Monday, October 30, 2017

Shannon A. Hiner

Today's author guest is Shannon A. Hiner. I'm very excited to introduce this fabulous author to you all! She is a New Adult/Fantasy author! In today's interview she shares with us an excerpt from one of her novels and has some great tips for aspiring authors!

Tell me a little more about yourself:

Hello there, I’m Shannon, and I’ve been writing for 13 years now. I love long walks on the beach, Netflix & Chill nights, all the fuzzy creatures, and reading great books. I also write.

My books fall into the New Adult/Fantasy genre, and I am currently knee-deep in my series, The Immortal World. There are 3 books published as of now, Only the Stars Know, Shadows On the Wall, & Die For Me Again. The series is a set of standalone novels set in our world featuring shapeshifters, werewolves, vampires, faeries, angels and a couple of humans. Each novel focuses on a different set of main characters and their unique problems. There is an over-arching series plot in the background, but the novels can easily be read out of order.

When I started writing, I accidentally wrote the last book in the series first, so now I am going back and writing everything that leads up to it. The last book, Submerged In Darkness, will eventually be completely revamped (pun intended) and re-released…but that’s a few years down the road.

What inspired you to start writing?

I’ve always been a book lover, but I didn’t really enjoy writing as a kid. I always associated it with schoolwork. What I didn’t realize is that I had actually been making up stories and playing pretend my whole life. When I was 14, a friend and I created ‘alternate personalities’ for ourselves, complete with backstories spanning thousands of years. With that kind of timeline, it became necessary to write their histories down. Soon, their histories turned into stories, and those stories started to grow.
That year I had started reading in an online community of amateur writers. That was when I discovered my love of dark fantasy, especially vampires. As I read, I thought to myself; I can be more original than this, I can write stories…so I did. That summer I banged out my first draft of what is now my infamous ‘last book’. It was all downhill from there, I had discovered the monster inside...and it hungered for words.

Which teacher was your biggest inspiration and why?

Oh, that’s a hard one. I had some amazing teachers throughout school. I can narrow it down to my top two, I think. The first was Mr. Fish, who was my high school English teacher. He had us keep a composition book and every day we had 10 minutes of free writing. He didn’t care what we wrote, as long as we took that 10 minutes to put our thoughts down. We didn’t get graded on content, just on effort. It was the best 10 minutes of my day.

The second was actually one of my college professors. Molly Emmons had an advanced creative writing class where the students were working on their stories all semester, and would take turns reading to the class and being critiqued. It was some of the best experience I’ve gotten with sharing my work and I learned a lot about story structure and organizing my work.

Where do you see yourself in 5 years?

Ideally, in a cottage on the west coast, writing my 7th novel beside a fire place and window that looks out into the foggy ocean with a cat and 3 dogs curled up beside me.

Realistically? Publishing my 6th novel and doing all those things, probably sans the cottage on the coast (those are expensive!)

If you could have one wish, any wish at all, what would it be and why?

Quit my day job and live off my writing. Can you imagine all the procrastinating I could accomplish if I didn’t have a 9-5 job?

How long on average does it take you to write a book?

The rough draft, depending on its stubbornness, usually takes 3-4 months. Rewriting about 5 more. And then editing is usually about 2 months. Writing is only a year, ideally, but getting ready to publish normally takes about 2 years.

Are you a plotter or pantser? (Do you like to outline, or do you like to fly by the seat of your pants?)

Typically, I pants the rough draft, and plan the rewrite. Pantsing is a good way to let your creativity really roam, and you can learn things about the characters that, while they may not make it into the final draft, will help influence and round them out. It’s a good way to learn what not to do. I had an entire romantic subplot in my latest novel that got a swift axe in the rewrite-thank goodness.

I don’t like a ton of structure to my writing, I like the organic, open a vein and bleed all over the page kind of product.

Who is your favorite character that you've ever created?

My favorite character ever is Damon Reine, a broody, tall dark and handsome walking stereotype. He was the first one I created, and therefore holds the spot of honor in my heart. I haven’t written his book yet (where he is the main character) because I’m giving him time to evolve some more. He makes several appearances in the series though.

Which character in the literary world is your favorite and why?

I could sooner pick a favorite star among the heavens.
If I absolutely had to make a choice, I suppose it would be Jane Eyre. She is who I aspire to be when I eventually decide to grow up; a strongly-principled, passionate, and kind heroine. I, like Mr. Rochester, am constantly refreshed by her goodness and honor.

What genre do you most like to write in?

I prefer New Adult and Fantasy/Paranormal.

Is there another genre you are interested in trying out?

I currently write dark/urban fantasy. But I’ve got some ideas knocking around my head for some paranormal/ ghost stories. I suspect I’ll always stick to fantasy of some sort, though my family wants me to write nonfiction memoirs/anecdotes.

What are you working on now?

I am currently being torn betwixt two projects.
The first is the rough draft of my 5th novel in The Immortal World series, Theory of Resonance. It is about a vampire doctor from the Victorian-era who enlists the help of a studious young woman he meets in one of his modern day college classes to find a way to both explain, and cure werewolfism.
The second is the rewrite of book 4, Tears You Apart, and is the story of Hadrian Catane, the leader of the North American vampires. As he attempts to circumvent a civil war between the vampire clans and the werewolf packs, he finds his life force is inexplicably tied to that of an amateur human seer.

Can you share an excerpt with us?

Excerpt from Die For Me Again: The Immortal World Book 3

Connor had often pondered the word ‘dumbstruck’. What kind of experience could honestly render a person stupid?
He now knew.
Was it the fact that she had appeared from nowhere? One second he was alone in the room, the next she was standing in the kitchenette glaring at him.
Or was it more than that? Was it the cheongsam blouse in gold and blue she wore with tight black pants and knee-high black boots? Was it her Mediterranean looks that combined olive skin and long curly dark hair? Or was it the snapping dark eyes fixed on him in a glare so suspicious he actually felt himself shrinking back?
All of it, he supposed. But nothing ever kept Connor quiet for long.
He had been standing in front of one of the bookshelves, examining the selections there for at least the third time. He raised a hand in hesitant greeting.
“Hi?” It was lame, he knew, but his mind was still trying to recover from its dumb moment. His brains felt like over cooked spaghetti.
She stayed impossibly still and when she spoke it was in a Spanish accented low tenor, “Who are you?”
He winced, her voice was just as sharply perfect as the rest of her, making him fear being an idiot permanently. “Connor Byrd. How did I get here?”
He had taken a step forward but the further narrowing of her eyes stopped him, that and the hand that was hovering over the hilt in her belt. The hilt-his eyes went wider- of a very long, very sharp looking sword.
She pointed with her other hand to the small table and chairs, beside the kitchenette.
“Sit.” Her tone brooked no objections.
Connor hesitated even so. A strange quality hung about the woman. Even if he could ignore the fact that she had just appeared against all the laws of man and nature; something about her screamed caution to his senses.
But God, she was so beautiful, he couldn’t hold out for long. His feet moved of their own will, carrying him to the table. She rounded on him as he moved, keeping her back to the wall. When he sat, she stood about five feet away from him, between Connor and the door.
She crossed her arms and started at him silently. It was then Connor realized she hadn’t blinked the entire time.
As if brought on by his very thought, she blinked finally, and then again. Now she was doing it regularly, as if he had imagined it at first. Had he?
Connor shook his head roughly and put a hand to his temple. His head was beginning to ache again. What was going on?
“How did you find this town?”
Her nostrils flared and she looked for all the world as if she breathed for patience. Motioning to the other door behind him she said in exasperation, “How did you find my town?”
He frowned at her, “Um, by accident? I don’t even know where I am. I was being chased by wol-giant dogs.” He corrected himself, still not ready to admit what had been behind him in the woods.
“And you just happened to stumble into Discord?”
“Discord.” She waved her hands around her, indicating the place was called-
“The town is named Discord? What kind of thing is that to name a place? Not exactly welcoming, you know?” Connor snorted, “What does the travel log say, ‘Welcome to Discord, where your troubles are doubled?’”
She closed her eyes tightly and when they opened again her brows were drawn together and her lips were pursed in such annoyance he again felt the need to draw back in fear
The air around her seemed to shiver with something like danger. It was, admittedly a fanciful thought, but he was prone to them and quite at ease with the way his mind worked.
The way the woman’s foot twitched made him think she was trying not to tap it in impatience. It was pleasantly humanizing to her appearance.
As soon as he noticed it though, she went completely still, a glorious Mediterranean statue, staring at him as if she would come alive and murder him at any second.

Do you have any tips for other aspiring writers?
It cannot be said enough, read. Watch movies, listen to music- these are the things that are going to build inspiration within you.
After that? Write. Write until your fingers ache and your brain feels like mush. Write like your veins are on fire and the only way to relieve the pain is to put the truth down on paper.
Then, find someone who is kind, but firm, to read your work and tell you what is good, and what needs work.
Lastly, don’t give up. The whole world will tell you it’s pointless or impossible-do.not.listen.

Is there anything you would like to share with us before you go?
Well, I’ve recently started a series on my blog that I’m calling the Indie Book Tour. I’m reading and reviewing independently and self-published books of the authors I’ve come across on Twitter and other social media. It’s been a really rewarding and inspiring project so far, and it’s a great way to help my fellow indie authors. You can check it out here:
Thank you so much for hosting me for this interview! It’s been a lot of fun!

Author Bio & Links:

Shannon A Hiner lives in the mountains of Northern California where, she claims, there is a vampire city, a pack of werewolves, and plenty of faeries. She occupies a small parcel of land with her trusty cat, Pangur Ban and a computer fondly known as Raphael. She does not travel without pen and journal.

She has an Associate’s Degree in Language Arts from Butte College, in Oroville CA.

Upon publishing her first novel, Submerged In Darkness, in 2009, Shannon discovered that she had written the last book in an epic series. Since then, she has embarked upon a quest to write and publish all preceding books.

Goodreads | Twitter | Facebook | Amazon | Blog

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

DM Stoddard

Today we welcome DM Stoddard on the blog. I'm very excited to share this author with all of you. DM is the author of a high fantasy series entitled Kingdom of Torrence! DM shares with us his writing, why he enjoys writing in high fantasy, and has some great tips for aspiring authors. I love DM's five tips for aspiring authors. He has some great advice! Definitely be sure to check him out!

Tell me a little about yourself:
I am happily married and the father of three who are growing into fine adults. Our youngest is a senior in high school. Our middle child is about to graduate from college and our eldest is studying on-line while raising our grandson.
I studied creative writing and mythology during my undergraduate years and have years of experience playing and leading Dungeons & Dragons. Becoming an author was a natural progression.
I am currently involved in archery, back packing, and camping. I study martial arts and dabble with art and music. In 2004 I finished my Masters of Business Administration and retired from the navy. I am currently working for the state, which pays the bills, but I hope to retire and start writing more by January 2019.

Why do you most enjoy writing high fantasy?
I got hooked on fantasy after reading the Hobbit and Lord of the Rings. I loved the books, but I always wanted a wider point of view – what was going on in other characters minds and elsewhere in Middle Earth?
I write fantasy to share storylines that I hope my readers will enjoy. I strive to create characters readers may love or hate, and build worlds that they can see. I pull from my life experiences to enrich my scenes. And, I try to create a little mystery that leaves the reader wanting more.

What is your writing process like?
Authors are typically stereo typed as either “pantsers”, who write by the seat of their pants without an outline, or “plotters”, who are outline fanatics. I do a mixture of both. I like to know where the milestones, what the characters must go through to reach the end, but I let the characters lead the storyline.
I start by creating a character and then decide what I want to put the poor devil through. I conceptualize an ending and the things he and/or she must go through to get there, but sometimes the characters surprise me and end up doing something I haven’t foreseen. Simultaneously, I create a map of the area they will travel which grows into a map of the country if not their world. From there I write freely from point-to-point without a plan or outline.

What was the first or most memorable advice you've ever had with writing and what did you do with that advice?
There were two equally important instances. Starting in high school my teachers were really tough on me about my English and particularly my grammar. I was really down on myself about it.
The first instance was a Truckee Meadows Community College where the instructor told me he wished he had more time with me because he saw potential in me. Wow! I had a whole new interest in writing.
The second was my creative writing professor at the University of Maryland. He would say, “Just write”.

How many hours a day do you write?
Not enough. During my first two books I wrote about sixteen hours a week, mostly weekend mornings. My doctor recently told me to lose weight and get healthy. Now I’m trying to squeeze in as much time as I can. Unfortunately, that’s about five or six hours in a good week, not including social media and my web pages. That should go back up when I retire.

How long does it take to write a high fantasy novel? 
My first two books averaged about a year of drafting and redrafting the manuscript; eight months of working with editors; and three months of formatting for print – about two years total.
My debut novel, The Legend of Jerrod, is a 309 page paperback that was a 2014 Next Generation Book Awards finalist in the First Novel Over 80,000 Words category. Amanda’s Quest is a 465 page paperback that was a 2016 NGBA fantasy finalist. In 2016 the cover, which I illustrated and Streetlight Graphics formatted, was a First Place Finalist in the Most Amazing Book Cover contest during Reno Art Town.

What kind of research is involved in creating your worlds when you write high fantasy?
The fun about fantasy writing is that you get to make everything up. As you create the world you have images of what things should be, such as mountain ranges. So that I could better understand the mountains Jerrod and his friends were traversing, I researched what the highest mountains on earth were. I also had to decide whether the laws of physics for breathing above 10,000 feet (as on Earth) would apply on their world, Dendür. Turns out Dwarves do rather well above 10,000 feet while humans have labored breathing – who knew?
I like to use the correct terms for parts of saddles, swords, armor, castles, etc., which requires a little research as well. Even when you are creating something, like new magic, you may get interested in names of elements (such as plants or dragon parts).

What other genre would you ever consider writing in? What are you currently working on now?
I currently have concept notes on an Arthurian/black knight fantasy and a portal fantasy which involves murder/mystery and Japanese historical culture. I also have a SCI FI scheme that I am toying with.
I am working on a non-fiction religious philosophy and I am considering writing a non-fiction management/leadership book. I also have the idea for a martial arts film stowed away for “someday” when I have the time.
I am currently on my third rewrite of The Light of Ak’ron, book three in the Kingdom of Torrence series. I am also working on an atlas or encyclopedia for the continent of Ak’ron and/or the world of Dendür.

Do you listen to music when you write? If so, what kind?
I listen to music less than I listen to movies in the background. Basically, I find fantasy movies to be more in the “mood” than music. When I listen to music it is jazz, classical, Japanese instrumental, meditation sounds, or maybe soft rock. Generally, I find rock and country too distracting. More often I find silence is soothing and allows me to create.

What was your hardest scene to write?
When I don’t like what is developing in the storyline it becomes tedious to write and often leads to rewriting the page or the chapter. Second to that, if my anticipate direction conflicts with a character’s personality I have to work through that quandary and develop a new course – just part of the writing by the seat of your pants (and staying true to your characters).

Tell us more about Amanda's Quest:
Amanda’s Quest can be read without reading the first book. That said, in The Legend of Jerrod Amanda drags Jerrod off to help a wizard find a lost treasure, but on the steps of the Lost Kingdom she literally jumps ship to let everyone elso go on alone. She must fulfill her blood debt to “recover” the Horn of Valhalla from the northern Kingdom of Haithenbeurn. Failure to return the horn to Torrence within a year will mean death for all her friends.
In Amanda’s Quest, Amanda, who travels as a female warrior dressed in black leather, is the greatest thief in Torrence. Between her thieving abilities and her seductive looks, she can get almost anything she wants, except maybe Jerrod’s love. At the moment it seems she may succeed, Amanda is chased down …. oops, that’s a spoiler. As it turns out her real “quest” is more personal than stealing the horn.
Meanwhile, Jerrod and the others struggle with their own challenges, but in the end most of the group is reunited on the battlefield to face an evil army of Fendür, Dark Elves, and rogue wizards who are marching on Torrence. A battle map from the Histories and Arms section in the back of Amanda’s Quest is below:

The following is only available on the inside flaps of the dust cover (hard copy only):

Front Flap
On the created world of Dendür, the reader will travel across the continent of Ak'ron through lands where Zeus and Odin are followed and a new religion, the Order of One, confronts the old ways. In the troubled kingdoms of men and Elves, magic is limited out of fear and dragons are thought to be a thing of the past. Events are unfolding that will bring change to the kingdoms of Ak'ron. The prophecy foresees the coming of a second hero. It is a time of heroes and great deeds.

Back Flap
The reader will meet a legendary bard who spins a magical tale of Amanda's struggles into his song. He sings of individual battles and armies' wars, filled with the cold of steel and the power of magic. Wizards cast spells and druids draw power from nature as warriors wield heavy blades, but nothing is as it seems. The ballad recounts deadly conflicts between men, Elves, and dragons. It is a song of love and desire, survival and betrayal, heroism and enlightenment.

What are your future plans for the next 5 years?
In the next year I will be changing my mundane job, probably retiring. I will still need to work part-time, but I hope to devote up to four hours a day on my writing. I haven’t decided whether there will be another book in the Kingdom of Torrence series or move on to other, shorter works.
I would like to engage some reading groups to get closer to my readers and to share some background of the characters. I would also like to attend more book events and start speaking more. I would like to travel as an author for a while.

Do you have any advice for aspiring writers?
If you love to write, if you can’t live without it, you’re already a “writer”. There are a lot of things you can do as a writer – it’s not just about being an author. Being an “author” is more than just producing a book manuscript. There is a business and social media side which can take more time and money than writing the manuscript.
If you chose to become an author make sure you know why you are writing – money, fame, or pleasure, and stay true to your goal. All of these can be very elusive and you have to grow a thick skin.
As a new author, before you get too far into your manuscript, you should:
  1. Get to know other authors in your genre – join a writers group and attend conferences,
  2. Start small – no more than 60,000 to 80,000 words and no series,
  3. Find the best editor you can afford – stretch your budget to maximize this essential service, and
  4. Be open to change – you have to let go of your writing and be willing to change.

And before you go, is there anything else you would like to share with us?
If you like a book you have read, please write a review on Amazon. The review doesn’t have to be much. Who is your favorite character and why? Anything you particularly liked about the story?
Also, I think most authors, particularly the ones that are just starting out, like hearing from the readers. Send them a note or thank you.

DM Stoddard, author, artist, composer

Twitter: @kingdomtorrence

Can you share an excerpt with us?
I am providing chapter one of Amanda’s Quest. It does not include the preface, which is a continuing short story found in the preface and epilogue of the books.
To view Amanda's Question Chapter 1 click here

Book Summary:

Leaving her friends behind to ascend Mount Thoradan, Amanda journeys alone towards the northern realm to “recover” the legendary Horn of Valhalla and bring it to the Guild of the Crimson Pommel. With less than a year remaining she races through the barbaric lands of the followers of Odin to complete her blood-debt, promised as payment for healing the half-Elven druid princess. Only the completion of her debt will save her and her friends, but Amanda’s quest holds challenges beyond her comprehension. As events escalate, wizards, druids, knights, and warriors become entangled in deadly conflicts and two dragons become bitter enemies.

I can't wait to see what else D.M. Stoddard brings to the literary world! Thank you for stopping by!

Thursday, October 19, 2017

October is Magical

"Mrs Cahill, it's October."

Words spoken by one of my students on October 3rd couldn't have been more perfect. October is my absolute favorite month, and to hear my student say this on our first day of October together, and to see his face light up was pure magic. I told him "Yes buddy, it's October!" With the same enthusiasm as he. Every day, he talks about October, and every time it melts my heart because I get it. October is magical.

First there's leaves changing coloring, from green to yellows, oranges, and reds. When I lived in Cheney, WA and went to college at EWU, I would spend time just walking the campus because it was covered in these vibrant colored leaves. Every where you looked, leaves coated the ground. I mean, isn't that magical?

The next thing I love about October? Pumpkins. They are the cutest orange thing ever.
Candy Corn. I'm not a big sweet tooth, but love me some Candy Corn in October. Maybe because it's already something that's deemed "Fall" and so to me, it even tastes like Fall.

Halloween. I love Halloween. As  kid, I loved dressing up and going trick or treating. As an adult, I love giving candy to trick or treaters. Husband and I even buy candy in bulk in advance because we get so many trick or treaters. And I love it. My whole night is jumping off the couch to answer the door every few minutes and it's so much fun!

Fall Festival is another thing I love. It's a huge even that my school puts on. It's alot of work, but our booth is pretty fun. We call it Sponge Bob Sponge Toss. Who wouldn't love throwing a wet sponge at someone's face? It definitely makes for a very wet and very cold evening, but the kids love it!

I love all the Fall theme things that come out too. The festive food, the festive smells, the festive colors. It's the best thing ever!

I love DECORATING for Fall! Especially decorating our yard for Halloween. We don't go overboard like some people, but if it weren't so expensive, we just might be those people!

Of everything about October I think by far, it's the pumpkins and the leaves changing color (something that does not happen in Texas and I miss so terribly much.)

So yeah, October... October is magical.

I could have been BIT by a zombie this October and STILL be crazy about October. It's the best month by far.

So tell me, what's your favorite month?

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Let Me Dialogue With You

Guest Post
by Eric Lahti
Email Address:

Back in high school, I had a buddy who thought outside the box. I’ll call him CD to protect his identiy. CD used to write random thoughts, some of which were funny, others thoughtful, and try to sell them to the Jehovah’s Witnesses who came to his door. In his mind, if they were going to try to sell copies of The Watchtower to him, he was going to sell his own magazine to them.
He never did manage to sell any magazines, but he’s been a wealth of stories for me.
One day during a college break, we were sitting in the McDonald’s in the local Walmart and shooting the breeze. It would seem he had a lot of free time on his hands in college and decided on the ultimate way to pick up women at the bar. He was going to buy an Armenian Air Force uniform he’d found somewhere and try to convince people he’d flown Harriers during the Falklands War.
Yes, this was a long time ago. Thanks for asking.
Since he couldn’t do a British accent to save his own butt, he’d come up with some non-distinct, but vaguely foreign-sounding accent. He’d been observing the foreign students at UNM and had discovered a way to really sell his story. If someone were to ask him a question, he’d pause briefly, like he was translating the question from English to whatever language he was pretending to be fluent in, before answering.
“You really flew Harrier jump jets during the Falklands War?”
Pause. “Yes. Yes, I did.”
I don’t know if he ever tried it in real life, but I’m guessing probably not. However, if you ever come across a guy in a bar wearing an Armenian Air Force uniform and claiming to have flown Harriers during the Falklands War, tell him I said hi and remind him he’s got a wife at home who may or may not know about his past life.
CD’s attention to detail in building a character for the sole purpose of picking up women at dive bars in Albuquerque, New Mexico shows the level of effort that should go into writing characters and, more importantly, the way characters interact with the world you’re creating. It’s the little things that sell characters. Little vocal quirks, like pausing before speaking, add a depth of realism that you just can’t get by slapping some words on a page.
Now, this little diatribe of mine is less about character creation and more about dialogue. Unfortunately, those two things are very intertwined with each other. Also unfortunately, the dialogue aspect of character creation is one of the easiest things to completely screw up. How many times have you come across an excellent narrative only to have it nosedive the first time a character talks?
“I would never do something like, for in doing that, I have forgone my something.”
Seriously, who talks like that?
Writers tend to be introverts. Not always, but there’s definitely a trend that way. You can’t spend the day hammering away at a typewriter, smoking, and swilling whisky like it’s fitness water if you’re extroverted. Don’t get me wrong, introversion can be a good thing. It’s hard to craft worlds and create things to put in those worlds when someone wants to, you know, talk and do stuff.
I’m talking to my characters, thank you very much.
When we spend too much alone – whisky doesn’t count as an interactive friend – we start to forget what people are really like. Before you yell, “So what?” and start throwing things at the computer, remember this: regular people are the ones you’re trying to sell books to. And regular people like to see things that look real to them. As we’ve already established, one of the best ways to make a character look real is through the way they talk.
But dialogue is more than just character development, it serves other important purposes in a book. Everyone loves to say, “Show, don’t tell”, and dialogue is one of the best ways to do that. If you’ve got exposition to handle, try letting the characters talk about it. If there’s a complex plot substructure or twist, let the characters explain it rather than resorting to a few paragraphs explaining why something happened.
“You mean the minions of Hell aren’t really bad guys so much as misunderstood folks that have been the victims of a multi-millennium smear campaign propagated by a group that had a profit motive?”
“Exactly! These guys aren’t the real bad guys, those guys over there are!”
“My God! It was Old Man Jenkins leading them all along!”
Okay, not exactly my best dialogue, but you get the point. Let the characters do the heavy lifting when explaining things. It makes for more interesting writing and, let’s face it, it’s a time-honored tradition. Just ask Aristotle.
Now we’ve got a couple good reasons to work with dialogue in a story: character development and showing rather than telling. The problem is, if your dialogue isn’t realistic, no one will read it and all your time spent putting your characters in Armenian Air Force uniforms and letting them explain the dynamics of your world will be for naught.
So, how do you write realistic dialogue? Well, fortunately, that’s the easy part. It does require a modicum of effort, but it’s effort well-spent. Go back to that idea that regular people read books and they want to read about people that seem real. Then go listen to some real people talking. Bada bing, bada boom, you’ve got the makings of good dialogue.
The real world, no matter how irksome it may be sometimes, is full of examples of how to write good dialogue. The first thing you have to do is toss aside all the rules of grammar that we’re all supposed to adhere to when we’re writing. Follow the rules in the text, but realize people don’t speak in grammatically correct sentences. People talk over each other, they use contractions and colloquialisms, conversations wander, points don’t always go where we think they’re supposed to go. Sometimes people forget their points entirely.
My buddy in college and I could spend all night talking. This was back before texting and when Geocities was still a thing, so talking was a good way to pass the time waiting for the damned modem to connect. Our conversations went all over the place and outsiders had trouble keeping up. One night, he, his girlfriend, and I were all out by the fountain chatting and looking at the stars. As per usual, the conversation drifted all over the place like a drunken frat boy and his poor girlfriend was feeling a bit lost.
“You guys shift topics constantly,” she said, “how do you do that?”
“Yep,” I replied, “We shift gears so fast…”
And then I lost my witty retort and ended with the lame-ass “we go really fast.”
“We shift gears so fast…we go really fast.”
I swear, I actually had something for that and lost it mid-sentence. Poof. Gone. Vanished. I want to say my buddy wrote that whole scene into a book of his own.
People do that kind of thing all the time. Conversation is rarely linear, sometimes doesn’t make a whole lot of sense, and almost never follows the grammatical rules that govern writing. If you want to make your dialogue more realistic, listen to people talking and use what you learn. Toss aside the monologuing, kick the perfect sentence structure to the curb, and revel in all the things you don’t get to do in the main part of the text.
You’re not supposed to use “ain’t” in good writing because it’s not a word? People use it all the time, so stuff it into dialogue. Do you love thinking in run-on sentences, but worry about getting tagged by grammar Nazis? Let a character babble away. Give them linguistic quirks like pausing before talking or saying “Okay” a lot at the end of sentences. Christoph Fischer did an excellent job with this in his book In Search Of A Revolution. In that book, Fischer had a character repeat words when he was stressed or otherwise out of his element. “No, no, no. That’s not what’s supposed to happen.” Things like that.
The trick here is that the dialogue must fit the character. It’s unlikely you’ll ever have an aristocrat use the word “ain’t”, but it ain’t outside the realm of possibilities if you develop the character that way. This is where you embrace the character with all his or her flaws and really dig into their head. Remember, just like real people, characters reveal their natures through not only what they do, but what they say, so the dialogue has to fit the psychology of the character. Since you created the character, you’re the ultimate arbiter of whether a line of dialogue fits a character’s development. As long as you as a writer don’t look at what your characters are saying and think it’s out of character, it’s unlikely anyone else will, either.
One gotcha here: a character’s linguistic quirks and dialogue has to remain intact throughout the whole of the book or story. I had a character in a recent book who I decided shouldn’t use contractions. The last few pages of the story explained why, so it became important that none of his dialogue had a contraction. It was nightmarish looping through the whole text and verifying Chan never shortened his words.
In the end, it might pay off or it might not. It’s possible, that was something most people will ignore or not even notice. That may be a perfect example of taking a linguistic quirk too far, but it did differentiate his dialogue from the rest of the characters who cursed and used contractions with reckless abandon, so it wasn’t a complete waste.
Let your characters live and breathe. Sure, dress them in Armenian Air Force uniforms and let them claim to have flown Harriers, but if you want to make them real, it’s their dialogue that will do that. Pay attention to how people really talk and you’ll be well on your way. Don’t be afraid to copy conversations from your best friend in high school or the quirks your boss gets when she’s mad that the project still isn’t done. Take all those things and weave them into the story. Observe the world and use what you find to enhance your writing. Your dialogue will be that much more realistic because it’s based on real conversations.

Monday, October 16, 2017

Laura Roettiger

I am so excited to welcome Laura on the blog today! Laura shares with us about her writing experience, her writing tips, and an excerpt from a novel she is currently working on!

Tell me a little more about yourself:
I am a life-long Chicagoan who moved a year ago to the Roosevelt National Forest, just west of Boulder, Colorado and am now living at 8200 ft, fulfilling a long time dream of living in nature and the mountains. I am a reading specialist and have recently worked as an environmental educator. My love for country music, dancing, and travel also factor into who I am and what I do other than writing. I have raised three children who are all independent and live in three different cities. I'm extroverted which is not typical for a writer. It's an interesting obstacle.

When you write, do you listen to music or do you prefer silence? 
I usually play music before I write for inspiration and then slower music while I write. My WIP is set in 1986 so I sometimes put Madonna on or even AC/DC to get into the character’s head but my personal music preference is country. I have several different mixes that include Lady Antebellum, Thomas Rhett, Keith Urban, Jason Aldean, Tim McGraw, and Dierks Bentley for while I’m writing.

If you could live in any literary world, what would it be and why?
I have always been drawn to Fitzgerald’s Jazz Age 1920’s from The Great GatsbyThis Side of Paradise, and some of his short stories. I love the exterior glamour of the worlds he created layered over the underbelly of alcoholism, heart break and the struggle of new and old money or no money at all. Also, my grandmother was a flapper and I think I would have been too, had I been born in that era.  I even named the high school in my novel Fitzgerald High and set it in Minnesota where he was born.

What five things do you do to prepare yourself to start writing?
  1. If there is research related to the day’s writing, I do that first. For my picture books, which are STEM based, I usually research a topic and write pages of notes to immerse myself in the subject before I begin.
  2. I always make sure I have something to drink nearby (coffee or water depending upon the time of day) so that I don’t have to get up for that reason.
  3. I usually read back over some or all of the previous day’s writing to make sure I pick up where I left off.
  4. I listen to music if it’s relevant to the scene ahead. Imagine a research-based dance party.
  5. I make sure the sound on my laptop is off so I am not distracted by emails or texts.

What brought you to the world of writing?
I have always wanted to be a writer. I was a journalist in high school and college. I should have pursued that dream after college but instead got married and became a banker and a mother. When my children were in school, I went back to earn a masters in teaching with a specialty in reading so I was able to read and write with my students in Chicago. A year ago, I moved to Colorado to focus on my writing, more-or-less full time.

What book has most influenced your writing?
It’s hard to choose one author, let alone one book. I have always been a fan of Elizabeth Berg. Her style of storytelling is approachable, full of realistic dialogue, and people I would like to know. I think the first book of hers that I read was What We Keep. It’s a story about two sisters, which is something I know a lot about, and an absent mother which is something I knew nothing about. My mother was my favorite person in the world and we were very close until her death in 2000. The pain of not having a mother, as seen through the eyes of a young girl in that book had a great impact on me.

Are you a morning writer, afternoon writer, or an evening writer? Does the time of day you write impact your writing?
I write anytime of day, but usually in the morning. Sometimes, when I am on a roll I can go all day and even delay dinner because I’m not at a stopping point. In spite of advice to the contrary, I don’t write every day.

What is your writing process? 
I write picture books and YA/Women’s fiction so my process is different for each. My picture book process involves writing in my mind for days or weeks before I actually begin typing. Each book has a different science lesson so I also do considerable research ahead of writing even if I don’t include it in the book. I spent days reading about forest fires, animal behavior during and after a forest fire, and news articles about specific fires before I started writing my most recent book. For a novel, I try to think about the characters, what they would do and say as the scenes unfold, and then try to let them take the scene where they want it to go. I also plan scenes and write poetry while I’m walking or hiking. Then, I stop and type it as a text message to myself and add it into my WIP later.

What do you find most challenging about writing?
I am in the process of a lot of revision these days and that is definitely the hardest part. I don’t have trouble getting things written, but making it better based on feedback and my own response to what I write is challenging. I am also struggling to sort out feedback from a variety of sources because it’s often conflicting opinions from different sources. I want to be true to my own message as a writer so I usually take time to think about all of the feedback and try to take what is useful and discard the rest. Right now, I am working to make sure my story arc is realistic and moving for the reader.

What do you love most about writing?
The feeling that I have a story to tell and, after multiple revisions, I have gotten my ideas out. I have chosen to make my picture books reflect my students from Chicago and look forward to the day when they can see themselves in my characters. Also, as I was writing my first novel, I had a group of readers who were giving me feedback and I loved when they begged me to write faster. That was excellent motivation that the story I was telling was meaningful and interesting.

Do you have any tips for other aspiring authors?
Don’t let anything get in the way of your dream and believe in your own process.

What are you currently working on now?
I’m revising my first novel which started as Women’s fiction, was labeled YA, but is now back to Women’s fiction. It is a story set in 1986 about a high school girl with big dreams and her mother who also had big dreams but didn’t pursue them. The struggle between them, the secrets and promises, and ultimately how the daughter finds her way to independence.
I’m also in the brainstorming stage for a picture book I’m very excited about. The main character is a smart Spanish-speaking girl who wants to succeed in school and how it feels to be in an environment where everyone speaks English. It is based on students I taught in Chicago.

Can you share an excerpt with us?
From my novel: Hanna and her best friend Angela discussing summer jobs.
“Where do you want to work?” Angela asked.
“I have some applications filled out at stores in the mall. I’m hoping for Lacey’s.” Hanna shifted in her seat, smoothing her short skirt from Lacey’s over her, thighs. "I love their clothes and they want me to come in on Saturday for an interview.”
“I think Patty and Constance are babysitting for families that live on Riverside Drive and another family up there is looking for someone. What about that?” Angela said.
Hanna recognized that helpful, mother hen tone and struck back.
“The only thing worse than sweating my ass off in a kitchen and reeking of cooking oil, would be babysitting. Besides, I think they already talked Erica into being the third member of their babysitting club,” Hanna answered.
“Well, at Spud Hut we don’t fry potatoes, we bake them to perfection and then create your order with twenty-seven delicious toppings.” Angela repeated the company motto. She’d been working there since Christmas break and apparently wasn’t letting the second slam at her job go unaccounted.
“Sorry, I didn’t mean to insult you.”
“Look, I like working there, even if you don’t think it’s a good job. Could you at least stop with the nasty comments?” Angela’s hands clenched the steering wheel.
“I’m sorry. It wasn’t aimed at you,” Hanna said putting her hand on Angela’s arm in an attempt to release the tension. “
What do you have against babysitting?” Angela asked slowing the car, turning left onto Hanna’s street. The twelve houses on Arborvitae Circle all looked similar, but some yards were decorated with elaborate gardens while others were decorated with bikes, scooters and strollers. Most of the houses had children and the little ones ran freely from yard to yard on the quiet street.  Angela pulled into Hanna’s driveway lined with planters full of purple and yellow pansies.
“I don’t know, maybe for starters, the fact that little kids have no control over bodily fluids. I mean, Patty told me she’s been sneezed on, bled on, peed on, and worse.” Hanna said unbuckling her seat belt.
“Worse?” Angela giggled turning the key. She reached in her purse and pulled out a pack of spearmint gum. Both girls took a stick.
“Seriously, didn’t you hear Constance talking about the night when her mom had to bring her an entire change of clothes because that two-year-old threw up red Gatorade all over her?”
Angela pretended to gag, almost choking on the gum.
“I guess I missed that story. That sounds pretty awful.”
“Well, if Lacey’s works out, I’ll have a new wardrobe for senior year. I think we get a discount. Am I allowed to ask about that at the interview?”
“You’ll end up spending all of your paychecks right there. They’d be stupid not to hire you,” Angela replied.
“Right? I can’t wait until Saturday. I'm pretty sure I’ll get the job. Maybe they’ll even have me start on Saturday. It’s going to be awesome.” Hanna said flashing a smile, relieved that Angela wasn’t mad.
“See you tomorrow, Han.”
“Ya, I’ll probably call you later if I can’t figure out the Algebra.”
“Okay, then I guess I’ll talk to you tonight,” Angela called back as Hanna slammed the passenger door.

Before you go, is there anything else you would like to share with us?
I also love photography and hope one day to write a picture book that is illustrated with my own photographs.

Author Links:

Friday, October 13, 2017

10 Things I Wish I Knew About Being an Author When I First Started

Guest Post
by Holden Sheppard
As a boy, I was easily duped by some of the myths that swirl around becoming an author. The Myth of Overnight Success. The Myth of the Rich and Famous Author. The Myth of the Divine Muse and Her Timely Inspiration. The Myth of the Validation of Publication.
It’s easy to get lost in the myths of an industry when you’re a total noob and don’t know anything about it. It wasn’t until I became a practising author that I discovered what was really involved – and, usually, I found out the hard way.
So, I wanted to share the 10 things I wish I knew about being an author when I first started this quest. These are the lessons that helped me grow from a wannabe into a published author.

1. Writing Time is Made, Not Found  
As a teenager, I would spend my summer holidays writing relentlessly, because for two months I had literally no other demands on my time. Man, I loved those days. But after I turned eighteen, adulthood struck me like a blunt shovel to the face. I found myself mired in a listless struggle. I was eternally wanting to work on my novel, but work, and study, and family, and relationships – not to mention bills and administration – all jostled for pole position in my schedule. Progress was not just painfully slow, it was often non-existent: there were a couple of years in there where I don’t think I wrote anything at all, other than notes.
The reason for my progress paralysis was that I was expecting to find those golden free months to write, but this time doesn’t happen when you’re a grown up. As an adult, one’s schedule – like nature – abhors a vacuum. Your days will constantly be full of the usual humdrum, and this won’t magically clear one day. You probably won’t get to the bottom of your email inbox. There will always be more housework to be done, or another friend to catch up with for a drink. You have to actually clear time in your diary. You have to make time for your writing.
Since learning this in 2014, I’ve made regular time for writing in my schedule. Every week, there are hours dedicated to both administration and creative time. This means that I sometimes withdraw socially, or don’t go to an event, or blow off some other work until a later date – but it’s what took me from a wannabe to a practising artist.

2. Good Writing is Rewriting
It used to really bother me that the amazing novel I could see in my mind’s eye wouldn’t just spill straight out onto the page. I remember sitting in a hotel room in Amsterdam once, feeling so inspired that I thought I would smash out half my novel in that one evening. I ended up writing a few pages of chapter one, then rage quitting. I was so frustrated. The writing wasn’t impressive. The imagery wasn’t evocative. The metaphors were limp, and so I gave up.
This used to stymie me year after year until I learned that the best writing is almost universally rewriting. You know your precious first draft? Well, it’s supposed to be a steaming pile of poo. The point of the first draft is not to be good: it just needs to exist, because then it can be made good after. The best metaphor I have found is that writing a first draft is like shovelling sand into a sandbox so you can build a sandcastle – your masterpiece – with it.

3. Your Art is a Product
For many writers, it’s hard to come to terms with the commercial reality that, one day, your precious story is going to become a product, like a shiny Maserati in a sales yard or one of those dodgy Himalayan Salt Lamps. This means you will have to sell it to someone: either directly to readers and bookstores if you go the indie route, or to agents and publishers if you want to land a traditional deal. The only way to avoid this is to keep your novel locked up on your laptop and never show it to a soul, but I’ve never met an author who wanted to do that.
I used to rail about this when I was an emaciated eighteen-year-old undergrad. I wanted to think of my writing as pure, unfettered, unadulterated art, not a product for consumption; publishers, I figured, would discover my genius without me needing to think about it. Thankfully, some of my lecturers knocked some sense into me. Nobody is going to just magically unearth your writing like an archaeologist painstakingly unearths a Mayan ruin. Your book is a product, and you are its biggest (and, to start out, only) cheerleader. You gotta hustle.

4. Confidence is King
Once you accept your book is a product, there is another bitter pill to swallow: you are a salesman. Even though I have a sales background – I worked in banking and financial sales for a few years – I still struggled with this at first. It can feel obnoxious to sing your own book’s praises. I’m Australian, and we tend to prefer humble people to braggarts, which makes it uniquely challenging to promote yourself.
What I have learned is that a quiet, humble writer who never talks about his books may be better tolerated by his acquaintances, sure, but he will also not sell as many books. Don’t undervalue your achievement. You wrote a book. It got published. You did a thing, and you should feel confident to sing from the rooftops about it. You don’t want to be pushy or relentless, of course – there’s a reason people roll their eyes at Vegans, Crossfitters and evangelists – but you should feel confident to talk about your achievement and your passion.

5. Be Tenacious
You know when you go to the mall and see someone at one of those temporary stands in the middle, hawking the latest anti-aging face cream or sexy firemen charity calendar or – hell – Himalayan Salt Lamps? There are two lessons that all writers can learn from these poor, desperate schmucks.
Firstly, you never want to be so much of a salesman for your art that you piss people off as much as these bastards do. Rein it in, and be responsive to people’s body language. If they’re shifting uncomfortably, or trying to physically escape you, stop pitching and move on.
Secondly, and more importantly, what writers can learn from these salespeople is good, old-fashioned grit. Do you know how it feels to constantly be fobbed off, scowled at and utterly rejected as a human being? I don’t. I’m a sensitive author and working a job like that would be death by a thousand cuts. But these people plaster a vague smile on their face and keep flogging their wares because, eventually, someone will buy what they’re selling. Authors need this level of tenacity: to keep querying agents and publishers in the face of constant rejection, knowing that each ‘no’ is one tiny step closer to the ‘yes’ we’re dreaming of.

6. Rejections Hurt
Speaking of rejection, it stings like a mofo and that never changes. Even if you know you’re meant to be able to persevere through rejections, and that it’s part of a career as an author, it doesn’t make it hurt any less when they come rolling in. The rejection that really torpedoed me was when I first queried the original version of my first full-length fantasy novel. After some form rejections, I had a full request from a very good agent. Then he called me, and I figured it was an acceptance, and thought, “Finally! After all my years of hard work, I’ve made it!”
Nope. He called to reject me. I curled up into the fetal position, shed a bit of eye water, and fell asleep. The next day, I got up, had a shower, listened to Marry the Night by Lady Gaga and soldiered on. No rejection since this one has ever hurt as much. As Cat Stevens sang, the first cut is the deepest.
Don’t listen to people who tell you to magically toughen up when you get a rejection. You need to feel the pain, get through it and then soldier on. Each time you do this, you become tougher, and before long, your leathery hide will get you through any obstacle. But a thick skin doesn’t come from ignoring what hurts you; it comes from being cut and letting the wound scar over.

7. Don’t Be Stubborn – Editors and Published Authors Do Know Better
I often read advice from published authors and editors. Although they always offer excellent tips, I have to admit I have occasionally found myself thinking, as artists with their egos are wont to do, “Well, yes, this is good advice, but it doesn’t apply to me.”
I once had the good fortune to meet acclaimed action author Matthew Reilly at a book signing, and I asked him for advice on getting published. He suggested I do another draft of my manuscript before querying. Even though he was correct, my first response was this advice doesn’t apply to me. After all, he didn’t know I’d already done seven drafts and worked with an editor. I was, of course, a prize idiot. Six months and several rejections later, I realised my novel did, in fact, need a significant rework. It was back to the drawing board.
The lesson for me was that I am not an outlier or a special case. I took a sledgehammer to my ego and accepted that I have a lot to learn from others – whether they are accomplished editors, shark-toothed agents, famous bestselling authors or even fellow struggling indie authors. Once you open yourself up to actually listen to and accept advice, you really begin to grow.

8. Your Friends and Family Aren’t Always Going to Get You
This is a really hard one to admit. Most authors will naturally turn to their family and friends when it comes time to promote their books. After your years of hard work – and all their needling, sarcastic questions about when your novel is finally going to come out – you ache for validation and acceptance. More: you want their congratulations.
The more I speak to fellow authors on Twitter, the more I hear how this can often be a bitterly disappointing experience. So many of us have the same let-downs. Family members who don’t even acknowledge your new release, or seem irritated by it. Friends who say they’ll read it, but never do. Workmates who ask how they can support your writing, and in the next breath ask for a free copy of your novel, not once making the connection that we are desperately counting on our personal networks to make our first sales. Even worse are those who seem to miss the point entirely that you’re clinging to their every word, longing for feedback, only to be told about the typo on page twelve.
Keep in mind that many in your personal networks may not be artists or writers and they may genuinely not understand the fragility of our egos and our desire for feedback. The reality is that you can’t make someone love your writing and that isn’t your job. Your job is to write as well as you can and tell the stories you were put on this planet to tell. Those stories will find their audience. If that audience happens to overlap with some blood relatives and high school friends, Mazel Tov. If not, don’t try to squeeze blood from that stone: you’ll only hurt yourself. Enjoy any support that does come your way, and don’t gnash your teeth about the people who don’t have your back.

9. Your First Novel May Not Be “The One”
This is probably the most traumatic lesson for any writer, but for many authors, it’s their second or third novel – not their first – that ends up getting published. The reality is that we get better at something with experience, and it is often the experience of writing a first novel that makes us good enough to write a second, publishable one.
Don’t give up on your first novel, but if you’re collapsing under an avalanche of rejections for one manuscript, or simply feel that it’s not working yet, you can always put it aside for a bit and try another project. It is unlikely your second attempt will be worse than your first. For me, when I shelved my fantasy manuscript temporarily, I worked on a Young Adult novel for my second manuscript. I was blown away by how much I had progressed as an author and how much more compelling the work was. The reactions from editors and beta readers so far tells me my second novel is in much better shape than the first.
And the comforting this is that I can always revisit the first manuscript later on. There is no expiry date on a work in progress.

10. It’s Hard Being a Writer, But It’s Much Nicer Than Having a “Real Job”

I’ve wanted to be a novelist since I was seven, and in the intervening two decades, I can honestly say I have never thought about giving up on my dream. That doesn’t mean it’s been an easy road. Becoming a writer is not for the faint of heart: for me, it has involved late nights, poverty, loneliness, isolation, addictions, trauma, rejection and ongoing existential crises.

A couple of times, I have been so scared about how difficult this path would be that I have delayed it. I’ve taken up full-time jobs at times, firstly in banking and later at a university. And I can tell you that during those times I was desperately unhappy. To compensate, I ate and I drank and I smoked. I once ate McDonald’s for all three meals in one day. I became a shell of myself because I wasn’t doing what I was put on this planet to do.

If you’re a writer, it’s in your blood and there’s not a damn thing you can do to undo it. It takes courage, but the best thing you can do is steel yourself and dive in headfirst to destiny. Yes, it’s a hard road, but the road of avoidance is much harder, sadder, and less fulfilling. It’s hard being a writer, sure – but it’s way better than any other job. We only live on this Earth for a very short time, so make the most of it. Write and don’t ever give up. If you get rejected, don’t stop; get better and better until you are simply too good to be rejected. Write your story and tell it to the world. You are the only one who can.  

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Willie Handler

I am so excited to welcome Willie Handler on the blog today! Willie is an author from Canada. He's a funny, talented guy that I bumped into on Twitter and I have enjoyed getting to know more about him. In today's interview he offers insight into his writing, his future plans as a writer, and a link to his first chapter in his novel Love Mars, Hated the Food. Be sure to check out his blog and reach out to him on social media!

Tell me more about yourself:
I got into writing later in life. I've had a few career changes so the idea of becoming a writer is very much in character. I began as a hospital administrator having graduated from the Fox School of Business at Temple University. I quickly became bored with line administration and jumped an opportunity to move into public policy analysis and development at the Ontario Workers' Compensation Board. I was asked to assist a government secretariat that was introducing no-fault auto insurance. My six-week assignment turned into a twenty-year career. During that time, I became the authority on auto insurance in Ontario. I left almost six years ago to do some consulting and find search for another career. About three years ago, I decided to take a stab at writing a novel. I have always lived in Toronto. I've been married 36 years and have a daughter and a grandson.

What inspired you to first start writing?
I had done a lot of writing during my career but it was all very technical and boring. I wanted to do some fun writing and try to write a novel. It was months before I started telling people I was writing because I was unsure I could pull it off. But I loved doing it and now hooked.

What was the first story you remember writing?
My first story was called The Darwin System. It was about using a monkey to randomly select people who had applied for tickets to attend the Pan Am Games. The story is posted on my blog.

What genre do you most enjoy writing?

My interests have alway gravitated to humor. I love Groucho Marx, Woody Allen and Mel Brooks. I don't see myself writing any other genre. Although, you can combine humor with any other genre,.

What is the biggest surprise that you experienced after becoming a writer?

How difficult it is to market your work. Your book is out there with millions of others. It's incredibly tough and time consuming.

What is your writing muse?

Skippy the Monkey. I wrote about Skippy on my blog.

What is your writing process?

Writing process? Am I supposed to have one?
I am a totally undisciplined writer. I can be writing away furiously one day followed by a day of organizing my paper clips by size and color. I don’t do story plans or outlines. I’m strictly an organic writer. I only really know what will be in the chapter I’m currently working on. The rest of the plot is either fuzzy or undecided. It wasn't until I wrote the final three chapters that I decided how my current novel was going to end.
I love waking up in the morning with a brilliant idea for the book. I’ll grab some coffee and will begin to bang away at my laptop. Sometimes the idea applies to a previous chapter, which means I need to work a thread through portions of the story already written. Other times it may apply to a future chapter. People will ask why my writing process is so slow. It’s because I’m always jumping around changing or adding things. But it works for me.

Do you write to music or silence?

Silence. I once tried playing Sounds of Silence by Simon and Garfunkel.  After a while I realized it was music and turned it off.

What do you find most challenging about being a writer?
It's all challenging and a little scary when you don't know where your story is going. But the biggest challenge is maintaining the discipline to see a writing project through. It takes me about a year to finish a first draft. You go through a lot of ups and down over a twelve-month period. But what a great feeling when you finish.

Do your characters seem to hijack the story or do you feel like you have the reigns of the story?

I'm not that type of writer where my characters are driving the story. I'm always in the driver's seat. But the voices of my characters are in my head. They provide me with suggestions around dialogue but not the plot.

If you were running the 100 yard dash with a new writer. What writing, publishing wisdom would you bestow upon him/her before you reached the 100 yards?
Read all you can about writing. Talk to other writers. Then forget about what everyone tells you and just do what feels right. There are many writing conventions but this is art form so you can ignore them all.

Of all the characters you have created, which is your favorite and why?
I love Rick Tompkins from THE ROAD AHEAD. He is annoying and embarrassing, yet something about him draws you in. The character far exceeded my expectations. I'm not big on sequel but I might use him in another novel one day. With Donald Trump in the White House, you appreciate the character that much more.

Do you have any hidden or uncommon talents?

Talent? I don't think so. I try a lot of things but don't excel at anything. I'm your typical Everyman but with a sense of humor.

Where did you get the idea for The Road Ahead?
THE ROAD AHEAD is based on my many years working in government. The characters are fictional but reflects people and events I encountered every day over a twenty-year period. Writing the novel was a little cathartic. I don't care how many copies I sell, I loved working on the book.

Tell us more about Loved Mars, Hated the Food. Can you share an excerpt with us?
It’s an interesting how I fell into this story. Two years ago, I was taking a creative writing course on humor. In the first class, we went around the room doing introductions. When it came to me, I said in a deadpan that I must have made some mistake because I was supposed to be in science fiction writing course. The next week when I returned, the instructor was surprised to see me back. I told him that I decided to stay and would make my science fiction book funny. Each week we had a writing assignment. One week I decided to write a story about the first Starbucks on Mars. After I read it in class, people began asking me if the story was from my novel. I said I was joking about the science fiction class and was actually writing a political satire. The instructor told me that the story was pretty good and I should consider working more on it. As I thought about it, I began to realize that I would enjoy writing a funny scifi story.
I played around with a couple of ideas. There was a short lived 1960s TV series called My Favorite Martian. It was about a Martian who crashes his spaceship on Earth and secretly lives with this young bachelor who tells people the Martian is his uncle. I decided to reverse the situation and have an Earthling, Dix Jenner, stuck on Mars. My character is a chef, which is intended to indirectly poke fun at the film, The Martian, in which the Matt Damon character is a botanist. The title of the book reflects Dix obsession with food. Dix makes no effort to integrate into Martian culture. Instead, it continually attempts to introduce Earth culture to Mars with humorous results.
Chapter one is posted on my blog.

What are your future plans with writing?
I'm a Pantser. I have no plans! I will write another novel but until I sit down to write it, I'm not sure what that book will be about. I just know it will be funny.

Is there anything else you would like to share with us?

Yes, two things.
First, I just made a fresh pot of espresso. I know many writers are coffee addicts.The first 100 addicts that knock on my door get a shot of coffee that will make their toes curl.
Second, this is where you can pick up THE ROAD AHEAD (yeah, I have to plug it).  Amazon Link

The Road Ahead Book Summary:

Rick Tompkins, a suburban Toronto insurance broker, never considered a career in politics until a good friend, who happens to be the leader of the Conservative party, asks him to run for office. He accepts the offer, with the understanding that he would probably not win, but can use the opportunity to gain some visibility for himself and his business. Jerry Switzer, a veteran party worker, is sent in to guide Rick through a campaign in a riding that hasn't elected a Conservative in years.
Rick fumbles his way through the election campaign and manages a surprise win but at the expense of saddling his party with an impossible commitment. What makes matters worse, Rick is anything but politically correct. He offends everyone in his path and stumbles from one political scandal to another. Still, Rick has one saving asset: a political party machine that is able to spin scandals to its advantage.

More About Willie Handler:
Willie Handler grew up in Toronto and did his undergraduate work at the University of Toronto. He also has graduate degrees from the Schulich School of Business at York University in Toronto and the Fox School of Business at Temple University in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. He spent over thirty years in various positions in the Ontario public service. before leaving in 2011. He has a number of humorous short stories published online on CommuterLit and Show Me the Funny, as well as many articles published in professional trade journals. THE ROAD AHEAD is his first novel. Willie is currently working on funny story about a chef stranded on Mars who is rescued by two Martians
Author Links:

Thanks everyone for stopping by! If you have questions or comments please feel free to leave them below! Have a great day!