J. L. Phillips/ Thoughts on Writing

A quick word from J. A.–

Esteemed Author J. L. Phillips WON the opportunity to blog here, at Scribbles on Cocktail Napkins, as the winner of our very FIRST Sunday Scribble Challenge. It’s a great pleasure to share this inspiring post about writing “rules” with you! Did you know YOU can win the chance to guest post too? Just click #SSC on the toolbar above to check out the prompt for this week’s challenge. Participation is quick and easy, and a great way to procrastinate interact with your writing peers. 

These flash fiction challenges fuel creativity! They’re also a relatively painless pool for writers who’ve never posted their work to wet those feet, OR for established authors/bloggers to pick up a few new readers.

What are YOU waiting for? This week’s challenge wraps up Saturday. Unleash your writerly self.

jackie3My Thoughts on Writing

You notice my title says, ‘My thoughts’, not advice, as I have none. These are just some thoughts that I had swirling in my head as I finished my edits on A Case of Deceit last year.

When I first starting seriously writing my first book, The Canine Caper and getting it ready to publish I made the mistake of reading all the posts I could find on how to write. It really was a mistake, as it scared the crap out of me! It not only scared me, it made me doubt I could write, it made me question if I should write. It also confused the hell out of me.

There was/is so much conflicting advice out there by so-called “experts”. There was advice from authors, publishers, agents, all sorts of people. There was advice from people who only wrote books on how to write. They never wrote an actual novel, or memoir, or autobiography. Just books on how to write…books. You can see why I was so confused.

An expert by definition is;
1. 1.
a person who has a comprehensive and authoritative knowledge of or skill in a particular area.
“experts in child development”
synonyms: specialist, authority, pundit; More

1. 1.
having or involving authoritative knowledge.
“he had received expert academic advice”
synonyms: skillful, skilled, adept, accomplished, talented, fine;

One day in the future I hope to become an expert on writing books. Because I would have lots of books that I have actually written and sold, and not just because I want to give out advice. quotescover-JPG-56

I’ve written over seven hundred posts on my blog, To Write is to Breath. That might make me an expert on blog posts, but not necessarily writing. Just because you have done a lot of something doesn’t mean you’ve done it well, or right. Then that puts another question out there…what IS the right way to write a book? Or is there even a right and wrong way? I mean, what’s right for one author may not be a suitable fit for another.

I have my own way of writing books. Another author has their way…etc. I don’t think you will find two people who write books the same exact way. There are going to be differences. It just makes sense as no two people are exactly alike. But does that make one person wrong and the other right? No, of course not. They do what works for them, just as I do.

book20review_65263741.jpgNow I understand that there are certain rules for grammar, spelling, sentence structure and so forth. That to me is totally different from writing a story. A story is made up of sentences, paragraphs, and chapters. There must be some structure guidelines for doing that or it would just be chaos and make no sense whatsoever. I get that part.

It’s the story itself that I’m talking about. The story as a whole. I know that a story should have a beginning, middle and an end. A book should have an interesting beginning, a middle that has some kind of conflict, an end that resolves that conflict to the readers satisfaction. I get that, as I was a reader long before I was a writer.

I have read numerous articles on how to write books that drum that into you. Ok, I get it. They also stress on HOW to do it. You should do A, B, C….the problem is I don’t always do it that way. Sometimes I do C, B, A, instead. But, it works for me. These articles made me doubt that I should even be trying to write and that’s sad. There are so many good writers out there that truly have talent and read these rules and get scared off.

I’ve always been a rule breaker. I like to break rules. It makes life interesting. Some people give up before they even try because the rules scare them so much.

JackieWhy are there so many rules for writing? Who makes up these rules? Where did they first show up? And why do some people think they are set in stone and find fault in others that don’t follow the rules?

My friend Maddie Cochere, after I wrote her and told her I was scared to write anymore because of all these rules I was reading about, told me to stop reading the articles! She was quite firm in that directive too. She was also right. So I stopped. She encouraged me to just keep writing. So I did. I finished two books and have a third in the works. Maddie is one smart woman. I stopped reading those articles and never read another one.

So, maybe I do have one piece of advice for anyone who wants to write a book….
Just sit your butt down and do it!

Jackie2And don’t read about all the rules….

You can find my books on Amazon under JL Phillips:

The Canine Caper

A Case of Deceit

#SSC 5/ April24-30th

157d46d349b250abd9ad5730f367f942It’s Sunday Funday, and what does that mean? It means we have a lucky new winner for the third Sunday Scribble Challenge, and a brand NEW challenge to build those writing muscles!

Voting polls are now open for #SSC 4. I’m not gonna lie, it wasn’t our liveliest challenge, with only two submissions. *insert cricket chirping* Where were you guys, anyway? Was the challenge too long?? I did promise to keep these things short and sweet, after all. (That’s why this week’s challenge is going to be whittled down to ONE sentence. ‘Cause we can all do that.)

BUT we still need a winner for #SSC 4, so we’ve opened the voting to EVERYONE, regardless of whether you entered the challenge or not! Did you hear that? That means YOU can vote! Email: Sundayscribblechallenge@gmail.com. Place the lucky author’s name in the HEADER of your email.

familyThe winner for the third Scribbles on Cocktail Napkins Sunday Scribble Challenge (and the one with the MOST submissions to date) is Ah Dad:  Devoted husband, loving dad, business traveler, fitness fanatic wannabe, bloggerenthusiastic twittee, and laugher of life.

The prompt for that week?

In just two sentences, provide your reader with a subtle clue to reveal your character is LYING.

The  winning submission:

“It wasn’t me”, cried Jimmy, as he stood with hanging shoulders next to the shattered cookie jar on the floor. If only he took the time to wipe his mouth before Mom stormed into the kitchen.

Thank you for rocking the challenge, Ah Dad! While I did a little rooting around your blog for your name, I came up empty. What is your name anyway? Do you have a secret identity? Is your secret identity Batman? Boy, that would be a twist. 130xtb

(Okay, maybe it’s Pieter) ANYWAY, Pieter, I’d like to invite you and/or your work to be featured in an upcoming post on Scribbles on Cocktail Napkins. This can be done in whatever way you like. A reblog, a guest blog, a new interview about a favorite project, or even a small sample of your latest book along with a purchasing link. You decide!

Now, without any further ado, let’s get to our next Scribble Challenge!! Here’s the ONE SENTENCE prompt (as promised) for the next challenge:


A six word story might seem a little impossible. But, it’s not! Check out one of the most famous six word stories of all time, written by Ernest Hemmingway–

For Sale: Baby shoes, never worn.

Here are a few other examples to get your brain in gear:

“Rapunzel! I am slipping! A wig?!”

Misleadingly deep puddle. Curious child missing.

“I love you, too,” she lied.

Artificial limb, bungie jump-bad idea.

The Rules for this challenge? You have six days to ruminate if you need them. (But you shouldn’t, ’cause it’s a six word story, mmmkay?) Post one submission to the prompt in the comment section below. The deadline? Saturday, April 30th @noon Atlantic Daylight Time.

  • Encourage other Scribblers. Try to comment (reply) to at least three other submissions during the week.
  • After the deadline, VOTE for your favorite submission by emailing: Sundayscribblechallenge@gmail.com. Place the lucky author’s name in the HEADER of your email.



VOTE FOR LAST WEEK’S CHALLENGE!! EMAIL YOUR VOTES TO Sundayscribblechallenge@gmail.com.

Trolls will be escorted back to their bridge with a flaming stick of dynamite.

Finding Time to Write

23-motivational-quotes-for-authors-by-authors-2-638Scribbles on Cocktail Napkins started as a blog about my writing journey. Writing is a passion. To many, it’s a pull that simply can’t be ignored. But, it can also be a real pain the in a$* when things aren’t going our way. Sharing the writerly peaks (and valleys) with others opened my eyes to the fact that many of us are struggling with exactly the same issues: finding time to write while juggling family life and work, self-doubt, and a general crippling fear of failure

Over the past few months the blog has evolved into a place for writers to connect, and the site is growing every day because of YOU, the readers, the commenters, and the challenge participators.

So, THANK YOU. You’re awesome. 

And now I want to give back.

That’s why I’m especially pleased to share this post with you. Author J. H. Winter won the opportunity to blog here with her fabulous submission to the 2nd Sunday Scribble Challenge. It’s all about how she worked around the challenges to writing we all face, and CONQUERED the Nanowrimo mountain! She’s a great talent, and her writer’s journey is nothing short of an inspiration.

Check out the links at the bottom of this post to follow what she’s up to now!

JulianeDuring October of 2015, I had made no plans to participate in National Novel Writing Month (NanoWriMo). It was something I’d heard about once or twice and had even looked up on Google occasionally, but there was no way I could write 50,000 words in a month. Not possible!

I have a two-year-old running around and, at best, four to five hours per day of my own to do with as I please. I would be crazy to think this goal was attainable for a busy mom like me.

While working at the library, my good friend, a Supervising Librarian at the time, broached the subject of NanoWriMo with me. She knew I had written a Middle Grade Fantasy novel which I was getting ready to query and that writing was my passion. Added to this, she was also co-running a program at the library for NanoWriMo, which would be getting local people participating together to write and help bolster each other’s spirits throughout the month.

“You should do it,” she told me.

“I don’t know. I don’t think I have time to,” I said.

“You should do it,” she repeated, pursing her lips. “Come on, you can push me to do it too.”

“I didn’t know you write?” I asked. She’d never mentioned aspirations in writing before.

“I don’t, but I could.”

She went on to tell me her story idea about a useless robot sparked by her frustrations with the new software program we were using at the library. Her idea actually sounded pretty hilarious. The more I thought about it, the more I thought: Well if she can do this with two kids, nearly working full time, maybe I can too.

“Okay fine. I’ll do NanoWriMo,” I conceded, after having been asked to for the third time. Maybe I could write the 50,000 words it would take to win.

November started with a kickoff party at the library and I was surprised to see nearly thirty fellow writers in the room beside me! With a goal of writing 50,000 words for the month, we had to hit around 1,667 per day (6-7 pages or so, double-spaced). Here’s how I had decided to make that happen within my schedule:

6:00-6:30am: I started getting up a half hour earlier to get ready for the day.

6:30-7:30am (or 8 if I was lucky and my son slept in): Begin writing.

7:30-12pm: Be a mom.

12pm-3pm (on days I didn’t work): Nap-time for James and more writing for me. If I hit my word count, a reward nap for me as well!

3pm-8pm: Be a mom.

8pm-11pm: More writing if I still needed to hit my word count goal. If not, work on one of my other to-dos like getting my query perfected for my other manuscript, reading, crocheting, or some other craft that needed making.

On days I had work, which is in the afternoons three days a week, I would steal some time on the accounts desk to continue writing. I would do this in an email to myself that I planned to later put into the manuscript I was drafting at home. Breaks and lunches (on the weekends I worked) were spent writing in a spiral-bound notebook, which I would later type up during my block of time between 8-11pm. I had made a plan, and throughout the month, I stuck to it.

While I got ready in the early morning I would think about what part was coming next so that when I put my butt in the chair, I could take off at a run, fingers dancing across the keys as the words poured from my mind.

My husband had discouraged my doing NanoWriMo before it began on November 1st. He just didn’t want me spreading myself too thin. I was already stressed not having enough time to do everything else I wanted to do, and now to add this on top of everything? Plus, the Thanksgiving holiday was coming and we were expecting company toward the end of the month. That could affect how much I was able to write in that last week of the contest. It was just one more thing to add to the “Why not to participate” column.

Here was the most important factor: I had already wrapped my head around it. I was doing this and nothing could stop me.

juliane3Nothing did.

I had made a schedule and, as a parent, I knew the importance of them. That schedule allowed me to have time to myself most nights, my word count having been achieved earlier in the day. The goal I had set was to write 2,000 words per day. I had read the book On Writing by Stephen King, and if he could write that much per day, why couldn’t I?

This would allow me to reach my goal by the 25th of the month. Some days I would reach that goal in the hour and a half I had before my son would get up for the day. There were even a few times I wrote over 3,000 words in a day! Patted myself on the back every time that happened.

I never missed a day of writing.

juliane4By November 18th, I’d hit the 50,000-word mark but the month was far from over, my book yet to be finished. I kept writing and sticking to the schedule. By the 30th, I had written 75,535 words and those final two words were among them, “The End.”

Not only was I a NanoWriMo 2015 winner, but I had written an entire book in a month (or at least the first draft of one anyway). In order to get to the end, I had to leave quite a few _____’s behind to be filled in later once I’d done more research. Researching would have taken up way too much time, and I didn’t want to stop the flow of the story just to look up details that were insignificant to the overall plot.

I also knew the story was going to have lyrics sprinkled amongst the pages. Since songwriting doesn’t come as naturally to me, I knew these details were better left to a time when I could just sit down with a notebook and pen, and spend hours thinking and writing, crossing out, then writing some more. November was not the time for that.

At the end of the month, I went to one last NanoWriMo event at the library. A “You Did It!” party, if you will. I won a prize for having written the most words during the month (a hand-sewn pouch for holding my laptop, made by my friend with the useless robot story idea)!

juliane5I bought some swag off the NanoWriMo website: a mug and a 2015 NanoWriMo Winner T-shirt. After that, the contest was over along with November.

Things quieted down as December rolled in and thoughts of Christmas and all the presents that needed buying came into my mind instead (see my post on Gift Giving). Yet, nothing could change the fact that I have a brand new novel sitting in the writing folder of my computer, just itching to be edited (here are some of my tips on editing).

Thank you NanoWriMo for pushing me to write again. You were just what I needed to jump-start that side of my creativity.

The moral of this story: don’t ever think you aren’t capable of doing something you want to do. You just might surprise yourself, and everyone else, in the end.

Just in case you were wondering, my friend didn’t end up writing that robot story. Life got in the way as it often does, but I am so thankful to her for pushing me to move forward with my own writing. She said just what I needed to hear, “You can do this!”juliane6.jpgJ.H. Winter

Website: http://www.jhwinter.com

Blog – Ink & Stitches: http://blog.jhwinter.com

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/JHWinterAuthor/

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/jhwinterauthor/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/jhwinterauthor

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/user/show/52221990-j-h-winter

YouTube Channel: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC-roe6_ftDaOEKoUAc2_Rnw

Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/jhwauthor/

SSC PREVIEW*YOU can win the chance to guest post on Scribbles on Cocktail Napkins too! Just click #SSC on the toolbar above to check out the prompt for this week’s challenge. Participation is quick and easy, and a great way to procrastinate interact with peers, and fuel creativity. It’s a relatively painless pool for writers who’ve never posted their work before to wet those feet, and for established authors and bloggers to pick up some new readers.

What are YOU waiting for? This week’s challenge wraps up Saturday. Unleash your writerly self.

#SSC 4: April 17-23/ 2016

It’s Sunday. That means we have a winner for the second #SSC and a brand new challenge to build those writing muscles!

jhwinter2-150x150The winner for the second Scribbles on Cocktail Napkins Sunday Scribble Challenge is Julianne Hildebrand Winter (J.H. Winter). Julianne is a fantasy writer geared toward Middle Grade and Young Adult readers, and the author of Ink and Stitches: The Writerly and Creative Life of J.H. Winter.

The prompt for that week?

Your character is a villain. Your goal this week is to get your reader to root for him or her in as few words as possible.

The brilliant Julianne’s winning submission:

86b1f9a5024be03c5737fb59aa61f153I wasn’t born this way…I was MADE this way. Words hurt and I wouldn’t let them hurt me anymore. I know they say let sleeping dogs lie, but Grawk was hungry for blood, and I didn’t have the strength to stop him from attaining his meal.

“Oops,” I muttered, as my fingers pulled the final pin keeping him tethered to the earth. “He’ll be back when he’s had his fill.”

I closed my eyes, arms splayed to the sides, as the feeling of wind pushing past my face in wing-beats, signaled the end to my torment and the beginning of something beautiful.

Thank you for participating in the challenge, J. H.! I’d like to invite you and/or your work to be featured in an upcoming post on Scribbles on Cocktail Napkins. This can be done in whatever way you like. A reblog, a guest blog, a new interview about a favorite project, or even a small sample of your latest book along with a purchasing link. You decide!

Now, without any further ado, let’s get to our next Scribble Challenge!! Here’s the new prompt:

quotescover-JPG-82The Rules: You have six days to ruminate if you need them. Post one submission to the prompt in the comment section below. The deadline? Saturday, April 23rd @noon Atlantic Daylight Time.

  • Encourage other Scribblers. Try to comment (reply) to at least three other submissions during the week.
  • After the deadline, VOTE for your favorite submission by emailing: Sundayscribblechallenge@gmail.com. Place the lucky author’s name in the HEADER of your email.


Voting polls for this challenge OPEN immediately after the prompt deadline on April 23rd, and CLOSE one week later, on April 30th. That means the winner of THIS challenge won’t be announced until Sunday, May 1st, when the sixth challenge prompt is posted.

VOTE FOR LAST WEEK’S CHALLENGE!! EMAIL YOUR VOTES TO Sundayscribblechallenge@gmail.com.

Trolls will be escorted back to their bridge with a flaming stick of dynamite.

Allison Maruska’s Project Renovatio is out TODAY!!!


It’s a big day, interweb.

A day that Allison Maruska and her loyal fans have been waiting for a loooong time. Project Renovatio is on the shelves!

Allison is a friend of Scribbles on Cocktail Napkins, and a talented cohost on our fledgling webshow, Writers off Task with Friends. To get to know her and her work a little better, check out this interview where Dan Alatorre asks all the tough (and not so tough) questions.

The book is a fast paced read that will leave your brain spinning. Well written and tightly plotted, Project Renovatio is a great gift for all YA readers.

For more fun clips of Writers Off Task with Friends, check out Dan’s blog here. But then, you already saw these clips, right? Because you follow Dan and Allison’s blogs, right???

Well, if you don’t then you should. Besides, Dan just posted the first chapter of his upcoming book, The Navigators. The book is going to be all kinds of terrific, and today, I’m all kinds of proud for both of my writerly friends.

#SSC 3, April 10-16

original_bronze-twelve-light-birdcage-chandelierWinner, winner, chicken dinner!!

I’m pleased to announce the winner for the FIRST Scribbles on Cocktail Napkins Sunday Scribble Challenge is . . . JL Phillips, poet, author, and blogger of: To Breathe is to Write.

The prompt for that week?

Your character is examining their reflection. Something’s changed. Describe the change and your character’s reaction in just three sentences. Use whatever methods you can to draw your reader in.

Jackie’s winning submission:

Her breath stopped for a second as she gazed at her reflection in the dusty mirror. The ancient antique dealer had smiled, then winked when she purchased the mirror earlier in the day. She didn’t care what he thought as she gazed at her now smooth glowing skin and grey-free hair and enjoyed her youth once more.

Thank you for participating in the challenge, Jackie! I’d like to invite you and/or your work to be featured in an upcoming post on Scribbles on Cocktail Napkins. This can be done in whatever way you like. A reblog, a guest blog, a new interview about a favorite project, or even a small sample of your latest book along with a purchasing link. You decide!

Now, without any further ado, let’s get to our next Scribble Challenge!! Here’s the new prompt:


The Rules: You have six days to ruminate if you need them. Post one submission to the prompt in the comment section below. The deadline? Saturday, April 16th @noon Atlantic Daylight Time.

  • Encourage other Scribblers. Try to comment (reply) to at least three other submissions during the week.
  • After the deadline, VOTE for your favorite submission by emailing: Sundayscribblechallenge@gmail.com. Place the lucky author’s name in the HEADER of your email.


Voting polls for this challenge OPEN immediately after the prompt deadline on April 16th, and CLOSE one week later, on April 23rd. That means the winner of THIS challenge won’t be announced until Sunday, April 24th, when the fifth challenge prompt is posted.

VOTE FOR LAST WEEK’S CHALLENGE!! EMAIL YOUR VOTES TO Sundayscribblechallenge@gmail.com.

Trolls will be escorted back to their bridge with a flaming stick of dynamite.

An Interview with Trevor C. Smith, Author of Year of the Rooster

Trevor and I met in the Twitterverse in August last year. You can find him on Twitter here. And, while sometimes Twitter People are Nuts, Trevor is creative force to be reckoned with. He’s also the author of Year of the Rooster, a novel published in 2010 by Rebel Satori Press: tt

Johnny Means used to make a living. Now he has a Life. Sick and tired of the revolving door, the same old jobs, the same feeling of faceless anonymity at work, the mind numbing grind, Johnny is in the mood for mutiny. And he’s going to do something about it. He wants his revolution. He’s had his wake up call, and now he’s going to send a message to The Man. With the rawness and grit of an untreated wound, Year of the Rooster explores one man’s powerlessness and his passage to the heights of power. It taps into the psyche of the masses. The boredom, the pressure to consume, ignorance of the subconscious… and the lies we tell ourselves to distract from the ugliness of reality. Year of the Rooster dismantles the illusions of security, predictability and anonymity that pacify humankind. It exposes common incarcerating binds of society. Greed. The Cubicle Effect. Our contentious relationship with money. Stalked by the unbearable heaviness of Being, Johnny Means hunts his own prey: The Meaning of Life.


Other Year of the Rooster Reviews:

“. . . you’ll feel like wanting to take a bath after every chapter. Yet, amongst all the hopelessness, fear, resentment, desolation, death and destruction, there is a sort of purity. By way of friendship, conversation, and their reckless antics, the characters come to realize who they are and what all this (life) could possibly mean. The truth reveals itself in a very surprising and unexpected way.”

A guaranteed page turner you won’t be able to put down.”

. . . an awesome read that will suck you in from the first paragraph.”

Trevor’s book is visceral, gritty, and clever. He isn’t afraid to take chances. And, his blog is just beginning to take off, with posts that center around writing. Go check it out! Recently, Trevor agreed to an interview for Scribbles on Cocktail Napkins, and so it’s my great pleasure to introduce him and his work to all of YOU.

Me: Hi Trevor, welcome to Scribbles on Cocktail Napkins!

Trevor Starlord Smith (so sayeth his social media handle): Hi!

Okay, right off the bat, I feel like I should probably ask . . . is your middle name really Starlord?

I’d love to say yes, but it was insisted on by my six-year-old when he realized I could name myself anything on Facebook. He has a writer’s mind.

That’s cute! How many kids do you have?

One. A six-year-old version of Robert Plant.

This Robert Plant? From Led Zepplin?

TrevHaha, yes. But my son is 60 years younger and no goatee.

That’s hilarious. How are they the same?

Long curly hair, huge personalities, charming as all hell and loved by the ladies.

Nice. So, you’re in Hamilton, Ontario (Canada)?

Yeah. It’s a city of acquired taste but it gets a bad rap. I like the honesty and grit of the place. Was in Toronto before that for the most part. But moved to Hamilton after some time travelling.

I’ve never really heard much about Hamilton, to tell you the truth. It’s by Lake Ontario, right?

Yes. Hamilton is directly south of Toronto off Lake Ontario. A great deal of Torontonians flock here because of the affordable real estate. If you weigh the cost of living with quality of life you can decide pretty quick if it’s worth living in a place. Toronto is out of control as far as I’m concerned.

5Where I’m from originally is a little town nestled in southern Ontario between highway 7 and highway 401 called Campbellford. I lived there until I was 18. Had to get out. Just wanted to experience life too much.

Let’s talk about your book, Year of the Rooster.

Haha, if I had the choice I’d change the title.

To what?

Summer of the Dog. Year of the Rooster had its own meaning at the time. I was born in the Year of the Rooster and was finishing it in the Year of the Rooster. For some reason it fit. I don’t know, maybe I should leave well enough alone.

I like both titles, actually. How is Year of the Rooster relevant to the story?

That’s the thing, it’s not. I suppose it just felt important at the time to the process. Which makes the title more about the act of writing than the story itself. Kind of like Tropic of Capricorn I suppose.

quotescover-JPG-71So–what used to seem appropriate doesn’t really work anymore?

You can get away with it with a novel. But as I’ve been transferring it to screenplay I decided the title should be more relevant.

You’re transferring Year of the Rooster to a screenplay? That’s ambitious. I suppose, given your background in film, it would be a natural transition. You do prop and set building right?

Yes, I do art department work. I love working in film. It’s very satisfying. On shooting days I do Art Deco and whatever else is required.

What are you working on now?

Just finished a film called Mobile Homes. I think it will be good. Then I went straight to a CBC special series called The Story of Us. It’s a Canadian history piece. That will air this summer, for Canada’s 150th anniversary.

Wow! That’s interesting.

I also worked on a CNN special series called Race for the White House. It was actually the highest rated, most viewed CNN series premiere. Kind of a big deal, haha.

Sounds like a wild ride! You’re a tattoo artist too, right?

Periodically, yes. Picked it up a while back and every so often my friends and family convince me to do art on them.

2So, with all that going on, how do you find the time to write??

Film and TV gigs last for a certain period of time, could be 6 weeks, could be 6 months. But mostly I have my weekends and down time between to write.

I would almost compare your writing style to Chuck Palahniuk (author of Fight Club and Choke). Would you say that’s a fair association?

I love crazy characters with bigger than life personalities and strange quirks and traits. That comparison was made by Random House when they read it, too. I take it as an enormous compliment.

That must have been a huge pat on the back, coming from Random House.

It really was. It was a huge boost for me because (Palahniuk) is definitely one of my all-time favorite authors.

Has he influenced your writing, would you say? Or is it just a coincidence that your styles are similar?

He definitely influenced me, along with Hunter S Thompson and Irving Welsh. But it was almost a validation of my own voice when I went to see Fight Club in the theatre.

Hunter S. Thompson’s work is pretty amazing, but I don’t think I’ve read Irving Welsh.

I would definitely recommend it. Along with Mary Woronov’s two novels; Snake and Niagara.

How much of yourself do you see in your main character, Johnny Means?

He was an amazing vehicle to expunge frustrations with the establishment through. It’s fun to use a character to take it to an outrageous level to make something entertaining though. I had to work hard to keep him charming though, because the things he does aren’t socially acceptable.

Like dog fighting?

A lot of people ask if I’ve been to a dog fight and the answer is no. I did however grow up in the country and saw my fair share of fighting between neighbor’s dogs.

quotescover-JPG-35Did you begin with a theme in mind, or did it come to you later?

I decided to use the dog fights as a metaphor, and also a way to shake people awake. You can write all the human on human violence you want, but you start killing dogs and suddenly you’ve got everyone’s attention.

And, you are GREAT at drawing people in. I like the first line, but the next paragraph is killer.

Thank you. One day the entire opening first page sequence came to me while walking down Queen Street in Toronto, at the corner of Augusta to be exact. And I was forced to stop, pull out a pen and paper and write it out.

Just like a light went on. I love those moments. How long did the story take to complete?

Much longer than I would have liked. In total I’d say about 4 years. Since then I’ve learned how to write quicker in my own way. It wasn’t my first complete work, but I knew as it was tumbling out of my head and onto paper it was special. At least I thought so. Funny thing as a writer, if you write something you believe in someone else likely will too.

I liked the advice on your blog the other day. About getting published by not worrying about getting published. Is that what worked for you?

4Yes. While writing YOTR I did research into how to get published. Basically the end advice was vague but direct. Write your absolute best, keep it to 50 thousand words. So that was my goal. I was cocky. As I wrote it I assumed it would be published and didn’t worry about it. Put it out of my mind.

A little cockiness is mandatory in writing I think. Self-doubt can be crippling in this business. Obviously it worked, because your book is great.

Thank you. I’m glad you enjoyed it! (The thought process) was foolish and naïve when I look back on it now, but it worked. Eventually I realized that if the idea of getting published is at the forefront when you write it will inevitably affect you and influence your writing. And almost always in a negative way.

Are you working on another book?

I actually received an author’s grant from the Ontario Arts Council for my second one which I completed about a year ago. Since then I’ve started another as well.

An author’s grant is an opportunity a lot of authors would love. Was the process of getting it tough?

At first it was embarrassingly easy. First application ever, I received it. Since then I’ve applied and been turned down. But hey, they have to share the wealth with a lot of talented writers out there.

What a great opportunity! So, what’s been the most satisfying moment of your writing career?

quotescover-JPG-82Most satisfying moment for me is always finishing a novel. But finishing YOTR was huge for me. Getting signed for publishing was the most satisfying. I just felt validated for all my hard work. And it felt like credibility. That, and the author’s grant definitely had me dancing at the mailbox.

Haha, I bet. YOTR was published by Rebel Satori Press, right?

Yes. They were a writer’s dream, really. I was fortunate that my brother found them and suggested I might fit their publishing style. Rebel Satori left the editing up to the author. I’d finished the novel and put it down for a while, then in Fiji I decided to finally give it a once over to polish it up properly. Still missed something like two dozen typos!

Oh, I bet that was a kicker. Those typos can sneak up on you.

Speaking of typos, what’s with texting autocorrect? That shit can get dangerous.

Autocorrect is VERY dangerous. I have never in my life tried to spell ducking.

Lmao, me either.

Writing and publishing has changed dramatically in the last ten years. How has it changed the way you look at your future projects?

I’m seriously thinking about self-publishing my next few pieces, and doing it all through my blog

Like Andy Weir and The Martian?

Possibly. I’ve been seriously thinking about simply releasing it as a PDF on a pay-what-you-can format. Or simply releasing the PDF for free on a donation basis. Then charging only for orders of the physical book. I also considered releasing a page a day on Instagram. The industry has changed so much even since I was published. It reminds me of the music industry back when it started to fold.

6Oh, wow. It’s true, there are so many ways to get your work out there these days. Keeping an open mind as far as publishing may give you an unexpected advantage.

You said you’ve found a way to write a little faster now that your debut novel has been completed. Does that involve outlining?

It does, however I love the organic effect of writing without really planning too much. I found for my second one that keeping the theme and message prominent was very helpful. It gives your characters a focused goal. I like my story and characters to surprise me. I write out a shitload of notes before I engage. I like the idea of a wall of yellow sticky notes. That could be happening very soon!

What does your writing space look like now?

It looks a lot like a living room with three computers, two cats and a six year old playing video games. Eventually I’m planning on moving into a spare room upstairs and making it my own.

Haha, my five year old always becomes incredibly hungry when I sit down to write. It’s clockwork.

They have impeccable timing.

Did you always know you wanted to be a writer?

I did from when I was about 13 or 14. I could just feel the need to write a story. Which I did. It was nonsense but it got me started. Who am I kidding, it’s still nonsense!

All right. It’s almost time to wrap this up. So let’s get down to the nitty gritty. Spice Girls or Pussycat Dolls?

That’s a loaded question. The answer depends on how many whisky I’ve had.

1Haha. What type of whiskey do you drink?

I like Jameson. But there’s a local distillery from Stoney Creek I enjoy. 40 Creek it’s called. They make a few interesting blends that are reasonable on the pocketbook.

Well, I just want to say thank you for agreeing to this! It was a great insight into the mind of a writer. I hope my readers have enjoyed it, and will go check out your work for themselves.

And thank you for making time for this. It was great getting to chat!

Talking with Trevor was a lot of fun. Did you know he’s also a consecutive participant in the Scribble on Cocktail Napkins Sunday Scribble Challenge? His entry this week ROCKED IT. The prompt was to get your reader to root for a villain in as few words as possible. This is Trevor’s entry:

Willem is a killer without conscience. He feels no guilt for the atrocities he commits against the innocent. He barely understands it himself. His preferred tools are an AK-47 and a machete. Today alone he killed three women and seven children between the ages of two and eight years old.

Tomorrow he will die acting as a human mine detector.

Willem is a 11 year old child soldier in Sudan.

Ah-may-zing. YOU can write an entry to the Challenge, too! Check it out here: #SCC2, and don’t forget to vote!