Four Til Late

Four Til Late

I want to extend a hearty congratulations to my very good friend and fellow Seventh Star Press author, Eric Garrison on his latest novel, FOUR TIL LATE. Eric, as I write this, you’ve gotten your first shipment of print copies of FOUR ‘TIL LATE your novel. I know what a thrill it is to see ideas take solid form, but tell my readers, how do YOU REALLY feel?

Thanks for having me as a guest on your blog, John!

It’s been a long road for this book. It was the one that started it all, my first novel, and yet now it’s my latest novel. It was a project done out of love and honor, as I wrote it the month after my writer uncle Chuck died in 2007. I didn’t know then that I’d be a published author a little over 5 years later, but opening that box to see the shiny trade paperbacks with gorgeous professional artwork, I felt a thrill of excitement and a burning rush of pride.

It”s been a long time coming, but this labor of love has been refined and updated and improved with editing and the experience of four other books written since then under my belt. I am PSYCHED.

I know a little about FOUR TIL LATE, but please let my readers know (in your words) what the novel is all about. I got a Supernatural meets Scooby Gang vibe. Would you agree with that assessment, or is there another more succinct description? What inspires your writing?

I think “Scooby-Doo meets Supernatural” isn’t too far off. I loved Scooby-Doo as a kid, and I am a huge fan of the Supernatural TV show today. FOUR ‘TIL LATE is a haunted road trip, as much a buddy story as it is a thriller. It stars an amateur ghost hunter named Brett who sets out on a fun trip to New Orleans with a couple of buddies, and along the way, he reignites a romance with his ex-girlfriend. Unfortunately, he isn’t able to leave his hobby behind, as supernatural warnings turn into much more dangerous encounters with the paranormal world.

When it comes to ghost stories and the supernatural in general, are you more of an adherent to classic spins or do you prefer the more modern takes? Which authors inspire you, particularly with this work?

You know, I wasn’t even intending to write a ghost story to start with. FOUR ‘TIL LATE is meant to be an urban / supernatural fantasy, and I had hoped to follow in the footsteps of Charles de Lint and Jim Butcher, who are my favorite authors in that genre. I think I ended up at least somewhere between the subtler magical realism of de Lint and the high-powered urban fantasy of the Dresden tales. But as the story unfolded, it DID become a ghost story, and I was shocked when another writer friend called it horror later. I didn’t set out to write a horror story, but I’ll admit, it’s got horror elements. So yeah, there’s more of a modern influence on my writing, but if you’ve ever read any of Fritz Leiber’s darker stories, you may see a strong influence for the supernatural forces in my books. He’s just got a sort of slow, steady, driving rhythm to his storytelling that I love, and I try to emulate that when I’m building tension or unfolding the stranger parts of the story for the reader.

Is it true you’re an actual ghost hunter? Please briefly tell us one of your favorite exploits and how this undertaking effects/enhances your writing?

It’s true! My wife and I joined the Indiana Ghost Trackers in 2003. I went expecting a bunch of attention-seeking lunatics, but instead found a group of intelligent, curious, friendly people who had a sense of adventure. We both got very interested in ghost hunting and the paranormal in general and became officers in the club. Being one of the biggest skeptics in the group, I asked a lot of questions and did a lot of experimenting with equipment and analyzed evidence more closely than a lot of folks, and ended up as Trainer for both the Indy and Lafayette chapters. We left the group on 2010, but are still friends with the organization’s president and the folks we knew in our time there.

Exploits… Well, nothing specific comes up in FOUR ‘TIL LATE, but I can tell you I have some fairly accurate retellings of some ghost hunts in the third ROAD GHOSTS book, ME AND THE DEVIL, which will be coming out through Seventh Star Press later this year or early next year. Let’s see, one time, we investigated Hannah House, a notoriously haunted mansion on Indy’s South Side (where you and I will be appearing as part of the Paranormal Meet & Greet on August 10th!). We were in the basement, voice recorders running, being given a tour among dusty, 150 year old jars of canned fruit and other bric a brac. One of our guides said “Isn’t this where you got that ‘find me’?” And when qurstioned, they said they’d been there before with recorders and had gotten an EVP (electronic voice phenomenon) that said, “find me”, when they played it back. So when Amy and I got home, we played back OUR recording, and something freaky happened. About 10 seconds *before* our guide mentioned what the voice had said before, a voice played on our recording, also whispering, “find me!”

What do you hope readers take away from FOUR TIL LATE? What did you take away from it as an author?

FOUR ‘TIL LATE isn’t just a ghost story, it’s also about friendship and love overcoming demons of the past that come back to haunt you. I hope readers come away feeling like they’ve just had an adventure with a bunch of great friends, and that the characters are people they’d like to spend time with again and again.

I wrote two more books after writing this one, SINKING DOWN and ME AND THE DEVIL. I guess it shows how much I wanted to spend more time with these people that I kept coming back to them.

You’ve completed five novels and and this is your first publication with Seventh Star Press. Please tell us what the experience has been like for you? Share some details of your writer’s journey.

It was FOUR ‘TIL LATE that kicked everything off, so it’s both my first and also my latest novel in a way. I’ve come full circle, having written 3 other urban fantasy novels and a science fiction novel. I started out by self-publishing my work, then I fell in with a critique group that helped open my eyes to the craft of writing, to things I didn’t see in my own writing that I learned to improve on. I was invited to join the Indiana Horror Writers, and that’s helped me see the publishing world beyond writing. My fifth novel, Reality Check, was written with the goal of publication in mind, and was the first to go through beta readers and rewriting and polishing. Hydra Publications took a chance on me and that book went through another couple of rounds with a professional editor. It was then that Seventh Star Press said yes to my pitch to have the ROAD GHOSTS novels revamped and done up properly to get it in front of a wider audience.

I think it’d be best to describe my career growth as an author described as incremental. Ever since I started, it was always about going a few steps more outside my comfort zone, to do something new and bigger, to stretch my boundaries.

This is going to be a crazy busy summer for us, appearing all around. What event do you look forward to the most?

You know, I had to be talked into Fandom Fest, but the more I hear about it and the closer it gets, the more excited I get about it. Rumor has it that the Seventh Star Press booth is going to be next door to a VERY major personality that has all of us excited. I’m looking forward to the fantastic writing track that’s being run by our own Stephen Zimmer. I’ll be seeing a big bunch of authors I normally only talk to online. It’s going to be big, really big, and I just asked for Monday off as well since I can feel in my gut that I’m going to need a day to recuperate.

Eric Garrison

Eric Garrison

What is the background of the series? What other novels are planned for this series and when can we expect them out?

ROAD GHOSTS started as a single book. But the summer after I wrote it, I had a dream about a little ghoul being found by Brett and Liz, and I woke up laughing at the image of the couple taking the ghoul to a McDonald’s dumpster to feed. I tried to write a short story about that, but it demanded to be more, and that became the first chapter in SINKING DOWN, the sequel. That book is in editing right now, and I hope to have it out this fall. Since I had two books, and since I had some loose ends, I decided to make it a trilogy and wrote ME AND THE DEVIL, which I hope to have out this winter. One of the characters in SINKING DOWN was too funny not to write more about, so I wrote a spinoff called BLUE SPIRIT, which is the story of Skye MacLeod, who sees fairies when she’s had a couple of drinks. Dark, Grimm-style fairies, not Tinkerbell. So, she spends most of that book tipsy, trying to save her vampire-gaming friends from very real danger. That’s going to be a second trilogy, probably called TIPSY FAIRY TALES, and those will be released next year sometime (I still have two to write).

I appreciate this opportunity to speak with you on your latest novel, Eric. I wish you long lasting and continued success in your writing career. REMEMBER TBIYTC!!!

Thanks, John, I wish you the best too, and can’t wait to start reading my copy of THE GOD KILLERS!

To my readers, go pick up your copy of Four Til Late at the following link!


Review: Alpha Instinct by Katie Reus (Moon Shifter series #1)

Alpha-InstinctGenre: Paranormal Romance
Date published: February 7 2012
Publisher: Signet

 Mass Market Paperback
368 pages
 Other formats available: eBook, Kindle, Nook

The vast majority of Paranormal Romance and Urban Fantasy novels center on vampires.

Vampires are HOT!

But what about the Lycan, sometimes known as the Shifter or more commonly regarded as the Werewolf? I personally am more inclined to read a novel centering on a shifter, more so than a vampire.


Because vampires are everywhere and shifters are WAY cooler!

That’s why when I stumbled upon Alpha Instinct by Katie Reus, I was immediately intrigued. As if the subject matter wasn’t enough, I was hooked by the character development and plot, of what I consider a very well-written paranormal romance/urban fantasy.

Fear has a scent. So does desire…

Ana Cordona has been a strong leader for the lupine shifters who survived after all the males and most of the females in her pack were mysteriously poisoned. As tough as she is, with no Alpha male, the pack is vulnerable to the devious shifter Taggart, who wants to claim both their ranch and Ana as his own. When Connor Armstrong comes back into her life, promising protection, it’s almost enough to make Ana forget how he walked out on her before—and reluctantly accept his offer to mate.

The minute Connor sees Ana again, it reawakens a raw hunger. He must have her for his bondmate—his wolf cries out for it. But his human side knows he must proceed with caution because of their complicated past. If he is to truly have her body and soul, he must go beyond his burning desire and win back her heart. Whatever it takes, he is determined not to leave her side again.

But Taggart and his rival pack are not their only enemies. A human element in town is targeting shifters. Their plan not only threatens Ana and Connor’s future, but the lives of the entire pack…

I enjoyed reading this novel and was never bored from start to finish. Reus delivers a fast-paced, action packed story, which contained the right amount of action, mystery, suspense and romance. Her characters are interesting and dynamic. The novel’s premise starts out fresh, but shifts (no pun intended) as the story progresses.

The pack dynamics are well defined and give the reader a glimpse into the Shifter Hierarchy.

Alphas are most dominate and stronger than average shifters. All true Alphas were also warriors, but warriors weren’t always Alphas.

Warriors are the larger, battle ready class of shifters. It is their job to protect the pack.

Betas are the smaller, meeker class of shifters who are more domestic and maintain the day to day workings of the pack.

Enforcers are another warrior class of shifters who work for the Pack Council and act as magistrates for rogue shifters and any other instances where Pack Law might have been broken.

The classes are not gender specific, so that both males and females can be considered of the Alpha Class.

I found the relationship between Ana and Connor to be interesting and plenty heated! The love scenes are somewhat explicit (something I enjoy) so, WARNING TO THE EASILY OFFENDED!!!

There were plenty of sub-plots to keep me interested throughout. A clever one deals with Connor’s younger brother Liam who meets and instantly recognizes December—who happens to be human and the sister of the town Sheriff, Parker—as his mate.

His attempts to woo her are undermined by December’s over protective brother, whose suspicious nature towards shifters further develops into an interesting backstory of the shadowy history he and December share.

Another sub-plot involves a group of haters called the Anti-Paranormal League (APL) who are organizing with a goal to rid the world of all shifters. An interesting facet of Reus’ world—similar to Faith Hunter’s Skinwalker series and Laurell K. Hamilton’s Anita Blake series—is that humans are aware of and interact with shifters and vampires. This creates a prejudicial tension which is exemplified by the Anti-Paranormal League. It’s hinted in the novel that the APL will play an even larger role as the series progresses.

Thirdly, a psychotic killer is on the loose and is stalking the shifters in hopes of exterminating the entire pack. The identity of this killer remains unrevealed until the conclusion of the novel.

In conclusion, I found Alpha Instinct to be a very enjoyable read and start to the series, and while it didn’t quite possess the raw witty charm of Hunter’s Skinwalker series or the murder mystery intrigue Hamilton’s Anita Blake series started out with; it did deliver enough to keep me vested in it.

Book two in the series is titled, Primal Possession and in an interesting structural concept of the series, it explores the relationship between Liam and December.

I definitely recommend this novel to fans of the genre looking to invest some time in a new series!


GOLD STARWhen I first started seriously pursuing my writing goals some three years ago, my life changed in ways that at the time I could have never imagined. Over the years, relationships formed with some very amazing people, who I never would have had the honor of knowing otherwise. My writing skills have improved and I’m more confident in my voice. In general, my friends and family have supported my journey as a writer, for which I am immensely grateful. However, pursuing a career as a writer has not been without its detractors and malcontents.

From early on, what I’d read about being a writer and the pitfalls which came from it was discouraging to say the least. Many of the articles stated that writing was a solitary endeavor which caused introversion, apathy, madness, depression and eventually led to death. Many famous examples of this gave it a modicum of truth, that was unless you became published and garnered a healthy following, then you just ended up dying of a heart attack due to lack of exercise and/or poor diet. I also read that there was little to no money or reward in writing. A more highly compensated career path such as law or medicine was encouraged.

Unfortunately, there is merit to what I read and there are undeniable truths in much of it. I think that writing can lead to the above maladies—which can prove fatal—but, I know that those very same afflictions can arise from a multitude of other professions, some of which practically guarantee far more compensation and personal accolades. It’s also true that because writers are usually sedentary, most of us aren’t the most fit or health conscious people in the world. As far as making truckloads of money from writing, less than 1% makes more than four figures a year. Even ER doctors and small time dentists can do better monetarily. However, one thing—from the above mentioned pitfalls of writing—that I feel has absolutely no merit or truth, is that there is little to no reward from writing.

I have found that writing is rewarding on so many different levels that it is in itself invaluable. I cannot begin to tell you how many times that writing a blog post or a journal entry has saved the last remnant of my threadbare sanity. As an outlet for an emotional meltdown, the latest family crisis, or dealing with all of the voices of your characters in your head, I’ve found writing to be very therapeutic. Writing is also something which is a huge part of who I am as a person, which is rewarding in its own right. Having a high paying career and being unhappy would only go so far. Money can buy you a lot of things, however it can’t buy you fulfillment.

Writing can also serve as an obvious means of expressing one’s thoughts and ideas, in such a way as to inform, entertain, make a statement or create change. Yet, telling stories can also be a very selfish effort as well. I’ve found that my motivation for writing isn’t always altruistic.

If there’s a book you really want to read, but it hasn’t been written yet, then you must write it.

~Toni Morrison

I have come to live by the above quote from Morrison, as it sums up the previous statement perfectly.

In all of the other examples of rewards one can gain from writing, I feel that this final one is most important. Not solely because it can serve to prevent the previously mentioned pitfalls of writing from becoming fatal, or because it can inspire and empower us to reach our fullest potential, not only as writer’s, but also as humans. I feel that this final example is most important because it has the power of giving us hope. Hope of learning from our past, hope of coping with our present and hope of brighter futures, just beyond the horizon. I’m talking about family.

I have been blessed to have entered into a very eclectic, multi-cultural, multi-ethnic family of writers dedicated to the craft and each other. I feel that the personal relationships that I have and continue to develop with fellow writers are crucial to my ability to persevere in the darkest of times we writers face. My college professor, Jim Powell once told me that without the human condition/connection, our writing would be without meaning, no matter the genre. That not only applies to the content of our work but how we live as a community. I believe in the truth of his statement and what it means for the millions of writers out there grinding out their work every day just as I do.

I have experienced the awesome comradery which being a part of a community of writers provides. How we share, how we laugh, how we cry, and I know that we are a very special group of people. I have had the honor of meeting and befriending a great group of writers who have helped to guide me, inspire me, and support me as a writer and as a person. I can only hope to repay their kindness with kindness of my own and an extended hand to others I meet along my journey. We as writers, have an obligation to continue moving the art of writing forward by remaining vigilant in our efforts to strengthen our collective community. We must take every opportunity to extend a hand to our brethren, helping them along on their journey as best we can. Although it’s impossible for us to know each and every one of our brothers and sisters on a personable level, I believe we are of a shared consciousness and linked by our call to write. We must always remember that when we reward each other, we reward ourselves, and the rewards are invaluable.



typewriter_1_lgAre you a writer and if so, why do you write and what do you write? Are you a starry eyed reader who thinks that the writing life is an exclusive society of posh, well to-do people who revel in success? These are serious questions you must ask yourself if you dare to write. I didn’t ask myself these questions at first and my awakening was not so much rude, as it was extremely educational.

The following quote is from Fantasy writer, R.A. Salvatore:

There’s way too much pain in this business (writing) for anyone who doesn’t have to write. I always tell beginning writers, “If you can quit, then quit. If you can’t quit, you’re a writer.”

~ R.A. Salvatore

Salvatore’s advice is sage. In my experience, I’ve learned that writing will confound you, make you angry, depress you and attempt to drive you insane. However, if none of the above puts you into a psychiatric hospital then it can also be quite rewarding. Though if you’re looking for fame and fortune, then writing isn’t likely to be your ticket to it.

Writing is a discovery and a continuous learning process. If you stop learning, stop reaching for that forever elusive perfection (The Perfect Story) which writers always pursue then you’re not writing. Writing is an exploration which serves to help the author discover things about themselves which they never realized or ignored, and also serves as an expression of the author’s thoughts and emotions which both entertain and inform the reader. If you’re extremely lucky you will accomplish all of this, and do it well. If you’re like most of us, you will attempt it and maybe your readers won’t notice your mistakes.

While pursuing your goals as a writer, it’s important to learn and apply the proper mechanics which all writing instructors drill into you. Rigid rules which when followed will help you to produce fair, if not great work. However, it’s important to understand that writers often break those rules by following them and therein is the trick…the story itself.

Your story is the means by which you can break the rules successfully once you’ve mastered the rules in the first place. Confusing? Yes, it is. Now you can get a glimpse into the mania of a writer. In my humble opinion, what you write isn’t too important as long as it’s good. So if you write poetry, essays, short stories, novels or all of the above, no matter what genre make it good. I won’t list the rules which make a good story in this blog post (perhaps in a future post), because that is a lengthy list, and not the purpose of this posting.

Every writing instructor I’ve encountered on the collegiate level (for one reason or another), looks down at genre fiction from the lofty height of their literary perches. These professors often expound that the substance of anything outside of literary fiction is mostly garbage. While is some cases this may be true, the same can also be said about literary fiction.


There is an audience for your work, and you can succeed. Writing instructors are paid to pontificate about the higher quality of writing that goes into literary fiction, as they expound upon the merits of avoiding genre fiction. Let the haters hate, because that’s what they do, and they’re quite good at it.

If you choose to write genre fiction (like me), make sure you plot out your stories very carefully and don’t get caught up in the nuances of the world you create. Your story must have a human element in order to reach the reader on a human level. This can be very challenging and (like myself), you will undoubtedly miss this mark at least once in your career. Not every story an author writes will resonate with every reader, even though that should be the writer’s goal.

Should the author be embarrassed?

Should they hide themselves away like a pariah?

Not if they learn from it. Some element within your writing must touch upon what we know to be true to the human condition. A former instructor of mine gave me that advice and I ignored her on a story I wrote…let’s just say the next critic was downright rude. I took what criticism had merit to heart and chocked the rest up to their disdain for commercial fiction.

If nothing and no one can dissuade you from your passion for writing, then welcome to a career of pain, suffering and blessed rewards!

Writing in and of itself is no easy endeavor, and requires quite a large chunk of your soul to achieve. So, no matter what area of writing you practice, (from business writing, poetry to essays to screenwriting to prose, short stories, novels or flash fiction) I believe that it is important, and makes a contribution to the fold, at least on some level. Quality writing isn’t exclusive to literary fiction; it can be found in all genres. And what’s most important is that readers are given what all readers want…A GOOD STORY!


Maurice Broaddus

Maurice Broaddus

This week I interviewed Maurice Broaddus, an urban fantasy author with dozens of published short stories to his credit and a novel trilogy titled, The Knights of Breton Court. We discussed the annual writing convention he hosts called Mo*Con and held in Indianapolis, IN.


How did Mo*Con come about?

Mo*Con came about for 3 different reasons.

First, my wife wanted to experience conventions and the thought was to create a convention that she could experience firsthand.

Secondly, at the conventions I attended I had great conversations with other writers and I wanted to replicate that experience in a room party environment as the convention itself. The conversations were relaxed and covered a wide range of topics from religion, politics, current affairs and of course writing.

Third, I wanted to do a writing convention at a church and Mo*Con was a prime opportunity to do this. At the time, I was running a local church and I basically wanted the church to be a safe place for these types of conversations.

What prompted you to name the convention Mo*Con?

A friend of mine—Chesya Burke—knew I hated nicknames. Mo, being a nickname for Maurice lead to the name Mo*Con. From there it just seemed to stick.

Who sponsors Mo*Con?

In the beginning, Mo*Con was a one man operation. I ran everything by myself until a friend suggested that I look to other sources of support to make the convention happen.

I have partnered with organizations such as: Cities of Refuge, Broad Ripple United Methodist Church, and Indiana Horror Writers (IHW).

Who is the intended audience for Mo*Con?

All are welcome, but primarily those who are interested in hearing writers speak on social issues and the intricacies of their craft. Those most involved consist of horror and fantasy readers and writers. However, we want to spoil writers and celebrate their contributions, while involving the community.

How do you see Mo*Con evolving in the future?

It’s an ongoing process. We’ve had everything from a Celtic Rock concert, a puppet show and a horror writer who delivered a sermon at the church. We intend to let it evolve organically and simply see where it takes us.


MO*CON 2013

MO*CON 2013

So, if you’re in Indianapolis during Mo*Con do yourself a HUGE favor and stop by on Friday, or better yet go ahead and RSVP purchase your tickets now!The event will be held at Broad Ripple United Methodist Church in Indianapolis from May 3-5, 2013. Full registration price is $75. If you can’t make it but would like to support Mo*Con, why not become a non-attending sponsor.

For more information, visit: or!/events/357048291062838/?fref=ts


Hello everyone!

I’m picking off where I left off in the two-part series dealing with Writer’s Depression.

Depressed Writer Clipart As a writer how suffers from depression, I know first-hand how devastating the effects of it can be.   The symptoms in and of themselves are enough to weigh a person down like an anchor, but how can  we fight against it? How can we win a battle raging inside of our minds?

One therapeutic strategy for depression is exercise!

Given that quite a few writers live a somewhat sedentary lifestyle (I mean we do sit down and write…a   lot!), it’s no wonder that we don’t really do much in the way of formal exercise.

I’m guilty as charged.

I find it to be a very daunting task to exercise. Mostly because of physical ailments/conditions which limit my mobility at times. However, at least two of my current conditions could be all but eliminated with moderate exercise and a proper diet.

Another part of the equation is that if you’re depressed already, any task which you find daunting in the first place can become even more so if you’re already in that dark place mentally and emotionally.

Experts recommend at least 30 minutes to an hour a day, 5-6 days a week of moderate exercise, coupled with eating a healthy diet, something which is also therapeutic for depression.

Often writers keep a daily journal and this also is a way in which to combat depression. Think of it as a way to daily exercise your inner demons and purge those thoughts and emotions which contribute to your depression in the first place.

Many of my writing peers have told me that they began writing in the first place to cope with depression. They found it to be an escape from this stresses of day to day life, which they felt were the culprits in their depressed states. But taking into account the stresses of deadlines and the task of developing a story draft that a writer feels comfortable with, can lead them back into the dark place they had sought to escape.

The most important component in dealing with depression for writers and everyone in general—in my opinion—is to first identify that depression is real and serious. Then seeking professional advice or at the very least seeking a writing group which allows you to express your feelings in an open, non-judgmental forum.

In closing, I’d like to say that I’ve employed at least two of these strategies at some point in my journey and some worked better than others for me. It’s all a matter of doing what’s best for you as an individual, but the most important thing is to DO SOMETHING!!!


Depressed Writer Clipart  I am a writer…


 I am depressed…


  I am not alone…


Writing is very often a solitary journey into the inner depths of one’s soul. A lot of what writers do is re-experiencing moments from our lives and/or our environments. We recreate and reimagine events in prose form, all in the effort to educate, entertain or uplift—sometimes all three.

Hours of our time is spent with a notepad, tablet or computer using words to interpret the miasma of thoughts and ideas swirling within our minds and souls, with very little—if any—regard to the effect that might have on our well-being.

A saner person might ask, “Why do you subject yourself to such torture?” The answer, isn’t always understandable to those who aren’t writers, but is as clear as clean air to most writers.

We do it because; we can’t stop…

Acclaimed fantasy writer, R.A. Salvatore is quoted as saying: “…if you can quit, then quit. If you can’t quit, then you’re a writer.”

As writers, we are drawn to this form of self-expression because it is within us to create and explore—both our own minds and the world around us. However, sometimes our called profession can cause us to spiral into a dark, lonely and sometimes dangerous place.

If it weren’t bad enough that writers face the sometimes daunting—but often rewarding—task of creating prose from the myriad reaches of our psyches, and attempt to make a living from our craft, we also are at war with our very own minds. We struggle to produce earnest prose, but are hardly ever satisfied with ourselves or our work. The phrase, “You are your worst critic,” is cliché yet, very succinct in its accuracy in describing why writers carry the burden of self-doubt, which is the leading contributor to depression amongst us, in my opinion. It is our own ambivalence which often proves to be our very undoing.

According to Portland based author and psychotherapist, Philip Kenney, At its best, self-criticism seems to drive individuals to revise and polish work. At its worst, it can torment and paralyze one’s efforts and completely distort the self-portrait beyond recognition.”

Writers and other creatives are sensitive people, perhaps more sensitive than many other individuals in other fields. Most of us are very critical of ourselves and our work, which is what drives us to improve in our craft, but can also be the debilitating bane of our existence.

It is our sensitivity which gives us the insight into our minds and the world around us and allows us to create the worlds and characters in our work. It gives us the ability to explore our fears and emotions in a way few others can experience.

However, there is a price…

That same sensitivity makes us very vulnerable. As we delve into the unconscious and subconscious of our minds, we are forced to confront those dark places hidden away from the rest of the world. Places which are very often too painful to talk about verbally, we use our writing to communicate about.

That’s pretty scary stuff, indeed.

Writers are prone to being overstimulated and suffer from emotional overflow. This often leads to anxiety—which in my experience—can cause an assortment of problems in the writer’s ability to function on the day to day and interact with others—most importantly their family.

We also tend to internalize our feelings and thoughts. Expression in writing is not synonymous with verbal communication, and we are frequently faced with anxious, emotional overload, which can cause us to have morose and solitary periods, as well as traumatic breakdowns.

In my next blog post, A Writer’s Depression: Part Two, I will explore the ways in which writers can deal with their feelings of anxiety and how to possibly determine the difference between the nagging self-critic and perhaps a deeper problem.


IHW LOGO7aOn Friday, February 22, 2013 I attended my very first Indiana Horror Writers (IHW) Writer’s Retreat and the experience was very rewarding. I went into this with feelings of excitement and wariness. I’d heard stories from my fellow writers on what to expect and prepared myself accordingly. The first evening was spent settling into our rented townhome for the evening and unwinding from our outside lives.

When writers gather together it’s inevitable that we talk shop. Many of the struggles we face as writers are best understood and most sympathized with by other writers. But, there was plenty of time devoted to socializing and partaking in adult libations.

Our time together was semi-structured and not just a frat party weekend for writers, although we had our Animal House moments of lounging around drinking, listening to 80’s music and talking about such diverse subjects as our favorite pop culture icons to the role of S&M in writing.

On Saturday we all trickled out of bed and made our way to the kitchen for coffee—one of two brown liquids often associated with writers. We ate breakfast and then when everyone was at least semi-coherent, some of us participated in a writing exercise. The idea was to take a prompt and free write for fifteen minutes a piece of flash fiction, which we would then read to the group.

I was amazed at the level of creativity attained by some of my fellow writers. Their pieces—with minimal polish—sounded as though they were ready for publication. Although they all had speculative fiction slants, they were generally the funny type of stories you could find in Reader’s Digest or the Saturday Evening Post.

We won’t talk about mine…apparently the coffee hadn’t kicked in yet.

Later that afternoon after a couple hours of idle conversation, we grabbed our laptops and headed to the great room for a workshop. The leader gave us certain broad parameters to follow in stages which focused on developing a viable plot for a short story and/or novel. At the end, we shared what we’d come up with and again the level of creativity was astounding.

Apparently by then the coffee had done its thing because my peers enjoyed what I’d written and it was something I could feel proud of creating, unlike that prior writing exercise which shall never see the light of day.

We then dispersed to grab showers and then make our way to Irvington for a debut book signing featuring members of our group. The bookstore was quaint and cozy. There were a number of people who showed up to meet, greet and get signed copies of our friend’s newest tome.

The authors and editors of Dark Faith: Invocations @ Bookmama's in Irvington, day 2 of the IHW Retreat. Lucy Snyder, Gary Braunbeck, RJ Sullivan, Maurice Broaddus, Kyle Johnson & Jerry Gordon.

The authors and editors of Dark Faith: Invocations @ Bookmama’s in Irvington, day 2 of the IHW Retreat.
Lucy Snyder, Gary Braunbeck, RJ Sullivan, Maurice Broaddus, Kyle Johnson & Jerry Gordon.

The IHW Gang @ The Oriental Inn, day 2 of the IHW Retreat! — with Rj Sullivan, R.J. Sullivan, author, Drew Leiter, Todd Manning, Kathy Watness, Natalie Phillips, Gerald Carlstrom, Rodney Carlstrom, Gary A. Braunbeck, Lucy Snyder, Michael West, Bill Larson and Chris Garrison.

The IHW Gang @ The Oriental Inn, day 2 of the IHW Retreat! — with Rj Sullivan, R.J. Sullivan, author, Drew Leiter, Todd Manning, Kathy Watness, Natalie Phillips, Gerald Carlstrom, Rodney Carlstrom, Gary A. Braunbeck, Lucy Snyder, Michael West, Bill Larson and Chris Garrison.

Riding the high of a successful book signing, we headed out to a neighborhood Chinese Restaurant for an evening meal. It was the first time I’d been to this particular establishment and I must say that on the outside it looked like a hole in the wall joint. However, the food and service was excellent and their menu prices were very reasonable.After everyone had gotten their food fix and were dealing with a case of the “I-tis”—after eating lethargy—we made our way back to our rented townhome to settle in for the evening.

A group of us again gathered into the great room and pulled out our laptops to pull up a piece of our work to share in a group reading. The stories shared were fantastically well written and crafted. The sneak peeks of, “Works in progress” from my peers was entertaining, enlightening and proved that I had joined a group of truly talented people.

Some of us, in an attempt to relive our youths stayed up until the wee hours of the morning; snacking, drinking and talking about nothing in particular. It was our last night and we wanted to be rebels, which we paid for the very next day.

As we tumbled out of bed like newly awakened day walkers, rising from a deep hibernation, we made our way to the kitchen for that morning elixir we writers seem to thrive on.

Me, Michael West Chris Chris Garrison & Rj Sullivan @ The IHW Retreat, Final Day! TCQ

Me, Michael West, Eric Garrison & Rj Sullivan @ The IHW Retreat, Final Day! TCQ

The end of our weekend retreat culminated in a brunch buffet where we talked about our assessment of experiences that weekend. Our out of town guests returned safely to their bailiwicks and we left in anticipation of next year’s retreat and what new and wonderful excitement it would hold.

This blog post is an illustration of how new experiences can and do strengthen our creativity and help to build important and lasting relationships for the future. If you are a writer and have the opportunity to attend a writer’s retreat, I highly recommend that you go.

You will be changed.

New Years Goals

The New Year is a time for introspection and reflection. We reflect on the past year and grow from the good and learn from the bad. Then, we look inside at who we’ve become and how the events of the past year have shaped us. Personally, I had a great year in 2012. Sure, there were ups and downs. There were times when it seemed as though nothing was going my way. I was irritable, I cried, I became frustrated and came close to throwing in the towel.
But, there were also times when it seemed that I’d struck gold. I met and acquired new friends, and gained a greater focus as it pertains to my writing. I made strides, both as a writer and as a person. I was happy, I laughed, I became euphoric and realized that I’d come too far to turn back.
I suppose, you could say that there was a yin-yang of events and emotions tied to 2012. Some years it seems as though things were worse than years past. However, the thing about the NEW YEAR is that it provides us with new opportunities and the chance to gain new experiences and apply what we’ve learned from the mistakes and bad times of previous years.
I gave up making New Year’s resolutions and replaced them with solid goals. I don’t want to focus my time and energy on fretting about keeping promises, I’d much rather focus that time and energy on reaching my goals. And if I don’t reach all of my goals, then I keep on reaching until I do. Developing a plan and working towards achieving your goals is more constructive than making promises to yourself, which you may end up breaking anyway. At least that’s how I see it.
I’m looking at 2013 as my year to shine! I have renewed my confidence in my writing, set my goals and I’m embracing who I am as a person. Will I have moments of frustration and self-doubt…probably, but I will also have the chance to apply all that I learned in 2012 to my life and strive to work harder and smarter towards my goals, how about you?