Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Meeting with Arlington Nuetzel

Here's Arlington Nuetzel.  A friend of mine.  And a writer whom I agree with very often IF the subject is about Writing. Or Cars.  Or Music.  Or how to make the Perfect Cheesecake.

But let's not talk Politics.  Nope. Some subjects we just agree to disagree on.  Still . . . .

You'll find in this interview that writers are writers.  The Art (or really;  isn't it a sort of Curse?  A Love/Hat relationship you can't live with and certainly would dry up and wither away if you tried to live without it?) of Writing cuts across all forms of human boundaries, both real and artificial, and links us all together.  We're cousins.  Or brothers.  Or sisters. We're all related.  We all know the hardships, the joys, the madness that has to be within all of us in order for us to write.

And apparently we all have the same fears.  Check out what Arlington says concerning what he fears the most about being a writer. I couldn't agree with him more. (Also check out what he says concerning what fictional characters he'd like to hang out with.  I'm kinda curious to hear Travis McGee's answer as well)

And oh . . . about literary agents.  Well . . . you decide for yourself.

This is Arlington's interview.  All his.  You may not have heard of him.  But he's a writer.  And like most writers known or unknown, he knows the joys and fears the rest of our bothers and sisters endure with every day.

Why don’t you begin by telling us a little about yourself

I was born in St. Louis. I’m named for an 1880’s baseball player, Arlington Latham. I’m an educator. It leaks out into my writing. My career path was industrial sales and marketing but it required me to teach people how to handle new technology. I really enjoyed teaching kids to ski downhill a lot more. I’m also a good learner with poor grades but it hasn’t killed me yet.

When did you decide you wanted to become an author?

 I wrote short stories which were meant to make people laugh or cry. Then a formulaic novel with sequel potential crept into my head and landed on the page. It was really junk and has since been rewritten and a sequel produced. The third iteration terrifies me but it is now in the works.

 Do you have another job besides writing?

No, I write full time. My other jobs are music and housekeeping and keeping the fire built on our patio. Oh, and I’m a real presence in the kitchen. I’ve had some continental training and do ethnic, My wife does the authentic Southern cooking.

Were you an avid reader as a child? What type of books did you enjoy reading?

 Well, comic books ruled my early life. I used to go to my girl friend’s house and read her brother’s comics under his bed. Aside from those, I read poetry, Ogden Nash and Robert Service. I also enjoyed James Thurber. Thanks, Dad.


Tell us a bit about your latest book, and what inspired you to write such a story.

Remembering Arlie was a labor of love. It concerns my paternal grandfather in his own voice. As I wrote it, it seemed to have universal appeal as a true American rags to riches story, it took on a life of its own. That often happens in writing, the characters decide the dialog and the plot progression. The author just types.

How would you describe your creative process while writing this book? Was it stream-of-consciousness writing, or did you first write an outline?

 I don’t outline although some writers should. On this book I had detailed notes and a wealth of research material. I employ two editors too, I like to produce them clean. My books just seem to come out of the ether. Erato is a wonderful woman.

Did your book require a lot of research?

Some do. My historical novel, 2027, New Madrid, Missouri took me to water ditches, lakes, cotton fields, museums and college libraries. My adventure novels and Telephoto were researched on the Web unearthing some very weird but useful sites.

 Why do you write?

 I write to leave a legacy for my daughters, to inspire them. There certainly isn’t any money in this.

Who are your literary heroes and why?

 Dirk Pitt, Billy Pilgrim and certainly Travis McGee. Very few others have staying power. I like a character with grit and humility. That’s hard to find but I think that my franchise, Steven Burr, has both.

If you could have any vice without repercussions, what would it be?

Well, in no particular order, all the vices in moderation. Driving fast in a cool car would come second.

What kind of promotions do you do for your books?

I maintain a Website, I do all the written and mailed stuff, to newspapers, radio and TV plus the Internet writer’s and reader’s sites. I do a lot of book signings, scratch up blurbs and reviews and I blog but I no longer “tweet” on the major social network sites. That was just silly.

What is the funniest/most embarrassing/scariest story from one of your books signings or events?

No one knew I was coming. They had the wrong date and I drove four hours to get there. I then sold a book to a woman who only had a ten dollar bill. I let her have it and darn if she didn’t show up an hour later with the rest. A kid asked me why he had never heard of me. “Now you have!” I show my book trailers on a PC on the table. I was asked if I was selling PC’s.

Who do you think you are?

Wow! I identify strongly with Leonardo DaVinci, Thomas Jefferson and Ben Franklin but I am not any of them. I devoutly wish that I at least shared some of their qualities and talents.

If you could have been the servant to any famous person in history, who would that be and why?

I would have liked to follow William F. Buckley, Jr. around. He was not only a deep thinker and a wry wit but also an imaginer and creator. I would have taken something new home when each day ended.

If you are a world builder, what is your favorite part of creating these worlds?

Authors are like little Gods. They get to create, bear, kill, teach, manipulate, well, without being graphic, get to make people do things within or outside of their character without any consequence. I can write friends into books with permission. Sometimes they beg. It’s wonderful.

How do you research?

I start on the Web, then I go to places that I need to go to. Research is really 45% of writing. Marketing is 45% and the other 10% is writing.

When did you start writing? Relate an anecdote from your earliest writing years.

I began with a Spiral Steno Book in a mall parking lot in Chesterfield, Missouri between sales calls. I started writing my short stories journal style, just thoughts. These gave way to finished works, then the novels started pouring out.

Who was your mentor?

I wish that I had one. My Grandfather taught me a love for the written word and for creativity in general. So I guess that you could say that he was.

What would you tell aspiring young writers about the publishing business?

Plan to be broke, do your own butt work but enjoy writing. Don’t believe the crap you read about Indie publishing. Grammy winning bands are recording in garages, films made with Sony cameras are winning at Sundance and Cannes. Just make sure that your work is tightly edited.

What has been your experience with literary guilds or groups?

I am a co-founder of the Independent Authors Guild. Groups like ours pass valuable marketing and production information between each other and aspiring writers. I’ve sold a few books as a result of this effort but I’ve gotten more reviews and blurbs as a result.

Do you belong to a critique group? How has this helped or hindered your writing.

No, I tried and there are too many trolls out there. Honest people tend to stay away from critique. It isn’t worth the unnecessary humiliation from unqualified wannabies. Check writerscafe if you want a dose of lugubrious umber. Actually, I got great feedback and remarkable ratings on Francis Ford Coppola’s That was a positive experience.

What so you see for the future of publishing and ebooks?

Traditional publishers are having to reinvent themselves. Who can read the same safe stuff they publish every six months. The problem is the inventory model, both in the warehouse and on the shelves. The traditional publishers are now using print on demand to minimize this problem but the gates are now open to Indies who write well and edit with excellence.

If you could talk to any fictional character, who would that be and what would you say?

I thought about Jay Gatz, Rhett Butler and a few others but I would like to hang with Travis McGee and ask him how he stays alive and meets so many hot women.

Which of your characters do you love/hate/fear/pity the most and why?

I most pity Amanda Uganda from Murder in March Commons. She was a Belle from the Mid South with everything going for her but she just went down the wrong road. Molly Barksdale from Telephoto is a close second. She never knew what she wanted out of life so she trashed everyone around her.

Tell us five random things about yourself.

1) I’m a computer geek. 2) I love dogs and horses. 3) I play everything but horns. 4) I can recite the Greek alphabet. 5) Green is my favorite color and also the color of my eyes.

What other types of artistic talents do you have?

I was trained to be a concert pianist but ended up an almost rock star. I’m a pretty good photographer and work at line drawing. Mostly, I’m an educator in engineering to writing to alpine skiing. I a licensed pilot and I’m rated high-performance retractable gear. Mach .38, baby!

What type of writer are you—the one who experiences before writing, like Hemingway, or the one who mostly daydreams and fantasizes?

My work springs from my imagination, but who doesn’t have a life experience spun into their work? I think that you can’t avoid the places that you’ve been and the people you’ve met and the things that you’ve done both good and unfortunate.

When do you get your best ideas and why do you think this is?

I usually get my best ideas in restaurants overhearing people at other tables. Also in cemeteries People are the best subjects to spin into fiction.

Do you get along with your muse? What do you do to placate her when she refuses to inspire you?

I live with her, I love with her and we spar over words. It is a mutual love of reading and writing that I wouldn’t trade for a pot of gold. We have that together. I wrote for two years in a motor home at a fish hatchery at Montauk in the Missouri Ozarks. I taught her writing on the Internet. We traded works and she asked if she could edit for me. I went down to Arkansas for a weekend and forgot to go home. We married in 2011.

From the moment you conceived the idea for the story, to the published book, how long did it take?

Each book takes about a year from beginning to end no matter how I rush. I wrote 2027 in forty days to impress a woman, now my editor and wife (that part worked) but it took a long time to edit and publish.

Describe your working environment.

I’m in a kitchen with oaken cabinets. The bar is angled out, I’m on the great room side on a comfortable bar stool. I’m on a Frankenstein cobbled IBM laptop on our wireless network with stereo speakers attached. I can access our hard drive in the other room or save to my speed stick through either USB. Wireless is magic. Behind me is a ten speaker 500 Watt Bose system and I can crank up Serius XM Blusville if I have the need. I either write to it or play along on my Godin guitar or my stack of keyboards.

Do you write non-stop until you have a first draft, or do you edit as you move along?

Nope, I write and then go back three chapters and re-edit. No one can successfully edit their own material, they see their mistakes as correct but it helps and it lets me put the missing words between the other words.

They say authors have immensely fragile egos… How would you handle negative criticism or a negative review?

After two divorces, I couldn’t find my ego. Where the hell did that go? Yes, authors do have fragile egos but good writers find friends and reviews easily. After many years of being fired from good jobs, I have a pretty tough skin.

As a writer, what scares you the most?

I am most afraid of a lack of ideas. In fact, I’m frightened by any gap in creativity.

When writing, what themes do you feel passionate about?

Truth, justice and the American Way.

Are you a disciplined writer?

 No, I’m just impelled. I write to speak. I write to educate. I write to entertain. I’d like to read books like mine on a sandy beach in Florida or on a plane to Frankfurt.

For writer moms:  How do you divide your time between taking care of a home and children, and writing? Do you plan your writing sessions in advance?

Hey, this applies to Dads too. Moms don’t have a patent on stress. All writers budget their time, men, women, mothers and fathers. If we have a passion, we pursue it. With a singular purpose.

When it comes to writing, are you an early bird, or a night owl?

Mid morning suits me then I edit in the afternoon. In the evening I read the two papers, Blytheville and Little Rock.

Do you have an agent?  How was your experience in searching for one?

It was dismal to abominable. They are blood sucking leaches or else they are too high gloss to answer their mail. The rest want to charge a “reading fee” before they vanish completely, make gross denigrations to inspired prose and turns of phrase. This species is extinct unless they start to police each other.

You can agree or disagree with Arlington.  Your choice.  But the sheer act of opening your soul up and bleed freely all over a clean slate in an effort to say something congently makes him a friend of mine.

Regardless (grinning widely) whatever his Politics may be.

Monday, July 8, 2013

Robert W. Walker is back for another stroll through the dark alleys

Robert W. Walker has been featured in here before.  But it's time for him to make another appearance.  If you don't know it, Robert is a prolific writer.  And not just prolific as in sheer quantity.  He's got the knack to chuck'em out AND write quality stuff at the same time.  Considering that he also teaches at the college level  (which, as well all know, teaching is such a pud job any Tom, Dick, or Hermione can do) it's a wonder he can think properly . . . much less write truly the truly gripping novels he does.

This time around he's writing a Civil War series.  Well .  . . maybe not just a Civil War series.  Several other genres are probably mixed into the recipe just to add some spice.  As the pundits say, '"Spice is the starter fluid that makes Little Johnny jump!" 

Or something like that.

It's always interesting to talk to the guy.  Figuring on that I thought I'd interview him again and hear what he was working on now . . . and maybe pick his brains a bit and see if he could come up with some sagacious advice for would-be writers like myself.  Here's what the guy had to say.


1. Robert, you write novels which definitely bend the rules for strict genre writing.  Somehow other genres pop up and weave their way through your books.  Why this genre twisting?  How difficult is it for multiple genres to blend together in a cohesive unit?

I grew up on such TV programs as One Step Beyond and Twilight Zone, read widely however in the classics as well as horror and science fiction. I love to have a supernatural or odd element to my crime novels as well as my historical novels. I enjoy weaving multiple genres to create a whole cloth of a novel as I like layers and complexities as with my Titanic 2012 - Curse of RMS Titanic - a creature placed on board the Titanic, yet make the historical elements authentic as I could...then move to the future and add science fiction elements in the dive INTO the sunken ship. Crosses many genres. My historicals are romance but just as much action adventure and suspense. It is fun for me to mix the categories. How difficult is it? It is not so much more difficult than pulling a number of threads through any novel but it is a juggling act.

2.  You're writing a Civil War series now.  Tell us about it.  What motivated you in selecting this era
to write over?  What is it about the Civil War which attracts so many writers and readers to it?

 The Civil War is a hugely defining event in the forging of the American character, and the four years of that war created a huge number of stories, most as true stories. I find all American history fascinating as with my Colonial America witchcraft novel Children of Salem and my Ransom Series set in Chicago 1893. History itself has always fascinated me, but history that takes us to a spiritual end, wow. Even as a kid, I always wanted to know MORE about the footnotes at the bottom of the page in the history books; certainly was the case with the Salem witchcraft episode--a ready made mix of genres--history and horror, story of greed, avarice, and courage as well as faith. City of Ransom I wanted to use the Chicago World's Fair and what did it mean to my detective who had no access to modern sciences. In Annie's War - my pre-Civil War Trilogy, I wanted to get at what kind of people would follow a religious fanatic straight to their deaths and if they truly believed in a cause to that extent.

3.  Writing is a passionate love/hate relationship.  Add the extra hat of being an English professor to it and the party becomes a bit crowded.  How do you cope with wearing so many hats at once?

I have had many bouts with myself over the psychological and social toll on myself by choosing this life, but in the end it chooses us. I have an article on Kindle entitled Psychology 101 for Writers and Their Characters...and so you can imagine how many times and how much time I have spent questioning my own choice of lifestyle and career. Writing has been described in so many ways and metaphors but the best I have ever heard is that it is like riding a unicycle while juggling ten plates at once on four foot sticks. Oh my! No one ever said it was going to be easy and I often feel as if I am channeling or reincarnated as some broke and starving artist of the past locked in the loop of doing it all over again. Does it make sense to subject ourselves to what we subject ourselves to? What is the alternative if your head and heart are full of voices/characters screaming to get out?


4.  While on the subject of love/hate relationships, tell us when the writing bug bit you and turned you into a verbal vampire (A compliment, Robert!  A compliment . . . really!)

I was in 4th grade at Skinner Elementary when my eye caught sight of the footnote on the Salem episode. The first bug was the research bug. I knew there had to be more to the story and that it was important, despite my teacher's saying, "It is a footnote for a reason; it is not that important." That just set me off. I went to the school library and started digging. In high school, I did a 70 pg. research paper on the topic (got an A+), and it became my dissertation at Northwestern University for my Masters done as a novel. Before leaving high school, I wrote Daniel & The Wrongway Railway (researched the Underground Railroad) my first YA historical coming of age meant to be a sequel to Huckleberry Finn (arrogant me!). So yeah, I started young.


5.  Of all the genres out there you delve into which one is your favorite.  And don't forget to tell us why.

Oh boy...I enjoy them all for different reasons like the crime novels for the chase and the adversarial relationship between protagonist and antagonist as well as the forensic science elements, but working with serial killers is rough on the spirit; frankly it is far more FUN working with actual monsters in horror over the serial killers. However, my first love from the outset has been historical novels, and I found I truly needed to get back to doing historicals, alternate historicals, history-mystery, adult and YA. I love the time machine aspect of getting into a historical setting.


6.  I believe it's like thirty some odd books you've written.  So which character is your favorite.  How did you develop him (or her) and do they show up in a series or two.

Titanic 2012
Oh man, another hard choice. I really enjoy all my characters now in all NINE of my multiple-book series, all of whom save one I placed in my short story collection Thriller Party of 8 - The 1 that Got Away wherein I introduce eight of my series characters in the short form. I love 'em all but to pick out one...that is asking a mother or father to select only ONE CHILD to live. Inspector Alastair Ransom is right up there, he appears in my HarperCollins Trilogy begun with City for Ransom, and I revived him for my Titanic 2012. He's great, but my Dr. Jessica Coran, ME, FBI is my favorite lady and my biggest bread-winner with my 12 book Instinct Series begun with Killer Instinct. Then there's Annie of ANNIE's, hard decision. 

7.  Speaking of writing, tell us how to achieve success in the ebook market.  Millions are writing ebooks these days.  There's more selection, more authors, out there than ever before.  How do you sell your books and get your name known in that sea of confusion?

I treat Twitter and Facebook as moving rivers in the floating opera of social media...taking the position that since it is floating by and never the same folks on the lazy river at the same time, I have no compunction of putting up information on my Kindle books so that as the river goes by my place onshore, the billboard is up and I am fanning the fires. No time for modesty. I go to my Amazon page and from there use the link buttons taking the book to Twitter and Facebook and now Pinterest more than once a day. I will introduce it with some smart, clever remarks or joke or self-deprecation actually as in "Some people say it is a crime that I write crime novels." I also urge folks to see my blog work at  and on my Tips page on Facebook found at Robert W. Walker (Rob)  and KDP Community forums under Voice of the Author - find my humongous forum entitled and misspelled as "What Moves Kindle Books off the Shelf". Lots of great advice there. Of course Title, Cover Art, book descript have to be perfect to begin with and the quality of the work. The is all in the execution.

8.  So what's on the drawing board next for you.  You're next book is going to be something totally new?   Or another book out of a continuing series?  Any potential for a book being converted into a movie?  A TV series?

I am going back to the Crime Novel...starting with a few notions, doing some research on "threat assessment" and have an idea for a title, unsure of main character but s/he will be a threat assessment whose job it is is literally to predict behavior and crime before it happens. He does not always get it right but she tries... Title or sub-title will involve the killer - The Fear Collector. Been kicking it over for a while in back of my head but had to finish Annie's War first. I tend to make more money with the crime novels, so it is back to contemporary crime.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

The serial novel experiment

My current project (added, of course, to the two or three other projects I'm also working on);  writing a cross-genre serial novel.

One night not so dark and dreary (actually it was about 101 degrees F. at 9 pm on a Wednesday night) in popped an idea/character I couldn't push back into a 'Maybe I'll Look At It Later' memory file.  The first thing to pop into my head was a name.  A character who called himself Agnastas Hoolia.

Agnastas Hoolia.  A four hundred year old field agent for the Inter Dimensional Magic Bureau.  A generic cross between a Jason Bourne spy and a quasi-Harry Potter like wizard.

Overlapping genres of YA Adventure and a Spy Thriller.  A character who would appeal both to young readers and to adults.  Throw in some genuine adventure, some magic, some nifty Steampunk era gadgets (thus making it a kind of Sci/Fi hybird) and some truly outrageous characters . . . and maybe, just maybe . . . voila!  A novel/potential series that might stir the interest of a large reading audience.

Agnastas is a wizard.  A Class II wizard working for a inter-dimensional bureau composed of a number of wizard clans dedicated in protecting the multi-universe from Dark Magic.  Yes, Maynard;  I said multi-universes.  Like in multiple Earths . . . multiple Mars, etc.  Of course each Earth, for instance,  looks remarkably like the Earth we all are familiar with.  But each is not exactly a copy of Earth.  So (hint, hint . . .) there is the aspect of Time Travel involved.

The idea idea is to write the novel as a four-part serial.  Each one that can be both independently read and yet be related to the previous one.  Each comes out as in ebook format, but in in the end, maybe offering the completed novel both as an ebook and as a paperback.

Ah . . . but more!  What I have in mind is to have each segment of the overall novel including
artwork within the text.  Black and white ink drawings illustrating a scene or two from out of the current segment.  We (the artist and me) are working on the ink drawings as we speak.  I've got six images in mind.  As with most of my other projects, the Spanish brothers Javier and Jesus Carmona are the talented artists working with me on this project.  Good men both.  And brilliant artists as well.

Jesus is working on the pen and ink drawings.  Javier did the color work (well, to be truthful, being as close as these two brothers are, I'm sure ideas for each piece of  work have flowed back and forth like a fast moving river).

We're very close getting the first segment ready to go.  My idea is to bring a serial part out every three weeks.  Doing it this way might generate some interest for the segments to come.   Each segment will be roughly 22,000 to 25,000 words in length.

Gee, it would be nice to find a publishing house interested in this project. (sigh, writers always bitch about this.  Always.)  And maybe one will drop by as the series progresses.  Or not.
So tell me what you think.  Think maybe this project has legs?  Maybe it's a dead duck on the drawing board and needs a quiet but honorable death? 

Hmmm . . .