Interview with Writer Amir Lane

This month I’ve been so blessed to be able to do two Author Interviews.  I’m excited to welcome Amir Lane to my Scribbles Page.  Let’s get started.

Amir I’m thrilled to have you here this month.  Thanks for stopping by.

Always a joy to chat with folks.

I have so many questions, but so little time.  So let’s jump right in.  I’m curious about how you model your characters, are they based on real life?

I really try not to. It’s impossible not to let parts of people I know into my characters because there are only so many traits in the world. There’ve been times when I’ve been talking about a character and realized, ‘Holy crap, this is so-and-so.’ (chuckles)

Sometimes I’ll put real people in passing, like if I need a background character for two lines.

I think we’ve all done that.

Probably.  The other thing I do is when I have a character from another country - ie, not Canada - I’ll pick usually a musician who’s voice I dig and I’ll listen to interviews until I get a handle on it. Like, I have Matt Tuck for my Welsh guy, Til Lindemann for German, Max Cavalera for Brazilian… Sometimes I hear something that totally works. Sometimes it’s, like, a cultural thing, or a generic sort of - Like Max Cavalera learning English from dictionary translations. It’s exactly how my parents learned English, but it totally works here too. Again, generally not deliberate but it happens.

We’re going to be all over the map today with questions.  I hope you don’t mind?

Nope. Not at all.

Great, I wanted to ask if you have any advice for other authors on how to market their books?

I'm honestly awful at marketing so I'm probably the last person who should be giving advice.

I don’t know you have some amazing cover art for your books and your Urban Fantasy Short is on Tall Tale TV, so you must be doing something right.


Okay, how about you tell me what you don’t like.

Well, as a reader, it really bothers me when authors leave me copy/pasted messages to buy their book, especially when it's for a genre I don't even like. I get that it's the fastest way to spread the word but honestly, it makes me hate the book on principle before I even know the title. People don't like being constantly advertised to, especially when everything is an advertisement. If you want to recommend me your book because you know that, based on the books I talk about, it lines up with what I like to read, then by all means, recommend it but don't make it too obvious that you're only interested in my wallet.

Well said.  I agree.

So, marketing isn’t your thing, but you must do some, so what part of your writing time do you devote to marketing your book?

Marketing time is marketing time. I don't take from my writing time, which is probably why I'm lacking in that department. I do most of my marketing when I'm between projects, or parts of projects. For example, I'll give myself a week between when I finish a draft and start editing, and I'll take that time to market. It's a system.

Cool, so keeping on the whole marketing theme, what do you thing about good/bad reviews?

I think the important thing to remember is that everything is subjective. Not everybody is going to like your book. Like, with Shadow Maker, someone said that my main character wasn't relatable at all, whereas other people found that he totally was. So, all that meant was that this person isn't the person that character was meant to be relatable to.

Good point.

Any review should be taken with a grain of salt but there is a point where, if it's a lot of people who are saying the same thing, then maybe that's something to pay attention to. I don't know, I try not to read reviews or respond to anything about my books unless someone is talking to me directly.

That is great advice.

Sadly, this is my last question and I hope it’s an easy one.  Do you have any tips on what to do and what not to do when writing?

Do: Write.
Don't: Get distracted and watch that episode of Duck Dodgers where Dave Mustain saves Earth with the power of heavy metal and awesome hair.

(Laughs) That is probably the best advice ever. What a great way to end the interview.  That you so much for joining me today.

Always a pleasure

More about Amir Lane

Amir Lane (pronounced Ah-meer) is a supernatural and urban fantasy writer from Sudbury, Ontario and the author of the Morrighan House Witches series that debuted in October 2016. The series opens with Shadow Maker, and follows physics major Dieter Lindemann as he's dragged down against his will into Necromancy and blood magic.

Engineer by trade, Amir spends most of their writing time in a small home office on the cargo pants of desks, at a back table at their favorite Middle Eastern restaurant, or in front of the TV watching every cop procedural or cooking competition on Netflix. They live in a world where magic is an everyday occurrence, and they strive to bring that world to paper. Their short story, Scrap Metal and Circuitry, was published by Indestructible magazine in April 2016.

When not trying to figure out what kind of day job an incubus would have or what a Necromancer would go to school for, Amir enjoys visiting the nearest Dairy Queen, getting killed in video games, absorbing the contents of comic books, and freaking out over how fluffy the neighbour's dog is.

Amir loves to connect with readers online. They can be found in their Facebook group here, on their Facebook page here, and at their website here, and on Twitter here where you can find out more about their work.

There are no Guarantees in Life

This week I was reminded that there are no guarantees in life.  A friend of mine was diagnosed with Cancer and she is being very aggressive in her treatment.  She’s not the first person I’ve known to do battle with this disease and I’m sure she won’t be the last.  What this news reminded me was that life, our lives, aren’t a dress rehearsal and tomorrow isn’t a guarantee.

You can run ten miles a day, be a vegan, eat healthful and workout four times a week.  Or, you can sit on your couch all day, eat a steak breakfast, noon and night, never eat a vegetable, and your treadmill can be a clothes hanger.  None of it matters, cause when the journey is over the journey is over.  The point, live your life.

How many times have you thought, ‘oh I’ll do that tomorrow’ or ‘it can wait’? More frightenly when have you passed up on doing something you really wanted to thinking you’ll get around to it later?  What happens when there are no more ‘laters’?

I guess what I’m going for is not to wait.  Don’t go crazy and don’t be irresponsible, but don’t wait.  Eat healthful, get some exercise, go outside, all that is important, but mostly get up and do it.  Take that trip. Take the class. Paint that painting.  Learn to cook. Ask that guy or girl out.  Go do it.  Live your life because you never know when your ticket to ride is over

Interview with Author JP Jackson

This week I’m very excited to welcome my buddy JP Jackson, to my Scribbles page and introduce you all to him and his amazing writing.  I was lucky to have him for an extended interview so I hope you enjoy.  Don't forget to like, share and leave a comment below.  There was a lot to cover in a short time so let’s boogie on down the road.

JP has his first book premiering next month (July 2017).  Congratulations JP and welcome.

Boogie?  Really?

My interview my silliness.

All right well thanks for the invite, I think.

To kick things off tell me about your writing, how did you get started?  

I’ve always been creative in some way. Whether it was drawing, painting, and even acting, I generally find that I have to be doing something, or have a project somewhere that allows me to unleash that creative energy.  

But, I’ve always had ‘write a book and get it published’ on my bucket list.

About three years ago, I finally said to myself – let’s do this. So I hauled out the laptop and started. It really was that simple. I just sat down and put words on the screen. Now, I didn’t say they were good words, but it was a start.

I’ve read some of your writing and I can tell everyone, they are in fact ‘good’ words.

Hey, thanks.

Of course, so you started writing three years ago, was getting the book finished what drove you?  What drives you what drives you to sit at the keyboard and put word to paper?

Once I start something I generally have to see it through. I say generally because my husband will tell you that I have so many projects all going on at once it’s impossible to believe that they all get completed.

Do they?

They don’t.

But, if something catches me…you know that feeling? It’s where your mind continually drifts back to thoughts about (in this case) the storyline, a plot problem, the way a character is dressed, and what he says…If my brain starts doing that, then I become obsessed and I will absolutely finish the project. And right now, that obsession for me is writing. I also am finding the writing process to be a ridiculous amount of fun. All of it – from writing my way through a plot problem – to creating new creatures and characters – to receiving edits and making the story even better. And let me just say, thank all the gods for editors.

Yes, editors are our friends.  

They really are, they see things we miss and would never see otherwise.

Very true, now changing gears a bit, which writers inspire you?

There’s quite a few. Stephen King, but his earlier works like Carrie, Christine, The Shining. Anne Rice – all of them, oh my goodness. Yes. I’ve also recently stumbled upon Patricia Briggs and I’ve read several of the Mercy Thompson books and quite enjoyed them. J.K. Rowling and the Harry Potter series, Charlaine Harris and the Sookie Stackhouse books, and many, many years ago Piers Anthony with the Xanth books and the Incarnations of Immortality. Who could forget the never ending Wheel of Time series by Robert Jordan? Truly, the list is endless. I’m a voracious reader and have always been. I think my favorite horror story of all time was The Amityville Horror by Jay Anson. I don’t think I slept the rest of that year.

(Chuckles) That is an impressive list.

I have read a little bit of everything, but if the book has horns, tails, wings, or magic, chances are I’m going to love it. If I’m a little scared while reading it, that’s a good thing too.

I’m currently looking though for that kind of an author who write LGBTQA+ stories. I’ve read so many excellent books lately by authors who identify in the queer spectrum, but I haven’t yet stumbled upon that one author that I know – regardless of what book or work I pick up of theirs, I’m just absolutely going to love it. So, I keep looking…

You have any suggestions?

Hey now, who’s interviewing who? Anyway a book my boss recommended that I recently read was ‘The Swarm’ by Frank Schatzing it’s freaky and well crafted.  And if you like Zombies (I’m personally mixed about them) but ‘World War Z’ by Max Brooks is excellent.  Otherwise, you and I have a similar list of books.


Okay, this isn’t a book club. So, give us some insight into your Main Character.  Who are they?  What is their life about?

Dati Amon is my leading man. He’s totally dreamy.  Oh wait…yeah okay so, he’s also a demon from hell. What can I tell you about Dati? He’s pretty old – although he doesn’t look it, that’s because of his great genetic makeup. And when I say old, I mean like three hundred and forty-six years old.

So, about my dating age?  Kidding.

Um… sure. Dati only looks like maybe late thirties, early forties.

Dati is a specific kind of demon. He belongs to the D’Alae species – meaning he has wings, and a tail, but he has ways of hiding these things when he’s out and about. I think that’s what makes my demons a tad more interesting – they look just like any other human – but then, when the guise comes off, or they reveal their true selves, it’s terrifying.

Creepy, but I like the idea. Please continue.

Dati is also enslaved – all of the D’Alae are, and his master is particularly violent and one hell of a masochist. Dati’s job is to find human children who are the result of a demon-human mating, and then ensure that they are ‘turned’.  He hates his job. 

Dati’s master keeps him on a short leash. Because of that, he’s sometimes naïve, but Dati has been around a long time, and so he’s developed a certain amount of elegance and maturity. He’s smart, careful, thoughtful, yet has the propensity for incredible brutality.

And he loves to watch humans. In fact, he really has grown quite soft and kind. He likes humans. He’s quite jealous of them, and their freedom.

When Dati meets Alyx, he is instantly attracted to him (and honestly, Alyx is a redhead, who wouldn’t be instantly turned on by that?) and for the first time ever, Dati has feelings for a human. 

Now that sounds like a set up for a romance story, right? Yeah…I know, but Dati’s story is unfortunately filled with setbacks and turmoil, and as much as he’d like to get to know Alyx, he can’t, and despite a promise Dati has made to keep Alyx out of his hellish world, the exact opposite happens.

In fact, Dati’s actions of trying to keep Alyx out of his life end up setting off a chain of events that leads to the end of the world.

This is no romance novel. This is a story about the end of times.

That sounds really heavy.  It must be one hell (sorry I had to) of a ride?

I hope so.

Wow, so what drew you to write in this genre?

I see magic in everything. There are fairies in my garden, there is a monster in my closet and the boogeyman lives in the basement – and the bastard takes great delight in scaring the shit out of me on a regular basis.  I hate him.

But really, I’m drawn to the fantastical. I thrive best in worlds where magic is possible, but also potentially deadly. I need creatures with wings and horns, beasts that will help you, cuddle with you, or maybe even eat you.

Oddly enough, I want to be enchanted and then scared at the same time. It’s funny though, I can’t watch a horror movie. I keep trying, but then I don’t sleep for days.

Do you mind if we keep going?  Normally I wrap up about now, but this is good stuff.  So, I’d like to keep going.

Sure, I don’t mind.

Great. Where do your ideas come from?

My head. The shadows are long and very deep in there. It’s a creepy place, but beautiful too. There’s something fun about flirting with the darkness, straddling that line between light and dark. I’m quite comfortable there.

I find that music, certain TV shows, movies and pictures will spur my creative juices and make me want to write about mystical beings and terrible curses. I love mythology too. I think we’ve lost a lot of wonder and magic in our lives. Everything is cold and technical and can be explained by modern medicine and science.

To that I say – Bah Humbug.  Let there be a Santa Claus, a tooth fairy, dragons and trolls. I love them all.

I agree.  By the way I love dragons, so you know.  There ya go. Anyway, now for a serious question, what was the hardest thing about writing your book?

A couple of things.

The voice of each character and ensuring I stayed true to them when they were speaking. 

Stories are rich and detailed and they shift in their perception depending on which character’s eyes you’re watching the world unfold through. And so, in Daimonion, the majority of the story is seen through the eyes of Dati.  As I said above, he’s sophisticated, in his own way, and yet, somewhat naive. But part of the story is also told from Jenae’s perspective – she’s a soulless witch, she’s young, broken and a little off. She’s also a teenager. And part of the story is told through Alyx. Alyx is a young man, confident and sexy, mischievous and yet, always optimistic and positive. While writing the book and ensuring as each chapter came to life, the person who was telling the story kept true to their character – that was hard.

I also struggled with keeping all the ties and strings laced together in such a way that the story came to life in a realistic way. I wanted to make sure that events that happened, occurred naturally. I wanted relationships to be developed and be realistic.

It’s one thing to see a person and be instantly attracted to someone. I don’t believe that people look at someone and fall instantly in love. I think love blossoms after you get to know a person. You have to be able to resonate to who someone is, what they believe in before you invest in such an expensive emotion as ‘love’. Same thing for friendship, or trust. Does that make sense?

I think it does and you’re right ‘love’ is a very expensive emotion and I don’t think people are always willing to pay that cost.  Please, though, back to the story.

This story is fantastical, but even though there are demon, beasts, and magic, I wanted it to feel like it all could be real.

Excellent.  I want to shift gears again and talk about something a little lighter. So tell me JP, which famous person (living or dead) would you like to sit down with and lunch?  Why?

Hugh Jackman, because Wolverine. Straight up – he’s my total boy crush. But I’ve also always wanted to have lunch with Whoopi Goldberg. I think we’d laugh ourselves stupid, but she’d also have amazing words of wisdom to impart as well. But regardless of who I have lunch with, if anyone orders beets of any kind, served up in any way, I’m out.


I hate beets. Always have. Like from the time I was a baby. Beets went in, and were immediately spit back out.

Note to self, no beets, got it.

It’s silly, and I know this. I’ve tried many times as an adult to eat them. I just can’t.

My belief is that in a former past life I was a victim in a beet famine. That’s my story, and I’m sticking to it.


Okay, so no beets.  Are there any other specific challenges you’ve come across when writing?  What did you do differently the next time?

This was my first book. I learned so many things. The way we write differs greatly from communications at work, to a technical manual, a love letter or a literary work. You can’t write in the same way for all of these. They have differences, and they have rules. I’m still learning the rules. 

You can’t describe your own eyes unless you’re looking in a mirror. Period. So stop doing it, and yet, I continue to do so. 


I repeat words often. Editing saves me every time from that mistake.

I have a thing for Tautology – saying the same thing but in a different way. That’s hard to stop, I even speak like that.  You know the expression…”Beat a dead horse?” Yeah. I’m like that.

Commas. I hate commas.

Editors are akin to gods and should be treated as such.

What would I do differently next time? Oh boy. Try and learn from my mistakes? I’m a slow learner though.

I think we all share some similar problems.  I know I’m guilty of a lot what you mention.  One last question and it should be easy.  How would you sum up your book in five words?

The Beginning of The End

What a way to end the interview.  JP, thank you so much for being here and indulging in all my questions and some of my silliness.

It was a lot of fun.

More about JP Jackson:

J.P. Jackson works as an IT analyst in health care during the day, where if cornered he’d confess to casting spells to ensure clinicians actually use the electronic medical charting system he configures and implements.

At night however, the writing happens, where demons, witches and shape shifters congregate around the kitchen table and general chaos ensues. The insurance company refuses to accept any more claims of ‘acts of the un-god’, and his husband of almost 20 years has very firmly put his foot down on any further wraith summoning’s in the basement. And apparently imps aren’t house-trainable. Occasionally the odd ghost or member of the Fae community stops in for a glass of wine and stories are exchanged. Although the husband doesn’t know it, the two Chihuahuas are in cahoots with the spell casting.

J.P.’s other hobbies include hybridizing African Violets (thanks to grandma), extensive travelling and believe it or not, knitting.

You can find JP here and on Twitter here.  He also has a Goodreads Page here.

More about Book One of the Apocalypse Daimonion (Pre Order here): 

Dati Amon wants to be free from his satyr master and he hates his job—hunting human children who display demon balefire. Every hunt has been successful, except one. A thwarted attempt ended up as a promise to spare the child of a white witch, an indiscretion Dati hopes Master never discovers.

But Master has devilish machinations of his own. He needs human-demon hybrids, the Daimonion, to raise the Dark Lord to the earthly realm. If Master succeeds, he will be immortal and far more powerful.

The child who was spared is now a man, and for the first time in three hundred years, Dati has a reason to escape Master’s chains. To do that, Dati makes some unlikely alliances with an untrained soulless witch, a self-destructive shape shifter, and a deceitful clairvoyant. However, deals with demons rarely go as planned, and the cost is always higher than the original bargain.

Stop Being Negative and Don’t be a Jerk

This Memorial Day Weekend I wanted to talk about all the negativity and general jerkiness I see these days, both on-line and out in the world.  Over the last week I’ve been reminded just how lucky and blessed I am.  If you follow me on Twitter and on Facebook (which I hope you do) you should know that this week I got picked up by NineStar Press they are going to be publishing my book ‘The Calling’.  Getting the news made me stop and think how I got to this point.  Yes, there was a lot of work involved.  And, yes, there was a certain amount of luck.  But, I also believe one of the key reasons I got picked up was because of how I treat everyone and how I interact with the world.

I’m not perfect.  No one is.  And I sure don’t shoot sunshine and rainbows out my rear-end. But I can affect what I put out there and that influences the way others interact with me.

When I first started my writing journey I got a lot of really hard negative feedback.  People were tough on me.  I could have fallen down the well of negativity and self-pity it was so bad.  After a few days of sulking and licking my wounds, I went back to writing and wrote and re-wrote.  Instead of being a jerk I continued to thank folks for all their feedback and I continued to be grateful.  It wasn’t easy, because some people were mean, and like many writers my ego is fragile (Lord help me when I start getting reviews).  At the time I only had a Facebook page and instead of complaining on Facebook, I continued to post things about how grateful I am and how proud I am of others (oh, and dragons.  I love dragons).  Sure, every so often I posted something that I found appalling.  Doing so was never to jump on the bandwagon of being nasty or with the intention of hurting anyone.  It was always with the goal in mind of making people stop and think. It was always comments like this:

  • Be kind to one another.
  • Think before you speak. 
  • Don’t be nasty.
  • Don’t be cruel.
  • Don’t promote hate.
  • If you want to make change work for that change, don’t complain or moan-and-grown.
  • Support each other.

During a time when everyone was fighting and arguing; crying and complaining; blaming and fear mongering, I continued on…

Oh, man this is starting to sound preachy and give the illusion of me being so perfect.  Ugh.  I’m not.  I’m so far from perfect.  I whine and I complain, I have good days and I have shitty days, I can be cruel and I can be mean, I’ve been known to make people cry.  I will continue to be everything I try to say we shouldn’t be, not because it’s my goal, but because I’m human.

What I want to get across, today, is the need for us, all of us, to do better.  To be kinder, to not allow all the garbage happening outside our ring of control to take over our lives.  When we only promote negativity that is all that surrounds us.  How can we do great things if we’re stuck in the bubble of being a jerk? Or being nasty to each other.  We’ve had men and women die and suffer to provide us with the opportunities to do whatever we want.  To give us a chance to make the world a better place.  We can’t sit here and use that gift to promote mistreatment of each other.  We are one human species and we need to celebrate that.

There are people, not really people, but monsters, out in the world ready and willing to kill each and every one of us (Liberal or Conservative; Straight or Gay; Man or Woman; Young or Old).  Why? Because we have all these wonderful gifts and opportunities and they’re jealous.  Don’t help these creatures of evil.  Don’t add to their power.  Don’t be negative and don’t be a jerk.  Turn your back on all the garbage and go out there and make the world you want to live in.  Support each other, be kind, help one another, and if you don’t agree with someone then prove them wrong by words and deeds not by arguing and fighting.

Good things happen.  Dreams come true, when you push away all the crap and all the hate wonderful things happen, strangers give you opportunities. Friends break down into tears when you share your good luck.  You end up inspiring others.

I challenge everyone who reads this to do something positive, whatever that is.  Leave the pity party and get off the negative bandwagon.  Go out and do good.  It can be small like a friendly message of support on Facebook to big like volunteering in a homeless shelter or soup kitchen.  Just be kind and promote goodness. That is what we all need and I promise you goodness will find you.

Happy Memorial Day, don’t let their sacrifice be in vain.

As always I love to get comments so please feel free to leave your thoughts below.  If this Blog Post spoke to you, feel free to share it.  See you next time

Interview with Writer Vince Rockston

Is it time for a new author interview already?  It seems like we just had JB here. This month I’m excited to welcome a British writer now living in Switzerland Vince Rockston to my Scribbles page.

Greetings Vince. Thank you for taking the time to answer a few questions for me and my readers this month.

Thank you for having me.

To warm things up let’s start with what I hope is an easy question.  When you sit down to write do you aim for a set amount of words or pages?

No. (Chuckles) Funnily enough, I got much more writing done while I was employed full time than now when I’m retired. I think my metabolic rate slowed down considerably after the magic age of 65.

I guess that keeps it more relaxing and enjoyable?

You can say that.

Other then living in a beautiful part of the world I hope to visit some day, what inspires you to get out of bed each day?

I seldom have difficulty getting up. I have a morning routine – physical exercise, ablutions, listen to the news, breakfast, reading and meditating on daily Bible verses, reading my emails, making moves on my online games – before I start the day’s activities, which may or may not be working on my book.

That sounds like a great way to start the day.

I think so.

Lets bounce around, because I’m curious.  What’s your favorite movie and why?

I hardly ever watch movies.


I have great trouble assimilating fast-paced modern films and don’t want to titillate myself with sex scenes nor horrify myself with blood and gore. And – with a few exceptions, such as Narnia and Lord of the Rings – I’m not impressed by most fantasies.

There are a lot of bad movies out there, which is unfortunate.

Yes. However, one film I have watched several times and always enjoy is The Sound of Music with Julie Andrews – rather innocent fun and yet it touches on some deep issues, such as the purpose of a religious life, how much discipline is appropriate when bringing up children, and the moral pressures experienced by those who don’t wish to participate in war, as well as the age-old element of romance. 

I agree, that is an amazing movie.  I watched it all the time when I was younger.

Speaking of strong characters and amazing storytelling. Give us an insight into your main character. What does he/she do that is so special?

My WIP Aquila – Can Silvanus escape that god? relates the life of Silvanus, a disturbed young lad who thinks his only hope for happiness is to escape his bitter father by acquiring a boat and leaving his home island of Ilva (Elba) to explore the world. Riches, treachery and romance throw him off track, but his main distraction is an encounter with the old hermit Cerbonius, whose wisdom and ethos challenge him to the core.

Silvanus grapples with the recluse’s ancient texts, discusses fundamental life issues with him, watches how he deals with conflict and learns about natural phenomena. He falls in love with and eventually marries a childhood acquaintance, who also helps him sort out his guilty conscience. His mentor’s dying requests lead to an encounter that challenges Silvanus to the extreme.

That sounds very deep and interesting.

I think it is.

You seem to have a very Zen way about you, so I’m wondering, is being a writer a gift or a curse?

It’s certainly not a curse. It’s partly a gift and partly hard work and determination. And I think for those who feel the inclination, ability and courage to write it’s a unique opportunity to entertain, challenge or educate others by letting the fantasy and inspiration pour out onto a written page. 

Isn’t that always the hope?

I think so and maybe they can even earn a bit of money at it; probably not much.

That’s the icing on the cake I believe.  Well that is all the time I have today.  Thank you so much for hoping over to my Scribbles page. I really enjoyed our chit-chat.

Thank you for the invite.

Keep us posted on Aquila – Can Silvanus escape that god

More about Vince Rockston

Vince enjoys the beautiful countryside around the little Swiss village where he lives, retired, with his Finnish wife, sharing a house with one son, his Brazilian wife and their Chihuahua. When he has a chance, he loves to go hiking in the mountains. He blogs as Greyowl (bilingual) and his historical fiction book is developing at AquilaElba is also on Facebook.

In order to earn a living, Vince started as a computer technician but soon advanced through a series of promotions to become a consultant for networking solutions. After 25 years in IT, a forced career change introduced him to the field of technical editing for a company developing encryption solutions. This turned out to match his character and skills very well, although it’s a long way from writing fiction.

Raising a family of three children, extended by a lively foster daughter and a dog; heavy involvement in a small evangelical church; and multiple business trips around the world – these filled most of Vince’s free time while he was working. Now that his children have flown the nest – though not gone very far – he is thrilled to be able to accompany his two grandchildren one afternoon per week and watch them develop, even though he gets exhausted.

The relative freedom of retirement has allowed Vince to take winter breaks with his wife to warmer climes, recently to Madeira and Tenerife. They enjoy the beautiful scenery, exotic plants and challenging hikes. The sparse historical information available about the indigenous people of the Canary Isles – Guanches – may inspire Vince to work on another historical novel. Who knows

Managing Multiple Writing Projects

First, let me start by saying, “Ugh!” This weeks blog is gonna be short, which I hope is cool with everyone.

Did you know there are literally hundreds of resources for managing multiple writing projects?  There are software programs, books, blogs, webinars, seminars, etc. It’s crazy.  I get people need help to focus; we all need that kind of help…

Oh look, squirrel.

Where was I? Oh right, staying focused.  Right now I have three projects I’m working on.  I’m writing A New World–Conspiracy, I’m writing TAD (my new writing project), and I want to edit/rework ‘The Reunion’ which was just published on Tall Tale TV, click here to check it out.

So, how do I keep it all under control?  I’m very basic.  I use outlines, notes, research, and character sheets. That’s all I use and for me that’s all I need.  I’m familiar with writers who use Scriverner and love it, which is great.  For me it’s one more item to manage.  It’s like using Microsoft Projects at the office, sure it works but you’ve got to manage it and populate it.  Ugh.  That’s way too much work for me. I like to keep it simple.

I understand that what works for me may not work for everyone and that’s great. What I’m really curious about today is what other writers think and use.  How do you keep everything you’re working on straight and organized?  Heck, you don’t even need to be a writer, just a busy person with a lot of balls in the air.  If you’ve got some great tips and tricks tell me.  Leave your thoughts in the comments below.

Until next time, have a great week.

Our Experiment with a Meal Delivery Service (Part3)

Welcome to Part Three of our experiment with a Meal Kit Delivery Service. If you haven’t read Part One click here if you haven’t read Part Two (I’m gonna cry) click here.  As you should be familiar with by now, I’m hopping, we’ve been doing the Meal Service for three months and things are swimming along.  The food is still great. We’ve enjoyed everything, even things I wasn’t so sure about.
Shall we start?

As teased last month, I’m gonna tell you about how we save 20% on our meals and provide you some general advice and s few tips and tricks that we’ve learned.  So here goes.
Our trick for saving 20% on our Meal Kit Delivery Service is to buy gift cards.  We go to Costco (if you don’t have a Costco Membership talk to a friend who does) and buy the gift cards for the service it saves us an instant 20%.  Not very exciting and maybe a bit anticlimactic but that’s how we save money.  Every couple of weeks we head to Costco for whatever we need and pick up the gifts cards.  We don't make a special trip so getting the gift cards makes sense.
Another way you can save money on these services is to try a different one for the length of the free trial period.  I’m not a big fan of this method, but people do it and it works for them. There are several different meal delivery services out so bounce around and try different ones. Just don’t ask me what they do when they’ve tried them all and have to pay for it, cause I’m not sure.
Anyway, moving on.
What we’ve found with our Meal Kit Delivery Service is don’t be afraid to shake things up and experiment with what they give you.  We’ve got several spaghetti (red sauce) type dishes, and they were all right.  When we got the next one I decided I was going to shake things up, and I added my own Italian spices and it took the sauce to the next level, which really made me happy.

Don’t be afraid to add a little butter, yes it’s bad for you. Yes the meal services are trying to present you with a healthful meal option. Still, a little butter goes a long way for flavor. So, if you want to add some buttery flavor to what you're cooking or to vegetables go for it. I won’t tell.
Two of my co-workers, who are on the same plan as us, will put the spice rub or marinade on the meat the night before they cook it.  They say it adds a lot more flavor and I believe them.  I tried it once, and it really does amp up the flavor of the meat.
The other trick I have is, watch the salt.  Almost ever step instructs you to ‘salt and pepper to taste’ remember it’s ‘to taste’ so if you want to cut down on the salt do it.  To me this seemed like a no brainer, but you would be surprised at how you get caught up in following the step-by-step directions.
Speaking of directions.  Do yourself a favor and read through the direction at least twice before you start.  Then decide the steps you can combine and the ways to lower your pan and bowl count, cause you’re gonna use a lot of them.
When it comes to the oil always use olive oil or extra virgin olive oil.  It’s really the best way to cook everything.
When it comes to pans we use non-stick or cast iron.  So if you don’t have non-stick pans or cast iron get one.  It makes clean up so much easier.
When it comes to clean up, do it while things are cooking.  You’re gonna go through a lot of pains, bowls and knives so clean as you go.  Otherwise you’re gonna have a lot of clean up at the end.
And there you have it.  Everything I’ve learned about our Meal Kit Delivery Service.  If you want to try it, go for it.  The options are great and the food is good.  Even the stuff you may not love. We plan to keep going.  If we stop I’ll let you know and tell you why.
As with Part One and Part Two here are photos from our dinners. 

I hope you enjoyed this series and found it interesting and fun.  Feel free to ask questions.  In fact I encourage it.  I love hearing from you. 
Until next time have a great week.

Writing Update?

Over the last few Blogs I’ve talked about various topics, the most recent was about Slow Burn Books if you haven’t read it check it out here.  Anyway, I thought today I would provide an update on all my writing endeavors and surprisingly there are quite a few.

To start, I was recently asked to work on a training video project ‘Know Your Rights’ for the nonprofit I work for. It was a series of vignettes about what to do when ICE confronts you.  Each video would be a different scenario.  First, ICE comes to your home. Second, ICE comes to your work. Third, a police stop. And, fourth, how an agency is to respond when ICE comes to investigate clients.  We did an English and Spanish version.

Know Your Rights!

We spent a few weeks working on the script and in rehearsals.  The thing to point out here is none of the people were professionals.  So, they were relying on my limited experience.  Regardless, I spent whatever time I had with them running lines, rewriting and changing the script and working on blocking and preparing them for taping day.

The day of the video shoot came, and we spent a full day in studio with a crew of five.  I had designed the sets and costuming as well as handled make-up (I was wearing a lot of hats that day including directing).  With the shoot finished the next week I worked with the editor to pull it all together.  The finished product is something I’m exceedingly proud of, and the videos already hit over 600 views (in just a week).  Click here to go to their channel.

I’ve been asked to work with the Editor and take the vignettes and turn them into an actual DVD that other agencies can purchase.  So, that will be cool.

Channel trailer for Tall Tale TV.

My second update is if you follow me on Facebook and Twitter (which I hope you do), you should’ve seen my interactions with Chris over at Tall Tale TV. Chris takes short stories and converts them to audiobooks that you can listen to on his channel.  It's a great way to hear about new and upcoming authors. The channel is new so there isn’t a lot of content yet, but he’s growing it.  Anyway, he had a call for short story submissions and he selected one of mine.  I recently, the last few days, got word that my story ‘The Reunion’ will be airing in the next couple of weeks.  Once, I’m given the date you can be sure I’ll be letting you know.

My next major announcement is that I have a new work in progress underway, ‘T.A.D.’  This new story is set to be a novella and much shorter than my other works.  I don’t want to give away too much because things may change, but this story has elements of time travel and focuses on angles.  I’ve gotten some positive feedback from the first chapter so I’m excited to bring the outline to life. 

My final update is about my other works in progress.  ‘A New World – Contact’ is back with a couple of Beta Readers.  ‘A New World – Conspiracy’ is still in the writing process however, I’m happy to report that Act Two is now complete, which means I’m on to the final act; Act Three.  Yay!

This leaves me with an update for ‘The Calling’ it is complete and has gone through edits.  The rest I’m going to be a little cagey about because I’m hoping to have a big announcement about ‘The Calling’ in the next few months.

Those are my updates for now.  I'd love to hear what questions you have for me ask them in the comments and I'll answer.  Feel free to share this blog with others who will find it interesting.

See you next time.

Are Slow Burn Books Dead?

I’ve been wondering lately what people think of slow burn (slow paced) novels.  I don’t mean novels that go on-and-on about a rope unwinding, or describe every single item in a room to a reader.  What I’m talking about are stories that start off slow, allow readers to become familiar with the characters and their surrounding situations.  The reader actually gets to care about these people and their lives before all holy hell breaks loose.

This was a big topic of discussion on the writers group I belong to.  Most people agree there should be an inciting incident happening pretty quick (as soon as the first couple of paragraphs and no later than chapter five for all books). If you don’t know what an ‘inciting incident’ is it’s an episode, plot point or event that hooks the reader into the story. This particular moment is when an event thrusts the protagonist into the main action of the story.

Anyway, I agree with the need for an inciting incident I don’t see the need to be so fast.  I find in a lot of books/novels these days’ authors drop the reader right into the action, normally within the first few paragraphs. If not, the first paragraph.

So people love this.  It reminds them of movies and it gets their heart beating and, for them, it’s the best way for a novel to begin.

For me, I’ve hardly gotten to learn anything about these people, so why do I care if some monster, explosion or whatever is chasing them.

It’s only chapter two and their mother died in their arms.  The house they lived in blew up and aliens (or vampires or zombies or whatever) are rounding up the survivors.  Well lovely, but hey, could I maybe get the characters last name first.  Perhaps, find out that they have brown hair and green eyes.  I need to connect with these people.  I need to relate to them.

Is that too much to ask? 

Am I expecting too much?

Or worse yet, I’m I the only one who cares about this stuff? Clearly I’m not, because there are tons of books out there that move at a slower pace.

Still, is fast passed action, action, action all that people want?  Look at our movies and TV shows, you barely get any character information before you’re thrust into the action sequence.

Ugh, it gives me whiplash.

So, I continue to wonder are slow burn books dead? I hope not. Because if that’s the case, as a wannabe author, I’m screwed.  Two of my works in progress are what I would consider longish stories.  One ‘The Calling’ hovers around 100k words.  The other ‘A New World – Contact’ is around 169k words.  Currently, I’ve been trimming them both down, trying to cut the fat and leave the flavor.  It’s a slow process.

So, I’m asking, what do you all think? Do you care about these things or do you want a good story that you can sink your teeth in and enjoy?  I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Remember, you can always like and share this blog post.  It lets me know what you all want to talk about.  What are your thoughts on this topic?

See ya soon.

Interview with Writer JB Reynolds

Welcome back to my continuing series of conversations with various authors. This month I’m pleased to welcome a New Zealand writer JB Reynolds to my Scribbles page.

JB welcome. Thank you for taking the time to answer a few questions for me and my readers this month.

Pleased to be here.

Lets’ dive right in shall we. Once you write your work who do you get it ready? Do you proofread and edit all your own books or do you get someone to do that for you?

I edited the first couple of stories, but wanted to engage the services of a professional editor with my forthcoming story Square Pegs. I think if you’re serious about indie-publishing it’s a necessary step. You’re just too close to your own work, and you miss things. My editor made some changes, nothing major, but numerous little things, and there were things in there that I would never have considered. I’ve rejected some of her suggestions but have gone with the majority of them. It’s made for a better story.

Having a dedicated editor, for an indie-author seems costly was it?

I thought her chargers were reasonable.  She charges per hour and it took her two and a half hours to edit my story.  I was impressed by how thorough she was.  It certainly made a difference to the quality of my story.

Good to know.

Something we as authors all get asked, so I have to ask it here, is where do your ideas come from?

(Chuckles) Who knows? Just from being alive, I guess. You live life, you meet people, you see things, you hear things, you read things. I think a lot. Much of that thinking is pretty shallow, but my brain is constantly working things over, and when the time is right, usually when I’m alone (which doesn’t happen all that often when you have three young children), an idea sometimes rises up out of the murk, like a swamp monster, and takes shape.

Swamp Monster, I’m going to have to remember that.

Considering you have a few books out there, what do your fans mean to you?

I don’t have so many fans as yet, but I think they’re a big deal. I really appreciate it when someone takes the time out of their day to make the commitment to subscribe to my mailing list, or follow me on Facebook, or add me as a favorite on something. They don’t have to do that, and when they do, it makes all the difference and I’m very thankful. I try to maintain a dialogue with them and show my appreciation. 

Speaking of keeping in touch with fans and building a fan base, did you do a press release, Goodreads book launch or anything else to promote your work and did it work?

I haven’t done a press release or Goodreads book launch. I wanted to try doing some different things for the launch of Square Pegs. My editor suggested I change one of the character names so I posted on Facebook asking for suggestions for names and got a great response and a much improved character name from that. I’m going to do the same with the cover art—do 2 or 3 versions and ask which one people prefer. I want to try and engage my potential audience and try to create a bit of buzz in the lead up to its release.

That’s a really smart idea.  Anytime you can engage your audience is a smart move.

Last question, and this is a fun one.  Tell me what inspires you to get out of bed each day?

Just the thought that if I keep chipping away at this writing thing, little by little, I’ll get better, and there’s no reason why I can’t make it work for me, no reason why I can’t make some money from it.

Thank you JB for taking the time to stop by.  The time always goes so quickly

Thank you for the invite.

Let us know when your next book is released, would love to hear more about it.

More about JB Reynolds

JB Reynolds at home.

JB Reynolds at home.

J.B. Reynolds lives in rural Northland, New Zealand, where he raises children and chickens. He writes humorous short fiction, where tragedy meets comedy and character reigns supreme. His first short story was published while he was a university student, and in between that and a return to serious writing in 2016, he has worked as a graphic designer, landscaper, ski and snowboard technician, librarian, apple picker, and baker of muffins and teacakes.

Nowadays, when not writing, he’s a husband, father, and high school teacher (not necessarily in that order). He enjoys sailing, cycling, and playing music, really loud, when his wife and kids aren’t at home. He has a big garden, where he likes to get his fingernails dirty, and he loves to eat the things that grow in it.

He is currently working on his Crossing The Divide short story series. The stories in the series feature different characters and switch between locations in New Zealand and Australia, but they are all, in a way, coming of age stories and are linked through the theme of relationships. Find all of JB Reynolds books here and here. You can find JB Reynolds on Facebook and on his website.

Religion in non-Religious Books

To begin, in general I love religion. Belief in God plays such a strong role in our society that to ignore it as a writer is a mistake.  You’re doing a disservice to the reader and the story.  Now, I’m not saying to go in and make fun of religion (unless that is the point of your novel, article or short), or bash people over the head with your religious view.  Writers need to treat faith like they would treat any other topic.

It’s important so why ignore it.

The reason I bring this up is that as a writer all my stories hold some link to faith and a belief system of some kind.  I try to be fair with how I present the subject, and I don’t get preachy with beliefs in a Higher Power, and I steer clear of making fun of it. That said, I will point out hypocrisy because all faiths have it.

Regardless, I truly love religion (at one point I wanted to study World Religions) and I love how it affect us, who we are as a people and what we believe as a collective human culture.  Not to mention how we consider our fellow man.  Its saddens me when we attack each other for our religious beliefs. Because when you boil all beliefs in a High Power down to the basic ideal they are all pretty much the same.  There is so much that is wrong in the world today. Do we have to bring out the religious drums and beat them and attack each other over it?

I don’t think so.

Back to my point about religion in stories and as a fact in the lives of the character’s.  For me the subject of belief adds another layer to the character and their development.  When I create a character, I make a point to know what faith they are.  Even if it never comes up, because it will affect the decisions they make, for good and for bad.  Having that character knowledge helps with the details in the story.  Example:

A Jewish or Muslim character won’t typically eat pork;
A Mormon character won’t drink alcohol, caffeine (well some do) or curse;
A Catholic character may tend to be lax about some Catholic teachings; (divorce, contraception, fish on Fridays, church on Sundays, etc.) while being anti-abortion;
A Baptist character can be extremely religious (church every Sunday, bible study, heavy church involvement, etc.).

These are some general examples. How religion affects our characters, how they choose to believe, and how they practice their faith can be different for each one.  Faith in a Higher Power is different for each person. So, as writers we need to know this about our characters.

You may not want to have your Jewish main character eating a BLT on the Sabbath, or your Muslim main character having a huge meal at lunch during Ramadan, or your Mormon main character having a double espresso with a shot of bourbon at a party, or your Catholic main character having a fat juice steak on a Friday night during Lent, or your Baptist main character watching the big game on Sunday.

Again, these are just examples and I’m not saying it’s a rule (there are no rules in crafting your characters).

Once you know your character’s faith, you can play with it in the stories.  It can be a little flavor or spice thrown into the mix.

In ‘A New World - Contact’ I have a Catholic main character married to a Mormon secondary character, and I play with that dynamic.  I also, have a Baptist character who is good friends with a Russian Orthodox character, again you don’t know this as a reader because I don’t tell you in the story but it affects all the character motivations.

In ‘A Calling’ the main character was born Catholic, but his family wasn’t religious so he wasn’t religious. This was kind of fun to play with during the story.  It eventually becomes a major plot point in the work.

The other thing about religion in stories is faith helps with character motivations especially when those beliefs are called into question.  It allows the writer to add another layer of drama to why the character acts the way they do.  Imagine having all your beliefs suddenly called into question.  Stop and think about that for a moment.  How would you react?  How would that affect your life?  What would you have to change?  Would you be able to change, or would it be too much for you to cope with?

Interesting thought. Right? 

Faith in non-religious books, what do you think?  Yay, or Nay?  Feel free to share your thoughts below.  Remember you can always ‘like’ and ‘share’ this blog post.  It lets me know what you want to talk about. What you find interesting. What you would rather not see.  I’d love to hear from folks on this topic. 

See ya soon.

Writing Ideas. Where do they come from, and how do I process them?

About a month or so ago I sat down and began editing ‘A New World - Conspiracy’. There was nothing special about editing that day. I was using the time to rework a couple of chapters.  Anyway, as I sat at my computer I started thinking about recent world events, fate and that sort of stuff.  As I edited, I heard a voice in the back of my mind.

I’ve been told hearing voices is normal for writers - it’s also a sign of madness so, you know, both could apply in my case.

Moving on. Voices and all.

This voice started telling me about himself and started telling me his story.

Me trying to listen to the Voice in my head.

Me trying to listen to the Voice in my head.

I stopped what I was doing and began taking notes because what he was telling me was pretty interesting.  Once he finished his introduction and telling me a bit of his story, he was gone.  I was left with a page of notes and several questions.

Over the next few weeks I started putting together an outline and a basic prologue.  Then I opened my trunk of characters (I keep about fifty or so various stock characters sitting around for development in my novels should one of them fit). I found a character I’ve always loved and thought would be appropriate for this new story.

So, now with some notes, a very basic outline, and a few characters I started putting things together.  I came up with a premise for the story and I started tossing the idea around my writers group.  I received some constructive feedback and a few suggestions.  These notes and remarks helped me to focus on what I wanted to say. Also, I got a feel for what would be important to the tale. Now the story is starting to come together and I’m putting together a plan for it.

Oh, and I’ve gotten the buy in by my new main character.  He seems happy with the ideas so far.

But how does this affect the other stories that are waiting in the cue to be written?  That’s an interesting question. I suppose, I work in the way of the ‘squeaky wheel’ this particular story idea is one that keeps coming up.  So, I know that I really want to work on this new idea, which means a few of my other stories are left on the stove to simmer.

What brings this story to the forefront of my writing list is how different it is from anything else I have planned out.  And different is good. The other way I realize my new story needs attention is right now my new tale is geared to be a short story, which excites me. I want to see if I can write a short.

Also, the other interesting bit I’ve noticed about this new idea and new main character is that all my other main characters have stepped out of the way.  They’ve kind of cleared the decks to make way for the new kid, which is nice of them.  

I love when all my characters play nice with each other.

Anyway, that is how I work with my writing ideas and that is one example of how a new story idea comes to me.  If you have specific questions, feel free to ask.  I love hearing from folks.  I normally get back to questions within a few hours

Our Experiment with a Meal Kit Delivery Service (Part 2)

This is Part Two of our experiment with a Meal Kit Delivery Service.  If you haven’t read Part One click here. We’ve been doing the Meal Service for two months now and things are moving along nicely. We’re still enjoying and looking forward to getting our weekly box with our food and menus for the week.

In this installment, I want to talk about portions and value for the dollar.  This is a big topic online and even amongst my coworkers, family and friends.  They ask or say things like, “Is it really filling?”, “That doesn’t seem like a lot of food.”, “Oh, I’ve heard of that but it seems kind of expensive.”, “It looks really complicated, is it?”, etc. So, let’s get to it. Shall we?

When it comes to portions and meal size, you need to understand one thing about me (and my hubby, but me more so) I love food.  I love to eat and I really love good food.  As I tell my friends, “you don’t get a body like mine, but passing up on seconds or sometimes, if the meal’s really good, thirds.” So, I was worried about portions.  When we got our first box, and I looked at what they said was three meals I thought, “well crap, that doesn’t look like near enough food.” We got things like two sweet potatoes as a side dish, or a quarter of a head of cabbage, or basically a cup of dried rice.  Those were the side dishes?  Ugh. Then I looked at the proteins and I almost laughed. Ten Ounces of ground beef for two grown men. Who were they kidding?

Anyway, our first meal was Burgers and Slaw with Roasted Sweet Potatoes. We skeptically followed the directions and put the meal together.  After it was altogether and looked similar to the picture on the direction, we sat down to eat.  As I’ve mentioned before the meal was excellent, but the big question came when we finished and looked at each other.  I asked Eric, “So, are you full?”  he looked at me and said. “Actually, yes.”  I nodded my agreement.  To our surprise we were both full.  Sure, we could have both had another burger, but we didn’t need it.  We were satisfied.

And satisfied is how I would describe every meal thereafter.  Have we been stuffed?  No.  But after each meal we were full and comfortable.  Which, I’ll admit was a nice feeling.

What the Meal Service does well is portion control.  What you think might not be enough food actually is.  Are there leftovers?  Nope.  Not in my house.  But I have a co-worker who only eats half her meal and saves the rest for lunch the next day.  She’s not a big eater.

A foreign concept to me.

One of the side benefits of the Meal Service is we’re not eating as much, which has the additional side benefit of us both dropping a few pounds.  Not a lot, but still I’ve noticed.

Major Disclaimer and I want to make this very clear.  The Meal Service is not a diet plan.  Not by a long shot. So, don’t confuse the two.

Now, let’s talk about value for the buck.

This is another big area that people question, and I did too.  But, what I’m finding is that for the quality of the ingredients (organic, locally grown, blah, blah, blah) we’re getting the cost seems right.  “But, how can you say that?”  I hear all the collective yells.  Very simply, our Meal Service costs $60.00 a week (three meals $20 each, six servings $10 each) Eric, and I have made two receipts on our own, using the exact ingredients from the provided receipts.

When we went to the store to buy everything for the meals it actually cost us more per person.  One, was $10.75 per person (this was for the Fried Rice) and the other was just under $11.50 per person (this was for the Chicken Enchiladas).  So not a lot, but that is how it broke down on the days we bought the ingredients.

Now, I’m sure if we bought the food on a different day the costs might have changed, but considering how close everything was cost wise it all worked out and I’m not that much a penny pincher.

When it all comes down to it, the quality and the quantity of the meals is worth every cent we’ve paid. However, we’re not paying full price for our Meal Kit Delivery Service plan.  

“What?” you ask.

“How?” you say.

Well, you’ll have to wait for my next installment to find out my cost saving tips and tricks. As well as some overall general advice for how to make the most of the Meal Kit Deliver Service.

As with Part One here are my photos from our dinners.  Yes, we really did make all of these. I’m quite impressed with how good they all look

Hmm, maybe I should be a food photographer. Have a great week everyone.

Main Character Portraits

This was some character concept art that was started but never finished.  The drawings are rough and the characters changed, but the artist did a nice job, just wish he could have finished the project.

This was some character concept art that was started but never finished.  The drawings are rough and the characters changed, but the artist did a nice job, just wish he could have finished the project.

Over the past few months I’ve been considering, again, having characters portraits created for several of my characters in my different WIPs. I’ve tried this before, but the projects never got completed and I’ve shared some of the drafts on my Facebook page, which people seemed to like.

For me the purpose of this would be two-fold.  If I decide to self-publish, I’m going to need amazing book covers. So, character portraits would be a good way to try out some artists and see how well we work together. I would also be able to get feedback from you on how you like the style and quality of work.

Style wise, I prefer things a little darker and more moody.  Keeping a nice balance of lights and darks.  With character portraits I would be able to gage reaction and see if that works. I, also, thought they would be a fun way for people to visualize the characters.  I’ve heard of different writers doing the same thing.  So, I’m curious at what you all think?  Would you be interesting in portraits of the main characters?  Or, is that something you don’t think is necessary? Or, worse, is that something that you think would take away from the story?

Anyway, please let me know and if you’re another author please feel free to share your experience with me if you’ve done character portraits or any other visual type representation of your stories.  I’d love to learn about your experiences.

Have a great week and drop me a line I love hearing from folks

Interview with Writer Trin Carl

As part of my continuing series of interviews with various writers, this month I welcome to Trin Carl to my Scribbles page.

Trin, let’s jump right into the nitty-gritty. When it comes to your writing do you work from an outline plot or do you prefer to just see where an idea takes you? 

I like to see where ideas take me.  I could write a paragraph and see something totally different come out of it, and then I just go with that train of thought vs. my original idea.  I could write pages alone on a new tangent idea that came to me.  My longest writing experience has been 7,000 words in a day.

7,000 Words in one day I bet that wasn’t easy.

No, it wasn’t an easy endeavor. I had to change settings a lot.  You see, I had been participating in Nanowrimo in 2013 and I was writing with a group of writers and we had jumped from Peace Coffee to Royal Grounds to Riverside Cafe (sort of like bar hopping)Each stop, I’d write for twenty minutes to writing prompts.  It was sorta like a marathon to me.

Speaking to your writing do you proofread and edit all your own books or do you get someone to do that for you? 

I’ve only began allowing others to edit my work in the past three years.  Having others edit my work has flourished my interest in writing.  I think it was Hemingway who strongly believed in the importance of peer editing and that having writers in your corner will only help you.

I would agree with that.  The more we can help each the better writers we become.

You mentioned for your writing marathon you changing locations. What would you say are the main advantages and disadvantages of writing in varied environments vs. writing in the same environment every day?

I always write in varied environments and make it a habit of never writing from home.

Really, never writing at home?

I feel home is a place you hang your hat but it’s also filled with distractions.  Right now, in fact, I’m writing from the comforts of work.  I am lucky in that I work in a place where I have time to write, and boy do I take advantage of this.  I wake up sometimes around 4am just to write at work.  Did I mention I’m allowed to sleep at work too? (Laughs to self)

That kind of support is great.  What about writing compliments you received can you list one for us?

One of the best writing comments I’ve gotten is from a reader who said, “I can tell you’ve been a writer for a long time just by reading your work.  You’ve got rhythm.”  One of my most popular poems is called Sippin’ on Some Sizzer just to give you an idea.  It’s the feedback you get from your readers that is pure motivation.  I thank all my fans every day for pushing me along.

Well said.  Fans are amazing.

Sadly, we’re to my last question. Do you have help from other writers in publishing your book?

I have yet to publish my novel.  It’s still in progress but I know a handful of writers from Minnesota who have had their books published on Amazon and in print form.  I meet with them once a week at Dunn Brothers Coffee shop.  They write in all forms of genres including Historical Fiction, Sci Fi/fantasy and literary.  One of my colleagues, Tim Mahoney, has published nine novels. Dead Messenger, a thriller novel based on a Minnesota, 1930’s Barker gang is my favorite.

Sometimes I get comments from the writers in the group like, “I don’t write YA but your work is very appealing.  It has a certain tone.”  Or, they say that my main character reminds them of the MC in Kent Krueger’s, “Ordinary Grace.”  Our group stays late into the night discussing while sippin’ down volumes of coffee.  We often have book signing parties that celebrate our work.

That all sounds great. I wish I had more time to spend with you today.  Thank you for taking the time out of your day to do this interview.

It was fun thanks for having me.

Keep us posted on your work I would love to spotlight you and your novel when you get it published.

More about Trin Carl:

Trin Carl writes YA and Literary fiction.  She enjoys contemporary dance and writing her blog 50schoolsn90days on Blogger.  From Minnesota, Trin enjoys the outdoors and all the seasons, especially the fall as it reminds her of her days teaching and attending school at Metropolitan State University.  She can be contacted on twitter @theglobaldig or on Goodreads.

To Tweet or Not to Tweet…

Twitter is the question.

I just don’t know Twitter.  I’ve spoken with a bunch of folks (writers and bloggers) and they all say the same thing.  Open a Twitter account, it’s easy, fun and a great way to get connected with your fans and followers.  Not to mention a good way to get out there.  All of that sounds good, but I believe in connect. I’m not saying I have great connect, or that it will change the world, but I do have things to share with my Blog.  It’s only once a week to not bombard people, and to date the feedback has been positive.

The idea of a Twitter feed.  Do I have enough to say?  Am I that interesting (I don’t think I am)? Would people really fallow me?

I don’t know.  It all sounds so “me, me, me” and there is so much noise out there already.  Do I really need to add my voice to the masses? Granted I all have, with the Blog, but somehow that feels different to me.

There are pros and cons to everything, including tweeting.  It does seem like the next logical step in connecting with people, building a brand and creating a following.  The purpose of the Blog, the Facebook page, the website, and a potential Twitter account is so that I can show publishers that people are interested in my writing.  So, that eventually, one lucky publishers will pick up my manuscripts and help me get my novels out there.

Another purpose of the Blog, the Facebook page, the website, and a potential Twitter account is that it will make things much easier if I self-publish, because I will be published one way or the other.

Look how happy you all are that I get to interact with you.

Look how happy you all are that I get to interact with you.

The big bonus for me is reaching out to my followers and fans.  I would get to interact more with you, but is that something you really want?  You poor things.  You must have more interesting things to do then listen to me, don’t you?  Isn’t Dancing with the Stars starting up soon?  

All teasing aside, I’m interested in hearing what you have to say.  So, Twitter or no Twitter? Let me know in the comments below.

Our Experiment with a Meal Kit Delivery Service (Part 1)

My hubby and I have been experimenting with a Meal Kit Delivery Service. I know, I know, we’re late to the game and I’m sure this has been talked–blogged–about to death.  Still, several people have been asking me about our experience (and even asking for pictures of the cooked meals. Yes, I’m including photos.) Considering the interest I decided I would do a multi-part blog series on the subject.

This is the first installment.

I realize this has nothing to do with writing, but I figured it’d be fun.

My hubby and I started our meal kit delivery service because of a gift card we got for Christmas. The gift card covered about 90% of the cost.  I wasn’t so sure about the idea, but I didn’t want the gift card to go to waste.  So, we signed up.

We got to pick three meals (each meal was two servings) for a single week.  They give you a total of six different meal options to pick from, which is nice.  When I saw the dinners, and I wasn’t sold.  A lot, of the food seemed to be stuff I wasn’t keen on eating.  But, then I remembered gift card and away I went.

Waiting almost four days for the delivery was a bit annoying, but I get it.  They deliver all over the country, so waiting for the delivery to our area was fine.  Finally, our meals showed up. It was on a Wednesday (that is now our delivery day).  The meals arrived in a medium size box.

I was yet to be impressed.  I can’t say what I expected for the deliver but seeing the box arrive as is was a disappointment.

So, I brought the box home, and we unpacked it.

This is where my opinion started to change.  They included everything, and the food was still cool because of how they packed it (they had it wrapped in an insulated blanket-type-thing with the meats on the bottom packed between two chemical ice packs).  To my surprise, the meats were still frozen, and the veggies felt like they had been in the refrigerator.

We couldn’t cook anything that night because nothing was thawed, so we had to wait till the next night to cook our hamburger and our red cabbage slaw.

We waited.

The next night once we got home we started to cook.  The vendor included easy full-page directions with color photos of each step (nice touch on their part).  They couldn’t have made it any easier for us unless they came over and prepared it.

We cooked our way through the directions (the hardest part was cutting the cabbage for the slaw).  The service provided everything we would need to cook with the exception of pans, pots, salt, pepper, and olive oil.

That impressed me.

The cooking experience was a blast. We enjoy cooking, so that was an easy sell for us.  The whole process, from prep, to eat, to clean up, took us about an hour and a half (when we cook this is about how much time it normally takes us), so that wasn’t bad.

When we sat down to eat, the meal was excellent. It was different from how we normally eat a burger, but it was still good, really good (sorry no picture of the burger and the slaw).

The rest of the meals, to date, have gone much the same way, with little variation in prep to clean up time.

Here are the pictures of our first seven meals.

I’ll stop here.  In the next part I’ll talk about portions, and the value for the dollar.  Stay tuned

Edit Down or Break the Book into Two?

That is the question.

As I’ve mentioned in past blogs, I’m to the editing point on both my stories (well more editing and trimming down) and I’m running into an authorly dilemma with one of my novels. Do I edit down my novel, or do I break the story into two books?

I’m really not a fan of breaking the book into two.  The story was written as a single novel and I want to keep it that way. Call it pride or being stubborn. I’ll admit to both. That said, if all I do is edit the story down, the book will be between 150k and165k words which is a long novel. I know this, I’ve always pictured it as an epic story. Still, it’s a size agents and publishers tend to bock at (for a variety of reason and I’m not devaluing their valuable advice). If I cut the book into two, I would need to write an ending for the first book and write a new beginning for the second book. I could do it as painful as may be for my ego, it could be done and I’m pretty sure I have a place that I can make it work. 

But, this, to me, seems like a cheat.  I’ve read books that do this, and I can tell.  It’s like the author saw 80k words as the stopping point and rushed to give the reader a half assed ending.  Then they pick up the story at a false beginning and continue on for another 80k–100k words and end the story.  When what they should’ve done, in my mind, is offer one book at 160k–180k words and given the reader something wonderful.

Now, I’m not saying cutting the book in two is wrong.  I’m saying I don’t personally like the idea.  Does this mean it hasn’t been done well? Of course it has.  I’m sure you can find a great editor, or story doctor, to help you accomplish a perfect cut that no one will ever notice. Expect for the author. Which is fine. After all a book is a product, you need to be able to market and sell.

I’m intentionally taking out the ‘art’ and ‘creative’ nature of the book/story so as not to involve emotion.

Some of you may be saying, “You’re too close to the work.  You’re not seeing all the fat to be trimmed. There is plenty to cut.”

You would be 100% correct. I am too close to the work.  But I’m still editing the beast down now.  I’m also going to put the book through another round of beta reads for feedback. Find out what people think and ask them to mark up where they believe the story can either be trimmed or cut.  With luck this will help me remove enough bits from the book to make it palatable for an agent and publisher.

If that still doesn’t work there is the idea of self-publishing. And it has appeal, because I can keep all the emotional connection to the book and treat it the way I want it treated.  Like a fine glass of wine enjoyed slowly on a quiet night in front of a warm fire.

Too much?

Interview with Writer Randall Krzak

This is very exciting news that I can’t wait to share with you.  Starting with this post and going for the next several months I’m hosting various authors here on my blog.  These authors are from all over the world and are a cross culture of the wide world of genres.  It should be a lot of fun and I’m hoping you will enjoy it.

I plan on featuring one author per month.  So, lets get started.

Randall, let’s start with the typical question all writers get, what’s your ambition for your writing career?

I suppose like many authors, to try and be successful. Whether that will happen or not is outside of my control, so the best thing I can do is create realistic stories to share with others.

Creating realistic stories takes a lot of work. So, which writers inspire your story telling?

Tom Clancy, Dan Brown, Clive Cussler, Brad Thor, David L. Golemon, Robert Crais, Jack Du Brul, and Mark Greany, to name the major ones. I still read them, but now I’m paying attention to how they craft their stories and build their stories.

Those are some great writers, and I can see why you’ve picked them. Let’s focus on your writing.  Tell us about your debut novel, ‘The Kurdish Connection’.

‘The Kurdish Connection’, is the first in a four-book series. I took the first chapter of another book I was working on, cut it to 399 words, and submitted it to a monthly competition held by Wildsound Writing and Film Festival Review. My entry, called A Dangerous Occupation, was one of the winning entries in August 2016. It’s read by a professional actor at the following link.

Excellent.  Any other writings you have out there?

Another short story, Postal Man, was recently chosen for the January members’ writing and art section of The Fictional Café. Here’s the link.

You’ve been busy.  Are you working on anything else?  

I have three other novels underway. The first is ‘Dangerous Alliance’, the sequel to ‘The Kurdish Connection’. This one involves the North Koreans and Al-Shahbab, a Somali terrorist group. To counter the alliance is Bedlam Bravo who will try to stop the transfer of oil and weapons, as well as rescue a well-known hostage. The second ongoing book is called ‘A Cartel’s Revenge’, and involves a cartel headed by a woman. She makes an unusual alliance with FARC, not realizing ISIS will soon be involved. Working against her are a CIA agent and an Army colonel. The third book, which will take some time to finish, is historical fiction. It begins in 1770 with a tenant farmer and his family. After crop failures, they receive a lifeline and head to America, arriving in time to be caught up with the Boston Tea Party and the beginnings of the Revolutionary War.

That is some amazing stuff you have planned.  Where do your ideas come from?

They come from a variety of places, paying attention to the news and even other writers. ‘A Cartel’s Revenge’, mentioned above, is based on three sentences someone sent me to see what I could do with them. I have two other novels planned that are based on suggestions given to me but I need to complete the others before working on these.

With all these projects you have going, how do you keep them straight? Do you work to an outline or plot or do you prefer just seeing where an idea takes you?

I prefer to use an outline. I begin with a draft synopsis so I have an idea where I’m starting and where I want to go. The initial chapters are identified but things change as the stories unfold, which can change the number and order of my chapters.

Randall this has been a lot of fun. I look forward to hearing more about your upcoming novels. Thank you for taking the time to answers my questions and be my first author interview.

Writer Randall Krzak relaxing at home.

Writer Randall Krzak relaxing at home.

More about Randall Krzak:

Not wanting to spend his retirement at a golf club Randall, with the suggestion of a long time friend, decided the best way to stay out from under his wife, Sylvia’s feet was to put his writing skills to use.  Randall’s past careers had him working overseas in various countries giving him a rich world of experiences and places to pull from.  His debut thriller ‘The Kurdish Connection’ is now available on Amazon click here . To learn more about Randall check out his website here.

Writing Villains

Bad Boys and Bad Girls, every story has them, but writing them can be tough.  Some people love the villain and I can understand why.  Right now we see a lot of ambiguous characters.  Is the good guy really a good guy?  Is the villain really a villain? Or is it all perspective?  Sure that can be interesting, but I don’t count them as villains, they are dark characters for sure, but are they really villains?

I don’t think so.

Maybe, they are just misunderstood and are in need of a hug.

For me the villain is someone who you should never have anything in common with.  You should never understand their point of view.  These characters should be flat-out-evil and we should hate everything about them.

Michael Myers (the original), Jason (the original), even Freddy Kruger (the original) they are true villains. I would even go so far as to call them monsters. Although, monsters to me are something a little different.

Anyway, I write my villains in the same vain (not the murdering campers or teenagers having sex or kids in their dreams sort of way) but still, you should be afraid of these villains.  You should fear them and never want to meet them. That is how I write my villains.  Is that a stereotype?  Probably, but it’s my story and I’ll write the characters I want.

So, if wearing a black top hat and twirling a black handle bar mustache is in order than expect to run into that.

To actually write the villain, for me, is hard.  It puts me in a dark place.  I get moody and grumpy.  I don’t like writing them, because for a short period of time I have to become them, to act like them, and to believe that what they’re doing is absolutely right. Which means there’s a part of me, no matter how small, that could actually become the monster I’ve created. And who wants to admit to that?  Who wants to ever consider that kind of villainess inside them?

Not me.

I hope when you read my books, and you realize what my villains are up to, you understand that it’s not me.  It’s them.  Well, perhaps, it’s a little bit me, but only a small part. One you’ll never meet.  At least I hope you won’t.  However, there is a woman at a fabric store and several cashiers at a computer electronics store that might disagree.