Author Archives: Gerald Brandt

Guest Blog – Ian Barker

I’m a member of a fabulous on-line writing group called Backspace.  Many of our members are published authors, and I made an offer to them.  Write a guest blog, on (almost) any topic you like, and I’ll post a link to their book(s) in the side panel.

How not to write a novel

Read pretty much any creative writing guide and it will tell you that a number of things are essential to the process. Write every day, get the first draft down before editing, start at the beginning and write to the end, and more.

Do I do all of those things? No. Possibly because I have to write to strict deadlines and tight word counts for the day job I’m horribly ill-disciplined when it comes to writing fiction. I don’t write for long periods, I edit as I go and I write scenes out of sequence.

How, you might ask, do I ever get anything done? Well, it’s a slow process, both Fallen Star and the unpublished novel that preceded it took more than two years to write. I do make lots of notes, when an idea for a scene or a line of dialogue pops into my head I write it down along with salient facts that might come in handy. These can be picked up from many sources, TV, newspapers, magazines, all over the place. I also tend to have ideas whilst driving which doesn’t lend itself to making notes – though if an idea can last twenty miles or so it’s usually worth keeping.

I also like to have an outline. I need to know roughly where the story ends, though the journey to get there may not always stick to the original route. When I do write it’s usually in short spurts.

One of the best pieces of writing advice I’ve picked up along the way is to write first and research later. Get the story sorted then you can check the facts. If you do too much research up front you end up with stacks of material you feel you have to include and that works against the story. All of the detailed stuff for Fallen Star – particularly relating to the Northern Ireland conflict – was researched after I’d written the basic story.

If I have a tip for other writers it’s this. If a particular way of working suits you do it. Don’t feel you have to work a certain way because someone else says it’s a good idea. Find your own technique. Just don’t do it my way!

Fallen Star: The book is about the shallowness of celebrity culture, the price of fame and how, almost inevitably, we find ourselves living in the shadow of our parents and often repeating their mistakes.
Karl has been a member of a boy band since leaving school and at 21 knows no other life. When another band member dies of a drug overdose he’s forced to readjust to real life. To further complicate things he falls in love with Lizzie, but she’s the daughter of an IRA terrorist and that makes her someone Karl’s ex-soldier father is bound to hate.
All of that might sound a bit grim but there’s a lot of comedy in the book. Although it’s been described as a modern day morality tale it seeks to shine a light on modern society not hit you over the head with a message.

The book is available in both ebook and tree book forms from Amazon and other bookshops.

Author Bio:

Ian has always dabbled in writing since leaving school. However, he spent almost 20 years working in IT before he discovered that writing about computers was easier than fixing them. He is now editor of PC Utilities magazine and lives and works in Greater Manchester, UK. Fallen Star is his début novel. Ian can be found on the Web at

Guest Blog – J. E. Taylor

I’m a member of a fabulous on-line writing group called Backspace.  Many of our members are published authors, and I made an offer to them.  Write a guest blog, on (almost) any topic you like, and I’ll post a link to their book(s) in the side panel.

What editors want…

Well, I’ll tell you what I look for from an editorial standpoint.  When I read e-zine submissions, I want the television and my children and my husband to fade into the distance.  I want to be so engrossed in the story that dinner burns and we have to order out.  I want that first line to catch me in the snare and drag me through the story as if you, the writer, have my hand in a death grip and are racing through the streets at mach speed.  In essence, I want to be blown away.

Give me emotion, and action, and a plot that isn’t predictable.  I want the story to unfold before my eyes. I do not want to be told what’s happening at every turn.  I want to know how the characters react to the situation – not just in their heads, but physically – viscerally.  I want the flow to make sense, stimulus then response – in that order, because if not, it dilutes the impact.

I want to laugh, or cry, or shiver with anticipation, and I believe this is what every editor wants regardless of the genre.

So how do you as the writer accomplish this?

In a recent blog on STET (, I delved into Stimulus and Response.  Let’s take that a step further and expand on what I mean by visceral reactions.

Let me give you an example.  Think about when someone jumps out of a hiding place to scare you.   What happens first?

You jump, your heart skips a beat, stops, or pounds in your chest, your stomach drops like you took a dive off a skyscraper, you might even pee in your pants a little – all visceral reactions – physical reactions to stimulus that can’t be controlled.

Writing visceral reactions in a fresh way and avoiding clichés is a key component in reaching your readers on a subliminal level.

Here’s the stimulus/response example I used in the blog on STET:

  1. 1. She opened the door and a man wearing a mask jumped in front of her.  With her heart lurching in her chest, she yelped and took a step back. “What are you doing?”She shrieked.

Let’s take this a step further and get some fresh visceral reactions in here to make the read more compelling:

  1. 2. She opened the door and a man wearing a mask jumped in front of her.  Her heart slammed against her ribcage in a staccato beat that would challenge even Jimmy Sullivan’s drumming skills.  She took a step back, distancing herself from the intruder when his laugh cut through the air, sending shivers up her spine to the base of her neck, where they bunched and turned her muscles to liquid.  “What are you doing?” She shrieked, her voice breathy and shaking with fear.

I used three visceral reactions in the passage above.  For me, the second sentence has much more impact than the first.  Now, let’s see what you can do with the same scenario…

Thanks for hanging with me for a bit.

In the meantime, check out my November releases:

VENGEANCE: After an undercover bust goes to hell, Special Agent Steve Williams becomes the target of an assassin and his wife’s visions escalate, forecasting a brutal assault on their family. Escaping from the city and armed with scant details from Jennifer’s dreams, Steve trudges through a litany of past connections, searching for the key to stop the course of fate.  A brother with a grudge, a serial killer and a mafia assassin are all on his trail and the hunt begins . . .

Released November 1, 2010 by FIDO Publishing.  Buy Link:

MIND GAMES: Chris Ryan doesn’t understand why he’s alive.  If it wasn’t for a miracle, he would have died in the prison his step-brother created and five years of nightmares hasn’t erased his passion for Jessica Connor. Haunted by visions of her daughter’s death, he runs to her doorstep, but all his good intentions fall short when they realize he led the vengeful spirit of his step-brother right to her.

Released November 29, 2010 by eXcessica. Buy Link:

Until next time.



Author Bio:

J.E. Taylor is a writer, an editor, a manuscript formatter, a mother, a wife and a business analyst, not necessarily in that order.

She first sat down to seriously write in February of 2007 after her daughter asked:

“Mom, if you could do anything, what would you do?”

From that moment on, she hasn’t looked back and now her writing resume includes five novels either published or targeted for release in early 2011 along with several short stories on the virtual shelves including a few within upcoming eXcessica anthologies.

Ms. Taylor also moonlights as an Assistant Editor of Allegory, an online venue for Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror, and as a “slush slasher” for Dark Recesses, an online venue for literary horror. She also lends a hand in formatting manuscripts for eXcessica as well as offering her services judging writing contests for various RWA chapters.

She lives in Connecticut with her husband and two children and during the summer months enjoys her weekends on the shore in southern Maine.

Guest Blog – William C. Mills

I’m a member of a fabulous on-line writing group called Backspace.  Many of our members are published authors, and I made an offer to them.  Write a guest blog, on (almost) any topic you like, and I’ll post a link to their book(s) in the side panel.  The side panel links aren’t there yet (I’m looking for a good WordPress plug-in), but my first guest blogger is ready to go.

Daddy Daughter Dates

Before my wife and I had children I was worried about being a good father. What do fathers do? How can I be a good role model and example for my kids? I was not one of those parents who were drawn to parenting books and articles, but I knew that I wanted to be a good dad and I was afraid of being a failure. I suffered from low esteem! However, I wanted to raise girls who had a strong self-esteem and were confident. I wanted them to have a strong father and to learn more about the world around them. When the big day came and my wife gave birth to our first daughter I was scared but I knew deep down that I could handle this. Three years later when my second daughter was born I was on my way to being an expert father!
After the birth of our first daughter I decided that the best thing that I could do is spend a lot of time with my girls. So I decided to have regular “daddy-daughter dates” where I would expose my girls to various social and cultural customs that would show them what life is all about. Below are a few of the different types of “daddy-daughter dates” that we took and why they were important:

1.        Picnic Playground: My girls loved this one. We packed a picnic with all of their favorite foods, usually a PBJ sandwich, cut up apples, chunks of cheddar cheese, chocolate milk, and off we went to the local park. First we run around like crazy, I would be the “ugly monster” and chase my girls who were the “beautiful princesses: and then we would take a break and eat lunch. We talked about school and life and take a rest. Then we played again. Playing builds teamwork, socialization, trust, and helps with the imagination.

2.        Friday Farmers Market: Every Friday my youngest daughter and I would go to the local farmer’s market which is a thirty minute drive away. On the way to the market we talked about what vegetables we planned to purchase. We took our own reusable bags and she and I walked hand in hand looking at the wide variety of colors, sizes, and shapes of all the different vegetables. We looked at our list and we shopped filling up two large bags full of cucumbers, zucchini, tomatoes, and apples. On the way home we talked about the dinner menu for the coming week. Shopping builds social skills, verbal communication, and learning about healthy eating habits. We also talked about the importance of supporting local farmers and spending money wisely.

3.         Errands, Errands, Errands: My wife is an art teacher at a local school which means that I do most of the errands. Rather than go alone I take my daughters with me. After making my master list we are off on our journey. Our usual run of errands include a stop at the bank, post office, local grocery store, gas station, and library. Along the way we either sing songs or talk about what they are doing in school. Running errands provides interaction with people from different social and cultural backgrounds. They also learn about the different types of jobs in our area. Standing in line, waiting, and shopping provides my girls with basic life-skills such as patience, preparation, and balancing “wants and needs” i.e we may want something but we may not always need it!

4.        Science Center and Local Museums: We are lucky to have many low cost or free educational centers such as several small and large science centers as well as art museums. Once a week I would take my daughters to a local science center and museum. We would pack a lunch and then off we went. The science centers and museums always have a special “hands on” children’s section that allowed them to explore the world in a safe and fun way. On the way home they were so tired they always took a nap. Trips to the science centers and museums provided my girls with wonderful visual and educational experiences so they could learn more about the world around them.

As a husband and daddy I am very lucky to have the flexibility to spend quality time with my girls. Not all dads can spend as much time with their children as I do. However, dads can spend time with their children, they just have to make the time and juggle their busy schedules accordingly. As my girls are now involved in soccer and other school events our “daddy daughter dates” have slowed down a bit, but I still make an effort to spend time with them. My girls, ages 7 and 4 are turning into beautiful, strong, well-adjusted girls. All of my previous fears about being a good daddy are gone. Now I realize that I am the best daddy in the world—-at least in the eyes of my daughters!

Author Bio:
William C. Mills is an ordained priest in the Eastern Orthodox Church and for the past ten years has served a parish in Charlotte, NC. He is also the author of A 30 Day Retreat: A Personal Guide to Spiritual Renewal (Mahwah, NJ: Paulist Press, 2010). A 30 Day Retreat is a collection of thirty easy to read practical reflections on the gospels, focusing on themes such as love, forgiveness, and charity. The book is a great resource for personal devotion or for small group Bible studies or book clubs. Each chapter includes a “Food For Thought” section for journaling or further discussion. For more information about William visit his website at and his blog Walking With God at

Carl Sagan Day

Carl Sagan at the VLA

Carl Sagan was a Professor of Astronomy and Space Science and Director of the Laboratory for Planetary Studies at Cornell University, but most of us know him as a Pulitzer Prize winning author and the creator of COSMOS. That Emmy and Peabody award-winning PBS television series transformed educational television when it first aired in 1980, but now, thirty years later, it’s gone on to affect the hearts and minds of over a billion people in sixty countries.

No other scientist has been able to reach and teach so many nonscientists in such a meaningful way, and that is why we celebrate Dr. Sagan, remember his work, and revel in the cosmos he helped us understand.