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!


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.


BLACK WRITERS IN ROMANCE & LITERARY FICTIONIn this week’s blog post, I’m celebrating the rich history and influential accomplishments of black writers of poetry, literary fiction and romance.

This is Part One of a two-part post.

The history of black writers is rarely acknowledged before the Harlem Renaissance in mainstream America. Although that period was a great time of growth for blacks in the arts, the history of black writers goes much farther back.

In 1746, Lucy Terry—a black slave in Deerfield, MA—wrote the ballad, “Bars Fight”. The piece wasn’t published until 1854 in The Springfield Republican with an additional couplet and again in Josiah Holland’s History of Western Massachusetts, 1855.

Noted poet Phillis Wheatley’s book, “Poems on Various Subjects”, was published in 1773, prior to the War of Independence. She holds the honor of being the first African American to publish a book and the first to achieve an international reputation as a writer. Wheatley was born in Senegal, but at age seven was captured and sold into slavery. She soon mastered the English language and began writing. Her poetry earned the praise of many leading figures of the American Revolution including George Washington. The validity of her works were often challenged as the white people of the time found it hard to believe that a black person was capable of such refined writing.

The credit for the earliest works of fiction by African American writers goes to William Wells Brown and Victor Séjour. Not very many people know of these men and because of the times in which they lived (1800’s), it is no surprise.

Brown was a prominent abolitionist, lecturer, historian, playwright and novelist during the 1800’s. His novel Clotel (1853) is considered the first novel written by an African American. The novel was published in London, where Brown lived at the time. He was also a pioneer of various literary genres, including travel writing and drama.

Sejour was born in New Orleans as a free man, but moved to France at the age of nineteen. While there, he published his short story “Le Mulâtre” (“The Mulatto”) in 1837. It has the distinction of being the first known work of fiction published by an African American however, it was written in French and published in a French journal, and had no apparent influence on later American literature. Unfortunately, Séjour never returned to African-American themes in his subsequent works.

As time progressed, slavery ended and blacks were attempting to fit themselves into a society which shunned them, a significant period marked a creative surge within the black community. The period was known as the Harlem Renaissance, and ran from 1920 to 1940. Based in the Harlem community in New York City, the Harlem Renaissance was part of a larger peak of social thought and culture within the African American community.

During this time, the US experienced a growth of African American literature and art. It was a turning point for black literature as prior to this time; books written by African Americans were primarily read solely by other blacks. An abundance of Black artists, musicians and others produced classic works in various fields from jazz to theater. However, this movement spurred black literature, fine art and performance art to be absorbed into mainstream American culture, although it can be argued that perhaps the period is best known for the literature that came out of it.

Some of the most renowned writers of this period were: Langston Hughes, Claude McKay, & Zora Neale Hurston to name a few. Hughes first received attention in 1922 with the publication of The Book of American Negro Poetry. The work was edited by James Weldon Johnson as an anthology which featured the work of many of the period’s most talented poets, such as Claude McKay.

McKay went on to publish three novels, Home to Harlem, Banjo and Banana Bottom, as well as a collection of short stories.

Zora Neale Hurston was another prominent figure of the Harlem Renaissance. She wrote the classic novel, Their Eyes Were Watching God in 1937. Her works ranged from anthropology to short stories and novels, but unfortunately they fell into obscurity for decades. It wasn’t until the 1970’s that her work was rediscovered thanks to a 1975 article by Alice Walker published in Ms. Magazine.

Despite the fact that by and large Hughes and Hurston were the two most influential and recognizable writers of the era, others became well known also, such as: Jean Toomer, author of Cane—a collection of stories and poems about rural and urban lives of blacks. Dorothy West was another whose novel, The Living is Easy, examined the life of an upper-class black family.

Countee Cullen was also a writer of note, whose poems described the everyday life of blacks. His works include: Color (1925), Copper Sun (1927) and The Ballad of the Brown Girl (1927).

Other known authors of this period were: Wallace Thurman, author of the novel The Blacker the Berry: A Novel of Negro Life (1929), which focused on intra-racial prejudice between lighter skinned and darker skinned blacks.

Frank Marshall Davis, whose poetry collections, Black Man’s Verse (1935) and I am the American Negro (1937), were published by Black Cat Press, and earned him critical acclaim.

This concludes Part One of The History of Blacks in Literary Fiction and Poetry. Part Two will be featured in the blog post scheduled for next Monday, 18 February 2013.

Friday, 15 February 2013 I will post my review of Carl Weber’s The Man in 3B, STAY TUNED!!!


This week’s spotlight author is Zaji!

For a complete bio, please visit:

BLACK SPECULATIVE FICTION WRITERSWhen I started reading, “When We Were One” by Zaji, I wasn’t exactly sure what to expect. The blurb on the back cover piqued my interest, but after reading it, I was rewarded with a very well written and inspiring story.

Unlike most of today’s speculative fiction, this novel was thankfully devoid of vampires, werewolves and zombies. Don’t get me wrong, as a writer and fan of urban fantasy I like my supernatural creatures, but it is refreshing to read a book where they aren’t present.

The story takes place on Parthos, a world where a unique race of women known as the Parthonites, live peacefully and in harmony with their environment. When their unique system of reproduction yields an anomaly, they are at a loss on how to understand why this has happened and how to deal with it. Meanwhile, visitors seek to uncover the secrets of their culture by any means necessary.

I liked, “When We Were One,” because of the spirit in which it was told. There was a sense of serenity I got from simply reading the story. It captured me with a sense of wonder and left me pleasantly satiated.

Even though the story took place in a fantasy realm, it resonates with core values that are intertwined in the spirit of humanity as we know it. As I read the novel, I got a definite sense of real world applications with a shot of history, which served to weave a tapestry of entertaining, insightful and inspiring prose.

The one critique I have of the novel, or at least the copy I read, was that the font style slowed down my reading considerably, about a third of the way through the novel. While I liked the look of the font aesthetically, but I found it wasn’t conducive to prolonged reading. I would encourage Zaji to consider a more standard font, for the sake of her readers.

As an added bonus, I had the honor of interviewing the author and here are her responses to my questions:

1) What drew you to write in speculative fiction and why do you feel that it is a powerful and/or worthy genre?

I’ve been a lover of speculative fiction for as long as I can remember. The Twilight Zone was my first taste of speculative fiction, given that it featured both science fiction and speculative fiction stories. I have probably watched nearly every Twilight Zone ever made. I was then drawn to other authors such as Octavia Butler, who skillfully created worlds that drew me in. I felt like I was in her stories, a part of her villages, moving through time with her characters. I honestly have a love for all types of fiction, but writing speculative fiction gives me the freedom to create anything I want and make you believe it. Speculative fiction allows me to open up the cosmic gateways of possibility and explore everything conceivable. The limits are only confined to my imagination. Through speculative fiction, I can show readers what could be if they only let their mind explore the ideas.

2) Who are some to the authors who inspired you on your journey as a writer, and why?

 Authors who inspired me include Octavia Butler, Tananarive Due, Steven Barnes, Brandon Massey, M.P. Shiel, Ray Bradbury; too many to name.

3) Are you working on any other projects that you can share?

I am currently working on the prequel to When We Were One, as well as several short stories. I’m also planning a writers’ retreat I hope to have this year in the summer. Additionally, I’m considering doing an online Self-Publishing workshop for writers who desire to self-publish their works.

Many of the short stories I’ve been writing might work for a book of short stories, Ray Bradbury style. For example, all of the stories in Martian Chronicles were published as individual works in other publications. He put them all together in one book given that they were all related to Mars. I’d like to do something similar.

4) What do you want readers to take away from, “When We Were One”?

I want readers to go away with any aspect of the work that moves them. I am not the type of writer who wants readers to see specifically what I see or what I meant when I wrote it. I want them to see what comes through for them. Each person, depending on their life experiences, will see and feel something different when they read a work. Some will see the obvious, but others will feel the not so obvious. I give each reader freedom. I want them to allow that freedom to take them where it needs to take them when they read my work. I want them to feel what they need to feel so that they move to the next level of their existence. They cannot move to the next level of my existence and life based on what I meant the work to be for me, they can only move where they need to be, in their own time and understanding. Works I read 20 years ago look very different to me now because of my experiences. I often read them again and think, how did I miss that? How come I didn’t understand that before? Or even remember reading that part? This is because we do not see the world as it is, we see it as we are. This is the same with reading. We do not read based on what a work is, we read and understand a work based on who we are in that moment. I want readers to see what they need to see in this moment when they read my work. This is not to say that some works aren’t obviously positive or negative and need no interpretation, but for the most part, our response to any given work is based on how we see the world. All else is open for discussion and sharing if the opportunity arises.

5) When can readers expect future installments in the series?

I’m a slow writer. But I do hope to have the prequel to When We Were One done by early next year.

In conclusion, I highly recommend picking up this novel and giving it a read. I look forward to reading more adventures set in this unique and wondrous world, with its plethora of strong, dynamic characters and thought provoking situations.

For more information on Zaji and how to purchase her novels, please visit her website:

Next Friday I will be reviewing Carl Weber’s latest novel, The Man in 3B!

Until then, REMEMBER TBIYTC (The Best Is Yet To Come)!!!


     In the spirit of celebrating Black History Month, I’ve dedicated my weekly blog posts to celebrate the accomplishments of Black writers with a look into their work within the writing profession. I will be tasking myself with reading the work of one black author per week and reviewing their work as a blog post (Fridays). In addition, I will be writing a post exploring blacks in particular genres (Mondays). That’s a total of two blog posts per week! These posts are meant to be educational, insightful and inspiring. I know I sure learned a lot in doing the research for them!

     The first post in the series to be uploaded tomorrow, Monday, 4 February 2013, will focus on the history of Black writers in speculative fiction!


Black History Month Banner

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?