Guest Post: Natasha Whearity – Why Do I Write? (Pt. 1)

Author Natasha Whearity
I don’t know why I write. I know that sounds really daft being that writing is one of my favourite hobbies, but the truth is that I really don’t.

Think about something you love more than anything: A person, a hobby, or just a general feeling. Now try and explain how you feel about it. It’s hard, isn’t it?

Until the Kindle All-Stars: Resistance Front project, I’d never had anything published. Sure, I wrote almost every day, but everything was always for my eyes only… or my unfortunate friends who asked how my writing was going only to receive a manuscript of my latest ‘masterpiece.’

Before Resistance Front I’d written a play called Suns and Stars about a world in which people are judged entirely on the way they look. I performed the play at my school and had such positive feedback that I decided to adapt the play as a novel. Unfortunately, as with a lot of “would-be” authors, I was rejected by seven agents. It didn’t shake my confidence thankfully, although I decided to put Suns and Stars off to the side. I guess when you love something that much, you won’t stop at anything.

When I found out about the Resistance Front project, I sat in my room for hours trying to come up with an idea for it. I remember telling my mum that I couldn’t do it because I’d never written a short story before. And then the idea literally just popped into my head. The next thing I knew, I was writing a story that was better than any story I had ever written.

I still think of The Endgame as one of my best pieces of writing. I’m so proud of that bad boy. I’m also proud to be featured within a collection amongst so many talented writers, one of whom is David himself. Sometimes I wake up in the morning and just smile because not only have I had something published (which was one of my dreams anyway), but it was published alongside other phenomenal writers, making it even more special. The whole KAS team are all so lovely. They have helped me, guided me, and looked after me in the big, scary, writing world. They have all been supportive, and they are all awesome.

After The Endgame and becoming engrossed in the world of short story writing, I gradually became more and more fond of them. I discovered that a good way to write a short story is for it to have a twist at the end, and so I laid in my bed one night thinking of all the possibilities for twists. That’s when the idea for another project hit me (not literally though).

I wanted to write a trilogy of short stories based upon World War One. They would each be from different viewpoints of the war, and at least one of them would have a twist. I wrote all three, one after the other, and sent them to my top proof-reader: Sandie Slavin. Soon I had come up with the title for the trilogy: Those We Would Never Know. The title was dramatic. It told the truth. I liked it, and Sandie did too.

Writing gets on my nerves more often than not. Whenever I want something to happen with it, or for something to come to me, it never does. I will sit there trying to reason and bargain for an idea to spring to mind, but nothing ever appears. Still, if my house was on fire and my writing was still inside, I would run in to get it. Not because I’m stupid, but because that’s how much it means to me.

Writing can be infuriating. I’ve found that my most inspirational time slot is when I’m just about to nod off. Not very convenient, I must admit, but it has its redeeming moments that make it all worthwhile. Like that split second when an idea literally pops into your head and explodes like a cheap bag of popcorn from Tesco. Like those moments when you come to the end of your half-plan of a story and want to know what happens next. Then you realise that what happens next is up to you.

Writing, for me, is like a best friend.

Over and out,

Natasha Whearity

Follow Natasha on Twitter: @NatashaWhearity

About the Author

Natasha Whearity is a published independent author and teenage phenomenon living in the United Kingdom where she attends college. Her debut short story, The Endgame, is featured in the Kindle All-Stars compilation, Resistance Front. When not indulging her love of Harry Potter, or reruns of the television show Friends, Natasha can be found out on the Go-Kart race track, or spending time with her close friends and family.

Part two of Natasha’s guest post will be featured later this week, in which she discusses her latest project, a novel entitled
Idiot, a story that explores the complicated lives of two best friends, and the trials and tribulations they must face.

Spoiler Alert!

I don’t believe that you have to give up television to be a good writer. I love television. I love entertainment in any form, really. To be honest, some of the greatest modern day stories come from the minds of TV scribes. Imagine being given an hour once a week for six straight months to slowly unfold your story. As a writer, my mind races when thinking about the possibilities.

As with any well-crafted story, its secrets must be protected so that the big “ta da!” moments do not lose their impact. This wasn’t really an issue during life before the Internet, but now days it’s nearly impossible to hide from them. Divulging the carefully guarded twists and turns of a story has become a favorite past time among a frighteningly large chunk of the population. So much so, in fact, that scripts and unedited footage are stolen all the time and posted on the Internet for others to find.

Why is that?

What is the obsession with knowing the big finish without experiencing the journey to get there?

What is the motivation that drives the people to comb the Internet in search of spoilers?

To cut down on our monthly bills, my fiancée and I made the decision about a year ago to live without cable television. It was a tough decision, but a low-cost Netflix solution has eased most of the pain. Unfortunately, a lot of good television shows got left behind, and won’t become available through Netflix for an exorbitant amount of time.

We want to be watching The River or Game of Thrones along with everyone else, but can’t. We’re patient enough to wait for DVD, but the challenge we face is that of our friends and family that don’t seem to want to let us wait. People can’t seem to tell us about the shows they love without leading off with the biggest plot twists first.

Here’s an example:

FRIEND: Hey, did you catch that new episode of The Walking Dead last night?

ME: Nope. We don’t have cable right now, so we have to wait until it’s on video.

FRIEND: Oh, lame. Well, anyway, I hope you didn’t get too attached to ________ from the first season because the zombies just killed her.

Here’s another example:

FRIEND: You watch Chuck, right?

ME: Yes, but I’m only through season three. I have to wait until season four is out on video.

FRIEND: Didn’t you meet Joshua Gomez once?

ME: Yeah. He’s a really nice guy. Very humble and happy to chat with fans.

FRIEND: That’s awesome. Did you ask him if he likes using the Intersect?

ME: Huh?

FRIEND: Oh, you’ll get there. Morgan gets the Intersect at the end of season four.


If avoiding potentially spoiler-filled conversations with friends was the key to our dilemma, it wouldn’t be such an issue, but the whole practice has become a staple of pop culture. I can’t even read Entertainment Weekly anymore, one of my favorite magazines, because each issue offers up spoilers before I’ve even flipped past the table of contents.

I don’t expect people not to talk about television shows simply because I don’t have the means to watch them, but I wonder how difficult it would be for us to revert back to a simpler time: A time when people didn’t feel the competitive need to race onto the Internet and be the first person to spill all the secrets. It wouldn’t take that much. Would it?

I dream of a day when a conversation can be carried out more like this:

FRIEND: Hey, did you catch that new episode of The Walking Dead last night?

ME: Nope. We don’t have cable right now, so we have to wait until it’s on video.

FRIEND: Oh, lame. Well, anyway, I am loving the second season so far. They have made some bold decisions that have really upped the ante. It may be a little early to be saying this, but I think this season could even be better than the first. I can’t wait to hear what you think.

My moral to the story is simple: Take pity on a fella a little down on his luck and in need of conserving his cash. I think it’s great that you enjoy the stories that you do, and I want to enjoy them too. Think about how you felt when you first experienced that one big death, or love gone bad, or secret agent’s true identity. Now imagine how you’d have felt if someone had taken that moment away from you.

In summary, don’t skip to the last page. Don’t deprive someone else of their enjoyment… or karma will find you. It’ll be waiting for you at the corner of [SPOILER ALERT].

Updates! Updates! Updates!

Have you ever blinked and felt as though several weeks flashed by? That’s where I’ve been. I looked at my blog this morning and saw that I haven’t updated in over a month! I swear, it feels like I just wrote that last entry yesterday.

I’m not complaining, though. The time may have passed quickly, but it’s been an exciting and productive few weeks. Here’s a quick recap of what I’ve been up to and what’s to come:

Noble: Bloodlines

I started work on this sequel back in July of last year. I got about halfway through before I realized something very important: The book was much better than Noble. A sequel should always be better than the first, right? Well, that’s true, but the difference was so extreme that I knew I had to “fix” the issues that plagued Noble. I hired a professional editor to go through it with a chainsaw and fix it.

She did.

The changes resulted in over 7,000 words being cut from the original manuscript, as well as a thorough scrubbing of the 72,000 words that remained. With the exception of one nasty review, the overflow of positive write-ups has been staggering! In my wildest dreams I never imagined such support.

However, there are still thousands upon thousands of people that have no idea Noble even exists. With Bloodlines, I hope to change that.

Over the past month the manuscript has undergone the editing process and is now in the hands of the final proofreader. Once I get it back from her, all that is left is to make the necessary corrections and push the PUBLISH button.

Words cannot describe my excitement to share this book with you all! If you liked the story from the original, I can’t wait to hear what you think about the direction it’s going. Noble’s ending left a lot of unanswered questions, all of which will be addressed in Bloodlines… of course, there’s still a finale coming to wrap up this trilogy, so don’t go expecting everything to be tied up in a neat bow. I personally guarantee that Bloodlines will leave you scratching your head, but in a good way!

The official release date is still not set, but I expect it to be available on Amazon within the next two to three weeks. This is my most ambitious novel yet, and I’m investing in a significant marketing push to back it up! Stay tuned.


What’s that? While Bloodlines went through the beta reading stage I quietly took on another book? You’re darn right I did! I am very excited about Strangers. Rather than write a novel, I compiled an anthology of short stories that all shared the central theme of train travel. Bloodlines exhausted my brain, and I needed a break from Miller Brinkman’s universe. I think Strangers reflects that, though not quite in the way you might think.

You wrote a collection of short stories about train travel? That sounds so boring!

Yeah, I suppose it does sound boring at first, but if you’ve read any of my other books, you know that I have a love for the strange and unusual. So, I took that love and applied it to an unconventional setting. Even though Strangers isn’t a Sci-Fi book, I am confident that fans of my writing will find something “familiar” to them. I mean, it is still me, right? I can’t very well write a book without some inclusion of the paranormal, can I? Based on the feedback I received during the beta process, I think my readers are going to come away both shocked and satisfied.

As I type this, Strangers is getting packaged up and ready to send off to my editor. Once I get it back from her, I’ll apply the edits and send a clean copy off to my second editor for the final proofreading. I don’t want to commit to a date yet, but I expect Strangers to follow closely behind the release of Bloodlines.

So, what’s next?

I’ve been fleshing out some ideas for Noble 3, but I’m not quite ready to begin work on it. I am too emotionally connected to the series right now and need to give myself a little separation to think about the creative decisions I’ve made and what impact they’ll have on the finale. I also want to allow time to collect feedback from readers and weigh their reactions and expectations first.

My next project will be a return to the paranormal. I love ghost stories! This story is set in modern day Oregon City, Oregon. Oregon City was founded in the 1820s by Dr. John McLoughlin, and was the first incorporated city west of the Rockies. It became the new home for pioneers that had traveled across the Oregon Trail. While much of the city’s historic past is well-documented and proudly on display, there is a darker past that people rarely speak of:

If you’re quiet enough, you can hear her. She’s out there right now, stalking her prey from the woods under the cover of night. There’s nowhere left to hide. She’s coming for me, and I’m powerless to stop her. Soon I’ll be dead, and no one will ever know why.

With love,


Noble: Bloodlines – A Nod to 16-bit RPGs?

Squaresoft's 1995 classic: Chrono Trigger
This has been an exciting week for me. I sent off the Noble: Bloodlines manuscript to my editor after six months of writing, editing, beta reading, and tweaking. The expected completion time for first round edits is about three weeks away, so, that gives me a little free time. I thought, what better opportunity to start talking about the book in preparation of its March release!

Bloodlines is the second book in the “Noble” trilogy. I waited almost a year after the release of Noble before attempting to write it. Not only did my brain need a vacation from Miller Brinkman’s universe, but I wanted to properly address some of the criticism I received from my debut novel.

Readers were split right down the middle about my choice of using a first-person narrative in Noble. While I still believe it was the right decision, I also saw the limitations of it. With Miller telling the story from his perspective alone, there is much about the other characters that didn’t get fleshed out as well as I’d have liked.

Then I asked myself, “What other characters?” Miller’s world felt too small, consisting only of him and a few bit players. So, with Bloodlines I decided to make the switch to a third-person narrative. I think it works very well for the next chapter in Miller’s life.

They say in the movie business that a sequel must be bigger and better, which is the same philosophy I adopted for this book. Over half of Noble took place in Miller’s home town of Ashley Falls. He traveled to different locations, but most of his tasks were resolved within a single chapter. To address this issue and improve the pacing and plot progression in Bloodlines, I relied on inspiration from an old friend: The 16-bit RPG (Role-Playing Game).

Some of the greatest stories I’ve ever encountered came from the heyday of video games in the mid-1990s. By today’s standards, the mechanics of the 16-bit RPG are archaic and plodding, consisting of choosing actions from a menu and watching the story progress through non-interactive cut-scenes. But, we played them for their rich storylines and character development.

No matter how different the stories may have been, 16-bit RPGs all shared a common structure: Receive a quest, the quest goes awry, travel to the next town, find a new ally, fight a boss, and repeat. I implemented this strategy when creating the outline for Bloodlines. Below is an example of how I applied the formula to my book.

SPOILER ALERT: The following text contains minor spoilers for my upcoming book. If you want to be completely surprised, turn back now.

RECEIVE A QUEST: A call comes into the station from a concerned citizen reporting suspicious activity happening in an alley. Miller and two police officers are dispatched to investigate.

THE QUEST GOES AWRY: It was a routine investigation until the officers stumbled upon the crime scene of an elusive serial killer within a penchant for rifles. Officer Jenkins is slain in pursuit.

TRAVEL TO THE NEXT TOWN: Miller is called upon to lead a special task force assembled by the FBI. His first assignment is to travel to Savannah, Georgia and…

FIND A NEW ALLY: Recruit Special Agent Roscoe Jacoby to join the task force. Jacoby refuses to join up with Miller until…

FIGHT A BOSS: Miller assists him in taking down a deranged scientist who’s been concocting lethal toxins and distributing them to revenge-seeking everyday Joes.

In using this structure to fill the pages of Bloodlines, I was amazed at how much thicker the story became, and the stream of new ideas that popped into my head because of it. Not only does Miller’s story deepen thanks to this approach, but so too do the stories attached to Miller’s new friends and enemies.

I am very proud of the form that Bloodlines has taken on, and I believe whole-heartedly that this book will represent a major evolution; both in the quality of the series and the maturation of my writing ability.

I will be posting book excerpts, concept art, and other goodies here on my blog over the next few weeks as we count down toward launch day. I hope that you’ll return to check it out and join me during this very exciting time!


Unveiled: The Strangers Front Cover

I am pleased to unveil the front cover for my upcoming anthology, Strangers. My sincerest thanks to Tony Healey for his amazing creation. Tony and I only exchanged a couple of emails about cover ideas before he knocked this one out of the park!

Drum roll, please…

Strangers - Cover Design by Tony Healey

Strangers is a collection of eight short stories sharing the common theme of train travel. When I was thinking of cover designs, I wanted something that captured the essence of life before the invention of airplanes. It’s hard to believe there was a time when traveling by train was considered a luxury that people looked forward to. I still love it.

In a world without the internet, smart phones, or iPods, people conversed on trains as a way of passing the time; a tradition that still exists today. It never ceases to amaze how much can be learned about people’s lives when traveling long distances in together within a confined space. Everyone has a story of how they got there, and that’s the concept behind my book.

I owe Tony a sincere debt of gratitude for creating something that matches the concept so well. I can’t wait for Strangers to release this Spring!

UK or Bust?

I met a new neighbor recently. He’s an older English fellow that reminds me of Anthony Head. He invited me into his house—an old Greek revival mansion built in 1875—and offered me a cup of tea. He was as charming and hospitable as his accent implied. He told me about his life in England and how he had adjusted to living in America over the past twenty years. I enjoyed sitting back in his antique-laden living room, listening to his stories. I could have listened for hours. His stories were far more interesting than anything I had to contribute.

The conversation shifted toward professions. “What do you do?” he asked, sipping from a porcelain cup (for my English readers, no, he did not stick out his pinky). I told him that I was a writer; not one that he would have heard of, but one that hoped to call writing a career one day and not just a hobby. He smiled in a patronizing way, as though he had heard this same story from many other “would-be’s” before.

“Oh? What do you write?” he asked, rubbing the bristles of his moustache. I told him that I had many stories inside to tell, but that I always felt more at home within the realm of Science-Fiction. His eyes lit up as soon as the words passed between my lips. His once doubtful eyes softened, and he shifted in his seat. “Really?” he said. “Why Science-Fiction?”

I spouted off an inventory of my influences as though I had banked them for just such an occasion: Lost, Star Wars, Firefly, Doctor Who. He interrupted me the very second after I’d said Doctor Who. “Doctor Who is brilliant, isn’t it?” I felt like I had uncovered the secret word that would endear this man to me for a lifetime. We talked about Doctor Who for the next forty-five minutes, including how to integrate the brand into my upcoming wedding (Dalek ice sculptures and TARDIS-skinned photo booths).

“You know,” he said, “Science-Fiction is all the rage back in England right now. If you’d like, I can send a couple copies of your books back home. I think they’d be quite keen on them.” He didn’t need to ask me twice. Within an hour, I had a care package packed and ready to ship across the pond. It was an honor… er, rather, an honour, to have my books read in England, to which I have never been, but love a great deal.

A couple of weeks passed before I saw my new neighbor again. He knocked on my front door, coming to inform me that a careless driver had taken out the Internet cabling connected to my house. As I started to shut the door and call the cable company, he turned around and said that he had just spoken with a mate back home about my books. His mate had read Noble and couldn’t stop raving about it. He wanted to know if there were others. A lightening strike could not have erased that smile from my face.

As a writer, I feel very blessed to have sold a modest amount of books. My books don’t score a direct hit with every reader, but when they do, I am elated when I receive kind words and feedback on Twitter. I’ve begun to notice that the bulk of these positive marks are coming from British followers, which leads me to wonder if there is something to what my neighbor said.

Are my books better suited for an English audience?

Am I not focusing enough marketing across the pond?

Am I ignoring a potential hotspot for my books while I struggle to stand out amongst vampires and zombies in the USA?

I don’t have the answer to those questions at present, but it’s certainly something that I am going to research a bit more. I don’t care about fame and fortune; I just want to find a demographic that I can entertain with my stories. If it truly is within the UK that I belong, then I can’t think of a better reason to start looking for a flat. I’ve been ready to have a laugh and a pint with my mates for a long, long time.

Superbia Review & Interview With Bernard Schaffer

Bernard Schaffer's Superbia. $2.99 on Kindle.
This is going to be the shortest review that I’ve ever written for a book. Why? Because I don’t want to waste precious time that you could be using to read this book.

There are so many things that I want to say about Superbia, but I truly believe that the best way to experience it is to go into it cold. That’s the way I experienced it. From being a fan of the author, I knew roughly what it was about, but when I began to read, it could not have been any further from my initial expectation.

Hands down, Schaffer is the very best independent author I have ever read. I buy his books with confidence knowing that I’m going to get a quality read. With Superbia, Schaffer has taken his game to an entirely new level. It’s obvious from the first pages of the book that he is very close to the subject matter, and that he’s speaking straight from the heart. He presents the reader with an opportunity to peek behind the curtain of real police work. It’s gritty and hard to stomach at parts, but when it’s over, I can close the book. I can’t even imagine what it’s like to face that kind of evil every day.

You have probably read a police procedural or detective story before. You have never read one like this. Schaffer’s story is dark, intelligent, eye-opening, and if you can believe it, funny. Superbia is somehow both the most somber and hilarious book Schaffer has ever written. I’ve already read it twice and I’m ready to go back again.

I have read all of this author’s books, and Superbia is my new favorite by a wide margin. If I had any criticism to offer at all, it’s that I have no idea how he’s going to top it, but I can’t wait to watch him try.

Q & A with Superbia author, Bernard Schaffer

Welcome back and thanks for dropping by! Let me start off by congratulating you on the release of not one, but two publications over the past few weeks. My God, man, when do you sleep? I feel like I should be warning Sarah Connor about you.

I appreciate the opportunity, David. The question about when I sleep and how fast I write has come up often lately. People who are balancing jobs and families seem mystified at how quickly I write and release products.

I wrote like this when there was no Kindle. I wrote like this when agents and small press magazines were laughing at me.

SUPERBIA is a project that you have been talking about for a long time. You and I touched on it briefly during your last visit to the site. Of all the projects swimming around in your head, why did SUPERBIA rise to the top? Why now?

No matter what book I released, people around me would say, “That’s nice, but when are you going to write a cop book?”

I was afraid to write SUPERBIA. I couldn’t see what they saw. Plus, I was still struggling with the belief that I would be a police officer for the next fifteen years or so. I knew that to really write it, I would have to let go of that belief because the consequences would be potentially disastrous to my career.

SUPERBIA is obviously a very personal story. Was it difficult reliving some of these moments over again for the book?

No. What was difficult was trying to describe them in ways that would not make their source immediately apparent. I know what really happened. I needed to bend the entire story enough that no one could come back and connect reality to fiction, but still resonate.

You have said that SUPERBIA might be the book that ends your police career. Have you shared the book with anyone on the force? If so, what has been their reaction?

I’ve told several people about the book, and heard back from one already. His quote, I believe was, “This was no shot across the bow. This was a direct hit from the Battleship New Jersey.”

Without giving anything away, talk about the book’s ties to Greek mythology. What inspired that pairing?

Completely accidental. I kept struggling with Vic’s last name, doing “Replace All” in the manuscript multiple times, until finally it occurred to me to make it something meaningful. After that, the rest seemed obvious.

Anyone who follows you on Twitter knows that the real-life Bernard Schaffer is often a humorous and jovial guy. As an author, your subject matter rarely lends itself to comedy, but SUPERBIA is surprisingly laugh-out-loud funny at times. Did you base the relationship between Frank and Vic off of real life experience?

I’m doing very limited press for this book, David, but since you’ve been so good to me, I’ll tell you something funny that no one else knows.

SUPERBIA did not turn out the way I originally intended it. I meant it to be my “Beach Read” book, a la John Locke. I read his book How I SOLD 1 MILLION EBOOKS IN 5 MONTHS! and the part about his writing style annoyed me. I think he said it was heavy on dialogue, light on description, and that he didn’t exert much effort.

My reaction was, “Shit, I can do that with my eyes closed.” I sat down and wrote out a few scenes between Vic and Frank that focused on dialogue, getting their back-and-forth conversational style down. Then, the monster kicked in.

I first encountered the monster during GUNS OF SENECA 6. After WHITECHAPEL, I was trying to write a lighthearted little sci-fi western to show people I can do more than just explicit gore, and these psychopathic cannibal hillbillies showed up. I sat there staring at my computer screen like, “You can’t be serious. Don’t EAT THAT GUY.” But they did.

The turning point for SUPERBIA came toward the end of the first draft when I realized what Vic’s fate was. I don’t mean decided, I mean realized. Here I was, motoring along, writing my cute little cop buddy book and it was like someone slammed a gavel down and said, “Vic Ajax is going to XXXX XXXXXXX.”

I was absolutely horrified. Pissed off. I couldn’t sleep.

In that one fell swoop, my funny beach read became a major work. Once you’re faced with that, you can’t back down. I am not sure how many MAJOR WORKS the universe gives you, but when it does, you better be ready.

I know that a magician never reveals his secrets, but I’ve got to know: The bit about the poster-sized African American penis. Please tell me that was based off of a real event. I had tears pouring down my face after that.

The ENTIRE book is fictional. Honest. I swear to God. (If you read the book, I’m hoping you pick up on that one.)

As a policeman, was it difficult to toe the line between authenticity and protecting sensitive information when writing this book? Not just in the crime stories, but also in describing what happens behind the station’s doors?

That was the hardest part of all. I don’t want to give people the impression that I wrote a different book about my real life experiences and then modified it to create SUPERBIA.

If I told you all of the bizarre things that have happened to me during the course of my career, it wouldn’t be readable. It would seem like I was just being outrageous. I grew up as a cop’s kid, and have spent my adult life in police work. Believe me, I’ve got stories out the wazoo.

The trick was to create a fictional world, with fictional characters, who experience real things.
Like a good friend of mine said, “If anybody complains about what they read in the book, they are basically admitting that’s how they act. They won’t make a peep.”

I can’t talk much about this without giving away plot spoilers, but I am very curious to know about the backstory involving the “Truth Rabbit.” I got the feeling that it could have been a tall tale used to spook the rookies, but it also sounded bizarre enough to be true.

The Truth Rabbit is a mythical beast that once reportedly roamed the basements of Philadelphia Police Districts. He’s an urban legend. That’s all I’m allowed to say.

When writing WHITECHAPEL, you talked about how listening to Morrissey for inspiration played a huge part in your process. Did you look to a specific playlist for inspiration for SUPERBIA?

I did, especially once I came to that division bell of the book turning from Beach Read to Major Work. It took me some time to absorb the ramifications of the story, and I relied on Chris Cornell and Hank Williams III to help me understand what it meant. Specifically, “Cleaning My Gun” from Chris’s Songbook LP and “#5” from Hank 3’s Rebel Within album.

Based on the early reviews, how do you feel about the warm reception SUPERBIA is getting?

Grateful. It’s like bringing your girlfriend home to meet your family, and when she goes to the bathroom, they all say, “She’s a winner. Where did a bum like you find her?”

I believe those were my parent’s exact words when they met my fiancée. So, was there any part of you that was concerned that your readers might not “get” your book?

I sent the second draft of the book out to five beta readers. Three of them got back to me immediately and put me to work right away. I sat down and started making adjustments and rewriting the manuscript.

Two of them waited until the last minute to tell me they’d only had time to read half of it and disliked certain things. One said she thought the “weird names were distracting.”

That’s a gut check when you have already finished the book and ready to release it. I stuck to my instincts and people have had no problem figuring out the “weird names.” Thank God.

Are you at all worried about SUPERBIA becoming the measuring stick for which all your future books are judged, or are you looking forward to the challenge of one-upping yourself?

You know, it never crossed my mind until reader reviews started making it an issue. I never set out to write “My Greatest Book” with SUPERBIA. I was just telling a story.

Once you become concerned with the formula for success, it’s over. I’ve been bitten on the ass by too many authors who thought they could crank out another book in a series just to take my money. I’d probably be making a lot more cash if I just wrote just one series. The problem is, I have more to say than that.

You’ve been talking lately about your ambitious plans for 2012: Publishing four books and earning over a million dollars. That seems like a lot of pressure for one writer to put on himself. Care to divulge your strategy?

Write hard and well. So far, so good.

Let’s talk a little bit about your agenda for this year. One of the books on your slate is WHITECHAPEL 2, which surprised me a little bit. What prompted you to revisit this series?

I miss the characters when I’m not spending time with them. Little things remind me of them, like old lovers. Take WHITECHAPEL. It might be a Morrissey song, or a commercial for the new Sherlock Holmes movie. I’ll start thinking about my characters and wondering what they’re up to.

With WHITECHAPEL, I did an enormous amount of research into the times and crimes of London’s East End during that period. One thing that always bothered me was that Scotland Yard missed something incredibly important.

They had a second serial killer at work right under their noses, but were so consumed with Jack the Ripper that they missed him.

WHITECHAPEL 2: INSPECTOR LESTRADE AND THE TORSO KILLER is going to correct that. The Torso Killer has been getting a free ride for over a century. Gerard Lestrade is back on the job, folks. He’s got a little something special planned for the one that got away.

In all the times we’ve spoken, I can’t recall you ever mentioning THE WIDOW SWORD, which is another book you’ve targeted for release. How about a quick overview?

The original WIDOW SWORD manuscript predates WHITECHAPEL, written before anything like Kindle existed. It was too short for me to send to an agent, and I mothballed it. Recently, I was going through some of my older work and found the book. When I started reading it, I was happily surprised at what I saw and decided to try and make a go of it.

The story is a sword and sorcery romp, where a Viking goes off on a journey to rescue his son from an evil sorceress. It’s my next Beach Read. Honest. I swear to God.

I, as I’m sure many of your fans are, am excited to see a sequel to GUNS OF SENECA 6 popping up on your radar. Have you given much thought as to where the sequel will take our favorite characters, or is that one still a ways off?

It is a work in progress. I’m still accumulating ideas for it. All you really need for any book is a decent starting point. I tend to write in spurts, working on multiple projects at the same time, until one really takes hold and everything else comes to a halt.

I love the world of Seneca 6. It is as different and interesting to me as the world of Whitechapel, but in a completely different way. Kind of like my kids. They aren’t alike at all, but I dig them both unendingly.

And lastly, there’s CODEX LEICESTER, which you’ve announced will be a collection of short stories similar to WOMEN AND OTHER MONSTERS. How’s that progressing?

Believe it or not, CODEX LEICESTER almost came out before SUPERBIA. I finished ANCIENT RITUALS and took a hard look at all the material that is finished for CODEX, and was tempted to just finish it. I created a cover and everything. What held me back was the third Sean Price (Agent Omega) story. CODEX LEICESTER won’t be ready until that piece is finished, and I’m not ready to write it yet. At the end of the day, SUPERBIA won.

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the Kindle All-Stars project. After the successful launch of RESISTANCE FRONT last month, you are now offering professional editing and marketing services to indie authors under that same umbrella. Give me your best pitch!

There are a wide assortment of services available to authors out there now. God only knows what they’ll be getting for their hard earned money. I want to offer them a full service package that guarantees a professional looking product that is marketed correctly. It’s expensive, I realize that, but anyone who signs up with us is going to get the same attention I put into one of my own projects. I’m pretty sure no one would argue with my results.

You know everyone is asking, so let’s close this interview out with a little KAS 2 discussion. The clues are live on your website, and from what I hear, a few people have already cracked your code. So, that begs the question: If there is a KAS 2 coming, when are you letting the cat out of the bag?

A few people have applied themselves and come up with the correct answer. There will definitely be a KAS 2, but before we get there, we’re focused on a release for Laurie is hard at work assembling the right team for that project. KAS 2 will just have to wait for now. People need to keep checking the website.

Ah, well. Can’t blame a guy for trying, right?

Wouldn’t have it any other way.

Bernard, as always, it’s been a pleasure to talk books with you. I wish you nothing but continued success and hope to see you here again soon. The door is always open to you!

David, you’ve been with me from the very beginning, and I don’t intend on that ever changing. Thank you so much for the chance to come back.

The So-Called Rules of Writing

Every so often, a writer steps out of the woodwork and proclaims to have it all figured out. This pretentious individual then declares themselves to be a master of the English language, and posts an article on the Internet outlining the rules of writing according to them. I have read many variations of these rules, but they all share one common trait: The author is never well-known.

So, am I saying that an author must be famous to have valid advice? Not at all. But, let me phrase it another way: Would you follow the rules of parenting from a person that once babysat?

My point is this: I object to the notion that anyone has the authority to establish the rules of writing. I do believe that an experienced writer can offer advice and share guidelines to help you color within the lines, but there isn’t an exact formula to follow. Or at least there shouldn’t be. The best part of being a writer is developing your style and making your signature recognizable to the reader. What fun would reading be if all of our books sounded exactly the same? The covers would all look different, but on the inside, just pages of passed down textbook without any personality or flair.

In saying all of this, let me make it clear that I do understand the difference between good and bad writing. Not everyone can flow sentences together in a seamless fashion, but I don’t begrudge anyone for trying. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, is it not? I’ve seen books get rave reviews that I thought were terrible, and I’ve read critically panned books that I thought were great. The experience depends entirely on the reader.

Writers and editors alike all regurgitate the same rhetoric that gets passed around as the gold standard. As a writer, do I follow the “rules?” I suppose I do for the most part, but I also know when it’s okay to stray from them. Let’s examine some of the most popular rules:

Use Strong Verbs to Replace Adverbs – I agree that most adverbs can be eliminated without changing the meaning of the sentence, but I say if an adverb feels right, go ahead and use it. Who cares? Would you really deny use of an adverb because one out of every ten readers is going to complain about it? Don’t overdo it, but sure, an adverb doesn’t have to be a plague. Some adverbs aren’t as easily replaceable and fit the sentence. Do I use adverbs? Yes, but I try to use them sparingly (get it?).

Use Strong Nouns to Replace Adjectives – You have got to be effing kidding me! While we’re at it, let’s use binary code to replace nouns, and clicks and whistles to replace weak pronouns. Look, the English language is vast and beautiful. Why are writers always developing rules to reduce its size? Must we continue to chip away at it until there’s nothing left to use?

Show, Don’t Tell – I agree, though, I also think there needs to be a limit as to how much you should show. I recently read a book where the author was still describing the environment after ten pages of text. I was bored to tears. At some point, you need to move along with the story. If you’ve already shown me the most important things in a scene, I’ll give you a pass if you tell me the rest.

The list goes and on, and if you’re a writer, you’ve undoubtedly heard them all.

In today’s day and age, there are countless entertainment options competing with books that offer instant gratification. Let’s face facts, authors: Between Lady GaGa records, DVR’d episodes of Keeping Up with the Kardashians, and Nintendos, we’re fighting a losing battle against the ever-decreasing attention span of our younger generation. I don’t know about you, but that scares the living shit out of me.

You want a rule of writing? How about this: Write the way everyday people speak. If you’ve ever said something and had a friend say, “Um, okay, Professor,” then you don’t know your audience (Don’t even get me started on the annoying subculture of Twitter’s “grammar police”). I believe in my heart of hearts that more people do want to read, but when they’re smacked in the face with five dollar words and obscure references to sixteenth century playwrights on the very first page, it discourages them from picking up books. As writers, we need to keep in mind that not everyone is fortunate enough to go to college, but that doesn’t make them any less deserving of entertainment.

I know this blog may sound like blasphemy, but I’m not calling for a “dumbing down” of the literary arts. I’m merely saying that if you’re a well-educated English major, good for you. You should be applauded. However, being a pretentious jackass is going to limit your reach as an author.

Write the stories that you want to write, just don’t tell me how to write mine. If you don’t like it, don’t read it.

Choosing an Editor: Glinda or Elphaba?

Do bears bare? Do bees be?
This one’s for you Bethany & Laurie.

I recently joked around on Twitter about the very strange bond between an author and editor. I said that it reminded me of a “David & Maddie” type of relationship. I was amazed at how many “LOL” and “Amen” responses that I received from other authors. Well, from those old enough to catch the reference, anyway. 🙂

For those that have never had the pleasure of working with an editor before, I’ll try and describe the process: It’s a little like asking someone to take a look at your finest painting—the one you’ve spent countless hours on, perfecting the brushstrokes and use of color—and then pay them to smear pooh on it. Why? Because your brushstrokes weren’t as perfect as you thought, and your use of color wasn’t varied enough. Sure, your feelings are hurt and your gut reaction is to tell them that they don’t know what they’re talking about, but here’s the stone cold truth: Yes, they do.

An editor isn’t paid to be your friend and give you the warm and fuzzies about your work. They’re not going to stroke your hair, tell you everything is going to be all right, and sing songs about puppies and rainbows. They’re paid to make sure that you don’t embarrass yourself and release something into the marketplace that will represent you poorly. Are they going to step on your feelings in the process? Absolutely. Are you going to get a better book because of it? Without a doubt.

As long as we’re being honest here, I don’t know that I could ever trust an editor that was overly nice and complimentary about my work. What if their feedback could have saved my book from obscurity, but they were too afraid of hurting my feelings? That doesn’t help anyone. I must be insane, or at least part masochist, but I prefer an editor’s words to sting. Why? Because someone needs to be impartial enough to tell you the truth.

It’s too easy to feel content because “My mom said that my book is great,” or “my husband/wife said I’m the next Charlene Harris.” It’s safe. It feels good. It’s comfortable to believe that. However, you’ll be in for one hell of a reality check when the general public gets a hold of it. No matter how ruthless an editor’s comments can seem, they pale in comparison to the heartless rantings of an Internet troll.

You'll thank them later.

Working with an editor can be difficult to ease into. Take me, for example. Before working with my primary editor, Bethany, I was attracted to her ad because she promised to be gentle and respectful. You know, to really work with the writer and help them fine-tune their inner voice. Sounded great to me! After working with Bethany for three days, I was ready to fire hire. Well, punch her in the face and then fire her. She was brutal! I couldn’t believe that I was paying someone to talk to me the way that she did. She sliced and diced my manuscript, nitpicking every little thing to death, and then had the nerve to outline every tick and mistake I had made. I was furious! I thought to myself, “Oh yeah? Well, where’s your book, hot shot?”

The thing is, as I made the adjustments and fixes that she recommended, I could see the improvements to my manuscript begin to take shape. I started to see the original draft for the clunky mess that it was, and how much better it became under her keen eye. It was at that point that I realized just how valuable an editor can be.

Now days, I trust Bethany implicitly. She goes to great lengths to not only polish my manuscripts, but also to make sure that I understand the rule of thumb behind her corrections so that I can apply that knowledge to my future works.

The moral to my story is this: Don’t be so sensitive. It can be uncomfortable granting someone unrestricted access to something so personal, and sure, I do sometimes still get angry at comments that editors make. But as odd as it sounds, that’s how I know that I’m working with a good one. An editor doesn’t rip your book to shreds because they’re mean. An editor rips your book to shreds because it needs it. I’m not made of glass, and you shouldn’t be either. Have faith in your ability to write a good book, but never take for granted the power of a good editor.

2011: It’s Been a Wacky Ride

Like most people, at the end of every passing year I enjoy looking back and evaluating how I ended up. Call it a self-administered report card, if you will. Did I meet my goals set from the year before? Did I accomplish new goals that I hadn’t even considered? What mistakes did I make this year and what did I learn from them?

2011 was my first complete calendar year as an author. I published my first novel on October 16th, 2010, so I’d barely had even a taste of the lifestyle before I rang in the New Year. Being as green as I was, I started in with the mistakes right away, which included beginning work in January on my second book, Malevolent.

What’s that? You mean you’ve never heard of my book Malevolent? There’s a reason for that. I had a great concept, but absolutely no structure or grand ideas to connect the thin plot points together. Did that stop me? Of course not! I was going to write the book and blow minds, come hell or high water! That mentality lasted for about eight chapters and forty-thousand words before I took a hard look at my work-in-progress and grasped what a giant piece of monkey crap it was. I made the only play I could: I took the book out back behind the toolshed and put a bullet in it. Malevolent was out of its misery, but at the cost of four months of my time with nothing productive to show for it. The timing wasn’t right, but mark my words: Someday this one will rise from its grave and become the story that it’s meant to be.

I took a couple of months off following the Malevolent debacle before starting work on my next book, The Jumper. This story fared much better creatively, and before I knew it, I had a manuscript that I was proud of. I released The Jumper on August 9th, 2011.

Being almost a year since Noble’s release, I started writing a sequel in July while The Jumper was undergoing the editing process. I enjoyed returning to Miller Brinkman’s universe and felt as though I were crafting something that was going to take the series to a whole new level. The trouble was, the original Noble sat an unedited mess. Unless readers enjoyed the first book, there would be little hope of them giving the sequel I was so proud of a try. I put the sequel on hold and spent the next couple of months putting Noble under the knife. On November 10th, 2011, I released Noble: Revised & Expanded.

Because I clearly have mental issues, I took up yet ANOTHER side project all the while I was elbows deep in work. I wrote a short story called Mabel for the Kindle All-Stars anthology, Resistance Front. The process was more laborious than I imagined, but that just made it all the more worthwhile when the anthology came out earlier this month. Seeing my name among the likes of Harlan Ellison, Alan Dean Foster, and Bernard Schaffer was more than a dream come true. It’s more like a dream that my dream had and came true.

I am very proud of publishing two books and a short story in 2011, but the year wasn’t just about my creative accomplishments. It was also a year of meeting some amazing people that have quite literally changed my life. It will be the year that I remember meeting my editor Bethany for the first time. It will be the year that I remember meeting my cover designer James for the first time. And it will also be the year that I met some gifted fellow authors that both entertain and inspire me. Authors like Tony Healy, Liz Borino, Michael Hicks, Joshua Unruh, Richard Roberts, William Vitka, and Court Cantrell. Indie publishing no longer has to be something I do alone because I have met great people doing the same thing.

2011 was the year that I met Bernard Schaffer and Laurie Laliberte, both of whom have gone to great lengths to make sure that I’m writing something worth reading. They’re readers, not fans, and they tell you the truth no matter brutal it might be. Every lesson that I learned about writing in 2011 can be attributed to them completely.

Oh yeah, and did I mention that I got engaged on Valentine’s Day? I was about to get my butt kicked if I failed to mention that.

Last, but certainly not least, 2011 was the year that I gained actual readers. At the close of 2010, I had exactly seven followers on Twitter. As I type this blog entry, I’m almost up to 5,700. Sure, a lot of those are bots and other authors that are trying to sell me their books, but among them are real readers that have bought my books and taken the time to write and tell me that they liked them. There is no greater feeling in the world than that.

In conclusion, 2011 was a great year full of several accomplishments and new beginnings, but it’s just a taste of what’s to come in 2012. As of the time of this writing, Noble: Bloodlines is about ready to enter the beta reading stage. Early feedback has been: “Did you write this? No… seriously. Did you?” I’ll take that as a compliment. 🙂

In addition to a new book in the Noble series, I will also have a themed short-story collection, a new novella, and if time permits, the finale to the Noble trilogy. It feels like I just started the series yesterday and already I’m talking about the final book in the trilogy. It’s bittersweet for sure. I don’t know that I’m ready to say goodbye just yet.

If you’re reading this right now, then you’re absolutely one of the people that helped make 2011 my most successful and memorable year yet. Thank you from the bottom of my heart! I hope that your year rocked as much as mine, and I hope that the New Year brings you even greater happiness!