Hello, my name is McConnaughay and I am the co-owner of Mishmashers Publishing, and the founder and owner of Vinatici and Readers Digested, respectively. As surmised in an early blog-post, I often find it difficult to stay consistent and establish a routine in-terms of what I write and how it pertains to myself as a writer. Obviously, I have unabashed about sharing my opinion on the internet. I write reviews on Vinatici and Readers Digested, respectively, and everything I review is eventually archived on my personal page Mashers Club (reviews that aren’t exactly on-brand with either site also debut there for safekeeping).

   I try to remain frequent with original storytelling and I do think I succeed at that relatively well (Lunacy’s Dance published earlier this year and I am targeting a release date of July 31st for Roxwale: The Heir’s Brother), but the same can’t be said when it comes to talking about or engaging in conversation about writing and storytelling altogether.

   Some of this may have to do with my own insecurities about it. Although it’s a swishing ego-boost when someone arrives at a Comic Con, swoops in and drops forty bucks on everything you have ever wrote, it doesn’t necessarily make you think anyone’s breaking down your door about the writing process or your stories. I consider it more of a log, or of journal entries into what I am creating, documenting the development of what I hope it will one day become. Suffice to say, I may not have the accolades of Stephen King, [The White Fox] Blog does, however, suggest I have the ego of someone who thinks he does. As always, I write my questions vaguely enough that they will be applicable to mostly any writer, so feel free to answer them yourself, either in the comment section or by linking us to your personal blog website, I always try to pay it forward, so I will try to look at them, if I can. Enjoy!

What were some of the things you did differently writing your second book from your debut novel?

   As I talked about in the earlier edition of [The White Fox] Blog, the first novel I ever wrote was Blind Salvation. I had written off-and-on up until then, but it was when I introduced myself to that world I realized this was an obsession I would not be able to shake off.

    I can still remember how excited I was when I wrote Blind Salvation and how giddy and overcome I was by it. The second novel I wrote was a lot more ambitious than that, it was a fantasy novel called The Aeonian and it was nearly twice the length of my first novel.

   I think one of the differences I had with Blind Salvation and The Aeonian might have been the confidence I had in what I was creating and what I was trying to create.

   I don’t want it to feel like I was not as excited to write The Aeonian as I was when I wrote Blind Salvation, but I could tell a lot of the initial novelty and shine was lost. The newness had went away, but, through its vacancy, I feel like I discovered a new identity (“My name is Nick and I am a writer, …”) for myself.

   I could tell early on that The Aeonian would be an undertaking, but I don’t think even then I appreciated how much an undertaking it would become. Looking back, even then, I think it was clear that Blind Salvation was the novel where I taught myself how to write and The Aeonian was the novel where I challenged everything I thought I knew.

   It would be easy to say that after Blind Salvation, I was ready to become what I would call a “good writer,” but it was not that simple, especially because of how different they were from each other. Whereas Blind Salvation was a novel that meshed superhero-action in with elements of horror in a contemporary world, The Aeonian was a full-on fantasy novel, largely engrossed in its own world of swashbuckling action. The skills writing Blind Salvation were no doubt useful, but they were not always applicable in writing my second novel.

For a newer writer, would you recommend flash fiction and short story experience prior to attempting a full length novel?

   I think you should write whatever you are comfortable with.

   I honestly think that flash fiction and short stories are a different beast than when you write a full length novel. They challenge you to be more concise and straightforward, which can both benefit and detriment a story. In some ways, some people might think writing a novel to start off with is trial by fire, but I actually feel like I have an easier time writing novels than I do novellas or novelettes (with exception to The Canes series). This is something I have found to vary for a lot of writers.

   My brother Scott Moore, for instance, has always written longer novels and has a writing style I feel kind of demands that. Whereas Todd Rigney, a writer on Readers Digested and of the novel .found, has told me he is more comfortable with flash fiction and short stories. I think they are unique art forms in some respects.

   Myself, personally, if you look, you will notice my novels can vary in length. My longest novel Katalene the Hollow is about one-hundred thousand words, whereas Blind Salvation, Catherine, and Lunacy’s Dance don’t even cross the seventy thousand threshold.

   Some might benefit from some smaller experiments, and maybe don’t want to bear the shame of a bad stack of papers. Personally though, I feel like I learned a lot more about writing and what I wanted as a writer from Blind Salvation than I ever did from any short story or flash fiction I wrote prior.

For tackling stories, do you prefer to write with or without an outline?

   This is something I have seen a lot of debates about over the years, and, as always, I believe the answer is to write whichever way you feel most comfortable with. Mostly, I don’t use an outline when I write my stories. However, I have recently begun using an outline for Cotton: The Spinster’s Daughter, a novel I am writing with my wife Beccah. Also, as The Aeonian series becomes more complex and intricate, I have begun developing a “Bible,” so to speak, meant as a way of keeping all of my ducks in a row.

Early on, what would you say your biggest strength was as a writer?

   As mentioned earlier on, I developed many different projects before I started what eventually became my first finished novel Blind Salvation. That said, it was with Blind Salvation I was able to understand what I was doing well and what I needed to improve on. I think I shined brightest with the action-scenes and they were what I felt always flowed well.

   If I had to speculate – I think I would say this is because of my involvements in E-Feds, a name given for role-playing games about professional wrestling. I did a lot of them over the years, whether in competition or in solo promotions I did by myself (and with others) for fun. Imagine a professional wrestling match written in text, with all the move-sets and momentum, and that’s what you would find. I wrote a fantasy league for a while called Main Event Madness, which featured fictional characters like Jack Sparrow and The Joker incorporated. All of it has been lost, but I know I wrote at least a couple novels worth of events for that. I had a lot of fun with it as a kid, and I have to believe a lot of what has driven me then now inspires me as an adult writer.

Is that still your biggest strength?

   I don’t think so. I hope it is still a strength, but I find the emotional journeys of characters like Katalene and Vulpecula are what I think standout as highlights in my publications.

What did you hope to accomplish then and does that reflect what you want to accomplish now?

     I am not entirely for certain about that, really. Something I believe is often forgotten about artists and people in-general is that we are multifaceted and motivated by different things at different times. When I was writing Catherine: Forever with Love, for instance, I wanted to write a love-letter of some kind to the horror genre, or more specifically, to the 80s horror I was exposed to in my youth. This is how I approached one horror project, but it is not inherently how I approach every horror I write and is not always what I want to accomplish. Writing The Canes series (which we will no doubt discuss in further depth soon), I had my own emotional journey and things I was processing, and I feel like I am a better person having embarked on this journey with The Canes series.

   Sometimes my stories are just that: stories. As much as I love The Red Flux & the Wunderkind Thief and some other projects I have written, their purpose was to entertain the reader and myself. I don’t think that shortchanges them in any respect. They still had the same amount of work and dedication committed to them, but they were not about unlocking something within myself or answering a question that was in my head.

   In a lot of ways, The Aeonian Fantasy (which encompasses The Red Flux, Katalene, and Roxwale) within itself is about genocide and sociology and religion, and other facets of the human condition. It is a lot to try and make a definitive statement or inspection on, and that is why it is a series I will be dedicating so much of my time toward. That’s what I want to accomplish, I guess, understand things and find some level of closure on them.

 

    Hello, my name is McConnaughay and I am the co-owner of Mishmashers Publishing, and the founder and owner of Vinatici and Readers Digested. I often aspire to have semi-regular blogs or Podcasts, or whatever else, and so often don’t find myself staying consistent or following through with it.

   Some of that might be because I don’t have the most extravagant of lifestyles and because I have never really had the gift of gab so many entertainers and politicians do. President Donald Trump has the gift of gab, for instance. Recently, he made more than one-hundred Tweets in a day. I can’t imagine that. On-average, I am lucky if I can cross the threshold for one-hundred Tweets in a month and even then I feel like a chatterbox.

   I have been a writer since a young age and it is the one thing I always wanted to be when I grew up (well, that, and a hulking professional wrestler, which sounds like a joke, but … is not).

Do you remember the first story you ever wrote?

   I do, or, at least, I think I do. My third novel “Catherine: Forever with Love” is a horror story that was in part inspired by a folder filled with pages and pages of an unfinished manuscript called The Direction I wrote when I was thirteen years old. I went back and read it a little when my curiosity had the best of me and I can remember I straight-up jacked the introduction from Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events, you know the one, with the “If you’re expecting a children’s story with a happy ending,” or something like that. Of course, most of what was in The Direction did not make it into an actual publication. My writings span even before that, however. I wrote a screenplay for a short film I was meant to make with my friends, which is an idea that feels so ridiculous in-retrospect given how self-conscious I was about putting myself out there. And, before that, when my age was still in the single-digits, I wrote comic-panels of a character called The Bombastic Pencil-Man, and it was every bit as absurd as you might think.

   I have a foggy memory about first grade, maybe second. The teacher, I wanna say her name was Mrs. Gray, had all of us write short stories as an assignment. They were crayon scribbled masterpieces bound together by staples. I remember my story was inspired by Billy & Mandy, in-particular Grim, because he looked cool and he was easy for me to draw. Unfortunately, I was not the wonderful spellre you see today. And so, I wrote that Grim was “weeping up a storm,” which led to my poor teacher Mrs. Gray explaining to me the difference between crying and serial murder.

What was the first story you ever published?

   The first novel I ever published was called Blind Salvation. I remember I was in my World History class in my Freshman or Sophomore year of high school, and I was jotting down something without any real direction to it. I had not intended it to become a novel or anything like that. I had dabbled in stories off-and-on like how I mentioned with Pencil-Man and Direction and all of that, but I had not yet cemented the fact that writing was not only a hobby but a significant part of who I was as a person. What I wrote was more or less a lot like what I see with other writers who are starting out. I wanted to come off literary and intellectual, and it all came off very pretentious and bad.

   Everything else after that improved – simply put, once I allowed myself to breathe and not do my best imitation of what I think a writer should be and instead what I am, everything came together in better form. I can still remember how excited I was about Blind Salvation. Basically, the story was influenced by the Dexter television series and comic books and horror films and professional wrestling, and a lot else. The story of Blind Salvation was about a young man named Orion Corvus whose anxieties and compulsions lead him down the path of vigilantism. However, in spite his own perceptions about morality, he focuses solely on serial killers and criminals who he believes deserve death. Along the way, he comes in-contact with other masked superheroes and, ahem, supervillains that he must deal with, all while struggling to decide where he lands between them. A lot of the characterizations around the Orion Corvus is inspired by my own perception and behavior.

   Obviously, I am not a serial killer and I don’t don a hood and head off into the night, but I have always had a lot of social anxieties and a general weirdness to who I am that I think that draws me to some of the characters I write and how I portray them. The story leans into the horror and comic book influence a lot, and it is a very wacky and eccentric story that I find myself proud of in spite admitted fumbles I made with it. Blind Salvation was published in early-2015 on Amazon for Kindle and Paperback, but as of May 2020, it is no longer available. This is because I have been rewriting the novel for republication likely sometime next year, under a new title called Black & Yellow. The novel won’t be drastically different, but you can expect fairly extensive rewrites for the novel. If you’re interested, I am publishing the novel as I go for free on Readers Digested (dot) com.

What made you decide to be a writer?

   Sometimes it can feel like writers have an aura about them that can feel arrogant or mightier than thou about what they do. Sometimes what you are seeing is thinly-veiled insecurity, sometimes it is a genuine and rightful in ones’ creation, and other times it is, in-fact, arrogant or mightier than thou. In truth, I don’t believe it takes anyone special to be a writer and I don’t believe it truly takes anyone special to be a good writer either. Everyone has a story to tell, whether it be something that they dreamed or imagined in their head, or something they experienced or witnessed in real life. Not everyone cares enough to apply the effort and pedigree into a quality, worthwhile creation.

   I am not faulting them by any means either. Some individuals merely don’t believe in setting aside the careful deliberation and resources needed to learn to write and write well. Not only that, but you have to edit and proofread and build a certain structural integrity to your narrative. In other words, in spite of how it may seem, I have found that writing is not strictly a right-brained profession, in-fact, it offers a lot of analytics and critical thinking. It is a skill and in-order to do it well, you have to be willing to establish a routine and commit to that. Some individuals can’t do that well. It’s why I can hear one of my friends tell me a really bonkers idea about a story they had in mind and then, they move on with their life, never nursing that idea beyond its infancy.

   In some ways, I think I feel the “call” to write more than I actually enjoy it. I do enjoy it, for certain, but there is more to it than that. It feels more like I can’t not do it. I find other people’s creations and I can’t help but feel compelled to create something as well. Whereas someone else can have a really cool idea and let that idea stay as an idea, I can’t let things go that easily. In a way, I feel like I am held hostage by writing, and I developed Stockholm syndrome in time. It is therapeutic on an emotional level, allowing me to work through my problems, and it is rewarding when you’re pulled in on a journey all your own. It offers the yin and yang of left and right brain stimulation. I can’t imagine myself without it.

What has influenced you most personally?

   It is difficult to say for certain. I like to think that everyone is absorbent like a sponge, and whether they mean to or not, their interests spillover into whatever it is they write about. For instance, my fifth novel Katalene the Hollow is about a young girl who ventures out in the Whispey Deserts with her brother Rooven in search of adventure and untold riches. The reason she needed to escape was because she was tired of the mundane life she had in the village of Wilson, where everything had a workman-like mindset and the scenery was cornfields and plantation. Although I had not really thought about it, my childhood was spent in a small village and when I stepped outside from my childhood home, I saw cornfields in-front of me and there were cornfields behind my house as well. The camaraderie and relationship between Rooven and Katalene, especially in flashback sequences, also parallels a lot of my childhood with my older brother Michael. The way we used to hang out at a nearby creek and brandish sticks as if they were actual weaponry, it is definitely something that influenced aspects of that novel.

   I can also see the different ways I was inspired by the subject-matter I was exposed to. Surprisingly, in spite of the fact I no doubt watch more film than I do any other medium, one of the most direct sources of inspiration I have had has been video games. I remember when I was playing a video game from Ubisoft called Enchanted Arms, a turn-based role-playing game that caught my eye because the way everything moved on a grid-system. I can’t exactly remember what the story for it was, but it had something to do with the main-character’s arm being able to summon ether or enchantment and using it as a way to attack enemies he is fighting against. I can’t exactly explain why but for some reason it made me think about Gods and whether they could be emptied of their sentience like husks and then be weaponized. That’s when I came up with the idea for The Aeonians, a group of powerful figures in a time of chaos and constant bloodshed, who sacrificed themselves in-order to project veils over each of the five major cities: Acera, Hardan, Urgway, Italina, and Jalint. Series’ like Prince of Persia and Tomb Raider have also inspired me in the ways I write adventures scenes.

   A lot of my ideas can arise from watching or playing something and trying to predict what will happen next or what could have happened, and then, branching off thereafter and creating something new and unique.

Have you ever thrown away something you’ve of considerable length because it did not meet your standards?

   The Aeonian was the second manuscript I ever finished. I wrote the novel shortly after Blind Salvation and finished it in the summer before my Junior year of high school: it ended up at around one-hundred thousand words, and if I published it right now, it would be the longest novel I ever wrote or it would at least tie with Katalene the Hollow. The reason I never published or did a second-draft of The Aeonian was not because it did not meet my standards, however. I had created a new website called Out of Frame (I consider Out of Frame the predecessor or blueprint for what since became Mishmashers) and I wanted to have a short-story available called The Red Flux Chronicles. It was meant to stir up attention for the eventual Aeonian novel release and help furnish my brand.

   The Aeonian novel focused on a handful of characters against a major conflict, and one of those characters was a thief named Secrat. The Red Flux Chronicles was meant as an episodic series meant to document some of his infamous heists and adventures and who he was prior to The Aeonian. Instead, I liked The Red Flux. I liked it a lot, in-fact. Thus, The Red Flux Chronicles went from a serial series to a full-fledged novel called The Red Flux & the Wunderkind Thief, serving as the first installment of a Trilogy.

   Of course, this created a new problem. If I ever published The Aeonian, it would effectively spoil the payoffs of The Red Flux series. Thus, as a result, The Aeonian went on the back burner and enough time has went by that I have outgrown whatever I had written prior. The world has developed significantly and I have improved considerably. I will one day return to The Aeonian, but that one-hundred thousand word manuscript will now, at best, serve as a thorough outline for where I am headed.

Who was your childhood hero?

   I have reflected over this on occasion. If I am honest with myself, I have no one on my bucket list I would like to meet in real life. Although I have more than a handful of individuals I have a lot of admiration for, I have never understood the appeal of meeting them or asking for an autograph, so on and so forth. If I had to choose though, I think I would say that Robert Englund was my childhood hero. The actor who played Freddy Krueger embodied an enthusiasm and charisma for the horror genre and was able to be menacing or comedic at the drop of a dime. I will always cherish the memories I had of watching Elm Street at my grandmother’s house like they were my Saturday Morning cartoons and dressing up with an old sweater and aluminum foil claws for Halloween.

  

   Good news, everyone! I have decided to rewrite my first novel, formerly known as Blind Salvation. Anyone who knows me well knows I have wanted to do this for years. ‘

   I had a lot of fun when I wrote Blind Salvation, and, although it wasn’t the first novel or story I ever thought up (the Bombastic Pencil Man and the novel that eventually became Catherine: Forever with Love can attest to that), it was the first full-length novel I ever followed through with to the end. The standards I set when I was sixteen-years-old are a lot different than the standards I have as a twenty-four-year-old. I have always regarded Blind Salvation as a showcase of how far I have come and how much I have improved, but I want it to be more than that. I don’t like that I have a whole novel I thought up that I am not confident enough in to bring to Comic Cons or advertise with Mishmashers Publishing, and I have decided it is time I do something about it.

   Black & Yellow is the new branding I have chosen for Blind Salvation, both as a semblance of all the changes and improvements I intend, but also as a fresh start for the series and its main-protagonist.

   Black & Yellow isn’t a project I will commit all of my time toward (I still want to have Roxwale: The Heir’s Brother, The Canes III, and the Rabies & Germs: Anthology available by the end of the year), but I will allocate a healthy amount of time toward it. Readers can look for it on Readers Digested, where I will add full chapters to the (Free) section as they are completed. As of today, I have added the “Introduction” for the novel, and will add at least a couple of chapters in April.

   The rewrites are thorough and extensive, and aren’t as simple as a “new draft,” and so, it will take a little longer as a result. For instance, I have edited about 4,500 words of the original finished manuscript and I have removed 1,000 words from it and have added at least 200 in turn.

   I am hopeful the new novel will be released in August of this year with new cover work. For years, I have tinkered with the idea of a sequel, but the quality of the first novel meant that wasn’t an option. I have about twenty-thousands words written of a sequel I wrote in high school shortly after I wrote the first. A lot of it isn’t recoverable, but some of it will be recyclable for the followup, Black & Yellow 2: Happily Forever Dafter. I intend to go straight into editing and adding the sequel to Readers Digested once I finish the first.

   That’s about all I have to say about the project at the moment. Since Lunacy’s Dance is out now, my focus will be on a novella I am preparing called The One Two Punchline and my eighth novel Roxwale: The Heir’s Brother.

Take it easy,
McConnaughay

  The story of how Vulpecula Noel (The Fox Detective, one-half the dynamic duo seen in The Canes series, etc.) came to exist is very different than what you might expect. By early-2013, I was hot off the heels of my first novel Blind Salvation and was itching to find my next project. That project ended up as a fantasy-novel called The Aeonian, a whopping one-hundred-and-ten thousand manuscript succeeding the events of The Red Flux & the Wunderkind Thief, that has since served as a paperweight (another story for another time).

   Something then that still carries truth is my kinetic attention-span and scattered mind. During the writing process for The Aeonian, I decided I needed a smaller project to entertain myself in times when I wasn’t as interested in writing my grandiose, large-scale fantasy-epic. Enter a white-fox with a red (not green!?) scarf named Vulpecula Noel, son of Hensley Noel, best-friends with the owl Apus and the lizard Lacerta, and … secret agent extraordinaire!?

   That’s right, Vulpecula Noel was once, not only the lead in an action-adventure novel, a cool, calm, and collected character, akin to a lot of the 3-D platform characters I played as on the PlayStation 2, like Ratchet & Clank and Sly Cooper. In the 12,000 word un-finished manuscript for Vulpecula & the Canes Vinatici, the Canes Vinatici run Maharris with an iron-fist (unlike in The Canes series, which depicts The Canes Vinatici as a fallen political-party that hasn’t been in power for decades) and the other animals cower in terror when they come around. The Canes are depicted in cartoony fashion, coming across like a biker-gang of evildoers more than the more grounded and realistic (as realistic as you can be in an anthropomorphic world) interpretation that made it in the final product. Before the days of Detective Barker and the socially awkward, unhinged Fox Detective, Vulpecula and his friends fought for equality with cheesy, fourth-wall breaking humor and sought the freedom of Vulpecula’s sister.

   As I skim through the pages of unused material, all the retired plot-threads have started to come back at me like a freight train. A lot of ideas were left on the cutting-room floor and that is where they will remain. The Fox Detective is not a courageous adventurer and unfortunately, he has no sister to fight for. Some characters from the 2013 draft carried over into The Canes series, beyond the main-cast, characters like Officer Alicia Camel are portrayed like how they were portrayed in the 2013 draft.

   The Vupecula Noel depicted in The Canes Files didn’t come to be until early-2014, brought in as a side-project on a website I ran called Out of Frame. The mission-statement for Out of Frame was to build momentum and draw attention to myself. I created several small projects like The Red Flux ChroniclesThat Sammy Kid, and The Adventures of Vulpecula, hoping I would be able to use them as a launchpad to larger projects. Instead, what I created on Out of Frame practically inhaled what they were meant to build interest toward.

   I wrote three episodes of The Adventures of Vulpecula and posted two of them on the Out of Frame website. “The Grand Illusion” and “Hair” both made it into The Canes Files novel, introducing a more neurotic and insecure Vulpecula Noel. I followed with a third installment, an installment almost longer than both “Illusion” and “Hair” combined, but I forgot about it, and, for only that reason, it remains unpublished. Maybe one day we’ll release a special edition of The Canes Files with the special bonus episode of The Adventures of Vulpecula? Instead, the third edition of The Adventures of Vulpecula became a different story called “The Laugh Track,” which saw Vulpecula relocating to Urgway to solve the mystery of Comet Fowley’s severed hand. The Laugh Track was the first episode I wrote after Scott Moore became involved in the project in mid-2015 and showed the series becoming more serious and character driven (the “lost episode” featured a similarly dark edge).

   If nothing else, the journey Vulpecula Noel went through in its development is an interesting trajectory, showing my changes and growth as a writer. In a later entry, I will discuss in further details how my personal life and experiences changed and helped shape the character.
 
McConnaughay