Introducing Author M. Brandon Robbins

Dragon Soul Press proudly announces horror Author M. Brandon Robbins to the family!

Stay tuned for news about his novel, Mr. Haunt.


What inspired you to start writing?

I’ve always enjoyed stories in their various forms, whether told through books or films or M Brandon Robbins Logogames. Being that I loved stories, I would come up with my own. I was writing fan-fiction about my favorite superheroes and video game characters long before I knew that fan fiction was even a thing. Almost all of my play was imaginary; I loved playing pretend and I would come up with these fully-realized narratives with my action figures. I always enjoyed creative writing assignments in school and tended to do well on them. When people asked me wanted I wanted to do when I grew up, I would tell them that I wanted to be a writer. When I got to college, I decided to major in English with the intention of writing professionally. I’ve continued to be inspired anew throughout the years, as writing is frustrating and far too easy to give up on. Whenever I step away from writing, I always come back because I remember how nourishing and exciting the act of creating is, so ultimately I would say that’s what inspired me to write: the agency that comes with creating your own worlds and characters is freeing and empowering. That’s something I knew as a child and something I remind myself of constantly as an adult.

How long have you been writing?

I would say I’ve been writing serious since my sophomore year of college. That’s when I started sending out submissions to publications and started writing a novel. So, about seventeen years or so. There have been long spans of time that I’ve set writing aside, such as when I was in graduate school or earning my teaching certification, but I’ve always been writing at least a little bit since I was about twenty. For a long time, I wrote a column for Library Journal on video games and libraries. I’ve also written graphic novel reviews for them and have contributed to a book on games in libraries. It’s hard to think of a time that I wasn’t writing something.

What advice would you give a new writer, someone just starting out?

Write the story that’s inside of you. I struggled so much trying to write for a particular market or chase a certain trend, but when I’ve just sat down and followed those crazy ideas that come into my head at 2:00 AM, I’ve done my best writing. You’ll get good enough to write on demand and follow a prompt so you can submit to a specific anthology or take advantage of what’s popular at the moment. But if you’re just starting out, trust in your ideas and see them through to the end.

What is the most difficult part about writing for you?

Finishing. Coming up with great ideas is easy. Coming up with great endings is not. More often than not, I’ve written myself into a corner because I’ve gone down the rabbit hole with a certain idea and didn’t stop to actually think it through and make sure it would come to a logical and satisfying conclusion. That’s when I have no choice but to go back to the drawing board.

How many books have you written? Which is your favorite?

Mr. Haunt is my first published novel, so it will probably always be my favorite! I’ve written two other novels. One is a book I started on in college and finished not long after. It’s really not very good at all. I’m still glad I wrote it. It was a learning experience and a valuable one. I’ve also written a western that I can see being part of a series. I’m just not sure if it’s the first book or not.

Where do you get your inspiration?

Sometimes I find inspiration and sometimes it finds me, but ultimately it all comes with asking the question, “What if?” Mr. Haunt started with the question of “What if depression Photo on 8-18-19 at 7.29 PMwas an actual demon that haunted those who suffer it?” Sometimes it’s a more direct and specific questions, such as “What if somebody lost their cell phone at a nightclub for vampires?” I’ve actually written a flash fiction on that question, and it was accepted for publication in a small webzine called Shotgun Horror Clips. To me, that’s the heart of fiction: trying to find the answer to that question of “what if.”

Who is your favorite author and why?

Neil Gaiman has been my favorite author for a long time for several reasons. Not only is his writing brilliant, but he has such a close and meaningful relationship with his fans and I truly respect that. I remember that his blog was one of the first author blogs I read and, if I recall correctly, he was one of the first to adapt to blogging as well as Twitter. I respect the fact that he considers comics legitimate literature and doesn’t consider himself to have graduated to prose fiction. As a librarian, I also love the fact that he is so supportive of libraries and librarians. He’s an all-around polite gentleman who loves the art of storytelling, and that’ what every writer should be.

What famous author do you wish would be your mentor?

If not Neil Gaiman, I would have to say Stephen King. He’s so in love with the craft of writing that I can imagine he would have a good bit of advice for any hardship that may come along; I’ve read his book On Writing and learned quite a bit from it. I imagine a mentorship with him would be incredible.

What do you like to do when you are not writing?

I’ve played video games ever since I was in the crib, so that continues to be a major hobby of mine. I also read, of course, and tend to the ten pets that my wife and I share.

Where can readers learn more about you?

My blog, Meds and the Reasons For Them, can be found on my website. I can also be found on TwitterInstagram, and Dragon Soul Press.

Author Interview with C.L. Williams

Dragon Soul Press sat down to interview Author C.L. Williams!

With a goal of 35 publications within one year, it seems nothing can stop him!


 

How many hours a day do you write?

I don’t normally go by hours. I set a daily goal of 2,000 words. If I feel I can do more than that, I keep going. If I need to stop then I stop.

Does writing energize or exhaust you?

Usually both. On days when I devote my entire day solely to writing, I am usually proud of how much I get done, but by the end of the day, my bed is calling me.

What is your writing Kryptonite?

The internet. Like many other authors, I’ll go online to look up something for a story or a clever word to use in a poem. Next thing I know I’m checking Facebook or watching stupid videos on Youtube.

Do you try more to be original or to deliver to readers what they want?

It varies. After writing several poetry books, I was asked to be more personal with my poems and I obliged. After that, I was asked if I could write more uplifting or positive poems and I also obliged. Right now, I’m expanding into fiction and I’m just writing in other genres to see if I can write a good story in a specific genre.

Do you think someone could be a writer if they don’t feel emotions strongly?

Unless they are writing nonfiction or something like analytics, then no.

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

Things do improve. It takes time (something my younger self will despise) but you will see improvements!

What was the best money you ever spent as a writer?

Last year, I backed a Kickstarter for a comic con near me and my tier was to be a vendor at said comic con. Not only did I make my money back from selling books, but I managed to meet a lot of incredible people, learned a lot about presenting myself to the public, and I did a lot of networking. There were also people there that run other conventions and I was asked to be part of them. Also, you’d be surprised how many people will buy poetry books at comic cons.

What was an early experience where you learned that language had power?

When I was a teenager, I wrote an anti-suicide poem. Little did I know, a friend of mine was having some problems and cried after reading it. That friend is now a husband and father.

How many unpublished and half-finished books do you have?

I currently have three unpublished books, all planned for release later this year. I managed to release five books in 2018. I know I can release three more this year (I released a novella in February). No half-finished books, but I have several ideas written in my notebook or the notes app in my phone.

Where can readers learn more about you?

Learn more about me through Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and my website.

 

Pitfalls to Avoid: Mary Sue Characters

You: “Oh man, people are going to love my female MC. She’s a total badass!”

Friend: “Why?”

You: “Because she has all sorts of magic at her disposal, she can fight with swords, she’s got a genius-level IQ, and she’s beautiful. Guys just swoon for her, but she’s a virgin, saving herself for her True Love.”

Friend: Rolls eyes. “Of course. What does she do?”

You: “I’ve got a whole series of books planned. She’s from a fantasy world, but she’s transported to our world in the 21st Century. She then learns about guns while wielding magic. She has to fight Neo-Nazis, werewolves, evil corporations, and gives a speech at the U.N. on women’s rights. She doesn’t need a man to save her.”

Friend: Sighs…loudly. “That’s it? What’s her flaw?”

You: “Umm…flaw? Oh yeah, she was abused a lot by her parents. She doesn’t know how to love. She can’t decide from the six men who are chasing after her, but she can’t let a man in her life though she did have some girlfriends with some buxom elves and hot shifters. She–“

Friend: “Stop! Just…stop. I have a major headache now and I need a drink.”

What did I describe to you? If you guessed that the author had created a Mary Sue character, you’re right. What is a Mary Sue? I won’t get into the origins of such a character (but you can read about it here), but they are a very powerful, virtually flawless character who overcomes any obstacle in the story. Ultimately, they are boring characters because they will plow through every scene by their sheer will alone.

I write this post because if you’re an indie author or an amateur writer who is looking to publish, this is a very common mistake to create a main character who can do everything. Trust me, as I write this, I’m not writing this from a pedestal looking down upon you. I’m guilty as charged as well and this post is also for me as well (I have a few characters in my Rise of Evil Series that I need to take a hard look at and pare them down a bit).

So, let’s get back to the boring part and what you can do to fix them or at least create believable MC’s the reader can get behind. Remember, these are guides, not hard rules.

  1. Outline all the challenges a character has to face in your story. Hand them some failure that sets them back and if you want to make it impressionable to your reader, make those failures debilitating. Say, for example, you have a master swordsman. He is awesome. No one can beat him even in twenty-to-one odds. Now, get him in a fight with a wizard where he loses his sword arm–chop that thing right off. He has to learn how to fight all over again. On top of that, he now has to weigh his battles carefully.
  2. Flaws in the backstory are meaningless unless they come into play in an actual scene. You want to “humanize” your MC with some trauma from their childhood? That’s an overused cliche in amateur writing as well, but that’s another post for later. That trauma is boring if it doesn’t come into play. For example, you have a young man who is sorcerer attempting to overthrow the evil king, but past abuse from his father causes him to freeze up. The evil king casts a spell to look just like his father, and the sorcerer is powerless, just stands there, and is captured, tortured, and sentenced to death.
  3. Make your character rely on others to achieve victory, and make that an endeavor as well. I’m not talking about him leading troops. I’m talking about he needs others to help him overcome a particular challenge. Bob from Accounting can’t see Sue the VP to convince her to fund Project Z; however, Jack, who … umm … works closely with Sue, can slide that proposal on her desk. But as life would play, Jack likes to play both teams and desires Bob too, so Bob has to figure out how to get Jack to agree to meet with Sue while not having to cave into Jack’s unbridled lust (and irritate his constant bickering wife).
  4. Bring the power level down. If you play Dungeons and Dragons or similar table-top role-playing games, you’ll know that your characters have a level assigned to them which measures their power and abilities. A 1st level wizard is no match for a 20th level wizard. In your story, you don’t want your character start right off as a 20th level wizard because if you do, your character won’t grow and achieve a pinnacle of power if you have a whole series of books planned out.

In summary, ensure your characters have flaws purposely created to give your story tension and drama. Your readers will appreciate your MC’s efforts to try to overcome or circumvent those obstacles.

Happy writing!

 

Interview with Author Abigail Linhardt

Graciously offering to sit down and be interviewed by us again, Abigail Linhardt takes time from her busy schedule while earnestly awaiting the release of her audiobook for Revary.


What is the first book that made you cry?

I was 13 years old when “Order of the Phoenix”, the fifth book in the Harry Potter series by JK Rowling came out. Just years earlier, I had fallen madly in love with Sirius Black. I loved him as a character because he was Harry’s only chance for a tradition wizard life and for familial love. When Sirius died in “Order of the Phoenix” I was crushed. I didn’t know that main, loveable characters could die. It was a chance for Harry and it was snuffed out. I cried for days. I was depressed. Changed my life and shortly after I wrote my own main character death.

What is your writing Kryptonite?

A have a couple. The first is too many story and character arcs—I get too excited, outline some and then get fixated on one and have to force myself to stop and outline the rest. This causes me to lose focus on the entire outline. Rather than filling in details later, I focus on one and then forget what my amazing conclusion was supposed to be! This leads to overdramatic scenes, too much action (which is a thing) and no rest for deep, psychological character development, which I believe to be very important. This also leads in to too many characters in one story. Which I try to fix by making more stories and the next thing you know, I have 20 MSWord documents open and no idea where my current WIP drowned.

Second is actually not reading in my genre. I read a lot, but I don’t read a lot of fantasy and science fiction, which is all I write. I end up instead reading reviews of fantasy stories and novels. Seeing what other people like or dislike about a major author. I don’t like a lot of major works, which makes me look like a hypocrite. But I also know that reading in my genre will make my writing stronger and more unique. Sometimes, I just buckle down and have to read a novel in my genre. But then the enormous number of books in one fantasy series always deters me and I stop.

Did you ever consider writing under a pseudonym?

Yes! I want to write romance novels. But not your regular kind. I love the sword and sorcery genre (think Conan the Barbarian by Robert E. Howard) and heavy fantasy elements. I have read a few fantasy romances and they seem light on the fantasy and the gore. So whenever I get around to that novel, a pseudonym will come in to play. Just in case.

Do you try more to be original or to deliver to readers what they want?

I always try to write the books I want to read. Sometimes that is going hard into originality if I have a richly realized world to talk about. Sometimes, if what is popular something I like, then I will write that. Maybe readers don’t know what they want and I have a little something that might spark their interest! So I can never only bow to the whims of the people. There is also a chance that my original story uses well-known tropes just enough to draw them in. Then, before they know it, they are swallowed up in an adventure they’ve never had before!

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 am not a fan of the ten to fifteen book-long series. I know that my genres (fantasy and sci-fi) love to do that, but I do not. I do not want to start a book and realize that there are nine more to go. It rarely works and a plot can rarely be sustained over that length of time without boring the readers, or changing to vastly it’s hardly the same story it was seven books ago. I write stand-alones and I love reading stand-alones.

That being said, I am writing a sci-fi trilogy and I have plans to expand on the universe of two of my stand alone novels. But making those stand alone novels as well. Jim Butcher did a decent job with his Chicago wizard Harry Dresden. I started on book three in his series and it stood alone just fine. Because of that, I know I can safely pick up one of his books and not be forced to start the next one right away.

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

I would tell her a few things: One, don’t stop writing, you will make it. Two, your confidence is not arrogance. Young, writing me suffered a lot from fellow teenage writers and I wish she hadn’t. Three, just because you do not keep journals does not mean you are not a writer. I thought I had to fill dozens of journals to be a writer. But I found by the end of the day, after writing a short story, a few chapters in a novel, and some personal thoughts, that I had no need to write in a journal. I said what I meant through stories and that was fine.

Do you view writing as a kind of spiritual practice?

Yes and no. It’s healing for me to write some of the things I do. I cannot leave certain words locked inside me or they will kill me. I do not believe in bottling up something that needs to be said. There is magic and power in words—especially the written word. So I treat it with respect and always try to remember the power words hold.

How many hours a day do you write?

It really depends. On my blog, I write often about being organized and making time to do the things we want to do. My catch phrase is “You will never find the time; make the time.” I am a college professor with a weird and insane schedule as well as a day job as a marketing supervisor and manager. During the summer, like right now, I write for hours every day. I have the time and make even more! I write short stories, chapters, outlines, and ideas for most of the morning. As a long-time college student, I know I cannot sit in one mood for 8 hours a day writing. It starts to get weird, bad, and the prose gets ugly. So I make time to exercise, get up, move away, do grocery shopping in between. My writing hours need to be broken up.

During the school semesters, it is harder to make that much time. I always strive for 2 hours a day though. It might not be much, but it gets the job done.

Have you read anything that made you think differently about fiction?

I have a creative writing degree so I forced to think about fiction differently for a huge part of my writing career. I have read some weird books and multimedia novels as well. There was this one interactive, multimedia novel I found called “Nightingale’s Playground” that inspired me to try a project of my own. It was interesting to see stories told through words, video games, sound, and online interactivity. I created something inspired by that, using Mina Murray’s journal entries from Bram Stoker’s Dracula. It was not near as cool as I don’t have the computer know-how. But it opened the door to me for things out a hardback or an e-reader. It is very cool, but it also made me appreciate the tradition written word. And I probably like that better.  

Where can readers learn more about you?

My Facebook. I also have InstagramTwitter, Twitch. My website abigaillinhardt.com will be up in September.

Pitfalls to Avoid: Showing vs. Telling

As a writer, we have many expressions and mantras that both writer and reader alike have heard. Here’s another one you’ve probably heard ad nauseam: 

Show, do not tell.

However, a lot of amateur writers get this concept frequently wrong and why is telling so bad anyway?

Let’s start with an example of telling:

Grim unholstered his six-shot, pointing it at Sylvia. He felt angry and growled his fury.

Sylvia was unperturbed by his weapon, laughing defiantly. “If you plan on intimidating me, you’re sorely mistaken.”

He smiled cruelly, “The bullets in the gun are made from cold iron, demon. You’re finished!”

He opened fire, Slyvia screaming in anguish as each bullet tore through her violet flesh.

Is this bad? Isolated, no, not really, but it’s clearly amateurish and if the entire story is peppered with this style of writing, then it’s bad. The reason why is I’m telling the reader Grim is angry. I am telling the reader Sylvia was unperturbed. I am telling the reader Sylvia not only laughs, but how she laughs. I told the reader how Grim smiled and I told the reader how Sylvia screamed (okay that last part was really bad, but you get the point).

Understand that “show vs. tell” is a reader’s trend. At one point, it was perfectly acceptable for writers to tell the reader of the emotions and actions of the characters instead of showing. Read any 19th Century or early 20th Century literature. And if attention spans continue to get shorter and shorter, this trend may reverse itself and I may be writing a post about “tell, do not show.” I’ve been reading negative reviews of readers wanting just this thing (I’ll get into why in a moment)

So, how to avoid telling? Here are three rules to help you:

  1. Don’t use emotive words in the narrative at all. An easy test on yourself is if you have any emotive words. Angry, happy, sad, etc. Get rid of them.
  2. Use body language to describe the emotion. Instead of writing, He was angry, write, He grimaced, baring his teeth, nearly snarling. But you want the reader to feel a particular kind of rage, you say? Let the readers decide that for themselves. Don’t try to control that part of the process of writing for your reader.
  3. Mitigate or avoid adverbs. Adverbs are like salt. It’s okay to use one sparingly here and there, but overuse ruins the whole meal. A lot of adverbs is lazy writing. She laughed defiantly tells me how she laughed, and on top of it, how do I picture defiance? Instead, let’s go with, She folded her arms and proceeded to laugh, a raucous bellow that shook the room.

So, here’s the caveat of showing vs. telling and this is how I’ve seen this in the form of negative reviews. Showing increases your word count–considerably. It forces you to be more descriptive. Even if you chose a minimalist approach to describe an emotion, you’re still going to have more words than a simple, He was angry. In the example above, that was three words vs. seven. In the other example, that was three words vs. a whopping fifteen. Some readers hate this because you have writers who can literally spend a page and a half describing a gate-opening scene (George R.R. Martin, Game of Thrones, I’m looking at you). It’s beautiful, it’s immersive, but it’s long. So be aware when you’re being descriptive or you’re laying it thick on the purple prose.

Happy writing!