Thursday, July 29, 2010

No Training Necessary

I'm sick of politics, politicians, liars, cheaters, anyone who stretches the truth and isn't a fiction writer. Thought I'd share some political quotes that tell us nothing's changed over the years. Well, that's not exactly true. I'll take that back and say. . . politicians haven't changed. Let me remind you there's a lot of truth in these quotations. Yeah, yeah... I know there are some good guys and gals out there, too, but I sure bet we can't agree on who they are. :)

Democracy means simply the bludgeoning of the people by the people for the people. ~Oscar Wilde

Politics is the art of looking for trouble, finding it, misdiagnosing it, and then misapplying the wrong remedies. ~Groucho Marx

Politicians are a set of men who have interests aside from the interests of the people and who, to say the most of them, are, taken as a mass, at least one long step removed from honest men. ~Abraham Lincoln

A good politician is quite as unthinkable as an honest burglar. ~Henry Louis Mencken

One has to be a lowbrow, a bit of a murderer, to be a politician, ready and willing to see people sacrificed, slaughtered, for the sake of an idea, whether a good one or a bad one. ~Henry Miller

We hang the petty thieves and appoint the great ones to public office. ~Aesop

A politician is a fellow who will lay down your life for his country. ~Texas Guinan

If a politician found he had cannibals among his constituents, he would promise them missionaries for dinner. ~Henry Louis Mencken

A politician will do anything to keep his job - even become a patriot. ~William Randolph

Be a politician; no training necessary. ~Will Rogers

This seems like a good time to tell you about an excellent place to eat in Lake Charles, Louisiana. Dan's BBQ Express is located at 2635 Country Club Road in South Lake Charles. They have plenty of parking and plenty of room inside. They're definitely worth your time. Being from NE Texas, there were times we felt desperate for good BBQ and would hit our home town BBQ joint every time we went home. That was before we stumbled across Dan's BBQ. Now, we get our BBQ fix before we leave town. Dan serve delicious plates (and ample portions) of chicken, pulled pork, sausage, sliced and chopped brisket, ribs... loaded baked potatoes, two kinds of potato salad. Mmmmm, my mouth is watering and I just had my weekly sliced brisket sandwich yesterday. Hey, make a note that they're closed on Mondays and are open from 11-3 on Sundays.

Also, Dan's BBQ Express was voted Best Barbecue in SW Louisiana. Yeah, this time, the voters got it right!

Friday, July 23, 2010

Giving Back

I'm a home body. I'm probably just a blink away from being a hermit. A couple of years ago I forced myself to make a change in my life. I got involved. This time I didn't do my customary tip-toe-in-with-great-caution-and-hesitation entry. I leaped. Head first. I became president of my local writer's organization--Bayou Writers' Group. What a learning experience that has been. Being prez has opened my eyes to many things, and offered some fantastic opportunities.

Without going into detail about all those wonderful opportunities, I want to share one thing--the main thing: giving back.

Last Wednesday, I gave away $120,000 dollars and determined who to give it to and exactly how much to give. That's a simplification. I served on a grant committee so I evaluated between 35 and 50 projects and deemed them worthy or not. I liken it to shopping.

If you've ever been shopping with me then you know I'm not good at it. I pick out something, walk around with it for 30 to 45 minutes while browsing, eventually put it back and head home. I don't spend money well--except in bookstores(new and used) and grocery stores. Serving on the Decentralized Art Funding Grants Review Panel stretched me long and taut. It actually hurt.
For a month, I've read grant applications, studied essays about specific projects, glanced over budgets (as if I knew what I was doing) then re-read essays. I'm showing pictures of the binders holding these grant proposals. Just look at them! Each panelist had TWO of these books to read through. I've never read so much passion in my life! And that made it even harder for me.

We evaluated each project on need and impact, administration and budget, planning and design and quality. We had to take a look at how many people the project would benefit, if the artists involved were professional and qualified, how the grant money would be spent. The panel meeting was open to the public. That meant anyone who had an interest in a specific grant application--the very grant writer!--could sit in the audience and listen to us discuss their organization, their essay, their passion (or lack thereof). We couldn't speak to them; they couldn't speak to us. (Whew!)

Several days leading up to the meeting, I woke up during the night with phrases from the essays flashing through my mind. On the Monday night before that Wednesday, I actually jumped out of bed, panicked, because I thought the following day was the meeting and I didn't feel prepared. I don't think I've ever participated in anything more stressful ... or more rewarding.

I learned things about my community that I didn't know. I got a glimpse into many organizations in my community that I didn't know existed. I learned that what I thought was just a fun weekend festival with good food and dancing was something a lot more important, and meaningful. I got to speak up for projects I really believed in. I came away with a sense of pride in my parish for all it has to offer and respect for all the people involved in these various activities. There are so many talented, professional people who work full time jobs and still find time (make time) to give back to the community.
I gained even more respect for the staff at Arts & Humanities Council of Southwest Louisiana because of all they do, their wonderful attitudes and knowledge...and because they never fail to smile and encourage. I thank them for giving me this priviledge and honor... and for letting me feel as if I've actually given something back. (Bayou Writers' Group has been the recipient of a grant or two during the past couple of years.)

If you ever have a chance to work with your arts council in any way, jump at it. You'll be so glad you did. You might even consider contacting them and asking for the opportunity to help. If you're a writer, editor, instructor, publisher, business owner ... they would welcome your time and expertise. They have a huge job. If I found my month of involvement stressful, what must they feel with all the budget cuts and lack of funds. They have to stay on top of things, and they don't do that by being slackers. These people really work on behalf of the arts.

If you write grants for your organization (or want to), a few tips: all panelists know about your organization, your project, is what they read in that grant application/proposal. Your essay needs to be thorough and paint a positive picture. If you're allowed to include evaluation sheets, thank yous or testimonials, a DVD, CD or color photographs of your project, by all means, do it. Those visuals can help tremendously. Typos are offensive. They make it appear as if you didn't care enough to proof so turn in a clean grant application. Get some fresh eyes to proof it for you. And by all means, somewhere in your essay, state why you want or need the money.

Grant writing has got to be as difficult (in my mind) as short story writing. The author has a limited amount of space to say a lot in a passionate way. In a nuteshell, my advice on writing a grant is . . . make every word count.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

What Do Readers Want?

Home Safe is my first Elizabeth Berg book and one of the most beautiful stories I've ever read. The only thing that could have made this book a more perfect read (for me) is the weather. It should have been cold outside, maybe rainy. My house should have been clean. I should have been bundled up in comfy lounge wear and thick socks with a crackling fire in the fireplace. With Home Safe, atmosphere is part of it because the story itself is filled with atmospere. In spite of the hot weather and my dirty house, it was a perfect read.

One minute I was laughing and the next I was trying to hold back tears. The next moment I felt anxious and hyper. For me, this book was an emotional roller coaster ride. When I put the story down each night, I'd lay in bed wide-eyed, thinking, remembering my childhood, wanting to get up to write, write, write. I marveled at Berg's observations. Her insight is amazing. I read some of her sentences and paragraphs several times because of their beauty. Berg is an expert on pinpointing and exploring universal feelings and fears.

I can't help but think WoW! this is what writing is all about. This is what we writers try to do--are supposed to do--in our books and stories--evoke emotions of all kinds, make our readers say wow. :)

Thank goodness I didn't read the Amazon reviews BEFORE I bought and read Home Safe. Many of them were negative. Several readers stated they couldn't identify with quirky main character Helen Ames. I have to ask ... must we ALWAYS identify with the main character? Can't we just learn from Helen, enjoy her quirkiness, watch her struggle, grow, stumble, change?

I did identify with Helen Ames. Home Safe made me explore my relationship with my own daughter. Helen's mother was as head-strong and as private a person as my own. I knew exactly how Helen felt, way too often. Yeah, she had some annoying traits as we ALL do but her introspection and the run-on dialogue she had with herself was spot-on. I'm constantly talking to myself--in my mind. Worrying. Wondering. Questioning. Observing. One long run-on sentence.

And her writer's block, her fear of being alone, her inability to do things around the house that her husband used to do before his death, her love for her daughter (and fear for her) ... this is real. VERY real. I can't imagine anyone not absolutely loving this book. Every loose thread was tied up in a satisfactory way. (I'm convinced part of our world's problems is because we fail to/are unable to put ourself in another's place.)

What talent Elizabeth Berg has for describing the quirkiness of human nature. She's truly a gifted writer. Probably a poet at heart.

I intend to investigate other books by Elizabeth Berg. I can only hope they're half as wonderful as Home Safe.

And when it gets cold here in Louisiana, a gray rainy day, I'm going to start a fire and lose myself once again in Home Safe. This is the kind of book one can read over and over again. I can't wait to discover those delicious little tidbits that I missed this go-around. I know there will be many.
This book is a keeper.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

My Life This Week

This week has gone by in a flash. I’m sure you’ve heard the saying, “If I’d known I would live this long, I’d have taken better care of myself.” I’ll amend that by saying: “If I’d known the years would fly faster in old age, I’d have chased my dreams in my youth instead of playing so hard.”

Things I’ve accomplished this week:

1) Drove to Beaumont to attend the Golden Triangle Writer’s Guild meeting. Author Wendy Lanier spoke to the guild on Writing for Hire. Wendy, her husband and daughter, and writer Kathy Haskins and I went out to eat and tried to solve the world’s writing problems. It’s always fun to hang with new writer friends. Kathy won first place in the 5th annual Warren Adler short story contest so her work will be published in an anthology. Wendy has been added to the BWG Conference staff.

2) I’m reading Home Safe by Elizabeth Berg. Love it. Quirky main character and quite different from the very graphic thriller writer I’ve been reading. Nice change for me.

3) Home Safe inspired me to begin a short story. Inspired meaning. . . I put the book down, grabbed my computer and wrote for about two hours straight. I haven’t finished it yet because I have two possible endings in mind. They both seem too predictable to me so I’m not sure which way to go with it. I’m not a short story writer; never been successful at it so we’ll see. (That sentence seems very misleading. What have I been successful at? Don't answer! Don't answer!)

4) On another note, I have a flash fiction piece that finaled in a contest. According to the congratulatory note, I "beat out" (their words-not mine) 200 other entries which means I’m in the top 100. Well, I don’t hold out much hope there but it’s a thrill, nevertheless. And it’s a first for me. I repeat: I’m not a short story writer.

5) I’m involved in another project that I can’t mention right now, but next week I’ll be able to discuss it. I’ll either be singing praises or ranting.

That’s it for me. What have you been doing this week? Any good news you want to share? Any short story advice? How about … just a hello?

For fun:

If winning isn't important, why do we spend all that money on scoreboards?" ~Chuck Coonradt

"If winning isn't important, why keep score?" from Star Trek: The Next Generation

"Ever notice that people never say "It's only a game" when they're winning?" ~Ivern Ball

Friday, July 9, 2010

Louisiana Saturday Night Revisited

I haven't taken the time to track down another Louisiana author to interview so I thought I'd list interviews from the past couple of years. There are short story writers, romance writers, mystery and scifi writers. There are self-pubbed authors, traditional and small press. Some good interviews and some not so good. A little bit of everything. There's even a 9-year old author. Well, I suppose she's around 11 now. I'm posting the links in case you see a name you recognize.

Also, if you live and breathe and write in Louisiana and I haven't interviewed you, email me. I'll be happy to shoot you some questions. If you have the questions (I could name names) and never returned them, just send them back to me and all is forgiven. :-) Don't be shy. Self-promotion is a must in this business. I want to let readers know you're alive and well, and writing in Louisiana.

In the meantime, check out these Louisiana writers:

Shonell Bacon - Yikes! Since this interview, Shonell has moved to West Texas. :)

Chere Coen - Author, columnist, freelance writer.

Barbara Colley - Cozy mystery and Romance writer.

Neil Connelly - Louisiana is losing this great writer.

Connie Cox - Teaches, edits and does web design.

Ro Foley - One of my best friends. I sat up all night reading her manuscript.

J.Bruce Fuller - Poet.

D. B. Grady - Sci-fi, fantasy, Atlantic columnist

Charles Gramlich - Sci-fi, fantasy, horror, NF author

Winnie Griggs - Historical romance

Curt Iles - A lover of stories, nature, history, and dogs, he writes of the wonders of the woods and the memorable people who live there.

Doris Jean Shaw - Romance

June Shaw - Mystery Writer

Erica Spindler - Mystery writer

Pamela Thibodeaux - Romance Writer

John Mayeux - History of his tribe

Jan Rider Newman - Novelist, short story writer and poet. Since my interview with Jan, she's started blogging: Check her out.

Alyssa Paul - This is the young writer.

Lenora Worth - Romance Writer.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Louisiana Saturday Night with Author Charles A. Gramlich

I became aware of author Charles Gramlich when I saw a comment he'd left on someone else's blog. I tracked him down and became a follower of his blog. On the basis of a few very interesting posts, I ordered his book, Write With Fire and it immediately became my favorite how-to book. I learned some new stuff. How often can we say that? Gramlich's voice is appealing to me, like an old friend sharing writing secrets and offering encouragement. I can pick up Write With Fire, turn to any chapter and become totally captivated by his popcorn bits of advice, suggestions and personal experiences. This book is an easy read with some great info. You can buy it HERE.

I hate splitting my interviews into two parts. I like everything neatly in one place. Stay with us and read every word. I hope you enjoy meeting Charles Gramlich as much as I have.

1) Tell us about your books—the genre, etc., and a little of your background.
There have always been two primary streams in my writing, Fantasy and Horror. The Talera trilogy and Bitter Steel, my recent collection of short stories, are all fantasy,

while Cold in the Light, my first published novel, was a horror thriller. Most of my biggest short story sales have been in the horror genre. Increasingly over the years I’ve started combining elements from both genres in my work, and I always like to have a major element of adventure in everything I write.
As for my background, I grew up on a small farm in Arkansas but was never interested in farming myself. My mom, who was born in 1916 and only got an 8th grade education, wanted her children to be well educated and two of us earned PhDs. I got mine in 1986 in Psychology, and came to Xavier University to teach. I’ve been there ever since. I was an early reader and that’s what got me into writing. I wanted to be able to tell more of the kinds of stories that I grew up loving to read.

2) When did your passion for writing truly begin? What’s kept you going? I wrote some stories as a kid but they were strictly for my own amusement. I didn’t think about anything beyond just telling the stories until I was eighteen and decided to write a western. That was the first time I thought about writing something that might be publishable.

One of my professors at Arkansas Tech University was a writer, and I showed him the book. He told me I had promise and offered to help. But only a short time after that he died and I completely gave up writing until graduate school. I couldn’t stay away from it, though. I thought about the characters and setting for Swords of Talera for over a year before one day I just started writing it. I couldn’t hold back any longer and got so caught up in the joy of creating the story that I knew then that writing would always have to be a part of my life.

3) What is your writing process like? Do you stick to a writing schedule, set yourself daily, weekly, yearly goals?
I write almost every day, but how many hours I spend at it depends on whether I have deadlines or not. I really have only one primary goal, and that is to make progress every time I sit down to write on whatever project I’m working on. No one can write a book in a day, but if you make progress every day then you know you’ll get to that magic point where you can say: “The End.”

4) Once you come up with your idea for a novel or a short story, what methods do you use to flesh it out to determine if it's salable—or maybe just to finish it?
I talked about some of these techniques in Write With Fire. One of them I call RQW3R. Ideas and characters tend to occur together for me, and once I’ve got that I start doing background reading to flesh out my knowledge. Reading is the first “R” in the equation. The “Q” stands for question, and as I get the story into motion I start to ask myself continual questions about what happens next. I try to make sure the answers aren’t the obvious ones. The “W” is write, and the 3R means rewrite, rewrite, rewrite. It’s during the rewrites that I make sure every question got asked and answered appropriately.

I also find that a lot of my best ideas come when I’m walking. This may date back to my childhood on the farm when I often took long walks and daydreamed about exotic worlds and wild adventures.

5) Do you utilize critique groups or readers? What are some of the best characteristics of good critique partners as opposed to bad?
I do have a critique group, although I write a lot so I never get to show them everything. I don’t have any beta readers at present but I’m considering trying that for my next book. I’m interested to see if it will help.

I’ve been in other groups too, and I think there are some clear does and don’ts.
1. Do remember that it’s the writer’s story, not yours.
2. Do mix positive comments along with your criticisms.
3. Do be honest.
4. Don’t make demeaning comments about a writer’s genre or educational status (I’ve seen it done).
5. Don’t try to rewrite a writer’s story to make it match how “you” would have written it.
6. Don’t couch your statements in absolutes, such as “This will never sell,” or “Never use second person,” or a hundred other things that some writers think are rules but really aren’t.

6) What challenges or obstacles have you encountered in your writing and how did you overcome them?
A big obstacle for me is that I have a day job that can be very time consuming. Xavier’s normal course load is four courses per semester. I teach three because I’m also chair of a big research committee. There are times during the school year when my days are full and I can barely make any progress on writing. I always try to remember that even a paragraph a day is progress and will eventually get me to my goal. When I first started at Xavier I also taught every summer and that made it more difficult. Now I take summers off and that’s when I actually finish the bulk of my projects. During the school year I focus on making small, consistent progress. Consistency is the key to getting your writing done despite whatever obstacles come your way.

7) You haven’t gone the traditional publishing route—you’ve published with small presses. How is the state of publishing today affecting the small press author? Sometimes I think you might be ahead of the game and be in a better position than traditional press authors. What have been the rewards of small press publishing for you?
The big presses focus almost exclusively on commercial projects that have mass appeal. Small presses are much more willing to take risks on material that is professionally done but not highly commercial. I actually like to work in genres that once had mass appeal but which attract a smaller readership in today’s market. The small presses can survive with a lower number of sales and they also do a much better job, in my opinion, at courting small groups of ardent fans who the major presses ignore. Small presses also still nurture developing writers, which the major publishers no longer even attempt to do.

I like the individual attention you get from small presses, and the chance to be more involved in activities like writing back cover copy. I like the speed with which small presses can move. I like that they’re not afraid of experimentation. I don’t like that small presses typically have almost no advertising budget and the writers have to do most of their publicity on their own. I certainly wish they had better pay scales, too, although I’ve seen those fall steadily in the major presses over the last few years.

Both routes to publishing have their positives and their negatives. The small press has been a good fit for me and for the type of material I really want to write.

8) You’re married to an artist. Your home must vibrate with creative energy. How do you two help each other when faced with negativity and rejection? Are there any shared projects?
It’s wonderful. We bounce ideas off each other all the time, and since we’ve both experienced rejection and know how that attacks the core emotions of a creative individual, we can help each other through those tough moments when you sometimes just want to chunk it all. We also know to give the other person that space and alone time every creative person needs.

So far, the only shared project we’ve done is that Lana illustrated the cover of my poetry chapbook, Wanting the Mouth of a Lover. We do have some plans for future collaborations as well, and I’m looking forward to those. Lana has been so supportive of me and I know I wouldn’t have published half the stuff I have in the last few years if not for that support.

9) Have you had any downfalls or negative experiences working with a publisher/agents/other authors that have made you want to just drop out and do something safe and sane?
There’s a piece in Write With Fire called “Death By Prose” in which I talk about starting out in writing, and how so many stories I sold ended up never getting published because the magazines folded first. I actually sold Swords of Talera twice to publishers that never printed it. With Cold in the Light, I tried to get an agent and finally snagged one. Four months later she wrote to tell me she’d been diagnosed with a severe illness and was retiring. Another agent loved the first half of Cold in the Light and then decided the last half was too gory. I gave up on agents after that.

There have been many, many times when I’ve thought of quitting. I’ve imagined how much reading I could get done if I wasn’t trying to write too. I’ve thought about how I could catch up on years of movies that I’ve missed, and maybe follow a TV show once in a while. I’ve imagined what it would be like to come home from my day job and just relax instead of turning my mind to the next story or book that I want to do. But I can’t stay away from writing. It’s got it’s fangs in me, and I’ve got mine in it. For good or bad, we are locked together in a relationship that isn’t going to end until I physically can’t do it any longer.

I’ve also met many wonderful individuals through writing: readers, critique partners, editors, publishers, other writers. They’ve enriched my life so much that I don’t think I could survive any longer without them.

10) You have an Internet presence. Tell us how you use the Internet to boost your writing career and generate fans/followers?
The internet is an important tool for all writers but it’s absolutely critical to the small press writer who has to do pretty much all of his or her own promotion. I have a blog at and I post there consistently. Not every day, but every two or three days. And although I occasionally post personal material, I try to generally keep my blog’s content focused on writing and reading. I also have a Facebook account and I’ve made friends with many readers and writers there. I visit a lot of blogs that focus on reading and writing, and leave comments. I’m genuinely interested for one thing, but I also know that you need to make contacts and nurture those contacts if you are going to make a career as a small press writer. The writing and reading community is a giving one, and the support you give to others comes back to you in ways you’d never predict.

11) Do you experience self-doubt regarding your work? How do you handle it?
I often think that self doubt is a chronic condition for writers. I doubt myself all the time. There are days when I despair of my ability to write. But I’ve been at it long enough to know that those feelings will pass. I never do anything in the throes of emotion, like one author I know who in a fit of sudden depression burned all her manuscripts. Sometimes, a sentence I thought was just awful one day won’t look so bad the next morning, or else I’ll see an easy way to fix it that I couldn’t see before. Most of the time, I suspect that a writer’s material is neither as great as he or she thinks at those most joyous moments, nor as bad as it appears on those inevitable dark days of despair.

12) Who are your favorite authors, and why do they inspire you?
I love to read so I have many, many favorite authors. Some of my all time favorites are Edgar Rice Burroughs, Robert E. Howard, Kenneth Bulmer, C. L. Moore, John D. MacDonald, Louis L’Amour, and Ray Bradbury. All of these are influences on my writing. Some of the modern big name writers I really enjoy include Joe Lansdale, David Gemmell (who regrettably died recently), Dean Koontz, Cormac McCarthy, and James Lee Burke. I follow a lot of writers who are sometimes called the mid-list writers but who are in the top tier for me: people like Candice Proctor, James Sallis, James Reasoner, and O’Neil De Noux. There are also a lot of small press writers whose work I admire and who deserve a much wider audience, folks like Wayne Allen Sallee, Robert Reginald, Angeline Hawkes, Christopher Fulbright, and David Lanoue.

Reading good writers inspires me in many ways. For one, I just absolutely love great prose. I keep a shelf of books handy by my desk to read passages from whenever I need inspiration. The Snow Leopard is on that shelf. The Odyssey is. Hemingway’s short stories are there. If I wasn’t a writer, I’d still be a huge reader.

13) If you had it all to do over again, what would you do differently? In other words, what mistakes have you made while seeking publication?
There are things I probably could have done to improve my standing in the publishing world. I probably should have focused on a single genre of writing rather than leaping around all over the place as I’ve done. I certainly could have focused on more commercial projects. But I’ve enjoyed every moment and every story in my career so far and I wouldn’t give that up easily even for more money and fame. I’m proud of the work I’ve done, and although I certainly wish I had more success I don’t want to write “just” for success, as in money and fame. That’s not why I started writing, and not what has kept me at the keyboard through plenty of lean years. It’s the love of story and characters and beautiful prose that has kept me working

14) What’s the best advice you’ve heard (and followed) on writing/publication? What’s the worst advice you’ve heard?
The greatest advice I’ve ever found about writing came from a variety of sources but can be boiled down to this:
You must start writing.
You must finish what you start.
You must submit what you finish.
You must do it over and over.

The worst advice? Well, there’s a ton of bad advice out there, or at least advice that will cause new writers problems if they try to take it literally. The absolutely worst advice is of the “never” variety. Never use adverbs. Never start a sentence with “and” or “but.” Never use any dialogue tag but “said.” I always counter such advice with my own “never” statement. “Never throw any tool away.” There are times when you need to “tell” rather than “show.” There are times when “and” is the perfect word to begin a sentence with. There are times when ending a sentence with a preposition is the best way to do it. The hardest part about writing is deciding exactly when to use a tool, such as an adverb, and when not to. There’s no shortcut or magical formula for that. Writers have to learn through experience, and they don’t need to handicap themselves up front with a lot of “nevers.”

15) How do you craft a plot? Give us your best secret for plotting a novel.
There appear to be two types of writers, “plotters” and “pantsers.” I’m of the “pantser” variety. By that, I mean that I don’t develop an elaborate plot for a novel before I start writing it. I have a character, a situation, and I generally know where I want the story to end up. But I don’t know all the steps it will take to get there. As I write, I always keep my ultimate goal in mind, but I like to let the story develop organically rather than forcing it into a specific stream. I tend to write several chapters, then experience a pause as I work out where to go next. I suspect most pantsers follow this “write and pause” pattern while fewer plotters do. I think good books can be written in either way. It probably also depends on the genre. A thriller or mystery needs more plotting than a pure adventure novel. For me, however, knowing everything that’s going to happen in a story takes away much of the fun of writing it.

16) How do you think reading the work of others helps you as a writer?
Reading is just so critical for writers. For one, it lets us know what has already been done in the fields where we write so that we don’t just repeat the clich├ęs. It also inspires us, in two ways. I’m inspired when I read really good stuff because I’d like to be able to achieve that same level of skill. I’m also inspired when I read stuff that isn’t very good because I know I can do better and am determined to show it.

17) What piece of writing have you done that you’re most proud of and why?
That’s a hard one. I agree with what others have said before me. Writers’ stories and books are much like their children and we’re usually proud of them all, but in different ways. I’m proud of Swords of Talera because it was the first book I wrote that proved to be publishable. I’m particularly proud of Cold in the Light because I wrote it at a time when I had a lot of other responsibilities on my shoulders. I wrote that book in segments over a four year span because I had so many other things going on professionally and personally, but I think it still works as a uniform novel.

18) Have you received a particularly memorable reader response?
Every time a reader tells me that they’ve liked or connected with something I’ve written, it is memorable. I’ve treasured most, though, the sudden spontaneous outbursts that I’ve heard at times from readers. A woman reading one of my early short stories one day just looked up from the last page and said; “You know you’re really good.” I got an email from a guy one time who told me that he’d read a lot of horror fiction but that my descriptions in one story even made him wince. I could tell even through email that he was saying it with admiration. Those kinds of things just really warm a writer from the inside out.

19) The only book I’ve read of yours is Write with Fire—and I love it. I love your voice, your advice, the personal tone you had with us readers. How did you pull this book together?
Not only do I love to tell stories, but I actually learn best through the process of writing. Many of the articles in Write With Fire were written first as lessons for myself, to teach myself certain things about writing that I struggled with. Then, in 2002, I started writing a column called “The Writer’s Block” for Bret Funk’s The Illuminata newsletter, and I revised or expanded many of the bits I’d written for myself for publication as columns. After I’d sold my Talera fantasy trilogy to Borgo Press, the editor there, Robert Reginald, asked me what other projects I saw myself working on, and I told him I’d like to do a nonfiction collection about writing. This is what came together as Write With Fire.

20) What’s next for you? Where can we keep up with you, your words of wisdom and buy your books?
I’m working on a longish short story for a secret project involving several other writers, and I’m putting together a collection of my vampire fiction and poetry for Borgo Press. I still do an occasional column for The Illuminata, and I post about writing and reading frequently on my blog at There are cover pictures and links for my books on my blog site. All of them are readily available at a number of places online, most easily at Amazon, Barnes & Noble online, and Wildside Press.

I’d like to thank you very much for having me on Louisiana Saturday Night. I appreciate the opportunity and I hope your readers will get something interesting out of it all. If anyone has follow up questions or questions of any kind they’re welcome to contact me through my blog. Or they can email me at Take care.

I want to thank Dr. Charles Gramlich for taking the time to answer my many questions in wonderful detail. I urge you all to visit his blog--it's an interesting read. If you'd like to read more about this author/professor and his books, click HERE.