As many of you know, I commit to a blog schedule at the end of each year for the coming year. My blog has in the past morphed into a writer’s blog as opposed to a reader’s blog and so I want 2020 to be different by still continuing to support my writing community as advocate but also to engage my reader’s more. To this end my twice weekly posts will be divided between writing topics and delving into my books and writing life for my readers.
I hope you will find the content interesting, enlightening and fun. I will post every Tuesday and Thursday each week as follows:
Bibliophile’s Collective Tuesday
Stories behind my published books and also from works in progress.
Update on events I will be attending.
A glimpse at my current writing project.
Sharing short stories or poem’s I have written from prompts or workshops.
My book reviews
Wordsmith’s Collective Thursday
Segments from my interview with Online for Authors
Special Interviews with authors from Creative Edge & First Pages
Author Website links
I am also starting a newsletterso please sign up when prompted. I hope we can develop a great relationship with this new venture – Sneek Peeks & Glimpses. Thank you in anticipation.
Traditionally, it energizes me, but not because it’s easy. Transcribing from images and feelings to the right words takes blood and sweat, no matter how well I know my story.
I’ve worked under schedules that have exhausted me, though.
What is your writing Kryptonite?
Kryptonite weakens Superman, brings him to his knees, makes him unable to go on. For me, that has always been my work hours, which have not only been odd, keeping me out of writing groups and events, but also long. Determined to find a way to improve my writing skills and become part of a writing community, I connected with writing instructors and industry experts through international online courses since 2006. It was a community I could interact with by leaving messages in the middle of the night when no sane local person was awake. It has taken superhuman effort to write my first novel during many upheavals in my life and three jobs at a time, but I was determined to do it.
The second Kryptonite would be my fiction writing speed, which is much slower than my non-fiction speed. Taking part in NaNoWriMo means committing several hours a day to make the 1,667-word daily quota, plus writing about 12 hours on Sunday. I ultimately “won” NaNoWriMo in 2014 with over 50,000 words in 30 days while working six days a week.
Did you ever consider writing under a pseudonym?
I’ve looked into why some authors do it. Sometimes it’s because what they write conflicts with their job or image. Others simply want a name that sounds good and is more likely to sell than their real name. Still others want to cover their gender to prevent publisher or reader bias.
Using my real name just makes sense to me, even if it doesn’t have the eloquence and appeal of a best-selling author name. Or I could be Klára Dvořák.
What other authors are you friends with, and how do they help you become a better writer?
My first author connections were international, mostly from the US and UK. As a single mom, I was working through all the local author meetings and event times. I couldn’t be anywhere in person unless it was in the wee hours of the night. Thanks to the Internet, I had an extensive online community before I ever became involved locally. Even now, I miss all weeknight meetings, and I’m lucky if I can make a Saturday event. Fortunately, I know a small number of local authors (Edmonton, Sherwood Park, St. Albert, Morinville) with whom I meet in person several times a year. I wish I could meet with the Writers Foundation of Strathcona County (WFSC) a lot more often.
More recently, my daughter, Leslie Hodgins, has published her first book, Rebel Destiny. It has been wonderful talking “shop” with her.
Author friends and instructors have helped with feedback on my writing, with knowledge of publishing, graphics, promotion, and events. But mostly, it just feels good to be in the company of other writers and be able to talk about writing or read their work. Special mentions go to Mandy Eve-Barnett and Linda J. Pedley.
Do you want each book to stand alone, or are you trying to build a body of work with connections between each book?
Right now, I have a published novel that could stand alone, although I have started writing a companion novel/sequel to expand on some of the situations mentioned in the first book.
The two other books in progress are stand-alones.
What was the best money you ever spent as a writer?
The absolute best money I ever spent was on writing courses in 2006 to 2012, which gave me access to professional critiques, editing, and communication with instructors who had worked as acquisition editors in publishing houses, instructed Fine Arts programs at universities, wrote for well-known magazines or publishers, and/or traditionally published their own books. These courses and individuals helped me hone my craft. After that, the best money I spent was to Dream Write Publishing.
What was an early experience where you learned that language had power?
When I was very young and said something stupid that couldn’t be taken back with an apology.
Later, in school, I couldn’t impress anyone with my writing or verbal presentations—neither teachers nor students. A few teachers gave me credit for my mechanics, though, especially in writing dialogue.
Only once ever, in the final year of high school when I answered a child development/perspective question during a discussion period, did the class, much to my amazement, clap. (I was a nobody in school, so that was kind of a big deal.) I guess that’s the one time I can actually say I had insight beyond my years and an ability to get into the developing brains of children and youth, and actually advocate for them. That ability later became the foundation to my job, my parenting, and my writing, but the credit for it goes to my mother.
What’s your favorite under-appreciated novel?
I can’t even begin to say.
As a writer, what would you choose as your mascot/avatar/spirit animal?
Interesting question. I never thought about it and can’t answer this question even after months of pondering it.
How many unpublished and half-finished books do you have?
Three fiction books and a parenting/educator handbook.
What does literary success look like to you?
VJ Gage (January 2018) described it like this: “It would be that many thousands of people have read and enjoyed my books. I would want them to say they could not put my books down and that my plots are unique and clever, and that I have a great imagination. Then I would like to make lots of money.”
Writing a book is a heck of a lot of work, and prepping it for publication is a heck of a lot of work on top of that. With that in mind, it would be nice if my book had some traction, both in terms of readership, literary credibility, and sales. That’s just the reality of life. Anyone can write for the joy of it, but to make a book and keep making them needs some form of return.
What kind of research do you do, and how long do you spend researching before beginning a book?
It depends on what kind of book it is. For my first book, the events, relationships, interviews, and readings from my whole life, distilled, were my research. When I needed more, there was the Internet. I researched the psychology of grief in real life as well as through literature.
For my fantasy and supernatural books, the process was different, since the decision to write each was sudden. But I did research locations, clothing, tools, mineshafts, etc.
Research can be done at different stages: before writing, at the beginning of writing when you come across something you need to know, and toward the end to verify or adjust information.
With non-fiction, though, the brunt of the research and organization comes up front.
How many hours a day/week do you write?
When I do get to write, it’s a marathon. I’ll write until it’s done (an article or short story), or until I drop. In the past, I had written for 17-20 hours a day for many days straight when writing novels. Unfortunately, this kind of time was rare and usually took long weekends and holidays.
I often can’t go near a novel (first draft or revision) unless I’m guaranteed an uninterrupted three to four hours at a stretch.
I do not get distracted by social media or anything else during these times. It’s very intense focus.
How do you select the names of your characters?
*Evil grin* I steal and collect names. I’ve had some sort of protagonist for as long as I can remember. He—yes, always he, though not the same one over my lifespan—often came with a family and a community of friends. These people needed names, so I was always writing down and saving names I liked. Nowadays, I search baby name lists as well.
It’s a little more difficult with last names. I have to be more careful.
What was your hardest scene to write?
One of the oldest yet hardest scenes to write was the first climax in my published novel. I grappled with it for over five years. It has been rewritten more times than any other scene in the book.
Why did you choose to write in your particular field or genre? If you write more than one, how do you balance them?
I’ve always written a form of reality fiction or literary fiction. My novel took on a psychological theme because I guess that’s what I know best.
As a child, I watched sci-fi, but I wrote adventures and was particularly interested in outdoor survival stories—for which I had no hands-on experience, and Internet research was still a good twenty years away. The nifty thing about living life is that you gain experience whether you want to or not. One day, I was finally in a position to write a book, but it was about a different kind of survival—more internal, more cerebral.
I wrote a fantasy adventure for NaNoWriMo 2014 because I could make that form of writing go much faster.
Each genre and book is so different that it’s hard to mix anything up because what belongs in one story doesn’t belong in another.
Random ideas for any story can be written down at any time. However, in order to complete a book properly and give it the best continuity of style, foreshadow, and character, it’s best for me to immerse myself in one book during the processes of revision and preparation for publication.
How long have you been writing?
Since before I could form letters. Then, during my childhood and right through university. I took a hiatus after marriage and while the kids were small. Writing was difficult to justify because I couldn’t produce anything worthwhile. I was alone with my passion until the age of the Internet, when I could seek help from people outside of my immediate geographical location. In 2006, online writing courses made it possible for me to connect with writing experts who taught me how to write novels (and articles) properly. Over the next decade, I began to find books and articles with valuable information for the professional writer. I educated myself as much as I could, conferred with my writing mentors, and practiced, practiced, practiced.
What inspires you?
Anything in life, real or fictional, can be an inspiration or become a part of a story. Authors see potential stories and character traits everywhere.
How do you find or make time to write?
There has only ever been one way, and it is not healthy: sleep less.
What projects are you working on at the present?
I began working on Beyond the Music (companion/sequel to Beyond the Precipice), Druyan (fantasy adventure), Ironclad (supernatural adventure), and a parenting/educator handbook. However, they are on hold indefinitely.
What do your plans for future projects include?
I would have to finish the above projects first, unless I got an incredibly hot new idea that pretty much wrote itself.
1. Does writing energize or exhaust you? A bit of both, honestly. I feel energized while I’m actually doing the writing, however if I get into it for any more than about an hour then my brain doesn’t like resetting itself and I spend the rest of a day in an exhaustive haze, as if I’d been napping, and I hate naps!
2. What is your writing Kryptonite?
Time, or the lack thereof. I have very little personal time to write, embrace whatever I can get. I don’t have enough, and what I get can be taken away from me so easily.
3. Did you ever consider writing under a pseudonym? I flirt with it from time to time, but only because there’s already a Marc Watson author (who is a really great guy who is a thrill ride engineer from Florida), as well as one who is a British comedian, and another is the Content Lead for everything Minecraft. All industries I’m involved in. Hmm… maybe I do need one. If I did, it would likely be just adding my middle initials or something simple. I like my name.
4. What other authors are you friends with, and how do they help you become a better writer? Seeing as I’m relatively new to this world, my list of writer friends is sparse at best. I’ve met a few times with Edmonton horror writer Konn Lavery. I’m currently teamed up with an old friend Patrick Yokan Persaud, who is the lead writer at Hardmode Games. Konn has been great as he lives nearby and sees a similar world to what I see, books and sales-wise, and Patrick and I grew up together, so if something plays well with him then I know it works for me and the audience I’m trying to reach.
5. Do you want each book to stand alone, or are you trying to build a body of work with connections between each book? Why not both? I’ve written an interconnected universe with my ‘Ryukyu’ series which will start in March with ‘Catching Hell Pt. 1’, plus I have other stories that loosely tie into it such as my debut novel ‘Death Dresses Poorly’ which makes vague references to the ‘Ryuujin’ world, and then I have works in progress like ’12:13’ that completely stand alone. I don’t think there’s any reason why I can’t be known for stand-alone works as well as my epic fantasy world.
6. What was the best money you ever spent as a writer? Certainly the cost of attending my first When Words Collide writer’s conference. I only began taking writing seriously on February 29th, 2016. When WWC hit in August, that was my first exposure to a collection of other writers, agents, and like-minded individuals. The experiences and connections I took away from that weekend still resonate with me today.
7. What was an early experience where you learned that language had power? My ‘words have power’ moment really didn’t come until I was in my late teens. I’d been an avid reader all of my life up to that point, but in a grade 13 English class (reminder I grew up in Ontario, so that’s not weird) we were assigned ‘The Shipping News’ by E. Annie Proulx. The book remains my favorite of all time. I read that book three times during that few weeks of study. However, while I was getting my mind transformed by this heartbreaking and utterly beautiful story, many in the class admitted repeatedly to not understanding it, not reading it, and generally not caring about it at all. I was simply baffled because I was so engrossed and moved to the point of tears, and all these other kids my age just let it pass them by. It was there that I saw the real power of words: that they mean different things to different people and they always will.
8. What’s your favorite under-appreciated novel? Well I could say ’The Shipping News’ and I’d stand by it, but it won a Pulitzer Prize so I guess no level of recognition will be enough for me. So I’d have to say that ‘Wizard and Glass: The Dark Tower 4’ by Stephen King would fit the bill. As a middle part of a monstrously over-arching Dark Tower story, it can be so easily overlooked, but the individual story of a young Roland and his friends encountering the true evil in Roland’s life from that point forward face to face, while also being a beautiful and realistic story of young forbidden love. I just love it. It’s very tight, while offering massive expositional dumps into the mind of such an iconic and enigmatic protagonist.
9. As a writer, what would you choose as your mascot/avatar/spirit animal? A great question, and a popular one so I’m ready for it! I really have two, and it completely depends on what I’m working on. For my epic fantasy works, I’m very much a house cat. Lazy, slow, methodical, with random fits and starts of energy when I write the action pieces. When writing something like ‘Death Dresses Poorly’, which I smashed out in a tight six weeks, it’s a squirrel: high-energy, fast paced, with no time to slow down.
10. How many unpublished and half-finished books do you have? Too many… I’m sporadic when it comes to my writing, so I have no issues dropping something for another project I want get into. On the up side, I never ever suffer from writer’s block! My ‘Ryuujin’ stories in various stages of completion number eight. Side stories are another three. My standalone stories are at two right now, so doing the math I have thirteen actual and legitimate works in progress. Not just ideas on a napkin. I’m talking works with real words on a page.
11. What does literary success look like to you? Buying my family a dinner from the profits of my works. Since ‘Death Dresses Poorly’ just came out, and ‘Catching Hell Pt. 1’ is still more than a month away, the checks aren’t rolling in yet so I’m not there. Whether it’s a lot or a little, when I take my beautiful wife and kids out for a meal (be it Wendy’s or the best steakhouse in town) I’ll feel complete. The goal will be achieved. Not very exciting, is it? I like to say I’m the anti-author. I’m not planning my movie trilogies or bigger houses. I don’t have time for that kind of thing. I need to walk the path of reality, and reality says I’m a 38 year old man with responsibilities and a job to do every minute of the day. The day I provide for my family based solely on the profits of my brain musings, how glorious will that be!
12. What kind of research do you do, and how long do you spend researching before beginning a book? None! The great thing about being a fantasy writer with a penchant for massive global extinction is that I get to start fresh with ‘facts’ all the time! In truth, I’ll do a bit when dealing with realistic place like in ‘Death Dresses Poorly’, which takes place in the Seattle area (which I’m admittedly not terribly familiar with). I want to make sure I get place names correct, or travel times between locations. Mundane stuff like that.
13. How many hours a day/week do you write? Four or five, usually. My lunch hours at work are the extent of most of my writing time, and sometimes I need to use those for things like this! Not that I’m complaining. I’m thankful for the chance, but it’s taken me two lunch hours to answers your questions. Once I get home, it’s kids kids kids, and I’ve never been good at writing in silence after they go to bed. I’m not complaining. ‘Catching Hell’ was original 225k words, written over lunch hours for a year. Anything is possible with patience, especially if it’s a story you really want to tell.
14. How do you select the names of your characters? Unlike most authors I speak with, naming things, be it people, places, or things, is one of my favorite things to do! When I was asked to create a huge list of names and places for my work with Hardmode Games, I practically wet myself in joy! Much of it I simply can’t answer. I find names I like, do an ounce of research to make sure I didn’t inadvertently recreate a famous Nazi death camp general or something, and go from there. Some I’ve known forever like Aryu, one of my protagonists in ‘Catching Hell’, and others I just threw in like Ethan from ‘Death Dresses Poorly’. Fun fact: Ethan originally had my oldest son’s name, but after some conversations with my wife, we agreed we perhaps didn’t want to stigmatize the kid with the same handle as this unenviable character I’d written, so I changed it. I can’t live without Ethan now.
15. What was your hardest scene to write? Well I’ll avoid spoilers as much as possible, but the ending of ‘Catching Hell Pt. 2’ wins for sure. From the beginning I wanted to write a scene I’d envisioned for as long as I can remember. Something different. Something that discards the fiction clichés and tropes we’re all familiar with, while also making it believable and earned. When the conclusion is reached, the reader says “That’s realistic. That’s what should happen.” I like to think I did that, but only time will tell.
16. Why did you choose to write in your particular field or genre? If you write more than one, how do you balance them? I’m a man awash in fantasy. From a young age I gravitated to fantasy stories and imaginative science fiction. I absolutely have a hyperactive imagination and these genres fill that brain-hole so perfectly. When I entered into my formative writing years, anime and manga became a huge part of my life. The Japanese were telling stories with such heart and depth and unbridled creativity that I couldn’t help but get wrapped up in them. In the end, the answer to your question is a terribly simple one: I write what I know.
17. How long have you been writing? Although I like to think I’ve always been creative in my writings, the commitment really took hold when I was 15 and 16 years old. I had this mental vision of a long, epic fantasy story and I just started writing it down with a pen and paper. It consumed me so much that I wrote a trilogy entirely by hand, which became the basis of my ‘Ryuujin’ world. I still have the dent in my finger from the pen to this day. When I pulled my head up from the binders, I’d almost flunked out of high school. After some hard work and creativity, along with the help of a teacher or two that I was lucky to have, I pulled through, but the fuse was lit.
18. What inspires you? Life. Life is the greatest inspiration of all. I have a favorite saying that I unashamedly admit I came up with: I don’t like good books, I like good stories. The medium is not important. When I look at the struggles of my loved ones, or the triumphs of strangers on the other side of the world, I see so many stories that give me a reason to keep talking. They’re not all victories. There are enough tragedies to remind ourselves that there’s bad with the good, but that’s the cost of living. I see my kids do things that move me to tears with their bravery, so I better get to telling what stories I can in order to help show them the things I’ve seen and how I see them.
19. How do you find or make time to write? I don’t. I just take the time when I get it. I don’t believe in forcing myself to write by setting daily goals. Challenges like NaNoWriMo are great for some, but for me it can go walk off a cliff. My best writing comes when I don’t pressure myself to actually write. I just need to accept that I may have to go for days or weeks without writing, and I’m ok with that.
20. What projects are you working on at the present? Right now I’m helping market ‘Death Dresses Poorly ’alongside publisher Fluky Fiction, I’m getting ‘Catching Hell Pt. 1’ ready with its publisher Double Dragon Press for the March launch, and I’m doing a decent amount of writing work with the Hardmode team on their original IP, which is a secret but hopefully you’ll see the results of that work later this year.
21. What do your plans for future projects include? Well the biggest one is ‘Catching Hell Pt. 2’, since just having the first part of a duology is no fun for anyone. It’s a finished work (I wrote it all at one time, but it was too big so I had to split it up) but it hasn’t been edited and prepped to my liking, so I want to get that done and hopefully find it a home before people forget my name.
Marc is the author of genre fiction (primarily Fantasy and Science Fiction of all lengths). He began writing at the age of 15 with a pen and paper, and never really stopped, even though until recently it was more of a background to him than my defining trait. He has been published on flash fiction site www.101words.org, as well as comedy site www.thecorrectness.com. Marc has been a student of the excellent writing classes at Athabasca University for a number of years.
He lives in Calgary, Alberta, and was spawned out of the depths of Southern Ontario. Marc is a husband, proud father of two, and can be sometimes found at an actual job. An avid outdoors-man, martial artist of some high repute, baseball player of very little repute, and lover of all Mexican foods. One day ‘World Famous Poutine Aficionado’ will be on his business cards.
You can also find Marc on Facebook at www.facebook.com/marcwroteabook, and on twitter at @writewatson. For public appearances and interviews, he is proudly represented by Creative Edge Publicity.
e) Do you read for pleasure or research or both? Both. I love researching cultures, history, and mythology. I am a secret academic from that perspective. As an author of fantasy and science fiction, it is invaluable to create worlds and cultures in my stories. You want to develop something tactile and fully dimensional for the reader.
f) Who is your best supporter/mentor/encourager? As an adult-my husband, Rick Hipps, who is also a great writer. As a kid-Star Trek-and many other attempts at science fiction on TV when I was a kid. I love imagination and where it can take you-I also loved Twilight Zone & Outer Limits. Plus it was the only place where women had more to do than bake pies. I was a little kid but they held more interest for me than other things, and it gave me an interest to read the literature on my own.
g) Of the characters you have created or envisioned, which is your favorite & why? Wow. That’s tough. I have many I love-even my bad guys like Koll the Sorcerer or Obsydia the Bloodstone Queen. But Belwyn the owl from my Gate of Souls novel is a favorite. He is the bedrock that takes care of Runa, Mellypip, and Cathal. Belwyn is a thousand year old owl familiar with a sharp wit and sharper beak-he takes care of everyone and brooks no nonsense. His dialogue is some of the best. He has a dry wit and does not believe in false morality. He has faced down a heap of evil and tragedy in his life, yet he is the caretaker of the group.
h) Where is your favorite writing space? My study at home with all my little creative pictures and things around me. Also I love the Seattle coffee shops. If you give me caffeine and sugar, I am pretty happy.
i) Do you plan your stories, or are you a seat of the pants writer? I must admit I start out as a seat of the pants writer on some levels. I was that way with my first novel. All in my head and I just wrote. I am better now. I get an idea and I go with it. I have scraps of paper and notebooks I fill with the idea for a book. My initial writing is chaotic with the new idea. Then when I have written some bits and feel it can grow into a real novel, I begin to format my world/story bible and detailed characters, religion, cultures.
j) What inspires your ideas/stories? Anything. I am crazy that way. I play a lot of “what if”
k) Do you belong to a writing group? If so which one? Alas, I am alone in Seattle. I want to belong to one again. Anyone want to adopt me?
l) Do you have a book published? Gate of Souls, A Familiar’s Tale Book 1. It is published though Aberrant Dreams Publishing. I am available in hardback, softback, and Kindle. You can find me online at Amazon.com, Booksamillion.com, Barnesandnoble.com, & Aberrant Dreams website. It is a 4 book series and the next book, Tree of Bones, will be out when the cover art is done and we do galleys.
m) If you could meet one favorite author, who would it be and why? There are so many I admire. Sadly so many of my favorites, like David Eddings, Roger Zelazny and Ray Bradbury, are gone. I do love classic fantasy literature so unless we can summon Robert E Howard from the grave, one of my living writing idols is Tanith Lee. Her “Tales of the Flat Earth” and “Birthgrave” series rock.
n) Where can readers find you and your blog? www.vernamckinnon.com. That is my website and my blog is there too. You can read me pontificate on the process of being a forlorn Princess of Heroic Fantasy. I also will welcome anyone who wants to be a follower on my blog-no weird cult stuff, just writing wisdom and some humor.
o) Do you have plans or ideas for your next book?Yes-I am working on two novels now. The 3rd in my Familiar’s Tale series, Fires of Rapiveshta, (this one has lots of dragons) and Bard Maiden of Rhulon, a new heroic fantasy novel with a female heroine, Rose Greenleaf, a Dwarven Bard who flees an unwanted marriage in her home of Rhulon for adventure with the tall folk in the southern kingdom of Tirangel. Well, she gets her adventure-a little more than she can handle too!
Conspicuous – definition: easily seen or noticed; readily visible or observable
As authors we have to overcome becoming conspicuous to the world. With an internet presence we are readily contactable and visible to anyone who wishes to get to ‘know’ us. Writing may be a solitary pastime but our face-book pages, blogs, twitter and a multitude of other internet sites we subscribe to, spreads our persona all over the globe.
Depending on how comfortable you are, a blog can be, not only a vehicle for selling your work, but will also give our readers/followers an insight into the author behind the books. I recently read a blog post questioning if a Q&A page on a blog/author site was a good idea. This started me thinking what questions I should pose and what was the best way to answer them. Currently a work in progress.
Have you got a Q&A section on your website?
If you do have one, what has the reaction been like?
Once we have an internet presence established there comes the task of keeping the information interesting and current. I’m sure there are not many writers challenging themselves to a blog post daily, like yours truly, but even weekly or monthly updates take a good deal of consideration. We have decided on a ‘theme or topic’ and have to create new content for it. Our words will be forever available in cyberspace.
The outcome is a connection to people far and wide, allowing us to share our writing life.