Friday, March 7, 2014


One of the perks of being a writer is getting to meet some of the most interesting people. Whether it is at conventions, store signings, through the Earth Station One podcast, writer’s groups, on social media, and sometimes just from people I run into on when I venture out of the cave I call my office, and they have questions. Sometimes they are about writing or what I’m working on. Other times they’re out of left field. I thought it would be interesting to share some of them along with a few answers. Regardless of where they come from, here’s a few of the latest.

Check out past installments of Sometimes I Get Asked Stuff... here.

A gift from friends.
Q: What character would you do anything to write?

Good question. Not sure if I’d do anything to write them, but I would love to write The Fantastic Four one day.

Q: (A follow up) Would you perform a complete reconceptualization?

I’m not sure. I’ve not given it that much thought because I need to focus on other stories. Also, a lot of that would be up to the editors.

Q: How is the story you're writing now different from the one you wrote before?

I love The Fantastic Four
It’s a different genre so the tone is a bit different as are the characters.

Q: We've talked about finishing a writing project, and today I'd like to talk about starting a writing project. What little rituals do you have for beginning a new writing project? After the research, after the plotting, and planning ... what helps you launch into the writing?

My plots are pretty simple because I don’t do well writing full outlines. I write up a short plot, some character notes, and then I generally just dive right in. The first few chapters of a novel generally flow right out of me.

Q: Have you ever driven deep into a writing project only to discover that you might be going the wrong way? Do you ride with the story as it's developing? Or do you regroup, re-plot, and start again?

I had a plan, but the ch-
aracters had other ideas.
It happens. Sometimes the story just doesn’t work or I follow it down a path that goes nowhere and I have to regroup and sometimes cut large chunks of the story. In my novel, Deadly Games!, the group is being hunted and make their escape through a wooded area, stalked by the antagonists’ goons. The original plan called for a lot of things to happen in the woods, but it started to drag and went on and on. When I found myself wishing they would hurry up and reach the other side and get out of the woods, I realized that other stuff was extraneous and they reached the other side sooner than planned, but it worked out better for the story, I think. If you’d like to learn more about Deadly Games! please visit

The same thing happened with the ending to my story “The One That Got Away” for the Nightbeat: Night Stories ebook and audio anthology for Radio Archives.
Another one where the characters
told me where they needed to go.
When I started writing the story, I had a pretty clear indication of who the bad guy was and how the story was going to end. In the course of writing the story, one of the characters says something in dialogue that makes me realize that I had it all wrong. I went back to make sure the twist made sense to the story and didn’t come out of left field. I was quite surprised to find that it did. Subconsciously, the characters were leading me where they wanted me to go and the story turned out much the better for it.

Q: What's the best thing about editing?

Catching those bits that need just a little polish to shine.

Then you edit.
Q: Do you believe what you're writing will have meaning to the world, even in a small way? Why or why not?

You know, I’m not really sure if my work will have any great meaning or not. I hope it is remembered after I’ve shuffled off this mortal coil, but you never know. I’ve had readers tell me that my story entertained them and that’s really good enough for me.

Q: Ever have a project you were certain would be a sure-fire hit, but left you scratching your head over the noise of the crickets? Conversely, ever totally surprised by the positive response to a project you never thought much of?

I hoped these would sell better.
I don't generally take on projects I don't care for as a rule, but I have passed on a few projects and characters that went on to do really well. I've also worked on books that I thought would be popular (and hopefully big hits) that fizzled. It's hard to determine these things.

Q: How important are the minor characters in a novel?

I like to think all of the characters in my books are important. Of course, some are more important than others. A character appearing in only one scene of a novel is important in that scene, but I may not need to flesh out that character’s background as much as a character appearing in a majority of the chapters.

What's next?
Q: Writers, does this happen to you? Gung-ho on an idea, flesh the whole thing out warp speed, loving it! 2 days later? No interest whatsoever.

It does indeed happen. Sometimes the love affair with a story burns bright and fast.

Q: In what characteristic moment do we find your protagonist in the first scene?

In my novel, Evil Ways, we find FBI Agent Harold Palmer and his partner, Carter Reidling trying to diffuse a bomb. Did I mention that neither of them is trained in bomb disposal? Learn more about Evil Ways here. (If you’ll excuse the shameless plug)

Baby, it's cold outside.
Q: Here in the US East Coast, we're facing winter's last horrah! with a strange mix of fresh snow, bright skies and warming temperatures bringing sleet and rain. I love this confusing time of year, and love using it in my writing. It signals change and a coming newness. Today's question of the day ... Do you use events like this to explore story shifts when you write?

Certainly. The weather outside can play an important role in helping to set the tone of a story. In my novel, Evil Ways, it is either raining or threatening another downpour throughout the entire story, up until the end.

Q: I love a good tough guy line in a book or movie. What are some of your favorites?

Say my name. Say it.
Pretty much anything said by Clint Eastwood. Ha! Ha!
Here’s one of my favorites.

“There are two kinds of people in this world, my friend. Those with loaded guns, and those who dig.” [Cocks gun.] “You dig.”

Don't take my word for it...

Raylan shot first.
Q: Describe the TV series Justified in three words.

Raylan shot first.

Q: Do you listen to music when you write? Does it set the mood? Or are you the kind of writer who needs silence to get any work done?

I do. Usually, it’s just the radio playing softly in the office as background noise. Sometimes I hit shuffle on the music I’ve downloaded on my laptop.

Q: How do you develop plot twists? Most unlikely scenario? Pick from a generic list? Dartboard? Some other method?

Try it sometime.
The plots twists generally come out of putting the story and the characters together. Knowing the characters allows then to react in unique ways to different circumstances. Most of the plot twists I’ve written have come from the characters reacting to the plot.

Q: What’s the best bit of writerly advice you’ve ever received?

“No one is going to care as much about your story as you.” This was told to me by an author at a party. It turned out to be smart advice and very true. No one is going to push or promote me or my work as passionately as I will. Probably the second best piece of writing advice ever given to me is “have fun with your writing.” This is also good advice.

All of my stories should
take place at the beach.
Q: How far have you gone to write a book? Did you learn a new language? Travel? Do interviews? Dress or speak like a particular character? Drink or eat what the character likes to drink and eat? How far?

I have traveled to locations I write to get the details right. My protagonist in Evil Ways is an FBI agent so I set up and met with the FBI, asked questions, took a tour, etc. Getting that first person perspective helps.

There have also been instances where places I've visited have sparked story ideas.

Q: When is your favorite time of day to write?

Shh... He's resting.
My favorite time is late at night/early into the morning. Everything is quiet and peaceful.

Q: What is your preferred time to write? Now where have I heard that before?  :)

I love writing late at night and into the early a.m. hours. I don’t always get to write at those times, but they are my favorite.

Sometimes stubborn comes in handy.
Q: How do you write a scene that you aren’t crazy about, but is necessary to advance the plot?

You just have to plow through and trust your characters.

Q: Do you break up writing full-length novel manuscripts with shorter pieces?

Yes, but not always by choice.
Good movie. One of my favorites.
As a freelancer, I work for several different publishers and writing gigs come in that require rescheduling the novel as do galleys, edits, proofs, etc. I’ve gotten used to jumping back and forth between projects.

Q: What’s your Favorite Sidney Poitier Movie?

Shoot To Kill. Sidney Poitier and Tom Berenger chasing after Clancy Brown and a kidnapped Kirstie Alley over mountainous terrain. I love it.

Who am I to argue with Bob?
Q: What is the hardest thing about being critiqued by other writers?

There’s always that initial fear that whoever is reading the book is going to hate it. When it’s another writer, sometimes the critique can be colored by “that’s not how I would have written it” which doesn’t make it bad, just different.

Meet Abraham Snow
Q: Are your protagonists primarily men or women?

It depends on the story I’m telling. Looking back on all of the stories I’ve written, it looks like there are more male villains than female.

Q: What’s your favorite Donald Sutherland movie?

Damn, this is a tough one. Backdraft and Space Cowboys are favorites. I also enjoyed him in A Time To Kill.

Q: Are you the kind of writer who loves to jump into the middle of an older, abandoned project? Or are you the kind of writer who prefers to always start at the beginning with something new?

Backdraft. Another favorite.
It varies from project to project. There is an excitement that comes from starting a new project that is hard to deny. The first third of it always seems to just pour out of me. I love that feeling. One of my goals for 2014 is to finish some of the open projects on my list. Stay tuned.

Q: What was the coolest, most powerful thing you ever learned about writing well?

Sometimes less is more. The K.I.S.S. method is another good one: Keep It Simple, Stupid. These are kind of cliché bits of advice, I know, but they do work.

Not Actual Cover
Q: Is there a manuscript you abandoned long ago, picked up much later, and discovered that NOW you know how to make it work? I'd love to hear about it!

Oh, sure. Sometimes I start something just to get those initial thoughts down then set it aside because I have deadlines for existing projects. I can then go back to it and finish it up later. I have several stories where the first couple of chapters are written that I plan to get back to eventually. Right now I have a novel called Blood Shot, a Lance Star: Sky Ranger novel, a sci fi/horror novel, and a YA horror novel all started, but set aside. Not to mention Evil Intent and Deadly Deals!.

I love setting up my writing
desk on the back porch.
Q: What's your favorite mindless activity to do while daydreaming about your story?

Mowing the lawn or taking a long walk is good for that.

Q: What is your favorite place to write?

Outside. I love taking the laptop out onto my screened in porch, sit in the swing with a small table, turn on some music, and get to work. Sadly, Georgia’s wonky weather and my sinus issues keep me inside more often than not, but I take the writing outside whenever I can.

Q: What, for you, is the perfect novel?

The view is great and it's so
peaceful and quiet... until the
neighbor starts cutting grass.
A perfect novel for me is one that readers want to revisit from time to time to read again.

Q: What are you reading at the moment?

I’m currently bouncing between Raylan by Elmore Leonard and At The Earth's Core by Edgar Rice Burroughs. One of those is partly for research, although I'm enjoying both.

Q: How messy or neat is your desk?

Messy. Very messy. I don’t like it messy. It sort of just happens.

Q: Do you believe in writer’s block and how do you combat it?

A big block o' writer
I don’t believe in writer’s block. There are days when I don’t feel like writing. That happens. There are also days where the words just aren’t coming together the way you like. What I’ve never experienced is simply not being able to write. I’m a writer. My job is to write so I write. Some days the words flow better than others, but there is always plenty of work on my plate to keep me busy.

When asked this question at conventions, a writer friend of mine likes to ask this question, “Do plumbers get plumber’s block?” “Do mechanics get mechanic’s block?” As silly as it sounds, he’s absolutely right. If writing is your job then you have to do it. Publishers don’t care about writer’s block. Readers don’t care about writer’s block. All they want is your story and if you have a deadline then you do whatever you have to do to get it done or else writing work could stop coming yours way.

Walt Simonson's Thor
That sounded a little more rant-like than I intended. Sorry.

Q: What is the most important writing "rule"?

I don’t really know so I’ll go with the first thing that popped into my head. Finish what you start and have fun with it.

Q: When writing, do you envision your manuscript on the big screen? If yes, always or just occasionally?

Sometimes. I think it would be neat to see them on the big screen, but those are the fanciful daydreams I have from time to time. I don’t necessarily write to be filmed.

John Byrne's Fantastic Four
Q: Who were your Top 5 favorite comics artists when you were in middle school?

George Perez, John Byrne, Walt Simonson, Frank Miller, and Paul Smith.

Q: What’s your Favorite Spider-man Movie?

Spider-man 2. Spidey vs. Doc Ock. Fun movie.

Q: If you could get on a plane right now and go anywhere in the world in search of inspiration, where would it be and why?

Have I mentioned I'm due a beach trip?
Somewhere with a nice beach. I love the beach. Don't get to visit nearly often enough. I want to do a story that takes place partially at the beach.

Q: What’s your Favorite Tom Cruise Movie?

A Few Good Men (Jack Nicholson steals the movie though) and Days of Thunder are favorites.

Q: Writing or editing... which do you enjoy the most?

You can't handle the truth!
Writing. Editing is necessary and I don’t hate doing it, but it’s not as much fun for me as writing.

Q: What is the primary age group of your characters?

Depends on the book, but 20’s - 40’s seems my average range.

Q: What time of day is it in your last scene?

I’m writing the climax of Ghost Gal and it is set on an early evening in winter.

And I think that is a good place to finish this round of Sometimes I Get Asked Stuff… Do you have any questions you’d like me to answer? Post them here as a comment or send them along to and I’ll answer them in a future installment of Sometimes I Get Asked Stuff...

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