Random Fun with Christine Gabriel, Author of Crimson Forest


Unless you are one of her many friends on social media, or mine, or have not been paying any attention to the coming Pandamoonium – which is the critical mass achieved when many Pandamoon Authors release their books on an unwitting world – you may have not heard of Christine Gabriel. He debut novel, Crimson Forest, is due for release in August. Trust me, you’re about to become a fan of this dynamic young lady.

Christine was one of the first Pandas I met after signing my contract with Pandamoon Publishing late last June. The official announcement of my signing had not been made so I wasn’t allowed to tell anyone. I found out who the other Pandas were and friended them on FB and followed them on Twitter. Christine posted something to her social media and I posted a comment. She replied and that was how our ongoing conversation began.

She was also the first to welcome to upon the official announcement, calling me a rock star. Ironic as that term is in that I dreamed of being a rock star back in the day, I was flattered. Getting to know the spontaneous person that is Christine has been an adventure at times over the past ten or so months and now that we are working together as the dynamic duo of publicity behind Instant Fame Magazine which will soon include regular video blog interviews, I’ve gotten to know more about her but I’ve also discovered there will always be something else to learn.

Yesterday morning I decided to send a few random questions her way and I waited for the responses. I think you’ll enjoy them as much as I did and, like me, become a fan of the talented author who is Christine Gabriel.

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EW: Okay, lets start with something totally random: you wake up only to realize you don’t remember your name or what you’re doing in Des Moines, Iowa. What’s the story?

CG: Well, I would automatically assume aliens had abducted me and most likely check to make sure I hadn’t been probed by some weird alien instrument. After I was assured I had not been violated, I would then check my pockets for any clue as to who I was. I would find a camera that showed pictures of all my fellow Pandamoon Publishing Authors, which would jog my memory. I would realize I was really just suffering from a severe hangover from Pandamoonium and would immediately delete all evidence of what had happened the night before…kind of like they did in The Hangover.

EW: You’re one of first authors I’ve sent that question to that actually decided to answer it. I’m impressed. So, let’s venture into some uncharted territory, talking about when you were a kid in school. Were you a troublemaker, an instigator or the teacher’s pet? Explain.

CG: In school I was very quiet and didn’t have a lot of friends. Yes, that’s right, I was a nerd. School was pretty rough for me, and I don’t miss it at all. My only regret is that I wish I would’ve stood up for myself a little more than I did. Then again, being a nerd has made me the success I am today. So I suppose the last laugh is on all the people who made fun of me as a kid. (Evil laugh)


EW: Crimson Forest is the beginning of a fantasy series set in the real world. How much research did you do before starting it? Did the research help develop the plot or did you use it to all background details?

CG: I tend to only research the places where the plot takes place. The story usually develops around that. In my current series, it takes place in a small township – Buffalo, Wisconsin. It was the perfect setting and helped to develop the ongoing story line. I just hope it doesn’t get too flooded by people wanting to check out this “crimson moss” that supposedly pretty deadly. 😉 I apologize to the citizens of Buffalo in advance.

EW: Imagine for a moment that you’re a famous, bestselling author. They’re making a movie out of your last book. What do you do next to top that you’re already achieved?

CG: Make a sex list like Lindsey Lohan…. No I’m totally kidding. Though some of the guys on her list were pretty impressive. I would continue to write novels and try to make the next one even better than the last. I would also love to one day create a network of people who feel they have no one to turn to. Basically build an online community where people can go and feel wanted and loved by others.

EW: You could call it Cyberhug Network. I think that might work. Anyway, where do you see yourself at this moment in your life had you never decided to write a book?

CG: I would probably have few friends and live life quietly. Go to my job managing a financial institution, silently wondering if that was all I was ever meant to do in life.

EW: Sounds like life would be more boring or at least a greater challenge. You have kids; unlike mine, yours are not all grown up. Family and relationships are important in peoples’ lives and so, it’s little surprise that there are relationships between characters in books. How closely do the interactions in your books mirror your real life?

CG: My books mirror my real life in a lot of ways, shapes, and forms. My fans who are close to me will definitely be able to pick up on that. I believe by putting mirror images of parts of your life in your work, it allows the reader to get to know you on a more personal level. My fans and readers are my life. I care for each and every one of them and want to share my life with not only my family but them also. They are kind of like one big extended family.


EW: When writing I’m sure you hit snags where characters aren’t behaving or the plot just isn’t working. When that happens to be I play video solitaire. What do you do?

CG: Like I said previously…I’m a big nerd so I game online. Diablo, World of Warcraft, and the classic Ultima Online are my getaways. I tend to get lost battling big nasty dragons or just sitting around chatting with people from other states, countries, etc. to help free my mind of snags. Oh yeah…and I like to golf too. That definitely helps clear my mind.

EW: There is usually someone in a writer’s past that is to credit or to blame. In your life, who was that, when and what happened?

CG: That is a very sensitive question. Yes, there are two people I will give some credit to that has motivated me to finish my first novel. One was my best friend of eight years – “was” being the keyword. She is the only person who, in my eyes, has done the ultimate betrayal…chosen someone who didn’t care about her over her own friend because she was weak. I know that sounds harsh, but it’s just the reality of the situation. The person she chose was, however, the main reason I finished my novel. She didn’t believe I would ever do it and that it would never get published. In some sense of irony, I guess I could thank her, but I don’t want to waste my breath. Instead, I will smile politely and hope that all my fans love it as much as my publisher does. I want to helping people to realize that no matter what people say, no matter how hard they try to bully you, YOU CAN OVERCOME THEM. It doesn’t matter if you’re young or old. Bullying is bullying. Believe in yourself and you can do anything you set your mind to.


EW: I’m old enough to remember what it was like to be a writer in the past when you needed a pen or pencil, a notebook, a typewriter and a ream paper. Cutting and pasting was, literally, cutting and pasting. Since computers came along all that’s changed. It has become easier not only to write, edit and revise novel but also to share your work with readers all over the world. How are you using modern technology to produce and market your book?

CG: Social media man!! Social media rocks! I have an account on like every social media outlet I think is out there. Though my new favorite is Google+:










Check out Christine Gabriel online at any of the above links and don’t miss her debut novel, Crimson Forest coming from Pandamoon Publishing in August.

I want to thank Christine for being with us in our blog universe and I promise we’ll be posting more things in the near future – even the experimental video blog interviews. Look for that soon. I think I’ll be her guinea pig. That should be yet another adventure in randomness.


How Long Is It (Until)

The month of May is a day or two away and this year above any of the recently previous years I have eagerly awaited the arrival of my birth nothing in a way I haven’t since I was a child. I recall that when I was in the first and second grades it was a terribly important thing, the month of May. The counting down the days until my b’day started. Anxiously, I looked forward to cake, ice cream and presents.

Mt Birthday Party 1963

Somewhere along the way, I grew older, enough so that getting practical gifts like summer clothes was more important than the hottest toy. Having grand birthday parties became a thing of the past, except for a simple family gathering to light the candles, sing the traditional song, make a wish and the annual test of sufficient lung power to extinguish all the candles so that the house didn’t burn down. That was also around the time that getting spanked for each year I’d lived became passé, which was something I was glad to see go away. (That last one ‘to grow on’ was always strong enough to propel me into the next week if not the next year.

Dad and Me 1963

The birthdays of my children were special events that I tried to honor. That was one of several things ex-wife was pretty good at – making the kids feel special on their one day a year to stand out and shine for no other reason than being alive. I think they have pretty good memories of parties and such, at least early on in their lives. As fate had it, my kids were all born within a few days of major holidays. My son arrived a few days before Independence Day; my oldest daughter was born just before Christmas. The youngest showed up around the particularly American holiday called Labor Day. As the kids grew older though, the inevitable happened. The number of candles became fewer and more or less symbolic as did many of the other traditional observances for growing older.

Rob Amanda and Sarah around 1991

It wasn’t like I ever suffered much for anything as a child. My dad and mom took pretty good care of my sisters and me and I was probably pretty much spoiled as the baby of the family and the only surviving son. I was the one who needed to carry on the family name, after all. That seemed important to people when I was growing up. I’m not so sure it is as important anymore.


This year, as my birthday approaches, my life is in transition far beyond acknowledging another year has passed since last I thought a lot about my advancing age.  Emphatically I can say that I have rarely acted my age. Early on I was precocious, probably because my sisters were considerably older and I was around adults most of the time if I was not at school or home. You see, part of a farm boy’s lot in life is following Dad around and learning how o be a farmer. The American farmer was an aging and perhaps dying breed even when I was a youth. Mass production of food and corporate farms were not he horizon and toward the end of my adolescence there were a couple of companies around the town where I grew up experimenting with production of livestock on a huge scale.

Anyway I was around older people for most of my life and so I acted more like an adult hone I was young than I do now that I have more of an excuse for being too serious and exceedingly grumpy. In a lot of ways I have become the kid I didn’t get much of a chance to be when I was younger.


2014 is the 100th anniversary of my father’s birth as well as the beginning of my fifty-eighth year – something I promise never to thing about again until I have to fill it in on some official document. I’ve started off the year going in several new directions. In March I relocated to Orlando from the Tampa Bay area and now I have found a job to cover my expenses while I continue to pursue my career as an author and publicist. These days the successful authors out of the millions who publish books each year are the ones who define their roles as both author and publics for unless you are willing and able to self promote your books are doomed to obscurity as just another collection of pages containing the words of a dreamer.

For my birthday this year I’d love to have a car (doesn’t need to be a new one) and a new laptop. But I know these things I need to save up for and get for myself. It’s been a while since I’ve had the former and seven years since I bought a new computer – my current one is a hand-me-down and is beginning to show its advancing age more so than I am. If a second is an eternity int he cyber universe, what is seven years? What I really hope for this year is something more immediately practical. If things work out extremely well it could help me in achieving my transportation and computing goals. I’d like to have a cover for my book completed by my birthday. That doesn’t mean it has to be revealed to the world just yet, but it would be nice to have a cover. For an author that is really when a book starts to feel like it is really going to be published.


As Fried Windows (In A Light White Sauce) enters the home stretch for its release on May 30, I have learned the editing is nearly finished. I’ll be reading through the final proof very soon and I’m looking forward to approving it. It will go to proof readers as well to pick at the knits for typos and such.

I’m excited to see the novel. It feels like once t is in print whether digital or paperback it is settled. Nothing more can be changed. I’ll feel more comfortable about moving on to writing a sequel and a prequel. Both are in progress but nothing comes easy with me. There will be two prequels I believe, and at least two sequels, though the main character, Brent Woods appears as a character in many other manuscripts that may be published over the next few years. Fried Windows may be a franchise in and of itself, who knows.

Then there is the fantasy series collectively titled The Wolfcat Chronicles. Brent makes an appearance or two in those books as well. There are other connections to Fried Windows, too. So think of Fried Windows not so much as a beginning of a story but as a opening of a threshold into an either new universe that, like the one in which we live, has been going on for a very, very long time whether or not anyone from this universe has paid much attention.  Me, I’m just a writer. I report what my characters want to tell me about. That’s what fiction is all about.

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Interview with Rose Montague, Author of Jade


Rose Montague is an author I met last fall at an online group party when all the Pandamoon Publishing authors were announced. Although she is under contract with another publisher many of my fellow Pandas adopted her as a kindred spirit. Her urban fantasy novel, Jade, debuted late last fall and I posted a review for it a few weeks later.

Rose says her goal in writing Jade was to have fun writing a book that is fun to read. It is all of that, exciting, action-packed with a lot of humor and mystery. There are many surprises and just a little bit of romance. In Jade, the title character is a mutt in the supernatural world, a mixture of various supernatural creatures with various abilities. How she became that way is part of the mystery and a lot of the fun.

Jade is part of a series that will continue with two of the other main characters from the book, Jane and Jill. The target date for publication of Jane is late summer 2014.

“I have been very pleased with the reviews of Jade and the book has been enjoyed by both fans of the urban fantasy genre as well as readers of fiction that enjoy a fast paced, fun read. Jade is suitable for older teens and adults and I would rate it PG-13.”

I asked Rose for an interview and she graciously consented.

EW: Imagine for a moment that you’re a famous, bestselling author. They’re making a movie out of your last book. What do you do next to top that you’re already achieved?

RM: I imagine this all the time. Honestly, Jade and my WIP, Jane would both make terrific movies. It has everything that makes a movie successful. Tons of action, humor, mystery, and just a touch of romance all combine to make this a blockbuster. Let’s not stop with just one movie. I want three and while we are making it, let’s do this thing where we make the last one in two parts making people squirm in anticipation for that last movie. And 3-D, got to have it. Maybe one of these days.

EW: How much research do you do before starting a novel? Does the research help develop the plot or do you use it to all background details?

RM: Most research I do involves the settings in my story. I like to be as accurate as possible about this type of thing as it involves readers that are familiar with the areas involved. I have had a lot of help from some of my friends, specifically in Guildford, UK and Germany on two of the settings I have used so far in my first two books.

EW: Let’s talk about when you were a kid. In school were you a troublemaker, an instigator or the teacher’s pet? Explain.

RM: And all three. I enjoyed learning about things that I was interested in from teachers that were interested in the students and that enjoyed teaching. For teachers that were going through the motions, that is what I did as well. For teachers that made the subject exciting and were excited about it as well, those I learned from and participated in. For these I was probably the teacher’s pet. For those that obviously hated teaching kids, I was rebellious, inattentive, and did not complete my work assignments on a regular basis. For this reason my grades tended to be great in some classes and not so much in others.

EW: Every writer has that one story that clicked, inspiring him or her to pursue writing as a career. What was the story and what was there about it that made it influential?

RM: For me this was the case with the Ilona Andrews writing team. They had a free installment series going on at the time on their website called Clean Sweep. (They are now on the second book in this free series if you want to check it out). They were doing this in installments, writing about 1,000 words at a time and I was going crazy waiting on the next installment. It was just a fun story and that is what I wanted with mine. I used this as a model for my writing and got some of my Facebook friends to read my installments as I completed them. Their fun and encouragement was contagious and I was convinced I could do it. It was really nice when they started begging for the next installment. Got to love that.

EW: Where do you see yourself at this moment in your life had you never decided to write a book?

RM: Writing a book and having it published was a lifelong dream come true for me. It was a void in my life that never went away and it would go several decades before that dream was realized. I can tell you how happy I was when a publisher accepted my book and what it felt like to actually hold that book in my hands. That is something that will stay with me for the rest of my life. I can’t imagine my life now without this part of it.

I’d like to thank Rose for spending some time with us today and let you know that you can visit Rose Montague online and become a friend, follower and fan as I have at:






And this is where you can find Rose’s debut novel Jade:



Eternal Press:







One Hundred Years Tomorrow


Bruce Williams

Fourteen years ago, around this time of year, was my father’s funeral. He lived to be almost eight-six. He always said he wouldn’t live too long past the turn of the century and that turned out to be the case. the last few years of his life he was in and out of hospitals it seemed. He had Parkinson’s and so he had difficulty swallowing properly. As a result, he was prone to aspiration pneumonia. I know he’d say he lived a pretty good life even to his final days.

Family Photo around 2003 -1

He was born one hundred years tomorrow in eastern Kentucky near the town of West Liberty. His childhood was largely about work and helping support the family. It was a hard life but also a honest one.

Dad did not have a high school education. He finished the ninth grade. He came of age in the midst of The Great Depression and served in the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) helping build the infrastructure of highways, parks and dams that modernized Appalachia. In 1935 he married my mother. He went away to Ohio to work on a farm and saved money to bring my mother to Ohio to live.

Mom, Dad and Baris (Brother) Circa 1940

The following May my brother Baris was born. My parents lived in a chicken coop at the time. Mom chucked rags into the cracks between the clapboard siding to keep the cold out in winter. Even so, it was always drafty.

Baris died a little more than a month before his ninth birthday. He had suffered in the aftermath of a fall earlier in his life when he struck his head and was prone to seizures.

Genette, Joyce and me in early 1960's

My sisters were born in 1947 and 1952. I came along in 1956. Seeing that us children had the best possible education was their priority. Dad wanted us to at least have the opportunities he and Mom never had: to graduate from high school. But his goal was for all of us to receive college degrees. His other goals were to own his own farm and his own house.

By the time I was born Mom and Dad had saved enough to buy land and build a house near the village of Selma, Ohio, a few miles west of the town of South Charleston. That was where I spent most of the first ten years of my life.

In 1965 my oldest ester, Joyce, became the first of us to finish high school. Later that year Dad realized another of his personal goals, buying a farm. A year later he build a new house on the farm and we moved into it.

Family Pics-9

Joyce married soon after high school and her son, Jay, Dad’s first grandson, was born in 1966. My sister Genette became the first of the family to graduate from college in 1974, the same year I became the third to graduate from high school and begin college. Genette continued her education while serving as an officer int he USAF. I would receive my first degree in 1978 and my second in 1981. Later on I received another degree while in the Air Force.

Genette at wedding reception with Joyce, Jay, Mom, Dad and Me

In 1985 I was married and a year later my son, my dad’s second grandson, was born. A couple of years the first of my two daughters, Dad’s granddaughters, was born.

In retirement Dad and Mom sold their farm in Ohio in 1978 and moved first to south Texas and later to the west coast of Florida. My parents lived out the last days of their lives in Palm Harbor and were interred in nearby Dunedin.

Dad and Mom on beach in Florida

There is so much more to tell about how my dad lived and what he stood for but I think it is best to leave that for another time and perhaps in another way. Suffice it to say he was a good, hard working, decent and God fearing man who loved his wife and his children and did everything he could to help other people. I never met anyone who didn’t like my dad. He overcame a lot to achieve what he did in life. I believe everyone who knew him misses him.

Mom and Dad


Making Progress Despite…


Whether writing is a gift or a curse depends on perspective…and mood I suppose. Having met a lot of writers over the years I have determined there are a lot of similarities, despite our different backgrounds and approaches. The most obvious thing we all do is write. Yet that tends to be the one thing we try our best to avoid doing. You see, we are best a productive procrastination.

Yeah, I know it’s an oxymoron. I’m not sure I actually coined the term although the first time I noticed anyone else using it was weeks later on social media. I think my kids may have been responsible for the term getting around.

The first time I used it was with my son while we were moving some pretty heavy furniture items which included a refrigerator, a freezer, a washer and a dryer and one very heavy piano. It’s a miracle either or both of us wasn’t killed moving that last thing. Anyway, after exerting maximum effort in getting a piano down a ramp from a moving truck and into the sunken living room – yeah the house we moved into was built when that sort of thing was popular – neither of us were very interested in continuing with the move. My son stood an watched me carry in things like pillows, individually, and other light articles. After I made a few trips back and forth he asked, “What are you doing?”

Of course, my answer was, “Productive procrastination.”

Simply put, it is the art of finding something else to do that makes some progress while avoiding something more productive but not quite as desirable.


As much as writers love to write, there are times when the experience is painful. I would say that most times it’s painful, but there are moments when the words flow as of the levee has broken and everything that was trapanned inside pours out. That is a good writing experience.

Mostly, writing is a lot of hours doing something that seems to take a few minutes. We enter a trance-like state during which we are awake and moderately aware of what is going on around us though largely oblivious to it. This we refer to as ‘being in the zone’. There is is possible to compose several pages containing several thousand words of story without being directly cognizant of the normal passage of time. This state can last for from four to six or eight hours. During it everything else is put on hold except for normal autonomic bodily functions and the need to purge. The need for such breaks can break the connection, but most writers acquire the ability to temporally suspend the writing session to take care of things. At times these random break allow for a new idea to rise to the surface and grab our attention.

The process is scary more so to others around us than it is to the writers. Beyond the first time when it happens and causes us to question our sanity we decide it is cool. I believe all writers – at least those of us who do fiction – are functionally insane by any conventional definition. However writers perceive everyone else, ally he so called normal people int eh world – as being the strange ones.

After we have wrestled with the crazy part of writing, ‘being in the zone’ we look at all the pages of words I produced and mostly it makes sense! It is astounding and rewarding. That’s how we generally respond. In the process all the voices inside our heads that were clamoring for attention have settled and receded into the background so that for a few hours we can sleep without interruption or accomplish something int he outside world that might actually make us seem normal to others – like washing the car, mowing the lawn or taking the kids to the park.


Why would a writer ever want to avoid the creative experience of slipping into the zone? Well, there are times when a story you’re working on becomes difficult to write. You know a character is heading for certain death and, really, you’ve grown quite fond of him or her. Yet, for the sake of working out the plot and resolving the conflict, you know he or she must go. You resist doing that. Maybe the story needs to take a turn. You throw in a plot twist or two to delay the inevitable. But eventually the most difficult passage demands to be played out.

Sometimes as a writer you work to a point of major crisis that, for the characters at least, is not life threatening, but it is just something you don’t want to write about. From experience those times tend to be the most interesting and relatable parts of a book for the reader. So if one is a serious writer, you forge ahead with it.

Other times you claim is writers block and find any number of other things to divert your attention away from what you know must be written. You let it simmer inside until it boils up and there is no other solution but to write it down. Those events are also some of the best parts of a book.

Writers are conduits – mouthpieces of the gods, you will. There are characters who live inside of our imaginary worlds and each of them have a story they need to tell so that they can exist in the minds of readers. To them that is how they choose to exist, to enjoy their lives over and over again.

The writer may choose to delay telling the story, setting it to paper or the digital equivalent, but I don’t think it can be prevented. You see, I don’t believe those characters exist solely in my mind. If I don’t write about them, they will make my life miserable for a while but eventually they will move on to the next writer. But for whatever time the characters live inside of me I’m the one best suited to tell their stories.IMG_0233


Down Into The Details


Some people are fastidious, working with precision. We need people like that to design the marvels of modern life. But I’m not really into microscopic analysis or working with numbers although, I suppose I have some of that in my nature. You see, as far as my writing is concerned, the details count. Selling fiction to a naturally skeptical reader requires that the story be believable. Suspension of the reader’s reality is required in creating good fiction that draws the reader into the story and involve their thoughts and emotions.

There is nothing else I’d rather do than write. It’s not a particularly lucrative profession, but it has its rewards – a sense of accomplishment that is never spent. Creating new worlds as a backdrop for characters conjured from the imagination is a lot of fun. They say that writing is a lonely profession. And I suppose at the outset it is. But turning an idea into a story that others will want to read is actually an involved process spanning months or years involving the skills of many other artists and professionals. When you get to that point with a story you have written, expect it to take a year or more for a book to be transformed from something that makes complete sense to you to a work that will engage the imaginations of others.

Not to diminish the accomplishment of writing a draft, but the actually composition of a story is the first part of the journey. As a would be author, one is never aware of where an idea will lead. At its inception, the story may seem to be something entirely different than it eventually becomes. For example, when I wrote the beginning pieces of The Wolfcat Chronicles it was a college creative writing assignment to develop a character profile in two pages or less. Since I fancied sci-fi as my favorite genre, I created a fantastic being of blended characteristics, a wolfcat – though I did not name it that at the time.

Scanned Image 2-1

Unfortunately, my writing instructor did not care for sci-fi and fantasy. And so he picked apart the profile. Some of his critique benefitted me in later development of the characters, but mainly receiving a ‘C’ on the assignment was a sobering experience. As I recall the instructor also spent an inordinate amount of class time explaining the tries and tribulations of submitting manuscripts only to have them rejected – based on his personal experience, of course. I’m not sure what the purpose of that was other than to perhaps dissuade us from ever competing with him for the attentions of a literary agent or publisher. For a true writer, no one discouragement morphs into part of the compulsion to write. I’m not saying we want to be rejected, but to survive as a writer one must learn to deal with the word ‘no’, even to the point of embracing it as meaning, ‘not yet’.  A true writer believes in his or her story enough to continue refining and revising it until it is ready to be published.

The next time I revisited the idea of wolfcats was in the summer of 2000, some twenty-three years later . My first novel, One Over X was in edits with a small publisher. I was working three part-time job to help keep the family going until I found something more permanent. For entertainment I chatted online with a group of people who used to plat Dungeons and Dragons – a game I knew a little about but had never played. We contrived a virtual wolf pack and had character names.

Scanned Image 2-2

One of the members of the chatroom called herself the wolfcat. I committed to writing a story about her. I figured a few pages would do the trick. Four hundred and thirteen of them later I had drafted the nucleus of the central story of the chronicles that now spans five 200-page books and draws into the story many of the character personas front he virtual wolf pack.

In the beginning of One Pack there has been a devastating fire that has destroyed the forest and charred the plains forcing the wolf pack into a direct confrontation with an ancient enemy. When I wrote the story I spend a good part of each day commuting back and froth between the Suntree area of Melbourne, FL and the greater Orlando area. There were extensive wildfires I had to navigate in other to get to where I was going and at times the smoke was so thick that it was worse than driving through fog. That experience shape the story contained in the book.


I’m not certain it’s a requirement for a writer mix elements of the real world around him or her with the fictional universe that makes it into words on a page, but I’m not sure how else one would make a fantasy seem real. In Fried Windows In A Light White Sauce, my current novel that is being published in a few days, the real world and the fantasy world converge as the main character, Brent Woods straddles the two parts of his universe. Fried Windows is another example of how a book starts off being something much less ambitious. Around St Patrick’s Day in 2012, I wrote a 5000 word short story. With the initial inspiration satisfied, I posted the story in a writers group to which I belonged and received a good deal of favorable feedback. Many suggested I continue the story, and so, I added pieces as discrete short stories involving the same characters – sixteen of them over the course of the next month or so.

Months later I added some connecting pieces to bridge the gaps in the storyline and create the framework of the novel. Not only did it become one of those quirky stories that that kind of wrote itself as it went, it also became the first story I composed almost entirely online, in installments, while receiving direct feedback from readers. By the end I had confidence that the story worked because a couple of down people had actually read the basic story line.


There is no right or wrong way to write anything whether it is a story, a poem or a book. Like the inspiration it may some from the perfect sunrise on the beach even thought he story turns out to be about something very different. It could be a something someone says or a particularly odd use of a word that triggers the internal process of your creativity. What I know for certain it that there is only my way of doing it and  yours and I think that’s pretty much just how it needs to be. As writers we are not the ultimate judge of the value of our creations. The readers who hopefully will become our fans determine the degree of our successes and failures. And that is also how it needs to be.


Wrestling With the Inspiration to Write


Sometimes, I dream and when I wake I remember. Immediately upon waking I used to jot those down those things I dreamed lest I forget them until I realized the ones worth keeping and turning into stories tend to be the ones I remembered despite whatever the reality of the waking world throws at me. The best dreams, the ones that make the best stories of all, are those I dream many times, and sometimes while I’m still awake.

The problem with dreams and dreamers is that neither are accepted as part of the adult world, yet it is the dreams of dreamers that bring change to the mundane world around us. As I see it, there are a couple of wrong assumptions out there that are the source of the confusion. They are truisms that aren’t really true, at least not as they are traditionally applied. Both have their origins well before their or even the prior century. One is British and the other is American.


The British one comes from Kipling’s famous poem, about dreaming and not making dreams your master. Not being controlled by one’s dreams will make you grown-up. There is a lot of truth in this one that conceals the lie – which is always the flaw in accepted truths. It is not about dreaming or even choosing which dreams you will follow. What is intended to be taken front he poem is that we choose to be adult and in doing so we set aside our childlike innocence and belief in dreams. Although this is absolutely true if one wants to behave as a responsible adult, it also conveys why responsibility hinders one’s creativity, distancing us from our dreams and inspiration. Pursuing practicality, very often, is the reason we do not realize our creative potential. We listen to others and their conventional wisdom in lieu of what we know, deep inside of us, that is our true destination.

The second conventional wisdom is a saying taught to us in school: if at first you don’t succeed, try, try again. The saying originated in the 18th century, in colonial America and maybe other places as well. It is attributed to a school teacher in the early 19th Century who wrote it into a lesson plan that was widely used. His intentions were good, challenging students to no give up in the process of learning. It’s  the fundamental concept is flawed. You see, telling someone to try establishing trial as good enough for a goal and that even in the face of failure, trying remains good enough. That is why people give the excuse, “But I tried” for each instance of failure.  It’s crazy to try and continue to try because doing something the wrong way will never lead to success. The seemingly harmless saying to engage students to never give up sews the very seeds of accepting effort as good enough in lieu of success.


A classic demonstration of this fallacy of trying is challenging someone to try to do something simple. They will, invariably, fail to try by actually doing. You see, as adults  we skip over the word specific instruction to merely ‘try’ in that challenge because we hear the  stated goal. Fro example, drop your keys on the floor and then challenge someone to try picking them up for you. When they hand your keys back to you, they have failed to try by succeeding in doing. Success comes when you fail to try anymore and simply decide to do things.

Believing these misleading truisms defeats the process of acquiring natural inspiration. The artist inside every child dies a little bit each time he or she deviates away from their dreams. Whenever challenged to adopt something of the adult world, distance is created between the child and the innocent belief in infinite possibilities. The few who emerge from the process of maturation with the creative connection in tact have been allowed to dream and pursue inspiration in all its various forms. The connection, though strained by the challenges of conforming to what adults call reality, has not be severed. Those who choose to suppress their creative impulses are rarely satisfied with their lives. The substitute other things, acquiring material evidence of success by society’s definitions. But in the background of their routine lives there is a longing to return to childhood, finding a way back to the idyllic simplicity of waking up each morning with he only objective being to enjoy everything about life.


Writers, like other artistic types, can reconnect with the inner child. They can draw inspiration from those parts of the world that practical, adult-minded people overlook.  Whole most people  do not have the time to appreciate the value of life and living it to be happy, those who can connect to the childlike dreamer inside can be happy in the process of expressing his or her creativity. While everyone else suffers in various degrees of misery, someone who pursues life as the adventure it is intended will find fulfillment.

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From a Misread Headline to a Manuscript and Beyond

There’s a new book coming-out soon. Nothing new about that – there are millions published each year. What’s different about this one is the odd title, Fried Windows (In a Light White Sauce) and the by line – it’s mine.


Like every book I have written it was a labor of love though the creative impulse came unexpectedly. The core of the overall story – sixteen chapters really – were composed in less than a month in the early spring of 2012. I left a dead-end retail management job after more than four years and I had pretty much decided to pursue writing as a career. As is so often the case, it wasn’t the best of times to make such a choice.

The quirky title of the book fits the unusual story. It came from a misread news headline that, of course, drew me right in. I wondered what Fried Windows were and immediately pondered how one would serve them. In a light white sauce! – yeah, it was one of those days.

AF picture 1983

Somewhere along the way I was sidetracked, deviating far from my personal goals. Some of that I did because of three kids I believed in and a marriage I no longer did. I took that one last job in order to continue supporting my youngest while she finished high school. She lived with me for a couple of years afterwards before moving away, joining her older sister who was beginning graduate school up north. That event triggered something of a midlife crisis for me. Immediately after hugging her and her sister goodbye, I felt like I was left pretty much alone.

Certainly, I was not alone. My son still lived about fifteen miles away; he was also in graduate school. My ex-wife with whom I still communicated occasionally was on the east coast about an hour and a half away from where I was. My sister and brother-in-law lived on the west coast and my great niece was in the greater Miami area. Still, for all intents and purposes I was alone.

Family Photo around 2003 -1

My job frustrated me. I don’t know whether I had ever been satisfied though at first I believed a lot of the bull about being promoted, being given my own store, and the company’s desire to change its ways to become more modern and competitive. At first it seemed like that was happening, albeit slowly. Later on it became clear that it was a district effort that was not aligned with the corporate direction. The district manager was replaced. A company man took over and word went out that there would be changes. Foremost was an antithetical concept for me that I hadn’t had to deal with since leaving the military: we were being paid not to think but to execute on directions from above. That predisposes that upper management is always right and has an unambiguous direction in its policies – which was not the case at all. Ignoring feedback from the front lines is the formula for disaster in any campaign.

Anyway, there were other reasons for my eventual resignation. Many of those related to my unhealthy lifestyle that had evolved form working crazy house, making time to write trying to write, which was something I enjoyed, and dealing with the stress of working a job in which there did not seem to be any progress. A lot of what I was experiencing related to my desire to do what I always wanted to be before getting married and going to college. A little over two years ago it seemed like the last chance I might ever have to become a professional writer – a sort of now or never proposition.

Almost a month after quitting by job, I wrote a short story under the Fried Windows title. At the time I belonged to a writer’s group. I posted the story in two installments with the break roughly where the chapter breaks are now in the book. It received favorable reviews and some suggested I continue writing about the characters. Over the next few weeks I continued writing what I believed were related short stories. Afterwards, I shelved the project and continued working on revisions of The Wolfcat Chronicles, a ten book series I began seriously working on in 2002 though, honestly, the story has roots back to a character profile I created in a writing course at Purdue University in 1977.

Purdue-University Fall

For the next year what was left of my personal life pretty much fell apart. I experienced the worst parts of economic demise and personal embarrassment. I was essentially homeless by choice doing some couch surfing among my relatives. One can only do that for so long. The experience afforded me some time to finish revisions. One of the last things I worked on was Fried Windows. I wanted to submit the initial short story to a magazine. I always believed the story was good enough to be published somewhere.

A friend who lives a short train ride away from Toronto consented to editing the piece for me. Afterwards, I figured it was in pretty good shape for critical scrutiny. So, I submitted it, sincerely expecting that it would be published. My next concern was having something to submit as a follow up, envisioning the sixteen original stories as installments that the magazine would want after all the positive feedback they would receive my first short story. Yeah, I live in my own world a lot.


While revising the pieces I found some continuity of story line. I wrote a couple of bridging pieces and what was a collection of short stories took shape as a novel – one starting with chapter three of the present book because, after all, the first two chapters were a short story that I expected fully to be published in a magazine.

The same day the rejection notification from the magazine came I finished revisions to what had grown into a twenty-eight-chapter novel. The story connected well into the overall Brent Woods universe of my other unpublished fiction ventures. I was disappointed, of course, but at the same time elated because now I had an excuse to include the short story that began it all as the first two chapters of the book. I repackaged it, renumbered the chapters and prepared it for self-publishing.

In the background I had been working on building a fan base through social media. Part of that was building up my Facebook and Twitter following. Already I had many friends who were authors and some who were publicists and small publishers as well as a couple of smaller houses with affiliations with the major publishers. Those were not really great connections for getting a book published but you start with what you have. Also, I had been seeking a literary agent for the past three or four years, discovering that finding a good one was probably the only thing harder than landing a publishing contract with one of majors which is something more difficult the gaining admission into an Ivy League school.

Somewhere in the few moments between finishing the revision of Fried Windows and setting it up for eBook publishing I receive a tweet from a small publisher based in my favorite city, Austin, asking for new manuscripts. The name of the house intrigued me enough to check them out. In the process I discovered they were a traditional publisher with a very different mission statement that focused on building author brand rather than selling books alone. Deciding that I liked their ideas for growing their business, I read and followed the submission guidelines and reformatted my manuscript accordingly. I sent it to them instead of self-publishing it. I figured I could wait a few weeks for the rejection I’d come to expect. In the meanwhile I could move on to other projects.

There’s a funny thing that happens in most author’s lives surrounding rejection. Eventually you do grow numb to it. You warp the universe around you to actually set a goal of receiving the maximum number or rejections possible for any submission. It makes sense in a way. If you try every avenue you might find that one yes. You get to the point that when you don’t receive another rejection letter to add to your growing collection you’re almost pissed-off. But then, in the next moment of disbelief, you re-read the acceptance letter as the surprise turns more toward suspicion that 1) you must have read the thing wrong or 2) there must be some catch – start looking for the fine print. Paraphrasing the immortal Grocho Marx, you wonder if you want to belong to any club that would have someone like you as a member. You’re so accustomed to hearing that your baby is ugly you disbelieve that anyone could actually like it. Even more surreal was that it had been less than two weeks from submission to acceptance. That’s unheard of in an industry that routinely takes a week to decide to get around to thinking about doing anything and several months to actual years to finally produce a novel. So, I remained guardedly optimistic going into a conference call regarding the acquisition of my book.


Although I had experience in self-publishing I didn’t have good results. The failure was not necessarily the quality of the material but the lack of promotion behind my releases. After all I was still growing my network of followers and establishing my author’s brand. That takes time. I didn’t lack from material to publish, though. At that point, I had twenty manuscripts ready to go. It was just that when I was working sixty to seventy hours a week. I had plenty of excuses for why I didn’t have the time or energy to put forth in becoming successful. I had been stuck in the trying stage of reaching my goal for so long I had grown roots and settled comfortably in obscurity. With the successful negotiation and signing of a publishing contract all that ended. Someone else believed in one of my books. Together we were going to embark on a journey toward producing a novel. A publisher was committing to provide professional editing, cover design and marketing. And so, the long journey of taking a raw manuscript through to a finished novel began.

final color pandamoon logo-2

Fried Windows (In A Light White Sauce) launches May 30, 2014 from Pandamoon Publishing. Sharing the dream begins then.


Lacuna Coil’s Latest Broken Crown Halo


I’m a fan. I can’t help it. Lacuna Coil is a great band, tight musically and in concert they are entertaining visually as well. I love Cristina Scabbia’s vocals. Also, it is quite an accomplishment for an Italian band hailing from Milan to make with English lyrics. Both Cristina and her male counterpart, Andrea Ferro, speak English so they sing with distinction not found in phonetic approximation of words.


I discovered LC in early 2006. Karmacode was charting at the time and the song Our Truth was getting some local airplay in anticipation of the band’s appearance at the annual Earthday Birthday festival in Orlando. I took the kids to the concert and we spent the day. The opened with Closer, played Fragile as well as Our Truth and included Enjoy the Silence, which I believe is the best cover of the Depeche Mode song.


Lacuna Coil was, for me, one of the high points of the event that billed such other acts as Rob Zombie, Mudvayne, Shinedown, Trapt, Theory Of A Deadman and Hinder. Lacuna Coil hit the stage in the early afternoon, played a set that was all too brief in my estimation. However it showcased their songs from their the album they were there to promote.


This year, Lacuna Coil was back in the States and they were on the bill for this year’s EDBD show that was held last weekend. Once again, they had an afternoon set. I think that’s indicative of the situation with the band and the often-fickle American music market. Over the nine intervening years not much has changed in terms of the band’s popularity in the mainstream. Maybe that’s not fair to them. I’m glad they aren’t a pop band. They are one of those great live show acts that create fans and generate a following everywhere they go. The fact they haven’t had a viral hit that has propelled them to the forefront in American rock circles has nothing to do with the quality of their work. It’s one of those things. They haven’t clicked in the right way to catch fire. And you know what, there’s more to making music than climbing the charts. Most bands these days are very happy being touring acts and playing their music to crowds. The music industry has evolved in that way. The albums promote the concerts in the exact opposite way that concerts used to promote albums.

Since the release of Karmacode, I’ve dutifully acquired each of LC’s follow-up albums. Although I like each of the albums for different reasons, there has been some experimentation with their sound over the years. The band is more popular closer to home and so there is a definite European characteristic to their sound – which is not a bad thing, just something that American audiences need to warm up to.

Sonically none of the albums since Karmacode had inspired me to wear the songs out. I have included them in playlists in addition to songs from their earlier albums like Comalies and In A Reverie. The band’s later work has turned darker then the production quality has diminished the prominence of the bass line and percussion. Sorry, but I really love bass and percussion. Although the guitar work is excellent I like they way Karmacode was mixed. Maybe that has a lot to do with my feelings about Shallow Life and Dark Adrenaline, which felt overproduced and even slickly done at times.


Dark Crown Halo is not the bands best work but it’s solidly performed. There are tracks I particularly like and have added to my playlist: Nothing Stands In My Way, Zombies, Die & Rise, I Forgive (But I won’t Forget Your Name) and One Cold Day. The remainder of the album is listenable as well. Perhaps with repetition some of the songs will grow on me. For me it’s not quite a 4 but certainly not a 3, definitely worth a listen, especially if you’re into the Gothic rock genre.


Using The Negative To Find The Positive

Out To Lunch

I believe in balance. Over the course of my life I’ve been pretty observant. Yeah I overlook some things. I’ve missed some great opportunities as well. But the one thing about me is that I notice things most others overlook. Call it a gift or a curse; it’s been a little of both. It has a lot to do with why I’m a writer, though.

If you believe in balance as I do, you see things in off setting opposites. When you have something good happens you automatically moderate the exuberance because you know there is a downside coming. But when you suffer a set back or defeat, you also know something good is just around the corner. It’s the optimistic side of this balance thing that I pay the most attention to. Maybe that’s because I really don’t like being me when I am negative. Guess what, no one else likes me being that way either.

Me in mid 1970's
When I get in one of my moods I can be funny in a self deprecating way. Remembers, I see things differently and that includes a lot of things other people miss. Fortunately for writers and comedians the world is full of irony. Actually, I have a theory that the invisible force that science is looking for, that thing to holds the universe together, is actually irony. Yep, that’s the glue. Anyway, I like to point out some of those odd, quirky things to others. Whether it makes them laugh depends on their moods. Sometimes it reinforces what they already think about me – that I’m weird. But that’s okay, as long as no one ever accuses me of being normal, I’m doing just fine.


I guess what I’m getting at is that old adage about looking for the silver lining. I’ve had some pretty seriously dark clouds over the past several years. I won’t innumerate them here because it would be a long boring litany of mishaps, failures and mistakes. We all have those. Some of us have more than our share for a while. But maybe that’s because some of us have more we need to learn about those things than others. The way I figure, I’m supposed to write about some of the stuff that happened to me. Since few would ever believe many of those things it’s probably a good thing I write fiction. Let’s suffice it to say in the immortal words of Jim Morrison, “I’ve been down to very damned long, that it look’s like up to me.”

So if you’re thinking things can’t get any worse, just know that’s up to you. Your attitude and approach to life is what matters the most. I’m not saying to be happy when something bad happen to you. That would be crazy. But what I’m saying is that you can start looking for something good to come along. It’s usually behind the worst things, just about exactly where you wouldn’t expect to find it. Let those bad things be your compass. You might have to go in the opposite direction from the way you’ve been headed – go south for a while instead of north – but there is always something good that goes along with something bad.