Sunday, February 11, 2018

Artist CARLOS VILLAS Interview

Hello folks. I "met" Carlos Villas while searching for potential illustrators to do some artwork for my self-pubbed Fantasy line of publications/books. I reached out to him, and he graciously responded quickly and the rest is history. I commissioned him to do a rendering of my Braccus Straun character, and also another upcoming Fantasy yarn featuring a badass Bull-man (the results you can view further down the page...the one with the "Minotaur" dude holding the severed head of, well, another fellow beast gentleman.)


CREATIVES HELP BOARD: When did you first realize you wanted to be an illustrator?

CARLOS VILLAS: I`ve been painting since I was a little kid, so I actually never had a doubt I`d pursue art as a career. I worked a couple of years as a freelance artist in Mèxico City, and then tried the fine art road. I did get a couple of prizes and shows, but nothing that really filled my expectations because I love to do creatures and monsters, and you can imagine not a lot of people would hang one of those bad boys in his or her house. I abandoned art for many years (professional art) and focused on my business. Around 4 years ago I saw what people were doing with digital art so I bought a tablet, and Photoshop and started teaching myself.... and haven`t looked back. I have no doubt I want to create in this digital format, not exactly illustration, but illustration, concept and creature/character design, that`s the goal.

CHB: Have you ever had times feeling like "why in the hell am I doing this? What am I even doing this for?" And what do you do to pull yourself away from that negative path and way of thinking?

CV: I`m pretty sure I must have had those times, but usually I`ve always been pretty straight forward on staying on this road, specially the last year, I decided to go for it. Just outwork them (negative thinking or attitude) and keep going for it and trying to get better every single day.

CHB: What do you draw your inspiration and ideas from? Books you've read? Other artists you've seen? Besides the act of creating, do you think it is important to study and/or read what others are doing or have done?

CV: I think ideas and inspiration have always been there. I just love to take a blank canvas and start working on it without knowing exactly where am I going with it (personal projects). Usually when I do commissions, as soon as the client tells me what they need, I get a pretty good picture of it in my head and then it`s just a matter of playing with that idea on the canvas. Books and movies are amazing inspiration resources as well as looking at other artist`s work online. I do think it`s really important to see what other`s are doing, not to copy it, but to incorporate what might work into your art/workflow. I keep watching tutorials almost everyday, and enjoy them as much as if I was watching a cool horror movie.

CHB: What are some other Creatives...writers and/or illustrators...that have inspired you and you think would be good inspiration for others?

CV: There are so many amazing artists! The one that truly amazed me was Frazzetta, then Vallejo... while I started working as a freelance artist I loved Mark Fredrickson (amazing airbrush illustrator), and then I got more into Fantasy and concept art, 2 and 3 D, following artists like Berni Wrightson, Bisley, Maciej Kuciara, Ben Mauro, Maxim Verehin, Caleb Nefzen, Piotr Jablonski, Ken Barthelmey.... man, I could keep going...

CHB: Besides plugging into some heavy metal rock-n-roll goodness, what does the Carlos Villas Cave of Creativity start with each time you visit it to create your magic? Favorite hours to create? Other "rituals?" What disciplines do you provide yourself when starting or continuing to work on a project to make sure you complete it?

CV: I always start working at 9 or 10am, just after I take my son to school, have breakfast. I start working until they tell me it`s time to eat LOL, then I keep working until 6pm. I spend some time with the family and, as soon as my wife falls asleep (around 10-11), I go back to work until 2 or 4 in the morning. Sometimes I do take a couple of hours off for family reasons, pick up my kid, take him to his swimming or painting classes, or going to the movies, but I try to always hit it again late at night. Night seems always the best time. Less distractions. As for the mood....always music, all kinds of music, and my Coca-Cola with a lot of ice.... THAT does the trick.

CHB: Why do you enjoy rendering/illustrating/creating creatures and monsters versus sweeping mountain vistas and dazzling orange sunsets?

CV: I have no idea! LOL I have always enjoyed rendering/creating organic things. I find the variations on them (skin, colors, texture) just amazing. Lately, I have found joy in rendering/painting backgrounds, but my first love will always be the creature itself.

CHB: What's your favorite type of creature to render? Something known, like a Frankenstein monster, or unknown and original?

CV: I would always prefer to create my own creature/characters, but I also love the challenge to give an existing character my own twist.

CHB: And do you lean more towards Fantasy or SciFi...or enjoy them both equally?

CV: I lean more towards Fantasy, specially Horror. SciFi has some pretty amazing opportunities, and it usually includes hard surfaces (which I`m trying to learn and become better at), but Horror and Fantasy bring the best out of me.

CHB: What kind of advice would you give beginner imaginators/creatives?

CV: I would advise them to just keep painting, there`s no substitute to practice, just keep painting and painting, learn new programs and ways to do your work better and faster. There`s no magic formula, but this one will eventually get you there. Become so good that they (art appreciators) will have to notice you.


CARLOS VILLAS is a freelance illustrator currently working almost exclusively in digital art utilizing Photoshop. However, he has also worked in all traditional media and mediums.

For inquiries:

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Author/Actor ANTHONY MONDAL talks about the Creative Spirit

First off, I want to say I apologize for the long, looong time between Creative's posts. Was a busy year last year, and simply didn't get around to posting interviews and information on some great Creatives I met last year. So...without further adieu...

I met Mr. Mondal at a B&N Michigan Author event about a year ago. He was a great pleasure to talk to. Friendly. Enthusiastic about his craft and what the rest of us crazed writers/creators were doing.


A BURST OF SUNSHINE is his second book of a collection of poems. He dedicated the book to his late parents and says: "They are long gone, but, somehow, life goes on and their beautiful memories are still scattered all over, like flower petals as blessings showering over my head."

The book is also dedicated to sensitive, kind and intelligent people: women, men, boys and girls from all walks of life. Anthony continues: "For in them lies the dreams, hopes and futures of a better tomorrow. Let Light prevail and Darkness be gone."


CREATIVES HELP BOARD: Welcome Anthony. What do you do from a Creative standpoint and why?

ANTHONY: I am basically a poet, novelist and actor, and sometimes I also write song lyrics, which to me is very similar to poetry. If you had mentioned to me in high school, that I would pick up writing and acting (mostly as out of work actor!) as a profession. I would stare at you in disbelief. I love to write and act…I almost feel compelled to do so, it is hard to explain. Anyway the academic life was always a struggle for me and I found it dull and boring. Using Imagination makes me come Alive! That is why I am probably still at it.

CRB: How do you keep this Creative passion alive?

ANTHONY: To keep Creative passion alive, on the long run is truly a challenge.  Individually it was a no brainer for me to drop out from 9-5 cubicle mentality and be a full time artist. But that necessarily did not mean the writing and acting world embraced me with open arms. My journey so far has been one full of struggles (financial, emotional) many sacrifices and dealing with rejections on a daily basis.  When I did get a bit of break …it would raise my spirits and hopes, but only to be disappointed down the road. At the end, all you hold onto is your body of work.

CRB: Is it important for us Creatives, us imaginators, to continue to pursue our passion in this day and age?

ANTHONY: Even more so than ever, Creatives and Imaginators are needed to Rethink and Reshape our world. To provide different perspectives and viewpoints, to engage in Arts that encourages dialogues and conversations that goes beyond national borders and our obvious human differences. Man does not live by bread alone (even if there are cakes of many varieties!) Let Artists re-imagine a world closer to our hearts desires.

CRB: What would you say to someone who hasn’t stepped out into the world, who wants to share their creativity like you do?

ANTHONY: I welcome them with open arms as they become a part of this creative tribe. Do not be discouraged. Let well established artists even help the younger ones, to reach their goals and destinations. More than taking classes and courses, jump into Life, say a resounding YES! to Experiences. If you want it bad enough……Go all the Way.

CRB: What is your greatest challenge in your creative endeavors and how do you overcome this?

ANTHONY: To be financially independent as an artist. Sadly we live in a financial world and I as an artist am not exempt from the basic survival necessities of life, like food, shelter and clothing. I have been working all sorts of blue collar jobs, since my graduation from Calvin College since 1995, to keep my body and soul intact. Honestly I am beyond tired. I guess I am living on hopes and prayers.



Anthony Mondal is a modern poet, novelist and actor. He considers himself simply as an artist beyond the confines of nationality and religion. He published his first book of poems under a different name. The collection of poems was titled Dialogues With My Self (ISBN 1-58915- 022-8). His most recent book of poems was titled A Burst of Sunshine which is his second published book (Nov 2012). He lived in New York City for over ten years pursuing writing, acting and song writing. He received his BA from Calvin College in 1995. He currently resides in Michigan, USA. He also has worked upon a number of poetry videos while living in London, UK (The Blessed Rain, Who will Fix it Who will Mend? and Wake up Call ) which are currently on YouTube. At present he is working on an existential novel tentatively named "In Search Of...." and a memoir and other writings. Anthony Mondal’s book is available on Amazon as well as on Rose Dog Books (his publisher). A Burst of Sunshine is also available in Great Lakes Commonwealth Of Letters (GLCL) Library in Grand Rapids, in Clarksville Public Library, and North Muskegon Walker Branch Public Library.


Saturday, May 13, 2017

Author Fortune Larkam: Five Things Learned Writing THE CHRONICLES OF A MODERN WITCH

CHB: I met Fortune at the Ransom Public Library 2017 Author Fair. A vibrant, friendly individual, Fortune is one of those people, one of those writers, one of those CREATIVES, you know is passionate about her work just by the way she explains her material. It was great to meet her, so without further adieu, we present Miss Fortune Larkam.

The Chronicles of a Modern Witch: Leading a Double Life
By Fortune Larkam

Taliesin "Tali" Harlin had a troubled past full of demons and darkness before she escaped from the clutches of The Society, an ancient secret organization that targets witches and wants to harness their powers for their own evil means no matter what the cost. The night before her arranged wedding, Tali escapes and is thrust into leading a double life having to shed her heritage and her identity to keep safe from The Society. Now she has more than just The Society to fear.

Taking refuge in Kalamazoo, Michigan under the identity Brooke Smith, she finds herself at odds with trying to blend into society and attempting to make friends. However, all of her troubles seem to melt away when she meets Hayden her very attractive neighbor. She feels a connection to him from the moment she sees him, but does he feel it too? And will she be able to keep her past from coming back to haunt her as she starts her new life? Enter into Tali’s world in the exciting first book of the series: The Chronicles of a Modern Witch: Leading a Double Life.


1. This is my first novel and book series. I typically lean towards poetry but I pushed myself to broaden my perspective in my writing and started this series. I actually had written a few chapters of this book a few years ago and wanted to revisit it but somehow I had lost the file on my computer! Grr. It actually ended up working in my favor though because I decided to split the book into two parts and include two points of view instead of just one.

2. The challenges of writing a series are something I'm dealing with now. I'm trying to work on book 2 and I have no shortage of ideas but it can get overwhelming trying to build on what I started in book one. What has helped me keep writing is listening to great music for inspiration and just having great friends and parents who support my endeavors. I also can text or call them and bounce ideas and see what they think.

3. I chose to have the main portion of my story focus in Kalamazoo, Michigan and have the two main characters go to Western Michigan University because it is a location near and dear to my heart. I went for my Bachelors degree in Creative Writing at WMU and the apartment complex that my characters live at is modeled after the one I lived at back then.

4. The pros of self-publishing are that I can customize my writing without an editor telling me what to do. I got to see my ideas come into focus with the great publishing team at Createspace through Amazon. My books are available in Kindle and paperback version. The cons of self-publishing is that I have to do all promotions myself and it's really hard to get my name out there when you're starting from the ground up. I made myself a Facebook page and a website to help with the promotions so that is fun to see my friends list grow. I also have gotten some reviews on that show people are out there reading my work. It's very encouraging.

5. One thing I have to say is that no matter what I'll never stop writing. Hopefully someday I'll make it into the big leagues but I'm just setting small goals for myself. I am thinking about entering some contests soon to get my name out there. I think that would be fun. I've had my poems published three times once when I was younger and then once when I went to Kellogg Community College and once at Western Michigan University. None of these were under my pen name. That didn't come until later.


Fortune is a writer, cookie-lover, gluten-intolerant, bestie to her dogs, poet, wife, and artist. "I'm me," she says. She is the personification of an honest, heart and soul binding, artist. She puts everything she has into her writing and art. It is her life, part of who she is. She currently offers a book of poetry LIFE BEYOND A LABEL, and her first novel THE CHRONICLES OF A MODERN WITCH.






Barnes & Noble

Thursday, October 13, 2016

GTA VR (ft. Steven Ogg)

As I am playing GTAV, is a crazy how TREVOR is Steven Ogg, or Steven Ogg is TREVOR, or... or...

Anyway, what great casting.

Monday, September 26, 2016


I met C.L. Werner, in the virtual world, while writing for FLASHING SWORDS EZINE wa-ay back in, eegad, 2006-ish. (When Howard A Jones was editor so...a while ago.) I had read some of his shorter works for Black Library, which led to picking up some of his novel-length works, the first being the Matthias Thulmann: WITCH HUNTER omnibus. Once I read that, I was hooked.

So without rambling like a fanboy, here is Mr. C.L. Werner...

Oh, and his most recent work is the image above: LORD OF UNDEATH



CL WERNER: The first piece of writing I can recall working on was in elementary school. I did a Sherlock Holmes story that ran over fifty pages of loose leaf. So I guess that would be the first thing I wrote. The 'bug' as it were didn't really hit me until I was finishing up high school. I tried my hand at horror short stories, submitting to any magazine I'd stumble on. Nothing landed and over the course of the next ten years the only things I placed were in small press magazines like Eldritch Tales and Cthulhu Codex. Not until I had a piece accepted into Black Library's Inferno! Magazine did I really get that sense of finally creating something that would have a wider reach.

CHB: What was your very first published piece?

CLW: My first published work was a scenario called 'The Old Dark House' for the Call of Cthulhu RPG which was published by Pagan Publishing in Alone on Halloween. That was in 1991. I didn't have another paying published piece until 1999 with 'A Choice of Hatreds' in Inferno! #22. That was the first piece of fiction that I was paid for writing.

CHB: There may be probably many obvious answers, but compared to that first piece, how has your writing, writing skill, writing focus changed?

CLW: I think any writer will improve as they continue to tell stories. The more you read, watch, experience – all of that will inform new ideas and characters. Any book or movie can teach you new things about style and pacing, tone and direction. What works to sustain a mood or what makes for an engaging character. To be certain, you can also learn a great deal about what doesn't work from these things too. A badly written book can be even more instructive than a well-crafted masterpiece, highlighting things to avoid and some of the pitfalls that can sabotage a narrative.

Over the years, I think that the biggest thing which has changed in my writing is an appreciation for different perspectives. To be certain there are rare instances of a character who is unabashedly evil, but for the most part everyone believes themselves to be justified in what they are doing. A thief rationalizes his robberies, a tyrant has a defined rationale for his manifold oppressions, a tyranid has – well – the expansion of the species. Each character, no matter how despicable, is something I try to approach as an individual, to make them more than just a one-note simulacrum of villainy. It makes the contrast all the more vivid and unsettling when a murderer has all these fine qualities yet at the end of the day is still the perpetrator of heinous crimes. And by the same token, it is equally disarming when the noble hero is endowed with some less than sterling attributes.

CHB: What is your writing routine? Tons of coffee? A full nights sleep then hit the keyboards?

CLW: Much of my writing is done at night, when it is quiet outside and the air is a bit cooler. The dark, I suppose, lends itself to some of the grim things I write about. Sometimes I'll have marathons where I write for nine and ten hours at a stretch. Other times it is difficult to stay at it for two in one sitting. The dreaded curse of writer's block can sometimes be mitigated by jumping ahead in the narrative and coming back to the problem spot, which is usually best approached after stepping away for a little while. I find if I try to jump without that break it causes a sense of disorientation – a befuddlement so far as the pacing of the piece goes. I'm always very aware of pacing and try to ensure scenes are neither too ponderous or too abrupt (unless of course that is the intended effect).

On the matter of coffee, I'll likely be branded a heretic but I can't stand the stuff. Even the smell of coffee disturbs me. In hot weather I resort to energy drinks and in cold weather it is lots of tea.

CHB: Are you a plotter or a pantster? (I hate that latter word for folks who loosing plot and fly by the seat of their pants, but, meh, guess it fits.)

CLW: Detailed outlines are something I always try to work from. As mentioned above, I find that having a map of where the story is going will allow me to jump ahead of any problem spot I encounter. When I start a new chapter, I'll go to the outline and break down each individual scene and then lay them out in sequence within the chapter. Then, as I write, I can see at a quick glance how much material is yet to go. I can judge the pacing more closely, so if a scene with a dragon eating goats runs into a thousand words I can then evaluate how much more story I'm trying to fit into the chapter. Except when I'm going for a particular effect, I try to keep chapters between 5,000 and 6,000 words, which I feel is the ideal size for a reader to tackle over their lunch break, riding the train home from work, or some other situation where their time is restricted. If I find that there's a bit more story than I still have room for in the chapter, I'll evaluate if a scene should be moved into the subsequent or preceding chapter. Working like this, I've come to attack a novel in blocks of three chapters at a time – which is fine early on but becomes a problem if your deadline is in arrears.

CHB: What is the best way to market one's written work, in your opinion.

CLW: To be honest, I'm not certain what the best way to market one's work is. There are so many options out there these days. The scope of anthologies and magazines to submit short stories to is much broader than it was in the days before the internet. There are a great many small and mid-range publishers out there that either have open submission windows or will have 'open calls' at set periods of the year. This includes some of the tie-in publishers as well, so if a writer is an enthusiast of a particular game or film series or what have you, then it might not be remiss to keep one ear to the ground.

Online retailers have made self-publishing a much more feasible enterprise for those of us without hefty inheritances to squander or wealthy relations to exploit. The pitfall of this route is that the onerous of generating buzz and advertising the book falls on the author, and not all of us are so skilled at marketeering as we are at composing. Beyond the time involved writing the book, there's usually some manner of fee for listing the volume with the retailer.

One thing that I was always advised against, and which I will pass along, is to be very wary of any business that wants you to pay them to publish your book. This is different from services that offer editing and formatting – in this instance we're talking about businesses that promise to do everything but write it. There's a reason that so-called 'vanity presses' have a bad reputation as they can be predatory and promise far more than they deliver. Approach anybody who wants you to pay them to be published with a wary eye and do your homework before agreeing to anything.

CHB: Words of advice for new writers?

CLW: The first and most important thing I'd advise any new writer is to look very long and hard into why you want to write. If it is for the passion of story-telling, if it is something you'd do even without a dime of remuneration, then I think it is something you have to pursue. Constantly improve your craft, when you read the work of someone else, analyse it like a mechanic taking apart an engine. See what makes something effective work and see how you can develop your own technique to be as effective. When rejection comes, and sadly it will, try to see if there is any hint to how to improve in the editor's feedback – but by the same token recognize when the fault is simply that it wasn't the kind of story that was right for that particular market.

If you are pursuing a career as a writer for the financial aspect, go in understanding that a great many authors have to maintain day jobs to make ends meet. The big celebrity authors who make a zillion dollars a year are very much the exception rather than the rule. It is a very fortunate creator who can achieve a degree of success where they can comfortably extricate themselves from the daily grind and devote all their resources to writing. A goal to pursue, but also a caution to bear in mind.

CHB: What does being able to write, to put the story "on paper" do for you? (Obviously put a little extra cash on the table, but what else. Myself personally, it often gives me something to look forward to when the day job and life are rough.)

CLW: For myself, personally, being able to write gives me a sense of accomplishment. It is the one thing in my existence that at all excuses it. I've seen for myself that my writing has helped carry readers through tough times in their lives, providing them with an escape from their troubles even if only for the briefest spell. I've had a few writers say they drew inspiration from my own stories and that helped them develop their own skills and pursue their own publication. It is a very humbling thing to consider having such an impact on somebody's life and ultimately makes it worthwhile. Even if you don't become rich, even if your work doesn't become famous, even if you fear there will be no posterity to leave it to, you can still help others through your work. Sometimes you're even blessed enough to find out about it. It's the old adage about the stone thrown into a pond – you don't always see the ripples or where they go, but the ripples are there just the same.

Thanks for your time, Clint.

C. L. Werner has written a number of pulp-style horror stories for assorted small press publications, including Inferno! magazine. Some of his Black Library credits include the Chaos Wastes books, the Mathias Thulmann: Witch Hunter novels, the Brunner the Bounty Hunter trilogy, and the Thanquol and Boneripper series. Currently living in the American south-west, he continues to write stories of mayhem and madness set in the Warhammer World.


Some other great interviews with C.L. Werner (not associated with this blog)
The Bloghole Interview
Interview on Snowbooks Site
MengelMiniatures Interview

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Johnathan Rand Talks Writing

During Grand Rapids Comic Con 2015, we had the distinct privilege of meeting Johnathan Rand. I knew he was crazy and liked him immediately as he was insane enough to have a photo taken with the crazy authors of Booth 529. (He's the tall one to the left...with hair. Not the middle guy or the talented writer/illustrator to the far right.)

As he has been writing for a while, and has quite the collection of Youth Horror titles (my kids have all read him during their time in elementary school) that  take place in Michigan and other states of the U.S.A., I thought it might be interesting to hear what this fine gentleman has to say about the writing craft and the passion of reading and writing.

So, I give to you, Mr. Johnathan Rand.

*bows, cracks head on floor, collapses in a pile, passes out*


CREATIVES HELP BOARD: When did you start writing? I started by being obsessed with filling the blank page. My downfall was wide-ruled 5 subject notebooks back in late elementary/early middle school.

JOHNATHAN RAND: I've always loved to write, ever since I realized I could put my imaginary worlds on paper and they would become 'real.' However, growing up, I never really saw myself as an author. I began going to school/college for Natural Resources Technology. At that time, I took a part-time job at a radio station and fell in love with it. Most importantly, I fell in love with the process of creating radio commercials, writing and producing them, along with news stories, sports, whatever. Although it was a bottom-of-the-barrel-paying job, I didn't care. I loved it, and in future years made a nice career out of writing, voicing, and producing radio commercials for agencies all around the country. In 1995, I began writing an adult fiction novel, and fell in love with the process. Of course, I didn't know what I was doing (and there could be a debate as to whether I know what I'm doing today!), but my love of writing and the creative process is undisputed.

CHB: When did you realize "Hey! It's fun to create!" Me... grew up with Heston and Eastwood movies, 1977 Star Wars viewing...then many strange dreams that I could only purge and regain my sanity by writing them down and trying to make some semblance of them.

JR: Yes! I think I saw some of those same movies. It wasn't until my first few years at the radio station that I truly realized I loved the process of becoming so involved in a project that time vanishes. Years later, when I started writing books, I marveled at the clock when I realized a couple of hours had disappeared. But I think I've always loved the creative process. When I was ten years old, I earned money tying trout flies for sporting goods stores, and I did this through high school. In my twenties, I taught myself how to make willow furniture . . . another wonderful creative outlet. I love the challenge(s) that creativity invokes, and enjoy finding the focus.

CHB: Did you want to be a writer, or was it all by chance? Alien abduction? Spurned from law school?

JR: When I was young, I had a voracious appetite for books and reading anything. Comics, scary stuff, the back of a cereal box. In middle school, I would hike up to Rochette's Party Store in Grayling and use part of my lunch money to buy the Detroit News or Free Press. I think there must've been a few times when I thought of being an author, writing books for a living, but it wasn't anything I took seriously. I did wonder from time to time what it would be like to create one of those wonderful stories that I discovered in the covers of my favorite books, but the idea of writing such a volume of work, such an enormous amount of material, was very daunting. It wasn't until much later in life that I realized the creative process is a slow one, step by painstaking step. I fell in love with the creation of radio commercials, and when I started writing books, I realized there was no turning back. It was just a logical progression in the creative path.

CHB: Thoughts on getting your work 'out there' or 'recognized':

JR: First of all, why are you even doing this? Why do you want to be a writer? And don't tell me it's because you "love to write." If you love to write, then write. Case closed, you're done. Simple.

No, the fact is this: you want to earn money from your writing. Nobody wants to say it, because they don't want to be perceived as "selling out," or "greedy." Well, you'd better get your priorities straight before you embark upon this "career." And it's a tough one. Just walk in to any bookstore and look at your competition. There's more competition in the field of writing than any I've ever seen.

Another question to ask yourself: "What is it that I'm not willing to do?" Wait! Stop right there. You've already shot yourself in the foot. You've read some great science fiction or fantasy or horror or whatever when you were growing up, and you've written what you think is a pretty good book. Well, so has everyone else. Doesn't make you special, doesn't make you different. Doesn't mean you're going to earn a nickel from what you've written. You've jumped into the same ocean that everyone else has, and now you're trying to be...different?

Don't jump into that ocean. Find your own pond or lake or river, a place where you can be unique and different. Find what others aren't doing, and do it. And work your butt off. Find your own uniqueness, and find your own unique way to market it. Keep at it, and never stop. If you're going to be a successful writer, you're going to have to also be a successful marketer and successful businessperson. There is no other way around it.

CHB: When do you write? Is there a BEST TIME for you personally? What is your writing routine/ritual?

JR: There was a time when I would write wherever and whenever I could. However, over the past four years or so, I've gotten into the habit of getting up right around 3 AM or so. Of course, this requires hitting the sack around 8 PM, so I really don't have an exotic, party lifestyle. But each morning, regardless where I am in the country, I am writing by 3:30 AM. The first thing I write is my
journal, and this is done with pen and ink and a classic quill pen. I do this to slow down my thoughts and my mind, and turn the process into more of a tempered, controlled, quiet art. When I am journaling, I'm not concerned with output, and I'm certainly not concerned with plot, narrative, style, whatever. No one is going to read this stuff, anyway, and it's very liberating. Addictive, in fact. I usually write in this fashion for 90 minutes or so before getting down to stories that I'm working on. Typically, I write four or five books at a time, so I jump back and forth, perhaps focusing a little bit more on the one that's pressing, the one that will be released next. When I am writing novels, I typically use my computer, as it is much faster (obviously!) than pen and ink.

CHB: Are you a plotter or a pantster?

JR: Plotting: in most cases, I almost always know how my story is going to end. Yes, I do create outlines/story maps, especially with the books I write in the Michigan Chillers and American Chillers. I do this in a storyboard fashion, and I rewrite the outline over and over until I'm happy with it. Then, when I sit down to write, most, if not all, of the plot problems have already been resolved. It becomes a matter of connecting the dots, following the roadmap I've already created. Naturally, I'll
get some different ideas from time to time and take a few detours, but having a destination assures that I'm going to reach it. Of course, I'm aware that there are many authors who feel that outlines are not only unnecessary but detrimental to the creative process, Ray Bradbury and Stephen King among them. But for me, knowing where I'm going is a guarantee that I will get there. Sure, the story might not turn out as I had hoped, but it will at least be finished.

One more note on that: I write short stories at the proverbial drop of a hat, and in most cases these are not plotted. They are simply walks in the woods, little adventures that I embark upon. Sometimes I'm surprised, sometimes not. But was short stories, I really don't care if the story is good, or even if I finish the story. They are just little journeys, short exploratory travels. I would dare say that most of my short stories aren't very good, and that's just fine with me. I will keep the bad ones under wraps and share the ones that I like.

Johnathan Rand has authored more than 90 books since the year 2000, with nearly 6 million copies in print. His series include the incredibly popular AMERICAN CHILLERS, MICHIGAN CHILLERS, FREDDIE FERNORTNER, FEARLESS FIRST GRADER, and THE ADVENTURE CLUB. He's also co-authored a novel for teens entitled PANDEMIA. Under his pen name of Christopher Knight, he's the author of six adult novels, included the psychological thriller entitled BESTSELLER, which was made into a movie in 2014. When not traveling, Rand lives in northern Michigan with his wife and three dogs. He is also the only author in the world to have a store that sells only his works: CHILLERMANIA is located in Indian River, Michigan and is open year round and receives over 25,000 visitors annually. He loves his wife, their three dogs, and coffee. He despises the publishing industry and stays as far away from it as he can.


Thursday, July 7, 2016

On Writing: With Jack Strange

Celebrity Chef Zombie Apocalypse is the story of the dead celebrity chef Floyd Rampant, who rises from his grave aiming to create a zombie army of chefs who will rule the world, using the human species as the main ingredient in their cordon bleu meals.

It is dark, original, and so funny it should carry a government health warning.

It is a gourmet feast, an unmissable read, and a black and poignant joke. Part horror story, part political and social satire, it gives the reader a fast-paced entrée of dread, a main course of panic and a dessert of distress.

CCZA, as it's known for short, has a cast of unforgettable characters, most of whom meet with gruesome ends. The action begins in Croydon, moves to London, and reaches its explosive climax in the author’s home town of Huddersfield.

This smart, witty and profound modern day classic works on many levels.


1. Trust your subconscious mind.

Before I wrote ‘Celebrity Chef Zombie Apocalypse’ – which is my first published novel – I’d tried a number of different approaches to writing, from planning everything in advance, to planning very little in advance.

When I wrote ‘Celebrity Chef Zombie Apocalypse’ (let’s shorten that to CCZA) I didn’t do any planning at all.  I thought of the overall concept and then just more-or-less sat down and wrote the book. 

The experience was very liberating for me. I found I was able to head off in any direction I wanted whenever I felt like it.

Somehow I never got into any difficulties with the plotting – even though the plot is fiendishly complicated. It seems that by removing the shackles of pre-planning, I’d released some sort of sub-conscious engine that planned everything for me far better than I could have planned it by working at it at a conscious level.

The take-home is this: if you’re prepared to trust your subconscious mind, go ahead and wing it when you write. You might find that it works better for you than trying to plan everything before you begin. I did.

2. Don’t write if you’re boring yourself.

I’m told that my novel reads as if I had a lot of fun writing it. I can confirm that the people who’ve made this comment are correct - I did have a lot of fun writing it.

One of the things I allowed myself to do when writing CCZA was to abandon work on any scene if it got boring for me. Even if I felt there ought to be more information in a scene, I’d stop work on it and jump to another one. 

Later, when I finished the first draft of the book and read it, I found that the scenes I’d abandoned didn’t need anything adding to them. They were brief and punchy, with the result that the novel is fast-paced.

My feelings of boredom seem to have been the result of my subconscious mind telling me I’d written enough about an issue and it was time to move on.

So I’ve made it a rule to write a scene only for so long as I’m entertaining myself writing it. If it ceases to entertain me, I’ll stop and work on a different scene which I’ll enjoy.

3. You don’t have to write your scenes in the order in which they’ll appear in your finished book.

Sometimes I’d get an idea for an event which I’d know could only occur much later in my novel than the point I was up to. If it was an idea which excited me, I’d get to work on it right away, and I’d write the infill material leading up to that event later.

Working that way helped me to maintain a sense of excitement about the project.

4. Don’t worry if you’re not sure where you’re going with your story.

There was a time that I might have been concerned about not knowing how my novel was going to develop and how it was going to end.

When I wrote CCZA, I put those fears to one side and just allowed myself to enjoy the writing and the characters, and I let the characters take the novel where it would naturally go.

It was a voyage of discovery for me, as much as it will be to anyone who reads it.

I suspect that the surprise I felt when certain twists of plot occurred will be felt by anyone who cares to read the book.

5. Don’t be too ready to dismiss your craziest ideas.

In the past when I’ve had outrageous ideas, I’ve strangled them at birth because I thought they weren’t worth the enormous effort of developing them into novels.

When I had the idea for CCZA, I put my doubts to one side, and worked on what was one of my craziest ideas ever. The result is the best novel I’ve ever written.

I reckon that in future when I have a crazy idea, I’m going to give it a chance. If you’re a writer, I’d suggest that you try it sometime. The result may surprise you. Pleasantly.

One reader has very kindly said of CCZA that ‘it has a kind of pent-up energy’.

If he’s right, it’s surely because I gave myself the freedom to enjoy writing every word of it.


About the Author

I’ve got the classic background for an author in that I’ve had lots of different jobs. These have included working as a hospital porter, a labourer, a painter and decorator, a lawyer, a general dogsbody for a millionaire and a copywriter.

That doesn’t come close to being a comprehensive list of all the jobs I’ve done, but I don’t want to bore you with a long list. Suffice it to say that when I write about something, I have a lot of varied background to call on to help me bring it to life.

There have been times were times that I wished I’d had a conventional career  like everyone else and stuck with just one thing, but now that I’m a writer I’m grateful for everything I’ve done. All my life experiences, good and bad, have enriched my writing.

In my twenties I came close to becoming an alcoholic. Even this has provided me with material I refer to for certain characters and scenes. I straightened myself out when I met the wonderful woman who is now my wife.

I’m married with two adult daughters who I adore.

That’s enough bio!


Author Links

Twitter: @jackstrange11
Page on publisher’s website:


Book Links



 "...a pretty brisk read..helped by what I'd like to call the 'Dan Brown' style of chapters... giving the reader moments to recover from some of the shocking, and at times twistedly hilarious, events of the story..."
- Fred Casden's Basement 12 June 2016

"You quickly empathise with characters that are in my opinion ingeniously named. For example a zombie named Floyd Rampant... Throw in some dubious unsavoury characters, a policewoman who does well not to vomit, a reverend, the P.M. and a plethora of other characters who may or may not survive and you have a book that is easy to fall into and a narrative that will make you hoot."
- The Parenting Jungle 3 June 2016

"Celebrity Chef Zombie Apocalypse has some amazingly strong characters,  even if some don't last as long as you'd like!...A Very enjoyable book.... 5 out of 5 gold stars. Thank you for reinvigorating a tired genre and giving me such a good read Jack!"
- The Horror Nation Blogspot 18 May 2016