Thursday, May 18, 2017

My Interview with author ZRINKA JELIC

Zrinka Jelic lives in Ontario, Canada. A PAN member of the Romance Writers of America, as well as Savvy Authors, she writes contemporary fiction— which leans toward the paranormal —and adds a pinch of history. Her characters come from all walks of life, and although she prefers red, romance comes in many colors. Given Jelic’s love for her native Croatia and the Adriatic Sea, her characters usually find themselves dealing with a fair amount of sunshine, but that's about the only break they get.

I met Zrinka through our mutual friend, Erika M Szabo, and am getting to know her as an incredibly nice, friendly soul with a cool sense of humor. She is a fine and gifted writer, a very prolific author with a love of history and the paranormal. We belong to a number of the same online writing/author communities, as well as many Facebook groups where authors can promote themselves and their books. I thought it might be fun and interesting to interview her, and it was. So here we go!
What and who are some of your influences?

Though I enjoy writing styles of several authors, I don’t believe I’m influenced by them. I strive to find my own style and voice and not write the same book everyone else is writing. Yes, writing commercial fiction for profit tends to lead to the mimicking that hot book everyone reads and talks about. I’ve seen this happen with the Twilight series when vampires exploded and saturated market. I’ve seen this fad with The Hunger Games, Fifty Shades of Gray, and I’m pretty sure I’ll see it again and again. 

What inspired you to start writing, and how long have you been writing?

I’ve always written and made stories up. My imagination got me in trouble when I was a child because some kids couldn’t see that I’m making it up, but actually believed it to be truth. I didn’t start seriously writing until seven or so years ago when a friend said I should really try. I took her advice, believing nothing will ever come out of it, but to my surprise, my debut novel got accepted for publication. Now, seven books later, and several short stories that appeared in anthologies, I’m glad I listened to her.

What genres and/or literary style do enjoy writing in the most?

I’m a romance lover through and through.

 Tell us about your latest published book, short story or novella.

My first self-published book (but #7 in the line) is titled The Wedding Date, and it’s a romantic comedy. It’s a story of a pretend date that turns real.

Besides the “entertainment factor,” what do you strive for in your writing?

Well, I’m always super careful of grammar, being non-native to the English language, however, even with numerous critique partners, beta readers and editors some error always seems to slip through. And with foreign name readers, reviewers are very, very quick to point that out in their reviews. Many of the reviewers are authors themselves and their own books could use tighter editing. So I suppose the saying ‘before you accuse me, take a look at yourself’ doesn’t apply in their case.

Would you say that your stories are more plot-driven or character-driven?

 I never understood this question. How can you have a story without either factor? Characters react to the events in the story (plot points) if they don’t react how much of the story would be there? So one is driving the other, there would be no plot without characters nor would there be characters without a plot. At least that is how I see this. Characters and the plot are equally important and essential components of the story. (Great answer and you ask a great  question . . . and you’re the first to ask that question!  As I see it, plot-driven or action-driven is usually where the story is more concerned with the gizmo or gadget, and action. Character driven is when more thought is given to characters, more introspection, and often deal with the human condition.  I write mostly adventure stories with a lot of action, but I spend more time on character relationships and interaction than I do on the “action scenes.” So I try to make my stories driven by the characters and their motives: I’m more concerned about the lives of the men and women who build the rocket ship, than the actual building of the rocket ship. That’s my definition, at least. — JB)

What can you tell us about your latest work(s) in progress?

I’m struggling as to what to write next. I’ve started two projects and not sure about either. They would eventually get completed, but at the time I’m leaning towards something else, only I don’t know what that is yet. (It will come to you. The characters will tell you when it’s time to write their story. — JB)

In what direction do you think your work is now heading? 

I think this brings me back to the previous question. I may have to take a very long break and see if I should continue on with writing. Writing is my creative outlet and I’m not competitive. I do not wish to cheat Amazon to improve my ranking. This and reviews stating I need to find a better editor put me off writing. It’s hard to have your dream so blatantly crushed shortly after it barely took off, but that’s the way the world’s moving. I understand that there will be criticism, we all get reviewed in our jobs, but that is done behind closed door of your manager’s office, not put on the public display.

What genre of fiction have you not yet written for, but plan to in the future?

I planned to write a YA and actually tried it, and not finding my voice there.

What are some of your all-time favorite films and TV shows?

I stopped watching television long ago and got rid of cable. And I never regretted it.

Tell us about your writing habits, such as: Do you outline extensively? Do you create your characters first, or your plot? Do you listen to music while writing, and if so, what kind?

I start outlining, but eventually give up because I never know which way the story will take me. I think I create plot first, and develop characters around it. Our life events shape us to who we are and we change with them. I do listen to music, but it has to be strictly instrumental or the lyrics will distract me.

 What else can you tell us about yourself and your reading habits?
I like to read any genre as long as the story captures me. I’m not a grammar Nazi (though I try my best to get the grammar as correct as possible) so I don’t pay too much attention to grammar errors unless they are on every page. I do, however, have a pet peeve with head hopping, choppy styles, info dumping, telling, long paragraphs that are a hurdle to read, stiff dialogue, too many dialogue “tell tags” where action/emotion should do that, or in some instances . . . no tag was needed because it was clear who spoke; incorrect info given without fact checking (e.g. in a book I’ve read the heroine earned her black belt in TKD in two years. Not a chance!) Then there are characters where their name and/or appearance change part way through the book; and of course, the plot holes. These are the things that will make or break a book for me. I don’t nitpick if a word is misspelled or a wrong word is used due to auto correct feature. I read the book as a whole, not a separate sentence.

Thank you, Zrinka, for being such a good sport and taking the time to do this review and letting me pick your brain a little. It was fun and insightful.
You can find Zrinka Jelic and her books on Amazon and Facebook. 
Be sure to check out her website, too!

Amazon Author Page:

On Facebook: Zrinka Jelic, Romance Author


Thursday, May 11, 2017



I “met” Derrick Ferguson on Facebook some years ago, through many mutual friends, and we even share a publisher, Airship 27 Productions. He is one of the bright lights of the New Pulp brand of adventure and mystery and heroic fiction, and a very prolific, consummate writer. In fact, he’s always writing: besides his fiction, he blogs and Tweets, has a couple of Facebook pages that are among the most busy and popular I know of, and he reviews moves . . . lots of movies . . . all kinds of movies. You wouldn’t believe how many movies he reviews for his website, The Ferguson Theater! Eloquent and erudite, he is also one of the nicest guys I’ve come to know, generous with his time, and always engaging in some excellent conversation with his friends and fans. Among his many fine novels are Search for the Beast, The Madness of Frankenstein, and Fortune McCall. He’s also contributed stories to a number of anthologies, including Sinbad: The New Voyages, Black Pulp, and Bass Reeves: Frontier Marshall. He’s probably best known for his wonderful character of Dillon, soldier of fortune, star of such novels as Dillon and the Voice of Odin, Four Bullets for Dillon, and Dillon and the Legend of the Golden Bell. Always a gentleman of good grace, over the last few years Derrick has been kind enough to interview me not once, but three times for his interview series called “Kicking the Willy Bobo,” which is featured on his Blood and Ink website. Well, I finally get a chance to return the favor and interview him.

What and who are some of your influences and inspirations?
DF: Movies, any and all. Marvel and DC comics. Westerns, print, film and TV. James Bond, book and movie incarnations. Classic Pulp, especially Doc Savage. Lester Dent. Ian Fleming. Robert R. McCammon. George C. Chesbro. Michael Moorcock. Chester Himes. Ishmael Reed. Mike Resnick. Charles Saunders. Leigh Brackett. Jim Steranko. Robert E. Howard. I'll stop here. This whole interview could easily be taken up with me listing my influences.

Many of my influences, too. So how and why did you decide to start writing?
DF: I don't recall ever making a conscious decision to start writing. It seems as if I always have been. Even as a kid I made up stories to entertain myself and others. In elementary school I would write Edgar Rice Burroughs influenced stories with my classmates as the characters. I'd write a 'chapter' on both sides of loose leaf paper and end it on a cliffhanger. I wouldn't write the next 'chapter' until it made the rounds of the class. In junior high school I wrote a Hitchcock influenced murder mystery play that was actually performed for the entire school.

What genres and/or literary style do enjoy writing in the most?
DF: For better or for worse I've become identified with New Pulp. What is New Pulp? Well, here's the general description most of us who write it have agreed on: “New pulp is fast-paced, plot oriented storytelling of a linear nature with clearly defined, larger than life protagonists and antagonists, creative descriptions, clever use of turns of phrases, words, as well as other aspects of writing that add to the intensity and pacing of the story.”

Tell us about your latest published book, short story or novella.
DF: The most recent thing I've had published is THE THOUSAND EYED FEAR which is one half of “Nightscape Double Feature #1.” It's the brainchild of David Edwards, who is the insanely imaginative creator of the Nightscape Universe which consists of a movie, novels, a comic book and a CD of original music. David contacted me about doing a World War I novel and I jumped on the chance as I do with any opportunity to stretch my writing muscles. My story concerns a group of teenage soldiers named The Lost Boys and their leader, 'Strongboy' Quigg as they go on a suicide mission behind enemy lines to destroy a German super weapon. One that has otherworldly origins.

Besides the “entertainment factor,” what do you strive for in your writing?
DF: I would hope that African-American readers in particular would enjoy the adventures of Dillon, Sebastian Red and Fortune McCall because these are characters in situations that I don't think we're used to seeing black heroes in. Dillon goes on the type of globe spanning adventures such as the ones Doc Savage, James Bond and Indiana Jones engage in. Sebastian Red is a supernatural gunslinger wandering an alternate world Wild West that might have been dreamed up by Sergio Leone and Michael Moorcock. Fortune McCall is a black adventurer in the 1930s

Would you say that your stories are more plot-driven or character-driven?
DF: Any story worth a damn has got to start with the characters, far as I'm concerned. I love plot as much as the next pulp writer but if that plot doesn't have compelling characters inhabiting it that are doing interesting things, it's a waste of time. Out of all the advice about writing I've gotten, one is tattooed on my brain: “Plot Is What Happens. Story Is Who It Happens To.”

(I totally agree!) What can you tell us about your latest work(s) in progress?
DF: I'm currently about 40K words into THE RETURN OF THE SPECIALISTS a sequel to the book I co-wrote with Joel Jenkins; “The Specialists.” In this sequel, Dillon rounds up a bunch of badasses to foil the nefarious plot of a worldwide criminal organization. I love Men On A Mission movies like “The Wild Geese” “The Professionals” “Force 10 from Navarone” “Kelly's Heroes” and “The Expendables” and this is my opportunity to do my riff on the concept. I'm also working on and off (more off than on, I'm afraid) on THE TRAIL OF SEBASTIAN RED and THE RETURN OF FORTUNE McCALL.

Those sound really intriguing. Can you tell us what are some literary goals you’d like to achieve?
DF: I really never know how to answer that one because 'literary' seems too high-falutin' for what I do. I just like to make up stories and share them with others in the hope and expectation that they'll get as much enjoyment out of reading them as I did writing them. There are certain genres I'd like to write in just for the pure hell of it. I'd like to write a Gothic Romance, believe it or not. Something like “Rebecca”.  I'd like to write a Space Opera but I'm too intimidated by “Star Wars” and “Guardians of The Galaxy”. If I can't write something at least as good as that, then what's the point? I'd like to write a Haunted House story. I've even got a title for it: “The House at 666 Cemetery Lane”

What genre of fiction have you not yet written for, but plan to in the future?
DF: I'm a huge fan of detective fiction and so far have only written one story in that genre. I've long wanted to fully immerse myself in those waters.

Name a few of your favorite literary characters and tell us why they are your favorites?
DF: Doc Savage immediately comes to mind. When it comes to pulp adventure, for me it begins and ends with Doc Savage. There's so much of what makes him unique and special that has been strip mined and used for other characters that it isn't even funny. If it hadn't been for Lester Dent and Doc Savage, there would be no Dillon or Fortune McCall.

Elric of Melnibone, Conan, Solomon Kane and Karl Edward Wagner's Kane are my favorite sword-and-sorcery heroes. If 'heroes' is the right term to be applied to them. They're all pretty complicated guys (yes, even Conan in a way). It was from Elric and Kane that I learned that heroes don't have to be likeable for you to be interested in them and even grow to care about them.

What are some of your all-time favorite films and TV shows?
DF: Lordy...we'll be here all night. But I'll try to hold it down to a manageable number. First off, my 12 all-time favorite TV shows: “Have Gun Will Travel” “Voyage To The Bottom of The Sea” “Star Trek: Deep Space Nine” “Green Acres” “The Wild Wild West” “The Fall Guy” “The A-Team” “Magnum, P.I.” “The Bob Newhart Show” “The Simpsons” “Murphy Brown” “The Big Bang Theory” Ask me this time next week and there's an excellent chance it'll be a completely different list.

Now as to with TV shows I'll give you the first twelve right off the top of my head: “The Ten Commandments” “Star Wars: A New Hope” “Indiana Jones & The Temple of Doom” “Little Shop of Horrors” “El Dorado” “The Magnificent Seven” “Yojimbo” “Blazing Saddles” “Diamonds Are Forever” “On Her Majesty's Secret Service” “House On Haunted Hill” “Hard Boiled”

This is as good a time as any to mention that I write movie reviews and if your readers would be so good as to scoot on over to The Ferguson Theater: they will find a couple hundred movie reviews I've written. That'll give you more of an insight into the movies I like and provide you with some mighty fine reading if I do say so myself.

Seems we grew up reading and watching much of the same stuff. Now, tell us about your writing habits, such as: Do you outline extensively? Do you create your characters first, or your plot? Do you listen to music while writing, and if so, what kind?
DF: I used to say that I didn't outline until one day I woke up an realized that my first drafts were indeed my outline in a way. But outlining in the technical sense? Nah. Everybody has their own way of working and I found out long ago that working that way just doesn't work for me. I like to surprise myself while writing because I figure that if I'M surprised and I'm writing the damn thing then the reader will be surprised as well.

I usually create characters first and then the stories/plots will come from them. I recall Robert E. Howard saying once that his Conan stories came out of him as if Conan was relating them to him and Howard was just transcribing what he was telling. I don't go that far but I rarely come up with a story/plot and then have to think up characters to go along with it. The characters come first and they dictate the adventures they're going to have.
I don't listen to music while writing first drafts as I'm trying to hear/see the film that's playing on the Mental Movie Screen in my head. But during the editing/rewriting process I'll listen to music vaguely related to whatever it is I'm writing. For instance, if I'm writing a Sebastian Red story I'll listen to Ennio Morricone soundtracks and Gangstagrass. For Fortune McCall I'll listen to big band music from the 1930s and 40s.

If anybody is still reading this and wants to know more about me and my work there's quite a few places you can hang out and interact with me:

BLOOD & INK   is the blog where I usually keep folks up to date on my latest projects and I also have interviews with writers and like-minded creative types.

DILLON   is a blog totally devoted to my most popular character. Anything and everything you want to know about Dillon, you can find it here.

You can find me on Twitter as @DLFerguson1 and my personal Facebook page can be found here:   You might also want to visit and/or join the Facebook group I started and administrate, Usimi Dero which can be found here: 

I guess that's it. Thank you, Joe. You're a stand-up guy.

You’re welcome . . . and thank you, Derrick for such a wonderful interview. The feeling is mutual, my friend. We “stand together.” And don't let Star Wars, Guardians of the Galaxy, or even John Carter of Mars intimidate you: write that Space Opera, and write some Sword & Planet, too!

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

How I Got Dragged to Hell with a Smile on My Face.

Slamming Satan: or How I Got Dragged to Hell with a Smile on My Face. 

A couple years ago, I was asked by my friend and fellow author, Bruce Durham, if I would write a review for the then-newest volume in the Heroes in Hell series, Rogues in Hell. I said sure, I’d be happy to, even though I was in the middle of writing my second novel.
I remembered the original Baen Books Heroes in Hell series, having enjoyed a number of those, and I was familiar with Janet Morris from her work in Thieves World™ and many of her own novels. But it had been years since I read those; and I’d been so long away from the fantasy genre that I had no idea that Heroes in Hell had continued on past the 4 or 5 volumes I had read in the 1980s and early 90s.

So I read Rogues in Hell, loved every word of it, wrote my review, and then bought the previous and first volume in the new 21st century series now published by Perseid Press, Lawyers in Hell. Now, while lost somewhere deep in the nether regions, I get contacted one fine day by none other than Janet Morris herself, who read my review, was very pleased with it, and liked the way I wrote it.
She then read my story of Dorgo the Dowser, “The Moonstones of Sor Lunarum that I had posted on Black Gate, liked it, read more of the Dowser’s stories in my Mad Shadows: The Weird Tales of Dorgo the Dowser, and invited me to write a story for the then-forthcoming Dreamers in Hell.

To say that I was excited, flattered and a little intimidated would be understating it all. I was totally overwhelmed! Naturally, I said I would love to give it a try. But I waited. I took my time. What I wanted to do first was read and write a review of Dreamers in Hell, and then go back to re-read the first few Baen Books editions and read some of the stories in the other volumes, the ones I had not read.

Another year goes by and I still haven’t written a word. But I was in constant touch with Janet and her Hellions, as her band of Hell writers call themselves, and thoughts and ideas began to flow.
First, writing for Heroes in Hell is hard work: one needs to do a lot of research, because most of the characters in this Miltonian shared-universe are historical figures, figures of myth and legend, Biblical figures, and even some famous fictional characters – provided some link to an actual person can be found, such as the Dracula and Vlad Tepes connection.
So I hunkered down and did my homework, reading some history and biographies, researching things like demons, devils, angels, fallen angels, and the Hells of different cultures and religions. Not only was I developing a story, I was getting a wonderful education.
Now, the second thing about writing for Hell is that it made me “up my game.” The series is not only character-driven, it is allegorical, dramatic, poignant, high comedy and grim tragedy; it runs the gamut of genres and emotions. I was playing in the same park with some damned fine writers of imaginative literature, and something in the infernal nature of Hell demands and commands a writer to do the best he can, to go above and beyond what he/she has done before.
So I wrote for my first story for Hell, and it was published in Poets in Hell.

Hell is addictive. It’s an obsession. Hell has its rules, but what the rules do is force you to be more creative, to think outside the box: the rules are not restrictive, they are liberating. Once you pick your characters and start your research, you find things, you learn things you can use to make those characters live and breathe and jump off the page. Yeah, writing for Hell is hard work, but it’s also one helluva good time. I love every moment I spend in Hell – and I spend a lot of time there. 
Since then I wrote another story, for Doctors in Hell, one that I'm especially proud of.

So there's a little something for everyone in the Heroes in Hell series: heroic fantasy and sword & sorcery, thrillers, horror, romance, touches of science fiction and steampunk – they’re all here.

And now we have the latest volume, Pirates in Hell. I have a rather long novella in this one, called The Pirates of Penance, starring a huge cast of famous and infamous people. 

So come visit us in Hell and enjoy the company.
BYO pitchfork.

Wednesday, April 5, 2017


"There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed."

-- Ernest Hemingway.

That's it, in a nutshell. Papa Hemingway was right. No matter what the genre, no matter if it's fiction or non-fiction, writing is hard work. It often takes some soul searching, as well as some deep thought and careful planning. But the results are always the same: you pour your heart and soul into your writing. If you're not, then you're doing something wrong. If you're writing only for the brain, while ignoring the heart, you're doing something wrong, as far as I'm concerned. It's not about the writing and how well something is written — it's about the stories and the characters. I want to feel a story. I want to experience it emotionally as well as mentally. I like to have my feelings manipulated. If an author can make me laugh and cry, make me shudder in fear, then they have succeeded. If they've made me think, made me pause to consider another point of view or something I've never thought of before . . . that's cool. But first, make me feel what the characters are feeling: show me what they are going through, don't tell me.

When you live alone, as I do, you have plenty of time to think. But thinking too much isn't always a good thing. You can get caught up and lost in regrets and memories. Some memories are happy, some sad and painful, some are so poignant you rip your heart to shreds. Then you start feeling, and sometimes feeling isn't always a good thing, because you start feeling things too deeply, and then you fall into pits of sadness and depression, and then often enough, grief takes over and controls your life. For at least seven years, certainly much longer, grief controlled my life. I had to find a way to channel that grief and sadness, to bring good out of it. 
But how? I didn't know. I was lost.

Allow me, please, to take you back in time for a little while, and hopefully you will see what I'm getting at.

                                   Sometimes when I'm lonely, I wish upon a star,
                                  I search over the rainbow and wonder who you are.

Those words are an abandoned lyric for a song I wrote back in the 1970s, when I was heavily involved in music. I am an only child, and although I grew up surrounded by a wealth of cousins and friends, in a lovely middle-class neighborhood, still . . . I always felt there was something missing in my life. Oh, I am blessed, have no doubt about that. Still, when just about all your cousins and friends have siblings, when it's time for you to go home, there is a certain shadow of loneliness that follows you. So I've always been something of a loner, and of a reclusive nature. I guess I was born that way. As a kid I spent a lot of time alone, especially in winter . . . building models, drawing, playing with toy soldiers, watching movies, reading comic books, children's books, paperbacks, and even trying my hand at a bit of writing.

For two decades music and writing stories competed for my attention. Thus, I really didn't have much success with either of them. In 1980 I came close to signing a contract with Bantam Books, but the deal fell through and I lost heart. Still, I continued to dabble with "pen and paper," as it were. Then, in 1984 I sold two short stories to what we used to call a "fanzine" — amateur magazines that are sort of the ancestors of indie publishing and small press publishers. So I hung up my guitar for good and concentrated on my writing. I even wrote my first screenplay, a musical-comedy based on the place where I was working and the people I worked with: Workingclass Heroes, I called it, thanks to John Lennon's wonderful song by the same name. But it went nowhere, and nothing else happened with my writing after that, although I devoted all my spare time to it, sacrificing a lot of social life and even romantic relationships in my pursuit of what I called The Elusive Dream. Still, I continued to write, sweating it out, cursing, and screaming at the gods. All for naught.

In 1996 I formulated a 5-year plan: I would go back to writing screenplays instead of prose. If nothing came of it, I'd go back to writing prose again. Simple as that. So in five years I wrote five more screenplays: two eventually grew into published novels, and two became published novellas. I even joined the Chicago Screenwriter's Network, and became a board member for a few years. But although I had placed high in some screenplay competitions, and had some luck in actually getting rejection letters and phone calls, I never sold one of those screenplays. During this period, I moved back home to help my parents, who were both not in the best of health. My Dad passed away from cancer in 1999, at the age of 80. I was not in the hospital room when he passed: I had stepped out to grab a sandwich, leaving him with my Cousin Carmella, his older brother's daughter and his favorite niece; she was holding his hand when he died. A few days earlier I had finished my fourth screenplay, and was planning to start another. But the death of my Dad, my best friend, took the wind out of my sails and really tore me apart, and I started to lose heart once again. 

Now, my Mom had been very ill for an even longer time, and was getting worse every day. After Dad passed away, I became her caregiver. She was 4 years older than Dad, and although her physical health was bad, she nevertheless retained her sharp wit until the very end. She became totally disabled in 2000 and there was no other option for me but to put her in a nursing home, something I will regret, grieve over, and apologize for until I draw my last breath. On Saint Patrick's Day, 2001, she succumbed to pneumonia. Being half-Irish, I'm sure she planned it that way. Her last words to me were, "I wish your father would come and take this pain away." I guess he did, because she passed not long after that, while I was holding her hand. I now understand why my Dad waited to die until after I had left his room. He knew I would have to watch my Mom die, knew that I would be holding her hand when she quietly slipped away, and he didn't want me to have to go through that twice. I think he prepared me for the next eighteen months following his death. After my Mom died, I finished my final screenplay, basically "phoning it in." My heart was no longer into it. I had lost my parents, lost just about everything I cherished. My world was turned upside down. 

A year later, in 2001, I sold their house and moved into a condo. I didn't write another word for seven years. It was like someone had turned off a switch in my head. I lost interest and had no more desire to write anyway. All I did was read and watch films.

So let's jump forward to 2008.

I was watching The Maltese Falcon, Kiss Me Deadly, Night and the City, and other film noir movies one night when that "switch" was suddenly, unexpectedly turned back on. I had an idea how to revise an old character and, after reading a lot of Raymond Chandler, knew exactly how I would tell these stories: in first person, in my own voice.

That character was Dorgo the Dowser.

This time around, I gave him a dowsing rod as a tool, a divination wand to help him solve magical crimes. I began writing up a storm and was almost finished with Mad Shadows: The Weird Tales of Dorgo the Dowser when the company I worked for since 1978 closed its doors. Once again my world was turned upside down. But I persisted, I became a bull dog, determined to finish the book and get it published. But a weird thing happened during the final proof for the publisher: I discovered a theme running throughout the six novellas that make up the book. That theme was loss — the loss of family and loved ones, the loss of wealth, comrades, and the loss of one's soul. This had all crept into my stories unconsciously. I didn't plan on it: I was just writing pulp fiction.
But there it was: a theme. Loss.

Since then I have published five novels and six short stories, with a seventh on its way, at the time of this blog. And I swear that I never set out to write about loss in any of those stories. The theme just keeps creeping in: my fear of loss, my fear of growing old, of dying all alone and no one finding my body for weeks. There are some minor themes, too, such as my need to search for something that is missing in my life, something I may never find.

So I guess I had to go through some very personal pain, experience some very heavy-duty loss, before I could write anything of any substance, of any value and merit and even meaning. All this, like some cosmic or divine plan, had to happen, could not happen, until I lost my job, and more importantly, lost the two people I loved the most in this world: my parents. My writing could not take any kind of coherent shape until I had my world turned upside down a few times. Since then, besides losing my job, losing love and suffering one heart break after another, I've lost many more family members, friends and loved ones. I guess writing is way of processing all my grief, despair, fears and heartaches. It slips into my work without my even realizing it. It has helped me cope, but I still have a long way to go before I reach a place of happiness again. But this is what happens when you write, when your emotions are channeled through your words. For me, it's a form of therapy, as much as it is a need and a desire to entertain people. I was blessed with parents who always believed in me, supported me in everything I wanted to do and tried to do. They knew I'd get published one day. Sadly, it all had to happen after they were gone.
I'm still searching for that kind of love, that kind of support, that kind of happiness. 

In the immortal words of my Mom, "Hang up the fucking guitar and write, damn it! That's what you were born to do."

I guess I should never have doubted her.

So that's why I write the way I write, the way I want and try to write: from and for the heart. I'll leave writing for the brain to the scholars and academics out there. I want you to feel what I feel, what my characters feel, and if I've touched even a handful of readers out there, then I've succeeded.

Writing may be easy for some . . . for me it's really hard work. But for all of us who write, it's the same:

All we have to do is bleed.

Friday, March 24, 2017

Dorgo's Baker's Dirty Dozen Presents: Jennifer Loiske

I first met the very talented and prolific Jennifer Loiske a few years back, through our mutual friend, author Janet Morris. Jennifer was doing a series of interviews with the authors who write for Janet’s legendary, Heroes in Hell series. So Jennifer sent me a list of questions which I answered at great length, as I recall. In fact, she interviewed me twice! (So now it’s time for me to return that favor.) Jennifer is truly a very kind, generous and all-around wonderful human, with a smile that can literally light up the darkest of caves. But don’t let that smile fool you. Oh, no—because she writes some wicked-cool vampire novels. Here’s a bit more about her.

Jennifer lives in beautiful Finland—in Naantali, which is a small sunny town on the southwest coast. 

She is a Teen/YA paranormal fiction author, with four exciting series available worldwide. The McLean Twins series for teen readers, the Immortal Blood series for mature young adult readers, the Blood Hunters series, also for mature young adults, which is a follow-up for the Immortal Blood series and is created by the readers’ requests, and the Shape Shifter series for anyone age 16 and up. Her stories are full of creatures of the night: vampires, demons, witches, shape shifters . . . but even if they are mostly fiction you can find a hint of truth in every story. Jennifer loves to research, so every time she gets an idea for a new story she has a crazy Google session, looking for places, old myths, names, folklore, and magical items . . . anything that could spice up her story and make it more real for the readers. Jennifer is also part of Authors For Charity, an international author alliance, and a team member of Epilepsy FI magazine. She is a pre-school teacher by profession. Now I guess it’s time for me to put her in the hot seat!

So, tell us, Jennifer . . . what and who are some of your influences and inspirations?

Oh, there are so many! Stephen King, Richelle Mead, David Eddings, Sarah Rees Brennan, L. J. Smith, Jennifer L. Armentrout… I could go on and on… I read a lot and watch all kinds of series so I guess, it’s a bundle of many things that gets me inspired.

How and why did you decide to start writing?

I have no idea about the why nor did I consciously decide to start writing, but my head has always been full of stories, and I guess at some level my other foot has been in another world since the day I was born. So for me there is no other option but to write or otherwise I’ll probably end up in a round room with a soft walls, blabbering about faeries, vampires and witches.

What genres and/or literary style do you enjoy writing in the most?

Definitely paranormal for young adult readers. I love all things out of this world (okay, not ghosts, but the other stuff) and since my mind is playing all kinds of tricks with me, I have this need inside of me to tell their story.

Tell us about your latest published book, short story or novella.

Hmm…that would be, Old Blood (Book 2 in the Blood Hunters series). It continues the adventures of Samantha Green, a girl who got bitten in Immortal Blood series. Old Blood brings together two worlds, witches and vampires, playing with her mind as a psychopath master vampire has taken her as his favorite toy. It’s an urban, paranormal romance story, set in England, and it’s full of hair tingling moments along with despair and hope.

The funny thing about the Blood Hunters series is, that it was created purely because my readers wanted me to continue Sam’s story. The final part, Redemption, will be out this summer 2017.

Besides the “entertainment factor,” what do you strive for in your writing?
Facts. I love planting those nuggets of facts inside my stories. Some readers catch them, some don’t, but most of them have said they bring the ‘nail biting suspense’ effect in my stories as the readers feel the story, no matter how wild, could be true.

Would you say that your stories are more plot-driven or character-driven?

Both. My characters are strong, yet they need a good plot to stay alive. I made the mistake of developing too many characters in my debut story, so currently I make sure all of my characters, both main and side, are strong and easily identified. In that way my readers (and me) can keep up with the story even though the story continues in several books

What can you tell us about your latest work(s) in progress?

I just finished Redemption (Book 3 in the Blood Hunters series) so I’m gonna be buried with its edits, re-writes etc for a long time. Then I have one dystopian novel and one paranormal spy story coming up. I’m also doing interviews for magazines, translations for companies and organizing a new charity book. So, yeah, it’s going to be a busy year. But busy is good!

What are some literary goals you’d like to achieve?

A long time ago I made the decision to go on my own, so with my upcoming spy book, I’m going to give one more try with a literary agent and hoping to end up with someone good and devoted. Also, my pr company and I have some plans for growing my markets but at this point it’s a bit of hush hush project.

What genre of fiction have you not yet written for, but plan to in the future?

I haven’t written anything (except articles) in non-fiction but then again I can’t say if I’m planning to write anything in that genre in the future either. Every time I try to jump out of my genre, I still somehow end up writing about paranormal creatures. Not sure what it says about me!
Name a few of your favorite literary characters and tell us why they are your favorites?

Nick Ryves, from The Demon’s Lexicon. He’s bad in a way that makes you root for him and hope that one day he’ll beat his demons.

Daemon Black, from the Lux series, oh, my…he’s a bad boy with the capital letters and the one secret dream we girls can’t tell about without blushing from head to toe.

Cian, from The Circle Trilogy. I think he was one of the first vampires I found from the book world. The one that gave roots to most of my own vampires, and yes, a well developed character I wish were true…to be loved by a man like him…yeah, maybe this one brings up the romantic in me.

Gabriel, from Dark Visions. He’s the first character that took me into the psychic world, and like the ones above, is fighting to beat the bad in him. 

What are some of your all-time favorite films and TV shows?

Are you sure you wanna go there? Very well then… The Lord of the Rings, Constantine, Notting Hill, Meet Joe Black, Matrix… The Supernatural, Game of Thrones, Grimm, True Blood, The Vampire Diaries, The Originals, Teen Wolf, Penny Dreadful…still want me to go on, ‘cause I can J …Lost Girl, The Walking Dead, Roswell, Dominion, Sherlock…okay, I’m gonna stop now. (LOL! You could have kept on going. Movies are one of my passions. JB)

 Tell us about your writing habits, such as: Do you outline extensively? Do you create your characters first, or your plot? Do you listen to music while writing, and if so, what kind?

Nope. My outlines are more like suggestions to myself. A road map, where I can pick up the road that suits my story the best. Sometimes I create the characters, or at least some of them, first, sometimes I do the plotting first. There was a time when I tried to force the stories out of me, and nothing good came out of it. So now I’m listening my guts and the ‘voices’ in my head, and am letting the inspiration lead me. I love listening music while plotting, but when I’m writing I need the silence. I’m omnivore with the music. Sometimes I listen to Taylor Swift, sometimes Disturbed. It depends on the story I’m writing at.

What else can you tell us about yourself and your reading habits?
I’m a gobbler. When I read, I do nothing but read, and that’s basically the reason why I have to time my reading. If I don’t, well, nothing gets done. I’m also a very loyal reader. When I find an author I like, I read every book she/he has ever written and it takes a lot to get me to abandon the author.

Thank you for taking the time to be “on the show,” and for such a wonderful interview, Jennifer. I hope we can do this again sometime.
— Joe Bonadonna

Jennifer’s links:

And for those of you who may be interested, here are the links to the two interviews Jennifer conducted with me.