Ask the Authors 2022 Book & Blog Series: Plot/Storyline

Ask the Authors 2022

Welcome back to the “Ask the Authors 2022” Saturday blog series.

If you missed them, you can catch the first two segments here:

Segment 1Introductions for Kaye Lynne Booth & Kevin Killany/Writing Life Q & A

Segment 2: Introduction for Bobby Nash/Pre-Writing Rituals Q & A

This is the third segment for this series and today I’m going to introduce you to contributing author, Roberta Eaton Cheadle, who shares her essay about her own publishing journey in the book, and bring you a Q & A on plot, or storyline, from the WordCrafter writing reference anthology, Ask the Authors 2022.

Meet Roberta Eaton Cheadle

Roberta Eaton Cheadle is a writer of young adult and adult fiction in the supernatural fantasy, historical horror, and historical supernatural genres. Under the name Robbie Cheadle, she is a South African children’s author, publishing the Sir Chocolate series with her son, Michael, and a poet with 2 published poetry books.

To date, Roberta has published two novels, Through the Nethergate, and A Ghost and His Gold, along with several short stories in various anthologies including Whispers of the Past, Spirits of the West, and Where Spirits Linger, all edited and compiled by Kaye Lynne Booth, and Dark Visions, Nightmareland, Spellbound, Wings & Fire, and Shadowland, all compiled by Dan Alatorre.

Robbie is also a member of the Writing to be Read blogging team and co-editor of Poetry Treasures (2021) and Poetry Treasures 2: Relationships (2022), two poetry anthologies with contributing authors who were guests from her “Treasuring Poetry” blog series. When she is not writing, Robbie enjoys working in the garden and creating fondant and cake artworks to be featured in her children’s books.

And now for the Q & A.

Plot/Storyline

How do you feel about prologues? Love them or hate them? Why?

Mario Acevedo: I’m not a fan of prologues and as I see them as superfluous to the story. If you must include a prologue, then call it Chapter One to make sure readers like me won’t flip past it.

Paul Kane: I have no strong feelings about them either way. Sometimes I’ve used them, other times I’ve gone straight into Chapter One. I know some writers who say if you can avoid Prologues then do it and just start with the first chapter, but I think if it serves a purpose then there’s a place for one. I tend to include them in the thrillers, because it’s always an event that kicks things off – so for example in Her Last Secret, it’s the death of Jordan Radcliffe, in Her Husband’s Grave it’s the discovery of a body on Golden Sands beach, and in The Family Lie it’s a couple of campers who see a man on fire in the woods. I then split the narrative into parts, and in Chapter One I tend to introduce the main protagonist, so it might be the person who’ll be doing the investigating; someone whose eyes we’ll be seeing most of the events in the book through.

Chris Barili: I normally skip prologues in the books I read, especially if they’re more than two pages long, so naturally, I try to avoid them in my own writing. I tend to be of the mind that if it’s important enough to be in the story, I can be “Chapter One” or background info sprinkled throughout the story.

Bobby Nash: Prologues have their uses. I don’t think they need to be used in every story and I certainly don’t use them as an info dump. Sometimes, they work well.

Robbie Cheadle: I have no strong feelings about prologues. If the story requires one, then it should be there, if not, it can be omitted. I have not as yet included a prologue in one of my books.

Nancy Oswald: Not too fond of them. I think it’s better to jump right into the story.

Kevin Killiany: Prologues are essentially exposition—they explain the conditions or situation that make the story itself possible and necessary. Sometimes they contain information vital to the climax or outcome of the story that the writer could not figure out how to insert into the narrative itself. Like any tool they are not good or bad in and of themselves. I have, rarely, used prologues as placeholders in rough drafts; repositories to hold essential information until I work out how to work the really important bits into the narrative. Only one of my short stories ever went to press with both a prologue and epilog: “Simple Farmer”, Total Warfare, FanPro, 2006, a tie-in story for the Classic BattleTech RPG. They contained information long-time players knew, but new and less minutia-oriented readers would need to understand the story’s significance to the game.

What is the most difficult part of the story to write: beginning, middle or end?

Mario Acevedo: For me, the entire book is a challenge. I tell new writers not to sweat a perfect beginning because it’s often not till you write the ending do you figure what the beginning needs to say. The middle is called “the swamp” for good reason and the key here is to keep in mind the story question as you introduce plot twists.

Paul Kane: This changes, depending on at which point in the story or book you ask me. It’s hard to make a start on a project, because you’ve just got the blank page in front of you. But then it’s just as hard the next day to come to it and see another blank page… I tend to flag about halfway through and wonder what the hell I’m doing or wish I’d never even started it. The end is definitely the best part, if you’ve panned it well and can bring the book in for a good landing. There’s no more satisfying feeling in the world than having written the book. I always joke that I hate writing – which for a writer probably isn’t great – but I do love having written. Having a first draft that I can then tinker with. That’s my favourite part of the process if I’m honest, apart from getting the idea in the first place and developing that. But even at an early stage, you’ve got the whole mountain of a book to write ahead of you, which can be quite daunting. 

Bobby Nash: I don’t know if I would call it more difficult to write, but the middle is usually where I start getting bogged down. Knowing when to transition from the middle to the end can be tricky.

Robbie Cheadle: It is all the same for me. I have the outline in my head, and I write in that direction. I do not find any parts more difficult, and I am for consistency and fluidity throughout my stories.

Jeff Bowles: For me, a short story or novel isn’t complete until I’ve managed to synthesize a decent tie-up ending. It can be tough to do, especially if you aren’t using a road map or outline of some sort, which I often do just to see where the story takes me. Sometimes I do a lot of preplanning, and that can certainly help, but even then, things in the plot can and do change, which means a good ending can still be hard to stick. Beginnings carry all the burden of proof, the reason someone will or won’t want to read your work, but even they depend on where a narrative ultimately ends up. As the saying goes, the seeds of an ending are always found in its beginning.

Nancy Oswald: Each book is different.

What are the elements of a good plot?

Paul Kane: That it hangs together well and is pacy. That there are no flabby bits which are unnecessary. Every bit of your story should be relevant and serve a purpose; if you could take certain bits out and still have the same plot, then they weren’t necessary in the first place. That it moves along well from beginning to the middle, to the end, and leaves a reader satisfied; and by that I mean content that they haven’t just wasted a chunk of their lives reading it. It’s why I always plan, so I can see the shape of the plot and work out what sections need to stay, which can be salvaged, and which need to be jettisoned.

Bobby Nash: I tell stories that I hope are coherent, make sense, and are entertaining. If that happens and the characters work, I’m happy.

What is the best hook you’ve ever written? Why?

Paul Kane: Ooh, that’s a hard one. Do you mean at the beginning of a story to make the reader go on? I’d say probably The Family Lie – and reviewers have mentioned this a lot! It’s the whole thing of showing those campers hearing something in the woods, looking out and seeing a guy on fire among the trees. I mean, what on earth’s going on there? If it doesn’t make you want to read on and find out then I’ve really not done my job properly. Up there with that is probably the start of Servants of Hell. That purposely mirrors the puzzle box scene with Frank from The Hellbound Heart, where he’s trying to solve the Lament Configuration and summon the Cenobites. I have a very similar scene, but right at the end you discover it’s Sherlock Holmes solving the puzzle just as the Cenobites show up. We then go back and find out how he ended up in that situation, but man what a hook! I was the one on fire the day I wrote that.

Chris Barili: Probably the opening to Guilty, the prequel to my Hell’s Butcher series. It opens with the main character face down in a saloon, dead from a gunshot wound. His first interaction is with a bartender who is half-rhinoceros.

Bobby Nash: I love this opening to Snow Falls.

“Abraham Snow knew he was about to die–

–and the thought of it pissed him off to no end.”

What kind of stakes do you set for your characters?

Paul Kane: Usually quite high stakes. Even if it’s something that’s high stakes for them alone, something that means a great deal to them, but might not to anyone else. You have to give characters motivation, nudge them to do things they might not otherwise do, and the only way to achieve that is by making it a high stakes gamble for them. They might lose their marriage, kids, or even their life. It makes a reader keep on turning the pages to find out how they’ll get on. In Lunar, the stakes really couldn’t be any higher for my protagonist Nick Skinner: he needs to find out why the world became stuck at a certain point in time; what the white-eyed Loons are roaming about, killing people; and he needs to find out where the love of his life Dawn is. Track her down and save her. Hopefully you go along with him for the ride to find out how he gets on. 

Chris Barili: Again, that depends on the story and the genre. The stakes in a romance are a broken heart or happiness, while that in a horror story might actually be losing their heart.

Bobby Nash: Every story is different, but the stakes have to impact the character on some personal level. If the character doesn’t feel anything or there’s no stakes for them, the reader has no reason to get invested.

Robbie Cheadle: Through the Nethergate and A Ghost and His Gold were both about ghosts which have become trapped in between the physical world here on earth, and the afterlife. The reasons for this happening are different in both books, but the ghosts searching for redemption, so they can move on to the next level of existence is a common thread. The Soldier and the Radium Girl is different and is about a young couple’s quest for justice.

Do you write in subplots purposefully or do they develop organically for you?

Paul Kane: I work all those out beforehand, when I do my planning. That’s when subplots will occur to me and develop organically at the ideas level when I’m figuring it all out. As I mentioned, that doesn’t mean it’s all set in stone, there is always scope to change things if it makes the story better, but it allows you to figure out what main plots and subplots you’re going to need before you even start writing.

Chris Barili: Both. I plan some, and others pop up during the course of telling the story. If your characters are realistic enough, and you know them well enough you won’t be able to avoid the latter happening at least a little in your story.

Bobby Nash: A little of both. In writing series like Snow or Sheriff Myers, I know plot points for future books so I set up things that will pay off later. There are times, however, where I’ll decide something later and go back to set up the subplots and discover they are already there. Sometimes, my characters are smarter than I am.

Robbie Cheadle: Subplots do develop organically for me and are often a result of the interesting additional information I discover through my research as I go along.

Nancy Oswald: Develop organically.

Kevin Killiany: Subplots are always purposeful. In fact I always write complex or substantive subplots as individual stories in first/rough draft. Jigsawing the parts together—trimming, expanding, and polishing as needed—is part of the editorial process. 

How do you assure that all subplots are resolved at the end of the story?

Mario Acevedo: I don’t because I like messy endings. The main story question is resolved, but usually involves a compromise by the protagonist. Unresolved subplots are good places to hitch up a sequel.

Paul Kane: Well, they might not be – but that would be something you leave dangling on purpose. For example, and this is a spoiler, at the end of The Gemini Factor we find out that one of the main characters Deborah is pregnant with twins. This was part of the subplot of her falling in love with Jack, a twin himself, who ends up getting killed. So we don’t really see the resolution of what she does about having his kids… unless I do a sequel, which actually I’m intending to do at some point. So leaving things open-ended sometimes can shoot off into yet another story. Pulling on a story thread that you’ve left dangling.

Chris Barili: Well, first off, some are not resolved because I want them to continue into the next book. For those that wrap up in the current book, I create a plot line, usually color-coded, in my beat sheet for that subplot so I don’t forget it.

Bobby Nash: Keep good notes. There was one time I realized that I had forgotten to resolve a plot point and so I started planning how to resolve it and the characters showed me which way to go. It turned out far better than my original idea. That’s why I trust my characters to get me where I need to go.

Robbie Cheadle: I engage the services of a developmental editor to read my stories carefully and help me tidy up lose threads, tighten the storyline, and produce the best story possible. I am also fortunate enough to have two Beta readers who read my work chapter-by-chapter and help me resolve issues and lose threads or contradictions as I go along.

Kevin Killiany: Sometimes they aren’t. Sometimes they’re hooks for the next story.

What methods do you use to add tension and conflict to your story?

Mario Acevedo: Make sure the characters, even those on the same side, have competing agendas.

Paul Kane: Well, I use suspense to ramp up the tension. And if you want to know how that works, just go away and watch a bunch of Hitchcock movies because he was the master. Show the bomb and the ticking clock under the table, but have the characters oblivious to it. That’s suspense, folks! As for conflict, you have to have characters with different points of view, just like in real life. Where do all the arguments come from in your own life? People who disagree with you on a certain course of action or about beliefs. Just look at something like The X-Files, which I watched from start to finish again recently. Mulder’s the believer, Scully’s the sceptic, and we watched the arguments – as well as sexual tension – between them for many years. Opposing viewpoints, yet when the chips were down they worked for the common good; the perfect combination. In my novel Arcana, which is set in an alternate universe, I had a young M-Forcer whose job it is to police magic users, unwittingly fall in love with a member of a group of magic users he’s chasing. Then you ask the question: what now? Will he turn his back on what he believes for love? Or bring her in? Or is there more to what’s going on in the first place than they know? It makes for tension, conflict and… if you’ll pardon the pun, given the novel in question, sparks.

Bobby Nash: Character moments are good for this. There are also tricks you can do on the writing side. Short, choppy sentences speed up the action. Long paragraphs slow it down. That sort of thing.

Robbie Cheadle: It depends on the book in question. With my current novel, there is a lot of irony because a lot of readers will be familiar with the story of the radium girls. War stories include their own tension due to the conflict situations that are innate in the history. I make use of flawed characters so that they do things that create conflict situations through their own poorly thought-out actions and their strong ideas and views about other characters and the situations they are in due to external circumstances.

Nancy Oswald: If I’m bored the reader will be too, so I try to pay attention to that and analyze where the story gets slow (or not).

Kevin Killiany: Mostly I just add tension and conflict. You should always keep in mind that every character is the hero of their own story—every character has a reason for what they’re doing. Begin with characters you care about (Not the reader, you; fake it ≠ make it.) and give them compelling reasons for their actions. When the actions and the underlying reasons for those actions of two people you care about run contrary to each other, the conflict generates the tension.

_______________________________________________________________________

That wraps up the “Ask the Authors 2022” blog series for today. I thank you for joining us and hope you found some of this useful. Next Saturday will bring you an introduction to contributing author, Paul Kane and a Q & A on Character Development. See you then.

Ask the Authors 2022

And don’t forget to grab your copy of Ask the Authors 2022 from your favorite book distributor at the special price of 3.99 for the duration of this blog series, through the Books2Read UBL here: https://books2read.com/u/3LnK8e

____________________________________________________________________

Join Kaye Lynne Booth & WordCrafter Press Readers’ Group for WordCrafter Press book & event news, including the awesome releases of author Kaye Lynne Booth. Get a free digital copy of her short story collection, Last Call and Other Short Fiction, as a sampling of her works just for joining.


Ask the Authors 2022 Book & Blog Series: Pre-Writing Rituals

Ask the Authors 2022

Welcome back for segment 2 of the “Ask the Authors 2022” blog series, with an introduction to Bobby Nash, who shares how to manage the many tasks which being an author entails, to the Ask the Authors 2022 Writing Reference Anthology, and a Q & A on Pre-Writing Rituals.

Last week, we learned a little about myself and author Kevin Killiany, in addition to the Q & A session on Writing Life. If you missed it, you can find it here.

And now on to this week’s post.

Meet Bobby Nash

Bobby Nash is not a man of action, a detective, or a hero, but he loves writing about characters who are all of those things and more. Bobby is an award-winning author of novels, comic books, short stories, screenplays, and more. He is a member of the International Association of Media Tie-in Writers and International Thriller Writers. On occasion, he acts, appearing in movies and TV shows, usually standing behind or beside your favorite actor. From time to time, he puts pen to paper and doodles. For more information on Bobby Nash and his work, please visit him at www.bobbynash.com, www.ben-books.com, and across social media.

Pre-Writing Rituals

Please tell us what genre(s) you write in and what type of research is required for your stories?

Mario Acevedo: I write commercial fiction—novels and short stories of supernatural fantasy, horror, and hard-boiled crime. My research is to make the story and setting sound as credible as possible.

Paul Kane: All kinds really. I’ve dabbled in a lot of genres and written in a lot of formats, from comics and audio scripting to TV and film. I started out doing journalism, so non-fiction, and had a couple of books out in that vein: The Hellraiser Films and Their Legacy is probably the most well-known. Then I returned to writing short stories, because I was always writing those growing up; especially for English classes where the teachers would get exasperated at the length of some of them. I started sending these off to small presses and was lucky enough to get some printed, which then led to a collection. At the same time I’d been trying to write a novel, The Gemini Factor. I’d had a stab at a few before, so technically this was about my third or fourth novel, but the first I wrote with any serious intention of getting it published – which it was eventually, and there was even an anniversary edition which came out in 2020 through Gestalt Media. That was a horror serial killer thriller, by the way – and indeed most of the stuff I was doing back then was horror, and I carried on in that vein for a little while. Then around 2007, I pitched a book to Abaddon/Rebellion for their post-apocalyptic Afterblight series, which was a reworking of Robin Hood. They accepted that and it was my first mass market novel, so I’d shifted into SF at that point and wrote three novels altogether – gathered together in the sellout Hooded Man – plus a novella for them. I also wrote my first YA novel, The Rainbow Man, as PB Kane. At the same time I was writing short films like The Opportunity and The Weeping Woman, and then some audios – I adapted The Hellbound Heart into a full cast audio drama for Bafflegab – as well as working on and running conventions. More recently I’ve moved into writing straight thrillers for HQ/HarperCollins under the name PL Kane and the first of those, Her Last Secret, Her Husband’s Grave and The Family Lie, have all done very well. In amongst all that, I’ve written a couple of short plays too, one of which – One for the Road – was performed at FantasyCon 2015.  As for research, it very much depends on the kind of story you’re telling. Crime research is very different to SF, as you can probably imagine.

Chris Barili: I write in just about every genre, and I wouldn’t say one genre requires more research than the others. Rather, I’d say one series of stories requires it: Hell’s Marshal. Because it is set in the old west, I do extensive research to make sure it is accurate, or at least believable in light of the story itself.

Bobby Nash: I write in whatever genre the publisher wants. So far, I haven’t done a lot of fantasy, nor have I attempted romance or erotica. Most of my work has a thriller element to it. I also write a lot of action and crime fiction. Research varies from project to project.

Robbie Cheadle: My YA and adult books are all historical and most have a paranormal element. I do a lot of research for each book, plotting the historical events on a timeline and then overlying the events of my plot. A Ghost and His Gold had over thirty historical sources and my current work in progress, The Soldier and the Radium Girl, will end up have at least the same number of sources, possibly even more.

I also read a lot of books in the timeframe I am writing about, especially classic books that were written during the period. This helps me gain insight into the everyday lives of people living at the time and experiencing the historical events I’m writing about.

Nancy Oswald: I write mostly Colorado-set historical history for young readers. It’s not always in the same order, but I typically start by reading history of the area, but not always. I like to visit the sites and glean as much as I can about the area. For me, museums and history centers are a huge wealth of material. 

Kevin Killiany: Young adult, because the stories are more direct and revelatory of character. “Hard” science fiction (which means the fictional science is compatible with and based on real world science) and historical. Both require serious research, because accuracy is essential to the authenticity of the story.

How do you prefer to conduct your research: Live? Online? First-hand accounts?

Mario Acevedo: While the Internet is the most used because it is right in my computer, I continue to surprise myself with what treasures you find in newspaper microfiche, libraries, and visiting a place.

Paul Kane: I mainly do my research through a mixture of online searches, books and documentaries. For example for Her Husband’s Grave I did a lot of digging into psychology and serial killers, because my main character Dr Robyn Adams helps the police with their serial cases. For The Family Lie, I watched documentaries about cults and stuff like Jonestown, which led to some sleepless nights I can tell you. The cult of personality and all that. You get first-hand accounts in documentaries about subjects like that, so I haven’t needed to go to the horse’s mouth yet. Apart from in one instance, where I had a weapons expert called Trev Preston who’d help me with some of the details in the Hooded Man series. I’d ask him bizarre things like, is possible to take down an Apache Helicopter with a bolas – and he’d say yes or no. The answer’s yes, by the way, and that scene is in Broken Arrow

Chris Barili: I do almost all my research online.  Just don’t have time or resources to go visit far away places. That said, I did do some of that during two recent road trips.

Bobby Nash: I enjoy meeting and talking to people who do the jobs. I’ve talked with FBI agents, police, doctors, etc. about their respective jobs to get a feel for what they do. That adds a personal touch to the characters I have in those roles. On-line research is an invaluable tool to have at your fingertips. I also like to travel and visit locations where I can set stories and scenes.

Robbie Cheadle: I do all my research on-line and I like to use diaries, letters, and journals from the time, if possible.  Project Gutenberg is a wonderful resource for historical research.

Nancy Oswald: See above, but add first-hand accounts if they’re available. I usually save online for while I’m drafting, because inevitably I’ll need a piece of information that I couldn’t anticipate.

Kevin Killiany: I love a library—finding and searching through physical books—but these days the internet enables one to access more information quickly. Whenever possible, I visit locations used in my stories.

What are your best research sources?

Chris Barili: Town or county historians. As them the time and they will build you a clock.

Bobby Nash: Google is readily at my fingertips. Interviewing people is also a good source of information gathering and adds a personal touch.

Nancy Oswald: I like the online dictionary of etymology. Quick and accurate.

What do you look for in a source: Aim? Accuracy? Authority? Correlation?

Paul Kane: I think you’re always looking for accuracy, because it goes back to that thing of believability again. You need to be as accurate as you can with facts, just so the reader believes in what you’re doing. That said, it’s hard to research some of the things I write about, like monster cats coming back as ghosts and attacking people, but you just have to do your best. That’s where the imagination element comes into it. I recently wrote a story for a charity anthology that takes place in the universe of my novella The Rot, and I had to do tons of research into black mold to get that right – even just for short story. It’s that important.

Robbie Cheadle: I like my stories to be as historically accurate as possible, so I actively look for accuracy and correlate the information I find with as many other sources as possible.

Nancy Oswald: I usually check more than one source if I’m in doubt. For historical fiction I like to be accurate, but love, love, love historic photos for setting. 

What pre-writing exercises do you employ: Outlining? Free writing? Brainstorming?

Paul Kane: I rarely need to brainstorm, because Ideas come to me all the time and I jot them down. This means I’ve got tons of notebooks to draw on if I ever go blank… And I do plans, outlines and chapter breakdowns for novels. I might not stick religiously to them, but I find it helps me focus and keep on the straight and narrow, to keep going whenever I lose where I might be in the story. Like a kind of roadmap. You wouldn’t set off for a destination without having one of those – or a Satnav, or your phone – so why set off on a journey of many hours of hard work and 80 or 90 thousand words without an idea of where you’re heading? Some people wing it, I know, but I suspect they’re just planning it all out in their heads or their subconscious. 

Chris Barili: Yes. And more. Any tool I can get my hands on to make my writing better.

Bobby Nash: I rarely have time for pre-writing. Deadlines do not always allow for that. I spend my writing time writing. When I’m at the beginning of a project and creating characters, I will do free writing and just start jotting down notes as I get to know the characters. Sometimes, plot/story ideas will happen in this stage too.

Robbie Cheadle: I research each section before I start writing a new chapter. As mentioned previously, I have my ending plotted prior to commencing writing and that is the direction I write towards.

Nancy Oswald: Refer to answer about plotting or pantsing. Oh, it’s blank. None of the above. I think while I write most of the time, but I have used a time-line to plot on when I’m trying to track a fiction story-line and compare it to the actual historical events.

Do you try to write to market or write what you love?

Paul Kane: The quick answer is both. I’ve written stories just for the love it them, usually they’re new ones for collections – like ‘The Butterfly Man’, that was a story for a collection from PS of the same name. But I’ve also written for specific markets, like the Hooded Man stuff, or where an editor gives you a theme for an anthology. I wrote ‘The Shadow of Death’ for an anthology called Expiration Date, for instance, ‘Shells’ for an anthology called Terror Tales of the Seaside, and ‘Presence’ for Hauntings. So at that point you’re totally writing for a specific market or theme. 

Chris Barili: Again, yes. I write to market within the boundaries of what I know and love. I won’t shoe-horn my writing into genres or labels, and while I write what I am passionate about, I don’t limit myself to things I know or share with the reader.

Bobby Nash: Write what you love. Writing to market can drive you crazy and often leave you unfulfilled. I speak from personal experience here.

Robbie Cheadle: I write what I enjoy and for my own pleasure. I would like others to enjoy my stories, but that is secondary to my primary aim of personal enjoyment. As a result, I have decided to continue to publish with smaller publishers rather than to try to get representation with a larger publishing house.

Jeff Bowles: I sort of try to do both at the same time, I suppose. I’ve always had this theory that solid, salable fiction can be fun and artistic, too. Crazy, I know, but that’s just how I feel! Anyway, I’ve sort of developed a unique style, and there’s certain subjects I seem to write about again and again, as it is with most authors, I think. When I try to write like other people, the results are mixed, so I learned a long time ago to try to hit the personal enjoyment metric and then sort out what I think is salable or not. It’s a fine line, one that’s almost always difficult to walk, but it’s almost always worth it in the end.

Nancy Oswald: I realized a long time ago I cannot write to a market. For one, living in rural Colorado, I can’t keep up with anything that resembles up-to-date or edgy. The last time I remember trying keep up with cool was when I was a teen (living in Denver) and I practiced doing “The Jerk” in front of a mirror.

Kevin Killiany: Obviously when writing tie-in fiction for a TV show or role-playing game, I have to write for the market. BUT I’m writing for that market because I love the game or show—you have to campaign constantly to get your foot in the door, and that requires a good deal of passion.
With my own, original fiction, I write solely for me. If you guys like it, that’s fantastic.

________________________

That wraps up “Ask the Authors 2022” blog series for this week. Be sure to drop by next Saturday for an introduction to multi-genre author, Roberta Eaton Cheadle, and a Q & A on plot/storyline. (Okay, many of you already know Robbie, some of you quite well. Drop by anyway for the Q & A.)

Ask the Authors 2022

You can get your copy of Ask the Authors 2022 at your favorite book distributors at the special price of 3.99 for the duration of this blog series, through the Books2Read UBL: https://books2read.com/u/3LnK8e

_________________________


Ask the Authors 2022 Book & Blog Series: Writing Life

Ask the Authors 2022

Welcome to Writing to be Read, where we’re celebrating the release of Ask the Authors 2022, the writing reference anthology that features essays by ten wonderful authors who have agreed to share their writing wisdom with us, along with an extensive Q & A, divided by topics. Contributing authors are myself – Kaye Lynne Booth, Bobby Nash, Roberta Eaton Cheadle, Chris Barili, L. Jagi Lamplighter Wright, Nancy Oswald, Mario Acevedo, Jeff Bowles, Mark Leslie Lefebvre, Paul Kane, and Kevin Killiany.

“Ask the Authors is an up-to-date and broad-based compendium of advice from today’s working writers, to help you with understanding your own writing career. Great information!”

—Kevin J. Anderson, New York Times bestselling author of Spine of the Dragon

Every Saturday, this blog series will introduce you to one contributing author and share a portion of the Q & A session. Today you will meet myself and Kevin Killiany and the Q & A topic is “Writing Life”. To gain access to all of the writing wisdom contained within the book, you can get it at the special price of 3.99, (regularly 4.99) from your favorite book distributor through the Books2Read universal book link (UBL) for the duration of the blog series: https://books2read.com/u/3LnK8e

Here is the schedule for this Saturday series:

Segment 1: You are here. Introductions for me, multi-genre author, Kaye Lynne Booth & media tie-in and science fiction author Kevin Killiany/Q & A on Writing Life

Segment 2: An introduction to award winning author & media tie-in writer, Bobby Nash/Q & A on Pre-writing Rituals.

Segment 3: An introduction to multi-genre author & poet, Roberta Eaton Cheadle/Q & A on Plot/Storyline.

Segment 4: An introduction to best selling horror author, Paul Kane/Q & A on Character Development.

Segment 5: An introduction to multi-genre author, Mario Acevedo/Q & A on Action, Pacing & Dialog

Segment 6: An introduction to award winning middle grade author Nancy Oswald/Q & A on Tone: Voice, Person, Tense, & POV

Segment 7: An introduction to multi-genre author Chris Barili/Q & A on Setting & Worldbuilding

Segment 8: An introduction to speculative and horror author Jeff Bowles/Q & A on Editing & Revision

Segment 9: An introduction to award winning author and publishing industry expert Mark Leslie Lefebvre/Q & A on Publishing

Segment 10: An introduction to Y.A. & middle grade author L. Jagi Lamplighter/Q & A on Book Marketing

*Note: The Q & As include answers from several authors on each question and they may run rather long, but they are packed full of useful information, so I hope you will stick with us until the end of the series.

I’ll start things off today by introducing myself.

My name is Kaye Lynne Booth, and I live, work, and play in the mountains of Colorado. With a dual emphasis M.F.A. in Creative Writing, writing is more than a passion. It’s a way of life. I’m a multi-genre author, who finds inspiration from the nature around her, and her love of the old west, and other odd and quirky things which might surprise you. My first novel, Delilah, found a home with a small independent press, but I’ve published all of my other work independently.

For more than a decade, I’ve kept up my authors’ blog, Writing to be Read, where I post reflections on my own writing, author interviews and book reviews, along with writing tips and inspirational posts from fellow writers. In addition to creating my own imprint in WordCrafter Press, I offer quality author services, such as editing and social media book promotion, through WordCrafter Quality Writing & Author Services. When not writing or editing, I am bird watching, or hiking, or just soaking up some of that Colorado sunshine.

Oh yeah, and I am the editor and contributor to Ask the Authors 2022 and your blog series host, which means I’m the one asking the questions. And now that is out of the way, let’s move on to the Q & A and see what the contributing authors have to say about…

Writing Life

Please tell us your top 5 rules for writing success.

Mario Acevedo: I’ll give you one. From W Somerset Maugham: “There are three rules for writing a novel. Unfortunately, no one knows what they are.”

Paul Kane: I only really have three, and it boils down to the three P’s which I used to teach in my Creative Writing classes when I still did them. Patience, Persistence, Perspiration. Patience, because basically if you’re going to be a writer you need to be in it for the long haul. Some people are lucky, they get success really early on in their careers, but most have to work at it for a long time, winning little battles as they go.

This of course feeds into the second and third P’s, in that you’ll need to be prepared for knockbacks and rejections. You’re going to have to pick yourself up when you get a no, dust yourself off and get back on the horse. I’ve had countless rejections from publishers and editors in the past, but you just have to keep going, and remember that it’s all subjective. What one person hates another might love. Take on board any advice or feedback that makes sense to you, but don’t change anything you’ve written if it doesn’t because it’s your writing ultimately. Only you can write like you, with your background and experience and voice. If the advice you’re getting messes with that too much, then don’t do it.

And finally, Perspiration, because you’re not going to get anywhere unless you work for it. You should always strive to be better, even if you’ve been writing all your life. You’re never too long in the tooth to learn new things, to try new writing techniques or whatever, and the only way to be a good writer is to write, write and write. Oh, and to read a lot too.  

Chris Barili:

  • Write.
  • Keep writing.
  • Write more.
  • Write daily.
  • And write whenever you can.

Bobby Nash: I wish I had a list of rules to share here. I have never thought of it in those kinds of terms. Certainly, treating it like a job has been invaluable in keeping on track. Writing daily is probably good advice. Learn to market your work is also a good one.

Robbie Cheadle:

  • Write as much as possible given your personal circumstances.
  • Seize opportunities to participate in writing and poetry challenges.
  • Seize opportunities to participate in writing competitions and anthologies.
  • Take advice that is given to you by more experienced writers, and I mean really embrace it and incorporate it into your writing going forward.
  • Enjoy your writing.

Nancy Oswald: Sit down, write, rinse, and repeat.

Kevin Killiany: I don’t have 5 writing rules, but I do have one reading rule: read as much as your write; some weeks read more. And I highly recommend these guidelines to your reading:
A. Whenever possible read authors who will stretch your horizons. By that I mean authors who have histories, ethnicities, worldviews, cultures, gender identities, etc., different from your own. This is particularly important for white, cis-male, American writers such as myself, because we’ve been programmed from birth to see our culture as universal. [A codicil for writers who are of colors other than beige or whose identities otherwise differ from my own: read strong writers who share your identity or heritage in addition to (and maybe even before) seeking out others who could expand your perceptions.]
B. Do NOT “read like a writer” as some guides suggest, with a highlighter and notebook at your elbow and underlining “important” passages. Read like a reader. Enjoy the story, lose yourself, don’t think about the writing. If, and only if, six months later you find yourself being haunted by a passage you can’t forget (scene, setting, dialog, etc.) go back and deconstruct how the writer pulled that off. Look for how the writer prepared the reader for the scene, the structure of the scene itself, etc.—learn how the writer did it so you can give your readers the same experience.
C. Don’t read books you don’t like. If the story isn’t working for you—if the characters don’t work, the story doesn’t interest you, if the writing is dull—you are not going to learn anything. Time spent finishing a poorly written book is time wasted. [HOWEVER: If you hate the book because the writing is so powerful and evocative, it may well be worth reading. An example from my past: I hate The Bluest Eye. The hopelessness is so deep that every time I read it, I want to slit my wrists. But I’ve read it more than once because it is a master class in characterization and worldbuilding.]

Describe your personal writing space.

Mario Acevedo: Some writers claim their writing space as a sacred sanctuary that invites the Muse to drift in. My writing space is a sausage machine. I sit down on a schedule, flip a switch, and get to writing. The Muse is expected to clock in while wearing work clothes.

Paul Kane: We recently moved, so I have my pick of where to work at the moment. But I’m actually writing on my laptop on the couch, because it’s comfortable. I’ve done most of my work on there in the last few months and enjoyed it. For a while back there, whether it was to do with lockdown or whatever, I felt like I’d lost my writing mojo, but it’s slowly returning. Maybe I just got burned out as I did a lot of writing in the months after COVID hit big time – a crime novel and most of a collection called The Naked Eye for Encyclopocaplyse – and this change of scenery now has really boosted my fiction, as well as giving me the opportunity of working on a few new projects I hadn’t expected.

Chris Barili: Nothing special. Just a small home office on the first floor of my home. I also have a desk beside my bed (next to the fireplace) for those wake-up moments.

Bobby Nash: I have a very cluttered desk in an equally as cluttered office. I clean and straighten it on occasion, but the clutter always returns.

Nancy Oswald: Really? It’s my grown son’s old bedroom. No bed, but my mom’s sewing machine occupies one corner, my husband’s mom’s antique writing desk occupies another. There’s a dying plant, a small Navajo blanket, a horse painted on a plate, painted by my great grandmother is above the file cabinets, my son’s dusty karate belts on a hangar and several maps related to my research are on the wall next to that. The doors of the closet are also covered with maps—at the moment, these are insurance maps from 1896 Colorado Springs. There’s a chair with toppling books, book piles underneath the wrap around desk I purchased when I retired. You don’t even want to know what’s on top of the desk or what’s on the rest of the floor. Right now, it’s boxes and bags in various states of readiness for the marketing at crafts fairs I’m doing between now and Christmas. I’m looking forward to being able to walk in it again.

Kevin Killiany: Where I am now—wherever that is whenever ‘now’ happens.

Which of your books would you like to see turned into a movie? Who do you see playing the lead? Why?

Paul Kane: I’m lucky in that a few of my stories have been turned into TV episodes, short films and even a feature in 2021 called Sacrifice, starring Re-Animator’s Barbara Crampton. So that’s sort of happened for me anyway… There was talk a while back of turning my post-apocalyptic Robin Hood novels – gathered together in Hooded Man – into a movie, and we were hoping to interest someone like Michael Fassbender or Dominic West. But I’m not sure that’ll happen anyway now because the jumping off point is that 90% of the world’s population dies from a deadly disease. Of the books that haven’t been adapted yet, I’d love to see Before as an American Gods type TV streaming show for somewhere like Amazon, Netflix or Apple. I think the scope of that one, dealing as it does with past lives, is so massive it would be hard to fit it all into a movie. Arcana would make a great film, though, because of the mix of magic and crime; action and adventure. Leads for that one? I think someone like Charlie Hunnam and Emily Blunt as Callum and Ferne. The one people always ask me about is Sherlock Holmes and the Servants of Hell, which pitted Hellraiser’s Cenobites against the world’s greatest detective. That would be a rights nightmare film-wise, plus would take a budget in excess of most of the Marvel movies, so I wouldn’t hold your breath folks. That being said, never say never, and stranger things have happened.

Chris Barili: Guilty, with Frank Butcher played by either clint Eastwood or John Wayne (in their primes).

Bobby Nash: I think Evil Ways, Deadly Games!, or Suicide Bomb would make great movies. Snow and Sheriff Myers respective series would work better as a TV series, I think. As for who would play who, I don’t know. I try not to play that game because if it happens, I don’t want to be disappointed if the actor I had my heart set on is unavailable.

Robbie Cheadle: I think my Sir Chocolate stories would make a lovely TV series for small children. There could be a baking element to the show, where children learn how to make one of the recipes.

Nancy Oswald: I’d like to see the Ruby and Maude Adventures made into a movie. I’d like my donkey, Daisy, to play Maude. 

Kevin Killiany: I have a young adult science fiction series, Dirt and Stars, that I would love to see become a TV series. The stories are set in an alternate history where most of the gee-whiz predictions Golden Age sci-fi of the 30s and 40s made about America in the year 2000 came true—fusion rockets, giant space stations, colonies on the moon, etc.—but the US is fiercely isolationist, cut off from the rest of the world. With the 21st century came the Civil Rights movement and the growing realization that America cannot sustain its monopoly on space. The Dirt and Stars series is set in the 2020s and follows several young people (15-18) coming of age even as the world around them is reinventing itself. Down to Dirt introduces Mara, a spacer—born and raised on Tombaugh Station—who’s been conditioned from birth to believe dirt (Earth) is little more than a prison for the diseased, criminal, unstable, or otherwise unfit for life in space; Beth, Mara’s Earth-born cousin, who believes in the fundamental goodness of everyone and is horrified by Mara’s racist elitism; and Jael, Beth’s best friend, grimly determined to be the first Black person to break the Space Service’s color barrier. Life on Dirt continues their stories and introduces Lije, first generation Ukrainian American whose father is spearheading a legal battle to break America’s control of access to space; and Fatima, a spacer of exceptional intelligence struggling to overcome a social communication disorder that makes interacting with others difficult, confusing, and sometimes painful. Rise from Dirt follows all five of them, but focuses on Jael’s fight to qualify for the Space Service training program. Book four (a work in progress that has gone through a few working titles) will introduce two new high school age spacers—one on Brahe Station, the other on Luna—as they deal with the unimaginable addition of “earthers” to their world.

Who do you see playing the lead? Why?
Talented young actors that no one knows about. For every TV/movie star there are dozens of equally talented people who weren’t in the right place at the right time. I’d really like to play some small part in helping some of those young actors get their shot.

Is there anything unique or unusual about your writing process?

Paul Kane: Personally, I don’t think there is. I don’t have to sacrifice a chicken or something before I start or write upside down or anything; it’s all pretty normal stuff. I think that comes from my previous career as a journalist, just sitting at a desk getting the words down. I also had to do that for my BA and MA when I was writing essays, so all that was a good training ground for penning fiction too. It makes you disciplined about the craft. I am quite a superstitious person, so I suppose I do have little rituals I’ve developed over the years. I used to only be able to write novels on a laptop, and shorts on a desktop – when I still had one – but I’ve learned to adapt to circumstances. And I’m very reluctant to show my work to anyone too early, except perhaps my better half Marie (O’Regan), who’s also a writer and editor herself. Or to discuss my ideas with anyone other than her, unless it’s an editor or publisher I’m pitching to, so they’ll buy the work. 

Chris Barili: I outline a bit differently than most people. I outline just a third of the story at a time, which allows me to make changes early in the story line much more easily.

Bobby Nash: I don’t think so. I sit down and write. Sure, I sometimes go over story points, scenes, etc. in my head before I start typing, but nothing out of the ordinary.

Robbie Cheadle: I think all writers have an individual writing process. I always write my endings first so that I know the direction my story must take and where I am heading. The endings never change. I also outline the bones of my stories before I start. I do this in my head and rarely write much down. People ask me if I don’t forget my outlines, but I don’t. I have a very good memory which is why I rarely re-read books; I can nearly always remember the characters and plot of books I’ve read, even when I read them many years ago.

Nancy Oswald: Unfortunately, when I was working full time, my motto was to find any scrap of spare time and move forward on whatever the project was. This led to some bad habits, because even though I’m retired, I have never let go of the idea that I have to fit writing in around other things. I’ve never been able to schedule writing time and stick to it. However, my husband did buy me a “ships” hour glass, and sometimes when I’m stuck or reluctant to write, I tell myself I can do one hour. Once I start, it usually goes beyond that, and once I’m into a project, I find I don’t need the hourglass at all.

Kevin Killiany: My first time through college (in the early 70s) I was a theatre major—an aspiring actor with the acting skills of a stage techie. I saw many, many plays in college, repertory, dinner, and community theaters from light booths, sound boards, and prop tables. As a result, I see stories as narratives built from discrete scenes, and frequently storyboard on graph paper: scenes are circles, boxes, or triangles linked by arrows denoting possible paths. When brainstorming a scene, I always start with dialog, spoken words without attributions, because a play begins as dialog, the script providing only broad suggestions for blocking and business, and comes alive as the directors and actors become familiar with the characters and the reasons for the words.
Oh, and the scenes are never written in order. I write each part as it occurs to me.

What is the function of a story?

Mario Acevedo: To tell that story. Beyond that, to entertain, to educate, and if you’re like me, because you’re a constant day dreamer.

Paul Kane: I believe, first and foremost, that a story should entertain. You should get some enjoyment out of reading it, even if it’s a sad tale – in a sort of masochistic way, we think to ourselves at least that’s not happening to me.

It should be believable, and I don’t mean that it can’t be fantastical, just that the reader needs to believe in what you’re telling them. A lot of this comes from good description and characterization, because if you don’t believe in a sense of place or your characters then everything falls apart. If characters are just cardboard cutouts, you’re not going to care what happens to them or why.

So, the entertainment value first and foremost, because remember people are parting with their hard-earned cash to buy your story or book. If it can say something important as well, then all the better. I like to try and have a message or theme, like for example in my novel Before I was trying to say something I thought was important about the human condition. About what it means to be human, about life, love, the nature of good and evil, and everything in-between. Heady stuff. It doesn’t always have to, but if a story is educating and saying something you feel is worth saying, then all the better.

Bobby Nash: My first and foremost goal with my stories is to entertain. That’s what I’m here to do so that’s where I put my focus. I want the reader to enjoy the experience.

Robbie Cheadle: The function of my stories is to entertain while reminding readers of history and historical events. I believe strongly that we must remember our history and the terrible things that have affected humanity in the past so that we can make a good attempt to avoid reoccurrences.

Kevin Killiany: To entertain and through entertaining inspire thought.

What is your biggest writing challenge? Your biggest reward?

Paul Kane: The hardest thing I find, the hardest challenge, is to get started. Ideas come to me all the time, I write them down in little notebooks. In fact, I have different sized books for different things: small for just ideas, or snatches of dialogue; medium-sized for novellas and the like; and A4 ones for novels, because I work up chapter breakdowns and do research in those. For each novel I’ve written there’s an A4 notebook to go along with it. So, you have your idea and all your working out. No matter how prepared you are – and some people do more prep than others… I’m a big planner personally – just looking at that blank screen before you start is the most daunting thing in the world sometimes. It might not even be at the beginning of a project, either; just getting up every day and starting, even if you’re halfway through, can be hard. You have to force yourself to do it, push through those pain barriers – and if you look for distractions, you’ll find them, so try to keep focused on the task at hand. The flip side of that, of course, is when you’ve got your first draft done. You have a chunk of words you can play with, then refine and make better. That’s the most rewarding part for me, when you’ve done all that, or maybe even when the story’s finished – or as finished as it can be, because nothing’s ever truly done; you could fiddle with things forever. When you see it in print and people enjoy your work, that’s something truly special. 

Chris Barili: Self-confidence followed closely by Parkinson’s Disease. One hits me psychologically, the other physically

Bobby Nash: My biggest writing challenge is me. Sad, but true. I am my own worst enemy. Once I get out of my own way, push distractions aside, and actually sit down and get started, I’m okay. Getting started is a big hurdle.

Robbie Cheadle: My biggest writing challenge is finding a stretch of about 2 ½ hours undisturbed time to write. I can write for a shorter time, but I usually find it takes me about 30 to 40 minutes to get back into the mindset of the story so shorter writing periods are not very efficient for me. I usually write on weekend days from 6 am to 8.30 am. Sometimes I write for an hour in the afternoon during the week but that depends on work. I am supposed to work from 9am until 3pm but that rarely happens and if I don’t start writing by 4pm, the day is lost to me from a writing perspective. I don’t write in the evening as I am tired. I do sometimes edit later in the day though.

Jeff Bowles: For me the challenge is always the sheer amount of time and work required to bring a new book to market. At the moment, I’m favoring indie publishing, which means everything from editing to production is riding on my shoulders. It takes a lot of effort to bang a fresh manuscript into shape. Luckily, I’ve got a lot of support from family, friends, and other professionals, so it’s always worth it in the end. The reward, as always, is seeing your book in the hands of others. It never really gets old.

Nancy Oswald: Getting started on a new project. Biggest reward, well, of course, finishing. Beyond that, I love holding the first printed copy of a new book.

Kevin Killiany: My biggest challenge is stopping. I write 500-word postcards, and I would have a wonderful time extending my narrative, exploring my characters, expanding my world. My biggest reward is having stopped. Because then I have a story to give people.

What is the single most important story element? Why?

Paul Kane: Probably characters, like I say. If you don’t believe in those then there’s no point to the story in the first place. I’m a big one for character studies – actually I have to rein it in sometimes because I get carried away. I’ll include various details about a person’s life when I’m only writing a prologue sometimes and people just want to cut to the chase and get to the meat of a story. I had to chop a lot of that at the start of my PL Kane crime novels Her Husband’s Grave and The Family Lie. All interesting stuff, but not the right time or the place. One of my Controllers stories ‘Eye of the Beholder’ was basically a character study of a woman called Lucy, taking you through her life, and at the end you realise these god-like creatures have been manipulating events for their own satisfaction. In a case like that, it’s actually working to help tell the story. 

Chris Barili: Character. Without a dynamic, well-developed, and relatable character the story stops mattering.

Bobby Nash: I firmly believe that it all starts with characters, so that’s where I put my focus first. Telling a cohesive story is important.

Nancy Oswald: I think it’s character. As a reader, if I can’t latch onto or relate to a character, the reading is tedious.

Kevin Killiany: Character. People care about people.

Are you a plotter or a pantser (I believe ‘discovery writer’ is the trending term or as Dean Wesley Smith refers to it: “Writing into the Dark”)?

Mario Acevedo: I’m in between. I started as a panster and then after writing myself into a corner, I became a plotter. My plot outlines are brief chapter summaries—two-three sentences. I’ve learned however to keep the doors open for the Muse to suggest changes.

Chris Barili: Seriously addicted to outlining.

Bobby Nash: I’m somewhere in the middle. I have loose plots, but I leave open the possibility of the characters taking me to unexpected places, so sometimes the plot has to be adjusted. I’ve heard the term plantser used, but I don’t really like that term.

Robbie Cheadle: I am a plotter. I always have the ending of my stories in mind before I start, and I write towards that ending. As I write historical fiction, I usually follow the real path of the events that occurred heading in the direction of the ending. I often discover new and interesting information while I am researching for my stories, but that doesn’t ever knock me off my chosen storyline, it just adds to some of the ‘meat’ in the middle of the story.

Kevin Killiany: A bit of both. I work out what needs to happen when at the outset (storyboarding) but beyond that I usually don’t know how the narrative will get from point to point until I’m on the journey.

What is your best piece of advice for aspiring authors?

Mario Acevedo: Have faith in yourself. Keep learning and improving. Read a lot in every genre. You’ll be surprised how much blends from one category to another. And nothing happens until you sit down and write.

Paul Kane: Just to never give up. It always makes me sad when I see a talented writer walk away from the business or become so discouraged that they never send anything to editors, agents or publishers. It always makes me think ‘what great writing have we missed out on’? If Stephen King’s wife, Tabitha, hadn’t fished Carrie out of the bin, we’d have been missing out on all his excellent writing from that point onwards. No Shining, Salem’s LotNo Stand. Heartbreaking. So keep going, keep fighting, because you never know where it might all lead.

Chris Barili: Don’t quit your day job until writing IS your day job. Then, really don’t quit your day job.

Bobby Nash: Determine where you want your writing to take you and set attainable goals to help get you there. Not every writer has the same goal, so you have to decide what success looks like for you, so you know what to aim toward. Then, once you do that, work to achieve those goals. Also, don’t forget to celebrate when you attain the goals. That’s important too.

Robbie Cheadle: Keep writing as much as possible. Practice makes perfect. I can’t believe how much I have learned between the launch of my first Sir Chocolate book in August 2016 and now. It’s been an amazing journey.

Kevin Killiany: I submitted my first short story in 1967. I sold my first story in 2000. I would have sold one sooner, but I kept giving up. Don’t keep giving up. Just as a musician perfects their craft through practice, we perfect our writing through writing. Approach everything you write as something you are creating for your own satisfaction, no one outside your head matters. Then do your best, because it is through doing your best every time that your best will steadily improve.

_________________________________________________________________

Before we end this first segment, I’d also like to introduce you to contributing author, Kevin Killiany. Unfortunately, due to the pandemic we’ve all been experiencing, he was unable to submit an essay to the work, but I want to introduce him here, so you’ll know who he is when you see his responses throughout this series in the Q & A portions. He’s a multi- genre and media tie-in writer and a generally all around good guy.

Meet Kevin Killiany

Growing up in Florida, Kevin was fascinated with space—he witnessed every manned launch from Cape Canaveral in the 60s, and never fully recovered from the discovery there were no rainforests on Venus for him to explore. Forced to stay on Earth, he eventually became a teacher, working with students at all grade levels before moving on to community support services, where he was a crisis intervention counselor and case manager for mental health and family preservation programs.

Kevin wrote his first story in 1967 and, after only thirty-three years of writing and submitting, became an immediate success with his first sale in 2000. In the years since he has written fiction for both Star Trek and Doctor Who and written web content, campaign books, stories, novels for various role playing games. Down to Dirt, book one of his original YA science-fiction series Dirt and Stars, was published in 2016.

The “Ask the Authors 2022” blog series is a 10 week Saturday series, so be sure to drop by next Saturday for an introduction to contributing author, Bobby Nash and a Q & A on Pre-Writing Rituals. If you grab a copy of Ask the Authors 2022 writing reference anthology while this blog series runs, from now until July 9th, you can get it at the special send-off price of 3.99, from your favorite book distributor through the Books2Read UBL here: https://books2read.com/u/3LnK8e

Ask the Authors 2022

___________________________________________________________________________

Sign up for the Kaye Lynne Booth & WordCrafter Press Newsletter for and book event news for WordCrafter Press books, including the awesome releases of author Kaye Lynne Booth. Get a free digital copy of Kaye Lynne Booth’s paranormal mystery novella, Hidden Secrets, just for subscribing.


Ask the Authors 2022 is here!

Ask the Authors 2022

That’s right. The writing reference you’ve all been waiting for has arrived. Ten talented authors and industry experts have gathered together with me to share their writing tips and advice in essay and Q&A, creating a writing reference anthology like no other.

Where can you find publishing industry experts willing to share their secrets? 

Ask the Authors 2022 is the ultimate writer’s reference, with tips and advice on craft, publishing and marketing. Eleven experienced and successful authors share what works for them and offer their keys to success in traditional publishing, hybrid, and indie. You’ll learn industry wisdom from Mark Leslie Lefebvre, Kevin Killiany, L. Jagi Lamplighter, Bobby Nash, Paul Kane, Nancy Oswald, Chris Barili, Jeff Bowles, Roberta Eaton Cheadle, Mario Acevedo and Kaye Lynne Booth.

This book offers up-to-date and tried-and-true ways to improve your craft, explores current publishing and book marketing worlds. Take a peek inside and find out what works for you.

Praise for Ask the Authors 2022

“Ask the Authors is an up-to-date and broad-based compendium of advice from today’s working writers, to help you with understanding your own writing career. Great information!”
—Kevin J. Anderson, New York Times bestselling author of Spine of the Dragon

Ask the Authors 2022

Ask the Authors 2022 is available in both digital and print. You can get your copy from your favorite book retailer through the Books2Read universal book link (UBL) here: https://books2read.com/u/3LnK8e

______________________________________________________________________________

Sign up for the Kaye Lynne Booth & WordCrafter Press Newsletter for and book event news for WordCrafter Press books, including the awesome releases of author Kaye Lynne Booth. Get a free digital copy of Kaye Lynne Booth’s paranormal mystery novella, Hidden Secrets, just for subscribing.


“Chatting with the Pros”: Interview with award winning horror author Paul Kane

Chatting with the Pros

This month as we explore the darkness of horror and dark fiction, we have a special treat. This month I have for you, not one, but two “Chatting with the Pros” author guests, which is why this segment is posting on the first Monday rather than the usual third Monday spot.

For today, I have the pleasure of interviewing an award winning, bestselling author of over ninety books, who is also the expert on Clive Barker’s Hellraiser films and his own work has been optioned and adapted for the big and small screen, including for US network prime time television. A former British Fantasy Society Special Publications Editor, he is currently serving as co-chair for the UK chapter of The Horror Writers Association. I’m really excited to present all he has to share. Please help me welcome him now.


PaulSuit1

Kaye: You began writing comics as a boy. Are there aspects of those comic book characters that can still be seen in your writing today?

Paul: I just drew them first, copying the kinds of comics my dad used to buy me – but it was definitely a way of sorting out in my head how story worked. Later on, I’d write dialogue and action for them as well, so that they looked more like proper comic books, and I’d show them to friends and family. It wasn’t until years later that I learned how to write actual comic scripts, but even then I sketched out the panels beforehand so I could work out what needed to go on the page and where. As for characters, I think that was certainly where I started to create and build characters – as well as making up stories for my toys and acting them out like little films. By my teens, though, I was writing prose and emulating the kinds of books I’d read as well, so I think that was when I learned how to flesh out and develop characters. I still love writing in a comic book style, yes, which is something I did for a story of mine called ‘The Return of Mortis-Man’ in the collection Death. I had such fun writing that, creating my very own horror superhero, and I’m planning on doing a couple more featuring that character.

Kaye: What do you think is the single most important element in a horror story?

Paul: That’s a tough one. I think the single most important element in any story, for any genre, is to tell the best tale you can. That’s your responsibility as a writer – and I take it very seriously. Make sure the characters are there first and people will care about them, because if you don’t do that nobody will bat an eyelid if something horrible happens to them. Make sure the journey they’re on is credible, even if things are happening to those people that are totally out there. For example, in the latest short horror novel I wrote for PS Publishing – The Storm, out in 2020 – I had to make sure the bunch of characters were living and breathing, had their own problems and histories, so that when monsters attack you’re right there with them in the thick of it. You care if someone gets injured or loses a loved one. You have to totally understand their motivations for doing what they do and acting the way they act. If you don’t have that then bad things are simply happening to cardboard cut-outs you couldn’t care less about.

Kaye: What was the most fun interview you’ve ever done? Why?

Paul: You mean an interview I’ve conducted with someone myself? We once interviewed George A. Romero for a magazine and went back to his hotel room, where he regaled us with stories about making the Living Dead movies and his career in general, whilst drinking copious amounts of rum. That was a surreal afternoon, a kind of ‘pinch me’ moment. In terms of live interviews, probably Clive Barker on stage at FantasyCon 2006 – which I did in front of an audience of about 600. That was nerve-wracking, but Clive – lovely as he always is – really put me at my ease and we had a whale of a time. I did a smaller, more intimate interview with he and Simon Bamford – Butterball from the Hellraiser movies and Ohnaka from Nightbreed – later on that day and that was such fun! There were about 30 or 40 people in the room for that and we were able to chat a bit more freely about their careers. In terms of myself being interviewed, then probably my times on Nicholas Vince’s Chattering show. We did one at Christmas once and the guests were me, the Soska sisters, Barbie Wilde, Ashley Thorpe, and Tim Dry. That was a terrific experience, very funny. It’s still online somewhere if you want to track it down.

Kaye: What is your biggest challenge in writing dark works of horror?

Paul: Biggest challenge? Probably nothing to do with the actual writing of dark fiction, but rather getting published in the first place and building a good reputation over the years. It takes a lot of time and effort, but is totally worth it. I was lucky enough to discover the small presses back in the ’90s, who were willing to take chances with who and what they published, and that got me a foot in the door. Organisations like The British Fantasy Society and the Horror Writers Association were also vital in terms of meeting creative people who are into the same things, are on the same page, so to speak. I’ve made so many good friends going to events organised by places like that, and been given so much good advice. I even met my wife, Marie O’Regan – a very talented writer and editor herself – at an FCon in 2003! And now we’re paying it forward, of course, by organising a StokerCon for next year with Guests such as Grady Hendrix, Gillian Redfearn, Kim Newman and Mick Garris – so people can do the same. You can find out all about that one at https://stokercon-uk.com

Kaye: Is there anything unique or unusual about your writing process?

Paul: I’m not really sure, because it’s not something I tend to talk about that much with other writers. I try to work office hours, which comes from my background in journalism I think, but that’s not always possible if I’m on multiple deadlines. Summer 2018, for instance, I was writing a novel in the daytime and then editing an anthology in the evenings, which got pretty gruelling. It’s a weird kind of process, because I go into this fugue state and then come out of it having written 1000 words or whatever, not really quite understanding how I did it. When I’m writing prose I try to do 1000 words before lunch, then a couple more afterwards, to make about 3000 in total. Over this last summer, though, I was managing 4000 words a day, which was taking its toll a bit, but I got my novel done in time.

Kaye: What’s your favorite time of day to write? Why?

Paul: Probably in the afternoon, because I’ll know I’ve got some words under my belt – hopefully – in the morning, so I have that fallback. And by then I’ll have built up a head of steam and it should just be a matter of continuing on in that vein. Sometimes things crop up, like I might have to write a review or something, and that throws you out of what you were doing for a little while – but at the same time is nice and stops you getting into a rut.

Kaye: How do you get into your villain’s head deep enough to transform the words on the page into a visual image for the reader?

BeforePaul: I love writing villains personally, because it gives you a chance to do and say things you wouldn’t ordinarily be able to in life – unless you were an actual villain, of course! A lot of villains I’ve written don’t care what people think, so they can be brutally honest, which is somewhat liberating. The flip side of that is, if they’re doing really terrible things to folks you have to distance yourself for the sake of your sanity. My character Lucas Peck in Before was a nasty piece of work and I found myself wincing at some of the stuff he did, but it was also for the good of the story and you found out why he was the way he was by the end of the novel – rightly or wrongly. The Infinity was the opposite: he was all about the language and just whispering in people’s ears. Messing with them essentially, and that was fun to write.

Kaye: What are your secrets for creating intricate, detailed story lines?

Her Last SecretPaul: I plan. A lot. Always have done, I’ve always kept notes on stories and novels, done my research and outlines. Now, that doesn’t mean you have to stick rigidly to those plans and if something comes up that sends the story in a different direction which makes it better, you go with it. But it does means you have a kind of safety net, a rough map to follow. I don’t think I’d be able to even start writing without that, it would send me loopy. I’m plotting and researching quite a bit at the moment for the crime novels I’m writing as PL Kane for HQ Digital/HarperCollins. They’re not something you can just wing, so I do months of prep before even writing one word. You’ll see what I mean when you read the first one, Her Last Secret, which comes out in January 2020 and has just gone up for pre-order (po.st/herlastsecret)

Kaye: What techniques do you use to build or maintain suspense?

Paul: I’m never really sure whether a suspense scene has worked or not until I read it back, and even then I’m not 100% certain. I try to work through a scene like that as if I was in there with the characters, like a chase scene I just wrote in which my main protagonist was trying to hide from the bad guy. Will they catch them? If they hide, will it be a good hiding place? That kind of thing. But you also can’t lose sight of the fact you’re in charge of what these people are doing and can direct matters for maximum suspense. There was something Hitchcock once said I think, and I’m paraphrasing here and might get it wrong… But he said if you show a character finding a ticking bomb under the table they’re sitting at, there’s not as much suspense as showing the audience there’s a bomb and the main character has no idea. So, you might show the stalker getting closer and the victim not knowing a thing about it – or they might even know the person, but not be aware of their tendencies. If the reader or audience know they’re evil but the victim doesn’t, that makes for some great suspense.

HellRaiser FilmsKaye: You are an expert on the Hellraiser films, by Clive Barker, and their themes, and in fact you wrote a book on them, The Hellraiser Films and Their Legacy. Can you tell me something about Pinhead that the average fan may not know?

Paul: I’m not sure there’s much left that fans don’t know. Clive told me once on the phone that Pinhead came to him in a dream, I’m not sure how widely known that is. I mean, there were lots of different factors that went into the making of that character… Pinhead in the original novella The Hellbound Heart is described as being quite effeminate, which was something we brought back when I adapted it into an audio drama for Bafflegab (https://shop.bafflegab.co.uk/album/the-hellbound-heart). Then when the film was made you had people like effects genius Bob Keen coming up with a certain look, and Doug Bradley’s performance. But, yes, he came to Clive to begin with in a dream. It’s like Clive’s been telling me for years, “Write your dreams, Paul. Write your dreams.”

Kaye: Which of your books would you most like to see become a film? Why?

The Colour of MadnessPaul: Well, one of my stories – a novelette called ‘Men of the Cloth’ – has actually just been turned into a movie called The Colour of Madness by Loose Canon/Hydra Films, directed by Andy Collier and Toor Mian, and starring Barbara Crampton from Re-Animator – so all that’s rather exciting! It’s a Lovecraftian, folk horror deal and should appeal hugely to horror fans.

Sherlock Holmes

 

My Hooded Man post-apocalyptic novels for Rebellion/Abaddon were almost filmed a couple of times, and I would still love to see those made because they’re quite close to my heart – I only live about twenty minutes away from Sherwood Forest, and was taken there every bank holiday when I was a kid. I also think Before would make a cracking TV show along the lines of American Gods, because its scope is so massive. It’s part road movie adventure, part historical drama, part horror, all about past lives. People often tell me they’d like to see my Hellraiser novel Sherlock Holmes and the Servants of Hell turned into a movie, but the rights for that would be a nightmare. Plus the budget would be astronomical!

Kaye: You’re a pretty prolific writer. In the first half of 2019, you published The Controllers, The Dead, Exit Wounds and White Shadows, as well as a Robin of Sherwood novel, The Red Lord. Can you tell me about these latest releases?

The ControllersPaul: Absolutely! The Controllers  was published by Luna Press, and gathers together all of my stories featuring those characters from the whole of my career, and includes a couple of new ones – not to mention scans of handwritten tales, a gallery where artists offer their interpretations of The Controllers and an introduction by Richard Christian Matheson.

 

 

The DeadThe Dead  is my third mini-collection for the Black Shuck Shadows series, and gathers together three interlinking zombie stories, the first of which was adapted for TV back in 2008 as New Year’s Day by Lionsgate and shown on primetime US TV as an episode of the show Fear Itself.

 

 

Exit WoundsExit Wounds  is a mass market crime anthology from Titan edited by myself and Marie and features the cream of the crop: names such as Dean Koontz, Val McDermid, Dennis Lehane, Mark Billingham, John Connolly, Alex Gray… the list goes on. It was recently given a starred review in Publishers Weekly and even favourably reviewed in The Times, so we were incredibly happy about that.

 

 

White ShadowsWhite Shadows is a collection of my dark YA fiction as PB Kane, including the short novel The Rainbow Man and the prequel to that, ‘The Rainbow Coat’. Published by Things in the Well, this was designed to be read by the young and the young at heart alike. The Red Lord is a prose adaptation of my own audio drama for Spiteful Puppet/ITV, which allowed me to expand on a few ideas I had to leave out of the original. I’ve been a fan of the RoS series since it aired, and indeed it inspired so much of my own Hooded Man saga, so it’s a bit of a dream come true this one. That sold out of its print run incredibly quickly, but is still available as an ebook.

Kaye: You also released Arcana through Wordfire Press this year. It has an interesting alternative world where magic is real, but forbidden. Can you talk a little about that book?

ArcanaPaul: I loved writing Arcana, which one reviewer quite aptly described as ‘Harry Potter vs The Sweeney’. It’s set in an alternate universe where the witch hunts of old never died out and real magic exists. The people who practise this are hunted and imprisoned, tortured, then, more often than not, horribly executed. The division of the police that do this are called Magick Enforcement Officers, or M-Forcers, and we follow one young recruit Callum McGuire as he begins to realise something is terribly wrong with this regime; that the people who are being hunted aren’t what the government say they are. It’s all tied in with a prophecy one magic group – Arcana – have about a hero who will save them all. I was delighted with the way this one was received, and the audio of it has actually just been released on Audible so go and check that out.

Kaye: Describe yourself in three words.

Paul: Hard-working. Loyal. Curious.

Kaye: What’s next for Paul Kane? What do your readers have to look forward to in the future?

Paul:  As I say, I’ve signed with HQ/Harper who are bringing out three thrillers under the PL Kane name, starting in January 2020. I’ve just finished the first draft of the second one which will be out a bit later that same year. Marie and I are running StokerCon UK as mentioned, so that’s taking up a lot of time as well at the moment.

There are a few collections coming out in the near future: a Body Horror one from Black Shuck called Traumas; a collection of my ‘Order of the Shadows’ tales called Darkness and Shadows from Shadowridge, introduced by MR ‘The Girl With All The Gifts’ Carey; and a more general one that gathers together my fiction from the last few years called Tempting Fate. Then there’s The Storm from PS, introduced by Rio Youers – a proper ‘creature feature’ of a novel – and I’ve just signed on the dotted line for a post-apocalyptic novella from Silver Shamrock Press.

The Colour of Madness should also be out next year, plus The Torturer – a short horror film I wrote, directed by Joe Manco, starring Paul T. Taylor who was Pinhead in Hellraiser Judgment and Lawrence Varnado from Sin City 2 – and a supernatural drama called Presence, directed by Dave Morgan of DLM Media. Then there’s more comics work, hopefully a theatre production… Plenty to keep me busy and hopefully readers and audiences entertained.

I want to thank Paul for sharing with us today. It has been a pleasure to get a glimpse into Kane and his books on his Shadow Writer website, or visit his Amazon Author page.

As I mentioned at the start of this post, this was a bonus “Chatting with the Pros”, because we have a second author guest who I will interview in the regular “Chatting with the Pros” spot on the third Monday, October 21st. My second CwtP author guest will be bestselling horror and dark fiction author Jeffrey J. Mariotte. You will also find a double review featuring Paul Kane’s Arcana and Jeffrey. J. Mariotte’s Cold Black Hearts. I do hope you all will join me as we explore the darkness together.


Like this post? Let me know in the comments. You can be sure not to miss any of Writing to be Read’s great content by subscribe to e-mail or following on WordPress.

 

 


“Arcana” & “Cold Black Hearts”: Two different flavors of horror

 

I recently had the pleasure of reviewing two horror novels written by this month’s author guests; Arcana, by Paul Kane and Cold Black Hearts, by Jeffrey J. Mariotte. I found it interesting that these two authors chose one or two lines that were so similar to begin these very different horror stories. Both beginnings are designed to grab the reader and reel them in, and in both stories, it worked. The hook was instantly set.

Kane begins Arcana with,

“They were all going to die.

But it was for the cause, and they were not only glad to do it – they felt compelled to do it.”

Mariotte starts Cold Black Hearts like this;

“They were dead, all of them dead, and so was she.”

Both authors bring us into the story in the middle of the action at the point of impending death. We don’t know what is happening yet, but we know the speaker in each case is about to die. How does anyone walk away from that without reading more?

Both Arcana and Cold Black Hearts are horrific stories of evil and death, but they each present horror stories of distinctive and different flavors. Although each presents the battle of good versus evil, the resulting stories are very different, yet each has the ability to captivate their audience and satisfy whatever it is inside of us that makes horror such an appealing genre to us.

Arcana, by Paul Kane takes place in an alternate universe with a future where magick is very real and has survived through the Arcana culture, despite repeated efforts to exterminate them from the planet. It’s a world where torture is still used to extract confessions from those suspected of using the the ancient arts, and Callum McGuire is an orphan who bears a hatred for the magick communities  responsible for the terrorist attack that left him alone, to be raised in an orphanage with a brutal matron. As a young M-forcer, dedicated to stopping Arcana after a recent series of terrorist attacks carried out by the group. The viciousness and brutality against Arcana is broadly directed, and as Callum watches innocent children fall prey to it, his own morality tells him that something isn’t right. When he guesses that his friend and neighbor is secretly Arcana, he is swept into the Arcana culture as he tries to protect her from being apprehended by his fellow M-forcers. This tale is cleverly crafted to let the story unfold in a series of discoveries which lead Callum to think that things are not the way he’d been lead to believe, even as more terrorist attacks take place, and his friends in Aracana try to convince him that he is the savior of their prophecy. Savior or destroyer? The power is in Callum’s hands and only he can decide.

Arcana takes readers on a hero’s journey beyond death and back in a world where anything is possible. That, my friends, can be a very scary journey. I give it five quills.

five-quills3

In Cold Black Hearts, by Jeffrey J. Mariotte, evil stirs the ancient legends into reality. When Annie O’Brian is caught in a bust gone bad and the resulting explosion, she loses both her hearing and her job, but she gains an uncanny sense of empathy for the people around her. So, there’s nothing to stop her from taking a job investigating a four year old murder where the original investigation was botched, and working to free the convicted man, even though he gives her the creeps and is probably guilty of numerous crimes, if not this one. Her investigation uncovers not only the evidence needed to free Johnny Ortega from prison, but also evidence that there is something much more sinister going on in Hildalgo County than a simple cover-up, but when Annie manages to put all the pieces together and tries to stop the return of an ancient demon, it could cost her her life, or worse.

Filled with sacrifice and betrayal, Cold Black Hearts will chill you to the core of your soul. Lots of unexpected twists and turns to this story. I give it four quills.

four-quills3

Kaye Lynne Booth does honest book reviews on Writing to be Read in exchange for ARCs. Have a book you’d like reviewed? Contact Kaye at kayebooth(at)yahoo(dot)com.