Can you give us a brief overview of your latest book? Is it part of a series?
Midnight Guests and Other Weird Stories is a collection of 13 short horror tales, all of which take place in Arizona. I'm a native and I used some of our unique folklore and blended it with the stories. For example, the Navajos believe in almost everything, including shape-shifters. From this, I created a monster for the second story. I also created two cautionary tales, like something similar to what you'd see on The Twilight Zone. But they're thoroughly modern; one is about texting and driving.
Do you have a favorite character?
I like Harvey from the fifth story, “The Wind in the Hollow”. The story is told from his perspective but the story focuses more on his friend, Jakob. I like Harvey because even though he's just a farmer's boy, he is intuitive and spiritually connected. He's Jakob's cheerleader when he is depressed.
Are you currently under a traditional publishing contract for future books or do you have manuscripts that you will self-publish? Are you doing both?
I will always self-publish. Traditional publishers don't work well for me for the same reasons Congress is in a rut right now: too many promises, not enough doing, not working with the best intentions, too many people that need a swift kick off their high horse. I hope traditional publishers go the same way as the dinosaurs.
If you used a graphic designer/publisher’s designer, how involved were you during the creative process for your cover?
I didn't use somebody else's services. People say “just pay somebody to make you a cover”. Well, that'd be great if I had $200 but I don't. I have $5. So it's up to me to do it. For this book's cover, I went to South Mountain. Some people might recognize the stone house as Scorpion Gulch, a historical house that was isolated inside the mountains 50 years ago. I learned how to import fonts into the Paint software and so I imported this cool font called Endor. I like its spikiness.
Do you belong to a critique group? Have they helped improve your writing?
No, I find it very difficult to connect to people, even with the internet. I see people's profiles like reviewers and such, and when I try to email them, they don't respond. I guess there's so much email traffic, I get lost in the crowd. So again, I am left to do the work. I know what good writing is; I just have to make sure I follow the common sense advice. Show, don't tell. If you use 1st person perspective, make sure you don't change it for the remainder of the story. Don't use adverbs and adjectives liberally. Tone it down on the “he said”, “she said”. Instead of generic “car”, use an actual model, like “gray Kia Amanti”.
Do you outline your story or just go where your muse takes you?
I don't think it's wise to just start writing without a plan. What if things change? For short stories, I make a one-page outline and fill in details like names, ages, surprise twists, etc. That way, I can tweak the story and convince the reader that it's about one thing and not the other. Then they're surprised when it's really about something else.
Did you hire an editor to review your manuscript before publishing?
Again, I can't afford an editor, however, I treat my book like a resumé. In fact, I used to typeset and print resumés for a job. I do several checks. Besides spelling and punctuation, I also check for “flow”, how the sentences sound when I read them in a linear way. I don't want too many stop and go sentences. My run-on sentences can be shortened and fixed with semi-colons. I'm not as bad as Nathaniel Hawthorne though. That man could write an entire book with one run-on sentence.
Do you find it difficult to juggle your time between marketing your current book and writing your next book?
No, not at all and that's because I've been unemployed for the last four years. It's a mixed blessing. I always wanted to write a book and got so manipulated by the working, hyper-consumerism culture. I value my time and when I think about all the hours I put in working for other people and not myself, it makes me mad. Now I can pursue my true passion.
What advice would you give a new author just entering into the self-publishing arena?
Make a Twitter, Facebook and Pinterest account. But also create a Yelp account. One of the things that really draws traffic to my Amazon page and personal website has been writing reviews for places I go anyway. On the sidebar, Yelp lets you create a hyperlink to your website. In the picture grid, I put the covers for all 4 of my books. They don't seem to have a problem with it.
What’s next for you?
I'm on vacation. I take a three-month vacation between each book and I just want to take more hikes, go sightseeing, learn more about desert plant edibles, read some indie books and leave them some reviews as well as continuing my research on the Voynich Manuscript, this mysterious book with a weird language in it.