Tell us about yourself and how many books you have written.
I’m a 27-year veteran professional guitar player who always had stories swimming around in my head, needing life to be breathed into them on the written page. I won my first award—First Place in a short story contest—when I was 14. After nearly three decades as a performing and recording musician and six-string shredder, I started seriously writing my first novel in 2004.
One of the most exciting moments of my lifetime was finishing that novel late the same year. Since then, I’ve written a total of eight novels and nearly twenty short stories, along with two half-finished novels that are both current works-in-progress.
Since first being published in 2013 and as of December 2017, six of my novels have been published, along with eight short stories, most to critical acclaim and rave reviews. Some have won awards, along with another First Place award in a short story contest, an Honorable Mention in the L. Ron Hubbard Writers of the Future Contest, and 2nd Place as 2014 Book of the Year for SOULSNATCHER, my first published novel. JAGANNATH, my second published novel, became a #1 Amazon bestseller in July 2015.
My latest novel BEYOND THE VALE (Burning Willow Press, December 2017) won an award right out of the starting gate: 2017 Top 20 Best Indie Book.
But I don’t write to win awards—although I’m honored to have won a handful, and yes, I’m proud of them. I also don’t write to become rich or famous or both, although I won’t complain if I do. So why DO I write?
I write because I can’t NOT write.
My head would explode if I didn’t write. Seriously: Once I started writing, it was like opening the floodgates of my imagination. There was no turning back. I had to set the stories in my head free.
I love blending genres in my work, which is how I got the name and brand “The Reality Bender.” Most of my works mix elements of sci-fi, fantasy, horror, supernatural, paranormal, suspense, adventure, and thriller. I love writing about bizarre, weird, and freakish concepts.
Most importantly, however, I love to write about PEOPLE. All of my novels are character-driven rather than plot-driven. My readers love my characters—both human and canine characters—and often write to me about their favorites. And they “love to hate” my villains and villainesses.
So take a look at my works, and discover for yourself why readers and reviewers rave about them!
What is the name of your latest book and what inspired it?
Thanks so much for asking. My new novel BEYOND THE VALE, an afterlife fantasy/ adventure (Burning Willow Press, December 23, 2017), is now available on Amazon, Goodreads, and other online vendor sites—and the ebook is only $2.99. Check it out and discover why advance readers are already raving about it.
The inspiration? Who doesn’t wonder “what comes after” this form of existence, or even IF anything comes after it? I often do, and have wanted to write an adventure in the afterlife ever since I started writing. BEYOND THE VALE is the culmination of that endeavor. Full of hope, heart, humor, romance, and adventure, it’s a tale of redemption and ultimate triumph.
Classic literature has often referred to this mortal/ earthly world as “the vale of tears.” What type of existence, if any, awaits us beyond this mortal coil? Get my unique and twisted take on it, and strap in for a wild ride in the afterlife with BEYOND THE VALE.
Do you have any unusual writing habits?
Do you mean do I wear funny hats, or sunglasses after dark? Maybe devour a bag of Doritos or Oreos or pop a cold brew after finishing a particularly difficult chapter or scene? Make prank calls to pizza delivery franchises?
Okay, I don’t do any of those . . . except an occasional cold brew after I’m finished writing for the day. And Doritos. And Oreos . . . or chocolate chip cookies.
Other than that, my only constant habit while writing is I’m always listening to music. I click on Pandora.com, where I have an eclectic selection of various types of music playing in a shuffle, everything from classic rock to progressive rock to Celtic music, symphonies, some pop rock, flamenco, guitar masters, and just about anything between them all except for rap, hip-hop, new wave, electronic, or opera.
Once the music starts playing, I’m “in the writing zone” with my muse fired up, and soar away into the world of my imagination.
Sometimes I glance up from my writing at the clock thinking maybe 30 minutes have passed, and it’s 4 or 5 hours later. Getting lost in a story is one of the greatest feelings in the world, because that time is never “lost.” It’s been spent doing the thing I enjoy most.
What authors, or books have influenced you?
Oh, so many of both! Growing up, I was heavily into anything (and everything) by Edgar Rice Burroughs, Kenneth Robeson’s classic DOC SAVAGE series, Maxwell Grant’s famous THE SHADOW novels, anything by Lin Carter, and numerous other slightly more obscure classics.
Nowadays, I’m a huge fan of Dean Koontz, Robert R. McCammon, F. Paul Wilson (love Repairman Jack!), Robert Charles Wilson, James Rollins, Charles de Lint, and Susan Wilson’s famous dog books, among countless others.
THE ANUBIS GATES by Tim Powers is, in my opinion, one of the greatest and most stunningly brilliant novels ever written.
Other all-time favorites are WATCHERS and LIGHTNING and FROM THE CORNER OF HIS EYE by Dean Koontz, SWAN SONG and STINGER by Robert R. McCammon, THE STAND and IT by Stephen King, CARRION COMFORT by Dan Simmons, THE CHRONICLES OF THOMAS COVENANT (original 6, not the latest 4) and MORDANT’S NEED by Stephen R. Donaldson, THE LANAGUE CHRONICLES by F. Paul Wilson, THE SIGMA FORCE series by James Rollins, and so many more I could go on for days.
Whenever a reviewer compares some of my work to any one of these authors, along with many other brilliant authors, I have to tether myself to the earth to keep from floating away. Some authors don’t wish to be compared to others, but I find it to be high praise indeed. Thanks so much to everyone who reviews my work, it means the world to me!
What are you working on now?
I’m currently writing a novel that is purely a psychological thriller, no “elements of the fantastic” such as horror, sci-fi, or fantasy or similar speculative fiction (although there is a “ghost” in it . . . or is there?). I’m about halfway through the first draft. It’s a challenge I heartily accept: refraining from any deus ex machina via the surreal or unreal. I can’t share the title at this time; it’s a surprise.
I’m happy to say I’m having a blast with it, and can hardly wait to share the edited, finished manuscript with my beta readers, and after that, my readers and the whole world.
Sharing my finished works with book lovers everywhere is my greatest joy.
What is your best method or website when it comes to promoting your books?
Ah, such a conundrum, a veritable quandary!
Finding the best way to promote my works is an ongoing learning experience. There is ALWAYS some new or better method, technique, or strategy to learn and implement. I’m still looking for the Holy Grail of promotional perfection.
Primarily, I use my email subscriber list, Facebook groups, and Twitter. But there are countless “free” promotional sites that I also use. It’s difficult to track which ones get the best and most frequent responses, and which ones increase sales the best. So many to choose from I couldn’t implement them all unless I had a squadron of personal assistants . . . and I’m still working on that too.
To my fellow authors: Promotional advice is always heartily welcomed and greatly appreciated!
Do you have any advice for new authors?
Absolutely. First, ALWAYS keep learning everything you can about the craft of writing, and about improving your skills in creating realistic dialogue and characters, irresistible and compelling scenes, and developing your voice and style. No matter how rich and famous you may become, there is always more to learn, always room for improvement. There is no point in which a writer EVER perfects the craft. As soon as you think you’ve “learned it all,” you’re stuck with never improving beyond that point.
My highest recommendation list of books for writers: THE ELEMENTS OF STYLE by Strunk & White, SELF-EDITING FOR FICTION WRITERS by Renni Browne & Dave King, THE FIRST FIVE PAGES and THE PLOT THICKENS by Noah Lukeman, EATS, SHOOTS AND LEAVES by Lynne Truss, and THE CHICAGO MANUAL OF STYLE.
Second, I recommend subscribing to what I call my “Triple P Philosophy”: Patience, Persistence, and Perseverance. You need all three of these, and lots of each of them. Success in such a serious and time-consuming endeavor as writing never comes “overnight.” It’s hard work, and if you aren’t willing to put in the endless hours—time spent in necessary solitude—then you shouldn’t expect success. You get out of it what you put into it.
My final advice? Like I do, DREAM BIG, and never let anything crush that dream. Dreaming big is the only way to make the big dreams come true.
My heartiest wish for success to all of you in making that dream come true!
What is the best advice you have ever heard?
Finally, an easy question to answer! I’ve gotten SO much priceless advice from fellow writers and people involved in the literary industry, for which I have always been and will remain eternally grateful.
However, the absolute BEST advice I ever got came from bestselling author Robert R. McCammon over 20 years ago. I met him at a signing, and he was so gracious and spent extra time chatting with all his fans. Meeting him was an honor and a pleasure. I told him I wrote some short stories and wanted to write novels, and asked him for some advice on how to get published.
He said, “Don’t give up.”
Those three magic words have stuck with me for over 20 years, and I’ll never forget them. They helped place me where I am today in the literary world. Thank you again, Mr. McCammon.
Another priceless piece of advice came from friend, colleague, and fellow writer Lynda Fitzgerald. After I got my first novel contract for SOULSNATCHER, she said, “Don’t be shy; reach for the stars.” So I did: I asked bestselling author James Rollins, among several other favorite famous authors, for a blurb for SOULSNATCHER . . . and he said, “Yes. Send it on.” I was flabbergasted, and on cloud nine for months after he provided a rave testimonial for it (I still am, lol).
I had the honor and pleasure of meeting Mr. Rollins six months later at a local book signing, and thanked him for his excellent blurb. And what did he say to me? He asked what my current writing project was, and I told him I had a new novel coming out a few months later called JAGANNATH. He smiled at me and said, “You want another blurb?”
Damn straight. I said, “Yes, thank you!”
And so now I have not one but TWO excellent blurbs from one of my favorite and most respected authors, and all because I bit the bullet, expecting polite rejection at best, and “reached for those stars.”
What are you reading now?
Since I generally tear through good books in two to three days tops, and quickly put away books I don’t like, the answer to that question is in constant flux.
My three favorite recent reads are THE SILENT CORNER and THE WHISPERING ROOM by Dean Koontz (he’s finally back on track with excellent thrillers, after several recent duds), and THE DOG WHO DANCED by Susan Wilson (love love LOVE Buddy/Mack!). I devour books like the Cookie Monster gobbles cookies.
Gotta go back to the library and bookstore soon . . .
What’s next for you as a writer?
I’d love to travel to and see the Crab Nebula, and after that, The Pillars of Creation. Along with about a billion other galaxies.
However, since that’s unlikely, I plan on getting my current work-in-progress finished and subsequently published, and then the one after that, and the next one . . .
I currently have two short stories that have been accepted for publication in anthologies in 2018, and can hardly wait to share them with my readers (and future readers as well!).
And of course, I plan on continuing to write, write, write.
If you were going to be stranded on a desert island and allowed to take 3 or 4 books with you what books would you bring?
1) “How to Get Rescued From a Desert Island”
2) “How to Trap and Cook Small Game”
3) “The Boy Scouts of America Guidebook”
4) “The Definitive Guide to Edible Plants”