Spotlight on S.T. Gulik


Leigh: Today I’m excited to host S.T. Gulik, author of “Birth,” on my blog. Thanks for agreeing to the interview!

S.T.: Thanks for having me.

Leigh: Which small castle outside of Dublin did you first live in during those old nostalgic cockroach days?

S.T.: Lol, it never occurred to me to check the address. I tried to find it in the early 1900s, but I couldn’t quite tell where it was. It’s all shops now.

Leigh: Did that part of your life inspire your work?

S.T.: In a way. Alchemy made me who I am, so I developed an interest in fringe science and philosophy. I’m not interested in writing anything set in that period, though. Everything was painfully boring, back then. I mostly ran around looking for food and trying not to get stepped on. The humans toiled and used their remaining energy to make more humans to help with the toiling. It wasn’t romantic. Everything stank. It was a horrible time.

Leigh: What else has inspired your work?

S.T.: A bit of everything. I really enjoy watching humans go.

I just saw a spectacularly abysmal movie called “Never Too Young To Die” from 1986, about an all-American teen (John Stamos) trying to stop an evil, hermaphroditic rock star (Gene Simmons) from poisoning the water supply. It harkened back to a simpler time before the human singularity when good was good, evil was evil, and you could tell which was which based on fashion. Go back 50 years, and it was white-hat vs. black-hat. Before that, it was this skin vs. that skin. It was simplistic, but in an innocent way that doesn’t exist anymore.

Everything is postmodern now. You can’t tell who’s joking or what’s worn ironically. A hermaphroditic villain is a totem for transphobia and an act of aggression, if not rape, by the heteronormative establishment. Meanwhile, that same character in that same movie is a tool for the homosexual agenda to create talking points for the paid protesters, normalize perversion, and ultimately lower youths directly to Hell in a bedazzled handbasket. These are not even the poles of the sociopolitical discussion a B-movie can inspire.

That cognitive dissonance is mutating human consciousness. Much like the Iiitis prophesied in “Birth,” this mutation can be helpful or harmful. It’s cultural puberty. Like in individual puberty, a lot of people are self-destructing in their attempts to test boundaries. Depending on your perspective, it is either profoundly sad, or entertaining, or both, or all three, or none of the above.

Watching humans go is like seeing a cat fall off a TV that’s playing an old chimpanzee-western, in a house that’s on fire and infested with Smurfs that are too high to walk out the door. It’s exquisite and highly inspirational.

Leigh: My brother-in-law’s single. Is the goddess of chaos hot?

S.T.: She’s got tits you could crawl into and die. Many have.

I could hook him up, but you should know that her last boyfriend’s soul is imprisoned in the outermost sheet of toilet paper in the first stall of a Pilot gas station in Tennessee. Every time that piece gets used, he reincarnates into the piece above him.

Leigh: Which movies make you cry and why?

S.T.: Wow, wasn’t expecting that one. Lol, I guess that’s a reference to my bio. I joked that vampire movies make me cry because we immortals are always maudlin about having to outlive our loved ones. Honestly, immortality’s pretty nice. Watching your friends die sucks, but having seen the other side of things makes it a lot easier.

Death is like seeing your father naked. It seems like a big deal at the time, but it’s really just an unsettling thing that happens to everybody eventually. Afterwards, everybody gets on with their life.

I’m much more likely to be moved by beauty than sadness. There’s a song by AJJ called Linda Rondstadt about totally losing your shit in public after witnessing an entirely mundane thing that struck a nerve. That’s me. Repressed and stoic 99% of the time, then wham.

But you asked what movies make me cry. The saddest movies I’ve ever seen were cartoons. When the Wind Blows, Plague Dogs, and Grave of the Fireflies are a few good ones. I hate to see innocents suffering because of ignorance.

Leigh: How accurate do you think this prophecy labeled “Birth” is? Is there anything we can do now to avert this catastrophe?

S.T.: Well, that’s all going to happen verbatim in one string of reality, but consciousness can navigate strings by focusing will and action to move toward a particular destination. A few things you could do to shift yourself into a less chaotic reality: Vote for honest, altruistic leaders who’s plans make sense. Relax. Agree to disagree. Worry less about differences in appearance or opinion and more about cancer and Fukushima killing the ocean. Actually, instead of worrying, work with others to find solutions. Find reasons to love everything. Really, anything you do that’s calm and inspired by love will nudge you away from Eris’s influence.

But what’s the fun in that?

Leigh: Can you tell us a little bit about “Sex”? If I buy “Sex” from you, will it make me laugh or cry?

S.T.: Both, probably at the same time, plus it will swap your gender, turn your tongue blue, and help you see electromagnetic fields.

“Birth” is a reference point to help you understand the end of the world. “Sex” is the apocalypse. You could say that the Chakra Kong trilogy is the story of a man trying to dig himself out of a pit of quicksand with a tasting spoon. The deeper he digs, the more quicksand he finds, but he learns a lot in the process.

My favorite scene involves creatures like Care Bears fighting a Shoggoth. Mind you; they are not their copyrighted counterparts. These are real beings from other planes, whose existence filtered through the subconscious of artists and manifested as entertainment.

Leigh: What’s your favorite FUD?

S.T.: Cheeseburger Flavored potato chips and the pizza sliders from Arbys.

Leigh: What do you do to relax?

S.T. – Fun fact; a properly stimulated pineal gland secretes a chemical similar to crystal meth. I forgot how to relax years ago. I try to meditate, but Eris starts bugging me the second my body goes to sleep. The closest I get to shutting my brain off is when I play Soulcalibur.

For fun, I play a lot of board games. Argent the Consortium, Cthulhu Wars, and Trickerion are a few favorites. None of those are particularly relaxing, though.

Leigh: You’ve just learned you have 24 hours before the world ends. What do you do?

S.T.: I’d put on my T-shirt that says, “I told you so” and walk around town playing my concertina for the orgies.

Leigh: How did you come by the idea for this series? When you write, do you fly by the seat of your pants, or do you plan things out in advance?

S.T. – Chakra Kong is all divine revelation. Dreams inspired most of my other stuff. I let my subconscious do most of the work then adapt the byproduct into something that makes sense.

Sometimes, I try to raise awareness of a particular issue. For instance, most people are unaware that dolphins are psychopathic rapists by nature. Not to say they’re all evil. I’m sure some of them are very nice. Still, porpoises are the only non-human mortals who kill each other for fun. They use their psychic powers to gain followers and erase the memories of those who see them for what they are. It’s getting harder now that everyone has a video-recorder in their pocket. Tons of dolphin videos get uploaded to Youtube, but the bastards keep getting them taken down.

My screenplay, “Dolphin Cock Massacre,” is the wakeup call humanity needs. Unfortunately, everybody who’s aware of the menace is too afraid to make it. It’s a real problem, and we need a real solution. If anyone reading this is brave enough to make this movie, send me a PM on Facebook or contact me through It could be animated, live action, or puppets. The medium isn’t important as long as we get the word out. Together, we can make a difference.

Leigh: What advice would you give to a new prophetic cockroach, starting out, just trying to turn on the screen and open the word processing program?

S.T.: I’d smoosh it as an act of mercy.

Leigh: Where can readers learn more about you and your work?

S.T.: I am omnipresent. Seek, and ye shall find.







Amazon Author Page:


Book Links:

American print or ebook- Birth (USA)

Birth (Kobo)

UK – Birth UK

Italy – Birth Italy

France –Birth France

Germany –Birth (Germany)

Spain – Birth (Spain)

Goodreads: Birth at Goodreads

S.T.: I’m also lurking in your couch and behind the potholders in your kitchen, but I am very fast and sneaky. It’s easier to click the links.

Birth: The Exquisite Sound of One Hand Falling Off a Turnip Truck (Chakra Kong Book 1) by S. T. Gulik

Birth: The Exquisite Sound of One Hand Falling Off a Turnip Truck (Chakra Kong Book 1) by S. T. Gulik, 290 pages, Sausage Press, November 26th 2016, Genre: Satire/Dark Humor/Science Fiction/Adventure. Warning: May Contain Spoilers.

Review by Leigh Holland.

This is not a book, but a prophecy, written no more than one hundred years prior to the events it will inevitably depict. This is important because quite frankly, I’m getting tired of all the old, rehashed prophecies of ages past. Yes, yes, who can forget the words of Jeremiah, “I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Inspirational, straightforward. Come to think of it, I rather like that. At any rate, this book depicts our absurd future in the most absurd manner possible. What else should we expect from a prophetic magical cockroach?

This is a gospel of Max, a highly unlikely, unheroic hero. He awakens in the (not so) distant future in a tub of ice, wounds on his sides sewn up with dental floss, and his kidneys removed. How can he survive such a thing? Well, for that explanation, you can click the link to the appendix where you can learn about The Divine Disturbance, an event that transformed human consciousness for ten minutes, rose zombies from the grave, and made people who were dying able to live without vital organs. This event stems from the hair metal band Poison Candy getting irritated that they were underappreciated. There’s more to the explanation, feel free to read the appendix to find out. I did. At length. It was hilarious and absurd.

Max has a nymphomaniac girlfriend and a pet cheek worm named Cakey made from his DNA. The cheek worm, not the nympho, is made from Max’s DNA. He’s called Cakey because he’s addicted to snack cakes, which are FUD. FUD is what we eat in America now. It’s not real food and the folks of the future differentiate between the two. Max and Cakey go to buy Halloween costumes. The store is attacked by a group of Iites (see Appendix for more info, basically mutants who live in the sewers and leave nobody alive). Somehow, Max and Cakey kill all the Iites and survive, placing a giant target on their heads. The Media wants him to do speaking shows to cash in on his fifteen minutes of fame while the Riot Nrrds, enemies of the Iites, want him to help take down their foes and the entire government. What does Max want? Well, Max just wants everyone to leave him alone and to go back to his normal, boring, self-interested life. Unfortunately for Max, with a target on him, he has no choice but to choose to be a hero. Well, sort of.

By the time I reached the end, I reflected on how this, at times, presents a completely inconceivable future. At other points, I realized how true some aspects could be. FUD exists now, it’s just not labeled as such. Even if it were, it wouldn’t change a thing. People would still eat it in large enough quantities for its producers to remain profitable. The Media is not one conglomerate out for money and to distract the populace, it’s six, but one day it could meld into one. Will anyone stop it? No, probably not. None of the rival factions and parties presented in the book are any better or worse than the others, just different, and equally corrupt and after power. That’s always been true and always will, despite our very human tendency to label such parties and factions as “good” or “bad” depending on our own views.

I loved this. If you love Absurdist literature, you’ll love it too. This is a roller-coaster ride of utter oddness that begs to be ridden. The author uses a lot of surprising, ridiculous similes and metaphors.

Some of my favorite lines from the book:

The air hit his face like a fat hooker’s cleavage.

Pope’s eyes burned with grandiose delusion you could light a cigar on.

Max wasn’t sure if it was her tone or the pricy alcohol, but his nervousness left as fast as a conservative grandmother at a John Waters film.

You can find this book at Birth.

Other links:

Birth by S. T. Gulik

Book Description:

After defending himself against a group of mutant terrorists, Max is caught in a web of global conspiracies, terrorist networks and esoteric gibberish at the heart of an underground war for global domination. He doesn’t like humans, but the only way to free himself is to liberate mankind by destroying the shadow government who want him dead. Birth is the first in a trilogy of epic, black comedies. The next book is entitled “Sex (Or Busier Than A Three Legged Cat Trying To Squeeze Blood From The Tip Of An Iceberg)”.

About the Author:

S.T. Gulik is a magical cockroach. He started his life as a common wood roach in 1681, living in a small castle outside of Dublin. One day, a human alchemist blew himself up while trying to brew the elixir of life. S.T. survived the blast, but the fumes cursed him with self-awareness and immortality. A lot has happened in three-hundred-thirty-five years. Everyone he knew and loved has died. Vampire movies make him cry. On the upside, he’s had countless adventures and learned many things. He worked for the goddess of chaos for one-hundred-twenty-three years. About thirty years ago she turned him human and disappeared, which is fine because humans are smart and likable. Oh, and he writes absurdist fiction. That’s important. Gotta mention that.

Writing Product Review: Hemingway App

Writing Product Review: Hemingway App

Review by Leigh Holland.

The Hemingway Editor App is free to use online and for $20.00 you can download the app to your desktop. You can install it on as many devices as you legally own. What does it do?

It helps train you to tighten your writing by identifying excessive use of passive voice, adverbs, and clunky sentence construction. Spend a few days typing into the editor as you write and you’ll being to see a difference in your rough draft writing. It immediately helped me to see where I was overusing adverbs and passive voice, so that even outside of the app, I no longer used them as often in my writing. Is it worth $20? I think it was a good investment, since my entire family, kids included, are using it to become better writers. I feel it paid off in helping me construct a neater, cleaner first draft. You can find it at Hemingway Editor App.

Here are some examples of how it works:

First, I entered some snippets of work from some of the authors in my library, just for fun.

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As we can see, it has a color coded system to the right sidebar. It shows you how many instances of adverbs, passive voice, hard to read and very hard to read sentences the entry has. It makes recommendations for simpler alternatives and how many uses of adverbs and passive voice are appropriate.

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You might also note it shows you word count and gives a rating with a grade level. You’d think the higher the grade level, the better, but that’s not true at all. You want to appeal to a wider audience while being concise and direct. That means Grade 3 to Grade 6 is best.

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It can also expand in a drop down to show you how long it takes to read the passage, number of letters, characters, words, sentences, and paragraphs.

Pretty neat!

Books I’d LOVE To Read If I Just Had The Time (September 23rd 2017)

Hiding in Third Person is the story of friends who help each other during desperate times. Ricky, a flippant orderly befriends a mental patient at an asylum he refers to as the spa and dude ranch. He listens to the man, the other orderlies call Mr. River, tell a dubious tale of two teenage boys on the run from an assassin. In River’s story the boys, Malachi and Doc, take refuge at an abandoned military base, BOMARC, nestled in the heart of the idyllic New Jersey Pinelands. The killer, known to the boys as The Finder, hesitates to follow them into the facility because it was once the site of a plutonium spill.

Unknown to the teens, three law enforcement officers are also on their trail. Cancer worries, and false identities hinder the cops in their search. Evidence from a suspected murder scene, and a mysterious code baffle the officers, keeping them one step behind the killer. Check it out at Hiding in Third Person.

In the aftermath of the mass slaughter of vampires in eighteenth century Europe Valentin tries to keep the fragile covenant not to kill mortals intact through a strategy of abundance. Working from the shadows as vampire elders rule the three nests of modern day Amsterdam, he attempts to manage the finances of the continental vampires while mentoring the newly turned American Steve.
After dealing with a vampire hunter in Amsterdam, Valentin, Karolina, and Steve travel to the primal vampire nest in tunnels beneath the Mother of Cities to attend the annual council of elders ruled by Lord Makru. Things go horribly wrong though when a newly turned American girl on summer break tells a mortal everything about the vampires, but fails to feed on him, spurring yet another descendant of vampire hunters into action.
Karolina’s plans to start throwing feeding parties on unsuspecting mortals again after two and half centuries are put on hold as unrest in the four London nests spills over to Amsterdam, resulting in violence and the true death for some. When she and Viona finally start throwing feeding parties at the mansion in Amsterdam and the palace in the Mother of Cities another summer concludes with shocking developments and heart breaking lose. Check it out at The Gloaming, Rise of the Stealth Vampire Elder.

THE BODY OF PRESIDENTIAL candidate “Skipper” Goodman turns up in the snowy mountains of Utah, near the small town of Truman, nine months after his private jet vanishes en route to D.C. Despite orders to the contrary, Truman’s local coroner cannot resist the temptation to probe the most famous guest to ever cross his table. Within an hour of the body’s discovery, Colonel James Merkett and a strike team are racing toward Truman in an effort to contain the “Goodman problem” before it can spread any further. ANXIOUS TO BE HOME after a week away, Alex Summers and her closest friend, Marie Matthews, are horrified to learn that seven people in their sleepy little town have died mysteriously while they were out of touch. All the deaths occurred within hours of Goodman’s body arriving at the coroner’s office. Could there be some connection? Are the rest of their friends and family in danger? The women embark on a mission to find out, but their search for clues turns up a handful of scrap and more questions—questions that someone doesn’t want them to ask. Alex and Marie soon find themselves in a frantic flight to save their very lives, pursued by men with murderous intent. Marie Matthews is determined to unravel the lies that are choking the life out of her town, or die trying. What no one knows, including Alex, is that Marie Matthews is a woman with deadly secrets of her own. Check this one out at An Evil Wind.

Thread and Other Stories is a multi-genre collection of short stories (single author) that includes science fiction, fantasy, urban fiction, literary fiction, historical fiction, and espionage. There are seven stories in the collection.

Prudence and her older brother Yannick face extreme poverty and hardship in Thread. They live day to day on the wages they earn at low paying, difficult jobs. They face hardships that seem insurmountable for two young children. Isidore, an impoverished boy trying to survive on his own, enters their lives with even greater needs than Prudence and Yannick. They integrate him into their family life even as their world begins to crumble around them. But, there is an ominous backdrop to these events as strange entities take a keen interest in the lives of the three children.

A military psychologist evaluates a Vietnam war veteran who has experienced psychological damage in Shrink. The veteran’s fellow soldiers and friends must support him as the psychologist attempts to uncover the reasons behind his trauma.

Emil, Annie, and their three children—Zona, Owen, and Abner—struggle to stay safe in a steampunk-inspired fantasy world in Chance. Abner finds himself in trouble as a powerful magical being terrorizes the family farm. Only Zona’s quick thinking along with her parents’ knowledge of magic will give them a chance against the dark sorcery of the enemy.

John and Greg, bound by friendship, embark on a journey of trial and tragedy in Conflict, a 20th Century historical fiction. They must deal with death, loss, and grief as compatriots fall in battle during this poignant snapshot of the Canadian military in World War I. John and Greg show a contrast in the ways that these soldiers adapted to the psychological effects of war.

Veera, an astrophysicist, begins to experience recurring déjà vu, the source of which she cannot determine in Oversight, a science fiction adventure. She is unknowingly set on a collision course with Misha, who challenges Veera’s perception of the world as she struggles to determine what is real and what isn’t. Misha must deal with his own psychological demons as he tries to salvage a failing mission that will either end in glory or in his own death.

Dmitry is a hardened spy in the Cold War who has no mercy for his adversary Olyesa in the espionage thriller Deception. Olyesa and Dmitry navigate their way through the murky waters of agents and double agents while simultaneously struggling against each other for survival. When their divergent plans collide, it threatens to destroy them both.

Explore a metaphysical debate in the literary short story Conversation, which is woven between each of the short stories in this collection. An unnamed protagonist and an unidentified and secretive entity discuss the metaphysical and spiritual meaning behind science and what it means to gain knowledge.

Don’t miss this book- it’s at Thread and Other Stories.

Science Fiction: All About Genre

All About Genre #3

Science Fiction

By Leigh Holland

Science Fiction, or “Sci Fi”, is a difficult genre to pin down but incredibly easy to recognize when we see it. Perhaps it’s so hard to pin down because Science Fiction has no boundaries other than what we choose to give it. Let’s start by looking at how others have tried to define the genre in the past.

“To be science fiction, not fantasy, an honest effort at prophetic extrapolation from the known must be made.” -John W. Campbell Jr.

Realistic speculation about possible future events, based solidly on adequate knowledge of the real world, past and present, and on a thorough understanding of the nature and significance of the scientific method. To make this definition cover all science fiction (instead of ‘almost all’) it is necessary only to strike out the word ‘future’.” -Robert A. Heinlein

“Fantasy is the impossible made probable. Science Fiction is the improbable made possible.” -Rod Serling

“Science fiction then is the fiction of revolutions. Revolutions in time, space, medicine, travel, and thought…Above all, science fiction is the fiction of warm-blooded human men and women sometimes elevated and sometimes crushed by their machines.” -Ray Bradbury

“Science fiction can be defined as that branch of literature which deals with the reaction of human beings to changes in science and technology.” -Isaac Asimov

“Science fiction is something that could happen – but you usually wouldn’t want it to. Fantasy is something that couldn’t happen – though you often only wish that it could.” -Arthur C. Clarke

Simply put, the reason it’s hard to define is because science fiction evolves as science itself discovers new facts and possibilities, which occurs daily. Just when we think we’ve got it wrangled into a neat definition, scientific knowledge expands, and a whole new world of speculation flows forth.

Rather than defining it, it would be more useful to examine some of its elements. Science fiction often involves one or more of the following elements:

  1. An alternative history that contradicts our present understanding in some way
  2. An alternative future or a setting realistically in the future
  3. Outer space setting, such as moons, planets, and spacecrafts
  4. Subterranean settings
  5. Characters such as aliens, mutants, robots, evolved humans who differ from present humans, and androids.
  6. Alternate dimensions or parallel universes
  7. New or different political and social settings blended with technology
  8. Time travel, wormholes, warp drive, advanced communications
  9. Future plausible technology
  10. Paranormal abilities such as telepathy, telekinesis, etc.

There are two general categories within Science Fiction, “hard” and “soft”.

Hard Science Fiction strives to ensure that close attention is paid to details of scientific fields such as physics, chemistry, and biology, so the fiction is as realistically and faithfully grounded in scientific fact as possible. Because of this attention to “getting it right”, an intriguing number of predictions within hard science fiction stories of the past have become reality since then. It’s not difficult to imagine that technology and other advances envisioned in hard science fiction today will one day be available to us in the future.

Soft Science Fiction focuses more on character, social structures, and emotion than hard sci-fi and stems from the soft sciences, such as sociology, psychology, anthropology, and political science. Utopian and Dystopian works are classified under Soft Sci-Fi.

What is the PICS focus for Science Fiction?

PLOT: 20%

IDEA: 45%



Are there “secret” Sci-Fi categories you can unlock at Amazon?

Yes, there are.

You can find more information about those helpfully here. The main reason to want to unlock these categories, if appropriate to your work, is because there is often less competition in these categories as they are not selectable at the outset of publishing.


Click the link to learn more about the subgenre.


Alien Invasion

Alternate History






First Contact

Galactic Empire

Genetic Engineering




Short Stories

Space Opera


Time Travel

Only Human (Act One)

Both e-book and paperback now available at Amazon at Only Human.

Check out the book trailer at Only Human Book Trailer.

Hardcover and Large Print available at Lulu Books.

The website for the book series is at Only Human Book.

Check out the latest review of Only Human at  Only Human at Tome Tender.

Check it out!

The Plot Thickens…Or Not?

The Plot Thickens…Or Not?

By Leigh Holland.

“Mom? Mo-om?” I heard my teenaged daughter call for me. She sounded so far away as I clickety-clacked away merrily at my keyboard. Should this character groan and lean his head back or put his head in his hands and sigh deeply? What’s keeping in line with his personality?


I jumped. I mean, I knew she was there, I just didn’t realize she was right there. “That’s my name.”

“Technically, your name is Leigh, not ‘mom’.”

I rolled my eyes and sighed quasi-dramatically. I decided to try speaking that “young folk” lingo to better connect with my offspring. “True that is.”

“No.” She said.

“No, what?”

“It’s not “true that is” it’s just “true that”. You’re not Yoda.” She grinned. I’m glad at least I amused her. “So, mom, I created these lit characters and I even made these incredible drawings of them. I know so much about them. But…I don’t know what to have happen to them in my story. I think I might have that thing that you’re always complaining very loudly about while you ignore your manuscript and surf the net. What’s that called again? Oh, yeah, writer’s block.”

“Hey,” it was my turn to correct her, “I don’t always surf the net. Sometimes I’m playing Town of Salem. Or Diablo. Or watching cat videos.”

“More like looking at memes.” She mumbled.

I pretended she said nothing. After all, why would I pass up this golden chance to be a helpful font of wisdom for my child? After pondering for a nano-second whether “lit” was some new slang abbreviation for “literature”, I continued. I decided it was.

“Well, it sounds like what you need is a “lit” plot.” I told her.

“Yeah, but no ideas are coming to me. I mean, where would I even start?”

How many plots are there? There are a variety of opinions on this topic. If you truly want to reduce things down to the common denominator, there’s only one plot. Or as Joseph Campbell, author of The Hero With A Thousand Faces, called it, the monomyth. The monomyth can easily be boiled down to a hero goes on a quest, facing challenges and overcoming in order to achieve a goal.

In The Basic Patterns of Plot, William Foster-Harris agrees that all plots come from the same basic source: conflict. Conflict drives the plot from start to finish. He advocates for a three plot world:

Type A: The hero makes a sacrifice for another and there is a happy ending.

Type B: The hero acts logically and fails to make a sacrifice.There is an unhappy ending.

Type C: A literary plot, one that hinges not on decisions of the hero, but on Fate itself. The critical event happens first and the ending is typically tragic.

Meanwhile, Christopher Booker in The Seven Basic Plots: Why We Tell Stories, expands the number to seven plots.

  1. Overcoming the Monster- The hero goes on a quest to overcome a great evil.
  2. Rags to Riches- A sad start leads to happiness at the end.
  3. The Quest- The hero goes on a quest to find something.
  4. Voyage and Return- The hero goes to a strange land or time and after facing challenges, returns home safely.
  5. Comedy
  6. Tragedy
  7. Rebirth

Kurt Vonnegut posited that there are basic shapes to stories. Take a piece of paper. Write a vertical line to the left. In the center, draw a horizontal line across. The top half represents the ups and the bottom half below the line is the downs that your hero experiences from beginning to end. Chart it on the graph and it shows you the shape of your story. Your story will likely fit into one of 8 basic shapes. Check it out at The Shapes of Stories.

Sir Arthur Thomas Quiller-Crouch’s list of seven plots were:

  1. Man against man
  2. Man against nature
  3. Man against himself
  4. Man against God
  5. Man against society
  6. Man caught in the middle
  7. Man and woman

John Lescroart, a bestselling author, prefers a list of eight plots. Here’s his take on plots:


The protagonist’s true potential for happiness and fulfilment is at last realised after many ups and downs.


The fatal flaw of the main character.


The debt that must be repaid when fate finally catches up with you, as Faust did when making a deal with the devil.


The eternal triangle.


The spider and the fly.


Boy meets girl, boy loses girl, boy finds girl again (put these in any order you like).


The gift that is taken away.


The hero takes on all comers.

James Scott Bell in Plot and Structure came up with nine.

  1. The Quest
  2. Revenge
  3. Love
  4. Adventure
  5. The Chase
  6. One Against (The Underdog)
  7. One Apart
  8. Power
  9. Allegory

Ronald B. Tobias lists 20 plots in his work 20 Master Plots and How To Build Them.

1. Quest

The hero searches for something. They may be accompanied by a sidekick, who makes the hero look good as well as running his errands.

2. Adventure

The hero goes on an adventure. It’s not about character development or an artifact that saves his hometown, it’s about lots of action.

3. Pursuit

Catch Me If You Can

4. Rescue

I don’t know who you are. I don’t know what you want. If you are looking for ransom, I can tell you I don’t have money. But what I do have are a very particular set of skills; skills I have acquired over a very long career. Skills that make me a nightmare for people like you. If you let my daughter go now, that’ll be the end of it. I will not look for you, I will not pursue you. But if you don’t, I will look for you, I will find you, and I will kill you.

5. Escape

The captive escapes, with little help from others, and may end up merging into the pursuit plot above. Usually, the captive was unjustly imprisoned.

6. Revenge

My name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die.

7. The Riddle

There’s a bomb on this bus and if we go below 60 miles per hour, the bus will explode.

8. Rivalry

Monte Cristo: May I steal your wife?

Fernand: Excuse me?

Monte Cristo: For the waltz?

9. Underdog

Rocky: I can’t do it.

Adrian: What?

Rocky: I can’t beat him.

Adrian: Apollo?

Rocky: Yeah. I been out there walkin’ around, thinkin’. I mean, who am I kiddin’? I ain’t even in the guy’s league.

Adrian: What are we gonna do?

Rocky: I don’t know.

Adrian: You worked so hard.

Rocky: Yeah, that don’t matter. ‘Cause I was nobody before.

Adrian: Don’t say that.

Rocky: Ah come on, Adrian, it’s true. I was nobody. But that don’t matter either, you know? ‘Cause I was thinkin’, it really don’t matter if I lose this fight. It really don’t matter if this guy opens my head, either. ‘Cause all I wanna do is go the distance. Nobody’s ever gone the distance with Creed, and if I can go that distance, you see, and that bell rings and I’m still standin’, I’m gonna know for the first time in my life, see, that I weren’t just another bum from the neighborhood.

10. Temptation

I think I love my wife?

11. Metamorphosis

Werewolves! Shapeshifters! Mermaids! Oh, my!

12. Transformation

In this type of plot, a person, through a series of experiences and events, undergoes a metamorphosis of worldview or personality, typically for the better.

13. Maturation

A coming of age plot, the main character grows up, emerging from youth as a wiser and more capable adult.

14. Love

Two people fall in love, encounter obstacles and trials, overcome or resolve them, and end up together.

15. Forbidden Love

Jack Twist: I wish I knew how to quit you.

16. Sacrifice

Belle: [in the darkness] Who’s there? Who are you?

Beast: The master of this castle.

Belle: I’ve come for my father. Please, let him out! Can’t you see, he’s sick?

Beast: Then he shouldn’t have trespassed here!

Belle: But he could die! Please, I’ll do anything!

Beast: There’s nothing you can do! He’s my prisoner.

Belle: Oh, there must be some way I can.

[to the Beast]

Belle: Wait! Take me instead.

Beast: You?

Beast: You would take his place?

Maurice: Belle, no! You don’t know what you’re doing!

Belle: If I did, would you let him go?

Beast: Yes. But you must promise to stay here forever!

Belle: Come into the light.

[the Beast steps in the castle light to reveal himself; Belle gasps and turns away]

Maurice: No, Belle! I won’t let you do this!

Belle: You have my word.

Beast: Done!

17. Discovery

The hero discovers a terrible thing and must make a life-altering choice.

The Dead Zone

18. Wretched Excess

Trailer for the most depressing movie ever made.

19. Ascension

A jerk becomes a hero; a lower class person ascends to higher rank.

20. Descension

A person of high standing and/or moral fiber falls from grace. This plot is often combined with Ascension. Examples include “Dangerous Liaisons” and “Trading Places”.

And of course, there’s the list of 36 Dramatic Situations by George Polti.

Wikipedia provided a great summary with the elements and description of each:

    1. Supplication
      • a persecutor; a suppliant; a power in authority, whose decision is doubtful.
      • The suppliant appeals to the power in authority for deliverance from the persecutor.
    2. Deliverance
      • an unfortunate; a threatener; a rescuer
      • The unfortunate has caused a conflict, and the threatener is to carry out justice, but the rescuer saves the unfortunate. Examples: Ifigenia in Tauride, Deliverance
    3. Crime pursued by vengeance
      • a criminal; an avenger
      • The criminal commits a crime that will not see justice, so the avenger seeks justice by punishing the criminal. Example: The Count of Monte Cristo
    4. Vengeance taken for kin upon kin
      • Guilty Kinsman; an Avenging Kinsman; remembrance of the Victim, a relative of both.
      • Two entities, the Guilty and the Avenging Kinsmen, are put into conflict over wrongdoing to the Victim, who is allied to both. Example: Hamlet
    5. Pursuit
      • punishment; a fugitive
      • the fugitive flees punishment for a misunderstood conflict. Example: Les Misérables
    6. Disaster
      • a vanquished power; a victorious enemy or a messenger
      • The vanquished power falls from their place after being defeated by the victorious enemy or being informed of such a defeat by the messenger. Example: Agamemnon (play)
    7. Falling prey to cruelty/misfortune
      • an unfortunate; a master or a misfortune
      • The unfortunate suffers from misfortune and/or at the hands of the master. Example: Job (biblical figure)
    8. Revolt
      • a tyrant; a conspirator
      • The tyrant, a cruel power, is plotted against by the conspirator. Example: Julius Caesar (play)
    9. Daring enterprise
      • a bold leader; an object; an adversary
      • The bold leader takes the object from the adversary by overpowering the adversary. Example: Queste del Saint Graal
    10. Abduction
      • an abductor; the abducted; a guardian
      • The abductor takes the abducted from the guardian. Example: Helen of Troy
    11. The enigma
      • a problem; an interrogator; a seeker
      • The interrogator poses a problem to the seeker and gives a seeker better ability to reach the seeker’s goals. Example: Oedipus and the Sphinx
    12. Obtaining
      • (a Solicitor & an adversary who is refusing) or (an arbitrator & opposing parties)
      • The solicitor is at odds with the adversary who refuses to give the solicitor an object in the possession of the adversary, or an arbitrator decides who gets the object desired by opposing parties (the solicitor and the adversary). Example: Apple of Discord
    13. Enmity of kin
      • a Malevolent Kinsman; a Hated or a reciprocally-hating Kinsman
      • The Malevolent Kinsman and the Hated or a second Malevolent Kinsman conspire together. Example: As You Like It
    14. Rivalry of kin
      • the Preferred Kinsman; the Rejected Kinsman; the Object of Rivalry
      • The Object of Rivalry chooses the Preferred Kinsman over the Rejected Kinsman. Example: Wuthering Heights
    15. Murderous adultery
      • two Adulterers; a Betrayed Spouse
      • Two Adulterers conspire to kill the Betrayed Spouse. Example: Clytemnestra and Aegisthus
    16. Madness
      • a Madman; a Victim
      • The Madman goes insane and wrongs the Victim. Example: Horace and Pete
    17. Fatal imprudence
      • the Imprudent; a Victim or an Object Lost
      • The Imprudent, by neglect or ignorance, loses the Object Lost or wrongs the Victim.
    18. Involuntary crimes of love
      • a Lover; a Beloved; a Revealer
      • The Lover and the Beloved have unknowingly broken a taboo through their romantic relationship, and the Revealer reveals this to them Example: Oedipus, Jocasta and the messenger from Corinth.
    19. Slaying of kin unrecognized
      • the Slayer; an Unrecognized Victim
      • The Slayer kills the Unrecognized Victim. Example: Oedipus and Laius
    20. Self-sacrifice for an ideal
      • a Hero; an Ideal; a Creditor or a Person/Thing sacrificed
      • The Hero sacrifices the Person or Thing for their Ideal, which is then taken by the Creditor.
    21. Self-sacrifice for kin
      • a Hero; a Kinsman; a Creditor or a Person/Thing sacrificed
      • The Hero sacrifices a Person or Thing for their Kinsman, which is then taken by the Creditor.
    22. All sacrificed for passion
      • a Lover; an Object of fatal Passion; the Person/Thing sacrificed
      • A Lover sacrifices a Person or Thing for the Object of their Passion, which is then lost forever.
    23. Necessity of sacrificing loved ones
      • a Hero; a Beloved Victim; the Necessity for the Sacrifice
      • The Hero wrongs the Beloved Victim because of the Necessity for their Sacrifice.
    24. Rivalry of superior vs. inferior
      • a Superior Rival; an Inferior Rival; the Object of Rivalry
      • A Superior Rival bests an Inferior Rival and wins the Object of Rivalry.
    25. Adultery
      • two Adulterers; a Deceived Spouse
      • Two Adulterers conspire against the Deceived Spouse.
    26. Crimes of love
      • a Lover; the Beloved
      • A Lover and the Beloved break a taboo by initiating a romantic relationship Example: Sigmund and his sister in The Valkyrie
    27. Discovery of the dishonour of a loved one
      • a Discoverer; the Guilty One
      • The Discoverer discovers the wrongdoing committed by the Guilty One.
    28. Obstacles to love
      • two Lovers; an Obstacle
      • Two Lovers face an Obstacle together. Example: Romeo and Juliet
    29. An enemy loved
      • a Lover; the Beloved Enemy; the Hater
      • The allied Lover and Hater have diametrically opposed attitudes towards the Beloved Enemy.
    30. Ambition
      • an Ambitious Person; a Thing Coveted; an Adversary
      • The Ambitious Person seeks the Thing Coveted and is opposed by the Adversary. Example: Macbeth
    31. Conflict with a god
      • a Mortal; an Immortal
      • The Mortal and the Immortal enter a conflict.
    32. Mistaken jealousy
      • a Jealous One; an Object of whose Possession He is Jealous; a Supposed Accomplice; a Cause or an Author of the Mistake
      • The Jealous One falls victim to the Cause or the Author of the Mistake and becomes jealous of the Object and becomes conflicted with the Supposed Accomplice.
    33. Erroneous judgment
      • a Mistaken One; a Victim of the Mistake; a Cause or Author of the Mistake; the Guilty One
      • The Mistaken One falls victim to the Cause or the Author of the Mistake and passes judgment against the Victim of the Mistake when it should be passed against the Guilty One instead.
    34. Remorse
      • a Culprit; a Victim or the Sin; an Interrogator
      • The Culprit wrongs the Victim or commits the Sin, and is at odds with the Interrogator who seeks to understand the situation.
    35. Recovery of a lost one
      • a Seeker; the One Found
      • The Seeker finds the One Found.
    36. Loss of loved ones
      • a Kinsman Slain; a Kinsman Spectator; an Executioner
      • The killing of the Kinsman Slain by the Executioner is witnessed by the Kinsman

And most recently, researchers at the University of Vermont’s Computational Story Lab using sentiment analysis discovered there may be only six basic plots. They are:

  • Fall-rise-fall, like Oedipus Rex
  • Rise and then a fall, like what happens to most villains
  • Fall and then a rise, like what happens to most superheroes
  • Steady fall, like in Romeo and Juliet
  • Steady rise, like in a rags-to-riches story
  • Rise-fall-rise, like in Cinderella

“Wow, Mom, that’s a lot of information. Now I think I have too many ideas instead of not enough!” My daughter said. “And now I’m in the mood for a movie and ice cream.”

“We could Netflix and chill.” I suggested.

She was livid. What had I said wrong?

“Mom, I don’t think that slang means what you think it means.”

I nodded knowingly. “But that one is obvious. It means we watch Netflix. And sit here and just chill out.”

“Nope. It means, uh, make out, and…stuff. So yeah, you sound creepy.”

I blinked rapidly. “Hmm. Well, that explains the weird looks the young people at the office give me when I say my best friend and I Netflix and chill every Friday night while your dad is out.”

“Shakin’ my head. I’ll get the ice cream. You remember how to turn on the TV with the remote, right?”

“I’m not that old! I’ll have you know in my household I was the tech guru growing up. I hooked up my parents’ Beta player for them.” I grumpily replied. “It’s the red button, right?”

“Yeah. What’s a Beta Player?”

Sigh. “Never mind.”

Interview with Simon Williams, author of “Oblivion’s Forge”

Today I’m excited to host Simon Williams, author of “Oblivion’s Forge”, on my blog. Thanks for agreeing to the interview!

Leigh: Tell us a little about yourself.

I’m an author of dark fantasy and some sci-fi and horror, based in the UK. So far I’ve written the Aona series (five books in total, of which Oblivion’s Forge is the first), Summer’s Dark Waters (for younger readers- a sci-fi / fantasy adventure) and Disintegration (a collection of short stories new and old).

Leigh: What draws you to this genre?

Well, I read a lot of books that fired my imagination when I was a kid- particularly Alan Garner’s wonderfully evocative celtic fantasy, Clive Barker’s wild imagination, CJ Cherryh’s grimly beautiful fantasy / sci-fi mashups, and Tad Williams’ epic scope and worldbuilding… and many many others.

I was probably influenced just as much by film though- movies such as Blade Runner (my all time favourite), and (again) so many others that I can’t possibly list them all here.

Leigh: Was it difficult to switch between so many perspectives, and keep the plot consistent and moving forward?

You might think so, and if I hadn’t had such a clear idea of the characters- what they looked like, their psychology, their mannerisms, even their accents- then it would have posed a challenge. But I had a very clear vision of each of the major characters and switching between them wasn’t an issue at all.

The Aona books do have a large cast of characters, some more important than others- by contrast my new standalone novel I’m working has a cast of, well, three basically. But then it is very different.

Leigh: Do you identify more strongly with one character in the book over the others and if so which one and why?

Not one but perhaps several. I always found Vornen easy to “invoke” if that’s the right word, but there’s a character who appears towards the end of Oblivion’s Forge who is probably my favourite in the whole series, and that’s Nia. She becomes a central character and as the series goes on the reader begins to see that she is a very complex individual- reprehensible and wonderful, dark and light… the sort of character I love working with. In fact I’ve even thought of writing a few short stories about her (such has been her effect on me!)

Leigh: How do you select the names for your characters?

I tend to start with an initial, add some letters and sound the variations in my head a few times. The name has to sound right for the character, so it can take a while.

Leigh: What was the best money you ever spent as a writer?

I don’t have any money to spend on it! Even if I did I don’t believe in paying people to read or publish my work. In fact I’m astonished that people still go for vanity publishing these days with all the self-publishing options available. There are also a lot of resources and blogs to help people along the path, and most of these are free, so luckily one doesn’t have to be wealthy in order to do this.

Leigh: What are some of your literary influences? What book are you reading currently?

Alan Garner, Clive Barker, Cecilia Dart-Thornton, Neil Gaiman, Poppy Z Brite, George R R Martin, Tad Williams, Ian Irvine, C J Cherryh, Aldous Huxley, CS Lewis, Richard Adams, Mervyn Peake and some contemporary / non-fantasy authors (favourite of them would be John Irving). Currently reading Tad Williams’ “Shadowrise”…

Leigh: Do you write to an outline or just see where your ideas take you?

I tend to start with a concept, an idea, maybe some fragments and characters from a dream, then I build on those- and if I’m lucky it blossoms out into the beginnings of a plot. I never worry too much about the plot as sooner or later it works itself out and then I just sort of sanity-check it later on.

I also quite often write the ending of a novel, or late-on parts, before I’ve even touched some of the earlier parts. It’s definitely a non-linear exercise, and that’s probably the only consistent thing you can say about the whole approach.

Leigh: What do you do to relax? What are some of your hobbies?

I like to read (I’m always rummaging through charity shops for second hand books), and listen to music (quite often while I’m writing, although funnily enough I never listen to music while reading). Apart from that I try to keep fit (running, weights, walking, cricket and tennis). Maybe this humdrum existence is why I chose to write fantasy!

Leigh: How can readers discover more about you and you work?




Twitter: @SWilliamsAuthor

Amazon Author Page:

Oblivion’s Forge (Amazon US) –

Oblivion’s Forge (Amazon UK) –

Summer’s Dark Waters (Amazon US) –

Summer’s Dark Waters (Amazon UK) –


Thank you very much for taking the time out of your busy schedule to take part in this interview.


I’m the author of the Aona dark fantasy series, of which four books have been published so far- Oblivion’s Forge, Secret Roads, The Endless Shore and The Spiral Heart. The fifth book, Salvation’s Door, is due out either late 2015 or early 2016. It all depends on how disciplined I am- but I’m getting better at that.

I’ve also written a sci-fi / fantasy / supernatural book, Summer’s Dark Waters aimed at younger readers. It’s always difficult to give a minimum / maximum age as I believe kids should be allowed to read to the best of their abilities and really stretch their skills, but roughly 10+. A sequel is being written and should be out late in 2015.

All the royalties from sales of Summer’s Dark Waters go towards TACT (, an adoption and fostering charity. So for about £2 / $3 you get to help a good cause and you get a fully illustrated book which has already gathered some nice reviews.

People sometimes ask me why I write books. I suppose I feel like I’ve always been a writer, but there are authors I’ve read (mostly when I was a kid) who deeply influenced me to the degree that I didn’t really want to be anything else. In the end this worked out just as well, because I never really had much of a gift for anything academic as such- and although I did try to have a career at one point, I quickly realised it wasn’t for me. Maybe I just hated commuting and office politics even more than other people?

I’m not sure which of my influences show through most in my books, but the author who made me decide to become a fantasy writer was Alan Garner, so he was certainly the most profoundly influential writer during my childhood. Others (at various stages) have included Clive Barker, Cecilia Dart-Thornton, Tad Williams, C.J Cherryh and Ian Irvine.

In terms of how it captured my imagination and changed the course of my life, still has to be Alan Garner’s The Weirdstone of Brisingamen and its sequel The Moon of Gomrath.

The response from readers has encouraged me to keep going, and to increase my rate of output. There’s nothing like a rave review or even just an encouraging comment to help me kick on and get moving on whatever my current project happens to be. It’s fair to say it’s the comments, reviews and encouragement from fans that has helped me keep going more than anything else.

Interview with Adam Gary, author of “Southwest on the A303”

Today I’m excited to host Adam Gary, author of “Southwest on the A303”, on my blog. Thanks for agreeing to the interview!

 Leigh: Tell us a little about yourself.

Thanks for having me! Well, I’m Adam. I live just outside of London, England now – and loving a quieter life! I’m twenty-five with a passion of Storytelling in many forms. I’m a trained actor that has recently discovered the path of writing and embracing it fully! I have a little West highland terrier named Daisy and my favourite colour is black. Not because I’m gothic or anything like that, I just find it incredibly soothing. I see it more of a blank canvas than white. I also think it’s very smart looking. Haha, I always feel awkward talking about myself, I’m sorry.

Leigh: What were some of your literary influences growing up? What book had the most influence for you in childhood?

Funnily enough I wasn’t an avid reader growing up. Now that I think about it, I’m pretty sure I only ever read the Harry Potter books growing up. I was very much into films back then, and creating stories with all the figures and toys I had acquired over the years. Storytelling has always fascinated me, but it took me a while to understand the joys a book can bring, and now I’m hooked.

At the moment I’m constantly reading through Jack Kerouac’s work. Bukowski, Shakespeare, and Tolkien. I’m also influenced by the songs of Ed Sheeran, Tom Waits, Keith Richards, Peter Green and David Bowie.

Leigh: How has publishing this book changed your writing process?

I guess I’ve learnt to be particular about things. To continue to work through things no matter the struggle at the time. I don’t like to put too many restrictions or rules on things when I’m creating, but it’s always wise to check in every once in awhile from an outsider’s perspective.

Leigh: Did you draw from any personal experiences in writing this book? Where did the idea for it come from?

Actually yes. Uncle Bill is heavily influenced by my own Uncle. In fact that aspect of the story is practically biographical. Alex is also a massive reflection of myself, although his side of the story is completely fictional. I was feeling incredibly bored, life had plateaued out and I wanted to find a way of expressing that. I’d also recently come back from visiting my uncle in Par and had wanted to do something as a tribute to him. I knew immediately I had to do something with his camper, and having discovered Jack Kerouac’s work a year before, which had left a mark on me… everything seemed to fall into place.

Southwest was a very unique experience. I had been working on writing my series Nerdians for over a year and was beginning to grow creatively frustrated, experiencing set backs constantly and I felt myself beginning to feel incredibly pent up. I decided I wanted to take a break away from writing, to clear my head and unwind a little. This lasted all of three days before I suddenly, almost subconsciously, sitting at my laptop and beginning to write a camper van story.

Leigh: What is your favorite motivational saying?

“Let me be that I am, and seek not to alter me.” – William Shakespeare. I have it tattooed to my lower abdomen. I am what I am, and that’s okay.

Leigh: Which famous person, living or deceased, would you like to meet and what would you ask them?

I’d definitely ask William Shakespeare if I could hold his quill. Haha, that’s a hard question. So many great minds I’d love to talk to.

Leigh: What advice would you give to new writers?

Write, then read, then write some more. Eat, sleep, repeat.

Leigh: How can readers discover more about you and you work?

I have an about me page on my website, as well as an instagram social media page. You can also sign up to my mailing list at you can sign up to. I have two poetry collections in the works, one out in November and the other in February, and a trilogy of short stories coming soon!



Twitter: adam_gary


Amazon Author Page:


Thank you very much, Adam, for taking the time out of your busy schedule to take part in this interview.