headshot-1Today’s Ninja Writers author interview is with Vicki Williamson. Her debut mystery novel Finding Poppies is available on Amazon here.

What makes your protagonist different from the industry standard?

I think this is an interesting question, however, I’m not sure I know what the industry standard is. What the norm for the industry is … It seems as if the modern industry standard for a female protagonist is ‘strong’ but again, that can mean many things.

My main character, Ellen Thompson, is strong, so she’s not truly different from the standard, but she’s strong in a variety of ways. The most enduring reach of her strength comes out in her intelligence and her ability to govern her emotions. Throughout her adventure in Finding Poppies, it is necessary for Ellen to get in the head of a man she’s tracking. To figure out and understand clues he’s left for someone else. Even when faced with tragedy, she is able to think.

Tell us about your book(s).

My first novel is titled Finding Poppies. It’s a thriller about a woman, Ellen Thompson, who finds a clue to a lost art treasure. Her calm, normal life is disrupted when she decides to follow the clue. She travels to exotic locations and begins a relationship with a police detective who gives her aid. There’s adventure, danger and a little bit of romance with a few twists and turns.

Does writing energize or exhaust you?

Both. When everything is flowing and I’m right with my characters, writing is like a great high. I love it when writing is as if I’m reading a wonderful book that I can’t put down – I can’t wait to find out what’s going to happen. And then there are the times where writing is like pulling teeth. When I must force the words to come, knowing most of them will probably be terrible. For me, both are part of the process.

Do you think someone could be a writer if they don’t feel emotions strongly?

I have to say yes to this, as I’m one of those folks who don’t feel emotions deeply. I’ve always been way more logical than emotional. Maybe that’s why I get such a thrill when I write a scene and it causes a true visceral reaction.

What does literary success look like to you?

To me, literary success happens every time I have someone tell me how much they enjoyed my story.

What’s the best way to market your books?

I’ve had the best success with face to face interaction with readers. Book store signings, expos, etc. Social media, I believe, is the best friend of the indie author and reaches a much larger audience but the one on one is so much more gratifying. I love to visit with potential readers and from their side, it allows them to meet me and have a person to put with the name.

What kind of research do you do, and how long do you spend researching before beginning a book?

I do extensive – EXTENSIVE research for my books. I spend more time researching places, subjects, lore, etc. then I do in actual writing. Not all the research comes out in the books but the knowledge helps me to write a better scene. I don’t spend much time prior to beginning a book, but I’m researching all through the process of writing. I write completely organically, so I may not know what I want to research until I’m moving on to the next scene.

bookcoverimageWhat did you edit out of this book?

I tried to edit out all unnecessary content. By this I mean words and sometimes complete scenes. If it didn’t move the plot forward, it got cut. After my first draft, I cut ~500 ‘thats’ from my manuscript.

Do you read your book reviews? How do you deal with bad or good ones?

I read ALL my reviews. I’m happy to say, so far, the clear majority of them have been good and they’re always wonderful to read. As I said, that’s success for me. For the not so positive ones … they upset me. I liken it to someone telling you your baby’s ugly. I process them. Attempt to understand where the reader is coming from. Curse them under my breath. Tell myself you can’t please everyone and by the next day, I’m back writing.

Does your family support your career as a writer?

Completely. My husband told me for years I should write a book and I always laughed at him. I’d tell him, “I’m a reader – not a writer.” Then one day, I realized I had a story in me. My first book, FP is dedicated not only to my husband, Mark who has always believed in me, but also to my brother, Brian who after reading the short story, which I would turn into my novel, told me it was a great outline to a novel and to dazzle him. These two men have been instrumental in this journey I’ve decided to take.

How long on average does it take you to write a book?

The first draft of FP took me five months and then another eight months for rewrites, editing, cover, etc. One thing I learned was the writing of a novel is the tip of the iceberg. The lion’s share of the creative portion is in the creation of the story, but the work is just beginning with the end of the rough draft.

I just finished the first draft of my current work in process. It has taken me nine months to finish. Not only was this book just harder to figure out but I spent time and energy in the marketing of FP and not all my thoughts were on the WIP.

Do you believe in writer’s block?

Writer’s block … not really. There are plenty of times when I just didn’t feel like writing or allowed myself to become distracted by the internet or other things. And I’ve had times when I just didn’t know what to write – when the research wasn’t digging up the correct connections. Even then, I know if I sit down, relax and write, the words will come. Some are sure to be crap but some will be worth keeping.



My second Ninja Writer author interview for the giveaway blog hop is with Chris Ledbetter.

author-pic-3Chris Ledbetter grew up in Durham, NC before moving to Charlottesville, VA in 11th grade. After high school, he attended Hampton University where he promptly “walked-on” to the best drum line in the CIAA. And, without any prior percussion experience. He carried the bass drum for four years, something his back is not very happy about now.

After a change of heart and major, he enrolled in Old Dominion University and earned his degree in Business Administration. He’s worked in various managerial and marketing capacities throughout his life. While teaching high school for six years in Culpeper, VA, he taught business management, business law, marketing, and sports marketing, and also coached football.

He’s a proud member of SCBWI (Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators) and a strong supporter of the Need for Diverse Books. As a self-described, young reluctant reader, he writes young adult stories specifically to reach other reluctant readers.
He now lives in Wilmington, NC with his family, including three cats.

What is the one thing you can’t write without?

Actually I have two things I can’t write without, Soundfuel and Skittles. Sound fuel has an amazing collection of instrumental music for a variety of story situations and moods. And Skittles are just the best!

What is the first book that made you cry?

Admittedly, I get more emotional watching movies than reading books. But I will say that the first and only book that made me cry was a book (unpublished as yet) by Tracy Clark named Chalk Houses. Hopefully, this powerful book will make it to print soon.

Does writing energize or exhaust you?

Writing absolutely energizes me. Sometimes life just gets to be too much by half. Writing (and reading) allows me to sink into new worlds and gain new friends and escape the world around me.

Do you think someone could be a writer if they don’t feel emotions strongly?

Certainly, but I think it depends on the genre in which someone writes. If you write mysteries or thrillers, perhaps you may not need emotions as much, but you still need some because you have to create an emotional connection between the reader and the main character. I think romances probably require a deeper emotional well.

What kind of research do you do, and how long do you spend researching before beginning a book?

Before I begin a book, I typically sketch out all of the characters first. I do end up doing a tonne of research, but that usually comes during the writing and it could be about all sorts of things. On my latest book, The Sky Throne that is due in 2017, I researched everything from geography and topography of Greece and its islands, types of flowering plants on Crete, methods of bleaching one’s hair in ancient Greece, and Greek mythology family trees to quantum physics and the properties of cosmic dust.

d1Tell us about your book(s). 

Drawn and Inked comprise a YA contemporary fantasy duology with a side order of romance. Set in my hometown of Wilmington, NC, they’re fast paced reads that entwine art, gaming, and southern social dynamics.
Drawn is available here, Inked is available here.

The Sky Throne is coming in April 2017. It’s X-Men meets Greek mythology. For updates come over to my website.

If you’d like to see the other authors in the blog hop you can find the master list here.


This is the first of a series of author interviews with my fellow Ninja Writers as part of our SF/F giveaway and blog hop. Today’s victim is Paige Tyler. She’s taking part in this week’s giveaway available here.

paige-tyler2 Paige Tyler is a New York Times and USA Today Bestselling Author of sexy, romantic suspense and paranormal romance. She and her very own military hero (also known as her husband) live on the beautiful Florida coast with their adorable fur baby (also known as their dog). Paige graduated with a degree in education, but decided to pursue her passion and write books about hunky alpha males and the kick-butt heroines who fall in love with them.

What inspires you?

P.F. Chang’s Spicy Chicken! Hubby (who’s my writing partner) and I get all of our best ideas at PF Chang’s. We’ll sit in a booth at our local PF Chang’s for hours bouncing ideas back and forth over a big plate of the stuff. The people there know us and tend to leave us alone to work. I’ve been angling for an endorsement deal with PF Chang’s for years now, but so far no luck. 🙂

What makes your protagonist different from the industry standard or genre standard?

My heroine, Cree Forest, is a fox shifter, so she’s already kick-butt. But to take that up a notch, she’s been guarding the hero (without his knowledge), John Loughlin, former CIA and current director of the Department of Covert Ops, to make sure he’s safe. While the hero can definitely take care of himself in a fight, he doesn’t have claws, fangs, and Cree’s other shifter abilities, which make her so effective. You don’t usually see kick-butt heroines like her in most paranormal romantic suspense books, which is why she’s so different.

Tell us about your books. 

I have two paranormal romantic suspense series, both featuring shifters.

paige-tylerThe X-OPS Series revolves around the Department of Covert Operations, a secret organization within the Department of Homeland Security. They get impossible missions done by pairing the very best soldiers, law enforcement officers, and spies together with shifters—humans that possess special animal attributes in their DNA.

My other series is called SWAT (Special Wolf Alpha Team). If you haven’t figured it out from the name, it’s about a SWAT team made up of sixteen hunky alpha wolf shifters. Think hot guys in tactical gear with claws and you get the picture!

You can check them out here!

What’s your favorite paranormal creature and why?

Shifters because there’s something so inherently sexy and dangerous about them!

If you didn’t write, what would you do for work?

I’d have a no-kill animal shelter so I could rescue every homeless animal!

If you’d love to meet the other authors in the blog hop you can find them here.

Ninja Writers Giveaway

Ninja Writers Giveaway

As many of you know, I’m active in a group on Facebook called Ninja Writers. The brainchild of Shaunta Grimes, Ninja Writers is one of the most amazing groups I have ever been a part of, especially on Facebook. There are no egos in this group, every person whether new author, self-published, or traditionally published goes above and beyond to help each other. Today, nearly forty authors from the group are doing a group giveaway of free science fiction/fantasy stories. They will only be available for a week, just click on the cover images of the stories you’re interested in and follow the instructions to receive the books. My cover is in the second row, but it’s actually the cover of Golden Opportunity, not the book I’m giving away Golden Rule which has a plain boring cover designed by me and is not as graphically interesting and professional as the one for Golden Opportunity.

Golden Rule is a 14,000-word novelette that takes place just prior to Golden Opportunity and gives the reader a little insight into the over-protective grumpy dragon partner of Siobhan Flannery.

If you’re interested the giveaway is on Shaunta Grimes’ blog. I really hope you’ll all go give a few new Sci Fi/Fantasy authors a try.

V. L. Cooke


Shaking My Head At Myself

Shaking My Head At Myself

I belong to several Facebook groups for fiction writers, I’m not going to tell you which are my favorites, but suffice to say I have a couple that I read several times a day. During the last couple of months several strange things have happened in a few of the groups I belong to. One group closed completely after the owner of the page received threats of physical violence toward not only him, but his family. Seriously? What is wrong with people, not just writers, but all people? How is it that they think it’s okay to threaten a man’s family because they disagree with the writing advice he shares? I’d also like to point out that this man is a college professor and was giving the information for FREE! Now thanks to this person, he is refusing to do it because…shock of shocks…he needs to keep his family safe from harm. I don’t blame him.giphy.gif

Another group that I’m in is having issues with one of the group’s two moderators being accused of favoritism when it came to their choices for an anthology. It eventually culminated in the moderator explaining the acceptance process, including why his EIGHT-YEAR-OLD daughter was allowed to put a 300 word story in the back of the book supposedly taking a spot from a “real” writer. Below is my reaction to this situation.

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Then I got angry. Here is a person that is publishing an anthology from members of this group. An anthology that had strict requirements for length and quality. After all the stories had been chosen. Then, and only then, did they ask the authors who contributed to the anthology if it would be okay for the girl to add her story. It was put to a vote and the girl’s story was added, all three hundred words of it. What is so wrong in this world of writers that someone felt it was okay to A.) take it to another group where the moderator was unable to defend himself, and B.) to attack a little girl who dreams of being a writer? A dream that we, as writers, should be nurturing not getting butt hurt because our little story didn’t make it in to the anthology.giphy (2).gif

Finally, in a third group I belong to, several of the members started complaining about the level of emails they were receiving from the email list they voluntarily chose to join. This is the one that bugged me the most, probably because it was in my favorite group. These complaints have gone on for several days and today I had enough of the whining. I spoke up, basically attacking someone for being stupid. Yep, I violated my own rules and got involved in trolling (I’m a horrible person). Yes, people were receiving a large amount of emails, but they have the option to unsubscribe…Hell they can choose to delete them on sight if they wish. For the life of me I couldn’t understand the problem with 3 or 4 emails a day when the person who runs the list specifically stated it was only for a 2 week period. Then the person posted screen shots of the HUGE amount of emails they had received. My bad. But trust me, it gets worse. The person running the list sent me a message asking about the three emails I received. It turns out I wasn’t supposed to receive that many, so I promptly go to my inbox and find out that I didn’t receive 3 as had stated, but 2. I misread the name of the sender on the third one…oops.


Of course being my typical INFJ self, I immediately apologized to the person I had just attacked on Facebook. The person running the email list learned that there was a problem with the emails being sent out and immediately fixed the problem. Here’s the best part, she sent a mass email to all of her subscribers apologizing…oh the irony.

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So here’s my question why do we writers think it is okay to start tearing down those who go above and beyond the norm? Why is it okay to tear down those who are more successful, have a bigger email subscriber list, or who, out of the goodness of their own hearts, attempt to lift up a fellow writer? Why don’t we live the lives we claim we want to live?

V. L. Cooke

P.S. I’d apologize for all the gifs, but I was having a little fun with them. If you don’t like them I’d apologize, but I’m going to dance instead.

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A Novel Idea and Ninja Writers

A Novel Idea and Ninja Writers

Back in February I was playing around on Facebook and one of those targeted ads showed up in my news feed. We’ve all seen them; the ads might look like they match up with something we may have read online, seen in one of the groups we belong to, or maybe it matched something we accidentally clicked on. If you’re like me, you usually ignore them. This is the story of the one I didn’t ignore, and how completely overhauled my life, and my writing process.

A Novel IdeaThe ad was for The Plotting Workshop ran by author Shaunta Grimes. A course that teaches a person to develop a plot, and have it ready to write, all in eight weeks. The best news of all … it was free! I’m not usually one to push people towards something like specific classes for writing because I believe each writer is unique and there are “no one size fits all” classes for everyone. I still believe it, but this class changed my writing and set me on the path to completing the rough draft of my first novel by June of this year.

That’s right fellow writers, I completed a novel from start to finish in four months. Okay not really start to finish, I still had to revise, rewrite, edit, hire an editor, and get beta readers, but the hard part, the plotting and the initial writing we all sweat over was done in FOUR MONTHS! This is not the first class I’ve taken. I’ve taken creative writing classes in college and I’ve taken free online classes which weren’t worth the time it took to open an email. I’ve paid for abysmal pyramid scheme classes designed to leave you always needing one more class to find the hidden secret they only share with the select few authors. Those who have unlimited funds and their special decoder rings. I don’t believe I’m alone in this. If I were, there wouldn’t be a thousands of these classes online at various price points.

Let me explain a little about the brain child of Shaunta Grimes. Shaunta is the author of the Young Adult Science Fiction Novels Viral Nation and Rebel Nation. She’s also a firm believer in teaching everyone who wants to write, how to write from the ground up. No, she isn’t going to teach you the basic mechanics of language and grammar, but she is going to teach you about character development, plotting, pacing, and more. To start Shaunta offers a five-day course (also free) on How to Develop and Test a Story Idea (H2DSI). It’s a great step for getting the initial basic idea out of your head and on paper (or in a computer). Then she offers the eight-week Plotting Workshop. This step uses a textbook, Christopher Vogler’s The Writer’s Journey: Mythic Structure for Writers [3rd Edition]. It teaches how to develop characters and write a three act, eight sequence with sixty to ninety scenes plot from beginning to end.

I think it’s only fair to warn you the eight-week course is actually the beginning of Shaunta’s year-long course.The course is designed to take you through the entire process of writing a book from beginning to end in twelve months. I’m going to say it again for emphasis … AN ENTIRE NOVEL IN TWELVE MONTHS! From plotting to editing, and ready to query all within a year. It is not free. In fact, it costs $750 dollars (or $62.50 per month if you’d prefer) for the year. Yes, I know it’s a lot of money for most struggling authors. Between the cost of the class, the three books you will use as textbooks, and various supplies it’s over $800 by the time it’s all done. However, if you can’t afford it, it’s okay. There are other ways to make this work for you. She has a Facebook group, Ninja Writers, and everyone can join. The other people in this group are amazing. Actually, most are amazing, but there’s this one old broad, she is annoying as H – E – double hockey sticks. She’ll welcome you and probably annoy you with her lame attempts to answer questions if you have any. Have you ever heard someone say “there’s no such thing as a dumb question”? They lied. This woman asks the STUPIDEST questions known to man. I should know … I’m her.

Shaunta also offers writing prompts every week via her website. Plus, she has a binder club which is also free and part of the Ninja Writers Academy. She tries to post each Saturday, but life sometimes gets in the way for her; like it does for all of us. She is active in all her groups, and tries to hold office hours every week. If you’re serious about improving your story development skills, be sure to check out her website and become one of the Ninja Writers, you might make some great friends. Heck, you might even manage to get your novel ready for publication, and let’s be honest, that is the ultimate goal.

V. L. Cooke