In my last post I talked about creating a world for your story, and this post kind of goes along with that one. When you’re building a world, especially a totally made-up world, you may want to write a history of that world, and along with that history, you may want to create maps and sketches of that world and the characters that dwell there.

I’m not sure if a lot of writers do this or not, but maps and sketches are tools I’ve used often in my writing. And maps and sketches don’t just have to be for some alien planet or fantasy world, they can be helpful for any story. If a large portion of my story takes place in a house, I’ll draw a diagram of that house. In the diagram, I’ll draw where the rooms are, the major pieces of furniture, the doors and windows, which direction north is, etc. For my book THE EXORCIST’S APPRENTICE, I drew a map of the house where much of the second half of the story takes place. For my novel THE DARWIN EFFECT, I drew the schematics of the spaceship they were on. I also drew a map of the entire town of Edrington for THE SUMMONING.

Drawing diagrams, maps, and sketches helps keep things straight in my head as I write, and keeps things logical. You don’t want a character entering the master bedroom off of the living room early in the story and then have that character enter the same bedroom from a hallway later in the story. Many readers will pick up on this flaw even if you don’t.

As far as fantasy is concerned, it almost seems mandatory to include a map of the land where the story takes place. I wrote a book with a friend of mine called THE CHANGING STONE (which we still haven’t published yet), and we created a detailed map of the continent along with other detailed maps. Those maps helped me keep details in the story straight while writing it.

When it comes to sketches, they can be useful if you’re writing a horror story and want to sketch out the creature or monster you’re trying to describe. I’ve used sketches many times in my writing. Even though I created a map/diagram for the saloon in HOPE’S END: ANCIENT ENEMY 3, I still wanted to draw a sketch of the place so I knew exactly where the tables were and what was on the walls, and how the place felt.

I think maps, sketches, and diagrams can be useful tools to help you with your writing. What do you think? I would love to hear your comments.

Next month we’ll talk about naming characters and places in your story.

Until next time . . .




Well, it’s a little past the halfway point of the year, and I thought I’d post a progress report for 2018. At the beginning of the year I resolved to publish more than last year (I only published 2 books in 2017), and I set a publishing schedule for 2018. I was doing okay at first, publishing FOLLOWED in January and then THE VAMPIRE GAME in April.

But then life got in the way. My wife and I bought a house and spent weeks painting and remodeling, and then our son got married.

But now it’s back to work for me.

The next book I plan to have on Amazon/Kindle is the third installment in my ANCIENT ENEMY series called HOPE’S END.

Hope's End - Ebook

HOPE’S END is a prequel of sorts and tells the story of the ghost town featured at the end of DARKWIND. But there’s also a twist at the end of this one that ties a lot of things together.

I’ve also completed the first three books in my new post-apocalyptic series that I’ve titled THE RIPPER APOCALPYSE. What’s a ripper? You’ll have to read the first book to find out. The first three books are the introduction to the series from various characters’ viewpoints, and it all begins as society collapses. I can’t say much more than that right now, but I’m already halfway through the first drafts of books 4 and 5. I’m really excited about this series, and I’m already imagining where it can go. I hope to have the first three books of this series available sometime in August.

I’m also working on the second book in THE EXORCIST’S APPRENTICE series, and I hope to have that one available in the fall.

And there’s a stand-alone thriller I’d love to complete before the end of the year called SLEEP DISORDERS. A man’s wife disappears while they’re eating at a restaurant. The police are sure she walked out on him, but he believes she was taken. As he digs deeper into his wife’s past and a secret life he knew nothing about, the mystery grows more and more odd and frightening.

I’ll continue posting my writing tips for each month (one more this month since I missed June), and I’ll continue notifying you of any sales or promotions I’m part of. Thank you for sticking with me and this blog, and I truly hope you’ll keep tuning in.

Until next time . . .




Note: This was supposed to be posted last month, but my wife and I moved to a new house and had to do some painting and remodeling before we could move in. And then right after that our son got married. So . . . apologies for not getting this out last month, but here is June’s Writing Tips.


When a reader begins your story, you want them to enter a new world. That world could be the inside of a spaceship, or nineteenth century London, or a rural town in Maine, or the dawn of civilization. But you want your reader to see that world, smell the scents, hear the sounds, feel the air temperature. These details may take some research (which we discussed in an earlier post) unless it’s a world you already know well.

How do you describe this world? I think it’s important not to overdo the description in most cases. In Stephen King’s On Writing, he has a great section on description and he describes a bar scene in that section. Description is a balance of details yet not bogging the reader down with too much information.

Building a world, especially an entirely new world like a fictitious town, another planet, or another civilization (like in different genres of science fiction and fantasy) may take some extra work in the beginning. You may want to write a history of the world and places you are creating before you even begin your first draft in those cases. But as with the tips we discussed on research in the earlier post, you may not want to include every detail you created in your history or bible, just enough details to tell the story.

In my next post (which I will post in a few weeks) we will talk about creating maps or sketches for the world you are creating in your story.

Hope this helps someone out there.

Until next time . . .



Here’s a tool that some writers may use and some others may not – writing character bios.

I usually write some kind of character bio for the main characters in a novel I’m working on. Some of my character bios are more detailed than others, some may consist of a paragraph, and others might run a page or more. I usually create the bios when I’m working on the outline. The bios I create are usually pretty simple: the character’s name, age, basic physical description, where they live now and where they grew up, what they do for a living, and usually a little bit about their past.

I don’t like to write every detail down about a character’s life and history because usually a character will change as I write the first draft, that character taking on a life of his or her own as I write, so I like to keep the bios pretty simple. There’s a magic that happens as you write the first draft that will cause you to stray a little from your outline and character bios as new ideas form and the story kind of takes over on its own. As I’ve said before, an outline (and a character bio) aren’t blueprints set in stone, but more like a vague idea of what the story is about before you begin the first draft.

If my bios are really simple, maybe a paragraph or two, then I will include them in  my outline, especially for minor characters. I recommend trying character bios while working on your outline, but as always, it’s up to you.

Hope this helps someone out there. Next month I will talk about building a world for your story. Also, at the end of the month, I’ll write a six month progress report for my writing goals in 2018.

Until next time . . .



Some writers outline and some don’t. Some writers outline some stories, but don’t outline other stories. Some writers create vague outlines, and some create very detailed outlines.

None of that’s right or wrong.

There are some writers who say they never use an outline (sometimes these writers are called pantsers – meaning writing by the seat-of-your-pants). These writers often say they see a character in their mind or the beginning of a story, and then they just start writing from that point, seeing where the story takes them.

I wish I could write like that. But I can’t.

I’m going to tell you what I do, but I do what works best for me, and I recommend that you do what works best for you whether it’s outlining, starting from the beginning of a story and seeing where it takes you, or something in between. I outline, plain and simple. I need to outline before I begin working on a project. I need to know the basic structure of the story I’m writing: the beginning, the middle, and the ending. I need to know a lot about the main characters. I admit that I spend a lot of time on outlines, sometimes weeks or even months before I begin the first draft. My outlines can get pretty detailed, sometimes ten or twelve typed pages, where I break the story down into “scenes” or “beats.” And, for me anyway, having a pretty detailed outline (and character bios and some basic research) helps the first draft come out pretty smoothly and quickly.

Well, usually the first draft comes out pretty quickly.

That’s not to say I haven’t struggled with some of my stories even with a fairly detailed outline. For me, some books are just easier to write than others.

I don’t want you to think that an outline is something etched in stone. I like to think of an outline as a fluid thing, more of a list of suggestions rather than a blueprint. Most of the time my stories or books take different routes from the outline I’ve written, sometimes resulting in very different scenes than I had anticipated – that’s the beauty of writing; it can take on a life of its own once you start putting pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard). Most of the time, characters will come alive and take on lives of their own, taking me down a path I wasn’t expecting. But, with that said, I still already know the very basic structure of the story I’m writing beforehand.

So it’s up to you. You could experiment with outlining one of your books before the first draft and see if it helps. Or you could just start with an intriguing beginning and run with it, see where it takes you. I always recommend some form of outlining, even if it is a basic page of notes on the story, but that’s just because outlining in some form or another has always helped me.

Hope this helps someone out there. Next month I’ll talk about creating character bios for your story in the writing tips for May.

Until next time . . .




Just wanted to let everyone know that THE VAMPIRE GAME is now available on Amazon/Kindle – it’s only .99 cents for a short time.

You can find it here:


Thank you, and please feel free to share this post.

The Vampire Game. Is it a myth? A legend? Damon and his friends are invited to play the game. The rules are simple: one, they must complete each task that is sent to them, and each task leads deeper and deeper into the world of vampires; and two, once they are in the game, there is no getting back out.

Cynthia (Cyn), Damon’s girlfriend, quits the game, and now Damon and his friends are stalking her. Cyn’s parents and the police don’t believe her about the vampires, so she turns to the only person she can think of to help her – Theron Metcalf, a former washed-up cop and now a private investigator.

Theron doesn’t entirely believe Cyn’s story, but the first night he meets with her, he sees something he can’t explain. The more Theron learns about the Vampire Game, the stranger things get. Soon, like Cyn, Theron will venture too far into the world of vampires.



So excited to reveal the cover for my newest book – THE VAMPIRE GAME.


I’m hoping to have this one available on Amazon in the next week or so, and it will be on sale for a short time for .99 cents. I’ll let everyone know when it’s available.

I hope you’ll check it out. Thanks!



Read a lot, write a lot. This might be the best and most succinct advice I’ve ever heard about the writing process – the E=MC2 equation for the writing world. That advice is from Stephen King’s brilliant book ON WRITING, which is one of the best books about the craft of writing I’ve ever read. Even if you’re not a Stephen King fan or a horror writer, I still believe every writer should read this book.

Reading a lot makes sense to me. I believe if you want to write in a certain genre, then you should be familiar with that genre – you should read a ton of books in that genre, and it should probably be a genre you already love to read. There’s a trend right now called writing to market, and that’s great, but if you’re going to try to write books in a “hot” market and you haven’t read a lot of books in that genre, then those readers and fans of that genre may be able to tell right away. I’m not saying don’t try to write to market, but I think it’s helpful to be as familiar with that genre as you can by reading a lot of books from that genre.

Reading a lot in the genre you write in is absolutely important. But I think it can also be beneficial to read books from other genres. I knew I wanted to be a writer when I was a teenager. I mostly read books in the genres I loved: horror, thrillers, and sci-fi. But I also forced myself to read outside of those genres, experimenting with other works, including literary classics. It’s hard for me to imagine a person wanting to write books who doesn’t read a lot and who doesn’t already love to read.

And now to the other half of the equation: write a lot. Writing is a skill. It’s like a muscle that needs to be exercised regularly so it can get stronger. Even for those lucky ones out there who are natural storytellers, writing is still a skill that needs to be honed. There are many naturals in the world of sports, but it’s the athletes who put in the extra hours of practice and watch the extra hours of film that seem to rise to the very top.

You, as a writer, must never stop honing your skills. You must never stop trying to improve. I wouldn’t advise going long periods of time without writing anything.

The 10,000 hour rule. It’s said that to become a master at any craft, you must put in at least ten thousand hours. That means if you worked at writing for forty hours a week, every week of the year, you would still have to work at your craft for five years before you became an expert at it.

Have you put in your five years yet – your ten thousand hours? If you haven’t, don’t feel discouraged. You still have plenty of time to hone your skill, but you must always be practicing and building those writing muscles.

When I first started writing novels in high school, they were terrible. My short stories were rip-offs from my favorite authors. But I had to push through those years of bad writing. I had to put in the hours, put in the years. It was the same thing when I first started to learn the craft of screenwriting. I had already put in my ten thousand hours of writing by then, but screenwriting was a whole new skill to learn, and I had to put in my hours doing that. My first three screenplays were horrible, but I wrote three more, and then three more. I learned the craft as I practiced, and little by little my screenplays improved enough so that producers were eventually reading them, and then some of those producers were optioning them.

So, keep reading a lot and keep writing a lot. There is so much more to learn about the business and pleasure of writing, but those two things are a great foundation to build from.

Hope this helps someone out there.

Until next time . . .