Tag Archives: science fiction

Author Interview: The Brothers Cheney

As I wandered through the small press area at WonderCon in March of 2018, I discovered a well-organized table for a group of science fiction authors. The intriguing detail I discovered was that they were three brothers who write military SF adventures, mysteries, and fantasy novels – often at the same time or as co-authors!  I felt compelled to invite them to No Wasted Ink.

Authors - Brothers Cheney

We are three of seven brothers who grew up on the north Oregon coast.

Jeff- I am living in Northern Oregon and working in the Computer Manufacturing industry. I have three grown children (one still living at home) and am living with my wife in a small town in the woods. I am brother number 2.

Craig- Though I’m an Oregon native, I’m currently living in Utah with my wife and children. I have a day job as an electrical engineer, which is constantly offering me new challenges. I am brother number 4.

Jared- I am also an Oregon native, and Oregon has been home for most of my life. I have had brief stints elsewhere, and have traveled extensively in my twenty plus year technology career. I have worked as a global technology executive and leader for more than a decade, which has provided some great vignettes for writing. I am brother number 7.

When and why did you begin writing?

Jeff- I had to write a short story for a junior English class in high school and the story never gave itself up inside my mind. I kept expanding it into a novel length story in my head, though I never finished writing it. I kept writing other stories and those I did finish. With that first story, I started to see stories everywhere and wanted to write them.

Craig- My first attempt at writing a novel was in 1992, though it’s always been an interest of mine. I was living in the same city as a different brother (#3), and we had a great idea for a Star Trek story based on Aleksander, Worf’s son, when he grew up. We had quite a bit done, but ST: The Next Generation was still airing episodes, and eventually, Aleksander’s history changed to the point that our story wouldn’t have worked, and we never finished it.

Jared- I actually began writing in high school, with three different stories that I am still working on.  I have always read extensively and have always enjoyed recounting stories. Writing has been a natural extension of that throughout my life.

When did you first consider yourself a writer?

Jeff- It wasn’t until I finished Dead Reckoning, our first book. Up until then, it had just been a hobby that kept me way too busy. When I was able to stick to the end and finished the project and get it all the way to publication, I truly felt like a writer.

Craig- Writing is still not my principal employment, though I’m trying to move that direction, so I don’t think of myself primarily as a writer, even now. The first time I felt confident in my ability to write was after I entered a writing competition and won the runner-up award. That was my first positive feedback from someone who was neither family nor friend.

Jared- In my college studies, I spent an entire year working on a thesis with a very well published thesis advisor. When I completed it, and he signed off on it as publish worthy work, I began to take confidence in my capability for technical writing as well as storytelling work.

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

Dead Reckoning is the first of four books in the Pathfinder Series. We have just finished the series and really enjoyed the process. Dead Reckoning starts the series as a loyal captain is thrown into the void of space with a few of his loyal crew. They are told they can survive by going to a nearby planet, but the captain is obsessed with regaining his ship and decides that he and his crew have the resources to take their small shuttle back to Earth and return with a crew to take back the ship.

The book tells the story of the captain and his small crew trying to survive, overcome immense obstacles and return home safely.

What inspired you to write this book?

Jeff- We had wanted to write a book together for some time and we got together and chose a theme that none of us had already written on. It was an adventure trying to figure out how to write a book with three separate authors, but it was great fun.

Craig- Honestly, it was a combination of lots of things. The main impetus was the desire to work together so we could hold each other accountable to finish what we start. Before this, I had probably started writing a dozen stories, at least. Then the question arose of what to write, and we decided it wasn’t fair to take a story that one of us had started, because that one would feel too possessive of it. So we decided to create a new story. Some of the elements of Dead Reckoning are loosely based on the book Men Against the Sea, which is the story of Captain Bligh and his loyal crew sailing a tiny boat 4,000 miles across the Pacific to reach civilization after The Mutiny on the Bounty.

Jared- Several of us brothers had wanted to write together for a long time before we decided to find a story that we could create together and tell in an interesting way. The opportunity to work with my brothers on something fun and creative was my motivation.

Do you have a specific writing style?

Jeff- I like to plan out the basic plot but write each chapter creatively. I usually have a list of things that need to happen in each chapter but not how they will happen.

Craig- I am mostly a planner, which is really a necessary thing when writing as a group. There are lots of instances of me sitting down to write according to plan and coming away with something very different, however.

Jared- In order to work closely with my brothers, it requires us to plan closely together. My style leans more towards creative flow, and I tend to see and hear the story playing out as I write in order to make sure it flows well.

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

Craig- Dead Reckoning refers to a means of navigating without having any landmarks to work with, where you keep track of your heading and speed to deduce where you are. It was used frequently in Men Against the Sea, and it seemed to fit our book as well.

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

Jeff- There wasn’t one when we started, but we wanted it to be a survival story, so the persistence and overcoming obstacles was a big part of the story.

Craig- I think the overall message is to keep moving forward. Bad things happen, but if you persevere, you can still find success.

Jared- For me, it also resonates that you can’t just allow things to happen to you, no matter the circumstances, you have choices and you have to take whatever opportunities you can.

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

Jeff- Not any of the stories, but some of the characters have a basis in some of the people that I know. Things that I like and things that I don’t like.

Craig- Not really, though one of the stories the crew tells to pass the time actually originated in that Aleksander story I wrote years before. (Never throw your writing away!)

Jared- Nothing specific, although one of the very frustrated engineers experiences a series of events that drive an outburst I have felt brewing in a few engineering situations before.

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

Jeff- Robert Heinlein is probably the biggest in my early life. Also, Anne McCaffrey. They turned me into a reader at an early age and turned me into a SciFi/Fantasy reader and into science as a profession.

Craig- Robert A. Heinlein’s juveniles were my favorites as a kid, especially The Moon is a Harsh Mistress and Sixth Column. The most impactful books I have read are The Count of Monte Cristo by Dumas and Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance by Pirsig. The former is not about revenge, as most people think, but about justice. The latter just has tons of little tidbits of wisdom about how to interact with the world. Also, Shakespeare’s plays are great reference material for studying how and why humans behave the way they do.

Jared- As a very young reader, J.R.R. Tolkien and some of the classic Sci-Fi authors, Robert A. Heinlein, Isaac Asimov, Phillip K. Dick, Anne McCaffrey were what introduced me to untold worlds. McCaffrey’s Dragons of Pern brought me back around to a thirst for great stories that I found in fantasy fiction, including tragedy and heartbreak, along with the soaring human (and dragon) spirit. I continued to read Sci-Fi, Fantasy and Historical Fiction, Environmental Fiction, traditional western civ classics, along with a lot of business and engineering books over the years. I will forever be grateful to my college Honors professors for interweaving so many classic stories & novels into my education. I will have a bit of nostalgia for those early influential authors.

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

Jeff- There are a few that I would name. Michael Stackpole has taught a class at ASU for novelists that I have taken and he has been a great help, answering questions and making comments on my work. Robert Vardeman has also been a part of that program as has Joe Nassise. All three have been helpful in mentoring my writing. There have also been numerous critical readers along the way.

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

Craig- My brother-in-law, Mark McCormick, did a marvelous job on the original Dead Reckoning cover. When we decided to create a boxed set for the series, I created the covers to match each other. I think it’s a good design, but definitely more sterile than the original.

Do you have any advice for other writers?

Jeff- Keep writing! Believe in yourself. Study what you are doing and keep working at it. If you don’t have success with your first effort, start again!

Craig- I’ve heard lots of good advice over the years, but the best was this: “Be married to your book while you’re writing it, but be divorced from it while editing.” You have to be emotionally invested for your writing to be any good, but when it comes time to trim and fix, if you’re too emotionally invested, it can blind you to its flaws and keep you from cutting out what really needs to go.

Jared- Plan your outline carefully to make sure you have all of the nuances the story will need. Then, as you write, don’t be afraid to change the plan when the story needs to evolve, but don’t lose your direction. Let the story come to life, and let inspiration come when it can, but don’t feel like it has to be there all the time. Keep writing no matter what.

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

Jared- We really appreciate our readers. I have actually been thrilled to find people we don’t know who have read our work and have great things to say about it. I actually appreciate those that buy it and have anything to say about it at all, but we like the positive ones better.

deadreckoning_lowresJeffery L., Craig J., and Jared L. Cheney
Portland, Oregon and Ogden, Utah

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Dead Reckoning

Cover Artists: Mark McCormick & Craig J. Cheney
Publisher: 7Cs Books, LLC

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Author Interview: J Carrell Jones

Author J Carrell Jones writes science fiction and fantasy dealing with existentialism. His main protagonists typically have a strong sense of duty, integrity, and character. His writing has been described as telling a story first and entertaining second.

Author J Carroll JonesGreetings all. My name is J Carrell Jones. I am a writer. And because I am a writer, I am mentally unstable, and I lie. How else could I describe myself? I hallucinate often, I hear strange sounds, and unseen people talk to me – awake or sleeping. I have a strong urge to write down what I see and hear in my head. My mind’s eye is overly active, and I fib a lot. The stories I tell never happened, but I write them as if they had, or will happen. It is something I do. I am a writer.

When and why did you begin writing?

I started out writing Star Trek fanfiction back in the mid-80s. My alter-ego was a Vulcan male raised by a human martial arts specialist. Chiita Scar’an was the Chief Security Officer on board the USS Shadowstar. The ship, commanded by Captain Sandor Kaos – a werewolf/human hybrid, was a Star Trek: TOS period vessel. The Captain/President, Lee Birdine, of the club wrote the main storyline. Club members wrote satellite stories. I made my first attempt at being a serious writer by self-publishing an Action-Adventure novel. That was 1988. It took me another 23 years to publish my second book.

When did you first consider yourself a writer?

It was 1988. I realized writing stories using someone else’s Intellectual Property was not helping me. I was contributing to someone else’s world and I thought that was silly. If I was going to bleed, sweat, and cry over a story it had better be mine.

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

Enemy Me is about the co-founder of a big Pharma company risking his life, multiple times, to stop the company from realizing a drug that was certain to doom humankind. Pete Walker, the co-founder, created clones to help fight the Pharma juggernaut, Forever Life, Inc. The book begins with Pete 6 waking up after Pete Five sneaks into the building and blows himself, some scientist and vital equipment up. Pete 6 realizes suicide missions was not the way to go. Interestingly, he was the last of the Pete Walker lookalike clones.

What inspired you to write this book?

It was a Star Trek: TOS episode titled, “A Piece of the Action”. Kirk and Spock were lead into one of the Big Boss’ office. The large desk the Boss was sitting behind started the journey. I kept thinking, suppose a scientist was cheated out of money. He knew that it would be near impossible to get revenge without help. He created clones to continue his fight in the event he was killed.

Do you have a specific writing style?

My writing style is straightforward. I like to drive the story using dialog and action. I give enough description to help with the scene, but I focus mainly on what the characters say and do.

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

Who was Pete fighting? Strangely enough, himself. I toyed with the words: enemy, self, and fight. After a few days of hard thinking Enemy Me jumped out.

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

The purpose we think and feel for ourselves may not be what eventually is our destiny. Individualism and recognition of self must be embraced if we are to fulfill existing and future goals. Success is subjective.

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

Heinlein, Asimov, Gerrold, Brin, Moon, Cherryh, Van Lustbader, King, Clarke, Hubbard, Foster, Zahn, and McIntrye. I’m inspired by how they built their worlds. They all have their own style but knew how to build worlds that were as real as the world we live in. That’s talent and confidence.

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

Robert A Heinlein. When I was trying to find my voice, I emulated his style. His books Time Enough for Love, Tunnel In The Sky, Space Cadet, Citizen of the Galaxy, Friday, The Man Who Sold the Moon, The Moon is a Harsh Mistress, and The Number of the Beast talked to me. Heinlein had a way that impressed me to the point that I really wanted to be a writer.

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

I do my own cover design. One reason I decided to do my own book cover is that I had faith in my “artistic” ability. I’m no artist but I am a Graphic Designer.

Do you have any advice for other writers?

If you are writing fanfiction, stop. Stop immediately. You’re adding to someone else’s IP. They are profiting, you are not. I’ve heard the excuses, “but I am honing my skills,” “I like the author’s world and characters,” “My stuff is not good enough yet.” First, hone your skills on your own IP. It’s your world with your characters. You’ll never write your stories by writing someone else’s. Second, great, you like the Author’s world and characters. Who’ll discover your world and characters if you never work on your original stories? And lastly, your stuff will never get any better if you never work on it.

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

Continue to read and support authors. We write to tell stories, but if no one reads them, what good are the stories. As writers, we do a lot of eventing – as defined by Native Americans. We spend many hours crafting, building, and shaping our worlds. Without readers, ultimately, the journey is for naught.

Enemy Me Book CoverJ Carrell Jones
Inglewood, California.

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Publisher: Mythical Legends Publishing, LLC

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Author Interview: Joanna Volavka

Author Joanna Volauka writes sci-fi, fantasy, and dabbles in horror of the creepy-but-not-slasher variety. She appreciates a good setting description any day of the week and tends to give her pets cameos in the things she writes.  Please welcome her to No Wasted Ink.

Author Joanna VolavkaHello! My name is Joanna Volavka and I’m a bit all over the place, but I’d say the key things to know about me are that I love animals, I love to travel, and I geek out about things like Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings, and Disney! My day jobs have tended to be in conservation or environmental education, and I’m always usually volunteering if I’m not working for an animal place. My first job out of college was as a zoo educator and I still love teaching people about animals!

When and why did you begin writing?

I wrote my first book at the age of four. It was called Silvia the Flower, and I illustrated it as well, then dictated the words for my mother to carefully print onto the pages, which were stapled together. I don’t think I ever really stopped.

When did you first consider yourself a writer?

This is a difficult question as there are days where I still don’t think of myself that way! Writing has been a thing that I “do” for a very long time, though. I decided that I wanted to be an author in 7th grade, though.

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

My current book is called Threadwalkers, and it’s a time travel story about a girl whose life seems to be unraveling around her until her best friends forget her and her mother vanishes into thin air! She has to find a way to stop people who have gone into her past to try and erase her before they succeed. Think of it like A Wrinkle in Time meets Back to the Future and you’ve got it!

What inspired you to write this book?

This story started as a sort of mental game I play with myself where I follow thoughts along a logical course to come up with an interesting solution—in this case, what type of scientific explanation might there be for ghost sightings? I thought, well, what if we aren’t seeing ghosts in the classical sense, but just thin parts in the fabric of spacetime and are witnessing the same location with living people, just at another point in time? And then what if you could affect things on the other side? The story grew from there.

Do you have a specific writing style?

I am a total word-vomiter and I have no shame in admitting it! I sit down and just dump everything in my head onto the page. My attitude is badly written words are better than none at all—it can all be fixed in editing! And once I get into the mental zone of writing, I find that the ideas just flow naturally, which is nice.

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

The title of Threadwalkers is the name of an important group of people in the book, and to which the protagonist belongs. But I don’t want to spoil anything for you if you read it!

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

Threadwalkers emphasizes the importance of family and friendships, and of finding yourself in the middle of life feeling like it’s in complete upheaval, which I think anyone who has ever gone through adolescence can relate to.

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

I have never, to my knowledge, traveled through time, except in the regular way; that is to say, I’ve only moved forward and the usual rate of 24 hours a day.

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

I think that we are all combinations of the various books we’ve read, so it’s hard to pinpoint a single style. Authors I admire may not be very similar to me, but I still enjoy them and can learn a lot from them. I love Maureen Johnson’s narrative voice and the way she can set a scene; I admire the way Libba Bray builds worlds that feel so fully developed; I love a good mystery and have devoured everything by Agatha Christie I could ever get my hands on.

Do you have any advice for other writers?

My biggest advice for other writers is to just keep doing it, plugging away bit by bit. I still feel like I have so much to learn, and even just going through the publication process is an education so that I learn more with each stage from the first draft through figuring out what the heck to say when I sign a book. (I’m still looking for creative things to write other than just signing my name, so feel free to make suggestions!) I think the other thing is that persistence really is the name of the game, and don’t take rejections personally. I viewed my querying process for this book a lot like online dating—sure the rejections were discouraging, but if the other person said no, then it wasn’t a good match anyway! I had to wait for the right match.

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

Thank you all so much for investing in this story! My book sells pretty much by word of mouth alone, and I appreciate each and every one of you who have read the book, written a review, or recommended it to a friend. Thank you. (And a special thank you to those who have sent me your favorite dinosaur. If this applies to you, then you know what I mean.)

threadwalkers-coverJoanna Volavka
San Diego, CA

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Publisher:  50/50 Press

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Flashfiction: SOS by Wendy Van Camp

SOS

SOS
a science fiction flashfiction by Wendy Van Camp

Lola stood on the crater edge, a tablet and stylus in her hand. Her ear itched, but there was use in scratching at it, her head was completely covered by her spacesuit helmet. She bent over and picked up a few of the grey stones and let them tumble from her fingers.

“Lola, have you finished your determination?” Professor McCranky – ahem – Professor McCranston, was tapping his wrist to indicate that time was passing.

“One minute!” Lola toggled the sensors in her helmet and a grid pattern appeared before her. She used the chip in her brain to interface with the tools in her suit to measure the cup-shaped crater. It was around 10 kilometers and had no central floor. A small one, known as an Albategnius C, or ALC. She spun in the light lunar gravity and then bunny hopped back to the rover. Before she entered the rover with the other students, she tapped her tablet to the Professors. He looked at her result and grunted. Then the group was off to the next stop.

Johnny nudged her. It would be a long ride to the next crater example. Topography was a required course at Lunar University. Learning to identify terrain was a survival skill on Earth’s single moon. Through his faceplate, she could see his dark eyes and skin. His father was seldom home on Luna Colony, he piloted one of the supply ships that made the trek between the Moon and Mars and the turnaround time was a long 18 months. That was one of the reasons why he started coming around her home dome, but over time they developed a friendship that had turned into something sweeter than either had expected. However, graduation was approaching. Soon both would need to make a choice about their future.

The rover stopped and the group of students tumbled out into the grey dust. The Professor tapped his wrist and then gestured for the group to spread out. Johnny touched her arm and then bounded off, leaping far too high in the air as if he were Buzz Aldrin exploring the moon on the first moon landing. Showoff. She took smaller steps and found the edge of the new crater in good time. She toggled on the measurement system and scanned the crater. This one she had seen before. She had visited it with her Mom and Dad on an outing years ago. The complex crater had to be close to fifty kilometers in diameter. She did not wish to approach the edge since the inner walls slumped to the bottom floor. Its archetype was isTriesnecker also known as TRI.

There was a crackle in her helmet. “Aiee! The wall is going down.”

Lola froze and then whirled toward where her friend had run off and in horror, she realized that the lip of the crater had collapsed taking her best friend down with it. She ran for the wall, not caring if she was putting herself in danger. Before she could reach the edge, a hand clamped down on her shoulder and stopped her forward motion. It was McCranky!

“It is too dangerous. Stay here. I’m going to send for help from the rangers.” The other students gathered together, their shoulders hunched, helmets tapped together to allow them to talk in private without using the radio. The professor returned to the rover.

Lola felt as if the air had squeezed from her lungs. Disregarding the professor’s instructions she made her way to the edge of the crater, inching forward until she could see over the lip. Down below, on the smooth floor, Johnny lay with his arms and legs spread wide. Was he dead? She sighed. When you’re gone. How can I even try to go on?

There was another crackle in her helmet. “SOS.”

“Johnny! Are you okay?” Her eyes widened and her breath came out in ragged gasps. Her oxygen levels were doing a wild dance. Was he crying out for help? Where were those damn rangers!

“The crater is an isSosigenes. SOS.”

“You asshole! Are you playing me?” Down below, Johnny pulled his legs and arms in and rolled over. He sat up and gazed up the long slope of the crater. He tilted his helmet to one side and shrugged his shoulders.

“Stay where you are, John. The wall of the crater could go down further. This is not a laughing matter.”

“Yes, Professor.”

“Oh, and you are wrong in your determination.” The professor said. “The crater is known as an isTriesnecker.”

“Doh. A TRI? No wonder the wall collapsed.”

“This is why we take you out here to observe the craters. It is for your own safety. Next time, watch your step.” The professor put a hand on her shoulder and tapped his helmet to her for a private conversation. “Be careful, but stay here with him. We’ll get him out of there soon enough.”

“Thank you, Professor Cranston.” Maybe the man wasn’t so cranky after all.


SOS is a science fiction flash fiction. Maybe I was up too late at night studying topography when this little story came to my mind.  This is a little fun one with no connection to a future project.  A little YA adventure.

This story is also available to members of Medium. If you would like to support me as an author, please go to Medium and give my story claps. Clapping lets the Medium system know that my story is popular and it will gain more visibility.

Author Interview: Tim Callahan

Author Tim Callahan is a writer of Space Opera and Superhero fiction with a bit of Science Fiction horror mixed in.  He is a member of the Dragon’s Rocketship Facebook Group.  

Author Tim CallahanHello, My name is Tim Callahan. I work in the IT department of Philadelphia Law firm. I’ve lived, and worked, in Philly most of my life and it’s a place I love. I’m married with two dogs, A pitbull-terrier named Jeffery (Named after a robot in a commercial I liked at the time we got him) and Cocker Spalie/ Black Lab mix named Kenseth. (Named after a race car driver.) Besides writing I enjoy reading, Football, Baseball, and vacationing with my wife.

When and why did you begin writing?

Started writing when I was a kid, probably around 11 or so. I always had way more imagination than smarts and would constantly act out in school, thinking that I saw a ghost or that aliens were going to come and take me away. I also loved to read. Mostly comic books but I eventually moved on to novels. There wasn’t a day where I didn’t have a book in my hand or I wasn’t tucked into a corner of the house reading something. It was during the idle times that the voices, who I later discovered were characters, would just tell me stories about themselves and what they were doing. Eventually, I realized the only way to shut them up was to write down what they were telling me. Didn’t take me long to realize how the act of writing not only shut them up, but it was also a lot of fun.

When did you first consider yourself a writer?

When I finished my first book, at the age of 13 (It wasn’t a very good or long book.) Even though I didn’t know it at the time, it showed that I could start and finish a story I had written. That’s probably the hardest part for beginning writers, finishing, and it’s something I knew I could do at an early age.

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

It’ll be the fifth book in my Evolutionite Chronicles books. Set in the city of Haven, which has the largest population of Evo’s, those born with special powers, it’s going to be about a powerful man with god-like powers returning after everything thought he was dead. A small group of Evo’s get together to try and stop him from destroying the world.

What inspired you to write this book?

My love of comic books and comic book stories. I can’t draw so writing is the best way to get those stories out there.

Do you have a specific writing style?

A lot of writers influenced my style but I really try to emulate the greats like Arthur C Clark, Robert Heinlein along with some of my new favorites, like Tim Pratt, Jim Butcher, and John Scalizi.

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

Don’t jump to judgment until you have all the information.

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

All my books contain something I’ve experienced, either a feeling, a person, a conversation, or an actual event. In fact, this book will have a scene where a teacher punishes a child for flushing a grapefruit down a toilet in school. (I’m the kid being yelled at because I did that in first grade and flooded the bathroom)

Do you have any advice for other writers?

Probably nothing they haven’t heard before. Write every day. Write what you’d love to read. Don’t worry about what people think. Don’t even worry about what you think while writing. Trust your instinct. Sometimes your writing brain is ahead of your thinking brain and understands the story better than you do.

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

Keep doing what you love. It might not be writing, it might be drawing, it might be computers, it might be working on cars. I’m lucky in that I get to work on computers all day, something I’ve loved as much as writing, and I get to write when I’m at home. Long as you do what you love and you’ll always find happiness, even in dark times.

Dagger and Shadow Ninja HQ- resizeTimothy P. Callahan
Philadelphia, PA

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