The Furry Writers’ Guild and Politics

There have been some accusations of the FWG being “too political” which we would like to address.

The FWG is not, and never has been, a political organization. As much as practical, we prohibit discussions of politics in FWG-branded spaces; as a group, we take no political stances, advocate no ideologies.

But the FWG is also an inclusive organization. Our members come from all over the world, from all walks of life, across many spectrums. The furry fandom is diverse, and so is our community of writers. We’re proud of this diversity. We consider it one of furry’s greatest assets, and one of the FWG’s. As our Code of Conduct states,

The FWG welcomes and supports all backgrounds and identities. This includes, but is not limited to, participants of any age, experience level, nationality, race, ethnicity, religion, ability/disability, gender identity and expression, sexual identity and expression, or level and type of participation in the furry fandom.

This means there are times we do have to take stands. The Code of Conduct expressly prohibits harassment, including the advocation of hateful ideologies. We oppose—and will take action against—any such behavior. We will not accommodate hate speech, for doing so is no defense of free speech. Instead it silences the speech of others. We cannot and will not turn a blind eye to bigotry, however artfully coded. If you are someone who would denigrate or demean another person based on ethnicity, nationality, religion, sexuality, gender, disability, or lack of means, the FWG is no place for you.

If this opposition to bigotry makes you feel unwelcome, then we trust you know where to find the door.

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Member Spotlight: Leilani Wilson

On the cusp of her first novel release, we get a chance to sit down with Leilani Wilson and talk about her writing.

 

Tell us about your most recent project (written or published). What inspired it?

Symphony of Shifting Tides has been cooking for a long time! Like, a decade! It was originally going to be a video game. I’m actually glad it ended up being a book instead, though. The story ultimately works much, much better this way!

My inspirations come from strange places. I’ll freely admit that basically none of the inspirations were literary for me—at least at the outset. I grew up playing a lot of classic JRPGs, and the way that they told stories changed drastically over the span of about 15-20 years. I always found it interesting the way that the genre’s stories got stranger and stranger as time went on. The stark difference between Dragon Quest (1) and say, Kingdom Hearts (as a series) is very big. The worldbuilding is often very finely crafted in some of these longer series that share a world. The amount of planning these scenario writers do is ridiculous.

I think there are expectations when it comes to the genre about what the games contain, but often those preconceptions point towards the much older games that were about simple good and evil. Anymore, things have become a lot more complex and nuanced. These are the same stories that inspired Undertale and Deltarune, after all.

Some of these stories have a lot to say about religion, politics and philosophy, as well as non-linear storytelling. Stuff like in the Xenoblade series, and its predecessors Xenogears and Xenosaga. Then there’s behemoths like Suikoden and Trails in the Sky! Those are all the types that inspired me. I tried to hit the sweet spot between ridiculous amounts of lore like those, and more straight-forward stories like in Grandia or Wild Arms.

What’s your writing process like? Are you a “pantser,” an outliner, or something in between? How do you find that this helps and/or hurts your writing style?

I’m almost entirely a pantser. My process is completely sideways, though. With Symphony of Shifting Tides in particular, I actually composed the soundtrack to the book first. I wanted to let the music guide the story, and what that created was actually a huge mess. Don’t know if I’d recommend that creation process!

That said, it did make for a bit of an entertainingly unorthodox trajectory for the story and its characters. I used the music for all my locations and major plot points, and pantsed the gaps. It’s a bumpy ride for the first draft, and at times will lead to spots where you know your destination but have no idea about how on earth you’re going to get there. It definitely has some drawbacks, but it feels like reading the story while writing it.

What’s your favorite kind of story to write?

I like stories about people dealing with their emotions. I love a good setting and I love complex world-building, but I can’t enjoy it without the characters. I like to write about characters who would be side-characters in any other story. I like to focus on people who aren’t heroes. Morally gray stuff is typically my jam.

Which character from your work do you most identify with, and why?

When it comes to Symphony of Shifting Tides, there’s a lot of me in all five of the characters who end up sticking together (eventually). I’d have to say I probably I identify with Cecelia and Verse the most.

Cecelia is very much how I was when I was her age, and Verse grapples with depression and anxiety the way myself and many others do. None of these characters have the normal dispositions of ‘heroes’ I guess, but that’s honestly their appeal to me. All of them are doing the best they can to get by, and so are all of us.

 

Which authors or books have most influenced your work?

It’ll sound cliché, but George R.R. Martin made me want to actually try my hand at writing. Around the time I was realizing that making a game wasn’t going to work out, I was reading his work. One thing lead to another, and that was that. I wouldn’t say my writing resembles his in any way, shape, or form, but he’s who inspired me to start.

 

What’s the last book you read that you really loved?

Queen of Arts by Frances Pauli! The characters in it are really well-written, and that’s what made me fall in love with it. I ended up genuinely wanting them to do well and be happy, which is a sign of really well done characters!

 

Besides writing, how do you like to spend your free time?

I try to keep busy with anything I can get my hands on. Currently, that’s a circle track car, and working on various video game soundtracks and albums.

 

Advice for other writers?

Write. Don’t continually revise your first chapter over and over again. Don’t get stuck in the trap of worldbuilding and never writing. Don’t just make settings, make characters. Don’t talk about writing, just write. Everything will absolutely fall into place in the long run. Trust yourself.

 

Where can readers find your work?

Symphony of Shifting Tides is for sale through Goal Publications! The rest of the series will eventually be available through Goal as well, as well as the albums that accompany each book!

 

What’s your favorite thing about the furry fandom? Why write furry?

I guess I’ve always loved animal characters from a young age. I like the idea of using these types of characters to tell stories for adults and not just children. I think there’s so much that can be done with furry characters! Whether you’re using their type of animal to talk about the personality type of a character, or as an allegory for something much larger, I think it’s an important tool most writers don’t consider.

There’s a lot to be said for the differences between us and our animal counterparts. Through furry literature, we can find the commonplace between all living creatures. Plus, let’s face it. Animals are (almost always) adorable and really cool in general. Humans can be both things, too, but not as often.

The fandom is a very welcoming and friendly place, and I’ve felt at home in and around it since I first started meeting other furries! As soon as I found out there were a lot of other furry authors, I jumped in headfirst!

Member Spotlight: Frances Pauli

This feature, we get the opportunity to talk with Frances Pauli a bit about her writing and process.

 

Tell us about your most recent project (written or published). What inspired it?

I just finished a novel in a new series called Serpentia. The first book, Disbanded, is about a snake architect who believes he’s destined for great things but who is held back by his society’s caste system. The book features snakes and their rodent companions, and the series will explore a lot of issues surrounding the concepts of destiny, free will, social equality and personal rights.

I suppose it was inspired by my own interest in reptiles as well as some personal choices and lifestyle changes I’ve made recently. A lot of my stories have explored the idea of diet ever since I’ve stopped eating animal products, but even before that the idea of an all animal society trying to work out who is food and who is friend has been something that fascinates me.  In Serpentia, mice and snakes have a somewhat symbiotic relationship that is peaceful on the exterior, but very problematic at its core.

 

What’s your writing process like? Are you a “pantser,” an outliner, or something in between? How do you find that this helps and/or hurts your writing style?

I love this question. When it comes up I usually call myself a “reformed pantser”, and then have to explain, of course.

I’m definitely not a heavy outliner, and I began writing as a total seat-of-the-pants, no idea where this is going to take me, exploratory writer. However, a few years and a few books into the process I got very interested in plot structure and dramatic pacing, did a lot of research on plot points and audience expectations, and figured out that I’d be wise to incorporate all of the above into my process.

So nowadays I do a bare bones bit of planning that usually involves sorting out where my major plot points will be, but also leaving a lot of room to move about freely in between. That way I have guide posts along the way, and I always know what big scene I’m writing toward, but it doesn’t feel suffocating either.

I admire in-depth outliners a great deal, but if I try that (and I have), my process usually shuts down pretty fast.

 

What’s your favorite kind of story to write?

Animal stories! Oh, wait. I suppose that’s too general in this company. But of course I had a lot of books written before I worked out that furry literature was a thing, so between those stories and my fuzzy books, I definitely prefer writing animal-centric.

Within furry writing my favorite stories to write are about justice or equality, stories that might explore some of our shadows as a society and then bring those things into the light or remedy them, at least on the page. I like heroic underdogs and quirky sidekicks and a little humor in the mix. And even though I can wander into the dark end of things from time to time, my background in the romance genre has made me pretty attached to that happy ending.

I want to feel good at the end of a book, even if I cried a little along the way.

 

Which character from your work do you most identify with, and why?

Stella Rose from Queen of Arts is probably the closest I’ve ever coming to writing an autobiographical character. I wish I could claim someone more exciting or heroic, but writing Stella was more than a little therapeutic. She’s the quintessential “mama bear,” maybe a little too concerned with her friends’ lives and very protective of them, but also creative, insecure, and a domestic violence survivor. And she’s feeling her age. All very much like her greymuzzle author.

 

What has most influenced your work? Is an author, a title, or something else?

I think the things I’ve read over the years, primarily classic sci-fi and fantasy, but also humor and romance, classics, non-fiction…all the variety of input consumed sort of rolls together to influence a writer. Combine that with life experience, trials, things we survive and things we endure and the end result is what pours out onto the page.

Individual authors I hope influenced me are Andre Norton, who will always be my favorite, Tanith Lee, Patricia McKillip, and more recently, Christopher Moore.

It’s no surprise that my earliest reading was all animal related. Jack London, The Black Stallion, Wind in the Willows. We circle back to our beginnings eventually.

 

What’s the last book you read that you really loved?

I adored Signal by Renee Carter Hall. I’m currently reading Daniel Potter’s Marking Territory and I love most everything about his writing and that universe.

 

Besides writing, how do you like to spend your free time?

I like to spend as much time as I can with my kiddos, who are getting old enough to want mom to back off and let them get back to their video games. I also crochet, play around with visual art, build fursuits and their assorted parts, and keep way too many pets, including a new rosy boa breeding project that has my house filling up with snake terrariums.

 

Advice for other writers?

So many things. Never give up. Take all advice seriously but only use what works for you, keep writing even if it’s not good yet or you can’t see how good it is yet. But mostly, I say, don’t forget that this is supposed to be fun. Write because you enjoy it, and then remember to keep enjoying it.

 

Where can readers find your work?

My website can get you to almost everything I have available. I also post some furry things on SF and FA as Mamma Bear. I’ve been honored to have some stories published in furry anthologies from various publishers, and I try to post those as they go live on my Facebook page or in my newsletter.

 

What’s your favorite thing about the furry fandom? Why write furry?

Can I say everything? I love this fandom. I love how open-minded we are and how accepting and most of all how much we embrace fun and joyful play. I’ve met people from all walks who have found support, encouragement and family in the furry world.

But why write furry? Well, I think furry literature has a glorious history of great stories that goes back longer than most people realize. I want to contribute to that magnificent body of works called “animal stories” and I want to help spread awareness of the genre and enthusiasm for furry books in the wider world of genre fiction. All of that sounds great, but in truth, I write furry stories because it makes me smile, and it keeps me coming back to the keyboard without dragging my feet. It brings me joy.

 

 

 

FWG Blog – March 2019

It’s March. Things certainly happen in March, we are sure of it!

 

Guild Newsroom

If you missed it, check out our recent spotlights on members Mary E. Lowd and Gre7g Luterman! Our next spotlights will appear at the middle and end of March, and feature Frances Pauli and Leilani Wilson respectively.

Attention, all members on Twitter! When making posts about your writing, be sure to use the hashtag #furrywriting so that we can keep up with your work and share it with the world!

 

Member Highlights

Some highlights from last month, as featured from our FWG Member News section on the forums:

  • Amy Clare Fontaine has started writing short, text-based Twine games on itch.io. The most recent one is called “Cassandra the Wolf Princess“.
  • From Mary E. Lowd comes “When He Stopped Crying“, a short story published by Electric Spec. In addition, she’s written an essay about her creative method in this story, as well as other things useful to writers.

A little light on news this month!

Our usual reminder to all our member that have had something exciting happen in the past month not featured here: be sure to keep up with you Member News thread on the forums! Not only is this how we get our information, but these threads are able to be viewed by any person logged into the forums. Share your achievements with the rest of the writing community!

 

The Marketplace

For those of you looking to submit, keep an eye on the open markets on our website. For those of you who just forget, The Marketplace is your reminder for all things open for submissions!

 

Short Story Markets:

Publisher Title Theme Deadline Pay
Zooscape Zooscape Zine General furry Fiction Ongoing $0.06/word (maximum $60)
Thurston Howl Publications Sensory De-tails Furry stories relating to strong animal senses April 1st One copy of the anthology (non-paying)
Thurston Howl Publications Trick or Treat: A Furry BDSM Anthology Furry erotica featuring BDSM May 1st One copy of the anthology (non-paying)
Thurston Howl Publications The Haunted Den: Furry Ghost Stories Furry ghost stories June 1st One copy of the anthology (non-paying)
Thurston Howl Publications Give Yourself a Hand Furry erotica featuring masturbation June 15th $0.0050/word plus one copy of the anthology
Thurston Howl Publications Pawradiso: The Ten Spheres of Furry Heaven furry stories based around the spheres of Heaven (in reference to Paradiso) July 15th One copy of the anthology (non-paying)
Furplanet The Reclamation Project Furry stories in a shared, post-cataclysmic future August 31st $0.0050/word plus one copy of the anthology

 

Novel Markets:

  • Thurston Howl Publications is open to novel/novella submissions, with no planned date for submissions to close.

 

Special Events and Announcements

Goal Publications/Fanged Fiction has announced that they will be opening for novel/novella/Pocket Shot submissions on July 1st, 2019. Look forward to that!

Australian publisher Jaffa Books has announced that they will be closing their doors at the end of 2019. Thank you to Jay for all you’ve done with it, and we hope this gives you a chance to work more on your writing!

ROAR editor Mary E. Lowd has announced that, after finishing up the current volume, she will be handing the reigns off to Madison Keller. Thank you Mary for doing such a great job with the anthology, and we look forward to seeing what Madison brings to the table.

 

Wrap-up

Our forums are open to all writers, not just full members of the FWG. Check them out here and join in on the conversation. While you’re there, check out how to join our Slack and Telegram channels. Before joining any of these, though, we ask that you please read up on our Code of Conduct! With all the negative going around in the world these days, both furry and non-furry, we want to make sure the guild feels like a safe place to all its participants, free of threats and hate speech.

We have two weekly chats, called our Coffeehouse Chats! Our first one is Tuesday at 7:00pm EST in our Slack channel, and our other is Thursdays at Noon EST on our forums in the shoutbox on the main page. Both of these chats feature writers talking about writing, usually with a central topic. As with the above, these chats are open to both members and non-members, though you must be registered for the forums.

Member Spotlight: Gre7g Luterman

Gre7g Luterman is an author with Thurston Howl Publications that’s been writing since the late 70s. We get a chance to speak with him a bit about his writing.

 

Tell us about your most recent project (written or published). What inspired it?

I just had two books come out this past month: Fair Trade which is the conclusion to the Kanti Cycle trilogy, and Reaper’s Lottery which is my first SciFi murder mystery. The mystery has been an incredibly challenging project and I spent two years bringing it from conception to conclusion, finally publishing the seventh version of the story, if you can believe that!

Science fiction is a wonderful thing to write. You take our known universe and tweak one little thing or set up a scenario we aren’t familiar with and then follow the changes through, seeing how it affects each aspect of the characters’ lives. If the krakun tricked the geroo into working as their slaves, how would that impact the geroo’s religious beliefs? If the geroo live on a spaceship where the number of crew isn’t allowed to increase, would that lead to euthanasia and a lottery for selecting who gets to be parents next? If there was never an unwanted pregnancy, how would that change the culture?

And then taking this to the next step of making it a murder mystery, you get to ask questions like, With so much inequity, who would be pushed to murder? Why would they kill? Who would they kill? And what would they hope to accomplish by killing? This is great fun for the writer and, without a doubt, it translates into a really fun ride for the reader as well.

 

What’s your writing process like? Are you a “pantser,” an outliner, or something in between? How do you find that this helps and/or hurts your writing style?

I am the epitome of the pantser! I never have any idea where a story is headed until it gets there. Oh, I’ve tried to outline where the story must be going but, as soon as I do, the story will immediately turn in a different direction. If I try to force it to where I’ve outlined then the final story will not be a fun read.

My writing process is to make a new character and write a few scenes for him/er, try to find out what is interesting about them, why the reader should like them, should care about what happens to them. I toss a complication into their life and rely on my intuition as to whether there is a whole story there. Since I don’t know where it’s headed, I have to rely on gut feel.

Then I let them wander. I let them build a support network of people who care, who try to help them cope and overcome. I don’t worry about whether they’re going the right direction or not. Then, eventually, I’ll round that final bend and see the destination. Aha! So, that’s where this was going all along.

I finish up the draft, then move it to the right half of the screen and open a blank document on the left. And then I rewrite the entire story. I straighten out the wandering. I add bits here and there so that insignificant events become important if they contribute to the destination. I don’t show people my first draft. Until I do a rewrite—a version written with the destination in mind—then the draft isn’t worth reading.

 

What’s your favorite kind of story to write?

Romance with a splash of danger, definitely! Prepare for a meandering explanation of why…

My goal is always to keep the reader from putting the book down. The best way to accomplish that goal is for the reader to worry about what will happen to the main character. Readers worry about characters when two things happen: first, they have to love and care about the MC and second, the MC has to be in peril.

Love is the most powerful and pure of all emotions. When we show how the main character is lovable and worthy of another character’s love (not just the main character loving a secondary character), then the reader will love and care about out MC. Then when we put this lovesick character into peril we not only make the reader worry about what will happen to them but we propel them into action, driving them to … wherever the heck this story happens to be headed, since I couldn’t see it from the beginning.

This is the recipe for a great story that will be loved by those who read it.

 

All of your recent novels are set in the Hayven Celestia universe created by Rick Griffin (of Housepets! fame). Why write in his universe, and how well has that collaboration worked?

The why is an easy one. When I read Rick’s short story Ten Thousand Miles Up, I was immediately fascinated by the world he had created—furry heroes that were tiny compared to their masters but yet kept enslaved with a light touch. He got me thinking about a generation ship with an endless mission and how society would have to change to adapt to it. Plus, his story focused on all the important players like the captain and the commissioner, but my curiosity is always for what life is like for the common guy in any society. And like any good fanfiction writer, when the canon doesn’t give me what I want, I feel compelled to make it up!

Rick is not only great fun to work with, he’s incredibly frustrating. He’s so very creative, so very imaginative, and just as stubborn as I am about how I think things should go. So it was only natural that we’d bump heads constantly. I thought collaborating would be like us finishing each other’s sentences or maybe alternating chapters or something. We tried that and it was readily apparent that our styles and recalcitrant natures would never allow it.

Fortunately, we worked out an informal agreement where he’d write his stories one way, I’d do mine my way, we seriously consider each other’s opinions, but don’t feel compelled that every aspect of the universe remain identical across our stories.

 

What has most influenced your work? Is an author, a title, or something else?

I’d have to say books by Nancy A. Collins. Collins mostly writes about my favorite subject to read, monsters in the modern day—vampires, werewolves, and demons hiding in a familiar setting—but she has an amazing ability to make the reader care about the characters. I want a book that can ruin my life, make me stay up until 2am, completely wrecked because I have to go to work in the morning but I still need to know what happens in the story.

Plus, Collins is willing to give a main character the perfect love, then wad the lover up and throw him away! Oh man, I just can’t do that. I can throw away a secondary character’s lover, but the main character’s? Yikes. If I killed off Tish (Kanti’s true love) I’d cry for days.

So yes, if any writer out there has influenced me and represents a direction that I’d like my work to grow, it would be her.

 

What’s the last book you read that you really loved?

I’m going to give you two instead of one, because I read them around the same time and loved completely different things about these two completely different books. The first was A Fire Upon the Deep by Vernor Vinge. Despite not loving the characters—sadly—I loved the SciFi of this novel. Not only were the tines a fascinating species whose biological differences led to lots of differences in how they do things, the zones of thought was a brilliant creation that I know I could never equal in my own writing. Plus, the scale of the story was so big that I would never even dare to tackle it myself.

The second was a kids’ book called Too Many Curses by A. Lee Martinez. This was a charming romp filled with charming characters. I don’t think I was ever truly worried about whether the characters would succeed or fail—it is a kids’ book, after all—but I couldn’t help smiling at every single thing they said. Imagine if Harry Potter had been written by Ursula Vernon and you’d have this world.

 

The hero from your Kanti Cycle trilogy, Kanti, does a bunch of un-heroic things. Does that make him a bad hero?

Perhaps? Kanti’s never been a particularly heroic geroo. He’s not the smartest, the bravest, or the most talented around. He’s never dreamed of being a hero. He just wanted to keep his head down and remained unnoticed.

As a writer, I’ve always bristled at perfect heroes—you know the type, the Richard Rahl who at every junction always makes the correct decision, no matter the cost. That’s not Kanti. Despite the furry pelt, he’s very human. He gets scared and his first impulse is to run or to keep his loved ones from heading into danger, even if that’s morally the wrong thing to do.

But on the bright side, that gives Kanti an awful lot of room to grow. And though he’s still no John McClane, the Kanti at the end of the series is certainly a lot more heroic than the one at the beginning.

 

Advice for other writers?

Yes! First, don’t write about your fursona or an O.C. that you’ve been RPing for ages. Make up a new character when you start writing the book. Then fall in love with the character while you write. The reader needs to fall in love with this character for them to love your book, and if you fall in love with them while writing, then the reader will probably do the same while reading it. If you write about a character you already love, then chances are you will skimp on that romance, leaving the reader out in the cold.

Next, hurt the character, hurt them badly, and threaten to hurt them more if they don’t accomplish something in a given amount of time. This makes the reader worry about your MC, propels them into action, and gives them a ticking clock so they can’t drag their ass about it.

Finally, at the end of the story, give the MC something back. And crucially, if you hurt the character by taking something away, make sure the reward for accomplishing your quest is something different, something unexpected, or something they didn’t even know they wanted. Giving them what you took away—like returning Dorothy to Kansas after living in a magical land—is not a very satisfying conclusion.

 

Where can readers find your work?

You can look for Skeleton Crew, Small World, Fair Trade, and Reaper’s Lottery on my Amazon Author’s Page, my old and dusty fanfiction at fanfiction.net, and keep an eye out for my new books by watching my @Gre7gL Twitter account. And again, don’t hesitate to contact me by email. I really do enjoy discussing the craft.

 

What’s your favorite thing about the furry fandom? Why write furry?

Oh, that’s an easy one. When you’re a furry, you’re passionate about furry characters. Maybe you’re misanthropic and think furry characters would be superior to humans, perhaps you romanticize them, are aroused by them, or maybe you think the best monsters are ones that are covered in fur. It doesn’t matter why but you have a passion for them.

And when you’re a furry and a writer, you want to share those characters and the dramas in your head with other furries. You want other furries to feel that same agony when your lovable characters fail, the same elation when they succeed.

When your passion is furry, that’s when you should write for furries. Writing outside your passions may create something so-so but when you write what you love, you can make something amazing!

Member Spotlight: Mary E. Lowd

Though long-overdue, we had a chance recently to speak with member Mary E. Lowd about her writing, editing, and publishing ventures!

 

Tell us about your most recent project (written or published). What inspired it?

Fate has conspired such that I actually finished three books in approximately one week, so it’s hard to exactly measure what counts as my most recent project when it comes to writing.  Those three books are all spin-offs of my Otters In Space trilogy in one way or another, and they’re all slated to come out from FurPlanet this year.

One of them, Tri-Galactic Trek (to be released at MFF in December), is a collection of short stories, including five that have already been published and five new ones, that are technically a television show that appears briefly in Otters In Space 3: Octopus Ascending.  With my Tri-Galactic Trek stories, I’ve tried to capture the heart of what I loved about watching Star Trek: The Next Generation as a kid, except with cats, dogs, a bear, and a photosynthetic green otter.

The second, Nexus Nine (to be released at AC in July), is a novel that takes place after the events in Tri-Galactic Trek, sharing some characters, but focusing specifically on a calico cat with an ancient computer chip in her head that contains lifetimes’ worth of memories.  Clearly, I was drawing inspiration from the character of Jadzia Dax in Star Trek: Deep Space Nine.  However, I always felt like there was so much more to do with Dax, and so I invented my own character in order to explore the rich concept of a character who’s struggling to balance her current self with the overpowering weight of all of those extra memories inside of her.

The third book, Jove Deadly’s Lunar Detective Agency (tentatively to be released at TFF in March) is actually set in the Otters In Space main universe, except focused on a bloodhound detective on the moon.  A friend of mine, Garrett Marco, and I brainstormed the idea for an interconnected pair of novellas about this character years ago — he would write a story about Jove Deadly and his brother; and then I would write a story about Jove and his sister; and both stories would involve the same mysterious, stolen computer chip.  So, the final book is a co-written novel in two halves, and I’m very excited about it.  Reading someone else’s words purposely designed to mirror your own writing style is a wonderful and surprising joy.  Garrett managed to write the exact same kind of dumb jokes that I love best about my own writing, and so I got to experience them without having come up with them myself — truly delightful; one of the best gifts I’ve ever been given.

As you can see, I’ve been really busy.  However, there is one more project I need to mention: at the end of last year, I founded a new furry e-zine called Zooscape.  The first issue came out in December, and there will be a new issue out on March 1st.  For years, there’s been talk in the furry writing community about how we need a high paying, consistently released, free-to-read online magazine in order to raise the profile of furry fiction.  So, when my younger child started kindergarten last fall, I started one.  If you ever need to explain what furry fiction is to someone, just send them there:  https://zooscape-zine.com/

 

What’s your writing process like? Are you a “pantser,” an outliner, or something in between? How do you find that this helps and/or hurts your writing style?

Outlining does not come naturally to me.  I’ve struggled with it ever since I was introduced to the concept in sixth grade when we were required to turn in outlines for our big research papers before the paper itself was due.  My mom walked me through writing an outline, but it made no sense to me.  At some level, I don’t really get how it’s possible to outline a work before actually creating the work, because until I’ve written it, how can I really know what I’m capable of pulling off?

For instance, I wrote a short story this week about a cat communicating telepathically with an electric eel.  At a high level, I knew the entire structure for the story, but when it came to actually writing it, I found myself faced with trying to communicate the idea of death through memory images shared between these two creatures.  And suddenly, I found myself writing about my own experience from 2016 of spending the night by my grandmother’s side as she died.  Because that’s the most powerful, real image of death that I’ve experienced.  And yet, how could I have ever predicted that a space opera story about a telepathic eel would involve describing how it felt to stay up all night by my grandmother’s deathbed?  I could never have seen that coming.

All of that said, I know that having an outline — if I can figure one out — can really help me to work through a novel length project without getting stuck or somehow writing myself into a corner.  So, I’ve been working on developing outlining skills, and since traditional outlines don’t seem to work for me, I’ve had to come up with some of my own strategies.  In some cases, I use Tarot cards with evocative images on them to stand in for characters or places in a story, and then I can arrange them in a way that helps give me signposts as I travel through the work.  I’ve also found it can be very helpful to pick a story structure that I’m already very familiar with from a book or movie and use it as a sort of road map.  For instance, my novel The Snake’s Song follows the general shape of The Hobbit, and the longest novel I’ve written, a still-unpublished piece of space opera, was specifically designed to follow the general shape of The Lord of the Rings — assemble the team, and then the team voyages to the one place where the dangerous object can be destroyed.

 

What’s your favorite kind of story to write?

This is a really tough question, because stories vary so much… and I like different things about different ones.  But I think, if I have to pick, my favorite kind of story to write is either the kind where I can toss off lightweight jokes that amuse myself or the kind where I pour my feelings into the keyboard because they’ve become too big and overwhelming to keep inside myself anymore, and the story provides a safe box to put them in.  So, those are two totally opposite kinds of stories, and I seem to have failed to pick between them.

 

You’ve published a lot of short stories. Since the beginning of 2018, what are your favorites? Why those?

I had twenty-five stories come out in 2018, but the two that really stand out for me are “Not All Dogs” and “Wing Day,” possibly because they were two of the hardest to write.  For “Not All Dogs,” I had to tap into the unconscious racism that comes from being raised with systemic white privilege and not having realized it yet…  So, I had to look back at the ways I used to be a worse person, and it’s really hard to do that without flinching.  However, I’m really proud of how the story finally turned out.

“Wing Day” was difficult to write differently.  I had a really complex idea about three generations of a family — a human woman, her adopted butterfly-alien daughter, and the cloned butterfly-alien granddaughter — and in order to convey their story coherently and concisely, I ended up just writing down all of these disconnected sentences about them in a totally random order.  Rearranging and shuffling those sentences — and sentence fragments — until they came together into an actual story felt a little like watching a bunch of bright colors tumble around inside a kaleidoscope until they suddenly came into focus as a coherent picture.  It was kind of magical, and the story turned out so much better than I had dared to hope it would, like a carefully cut gemstone.  It’s still hard to believe all those disconnected fragments actually came together like that.

 

What has most influenced your work? Is an author, a title, or something else?

I don’t think that I can escape that the answer to this question is Star Trek.  Quite obviously, my Tri-Galactic Trek stories are heavily influenced by Star Trek.  However, I can see traces of Star Trek in almost everything I’ve ever written, even stories where it wouldn’t be obvious to anyone else who read them.

Star Trek: The Next Generation was like a second family to me when I was a child, and Star Trek: Deep Space Nine is still, on some levels, my favorite work of art ever created.  My entire world view and approach to life was heavily shaped by both of those shows.

 

What’s the last book you read that you really loved?

I joined a book group last year that’s had me reading a lot of good books lately — N.K. Jemisin’s Broken Earth trilogy, Seanan McGuire’s Every Heart a Doorway, Nnedi Okorafor’s Akata Witch and Binti, and Jo Walton’s Tooth and Claw.  I highly recommend all of those books, but my favorite of the books we’ve read is The Power by Naomi Alderman.  The Power is a thought experiment in gender-flipping the power structures of the entire world; women develop electric-eel like powers, making them the stronger sex, on average, and everything changes.  It’s a book that manages to be both horrifying and also, strangely, an experience in wish-fulfilment, at least, for me.  I think it’s a really, really important book, and I think that a lot of people need to read it.

 

Besides writing, how do you like to spend your free time?

I have dogs, and I spend time with them.  Really, though, I spend most of my time writing, reading, or watching videos — which is not as different from reading as people like to believe.  Basically, I immerse myself in story as much as possible, and then I try to deconstruct and understand that story.  But I do also spend time with my dogs and go on walks sometimes.

 

Advice for other writers?

Find ways to enjoy the process of writing whenever you can, because the rewards for finished works are few and far between.  Getting published is a long, slow process, full of rejection and heavily dependent on luck.  And even when you’re fairly successful, published stories can still feel like they fall into a deep, dark void, never to be heard from again.  So in the long run, the best way to survive is to find joy in the process of writing itself.

You will always be your own first reader, so write what you must deeply desire to read.  At least then, you’ll get to read a good story while you’re writing, no matter what happens next.

 

Where can readers find your work?

Most of my books are published by FurPlanet, but my most recent novel, The Snake’s Song: A Labyrinth of Souls Novel, is through ShadowSpinners Press.  They’re all available on Amazon. Also, I keep links for where to find my books on my personal webpage:  http://marylowd.com/

My short stories get published all over the place, but I tend to reprint them on my own archive site, Deep Sky Anchor.  So, you can find a lot of free short stories there:  http://deepskyanchor.com/

 

What’s your favorite thing about the furry fandom? Why write furry?

When I discovered the furry fandom, I no longer had to stumble over the question, “Why otters?” when I told people about my books.  Suddenly, the answer was simple:  “It’s furry fiction.”

But my favorite thing about the furry fandom is that it’s given a label to my favorite kind of fiction, and it’s so much easier to find something when it has a label.  For almost two decades, I struggled to find the stray piece of science-fiction with animal-like aliens or fantasy about animals, mixed-in with all the other science-fiction and fantasy.  As soon as I had a word for what I was looking for — furry fiction — I didn’t have to struggle anymore.  I could just read.

 

Member Spotlight: Nighteyes Dayspring

For the month of November, we got the chance to talk with Nighteyes Dayspring about his writing.

 

Tell us about your most recent project (written or published). What inspired it?

The project I just finished is a story called “Mile High” I submitted to Heat, that I’m hoping to see get included in the next issue. This story follows a charter pilot on a trip to the Caribbean island of Guadeloupe where he and his crew are picking up a mysterious passenger to take to New York. Jonas, the captain of the aircraft, has been paired with a new first officer he doesn’t like very much. This piece deals with the tension between Jonas, his first officer, and a hyena who catches Jonas’s eye.

I’ve got a friend who is currently training to be a pilot, and he’s been telling me about the experience, so it sparked an interest in me and served as an inspiration. I like to make stories like this as accurate as I can, so there were a lot of technical details for this story I had to conduct research on to get right. I had to run certain sections of dialogue by aviation-oriented friends to make sure they’re correct. I watched a number of different cockpit videos just to get the feeling of landing and handling a plane right. I also used a tiny bit of French dialogue to help establish the feeling of being in Guadeloupe, which I ran by our resident French speaker, Erkhyan, to make sure what Google Translate suggested was correct. Also, since Guadeloupe isn’t a place I’ve been, and it’s not on Google Street View, I also watched dash cam video shot in Guadeloupe of someone just driving around the island in order to capture the feeling of the setting.

I know some people might consider this overkill, especially for an adult story, but I feel it’s important if you are using a real place, even in a world inhabited by furries, to try and get the details right. In anything based on reality there are going to be small things you might fudge, either because you can’t find out about something or you need something to be setup a certain way for the purpose of the story, but I like that to be a conscious decision on the part of the writer.

Now the fact I called the story “Mile High?” I just couldn’t resist the word play.

 

What’s your writing process like? Are you a “pantser,” an outliner, or something in between? How do you find that this helps and/or hurts your writing style?

I’ve always been more of a pantser than an outliner, but that’s started to change. As I’ve worked on longer work, I’m finding that pantsing just doesn’t work for me. I can’t just write a novel without an outline and clear direction. I’ve tried it twice. One time it was an abysmal failure; I will someday figure out how to fix that piece. The other time, I took a half-written novel and rushed it to completion. I’ve been working on that book, Scars of the Golden Dancer, on and off for years, beating the back half into some semblance of readability. It’s only recently reached a state where I’m ready to start shopping it around.

I think there are merits to both approaches. There is something about taking a few tidbits, sitting down and seeing where it’s going. I love doing that, but in order to get the type of stories I want to write, and produce longer work, I find I need to invest more in planning and worldbuilding. I’m sure someone out there can pants a whole novel and it will be brilliant, but that’s not me. A consequence I find with pantsing sometimes is that I’ll do that to explore an idea, and then it will click what I want it to be. This aha moment is great, but that often requires rewriting large chunks of the story in order to make it smooth and even.

 

What’s your favorite kind of story to write?

I like to write stories with well executed details in interesting settings. Even when I’m writing erotica, I think it’s important to make your world feel real. If I can create a setting and story as a writer where I get to explore, I can generally take the reader along with me for a fun ride. Of course, I still need good characters with their own personalities, strengths, and flaws to make the story complete. When I successfully bring together a rich setting and fun characters to write, I find the story will flow much easier. I think an element of exploration is important with writing. If I want to see what’s going to happen, if I want to be there with these characters, the reader is going feel that same passion, and they’re going to keep reading.

Like anything though, there are exceptions where I’ve focused on just the characters, letting the setting fade away some. I’ve written two stories about a couple that have yet to leave their apartment. There is a tight focus on their interactions, and while it’s outside of my typical wheelhouse, I still think it worked well.

 

Which character from your work do you most identify with, and why?

The character I most identify with is a jackal character called Zayn. He’s the primary subject of Scars of the Golden Dancer. This project has taken me eight years to shape, but in that time, I’ve gotten to explore Zayn’s personality in great detail, and I feel a strong attachment to him. At his core, Zayn is quintessentially a survivor. In the start of the novel, he’s working as a prostitute and he’s done things to support himself that others would shy away from. This makes him a broken character, but I love that I’ve gotten to take him from his lowest point and rebuild him. I’ve never personally been as desperate as Zayn, but I know this feeling of having to rebuild yourself well. Watching Zayn work to heal, to learn to love again, has been cathartic for me, and these emotions bring back memories about parts of my youth.

The first part of his journey will be included in FANG Volume 9 in the story “Silk and Sword”, which will be out next month.

 

Which authors or books have most influenced your work?

It’s tough to answer a question like this discussing furry writing without mentioning Kyell Gold. Back when I was first exploring furry books, Kyell’s writing was starting to get well known, and it was a real inspiration to try achieve something like he was doing. I took a break from writing for a while, but around 2010, I got my first sale with FurPlanet, and I started seeing writing as a more serious activity. Since then I’ve met a number of writers who’ve influenced me, and that I get to beta swap with. There are so many great writers in the Furry Writers’ Guild I’ve met, I don’t think I can fairly name a few without making it a long list.

For writers outside of the fandom that most inspired me, Ray Bradbury would be at the top of that list. Bradbury wrote a lot of great stuff, and reading book like the Martin Chronicles, which is a fixup of short stories, really helped me get the confidence to start stringing my small ideas together. If someone of Bradbury’s stature could create a book out of disconnected stories, I too could start linking some of my short stories into bigger work. This is still a transition I’m going through, but I’ve kept Bradbury in mind as I’ve laid out the groundwork to build a novel series.

 

What’s the last book you read that you really loved?

This is another tough one. I’ve read some great stuff. I’m going to have to say Kismet by Watts Martin. It’s got a great plot, and the world building is really exciting to read about. I love the way Watts’s protagonist Gale has a deep back story that she can rely on and yet struggle against. Gale inhabits a world where bioengineering can make you an anthro, called totemics in the book, but she also inhabits a world where not everyone is happy about that. I think the way Watts investigates humanity’s struggle with what totemics represent to the future of humanity, against the backdrop of the River, space colonies built along the asteroid belt, is really exciting. He’s got a very rich world, and a great story coupled with pertinent questions about identity I think readers can really ponder as they read the book. It’s a book that explores some of same kinds of issues we currently see in the news, but it’s also a story that gives us some distance from the news of the day.

 

Besides writing, how do you like to spend your free time?

I enjoy board gaming a lot. I’m a fan of both competitive and cooperative games. My currently favorite games are Scythe, The Red Dragon Inn: Battle for Greyport, and Glory to Rome. I’m also an avid fan of music, although my tastes are quite diverse. Being a writer, I’ve got different albums for different moods. When I was working on editing Dissident Signals with Slip-Wolf, I had over a dozen albums I was using as background music for the project.

 

Advice for other writers?

First, read. I know everyone is busy with their life, but if you want to be a writer, you need to read. Also, don’t be afraid to take chance and try new things.

I’d like to point out, there’s a lot of writing advice out there. I think it’s critical to keep in mind you should do what works for you. The way I write may not work for you, and the way you write may not work for me. And you know what? That’s fine. There’s nothing wrong with that. You need to find the techniques and styles that work for you. Writing has a lot of guidelines, but not a lot of hard and fast rules. Even grammar is something that has its subjective elements. People have been arguing about the Oxford comma and split infinitives since before any of us were born, and someone out there will likely be arguing about those long after we’re gone.

 

Where can readers find your work?

Most of my work is for sale through FurPlanet. I also maintain on my website a comprehensive list all of my published stories. My next published story is going to be “Silk and Sword”, and will be in FANG Volume 9, which is coming out at Midwest FurFest 2018.

 

What’s your favorite thing about the furry fandom? Why write furry?

Furry helped me find who I really was. I spent my teenage and adult years in a part of the United States where you just don’t come out as gay. I know people did back when I was a teen, but I never know anyone who just went around saying they were gay. I had a friend who told me about the fandom back in High School, and the fact I could just be me without layers was something I found very appealing. Getting involved in the fandom was a slow process for me, but I’ve always loved how it has connected me with other people, without having to hide who I was.

As for writing furry, I’ve been interested in writing about animals my whole life, so once I found out about furry writing, I knew I had to try my hand at that. Even though I now have over twenty published stories under my belt, I’m still loving the genre.