Wednesday, May 27, 2015

An Interview with Editor/Author Eric Fritzius

Eric Fritzus

IFW editor/webmaster Eric Fritzius has just released a collection of his short stories called A Consternation of Monsters.  It features ten of his short fantasy/horror stories each containing monsters of various sorts and stripes—a whole consternation of them, to use the collective noun.  Our editor/webmaster, coincidentally also named Eric Fritzius, sat down with Eric for an interview about the new book. 

1. Can you tell us a little more about your book, Eric?

I can indeed.  Thank you, Eric.  This is a collection of short horror and fantasy stories that I’ve written over the past twenty plus years.  I chose monsters as the unifying theme because that was kind of the common denominator between each of these stories.  There’s always something monstrous in them.  Sometimes the monsters are more traditional, as is the case of the famous Mothman of Point Pleasant, W.Va.  Got a dead one of those that turns up in “…to a Flame.”  The angel of death turns up a couple of times, too, usually wearing a plaid sport coat.  Other times, though, the monsters walk on two human feet, as is the case in "Wolves Among Stones at Dusk."  And, in one story in particular, that also involves Elvis Presley, very much alive, well into the 21st century, the monster is a little more conceptual than physical, but devastating all the same.

2. What was the driving force behind writing this collection?

There was a driving force and her name is Belinda Anderson.  She’s my writing mentor, and the author of three collections of short stories (The Well Ain’t Dry Yet, The Bingo Cheaters, and Buckle Up, Buttercup) set in fictional Hope County, W.Va.  Through her writing workshops and classes, she's been responsible for setting deadlines for and helping to shape a number of the stories that are found in this collection.  More importantly, though, she’s been after me to collect these stories for years.  And she finally had to set a deadline to get me to do it, which was for a local author event back in April.  Belinda also helped me edit all the stories and get them into final form, so I give a lot of credit to her.

3. What do you want your readers to take away from reading your book? 

Well, hopefully they’ll get a few chills from them, as many of the stories are in the horror genre.  But they should get laughs too.  Almost nothing I write is ever free of humor.  And these aren't exactly intense horror stories to begin with--they're more horror lite/modern fantasy stories, as these things go.  I’m not a big fan of the kind of gore and cruelty that the horror genre often showcases.  I’m more of a fan of stories in the style of Rod Serling's Twilight Zone, which often contained terrifying concepts, but few stories that were reliant upon gore or things leaping out at you.

I hope they enjoy their time in my little world.  I like to take a page from Belinda Anderson's books, again.  She sets many of her stories in the same fictional West Virginia county, and has characters who wander multiple stories across three books so far.  I'm also a big fan of world-building when it comes to writing fiction, so most of these stories are set within a basic shared universe.  It's a fun method for writing stories that feel like they had a life before the reader arrived and the characters and events will continue on after the final page has passed.  A few of my characters carry over into other stories, too, sometimes even after they've died.  And there's a character from one story who gets driven into a different story, locked in the trunk of a 1976 Lincoln.  Readers will have to follow the clues to figure out that mystery, though.

4. What writing projects are you working on now?

I’m working on some stories that will appear in future collections.  I have a number of short stories that have no fantasy/horror elements at all, which I would like to see them in their own collection.  But the ones I’m currently working on are genre stories, some of which are planned continuations of stories begun in A Consternation of Monsters.  I don’t want to say which ones, because that feels like a commitment to a sequel, but there are a couple of stories in this collection that leave their main characters in very interesting places.  The stories of those characters continue in my head already, so they really should in print as well.

5.  Speaking of less fantastical stories, while A Consternation of Monsters is your new collection, it's not the only book you've had fiction published in this year.  And your other fiction appearance is not horror/fantasy.

Correctamundo!  I also had a short story published in the Diner Stories: Off the Menu anthology, published in March by Mountain State Press.  It's a collection of writing--fiction, nonfiction, prose, poetry--on the subject of diners.  It was edited by Daniel McTaggart, who has an abiding love for the topic.  I contributed the opening story called "Flying Lessons Over Lunch, with Saint Joseph Cooper Tina."  

6.  I take it there are not a lot of horror/fantasy stories found in Diner Stories: Off the Menu.

Actually, there are two stories with sci-fi/horror elements, and neither of them was written by me.  Toddy Ludy and Frank Larnerd have some great stories with horror/sci-fi elements in them.  However, while my contribution isn't horror, it does feature two characters who also appear in A Consternation of Monsters.  See?  World-building.

7. Where can readers learn more about your book and your writing?

My website, is the best place to go.  I have a weekly blog there, where I write about each of the stories from the collection, telling how they came about.  I have also been adapting some of the stories into audio format.  However, unlike most audio books that simply have a narrator reading the material, I do that, but I also add music and sound effects.  It's a little closer to a radio drama. 

I'm releasing these as the Consternation of Monsters Podcast.  You can listen to these adaptations right from my website or on iTunes, and they're absolutely free.  It’s a good way to get a feel for the kind of stories that are in the book, in case readers would like a free sample. So far I have adapted " a Flame" and "Wolves Among Stones at Dusk." 

I also have a Goodreads author page, an author page , and a Facebook page for A Consternation of Monsters.  My blogs are posted to each of those.  

As a bonus, Eric Fritzius is giving away a free copy of A Consternation of Monsters to one of you. All you have to do to qualify is leave a comment on this blog. Next Monday, a winner will be randomly selected and contacted by Jessica Nelson (in the form of a reply to his/her comment in this blog) with further information about how to collect his/her prize.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Six Things You Need to Know About Your Writer

Rhonda Browning White

Today we're sharing this popular (and accurate) blog essay, "Six Things You Need to Know About Your Writer," written by IFW editor, Rhonda Browning White. You can read more of Rhonda's essays with reading recommendations, writing advice, travel, dining, and even an occasional recipe or two, on her blog, Read.Write.Live! at

So your friend—or, God help you, your spouse—is a writer. Chances are, the more you get to know your writer, the more confused you’ll feel. Writers are odd ducks. We’re fun. We’re irritating. We’re enigmas and amoebas. How are you supposed to make sense of someone who flip-flops more than cheap rubber shower thongs? It’ll help you to know a few things about us that might make us a little easier to understand. Or not. No one says we are easy.

1. We are extroverted introverts. Writers realize the importance of socialization; in fact, we’re often pushed to network, self-promote, and mingle in order to make the necessary connections to publish our work, or sell it once it is published, so that we can publish again. We can juggle Facebook, Pinterest, and Twitter, all while texting and providing riotous dinner-party banter. Sometimes we are wildly gregarious, prone to spontaneous road trips or bar-hopping. We can be the life of the party, cracking witty jokes you can’t wait to tell your friends at the water cooler, and boogying to every song the band plays. Don’t count on our amusing behavior to last, however, because . . .

2. We are introverted extroverts. You know that party we looked forward to all week? The one we chattered about incessantly, the one for which we bought a sparkly dress and fabulous shoes? We might arrive and sit quietly in a corner. Yes, last weekend we sang karaoke at midnight and break-danced as an encore, but this weekend we’re happy to play the wallflower, soaking up all that energy we expended the last time we were out. We’re having fun—don’t think we aren’t, even if we’re not smiling—because we’re watching, we’re processing, and we’re thinking. And it’s likely that something we see, hear, smell, feel, or taste will show up later in the story we’re writing.

3. We are usually right. Writers are sometimes perceived as know-it-alls. It isn’t that we believe we know everything, though we surely wish we did. We’re avid researchers, constant readers, and we’re always questioning how this works and why that doesn’t. We study the ingredients on cereal boxes. Our dictionaries actually wear out from overuse. Our Google search history could easily get us arrested. We’re smart, because we thirst for knowledge like a sponge in the Sahara Desert, and we’ll track down an expert for answers as doggedly as if he were the Aquafina man. When we offer unsolicited advice, consider it a gift (this is one we hope you’ll return!), because we give it in the spirit of helpfulness, not haughtiness.

4. But we are often wrong. And it breaks our hearts. It embarrasses us. Mortifies us. Many times, we know the answer, but our always-in-overdrive brains sometimes can’t shift gears quickly enough to turn a tight corner. So when you ask us the difference between a simile and a metaphor, and we answer incorrectly—though we’ve known the answer at a cellular level since third grade—it isn’t because we’re dumb. It’s because our minds are absorbing new information, or we are creating a new character in our minds, or writing a scene for a work in progress—or all of this is happening simultaneously in our heads while we’re attempting to answer your question. Besides, if we truly don’t know the answer, you can bet we’ll look it up.

5. We are not ignoring you. Yes, you’ve said our name three times, and when we finally respond, we ask you to repeat yourself twice. It’s sometimes difficult for us to come back to this planet when we are in a world of our own making. We are often visiting universes that we’ve created inside of our heads. We have to go there. Have you ever read a story and envisioned the scene as if it were playing out in front of you? That’s because a writer became so intensely involved in the creation of that setting that she pictured it in vivid detail—scents, sounds, surfaces, and more—so much so that she temporarily blocked out this world in order to create that one. It’s a necessary part of the job, and it’s what makes us good at what we do. It’s hard to hear you when we’re intently listening to the monologue or dialogue inside of our heads. Be patient. Repeat yourself. We’ll catch up to you.

6. Except when we’re ignoring you. Writing is a solitary profession driven by creativity that requires deep internal thought. The busyness and business of everyday life must be shut out both mentally and physically for us to work at peak capacity and get in touch with our highest creative selves. We’re okay with shutting the door—and locking it. We’re fine going all week without television, and we may equally be fine letting it play all day on the same unwatched channel. We don’t feel guilty letting your call go to voicemail. (In fact, when we’re writing, a ringing phone can be the equivalent of a pipe bomb exploding in our laps.) We can exist for days on coffee and candy corn or wine and Doritos. Don’t worry. We’ll come around soon enough, and we’ll again be ready to jabber until your ears wear out or spin you around the dance floor until your legs grow numb.

We know we’re different. We’re okay with that. And we hope with every breath that you’re okay with it, because we need you. When we come back to this earth, this country, this room, we want to find you there. After all, it’s you we’re writing for.

Tip for Writers: Be sure to email the link to this article to your your friend or significant other, or print it out and strategically place it where they will see it. Then get back to writing.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Interview with Author Emma Broch Stuart

Wendy Chorot

New author Emma Broch Stuart (aka IFW Editor Wendy Chorot) shares her passion for seeing women and men released from bondage and healed from relational wounds. Her newly released book, Broken Umbrellas, takes the reader on her personal journey from the pit of despair and brokenness to the healing arms of Jesus. Along the way, she allows the reader an intimate look into the relationship baggage she hauled around most of her life—even crossing the Atlantic with it—before surrendering to God’s radical healing.

1. Tell us a little more about your nonfiction.

Once upon a time, brokenness claimed so many areas of my life, and every one of those areas were relational in nature: bitterness and shame from past intimate relationships; wounds and scars from abuse; insecurities from relating with women I felt had it together when I did not; feelings of failure as a mother. It was all relationship stuff. When I realized that humanity tries to relate with one another in spite of their brokenness, God asked me to write about my own personal struggle with broken areas of my life. And voilĂ ! Broken Umbrellas was born.

2. What was the driving force behind writing Broken Umbrellas?

This is a good question. I feel most people are really bad at one thing in life like sports, or math, or sewing. For me it was relationships. Even becoming a Christian didn’t save me from a broken marriage. And I kept asking myself, “Why can’t I get this right?” And God showed me that when we have unhealthy hearts, we have unhealthy relationships. (That goes for friendship relationships, too.) Then he took me on an incredible 13-month journey that healed me in the most radical way. I wrote Broken Umbrellas because I don’t believe I’m the only one who has struggled with relationships.

3. What do you want your readers to take away from reading your book?

Hope. Pure and simple, yet profound hope. Hope for all their hurting relationships and a desire to be healed, healthy individuals. I want my readers to see—and believe—that God is bigger than any brokenness they have suffered or caused. And I pray Broken Umbrellas is a tool to bring my readers into a deeper knowing of God, the only one who can heal them.

4. What writing projects are you working on now?

I’m working with WhiteFire Publishing on a fun and inspiring piece called Barn Doors. Barn Doors is a collection of short stories about everyday life and how God speaks to me . . . and how I hear him. It releases next spring.

I also have a children’s series with DeWard Publishing called The Keeper Series. “The Windkeeper” is the first in the series and looks to be ready for this fall. An illustrator has it as we speak, bringing my words to colorful life. “The Starkeeper” will follow, and “The Rainkeeper” will complete the series. One way God speaks to me is through the pages of his Word, and I incorporate that into these stories.

5. Where can readers learn more about your book?

Broken Umbrellas is for sale on Amazon in paperback and Kindle version, which you can find HERE.

6. How can readers connect with you?

I LOVE connecting with people! Readers can find my blog on my website:

They can also find updates on my Facebook author page:


Or by emailing me:

7. Where did you get the name Broken Umbrellas?

At my precious grandson’s funeral, I spotted a broken blue umbrella flapping in the winter wind. The woman holding it was oblivious to the fact that snow was falling on her. When she moved her broken umbrella to offer protection to the man beside her, my heart was overwhelmed with the symbolism of humanity doing the same thing—“protecting” (or loving, serving, relating) in spite of our brokenness.

8. Tell us about living overseas.

I credit a lot of who I am today on my experiences in Europe. There’s something about getting out of your comfort zone that forces you to relate differently, engage in the world around you at a different level. And most importantly, see beyond yourself. I have dipped my toes in the Mediterranean, hiked mountains in the French Alps, drank wine with my baguette and cheese, breastfed under the Eiffel Tower, and made a complete fool of myself many times as I butchered the language. I have been misunderstood, ignored, lost in a big city, and served fish with the head still attached. But I have also been kissed by complete strangers, given free bus rides when I didn’t have exact change, served delicious cuisine, and most importantly, blessed with knowing Christ at a deeper level. My daughter was born there, my first grandchild buried there, and, while there, I collected more than a decade of memories—both good and bad. 

Living in a foreign country shows you just how strong you really are.

9. Why did you choose to write under a penname?

Because Broken Umbrellas gives the reader a very intimate and vulnerable look at my past, I chose to write under a penname out of respect for the people I speak about. Of course, I did not have to, and if any of them were to read my book, I have written it in a respectful way that they should not take offense. And I have decided to keep my penname for all of my writing projects. The name Emma Broch Stuart is very special to me; it is the middle name of each of my three children.

As a bonus to this beautiful interview, Emma Broch Stuart is giving away a free copy of Broken Umbrellas to one of you! All you have to do to qualify is leave a comment on this blog. Next Monday, a winner will be randomly selected and contacted by Jessica Nelson (in the form of a reply to his/her comment in this blog) with further information about how to collect his/her prize.

Thank you again to Emma Broch Stuart (and Wendy Chorot) for granting this beautifully poignant interview!


Thursday, May 7, 2015

Grammar 101: Grammar Jargon

Jessica Nelson

The world of editing and writing is fraught with fancy-schmancy jargon and technical terms. We learned many of these years ago in our English classes. We know what they are and how they are used—we just forget what they are called. So, today I am giving you a crash course in grammar jargon with help from the IFW editors and The Little, Brown Essential Handbook by Jane E. Aaron.

First, we will start with classic grammar terms no one actually remembers despite using them almost every day.

Gerunds: the –ing form of a verb used as a noun; usually proceeded by a possessive noun/pronoun. Ex. My husband is annoyed by my nightly snoring.

Present participle: the –ing form of a verb (and used as a verb). Ex. Since the weather is nice, Susie is working in the garden today.

Past participle: the –ed form of a verb. Ex. Rhonda graded so many undergraduate composition papers that she lost her faith in humanity’s ability to write correctly.

Ellipsis: a series of three periods, each separated by a space; looks like “. . .”; used to denote an omission of words, phrases, or entire sentences in nonfiction, and, in fiction, denotes the trailing off of a thought or a long pause. If the ellipsis occurs at the end of a sentence, the sentence-ending period is also included, creating a series of four periods separated by spaces (“. . . .”). Ex. Leila looked at the giant red F on the top of her paper. “But . . . I thought I did well . . .

Comma splice: when two main clauses are joined (or spliced) only by a comma, rather than a comma and conjunction. Ex. We loved the movie, the actors were okay. Should be: We loved the movie, but the actors were okay.

Homophone: words that sound exactly alike but have different meanings. Ex. principal/principle. The former is the head of administration at a school. The latter is “a comprehensive and fundamental law, doctrine, or assumption” (Definitions curtesy of Merriam-Webster online).

Homonym: a word that has multiple, different meanings. Ex. “fair.” We had an excellent time at the fair. vs. It’s not fair that my brother always gets what he wants.

Indefinite pronoun: a word that replaces a noun but does not refer to a specific person or thing; may be plural (e.g. both, few, many), plural or singular (e.g. all, any, none, some), or only singular (e.g. anyone, everyone, someone).

Misplaced modifier: A modifier modifies the noun closest to it. A modifier is considered misplaced if it modifies a different noun in a sentence. Ex. Ginger ate potatoes, mushrooms, and rice for dinner, lying on the sofa. “Lying on the sofa” is misplaced. As written, it modifies “dinner,” but it should modify Ginger. To correct, we’d write: Lying on the sofa, Ginger ate potatoes, mushrooms, and rice for dinner.

Dangling modifier: doesn’t sensibly modify anything in its sentence; may imply a subject, but does not explicitly name one, making the actual subject unclear. Ex. Walking down the street, the renovations to the neighborhood became apparent. This should say: As we walked down the street, the renovations to the neighborhood became apparent.

Synecdoche: figurative language that uses a part to represent the whole. Ex. using “the crown” to represent the monarchy or “a dollar” to represent money.

Now, we’re going to explain some terms you may have never heard before. That said, I’m sure you’ll be surprised to find you know what they are.

Bildungsroman: a coming-of-age story. Ex. pretty much any YA or teen novel.

Pastiche: a patchwork story; pieces taken from other authors’ works; generally refers to a paper with plagiarized parts. Ex. This blog (sort of), which uses term definitions from The Little, Brown Handbook, Merriam-Webster, and the lovely ladies at Inspiration for Writers, Inc., is a pastiche.

Head-hopping: a type of point of view breach; when the viewpoint character changes within a scene without first having a transition and invitation to foster that change; in the words of Sandy Tritt, “All head-hops are point-of-view breaches, but not all point-of-view breaches are head-hops. (If you would like more information about this, we are happy to send our tip sheet on “Point of View,” which also includes ways to avoid head-hopping.) Ex. Mike sat on the bench and wondered where his future would lead. To the army? To college? To that hot barista’s apartment? Jack stared at Mike’s melting ice cream cone, and wondered how hard Mike would punch him for stealing it.

Any of this ringing a bell? I hope so! Hopefully, next time you sit down with a writing buddy or one of our editors, and he/she starts jargon dropping, you’ll be able to keep up.

Was this helpful? Are there other grammar/literature/writing terms you know you know but don’t know what they’re called? Or any you want us to explain?  Let us know in the comments, and maybe we’ll do another blog like this one.