The Biggest Secret To Being a Writer Is To …

I’ve got a book signing coming up soon (more on that later), and there’s a strong chance I’m going to speak to many people looking for writing advice.

Of course, there are many, many things I recommend you do should you desire to write, but perhaps the biggest piece of advice I have for any prospective or current writers is to read.

Yes, it’s that simple.


A lot.

Chances are, if you want to write you already are an avid reader, but even so, do not underestimate the power of reading.  Reading voraciously exposes you to other authors’ style, vocabulary, pacing, characterization, plot structure, etc.  You’ll find some styles more inspiring than others, and you may even strive to emulate those authors.

Notice that I did not say “copy.”

For example, if you read my work, you realize that I tend to write about fairly realistic science fiction or fantasy.  Meaning, my stories seem very much set in the real world except for an occasional demon or robot going about his daily business.

Interestingly enough, the authors I most enjoy reading include Paul Auster, Michael Chabon, Cormac McCarthy, and Annie Proulx.  For the most part, these authors do not specialize in fantasy or science fiction.  However, I love Auster’s brilliantly compact writing.  Chabon is a master at description.  McCarthy builds tension like no one else.  Proulx never fails to capture the essence of emotion.  Though we rarely operate in the same realms, I never fail to learn something about craft when I read these authors.  Best of all, they write kick ass books.

There isn’t much I won’t read, and I think I’m a better writer for it.

So that’s my biggest piece of advice.  Start reading more.  Read as often as you can.  Be warned, however, when reading through the lens of “author,” you’ll become far more critical and may actually realize you hate your favorite author’s bad habits.  I can’t stand the words “was” or “had,” so every time I see an author use either of them, I cringe.

Enjoy your reading!


Now Available – Dr. Nekros: A Catastrophic Convergence (Volume III, Episode IV)

The story continues, but the end nears.  There are only two episodes left after this to conclude the eighteen part serial, so I hope you’ll jump on board now!

Dr. Nekros: A Catastrophic Convergence (Volume III, Episode IV) – Determined to get her youngest son back, Zetta seeks to invade Della’s lair with the help of Anton and Lillian. Meanwhile, Dr. Nekros has yet another new ally willing to take the fight straight to Xaphan in order to return Matty to his mother. Though separated by the realms of reality, both Dr. Nekros and Zetta strive for the same thing, and both will be horrified by story’s end.

To read your copy on Kindle for only $00.99, click HERE!

Dr. Nekros: A Catastrophic Convergence  (Episode IV, Volume III)


Wonderbook by Jeff Vandermeer – A Book Review

This book touts itself as “The Illustrated Guide to Creating Imaginative Fiction,” and that’s an accurate statement.  In fact, the illustrations were really what set this book apart.  Vandermeer offers great advice concerning fiction writing, but to be honest, it’s fairly standard if you read many books concerning the topic.  The illustrations, however, were weird, unique, and beautiful.  Additionally, though they came from many different sources, they each served to reinforce what ever point Vandermeer made.  By the way, just so you know, he uses examples from his own fiction quite a bit.

Furthermore, Vandermeer collected vignettes from various sources focusing upon authors and their advice or thoughts concerning the craft.  These were a delight to read, especially Neil Gaiman’s.  Other notable authors include George R.R. Martin, Ursula K. Le Guin, and Peter Straub.

All in all, if you’re looking for an unconventional book to help you hone your fiction writing, Wonderbook fits the bill.  Even if you don’t find Vandermeer’s insights stimulating, the illustrations should serve to inspire you.


My Initial Impression Of the Affleck As Batman Photograph

Today Zack Snyder released the first image depicting Ben Affleck as Batman for the upcoming Man of Steel sequel, tentatively titled Batman Vs. Superman.  Though the movie does come out until May 6, 2016, it’s never too early to get the fans worked into a frenzy, and this photograph has apparently done just that.

You know I love Batman.  I love all iterations of the character.  There’s enough love in my heart for the character to accept most interpretations.  And concerning this image, honestly, I like where they’ve taken him.  It’s already been established that this Batman will be an older and wiser, battle-hardened version, such as the Batman depicted in the critically acclaimed Batman: The Dark Knight Returns graphic novel, and this costume does much to evoke that series’ imagery.

For example, I love that they have finally got a cape and cowl that seem attached to one another and organic to the man beneath.  Best of all, his head doesn’t look huge because of his mask.  It looks very sleek and form fitting.  It’s good.

I also like the over-sized bat symbol on his chest. Again, this looks like the one from the graphic novel, and that’s okay by me.  The belt looks cool and useful.  I love the little nuances of the costume/armor – the little lines and details.  Snyder is an extremity stylized director, and the costume reflects that.

Ironically, the costume is also far more simple than I expected.  It does not look clunky with plates of armor, it does not appear awkward due to gargantuan headgear.  Even the ears are more subtle.

In fact, quit honestly, this looks like the most “comic book” version of the costume we’ve had perhaps since the 60’s television show.  I hear rumblings that it would appear as though Jim Lee drew it, and that seems to be the case.

Are there some things I wish they’d done? Sure.  I’m a little tired of the all black Batman.  Some kind of grey and black contrast would have been nice, or even grey and dark blue.  I also miss the yellow oval included with the bat symbol as well.  Finally, the white eye slits like in the comics would be so cool, but I get that they want us to recognize the actor beneath in some capacity.

But, even having said all that, I am satisfied with this look.  To me, it’s the most loyal to the source material we’ve had yet.  I’m excited to see more during the next two years.

Graduation Day

Today is rather special for me because it’s Illinois State University’s graduation day.  On this day I officially earned my Master’s in Reading, a journey that lasted four years.

There are many people who supported this venture, but I particularly wanted to thank my wife and in-laws for the role they played in my success.  My in-laws live in town, and virtually every night I had class they were here, helping out with the kids.

It goes without saying that my degree is not mine alone.



My Long Lie and J.R.R. Tolkien

When Peter Jackson’s The Lord of the Rings finished, I made up my mind to finally read the books.  I was but a few years out of college in 2001 when the adaptations began, and never previously enjoyed the occasion to read the source material.  But, I fully intended to rectify that oversight.

Thus, I started Tolkien’s The Fellowship of the Ring.  I quit by page 120.  Frankly, I was bored with all the Shire and hobbit story.  I wanted the battles, the action, the other characters.  Because I knew all the major beats after viewing the movies, I simply didn’t have the patience to wade through the nuanced narrative.

So I quit.

And then I started lying.

I want to make it clear that I’m a pretty honest person.  I pride myself on being a good husband, a respectable father, and a responsible teacher.  I don’t lie often, and I judge those who do harshly (though I know it’s not my place to do so).

So why did I start lying concerning Tolkien?  That’s a bit complicated.  When one is an English major, one is expected to have read every single book ever written during the history of mankind.  I typically don’t give that sort of thing much truck, but when it came to Tolkien, I just could not admit to people that I’d quit The Lord of the Rings.  I could not confess that I never read the trilogy.  So I just pretended like I had, and no one ever gave it a second though.

But the guilt.  Oh, the guilt.

Okay, I’m exaggerating, the guilt wasn’t that bad.

However, I did really always feel like I’d let myself down by not completing the books.

The irony is that I read The Hobbit and loved it, but that was long before the film versions came out.

Now here we are in 2014, and I’ve been watching The Hobbit film adaptations and missing Middle-earth.  I decided now is the time – now is the time to end my lie!

So, a few days ago, I picked up where I left off in The Fellowship of the Ring, Strider soon appeared, and now the book is incredibly exciting.

I think enough time has passed that the movies are no longer fresh in my mind, I don’t remember every little thing, and I’m able to enjoy the book on its own terms.  And, as further penance for my sins, I’m confessing to the world my long lie, and working diligently to turn it into a truth.

P.S. I’m not sure Gandalf believes me.

Do Me a Solid and Show Some Love To a Teacher

I’ve taught high school English for twelve years.  I happen to work in a great district, my pay is nice, my hours are good, my benefits are adequate, and the vacations are ample.  Best of all?  I get to have a positive impact upon the world on a daily basis.  I have the opportunity to lead by example, to show young people the right way, and to be a role model.  I take those things seriously while having fun doing it.

So I’m not complaining about being a teacher.  I love being a teacher.  I think I’ve got one of the greatest jobs in the world.  But, like most jobs, I won’t say it’s easy.  The one thing I didn’t expect when I entered the profession is the emotional toll.  Engaging with nearly 125 teenagers every day is a roller coaster, and it’s sometimes challenging to remember that I’m the adult, I’m the professional, I’m the role model.

It gets especially hard around election time.  That’s when politicians like to use education as ammunition.  That’s when we hear our students aren’t good enough, our teachers aren’t good enough, and our schools aren’t good enough.  Politicians love to beat up on education because it’s something every American can relate to in some capacity.  We’ve all been to school, right?

And, like most jobs, teachers typically don’t hear much from the public unless something has gone wrong, unless there is a complaint of some sort.  Like I said, this isn’t unusual for any job, but I just wanted to point out that it’s true of education as well.

So here’s what I’m asking of you, here’s the solid I request.  If you have a child in school, please try to find something nice to say to the teacher about the job being done.  Even if you don’t have a child, please get in touch with a former teacher for whom you have positive memories and let them know they did right by you.  I can personally attest that these small gestures mean the world to educators and can do much to recharge the batteries, especially when considering the current month!

About once a semester, I get a personal note from a student.  The student often lets me know that they appreciated my efforts, my passion, my humor, or simply my kindness.  I cherish those letters.  I save them like they are bricks of gold.  I wont’ lie – I pull them out when things are a little rough and use them to bolster myself.

The gesture you show a teacher today could literally encourage them for years to come.

We all need a little cheering on from time to time, and teachers are no different.

Thanks for the solid.