Good News, Bad News – Which Do You Want First?

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If somebody says to you “I’ve got good news and bad news” it’s perfectly understandable to brace yourself for the bad news, regardless of their claim that it will be accompanied by good news. I mean, let’s face it, if the bad news wasn’t really all that bad, they wouldn’t need to give you good news to wash it down…

Right?

Well, I hate to do this to you, but…

I’ve got some good news and I’ve got some bad news.

Now – before you brace yourself too much, let me say this in my defense, my bad news is offset by several pieces of good news.

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I know…it still sounds like a trap, but I’m hoping it won’t be as bad as all that.

So let’s rip the band off right away and get to the bad news…

As you may know, I’ve been working on my tenth novel,

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The Theory of Plot-olution

Yesterday, a follower (and fellow author) on my Facebook page asked me about a recent post where I used a phrase referring to my “what if” radar. I’ve discussed this in other blog posts, but I always get excited when someone asks me what it means, because then I get to talk about how I come up with the ideas for my books.

“What if” refers to the method I use when trying to plot out my story ideas. I begin with a basic premise, and then I start asking myself what if? I ask this question about a thousand times, but it helps to keep the ideas flowing and I never try to inhibit anything that pops into my head. I write or type everything down for future reference. I’ll use my first book as an example…

Lost Voyage starts out in 1857 with a steamship travelling from California to the eastern United States. Before the ship makes it to the Panama Canal, it goes missing. I came up with the idea after listening to a book on tape revolving around the real-life account of the Ship Of Gold, a steamship which also went missing before making it to port in 1857. The ship was carrying a large cache of gold and other valuables when it sank off the Carolina Coast, and it wasn’t found until about 130 years later.

This is where my what ifs began…

What if there was a second ship? What if the first ship had an overabundance of gold and couldn’t transport it all in one trip because of weight constraints? What if the captain of that ship secretly unloaded the extra gold onto another vessel and didn’t tell anyone about it except for the other captain in order to keep thieves or whoever from robbing it? What if that second boat was scheduled to arrive in port only a day later than the first one, so it would be unloaded before anyone was the wiser? What if that boat sank as well? What if since no one knew about the transferred gold, everyone assumed the entire treasure was lost on the first ship? And the list goes on…

I take all of these ideas (what ifs) and jot them down until it turns into a full-blown plot. But, it doesn’t stop there. The what ifs keep coming throughout the entire time I’m writing the book. What if my protagonist discovers a missing steamship in the unlikeliest of places? What if my antagonist hears about this as well? What if there’s a race to find the steamship and all the gold possibly still on board? What if, what if, what if…all the way down to – What if the bad guy dies like this?

Every author has their own process when writing a book. Some people just write it as it comes to them (more commonly known as Pantsers, as a good friend of mine likes to refer to them), and some people like to outline an entire book before even typing the first word. I like to think I fall somewhere right in the middle of that. I do outline some stuff, but by the time I get to that point in the book, my what ifs have altered my initial direction completely, so the outline is now null and void. My what ifs keep me on the edge of my seat while I write, which hopefully translates into my readers keeping on the edge of theirs while they enjoy the story I’ve laid out. Now, ask yourself this one simple question…

“What if” you read one of my books and discovered your next favorite author?

See what I did there? (Yep, I’m not ashamed to do a little self-promoting.) So, the next time you’re out for a walk and you see a guy running down the street for no apparent reason, ask yourself “what if?” What if he’s running from a bank heist? What if he’s running because he just got a call from a kidnapper and he’s only got one hour to get the ransom money? What if he’s just gotta pee really bad and he’s desperately trying to find a toilet?

Jot it all down and put it into a plot idea…you never know, you may have just started the process of writing the next great American novel.

As always, thanks for stopping by and Happy Reading!

Go Ahead and Alienate Your Readers (to a point…)

This is one of those posts where half of you reading will disagree with my take on this subject, while the other half might agree, but probably won’t outwardly admit it. It’s a touchy subject to any author trying to gain new readers (and keep current ones) while trying to maintain a “professional” attitude to the masses – it’s trying not to alienate readers.

There are any number of reasons someone may feel like they’re being alienated, especially in this new world we live in where everyone seems to be offended by everything, but I’m going to attempt to tell you why you shouldn’t worry about scaring off or offending your readers (to a point).

Now, when I say scaring off or offending, I’m not talking about blatantly attacking someone or trying to incite a riot. For the purpose of this post, I’ll be using the increasingly sensitive subject of politics and sports and how this whole “kneeling” thing seems to be tearing a line right down the middle of our country. This isn’t meant to start a debate about why you agree or disagree with it, but rather to point out why you shouldn’t be afraid to comment on it – which everyone in the free world seems to be doing.

I have my own views on this topic. As a veteran, I’m not offended in any way whatsoever by what NFL players are doing. I do, however, take exception to how people are choosing to use the Constitution (and free speech) to benefit their own agenda regarding this matter. Like most of you, I’m on Facebook, and surely like most of you, my timeline is bombarded with thousands of opinions, rants, and other ramblings about why one side thinks they’re better than the other.

While it’s hard to not comment on this topic, I often find myself posting humorous anecdotes in an effort to lighten the mood a bit. But recently, I’ve gone away from that and started a more serious campaign of letting people know what I really think. I don’t think I’ve been offensive to anyone, but then again, the term offensive is in the eye of the beholder. I find myself commenting more on people’s posts because I cannot stand the ignorance that is blatantly being flaunted and is meant to incite hate among those who read it.

Now, I ask you, am I wrong for doing this?

Some would argue that no, I’m not wrong for voicing my opinion. There are also those who would say that by doing so, I’m alienating potential readers and fans of my books by making what they perceive to be “offensive” comments. Am I being offensive in my approach, or am I just offensive because I don’t share their same viewpoint? That is the question.

Well, I’m done caring about what other people think is offensive (again…to a point).

As a writer, I pride myself on being able to express myself in an artistic manner, and although I try to do it as eloquently as I can, there are going to be those who take issue with the way I say things. Does this mean I should just stop speaking my mind or that I should agree with everyone, no matter what they say or how they say it? Should I silence myself out of fear that I may lose a few readers when there are much bigger issues in the world than my (wonderfully fantastic and amazing) books? If I do this, then I’m being stifled when it comes to my opinions and views, and isn’t that what this whole kneeling topic is about anyway?

Is it my intention to piss people off with my comments? Okay, well maybe sometimes, but usually it’s just to create a (productive) counterargument. Unfortunately, I don’t think we live in a world where productive arguments are possible anymore, as everyone seems to be on the offensive all the time. So, the dilemma is, do I just stop trying to make my point or do I keep posting regardless if someone is going to be offended by what I have to say?

Maybe it’s both. Maybe it’s neither. But I’m at the point where I’d rather call out someone’s ignorance and their attempts to spew hatred over what I perceive to be a valued reader or fan of my books. If someone chooses not to read my books because we have different viewpoints, then so be it…after all, they’re the ones who are truly missing out on a fantastic read…and that’s the real travesty.

As always, thanks for stopping by and Happy Reading!

 

The Great Social Media Experiment Failure

I’ve been known to voice my opinion about my distaste for social media, and although I may rant about it from time to time, I also realize that I need it in order to reach the masses with my books. However, things are just out of control with what social media has turned into.

Remember when Facebook was first started? It was supposed to simply bring people together and allow them to get to know one another. How quickly that all changed…

No matter where you look these days (on your own page or your friends’ pages), there’s a 99.9999999 % chance you’ll find hate-filled, race-related, fear mongering, political bashing, fake news posts everywhere you look…in other words, it’s pushing people away from one another – a direct contrast to its original intent. It’s gotten so bad that you can’t even tell what the hell is real news anymore. People post, repost, and share things that simply aren’t true, yet hundreds of thousands of people believe it simply because it’s on the thing they love most in their life – Facebook.

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A few weeks ago, I posted a satirical comment about how “I would post a picture of some flowers, but I thought it would just turn into a hate-filled and racist thread”. While the sole purpose of the comment was meant to be comical and get a laugh out of people, there was actually quite a bit of truth to my statement. Everything nowadays seems to inevitably lead down the path of destruction and mayhem where people are at each other’s throats simply over a matter of a difference of opinion. And if you disagree with someone else’s opinion, you’re automatically branded as a racist or bully for speaking out against them.

To those people, I say get over it…

Social media has turned us into a society where butthurt feelings are the norm and, should you dare to have a conflicting opinion on a topic, you’d better be prepared to be trolled beyond all holy hell from everyone who disagrees with you. Someone with enough “friends” can gather up the masses and pile a load of shit onto you like you wouldn’t believe, and it makes their worthless, pathetic lives seem just a bit more meaningful while they tear you down for having your own beliefs and opinions.

I recently made a few comments on a friend’s thread after he posted a picture about our basic rights as Americans. My comments were not malicious in any way, but rather my own opinion on the topic and to try to shed light on a different viewpoint of the issue. This was, of course, met with some resistance by people who thought they were an expert on the topic, and very quickly the overall tone of the thread had lost its meaning and was now a back and forth session of people arguing for the sake of arguing. While it didn’t get as bad as some threads, the conversation did make its way to the issue of race and bullying (which I was accused of).

Of course, it pissed me off, but I was more upset about the closed-mindedness of certain individuals who can’t seem to grasp the concept that maybe – just maybe – their opinion might not be the only one that matters…and that’s where social media has turned society against one another. People think because they have the platform to say whatever they want, that it means they should simply do just that.

News flash….no it doesn’t.

I’m all for free speech, but I’m more for intelligent speech. If you’re going to blatantly post something that isn’t true or is misleading in any way, expect to be called out on it. Everywhere you look, you see fake pictures and articles trying to bait people into hate-filled discussions and tirades. I’m more than okay with voicing my opinion to people about how wrong they are for doing so, but that doesn’t make me a bully. It makes me more intelligent.

Do some research next time before posting or sharing a picture of a Trump rally that never happened (and was actually a picture of a different city and was an NBA championship parade).

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This picture was actually spread across the internet claiming to be a realistic photo…and millions ate it up and believed it was real. Before trying to incite a Facebook riot, make sure you know the cause you’re fighting for…because there just might not be any cause there at all.

Don’t get me wrong, social media has allowed many people, including myself, to reunite with long lost friends and make some new ones who have since become fans of my books, but the basic premise of social media is long gone…and unless people start to self-police themselves about what they do, what they share, and how they act toward one another, it’s only going to get worse.

Here’s a challenge…turn off Facebook for one whole day and get your news from reliable sources (not FOX, of course), and come back 24 hours later. I guarantee we’ll all still be there, but I can also guarantee that you’ll add about ten more years to your life by removing the nonsensical stress related to Facebook and all that it entails…

As always, thanks for stopping by and Happy Reading!

 

The Final Push To Finish Writing My Next Novel…

Life can suck sometimes, right? Always getting in the way of me finishing up my third novel with travel plans, school, parenting, and other stuff. But, having said all that, all those things are just excuses, I suppose.

Over the past few weeks and months, I’ve received some inquiries from fans (yes, I have those) about when the next installment in the NESA series would be available. I’ve fallen behind just slightly with the scheduled release date for my third novel, Blood Dawn. And while I had hoped to have it finished by this point, the aforementioned activities (along with my own procrastination) have put off publishing for at least another three to four months. I’m close to having it finished, but then comes the test readers’ feedback and the always time-consuming editing. This book is a little more intricate in plot than my previous two novels, so I want to make sure all the dots connect and I don’t make myself look like too much of a fool when talking about nuclear war (especially now since I’m sure everyone is a Facebook expert on nuclear war with all the things going on in the world).

And not to get too far ahead of myself, but I also have the plot mapped out for my fourth novel, so hopefully I can dive right into that once the third one is in the hands of those who would like to read it. On a side note, I’m always looking for more test readers (I have some great ones already, but it can’t hurt to have more eyes on it), so if you would like to take part in this and get to read the book before it even comes out, please message me and let me know. This isn’t an editing task, but rather just a read-through to make sure everything lines up and there’s no major gaps in the plotline and other stuff. I can explain more if you’re interested. And if you haven’t read the first two novels, you can check them out by clicking on the links below to get ready for the release of Blood Dawn.

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So, fear not…Sean Mercer, Pat Vigil, a certain character named Ike (for those of you who read one of my friends and fellow blogger’s books or site), and the rest of the NESA team will be back to their shenanigans shortly, and oh yea, saving the world too.

As always, thanks for stopping by and Happy Reading!

 

Character Writing In A Series

As I take a break from reading and writing my own book, it occurred to me that I go into quite a bit of detail about my main characters. Now, it’s not uncommon to give visual imagery and descriptive background information about focal characters, but this is my third novel, so it got me to thinking…

Each of my books contains the same group of main characters, and while it’s not a series in the sense of one book leads into the other, the books are all intertwined in some small way. They can all stand alone on their own and you don’t need to read one to know what’s going on in another, but there are some nuances and instances where I put little stuff in each one that you might only get if you’ve read them all.

My characters, on the other hand, remain the same throughout. Each book is a new adventure with a new set of bad guys to take down.

Having said that, I spend quite a bit of time describing these central players, complete with visual descriptions and background information, but I’m curious to hear what others think about this when it comes to their own books. If you write a series, do you feel the need to describe each character in every new book, or do you rely on the reader to read every book in the series and already know who they are reading about?

For me, I like to get into the details of my main characters. If someone picks up my second novel, Whispering Death, and that’s the first book they’ve read from me, I want them to be able to visualize Mercer and Vigil, along with the rest of the NESA crew. But, for those who have read all my books, do they feel like I’m being repetitive when I describe each person again and again? These are things I think about.

As mentioned, I write each of my books so that they can stand alone, but obviously I would prefer if everyone read them in order. I don’t want to write a typical series where you need to read from book one all the way through to know what’s going on. That style of writing doesn’t suit my personality, but I guess my books are considered a series since the same core of characters are in each one. I only question if I’m wasting words on my laptop as I write each new book.

I personally don’t view it this way, but I wonder if my readers do. Maybe they already know all of Mercer’s details and don’t need to be reminded, but then again, if I don’t describe him in each book and I get a first-time reader who picks up my second book, they might feel a little disconnected from the character.

For my author friends who write series (or have the same characters in multiple books), how do you approach the character description process? I figure until I’m as big as J.K. Rowling, the best way to get my characters known is to drill it into the heads of my readers – without making it seem like I’m trying to drill it into their heads.

As always, thanks for stopping by and Happy Reading!

 

The Not-so All Star Game

The midseason classic is upon us, and I feel like it’s time for a little rant…

I love baseball. I’ve watched it as far back as I can remember, with some of my greatest childhood memories being those of watching games with my grandfather as he explained the game to me in ways no other person could. He would rattle off stats about players that no one could have known, except through a love of the game of his own. This was way before stats popped up on your tv every three seconds, and he knew everything about almost every player. This is where my love of baseball was born.

I’ve stuck through the steroid and strike eras, and even though these things have put a sour taste in my mouth, it’s still a sport that draws me back in every time. Having said that, there’s still one thing I can’t stand about the game (or any professional sport, for that matter) – the All-Star Game.

The game simply means nothing. I won’t even get started on the NBA, NHL, or NFL versions, but MLB has really got to drastically alter this event, and by drastic, I mean no game should be played. Sure, it’s fun to watch some of our favorite players go head to head in the same game, but it’s become nothing more than an American Idol episode, meaning it’s simply a popularity contest where the best players don’t necessarily get voted in.

Case in point – you all know me as a HUGE Red Sox fan, and as much as I’d love to see all Sox players make the roster, I would rather they make it on their own merits, or statistics. I won’t vote for all Sox players, because I want to see the best statistical players get their chance. Sure, the fans want to see who they want to see, but it’s too easy to pile on votes for hometown players to get in. As much as I hate the Yankees, however, I cannot and will not deny Aaron Judge as being the greatest player in the game this year. But in the case of my own beloved team, I have to wonder how Mike Moustakas beat out Xander Bogaerts for the final “fan vote”.

A simple internet search will show that Xander has Moustakas beat in virtually every category this season, so why shouldn’t he be on the team showcasing his talents? Perhaps it’s a distaste of the Red Sox, or maybe it’s another reason, but as good as Moustakas might be, Xander is clearly the better player this year by a considerable amount, and the All-Star game should be reserved for the players with the best stats.

Now, I’m not naïve. I know that’s not how it works, but maybe it should work that way. Or I say again…don’t play the game at all.

Last night’s Home Run Derby showed why the mid-season break is so special. The power on display left me in awe, (not to mention that perfectly timed lightning strike in the background as the ball sailed into oblivion), and the battles between each pair were as fun to watch as anything I can remember in recent years. I was literally cheering and clapping in my living room – and yes, even for that dreaded Yankee Aaron Judge. Why? Because it was fun to watch and I’m a fan of the game, not just the Sox. The whole weekend should be comprised of events like that. Pitchers should have targets set up at home plate that they try to break (similar to the NHL skills competition), and infielders and outfielders should have an event where they try to throw a ball into a bucket from a great distance away. Sure, I’m just grasping here, but it would be more fun to watch than the game that means nothing.

The All-Star/Celebrity softball game last night was even fun to watch. I’m not saying the major leaguers should play softball, but I’m sure there’s enough brain power in the MLB front office to come up with four to five hours of events that can be entertaining to fans. This whole stupid notion of whichever side wins gets home field advantage sickens me. I’m not a true believer that home field advantage means a whole lot, but why should a team that busted their ass all year lose that advantage because of a meaningless July game? Plus, how much cooler would it have been last year if the Cubs won game 7 at Wrigley?

Perhaps MLB should make it a standard that, by the break, the top three best statistical players at each position make the All-Star game. Then, we get the best players no matter what. The fans can then get a few votes to get other players in, but at least it will be the best players making the roster. Popular doesn’t have the same meaning as All-Star. I’m not interested in seeing someone make the team because they live in a bigger market than others. If MLB really wants this game to mean something, then it should be on the players to perform their way into the game on their own.

Or then again…maybe my friend Tim and I can propose an epic whiffle ball duel between the pros. I know I’d watch that!

As always, thanks for stopping by and Happy Reading!

 

Easy Reading Is Damn Hard Writing

In recent years, the publishing industry has changed dramatically. Authors are now afforded the luxury of self-publishing across various platforms, and this seems to be the route most seldom taken by writers today. If you’ve read any of my blog posts, you know I’m very opinionated on both sides of the fence about this. However, until one of my many submission requests gets accepted and I have representation for my books, I myself fall into the category of a “self-published” author, and that’s just fine by me.

I recently went through a name-changing rebranding nightmare (term used loosely), and I had to resubmit my updated manuscripts to Amazon and other platforms the books are on. This was good for two reasons – first, I needed to update the book covers so my name change would accurately reflect my last name, and second, it gave me a chance to resubmit the interior as well. I needed to alter the interior anyway since my name was listed in there too, but it also allowed me to update the book contents and make other revisions in regards to grammar, punctuation, etc.

My editor is pretty good at what she does (of course I’m biased), but even she is human and misses something from time to time. I found one or two small things in my first novel, so I adjusted them and resubmitted the files with the new revisions. Upon doing this, I decided to take a quick glance at my second novel, where I once again found some minor adjustments that could be made. This got me to thinking…

Now, bear in mind, I have no intention of resubmitting my files every time I notice something I think could be adjusted to make it better, but on the other hand, why shouldn’t I do just that if the book will be better as a result?

I consider myself a perfectionist when it comes to my books, and although I know my books aren’t perfect, I spend a ridiculous amount of time reading and re-reading during the editing process. I typically read the book through about three or four times (yes, that many times) after I get it back from my test readers, who also catch things that they mention to me. Then I send it off to my editor, where the real work begins. After I get it back from her, I read it another three or four times to make sure nothing gets missed. But, ultimately, something always does get missed no matter how many times it gets looked over.

Being a self-published author means I can change anything about my books whenever I see fit to do so. I’ve probably resubmitted my files about eight times each for my first two novels, but when does enough become enough? The answer to that question may be “never”.

Until I hit that magical jackpot and land with a major publisher (fingers crossed), I’m afforded a luxury ‘big-time’ authors aren’t privy to… I can continue to make my book better. Once Clive Cussler publishes a new novel, do you think he reads through the books and says, “Hey, I just noticed there were no quotation marks at the end of Dirk Pitt’s sentence”?

No, he doesn’t, because it’s a logistical nightmare for the publishing company and other printing issues.

And just in case you weren’t aware, even best-selling authors like Cussler, Clancy, and Patterson all have glaring mistakes in their books, so it’s not just a self-publishing dilemma. But those of us who self-publish have the opportunity to do something about it…so why aren’t more of us taking advantage of that?

One of my pet peeves about self-publishing is that anyone can do it, and it seems like nowadays almost everyone does. It’s not that I have an issue with someone wanting to publish a book, but I do take exception to the fact that a large portion of them are put out with no editing whatsoever, which, by my own admission, I probably spend too much time thinking about. I take great pride in trying to put out the best possible product I can, and if this means resubmitting my book files every time I see a comma missing or a run-on sentence that could be shortened, I’m going to take the opportunity to do so.

Am I being to anal about my books? Or am I justified in my own little way for trying to ensure I offer the best book available to my readers? Do any authors reading this ever notice things that could be changed, and do you change them, or are you content with the book that’s already out there and you see no need to change it after the fact of being published?

Creating an enjoyable novel for readers is the goal of every author, but in the words of Nathaniel Hawthorne… “Easy reading is damn hard writing.”

As always, thanks for stopping by and Happy Reading!

 

Updated Status For My Blog Name Change

A friend and follower of mine recently brought it to my attention that she didn’t realize I changed the name of my blog from Chris Tucker to Chris DiBella. This also made me realize I hadn’t mentioned it to anyone on here, so I’m sure this caused some confusion when my posts started appearing in their feed.

As some of you may have noticed by this point, I’ve changed the name of my page to reflect my actual last name. Long story, but I’ve recently had my last name legally changed back to my original family name of DiBella. I will be writing under this name as I move forward with my novels and blogs, but I will continue writing under Chris Tucker for my zombie/horror novels (unless I decide to change that as well). I have reissued my first two NESA novels under my new (old) last name.

Sound confusing? It’s all good. If you have any questions, please feel free to contact me directly. Thank you everyone for the support.

As always, thanks for stopping by and Happy Reading!

Where Does Your Inspiration Come From?

It seems nowadays everyone is a “published” author. With the introduction of self-publishing, everyone is afforded the luxury of being able to release a book to the world that they have written. With the rare exception, it would appear the days of signing on with big box publishers are slowly dwindling away into obscurity.

While this isn’t necessarily all bad, there still needs to be some creativity and freshness to the books and storylines we are choosing to release. I mean, how many times can someone write the same old story about a husband seeking revenge for his murdered wife? Or the always predictable romance/erotica novel? Or that action/adventure book with the same plotline as the thousands of others out there?

I, myself, am a part of that last group, as I write a series of my own. While it’s not a series in the true sense, meaning you don’t have to read them in chronological order to get the gist of what’s going on, I do have the same main characters in each book. The action/adventure genre is a widely popular one, so it is a little trickier to come up with plausible, yet entertaining, plotlines. But still, there needs to be some creativity and freshness with those ideas.

I write what I like to call “somewhat historical fiction”. I take an historical account of something and then turn it into something fictional. My first book, Lost Voyage, for example, is based on an account of the Ship of Gold, an eighteenth century steamship which sank off the coast of the Carolinas in 1857. Upon reading about this ship, my “what-if” radar started going off. What if there was another ship no one knew about that was carrying overhaul from the first ship? What if that ship also sank? And since no one knew about it in the first place, what would happen if that second ship resurfaced 150 years later? And what if that ship turned into a battle of life and death for two sides?

These are all things that go through my head when I read things. I’m always planning the next great adventure in my own mind. My second book, Whispering Death, is the same in that regard. I took an actual historical event and turned it into a somewhat fictional tale, while still trying to maintain the integrity of the account I based it on. And that train of thought will be the same for the next twenty (or more) books in this series.

From there, it’s a whirlwind rollercoaster ride of ideas, twists, and turns to write the complete book. My inspiration at that point comes from my main characters, who I base on real people in my life. Having a closer connection to the story allows me to write more freely without having to create a thousand new worlds or personalities. Believe me, if you knew some of these people who are characters in my book, you would understand why I call them “characters”.

My inspiration also comes from hours of research on a topic. Since I use actual historical accounts, I spend an exorbitant amount of time learning about eighteenth century steamships and World War Two bombers. I do this because I want to maintain a sense of realism even though I’m creating something fictional. I feel that if my reader can connect to the story on a more personal level, then they will keep coming back for more of those fresh and creative ideas in the next book. Plus, I get to look a little smarter when someone brings up the topic of steamships…

Where do you get your inspiration from and how do you come up with ideas for your stories and characters?

As always, thanks for stopping by and Happy Reading!