So, a few months ago, thanks to a recommendation from Amazon Horror Best-Selling Author Mark Tufo, I received an email from a man named Heath. He had a book written and was told that he should invest in editing before releasing it for public consumption. After some back and forth, we made the arrangements. However, Heath eventually met my wife Denise and decided that he would like to be published under the May December Publications label. I lost an editing client, but gained a friend and a talented author who will be part of the MDP label hopefully for years to come.
His new release is Return of the Phoenix (A Monster Squad Novel). I fully expect it to be a hit. So, it is my pleasure to step aside and introduce you to a great guy. Jump on the bandwagon now...
You are about to release your first book…describe the feelings you are experiencing?
Oh, wow. Man, that is tough because there are so many and they truly run the gambit of emotions. I’m in shock a lot of the time. I have a lot of fear that anything I put out there won’t be well received or that people will tear it to shreds. There’s a lot of anxiety from all of the little things that need to be done just to get it ‘out there’. Joy that I can see the light at the end of the tunnel, but I know that there’s still a lot left to be done so there’s no time to coast. It’s just a busy time and what with the holidays here, it makes it doubly exciting.
What are some of the lessons you have learned as a writer that caught you off guard?
That the writing is the EASY part! Seriously, I always thought that the hardest part was developing your characters, researching your topics or backgrounds or history or...no. The hardest part is what happens AFTER you’ve written the story. I wasn’t really prepared for that, but I was lucky enough to stumble upon some really great people who helped guide me along the way, made some really great suggestions to help me not make the same mistakes that they made and really the whole process for me has been a lot smoother than it should have been.
What can you share about your writing process?
My writing process is different than what I was taught that ‘good writing’ is supposed to be. I was always taught that you should create an outline that roughly touches on the beginning, the middle and the end, hits the highlights, key points and then STICK TO IT, regardless. Umm, I don’t write that way. I get an idea in my head and it stews for a while. It sort of marinates and rolls around for a while before I ever put fingers to keyboard. Specific scenes may even manifest and if they look good to me I’ll make note of them so I don’t forget them, but for the most part, I have a scrap piece of paper sitting next to me that I keep specific information written on and then quite literally, the story writes itself. I just type it out.
I’ve discussed this with a friend of mine. My ‘mentor’ if you will. I thought I was crazy for doing things this way, but alas, if I’m crazy, then he is too, because he’s the same way. Or, at least he claims he is and I trust him. I’ve had the story unfold a certain way that I didn’t like and try to force it back in another direction only to have the story take it back the way it was in the first place. So I’ve learned to allow the story to tell itself.
If you were to up and change genres, what would be your next choice?
As funny as it might sound, I would probably switch to historical romance. My wife used to read those books and she would go through STACKS of them. I’ve probably started and never finished over 50 projects, and the first ‘book’ that I wrote was a modern romance. I wrote it more for her than anything else. I printed it out and took it to her hoping that she’d love it. She promised that she would read it when she had time and it eventually was lost, never to be read. I eventually found it years later on a floppy disk...remember those great big soft sided monstrosities? Yeah,...I threw it out. She never did read it.
Hmm. Maybe that’s a sign that I should rethink that genre change?
What could traditional publishing learn from the Indies? And how about the other way around?
Okay, honestly, I’m probably the last person you should be asking that question. I didn’t even bother to try going the traditional route. From everything that I have read, why should you? (Keep in mind, I’m talking about the larger traditional publishers here.) The larger publishing houses don’t want to even consider new books unless they are from an established author, and although they do a lot of the work that comes after the story is written, the creator of the work gets a MUCH smaller percentage of sales. And it seems that there is always a caveat.
Indies may have to do all the grunt work (or hire it done) to get their work to market, but once it is there, they receive a much higher percentage of the sales. So to me it was a no-brainer and honestly...I didn’t think I could deal with the stacks of rejection letters.
But, traditional publishing houses could learn a lot from the Indies. They could learn that there is a LOT of very creative minds out there and that e-publishing is huge. Just because you haven’t heard of an author doesn’t mean that their work isn’t good. Just as you often do when you are considering a work, you’ll strip an author’s name from the work so as not to pre-judge it as you read it, I think the larger publishing houses should do the same. Judge the material based on content and not the name that created it.
Indies, on the other hand, they could learn a lot from traditional publishing. I’ve read a lot of e-books that are out there that made me wonder if their word processor even had spell-check, much less if they bothered with an editor. The best piece of advice I was given was to have my work professionally edited. Your work is a direct reflection on you. It should be the best that you can do. Spend the extra time to at least proofread your material before you publish.
The writing community can be its own worst enemy at times. What are some of the issues you see cropping up? Solutions?
Wow, this is almost a loaded question, but really, I think this needs to be discussed. When surfing the internet, I ended up on a ‘writers website’ and read some of the back-stabbing, hateful, demeaning, trite, petty,..ugh, the people on that website were just SO...UN-helpful. It was almost as if they felt that if anybody started to get ahead at all, they had to tear them back down. Nothing was ever good. Nothing was ever correct. There was no ‘right way’ to do anything. They bashed anything that wasn’t the traditional, go through an agent, blah, blah, blah. They spent more time laughing and shredding dreams...it was horrible. And all these people wanted was a little help.
Solutions? As hard as it may sound, the real solution would be for people to put aside the fact that ‘we may end up as competitors’ and actually guide each other. There is a lot of misinformation out there and it was only through the grace of God that I got lucky and found someone who took me under their wing. I wrote to an author that I really admired, Mark Tufo. He took the time to write back and a sort of friendship developed. He took the time to teach me what worked for him and tell me what didn’t. He showed me what software to use, which people to talk to. He helped me find an editor (you), and honestly, if it weren’t for you two specifically, this project would probably have stayed on my computer and even my wife wouldn’t have read it.
When I think back to where I was when I wrote Mark and where I am now? If he hadn’t guided me, pointed me in the right direction? If he had left me to my own devices, I would have quit a long time ago, given up out of frustration from all of the misinformation out there.
The social media is…
Had you asked this prior to my releasing ‘Return of the Phoenix’, I would have said that social media is a waste of time. I had a Facebook account for a while and just got tired of it. People would post some of the silliest things as if it were front page news. To them, it probably was like front page news. But to me, I had more important things to do than read that ‘Bobby went to McDonalds’. But I watched as my kids couldn’t get enough. It was almost an addiction to them.
Now? Social media is definitely a way to spread the word about anything! Good, bad or indifferent, Facebook, Twitter, whatever social media that happens to be your favurite, it is one of the fastest ways to spread the word about anything. Having a party? Tweet it! Somebody got married? Put it on your FB status! Just released your first novel? Put it on all of them!!
Share some information about your work with us: (feel free to be as in depth as you like)
This release, ‘Return of the Phoenix’ is the first of the Monster Squad series. As it stands now, there will only be four books in this series, but if it is well received, who knows? There may be a revival of the series at some point down the road.
In this first book, we are introduced to the Monster Squad themselves, specially augmented military operators whose sole purpose is to protect the civilian population from anything supernatural.
The team doesn’t just have to deal with the creatures that go bump in the night, but certain politicians who would prefer that they not be operating on U.S. soil. The operators are dealt a crushing blow early on and in their efforts to rebuild, information comes to light that they’ve been used as pawns by the monsters themselves in an undeclared vampire civil war.
What is one question you are sick of being asked—not in interviews, but by individuals who know you write?
Yeah, I’m quite familiar with that question.
“Is it any good?”
Uhh...No? What do you think?? Of course it’s good! I wrote it! With these two arthritic ridden hands!
I tease, but you have to realize that most of the people who actually ask me this are people who don’t read books. If it isn’t on television, they aren’t interested. I think that’s why the question bothers me when they ask it.
How will you deal with negative reviews?
Honestly? I’ll probably cry. But I’ll do that in private. In public, I’ll act as though it doesn’t bother me, square my shoulders and simply nod. Say something grown-up and mature like, “Well, I gave it my best shot,” or “You never know unless you try.” But, the truth is, I didn’t really write this to get rich and famous. I wrote this series because it was a story that I needed to share. It’s for entertainment. If people don’t like it, well yeah, I’ll be disappointed.
Will it stop me from writing more? Probably not at this point. I’ve come this far and there are a lot more stories rolling around in my head that are screaming to get out.
How much reading do you get in, and can a writer excel at his or her craft if they do not read?
I read as often as I can. And that isn’t as often as I’d like.
But I don’t think any writer could excel in their craft without being an avid reader. I don’t see how. Reading is what feeds the mind and without feeding the mind, it can’t grow. I just don’t see how one could expect to excel in any creative craft without feeding your creativity. The best way to do that is to read, read often, and read different authors so that you can be exposed to different styles.
When does self-promotion cross the line and become a nuisance?
When people get tired of hearing about it? I don’t know yet. This is my first release so I hope I don’t reach that point. I want to get the word out, but I don’t want to reach the point where people try to run the other direction when they see me coming either!
What projects are you currently working on?
I’m currently trying to wrap up the Monster Squad series with the fourth instalment. Best guesstimate puts me at about the halfway point. I’m also working on a draft version of a story for one of my daughters. When she first found out that ‘daddy wrote a book’ she wanted me to write one about her being a werewolf. We had teased her for years that she was the seventh child of a seventh child so she would be a natural born werewolf. For years she was convinced that she was going to change when she hit puberty. Well, now that she is 12 (and going on 20...) she wants me to write a story about her being a werewolf. It started out as a joke, and I was just making up stuff as I went along, but my wife loved it and thought it would make a great YA novel, so...
What is one thing about you that would surprise the readers who do not know you personally?
Yeah, you read that right. For those who don’t know me personally, I am the barely sane father of seven children. The older five are all boys (with one set of twins) and the youngest two are twin girls. We are also the proud grandparents of four. Three boys and a girl, the youngest two are twins as well (a boy and a girl). Lots of twins on both sides of our family.
We also have three dogs, a menagerie of snakes, tarantulas, scorpions, bearded dragons, ferrets...and one fat gray cat that thinks he’s a female. We don’t care if he’s gay. He’s still our Mittens.
Is there anyone you’d like to give a mention?
There are a lot of people I’d like to give a mention to. They’re the same people I gave a mention to on my Acknowledgement Page. First would be my wife Jessie. She encouraged me to actually see this project through. She was supposed to proofread for me but that fell through. Instead, she just read the stories then stood there and demanded that I ‘get off your fat a__ and finish the next one!’
Next would be Mark Tufo. He is a prince among men. If it hadn’t been for him, taking the time to guide me through the rights and wrongs and pointed in the right direction...well, this project would most likely have been abandoned. And, he introduced me to:
When Mark said that you were easy to work with, that is just skimming the surface. I’ll admit I felt a certain kinship in that we were both submariners, but you always knew the right thing to say. When I stumbled on that writer’s website and let them get into my head, you talked me off the ledge with one email. You’ve been a joy to work with and someone that I feel I can call a friend. I feel blessed that Mark introduced me to you.
And lastly, but certainly not least, my graphic artist, Ronak Kothari of ronkot.com. He’s the guy that came up with all four of the covers for the novels that really give them that professional look. He did the other three early so that as they are being prepared for release, we could use the cover art as a promotional tool. He’s got a knack for taking my weak descriptions and coming back with some of the most awe inspiring (in my honest opinion) works of art that I could have asked for.
What is in your “to be read” pile right now?
Oh, heavens. I have a whole library of ‘to be reads’...and I have my lovely wife to thank for that. She goes through books like most people go through Kleenex! Our Kindle library is stuffed FULL. I’ll admit that she and I don’t always have the same taste...
I am about to finish “Living With the Dead: Year One” by Josh Guess and the next one I want to sink my teeth into is “Timothy” by Mark Tufo. I’ve been saving that one for the Christmas break when I thought I might have a little more time.