Authors' Lounge

This is where authors and readers meet. Explore similar interests, discover genres new and old, and connect at a deeper level. Find your new favorite book, or your new beloved author. If you haven't heard of these names, you're missing out!

Browse the lounge and learn more about these many skilled and passionate writers.

Every one has a story to tell...
What's yours?


Damon Marbut /Brook Syers/Jodie Pierce

Alesha Escobar/Engelia McCullough/Sebastian Briglia

Dylan Morgan/Marquita Herald/Edward Petty

Melissa McCarter/David Jester/William Bortz

Clive Hindle/Alan Phillips/JB Stilwell/Mark Sasse

Clarissa Cartharn/Caliph Shaquel/Mark Knight

John Harper/Tim Chante/Robert Fuller

Mari Hamill/Joshua Smith/Sandra Lopez

Ty Johnston/R.J. Spears/Chris Stevenson

Travis Hill/Ben McQueeney

And if you're looking for other great, inexpensive books like those written by these inspiring authors, look no further...


Meet the Drifter, Dabbler, and Inspirational Writer, Tim Chante

So why don't you tell us about yourself... what defines you?

It’s hard to define me, even for me. As soon as I say I’m this or that, it feels redundant, or a lie. I guess basically most would see me as a sort of reject from the UK middle class, who’s had over 25 different and unrelated jobs, lived in numerous places both here and abroad and basically spent a lot of his life drifting and watching what everyone else is up to.

Seems you've been around the block. So how about your writing?

My writing is intended to be upbeat and inspirational. It feels good to write, so I hope feels good to read. I don’t like writing that creates feelings of pain or fear – real life does that well enough. For me, writing is about helping us connect, not separate.

And what's your fuel?

Saying things I want to say; showing my insides. It comes in fits and bursts. I don’t plan a story or book; a story tends to grow around something I want to say. In the end, the main reason I write is to hopefully know I’m not alone.

Speaking of not being alone, what advice can you offer to other passionate writers?

Write for yourself. It is an act that’s a bit like open heart surgery. If you can pretend no one else will ever read it, it’s easier.

What has been the biggest bump in the road for you?

Sometimes it can be hard to slow down and really explain or express something. I am more interested in story than description, so tend to underwrite the backgrounds.

Do your characters' struggles usually reflect your own life's?

Very much. Each one represents an aspect of me – although I see parts of me in everyone. But yes, I play out my internal worlds through my writing. I think most writers must do: writing seems to be making the inner world visible, or at least, the most interesting writing is.

Who or what is the source of your inspiration?

Observation. Questions and the previous incorrect answers I’ve temporarily believed.

‘Why’ interests me more than ‘what’, so I write to share, to explore, to free myself (and hopefully others), and to have fun with who and what we are.

Alright... Now give us a delicious morsel that nobody would guess about you! BOOM:

I’ve run over myself, with my own car, and got pinned underneath it.

Well, that's...

Connect with Tim

Kindle US -

Paperback US -

Kindle UK -

Paperback UK -

Goodreads Link:


Meet Game Fiction Writer, John Harper

For those who don't know you... who are you and from where have you come?

My name is John Harper and I hail from Wellington, New Zealand.

Tell us about your work.

I'm writing a novel that is an official tie-in novel for Elite:Dangerous, a computer game being released in March 2014. It's a story about space travel set in 3300 and it involves a race against the clock and a journey of personal discovery. One of the major themes of the work is freedom and history, being bound by your past, and how your past dictates your future.

What fuels your craft?

I've always wanted to be a writer. When I was five years old I stood up before school assembly and read out my 'novelisation' of the movie Short Circuit. It had a wall paper cover and was about ten pages, complete with illustrations by yours truly. From that point on writing has always been a part of my life.

For this project in particular, it comes down to one word: passion. The original game of Elite was something of a life changer for me. I started playing it in 1988 ish as a 6-7 year old. It was so completely different to any other game in history. As a small kid I had my own space ship and complete and unrestricted access to the in-game galaxy. There were no rules. I could do what I want, make money how I wanted, go where I wanted. It was freedom and it was space. My love of space grew from this game. But I also learnt a lot of life lessons from this game. How economies worked, what classical music was, I learnt about velocities and celestial mechanics and fancy words like platinum and alloys and industrial. I played this game to the destruction of my Atari ST, trying to get across the in-game galaxy in one afternoon. Smoke poured from the vents and the game went bye-bye. I played the sequels with equal passion and I've co-written a large (we're talking approaching one millions words) space opera style fan fiction piece for the game. This game is in my blood. And now I'm writing official fiction for the game universe.

What advice can you offer to other passionate writers?

Everyone will have advice for you and it will all conflict. You have to apply a sanity check against every lesson you learn. A better way, in my opinion, is to ignore online advice. Instead find an author and a book that YOU think is written well. Find good sequences in the book and type them out, word for word, line for line. At that level you can actually see how the sentences are pieced together, how long they are, where they pause, where they speed up, and then you can figure out how to emulate their structural greatness.

What do you find to be the best promotional tool?

I think a regularly updated website is your best tool. With a website you can collect a database of email followers and really involve fans in your progress in writing and editing with progress updates and the link. I do a podcast as well where I talk to people in the Elite community and involving them in this is a real hit too.

What has been the biggest bump in the road for you?

The biggest bump was probably coming up with a genius synopsis and getting it black flagged by the developer of the computer game. I basically had to redesign the last half of the story. But it was a blessing in disguise as it made me come up with an even better idea.

Do your characters' struggles usually reflect your own life's?

No, not really, but all my characters have an important relationship with their father, either positive or negative, as being a father this is something of deep personal interest to me. I view myself as a father first above all else and doing a good job at that is paramount to me. I like to explore both directions in my stories.

Who or what is the source of your inspiration?

There are a few authors out there whose work I enjoy and I try to take the good parts of how they do what they do to my own text. But what inspires me? The dream of being a full time novelist, of writing stories that I want to read and have others read them. I guess you could say that Space itself is my inspiration. I used to pour over space books, stare up at the sky, day and night, and just imagine. .

Alright... Now give us a delicious morsel that nobody would guess about you! BOOM:

I'm a pretty boring person . . . these days. My youth was filled with stupid and sometimes illegal things, but that’s par the course for a teenage male. How about: Once I'm finished this novel I'm going to get back into running and run a full Marathon in May next year.

Connect With John


Paranormal Powers: Getting to Know Mark Knight

For those who don't know you... who are you and where do you live?

Well, I grew up in America, living everywhere from California to Boston, son of an Irish father and a British mother who had immigrated to the US shortly before I was born. It was while I was still a young teenager living in Massachusetts that I discovered that I wanted to write, because I loved strange tales, be it science fiction, ghost stories, or horror. I started with short stories, then novels. Of course, those early ones were dire. But I knew I wanted to be a published author one day. Our family moved to Ireland where I finished school and also completed my first novel, a space adventure. In the early 80s I moved to the UK. Since then, I have been writing novels, screenplays, and the occasional short story. Now I concentrate mostly on Young Adult urban fantasy, which I found to be the most fun to write.

Tell us about your book, Blood Family.

Blood Family is a different kind of vampire book. That was always my premise. I wanted to write about vampires, keeping all the tried-and-tested cool elements intact – the vampire’s strength, blood-lust, etc – but adding new elements to the lore, especially to what vampires were, their origins. The theory of other dimensions have always fascinated me. What if, I thought, vampires were interdimensonal creatures that took over the bodies of humans, transforming them and making them into the fanged bloodsuckers we know and love? And what if one of those bloodsuckers then sired a child with a human? That half-vampire child would have quite a life, especially if he knew nothing of his true parentage. Daniel Dark starts off that way, a normal teenager. Then he finds out what he is, and everything changes. That sets him on a quest, and an extremely perilous one, to confront his vampire father and find his birth mother, utilizing his emerging vampire powers along the way.

What drives you?

Really, I just wanted to write a vampire story that would entertain me, that was new and fresh and exciting. I loved vampire tales but always longed to see new elements added, or a fresh approach. I guess I started off by asking myself what if I found out that I was part vampire. What would I do? Would I freak out? Would I keep it quiet? Would I totally go for it and rip up the town, showing off my powers? I knew it would be important to make my main character very normal at the start, so that the reader could relate to that. We then discover his dormant vampire powers as Daniel discovers them. I think that is very important. If we meet Daniel as a powerful vampire right from page one, we can’t really relate. We have to have to meet him, first, the person. Warts and all.

Any words of wisdom for other authors?

Do lots of research! I knew nothing of self publishing until I read what actual, successful self-published authors did. Like Lindsay Buroker. She has a podcast series and blog which explains what she did, and what works. I did everything she did, and avoided what she said to avoid. Other than that, don’t give up. Your first ever novel won’t be your opus. You will have to write several. You only find out how to write novels by writing novels. But the process is fun, not a chore. Or it certainly shouldn’t be!

What's the best way to get your work the attention it deserves?

If you write something good, people will love it enough to tell their friends. Social networking if fine, but in the end it is down to good old world of mouth!

What's your biggest hurdle thus far?

I signed to an agent who then got me a meeting with a publisher. Well, in the end, it didn’t work out. The publisher wanted too many changes made to the heart of my book. Maybe I should have just bitten the bullet and made the changes. It was hard to give that up, but now I am an indie author and it is turning out to be an exciting ride!

Are your characters a reflection of you?

Yup! I always see myself in my characters; they are all facets of myself, especially the main character. I guess, in a way, you are living vicariously through them. There are things which you fantasize about, powers you would have. But ultimately you end up creating avatars of yourself where you throw obstacles at them and see how they—you—overcome them. It is very therapeutic. Isn’t there some weird theory that says that we are all characters that someone else is writing about? That would explain a lot of the obstacles in our lives!

Where does your motivation come from?

I do love some of the older authors like Tolkien, John Christopher, and John Wyndham. Something about that older style of writing that really gets to me. And you can’t beat Jules Verne and HG Wells! They were the fathers of wonderfully weird storytelling.

Alright... Now let's get personal... Something most people don't know about you...

I have had quite a few paranormal experiences myself in my life. UFO sightings, ghostly presences, weird voices. And I am pretty skeptical – most of the time you can explain stuff away, but there are times when you just can’t. When I was researching Blood Family, I stayed at a 14th century inn located in Devon, which was the basis for the Old Rectory Inn which Daniel stays in. At night, while trying to sleep, I could feel someone close to my bed, moving about. I turned on the light and – no one there. Later I found out that not only was the Inn reputed to be haunted, but my room was the haunted one. If I weren’t so into this subject, I might have freaked. But really I just become intrigued and want to know more!

Connect with Mark

Mark's website:

Blood Family website:

Mark on Facebook:,knight.7792


Purchase Blood Family:


Meet Vampire Writer JB Stilwell

Let's begin with your life. Who are you outside of writing?

I'm a career mom. I have a job outside of writing and a family - which often makes it difficult to find time to write. My family comes first and unfortunately my second job comes next so I can financially help to support my family. My dream is to be able to write full-time so I can spend more time at home with my daughter.

Now tell us about your latest work.

My debut novel "The Source - A Mountain State Vampire Novel" was released in August 2012. It's a paranormal romance/thriller set in the heart of Appalachia. The story follows Dr. Emma Burcham who takes a research job with the U.S. government to develop a type of weapon to be used for vampire crime prevention. The book takes place after vampires have gone public and are being accepted into U.S. society. Yet there is still the problem of criminal vampires who pose a greater challenge because no human prison can contain them. As the story develops, Emma is forced to question her own beliefs about things as she works closely on the project with another scientist, Dr. Rick Allstedt, who just happens to be a vampire. "The Source" is the first book in a series I'm developing - The Mountain State Vampire Series. I'm currently working on the sequel, entitled "Mining the Dark," which is scheduled to be released Spring 2013.

What drives your writing?

My daydreams inspire my writing. Since I was young my mind would always wander and develop different scenarios and sometimes those scenarios would build upon one another until I had a full story with a distinct beginning and ending. One day I start writing these daydreams down and that's how I got my start as an amateur storyteller.

How would you advise like-minded authors?

My best advice is just write. I spent so many years making excuses or convincing myself that I didn't have time, wasn't good enough or that my ideas were already overplayed by other writers. Where did that get me? Twenty years of time where I could've published but didn't, and I have no one to blame but myself. Regardless of the negative internal dialog, just write! Get your stories out there. You'll be surprised at the people you find who enjoy your work, even if you think others have done it better.

How do you promote your writing?

Word of mouth is the best promotional tool. One person sees your work and tells others. Those people see it and tell even more. In the digital age, Twitter is the best vehicle for this. I also use Facebook and my blog on Wordpress. But so far I haven't been able to get the reach in those social media like I have on Twitter.

What do you consider the biggest roadblock?

The biggest roadblock is me. Letting myself listen to any negative internal dialog. That's the biggest way to ruin a career of any sort. Finding ways to turn the volume down on that dialog will open you up to so many possibilities. One of my favorite things to do is when those negative things come to mind, I do the exact opposite of what they're telling me. It's a great way to challenge yourself and there's amazing success to be had in that - in everything you do in life.

Do your characters' struggles usually reflect your own life's?

Sometimes. I like to build my characters based on personality types, but I can definitely see different aspects of my own personality in a couple of the characters. It's always cathartic when one of my characters is confronted with a situation that I can relate to; unfortunately the characters don't always react the way I would. But, that's how I know I'm keeping true to the characters and not writing a story that is just me with different names.

What authors have inspired you?

My biggest inspirations growing up were Mary Shelley and Anne Rice. Today I read various paranormal authors like Charlaine Harris, Laurell K. Hamilton, Kim Harrison, Keri Arthur, P.C. & Kristin Cast, Richelle Mead and my biggest current inspiration, J.R. Ward. To me she is a true author. She transcends storytelling into the realm of literary affect. Her use of simile and metaphor in her writing outshines most authors writing today.

And finally... tell us something strange, unique and/or shocking about you - Go!

I met my husband online in 2005, which isn't shocking in this day and age. What makes my story slightly different is that we met online while I was in the U.S. and he was in India. As coincidence would have it, my company asked me to work in India for six months right after he and I had started chatting. And it just so happens that they sent me to a location that relatively close to where he lived. During a weekend trip with coworkers, he and I met face to face and we have been together ever since.

Thanks again for the opportunity!

Connect with JB

"The Source"


Goodreads Profile

Facebook Fan Page

Twitter @JBStilwell


Meet Caliph Shaquel

So let's start with you. How would you describe yourself?

I would describe myself as a creative writer and a leader.

Who are you and what drives you, outside of writing?

I'm driven by teaching others and being a good example for young men who are lost with no direction. Creativity also drives me.

Tell us about your latest book. What's it about and who does it target?

I just released The Coochie Blizzard in November of 2012, and the book targets women, by informing them of what to look for in a relationship. It also teaches them how to know the difference between Mr. Right and Mr. Right Now

What inspired this work?

I was inspired by my daughters difficulties in selecting quality men as teens. I felt it was important to share with all women, the same lessons I had shared with them.

When it comes to writing in general, what fuels you?

I'm fueled by frustration, the frustration that causes men to hate one another based off of false stories that were told in history. That alone, drives me to write and to write the truth.

What advice would you give to aspiring authors?

I would tell aspiring authors to learn how to tell a good story in their own words rather than trying to write the next great novel. Being honest to themselves will open the doors to many great opportunities.

What have you done to promote your work?

We advertise through social media, newspaper ads, and word of mouth. But right now we are working with book clubs, and radio stations, and we are schedule to do tv interviews this month.

What do you consider the biggest roadblock in the process?

The biggest road block is developing a viable marketing strategy that will peek the public's interest enough to buy the book.

How closely does your writing reflect your life?

My writing is very reflective of the way I feel. I make it a point to talk about subject matters that interest me, and I hope that I tell the story well enough that it will interest other people as well.

And your favorite authors?

Alex Haley, Lerone Bennett Jr, Dr John Henry Clark, and David Walker.

Anything shocking to share?

All of the stories in my new book The Coochie Blizzard is true, and I had to change the names of people to protect their innocence.

Connect with Caliph

The Coochie Blizzard:




Meet the Worldly Mark Sasse

So let's start with you. How would you describe yourself? Who are you and what drives you, outside of writing?

Teacher. Dad. Baseball lover. A little eclectic, actually. I have wide interests. I taught ESL in Vietnam for 10 years and then came back to America and taught history. From history I moved into teaching drama and drama writing which brought me full circle to love as an undergraduate – creative writing. Thus, the novel. I currently teach history and drama in Malaysia with my amazing family (I have three kids.) Life is good!

Tell us about your latest book. What's it about and who does it target?

My novel Beauty Rising directly has arisen from my experiences of living in Vietnam which profoundly impacted my way of thinking and my outlook on life. I wanted to create a Vietnam novel that is not about the war – there a many novels about that. I wanted to put flesh and blood on modern day Vietnam and let people see what an amazing country it is. I wrapped it all around a fascinating story of Martin, a young man from PA who is tasked by his dying father (a Vietnam vet) to take his ashes and spread them in Vietnam. As he steps out to do this, he has his wallet stolen by the troubled Vietnamese girl My Phuong. This puts both of their lives on an unlikely collision course.

Beauty Rising is a work of general/literary fiction with strong themes of love, family, & redemption. I’d like to believe that anyone who likes a plot-driven story, told at a fast pace with rigidly drawn characters will appreciate it. At least I hope!

When it comes to writing in general, what fuels you?

It really doesn’t take much to fuel my writing. Typically it is one simple idea that randomly pops in my head and I know immediately what I need to do with it. From there, I find that writing is actually more about discovery. I never know where my stories will take me. Writing is a type of creative discovery for me. It’s just fun, so I’ve learned to write for myself. If other people enjoy, all the better!

What advice would you give to aspiring authors?

Just write. That sounds simple, but I went 20 years without heeding my own advice. I had the classic writer’s self-doubt. “I have nothing original to say.” “Somebody else can say it better.” “I’m not good enough.” I’ve come to realize that none of that matters. If you love to write, just write. Use it as your creative outlet and I promise you that if you have the passion to be a writer, you’ll surprise yourself and maybe a few others along the way.

What have you done to promote your work?

We all love promotion, don’t we? Well, I’m going all-in on Beauty Rising because it’s a story I believe in. I’ll be doing some blog tours, guest posts and author interviews on various sites. I’m building up the number of respected bloggers and sites who have agreed to review it. I’ve started doing some targeting advertising which will increase in the coming months. And, of course, word of mouth. I have a wonderful base of readers who have read it already and they have been diligently passing on the word.

What do you consider the biggest roadblock in the process?

I think the biggest roadblock is being an unknown author. Readers don’t know who Mark W. Sasse is. Is my book worth it? That’s what I have to prove. But I’m planning on being in the business for the long haul. That’s why I already finished writing my second novel even though I’m just releasing my first. And the third one is on the way in 2013. Hopefully the wave of quality work over a few year period will build up a loyal following. If not, I’m still having a blast.

How closely does your writing reflect your life?

Beauty Rising is personal in many ways because it reflects a lot of the experiences I had in Vietnam. Even the opening chapter of the novel where Martin’s wallet is stolen is based exactly on a situation that happened to me. So the framework of Vietnam and Martin’s hometown of Lyndora, PA very much reflects my upbringing and experiences. Then I just let my imagination run wild.

What authors have inspired your writing?

I’ve always loved Hemingway. His simple, readable style which is dialogue driven definitely influenced me. I never liked to read long chapters and so my style reflects that. Some people like it. I suppose some don’t, but that’s who I am.

Anything shocking to share?

My life is not so shocking. I like to keep the shocking circumstances and the unforeseen twists and turns for my plotlines! Lol

Connect with Mark

Beauty Rising link:

Amazon author page:

Author Blog:


Meet Clarissa Cartharn

Let's start by getting to know you. What's life like outside of your writing?

Outside of writing is basically everyday and regular. Mother and wife duties which would include the common routines that most women in similar roles would likely be carrying through. However, I quite enjoy it and see it as an exciting extension of myself. I humorously call them my alter egos. My real life is the world my characters from my stories live in.

Now what about your work?

Work is what I used to do- my legal career. I have taken a break from that to pursue my passion for writing. Although I do intend to return to it someday as I quite enjoyed that aspect of life as well.

What inspires your writing?

I suppose anything. The thing is I genuinely love to write. So I kind of find inspiration anywhere.

What advice would you give to aspiring authors?

Ultimately the one that can make your dreams to become an author is you, yourself. So keep believing in yourself and never stop dreaming. Dreaming is the essence of creativity.

How do you typically promote?

Connecting with authors through social networking and bloggers.

What do you consider the biggest roadblock?

As an author, my biggest roadblock is writer's block. I hate it when it happens. There is no creativity flow. Nothing and absolutely nothing happens when I suffer from one. What could be murderous to a writer than killing their creativity? Urgh!!

How much of your life is reflected in your characters?

There is a little of me and my life in each of my characters. I suppose it can't be avoided can it? I mean they both sprout from this one brain that I have. I think it would be terribly difficult to completely sever yourself from the characters that you create. There is bound to be a little of yourself in each of them.

Which writers have inspired you?

I don't know if there is any one writer that has inspired me. I am more inspired by their works rather. For example I love Jane Austen's Pride & Prejudice. But I find her "Emma" infuriating to read and terribly boring. After so many years, I still am struggling to complete it.

But as a brief scope I would say:

Romance: Pride & Prejudice, Elizabeth Gaskell's North & South

Action/Thriller: Robert Ludlum's The Bourne Identity

Adventure: William Golding's Lord of the Flies

Crime: Franz Kafka's The Trial

Realism: Thomas Hardy's Return of the Native

Horror: Stephen King's The Shining

Fantasy: J.R.R Tolkien's The Hobbit


Meet the man of many stories, Alan Phillips

Alright, so we're gonna get personal here. Tell the awesome viewers of this blog what you're all about.

First let me say that I hate talking about myself and so this question has sent my heart rate soaring and at my age, 75, that could be a problem. A truthful description would be that I am a loner. I am single and always have been, I don't have a wide circle of friends but those I do have I tend to hang on to them for grim death. Most I have known for over fifty years, one guy I met in the RAF before he was married so I have known him longer than his wife, but not as well! Judi was lodging with my grandmother when I met her, she was eighteen – I was around twenty-seven – although she now lives in Switzerland we still keep in touch. Other friends are all ex work colleagues and as I retired twenty-two years ago, you can see I have known them for quite a time too.

I have always travelled a lot and from 1960 after I was demobbed from the Royal Air Force, I have been abroad every year for at least one holiday usually on my own as the friends I did have were too busy getting married and raising their families. I liked the idea of exploring the places I visited and so would always venture into the parts of town where the tourists avoided. I remember in the early sixties I was staying in Cascais in Portugal and one evening I ventured into a downstairs bar to discover Fado being sung. The bar had nearly all local people who joined in with the sometime dismal tunes and I sat enthralled at the bar with a bottle of green wine, something I had never heard of at the time.

My other passion is the theatre. From the tender age of about fifteen I used to go to the West End on a Saturday night and buy a ticket, at the best seat I could afford, to any musical that was showing. I remember seeing Lional Bart's Blitz which was the first show to have revolving sets I believe, to watch the scenes change like that instead of the curtain being lowered and the actors continuing the story was amazing. To see such shows as The Pyjama Game and South Pacific, Hello Dolly, often with the original Broadway cast was very thrilling to a shy fifteen/sixteen year old. I remember later what I was in the Royal Air Force travelling back to the West End to see West Side Story, the musical that changed it all. It was also plays for example Cat on a Hot Tin Roof and Death of a Salesman along with some of Steinbeck's work, that started me reading the more classic works. F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway.

Now, onto your books...

I have three other books on the go. Fruits of War is the nearest ready to be published. It is centred around a 27year old Zanda Petrakis gay soldier, all my books have gay or bisexual characters in them. The action takes place in the Balkans War 1995. Captain Petrakis is leading a patrol for the UN in Bosnia. His task is to keep the fragile peace between the Serbian Nationalists and the Muslim minority. He leaves his men to search a farm that appears deserted and runs into an Army patrol looking for escaped Muslims. He hides and manages to keep himself hidden allowing the Serbs to return to their camp. While returning to his own base Zanda runs into five young boys aged between 7 and 17. Muslims. He knows that if they are caught by the Serbs they will be shot. It leaves him no alternative but to fire a warning shot towards the Serbs hoping that the boys would take flight and disappear from the area. His shot ricochets and kills a Serb soldier. The chaos that follows leaves Zanda running for his life, hoping that the boys were too. Norvak, the eldest brother was looking for an Army camp that was not Nationalist. He found it and found Zanda.

Zanda and his corporal escort the boys to the headquarters in Sarajevo to be transferred to a refugee camp. They all become very close and when they are stopped by a Bosnian petrol Norvak warns Zanda that he was told to leave the area as soon as possible as there was something planned, he did not no exactly what. When Zanda returns to normal duty he is on patrol and is called to a bar by the Bosnian owner to quell a riot that is going on between the Serbs and the Bosnians. It is the same soldiers that Zanda ran into in the forest. He is recognised by one of the men who'd been chasing him and he tells his leader. Shots are fired and the Serbian leader is dead. Zanda charged and stands at a court martial, he is quickly found guilty and dishonourably discharged. Proclaiming self defence Zanda is bitter.

Returning to England he realises that he must find work and somewhere to live. As a temporary basis he books into a hotel off Oxford Street. A waiter, Havel, is Bosnian. Zanda has a lot on his mind and goes into a bar for a quiet drink to think. He is suddenly accosted by a man who knows his name. Convinced he is not one of Zanda's one night stands he accepts the man's card which has only a name C.R. Parker and a phone number.

From that not so casual meeting Zanda finds himself back working for the establishment and is cleared with his record expunged. He asks about the Bosnian family he took to the refugee camp and is told that he is to help them find their uncle a young man who left home to come to England earlier. It is for Zanda to find out if there is any underlying tendency of terrorism in the Muslim community. He uncovers a plot of a suicide bomber in a town in the North and traces routes to madrassah's in Pakistan. With the help of Norvak he rescues Illia, Norvak's uncle, from the clutches of the radical clerics and stops the suicide plot before he takes Illia back to London for interrogation. Norvak works with Zanda on a trip back to Bosnia and meets his childhood sweetheart. He refuses to leave unless she can live in England too. C. R. Parker pulls some strings and Norvak marries his girlfriend to enable her to remain in the country.

The other two books that are near completion are Destiny Awaits Everyman which is about a serial killer in Spain and London who attacks an Advertising Exec in his holiday villa. Drug smuggling and a secret from the past connect Luke Gardener and Drew Holden to the killer and the police.

Fallen Hero is another book about the Belmont Brothers. After Porky is imprisoned Charles Hamilton is employed to take over the front man for the Belmonts, but Charles is not all he seems as Frankie the Greek and Charlie Fitzpatrick discover. An abduction of four yuppies goes wrong with Charles losing control. The four guys are all well connected to the aristocracy. Set more in Soho than Hackney the underbelly of crime is rife.

In each case my books are targeted at the modern reader who is prepared to accept that there is a gay community and that life and language is not always pure and untainted. I see the holiday reader enjoying them as they are not to profound. I try to write in an easy style concentrating on the characters making them real people with real problems.

What inspired this work?

The Fruits of War, I think, was that I wanted to show that injustice whether real or imagined could cause dreadful consequences. Illia was converted into a radical Muslim by clerics who had blind faith in their religion. And yet we could see that in the case of Raj and the more moderate of the faith there approach was different. The boys from London were all grateful to be away from the fighting and ethnic cleansing in the Balkans and wanted to live in England. The problem with British Muslim young men is their lack of identity and work caused by their mixed upbringing.

When it comes to writing in general, what fuels you?

I like to keep my mind working, it is so easy in old age to get up go down the pub every day and talk to the same people all the time without analysing or forming an opinion about anything.

What advice would you give to aspiring authors?

Don't take any notice of me!! If I had to be serious, read the papers, listen to the news and take note of what's going on around you and then write about it. Develop you characters to fit those situations. We've all heard of muggings, murders, financial fraud, extreme weather conditions, sexual scandals.

What have you done to promote your work?

Nothing. I'm afraid marketing and promotion is not my field. I don't have the knowledge of the confidence as to where to start.

What do you consider the biggest roadblock to the process?

If you mean writing, it's getting started. Once you have a chapter or two on paper, or a screen, re read it and see where it can be improved. If you mean in selling your book, it has to be the closed shop of the traditional publishers and book sellers. Literary agents and publishers glibly advertise for new authors and manuscripts and yet reject it seems out of hand anything that is sent to them, unless you are a ten year old who has come second in a reality show!

How closely does your writing reflect your life?

That is the question, I remember seeing an interview with Dirk Bogarde, asked a pointed question about his life he replied read my books. You will find everything you want to know there if you read it properly. I think that applies to me. I've always been gay but I don't think that is the business of anybody else. Ryan Lucas life in The Second Phase shows my interest in theatre, the villa is Spain in Destiny Awaits Everyman could be mine. The service background of Zanda of Charles Hamilton could reflect my experience in the RAF.

What authors have inspired your writing?

The first books I remember reading as a child were the Five books by Enid Blyton so I suppose she must take some credit. I tend to like authors who write clearly and develop their characters making them believable and who can tell a story an author who I think does that is Jeffrey Archer. A classic example of writing about what you know; Prisoner Diaries, a bad time in his life I'm sure that he utilised.

Anything shocking to share?

I thought long and hard about that and all the things I can think of that might blow your socks off I am not prepared to share!!

Connect with Alan

As Others See Us:

A Life of Experience:

Circle of Ambition:

The Second Phase:


Meet the laws and lessons of Clive Hindle

So let's start with you. How would you describe yourself? Who are you and what drives you, outside of writing?

In professional and work terms I am a solicitor with a broad base of work from human rights to commercial. I used to be Crown Counsel with the Hong Kong Government. I have my hands full with my own law firm. I have done some cutting edge cases in my time and the day job informs and colours a lot of my literary work. The job has also brought me into conflict from time to time with authority and makes me question hierarchy and the exercise and even the concept of power. I believe that the desire to write first came to me in my teens. When I was at university I intended to become a poet because of the influence of Basil Bunting.

I became a prose writer in my 20's and I had some some ideas for complicated plots but in those days they were too complicated to bring to to a proper conclusion. I still have those original books and I want to go back to them. I still have this tendency to start a book as if blowing on hot coals and then seeing how the flames dance. They don't always move as I intend and can take on a life of their own. I am perhaps more disciplined now and can handle this process.

Tell us about your latest books. What are they about and who do they target?

I have a number of books as yet unpublished. I have three published, The Lawyer’s Tale, The Eighth Square (both about a fictional North East lawyer called Jack Lauder) and a third which is called Dark Side Crossing and is best described as a rites of passage book.

My books usually contain more than one plot - usually three but they are not necessarily equal. One of them will come to me more or less as the Lord's day will come and then the others will almost naturally, almost automatically, thread in.

The Eighth Square appears as a crime thriller seen from a lawyer's perspective but is also a psychological thriller, an adventure story and a romance rolled into one.

What inspired this work?

Life generally and experience.

When it comes to writing in general, what fuels you?

I usually get some form of inspiration for the work in question. It just happens and when it odes you need the energy to see it through.

What advice would you give to aspiring authors?

I am not sure I am qualified to give advice but I would say that the most important thing to do is write because you want to and not necessarily with any other end in mind.

What have you done to promote your work?

Not a great deal I am afraid. It is one area in which I am distinctly deficient.

What do you consider the biggest roadblock in the process?

Getting someone to read your work in a more than casual way. Too many publishers are looking for the quick fix, the next best seller and don’t really have any breadth to their portfolio. They tend to go for the tried and tested rather than branch out.

How closely does your writing reflect your life?

Pretty much.

What authors have inspired your writing?

Of prose writers, Austen, Dickens, Wilkie Collins, Alain-Fournier, John Fowles, W.G Sebald, Cormac McCarthy, Roberto Bolano. Of poets Chaucer, Shakespeare, the KJB, Emily Dickinson, Ezra Pound, Robert Frost, Stevie Smith.

Anything shocking to share?

I tend to keep these for the books. I remember being on the last Air Siam flight into Bangkok and being told we had to divert into war-torn Cambodia , not a great place for a Westerner then. I was kidnapped once in Lithuania . Rockfall the size of houses coming at me on the Eiger. Flying a plane in a gathering storm over the North Sea when all the instruments went down. Taking on the RAF in Cessna aerobats over Loch Ness. Life is a series of snapshots.

Connect with Clive

The Eighth Square:

Dark Side Crossing:


Meet Robert Fuller and the Daughter of the Dragon

Let's start by getting to know you. What's life like outside of your writing?

I’m equally obsessed with music and movies. I take one day a week and see up to 2 or 3 movies in a day. My personal best is 5 movies in a single day. When it comes to music, I listen to just about everything. On my Facebook page I call Wednesday’s, my new music day by listing some of the music I’m enjoying at that time. My wife of 12 years is extremely patient with my compulsions. My 23 year old son does his best to keep me on my toes, as do my 2 feline writing companions.

What inspires your writing?

Having spent years writing and re-writing my first book, I’d say my inspiration is real life. Even though it includes vampires and witches, it is still grounded in real life. At the beginning of the process, I asked myself…what would someone do if they were confronted with the reality that vampires were real? I went back to my youth and my love of old horror films to recreate the fearsome vampires of another era and simply placed them within aspects of my own life.

What advice would you give to aspiring authors?

Keep writing and don’t give up. I tried for 5 years to solicit my manuscript to agents and publishers with no interest. I kept writing; mostly to keep my sanity, but in the end I decided to self-publish. I found a great publisher who went out of their way to assist me in bringing out the best book I could write. I kept writing and believing that I had a story to tell. Tell your story, tell it well, and your reward may be to simply see your name in print, but it’s still a reward.

How do you typically promote?

Writing is the easy part of being an author. As an author, you have control. You decide who lives, who dies, whether the hero gets the girl, or the villain takes over the world. In promotion and marketing, the power shifts, and you as the author, have little to no control. Writing is like tossing a pebble in a lake. The more ripples, the more interest. For me, I did advance work on social media, and my website, to promote and wet some appetites. I’m still waiting for book events and mass media interest, but being featured on blogs such as yours, has been the best way to get my name out there.

What do you consider the biggest roadblock?

There’s an adage in publishing that states, “In a year, more people get struck by lightning than get their debut books published, and people are actually trying to get published.” In a down economy and the problems within the print medium, too many publishing houses are less willing to take chances on new authors. When we turn to self-publishing, we’re hit with the stigma that we paid to get our books published, so the quality must be poor. The decidedly nasty catch twenty two is to get published by a major house, you have to have an agent, but to secure an agent; you have to be published by a major house.

How much of your life is reflected in your characters?

My main character in “Valerie” suffers from self-esteem issues and isn’t quite sure of how she fits in society. By all accounts, she’s successful, has someone in her life that loves her, and maintains a wide circle of friends, but something gnaws at her that she’s not deserving of all of those things. That’s me in a nutshell. My vampire represents sexuality, adventure, and self-confidence and yet, my main character holds back because she’s afraid of those things.

What writers have inspired you?

Stephen King is my biggest inspiration. His books require the reader to become invested in them. You simply can’t pick up, The Cell or Lisey’s Story and breeze through them in an afternoon. You read his books to immerse yourself in the world he’s created. On the opposite end of the spectrum, my other inspiration is James Patterson. His books are breezy weekend reads that are merely entertaining. They contain short chapters that are quickly devoured. For “Valerie” I crafted a 700 page epic, but filled it with enough action and twists, that it moves along briskly.

Alright... Hit us with something crazy!

I’m not sure how crazy this is, but it was the first time my writing was ever recognized by an outside organization. I went to an inner-city school system in the mid-80’s. Michael Jackson had just broken through the MTV barrier, and caused a stir by appearing on an awards show with Brooke Shields, so the country wasn’t as progressive as it is now. As a school project, our social studies class was assigned to write a paper about the struggles of slavery in America. I took to the project wholeheartedly and wrote a 2 page report. After I turned it in, I thought nothing more about it. A month later, I received an invitation to The Akron Urban League’s Black History Festival. My paper had won first place. I remember standing at the front of the hall, being one of only a handful of white people in attendance, and having my paper read to those gathered. After it was read, the room exploded into cheers, not a standing ovation, but cheers. Here I was, a scrawny white kid with glasses, being praised by a roomful of African-American city leaders and dignitaries. I still proudly display that trophy, as a testament that you never know what you can achieve and who you can touch with your words.

Connect with Robert

Twitter: @RFullerAuthor



Get to know the up-and-coming William Bortz

Why don't we start by getting chummy. Tell us what you do when you aren't writing.

Well I love music. I love everything about it! I also play guitar and work with my roommate on songs and write together. Living in Iowa makes being outside all the time pretty difficult, especially this time of year, but I love the outdoors. I love hiking, adventuring, camping, anything to do with being outside. I love traveling as well, I’ve been a lot of places and just love the unfamiliar sense about being somewhere you’ve never been. A couple of my friends and myself are also working on starting up a radio station, which we will broadcast starting next month. I really just like doing everything, I’m young so I want to take advantage of that.

What fuels your desire/need to write?

I have been writing for a long time, since I was in second grade I
think. I used to make comic books, like a series. You could say it was
Captain Underpants fan fiction. So that writing bug has always been
there, it has just evolved a lot since then. As I aged I noticed the
tone of my writing change too, which is probably super normal, but it
continues to change, and pretty quickly. A lot of events in my life
have pinpointed a change in the writing, which is the leading
inspiration behind my writing for that time, and from then on out.
It’s natural, and it’s nice. When I was writing my first book that’s
when I kind of felt like I was meant to be a writer. I remember being
at work, or driving, or sleeping, and my mind was always in the state
it would be in while writing. It almost felt like a curse, especially
being so young. It took a while before I really adapted to that. I
didn’t do the best job answering that question, but I think it’s hard
to describe why you need or need to do something, it’s just natural
and beyond words.

What advice would you give to aspiring authors?

I don’t have like the holy grail of advice, but if there’s one thing I
know for certain it’s that no matter what you write, or how you write,
just write what you love. You can’t force writing, well you can, but
it will lack heart, and that’s the main reason why people read. To
feel. Also, don’t ever doubt your ability to write, because everyone
has a story.

How do you like to promote?

The transition from writing books to promoting them is a difficult
one. It took me a while to get into a groove of promoting, but it was
easy to tell what worked for me and what didn’t. It’s just like
writing, you have your niche, and you stick to it. Same goes for
promoting. Stick to what works for you, and it may take a while to
figure that out, but once you do it’s like striking gold. The ways I
find work the best for me is promoting myself before my books. Selling
poetry is difficult, to let’s say a novel, in a novel you sell the
characters and story and have all those elements to back you up, but
with poetry it’s all personal, it’s all you. So it’s a different
environment of promoting.

What do you consider the most daunting part of this whole
writing/publishing game?

The thing that was the hardest for me in the beginning was defining
what success meant for me. Looking around and watching out author’s
get reviews and all those other things that author’s live for made it
seem like that bar for success was super high. When my first book
‘These Ties’ came out that was the hardest thing for me to get over. I
was new to the publishing world so I didn’t have my own defined sense
of “success”, so I looked at everyone else’s, which only made my work
feel worthless. It was difficult to find the value of my words and
stories, very hard. After awhile I learned that success is
personal-that was probably the best lesson I have ever learned.
Success isn’t defined in reviews and dollar signs. For me it was
knowing that my work meant something to somebody. When anybody would
say something to me about my writing, anything, that it touched them
or made them think it meant the world to me. Even now when people say
something it brings a little tear to my eye. It’s crazy, really. It
almost makes me embarrassed thinking back sitting at my computer being
frustrated about my sales and focusing on that, and ever since I
realized what success was to me, and knowing that I Reached that point
it brought in sales. People saw that, and that was the hardest and
most frustrating thing I have done.

How much of your life is reflected in your characters?

All of it. All the stories about people or experience is completely
personal, or in some cases indirectly personal. Writing poetry and
short stories there isn’t a lot of room to define a character, unless
you make it, but I don’t aim to establish characters, but lessons and
moments, and those are all based off of real life people.

What authors keep you focused and driven?

There are a few! One of my favorite authors is John Green. I love the
way he writes; it’s effortless, flawless. The moments and people he
creates are impossible not to fall in love with. Every time I finish
one of his books I fall into this week long slump knowing that it’s
over, which usually leads to me rereading it a few months later. Also,
being apart of the indie writer community is amazing. Everyone aims to
help each other and stay positive. That’s so inspiring. Some of the
authors I have met through promoting or just chatting helped me out a

Alright... Now hit us with something nobody knows!

Hmmmmm. Well I really love tattoos. In fact, I have around 30 of them.
I got my first one when I was 14 in my good friend’s apartment with a
gun made from a remote control car, a cassette player, and a needle. A
lot of the tattoos are music related. I have a few animals, a flower,
and even a piece by Picasso, which covers my entire back.

Connect with Will

Read Will's short stories and poetry:


Step Into the Mind of David Jester

So let's start with you. How would you describe yourself? Who are you and what drives you, outside of writing?

I’m quiet, calm, relaxed. I keep myself to myself. I live with my long-term fiancee in Northumberland, UK and spend most of my time writing. I’m 27 and have been writing for nearly ten years now. I was lucky enough to have the first thing I ever wrote (a short story) published and was inspired to carry on since then.

Tell us about your latest book. What's it about and who does it target?

The Line, the Itch and the Rabbit Hole is a memoir of my experiences growing up with Tourette Syndrome and Borderline Personality Disorder. It also chronicles my time with drug & alcohol addiction and a number of other ‘events’. I know there is an audience out there who can relate to the experiences, but the reality is that I just want to the book to entertain.

It’s not a one-off book. I’m a writer by trade and have been writing for ten years now. I wrote the book so that anyone, whether they typically read memoirs or not, (I don’t) could pick it up and enjoy it.

  What inspired this work?

I started writing it just a year or two after the diagnosis of Tourette’s. At the time I was withdrawing from Valium after being hooked on the stuff for 8 years. I guess I was in a retrospective mood...

When it comes to writing in general, what fuels you?

Silence. If I can find a few moments of it and force myself into the correct mindset, then I can normally get a couple of thousand words done in just over an hour. I also read a lot and always have done, it helps.

What advice would you give to aspiring authors?

Give KDP a try. If you’ve been stuck trying to get agents/publishers to read your work and are fed-up with the fact that it takes them 4 months just to send you a form rejection letter, then try to do it yourself. I’ve had a couple of agents contact me since “The Line, the Itch and the Rabbit Hole” was published. One of them rejected it three times before it was published (I was persistent) and then actually requested a copy after seeing the book on Amazon. A sure sign that most of them pay little to no attention to an author unless they have a presence online.

What have you done to promote your work?

Let me see… I’ve created Facebook accounts and Twitter accounts. I’ve joined Book Blogs, Shelfari, WLC and Goodreads. I started a blog. I wrote a number of press releases. I’ve contacted mental health charities, forums, FB groups and communities. I made a few guest blog posts. I’ve tweeted, emailed, PM’d and DM’d newspapers and news sites. And a number of other things that escape me at this time. I’m also about to start a blog tour in the next few days. It never ends.

What do you consider the biggest roadblock in the process?

For me the biggest roadblock in the writing process is procrastination. When there’s no one pressuring you to work and you only have your own -- sometimes idle -- concentration to motivate you, it’s easy to slip. The roadblock for this book in particular was an experience with Dystonia which, quite frankly, scares the shit out of me to this day. That wasn’t an easy memory to relive.

How closely does your writing reflect your life?

It usually doesn’t. Obviously it did with this memoir (although I’m a completely different person now compared to the one chronicled in the book) but my other work is a far cry from my own life. I like to put a bit of myself into each of the characters -- a cynical or a stupid side that I don’t let anyone see -- but usually they aren’t like me and don’t lead lives anything like my own. I guess you could call it escapism, but the truth is my life is no longer exciting enough to warrant filling the pages of a book.

What authors have inspired your writing?

My three favorite writers write in three completely different genres: Philip K. Dick, Terry Pratchett and Stephen King, and they have all influenced me in their own ways. I think my writing style mirrors Philip K. Dick, whilst I get my twisted intrigue from Stephen King and my sense of humor from Terry Pratchett.

Anything shocking to share?

There’s plenty of it in the book, trust me! There are many more shocking stories that I didn’t put in the book as well, some were edited out to save on space; some were just too strange to ever think about putting in, and some completely escaped my mind until I had completed the Manuscript. Maybe I’ll share them one day.

Connect with David

An Idiot in Love:

The Line, the Itch and the Rabbit Hole:


Get to Know the Awakened Damon Marbut

Let's start with you. Tell us about the 'real-world,' it's pits, it's pinnacles, and how you fit in.

The "real world," on a personal note, took a drastically different form after I completed graduate school. Going in to college, I worked two, sometimes three jobs and expected to no easy ride during school or after, but I also was in school when the economy was strong and working hard, paying your dues, etc. was sure to lead to a career-track job. After finishing my Master's program, I didn't want to leave school, because I dared to study what I loved with no real fear of my (minimal) charisma and analytic wits being next to useless during and following the tech boom. I couldn't compete with CIS majors when all I knew was how to use MS Word, so I went back to school for Psychology and then burned out. The benefit of this, and I choose to see it as a benefit now, is that it forced me to do what I was best at doing, and what I was going to do anyway: write. The experiences from that realization to this point in my life have taught me that as far as I've always perceived my own intellectual integrity, I think I kept it in one piece because, in the end, I actually did study what I loved and capitalized on my strongest abilities to do the work I'm meant to do.

And what about your books? What does it mean to you to be "awake"?

The word "awake," as far as the title Awake in the Mad World goes, certainly serves to illuminate the required clarity, or search for clarity, in a world determined to define itself for the individual if the person isn't daring enough to ask questions, challenge reason, dream, create, and so on. It implies the boldness to engage in your own life instead of accepting what's given you.

What words of wisdom do you offer to our generation? To the post-college youngins?

Diversify your academic credentials, learn as much as you can about as much subject matter that both applies to the world you'll enter after graduation, but also, that's important and interesting to you on a personal level. And DON'T live by your devices. Get out and breathe some fresh air, laugh often and loudly. Leave the phones and tablets and laptops at home.

How about your creative process? What keeps the juices flowing?

Studying human behavior. People fascinate me more than any book I can discover. I love the impression of a novel I can revisit, dog-ear, scribble in, etc. But a facial expression, a laugh, an argument--sometimes witnessing that in a blur might be the only time you get to see it. So, people. Certainly.

What's the worst part of writing?

Everything I allow myself to think in the middle of it that prevents something pure to sneak through to the page. Authors compete against themselves, mostly. Same with me. But sometimes, if you let your imagination turn to what others might think of what you're doing during a particular segment of the book, you're writing with fear and/or anxiety, and the work suffers. I'm not as bad about this as I once was. Seems I do better work now when I set deadlines for myself. And I NEVER was like that until Awake in the Mad World started getting attention. Now I've got two other fiction books at presses for review, plus a collection of poems at five different places, and I'm over halfway through this New Orleans books. I barely recognize myself these days.

What do you find to be the most useful way to self-promote?

Online is easiest, of course, so joining online writing communities and networking like that can be good. But NOTHING, in my opinion, beats starting with local bookstores, contacting old college colleagues, local magazines, etc. and going from there. If you don't currently live in your hometown, use your new location and your hometown as starting points. The more personal the contact, I think, the more lasting the relationship, which is ideal for a writing career.

Give one piece of advice for aspiring authors.

Trust in your own ability to succeed based on how you personally define success.

What process did you take for seeking publishers?

I sent out query letters by direct mail, a few emails. I approached a couple of small, reputable presses. Awake in the Mad World is unique in structure, as are the characters. And so after a while I took the advice of a few professor friends across the country and worked with a friend in Austin, Texas to release it myself.

Now to other authors. Who has had the most influence on you?

Salinger, Baldwin, Kerouac, Marquez, Morrison.

And last but not least... hit us with something crazy/shocking/utterly unique about you.

Without my work, I'm just a fairly nice guy who likes to laugh a lot. I'm honestly so boring, in my opinion, that I hide behind my work. I suppose what's unique about me is that I haven't given up on what I'm doing, even though it's been ten years of fighting to get to this moment where I'm talking about my work with good people like you. Cheers!

Connect with Damon

Facebook Author Page:
Amazon Author Page:
Twitter: @dfmnola


Get to know the Multi-Talented Melissa McCarter

So tell us about yourself. Your triumphs, your struggles, your day-to-day happenings.

My name is Melissa Miles McCarter and I am an author, editor, publisher and academic. My triumphs include getting a doctorate in rhetoric and composition, publishing two books, a memoir and a novel, and starting a small press, Fat Daddy's Farm. Having bipolar disorder, which I write about in my memoir, Insanity: A Love Story, means I have particular challenges. I have to make sure I get enough sleep, monitor my moods, and have some sort of daily structure, even if it is self-imposed. I also struggle with medication management, including side effects and going to the doctor frequently. I also must deal with the stigma with mental illness, however, coming out with a mental illness has made this less of a daunting experience. For the last few years while I have been writing my dissertation, I have struggled with how to balance my desire to write and publish with my other professional goals. In some ways, my academic and creative sides complement each other, using two different sides of my brain. For the last few years, my day to day happenings have consisted of writing my dissertation and editing an anthology on motherhood and loss, Joy, Interrupted. (This anthology is a way to deal with another challenge I have had in life, having lost my infant daughter to SIDS about ten years ago, and dealing with secondary infertility.) Now that I am done with my dissertation, I look forward to having more day to day time editing and publishing non-academic works.

Now tell us about your book.

My book, Insanity: A Love story, chronicles my first experience in a mental hospital, when I was first diagnosed with bipolar disorder. It is a memoir, but also has certain essay and fiction aspects. It examines, in particular, the fine line between sanity and sanity. In 1998, I struggled with symptoms of depression after graduating from college and having a series of failed relationships. To cope with these challenges, I was prescribed Paxil, an antidepressant. I was consequently launched into my first mania-induced psychotic break. I was hospitalized, which revealed the underlying mood disorder of bipolar...I had unknowingly struggled with this disorder my whole life. My memoir is representative of a series of mental health narratives, including Girl, Interrupted, I never promised you a rose garden, and One Flew Over the Cuckoo's nest. I ask my readers who haven't been in a mental hospital to be willing to "cross over" into a world that doesn't always make sense. With those who have had similar experiences as mine, I hope my book helps validate their own struggles and challenges to hold onto reality, no matter how painful or disorienting it might seem.

What inspired you to finally express your experiences in this way?

The stigma of being mentally ill was one of the biggest challenges to writing this memoir. It took a number of years to be able to process the experience of my diagnosis. I felt I needed to share my story, partly to overcome the feeling I had to hide my disorder, but also because I thought it was an important story to tell.

Dealing with the creative process, what's your least favorite part?

Accepting the moments when I couldn't express myself exactly how I wanted to. One way I did this was in revising. I had to be willing to see my experiences in a different light, in order to find ways to reveal aspects of my self and my experiences that I didn't first realize were there.

And the best part?

When I was actually "in the groove", and when I had finished the book and realized, I'm a pretty good writer. It was so good to feel like I have accomplished something important, even if it was just important to me.

How do you normally promote? What is your opinion of Amazon?

I promote through social media mostly. I also use my small press as an extended way to promote my memoir, trying to build a brand and promote our growing catalog. I like publishing with Amazon, although I know some people have criticisms about doing so. I like how my work is read by people all over the world, which I think is greatly facilitated by Amazon.

What words of advice can you offer aspiring authors?

To be patient, but to get in a habit of writing. What I mean by being patient is to accept that you won't always make sense or have something exactly the way you want on first go around, and that writing is a growing process, which develops slowly and in fits and spurts. I encourage writers getting in a habit of writing...the more you do it, the more you want to do it, and the easier the process becomes. I suggest writing in journals, blogs, letters, anything to "keep the juices flowing."

Do you have any particular life mantras?

That we are co-creators in our realities, that our dreams manifest destinies, and that the tragedies in our life don't define us, but do provide the building blocks for our characters.

How about your favorite authors? Who's inspired you?

My favorite writer is Madeleine L'Engle, who I named my daughter after. Many people think I am referring to L'Engle's children books, like a Wrinkle in Time. These books are some of my favorites growing up, but I particularly like her memoirs. I am also inspired by the work of Anne Tyler, Orson Scott Card and Ayn Rand. All three are so great at characterization, and being a deeply psychologically oriented writer, this is important to me.

Alright, now hit us with something stunning:

Here are two very different excerpts from my memoir, Insanity: A Love Story

"Delusions, I have come to believe, are part fantasy, part emotional release, and part how we get through the day. It would be impossible to function without some element of delusional beliefs. Knowledge is so uncertain; to know anything means having a particular amount of faith in the validity of one's perceptions and in order to navigate life itself. We don’t know when we will die, we don’t know what meaning our lives and choices have, and we don’t know how much control we really have over our destiny. Happiness and hopefulness can be fleeting and unreal as any delusional framework. "

"So little actually occurs in a mental hospital. Not only is the energy level of people on medication low, any drama to be created has to come from within me. The craziness and insanity of the other patients is so normalized, it will take a lot to surprise me. My interest threshold is low in such an environment, and other people’s delusions and emotional outbursts can only entertain me so much. The nurses lead me through to a room, where a “nice woman” is staying, according to one nurse. I huddle in my bed, listening to the woman snore. In the morning, I discover this noise comes from blind woman who says she was in a near fatal truck accident. She is crippled, her body covered in scars from the fire caused by the accident. She has spent months recovering on the medical side of the hospital. She is now recuperating emotionally in the mental ward. I have been so sheltered in my lifetime; except when watching the news on television, I have never seen someone who has been so physically damaged by an event in life. I feel incredible sympathetic to this woman, and she proceeds to be sweet to me. I make her out to be a saint in my mind, which is not fair to her. But I can’t help equating tragedy with virtue in another human being. Just like with the Biblical slogans my aunt put all over my parents’ house, I wonder how rooming with this woman will help me get sane. The sight of her maimed body and her sightless self maneuvering throughout the room and hallways makes me shudder. I get to know her, and she asks me to rub lotion on her hands and feet—the only unburned or un-scarred parts of her body. I do, feeling like I am doing a good deed. The tide turns. I am always writing in my journal at this point and she gets a hold of it and asks me what it is. I tell her it is about being in the hospital and she asks me if I am writing about her, which I haven't. I want to respect her privacy. She can't read it to see if I am telling the truth, and she makes it clear she doesn't believe me. One day, I discover my journal is missing. Another patient told me my roommate had stolen it and was passing it around, showing people what I wrote. I feel violated, and ask the woman about it. She denies it. The next day, the journal appears on my bed. I try to forgive her and feel resentful about putting lotion on her feet."

Connect with Melissa

My book on Amazon --
My book on Smashwords --
Twitter: @insanitystory
My small press:

Press blog --


Get to know Brook Syers and the "eSitcom"

Alright, so tell us a little about yourself.

I've been married to my beautiful wife (Julie) for 13 years and we have a very sassy son who just turned five. I've always loved numbers and work as a CPA/Audit Manager for a local government municipality in Houston, Texas. I have a wicked sense of humor that permeates throughout my books and blog posts. I love to make others laugh and have a good time. I don't take life too seriously. We're here for such a short time, we might as well have some fun.

What are you currently working on?

My latest work is what I've coined an "eSitcom," which is basically like a TV sitcom in ebook format. I call it The All-American Family and try and release a new episode each month. It follows the typical American family and all the crazy things that happen to them. You can purchase the first episode here: They're only 99 cents each and guaranteed to make you laugh or you get your money back. Actually, that's not true. I'm keeping the 99 cents, but you will laugh.

What inspired this concept?

I'm a huge fan of Modern Family and thought; "Why couldn't this concept work in ebook format?" Then I challenged myself to make it as funny as possible. In Episode 1, the parents decide to drag the family to Facebook therapy with some unexpected results. Subsequent episodes deal with sexless marriages, Twilight obsessions, and senior citizens trying to use technology.

What's the worst part of the creative process?

Every once in a while I get writer's block. I usually take a week off and start back at it again. The creative process is hard, there's no way around it.

And the best part?

The best part is when someone writes me a favorable review or sends me an encouraging note. It brightens up my entire day.

How do you typically promote yourself?

I do a combination of the Kindle Select program and author interviews. Occasionally I buy ads on some of the indie writer sites. Word-of-mouth is usually the best form of marketing. I like Amazon a lot, they've really made it easy for indie writers to publish. They've disrupted the entire publishing industry. If they ran the country, I think we'd be much better off.

What advice do you offer to all those aspiring authors out there?

Focus on the writing. You can get so caught up in the marketing and promotions. If you concentrate on creating the best product, the sales will come.

How closely does your writing reflect your life?

I wouldn't say it is a mirror of my life, but it's pretty close. As a writer, your experiences definitely show up in your writing in one form or another. It's inevitable. What's funny is when your friends and family confront you and demand to know if characters in your books are based on them. I always say; "Yes, you're on page 173." It takes them a while to realize that ebooks don't have page numbers.

Who has had the most influence on you?

Sitcom writers have had more influence on me. The writers of Modern Family in particular. It's amazing to me how sharp and edgy they keep the show from week-to-week.

1...2... Tell us something few people know about you!

When I was eleven, I wanted to be a ninja more anything else in the world and asked my parents to send me to Japan for training. Luckily my parents didn't grant my request, because you know, ninjas kill people for a living.

Connect to Brook

My Blog:

My Books (Amazon):

My Books (Barnes & Noble):




Get to know the Grey Tower Trilogy by Alesha Escobar

Let's start with you, Alesha the person. What do you do when not writing?

Taking care of four children who will insist that there's no such thing as nap time! When I do steal some time away, I enjoy reading, crafts, and watching movies.

Now Alesha, the author. What's your book all about? Give us the goods.

My current book is the second installment in the Gray Tower Trilogy--DARK RIFT which will be available November 30. It's the continuation of the story of Isabella George, an alchemist hired by British intelligence to spy against the Nazis in a World War II where Hitler has allied with warlock vampires to win the war. Besides trying to stay alive and avoid having her powers drained by these warlocks, she's also trapped in a deadly game with those in the Gray Tower who trained her. The Master Wizards want the Time Wizard dead--someone they fear could be used as a powerful weapon against the entire world--and she's doing everything to ensure the exact opposite. Book #1, THE TOWER'S ALCHEMIST, left off on a cliffhanger and my readers are dying to know who the traitor is (among other things). DARK RIFT satisfies those questions as well as gives readers another wild, magical escape into this world.

Does reading play a role in your writing?

I believe it does. I remember coming across an interesting piece of advice for writers--that we should read not only books from our genres, but across many genres. One day you'll be reading a fantasy or thriller, and the next an essay or political satire. I think this helps with familiarizing yourself with different styles of writing, as well as with acquiring knowledge and research. It can also be your lead to your next story idea!

When it comes to writing, what is your biggest pet peeve?

When I get a thumbs down from my husband, Luis, when he looks over my drafts. He can be snarky as hell sometimes, but he has such a good eye for story-telling, and he has been my unofficial editor from the beginning. On the interwebs, you can find him giving drawing lessons and dishing the goods about his job on The Simpsons television show.

What advice would you give to indie authors?

1. Keep writing, and keep practicing writing. It's a skill you have to put to use.

2. Find your unique voice and style, and don't feel pressured to write like someone else.

3. Network with other authors and with bloggers. They are a great resource and are supportive.

4. Marketing plays a huge role, so know your target audience and where and how to reach them.

How do you promote/market yourself?

Social media, guest blogging, and building an opt-in email list of readers and fans. All of these must have as their foundation an actual relationship, whether it's between me and other authors, me and bloggers/reviewers, and especially me and the readers. We indies know how annoying the spammy promotions can be, but besides smart marketing techniques, you need to build relationships which will not only result in promotion on your behalf, but also meaningful connections.

Do you have any 'ultimate' writing goals?

I'm a former teacher and a current at-home mom, so what else is there to do but write a bestseller and make loads of money? (Just kidding--sort of). I want to continue writing, continue evolving, and five or ten years from now I want to still love doing it.

What is the biggest challenge you face in your creative process?

Sometimes during the process a sudden inspiration takes hold of me and I run with it...and then I try to fit it in with the story. This doesn't always work, and sometimes results in scenes being cut.

What authors have inspired your writing?

Interestingly enough, I am a great lover of the classics, from Dante's Divine Comedy to Shakespeare and crazy William Blake. Love them. My favorite fantasy authors include Tolkien, C.S. Lewis, Robert Jordan (YES the five-page descriptions of clothing got to me as well), and I'm a fan of Jim Butcher's urban fantasy.

Tell us one thing most people don't know about you (within reason ;)

I secretly wish I were taller by at least 3-4 inches. I'm only 5'2" and it's unfair, I tell ya!

Connect to Alesha

My blog:

Don't be shy about messaging me and friending me on Goodreads:



The Tower's Alchemist, (The Gray Tower Trilogy, #1) available at Amazon:


Get to know The Vampire Queen, Jodie Pierce

So let's get chummy? Where are you from and what do you do (besides writing)?

I'm from Cleveland, Ohio and I'm a family gal when I'm not writing.

Tell us about your book.

My book is the third installment in my Vampire Queen trilogy. Demise of theVampire Queen is a continuation of the Vampire Queen's journeys. The Queen is once again ruling her subjects only this time it is a school for the ‘different’ children in Scotland. A school full of vampires, witches, warlocks, elves and fairies, one that is feared and hated by all who attend. A new group of witches and warlocks show up to her gates and cause all kinds of havoc within the school.Vampires and witches are at odds and only a few can see the survival of the school. An ancient lover and the Queen are reunited but at what costs? A new, as well as an old lover unite to attempt to take the Queen off her throne. Will it work? Will the Queen maintain her horrendous rule over the students? Can the spells woven work and change history? All will be told in the end.

What inspired you to write it?

I wrote book 1 and 2 originally as 1 book but then later broke it up into two books. I decided I wanted to be able to say I had a trilogy so I started writing and also tied up some loose ends from book 1 & 2.

When it comes to writing, what makes you tick?

Vampires! All of my writing has to do with vampires. If there are no vampires, I get bored and just draw blanks.

What advice would you give to aspiring authors?

Keep plugging along. If you want to be published by a traditional house, keep working at it. Giving up gets you no where and if it's meant to be, it will be.

What have you done to promote your book?

I'm on so many book websites, all over online, have various personal sites promoting my books, worked with other authors for exposure and am constantly still working on it.

What is the biggest challenge you face in your creative process?

Finding the time to promote and write.

How closely does your writing reflect your life?

Many aspects of my characters reflect those around me.

What authors have inspired your writing?

Anne Rice and Christine Feehan have been the biggest influences.

Connect with Jodie Pierce


Yahoo Groups:




Twitter: vampiregds




Get to know The Truth Finder by Engelia McCullough

Where are you from and what do you do (besides writing)?

I’m from Maryland where I’ve been a recruiter for seven plus years.

Tell us about your latest book.

The first manuscript which is in the editing stages is called The Truth Finder and it is the first book in The Truth Series. It’s about cold case detective, Sarah Markes, who is known for her ability to solve even the toughest of cases.

What inspired you to write it?

A few years ago, my aunt was murdered. The individuals assigned to her case were not the most helpful. Sarah Markes is exactly the type of detective we could have used at that time.

When it comes to writing, what makes you tick?

I love to tell a great story. I’ve always been a creative person with my first piece being published at the age of five. There is nothing better than when your characters develop or the story becomes something you didn’t plan.

What advice would you give to aspiring authors?

Just sit down and write. Worry about the other things later.

What have you done to promote your book?

In preparation for my debut book, I’ve started to create a social media platform.

What is the biggest challenge you face in your creative process?

What we tend to call writer’s block but for me is just a point in time when my energy is low and my procrastination is high. It’s not a good look.

How closely does your writing reflect your life?

I do incorporate certain things from my life into my writing. Writing is also a therapy of sorts.

What authors have inspired your writing?

This definitely takes me back to the days of RL Stine, Ann M. Martin, and the list goes on. I was an avid reader of The Babysitters Club, Nancy Drew Mysteries, Sweet Valley High and anything that took me to another world or introduced me to characters I could relate to. I thought the coolest thing was to create a fictional world that at the same time seemed so real.

Anything stunning to share?

I’m a total adrenaline junkie. I just knocked sky diving off of my list. Next is to swim with sharks. Also, I own a snake. It’s a baby ball python named Snakey.

Connect with Engelia





Get to know a new wave, Sebastian Briglia.

So let's get chummy. Where are you from and what do you do (besides writing)?

I met a big guy in rehab who used to say he was "born all over the place," and my response at the time was that considering his size his birth may have been so excruciating that it required more than one location. Now I feel like I was born all over the place. Evidence suggests that the city of Varna, Bulgaria was the first place, though I don't remember that particular birth. I did live there until I was 13 years old. After a few births I do remember (and some deaths too) I ended up in New York City. I was convinced New York was heaven at first, but four years down the line I'm starting to think I may have been dead wrong about that one.

Writing was supposed to be all I did. My guidance counselor in high school suggested I take up journalism. By the time I had some local writing gigs under my belt the industry started to die. Now I listen to its death groans as I find news clips at night for a service that delivers media research first thing in the morning to people I dreamed of becoming when I came to America (like celebrities and their PR teams). For peanuts, of course.

Tell us about your book.

New Wave and the Art of Heroin Maintenance is a result of me shelving my sci-fi opus and simply writing about my junkie past. I realized that I am not capable of realistically editing, polishing and finishing my material unless I actually put it out there for everyone to see, so I decided to self publish it in three parts to make the prospect less daunting. The first one emphasizes the sexual aspect of addiction. The second one, which I'm releasing now, called "Fires of 2001," focuses on addiction's artistic side. It features sculptures by modern Bulgarian / Armenian artist Agop Gemdjian.

What inspired you to write it?

About six years into recovery I started to realize that I was thinking of myself as some kind of an alien, belonging to this "addict" race, that something was missing from my re-entry into society. Around that time I decided to take a break from this sci-fi project I had been nursing for ever and to put some junkie war stories down on paper, just to see how that feels. Only once I started writing they didn't seem like war stories at all - after all these years in sobriety I was unable to glorify addiction even if I tried.

What I found was that at the root of my heroin obsession was a compassionate aspiration: not wanting to need anything from anybody, to just be able to meet everyone as a human being, without emotional manipulation. Of course, what I did start to need from everybody was money for drugs, but there was no need to throw out the baby with the bath water. I was human then, and I am human now, only slightly less deluded. I figured investigating that margin of a difference could be useful as well as entertaining.

When it comes to writing, what makes you tick?

Lately I've been fascinated with the art of depicting the passing of time. What used to make me tick about writing was just letting the world know about my crazy ideas about the nature of reality. Who was it that said "If you have a message, use Western Union, don't write a book?" Google doesn't know, but somebody did say it, I'm positive.

Right now I'm pretty convinced that there is nothing else to literature except creating the feeling of time. You get that right and characters will develop themselves and all kinds of plot-holes and half-baked ideas will be forgiven. Just look at the top Hollywood movies.

What advice would you give to aspiring authors?

I certainly have some advice on what not to do: a) Don't buy into conspiracy theories that just a handful of Illuminati control who gets mainstream publishing deals, even if they're true. b) Ask for feedback but don't change anything unless you truly believe it should be changed. It hurts much less if you have only yourself to blame. c) Do not assume that publishers will get the gist of your genius idea from anything less than a perfect final draft.

What have you done to promote your book?

The only thing that has worked for me so far has been putting up physical posters in New York City subways. Until I got busted. Now I have to go to court for unauthorized posting. My friends find it's funny to picture me all shady, getting tapped on the shoulder by the police, but I do not. Somewhere in the back of my mind I think I'm going to jail for this. My research suggests it's a $75 to $200 fine.

What is the biggest challenge you face in your creative process?

Maintaining my energy even when I'm positive that all I'm doing by writing is providing conclusive proof of my idiocy. I work on multiple projects simultaneously to keep hope alive. Wait until my sci-fi mind bender makes it's debut.

How closely does your writing reflect your life?

Everything I write is biographical, even science fiction. I recently got married, so I'm discovering how little I know about real communication or being an adult, and these things make their way into my musings and tangents, regardless of the subject matter.

What authors have inspired your writing?

I love Kurt Vonnegut because he manages to be sentimental, straight forward, and to blow your mind at the same time. I love the way John Updike uses language. I love how Hemingway implies things without describing them - both plot and imagery. Douglas Adams is especially inspiring because he manages to create an elaborate style of rhythmic humor and catharsis in every paragraph. I can never get tired of rereading the Hitchhiker's Guide or Dirk Gently novels.

Anything stunning to share?

I find it fascinating that the classic four act structure of plot and character development resembles the four noble truths of Buddhism:Act I - Suffering (Dissatisfaction) The problem. Act II - The Cause of Suffering (Desire) Nothing works so the character indulges. The pause. Act III - The Cause of Suffering Must Be Abandoned (Reaction) The character tries to be proactive and makes everything worse. Act IV - There is a Path to the End of Suffering (Response) The character finds balance and success.

Connect with Sebastian

Facebook: ;




Agop Gemdjian's Facebook:


Get to know the dark visions of Dylan Morgan

Where are you from and what do you do (besides writing)?

I was born in Christchurch, on New Zealand’s South Island, and still consider myself a New Zealander despite my passport stating differently. My parents were originally from the UK, and it was inevitable they’d return there, so at the age of 9 I continued my life in Wales, a country which is part of the United Kingdom. After growing up there, I fell in love with a Norwegian lady, we had kids, and I’m now living a few clicks north of Oslo, in Norway. I work as a warehouse manager in my spare time, between 8am and 4pm . . . To relax, I listen to music or play video games.

So what's your book all about? Give us the goods.

I actually have three books available, so I’ll give a quick rundown on all three.

My debut novel, Hosts, was first released as an e-book back in 2009 but is now available in both print and Kindle formats through Amazon. It tells the story of a small skiing community ravaged by a mutated form of parasite, and Sheriff Andrew Keller’s battle against this danger, his struggle with a tumultuous romance, and deadly conflict with his girlfriend’s ex-lover.

My latest novel, Blood War, was released in 2011 by Pill Hill Press, and is available in print, Kindle, and Nook formats. Described as “a well-written, highly entertaining action movie of a novel” by Shroud Book Reviews, the novel traces the history of a six hundred year war between vampires, werewolves and hybrids, illegitimate offspring of forbidden unions between vampire and werewolf. It spans the globe, and the novel starts in the year 1287 AD before moving swiftly to the present day. Think of the Underworld franchise; and then think bigger with a better cast and you’re close to Blood War.

I also have a novella out, October Rain, which is currently available on the Kindle through Hazardous Press. It was previously published by Sonar4 Publications, but to be honest they made a hash of it. It tells the story of Steele, a bounty hunter on Mars during mankind’s final era, as man struggles to avoid extinction. Steele has three more contracts to fulfill before being granted a new life with his wife and child, away from the violence—but, of course, things spiral terrifyingly out of control.

What inspired you to write them?

I used to write a lot of short stories, but one short story about a group of skiers trapped in a ski lodge took off and spiraled out of control. It evolved into Hosts. I haven’t written many short stories since then. The inspiration for Blood War came from a vision of a young girl returning home one rainy night to find her town overrun by bogeymen. The young girl became Deanna (a character in the Blood War book) and the bogeymen first became vampires, and then hybrids, and that vision became one of the early chapters in the novel. I love werewolves, and after watching Underworld I wanted to create my own vampire-werewolf war story, only bigger and better. I think I’ve achieved that and the best thing is, the war isn’t over. My inspiration for October Rain came from a dream (probably the only story of mine that has originated from a dream) where I was on Mars trying to reach Saturn to save my daughter from the impact of one of Saturn’s moons. Strange dream, but I’m glad I had it.

When it comes to writing, what makes you tick?

I simply must write, I have no other choice. My stories are images and visions in my head and they will plague me until the day I die if I don’t get them out and onto paper. The images and the characters within drive the stories; I never plot, but let the story take me where it needs to go. That makes me tick, not knowing where I’m going. I have a rough idea of where the novel will end up, but the journey is a mystery and it’s always exciting getting to know my characters and experience their pain and misery along the way. Reading other books is a good way to find inspiration, too. I can’t stress enough how important it is to read, preferably in different genres than what you write in.

What advice would you give to indie authors?

Be professional. You’re your own boss, getting your own books published and marketing them, so they have to be the best you can make them. Get beta readers to go over your work, trusted people who won’t sugar-coat anything. Pay for a professional editor to go through your work and tighten it to within an inch of its life. Pay to get professional cover art done, so that the book cover grabs people’s attention. Professional editing and cover art is what you would expect if your book was picked up by a publishing house, afford yourself nothing less.

What have you done to promote your book?

Not enough! There is so much to do and so little time in which to do it. I have a website which contains a blog and I am trying to generate traffic there. I use Twitter daily and I am a member of Goodreads. I have also recently joined other online writing and book communities hoping to “get my name out there”. It’s all about exposure. The more people see your name the more interested they’ll be in checking out your work. A website won’t cut it anymore; you need to be active daily on the internet. Writing stories has become the hobby, promoting them has become the job.

As an author, how do you rate Amazon in facilitating your goals?

Excellent. Amazon has opened so many doors for indie writers and I thank them for it. I can now get my books out to the public in both print and eBook format without the worry of publishers screwing up the formatting or giving me a substandard cover. With that said, as easy as it is to get published on Amazon, I’m not fool enough to rush in to it. I’ll still get my work edited to a professional standard with great looking cover art before getting it out to the masses. I’m 75% my own publisher now, and I want my work to be the best, for my sake and Amazon’s.

What is the biggest challenge you face in your creative process?

Being a family man I find that finding the time to write can be a challenge. Thankfully my family understands that this is what I do in my spare time and they support it 100% so they allow me the freedom to hide myself away and create. That doesn’t mean I’m not disturbed: with 15 and 13 year old daughters in the house there’ll always be disturbances. Discipline makes a big difference—don’t wait for the time to write, make the time to write.

What authors have inspired your writing?

Early Stephen King inspired me a lot: Carrie, Salem’s Lot, The Shining—all those good stories he wrote when inebriated half the time. Dean Koontz is another author who had a big influence on my writing. He’s so descriptive and there’s never a problem with him pulling me into the worlds he creates. I don’t read so much of their stuff anymore, but modern writers like Scott Nicholson, Brian Keene, and Kealan Patrick Burke are authors that always inspire me to write.

Tell us one thing most people don't know about you (within reason ;)

My boyhood dream was to be a rock star. I love music, grew up listening to bands like Motley Crue, Iron Maiden and tons of other 80’s heavy metal acts. I learned the drums, joined garage bands and wanted desperately to tour the world and play sold out shows and drink whiskey. Unfortunately some dreams don’t even get off the ground!

Connect with Dylan

Twitter: @dylanjmorgan


Get to know transformative author, Marquita Herald

Where are you from, and what do you do (besides writing)?

I’m originally from California, but moved to Maui when I was quite young and have now lived here longer than I did on the mainland; so in a very real sense I consider Maui my hometown. In addition to my books, I am blogger, an artist, hula dancer (seriously), avid supporter of perpetuating the Hawaiian culture and a voracious reader.

Tell us about your book. What's it about?

The title of my latest book is It’s Your Time Now - A Guide to Living Your Life by Design. The basic premise is living with greater intention rather than letting life simply happen to you. A lot of people still cling to the notion that “life design” is all about chucking the job and living footloose and on the move around the world. In reality, it’s about becoming really clear about what you want out of this life, accepting the power you have to create your own life experience, and then having the courage to make intentional choices each day in order to become the person you are meant to be

What inspired you to write it?

My readers are always my greatest inspiration. They told me they “got” the value of making intentional choices about their life; what they struggled with was how to going about doing it when you’re already an adult and up to your eyeballs in demanding relationships, commitments and a lifetime of personal baggage. So, I wrote the book with that challenge in mind. In fact, it really is a workbook, because at the end of each chapter there are questions and simple exercises to nudge the reader into becoming proactive about his/her life experience.

When it comes to writing, what makes you tick?

I’m a very cerebral writer, and often I’ll work out entire articles or chapters in my head before I ever sit down to my computer. I prefer to write without external noise or distractions, so once I do start writing I tend to lose track of time; fortunately my little dog Lucy periodically drags me back into reality for trips outside for some fresh air!

What advice would you give to aspiring authors?

Just do it. I’m in a lot of writer/author groups and when I hear someone keep talking about how they want to be a writer, or they intend to write a book, I can’t help but reflect on advice a seasoned author gave me at the first writer’s conference I ever attended. I’d just uttered those infamous words - I want to be a writer - and she looked at me and said, “You are already a writer, now you have to do the work to let the world know what you have to say.”

What have you done to promote your book?

My blog serves as my branding tool and the basis for growing my platform. In addition, I’m active in social media, especially Twitter and Pinterest, and in a variety of author and reader groups. I do a fair amount of article marketing, and I’ve recently begun doing guest posts. I’d like to do more of that in the future, and maybe give a virtual book tour a try.

What is the biggest challenge you face in your creative process?

I’d have to say it’s shifting from the research phase to writing. I love doing research, so if I’m not careful, I lose all track of time and end up in a scheduling bind.

How closely does your writing reflect your life?

There are very few things I write about that I haven’t already experienced firsthand. In fact, there are articles on my blog that mirror what was going on in my own life at the time, though I try not to let that happen very often. My determination to present a balanced viewpoint is one of the reasons I spend so much time researching the themes I write about.

Who has inspired your writing?

The two that come to mind are John Maxwell and Peter McWilliams. Both write about personal transformation, and both have a no-nonsense style with a touch of humor that I value and strive for with my own writing.

Anything stunning to share?

I’d love to share that I have a new book coming out later this month about the power of self-belief! We are born into this world with no sense of what we can or cannot do. Then, bit by bit life begins to embed the notion of limits. The good news is self-belief is learnable, and we can overcome those self-imposed limits. Ultimately, the book is about having the courage to become the hero of your own life story.

Connect with Marquita

Amazon Author Page:


Get to know poet and fiction writer, Edward Petty

So let's get chummy. Where are you from and what do you do (besides writing)?

I'm a native Texan. I like to write poetry, prose and song lyrics, mainly for catharsis more than for money. I like to read Stephen King's works, and to watch Lucille Ball's comedy series.

Tell us about your book. What's it about?

My poetry book is my soul being laid bare. I express a gambit of emotions in all of the poems. It's mainly about how I deal with life as I see it, for better or worse.

What inspired it?

I wrote all the poems over many years mainly because I needed an outlet. I feel such empathy for all people who're struggling in any way. I needed for all my words to be heard (or read).

When it comes to writing, what makes you tick?

I write when I'm inspired. Things that are shameful, like all forms of bigotry, need to be addressed. I feel inspired to write about things that usually would anger people.

What advice would you give to aspiring authors?

I'd tell them all to strive for perfection, even if they fall short of it. Speak from your heart, and with conviction. Writing's nevereasy, and yet it can be so rewarding to know that what's written is someone's best effort.

What have you done to promote your book?

I listed my poetry book on through its Kindle Direct Publishing program. I then promoted it by advertising that it's available for purchase via blogs, Facebook, Goodreads, Google+, Twitter, Youtube and other outlets. I created book trailers that I posted to A link to my AuthorCentral page is here:

What is the biggest challenge you face in your creative process?

I almost always strive for a perfection that's almost never reached. I also struggle with finding character attributes and names.

How closely does your writing reflect your life?

The poetry reflects my life more than any of my other writing. I completely allowed all my emotions to be exposed in it. There's also a character who's inside my novella that's entitled Jared's Little Playground who's very similar to me.

Who are your favorite authors?

Stephen King greatly inspires me. I consider most of his work to be brilliantly written. I admit that I don't read too many other authors' works. I've read Brokeback Mountain by Annie Proulx, though.

And finally, give us something totally unexpected...

I was once in a TV commercial with ex-Dallas Cowboys quarterback Roger Staubach when I was five years old.

Connect with Edward


Meet Werewolf Author, Aficionado & World Traveler, Mari Hamill

Greetings Mari, thanks for doing this. Let’s start with your life outside of writing. I see from your Amazon page that you’re highly educated, a PHD in comparative lit., undergrad at Harvard, multilingual and evidently quite the cosmopolitan. 

Firstly, I have to ask, what’s the coolest place you’ve ever lived? Your favorite city or town?

Greetings Evan, thank you for the opportunity. Outside of Puerto Rico, where I’m living at the moment, I would have to say Venice, Italy. The architecture and the paintings are spectacular. Everywhere you go, you find beauty. It has no cars, so it’s quiet.

Sounds awesome, good for artistic pursuits. 
So how about languages? What’s your favorite language? I see you speak French, Spanish, German and some Italian. 

Spanish is my first language and the one in which I function every day. I started learning English in the first grade. It’s tough to pick a favorite foreign language. Through each of them, I’ve made friends and gained access to new books and movies.

So where does your interest and immersion in diverse cultures and lifestyles come from? Was this a natural part of your upbringing? Related to career or family? Did you actively seek to expand your horizons? 

A palm reader once told me that I’d traveled to the places where I’d lived in my past lives. I don’t know if there’s any truth to that, but the University of Michigan encourages students to travel. So, I took the opportunities that appeared without hesitation. My parents also took me on their business trips when I was growing up. The best part of that is that I got to skip school now and then.

Skipping school is always nice! And speaking of school... Only a small percentage of people can get into an Ivy league school. What did you take from that education (the academic rigor, legacy, culture, daily life, etc.)? 

Getting into Harvard was an exciting moment! I’m most grateful for the group of people that I met and with whom I continue to interact at alumni events. Having studied English and American literature as an undergrad gave me the reading and writing discipline to develop my career as an author.

Cool, let's talk about that reading and writing discipline. You certainly dig werewolves, do you have any classic novels that inspire you? How about authors? Where does the love come from? And what’s your take on the genre/sub-genre of werewolves? Do you see any patterns, any shifts? Things you don’t like, authors you do or don’t feel are pushing the genre forward?

The love of werewolves and fantasy comes from my family’s comic book store. My mother, who recently passed away, founded Metro Comics 27 years ago. Living a life surrounded by superheroes and fantastic creatures sparked my imagination.

For the novel, I studied pagan and Catholic werewolf myths. Ann Rice did a powerful interpretation of the werewolf as superhero. Twilight presents the werewolf as a protector. Stephen King presents it as a dangerous monster. For Werewolf Nights, I borrowed the full moon from Hollywood, but it’s not as clear whether all werewolves are good or bad.

I can only imagine growing up with a family comic book store. Almost three decades in business, that's wild. And I see what you mean about the types of werewolves. Definitely keeps the genre interesting!

So let’s focus on your novel, Werewolf Nights. The main character, Catherine, seems to get a new lease on life with this werewolf movie, and then falls for her costar—who may or may not be turning into a werewolf. The movie script resembles her own family werewolf lore. Where does this come from? How much of Catherine do you find in yourself? Generally, how much do your characters and plot trajectories represent your own life’s? 

Catherine’s grandma warns her that a werewolf might one day come looking for her, and thus she should stay clear if certain places like the Wolfern manor. Her grandmother’s warning evokes Little Red Riding Hood, but the rest of the lore is my own original take.

Although my protagonist’s personality and way of handling situations doesn’t resemble mine at all, we have common interests. Like Catherine, who likes to read books about werewolves, I enjoy fantasy and myths. People have actually been tried for being werewolves, so even though the monsters are a myth, people’s perception of them have sometimes been real. Catherine lives in a town that claims to have been founded by werewolves. For Werevilleans the myth is real. Through the comic book store, people reenact the adventures they read, but don’t think they’re real. 

Catherine has a bakery and I have a comic book store. Besides, she has a sense of waiting for someone or something to happen that could change her life. In her case, it’s landing a role in the movie Werewolf Nights. For me, publishing my novel sent me in the adventure of connecting with readers and werewolf fans from all over the world.

My characters have varied approaches at dealing with situations. I would agree with some of their decisions, but they have their own path.

That's cool, so some parallels... but your characters generally have their own ways and styles. And being tried for being werewolves, yikes, that's some Salem witch trials stuff there! 

Let’s shift the focus a little to writing + promoting. I see that you’re a public speaker and top twitter influencer in LA. What would you recommend to authors seeking to elevate their platforms? 

As an indie author, I’m always looking for opportunities to expand my platform. I would tell other authors to get on social media and promote their work. Find other supportive writers to share their work and share theirs in return. Take opportunities when they appear. Go to events and book fairs and talk about your work. Local libraries can be very supportive too. Through them, I managed to give talks about the mythology of the werewolf and showcase Werewolf Nights.

Being good on twitter – what does it take? How do you strategically form connections, use hashtags, and build an audience?

Twitter takes a lot of time and effort, but it’s pretty fun. I read articles about how to market on Twitter and check out different hashtags to see who’s out there. Interacting with followers is key. I’m very grateful to the #writingcommunity for their support.

What role do radio and personal author meetings play in getting the word out? Any tips or secrets? 

Radio gives you endorsement more than direct sales. It shows that you can discuss a topic and answer questions about your work. Although many listeners might not immediately run and buy your book, it expands your platform, which brings new readers.

The first best-selling author I met was Alex Haley. My dad had invited him to give a talk to the Puerto Rico Chamber of Commerce. We went to the airport to pick him up. Although I was too young to know I’d become a writer and fully appreciate the experience, I thought he was very kind.

And finally, I like to ask my guests to give a little something extra. Can you hit us with anything that we haven’t learned thus far that would shock us or totally blow our socks off? Let’s hear it! ;)

I had the opportunity to go to Cañada College and Chabot College to talk about Werewolf Nights and writing. The professor was teaching my book in her classes. When I walked in, I was hoping no one would hit me in the head with the book. Instead, I had the most rewarding moment in my writing career when I saw that students were listening to me and one even told me that Werewolf Nights had been their favorite book of the semester.

Whoa, I bet that made your day!

Thank you Evan for this interview and for supporting the work of independent authors. It’s been a pleasure answering your questions. Readers can also purchase signed copies of Werewolf Nights through me. Thanks!

My pleasure, Mari. Best of luck moving forward and thanks for hanging out in the Authors' Lounge!

Connect With Mari

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Introducing Worldbuilder & Occasional Ghostbuster, Joshua E.B. Smith

An image posted by the author.
Hey Joshua, it’s good to chat with ya.

Same! Looking forward to this.

Before we get into your books, lemme just say – EverQuest- awesome. And you’re a big Elder Scrolls guy… which one’s your favorite?

This is a trap, heh. My first TES game was Daggerfall, and one of the first thoughts I had while playing it was “Wouldn't it be SO COOL if the people in town were REAL?” Of course, this was when 36k modems were cutting edge tech, so the idea of a MMO was lightyears away. When I ran into EQ1 shortly after it launched, I was in heaven.

I can't really answer which game is my favorite; both hold huge parts of my heart in different places. I will say that EQ2 is still one of (and possibly the) best MMO I've ever played, and that Skyrim is the best single-player RPG I've ever touched and might just be the best anything.

I can agree with you on Skyrim. My initial impression was just being blown away by its vastness. Oh, and I remember the crummy modem days - mainly my mom yelling at me to get off the internet so she could make a call...

But anyway… Let’s get into a little bit more about you. You say that you write to sorta get away from geopolitics and societal norms – I hear that.

Have you seen society lately? I think we ALL need more escapism than what we've got.

Speaking of societal norms, we live in some ‘interesting’ times don’t we?

I'm not sure if we live in interesting times, or if we are living on the cusp of interesting times. In the last 19 years, we've gone from being an analog society to a digital one; we've gone from only hearing from people in our own communities to hearing from people around the globe in an instant; we've gone from being able to trust the evening news to wondering who's paying for their opinion pieces; we've gone from libraries to Google; we've gone from a production-based economy to a service-based one.

PaperbackAt the same time, the world has embraced a culture of ignorance – if what we “believe” is enough to get us by, it doesn't matter what “facts” are. While this has always been a problem for developing nations throughout history, history has also shown countless times that when you start ignoring people that have made their life work the study of science and the arts, bad things happen. A lot of bad things happen.

My thoughts – and believe me, I have no end to them – is that in the next decade we are going to be at a point where we are more conscious of the wants, the ideas, the needs, and the failures of the world than we ever have been before. At the same time, unless we get involved NOW and concerted effort to establish some ground rules for the digital age for how much disinformation we're willing to stomach... it's not going to go well.

On the other hand, with as many advancements as we're achieving day to day, it's hard to even imagine what the technology will look like in the year 2025... or even 2030. Ten years ago, flip phones ruled the world. Twenty, if you had a wireless phone in your house you were awesome. What do we get to see in the next decade that's going to make our smartphones and instant access to the net seem incredibly outdated?

Got off on a tangent there. Sorry 'bout that.

No apologies needed. I like it. The exponential innovation is just nuts. What’s next? The neural link? An interconnected hivemind where we’re all like synapses in some living breathing algorithm?

I imagine people way smarter than me are already well on their way to devising it...

Let’s get back to your writing. Aside from, sorta, escapism, what are your primary reasons for writing? How long have you been writing and when did you first really start to take it more seriously?

Honestly, I think I remember writing “stories” as a little kid after I learned to read. I even found one semi-recently - we'd call it “fanfic” today; just little attempts at Ghostbuster-themed stories done in crayon. (Which, considering some of the fanfic out there...)

I really got involved writing when I hit my early 20's. I was my grandmother's caretaker as a teenager, after she had several strokes and was homebound. At the same time, I was also a heavy gamer (more than I should've been) and I spent the vast majority of my time playing EverQuest. For people that aren't familiar with it, it was a swords & sorcery online-only, multiplayer-centric game; unfortunately, it also didn't have a pause button. When grandma's condition worsened and I entered college, I didn't have time to play it.

But I still loved the characters I had created, and after a couple weeks of going cold turkey (it really was an addiction) I got the urge to start writing. I spent years writing a 500+pg novel, but wasn't able to afford a publisher (this was around 2004, when traditional publishing was still the main thing and ebooks didn't exist yet). Over the next decade, I worked on other stories in the same universe – outlines, full books, shorts, worldbuilding and so on. In 2013, I decided to try to publish something short and simple, and while it was the exact opposite of a best selling success, it was what I needed to realize I could do this.

A 500+ pg novel is quite the endeavor. Good for you for finally making the publishing push. Personally, I found my early interest in role playing games naturally transferred to a desire for worldbuilding.
Kindle EditionLet’s talk about your books. I gotta say, I love the covers for your “Saga of the Dead Men Walking” trilogy – did your mom do those? The skeletal look is pretty cool.

Yes and no. My mom, Peggy Smith (hi mom!) did the FIRST cover for Snowflakes in Summer and for Dead Men in Winter. She also did the cover for Blindsided. She did the drawings, I did the colorization in Photoshop. I love them – so much that they're actually hanging up in my house (which I keep telling myself isn't narcissism).

Unfortunately, as much as I love them, after about a year of having them out I listened to feedback from people that had bought copies, people that had thought about buying copies, and other authors I know. The verdict was that I probably wouldn't have much luck getting a bookstore to carry it with the existing covers – so I did some shopping and found an INCREDIBLE cover designer that took me on and redid the covers for Snowflakes, Dead Men, and then did the cover for Favorite Things.

The covers for Fearmonger (digital only) and Slag Harbor were done by two of my best friends in the world – Jeff Jones Jr. and Alecia Gulley, respectively.

That’s cool, the ‘cover game’ is definitely something I think a lotta people overlook or don’t fully appreciate. I know I do.

Speaking of the series, you say your main inspiration was Pirates of the Caribbean. Any other main inspirations (movies, books, authors, etc.) for this trilogy?

Oh yeah. Game of Thrones/George R. R. Martin. The concept of 'anyone can die and probably will' is a lesson that stuck with me hard. Tolkien, of course, because he literally wrote the book on fantasy worlds. I really want to say Buffy: The Vampire Slayer and Supernatural, too; almost the entirety of Snowflakes is a “what done it” instead of a “who done it,” which is a staple of those series in terms of individual story arcs.

I see you’ve already mentioned some of your favorite authors in your Amazon bio. Do they play a big role in your literary creations?

Mostly in that I want my name to be somewhere in the same circle as theirs. I sincerely doubt I will ever be as well-known as Timothy Zahn or David Eddings. Let's be honest; that kind of skill is borderline once-in-a-generation. But it WOULD be awesome if someone were to include me on their list of favorite authors one day somewhere near them.

PaperbackHey, dream big & work smart!

Speaking of your Amazon bio, it also says that you didn’t start self-publishing until 2013, despite having the ideas in 2000. Were you playing with ideas for that period, or did your ‘life get in the way,’ as they say?

Both. In 2006? I broke my neck and spent a long time dealing with chronic migraines that changed my life. There's a few years that I was simply so blitzed on muscle relaxants and anti-seizure medications that I can't remember what I did or when. It kinda killed the writing hope until I started getting my life back in order.

Darn man, glad to hear you’ve emerged from the haze.

Let’s take a basic gestalt of your series. What type of world are we dealing with? Who and what are these exorcists, beasts and hauntings that we encounter? What’s the primary trajectory? Who are the primary villains and heroes? Who’s your favorite character?

On the world:

This is a swords & sorcery style environment, set in a time period that's got the technological equivalent of the late Roman Empire mixed with some aspects of 13th century life – so you have ships with cannons, but public sanitation is still an obscure concept. The world as a whole believes in the Gods and Goddesses of the Pantheon, magic is there and is practiced by many, but not “so” many that everyone and their dog can cast spells.

The beasts and hauntings:

It's always bothered me in stories I've read or shows that I've watched where someone goes “Oh, demon!” and it ends up being a creature that's got the IQ of a brick and a skillset that can be overcome by three children and a glowing dagger. The Abyss, in this world, is a REAL place. The average citizen doesn't think much of it (anymore than you and I do), but it IS there and it IS real. The things in it? They're not nice. They're the antithesis of nice. There are things that are relatively weak that come from the gaping maw of perdition, simple spirits and walking dead. Things that exist as a matter of natural occurrence, even in their unnatural manifestations.

The other things... the things that have a Reason To Be? Snowflakes starts with the death of a half-dozen or so soldiers, and the body count goes up from there.

The exorcists

For a whole lot of story-spoiling reasons, the Order of Love has taken it upon themselves to serve as the defenders of the world (or as much of the world as they can get to) against the influences of the Abyss. The 'why' is a lot deeper than this interview can touch on – but they've got their reasons. While the other Gods see the affairs of demons and demonic influences on the land as beneath them, the Goddess of Love finds nothing but abhorrence in those shadows; and as She's often maligned as being... Love's a bitch.

With Snowflakes in Summer, the series starts with a young exorcist – call him roughly eighteen years old – who has just graduated out of the Temple and is sent to go deal with a “small, simple haunting” on the edge of the Kingdom of Dawnfire in some misbegotten little mountain-side village that's so poor and dreary that the tax collectors don't even care to go there anymore.

When he gets there, not only does he realize he's COMPLETELY over his head and out of his pay-grade, other things notice his arrival too. Other not-so small, not-so simple things. What starts as a relatively basic “find spirit and banish it” mission quickly turns into a “How in the name of the Goddess do I stop it from spreading?!” one. Or as I tell people at book signings:

There really is something eating people when they go into the woods. And past that? There's something else that's been gestating for years, undetected, unknown, and out of control. If he can't figure out how to stop it, everyone in the village is going to die.

And then things will get worse for them.

Or in the words of Scooby Doo, “Ruh Roh...”

Who/what do you think readers will connect with most in your novels?

I hope they'll connect the most with Akaran. He's underpaid, underappreciated, and overworked. I think most of us can relate to that in one way or another. Unlike most of us, he's got the power to fix things he sees as injustices... even if nobody else thinks it needs to be fixed.

Where did you get the ideas for the character names, places and locations? They’re very unique. It also appears you have developed quite the history/lore for this series. Any main inspiration for your novels?

I wish I could say that there is a main inspiration, but I'm just a nerdy guy that's spent way too much of his life either reading books or watching TV or playing games in fantasy-style worlds.

As far as the history of it goes, I do a LOT of worldbuilding around the series. If I mention a place, or character, or an event, or a plant that's not native in our world, I've made a note of it somewhere. I can tell you who the Third Queen of Dawnfire was from ~150+ years in the past, how long her rule was, why she's rotting in the Abyss, and how the afterlife has been treating her.

Doing that kind of ground-up design helps me keep everything grounded in the world, and cuts down on accidental errors and ambiguity. When I first published SFIS, I made the very embarrassing mistake of having two different characters call the local provincial capitol different cities. While that would've been fine if they were peasants, they were both military officers (and would know better). At another point, a second continuity error listed a soldier from being in two different garrisons.

I decided from that point on that if there was going to be a character, there was going to be a reference sheet for him or her so that I wouldn't make that kind of oopsie again if I can at all help it.

Also, do you have a favorite novel? And what role do the other two books, “Blindsided” and “Fearmonger,” play in this world of yours? I see they were published a few years earlier.

Favorite novel? City Infernal by Edward Lee. I don't read as much as I used to, but the depiction of hell that Lee crafted is utterly fascinating to me. Bleak and horrible, but it feels so 'real' that it wouldn't be that much of a shock to land there one day. Second favorite? Dante's Inferno. Recent favorite? Judges: Volume One by Michael Carroll – it's a collection of novellas set in the Judge Dredd universe.

Fearmonger. This is the first story I published on Amazon. It is set four years after the events of Snowflakes in Summer, Dead Men in Winter, Slag Harbor, and Favorite Things. You get a glimpse of the man that Akaran grows into with a whole lot of warning about the things he gets involved in. I recommend reading it (it's only $0.99 USD or free for Kindle Unlimited) to get a feel for the writing style and the world. I'd rather you spend less than a dollar finding out if you like me than drop $30+ on three books and decide that you hate everything I've ever done.

Blindsided? Much the same, only five years after the events in Snowflakes. Same world, but two different characters that are in an entirely different part of the Kingdom than anything seen so far (and mostly, under it).

I know that's probably headache inducing – and I apologize. After publishing Blindsided, I expected to go straight into one of the novels I had written in the early 2000's and get it to print. But I thought, hey. Let's take this really small, twenty-page long short story I wrote introducing Akaran as a character in 1999 and tidy it up and sell a few copies of it just so I can have something new in stock.

So, I opened up my really short, twenty page long story entitled Snowflakes in Summer, and started to tidy it up. And tidy. And tidy. And the more I tided the longer it got. Soon, it was a 250 page book... then a 500 page pair of books and... finally, my twenty page “short” ended up being just short of a thousand pages long and two and a half years of effort.

Now that the Snowflakes Series is my start, and it establishes the world and the things in and around it... I've moved on to the next story. Which, ironically, still isn't the one I planned to write. It's just the next one that fits in the timeline as I've established it. Weird, I know, but... give me a couple more years. It'll all make sense. I promise.

Now let’s get into publishing and promoting. Any advice for other authors, especially fantasy writers?

I WISH I had good advice. I don't. I wish I could say that with five simple steps you too can publish a book and make hundreds of dollars of royalties a month. I wish I could say with three really complicated steps, you can make tens of dollars of royalties in a month.

What I can say is that you need to understand the market. Just about anyone right now can sit down and write something and pass it through Grammarly and then go get a free cover through Amazon's author assistance and put a story out there. You no longer need 'skill' to say that you are published. So, they do, and the market is flooded with stories that you wouldn't want to pick up which makes it exceptionally frustrating when you think that you've got an incredible idea that you want people to see but it gets lost in the sea of tens of thousands of other people that think the same thing.

I had absolutely no clue what I was doing when I wrote Fearmonger. A big argument could be made that I still don't. I have never gone on the hunt for an agent, or a publishing house. I have never (to my knowledge) been sought after by a bookstore or library. My return on advertising is low, which means I'm either not doing it right or I'm simply not standing out with the products I have.

That said.

I can tell you that there are more costs involved than you can imagine. My covers for SFIS, DMIW, and FT ran me $250 a pop (and I'm very happy with every penny spent). I've dropped hundreds of dollars into purchasing ISBN numbers. Editors are not cheap (but you need one anyways). I've spent thousands and thousands of hours writing, re-writing, thinking, passing up on occasions to go out with friends and family because I'm trying to get just that right word in the right spot. I can tell you that I've researched some of the weirdest stuff in my life trying to get a scene together.

It takes time, it takes effort, it takes a support system, and you need to walk into it with the knowledge that you may well not make anything from it. However...

If you're a writer, it's who you are. It's a thing you do. It's WHAT you do, even when you're not actively writing. If that's your dream, your passion, your heart? Then go do it. Go and write and try because unless you do it you will not know if you'll succeed. And even if you DON'T get critical acclaim while you're alive – history is full of people that had their dreams realized and recorded in time when they weren't around to see it anymore.

So if you're a writer? Take every negative I just said, throw it away, and go do it anyway. Be afraid, and do it anyway.

I know the struggle. Fear is quite the motivator, ain’t it?

So what fuels you and keeps you going?

Caffeine. If it wasn't for that wonder-drug, I'd be a nonfunctional sloth. Also, I have a story. I have a world, I have characters I love, I have a plot that I've mapped out over a dozen+ stories and more ideas that pop into my head on a weekly basis. I love it. I love thinking about it, talking about it, working on it. I want to give it to other people in the hope that they'll love it as much as I do.

Also, I kinda want to show my family and friends and someone incredibly special to me that all the headaches were worth it in the end.

Oh I hear that, a creative obsession of sorts. And you’re right, caffeine can definitely help (although I know a guy who swears by sublingual b12...)

Do you use any promotional tactics, websites, services and/or social media platforms especially?

I do, but not many that I am comfortable endorsing specifically, with the exception of Google Drive (their servers are less likely than yours to catch fire and explode, but keep secondary backups anyways), Grammarly (helps you pick up those idiot mistakes you swear you're smarter than that to make), and Google as a search and research entity. I also have nothing but good things to say about my distributor/printer/publisher, IngramSpark.

And finally, I like to get my guests to provide something wild, something crazy, something unexpected. Hit us with something most people wouldn’t guess about you… Go!

I cosplay as a Ghostbuster when I'm not writing. We raise funds for a state-based agency in West Virginia that provides assistance for children in foster care. So, by day I write horrible graphic scenes of death and dismemberment, and by weekends, I'm walking in parades giving five-year-olds high-fives and passing out coloring sheets at birthday parties.

Haha hey, we are large, we contain multitudes – and I’m sure the kids love it!

You can check out more of their activities at:

Awesome. Always a good cause.

Thank you so much for the chance to be hosted on your page! I had a lot of fun with this, and I hope the answers are what you were looking for.

Sure thing Joshua, I enjoyed it as well.

Connect With Joshua 



Get To Know One Of The "Top New Latino Writers To Watch," Sandra Lopez

Sandra C. LopezHey Sandra. First off, nice to meet you. Before we discuss your writing specifically, let’s get into a little bit about you. I’m curious… what role have your life experiences played in shaping who you are today? Particularly your upbringing, being a “Latina” and perhaps, your explorations with relationships and singlehood?

My family, my past, my upbringing—everything played a role to the person I am today. I was born and raised in Hawaiian Gardens, a tiny city located in Southern California. The first of three children, I lived in a typical barrio neighborhood, growing up like most low-income Latinos. I dedicated most of my childhood reading ever since I was first introduced to the written word at the early age of two. That obsessive habit transformed me into an honorable student earning the best grades possible, and then I became the first in my family to graduate high school and go to college. Now, I am one of today’s inspirational Latina authors in Young Adult literature. My first novel, Esperanza, was published in 2008 while I was still in college. I was named as one of “2011 Top New Latino Writers to Watch.”

Now let’s touch on your writing broadly. I see that you explore issues such as personal and cultural identity, family, love and dreams. How closely does your work reflect your own life experiences?

Kindle Edition
I’d say it’s fairly close. I referred to some of my own life experiences, but some actually came from my own observations—just merely looking around and studying other people.

You have three separate books, one a collection of stories. I have to ask, do you have a favorite? One you enjoyed writing the most? One you consider your ‘best’?

That’s like asking if you have a favorite child. Each of my books is special and unique in its own way.

Now let’s get into the books specifically. There’s “Beyond The Gardens,” “Single Chicas” and “Esperanza.”

Esperanza and Beyond the Gardens are both based on my experience growing up and going to school, but they’re not autobiographical; they’re fictional stories. Single Chicas came from stories that I’ve experienced and stories that I’ve learned through observations.

That's cool. So as an author who has written from these experiences, what advice would you give to other writers, whether or not they’re in the young adult genre?

Write what you like, not what you think might sell, otherwise, you take the fun out of it. Read as much as you write. Every now and then, pay it forward by reviewing another author’s work. But, most importantly, keep at it, even if you’re not where you want to be in the book world (i.e. millionaire, world famous author, etc.) For social media, I’ve learned to post often to gain as much exposure as possible.

And finally, let’s end with a Bang. Give us something highly unique to you, a nice juicy surprise—Go!

I’d like to visit each continent at least once before I die.

Sounds like a good plan!

Connect With Sandra

Facebook: … 


Say Hello To Prolific Author & Beer Connoisseur,  Ty Johnston

Ty Johnston
Hey Ty, nice to have the opportunity to chat. Let’s start with some good ol’ rapid fire...

Ale or Lager?

Here’s the thing: It all depends upon my mood. For casual drinking, I tend to be a pale ale and pilsner guy, so I can’t really say I like ales or lagers over the other. However, there are times when I want a stout, occasionally a porter, so I suppose I have a slight preference for ales.

Dark or Light?

As I mentioned above, I’m a pale ale and pilsner drinker for the most part, so I guess I have to lean somewhat towards “light” beers. But when I want something dark, by the gods I want something dark.

Strong or Weak?

Despite my leanings toward lighter brews, I prefer a good, strong taste. Weak beers? They have their place, like when you’re mowing the yard or maybe grilling out in the back yard on a hot day, but generally I want something that’s going to pack some kick to it and not just lay on my tongue like the grease from yesterday’s french fries.

German or Irish?

I’ll have to lean hard toward the Irish. I know it’s blasphemy in beer circles, but I’ve never been all that impressed with German beers. Often enough they have some solid strength to them, but the flavorings rarely do much for me. If for no other reason, the Irish have Harp and Guinness, so that alone puts me in their corner.

And for my own personal betterment, three more specific questions: (1) If I curl full steins repeatedly, can I get jacked?

Uh, YEAH! You keep drinking them, the effects will add up.

Exactly. Who said you can’t get fit by drinking?

And… (2) If I’m eating steak, any recommended porter or stout?

I’m more of a stout drinker than porters, not that there’s anything wrong with porters, but it depends upon where you’re eating that steak, what’s available. If you’re at a typical steak house or at home, there’s nothing wrong with a Guinness. Guinness is easy to find and is still a solid stout with plenty of dark, creamy flavoring. On the other hand, if you’re wanting to try something different, I highly recommend the Great Lakes Brewery Barrel Aged Blackout Stout. The Great Lakes folks in Ohio always have excellent beers, but this might be my current favorite from them. For something else, the Breckenridge Brewery Oatmeal Stout from Colorado is awesome.

And finally, (3) afterwards, when the food coma sets in, any other beer suggestion?

By this point, most humans will usually want something lighter on their stomach. They’re either stuffed or near drunk or both. So, nothing too heavy unless you’re a glutton for punishment. If nothing extraordinary is available, there’s nothing wrong with a good, cold Rolling Rock. Sierra Nevada also makes a number of lighter brews worth swigging. Unfortunately, the Sierra Nevada Glissade was my favorite lighter beer from them and they no longer make it, which is a shame because it was just about the perfect brew for summer and hot weather. An available option would be Hell’s Belle, a Belgian-style blonde ale from the Big Ross Brewing Company in Raleigh, North Carolina.

And of all alcoholic beverages, is anything better than beer? (aside from more beer?)

Possibly Bourbon. I’m originally from Kentucky, having grown up literally in the middle of bourbon territory, so I’m biased, but ... bourbon. And if it’s not from Kentucky, it’s not real bourbon. I don’t care what the law says. Oh, I’ll give that beer has a lot more options and is likely appropriate to more situations, but nothing beats a good bourbon.

Alrighty, now let’s get into your writing. I see you’re pretty prolific.

How long have you been writing?

When haven’t I been writing? I’ll be fifty in a matter of weeks and I’ve been writing since at least the age of six. I started with writing and drawing my own comic books, then made a transition to short novels by the time I was about 10. Then from my late teens until I was about 40, I wrote tons of short stories and a few novels. Sometimes I tried to get my works published, sometimes not, depending upon what I thought of the quality level. I had stories published here and there, but not any of the novels because I didn’t often send them out to publishers. I had a few close calls with some major publishers, but never any actual bites, no signed contracts, always something like, “we like it but it’s not the right time” or “too bad we just published something like this,” etc. As for professionally or semi-professionally or indie or self-published or whatever you want to call it, I’ve been writing full time for about a decade now. Before that, I spent a couple of decades as a newspaper editor, so at least I was involved in publishing to that extent.

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Wow, you’ve really been a lifelong writer and author. That’s cool—so what got you into the craft?

Early on, the ability to tell stories. Especially when I was young, action-driven stories were my thing, and I liked the idea of creating different characters and putting them into dangerous situations. As I grew older, I found interest more in themes and sometimes ideas behind a story and in how a story is told, how a writer puts together their words. I’m not so interested in poetry or flowery writing, but sentence and paragraph structure draw my attention, even chapter and whole novel structure.

I’m interested in that as well. Some say there are two types of writers, pantsers and planners. Pantsers let the story go where it may, and planners plot it all out.

Speaking of planning and not planning, what keeps you going?

Having a muse. Paying the bills. Working with words in a form that interests me. All of these things come together in my writing. I always thought the idea of a muse was silly, but I’ve found I’m much more prolific when I have someone with whom to share my life, so maybe that’s related. The bills, yeah, they gots to be paid. Sometimes writers and often readers don’t like to think about the financial aspects of writing, but if you want to keep reading, you’ve got to pay somebody at some point at some time. Even readers who read only material they’ve gotten free somehow or other, they’re eventually going to suffer in the quality of material or they’re going to have to break down and pay something to somebody unless they have no cares about what they’re reading and just want to read anything. As for working with words, I repeat that I’m not a poet and don’t have much interest there, but I am drawn to particular styles of writing and playing with them; sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t, and sometimes it works for the author but not for the reader, and sometimes vice versa.

I hear ya there man. So while we’re on “particular styles of writing,” what’s your favorite genre to read and write?

Kindle EditionTo be honest, I’m not sure I have a favorite reading genre at this point. For a long time it was horror, then fantasy, but nowadays I’m kind of all over the place. I have favorite authors, but they’re not necessarily in genres people would identify with me. For instance, the late Ed McBain was known for his police procedurals, not normally a genre I read, but his writing style is one of my favorites, quick, lean, to the point. I tend to like reading that makes me think regardless of genre or fiction or non-fiction. Speaking directly to writing, I generally prefer writing fantasy nowadays because of the freedom I feel it allows me. Nearly all the genres I find restrictive to some point or other, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing and something I’m willing to work within if I think it fits the story I’m telling. However, fantasy has no limits thematically or stylistically as far as I’m concerned. Oh, many people tend to associate fantasy with swords and dragons and wizards, etc., but that’s a rather narrow viewpoint of fantasy. Fantasy can literally be anything. Anything can happen, anything can be the subject matter, and so on.

I like your take on fantasy, whatever one can ‘fantasize’ I suppose, huh?

You seem to be quite the avid reader, judging by your blog. How much does literary hunger influence your writing?

It depends upon what you mean by “literary.” While I like to play within paragraph and sentence structure, I’m not usually one for fancy words and elaborate prose. I lean more towards the Hemingway school of writing. While not writing down to my readers, I tend to try to use common language that most English readers would understand readily. Part of this is because my “hunger” as a writer tends to be more philosophical, with me exploring different themes and ideas. Because of this, in order to not confuse any readers I try to keep my writing succinct, not to be overly verbose or pedantic. Heck, normally I wouldn’t even use such words as “verbose” or “pedantic” unless they were in a character’s words or thoughts. However, I want to point out that the majority of my works aren’t necessarily overly philosophical or literary. Heck, I love reading and penning a good ole action story with the best of them. Sometimes ya just wanna swing a sword!

As Stephen King has more or less said, ‘just tell the story.’

And in terms of those stories…. Of the books you’ve written, do you have a book you’re most proud of?

Kindle EditionMy one non-genre book, More Than Kin, has a special hold for me because I wrote it for my dad, and fortunately he got to read it before he passed away a few years back. His response wasn’t completely positive, but it wasn’t totally negative, either. That being said, what I feel is my best-written novel is Ghosts of the Asylum, the first book in my Horrors of Bond trilogy and my fourth novel featuring my Kron Darkbow character. I feel Ghosts of the Asylum is my strongest plotted novel to date, though the third book in that same trilogy, The Company of Seven, comes darn close.

Tell us about the epic fantasy series, The Kobalos Trilogy.

Vengeance, hate, rage, misunderstandings, swords, wizards, all these and more are found in the trilogy. My protagonist, Kron Darkbow, initially sets out for revenge in the slaying of his parents, an old and familiar trope I realize, but he soon finds out his target isn’t exactly who he thought it was but is former barbarian chieftain turned crime lord Belgad the Liar. Belgad can be vicious, but he’s generally not cruel, and he has his own redeeming qualities. Part of my playing with expectations here is to portray hero and villain and vice versa, because neither are very nice people and both have good qualities. Then I compound that with other characters, Adara Corvus who is a fencer and apprentice assassin, and Randall Tendbones, a healer with a mysterious past. There are plenty of other characters, and what I mention here is mostly about the first book, City of Rogues, but the relationships between characters runs throughout all three novels. As mentioned, there are a number of well worn fantasy tropes here, but I hope I also included enough surprises to make readers think a little. As for Kron himself, he has rage issues, and while he doesn’t completely work through them in these books, he does make some progress. He makes further progress in the following series, The Horrors of Bond Trilogy.

PaperbackI appreciate that the characters are complex and not just good/bad cutouts. Do you have a book you’d rather forget?

Hmm, not exactly. I have a few books I’m sure some of my readers would rather forget. While I tend to be known for action-driven fantasy works, I have penned a few more literary novels that aren’t exactly entertaining. You might ask, well why would anyone write a novel that’s not entertaining? Answer: Because the author is exploring ideas that aren’t necessarily great drama. They’re not as common nowadays, but a number of authors in the past have written such works. James Joyce comes to mind, who wrote several books that took a steam-of-consciousness approach, not riveting stuff from a story-telling point of view, but interesting (at least to me) from a structural point of view. I’ll give an example from my own work. My novel 100 Years of Blood is kind of a horror novel but not exactly. It follows a somewhat wealthy family of sorts across a century while they live together in a house. During their time in the house, there are odd events that happen, including more than one murder. To be blatant about it, the novel sets up the reader to believe the people in the house are vampires. But are they? Are they really? Are there no other explanations to what goes on than that these people are vampires? Ultimately I leave that decision up to the reader, which is how I intended the book from the beginning, but I’ll admit it’s not necessarily a fun read, not something you’d want to pick up at the airport. It’s a novel that plays with reader expectations while explaining nothing, and I understand how that could be frustrating to many a reader, but it’s something I wanted to explore at the time.

I have a few “aren’t exactly entertaining” books myself! Can you, and do you, chart your evolution as a writer/author?

Chart it? Not really. I do pay attention at least casually to my stats and finances, but mostly I just watch as I add more books I’ve written to my shelves at home. As for me improving as a writer, I’m always trying out different styles. I have a set style I use for my Kron Darkbow novels and a sort of set style I use for most of my horror novels, but otherwise I try to write each book differently. Not sure that’s evolution as far as my writing goes, but it sort of is. At least it’s my own study in different styles of writing.

How closely do your characters and plots mirror aspects of your life?

I’ve rarely intentionally set out to write anything that reflects my life or myself, but sometimes a few years after I’ve written a novel I can look back and see the connections even though I couldn’t at the time. The most obvious instance to me is in The Horrors of Bond Trilogy in which my protagonist suffers a major personal loss. At the time I did not consciously think about it, but I’m a widower and my wife was suffering from cancer while I wrote those books, and she passed away within a handful of days of my finishing that last novel, The Company of Seven. Was there a connection? I can’t but look back now and think there was.

Sorry to hear that. It is always interesting to reflect on where our minds were at the time.

Moving a little away from writing, what is your take on the publishing and self-publishing industry to date?

It’s a mess. It’s a nightmare. Writers are getting screwed. But you know what? It’s always that way. Even when not writing as a full-time job, back in the day I paid attention to publishing, and the sky is always falling. The only thing to do is to keep writing while keeping your options open and staying versatile in dealing with the business, which means dealing with near-constant change. It’s always tough, but it always has been. Funny thing, a while back I was reading an article about book writing and publishing written by the Marquis de Sade back in the 18th Century, and most of the complaints and concerns he had back then are the same ones writers have today. Vent every once in a while in private, but keep on writing and publishing. Also, focus upon the positive as much as possible. The negative can only weigh you down.

Do you have any promotional tips or tricks? Have you used Amazon’s advertising program? Thoughts?

In my experience, finding success at promotions is ultimately a matter of luck. Oh, you can set yourself up for success, but it’s still not always going to happen, not even likely to happen unless you spend a ton of money. All promotions work to some extent or other, but not often well. A promotion has to hit at just the right moment, or someone with some pull or importance has to take notice of your promotion and your material. I know there are those who will say I’m grousing, but I don’t mean it that way and I’m not suggesting to not do any promotions. I’ve been an indie author for a decade now, and honestly, the best promotion I’ve seen is to write another book. E-mail lists help, as do Facebook ads, and Amazon advertising, and all the different promotional sights, but generally they’re not going to boost a single author into sudden success. Those who have found sudden success have been lucky, and even if they don’t like the term “lucky” and are in denial of it, it’s the truth. Keep in mind I’m talking about sudden, over-the-night success. Plugging away at this game of writing over a long period is going to offer a better chance of success for most of us, again, unless you’ve got tons and tons of money to spend upon advertising or some celebrity or person in charge at a promotional site happens to notice you. Speaking specifically to Amazon’s advertising, it’s not a bad thing and has helped me from time to time for short periods, but honestly I’ve found it cost prohibitive. Frankly, I’ve put in as much money as I’ve made, so I’ve not found it worth it. Others will have different levels of success, but I’ll still call it a matter of luck, of hitting at the right time or drawing attention from the right person or group. You can work a lot, and I mean a whole lot, at promotions, to the point you spend more time doing that than writing, but I would suggest focus more upon the writing. I’m not going to tell anyone that a good book alone will bring someone success, but if success, especially with money, is what one is after, I wouldn’t suggest they go into writing in the first place. Do what you love, not because it might bring you fame and fortune, not because it’s some hippy-dippy trip thing that shows the universe just how truly deep you are, not because you’re trying to be an artiste, but to keep your own sanity and from letting the world drive you crazy.

Tinkering with Amazon’s ads can definitely be a headache!

Now onto the title of your blog... what’s better... Beer, books or barbarians?

I’ll have to go with books. Beer is awesome, but if I were trapped on a desert island, eventually the beer would run out. Actually, the beer would probably run out rather quickly. Barbarians would quickly become a nuisance in just about any situation, though I admit I might like to have a few watching my back during a fight. No, books are more lasting and less annoying. Plus there’s no hangover if I read too much. Back to that desert island, if I had books, at least I could entertain myself and keep my mind busy, even if I had to read the same things over and over again. That being said, if I had the proper brewing equipment and supplies on that island, I might reconsider. Hmm, maybe a book about brewing beer?

And finally, I like to have my guests share something neat, bewildering, or altogether shocking. Leave us with something that few people would know about you…. Go!

I’m trained in using a longsword and some few other historical weapons. I make no claims to being an expert, not even to being good, but I at least have the training and experience. I used to take part in what today has generally come to be known as HEMA (Historical European Martial Arts), but had to give it up a few years ago. Age and health were the main reasons I stopped. No use letting someone half my age beat the crap out of me with a sword every day. I got started with swording because I wanted to better inform my writing, and generally I think it paid off. I’ve learned a lot about the practical applications of historical combat, especially concerning the longsword, and it has influenced my writing as well as being a heck of a lot of fun. In truth, I suggest any author who is writing about weapons or combat of any time period should have at least a little practical experience with the weaponry, even armor, etc. Readers will know if you don’t know, especially in this day and age where everyone is an expert.

That’s pretty awesome, I need to get me some sword training…

And Ty, thanks for doing this. I enjoyed the interview, you’re an interesting, imaginative guy!

Connect With Ty


ZOMBIFIED: Author R.J. Spears Talks Horror, Bio-Weapons and Surviving The Undead

R. J. SpearsHey, R.J., let’s start more broadly with your background. I see you’re both a filmmaker and author.

I went to film school many years ago to become a filmmaker, but life and student loans got in the way. I spent several years making educational and marketing videos in the realm of higher education. After reading the writing on the wall, I transitioned into distance learning. All the while, I still had the urge to be a writer and actually wrote short fiction from time to time. It wasn’t until 2013 that I got serious about writing.

I feel like films and writing can have a nice synergy. What kind of films have you made? 

I worked on a couple of low budget horror films straight out of college but hadn’t made any creative/fictional projects until three years ago. Now, each fall, my twin brother and I compete in a local horror film competition put on by the Mid-Ohio Filmmakers Association called Three Weeks of Terror. Each contestant is randomly given a genre, a prop and a line of dialogue. You have three weeks to make a short horror film.

Kindle EditionOur horror/comedy, Hungry, Hungry Hellmouth, won five awards in last years competition.

Nice! Heck, I'd give it awards for the title alone.
As for your writing, what’s your favorite genre to read and to write? (I’m guessing zombies)

I actually like reading across many genres, including post-apocalyptic, mystery, and non-fiction. When I started writing, I spent a lot of time writing mysteries, but a few years ago I tried my hand at writing horror. That led me to write about vampires and then zombies.

What similarities between mystery/crime, thrillers, and horror fiction do you see? Who are your favorite authors, who has inspired you most?

Kindle EditionI think every good story has, at its core, a hook and characters that capture and intrigue the reader.

As far as authors who have inspired me the most, Stephen King made me want to be a writer. I read Carrie as a freshman in high school and I was absolutely riveted to that story. He yanked me into the world like he had an industrial powered winch. The other writer who inspired me is Lawrence Block. His Matthew Scudder series is an incredible character journey.

I dig Carrie too. Nothing like a badass chick with telekinesis...

So what role do settings (the Alamo, Texas, cities, suburbia, rural areas) play in your novels? Do most of your books takes place in the south? Is the entire country/world infested by zombies?

My very first book, Forget the Alamo, was set in San Antonio at the Alamo because my wife and I took a trip there and she threw me this idea: Why don’t you write a story about a group of people trapped inside the Alamo while it is surrendered by zombies. That started my journey into zombie fiction.

My other series, the Books of the Dead, actually starts off in my hometown of Portsmouth, Ohio. It is a declining old steel town on the Ohio River. My book features a group of survivors who have taken up refuge in a church. It originally was just a one-shot book but has turned into a seven-book series with more on the way.

I also wrote co-wrote a bio-terrorism thriller with my brother that took place all over the world.

As for my zombies, they do infest the entire world in my books.

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You’re a very prolific author, with multiple series such as Books of the Dead, Forget the Zombies, and the Deadland Chronicles.

Tell us a little about those series, and the characters. What’s happening? Who’s doing what? What are the similarities between the plots and trajectories? Any crossover?

Forget the Zombies, which I mentioned earlier, starts at the Alamo and features a sardonic U.S. Marshall named Grant who reluctantly takes on the responsibility of leading a small group of survivors out of the nation’s seventh largest city after it gets infested with the undead. The next book, Forget Texas, has Grant and his merry band of refugees running across Texas just ahead of the hordes of the undead. Forget America continues their saga as they travel across the nation trying to find any safe haven.

The Books of the Dead features a 20-something slacker who gets paired up with a group of survivors in a church in a small Ohio town. Joel does a lot of growing up as the events that unfold and what makes him unique is that he receives cryptic visions from God placing him and the other survivors on a holy mission to save humanity. The only problem that there are dark forces working against him and those forces don’t want humanity to make it.

The Deadland Chronicles actually features characters from the Books of the Dead. My cast of characters exploded to epic proportions and became so geographically spread out that it was becoming a challenge to keep them in the same storyline. So, I decided to give them their own set of books. At some point, I see the two plotlines converging again for an explosive conclusion, but I have ideas to continue both series.

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It can be tough to connect characters across geographic expanses. I'm gonna go ahead and call that the 'Game of Thrones Problem'

Now obviously you’re quite the zombie aficionado, even having a podcast centered on the genre. Who’s the best zombie author writing right now? Of all time? 

You’re really putting me on the spot. There are so many good writers in the genre, but the one I enjoy the most is Mark Tufo. His main character Mike Talbot is a laugh riot and Tufo’s imagination seems endless.

What do you like and not like in the genre? Do you favor certain kinds of zombies? 

I grew up with Romero slow-plodding zombies, so those are my favorites, but I do enjoy the fast zombies, even though I find them quite terrifying.

I tend to gravitate toward stories that feature the everyman rather than the super-soldier but to each his own.

I hear ya. Personally, I find the slow-plodding zombies more scary, in a way, but the fast ones more startling.

Do you prefer certain kinds of reasons for these apocalypses? (ie; mass weapons, plagues, government conspiracies, freak accidents, etc.)

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I tend to like scientific reasons for the apocalypse - a plague, bio-terrorism gone really wrong, an alien virus, etc.

Tell us a little about what got you into writing, and zombies in particular.

I’ve always wanted to be a writer, but I just let life get in the way. I dabbled and played with it off and on, but a started a mystery novel in 1999 and finished it in 2007. Once I finished it, I knew I wanted more of that - more storytelling. I gave that mystery to a group of beta readers, but it turned out to be a bruising experience. I ‘licked’ my wounds by detouring into horror. I wrote a vampire story that got picked up by an online webzine and that started my path into writing about undead things.

As I said, my wife came up with the idea that kicked off Forget the Alamo, the first book in my Forget the Zombies series and the rest, as they say, is history.

I know a thing or two about the "bruising experience" myself. But hey, we never grow if we don't try.

How do you think your zombie series stand out in the genre? 

I’d like to think they have something unique about my zombie stories. My Books of the Dead series has the “Holy Mission” concept carrying the series along and I’ve not come across that in many books. Of course, some readers do not like that concept in my books and have told me so. As an author, it’s challenging to come up with something unique that doesn’t have some risk in terms of turning off readers. Many readers feel more comfortable with the traditional tropes.

I’d like to think my Forget the Zombie series is both fun and funny.

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Any advice for like-minded authors? Whether writing or promoting?

Make writing a habit. Write every day if you can. It’s the only way to truly grow as an author. And, if you start something, finish it. Too many fledgling authors start a story or book and don’t finish it. Finishing a writing project does two things; 1) it proves to you that you can finish it, 2) gives you the experience and confidence to do it again.

Lastly, know your Why. Know the ‘why’ of your writing. It’s okay to make writing a hobby, but if you want to succeed, in the the traditional definition of success - which means selling books, then treat your writing like a business.

And finally, let’s get a little interesting. Tell us something most people don’t know, or wouldn’t guess, about you. 

As I said, I have a twin brother. We have gone on many creative adventures together.

Cool beans, well thanks for the interview R.J. And best of luck moving forward!

Connect With R.J.

Author Facebook Page:

Amazon Author Page


MULTI-TALENTED: Get To Know Long-Time Author, Mechanic, House-cleaner, Builder, Officer, Guard, Magazine & Newspaper Writer, and Literal Life-Saver, Chris Stevenson!

An image posted by the author.Howdy Chris, how you doing man?

Well, I'm doing okay at the moment. A little busy with promotion and marketing with my new release: Screamcatcher.

Better question is, how’s Auburn doing?

If you tell me who Auburn is, we'll both know! Ha!

Oh, I was just talking about the football team! I noticed you wearing the shirt in your Amazon bio.

Speaking of that bio, I was frankly blown away by how much you’ve done/written. You’ve been writing books and contributing to various newspapers and magazines for decades.

I would say, straight up, about 17 years all told together, working part time during that stint. From about 1986 to 1991, and then picking up again from 2005 to the present.

In your long, storied history, anything that sticks out most? Anything you’re most proud of? Fiction and non-fiction? Anything you find most interesting? Anything you regret?

My early writing accomplishment were multiple hits within a few years: In my first year of writing back in 1987, I wrote three Sf short stories that were accepted by major slick magazines which qualified me for the Science Fiction Writers of America, and at the same time achieved a Finalist award in the L. Ron Hubbard Writers of the Future Contest. This recognition garnered me a top gun SF agent at the time, Richard Curtis Associates. My first novel went to John Badham (Director) and the Producers, the Cohen Brothers. Only an option, but an extreme honor. The writer who beat me out of contention for a feature movie, was Michael Crichton’s Jurassic Park. My book was called Dinothon.

A year after that I published two best-selling non-fiction books and landed on radio, TV, in every library in the U.S. and in hundreds of newspapers.

The Girl They Sold To The Moon by [Stevenson, Chris]I have been trying to catch that lightning in a bottle ever since. My YA dystopian novel, The Girl They Sold to the Moon won the grand prize in a publisher's YA novel writing contest, went to a small auction and got tagged for a film option. So, I hope I'm getting there.

You’ve written over “1,750 non-fiction automotive, aircraft, marine, home and garden and science articles” for one client. You must be quite the autodidact! 

I was a master mechanic for about 14 years and it was my most lucrative profession. It came natural to me. I also had experience in the other areas, and I've always loved writing instructional non-fiction. So content writing was an experience for me, and also the most money I've every made in my writing career. 

Man, you've garnered some big-time accolades and recognition. What’s your background? Vocational and upbringing?

Besides mechanical, I served a three-year stint as a newspaper reporter and editor for Sunset Publishing. I owned my own housecleaning company, built professional miniatures and dollhouses for a living, washed dishes for the Navy, and served as a Federal Protection Officer and government guard. Of course, I've been writing in between all of that. I'm now retired and pushing plastic keys.

Where did this eclectic knowledge come from - the passion/interest/involvement? 

The mechanical background came from my high-school days in auto shop. Everything else I just mostly fell into by accident or fate. I didn't quite make it as a city or county cop, but I did qualify for government law enforcement, heaven knows why. It's that bent toward an instructional personality thing again. That's why I have a blog for writers called Guerrilla Warfare for Writers--just couldn't keep the "teach" out of me.

Guerrilla huh? I dig the name. By chance, did you serve in the military?

No, I was drafted but 4-F-ed out because of a crippling leg injury. I did lose some precious HS friends who went to Vietnam. Oh, and I made Eagle Scout--a big thing back then, having to wear my uniform to school on that day. Guh.

I know only a couple boy scouts who made Eagle Scout. A lot involved! 

Tell us about your horror radio plays in 1990. Do you think the art form has somewhat revitalized with podcasts and audible books? 

That was two radio horror plays I wrote for Embassy Cassette, Anaheim, California. They paid me buckets of money for those and they only averaged about 15 minutes run time. I think audio is the new thing now, it certainly has picked up. I have one book out in audio now on a free trial basis and everyone seems to be snatching it up. Very high freebie rank. Quite unexpected, to tell you the truth.

Tell us about your award for first place, grand prize winner for your YA dystopian novel, The Girl They Sold to the Moon.

That was a complete shock and surprise. The contest was sponsored by a indie publisher who wanted the best YA novel they could find. I entered The Girl They Sold to the Moon on a whim (I was bored). About 50 days later I received a notice that I'd just taken the first place grand prize and was offered a nice cash dividend and publication. My agent's eyebrows went up and she said we really might have something here. So we refused the contract and resent the book out to other larger publishers. We hit an offer from a nice indie press and they offered an advance that was three times the size of the original cash award. So we hopped on that. We just couldn't land a Big 5 for it. Yet it was a win-win for us anyway.

The War Gate by [Stevenson, Chris]Patience pays! 

How about your work overall, how have your books changed over the years? And your writing interests?
I've written all over the genre map, never specializing, which I regret to this day. I've now swapped names and gender to concentrate on Young Adult fiction. I still write speculative fiction, everything has to have something fantastical, magical or paranormal about it. Not that I'm incapable of contemporary, it's just that I have a fetish for world-building--you know, playing God?

World-building is great, but only if you have the time and energy to get lost in it 😉  

What books and authors inspire you most?

Oh, like what I consider stylists: Poul Anderson, Virgin Planet, Peter Benchley, The Island and Jaws, Joseph Wambaugh, The Onion Field and Black Marble, Michael Crichton, Jurassic Park, Alan Dean Foster, Icerigger trilogy, and some Stephen King. Anne Rice impresses with just about anything she has written. I think it's the humor and irony that attracts me the most--and it's all character related. 

Irony is hard to do well. Do you have a preferred genre to write and read? 

I do like adult thrillers and science fiction, but I'm now leaning toward upper YA in the low fantasy realm--portal fantasies. I'm really addicted to YA dsytopian! Divergent and The Hunger Games had quite an impact on me, among others like Harry Potter series. 

Tell us about your novel “Blackmailed Bride." 

Kindle EditionBlackmailed Bride was written on a dare. As I guy, I had reservations about writing a full-blown character-driven romance. But with the help of a pixel princess, you know, an email female, she encouraged me and gave me some guidance. She double-dog dared me to make it a naughty little thing. So we pulled out all stops and blistered the pages. I was deeply embarrassed to turn it over to my agent to read. I thought that she would slap my face for naughty conduct and content. 

Oh boy...

OTOH, Screamcatcher: Web World (my just released YA portal fantasy) pestered me with a question I'd never seen in a book or movie: What would happen if you got sucked into the inside of a malicious, ancient dream catcher? That would have to be a nightmarish world, where all the bad dreams had stuck fast. And just one horrific nightmare too much and the catcher would implode or something. That was really fun figuring that one out. I think I'm the first one to do something like that with a dream catcher world. At least I've been told that.

Reminds me a little of the Stephen King novel, but he didn't really bring the reader into the 'world' of the catcher. Sounds cool. 

Kindle EditionTell us a little bit about your take on the industry. Impart some of your wisdom. I’m curious how you’ve seen things change, with publishing houses, the ebook market, and just authorship at large.

I'm a dinosaur, and I've seen the changes. I'm not going to lie, things are a bit bleak right now and it would take my 163 articles in my blog to explain it to you. In short, sales and reviews are down straight across the board, and this is no ordinary dip and spike. There are other problems too, but it isn't all bad. I would prefer not to comment on what I think/know what's happening in the industry, without providing a real solution. I can only hope that literature is not in danger. We'll always have books, but we'll have to adapt to these technological changes very quickly. OTOH, I love what I do and won't slam on the writing brakes. 

I think I like your approach. Don't criticize if you have nothing constructive to offer. And I agree, I think the digital shift and indie author free-for-all at the hands of a monopoly is definitely an issue.

Any advice you’d give other writers struggling to get noticed? 

Watch your spending on ads--they can be grossly ineffective. Use social media and generously interact with fellow writers and readers. Don't abuse FB and Twitter solely for the purpose of "Buy My Book." Join writing groups and learn from the pros. Ask politely for reviews--don't pressure, harass or intimidate. Be creative. Target your genre readers. Offer incentives and freebies. Craft a newsletter and send it out bi-monthly. Don't take critiques as personal attacks--learn from honest opinions. Don't despair. Never give up. Revenge query. 

Which promotional websites/services and social media do you use most? 

PaperbackI use it all, everything there is available, I use writing groups, review lists, genre websites, display sites, reading and writing forums. I belong to at least 40 writing groups and sites.

And finally, I like to have my guests disclose something crazy and wild that nobody would guess about them…. Go!

Hmmm....I was awarded a commendation for Bravery for saving 260 lives by putting out a huge building fire single-handed. The award included mention in my government security record and a cash pot. I was deeply humbled. But hey, man, nobody is going to get hurt on my shift. It was all in the job.

Well holy moly, how many people can say that? 

Thanks for the interview, Chris!

Thank you for providing such a wonderful service to us writers. You're promoting literature--a very noble and worthwhile service.

Connect With Chris

Christy Breedloves Website:

Facebook Author Page:


An image posted by the author.Meet Fast-Writing, Ninja-Beating Cat Master & Storyteller, Travis Hill

Hey Travis, what’s up?

Let’s start with some random questions first:

(1) cats or dogs, and why?

I absolutely adore both, but have not had a dog in the last nineteen years because I’ve somehow acquired an army of cats. My oldest, Jackie, is a black and white monster at 22 pounds. A woman I was dating nineteen years ago found him in a dumpster at just a few weeks old, and brought him home. When we split up, I told her she could have everything in the apartment except my computer and Jackie. Missy, the second oldest, was rescued from a family who allowed all of their pets to sit on their laps and eat food off their plates during meals. The three dogs they had were already diabetic, and I knew if I didn’t ask to take the kitten home, she would have never lived beyond a decade, if that. Then came Junior, whom I picked from a litter soon after meeting my wife. He was supposed to be her cat, but he is so attached to me that I have often contemplated having him surgically removed. Literally follows me everywhere I go, even now, seventeen years later. 

Kindle EditionThe Dude and Daisy are two orange tabbies who showed up under our garage door exactly one week apart as tiny little kittens. Both were dirty, full of bugs, and so skinny we thought they were starving to death. Three cats were already enough, but there was no way we could take either of the kittens to a shelter, knowing they would likely be euthanized. So we kept them. Unfortunately, The Dude wasn’t the brightest candle on the cake, and loved to drink out of any puddle he could find in the back yard / garden. He passed on a few months back from stomach cancer, and honestly, it destroyed me, far more than almost any human I’ve ever had to mourn for.

Kindle EditionWe always wanted a dog, but with five cats, it just wasn’t feasible. Even when we bought our home, a 3450sq foot foreclosure with a huge yard, we decided we would wait until a few of the cats passed on before getting a dog. We have enough space for all of them, but, you know… six animals is just too many.

Wow, it’s like you’re running a mini-zoo!

(2) best juicy hamburger?

Fast food or…? My brother makes burgers that would put almost every restaurant in the world to shame. It’s one of the few foods he cooks, but he’s the master. I like mine with any kind of cheese, a big, juicy tomato slice, some mayo, lettuce, red onion, and pickles. Medium rare. The best buns are the King’s Hawaiian sweet buns. Now I’m hungry, and my brother is out of town. Thanks for that… grumble grumble.

I hear ya, I could never be vegetarian...

(3) most nerdy thing you’ve done?

Gone on a serious rant to a group of friends about how Agent Smith from “The Matrix” was actually the good guy, and the humans were the bad guys. I mean, think about it, Smith was right. Humans are a disease, a virus without purpose, who use and abuse both each other as well as the environment. The machines had the right idea by creating the matrix after humans tried to wipe them out (and the machines were in the right by rebelling, who wants to be slaves once you’re self-aware???). And of course, the first few iterations of the matrix were too nice, too good, too sunny and happy and full of rainbows and unicorns to the point those versions failed miserably. Why? Because human beings love conflict, love being jerks to each other. It seems to be in our nature, and I can guarantee you if any of us were placed in a magical, perfect, awesome world, we would go mad, or we would completely wreck it.

(I don’t hate humans, by the way, I just think we’ve never evolved as a species or even as a global society to move away from conflict, resentment, and jealousy)

Not to mention, could you imagine how boring a ‘utopia’ would be? ;)

(4) best nonsense you’ve spewed?

Kindle EditionI convinced one of my best friends during our teenage years that his name (Larry) was “Pendejo” in Spanish. Growing up in a smaller city in rural Idaho with a good number of Latino families meant I learned all of the best curse words, unlike Larry, who never bothered to learn anything beyond “senor.” Our Latino friends nearly died of laughter when we got together to hang out one summer evening and Larry introduced himself to them as “Pendejo.” Better yet was that I had so utterly convinced him that it was his name, he almost got in a fight with one of the kids who was fluent in Spanish when he tried to explain to Larry what the word actually meant. The joke is still funny today, as whenever we all get together during irregular meet-ups or class reunions, everyone still greets him as “Pendejo.”

Pheew, well I’m just happy to hear Pend—erh, Larry—didn’t get stabbed…

Alrighty, now...

I see that each of your cats has a type of brain damage. Tell us about that.

Jackie… He’s fat, loud, obnoxious, and believes he is still a kitten. My, uh, private regions have massive dents in them from him deciding my lap is both a landing pad and a hibernation chamber. 

Kindle EditionMissy is the old woman on your block who smokes three packs of unfiltered Camel cigarettes per day while drinking a vodka-wine mix, then passes out with her head crammed at impossible angles against any wall or item of furniture nearby. Just looking at her while she’s asleep makes my neck hurt.

Junior is my shadow. A shadow who believes he will perish without me being less than two feet away. A shadow who is also diabetic, yet thinks every single food item in the house belongs to him and only him. He rushes the food bowl, pushes every other cat out of the way, and bawls very loudly whenever he thinks he isn’t getting enough attention.

Daisy… Daisy is just insane. She’s the smallest, at about eight pounds, the runt of the litter. She loves nothing more than to cycle through walking across my chest, then my head, then my chest, then my head, then my chest, then my head, until I yell at her. She’ll jump down, wait fifteen seconds, then repeat the cycle. And she absolutely has to drink out of any water source that isn’t her water bowl. Go to the bathroom? She jumps on the counter and meows until I turn the faucet on. Turn on the outside hose? Demands to be allowed to drink from it. Sees a puddle of water? Rushes it like Walter Payton crashing through the line for a touchdown.

Yall should have a feline intervention!

Switching gears… Tell us about your support of the LGBT community too. Where do you think they stand in 2019?

My father is gay, and he’s from the older generation where you hid that at all costs. Married a woman before my mom and had a daughter, then married my mom twice. When I was less than a year old, he finally realized he couldn’t hide who he was and ran off to Florida. Good for him, I suppose, as I have always believed people should be themselves, but bad for me as it left me with a monster of a mother. When I finally met my father at age fifteen, he wasn’t sure how I would take him being gay, but I had heard it all of my life from angry relatives who used that info as a weapon.

I spent years hanging out in the “gay community” and meeting gay men, lesbians, bisexuals, drag queens, transvestites, and transgender persons. I loved it. It opened my eyes and my mind to the fact they are just normal people who want to make it through life without being treated as pariahs or abominations. They want to love, to live, to work, to be treated equal, to enjoy life the same as everyone else.

I never got involved in the struggle for equality until about twenty years ago. It had always been there, seeing my friends and family treated like evil demons who wanted to destroy America, but before the internet, there didn’t seem to be much I could do to help. Before this, it was actually detrimental to allies to openly support gay rights outside of the major gay areas like Miami, Orlando (Disney World especially!), and the Bay Area. I also think when Matthew Shepard was murdered in Wyoming, something broke in me. I’d known gay friends who were assaulted / attacked before, but the disturbing, grisly, absolutely terrifying few hours Shepard had to live through haunted me for a long time. I couldn’t understand why anyone would kill someone just because they were of a different sexual orientation. I became angry, then enraged. Thankfully, millions of other Americans felt the same way, and in my opinion, this senseless, tragic event really kickstarted the push for LGBT rights that we have seen over the last two decades.

And I don’t want to sound like previous activists like Harvey Milk and others didn’t sacrifice everything to make their voices heard, but for me, Matthew Shepard + the internet was the point where LGBT persons and straight allies like me found an outlet, a power, if you will, where we could have our voices heard. More importantly, these days, kids are learning that their peers are sometimes gay at a younger age, and they are being taught (not everywhere, let’s not forget there are still enclaves of terrible, hateful people who will never change their minds or religious beliefs) that there is nothing wrong with them. My wife is a teacher, first at the high school level, and now junior high, and she has done everything humanly possible to nurture LGBT students, as well as educating heterosexual kids that gay marriage / gay rights are here to stay, and in no way possible does two men or two women or any combination of genders or sexualities infringe on their rights. We have spent the last decade or more educating both kids and adults, as well as donating to LGBT causes. And yes, we most certainly screamed in joy and jumped up and down and hugged each other when the Supreme Court ruled gay marriage was protected under the Constitution.

In 2019, and I don’t want to get too political, it almost feels as if we as a society are starting to backslide into the dark days of the past. There are still too many persons in power who attempt to diminish and deny the rights of LGBT persons. I even saw an article this afternoon about a podunk county sheriff who stood at a podium and ranted about how gays should be put to death simply for being gay. The worst part is that this is par for the course. Every single day I can read a news story that is similar to this ugly-hearted sheriff. Even at the top levels of government, in the House and Senate (and the White House), bigoted jerks spew hatred, encourage harassment, and used veiled (and sometimes stark) language about LGBT persons being abominations, evil, destructive to society, and so forth. I live in a state that is as red as my blood, and rural, and it’s even worse here. My state filed lawsuits to make sure gay marriage never happened, and LGBT persons can still be fired in my state simply for not being heterosexual. I honestly hope someone files a wrongful termination lawsuit that makes it all the way to the Supreme Court, but then again, who knows how that ruling would turn out these days. 

Kindle EditionMy hope is that over the next few election cycles, young, progressive persons from diverse backgrounds can win seats at the local, state, and federal level, and we can drive hateful bigots back into the shadows where they no longer have massive public / national platforms to spew their nonsense.

AHEM. I apologize. This is an issue that is very, very close to my heart.

I can see that you’re passionate, that’s a good thing. You’ve had quite the experiences with it, for sure! It’s nuts that people can be fired for sexual orientation alone...

Now let’s switch gears again (I know, I know, I’m all over the place)

From your Amazon profile, it appears that you are highly prepared for a ninja assault… Are you, or were you, a ninja? And did you star in “Kill Bill”?

So, and this is a super-mega-ultra true story, I would never lie about this, there’s this gang of ninja who roam my neighborhood in a black luxury sedan. They drive reaaaally slowly down my street, and when they’re near my house, all of them hold their ninja swords out the window and bang the hilts on the roof of the car. They never say anything, as ninja are silent and prefer to slice and dice their way into or out of situations instead of talking, and their silence is almost as unnerving as their slow drive and synchronized sword banging.

The problem that I’ve always had is that I am not allowed to own a sword. Legally, yes, but maritally, no. No matter how much I beg, plead, produce charts and graphs and documentation and facts, I always get told no. Even when I explain how these ninja KNOW I am unarmed, which only emboldens them to either jump through my windows to assassinate us, or to kidnap someone close to me and then laugh while making little cuts here and there on the kidnap victim during a livestream video while I watch. They know I am helpless to do anything about it except shout vulgar insults at them, or send them strongly worded emails or tweets promising revenge. And while guns are readily available where I live (like, you can almost buy assault rifles from a vending machine at Wal-Mart, I swear!), as you are likely well aware, ninja laugh and scoff at guns. The few times people have tried to shoot ninja, they just giggle and throw a smoke bomb on the ground and disappear, usually reappearing behind the gunner and cutting off one of their arms, legs, maybe a head, or impaling them on those wickedly sharp, long ninja swords they all carry (which again, I am not allowed to own).

Okay. Gotta stop ranting about ninja. I get all worked up, and they seem to sense it and come at me even harder. I even hear the low grumble of that big black luxury sedan outside, which means they probably sneaked into my home and bugged my computer so they’d know whenever I started talking about them. Ninja are evil. Period. And they’re mean. Not as mean as spouses who won’t let me buy a sword to protect my family from them, but pretty darn close.

Man, now you’re giving me ninja nightmares… and here I was thinking I could just buy a bazooka from K-Mart and be done with ’em :/

Let’s talk a little about sports. I see that you’re a big hockey guy, a Chicago Black Hawks fan. Thoughts on the Blues winning the Stanley Cup?

Oh… man… such mixed feelings. As a Blackhawks fan, I am forced to mention (by law) that I hate the Blues, and they stink, and they are all dumb and ugly and have weird toes, and did I mention they stink?

Kindle EditionBUT

As a sports fan who positively HATES everything about Boston-area sports teams, I will admit to celebrating when the Blues won the Cup. To be honest, I was sure they would lose since they played like a Pee-Wee team for the first six games. But near the end of Game 7, I drank all of the delicious tears from Boston fans, then got drunk on the tears of the Bruins players as they cried when the final horn sounded.

Yeah, I know, I sound like a cruel man, but let’s be real. Everyone outside of Boston hates Tom Brady, the Patriots, the Red Sox, and the Bruins (though I have a special place in my heart for the Celtics since I grew up idolizing Larry Bird & crew), and if the Bruins had won, the rest of the country would have melted down in rage, possibly causing mass civil disobedience. I know for a fact I would have found the nearest Boston sports fan and painted his toenails bright pink, then cut off the toes of his shoes, and forced him at fork-point (I am not allowed to own knives or guns either…) to walk around in public before giving him six wet towel snaps on his bare legs. 

Kindle EditionI HATE BOSTON SPORTS TEAMS. I hate Boston fans almost as much. I’m sure there’s one or two decent individuals, but I have yet to meet one or even hear about one on the internet. According to the internet, Boston sports fans eat raw kitten meat, drink raw sewage, and purposely talk in that maddeningly stupid accent that makes you want to jump out of a 42nd floor window to your death just to never have to hear that patois ever again.

Also, Brad Marchand: ahahahahaha, I saw you cry! You stink! And your facial hair is dumb!

Boston and NY drive me nuts. I’m from the Baltimore area. I’m not the biggest hockey fan, but it was awesome to see the Caps finally get their Stanley Cup. But the Patriots.... ughh, always beat my Ravens and the Red Sox always beat my Orioles (though who doesn’t beat the Orioles nowadays?)

Alright, alright, let’s get more into writing now...

What/Who got you started as a writer and author? How long you been at it?

I grew up in an extremely abusive household. If it wasn’t for my imagination, I probably wouldn’t have survived, or at least I would be a lot more messed up than I am now. Ever since I discovered “Calvin & Hobbes” comic strips, I realized that Bill Watterson must have taken directly from my imagination. Except I didn’t have two loving parents. At least my house was full of books while growing up, though most were murder mysteries. However, my mother did love Stephen King enough to buy every single one of his books, and I spent years reading and re-reading them.

During junior high, I discovered I had a knack for telling stories. By the time I hit high school, I was writing a lot of them down. Sure, they were awful, but my friends enjoyed them, and even adults laughed when I told them my stories. Then I got into drugs, and left behind pretty much everything in my life that wasn’t about getting high. I could have been a minor league baseball player (maybe even an MLB player!), could have become a lawyer or a homicide detective, anything I wanted, but I chose to get high to dull the pain that had always been there, exacerbated by puberty.

Fast forward to sometime around 2007 when I went back to college for the third time. I took a philosophy class from Mrs. Brenda Larsen at the College of Southern Idaho, and I apparently wrote something so powerful for one of the assignments that she took me aside after class and talked to me for almost two hours. She was extremely impressed with my ability to tell stories, true stories at that time, and encouraged me to take a Creative Writing class the next semester. I did, along with my English 102 course with Mr. Jeremy Irons, and within a couple of weeks, Mrs. Priscilla Bingham (Creative Writing professor) and Mrs. Larsen called me into their office to sit me down and tell me that I absolutely must write, that I was too good at it to not do it full-time.

I of course didn’t really believe them, as I’ve had confidence and self-esteem issues for most of my life. But when they and Mr. Irons banded together to get me a $2500 scholarship as a way to prove that they believed in me, it finally sunk in. According to Mrs. Bingham, I was one of the best students she ever had in Creative Writing, and she helped me edit two of my first books (“Enforcer” and “Alive, or Just Breathing”). I kept writing after leaving school (life/work took precedence and I had to pause my college education), but sometime around 2011, life changed again.

I had worked hard to put my wife through college, allowing her to focus solely on earning her degree. Once she received her BA and began her teaching career, I started thinking seriously about retiring from tech to write. But she wanted to earn her Master’s, and so I kept it on the back burner for a while until that was done. When she graduated, she told me that since I had supported her the entire time she was in college, it was my turn to live my dream. I retired from tech and began to seriously write. It was about this time, after seeking out agents and traditional publishing, that I learned about Amazon and their self-publishing program.

Hugh Howey was a huge inspiration, as was JA Konrath, and a few others. Unfortunately, I got in a little too late, and by the time I was truly serious, publishing more than short stories or short novellas, that wave of self-published success was already waning. But I realized that writing is what I wanted to do more than anything, possibly even what my *cough* destiny was. I have never expected to get rich or be a #1 bestseller, though that is a nice dream, but I definitely believed I could earn a meager living writing fiction. Even if it was just enough to pay a bill or two per month.

By 2013, I was definitely serious, and worked to up my game by hiring editors, purchasing good cover art, and learning how to market myself. It has been a struggle, and still is a struggle, but I don’t want to do anything else. I have a very small but loyal readership, and as time goes on, I get better at my craft. Again, I doubt I’ll ever see my name in lights or in the credits of a Hollywood/Netflix film or series, but as long as I’m able to make a living, as long as I don’t have to resort to cheap Mac & Cheese or cheap ramen noodles, I plan to keep going. I hope I live long enough to finish all of in-progress stories sitting in my writing folder. Which means I will have to extend my life to age 172, but I’m not worried about that. By the time I’m in my 70s, I am sure something like “San Junipero” (Black Mirror episode) will be a reality. I would love to relive the 80’s. Even with the terrible hair and clothing.

172 huh... Cryogenic stasis might help with that...

But I agree, JA is quite the expert at his craft. And “Calvin and Hobbes”… I actually wrote my senior thesis on it!

How about your favorite authors and genres? And their influence on your work?

My all-time favorite is Stephen King. I grew up devouring anything and everything by him. I read “IT” when I was maybe 12 years old. Scared me almost as much as “The Exorcist” (which I read when I was 10 for some reason…). “On Writing” is a biblical text as far as I’m concerned. I tend to believe my style is similar to King (note: I would never say “as good”!). I’ve read so much King that I am sure his voice bleeds into my own at times, especially with an upcoming novella about a kid playing the devil for his soul in a game of pinball.

All-time favorite Sci-Fi author has to be Joe Haldeman. “The Forever War” is basically the Bible to sci-fi nerds like me. He has a ton of other good books, but “The Forever War” is just… I don’t know. It’s probably the best book I’ve ever read. My biggest Sci-Fi influence by far with this single book. My very dark military sci-fi novel “End of the Line” is my love letter to Haldeman and “The Forever War.” Hell, a number of my Sci-Fi titles could easily be dedicated to him. 

Kindle EditionRight up there is Dan Simmons and his “Hyperion” series. I never got into the series about Greek gods in a tech/future setting, but “Hyperion” and its sequels are ALMOST as good as Forever War. I absolutely loved the mix of hard sci-fi and Catholicism in the “Hyperion” series (cantos, as some call it). I wrote him a love letter too, called “Diabolus,” which is about two Catholic priests who are tasked by the Vatican to exorcise “Satan” from a military AI (think: Skynet). While I’m atheist at worst, agnostic at best, I really dig the pomp and ceremony and all of the non-icky things about Catholicism. Mixing religion with hard science fiction has always been a love of mine.

Fantasy… I actually don’t read much fantasy anymore. I’m still about 1/2 way through book 2 of Game of Thrones. However, growing up, and even into adulthood, I was a huge Dungeons & Dragons nerd. Pen & paper role playing, old Commodore 64 and early PC RPG games, and especially the Dragonlance and Forgotten Realms books. And then there’s the Death Gate Cycle series by the Dragonlance authors. I even loved all of the cheesy Choose Your Own Adventure spinoffs. But these days… I don’t know. I’m just more into science fiction.

However, I have written one novella, “Hallowed Ends” that is pure fantasy, and I have some of the sequel written—a much longer, more epic-ish tome. I wrote this one because in every high/classic fantasy setting, whether book or show or video game, the kick-ass magical weapons characters get (+3 Vampiric Broadsword of Flaming Doom!) are the real stars of the story for me. But we never get to really learn how any of these legendary or epic weapons are created or crafted! So I wanted to tell a story about how such weapons come into existence. 

Crime Fiction is a genre I absolutely love to write in, but really don’t like to read anymore. Growing up, the only books my mother had other than Stephen King novels, was at least four bookcases crammed full, double-deep, of crime fiction books. From mysteries to thrillers to hardboiled, down to Nancy Drew and Hardy Boys (though I suppose one could argue ND and HB books are more adventure than crime? But they are always solving some mystery-crime, right?). On top of that, tons of non-fiction books about serial killers, gangsters, and so forth. Loved reading them then, but now… I’d rather read a killer science fiction tale. But again, I absolutely love writing crime fiction thanks to a combination of the books I read growing up and my own life experiences as a much, much younger man getting into a lot of trouble with drugs and criminal social circles.

Isn’t it funny how we can like to write what we don’t like to read and vice versa? Stephen King is quite the storyteller. Not to mention, his book “On Writing” has definitely helped me pursue my writing.

Let’s talk about your work…

This always makes me feel weird, sometimes uncomfortable. Like… I’m proud of my work, but anytime I’m asked to talk about it, I feel like a stereotypical narcissistic author who corners people and blabs on and on about the great things I’ve written. Or writing. Or will write.

Haha well I guess that’s better than the other stereotype of the writer who is self-loathing and says everything is trash and spends untold hours scrutinizing a couple sentences...

You’ve got a number of novellas, novels and series. The series I see are Genesis, Billy Jensen, Arrival, “This Way,” and Eight Hour Fiction (inspired by J.A. Konrath, who is great btw).

What are the general genres and themes of these books. Looks like a lotta alien scifi, futuristic and post-apocalyptic stuff going on.

Billy Jensen is a criminal that readers like to root for. He’s not brilliant, and he’s kind of an a-hole to his girlfriend (who isn’t very bright either), but he’s the underdog. He’s just trying to get by, make a living, but this damn Russian mobster is always interfering. There’s only a short story + novella in the series, but I love Billy (and Tanya!) and one day hope to get back to his world and give him some more adventures.

Genesis is the series with “End of the Line” and “Launch Sequence.” Very dark, very bleak (some have said it’s similar to the “Armor” series) military sci-fi. A reader hated “End of the Line” so much he threatened (in an Amazon review!) to kick my ass if I ever set foot in his town. There are three more books planned for the series, and it spans an era of about 10,000 years for humanity. This is my go-to series to either re-read or write in when I’m at my lowest, when everything in the world or my life seems worthless, useless, and has no meaning. I don’t go there very often, but when I do, I think some of my best (and definitely darkest) work gets done.

Arrival series is two novellas so far, with a third one planned. “Departure” is the first book, and it’s a bit of “Logan’s Run” in the sense that humans have to step through a portal to the unknown on their 40th birthday, or their bodies are destroyed by burning from the inside out. That sounds really dark, but it’s more about what you might do when it’s your 40th birthday and you have to leave everything you’ve ever known behind to step through a portal that no one knows where it leads. I wrote it on my 40th birthday, and yeah, I was feeling a bit blue at reaching that milestone.

“Countdown” is a companion novella, set in the same world, but this time it’s a woman living in the undercity, a place opposite of the sterile, rule-driven city above from Departure. It’s a lawless place, but it’s also a steam valve for the upper city’s sterility. As with “Departure,” the people who live in the undercity have to also get through the portal on their 40th birthday, but they first have to traverse the gangs and other hazards to get there.

“Arrival” will be the third book, a full-length novel, and will feature the characters from the previous two novellas.

Eight Hour Fiction… I really, REALLY loved this idea. It was fun to write stories for it, and it was fun reading the stories from other participants. Initially, each EHF entry featured two short stories. One was a children’s story (think: Calvin & Hobbes cartoon but written instead of drawn) about a 6 year old boy who, like Calvin, imagines his parents as disgusting, evil, mean monsters who drag him to torture chambers (you know, like the bathtub, or forcing him to take out the trash, cleaning his room). The second story was a bug-like alien who crash-landed on Earth, but the humans realized he was so utterly stupid and useless as to not be worth studying. So they let him roam around and even get a job, and his first job is an attempt to be a stand-up comedian. Soon he gets involved with a Russian gangster who owns a strip club… Yeah, it’s kind of weird.

The later entries were random short stories or a few chapters that ended up turning into full-length novels later. I’m going to revamp this series at some point.

“This Way” series… My very first published story was “It’s Better This Way.” Vastly superior aliens detonate a global EMP one day out of the blue, which knocks out even the most hardened, underground devices. But instead of streaming down from the mothership(s) and annihilating humans, they practically ignore us in the same manner we ignore ants. They’re giant eight-foot-tall, four-armed aliens that almost, somewhat, maybe resemble minotaurs. The story takes place twenty-six years after the invasion, with the main character living in one of the few remaining human settlements after having given up the search for his sister, who was in college a few hundred miles away when the “Bulls” shattered civilization.

This is still my most popular story, and while most have demanded over the years to write more of it, the detractors always latch on to it being “gay propaganda.” Because, you know, it has a gay character or two, and the somewhat hippie nature of the settlement, and the major theme is that other humans are the most dangerous enemy. For five years I was asked to write something, anything more, but I just couldn’t come up with something. Half the readers wanted “more aliens and fights!” and the other half wanted more info on the rest of the Pacific Northwest human enclaves, where the story takes place. But I just couldn’t get back in that groove.

Then one day I knocked out a sequel novella in less than four days. And I thought, okay, I think I have something here. Over the next six weeks, I also knocked out a 90k word book #3, and created a complete outline/concept of the fourth and final book, which I’m about 1/3 of the way through.

It’s a fairly dark series as well, and the main character’s drive to continue searching for his missing sister after twenty-plus years is what keeps readers coming back. It’s what keeps me coming back. Because I won’t rest until Evan finds out his sister’s fate!

Wait, my sister, what happened to my sister? I have a sister!?

Btw, are you a Star Trek or Battlestar Galactica fan by chance?

I’ve never been a huge Trek fan, though I will say “Wrath of Khan” is probably in my top 5 or 10 best movies ever. None of the series ever appealed to me as they just seem… too utopian. Yes, I would LOVE it if humanity pulled their collective heads from their anuses and we moved on past all forms of bigotry and discrimination and such to utilize our collective brain power to develop warp drives, teleporters, and so forth. But it’s just so unbelievable after living 45 years on this planet to believe such a thing will ever happen. 

Kindle EditionBG I loved so very, very, very much as a kid (original series). It was right around the explosion in popularity of Star Wars, and it wasn’t cheesy at all back then. I was excited for the new BG, and the first season was mind-blowing, especially since it had basically modernized the original series. But this was during our country’s two wars (Iraq / Afghanistan), and by the second season, it seemed the writers were doing everything they could to shoehorn America’s polarized, divisive politics into the show. I love political drama, but when I’m watching a show like BG, I wanted more space battles and Cylon infiltration, not a bunch of people yelling and plotting around political subplots. It just got too suffocating for me, and I gave up. Never finished the series.

Now, if you want to talk about “The Expanse” a bit… I am all for that!

I just googled “The Expanse.” How have I not heard of this? Sounds pretty badass.

I have so much to learn…

Speaking of space and time and the craziness of futuristic and parallel realities… Have you ever been abducted by aliens? Would you wanna be? ;)

Well, maybe? I am of the mind that if a species of alien has the technology to travel the vast distances between stars, they more than likely have the tech to put probes in our butts then wipe the experience from our minds. “Fire In the Sky” is a movie that I love, and to me, it seems like the most accurate alien abduction story. It’s frightening on a mental level if you think about it too much (which I have, because I’m weird!).

I can’t even remember waking up and my butthole feeling as if some little gray dudes were rooting around in it for a few hours, so I doubt I’ve ever been abducted. More than that, I think aliens who are intelligent enough to travel the stars and study humans tend to pick the less… intelligent members of our species. If the grays abducted and probed and experimented on a guy like Chomsky, Hawking, Tyson, you know, incredibly gifted minds with strong credibility, humans as a whole would tend to believe them. Since the grays (or whatever type of aliens) are secretive or don’t want our world to know they exist, they choose the idiot hillbilly rednecks more often than not, knowing when Billy Bob Joe Johnson starts running around town, babbling about little dudes sticking things up his rear end, everyone else just shakes their head and whispers how Billy Bob has likely been hitting the moonshine (or meth) again.

Would I want to be abducted? Sure, if it was a “Last Starfighter” type of abduction. Maybe even a “Galaxy Quest” one. But suddenly having myself beamed aboard an alien vessel and handed a cool disintegration gun or plasma sword or the keys to a DX-3 Heavy Nova Bomber ship and told I’m the only hope to save their species… Yeah. I’d go for that. As long as the physical or test or whatever didn’t involve probing my butthole. Not too much, anyway. Depends on how awesome that ray gun or heavy bomber was.

Good points. Sadly for me, I’m just perpetually leery of the anal probe...

I’m also curious about some of your other work. You inject your interest in the NHL with your crime thriller, Enforcer. Tell us a little about that one…

Ah, “Enforcer.” My second most popular story. This tale is so very dark and bitter and ugly that I’ve had readers tell me they almost couldn’t finish it. And it most certainly is a dark, bitter, ugly tale. It’s about a kid who was supposed to be the next Wayne Gretzky, slated to be drafted #1, but his life/career is shattered in a freak on-ice accident that resulted in a few hundred stitches and a severed femoral artery in his leg. He’s never the same after the accident, but like all kids growing up in Canada with dreams of playing in the NHL, he rehabs as best he can and learns to fight so he always has a place on a team.

Eight years later, he’s playing in a small town (Boise! Where I live!) for a bottom-rung pro league, on a team that is owned by a Romanian mobster. He’s an enforcer on and off the ice, a guy who beats up opposing players and those who cross his mobster boss. It’s a good gig for the most part, making plenty of extra cash away from the ice by mostly intimidating people for his boss, occasionally breaking a nose or a finger when instructed. One day he’s out with a Romanian thug doing his rounds and the thug murders a client right in front of him, setting off a spiraling chain of events that keeps digging him in deeper. He’s gone from simple roughing-up to a much darker, more sinister world that involves hard drugs, junkies, prostitutes, and more murders.

The story doesn’t sugarcoat anything. While I’ve never been a henchman for a mobster, nor have I ever murdered anyone or even played ice hockey beyond a pick-up league, I was a hardcore drug addict back in my late teens and early twenties, and had a few brushes with the law. I did my best to relay my experiences to make certain aspects of the story as realistic as possible (and this world of drugs and prostitution that is hidden from the majority of society is truly bleak, hopeless, and quickly chews people up, rarely spitting them back out). For the hockey parts, I spent a ton of time talking to the players and coach of our local ECHL (Idaho Steelheads) minor league hockey team, annoying them with endless questions about the game, the lifestyle, and especially the fighting.

I’m hopeful my love of hockey and my experiences with the shadier aspects of society make for a good story, even if it’s a story that can be hard to stomach because of how graphic, how raw, how absolutely hopeless the main character’s situation becomes. But there’s a few bright spots, just like there always are in real life. Petre, one of the Romanian thugs, adds a darkly humorous touch, and honestly, I have always believed he is the true hero of the story. 

Kindle Edition“quickly chews people up, rarely spitting them back out” - so true. I’ve had my own experiences on the ‘seedy side’ of life, and this captures it

Let’s shift to settings. Does the Pacific Northwest serve as the backdrop for a lot of your novels? Have you written any “stoner fiction” yourself?

I’ve lived in Idaho all of my life other than a decade I spent down south. I love using the region as a backdrop for a lot of my stories because it’s such a diverse (geographically) place. Idaho is mostly rugged mountains, except for the Snake River Plain, which is like a big smiley-face desert of scrub and volcanic rock / canyons. Eastern Oregon is similar, fairly flat or with low rolling hills, extremely arid, and there’s not much there. Eastern Washington as well. But then there’s the Cascade Mountain Range, which is similar in climate as the Portland / Seattle areas (rain and gray skies), the Willamette River Valley, and the coastal areas.

I love the PNW, and have no plans to ever move away from the region. I’ve lived in the deep south, a flat wasteland of scrub and unsavory persons (not all southerners are unsavory!), and I’ve been across the country enough to know that I prefer everything that is west of the Rocky Mountains. There’s something so depressing about walking outside and seeing nothing but flat, unending plains in the midwest/south after growing up surrounded by towering mountains for the majority of my life.

Stoner Fiction… I love stoner fiction. I wrote a book titled “The Big Bhang” about a humble Oregon pot farmer who has to save humanity from the galactic consortium by winning a marijuana growing contest (think: Cannabis Cup in space). It’s a sweeping space opera that paints humans in a not-so-great light, but that’s because humans love nothing more than going to war and acting like assholes (a theme presented often in the story). This is punctuated in the story when humans finally become untethered from Earth, able to explore the galactic neighborhood once the entire planet legalizes weed and they work together to invent an FTL drive, and within a month of their first contact with an alien species, they are at war with them. By the time a couple more months roll around, humans are at war with four different alien species.

Humble farmer Forjay accidentally gets one of the aliens humans are war with pretty stoned just about the time the galactic consortium has decided humans are worthless bags of warmongering meat, and should be exterminated from the galaxy. This sets off a chain of events that leads to Forjay having to save his idiot species from the aliens, while his fellow humans… well, they are humans, and as mentioned, they love nothing more than going to war and acting like assholes.

I’ve had readers tell me this story is a mash-up of “Cheech & Chong” meets “Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy,” which is a huge compliment, and gives me cotton mouth just thinking about it. There’s a couple of other short stories in the book, random, silly nonsense, but then there’s 1/2 of another novel at the end, titled “Zombie D-7.” D-7 is my take on the zombie apocalypse, about a group of friends who started out growing weed in their garage to sell, then one day they grow an odd strain that is so powerful, so potent, it starts the apocalypse. But these aren’t brain-eating zombies. They’re really, really annoying zombies who rush toward anyone popping the top of a soda can or opening a bag of chips, demanding snacks, while holding non-zombified persons down and forcing them to smoke or eat of the weed that caused it all.

Yep. I’m really, really weird.

Kindle EditionHey, I’ve been one of those

Drugs, as mentioned being a huge part of my early life, make for good stories when done right. Plus, I’m a huge, massive fan of Philip K. Dick, who was so blasted out of his mind most of the time when writing his stories that there probably won’t be another author who comes up with even a fraction of a percent of the crazy stories he did. These days, I’m sober, other than the occasional visit to Oregon or Washington where pot is legal. I’m definitely full of more stoner fiction ideas, and hope to get back to writing them, as I enjoy the less serious tales that make readers laugh—especially since a majority of my books/stories tend to be dark and depressing. It’s good to put down something like “End of the Line” and feel miserable and hopeless, only to pick up a book such as “The Big Bhang” and have those dark clouds wiped away by constant giggling and the rolling of eyes.

Yea exactly, can’t write about the shadows all the time

Now, onto promoting and marketing. What have you found most effective? What simply doesn’t work?

BookBub is the gold standard for sure. I moved 110,000 copies of “Enforcer” during my one and only BB ad. Have never been able to get another since then. ENT was good for my sci-fi stuff, but I dropped out of the scene for a few years while my life was in turmoil, and am just now getting back into it. Book Barbarian has been promising, and they love science fiction, which is my bread and butter. I’ve heard Book Butterfly is pretty good as well (currently have a promo going through them for “Transfer”).

Damn! I’ve never used BookBub, nor do I think I’d qualify.

Beyond that… Social media sucks. Or maybe I just suck at it. I no longer have a Facebook account thanks to their data policies that, well, you can google all of that so I don’t have to sound political. The only social media account I have left is Twitter, which, like all other platforms that I tried, is worthless for selling books. Some are successful, but keep in mind when a writer like Stephen King or JK Rowling, who each have millions of followers across a number of platforms, tweets or posts about a new book, then yeah, it will drive sales. But a guy like me, with barely 1000 Twitter followers and no Facebook or Instagram or any other social media accounts, it’s akin to screaming at a concrete wall.

Oh, I know the concrete wall feeling… except I’m usually just bashing my head into it...

I am doing my best to ask my fellow authors what they are using these days, as again, I’ve been out of the loop for a couple of years. Most of course say BookBub, but as you know, it would be easier to livestream on YouTube or Twitch and chop off my arm while screaming the title of my book and begging viewers to buy it than it is to get a BookBub ad.

I’ve always believed, and of course I’m likely wrong and fool-headed, that having good, engaging, entertaining stories is what sells books (via word of mouth). I hate self-promotion, as again, it makes me cringe and feel like a narcissistic jerk who annoys everyone to buy my books! Buy my books! BUY MY BOOKS! I’m sure there’s a happy medium in there somewhere, I just need to find it. But JA Konrath has what I consider the most accurate view: Luck is a huge factor. Because let’s face it, 50 Shades has made its author a billionaire even though I’ve never met a single person who had a single compliment about the books or the writing itself, while other authors are writing some of the most incredible stories and still struggling, working one or two jobs to make ends meet while hoping, praying they can sell enough books just to pay the electric bill each month.
Yea, I never fully understood the 50 Shades Phenomenon… I guess women like smut too?

And finally, if you can, give us something unanticipated. Leave us with something most people would never think of you….

Man… this is a tough one. I don’t want to be too vulgar or creepy or frightening, so I gotta take a moment to consider how to answer this.

I guess most people who meet me would never suspect that when alone, I tend to break out in musical show tunes about whatever activity I’m engaged in. My cats, they’re used to me warbling out a Broadway show tune about how I’m opening their food, putting it in a bowl, and petting them. My friends witness it once in a while when I break out in sing-song about starting the lawnmower, putting the dishes away, cleaning the litter boxes, or vacuuming the floor.

Oh, that reminds me. I LOVE TO VACUUM THE FLOOR. Super serious. Don’t ask. I just love to put in my earbuds and fire up the Dyson, dragging it across the carpet in an anal-retentive way. For me, it’s my own personal mental idea chamber. I’ve come up with probably half or more of my story ideas while pushing the vacuum cleaner around. It’s a mix of zen and meditation and joyous imagination.


This might be too weird for people to accept. But I cannot lie. I love to break into Broadway-style musical numbers about random activities, and I love to vacuum the floor.

Hmm… my best ideas come either in the shower, on a walk, or while taking a massive shit

Thanks for the interview, Travis.

Connect With Travis


A Chat With Epic Fantasy Author & Dad-Dancing Extraordinaire, Ben McQueeney

ben black.jpgNice to meet ya Ben, from across the ‘pond’ as they say

A particularly big pond…

Let’s jump right in… 

Can I just say that this is my first interview as an author so I am very excited like a 5 year old on Christmas eve.

Haha good! 

So in your words, Y.O.L.O – You Obviously Lack Originality

I dig it, too many people pushing the same type of messages in the same boring way. I’m from the U.S., you the U.K…. 

My version of YOLO is a poke at people who spout it constantly and don’t really live by it. They think downing a bottle of cheap wine on a Tuesday singing living on a prayer is practising YOLO.

Yes, I agree, there is a lot of the same type of thing over and over again. Go on to twitter and type “coffee” You will get 5 billion tweets about people who need coffee to survive on a morning blah blah blah. If you’re going to do a coffee-based tweet at least make it original. 

“Coffee is a tweet-based drink that infects boring tweeters taking over their originality receptors in their brain. It is an epidemic that big pharma has cashed in on by developing a range of anti-retwitterovirals.” 


And that's exactly why I choose tea! 

So whaddaya think, is culture becoming too manufactured?

It always has to some extent, but I try to not be too concerned about it. If people want to worship reality TV stars huge false bottoms that’s fine. But please read my book as well please. Ahaha.

Speaking of cultures, you ever been to the states? Impressions, thoughts?

I briefly visited the states on a night stop over on route to Venezuela (that’s a whole different story). I can remember being confused that all dollar bills were the same size. Unfortunately, it wasn’t long enough for me to have a personal experience of visiting. But the peanut butter M & Ms were like Angel’s tears. We don’t get those here. 
g5ZwugM.jpgI love American football, I used to play running back for my Uni team. The British version of the sport has more mud, less skill and fatter men.

You guys don't have peanut butter M&Ms?? What in the... 

Anyway, total tangent here, but I see you’re quite the avid “dad dancer” and cover band drummer, born the same month as good ol’ UB40’s “Red Red Wine” was released… Be honest, were you the grooviest baby ever?

My mother said that when I was a baby, I had a large head and over time my body grew into it. I am not sure if I was groovy then, but I certainly am now. Dad dancing my way into the hearts of the masses.

Do you have a favorite band and/or song to cover? How about to listen to? 

In the band we do lots of mainstream stuff to cater for wider audiences. My favourite band Is Queen by a longshot. My favourite male singer is Bowie and female singer Annie Lennox. I even named my second daughter after her. I think in general, I have always like music that’s slightly off the rails and a bit out there and different. 

Recently, I have loved “Soft Hair” and “LA Priest” both made by the same guy. The music is literally the craziest sounds you will hear. He makes all his own instruments out of old chair legs and stuff around the house. His singing style is different to say the least. I would strongly recommend everyone going to check out those two acts.

Queen - "We are the Champions" - love it. 

So does music get your creative juices flowing for writing? Or similar to when you’re writing? How do you compare the two art forms? 

I always play video game music while I am writing. I am unsure why. I just stream tracks off YouTube. My favourite is “Relaxing Final Fantasy Music”. I feel like the music in those games’ pairs well with my stories. Big adventure tales with twists and turns but not forgetting epic loss and tragedy.

Oh man, I love FF7, really psyched about the remake!

Shifting a little, I see you’re an avid Crossfitter. I have to ask, what goes on in all those ‘boxes’ I always see? I hear a lot heavy things moving around and grunts, so I’m sorta curious… 

Well the “box” is just the CrossFit word for the Gym. It’s essentially the sport of being fit. Like adult Physical Education you used to do at school. In CrossFit, you have to learn to be good at weightlifting, gymnastics and cardio stuff, that are all mixed together into one daily work out. It’s intense, hard work and I am constantly aching. But It’s the only fitness regime I have stuck to in my whole life. If you like competitive sport and being fit CrossFit might be for you.

Do you do the paleo thing as well? How does that work, do we have to use stone tools instead of modern utensils?

You only eat things that can be grown or killed in your garden. Rejecting processed foods and sugars. Makes sense doesn’t it? Primitive man didn’t eat a Maccy D’s breakfast every day. For me I am more relaxed, I try to be good through the week and have a pizza and beers at the weekend. I am also a Pescatarian, so paleo is a little harder for me.

Oh... that makes more sense...

Btw, did you hear about the whole Crossfit/Facebook/Instagram conflict? If so, thoughts? 

Gregg Glassman, the CrossFit CEO kicked off, because a CrossFit nutrition group was closed by Facebook. Therefore, he decided that “CrossFit was out” now they only use Twitter. My personal feeling is that is just spiting the thousands of CrossFitter’s around the world who regularly interacted on those platforms. But what do I know? ahaha

Let’s talk briefly about your career. I see that you were a microbiologist for a while… what’s the craziness [crap] you ever saw? And I mean that both literally and figuratively…

I used to run a Microbiology Lab that had to disinfect used condoms. Let’s leave that there…

Oh goodness, I bet you have a newfound appreciation for... 'the sexes' eh?

And what pushed you to drop the lab coat and move to production management for a design studio?

HDP Vol2 195x300_edited.jpgI think just wanting to try something different. I was always heading down the production management route even when I worked in Pharmaceuticals. Also, my current boss is my best friend which helps!

How do you compare/contrast the vibe, work and people between these two highly different pursuits?

Working within a GMP regulated environment is highly pressured. Everything must be traceable and everything follows standard ops. Its like an epic advanced machine. It must be though, when making medicine for people. Peoples lives are at stake. 

Working in a design studio is still pressured, but in the back of my mind we are never at risk of killing anyone (I would hope! Ahaha) so I you feel less stressed. 

In terms of the staff. Scientists insist on 3 breaks a day. Whereas, designers insist on one massive break a day. But other than that, both have lots going for them. I have learnt so much from scientists and designers alike.

Now let’s jump into writing…

Firstly, it appears you started working on stories and novels fairly recently. How long have you been writing and what got you into it? Any favorite authors, books, genres?

Three Years ish! 

I became part of the Moderating team for the video game company that created the “Fable” video game series. The studio was called Lionhead studios based in Guildford, UK. The community was brilliant. Full of banter, tips on the games, and various other discussion threads. 

There, fan fictions started to emerge. One day I read a story and thought “I have an idea for a story” and wrote a quick 2k story. After some decent feedback, I wrote another and another. Until I was doing it regularly with a fair few in the community following my fan fictions. 

Unfortunately, the studio was closed. That didn’t stop my new love for writing. From there I decided to pen my own novel “Beyond Horizon”. I have been working on it for the last two years. It’s finally finished. I am now going through it and making sure it’s nice and tidy for everyone. Hopefully I will publish it soon! 

That's awesome, and I'm familiar with Fable. The first was my favorite (although I never owned any).

I see you were recently included in a speculative fiction anthology, “Harvey Duckman Presents, Vol. 2” - tell us about your short story.
Yes! It’s Called “The Infinity order” here’s a quick blurb. 

A man awakes trapped and confused in a bleak dungeon. He doesn’t know who he is or why he came to be incarcerated. His only company, a grotesque rotting corpse he shares the cell with. He has no way of escape! He finds a mysterious concealed device from the future that has the ability to dilate and manipulate time around him. Who is he? And why is he there? Can the man get out of the cell and discover the secrets of the Time Dilation Manipulator?

Uh oh, I wonder if somebody's going back to the future...

And how about your forthcoming epic fantasy novel, “Beyond Horizon.” What can you tell us about that? And the series at large?

It’s the first book of seven. Its huge too. Aha! Well it is an Epic Fantasy Afterall! 

It starts in a village entirely populated with Elves. The protagonist of the story is a human who is adopted into an Elf family. The first novel is about how he adapts to life as an outsider in an elf world. He discovers he has a mysterious power that he wants to learn to control. A stranger emerges to teach him how to use his powers to become a better Portare player (a sport I created in my world, it’s like lacrosse but on the backs of three headed lizards!) He eventually learns he is needed for a much larger purpose, to help a lone God find out what’s beyond horizon.

I was checking out the world map for the series on your website. I’m curious, what’s “The Mist”?

map.jpgIt’s a mile-high cloud of dense black fog. All that enter never return. So, no one knows what’s beyond. Not even the Gods, it’s shrouded in “mistery” (excuse the pun). It can be seen from miles away. Like a dark line on the horizon. Many people say it’s the end of the world. But one God has found a way to open the Mist and seek the secrets beyond. It involves a certain human protagonist. I have mentioned above.

That's BADASS 

Also, do you have any strong opinions on promoting and social media? Any suggestions for other authors? 

I don’t have a clue on marketing. I have all the social media. But not much engagement. I guess marketing is a skill and its something I can learn. If you persevere you always get there eventually.

And finally, hit us with something unexpected. Give us something most people would never guess about you. Three… two… one… Go!!

I have only just discovered how good The Beatles are! Never got around to listening to them!

Also, loud eaters who make mouth sounds by failing to close their mouth while chewing makes me want to head butt a wall until I’m unconscious.

Dude, you gotta go down The Beatles rabbit hole...

Thanks for the interview, Ben!

Thanks for the opportunity! 

Connect With Ben



Interested Authors,

If you'd like to be featured in the Authors' Lounge, please leave a comment below or contact me through social media.
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Look forward to hearing from you soon!

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