Saturday, February 21, 2015

Author Interview: Ben Hale

Ben Hale, author of The Second Draeken War series and The Chronicles of Lumineia series joins us so we can dig a little into the psyche of a writer.

Let’s join Ben in this author interview.


1. Is there an author or book that inspired you to write, whether to become a writer or just to write a specific story?

Not one specifically. However, when I was a kid I read a lot. One night as I fell asleep I decided to come up with my own character. It turned out to be a relaxing way to fall asleep so I kept doing it. (Twelve year old problems are so stressful, I know.)  This practice became a habit that continued for almost fifteen years. By then I was married and my wife asked me why I fell asleep so fast. I responded by telling her I had a story I thought about. At her request I began to tell it. It was the first time I had voiced the ideas, and I was quite surprised to realize how much there was. In spite of her prompting to write it, I did not feel that writing was within my skill set. Fortunately she overcame my hesitation and the next thing I knew I had started Elseerian. Because I'd imagined it in such detail it was easy for me to write, and within a month I realized that the story I'd thought of would not fit in one book. The Chronicles of Lumineia began with a single idea and now spans ten books, two series, and ten thousand years.


2. What is your last story and what made you want to write it? What was the inspiration, the drive that started the idea for it?

The last story I wrote was The Forge of Light, the end of my second series, The White Mage Saga. It could be compared in some respects to Percy Jackson or Harry Potter but there is a marked distinction in its scope. I always liked the stories of magic being hidden in our world, but was curious what would happen if it became public. What could compel mankind to believe that magic was real? Who would be strong enough to unite the magical world with the normal world? I also wanted to explore a blending of a fantasy book with real world military elements. The series contains mages that fly and stunning magic, and yet characters that are navy SEALs and a former marine sniper. The combination is hopefully unique and fun to read.


3. It is the age-old debate: scene setters vs. seat writers. What is your writing process like? Do you outline extensively, carefully mapping out your story ahead, or do you just go with the flow writing as it comes to you?

I am certainly a planner over a blurter. My outlines span thousands of years, multiple series, and hundreds of characters. If I didn't outline it I would lose track, and the story would ultimately crumble. I also practice what I call layered writing, which means there are more layers to a plot than are first visible. For example, one of my more subtle plots will ultimately span several multi-book series before finally being tied into the overall story. Hopefully it will make the story exciting on subsequent reads as readers discover hints and connections they had not noticed before.


4. We all know names hold a certain amount of power to give us all a pre-judged idea of what a person is like. You want to hate someone just for having the same name as a despised ex, a strong sounding name makes you think they must be strong, and a name like Poindexter, well you get the idea. How important are your character names to you? What resource would you recommend for someone having trouble finding names?

A term I frequently use is, "The impression given is more important the text used". The name does not matter as much as the connotation of the name. I choose names that inspire images of innocence, evil, or morality, to name a few. Since coming up with names on the spot can be difficult I have become a collector of names. When I need one, I go to my list and look for one that fits the character. Google and a thesaurus are always good backups.

5. Each writer has their favorite type of scene, the kind of scene that just flows naturally for them. Is there a certain type of scene you find hard to write?

When I started writing, conversation was difficult for me. It was hard for me to write it so it did not feel stilted. Writers that excel in conversation can bring tension and intrigue without drawing on the conflict in the scene, but that was not my strength from the beginning. Part of my problem was due to a lack of vocabulary. As my vocabulary has grown I have found that writing conversation is easier. Now I'm happy to say that writing conversations are much easier after ten books.


6. If you could give only one piece of writing advice to an aspiring author, what would it be?

Write, write, write. Set a goal to write every day and stick to it. It doesn't matter if it's a couple hundred words or a few thousand. Consistency is what matters. Professional writers maintain a pace. Also, if I was to choose a second most important item it would be to edit, edit, edit. My first book I edited 24 times before I published it, and I still think it's not as good as I would like. It's good to remember that there is just as much creation in the editing as there is in the writing.


7. What is your best do or don’t marketing tip?

Time is the most precious commodity for a writer, so don't waste it. I've met authors that are engaged in endless marketing of a single book, and end up writing very little. The more you write the more you have to sell, and the more your marketing efforts matter. Keep your marketing time to a minimum by remembering one thing; a book release is the biggest marketing event you can have.

8. What is your pet peeve when it comes to writing? It could be about any part from the writing process to publication, marketing, fans, etc.

The perception that it is free. With indie publishing it is now possible to publish for free, but that does not mean the preparation is. Invest in an editor, cover designer, and if needed, a book coach. It costs money to do it right because you are investing into something. The lack of knowledge and quality can cost you a career as a writer.


9. Reviews can drive writers to distraction; looking for them, yearning to get them, and scared of getting them. At the same time it takes a certain kind of reader to put themselves out there and actually post a review. How do you go about encouraging your readers to rate your books or stories and post reviews? How do you respond when you get a negative review?

I make an effort not to solicit reviews. That said, I do request one if someone has said they liked my books. The unfortunate truth is that reviews carry a lot of weight—especially the negative ones. Some reviews are given because the reader didn't like you, or they read a couple of pages and tossed your book aside in favor of another interest. The good news is that reviews tell you things, and you should listen to them. Even the bad ones give you an idea of how your writing is perceived. Again, perception is more important that the actual words—and far more important than the idea itself. Your idea as a writer may be stunning, but it will not matter unless it is perceived as such.


10. And finally, the question every author’s fan wants to now: What are you working on now? What is your next published project going to be?

I haven't announced it yet, but I have started a new trilogy in the Chronicles of Lumineia. I will say it follows a fan favorite, and that he is a rock troll. Feel free to post a guess on my facebook page! I hope to write and publish his trilogy this year. With five kids and starting a Masters program, it's going to be a busy 2015 for me. Good luck to all of you in your own works, and feel free to contact me if you are looking for a book coach.


You can find Ben Hale and his books on his Amazon author page.
Visit Ben Hale’s website at The World of Lumineia


Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Book Review: Your Life with Rheumatoid Arthritis by Lene Andersen

Your Life with Rheumatoid Arthritis by Lene Andersen is raved as an insightful resource for people living with rheumatoid arthritis.


Check out this review  of Your Life with Rheumatoid Arthritis written by Wren on RheumaBLog



Your Life with Rheumatoid Arthritis is available on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo books, iBooks, Smashwords, CreateSpace



Lene Andersen blogs at  The Seated View


Lene and her book can also be found at:
Lene’s Amazon Author Page
The Your Life with Rheumatoid Arthritis website



Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Book Review - Everybody's Daughter by Michael John Sullivan

Michael Stewart is obsessed with finding something that was hidden in the basement of an old church.  He also faces his own demons, worried he isn’t being a good enough father to his teenage daughter Elizabeth and punishing himself for his belief he failed his wife before her death.


Unfortunately, nobody else seems to believe this hidden secret exists.  And how could they?  They believe he is crazy, his talk about travelling to the past through a tunnel in the church basement the delusions of a man who is not coping with reality.   But Michael knows it is real because he has gone through it before.


When Michael re-discovers the hidden passageway through time he vanishes.   Realizing what happened; Elizabeth is determined to follow her father.  Elizabeth finds the passage and emerges in Jerusalem centuries in the past just as she hoped, but her father is nowhere to be found.


Michael returns to the present to find Elizabeth missing.  He can only guess what happened to her, that she had followed him through the tunnel.  The world that was Jerusalem centuries ago is a dangerous world ruled by Roman soldiers and brutality.


Michael immediately realizes the danger his daughter in.  He has to find the way back.  He has to find her and bring her back!


But the tunnel has vanished and Michael cannot find it.  Complicating things more, he is everyone’s suspect in the disappearance of his daughter Elizabeth.  The three women in his life make it even more difficult.  His deceased wife’s friend blames him for her death and is convinced he is to blame for his daughter’s disappearance.  His sister and a woman who seems caught between being his friend and wanting more are both torn between his craziness, being unable to decide if he is guilty or innocent, and the need to help him find his daughter.


With the FBI investigating and following him, and the three women holding him back, it doesn’t seem that Michael will ever find his daughter.  The more Michael tries to convince those around him that his daughter is trapped in time; the more convinced they are that he is crazy and has done something to her.


His only real ally is his friend Dennis, the priest of the church who has his own reasons to believe this passage to the past exists.


While Michael fights his own battles in the present, desperate to find a way to return to Jerusalem in the time of Christ, Elizabeth faces the greatest danger of her life centuries in the past.  She reconnects with Leah, a woman she and her father met on their previous visit to Jerusalem in the time of Christ.  With no one who can save them the two women fight for their lives against a sadistic Roman soldier determined to own and control them both in his prison of savage cruelty.



Everybody’s Daughter mixes religion with the paranormal in a blend of miracles and sacrifice and the lesson that faith in the unbelievable is sometimes the only answer.  Michael John Sullivan treats the reader with a story of hope and despair, and finding salvation, all in a story that any reader can relate to.





Saturday, October 11, 2014

The Trouble With Self Promotion

The Trouble With Self Promotion


After years of work, a great deal of time spent
writing, re-writing, abandoning, taking up again, and endless rounds of editing, self doubt, and convincing myself that no one will like it, I finally took the big plunge and queried, accepted a contract, and had a book published.

Now what?

Self promotion, that’s what.


No matter the size of the publisher, or if you go the traditional publisher route, small independent press, or self publish, nobody is going to know about or buy your book without promotion and a lot of it.  The smaller the company, the smaller the promotional budget they’ll have.  But regardless of the size of the company the bulk of the promotion will fall on the author’s shoulders.  It’s expected that you will take up that burden and run with it.  After all, who has your self-interest at heart more than you?  That means you, the writer, have to do a lot of work to promote yourself as an author and your book.


My first attempt at bulk/multi self promotion can be summed up with one word.  It’s not a good word so we’ll just say “Oh crap!” and leave it at that.

The trouble with self promotion, my trouble to be specific although guaranteed I’m not alone, could probably have been helped a great deal with being more prepared and organized.  But in such a big task it takes a lot of time to be prepared and organized in that huge world of promotion and, like writing a novel, that will be an ongoing work in progress.

 Anger and frustration.  Those are two good words to describe my experience.  The biggest challenges working against me: poor internet connection, a less than stellar working mouse (okay, its more dysfunctional than functional), and starting out already tired and frustrated, with an overdose of wild hyper kids to reduce any attempt at concentrating to a slathering glob of damn I wish I had a glass of wine and a quiet place.


So this is lesson one in How To Be A Writer – Promote Yourself & Your Book:

-              Distractions are a killer just as much here as when you are trying to write

-              Tired and grumpy?  Let’s find our happy place before we start.

-              Preparation and organization ahead, yeah let’s work on that.

-              A good internet connection and reliable computer are huge pluses, essential even.

-              Spending four hours or more fighting with the internet, computer, distractions, et al to post a measly 8 quick past and post attempts to promote your book sucks the big one and was probably a huge waste of time.


Thursday, June 13, 2013

Every Character Is Somebody

I get incredibly lazy about character development in my first draft. This especially happens when it comes to secondary and background characters.


When I’m in the throes of pounding at that keyboard, the words flowing through my fingertips as the story flourishes, or banging my head on the contraption in frustration, my focus is on the story. The big question of what happens next is what drives that first draft.



In most of my stories I have no better idea than the reader does about what is going to happen next or even who the characters are. The story often changes from that initial hunch of what it will be about as the events play out. Hell, I’m just along for the ride, wherever my imagination decides to take us.


Just like the reader I’m experiencing the story and meeting the characters as the events unfold.


This is why it is perhaps even more important for someone who writes like I do to never forget that every character is somebody, no matter how small a bit part they play.



What is more memorable? The story where everyone is a faceless nameless blank except the three or four main characters? Or one where old Mrs. Appleblossom down the street always wears a white flower either in her hat or tucked into her button hole, the absence of which could be a hidden (subliminal) hint of trouble to come?


What about Mr. Commely, who’s only purpose in the story is to deliver the letter that gives your character the bad news? Does the reader need to know that Mr. Commely has returned to work after retiring because he’s lonely after his wife passed away, that he always has a gentle pat on the head waiting for even the most fiercest of mailman hating dogs on his route, or that his behavior is sometimes strange and erratic? It doesn’t drive the story forward, so some would argue this is just extra words that should be cut.


The girl serving coffee through the drive through window probably doesn’t need to tell you that she’s having a bad morning. You can see it in her face. You don’t know her name and you probably don’t need to. But you can make the reader wonder why she’s having a bad day. Did she have a fight with her boyfriend? Was she reprimanded at work for being late again when she’s dealing with a serious crisis at home? Maybe she has a parent or child who is deathly ill. Why she looks unhappy isn’t important to the story. But just making the reader notice her sadness and wonder about it because your character did draws the reader further into becoming one with and sympathizing with your main character.


When you go through the drive through yourself, that girl behind the window touches your life when she hands you your coffee and takes your money. It may only be a thirty-second moment, but those thirty seconds still touch your life.



None of these bits about small characters drive the story and most of it can be left unsaid, back-story for these people who make only brief appearances. But dropping these little observations can add a depth of understanding and reality to the world your characters live in.


If you write with a sense of familiarity will all your characters lives, the reader will pick up on it. Like watching someone waving to someone walking by from across the parking lot, you can get a sense if they are familiar with each other or just passing a friendly wave to an acquainted stranger.


Some characters develop through the writing of that first draft. The main characters mostly get a lot of their character traits and flaws because their reactions and needs are what push the story forward. But with the rest they are lucky if they get dubbed as “frontdeskguy” or “girl2” as I write. Sometimes they are nothing more than a mention of “the other guy”.


As the story unfolds, so do little hints into the characters that show up for repeat appearances. And as I learn more about where these bit players fall into the story, I also get a better understanding of how each of them can bring more life to the story.


Like the young man in Men of Twelve (working name of a W.I.P.). The young man is an unimportant player, like the Start Trek guy who wears red to beam down to the planet. I know he’s going to die and the reader may get a sense of it too. That the trees mock him for being a nameless bastard without a father moments before his death does not drive the story, but it does add a layer of depth to the scene and the world the characters live in.



It’s in the editing, when I go back over the story to re-write, revise, develop more, and delete than I put the emphasis on picking out each character from the biggest to the smallest and give them a little touch of personality.


Bringing your characters to life brings the story to life. And, remembering that behind that blank nameless place holder in the story every character is somebody adds a touch of real life to your work. Behind the blank nameless face every person you see today is somebody too.