Interview with Stephen Geez, Founder of Fresh Ink Group



Can you tell us a bit about the history and mission of Fresh Ink Group, and what sets you apart from other companies offering similar services?

Founder Stephen Geez set up Fresh Ink in the early ’90s and hired a manager to handle the logistics of his publishing contracts and publicity. Unhappy with both of his publishers, he expanded it to Fresh Ink Group in ’95 as one of the first hybrid POD publishers where author and publisher share the costs and author retains all ownership—an author-centric publisher. FIG has since expanded into full multi-media publishing with worldwide distribution: hardcovers, softcovers, all ebook formats, cover design with promo graphics, audiobooks with sfx and music, videos and book trailers, podcasting, websites, editing/proofing, social media, and more. We have a few hundred titles from around fifty authors and are growing steadily.

What kinds of services do you offer to writers, and how do you ensure that each client receives personalized attention and support?

We offer pretty much everything ad hoc or as part of our packages. Some authors already have some elements handled—editing, cover design, etc.—so we fill the gaps. We meet, brainstorm, look at samples, and talk talk talk until everybody is geeked and ready to go. We show samples, proofs, updates, and more throughout the process. The author is involved in every aspect, including pricing and discounts. Authors are the ones who ensure they get the attention they need, which varies a lot from writer to writer.

How do you evaluate a writer’s needs and goals, and how do you tailor your services to meet their specific requirements?

When unpublished authors approach us, we spend time explaining the industry, options, steps, examples, and more until a clear path is envisioned. With established writers (which is at least half of our approaches), we study their other work, social media, websites, blogs—anything we can find to learn about the author and his/her material and marketing efforts. Then we talk more and include lots of examples to consider.

What are some of the most common challenges that writers face when seeking to publish or promote their work, and how does Fresh Ink Group help them address these obstacles?

Cost is a barrier to some, but at FIG we pick up a lot of those costs and work with the author to set affordable goals. Some authors have time constraints, families and jobs and more limiting their time to work on the next steps. I think the biggest is a lack of platform or media footprint. Sometimes we have to work with authors to set up social-media accounts, a blog, maybe a website, some parked promo materials such as book trailers and interviews, and more. We like to set up appearances—signings, readings, events—but some authors are not comfortable with carrying them, so we look for group opportunities such as booths at expos.

Can you walk us through the process of working with a writer from start to finish, and what kind of communication and feedback can they expect from your team?

As many as half of our new authors are established writers wanting to switch publishers or move from self-pubbing to working with us. In those cases, we research the work, record, and platform before meeting about the project. In all cases, we look at the material and talk talk talk, offer options, show examples, and start the work. We have lots of next steps, but we often assign the writer some steps as well—pulling together material for blurbs, providing quality author photo, obtaining endorsements or a foreword… I think accessibility is the difference between us and most of our competition. Others, you often don’t even know who you’re working with, and all you have for contact is an email address that might not get a quick response. With us, you know who we are, you have all our contact info including cellphones, and we talk. While we’re working on stuff, we will call and explain we need to decide between this and that, what’s your thought? We’ll get on Skype or Zoom and share our screens, show what we’re doing, involve everybody in the choices. Yesterday we spent three hours on Skype working on an author’s next three covers in a series. He wanted a certain look, and we weren’t sure exactly what he was describing, so we opened Photoshop and tried stuff while he watched. Except for the details (barcodes, blurbs, etc.), at the end we had three covers that thrilled him. It’s all interactive and very accessible.

How do you work with writers to establish a timeline for their projects, and how do you ensure that they stay on track throughout the process?

We don’t. Quality is first, at whatever the timeline requires. Sometimes authors bring us a manuscript and want to set a release date. We discourage that, as it can lead to rushing and settling. Authors sometimes will make big shifts mid-project and add a lot of time. Some elements, such as a package of children’s book illustrations, can take a good amount of time. When everything has come together and we are well into ancillary materials such as a book trailer, then we can predict an earliest release or pre-sale date and let the author decide. We like to know that date before we schedule the author on our podcast and start releasing more marketing materials.

What are some of the most successful projects that you have worked on as a company, and what do you think contributed to their success?

Well, we love all our children equally. “Success” is a variable term. More than half our releases in the past year have glided into Amazon’s top 100, with several reaching #1 and camping for a while in the top 50. I think our all-time bestseller is Alabama drummer Mark Herndon’s memoir The High Road: Memories from a Long Trip, which after seven years is still in our top 10 every month. Submarine-er, a memoir by retired US Naval Lt. Commander Jerry Pait is already showing the kinds of numbers Herndon pulled the first year. These are number successes and financial successes for our authors, but we have other kinds of successes that make us just as proud, especially personal passion projects. Sportswriter Stephen Hargis released Eight Hateful Miles about a small-town high-school football rivalry. Expecting a football-season surge around that area, we’re still amazed how it’s selling year-round across the USA and in some foreign countries after three years. Another author released the true story of his father’s construction company in a small Tennessee town, how it grew huge then had scandals, convictions, a company plane crash, and more drama. We hoped to sell a few hundred around Tennessee. After four years it’s still selling briskly across the country. We like those kinds of successes, too—even when we don’t always understand them!

How do you ensure that your services are affordable and accessible to writers from a diverse range of backgrounds and experiences?

Stephen Geez accepts no payment for any FIG work, which helps lower costs for everybody and provides some marketing funds. We have package prices on our website, which we honor no matter what, but usually when we see what is involved, we look for economies and offer a lower-cost package to the author based on exactly what work is involved.

How do you approach marketing and promotion for the writers you work with, and what strategies have you found to be most effective?

We blanket media. Every book gets a package of media materials that includes a very cool book trailer posted everywhere. We have a college-student social-media influencer who’s been on staff since he was sixteen. He puts us, our authors, our books, the podcast, and more out there hundreds of times a day. When we are cold-solicited, the author invariably says s/he has been seeing us and our authors out there for years and finally decided to learn more. Frankly, we do some cool stuff we don’t talk about because they wouldn’t work as well if everybody did them, but overall our approach is to support all indie authors, even our competitors. You don’t have to publish with us to become a member or tout your books on our podcast. We have found that by supporting others, it comes back to us and our authors.

What advice would you give to writers who are just starting out, and how can they best position themselves for success in today’s publishing landscape? Non-fiction writers should study what has been coming out lately. An ongoing trend is for non-fiction content to be very fragmented with lots of sub-headers and lists and sidebars and such to manage the content flow in small bits. Fiction writers should spend time further studying the wealth of how-to material out there, such as thrice-weekly posts at or subscribing to Kim Cox’s blog, Nearly all fiction we see can be improved with advanced techniques for description, dialogue, character development, point-of-view, and more. Contemporary literary conventions are way different from fifty years ago. Study how it’s being done today and flex your creativity. One more: Diversify your formats and outlets. Don’t think Amazon is enough, and don’t think an ebook or even ebook with papercover are enough. The last ten books we published have hardcovers either outselling the papercovers or coming close to the same numbers. We’ve had some, especially non-fiction, where print substantially outsold ebooks. We’ve also had authors order author copies (at wholesale) a thousand at a time for brisk sales through their own websites (autographed, inscribed!). Anybody can put out a Kindle, but if you stop there, you’re leaving a lot of potential sales on the table.






Interview with David J. O’Brien, Author of Little Victories


David J O’Brien is an Irish ecologist, poet, fiction writer and teacher. He was born in Dublin, studied environmental biology and zoology at University College Dublin. He taught English in Madrid for four years, biology in Boston for seven years and now teaches English and science in Pamplona, Spain, where he lives with his wife, daughter, and son. He is still involved in deer biology and management, and has written about deer watching for Ireland’s Wildlife and deer management for the Irish Wildlife Trust. His non-academic writing is often influenced by science and the natural world – sometimes seeking to describe the science behind the supernatural. His poems have been published in several anthologies and journals, such as such as Albatross, Houseboat, and Misty Mountain Review. His paranormal horror trilogy, Silver Nights: Leaving the Pack, Leading the Pack and Unleashing the Pack, contemporary adult fiction novels Five Days on Ballyboy Beach, and The Ecology of Lonesomeness, have

been published by Tirgearr Publishing. His young readers fairytale novel Peter and the the Little People and paranormal YA The Soul of Adam Short were published by MuseIt Up Publishing and are now self-published, as is his dystopian novella The Logical Solutionand short story collection, Last Light on the Sage Flats. More of his writing, including poems and blogs about nature, rewilding and wildlife management, can be found at


Can you tell us a little about your background?

I was born and raised in Dublin, Ireland, where I studied Environmental Biology and then a doctorate in Zoology. I used to go hunting with my father in the Wicklow Mountains and later used this in studying the deer of the area. I met my wife while in my first year of post-grad, when she was living in Dublin on her Erasmus year. Later when I finished my doctorate, I went to Madrid where she’d started her own doctorate and after a few years there we went to Boston before returning 12 years ago to her hometown of Pamplona. I teach biology, general science and English now.

How did you get started as an author?

I started writing poems when a teen, then a couple of short stories. I had an idea for a were-wolf story using the stuff I learned in college about physiology. I was always interested in wolves – I’d wanted to study deer-wolf interactions as a post-doc if life had gone that way! I’d been reading Barry Lopez’s book, of wolves and men, and of course Wolfen by Whitley Strieber and I wondered what the origin of the myth could have been. I wrote a story, then with some positive feedback from a girl in the college Literature Society, I extended it to a novel. I spent a few years sending it round until it was picked up by Tirgearr Publishing. I ended up writing two more novels to complete the trillogy.

Can you talk about your latest book and the inspiration behind it?

It’s a YA novel set in Dublin (my first novel set there) and Wicklow. It’s called Little Victories and the main characters are Nicki, a girl in her third year of secondary school – 9th grade – who’s trying to figure out her sexual orientation at the same time prepare for the Irish State examinations at the end of the year. She’s just been introduced to the trick of tagging rides on her bike by holding onto the back of trucks and heavy goods vehicles by her two friends Mark and Ashton, both of whom seem to have figured out their own sexuality. They go mountain biking and Nicki discovers that many illegal brush fires are being set in the hills and she decides they should do something to stop them. Of course, life is not so easy as deciding something and finding immediate justice or solutions, but as spring turns to summer and the friends start a new year, Nicki learns that you have to appreciate the few good things that do come your way and be content with that.

It was inspired by various elements: I was asked to produce a new YA novel by the publisher of my first one, The Soul of Adam Short; I’d had an idea when I was a teenager of a story about kids who tag lifts from trucks in Dublin, which was something I used to do when young and foolish; and in recent years the setting of illegal brush fires by farmers and kids with nothing better to do has been a growing problem all around Ireland.

How do you approach the writing process? Do you have a specific routine or method?

I have no method, other than scraping time. When I am writing the notes, outline and the sketch of the chapters I usually write by hand on notepads, and I can do it very quickly, in any spare time I have, such as sitting on a park bench while my kids play in the park. When I type up the notes it’s easy enough to get words on the page, but it’s when I have to stitch it all together, and fill in the gaps that I have to get some more time to concentrate. I find that going to a café or bar in town while I wait for my kids during extracurricular activities in the afternoon is a perfect way to force myself to do work. It can take a long time to get the first draft done compared to when I had no kids and I had a couple of hours every afternoon before my wife came home back in the day, but it’s what has to work for now!

Can you share any challenges you faced during the writing process of your latest book?

Time is always the challenge. I’ve two kids, now 12 and 7, so while writing this they were younger and even more demanding than they are now! So it was hard to get concentration time. Also, being a teacher, it’s hard to get your brain to re-start after a day giving classes.

How do you develop your characters and bring them to life on the page?

That’s a difficult question for any writer to answer, I think I just treat them as real people as much as possible and have them act as normal people would – even if we’re talking about werewolves, they’d have to act rationally for me to believe in them myself. They develop as I write by being shaped by the action and the events that happen to them. Of course, they’ve had a lot of things happen to them before we get to chapter one that we don’t see directly on the page. I often write two or three chapters to develop the back story that later get cut off at the nose so the actual chapter one starts where chapter four is in my head.

Can you discuss your research process for your latest book?

I’d the place in my mind, though it’s been more than 20 years since I’ve lived there. I visit a couple of times a year and I keep abreast of the environmental news back home through social media and my friends there – old university colleagues I studied with. I’m a keen mountain biker myself and spend my summer mornings on the saddle while staying in the countryside near Pamplona.

The one thing that I had to just make up was the school the characters attend…. In Ireland, it’s still very uncommon to have co-ed schools. Most kids go to schools run by the Catholic Church and these are usually segregated into boys and girls schools – even if they’re on the same property, there will be separate buildings for each group. It’s pretty damn boring, and it’s disastrous for the plot of a YA novel that aspires to be in any way interesting! There is a co-ed comprehensive school in Blackrock, but I have placed it in a different neighbourhood for the purposes of my story, on the campus of two other segregated Irish language schools.

How do you handle writer’s block and overcome creative obstacles?

I find that it doesn’t really happen to me as a block, but more that I’m not motivated to get down to it because I haven’t got a long stretch of time to get my head back in the story before I know I’ll be distracted. So I put things off till a weekend or a day off, and then I’m usually distracted anyway.

When I do sit down, I might only get a few paragraphs done, but then I’m back on track and over a few days I can make more progress even in shorter bursts.

The creative obstacles usually just overcome themselves. As I write, the ending, the conclusions, the explanations all just come to me as logical results of the sequence of events. It’s hard to explain, but for example in my latest WIP I am delving into UFOs and the obvious question is why they would come, what all that nonsense about Roswell in the 50s could be woven into anything modern or logical, and yet, a reason came to mind as I wrote, which I hope will ring as true to my readers as it did to me when it popped into my mind!

Can you share any upcoming projects or books you are working on?

My work in progress at the moment is a short novel about visitations and UFOs. I had the idea many years ago but only started it this year. I was surprised to find that I’d the first 10 or so chapters all planned out! I have to figure out what happens after that.

I am working on the second draft of a long novel set in pre-Columbian Mesoamerica. It’s around 200k words so far, so I’m not sure how easy it will be to get published, but it’s been a labour of love for twenty years and I finally got the first draft completed last year. It will require a few tweaks, though, as society and our knowledge of history has changed a little since I had the idea and I will need to update some parts.

How do you stay motivated and disciplined while writing?

I don’t stay very disciplined, as I think I’ve explained. But I find it easy to be motivated as I want to do justice to the idea, the characters and the work I’ve done in creating the world they live in. That’s why I always go back to the story and keep chipping away. I also have the luck that I can pretty quickly remember what’s going on and who goes where. Perhaps because I haven’t written so many books yet – around 15 – that I can keep them all in my head. But I’ve always been able to pick up books I’m reading and continue after a break, for example when I’m reading a few books at the same time.

Can you discuss any themes or messages you hope readers take away from your book?

The theme is the struggles we all go through as we try to figure out who and what we are and want to by, and the greater struggles that confront our children’s generation in today’s world of environmental breakdown. As kids, Nicki, Mark and Ashton should not really have to worry about these illegal brushfires. The police should be able to stop it, or at least the neighbours of the farmers setting the fires should shame them into burning their land during the permitted seasons. But as we all know, our kids will have to pay for our inability to do the right thing and to solve the crises we and our parents’ generation created.

On the other hand, they do have an easier time, in general, being accepted for who they are (at least in the places I’ve lived and worked with teens – Dublin, Madrid, Boston and Pamplona). Perhaps that’s the only good thing we’ve done for them. I only hope they are able to fight hard enough to get environmental justice from the powers set on getting richer by ruining our lands.

Can you discuss any other genres you have written in and if you have plans to write in other genres in the future?

I write in several genres. Apart from my werewolf trilogy, I’ve a novel for younger readers – age 8 to 10 – about Leprechauns in Ireland, another YA novel, which is a kind of ghost story, a contemporary novel about friendship and a novel set in Loch Ness. I have also written a few erotic romance novellas under the name JD Martins. I suppose there is an element of science fiction in many of them – not quite as clearly as in my WIP about aliens – in that I try to use my knowledge of science, especially biology, to explain things that are usually the real of fantasy. I don’t really like the idea of writing the same kind of story all the time, so my work to date has been a bit eclectic.

Can you discuss any literary influences or inspirations that have shaped your writing?

Well, I’ve always been a big Hemmingway fan, though I can’t say I’ve ever tried to emulate his style – it would be just too difficult! I’ve always been very wordy in my works. I’ve been lucky enough to live in Pamplona and experience some of the places he visited around Spain, as well as visit his parent’s house outside Chicago and visit the Hemmingway Room in JFK library when I lived in Boston. In terms of the approach to writing genres, I’ve deep respect for Richard Adams, who seems to have just written the books he wanted to write without wondering about a market, and produced very varied, long novels that are just beautiful and a kind of Netherland you can get lost in for days.

How do you handle criticism and negative reviews?

I am lucky to be of an age where I don’t need to have a whole lot of likes and responses to my social media posts in order to feel good about myself. I’ve had a lot of apathy towards my writing from friends and family which toughens the skin! I’ve given work to friends for feedback and advice on technical things (for example on the Ecology of Lonesomeness, which features a wildlife biologist) and had to go ahead myself because I’d still be here waiting. I have some friends who’ve read all my books but others who I know never will. And once you get over that, criticism is easy enough to take – and ignore! My wife often tells me I should write better books, that my covers are tacky and I should let her guide me, but she’s never read any of the books! She read half my first one, but didn’t like the werewolf idea to begin with. She’s not a big reader anyway.

I don’t generally get bad reviews – trying to get more reviews is a greater problem. One negative review I did get for Leaving the Pack did sting a little because it criticized that the werewolves vandalized some property in revenge for mistreatment in a bar… when the potential for violence and ways to control and redirect it is an integral aspect of the story. It seems the reviewer was more accustomed to the romance werewolf novels that have watered down the violence and misunderstood my vision of the werewolf myth. Perhaps if she’d read the rest it might have been clearer to her. Ironically, one of her complaints was that there wasn’t enough sex – more emphasized in some shape shifter romances, I suppose – and in the first drafts I’d had lots of sex but ended up cutting much of it down to a minimum so it wouldn’t be so “typical.” Anyway, when I wrote Leading the Pack, the second novel, I had a character comment on a conversation in book club she attended to the lead character. One of the other ladies in the book club had said she didn’t like werewolf novels which were violent and he shakes his head in disbelief, replying that he spent his whole like trying to prevent killings, and not always successfully.

Can you discuss your experience with book promotion and advertising?

A lack of experience, I’d say… it’s been difficult and the little that I have done hasn’t been as effective as one would wish, as they say! I don’t have a budget to spend lots of money and I have little enough time to write that it pains me to spend it posting on social media, so I have to admit I’m quite deficient compared to other authors I know. On the other hand, I write for the joy of it, and I am patient. In the future I’ll perhaps have time and money to be more proactive. Books last forever.

Can you talk about any challenges you faced during the publishing process?

It took many years to get my first novel accepted for publication. Once it was accepted, though, by Tirgearr Publishing, the rest was easy. I’d a great editor, Lucy Felthouse, who got the book and the characters and encouraged me to complete the trilogy within a couple of years.

How do you balance your writing with other aspects of your life?

It’s pretty unbalanced! My wife has a busy career in biology research, and as a teacher I have plenty to keep me occupied, too, though the timetable gives me time to collect them from school and take them around to their activities, and look after the dinner and house. The writing is always at the back of my mind, and as I said, I can get bits and pieces done during the day. Usually, though, my poetry comes first – the poems are more demanding than the novels and insist on being written within a short time frame! On summer break I can get a lot done, though: we move to a family house in the countryside, and the kids are more independent playing with their cousins and I can get a few hours a day to myself. I wish I was one of these people who can get up at 6 am and do an hours writing before breakfast, but I generally take an hour to get my brain running in the morning to start with.


Nicky and her two new friends, Mark and Ash, spend spring racing their mountain bikes through south Dublin – both down hillsides and hitching rides from HGVs – and exploring their feelings towards one another. They’re aghast to one day find an illegal fire on the mountain, just set by a farmer. When the police say they can do nothing about it, the three determine to catch the culprit red-handed. But life is as complicated as love, and as Nicky comes to terms with this, she discovers that sometimes you have to accept whatever little victories come your way.

Interview Beem Weeks, Author of The Thing About Kevin!


Beem Weeks is an author, editor, blogger, podcast host, and audio/video producer. He has written many short stories, essays, poems, and the historical fiction/coming of age novel entitled Jazz Baby. Beem has also released Slivers of Life: A Collection of Short Stories and Strange Hwy: Short Stories, and the novella The Thing About Kevin. He is a lifelong native of Michigan, USA.


Can you tell us a little about your background?

I am a lifelong Michigander, born and raised. I spent two years living in Ft. Myers, Florida, in the 1980s.

How did you get started as an author?

I’ve been writing since I was eight years old. I co-wrote a play that was performed for the entire school in fifth grade. Once in high school, I wrote a music column for the school newspaper. From the first time I learned to read, I’ve been a voracious reader. Reading helped fuel my desire to write.

Can you talk about your latest book and the inspiration behind it?

My most recently published work is a mystery thriller set in Chicago. It’s a shorter read, at just over seven thousand words. A young man named Jacob returns home for his father’s funeral. Dad was a mob man, part of the local mafia. The oldest son walked out of the house more than thirty years earlier, and just disappeared. Talk is, he may return for the funeral. Secrets begin to spill; life isn’t what Jacob remembers. When the truth finally comes out, his family may never be the same. The inspiration for this one came from my desire to write a mystery thriller, since I usually work in coming of age or historical fiction. 

How do you approach the writing process? Do you have a specific routine or method?

I am a plotter. I outline my stories. They usually begin with a simple idea that I’ll jot down on a Post-It note or in a notebook. Once I begin to work on it, I’ll close myself off in my office/bedroom, and I’ll begin to outline the story. Once I know where it starts and where it ends, I map out the road between. Once I have a general idea of what the story will look like, I’ll begin writing. I don’t have a special process or routine, though I do require silence.  

Can you share any challenges you faced during the writing process of your latest book?

I can’t really say there were any challenges. I’ve been writing most of my life, I tend to just plow ahead. I do find that my writing time has been limited in recent years, simply for the fact that I’m busy with my day job—editing other writers’ work.

How do you develop your characters and bring them to life on the page?

Often, it’s the characters that come to me first. I’m a people watcher, so ideas are all over the place. I’ll hear an accent or a stutter that works for a character. There might be a limp or a nervous habit that fills out a personality. The idea is to make the characters so real, the reader will feel they know this person—or somebody just like him or her.

Can you discuss your research process for your latest book?

Research is vital to a good story. It’s one of my favorite parts in the creative process. I write a lot of stories set in past decades. If the story is set in the 1920s, obviously I need to know what that era was like, since I wasn’t around back then. I use Google and various websites to address any questions I need answered. If you’re telling the story of a man living in, say, 1977, you need to understand smart phones and apps and the internet didn’t exist back then. It also helps to know the popular television programs of the day, the common vernacular, clothing fashions, music, fads. There is a lot to consider when crafting reality from fiction.

How do you handle writer’s block and overcome creative obstacles?

I’ve never encountered writer’s block. There are days where I’m just not motivated, but writer’s block has never been an issue. For those who may suffer from this issue, I suggest stepping away from the story and letting the mind rest for a period of time. Then, sit down and read what you’ve written from the beginning.

Can you share any upcoming projects or books you are working on?

I am currently working on two novels, several short stories, and the outline for the sequel to my first novel Jazz Baby. The two novels currently in progress are set in 1910 and 1977. In 1910, a young woman becomes involved in the suffragette movement. She’s a free spirit who just wants to see the world around her and face life on her own terms. But family secrets tug her toward a showdown with the very people she loves most in this world. One mistake will change the trajectory of her life. The story set in 1977 is perhaps my best—as far as plot is concerned. A nine-year-girl from West Memphis, Arkansas, lives with her grandmother and tests at a genius level. While on summer break from school, she works with her grandmother cleaning houses for wealthy people across the river in Memphis, Tennessee. It is during one of these jobs that she is tapped to fill in for a young model during a photo shoot for a department store catalog. The photos, and a trip to New York City, will put her on a collision course with a truth that will forever change her life, and the lives of those around her. One of these projects will hopefully be finished before summer.

Can you talk about your experience working with a publisher or literary agent?

I don’t have an agent. I honestly see little need for one in the publishing world today. I work with publisher Fresh Ink Group to get my work in front of readers. It’s a good fit for me. I tell them what I want, they make it happen. They’ve opened my work to worldwide outlets other than Amazon.   

How do you stay motivated and disciplined while writing?

Basically, I write when I feel like it. I don’t write just to reach a daily word count. When I write, it needs to mean something. It must be important to the story I’m working on. I’m disciplined in that I plot my stories. I edit as I write. I employ the dreaded re-write when needed. But motivation comes with belief in whatever I’m writing. If I believe the story has potential, I’m motivated to see it to the finish line. In a nutshell, if a writer enjoys their current work, that should be motivation enough. Excitement comes from the creative process. Excitement equals motivation—at least to me.  

Can you discuss any themes or messages you hope readers take away from your book?

Many of my stories carry a coming-of-age theme. We all start out as simple lumps of clay. Over time, we’re molded by our families, our teachers, our environments. I try to convey that idea of growing up under uncertain circumstances in my stories. We have dreams and aspirations almost as soon as we learn to walk and talk. Often, those dreams fail to materialize. We change or, maybe, our circumstances change. There will be disappointments galore as we travel this life. I want to capture those growing pains in my characters. I hope readers can relate to the struggles of my characters. 

How do you market your book and connect with readers?

Social media is a huge part of the marketing process. There are so many platforms available. Some work better than others. The world is literally at our fingertips today. Interacting with readers and other writers online really helps bring about name recognition. I’m still learning after more than a decade of working our craft.

Can you share any advice for aspiring authors on how to get published?

I don’t believe in the term aspiring writer. One is either a writer or they are not. There are many fine unpublished writers in the world today. Getting published is easy today. My advice to those who are seeking to publish is to be certain your work is the best it can be. I’m not just talking about punctuation and spelling—though those are incredibly important. Understanding Point of View in your narration is vital. Who is telling your story? Head-hopping is a sure way to lose readers. Choosing a tense and sticking with it is important. Don’t slip between past tense and present tense. I’ve seen that. It ain’t pretty! Learn strong dialogue for your characters. The best way to do that is to be a listener. Hear those around you, the way they speak, the cadence of their sentences, their choice of words and slang, their accents. Consider using beta readers who are NOT also writers. A reader can offer a whole other take than can a writer.  

Can you discuss any other genres you have written in and if you have plans to write in other genres in the future?

I write primarily in coming of age and historical fiction, but I may try other genres at some point. I may even try science fiction or dystopian.

Can you discuss any literary influences or inspirations that have shaped your writing?

My biggest literary influences are those who write with feeling and truth. The stories may be dark with shades of light—just like real life. Barbara Kingsolver is one of my favorites. Her novel The Poisonwood Bible is a master lesson in writing Point of View and dialogue. The Poisonwood Bible happens to be my all-time favorite novel. Daniel Woodrell is also brilliant at creating reality in his characters and situations. Read his Winter’s Bone or Tomato Red for a lesson in strong southern dialect and old-school storytelling. Real life events have also shaped my writing. There may be elements of people I’ve known embedded in some of my characters. Situations I’ve witnessed in the real world may add color and tone to scenes in some of my stories. It happens that way sometimes.

Can you share any experiences you have had with book clubs or other reader groups?

I was part of a book club some years ago. I’ll just say, I’m glad I’m no longer involved. I’ve interacted with some reader groups over the years. Those can be useful in discovering new authors and books.

How do you handle criticism and negative reviews?

Reviews are just opinions. You’re never going to write something that everybody loves. If the majority enjoy it, consider that a win. I don’t take a negative review to heart. It just represents a reader who didn’t connect with my characters or stories. As writers, we can’t take reviews to heart—good or bad. I just write the stories and let others form opinions of them.

Can you discuss your experience with book promotion and advertising?

I’ve used some Google ads and Amazon ads over the years. I can’t say they really did much to up my sales. Other than those two outlets, I really haven’t advertised. I use social media mostly. It helps, though it isn’t a magic bullet.

Can you talk about any challenges you faced during the publishing process?

I really haven’t faced any challenges. As I mentioned before, I use Fresh Ink Group. They’ve seen a lot over the past 25 years. When issues arise, they usually have a plan.

How do you balance your writing with other aspects of your life?

Unfortunately, there are days when I don’t write. I have to prioritize work over writing. But it does balance out. Eventually, my projects reach the finish line and I publish them. It works for me without driving me batty.


Jacob Radner returns to his suburban Chicago roots to bury his departed father. The family is all there—except for older brother Kevin. Thirty-seven years earlier, Kevin Radner walked out the front door and vanished. Will this prodigal son return and finally make peace with the ghost of his mobster father? As the patriarch’s body is lowered into the earth, long-hidden family secrets become uncovered: a former girlfriend, a child born out of wedlock and adopted out, a mother willfully blind to the sins of the father. In this novella, author Beem Weeks examines the notion that sometimes those closest to us are the very ones we should fear most.

Interview with Stephen Geez, Author of Comes This Time to Float!


Retired TV producer and composer/producer of music for television, Stephen Geez has mellowed into the lakeside-living life of a writer, editor, graphic-artist, and Fresh Ink Group publisher. His work includes novels, short fiction, personal-experience essays, blogs, GeezWriter How-To material for authors, podcasts, video scripts, marketing content, and more.


Can you tell us a little about your background?

I grew up in the Detroit suburbs, multi-degreed at the University of Michigan, spent seven years growing a non-profit training at-risk people, then transitioned into television producer and composer/producer of music for television. I started writing stories young, did traditional publishing, got fed up with traditional publishing and founded Fresh Ink Group in 1995 to publish my books and my friends’. Writing, publishing, cover design, editing, trailer and audiobook production, and marketing out the wazoo are what I do now.

How did you get started as an author?

I wrote stories when young, then later started writing novels to flex my fiction muscles while producing non-fiction television. I did a second B.A. at Michigan in literature, as that literary itch is powerful.

Can you talk about your latest book and the inspiration behind it?

Comes this Time to Float is a collection of 19 short stories written over several decades. They vary widely in genre and style. Each opens with a short explanation from me about why/when/how that story came about. Two audio-shorts read by me with music and sound effects are in the Fresh Ink Group channel on YouTube: “Bus, Boy” and “Sidekick.” This is my only collection of short fiction, following a collection of mini-memoirs.

How do you approach the writing process? Do you have a specific routine or method?

I am a hardcore outliner. When you write for television, you have to work with pieces than can be arranged, timed, and adapted. I write fiction the same way. I’ll start with the first scene or two to refine whatever new style I’m using while at the same time spending a few months honing that outline. Then I write, knowing everything that has to happen in each scene, which frees me to be creative with my techniques. I edit scenes as they are done. After a handful of chapters, I’ll re-read from the start for flow and pace and style variations, continuing to edit. At some point, I’ll read my scenes aloud to Beem Weeks for feedback, then send it all to the layout team while I work on the covers. Nobody else sees my work before it is published.

How do you develop your characters and bring them to life on the page?

As an outliner, I do make character notes, but not in detail. Instead, I’ll spend time thinking about them and how they would act in the situations I intend for them.

How do you handle writer’s block and overcome creative obstacles?

Not to sound crass, but I don’t understand the concept. Seriously, I could spend the rest of my life writing ideas I have in a single day. Is someone who can’t think of anything to say really a writer?

Can you share any upcoming projects or books you are working on?

I am halfway through writing a novel called How It Turns Out, which alternates three points-of-view, including an old man who is descending into dementia. In November 2021 a goofus I now refer to as “Defendant” totaled my car and fractured both of my hands badly. Both have permanent damage and limit my capabilities, not as much what I can do as how long (and how painfully) it takes me to work. Since Fresh Ink Group’s scores of authors are most important, I’ve shelved the novel until someday when I can spend the time it needs.

Can you talk about your experience working with a publisher or literary agent?

 My agent experiences were great, except for losing my favorite to cancer. Traditional publishers, not good at all. Being lied to or misled, promises unfulfilled, zero control over any aspect of the final product, pricing issues, and availability had me ready to move on. Then my contract got sold to a Canadian publisher as a package deal and I backed away, instead turning my literary management “Fresh Ink” into Fresh Ink Group, LLC, a full-service multi-media publisher. My experiences working with myself and my team are scintillating!

How do you stay motivated and disciplined while writing?

I have things to say, and that’s the only way they get said. Sometimes poignant feedback can be affirming, too.

Can you discuss any themes or messages you hope readers take away from your book?

Well, there are nineteen widely different ones, as my thing is that every time I write something it has to be a new style and techniques for me. The trailer does a good job showing the variety of themes: Note: we usually hire pro voiceovers, but this one is narrated by me to match the audio-shorts.

How do you market your book and connect with readers?

At FIG we are big on support materials, a quality video trailer, a radio commercial, packages of social-media posts, plus the usual blog tours, appearances, podcast guesting, and so on. We have an 18-year-old influencer on staff who blankets social media for me and all of our authors. This interview will be my best effort today! (Thanks, Kim.)

Can you share any advice for aspiring authors on how to get published?

I like hybrid publishers. The author invests some to have skin in the game and retain control and ownership. The publisher invests some. Everybody works together. Talk to writers you like and compare their experiences, costs, and results. Those who still want to try for an agent and a traditional contract should note that authors are expected to show a track record, have a platform with built-in audience, and have other support to get the attention of a quality agent. I know one who says if you self-publish and can’t sell 10,000, she’s not interested. That’s sad, really, as that’s likely more a marketing limitation, but the competition is severe.

Can you discuss any other genres you have written in and if you have plans to write in other genres in the future?

I think by now all except erotica/porn—not that I don’t have a steamy scene or two in some novels. I like literary levels of any genre.

Can you discuss any literary influences or inspirations that have shaped your writing?

My lit degree opened the world to me. After that, it’s reading and recognizing quality work. My teen years were mostly about sci-fi, but now I’m a literary reader. You can’t read a book by Edmund White, A.M. Homes, Barbara Kingsolver, and their ilk and not learn.

How do you handle criticism and negative reviews?

I see if there’s anything useful there. Normally a sack of flaming dog poop on the porch makes my point.

Can you discuss your experience with book promotion and advertising?

This is way too big a question for a short answer. I’m lucky to have enough authors and several hundred titles to have a support team. One big point: I prefer and do better paying someone to help work free channels than I do paying for advertising.

How do you balance your writing with other aspects of your life?

This is tough, as I’m a few months from 65. My plan had me easing back from cover design and other FIG work by now to spend more time writing and composing music. I’d hired an engineer to work with me on recording an album, but his start day would have been two days after the car wreck busted my hands. So right now my balance is keeping up with FIG author needs while my novel and music hold. I do make it a point to travel and attend concerts, plays, symphonies, etc. I skip reading books I want in lieu of working on books by FIG authors. Still, someday I’ll finish How It Turns Out and we’ll all see how it turned out.

Prepare to think as you explore these wildly disparate literary short stories by author, composer, and producer Stephen Geez. Avoiding any single genre, this collection showcases Geez’s storytelling from southern gothic to contemporary drama to coming-of-age, humor, sci-fi, and fantasy—all finessed to say something about who we are and what we seek. Some of these have been passed around enough to need a shot of penicillin, others so virgin they have never known the seductive gaze of a reader’s eyes. So when life’s currents get to pulling too hard, don’t fight it, just open the book and discover nineteen new ways of going with the flow, because NOW more than ever Comes this Time to Float.

The Trailer and Two Audioshorts from the Book


“Bus, Boy”:




The Process of Editing and Revising a Novel for Publication

Editing and revising a novel is an essential process in preparing it for publication. Here is a step-by-step guide to help you understand the process of editing and revising a novel for publication:

  1. Take a break: After completing the first draft, take a break from the manuscript for a few days or weeks. This break will allow you to come back to the manuscript with fresh eyes.
  2. Read through the manuscript: Read through the manuscript carefully, noting any inconsistencies, plot holes, or areas that need improvement. Make a list of these issues.
  3. Address plot and character issues: Address any plot or character issues identified during the read-through. Make sure that the plot flows logically, the characters are well-developed, and their motivations are clear.
  4. Revise for structure and pacing: Once the plot and character issues have been addressed, revise the manuscript for structure and pacing. Check that the beginning grabs the reader’s attention, the middle is engaging, and the end is satisfying.
  5. Edit for grammar and punctuation: Once you are happy with the overall structure and pacing of the manuscript, start editing for grammar and punctuation errors. Pay attention to sentence structure, spelling, and grammar mistakes. Use tools like Grammarly to help you identify issues.
  6. Solicit feedback: After making initial revisions, solicit feedback from beta readers or a writing group. Take their feedback into account and make any necessary changes.
  7. Hire a professional editor: Consider hiring a professional editor to edit the manuscript. They will provide objective feedback and help you identify areas that need improvement.
  8. Finalize: After making all the necessary revisions, read through the manuscript one final time to ensure that it is polished and error-free. Consider hiring a proofreader to ensure that there are no lingering errors.
  9. Submit for publication: Once you are happy with the manuscript, submit it for publication. Be prepared to make further revisions based on feedback from publishers or agents.

Editing and revising a novel for publication is a process that requires patience, persistence, and attention to detail. By following these steps, you can ensure that your manuscript is polished, engaging, and ready for publication. Remember that the editing process can take time, so be prepared to revise your manuscript as many times as necessary to ensure that it is the best it can be.

Interview with Verwayne Greenhoe, Author of Finding Myself Again!


Born and raised in West Michigan, author Verwayne Greenhoe spent the last seven years in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. After freezing his keister off, he and his wife moved to Florida in late 2021 to spend more time writing and less time shivering. Author of multiple stories, genres, & formats including 28 Audible books & counting, Greenhoe spends his free time working in his backyard, plotting on where his next story will go.


Can you tell us a little about your background?

Raised on a small dairy farm in west central Michigan, the oldest of six kids, I enjoyed working with the cattle and other animals. I learned to drive a tractor at eight, and was hauling hay and straw in from the fields.

I graduated from high school and went to a small local community college before going to the University of Michigan, where I got a Bachelor’s in Biology and Psychology. I was one of the very first medics/paramedics in Michigan in early 1973.

After several years of that, I spend two years working in the psych ward of one of Michigan’s several prisons. THAT was a learning situation.

I got my nursing license and worked twenty-seven years in the Emergency Room before retiring.

How did you get started as an author?

Working on the farm with my father and grandfather, both of whom were notorious story tellers. I would spend many summer nights after the chores were done, listening to them tell tall tales of things that never happened, and they fascinated me! I began writing at seven. My first story was a total rip-off of the movie, “Bambi,” but I fabricated my wild tales in the fashion I had heard them told at the feet of my dad and grandpa as I got older.

Can you talk about your latest book and the inspiration behind it?

My latest complete story was also based on my childhood. While my father was a loving man, my mother was not. Due to head injuries she sustained as a teen, mom was never right. She spent more time screaming at her children than she did anything else. While she was an equal opportunity abuser, mom had a thing for me in particular. She would beat me (not discipline… she BEAT me) nearly every day of my youth. Sixty years later, I still bear the visible scars of her beatings.

“I Hate My Mother” is the story of how I came to forgive her and then learned to forgive myself. It was a personal nightmare reliving those days, but by the time I was done, I found the peace I had been seeking all of my life.

How do you approach the writing process? Do you have a specific routine or method?

Writing comes to me as easy as breathing. It is medicine for my mind. The signature line of my email account reads:

Writing is the only thing that I don’t feel I should be doing something else when I do it.

I will sit down in the morning and work on whatever project I was thinking about in my sleep. Most days, I will get 300 to 1500 words done in the morning and another 300 to 1500 in the evening.

I keep a list of possible story ideas in my email drafts, and a quick look shows me I have at least seventy-five stories I could write. Since Amazon came out with their Vella platform, I have been using it versus finishing a story and then uploading it.

Vella allows writers to serialize their stories in 600-5000 word episodes. I have found the best method is to upload at least three to five new episodes every week. I currently have five Vella projects in motion – two active and the other three are at least once every seven to ten days. Doing this allows me to avoid the dreaded *writer’s block.* Sometimes, you can be stymied on one project, but my brain is always ready to go on a different project.

Can you share any challenges you faced during the writing process of your latest book?
“I Hate My Mother” presented an unusual problem for me. I’ve worked as a medic, and I saw a lot of horrific stuff with no problems, but emotionally reliving the hatred, filthy language, emotional beat downs, and the physical injuries caused me to have terrible nightmares which did not stop until that story was done.

How do you develop your characters and bring them to life on the page?
I model my characters after people I know. If I am basing it on my nephew, *Jim,* that character will look like Jim, act like Jim, and react like Jim. My *bad man* characters are based on men I met while working on the prison. I do the same thing with my female characters. The story plots are based on things I read about, things I witnessed, or things that came to me in a dream.

Can you discuss your research process for your latest book?

Most of my stories are based on things I know about and have experienced, thus requiring very little research. But…  

I am currently writing a Vella project about the Singularity, the concept that humans and computers will become a single type unit. I did tons of research, but could not find much valid information… until I tried the ChatGPT bots.

After I learned to properly talk to them and ask the right questions, my bot (I named it George!) spat out mountains of information I wasn’t finding anywhere else. In a single one hour chat with George, he gave me over 6500 words of information of how a Singularity unit could go rogue and, after lecturing me about me using any information he was giving me could be “evil,” he began to spit out how a human could cause this to happen. 

This Vella is going to be a challenge, but once the foundation of the story is laid in, George and I have it covered.

How do you handle writer’s block and overcome creative obstacles?

Writer’s block is a very rare thing for me, but there are days when I just can’t get started. Those days are rare, but I have learned to get up, go outside and work in the yard. My body might be busy, but my brain is perking and fighting with itself, and when my next possible writing slot comes available, I am on it. The longest it has ever sidelined me with “block” is six days… the longest two months of my life! LOL.

Can you share any upcoming projects or books you are working on?

As mentioned above, I have my sci-fi Vella story, “Trouble in The Singularity” started with about ~3000 words. It is cooking as I work to explain how the error that occurs in 2035 will affect this Singularity unit to go rogue in 2089.

I also have a steady Vella titled , “Dealing With Grief.” As a medic and then an ER nurse, I have seen more than my share of grief, up close and personal.

Another Vella project is titled, “How I Keep Smiling in A World That Isn’t.” My dad always called me his kid that was always looking in the horse manure for the pony. (There’s a joke that goes with that name!) With all the horse manure life throws at me, I still keep smiling because there is nothing I can gain by crying about it.

I have another dystopian political Vella titled, “The American Storm.” Oddly enough, the man running a site that took over when Matt Drudge sold his site picked it up. I got a Twitter message from him a few weeks back that he had started reading the story, and had linked it on his site. Depending on what device you use, it is in the middle column at the bottom or the very bottom if using a cell phone. Check it out at Rantingly dot com.

One of my other Vella projects I sat aside when “I Hate My Mother” took off is titled, “A Knock On The Door.” It is a series of Twilight Zone type stories that have the phrase, “There was a knock on the door” in them some place. That line is from the 1948 “flash fiction” story, “Knock” by Fredric Brown. That entire story read: “The last man on Earth sat alone in a room. There was a knock on the door.” I found it intriguing, and I am about to pick that Vella up and run with it again until something big hits me again.

Can you talk about your experience working with a publisher or literary agent?

Angela Hoy published my first paperback at her company, Book Locker dot com. I was new to the game, and I wanted to see how a pro did it. Angela is the definition of pro, and while I do my publishing right now, Angela is still friends with me on FB.

Since then, my association with a publishing group has been the Fresh Ink Group at Freshinkgroup dot com. Stephen Geez and Beem Weeks, the two men who run the place are both extremely professional, and I consider them both friends. They have been beyond helpful to me in my efforts, and I can not thank them enough.

How do you stay motivated and disciplined while writing?

LOL. Writing is like breathing to me. Consider it like a cocaine habit gone good. If I am not feeling good, I write. If I am upset or angry about something, I write. If I am happy, I write.

You get the idea.

Can you discuss any themes or messages you hope readers take away from your book?

I rarely write for a message, but I have written a story on child abuse that was not based on my physical abuse, but on the abuse I had seen as a medic and working in the ER. Child and spousal abuse is rampant, and growing every day.

How do you market your book and connect with readers?

I do my best to be a modern day PT Barnum, “This way to the egress!” on Twitter and FB. I develop a series of tweets that promote the same story, but spelled out differently. On my computer, I have at least thirty different tweets promoting my better-selling stories. Twitter is the best so far because I have found that if you aren’t paying FB to promote your material, they throw shade on it.

The Fresh Ink Group made a nice video trailer for “I Hate My Mother,” and it has been helpful in drawing attention to the story. I include my email in every story, and it is remarkable how many emails I get about various stories.

Can you share any advice for aspiring authors on how to get published?

Keep at it. Don’t stop. Bounce your material off people who have the courage to tell you, “This sucks! Fix it!” If all your beta readers tell you is “This is great!” find new beta readers.

The odds of getting a professional contract are two: Little and none. I think most people would be more likely to win a few million dollars in the lottery than getting a professional contract. It’s nice to dream about, but the reality of the situation is to find a reliable company to help you edit your material and then get it to the market.

The two companies I listed above, FreshInkGroup dot com and Book Locker dot com, are the two companies I would recommend to my friends. Neither company knows I am saying this, but there are dozens and dozens of companies that will promise you the moon, but will deliver nothing but the stuff I used to scoop out of the gutters in the dairy barn. I know the people behind both companies well enough to tell people I trust them.

Can you discuss any other genres you have written in and if you have plans to write in other genres in the future?

Oh, my! I love to write murder stories! As a medic, I was at more murder scenes than I can remember! I also have written two romance stories that have done very well, with the last one, “Finding Myself Again,” doing exceptionally well. When asked about the disparity between the two genres, I tell people, romance can lead to murder, so it’s only natural!

I have written stories about handling grief based on personal experiences. I did a story about growing up with my father (Things My Father Taught Me – Lessons In Life) as a role model. I’ve written a children’s story based on my grandson, (Johnny Robot – Space Alien), and several other genres.

My plans include a series of romance stories to be posted on the Vella platform, tentatively titled, “Midlife Romances – The Series.” I have the template Vella uses set up, but I’ve had a few things going on in my personal life that have slowed the actually writing of those stories. I expect by early April, I will have multiple episodes posted, with others to follow steadily.

Can you discuss any literary influences or inspirations that have shaped your writing?

I wrote this several years ago for this same question:

Someone recently asked who had ‘influenced’ my writing style. From youth on up, I’d say it was Truman Capote, Dorothy Parker, Thomas Wolfe, Ernest Hemingway, and Stephen King. Capote and King taught me story arcs, Hemingway and Wolfe taught me color, while Parker taught me humor.

Can you share any experiences you have had with book clubs or other reader groups?

I had an unpleasant experience with one group that I have since washed from my memory. Their goals were much different from mine. Since then, I found the FreshInkGroup, and I am happy and grateful with and for everything they have done for me and all of my author friends. Check them out at the dot com site of the same name.

How do you handle criticism and negative reviews?

I always tell people, “You can’t hurt my feelings because I have already looked in the mirror this morning.”

I have gotten a few bad ratings that bothered me until I realized what I had done. When I attempted to make a few minor changes to about a dozen stories, I uploaded the wrong version of the story. Those first/second drafts got some sharply worded comments, but they taught me something. I deserved them because I made a dreadful mistake.

If you write multiple stories as I have done, put each one in a separate folder. Once you are done with the story, delete every other copy of the story after you are done. Keep only the final copy and upload the document, cover, and anything else related to that story to a place like Dropbox dot com to make sure a computer crash doesn’t make it go bye-bye.

Can you discuss your experience with book promotion and advertising?

I have done several book signings that were good and one that was bad. It happens. Keep doing them. I have a small one in my local library this weekend.

Avoid the places that promise you to “reach thirteen gazillion readers” in a week or less! There are one or two good ones, but there are thousands of bad ones. Find a group of like-minded authors and work with them to promote each other. My promotion of my friend’s cop/murder story does not hurt my sales of my romance story.  

Stick with a group that stands behind you and supports you. It can be a rough and tumble situation. Find solace with a group that supports you. You support your friends, and your friends will support YOU!

Can you talk about any challenges you faced during the publishing process?

If you are a self-publishing author, and there are thousands of you out there, the big problem I have found is making an eye-catching cover. My partner that used to make my covers died of Covid in September 2020. If you are in a group, as I mentioned above, there will always be someone who can make a nice cover without taking your first two years of earnings.


How do you balance your writing with other aspects of your life?

I’m retired. Writing keeps my mind perking and happy. I have a wonderful wife who understands the two to three hours a day I spend at my desk writing makes me much easier to deal with later in the day!

I WANT to write daily, but I understand I owe her a fair portion of my time. No one lives forever, and you need to remember the time you spend talking and laughing with your loved ones is always more profitable than any time you spend writing. My wife improves my life and worth living. Every single day, I am thankful for her being with me.


A Lonely Man Finds Love Again

After forty-seven years of a great relationship, courtship, and marriage, the author found himself alone. His wife had struggled with a rough fight with dementia. Suddenly, she took a sudden and unexpected turn for the worse, leaving him alone for the first time in his adult life. He was sixty-four at the time but felt more like he was forty physically and ninety-five emotionally.

For over a year, he had tried to go forward with his life, but when he was alone at night, his heart’s emptiness reminded him that he needed someone to fill the ache inside him.

Loneliness is a killer, and he was dying from grief. He was dying inside because he had never been alone in his life. He told himself that he would be alright, but he wasn’t and was fading fast.

Then he found Heather. They were two souls drifting in a sea of loneliness and grief that found one another amid a building storm. Is she the one that can pull him out of an escalating depression?

We’ll see.

Interview with J. M. Robison, Author of Paragon Forgotten!


I am J.M. Robison. I write fantasy books where heroes don’t follow the rules.

I joined the U.S. Army at 17. To date, I have visited Italy, Germany, Romania, Bulgaria, Afghanistan, Qatar, U.A.E., and Kuwait. I read, crochet, and strive to be chemical-free in my food and body products. I love playing in the dirt: mountain biking, hiking, and camping. I recently started barefoot running. Amazon Author Central

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Can you tell us a little about your background?

I’m a published author with 4 fantasy titles under the name J.M. Robison currently held by Tirgearr Publishing: The War Queen, and three books under the series title The Last Wizard. Paragon Forgotten, my latest book, has been nominated for Best Novel for 2022. I’m an active duty U.S. Army soldier and have used my traveling across the entire world visiting a myriad of cultures, economics, religions, and society to add variety to my prose.

Can you talk about your latest book and the inspiration behind it?

Paragon Forgotten is the first book in a planned epic coming-of-age fantasy series. Where I got the inspiration to write this book is irrelevant because the event that triggered the book’s birth has no semblance to the book’s content. I also wrote the 4 book series (all written and complete) out of order ( 2,3,1,4), and because I’ve been writing and re-writing this series for 18 years, my original ideas have morphed to keep up with my own evolving life. However, even though I don’t have a notable, inspiring event to report, Paragon Forgotten was influenced largely by the Dragonlance series by Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman, my intended audience who enjoys the same. (I DO, actually, have a specific moment that directly triggered Paragon Forgotten, but it’s embarrassing and, again, not relevant to what the book is actually about.) I’m also a pantster, so I make the book up as I go and hope for the best.

How do you approach the writing process? Do you have a specific routine or method?

I do. I write every single novel by hand first with a notebook and pen. Every single novel. I then type the second draft up into Scrivener and make a further mess of things until it eventually gets straightened out after I have a text-to-voice program read it back to me, and then I throw it at beta readers who bring it back – thankfully – still in recognizable pieces.

How do you develop your characters and bring them to life on the page?

Character creation has been my hardest writing task. For that, I sought the help of Scribe Forge’s Essential Character Creation Blueprint and Workbook to break my characters into understandable pieces and rebuild them into fleshed-out reality. I can’t recommend Scribe Forge enough.

How do you handle writer’s block and overcome creative obstacles?

I’ve never had writer’s block to where 5 minutes of serious thought never fixed. If you can’t think how to continue a scene, think harder. When things are really tough, I have picture dice I throw and let the images inspire a thought to chase and see if it can bridge my temporary block.

Can you share any upcoming projects or books you are working on?

Paragon Forgotten is my up-front project. Still unpublished, I’ve serialized it on my website where I release a chapter every Friday. After that? Book two will be ready.

Can you talk about your experience working with a publisher or literary agent?

I’m pining for a literary agent right now, but I have 4 titles held by Tirgearr Publishing. Tirgearr took care of my book covers and editing, but marketing is largely on me. For editing, I was assigned an editor and we bounced my novel back and forth until we were both happy with the edits.

How do you stay motivated and disciplined while writing?

I won’t write unless I’m having fun, and I won’t write if I’m bound by rules and deadlines (because that makes it unfun). This is why I won’t do NANOWRIMO. My motivation is always there, so long as I don’t force myself to write a “daily word count”. I’ll sit and write while I want and give myself a break for a few days when I’m not feeling the verbs. The moment I start dreading writing, I know my writing days are over.

Can you discuss any themes or messages you hope readers take away from your book?

Oh, my goodness. Thank you for asking.

Paragon Forgotten has a heartbeat. Perhaps all fantasy authors claim so, but I would wait to see the proof because when I say “heartbeat” I don’t mean snazzy characters, larger-than-life plot twists, or the heavily researched world-building fantasy authors sell their souls for.

“Heartbeat” is the theme.

Fantasy is my favorite genre to read, and I’ve read enough to know that fantasy authors want your focus directed on this magic system, that unique creature, or the move-by-move sword-fighting scene they’ve acted out during LARP. What appears to be largely missing in the fantasy genre is the “reason” for writing down even the first word. The reason, the pulse sliding undercurrent to the characters, plot, and world-building. Without this reason, this pulse, this heartbeat, all fantasy is a copy-paste from each other because magic systems are not unique, fantastical creatures come out of the same mold, and I skim move-by-move sword fighting scenes because I know the hero will win and I will DNF a book for predictability.

Paragon Forgotten isn’t about Cohthel discovering if his father is alive, or his subsequent choices and the impact his choice will make on the rest of the series (the series is 5 books, not 4. I split the 1st book in half.) Paragon Forgotten is about the villain who isn’t even mentioned in the blurb. It’s the villain’s story because through his internal conflict — and the reason I use varying races (dragons, elves, dwarves, ecthore, seadwellers, falkons, gryphons, pegasi) — he begins to understand that the race of humans are superior to the other eight races not because of their divine birthright, but because the humans have been mandated by their divine birthright to serve the other races, much like a servant would serve a king, or exactly like Jesus — a king — served his fellow mankind.

If you could say one thing to the entire world, what would it be?

I have that opportunity to say one thing to our world, and I spend 4 more books after Paragon Forgotten to say it: love and serve your fellow mankind.

Thank you, readers, for encouraging me to say my one thing to the world.

How do you market your book and connect with readers?

I’ve been more successful with my latest attempts to serialize Paragon Forgotten, because this forces me to 1) seek out readers to read Paragon Forgotten (which I find mostly on bookfunnel) and 2) to push out a dedicated newsletter every week with fresh content, which has more than just the weekly-released chapter. Every week I get new readers trickling in, so it’s an experiment to see, when I post the final chapter, if my methods worked.

Can you discuss any other genres you have written in and if you have plans to write in other genres in the future?

Funny, I don’t read sci-fi, but I wrote a little sci-fi short story which is being published in an anthology in April 2023 with Metal Lunchbox Publishing.

Can you discuss any literary influences or inspirations that have shaped your writing?

My writing was influenced 100% by the Dragonlance series by Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman.

How do you handle criticism and negative reviews?

This is actually ridiculously easy to handle. So easy I even wrote a blog post on it. You handle criticism and negative reviews by, and I cannot stress this enough, by NOT releasing your book to ANYONE until you’ve written at least 3 drafts of it. Which is why I write every novel by hand first, because it forces me to re-write it word-for-word when I type it. Every editor will tell you this is the best way to edit your novel: re-writing it word-for-word. Then, once typed, I have a program read it back outloud to me (because you understand things differently when you read something versus hearing something.) Then beta readers who work out all those annoying plot holes you’ve so far ignored, and THEN you seek publication.

I know my methods work, because I’ve never received criticism (beta readers provide feedback, which is not the same) and I don’t have negative reviews at this time. I am also a reader, and I do give out negative reviews on books, even knowing my negative reviews could have been avoided if the author had taken more time and more care to craft an excellent story, like I have done to all of mine.

Can you talk about any challenges you faced during the publishing process?

I was rejected 47 times over the course of 2 years before Tirgearr offered their contract. The challenge was never knowing if I was being rejected because it wasn’t to the publisher’s taste or if my story was terrible. But because beta-reader feedback told me I had an excellent story, and gave me mini-awards for it, I maintained that I DID have a good story and I just hadn’t found the right publisher yet. This is why I say it is VITAL to have a writing/editing process that forces you to take the time and take the care to make an excellent story, because so long as you’ve proven to yourself you have an excellent story, you won’t get negative reviews and you will KNOW the publisher/agent rejected you because it wasn’t their taste, and not because you wrote a terrible story. It all comes full circle.

How do you balance your writing with other aspects of your life?

I’m an active duty U.S. Army soldier, so I already have to work a full-time job (combat deployments, night operations, sometimes weekends,) and yet I still find time in the evenings and on weekends to write. I make it a priority in my life, and I focus on that priority. What you focus on, you have more time for.


16-year-old Cohthel, a human, should have visited Father’s grave sooner, because now it’s missing.

Mother makes excuses for the absent grave, which Cohthel accepts, but his best friend, Thaen, won’t. Thaen convinces Cohthel his father must still be alive, and Cohthel runs away from school, family, and friends to find the truth. He needs the truth because Mother won’t remarry and without a father’s guidance Cohthel fears he’ll never choose an apprenticeship, will live with Mother the rest of his life, won’t fully grasp manhood, and all his friends will succeed in life and leave him behind.

While away, Cohthel hears corrupting rumors that humans are breaking alliances to force the other eight races to worship humans as gods. Cohthel returns home to not only having found the truth about his once-thought-dead father, but that he now must choose: join the humans’ war for godhood and erase his culture, identity, and humanity or oppose the war and be forced to kill the only thing he’s ever wanted: a father.

Writing a Mystery Novel – Important Steps

There is no one-size-fits-all formula for writing a top-notch mystery novel, as the genre is known for its flexibility and variety. However, there are some key elements that many successful mystery novels share. Here are some essential components of a successful mystery novel:

  1. A compelling hook: Your mystery novel should begin with a hook that immediately draws the reader in. This could be a crime that needs to be solved, a disappearance that needs to be explained, or a secret that needs to be uncovered. Whatever the hook is, it should be intriguing and make the reader want to find out more.
  2. A strong central character: The main character of your mystery novel should be relatable, likable, and engaging. Often, this character is a detective or a sleuth, but it could also be a journalist, a lawyer, or even an amateur sleuth. The character should have flaws and challenges to overcome, and their motivations should be clear and well-defined.
  3. A diverse cast of characters: In addition to the main character, your mystery novel should have a diverse cast of secondary characters who have their own motives and secrets. These characters should be fully developed and memorable, with unique personalities and quirks.
  4. Clues and red herrings: Your mystery novel should have clues that help the main character (and the reader) piece together the solution to the mystery. These clues should be well-placed and subtle, and they should be balanced with red herrings – false leads that distract the main character and the reader from the real solution.
  5. Tension and suspense: Tension and suspense are crucial to a successful mystery novel. You can build tension by creating a sense of urgency, setting a deadline for the main character to solve the mystery, or adding physical danger. You can also use dramatic irony to create tension by having the reader know more about the mystery than the main character does.
  6. A twist ending: A successful mystery novel should have at least one major twist or surprise that the reader did not see coming. This could be a surprising revelation about a character, a sudden plot twist that changes everything, or a clever solution to the mystery that was hidden in plain sight.
  7. A satisfying resolution: Finally, your mystery novel needs to be resolved in a satisfying way. All loose ends should be tied up, all the clues should be explained, and the solution to the mystery should make sense in light of everything that has happened in the story. Ideally, the solution should also be surprising and emotionally satisfying, leaving the reader with a sense of closure and fulfillment.

In summary, there is no one formula for writing a top-notch mystery novel, but there are some key elements that many successful mystery novels share. By including a compelling hook, a strong central character, a diverse cast of characters, clues and red herrings, tension and suspense, a twist ending, and a satisfying resolution, you can create a mystery novel that will keep your readers guessing until the very end.

Writing Fundamentals Series

Writing is one of the most fundamental skills a person can possess. Whether you’re writing for personal expression or for professional purposes, it’s important to understand the basic principles of good writing. In this article, we will explore the fundamental principles of writing and how they can help you become a better writer.

Clear Communication

One of the fundamental principles of good writing is clear communication. Your writing should convey your message in a way that is easy to understand for your intended audience. To achieve this, you should use simple and clear language, avoid unnecessary jargon, and avoid ambiguity.

Proper Grammar and Spelling

Another important aspect of good writing is proper grammar and spelling. Poor grammar and spelling can distract from your message and undermine your credibility as a writer. Take the time to proofread your work and use resources like grammar checkers and spell-checkers to ensure that your writing is error-free.


Good writing is concise. You should aim to communicate your message in as few words as possible, without sacrificing clarity. Avoid using unnecessary words or phrases that don’t add meaning to your writing. The goal is to get your point across without overwhelming your reader with unnecessary information.

Strong Organization

Strong organization is another key element of good writing. Your writing should be organized in a logical and coherent manner that guides your reader through your message. Use headings, subheadings, and bullet points to break up your writing and make it more digestible. This will help your readers understand your message and retain the information you’re presenting.

Proper Tone and Voice

The tone and voice of your writing are critical to its effectiveness. Your tone should be appropriate for your intended audience and the purpose of your writing. For example, if you’re writing a formal business report, your tone should be professional and objective. If you’re writing a personal blog post, your tone can be more informal and conversational. Regardless of the tone you choose, it’s important to be consistent throughout your writing.

Research and Citations

If you’re writing about a particular topic, it’s important to do your research and include relevant citations. This will lend credibility to your writing and show that you’ve done your homework. Use reputable sources for your research and make sure to cite them properly in your writing.

Attention to Detail

Finally, good writing requires attention to detail. This means paying attention to the little things like punctuation, formatting, and spacing. These details may seem insignificant, but they can make a big difference in the overall quality of your writing. Take the time to make sure that your writing looks and reads well.

In conclusion, good writing is an essential skill for anyone who wants to communicate effectively. By following these fundamental principles, you can improve your writing and make sure that your message is clear, concise, and well-organized. Whether you’re writing for personal expression or for professional purposes, these principles will help you produce high-quality writing that gets your message across.

Writing Fundamentals Series Schedule

  1. Writing Fundamentals – (4/3/2023)
  2. Clear Communication – (4/10/2023)
  3. Proper Grammar and Spelling – (4/17/2023)
  4. Conciseness – (4/24/2023)
  5. Strong Organization – (5/1/2023)
  6. Proper Tone and Voice – (5/8/2023)
  7. Research and Citations – (5/15/2023)
  8. Attention to Detail – (5/22/2023)

Interview With Susan Clayton-Goldner, Author of Dark River Rising!


Susan Clayton-Goldner was born in New Castle, Delaware and grew up with four brothers along the banks of the Delaware River. She is a graduate of the University of Arizona’s Creative Writing Program. Susan has been writing most of her life. Her novels have been finalists for The Hemingway Award, the Heeken Foundation Fellowship, the Writers Foundation and the Publishing On-line Contest where she received a thousand dollar prize. Susan won the National Writers’ Association Novel Award twice for unpublished novels and her poetry was nominated for a Pushcart Prize. 

Her work has appeared in numerous literary journals and anthologies including Animals as Teachers and Healers, published by Ballantine Books, Our Mothers/Ourselves, by the Greenwood Publishing Group, The Hawaii Pacific Review-Best of a Decade, and New Millennium Writings. Prior to moving to Oregon and writing full time,

Susan worked as the Director of Corporate Relations for University Medical Center in Tucson, Arizona. 

Susan shares a life in Grants Pass, Oregon with her husband, Andreas, her fictional characters, and more books than one person could count.  Website: https://susanclaytongoldner Goodreads Author Page


Can you tell us a little about your background?

I was born in New Castle, Delaware, and grew up with four brothers. After graduating from high school, I attended the University of Delaware where I received an Associate’s degree in Applied Science. I married and moved to Arizona. After my two children started school, I enrolled in creative writing classes and ended up pursuing a MA in Creative Writing.

How did you get started as an author?

From the time I could hold a pencil, I was always writing. It seemed I had to write about something before I fully understood how I felt. I believe writers are born with the passion to write. We can learn to perfect our craft, but writers write because they can’t help themselves. Who’d choose such a difficult and isolating path? So few of us can make a living writing.

Can you talk about your latest book and the inspiration behind it?

One of my reviewers inspired my latest book, Dark River Rising,—a retired minister and police chaplain, who sent me his idea for a novel. I try to deal with a social issue in each of my mysteries and he suggested I consider writing about the difficult topic of child pornography and sex trafficking of minors. I have a kidnapped ten-year-old girl, sold into pornography, and eventually murdered as one of my point of view characters. It was a difficult novel to write from the POV of a dead child. I knew it was risky, but I didn’t think there was any way to convey the horror without hearing it firsthand from a child who’d experienced this trauma.

How do you approach the writing process? Do you have a specific routine or method?

I consider writing to be my job and I go to work daily—sometimes spending 8-10 hours at the computer. Until my husband of 34 years died unexpectedly from a brain bleed, I was producing three novels a year. I’ve slowed down considerably during the past two years, but still manage at least one.

How do you develop your characters and bring them to life on the page?

I always begin by writing an elaborate character sketch for each of the point of view or important characters in the story. I delve into both their physical and psychological history. Sometimes these sketches are ten or more pages long. Writing the sketching helps me to find their voices and to know how and why they behave the way they do. I ask them a lot of personal questions about their childhoods, their parents, their siblings, what they do for a living, what they are most ashamed of in their lives. I ask them what makes them happy. And what hurts them most?

Can you discuss your research process for your latest book?

I always try to read at least three autobiographies of people who have experienced the social issue my character is going through in the book. For example, I wrote a book called Lake of the Dead where I have a transgender individual. In order to climb into her head, I wanted to understand what it felt like to be born into a body that didn’t fit your image of yourself. In Forgotten Creek, I deal with homelessness and, besides reading autobiographies, I went to a homeless encampment in Ashland, Oregon (where my mysteries take place) and spoke with many members of that community. It helped me so much with the character I called “Corndog.”

How do you handle writer’s block and overcome creative obstacles?

I rarely have writer’s block, but for months after my husband died, I could write about anything except grief. Mostly when I feel stuck, I reread what I’ve written so far, along with my character sketches, and that puts me back into the fictive dream.

Can you share any upcoming projects or books you are working on?

My next novel is called River of Mercy. It is about a mercy killing. When my husband had his first brain bleed, he was paralyzed on his entire left side. Most of the time he was coherent. He begged me to help him die. We’d had many discussions about this and I’d always said that I would. But, when it came down to it, I couldn’t. He begged. He cried. He even screamed, “Susan, why won’t you help me?”  About a month ago, I woke up after having had another nightmare about that time and the thought entered my mind, “What if I had?” With that thought the seeds for #14 in the Winston Radhauser mystery series was planted.

Can you talk about your experience working with a publisher or literary agent?

In the course of my writing life, I’ve had 3 agents. None of them were successful at placing one of my novels. When the third one took a paying job as foreign rights manager for another agency, she dropped the clients who were not yet making money for her. I was among them. I tried smaller presses and queried three. Two of them accepted my stand-alone novel, A Bend In The Willow. One of them was Tirgearr Publishing in Ireland. I love them. They have now published 16 novels for me, designed beautiful covers, provided great editing. I could not be happier. What I like most is the response time. If I write with a question, I get an answer within minutes—never longer than a day. That was so refreshing after waiting months for a reply (if you get one at all) from one of the major houses.

How do you stay motivated and disciplined while writing?

Because I love writing so much, it is not difficult for me to be motivated and disciplined. There is almost nothing I’d rather be doing than creating characters and telling their stories.

Can you discuss any themes or messages you hope readers take away from your book?

As I mentioned earlier, I like to deal with some social issue in my novels so that they are more than a mystery. The books in my series are a cross genre—somewhere between a family drama and a mystery. I want my readers to come away from the books moved to a place of feeling—be it sadness, empathy, joy. I want them to have taken a journey with the characters and come to care deeply about the outcome. I hope that I can change someone’s heart from contempt to compassion—as in the book about the homeless man.

How do you market your book and connect with readers?

This is the hardest part of the process. I’ve found Bookbub to be a great resource, but it is expensive and difficult to get. I put the first book in the mystery series, Redemption Lake, on Bookbub for free. The first day, over 100,000 people downloaded it. And this turned out to be a smart move because the other books sold at full price. I’ve also used the newsletters like ENT, FKBT, Bookbaby, Book Adrenaline. I have a website and a blog. I send out a newsletter to about 5,000 people. Every year I try to enter a few contests and line up reviewers who will post on launch day. It’s hard work and not nearly as much fun as the writing itself.

Can you share any advice for aspiring authors on how to get published?

Be tenacious. I think tenacity is the best gift a writer can receive. Keep trying. Never give up. I was writing for two decades before I finally found a publisher. But it was definitely worth the wait.

Can you discuss any other genres you have written in and if you have plans to write in other genres in the future?

I have written 3 stand-alone novels. One, Tormented, is a thriller. It won the Rone Award for Best Thriller 2019. Missing Pieces is a family drama about a daughter’s journey to forgiveness with her father. A Bend In The Willow, my first published novel, is about a mother’s love for her son who has leukemia and the lengths she will go, risking her own life, to save him.

Can you share any experiences you have had with book clubs or other reader groups?

I love talking to book clubs. I recently did one in Tucson with a group of women who were so conscientious. I gave them a list of questions to answer about A Bend In The Willow. They actually typed out their answers. We had a lively discussion. The host put on a catered luncheon and she’d bought copies of all my books and created a centerpiece for the table with them. It’s fun for the writer and the readers. I highly recommend them.

How do you handle criticism and negative reviews?

It’s a crazy thing, and probably true for most writers, but we remember the critical reviews. We can have 100 excellent, glowing, five-star reviews, and not remember one of them. But we never forget the bad ones. They hurt more in the beginning. I now understand that not everyone will love my books. And that there are mean-spirited people in the world who leave a one-star review just because they see the book has a lot of five stars. I used to read every review, now I often skip the bad ones. But the most important thing to remember is not to respond to the negative ones. Thank a reader for the positive ones if you can.

How do you balance your writing with other aspects of your life?

This is often difficult to do, especially if you have a young family. I did not start writing full time until I’d retired from my job and my children were off to college. So, for me, it has not been difficult. I often take my computer with me on vacations and write during long train, airplane rides or any other time I can steal away and write.


Where has Ava Cartwright been for the past three years and why was she dumped on the eve of her thirteenth birthday?

When Detective Winston Radhauser’s phone rings in the middle of the night, he knows something terrible has happened. On this night, a homeless man, rummaging for food in a local dumpster, finds the body of a severely beaten young woman. On scene, Radhauser estimates the victim to be in her early twenties. He’s overcome when he learns the forensics reveal she is the girl whose disappearance has haunted him for three years–Ava Cartwright.

In broad daylight, Ava’s bicycle had been found parked with the kickstand down near a wooded area. Search parties inched their way through every portion of those woods, the neighborhood, nearby Lithia Park, and along miles of railroad tracks, but there was no sign of the little girl.

Where has she been all this time? And why was she dumped on the eve of her thirteenth birthday? There must be something, some tiny detail, he missed that will give him a lead. This time, Radhauser won’t quit until he finds it.