Good Luck to my Fellow NaNoWriMo Participants!

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Good Luck to my Fellow NaNoWriMo Participants!

I’m sure we all realize it takes more than luck to finish NaNoWriMo. For me, It’s about learning how much I can realistically accomplish in a short amount of time. Make the time to write, set realistic daily goals for yourself, and don’t get negative if you miss a goal.

My son and I have participated the last two years. This year, he’ll be increasing his word goals from 30,000 to 40,000. I can’t wait to see if he can do it. He met goal early last year, so I think he can do it. We all can! *fist pump*

If you’d like to be NaNo buddies, you can find me under “D. M. Newlun”.

Lame Confessions: Halloween Edition

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Lame Confessions: Halloween Edition

Not every Halloween can be the stuff of legends, and that’s why there’s Lame Confessions: Halloween Edition! Drag your pumpkin spiced tushies over here and hear my nightmarish tales…or rather, my lame tales of Halloween past.


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Dolly Parton

Every kid ought to have at least one good Dolly Parton Halloween story, right? Alright, maybe just me then.

When I was about nine or ten years old, my mother and grandma put their heads together and decided I would be Dolly Parton. They used my grandma’s bra, clothes, and one of her wigs. They filled the bra with balloons and took me door to door for candy.

Every house we trick-or-treated that year:

Me: “Trick or treat!”

Adult: “And who are you supposed to be?”

Me: “Dolly Parton.”

Adult: *Much laughter, calls all other adults in home to bear witness*

I knew who Dolly Parton was, but that year I felt more like I was dressed up as Grandma. And I really didn’t understand why the adults got such a kick out of it. It also confirmed my theory that adults were weird.


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When I was thirteen, my friends and I decided we were too old for trick-or-treating, instead, we decided to opt out of the treat part of trick-or-treating and focus solely on the trick part. I know, trust me. What a little fool I was. I should have trick-or-treated until I was 30.

I stuffed my jean jacket full of toilet paper and my pockets with bars of soap and headed straight for my friend V’s (No names. I must protect their identities at all costs.) house. Her parents, of course, noticed a difference in the fit of my coat, but they were cool about it. Her dad poked at my rib area and asked if I’d put on weight. Her mom, always practical, “Stay out of my bathroom, V. I’m not going back out for toilet paper tonight.” We left to meet up with the other girls, full of giggles and schemes.

Our first stop on our reign of terror (of the town that boasted a population of less than 200) was to my neighbors, a family I knew had a good sense of humor since I babysat and housesat for them. We set to work on the man of the house’s truck (his wife’s car safely tucked away in the garage). We toilet papered and soaped it, and I believe one of the girls even used cling wrap on it.

We were high on mischief that night. We glided through the streets, keeping to the shadows, stopping only to toilet paper and soap. The pride we felt at our own super-sneaky ways grew and grew. We were unstoppable.

The next day, I walked out the front door with a little something extra in my step. I sauntered to the end of the drive, and my neighbor shouted for me to wait up a sec. I smiled, knowingly, planning to fully deny all allegations, if he even suspected.

The man strolled up to me with his own saunter and an evil smirk to match my own. My confidence faltered.

“You left something behind last night.”

“Whaddya mean?”

He tossed something through the air, and I caught it on impulse. I looked down at a pill bottle. My brow furrowed. I twisted the bottle to read the label. Shit. My friend, J., had dropped her medication in their driveway on our super-sneaky mission.

I looked up into the face of a man smiling the smile of someone who’d won. Which leads us to our next tale…


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What Was That?!?

Be careful who you trick. Some people will play at a whole different level. I poked the bear so to speak.

Since I was no longer trick-or-treating, my mother figured I could start handing out candy. I didn’t mind. Cute kids’ costumes and all the candy I could eat? Of course, I’ll sign up for that. I set up my tiny TV, laid out on the floor, and watched scary movies while handing out candy.

I laid on my belly, staring at the tiny tube, enthralled with whatever scary movie I was able to pick up with rabbit ears. A loud crash sounded behind me, and I rolled to my side to look. A large man in a buttoned-up flannel, wearing a mask burst through the back door.

My eyes widened and so did my lungs. I screamed for all I was worth. The big man closed the distance, standing over me, ax in hand. I screamed and screamed until I finally heard it. The man laughed, throwing off his mask, revealing himself as my neighbor.

He didn’t want to get hit or worse, so he had gotten permission from my parents. He said when he snuck across the backyard he had panicked. The motion detector had set off the light and there he stood in the middle of it, mask, ax, and looking up to no good. He sprinted for the light and unscrewed it and then continued his creeping.

I took the tiniest of victories in the idea that he had panicked, just a little, in that security light.


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Code Orange! Code Pumpkin!

My mother loves the fall “look”. Every year she bought corn, pumpkins, and gourds to adorn the outside of the house. And every year, she would become quite miffed when the local hoodlums (of the town boasting a population of less than 200) would smash her pumpkins right in front of her house.

I knew who smashed her pumpkins. Hell, I encouraged them to smash her pumpkins. The woman made my life hell, and it was just my way of giving back a little. It’s the little things.

The problem, you see, is she nagged my father about it. My father hated to be nagged, but it was more than a nag really. My mom doesn’t just nag but knows how to throw in that special twist, almost a challenge.

My father is an electrician. He rigged up sensor plates in front of the house. They set the carved pumpkins on the wooden plates and waited. The plates were set so when the pumpkins were removed, it’d sound an alarm in the house, so we could catch the dirty criminals.

Halloween night tucked into our beds, sleeping like the dead. The loudest alarm I’d heard in my life went off. We all bumbled out into the hall, confused, not quite understanding why there was this obnoxious noise in the middle of our beautiful slumber.

Except for father, that is.

He was a third shifter. He was at work. He’d left his funny surprise for his wife and kids. My father has a great sense of humor. Mom didn’t ask him to rig up any more pumpkins…in case you were wondering.


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 And thus ends this edition of…

*insert drum roll*

Lame Confessions: Halloween Edition!

Happy Halloween!

May your day be filled with candy, fun, and surprises.

Focusing More Time on my Writing

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Focusing More Time on my Writing

I’ve been stuck on the fourth draft of my first novel-length story for months and months. Frankly, more months than I care to admit. I have three potential novels half written, and I don’t even know how many short stories are waiting to be edited. I haven’t finished anything because my schedule is out of whack.

It’s time to take drastic measures…or rather necessary measures. I just need to put on my big girl pants and do what needs to be done.

I’m afraid I spend far too much time laughing at Tweets, so I’ll be leaving Twitter for the next month, possibly two. I’ll continue to post to my Instagram account, and occasionally post updates to Twitter. Please feel free to email me from the contact page if you’d like to stay in contact while I’m adulting.

As soon as I get my writing schedule back on track, I’ll be back to gif Twitter to death. =)

*hugs to those who came to read my blabberings*

Book Review: Stage 3: Alpha by Ken Stark

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Book Review: Stage 3: Alpha


In Stage 3 Mason tries with all his heart to reunite his new charge, Mackenzie with her beloved Aunt Sarah. By the end of the book, we’re left wondering if there’s even an Aunt Sarah to find. I’ll admit I worried Aunt Sarah hadn’t made it out of the doomed hospital.

Stage 3: Alpha gives us a whole new cast of characters to explore, among them, Aunt Sarah. I can’t tell you how happy I was to see that the author had given Aunt Sarah the space to show us who she is. I kept waiting for Mason and Mackenzie to show up and rescue Aunt Sarah, but I quickly learned that Aunt Sarah needs no rescuing.

I felt as though Stage 3 gave us a teaser of what humanity had become, the obvious monsters and the not-so-obvious monsters. In the second installment of the series, we get a much clearer view of the wasteland they’re all living in, the hopelessness they face, the kindness of strangers, and that some monsters look just like us.

The author has a knack for character development. Each character in Stage 3: Alpha feels real. Even the truly vile humans we encounter have wants, desires, and motivations. I loved how Stark used the characters of the book to show this new world isn’t as black and white as the old one. The world has grown much grayer.

Stark’s story weaves us through a dangerous landscape without ever making us feel like the people are surviving by the grace of the author. The scenes come alive because I don’t feel like the author handed the character everything they needed in a neat and tidy, little package. Stark makes his characters work to survive. A believable plot and believable characters are what bring me back to Stark’s series.

This is my second purchase in the Stage 3 series, and it won’t be my last.


Author Interview: Ken Stark 2.0

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Author Interview: Ken Stark 2.0

I’ve been harassing Ken Stark ever since I learned of Stage 3: Alpha, and it paid off. Ken is back to tell us all about Stage 3: Alpha, what’s in store for the series, and his other project, Arcadia Falls. I hope you enjoy Ken’s interview as much as I have.


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Ken Stark, author of Stage 3 and Stage 3: Alpha


Welcome back, Ken! I appreciate you taking the time to answer some questions for all of us fans, especially with the release of Alpha keeping you busy.


My pleasure, Donna! For the record, you were the first person to interview me after Stage 3, so I can’t imagine anyone I’d rather sit down with after the release of Stage 3: Alpha. My only hope is that you don’t get so rich and famous with your own books that you won’t want to keep the tradition going!


I’m hoping we both become rich and famous and do kooky interviews with each other just to make people wonder about our eccentric lives.


Haha…sounds good to me!


You know how excited I’ve been waiting for Stage 3: Alpha. I can just imagine how excited the rest of your fans are. What can you tell us about Alpha?


All I’ve said so far is that the story is told from a different point of view, but now that it’s out, I can finally say it out loud. Aunt Sarah is alive! And not only is she alive, she is the driving force behind Stage 3: Alpha. The story starts just after the collapse of the hospital, and we follow Sarah as she tries desperately to reunite with her niece, Mackenzie. She knows that she has to survive if she is to have any hope of saving Mack, but she learns pretty quickly that she will have to harden her heart to do so. It is pretty much the opposite trajectory that Mason took in Stage 3, so it should make for an interesting contrast.


I love the direction you took with Stage 3: Alpha. I worried it would be the easy answer, having Mason come and save the day, and I should have known better. The way you start Stage 3 and the way you handle the zombie outbreak is different than the tired storylines we see all too often. I was glad you gave Sarah the space to show why she’s a survivor.


Well, thank you. I figured most people would expect book 2 to be the Continuing Adventures of Mack and Mace, so I wanted to make it clear right from the start that this was Sarah’s story. We saw Mason’s learning curve in understanding this new reality, so it was only right to show Sarah’s as well, and whereas Mason’s education began with a bright spark of hope, Sarah’s is initiated by a personal loss. So though they may have ended up in pretty much the same place, Sarah’s path there was considerably more tragic, giving her an entirely different set of motivations.


I don’t know if I’ve told you this, Ken, but my first horror movie was Night of the Living Dead. I’ve loved zombies ever since. So as I read Stage 3: Alpha one question loomed above all others. How many books are planned for the series? And can your fans convince you to never stop writing them?


I planned the series as a trilogy, but I’m having too much fun to stop at three, so no convincing needed! I’ll keep them coming as long as there’s even one person who enjoys them, myself included. I’m also trying very hard to write each of them as its own story, so hopefully, a reader will be able to come in at book 3 or book 5 and have no less an entertaining story than if they were there from the beginning.


*happy dance* Stage 3: Alpha feels like it could stand alone so I’d say you nailed it, sir. I hope it continues to work for the books to come.


I hope so, too! I love the idea that someone might pick up one of my books and enjoy it, then find out later that there were two or three books preceding that one. It would mean that they enjoyed the characters and the story without knowing all of the background minutiae, so I will have done my job right.


We start the story with Sarah, whom we had heard only mentioned in Stage 3. (By the way, I love Sarah, and she’s a character I wish I could meet.) What can you tell us about Sarah? Where did the inspiration for Sarah come from?


Oh, Sarah…. I love Sarah, too. I desperately wanted to introduce her in Stage 3, but to do so would have required her to be rescued by the big strong hero, and that simply wouldn’t do. Sarah is no damsel in distress. She is as tough and resourceful and as utterly badass as Mason himself, so to truly do Sarah justice, she needed a book of her own.


The character isn’t based on anyone in particular, but she shares some of the best and worst traits with every woman I’ve ever known. She is proud and strong and resilient, and she is most definitely loving and caring, but just like everyone else on Earth, there are times when she is driven by pure, raw emotion. In those moments, we get to see Sarah at her very best and her very worst, so they provide a pretty good insight into what really makes her tick.


One of the things I love about your characters is how real they feel. Sarah doesn’t feel like a sudden superhero, which again, we see all too often. She feels like a character adapting to her surroundings, using what she’s always got by on…brains.



Well, I think the greatest asset anyone can have in any kind of dire situation is plain old common sense. You don’t have to be Einstein, you just have to observe, realize the dangers, and act accordingly. Sarah is smart, sure, but it was common sense that told her how to use what she knows to her best advantage.


I assume once people finish reading this interview they’ll be running off to buy your book. It’s the only logical choice. So where can Stage 3 and Stage 3: Alpha be purchased? Will it be available in ebook and paperback?


Both are on Amazon, and by the time this interview comes out, both should be available as ebooks and paperbacks. If Alpha isn’t in paperback yet, just give it a day or two. As well, Beacon Publishing recently released an audiobook version of Stage 3, which you can find either on Amazon or iTunes. (Inside tip: it’s a LOT cheaper on Amazon. You can combine it with the ebook or add it on later, and it’s still cheaper than iTunes. But you didn’t hear it from me…..Shhh…..)


Already bought my ebook. =) Don’t worry, people. The review is coming.


And I appreciate it! As they say, writers live or die by review, so thank you very much. But since I mentioned the audiobook, let me just give a shout-out to Gregory Peyton and all the fine folks at Beacon Publishing. I had no hand in any of it, but I honestly couldn’t imagine a better actor than Gregory Peyton to bring Hank Mason to life. He was so much like the Mason I heard in my head that I couldn’t quite believe it. He even swore like the voice in my head, so that’s pretty awesome!


When I finally release a novel, I’ll probably happy dance until I collapse. How will you be celebrating the release of Stage 3: Alpha?


Oh, the usual; a heady blend of excitement, pride, satisfaction, and a special kind of gut-wrenching dread. Honestly, I can’t celebrate a book’s release. Even though I know that I’ve done the best I can, once the book is out of my hands and committed, I immediately start to second-guess every aspect of it. Maybe I should have done this, maybe I should have done that…. Eventually, I just have to accept that it is what it is, and readers will either like it or not. But none of that translates into celebration. I guess what I really do to celebrate a book’s release is to jump right into the next thing, hoping to do a better job on the next one than the last.


Man, now I’m thinking I’ll happy dance until I realize the implications… What is this feeling in my guts?


I’m afraid you’d better get used to that feeling. That is the future you feel, unknown and unknowable.


If I promise not to harass you too much, will you tell me if the third Stage 3 novel is in development?


#3 is underway as we speak. I have no idea when it will be done, but it will be done! All I’m willing to say about it right now is that everyone left alive at the end of Alpha will be there, plus we’ll meet a few new friends, a few new enemies, and some that might just straddle the line.


*fist bump* I’m already looking forward to it. You’ve introduced some intriguing characters in Alpha. I can’t wait to see where you take them. There are so many possibilities for this “new” world.


Oh, there are endless possibilities. I’m already several books ahead, plotting all manner of mayhem. Will some old villains re-emerge? Does the virus have anything else up its proverbial sleeve? And just what caused the outbreak in the first place? Only time will tell.


The last time you stopped by and subjected yourself to my questioning, you mentioned another project in the works. What can you tell us about the Arcadia Falls project you’ve been working on?


I’m starting to feel like George R R Martin when I discuss Arcadia Falls. It’s coming, I swear! The book is actually done, but finding time for one final edit has been tough with everything else that’s been going on. In a nutshell, the book is about an unlikely group of friends coming together to battle a long-forgotten evil that’s been plaguing the town of Arcadia Falls. It was written with YA readers in mind, so I’d rate it as PG-13, but there should be plenty of nightmares to go around. No zombies this time, though. In fact, I can truthfully say that the evil in question is something no one’s ever seen before.


I’m excited to read Arcadia Falls. We need new monsters. I love the old ones (zombies, vampires, werewolves, etc.), but there’s nothing like a new monster to keep you peeking under beds and behind doors.


I couldn’t agree more. We can certainly breathe new life into old monsters, but there’s nothing like a brand new horror to really shake things up.


Not that you’re not already busy enough, but any other projects we should keep a lookout for?


After Arcadia Falls, I’ll pour myself back into the world of Stage 3 and see what kind of havoc I can wreak. But don’t be surprised if the odd short story pops up from time to time, either on my website or elsewhere.


Any chance for a short story compilation book?


Maybe one day, but I think I’ll just post them on my website for now. Or maybe throw the occasional one on Amazon and ask for a few pennies for charity.


Two books out, one crazy lady who stalks you for interviews *points to self*, do you feel like a famous author now? Do you feel like a success? Please use details so I can live vicariously through you until my time comes.


Lol! Tell you what, if I ever start to feel like a success, you’ll be the first to know! But maybe that’s the whole point, after all. If we think we’ve arrived at our destination, we stop moving, so maybe it’s better we keep our eyes on the horizon and keep plodding along, one step at a time.


I like that a lot. Always looking upward and onward. I have trouble feeling like a “real” writer. At what point did you feel like, “I’m a real writer”?


I think it’s an incremental thing. The day my first book was accepted by a publisher, the day the book came out, the first review…. I’m not even sure if I feel like a ‘real’ writer yet, but at least I can start to imagine that I might one day.


With a second book under your belt, what advice do you have for writers trying to get words down on a page? Any advice for those trying to get a novel published?


Two excellent questions with very different answers.

Firstly, for anyone struggling to get words on a page, my advice is simple. Stop struggling. Put down whatever’s in your head and worry about making sense of it later. Most of the struggle comes from trying to write like someone or as good as someone, but you have to know that every voice is unique and every view of the world is unique and every writer’s imagination is unique, so why the hell are you setting limits on your own creativity? Maybe what you come up with will be an instant best seller, but even if it never sees the light of day, the work still wasn’t done in vain. You are now a better writer than you were yesterday, and you will be a better writer tomorrow than you are today. So just write! Put one word in front of the other and write!


But now, getting your book published is another thing altogether. If you’re looking to be published traditionally, there are certain protocols that you ignore only at your own peril. Yes, you might stand apart from the crowd by sending in a query letter on a cocktail napkin, but your chances will be much, much better if you follow the rules. A quick online search will show you dozens of publishers looking for unsolicited manuscripts, and each publisher’s website will tell you what they’re looking for and precisely how to submit your work. Any deviation might cause your hard work to be deleted with the stroke of a key, so follow those rules to the letter. The only other advice I can give is to have your book finished and polished before submitting anything, and spend more time than you ever imagined it would take on coming up with an awesome blurb. That blurb is meant to catch readers’ attention, but it might just be what catches the publisher’s attention too, so take your time with it. Seriously. If you have it in a week, take another five to make it better.


As a writer who struggles to put words on the page, I can attest you just have to do it. It’s much easier to fix the words you write than to continue staring at a blank page. I have to admit the publishing advice is solely for my own selfish needs.


I don’t believe you for a second, but sure….


This next question might make you grumble a little bit, but I’m going to ask it anyway. If Ken Stark were a character what three positive traits would he possess? What three negative traits?


A little bit? Sure, okay, a little bit…. But alright, my friend, and only because it’s you. The three positive traits would have to be honesty, integrity and a logical approach to all things. On the negative side, that entirely fictional character would probably be somewhat impatient, a bit of a know-it-all, and might possibly be prone to wanting to go it alone rather than put his life in the hands of others.


Good answer! A character I would read. I need to think of another uncomfortable question for the next interview. Buwhaha!


Have at it, sister. If it’s too uncomfortable, I’ll just lie. Oops! I mean, I’ll ’embellish the character’.


As I learned from my last interview with you, you dig soaking up the summer sun. Any plans for this summer?


As long as we have our usual fantastic Vancouver summer weather, I’ll stay put. I’ll sun myself on a rock like a lizard by day and spend my nights at the keyboard. Actually though, I have so many things going on right now, even the sun might have to take a back seat. But pale and pasty is the new sexy, am I right? Donna, am I right? Donna? Uhh….hello?…….


…Uhm… You’re asking the wrong person. I have two shades…pale and lobster red. I don’t think either rate new or old sexy. Live it up, Ken. Write or edit outside in your favorite little nook.


Yah, you’re right. It was a long winter and I’m not quite thawed out yet.


Anyone following you on Instagram knows you love animals. What critters own you?


Hey, no joke, I gave a granola bar to a sickly-looking rat just yesterday, so I think it’s safe to say that every critter owns me. But I do have one particularly spoiled cat who runs my life. She wandered in as a stray and laid claim to the place, then she spent the next 17 years bending me to her will. She even took over my comfy office chair, but she keeps me company no matter how long I spend at the keyboard, so I think we both consider it a fair trade.


The cartoon-like imagery that produces… =D Animals have a way of squirming their way into our hearts.


Oh, absolutely. It might take years for me to feel close to a human, but anything with four legs is an immediate friend.


One last question… I’m sure it’s only a matter of time before the Syfy network or some other network snags up the rights to Stage 3. When they do, who should play Mason, Mackenzie, and Sarah?


Okay, now we’re entering Fantasyland. Honestly, seeing those characters come alive would be a dream come true, but I’ll bet there are thousands of actors I’ve never heard of who could do them more justice than any mainstream celeb I might suggest. I sometimes have an image of an actor in my head to help with the writing, but in this case I didn’t, so I’m wide open. But tell you what….. turn it into a series or a movie and pay me a gazillion dollars, and I’m pretty sure I’ll be alright with anyone they pick. Pee-wee Herman and Lindsay Lohan? Sure, sounds great!
That’s right, I said it. I’m not proud, but I said it…..


Unknown actors would probably work better. After all, these are just average people trying to survive a world gone mad. I think it would make the characters more believable. I wouldn’t say we’re in Fantasyland just yet. Throw out a few more books and Stage 3 might just be the next Walking Dead or True Blood.


Your lips to Spielberg’s ear, sister. I won’t hold my breath, but it’s nice to dream.


Thank you again for agreeing to another interview, Ken. As always, you’ve been a pleasure to interview.


No, thank you, Donna! It’s always an honour and privilege for me when we get to sit down and talk, and hopefully, you’ll return the favour when you hit the best-seller list. Maybe we’ll even meet on the red carpet one day. I’ll introduce you to Pee-wee. You’ll love him……


Aww, shucks. I better get to writing then. I’ve always been a Pee-wee fan. I’d be happy to meet him. Maybe not go to the movies with him, but meet him sure.


To find out more about Ken Stark:

Author’s Website

Stage 3 on Amazon

Stage 3: Alpha on Amazon

Ken Stark on Instagram

Ken Stark on Facebook



Author Interview: Jay Sandlin

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Author Interview: Jay Sandlin

I hope you’ll enjoy getting to know Jay Sandlin, author of Outbreak Mutiny and creator of The Novel Comics, as much as I have. This fascinating and witty fella has a lot on his plate, but he still agreed to an interview with yours truly. Enjoy!


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Hi, Jay. Thank you for granting me an interview. I’m excited to learn more about you and your novel.


Thank you, it’s a pleasure to talk with you and your readers. I’m excited to let everyone know about The Novel Comics!


I’m sure your fans and those just getting to know you would love to know more about you. Give us the scoop. Who is Jay Sandlin?


I’ve been asking my therapist that for years…Kidding. I’m a small business owner, student, husband, and father. After owning and operating my business for years I felt a tug of emptiness. I still had dreams to realize and wanted to set an example for my son.

I enrolled in the Master’s Program for History in my Alma Mater. I’ll graduate in December with that degree. I also have had a lifelong passion for superheroes and all thinks GEEK. I decided to combine those two passions and make a career out of it.

Thus, the Novel Comics was born. It is a shared universe of superheroes, characters, and events in an alternate timeline I created. My first release, Outbreak Mutiny came out in mid-April and is available exclusively on Amazon in paperback and eBook for just 99 cents.


Wow! Impressive. You’re quite the busy bee. I’m sure your son will be proud.

Some of the best tips come from fellow writers. What tips do you have for new writers?


Write, write, and write. Never let your impatience halt your progress. I was the least patient person on the planet when I started this process. Now I may be in the 80th percentile. You have to recognize it’s a day-to-day process. Then ask yourself, “What am I doing today to reach my goals as a writer?”

Set deadlines for yourself and then don’t beat yourself up when you don’t meet them. In writing everything took longer than I imagined it would.


All great tips for keeping your focus on what matters. Thank you.

When did you know you wanted to be a writer? Did you always want to be a writer?


I always held a deep love for reading. I knew I wanted to be a writer when I was under the playground equipment reading Shadows of the Empire by Steve Perry and the other kids my age were kicking around this rubber ball filled with air. It seemed so pointless. Why were they engaged in this mundane activity when I was entering new worlds in a galaxy far, far away?

It wasn’t long before I was the one creating my own worlds. Of course, I didn’t stay consistent. I needed time to grow and mature before I came back to a childhood love of writing. I stuck with theater for years and that was my creative outlet. Then in 2015 I appeared in three shows back to back: a comedy, musical, and a drama. When they all wrapped I was left filling unfulfilled. After the curtain closed my efforts felt like they had evaporated into a vapor that would only linger in the minds of the few audience members for a few days.

I turned down all requests for auditions after that and still do today. I realized that print could last forever; and through the written word my art could achieve immortality.


An important step forward, realizing your goals and making them happen.

I’m often surprised by what inspires my stories and where those ideas lead. What gave you the idea for Outbreak Mutiny?


At the time I was on a beach trip. I was reading other novels about Superheroes while taking a Master’s course in the Cold War. The history of the Cold War is essentially the history of the 20th century. The course was organized in highly compact blocks of time through the decades of the tumultuous century.

While reading the Superhero novels on my break, I felt like I was in a unique position. I knew everything about Superheroes and was a History buff as well. I decided to combine those factors and insert heroes into the events I was currently studying.

That quickly evolved into an alternate timeline altogether. You’ll recognize some names, places, and events from actual history in Outbreak Mutiny, but as you can see from the reorganized borders in my world things are very, very different:



That’s a wonderful origin story, a great example of writing what you know. I love the use of the map. It really drives home the changes in your world.

Without giving the story away, what can you tell us about Outbreak Mutiny?


The tagline gives away the idea: It’s an alternate history. With superheroes. We all remember the early 20th century saw the Baby Boomers, correct? That was an Outbreak in the American population. It’s also remembered as the “Greatest Generation.”

In my world, they had the Outbreak Babies. These were human beings who manifested superpowers after serious trauma or life threatening accidents. They came to the attention of the world in 1918 when the USS Maine was sunk by an Outbreak Baby with heat vision off the coast of Havana Cuba during the Spanish-American War.

This is a novel, but because of my love of comics I label my chapters as “Issues”. In Issue 0, we find the US on the brink of losing the Outbreak War; the first war fought between nations using beings with superpowers.

It does not go well for the United States.


I love the idea of combining history and superheroes, but I think the merging of the novel and comic really sets your novel apart.

What types of superpowers can we expect to see in Outbreak Mutiny?


Anything is possible! For a handy guide, I created character stats to go with their artwork. I have to thank my friend and fellow host, Ray, on The Naked Porch podcast for giving me the idea and putting these together:


What a great idea! I love these. They remind me of the character cards in some of the tabletop games I’ve played. Just brilliant!

In what ways does Outbreak Mutiny set itself apart from other superhero stories?


That is an answer I would prefer to leave up to readers. I would say it is different because I’ve built a world; not just a story. The Outbreak timeline is another Stream in the vast network of worlds that run parallel but never intersect with one another. Their future looks bleak, and I hope readers get invested in what happens next. I think the greatest strength lies in the characters.


With interesting characters and plot, I’m sure readers will love shouting about their most beloved parts.

Which of your characters is your favorite? Why?


I’m going to cheat and pick two. I love Clockwork. He is the Steampunk Savior and the founder of the Armorer’s Guild. He’s a man operating a Power Suit that he designed himself and built with his vast fortune. It would be like if John D. Rockefeller decided to become Iron Man back in his day. He encouraged his peers to also step up and defend the weak with their ingenuity. They may not all have superpowers like the Outbreak Babies, but with their wealth and intelligence they can do their part. He’s also the stereotypical, corny, superhero. He has catch-phrases and even plays his own theme music through speakers mounted to the armor.

Secondly, I would say Buccaneer. I can’t say much about him. I can tell you he’s a revolutionary with heat vision and doesn’t trust many people. You’ll have to read to find out anything else.


After seeing those character stat sheets, I can see why it’d be hard to pick just one!

As someone who loves worlds created around superheroes, what will I love about your superheroes? What will fans of the genre love about your story?


I would tell people who already love Superheroes to view my world with this in mind: What if superpowers were real? If they were, there would almost certainly have been dictators, leaders, and even Presidents that wanted to manipulate or even weaponized them for their own benefit.

If that were the case, could the world have become the way I wrote it in my fiction? A regime like my villains, the Reich, could just as easily have united behind a charismatic Outbreak Baby like they did Adolph Hitler in the years leading to WWII.

That is why slavery is a major theme. When the powerful control our destinies and guide our fate, freedom is lost for all. The tagline on the book cover jacket states that the choice in my world is clear: “Die free, or live in chains.”

When faced with that choice, what will you choose? What do my characters choose? Let me know what you think, @JSandlinWriter on twitter.


Some thought-provoking questions. I hope readers will head over to Twitter for some fun discussions with Jay.

What is The Novel Comics? And what is in the future for The Novel Comics?


Outbreak Mutiny was the first in the Volume Series. The next release will be Outbreak Mutiny Volume II and will contain the next set of Issues (chapters). I plan to continue those indefinitely as the main series.

In addition, there will be short stories or other collections in the same shared universe under The Novel Comics Anthologies title. That will serve as a method to tell backstories and other tales of characters in the Outbreak world independently of the Volume series. The first I hope will focus on the origin story of Caliente Blu, the heroine from Issue 0. She seems to resonate with many readers, male and female.


It sounds like this world will provide you with a wealth of material for the future. I’m sure fans won’t be disappointed.

When you’re not writing “Alternate Histories with Superheroes,” what do you like to do with your free time?


100% of my free time goes into being the best possible father I can be to my three-year-old son. He is the bright spot of my life and all that is best in me. I am still working towards my Master’s degree and hope to teach online or work as a Guest Lecturer in my free time next year. I’m also working on my Master’s Thesis which I hope to transition into another book. This one will be a nonfiction bit of Oral History based around a series of interviews I conducted with a local WWII veteran, Manhattan Project worker, and NASA employee during the Cold War.


I’m sure your son will love your story as much as your fans!

Several of the authors I’ve interviewed were drawn to other creative pursuits. Are you the creative type? Any painting, woodworking, or other creative endeavors?


Yes, I already mentioned my love of theatre. That calmed down in the last couple of years but I still perform regularly with my friends in the improve troupe The Wickets. Check us out on Facebook at

And as an advocate of geek culture, I like to stay active with movie/book/trailer/comic reviews and regular appearances on podcasts. I am an occasional guest host on The Naked Porch as well with my friends Ray, Chris, and Danielle.


Your workload would wear down any normal human. Perhaps you have a little superhero in you.

What three books are you most likely to recommend to a friend?


I’m glad you specified “friend” because my recommendations to my enemies will be far different. For my friends into fantasy, I recommend the Dresden Files by Jim Butcher; The Ex-Heroes by Peter Clines; Confessions of a D-List Villain by Jim Bernheimer; all STAR WARS, especially Timothy Zahn. I can’t wait to pick up Thrawn this weekend.

For my enemies, I don’t know, you might like Moon People by Dale Courtney.


Haha! Yes, I suppose I didn’t need the “friend”.

Any new projects in the works for fans to keep an eye out for?


Quite a few. I have a series of Children’s Books that will begin in August. They will follow “Little Wolfie” the son of the Big Bad Wolf and the lessons he learns attending new schools and making new friends. My oral history book will also be available this year or the first of next year. I’m wrestling with two titles: “The Sunday Historian” or “Six Pages Per Shot”. You’ll have to contact me on twitter and tell me which title you prefer.

In the meantime, you can find my book on Amazon. Visit me at,, Good Reads, or just come by Twitter and talk any GEEK topic day or night. Thanks for having me and I can’t wait to hear what you all think about Outbreak Mutiny.


Thank you, Jay, for taking the time to answer my questions. It’s been a delight getting to know all about you and The Novel Comics. I can’t wait to finish the book.

Book Review: Whispers in the Alders by H. A. Callum

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Book Review: Whispers in the Alders

“The drifts formed and moved like waves animated in clay, seeming to have a purpose to the shapes they took and the directions they wandered.”

From the beginning, the story swept me up and carried me along. I was entranced by H. A. Callum’s poetic descriptions. He used his words to paint vivid images for his reader. Unlike other novels, I didn’t feel bogged down in the description, rather I wanted to wade through the words and see this new world through Callum’s eyes.

“Tommy and I had always made the vow to break the mold and live our lives on our terms regardless of the cost. And that is what I did.”

By the fourth page, I had identified with Aubrey, the narrator of the story. This is a mark of how easily Callum draws you into his world. Throughout the rest of the book, I found myself in awe of Aubrey and the choices she faced. Aubrey made realistic decisions with realistic outcomes.

“Tommy went on, ‘But it just happens, right? All your life you dream of getting out and exploring the world, but then life just grabs you by the foot and pulls you back in.’”

Throughout the novel, Callum used dialogue to show his characters in unique ways and to make us fall in love with them. Since the book is narrated by Aubrey, many of the dialogues between Aubrey and Tommy are the only clues we get to Tommy’s worlds. The two aren’t able to talk as often as they’d like, but each interaction gives us a glimpse of the kind and tender heart of Tommy.

Personally, I would have loved more interactions between Aubrey and Tommy. A few scenes explained how they continued to talk to one another, and I wish Callum had expanded those scenes with more dialogue. I think it would have anchored their relationship for me.

As much as I can identify with the characters, I can also recognize Alder Ferry. It may very well be unique in its location and setting, but the town’s mindset is very much alive across the United States. Many readers will recognize the town mentality and shudder to think what or who are falling through the cracks at this moment in time in their own chunk of the world.

I will be recommending this novel to all my fellow readers, and I look forward to seeing what this talented author has in store for us in the future.

Note: I received an advance review copy from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Author Interview: H. A. Callum 2.0

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Author Interview: H. A. Callum 2.0

If you’re a fan of H. A. Callum’s then you know the last interview just left us wanting to know more about this wonderful, supportive writer and his new book, Whispers in the Alders. I’m thrilled to bring you the second installment, H. A. Callum 2.0. Enjoy!


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H. A. Callum’s Whispers in the Alders

Welcome back, H.A. I know you’re busy with the release of your first novel, so I appreciate you taking the time to answer my questions.

Hi, Donna! The pleasure’s all mine. I greatly appreciate the time you’ve taken away from your own writing for this interview.


For those who refuse to read the first interview, which they should since it’s incredibly entertaining, tell us about Whispers in the Alders.


Shame on them! Hopefully we’ll get them to go back and read the first to avoid any spoilers! Since there has been more publicity (just a little!) since the first interview, we can give away a bit more as the story of Whispers in the Alders is slowly revealing itself leading up to its release. Whispers in the Alders is more than just the collision of two worlds when Aubrey and Tommy first meet. It reflects society, where we’ve been as a nation socially, where we are now, and how two people can change their places in that social structure, regardless of the emotional cost to them. Whispers in the Alders is a beautiful story about how two misbegotten kids find their escape in the alder stand, and by getting lost in the pages of a book. How many of us can relate to that? I know I can.


I haven’t finished Whispers in the Alders yet, but I’m well on my way. I would have to agree. The characters and storyline have drawn me in from the beginning just by being relatable.

My stories often evolve from a spark or a glimmer of thought leading down a rabbit hole. What was the spark or glimmer of thought that inspired Whispers in the Alders?


The story behind Whispers in the Alders constantly pulled at me until it was given its rightful place on the page, staring back at me, ready to be told to conclusion. Variations of it played out in my imagination for years. Finally, late one night, I found the inspiration and courage to give this story its due. I hope that, as an author, I’ve done justice to Aubrey and Tommy’s story.


Speaking of Aubrey and Tommy, what can you tell us about the stars of the show? Who are Aubrey and Tommy? No spoilers, please.


They are an odd pairing, and it’s hard to say who they are without risking spoilers, because so much of the story is driven by their personalities and their relationship. Aubrey is the daughter of privileged parents, her childhood spent touring the country via countless relocations caused by her father’s corporate position. She’s the new girl in school every year, and her father’s reputation always ushers in her arrival. Finding friends is never easy for Aubrey in the towns that become part of her vagabond childhood. She backs up Tommy, who is the shy, free-spirited boy that spent his days hiding behind a book. He’s also from Alder Ferry’s lower economic class, and the shame of that is apparent in his first encounters with Aubrey.


Most of your fans only have two questions for you, where can we purchase your book? And is it available for pre-order?


Finally! I thought you would never ask! The kindle edition is available now for pre-order on Amazon at: On release day, it will also be available on B&N, iTunes, Kobo, 24 Symbols, and many other online stores.


Many folks love eBooks, but for those who don’t, will there be a paperback or hardcover release coming in the future? If so, when can we expect to see it?


Yes! Paperback will be available for order on May 26th through all online retailers. As of now we are also working to place the paperback in select independent bookstores in the Philadelphia metro region. I also make personal deliveries for signed copies (wink).


I know what I’d do on release day for my book, but what will you be up to May 26th while the rest of us are reading Whispers in the Alders? Any fun festivities planned for the days leading up to and after the release?


I decided against the traditional launch party. In the end, I want to celebrate the release of Whispers in the Alders finally getting into the hands of readers. May 26th is going to be a busy day for me on social media promoting the book, and I plan to cap the day off with a dinner date with my wife whose support has been incredible. The writer’s life takes its toll on everyone whether or not we notice it.

Which isn’t to say there will not be any events! For as much time that goes into writing a novel, why sell its release short?


That sounds like a wonderful way to spend your release day! If I lived closer, I’d say, “Drop off the kids and have a fabulous time!” I’m sure you both deserve the celebration.

I intend to live vicariously through all my friends who get published, so what’s it been like realizing your dream? From words on a page to a novel?


Phenomenal, and challenging! It’s remarkable getting Whispers in the Alders out there, and finally holding the finished book in my hands is a priceless experience. There’s nothing that would stop me from doing this all over again, exactly as it has played out. To quote a line from Whispers in the Alders, “This is why we write.”


“…exactly as it has played out.” Are you sure? Nothing you’d do differently the second time around?


Honestly, no. Some of the best memories I have writing Whispers in the Alders are the many late nights my infant daughter spent snuggled against my chest. She’ll never remember those nights, but I’ll never forget them.


What a beautiful memory! Thank you for sharing it with us.

I asked a mutual friend, C. M. Turner, if there were any questions she’d like you to answer. She gave me one, and I have to agree I’d like to know the answer as well. Is H. A. Callum a planner or a pantser? Do you have the story worked out before pen touches paper? Or do you fly by the seat of your pants and see where the story takes you?


Yes – to both! I’m a planner, but not one who is afraid to let the story dictate the direction it needs to follow with some guidance. Whispers in the Alders had a drastically different ending when I started. Very different. After workshopping a draft of the first chapter at my writer’s group, I decided to outline the first several chapters. It gave the initial guidance I needed as a writer to stay on track, especially with the advice I received from experienced members of my writers group. I still outline in this way: the first several chapters, then outline each chapter prior to writing. As things change, so does the outline.

Writing is a process, and I’ve learned from experience that preparation never fails the writer. I will always be a student of writing, and I know it shows with each new story or poem I commit to paper.


I’m sure C. M. Turner will be just as surprised by that answer as I was.

Now that Whispers in the Alders is on its way to fame, what projects will you be focusing on? Any new books in the works?


Why yes, of course! My next novel is – nearly outlined – since you asked! I’ve begun drafting, and it’s a contemporary literary work. Partially inspired by recent events, it has also inspired a poem which is now out on submission, titled “Snow Ghost: Whitefish, Montana.”


You have a gift with words, my friend. Is there any chance of a poetry book in the future? Or a collection of short stories and flash fiction?


Aww … thank you! How did you know to ask?!?! I have multiple poems and short stories out on submission. Look for them in the next few months. I am considering a poetry collection as well, especially with the overwhelming and positive response to the poetry that I’ve posted on Here’s another hint: Whispers in the Alders features new poetry as well.


After reading your poetry, you’d have to be daft to not put out a poetry collection. You have a gift with words and imagery.

When I’m not writing, I’m drawn to other creative projects. Do you find yourself drawn to other creative forms? If so, which ones?


Let’s just say that other mediums and I don’t get along very well! Running is a great outlet for me to recharge and get the creative juices flowing again. When I have time, cooking is a great way to express my artistic talents. But I think the best thing for me is being around my daughters and letting my imagination walk with theirs. That is what births creativity. Somewhere along the line most of us lose that, and without it we lose inspiration. My advice – stay in tune with your imagination, and never place boundaries on your imagination or the imagination of a child.


I couldn’t agree more. I draw so much from my children. They look at the world in a way many adults have forgotten.

My family and friends can’t wait for me to finally finish a book. How do your family and friends feel about having a published author in their midst?


They are full of love and pride. Everyone knows it’s an accomplishment, and really, how many people even attempt to write a book, let alone send it out to the world to be scrutinized? But here’s the thing: I don’t talk about it unless asked, and I refuse to be “that guy” turning every family event into a book signing. My family’s been great and I adore them for recognizing this milestone. The look in their eyes has said it all. What more could a writer ask for?


Researching for this interview, I read a blog post on your website about the querying process. I know it is the moment I most dread. Any advice for those of us filled with dread?


Don’t dread it. Just do it right – research agents and publishers that are open to submissions in your genre and follow their submission guidelines. You have nothing to fear if you do these two simple things. I spent many evenings querying, and trust me, it takes time. Two or three well-crafted and personalized queries in an evening is huge if you are balancing your writing life with family and work. Keep it personalized to whom you are submitting and professional in tone, then send it off and wait. I read the complaints from other writers about querying, and honestly – not to say that it was easy – for me it was a pleasant experience. I was surprised how many agents and publishers actually took the time to respond to my queries, and some even offered advice – which I considered in my edits and rewrites. In the end, publishing is about people and I hope that my work querying Whispers in the Alders, if anything, worked to develop my future relationships with agents and publishers. Next stop is to attend some of the many writer’s conferences offered in New York City and Philadelphia, pitch my work, and get to know the amazing people involved in the world of books and publishing. The people I’ve met along the way, and the friendships made, are a large part of what has made the publication of Whispers in the Alders so special.

I’m always amazed with the writing community, and Donna, you’ve been a shining example of how we as writers work to support not only our own works, but each other. Thank you again for supporting the upcoming release of Whispers in the Alders!


It’s not easy being a writer, worried if you’re any good and finding the time to get it done. The least we can do for one another is be supportive through the process. I’m honored to have been able to help in any way. Thank you, again, for taking the time to answer my questions. I wish you much success with the release of Whispers in the Alders and in the future.


To find out more about H. A. Callum:


Whispers in the Alders




Blue Deco Publishing

Stalled Out on Indecision Highway

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Stalled Out on Indecision Highway

First, I lost confidence in my writing, then I found myself stalled due to indecision. This writing thing is much harder than just putting one word after another. I’m looking at you, Mr. Gaiman.

I’ve been editing book one of my young adult, fantasy books with book two at about the halfway mark. This had me thinking about agents and publishers, what research I needed to do, and mostly how close I was to having my first book ready to go.

These thoughts led me to question how wise it was to start with a trilogy. I’m an unknown author. How likely am I to find a book deal with a trilogy? On the other hand, my horror novel is part of a series but could easily standalone. I know, it seems like a no-brainer, but the horror novel is only half done.

For the last couple of weeks, these questions rolled around my cranium, begging to know the right answer, the fear of making the wrong decision leading me to indecision. I gave up working on any of them, worried I’d be putting the effort into the wrong one. I started two new stories, and although I was excited about the new stories, I wanted to finish a book.

The other day, I got a message from author C. M. Turner. If you’re not already following this amazing, supportive woman, you should be. C. M. Turner checks on me often. I think she might be only slightly less excited about me finishing a novel than I am. Hell, she might be more excited.

She asked about my writing, and I explained my problem. I got a message back right away. She felt like I did. The trilogy would be a hard sell, but the horror could be standalone if necessary. I immediately wished Twitter had a function to hug her across the miles.

I didn’t just need my own thoughts confirmed. I needed a trusted friend to give me an honest opinion, and I needed to know my concerns were justified.

Now, I’m back to work on the horror, hoping to make people’s skin crawl, and I owe it again to the amazing, supportive friendships built in the Twitter writing community. I can’t stress this enough, if you’re struggling with your writing in any way, ask your Twitter friends. They have answers, support, and will let you know you’re not alone.

Thank you, Lady. I’m fortunate to call you my friend.

Thank You

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After my recent post, Asking for Help, I received so many lovely, encouraging, and helpful messages and comments. I feel truly fortunate to be surrounded with so much support. I’m still working on trying to write, but I feel like you’ve all helped lift the darkness. I cannot thank you enough.

I’d like to thank the following people for being a light in the darkness when I needed it most. Thank you for taking time out of your day to comfort and help me in my time of need. I hope you all know your words touched and inspired me. I might not be back up to full running speed, yet, but the forward momentum I have is in large part from your support. Thank you.

Tante Willemijn (aka Linnie) – Website, Twitter, Her Words for Me on Depression

Chris Gould – Website, Twitter

Cindy Kolbe – Website, Twitter

Katspaks – Twitter

Alex Micati – Website, Twitter

Raimey Gallant – Website, Twitter

Tara K. – Website, Twitter

John F. Harrison – Website, Twitter

H. A. Callum – Website, Twitter

S. A. Franco – Twitter

Rosie Ellen Grey – Website, Twitter

Jenna Victoria – Website, Twitter

If you’re looking for wonderful people to follow and support, you’ve found them. Thanks again!