Susanna Beard The Truth Waits Blog Tour

Welcome to Susanna Beard’s The Truth Waits blog tour!! Book In The Bag is proud to be a stop along the way!

 

Let’s get right down into it, tell us who you are and what you usually write about.

I’m Susanna Beard, and I write psychological thrillers.

 

The Truth Waits was just released on November 1, 2018. What research did you do to write your latest thriller?

The story is partly set in Lithuania, where my character sources products for her online linen business. I already knew that the country was known for textile production, so that’s one of the reasons it’s set there – but I also wanted to find a deserted beach where the weather was harsh, in which to set the key incident in the story. Researching online, I found a fabulous unspoilt beach on the Baltic coast, a place called the Kuronian Spit, and I travelled there to see what it was really like. Then I took a train across the country to visit the capital, Vilnius, which features in the book, and was able to get a good impression of the place and the people.

I also met the attaché at the Lithuanian Embassy in London, who was extremely helpful and answered all my ignorant questions about the country!

Regarding the theme of sex trafficking and the police, most of my research was carried out online, though I was helped by various people who knew Belarus well and who had come across sex trafficking in the area.

 

What (if anything) did you edit out of the book?

A lot! Quite a few things changed from first draft to final manuscript, with around ten drafts in between! I can’t give you details without giving too much away…

 

What is the main thing you want readers to take away from The Truth Waits?

The overarching message of the book is that the truth has a way of getting out, however much you try to hide it.

 

What is something that your fans would be surprised to learn about you?

I’ve done a few surprising things: I’ve swum with whalesharks (the biggest fish in the world) in Australia (fabulous); I’ve walked through the sewers in Brighton (fascinating); and I’ve fallen into a crevasse in France (and climbed out uninjured!). And I used to get panic attacks in big groups of people. I seem to have overcome that now!

 

What made you become a writer and what about the writing life do you think is misunderstood by the public?

I’ve wanted to write novels since I was a teenager. I got the reading bug early – I was always in the library and read voraciously – and losing myself in a book was my favourite occupation. Writing has always been an important part of my working life, though writing fiction is relatively new to me.

People read novels without realising the huge amount of work – and very often heartbreak and soul-searching – that’s gone into them. That used to be me, so I understand why, and as an author, it’s wonderful that the effort is rewarded by readers enjoying your work. But we’re not all making millions, by any means, and the price of a book is low considering the work that goes into it: I don’t think people understand that.

 

Are you a plotter or pantster?

Nowadays, I’m a plotter, but not to the nth degree. I do an outline; I know the beginning and the end, and some of the points in between, and I do biographies of my characters in advance. It’s great to have a plan to refer back to when I start to go off-piste!

 

What is the biggest mistake that you’ve learned not to make while writing?

Don’t start editing before you’ve finished! Get that first draft done – then you have something to work on.

 

What is the last book you finished reading? What did you think?

The Silence of the Girls, by Pat Barker. Not my usual choice, but I do read widely. I really enjoyed it – it’s a brilliant retelling of The Iliad from the point of view of Briseis, a girl awarded to Achilles as a slave when her town is destroyed. There’s a clear feminist message to the story; it’s brutal and realistic and has many modern echoes.

 

What other hats do you wear besides the writer hat?

A marketing one! I still manage the PR for a handful of clients, which is varied and enjoyable. And I’m now running workshops for would-be writers.

 

Are there any URLs or social media accounts you would like to share?

My website is www.susannabeard.com; I’m @susannabeard25 on Twitter and @susannabeardauthor on Facebook

For the workshops, the website is www.riverwriting.co.uk

 

Thank you so much for the stop on the blog tour again!  Make sure you go out and get your copy of #TheTruthWaits today! Trust me, it’s a great read! Don’t forget to follow Susanna on her social media accounts! Until next time…have a great read!

 

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Writer Wednesday – Emmie Mears

1. Who are you? I’m Emmie Mears! In theory, anyway. For now.

2. What type of stuff do you write? I like to have my fingers dipped into just about every SFF pie. Lately I’ve been tending toward more broad speculative fiction, second world alt history and second world in general, but I’m looking forward to digging into some science fantasy and more straight sci fi as well as epic fantasy soon. (I have a hankering to write a first contact story, but we’ll see.)

3. What do you want to pimp right now? I have a rather grueling release schedule lately. A HALL OF KEYS AND NO DOORS just came out, which is a contemporary magical realism, and I’m certainly proud of that. LOOK TO THE SUN comes out 15 November and is available for preorder right now, and that is a book that feels almost too timely — I’ve pitched it as Les Miserables meets Shadow of the Wind. It’s a second world novel with a Gothic feel about generational tragedy, love, and fighting against fascism.

4. What’s your favorite book? This will likely come as no surprise if you read the preceding paragraph, but Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafón. It is absolutely stunning, and the moment I finished it for the first time, I picked it up and read it again. A more recent read was Naomi Novik’s Uprooted, which was phenomenal (and, combined with a non-fiction thing I read recently, inspired my next project).

5. What other hats do you wear besides the writer hat? I’ve been very privileged to be able to write full time for the past year. I have a part time job as a banquet server as well. Besides writing, though, the full-time-ness of that job encompasses PR, marketing, accounting, finance, and enough emails to form an avalanche. I also manage a small contingent of ninja cats in my home.

6. Where can we find you? I am virtually omnipresent on the internet, it feels. You can find me on Twitter @EmmieMears, or you can find me on the Book of Face. I’m also on Instagram if you like cat spam and a parade of homemade food. If you like short stories and want to help support my writing, you can find me on Patreon, and for the eminent pragmatists among you, my general home on the interwebz is simply emmiemears.com.



Expect the Unexpected – 5 Tips for Writers

By the time this goes live, I will have finished my twelfth full length manuscript. That’s some novels, and with seven-soon-to-be-eight in the wild, I’ve arrived at a point where I get emails from people asking me to kick them in the butt. “Kicking internet folks in the butt” was not something I was entirely prepared for when I went into this career with the idea that maybe one day I could make a living doing the only thing I think I’m good at, but it’s something I’m being asked to do.

In the spirit of sharing hard-won wisdom and lessons, here are five things I didn’t expect from writing when I started:

5. Writing books doesn’t really get easier.

It hasn’t. In fact, books 10 and 11 were some of the toughest things I’ve done. Writing is a constant evolution of figuring out exactly how much you know and don’t know. It’s about trying something that has worked for you before (or that has worked for someone not-you) and finding out that lo, suddenly it worketh not. That can be…frustrating.

I’ve heard it said that writers don’t know how to write books. We have to learn each time how to write this book. In my experience of the past decade of finishing books, that is very, very true.

4. Writing is a lot easier when you can leave the business out of it.

I think in a lot of our minds when we start out, writing is like that internet meme.

Step 1–Have idea
Step 2–Be said idea’s miraculous conduit onto the page
Step 3–???????
Step 4–PROFIT

Yeah, nah.

It doesn’t work like that. Whether you traditionally publish or do it independently (I’ve done both), two words will dictate much of your success: bottom and line.

In trade publishing, that bottom line can be the difference between your book getting acquired and your book getting trunked. (Or, as I have personally experienced, an entire imprint getting trunked and every book it publishes going down with it.) In indie publishing, it can mean you’re spending more on your packaging, marketing, editing, etc. than you are making. That is not sustainable unless you are one of the mythical humans for whom money is not the difference between your pet iguana starving to death or not.

Having to factor in making art with the reality of making money is not an easy web of tightropes to walk. But it can be done.

3. On that note, if you don’t have it, money can be a massive systemic barrier.

As in all careers, having money to start with means that you have access to networking opportunities, career development, and the more esoteric bits, like automatically being taken a bit more seriously. Conferences and conventions, where heaps of connections are made, are decidedly not cheap. Tax write off, yes, but you still have to spend the money up front.

The same goes for indie publishing–you have to put money in on the front end there, for a great cover if absolutely nothing else.

That said? Slush works. Both of my agents, I’ve gotten through the slush pile. I’m a hybrid author, which means I’ve had trade deals and have indie published both. If you are seeking to go the commercial trade publishing route, you don’t need to know anybody (and no matter how much your friends love you, even if you have connections, they are never a guarantee).

2. There is never Only One.

Books are not like Highlander. Sure, we see the highly publicised unicorns like Twilight and Wool, that One Book that propelled its author to fame and fortune. But we have to remember those stories are unicorns. There is an immense amount of luck in the writing business that boils down to this: the right eyes hitting your work at the right time.

It can happen on the first book you write (I suppose, since it has to very few folks). But more likely there will be many books. The first that you publish, whether trade or indie. The first that earns you a five star review–or the first that earns you one star. There will be a book that someone will email you to tell you they desperately needed. A book you look back on and cringe. Because for most of us, this career is about building a mountain, not about being airlifted to the top of it or shot out of a cannon.

Which brings me to the last tidbit…

1. Your craft is the barre.

In ballet, the barre is the place you turn to re-orient yourself. To find balance and return to the basics that make the pro jumps possible. That is craft to the writer, but you have to build it. There is a general mythos around writing that suggests that the ability to do it well is this ephemeral thing called “talent.” But the truth is, it’s something we have to learn and hone. Everyone can get better at it. Sometimes when we start out, our barre is crooked and falls off when we lean on it too hard. We have to bust out the level and learn some physics and engineering and figure out how it best works for us, and even then we have to replace the screws that fall out and the bits of mirror where the silver wears away.

It takes effort and practice, and there is never a guarantee of being that unicorn. There is just the story, just the barre that holds us up and directs the flow of our movements.

But here’s the other bit–you can surprise yourself. If you’d asked me when I was 20 how many books I thought I could write, I don’t know what my answer would have been. At nearly 32, I’ve written twelve. Everyone’s mountain looks different.

And I’m just getting started.

Writer Wednesday – Elizabeth Donald

Let’s start with the basics. Who are you?
Tell us (briefly) about you…
…and a bit about what you’ve written…
…and what you’re working on right now.
I’m Elizabeth Donald, and I write stuff. By day I write for a daily newspaper on a variety of topics ranging from education to politics to crime. By night I write about monsters and zombies and things that go chomp in the night. I started writing fiction for publication a few years into my journalism career, though my fiction habit really dates all the way back to childhood. My first novel was published in 2004, and I’ve since written maybe 13 novels and novellas, depending on how you count the ebooks.

Right this moment, I’m working on a short story for an anthology about tragic love in speculative fiction. I’ve recently finished a collection of short stories titled Moonlight Sonata that I hope will see print next year, and waiting in the wings is a space adventure titled Banshee’s Run. I also have a few projects waiting in the editing queue and preparing to take my photography work to the next level. Other than that, I’m not too busy.

What are your earliest book-related memories?
My mother replaced the Berenstain Bears with Nancy Drew when I was a young girl, and Nancy led me into what we would have called “young adult” fiction if that term had existed. I started falling into historical drama and mysteries as a ‘tween, but then Star Trek: The Next Generation premiered and I was a science fiction fan for life.

What are your three favorite books?
You’ve just broken me. My favorite novel is probably IT by Stephen King, whose entire bibliography ranks among my top re-reads in my ridiculous library. Peter David’s Imzadi is one of the best tie-in novels I’ve ever read, and for more recent work, I’m desperately in love with the Newsflesh series by Mira Grant, particularly the first novel, Feed.

How many books to do you read at any given time? What are you reading now?
I used to devour a book a night – up to three nights if it was a real epic, like The Stand or Gone With the Wind. Then I had a child, and I discovered the desperation of sleep deprivation. I usually read one fiction and one nonfiction book simultaneously, since they use different parts of my brain, but then I also read a copious number of blogs, articles and assorted nonsense for work. Currently I’m reading The Day She Died by Bill Garrison, and just finished Book of Shadows by Alexandra Sokoloff. In nonfiction, I have a stack of books on the influenza epidemic of 1918 – research for future misbehavior.

Finish this sentence; when I curl up with a book, I ___
…want to fall through the hole in the paper.

To re-read or not to re-read, that is the question.
I love re-reading. It’s territory I’ve scouted before, but if the writing is strong enough, you can fall through again and be transported to a place you really enjoyed visiting. I have this wild idea to reread Stephen King’s entire bibliography in the order he wrote them, and see what I can learn from the evolution Master of Horror. All I need is an extra three hours in the day.

How likely are you to read a book that’s been recommended to you?
Very likely, if it’s a premise that intrigues me. I have certain authors that are an auto-buy for me, of course: Jonathan Maberry, Mira Grant/Seanan McGuire, Gillian Flynn, Joe Hill, Julia Spencer-Fleming and of course the big names like Stephen King and Harlan Ellison – John Grisham if he’s in familiar territory, the courtroom. All of them have demonstrated the ability to send me through the hole in the paper, and that’s what I’m really after. If someone I trust recommends a book, I’ll give it a try, which is probably why my to-be-read pile is so high.

How likely are you to recommend a book (that isn’t yours)?
I recommend books all the time, and try to keep up with reviews. I used to write a review column for the newspaper, and when it was canceled, I launched it as an independent blog. Unfortunately, time constraints mean I don’t post all that often, but I know the importance of good reviews for a book, and try to do so.

What do you look for in a good book?
Story and dialogue are key; if I’m not interested in the events unfolding or the people are speaking in voices I can’t really hear, I’m bored. Bored means I’m falling asleep, and I don’t get enough sleep anyway. So keep me awake with smart people and crackling dialogue, then give them something interesting to do. I don’t want extensive descriptions of his smoldering eyes and her lovely gown, and for some people that’s the kind of thing they really want. To each his or her own, as in anything this subjective.

Why do you write?
I write because the voices in my head told me to. I write because it’s what I was made to do, how my mind was constructed. I write horror because the things I see in the real world are so much more awful and yet mundane that I’d rather see something fantastic and terrible. It’s cheaper than therapy. But I have been writing ever since I could pick up a pencil, and probably before, making up stories in my head to entertain myself when I’m bored and telling stories to my little sister at night to help her sleep. You might as well ask why I breathe.

If you couldn’t be a writer, what would you be?
I can’t imagine a circumstance where I wouldn’t write. If I lost my job and my publishing career, I’d write my novels and bury them in a trunk for someone to uncover someday. If I were stranded on a desert island, I’d make up the stories in my head and sing them to the canaries. If I suffered an injury or illness that robbed me of my mind and my ability to create, to form words… well, I think then I’d rather be dead, but that’s rather dramatic, don’t you think?

Where do you draw your inspiration from?
Schenectady. There’s an idea service there that sends you a six-pack of ideas every week. That smartass answer is to be attributed to Harlan Ellison, who uses that answer every time he’s asked where his ideas come from. As he says, “Aristotle can’t answer that question.” They come from the ether, from Neverland, from the place between awake and asleep. I believe that just about everyone gets inspiration – those random creative thought-balloons that float through their minds when they’re stuck in traffic. The trick isn’t getting ideas. The trick is grabbing hold of them when they come, winding the ribbons around your hand and letting them carry you off to Neverland. When you learn how to harness ideas and turn them into stories you can share with others, you’ve become a writer.

What has writing taught you about yourself?
That I will never stop learning, and that I cannot ever do just one thing at a time.

How do the people in your life seem to view your writing career?
My husband is also a writer; we met first through a mutual friend twelve years ago, and later re-met when he published his first book and began the tour circuit. It is a wonderful blessing to share my life with someone who understands the insanity. My son is wholly unimpressed, since he’s grown up hanging out at book signings and helping to carry boxes of books. I think the rest of my family is waiting for me to set aside these vampires and zombies and write something in the real world!

Are there any stereotypes about writers that you don’t think are true?
No. We’re all poverty-stricken, insecure drunkards. Well, at least it helps… In all seriousness, just about every stereotype has a writer or five who confirm the stereotype. Probably the only real misconception is the one perpetuated by Richard Castle: being a novelist means you’re a gazillionaire. Unless you’re James Patterson or John Grisham, you’ll be lucky to make a living. And when I say “make a living,” well… the last statistic I read said that fewer than 3 percent of authors make $10,000 a year or more on their books. So “poverty-stricken” is pretty much assured, as is the day job and/or the spouse who works for a living and has health insurance. As for insecurity and alcohol… let’s just say I’ve poured drinks for most of the small-press authors in the Midwest and the South.

What do you see as the biggest challenge today for writers starting out?
Their biggest challenge is internal: impatience. The ability to toss a book out onto the internet the instant you type THE END has given a lot of aspiring writers a fast-forward button, and the temptation to skip all that bothersome editing, submission and working with a publisher is very real. The problem is that most aspiring writers have a lot to learn, and they learn a great deal from that process, including rejection and wrestling with a recalcitrant editor over a comma. Skipping that process is the biggest mistake they can make, and so many of them do. Patience, grasshopper. Good writing eventually finds a home, and at the end of the marathon, it’s going to be a book you’ll be proud to call your own and a launch to a writing career.

Have you made any writing mistakes that seem obvious in retrospect but weren’t at the time?
If I’d known how wildly popular my zombie novella The Cold Ones would be, I wouldn’t have killed off so many characters! I’m famous for offing people in my books – c’mon, I’m a horror writer – but I did get especially bloodthirsty in The Cold Ones, because it was supposed to be a standalone novella. Then it sold out its initial print run in 48 hours, and by the end of the weekend I had a deal for two sequels. But even that I can’t really count as a mistake, because I count Blackfire (the sequel) as one of the finest books I’ve ever written, and I’m really looking forward to completing that trilogy.

Is there a particular project you would love to be involved with?
I’m already up to my eyeballs in work as it is! I’m wrapping a space adventure that’s probably the pulpiest thing I’ve ever done, and just completed another short-story collection that follows up to my first print release, Setting Suns. After that I need to finish the Blackfire series, and then there’s the continuation of the Nocturne series, and there are three other standalone novels standing in line. I don’t need new projects, I need more hours in the day.

How do you deal with your fan base?
Fans are wonderful! I am always grateful and humbled when someone tells me that my work reached them. Stephen King says in On Writing that writing is the closest we’ll ever come to telepathy: I have an image or a character in my head, and I have only this clumsy mechanism of words to share it with you. The better I am at replicating that image in your head, the better writer I have become. So when someone tells me that my work made them cry or throw the book across the room, I’m delighted.

Finish this sentence; my fans would be surprised to know ___ about me.
I’m shy. Yes, really. I was a very shy kid, and I still have that wallflower tendency. I speak in public often and spend a great deal of time in large crowds, cocktail parties, panel discussions, and it takes a tremendous energy to overcome a natural introversion that tells me to go hide in my hotel room. But this is key: it can be overcome. It takes energy and knowing your limits. But if the girl who didn’t speak outside the house for days at a stretch can moderate a panel at Dragoncon… you can do it too. I swear.

Anything else we should know?
I run the author cooperative Literary Underworld, and several of us will be guests at Archon in St. Louis on Oct. 2-4. Guest of honor is Harlan Ellison, whom I have met once before. I hope to repeat my streak of not drooling on his shoes. If you have the means, do stop by the Literary Underworld booth and say hello!

Elizabeth Donald is a dark fiction writer fond of things that go chomp in the night. She is a three-time winner of the Darrell Award for speculative fiction and author of the Nocturne vampire mystery series and Blackfire zombie series, as well as other novels and short stories in the horror, science fiction and fantasy genres. She is the founder of the Literary Underworld author cooperative; an award-winning newspaper reporter and lecturer on journalism ethics; a nature and art photographer; freelance editor and writing coach. She lives with her husband and her son in a haunted house in Illinois. In her spare time, she has no spare time. Her latest release is Nocturne Infernum, a trilogy of vampire mysteries set in a dark alternate Memphis.

Website: http://www.elizabethdonald.com
Blog: literaryunderworld.blogspot.com
Twitter: @edonald

Writer Wednesday – Peter Welmerink

    

Let’s start with the basics.  Who are you?

Welmerink, Peter.

Tell us (briefly) about you…

Quality Engineer by day. Family man by night. Writer whenever I can squeeze it in.

…and a bit about what you’ve written…

Most Epic Fantasy yarns until recent. BEDLAM UNLEASHED was the last Dark Fantasy piece I had written with Steven Shrewsbury. TRANSPORT is my foray into the Military Thriller/Action-Adventure genre. I have another Action-Thriller, RETURN TO STRANGE HOME also out now.

…and what you’re working on right now.

Writing this post for this blog and keeping my eyeballs moistened because I played MINECRAFT way too late last night.

What are your earliest book-related memories?

Harold and the Purple Crayon. Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel. So good I bought fresh copies when I had kids.

What are your three favorite books?

Of all-time? Conan the Barbarian (Howard). The Princess of Mars (Burroughs). Elric of Melnibone (Moorcock).

How many books to do you read at any given time?  What are you reading now?

I read sporadically, usually have a few going at one time. Reading now: GANYMEDE by Cherie Priest, and MARKETING WITH TEETH by Michael Knost.

Finish this sentence; when I curl up with a book, I ___

I am usually interrupted by my wife, my kids, the cats, or the siren call of MINECRAFT.

To re-read or not to re-read that is the question.

A favorite book, yes, re-read. A freshly written manuscript of your own, yes, re-read.

How likely are you to read a book that’s been recommended to you?

Very, is the reason why I am reading Cherie Priest’s Steampunk novel series.

How likely are you to recommend a book (that isn’t yours)?

Very likely. I recommended to a fellow writer that he read Chuck Wendig’s THE KICKASS WRITER. I so much so recommended it that I gave him my copy to borrow.

What do you look for in a good book?

Something that garbs me, throws me into the adventure, gets me emotional tied, drags me along behind it and leaves me tired and breathless when finished.

Why do you write?

It’s a disease. It’s therapeutic. It’s my passion. I have stories to tell. Like music, literature is immortal. I hope my work can be found in a dusty, musty old bookstore when I am long gone from this mortal plane.

If you couldn’t be a writer, what would you be?

Perhaps a rock-n-roll singer and really learn to play the acoustic guitar that is collecting dust in my bedroom.

Where do you draw your inspiration from?

Things all around me. Other books. Other writers. Movies. Video games.

What has writing taught you about yourself?

That I can actually do something pretty damn fun and cool (writing) if I set my mind to it.

How do the people in your life seem to view your writing career?

My oldest boy thinks its very cool. My younger kids, just go along with it. (They probably think me insane.) My wife: definitely thinks I am insane. My mother: wonders where all my weird writing ideas come from. (I blame my parochial school upbringing. LOL)

Are there any stereotypes about writers that you don’t think are true?

No, most people got us pegged appropriately…afflicted and possessed by the Muse.

What do you see as the biggest challenge today for writers starting out?

Anyone can publish their stuff, but not everyone realizes that you still need to publish something polished and coherent for anyone else to be even vaguely interested. That means usually an outside editor (non-family or friend-related), re-writing, more editing, pulling your hair out, and polishing the turd until it gleams. (And according to Mythbusters, you can polish a turd.)

Have you made any writing mistakes that seem obvious in retrospect but weren’t at the time?

I tend to write very flowery, purple-prosey and in passive voice. I have learned to change this all by dealing with good editors who, after they red line the piss out of my manuscript, I read their comments and learn.

Is there a particular project you would love to be involved with?

I would like to get back involved writing Erik Bedlam material with author Steven Shrewsbury.

How do you deal with your fan base?

I conversate with them. Care about them outside the book stuff. I want them to be my friends, not just readers of my insane scribblings.

Finish this sentence; my fans would be surprised to know ___ about me.

I like Strawberry Twizzlers, Ancient Age bourbon whiskey and Pabst Blue Ribbon beer. Not consumed together, mind you.

Anything else we should know?

My website is www.peterwelmerink.com. My TRANSPORT and other action-adventure book forays can be found at: www.grandrapidsaltered.blogspot.com. You can find me on Facebook and Twitter. I just got killed by a Creeper in MINECRAFT.

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Writer Wednesday – Benjamin Cheah

1. Who are you? (A name would be good here…preferably the one you write under)
Benjamin Cheah, indie writer, blogger and freelancer. Someday I will become a full-time writer.

2. What type of stuff do you write? (Besides shopping lists)
I write about the impact of disruptive technologies and ideas on people, how conflict between people and groups would evolve, and how society and individuals adapt. In my fiction I strive for high-intensity action sequences, plausible futuristic technologies, realistic tactics and strategies, and characters driven by personal codes and visions of tomorrow. My stories also tend to blend science fiction and fantasy tropes to varying degrees, with a strong bias towards hard science fiction, military and law enforcement, and spirituality.

3. What do you want to pimp right now? (May it be your newest, your work-in-progress, your favorite or even your first)
Keepers of the Flame, my first novel, which is the second entry in the American Heirs series. Set in a North America recovering from a global collapse, the Republic of Cascadia is attempting to restore civilization in the Pacific Northwest. However, at the edges of Cascadia’s Green Zone, the Sons of America are plotting to foment a revolution and restore the old United States. On the East Coast, a new American empire rises, and prepares to march west. And as the conflict heats up, in the digital infrastructure that underpins Cascadia, a machine god is born.

The full American Heirs saga is conceptualized as three core novels supplemented by three novellas. The novels cover the major events of the series, while the novellas focus on a single character. The first novella, American Sons, was published last year, and the second novella (the third entry) should be ready by the end of Q1 2015.

I’ve also sold a short story to Castalia House for its anthology Riding the Red Horse. Titled ‘War Crimes’, it tells the story of a shell-shocked solder who stands accused of massacring alien civilians and a journalist who wants to find the truth. You can find the anthology here.

4. What is your favorite book? (Okay, or two or three or… I know how writers are as readers.)
I don’t have favourite books so much as favourite writers, specifically those who inform my writing. Currently, the most important writers are:

Jim Butcher. His Dresden Files and Codex Alera series inspired my earliest stories. They still inform my writing, through their combination of high-octane action and characterisation.

Larry Correia. Guns, magic, B-movie monsters, fleshed-out characters, authentic action scenes, incredible worldbuilding, and he just keeps getting better. His Grimnoir series was also fairly similar to a story idea I had in my head – but much, much, better, so much so I had to revise it.

Barry Eisler. His flagship character, John Rain, is a Japanese-American hitman who lives in the shadows but yearns to get out of the life, a ronin looking for a cause but disappointed by what he found, someone with a foot in the East and West but fully belonging to neither. His characterisation is incredible, and so is his unflinching portrayal of counterterrorism and modern-day espionage. The realistic martial arts and well-researched technologies help.

Marcus Wynne. Former shooter turned writer, his stories capture the mindset of top-tier operators and how they see the world around them. Also, his Depossessionist series resembled another idea I had – but much better.

Tom Kratman. His Legion del Cid and M Day series are masterworks of military fiction. Not merely content with portraying modern war at the tactical level, they delve into politics, economics, impact of technology, strategy and philosophy. He even wrote a thinly-disguised handbook on training women for warfare. His works set the standards for my big war novels and series, such as Keepers of the Flame.

John C. Wright. Just about everything he writes is pure genius. His writing harkens to the Golden Age of science fiction and the pulp era, with fantastic technology and mind-boggling scales, characters who are true to their beliefs and products of their times, and his stories always point towards better and brighter tomorrows, albeit won through blood and fire.

5. What other hats do you wear besides the writer hat?
Professionally I write articles for lifestyle magazine Eastie Brekkie and website Mothership.sg, and work for local NGO the Pwee Foundation as a staff writer. I’m also available to take up writing and/or editing assignments. In between stories I write the script, churn out design documents, and hash out mechanics for my indie RPG project.

In other words…I don’t.

6. What link can we find you at? (One or two please; don’t go overboard here!)
I blog at www.benjamincheah.wordpress.com, while my professional writing page is at www.benjamincheah.com.

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Advice For New Writers

Figure out what kind of writer are you: why you write, and who you write for. This will inform the skills you need to develop.

If you’re a hobbyist, you write for fun and to pass time. The most useful skill to develop is perseverance. To finish the story, even if it feels bad or wrong or when it stops being fun. Finish the story, then work on the next one. The only reason to give up a story is to burn it up and write something better from the ashes.

If you’re writing for a community, you’re writing to entertain people. First, learn the above. Then, develop the craft and art of writing. The former are the tools of trade that build the story: plotting, characterisation, spelling, punctuation, grammar, and so on. The latter is derived from the former; how you wield the tools of the craft defines you, and makes you stand out among everybody else in the community. And keep in mind, how you feel about your story doesn’t matter; if your audience is not entertained, you’re likely doing something wrong.

If you’re writing stories for a publisher, you’re working. First learn the above. Then keep in mind that you are writing for your client, the publisher, and your audience. Sometimes your client and audience are one and the same, or else they have similar tastes. More realistically, both the writer and publisher will have different ideas over what the audience wants. You’ll need to work with your client to serve your audience, and that means reworking your story as needed and standing firm where you must, so that the both of you deliver the best story possible.

If you’re writing as a career, you’re a small business owner. Build upon the lessons of the above three stages of writing. Then, while perfecting your craft, study the industry. The industry is changing, and to make a career out of it you need to stay abreast of affairs and figure out how to best promote and sell your works. If you’re a self-publisher, you need to think like a publisher too, and study the ways of formatting, editing, cover and interior design, marketing communications, accounting, management and other business skills.

Notice that each step of the way builds upon the last, but at heart is the determination to write a good story and to keep on writing. Writing is no more and no less a skilled trade as any other; if you aspire to master writing, you must first master yourself.

Writer Wednesday – Michael Essington

1. Who are you?  Michael Essington

2. What type of stuff do you write?
My two, published, books are autobiographical. Last One To Die and Life Won’t Wait are stories of growing up in Los Angeles. Going from being a young punk rock kid and later becoming a father. My third book, Under A Broken Street Lamp, is a collection of short fiction stories that I did with an author from the East Coast named David Gurz.

I also write an occasional music review for Deep Red Magazine and Strange Reaction dot com.

3. What do you want to pimp right now?
I am writing the third and final book in the Last One To Die series, called Born Frustrated. Again, the stories are autobiographical.

4. What is your favorite book?
I like authors more than I like a specific piece of work. So, here it goes:
James Frey
Eddie Little
Edward Bunker
And of course, no list would be complete without a Bukowski mention

5. What other hats do you wear besides the writer hat?
I have always been an artist and a bit of a writer. It wasn’t until I hit my forties that I actually made an effort to publish stuff.

6. What link can we find you at?
My Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/michaelessington1 and my Amazon page: http://goo.gl/n9ofGb

The best advice 

In 1994 or 1995, I went through a break-up which lead to a search for new employment and new housing. In other words, things went bad quick.

I slept on a friend’s floor for a couple of days, and then I took the couch at my brother’s place. Slowly, as I got my bearings and confidence, I put the feelers out to everybody and anybody that knew of housing and/or employment.

Finally, one day a girl I worked with in the 1980’s at a record shop called and said that her boyfriend was managing a Kinko’s and they needed somebody to run the computer department during the midnight shift. Perfect! As it was, I couldn’t sleep anyway. Break-up, money, one-year-old daughter, on and on, the brain never turned off.

One morning I’m sitting behind the counter at the computer department working on a press release for Michael Jackson’s parents Katherine and Joe Jackson, when a very dignified African-American man walks up. He asks if he could have a cord to plug his laptop in directly to the printer. I give it to him. He shoots off a couple of pages. Comes back, pays for the prints and hands me the cord.

This went on for a few months, cord, prints, pays and leaves. One day, curiosity gets the best of me, I walk over and ask what he’s working on. He tells me he’s a poet and he’s putting together some pieces about his time in Vietnam.

I told him that I had been writing poetry since the early 1980’s, then asked if he could look it over sometime. He agreed.

My new poet friend came in a week later. He walked up to me and handed me a book he made of 5 or 6 of his poems. Each very different styles, modern, traditional and a sonnet.

I went over and took out a notebook I had of my writings, similar to what I write now, but a bit too heavy on the metaphors. He looked everything over and made comments, like, “This one reads like a song,” and “This is good, but take out the “I,” tell the story without it being first person.” Really cool perspectives. Then he said to go to the local bookshop, find the poetry section and buy the first author I recognized. The point was to find my own voice. Don’t write poetry like I think it should be, don’t imitate Shakespeare.

I wandered over to Barnes & Noble. I looked and looked; finally I see a book by Jim Morrison called The Lords and The New Creatures: Poems. I bought it, read it and moments later declared it as the worst piece of shit I ever read.

I rewrote most of my poetry based on my friend’s suggestions. When he popped up a day or so later, I showed him my updated work and told him that Jim Morrison’s poetry was horrendous.

He read through my latest poetry, offered a few more pointers, and then he asked, “Have you read much Bukowski?” I said, “Not really. I saw Barfly in 1987.”

He nodded, and said, “OK, there’s a book you have to buy. I’d give you my copy, but I probably gave it away already. When you get off work, go to the store and buy Bukowski’s Love Is A Dog From Hell. That should point you in the right direction.”

That man was author Clyde A. Wray; he has always been an inspiration and a friend.

Book Review – a Richard Russo two-fer

Title: The Whore’s Child
Title: Horsemen

Author: Richard Russo
Written: ?  Published: 2012
Format: Paperback

Note:  These stories were (I think) originally published in a greater volume, but have then been published alone, even though they’re really short.  On with the reviews.

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The Whore’s Child

Okay, The Whore’s Child is, um, interesting. First of all, the story, by my estimate, is about 7500 words long, making it the long end of a short story, dancing on the cusp of being a Novellette. I’ll call it a short story. And some how, this has managed to get published as a stand alone book.
The narrator of the story is a college professor who is only professor-ing because he managed to publish a book, even though the book has apparently not sold. And the main other character is a Nun. Capital N, Habit and Robes, Catholic Nun. Who is the cause of the title, herself being the child of a whore.

The story now goes downhill (somewhere around page 10), and starts in on the Nun writing and having her memoir and having it edited in class (it was a fiction writing class). In fact, that was the only conflict in the whole story. A page or two about the guy not knowing what to do about having her in the class without having signed up for it, without having taken the prerequisites, and without having a fiction project. yeah. That could have totally been not in the story and we wouldn’t have cared.

Oh, and the end of the nun’s story?  One simple question from a chick in the class and the question she has is answered and oh, lookie, there we go.  The only thing that gave her courage in her life and it’s all done like that.  (snap fingers here).  Gah.

My problem is that the story is, well, boring. I mean, stuff happens, but it happens mostly in narration/recap. And then that’s it. And while the sentences were technically written well (properly), and I commend his use of words being of the appropriate length, there’s nothing going for it on a ooh, fiction level. Yeah. Onto the next story.

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Horsemen

So, in Horsemen, our FMC, who is a writer (is this a trend with his stuff?  Because I really hate writers writing about writers) and college professor (ahem) has just caught a student cheating.  She also has a poem going through her head.  And we also flash back between grad school and now (some number of years later, although I can’t tell if its 2 or 10 the way its written.  I’m sure somewhere it gave the age of her son, but the timeline is a bit murky).

And as we go back and forth, we get a story of her bad marriage (current) and the day she left a blind guy in the rain to find his white cane under the bumper of her worst professor’s Mustang.  (wtf?)

And she keeps repeating lines from the poem.

So. This one, by my estimate, is at the end of the range for a Novelette (around 15k), and also published like a standalone book.  And, um.  Same thing as before.  The lines are technically right.   Punctuation is where it should be (although I found a mistake, but only one).  But there’s not that much gripping.  I actually put the story down for two days and had to remind myself what it was about because I couldn’t remember.

The end of the story felt rushed, too.  There was a distinct point about four pages from the end where I realized the author was wrapping up, then there were two page long paragraphs, and… a few things needed a bit of logic and review to link together (like the poem she kept reciting).  I think the story would have benefited from another thousand words.  But there was a little more going on than the last one, so it has something going for it there.


End result?
The Whore’s Child – 2 out of 5
Horsemen – 3 out of 5

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