the one person who managed to sleep through the whole apocalypse. We love them, we seek them out, and we enjoy the familiarity.

But, on the other side of that coin, we like to be unsettled too. Especially us horror fans. We like to see something safe and familiar turn around and become something terrifying. The psychotic child, the family pet turned monster, the harmless doll possessed. We do enjoy things being turned on their heads.

And, on that point, every time I hear anyone claim the zombie genre as being finished, someone releases a book, movie, or TV show that pulls something totally fresh out of the bag. Sure, there’s a lot of dross coming out of that bag too, but there are also absolutely stunning gems being revealed.

The thing about zombies, and the reason they’ve endured so well (other than the fact that so many people caught in zombie apocalypses seem to have never watched a zombie movie before, and have no idea of how to exterminate them), the reason they have endured is that they are so familiar. Scarily so. And dangerously so.

Zombies are not only humanoid, but they used to be human. Sometimes, they even retain human qualities. Sometimes, they’re barely distinguishable from humans at all. And, so often, they are people we have known, and loved. They’re our neighbours, our friends, our families. Hence the trope of the person bitten, and those around them being unable to kill them, until it’s too late.

Zombies also represent something else to us. They represent our deepest fears.

A zombie represents the part of ourselves that we have attempted to distance ourselves from. They are a reminder that, deep down, we’re nothing more than animals. Animals with base instincts: to feed, and to breed. We like to think of ourselves as better than that, that we’ve evolved beyond our animal ancestry. We don’t want to be reminded of what we truly are at heart.

And a zombie is, quite literally, an embodiment of our own mortality. Facing a zombie is looking death square in the face. And we don’t really like that. We can see what will become of us. How we will rot. Zombies remind us that we cannot live forever.

And until we stop fearing our deaths, or denying the animals that reside deep inside us, zombies will continue to fascinate, enthrall, disgust, and terrify. As long as we remain human, zombies will be everything we fear. Everything we fear about ourselves; what we were, and what we will become.

Story Worms: An Interview with Angelique Fawns, Author of ‘The Guide of all Guides’

Finishing writing your short story might feel like the end of a long journey, but it’s also the beginning of a brand new one, too. And, for new and seasoned writers alike, the submission process can be a minefield of decisions, uncertainty, and simple fear. It can be a daunting step, and there are many writers who struggle to take it.

But, what if you could have all of the answers in your hand? The inside scoop on the various publishers and their pay rates? How about what the editors are looking for, or how long you’ll have to wait for a decision?

That’s exactly what you get with Angelique Fawns’ book, The Guide of All Guides.

Angelique is a journalist and speculative fiction writer who started out writing articles about naked cave dwellers in Tenerife, and hosting a radio show in Mooloolaba, Australia. She now creates television commercials for Global TV in Toronto, and writes fiction in her spare time. Angelique lives on a farm north of the city with her husband, daughter, horses, goats, chickens, and a potcake rescue dog.

A prolific writer, Angelique has more than 30 short stories published across anthologies, magazines, and podcasts. Her stories have shared pages with the likes of Charlaine Harris and Piers Anthony. Penning tales of fantasy adventures, murder mysteries, zombie outbreaks, and horror carnivals, she is no stranger to any part of the speculative fiction spectrum.

I caught up with her to find out more.

How did you first start writing fiction, and what drew you to speculative fiction in particular?

Story Worms: One Size Never Fits All

I’m one of those writers who has been penning stories ever since they were old enough to do so. It’s who I am. It’s what I am. Asking me why I write is akin to asking me why I breathe. I honestly wouldn’t know what to do with my hands if I didn’t write.

Yet, some years ago, I almost gave it up completely. I was reading an interview with one of my favourite authors, and she said that, if you ever wanted to take writing seriously, you had to treat it as a day job. You had to get up early, and write for the whole day. Every day. Trouble was, I already had a day job.

The guilt, the self-doubt, and the feeling of unworthiness that that statement instilled into me almost stopped me writing. I couldn’t see what the point was, if I was unable to take it seriously. Unable to give my whole life to it. But, I still had bills to pay, and that required a day job.

It’s remarkable, the provisos, clauses, and conditions that get attached to who is a ‘writer’. A ‘proper’ writer, I mean. You hear it all the time; that you’re not a ‘real’ writer unless you write literary fiction. Unless you’re traditionally published. Unless you’ve written a best-seller. Unless your neighbour’s mate’s brother’s wife has heard of you. Unless you gouged the words of your book into your skin with the claw of an albino werewolf.

Let me tell you this: if you write, you’re a writer.

I realise, now, that suggesting you write from 9-5 five days a week is a suggestion that comes from a place of privilege. If you have a day job, and write on your lunchbreak, you’re a writer. If you write one evening a week in between working and raising a family, you’re still a writer. If you write fanfiction, poetry, flash fiction, stories intended just to make people laugh, or puke, you’re a writer. If you only ever write during NaNoWriMo each November, then guess what? Still a writer.

Even if you never intend to publish anything, and you simply write for your own peace of mind, or to pass the time, or to explore your feelings, that’s fine. You’re no less a writer than anyone else.

The internet is full of writing advice. Most of it is well-meaning advice. A lot of it is incredibly good advice. No matter, not all of it is for you. Not all of it will fit with your schedule, your life, your body clock, your brain. I’m a natural early bird, and I always have been. My most productive, most creative hour is 5am-6am. Should everyone write at that time? Absolutely not! I’m a little bit crazy, I accept that, but it’s what works for me.

You need to find what works for you. Test, experiment, reject, and test again. Try out other writers’ tips and schedules and formulas. Some might fit you, but most of them won’t. That’s fine. I don’t care if the only way you write is balanced on the tip of your nose on a rope bridge above a pool of hungry crocodiles. If that works for you, then do it. As long as you’re getting words down, and meeting your goals, whatever they may be, then carry on.

Never, ever let anyone tell you you’re doing it wrong. If words are coming out, and you’re happy with your progress, then smile sweetly, thank them for their feedback, and sashay away with a flick of the head.

Be open to try new things. I say that, because your life might be totally different next year, or in five years, or ten. You might be totally different. I don’t often get the chance to write at 5am, because I have two young boys who have inherited my early bird gene. But, in ten years’ time, I’ll have two teenage boys who may not emerge until lunchtime. Be flexible, but never try to shoehorn someone else’s schedule into yours.

One size never, ever fits all.

Story Worms: A New Pair of Boots

Here we are, at the beginning of another brand new year, and we’re probably all wondering where the time went, right?

2020 is going to be a pretty big year for me, and I’m staring at it with both excitement and abject terror!

For one, I’m having a landmark birthday this year (don’t ask how old I’ll be, it’s obviously 21!) I have definitely been feeling my age recently, even if I still refuse to act it!

September will see my youngest starting school. This will, pretty much, double my current amount of child-free time. While part of me is tempted to use the extra time lazily basking in coffee shops… No… Hold on… ALL of me wants to do this! Sadly, my business sense is telling me to use the time a little more productively. Grudgingly, I’m listening.

This year I will be launching a brand new pen name. I’ve been toying with the idea for a while, but stubbornly held off taking the plunge for two reasons: first, I’m a little narcissistic and like seeing my own name on my books. Second, I’m a little narcissistic and like seeing my own name on my books. Oh, hang on. That’s the same reason twice, isn’t it? Maybe I’m more of a narcissist than I thought!

Seriously though, I’m also incredibly lazy. The thought of running two websites, two mailing lists, and two sets of social media accounts has really put me off doing this. But, it’s time, and I really feel that it’s time.

With this pen name, I’ll be writing a new genre, writing specifically to market, and using a completely different publishing and marketing strategy to my current one. Why? Something to do with eggs and baskets or something. Maybe I’m just throwing stuff at the wall to see what sticks. But, this is how business is; trying different strategies, and seeing what works.

Besides, when I make millions from my pen name, it will leave me completely free to write from the soul under my real name. Writing my genre mash-ups that are my heart’s desire, but bloody difficult to market!

Story Worms: Let’s Talk About Voice

A lot of writers stress about ‘finding’ their author voice. They talk about it as if it’s some kind of mystical, illusive, precious treasure that they might, someday, discover under a bush, or down the back of the sofa. If they’re lucky.

Perhaps it’s because author voice is so revered, so admired. We talk about the voice of our favourite authors as if that is the one thing that ties everything together; their books, their personality, their fame. Surely, if we could only find our voice, this magical thing would happen, and riches would flow to us.

We’ve placed the idea of author voice, the ideal of it, on a pedestal. Made it feel unattainable.

And that’s why it’s so difficult to believe that the truth is something far simpler. That your author voice doesn’t need to be found. Because you already have it.

(Just like Bastian in The Never Ending Story: “He simply can’t imagine that one little boy could be that important.”)

Your author voice is the product of everything you have ever written, and everything you have ever read. It’s the product of your dialect, your accent, your upbringing, and education. It’s the Netflix shows you watch, it’s your favourite movies, it’s the people you chat with, and the people you overhear in the street. It’s your culture, your moral code, your ethics.

Your author voice is made up of everything you have been, everything you are, and everything you will be.

And, that blend, just like you, is completely one-of-a-kind.

It’s not something you need to manufacture, or study. It’s not something you need to look for. It’s not a case of fake-it-until-you-make-it. You already have your author voice, and it’s already unique.

You simply need to write. And read. And live. And write some more.

Your author voice will grow with you, and become more defined. You may not even recognise it yourself, because it’s as much a part of you as your thoughts. Your heartbeat. But it’s there.

There’s no treasure map to find it, because it doesn’t need finding. Just defining. So, just write, and write, and do it as only you can.