Today’s Featured Author – Essel Pratt

Today I welcome author Essel Pratt to my blog where he discusses his first book, Final Reverie, a fantasy adventure.

Interview

Tell us a bit about yourself.

I was born and raised in Mishawaka, Indiana (North Central part by the University of Notre Dame). I am married to the woman of my dreams and have 2 daughters and a step-son. We have two huskies, a Chihuahua/rat terrier, and two cats.  I work at a community college during the day and am also working toward my Bachelors in Psychology.  By night, I am acquisitions at J. Ellington Ashton Press and also an editor.

What is the best and worst advice you ever received? (regarding writing or publishing)

The best advice I have received is simply to just write.  It doesn’t matter what I write, if it is good, or if it genius.  Writing, even if the content is bad, will spawn new ideas and coerce more imaginative thought. There are many short stories that I have ditched and tossed aside into a folder on my hard drive, only to go back to them later and include them in another story or to simply see if I can make it better.

The worst advice I’ve received is to write what the readers want to read. I feel that if I only wrote for the readers, and not myself, then the fun would fade away. When the fun fades, I don’t see a reason to write anymore. That doesn’t mean I don’t want the writers to enjoy it, quite the opposite actually.  I feel that if I am enjoying the story while I write, it will translate to the readers.

Do you outline your books or just start writing?

When I write short stories, I tend to just go with the flow and write what comes to mind. However, when I write novels, I do outline. I think I outline novels because there is so much going on that it is best to have a clear goal from beginning to end.  It also helps to keep the story straight. My first novel, Final Reverie, started as a short story that would not leave my head.  So, I started outlining and realized what the story was meant to be.

Please tell us about your current release.

My first novel, Final Reverie, is a fantasy adventure about a young adult boy named Franklyn and his brother, a wolf named Chij. The core of the story takes place years after our technological world was destroyed and Mother Nature’s magic remerged onto the planet. An evil being, named Nafets, is threatening to awaken and reclaim his place at the top of the world.  Guided by heroes of the past, Franklyn and Chij are tasked to complete the journey to defeat Nafets. Along the way, they encounter magical beings, both good and evil, as they attempt to add balance to the magical world they live in.

How did you come up with the title?

As a child and young adult, video games became my escape. Whenever life stressed me out, school became difficult, or life just didn’t go as I hoped it would, I would find myself immersing my imagination into video games. All of my frustrations placed me into the character behind the controller. However, I never used that frustration to channel anger.  Instead, I used it to become the character and become something greater than I ever thought I was – a hero.  One of those games, Final Fantasy, took being a hero to a more interactive level.  Watching the character grow, as I hoped to do, and achieve greatness, even after failure, was inspiring.  So, the name Final Reverie is an homage to the early Final Fantasy games.

Did you base any of your characters on real people?

I always told myself that I would not use real people as characters in my books. However, in Final Reverie, I just could not help it. Nearly every character is based on someone I know.  Some only by name.  Others by personality and name.  It is strange, I found that it allowed the characters to come alive on the page and naturally evolve as I wrote.

If this book is part of a series, what is the next book? Any details you can share?

I never intended Final Reverie to be a part of a series. However, as with the short story it is based on, it has not left my head. Weirdly, the past is what haunts me about the story.  So, I decided that I would write the trilogy in reverse.  Final Reverie is the first, and I guess you could say last, book in the series. The second book takes place before the events and explores the heroes that guided Franklyn and Chij on their adventure.  It will be called Abiding Reverie.  The third book will explore the time when technology ended and magic emerged.

If you could jump in to any book, and live in that world, which would it be?

I have thought of this question many times in the past. There are so many fantastic books out there, but I would have to say the Magician’s Nephew would be the book. To witness the birth of Narnia and experience the majestic world within.

If you could meet two authors, who would you pick and why?

My two all-time favorite authors are C.S. Lewis and Clive Barker. When I was thinking if a pseudonym, I nearly chose Clive Lewis, as a tribute to both, but went with Essel instead (A combination of my first and middle name initials “S” and “L”). Although C.S. Lewis writes fantastic fantasy and Clive Barker writes horror, the combined imagination of both would be simply amazing. Having the opportunity to sit in a room with them would be euphoric.

Book Blurb

Final Rev Cover 6Many years after the downfall of technology, magic has reclaimed its position within Earth’s ecosystem. Over time, the delicate balance of between good and evil has weighed heavily toward the malevolent side, despite attempts at stabilizing the equilibrium. Two heroes, Franklyn – an adolescent boy, and Chij – his wolf brother, travel the land with a sole purpose of helping those that cannot defend themselves from the creatures that lurk and feed upon the weak. Their carefree travels are unexpectedly given a larger purpose when they are tasked to search for, and destroy, the nefarious being known as Nafets – who was imprisoned many years prior but teeters on the edge of reemergence. Throughout their journey, Franklyn and Chij encounter heroes of the past that guide them toward the final battle, as well as Atrin – an aspiring adversary that wishes to overthrow Nafets and claim his seat upon the throne of malevolence. Franklyn and Chij endure an emotional journey filled with blood, tears, and self-discovery as they encounter the unexpected and become entangled in a expedition that will test their abilities and emotions.

About the Author

Esse;Essel Pratt is from Mishawka, Indiana, a North Central town near the Michigan Border. His prolific writings have graced the pages of multiple anthologies, a couple self-published works, as well as his own creations.

As a husband, a father, and a pet owner, Essel’s responsibilities never end. Other than a family man, he works a full time job an hour from his home, he is a writer for the Inquisitr, a full time student on his journey to a degree, Event Calendar Coordinator for the Horror Writers Association, and is also the Chief of Acquisitions and Executive Assistant for J. Ellington Ashton Press. His means of relieving stress and relaxing equate to sitting in front of his dual screens and writing the tales within the recesses of his mind.

Inspired by C.S. Lewis, Clive Barker, Stephen King, Harper Lee, William Golding, and many more, Essel doesn’t restrain his writings to straight horror. His first Novel, Final Reverie is more Fantasy/Adventure, but does include elements of Horror. His first zombie book, The ABC’s of Zombie Friendship, attacks the zombie genre from an alternate perspective. Future books, that are in progress and yet to be imagined, will explore the blurred boundaries of horror within its competing genres, mixing the elements into a literary stew.

You can find out more about Essel on his website or follow him on Twitter or Facebook.

You can buy Final Reverie on Amazon.

 

 

 

Revisiting my first post: Can someone freeze time, please?

I have been writing this blog for a little over three years. In the beginning, I wrote twice a week on writing/publishing issues but then dropped it down to once a week. I figure I have written about 175 posts on the writing and self-publishing industry. That is a lot of posts covering a variety of topics. I feel like I have written about every subject out there though I am sure there are a few I might have missed.

I had been struggling for a topic for this week’s post, so I decided to go back and look at my first post to see if I could update it now that I have more experience.

pocket watchMy first post on writing was titled “Can someone freeze time, please?” It was about trying to find time to write while being a busy stay-at-home mom.

Sadly, I have to say that in the past three years, I have not figured out how to find more writing time or sometimes any writing time. In fact, I have written on this same topic at least five times, including a post on cutting out time wasting activities and one on diving your time between marketing and writing.

So in the past three years, I obviously haven’t found the key to finding time to write. In fact, I keep taking on more tasks (an officer position for the PTA, bookkeeper for my husband’s law firm, and for about 10 months a birthday invitation store on Etsy – which closed last week).

I have been bad about not prioritizing my writing higher on my to-do list. I know many authors spout out the adage about any small amount of writing time is worth it, but I don’t necessarily like writing a line or two here and there. I want some dedicated time to write. But I should know by now that this isn’t going to happen unless I put off some other things and make writing my priority.

This is one reason I am considering participating in the NaNoWriMo challenge in November. Most of my work as PTA Treasurer will be done for the year, our neighborhood Fall Festival will be over, and the call for volunteers at the school is at its lowest in November so this should be a good month to make starting my next novel my priority.

And in the meantime, I guess I will go back to writing my novel in the few spare minutes I have here in there. Because after all, I can’t freeze time.

ADHD medication follow up

Back in June I posted about starting Lexie on ADHD medication to see if that helped her focus (and would confirm that she actually did have ADHD.) At the time, we started her on the lowest dose – 5 mg. After two weeks and very little behavioral changes, we moved her up to a 10 mg dose at the beginning of July.

You could see an immediate change. Lexie was calmer but not doped up or appearing drugged. She would follow directions better and could sit and read a book with me or do some class work. (Yep, I am that mom that has my kids doing school work during the summer, so they don’t lose everything they learned.)

But how would we know if this was the correct dosage? It is one thing to have her at home and focused but totally different to be in a classroom with 20 other students.

When we went back to the doctor, she immediately noticed the change in Lexie’s behavior.  No longer was Lexie rolling across the examine table. She sat there calmly playing on her iPad.

We told the doctor that we would keep her at this dosage and reevaluate at her after school started. The doctor agreed that was the best course of action.

IMG_0226So at the beginning of this year, I sent a note to Lexie’s second-grade teacher. This is nothing new. I always send a note on the first day to give the teacher a head up on her allergies (Epi Pen) and eczema. This year I added a paragraph about the ADHD. I asked her teacher to monitor Lexie’s behavior and let us know if Lexie’s dosage needs to be increased.

Last week, we had our fall parent-teacher conference. Lexie’s teacher marveled on her improvement in reading. Last year, she was behind and had special tutoring. Over the summer, I too had noticed an increase in her reading ability. Both her teacher and I attribute it to the medicine. Finally, we think Lexie is able to pay attention and focus on the story.

Of course, my husband said she had been playing more games on her iPad that required reading and that may have been the extra motivation she needed. Either way, we are thrilled to see she had made such a large jump in her reading.

Her teacher said she thought Lexie’s dosage was at the right level. She can stay focused in class, but she doesn’t seem overly medicated or tired.

I agree. We give her the medication daily and on the weekends, I can see a difference of when she is on the medicine and when she is off it.

The medicine has affected her eating habits some.  There are days when she barely touches her lunch. But she sure makes up for it when she gets home from school, and the medicine’s effect wears off. That happens usually within the hour after returning home from school.

And this means that when we do homework, she is no longer on the medication. Sometimes it is struggle to get her to focus but I like that she has that time to try without the benefits of the medication. We are allowing her to work on her self-control at home where we have the time for it and the medication is allowing her to focus at school. I think it is the perfect blend to manage her ADHD.

 

 

 

Today’s Featured Author – Rayme Michaels

Please welcome author Rayme Michaels to my blog. His book, Screw the Devil’s Daiquiri, a dark, urban comedy/psychological drama, came out last year.

Interview

 Tell us a bit about yourself.

Well, despite all the rockiness, through thick and thin, I always managed to persevere and remain someone who absolutely loves life! It’s way, WAY too short. There’s so much to see and do, and so little damn time. In terms of education, I did a major in philosophy with a minor in psychology and then did a Master’s Degree in comparative (mainly continental) philosophy. My favourite writer and philosopher of all time is Friedrich Nietzsche, whom I did my Master’s Major Research Project on. I love both his thoughts, his revelations, and the way he penned them. His words are so lyrical and poetic, and I guess as a born iconoclast myself, I couldn’t help but be drawn to him and his unabashed scorn for the moral majority. He dug so deep into the human psyche and human motives, and I don’t think anything interests me more than the human mind. And it was reading On the Genealogy of Morals back in October of 2006 that hastened me on my path of academic study.  As for my writing, I’m a novelist and have published three books: Incorrigibility, Red Love, and Screw the Devil’s Daiquiri. Red Love won Honourable Mention at the top of the list for General Fiction at the 2014 London Book Festival in December, so that made me happy. It was a great way to end off the year.

Where were you born and where do you call home?

I was born and raised in Toronto. But Tokyo is home to me now. I felt right at home here ever since I got off the plane, even though I don’t speak the language.

What or who inspired you to start writing?

Movies inspired me more than anything, and I love all genres, which is why I write in so many of them instead of just sticking to one. I remember seeing The Breakfast Club on TV when I was 7 and realizing that being a writer was what I wanted to be more than anything else, either as a writer of books or of screenplays. I wanted to make people feel the way it made me feel. So I guess it was John Hughes. Then when I watched Clerks by Kevin Smith at the age of 14, it really changed how I thought movies could be written. I loved the dialogue-driven aspect of it. I’m a huge Kevin Smith fan. His influence on me is definitely apparent in my first book, Incorrigibility, which I originally wrote in screenplay form. And I love Woody Allen’s relationship humour and existential surrealism, and Quentin Tarantino too, probably because of the brilliant dialogue-driven-ness of his movies. Except I think nonfiction has inspired me more than fiction, ironically, even though I’m a novelist. I think that’s because something inside me has always demanded that I consummate myself with reality. Even when I use surrealism (as with my first book Incorrigibility, which is way more surrealistic than realistic with its scenes), its purpose, if not humour, is meant to express reality as I see it. As a writer and reader, I love dabbling and dancing in the absurd as much as I love exploring the infinite horizon of real life. Plus, Incorrigibility demanded an outlandishness that only surrealism could provide. And I’m very interested in human relationships (a very real thing), both between friends and lovers; it’s always captivated my interest, so it’s a cornerstone of all my books. In Screw the Devil’s Daiquiri, the surreal and the real meet head to head, though.

When did you first consider yourself a writer?

It’s hard to say. Maybe it was when I was 8 and started keeping a diary and was really enjoying creative writing at school in grade 3, or maybe it was when I was 9 and wrote my first poem, or perhaps it was when I was 10 and wrote a 27-page short story for school in grade 5, or maybe it was much later on when I was 22 and started delving into screenwriting. I don’t know.

How much of yourself, your personality or your experiences, is in your books?

I think all my characters, even when often antithetical to me, are all different aspects of my psyche. But in terms of a character that represents me 100% – none do, not even John Hazel, the protagonist in Screw the Devil’s Daiquiri, who is the most like me out of all of them, since it’s a semi-autobiographical book. Actually, it’s more like one-tenth autobiographical, but nobody talks that way, so I just say “semi.”

What is the best thing about being a writer? The worst?

Being able to express yourself with nothing more than a pen and paper or any old computer, and then putting yourself out there for all to see. Being able to take all your experiences, thoughts, worries, joys, frustrations, awe and weave them into a story, prose, poem, essay, etc. and into the lives of characters whom you can also create to then experience all that to the deepest of feeling, emotion and vividness, so that a complete stranger reading your work can then feel inspired to take on the world with all the more passion, vigour, excitement and courage with possibly a new and improved worldview and perspective to go with it – all thanks to you, the writer.

For me, the worst is editing! It’s such a pain in the ass and can really drive someone cuckoo! I don’t think a book is ever truly finished, to be honest with you, only abandoned out of necessity to meet a deadline, or for financial reasons, or to just finally be done with it and not go freakin’ nuts! Thank God for editors!! I didn’t have one for my first two books and will NEVER make that mistake again! I don’t know how so many errors and mis-wordings can get through despite reading those exact same parts hundreds of times before! It’s like Twilight-Zone stuff – just frightening! I think it’s one of the main reasons so many writers become alcoholics. I’m not big on alcohol, by the way. I’ve only been drunk five times in my entire life.

What fuels you as an author to continue to write?

Life in general, and my inner need to express myself artistically and always be doing more that can be left behind after I’m dead and gone. I’m obsessed with death, which is why it’s a motif in my writing.

What are your favourite novels?

I really like one called Then Again by a Toronto author named Elyse Friedman. And a classic that really influenced me in the writing of Screw the Devil’s Daiquiri is The Unbearable Lightness of Being by Milan Kundera. I finished reading it when I was about halfway through writing Red Love. Nausea by Jean-Paul Sartre influenced both books, actually. It made a notable impression on me back when I was in the first year of my undergraduate degree. And I really, really enjoyed reading Candy by Terry Southern and Mason Hoffenberg, published in 1958. It’s a book I highly recommend. I love books that really push the envelope. And, of course, 1984 by George Orwell is a masterpiece and will always be relevant. Another book that really stuck in my mind for years after reading it was Vittorio the Vampire by Anne Rice. I loved it; I thought it was amazing. And, of course, being a lover of Nietzsche, I have to say Thus Spoke Zarathustra, a novel for everyone and no one.

Please tell us about your current release.

Screw the Devil’s Daiquiri is a dark, urban comedy meets psychological drama – perhaps even a black comedy, for that matter. It deals with the problem of the nihilist. My lead character, John, is a person who has become as cold as he sees and feels life as being. Life seems dead to him, and he doesn’t know how to overcome that awful feeling. He was once a man who believed strongly in self-cultivation and life-affirmation, but now has reached a stage where he can’t for the life of him see how anything can be affirmed, since it all amounts to nothing in the end, hence his nauseating, unrelenting, depressive feeling of everything being nothing more than a plague of mere vanity, redundancy and bland tediousness. Life weighs down on him constantly and so heavily – not any particular stress per say, at least not in the beginning of the book, but just life itself. The only joy he finds in life is having meaningless sex with as many beautiful women as he possibly can. He’s a hedonist, and a narcissistic one at that (not that I have anything against pleasure-seeking or self-love – on the contrary! I think they’re both healthy expressions of a normal, well-adjusted human being. However, I’m also a strong believer in moderation). And I show at the beginning of each of the first five chapters where his realizations of his own tendencies towards hedonism begin, detailing each experience – that self-awareness of his future adult-self raising its ominous head, you might say. You see, John’s psyche has a very fascinating and complicated development and dynamic that I add to the puzzle of bit by bit as the story unfolds. He has a best friend named Alex, who’s even worse – way worse – than John is. Alex is downright sociopath, so John doesn’t get any kind of wholesome, positive influence from him in the least. Except John wants to improve as a human being. He only wants to do the right thing. But then virulently narcissistic, sociopathic influences like his boss and his boss’s mistress, Jackie, who’s completely out of her mind, enter his life, and it’s as if there’s no where to run or hide from the worst aspects of human avarice and deceit. John is a walking contradiction, you see, and there’s a tug of war going on inside him that ends up being mirrored by a constant tug of war in his daily life, which becomes downright insanity and more than the average person can take. And even prior to all this, a very important part of his madness and the book, is that he might even be schizophrenic, which is a whole other layer and aspect to Screw the Devil’s Daiquiri. He sees a psychologist, who doesn’t know what to do with him. He doesn’t even know why he bothers going to see her other than he finds her highly attractive and wants to sleep with her – that and it’s nice having someone like her to talk to. But he’s not getting anywhere with the sessions, and she knows that there is so much he is hiding – and he most certainly is. For starters, he certainly doesn’t want to reveal to her (because he’s too afraid to) that for 13 years, which is as long it’s been since he stopped speaking to his father, he’s been haunted by what appear to be the spirits of Giovanni Boccaccio, Francois Rabelais and a she-devil named Sabrina, whom I put on the cover of the book. And it’s up to the reader to decide whether they actually exist or not. It’s never stated.

What inspired you to write this book?

My life, my inexorable, incessant need to share myself with the world, the pleasure I take in making people both laugh and think – and I knew it would be tons of fun to write too! I had a really good feeling about it while I was still only brainstorming ideas for it. And I also knew a publishing house would believe in it, too, the moment I sat down to write the first page.

Book Blurb

SBibb - StDDproof23When womanizer, and possible schizophrenic, John Hazel, is suddenly offered a serious job promotion by the CEO of his company, David Wall, under the condition that John help him kill his wife, John finds himself between a rock and a hard place when Mr. Wall’s wife, Victoria Wall, asks John to do the same for her.

John, an office temp, photographer and university teaching assistant of philosophy, has more than enough on his post-traumatic, hyperactive mind, without something as absurd as this weighing down on him, not to mention that he is haunted—well, annoyed more than anything—by either the spirits or imaginary spirits of Giovanni Boccaccio, Francois Rabelais and a she-devil named Sabrina. Influences such as these do not help with John’s very prurient but fascinating mind, which his psychologist tries as best as she knows how to get to the bottom of.

His life-long existential crisis, having two hit men on his back, a bad-to-the-bone best friend named Alex, and a manic, sex-crazed, power-hungry, confrontational co-worker named Jackie, who happens to be Mr. Wall’s mistress, certainly do not help matters either. Life does not seem to want to let up on John. Will he make it through this very bizarre time of tribulation, or will he end up behind bars, stone-cold dead, or simply cracking under the weight of it all?

About the Author

RaymeAfter high school, Rayme Michaels studied Theater Arts Performance and Radio Broadcasting in college, and then, in his undergrad, majored in Philosophy with a minor in Psychology. He then went on to get a Master’s Degree in Comparative Philosophy while working as a teaching assistant. Screw the Devil’s Daiquiri is his first full-length novel, but it is his third book, his other two being novellas released in 2012. His first book was a quirky relationship/sex comedy entitled Incorrigibility. His second one is a dark, gory, romantic vampire thriller called Red Love, which won Honourable Mention at the top of the list for General Fiction at the 2014 London Book Festival.

He became a bookworm at the age of eight and has been influenced by, and continues to enjoy, a wide variety of writers that range from the solemn to the satirical, the serious to the jovial, both in fiction and non-fiction, contemporary and old. This invariably comes out in his writing, since his literary interests are very broad.

As an existential thinker, he is fascinated by the human mind and the human predicament, yet, as a Rabelaisian human being, laughter and joy are the reasons he gets up in the morning.

You can find out more about Rayme on his blog or follow him on Twitter or Facebook.

You can read an excerpt of Screw the Devil’s Daiquiri here and purchase it on Amazon.