Friday, October 2, 2015

Always Writing...

Recently I was on one of the buses that I regularly take to get to my university.  As I was riding I was taking in the scenery and smiling to myself.  A girl who had taken the seat next to me noticed and said I must be having a good day.  I responded by telling her I was observing the scenery and thinking about some of the trees.  In particular I drew her attention to the Spanish Moss growing on several of the trees. 

"Is that what's growing on them?  I've heard of Spanish Moss but I never saw it before," she told me.  

I nodded and replied, "Now picture that stuff moving on its own, maybe reaching down and grabbing a someone as they're walking by."

That freaked her out a bit as she looked at me with wide eyes and said, "That's creepy!  You must be into horror movies and such."

At that point I explained that I was an author who had two books out already and a third coming in December.  From there she relaxed and I told her about my Para-Earth Series.  By the time we arrived at the university she said, "I always wondered how writers come up with so many ideas.  You must be thinking about stuff all the time."

Smiling I said, "That's true.  Even when I'm not physically writing, I'm always writing."  As soon as I said this I started really thinking about what I'd just said and realized how true it was.  

While I can't speak for other writers, I can safely say that no matter what I'm doing at any given time my mind is always pondering story plots, new characters, places, what if situations, you name it.  I could be bowling....

And find myself thinking about what goes on behind the scene where the machinery is gathering up the pins and resetting them.  (Note: I have actually been behind that area thanks to my older brother Ernest who worked on the machines.  He took me back there with him a few times to show me what he did)  After thinking about it, I pictured various scenarios like when the pins are brought down by the machine, what if a human arm was set upright among them?  Or what if the machine where your ball comes back instead you get around bomb with a fuse lit. What would you do?  How did it get there?  What's going on?

Other times I could be wandering among the trees and just listening to the sounds of the leaves rustling under my feet.  I also try to make a mental note of what the air smells like at that moment and how peaceful the area is around me.  In moments like that, I'm trying to take a mental photo of  everything I'm seeing and feeling, so I can try and rebuild it with words for a scene in a story.  And then I find myself asking what might happen in such a scene?  Will a unicorn show up among the trees?  Or will a strange little figure appear from inside a tree and start talking to one of the woodland animals or a child who happens to be in the neighborhood.

Ideas sometimes come when you least expect it.  Even when you're just kicking back and maybe shooting a game of pool to pass the time, a thought or an image may come that sets your mind on fire. Sometimes it might even be the atmosphere of your surroundings that may be the spark that sets you mind alight with ideas and possibilities.  

As writers, our minds are always working on ideas or stories, even when we're not aware of it.  And i find this idea to be a great comfort to me.  There are times when the old "Writer's Block" comes to visit and I find myself staring at my computer screen for hours or even days.  I want to write something but nothing comes.  On days like that I'll try working through the block, or exercising, or bouncing ideas off other people... all to no avail.  

But then I'll decide to get out and about for a while.  Sometimes I'll go to a mall, or do some shopping, or wander down by the beach.  I don't always find the answers I'm seeking and after a while may even stop trying.  However, I do so knowing that sooner or later, something is going to fire my imagination up and I'll be ready to get back on my computer and finish the story I'd been working on.  Why?  Because I'm always writing... even when I don't realize it.  I hope the same is true for all of you.  

Until next time, take care and keep writing everyone!

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

My Review of Peter Straub's "Ghost Story"...

With the coming of Halloween, I've been in a mood for scary books.  So today I decided to pull out one of my favorites and do a review on it.  This was the first novel I read by Mr. Straub, but it got me hooked.  I've read a number of his other works and he has yet to keep me entertained and enthralled....

"What's the worst thing you ever done?"

"I won't tell you, but I'll tell you the worst thing that ever happened to me..."

These are the words that set the "The Chowder Society", four elderly men who've known each other since they were young, into telling each other ghost stories. They've all known each other since their youth, when they were wild and reckless. Friendship and loyalty binds, them along with dark secret from those past days. 

They tried to bury that secret and forget it, but some things don't want to be forgotten. Sometimes, they also want... revenge!

"Ghost Story" is NOT a fast read. In fact it seems to plod along at times... HOWEVER, there is a method to the author's madness. Everything he gives us serves a purpose in the story. 

Furthermore, his pacing and many references are reminiscent to classic ghost stories from long ago. Spine-chilling and haunting the story catches the imagination and refuses to let go.

However, it's not a short easy read. Mr. Straub has a lot of material to throw at us but does so in a manner that builds suspense and terror.

This is a brilliant piece of writing that is thoroughly worth a read. Just don't expect to be taken on a thrill-a-minute joyride. Like it's elderly protagonists, the story moves a slow and steady pace, but it draws you in deeper and deeper as it goes. Soon you'll find yourself wanting more and more as the various pieces and "ghost stories" start coming together, leading to terrifying encounters that build up to a mesmerizing climax.

My only beef with the story the first time I read it was the prologue which is longer than I would normally like to see. But as I said earlier, Mr. Straub links everything he presents us into one tidy and creepy package. Nothing he gives the reader is wasted, so I can forgive him for the lengthy prologue. This is still a 5 star read! 

So come and meet The Chowder Society: The respectable Doctor John Jaffery, the randy Lewis Benedict, the respectable Sears James, and the faithful and easily overlooked Ricky Hawthorne. These men are not your usual run of the mill 'action-heroes', but they will take on an evil unlike anything you've ever read before.

Sunday, September 20, 2015

My Review of Stephen King's "From A Buick 8"

"From A Buick 8" was one of the first books I read by Mr. King after many years of taking a pass on his work.  His novel "Misery" had gone to places I found too intense and terrifying because the only monster in that piece had been human.  There were no safety-barriers of the supernatural involved, just madness, obsession and torture.

Yet something about this novel beckoned and I plunged into his world once more and I'm glad it did.  The story covers a 25 year period in the lives of a group of state troopers who act as 'guardians' over a strange Buick Roadster abandoned at a gas station back in 1979 by a mysterious 'man in black' who wandered off and was never seen again.

The vehicle seems to be like any other car... or so you would think at first glance.  Then you'd notice little things like how the overall look of the vehicle seems normal, but then you notice little touches that don't quite add up.  For one thing there's no keys to start it up.  The dashboard is a bit off too, like someone created a prop for a movie.  But the car is not a Hollywood prop, it's something much more sinister.

People die around this vehicle, and sometimes 'things' come out of it when you least expect it.  Things that are not of this world and don't belong among us.

Mr. King weaves this tale from the different points of view by letting the various troopers in the story  share an experience they've had or witnessed over the last 25 years as they've stood watched over the sinister vehicle, in an attempt to contain the Buick's sinister powers.  This a is a true classic, with many unexpected turns and moments of sheer terror Mr. King is so well-known for.

A great read, especially at this time of year when Halloween is only a month or so away.

Monday, September 14, 2015

New Book Review - Richard Matheson's "I Am Legend"

For those who don't know, Richard Matheson is one of my many favorite authors.  His work on the original Twilight Zone, caught both my attention and imagination.  To this day, I consider his novel "Hell House" one of the greatest haunted house stories ever written.

But he also wrote about vampires in his classic "I Am Legend" (aka "The Omega Man").  I was given a copy of this novel last Christmas and had finally gotten a chance to reading it. Having seen several movie versions of the story (including the one with Charles Heston), I was already familiar with the overall concept of the tale about the last normal human being on the planet.  However, knowing how Hollywood likes to put extra spins and its own touches on a story, I was eager to actually read Mr. Matheson's original vision and I was not disappointed.

We are quickly introduced to Robert Neville, who (as far as he and the audience knows) may be the last normal human being on the planet.  We get to see the strange monotony of his day as he makes stakes, rounds up food and supplies and goes about fortifying his home which is also a kind of tomb for him.  He is surrounded by the memories of his life, when he had a wife and child who were both taken from him, along with all those he knew, by a mysterious plague that killed everyone around him.  But at night, he is terrorized by a more frightening enemy.  Those he lost come out from the places they hide in the daytime, hell-bent on sucking his blood.  

Former friends and neighbors try to breach his security measures night after night.  Some of the women try to woo him with the promise of sex and love, while one neighbor constantly calls his name, saying "Come out Neville!"  We witness his plight to hold onto his humanity and sanity amidst these nightly raids, and then follow him during the daytime as he tries to eliminate as many of these vampires.  

Mr. Matheson shares Robert's memories of losing his wife to the plague and burying her, only to have her rise as one of the vampires and his being forced to put her down a second time.  Over a three year period we watch Robert become harder as well as a survivor.  He goes from being just the hunted to seeking answers.  I found this part interesting since, unlike in the most of the movies, he is not an expert in blood or disease.  We watch him educate himself through books and failed experiments as he tries to find the answers to the problem that surrounds him.  Yet all the while, he continues his daytime raids to exterminate those who hunt him.

Finally, after three years of loneliness he meets a woman who can walk in the daylight.  Out of desperation he tries to make friends while inadvertently frightening her.  Robert brings her to his home, against her will but slowly wins her over.  It is an interesting scene watching him trying to remember how to act like a civilized person after three years of no contact with someone who wasn't trying to kill him.

In the end we learn the truth, that the woman he met, named Ruth is infected.  But the germ has mutated in her and others, so that they can control the bloodlust and can walk in daylight for short amounts of time.  And like Robert, they seek to put down the more violent feral creatures that hunt him.  But they also seek his destruction as well.  For he has unwittingly killed a number of them during his daylight raids, including the husband of Ruth.  But she has come to know him and understands his mistake and forgives him.  She even warns him of what is to come down the road, and urges him to move away and go into hiding.

But Robert refuses and a year later, the members of the new society, come and rid him of those who seek to destroy him.  They also take him into custody and prepare for his execution.  Due to his resisting capture, Robert has become fatally injured but is being kept alive for his public demise.  For now he has become to the boogeyman.  The thing who stalks these people in the day, when they have to avoid the sunlight.  He is the monster to them and he knows it.  He is now the creature of legend, in this new society and accepts the fate that awaits him. 

Although it is a sad ending, the book is a powerful study in struggling with loss, loneliness, depression, survival and finally, realization.  Written in 1954, this is one of those timeless novels that I thoroughly recommend to all lovers of science fiction, horror, and fantasy.  It is a thought provoking work that will make you think for years to come.   

Friday, September 11, 2015

Use It or Lose It... Keeping Deleting Scenes/Ideas

Chekhov's Gun...

There's an old trope that applies to theater and to writing.  It is credited to Anton Chekhov, author/playwright.  In a letter to a friend in 1889 he said, "One must not put a loaded rifle on the stage if no one is thinking of firing it."  Since then, the phrase "Chekhov's Gun" has become associated with the idea of not introducing something 'interesting' or 'irrelevant' into a piece, whether it be a stage play or a story, that is not actually poignant to the story.  If you put a gun into a scene, make sure someone uses it before the story is finished.  Don't just leave it lying there gathering dust.  Why?  If you were doing a story involving a killer like Jason Voorhees/Michael Myers, before anyone knew they were unkillable, and they were closing in on the hero/heroine in the room where the gun is in plain sight you'd have the person use it, right?  You wouldn't have them grab a curtain to try and keep the killer at bay with Chintz fabric... unless you were doing a very strange comedy perhaps.

In any case, the idea of not introducing elements or ideas into your story and then not going anywhere with them is a big "No-no".  It's all right to leave a few dangling threads unfinished in a story, provided you make it clear to the reader that there will be sequels involving the characters or villain.  The easiest way this can be achieved is by letting the ending be ambiguous or open-ended.  Or one can make it quite clear that the villain or one of their allies decide that things are not over and that they are clearly planning to come after the heroes at a later date. 

But what if the 'gun' on the table is an idea or a character you've introduced early on in the story and then do very little or nothing with later in the tale?  This is not to say that background characters are not needed.  Those folks are always useful as a plot device, even if it's just to let one of the characters confide or share some internal turmoil to them, so the audience knows about it.  Suddenly, that background character has played a key point in the story.  But what if there was no scene like that?  What purpose did that background character serve?  Why were they there in the first place?  Now that person is "Chekhov's Gun".  Do you keep him/her or...

I bring this up, because recently while working on "The Door" I was winding up with a couple of characters who where turning into Chekhov's Gun.  I had plans for them, big ones.  In fact they were to play major roles in the final confrontation, but in the meantime I was doing very little with them. I'd given them impressive introductions, but then wound up leaving them on the table.  When it occurred to me how much further I'd gotten into the story with little or no further appearances by them I was shocked.  How could this have happened?  I needed these people for the final confrontation, so I couldn't just drop them from the story.  Or could I?  Were they truly necessary?  Couldn't I still create a dramatic final battle without them and go in a different direction?

Once again I'd come to that infamous crossroads. 

I could take the story in several different directions at this point.  It had evolved and new dimensions had been added to it that had not occurred to me before.  The number of possibilities was almost too much to take in.  I could lose those characters completely and continue or I could go back and add new scenes with them adding elements of menace and suspicion.  I could also just make a few references to them and then bring them in towards the end, but that idea did not appeal to me.  I am one of those who hates having a cavalry appear out of nowhere at the last second without a good explanation as to how they wound up showing up on the first place.  Or I could go ahead and drop them from the story thus simplifying my life.

That idea sounded tempting.  All I would have to do was place my hands on the keyboard and eliminate them with a few strokes of my fingers.  

But I didn't.  They were my 'gun on the table' and I'd introduced them for a reason.  Future stories relied on their being in this story and fulfilling the original purpose I'd intended for them.  So I kept them, but I didn't just leave them on that table.  Oh no, my friends.  I decided to make them more interesting and sinister.  A gun on a table could be loaded or empty.  I chose to slowly make it clear that this gun had a purpose.  So I added some new elements to that table setting.

Now my purpose was more clear to the reader.  These people were more than background props.  They had a purpose, one that could be for good or evil.  Which is the answer?  You'll have to wait until the book is finished.  But know, I recognized a shortcoming in my story and weighed the options for how to deal with it.  Keep your readers in mind when you write.  Think of how the story is playing out from their point of view.  Play fair with them, give them the clues or hints of where this might be going, but not too much.  Keep a few surprises and twists up your sleeve, but remember that some of those elements can be introduced early on.  You just don't necessarily reveal everything about them until the right moment.

As for me, work on the "The Door" continues.  I know what I'm doing with my 'gun' and now I'm running with it.  So until next time, take care and keep writing.

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

My Very First Podcast Interview...

I've been asked by a number of people recently, "Why did you get into writing?  What is the Para-Earth Series?  And how did you come up with it?"

Well, to help answer those questions and others people may, have I invite you all to check out the podcast interview below, where I get to answer all those questions and many more.  And before anyone asks, "How did you get on a podcast?", I've been on Google+ for a while now, sharing my posts about writing on a regular basis.  Well one of my acquaintances on Google+, the awesome Tony Mendoza (writer/filmmaker) extended an invitation to me to be on his podcast "Life In The Hole", where he interviews authors about their work.  

I invite you all to check out some of his other interviews after you've listened to this one.  Tony's a great host, and a fun person to get to know.  While your at his site, you might also want to check out his upcoming film "The Hole", a fascinating psychological-thriller that will have you on the edge of your seats.

Here is the link to the interview, I hope you find it enjoyable and informative:

*Remember: You can find my both book 1 and 2 in my Para-Earth Series (in trade paperback or Kindle form) over at at:

As always, thanks for visiting and keep writing.

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Inspiration Can Strike When You Least Expect It....

Last night after I finished my class, I was waiting at the bus stop outside my university's library.  I was feeling pretty good, and was in a humorous mood.  So when two young ladies came out of the library, each carrying a large white board, my mirthful nature got the better of me.  As soon as they came up to the bus stop I said, "You know, most people find a notebook just as useful and it actually fits inside a backpack."

They both laughed and came back with, "Yeah, but we make a lot big mistakes."   From there we started chatting and they explained the white boards were for two clubs they were part of.  It was at that point I notice that both of them were wearing  t-shirts with mushrooms all over them.  Curious I asked if mushrooms were involved with either club and they said yes.   From there, they began to explain how they're clubs were trying to do some research about mushrooms and how to try and make a business out of certain ones that grew only in the wild near Santa Cruz.  One of the ladies, was studying Mycology and started talking about the properties of certain types of mushrooms, like the ones that grew on the sides of trees. 

She began to explain that some were parasitic, while others actually helped the tree stay healthy.   Suddenly, my mind went into overdrive.  An idea for a life from another Para-Earth suddenly came to me, an intelligent kind of mushroom.  But how dangerous could they be?  Were they even aggressive?  What if they were the kind that were helpful to trees?  

The expression on my face must've changed because the girls asked if I was all right, to which I explained that I was an Indie Author and that they might've given me an idea for a new story.  They both asked what I wrote and I explained about my paranormal/mystery/sci-fi books in the Para-Earth Series and how each story involved life forms from an alternate version of Earth were evolution took a different path.  I quickly thanked them and also gave them my business cards so they could check my books out, as well as read about my vampyre Nathan and his friends over at my other blog, "The Vampyre Blogs - Private Edition".  

By then the bus arrived and I parted company with the ladies, but my mind was on fire.

Parking myself at the rear of the bus I started letting the ideas flow.  First I had to decide which of my characters to use for this new story.  Immediately I chose Professor Otto Hofstadter, who was an expert/investigator into the various Para-Earths.  But who to have work with him.  I had several possibilities, but decided to wait until I got home to talk with my wife Helen, since Otto was her creation.  I knew I wanted her to work with me on this story so I was content to wait.  But as for the mushrooms, I decided they were 'tree-shepherds'.  They protected an area of trees, keeping them healthy and safe from harm.  At first I thought about a lumber company, but when I got home Helen suggested instead a hidden marijuana farm that has been mysteriously abandoned.  

From there she suggested we use Julie Cloudfoot's younger brother, Johnny (who I established as being a student at the UC Santa Cruz).  This seemed like an excellent idea since the university is surrounded by woods on all sides that extend for miles.  So I quickly began jotting down all these ideas and know that we will be exploring them more down the road, after I complete one or two other projects I have under way.

From this, you can see how an innocent encounter and a chat led to a whole new story idea.  Yes, there are a lot more details to work out, but we've got the basis and some of the cast already lined up. So remember, if something unusual catches your eye ask yourself some questions and as well anyone who might be nearby.  You never know what may get your imagination up and running.  There's inspiration all around us, we just sometimes have to take a moment to recognize it.

Until next time, take care and keep writing. 

Saturday, August 29, 2015

The Importance Of Leaving Book Reviews...

About this time last year I wrote a post about book reviews, trying to explain why they are so important to authors.  I explained at length about how prospective readers take note of what others have said about a book when trying to decide whether or not to give it a try.  

But did you know that the number of reviews a book gets can affect how much promotion it can get on  It's true.  Take a look:

So you see, your reviews have more power than you thought.  Even if all you feel comfortable writing is just a couple of sentences like "Kept me on the edge of my seat...", "Couldn't put it down...", "I want to see more from this author...", "I really enjoyed this, can't wait for more..." 

Those sentences plus a 1-5 star rating can help that author and their work get more exposure on Amazon.  This is something that is extremely helpful for Indie and brand new authors who are trying to get their name out there, but may not have hardly any budget to spend on getting their books listed on other sites. 

So please, take the time to leave a review, no matter how short or long.  You could be doing your favorite authors a HUGE favor, and believe me when I say, "We authors will appreciate it."

My book first book, "The Bridge" is sitting at 19 reviews so just a few more could really help it gain more exposure.  "The Ship", my second novel, is sitting at lonely 8 reviews, so if you've already read it, please leave a rating and a few kinds words so it can get more attention too. 

You can reach both books at my Amazon Author Page:

But don't just do it for me, do it for other authors whose work you enjoy.  Help them become the next Stephen King, JK Rowling, or Suzanna Collins.  Remember, you the readers are what makes a book or an author a hit or a miss.  

Thank you all for your help and support, and remember keep writing because one day it might be your work the rest of us are trying to help promote.  

P. S.: "The Door"and "The Vampyre Blogs - Coming Home" are both on track for a DOUBLE-RELEASE just in time for the holidays so stay tuned. 

Monday, August 24, 2015

How I Chose My Collaborators - Part 2

In the first half of this discussion I talked about collaborating with my wife Helen and how much of an impact she's had on my writing.  

Today I would like to introduce you all to my other cohort in crime, mischief, nonsense, lunacy, chaos, and other things too numerous to mention, as well as writing.  

Richard Caminiti and I go back as far as Levittown Memorial High School (Go Panthers).  Mind you shortly after we graduated the school was closed.  Coincidence?  You decide.

I cannot count he number of hours Rich and I spent together both in and out of school.  We shared a number of interests such as science fiction, the paranormal, and a number of great friends.  He was also involved in the Nassau County Auxillary Police and still has his badge from those days.

But when I left Levittown, Long Island (New York State), in 1985 I lost touch with him an so many others.  So I was not there to watch him rise up through the ranks from police officer to Sergeant.  Nor was I around when he served as part of the Volunteer Fire Department as an EMT/Firefighter. I was also not around for when he began one of the most intriguing jobs he's had, namely Paranormal Investigator (which he still does).   He's seen and debunked a lot of things and helped to put people's minds at rest, but he has also encountered phenomenon that is less easily explained and is a true believer in the paranormal.  

So you can easily see why I felt so lucky and thrilled that thanks to FB, after 20+ years of being out of touch, to be in contact with him again.  Especially when we started to Skype and it felt like very little time had actually passed since the last time we got to sit down together.  Much had happened for each of us in those years, but the camaraderie we shared had not diminished in the slightest.  So when he asked me to take a look at a writing project he'd been working on and off for the last two decades, I was only too glad to say yes.

What I found was very much a rough first draft of a science fiction/time travel story.  There was a lot of setting the scene in the future, and technobabble, which made it a bit dry reading but there wa sa real story here.  I was able to see the story he wanted to tell and where he intended to take it.  In short, it had potential.  With a bit of reworking his story had legs and wanted to run.  So during some Skype sessions I gave him a lot of the same advice I've shared on this blog in the past and acted as a sounding board as he came up with new ideas and helped guide him to rework what he had.  The newer versions I and others have seen are a great improvement and he is extremely fired up to keep it going. 

After seeing how far he was coming in such a short time, and because of our long friendship and shared interests, I was more than willing to agree to collaborate on a novel with him. I knew his strengths and insights, as well as how good we could work together.  And I enjoy our brainstorming sessions and how thoroughly he cares about accuracy when it comes to writing in a historical setting.  Which is what we're doing currently.  "The Pass" will be our first joint project and will involve some interesting supernatural entities that one might not think of blending together for a piece.  But I assure you all, we're being careful and making sure the beings we incorporate have reasons for being in this setting.  History and the supernatural will be meeting in this tale set during the waining years of the Civil War, but the battlefront will not be on fields of Gettysburg or Atlanta.  This story will be set on west coast and involve a famous pass who's name is associated with people who tried to travel through it during a terrible winter back in the 1840's.

We plan on keeping you all updated on our progress and I'll be helping my partner create a blog of his own so you can all get to know him better.  He's wealth of knowledge and is only too happy to share with others, which makes him an excellent storyteller, collaborator and very dear friend.

So there you have it folks.  Choosing to work with someone on a collaboration is not easy by any means.  But if you truly feel you can rely on the individual in question and that the two of you can really work as one, then give it a shot. 

Until next time, take care and keep writing.

Monday, August 17, 2015

I Wish To Interrupt This Blog With An Important Question...

I've been having a tough time getting a completed 1st draft of "The Door" finished by the end of this summer as I originally planned.  The story is coming along very nicely, however I had planned on releasing it in late September/early October, which is becoming less and less likely.

Furthermore, I had already planned on releasing "The Vampyre Blogs - Coming Home" in December to catch the holiday crowds.  

So I would like to know how you would feel about a "Double-Release" in December?

I have been hearing from a number of people who have been clamoring for one or both books, and I'm perfectly at ease with the idea of releasing both at or around the same time.  

Furthermore, I want to let you all know that I've already got at least one other book lined up for the middle of next year, so you won't have to wait long for another installment.  

Please leave your thoughts on this idea in the comment section below.  Your opinions are important to me, so please take advantage of this opportunity to express your feelings and wishes.

Thank you.

PS: The next entry will go back to telling you all about my collaborators and how I chose them.  Until then, keep writing.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

How I Chose My Collaborators - Part 1

After my first book "The Bridge" came out and the 4 and 5 star reviews started coming in, I got a lot of congratulations and support.  I also started seeing something else coming in... requests to work on collaborations.  This was both flattering and disconcerting to me.   I was still very new at this whole publishing business and wasn't all that confident in my skills at that point.  I knew I needed more experience and didn't want to wind up dragging someone else's work down if I'd simply gotten lucky my first time out.  Especially since I was hearing some concerns about the editing in the first version and wound up redoing the book with extra help getting it in better shape.   

Still the requests for collaborating kept appearing every so often.  When "The Ship" (my 2nd novel) came out the requests started in again.  By this time I was more confident in my skills, I'd learned a lot after "The Bridge" and had gone out of my way to make sure "The Ship" was in even better shape.
Still I wasn't feeling comfortable with the idea of collaborating with anyone... except possibly my wife Helen, who had been my science expert and sounding board for both books.  Furthermore, back when I was still working on "The Bridge" she had a dream and was seeing through the eyes of one of my characters Police Sergeant Veronica Ross.  In the dream Helen/Veronica had come across a murder scene and found a strange older man examining the corpse.  She got a good look at the fellow and was able to give me a good description of him; fifties, curly hair slightly graying, glasses, shortish, and just a little heavyset.  However, she knew he wasn't a police officer but an intruder, so she drew her weapon and told him to 'freeze'.  Instead he looked up at her and put his finger to his lips, and then did a flip out the window.  Rushing to the window Helen/Veronica saw they were on the second floor of a house and the man landed nimbly on the ground and took off with a speed and agility that belied his appearance.

Another thing she told me was the fact that she just knew this guy was not a villain, but someone who knew about the 'Para-Earths' and that he would be a valuable character to introduce down the road.  I readily agreed, but felt awkward about using this fellow she nicknamed 'The Professor'.  Eventually he was given a real name of Otto Hoffstadter and I had hopes of bringing him in '"The Door".  However, when I started working on "The Door" the story wasn't coming along very well and I started working on another story with a whole new set of characters which became "The Vampyre Blogs - Coming Home" (which will be out this December).  As that story came developed, Helen asked me if it were possible that my vampyre Nathaniel might have met Otto.  I nearly jumped for joy at that point.  The personality she'd developed for Otto was the perfect match up for Nathaniel, so I established a history between the two and incorporated Otto into that book instead of "The Door".

Even as I wrote "The Vampyre Blogs - Coming Home" and used Otto, I kept checking with her about how my interpretation of Otto, was I using him right and getting the personality down right?  She gave me honest feedback and I made changes, but as I did so it occurred to me that I might need her even more in the sequel story.  I also decided I wanted to use Otto in another book that continues the story of two secondary characters from "The Ship" (Johnny Cloudfoot and his girlfriend Michelle).  By this time, I knew I wanted to work WITH Helen on both of those stories.  Besides, being my sounding board for ideas, she'd also been acting as my science consultant.  Her knowledge of scientific facts has been a huge asset to my writing.

But most important of all, I knew we could work together quite easily.  We've worked in companies together in the past and always made a great team.  I know some people were like "How could you work in the same place with your spouse?  I'd go crazy.  Going to work gives me a break from mine and I need it..."  However, Helen and I actually love spending as much time together, even if it's at a job.  So working on a collaboration actually feels like the most natural thing for us.  I still plan to work on some books and stories on my own, but I'll also be helping her with some original tales of her own that are set in my Para-Earth Series.  She knows these realities as well as I do and has some great ideas that I want to see become a reality.  I'll be introducing some of her work here and over on "The Vampyre Blogs - Private Edition" blog soon.

However, she is not the only person I'm working with.  The other, was a very dear friend from high school who approached me to look over a story he'd been working on for the last twenty years.  Naturally I was flattered by his request, but I was still a little unsure about my own level of skills. Doing a blog about writing was one thing and working with Helen was another.  But this was a whole new kettle of fish and I really needed to think about it...


Saturday, August 8, 2015


"The Ship" hit #1 on Amazon's Bestseller list.  


it hit #1 on Amazon UK's Bestseller list

And there's still time to get a copy for yourself or a friend.  Click on the link below and then share this entry with everyone you know so they can take advantage too.

NOTE: This free giveaway ends at midnight Sunday August 9th so act quickly and thank you for all your support.



Book 2 in my Para-Earth Series is free for all Kindle Users from now until midnight tomorrow, so grab a copy and spread the word to everyone you know.  

This 5-star paranormal/mystery continues the story of Cassandra Elliot and Julie Cloudfoot, who fought alongside Alex and Veronica in my first novel “The Bridge”

As a result of their previous adventure, these two young ladies have fallen in love and have come to Santa Cruz to see if their new relationship can work, as well as bury Julie’s uncle who had been guarding the bridge as part of his duties as the family shaman.

But there are new problems. Julie is finding out that the shaman mantle has been passed to her, but she things there is nothing to guard against as the being that had lain hidden inside the bridge is no more. However, another evil from another para-earth has arisen and has marked Cassandra is its target.

Now the two will have to fight against a new threat that threatens to tear apart them apart before they fully begin.

Once again ghosts, psychics, and shamans await you in this new story, along with a terrifying ghost ship and a familiar white-haired villain from “The Bridge”

Thursday, August 6, 2015


Summer is slowly drawing to a close, especially for me. University will be starting up on the 24th, and I had 2 FREE days left to use over on Amazon Select, so YOU get a treat.

Book 2 in my Para-Earth Series will be available for ALL Kindle users this weekend (Aug. 8-9).

Book Synopsis:

This 5-star paranormal/mystery continues the story of Cassandra Elliot and Julie Cloudfoot, the two young women who fought alongside Alex and Veronica in my first novel “The Bridge”

These two young ladies have fallen in love and have come to Santa Cruz to see if their new relationship can work, as well as bury Julie’s uncle who had been guarding the bridge as part of his duties as the family shaman.

But there are new problems. Julie is finding out that the shaman mantle has been passed to her, but she things there is nothing to guard against as the being that had lain hidden inside the bridge is no more. However, another evil from another para-earth has arisen and has marked Cassandra is its target.

Now the two will have to fight against a new threat that threatens to tear apart them apart before they fully begin.

Once again ghosts, psychics, and shamans await you in this new story, along with a terrifying ghost ship and a familiar white-haired villain from “The Bridge”

Remember, Book 3 "The Door" is coming soon and the events in this story will have a direct effect on what comes. So don't miss out. So spread the word and be ready to take advantage of this giveaway.

Saturday, August 1, 2015

My Thoughts On Collaboration...

This is a post I've been thinking about sharing for some time, but hadn't because I was actually a little afraid to talk about it.  When it comes to writing, the idea of collaborating with someone else filled me with both excitement and dread.  Especially dread because I am not always that confident in my skills and abilities.

Yet, I seem to be doing something right.  A number of people find this blog quite helpful and offer their own experiences which reflect many of my own.  Furthermore, until now writing has been a solitary activity.  I enjoy being the one to make decisions and not have to worry whether or not I offend someone else or hurt feelings.  Oh, I've bounced ideas off certain people I trust, like my wife Helen.  In her case, I do this quite often because I consider her much better read and more knowledgeable about science and logic than me.  But in the end, the final decisions have been all me.  So to surrender some of that control is a big step not only for me, but for any writer.

Yet, I've recently started working with not just one, but two different people on collaborations.  I've known and trust these two individuals implicitly, (especially since one of them is my wife Helen).  And already I've been learning a lot about collaborating and I've been finding the experience quite rewarding.

Working with another to create something new offers untold possibilities.  With the right person, the two of you can generate entirely new ideas that you might never have thought of on own.   Everyone walks their own path and has their own experiences and knowledge to draw upon.

In a good collaboration, it's not just sharing the work.  The two of you actually feed each others imagination.  You work (figuratively or literally) side by side, building and creating something new and exciting.  Everyone has walked their own path and has gained knowledge and life experience that they can share, adding a new melody to the piece in question.

And if you start feel overwhelmed by the magnitude of the project, there's someone there to help pull out.     

A good collaboration, like the two I've been working on, has opened my eyes to untold possibilities.  I can see so many stories looming in the distance and am looking forward to working on them down the road.  But finding the right person to collaborate with... that's another thing entirely.  And I'll be dealing with that in my next post.  

So start giving the idea of collaboration some thought.  It does hold wonderful possibilities, but it can also bring about new headaches.  So beware!

Until next time, take care and keep writing.

*NOTE: I am not looking to collaborate with anyone else for the time being, so please don't ask.  I've been approached a number of times already and have politely refused.  If you're wondering why I've taken this attitude, wait for my next post and you'll learn more about me than you probably ever wanted to.*

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Cover Art For Books: Choosing What's Right Not Only For You But Your Audience

You've just about finished writing your novel and can see the finish line coming up in the distance.  But now you have a new concern to deal with, creating a cover for it.  But what kind of art should you use?  Should it be a photograph, cartoon, an image that evokes feelings from a favorite movie like having several people walking towards the reader like in "The Right Stuff"?  Should it just show an individual who appears in the story, or should it show a scene that's right out of the book?

So many questions, right?  And the answer is... I don't know.  Every author has to choose their own path or vision for their work.  It's not an easy thing to do either, I know this.  All I can say is know your audience and what captures their imagination.  Make sure the art speaks to them and makes them want to pick up your work.

But this can be difficult sometimes.  Tastes in art changes over the years so I thought it might be fun to demonstrate how the style of covers can change over time using one of the legendary Ray  Bradbury's most famous works, "Fahrenheit 451".  

Here is the original cover when the novel first came out.  Although somewhat cartoonish or simplistic, the image reflects the torment of the protagonist as he wrestles with his work as a 'fireman' who burns books for the good of society.  A part of him feels the loss and flames as ideas and words are consumed by the fires he helps create.

Now here we have another cover that was created depicting "The Hound" from the novel.  Although clearly the image depicts an animal at second glance we note the extra set of legs and are left wondering what part this creature plays in the novel.  Unless you're familiar with the story, you'd never know there was a 'Hound' in the book, but it was a mechanical device used for locating and hunting down 'criminal' elements.  Furthermore, it did not in the least look like an actual animal.  So although this cover would definitely catch the eye and make you wonder, it doesn't really say a lot about the story itself.  Again, keep in mind I'm speaking for myself in this entry, not any of you.

This next cover, obviously designed for the books 60th anniversary, is very simple but has good color and a clever image.  Fusing a 'book of matches' and an actual 'book' is quite clever and assumes the potential reader has some inkling of the story inside.  

This next image is both eye-catching and disturbing.  The artwork is something almost nightmarish to me, yet I can see how it works considering the society depicted in the story is rather warped and disturbing.  I can even appreciate the strange 'hound' figure which in some ways might have looked even better on the cover of an HP Lovecraft book.  And although effective, I'm not sure this would be a cover I'd want lying around when company comes over or if I had children.  

The next cover obviously harkens back to the original design, but with more color and was possibly aimed more at young boys.  Certainly it would catch a younger reader's eye and again it clearly hints at what can be found inside the pages.

I personally found the next cover very effective as we see an interpretation of what the fireman's gear might look like.  Plus the reflection of the burning books in the visor again clearly helps the prospective reader get an idea of the storyline.  Plus it keeps the red and yellow colors which hint at fire which is also seen quite frequently in a number of these covers.  

In this final image we see a dramatic scene of our protagonist in the middle of a conflagration.  We get a feeling of a fiery future and a clear sense of what a fireman does in that world. 

Now as I said at the beginning of this entry, I'm speaking mostly for myself.  Choosing the art for the cover of your book is entirely up to you.  The content, the colors, the message your trying to get across is all on the writer.  It's your baby, but it is also important to keep in mind how potential readers may react to that image so know your audiences tastes.  Remember you want them to pick your book out of a sea of choices available to them, both online and in an brick and mortar store. 

Also, keep in mind to not have the cover depict something that does not actually appear or happen in the book, because then the buyer is going to feel cheated.  I've seen many books over the years where that happened and felt exactly that way.  As good as the story might have been, I felt betrayed and had a bitter taste left in my mouth which made me gun-shy about picking up another work by that particular author.

I would suggest beta-testing your cover choices with your audience.  Get feedback on that image just as you would on the story itself.  Remember, that book cover is the handshake that introduces your work to potential readers.  Entice them, pique their interest, but don't betray their trust.  What is on that cover should show up somewhere in the book, whether it's a panoramic view of the world the story is taking place on, a moment of adventure, or an image of your heroes/villains.  Play fair and get those readers to pick up your book and leave them wanting your next one.

Until next time, take care and keep writing.

Monday, July 13, 2015

Life's Been Getting In The Way Again...

I swear there are days I wish signs like this would appear so I can prepare myself...

I'm sure the image above speaks volumes of what's been happening with me in the last week or so.  Too many distractions and problems to deal with and very little of me to go around.  I won't go into great detail but I had a financial crisis thanks to my old health insurance (no I wasn't sick or injured it was a premiums issue) that is finally getting resolved.  My finances are very thin at the moment but will improve shortly so now I can breathe a little easier again.  

I also wound up making a major decision on the university front.  I've changed my major from Collaborative Health and Human Services to aiming for a Business Degree.  I'm leaning towards Marketing because there's a much better demand for that field, as well as getting better ideas of how to market my own works in time.  

So slowly but surely I've been weathering the storms that have been hitting me left and right.  But all this chaos also slowed down my writing considerably.  Just dealing with all this nonsense left me physically and emotionally drained to the point I had very little left in the tank. 

Plus I was having a really hard time trying to decide where to take the next scene in the story.  I had several options but none of them were really going anywhere.  They seemed more like unnecessary side streets that did not lend enough to the main story.  

Finally I did the one thing I keep reminding everyone else to do...

Instead of trying to force the story along I listened to what my characters were saying.  They told me where they needed to be in the next scene and I went with their idea.  Suddenly, the story is moving forward again and new tension is building as a result, adding new excitement and mystery to the piece.  So tomorrow, I think I can really settle in and do some serious work on the novel.  I really want to get this first draft completed before the end of the summer so I can get the 2nd draft and editing under way.  Then after a third and maybe fourth rewrite, I'll unleash it on some beta-readers.  I'm still planning on trying to get "The Vampyre Blogs - Coming Home" out by Christmas as well, but we'll see how things are going.

For now I just need some down time to recover from all this recent stress.  But I feel like on my path again.  That's all for now.  Take care everyone and remember to keep writing.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Trying Not To Lose Your Way When Writing...

Wait I'm the one writing this story!  How did I wind up here?

Did you ever lose track of where the book/story you were writing was headed?  If the answer is no, then all I have to say is, "I hate you, now will you teach me your ways oh Master Jedi?"

Okay, all kidding aside, this happened to me just recently, and the sad thing was I didn't even realize that I'd lost my plot until I was about third of the way through the first draft. Now, I don't know if it happened because I was writing part of a series and was trying to remember details from the previous books, or because I got too caught up in the characters (both old and new), but I still managed to lose my original plot which was quite embarrassing.  I mean I could've sworn I left on the kitchen table next to my keys, but when I went back the plot wasn't there.  Neither were my keys for that matter, but I'm going to worry about that later, first things first.

Up until the point where I realized I'd lost the plot, I thought the story was moving along just perfectly.   New characters were being introduced in just the right time and place, fallout from the big final battle from the first book were being addressed, issues of love an coming out to family were being covered, etc.   Yet somehow, the new threat to the characters had somehow fallen off the radar for the most part.  There was a distinct lack of growing menace for the audience to see coming that the characters were completely unaware of...

There very little hint of the approaching storm that was looming on the horizon, which left the reader with a severe lack of growing tension.  This was especially frustrating to me since some of the new characters were in league with my main villain.  Furthermore, the villain of the piece had appeared in both the previous books as as added menace.  There is a huge mystery surrounding him and this story was to be the BIG REVEAL!  We'd learn not only his secrets but that of several others, including that of a ghostly figure who watches over Cassandra, one of my main characters.

Even more irritating to me was the fact that I have this huge climactic battle that will take the readers to places and introduce concepts you never saw coming!  But I still lost that air of growing tension and menace.  Plus, the path the story was on seemed to be veering further away from my intended goal.  Luckily I knew exactly what to do.  After all, this is my story and I was the one in control of where it needed to head.  The path was mine to alter and move as I saw fit...

So what did I do?  Did I go back and dump most of what I'd already written?  The answer to both those questions is a simple 'no'.  There were a lot of interesting scenes taking place that had a good amount of tension and intrigue that simply needed a little tweaking or an added cutaway scene.  That's right, all I had to do was cut away from an existing scene and slip in another one involving my "Big Baddie" which clearly had some connection to what was happening in the existing scene.

In a few other areas all I need to do is remind people that 'certain people' aren't who they appear to be and are actually in league with the villain.  This part is a little trickier because I added a number of new characters and I'm trying to keep the identity of the 'traitor' hidden from all.  This can be a challenge at times since I'm keeping everyone wondering who the double-agent really is.  Some writers like to make it obvious, while others like to keep the audience guessing.  I side with the latter, but even if people figure out who it is I still have a major surprise for them regarding that person.

But enough of that, I'm starting to lose the point of this entry.  It's very easy to lose your way while writing.  The characters and what's going on in their lives can become so interesting at times that we get swept up in those parts of the stories just s easily as our readers can.  But every so often you need to stop and read everything you've written up to that point and see if there are any problems.  Some writers will plow on ahead and complete an entire first draft and then go over it to look for issues, which is perfectly acceptable too.  There is no one right way, there are multiple ones.  The main thing point is to make sure you didn't lose your plot somewhere along the way.  And if you did, make sure you correct it and get things back on track.  Don't just do a first draft and declare your work done and rush to publish it as is.  You'll regret it later.

Until next time, take care and keep writing everyone.

PS: I found my keys, they were in my pocket all long.  Now if I could just remember where I put my glasses...