Please welcome Val Tobin to the Clog Blog! Val, tell us a little about yourself and your background?
Thank you, Tina, for giving me this opportunity to share about myself and my work.
I grew up in Willowdale, Ontario. That seemed like the big city to me, but for those who lived in Toronto, it was the boonies. I went to elementary and high school in Willowdale, and graduated from Earl Haig Secondary School after grade thirteen, which they offered at the time.
After a semester of Book Editing and Design at Centennial College, I studied general arts at the University of Waterloo, then went to DeVry Toronto and got a diploma in Computer Information Systems. I worked in the computer industry as a software and Web developer for over ten years.
In October 2004, I became a certified Reiki Master/Teacher. I acquired ATP® certification in March 2008, in Kona, Hawaii from Doreen Virtue, Ph.D. I started work on a bachelor of science in parapsychic science from the American Institute of Holistic Theology in March 2007 and received my degree in September 2010. After obtaining my master’s degree in parapsychology at AIHT, I returned in 2008 to Kona, Hawaii to complete the Advanced ATP® training and in April 2010 to take the spiritual writing workshop and the mediumship certification class.
In the meantime, I wrote for tech site Community MX and for Suite101, and I was Topic Editor for Paganism/Wicca and Webmaster Resources at Suite.
I’ve published over ten books and contributed a story to Doreen Virtue’s Hay House book Angel Words. My novels are available on Smashwords, Amazon, and from other retailers in both e-book and paperback.
How do you make time to write?
I dedicate time in the day to writing a targeted number of words. Some days, that target is as low as fifty words. Other days, the target is as high as 2,000 words. I’ve done NaNoWriMo almost every year since 2012, which helps me to at least once a year dedicate thirty days to writing 50,000 words.
Do you believe in writer’s block?
Yes. Sometimes I lose focus or inspiration. The way around it, for me, is to read. Reading a story I enjoy from an author whose work I love motivates me to write. Or reading books about the craft of writing inspires me. Or working on aspects of my WIP that have nothing to do with adding words to the story, such as delving into a character’s motivations, trigger ideas for the story. Writer’s block is real, but it’s never permanent.
Tell us a bit about the genre you write and why you love it.
I write in a variety of genres: horror, fantasy, romance, science fiction, and I’m also working on a non-fiction book. I love stories and I love writing, and the story I want to tell at the time decides the genre.
My first novel is The Experiencers. It’s book one of the Valiant Chronicles series. It’s technically (literally) science fiction, but it’s also a thriller with a love story. The aliens and the technology make it SF. The non-stop action makes it a thriller, and the relationships add the love. I say love rather than romance because romance doesn’t drive the plot, and there’s no guarantee any of the relationships forged through the book will end happily.
Storm Lake, a short story, and The Hunted, a Storm Lake novel, are classified as horror because of the horrific creatures. They’re also SF because of the genetic manipulation integrated into the story. The relationship between Rachel and Hound Dog adds a romantic thread, but that’s not the story’s focus.
Injury, Poison Pen, Walk-In, Gillian’s Island, and You Again are all primarily romance, with Walk-In containing a paranormal element based on the new-age concept of the walk-in but with evil undertones, Poison Pen (a howcatchem story) and You Again (a whodunit story) containing murder, and Gillian’s Island having a mystery component (who’s sabotaging the resort?) Injury is pure romantic suspense and deals with a young actress who discovers the narrative she believed about her past is a lie.
What I love about these genres is they all have action, suspense, and relatable characters. My tastes have changed over the years, and I want more action and a faster pace in the books I read, so I inject that into my writing. Perhaps it’s a result of the tech boom and how everything happens so fast—often instantly. We don’t wait long for much of anything, and while I still appreciate reflective moments in a story, and do include them in my own works when required to move the plot forward or develop character, I enjoy short chapters and a fast pace.
I love writing about characters with a variety of traits, some I might share and some I don’t share at all, and exploring the world through their eyes and lives. For example, what I loved about Gillian in Gillian’s Island was showing how her thoughts differed from what she said because she was always afraid to speak her mind. The results were at times humorous.
How are you publishing your recent book and why? (*e.g. Indie, traditional)
Indie. I have one story in a traditionally published book (a non-fiction book by Doreen Virtue and Grant Virtue called Angel Words and published by Hay House), but all my other books and stories are indie published.
An author friend who was traditionally published in the 1970’s and now indie publishes helped me make up my mind when I wrote my first novel. We discussed the pros and cons of both, and for me, indie made sense. My educational background, experience, and skills I’ve developed over the years make it possible for me to publish my work myself. I also am lucky to have found a great cover designer and team of beta readers and editors.
Are you an Introvert or Extrovert? How does this affect your work?
I’m an introvert, so it’s difficult for me to network and socialize. It’s an asset during quarantine though. Stay home and avoid people? That’s my default.
It affected my work positively, too, by triggering an idea for a story. The novel Gillian’s Island came about because I’m an introvert. I can remember the moment I got the idea, and for anyone who wants to know where ideas come from, here it is:
We have a friend who owns an island resort near Temagami, Ontario. We don’t hear from him often, but one day, sometime in 2015, he called us up. I’d never seen the resort, so I looked it up online. It occurred to me it would be difficult to run a resort if you’re an introvert. You have to deal with people constantly.
From there, my mind leaped to “but if you have a spouse to handle all that, you can deal with all the administrative stuff and leave the people stuff to him.” Then I thought, “But what if you get divorced, and you’re left holding the bag?”
You can see where this is going. I thought, “This was a great jumping-off point for a new story.” I could already see my main character taking shape: an introverted woman who runs an island resort with her husband. She does all the admin work and manages the place while her extroverted husband schmoozes and deals with all the people aspects. Except he leaves her for another woman, and now my MC is left to run the resort. Except hubby wants his share of the money from the resort, so now my MC—Gillian, her name will be Gillian—must sell the resort.
And she loved the resort. It’s an island, and aren’t many introverts islands? I thought it was perfect that she lived on an island and wanted to stay there but was forced off of it. Her journey in this story is to find herself, to learn to be an island among people. The point isn’t that she must stop being an introvert; the point is that she must accept who she is and allow herself to trust other people so she can build healthy relationships.
What is your favorite motivational phrase?
“When you make music or write or create, it’s really your job to have mind-blowing, irresponsible, condomless sex with whatever idea it is you’re writing about at the time.” — Lady Gaga.
What advice would you give to aspiring writers?
Write the first draft for you. Second drafts are for your inner editor. Give yourself permission to suck on that first draft. You’ll find it liberating to realize no one needs to read it but you.
Where can readers find you on the World Wide Web?
Like me on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/valtobinauthor
Follow me on Twitter: https://twitter.com/valandbob
Subscribe to my blog: http://bobandval.wordpress.com/
Follow me on BookBub: https://www.bookbub.com/authors/val-tobin
Check out my profile on ALLi: https://www.allianceindependentauthors.org/members/val-tobin/profile/
Visit my website and sign up to receive my newsletter: http://www.valtobin.com/
Do you have an excerpt you’d like to share with us?
Yes, thank you. I’ll share an excerpt from my latest release, You Again. It’s a second-chance romance about an accounting tech for whom complications arise when she’s assigned her former lover as a client and his company’s previous financial controller is found dead.
At five o’clock, Ellen walked into the Foundation Saloon and, when she gave her name, the hostess led her to a table with a booth near the back of the dining room. Gabriel was already there, a half-empty stein of beer in front of him.
“Got an early start?” she asked. The hostess set a menu in front of Ellen, who took a seat across from him.
He waited for the hostess to leave and then said, his expression serious, his tone dark, “We have a problem.”
She smiled—a cross between a smirk and amusement. “You being dramatic?”
“No. You ever hear of Francesca Newton?”
“I trained her on the financial software BRI uses. She replaced me as controller when I quit.”
He leaned toward her and said in a low voice, “She’s dead.”
Cold dread washed over Ellen. “What do you mean dead?”
“When I got to the BRI offices today, a detective was there. He told me her husband found her body in their apartment. Looks like suicide, but the police are investigating and treating it as a suspicious death.”
“I’m sorry to hear that. She seemed like a nice woman. Young. What a waste. I’m sure it’s just a routine investigation. They do that for any death that isn’t natural, don’t they?” And why would this be a problem for her, or more specifically, them? There was no “them.”
“He said there were indications she was murdered.”
The oxygen in the room seemed to vanish and Ellen gasped. “What indications?”
“He wouldn’t tell me. But if they think someone killed her, they likely have evidence.”
She nodded, unable to speak. Francesca had been a pretty woman in her late twenties. She’d been so full of life. Yes, that was a cliché, but in Francesca’s case, it was an accurate description. The young woman had been eager to start the new job and had learned the software quickly. Ellen had been positive she’d work out well.
“What could’ve happened?” she said aloud though she spoke more to herself than to Gabriel.
He replied anyway. “I don’t know.”
She recalled his comment at the start of the conversation. “Why is this a problem for us?” The publicity might be bad for him, but she’d left that company too long ago for anyone to associate her with it. Unless she took over their books, as Carol had assigned her to do.
She needed to clear this up immediately. “It won’t be a problem for me. I’m not taking the account. Are you really thinking only of the bad press over this? A woman died. She either killed herself or someone murdered her. Isn’t that more important than what the media might say about you over it?”
Anger flared in his eyes and he scowled. “That’s not where my mind went. How could you think that?”
“Why wouldn’t I think that? I don’t know you anymore. What else is there?”
“Don’t you think it’s strange that such a successful company went downhill after you left?”
Before she could respond, the server, a perky, petite redhead with braids and freckles, arrived to take Ellen’s drink order. Deciding she needed one, she ordered a glass of red wine—the nine-ounce rather than the six-ounce option. When the woman left, Ellen picked up the menu. She didn’t feel hungry, but stress eating was one of her go-to coping mechanisms, and the news of what could be the murder of an acquaintance had definitely stressed her.
“Want to order food?” she asked.
When he remained silent, she peeked up from the menu. He stared at her, his lips pressed together.
“What’s wrong?” Did he think her callous for wanting to order food? “I stress eat, Gabe. I’m not heartless.”
He set his palms on the table, bracketing his mug of beer, and said, “It’s not that. I have to leave soon. I’m going somewhere else for dinner.”
Her whole body went cold. “You have a date,” she stated. “On a Thursday.”
“Yes. One I made two weeks ago. I’m sort of seeing someone …”
“Sort of?” Francesca’s death popped into her head, and she waved a hand at him. “Never mind. I don’t care. You’re free to see whomever you want and do whatever you want with her. What matters is what happened to Fran.”
He gave her a slow nod. “Right. So, answer my question.”
“The company was prosperous. They had substantial revenues. Still do, from what I can tell. Their problems started after you left.”
She gasped. “You pinning that on Fran? Is that why you think she killed herself?”
“Or was murdered.”
Ellen brushed a hand through her hair, pulling errant strands off her face. The server arrived with the wine and set it in front of her.
“I’ll take an order of sweet potato fries,” Ellen told her. “Nothing for him,” she added with a nod in Gabriel’s direction.
After the redhead left again, Gabriel checked the time on his phone. “I have to go. Drinks and your food are on me. I’ll settle the tab on my way out. Order anything else you want. They’ll put it on my card.” He gazed at her contemplatively for a moment. “Don’t use it to get revenge on me.”
“Wow. Don’t worry. I can pay for my own food.”
“That was a joke, Ellen. Can we please forget the past? I’m sorry for what happened. We’ll figure it out. In the meantime, help me with BRI. Take on the account. Maybe, together, we can figure out if anything in the records could’ve triggered her death, whether by her own hand or someone else’s.”
“I don’t know. What I’ll do is think about it tonight and give you an answer in the morning. If I decide we shouldn’t work together, I’ll tell Carol to give it to someone else.”
“But you know the company already. If anyone can spot inconsistencies or anything that’s not right, you can.”
“You think she was deliberately cooking the books?”
“How would I know? It could be anything. You’d find the issue faster than anyone else. Will you do it?”
She pictured herself working with Gabriel, perhaps for weeks. She’d see or talk to him every day, given the unusual situation. But he was correct she’d find errors faster than anyone else. Plus, if it helped the police catch a killer or helped them understand why Francesca killed herself, didn’t Ellen owe it to everyone to do anything she could to figure it out?
Reluctantly, she said, “On one condition: When I’ve post-mortemed the files, when I’ve cleaned them up and everything’s in order, you turn the account over to someone else.”
“No problem,” he blurted. His expression told her he thought by that point she’d change her mind.
Ellen swore to herself she wouldn’t. She’d give him no choice but to put someone else on the account. By the time this was over, she’d find another job and remove herself from Gabriel’s life the way he’d removed himself from hers three years ago.
She reached out her hand. “Deal.”
They shook on it, and he walked away, her gaze following him out of sight.