A little “betcha didn’t know” about me

As most of you know, I consider myself a professional writer.  Yes, I am compensated for my work and I do offer this blog as a freebie for people to get an idea of my style and thoughts.  Today I’m going to have a little bit of fun and share with you some little-known things about me from a writing standpoint.  You may be rather surprised, or not at all.

I actually hated writing as a boy.

This can be directly attributed to the fact I preferred drawing, as well my teachers using writing as a punishment rather than a tool for creativity.  The “gulag” mentality within the Hazleton Area School District was rather strong in the 1980s.  Thank goodness the current generation of teachers eschew the “old ways” of writing 100 sentences as punishment.   True story:  I once was so quietly defiant about not finishing my homework, I had to write “I will not forget to do my homework” almost 700 times!  Yes, I still “forgot” afterwards.  I got into creative writing in high school because of a junior-year creative writing assignment in my English class which whet my appetite.  Of course, that would be the week we studied Thoreau, who seemed obsessed with death.  Go figure.

Pinky and The Brain were like a Masters’ program in subtle, comedic storytelling.


Cartoons and comics were more than just entertainment for me.

Like any child, I watched my share of cartoons and read my share of comics.  I loved a good episode Superman or Bugs Bunny, and fell in love with Transformers and other science fiction cartoons and comics.  I was always the first one geabbing the New York Daily News, which had one of Americas biggest Sunday funnies sections, and made sure to buy The Atlanta Constitution on Sunday while in college, without fail.  However, I rarely laughed at the comics and cartoons I took in, and the question on my mind was “why.”  That’s when it hit me; I wasn’t reading and watching for entertainment value, I was studying the work.  The storylines, the artwork, the flow, the voice acting, the errors and glitches were things I picked up on.  They became a quasi-fellowship in art as entertainment for me.  Where other kids laughed at the Flintstones and went “wow” at Voltron slicing an enemy in half, I marveled at the imagination, took in the stories of the origins of Superman, Batman and Spider-Man, and sat in amazement at the animation quality of GI Joe and Ducktales.  I was astonished at the fluidity of the Jetsons and raw, unpolished appeal of Yogi Bear.  What was entertainment for others was a classroom for me.

My first novel, A 38 Day Education, almost DIDN’T happen.

After writing a “memoir” of my days running my college newspaper, I shared it with some friends.  One strongly advised me to rework it to avoid any appearance of attacking anyone I knew.  My father, however, was the most instrumental person in getting this project off the ground, but rather indirectly.  It was my first foray into storytelling on a professional level which launched me down this path.  I had been mulling an “unauthorized story” of my career in circulation at the Tampa Bay Times following my departure from there when he had recommended I write an allegory instead of an actual account.  So I reworked it and loved it.  I loved creating the world of the Sun-Courier, molding the character of James Allister, making publisher Alan Phelps into the nasty uber-CEO type so reviled today.  After Paper Losses was finished and I received some genuine feedback from two close friends, that emboldened me to create universe of The Scope.

I write in a rather unusual fashion.

Every writer has their “quirk,” whether it is writing while doing the wash, dictating notes and listening to them over and over, or writing something out of left field to get the juices flowing, we each have our “thing.”  For me, I “talk” out the scenes and lay out each novel like a season of a television series.  I also write scenes as they come to me, rather than go strictly from an outline, and “stitch” the scenes together with transitional passages like a patchwork quilt.  It makes the process more fun and relaxing, and the end result are stories which tend to be very dialogue driven, fast paced, and meticulous in their details.

There are THREE more manuscripts ready after these two.


I have three more unpublished Scope manuscripts in the pipeline, but purchases of Change Rising dictate their future for now.

Change Rising, the second book of the Scope series, is contracted to Sarah Book Publishing.  They also hold the option for the next three novels afterwards.  This means that the survival of the Scope series in the near term is mostly dependent on sales of Change Rising.  Of course right now the book world is hypercompetitive and there are scores of “celebrity” novels which get far better marketing backing than “indie” authors such as myself.  This requires small authors to be more innovative and nimble.  The upshot, however, is immense creative control.  Long story short, I call the shots on my stories, and that’s how I like it.

While I fully support anyone’s dream to write, I also recognize many aspiring writers just don’t have the novel chops.

I will never tell someone to give up on a dream, but I encourage them to be realistic.  Novel writing is a passion, but many novelists are unsuccessful at translating that to a full-time career.  There are a ton of popular writers whose work is mediocre at best in terms of language and plot quality, but are still entertaining stories nonetheless and, thus, sell quite well.  There are many more authors whose books are phenomenal stories but, for whatever reason, languish in obscurity.  Hard work is only a small part of it, though an important part.  The single biggest factor in terms of being a successful novelist is one many aspiring writers just can’t face:  blind luck.  I encourage a budding young writer to chase their dream, but I also implore them to find an interest which can serve as a “backup plan” in case that dream can only be lived as a hobby.

Which leads me to my last little known fact about me.

I was once called a “lazy writer” by a college professor.

In fairness, that professor was, at that time, quite right.  I gave up on a story too easily.  Rather than follow through, I found the easiest, laziest plot device to get myself out of a jam.  When he wrote that comment on an assignment I thought was actually really good, I was quite irritated and decided that I would, one day, show him I was not lazy.  While I consider myself far from lazy today, there are moments I want to break out some tried-and-true lazy plot devices, such as depressed girls huddled up eating ice cream from a carton, or an angry young boy smashing mailboxes.  This is mainly when I can’t solve a plot problem and I avoid it like the plague.

So there you are, with a little more knowledge about me as a writer.  Please take the time to check out the rest of this site and try not to throw any foam bricks at me when you see me.  Real bricks are far more effective messengers.

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Sitting down with author Casey Knight

caseyknight

It’s a wonderful Friday, everyone!  The weekend is upon us, and our daily lives are about to give way to some relaxation – at least we hope!  The blonde roast is brewed, cream and sugar are in the cup, and we just doing our thing.  Of course, it’s not “Books & Blondes” with some writing to talk about, so we welcome in today Casey Knight, author of the fantasy thriller Dragon Down.  She has given us the honor of sharing some time with us. 

Thanks for stopping in today!  What can you tell us about your current work in progress?

I’m working on book three of the Lauren Simon series called Supernatural Games. It is a takeoff the London Olympics for supernaturals.

What’s your primary method of writing?  Do you brainstorm, work from an outline, or just jot down whatever comes to mind?

I research my ideas and then I start jotting down ideas as they develop. These ideas usually morph into a theme I can work with.

Who inspired you to get into writing as a profession?

I am a huge fan of Tolkien, J.K. Rowling, and Kim Harrison.

What has been the biggest challenge for you as a writer?

Finding the uninterrupted time to write, I have found that I cannot force the process.

Let’s go silly for a moment – if you could be any character from a TV series, who would it be and why?

I think I would be the Arrow because he is flawed but, he is honorable.

Do you have a particular favorite spot to write?  How about a favorite food or drink to stoke the ingenuity?

I have an office which I enjoy spending time in. It has the right amount of sunshine, music and a comfortable work station. The beverage of choice for my writing is diet coke.

What sort of advice can you give to those who are just getting into this field?

Believe in the process and yourself. I enjoy writing and I trust that people will enjoy reading my work.

Thanks, Casey!  Ladies and gentlemen, please check out Casey’s Amazon page here!  In the coming weeks, we will be featuring several emerging authors, including Nathaniel Danes, Dee Dawning and others.  Be sure to check back frequently, as you never know who may drop in to say hi!

Six Questions for Writers to Pay Attention to in 2015

Happy New Year!  The new coffee maker (Hamilton Beach FlexBrew – you may cut me that $5 endorsement check tomorrow) is running at peak capacity and my Starbucks Blonde Roasts K-Cups are kicking some serious inspirational hiney, so let’s get down to business.

There has been tremendous controversy surrounding Amazon’s Prime membership service, with the hubbub being centered on several prominent established and emerging authors doing a Taylor Swift-style “opt out” as a result of declining revenues thanks in part to Amazon’s compensation structure being vastly different for Prime than for conventional royalties.  This, however, is just the tip of the iceberg for the publishing biz, which has seen an immense amount of transition since the start of the decade.  Here are six questions writers need to pay close attention to in 2015:

How personal will marketing really get?  Targeted marketing has always been important in the publishing business, but 2015 will see a quantum leap in how authors connect with readers, and ways readers drive the market.  While “premium” memberships have always been available, more and more free material will begin to be “leaked” by emerging authors as a way to hook new readers into buying their products.  Other authors will likely be holding contests for fans in which a lucky reader will be written into a book as a character.  Of course, barter agreements between authors and various providers will likely rise, as these are both tax-deductible for the providers, and useful for authors.

Is this the year “microbooks” become major money?  A tremendous rise in the quantity of short-read titles, so-called “microbooks,” has turned this once-niche format into a cash cow for many small and medium-sized publishers.  These “dollar books” are some of the hottest sellers on Amazon and other outlets, and many of their authors are not only emerging, but extremely eager to connect with fans and are leveraging these format to sell more traditional-length works.  This interactivity bodes well for a format once exclusively the province of doctors offices, novelty shops, and adult bookstores.

Does erotica jump the shark?  The long-awaited movie adaption of Fifty Shades of Grey hits theaters this winter, and both fans and critics alike are looking forward to seeing how faithfully filmmakers follow E.L. James’ controversial story.  James’ success has been decried by some as a mere flash in the pan, but worldwide bestselling trilogy is hard to argue with.  What this series has done, however, is make a genre once considered the province of spinsters and dirty old men mainstream.  Now the question becomes simple – can Fifty Shades continue to be the erotic standard bearer, or will a poor performance at the box office cause erectile dysfunction for the entire genre?

Which small publisher will hit a grand slam this year?  Every so often, one small publisher seems to come out of nowhere and hits a literary ball out of the park.  Some publishers, such as Solstice, have been enjoying marked success with their focus on e-books.  Other publishers have been spending 2014 getting their houses in order and are now focusing on blowing “out of the gate” in 2015. There are so many small publishing players outside of New York’s legacy “Big Five,” there is always the possibility an author will go viral and come out of nowhere to become an instant hit.

How will self-pub business shake out?  There have been tremendous changes in the world of self-publishing in 2014, with some vanity publishers being exposed as cash-hungry scam artists, and the rise of websites such as Fiverr to provide budget-minded authors with editing services.  The continuing success of CreateSpace and Smashwords is certain to see many writers try their hand at self-publishing, but this could very well be the year many wanna-be authors realize they are glorified fanfiction writers and bloggers.

Could this finally by the “Year of the Indie Author?”  Bloggers, critics and analysts have been asking when indie authors will finally see their breakout year, and 2015 could very well see it happen.  The 2014 debut of Hillary Clinton’s Hard Choices was an exercise in celebrity marketing appeal gone horribly wrong, with sales of her book dropping faster than gas prices in December.  This has made established publishers a slight bit skittish about big-money celebrity book deals, and the rise of emerging authors has turn the telescope towards deserving new writers who have been fighting to rip the spotlight away from Hollywood authors.  Publishers have been awakened to a very stark reality – celebs popularity on the screen doesn’t always quite translate to the bookstand.  Look for some blockbuster emerging titles in 2015, and many touching on controversial storylines, ranging from homosexual love to race relations to conspiracy theories.

There they are – six questions which could have major implications for the publishing business.  Time to sit back, sip on some coffee, and enjoy the festivities.