Sunday Surprise

ef35c8744d8253cb93bc3dc034cd5ce7dd630abfAnd it’s another Wyrd Worlds author! I’m blown away by the talent of these guys! 🙂 Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome Stan Morris!

Where do you live and write from?

I live on a farm on the island of Maui, and I write from my table desk located in my man-cave. For decades I used a laptop, but as LCD monitors became more common, I realized I would have more desktop space if I returned to a tower system. I added a twenty two inch Seiki TV (not recommended; terrible sound) as my monitor. I have four other LCD TVs in my man-cave, because I like to watch sports. It’s good to have an indulgent wife.

When did you start writing?

I wrote my first two novels about 1965. I was enjoying racy western paperbacks, and there was this cool new television show about space, called Star Trek. I was inspired by these two sources to write my own books which featured young men rescuing (from ridiculous villains) scantily clad young women and getting lucky. You other writers might recognize that as a euphemism for having sex. I was fourteen.

What genre(s) do you write?

Science fiction/romance would cover most of my books, and much of my writing glides along the line between Young Adult and New Adult. I would not be comfortable with someone twelve years of age reading most of my books, but I would not be surprised if some of my readers are that age. When I was twelve, I certainly enjoyed stories with a little sexual suggestiveness in them, especially if the characters didn’t go too far. At twelve, I wasn’t really sure what ‘too far’ meant. But my stories are mostly about ordinary older teens who find themselves in extraordinary situations.

Where do you find your inspiration? Do you put yourself in your stories?

My inspiration comes from all the input my senses deliver, but it is often the result of becoming exasperated by trite writing, usually in television series. It amazes me how often the girl has to be rescued by the guy even when she is supposed to be the strong lead. Fringe and Covert Affairs fall into this category. On the other hand, I’m guilty of doing the same in Sarah’s Spaceship Adventure.

My most popular book, Surviving the Fog, was written partly in response to the irritation I felt from reading Lord of the Flies. I wrote a short story in response to the first year of Falling Skies for the same reason. A few years ago, two movies were produced about the possibility of an asteroid striking the Earth. Luckily, humankind survived both. I imagined Robert Heinlein writing a similar story. I suspect he would have had his characters engaged in a massive attempt not to divert the asteroid, but to mine the sucker for any water and minerals available. By the time that asteroid reached Earth orbit it would have been the size of a dime. That’s the kind of twist on an old theme I’m looking for.

Quite often I do put aspects of my personality in my stories. I often put in aspects of people I know or have observed, and I’m not above using personality traits of characters from books, movies, or television shows I have watched.

Do you have a specific writing routine?

On a daily basis; no. On an overall basis, I start slowly, get into a grove, and then write frantically. When I wake up in the morning, boot my computer, get coffee, sit down at my computer, and open Word instead of Chrome or Firefox, I know I have gotten very serious about the book.

Outliner or improviser? Fast or slow writer?

I do a combination of outlining and improvising. Sometimes this is the result of a challenge or a whim. Up until my latest book, I had always set a goal of 100,000 words when I wrote a novel, but when I began writing Surviving the Fog-Kathy’s Recollections I deliberately avoided any goals. I decided to write until I was satisfied with the book, or until I was tired of it. It turned out to be 200,000 words. Previously I had not set chapter word-count goals, but in that book I set a goal of 5,000 to 5,800 words per chapter. I’m glad I did that. I discovered that having a set amount of words forced me to be more concise, to write a tighter book, and to sharpen my editing skills.

Sometimes I’m a fast writer, and sometimes I’m slow. Between mid-May and mid-August, I wrote short stories totaling about 80,000 words. That’s pretty average for me when I’m in to writing. Right now I’m taking a break as I prepare for an extended vacation.

StanTell us about your latest book

My latest book is Surviving the Fog-Kathy’s Recollections. This is a sidequel (as good a made up word as any I suppose) with a starting point earlier than Surviving the Fog and continuing the story after the ending point of the original story. Surviving the Fog was written in 2008 and published at Smashwords in 2009. It has been a popular story with total downloads from all sources approaching 175,000.

Surviving the Fog begins at a camp in the southern Sierra Nevada Mountains. The camp was organized by a religious organization and was designed to preach sexual abstinence and to teach methods of birth control. Forty eight kids, ages twelve to seventeen, have gathered at the camp. After a week, none of the cell phones will connect, and the mail is not being delivered. The camp administrator leaves to check on the mail, and she takes all except one counselor with her. He is a mature man, very capable of dealing with the kids for the two hours the other adults will be gone. But his wife is expecting a baby, and his anxiety for his wife’s welfare causes him at the last minute to let Jackie, the youngest female counselor, stay behind in his place. They never return. Days later, one of the boys discovers that the Earth is covered by a layer of brown fog up to 6,700 feet, and that anything entering the fog is killed.

A lot of readers asked for a sequel, but for a long time I felt as if I had nothing to add, and I didn’t want to begin a regimen of writing sequel after sequel. I dreaded it becoming a soap opera. But the book did have criticisms other than grammar and spelling, and one of those criticisms is that I focused on the boys to the detriment of the girls’ stories. I agreed with that criticism, but other than rewriting the book, I didn’t see how to correct it.

Then I began a conversation with Tammy K, a reader at Goodreads. As I was corresponding with her, I thought about one of my characters, Kathy, and how dissatisfied I was in the manner that her story unfolded in the original book. It was nothing like what had been in my head at the beginning. I began to imagine the story from Kathy’s point of view, and one day I sat down and began writing. I was stunned at how fast the words flowed from my erratic typing. Ten months later, I had Surviving the Fog-Kathy’s Recollections. I had even taken a two month break in the middle of writing it. This book begins in Morgan Hill, California, as Kathy reluctantly prepares to attend the camp. She makes her feeling clear. “I had no problem with abstinence, and I was not interested in learning how to roll a condom onto a penis.”

Most writers are in like with their own words, and that’s true of me too, but I love this book. This was my seventh book, and I am a much better writer than I was when I wrote Surviving the Fog. I was able to humanize these children much better, and I was able to insert messages to teens in much more substantial manner. The higher word count allowed me to develop themes like self-control and commitment, and to comment on religion, politics, and community. The book shows the evolution of these kids from suburban modern teens to rugged young adults who mature as they face dangers from the elements, from outsiders, and from each other.

 Indie publishing or traditional publishing – and why?

I started out with the intention of using traditional publishing. I finished writing Surviving the Fog, printed the manuscript, and sent it to the Library of Congress to get a copyright certificate. After that my plan was to submit the manuscript to Baen Books or to Tor. The idea of publishing a book online was new, but since I am somewhat of a geek, I decided not to wait. I published the book at an obscure site. Then I discovered Manybooks, Scribd, and some other sites, and I uploaded the books to those sites. Then came Feedbooks and Smashwords. Finally Amazon created Kindle Digital Publishing.

Any other projects in the pipeline?

I always have many projects on tap, and I believe all authors should do this. When you are not feeling one project, try another. That will keep an author writing through a block.

What is your goal as a writer and what are you doing to achieve it?

My goal is to entertain readers and to gently offer a few suggestions about life and values. I do set myself challenges from time to time in order to improve my craft. One of the self-challenges I set this year was to write a series of short stories that tiptoed between the sensual and the erotic with a bit of disturbing domination thrown in. I wrote a total of thirty seven stories with a New Friends theme title.

I have written snippets of a book I will call Surviving the Fog-Douglas Lives, and I want to return to my other major projects, Tales of the Ragoon of which I have published three novellas, and Mackenzie’s World which has one published novel. Those are science fiction/romance projects. But I am never quite sure which of my characters is going to suddenly grab me and demand that their story be told.

StanAuthorI’m Stan Morris. I was born in Linwood, California, and was raised in Norwalk and Concord, California. In 1972, I moved to New Mexico. I met a girl at college in 1975, set out to score, and have been married to her since 1977. We lived in Texas for five years and then moved to Maui. We have two grown boys, both gainfully employed, thank goodness. My wife had the career and I had the job, so I worked at a variety of those before developing a computer business in the late 1980’s. Now I’m retired and living on a farm. I garden, watch sports, listen to music, read, and write. I don’t make much money at it, so occasionally I have to ask my wife for my allowance. She’s the principal at an elementary school who is retiring this year (2013). I like science fiction (Heinlein, Asimov, Weber, Flint), romance (Krentz, Roberts, Morisi, Chesney), mystery (JD Robb, MC Beaton), historical fiction (Lindsey, Stewart), and history books (Shelby Foote, David McCullough, William J. Bernstein.)

Book Blurb:

I don’t recall, exactly, when I accepted the likelihood that my mother, and my father, and my sister, and my brother were dead.  I remember gradually becoming alarmed when the Camp Administrator, who we called ‘the Admin,’ did not return with the counselors who had left with her.  And I think the first time I cried was the morning Jackie, the single remaining adult, refused to leave her cabin.  I must have begun to face the truth when Jacob told us about the fog covering the land below us, but it was sometime after that when I realized that I would never see my family again.  I was alone in a dangerous world, trapped in the Sierra Nevada Mountains by a deadly mist, and surrounded by strangers I had never met before that fateful month of May.

Book Excerpt

Then the Chief looked at the prisoner and said, “Bring him.”

The man started yelling at us, and he threatened to kill the Chief.  He described some really vile sexual things that he would do to us girls if we didn’t let him go.  Some of the kids got really frightened then, and some were so frightened they asked the Chief to let the man go.  They even spoke to the man, and they begged him to promise that he would never bother us again.

The man was struggling, and he was a big man and strong, but Ralph, John, and Howard held him firmly, and the other Spears helped them push the man onto the barrel.  It tried to roll out from under him, so the Chief called for some kids to hold the barrel steady at the ends.  The rest of the Spears, and some of the other kids, grabbed the ends of the barrel and held it steady.

The Chief climbed onto the barrel, and Douglas handed him the rope.  The Chief struggled to work the noose over the head of the wiggling man who was cursing at him.  Once he had the loop around the man’s neck, he tossed the other end of the rope toward a big tree branch. It fell short, and he tossed it again and again, until he made an accurate toss and the end of the rope dropped over the thick branch. Then he jumped down.

Ahmad, John, and a Spear named Rasul grabbed the loose end of the rope, and they pulled it rigid to lift the prisoner’s head. The man kept cursing them.  I wasn’t sure, but I thought I heard the Chief ask the man if he wanted to pray or something.  I know that behind me, I heard one of the boys praying quietly.

They lifted the man onto the barrel and helped him steady himself, and then they stepped back.  The man wavered, and then he caught his balance. Ahmad tied the rope tightly under a bole on the trunk of the tree.

The Chief said, “Do you have any last words?”

I don’t think the man truly believed that the Chief was going to execute him until that moment.  He turned ashen and began to breathe very heavily.  I wondered if he was going to beg for his life.

“I’m sorry about your friend,” he stuttered.

The Chief stepped onto the high side of the root, and as he did Howard stepped forward.

“I’ll help,” Howard said.  “I didn’t go with you when you fought, so I’ll do this.”

To my surprise, Ralph came forward and said, “I want to do it.”

But the Chief shook his head and refused his request.

Then Desi stepped forward. “I’ll do it.  One of us should be a girl,” she said, and she got into position behind the barrel.

Some kids were hiding their faces by now, and I was one of them.  Maybe some of us were curious, but I think that most of us were scared or horrified at what was about to happen.

I heard the clank of shoes against the barrel.  The boy praying raised his voice, but I heard the barrel move, and I heard the man gasping, and then with a loud sound the barrel crashed over to the other side of the root and rolled down the hill.  I heard the rasp of the rope as it slid taut against the branch of the tree.  The man made a few noises for a second, and then he got quiet.  I turned slightly and saw his feet swaying, and then a few seconds later I smelled a terrible smell which I realized afterward was the smell of his waste as it was released from his body.  I felt sick, so I moved a long way from the tree and vomited into some bushes.

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