Author Spotlight: Victor Rook

Today’s Author Spotlight is: Victor Rook

 – A PBS award-winning documentarian, a local writer with a strong sense of gallows humor, and a wildlife activist.

 


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vicheadsuitReaders, let’s welcome to my blog Victor, a PBS award-winning documentarian, a local writer with a strong sense of gallows humor, and a wildlife activist. He’s agreed to visit and share with us today some dreams, some advice, and some reading recommendations.

Victor, thanks for agreeing to be here today. Most interviews start off with bios and such, and while I’ll get to that as always, let’s start with the important stuff!

If you could have any pet (real/fantasy/no-allergies/no worries about feeding it) what would it be?

I would like to have a giant anaconda as a pet. I could feed nasty people to it and make money off the live-cam streams of their crushing demise.

But, in truth (or in addition), I’d love to have a dog. Dogs are love covered in fur.

I’m not sure whether to dub you vicious or sweet after that. Let’s move on, shall we?

What do you write and how did you get started?

I have written memoir, fiction, horror, poetry, and more…a little bit of everything. Even a craft book! Which could be my problem, since successful authors often stick to one genre and profit off a series of books.

My start was fairly unusual. One night I decided to write a funny story about how every time I visited my mother and sister, they would talk to me for five minutes then ignore me for their dogs the rest of the time. It was only about three pages, and it was the first time I had attempted to write anything since college. My degree was in Mechanical Engineering, so you can imagine there wasn’t much creative writing going on at school.

3dmusingssmAfter my mother passed away in 2008, I began writing short, true stories about things that happened in my life. I compiled those memories and moments from childhood to adulthood into a book and titled it Musings of a Dysfunctional Life. I don’t think I’m personally dysfunctional, but my family surely was.

It’s a book that I feel many people can relate to. I was fully honest about everything, including family abuse. And boy was it cathartic. All those negative memories dissipated after they were put into words on a computer screen. Interspersed with those poignant moments are funny, everyday happenings I remember. Like the satanic twin babies in the checkout line (*shivers*), or how easily I become entranced in the “As seen on TV” aisles of pharmacy stores.

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Next, I wrote a full-length novel titled In Search of Good Times. It’s about a man who believes the sitcom families from Good Times and All in the Family are real and goes on a road trip to find them. It took me three years to write, and it’s one of my favorites. If you like road-trip books where the main character meets interesting people along the way, this book is for you.

3DpeoplesmMy next book, People Who Need to Die, which is my best seller, is a series of satirical short horror stories where people are allowed to kill bad people in the year 2021. Bad drivers, spammers, horrible bosses, litterbugs, and mean neighbors are just a few of the many targets.

I was inspired after seeing how awful people behave in stores on Black Friday. In one short, “Black Friday Revenge,” a father, whose son was trampled to death at a mall on Black Friday, transforms an abandoned warehouse into what looks like a big-box store. He lures unsuspecting shoppers to it the following Black Friday and makes them play shopping games to survive.

Poetry Pizza, a series of easy-to-read rhyming poems, and Dollar Store Crafts & Recipes round out my other books.

Wow! You’ve definitely written a wide variety of stuff! Not penning yourself in as a this-genre or that-genre writer definitely has allowed you to follow your muse.

What do you like to read?

This may come as a shock, but I am not an avid reader. But when I do, I enjoy short stories. Since I am also a filmmaker, I feel guilty when I am not creating something myself. I am currently working on a documentary about bald eagles, which also includes writing the script narration.

In this day and age, quick reads are pretty popular. Good luck with your bald eagle documentary.

Name one commonly accepted piece of writing advice that doesn’t work for you.

I would say focus groups that read your material for feedback. Every time I do that I seem to get mixed opinions. Some will love something, when others won’t. Because people like certain genres, and what I write may not appeal to them for that reason, I never get a clear grasp if something is working or not. So I have to go with my gut. Truthfully, though, it’s when honesty shows in your writing that I believe it also becomes more accepted and enjoyed.

Knowing what advice to listen to is hard when everyone speaks with the same authority. I keep thinking of starting up a group — but only of people who write my genre. And then I remember that I don’t have enough time for everything I’m already doing.

Name one commonly accepted piece of writing advice that they can’t pry out of your cold, dead hands.

Oxford comma, baby. I don’t like seeing the second to the last item in a list get less respect than the items that precede it. George, Tim, Tom and Doug. Poor Tom. I just can’t let Tom down without a comma to go around.

I hear ya! (Confession: I had to fight not to correct that sentence…)

Shameless self-promotion.

All of the above. Plus:

Victor Rook’s nature film, Beyond the Garden Gate, won two Telly awards and aired on PBS. He also helps other authors with book cover design, interior formatting, editing, and publishing.

You can find him at http://victorrook.com

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Author Spotlight: Doc Coleman

Today’s Author Spotlight is: Doc Coleman

 – A local steampunk writer, author of The Perils of Prague and The Shining Cog

 


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Readers, let’s welcome to my blog Doc, the gentleman adventurer. He’s agreed to visit and share with us today some dreams, some advice, and some reading recommendations.

Doc, thanks for agreeing to be here today. Most interviews start off with bios and such, and while I’ll get to that, let’s start with the important stuff!

If you could have any pet (real/fantasy/no-allergies/no worries about feeding it) what would it be?

My cats may hate me for saying this, but I’d love to have a fire lizard, from Anne McCaffrey’s Pern. Then again, they might get along with the cats. But it would be so cool to have a micro dragon who can fetch stuff and carry messages?

I have to admit to having wanted one when I was a teen, who didn’t?

What do you write and how did you get started?

I got started out of peer pressure. I knew Tee Morris back in his days at the renaissance festival. Every few years we’d run into each other and catch up. About ten years ago, I ran into him again and found out that he’d become an author and a podcaster. He introduced me to a bunch of podcast novelists online and in real life. When you hang out with podcast novelists the two most frequent questions you get asked are “What’s your podcast?” and “What are you writing?” I got tired of answering “nothing”, and I decided that you don’t get better at things you don’t do, so I started writing. I started off writing a tech blog, and after a few months, I started writing fiction for the Every Photo Tells… podcast. I was quite shocked when I submitted my first story and they accepted it. That same year, I did a guest spot on the Galley Table podcast and ended up becoming a regular member of the crew.

Being on Galley Table got me interested in doing NaNoWriMo, but for that, I needed a writing project. The Perils of Prague was a Steampunk adventure that evolved out of a Halloween costume, and it worked great for a first NaNo project. The words just flowed out of me. Since then I’ve tried writing YA and Science Fiction, but the Steampunk just comes so easily. I’ll get back to my YA trilogy and my Sci-Fi stories eventually, but for now, I’m having a lot of fun playing in my Steampunk world. I’ve got no problem being known as a Steampunk author, but I won’t stay that way forever.

I know these feelings. Being asked “what do you do” by creatives has a completely different vibe than from the rest of the world. NaNoWriMo was the trigger that got my first story out of me, and I usually use it these days to kickstart new novels — it’s great for getting through the initial slough.

What do you like to read?

The temptation is to say “everything”, but that’s not really true. I don’t really read modern romances. I find them too formulaic. But I like the old romances where it is less about boy meets girl and more about high ideals. I read tons of Sci-Fi and Fantasy, and Steampunk, of course. I also enjoy Mysteries and old-fashioned Adventure stories. And a good comedy now and then certainly clears the palate. While I’m not really into Horror, I have read some stuff from that genre written by people I know. And I do find that some horrific elements will creep into my stories. The genre just never really excited me.

I can see how all of these genres contribute toward your writing style. Plus, a little extra…bombast.

Name one commonly accepted piece of writing advice that doesn’t work for you.

Avoid adverbs. This is the most ridiculous piece of advice, but people keep spreading it. We only get eight parts of speech. I’m supposed to write with one of them tied behind my back? I don’t write to show off, I write to create interesting stories. When I do that, I’m going to fully use the tools at my disposal. Why would I eliminate an entire part of speech?

And the same goes for this whole thing about pretending that the verb “to be” doesn’t exist. Sometimes you need the passive voice. Or past participles.

So true. It seems that people take suggestions and try to globally apply them as if it were a formula that could guarantee quality.

Name one commonly accepted piece of writing advice that they can pry out of your cold, dead hands.

When in doubt, blow something up. We put our characters through hell. They live in chaos when almost nothing goes right. And when things actually start going well, they don’t know what to do next.

And bingo, writer’s block.

When you get stuck like that, you can try to wallow through with it and find something for your characters to do to get moving again, or you can blow something up. Something explodes, something crashes, someone walks in and tries to kill them. Now your characters know what to do. They don’t have time to think, they react. And they’re moving again. The story is moving again. Everything is fun again. And it makes for a great adventure.

I love adventure.

My own writing could use a little more ‘just do it’ and a little less ‘thinking time’. I’ll do my best to learn from your example.

Shameless Self-Promotion time!

You can find all of my published works at my Amazon Author page. All of them are available for Kindle, but the only things currently in print are The Way of the Gun, A Bushido Western Anthology; The Perils of Prague, and The Shining Cog and Other Steampunk Tales.

The Perils of Prague is a rollicking Steampunk Comedy Adventure! Or is that a Comedy Steampunk Adventure? Or an Adventure Steampunk Comedy? Anyway, it is good, it is fun, and it is funny. Don’t take my word for it, read the reviews. Or better yet, read the sample on Amazon.

Or, if you just want to get a taste for my writing, Take a look at The Shining Cog and Other Steampunk Tales. Six stories in three different Steampunk worlds. I think you’ll love it. Enjoy the Adventure!

The Perils of Prague (The Adventures of Crackle & Bang) (Volume 1)

Author Spotlight: Tamela Ritter

Today’s Author Spotlight is: Tamela Ritter

A member of the Write By The Rails group and the author of From These Ashes

 

 


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Readers, let’s welcome Tamela, the wandering storyteller to my blog. She’s agreed to visit and share with us today some dreams, some advice, and some reading recommendations.

Tamela, thanks for agreeing to be here today. Most interviews start off with bios and such, and while I’ll get to that, let’s start with the important stuff!

If you could have any pet (real/fantasy/no-allergies/no worries about feeding it) what would it be?

Oh man, start with the hard ones first! For a real pet? This is going to seem boring, but I’d really just like a dog. I’ve lived with dogs for most of my life, but I’ve never had one that was mine, ya know? I just really want a dog who loves me best. Lame, I know.

Oh, oh, wait, any pet? With no worries about logistics? A dolphin. Not to own really, not in a cage or anything. But seriously, how cool would it be to hang out with a dolphin? Or a unicorn? Wait, what if it turns out unicorns are sort of douches? That would suck.

Yeah, I’ll stick with a dolphin, thank you.

Puppies and dolphins? You have good taste in pets! Assuming, of course, they’re the friendly ones and not the jerk-faces. Next up, a more standard question.

What do you write and how did you get started?

I write small stories about everyday people who have been marginalized or forgotten.  I give voice to the voiceless.Or I try.How did I get started writing? I honestly don’t remember I time when I didn’t have stories in my head. I do remember I was 10 the first time I wrote one down.

I get that, Tamela, and I’m probably not the only one. Now, as readers ourselves, to find out if your tastes and preferences align with ours, next up is the all-important question — not that there’s a right or a wrong answer, just a sense of…harmonic resonance.

 

What do you like to read?

Ahhhh, easier question is what don’t I read. There’s no rhyme or reason to what I read. Right now I’m on a YA kick. I just picked up local authors’ PM Hernandez and Mara Mahan‘s books last weekend and I’m looking forward to checking them out.
I really love going to the library and pulling down books and checking them out based on their cover, their blurbs without knowing anything about the author or any buzz about the book (all the things that marketing types tell you that no one does). Makes me feel like I’m discovering a new treasure. Even if it’s not true.
Last time I found a book I loved that I thought no one else had heard of and that the whole world needed to read, it turned out that it had already been turned into a movie.
Oooops.
*pouts* Well, that answer didn’t really narrow it down for us.
*grins and winks* Good for you! Now, the next two questions are for the writers reading this blog.

Name one commonly accepted piece of writing advice that doesn’t work for you.

 
The oldest piece of writing advice there is, so old that it’s more a cliche than advice and it’s almost cliche to disagree with it. “Write what you know.”
Bullshit.
I mean, I get why it’s advice and there are definitely stories that could have been better told by someone who had more experience with the situation or particulars.
But I’ve found a writer only needs two things to be able to dodge this writerly rule: access to Google and a strong sense of empathy.
The empathy is for the heart and soul of the story about people who aren’t you, Google (or more specifically–research) is for the facts. In this day and age, there isn’t anything you can’t learn more about, nothing you can’t find someone willing to share their experiences about. If you don’t have a healthy sense of empathy, well, you’re probably in the wrong field anyway, so you just stick to what you know… or become a journalist.
And, of course, the flip side!

Name one commonly accepted piece of writing advice that they can pry out of your cold, dead hands.

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writing is when we make the words, editing is when we make the words not shitty – Chuck Wendig

Or really, anything that Chuck Wendig, my foul-mouthed guru, says about the whole writing thing in general.
Tamela, thank you for taking the time to share with us. I really appreciate you stopping by and hope my readers did too. Now, did you have anything you’d like to share with us? Because it’s now…

Shameless Self-Promotion time!

My first (and only so far) published novel From These Ashes was published in 2013 by Vagabondage Press. My latest published short story, “Quantifying Momentum” can be found in The Piedmont Journal of Poetry and Fiction’s anthology Tracks.
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