Tag Archives: writing

Meet the Author… Ken Stark

I’ve yet to read Ken Stark’s books, but I know I will… one day. Their blurbs stir something primal that makes you want to read them, to find out if the protagonists are going to survive or not. I’m pretty sure not all of them will… Meet Ken Stark, author of two zombie novels, a novelette about unspeakable horrors, and his new horror novel Arcadia Falls.

Ken Stark

Ken_Stark.jpeg

Biography

Ken Stark lives in Vancouver, Canada, where he worked in the armoured car industry for far too long before finally committing full-time to his one true passion. Ken’s writing tends toward the dark, yet through it all he remains an optimist, seeing a ray of hope in even the most dire of circumstances.

And yes, he once gave his lunch to a rat, but in his defense, the scruffy little thing looked hungry.

If you could tell your younger writing-self anything, what would it be?

Ken_Stark_Stage3So many things! But the top two would have to be:

a) Get out and experience everything life has to offer, and

b) It’s perfectly alright to be disappointed, but don’t get discouraged. Good or bad, every experience a writer has adds more color to the palette, and every disappointment brings us one step closer to success.

But younger me probably wouldn’t have listened anyway. He was kind of a know-it-all.

What is the biggest surprise that you experienced after becoming a writer?

When the time came to dedicate myself completely to writing, I knew I would love it, but I was surprised at how much I loved it. I expected it to be like satisfying an itch I was never quite able to scratch, but it was more like breathing freely for the first time.

What does your typical writing day look like? How many hours a day do you write?

I actually have nothing like a typical writing day. I might write for 10 minutes or 10 hours, depending on my mood and whatever else I have going on. I punched a clock for so many years that I never want to think of writing as a job. It’s my passion, and passion doesn’t stick to a schedule.

Pen or typewriter or computer?

Ken_Stark_AlphaI would be completely lost without my computer. My brain seems to work at the exact same speed as my ham-fisted typing, so the words have a way of flowing in a very natural rhythm. And of course, a computer makes editing a breeze. It’s hard enough chopping out all of those fine words without having to rely on erasers and White-Out.

Do you write alone or in public?

I’m always alone when I write. I’m sure I could get along just fine in a crowded room, but only if no one was allowed to peek over my shoulder. Tuning out the distractions is one thing, someone reading an unpolished work is another thing else entirely.

What is your favorite genre? Why?

I’ll read just about anything, but when I write, I prefer a good scary tale. Fear is the most fundamental of emotions, after all. Say what you will about love and compassion and caring, it was fear that kept our primitive ancestors alive in a violent world and let us to survive as a species. Whether you shy away from scary things or face them head-on to get that rush of adrenaline, we are all hard-wired to feel fear, and if I can tap into that most primitive of emotions for even an instant, it’s as if I’m kicking up a few million years of genetic memory. That’s a pretty awesome superpower to have.

What is/are your book(s) about? Could you tell us a bit about your most recent book and why it is a must-read?

Ken_Stark_Arcadia FallsMy latest release is a break from the zombie apocalypse, setting the horror on a much smaller stage. Arcadia Falls is a town with a secret. People are going missing and no one seems to care, until one young man and his little band of misfits start to look into what evil thing might be preying on their town. I won’t tell you what they discover, but you know it ain’t Care Bears!

Does your book have a lesson? Moral?

It’s not so much a moral as an observation. As dark as my works are, the common threads running through them all are the simple act of hope and that ridiculously powerful force known as friendship. There’s never a time when all hope is lost, and a good friend in your corner can make all the difference in the world.

How did you come up with the idea for Arcadia Falls?

One day, I happened to ask my best friend’s teenaged daughter what kind of books she liked to read. Her response was, “Something scary, with a monster, and some kind of mystery.” From that barest of outlines came Arcadia Falls. It’s being marketed as YA because I kept the language cleaner than my usual, but that’s the only concession I made. And really, I did that more for the parents of younger readers rather the young readers themselves.

What has been the best compliment?

Ken_Stark_JittersI met a man named Chris Roy on the Deadman’s Tome podcast a while back. He is a writer, currently serving a life sentence in prison. He was interested in my books, so I sent him a few and he shared them around the cell block. Much to my amazement, several of those men took the time and effort to write a review by hand, photograph the piece of paper, and have Chris send me the pix. Understand that these are the kinds of guys who won’t hold back what they really think, and not only did they like the books, but they actually went through the trouble to tell me in those handwritten notes. That response simply blew my mind, and those reviews will always be very special to me.

Where can we find you online?

website,

Website

Twitter

Facebook

Amazon Author page

iTunes book page(s)

Ken’s books are also on sale at:

Barnes & Noble

Audible

Meet the Author… Mark L. Fowler

Blue Murder Blog Tour

Welcome to Mark L. Fowler’s Blog Tour! As mentioned in my interview with him last March, I’ve known Mark L. Fowler for a few years now. We both joined One Stop Fiction Authors’ Resource Group (on Facebook) when it only had a few members. Of course I said ‘yes!’ when Mark asked me to be a beta reader for his new book, Blue Murder, book 2 of the Tyler and Mills series. As I’m part of his blog tour, I’d love to give him another boost 🙂 .

Mark L. Fowler

Mark_Fowler

Biography

Mark L. Fowler has five published novels under his belt, and he recently contributed one of his many short stories to the Dark Minds charity collection. Mark’s most recent book, Blue Murder, is the second in a police detective series featuring DCI Tyler and DS Mills. The first book to feature the detectives, Red Is The Colour, was published by Bloodhound Books last year and shortlisted for the 2018 Arnold Bennett Book Prize. Mark is also the author of The Man Upstairs, featuring hard-boiled detective Frank Miller, and Silver, a psychological thriller. His first book, Coffin Maker, continues to defy any attempts to categorize it. All of his books can be read as stand-alone works.

Who is the most famous author you have ever met?

Peter James. I met him at the Winchester Annual Writers’ conference many years ago. I attended his workshop and was lucky enough to have a one: one session with him, during which he looked over the opening chapter of my first novel and gave me some sound advice.

What do you love most about the writing process?

I love setting off on new adventures, not always certain of where they will take me. I love exploring new characters, watching them develop as I work on them, and finding what makes them tick.

Is being a writer a gift or a curse?

Mark_Fowler_RedIsTheColourFor me, being a writer is absolutely a gift. Yes, it is hard work, yes there are frustrations getting your books out there, but the creative part of the job, the putting pen to paper, developing storylines, creating settings, sharpening dialogue – I just love the whole business of writing.

Do you outline or just write?

A little of both. I like to have a strong idea of my main characters, and a vivid sense of place, of where the story is happening, before I begin writing. I will usually have a clear idea of the primary situation or conflict that will need to be resolved before the story can reach its ending. But detailed plotting is not something that I like to do before beginning the writing. If I had too much plot before I started the book, I would feel constrained and my characters would not have sufficient room to develop. I know writers who plot intricately before they begin a book, leaving little or nothing to chance, while others just go for it. It is whatever works for the individual writer. I’m somewhere in between.

What is your favorite genre? Why?

I read more crime fiction than any other genre, and my writing has increasingly moved that way too. I have always loved detective stories, both on the page and on screen. Most of my published work so far has been in the detective genre, one way or another, most clearly in my Tyler and Mills books and The Man Upstairs. Whilst Silver is more a psychological thriller than a classic detective novel, the main character, the writer and journalist Nick Slater, is effectively playing the role of detective, trying to get to the heart of a baffling and intriguing mystery.

What genre do you consider your latest book and have you considered writing in another genre?

Blue Murder, like its predecessor Red Is The Colour, is a British police detective novel. But the books are also historic crime, set in 2002-2003. Part of my reason for doing this was my interest in a style of policing that is a little less dependent on technology, and more about detectives going door to door, face to face. The action takes place on the streets of a North Staffordshire city, not in forensic laboratories and on computer screens. I have also written in other genres, Coffin Maker being a good example. It’s just that no-one, including the author, can quite nail the elusive genre that can define it! A lot of people really love that about the book.

What is your book about? Could you tell us a bit about your most recent book and why it is a must-read?

Mark_Fowler_Blue_MurderThe sub-title of Blue Murder is: Fame. Fortune. Murder. And here lies the first clue to what the book is about. Johnny and the Swamp Seeds are a local band on the cusp of success when the singer Johnny Richards goes missing. Then the body of a young man is found in the local canal. The detectives, DCI Tyler and DS Danny Mills, not only find themselves trying to solve a baffling mystery, but at the same time their efforts appear to be doing nothing more than catapulting a now singer-less band to fame and fortune. What a lot of people most enjoyed about Red Is The Colour was the relationship, strained at times, between Tyler and Mills, and in Blue Murder I have worked hard to develop these two characters further. So the book is as much about the detectives, and also about the city in which they live and work, as it is about finding out what happened to Johnny Richards.

What gave you inspiration for your book? How did you come up with the idea for Blue Murder? Tell us about your writing process and the way you brainstorm story ideas.

I suppose that the inspiration for Blue Murder initially came from being in a band many years ago, though I have been careful to write a work of fiction and not an autobiography. I had the initial idea about the singer going missing at the point at which he and his band were about to break into the big time. Then I began to ask questions about why this might happen, and who might stand to gain. But once I had the basic ingredients, I didn’t want to plot any further. I wanted my detectives to do the work for me. I wanted Tyler and Mills, rather than the author, to dig into the mystery and find the truth. As far as possible, I handed the investigation over to them. After all – they are the detectives!

Do your characters seem to hijack the story or do you feel like you have the reigns of the story?

I wouldn’t say ‘hijack’ exactly. While giving the story over to my detectives, in one sense, I still retain the last word. This is why I like to have some idea of the shape of the story from the outset, and why theme is important – to stop the book from veering off course. Some plot developments would seem inappropriate to the story I want to tell, and this comes through experience. The more I write about Tyler and Mills, for example, the more I know when I’m on track. If characters start to act in bizarre ways that give no meaning to the story and for no good reason – if their behaviour ceases to support the theme of the book – then I know I’m getting off-track and need to pull things back. For me this would be one of the dangers of just writing a book completely from scratch, without first getting to know my characters a little bit, and where they come from and where they are heading.

How many unpublished and half-finished books do you have? Have you written any other books that are not published?

Mark_Fowler_SilverI have at least half a dozen completed, unpublished novels and quite a number of partially completed books too. In some cases I am simply still not satisfied with the books, and need to return to them afresh to bring them to publication. Others may never see the light of day for one reason or another. In some cases I may have set off writing them too early, without thinking about the characters, the locations and/or the basic plot sufficiently, and then getting into more of a mess than I know how to get out of. It’s all experience though, and I have learned a lot from writing some books that I know may never be read. But these days I would rather set off on my writing adventures with the knowledge that I have enough to get me through to a satisfactory ending. As a writer you never stop learning.

How did publishing your first book change your process of writing?

Publishing my books has made me think differently about the whole writing process. I am more aware these days of writing for a readership, an audience. It has made me more disciplined in my approach, asking more questions at an earlier stage in the development of an idea, and a lot less self-indulgent. When I began writing short stories, a long time ago, I used to just let my imagination soar. These days I only allow that once I have a solid base beneath. I do the groundwork first and then allow the imagination of my characters to soar. And on good days they always seem to do just that. Bless them.

Thanks again, Mark, for sharing more about your writing with us. I loved reading Blue Murder and can thoroughly recommend it to anybody looking for a good crime story to read during the holidays!

For those of you who’d like to know more about Mark L. Fowler, you can follow him via:

UK Amazon Author Page

US Amazon Author Page

Twitter

Facebook

Instagram


Meet the Author… Ian Campbell

I met Ian under the name of Devin Salesman on Twitter. His book, And the Salesman Came to Town, intrigued me. As my love for Terry Pratchett explains, I love it when stories contain a fair share of humor. Ian let me wait weeks for the image (blame was put on the Zon), but it was worth it! So, without further ado, let me introduce me to Ian Campbell, so you can also have a laugh.

Ian Campbell

Ian_Campbell_W700.jpg

Biography

I am a 53-year-old man, who is married with two adult sons – both of whom still live with me!  Professionally, I am a high school English teacher. And now that I have put this on paper, I’ve realized just how boring I am. I was born in Toronto, Canada, but when I was still a baby my family moved to Winnipeg, where I learned the meaning of a what cold winter is!  When I was young, I was diagnosed with learning disabilities in primary school, and needless to say – I was not what could be considered a model student.  Let’s just say I was heavy on the hyper activity! Unfortunately, when I was 12 my mother passed away after a battle with cancer, and when I was 13 my father sent me to a military school in southern Ontario, near Niagara Falls. I spent the next 5 years at the school – consider it a reward for being a perfect child! My father during my time at school moved back to Toronto, so that I wasn’t too far away from family, and after I finished my education, I too stayed in Toronto. I worked for several years then went to York University, where I studied English Literature, and later I received my teaching qualifications from D’Youville College in Buffalo, NY.  During this time, I started my novel And the Salesman Came to Town, by Ian Campbell, and available on Amazon! (subtle plug, right?) I also got married, and my lovely wife and I had our aforementioned sons.  As my life got busier I got away from writing, sending most of my free time with my sons.  We went swimming, biked, watched moves and went to amusement parks and so much more. We were thick as thieves. My sons are still very active, they just don’t take me along anymore! I never thought I would be the 3rd wheel! Honestly they would bring me along too, but now that I’m getting older I’ve developed a bad back and cannot do all the things I used to do.  Summers had become boring, and I had an idea – start my book from scratch!  The rest is history – exciting NO! No, no – it really isn’t, but I have started my second untitled novel! 

If you could tell your younger writing-self anything, what would it be/if you had to do something differently as a child or teenager to become a better writer as an adult, what would you do?

Be yourself and get over yourself! The first draft of my book And the Salesman Came to Town, by Ian Campbell, and again the – it’s available on Amazon thing, (yes, it’s plug number 2) was written about 20 years ago. I was trying to be all dark and sardonic, somewhere between Kurt Vonnegut and Evelyn Waugh, two of my favorite authors. Then, while I was editing the first half of the novel, a thought came to me. ‘What kind of self deluded idiot would write this kind of preachy and pretentious bull sh**!’ Let’s just say I knew it needed some revisions. The first draft was in truth complete crap, but I still thought it was overall a good idea, and never really gave up on it. And now you know why it took 20 years! Here is my advice, be yourself and get over yourself – to be an author, and you need to find you own voice!  Being self critical, and being able to take criticism from others, will also help enhance your prose.

Who is/are your favorite author(s)? How much is your work influenced by his or her works?

Obviously, Kurt Vonnegut, Evelyn Waugh, then J. R.R. Tolkien, Hemingway, Mark Twain, Johnathan Swift, of course Shakespeare, Harper Lee, Frank Herbert, Shirley Jackson, Eric Walters, Arthur Conan Doyle and J. K. Rowling. I know the last one is an author of kid’s books, but tell me – who doesn’t love Harry! Really, it’s a longer list than this, but in my defence, I’m an old guy so I’ve read a lot of books.

Ian_Campbell_And_the_Salesman_Came_to_TownWho is the most famous author you have ever met?

Austin Clark.  I don’t think he is that famous, but he has won some major literary awards. I don’t get out much!

What made you want to become a writer?

I love stories: books, movies, TV, plays – and of almost any genre. Although I like satire and fantasy/science fiction the best. At heart, I’m still a child!  And, according to my wife, every other part of my anatomy as well.

What is the biggest surprise that you experienced after becoming a writer?

Everything!  I wrote And the Salesman Came to Town, by Ian Campbell, I guess you’ve gotten the whole Amazon thing by now (plug number 3 – nice huh?) without having any idea of what I was doing.  Here’s the thing though, I’m pretty sure that I still have no idea of what I’m doing.

What do you love most about the writing process?

Everything, from the outline to the rough draft, and the revisions and editing. I have to admit that I’m not very good at editing myself as I see what should be there, and in many instances, not what is there.  Apparently, neither did the professional editor I hired, he left spelling and grammar mistakes for god…!  Anyway, after some complaints from readers, I have put And the Salesman Came to Town, by… (Well, you know the rest by now – plug number 4!) through an online editor – but I digress.  Even if I had no way of sharing my writing with others, I would still write.  I love every part of it!

Is being a writer a gift or a curse?

For me, a gift – absolutely a gift! I can create my own little world, and get a short reprieve from the somewhat messed up real world we live in. I’m a humour/fantasy writer, and all I can hope for is that my audience is having half as much fun reading my writing, as I have had writing it. If that is the case, in my opinion, I’ve done my job as an author!

As a writer, what would you choose as your mascot/avatar/spirit animal?

Ian_Campbell_Spirit_AnimalThis cat right here.  We share the same world view.

Does writing energize or exhaust you?

Energize! As I already said I love writing, especially humour. Like my novel And the Salesman Came to Town – Ian Campbell – Amazon (Didn’t think I’d get one more in did you?  Last one, promise!)

Are you a full-time or part-time writer? How does that affect your writing?

Oh, very part time. As they say “Don’t give up your day job!” I would be thrilled to be able to write full-time, but at this point, being a somewhat newly self publish author – who has no idea what he is doing as far as publishing goes, I think I’ll have to keep the day job for a while.  And the Salesman Came to Town – Ian Campbell – Amazon (Okay, I lied!).

Thanks so much for sharing your enthusiasm for writing, Ian. I’m glad to hear you’ve used an editor for your book. Yes, folks, the edited version is online now! I’ve started reading it and am enjoying it very much (although I’m terribly time deprived working on my own books, but I promise I’ll write a review when I’ve finished!).

If you wish you can follow Ian Campbell, aka Devin Salesman, on Twitter.

Just in case you didn’t get it, you can get And the Salesman came to Town on Amazon! Here’s the teaser:

The devil has come to town – but this time he is the CEO of a multinational corporation. This multinational advertises a soul back guarantee for all potential customers – for their purchase of their very own dream life. A semi-alcoholic priest is anointed as – The Chosen – the one who is destined to fight off the evil, and to stop this latest incarnation of the devil. He is sent unwillingly into the battle between good and evil, and what can only be considered to be an excellently executed marketing campaign. John Murdock, a self described crappy priest and aforementioned semi-alcoholic, wakes one morning to a radio commercial outlining the benefits of buying one’s own dream life for the low – low price of their soul. He sincerely hopes that the commercial is a bad joke made by the radio station, or at least a hangover induced hallucination. But finds out to his dismay that it is all real, and that it is his job to fight the devil incarnate, or more accurately stated – the devil incorporated.

My Irish Writers’ Podcast Interview

When I was in Ireland last month, attending the Dublin Writers’ Conference, I happened to meet Máire Brophe (I think it’s pronounced Moira, but do correct me if I’m wrong, Máire!). We got chatting about orcs and other fantasy creatures, as you do. She mentioned that she did podcasts and asked if I’d agree to an interview. Of course, I said yes!

It was a bit scary at first, the thought of being recorded. I hate my own voice, for one, and I kept thinking ‘what if I get stuck with words?’ I’ve had it before, many times, that all of a sudden I get insecure and both the English and Dutch language try to get out at the same time. Or I can’t find the English word I want to say. Yet, it was surprisingly easy to talk to Máire. The interview is actually twice as long as I remember 😄.

Listen to the podcast here.

The first seven-and-a-half minutes are an interview with Ann Richardson, who wrote a non-fiction book on Celebrating Grandmothers, and then it’s my turn. You’ll also get a ‘sneek peek’ about the next novel I’m writing!

Thanks again, Máire, for the opportunity, and I wish you all the best with your own novella, After the World, and the Irish Writers Podcast. I do hope you get to write that full novel one day!


PS: If you buy the Suckers Trilogy books from my book store, you get a 15% discount!

Meet the Author… Charles E. Yallowitz

Charles E. Yallowitz is the author of the Legends of Windemere novels (fifteen books already!) as well as various other novels. The covers of his Windemere books attracted me as I retweeted them on Twitter, but, being a vampire-lover, his new WIP War of Nytefall – Loyalty made me contact him for an interview.

Charles Edward Yallowitz

Charles E. Yallowitz

Biography

Charles E. Yallowitz was born, raised, and educated in New York. Then he spent a few years in Florida, realized his fear of alligators, and moved back to the Empire State. When he isn’t working hard on his epic fantasy stories, Charles can be found cooking or going on whatever adventure his son has planned for the day. Legends of Windemere is his first series, but it certainly won’t be his last.

Do you remember the first story you ever wrote?

If I want to be technical, it was in 2nd grade and I wrote a picture story called Hunt for the Ruby Monkey. This was heavily based on King Kong, but I was trying to show characters and build tension without knowing it. This was a gift for a friend, so I don’t have it anymore. Prior to this I was writing little books that involved jokes, my week, or animals.

Charles_E_Yallowitz_ImmortalWarsSince I didn’t really know what I was doing during this attempt, I would say the real first story of mine would be Immortal Wars: The Summoning. I was in high school and decided that I was going to be an author. One of my favorite things to do was read comic books, so I went with superheroes. It was about four teenagers who discover they are immortals and need to protect the universe from a band of evil immortals who are about to return. Each character had a magical weapon built on one of the nine planets. This was in the 1990’s, so Pluto hadn’t been downgraded at this point. I had an entire series planned out with the weapons switching hands, deaths, births, and any twist that came to mind. I only wrote the first book, which was ‘The Summoning’, but then I moved on to fantasy.

Is being a writer a gift or a curse?

It’s the cursed gift that keeps on giving.  The curse part is that authors can find it hard to explain things to other people. You become very aware of spoilers, so you have to explain stories without going into the details. This can lead to confusion and the sense that nobody understands you. The gift side is that you develop this drive to create and explore worlds that you’re helping to nurture with your words. There’s a thrill to the building of a story from nothing to an intricate world that can draw others into it.

What is your writing Kryptonite? Have you ever gotten writer’s block?

My mood can be my personal Kryptonite. Once I’m annoyed or flustered, I lose the ability to focus on my creative thoughts. It isn’t that I have to be in a good mood to begin with, but I need to have a clear mind. Otherwise, the issues of the real world will get in the way of fiction and that doesn’t always match up. This is really hard for me because I don’t have an office or anywhere private to write.  So, I’m constantly running the risk of being distracted. As far as writer’s block goes, I’m lucky that I’ve never really hit a creativity wall. If I have a problem, I walk away to work on another project and it comes to me the next time I sit down.

What is/are your book(s) about? Could you tell us a bit about your most recent book and why it is a must-read?

All of my books are exciting action adventures that can take the reader out of reality. They’re pure escapism, especially since I write in third person present tense.  It’s not a common style, but it means my books read like tv shows and movies where you see things unfolding in real time instead of them being past events.

Charles_E_Yallowitz_QuestoftheBrokenHeartedMy most recent book is Quest of the Brokenhearted, which is on sale for 99 cents until the end of July. This is a spinoff of my series, Legends of Windemere, and it shows the fate of a supporting character named Kira Grasdon. Over the course of the previous adventure, this merchant house heiress lost everything and now she is struggling to survive on the streets. She learns about warriors going to Lacarsis, the City of Evil, which has begun to move. Deciding that she will either find a new reason to live or meet her death, Kira heads into the monster-filled city. This is an exciting, action-packed adventure, but it also looks into the psychology of a hero who has already been broken.  Mentally, Kira is hanging on by a thread and I think this is a state that many people can understand.

Do you have any difficulty writing characters of the opposite sex?

I don’t feel like I have any difficulty writing female characters. I only use their gender to designate clothing to some extent, pronouns, relationships, and physical appearance.  Beyond that, the abilities and personalities for a man can still be used for a woman.  Both can be brave warriors, cunning thieves, or sadistic villains.

Do you want each book to stand on its own or are you trying to build a body of work with connections between each book?

I’m trying to find a middle ground for most of my books. Each book and series tells a self-contained story, but they take place in the same world. Every entry adds to the depth of Windemere and builds it into a playground for future heroes.  This would be similar to Middle Earth or the various comic book universes.

What do your plans for future projects include?

Charles_E_Yallowitz_War of NytefallI’m currently working on a fantasy vampire series that takes place in the world of Windemere.  It’s called War of Nytefall and it’s my current ‘core project’ for the next 3 years. After that I have about 30 other series and one-shot stories that I’ve been outlining over the last 15 years.

What did you find most useful in learning to write? What was least useful or most destructive?

The most useful thing I learned when it came to writing was that I had to write what I loved. If I enjoyed the story that I was working on then that would come through and the readers will have a better experience. The most destructive lesson that I learned nearly cost me the first book of my Legends of Windemere series. I let a lot of people read it over the course of ten years and I tried to implement every suggestion that was given. This made a mess out of the entire story and even caused trouble for future volumes. It required a lot of rethinking and rewriting before I felt comfortable publishing it.

What are common traps for aspiring writers?

There are a lot of common traps, but there are two that come to mind. First, there is always the temptation to respond to negative reviews. Not everyone gets the warning that you have to take the lumps in silence. This means a new author can build up the reputation of being a ‘spoiled and combative’ person. The other is the ‘Pursuit of Perfection’. I’ve known many aspiring authors who refuse to publish until their work has met this ideal of flawlessness. They will read every book they can find on the art of writing and tear their work down at the slightest mistake. In the end, they enter a cycle that they can’t get out of that seems to stop at the first draft stage at best and they eventually give up. The truth is that every story will have a flaw of some kind because it’s a human writing it.

How do author friends help you become a better writer?

Charles_E_Yallowitz_LegendsOfWindemere15Discovering the large community of authors online was like wandering into a place that feels like home. You get a level of support and insight that people who never considered being an author can’t give you. Criticism is given in a more palpable method and discussions are allowed instead of the blunt tearing apart that non-authors think are necessary. There’s also a lot of sharing of experience and tools, which helps new authors avoid some of the pitfalls. Honestly, the whole community functions better as a support structure than a pit where everyone is out for themselves.

Where can we find you online?

Website

Twitter

Facebook

Pinterest

Tumblr

Amazon Author page

Anywhere else where your book(s) is/are for sale:

Smashwords- Beginning of a Hero

Thanks so much for you time and chatting with us, Charles. I’ll be looking forward to reading your vampire stories!

All Charles E. Yallowitz’s books are available on Amazon. Take your pick!

Charles_E_Yallowitz_Books_1

Charles_E_Yallowitz_Books_2

Charles_E_Yallowitz_Books_3

Charles_E_Yallowitz_Books_4

Charles_E_Yallowitz_Books_6

Charles_E_Yallowitz_Books_7

Brush Up On Your Tenses – The Conditional Tense

Conditional Tenses

Conditionals are a grammatical mood (remember moods) to express:

what happens

will happen

might have happened

would have happened

if you do

will do

did

did

something

In other words, they talk about the consequences of facts/hypothetical situations.

Example: If you read this article, your writing may improve.

In this example the improvement of your writing may happen, doesn’t just happen. It is a possible consequence of the condition of reading this article. Your writing may improve if you read this article. And yes, the sentence still means the same when you turn it around, but like always, you use a comma when you put the ‘if’ part before the main clause.

Conditional sentences have two parts:

  1. The main clause, stating what could/would/should happen (in past, present, or future)
  2. The conditional clause (the ‘if’ clause), stating what the condition is for the main clause to happen

Conditional tenses can be positive, mostly using ‘if’ in the condition, or negative, using ‘unless’ in the condition. The negative conditional tenses use the same sentence structure as the positive conditional tenses.

There are four types of conditional sentences, expressing different meanings.

Zero Conditional Tense

This is a commonly used form of the conditional tense.

Usage:

For general truths/realistic expectations, not specific situations.

Construction:

If clause –> simple present

Main clause –> simple present

Example: If you write, you are a writer.

 

First Conditional Tense

Usage:

These refer to possible conditions and probable real-world results in the future, based on facts. They are often warnings.

Construction:

If clause –> simple present

Main clause –> simple future (may contain modals)

Example: If you write today, you will finish your book tomorrow.

Example: If you don’t write today, you may not finish your book tomorrow.

The second example includes a modal in the main clause.

Note: For the next two Conditional tenses, you need to know:

The present conditional tense is formed by two elements: would + infinitive

Example: It would work.

The perfect conditional tense is formed by the elements: would have + past participle

Example: It would have worked.

Second Conditional Tense

Usage:

To describe a situation anytime that is very likely unreal. The if clause is hypothetical and/or completely unrealistic, i.e. not based on facts. The main clause, i.e. the result of the conditional, is probable but not certain.

Usually, a modal auxiliary verb (must, shall, will, should, would, can could, may, and might) is used in the main clause to express the (un)likelihood of the result happening.

Construction:

If clause –> simple past

Main clause –> present conditional/present continuous conditional

Example: If I won the lottery, I would share it with you.

Often, If I was… is replaced by If I were…

Example: If I were you, I wouldn’t do it.

Again, modals are usually used in the main clause.

Example: He might write a review if you paid him for it.

 

Third Conditional Tense

Usage:

To describe how things would be different if something had changed in the past. The main clause describes a contrast of the current reality, but the if clause could have been real.

Construction:

If clause –> past perfect

Main clause –> perfect conditional/perfect continuous conditional

Example: If only I had paid more attention at school, I would be a better writer now.

 

Mixed Conditional Tense

The ‘mixed’ refers to the different times of the two parts of the conditional sentence.

 Usage:

  1. When you express a present result of a past condition

Both parts of the sentence are a contrast of reality.

Construction:

  • If clause –> past perfect
  • Main clause –> present conditional

Example: If I sold a million books for 99c, I would be rich.

This is not the same as the Third Conditional Tense, where you use the past perfect and perfect conditional.

  1. When you express a past result of a present/continuing condition.

Construction:

  • If clause –> simple past (now or always)
  • Main clause –> perfect conditional (before now)

Example: If I wasn’t so distracted by social media, I would have finished my novel a long time ago.

 

Overview

Conditional sentence type Usage If clause verb tense Main clause verb tense
Zero General truths Simple present Simple present
Type 1 A possible condition and its probable result Simple present Simple future
Type 2 A hypothetical condition and its probable result Simple past Present conditional or Present continuous conditional
Type 3 An unreal past condition and its probable result in the past Past perfect Perfect conditional
Mixed type An unreal past condition and its probable result in the present

An unreal (current) condition and its probable result in the past

Past perfect

 

Simple past

Present conditional

 

Perfect conditional

(Table adapted from https://www.ef.co.uk/english-resources/english-grammar/conditional/)

6 Reasons to Attend a Writers’ Conference

I’m sorry not to have a ‘What to Watch’ blog post for you this week as I haven’t been watching TV all weekend. The reason being I attended the 4th Dublin Writers’ Conference, organised by BooksGoSocial. I flew to Dublin on Friday morning and returned back home on Monday morning. I didn’t blog at all yesterday as I had to catch up on my lack of sleep (I only got about eight hours of sleep over the whole weekend!).

Laurence O'Bryan
Laurence O’Bryan giving his introduction speech of the fourth Dublin Writers Conference 2018

It was my first conference ever, and I had a ball. The cost of the conference wasn’t too bad, but the price soon ramped up as I had to fly to get there and had to organize accommodation for three nights. I made the mistake of not reading the itinerary properly and thought that the dinner with awards ceremony was on Sunday evening. The last plane back home on the Sunday was in the afternoon, so I booked myself another night and a Monday morning flight (it later appeared later that the dinner was on Saturday, and I didn’t need the extra night). I had anxiety attacks since booking for fear of missing my 7am flight (those who know me know I’m not a morning person).

So, if it was costing me a small fortune and causing me anxiety attacks, why would I recommend going to a writers’ conference? Let me count the ways…

1. Boost Your Self-esteem

The anxiety attacks mentioned above are caused by menopause (I only found this out recently). Yes, I have the hot flushes as well, but drinking (any) alcohol makes me wake up in the middle of the night panicking about some trivial thing. This undermined my self-esteem to the point I would let my husband take care of everything.

I put my fears aside and booked the conference, the flight, and the accommodation without any help from my husband. It gave me a tremendous boost knowing that I’m not a pathetic, dependent housewife. I am a woman who knows what she wants and goes for it! Yes, I made the mistake of not reading the itinerary properly, making coming home a tad more difficult, but I did it, and I’m here and still alive 😀 .

2. Making Friends

As you all know, writing is a lonely existence. I don’t know about your social life, but mine is as good as non-existent. And that’s okay. I’m quite happy with that. Alone doesn’t mean lonely. I kinda like having the day to myself, being my own boss, and making my own schedule. I don’t meet a lot of people this way, though.

Allie Marie and I out on the town
Allie Marie and I out on the town

Going to a conference makes you meet people face-to-face. You shake their hands, you see their facial expressions, you hug them when the conference is over. I hugged them as I was truly sad to leave them. These people are at the conference for the same reason as you. They all talk about what you talk about. No longer do you have to see people’s eyes glaze over when you start telling them about your protagonist’s latest character development. You know what I mean. It was emotional to meet all these people sharing the same love.

I’ve made some great friends this weekend, and I’m looking forward to chatting with them online about our stories and meeting them again next year!

3. Gaining Contacts

Not only is going to a conference great for making friends, it’s also great for laying contacts with people in the business. I chatted with a representative of publisher IngramSpark who gave me a discount code, I accidentally sat next to a US based publishing expert who told me the difference between an author and a successful author, and I gave my book to someone who does podcasts and hence interviewed me on Saturday. I even met someone who wanted to write my memoir!

It’s always nice to know the face that goes with the name you see online. When you meet in person, they get to know you and, hopefully, remember you and your books. You never know what may happen as a result 🙂 . One can always hope for some more reviews…

4. Branding Yourself

Wendy H. Jones and I
Wendy H. Jones and I

During the summer of 2016, I attended a workshop in Elgin, organized by the Scottish Writers’ Association. That’s when I met Wendy H. Jones for the first time. Her talk about branding yourself was so inspiring! Hence, before I went to this conference in Ireland, I got out my fangs, bought some ‘Victorian’ blouses, and branded myself all weekend. I think I was the only one who did, but I don’t care. I bet you most people attending the conference will remember ‘the vampire lady’!

5. Pitching Experience

I put my name down for the Algonkian workshop and also for the movie pitch with a Hollywood producer. I learned so much from those two experiences. I knew my movie pitch was not going to be successful as vampire movies are not ‘in’ at the moment. But, I happened to find out that the podcast lady had done a pitching course and she gave me some hints and tips. Afterward, a lot of people told me my pitch was excellent which made it a great experience even though not successful.

6. Learning the Trade

Last but not least, you learn an awful lot from all those speakers. They’ve all been at it for longer than you have and share their wealth of information with you. They don’t want you to reinvent the wheel and want you to be as successful as they have been. That’s what I like about writers most; they are all such nice and helpful people.

I made lots of notes. Not only the hints and tips that applied to my book, but also the ones for others as maybe, one day, they could apply to a book I’ll write in the future. You can never learn too much! Now I have to apply what I’ve learned which is something altogether different 😀 .

Summary

There you have it; six reasons to attend a writers’ conference. Yes, it costs money, but it will be a an experience of a lifetime which will make your life richer in all possible ways!

Let me know if you have another reason to attend a writers’ conference 🙂

 

 

Brush Up On Your Tenses – The Future

Even though most novels are written in the simple past, the future tense often features in them. You need to be able to use it properly to convey exactly what you think is going to happen. Have a quick read of The Past and The Present if you missed them.

The Future Tense

There are four future tenses:

  • The simple future
  • The future continuous/progressive
  • The future perfect simple
  • The future perfect continuous/progressive

Simple Future

Use when:

  • a future action is predicted (using will or [be] going to)
  • a future action is planned/intended (using [be] going to)
  • an action is spontaneous (using will)
  • an action is offered/promised/threatened (using will), either given/made or talked about
  • an action is offered in a question (using shall…)
  • a future action is questioned (using what/where/how/why shall…)
  • the action is an order (using you will)
  • the action is an invitation

Shall is mainly used with ‘I’ and ‘we,’ use will for all other objects of the sentence.

Note: The simple future is used when the action in the future is not 100% certain to happen (it is predicted/planned/offered/promised, but not written in stone).

Note: Sentences beginning with time indications about arranged events together with others at a later date don’t use the present tense. In these cases, use the present continuous.

Example: When I’m attending this workshop tonight with my friend,  I am going to learn a lot.

Form: will/shall + verb root or   [be] + going to + verb root

Note that future tenses always use an auxiliary verb (will/shall or am/is/are + going to). These are verbs that help to convey the tense/aspect/mood of another verb.

Example: She is going to catch the train to get there in time.

Example: I will pick her up from the station.

Example: She will come every Wednesday to help us.

Example: Shall we pick her up from the station together?

Example: What shall we give her for helping?

Example: You will give her something!

Example: Will you accept our gift?

Example: I would like to, but I can’t.

Signal or Key words:

There are no specific signal or key words for future tenses. The future is indicated when:

  • Using certain verbs (would like, plan, want, mean, hope, expect, etc.)
  • Using modals like may, might, and could if the future isn’t certain
  • Using should to indicate you want something to happen or something is likely to happen

Future Continuous/Progressive

Use when:

  • An action is going to start at an unspecific time in the future and will still be happening at a specific time in the future (often accompanied by a future time indication)
  • An action is certain to happen
  • An action is being questioned
  • Two actions will be happening at the same time in the future

The future continuous stresses an action in the future that is/can/will/should be interrupted by another future action.

Form: will + [be] + present participle (= verb root + -ing)

or

[be] + going to be + present participle (= verb root + -ing)

Example: I will be addressing the media at noon tomorrow when I need to take my anti-stress pills.

Example: I am going to be working on the final chapter next week.

Example: Will you be helping me with my grammar?

Example: I will be writing and he will be reading.

Future Perfect Simple

Use when:

  • An action at a certain point in the future will have finished

Form: will + have + past participle (= verb root + -ed)

Example: I will have learned all tenses by the time I get to the end of this article.

Signal or Key words:

By Before

Future Perfect Continuous/Progressive

Use when:

  • An action has already happened at a certain time in the future and is unfinished in a more distant future, often used with a time indication

Note: When using the future perfect continuous, you are stressing the duration of the action.

It is not a very often used tense in the English language.

Form: will + have + been + present participle (= verb root + -ing)

Example: My novel will have been praised by many this time next year.

or

[be] + going to have been + present participle (= verb root + -ing)

Example: My novel is going to have been praised by many this time next year.

 

Beside the four future tenses, you can also talk about the future without a future verb tense by:

  • Using the simple present when an action is in the immediate future

Example: I throw the ball, you catch it.

  • Using the simple present when an action is a scheduled event

Example: You arrive on Thursday evening for the meeting Friday morning.

  • Using the present continuous when an action is a future arrangement

Example: She is working the night shift.

  • Using the verb going to

Example: We are going to do this!

  • Using future obligations

Example: She is to be wed to the old man.

I am aware that this explanation of tenses is far from complete/perfect, but I hope it will get the beginner writer a long way.

Here is a timeline graph that I made that I hope puts things into perspective.

Tenses_Graph

Brush Up On Your Tenses – The Present

Yesterday’s the past, tomorrow’s the future, but today is a gift. That’s why it’s called the present. This post is all about the present tense. Read up about The Past here.

The Present Tense

Most novels are written in past tense, but some authors prefer the present tense. It is the tense commonly used in dialogue.

For the following explanation of the tenses, please note that the root of a verb is the base form of a verb (= whole verb minus –ing).

Simple Present

Use when:

  • an action is happening right now
  • an action happens regularly/never stops (and hence is sometimes called the present indefinite)
  • an action refers to timetables.

Form:  Verb root

If that word ends in a consonant; you need to add an ‘e’). You also need to add an ‘s’ or ‘es’ in the third person (use ‘es’ when the root form ends in o, ch, sh, th, ss, gh, or z).

Example: I write novels, but she writes thrillers.

Example: He goes to work when she comes home.

Example: We always watch movies on Fridays, but he watches movies on Saturdays.

Signal or Keywords:

Always Seldom After work
Often Never/Hardly ever First
Usually Every … Then
Sometimes On Mondays

Note that most of them indicate a frequency and the others a recurring time frame.

Present Continuous / Progressive

Use when:

  • an action is happening now
  • an action is certain to continue/stop in the near future.

Form: [be] + present participle (= verb root + -ing).

Example: I am writing tonight.

Example: He is finishing his novel this weekend.

Signal or Keywords:

Now For a few days Tonight
At the moment Always Later
Currently Forever This weekend
These days Constantly Little by little
Gradually Look, Listen,
Still At present Even now
Any longer Any more

Present Perfect

Use when:

  • an action has happened in the past but at an unspecified time
  • an action has an unfinished time (i.e. the action is happening all the way up to the present time)
  • an action has been recurring in the past up until now
  • an action has been completed in the very near past (usually indicated by ‘just’)

The present perfect explains why things are the way they are now; there is a connection between the past and the present. It is used to emphasize the result of a(n) (finished)  action.

Form: have/has + past participle (= verb root + -ed)

Example: She has published five novels during her life.

Note that during her life doesn’t indicate exactly when; it is an unspecified time.

Example: I have finished my book and can rest now.

Example: Why is he happy? Because he has sold one hundred books.

Note that he is happy is written in the simple present, and the reason Because he has sold one hundred books is written in the present perfect as it is the reason for the current state.

Signal or Keywords:

Today This week This year
In my lifetime Just Yet
Never Already Ever
So far Up to now Recently
Since For Not yet
Lately Recently Once
It’s the first time

Present Perfect Continuous / Progressive

Use when:

  • an action has begun in the past (sometimes at an unspecified time) and has lasted up until now, but could still be going on.

In contrast to the present perfect, the action of the present perfect continuous isn’t finished. It could be seen as a time indication of the near past (lately, recently) and the result of that action is still visible, heard, or felt. It puts emphasis on the duration of the action, which is often temporary.

Form: has/have + been + present participle (=verb root + -ing)

Example: I have been writing this last hour and have a cramp in my hand now.

Example: She has been teaching English for ten years, so she knows her grammar.

Signal or Key words:

All day Since For
The whole time (…week, year, etc.) How long (used in a question)

Tenses_Graph

Brush Up On Your Tenses – The Past

It’s been a while since I mentioned writing some grammar articles on the English tenses, but I’m finally back into (some sort of) a routine. Today, I’ll be discussing the past tense. If you’d like to read up on the introduction again before diving into this one, you can find it here.

The Past Tense

The past tense is used when we write about what happened before now, what happened right up until now, and what happened right up until now and is still happening.

The past tense can be divided into:

  • the simple past
  • the  past continuous
  • the past perfect
  • the past perfect continuous

Simple Past

Use when:

  • an action has happened once in the past
  • an action happened repeatedly in the past
  • an action was true for some time in the past
  • the word ‘ago’ is used in the sentence.

The action could have happened once, never, or several times, but both the beginning and the end of the action(s) lie in the past.

Form: verb root + -ed

Example: I worked all night to finish the chapter.

Example: He attended several workshops on writing.

Example: We lived there for years.

Example: It was a long time ago when she kissed him for the first time.

Signal or Key words:

Often Always Sometimes
Last (time frame; day, week, etc.) When Yesterday
(period of time) ago The other day In (year)

Past Continuous / Progressive

Use when:

  • an action was happening before, during, and after another action or specific time in the past
  • an action is interrupted by another action
  • an action was happening for a while in the past
  • an action happened repeatedly in the past
  • an action was evolving/growing in the past
  • you want to indicate a change of mind in the past
  • two actions happened at the same time in the past
  • (you are wondering about something)

When you are wondering about something, you use the past continuous, but it is not a true time on the time line.

Form: was/were + verb root + -ing

Example: He was lying in the grass when he had an epiphany.

Example: I was writing a paranormal novel when I was asked to write an article on grammar.

Example: She was working on that book for ages.

Example: He was reading to us every night.

Example: Their grasp of the English language was improving.

Example: We were thinking about entering a writers’ competition, but we don’t think we’re good enough.

Example: I was writing while he was making dinner.

Example: (I was wondering if you could help me with my grammar.)

Signal or Key words:

While When

Past Perfect

Use when:

  • an action happened before another action or specific time in the past
  • an action happened before and up until another action in the past (example: live, work, teach, study)
  • using reported speech
  • (using if)

It is possible to use the simple past instead of the past perfect if ‘before’ or ‘after’ is used in the sentence to indicate the time the action happened.

You can’t use the past perfect if there is no specific time indication.

Form: had + past participle (= verb root + ed)

Example: She had always walked to work until she had the accident.

 Example: He had lived in a student flat for years until he got his first job.

 Example: I had thought her to be helpful before, but she wasn’t.

 Example: (If he had worked harder, he would have finished his novel by now.)

Signal or Key words:

When After Before
By the time Already Just
Never Not yet Until … (in the past)

Past Perfect Continuous / Progressive

Use when:

  • an action began at a certain time in the past and continued up until another specific time in the past
  • showing cause of an action (using ‘because’)
  • using reported speech
  • (using if)

Form: had been + present participle

Example: I had been buying books in the book store when I discovered online stores.

Example: She had been working all night because she didn’t work enough hours before.

Example: I had been reading my book before I looked up to see him standing there.

Example: (If he had been paying attention, he would have gotten there faster.)

Signal or Key words:

For Since

Next week, I’ll be discussing the present tense.

Tenses_Graph