The Top Five Authors Who Influenced Me

The Top Five Authors Who Influenced Me

Greetings all,

Image from Pixabay.

Whenever I’m struggling to think of things to write in this blog, there’s always a top five list I can do. This time, I thought it’d be fun to share the top five authors who’ve influenced my work.

#5) Stephen King: I’m of two minds here. This is in no way an endorsement of his content. Quite frankly some of his books go to places I’d never want to visit nor would invite others to go. But I’d be lying if I denied his influence on me. This is because of his book On Writing. That book is, in my opinion, the greatest call to action book an author could have. King’s book taught me about the momentum of writing and the importance of consistent reading. It was his book that led me to start writing every night, and ultimately led to the completion of my first (and therefore all) subsequent books.

#4) James Patterson: This may seem a bit odd since I so rarely mention him or his work, but it’s undeniable. I had been a huge fan of the Women’s Murder Club series before I think Book 11, which I feel drastically hindered the main character in the series. However, the pacing of his stories stuck with me, which is why I endeavor to have quick, hard-hitting chapters through the bulk of any of my books.

This image of Dean Koontz was taken from his Amazon author page so I can say what an impact he’s had on my writing. Please don’t sue me.

#3) Dean Koontz: I pretty much read a ton of Dean Koontz, and I love Odd Thomas. If someone were to make the accusation of Bob Drifter was only a little more than an Odd Thomas ripoff, I’d probably just thank them. Dean as cleverly adorable dialogue and charming characters. From him I learned how powerful a sympathetic character was.

#2) Robert Jordan: The Wheel of Time is my second favorite series of all time. One day, I hope people are theorizing about my books the same way that my brother and I spent hours talking about certain aspects of the Prophecies of the Dragon. I’m still trying to diagnose and understand how he worked his worldbuilding and foreshadowing to such a refined degree. I’ve tried it a few times (and maybe not in the stories you think), but I think I have some more to learn before I can make a true attempt (though that’s coming.)

Honorable Mentions: So obviously if Dragon Riders of Pern is my favorite series of all time, Anne McCaffrey would be high on my list, and if this were a list of my favorite authors of all time, she’d be on it. However, what she did best (her worldbuilding) is something I aspire to, but it’s just not a skill I think I have at the moment. Also, Leo Tolstoy is among my favorite authors. I don’t know if I can call him my favorite anymore, but he holds a special place in my heart. However, like McCaffrey, as much as I love his writing, I just don’t know that he impacted my writing as much as those on this list.

This image of Brandon Sanderson was taken from his website.

#1) Brandon Sanderson: This certainly hasn’t been a secret I’ve kept, though I’m not certain I’ve proclaimed this as overtly as I am here. No author or person has inspired me or impacted me more on any level. Write About Dragons is pretty much the foundation on which I built my workflow as an author. Writing Excuses gave the discovery writer in me focus. I honestly wish I had (or took the time) to listen to it. But if I’m listening to anything, it’s probably an audio book. It was Brandon of encouraged me (personally during an event) to put my work out there even if I had to do so by self publishing. I’ve met him a few times, and I don’t know that he’ll ever truly understand just how wonderful and motivating he’s been in my life as an author and a fan of fiction. Top that off with his prolific determination, and it’s easy to call him the most impactful author to my career.

So there you have it. If you’re a writer, how does my list compare to yours?

Thanks for reading,


Facing Fears: A Different Sort of Review for the Movie “IT”

Facing Fears: A Different Sort of Review for the Movie “IT”

This is about the right age.

Let’s start with the prologue:

I must have been between 8-10 years old when I saw the TV mini-series “IT.” From the moment that damn boat fell into the storm drain until even now, that movie haunted me. I’ll be blunt.

I don’t think I slept for a year. I wouldn’t go anywhere near a storm drain. Don’t even get me started on how I responded to clowns. My mom would put on a movie and let me fall asleep watching that (Best of the Best if you’re curious). Even as recently as last week, I had a wake-up-shouting, turn-on-the-lights nightmare involving a certain dancing clown.

However, if any of you remember a certain post I wrote a while back regarding my opinion of fear, this post is me putting a certain degree of action behind those words.

I’m always afraid. Ever minute of every day. The list of things I’d said I was afraid of in the aforementioned post is still true. So is my response to it.

So, tonight, I mustered up my courage (and a fairly high number of Facebook support for my alter ego’s page), and went to see the movie. I begged (twice) for someone to show up and watch it with me, but it wasn’t to be. So it was with a racing heartbeat and memories of a 10-year-old version of myself taking a different street if the one he was on had a storm drain, that I went into the theater, sat down, and got ready to watch the new version of “IT.”

I sat down in my favorite spot (first large isle, far-right seat. I can put my feet up, and I can head to the bathroom without stepping over or in front of anyone). I could feel my fear starting to nag at me, so I pulled out my phone and started playing a game while I waited for the movie to start.

That’s when a fucking clown walked into the movie theater holding a red ballon.

21430154_10154596722857142_281902408187726966_nI didn’t move. It was either freeze or run out of the theater. I held still. The damn clown sat right behind me.

At this point, I was strongly considering my position on telling fear what it can do to itself. I snapped a cell phone image of the event, but I wasn’t the only one. The clown became an oddly creepy, horrifying celebrity. Once the clown realized he was the center of attention, he did something cool. He stood up and walked to the side of the theater where dozens of people all lined up to get a cell phone.  (I didn’t do that….I like breathing.)

They all got their images without winding up a snack before the movie, and that all by itself did a lot to actually  set my mind at ease.

The previews ran; the music started, and the movie began.

It started out exactly like the original. It wasn’t the frame for frame rip off that X-Men: First Class was, but it was pretty much in lock step until the USS Georgie hit the water.

That’s when this movie did a thing that broke from the original at the expense of a lot of fear. It traded in goure for tension and suspense. I’ve seen the Saw films. I’ve seen action movies and anime. They aren’t scary; they’re gory. What I can tell you is the scene from the modern version could never come close to the nightmares I had when I was a kid. By showing the action, the director gave the viewer an out. It actually provided closure in a sort of way. Hitchcock was the greatest at this. DON’T show the viewer what’s going on. Let him be uncomfortable. Let his own hyperactive imagination to the scaring for you.

Which brings me to another point a friend of mine mentioned, which I happen to agree with: I think viewers SHOULDN’T compare Skarsgard’s interpretation to Curry’s. That’s unfair to either. I’m not going to talk about the acting, I’m going to talk about the other aspect of why this modern version didn’t haunt me like the original.

No, this isn’t Skarsgard’s image, but I tried carefully, even under the protection of review. So this Pixabay image will have to be enough.

Skarsgard’s persona is clearly terrifying. He absolutely sent chills down my spine every time I saw him, but that’s what was wrong with it. The most frightening things I think (and I promise a lot of those fears come from the original mini-series) are the usually mundane things in creepy situations. The obviously evil all the time appearance wasn’t nearly as haunting as the seemingly normal Pennywise Curry portrayed.  Again, both actors did a wonderful job (in my opinion) playing the part, but twisted normalcy is more frightening to me than outright creepy from the get go.

These two things are what separated one from the other for me. The original would still give me nightmares for days. This one didn’t because it showed more and never really gave viewers that sense of betrayal. When we feel safe, and then have that safety ripped from us, fear is more powerful.

Before you decide not to bother seeing the movie, I should tell you it was a good movie. I’ll admit that it’s more blunt on certain sub plots that are honestly huge turn-offs for me. But it does some things right.

One thing I’ll say is the side characters felt more real to me. Well…I guess it’s MORE accurate to say characters I didn’t care at all for in the original were more fleshed out in this one. The original miniseries left some of the characters pretty flat. This movie gave them all more sympathy.

The lighting and shooting of this movie were great. The relationship between the characters felt more real.

In short, “IT” was a solid movie if you’re a fan of horror. Yes, I think the original was better because it had a bigger impact. But, I was also about 10 at the time. If you’re willing to wait as long as Billy had to get a second crack at Pennywise, then we can ask those who were watching it tonight how they slept the next 27 years.

people-2577929_960_720What this experience did for me on a more-cathartic level was help me move past some of those childhood fears. (No, if a clown knocks on my door, I’m getting my shotgun, but I might warn him before shooting…I might.)  I suppose the only thing left to do would be to watch the original, and see how may of those childhood issues come back, but

I’m not sure I need to do that. What I wanted to do was prove that no movie should control a person’s fear. While I’m still uncomfortable around actual clowns (I worked at McDonalds for a number of years, and I’m happy to say Ronald never showed…I would have gotten fired.), I came out of that movie feeling like I’d done what I went to do. I saw the movie, and didn’t feel the need to stay up all night. Now, I haven’t gone to sleep, so who knows what my amazing imagination is going to produce (I am a writer after all, and when I DO dream, they’re usually vivid).  As it stand though, I feel good. I feel a bit relieved.

People should never live in fear. They shouldn’t let fear dictate what they do, and this was another opportunity to deny fear any power over me. For those who were just curious as to how the movies lined up, I hope this was useful to you as well.

Thanks for reading,


What Box Does This Fit In? The Importance of Putting Your Book in the Right Category

What Box Does This Fit In? The Importance of Putting Your Book in the Right Category

This screenshot was captured Feb. 3, about 6 days after Caught was released.

As I type this, Caught is still a long ways away (a month actually).  I recently read (and reviewed) How to Market a Book by Joanna Penn. One of her chapters spoke about categories and their importance, and that made me want to share with you some things I did differently this time around.


What I did wrong: I’m in love with my genre, and I (obviously) know The Journals of Bob Drifter better than anyone. I understand the magic system and the other three books (two written) that are related to it, but none of that matters. I didn’t see it, because I was trying to fit Bob and my work to where I want to be one day. I threw it in the Urban Fantasy category. It simply doesn’t belong there.

What I fixed: Well, the trick here (thanks to Joanna’s book) that worked was to think about Caught in terms of books that are related. What books does Caught feel like? What authors produce work that is similar to what this book does?

This screen shot (taken Feb. 3) shows the various categories The Strain is in. Notice how well it’s doing in all categories related to Vampires?

The first book that came to mind was The Strain by Guillermo del Toro and Chuck Hogan.  That book’s primary category is Mystery, Thriller & Suspense. Down that rabbit hole of categories is a sub category called Supernatural > Vampires.  A few clicks down Amazon’s categories, and there for the taking was my category (there’re some spoilers in that area, but it’s there).  Bob is a Supernatural thriller as well.


(NOTE: The real trick is getting the book to register on those deeper categories.  For instance, The Strain is also in General Fiction > Horror.  Caught is in a few other categories as well, which increases visibility. That’s great, but I still focus on the category I know is best.)

But I didn’t just DIVE after the Supernatural category. I did some more searching around. I came up with a list of books and authors that all line up with Caught. I feel the readers who enjoy these books or authors will like Caught.

Night Chills by Dean Koontz

The Shining by Stephen King

Not all the stuff I looked up fell in this category, but many of them did.

Bob isn’t doing so well in this category. Is it a bad book? (Screenshot taken Feb. 3)

I can shove my book into the Fantasy category if I want. But Caught isn’t Fantasy. It isn’t by any stretch of the imagination. Sure, I know Bob has a magic system. Eventually, you’ll see more of that magic (and even a monster), but even when I publish 1,200, a clever reader would have to look closely to see the connection between that book and Bob.


The lesson. Put your ego in a trunk, and throw it off the deck of a ship. I’m an author. I worked long and hard, sacrificed, and spent thousands of dollars on editors, but the PUBLISHING of that work, the MARKETING of it is about the CUSTOMER. Readers have the right to know that the book they purchase isn’t one they

No. It gets good reviews, but it has no visibility because the people who will enjoy it can’t see it. (Screenshot taken Feb. 3) 

“might” like, but one you know they’ll love. Man was it hard to look myself in the mirror and tell myself that. ESPECIALLY while I’m getting ready to revise Sojourn in Despair. But that’s the right call.


Put your work in front of the small, specific audience you know will like your book. Some writers avoid this out of pride (abashedly raises hand). Other avoid it because they’re afraid. They want their book in front of millions of eyes.

People, I see dog poop on the road every day. Seeing it doesn’t make me want to pick it up.

This image and the Feature Image were taken from Pixabay.

Your book (my book) isn’t dog poop, but it might as well be if you throw it on the busiest street (metaphorically) you can find. Because those people (metaphorically) are going somewhere. They’re looking for something specific. Put your book where YOUR readers are going.

If your sales are low. Ask yourself if you’re putting the book in front of the right readers. Try changing the category. I promise, you’re not going to sell fewer books.

For example, my category for Caught has 1,120 books. I’d rather go up against 1,000 books than the 293,452 in the broader category. J.R. (I believe he passed it along to me, but he’s the guy who told it to me) said be the big fish in the little pond. It took me a minute to find my pond. This is what worked for me.

When I shift Bob over to the right category, I’ll let you know how it affected sales and reviews.

Thanks for reading,