Today’s Featured Author – Grant Kniefel

Please welcome author Grant Kniefel to my blog. His short story, The Soundtrack of Life, was released in September. You can find it on Amazon.

Interview

Tell us a bit about yourself.

Hi, my name is Grant Kniefel. I am 18 years old and was born in Anchorage Alaska.

When did you first consider yourself a writer?

I started writing in 2nd grade. I would hang out with my dad when he coached wrestling at the high school he worked at, so I would write a lot. When I was in 9th grade, I wrote my first real short story called She Married Kevin. I Am Fine Now. I think that was the point where I really started considering writing as the thing I want to do with my life.

Have you started your next project? If so, can you share a little bit about your next book?

My next project actually isn’t a book. I am currently trying my hand at stage directing and script writing. I am currently tied to an original project entitled Rylan and Bec which deals with a teenage romance in the confines of a treatment center. I am also directing the film adaption of my short story The Soundtrack to Life.

Do you write full-time? If so, what is your work day like? If not, what do you do other than write and how do you find time to write?

I am currently attending high school actually. I write during the free periods I have. I tend to sit down for at least 45 minutes a day and do something with the piece whether it’s editing or writing new content.

Please tell us about your current release.

My most recent and current release is called The Soundtrack to Life. It deals with the journey of a young musician who releases that his own narcissism is ripping apart every relationship he has. In doing so, he finds solace and therapy in writing music and begins to truly love himself and creates his magnum opus, his “soundtrack to life”.

Did you base any of your characters on real people?

Yes. The main character, Jeremy Cabb, is actually based on my own personal journey through the landscape of arrogance and narcissism. The female lead, Ramona, is based on a dear friend I once had and how I ruined that relationship. Their conversation that opens the story was similar to that of which we shared together.

How did you come up with the title?

This is my favorite story out of writing it. So I was on my way to church with my grandmother. I told her that I was writing a new short story and that it wouldn’t be overly inappropriate. (My last two were so much so that she read through the first few pages and stopped). So I was originally going to call it “This is Not for Stupid People”. She said it didn’t really fit with the story so I shouted out some ideas. At one point I said, “Jeremy Cabb and the Soundtrack to Life.” She said “How about just the Soundtrack to Life?” and it has stuck ever since.

What was the most difficult thing/scene to write in this story?

I think that the hardest was the ending. In retrospect, I honestly hate it. I find the whole chapter to be hokey and fake. However, in that I find that the epilogue is much better at representing what I wanted to write.

If you could be one of the characters from any of your books, who would it be and why?

I think that the best person to be would be Jessica Riley from my short story She Married Kevin. I Am Fine Now. This is due to the fact that she is a nymphomaniac who torments the hero, Blink. The whole story is dedicated to how much she screwed him over and so I think it would be interested to see what it would be like to be in her head as she is not too unlike Amy Dunn in Gone Girl.

Do you have an all time favorite book?

I go through books like they’re pizza. It is always so hard to come up with simply one all time favorite. Currently it’s a small list which includes The Fault in Our Stars by John Green, The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald, It’s Kind of a Funny Story by Ned Vizzini, Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn, and Me and Earl and the Dying Girl by Jesse Andrews. Which leads me to…

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

Firstly, F. Scott Fitzgerald. I love his work as a whole. He is who I consider to be my favorite author. He is a master of description and his pieces make me want to go back in time and live in the Jazz Era. The other one would be J. D. Salinger. This is because, while not included, The Catcher in the Rye has had a complete and utterly life changing effect on me. I want to thank him for giving his piece to the world.

Tell us a random fact about you that we never would have guessed.

In my opinion, the best part of the writing process is listening to music. I never write without music. My current favorites are Coldplay, Mumford and Sons, Kanye West, Childish Gambino, Neutral Milk Hotel, Two Door Cinema Club, Phoenix, and the soundtrack to the film La La Land. These are all so incredible and so diverse that they create a whole universe when combined together.

Book Blurb

The Soundtrack to Life by [Kniefel, Grant]Jeremy Cabb is making it somewhere. But when his own ego threatens to rip everything to shreds, he finds himself looking inside to find the answers he needs and to help create his best album ever.

About the Author

grantGrant Kniefel is an 18 year old who lives in Alaska. He has written and published short stories, articles, and reviews, and currently attends to his blog entitled “Movies That Aren’t That Bad”. He tends to find himself writing more and more and likes to push boundaries to create raw and emotional pieces. You can find him on instagram(@suburban_yeezus), where he is much cooler than he is in real life.

You can purchase The Soundtrack to Life on Amazon.

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My Top 10 Writing-related Posts of 2016

The New Year will be here soon. I considered updating my 5 New Year’s Resolutions for Writers but it is a pretty good list so I am going to take a moment to list some of my better writing-related posts from 2016. You can check out my top publishing related posts next week.

If you want to read these posts, simply click the “read more” link next to that topic.

World Building: The Rules of Magic

rules-of-magicWhen I was a child, I always thought it would be interesting to have magical powers. You could levitate a snack to you or close the door without even getting up. You could keep someone from grabbing you or perhaps start a fire with just a thought. But not once when I was thinking of these magical powers did I consider that there would be a limit to what could be done.

However, if you are writing a story, whether it is a fantasy, romance or horror, with magic in it, you need to spend some time developing a believable system of magic. Magic needs limits or consequences. Without these, whoever wields magic would win. There would be no conflict to your story or in other words, no story. And without a story, you have no readers. (Read more)

The need for a well-developed character

The difference between a well-developed character and one that is just two-dimensional or something everyone has already read about can be the difference between having a book readers enjoy and talk about and one that is put aside unfinished.

I have written several other posts on the importance of well-developed characters (Developing characters recap). This is an important aspect of writing or should I say writing well. (Read more)

Character motivation – keeping it real and true to the character

I once wrote about my husband always asking me why a character does this or that. He can be annoying about it, but it does improve my novel. You can’t have characters do things just because you, the author, want them to. They need to be motivated by their own desires. (Read more)

4 tips on choosing a title for your novel

I am in the midst of writing my next book. And even though I am not at the stage yet where I have to decide on the title, I find myself occasionally thinking about it. This tale is about a young man and a dragon so for the longest time I just referred to it as my dragon novel. Now a turn of events within the story has me toiling with the name Blood Bond.

Picking a title for your book can be hard especially if you have developed a working title for it that you decide cannot be the actual title. (Read more)

Steps to writing a novel

While looking for new topics to write about for this blog, I did a search for the steps to writing a novel. And found that most of the steps listed were already topics that I have done. I guess after doing this for so many year this is the problem I face.

So rather than keep searching for new topics (though I am always doing that and open to suggestions), I thought I would go ahead publish the outline of what it takes to plan, write and edit a novel for publication. (Read more)

Doing your research before you write

I have often written about making your story believable. And the one way to do that is to do your research.

In the days of e-mail and the Internet, researching for novel is even easier. But as with all things found on the Internet, remember to take everything with a grain of salt and verify and re-verify any “facts” you read. (Read more)

Descriptions in fiction writing – less is more

Creating a realistic world for your reader can be challenging. Description of the setting and characters can help your reader “see” your world.

Descriptions of setting allow the reader to see where events are taking place. And descriptions of characters allow the reader to see who is involved as well as draw conclusions about the characters. Descriptions should engage the reader, draw him into the story and stir up his curiosity.

The key is to decide how much description your reader needs to see and feel your character’s world. (Read more)

5 tips for developing good writing habits

There is only one way to become a better writer, and that is with lots of practice.

Establishing good writing habits have several benefits: it allows you to write regularly, and it improves your writing (through practice).

Below is a list of essential writing habits that can benefit your writing skills. Try incorporating one of these into your routine to improve your writing. (Read more)

6 Tips to strengthen your writingweights

The best way to become a better writer is to simply write. And even if you have been writing for years and have numerous books under your belt, you can always improve.

You have probably already heard all the typical advice: read often, write daily, learn grammar and style and so on. Here are a few more tips to help strengthen your writing. (Read more)

It has to end sometime…Ending your novel

Recently, I read a book and instead of ending the story after the climax, the book went on and on. It was a romance novel, and the author seemed to want to keep writing about this relationship all the way through the engagement and up to the wedding. She even had an epilogue with a baby in it.
the-end-signAll I could think while I was reading was why is this still going on? There was no more tension in the story, and it just seemed like filler. Yes, I love the happy-ever-after of a romance novel, but once you have gotten the couple together the book needs to end shortly after that. Any extra wrap-up of a wedding or a child can be in the epilogue. (Can decide if you need an epilogue? Check out my post on that topic here.) (Read more)

 

 

The Joy of Christmas Morning

Christmas morning can mean different things to different people. It could be attending church, a big family breakfast or loading up the car to visit relatives. But as a kid, for me, Christmas morning always meant presents from Santa and family.

img_1152I remember racing into the living room, eyes wide at whatever Santa had delivered overnight. Within the hour, the room would be full of toys and discarded wrapping paper.

And now that I am a parent, I get to watch my kids have that same joy. My daughter’s face still lights up when she talks about Santa. Big smiles crack both of their faces as they pull out goodies from their stockings or tear into the gift Santa left them.

And then it is the agony of waiting for family to show before they can dig into all the other presents around the Christmas tree.

Yes, Christmas morning is definitely something the kids greatly anticipate. And so do I. I love watching them open their presents. I love to see the joy on their face and their excited squeals.

And of course I hope that they love and appreciate their presents and there is no lament about some items they didn’t get (such as the pug puppy Lexie wanted).

It is hard to figure out sometimes what the kids really want. An item they have been talking about for months could be easily discarded for some other item. And the item you bought knowing they would love it could, in fact, not be more than a quick exclamation before going on to open the next gift.

Of course, there is more to Christmas than a toy overload for the kids. I don’t want my kids to think that is all about them. I want them to know the joy of giving to others too. That is why we help cultivate the spirit of giving by participating each year in the school’s Angel tree program.

We pick two children with similar ages/interest and then let them buy those children toys while I pick out some new clothes for the kids. My children always balk at the idea of giving or receiving clothes as a Christmas present, but I explain that these children have very little and that a new pair of shoes might be the best thing for them. I am never sure they fully understand, but that doesn’t stop us from donating clothes and toys each year.

Handprint ornament from Lexie in 2013

Handprint ornament from Lexie in 2013

And it isn’t like my children are only centered on the gifts they receive Christmas morning. Each year, they both give us a present they made in school (such as a framed picture they drew, an ornament with their hand print or whatever that year’s project turned out to be.) And whenever we go to open those, they dropped whatever they were doing to watch us and then add some sort of explanation about the gift.

Then they are back to their pile of toys. It is back to playing, smiling and enjoying Christmas morning and all the joy it brings.

Today’s Featured Author – Michael Bolan

Today, I welcome author Michael Bolan to my blog. His latest book, The Stone Bridge, the gripping conclusion to the Devil’s Bible Series, was released in November. You can purchase The Stone Bridge on Amazon.

Interview

What or who inspired you to start writing?

Irish people seldom answer a question directly. So for me, there were two beginnings. The first was when my brother came to visit me in Prague, bringing my nephews. I had to scramble to come up with an itinerary that was suitable for two teenagers. We had dinner one evening in a medieval restaurant, complete with firebreathers, pipers, dueling swordsmen and buxom wenches. The restaurant was called the King of Brabant and my elder nephew asked why. I then began to make up a story that blended real history with devices from books that I loved with ideas of my own. I kept it going for five days, ad-libbing as I went. It wasn’t until a few months later, when I was visiting my wife’s parents that the writing began. We had a minor (?) argument which resulted in her telling me to “just go and write a book or something”. So I stormed off to the dining table, opened my laptop and wrote 11,000 words in one sitting – by far my most productive day ever.

Please tell us about your current release.

The Stone Bridge is the final volume of the Devil’s Bible Series, which follows the final four years of the Thirty Years War, 1645-1648. Chronologically, the story is accurate, following the battles and intrigue that led to the end of the war. In terms of characters, there’s a mix of real and imaginary, with a few dramatic liberties taken. One of the most surprising things I discovered in my research was that the armies of the time were made up of many nationalities, so you could have Scots fighting for the Bavarians against Scots fighting for the Swedes. Mercenaries came from all over the world, so I cast some of my mercenaries as Fianna – semi-mythical warriors from Ireland, bringing a fantasy element into the story.

Do you outline your books or just start writing?

The Devil’s Bible just happened, which was simultaneously good and bad. I never once suffered from writer’s block during the process – the ideas just flew onto the page. The downside was that the final book needed a fundamental rewrite (11 of 20 chapters) because the loose ends just wouldn’t tie up. It cost me at least six months of writing and editing to fix this, which, given that I have released three books in two years, was a major delay. My next series, (working title Gods & Fighting Men), is being more carefully outlined and planned, although not to an excessive degree…

Did the story turn out the way you planned from the beginning? If not, what change happened that you didn’t expect?

The best laid plans of mice and men gang oft agley. They certainly did with the Devil’s Bible Series. Actually, the book itself is supposed to be cursed, so it’s little wonder that things went off course. First up, it was supposed to be a book. Not three. I was over 100,000 words into the story before I checked how long a book should actually be. To my chagrin, I realized I had gone way over the suggested word limit and was only halfway through the tale I wanted to tell. The other thing that still annoys me is when my characters do their own things. I’ve had characters change sides, suffer horrendous injuries, even pluck out their own eyes – all without my say-so. It seems that the lunatics have taken over the asylum…

Have you started your next project? If so, can you share a little bit about your next book?

I have found myself wondering what happens next; what my characters (those that survive) do after the earth-shattering events of the trilogy. It’s not like you can just go back to normal life when you are the richest man on the planet, or married to a demi-god and transported to a parallel world slightly out of sync with our own. My next series follows the Fianna warriors and my heroine as they deal with the problem of reuniting the faery realm with our world. While there will still be a strong element of history and politics in this tale, it’s much more of a fantasy than the first series. I don’t want to give too much away (especially as I haven’t even finished the planning), but I’m excited. It’s going to be awesome.

What was the most difficult thing/ scene to write in this story?

I had two challenges with the Devil’s Bible. The first was the way that history ran. 1645 was a year of battles and change, as was 1648, so they were well laid out for me already, whereas not much happened in 1646 and 1647. That’s a simplistic way to look at things, but peace negotiations and trade deals aren’t all that exciting… So I sent my characters off on a quest to keep them busy until the history sped up again. The other challenge I had was with my bad guys. I really don’t like the main evil character – he makes me feel dirty. It’s not that he’s inherently evil: he’s a distillation of how nasty people can be – sociopathic, psychopathic, sadistic and perverted, while maintaining a sense that he is right and everyone else is wrong. I had to write him in short bursts, and I was always in a bad mood after those chapters.

Do you have an all time favorite book?

I have a gazillion favourite books, for different reasons, but the most important book for me isn’t viewed as a classic, except to a very small niche. I was a precocious reader, devouring Lord of the Rings, etc. as a young child. And then I went through the most middle-class teenage rebellion in history – I stopped reading – I think just to annoy my parents. From a handful of books a week to nothing, I simply didn’t read anymore. After a year, my mother made me a deal – any book I wanted to read, she would buy. I was in the local bookstore and saw Raymond Feist’s Magician. After admiring the cover art, and reading the blurb on the back, I asked if she would buy it. She did, I read it, and the rest is history. I recently read the final book of the series that Feist set in that world, thirty years after setting out on that journey.

What book are you reading right now?

I’m reading the coolest series at the moment – The Desolate Empire series by Christina Ochs. Christina is the funkiest author I know – she writes in the back of the cab while her husband drives a long-distance truck. Her series is also based on the Thirty Years War (that’s how we got to know one another) but takes the whole period and rewrites it as a realistic fantasy, changing the names of the countries, noblemen, etc. but covering what actually happened. I have almost finished Valley of the Shadow, the second of her planned six books in the series, and I’m hooked.

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

People are talking about how many famous people died in 2016 – David Bowie, Prince, Castro, Zsa Zsa Gabor – but I’m most saddened by the loss of Umberto Eco. His mind was like the Garden of Eden, capable of taking the smallest of ideas and growing from it an entire ecosystem, a beautiful jungle of words that twist and captivate. I loved his stories, but most of all I would want to ask him about an essay he wrote, called How to Travel with a Salmon. You see, I have done the same, flying from Vancouver to Ireland in the company of a dead fish…

From the living, it would have to be Neil Gaiman. The man is immense: prolific, varied, crazy. His ideas are as close to creation as I have ever experienced and he remains grounded. Or at least as grounded as anyone can or should be. I can only imagine that a conversation with him would not end up where one might think…

Book Blurb

stone-bridge1The Rapture continues to wreak havoc across Europe in its quest to acquire the elemental Seals, the only thing preventing the Devil’s Bible from purging the world in fire. Brought to Prague by the Fianna, the Seals’ only protection lies in the secrecy that shrouds them.

Reinald, leader of the Rapture, enlists the world’s greatest minds to free the Devil’s Bible from the depths of Prague Castle, where it has languished under lock and key for centuries. Meanwhile, the plans of the Four Horsemen unfold, wreaking havoc and misery across the entire continent.

Not content with forcing his siblings from their ancestral home, Reinald sends a vast army to harry and persecute them, forcing them to flee ever eastwards. Taking shelter with their friends, Willem, Leo and Isabella commit to one last act of bravery, making a final stand to defend the city of Prague.

As each nation commits its final resources into the conflict, all roads lead to the Stone Bridge that divides Prague, where the Sons of Brabant and their Fianna allies will face the ultimate test of their strength.

About the Author

michael-bolanIt took Michael Bolan over two decades of running in the corporate ratrace to realize that all he actually did was tell stories.

There was no Damascene revelation for Bolan which caused him to pen his first work of fiction, “The Sons of Brabant”. An avid reader, he simply felt that he could do as good a job as many of the authors he read and decided to put his money where his mouth was.

Living and working in many countries left him with smatterings of a dozen languages and their stories, and his love for history focused his ideas on the Thirty Years War, the most destructive conflict that the continent has ever seen.

Now living in Prague (again), Michael brings alive the twisted alleys of the 17th century and recreates the brooding darkness of a fractured Europe, where no-one was entirely sure who was fighting whom.

Michael writes while liberally soused in gin, a testament to Franz de le Boë, who was mixing oil of juniper with neat spirit while the thirty Years War raged around him.

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

You can purchase The Stone Bridge on Amazon.

 

Holiday #Fantasy Book Sale – #Free and Discounted books

To celebrate the holiday season ~ I am offering two of my books at a discounted price on Smashwords and Amazon – and one totally free through Smashwords, which can be downloaded to any e-reader!

All prices are good through January 1st! 

We will start with my latest work – which I am offering for FREE on Smashwords or for 99 cents on Amazon – links and coupon code below.

THE HEIR TO ALEXANDRIA

HeirAlexandria_ebookcoverBelieved the descendants of the Gods themselves,
The Alexandria line ensured peace,
Until they were brutally murdered.
But rumor spread a maid escaped with the youngest daughter.

Now as the world rushes toward a period of unrest, the nations’ Kings continue their 200-year-long-search for the Heir to Alexandria – the one person who can bring peace and stability through divine power.

Alista has her own search – for the parents who abandoned her as a baby years ago. When her only lead proves to be a dead end, she heads to the capital with a reluctant escort. Grayson is just following his aunt’s order, but he would rather be on one of his solitary scouting missions for the Landa Guard. However, when Alista unintentionally curses a guard in front of the King’s court, everything changes for both of them.

Now forced to travel to Covington for testing, danger lurks at every turn as a secret society strives to prevent the return of the Alexandria line. Are Alista’s visions of the future enough to save herself and those traveling with her?

FREESmashwords – Coupon Code XL57P or on Amazon for 99 cents.

Or get my very first book for 99 cents on either Smashwords – remember you can download the book in any e-book format – or on Amazon.

SUMMONED: Book 1 of The Elemental

SummonedFINALAt the age of four, Lina discovered she could start fires with a mere thought – a trait which had died out long ago. Cautioned by her telepathic cat, Tosh, she kept this Elemental power a secret to avoid being an outcast. That was easy to do growing up in the remote grasslands of Zena.

Now as an adult, she had no plans to leave her beloved homeland. So when a strange urge compels her to travel north to an unknown destination, Lina resists this unnatural feeling. But her plans to stay in Zena are taken out of her control when she is kidnapped by gypsies and wakes in a foreign land. The desire to travel north is as strong as ever. She fears she will have no choice but to give into the compulsion. When a raging fire prevents her return home, she realizes she must find out once and for all what or who is summoning her.

On her journey, Lina befriends an odd assortment of allies. Together they battle mystical creatures and unnatural forces despite the fact that such magic had died out over 800 years ago. Lina reluctantly begins to use her innate Elemental power as she becomes more certain that someone is using magic against her. When she discovers the shocking truth, it will change her life in ways she could never imagine.

Only 99 cents Smashwords – Coupon Code NT82R or on Amazon.

Or get all three books in The Elemental trilogy for 50% off the normal price!

THE ELEMENTAL TRILOGY 

box setGet all three books in the trilogy for one low price. The adventure begins in Summoned (see description above).

Lina’s story continues in Quietus and concludes in Destiny.

Quietus:

In the shadow of Ben Dar fortress, Lina learned she was the center of a thousand-year-old prophecy claiming the rebirth of the Elementals – an ancient race dedicated to caring for the Land.

Now Lina and those with traces of Elemental power train in the mountains of South Point in the hopes that they can defeat this unknown danger to the Land. Will her powers be enough to stop the destruction of her homeland?

Destiny: 

Destroying Quietus should have stopped the destruction to the Land. But it hadn’t. Slowly, the barren areas continue to grow destroying everything in their path. None of Lina’s Elemental powers can repair the damage while the Land remains contaminated by magic.

But there is an ancient scepter created by a Learner that may lift this magical barrier. Before Lina can claim it, the scepter is stolen. Now Lina and Val must race to find the scepter and end the destruction to the Land once and for all.

Reduced Price – NOW $2.99- that’s 3 books for the price of one! – Smashwords Coupon Code: MA33F or on Amazon.

Enjoy the books and have a safe and happy holiday!