Author Spotlight: Merri Halma

In my continuing “Author Spotlight” series, I present to you author Merri Halma.


Author Spotlight: Merri Halma

merri2Today I’m fortunate to present Merri Halma, author of the Indigo Traveler Series (Indigo Traveler Book 1 and Keys to the Shadowlands Book 2 of the Indigo Traveler Series).

Hi Merri, thanks for agreeing to this interview.

Thank you for having me, Jason.

 

Tell us a little about yourself and your background?

 I studied Children’s theatre and children’s literature when I was younger. I really wanted to be a writer from a young age. I graduated though with a Bachelor of Arts in Interdisciplinary Studies with an emphasis in Social Studies and the Humanities. Two years later, I earned a Master’s of Science in Counseling-Psychology. I still had the overwhelming desire to write and be published. Back then, I wasn’t aware of the writer’s groups like I am now. My whole goal after graduating was working in my field and attending prayer groups at my Church. After leaving my field and moving to Idaho, I saw a whole new world open. I realized there were writer’s groups and began joining them and seeking out others to work with. Digital publishing started and computers became the normal. Still, I am struggling to get my name out as other indie authors are.

 

How long have you been writing?

 I always had an active imagination growing-up. I used to tell myself stories at night when I was going to sleep. I would often dream in stories or hear songs with lyrics, though I couldn’t write the music to go with the words. I also had a speech impediment, so at 11, I started writing down the poetry, and lyrics as well as stories. Writing became my way of expressing myself. My dad gave me my first journal book at 12 and taught me to never write in pencil. He knew I would write about my feelings because that is what I knew and felt. Words had power to me. Words, the taunts the peers lashed out at me with, had power to cut deep. Those words echoed through the brain. Eventually, that became one of my monsters in Shadowlands. Without expressing my feelings, I knew I would be dead. I discovered all writers feel deep and write from a wounded soul. I write to heal myself as well as to expand my inner self and journey toward Spirit.

 

What inspired you to start writing?

My need to express myself and feel like I am being heard. As someone with a speech impediment, I wanted the friendship and felt fulfilled when I wrote down the words pounding in my brain.

 

Tell us a little bit about your current project. Is it a novel, short story, or something else? Is it part of a series?

 I am currently almost finished with my third book, tentatively titled Many Paths which is the third book in the Indigo Traveler Series. I realized this week that I will likely write another draft and deepen most of the theology bases on that current world as well as work with more development of the new characters that are introduced. I will find readers first to read through this draft to get comments.  I am also doing my best to post a blog on Niume every week. I am hoping to post about two or more times, to drive up interest in my page and draw in more readers.

 

What genre do you prefer to write in, if any?

I have coined the phrase Spiritual Fantasy because I explore the whole concept that we cannot avoid addressing Spirit, however we see Spirit. I view it as a sense of self. I have grown from the view of Christianity as the only way to embracing a more world view that says all spiritual paths have truth in it. The ultimate truth resides deep within each person. My characters all strive to find their self-acceptance while struggling to realize how they fit into the whole Spiritual world or whether they really believe in the Creator of All worlds.

 

What authors influenced you?

After I read the Hunger Games, I began writing like Collins, but it didn’t last. I can’t say any one really influenced me, per se. I love to read, but mostly I have that inner drive to write. If I don’t write every day or work on my book everyday, then my characters begin bugging me or yelling at me. I’ve had my Lynx character begin telling me he was stuck where I left him and he was itching to move on. He gave me ideas of what he wanted to do next.

 

What are you currently reading?

The Fifth Season by N. K. Jemisin. She won a Hugo award this year for one of her books. I found her on Patreon.com earlier this year and was fascinated with her campaign and began following her on Facebook. The Fifth Season is a very deep world but watching as she develops the story and the characters is also fascinating. It is not for the light of heart to read because I find I must concentrate and spend time with it and engage my brain. I highly recommend this book to others.

 

Do you write every day? A few days per week?

I have been doing my best to write every day even if it just in my journal. I have to devote my time to finishing my novel, though.

 

Do you listen to music when you write? Does it influence how you write?

Sometimes I listen to instrumental music when I am the only one home. Right now, there is a Doctor Who marathon going on while I answer these questions. Since I’ve seen most of the episodes, I can write and watch it.

 

How do you think your writing has changed from when you first started?

When I first started writing, and hadn’t gotten published yet, there was only traditional publishing. If someone were to self-publish, they had to spend a small fortune on the printing and finding distributors for the books. I remember stories of the author of the Celestine Prophecy giving his book out for free wherever he went because he couldn’t sell them. The more people who read it, the more they talked with others his book swept through the country and he was awarded a book contract. I read it and it was horribly written, yet the plot, story and message were the driving force of the success. After that, he had someone help him write the second book in the series and it was better.

 

How do you create the covers for your books?

I usually get an idea of what I want, and hire a graphic artist because I can’t draw. I can visualize what I want, I can’t duplicate what I see on to paper. That is why I am a wordsmith, as another friend calls it.

indigo

 

Are there any non-literary influences for your writing (movies, actors, music, etc)?

I really love the Moody Blues. Their lyrics and music sends me into dreams and inspires me to write.

 

What is your favorite book and why?

I have many favorite books. I love the Harry Potter series, Douglas Adams, Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, J.R.R. Tolkien, Percy Jackson series and many more.

 

How do you market your books?

I have one Youtube book trailer that I posted below. I am still learning to market and create the ad copy and how to use PowerPoint. I plan to start teaching classes on how to journal to Journal to Your Soul and hope that platform will lead to people buying my books.

I am doing my best to write every day and learn how to get feedback from my audience.

 

Do you have an excerpt from your current work you’d like to share?

An Titus found himself in a dark forest. The trees grew together so densely no light could filter through the canopy. It was grey, black and off white, but had no natural light. For a few moments, Titus stood completely still, not daring to breath. Finally, he took a cautious step forward and then another. Soon he was roaming through the dense woods. He felt lost, afraid and not sure of how he got here. Voices could be heard in the distance. Some were whispering but they were overshadowed by a few shouting voices. His heart pounded in his chest. He felt alone, yet knew something was there, watching him, waiting for him to make a move.

 A creature made of sticks and stones wobbled out from amongst the trees. The creature’s eyes grew wide when it saw Titus, then cowered on the ground trying to cover his body in fear.

 “Names are names. Just labels that can’t hurt me. Words are empty and meaningless,” it said. “I can hurt you worse.”

 “Your words are brave, yet you cover your body as if you fear me.”

 “Aye–, I am afraid of giants like you. You erupt at a moment’s notice – your temper – your rage. You hurt people with that whip you wear around your waist and send them to a dark place.”

 “Dark place? You mean a place like this?”

 “No, dark places within them, belittling them, telling them they are useless, don’t measure up to your expectations and are no good. From then on, all they do or see is reinforced. It is the dark place that you are experiencing now. You, you, you see, see what you have done.”

 Rustling steps echoed from deep within the forest in the distance, like leaves being displaced as something came through. Titus’ whipped his head around, listening and trying to see what was approaching him.

 “No, no, I can’t bare this! Take me away!” he screamed. “I’m sorry for the pain I’ve caused others. I can’t ever be happy again. Sticks and Stone, Sticks and Stones, they heard and break my bones. But the words are replayed over and over and over. My mother and father could never see me for what I was or wanted to be. The village kids hated me for being the prince. Take me away!”

 “No, I can’t take you away. But I can lead you to another place where you see more. Do you dare continue?”

 *Excerpt from Keys to the Shadowlands Book 2 of the Indigo Traveler Series

 

If you’re an indie author, what made you choose that route?

I was not sure I could land a traditional publisher. I had made friends with individuals who had published on CreateSpace, and they encouraged me to use that because it would cost less and I could control how it is marketed better.

 

Where can we purchase your current book? What about previous books?

My books are all available on Amazon and Kindle. Indigo Traveler Book 1 is also on Smashwords.

http://amzn.to/2e4Mb1n

http://amzn.to/2ftkzVX

 

Where can we find you online?

https://www.facebook.com/IndigoTravelerbook/

https://www.facebook.com/authormerrihalma/

https://www.facebook.com/Clarence-from-Indigo-Traveler-Series-926226174154752/

https://twitter.com/MerriHalma

https://niume.com/profile/96169#!/posts

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bmTn8r679IQ&feature=youtu.be

 

Any parting words for writers?

Write every day. Find writer groups that you can join and learn from. Do not be afraid to share your work nor give up who you are because others say it doesn’t work. If you agree with them, then listen. Above all, it is your book and your words. Consider your message and what you want to say and then say it. We need your voice so please finish that book and get it out there.

Dear Reader

Dear Reader,

Hi there! How are ya? Doing good? I hope so.

I’ve got a secret for you.

I love you.

There, I said it. Don’t tell my wife though, she might get jealous. But in all honesty, I love you.

All those hours I’ve spent crafting a story or a novel are spent with you in mind. Did you know that? Did you know when all writers say “I write for myself,” that they’re kinda lying to you? Just a little. I mean we do write what we enjoy but ultimately it’s with you in mind.

I know I know. If we love our craft we should be doing this solely for ourselves. We should do it for the love of doing it. We should expect nothing and be content with the idea that we created something from nothing.

Yeah that’s cool and righteous but really…what’s a writer without a reader?

Without you I’m that guy that always wanted to be a writer. I’d be the person that says “I’ve been working on this story for years. Just waiting to get it right. Or get the time. Or whatever excuse I come up with.” Without the expectation that someone will actually read the darn thing, I’m twisting in the breeze like a sheet out on the line.

But because of you Dear Reader, I can call myself a writer. You’ve taken time out of your busy life to spend it with me. I don’t take that commitment lightly. When you do that–when you share in something so intimate and meaningful to me–you own a part of me. The words you read expose a little bit about me to you.

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Not that the story directly reflects what I want to do or wish to do (I mean there are times when time travel sounds pretty cool) however because I created it, what you read is deeply personal to me.

When you share your thoughts about it, when you’re excited to ask me questions about this character or that story line, I’m screaming inside like a junior high cheerleader. I’ve kept your attention and thoughts long enough for you to care. What an amazing feeling!

And then, when you’re through with my work and leave a review, when you dare click a button and type a few words so others might share in your experience–OMG! It’s a feeling unlike any other.

Dear Reader, you are why I can rightly and confidently call myself a writer. Your time with me is never taken for granted. I treasure it like a pirate.

Argh…welcome aboard matey. I appreciate your stay.

Sincerely,

Jason “Black Jack” Nugent


Psst: Dear Reader, why not check out my newest scifi adventure novel The Selection on Amazon right now? You can even try your hand at winning a free signed paperback copy over on GoodReads. Thanks!

Book Giveaway: GoodReads

I’m running a book promo on GoodReads through May 22nd. What does that mean for me? you may ask. Good question!

It means you’ve got an opportunity to win a signed paperback copy of The Selection! My novel has received several excellent reviews and now you can win a copy of your very own.

Print

If you’ve already read it, you can enter the contest anyway and give away the book to someone who needs to read it. Or keep it all to yourself. It’s your call.

precious

All you gotta do is go to GoodReads and enter the giveaway here. If you don’t have a GoodReads account, I highly recommend you get one and while you’re at it, friend me!

Please share the giveaway with all your friends, family, and frenemies.

Thanks so much for sticking with me. Having your support has meant so much to me.

 

Author Spotlight: Lisa Wylie

Here’s the latest in my continuing series of “Author Spotlight” interviews. Today I interview Lisa Wylie.


Author Spotlight: Lisa Wylie

Today I’m fortunate to present Lisa Wylie, author of Burning Suns: Conflagration.

Hi Lisa, thanks for agreeing to this interview. Tell us a little about yourself and your background?

Hi, and thanks for inviting me. I’m from Scotland, I live just outside Glasgow, and I work for a research software group at an academic publisher. I’m a scientist by training and a sci-fi geek by nature, and I dabble in photography and cooking as well as scribbling in my spare time.

 

How long have you been writing?

In fits and starts since I was a kid – any time there was a writing assignment at school, I’d make up a story. As a hobby, since I was at university, and it’s been a continuous passion since then, so let’s say twenty years.  Yipes…

 

What inspired you to start writing?

The catalyst was having a bunch of friends who were also interested in writing.  We started with our own Star Trek fanfic ship and crew, writing stories for original characters and their adventures within that universe. I fell in love with it at that point. We then moved on to an original work, and writing that, at first as a way to keep a connection, and then for the sake of the story itself, is what really got me hooked.

 

Tell us a little bit about your current project. Is it a novel, short story, or something else? Is it part of a series?

Burning Suns: Conflagration is a project of interesting beginnings, actually. Burning Suns itself is a board game produced by Emil Larsen at SunTzu Games. It’s a sci-fi based game, so Emil had got together with a bunch of artists and produced a galaxy that was populated with fantastic races and locations, and he wanted a story to go with that galaxy—which, for me, was like being a kid given full run of the toy store. When you get a picture like this, there’s a story just waiting to be told…

4268502_orig

And thus Conflagration was born. It’s a three-book series following the adventures of two of the playable characters in the game, although the story is totally standalone – you don’t need to play the game to follow the books. There’s a lot of potential for sequels and other timeframes in the world-build as well, so I hope it’ll keep me busy for some time.

 

What genre do you prefer to write in, if any?

Sci-fi. I dabble in fantasy as well, but I’ve always loved sci-fi a little more, and it was a natural progression from reading and watching to writing. Though, perversely, I think I own more fantasy books.

 

What authors influenced you?

David Eddings, Tom Clancy, Robert Heinlein, Alistair MacLean, Janny Wurts, and Richard Morgan.  That’s an odd list when you read it back, right? Eddings at the top because he was, and is, my favourite author, and even if you haven’t read his other books, the Rivan Codex, which is a companion piece to his Belgariad fantasy series, has a whole wealth of insight into how he wrote the books.  The thing that sticks with me to this day is the advice to: “Write a million words. Then throw them away. Now you’re ready to begin.” It really underscores the importance of practice.

 

What are you currently reading?

The Three-Body Problem, by Cixin Liu.

 

Do you write every day? A few days per week?

I try to write every day, if only for five minutes, although some days I do take a complete break.  Habit is a powerful ally against writer’s block, I find.

 

Do you listen to music when you write? Does it influence how you write?

Usually, and yes, very much so.  I often use it to set my mood.  I love movie soundtracks, I always have. I love the way it’s an emotional amplifier for what you see on the screen, and that once you’ve associated a piece of music with an emotion, it can be difficult to ever shift that conception that you’re supposed to feel “this” when you hear “that” piece. So if I need to tackle a scene or chapter that has a certain emotional tone, I’ll pick the music to put me in the right mindset. And sometimes, that needs to be a terribly cheesy power ballad, hah!

 

How do you think your writing has changed from when you first started?

I’m sure I’m echoing many others in a hope that it’s gotten better! But I think it has. I’m more comfortable with different styles, more confident in trusting to the content of a story rather than dressing it with too many fancy words, more aware that you can’t spend ten thousand words describing something in loving detail no matter how cool you think it is. Getting feedback really helps with that.

 

How do you create the covers for your books?

Burning Suns has a very talented artist crew, and they create the artwork that supports the books and the game. The book covers are a team effort between me, Emil, and our principal story artist, Angelita Ramos, about whom there are not enough superlatives I can use. I adore her work, and I’m really lucky to be working with her. You can see some of that artwork in our trailer for Conflagration – you really get a feel for the scope of the galaxy, I think.

 

Are there any non-literary influences for your writing (movies, actors, music, etc)?

Sci-fi movies and TV series of all shapes and sizes, I would say, and even the odd computer game – Mass Effect was a strong influence on my decision to start writing fanfiction again after a long break. And that led me to the opportunity I have now, so it was definitely a positive influence!

 

What is your favorite book and why?

HMS Ulysses, by Alistair MacLean. The fact that it’s written from experience lends it an authenticity that’s hard to surpass, but the way in which in portrays the better angels of human nature against a setting of such extraordinary hardship and in the midst of war is utterly magnificent.

 

Do you have an excerpt from your current work you’d like to share?

Not excerpts as such, but a series of small stories called snapshots that fill in some background and work as teasers for the main story, available here: https://wyles77writes.wordpress.com/snapshots/

 

Where can we purchase your current book? What about previous books?

My new book, the third and final installment of Conflagration, will be released May 11th. Book One is free to download on Smashwords, and if you sign up for my email list, you can get Book Two for free as well (otherwise you can pick it up on Smashwords or Amazon.)

Where can we find you online?

My website

Facebook

Twitter

My Amazon bio page

Smashwords

 

If you’re an indie author, what made you choose that route?

I’m not really an indie, since technically I have a publisher, but we’re a two-man army so pretty much we do this on our own.  We’re occupying a niche between indie and trad, thanks to the setup of the game world, so we need the control that the indie option brings.

 

Any parting words for writers?

Ooh, gosh—have fun with it! Whatever you’re writing, however far along with it you are, whether it’s fanfic, original fic, poetry, or factual. When you’re putting this amount of time into something, enjoying it is crucial!

 

Dear Writer

Dear Writer,

Hi, my name is Jason. I’m not special. I’m not an authority. I’m not a collegiately trained writer (well, sort of). I’m an (almost) average Joe. But I have something to say.

You know that story you keep meaning to write? Remember that idea burning a hole in your skull? Can you picture those characters that feel so life-like to you? Yeah, that. Do you remember?

Why aren’t you writing?

I met many writers this past weekend that said “I don’t have the time” or “I keep meaning to get back to the story” or some other lame excuse. I’m not gonna sugercoat it for you–write the damn thing!

Your first draft will suck. It will. No amount of “revision as you go” will do it any justice. Be ok with this. Embrace it. You must write a first draft in order to edit and revise.

The time excuse doesn’t fly. Do you have fifteen minutes a day? No? Find it. Put the game controller down. Set your phone to “Do Not Disturb.” Wake up fifteen minutes earlier. Eat a faster lunch to leave time for writing. Instead of watching that tv show in the evening–write. You can always find a quick fifteen minutes of your day to set aside for writing if you evaluate what you’re actually doing with your time and decide what can be cut from your day in order to give your dream a chance. You decide what you do with your spare time, not someone else. Pretty soon, that fifteen minutes will magically expand to twenty. Then to thirty, and then till you’re too tired to make any sense at all (remember, the first draft will suck!)

I’ve got a secret for you, and unlike a magician, I’m gonna share. Do you know how a novel gets completed? By stringing together pages of words. Those pages are made up of paragraphs. Paragraphs are made from sentences. And those sentences are made from words. Write one word. Add another. Add a couple more. That’s progress kids. Keep typing. E-V-E-R-Y word you add to your story is progress. When your time is short, just remember every word you write is one step closer to completion. Your story is moving forward.

Get the words out. If you really want to write, don’t say “I want to.” Do it! Add a couple words at a time. Soon enough you’ll have a sentence, then a paragraph, then a page, and so on.  Be ok with the first draft sucking. Just get it done. Then go back and fix it.

Like I said at the beginning, I’m not an expert, but I have gone through this process. All it takes to go from “I want to write” to “I’m a writer” is putting down one word at a time.

You got this!

 

Your friend,

-Jason

 

Author Spotlight: Ray Wenck

As part of my ongoing series of “Author Spotlights” I’m pleased to highlight author Ray Wenck. I met Ray in June of 2016 at a convention in St. Louis. We’ve stayed in touch since then and in April of this year (less than a week from this post!) we’ll be at another convention together.


Author Spotlight: Ray Wenck

ray4-2Today I’m fortunate to present Ray Wenck, author of the Danny Roth mystery suspense series and the post-apocalyptic Random Survival series.

 

Hi Ray, thanks for agreeing to this interview. Tell us a little about yourself and your background?

I have 11 published novels to date. I was a teacher for 35 years and owned an Italian restaurant for 25 of those years, both of which play a part in the Danny Roth series.

 

How long have you been writing?

I’ve been writing for 6 years and a good example of the phrase ‘it’s never too late …’

 

What inspired you to start writing?

It was something I’d always wanted to do, but never had the time. Once I found the time it’s been non-stop ever since.

 

Tell us a little bit about your current project. Is it a novel, short story, or something else? Is it part of a series?

My current WIP is titled A Story Best Left Untold. It’s a stand alone mystery. It developed from one sentence a friend said about their child. “That’s a story best left untold.” Although that story and this one have absolutely nothing in common, the sentence sparked something that came out to be this story. It’s funny sometimes where the inspirations come from.

 

What genre do you prefer to write in, if any?

I write thrillers in all styles, but my most popular series is Random Survival, a post-apocalyptic tale following one man as he tries to find his way through the chaos of a world altering event that has everyone mystified.

 

What authors influenced you?

There’s so many. Harlan Coben, Lee Child, Michael Connelly, John Connolly, Robert Crais, John Sandford and a list of others.

 

What are you currently reading?

I’m currently reading D.P. Lyle’s Deep Six. Met him at some conferences and decided to read one of his books. I didn’t realize how similar our styles and main characters were. They were both former major league baseball players and both now own restaurants.

 

Do you write every day? A few days per week?

I write five days a week usually for 3-5 hours.

 

Do you listen to music when you write? Does it influence how you write?

Sometimes, but once I start writing I don’t hear anything. In fact, I find it easier to write sitting in a diner then I do being home. I’m able to block out all the noise but, if I write at home, everything bothers me. The dog wants attention, unfinished chores make me feel guilty, the refrigerator calls to me. Not good.

 

How do you think your writing has changed from when you first started?

I understand the process so much better now. I was always a good story teller, but my craft has improved.

 

How do you create the covers for your books?

That’s easy. I let the publisher come up with the idea and say yes or no.

 

Are there any non-literary influences for your writing (movies, actors, music, etc)?

I think almost anything could be an influence, but that’s not always good. I have to be careful to be true to my characters and not copy them after something I’ve seen.

 

What is your favorite book and why?

One of my favorite books was Bram Stoker’s Dracula. Intense for the time.

 

How do you market your books?

As many ways as possible. I’ve done TV ads; ads on Facebook and Goodreads. But the best way I’ve found for convincing a reader to take a chance on a new author is face-to-face. I do a lot of shows. It’s easier to explain a book to someone when you don’t have to worry about word count or time. They can also feel the passion with which you explain it.

 

Do you have an excerpt from your current work you’d like to share?

Sure, but it’s raw.

I have a story to tell, I think. Oh, not that I think I have a story, I definitely do, especially considering the small, but important part I play in it. It’s just that I’m not sure I should tell it. I mean, after all, if the facts became known, a lot of people could be in trouble, though most, I’m sure, would go to ground, scattered about the world by strong, need-to-disappear winds.

 

If you’re an indie author, what made you choose that route?

I’m published through small presses, but because I do a lot of creative writing workshops, the question about self-publishing comes up every class. To be able to talk to them from experience I have published 2 of my novels myself, Ghost of a Chance and Live to Die Again.

 

Where can we purchase your current book? What about previous books?

All my titles are available by going through my website: raywenck.com or on Amazon.

 

Where can we find you online?

Twitter: @raywenck

Facebook: Author Ray Wenck

website: raywenck.com

 

Any parting words for writers?

At least once a show someone will come up to me and say they’re a writer too, or they always wanted to write. The secret to writing is to sit your butt in a seat and write. My suggestion, is to write for yourself, not to get published. Have fun. Enjoy the creative process and keep going until you finish. You can always go back afterward and do rewrites, but they are much easier to do once the book is done. Some may disagree with that, but so many times I’ve talked to people who write, stop and start something new, or start, decide they don’t like it and go back and start over. Consequently, the story never advances. If you finish you can go back and fix the parts you don’t like and it won’t feel as daunting.

 

Free Weekend!

In celebration of The Selection’s release yesterday, I’m offering both my collections of dark fiction short stories for FREE on Amazon starting today through April 2nd!

Get The Selection for .99 and get two more of my books for FREE!

ReleaseFreeWeekend

The Selection

(Almost) Average Anthology

Moments of Darkness