You can check out all of the past installments of Sometimes I Get Asked Stuff... here.
Q: You are very prolific! How long does it take for you to complete one novel, and about how many words are they on average (if you don't mind me asking)?
Time varies because I'm often juggling multiple projects so I start, stop, and start back. The books are also of different sizes depending on the publisher's needs. Novels like Evil Ways, Deadly Games!, and Earthstrike Agenda average near 100,000 words. Snow Falls and Fight Card: Barefoot Bones between 25,000 & 30,000. Domino Lady and Ghost Gal: The Wild Hunt are around 40,000. Stories in the anthologies generally run from 5,000 - 15,000 words each. It all depends on what size stories the publisher is looking for per project.
My first novel, Evil Ways took 6 months to hammer out the first draft, but then I
Q: I am writing a short story, but the publisher wants a pitch first. I've never done a pitch, so I'm not sure about it. Is it like a blurb, or a summary? Any advice would be great.
I dislike pitching. I find it difficult because I learn plot details and things like that as I go along in the writing process. So, yeah, I dislike pitching, however, it’s part of the
Pitches are usually short, maybe two to three hundred words or so. Basically, you tell the main points of your story, getting the major plot points across, including the ending. The pitch is not a blurb or solicitation copy. Don’t end a pitch with Will lassie reach Timmy in time? The publisher actually wants/needs to know if Timmy will be rescued or not.
I hope that helps.
Good luck with your pitch and your story. I’d love to hear how it turns out.
Q: What scares you the most about being a writer?
Q: What is the most important thing you might want to tell an aspiring writer about the life of an author?
If you want to write as a career then you have to treat it like a job. It’s sometimes easier said than done, but that will help you in the long run. It can be equal parts the greatest job in the world and also the most frustrating so do it because you love it.
Q: Do you have an MFA in writing or any kind of writing degree?
Q: Are you a visually driven writer? Do you print off maps and PostIt note your walls, and hand write timelines on a white board?
Sometimes, but usually it’s all organized in my head. I really should get it down on paper more often though.
Q: Do you prefer to write a murder mystery on a plane, train or ship?
Secret Agent X Vol. 4 for Airship 27 Productions called “Mountain Men of The Lost Valley” and I had fun dealing with a group who hijacked the train.
Q: What is you favorite form of research? Travel? Books and libraries? Interviews? Internet?
I love hands on research. One of my favorite days was visiting with the FBI and talking with some agents, taking a tour, that sort of thing. Being thee really helps. I
Q: In your current project, where does your protagonist live?
In Snow Storm, Abraham Snow lives in the guest house of his grandfather’s estate, a place they affectionately refer to as The Farm. Snow has been staying there as he recovers from the events that happened to him at the beginning of Snow Falls, which is still on sale here (shameless plug).
Q: I use a set of tarot cards for daily writing inspiration. Do you do something
|Crime Doesn't Pay... much.|
Not really. Deadlines do the trick for me pretty well most of the time.
Q: What is your favorite genre to write in, and why?
Q: Where do you get your ideas for your stories from? Every day life experiences.
The simple answer is that story ideas come from anywhere and everywhere. Sometimes it can be something as simple as hearing a bit of a conversation that sparks an idea or reading a news story. Some of the best villains come from reading a news story and thinking, "I hate that guy" and then wondering what makes a character like that tick. Other times they sort of pop up out of thin air.
I started out writing comic books, primarily so I could draw them. I had high hopes of becoming a comic book artist, but it turns out I'm not that good an artist, but I was a passable writer. I focused on writing and kept at it. I did a script here and there for some small publishers and in 2000 I was asked to try out for scripting duties on a comic book called Demonslayer for Avatar Press. The scripter (plot was handled by the artist who also owned the character) was leaving and my samples landed me the scripting gig, which I did for a few years. The Demonslayer pages posted here are plotted and scripted by me, art by Marat Mychaels, and inks by Cory Hamscher.
Q: Do you prefer writing for different genres or the same genres?
I love to bounce around from genre to genre when I have the chance. Even with
Q: How do you write your first draft?
I just sit down and start writing until I get it all down. Then I start working on it to get it into shape.
Q: I've always wondered how writers chose character names and how important do you think it is to get the right names?
In my Snow Falls e-novel, the main character’s name is Abraham Snow. Snow is one of those weird cases where the character went through several different names before I settled on the one that worked best for the characters. Before he
He certainly went through more changes than most of my characters.
Evil Ways, I created FBI Agent Harold Palmer. I’m not sure why I decided to have him Harold and not Harry, but I’m glad I did. After the book was released, I realized that Harry Palmer is the name of a character in a series of novels by Len Deighton. Although, I’ve not read them, I was probably familiar with the movies based on the books starring Michael Caine. Thankfully, Calling him Harold helped me, but it reminded me of the importance of fully vetting character names.
Q: Do all your characters speak English? Do you ever have to make up a language for a character or two?
Q: Who originally inspired you to want to make comics?
Q: What is your favorite genre in general?
I love writing crime fiction. I love having a good guy and a bad guy and trying to figure out how it was done. The beauty of crime fiction is that it easily fits in with other genres. Sci Fi Crime, Crime Western, Crime Urban Fantasy, you name it.
Q: What was your life like BEFORE you became a writer?
Q: What do you envision on the cover for your current project? What elements do you see included?
Good question. I’m working on Snow Storm, which is book #2 featuring Abraham Snow. I suspect that the publisher will continue the design aesthetic from the cover to book #1, Snow Falls by Dennis Calero. I hope so. I love the cover he did for Book #1.
Followed by Galaxy Quest, the Quigley Down Under, then Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves.
Q: How do you deal with writer’s block?
Q: What’s the best thing about being a writer?
I love being a writer. I love telling and creating stories and characters. One of the best things about being a writer is that it has allowed me opportunities to meet interesting people I might not have been able to meet otherwise. It has also allowed me travel opportunities as well. Plus, I have learned many new things because of research.
Decide what you want to accomplish with your writing and work toward that goal. Not all writers have the same goal nor, do I think, they should. If your goal is to be a professional working writer, that's great. However, if you want to write for family and friends, that's okay too. Write toward your plans and have fun with it.
Q: What are you currently working on?
I am currently juggling two projects. I’m working on SNOW STORM, the second book featuring the character of Abraham Snow who was introduced in SNOW
|Premieres September '14|
I’m also working on some comic book scripts featuring The DOMINO LADY, a character I’ve written before. I’m having fun working on these with author Nancy Holder, who I’ve worked with before. We are having fun with Domino Lady’s new adventures.
After that, I’m diving into the EVIL INTENT novel, the sequel to my novel, EVIL WAYS.
Q: How do you get inspired to write?
Q: Is Deadly Games the sequel to Evil Ways?
Yes and no.
Deadly Games! is a sequel in that it happens after Evil Ways and some of the same supporting characters are in it ala Sheriff Tom Myers and his deputies. Both stories take place in the same town, but the main characters are different though. I have recently started referring to these two novels as the Parts 1 and 2 of The Sommersville Saga. Evil Intent will be part 3 with the Sheriff Tom Myers Casefiles (working title) to follow in 2015.
My most recent release was Alexandra Holzer’s Ghost Gal: The Wild Hunt for Raven’s Head Press. This novel is fiction, but the main characters are based on real life people, Alexandra Holzer and her family, including her famous father, Hans Holzer. This was a work for hire gig and the publisher invited me to come on board as writer. We then took the characters and premise and fleshed them out. Once we had that, I came up with a plot that I pitched to Alexandra and my editor, Michael Hudson. Once that was done and approved, I wrote the novel then turned it in for edits. I came up with the premise for The Wild Hunt while researching various legends and when I ran across the Wild Hunt, they just clicked as the bad guys for this story.
here, which has information on the book, the plot, links to where the book is available, and a link to my appearance on The Book Cave podcast where I talked about Ghost Gal.
The Book Cave's Ric and Art on reaching their 300th episode, which will sadly mark the end of The Book Cave podcast. I always had a great time visiting the podcast and will miss it. Here's hoping they don't stay "retired" too long. :)
Q: What do you imagine your favorite author does in their free time?
If they’re anything like me, they’re wondering how they ended up with free time and probably assuming it means they forgot to do something important.
|Not Actual Cover|
Happens to me more often than I like to admit. One case in point is Sheriff Tom Myers in Evil Ways. His roll grew as the story grew and even moved into Deadly Games!, even though he was not originally intended to be part of that story. I’ve also developed some stand alone story ideas for the character. He just keeps talking to me. Oh, yeah, he also appears in the upcoming Evil Intent as well.
Will we see Sheriff Tom Myers again? Definitely. I just have to clear my schedule and get that first story written.
Cut to later, when I was writing “Homefront” for Lance Star: Sky Ranger Vol. 2 and I needed a detective. Because the Lance Star story took place about 6 or 7 years after the Domino Lady story (gotta love writing period pieces) I was able to use an older Barney Bishop as the investigating detective. He was no longer a rookie and had returned to New York a year earlier, which allowed me to start
The Crossover Universe blog. You can read more about it here.
Last year, when I was working on my Domino Lady novel, “Money Shot” (now available for pre-order, in stores this September) it was still set in the timeframe before Barney Bishop’s return to New York so he became part of the story as one of the detectives assigned to investigate a murder.
Will we see Barney Bishop again?
|Now available for pre-order.|
Good question. I don’t have a specific date or anything, but there came a point in the early 90’s when I started to focus solely on writing and pushed aside the desire to be a comic book artist. Once that happened, I knew writing was something I wanted and needed to do. The stories keep coming. If I don’t write them down they just bounce around in my head anyway.
Q: Who are your favorite male and female mystery man/woman and why? Does the answer change for having to write them.
Domino Lady is an obvious one, considering how often I return to write her adventures (there’s a novel now available for pre-order and more comic books coming with her too). I wasn’t familiar with the character before I was brought on to write her. I read the original stories and I was hooked. She’s a great character. Another character I connected with the same way, although I don’t get to write as often, is Secret Agent X. Both of them are fun characters I enjoy writing and reading.
I also got a big thrill out of writing The Spider.
|Secret Agent X|
It depends on the event and the books. If you write children’s books, for example, then you will probably do better at a library show or kid-centric event than a convention. Most of the time it’s a crapshoot on what kind of sales you’ll do at any given show. Sometimes you just have to try a show/con/event to see if it’s a good fit.
Q: How do you handle negative reviews?
|Me at Free Comic Book Day signing|
Q: What cartoon character best describes you as an author?
Q: When was the last time your plot jumped the tracks on you? Did you rein it in or let it lead?
I wrote a story called “The One That Got Away” for the Nightbeat: Night Stories audiobook/ebook anthology for Radio Archives. I let it go and it led me to a fantastic place that made the story so much better. You can learn more about Nightbeat: Night Stories here.
Q: How much of your next project comes to mind while you are editing the current one?
Q: What’s your favorite Marvel Studios movie to date?
Captain America: The Winter Soldier. Followed closely by Avengers, Iron Man, Thor, then Captain America: The First Avenger.
Definitely a Nite Owl.
Q: What was the best syndicated series of the 80's/90's/00's?
Star Trek: Deep Space Nine and Babylon 5 were incredible. I would also add Highlander: The Series to the list as well. Those three were can’t miss shows for me and I own them all on DVD now.
Q: What do you love most about being a writer?
I love the feeling of accomplishment when I see something I poured my soul into available to the masses and to know that people are reading, and hopefully enjoying, my work. I also love creating stories and character.
It varies from project to project. Sometimes the story is there from the beginning. My e-novel SNOW FALLS was like that. I knew the title before I wrote the first word. Others are work in progress.
My novel, EVIL WAYS had several title ideas, but none that truly seemed to work so I wrote without a title firmly in place. In one scene, one of the characters, a musician, sits in with the local bar’s cover band and performs 3 classic rock songs. My purely scientific method was to turn on the radio and use the next 3
EVIL INTENT came pretty quickly.
On my DEADLY GAMES! novel, the title was GAMES! until well after it was finished. In shopping it around to publishers, I was told that the title might be too generic so I added the “Deadly” and, even though that publisher did not end up publishing the novel, I liked the new name and kept it. I was also told more than once that having the exclamation point (!) in the title didn't work. As you can see, I disagreed.
I used to have Night Terrors as a kid. It’s not the main plot, but I worked that into an upcoming novel where the main protagonist’s young daughter suffers from them as well and used some personal experience and memory for that part of the story.
Q: Which character you have featured in your stories has the most "you" in them? I don't mean which character you like best or most admire. Which one have you put most of yourself into?
|The Nash Boys (a couple years ago)|
|Sommersville: Show us your Evil Ways|
So, Harold Palmer has my basic personality, which he still retains as we go into Evil Intent.
I do indeed. Sometimes it's the radio, other times I put the music on my laptop on shuffle and let it play. I don't have specific playlists. I've heard other writers talk about their playlists. I might have to try that some day.
Q: Have you ever written a screenplay? Please share a bit about the experience.
I have written three screenplays. One of them has been produced (Starship Farragut “Conspiracy of Innocence” which will hit the ‘net any day now), one
Q: What's a major lesson you've learned in working on your current story?
Don’t try to write fight scenes with several characters freestyle. Have a plan and choreograph the fight.
|Not Final Cover|
I apparently love to kill characters, considering the literary body count I’ve left in my wake. The most interesting kill is not out yet. I’m working on a novel called Blood Shot in which I have someone killed with a weed-whacker. That was fun to write. If all goes as planned, you'll see Blood Shot in 2015.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org and I’ll answer them in a future installment of Sometimes I Get Asked Stuff...
|Keep those questions coming.|
If you’d like to check out my work, you can find my books at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Goodreads, Smashwords, and more. Reviews and "Likes" are always appreciated.
Thanks for listening to me ramble.
Let’s do this again soon.