Tell us a little about yourself and your background?
Being a published author has always been a life goal. It’s taken me a while to get there, and it was not a straight road—sometimes there was no map. Along the way, I became an English teacher, received a Master’s degree in Theater, and am currently working on a second Master’s in Creative Writing. I am a hardcore sci-fi and horror fan. I will gladly talk about writing, books, and zombies any day.
How do you make time to write?
Writing comes first. I make time to do the rest of life. When I’m not writing, I keep an audio-book on my phone, because authors should be reading as well as writing. When I ride the bike at the gym, I read an actual book. I always have pages to edit if I get stuck and have time to color purple on my pages. I spend my evening reaching my daily goal of 1,000 words. Sometimes when I’m heavy into editing, I don’t write part of a new story. Teaching writing allows me to talk about my writing. I will toss out questions sometimes just to see how my students answer. Trust me, some of those answers will end up in print.
Do you believe in writer’s block?
No. Even if I’m having a slow day on one story, I’ll switch to another. I have a couple of side stories. I have too many ideas not to be writing. The so-called writer’s block is a lack of confidence in oneself. I accepted a long time ago that whatever a person is writing will suck. It’s terrible and no one will ever want to read it. Including the author. But once those words are on a page, it can be transformed into a masterpiece. The key is getting the words down and it can be turned into art. No matter what, someone will read and love it and someone will hate it.
Tell us a bit about the genre you write and why you love it.
Horror and Sci-Fi. I saw Star Wars when I was three and a half and knew I wanted to create worlds. Sci-Fi and horror have no limits. And I can explore a side of people that terrifies and fascinates us at the same moment—serial killers. I enjoy the macabre, and I don’t always chase the monster under-the-bed stories. I find real terror lies in people. I think that is my fascination with serial killers. They are real and that is where terror lies.
How are you publishing your recent book and why? (*e.g. Indie, traditional, or both)
I am publishing my current novel through a small press publisher under a hybrid model. I pay some of the publishing costs and they cover some. It allows for more control on my part but gives me support and access to publishing you may not have with total self-publishing. I would still like to see a traditionally published book—which might be happening soon. And by soon in the publishing world means three years. I fully support Indie authors. I still fall in that category, but before someone goes on full-fledged self-publishing, send it off. Collect those rejection letters. It makes you a better writer. We learn more from failure than success.
Are you an Introvert or Extrovert? How does this affect your work?
I never met a stranger. It helps with book sales. I’ll give you an example; if I want to know how a nurse deals with cancer patients, I’ll ask a nurse. Then I write my scene. I think it makes the moment more real. It is not the medical terms or the science. It’s what would they actually say that makes it feel real to the reader. And it feels real because it’s what a real nurse would say.
What is your favorite motivational phrase?
I can fix anything but a blank page (I’ve seen it credited to several authors).
What advice would you give to aspiring writers?
Through teaching writing, the biggest trap (and what makes them hate me) is the inability to let go of what they have written. The beginning author writes a chapter. They spend weeks, months—even years—perfecting this chapter. It’s the most beautiful piece of writing they will ever create. And it doesn’t serve the story and must be cut. They take it as a personal attack, or they feel they wasted their time. They have not. Every time they write and rewrite, they are getting better at it. But sometimes no matter how good a paragraph seems, it doesn’t fit into the story and must go. And they can’t let it go. When you cut your work to the bones and still tell a good story, it is ready. I recently read a freshman effort by a published author, and he spent pages beautifully describing this Victorian home and it had nothing to do with the story. It destroys the flow of the book and many readers won’t keep reading. The worst offense was that we never returned in the book to this home.
It hurts but cuts the unnecessary bits.
One other area is the outline. I write the last chapter first. I like to know where my characters will end up. I then do a basic plot outline. And this is where some writers and Comp teachers get upset. I am not married to my outline. It is not a stone-cold road-map; it is a suggestion. If my characters need to go in a different direction, then I follow. If they toss the map, then so be it. Sometimes we get back to the final chapter, sometimes I have to rewrite to match the direction the character traveled. But I don’t get upset because I didn’t stay true to my pre-planning. If anything, it was a direction that wasn’t meant for those characters.
Where can readers find you on the World Wide Web?
Do you have an excerpt you’d like to share with us?
Sirgrus Blackmane Demihuman Gumshoe and The Dark-Elf
The Great War is over, Prohibition is in full swing, and fairies have the right to vote. Sprinkle-dust fae, not those bloody orcs. Don’t give me any “bleeding heart,” “love your enemy” buggery. Ending a war with signatures on a paper doesn’t change what I witnessed. No way. The only good orc is a dead one. Dwarves are born hating orcs. And I’ll die hating orcs.
Cops would be a close second. I’ve no ancestral urge to butcher them, but I don’t have a desire to cooperate without a warrant either. I’m jammed between two uniformed officers in the back of a coupe. I’m not under arrest, so I don’t appreciate the perp treatment. Sandwiched between them, one thing is clear: I’m not trusted.
I’ve nothing better to do. My caseload is open. Private dicks aren’t normally called to the busting of a rum-runner ring—especially dwarf detectives outside the Quarters. I’ve got little to do with Prohibition, other than that it’s a law I fail to practice. Mead is a staple of the mountain dwarf diet.
I slip a golden clam-shell case from the inner pocket of my trench coat and remove a cigarette. I prefer pipes, but in a pinch, a cig will do. If I don’t catch a case after this, I’ll have to roll my own.
The driver hits every pothole in the road before pulling into a field. They let me out. I crush my cig, using the moment of freedom to grind the cherry into the green grass. I’m not manhandled, but the brusque movement of my escorts suggests I’m expected to follow the officers.
The sight of wooden box after wooden box being dragged from the barn makes me want to cry. Uniformed men outside smash case after case labeled “Perfect Maple Syrup,” and their acts are the true crime. Hard rum vapors hover in the air, wafting from the growing pile of shattered glass and growing pond of brown liquid soaking into the ground.
My escorts bring me to the man in charge.
His suit gives away that he is no patrolman. I can’t get over the paisley print stitched into his blue silk tie. His tie reveals his talents if a person knows what the symbols mean. He’s human, and human mages are a dying breed. Mages have always been feared. Hell, they used to be burned for heresy.
I light another cig.
“We found a body.”
Now, a body does pique my interest. Bodies are to be expected when rum-runners are raided, but not always. Most middlemen bootleggers surrender, and the lawyers have them out on bail within twenty-four hours. But other than drinking the product, I’ve nothing to do with such nefariousness. Anyway, I don’t deal with stiffs. They tend to skip out on the check.
“Agent Edgeangel, since when does the Justice Bureau’s Mage Division enforce the National Prohibition Act?” I speak with disdain, mostly because of the smell. Magic stinks worse than the wafts of spilt rye.
“Sirgrus…Blackmane.” He bites off my clan name as if it’s tough, overcooked meat. “Magic crimes are on a downward trend since the end of the war. Drinking-related crimes are rising.”
When you pass a pointless law to help those returning from war to curb their drinking, you create more criminals. The Great War wielded the tools of men over ancient mysticism. Europa suffered, centuries of culture was decimated, and magic failed to restore the old ways. This surly baboon won’t admit mages of any race are going extinct. But I’m here about a dead body, not a dead culture. I puff a series of smoke rings, contemplating how best to remind him wizardry is obsolete. “The trenches gutted the ancient countryside, destroying the old ways. No magic will ever bring it back.”
Edgeangel wags a finger toward the silver rune-etched beads laced into my beard’s braids—a long-standing dwarf superstition. Some claim the runes have a charmed origin. “The technology of men rules the world now. But I didn’t ask you here to discuss the diminution of the old ways.”
“I figured not.” I stand next to the classy G-man. Even on a government salary, his suit is tailored. Mage-users are elitists. I’m not a fan. Mages failed us in Europa.
The G-man gazes down his long nose at me.
Not because of my height. Dwarf is a species, not a size. I reach a stature of five feet, without the fedora.
Edgeangel’s blue eyes reveal his distaste for me. Or perhaps he just thinks all non-mages are beneath him. I don’t need the gift of clairvoyance to understand his assignment was no career builder. Rum-running busting is a job for the common officer, not a master of the Dark Arts.
Agent Edgeangel marches past the men carting case after case of booze from the barrel-house. They must smash it here onsite. Somehow, if they don’t, it never arrives to be booked into evidence. Another reason the lawyers get the minions out on bail so fast: no proof.
We continue past a paddy wagon. The shackled men ignore me.
In a back room of the barn—maybe for tools or tack storage—a white sheet shrouds a human figure. The corpse isn’t wide enough to be a dwarf. I had thought maybe a dwarf crossed the line to work outside the Quarter, which might’ve explained my presence here. Edgeangel might have supposed I knew a dwarf. Men always think dwarves know each other. We all look alike to them.
A red bloom of blood is centered over the forehead. Edgeangel kneels, gripping the corner of the blanket. “Prepare yourself.”
I’ve seen dead bodies before. Dead ones don’t disturb me like some of the living. I crush out my cig.