Friday, September 14, 2018

Guest Blogger: Brian K. Morris Where For Art Thou, Muse?

Welcome everyone to week three of my guest blogger series. Today we have a real treat. The multi-facet, multi-versatile and multi-talented Brian K. Morris. Brian is an independent author who has written everything from Horror, to comedy to pulp heroes and more. His writing is vivid, well-constructed and highly-entertaining. If you haven’t treated yourself to some of Brian’s work (which you should) you must read his Skyman Battles the Master of Steam, and Valcana: Rebirth of the Champion, you’ll be glad you did.
So, without holding this up any longer, take it away Brian…
"O! for a muse of fire, that would ascend the brightest heaven of invention." William Shakespeare, famous playwright.

I never understood waiting for one's Muse.

Granted, I used to do just that. I recall sitting at my desk at the campus newspaper one Friday night, in my college days, as we dutifully assembled the latest weekly edition. I needed to write my usual column of unpopular opinions, but my wellspring of good ideas yielded nothing. Even my bad idea well went dry.

I did the only responsible thing a writer could do … I rested my elbows on the desk, placed my chin in my hands, and stared into the distance. It wasn't until someone came back into my office after twenty minutes to loudly announce that I'd not moved an inch since he left that I realized I needed to find and install an idea generator.
Sure, it took a while. I eventually located that generator, but I had to build it before anything else.

"Most people wait for the muse to turn up. That's terribly unreliable. I have to sit down and pursue the muse by attempting to work." – Nick Cave, musician.

The summer after I graduated from college, I met a comic book writer who was asked the Eternal Writing Question, "Where do you get all your crazy ideas?" His reply was, "Everywhere." He read newspapers, watched the evening news (yeah, before the 24-Hour News Cycle), listened to music … in short, he filled his head with ideas, facts, concepts, anything that could form the foundation of a story.
He said to select an incident in the daily news. Add the hero that would be perfect to solve the challenge, then give him/her a flaw that must be overcome to save the day. Change the genre, the setting, whatever … add your own touches, toss in some plot twists. BINGO!
From that point on, it became a matter of training my brain to LOOK for story ideas, then write them down. Soon, I had more ideas than time to write them, given I had a nine-to-five jay-oh-bee by then. However, I didn't find the time to write, I MADE the time.
And fueled with ideas, the writing came to me more quickly. I moved from working pro bono to actually getting paid for my efforts.

"Sixteen years as a freelance features journalist taught me that neither the absence of 'the Muse' nor the presence of 'the block' should be allowed to hinder the orderly progress of a book" – Jim Crace, novelist.

Eventually, I built up a sideline as a playwright, copy writer, and pop culture reporter. I figured out the ways to network and forge relationships with my interviewees, my employers, and my peers (CLUE: it's also called "making friends"). And the more I wrote, combined with my other efforts, the more I found to write about. Now, I couldn't turn off "the generator" if I wanted to, which I didn't. I was having too much fun.
The money and comp copies didn't hurt either.

"Anyone could sit and wait for inspiration. Talent was being able to conjure it up, to GET inspired." – Paul Stanley, musician and cultural icon.

Then in 2012, I made one of my few New Year's resolutions. I promised that I'd spend the year working harder on my writing career in the hopes of building that money to a point where it exceeded my primary income.
In March of that year, I was brought into my District Manager's office for a talk. He complimented me on my work ethic and my talent. However, since the company's stock underperformed on the New York Stock Exchange, twenty-seven people in the state of Illinois were going to be let go so the company gave the impression of "handling" their expenses wisely. It turned out I was one of those fated for "downsizing."
I panicked. Who could blame me? I had a mortgage, regular bills, and a wife to support.
Then it hit me … I also had a Plan B! Now I had to make the writing work. I went through all six stages of Kubler-Ross in 45 seconds, eager to leave and begin this new phase of my life. The "generator" revved up until all gauges ventured deep into the red zone.

"I'll show you the bills and you'll get inspired." Bill Aucoin, KISS' original manager.

Part of my severance package included being placed with a re-employment agency. While taking in their numerous webinars, I found one on Electronic Publishing and booked a seat for the lecture. When it ended, all I saw was the potential. No more vanity press. No more pushing your manuscript into the mail again and again until you found an agent or a publisher who's accept it. No more waiting on other people to make things happen. I became evangelical in my fervor for the current state of publishing.
To this day, I shudder to think where I'd be if I'd not attended that webinar. Now my "generator" had a place to move its output. I'd publish my own work until it got noticed by enough people that I could make a living at it.
Beginning my new occupation by releasing a book through Kindle Direct Publishing, I wrote a story using a Valiant Comics character I liked so I could plug into an established fan base. Then I wrote Santastein: The Post-Holiday Prometheus because I had a rejected 10-minute stage play that I could expand. From there, I created other, newer works. Through relentless marketing, I gained new friends in the independent writing field, both writers and editors. This led to more work and more exercise for "the generator."
Now, I'm a "hybrid" writer. I've published myself, which led to others wanting to use my work.
I still send out stories to other editors. However, if they didn't want it, I knew one publishing house who'd print anything I wrote: ME!
Has it been easy? No more than trying to pull yourself off the ground by your own hair. It's been uphill and it's still uphill to this day in many ways. The field changes constantly and there's always something new to learn.
Naturally, I wouldn't have it any other way.
I still recall that (much) younger me, sitting at my desk, literally paralyzed by an inability to devise a reason to write. I still see that person in so many people who ask me how to take that first step to becoming a paid freelance writer and I tell them what many people told me on the way to Now.
Manage your time wisely. Learn to prioritize. Remove your distractions. Work like you have 30 days to live. Make a plan of attack and reward yourself when you reach your benchmarks. Respect deadlines, yours and those of your editors. Never stop learning. Stay on top of changes to your profession. Make friends in the field because they're awesome and have much to teach you. Learn to be patient … well, as much as possible.

And build that "generator."

"You can't wait for inspiration. You have to go after it with a club." – Jack London

Brian K. Morris is an independent publisher of books and comics with his Freelance Words and now, Rising Tide Publications as well as a freelance writer, "award-winning" playwright, occasional actor, frequent convention guest and public speaker, as well as a former morticians assistant. His latest book is The HauntingScripts of Bachelors Grove and his newest comic book release is The Ghostly Tales of Spencer Spook #1, featuring the classic character from Columbia and ACE Comics.
He lives in Central Indiana with his wife, no children, no pets, and too many comic books. Follow his Rising Tide page on Facebook. He's also on Instagram and Twitter, along with his own website,

Friday, September 7, 2018

Guest Blogger: Todd Black. How to Keep Writing When You're Just Not Feeling It

Independent comic books are more popular than ever. If you ever get a chance check out Facebook, or Twitter, or journey to a comic book con and I daresay you’ll find more choices than you would have imagined. Making the convention rounds is creator Todd Black, a graduate of DePaul University in Chicago, who is the writer of Guardians a highly entertaining superhero series and this week’s guest blogger here on Stormgate Press. He's a great guy full of energy and a damn good writer too. Take it away Todd...

When it comes to writing, you're going to hear a lot of different opinions about both how to go about it, how to format it, and what to do when you're "done", but one question I get asked a lot is, "How do you keep writing when your heart is not in it?" It's a hard question, because everyone is different. And I know how much life can bring you down when you're not expecting it. So how can you write when you feel like crap?
Personally? I feel that if you don't think you're up to it, don't write. I believe in mental health making good stories. However, if you FEEL you need to write, then do this: 1. Get everything done for the day, don't think about the writing. 2. Set a time at night, close to when you want to get ready for bed. 3. Tell yourself how long you want to write for, I suggest at least 30 minutes. 4. Write.
I know it may sound simple, but the fact is, if you're focused, you can get a LOT of writing done in 30 minutes. Plus, since you're doing it at the end of the day, you won't have to worry as much about your writing "interfering" with your daily things. Setting a time will also give you the chance to clear your mind before getting your "writing zone".

And the best part? While it's great to set yourself a "time limit", if you start to feel the flow, you can go beyond it. Case and point, I'm writing the fourth book in my Sherlock Holmes novel series, and I did a 30-minute writing period to try and get some work done on the final chapter. But as I started to write, I found myself wanting to see what would come next. By the time the feeling was gone, the chapter was done, and the book was "finished". So now, when I return to it, I'll be working on edits and revisions.
You've likely heard people say that you should "write every day!" And I'll admit, when you're riding high, you probably should so you can capitalize on what's going on. But I know that life can suck, you can get a low blow out of nowhere and feel demoralized. So when that happens, and you feel like you still want to write, just set out a little time, get everything else done, and write during that period. The rest will take care of itself.

Check out Todd Black's Guardians and visit his Facebook page and give it a like.

Wednesday, September 5, 2018

Writers are Mentors

Hello everyone,

Without a doubt the hardest thing to do as a creator is connect with potential readers. Here are some basic facts.
1. The world is a big place, despite the phrase, "It's a small world, Isn't it?" And in the big wide world, people are wrapped up in their lives, such as family, jobs, lovers, food, movies, TV, sports, you get the point. And in the active lives of potential readers, there's you. The writer and artist - the creator who's trying to make a mark in this big old world - trying to get people to read what you've done. Which leads us to my second point...
2. It wouldn't be bad if you were the only writer vying for the attention of potential readers. But in this big old world you are not alone. Oh, I'm not talking about the Kings, Butchers, or Brad Thors of the world. They're a given. No, I'm talking about the other eager independent writers like you, who have such a big leap on you when it comes to some sort of notoriety that you wonder if there is a point to getting out there and working hard to get the attention. It's so hard, there are so many writers trying to be heard, to be seen, to be your competition. Which brings me to my third and most important fact.
3. Other independent writers are not your competition. They are your equals. Sure, some of them have had their foot in the door longer, or are more outgoing than you are and they know which book expos to attend, and what cons to book, or what advertising works better. But it’s not a deep dark secret on their part. Other writers are not your enemy. You'll find that many of them want to see you succeed. They're genuinely excited when you prosper and offer the right words when you fail. Other writers are your support group.
Seek out other creators, ask for their advice - and take it. You'll learn from their mistakes, and maybe you'll bring fresh ideas to your newfound mentors that they might not have seen.
Writers write alone, but they by no means must do everything else alone. 
I'm honored to have a list of authors who I consider my friends. It's from their kind words and encouragement that drives me forward every day. So, take heed my friends, seek out those writers, it will be the best decision you'll ever make. And maybe in the end, you’ll find those potential readers you’re looking for.

Friday, August 31, 2018

Guest Blogger: John C. Bruening. One Man's Roadmap

Happy Friday to all of you, and welcome to the first of what I hope will be many guest blogger posts. Over the years I have met a number of talented writers, and I’m fortunate enough to call them all friends. We writers are a unique bunch who have chosen this crazy profession because we are passionate about telling stories and entertaining through our words. 

One such writer who is passionate about storytelling is John C. Bruening, the author of Midnight Guardian: Hour of Darkness, a New Pulp adventure book set in 1936 in Union City. John's descriptive settings, and on-point dialogue has set the standard for which all New Pulp stories should be told. I believe that anyone craving a high-adventure story should treat themselves to Midnight Guardian: Hour of Darkness, I'm sure you won't be disappointed. 

I was thrilled when John agreed to be my first guest blogger, and I gave him free-range to talk about his writing procedure and give some insight to his creative process.
So, without further ado, I present John C. Bruening. 

One Man’s Roadmap
By John C. Bruening

First of all, thanks to Chuck Millhouse for inviting me to step in and contribute to his Stormgate Press blog. If you haven’t read any of the books in Chuck’s Captain Hawklin series yet, you really should check out at least one. Go ahead. I’ll wait…

Okay, having done that, you might wonder how Chuck does it – or how any other writer goes from a blank page to a complete novel. I can’t speak for Chuck’s process, and to the best of my knowledge, there is no “best way.” There are as many ways to craft a story as there are writers, and as long as the job gets done and the end product is engaging and entertaining, who’s to say what’s right or wrong?
Some writers prefer to start typing with just a fragment of an idea and see where it takes them. For these folks, building characters – and building a story around those characters – is a very organic, exploratory exercise. There’s something to be said for this approach. From beginning to end, it keeps things fresh and surprising, and the writer is continuously open to the kind of unexpected twists and turns that can make a story interesting.

I am not that writer.

Don’t get me wrong. As a writer and a reader, I like well-developed characters in a story with unexpected turns and surprises. But I’ve never been the kind of guy who’s comfortable just winging it. My great fear is that I’ll burn up precious time following paths that could potentially go nowhere. Before I even get started, I need a fairly clear sense of where it’s all going. I need a map. I need a plan.

For me, that fragment I mentioned a minute ago is the beginning of a more structured process with a couple middle steps. The fragment is the seed of an outline – a series of separate and distinct paragraphs, each one describing dialogue, action, interaction and other plot developments. Generally speaking, each of these paragraphs becomes the blueprint for each chapter of the story.

For long-form fiction, I tend to follow the classic three-act structure. Entire books have been written about this, and there are plenty of places online where you can find a good explanation of what it is and how it works. The three-act structure actually goes back thousands of years, and it has become a widely accepted guide to tell the writer what needs to happen at certain points along the way to create the tension and resolution that make a good story.

Again, I’m not suggesting this is the only way to build a story. There are others. But the three-act structure is an approach that has worked for some of the greatest storytellers, novelists, playwrights and screenwriters in history. I’m not about to question their methods or their success.

So once I have twenty or thirty (or more) paragraphs in an outline that takes the story from “Once Upon a Time…” to “The End,” I’ll start expanding on the paragraphs. This is where characters start talking and doing stuff. This is where decisions and actions and reactions and consequences start to push the story along to The End. I might take a couple brief detours along the way – because some of the coolest stuff can happen on the detour – but I can save a lot of time and avoid frustration if I keep at least one eye on my destination.

When I get to The End, I have a first draft. It’s usually a mess, with plot holes and continuity problems and a guy named Bill on page 43 whose name mysteriously changes to Steve on page 127. But it’s a first draft, and most writers agree that the first draft is the hardest part of the process.  

At this writing, I’m finishing the first draft of the second book in my Midnight Guardian series. It already looks a lot different from the outline I started with a few months ago. And I can already tell you that things will change even more by the time the final draft is completed and the book is published. But that evolution has been manageable because the map I drew at the start of the journey helped me get where I wanted to go.

This is what works for me – or at least this is what has worked for me so far. But I’ll make this point one last time because it’s so important: the process I’ve described above is just one man’s approach. I’m the last person to suggest a right way or a wrong way. For those writers who prefer to wing it, more power to you. I admire your courage to take that kind of leap.
At the end of the day, if you have a good story, it doesn’t matter how you tell it. What matters is that the story gets told.

John C. Bruening is a fellow Ohioian and resident of Cleveland. He has been a professional writer since the 1980's working in Journalism, editing, publishing, marketing, advertising and corporate communications.
John's works can be found on his Amazon Author page and through the Flinch Books Facebook page

Wednesday, August 29, 2018

Branding Yourself as an Author

Over the past month I have been working hard to “Brand” myself as an author, more than I have in the last several years. I’ve worked hard honing my writing skills, but putting myself out there as an author, selling myself and my books is a different story.

So, I’ve been communicating with other independent publishers and making my presence known. It’s not an easy thing to do. For an independent writer/publisher to make an impact with today’s readers is like pulling a tooth out of a shark. You constantly have to be promoting, which takes away from your writing time. I’ve made a promise that when I’m writing on a new project I keep clear or promoting. There has to be a time and a place.

But IF you want the reader to become aware of you, you have to get in their faces (nicely) and remind them of the little guy trying to entertain through his art. The fact is, there are so many good independent writers out there its hard make people aware of you. One way to do that is to set up at book expos, or conventions that focus on the genre you write and sell your books. I’ve started to book shows, if you’ll notice on the sidebar of this webpage I’m listing my appearances, and I hope to grow the list over the next couple of months.

Another way to build a following (or awareness) is to share the exposure with other writers. In order to do that, you ask a writer to become a guest blogger on your website, with hopes he or she will bring over some of his fanbase and they will discover you from the other writer’s appearance. In turn that guest writer will be exposed to your followers with hopes of increasing their exposure. The community of independent writers are good at helping each other out - we aren’t against one another, we are thrilled to help each other and share in the wealth and are excited when one of our fellow writers succeed.

On Friday, August 31st, this website will host the first, of what I hope will be many, guest bloggers. This will give a chance for authors to grow their awareness and in turn bring new eyes to my website and my books. It’s all part of building my brand, and getting myself out there among potential readers. I hope you’ll join us.

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Independent for Twenty Years

About this time twenty years ago I was nearing the end of writing my first book, Keepers of the Past: The Dark Frontier Saga Book I. I KNEW nothing about publishing then, I mean nothing. But come to think of it, I didn't know a hell of a lot about writing either. Or editing, or marketing or anything that came along with being a self-published writer. It took me A LOT of years to figure it out.

I became an "Independent Writer" in the day when not many people were doing it. There are many reasons for that. Back in the day you needed to drop some hefty cash to publish a book, and I wasn't rich, (I'm still not) and everything I did in those first few years of publishing was tough. I thought about throwing in the towel and just writing fan fiction. But I wanted to be more than that. I kept writing, I kept learning the craft, I kept teaching myself.

Have I had missteps along the way? I sure as hell have. It took me a long while to figure things out (I never do anything fast). Editing was an issue... sure some of my early stuff is questionable, and I went back and did some new edits and I'm very proud of what I've done. I'm super proud of what I publish now, and even more so since I figured out my writing style.

My first book, is no longer in print, I cringe when I look at it. The story deserved more, (I am planning on a complete rewrite of the book one day soon)

I'm a sage in the world of independent publishing, the old guy who's been around for a long time. If it wasn't for the onslaught of Print on Demand, I don't know where I'd be. Maybe working freelance for someone, maybe signed with an agent, or publisher, who knows. I keep trying and keep sending things out, but at this point I'm still happily an Independent and I plan on staying that way. If I even get picked up my a publisher, I'd self publish.

Peddling my stories is something I love to do, I get excited if one person likes what I've written. BUT like all things in my writing career I've taken things slow. Maybe because I was frightened people would take me serious, or I wouldn't be excepted or I thought my stuff wasn't good enough. There are many many reasons. But I've played it safe for far to long. I've done as much as I can promoting on the internet, and I need to get out there and meet potential readers, and build a bigger audience. I need to expand.

So I'm happy to announce that I will be out and about next year (And some in 2018) setting up and meeting readers who love books and letting people know I have something to offer. It's time to push forward and center myself on my craft and the joy of reading.

I hope to see you out there.

Saturday, March 17, 2018

SPOTLIGHT ON: Charles Davenport.

I have been publishing since 1999, and in all that time, my best friend, Charles Davenport has been at my side. Charles is a graphic designer who knows what brings covers alive.

I couldn't do what I do, without his tireless work. He has produced some wonderful images for my novels, as well as creating logos, website development, video and audio for me. His work is unique and one of a kind.

He’s a perfectionist who brings my characters alive and doesn't stop until the work is done.

I can't recommend him more. Have a look at some of his work here on this post, and throughout this website.

If you’re a writer, or in need of graphic design, he is the man for the job. from tee-shirts, to posters and much more.

If you follow the link to his Facebook page you can contact him for all your graphic needs.

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

SPOTLIGHT ON: Damián Avilés

I've been fortunate enough over the years to work with some talented artists. Each have brought their unique style to the cover of my books. I'd like to introduce you to one of those talents, his name is Damián Avilés. 

Damián has worked on several projects for me, including IDENTITIES 1: The Aquarius Gambit, the Next Captain Hawklin cover: The Shadow Men, and an upcoming New Pulp Novella, Nightvision. 

Damián is 27, from Mexico City, and I discovered him on and over the last couple of years we've developed a long distant friendship. He has always been excited to work on projects and given 110% when doing them. His art has brought my stories to life in more ways than I could have ever imagined.  He is a charming young man who has great potential, and success ahead of him. 

When I told him I was doing a write up here on my website, and asked him if he had anything he'd like me to say, he offered the following: "I’m very grateful to you, and the other authors I had worked with, for all the trust to letting me illustrate your stories , I love to materialize all those concepts and ideas you give me , Thank you because of that I can work doing on what I like the most ."

You can find a lot of his work on his Facebook page:  or over at DeviantArt

Sunday, February 18, 2018

Writing Villains

Writing villains is an art all into its self. What many new writers don't understand is the best way to tell your reader who your villain is through their actions, not proclaiming they are the villain.

Another key to writing the baddie, is most of them don’t believe they are bad. Gone is the day of the mustache twisting antagonist, who want to lay out their plans for the protagonist in hopes the hero won’t defeat them.

Villains should be written believing they aren’t bad. True, they should be in conflict with the hero, but what drives them? It has to be something evil according to the hero, otherwise there’s no conflict, and conflict drives the story.

I try, (not always successfully) to convey to my readers that the bad guys are a lot like us. Mothers and fathers, husbands and wives. That they have a sense of humor and have likes and dislikes. Though some bad guys might be looney, they do have a sense of loyalty.

Like I said, villains tend to bring conflict. That conflict should be something they want, either an ancient artifact, or a cure for a loved one, or they want revenge on our hero, for something done to them in the past. What drives them? Your story should build that in some way.

Heroes also have a streak of evil in them, sadly most heroes today aren't squeaky clean as they were once portrayed. They walk a fine line, and if your reader questions their motives, that's all the better. You want questions raised by the reader - it keeps them turning the page.

So, write an outline of your villain, get to know as well as, or even better than the hero. Without a good villain, there is no story.

Happy Writing.     

Order Charles' Books from Amazon