Memorable Characters? Who Needs ‘em?

I was recently asked during a radio interview about characterization. Wait, let me back up...  unless you’re already a fan and you’re reading this you maybe wondering who the hell is John Zunski and why should I care?  My short answer: If you like memorable characters, it might behoove you to introduce yourself to my imaginary friends. They make their residence in Cemetery Street and Shangri-La Trailer Park.

In my humble opinion, great characters are high octane fuel for the story engine. Without deep characters a high-performance plot will ping and knock. Not to mention, memorable characters come with their own stories. Think about your family, friends, or neighbors: the memorable ones all have great stories, or even better, they have unique if not bizarre traits. Ask Barnum and Bailey, they made a name for themselves promoting such characters. 

“John, they exploited those poor folks.”

Maybe… but, let me ask you this.  Who’s more interesting?

Granny A is navigating a shopping cart through crowded aisles. She’s tired, the two year-old throwing a tantrum in the candy aisle annoys her, and the inattentive parent angers her, but she says nothing and politely ambles by.

Granny B hops onto an electric shopping cart. She hangs her cane from the handle bar and pulls in front of young couple pushing a cart. “Watch where you’re going,” she snaps. She finds a crowded aisle and steers down it. “Get out of my way,” she barks grabbing her cane, threatening to poke those in front of her. “ I'm in a hurry; I don’t have much time left.” 

I don’t know about you, I would rather know Granny A, she’s probably a dear person and bakes great cookies, but, boring! Without question, I want to read about Granny B. I find myself wishing that if I make her age that I’ll have such gumption.

“John, that’s well and good, but Granny B isn’t believable.”

Dear reader, you haven’t shopped at my local Wal-mart.
Please help me save my sanity; help stop me from shopping at Wal-mart. How? Check out Cemetery Street. You may fall in love with my imaginary friends, and then I could shop at a real grocery store. 

Guest post by John Zunski
Paperback lovers:   Enter code PWJZ257V for a $5 discount.

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What To Do After Signing a Publication Agreement

Shortly after signing my first publication agreement in mid-2011, I started to go a little bit crazy. Every morning when I woke up, and every evening before I went to bed, I checked my emails for any updates, and try to imagine the work that other people were doing to The Lesser Evil… cover designs, copy edits, marketing, reviews, whatever…

I was excited, sure; happy, sure; impatient, well, yes that too. But mostly, there was this anxiety I can’t really describe, a sort of nervous energy that comes from the knowledge that it was pretty much all in someone else’s hands.

There is a veritable cornucopia of books and websites out there that offer advice on how to write and/or draw, how to land a publishing contract, and how to read a publishing contract (for this latter, I strongly recommend the excellent Stroppy Author’s Guide to Reading a Publishing Contract)… but nothing (that I could find) about what you should do when you’re waiting for your book to get published.

Time to correct this oversight. Now.

1.      Keep Writing
What limited advice is out there with regards to this period of limbo is unanimous: continuing to write is imperative. I’m not sure why this is, but I assume the advice is unanimous for a reason, so I just did the smart thing and accepted it!

Unfortunately, it’s easier said than done. In my case, whenever I complete a project, I take a few days/couple of weeks off to relax, to decompress, and to collect my thoughts. If I try to get back on the horse too soon, I find it frustrating and unproductive.

It took a month after the contract was signed before I really began to work on my writing again.

So what did I do in the meantime?

2.      Harrass the publisher
This was by far the most tempting thing to do, but it strikes me as ultimately The Single Worst Idea In The History Of This Or Any Other Universe. As much as I wanted to maintain daily (or twice daily) contact with my editor, I needed to come to terms with the notion that this is a long and involved process (though anyone who is not me would recognise that at least in this case, it all happened rather quickly) for which daily progress reports would be inappropriate or frustratingly sparse. It is also a process to which I am not supposed to be especially privy, unless my input is required.

(For the record, I will state that Zeta Comics did an excellent job keeping me in the loop, and I can only imagine my anxiety levels had I signed with a less accessible company!)

So not only is the notion of constantly contacting your publisher extremely counterproductive, it would also be insanely unprofessional and unbelievably annoying for the publisher. Follow this path, and wave sayonara to your dreams of a sequel!

3.      Play video games
Or any other hobby that is a relaxing timesink. For me, it’s video games. My pile of shame has been growing and growing in recent months, and the month of July seemed the perfect time to whittle it down a bit.

It was a great way to eat some of my spare time, and divert my attention from my nervous energy. Not a long-term solution by any means, but definitely worth investing a little-more-than-normal time in this way.

4.      Reconnect With Family
Sometimes, when I’m hanging out with my wife and daughter, all I can think about is my writing (this is not a common occurrence, but it happens often enough to be irritating to everybody).

But if the urge to write has temporarily vacated the premises, then it should be easier to focus on the people you love, and who love you, and revel in their presence like you probably should have been doing all along.

5.      Write a blog about the whole thing
Ummm… yeah. Still anxious.

 Guest post by Shane W Smith. Shane W Smith is the author/artist responsible for the graphic novel trilogy The Lesser Evil (Zeta Comics, 2011/12), and the comic/essay hybrid Academaesthetics (TEXT journal, 2007). He doesn't write full time, but he would like to.
Find out more about Shane's books at his website: 
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Twitter for Authors

Today, I'd like to talk about tweeting.

Without going into a soliloquy as to why Twitter is good for authors (there are resources below), every once in a while an author should analyze their tweets.

The first analysis I did was to know when is the best time to tweet. This is very vital to any serious person who Twitters.

You need to know when your tweets are most effective. This means the times when you get the most ReTweets (RTs) and when you get responses to your Tweets that are posted.

Now there are general times to tweet and lots of articles that tell you about those times. You also have to be cognizant of time zones and the east coast/west coast factors, plus global factors as  well. (US isn't the only time zone out there people.) Responses and Retweets are vital to an author because people are sharing your handle on their timeline to their followers. (Your handle meaning your screen name.)

The most asked question I get about Twitter from authors is, "How do I get people to follow me?"

There's two ways:

1) Outright ask for a follow back. I know people say that's rude, but the worst that could happen is that they don't right? 

2) We're going to assume you've already followed friends, industry leaders, people and organizations with the same interests or niches as you. After that, you're going to "promote your twitter page." When you're on Facebook or even on your own website, authors forget to tell people to come to twitter to follow them. 

To continue to keep people and grow an audience remember to be an asset to the Twitter community. Once you find your niche and share your expertise, your followers will share your tweets with others, which will prompt others to come follow you. 

On 3/7/11 morning, I decided to take a look at my tweets to see how good they were. This didn't include any RTs or replies and this wasn't a whole day - Just a couple of hours.

I like how I promoted upcoming events that I would be at. My literary schedule was over the top that month and I still woke up with letting people know exactly what I'd be doing.

I like also that I was very inspirational this morning. Maybe because of my bout with the Secret Millionaire, but it helped me create some straight from the heart tweets that later on was re-tweeted.

I also had my blog posts coming straight to my tweets as well. I also included hashtags with them for recognition on Google.

I make sure I give most of my blogs a hashtag so I know if I want to go back and highlight something or keep track of how much something was promoted for a guest blogger, it's easily found on twitter. 

I always believe people connect with you and pass your message because you give a human voice. I always want to show that my tweets are NOT auto-generated by including what I'm doing now.

When I did the review on a book that day it was not only because The Secret Millionaire was what a lot of people were talking about on Twitter and around the Internet, but  because it also gained myself some ground on current news and showing my followers or potential what I address at one of my blogs. 

Using shortlinks for URLs really helps with getting more out of your tweets and I recommend a lot of your tweets should lead back to your website. You can go straight to to get shortlinks to Links you want to share on Twitter. 

Most importantly, I threw in books for sale. Not just a buy my book kinda thing, but as you see I was in the middle of promoting Ebook Week and wanted people to know about books available on discount.

Lastly, I tweeted quotes. A lot of people tweet quotes and it may seem boring to say something someone else is saying, but I try to focus my quotes on a topic or a theme that's going on.

When I get stuck and don't know what to tweet, I use my blogging sheet to give me a guide on what to concentrate on that day.
I usually tweet Monday and Friday. Here are my daily themes that help me out when I'm stuck:
  •     Motivation Monday
  •     Talking Tuesday
  •     Writing Wednesday
  •     Tech Thursday
  •     Free Fridays

I have to say that My twitter experience has been financially beneficial for myself. Not only that, the recognition as an author, blogger and most importantly, mother has become even more significant for myself. 

Guest post by Sylvia Hubbard author of Hope is Love.

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Trust Your Writing Instincts

There is a lot of good advice available for aspiring writers. Many successful authors have offered tips on how to succeed in their chosen craft. I've benefited from other writer's sage wisdom in the past, and have been grateful that people more skilled than I have been willing to share their experiences. But lately, I'm starting to wonder if I would have been better off ignoring some of the advice I've received and trusted my instincts instead. Allow me to explain.

As an avid, lifelong reader---okay, a book junkie---I have always loved getting lost in the pages of a good book. So it was only natural that I developed an interest in writing when I was young. I started writing short stories in elementary school, and enjoyed the process immensely. Although I stopped writing in high school, I returned to it with a vengeance in college. For several years I never went anywhere without a notebook and a couple of pens. I remember riding my bike home from my restaurant job one night, and being so inspired by the way the nearly full moon illuminated the streets that I skidded to a halt, pulled out my notebook, and scribbled away. Completely obsessed, I recorded not just my impressions of the lighting, but managed to work it into a short story I was writing at the time.

Despite loving literature, I was majoring in biology at the time.  When school was in session, I spent most of my time between classes in the library. I'd walk in with the intention of studying, but inevitably I'd be drawn to the fiction stacks. I read voraciously and, seeing all the great novels housed in the building, harbored fantasies of becoming a fiction writer.

I changed course abruptly in my junior year after attending a lecture by a locally renown novelist who taught in the English department. He talked about his struggles to support his family on a writer's earnings, then cited an interesting statistic. He said that 95 percent of everything published in the United States at that time was non-fiction, and just five percent was fiction. If any of you have any aspirations of writing for a living, I suggest you write non-fiction, he added.

I took his advice, and have spent the last 26 years as a freelance journalist. While my career has evolved over the years, and I've written for newspapers, magazines, book publishers, non-profits, and advertisers, one thing remained consistent. I wrote only non-fiction, and had no desire ever to write fiction again.

That all changed one day recently. A friend, who like me has always been fascinated by people and their behavior, told me about a woman she had met who essentially raised her 6 younger siblings because both their parents had schizophrenia. Suddenly a light bulb went off in my head, and I decided I just had to write a novel. Although  I was no longer able to churn out words almost effortlessly as I had in college, I rediscovered the joy that comes from creating my own world while writing Playing the Genetic Lottery. Working on the novel was one of the most rewarding experiences I've had as a professional writer, and that got me thinking.

Will it pay the bills? That remains to be seen, but chances are no. Do I wish I'd stuck with fiction over the years? Yes and no. I've enjoyed my career, but I'll never know what I could have created if I'd dedicated my career to writing novels. So do I have any advice for aspiring writers? Just two tidbits. First, trust your instincts. And second, don't take anybody's advice, even my own.

Guest post by Terri Morgan. Terri Morgan is a freelance journalist who's work has appeared in dozens of different magazines and newspapers. She is the author of four sports biographies for young adults, and the co-author of two others. She is the co-author of two books on photography: Photography, Take Your Best Shot, and Capturing Childhood Memories, The Complete Photography Guide for Parents. Playing the Genetic Lottery is her first novel. She lives in Soquel, California.

Playing the Genetic Lottery: Caitlin Kane knows more about the impact of schizophrenia than most people could imagine. Both her parents were afflicted with the devastating mental illness, a disease that tends to run in families, and Caitlin and her brother grew up trying to navigate the chaos of living with two schizophrenics. Her  tumultuous childhood left Caitlin determined to forge a peaceful and serene life for herself. Now 32, she is living her dream. Married to her best friend, she and her husband are raising two bright young children in the suburbs of Seattle. While her unusual upbringing has left Caitlin with emotional scars, she enjoys the love and support of her extended family and her challenging career as a pediatric nurse. But no matter how hard she tries, she can't shake the obsessive fear that the family illness will strike again, robbing her of her mind or stealing away the sanity of one or both of her children.

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How writers can use Pay with a Tweet

Word of mouth is the best kind of advertising a writer can get. Other people spreading the word about how fabulous your writing skills are is every writers dream come true. 

Pay with a Tweet’ is the first social payment system, where people pay with the value of their social network. It's completely free to use.

How it works:

Every time someone 'pays with a tweet' they tell all their friends about your product. Simple! Better yet your users can decide if they want to pay with a tweet on Twitter or with a post on their Facebook wall to tell all their friends about you, your product and your brand.

How writers can use pay with a tweet:

'Pay with a Tweet' is a fantastic way for writers to create a buzz about themselves and their writing. Here's a few ideas of things you can do:

  • Authors - Sell a sample chapter of your book
  • Authors - Sell an activity pack to go with your book
  • Authors - Sell a reading group guide for your book
  • Writers - Sell a sample article or access to your portfolio of published work.
  • Poets - Sell a poem from your poetry collection.
  • Journalists and publishers - Sell your leading article to promote your magazine, newspaper or charged online service.
  • Sell your latest commercial or book trailer
  • Sell a basic version of a service you provide and bring more people to your website where they can learn about the benefits of your charged premium service.
I've personally used one on my website for when people download a copy of the free Home-schoolers Kit that goes with my book 'Italian for Tourists'.

This is what the button looks like:


How can I track how many people paid with a Tweet?

There are multiple ways to track your Pay with a Tweet campaign. Here are some:

1. Track and count the Tweets with a service like As keyword to track, use the URL of your Tweet-text, because this is the only part of the Tweet that the users can't edit.

2. Track the clicks on your link. If you use to shrink the URL you use in your Tweet-text, you can access a simple statistic of clicks and latest Tweets (up to 100) by just adding the "+" icon behind the url. For example: If your URL is "" just add the "+" and see the statistic of it "

3. Follow live who paid with a Tweet by just searching on Twitter for the URL of your Tweet-text.

This is a great way to send your message viral. Have you already used it? How?
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Interview with Alexander Chklar

When did you know you wanted to be a writer?
Well, for me, this was a case not so much of wanting to be a writer, but more having a desire to record my experiences. And to be honest, even when I had started writing the only thing that kept me going was this desire to have this journey down in writing. However, the further I got into the book, the more I started to enjoy the actual writing, finding my rhythm and style.

What genre do you write and why?
This book is of course a non-fiction, and I suppose falls between adventure and travel. I have tried to maintain a gritty atmosphere to the narrative to reflect the actual situations that I found myself in.

Tell us about your latest book.
This is an account of a cycling trip around Europe, which started life as a joke between friends. I was graduating from university in the Summer of the 2004 Olympics and decided to cycle from London to Athens and then on around the rest of Europe. To add a very unique aspect to the trip, I was cycling a recumbent tricycle. I was also cycling solo and unsupported, allowing me to meet a wide variety of people and go where I pleased when I wanted.

What marketing methods are you using to promote your book? 
So far, I have found it difficult to market this strongly, mainly using Facebook and some writing blogs… 

What formats is the book available in?
It is only available in Kindle format, mostly because I don’t have the resources or market to justify a physical book. However, if it were to prove successful I would certainly consider putting it into print.

What do you like to do when you're not writing?
When I am not writing and working, I swim competitively, as well as climbing, fencing and running. My wife (who I met whilst travelling) and I also enjoy skiing where possible and walking holidays.

Who are your favorite authors?
Well, I think my absolute favourite would have to be Douglas Adams – what a sense of humour! I also very much enjoy adventure/exploration books, especially mountaineering.

What advice do you have for other writers?
I suspect I am not in a position to offer much advice except write from your heart and let it flow.

What's the best thing about being a writer?
For me the best thing about writing this book was a feeling closure on my experiences, and almost reliving the entire trip – I really found that the emotions bubbled up to the surface as I was writing and would have a grin on my face or tears in my eyes depending on what I was writing about. I really hope that other readers will share in this.

Where can people find out more about you and your writing?
I think the best thing is to find me on Facebook (there are not many Chklar’s!) and ask me there. Sadly I don’t have a current webpage, mostly due to lack of time.

Anything else you'd like to add?
Well, my book is currently only available on Amazon Kindle and may be found here

When I was writing my book I was very torn about how to structure it. Initially, I had a "dear-diary" approach but I soon realised that this felt very wooden, and decided instead to use a story telling style. I did include some excerpts from my diary kept at the time, this was mostly to give a feel of the emotional rollercoaster that I was going through.
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Self Publishing

Most authors want to have their book chosen by an exciting traditional publisher and then to be given a wonderful advance. However, if that does not happen right away, self publishing is the common option many authors are taking.  The advantages include a higher royalty, and control over what may happen with the book in terms of future publishing or other potential opportunities. One may approach the industry with their own social media marketing, or hire a company that specializes in that field.  My decision to go with World of Ink is based on their work in the industry, plus I have had stories published in Stories for Children Magazine, and lastly due to my communication with Virginia Grenier who is a well-respected professional.

Learning Curve and Education
I've also found there is a learning curve in the self publishing arena, unless you are also a designer or paying for one. Indeed it is an integral part of having a professional looking book and trips to the bookstore to peruse published books, listening to other proofreaders, and utilizing customer service with your self publisher is suggested. I've actually found the education a tad exciting, and it has given me a new optimism about the industry - realizing how much work and time goes into each book to be considered in their decision process. I also have a fresh outlook towards the value of publishing in all departments.

Starting Point
I do believe self publishing is a great starting point. For writers who essentially want to consider all options, self publishing one book while sending out others for consideration, is at the very least an adventure. It may turn out to be more lucrative than imagined and a new success, or simply a stepping stone to being noticed by the big publishers. In any event it is a humbling and spirited way to launch a book and see what happens!

Guest Blog by Nicole Borgenicht. Nicole Borgenicht is a children's fiction writer. Her most recent picture book is The Bridge published by Publish America. Some of Nicole's other kid's stories have appeared in The Los Angeles Times Kid's Reading Room section, Stories for Children Magazine and LadyBug Flights Magazine. Additional works comprise poetry and essays, short stories, one act plays or articles  in magazines such as Arts and Entertainment Skyline and American Fitness. The Kids of Dandelion Township: Written by Nicole Borgenicht and Illustrated by Lisa M Griffin.

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Interview with Brooklyn Hudson

When did you know you wanted to be a writer?
When I was 10-years-old my older brother had finished reading CUJO and I was fascinated by the cover.  He warned me that I was too young for such an adult book which I took as a challenge.  I began reading King’s CUJO and by the time I finished it I knew exactly what I wanted to be, what genre I wanted to write in, and who my idol was.

What genre do you write and why?
I write horror/thrillers. They’re the kind of stories that aren’t overtly gory but more so character driven.  They would almost be contemporary dramas if it weren’t for a thread of the supernatural; something very unbelievable happening in a story that feels otherwise very believable.

Tell us about your latest book.
WISHBONE is the story of a Manhattan power couple who survives a tragedy and attempts a fresh start only to be plagued by unexplained and disastrous occurrences. It is a warning tale; be careful what you wish for, but it is even more so a tale of loyalty challenged by greed. I’ve written thirteen novels but WISHBONE is my baby.  I love its characters, especially Julien who is so imperfectly perfect.

What marketing methods are you using to promote your book?
Social media is playing a huge role in the marketing of WISHBONE.  Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, you name it, I’m on it.  I run contests and make an effort to respond to every person who reaches out to me. I’ve made two promotional videos for the book. They aren’t traditional book trailers; one is a parody of the famous Blair Witch trailer.  Good stuff.

What formats is the book available in?
The book is currently available through Amazon and on Barnes and Noble on line; both Kindle and print.

What do you like to do when you're not writing?
I always have music playing, even as I write, but my guilty pleasure is reality show contests. The only shows I will stop what I’m doing to watch and not watch later via the dvr are shows like Celebrity Apprentice, American Idol, and America’s Got Talent.  I am shamefully addicted to these shows.

Who are your favourite authors?
Peter Benchley, Michael Crichton, and of course, I worship at the altar of Mr. Stephen King.  

What advice do you have for other writers?
For those aspiring to be authors, write, write, and write some more.  Every word put to paper improves your writing and with each improvement you come closer to publishing. For those who have been at this for a while, the same goes.  We can always improve and there is always another story to be told. And write for the love of writing; not to get rich, not to get famous.  Once you put those expectations on the completion of a novel, the fun goes away and the desperation sets in.  If you don’t get lucky immediately you feel you have failed, when in reality you’ve completed a novel and have failed at nothing, but rather succeeded.

What's your favourite quote about writing/for writers?
Writing is a socially acceptable form of schizophrenia. ~E.L. Doctorow

What's the best thing about being a writer?
Playing God in our own little Eden.  We get to have friends that always do what we want.  Actually, that’s not true.  I have often been frustrated by something a beloved character did that I really didn’t want them to do, but it was right for that character and the scene.

Where can people find out more about you and your writing?
Facebook; either my personal profile or the WISHBONE(Supernatural Thriller) fan page.

Anything else you'd like to add?
Yes, thank you to everyone who has bought the book.  Oh, and adopt an older pet from your local shelter; you may have a few less years with them, but the years you will have will be all that more rewarding.
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Interview with Jeremy Burns

When did you know you wanted to be a writer?
For as long as I can remember, I’ve been a creative, story-oriented guy.  Though the mediums have changed throughout the years, my dream career always revolved around creating vivid characters and gripping plots – the kinds of stories I loved to experience.  But it wasn’t until six years ago, while pursuing my history degree in college, I decided that I wanted to realize my creative visions through writing.

What genre do you write and why?
The current series I’m working on (of which FROM THE ASHES is the first book) is in the historical conspiracy thriller subgenre (think Indiana Jones, Da Vinci Code, National Treasure, Steve Berry, James Rollins, etc.).  I’ve always loved history and its myriad convolutions, the sense of a particular moment in time when life was so different, yet so similar.  In particular, the lost treasures, buried secrets, and shadowy conspiracies that lurk behind the mainstream view of history have always fascinated me from a creative standpoint.  There’s so much fodder in the real world for trying to solve age-old historical mysteries and having my characters explore some of the most amazing locations on the planet.  I have the next four books already planned out, and another twenty-plus ideas ready to be plumbed thereafter.

Tell us about your latest book.
FROM THE ASHES is a historical conspiracy thriller that has been described as THE BOURNE IDENTITY meets NATIONAL TREASURE, a genre comparison that I don’t think is too far off the mark.  A far-reaching conspiracy dating back to the Great Depression threatens to rear its terrifying head in modern-day America as a brilliant history student named Jonathan Rickner investigates the sudden death of his older brother.  While digging into his brother’s dissertation research, Jon discovers the threads of this decades-old conspiracy, threads that lead back to the Hoover Adminstration, the Rockefellers, and the rise of Nazi Germany.  Featuring a covert government agency of assassins that has kept the shocking truth of this conspiracy hidden since the last days of World War II, the secret history of a McCarthy-era rogue agent found hanging off the Brooklyn Bridge at the height of the Cold War, and a labyrinthine treasure hunt hidden in the monuments and museums of Manhattan by John D. Rockefeller himself nearly a century ago, FROM THE ASHES is “a thrilling race against time to expose a diabolical conspiracy that would shatter everything we think we know about the 20thcentury” (Boyd Morrison, bestselling author of THE ARK and THE VAULT).

What marketing methods are you using to promote your book?
I’m actually in the middle of a promotion on Amazon where the Kindle version is on sale for $2.99 for a limited time.  I’ve had a couple of book signings, and I’ll be speaking in New York this July at International Thriller Writers’ annual ThrillerFest conference as a featured Debut Author.  FROM THE ASHES was chosen as Barnes and Noble’s Free Friday pick on Nook immediately following the book’s release in January, and it moved an estimated sixty-thousand-plus copies in the first week.  I’m doing a virtual book tour right now, making stops at various book review websites (like this one) to get the word out about my book.  I also do a lot of networking through my Facebook page ( and my website (, and I’m currently working on a behind-the-scenes section of my website that will use photographs that I took on my travels while researching the book to share some of the many real-world sites that my characters explore in their quest for the truth, including some hidden of Manhattan’s little known architectural treasures.

What formats is the book available in?
FROM THE ASHES is available in trade paperback and in all major eBook formats (Kindle, Nook, iBooks, and eReader).

What do you like to do when you're not writing?
I love traveling and exploring – I’ve been blessed to have the opportunity to travel to more than twenty countries across four continents over the past few years, as well as living overseas in the decidedly unique international environment of Dubai.  Learning about history, science, politics, or pretty much any other subject that piques my curiosity is also a passion of mine.  Reading, playing XBOX, and the occasional game of disc golf are also favorite pastimes.

Who are your favourite authors?
Umberto Eco, Stieg Larsson, J.K. Rowling, Mark Twain, Harlan Coben, David Baldacci, Jeremy Robinson, George Orwell... and many, many more.

What advice do you have for other writers?
Read widely.  Learn from the greats, but find your own voice.  Network with other authors, both aspiring and published.  Write what you love.  And above all else, never stop improving your craft.

What's your favourite quote about writing/for writers?
“The essence of story is conflict.” – Donald Maass

Jeremy Burns
What's the best thing about being a writer?
It’s always new.  New characters, new stories, new settings, new subjects to research and integrate into your next novel.  I’m the kind of guy who has to always be learning and growing.  Getting stuck in a rut doesn’t appeal to me at all, so writing is a perfect career.  Besides, in how many other professions can you learn about the subjects that fascinate you most, travel to the most exotic and mysterious places on earth, and then turn around to incorporate that into a creative, stimulating project of your own design?

Where can people find out more about you and your writing?
My main websites are and, but I also can be found on Twitter (, on my publisher’s website (, and on my Author Central page on Amazon (  My site and my Facebook and Twitter pages are the best places for fans to find out more information exciting developments about FROM THE ASHES and news on upcoming novels, as well as behind-the-scenes info on my adventures and their incorporation into my books.

Anything else you'd like to add?
If you’ve read and enjoyed FROM THE ASHES, please join my mailing list via my website or “like” me on Facebook.  I always love hearing from my fans, and those are also the main avenues I will be using to post news on impressive milestones and upcoming projects, including the next exciting adventure in the Jonathan Rickner series, OF FAITH AND TREASON, which I hope to have in bookstores by late 2012.

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Writing nail-biting suspense

This post is addressed to writers, but I’m sure readers will get something out of it, if not merely a good chuckle.

You’re sitting alone watching a late night movie (such as DIAL M FOR MURDER by Alfred Hitchcock) and for some strange reason your heart races, you cling to your spouse or pet, you want to cover your eyes, but you just can’t.  And even if you do, you’re peeking between your fingers.  And at some point you scream at the TV, “DON’T OPEN THAT DOOR!”

You might not actually scream, but when it comes to that moment, you want to, right?
What makes grown adults’ hands grow clammy,  breaths grow short, and hearts race? 

One word:  Suspense.

We all love the experience, don’t we?

To illustrate the point: Don’t you just hate it when someone is telling a great story, or even a funny joke, and then just before it’s done, another person who knows the ending, or the punchline just blurts it out?  It makes the people in the room want to assassinate that person with throw pillows, doesn’t it?

We all love the rush of watching or reading (in the safety of our living rooms or beds) someone else facing danger, dismemberment, or certain death.  Some of us love the feeling of not knowing whether our hero or heroine will survive the impending event.

But what makes this experience so good?  It’s not the shock of something completely unexpected.  True, some of us love that, it’s the thrill of sudden danger.  Some don’t like shocks, though and prefer knowing what is lying beyond that door.  It’s being a step ahead of our heroine, watching her unknowingly turn the doorknob to the door behind which she heard something fall.  And all along, we know, we see the ax-murdered, weapon poised, waiting for her to enter. 

Just as she turns the doorknob, and the door creaks open…

Cut to a commercial break!  (Nooo!!)

Or the chapter ends and though your eyes are red and sore from sleep deprivation, you can’t help but turn the page.  Only, the next chapter is a different character’s subplot.  And if your friendly neighborhood author has done his/her job well, this chapter will leave off on yet another cliff hanger.  Before you know it, you’re following 2-3 different story lines, the chapters of which all leave you literally hanging from a ledge. 

Now since you can’t possibly sleep knowing that three of your favorite characters are about to face certain disaster—AND each chapter is really only 2-3 pages, so it will not take long to get to the next fix—er.. I mean chapter—you might as well read “just one more chapter.”

It’s now 4AM, and you haven’t put the book down.  You figure, it’s too late to get enough sleep anyway, you’ll probably just call in sick (ah, yes—brilliant idea!)  That way, you can just finish the darn book without interruption, right?

The whole point of suspense, be it in film or on the written page, is to keep your audience on their toes, addicted to the story, and coming back for more.  As a writer, we can’t give our readers just what they think they want (resolution) until the story is over.  The moment you resolve anything, it’s over.

In my books, I like to resolve conflicts only to crack open another bigger complication.  So while my reader thinks something is going to be resolved, and indeed, it may be—it’s really only a teaser to a bigger problem. I keep doing this till the climax (deny resolution almost to the point of delightful frustration) then make sure the payoff is huge.  I want my readers to feel emotionally, even physically drained at the end of my books, and yet satisfied. 

If I’ve done my job well, they are going to want more.

DISCLAIMER:  I am not responsible for any parallels you may draw from the analogies in this post.  Any such comparisons stem from your own imagination, for better or worse :) , and yet, if I evoked imagery or emotional memories of things other than the superficial meanings of my words, then perhaps I have done my job again.

Guest post by Joshua Graham. Joshua Graham is the award winning author of the #1 Amazon and Barnes & Noble legal thriller BEYOND JUSTICE.  His latest book DARKROOM won a First Prize award in the Forward National Literature award and was an award-winner in the USA Book News “Bests Books 2011” awards.

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