Friday, June 26, 2020

The 2 Year Drought

Well, here we are again. It is amazing how many times I’ve come back to the blank page, thinking that nothing would come of it. I am often dismayed by crafting a story that is already formed inside my head. I sometimes obsess over questions that plant seeds of doubt.

Will the story translate well to the page?

Will people be moved by it?

Will people find this story entertaining?

Will I ever be able to write something this good again?

I’ve discovered that, for the most part, this happens to all writers. John Grisham takes six months to write a book, and he always starts on January 1st. John Irving writes the ending of each story first and tries to build a novel around it. Dean Koontz makes several drafts of each page before he moves on to the next one.

What I’ve found is that every writer has a process. But it is weird that I hadn’t figured out mine until just a few short weeks ago.

My process for writing is as follows:

1.       Get an interesting “What If?” Idea.
2.       Let the characters and plotlines gradually unwind in the mind.
3.       Write 30 to 60 perfect pages.
4.       Abandon the story for a while.
5.       Come back to the story, re-read what I wrote before.
6.       Let the characters drive
7.       Write the last 50 pages in a glorious fury

I once thought that this process was clunky and erratic and didn’t make much sense. But then again, a story is like that in its rawest form. It needs to be shaped, polished, molded. I used to buck against these 7 steps I would take, thinking that I wasn’t taking the craft of writing seriously. But now I find that as jumbled as this process seems to be it is still uniquely my own.

I still jump in and out of stories at my own pace. I still have hundreds of pages of half-finished stories. And I’m always mind writing; thinking of another line or plot point or character to put in a book as I continue on with my life. It has become a daily habit to think of a story and continue to shape it without having to write a word.

So imagine my surprise when I looked at my list of published works and found out that I had not released a new work in over two years! By all accounts, it would seem that the well had run dry, that the fairies and sprites of inspiration and imagination had left me for greener pastures. That I am experiencing a writer’s drought. But that is not the case.

I still plan on revisiting the world of Olde Country in Ye Olde Idea Shoppe. There are a few characters who get solo adventures that are tied to Pickpocket Frankie. There’s still a second part to mysterious Mr. Dead Eyes and there are even a few surprises in between. I still have novellas that are over the halfway mark. I still have a memoir or two. I am even trying out a book of poems.

So even though nothing has seen the light of day, I have still been working on writing in some capacity.

While my process is not entirely predictable I have now come to own it and take pride in it and realize that, well, that’s just the way my brain works.

So, at least for now, I have to go back and tend to my crops. They need watering. But keep a sharp eye and you just may see the fruits of my labors.

Wednesday, December 26, 2018

Da Works

Well, it’s winding down to the end of the year and I could not let the new year pass without saying a few things about my journey of writing and what I’ve learned.
I meant what I said about writing novels now instead of novellas. And, like I always do, I am drifting between three separate novels. So here are my works in progress and my thinking behind them.

THE BIG SCI-FI BOOK – God, feels like this one has been going on forever and yet every time I come back to it, I am encouraged to time travel back to the 1940’s again and again. I’ve always wanted to write an immersive, exciting, mind-bender of a novel and I feel that this one is leaps and bounds better than what I’ve written in the past. I know its more ambitious because I’ve done a lot of research on it. But the main thread is to make the story enjoyable and not bogged down with facts. I’m trying to write it in such a way that once you’re done with the journey, you’ll want to read it again. (25,000 words in.)

WORKING WOES – This book is a memoir of my working life. The one I’ve always kept in the back of my mind and just now am I willing to brave the storm and write it. I say brave the storm because I’ve found that this is not just revisiting my work life from 2003-2014 but it has also become a poignant discovery of some extremely difficult times. I’m not very public with my feelings because I tend to be self-deprecating. I’m more willing to deal with depression or outright numbness through writing than to ask for help. Writing about my work life has become more therapeutic and cathartic than I ever imagined. It’s made me laugh at the fun times I had at jobs I liked and groan whenever I encountered an awkward situation or one of the many setbacks that were put in my way.  I find myself barreling through and breaking new ground and happy to say that this process has really given me closure. And if that inspires a person to tread carefully when entering the workforce, then I am grateful. (14,000 words in)

THE HOUSE – With each novel, I try to do something different. But I also like to set some of my stories in the past for nostalgic purposes. This one is set in the seventies. It’s kind of my take on the classic movie The Old Dark House. But it goes much deeper. There are twists and turns galore. I wanted to tap into a horror that was both psychological and suspenseful. I have no idea when this title will see the light of day. But I’m encouraged to write more because this is one of the few novels that I have fully mapped out in my head. And that’s really saying something. (4,000 words in.)

2018 was a heavy workload kind of year. I've narrated some wonderful works from Shirleen Davies, Mark Cisper, Jamie Davis, Morgan Cole, Washington Irving, Lao Tzu, Leslie North and Brian Knight. My daughter is growing up and she really loves reading! My business is growing and I'm learning new things every day. The house is still be fixed up but its almost finished. I'm excited to see who I will be narrating for next and what new stories I'll be able to conjure up.

New year means new goals.

So, for 2019, my new year's resolution will be to write a chapter a day.

Thanks for reading.

Thursday, February 1, 2018

Here it Goes: Novel or Nothing!

For the past few months, I’ve been really busy. It feels like two sides of me are organizing the year ahead when it comes to new projects. Writing has always been my go-to when finding inner peace or to unravel the concepts involved in life. While I am an avid consumer of entertainment, I strive to be a content creator. I’m here to entertain the masses.

But, as it turned out, I’ve really branched out when deciding to become a narrator. It gave me another outlet to express myself.

So that, understandably, has taken up a lot of my time. And I don’t mind. I love immersing myself in being a storyteller.

I now work for three companies: Acx, Bee Audio and Findaway Voices.

If all goes well, I should be quite busy this year when it comes to my full time job. But, my productivity has slowed significantly with writing.

So, for the new year, I’ve given myself a new goal. From this date forward, I am done working on Novellas and Short Stories.

There’s a couple of reasons why:

1.     Short stories and Novellas are quick to produce and I want to challenge myself more and not just take a quick dip in and out of worlds.
2.     For the rest of the year I want to work on ONLY Novels. So that’s anything over 50,000 words in length.
3.     I have a backlog of novels that are screaming to be written.
4.     And I want to get at least 3 full novels done this year.

Currently, I’ve been taking my written works and have put them up on Audible. Three of the titles (Right Outta My Mouth, Village Americana, Pickpocket Frankie) are narrated by me. But the majority are narrated by other very talented people. The reason for this is two-fold.

First, I know I don’t have time to narrate everything I have written. Besides, there are some stories I’ve written where I have convinced myself that I am just not the right voice for it. Second, since I started narrating in 2014, Audible Acx has had a swell of new narrators. Thousands more people have gotten into this field. A lot of them are looking for their first book to narrate. I remember when I was looking for that chance to become the voice of somebody’s story, so now I’m offering that to people who are trying to break into the industry.

Also, I’ll be moving to a different house. Which will be a big change for me and my family. And since this seems like the year for big change I figured why not have big goals.

But, dear reader, there are more titles to come in the future.

I’m putting the final touches on two novellas.

One is called The Digital Novelist and the other is called The Loop. They’re both what I’ve come to know as Sci-Fi Horror.

And they are the final two stories I’m going to include in my newest collection titled Night of Novellas. (6 novellas in all with introductions, extras and behind the story segments)

The last novella I’ll be working on before I jump headfirst into novels will be a title I call The Transcriptionists. It’s a crime thriller that came to me one day.

But, after all that, it’s Novel or Nothing, folks.

I still have a list of titles that have been percolating long enough.

THE BIG SCI- FI BOOK is the one I’m most anxious to return to, as it also ties into another title I’ve written called Thief of The Gods: An Area 51 Confession.

I’d also like to return to Mr. Dead Eyes 2. Because the audio book for the first book is in production now and it sounds great. It’s giving me new ideas of what I can put in the second installment.

I also have two spinoff sequels to Pickpocket Frankie. These two books don’t have the titular character Frankie in them. These are more focused on two big characters mentioned in the book. And those are both crime thrillers.

I also have another novel planned for the private investigator Thomas Wilker. But this will be set way before the events of Mr. Dead Eyes.

Add to that a behemoth novel I have planned that is in the genre of literary fiction. I don’t know how long it will be, but it will definitely have a large cast of characters.

So, yeah, it’s clear to me that the novels in my head are screaming for attention. And all I have to do is open the door. Why wait, right?

Remember, always set new goals for yourself every year.

And, as always, keep writing.


Sunday, September 10, 2017

When the Devil On Your Tail is Called Obscurity

Why do we write?

Y'know, I've asked that question a few times. An author friend of mine asked this of me. I can only tell you that when I first started writing it was harder than it needed to be. I wrote on a desktop computer handed down to me by my aunt. I used to play games on it whenever I visited her house. When it got turned over to me it was pretty much on its last leg. The thing would freeze up, become slow or would suddenly shut down. But I didn't let that stop me.

I became driven to write the one story I had, the one that kept nagging me.

Looking back, I see the mistakes I've made and have learned a lot since then.

For me, writing is a way of tapping into the human soul, the human condition.

It helps me release anxieties, keeps me sharp and puts me in a mode of relaxation.

My first book took me a few years to write.

Now it takes me a few months.

For the past year I've been on a mission, a mission to make my mark. All told I have 16 titles available on kindle. I'm expanding to other markets such as Barnes and Noble, Kobo and iBook.

Nobody ever told me, "Hey you, get writing."

I just decided to do it one day.

And that's what it comes down to.

Writing is a decision. Whether you pursue that decision is entirely up to you.

For instance, I take writing very seriously. Whenever I start a project, I need to know if it will stir something up inside a person before I even write it. Anger, hate, joy, envy, sadness, fear: these are the emotions I want to pull out of a person. In order to do that, I let the story cook for a while inside my head. In my daily life, I fill in the blanks. Whether I'm doing dishes, taking a walk with my daughter or even if I'm picking up groceries, I'm always writing inside my own head.

Once I have the beginning, middle and end, I pull out my laptop and start tapping the keys.

From there I share it with my wife and a few other people.

After some polish and an added detail here and there, I upload it and offer free copies for honest reviews.

I've even given myself deadlines to help move the inspiration along. It helps to give yourself a schedule.

I've been writing for close to two decades and I'm not stopping anytime soon.

Because another little thing they don't tell you is that when you've put out your first book, you become encouraged to write more. Becuase there is always a little devil nipping at your heels. And that devil is called obscurity.

I'd rather have written 100 books and know that I wrote that much and be broke than to have never written a word and wonder what might have been. I don't care if the whole world became illiterate overnight, I'd still write. I've got more than enough stories to write and I have something to say.

If that's the case with you then, well, what are you doing reading this blog. You could've pounded out a short story in the time it took you to read this blog post.

As always, keep writing.

Oh, and don't let that pesky devil catch up to you.

Check Out My Books By Clicking Here.

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Thief of The Gods Audio book Edition - Narrated by T.W. Ashworth

Before I became a writer, I wanted to be many things; A filmmaker, a comedian, an actor. But being an actor always seemed the most appealing. In the end, I figured I had to pick one and not have an ever-growing list of dream occupations I wanted to fill. I thought that you had to pick just one.

However, I was happily proven wrong by one man.

His name is TW Ashworth.

Today we’re sitting down with him because I sought him out to narrate one of my works. Thief of The Gods is a Novella about a Scientist working in Area 51. It took a bit of time to write the book but, as any author will tell you, that’s only half the work. What a story needs is to be told and by the right person.

TW Ashworth is a multi-talented man of many hats. He has acted in such hit shows as HOW TO GET AWAY WITH MURDER, SUPERSTORE, PRETTY LITTLE LIARS and CRIMINAL MINDS. He also starred in Justin Timberlake’s explosive music video “Can’t Stop The Feeling.” He paints, directs and is also a musician.(Banjo/Accordion)
And now he’s launched himself into audiobooks.

Hi Tom, thanks for joining us.

So what drew you to acting in the beginning?

I was 17, in high school in Scottsdale, Arizona, and there was an audition for the play RHINOCEROS by Eugene Ionesco at my school. A friend dared me to audition. At the time I was a student body officer, a three-year letterman in track, a math wiz kid, etc. The audition was mostly improv and I got cast in a nice role. BAM, changed my life. We had a very strong arts, music, and theatre department at Coronado High School, and it just was home from the first day.

What did it feel like to get your first callback?

I really can't recall. I've always gotten a lot of callbacks. Obviously, it doesn't mean as much in school because it is not your source of income. I've always pursued commercials and with that part of the market, you audition a lot more because there is more more callbacks.

What made you pursue audiobooks?

My wife, Christine Ashworth, is a writer. My recently passed father-in-law Chester Cunningham was a noted pulp fiction writer with over 300 published novels, many of his Westerns still available on Amazon. He wrote until a week before he died at the age of 88. So, lots of writers around. Christine's roommate bailed on an Independent Publishers conference in Southern California and asked me if I wanted to come. I went to the workshops she couldn't make and one of them was on finding the right audio book narrator. Suddenly I realized I had hundreds of contacts to pursue work, so off I went to learn how. This was last October mind you. I've been doing stage acting for over 40 years so I have a lot of vocal training, dialects, different voices, it was taking a well-trained instrument (I still take workshops & classes) and learning to play it a different way. I view it as a well trained classical violinist learning to be a Blue Grass fiddle player. You can't do it instantly but you can do it. I've done a lot of Shakespeare, and his writing really teaches you to suit the voice to the words.

Also, I get be the character of Bottom from Shakespeare's MIDSUMMER NIGHT'S DREAM. He wants to play all the parts, and as a narrator, guess what? I get to play all the parts. Some are easier than others, but it is always the harder ones that make it fun.

As far as the story goes, this was pretty heavy. It’s a first person POV throughout the entire book told in diary form.  Was it difficult to get into that character?

No, it wasn't hard. As an actor first person POV is easier for me. The train of thoughts you don't say out loud on stage or in front of the camera you get to actually say. At this stage in my development, it's the novels with a lot of third person narrative that I find hard. Who is talking? The narration is a character with a point of view. 
The lead character is also a scientist. Math and science have always been things I've enjoyed and I still read about. Science and math matter to humankind, for good and for evil. Your book is very forward about that. The lead character is very ambivalent about those issues, making him very human and easier to play.

Do you do any warm ups before a performance?

I vocalize every day for at least a half hour, so yes. I just do it before I record. I also sing about a half dozen songs on the ukulele, guitar, banjo, etc., that are in the emotional feel of the novel. THIEF OF THE GODS got a lot of early Paul Simon, THE BOXER, SOUNDS OF SILENCE, I AM A ROCK, etc. Gets my articulation warmed up, and the emotional connection between voice, body, soul, and what you're reading going almost effortlessly.

What’s the best advice you’ve ever received from a director or an actor?

Since I've directed over 40 plays, I'll share something that I always do with my actors...the audience dreams of you being wonderful, so just enjoy yourself and be wonderful.

Even though I wrote the story, I really felt like this was a collaboration. You gave me two good notes that really made the story stronger. One of them was the fact that in the original story, the scientist is in a hotel room with a Television set. But, as you pointed out, there would be no television sets in hotel rooms in the 1940’s. Have you ever pointed out ways to make the character or story stronger when being cast in a show?

No, actors do not give other actors notes, period. There are exceptions to this of course if you have a different relationship with a fellow actor, but usually, it is a huge NO.
In the development of a play or a screenplay, however, when the writer is there and you are reworking scenes, lines, etc., there is a lot of back and forth. I've belonged to several play development groups in Los Angeles and sometimes a writer will tailor the role to your talents. It varies on the situation.
A director may call you aside and ask for feedback, but again that is not me volunteering it.

You brought many different emotions to this story. Do you ever find yourself getting sucked into a role that it begins to get harder to step away from that particular character?

Not overly...but again I'm very well trained. One of the techniques I'm trained in is called Alba, and it is a very physical approach to acting, also very effective for me as an ex-dancer. (Yes, I had a 20-year career as a professional ballet & musical theatre dancer.) After every workout in the Alba technique, you do a stepping out process which is basically telling your body to get back to neutral. Yes, some roles are harder to shake, but the step out helps. If you are doing it right, your body assumes the role, breathing patterns, posture, and returning to neutral by stepping out gets you back to the here and now. You are basically training yourself to let yourself go as deep as you can because you know you can come back in a matter of minutes. Plus, in narration, you are frequently multiple people on the same page so it's hard to get stuck on any one.

Since this book deals mainly with a conspiracy theory, what was the first conspiracy theory you had ever heard of UFO’s and Aliens and did you get drawn into the mystery of it?

The first conspiracy theory I read was a short story from an anthology I read in the early 60's, about earthlings meeting aliens on a distant planet and discovering we were the bad aliens that conquered and destroyed a major portion of the galaxy and they were terrified we'd show up again. We did. I love surprise endings, and this short story had it. Can't recall the name sadly.

In our conversations, when trading notes back and forth over ACX, you said that you briefly hated me because you were reading my story and had missed your stop on the train. Ha ha.  Believe it or not, that’s the second time someone has told me that. What authors do you read frequently? Has that happened before with another book?

I read Haruki  Murakami, Herman Hesse, Christine Ashworth, J.R.R. Tolkien, Barbara Tuchman, Kurt Vonnegut. 

And usually on subways and buses in L.A. I read books that "I should read," such as William Makepeace Thackeray's VANITY FAIR or Tolstoy's WAR AND PEACE. These usually aren't page turners that take you away completely. Though Brady Udall's THE LONELY POLYGAMIST - which I found laying on a bench at a bus stop and didn't have anything to read, almost did. Very funny book. Yes, I take public transportation when I can in L.A., traffic is astoundingly bad then you have to find parking.

So what’s next for you? 

Looking for work, that is what an actor does. Narration wise I'm doing a book on programming in LINUX, a really fun book called DEATH FALCON ZERO vs. THE ZOMBIE SLUG LORDS, and an audition for a Western trilogy.

Where else can people find you online? my personal website, or my IMDb page at

Thanks for doing this Thomas. 
You’re welcome to come back on the blog anytime.