Monday, July 31, 2017


And we're back for the 41st installment of Sometimes I Get Asked Stuff… 

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

Who are you?
Q: The best band/singer you've ever seen live?

The WHO. Tom Petty was a good second.

Q: Is Monday Still the START of Your Work Week? And, if Employed, What Do You Really Do at Your Job?

As a writer, my work week is 7 days. No beginning or end.

They won't back down!
Q: How do you deal with competition in your industry?

I don't really think about it. I don't consider other writers as my competition. I prefer to think of them as peers or co-workers. Sometimes we go after the same gigs and we're all looking for readers, but even then I find the writing community to be a very open and supportive bunch. I don't put other authors down to push or promote my books, for example. That feels unprofessional to me. Oh, sure, there are some who no doubt disagree with me on this (I get disagreements with my thinking a lot, maybe that's why I'm not more successful), but most writers I've met are wonderful. I'm thrilled to be part of this community so
No competition here...
I don't actively compete with other authors.

Q: What do you tell people when they say they want to be an author? Are you encouraging, or discouraging?

Always encouraging, but I don't sugar coat the realities of trying to write for a living.

Click to

Q: What is the one thing about writing that keeps you writing?

My stubborn streak. Oh, wait, that's one thing about me that keeps me writing. Ha! Ha! I truly love crafting and creating stories. I love getting to know these characters I create and I enjoy entertaining readers. That keeps me coming back for more.

Nope. No competition here either.

Q: What are you grateful for?

As the song goes, "I'm just happy to be here, happy to be alive."

Q: Give me one word that describes you as a writer.

Stubborn. Others use "prolific" a lot.

Maybe a little competition here.
Just kidding. Love ya, J.R.
Q: Are you a reader? If so, how often?

I read a little something every day, be it a chapter here or there or a comic book.

Q: How much aviation do you research/study to write a hero pilot?

A little. I get plane detail, especially related to the 1930's when the stories are set. Things like the throat mics, type of guns, etc. The rest I make up.

Q: What's a film that was a big fashionable hit that you're afraid to tell people you didn't like.  I'm not talking about some dumpster dive of a film, I'm talking about films that everybody but you think is really great.

Blazing Saddles. You'd think I committed a crime based on the looks I get when I tell people I don't like it.

Q: Genre that it takes real or threatened violence to get you to go to it?


Q: Do you write a character who should, by all rights, have some level of celebrity status (Elliot Ness)? Do you touch on this status in your fiction? Why/why not? Note: I'm not talking about characters with secret identities.

With Ghost Gal, both Alexandra Holzer and her father, Hans Holzer play major roles in the book. They are not only real people, but were and are celebrities in their own right so that gets played with in the novel.

In Deadly Games!, police detective John Bartlett and journalist Benjamin West were instrumental in capturing Darrin Morehouse (the novel's villain) and sending him to prison. When the novel opens six years later, we see that their celebrity status has had different effects on each of them. It helped their careers, but West has embraced it and used it to help himself. Bartlett is haunted by it and just wishes it would go away. This has created a good deal of tension and animosity between the two men, which defines their relationship in Deadly Games!

Q: Yeah, "Write What You Know" is probably the worst writing advice I've ever gotten. How 'bout you?

Well, yes and no. I agree that if you only write what you know, you might tell a very boring story. My life story is amazingly dull. However, I take "write what you know" to mean using my experiences to help flesh out the narrative. For example, I've never been a crewman on a starship or operated a power loader like the one in Aliens, but I have worked for large corporations and I have worked in warehouses and loading docks. I know what it's like to go to a job I hate every day and not feel that my contributions are appreciated. Write what you know in this case would have me adding the feelings I had in that warehouse environment added to the character of the guy working on a starship's loading dock. That personal touch helps make the character more rounded, I think, and it comes from writing what I know.

I know what it's like to strike out on my own for the first time. That could certainly be applied to a sword and sorcery story or a fantasy novel, right?

Q: What TV/Movie trope would you like to see go away?

I have grown quite tired of the truck slamming into a car as seen from the point of view inside the car. This happens a lot in movies and TV and the characters almost always walk away from it unscathed. Time to learn a new trick.

Q: Let's talk about Books to Film. Are you watching and enjoying AMERICAN GODS on premium cable? Which of your books would you like to see in film or television form?

I am not watching American Gods, but only because I do not have Starz. I'm sure I'll see it at some point. I think Evil Ways, Deadly Games!, Earthstrike Agenda, and the upcoming Strong Will graphic novel would all work as movies. Earthstrike Agenda might even work as a mini-series. I think Snow (Snow Falls, Snow Storm, Snow Drive) would work better in a TV format, especially as that's the template I'm using in setting up the series. I think it would be neat to see these characters come to life on the big or small screen. Now I just need to find a way to make that happen.

Q: What about writing gives you that shivery thrill of excitement?

I love getting lost in the words. That feeling I get when the story is flowing and I can tune out the world at large and live in the storytelling. That is a great feeling and I love it when it happens.

Q: Beer, wine, or liquor at the end of the working day?

Tea or Mt. Dew. I'm a lightweight.

Q: What is your favorite John Carpenter film? 

The Thing.

Q: Which is your favorite universe, Marvel or DC.

I enjoy them both for the most part, but I grew up a Marvel boy and Marvel is still my go to comics destination. I love their characters.

Q: Are you a WORD COUNTER? Do you try to meet word counts each day, or only when under a deadline?

Yes, I am. I don't worry about it while I'm writing, but when I reach a stopping pint, I check to see how much I've accomplished. It helps me gauge productivity and determines if I am going to meet my deadline or if I need to get back out there and add more to the MS. Plus, publishers set size by word count limits so keeping track helps me know the pacing of the story as well.

Q: How creative is CREATIVE? Some believe that anything limiting - like word count, story length, genre definition, and audience targeting - are harmful to a story. Others believe that sales and rankings determine success. Which side are you on?

When I wrote as a hobby, it didn't matter. I wrote what I wanted, when I wanted, and how long I wanted. Those were the days. As a professional writer, one who works for and reports to editors and publishers, those things are an integral part of my job so I have to give them some kind of thought. If my publisher wants a 40,000 word novella, that's what I have to give them. If I turn on a 60,000 word MS, they will be none too happy with me and then I'll have to trim that extra 20,000 words before they move forward. That makes additional work for me that could have been spent on another story. Since this is my livelihood, I have to use things like word count, story length, etc. to keep on target. Sales and rankings help determine if a book is selling well enough I can pay my bills this month so I have to consider them as well. None of that changes how I write, but they are tools that I use to meet my publisher's guidelines.

Of course, none of that really impacts creativity. Those are tools that are used, but word count, length, sales, etc. don't really impact creativity. If you know your story has to be 60,000+ words, don't agree to work for a publisher that publishers 40,000 word novellas. There are plenty of options on how to get your work to the masses.

Q: Which authors do you reread?

Connelly, Kava, Cannell, Mack, and lots of comics. I re-read comics by Byrne, Stern, Perez, Brubaker, Simonson, David, Slott, Wolfman, and so on often.

Q: Do you have a favorite memory from any comic book convention?

Oh, so many. Hard to pin down just one favorite. There are many great con memories though. I met some of the people I'm closest to at cons, met wonderful creative people, traveled, and had some surprises along the way. As I get older, I find that they've all sort of merged into one giant con in my mind. Hard to recall which events happened which year.

Okay, here’s a few cool ones. I was flashed by a well-known actress once. That was nice. No, I won’t say who. John Dugan, Grandpa from The Texas Chainsaw Massacre once used my head as a drum to perform Tequila. I’ve had a lot of great conversations with celebrities in elevators. Stuff like that.

Q: Would you rather have the ability to teleport ala Star Trek's transporter or Time Travel?

Teleport. I would travel more if traffic were not an issue.

Q: I've spoken with an increasing number of people who don't buy any current Marvel or DC books for various reasons, but instead "pull out their classic editions" when they need a superhero fix. So here's my question: What do you think "The Big Two" could do (if anything) to bring these readers back?

There are some that won't like anything, no matter what they do.  Personally, price, subject, and creators involved are what gets my attention or turns me away. A great team will get me to sample a character I might not have otherwise. As for cost, I've finally become a wait for the trade reader for the most part. Weekly visits to the comics shops is not really feasible or enjoyable as it used to be.

As for how to save the industry, I wish I had a great answer. If I did, my comics would sell better and I’d be writing either Thor or The Fantastic Four right now.

Q: What's your favorite *embarrassing* guilty pleasure musically?

Ray Stevens (back when he was funny and before he got all political)

Q: Top 5 super-hero movies?

My top 5 as of today (subject to change):
Captain America: The Winter Soldier
Wonder Woman
Guardians of the Galaxy
Spider-Man 2 (Raimi)

Q: I'm so inspired and enthusiastic after being at a successful writer's conference all weekend! New ideas, great information from Lit Agents, terrific solutions for marketing strategies! What kind of things charge your battery?

I get a real burst of creative energy after a convention or conference, Being around other creative people gives me a creative charge. 

Q: Is it inevitable that as villains become more popular, they're neutered - or even turned into heroes?

I don't know if it's inevitable, but it does seem to happen a lot. Especially to Batman’s villains.

Q: What is something you have recently learned about YOUR writing?

I learned that I need to pay more attention to details. 

Q: What are your thoughts on paying for a professional story synopsis critique?

No. I would pass. Better to get a critique from a pro you know or someone you trust. 

Q: Have you ever met a U.S. President? Would you like to have met one during your lifetime?

I have not met any Presidents. When I was a kid, I thought it would be cool to meet a President. Not sure if I would want to now though.

Q: Can you pick one favorite movie? I can't.

JAWS is always at the top of my favorite movies list.

Q: What is your favorite way to start your writing day? A cup of coffee or tea? A quiet walk? Meditation? The right music? Or do you just sit down and plow in?

I grab a drink, usually tea or Mt. Dew, maybe water, then sit down and get started.

Q: You're stuck on an elevator with the person on you lick screen. Who are you stuck with.

The Fantastic Four. (I assume ‘lick’ screen really meant ‘lock’ screen).

Q: BATMAN or SUPERMAN?  (any era, any character) YOUR CHOICE!

Byrne/Ordway era Superman.

Q: I would be truly grateful if you could finish the following sentence: I like (or would like) to work from home because................

I like to work from home because I save that valuable commute time that had me stressed by the time I reached the office. Working from home, I start work stress-free. The downside of working from home is you do occasionally get cabin fever and really just need to get out of the house.

Q: What's your favorite alien invasion TV series?

The original V mini series. Between the two of them, that's 4 fantastic hours of TV.

Q: Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. What makes a person beautiful to you?

It's hard to define, especially instant attraction, but I look for beauty in a person's face, the eyes, the smile. When I find beauty there, it's hard to look away. Too mushy?

What sounds do you like most when writing? Classical music? Soothing sounds like a recording of the sea and surf? Rock and roll? Complete silence?

Sometimes I play the radio or just turn on a music streaming service. Most of the time I just write without music. It just depends.

Q: Name three movies you can't >not< watch when you catch them playing (i.e., films that suck you in even when you know you've got something else you've got to do).  
Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan

Q: How many read throughs do you give a work?

No specific number. Just until I'm satisfied.

Q: Top three things you're looking for on your first read through of your completed draft?

Typos, repeated words, things that don't make sense

Q: Have you ever written a story where the main MC is not known by name?

Actually, I have. I wrote a short that introduced the character Freelancer. We never learn her real name, although for expediency, some call her Miss Lance based on her job title.

Q: What is your favorite thing to do when you're NOT writing? Paint, knit, sew, build, fix cars, bake?

That's usually when I obsess over why I'm not writing. Just kidding. Kinda. I like to go to the movies, have dinner with friends, read, watch TV, you know, normal stuff.

Q: If you are puzzled, or truly don't give a F, do you scream "Inconceivable!!"??

No. I do not.

Q: Would you agree on 250-350 WPM being the "average" reading speed for adults?

No idea. I've never much thought about it

Q: Favorite Star Trek Pilot?
The Cage (TOS
Where No Man Has Gone Before (TOS
Encounter At Farpoint (TNG
Emissary (DS9
Caretaker (Voyager
Broken Bow? (Enterprise 

Emissary would be my choice. It is a good story. I also like Voyager's pilot. The others were good, but not necessarily great stories to me.

Q: Would a crowdfunding campaign hurt my chances of being picked up by a publisher like Image or Darkhorse?

I don't think it would hurt at all.

Q: How many of you sell your work via your own website? If so, how is it working out?

Not a lot of direct sales through my website. I used to get asked a lot if I sold autographed books from my site and was told by many people that they would love to buy autographed books directly from the author so I set it up then nothing but crickets. Haven’t sold a single autographed copy since.

Q: Does being called a nerd or geek bother you? It bothers me.

It bothered me as a teenager, but now I embrace it. Of course, some still use it as a derogatory, but what can you do? I don't call others a nerd unless I know them and know it doesn't bother them.

Q: I'd like to ask if a children's christian story about a half human/half angel is worth getting published once I finish writing it. This isn't my first novel, but think it's one of my best stories out there. I love writing my stories.

Sure. It's hard to say without knowing the story or seeing your writing style, but any story can be worth getting published. The best advice I can offer is to submit to a publisher that publishes Christian fiction and see if it is something they would be interested in publishing. The worst they can say is no. Then, you try another publisher.

Q: Do you use a pen name? Why or why not?

I don't. I've not really seen the need to use one so far in my writing career. I do, however, have three of them at the ready should the need ever arise. The only reason I could think to use one is if I move into a genre that is a big departure from my work or if I felt like a particular book/series needed a fresh start. So far, though, I've not felt the need.

Q: Have you done any major research for a story and what have you found the best way to do so was?

There are many ways to do research. A web search is a good start and gives you some information. Visiting an expert on the subject you want to research or the place you want to learn more about gives you a personal, hands on feel for the topic. Those are usually my first options for research.

Q: What is the one comic in your collection that you will NEVER Sell?

Now there's a tough one because I don't generally sell my comics. I own an Avengers #4, a Fantastic Four #4, and really, none of my FF collection is going anywhere.

Q: I know that cliches are usually frowned upon. But are there some that you all like?

I think cliches have their place. If a character uses cliches, it's okay, as long as it's a character trait. I don't let my narrator use them, unless it's a first person narration, but then that would be the character doing it. 

Q: What is your writing space like? What amongst your supplies do you think is essential to your success? Is there anything you don't have that you wish you did?

I have a desk and two laptops, one old and one newer. That's really all I need to write. I do have a whiteboard on the wall over the desk with my to do list, deadlines, etc. so I can see what needs to be done at a glance. I can't think of anything I don't have that I need except maybe more space, but that's more a living arrangement issue.

Q: What is the first thing everyone does when they sit down with a fresh idea?

I can't speak for everyone, but I start writing.

Q: Is it weird that i sometimes get paranoid sharing my writing with others because i think they might take my idea or writing and basically steal it? And i mean by posting or sharing the actual content in my writing i just love my project so much i get nervous about this

I guess not. Maybe a little. Eventually, you’re going to have to send your story out into the world. I’ve been doing this for a while now and I haven’t personally witnessed a professional writer purposefully steal another writer’s story. I have seen writers come up with similar ideas to one another. That’s not the same thing though. That isn’t stealing. There are some ideas that are just universal.

Q: Do you prefer to share your story ideas or keep them to yourself?

I don't generally share full plots with folks, but I occasionally talk about my stories in generalities until they are released to the public.

Q: I have a series of 5 books on the go and I've got the first book pretty much finished. My question is this; My preface in this first book, is a bit long (7 pages) and I'm wondering how long it should really be? I've been thinking that I might take it and add it in as the first chapter rather than the preface and not have a preface at all. What do you all think I should do with it?

The most important thing is to make sure it's not just 7 pages of info dump at the beginning of the book. That will turn off a lot of readers. Ask yourself if the preface is important? If so, is it an info dump? If so, can that be broken up and the info be filtered in another way, maybe through the story instead of a preface or prologue. Another thing to consider is where the novel will be published. Many publishers will tell you they do not like prefaces and prologues and reject books with them. Just something to consider. At the end of the day, however, it's your story and you should tell it the way it needs to be told.

Q: Do you have a specific order for the process of writing scenes (chronologically, random)? 

I generally write in chronological order, especially on the first draft. As I edit and work on additional drafts, then I sometimes work out of order.

Q: Do you edit as you write?

Yes. I've been told that this is a bad idea, but I've found that it works for me. Before I start writing today, I go over what I did yesterday and give it a second look, edit, polish, whatever you want to call it. Also, sometimes, I'll write something in a later chapter that I realize I need to set up later. I make a note and when I finish writing that scene/chapter I go back and make those adjustments while they are fresh in my mine.

Q: How do you deal with writer's block?

I'm always working on multiple projects. If I reach a point in a story where I need to step away or let the plot bounce around the back of my brain, I jump over to another project and keep going. Deadlines and writer's block don't work well together. I have to push through.

Q: What are some weird things you do as part of your writing ritual?

I really don't have a ritual I do before writing other than grabbing myself a drink before I get started. I just sit down and get started. Maybe I need a ritual. What could I choose?

Q: I'm curious, when writing a novel, is it better to try to get each chapter/act/etc. down like you want it first, or to just try to bang out the full story in the first draft, then start filling in details chapter by chapter once you've got a full rough draft?

I fall somewhere in the middle. I start working on the first draft so I can get as much of it down as I can, but when inspiration and ideas hit, I go back into the story and get them down. There's no right or wrong way to do it. You have to find a method that works best for you. The readers and publishers are not concerned with anything other than the finished product. How you got there is up to you.

Q: Do you think this is a stupid question to ask a writer? "Are you still writing?" 

Maybe not stupid, but indelicate. The question, "Are you still writing?" makes me think the person asking assumes I would have given up by now. Even though I know that's probably not what the person meant, it's what I hear. Family seems to be the worst when it comes to asking this type of question.

Q: The more I think about it Marshall Rogers is my favorite Batman artist. Who's yours?

Neal Adams, Jim Aparo, or George Perez.

Q: At which state of your writing you began to think about self publishing? Or it was a decision made only because of many rejections?

I never set out to self publish. Now, I work for publishers and publish a few things on my own. I guess that makes me a hybrid author.

And I think that is a good place to stop for 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...

Also, please sign up for my mailing list. Drop me an email at and I'll happily add you to the list.

If you’d like to check out my work, you can find my books at AmazonBarnes and NobleGoodreadsSmashwordsBooks-A-Million, BEN BooksPatreon, and more.

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

Happy reading!


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