Cover to Cover #437A: Listener Voicemail

Troubled WatersMike Mennega discovered that there's a backlog of voicemail that collected over the holidays, so Mike Stackpole and Summer help him navigate the extra commentary.

Voicemail: Sean from Edwards AFB uses an MP3 recorder to help his writing process, since he seems to get inspired while driving; Trampas wonders if the Nook Color may just be the first of a new wave of color e-readers; Trampas asks if a writer needs to get clearance to use real world products in a story; Trampas wonders how to make a female villian believable without falling into cliched tropes

Listener Review: Web Genii brings us a review of Troubled Waters by Sharon Shinn.

Voicemail: Anthony in Alabama comments on apps, Apple's iPhone, Google's Android and Chrome and the direction moving forward; Jason from Alaska asks if the shift from copying books by hand to using the new printing press echoes the hue and cry in today's arguments surrounding electronic publishing; RL Ferguson calls in an update on his NaNoWriMo project, a YA fantasy available at; Shane in Sydney is concerned about rumors around publishers putting ads inside ebooks (we need written product placement instead)

Listener Review: Michell Plested of the Get Published podcast brings us a review of Shadowrise by Tad Williams, the third volume in his Shadowmarch series.

Voicemail: Jason from Wisconsin weighs in on the argument over writers making money from their work, in print and electronically, which leads to a discussion on the pros and cons on MFA programs, and the ways they shun genre fiction; Monica updates her NaNoWriMo project; the Everlasting Crow completed his NaNoWriMo goal of 50k words; Sean from Edwards AFB wants to hear more about Mike M rewriting one of his old self-published stories, and wants to know what the thoughts are on including meta materials and extras online for books

Mike S throws out a challenge to Mike M and Summer to get their stalled projects jumpstarted, and asks listeners to join in and finish a story, so we can all work on projects together.

Assignment #1: Write a 10,000 word story about a character who's unhappy about something, and by the end of the story they have dealt with the problem.

See the first post in our Project Write series, and we'll keep each other updated

Listener comments: If you have any suggestions or comments, please let us know!

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Promo: Dragon's Fire, Wizard's Flame by Michael R. Mennenga


  1. Hey guys,

    Your discussion of MFA programs was interesting, so I thought I'd throw in my own experiences. I began my graduate work at National University (based in California) originally in Creative Writing. Most of what I submitted was genre fiction (fantasy and horror), and I was never discouraged in my choice of genres; my professors were always very supportive. Sometimes I left some of my fellow students scratching their heads, but otherwise it was a good experience. However, I totally agree with you that MFA programs are really geared toward creating professors rather than writers; I think I have learned more from a practical perspective from The Secrets, and I switched from Creative Writing to an MA in English (since as a high-school teacher this is more valuable career-wise). The MFA experience was valuable but not much different from a writing critique group; just one that you pay for and get graded in.

    • My thing is with the abundance of speculative fiction in popular culture, what with comics, movies from comics and television, why there's still any head-scratching at all.

      I encountered a ton of head-scratching when I took several semesters of creative writing classes at Temple University, when I lived in the Philly area. Same teacher, 2 semesters and a summer class, some of the same students, and I was the only one with stories that contained elements of fantasy, SF, or paranormal. I think I wrote one story that was all Afterschool Special because I got tired of questions about what was going on in the story dominating the discussion rather than giving me feedback on the actual writing (which is what was supposed to the focus of the critique sessions).

      I think the only one who appreciated the stories for what they were was the teacher. Everyone else was so thrown by what most of us genre readers take for granted, I began making a game out of determining their levels of confusion. I think that's also when I realized that I may have been wasting my time by working on stories I wanted to read but never getting any feedback from the "literary" students.

      I kinda understood their lack of comprehension, since 12-15 years ago the mainstream wasn't quite so dominated by speculative fiction. These days however, I can't see how there can be any head-scratching about stories with SF/F/P/H flavors to them.

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