Author Interview with D.J. Elton

Dragon Soul Press interviewed D.J. Elton, an author of short stories, microfiction, and poetry.


1. How long have you been writing?

I started writing as a child as it was encouraged at school and held my interest. I kept writing over the years, especially poetry. Recently, in the past 5 or so years I have become more focused in getting my work published. So I’ve been quite prolific with poetry, microfiction and short stories. It was bliss on a stick to return to writing, something was fulfilled inside of me.

2. What is the most difficult part about writing for you?

My day usually includes a range of various work-related activities: because other than writing I also teach, promote, liaise, meditate and follow up people and engagements. So I do a lot. Nothing is tricky about the actual writing itself, but finding time to write as much as I would like has been a big challenge. I suppose another difficult thing is getting a heap of rejections all at once; one day I got five and it was so painful. Then you get some acceptances and it balances out.

3. What, in your opinion, are the most important elements of good writing?

Engaging descriptions. Characters and dialogue that are interesting, attention-grabbing, page-turning; people want to keep reading and not get bored. I always attempt to adhere to a plot framework but it sometimes gets hijacked by the characters. Several rounds of editing is usually helpful too. I am a short story writer, not a novelist.

4. How do you come up with the story or poem titles?

Mostly I leave it to the end, when I have written the piece. Then a title often comes to mind which is an added extra to highlight the theme. This I find easy. There will always be some words in the work which stand out and are significant for the title. Recently, I thought I will experiment with just a title and write a poem or story from just that. This can be a fun and challenging exercise, eg: “The Dog that could Fly” or “Green Skin.”

5. What would you say is your most interesting writing quirk?

I’m in quite a poetry-writing phase these past few months. I can whip up a poem really quickly – I amaze myself in doing this; just writing it out, free-flow. (Not all are accepted or sent for publication of course!) But the ease of the writing of poetry continues to give me a real high, whereas writing stories and even microfiction is a lot more of a calculated process. (I’m a plotter mostly). I mean I would never plot a poem. No need.

6. How many books have you written? Which is your favorite?

I’ve not written novels although I have my work in around 50 anthologies, which includes short stories, poetry and microfiction. I was the team lead for a group of writers last year to come up with a speculative version of Alice and her adventures with the White Rabbit. The title is The Thirteen Lives of Alice. It’s quite a favorite, and completing it in 2021 was a huge challenge although there was a good team of authors on board and a savvy publisher (can I name Black Hare Press?) There’s a novella called The Merlin Girl which is the first thing I ever had published in the past few years. In retrospect it’s very raw but I love the story behind it; a medieval girl comes to the twenty-first century to repair some karma, stirring up the Camelot story.

7. Where do you draw inspiration from?

Nice question. From my life; what I see and experience. I have a healthy imagination so that works well for fantasy and sci fi. Anything that happens can be teased out into a story – this can be morphed into that and so on. Love rewriting faerie tales, folklore stories and myths. There is some great content available and I love to research.

8. Do you have any new stories planned?

At the moment I have about 6 stories I am rehashing, re-editing. I love how the editing one does today would be different in the next round of reading, or in 3 months’ time. I do have a plan for a book of essays on various themes, and have started writing these with a list of topics that continues to grow!

9. Who is the author you most admire in your genre?

I have to say Neil Gaiman. I just so loved The Graveyard Book when I read it. That is something I would like to write. I’m definitely more of a YA author than a horror author. I also like a good Michael Robotham read; he does crime thrillers and has an investigative journalist background. 

10. Where can readers learn more about you?

Readers can learn more at my website, Facebook, and Instagram.

Author Interview with Jarrett Mazza

Dragon Soul Press took time to interview Author Jarrett Mazza, featured in Reign of Queens, Lethal Impact, and Rogue Tales.


1. When did you first consider yourself a writer?

It was my eighteenth birthday and my parents gave me a laptop as their main gift. Realizing that I now had a tool to create stories, I decided to finally act on my creative impulses and began writing scripts, comic books, and novel synopses. However, it was in my second year of university, and I was a huge fan of comics, superheroes, movies, and literary novels, that I began my very first short stories. I didn’t think anything of it, at first, it was just fun, and exciting. Three years later I had my first story published, one year after that my MFA, and the rest just escalated from there. I consider myself a writer the same way I consider myself to be human. I breathe, I eat, and I live, and I’m a writer because I write. It’s part of who I am now, one of the best parts, something I need, desire, and I’m glad I have it. I can’t imagine a life without writing, and I just continue to do it because I can.

2. What comes first, the plot or characters?

It’s combination of things. I think about the story and then the characters, but most of the time, it just all coalesces on its own. I don’t overthink the process. I just do the work, put in the time, and I create.

3. How do you come up with the titles to your stories?

That’s totally a last-minute thing. Most of my work is untitled while writing, and then when it’s done, I conclude with something, generally, I could not have created prior to its conclusion. It can be aggravating to keep changing, and sometimes, I don’t know what the title is going to be. I like thinking about it, though. The brainstorming can be quite entrancing.

4. Is there lots to do before you drive in and start writing the story?

Absolutely not. I am a fountain of perpetual creativity. I usually do dive in right away, and Dragon Soul Press has actually made that easier. There’s so many submission calls, I don’t have time to think about them all. I just love the content and I want to attack it as soon as possible. It’s great to just jump in, propel the narrative, and see where it ends up. I’m lucky to have been welcomed into DSP. I will be writing stories for them for as long as I am able.

5. What is the most difficult part about writing for you?

Nothing. Difficulty in writing is the rejection and the uncertainty, but hey, that’s the game, right? Can’t let it get you down. I just keep my head down and fight, and I like to fight, so I feel like I’m in the right place even when things aren’t going well.

6. What books or authors have most influenced your own writing?

Wow. Tough question. I have so many influences, but my favorite author is Craig Davidson. I love his work so much I could sleep with all his books under my pillow. Also, Michael Chabon, Greg Rucka, Stephen King, Scott Snyder, Lucy Snyder, Andrew F. Sullivan, Zoe Whittall, and Amy Stuart are awesome as well. Books, it’s all about Cromac McCarthy’s collected works, On Writing, The Mysteries of Pittsburgh, The Fighter, The Road, Jim The Boy, The Shining, Watchmen, and anything coming out of Wolfpack Publishing right now. I love it all!

7. Who is your favorite character you’ve written?

Too many to count, and too hard to determine. I love them all. Depending on the day, I gravitate to each. I’m just glad I have all of them.

8. Which of your stories were the most enjoyable to write?

So long as I’m writing, I’m happy.

9. What does success mean to you? What is the definition of success?

Success, to me, means fulfillment and progress. Do I feel fulfilled and am I progressing? If so, then to a certain degree, I see myself as successful. I have many visions of a future with writing a part of it, but I prefer not to structure what lies too rigidly. It’s not that kind of job, unfortunately. I just want to be able to do it, and if I can, and if it’s about something, for something…then I’m a success. Also, I need to be surrounded by people I care about. I can’t enjoy any success if I don’t have people who care about me. I’m lucky to have them too.

10. Where can readers learn more about you?

I am on all social media and if you Google me, you’ll see links to my website as well as my published work.

Author Interview with Chad A. B. Wilson

Dragon Soul Press sat down for an interview with Author Chad A. B. Wilson, featured in the Dragons and Heroines anthology.


1. What inspired you to start writing?

When I was in second grade, I would write narratives out of the movies I watched. The first thing I ever wrote was a retelling of Charlotte’s Web, complete with dialogue and everything. I even got the punctuation right. In sixth grade, I wrote a zany time travel novel inspired by The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. Later in middle school, I began writing horror stories inspired by Stephen King, Dean Koontz, and Peter Benchley. So I’ve always been inspired by what I’m reading. When I read a good horror story, I want to write a good horror story. I’m not in competition with the greats, but I want to try to do what I enjoy and make something that other people will enjoy. That’s really the motivation: inspire enjoyment in others. Some people, they just feel compelled to write, and their art comes first, but for me, it’s always outward focused. When I was in a punk band in college, I wrote a song called “I wanna be a sellout.” I’ve always wanted people to enjoy what I do. It’s not about art or the idea that people don’t understand my work because it’s great art. I want to write what people enjoy. I spent 10 years working on a PhD in Victorian literature. Once I finished that, I went back to reading the fun stuff I always loved—fantasy and science fiction. So then I was inspired again! I started writing again about two years ago.

2. What comes first, the plot or characters?

Definitely the plot. I know that may sound weird, and maybe it’s because I’m a novice and not that great at it, but the real world is full of boring people. What makes things exciting are external events. I’m not writing stories about the internal struggles of real people, after all. No, what I need are exciting events; then I figure out how a person will deal with those events, and the character is fleshed out along the way.

3. How much ‘world building’ takes place before you start writing?

I’ve read enough about writing science fiction and fantasy that I’m aware of the trap of world building. Basically, I don’t do much. I let the plots drive the world building, and then I go back and revise. I’ve written two novels (unpublished) and a dozen short stories that take place in Grenmir’s world of Searithia and the city Falsea, so the world has become fleshed out over time.

4. Describe your writing space.

We built a shed behind our house and decked it out as a “studio” after the pandemic hit and the entire family was working and studying from home. My wife works in there during the day, and then I go write in there after most of the house is down for the night. It’s just a simple desk but it’s cozy with few distractions.

5. What is the most difficult part about writing for you?

I find satisfying conclusions to be the hardest. Ideas come easily, but shaping them into problems that can be solved is difficult. I used to love the heist genre, for example, because of the way the protagonists would solve the problems (that they always anticipated beforehand). I’ve tried to write my own heist stories, and they always come up flat. It’s the interesting solution that eludes me. I imagine audiences can see my conclusions from a mile away.

6. What does success mean to you? What is the definition of success?

Like I said, I want people to read and like my work. That’s really it.

7. How many books have you written? Which is your favorite?

I have three unpublished novels. My favorite is my latest: a bizarro, supernatural tour of Texas led by a middle-aged alcoholic gunslinger who must save the world. It’s called “Grit Versus the Necromantic Society.” Its absolutely bonkers. One chapter is told by an armadillo. In another, Grit is saved by an army of squirrels. He meets a bunch of famous ghosts, too. It was so fun to write.

8. Where do you get your inspiration?

I am often inspired by travel. Atlas Obscura (a travel website of the odd and bizarre) has inspired some of my current work. I know I have a story when I pull off the interstate and find something so weird or creepy that it sticks with me. Or sometimes I just get images in my head that I must write a story around it.

9. Are you working on anything at the present you would like to share with your readers about?

I just finished another story about the rogue Grenmir, and I’m working on revising my Grit novel. I may seek out a publisher or may self-publish. I haven’t decided.

10. Where can readers learn more about you?

I can be found on Facebook and Twitter.

Pitfalls to Avoid: Showing vs. Telling

As a writer, we have many expressions and mantras that both writer and reader alike have heard. Here’s another one you’ve probably heard ad nauseam: 

Show, do not tell.

However, a lot of amateur writers get this concept frequently wrong and why is telling so bad anyway?

Let’s start with an example of telling:

Grim unholstered his six-shot, pointing it at Sylvia. He felt angry and growled his fury.

Sylvia was unperturbed by his weapon, laughing defiantly. “If you plan on intimidating me, you’re sorely mistaken.”

He smiled cruelly, “The bullets in the gun are made from cold iron, demon. You’re finished!”

He opened fire, Slyvia screaming in anguish as each bullet tore through her violet flesh.

Is this bad? Isolated, no, not really, but it’s clearly amateurish and if the entire story is peppered with this style of writing, then it’s bad. The reason why is I’m telling the reader Grim is angry. I am telling the reader Sylvia was unperturbed. I am telling the reader Sylvia not only laughs, but how she laughs. I told the reader how Grim smiled and I told the reader how Sylvia screamed (okay that last part was really bad, but you get the point).

Understand that “show vs. tell” is a reader’s trend. At one point, it was perfectly acceptable for writers to tell the reader of the emotions and actions of the characters instead of showing. Read any 19th Century or early 20th Century literature. And if attention spans continue to get shorter and shorter, this trend may reverse itself and I may be writing a post about “tell, do not show.” I’ve been reading negative reviews of readers wanting just this thing (I’ll get into why in a moment)

So, how to avoid telling? Here are three rules to help you:

  1. Don’t use emotive words in the narrative at all. An easy test on yourself is if you have any emotive words. Angry, happy, sad, etc. Get rid of them.
  2. Use body language to describe the emotion. Instead of writing, He was angry, write, He grimaced, baring his teeth, nearly snarling. But you want the reader to feel a particular kind of rage, you say? Let the readers decide that for themselves. Don’t try to control that part of the process of writing for your reader.
  3. Mitigate or avoid adverbs. Adverbs are like salt. It’s okay to use one sparingly here and there, but overuse ruins the whole meal. A lot of adverbs is lazy writing. She laughed defiantly tells me how she laughed, and on top of it, how do I picture defiance? Instead, let’s go with, She folded her arms and proceeded to laugh, a raucous bellow that shook the room.

So, here’s the caveat of showing vs. telling and this is how I’ve seen this in the form of negative reviews. Showing increases your word count–considerably. It forces you to be more descriptive. Even if you chose a minimalist approach to describe an emotion, you’re still going to have more words than a simple, He was angry. In the example above, that was three words vs. seven. In the other example, that was three words vs. a whopping fifteen. Some readers hate this because you have writers who can literally spend a page and a half describing a gate-opening scene (George R.R. Martin, Game of Thrones, I’m looking at you). It’s beautiful, it’s immersive, but it’s long. So be aware when you’re being descriptive or you’re laying it thick on the purple prose.

Happy writing!

Plot Twists

When done right, a plot twist can infuse the story with a whole new level of drama that keeps the reader reading. There are different types of plot twists, and each one has its own function for moving the story forward. But remember, just because plot twists exist, doesn’t mean you have to use them. Putting in a grand reveal just for shock value will only make the story you’ve worked so hard on, feel a little cheap. 

The Betrayal

Just like the name suggests, this comes about when one character is presumed to be on one side of the conflict, but then later betrays their loyalties. It is one of the more common plot twists used. And typically, this kind of plot twist happens when the traitor is someone on the protagonist’s side. However, it can be just as interesting if not more interesting when the betrayal occurs on the antagonist’s side. 

The Lie

This plot twist is an exposure of a truth about the world that has been hidden from the protagonist. The main character gets a reveal of the “true state” of the world around them, which then challenges their fundamental idea of their place in the world and how they fit into it. It’s a great starting point for them to go on a hero’s journey. 

The Different Identity

This is a plot twist that happens when one character is revealed to not be who they said they were. This can either have a positive or negative impact on the plot, so be wary when using a different identity.