Mark Eller Talks the Talk With 1stAngel

Author, podcaster, own 3 parrots, a wife, and some kids

Outside of my day job, I presently have three audio fiction podcasts, The Hell Hole Tavern, (a 3 bk dark fantasy trilogy), Mercy Bend, (dark stories, some physical and psychological horror), and Traitor at podiobooks, (a slipstream sci/fi). Have had over twenty short stories published in various places, most recently in Anon Literary Magazine. My first two books, Traitor and Betrayed, can be found on most major outlets. Traitor is free.

As you can tell from my education section, I’ve been to several colleges, one for my trade and two others because I enjoyed taking classes for fun until I became more interested in classes that were a higher level than they would allow me to attend, at which point I quit college and just read and studied on my own, except when college looked fun again, at which time I went back for a class or two.

She returned his frown. “Maybe you don’t know what you want, because I see you avoiding responsibility when it leans your way. Being bored is of your own making. A person with your resources and potential should have no problem coming up with a fulfilling routine. I’m sorry, but there’s nothing I can do to help you there. I handle the business and lawyering part of this arrangement. You need to run your own life. Now, I have a lot of work to do so I need you to leave.”
~~~Betrayed, book two of The Turner Chronicles

When did you first become interested in writing?
In my youngest years I hated reading. Then, in fourth grade, I discovered a book titled, heck, I don’t remember, but it was about a baby horse who lost its mum. About forty pages long. It was my first complete book and I fell in love. By fifth grade I was in the advanced reading class. By sixth grade I wanted to be a writer. In fact, I started writing my first book about then. I spent almost two entire hours working on it before coming to the conclusion writing was hard work. In seventh or eighth grade I wrote several fiction papers for my twelfth grade sister’s English class. She got B’s on all, but I sometimes wonder what her teacher thought about stories concerning baby beavers and Irish Setters lost in the wilderness.

What style of writing do you use most?

I can’t really say I consistently use any one style. I write to the story. Some stories require one approach, some require another. It isn’t something I think about beforehand. The story sets the tone. Not me.

Has your style changed from when you first began as an author?

Oh lord. HOW IT HAS CHANGED! When I started out I had problems with sentence structure, voice, commas, POV, plot, pacing, and just about everything else you can think of. Mind you, I didn’t know most of this. I thought I was freaking fantastic. Family told me I was good. Friends told me I was great. In the short run, their ego stroking did me good. In the long run, the stroking caused me harm. I didn’t struggle to learn my craft and eventually became discouraged when nothing sold. Three years after completing my first book, still in my young twenties, I quit writing altogether and lost my work. More than ten years passed before I took it up again, doing things right this time. I joined crit groups and studied how people I admired managed things.

I now understand a bunch more about the craft than I did then. I understand that I still have problems with structure and voice and commas and POV and everything else so I better write and rewrite and rewrite again. I also understand that a good editor is my most favorite person in the entire world. Mine catches almost everything I miss. Because I’m too close and too familiar with the story, my eyes have a tendency to gloss over flaws.

In what way do you usually put down your ideas first?

Oh very much Microsoft Word, or Mac’s Pages or anything not requiring me to hold a pencil or pen.

When her strength finally gave out, she would fall to the ground and remain there until she died. Gerda might live for an hour, or a day, or even two. Before the end she would be delirious and delusional. No one would care for her needs because Aaron Turner, her friend, had to be someplace else.
Aaron walked away while Gerda tried pulling one last weed with a shaking hand. He walked away and then turned back to face her, pulled free his revolver–
And shot Gerda in the back of the head.
~~~Betrayed, book two of The Turner Chronicles

What made you choose that medium?

I possess the amazing hand-eye coordination of an arthritic earthworm. My handwriting is so bad that I printed everything all through high school. It helped, but only a little because even my printing was nearly indecipherable. I once wrote an entire book in longhand during breaks at work, back before portable computers existed. When finished, I was couldn’t translate even the first chapter. So, to answer the question, if my words don’t show up on a computer screen, they don’t show up.

Do your ideas come from life or imagination?

Both. I live about half my life creating fantasies and plots inside my head, most of which dribble out my right ear and drift away. However, I’ve never written anything that hasn’t had part of me in it. The part might be a gesture, a thought, or an experience. Often the part is grabbed from some inner emotional piece that keeps nagging from the background. For example, until ten years ago I had very little experience with horror. I seldom read or watched it. I knew very little about the genre, which made things a bit confusing when several people contacted me requesting a horror author interview. After looking at where four or five of my shorts landed, I realized the interviewers were correct. I did write horror, but only because those stories happened shortly after I went through a divorce. Much of my hurt and anger appeared in my writing, creating some very good stuff I had no qualifications to write.

How do you choose your characters?

I create characters I like to like and characters I love to hate. To get them I study people. I read newspapers and magazines and observe online behavior. When those tactics fail, I invent characters from whole cloth. Hero or villain or something in between, I love my characters to have physical, emotional, psychological, moral, or some other flaw. I hate characters who are big and strong and confident and never do anything wrong.

Who is your favourite author?

Michael Stackpole, but not just for the obvious answer of loving his work. Michael is an incredibly talented author in my chosen genre who goes out of his way to pass on knowledge. I spent over a year attending weekly hour-long online sessions where he taught all comers about writing, publishing, promoting, and anything else we could think to ask. A change in my work schedule made me stop attending, but he’s still online and still teaching for free.

What is your favourite piece of work by yourself?

A year ago I would have said Traitor, the first book in The Turner Chronicles. Today, after editing and publishing Betrayed and Pawn, and presently editing Crusade in preparation for publication, I really don’t know. I love each book the best while I’m working on it. When I move on, I keep thinking the new book is better than the last. If pressed, right now I would have to say my favorite is Pawn, but only because I just finished editing and publishing it so it remains freshest in my mind.

Aaron remembered the shotgun’s trigger against his finger. He remembered the silence as his shotgun refused to fire. Unlike Emus, fear had ruled him. He had not thought, had not acted. Instead, he did nothing. Aaron could no longer deny the truth. Very little of the man he had once been remained. The hero Missy remembered was gone, washed away in idleness and an alcoholic fog.
Gods, he wished he had his Talent Stone. He needed to run away from himself.
~~Pawn, book three of The Turner Chronicles

How much time (on average) does it take to complete a work?

If you want speed you’re looking at the wrong person. I wrote Traitor ten years ago, Crusade five years ago, and the others somewhere between the two. Each of the four Turner books took about six months to write, and an additional year to get to where I thought the work worthwhile. Long fiction or short, I like to set things aside for a good while after the last period is typed. A few weeks later, or months, or sometimes years, I take it back out again to look at it with new eyes for a new edit. During the editing process, I try to be cruel, and I want my editor to be equally cruel. I’d rather my work is the best I can make it than believe my first efforts are perfect. After the editing is complete, I’ll sit on the work for a few more weeks before firing up my computer and opening Audacity to record the thing. I read every single word aloud in hopes of catching any problem we missed during editing. Only when the recording is complete do I send in my work for publication.

How well do you take criticism?

Like everybody else, I have an ego. It likes being stroked. Praise is nice. Honest praise is greatly appreciated. However, solid criticism is appreciated even more. The best way for my work to improve is to discover what I’m doing wrong. If I don’t own a thick skin and a willingness to listen to sincere input I’ve no business throwing my stories out there for people to read.

What do you do to overcome a ‘block’?

I’ll let you know when it happens. If something isn’t flowing, I move on to the next project while the first one percolates. However, please remember that I’m not writing all the time. Writing is just one of my hobbies. I also podcast my fiction, and have done internet radio hosting. At times, months pass before I get struck with a desire to write something new.

How do you know something is ‘finished’? Is it easy to walk away?

Knowing when a book is finished is the easiest thing in the world. When my editor no longer says things like ‘move this chapter…is this character needed…or…did you really intend to fire eight bullets out of that six shooter’ I know the book is ready.

Have you been published?

Yep. I’ve had a lot of short fiction show up on ‘for the love of it’ sites like Bewildering Stories and Demonminds. AnonLiterary Magazine paid for about seven of my Mercy Bend horror stories after the editor heard me doing a live reading online. Scared Naked Magazine bought one of my Mercy Bend Stories. Planet Relish bought a short piece titled Singing the Arvid Blues. There have been a few others, but I think Bewildering Stories is the only site left where my work is still archived.

As for novels, I’ve three presently published. Traitor originally came out as a print book published by Swimming Kangaroo Press. Dindy and the rest were an amazing group to work with. After Swimming closed their doors, I moved on to White Wolf Press, publishing Traitor as an e-book only. My editor at Swimming Kangaroo, Larriane Wills, offered to edit the remaining Turner Chronicles books for free because she liked them so much. Not being stupid, I accepted with much gratitude. With her help, I have since published Betrayed and Pawn. Crusade will likely be released within three or four months. The books can be found on Amazon, Smashwords, and at Barnes and Nobel. Traitor, the first book, is a free download. It can be found most easily at http://www.whitewolfpress.com/authors//mark-eller/

“No,” Missy agreed and cupped the side of his face with one palm. “For you it wouldn’t be right. For you, making love to me without your wife knowing would be a horrid, horrible thing to do. It would tear you up inside. The thing is, I was just sort of wondering. How is what happened here so very much different from what Melna did? The only difference I can see is she’s too young to have thought out all the consequences.”
~~Pawn, book three of The Turner Chronicles

Have you any publications planned for the future?

I wrote God Wars, a dark fantasy trilogy, with a partner, Liz VanZandt. We podcasted it under the title The Hell Hole Tavern, and had a heck of a good time. We now want to clean up the stories and release the three books. On top of that, My Tales of Mercy Bend horror novel needs about twenty-five thousand new words before I can even think of releasing it. I’ve another fantasy book, Expendable, that has sat idle for about three years. It’s time to dust it off and do a rewrite. Then there is book five of The Turner Chronicles waiting to be started. Even though I wrote The Turner Chronicles to be complete in four books, I always knew I would write another if I found an audience. Since people are buying the things, and because many fans have contacted me, book five will happen.

What are your plans for the future?

Get old. Retire. Keep on writing and podcasting. I’m also considering reviving my blogtalk author interview show and maybe getting serious about Convince Me!, an interview show where guests convince me their views are correct. I only did a few of those before life and work got in the way, but they were fun. I interviewed psychics, a believer in the 2012 Mayan prophesy, and a young man who is big time into body modification, skin pulls, and body suspension. A fun interview, but I left unconvinced.

What advice would you give new authors?

Write because you love it. You don’t have to write for publication, but if you do, take time to learn the craft. Join crit groups, writing groups, study writers you admire, and don’t be afraid to take a few classes. Most of all, have a thick skin and love your editor. When we write something we become too close to the work. Because of this, our minds skip over logic flaws which capture an editor’s attention immediately. Oh yeah, be sure to cut down on wordiness. Sometimes a good sentence can become great by shifting things around and knocking out three or four filler words.

Have you done any courses to help you?

Yep, with long stretches in between. I took a creative fiction writing class in high school. Over the next three decades I took a couple other fiction writing classes. Because a writer needs something to write about, I also took a bunch of history, philosophy, psychology, and English classes. I also attended anything else that caught my attention, but like with my writing, I didn’t go to school continuously. Sometimes years passed before the urge hit again. Still, I keep going back. At almost fifty-four, I finished a creative non-fiction class only a few months ago, and why not. Going to school is fun.

What do you do to market your work?

In short, not enough. When Traitor first came out I started my own blogtalk show, podcasted the book, appeared as a guest on over twenty internet shows, cross promoted with other fiction podcasts, got involved in a now defunct reality writing show as both a production assistant and judge, and did a few other things. Then I got sick for a while due to a mountain climb and a bug bite. I had to quit it all for a couple years. Now that I’m publishing again, I’ve done the twitter/facebook thing, a couple interviews, and have podcasted Betrayed as a free podiobook. Truthfully, self-promotion outside of podcasting is my least favorite part of this publication game because I’m an introvert by nature, but it’s time for me to get back into gear.

“Helmet Klein is no longer emperor,” Seeker said gently. “He passed the burden on to another.”
Seeker’s free hand reached out to touch her father’s brow. Aaron’s head jerked back, almost as if he had been struck. His knees sagged.
Seeker’s voice became gentler, filled with compassion. “All solace to the new emperor.”
“No,” Aaron whispered, and his arm fell away from Autumn. “No.”
“My friend, I am so sorry. As I told you before your tasks for Him are not finished.”

Do you use social networking in your day to day life?

Social Networking is pretty much a requirement. Without it I wouldn’t have found my present publisher. I would have missed out on several short fiction publishing opportunities and missed out on doing voice readings on other podcasts. I’ve made some good friends through facebook, and met some good people on twitter. If you want to look me up my facebook is: https://www.facebook.com/MarkEller
.

On twitter I am: https://twitter.com/#!/Mark_Eller

Are you interested in collaborating with artists?

Truthfully, I had not thought of it before now. I was once married to an artist. I helped her study for art history tests, went to art museums, and sat in on art classes, but I’ve no talent or eye for the stuff. I seriously cannot draw a stick figure(see hand-eye coordination references). If an artist is interested I suppose we could collaborate on my Mercy Bend stories, but I would have to know the artist’s expectations beforehand.

Have you got hobbies?

Sure, most of which I have already mentioned with the blogtalk and podcasting/writing thing. I also enjoy shotgun sports because I’m too creaky for racquet-ball anymore. I’ve also played with longbows and pistols, but shotguns are my love. After more than ten years of trying, about forty thousand shells fired, and several tons of money, I’ve become an okay B-class shooter. Mostly these days, on the physical side, I spend at least an hour a day, six days a week, in the gym. After a lifetime avoiding treadmills, I’m hooked because extra pounds are dropping.

Where are you based?

I’m a Michigan boy in the United States, from the city of Flint, home of the coney island hotdog. Coney’s are nothing like a chilly dog so don’t use it as a comparison. If you stop by Flint, grab a coney at Angello’s. The original owner with his original sauce is back. If somebody offers you the Detroit sauce, ignore them. Only Flint has the real stuff. Everything else is pretend.

Comments