Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Screenwriter Mark Sanderson Interviews...Yours Truly!




Fellow screenwriter Mark Sanderson 
interviewed me recently about not only 
my screenwriting career 
but also my new-found novel writing career! 
If you'd like to give it a read (and why wouldn't you?), 
visit Mark's great website here!


Sunday, March 26, 2017

INDIE AUTHOR SPOTLIGHT: PHILLIP THOMAS HOPERSBERGER

Phillip Thomas Hopersberger




Q: Phillip...what made you become a writer?

A: I had no choice. From a very early age it was a natural gift that came very easily to me.  In 7th grade, my teacher thought my essays were too good and were being written by someone at home, either by my parents or older siblings. In order to catch me cheating, she changed the day’s entire lesson and had each of us write an impromptu essay at our desks. Of course, I had no idea about any of this, and it was only revealed later at a Parent-Teacher Conference when she explained the trap to my mother. She told her that I wrote an even better essay than any of my former ones on that particular day, and thought I was destined to be a writer. No one at that age could write like that! As a result of this stunt, that’s all my beaming mother ever said to me when a career choice came up, “You should be a writer.” I’m sure that made her day to hear about my abilities from my teacher, but I can’t really take any credit for a gift from God. It’s innate. I have no idea how it works. I will say that, despite such accolades, I was slow coming to the writing table. I became a pastor out of college and did ministry for over 20 years, but I always knew I was a writer and eventually gave in to His calling.

Q: What is your typical writing day like?

A: Routine bores me. I appreciate discipline and schedules, but it doesn’t help me to be creative. For me, “variety is the spice of life.” It sounds contradictory, but I need to have lots going on to stay focused. It also depends what my project is that day. A screenplay is different from a newspaper column, a novel, a blog post, or an article. Usually I start late and write late. I am not a morning person and all the dribble about “up at dawn” doesn’t work for me. I usually write for a while, a couple of hours, and then take a break and walk around outside or post something on Twitter, Facebook, or LinkedIn. Then I’m back at it for another couple of hours. If I’m on a deadline, the breaks are fewer. If I’m writing for myself (not being paid), then it’s a slower process with lots of time to percolate ideas. That is critical, to let ideas simmer and form themselves. I like to have several things going at once so I can jump around between projects. (If I get bored or stuck on one thing, then I can go to something fresh and this makes for a continuous flow of ideas.)

Q: Do you outline? If so, how extensive are your outlines?

A: I hate outlines. If I do one, it is very sparse. I have a general idea of where I’m going with a scene or chapter, and so I just write it. I do know the overall story, and I usually have a synopsis of it (one page and then a longer version of 8-10 pages), but not anything too detailed as far as an outline.

Q: How many revisions will you typically do on a novel?

A: I’m not like most writers, I think. I don’t move on until it is absolutely the best it can possibly be (for me, at this stage of my abilities). I will rewrite and revise until it’s perfect, and only then will I go on to the next chapter or scene. The first chapter or two gets polished so many times I can’t even say with certainty how many passes it gets. I go by the “five and dime” rule. Any reader will read the first five pages and the last ten to see if it’s any good before buying or recommending it, so I spend a good deal of time on the front and back end of my stories. So an actual number of revisions would be hard to nail down. Maybe 50-100 per chapter?  They say easy reading is hard writing, and I think that’s true for me. I revise it until it’s just right.  

Q: What is your best tip for editing a manuscript?

A: Ignore it when you finish it. Put it away for several months and let it rest. You can’t see the forest for the trees after being in so deep on every decision; your objectivity is shot. Your brain needs to relax and get recharged with other things before you can really see what’s wrong with it. If you did your best, when you read it again it should impress you. If it doesn’t, then you’re not done. Your first read of it in this period should get this reaction: “That was pretty dang good!” If you don’t like it, neither will the reader. You are not writing for you, you are writing for them. Important lesson.

Q: Which writing habits and/or tricks of the trade have made you a better writer?

A: Write the scene you see. You do not have to know everything about your story. Sometimes you get stalled by not knowing what the next scene should be. Forget it. Write the ones you know. Don’t be a perfectionist initially. The first step is just to get some “clay” on the page that you can mold later on. That’s when perfectionism comes into play, later in the rewrite. For now, just get the clay on the page. Stay in the chair [and] resist the urge to get up. Keep writing. Find a mentor when you’re first starting out. Go to writer’s conferences and make friends with writers who are further along, network with them, and ask them if they’ll look at just one chapter. Try to keep those relationships alive. Learn to say no to things. It may be TV, events, people, appeals for your help, etc. You cannot do everything. I always pray and ask God for help. If He’s really my Creator, and I think He is, then how stupid of me to think I can do what He does (create something out of nothing) without His help. I only look dumb.

Q: Do you ever suffer through writer’s block? If so, how do you fight it?

A: No. It’s a fallacy. The real issue [is] fear. Stephen King said, “I’m convinced that fear is at the root of most bad writing. Dumbo got airborne with the help of a magic feather; you may feel the urge to grasp a passive verb or one of those nasty adverbs for the same reason. Just remember before you do that Dumbo didn’t need the feather; the magic was in him.” The magic is still in you, despite what you feel. If not fear, then it’s just being lazy. You can write. The question is: Do you want to write today? Either you’re afraid or you’re not ready. Writer’s block is an excuse. To think you cannot write when you obviously can write (you’ve already proven that) is absurd.

Q: What drew you to write your preferred genre(s)?

A: Overall, [it was] movies, especially war movies, and books that I was exposed to as a kid. Seeing history on the screen or in my mind just fascinated me. There’s something about true historical stories, like the Wright brothers, and Civil War heroes like Mosby. The history of the world is so amazing when you realize these people really walked the earth.  Alexander the Great, Jackson, Napoleon, and Lincoln were real men. I’d also say becoming a Christian led to my enjoyment of supernatural thrillers. The spiritual element of life, how God fits into history, fascinates me—and truth is stranger than fiction, right?

Q: Do you utilize beta readers?

A: Sparingly. I will show what I’m doing to a select few folks I trust. But I’ve found that most people are not writers so they either say things your mom would say that doesn’t help you improve (“This is the greatest thing I’ve ever read in my entire life!”), or they don’t have any idea what they’re talking about and give you criticisms that only depress or confuse you. The best thing to do is find someone who can write or who reads a lot and ask specific questions of them after they read your stuff (one chapter at a time or they’ll never finish it). My biggest question with them is: Did I wake them up from the dream of my story world?  I don’t want anything to jar them awake to the reality that they’re just looking at a piece of paper. The other option is to join, or start, a writing group, the smaller the better, where you review each other’s stuff. That, of course, takes time, so you lose that aspect of it having to read other’s stuff.

Q: In your most recently published novel, what’s one scene you really enjoyed writing—and why?

A: That is a hard one to answer, but if I were honest I’d have to say there are three of them: the Prologue to Xposure because I spent a lot of time on it and it really rolls, and you feel like you’re in the Vatican; the following chapter because I love turkey hunting and it captured the thrill of it so well; and the very next chapter on Stan being activated as a sleeper agent in Ybor City’s pawn shop. That last one really smokes. You can visualize what I write in all three, which is my strength as a writer, but the last one admittedly seems so very real.

Q: What makes the main character(s) of your most recent novel so special?

A: I guess it’d help to know the gist of the Xposure story first. Xposure is about a conflicted Soviet “sleeper” agent—Stan Stanislaw, a US Navy SEAL—who reneges on a deal his parents made during World War II, and now without a country, tries to survive long enough to expose a plot that threatens more than an antiquated Cold War agenda. He discovers that the future of the human race is up for grabs after stumbling onto a UFO aspect to his activation as a spy. Stan is special because he was inspired by a real Navy SEAL that I know, and the research involved with who a SEAL is made him very genuine to me. I did make him fit my story and who I wanted him to be, but the core of Stan is very real. The other aspect is that it uses some theology theories I have on the Book of Genesis…so it has a personal appeal to me regarding demonology and UFOs.

Q: What is your best advice for author self-promotion?

A: Make a short video trailer for your book. That does more than almost anything because then you have something to share on social media. You can see two of mine for Xposure and Something Gray on my website [linked in name caption above]. Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn are also very helpful to get the word out. You can join groups on Facebook that relate to your genre, and give away free chapters to members there, or create a page for it or a related field like archaeology or some aspect of your book. (I have two FB pages on Civil War history and supernatural events with periodic promotional stuff posted on my writing.) Write articles on LinkedIn about writing tips or your genre with related news/articles. You can also promote it for free on certain book sites, as well as through Amazon’s KDP Select program. Just Google free books and lots will come up. Sometimes it has to be scheduled well in advance, so don’t wait too long to contact them about your giveaway. You should also include writing samples on your website. I have several chapters and articles there for folks to read. Also add your website link to your signature on your emails. Or you can skip all that and just pay someone a lot of money to do it for you. 

Q: How do you deal with negative reviews?

A: I think of Clark Gable in It Happened One Night when he says, “Don’t make me laugh.” It’s easy to criticize, but unless they have some credibility, ignore them. You’ll sleep better. Same principle as beta readers. One “writer” posted a negative review that bugged me initially, until I went and read some of her stuff. It was absolutely awful. I felt much better after that because she couldn’t write…at all. So just because someone has an opinion, it doesn’t mean they’re right. You need to value the right opinion because the person has credentials. Tolkien said,“I am dreading the publication, for it will be impossible not to mind what is said. I have exposed my heart to be shot at.” No matter what you write, somebody will not like it. So be it.

Q: What is your favorite aspect of being an indie author?

A: The money! Ha! Seriously, I’ve never thought about that. The freedom is nice when you hear friends complain about their job or not getting time off to go somewhere. It’s just who I am and what I do. I will say that it’s pretty rewarding when people read stuff you made up and your words make them cry (in a good way), or they compliment you profusely. It’s nice to be liked, but I write because I can and never thought much about adulation or perks.

Q: What is your least favorite aspect of being an indie author?

A: It’s nice to be paid for putting words on a page, but it doesn’t pay a lot. Not unless you have some big platform to promote yourself. In life, you usually have time or money, but almost never do you have both. I guess I’d say a guaranteed paycheck is nice every two weeks, but that steady income will come eventually if you’re good.

Q: What is your current writing project?

A: I have three screenplays going; two are paid gigs and one is my own spec script. There are also two more books on the slate in the Xposure trilogy. And regular things like my newspaper column or some freelance stuff always seems to come in, too.   

Q: What are three of your favorite novels?

A: JRR Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings trilogy is hard to beat, but The Chronicles of Narnia still works on so many levels, and on several that are just being discovered now with Lewis’ love of planets coming to light. I’m not sure which of those would make a desert island easier to take, but Tolkien has three versus seven for Clive, so I’ll say LOTR (if I can have The Hobbit tossed in). Seriously, LOTR is epic and still stands up pretty well.

Q: If you could have lunch with any novelist, living or dead, who would it be? What would talk to them about?

A: Charles Dickens, hands down. I’d ask him every question I could think of about A Christmas Carol, which is a timeless classic that changed so much about the world’s view of Christmas and the Industrial Age abuses of the poor and children. Like LOTR, it holds up even today, and it’s nearly perfect in so many aspects. That is a classic that holds a ton of skillful writing in very, very few pages. If you have not read A Christmas Carol, do so immediately.

Q: What is your best piece of advice for budding authors?

A: Read every book you can on writing before you go to a good writer’s conference. Then repeat that advice for the next year. If you can afford it, repeat again. Be friendly and outgoing; meet and eat with as many people as you can; walk with speakers to the next session, ask questions, give away business cards and get as many as you can in return.

Q: What is your favorite inspirational quote?

A: “Don’t fool yourself. You cannot create without knowing the Creator. Read the Bible, still the number one bestseller of all time.”


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No witches, warlocks or vampires...
just a sexy tale about a guy trying to live the Hollywood dream...

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Guest Blog by Damario Morris



I used to be a troublemaker in my early years. I spent most of my teens and twenties in and out of juvenile facilities. I didn’t know what I wanted to do in life and that contributed to my troubles. I got arrested at the age of twenty-four and was sentenced to ten years with six years suspended. That turned out to be pivotal [moment in time] for me. I was sent to M.C.I.J.—a medium security prison in Maryland—where I ran into a childhood friend I had seen maybe three times in ten years. He worked in the kitchen at the prison. He was transferred to my section and my writing career started shortly thereafter. 

I’m a fast reader. I used to read three, sometimes four novels a day. I was reading so fast that after a month I’d read all the books on the tier. I asked my friend Ronald Wilson, "Do you have anything to read?" That's when he gave me a book he'd written. After a few pages, I was hooked. Of all the crime dramas I've ever read in my life—and I've read hundreds—his book was by far one of the best. I hate to say it, but after I finished, I became jealous. I thought "if this person can write a book, so can I.” 

After [reading Ronald's book], I started writing. I attempted to write a crime drama as well but I never sold a hard drug a day in my life, so I didn’t feel my story would be authentic. So I changed the direction and decided to try a comedy. It took eleven months, but I finished my first book called County Bounties. I passed it around to be read. I was sitting in the day room, watching someone as they read it on their bunk, without them knowing. The guy leaned in, furrowed his eyebrows, slammed the book on his bed and laughed until tears came out of his eyes. At that moment, I knew this was my calling. I came home and started typing my book. After formatting, [the manuscript] was so long that I was able to turn it into two books. After that, I began writing in my spare time. 

My writing process is pretty simple. I make myself write a minimum of one page per day for each book. Usually it’s more than a page; but on those lazy days, I do the minimum. My influences, believe it or not, aren't authors. Growing up, I was a big fan of the Farrelly brothers. I’m a big fan of There's Something About Mary, Me Myself & IreneKingpin, as well as their early movies. [I'm also a fan of] early Adam Sandler. I prefer to write dark comedies and my novels are reflections of those movies. I write slapstick comedies that have situations that would never be allowed in real life. I've been told my first novel reads like a black South Park or Family Guy. 

Now I’m working on my sixth and seventh books. I’m also trying my hand at screenwriting. I went through doubts with my other books as I'm sure other authors do. No matter how down or how little I believed in my novels, the responses [to them] have been overwhelmingly positive. I look back now and remember writing books and reading them to myself when I was in elementary school; or, as a teen, making my mother a birthday card that made her cry and laugh at the same time. I realize it was always in my future to write. I just had to learn it the hard way.


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No witches, warlocks or vampires...
just a sexy tale about a guy trying to live the Hollywood dream...