Monday, January 30, 2012

Meet Gordon Bonnet

I met Gordon through Twitter. And quickly became addicted to his sense of humor, his wit, and his writing. So when he posted a link to his published works, I checked them out and then offered to review one of them. Gordon was kind enough to gift me the book of my choice, The Conduit, and you can read my review of it over at See Spot Read.

But Gordon is such a fun Twitter buddy that I wanted to introduce him to everyone. Plus, I just like to know what makes people tick and how they approach the job of writing. So I interviewed him~

1. How long have you been writing?

As long as I can remember.  I've written compulsively, ever since I was a kid.  I won't say that what I wrote back then was any good, but at least I was writing... so that means I've been writing for... hmm, let's see... *punches buttons on calculator*...  a LONG time.

2. What is the first work you ever had published?

My first publication was a poem called "Greenland Colony 1375" that won second place in a contest in The Writers' Journal in 1999.  I still consider the moment I found out that a poem I'd written would be printed, and reviewed, in a national journal one of my peak experiences to date.  I remember mostly reacting with incredulity.

3. Do you write full time? If not, what is your other job?

I wish, but at the moment I have to have a day job.  I've been a high school biology teacher for... hmm, let's see... ALSO a long time.

4. What is your writing routine and where do you write?

I'm an early morning writer.  I get up usually around 4:30 or 5 AM, or whenever the combination of insomnia and a couple of overenthusiastic dogs wakes me up, put on the coffee, and write for a couple of hours.  If I have time, I try to fit a little more in when I get home from school, and whenever I can on evenings and weekends.  I never stay up late writing, though -- the early mornings do me in. 

5. From reading your blogs, I know you have a wide range of interests and can write many genres. Which is your favorite and why?

My favorite is paranormal fiction.  I've always had a fascination for the paranormal.  At the same time, I write daily on a blog whose focus is skepticism, rationalism, and critical thinking.  Just full of contradictions, ain't I?  Another major interest is history, and many of my stories involve some kind of twist from the past.  Three of them -- Kári the Lucky, We All Fall Down, and Adam's Fall, are set in the past, in the 11th, 14th, and 19th centuries, respectively.

6. What authors do you admire?

My earliest influences were Tolkien, C. S. Lewis, H. P. Lovecraft, Madeleine L'Engle, Charles Williams, and Stephen King.  Other, more recent ones are Umberto Eco, Haruki Murakami, Terry Pratchett, and Neil Gaiman.  I wouldn't say I write especially like any of them; but each of them helped me to form my own style.  I am very cognizant of the difference between writing being influenced by an author, and being derivative;  and I hope I never cross that line.  The most important thing to me personally about being a writer is that it allows me to express myself in my own voice, and so the uniqueness of that voice is critical. 

7. What inspires you?

I wish I had a definitive answer for this.  In most cases, I honestly have no idea where my ideas come from.  There are exceptions, of course; the three historical novels I mentioned earlier all have identifiable origins, for example.  Adam's Fall was inspired by reading about the legend of Kaspar Hauser, the German "lost child" of the early 19th century; the idea for We All Fall Down came from a book called Legends of the British Midlands; I came across the story of Kári Solmundarson, the main character of Kári the Lucky, while doing research for my master's thesis.  But otherwise, most of them just popped into my head, seemingly out of nowhere.

I can say that most of my stories start with a single, powerful image.  The Conduit came from picturing a young man going through boxes of old books from a relative's estate, and coming across a cigar box full of old letters.  But some of them aren't even that specific -- just a visual image, that I then have to build a story around, if for no other reason to give it meaning in my own mind.  A few examples: a man standing facing an open sliding glass door during a hurricane, his body being pelted by wind and rain, was the beginning of my novel Convection; a girl behind a counter in a deli late at night, clutching the counter and crying, was what became the short story Retrograde; a man grabbing a necklace from his wife's hand, and throwing it across the room, became The Hand of the Hunter.  I'd like to be able to tell you where each of these images came from, but the truth is, I have no idea.  They simply struck me with such force that I had to write them down, give them an explanation.

8. The Conduit involves ancient evil, demonic possession, Native American legends, a conspiracy, and family secrets. How did you come up with such an intricate plot concept? And how did you go about making it come alive on paper?

The story in The Conduit owes a lot to my grandmother, who got me started with an interest in genealogy.  The setting of the novel, the little town of Wind Ridge, Pennsylvania, is where my grandma was born, and many of the surnames that show up in the story are real families from the area (even though I have to hope that nothing like the events of the story ever happened there).  I'm very familiar with documents from that time and place, and I think that familiarity gives an air of authenticity to the narrative.

As far as the intricacy of the plot -- I've always loved stories with a lot of twists and turns, so perhaps it's just that I have a byzantine mind.  I've been accused of that, from time to time.

9. What's your favorite thing about the indie movement?

It allows writers who otherwise would not have had a prayer of a chance to get their work into print to reach an audience.  Of course, this advantage is also the indie movement's greatest disadvantage; some of the work that is now being e-published, and uploaded to Amazon, is clearly not polished enough to be ready to market.  But I still think that the advantages outweigh the disadvantages, given that I'm a classic example of a writer who has tried for years even to get an agent to read my work, without success.  I have, in the last ten years, sent out over six hundred query letters -- and gotten, to date, three responses other than "no thanks."  And all three of those responses ultimately resulted in rejections, one of them in less than twelve hours after submission, and after the agent had read a grand total of two paragraphs of the three chapters I'd submitted. 

It's not that I don't understand that agents are swamped with proposals, queries, and manuscripts.  I get that.  But they act as gatekeepers, and the fact is that there is a ton of wonderful writing out there that is moldering in desk drawers when it should be out there being read.  The indie movement is helping that to happen.

10. What advice would you give for newbies out there?

Write, write, write.  Then read.  Reading will keep you pushing your own boundaries as a writer.  Then come back and write some more.  Don't let yourself get discouraged by the scale of the task, by the naysayers, by the obstacles in your way.  In the immortal words of Captain Mathazar from Galaxy Quest,  "Never give up.  Never surrender." 

Gordon describes himself on Twitter thusly: Writer, teacher, musician, biologist, skeptic, atheist, cryptozoology buff, scuba diver, wine lover. And more.

And I'm sure there is much more to this author! You can stalk follow him on Twitter: @TalesOfWhoa or read his blog here at

Thank you for being my guest, Gordon!


Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Meet WJ Rosser

I met WJ Rosser on Facebook, of course. He's a great guy with a good sense of humor, fair play, and he's a talented writer. He writes literary fiction as WJ Rosser and action-packed mainstream fiction as his alter ego, Jeremiah Wright. I think you can guess from the photos who is who.

I was lucky enough to pick up WJ's short collection, The Robber: Selected Works of WJ Rosser, when he promo'd it for free recently. Had I known how good it was, I would have waited and gladly payed my $2.99. I thoroughly enjoyed the book and you can read my review over at See Spot Read.
But after reading it, and also because I'm nosey, I wanted to interview WJ and see just what makes him tick. The interview~
1. How long have you been writing?

I started writing when in was in high school, something like…um…a very long time ago. Actually, I think I started much earlier. I always thought of writing as my future, and when I hit college, I sent hundreds of poems and short stories out. It was strange as the rejection letters flooded in. I got plenty of acceptances, too, but it was so weird to get so many letters saying “no thanks.” I’d grown up in a small town, and it’s easy to be a big fish in a small pond, and it was strange for me to be a little fish. When I had my first of seven kids at twenty, I made writing a lower priority and got a “real” job. I got back to it a few years ago.

2. What is the first thing you ever had published?
My high school had a writing competition. I wrote a collection of stories and poems and it won first place. There were a number of chapbooks printed out and given at the awards ceremony. I don’t have it anymore, though I remember I called the collection Oblique Wave. I was a pretentious little bastard. Later, when I got into college, I had a poem published in a university literary journal. It was heavily influenced by the great imagery writers like William Carlos Williams and Ezra Pound. 

3. Do you write full time or you do you have a day job?
Yes and yes. I make all of my income writing, but about ninety-nine percent of the money comes from contracted work, ghostwriting. It’s a big help. I don’t have to gear myself up to get the office out of my head and sit down to write. It’s also great because if I hit a bump in one project, I can jump on another to clear my head.

4. What is your writing routine and where do you write?
I wake up at four in the morning and write for four or five hours until the house is alive. Then, I work another six or so but only get two or three hours of real work done. We homeschool the kids, so the four that still live with us are always around.

5. What is your favorite genre to write?
That’s a difficult question. I love the literary writing when I’m finished with it, but it’s devastating to write. It literally knocks me on my rear. You mentioned The Robber. It’s about thirty-five hundred words. I usually kick out about twelve thousand words in a day in various projects. That thirty-five hundred words took me a week to write and I was useless for anything else. Then, when I finished, I was depressed for a week more. Most of what I write as WJ Rosser does that to me.

On the other hand, I really love pulpy action-packed fiction. I have a ton of fun writing it. I tend to write like Elmore Leonard and Quinton Tarantino rolled into one. That stuff is fun to write and it’s a fun read. Still, it’s not what defines me as a writer. I guess I like the pulp writing but want to be remembered for the literary work.

6. I know that you write both as WJ Rosser and Jerry Wright. Why? And how do you keep them separate?
I write so many damn things. I guess you could say I have a hundred pen names. There are items on Amazon and Smashwords and in bookstores in almost every genre, and I wrote them all. Really, though, I settled on these two names for my own stuff. I write fiction I loosely label “commercial” as Jerry Wright. The literary genre is all WJ Rosser. I chose Rosser because that was my father’s name.

I keep them separate for a simple reason. I think someone who buys a book expects something from it. Anyone who has read WJ Rosser will be disappointed by a Jerry Wright book if they think they’re getting a WJ Rosser book. It’s the same in reverse. WJ Rosser is emotionally draining with cerebral language and dense imagery. Jerry Wright writes fun, action-packed stuff.

Evan Hunter did the same thing. He wrote compelling psychological fiction. Wonderful stuff. He’s much better known as Ed McBain, which is the pen name he used for his very famous 87th Precinct novels. Essentially, there are two different audiences. If someone wanted a police procedural and picked up an Evan Hunter book, they’d be really disappointed. So, he kept them separate. He did write a brilliant book that he marketed as a collaboration between Hunter and McBain. Brilliant book. Maybe I’ll do that someday.

I keep the names separate in a kind of tongue-in-cheek way. Rosser always calls Wright his “evil twin.” Wright always calls Rosser his “propellorhead brother.” They make fun of each other. Rosser calls Wright’s stuff forgettable and cliché, and Wright says things like, “who evidently thinks it takes eighty words to say three.” They’re really different personalities. Wright dedicates his books to “My wife Kathy and my mistress Michele.” (They’re the same person, by the way. It’s my long suffering wife Kathleen Michele Wright.) Rosser says things like “For Kathy, my everything.”

7. What other authors do you admire?
 I love William Faulkner. If I could write a novel as well as he…ah, I can dream, right? I really like Rick Moody and Tom Rachman. Man, there are just too many to mention.

8. What inspires you?
That’s a hard question to answer. I get inspired by the strangest things. Of course, every female character I’ve ever written (if she’s an object of affection, anyway) is pretty much my wife. In fact, I usually write using the name “Kathy” and then replacing it with another name once I’m done. Ideas come from all sorts of places. I wrote “In the Shade of the Ocotillo Hedge” thinking about my father’s funeral. I came up with Genny looking at a picture of a girl eating chocolate. I wrote The Willow inspired by a poem I wrote that was inspired by a news story. I don’t know. I’ll go out to dinner and a couple dining a few tables over will stay in my mind. Once that happens, I have to write it.

9. I loved "The Robber." Spoiler ALERT: I was literally in tears at the end. How did you imbue such a depth of emotion into such a short work?
First of all, thanks. I’m not sure how to answer that. I think the short story is the best structure for all writing, frankly. Novels are fun, but I think short fiction is better. Since the style is very stream of consciousness, I can make comments that have very little relevance in a longer work that resound in that one. In one part, I wrote about how the main character’s wife called him her “Grizzly Adams, her Jeremiah Johnson, her wild mountain man” and the words had more significant context because of the rest of the story. We get a glimpse of the way she loves him and the way he loves her.

There’s also the affair and the betrayal of his brother by his brother’s wife. Since that sets up the entire fearful tone of the main character and his wife’s constant reassurances that she would never do such a thing to him, the entire story is a cycle of intense love and just as intense fear of loss. When the end comes, it blindsides us because we’ve become reassured as much as the main character has.

I think that pain is also common to humankind. I can write about what makes me happy, but it’s not all that universal. You might find joy in completely different things. Pain and sadness, though—those are universal emotions. We all experience hurt. We all experience loss. Even if we haven’t been through something devastating, we all fear it. It makes a story like The Robber a punch in the nose.

10. What is your favorite thing about the Indie movement?
In today’s world, there really are no middle-tier publishers. That means an entire section of literature that isn’t necessarily a big economic opportunity but is nonetheless good reading is just gone. The indie movement takes that gigantic fact and makes it irrelevant. Anyone can be published now, and that’s good. That’s also the worst thing about the indie movement. Anyone can be published. There’s a whole lot of junk out there. It will all sort itself out, though. I think we need to think of literature with a long term perspective. The best books will still be around. In fact, the indie movement may help make those books last.

11. What advice would you give to newbies?

Write. Write, damn you, write! Just write. Don’t get caught up in anything else. Once you’ve got something written worth putting out in front of the world, then worry about the how. For now, just write. Write. Write some more. Then write.

W.J. Rosser is a freelance writer and novelist currently living in Orange County, California. With more than twenty years spent educating in institutional, business, and homeschooling settings, he's become quite opinionated about education's process and product. A spirited rhetorician fully committed to reasoned argumentation as a means to reach the best conclusions, he can often be found in conversations with complete strangers attempting to provoke thought and avoid punches.
Rosser's stories have been published in the Menda City Press, Static Movement Anthologies, and elsewhere. His poetry has been featured in Poems From The Dark Side. One novel and three novel collaborations are due out later this year.

You can find The Robber: Selected Works on And you can connect with the author on his Facebook page. You can also check out his book review blog.


Saturday, January 14, 2012

Show me some love...grab your free copy!

Well, I convinced the other owner's at Angelic Knight Press to jump on the KDP Select bandwagon. It will take probably a month to really see if this is helping sales or not. I'm excited that it will. The authors involved may stone me if it's not. Well, okay, not stone me, but you know what I mean...

We jumped in with Satan's Toybox: Toy Soldiers, our second anthology in the Satan's Toybox series. You can grab it for FREE at for the rest of the weekend, until Monday at midnight. If you like horror stories and variety in your tales, it's a great bargain.

I love anthologies, it gives you a chance to sample the work of many new authors, authors that you can then seek out and see what else they have available. So, in theory, offering the book for free should promote individual sales for all of authors and the press. Fingers crossed.

Meanwhile, when I'm not obsessively checking the stats at Amazon (at the time of this writing we have gone from #267,003 in Kindle books last night to #3461 this morning and are now #15 on the fiction/genre fiction/anthologies bestseller list), I'm busy going through submissions for our third anthology, Satan's Toybox: Terrifying Teddies.

I'll let you all know how it goes. And if you do grab your free copy, don't forget we would love a review on Amazon, Goodreads, Library Thing or your blog. Or a shout-out via social media of your choice.


Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Maybe I should have left the lamp on...

First, thank you to everyone who commented on my last post. I'm glad that it opened up an interesting dialogue. I'm sad that I don't think we got through to the people who really needed to hear it. Okay, I'm really not sad. That's their problem. And unfortunately, any readers who happen to get sucked in by the hype.

This post is not as relevant. In fact, it's basically just a somewhat funny slice of life. It's also a true story. Promise.

Last night my daughter and I were indulging in our little reality series addiction to Teen Mom 2. Don't get all judgy with me, I don't criticize your television viewing habits. Unless you watch Jersey Shore, which is just mind numbingly ridiculous. And you probably should not publicly admit you watch that show. So we're watching the Teen Moms (most of whom, I want to slap) and they keep having trailers for the new film "The Woman in Black" which looks fabulously scary and I'm going to see on opening night. Don't know what I'm talking about? Watch this:

And Molly, my daughter, who is twenty and has a baby and a husband, says that even the previews are too scary and now she doesn't want to go to bed. I point out that she has a nightlight in the room "for the baby" and her husband beside her. She's not reassured.

My husband and I laugh at her (no, not in a mean way, just in a "you're so silly" type way). The show finishes, we all go to bed. My husband falls instantly to sleep, as usual. I stay up reading (this is my appointed two hour reading period). I'm reading a book called, The Harbor, (you can read my review of it over at See Spot Read) and it's quite good. It's also a little unnerving. I stay up an extra hour to finish it and find that when I put out the light, I'm still thinking about the book. (Hint: that means it's a good one) I think it's because it deals with possession. For some reason, the thought of demonic possession unnerves me more than most themes. Silly, I know, for someone who doesn't believe in heaven or hell. I still believe in absolute evil, though. And whether it's because I saw the movie, The Exorcist, at too young of an age (still one of the scariest movies of all time) or some other reason, possession scares me.

So I'm lying in bed, covers up to my chin, even though I'm overly warm (do not ask how my covers protect me, they just do), beside my snoring husband, contemplating demonic possession and thinking I shouldn't have made fun of Mo. When suddenly, my husband sits up in bed and hollers, "What?" really loudly. I swear my heart stopped. I bit my tongue to hold in the scream that threatened to burst from my throat. (Only the thought that the wrath of my daughter should I wake up her baby by screaming, would be worse than any demon,  allowed me to keep it in) My husband laid back down. When I managed to swallow the blood from my tongue, take a shaky breath into my lungs and be sure my heart was, indeed, still beating, I asked, "Um. Are you okay?"

"Yeah," he replied. " I just sat up and yelled, didn't I?"

"You did," I assured him. "Why?"

"I don't know. I guess I was dreaming."

"Well, if my hair has turned completely white overnight, you'll know it's because you nearly frightened me to death. You're lucky I didn't have to pee."

He had the nerve to chuckle. So I socked him. In nearly 22 years of marriage, the man has had maybe one bad dream. He has to pick the night I'm already nervous to have another? Rude.

I did get to sleep after that. And thankfully, my hair is still its usual color this morning. I did share with my daughter so that she could laugh at me for a change. Turns out she was up with the baby and heard him shout and us talking afterwards. I should have screamed.

Books that scared you? I'd love to know what makes you leave the lamp on.


Saturday, January 7, 2012

Are you really as good as you think you are?

I've been sitting here contemplating this post all morning. Why? Because A. it's a rant and B. a few people may figure out that I'm talking about them and it's liable to make me pretty darned unpopular in some circles. So why am I going out on a limb and posting this? Simply because I can not take it anymore. For the past several days, every time I see certain posts on Facebook I want to tear my hair out. Instead, I've messaged a like-minded individual and we've commiserated. But some things need to be said aloud. Or, well, blogged.

I'm going to tell you, as a writer, what you absolutely must have. You may not agree with me, you may not even believe me. You're welcome to take my words with a grain of salt, since I am not a best-selling author or award-winning editor, yet. But I'm absolutely convinced that I'm telling the truth. I know it would be easier for some of you to rest comfortably in your little cocoons of fantasy, but it's reality check time.

What every good writer must have is an honest critique group. A solid core of people who are willing to tell you that your current work is shite and what you can do to improve it. No, I'm not talking about your friends, the ones who "oooh" and "awww" over every word you commit to paper. I'm not talking about the other writers in your groups who promote your work as though you were the next Stephen King in the simple hopes that you'll do the same for them. I'm talking about people who will give you an honest criticism and help make you a better writer. Because, let's face it, there's always room to improve.

Maybe you're thinking I'm crazy and that you are "good enough". You're making a little dough, you have people telling you you're brilliant (are they brilliant? Because only other brilliant people should be able to make that assessment truthfully), maybe you even have a nice, though by no means huge, fan base. Well, if you're comfortable with that, then continue on your way and continue to wonder why you never "make it big". "Good enough" should never be something we settle for. We should constantly be learning, improving our craft, and working towards something better. We owe that to ourselves and we owe that to our readers. And I'm not just talking the talk here, I'm walking the walk.

I never stop learning. I subscribe to magazines like Writer's Digest and the Writer. I purchase or get from the library books on writing. I peruse articles on the web about grammar and editing. I devote as much time to learning as I do to writing. Why? Because "good enough" is a phrase I never want to hear myself utter in conjunction with my work. I also have a core group of other writers and editors who I send my work to so they can kick me in the pants. Because there is always room for improvement. Always. And by the time I finally submit a piece, I know it is the best that it can be. Does that mean I'm always accepted? No. But at least I know I sent them my best possible work.

This post was inspired by several things. As you may or may not know, lots of writers offer their books for free around the holidays or right after or to push rankings or for many reasons. I've been downloading a lot of free indie books lately. Some have been fantastic, some not so much. A few are downright horrible. Generally, you'll find this when it's a newbie writer who didn't realize that they needed an editor. But what if it's not a newbie writer? What if it's a writer who has several books out and an editor (that title is debatable, however). And what if the book is so bad that I couldn't even finish it? That's bad. And I would've just resolved to stay away from the writer's books in the future, free or not. And figured that anyone who promoted this author was either a really bad writer themselves (yes, by association) or desperate.

I was not alone in my judgement of the book. Reviewers who were not a part of the writing community tended to agree with me. And what happened then? Other writers in the community flocked to offer solace and insult the reviewer. Hmmm. And this is what made me think.

There are so many things I love about the Indie community. The way writers and small presses support each other, from sharing marketing strategies to buying and reviewing each other's books. But there are a few things I specifically do not like about the Indie community. Bad writers tops the list. Bad editors may even be worse. But enablers definitely makes the list. What is an enabler? Every single person who tells that writer that they are good. Every reviewer who does not give an honest review.  Every person who boosts this poor writer's ego by pandering to them. Stop the insanity people. If you want to be a good friend, then be honest. Help that writer grow.

Don't get me wrong, everyone seeks the admiration of their peers. Everyone wants to be the "cool kid" that gets the accolades and pats on the back from their many friends. But don't you also want to impress readers and grow your fan base? The only way to do that is take those bad reviews and learn from them. Accept that the reviewer may have a point and it may be time to change editors and re-visit your work with a keener eye and open mind. Listen to what the readers are saying, not just your friends and associates. Readers drive sales, not other writers. They're the ones whose opinion matters most.

I hope that I haven't offended anyone, but I also hope that I opened some eyes.