Friday, April 29, 2011

Writing Process Interview #5: Mystery Author Wade J. McMahan

It's time for the next installment in my 2011 interview series, "Inspiration to Publication".  We are currently working our way through the "writing process" phase of the series, and for this interview, we will be spending some time with mystery author, and fellow Untreed Reads colleague, Wade J. McMahan.  His Richard Dick mystery series has been a bestseller in both the US and the UK, and his Richard Dick mystery bundle has performed incredibly well at the Sony eBookstore.

Welcome to the table:  Wade J. McMahan!

The Accidental Author:  After a short hiatus, during which my wife and I welcomed our second daughter into the world, it's time to get back to finding out what makes certain authors tick.  Today, I'm asking some questions of Wade J. McMahan, author of numerous eBooks from Untreed Reads, including the Richard Dick mystery series.  Even though I will spend most of the interview asking you about the “nuts and bolts” of your writing process, tell us a little bit about Richard Dick.  Where did he come from?  Is he loosely based on someone (or multiple people) you know?

Wade J. McMahan:  Thanks for inviting me for an interview, Jesse, and congratulations on the arrival of your newest family member.

The concept behind Richard Dick actually sprang from a short-short “news release” I wrote for an e-mag.  In the story, the news reporter divulges that the Yellow Fever virus has been placed on the Endangered Species List.  That little piece got my “What if” juices flowing.  What if…instead a news reporter, the protagonist is a private detective?  And, what if…this detective uncovers similar madcap situations?

Richard Dick (please just call him Dick) is someone we all know, your “every man,” who just happens to be a private detective.  He’s the average Joe who lives next door, the guy who trudges along and attempts to cope with whatever obstacles life throws in front of him.

Dick is loosely based on famous prototypical private dicks from literature, radio and TV.  Think of Sam Spade, Phillip Marlowe, Boston Blackie, and Magnum PI who are glamorous, tough, clever, and daring.  Essentially, I blended those characters into one, flipped their qualities upside down, and Dick spilled out onto the page.   

AA:  You've written three installments in the Richard Dick mysteries.  Tell us a little bit about how you make sure that the character of Dick remains consistent from one book to the next?

WJM:  I know Dick well, and what makes him tick.  I know what motivates him and how he will react in a variety of bizarre situations.  That’s not to say he doesn’t occasionally surprise me, but isn’t that true with everyone you know?   

AA:  Did you deliberately set out to write mysteries with an element of the supernatural in them (“Witches Witch?”, for example), or did that come naturally while you were writing?

WJM: Speculative fiction offers especially fertile ground when you are looking for wacky characters, adventures, and situations.  In my first Richard Dick Mystery, “Bite This!” Dick is introduced to numerous forms of shape-shifters.  If there are such things as werewolves, could there be other similar critters out there, like werepossums?  Why not? 

I wrote the second Richard Dick, “Witches Witch” as a Halloween story, and it was published by Untreed Reads just prior to the holiday.  You can’t have a true Halloween tale without witches, can you?   And, if Dick encounters a witch, naturally she’s going to turn him into a frog, isn’t she.  Naturally!

Jay Hartman, the Editor at Untreed Reads asked that I spin a Richard Dick Christmas/Hanukkah crossover yarn.  The emotional rollercoaster, “Naughty or Nice?” was the product of Jay’s challenge, where Dick assists Santa Claus, and uncovers an amazing secret at the North Pole.  The holiday season is about kids, so I wanted to write a memorable story that also included a serious life lesson (Honest!  Swear to God!). 

AA:  When writing a mystery, how do you plot out the story arc?  Do you know pretty much how it ends, and you work backwards, or do you have some vague idea as to how it ends, and you work from beginning to end?  Or do you do something entirely different?

WJM:  I begin each Richard Dick mystery by first planting my tongue firmly in my cheek.  I’m not a formulaic or outline writer—I just start writing.  While I obviously begin with a general idea of how the story will unfold, to be perfectly honest, early on that’s not all that important to me.  All that’s important is what’s actually transpiring within the story as I write it.

My loose writing method might drive some writers nuts.  Still, I prefer it because it leaves all the creative options open as the storyline develops—take it where you will!  Who cares where it goes so long as it’s good?  When I’m writing, nothing is set in concrete until the storyline is complete, especially the ending.  For me, that’s half the fun of writing.  Just like a reader, I can’t wait to see what happens next, and in the end. 

AA:  What is Dick up to these days?  Is there another caper on the horizon?

WJM:  Capers, capers, capers!  Dicks’ backlog of cases is growing!  His latest case, “The Lincoln Park Horror-A Richard Dick Mystery” is currently undergoing final edits at Untreed Reads Publishing.  Dick’s penchant for attracting screwball clients who drag him into outlandish predicaments holds true again, when he’s hired by—a ghost!  Really!  Please watch for Dick’s new novelette, because “The Lincoln Park Horror” will be hitting e-bookshelves around the globe very, very soon!

Dick is currently involved in a case he’s calling “Fanged,” and as you might suspect by the title, his client is a vampire (one had to show up sooner or later, you know).   The vampire, Count Earl Duke, is a tragic figure <sniff> who is…no, no, <sniff> I can’t go on!  It’s simply too dreadful to talk about, so you’ll just have to discover it all for yourself when “Fanged” is released this summer.     

AA:  Do you tend to flesh out the characters first, or the overall story arc?  In other words, do your characters tend to mold the plot to their will, or does the strength of the plot have power over your characters?

WJM:  Gosh.  I didn’t realize writing is so complicated!  To answer your question though, some of both…I guess…maybe.  Typically, I stage a scene, and slide the characters into it. 

Richard Dick works for me full time, and he rarely strays far from his role.  I also have a fair feel for Dick’s newest client, and allow that character to grow along with the storyline.   When I introduce a peripheral character, they are intended to be scene-driven, although I’ve occasionally had them turn rogue, “steal” the scene and turn it an altogether different direction from where I was originally headed. 

AA:  Besides a computer (or a notepad and pen if you are really old-fashioned), what absolutely MUST be near you when you are writing?

WJM:  I’m probably really old-fashioned in many ways, but I do use a computer.  Past that, my needs are simple, and I can write just about anywhere, though I much prefer my home office.  

AA:  Do you set down a concrete schedule for writing, or do you write when the mood strikes?

WJM:  I write as the opportunity strikes.  I manage my own company, so business and personal matters come first, of course.  As often as possible, I wedge writing into open gaps in my erratic schedule.  

AA:  How do you go about revising your work?  Do you tend to revise “on the fly”, or do you generally complete the first draft before going back and doing some revision?

WJM: I’m all over the place with revisions, and the “Highlight>Delete” functions are my best friends on my keyboard.

Nothing I write is held sacred simply because it hits the page.  Everything is subject to revision or total elimination.  Often, an idea, word, or phrase will pop into my mind during the day that will improve what I’ve already written.  I’ll hurry home in the evening and make changes. 

My system, if I have one, consists of moving the story forward by first focusing on writing the individual primary scenes.  Later I go back to flesh out the action, and backfill to piece everything together. 

Finally, I send out the first draft to my Beta readers, and anxiously stand by for their comments.  I remain true to my own writing instincts, but when one of the readers points to an actual flaw, I’m going to address it.  Those extra sets of eyes are invaluable. 

AA:  Do you tend to read the kind of fiction that you write?  Who/what are you reading right now?

WJM:  I’ll read anything.  Right now, I’m reading non-fiction on ancient Ireland for a novel I’m writing, and just finished a Ken Follett thriller.  Frankly though, I have little time for recreational reading.  Along those same lines though, I spend a lot of time on the road, and my Sirius radio is commonly tuned to the Radio Classics channel where I absorb detective and mystery dramas written by Dashiell Hammett, Raymond Chandler, and a long list of other pioneer mystery writers. 

AA:  Finally, if you had any piece of advice for the author that is trying to make the transition from “writing for fun” to “writing for fun and profit (such as it is)”, what piece of advice would you bestow upon them?

WJM: Writers make a profit?  Really?  Hmm, I need to look into that…  Ahem, now what was the question?  Oh, yes.  “Fun” is the keyword.  You must have fun writing before you can ever hope to earn an income from it.  If you aren’t having fun writing, take up golf.

Write for yourself certainly, but also write for the market.  Your heartrending literary masterpiece detailing the loss of your Aunt Pearl’s dearly departed cat might fascinate you and Aunt Pearl, but truthfully, the world doesn’t give a damn.  When writing fiction, you’ve got to shoot Black Bart in the eye, skewer a pirate, portray a great romance (preferably with a person, not a cat), or sail around the world or to Alpha Centauri. 

Writing professionally is a job, and publishing is a business.  When publishers reject your work, they are making a business decision, but please feel free to take it personally anyway.  I know I do, but after I finish with gnashing my teeth, I concentrate on becoming a better writer, and go back to work.

Wade J. McMahan has published four stories with Untreed Reads Publishing.  In addition to his successful Richard Dick Mystery series, Untreed Reads has published his fantasy spoof, "Flying Solo".  Furthermore, his stories have been published at such places as The Ampersand Review, Crow's Nest Magazine, and Pine Tree Mysteries.  More Richard Dick mysteries are already in the pipeline, or under construction.  Wade is currently writing a fantasy novel based upon an ancient Irish legend.  Owner of a forestry consuting firm, Wade and his wife Glenda live in Tennessee where they enjoy an active life filled with family, friends, sports, travel and three spoiled dogs.

Follow him on FaceBook or email him a

Monday, April 25, 2011

Writing Process Interview #4: A sit-down interview with MYSELF

Since the release of my new eBook short story, "Collisions", just took place less than two weeks ago, I thought it might be fun to "interview myself".  And since we are in the "writing process" phase of my interview series "Inspiration to Publication", I'm going to take some of the questions I've posed to other authors and direct them in the introspection-direction.  I think this will be fun...I hope you think so too!

The Accidental Author:  The release of "Collisions" marks your fourth release in the last year with Untreed Reads.  Is this work similar to some of your other releases, or does it mark a departure?

Jesse S. Greever:  Can I cop out and say a little of both?  I think I've stated before that I find myself exploring the human relationship in my works of fiction, and at times I border on the romance genre, which, ironically, I don't particularly enjoy reading.  However, I think my work tends to transcend the standard romance formula and focus more intensely on the dynamics of relationship between men and women (something I find particularly fascinating in real life).  So, in one respect, this work does reflect some similarities with my other works (particularly "A Summer Wedding" and "5").  However, I think that in terms of the writing itself, it represents a leap in literary style.  I branch out and use some nonstandard "devices" in the writing of this story, including using an inanimate object (the radio in the restaurant) as a character in the story.  And, the ending is a significant departure from my other works.

AA:  You really are a fascinating person.  What inspired you to write this story?

JSG:  Why thank you.  You are an equally fascinating person yourself!  But I digress.  Music is my main inspiration.  I find myself drawn into songs that I like, and in many cases, I either find the "mood" of a song can compel me to write a story.  In this case, during a drive from Tallahassee to New Port Richey, Florida, I heard the song "Owner of a Lonely Heart" by YES, and I realized that I had never really listened to the lyrics closely.  I was almost tortured by the meaning behind the song, as it is a play on the traditional quip about it being better to love and lose than to never love at all.  When I got to my hotel room that night, I spent about four hours polishing off the first draft, and within a week, I had revised the draft to a point where I was ready to submit it to Untreed Reads.

AA:  Speaking of your writing process, do you find yourself more compelled by characters, or the story/plot itself?

JSG:  For me, the plot is TOTALLY the thing.  When I think of an idea for a story, I generally think of it with generic characters in my head.  The plot is what compels me to write a story.  Only when I sit down to commit it to paper do I think about what kind of characters will fit into the story.  In fact, many times I struggle with the characters, and it may take me a considerable amount of time to "flesh out" characters that don't feel like they were "force fitted" into the story.

AA:  Once your characters are written, do you find that the strength of their personalities can alter the course of the story?

JSG:  Almost never.  As I said, the story is it for me.  If I find a character that isn't fitting in the story line, I will either alter him or her or delete them altogether.  I want the plot to be kept intact.  One notable exception is "5", where I found the ending completely different than what I originally had in mind, due to the relationship forged between the story's main characters.

AA:  For you, what was the most difficult part of writing "Collisions"?

JSG:  That's a great question!  How did you know to ask such an insightful query?  Well, actually, there were two things that literally held up the publication for months.  First, the ending had to be tweaked in order for it to be unambiguous.  Second, and most vexing, was the title.  Yeah, that's right, the title.  When I first wrote it, the working title was "13".  However, Jay Hartman, editor extraordinaire, was quick to point out that "13" was not a terribly marketable title (as is evidenced by the disappointing sales of my earlier story "5").  So, for almost two months, we volleyed potential titles back and forth that ranged from "not too bad" to "sublimely ridiculous".  Finally, as I was sitting in a hotel room in San Francisco, I resolved to solve the title crisis.  I sat with the old fashioned pad and pen, and wrote a paragraph synopsis of the story.  Then, I shortened it to a single sentence.  Then I shortened the sentence to a five word phrase.  And then, one word jumped out at me that encapsulates all the action in the story:  COLLISION.  Based on that, it became clear that the title of the story HAD to be "Collisions".  Jay loved it, and the rest, shall we say, is history.

AA:  What types of things do you have to have when you sit down to write?

JSG:  I actually require auditory distractions.  If it isn't music playing, then I have to have the television on in the background.  Silence causes my mind to wander, and if there is something rather innocuous to engage the rebellious wandered in my mind, then I am usually free to write.

AA:  You've already said that you don't really like to read the same things that you write.  What are you reading right now?

JSG:  I'm currently reading the second in the Young Adult Repairman Jack series (entitled Jack: Secret Circles) by F. Paul Wilson.  The Repairman Jack series is one of the greatest action/adventure/supernatural thriller series I've ever read, and the Young Adult series is no exception.  I find Wilson's pacing to be near perfect.  I can usually devour one of his books in two or three sittings, but with a newborn at home, I'm finding it increasingly difficult to read with any consistency.

AA:  What are you working on right now?

JSG:  Well, about a million things.  Aside from a very busy day-job and a newborn at home, I'm working on three separate projects for Untreed Reads.  The first is a series of novellas that I would put squarely in the supernatural thriller genre.  That's all I can say at this point, but keep an eye out for more news on this blog.  Second is a full-length novel inspired by the weird spontaneous bird-kills a few months ago in Arkansas.  Finally, I have another short story that is definitely a departure from my other short works of fiction that I'm about to finish that explores the concept of inevitability and destiny.  All of them I'm pretty darned excited about.

AA:  Finally, if you had one piece of advice for the aspiring author out there who is looking to transition from "writing for fun" and "writing for fun and profit", what would it be?

JSG:  Never transition from "writing for fun" to "writing for profit".  Always, always, always maintain the "fun" portion of it.  I've started out writing stories, and after a certain point, they stopped being fun.  You know what I do then?  I stop working on them, at least for a period, and move on to something else.  If you aren't having fun writing them in the early stages, then the audience will be able to tell quite easily.  That is not to say that all stages of the process have to be "fun".  I don't find proofreading particularly enjoyable, but it is a necessity.  My point is that when you are in the initial, highly creative stages of the process, it should ALWAYS be a pleasure to write.  If not, put that story away for a while and work on something else.  Once you've written the story that has been a true pleasure to write from beginning to end, THEN you've got something worth submitting.

Jesse S. Greever IS The Accidental Author.  He hails from the Dallas/Fort Worth metroplex, sells lasers for a living and writes for fun and profit.  He has a wife and two daughters, one who is "hot off the presses".  He has published four digital short stories through Untreed Reads, and you can find them at the Untreed Reads Store, as well as, Barnes & Noble, Sony eBookstore, and many other major eBook retailers.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Announcing Opal Mae Greever

She's here! My second daughter, Opal Mae Greever, was born at 12:54 PM Central Time on April 14, 2011. 7 lbs, 8 ozs, 19.5 inches.
Sent from my Verizon Wireless BlackBerry

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

COLLISIONS has been released! Go buy it NOW!

For the low-low price of $1.50, you TOO can have a copy of "Collisions", my newest eBook Short Story.  As I've mentioned before, I truly believe this is my best short story yet (not to besmirch my other works, which I also think are very well-written).  But there is something about this story that has burned itself into my brain.  I find myself thinking about the story, even now, more than six months from when I first wrote it.

So, go to the Untreed Reads Store, and BUY "Collisions" for $1.50.  It is available in all common eReader formats as well as PDF and HTML.

Post a comment and let me know what you think.  Or, if you are on FaceBook and want to pose a question to me about the story, go to THIS LINK and post a question to the "Collisions" release-day event wall, and I will answer throughout the day.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

APRIL 13: COLLISIONS Release Date Online Event

April 13 is the day!

My new eBook Short Story, "Collisions", is what I believe to be my most literary work to date.  And in celebration of the release of the story by Untreed Reads, I am hosting an online "event" on FaceBook.  Simply click HERE to view the Event Page on FaceBook (you MUST have a FaceBook account), and you can RSVP as "attending".  There is no set schedule, and no actual itinerary.  Instead, by saying that you will "attend", you are saying that you will join the others in buying "Collisions" on its release date from Untreed Reads (where it will be available in a wide variety of formats, including Kindle, ePUB and PDF files), and then if you so desire, you can post comments or questions about the story on the Event Wall.

Throughout the day, I will log on to FaceBook, check the comments and questions and respond as I have time.  It's a great way to connect with me and other readers!

So, join us on April 13 on Facebook sometime during the span of 9:00 AM to 9:00 PM Central Time.  I hope to "see you" there.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Writing Process Interview #3 and Free eBook Contest: Untreed Reads Author Rick R. Reed

For my next victim, er, interview subject, Rick R. Reed has graciously agreed to let me grill him about his eBook short story, "Crime Scene""Crime Scene" is a chilling account involving a woman's musings about a crime scene photograph, and her vivid envisioning of events leading up to the scene in the photograph.  The story is beautiful and haunting at the same time, and is a must read for anyone who loves crime fiction.

Also, Rick has agreed to give a free copy of his eBook short story, "Crime Scene", to one random person who leaves a comment at the bottom of this post.  Start a discussion, continue a discussion, or just say "hello" (obviously, discussions are better).  On April 15, one lucky person will receive a free copy of "Crime Scene" to help ease the pain (or augment the pleasure, depending on your situation) of tax day.

Welcome to the "stage", Rick. R. Reed.

The Accidental Author:  As we progress through the second quarter of the year, I’m focusing this series of interviews on the writing process itself.  But, I would be completely remiss not to at least talk a little bit about your inspiration for your short story, “Crime Scene”.  Was there a specific event or memory that inspired you to write this story?

Rick R. Reed: Just like the woman in the story, I came across that book of crime scene photographs in a bookstore in the Wicker Park neighborhood of Chicago. Since I have a rather perverse idea of what constitutes entertainment (and a fascination with true crime), I flipped through the book, which included pictures taken at actual crime scenes.

One of these was on a beautiful little girl who had been strangled and her body left lying on a restroom floor. The picture was so sad and so tragic that it made me sorry I opened the book. That particular photo haunted me for a long time.

And, of course, it eventually morphed into the inspiration for a story about a woman who does just what I did (the description of the crime scene photo in my story is pretty close to what the actual picture looked like) and is haunted by the picture of the little dead girl. She begins to imagine what happened on that day, seeing the events that led up to the little girl’s murder, and in the end…well, maybe I shouldn’t say what happens in the end.

AA:  When you set out to write this short story, did you have the idea for the “frame story” or the “story within the story” first?

RRR: I think it came to me as all part of a whole. The frame story was my own visceral reaction to the picture of the strangled little girl…and then I began to imagine how something so horrendous and tragic could possibly come about.

AA:  How did you come up with the remainder of the story and eventually dovetail it all together?

RRR: I wanted to say something about how the power of our minds has the ability to take away some of the horror and hurt of the real world.

AA:  When you set out to write a story that transitions from time-periods (like Crime Scene), what is your greatest challenge?

RRR:  I wanted to get the period details right (1960s) in which the background story takes place and that took some research on the music of that time and what the beach at Coney Island would have been like. Other than that, once the characters sprung to life in my head, I just sort of reported what they did and said, which is what usually happens when I write.

AA:  When you sit down to write, besides a computer, what other things do you have to have in your direct vicinity?

RRR: I’m very much a writer that requires no distractions when I write. So I always answer with a blank stare when I’m asked if I listen to music when I write. How would that work? I wonder. I’d be too distracted. I also never position my desk facing window with a beautiful view, for the same reason. These days, everything I need is pretty much there on my computer, including the ability to quickly do research and get factual questions answered on the fly and immediately (gotta love Google!). Usually, my dog, a Boston Terrier named Lily, is on the couch next to my desk, snoring as I write. I think she channels ideas and editorial advice to me while I work.

AA:  Do you have a set schedule for writing, or do you write when the mood strikes?

RRR: I write nearly every morning, with an aim to complete at least 1,000 words. I am a morning person, through and through, so often I do my best work often as early as five am.

AA:  Do you like to read the same kinds of things that you write, or is there a disparity there?

RRR: Um, probably what you find me reading most are books that revolve around crime (as I said above, I have a healthy—or unhealthy—fascination for the topic). So my reading for pleasure usually involves a mystery or a thriller. But I am pretty eclectic and dip into non-fiction (love biographies), humor (David Sedaris), and, of course, horror, although I prefer the kind that can either really happen or happens to people who are “real” if you know what I mean.

AA:  What are you working on right now?

RRR:   Right now, I’m working on a romantic novel set in the early 1990s about an AIDS buddy in Florida who falls for the lover of the man he’s been assigned to be a buddy to. There’s a lot of humor (the guy dying from AIDS is a very strong, witty, and funny character) and some tragedy. I have good feelings about the books. It’s strongly based on my own experiences in the early 1990s when I was a Tampa AIDS Network buddy to a very unusual person.

AA:  Finally, if you had one piece of advice for a fledgling writer who wants to make the leap from “writing for fun” to “writing for fun and profit”, what would that be?

RRR:  Without thinking about it, the cliché, “follow your heart” immediately popped into my head when I read your question, so I figure that means something. I’m a great truster of my instinct. But on the other side of following your heart and trusting your gut, it’s imperative that you learn your craft. I see way too many small press publications that demonstrate authors who haven’t taken the time to learn the CRAFT of storytelling, the structure, the pacing, and so on. But yeah, following your heart is the only way to go…don’t ever try to write what you think will be successful or will sell…that’s a surefire set-up for failure, in my opinion.

In their October 2006 issue, Unzipped magazine said: "You could call him the Stephen King of gay horror." And Dark Scribe magazine proclaimed: "Reed is an established brand - perhaps the most reliable contemporary author for thrillers that cross over between the gay fiction market and speculative fiction." In spite of this—or perhaps because of it—he has been lately turning more and more to writing romance and illuminating the emotional lives of gay men. To date, Reed has more than sixteen books in print, and his short fiction has appeared in more than 20 anthologies. His novel, ORIENTATION, won the EPPIE Award for best LGBT novel of 2008. He lives in Seattle, WA with his partner and a very spoiled Boston Terrier. Visit him on the web at or at his blog at 

Follow him on Twitter:
Find him on Facebook:

"Collisions" is ALMOST HERE!

My newest eBook short story, "Collisions", is in the home stretch.  We finished proofreading yesterday, and it should be out within a week.

Want to see a promotional video for it?  Of COURSE you do!  Go HERE and check out a video that I put together to promote "Collisions".  It is decidedly low-fi, but the music is wonderful (composed by the amazing Seth Boggess, short film director and composer).

If you have a blog, share the link to the video.  If you are on FaceBook, share the link.  If you are on Twitter, share the link.  If you are on a street corner, share the link.  Oh, yeah.  Here's the link:

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

eBook Review of "Draculas" by Crouch, Kilborn, Strand & Wilson

The first book that I have successfully read on my Amazon Kindle (yes, I finally bought an eBook reader) is Draculas by Jack Kilborn, Blake Crouch, Jeff Strand and F. Paul Wilson.  I picked this up (virtually, that is), because I am a rabid fan of F. Paul Wilson's Repairman Jack series and the Adversary Cycle.

The book is a rather interesting premise, both in story and in writing methodology.  As I understand it, each author wrote specific characters.  Each "chapter" is written from a specific character's point of view, and to that end, each chapter is written by a different author, based on which character is telling the story in that particular chapter.

What I find particularly interesting is that the authors took special care to make the prose flow from chapter to chapter, without a huge shift in writing style.  That, in and of itself, as a major triumph.

The story opens with a rich, terminally-ill eccentric receiving a package containing an item for which he paid a small fortune:  seemingly, the skull of Dracula, unearthed in Romania.  When he lethally punctures his throat on the grotesque mouthful of fangs, he is sent to the hospital.  When he arrives at the hospital, he is on the threshold of death.  But when he dies on the table and subsequently rises and stands on the gurney, the terror has just begun.

Draculas is an interesting feat in writing, and the story is solid.  The prose, as I mentioned before, is nearly seamless as we shift from author to author, and the only reason I could recognize F. Paul Wilson is because of his almost encyclopedic knowledge of firearms, the result of writing sixteen novels centered on an urban mercenary.  However, at times, the large number of characters tended to be a bit distracting.  The parts of the novel told from the point of view of the vampires was amusing, but at times, it seemed a bit extraneous.  In fact, these passages that "get into the brain of a ravenous vampire" steal a bit from the experience of reading the book, as it gives too much away.  Sometimes, leaving more to the imagination is a good thing.

Speaking of leaving something to the imagination, at times, I found the "gore scenes" unnecessarily vivid.  I'm all for striking descriptions, but phrases like "snacking on his liver" are grotesque for the sake of being grotesque.

All in all, I would give Draculas a 6.0 out of a possible 10.  Certain chapters were brilliantly written, and the overall story arc compelled me to read late into the night.

I would recommend this book to those who enjoy "evil" vampire novels (not the namby-pamby type in The Twilight Saga or Vampire Diaries), or those who enjoy "gore fests".

Draculas is available as a Kindle eBook from Amazon for the great price of $2.99.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Writing Process Interview #2: Untreed Reads Author Anne Brooke

As some of you may know, my eBook publisher, Untreed Reads, celebrated its first birthday earlier this year.  Untreed Reads now has published works from over eighty authors.  What a tremendous year it has been.

But here is a little history.  Untreed Reads started its publication of eBooks with a work by British Author Anne Brooke entitled "How to Eat Fruit".  Anne has been kind enough to take some time to field questions from yours truly, The Accidental Author, and give us some insights in to the process she goes through when writing fiction.

Welcome, Anne Brooke!

The Accidental Author:  First of all, thanks so much for agreeing to be a part of this interview series, “Inspiration to Publication”.  Just recently, I've switched gears and transferred the focus to the writing process itself.  In spite of that, I feel compelled to ask you a few questions about your inspirations.  I notice that in “The Girl in the Painting” and “A Woman Like The Sea”, art, and specifically paintings, play some part in the story.  Do you find yourself inspired by visual art?

Anne Brooke:  Yes, I do find art and artists very inspirational, probably because I’m a complete dunce at painting and wouldn’t have the first idea where to start! I suppose I envy the skill and also, on the other hand, get a great deal of pleasure from visiting art galleries. I write a number of poems about art or particular paintings and am fascinated by people like Lucian Freud or Jackson Pollock. Vermeer is wonderful too – I could look at his paintings for hours. One day I’m definitely going to go to art classes – but beginners’ ones for sure …

AA:  What other types of things inspire you to write?  Music?  Movies?  Other books?  Pure observation?  All of the above?

AB:  Certainly, other books can suggest ideas, and I’m quite convinced I’d never have started writing fiction at all if I hadn’t read Maria McCann’s As Meat Loves Salt or the works of Patricia Duncker, both of whom can write very lyrically about people who aren’t quite in step with the world around them. The idea of the outsider really attracts me. Sometimes as well, the things people say or talk about can inspire ideas or ways stories could go. Strangely, I also occasionally dream the beginnings of stories and then have to write them down so I can see how they end – I wish I could turn that ability on at will, but I can’t!

AA:  You seem to have a proclivity for writing short fiction (as do I).  Let's turn our attention to the process of writing now.  When you set out to write a short story, do you tend to “shotgun” and just start writing, or do you spend some time on more “mechanistic writing” techniques (outlining, character bios, etc)?

AB:  I’m definitely a “shotgun” fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants kind of writer. I get a beginning line(s), a situation or person and then I run with it and see where it takes me. With short stories, I don’t do outlines or character bios, though I do use character bios for my novels (but even there I don’t start them till I’m about a third of the way through a book, when I’m beginning to get to know the characters more fully). I suppose I work on gut instinct rather than logic. I often don’t even know what the ending will be until I get there, though sometimes I do have a vague idea what it might consist of once I start writing. It’s a weird approach, but it seems to have worked so far so I hope I can stick with it!

AA:  In “A WomanLike The Sea”, you paint a very three-dimensional character in Veronica in very few words.  How do you approach developing a character in a minimal number of words when you write a short story?

AB: I suppose at heart I’m a fairly minimalist writer in the sense I want to say something once and then not have to repeat it. With that situation in mind, I try to show a character in as intense a way as possible, often by what they say, how they react or what they do, or even any unusual characteristics they might have. It has a lot more impact if you show the reader someone directly rather than trying to explain it to them – that way the reader can develop a relationship with the character without the writer getting in the way. If you see what I mean! I suppose the old adage of “show, don’t tell” comes into its own here.

AA:  Do you follow a concrete or recurrent schedule for writing, or do you tend to write when time (and the muse) allows?

AB:  I tend to work on short stories in the evenings at the start of the week, where I can, as I work at my non-writing job on Mondays to Wednesdays. On Thursdays and Fridays, I like to get down about 2000 words of my current novel, and then over the weekend, I’ll either do more short story writing or another 1000 words of my novel, depending on what mood I’m in and what I feel I might have neglected most. I think the trick for me is to just sit down and type. If I wait to be inspired, I’d probably be waiting forever! Inspiration for me comes in the physical act of typing.

AA:  How organic are your stories?  In other words, when you set out with a specific story arc in mind, does the story have a tendency to stay faithful to the original story, or do you allow it to evolve on its own?

AB:  I’m happy to let the character and the story evolve – it’s much more fun to write that way for me when I’m not quite sure what will happen or who a character is until he/she shows me. If I had it all in my mind before I set out on the journey, I don’t think I’d bother with it. On the other hand, if I’m writing to a set theme or topic or for a particular submission, I will keep to that, but within the guidelines, I’m usually fairly free.

AA:  When you sit down to write, what items are absolutely necessary to have in your writing space (other than a computer)?

AB: Bottle of still water and my water glass. My once-a day BIG mug of coffee (mmmm). My dictionary (couldn’t be without it). My handbag (ditto). Post-it notes (small & medium sized). A biro. My clock. My plant (poinsettia at the moment, but that might change soon as I don’t think it’s very happy …). Plus the internet – I can’t write well if it’s not there in the background. I tend to write a paragraph or two, surf for a few minutes while my writing brain thinks, then go back to writing, then surf, etc etc.

AA:  Do you need silence or music while you write?

AB: Definitely silence! I can’t write with music on at all. Though the birds are always lovely to listen to in summer with the window open.

AA:  Are you a “revise on the fly” kind of person, or do you have to have a complete working draft before you start revising?

AB:  I do both. I revise as I go along, and then at the end I do a massive “whole picture” revision. I do like that final stage, when the story is really coming together and finding its own flow. I enjoy the feeling of having something definite to play around with and improve on – and I think I actually enjoy that more than the creation stage. Sometimes anyway …

AA:  Your writing style (in my estimation) is very classical in the sense that it isn't full of gimmicks or post-modern prose techniques.  Do you prefer reading more traditional literature?  What are you reading right now?

AB: I would agree that I’m a reader who appreciates a traditional approach, though I’m not averse to the odd post-modern book. But I couldn’t write them myself. I imagine it’s a result of having two degrees in English literature – one BA in English, and one MA in Medieval English with Latin. I’m probably marked for life now! Currently I’m reading The Pink Hotel by Anna Stothard (a novel about a daughter’s search into her dead mother’s past); Princess Nest of Wales, Seductress of the English by Kari Maund (non-fiction about a Medieval Welsh princess and her climb to power); Supreme Being by Martha Kapos (modern poetry); and What is the Point of Being a Christian? by Timothy Radcliffe (spiritual reading). I always like having a novel, non-fiction, poetry and a Christian book on the go at the same time, as I feel that gives me a full reading experience!

AA:  What are you working on right now?

AB: Right now, I’m working on finishing the third book of my fantasy trilogy, which is called The Executioner’s Cane. The first book, The Gifting, is due to be published by Bluewood Publishing later in 2011. I’m also working on an m/m erotic story, For One Night Only, and an erotic fantasy novella, The Taming of the Hawk, for Amber Allure Press. In addition, I’m trying to schedule in another literary story for Untreed Reads, but I’m not quite sure what my theme is for that yet – I’m still thinking about how to start!

AA:  Finally, since I understand that your story, “How to Eat Fruit” was the first official publication from Untreed Reads just over one year ago, are you taken aback at the massive growth of Untreed Reads over the last year?

AB:  I think it’s been astonishing and I am simply so amazed and impressed by how far Jay Hartman and his team have taken Untreed Reads in little more than a year. The man must never rest! He’s doing a really wonderful job and it’s fantastic to be published alongside so many great authors. I’m very much looking forward to seeing what the second year for Untreed Reads will bring – whatever happens it will certainly be exciting.

AA:  Finally, if you had any piece of advice for the author that is trying to make the transition from “writing for fun” to “writing for fun and profit (such as it is)”, what piece of advice would you bestow upon them?

AB: Commit to getting better at the craft you do. I’d encourage people to join writing groups, either locally or online, and to go to any writers’ conferences or workshops they can get to. It’s amazing how much you learn about writing and how much you improve from making this kind of regular commitment to it. Also, don’t worry about what anyone else is doing – concentrate on finding and developing your own voice, and writing in the best way for you. Be flexible though – as I’ve found that my writing style and approach does subtly alter from book to book. Finally don’t be afraid to submit work that’s the best you can make it to a place that suits it – rejections will almost certainly come, but be prepared to learn from those, and move on to the next possible home for your work. Someone out there will one day say “yes” to you, and that’s the best feeling ever. Good luck to all and may the muse be with you!

Anne Brooke’s fiction has been shortlisted for the Harry Bowling Novel Award, the Royal Literary Fund Awards and the Asham Award for Women Writers. She has also twice been the winner of the DSJT Charitable Trust Open Poetry Competition. She is the author of six published novels, her latest being A Dangerous Man, a thriller about art, love and murder. This year, the first of her fantasy trilogy, The Gifting, will be published by Bluewood Publishing and, in addition, her short stories are regularly published by Amber Allure Press and Untreed Reads. She has a secret passion for theatre and chocolate, preferably at the same time. More information can be found at