Writing, Depression, Logan and Me.

Writing, Depression, Logan and Me.

‘A tortured soul has moved on. I hope he finds the peace he couldn’t attain here.’

Those were the only words I could find to say on the morning after I learned of my friend’s death. I wanted to say more, to write an emotional tribute or something, or maybe just scream the words ‘Why did you do it?’ to the heavens, but nothing seemed right, nothing felt right.

As word spread, our mutual friends spoke in barely audible whispers and informed the rest of the local and Facebook communities of his death. Stunned, we simply told one another that depression had finally taken him, but I hated saying that. I didn’t like giving depression that much power, as if it were a monster, a demon lurking in the darkness waiting to pounce on the unsuspecting, breaking their spirits until suicide seemed the only answer. I didn’t feel it was appropriate to give the depression that took my friend credit for claiming another life.

But that is exactly what depression is, a demon drawing us down into the darkness when we’re at those points of being the most emotionally and psychologically venerable. It exhausts our supplies of the mental fortitude that keeps us willing to fight and drains the will to live right out of us. It is something that always sits, not in a corner of some dark room but in the back of our minds, tucked away in some shady section of our brains and constantly whispering words of doubt and despair.

While some folks – the lucky ones – never hear the voice or have that blessed gift of being able to laugh off the negative thoughts, others are not so fortunate. The demon preys on our weaknesses, our vulnerabilities and tells us there are no options, no escape from the torment except the final one.

My friend was a writer, like myself. In fact, we’d met at a writers’ critique group in Nashville, ten years ago or so. His attitude toward writing, as well as toward life in general, fascinated me. He wasn’t the type to whitewash his opinions, especially about his given art form, which he was passionate about. While most in the group would diplomatically find ways of overlooking the errors in a particular piece being critiqued, he would tell it like it was. With a determined (if not the occasional grimacing) expression, he’d flip through the manuscript pages, making scores of red pen marks on each page as he exclaimed, “This is crap, this is crap, and this is mega-crap.” Then he’d always hand the papers back to the writer and follow up with positive comments. And always ended his critique with, “This has promise. You have promise, keep working on it.”

And a decade-long friendship took off.

My friend Logan appeared to most as a tall and imposing figure, with long ‘hippie’ hair, at least one Wiccan or Pagan talisman dangling around his neck, and on most days wearing a beaten and battered RUSH t-shirt. There were some who, shortly after his death, described him as the strong silent type. They talked about him being hidden away from his friends and suffering in silence alone with his depression. One blogger wrote about the masculine silence, that notion that real men never speak of the ailments that afflict them, physically or mentally. For those who knew him best, that wasn’t the case at all. In fact, Logan was just the opposite.

Logan quiet often spoke about his depression to his friends. In fact, the idea for an upcoming book dealing with the subject originally sprang from a conversation between Logan and the publisher, Tommy Hancock. Logan and I often spoke of the various treatments he’d tried, some conventional and some not so much. Medications, relaxation, and stress relief, along with some drug treatments, were discussed, mulled over, and in some cases, tried with some or little success. That silver bullet that’d cure all our troubles never came to be.

He suffered, knew others that suffered, and wanted to bring attention to the issue that seems to afflict so many fellow writers. And while he spoke a lot about his own struggles to those who’d listen, he, more importantly, could recognize the symptoms in others and would always offer an ear. That was one of the great strengths in our relationship – he knew that I have had my own on and off struggles with depression.

For creative folks, especially writers, depression can be a debilitating illness that strikes at the very core of who we are and what we do. It saps the imagination, leaving us with the inability to move forward with our tales. It dulls the sharp edge we need to carve something good from the jumbled mass of incoherent thoughts and ideas. This is the case for most artistic folks, but for writers, there are other factors that attract the demon and allow its claws to dig deeper into the flesh of our psyche. While anyone can suffer from depression, it seems to hit artists harder and more often. Nothing could be more of a nightmare for a creative person than to have that artistic spark extinguished.

The factors that can trigger an episode, if that is the correct term, can come from many different directions – poor sales, harsh or mean critiques and reviews, or the inability to even break into the publishing world. Sometimes, it feels as if we writers are attacked from all sides with negativity. So many people telling new and aspiring writers that they’ll never succeed. So many folks saying that you’ll never finish your first book or never get it published. And what if you make it? Then the struggle to match your first success comes into play. The writer suddenly needs to pump out more and better work, just to prove that their first book or works weren’t just flukes.

In my case, I’d wanted to start writing many years before I actually did but didn’t because I listened to those around me. Phrases like, ‘don’t bother, you don’t know what you’re doing.’ Or, ‘there will be time to write when you retire, right now you should concentrate on making money,’ or, ‘we know this is just a phase and you’ll never really finish an actual book.’ I felt like family and friends were constantly bombarding me with negativity. Every time I tried to talk about the books in my head, stories that increasingly grew restless, wanting to escape, I was met with blank stares. That was why having a friend who also wrote became such an important factor in my writing career and proved to be the best way for me to battle the demon. I didn’t feel alone in the battle. I had someone in the same boat who understood my problems.

For Logan and me, the constant attempts to write, produce something new and fresh, and to find a home for our stories in the publishing world became an unofficial and seemingly never-ending struggle. Each year had its own ups and downs and we counted on one another for support and help. When Logan began sinking down into the dark places because of his writing, I was there to pull him back to the surface and he did the same for me. Sometimes, it felt like a see-saw, when one of us was in a good place and the other was not. But our see-sawing teamwork kept each other from dropping too far into the darkness – for a while, anyway.

There have been multiple occasions over the years when I’ve considered giving up on a writing career. Every few months, when I get a royalty check or an indication of my book sales, I wonder why I am bothering to waste years of my life on something that only a handful of folks will bother reading. Logan would always remind me that even the big names in writing started off small, that everyone makes mistakes, and that everyone can succeed if they stay positive.

There was a dark time for Logan in 2012 when he stopped writing and had all but given up. I, along with others talked and encouraged him to get back to it but nothing seemed to help. Then good fortune struck for me later that year. A publisher who’d taken my first novel agreed to let me edit two anthologies.

Okay – in all honesty, I’d pitched two ideas for short story anthologies, not thinking they’d pick them up. I ended up getting tapped to be the editor and put the books together. The themes of the books, steampunk superheroes and werewolves, were right up Logan’s alley.

Without a second thought, I picked up the phone and called, insisting that he submit stories to both collections. Knowing the quality of his work, there wasn’t any doubt in my mind. I knew I’d be happy with what he’d produce. At first he was reluctant, to my surprise. He didn’t seem thrilled at the opportunity, but, as the idea of actually having his work in print and his name in the credits sank in, his attitude changed. In quick succession, he banged out two great stories and then put on his editor’s hat and volunteered to help me edit. With the number of stories that came in for the werewolf collection, the publisher decided to produce twin volumes, so I went from editing two books to three. Personally, I started feeling overwhelmed and, without missing a stride, Logan jumped into the fray to help me, snatching up stories and in customary Logan fashion exclaiming, “This is crap, this is crap, this is … oh, this one is good.”

I had worried at first about whether Logan would come back from the depths and write again. For many artists and writers, there is a point of no return when it comes to their creative nature. Once reached, they doubt their abilities so much that they give up completely and attempt to find solace in other endeavors. That creative spark gets snuffed out. But having a real chance to see his stories published worked and brought him back to life. His attitude changed and the purpose that all writers have, that need to tell stories, didn’t just resurface – it exploded out of the dark waters of self-doubt on to multiple pages in multiple books.

Logan didn’t just jump back with a couple of stories. Instead, he threw himself back into creating, churning out story after story and getting himself a contract for his first book. And nothing made me happier than to see my friend succeed.

The act was repaid in kind, however, a couple of years later when it was my turn to start a downward spiral in my personal and writing world.

In 2014, the demon came after me. In January of that year, I lost the woman who’d raised me. Lu Lewis may have been my grandmother, but she was the only one there for me during the majority of my life. My mother disappeared from my life when I was very young, followed shortly afterwards by the death of my father. Losing the person who’d always been my rock felt like a sucker punch to the kidneys. Then two more events in February pushed me down even farther. First, the woman I’d loved for a couple of years decided that our time was over. Secondly, my new novel was released with the first review denouncing it as the worst-copyedited book in history. As it turned out, the publisher had mistakenly uploaded the wrong file, the unedited version, to the printers. After a year and a half of work, my new book, which was to become a series that’d I’d hoped to build a writing career on, had been trashed by critics, not because of my mistake but because of someone else’s.

Thing is, uploading the wrong file issue with my second novel wasn’t new for me. A different publisher had done exactly the same thing with my first book. And they say that lightning doesn’t strike twice. HA!

Stunned, shocked, and traumatized by everything, I just sat back and stopped working. “What was the point,” I figured. If I could spend months or years on a book only to have it screwed up, ruining any chance of it being a hit, then why bother? And it wasn’t just a one-time thing. This was my second book and with both novels that same thing had happened.

Logan jumped in and talked me off the ledge when I talked about ending my writing career. He kept pointing out that my third book, which had been released shortly after the second, was free of issues, as well as all three of my anthologies which had been successfully released and were selling well. But, more importantly, he pushed me to see that I would hate myself in the long run if I just stopped doing something I loved. After all these years, I see that the last point would be used over and over again by both of us, reminding one another of that fact. A fact that always won out.

Logan’s belief in me kept me from doing something that I’d regret – quitting and walking away from the writing world. But he also kept me from doubting myself and my abilities. While he’d bitch about my use of grammar, word choices, and my inability to ever understand the differences between ‘then’ and ‘than’, he always found the positive in whatever cringe-worthy first draft I inflicted upon him. I found him to be the perfect foil to bounce ideas off of, since I never had to worry that his viewpoint would be skewed, and he did the same for me.

For ten years, he and I danced around our depression. Luckily, we never suffered episodes (again, if that is the appropriate term) together. Instead, when he was in a dark place, I was there to help pull him out. And vice-versa, when he was in a good place, he stood ready to pull me out of the darkness when I started sinking. In reflection, having someone in the same boat of trying to be a writer turned out to be what we both needed to make it in the biz. Well, I should say, we both have been published and both saw some success, but we were hoping that ‘the big time’ was right down the road. We both knew that we had to keep walking to get there and pushed one another along.

While no one has a specific number or percentage, researchers know that writers are more likely to suffer from depression and manic-depression than non-writers. All of the reasons for this are not known for certain, although we have ideas of some things that may trigger depression in the typical writer-type. Like many things in life, we may never know what they all are – what triggers the dark emotions and who is more likely to be effected.

The life of a writer is typically a series of ups and downs. The promise of rewards, riches, and self-satisfaction can elevate the soul. The joy of finishing a first draft of a novel can make a writer’s heart swell with joy and feel like they are on top of the world. And then that feeling can be completely crushed when that novel is repeatedly rejected by publishers or denounced by critics.

These feelings tend to stay bottled up inside due to the lives of most writers. In many creative endeavors, there are multiple folks involved, all of whom are sharing the joys and heartbreaks. In general, they support one another. But writing… writing is a solitary effort. Most writers sit in a room alone as they create their works, rarely interacting with others. This lack of social interaction doesn’t help when depression is creeping in on the writer. There may not be anyone around to share ideas with or who will listen as you vent your frustrations. More importantly, family and friends of writers typically don’t understand the many ups and downs that the creative types deal with. They don’t understand and, therefore, don’t know to look for the warning signs or how best to support the individual.

And social interaction is only part of it. In the course of writing a good tale, a writer can and usually does run through a series of emotions, ranging from terrifying anger to sheer happiness. When in the groove, so to speak, a writer is in the mind of his characters and experiencing their heartbreaks and joys, feeling everything they do. A character can be far more than just something in black and white. Writers pour so much of themselves into their works, into these characters, that, when one is forced to kill off a character, it can be a traumatic experience. A non-writer just can’t understand the connections between a writer and their fictional friends and loves.

Writing about misery, suffering, and death can take an emotional and psychological toll on anyone, especially someone who is already dealing with depression. It isn’t a negative reflection on the individual if they have a hard time dealing with something they’ve written. In some cases, a certain character’s pain may reflect the writer’s own emotional state or delve deep into traumatic events from the writer’s past, dredging up long-buried anger or fear. I know from my own writings that at different points in a story, when the stress or heartbreak levels are high, that my emotions will be effected.

The circumstances around his death are known only to a handful and, out of respect, I’ll keep it that way. Logan and I had been out of contact for a while, with him temporarily living in Texas while I remained in Tennessee. I had reached out before his death, before he chose to end things, but my attempt came too late.

Moving forward, I’ll not have my friend to pick me up when things are down. At the time of this writing, the shock and pain have subsided, the anger over his actions has diminished, and I’m left with a profound sense of emptiness. The tragedy that was Logan’s death brought a lot of folks closer together. We’ve rallied to one another’s side, ensuring that we all make it through, that no one is suffering in silence, and we’re all working to learn more about depression so as to watch for the warning signs in our friends.

And is there a better way to remember him then using his death as a wake-up call, declaring that depression is real and capable of taking those we think are strongest?

Cover Reveal for Dietrich’s Nashville

Coming this summer…

Thomas Dietrich didn’t look for trouble but It always found a way to slither up from the depths of Hell to find him.

Set in the 1950’s, Dietrich’s Nashville brings to life the secret files of the monster-hunting, hard living, Nashville PI as he battles the werewolves, vampires, and demons that roam his city’s streets after the sun sets. Told in the classic noir-style, each story will drag you to Hell and back, leaving you begging for more.


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The Bishop’s Diabolical Giveaway


bishop contestAs a way to celebrate the audio release of ‘The Bishop of Port Victoria’ and a couple of upcoming short stories releases (To be announced when I have a release date), we’re having a contest. Top prize is a $50. Amazon gift card. Other prizes included signed copies of ‘Black Pulp’ and ‘The Bishop of Port Victoria’, as well as freebies from Audible.com.

Click on the link below or the ‘Giveaway’ link on each of Alan’s book’s fan pages on Facebook. The way the contest works is that you gain points for each page you like or signing up for the mailing list or other fun things. The more points, the more chances you get to win. And some things can be done daily, so you can increase your chances by coming back, again and again.

Good luck and have fun. And mostly, thank you to reading!!!

a Rafflecopter giveaway


Preditors & Editors Reader’s Favorites Poll for 2015

I just realized that I didn’t update the website with the news about this. Preditors & Editors is a great website, filled with tons of content designed to help new and professional writers. Each year, they sponsor a contest for their readers to vote and pick their favorites for the year.

This year, I was entered into a few of the categories and here are the results…


Best Steampunk Short Story: The Celeste Affair by D. Alan Lewis:

Best Steampunk Novel: Keely by D. Alan Lewis:

Top Ten Finalist for Best Author:

Top Ten Finalist for Best Book Cover Art:

top10bookart  celeste affair 2016 shortstorysteampunk P&E 2016top10author  2nd place  P&E2016P&E best steampunk novel 2016

Big thanks to everyone who voted for me!!!


See the Author? Be the Author repost from Killer Nashville

See the Author? BE the Author
By D. Alan Lewis

* This article was originally posted on the Killer Nashville blog.  My thanks to Tom Wood who asked me to write a ‘How To’ article for the website.


At a recent book signing/selling event, a gentleman approached my table and struck up a conversation. There were several authors including myself at the event, all of us lumped together in a section of the room with our wares on display. Each had a small table with a variety of books, running the gamut of genres.

The man walked down the row, looking but not stopping until he stepped up to the last table, mine. He started picking up bookmarks and cards, asking questions, and finally made a purchase. As I handed him his change, I mentioned a book by one of the other authors but he only shrugged, smiled, and informed me that my books were the only ones he’d consider purchasing.
Intrigued, I asked why only my books. His answer was simple but powerful.

“Because you look like a real author. You present your books and market them like a real author.” He went on to point out the bookmarks, cards, and other promotional items, and then added, “The other folks here didn’t think enough of their books to even bother.”

At a loss, I looked at the other author’s displays and caught on to what he meant. An absence of basic marketing merchandise became very clear. Some of the authors didn’t have bookmarks, or even business cards. No one else had signage of any type. While I’d spent money early on in my book-selling adventures to purchase display racks and stands, no one else had.  After my first book went to print, I began paying attention to other authors and how they did things. I looked not only at what they were doing but also at the authors themselves.

So, here are a few basic tips that I’ve learned to promote sales at events.
Look professional: No matter where you are selling books, dress well for the occasion. I’m not saying you need a suit and tie, but shorts and a t-shirt shouldn’t be the go-to wardrobe choice.

Business cards: Seriously, invest some money in professionally printed cards. Homemade cards printed on your home computer will look like what they are, homemade and cheap. There are many sources online for inexpensive but good-looking cards. But do something different with your cards that’ll get people’s attention.
In my case, I write mainly science fiction and fantasy stories. I found a website (Zazzle) which has hundreds of styles. Instead of one box of cards, I purchased three. Zazzle offered several styles of sci-fi art that are on the card’s background, so I picked out three distinctly different images. It amazed me how folks will approach the table and look at the three different cards and comment on which one has the best art. If the customer likes the card, they’ll keep looking at, ingraining your name in their head along with the picture.

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Bookmarks: Like business cards, there are many online sources for bookmarks. In my case, I found an inexpensive printer that makes double-sided bookmarks. Instead of using both sides to promote one book, I placed ads for different books on each side. This way, the person is exposed to more of my works after they leave the table.


Signs and banners: These can be an issue for some folks because of the expense. There is also an issue at times as to whether you’ll have space at an event for big, freestanding banners. The best advice is to start with what you can afford and go from there.

Tall banners are great for projecting your name and books titles across a room. If well designed, a good banner will generate interest and curiosity in you and your works. If your books are lying flat on a table, then a tabletop banners or signs are a great way to get passersby to notice the book covers.


Racks and stands: Too many authors feel that simply laying their books flat on a table will get them noticed. This is simply not true. Flat books are only seen by folks walking directly in front of your table. Inexpensive bookstands or wire racks will increase the visibility of your books from a distance and draw folks in to take a closer look.

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While these are just a handful of suggestions, they are the most basic and usually, the most overlooked. Next time you’re at a book event, look around, see which authors grab your attention, and ask yourself what made you look.

Holiday Guest Author: David B. Coe aka D.B. Jackson

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:

David B. Coe

Aka… D.B. Jackson

 David Coe photo


First, a little something about David.

David B. Coe, who also writes as D.B. Jackson, wrote his first novel at the age of six. It was called “Jim the Talking Fish,” and it was not really as good as the title makes it sound. David illustrated the story, which did nothing to improve its quality.

And yet, as poor as this first effort might have been, it did mark the beginning of a lifetime passion for dreaming up stories and writing them down so that he might inflict them on others share them with others. Along the way David has dabbled in other professions — he was a political consultant for several years, and he earned a Ph.D. in U.S. history, flirting with the notion of an academic career before wisely thinking better of it.

He began writing full time in 1994, with the love and support of The World’s Best Spouse, and published his first novel in 1997. He is now the award-winning author of more than fifteen novels and a dozen short stories.

His newest project, a contemporary urban fantasy called the Case Files of Justis Fearsson, is to be published by Baen Books. The first book, SPELL BLIND, will be released on January 6, 2015. HIS FATHER’S EYES, the second volume, will be published in the summer of 2015, and a third novel is already in the works.

Writing as D.B. Jackson, he is the author of the Thieftaker Chronicles, a series set in pre-Revolutionary Boston that combines elements of urban fantasy, mystery, and historical fiction. THIEFTAKER, THIEVES’ QUARRY, and A PLUNDER OF SOULS, have already been released, and the fourth volume, DEAD MAN’S REACH will appear in July 2015.

David’s early books include the LonTobyn Chronicle, a trilogy that received the Crawford Fantasy Award as the best work by a new author in fantasy, as well as the critically acclaimed Winds of the Forelands quintet and Blood of the Southlands trilogy. He has also written the novelization of director Ridley Scott’s movie, ROBIN HOOD, starring Russell Crowe.   David’s books have been translated into a dozen languages.

David received his undergraduate degree from Brown University and his Master’s and Ph.D. in U.S. history from Stanford University.  He co-founded and regularly contributes to the Magical Words group blog (http://magicalwords.net), a site devoted to discussions of the craft and business of writing fantasy, and is co-author of HOW TO WRITE MAGICAL WORDS: A WRITER’S COMPANION.

He is still married to The World’s Best Spouse. They have two daughters and live in a small college town on the Cumberland Plateau.



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

I wrote my first books when I was six years old. Seriously. I learned to read and then immediately started writing stories. My first was called “Jim, the Talking Fish.” It wasn’t very good. I illustrated it myself, and that made it worse. But that was the first. All through elementary school, writing stories was my favorite thing to do. So I knew from early on that I’d wind up a writer.


Where do your ideas come from?

I steal them from other people. That’s normal, right?

My story ideas come from all over the place. Things I read, places I go, music I hear — literally anything can spark a story idea. Robert Frost said that “An idea is a feat of association,” and I find that’s true for me as well. It’s not so much the single notion that inspires me, but instead the juxtaposition of different thoughts brought together in an unexpected way. We imagine things that aren’t immediately obvious, we ask ourselves “What if . . . ?” and we’re off to the races.


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

Actually, no. I tend to do this as little as possible, and here’s why: I’ve found that when I do use real life people as models for characters, it keeps those characters from developing naturally. I allow that person I know to inform my writing too much and so when that character starts to do the unexpected, starts to take on some agency for his/her actions, I resist, thinking “Well, but so-and-so wouldn’t do that . . .” On the other hand, when I create characters entirely from my imagination, without basing them on actual people, they grow more organically and I give them the freedom they need to become active components of my story.


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

It’s interesting you should ask me this right now. Usually, I’m a pretty dedicated plotter. My epic fantasies have a lot of plot threads that I need to coordinate with some care. My historical fantasies (the Thieftaker Chronicles, written under the D.B. Jackson pseudonym) blend fictional mysteries with real world historical time lines. My new urban fantasy series (The Case Files of Justis Fearsson, written under my own name) also have mystery elements and demand a good deal of planning. So all the work I’ve done to date has been stuff that I’v needed to plot.

But, I’m currently writing a new epic fantasy, and I had very little sense of where the story was going. So I finally just decided to wing it. To write without an outline. Like a crazy person. At this point — I’m 70,000 words in — I like the story as it’s developed, and I’m having a blast discovering my narrative as I go along. Who knows? This could be a new trend for me.


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

I do. I know that some people can’t listen to anything at all — they find any sort of music terribly distracting. And I know other people who can listen to anything at all, even music with lyrics, and it doesn’t bother them one bit. I fall somewhere in the middle. I love listening to music, but only certain kinds. It has to be instrumental. Lyrics mess me up. And I write best when the music has a strong improvisational element — Classical music tends to constrain my creativity. So I listen to a lot of jazz (Miles Davis, Roy Hargrove, Pat Metheny, Larry Carlton, Nicholas Payton) and instrumental bluegrass (Béla Fleck, Jerry Douglas, Chris Thile, Tony Rice, Alison Brown, David Grisman).

Dead Man's Reach

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

That’s a really hard question. On the one hand, like most authors, I consider my most recent books my best. I’m incredibly proud of all the Thieftaker novels (Tor Books) and I love the Fearsson novels I’m writing now for Baen. The books of both series are lean and compelling and include some of the best character work and sharpest prose I’ve ever written. But I also really love my Winds of the Forelands books, a five-book epic fantasy I wrote for Tor about a decade ago. That’s one of the reasons I’m going back to epic fantasy now. I miss the complexity and sweep of those stories.


How much do you write each day/week?

I tend to work slowly when I start a novel — writing the first page can take me an entire day; the first chapter can be a week or two in the making. But once I get some momentum built up, I average about 2,500 words a day, 12,500 words per week. (I try not to work too much on weekends, unless I’m behind on a deadline.) For those not familiar with word counts, that’s ten manuscript pages a day, or fifty per week. I didn’t used to write at that pace, but I’ve built up to it over the years.


What is your latest project/release?

My next original release (as opposed to a paperback reissue) is SHADOW’S BLADE, the third book in The Case Files of Justis Fearsson (Baen Books). It comes out in May 2016. This is a contemporary urban fantasy set in Phoenix. My lead character is a private detective, an ex-cop, and a weremyste. Every month, on the full moon, his magic gets stronger and he temporarily loses his mind. These moon phasings are slowly driving him insane, as they did his father. The first two books in the series are SPELL BLIND and HIS FATHER’S EYES, and both are available from all booksellers.


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

Have you read my books? Do you know what kind of shit I dump on my characters page after page, story after story? I would never, ever, ever want to be any of them.

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

When I started out, I wrote only novels. I didn’t really understand how to approach short stories. I thought I could only “write to a certain length,” which came out to, like, 200,000 words. My first short story sale was actually a background piece for my Winds of the Forelands series. Everything I did was geared toward the novels.

But that changed several years ago. I forced myself to write shorter pieces because — and I honestly believe this — writing short stories is harder and demands more skill than writing novels. As soon as I started writing the shorter pieces, forcing myself to tell complete, satisfying stories in 6,000 words, all of my writing improved. That leanness I mentioned earlier, which I see in my latest work, is, I believe, an outgrowth of my increasing commitment to writing short fiction as well as novel length stuff. I’ve learned to do more with less, and that is all to the good. So, at this point I really have no preference; I love writing in both forms.


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

Okay, so here is my Writer’s Block Rant. I don’t believe in Writer’s Block. I don’t think it exists, and I think it’s a really foolish concept. Harsh, I know, but bear with me. The problem with the very idea of Writer’s Block is that it pre-supposes writing should be easy. It assumes that writing should always flow smoothly, that finding the correct word ought to be as easy as typing it, that stories never get stuck or turn onto narrative cul-de-sacs. It assumes our characters always behave rationally and answer to our every creative whim, and our settings simply present themselves to us, fully formed and easily described. All of which, of course, is horse crap. Writing is hard. Writing tears at our souls. Writing torments us. Writing is fits and starts, it’s days spent staring at a blank screen getting nothing done. That’s as much a part of the creative process as those rare golden days when everything DOES flow like mountain water. And so what people call Writer’s Block, I call writing. End of Rant.


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

Well, they should begin by memorizing my rant on Writer’s Block . . .

Seriously, they should understand that writing is hard work, that it doesn’t necessarily pay well, and that career paths are rarely linear or uninterrupted ascents to fame and fortune. This is a difficult, at times soul-crushing business. Aspiring writers should know, first and foremost, that they’re writing for the right reason: because they love the story, the characters, the creative process. If they’re doing it because they think it’s easy money, or just something they can do in a half-assed way, they need to think again.

Second, they should know that writing to the market is a bad idea. The market is a moving target. There is absolutely no guarantee that what’s popular when you start a novel will still be popular when that novel is completed and edited and ready for release. The aspiring writer should write the story s/he loves, the story that’s burning a hole in her/his chest trying to get free. If s/he loves what s/he writes, that passion will come through in the prose and storytelling. In other words, write the best story possible, and the market side of things will take care of itself.

Third, there is no such thing as a perfect novel. Everything that has ever been published has some flaw in it. If a writer edits and polishes and works and works and works trying to make that novel utterly flawless, s/he will spend an entire lifetime on that one project and will never send it out for publication. Which isn’t much of a career. Make the book as good as it can be, and then submit it. Publishers understand that books rarely cross their desks as perfect finished novels. That’s what editors are for. Write it, have people read it, revise and polish, and then send it out and get to work on the next thing. That’s how one builds a career.


Thanks David. To find more about him, click below:


Holiday Guest Author: Bobby Nash

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:

Bobby Nash

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First, a little something about Bobby.

An award-winning author, Bobby Nash writes novels, comic books, and short stories, graphic novels, and screenplays for a number of publishers and clients including Dark Horse Comics, Sequential Pulp Comics, IDW Publishing, Moonstone Books, Airship 27 Productions, Pro Se Productions, Raven’s Head Press, Stark Raving Press, Farragut Films, Dark Oak Press, Radio Archives, and more.

Bobby is a member of the International Association of Media Tie-in Writers and International Thriller Writers.

For more information on Bobby Nash please visit him at www.bobbynash.com and across social media. If you see him wandering around a convention, please say hi and make sure he’s not lost.



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

I’m not sure of the exact age, but I remember in 6th grade I decided that my dream of being a scientist probably wasn’t going to happen so I switched gears and declared that I wanted to draw comic books for a living. Eventually, my inadequacies as a comic book artist led me to writing comics. From there it was a short leap to prose.


Where do your ideas come from?

Anywhere and everywhere. I know that’s a simple answer, but it’s true. Sometimes I get ideas from a news story or something I overhear. Other times, story ideas just hit me fully firmed. Whatever magical place exists where story ideas are born, I’m thankful every day that I am able to tap into it.


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

Sometimes I do, although usually it’s a secondary character. The main characters are generally fully original, although bits and pieces from others may end up in there. For example: in my novel, Evil Ways, the two main protagonists are brothers, Harold and Franklin Palmer. Since I have a brother and know how we bounce off one another when we talk, I gave one of the characters my personality and the other his. The characters are not us, but there is that small spark from each of us that they are built off of and I think that makes them feel like brothers in the book. Celebrities are generally for type. I may need a George Clooney type or a Kristen Bell type, that sort of thing.

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

I’m somewhere in the middle. I generally do loose plots so I know the major beats I have to hit in the story. I like to think of them as signposts. Then, I write from one signpost to the next. This way, I am still free to follow my characters if one of them decides to take a left turn when I planned for them to go right. I have had some great “Ah Ha!” moments by allowing myself the freedom to veer off course if the characters tell me that’s what they need.

The one things I cannot do is outline. I’ve tried outlining, but it just doesn’t work for me. By the time I write the outline and get ready to start writing, I find myself not as excited because I feel like I’ve already written this story and am ready to move on to the next one.


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

I like to listen to music when I write. I don’t have a specific playlist or anything. I have several CDs burned onto my laptop I can listen to or will turn on the radio. Once I get into the groove, I generally tune it out so it’s just background noise.


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

I’d love to meet Lance Star: Sky Ranger. I’m fascinated with aircraft and I would imaging the character would have some really fun stories to tell.

As for characters I didn’t create, I’d love to spend some time with the Fantastic Four. Domino lady would be fun to hang out with as well, although I probably wouldn’t be able to keep up with her.


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

This is one of those answers that changes depending on when I’m asked. There’s something about each of my stories that is special to me, but Evil Ways stands out because it was my first published novel and a long hard journey to get it out there. After that, I’d say Alexandra Holzer’s Ghost Gal: The Wild Hunt novel. Ask me again tomorrow and you’ll probably get a different answer.


How much do you write each day/week?

Not nearly enough. When I was writing full time, I had 2 large blocks of time set aside for writing. A little over a year ago I returned to corporate life so now that I have a fulltime day job, the writing has been pushed to the weekends with the occasional bits during the week. I wish there was more free time, but I get it in where I can.


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

I’ve had more good experiences than bad, but there have been some less than pleasant experiences as well. All were good learning experiences. Not naming any names, but my first published novel, Evil Ways, ended up with a bad publisher. They had lousy, almost non-existent editing, poor cover design, price point too high, no marketing, and no desire to listen to anything I had to say. It was a painful experience, but at the end of the day I did have a published book in my hand. I used that book to introduce myself to other publishers and was able to get more writing gigs that way. As bad as that original experience was, having that book helped open doors. I was able to turn a negative situation into a positive one.

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Do you have a routine when you write?

Not so much these days since I went back to a full-time day job. I write whenever I can squeeze it in. When I was writing full-time, I had more of a routine. I miss the routine.


What is your latest project/release?

The most recent releases I am part of include a graphic novel adaptation of Edgar Rice Burroughs’ At The Earth’s Core novel by myself and illustrator Jamie Chase that was published by Sequential pulp Comics and Dark Horse Comics. You can still find the standard hardcover and limited edition signed and numbered hardcover at bookstores, on-line retailers, and comic shops.

Also, just this week, Moonstone Books released the first in their line of hardcovers exclusively available through Moonstone’s website. The first book to retrieve this treatment is my Domino Lady “Money Shot” novel. The new hardcover comes with a new cover by Mike Fyles. The paperback is still available as well and features a cover by Douglas Klauba. Trust me when I say, both of these gents know how to draw Domino Lady.

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Do you have any signings or appearances coming up?

As the year starts to wind down I only have one convention appearance left (as of right now). On November 14th and 15th, I will be at Fanaticon in Ozark, Alabama. Should be a fun time.  www.alabamafanaticon.org

I may add a 1 day show in December. Still up in the air on that. Nothing set in stone yet for 2016, but as soon as I set convention and appearance dates, I’ll post them at www.bobbynash.com


Who were your inspirations?

Oh, so many have inspired me one way or another over the years. There are many creators whose work I admired and drew inspiration from the work that they had done and continue to do. I also drew inspiration for how to behave as an author by watching others at conventions, signings, and other events. I picked up many lessons on what to do and what not to do by watching others. I’m inspired by anyone who takes a chance and creates something. Whether it is to my tastes or not, seeing others finish a project inspires me to keep going and finish my projects. The writing community, especially, is filled with authors who are both helpful and supportive. It inspires me to do the same.

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Favorite authors?

This is another of those lists that will change from day to day. Currently, I’m really enjoying the work of Michael Connelly, Alex Kava, Paul Bishop, David Mack, Van Allen Plexico, and Edgar Rice Burroughs. There are other authors whose work I love, but that would be a long list.


What book do you read over and over the most?

I don’t have any one particular novel that I read over and over again, mainly because of the time issue, but I do revisit comic book runs I’ve enjoyed again and again.


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

Sure. If you love crime thrillers, seek out the work of Michael Connelly and alex Kava. They are really good. Also, Paul Bishop’s new Lie Catchers is great. I’m reading it now. It’s the first book in a series. Van Allen Plexico’s Legion novels are excellent science fiction reads.


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

I would love to write a Stargate SG-1 or Stargate: Atlantis novel one day. That just seems like a fun universe to play in. In comics, I’d love to write the Fantastic Four.

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Do you have a special way of generating story ideas?

Not really. My brain somehow makes the jumble of thoughts and images come together. However it works, they do come together for me so I guess that makes it special.


How much of you is in your characters?

There is a little bit of me in each of my characters, some more than others. It can be little things like a personality trait or a particular job or experience that character may have had in the past. Stuff like that.

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

Yikes! I put my characters through hell so I’m not sure how much fun it would be to switch places with any of them for any given length of time. That said, I bet it would be fun to be Lance Star for a day.


What genre do you prefer to write?  To read?

I love crime fiction, primarily with thriller sensibilities. I tend to add a bit of thriller to all of the stories I write. I love playing in multiple genres, but I always seem to come back to solving a crime or mystery.


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

Short stories are fun, but I prefer writing novels. I love delving deep into a character’s life and telling that story. With the novels, I get to do that more than with short stories where you have to get to things quickly.

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What are you working on now?

At present I am nearing the end of my Evil Intent novel and starting on a novel featuring the old pulp hero, The Avenger. I’m also plotting the next Ghost Gal novel. Those are foremost on my ever-growing to do list.


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

No. My problem is not that I’m unable to think of things to write. My problem is making time to get all the writing done I need to do to meet my deadlines. I appreciate my day job, but it does put a strain on my deadlines.


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

If you want to write as a career, treat it like a job. It’s fine if you want to do it as a hobby, but know what you want to do and plan accordingly.

Set goals for yourself. Why are you writing? What’s your goal? Want to be a New York Times Bestseller? No problem. You plan your career trajectory accordingly, but don’t be afraid to experiment a bit.

Have fun with writing. It can be a lot of work, but it can also be very rewarding. It’s a great feeling when you finish a story. It’s a bigger thrill when you hold your first published book in your hands.


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

I’ve been asked to sign some weird things, including a corset while the lady who wanted it signed was wearing it and I once signed a blanket that had super hero characters on it at a con. For the most part though, it’s been pretty tame.

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

Social media is great for connecting with fans and potential fans. It is not great for selling books, but I like to keep my friends/followers updated on my writing progress as well as what books I’m reading, movies I’m watching, and definitely sharing photos from conventions and appearances, Social media is great for that. I am on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Google+, and Instagram. I may have others, but those are the ones I try to post to regularly.


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

I do read them and have been lucky in that most have been positive. I generally don’t argue or do more than thank the reviewer for taking the time to leave a review on places like Amazon, B&N, etc. I do share to social media when a review (good and bad) is left for one of my books and thank the reviewer there as well. I have had readers come to my website and engage me and I do respond there, but always in a positive manner.  I don’t like to argue.



To learn more about Bobby, click the links below:











Holiday Guest Author: Barbara Friend Ish

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:

Barbara Friend Ish 


First, a little something about Barbara.

     Writer, publisher, slave of cats: Barbara Friend Ish is Publisher, Editor-in-Chief, and Wild-Eyed Visionary for Mercury Retrograde Press, which publishes Fantasy, Science Fiction, and Interstitial novels and novellas: a small press dedicated to unconventional authors and works that might undeservedly slip through the cracks at bigger houses. After earning a Bachelor’s in English from Rice University, Barbara divided her time between working with small groups of entrepreneurs who didn’t know any better than to start their own companies and swimming against the current of the publishing industry, eventually co-founding Be Mused, an author services company devoted to helping authors and small publishers develop books. She founded Mercury Retrograde Press in 2007. She is insufferably proud of the authors with whom she works, including multi-award-nominated Edward Morris, author of the transgressionist althistory series There Was a Crooked Man; Zachary Steele, whose debut novel Anointed: The Passion of Timmy Christ, CEO was considered for the 2010 Sidewise Award; and talented fantasists Leona Wisoker and Larissa N. Niec.

Books edited by Barbara have been covered by Library Journal, Publishers Weekly, Locus Magazine, The Midwest Book Review, SciFiDimensions, American Freethought, Baby Got Books, SFScope, SFSignal, The Internet Review of Science Fiction, January Magazine and Green Man Review. She has been featured in The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and on Baby Got Books and SF Signal, and has appeared at The Atlanta Book Show, RavenCon, Faerie Escape: Atlanta and Opus Fest.

Barbara’s debut novel, The Shadow of the Sun, is scheduled for release in February 2011. The first volume of the fantasy series The Way of the Gods, The Shadow of the Sun tells the story of a defrocked wizard, his quest for redemption, and his struggle against the evil in his soul.

For the past 22 years Barbara has been married to her one true love, one of the very first ColdWar-era Soviet émigrés. Together they have ridden the roller coasters of multiple start-up businesses (his and hers) and the raising of two children. Current projects include a garden entirely bereft of nutritional value and a search for the perfect bottle of champagne.

Born in Chicago, at various times in her life Barbara has called Philadelphia, Houston, New Jersey, and Atlanta home. She currently resides in Atlanta, GA, with her husband, her daughter, and two high-maintenance cats. Barbara is qualified to speak about writing and publishing, creativity and overcoming creative blocks. She has opinions on a plethora of other topics as well.


Let’s get started:

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

I’m irresistibly hard-wired for story. When I figured out that books were made by people (instead of just manifesting magically from whatever mysterious source also provided television and shampoo, I suppose) I knew I wanted to make them. The first time I had the magical experience of  “falling into” a story as a writer I was nine years old, in the midst of one of those “draw a picture and write a story” exercises they give in elementary school. I was immediately so immersed that I forgot to finish the assignment.

I’m not entirely sure what that says about me as a writer.


Where do your ideas come from?

Mostly from things that are mysterious to me, which I want to figure out. The fantasy series I’m working on right now arose from a question that flitted through my head one day: If the gods of ancient myth were real, where did they come from? Once I have a question, I start doing research. Eventually my brain gets so full of bits of idea that they coalesce into something big enough to support a story.


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

Not even a little bit. They are all figments of my imagination. My day-to-day involves conflicts between my imaginary friends; that’s not weird, right?


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

For first drafts, I more or less “seat-of-the-pants” my way through it. The idea I’m pursuing will begin to suggest characters to me; naturally the main character is the one most affected by the story problem I’m constructing. Once I have characters and a problem, the plot of the story arises from the characters’ attempts to solve the problem. I will sit down to write with an idea of where the story starts and what the end-state will be, but it’s all very fluid in the beginning.

For me the first draft is a way of exploring the characters and all the ways the problem affects them, and I mostly follow them around as they develop the tale. Once I have a first draft, and thus a fairly coherent story and character set, then I sit down and plan before I begin developing the version of the story that will go to press. This time I’ll have a firm and fairly detailed plot plan. But because I write the second draft from the ground up, and nothing can tame Writer Brain, surprises will still arise. Eventually I’ll deviate from the plot plan. Sometimes, by the last third of the novel I’m writing all the planned plot points but they mean completely different things from what I expected.

I find planning extremely useful, particularly when I’m writing a story that has a lot of moving parts. But I think it’s important to accept it when one’s instinctive Writer Brain knows better.

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

Sometimes. My favorite way to write is in quiet, but I live in civilization and that’s not always possible. When I do write to music, it has to be entirely instrumental and not distracting. I listen to a lot of modernist cello, especially Zoe Keating and Hildur Gudnadottir, and modernist classical e.g. the Kronos Quartet.

But I find other kinds of music useful during the walking-around-thinking part of story development. Here I use playlists that draw on a lot of different genres, including traditional (e.g. Celtic) and all the flavors of rock. In this setting, lyrics can be useful springboards into thinking about my characters and their situations, in much the same way a song that speaks to you seems to be about your own life.


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

I am a publisher, and I’m here to subvert this question. I’ve been in the industry in one way or another for a long time, and it has been in a state of ongoing, world-shaking change for nearly two decades. That’s not going to end anytime soon. It’s confusing—but it offers writers more freedom than ever before. Publishers can offer real value to writers, but writers no longer need blindly accept whatever publisher is willing to take them on. In my experience the most important factor in a writer’s publishing life is not who publishes their work, but whether they make a good match.

Most publishing houses are businesses. They have to make payroll and pay rent. That means most publishers, particularly the big ones, can’t afford to put artistic sensibilities at the top of their priority lists; they must expect the writers they work with to approach what they do as guild craftspeople, not artists. Guild craftspeople show up for work every day and make what can be sold, in a timely fashion and without a lot of fuss. Have you ever seen a furniture maker experience creative block? It doesn’t happen, because they know what their market wants and show up every day to create it. For writers who aren’t wired to work that way, who want to pursue personal visions without regard for the imperatives of turning a profit, working under contract with a publisher is almost guaranteed to be a painful experience.

Naturally, the publishing house I run was founded as a way out of this mindset. But putting art first creates other problems, which I am still working to solve. Ultimately, the only way a writer will have a satisfying publishing experience is by figuring out what she wants out of her publishing life and choosing the appropriate publishing path. Happy publishing experiences, like happy marriages, arise from good matches in fundamental values and styles.

There are other ways to land in unhappy publishing situations, of course. There are quite a number of people operating in the publishing arena, whether as agents, publishers, or editors, who are either not interested in providing or not equipped to actually render the services for which writers engage them. Writers can protect themselves by checking up on the reputations of their potential publishing partners. (I’m including agents and editors here.) If a writer encounters someone who wants to work with her in any of these areas, doing the research—and being realistic—can save her much pain. (“Being realistic”? Here I mean taking off the rose-colored glasses. If people are complaining about somebody in the field, there’s probably something there, and you will probably not have a happy experience where others did not.)

Publishers have much to offer writers. But self-publishing is a truly viable option. Among other things, this means there is no reason for a writer to settle for a publisher that is not a good match for her own needs. If you handle your own publishing or choose a small press, an agent is probably not necessary early in your career, either.


Do you have a routine when you write?

To call it a routine might be overselling it. I have practices that make it easier and/or more fun. I am at my best in my study, at the desk that my daughter made just the right height by creating risers painted like planets for the legs. I like to wear a particular light jacket, weather permitting. Because I only wear this jacket at home, wearing it means I am—how can I say this without sounding nutty?—sort of invisible. This is important to my neurotic writer brain, because the sense that people are watching makes me self-conscious and thus unable to create.

I love to drink coffee or tea when I write, but I am learning to keep hydrated, so I keep it down to about a cup or so a day now. And sometimes, when I’m really in the groove, I light up some incense for atmosphere.


Who were your inspirations?

Like many genre writers, I had a life-altering encounter with the works of J.R.R. Tolkien as a kid. I still carry with me memories of what it was like to read those books before my innocent reader-eye was spoiled by working in the craft, and it helps me think about the experiences I want to create for my own readers. Other early inspirations included Roger Zelazny, Patricia McKillip, Anne McCaffrey, and all of world myth. Today I’m inspired by writers who are re-imagining genre for this century, whose works are informed by the way our society is growing into true respect and inclusion for all.


What book do you read over and over the most?

The Hero With a Thousand Faces by Joseph Campbell. Every time I read it, I take away something new about the universal phenomena of story and what they mean to humans. And it is one of my favorite tools for thinking about whatever story I’m working on.


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

I never stop recommending Building Better Plots by Robert Kernen. It never got the attention it deserved, and it’s out of print now, but you can still buy it used. For writers to whom plot doesn’t come easily, it’s a godsend.



What genre do you prefer to write?  To read?

I prefer to write speculative fiction, which is a catch-all term that includes fantasy, science fiction, horror, and works less easily classified. My ideas and works frequently blur the lines between genres, so I like that umbrella term.

As I reader, I mostly divide my time between spec fic and nonfiction. I’m constantly reading in a variety of disciplines as background for the fiction I write, and I also devour books on business and media as well as the craft of storytelling in all its forms.


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

I’m definitely a long-form writer. Most of the stories that appeal to me as a writer go beyond normal novel length, so I tend towards ultra-thick novels and series. This is because I’m a born synthesist: I love putting ideas together and figuring out how large systems work. And unlike many writers who tend toward the big ideas as the basis for their work, I am equally fascinated by deep, strange characters. Putting these things together yields books of, well, unusual size.


What are you working on now?

This area of my life in is always divided into at least two functions: creating and publishing. On the creative side, I’m working on The Heart of Darkness, the sequel to The Shadow of the Sun. It is doorstop-sized fantasy, the second of a series, which is what happens when ideas are too big for one book. On the publishing side, I’m in the process of developing a fairly radical new publishing model that I hope will address the problems of publishing art-first writers in today’s chaotic market. We’ll begin testing it next year.

Barbara Friend Ish 2015

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

In my experience, writer’s block means one of two things: either there’s something wrong with the story, or there’s something (probably depression) wrong with the writer. If my problem is psychological, I have to look at my life away from the keyboard. Because I wear a bunch of different hats, it’s far too easy for me to take on too much and burn myself out.

If that’s not the case, then there’s a problem with the story. Writer Brain is nonverbal, but knows all. If there’s a flaw in my plot or a gap in a character’s motivation, Writer Brain will simply halt all production. Then it’s my job to figure out what the problem is.

My method for this is analysis. I chart plot and character arcs against a variety of models; I read literary criticism. I’m a complete geek, but it works for me.


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

  1. There is no universal authority that anoints good writers and rejects bad ones. If a particular {reader/publisher/agent} doesn’t respond positively to your work, it doesn’t necessarily mean your work is bad. It may just be that you haven’t found the right market yet. (If it is bad, however, no one with whom you have a personal relationship is likely to tell you so. And anyone in your personal life who is willing to volunteer that sort of information is likely to be doing so out of a destructive impulse, whether conscious or not.)
  2. Every writer and every work, without exception, needs a professional editor. Your {mother/aunt/friend} who is a {teacher/paralegal/aspiring writer} does not count. If you are self-publishing, pay a professional to do this. If you are considering selling your work to a publisher, be sure their process includes having an editor work with you before publication.
  3. Always follow the submission guidelines. Every outlet has their own, and they are not arbitrary. Failing to follow the submission guidelines marks a writer as (a) too dim to understand them (b) too precious to work with or (c) both.



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

I use social media to keep in touch with and share things with friends and fans. I find it offputting when people use social media as an advertising medium. That doesn’t mean I don’t share news about my work with my friends and fans; evidently they want to know how the sequel to the book they liked is progressing, when I’ve released a novel, when I’ve written a blog post, where they can read an interview with me, etc. They’re pretty excited about contests that might get them cool stuff, particularly when the contest itself is fun. But most of us don’t want to be socially connected with people who spend all their bandwidth trying to sell us something or—heaven forfend—get us to spam/give up our friends as advertising fodder, and it would make me feel weird and dirty to try.

If you want to learn how to use social media as a professional artist, go read Tara Hunt’s The Whuffie Factor.



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

I do. These days it is a very common idea that reading one’s own reviews can only be destructive; I don’t think that’s true. We write stories in order to create experiences that affect our readers; reviews are frequently a window into the effect our work has. They can be hard to read, and sometimes just plain wrong; but if we can muster the discipline to analyze how our work is being received, we may learn ways to improve our craft, our marketing efforts, or both.

Naturally, every writer has to maintain his own mental health practices, and some simply can’t tolerate reading reviews. Others can’t restrain the impulse to fight with reviewers they think are wrong, or lash out when they feel hurt by what they’ve read. Anybody in these categories should stay away from their own reviews (and, incidentally, from googling themselves). There is never anything good a writer can accomplish by arguing with readers about their own work, irrespective of the venue in which the fight goes down. Winning such a fight makes a writer a bully; losing makes him, at best, a fool. I’ve seen writers do irreparable damage to their reputations that way.

However, under certain circumstances I think it’s not only all right but appropriate to respond to reviews. In particular, if a reader-blogger goes to the trouble to review your work, a “thank you” note is a nice gesture, whether or not you agree with all of their conclusions. (Unless, of course, the blogger in question is explicitly opposed to being in contact with writers. Some are.) Reader-bloggers are almost always unpaid for their work, and they represent one of the most important avenues of book discovery (i.e., how readers find new books). They can be powerful allies—and getting a “thank you” often really matters to them.


Thanks Barbara. To learn more about her, click below:


Guest Holiday Author: Derrick Ferguson

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:

Derrick Ferguson 

My Author Photo 

First, a little something about Derrick in his own words.

My name is Derrick Ferguson and I’m from Brooklyn, New York where I have lived for most of my still young life.  Been married for 28 years to the wonderful Patricia Cabbagestalk-Ferguson who lets me get away with far more than is good for me.

My interests include radio/audio drama, Classic Pulp from the 30’s/40’s/50’s and New Pulp being written today, Marvel/DC fan fiction, Star Trek in particular and all Science Fiction in general, animation, television, movies, cooking, loooooong road trips and casual gaming on the Xbox 360.

Running a close second with writing as an obsession is my love of movies.  I’m currently the co-host of the BETTER IN THE DARK podcast where my partner Thomas Deja and I rant and rave about movies on a bi-weekly basis.

I’m also a rotating co-host of the PULPED! podcast along with Tommy Hancock, Ron Fortier and Barry Reese where we interview writers of the New Pulp Movement as well as discuss the various themes, topics, ebb and flow of what New Pulp is and why you should be reading it.

And now we come to the part where I blurb and brag about the books I’ve written:

DILLON AND THE VOICE OF ODIN and DILLON AND THE LEGEND OF THE GOLDEN BELL are the first two books featuring my signature character, a charismatic, daring and highly skilled black adventurer/mercenary named Dillon.  Check out the DILLON blog  http://dillon-dlferguson.blogspot.com/ for more info.

DERRICK FERGUSON’S MOVIE REVIEW NOTEBOOK and THE RETURN OF DERRICK FERGUSON’S MOVIE REVIEW NOTEBOOK are two volumes of my movie reviews.  For current reviews feel free to check out THE FERGUSON THEATER https://derricklferguson.wordpress.com/

That’s it for now.  Anything else you wanna know, just ask!


Let’s get started:


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

I started writing when I was in elementary school. I would write these Edgar Rice Burroughs inspired stories using my classmates as the characters. I’d write a “chapter” on both sides of a piece of loose leaf paper and it would get passed around the classroom. When I got it back I’d write another ‘chapter” and so it would go until the story was finished.

I also was infatuated with Mad Magazine’s “Spy vs. Spy” for some bizarre reason and wrote story after story about them. I made up some weird convoluted backstory for them that they were twins separated at birth. One was raised in a ‘good’ country and the other one in an ‘evil’ country. I also wrote what is now called superhero fan fiction. I’d make up my own stories with my favorite superheroes. I did that well into my teen-age years. I had five or six spiral notebooks in my book bag but only one of them was for my schoolwork. The rest was for me to write down my stories.

I don’t think I actually ‘decided’ to be a writer until my mid-teens. I kept on bugging my father for a typewriter and that’s when I felt like I really wanted to be a writer.


Where do your ideas come from?

Who the hell knows? So many things inspire me. Italian musclemen/sword-and-sandal movies. Westerns in print and on TV and movies. Robert E. Howard. Marvel and DC comic books. 1970s/1980s grindhouse. Blaxploitation. Detective fiction (my father turned me onto Shell Scott, Boysie Oakes and Matt Helm) Ian Fleming. Doc Savage. Ray Harryhausen movies. Virtually everything I’ve ever read or seen goes into the boiling pit that is my subconscious and comes out in my fiction.


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

I don’t do it consciously but I think that it’s impossible for any writer not to cherry pick traits and mannerisms and character bits from people we know or our favorite actors. After all, a large part of being a writer is observing people so it’s inevitable that the people we know personally or see in TV and movies find their way into our fiction. I’ve gotten used to having friends or family who have read a book of mine call me up to ask me; “You based this character on me, didn’t you?” I let ‘em think so. It makes ‘em happy.


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

I make it up as I go usually. I actually have a lot of admiration and respect for those writers who plot our every last single detail of their stories on 3×5 cards and have diagrams of their plot breakdowns on charts. I can’t do that because if I did all that exhaustive preparation then I’d have no desire to write the story. I don’t even like to talk about a current WIP because I need that pressure at the keyboard. I really don’t like to know all the details of a story I’m writing because I like to surprise myself. And I figure that if I can surprise myself then I damn sure can surprise a reader.

I usually start out with a beginning and an end and four or five scenes that somewhere go in the middle. But how I get to those scenes I trust to my subconscious and years of experience. That and the fact that I just plain flat out enjoy making this stuff up.


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

I never listen to music while I’m writing my first drafts. That’s because I have to give my undivided attention to the film that’s playing on my Mental Movie Screen and listen to the dialog, the background sounds and study the scenery and special effects in detail. Once I finish the first draft then I can relax and listen to music while I’m doing the second and third drafts.

What kind of music do I listen to then? It all depends on what I’m writing. If it’s a Sebastian Red story I’m listening to Ennio Morricone and Gangstagrass. If I’m writing a Dillon novel its 1970s/1980s music and Motown with a healthy mix of whatever is currently popular. Movie soundtracks are always great to listen to while writing.


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

Oh, Dillon, of course. I’ve lived with him in my head for so long it’s like he’s a family member. Meeting him for dinner would be an event, I’m sure.

Which character of another author would I want to meet? Probably Sherlock Holmes. How can I pass up a chance to meet The Great Detective himself? And meeting Holmes would be relatively safe, I think. Too many other characters I like get themselves into horrifically violent situations I might get caught up in. I don’t wanna meet them that bad


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

Of my novels I’d have to say that THE VRIL AGENDA which I co-wrote with Joshua Reynolds is the one story where it actually turned out much better than I thought it would be. I drop kick humility out the window when it comes to that book. Josh and I knocked that sucker clean out of the park. I’m proud of all my Dillon novels but that one has so much in it that has Dillon as the link of Classic Pulp Heroes to the Age of New Pulp Heroes. And working with Josh was nothing less than spectacular. He’s not only one of the most imaginative and talented writers I know, he’s also one of the most generous. Anytime I asked him if I could this or that with Jim Anthony he said; “Sure, go ahead.” And he never tried to micromanage what I was doing with his characters. I appreciated that kind of trust.

Of my short stories, I think that my first Sebastian Red story; “Of All The Sins A Lover Bears” is the best. When I’m asked to describe my Sebastian Red stories I always say that they’re my idea of what might have occurred if Sergio Leone and Michael Moorcock had ever collaborated on a western. “Of All The Sins A Lover Bears” nails that concept perfectly. And it’s got a love story in there at the heart of it and I rarely write a love story so I’m proud of that.


How much do you write each day/week?

That’s difficult to say because I have good days/weeks and I have bad days/weeks. On a good day I can turn out between 3 to 5K. On a bad day it’s more around 2K.


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

There are actually only three publishers I’ve had experience with. Tommy Hancock of Pro Se Productions I’ve known for so long that you’d think I was lying if I told you exactly how long. He’s infuriating and exasperating at times but that’s because he’s so excited about what he’s doing and he wants to share that excitement with the world. We fuss and bicker like an old married couple when discussing projects but I’ll tell you this; if more people involved in New Pulp had Tommy dedication and commitment to what he’s doing, we’d have a lot more better written New Pulp.

Captain Ron Fortier of Airship 27 has probably spoiled me and indulged me way too much. Anytime I come to him with a project he says; “Fine! Terrific! Go write it up and send it to me!” I don’t think he’s ever said no to anything I’ve pitched to him. What more can a writer ask of a publisher?

A publisher I’ve recently started working with is David Edwards of Imperiad Entertainment. David’s a writer and filmmaker who has created this outrageously outré Lovecraftian universe of characters and concepts. He’s written a couple of novels and written/directed a movie; “Nightscape.” He asked me if I would be interested in playing in his sandbox and I said sure. I’ve written one novel so far for him: “The Thousand-Eyed Fear” a World War I pulp adventure and there’s more to come. I’ll be doing a weird western for him as well as a sequel to “The Thousand-Eyed Fear” And like Tommy and Ron, he trusts me to just go off and do my thing, knowing that I’ll deliver. That kind of trust you can’t buy. It has to be earned.


Who were your inspirations?

Sit back and make yourself comfortable. Here we go:

Piers Anthony. Steven Barnes. Leigh Brackett. Ray Bradbury. Edgar Rice Burroughs. Stephen J. Cannell. George C. Chesbro. Clive Cussler. Samuel R. Delany. Lester Dent. Alexandre Dumas. Will Eisner. Harlan Ellison. Ian Fleming. Dashiell Hammett. Chester Himes. Robert E. Howard. Langston Hughes. Joel Jenkins. Joe R. Lansdale. Stan Lee. Robert R. McCammon. Walter Mosley. Larry McMurtry. Michael Moorcock. John Ostrander. Ishmael Reed. Mike Resnick. Joshua Reynolds. Charles Saunders. Jim Steranko. Andrew Vachss. Jules Verne. Cornell Woolrich. Roger Zelazny.


What book do you read over and over the most?

If we’re talking about non-fiction: “Techniques of The Selling Writer” by Dwight V. Swain. I’ve owned a copy of this book ever since I first read it in the 1970s. The best book about writing I’ve ever read. It’s safe to say that I re-read it every two or three months.

As for fiction…that’s a tough one. I can’t really single out any one fiction book I’ve read more than another.


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

Oh, tons of ‘em. But the main one I really want to do? For years I’ve had the plot for an Expendables/League of Extraordinary Gentlemen type of story but with Blaxploitation characters. But I have no idea who owns the rights to the characters I want to use or how I would even go about getting permission to use them.

People keep telling me to make up pastiches and go ahead and do it but I don’t wanna. It just wouldn’t be the same.


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

Fortune McCall, without a doubt. He’s insanely wealthy, travels around the world on a luxurious gambling ship, has a crew of loyal friends he has amazing adventures with and if that ain’t enough, he’s an African prince. Wherever he goes he’s always the smartest and coolest cat in the room. Yeah, living the life of Fortune McCall would be awfully sweet, I should think.


What genre do you prefer to write?  To read?

My genre of choice now and has been for the past 15, 20 years has been pulp action/adventure. I used to write science fiction but for some reason I drifted away from that. Writing Pulp just seems to get the fuses in my brain firing the same way when I was a kid reading Doc Savage, The Shadow and John Carter of Mars.

I read everything. Really. I’m a big believer that writers shouldn’t turn up their noses at anything except for badly written prose. I’m really into biographies now. But for pure pleasure I go with Robert E. Howard, Michael Moorcock or Mike Resnick.


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

Novels. Because I tend to write long anyway. Tell me to write you a 10K word story and the first draft will end up being 20K. Tell me to write you a 50K word novel and the first draft will end up being 70 or 80K. Writing a novel it’s easier for for me to trim away the fat in the second or third draft than doing that with a short story. Despite that, I am pretty pleased with the short stories I’ve done.


What are you working on now?

I’m co-writing a Dillon story with a friend of mine, Erik Fromme: “Dillon and The City of Stone.” He came up with the idea and wrote a couple of thousand words. That’s when I brutally bullied my way into and insisted that I co-write it with him. Erik will tell you a different story but that pretty much what happened.

I’m also doing research on the World War I flying ace Eugene Bullard, known as ‘The Black Swallow of Death’ with the intention of writing a novel inspired by his real life adventures.


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

I don’t believe in Writer’s Block so no, it’s not a problem for me.


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

I’m still trying to figure that out. I have three blogs and between them I think I do a fairly good job of connecting with people who have read and enjoyed my books and connecting with my fellow writers, all of which is important to me. I’m fairly active on Facebook but still don’t have a single clue as to how to use Twitter. I’ve read articles and such that insist that I need to spend a certain amount of time each day on a dozen different social media platforms to sell books but if I did that, when would I have time to write?

I think that the one thing a lot of writers ignore about social media is the ‘social’ part. It’s not enough to just keep posting links on Facebook and Twitter to your Amazon page and saying over and over again; “Please buy my book!” because there are 1,021 other writers that are doing the exact same thing. Not that I’m saying don’t do it. Hey, it’s free and not costing you anything but time. And hey, you’re on Facebook and Twitter most of the day anyway, right?

What I am saying is that in order to sell your books I firmly believe that you have to sell you. Tell a funny story about something that happened to your family over the weekend. Give your opinion about the current political climate. Talk about your favorite movies (hey, don’t knock it. You know how many readers I’ve picked up thanks to my movie review blog?) and TV shows. Talk about how you feel about anything and everything that comes to your mind and for Odin’s sake don’t be afraid of offending somebody. You’re going to offend somebody anyway, trust me. I think you’ll be surprised at the response that you get.

“But I don’t like to do promotion or connect with people or hang out on Facebook and Twitter. I don’t want to do any of that stuff. I just want people to buy my books!” Well, I can’t help you there. I can only suggest what works for me. If you don’t like to do your own promotion, ask or hire somebody else to do it, then. You don’t wanna connect with people, fine. There have been plenty of reclusive writers who have gone on to be famous and rich. Maybe you’ll be one of ‘em.



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

I read all reviews of my books. And I’ve always thanked a reviewer for their review, good or bad.

This is the way I see it and have always seen it: when somebody reads something I’ve written they are paying for it in coin more valuable than money. They have given up valuable time out of their life that they will never get back to read my book or story. As far as I’m concerned, that gives them the right to say anything they like about my book or story in any language they see fit.

I do not subscribe to the babyish whining of some writers that reviewers should “be nice” or that they should only write reviews if they’re positive ones. If you put your work out there in the world for people to see then you have to take the good with the bad. Not everybody out there is going to love your darling the way you do and it’s best to grow a thick skin or develop some other way of dealing with bad reviews. I know quite a few writers who don’t read reviews at all, good or bad.

I see that we’ve come to the end of the questions so now is the perfect time for me to thank you for this opportunity, Alan. It was most thoughtful and generous of you to allow me this time to run my mouth for a bit. If anybody is interested in my work or further discussion on anything I’ve said here, you can find me on Facebook. And I’ve got three blogs where you can find out more about what I write:



Thanks Derrick. To find out more about him, click the links below:

BLOOD & INK http://dlferguson-bloodandink.blogspot.com/

DILLON https://derrickferguson1.wordpress.com/

THE FERGUSON THEATER https://derricklferguson.wordpress.com/

Author, Editor, Part-time Werewolf