All posts by talon007

Holiday Guest Author: A.G. Porter

This holiday season, I’ve decided to promote some of my writer friends and ask some of the questions that folks ask me. Today’s guest/victim is: 

A.G. Porter

 Me

First, a little something about A.G.

A.G. Porter is the author of The Darkness Trilogy, a YA Paranormal Thriller. She is an Independent Author who enjoys writing scary stories as much as she loves reading them. A.G. enjoys writing stories about real people in supernatural situations. She also puts a lot of her faith into her books because she knows that without Christ she is lost and without God she is nothing. Currently, A.G. is working on the last book in the trilogy. When she isn’t writing, she’s either taking pictures, reading, making nerdy jewelry, watching movies, or spending much needed time with her family. A.G. lives in New Hope, Alabama with her husband, Billy, stepson, Brenton, and their 4 dogs.

At what age did you start writing or know that you wanted to write? Oh gosh, I feel like I’ve always written at some point or another. I remember my mom typing away at the typewriter when I was around 6. I wanted to be just like her so I convinced her to buy me a diary soon after that. It just blossomed from there really. It wasn’t until the 9th grade that I really started writing on a daily basis, mostly poetry, but I started writing a book in one of my 5 subject notebooks that was meant for school work.

Where do your ideas come from? From a lot of places. Some of them have come from personal experiences and some have come from dreams. I find inspirations in a lot of things and people I meet or know.
Do you base your characters on people you know or know of? Family or celebrities? I don’t necessarily base characters on people I know, but some of characters are influenced by them.

Do you plot out your stories or just make it up as you go? I am a horrible plotter. I procrastinate as well so if I took them time to plot I’d never get a book finished! The only time I even attempted to plot was when I started on a fantasy story, which still isn’t completed. Things change as I write anyway so plotting, for me, was a waste of time.
Do you listen to music while you write and if so, what do you listen too? Oh yes! I love listening to music while I write. I’m doing that right now actually. I have a playlist of “writing songs” and it consists of Three Days Grace (before Adam left), Breaking Benjamin, The Killers, Evanescence, mostly rock. I do listen to some moping love songs from time to time as well from artist such as Adele, Taylor Swift, Elvis, and The Civil Wars.
The Forsaken

Which of your characters would you most like to meet in person? Which character of another author would you want to meet? I would love to meet my main character Rayna. I think she’s fascinating. She’s got almost any supernatural talent you can think of and, to me, I find that amazing and horrifying at the same time. If I could meet Odd Thomas from Dean Koontz’s Odd Thomas series that would be awesome! He’s my literary soul mate. I would also give him a hug because he’s been through so much loss and still tries to save the world or his little part of it.
How much do you write each day/week? I should write more, but I don’t want to force myself. I think if you do then what your write is going to be crap. Some authors claim that you have to write every day, but I don’t think that’s true for everyone. Don’t force it.
Do you have a routine when you write? Other than listening to music, not really. I do have to be comfy. Sometimes I sit in my chair at my desk, but then sometimes I’m lazy and use the recliner.

What is your latest project/release? Currently I’m trying to wrap up my trilogy in my Paranormal Thriller. It has been a challenge. You want to make it the best you can because it’s the last book, but you also want to make sure you aren’t leaving any issue unresolved. It’s fun, yet draining. I think I put too much pressure on myself.
Do you have any signings or appearances coming up? I do. I have YomuCon in Tuscaloosa, AL on November 14th at the Tuscaloosa Public Library. After that, I don’t have anything until March of next year, so far. I’m sure I’ll be adding events along the way.

Who were your inspirations? I’ve had many inspirations, but my Mom will always be number one. She is such an artsy person. Mom spent most of her life taking care of others, being a mom and CNA, but she shines when she’s painting, crafting, or doing anything that allows her to be creative. She’s always into something and I want to be like, always looking for something new to learn.
Favorite authors? There are so many! Rowling, Tolkien, Stein, but one that has always been at the top is Dean Koontz. I devour everything that he writes. I want to be that kind of writers, one that writes straight from the heart, even if it’s a bit scary.
What book do you read over and over the most? I’ve reread the Harry Potter series numerous times. I also love Odd Thomas, by Dean Koontz. I think I could read that book a billion times and not get tired of it.
Is there a book or book series that you recommend to people? Yes! The Odd Thomas series, of course. If you like anything to do with the Paranormal or following characters with supernatural gifts then it really is a great series. I mean, he sees the ghost of Elvis! Yes, that Elvis.
Do you have a dream project that you want to write in the future? I’ve been working on a fantasy series for so many years that I’ve lost count. I plan to get it finished one day.
The Shadow

Do you have a special way of generating story ideas? I don’t think there is one way that a story has come to me. Some stories are derived from personal experiences, although beefed up, and some I’ve actually dreamed about. One that I’m working on, when I’m not writing Book 3 of The Darkness Trilogy, is a true life story that I heard. It’s not word for word, but it gave me an idea for the story. By the time I’m finished you’d never put two and two together, but it was inspired by something that actually happened.
How much of you is in your characters? I think a lot of me is in some of my characters and some of them are things that I fear about myself. Then there are those characters that I wish I could be. I don’t think you can write something without leaving a bit of your soul behind.

If you could live the life of one of your characters, who would it be? This would be easy if my characters lived charmed lives, but all of them are facing some dire circumstances. However, I would want to be my main character, Rayna, because she has some amazing supernatural gifts. It’s not the gifts themselves that I find appealing, but how she is called to use those gifts. I think she takes her mission in life with as much as grace as one could.
What genre do you prefer to write?  To read? I prefer to write in the paranormal vein, but my reading preference is all over the place.
Do you prefer writing short stories or novels?  And why? Well, when I write, I’m writing with a novel in mind. I’ve written short stories and let me tell you, they can be a challenge. You have so much story to tell in a certain amount of words.

Is Writer’s Block ever a problem for you?  If so, how do you deal with it. I think there is always a moment in your story or writing career when you look at something you’re working on and go: “Uh….” It happens. When it does, I either leave it alone for a couple of days and completely not write or I’ll work on another project. When you pick it back up, more times than not, you start seeing things a bit more clearly. I have to sit and think about my characters sometimes. I act out what they might do in my mind and then I write it down.
What 3 things do you feel every aspiring writer should know? 1. Not everyone is going to love your writing, it sucks, but that doesn’t mean you give up. 2. Don’t rush it. Just because your other author friends and pumping out books doesn’t mean you’re going to get left behind. Yes, work your butt off, but don’t put out a halfway finished book just to say you have book out there. 3. Invest in yourself. It can be on cover art, editing, marketing, or writing classes. Whatever you do, remember to take care of yourself. You are a brand, a small business; treat yourself that way.

What is your funniest/ awkward moment at a convention/signing event? I feel like I’m always awkward at conventions. They have brought me out of my shell though.
How do you use social media in regards to your writing? Social media is very important for me. I’ve developed great relationships with my readers over Facebook, Instagram, and other platforms. I believe that authors should try their best to utilize those tools as much as possible. It’s validating as an author to hear from a reader who enjoyed your books and the readers feel apart of your process when you reach back out to them. Nurture those relationships.
Do you read reviews of your books?  If so, have you ever engaged a reviewer over comments they’ve made? I do read reviews. As an Indie Author, reviews are really important. Word of mouth is how we make a living. I don’t want to question a reader’s review of my books. I understand that my books aren’t for everyone. The last thing I want to do is make a reader feel attacked.

Thanks A.G.. Checkout her website by clicking below:

AG.Porter

Holiday Guest Author: Jana Oliver

This holiday season, I’ve decided to promote some of my writer friends and ask some of the questions that folks ask me. Today’s guest/victim is:

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Jana Oliver has the perfect job—she listens to the voices in her head and then writes their stories. Her latest creation, BRIAR ROSE, is a dark steampunk retelling of Sleeping Beauty, complete with Hoodoo, a vengeful Civil War ghost, and metal magic.

In Jana’s young adult Demon Trappers series, Riley Blackthorne, Atlanta’s first girl Demon Trapper, takes on a host of Hellspawn and their diabolical masters. This multi award-winning series has spread across the globe, with editions in ten countries.

When she’s not daydreaming new stories, she can be found savoring a growing collection of single malt scotch and old books. Visitors are always welcome at her website: www.JanaOliver.com

 

At what age did you start writing or know that you wanted to write?

I started late – I was in my mid-forties.

 

Do you plot out your stories or just make it up as you go?

I do a little of both. Sometimes I can see the entirety of the story, sometimes not. Usually I sort of fog-walk my way through the first draft, then go back and put each scene into an Excel spreadsheet so I can get a better handle on the story.

 

Do you listen to music while you write and if so, what do you listen too?

Yes, I listen to music when I write because I need that stimulation. What I listen to depends on the book. I vary all over the map from Rock to Classical to Celtic bands. Each book has a playlist and I post them on Spotify for my readers. Here’s the one for the first Demon Trappers book: https://open.spotify.com/user/1220411649/playlist/0oqv2id7DYUDw4QcIl9zde

 

Which of your stories/books/works do you consider the best?

I am immensely proud of two of my works: the Demon Trappers series and the Time Rovers series. The first is the story of a teen taking on Hellspawn in Atlanta and the other is a time travel/alternate history story set in London during the Autumn of Terror (1888 – Jack the Ripper). Both have pushed me far out of my comfort zone as a writer and they’re my best work so far.

 

What is your latest project/release?

My latest release is MIND GAMES (Book #5 of the Demon Trappers). It came out last Halloween and since it’s all about demons, that was perfect.

 

Do you have any signings or appearances coming up?

I’ve cut way back on appearances and signings, mostly so I can write more books (grin). My next appearance is at Con Nooga in Chattanooga, TN (Feb. 19-21) http://www.connooga.com/

 

Is there a book or book series that you recommend to people?

As a devote lover of Urban Fantasy, I always recommend Ilona Andrews’ Kate Daniels series. It’s set in a future Atlanta which is home to some pretty big bad monsters and Kate and the Curran (the Beast Lord of Atlanta) takes them all on. The series never flags.

 

How much of you is in your characters?

There is some of me in my characters. It’s hard to incorporate bits of yourself. An example: Jacynda Lassiter, my heroine in the Time Rovers series, has a few quirks. She hates being in a tunnel under water. I’m the same. Freaks me out. Still, I forced myself to walk from the south side of the Thames (London) to the north side in a Victorian Era tunnel just to experience the anxiety/fear. I don’t usually do that kind of thing, but it seemed right for the book. Obviously I survived. I still hate tunnels under water.

 

What genre do you prefer to write?  To read?

I write across the genres so there’s not one favorite. As to my reading habits, I’m an omnivore. I adore Regency romances, love a gritty and badass Urban Fantasy and can thoroughly enjoy a classic British murder mystery.

 

Do you prefer writing short stories or novels?  And why?

I prefer novels and the occasional novella. Short stories are actually harder as they have so little real estate in which to tell the story. I’ve written a few, but I just prefer a broader canvas.

 

Is Writer’s Block ever a problem for you?  If so, how do you deal with it.

I don’t have Writer’s Block, per se. I do get stymied every now and then so I wander off and do something completely different: clean the cat box, do laundry, something dull. While I’m doing that mundane task my brain usually spins out the problem and then I go back to work on the book.

 

What 3 things do you feel every aspiring writer should know?

This job isn’t easy. It’s hard, then it gets harder. You have to have that fire in your gut to stick with it, but if you do the beauty of seeing your words being read by another is incredible. Not everyone is going to like your work. Build up your writer calluses now because the rejection is going to hurt.

Your ability to pen stories is a gift. Never let anyone take that from you.

 

Do you read reviews of your books?  If so, have you ever engaged a reviewer over comments they’ve made?

It’s a no-no to engage with reviewers, but I have on a couple of occasions when I felt they really went over the line. I carefully pick my battles and 99.9% of the time I just walk away. Social Media can exacerbate conflict and the last thing I want is for my author rep to get nailed because someone didn’t like what I had to say.

You can find Jana at the links below:

Jana Oliver website: www.JanaOliver.com

Facebook Page: www.facebook.com/janaoliver

Twitter: @crazyauthorgirl

Holiday Guest Author: J. E. Lowder

This holiday season, I’ve decided to promote some of my writer friends and ask some of the questions that folks ask me. Today’s guest/victim is:

J. E. Lowder

Jay Lowder-9 LOW RES 

 

First, a little something about J. E.

Aside from being the author of the War of Whispers fantasy series, he has also played bass for Shania Twain, had a black rhino charge him while on safari, and has been in the Oval Office. In high school, he went backstage to interview groups like Bob Seger, Rush and Kansas, sorta like “Almost Famous” but without Kate Hudson! As an author, he draws from all these experiences (and then some) when crafting his stories. The quote that sums him up the best is by G.K. Chesterton: “Nay, the really sane man knows that he has a touch of the madman.”

He is married, the father of four wonderful children, and a proud grandfather. Jay currently live near Nashville, TN where he writes, bikes and is always on the prowl for adventure and stories.

 

At what age did you start writing or know that you wanted to write?

The first documented case was when I was in my mom’s womb…I tapped out Morse code to let her know I was okay and planned on staying inside. But mom kept pushing and pushing and pushing…

Do you plot out your stories or just make it up as you go?

I brainstorm over the story while I’m painting, which is mindless anyway, and develop the characters & story until I have a concept that moves me emotionally. Then I write and let the characters breathe life into the tale.

Do you listen to music while you write and if so, what do you listen too?

No. My background is music so when I hear a song, I start analyzing it to death which nullifies any attempt at writing. I did listen to classical music for the War of Whispers series but only as a catalyst for story ideas. For example, Gustav Holst’s “Mars: The Bringer of War” was inspiration for conceptualizing the Ebonite (the bad guys) storyline.

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Which of your stories/books/works do you consider the best?

My latest release, When Kings Clash. It’s Book III of the War of Whispers series and I had FUN kicking the story into high gear. And without sounding cocky, my writing style has matured.

How much do you write each day/week?

Since I write part-time, I go in spurts. Right now I’m focused on promoting When Kings Clash. After the Holidays, I’ll get back into writing Book IV. When I do, I probably average 3-4 days a week but in small chunks of time, all of which I do early in the morning.

Can you tell about your experiences working with publishers? Any juicy or painful experiences?

Back when I had an agent, we pitched my murder/thriller novel to some big name publishers. A month later, my agent called with elated news: one of the contacts showed interest and wanted to talk. My agent said this was HUGE because he only takes writers/books with potential. Two weeks later, and still on cloud 9, my agent called with an update: his contact had been fired. And just like that, the dream died.

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What is your latest project/release?

Book III, When Kings Clash. It came out last month so I’m in the process of promoting.

Who were your inspirations?

The first story to ignite my writing passion was O. Henry’s “The Gift of the Magi.” His prose and plot twist made me start paying attention in English class. Next would be Ray Bradbury. Brilliant plots, twists and prose. Oh, and you can add Rod Serling and Hithcock films, too.

Favorite authors?

Aside from the few I’ve mentioned, I like Anthony Doerr, John Hart, Daniel Woodrell.

What book do you read over and over the most?

The honest answer is the Bible, but that’s not what you were really asking. I LOVE Anthony Doerr’s book, “All the Light We Cannot See.” Brilliant writer! When I’m bored with my style or feel my writing is dull, I skim his book for a good butt kicking.

Do you have a dream project that you want to write in the future?

I’m waiting for Steven Spielberg and J.J. Abrams to call to ask if I’d like to submit any stories. Naturally, they’ll get into a bidding war which I’ll settle by offering my services to both.

How much of you is in your characters?

Great question. Since the War of Whispers series was written to express my crisis of faith, I poured my pain into the main character, Elabea. But that’s where it ends because she’s nothing like my personality. Linwith, on the other hand, is my Doppleganger: skinny, introvert, snarky, melancholic, insecure. By the way, this was not done intentionally but was something I noticed after the fact.

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What genre do you prefer to write?  To read?

Well, if you look at who my favorite authors are, you’ll note that none, aside form perhaps Bradbury, are fantasy authors. And yet, I’m writing a fantasy series. Go figure!

What are you working on now?

I’m working on Book IV of the War of Whispers series. The bulk of it was written years ago, but now that my style has changed, along with the storyline, I’m starting from scratch.

What 3 things do you feel every aspiring writer should know?

Writing is a craft that takes time to hone: “write/edit/read” repeat. You’ll need a thick skin to handle rejection as well as friends to encourage you when you feel like quitting. Make sure your passion is for writing, not fame or fortune.

Do you read reviews of your books?

If so, have you ever engaged a reviewer over comments they’ve made? The rule of thumb is that authors are to never contact a reviewer. However, I had one reviewer who gave well-founded critiques and even caught a storyline continuity issue that others, including myself, missed. I reached out to this person to thank them and to ask if they’d be interested in being a beta reader. They agreed and provided wonderful feedback for When Kings Clash.

Thanks.  To checkout his website, click below:

J. E. Lowder

Holiday Guest Author: John Pyka

This holiday season, I’ve decided to promote some of my writer friends and ask some of the questions that folks ask me. Today’s guest/victim is:

John Pyka

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First, a little something about John.

John Pyka is best known for his work onstage as a new vintage variety artist, fusing music and magic with comedy and dance in a 1920s – 1940s style in what is described as “Dieselpunk.” He can be seen performing in theaters, at festivals and conventions around the country.

He is also the author of 4 books on magic, including the best-seller Theatrical Magic. His first novel, Tales From the Flip-Side is published by Pro Se Press and available wherever books are sold – also available as an audiobook!

John is also the producer and host of the Diesel Powered Podcast, THE Voice of Dieselpunk on iTunes and Stitcher, which consistently is ranked in the top 10 performing arts podcasts. He is also the producer and host of the weekly live stream web-show Comixstravaganza Live, hosted bywww.graphicpolicy.com
and boasting over 25,000 viewers per week!

 

 

At what age did you start writing or know that you wanted to write?

I never knew that I wanted to be a writer. But looking back I was writing stories for my original comic book characters as early as age 8. I still have those old plot outlines and synopsis. I’m finding a lot of good stuff there. It wasn’t until around 2000 when I started writing for stage, that I realized I might have some aptitude for it.

 

Where do your ideas come from?

Mostly my inspiration comes from what other creators DON’T do. I see missed opportunities and those missed opportunities spark my imagination and creativity. One of the major plot points on my new novel Tales From The Flip-Side becaue I didn’t see anyone writing about Nazi Vampires and that seemed like a natural theme to me.

 

Do you base your characters on people you know or know of? Family or celebrities?

Yes and all of the above. I grew up the son of a former con man turned Teamster. I was around people with names like Mickey the Mechanic, and No Neck Minelli. And those colorful characters made it into my stage and prose work.

 

Do you plot out your stories or just make it up as you go?

I have a pretty good idea of the direction and outline it, but I allow for organic inspiration. I find that sometime character’s write themselves and their story even surprises me. The revelation of Harker Van Helsing’s origin in Tales From The Flip-Side took me completely by surprise!

 

Do you listen to music while you write and if so, what do you listen too?

I prefer it to be quiet.

 

Which of your characters would you most like to meet in person? Which character of another author would you want to meet?

Of my characters, Professor Maxwell Marvel. Of another author? Mara Jade, of Timothy Zahn’s Star Wars novels.

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Which of your stories/books/works do you consider the best?

The script “The Vizier’s Love” from my book Theatrical Magic (performance scripts for magicians) is the story I really am the most proud of. It should be the standard for the Origami Box, in my opinion.

 

How much do you write each day/week?

I don’t set time aside. I write as inspiration hits.

 

Can you tell about your experiences working with publishers? Any juicy or painful experiences?

I’ve never had anything but good experience with the publishers I’ve worked with. Most recently Pro Se Press has been incredible to work with!

 

Do you have a routine when you write?

No.

 

What is your latest project/release?

Tales From the Flip-Side from Pro Se Press

 

Do you have any signings or appearances coming up?

Nashville Comic & Horror Fest

Geekonomicon

Murfreesboro Anime and Comic Kon

MisSouth Con

 

Who were your inspirations?

Orson Welles, Michael Jackson, Jon Anderson of Yes.

 

Favorite authors?

Timothy Zahn and Jim Butcher

 

What book do you read over and over the most?

Danny, Champion of the World by Roald Dahl

 

Is there a book or book series that you recommend to people?

Yes, my own Tales From The Flip-Side. I also love Timothy Zahn’s “Thrawn Trilogy” and recommend it to all Star Wars and sci-fi adventure fans.

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Do you have a dream project that you want to write in the future?

I would love to write an Avengers comic series with a team led by Hank Pym. I’ve plotted the whole series and would love to submit it to marvel.

 

Do you have a special way of generating story ideas?

Believe it or not, when I swim ideas start flowing like the water I am moving through.

 

How much of you is in your characters?

Well, the lead character of “Big Daddy Cool” Johnny Dellarocca in Tales From The Flip-Side IS me. He is a magical character I created as my alter ego for shows onstage. I wrote a show around the character and the show became foundation of the book.

 

If you could live the life of one of your characters, who would it be?

The character of “Big Daddy Cool” is a reflection of the kind of life I would love to live, so I guess he would be the one.

 

What genre do you prefer to write?  To read?

I really prefer short stories, action and high adventure.

 

Do you prefer writing short stories or novels?  And why?

I don’t have a preference. I write to tell the story, whether that is two pages or two hundred.

 

What are you working on now?

A short story for the next installment of the Tales From The Flip-Side anthology series from Pro Se Press. I’m really exploring the time travel abilities of “Big Daddy Cool.”

 

Is Writer’s Block ever a problem for you?  If so, how do you deal with it.

It is. I work on other projects until new inspiration hits.

 

How do you use social media in regards to your writing?

Social Media is primarily a marketing tool.

 

Do you read reviews of your books?  If so, have you ever engaged a reviewer over comments they’ve made?

I do read them. I’ve never engaged a reviewer other than to say thank you for the review.

 

Thanks John.  To find his books, click below:

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Holiday Guest Author: L. Andrew Cooper

This holiday season, I’ve decided to promote some of my writer friends and ask some of the questions that folks ask me. Today’s guest/victim is:

L. Andrew Cooper

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First, a little something about Andrew

L. Andrew Cooper teaches film and digital media at the University of Louisville. He specializes in horror film and in horror more generally, from eighteenth-century Gothic to whatever comes after torture porn and found footage. His publications includeGothic Realities(2010), Monsters (2012, co-edited with Brandy Ball Blake), and Dario Argento (2012). He also dabbles in fiction; if that takes off, it may seize control of the site: his first novel, Burning the Middle Ground, was published on November 30, 2012. His B.A. is from Harvard, and his Ph.D. is from Princeton.

At what age did you start writing or know that you wanted to write?

I remember learning to write in kindergarten—the vivid challenge of “owl” on a spelling test—but I don’t remember knowing how to write and not writing stories. I first tried a novel in the second grade, a choose-your-own-adventure, but I didn’t finish one until I was eighteen (totally unpublishable). I know people live without writing. How odd.

 

Where do your ideas come from?

Anxieties, fascinations, passions, which I turn into problems that I must solve by transforming them into stories, strange and disturbing stories.

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Do you base your characters on people you know or know of? Family or celebrities?

Aspects of people I know creep into my characters, but because most of my writing tends to be… dark… most of my characters experience terrible things, which means I avoid basing any character on any one person. I have, at times, made characters superficially resemble people with whom I am presently unhappy. When those characters experience terrible things, I get some shadenfreude, but I always make those characters differ from the people they resemble in major ways, too, so that I don’t feel like I’m ever truly imagining someone real.

I don’t base characters on celebrities when I craft them, but I fantasize about casting people to play them after I’m done writing them. I’ve approached celebrities at conventions, handed them books, and said, “You’d be perfect for…” and named characters. None of the celebrities has ever gotten back to me directly, but one did accept a Facebook friend request. Perhaps coincidentally, perhaps not, the character I imagine her playing has a bigger role in the novel I’m working on now… so if Hollywood calls me, I will definitely call her (she’s been a fave for years).

 

Do you plot out your stories or just make it up as you go?

All my novels and books have outlines first, but a lot of improvisation happens in between the larger points on the outlines, which are often just chapter-driven tables of contents. That said, my brain usually plots far ahead of where I’m writing, and I almost always have an ending before I begin. The ending I start with is never complete, however, particularly where characters are concerned. Characters have minds of their own: they can live, die, kill one another, and intervene in events in unexpected ways. They rarely change the major outcomes for which they were born, but they change the shapes of things, and who knows? They could start taking over.

 

Do you listen to music while you write, and if so, what do you listen too?

Some ideas require quiet. Extreme horror or action might need some Nine Inch Nails, KMFDM, or another industrial goody from my younger years. Lately, as my prose has played more with film elements, I’ve been listening to Philip Glass and Angelo Badalamenti.

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Which of your characters would you most like to meet in person? Which character of another author would you want to meet?

Many of my characters would kill me if we met. If we could stipulate safety, I would like to meet Dr. Allen V. Fincher, author of The Alchemy of Will, the book of rituals with horrific results in my novels and short stories. He’s also the architect behind the massive conspiracy that began in my novel Burning the Middle Ground and continues in the novel I’m writing now, Manufacturing Miracles. If meeting him somehow weren’t a very, very bad idea, I’d love for us to chat. As for another author’s character, J.D. Salinger’s Buddy Glass.

 

Which of your stories/books/works do you consider the best?

My answer varies from day to day. Different works are better for different audiences. My horror short story collection Leaping at Thorns is a cross-section of twenty years of my life, so I’m rather fond of it.

 

How much do you write each day/week?

I might write a twenty-page short story in a day and then write nothing for a week. When I’m working regularly on a book, I draft on average ten pages in a day, with editing as I go.

 

Can you tell about your experiences working with publishers? Any juicy or painful experiences?

I’ve known small presses and publications that folded because of economic circumstances, which sucks, but my personal dealings with publishers have been good. I’ve published in fiction, non-fiction, and textbooks, and I have and will continue to get rejections, but everyone I’ve met in publishing itself has been professional. Early in my career, I got picked up by two different agents at two different times, both of whom dropped me when they quit agenting, the first because he got into a prestigious journalism school and the second because she got her own book deal. Agents are not the same as publishing, but as a younger person trying to break in, I of course thought I was on the verge of being “discovered” and had my heart trampled. I only recently—a decade later—decided to go with an agent again, and luckily she’s the real deal.

 

Do you have a routine when you write?

With book-length projects, yes. After the preliminaries—outlining, research—I try to develop a rhythm so that I have a block of hours during which I sit down, usually with coffee or espresso, and read whatever I’ve last written. I do light editing as I go until all the threads are in hand, and then I write until I reach a stopping point. Characters and cadence tell me how far to go.

 

What is your latest project/release?

In early 2016 Seventh Star Press is re-releasing my co-edited collection Reel Dark: Twisted Projections on the Flickering Page as well as the collection of my own work, Leaping at Thorns, the new edition of which will feature three previously uncollected stories. Also in 2016, Seventh Star will release a new collection of my work, Peritoneum, which is… insane. Almost all the stories are interconnected. I think it’s like Sherwood, Ohio on acid, especially the final sequence of stories, which begins with “The Eternal Recurrence of Suburban Abortion” and ends with “The Broom Closet Where Everything Dies.”

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Is there a book or book series that you recommend to people?

If people want to understand how Gothic horror has withstood time, they need to read Ann Radcliffe’s The Mysteries of Udolpho. Anyone who wants to craft disturbing fiction should read Jack Ketchum’s The Girl Next Door. One imperfect piece of writing that could be a limitless source? Poe’s Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym. Just ask Lovecraft.

 

Do you have a dream project that you want to write in the future?

If I fantasize long enough about writing something, I figure I’ll write about it. I refer to it as a kind of intellectual Darwinism—if a concept survives long enough in my brain, weathering the decay of brain cells and other perils, it is likely worth recording, and perhaps worth publishing. I don’t try to publish everything I write, and not everything I try to publish makes it, so “don’t dream it, be it” doesn’t exactly “make it so,” but the philosophy tends to make action.

 

Do you have a special way of generating story ideas?

Showering.

 

How much of you is in your characters?

Quite a lot, but not always (I hope) where people expect. In Burning the Middle Ground, for instance, Ronald Glassner is a snarky gay writer, and I am a snarky gay writer, so people tend to think he’s me, but I don’t identify with him that much. On some days he’s just that obnoxious guy from New York… and I’m from the South, uncomfortable when I’m in NYC… on other days he’s a hero… and I’m not. Another example is a character in a short story that will appear in my new collection Peritoneum: her name is an obvious parody of mine, and I give her about two sentences to seem important before someone bashes her head in. When I show up in my work, I’m like the other people who do. I only show up partially, and when I do, I’m in for some abuse.

 

If you could live the life of one of your characters, who would it be?

Susan Penser. She’s a badass grandma with a conscience, and she has a lot of money and power to help deal with the crap life throws at her. She plays an important role in my horror novel Descending Lines as well as my (hopefully) forthcoming thriller The Blue Jacket Conspiracy. She’s not done yet, either.

 

Do you read reviews of your books?  If so, have you ever engaged a reviewer over comments they’ve made?

Yes, and unfortunately, yes. Fortunately, the only misstep I made in the engagement category involved an academic book, and while I would advise folks just to leave reviewers alone, I think that if there’s a circumstance when engaging a reviewer is appropriate, it’s this one: the reviewer made factually inaccurate claims about what my book says. I was annoyed. The review’s claims made for good soundbites, but they also made no sense given what I actually wrote. Yes, reviewers have deadlines and don’t always read carefully or read at all. It’s a reality. The writer must rise above. I did not.

 

What are you working on now?

Manufacturing Miracles is book two of The Last World War, the sequel to Burning the Middle Ground, which I always planned as the first installment of a series. It picks up five years after the events of the first book, with continuing characters (those who survived and otherwise kept going) scattered across the United States. Whereas the first book takes the scope of a small town, this book takes the scope of the entire nation falling into Dr. Allen Fincher’s conspiracy. Going beyond mind control, a major goal in the first book, the conspiracy is now destroying cities as the Consortium, a group of characters familiar not just from Burning but also from Leaping at Thorns and Peritoneum, hatches new plans and new monsters in Miami, Atlanta, New York, Boston, Cincinnati, Louisville, Los Angeles, and elsewhere. Not only is the range of the evil boggling, but the mayhem is the most visceral and colorful I have crafted. The work is slow but delightful, as well as seriously disturbing, so far.

Thanks Andrew. To find his books, click below.

AMazon.com

Holiday Guest Author: Robert Krog

This holiday season, I’ve decided to promote some of my writer friends and ask some of the questions that folks ask me. Today’s guest/victim is:

Robert Krog

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First, a little something about Robert.

Robert is the author of the collection, The Stone Maiden and Other Tales, and the novella, A Bag Full of Eyes.  He has numerous short stories in various publications.  He is a native of Memphis, TN, and probably the most over-educated and inappropriately educated lawn care spray tech you’re likely to meet.  He is a regular author guest at various conventions in and close to the midsouth. His website is:  www.krogfiction.yolasite.com

 

At what age did you start writing or know that you wanted to write? 

I started writing when I was thirteen, basing my stories largely on other books I had read, on movies and games, too.  I’d known for some time before that I wanted to be a writer, but had let the idea percolate.  I sat down at one of those old word processors/type writer machines that were in use in that day, a bulky thing with a small screen and a very large keyboard.  It printed from those reams of paper that had the perforated edges with holes in them.  The story was titled “Night Over Solate,” and it was terrible, though I didn’t realize it at the time.  I looked at it again a few years later and was very embarrassed by it.  I hid it away and swore never to reveal it, but have since taken it out and begun a serious rewrite.  It was a good idea, just executed poorly.

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Where do your ideas come from? 

As with most ideas come up with by young writers, mine were first very derivative, being based largely on other peoples’ stories and worlds rather than on ideas and characters of my own invention.  Nowadays, my ideas are a bit more original, insofar as there are any original ideas at all.  I wrote, and was so fortunate as to have published, a novella titled A Bag Full of Eyes, the germ for which was the phrasing my wife used every morning and evening on placing and removed her contact lenses.  She often says, “I’ll be just a minute, let me take my eyes out.”  It’s an innocuous enough action but a fascinating phrasing.  It sparked some fifteen thousand words.  Such things as that spark stories.  Why would anyone take eyes in and out at all?  Who would do such a thing?  A magical forensic expert might.  There’s a story.

 

Do you base your characters on people you know or know of? Family or celebrities? 

And what sort of person is this magical forensic expert?  I found the idea quirky that someone should remove the eyes of murder victims and place them into the eye sockets of investigators to replay their last visions, so I made the said expert a quirky character.  I named him Victor for reasons I do not now recall, gave him a singular, lanky, somewhat mournful, yet humorous appearance and a personality to match, perhaps like a character out of the Munsters or the Adam’s Family might have had.  He enters the story somewhat dignified and solemn but gradually reveals a rather silly and eccentric sense of humor.

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Do you plot out your stories or just make it up as you go? 

Simultaneous with the character of Viktor I had to invent a plot to go with it.  I’d already decided on murder victims, a forensic expert, and an investigator.  Since I was using magic, I placed them in a fantasy setting.  Then, because I was annoyed at the time with glittering vampires, I made the murderer a more standard, non-glittering vampire.  That much of the story I had.  The motive for murder was simple, given the needs of the murderer, but I had no compelling plot beyond that.  I cast about for a time, going ahead and writing to introduce the situation and the characters without having any kind of clear conflict and resolution.  I usually start with a clearer sense of the conflict, a clear beginning and a clear end, and at least a sense of the middle.  On that occasion I had only so much.  I wrote, describing the tools and process for removing and implanting eyes.  Then I followed the character of the first murder victim, who turned out to be an elderly woman named Umma. Her vision had to go somewhere; I played with ideas and ended up giving her a large portion of the story.  In the process I introduced another villain and added a more nuanced and pleasing conflict than the straightforward one with which I had started.  I stopped at that point to take care and plot, reconciling the two conflicts so that both the original and new could be incorporated and resolved.  I usually do that, working through a combination of plotting and making it up as I go.

 

Which of your characters would you most like to meet in person? Which character of another author would you want to meet?

I like most of my characters, the heroes at any rate, though not all of my villains are unsympathetic characters.  The heroes are usually folks I’d admire if I met them in person.  I try to write folks who are like myself or others I know on our good days, living up to our ideals more than failing miserably like I do most days.   If they were real, and if I could meet just one of them, I would meet Clancy the Bronze Tiger from the soon to be published short story “See How Clever We Are” which will appear in Dreams of Steam Five from Dark Oak Press sometime in 2016.  Clancy takes an interesting dip into insanity and has a strangely wise way of looking at things for an antagonist.  If I could meet just one of some other author’s characters, I would choose to meet Gandalf from The Lord of the Rings.  He’s wise, and I could stand to borrow some wisdom.

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Which of your stories/books/works do you consider the best?

I have two award winning stories out.  One of them is the above-mentioned novella, A Bag Full of Eyes.  The other is a short story titled “Eat Your Peas” which appears in the werewolf anthology Luna’s Children: Full Moon Mayhem.  I have an author friend who insists that none of my works have ever since measured up to my first, professionally-published story “Babies’ Breath.”   My wife’s favorite story of mine is one I wrote in high school, “Snowfall at Marci’s House,” which is a sweet story but hardly a masterpiece.  I have yet to write one of those.  Preference in fiction is a funny thing, and it’s funnier with authors.  I’m awfully proud of quite a few of my stories, and they are usually ones that fall flat with at least some of those who’s opinions I value most.  I wouldn’t have picked any of my nominated stories to win awards against the competition, and I consider my earlier work to be full of flaws in style that I have since attempted to correct.  As it stands, I tend to like my newer work better based on the idea that I’m communicating more smoothly by removing flaws in style, but when I look back and reread my work, I find that the one I like the most is “Thursday Morrow” from the Dark Oak Press anthology, Capes and Clockwork.   Something about that one really works, for me, at any rate.  “See How Clever We Are” is close though.

 

How much of you is in your characters?

There is a lot of me in my heroes, of course, but really, a lot more of people I admire.  My heroes are people doing things that would probably be pretty hard for me to do, things which are hard for them to do but which they do anyway, because they’re heroes.  And, of course, they succeed where I would probably fail, even if I tried.  There’s also a lot of me in my villains, because it’s easy to write the flaws one knows, though being as critical of others as anyone else, I suppose, I put a lot of the flaws I fancy I don’t have myself, but deplore in others into my villains too.

 

Who are your inspirations? 

As long as we are on people that I admire, who therefore inspire me, I’ve a long list. Starting with authors: Tolkien and C. S. Lewis are at the top, with Chesterton close behind.   Also: David Eddings, Robert Asprin, Tomie DePaola, and Shakespeare.  There are so many that inspire.  I’m missing a lot.  Among authors that I personally know, I find that H. David Blalock and S. P. Dorning inspire, but they aren’t the only ones.  Among non-authors, I had many story inspiring talks with my father, my mother, my pastor Fr. Guthrie, and several of my teachers and professors from high school and college, such as Br. Joel McGraw and Dr. William J. Murnane.

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Is Writer’s Block ever a problem for you?  If so, how do you deal with it? 

Inspiration notwithstanding, I do get writer’s block from time to time, usually if I’m tired or worried.  Those types are easily enough handled by sleep and addressing that about which I am worried respectively.  Those problems being separately resolved, I am able to return to writing.  Occasionally, ideas just get stuck of themselves.  When this occurs, I switch tasks, working on another story, or I go do something that keeps my body busy and frees my mind.  Chores or work or exercise any one will usually do the trick.  Sometimes, I have to sleep on it.

 

If you could live the life of one of your characters, who would it be? 

This is a hard one.  Usually, my characters are put through a lot of difficult situations which I would not be up to handling.  I’m too clumsy, too full of doubt, too impatient to deal with the sorts of things my characters have to handle.  However, if living my character’s life means that I get to be that character, having that character’s strengths, I would want to be the nameless Sorcerer from “The Hand of Darden” in my collection The Stone Maiden and Other Tales.  He’s lived long enough to have made his mistakes and learned from them, garnering a fair amount of wisdom in the process. He’s powerful and wily enough to defeat almost any enemy, and though he is quite old, he’s hardy and has a lot of fun.

 

What is your latest project/release? 

I have two recent works out before the public.  My story, “The Ones Who remember,” appeared this past summer in Idolaters of Cthulhu from Alban Lake Publishing.  I co-edited Potter’s Field 5 from Alban Lake and my story “The Pauper’s Reaper” appears in it.  It also came out past summer.

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What are you working on now? 

Dark Oak Press is republishing my collection The Stone Maiden and Other Tales.  It’s due out in early 2016, if all goes well.  There are three previously-unpublished stories in this third edition.  The new titles are “Gilbames the Unwise,” “A Fifty-Five Gallon Drum,” and “The Fortunate Few.”   The first is about a human warrior who must take up the slack of a demigod who fell into a well a thousand years ago while wrestling a demon-troll.  The second is about rednecks trying, with the help of a ceramic leprechaun, not to be evicted from their trailer.  The third is about a boy and girl falling in love while going separate ways on the day the Dead King is supposed to return and end their world.  I’m also hoping to have a screenplay based on my first professionally published story looked at seriously by local producer.  I have an epic fantasy novel close to completion.  I have two novellas also close to completion.  I’ve had three short stories accepted for publication in different anthologies due out later in 2016.  If things go as I hope, next year will be a good year.

Thanks Robert.  Checkout his website:

KrogFiction

Holiday Guest Author: Kathleen Cosgrove

This holiday season, I’ve decided to promote some of my writer friends and ask some of the questions that folks ask me. Today’s guest/victim is:

Kathleen Cosgrove

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First, a little something about Kathleen.

Kathleen is a writer living in Murfreesboro, Tennessee, just a stone’s throw from Nashville. Rubbing shoulders with some of the most creative and talented people on earth has nourished and helped her grow as a writer.

She is best known for the unique voice she brings to all her writing. Her style of wit and humor along with snappy dialogue and offbeat characters have reviewers comparing her work to the likes of Janet Evanovich and Carl Hiaasen.

She can also be found on-stage in venues in and around Nashville reading her always funny and sometimes touching memoirs.

 

At what age did you start writing?

It’s funny because, I wrote my first novel when I was in the eighth grade. I most worked on it during biology class in school which could explain my failing grades but it was my attempt at some historical fiction. The first novel I ever read was, ”How Green Was My Valley,” a pretty hefty piece of literature for a young girl. The story and characters stayed with me for years and so by the time I was a teenager, I tried to write one of my own. I wish I still had it.  I wrote a few children’s short stories when my own children were young, but didn’t really begin in earnest until I was in my fifties.

 

Where do your ideas come from?

My ideas come to me when I’m writing, for the most part. Opening a Word Document and pressing the keys is the same as turning the keys on a car’s ignition. I will also get ideas taking long walks or drives. I don’t usually have the radio on or audio book going when I want to feel creative.

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Do you base your characters on people you know?

If you know my work, then you won’t be surprised to learn that most of the characters I create solely out of my own imagination. Those are the oddball characters that inhabit my novels. I love thinking them up out of pure ethos, breathing life into them and then giving them as many idiosyncrasies as I think the reader can stand.  Having said that, many of the main characters are based on characteristics of people I know.

 

Do your plot your stories or make them up as you go?

I plot them, but in a very nebulous way because once I start going in one direction, the characters take over the steering wheel and drive me down a road I didn’t know existed. I pull us all back but it’s a fight to the finish with those guys.

 

Do you listen to music when you write?

I cannot have any music or other background noise. It’s like static interference and messes up where my head needs to be to create. Like my own little zone where nothing else can live.

 

Which of your characters would you most like to meet and who of another author?

Of all the characters in my novels, I’d like to meet Rose, she’s a young police officer with a funny and bodacious attitude. In my short stories, it’s Sam Heart, a play off of the old Sam Spade novels by Dashiell Hammett. Of all of literature, then Jane Austen’s Mister Darcy of course.

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Which of your stories do you consider your best work? What are you working on right now?

My humorous essays are by far my favorite pieces of writing, the thing I am most proud of. I came to the genre fairly recently as far as writing, but have been a big fan of the genre for years reading David Sedaris’ collections and Bossy Pants by Tina Fey.  I’ve become so fond of writing them, and have accumulated so many, that I’m going to put them together in an anthology I’m titling, “The View From Under My Desk,” since my life begins with and is shaped by growing up in the “Duck and Cover,” years. It is my current work in progress although I do want to write another Maggie Finn novel. Two seems to be a weird place to leave it. I think trilogies worked well for Mario Puzo so, why not?

How much do you write each day/ week / month?  

I try to never have a zero writing day. I try to write or revise or edit something every day.

 

What book do you read over and over the most?   

To Say Nothing of the Dog by Connie Willis is a novel I’ve read probably a half dozen times, maybe more. It’s technically Science Fiction because it’s a novel of time travel, but it’s so much more than that. It is clever and witty with some of the most endearing characters that stay with me from reading to reading.  I’ve gone through the Horatio Hornblower novels more than once, Sherlock Holmes’ adventures many times and I’m having a second go at Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett’s Good Omens right now.

 

Is writer’s block ever a problem?     

Once when I felt like I had writer’s block my nine year old granddaughter advised I “bring in a mean girl.” It worked. I think adding any kind of conflict will get your brain busy trying to resolve it.

 

What would you advise aspiring authors?

I think every aspiring writer should know that they are going to hate what they write and think it’s no good and decide to give up. It probably will be no good at the beginning and that’s a good thing because we learn by trying, by making mistakes and by not being afraid to be awful and make mistakes. Also, writers groups, if you can find a good one, can be worth their collective weight in gold.

 

Do you read reviews?

 I do read the reviews and take the ones that are glowing and live off of them for days and the ones that are not so great, I try to learn from and see if the points are valid. If they’re just mean, I go and read bad reviews for Harry Potter or Moby Dick and then I feel much better.

Thanks Kathleen.  To find her website, click on the link below:

www.katcoz.com/

Holiday Guest Author: Alexander S. Brown

This holiday season, I’ve decided to promote some of my writer friends and ask them some of the same questions that folks ask me. Today’s guest/victim is:

Alexander S. Brown

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First, a little something about Alex.

Alexander S. Brown is a Mississippi author who was published in 2008 with his first book Traumatized.  Reviews for this short story collection were so favorable that it has been released as a special edition by Pro Se Press.  Brown is currently one of the co-editors/coordinators with the Southern Haunts Anthologies published by Seventh Star Press.  His horror novel Syrenthia Falls is represented by Dark Oak Press.

He is also the author of multiple young adult steampunk stories found in the Dreams of Steam Anthologies, Capes and Clockwork Anthologies, and the anthology Clockwork Spells and Magical Bells. His more extreme works can be found in the anthology Luna’s Children published by Dark Oak Press and State of Horror: Louisiana Vol 1 published by Charon Coin Press.

Visit Smashwords.com, Amazon.com, and Barnesandnoble.com to download his monthly short stories known as Single Shots.  These are represented by Pro Se Press and they are known as stories that will be featured in the upcoming book The Night the Jack O’Lantern Went Out.                                                                                                                                                                           get-attachment (1)

Do you base your characters on people you know or know of? Family or celebrities?

It depends on the story.  My character development can be inspired by people I know, strangers I watch, the news, celebrities, and literary figures.

 

Do you plot out your stories or just make it up as you go?

I have tried plotting out stories, but the stories never turn out the way I planned.  The characters take on a life of their own and I have no other choice but to document their decisions.

 

Which of your characters would you most like to meet in person? Which character of another author would you want to meet?

I would like to meet Syrenthia from my novel Syrenthia Falls, she is a gray character that represents the beast hidden in all of us.  As a villainess, she is a character that I hated to love.

From another book, I would like to meet Lestat from Anne Rice’s Vampire Chronicles.  He’s a rock and roll vampire, who wouldn’t want to get bitten by him?

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What is your latest project/release?

The anthology I composed with Louise Mysers Southern Haunts 3: Magick Beneath the Moonlight is my most current release.  Southern Haunts: Spirits that Walk Among Us regarded ghosts, its sequel Devils in the Darkness regarded demons, and this volume regards occult practices amongst the southern states.

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Do you have any signings or appearances coming up?

I will attend Geekonomicon in Biloxi, MS on December 11,12 and 13 as a special guest.

 

Who were your inspirations?

I was inspired by Stephen King, Clive Barker, Edgar Allan Poe, and H. P. Lovecraft during my teenage years.  In my adulthood, I have found inspiration in Joe Hill, John Ajvide Lindqvist, Scott Sigler, and David Moody.

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Do you have a dream project that you want to write in the future? 

My upcoming book The Night the Jack O’ Lantern Went Out is one of my dream projects.  Besides this book, there are other horrors trapped in my head.  I guess you could say that I have many dreams, or in my case, nightmares.

 

How much of you is in your characters?

Since the main characters in my horror stories are villains, very little of me can be seen.  Between the genres I write, my steampunk characters reflect me most.   Two characters who share most of my personality would be Dr. Xavier Hess (steampunk) and Syrenthia (horror).

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Do you prefer writing short stories or novels?  And why?

I enjoy writing short stories as much as I do novels, but I enjoy them for different reasons.  Short stories allow a minimal amount of time to create.  In this small time frame, the author has to create likable characters, provide a solid setting, and get to the point.  In a novel, the author is granted a much larger scale for world development, character development, and the opportunity to have a reader become emotionally attached to the characters.  The challenge that either task provides is fun for me.

 

What are you working on now?

I am currently editing my first fantasy/horror novel The Looking Glass Creatures which will be published by Seventh Star Press.  For Pro Se Press I’m finishing Traumatized 2 and will soon have edits complete for The Night the Jack O’ Lantern Went Out.  I am also building characters for the Syrenthia Falls sequel.

 

What 3 things do you feel every aspiring writer should know?

  1. Write because you want to share your story not because of money.
  2. Write every day and don’t start editing until your story is complete.
  3. Be a hard critic on yourself, but have enough confidence in yourself to know your story deserves to be read.

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How do you use social media in regards to your writing?

Social media is extremely important to me.  It allows me to connect with not only readers in my country but the world.  My best advice is to go onto the internet to connect with others, have fun, and don’t be afraid to engage in conversation.  Remember, when doing this, you have to sell yourself as a person no differently than you sell yourself as an author.   Post updates on your work and your success, but also post updates in regards to your personal life, and share news that you find interesting.

 

Thank Alex. To find his books, click below:

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Holiday Guest Author: Tom Wood

This holiday season, I’ve decided to promote some of my writer friends and ask some of the questions that folks ask me. Today’s guest/victim is:

Tom Woods

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First, a little something about Tom.

Veteran sports writer and copy editor Tom Wood has covered a wide variety of events, ranging from Nashville universities to boxing, from the Iroquois Memorial Steeplechase to the 1996 Atlanta Olympic Games—for the Tennessean, where he also wrote a number of entertainment features. After his retirement from that newspaper, he has continued to contribute freelance articles for several news outlets.

 

At what age did you start writing or know that you wanted to write?

I’ve been writing since I was five years old, a story about my Grandmother coming for a visit. The story ended with a knock at the door and me opening it wide. The final line was … “And there stood dear, old Grandma.” Not bad, considering my age. She kept it all her life and gave it back to me a few years before she died. I worked on my high school newspaper in Atlanta and on the college newspaper, yearbook and creative magazine at Middle Tennessee State University. That experience helped me land a part-time job in the sports department at The Tennessean, which I was able to turn into a 36-year career as a sportswriter and copy editor. I primarily covered local universities. I also wrote about boxing, covered the 1996 Atlanta Olympics and spent a couple of summers writing entertainment features for the paper. The last half of my career I devoted to writing headlines and editing. I’m enjoying creative writing again.

 

Where do your ideas come from?

Sometimes from the news, sometimes from books/other media, sometimes … the universe? I often feel like I’ve been led to an idea, being in the right place at the right time. In Vendetta Stone, for example, the novel is completely fictional, and not based on a true case as I am often asked. But I did get the idea for the novel from a Nashville murder several years ago. A teen-ager was murdered in a restaurant robbery and the father was being interviewed on the local TV newscast. The man was very angry and after the segment ended, I turned to my wife and said, “Wow, he doesn’t want justice. He wants revenge.” Then I added, “And so would I if something like that ever happened to you.” Then I thought to myself, “That’s a pretty good line,” and couldn’t let it go. An hour later, I was writing and trying to figure out how Jackson Stone would go about seeking vengeance for the murder of Angela. I don’t have those skills, but Jackson does. It just took off from there. But the point is, if I hadn’t seen those couple of minutes of that particular newscast, I might never have gotten the idea for the book.

My first Western short story, “Death Takes a Holliday”—gambler/gunfighter Doc Holliday plays his last poker game against Death himself—came after reading an anthology called “Stagecoach” while I was sick. Every story had a stagecoach theme. All great stories, and after finishing, I thought, “I bet I could write one of those.” I turned on the TV, and Tombstone was playing. I’d always been fascinated with the Old West, particularly Wyatt Earp, Doc and the Gunfight at OK Corral, and the story just flowed out of me. Again, right place, right time.

 

Do you base your characters on people you know or know of? Family or celebrities?

Having spent my working career as a journalist, I was privileged to meet some great characters in The Tennessean newsrooms. John Seigenthaler, John Bibb, Al Gore, Larry Woody, Jerry Thompson, Gale Kerr, Sandy Campbell, Nick Sullivan, David Climer—the list goes on and on. Wonderful reporters and writers, rich personalities—and all with great stories to tell. And you get to meet and interview some amazing personalities in the news business, both on and off the field. And I come from a family of great jokesters and story-tellers, my dad especially. He kept all us kids rapt with ghost stories and tales of growing up in North Carolina. Ditto for the TV reporters and editors I’ve known over the years. All of my characters have bits and pieces of all of us, but none specific. You want your characters to live and breathe on their own.

 

How much of you is in your characters?

A lot of readers think Vendetta Stone narrator Gerry Hilliard is me—except with hair. We both worked (he still does) for Nashville’s morning newspaper, so that’s a natural assumption. Gerry has character traits of a lot of newspaper folks I’ve known over the years. Ditto for the TV reporters and editors I’ve known over the years. The biggest difference between me and Gerry is that I spent my career in sports, not the crime beat. But there are overlaps in sports writing, when an athlete gets in legal trouble or when he gets hurt (medical writing) or a new pro franchise (business). Journalism is a great training ground for novelists.

My protagonist, Jackson Stone, is also a lot like me in that we’re both Christian. We share similar values and beliefs, in some respects, but differ in many others. He was a lot better athlete than I ever was, for one. And as a former Marine, he’s a heck of a lot tougher than me. I could not (and would not) do or make some of the choices he makes in Vendetta Stone. The book explores Jackson’s plan for revenge against his wife’s murderer, how he reconciles his faith and his motives. And he has to deal with backlash from the media, the police, his friends, co-workers and family, and his Pastor and Church family. Brother Robert Armstrong uses the Sunday pulpit to talk about the case. So there are a lot of subplots. But it’s basically a fast-paced revenge/redemption story.

 

If you could live the life of one of your characters, who would it be?

Since I’ve pretty much lived Gerry’s life as a journalist, there’s a new character in the sequel I’m writing that I really like. His name is Mitch Westman and everybody calls him Cowboy. He is a former Marine sniper who is descended from a long line of Texas Rangers. His role was initially a minor one, but it has grown substantially—so much so that I may do a spinoff with him as protagonist. Cowboy’s had a hard life, but has lived it on his rough-and-tumble terms. We have little in common, so it’s been fun exploring his personality.

 

Do you plot out your stories or just make it up as you go?

I’m about 50/50 on plotting. Once I figure out the basic plot—the start, then mid-point and the finish—then I let the story tell itself on how to get from point A to B to C. Occasionally, I will run into a brick wall when writing this way, something doesn’t make sense or whatever, so I just back up and take the story in a different direction. Some writers plot chapter by chapter; it’s just whatever style works best for you. I have done more plotting for the second novel.

 

Do you listen to music while you write and if so, what do you listen too?

I grew up doing my homework with the stereo record player at full blast (driving my parents nuts). The volume’s not as high as today, but I do like having background music. Mostly last century music, generally 1950’s-70’s rock that I grew up on, some 80’s. I like new music, but not when writing. Occasionally soundscapes or country or big band or whatever it takes to get into the spirit of the scene I’m writing. When I was writing about the serial killer in Vendetta Stone, I would play heavy metal, darker lyrics. It worked.

 

Is Writer’s Block ever a problem for you?  If so, how do you deal with it?

Not really, because of my journalistic training. I rely on the time-tested Five W’s and an H—Who, What, When, Where, Why and How—to answer every plotting question. Who’s the protag, the love interest, the killer? What happened to Baby Jane? When is the story set, last week, next year or next century? Where is the setting, the sea, the mountains, or in the dank basement of the house next to you? If so-and-so said or did this, what are the consequences? Why did it happen? Answer those questions and you’ll work through any blockage.

 

What is your funniest/ awkward moment at a convention/signing event?

At one signing, a little boy came in with his parents. They headed to the back of the store while he lingered over a book, thumbing through it. I smiled and said very pleasantly, “That’s my book.” His eyes grew wide, horrified, and he dropped the book and ran off to find his parents. I’ve had people tell me they don’t read books; I usually answer, “Well, they make great gifts for somebody in your family who does.” It works sometimes.

 

How much do you write each day/week?

Not as much as I should. When writing Vendetta Stone, I was still at the newspaper and wrote 2-3 hours before going to work, then wrote 8 hours on my days off. Since I self-published, I have to do everything, from booking appearances and doing promotion to keeping up with the financial end to, well, everything. As one writer friend put it, “writing is art and everything else is business.” And everything else cuts into the writing time. It’s been sporadic, but I am cutting back on PR aspects until the next book is finished. I need to write several hours each day to knock it out. Then the cycle will start all over again.

 

Favorite authors? What book do you read over and over the most?

I just finished re-reading I, The Jury by Mickey Spillane, one of my favorites. Mike Hammer was as tough as they come. I loved anything by Alistair MacLean, Mark Twain, Stephen King, John Grisham, Mario Puzo, Robert A. Heinlein, Arthur C. Clark, and so many others. I enjoy re-reading The Godfather and Stranger in a Strange Land. And I am a big fan of Louis L’Amour.

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What is your latest project/release? What are you working on now?

      Vendetta Stone (2013) was my first full-length novel, and it is the first in a series about Jackson Stone and his friends (and enemies). The sequel, tentatively titled Turn to Stone, is near completion and will be released sometime in 2016. I’ve mapped out five books in the series, but will keep writing about Jackson and his friends (and enemies) as long as people are interested. I’ve written a screenplay based on Vendetta Stone, and it made it to the semifinals of the 2015 Nashville Film Festival screenwriting competition, so we’ll see where that goes. I mentioned the Western short stories; I also have an ongoing Western anthology project with four other authors.

 

Thanks Tom. You can find his books here.

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Holiday Guest Author: Stephanie Osborn

This holiday season, I’ve decided to promote some of my writer friends and ask some of the questions that folks ask me. Today’s guest/victim is:

 Stephanie Osborn

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First, a little something about Stephanie.

Stephanie is a retired rocket scientist turned writer who likes to mingle science fiction and mystery with a strong element of action thriller and a touch of romance. Her style has been described as, “Hard-edged SF that wraps a compelling mystery around ‘this is the real thing’ space science…tight, tense, and gripping. Osborn tells a damn good story, and tells it well.”

At what age did you start writing or know that you wanted to write?

Wow. I started writing when I was a kid. I think I wrote my first poems in 3rd grade. I know I wrote a play when I was in 4th grade. It was horribly derivative of the television I was watching, but evidently my English teacher saw something in it, because she let me cast and produce it for the class. By grades 5-6, I was writing short stories, and when I was in high school I wrote a Sherlock Holmes short story and submitted it to the school literary magazine. They were blind-judged, and the English lit teacher threw it out for a plagiarism. She thought someone had copied down one of Arthur Conan Doyle’s original stories and submitted it.

Where do your ideas come from?

If I knew that, I’d really have something going. I could even sell it! Closest I’ve ever been able to come is the half-formulated idea from the Displaced Detective books that writers record events from alternate universes. It’s as good an idea as any, I suppose.

Do you base your characters on people you know or know of? Family or celebrities?

When I first started writing professionally, I used to mentally “cast” the characters. The leads would be actors/actresses, and the secondary characters might be based on people I knew. But now they are pretty much sprung whole-cloth from my imagination. I have to be reminded to Tuckerize people who have asked for it.

Do you plot out your stories or just make it up as you go?

Oh heavens, a little of both, actually. Since I write some fairly hardcore mysteries, you pretty much got to do a LITTLE plotting, just to make sure you get your clues in the right places, and they point in the right direction. But my general inclination is to pants it.

Do you listen to music while you write and if so, what do you listen to?

I used to. There were a couple of cable stations on TV that would play the local National Public Radio stations, and I’d listen to that, because it was largely classical or jazz. Then they took those off, and I find playing stuff on my laptop slows it down too much. If I do, it has to be something that is purely instrumental, otherwise I get distracted, singing along.

Which of your characters would you most like to meet in person? Which character of another author would you want to meet?

I think I’d really love to meet Sherlock Holmes. We might not get along very well, but it would be interesting!

Which of your stories/books/works do you consider the best?

Now, now. That’s like asking a parent which child is their favorite.

How much do you write each day/week?

It varies. Depends on how much inspiration I have, and how much energy. My physical condition is a huge factor. If I’m sick or worn out, I haven’t the energy to create. When I’m in peak condition, with some real inspiration on, 5000 words a day is not unreasonable. The last couple-three years have been rough for me medically, though, so I’ve slowed down a bit.

What is your latest project/release?

That would be Sherlock Holmes and the Mummy’s Curse, book 1 of the Gentleman Aegis series. It’s a prequel series to my Displaced Detective series, about the adventures of “my” alternate-universe version of Sherlock Holmes, only it’s set long before he transitions to the modern day in our universe.

So think Holmes and Watson as very young men, still trying to find their way in the world. Their famous reputations are still in the future, cases are few and far between, so when one of Holmes’ old university professors invites them along on his Egyptian expedition to find the tomb of the first Pharaoh – a paying gig – they eagerly accept. But what they find is something quite different.

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Do you have any signings or appearances coming up?

I have the Killer Nashville mystery convention on Halloween weekend, and I’ll be at CONjuration in Atlanta in mid-November. After that, I tend to back off on conventions and such, and enjoy the holidays with family and friends. I’ll pick back up again in January. And I’ll certainly be doing interviews whenever anyone wants one.

Who were your inspirations?  Favorite authors?

I’m going to lump these two questions together, because it’s kind of the same for me. Doyle, Tolkien, Bradbury, Asimov, Pournelle, Niven, Shakespeare, H.G. Wells, Dickens, Thoreau, Twain…I think you see the pattern there. I’ve also read Thomas Mallory, Dante, Aristotle, Plato, Stoker, Mary Shelley, Whitman, Sandburg, Sophocles, Euripedes, Aristophanes, Chaucer, and many more. Somewhat eclectic, and all classic. And yes, I’m an omnivorous reader.

What book do you read over and over the most?

Oh geez. I’m thinking it’s a toss-up between Dicken’s A Christmas Carol and Wells’ War of the Worlds, though I read Doyle and Tolkien an awful lot too, especially Doyle. But I nearly always read War of the Worlds at Halloween, and A Christmas Carol at Christmas.

How much of you is in your characters?

Very little, actually. It’s kind of funny; I have been accused of writing Dr. Skye Chadwick-Holmes, the wife of Sherlock Holmes in the Displaced Detective series, as my own personal Mary Sue – because she’s a world-class hyperspatial physicist, and I’m an astrophysicist, so it apparently seems obvious to some people that she MUST be me. But she’s not me, and hyperspatial physics is most assuredly NOT astrophysics. I can do astrophysics, but had to work hard and do a lot of research to ensure I got the description of the hyperspatial elements in the stories correct. I would really hate to have to sit down and work out the kinds of tensor analysis that I have Chadwick doing in the books.

In fact, any time I take one of those “What Literary Character Are You?” quizzes, I always come up as Sherlock Holmes. I was talking to a publisher friend about that dichotomy, and his response shocked me. He said, “Well, of course! You ARE Holmes! Your HUSBAND is Skye Chadwick!” And I had to admit, after thinking about it for a bit, that he was in many respects correct. And certainly Holmes is actually very easy for me to write. But I didn’t model either character upon myself OR my husband.

What genre do you prefer to write?  To read?

I’m pretty much an omnivorous reader. About the only thing I don’t read is horror, because I have a vivid imagination, anxiety disorder, and dream in color.
But I tend to write genre-crossing stories. I’m particularly fond of mixing science fiction and mystery, often throwing in strong romance and thriller elements. I just like that sort of story.

Do you prefer writing short stories or novels?  And why?

Novels, actually. I can and have done both, but it’s actually hard for me to write short stories. I do nearly the same amount of research for both, anyway. And somehow the story concepts seem to always blow up into novel-length!

Is Writer’s Block ever a problem for you?  If so, how do you deal with it?

Oh yeah. I get stuck every so often. I’ve even been known to write myself into corners. (Easier to do than you might think, when you write mysteries.) Brainstorming is my best solution. My husband is my best co-brainstormer, because he “gets” me and he’s probably more creative than I am. But if he’s not available, I have several friends that I check with, and will brainstorm with them. I’m planning a short story collection that ties into both the Displaced Detective and Gentleman Aegis series, and it’ll be titled Project Tesseract: The Holmes Files. The concept is to chronicle alternate versions of Holmes – where he did NOT become a detective as such. And I had lots of help brainstorming all those short stories! I have the basic plots all sketched out for myself now; I just need the energy and time to write them.

What are you working on now?

I generally have several projects going at any one time. Right now those projects are:

  • Heritage, book 4 of the Cresperian Saga, with Dan Hollifield,
  • Fear in the French Quarter, book 6 of the Displaced Detective series,
  • Project Tesseract: The Holmes Files.

And I’m brainstorming several more, including:

  • Escape Velocity, the sequel to Burnout: The mystery of Space Shuttle STS-281 (I do have some written on this)
  • Sherlock Holmes in the Wild Hunt, book 2 of the Gentleman Aegis series
  • A Little Matter of Earthquakes, book 7 of the Displaced Detective series (I’ve got some written on this too) and a few other things besides. I also have the first book of a new series that is being shopped around. The series is The Adventures of Aemelia Gearheart, and the book is The Bellerophon Club. It’s a steampunk series.

What 3 things do you feel every aspiring writer should know?

  1. It’s harder than you think. Writing and creating takes a lot of energy. If you’ve never done it, you’d be surprised. My writing mentor, Travis S. Taylor, described it to me as like running a mental marathon. And when your mind is envisioning all these action scenes, your body reacts, tensing, releasing adrenaline, preparing for fight or flight – whether you realize it or not.
  2. It’s slower than you’d like. You’re not going to knock out the Great American Novel in a couple weeks. And once you start submitting it – to publishers, to agents – you have to give it more than two weeks for whoever you’ve submitted it to, to respond. I know some would-be authors who seriously expected a response inside a month, and got pissed when it didn’t happen, pulling the submission and going elsewhere, only to repeat the process. And yes, you guessed it – they’re still trying to get published. Look – if you’ve made an unsolicited submission, your manuscript goes on the “slush pile,” and an editor or professional reader will get to it…just as soon as s/he has worked down through all the stuff that was submitted before yours. Even if you have a solicited manuscript, you have to remember that editors have lives, and they have other projects, some of which might be due in the next few weeks, which puts those at the top of the priority list. (Don’t you want ‘em to devote so much attention to ensuring your baby is ready to hit the bookstore shelves? Then don’t denigrate ‘em doing so for other writers too.)
  3. Don’t stop reading just because you’ve started to write. Now is the second most important time to read – the first being when you were younger, and absorbing everything you read. Now is the time to ensure you’ve read what I call “the good stuff” – the classics of literature. Why? There are multiple reasons why they’re classics, and you want to absorb all of that – because then, when you sit down to write, it’s going to distil out into your writing, and make it that much better. Now is the time to read what’s really popular, and try to analyze what makes it so popular – then try to apply that to your own writing. Now is the time to read your preferred genres, and figure out what makes them different – then sit down and try to put a new spin on it.

These are the things that can make a good writer great.

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What is your funniest/ awkward moment at a convention/signing event?

Oh, well you see, since I write science fiction, and have used UFOs, Area 51, Roswell, Rendlesham, and aliens, and because I’m a friendly, open sort, I tend to get a lot of the, ah, well…I’ve been told all about people’s alien abductions, including details such as the probing and stuff. Very much TMI, and I could really do without all those details…

 

Thanks Stephanie! To find her books, click here:

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