Jul 8, 2015

Guest Post - The Infected by Ruby Cruz

I recently had a chance to sit down with my good friend, and fellow author, Ruby Cruz. She's just recently released her latest book:


I personally found it to be a fascinating read, with believable characters, lots of suspense, and enough darkness to sate even a weirdo such as myself.

Anyway, Ruby was good enough to tolerate my pestering and answer a few questions about her new book, her style, and herself. But first...

“The nanites have…evolved into something we did not account for.”

Slowly being consumed by cancer, Jess Parsons is ready to die. Instead, she awakens from a months’ long coma to discover that she’s been cured by an experimental nanotechnology therapy. Instead of celebrating her miraculous recovery, though, she is devastated to learn that her salvation has become the world’s damnation.

Everyone who has come into contact with the nanotech has suffered. The lucky ones have died. A handful of survivors are left horribly scarred and traumatized, but otherwise intact. The rest have been driven mad by the so-called cure. The hospital where Jess is recovering is one of the few sanctuaries remaining against the homicidal rage of the Infected. But Jess soon discovers there is no safe haven in this new world. As her body begins to exhibit changes caused by the nanites, she realizes she has a strange connection to the Infected and that she possesses something they want very badly – something they’re willing to obtain at any cost.

You just recently released your 3rd novel The Infected. Tell us a little bit about it and why you think people will enjoy it.

The Infected starts with the main character, Jess, waking up from a coma. She had been diagnosed with terminal brain cancer but finds out she’s been cured by an experimental nanotechnology treatment developed by her father. While the nanites cured her, they morphed into something that infects everyone else who comes in contact with them, resulting in one of three effects: death via organ failure, immunity via excretion of the nanites through disfiguring skin growths, or psychotic breakdown. The Infected follows Jess as she slowly discovers what has happened during her coma and her role in finding a cure for the survivors.

I think this book has a bit of something for everyone interested in this genre. It has a dystopian feel, but because it’s set only a few months after the “apocalypse”, the world is still somewhat familiar despite the changes that have occurred. In addition to the scientific aspect of the book – which should appeal to all those science nuts out there – it has a bit of romance for those who enjoy reading about character relationships. Finally, for the teen readers, I’m hoping they can identify with Jess and her inner struggles in finding her way through the changed world.

Sounds pretty awesome. What sets The Infected apart from other books in its genre?

I feel like The Infected is sort of a mash-up from a few different genres. There is a dystopian feel, it has a post-apocalyptic theme. The main protagonist is a teenager so it could appeal to more mature teens. The nanotechnology aspect has some science, and with the introduction of the Roids there is a thriller aspect. As I mentioned before, there’s a bit of something for everyone, even a bit of romance.

Which authors do you enjoy / have inspired you. Favorite book from each?

Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child are among my favorite authors. I loved their collaborative works of The Relic and Reliquary and the way they incorporated well-researched science with exciting and thought-provoking plots. Marie Lu is another author I admire – I still think about the ending of her Legend series because it was so beautifully written. As much as I love a happy ending, I think the bittersweet endings are the ones that haunt me.

The Relic is one of my favorites too. When did you begin writing stories?  If you could contact your fledgling author self, is there any advice you’d give her?

I wrote a lot short stories in high school. They were written in long hand in composition or spiral notebooks, and I remember passing them around to my classmates who were kind enough to read them and give encouraging feedback. I still have them, although I never re-read them because they really weren’t very good. One of those stories, however, inspired The Infected, so I guess my ideas couldn’t have been completely bad.

And to my fledgling author self…the advice I’d give her, and what I still struggle with today, is to maintain focus. I have half a dozen stories I never finished in high school or finished hastily because I never took the time or effort to complete them properly. I’d tell her to keep working at them, to keep writing, and that even though the completed draft may not be what you set out to accomplish, it’s better than having half a dozen unfinished works languishing in a notebook or hard drive.

What’s your writing process?  Plotter, Pantser, somewhere in between?

I’m definitely more of a pantser than a plotter. I almost always know what my beginning and my end are going to be. In fact, I already have the ending written for The Nanotech Series (and, no, I’m not going to tell!). The middle of my novels are somewhat amorphous until I sit down and start writing them. I’ve found that in writing this way, I get myself into a lot of trouble with inconsistencies in the plot, so I’ve had to become somewhat of a plotter during the editing process to compensate for that.

Your main character Jess, is she based on anyone you know?  If she was a real person, do you think you’d get along with her?

Jess isn’t really based on anyone I know other than parts of my own personality. In writing this, I imagined how I would’ve acted if I’d been a teenager faced with death and the end of the world. Because of her traumatic experiences being intubated and feeling trapped, despite saying that she wanted to die, she’s spent so many years fighting to survive she’s become somewhat self-centered. In a lot of ways, she’s still trying to find herself and figure out where she fits into this new world. As for whether I’d get along with her, I think the question is whether she would like me! She’s sort of choosy with the people she gets along with and opens up to and she’s more outspoken than I tend to be myself. I think I’d like her once I got to know her but at first meeting her might be put off by her bluntness.

The Infected is kind of a post-apocalyptic techno-thriller - think The Walking Dead, with a serious hardware upgrade. However, you also write romance.  Which do you enjoy more?  How do such divergent genres mesh inside your head?

I grew up watching soap operas with my grandmother. I loved watching all those characters form relationships, however fleeting they may be. And that has translated to my enjoyment of watching people fall in love, either in film, television, or the written word. As I grew up and learned that the world isn’t made up of puppies and rainbows - there are many dark corners and facets within people and in the world - I’ve become more enamored with darker themes and genres.

As for which I enjoy writing better, it really depends on my mood and what’s inspiring me at the time. I’ve become enamored with novels that incorporate a darker theme and yet have a bit of romance in them – the light and hope, if you will, that keep the protagonist yearning for something. Even though the romance might not be central to the plot, it is essential to it, e.g., the Divergent or Hunger Games series.

In some ways, writing romance is both easier and more difficult than writing The Infected. So many romances retread the same plots and characters. so to write something fresh is difficult. My first novel, First Impressions, a modern adaptation of Pride and Prejudice, was fun to write but not as easy as you would think – I had to try to stay true to Jane Austen’s plot and characters while still finding my own spin on things. My second novel, My Nemesis, was more freeing because it was an original story, but I think I enjoyed writing The Infected the most because I could change the rules as much as I wanted and didn’t need to adhere to anyone else’s expectations but my own.

What’s next for you?

I’ve promised my romance readers a sequel to my first novel. Second Opinions is a continuation of the Lizzy and Dr. Darcy story. This novel will be different from the first one in that the storyline, while using the same characters, will be original rather than a further adaptation of Jane Austen’s work.

After that, I’m hoping to dive back into the Nanotech series and finish Book 2 for 2016. I have the beginning already written but, unfortunately, I need to honor my commitment to my romance readers to finish Second Opinions before I work any further on it.

And now for a little fun. The world is ending and tomorrow you’ll wake up in the hellish wasteland you crafted for The Infected. You can only take three items from your former life with you into the apocalypse. What are they and why?

First thing would be would be a weapon of some type. Since I don’t currently own a gun, I would have to grab the axe from the garage. I couldn’t guarantee that I’d be able to wield it without hurting myself more than my attacker, but it’d be better than nothing.

Second thing – my stash of Advil – to ward off those headaches and to barter with.

Third thing – would I be cheating if I said I would take my backpack full of survival gear? I have a backpack for camping trips. It contains a water bottle, mess kit, iodine tablets, matches, and first aid kit. I could also use it to carry that axe I want to take with me, as well as my bottle of Advil and anything else I might find useful in my travels.

Technically that would be cheating, but at the same time so would saying, "I bring my shotgun and more than two bullets", so I'll let it slide ... this time.  ;)

Ruby Cruz has a masters degree in Chemical Biology and worked in the pharmaceutical industry before switching gears and obtaining her bachelors in nursing degree. In addition to her interests in science and healthcare, she's always had a passion for writing, scribbling short stories and novellas into spiral notebooks she would pass to her classmates in high school.

More recently, she has refocused her energies to incorporate her love of Jane Austen and her experience in healthcare into her first novel, First Impressions: a modern retelling of Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice. Ruby is currently writing a sequel to First Impressions as well as developing other projects in the young adult and romance genres.

Ruby currently lives in West Virginia and is married to a wonderful husband who begrudgingly tolerates her love of Jane Austen and is the mother to two young girls who graciously allow Mommy to "play on her computer."

You can find The Infected as a Kindle / Kindle Unlimited exclusive at

May 30, 2015

Rick's Thoughts on Writing Reviews - a guide for the rest of us

I've seen a lot of blog posts out there by authors regarding books reviews.  These can be both positive odes to how awesome people are for leaving them as well as negative rants on the big meanie bullies of the world who dare tell them their precious works of timeless art suck donkey balls. I've hopefully made my thoughts fairly clear on these matters in the past. Today I wanted to touch upon another type of post - those helpful guides out there telling people how they should and shouldn't write a book review.

Sadly, I'm here to tell you that I've read quite a few of them and found most to be a bit lacking. My advice would be to ignore the vast majority.

"But wait?" you might ask. "How should I know what to write about a product if the product maker doesn't tell me what to say?" Fear not!  For I am here to offer what I hope to be the comprehensive guide to these things.

Step 1) You need to decide where to leave your review. Often times this will be the website from which you purchased the book. However, you might choose instead to do so at a dedicated book site such as Goodreads, on a Facebook group, or even your own blog.

In the case of the former, though, most shop websites have fairly easy to find buttons next to the reviews others have left.  One need merely click upon it, log in  if required, and then proceed to the entry form.

Some websites will let you get away with simply filling in a star rating and then going upon your merry way.  This is all fine and well, but you're here to learn about writing an actual review, dammit!  So let's get cracking already.

Step 2) Write whatever you feel like saying for however long you feel like saying it. Some websites have a minimum of required words for a review, so in those cases you'll need to reach that before you can hit the submit button.  If necessary, feel free to elaborate a bit on your thoughts, or don't. You can always post the ubiquitous "here's a bunch of words so that I get to Amazon's limit on reviews and can hit the damned button already." at the end of it.

Step 3) Hit submit

Step 4) Rejoice! You're finished!

To help you with any further questions on this topic, I leave you this handy dandy
Reviewing FAQ:

Q) Wait, that's it?  Aren't you supposed to tell me to only leave positive or constructive reviews?

A) Nope.

Q)  What about that thing you mother used to say about only saying something if you have something nice to say?

A) Yeah, well, my mom wasn't really into that crap.  Besides, I look at it this way - have you ever read any of those articles in the news about restaurants threatening customers who leave them lousy Yelp reviews or the apartment owners trying to put clauses into their leases stating no negative reviews are allowed?

Did you enjoy those articles?

I know I don't.  I am a firm a believer that once I have paid for a product, service, or meal then I am free to have whatever opinion of it that I please and I am likewise also free to share whatever that opinion is - be it positive or dripping with enough acid to dissolve a queen Alien.

Q) But shouldn't I take into account the author's "feelings"?

A) Hell no!  You paid for a book, not a guilt trip. If you loved that book, great.  If you hated that book then I don't see any reason why you should worry about someone else's feelings.  Publishing is a business, not a group hug.  If that business disappointed you, you should feel no qualms about telling the world.

Q) But what if the author leaves a nasty comment / sends their fans to leave nasty comments / tracks me down and sends me a threatening email / does anything else that only an asshole would do?

A) Depending on the severity, I'd say anything from getting an idea what kind of person they are and never again giving them your business all the way to calling the authorities.  You're a customer.  You're spending your hard earned money on a product. You shouldn't have to tolerate anything from the marker of that product that you feel is hurtful, harassing, or just plain unprofessional.

Q) Cool! Oh hey, by the way that is a thumb you're holding up, right, because it kinda looks like a...

A) Yes that is a thumb!  Why the hell would I show off know what? I don't want to know. Let's just agree to never discuss it again. Sound good?

May 25, 2015

Riding on the coattails of those who have come before

Some authors will swear that one must be their own person and blaze new trails through the jungles of this wild industry.  Others will go out of their way to shove down your throat the notion that their latest masterpiece is every bit as good as the chart-toppers of the day.

Personally, I feel the answer lies somewhere in the middle.  That's what I explore in this latest edition, the 20th video to date, of Tales of a Midlist Author.

As usual, I hope any prospective and/or novice writers out there find this useful.

May 7, 2015

A New Look and Feel for The Tome of Bill

Hey everyone.  It's time to share the reason I've been a bit quiet as of late.  It's not because I've quit, died, or run off to enjoy tropical drinks on some island somewhere (although I reserve the right to follow through on that last one at some unspecified point in the future).  No, it's because I've been busy working with my cover artist Mallory Rock to completely rebrand The Tome of Bill series.

Yes, Bill The Vampire and all of the numbered books in the series have a new look and feel as you can see by the above. Now I know that some people were quite fond of the old covers (and, to be fair, some folks hated them too), so the question you have might be "Why change a good thing?"

The answer is simple: while I too was quite fond of seeing Bill's bespectacled self on the original cover, the problem was the series as a whole lacked cohesion.  Looking at random covers from the series side by side one couldn't easily tell they went together.  As standalone covers they were pretty darn awesome, but as far as a series goes they fell a bit short of my expectations.

Part of this is my fault.  Hindsight is twenty-twenty, but let's face facts, there are very few authors who start off in this industry having anything even remotely close to a clue. I can't say I was any different. I used to look at each book as no greater than the sum of its pages, a standalone entity. The problem is, you do that with a book and maybe its sequel and that's fine.  Once you reach three or more books in a series, it starts to be a stretch - especially if people are celebrating the storyline of that series.

A series is more than just the stories that make them up. It's a whole identity from top to bottom...and it was time for me to make that identity whole.

Now in all fairness, I did have some external issues too that led me to this point. I lost my original cover artist after The Mourning Woods.  Rather than pick that time to start fresh, I made the mistake of asking the new cover artists I was trying out to try to match his style. Cover artists are a unique bunch and, while some have similar styles, more often than not they're going to shine best when you allow them to play to their individual styles and strengths.

Tis a lesson that took me a while to learn, but learn I did. At the same time I've been studying the market in much greater detail, learning my comparative strengths and weaknesses in the Urban Fantasy space.  Finally, I felt it was time to move on this and bring The Tome of Bill under one cohesive umbrella.

All that being said, I am pleased to move forward with Bill's new look and feel.  I for one love the way they look together.  I hope you do too.

Bonus: for any authors reading this, I also decided to use this opportunity to broach this subject on another Tales of a Midlist Author.  I hope you find it useful. 

May 1, 2015

Boundary Crossed by Melissa F. Olson

Hey everyone! Sorry if this blog has been a wee bit empty lately. Contrary to popular belief, I'm not dead. I've just been busy with a multitude of projects including: writing The Wicked Dead, rebranding The Tome of Bill, launching a new pen name, and putting together several new episodes of Tales of a Midlist Author.

However, even the most crazed workaholic needs to come up for air every once in a while, and thankfully my fellow Westmarch author Melissa F. Olson popped by to give me a good reason.  Not only is she a talented writer and purveyor of witty repartee (seriously, check her out on Twitter if you don't believe me), but her new book has been absolutely tearing up the charts over on Amazon.

I'm happy to host her as she launches Boundary Crossed in two new formats and offers up some cool swag in the process.  Take it away, Melissa!

Thank you so much to Rick Gualtieri for being part of this multi-webpage blog blast. If you’ve already heard of me and my books, you can scroll down to go straight to the contest entry. Otherwise, please let me introduce myself.

My name is Melissa F. Olson, and I mostly write urban fantasy novels, which are stories about the intersection of two worlds: the real one that we live in and a world that involves something supernatural: fairies, vampires, werewolves, mutant killer hedgehogs, or all of the above. My new novel Boundary Crossed is about a young woman, Lex, trying to protect her baby niece from bad guys who have discovered that the baby has serious value on the supernatural black market. Lex is determined to keep her safe, but unfortunately she dies at the end of the first chapter.

No, seriously. She dies. But then she gets better, because it turns out that there’s more to Lex than she ever knew. She needs to figure out why she’s still alive and what the bad guys want with her niece, and she’s going to need a lot of help to do it.

The book has been available all month as a Kindle First deal on Amazon, but it comes out in paperback and audiobook for the first time today. To celebrate this release, I’m giving away signed books, a $20 Amazon gift card, and some killer swag. (That’s a metaphor; the swag will not hurt you.) To enter, just click on the link below to go to my website and enter up to four times for the four prizes. Thanks for reading!

Click for Rafflecopter giveaway

Melissa Olson was born and raised in Chippewa Falls, Wisconsin, and studied film and literature at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles. After graduation, and a brief stint bouncing around the Hollywood studio system, Melissa landed in Madison, WI, where she eventually acquired a master's degree from UW-Milwaukee, a husband, a mortgage, a teaching gig, two kids, and two comically oversized dogs, not at all in that order. She loves Madison, but still dreams of the food in LA. Literally. There are dreams. Learn more about Melissa, her work, and her dog at

Feb 16, 2015

Tales of a Midlist Author - the saga begins

It's been a while since I last darkened your computer doorstep.  Fortunately it hasn't been time spent idly...well, mostly.

I'm hard at work on the next book in The Tome of Bill series, The Wicked Dead. The audiobook for Half A Prayer is well underway, once again being voiced by the awesome Chris Fetherolf. I've also been working on a new series of video blogs aimed at helping novice writers.

I've been fortunate in my writing. While I may not be driving around in a sold gold Pagani Huayra (yet!), I've been lucky enough to have found an awesome audience.  I am, right now, what one might call a mid-lister - typically a writer who has attained a decent following and is able to do quite alright for themselves through a combination of quality and quantity in their writing (as opposed to one big blowout hit). All in all, it's not a bad place to be in this business and for that I am extremely grateful.

That being said, I've also tried to learn what I can along the way - even if it was mostly through my own mistakes. While there are no guarantees in this industry - one person's path to success might yield nothing for the next - my hope is to pass on some of these learnings so as to give a little guidance and perhaps help those who are just starting out to avoid a few of the landmines along the way.


The first couple of installments are up on YouTube at the link above. My hope is to add at least one new installment per week on different topics of interest...that and also work on my shifty-eyed, sputtering screen presence a bit.  :)

Here's the first chapter to either whet your appetite or ensure you never ever want to hear me speak in person again...

Jan 12, 2015

Guest Post: Introducing Junior Inquisitor by Lincoln Farish (coming soon)

From time to time I like to open my blog up to guest authors with upcoming books that I've taken a look at and gone "Damn! Why didn't I think of that?" err, I meant "That looks like a fine read."

As such, I'm pleased to have with me today Lincoln S. Farish, author of the upcoming dark fantasy:


He's here to whet our appetites a little for what looks to be a bloody fun read...emphasis on the bloody part. Check out the blurb below and tell me that doesn't make your mouth water just a little bit.

Brother Sebastian is halfway up a mountain in Vermont, hell-bent on interrogating an old woman in a shack, when he gets the order to abandon his quest for personal vengeance. He has to find a missing Inquisitor, or, more likely, his remains. He’s reluctant, to say the least. 

Not only will he have to stop chasing the best potential lead he’s had in years, this job—his first solo mission—will mean setting foot in the grubby black hole of Providence, Rhode Island. And, somehow, it only gets worse…

If he’d known he would end up ass deep in witches, werewolves, and ogres, and that this mission would jeopardize not only his sanity but also his immortal soul, he never would’ve answered the damn phone.

Q&A with Lincoln S. Farish

When did you start writing?

On this series I started about ten years ago. I'm not sure if I will ever use it, it is a kind of Origins story. But once I wrote it I was kinda hooked, I realized there were many many more stories about Sebastian that needed to get out. I wasn't in a hurry, and I took my time, hence the slow pace. Since then I am almost finished with my fourth novel in the series.  It's funny I wrote my first book long before I'd ever heard of any of the other authors that write along similar lines. The first time I read Larry Correia,  Junior Inquisitor was with my editor. I wish I'd read him earlier, his creation of a useful silver bullet is better than mine.

Why dark urban fiction?

I was really stuck trying to shoe-horn in my story into a genre, because it just didn't quite fit. I'm not trying to scare anyone, act as a warning to the populace at large on the dangers of Cthulhu, or teach a moral lesson like horror usually does. At the same time if you have a group of people who have powers that can and usually do harm regular people, your story is not going to be a happy one. Bad things will occur, people will die, and mayhem will run rampant. It's not dystopic, for most people magic never enters their lives and they go about quite happily unaware it actually exists. Those that do, however, experience all kinds of terrible events and traumas. Set more or less today that kinda makes it urban fiction, minus the romance. So dark urban fiction almost horror.

What research did you have to do?

Quite a bit on Providence, it's been a long time since I've been there. And lest anyone think I hate Providence, I do not. I just needed a decent sized town for creatures of madness and mayhem to run around in. I could have picked Worcester, New Bedford, even Hartford. I went with Providence. I also spent time learning about the different orders of monks, so that part of the story would be authentic. On weapons I had a lot less research to do since I've used weapons ever since high school and quite a bit through out my twenty-eight years in the military. I've been over to Iraq twice, Afghanistan, three times for the military, and spent about a year in Afghanistan working for a private security firm. Every bit of equipment the Inquisitors use I have experience with, the same with their tactics, which made it easy to describe but boring to read. Most of the time when there is a fight people focus on what is right in-front of them. To give a story any kind of continuity and avoid “Well  if you remember Bob,” or “Tell me again what happened when the Ogre attacked,” dialogue I had to expand Brother Sebastian's peripheral awareness. At the same time I didn't want to descend into omnipotence, so it was a balancing act.

So tell us a little about the magicians in your world  All evil S.O.B.s or any heroes like, say, the Harrys (Dresden or Potter)?

Those are differently worlds with different rules. Jim Butcher has within his series, The White Council and the Laws of Magic to reign in true evil. That kinda sorta works for Harry Dresden, but that does leave a lot of room for abuse as Harry's mother pointed out. If you notice in Harry Potter, Arthur Weasly, as nice as he is written, makes remarks about how clever Muggles are for inventing things like electricity and phones because they don't have magic. Like they're an occasionally bright child, there is a kind bigotry of low expectations. This is shown pretty clearly when the Minister of Magic visits the Prime Minister, and of course how Dolores Umbridge acts towards non-humans. There is some real nastiness in the margins of Harry Potter's world, and I think the stories are better for it. The other difference is in both of those worlds, one is born into magic or not, and they grow into their power, no one reads a strange book and has magic unleashed upon them as in my world.

I took, I think, a harder, and more realistic approach as to what would happen if there was magic. It's power. People rarely handle power well, especially if they get it suddenly. A decent comparison is when people win the lottery. They tend to go a bit crazy with all of the new possibilities open to them now they are a millionaire.

Imagine you had the power, magically, and from across the room, to slap someone who was rude, maybe they're yammering away on their cell-phone in public, perhaps they're driving like a jerk, maybe talking during the movie, cutting in line, whatever. Now if you could do that, and no one would know that it was you doing the slapping, and there was no way you'd be punished by the law for doing so, would you be tempted?

Even if you never slapped anyone, but knew you could, how would your attitude change towards regular people? Would you start to hold them in contempt, just a little, because you had abilities they did not? How would your attitude change towards following the law knowing you were above it?

Now toss in some evil entities encouraging you to do more than just slap around people who get in your way and you have a real monster being created.

Some heavy stuff there. So where do you go from this book?

The Soulless Monk, the next in the series is with my exceptional editor Danielle Fine and I am finishing up The Witch's Lair now. With luck that will happen in the next week or so.

When are they coming out?

Not sure. Should be later this year, but I'm sure The Soulless Monk will be out by fall, if not sooner, but there are lots of factors like re-write time, outside influences like the wife and helper dog and their willingness to put up with my antics that will have an impact on timing. A big one is, obviously, how many copies and how quickly they are sold of Junior Inquisitor. From those sales I'll be paying my editor, to work on the other two. I'm hoping to sell a lot as she gets real cranky when it comes to her money, and she does such a good job it feels wrong to try and pay her in kindness and with my good looks.

I know how that is.  :)

Please join me in thanking Lincoln for introducing us to his dark twisted world!  Junior Inquisitor comes out on March 1st 2015 and is currently available for pre-order at:


Check it out!

About Lincoln S. Farish:

Called an adventurer and quite possibly insane, Lincoln has traveled to many continents and countries on his own and at his country’s behest to determine from whence the darkness comes. Despite persistent rumors, Lincoln maintains that he had nothing to do with the tiger, was not involved in illicit wiener dog races, and has never used his knowledge of genetics to create a better life form. He lives in Virginia with a very patient wife, a Godzilla level engine of destruction named Veronica, and a helper dog named Calvin.