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

Friday, June 10, 2016

William King talks Kormak and Writing

Adventure equals Kormak and Writing
By William King

Sword of Wrath
(Book 8 in the Kormak Saga)

En route to the distant colonies of Terra Nova on a secret mission for the King-Emperor, Kormak and his companions find themselves stranded on a remote island. They must solve the terrible mystery of what happened to the missing population before a monstrous scourge overwhelms them too. And, all the while, a treacherous, sorcerous assassin lurks in the background waiting for his chance to kill.


I'd always dreamed of writing a series of books in the style of the pulp sword and sword sorcery I consumed as a teenager. I wanted to pen the sort of thing I used to find in the spinner racks and library shelves of my youth; short, action-packed novels with well-developed worlds and interesting characterization.

I had written one well-received short story about the monster hunter Kormak that would not have been out of place in Weird Tales. It was a set in a world where medieval humanity rubbed shoulders with the remnants of elder races and Lovecraftian monsters. Kormak himself might be best described as Conan, if Conan's entire family had been wiped out by demons when he was a child, and he had been trained by an ancient order of D&D paladins to hunt the monsters down. He was a hero of the old school, the sort of mysterious stranger who arrives in town, cleans out the villains and moves on before anyone has a chance to thank him.

I had tried writing novels about him before but they had been shaped to fit the templates of commercial fantasy in the pre-Indie era. The sort of stories I had in mind were just not salable in the era of fat book fantasy and a quota of 90000 words minimum. I could not make my vision of what I wanted fit into that length so I put the project on the shelf for years.

Then along came the Kindle. I released the Terrarch series and it did relatively well. It  opened my eyes to the  potential of indie publishing. At the time, I was making my living writing tie-in novels set in the Warhammer universe. I started writing the Kormak novels while I was waiting for the editors to get back to me with feedback about those books.

I wrote the first draft of Stealer of Flesh in about 3-4 weeks. It was a collection of novellas that linked together to tell one overarching tale. I chose the format because it resembled the stories of Robert E Howard and Michael Moorcock I remembered so fondly. Also they took a relatively short time to write and I could drop a novella and pick it up as and when needed.

I was pleased with the results. Stealer of Flesh was exactly the sort of book I wanted to write when I first started out. Also it was exactly the sort of book there was zero chance of getting into print through a trad publisher.

I released it with terrible covers I made myself. It still managed to sell well enough to justify writing more.

I came up with a plan. I would write books each of which would explore a different area or facet of Kormak's world, each standing alone and each telling a complete tale. You could enter the series at any point and get something out of it. Most of my previous work had been set in worlds which had been handed to me fully formed, or for which I had been a game developer. For my Terrarch series, I had written a 50000 word bible in exactly the style I would have written a Warhammer Army book. With Kormak I was going to do something different. I was going to explore the world with the hero, making it up as I went along.

Defiler of Tombs dealt with necromancers, and the haunted Northlands of Kormak's world. Weaver of Shadow with elves and the Elfwood. City of Strife looked at the politics of a great commercial city state being overrun by were-rats and sorcerers. Taker of Skulls was Mad Max set in Moria. Ocean of Fear dealt with pirates, plunder and a sea monster the size of a city. Born of Darkness was a monster hunt set deep beneath the palace of a king, and featuring one of the resurrected demon gods of Kormak's world.

All of the books deepened and enriched the background of the world. The world built itself incrementally with every book. New aspects of its history drifted into view. New elements of its geography were revealed. The story has rumbled on for 8 books now with another 3 written and undergoing editing.

I learned a lot, some of which I feel I should have known from the start, some of which was the sort of stuff that can come only from experience.

One mistake I made was to take the pulps as my model. These were written in the era when the majority of stories appeared in magazines and as far as most readers were concerned disappeared forever a month or less after they appeared on the shelves. Every tale had to stand alone. The reader had to be able to grasp all elements of the world from reading that single tale. The stories might have the same hero but they could be read out of order and with no previous knowledge.

I followed the model but I did not have to. It took me six books to realize this. In the age of ebooks, you can always find the first book in a series and read them in chronological order if you want to. Ebooks never go out of print. You don't need to search second bookshops to find lost volumes of series you like. I was even giving away the first volume of the series free to try and entice readers.

From a marketing point of view, my emphasis on single volume story lines was probably a mistake. Modern fantasy readers are accustomed to long intricate plots that flow from book to book. They expect them. Also I did not have any cliffhangers which might push the reader to race out and buy the next volume of the series.

From a writer's point of view, I was starting afresh with every book. The only consistent element was Kormak. All of the other characters had to be introduced. An entirely new setting had to be created for each story. It was a lot of work.

It was also a lot of fun. And the format had some advantages. I could butcher characters with the merry abandon of George RR Martin in a bad mood, if I felt like it, and I often did. It certainly raised the stakes tension-wise, a useful thing when you're writing a single character series. The reader can be pretty certain the guy whose name is on the cover of the book will survive but they can't be sure that anyone else will live, even the people they like. It adds a note of realism.

I had written a number of series before and they had all had ongoing plot lines. I enjoyed writing them. More than that, in some ways, they were easier to write. The stories took on a momentum of their own, and events in earlier books suggested plot developments in later ones. By making each book self-contained, I was cutting myself off from that, and I missed it.

By the time I hit book 6, it dawned on me that I did not absolutely have to make each book stand alone. I could, in the tradition of comic books, have mini-series and story arcs that continued from book to book.

So recently there's been a change of direction. A number of characters have stuck around in the past couple of books and will be around for a couple more. Kormak is headed off on an extended quest to Terra Nova, his world's equivalent of the Conquistador Empire in Mexico and South America. Shape-shifting assassins pursue him from book to book. An ongoing plot involved sinister cults and Lovecraftian Gods is rumbling along in its Apocalyptic way.

What else have I learned writing the Kormak series? The most important thing is that in the new world of indie publishing it's possible to follow your heart and still make a living.

The Kormak books are short-- between 40000 and 60000 words in length. The fantasy genre is typically one where longer works do better. I suspect I could have sold more books if I had written to greater length but that just was not possible with these books. 

Right from the start, I decided I wasn't going to pad these stories to meet a word count. They are the length they are because that was the length the story needed to be. Not every fantasy story needs to be bulked up and on steroids. Most of the books I loved as a kid were not, and they were none the worse for it. That does not mean I don't want to write longer stories. It just means that I don't have to.

There is a freedom available to the indie that you just don't get in traditional publishing. I think that is the single most important development in the industry in a very long time.


Author Bio

Bill King is the author of over 20 novels, an Origins Award-winning game designer, husband, father, and player of MMOs. His short stories have appeared in Interzone and Years Best SF. He is the author of the World of Warcraft novel Illidan. Over a million of his books are in print in English. Blood of Aenarion was shortlisted for the 2012 David Gemmell Legend Award. He lives in Prague, Czech Republic.

Author Social Media Links


Saturday, May 28, 2016

Brian Burt talks AQUARIUS RISING

Five Things I Learned Writing Aquarius Rising

by Brian Burt

For years, Brian Burt stuck to the instant gratification of writing short speculative fiction. He couldn't really decide what kind he liked the best, so he wrote a smattering of science fiction, fantasy, and dark fantasy shading towards horror. During this period of aimless literary wandering, he encountered one obstacle again and again: his short stories always seemed just a bit longer than the maximum word length accepted by most target markets.

Realizing that if brevity is the soul of wit, he's fairly witless, he decided to ignore his instinctive terror of long-term commitment and try his hand at a full-length novel. In fact, he even had the gall to contemplate a three-novel trilogy. And so, the Aquarius Rising novels were born, tracing the adventures of a race of human-dolphin hybrids who have built their reef communities on the bones of drowned coastal human cities in the wake of catastrophic global warming.
Here are five lessons Brian learned while laboring in the fictional universe of the Aquarians.


As a landlocked Midwesterner who has only lived near an ocean shoreline on a couple of brief occasions, I knew I needed to do my homework in preparation for writing a novel (or three novels) where most of the action takes place beneath the waves. Before starting Aquarius Rising 1: In the Tears of God, I compiled a massive amount of notes, read tons of nonfiction tomes on the sea and marine creatures, lurked on online forums aimed primarily at marine scientists, watched so many ocean exploration documentaries that my eyes started to bleed, and generally obsessed over all of the things I didn't know about life in the sea. I enjoy learning new things; that's half the fun of writing science fiction. But, no matter how much time and effort I expended, I wasn't going to become a bona fide expert on marine biology or oceanography.

That's when I had to take a deep, healing breath and remind myself why I love speculative fiction: we get to build and explore new worlds that live only in our twisted imaginations. Sure, it's important to get the basic facts right whenever possible, but we're not writing textbooks, we're writing tales that stretch the boundaries of what we think we know. Good speculative fiction imparts its own brand of truth.



Well, at least we get plenty of practice in mastering the art of patience after submitting a novel to a prospective agent, editor, or publisher. I learned quickly that most markets don't accept simultaneous submissions, don't much care for unsolicited (unagented) manuscripts, and can take something on the order of geologic time scales to respond to your query letter or sample chapters, much less the entire manuscript if that's requested. It can literally take a year or more to get a reply before you're free to try your luck somewhere else. Ouch.

On the positive side, this provides plenty of opportunity to work on other writing projects to keep a tenuous grip on your sanity while you're waiting, with an odd mixture of hope and despair, to hear back from that latest publishing house. In the end, when you get the acceptance letter, you lie to yourself and say "that wasn't so bad!"


I was pretty proud of myself for finishing that first novel, finding a publisher, and seeing the book released on Amazon and other online bookstores. I then learned a harsh reality of the modern marketplace: there are a million new books published every year. Self-publishing and eBooks are wonderful, empowering technologies for writers, but they have a down side. Even when you wade through the slush pile of submissions and slog your way to publication, you've just released your literary creation into yet another slush pile — the explosion of digital content. It's incredibly difficult to raise your novel's signal above the deafening background noise of all those other choices that assault your potential readers' senses. My publisher repeatedly emphasizes to his entire stable of authors that "marketing and promotion are as much your job as writing the book in the first place." In today's ultra-competitive market, publishers don't have the budget to handle promotion for every title.

Honestly, this is an area with which I still struggle mightily; it's not my strength. I'm learning the hard way. Traditional paid advertising for fiction books rarely pays off. Building your "online platform" via social media channels like FaceBook, Twitter, and Goodreads takes considerable time, energy, and effort. Thousands of other gifted writers are working their tails (and tales ;-) off to attract attention to their own works.

It can be daunting for any new novelist and can feel like an uphill battle... or maybe an assault on Everest. Sometimes I yearn for simpler times, when I submitted a short story to an eZine and the magazine editors / publishers took care of marketing their story collections, leaving us writers to focus all our energy on writing. But that's not how the real world of book publishing works. Finding the right balance between writing new stories and marketing existing ones is both art and science... so it should be right up a science fiction author's alley, right?


After my first novel was released, and friends and colleagues congratulated me on "making it" as a writer, I developed a pretty severe case of impostor syndrome. I knew I wasn't burning up any bestseller lists; I wasn't a household name. Every compliment, however well-intentioned, made me feel like an utter fraud.

Then I read some comments from fellow writers that finally (after many repetitions) sank in. If you write, you're a writer. If you publish, you're an author. Maybe not a bestselling author, or an independently wealthy author... but you're an author. Say it loud, say it proud — nobody can take that away from you!


As a rookie novelist, I felt a bit overwhelmed when requesting book reviews or considering entry in contests. It was my first attempt. Honestly, how many of us look back on our first attempt at anything and feel like we nailed it? When another author at Double Dragon (my publisher) mentioned EPIC (the Electronic Publishing Industry Coalition) and their annual eBook competition, my first thought was "probably a waste of time."

But I reconsidered. If nothing else, it would be a learning experience. The odds were long... but so were the odds of getting published in the first place. I submitted Aquarius Rising 1: In the Tears of God, put the contest out of my mind, and got back to work on Aquarius Rising 2: Blood Tide.

A number of months later, I received a notification that my novel was a finalist in the Science Fiction category. Sweet! I was excited but figured that would be the end of it. Then, a few months after that, I received a congratulatory message that I had won the category.

The odds are long in fiction publishing today. There's immense competition, literally hundreds of thousands of choices. But somebody gets the publishing deal; somebody wins the award. Why not you?

Author Bio:

Brian Burt writes both short and novel-length speculative fiction. He's published more than twenty science fiction and fantasy stories in various magazines and anthologies. His short story "The Last Indian War" won the Writers of the Future Gold Award and was anthologized in Writers of the Future Volume VIII. His debut novel, Aquarius Rising 1: In the Tears of God, won EPIC's 2014 eBook Award for Science Fiction. Aquarius Rising 2: Blood Tide was recently released by Double Dragon Publishing, and Aquarius Rising 3: The Price of Eden is undergoing final revisions. Brian works as a cybersecurity engineer and lives with his wife, three sons, a corn snake, a panda-colored cat, and an aging white German shepherd in idyllic Plainwell, Michigan. The dog, in particular, remains unimpressed with his literary efforts unless they come with bacon.  You can sample Brian's writing at or follow him on FaceBook, Twitter, or Goodreads.


Book Blurb: In the Tears of God

On an Earth ravaged by climate change, and a disastrous attempt to reverse it, human-dolphin hybrids called Aquarians have built thriving reef colonies among the drowned cities of the coast.  Now their world is under siege from an enemy above the waves whose invisible weapon leaves no survivors. Ocypode of Tillamook is an Atavism: half-human and half-Aquarian, marooned in the genetic limbo between species.  Only he knows why the colonies north and south of Tillamook Reef have been destroyed, literally turned to stone.  Ocypode knows that Tillamook will be targeted next, but sharing the reason might prove as deadly to Aquarius as the Medusa plague itself.


Amazon Buy Link

(Creative Switchboard Operator note: I am reading this book: Aquarius Rising Book One, and it is superb writing and story-telling. And, no, Brian didn't pay me a million dollars to say this. Well, not yet anyway. LOL)
Book Blurb: Blood Tide

Megalops is an Aquarian from one of the many reef-cities that thrive beneath the waves on an Earth transformed by climate change. Humans clinging to the barren lands blame Aquarius for their plight and unleashed the Medusa Plague that entombed Megalops's wife and daughter in stone.  Tormented by that loss, Megalops swears to avenge his murdered family by unleashing a Vendetta Virus as cruel and lethal as Medusa. Ocypode the Atavism and his allies battle desperate odds to prevent Megalops from igniting global conflict.  War demands sacrifice.  If Mother Earth and Mother Ocean wage war against each other, will anyone survive?

Amazon Buy Link

Sunday, February 21, 2016

AUTHOR INTERVIEW: Michael Melville talks five things learned writing ALL THE ROADS HOME

After nine months of living in the Highlands of Scotland with just his dog while recovering from a devastating divorce, Shawn Stewart, a changed man, begins an interesting and emotional journey back to his hometown of Astoria Oregon. He reconnects with lost parts of his heart, mind, spirit, and forgotten memories and says goodbye as he begins the next stage in getting his life back.

Along the way, he reconnects with his best friend Billy who, unbeknownst to Shawn, has a lot riding on his recovery and future happiness.

Once arriving home, an old romance begins to blossom but teeters on a precipice as personal struggles and serious family conflict begin to make cracks in his new life.

Shawn struggles not with just who he wants to be but also with who his family needs him to be.
The appearance of an old man named Pockets leads to life-altering choices for Shawn, and life changing news for his best friend.

All the Roads Home is a story about how a group of people come together not just for the benefit of one man, but also for each other.


This has more to do with the print version then the Kindle version.

With my first novel, RUNNING NORTHWEST, the formatting went pretty easy.

With ALL THE ROADS HOME, it was such a pain in the ass. I don’t know if it was because of the new update for Word, but it took me forever. My word file was showing me one thing and the online proofer for CS was showing another.

Then I ran out of coffee day... Ugh.

In fact, this last week I’ve basically done nothing but get the print edition of ATRH right.

So, I learned that I will be paying for formatting for the next book in the series which is The Diner. Not because I can’t do it, but it’s just too much of a pain in my ass.

It sucks but I learned a lot in between the first book and the newest one.
Financially, with ALL THE ROADS HOME, I wasn’t able to put as much money into pre-release marketing (and post-release so far) as what I would have liked. However, I took the things learned and made a lot more headway, this time.

Blogging and my circles (NETWORK! NETWORK! NETWORK!--PJW) have helped significantly.
So for the next one, I’ll be having more money to spend on promotions.

Although I don’t buy into the belief that writers write every day, I learned I do need to make more time every day to at least try and write. If that means I sit in front of the computer and type nothing for an hour because nothing is coming, then that’s the way it is.

I learned while writing ATRH to not push it. I did a warm up write to get the juices flowing. It helped a lot but sometimes it didn’t. So if that means I write a blog post, and no novel words, then I do. (Writing is writing. Writers write. So, yeah, Mike, you're going about the right way. Bravo!--PJW) Considering how much is involved in actually being a writer, it’s not the end of my world if a week or three goes by and I don’t write anything of substance in my current WIP. I know it will get done. I’d rather write nothing in my WIP then have what I’m writing feel forced or even half-assed. I have no desire to be one those authors whipping out 3 novels a year for marketing reasons.

Very early on I was so worried about ALL THE ROADS HOME and the Oregon series for which the novel is a part of. I wasn’t sure where it would fit in. Where its niche was, or even what genre since the early idea crossed several genres and made it feel overly complex even though I loved the story.
I read so many silly ass blog posts and advice in writing groups for indies that it scared the shit out of me because I wasn’t clear on my genre definitions and target audience.

Then, on vacation, I ran into a friend of mine who publishes with HarperCollins and talked to him about the book. At that point, I was six chapters in.

He gave me the best advice I ever got.

He said, “Write the damn book that you want to write, and don’t worry about all that garbage, Melville.” (Best advice ever!--PJW)

It was simple, but clear advice.

From that point on, I finished the book without worrying about the things that I had, and am very happy with how it turned out. Sometimes you just gotta let the cards lay where they fall.

I think because of the way the business side of this makes us feel, we authors get too side-tracked by the marketing, and rules and stuff. I know I do, and I know it gets in the way of my writing.

5. WORDS...
I use a lot of random, pointless words. I found this out with RUNNING NORTHWEST after my new editor got a hold of it and she pointed it out.

It was the same with ALL THE ROADS HOME.

One of the biggest is “though” and ending a sentence with it.

My writing patterns for dialogue are mirrored by real-life speech and "though" is a word I hear used often in that way, and use it myself. In a novel, however, it's generally completely unnecessary. I think I took out over 80 of the word “though” during the editing of ALL THE ROADS HOME. I know a few slipped in.

“However” is another one I have issues with. LOL


Praise for Melville's ALL THE ROADS HOME:

"...another beautifully written book by Michael Melville. His unique painterly style of writing truly transports you to the location of each character. In the beginning chapters you slowly become acquainted with the main character, Shawn, taking in his surroundings and connecting with his heart. As you journey with Shawn from Scotland back to the US and across the country, you find yourself being sucked further into the story and truly caring for each of the characters. I would HIGHLY recommend this book to anyone looking for something new and fresh to read."

"RUNNING NORTHWEST was an amazing book, but this one blew it out of the water. He (Melville) did a really terrific job showing the story through the main character, Shawn. I felt extremely close to all the characters, like I've known them my whole life. As you follow Shawn through his adventures you find yourself not being able to put the book down. I was reading this at work, home, and whenever I could find the time. Another amazing book by Michael, and I look forward to more. Job well done, 5 stars all the way."

"I loved this book from the very beginning. I've never been to Scotland, but I feel like I have from reading this (Oregon too). Michael has a talent for making his characters and places so real. Honestly, it's a great story..."



 Michael is 37, a novelist, former entrepreneur and a senior at Grand Valley State University. He is a proud father of an amazing year and a half-old little boy named Jax and happily engaged to his mother; an amazingly inspirational woman named Stacey. He is now trying to make his mark in the literary word in some noticeable way as an author and writer.

He has published two works so far in his writing career. The first was Running Northwest; a romance novel about a single father raising his adopted son alone on the Oregon Coast. The second is a short story called Christmas Senses, which is about a man stricken with blindness and how he experiences Christmas with his family in his own unique way.

He recently released his second full-length novel and 3rd published work titled All the Roads Home in January 2016. This novel is the first book in his new and exciting Oregon Series. He is already hard at work writing the second book in that series titled The Diner, which will come out later in 2016.


Twitter: @BooksbyMelville
Amazon Author Page:
Instagram: @oregonmike98


Imagine a place where dreams come true and new ones are born. A place where friends laugh, kids smile and new love blossoms. Where walks on foggy ocean beaches or misty woods become memories that will last a lifetime. A place where people and nature peacefully coexist and enjoy the company of one another. A place where lost love can be reborn and lives made simple and perfect. A place where you can get lost in your future and leave the darkness behind. Find that place in Running Northwest.

Set against the unpredictable Pacific Ocean, on the rocky, forested northern coast of Oregon is a story about heartbreaking loss, rebuilding, fate and love. Running Northwest takes the reader on a journey as an unexpected road weaves its way through the life of single father, Thomas James and his 8-year-old son, Daniel. In Michigan, newly single Stephanie Davis is about to begin her own journey down a path she never expected and never even knew existed which will change her life in ways never imagined.

RUNNING NORTHWEST is available for Kindle and Paperback