Featured Author: Rob Shackleford

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An English-born Australian, Rob Shackleford has lived in New Zealand and Papua New Guinea, with a varied career that has included Customs Officer, Scuba Instructor, College Teacher, and management roles in too many places.

With degrees in the Arts and Business, he is mad keen on travel, scuba diving, family history, martial arts, astronomy, and playing Djembe and Congas.

Rob is a father of two and lives on Australia’s Gold Coast.

  1. When did you start writing? I started writing about six years ago and took me about four years to write.The book was originally known as “Traveller”, a title that was too common. Since then it has been test-marketed, edited, retitled, added to, and finally emerged as “Traveller Inceptio”. It has been a long road.

  2. What is your inspiration? This is difficult to define clearly, as I became aware that I had stories that needed to be told. While I have been an avid reader for most of my life, writing was probably delayed by my being too busy with the mechanics of life rather than in living. I could quote authors such as Stephen King, George R.R. Martin, J.K. Rowling, or others who were inspiring. My inspiration can be described to have been garnered from the terrific stories by the many sci-fi, history, and adventure writers, both fiction or factual, whose moments I have shared.


  3. How did you come up with your stories? I am most fortunate to live reasonably close to beaches in sunny Queensland, Australia. One day I was sitting on a beach and, as I looked at some nearby hi-rise apartments, I had the thought, “What was this location be like 100 years ago, or 200 years ago, or let’s go the whole hog and imagine what it was like 1000 years ago.” Then it was – “How would I survive if I was to travel back to that time?” Extrapolate that out and Traveller Inceptio became, um, incepted.


  4. Where is your favorite place to write? I have a desk in our apartment. Recently I moved to the Gold Coast and have the good fortune to live even closer to the beaches. My desk is a bright, airy place where I have views of the sea. It is not distracting enough to take my mind off the task at hand, but bright enough to be inspiring and it has a positive vibe.

    My desk, with Internet availability, is my favorite place to do some serious writing. It’s really about having information at my fingertips.

  5. Do you plan your stories before starting? “Traveller Inceptio” began organically. I knew roughly how it could end, but the story soon developed as I wanted to portray how real people would react. In all, I do try to be as realistic as possible, how humans can react when placed into challenging circumstances. Naturally, Traveller Inceptio has suffered numerous axe-attacks by editors and I have learned a lot about story formation, removing guff, and writing in something close to the English language.

    A few times I experienced where I felt someone else was writing the story, where I was typing away and would go “Wow, I didn’t know that was going to happen!” I’m not sure if I am possessed, but the experience seemed to be a productive one.
    I have just completed a draft of Traveller 2 – Traveller Probo, which is a natural continuation of the story in Traveller Inceptio. There, I had had a better idea as to where I was going. In fact, the final chapter was one of the first that I wrote.
    “Traveller Inceptio” began organically. I knew roughly how it could end, but the story soon developed as I wanted to portray how real people would react. In all, I do try to be as realistic as possible, how humans can react when placed into challenging circumstances. Naturally, Traveller Inceptio has suffered numerous axe-attacks by editors and I have learned a lot about story formation, removing guff, and writing in something close to the English language.

  6. When did you first consider yourself an author? I see myself as a writer and a storyteller. When I get the big break – then I feel I can call myself an author. I still stumble over the “a” word as I have it tied to unrealistic expectations such as money, celebrity, and a mini-series, but I’m getting there.


  7. Do you see writing as a career? Yes, I do. If one is to complete a book and then go through the onerous task of publishing and being noticed, it becomes inevitable that you have to take this seriously. So, yes, my writing is a career at which I aim to eventually make a living.

    I might add on a personal note that I have had the good fortune to have sold my house, moved in with my lady love, and have the cash to do what I need for some time as yet. I don’t have the burden of a crappy job, a mortgage, or debt, so I am in the enviable position of making the choice to become a paid author and have the time to maintain the unending motivation to achieve that goal. I did, however, begin my writing path when I had all three of the aforementioned.

  8. Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing? I think writing is a major learning experience. I aim for my writing to entertain, where readers can invest the time to digest my story and come out of the experience happy to have made that investment. I hope to make my stories unique, even a little bit, and hope someone isn’t writing something along the same lines.

    My most challenging task is in the mechanics of writing; to remove excessive waffle, improve my language, be creative in an appealing manner, and learn to be a better wordsmith. In the end, writing is about using the tools of trade to create an entertaining outcome that readers will pay for.

    However, I enjoy writing and especially love having someone say they enjoyed reading my work.

  9. What was the hardest part of writing your book? The hardest part of writing “Traveller Inceptio” was in accessing accurate information regarding the people about whom I was writing. I had to know about the Saxons, a people of 1000 years in the past about which a surprising amount is not known. I had to learn in detail about how they dressed, what they ate, attitudes to sex, etc etc.

    The second hardest part was in learning to write in a more engaging style than the business manner to which I was most familiar.

  10. Can you share a little of your current work with us? I originally self-published “Traveller Inceptio” – then it was just called “Traveller”. I had the book printed and received a lot of positive feedback. The question I was asked most was if there was to be a sequel.

    I hadn’t really planned to write a sequel, but the first book lends itself to a continuation of the story. So, I have just completed a draft of the second of the trilogy – called “Traveller Probo” (Latin for investigate or prove). In “Traveller Probo”, we follow on from the success of Saxon Traveller, where governments compete to initiate their own Traveller projects. No spoilers, but politics and fame make for a heady mix when selecting which nations conduct their own projects to send their mission specialists 1000 years into the past. Some locations will surprise.

    While writing “Traveller Probo”, I submitted myself to having “Traveller Inceptio” professionally edited. There was a lot of blood, but I survived and the work was retitled, tightened, and rewritten to the version now in existence. I am again submitting the book for a final professional proofread and edit prior to “Traveller Inceptio” being printed.

    While I hope to improve my writing and composition skills and make “Traveller Probo” a technically better book, readers can be assured that their favourite characters will not be forgotten.

    I have just begun drafting “Traveller Manifesto”, the third in the Traveller series.


  11. Do you have advice for other writers? Yes. As a fellow traveller (no pun intended) I can advise the following:

    1. Writing is like acting, dancing, and music. There are a lot out there hoping to win. All I can suggest is don’t be daunted. Live the dream, write your story and don’t give up. Understand it will take a lot more effort and time than you can ever imagine. The process will change you.

    2. Writing for publication is a hard slog and a tough gig. Learn the publication process, how the traditional process is no longer valid, that agents and publishers won’t even respond to you. This is a lonely path, but if it is your dream, then you must be true to yourself and give it your best shot. Who knows where it can end up. Maybe you are the next J K Rolling. I love her story.

  12. Do you have anything specific you want to say to your readers? I hope you enjoy “Traveller Inceptio”. It might be a little longer than most, but the story is as had to be told.

    I most welcome your comments.

 

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Traveller

Read our review of Traveller Inceptio by Rob Shackleford

Featured Author: Tom Minder

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Who are you?

Tom Minder lives in southern New Jersey with his wife Paula, and writes novels and short fiction. He is published in various online journals and in the Beach Nights anthology from Cat & Mouse Press. He is a member of the South Jersey Writers’ Group and The Writers’ Coffeehouse. His novel, The Long Harbor Testament, was released by Black Rose Writing on January 5th 2017.

1. When did you start writing?

While I had the central details of my novel rattling in my brain for about ten years, I only started outlining and writing my novel five years ago. After years of telling friends and relatives that I would someday write my presumed masterpiece, I was at a family baptism where my daughter and nephew asked about the progress. Busted! I had to admit that the book was between my ears at the moment.

That night, I opened a Word doc and did a brain dump of everything I knew about the novel: characters, setting, and storyline. Hours later, I had three pages of bullet items in no particular order. I spent a month turning this into an outline, fifteen months writing the first draft, nine months of beta reading and editing, and three years of reworking, querying agents and small presses, and attending workshops, until accepted by Black Rose Writing.

2. What is your inspiration?

The works of Dostoyevsky and Graham Greene, my Catholicism, and Jersey diners. Both Dostoyevsky and Greene feature characters faced with moral dilemmas, but too susceptible to human needs to think clearly. My Catholicism, while forming my moral base, also contributed the angst needed to question good versus evil, and the expedient versus the long-term. I’ve also met with several priests over the years when they were
‘off the clock’ so to speak, and got to understand their humanity and needs.
Jersey diners are a miniature replica of the outside world: a place to meet, eat, expound of the troubles of the day, make business deals (both legal and illegal), all while consuming fat-driven dishes served by waitresses who have experienced more of life that most customers, or cops and priests, for that matter.

3. How did you come up with your stories?

The Long Harbor Testament was this mixture of Dostoyevsky, Greene, Catholicism, and minor criminals which formed into a story of small town crime and those affected.
For my anthology, which will come out later this year, I took stories of everyday Jersey life: skunks, diners, gambling, life at the shore, murder, and had my mythical couple, Sam and Lana, vanquish each foe with the help of human and mythical neighbors.

4. Where is your favorite place to write?

I have an office at home. I’m not really tempted to write anywhere else. No back of napkins, notes on my Smartphone, etc.

5. Do you plan your stories before starting?

Yes, I outline everything, even short fiction. The story takes on a life of its own as the writing proceeds, so the outline becomes more of a reference point to make sure I’m not drifting too far off.

6. When did you first consider yourself a writer?

When I finished my first draft. Typing ‘The End’ transforms the literary weekend warrior to an aspiring writer. Beta reading, professional editing, and querying turns you into an aspiring author. That big acceptance letter turns you into an author in search of an audience.

7. Do you see writing as a career?

More of an avocation for now. I don’t need writing to pay the bills, but I need it to continue to give purpose to my life in my retirement years, and stay out of Paula’s way.

8. Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing?

Exposition can get out of hand. It’s better to say just enough and have the story fill in the blanks through dialog or plot elements. Also, I’m still working out the ‘show don’t tell’ approach, as I continue to trust the reader to add their own vision to my stories.

9. What was the hardest part of writing your book?

For the first draft, staying on course towards the end. Too many temptations to review and edit prior portions. Better to proceed to the end before fine-tuning the parts. After the first draft, the hard part was accepting feedback, especially related to removing extraneous scenes. Here you think you have the perfect child, and you hear that the kid needs to lose weight, and maybe get a haircut.

10. Can you share a little of your current work with us?

I am creating an anthology of stories with the same two main characters (a South Jersey married couple) and a recurring supporting cast. The couple is a composite of myself and Paula, Dagwood and Blondie, and Nick and Nora Charles. The supporting cast includes the Jersey Devil (Herb, to his friends), the cat lady next door, Wawa clerks, diners, and other Jersey institutions.

11. Do you have advice for any other writers?

Always outline, always expect the process to be more difficult than imagined, always expect to be thrilled that you’ve taken a concept from beginning to end and produced an offspring that will outlive you.

12. Do you have anything specific you want to say to your readers?

Yes, enjoy the experience and feel free to provide feedback. Reviews are the life-blood of writing. They help the writer to see the work beyond their narrow perspective. If the story hasn’t grabbed you, let the author know.

13. What was your best support during the writing process?

I joined the South Jersey Writers’ Group in 2013, then, shortly afterwards, The Writers Coffeehouse. In both groups, writers, agents, freelancers, etc., in various stages of producing stories, share their experience, successes, stumbling blocks and advice.
I also joined a critique group which reviewed my ongoing work and provided feedback and support. It also allowed me to see the work of others and understand different approaches to writing.

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Read our review for The Long Harbor Testament by Tom Minder

Featured Author: Kerri Ann

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Who are you?

What to say, what to say? I’m a pretty easy girl. I have a nine to five-day job where I sell vehicles to the business world, giving them the most I can. But once I’m off, I write stories, snowboard, SUP board, bike and hike. I love to travel and see the world too. My thoughts are this: we’re meant to see this whole world as much as possible, not just our own little postage stamp of home. I’m a mother of two amazing boys that understand my twisted sense of humor and my odd sense of sarcasm. They game and drive my husband crazy being online so much, but it’s fun to taunt him. My lovely hubby is a fireman that has the job he’s always wanted. He does a great job, he comes home and deals with my insanity. I’ll stuff myself in a story or online with friends for hours, thankfully he’s appeasing until I hide too long. We have more pets than people and I wouldn’t trade them for the world — even as they drive us crazy.

  1. When did you start writing? High school for a project, but otherwise not until a few years ago. I would drive to and from work for hours everyday, and as I did my mind would wander and the stories would appear. I’d hear these stories and write them out to keep my sanity. So many thoughts and so many voices talking, you feel like a crazy person if it’s not penned.


  2. What is your inspiration? They are. The characters are the inspiration. They tell me what they want and I put it together. I don’t lay out a story, drafting it into a storyline, it just appears as I write. I’ll go back and forth in the story and add as needed, but all in all it’s as it happens to come to me. Never is it when I expect, or when I think they should be flowing out of my fingers, the story is as it wants.


  3. How do you come up with your stories? Sure, there’s a bit of inspiration from things around me and that takes on part of the story each time. But most stories are just a wild thought in my head. I’ve been at music festivals, snowboarding, on vacation, at a ball game, or just biking around my town and situations will oddly end up piquing my interest. You need to be careful wherever I am, as you can appear in the stories I write.


  4. Where is your favorite place to write? I don’t have a favorite place to write, but I do to edit. Editing must be done at Starbucks. The sounds of other conversations makes me concentrate. Yeah, I have to use headphones and music playlists to keep me in the frame of mind but their conversations help me block everything out.


  5. Do you plan your stories out before starting? No. They flow as I type. I wish I could do more to entice the direction of it, but it happens as I type. I hate to know the storyline upfront and that comes across in the stories. There has to be elements that make it suspenseful, intriguing, and hopefully enough to keep you engaged. Sure, I’ll give you the story in the end — what made them tick, but until then I want you to fall in love with them.


  6. When did you first consider yourself a writer? About a month ago. It had nothing to do with sales, friends or followers, it had to do with stories just flowing out and feeling right. When a story feels like a story, it makes you feel more like a writer and less like a dabbler.


  7. Do you see writing as a career? Yes. No question about it. At this time I have a full-time job and I wish that writing were it. Soon enough it will be because it gives me such joy.


  8. Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing? The tie-ins. I know where I’m taking them, I know where they came from, but it’s the bits that tie it all together. That is what makes it seamless and necessary. You can overdo it, or under, it’s knowing when to give it more.


  9. What was the hardest part of writing your book? Blurbs are always a challenge, but the acknowledgements and dedications. It’s evil to think of all those who have helped or made you better.


  10. Can you share a little of your current work with us? It’s a series. I don’t know when it became apparent that it would stretch out to the number of books I’m putting into it, but it felt right to give them all their due. My Crown and Anchor series will be stretched across three families. There’s darkness, sadness and intense happiness. I hope it’s enjoyed.


  11. Do you have any advice for other writers? Yes. Don’t focus on the sales. Sure it’s great to see yourself climbing charts, being noticed, and seeing that people have picked up your books, but it’s not the reason you started. If it was, find another profession to dabble in. Writing is a passion and if you don’t have a passion for it, then others will know. Care about your characters, give everyone you meet fairness and remember when someone helped you. Don’t be a bitch later because you’re amazing now. Always remember who you are and why you did it.


  12. Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers? Thank you. It’s that whole, ‘if a tree falls in the forest’ then who knew of you. Without readers picking it up and flipping pages you’d be nothing. I love their feedback, their care to share you and the sweetness they show for your stories. It’s immeasurable what it means.

Rushed Charged Fate of Amber

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Read our review for Crashed: Casper’s Ghost by Kerri Ann