Saturday, August 9, 2014


And we’re back for a 25th installment of Sometimes I Get Asked Stuff… I know I’ve said it before, but thank you for the continued questions. I love answering them. Please, keep ‘em coming.

You can check out all of the past installments of Sometimes I Get Asked Stuff... here.

Q: Today I have a challenge for you! Give us a 10 WORD DESCRIPTION of your current work in progress. *rubbing hands together and grinning ear to ear*

Abraham Snow’s friend, Brooks, is in trouble and needs help.

Q: What real life, personal mystery have you used in your manuscript?

Some friends and I were on a road trip to a convention once when we got off at a weird exit and stopped into a weird gas station/diner where weirdness abounded. It was the closest I’ve ever come to stepping into The Twilight Zone. I used the experience in a story called 85 NORTH for the Weird Tales volume of Tales From The Zero Hour. Sadly, the book has been delayed for a few years so it hasn’t come out yet. Hopefully, one day soon.

Q: Who are the seven best writers in comics? And what do you think are their magnum opuses?

In no particular order, off the top of my head, and subject to change:
Darwyn Cooke - The Parker series, DC: New Frontier, The Spirit
John Byrne - Fantastic Four, Superman
Roger Stern - The Avengers, Amazing Spider-man
Walt Simonson - Thor
Scott Snyder - The Wake, Batman, American Vampire
Gail Simone - Secret Six, Batgirl
Ed Brubaker - Criminal, Velvet, Captain America, Winter Soldier

Those are the first 7 that came to mind.

Q: What’s your favorite Matthew McConaughey movie?

A Time To Kill. I also enjoyed The Lincoln Lawyer (as well as liking the book), Two For The Money, and True Detective.

Q: Your favorite Joker?

Mark Hamill is my Mr. J. now.

Q: Have you ever written a scene that makes you laugh out loud?

Good question. Nothing springs to mind immediately, but there are some character moments, interplay between certain characters that I find incredibly humorous. That’s where most of the humor in my books comes from. Some of those make me laugh.

Q: What is the opening sentence of your work-in-progress?

Getting in was easy. Getting out was a different matter.
That’s the opening to SNOW STORM.

Q: The request is simple. Post the first sentence(s) for the first 3 chapters in your WIP. If you need to use 2 sentences, that's OK.

Here’s the first 2 sentences from the opening 3 chapters from SNOW STORM.

Getting in was easy.
Getting out was a different matter.

Angelo’s Bar and Grill had become one of Snow’s favorite hangouts since returning to Atlanta. The food was delicious and reasonably priced, two things which, in his experience, rarely went together.

“How long you in town?”
Brooks was staying at a hotel a short walk from Angelo’s so he and Snow paid the tab and walked the rest of the way. It was too nice of an evening to worry about a cab.

Q: Are you comfortable talking about what you’re working on? I am interested in knowing how you all answer the sometimes dreaded question, “What are you working on?”

Sure. I’m happy to talk about what I’m working on. Sometimes, I’m not allowed to talk about it and in those cases I tell the person asking that I can’t talk about it. Sometimes I talk about things in the abstract, without mentioning titles or characters. When I can, I don’t mind talking about what I’m working on.

Q: Has technology killed the modern thriller?

Not at all. As technology grows and improves, we, as authors, have to come up with new and creative ways to craft our stories by working with the technology. Smart phones and texting have required certain plots to evolve I think. Before cell phones a plot could revolve around a character learning of an assassination plot happening across town and they have to get there to stop it. Today, that plot is simply foiled by a phone call or text. As writers, we have to find new and inventive ways to tell that story.

Q: A lot of authors poke fun at the question, "Where do you get your ideas?" I think it's a legitimate question.

My stock answer for “Where do you get your ideas?” is usually “Anywhere and everywhere” and this is true. Inspiration can strike from anywhere. Sometimes you read something, see something, hear something, smell something whatever, that kicks off your muse in weird and unsuspecting ways. That’s part of the beauty of writing, isn’t it?

Q: Who will be involved in the movie version of your book?

Hopefully me.

Q: How much writing do you plan to accomplish this summer? Are you on track?

My to do list is pretty full for the year and into 2015 already. Lots of deadlines to hit. It’s definitely a busy year for me. I’m as close to on track as I can get.

Q: Have you ever written yourself to sleep? Forgotten meals? Missed an appointment? All because of a plot twist you simply HAD to write?

There have been times when I get really into what I’m writing and lose track of time. One time, I started writing around 6 a.m. Saturday morning (I forget why I was up so early) and next thing I knew it was dark outside. I’d been writing for hours without realizing it. No food, no drink, no bathroom. Haven’t had too many like that though.

Q: Do you sell more ebooks or print? What supporting activities drive those sales?

Ebooks. Print books seem to sell better when people see me at book signings, author events, or conventions because there’s usually an autograph component to it. The rest of the time, ebooks seem to win the day. I do my fair share of marketing. Not sure what, exactly, leads to sales.

Q: Your Favorite Leslie Nielsen Movie?

Forbidden Planet. I am not a fan of the Naked Gun style movies. I also loved him in an early M*A*S*H episode.

Q: Do any of you hand-write your manuscripts?

Nope. I go straight to typing. I do sometimes write notes by hand, if I’m not at the desk to type them down.

Q: What’s your favorite Denzel Washington Movie?

That’s a tough one. Fallen, The Bone Collector, Training Day, Man on Fire, Devil in a Blue Dress, so many good movies to choose from.

Q: Who is your all-time favorite Saturday Night Live cast member?

I haven’t watched a lot of SNL, but I loved Dan Akroyd, Bill Murray, and John Belushi. Oh, yeah. Also, Eddie Murphy.

Q: Do you meditate? Or perhaps take a some time to sit silently and let the ideas flow before writing each day?

Not really. Sometimes when I lay down to sleep, the ideas start rolling, though.

Q: When was the last time you cleaned off your desk? What did you discover?

Cleaned it off last week. Discovered the color of my desk. It had been so long since I'd seen it I had forgotten. hee, hee...

Q: Do you include an appendix of terms in the back of your book. I have been thinking about including one in my own that would be a few pages long.

I don’t. Haven’t felt the need to do so.

Q: To make the story interesting and interstellar, most of us are prepared to violate some law of physics or summon some mystical mumbo-jumbo. What are you prepared to do to get your protagonist to the stars?

I prefer to trust that the tech works. I don't spend a lot of time explaining the tech. If the ships in my story have a "Quartz Optic Drive" (a term I just made up) that gets us across the galaxy at a certain speed, then I say that's what it does and get on with the story. That's worked pretty well for me so far.

I don’t have to understand Warp Drive in Star Trek or Hyper Drive in Star Wars. The characters use it so that tells me it works. I don’t need to know how. I know not everyone feels the same and that’s okay. That was the approach I took when I wrote Earthstrike Agenda and Samaritan.

Q: Do more of your ideas come character first or story first?

Most of the time it’s character first, but sometimes I have a plot and then have to figure out which character best fits that story. Not every story is perfect for every character and not every character will handle a plot the same way.

For example, if I were to put the characters of Detective John Bartlett, Abraham Snow, and FBI Agent Harold Palmer (from my novels Deadly Games!, Snow Falls, and Evil Ways, respectively) in the same plot, each of them would go about it differently, taking different paths, responding to situations differently based on their characters as written. If I were to force the characters to do things out of character for them then the readers will notice and the story will ring false so I have to stay true to who the characters
are when writing, which can change a plot.

To use an example that more people might recognize than my characters (although, please feel free to buy and read the novels mentioned above) take John McClane from the Die Hard movies. For three movies he was portrayed as a man who was not up on the latest technology. When they did Live Free of Die Hard, it would have been out of character for him to be able to hack the cyber-terrorist villain so they had to give him a partner. Having McClane change to fit the plot would have played wrong for the audience (as witnessed in A Good Day To Die Hard where McClane became something of a superhero).

It’s okay to change your plot to fit the character, but don’t change the character to fit the plot.

After answering this question, I now have the urge to team up, Bartlett, Snow, and Palmer. Hmmm... There's that darn muse again.

Q: Have you found self-publishing with either Smashwords or Amazon worth it?

I have self-published a few things, but have found that most of my sales tend to be on books I do for publishers. Doing some things on my own has helped me learn more about the production side of things, which has been valuable in work I do for publishers, I think, in that it means less time they have to spend reformatting my manuscript.

Q: Next Generation, Original Series, Deep Space Nine, Voyager, Enterprise … which is your favourite Star Trek series?

I love all things Star Trek, but Deep Space Nine is my favorite series. I re-watch it more often than the other Star Trek shows.

Q: When you approach completion of your book, what makes you most nervous? Meeting all the deadlines? The cover art? The marketing? The sales?

Will anyone buy this book? If the do, will they like it? Will this be the one where they realize I’m a hack? I try not to have these thoughts, but they creep in there.

Q: What color best describes your protagonist and why?

Abraham Snow from SNOW FALLS and the upcoming SNOW STORM is best described as gray. He’s been living in the shadows a long time and has only recently stepped out into the light, metaphorically speaking.

Q: What turned you off on the book you most recently quit reading without finishing?

I won’t mention the book’s name, but I started reading it and just couldn’t get into it so I just put it down and picked up another book. Some books just don’t grab me. Not that it’s bad, just not for me.

Q: I am an avid reader and film watcher and worry that an idea may be a distant memory, rather than a bolt of lightning.  You can easily check names on Google, but how do you check plots to know yours is original, considering the massive archive of work out there?

Good question. I wish I had an easy answer for you. You can try to Google an idea, but there’s no telling what you are likely to get back. One upside is that all of the basic plots have been told. What hasn’t been told is your version of it. Write the story you want to write and if something feels too familiar, do a rewrite on that section. That’s probably the best way.

Oh, and don’t worry. If you did unconsciously lift a piece of your story from somewhere else, someone will no doubt tell you. There’s a whole group of people out there just waiting to let you know all about it.

Q: I've never held a copy of a script, only seen snippets etc.  I wondered if you could tell me how much of it is written by the writer.  The thing that has always confused me is the set descriptions and placement of the characters.  Are you purposefully vague to allow for budget variations and producer input, or do you tie it down to your dream set and allow for it to be changed.  I'm trying to get my thought process across but think I'm just rambling, it's just from a novice perspective I figure a script must me so much more confining for a, basically, how do you write a script in comparison to a novel and which do you prefer? 

When I write a script, I write a full script with everything I need to get it in there. What usually happens is that changes are made on the set while filming. Those changes could be for a number of reasons. The line doesn’t work when the actor tries it, an ad-libbed line works better, a change to the scene forces a dialogue change, or the director gets an idea on the spot and improvises. Any of those can happen, and often do. The writer writes a full story, but it’s not always what makes it to the final product.

There are times when you are vague because you want to set a scene in a Chinese restaurant. You don’t get too detailed on what is where because the production will go out and find a restaurant that fits their needs and once they have that location down, will set things up to fit the space.

Scripts (comic book and movie/TV) are more like directions because I’m writing information for the director, actors, artists, etc. to use to put together a finished story for the audience whereas novels are me writing directly to the reader. Both use different creative muscles and each has its own unique challenges and advantages.

Q: ....and is there a set format for description of scene before dialogue starts, presuming that you have to be concise as possible.

Sure. Although, there are slight variations, here’s a snippet from my script for the recent Starship Farragut “Conspiracy of Innocence” episode.

Starship Farragut “Conspiracy of Innocence” page 1

Starship Farragut “Conspiracy of Innocence” page 2

You can watch Starship Farragut “Conspiracy of Innocence” now at, in the film tab above, on YouTube, or below.

And here’s a couple sample pages from a graphic novel I wrote several years back called Yin Yang: Bounty Hunters.

Yin Yang Page 11 script

Yin Yang Page 11 finished

Yin Yang Page 12 script

Yin Yang Page 12 finished
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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If you’d like to check out my work, you can find my books at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Goodreads, Smashwords, and more.

Thanks for listening to me ramble.
Let’s do this again soon.

Happy Reading.


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