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Author Interview: Robert Mullin

Robert Mullin is a cryptozoologist who has traveled to Africa three times in search of a living dinosaur. He was featured on an episode of the History Channel’s television show, Monster Quest. I am pleased to welcome him here on No Wasted Ink.

Author Robert MullinMy name is Robert Mullin, and I am a couch potato who has traveled to Africa three times in search of an animal whose physical description matches that of a living dinosaur. I am interested in a number of eclectic subjects, most of which reside just off the borders of the known realm.

When and why did you begin writing?

Though I had done a number of smaller projects in my early years, I didn’t begin writing in earnest until I was in college, when an English teacher told me, upon reading one of my papers, that I was going to be a writer. Coincidentally, my cousin and I were playing with the beginnings of a story at the time, and I decided to see if my instructor’s words were prophetic.

When did you first consider yourself a writer?

Probably not until I finished my first “real” novel in 1998 and realized that, clunky as it was, it was a complete, coherent story with the potential for broader audience appeal.

Can you share a little about your current book with us?

Bid the Gods Arise tells the story of two cousins sold into slavery on another world and getting caught up in the machinations of an ancient evil that hunts their souls. The series is a mythic hybrid drawing from a number of genres, from epic fantasy to supernatural to science fiction. These are not set at odds with each other, but part of the whole cloth of the narrative.

What inspired you to write this book?

My late cousin and I used to take walks and talk about movies and novels we enjoyed. One of our laments was that there were a great number of stories whose premises were sabotaged by poor execution. While we’ve all seen a number of well done but unoriginal films, we felt that most of the really interesting stories that could have been truly great were lackluster because the treatment did not meet the high bar set by the concept. Perhaps somewhat arrogantly (or at least naïvely), we set out to rectify that with our own story, borrowing liberally from various things we found interesting, but in a setting entirely our own. All good authors steal, but the smart ones file off the serial numbers, so I don’t tend to reveal most of my inspirational sources.

I can say that my Star Wars fandom has probably played the most significant role in terms of how I approach the fiction itself. While that series, like most masterpieces, is inherently flawed, I very much identified with the notion of trying to make the unfamiliar familiar, and utilizing grand mythic themes to tell otherwise simple human tales. I tend to prefer mystical/spiritual fantasy to magical fantasy, so in that respect as well the story borrows heavily from the Star Wars model. I deliberately tried to stay away from the fantasy/sci-fi clichés of unpronounceable names and implausible magic systems, and instead focused on real, memorable people who are the true heart of this cosmic drama.

Do you have a specific writing style?

I don’t think so. I grew up reading the classics, so I had to unlearn what are now considered bad habits for writers. I have not read the works of most of the authors I have been compared to, so I can’t really say how accurate those comparisons are.

How did you come up with the title of this book?

The title literally woke me up one night as I was still working on one of the early drafts. It seemed to sum up the primary theme of the novel and have a unique cadence. It might be a bit like catching lightning in a bottle; the tentative titles for the subsequent novels in the series don’t have that structure though they will feel consistent.

Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?

I prefer readers to draw their own conclusions. Like Tolkien, I “cordially dislike allegory,” and “prefer history—true or feigned—with its varied applicability to the thought and experience of readers.” I don’t think it’s possible to read Bid the Gods Arise without knowing where I stand on certain things, but I would hope that I do not bludgeon readers with my worldview, but rather allow it to shape the tale just as most authors do, consciously or unconsciously. I suppose that if there were one thing I would hope people take away, it would be the notion of hope and choice in the face of what appears to be fate.

Are experiences in this book based on someone you know, or events in your own life?

The relationship between the two primary characters is an oblique homage to the relationship I enjoyed with my own cousin, and one of the recurring dreams the visionary character has is a dream that used to wake me up at night when I was a boy. The other characters and events generally draw more from history, the classics, or people I know secondhand. My travels to Africa did help shape a few elements, but they came after the first drafts of the novel were done, so they aren’t overt.

What authors have most influenced your life? What about them do you find inspiring?

C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien, Jules Verne, Herman Melville, Timothy Zahn, to name just a few. Each one of them has taken me to other worlds (or at least far away and exotic places), and the latter, more contemporary, has the gift of getting me to turn the pages without being aware of the fact that I am reading. The authors I most admire have created worlds to which I long to return, either because of the magic of their storytelling or the power of their convictions.

If you had to choose, is there a writer would you consider a mentor? Why?

C. S. Lewis, because of the approach he took with his novels. He and Tolkien decided that when no one was writing the books they wanted to write, they would just have to write them themselves. That’s something I can definitely identify with. But I also very much admire the way he integrated his personal apologetics, philosophy, and worldview into his novels. Lewis was a brilliant man, and I would have loved to sit at the feet of the master and learn all I could from him.

Who designed the cover of your book? Why did you select this illustrator?

James Cline of Kanion Rhodes Studio. He had done the covers for a series done by a friend of mine (K.G. Powderly’s Windows of Heaven series), and I actually suggested him as a possibility for my fellow Crimson Moon Press author, J.C. Lamont. After he proved that he was able to visualize some of the unique concepts for her books, I talked with him about my own.

Do you have any advice for other writers?

Don’t fall into the trap of wanting to publish the first book before the second is complete. Get off Facebook. Don’t let life stress you out to the point that you forget to write.

Oh, wait, this is supposed to be advice for other people.

Read everything you can, and learn as much as possible about the craft. Learn the rules like a pro so you can break them like an artist. If you think you’re ready to publish, sit on it, finish the second book, and then go back and revisit the first.

Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?

Thanks for taking the time to let me talk to you, and I look forward to feedback from new readers! For the longsuffering fans waiting patiently for the sequel, please do not give up on me.

Bid the Gods AriseRobert Mullin

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Bid the Gods Arise

Cover artist: James Cline
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No Wasted Ink Writer’s Links

writers-linksWelcome back to another Monday of writing links for you to enjoy. This week there is a good assortment of articles about creativity, book launching and note taking. Go pull up your favorite chair and settle back with a good cup of coffee. Time to read.

Why Introverts Make Good Writers

How to Give Constructive Criticism to other Writers

5 Writing Exercises to Boost Your Creativity

The Good, the Bad, & the Ugly of Launching a Best-selling Book

7 reasons I read Kipling while brushing my teeth

3 GOOD REASONS TO KEEP YOUR BOOK SHORTER THAN 80,000 WORDS

Want to support an author’s or illustrator’s new book but can’t afford to buy it? Here’s what you can do.

Business Notes – Loose Pages or Notebook?

Library of Congress Ebooks Allow for Historical Documents on Tablets

How Shakespeare Used Prepositions

Primer for Building Your Author Platform

author platformAs a writer, it is hard to know where to start when building your author platform. What to include, what numbers to shoot for in traffic, when to start working on it, and how it all connects can be bewildering. Before I started to build my own platform, I went to several lectures by successful authors and asked what they were doing to promote themselves and their books and what sort of numbers they had when they started to have successful sales.

It Starts With Your Blog

First, the time to start working on your author platform is now. Do not wait until you have a finished novel ready to upload onto Amazon. These venues will make your book available to sell, but they will do little to market your novel except to list it in their catalogs. Allow yourself at least a full year before your first work is complete to start getting your platform onto the internet.

The base of your platform is your blog. It is the first item in your platform that you should finish. Consider it your home base on the internet, the one place that you wish to funnel all the other aspects of your marketing to. Your website should contain the following elements: a biography with a photo of yourself, a list of clips that you’ve published or links to where your work can be purchased and finally, articles, story samples and other posts of interest. Whenever possible, give a hotlink to your published work so that potential readers can get an idea of your style of writing.

Through the blog, the readers get to know you as a writer and person, creating a better connection between you. On my blog, I write articles about the craft of writing, book reviews of science fiction, fantasy and classic novels that have inspired me as a writer and do short essays about subjects I enjoy commentating upon. Since I’m a science fiction, fantasy and historical fiction writer, I interview other authors in these genre. By coming to read about an author with similar work to mine, it gets my blog in their mind, and it tends to interest the readers to stick around for other posts. Hopefully, that interest will extend toward purchasing one of my stories on Amazon.

This is the base. This is the one basic thing that every writer should have. Not a static author page. Not a simple online portfolio, but a WordPress blog where you can interact with your readership and showcase your work. I recommend WordPress over other blog platforms because it is free to use and free to host when you first start. The only option you should pay for is your domain name and attach it to your blog. Later on, when you are more established, you can move your WordPress blog to a hosted account and acquire more bells and whistles for you platform, but when you are in the first year, your traffic will be low enough that it will not warrant the expenditure.

Reach Out and Touch Your Readers

Once your blog is in place, you need to reach out and market it. To do so, you need the following: A Facebook page devoted to you as a writer, a twitter account, and a google+ account. All of these accounts should be focused on you as a writer. You are building your name as your brand, attempting to make it recognizable, not selling a single book or story.

First open up your Facebook page. Mine is called No Wasted Ink on Facebook, the same as my website. WordPress can be set to automatically post a link to any blog post I create to this page, so promoting my blog on Facebook is no additional work on my part. However, do not use your Facebook page as a place for your links alone, you need to make it interesting for your potential book customers to learn more about you as an author. I like to make small posts about what I am doing as a writer on mine. I write about the writing gatherings I attend, seminars that I go to or simply quotes from famous people that I like. I keep the subject focused on writing. I recommend using a Facebook page to make your reader contacts over having them as Facebook friends. You are limited to 5000 friends on your personal Facebook account, but you can have unlimited numbers of followers on a page.

Second, open up a twitter account that you will devote to your writing career. It should not be an account to make personal comments on. Keep all interactions on this account about writing, either answering tweets from followers or passing on tweets about writing that you find interesting. If you write in a specific genre, tweets related to that genre are also appropriate. Link your Facebook page so that all your Facebook posts are tweeted to your twitter account. It is also possible to set your WordPress blog to tweet each of your posts directly to twitter. Set up a chain so that both services are tweeted automatically.

Third, join Google+. This network is growing larger every day and the more people that are in your circles the better. WordPress will automatically post a link to your blog posts there and I recommend you take advantage of this feature. Just as you did on your Facebook page, leave comments about writing, related genre commentary and other posts related to your writing.

What Numbers Should I Have Before My First Novel Goes On Sale?

You should have the following base numbers in each area before you consider putting your first book on sale:

Facebook Page: 500 followers
Twitter: 10,000 followers
Wordpress: 500 followers
Google+: 500 followers

As you see, building your author platform takes a great deal of work. Writing and maintaining your blog is a part-time job. You will be marketing your work almost every day. Try to not let it overwhelm you. I check my blog, Facebook, google+ and twitter twice a day. Once in the morning and once in the evening.

Is all the work worth it?

I feel that putting your name as an author out is important, even if you do not have a book to offer yet. The readers will see your writing samples on your blog and get to know you. When your first book comes out, you might not be swamped with readers wanting to buy your book, but I suspect you will have far more than had you done nothing.

When I launched my first ebook The Curate’s Brother: A Jane Austen Variation of Persuasion, I did not have a marketing plan in place for my first ebook. I published a blog post announcing its launch and asked a few of my writing friends if they would be kind enough to interview me on their blogs. I also asked if I could join in a live reading series in my area and was accepted. I was astonished by the number of sales I had in the first three months after my book launch. It was not a blockbuster, but it was far more of a return than if I had published the story in an anthology or magazine. I credit these sales to my budding author platform and consistent blogging.

These steps are only the beginning in creating your author platform. However, before you publish your first ebook, this is enough to get started and to become comfortable with promoting yourself as a writer. Once you publish, there are more things that you can do to get the word out about your writing, but as they say, that is story for another time.

Guest Post: Researching the Paranormal by Carole Ann Moleti

fantasy herb kitchenI write a lot for my day job, as a nurse-midwife in New York City. Ten years ago, bored by academic and professional writing, I began a string of creative nonfiction projects, including two memoirs. One chronicles my career in The Bronx, Harlem, and Washington Heights. The other explores the trials and tribulations of motherhood.

But there is only so far you can go with nonfiction. Sometimes you don’t know where the story ends, or it doesn’t end in a way that lends itself to good storytelling. Fiction, paradoxically, requires a greater amount of universal truth to allow a reader to enter into what Gardner called the “fictional dream.” Then, there remains a challenge of creating characters with the goals, motivation, conflict–and context– to carry a story forward.

In the speculative genres, the writer must develop an entire world–be it science fiction, fantasy, or supernatural horror–to support extrapolation of current scientific realities, provide a plausible magical system, or justify the macabre and murderous whims of magical and mythic beings.

Midwives have long been associated with the use of herbs and potions, as well as with witchcraft. Most of my colleagues are not witches, but before the advent of modern medicine, women were called upon not only to assist with childbirth, but also to use their knowledge to heal any number of ills, both physical and psychological, in men, women, and children. When the outcome was not good, or the one expected, the midwife was often accused of witchcraft or sorcery.

Modern midwifery practice embraces all belief systems and incorporates the use of herbs and alternative medical practices and, as such, Wiccans and those with less mainstream religious and spiritual practices often seek our services. Though divination and connection with ghosts and spiritual beings lies outside the grasp of my mind and abilities, watching those who have the gift do their work has convinced me that all humans have the capacity to use parts of their brain in the same way, but few have developed it.

The first step is opening one’s mind to the possibility, then embracing it with a peaceful, accepting attitude. But in order to transfer that into credible fantasy and paranormal fiction, writers must, at the very least suspend disbelief and, at best, understand and accept it themselves.

In addition to mining my experience and harvesting story ideas from dreams, I’ve applied my research and journalistic skills to writing paranormal romance and urban fantasy. I begin with the facts. Huh? We’re talking paranormal, right?

Herbology, alchemy, astrology, tarot, and divination are as old as history. Prayers and offerings to deities in exchange for favors, intercessions, and miracles are part of most religions, as well as the belief in an all-powerful being or beings that manipulate events. My grandmother was a devout Catholic but lit candles in her home and in church invoking the saints and asking for special favors. Her favorite was Saint Anthony.

I value among my friends and clients many witches, energy healers, and spiritualists who have taught me much about their beliefs, and allowed me to experience how rituals (including births conducted in settings where the space is conducive to spiritual and metaphysical connections) generate energy, and how it is channeled to produce the desired effect or outcome. To research the paranormal elements in my fiction, I perform a type of research known as ethnography, where one enters the culture and environment as a participant, not simply an observer.

I’ve carefully followed the instructions of a santera on the use of teas, banishing and cleansing, potions, offerings of fruit and burning scented candles to heal both physical and emotional distress (much the same way people use aromatherapy and many Catholics light votives and pray to saints). I found my way to a gifted Chinese acupuncturist and energy healer who blew the “black smoke” of bad energy off me before, after and during my treatments, during which I feel the Qi hissing out of the needled sites like champagne bubbles. She meditated at my side during the sessions and saw things in my past that haunt me—and that only I could know—before she dispersed them.

Natural phenomena, like observing a woodland full of blinking fireflies, gave me pause to consider the possibility that fairies really do exist. I’ve talked with ghost hunters about their research and practice and learned how to monitor for electromagnetic activity. I attended Faerie Fest in upstate New York, which was a truly magickal experience. Even before I had a statue of St. Francis of Assisi in my yard, strays of every ilk regularly showed up on my doorstep looking for help.

Ethnographic research allows me to create more truthful and meaningful memoir and personal essays, which bridges the gap between academic and creative non-fiction. It gives me an endless supply of story ideas—and I can decide whether to embellish them with fantastical elements or to post them on my Twitter meme #petitemeetstreet to show off the best and the worst, the craziest and the saddest New York City moments that get my op ed juices flowing.

Ethnographic research and writing also make me a more empathic nurse midwife—since I can better understand the influences affecting my patients– and convey that to students and the many new nurses and doctors I teach and precept. While making my rounds, dashing between jobs and assignments, all my senses are in high gear, taking it all in, dictating notes into my phone, scribbling phrases onto scraps of paper and the back of the collection of parking meter payment receipts on my dashboard.

I approach research for my paranormal fiction as a traveler who wants to enter the culture to best experience it. Showing up with a camera, pad, and pencil will not allow you to obtain the information you need, nor the context required to translate it into a compelling plot with believable characters. If you’re going to ask readers for leaps of faith, you’ll need to take a few yourself.

Carole Ann MoletiCarole Ann Moleti lives and works as a nurse-midwife in New York City, thus explaining her fascination with all things paranormal, urban fantasy, and space opera. Her nonfiction focuses on health care, politics, and women’s issues. But her first love is writing science fiction and fantasy because walking through walls is less painful than running into them.

The first book in Carole’s Cape Cod paranormal romance novel series, The Widow’s Walk, was published by Soulmate. Her urban fantasy short stories have appeared in the Toil, Trouble and Temptation Anthology and Haunted, Bites, Beltane, and Seers, all part of the Ten Tales series. Carole’s review and commentary pieces have appeared in Lightspeed, The Internet Review of Science Fiction, Tangent Online, The Portal, and The Fix. Her creative nonfiction has been published in a variety of literary venues.

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Author Interview: R. Lee Walsh

When I asked epic fantasy author R. Lee Walsh to describe herself, she said, “Author, Artist and student of the impossible.” I think that this is a good description of how most authors feel about themselves. Please welcome her to No Wasted Ink.

Author R. Lee WalshAm I the only one who feels awkward when talking about themselves? As a mother of two beautiful daughters who are nearly grown now, my life is filled with the typical joys and angst of raising strong, independent, women. I’ve also been the at home caretaker for my grandfather who suffers from advanced Alzheimer’s. I always consider myself a mother first, then a writer and last an artist and poet. I’ve been writing now for thirteen years, three of those full time.

I live in scenic North Idaho and also have two dogs and a cat who I find are the perfect writing partners. They listen attentively and never criticize me for those entire days I wasted on a chapter that seemed like a good idea when I was taking a shower but may or may not have merely been a side effect of watching too much YouTube, not enough sleep or too much Splenda in my coffee.

As a full-time writer, my life sounds pretty boring on paper. I mean, I sit in front of a computer several hours a day and dream up ways to torture my imaginary friends with hopeless situations, supernatural villains and unsolved mysteries. There are wondrous days when my friends surprise me and all my plot lines mesh and many others where I bang my head against the refrigerator at the end of the day and wonder how I ever thought I could do this job. However, the truth is, I love my life and what I do. I can’t imagine doing anything else.

When and why did you begin writing?

Interestingly enough, I began writing during a very stressful time in my life. My family was dealing with a terrible tragedy and to make matters worse I’d been suffering a health crisis and underwent several painful surgeries. I started writing as an outlet during my recovery and discovered a gift I didn’t know I had. Thirteen years later I’m still writing but feel like I’m just getting started.

When did you first consider yourself a writer?

I think I really considered myself a writer when I finished my first book. It was a memoir about my life during the year when my whole family was falling apart and just writing it was a huge accomplishment. I also had some award winning poems that sparked a line of greeting cards. While I very much enjoy writing non-fiction and poetry, fiction is my passion.

Can you share a little about your current book with us?

The Last Scribe Series is a ten part epic fantasy about the last surviving descendant of Enoch, an unusual girl who unknowingly inherits the secret of creation. Based on actual prophecies and controversial historical information hidden in the Apocrypha, supernatural forces wage war for control of this unusual girl who has no idea that the seemingly innocent things she’s writing in her diary are actually creating a new world.

While there are multiple installments in the series, in order to give your readers a better understanding, the long and short of it goes something like this:

According to a six thousand year old prophecy hidden in the Apocrypha, the last surviving descendant of Enoch will inherit the secret of creation, enabling him or her to create the future with the stroke of a pen. In order to protect that survivor, the identity of the last descendant has remained one of mankind’s longest running mysteries and is considered by most scholars to be the most dangerous person who will ever live.

Behind the scenes of the world’s largest mega-church, 18-year-old Hope Matthews can’t wait to leave for college. As far as she’s concerned, her stepfather’s meteoric rise to fame as America’s favorite televangelist has done nothing but make her life miserable.

Constantly surrounded by cameras and an embarrassment to her famous family, the only thing worse than her reputation as a troublemaker are the rumors surrounding her personal diary. When a jealous prank between siblings puts the unreadable contents of that diary into the spotlight, she’s labeled as suffering from mental illness. She soon finds herself the target of a bizarre conspiracy, accused of a brutal murder.

Wanted by the authorities and unaware of her world changing power, she flees from the sheltered life she’s known. Hiding herself in an underground world of runaways, rebels and graffiti artists, she’s secretly followed and protected by a powerful stranger named Yuri, whose mysterious origins run deeper than the scars that cover his body. A violent encounter uncovers the truth about her heritage, and she is faced with an impossible choice – if she saves herself and the people who betrayed her, it will destroy everyone she loves.

From the streets of Portland, Oregon, to the catacombs of Paris, an ordinary girl with an extraordinary destiny must find the courage to write a new world into existence as supernatural forces wage war for control, all of them determined to rewrite the future of humanity by becoming masters of The Last Scribe.

What inspired you to write this book?

One day I was in a second hand book store and saw the Apocrypha. As someone raised in a very religious environment, of course I’d never been allowed to read it. I took it home and read through the whole thing in a few days and when I was done, I knew I had my story.

Do you have a specific writing style?

I’d like to say I’m pretty simple and straight-forward with a touch of humor, but others say world-building and dialog are my strong suits. I don’t know if style is something I can decide for myself at this point.

How did you come up with the title of this book?

It started out as something else and was developed with the help of Michael Neff of Algonkian Workshops. He and I went back and forth several times and actually wrote the synopsis before finally coming to The Last Scribe.

Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?

Each and every person has the power to change the world.

Are experiences in this book based on someone you know, or events in your own life?

You know, all writers take some from their own lives and some from others. Being a writer makes you a student of human nature. There are little bits of everyone I’ve ever met in my characters–some more obvious than others. But at the end of the day, I’d have to say the characters wrote themselves. I’m always amazed at how they take on a mind of their own and tell me what they think instead of the other way around. The Last Scribe is really about Hope and her journey to uncover the truth about her heritage and ultimately the purpose of her life.

What authors have most influenced your life? What about them do you find inspiring? This is such a hard question because it depends on circumstances. I remember reading books during certain times of my life and being inspired, then reading them again and wondering why I liked them so much. However, I do have some that I will always love, like Ted Dekker and his When Heaven Weeps Trilogy. The allegorical nature of the story really moved me. I also loved Dean Koontz and the Odd Series as well as his darker, more terrifying novels like What the Night Knows and Relentless. I love the way he always threads faith and hope even in amidst the most horrifying story.

If you had to choose, is there a writer would you consider a mentor? Why? I’m going to say Dean Koontz. I’ve read all his books and truly love how he uses every day people to tell outrageous, horrifying yet somehow inspirational stories. I don’t know any other author who does that.

Who designed the cover of your book? Why did you select this illustrator? It was a collaboration between myself and Tim Alexander of DieAtlantic designs. He’s been my website designer for years and got what I was trying to do from the start. I’d recommend him to anybody who wants killer artwork for their books and websites.

Do you have any advice for other writers?

Don’t give up! I can’t tell you how many writers I know who have given up on their stories without ever finishing them. Join a writing group with people you don’t know (objectivity) and really invest yourself in it. Listen to advice and critiques with an eye for improving your writing, not just arguing your point. If you want to be good at any craft, connections, and commitment and ongoing education is paramount. Also, write because you want to and not for money.

Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?

Thank you. Every last one of you, the good and bad have made what I do worthwhile.

The Last Scribe Book CoverR. Lee Walsh
Lewiston, Idaho

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Publisher: Story Merchant
Cover Artist: Timothy Alexander

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