Author Interview Carl D Jenkins

Today, I am featuring author Carl D Jenkins, whose story “In the Valence” is included in the anthology “A Bond of Words,” alongside my own brand-new story, “Rhythm of the Bug-ity Beat”

What is the hardest part of writing for you? What is the easiest?
The hardest part of the writing is just making the time to sit down. I’m an introvert who works in mental health. I absolutely love it, but it naturally leaves me drained and it takes a while to recharge my batteries enough to give the story the attention I think it deserves.
The easiest is easy. Character development. Most of the time, the characters just are. They are not really any different from anyone else you might meet. Treating them that way saves me so much effort trying to remember how they would react, what their motives are, and when they first accessed plot point whatever. I cannot say they are friends, because sometimes they are begging for consequences right out of the gate. But I can give them dignity and respect, so the primary means of motivating them when they get stuck is to write a future scene. Since they know what’s coming, it gets easier for them to work their way through the obstacle course in between; it’s a lot like weekend for the workaholic.
But, what I truly enjoy – I know you didn’t ask – is the research. Observing and knowing things is what gives a writer his stripes, and I’ve always enjoyed the “5-minute research” option for anything that catches my attention. And not YouTube or Bubba Joe’s non-professional blog, but some reliable source that has put in the work needed to actually be adept. Sure, Bubba Joe may help you identify the questions you want to ask, but his Uncle Cecil and Aunt Melba’s recollections of their drunken neighbor’s life in the exotic military is basically still just opinion. The internet has made that easier, but sometimes you just need a library. The best part, you only have to know enough to make your character plausible, and you only have to remember it long enough to write the story, but writing a character smarter than yourself about something lets you explore so many rabbit holes you might never see as a reader.

What is your ideal writing snack?
I’m writing or eating. I was a cook for fifteen years, and you don’t get to sit and enjoy meals when you’re working. All this time later, and if it is on my plate, order one is to get it gone so that I can get back to the task at hand with a clear and focused mind. And clean hands. So, if I need to pause to eat, it’s hydration and carbs.
Snacking when not on a task is different. Dried fruits, nuts, or dark chocolate will serve the purpose. True junk food is always in single serving packaging, no matter the size, so I stick with things that can just be a handful on the run.

What self-editing tools do you use before you send your work to a professional editor?
Most of the time when I first reach “The End” I immediately read back through the whole piece. This will be when rewrites are done, and I always change things. I know I said the characters are just there, but I don’t outline and things show up in a world that you weren’t expecting. They do in life, too, but you can’t go back and foreshadow in life. In a story, you can go back and plant the knowledge that Jake’s hair is red, that Alex is a girl, that Pennywise loved balloons as a child. You can elaborate the layout of a garden where it was introduced so that the reader knows where to turn during the chase scene without accidentally ending up in the front yard when the stable is out back.
Then I find time is my best friend. I’m pretty good with structural editing and big concepts, but I have to let the story lay fallow while it drains out of my head to edit. When you live in a forest, you stop seeing the trees. Then I’ll focus on one character at a time. Scrivener can help with that, but several softwares let you write in scenes to start with. You can jump from Joe to Joe to Joe and make sure his voice does not sound too much like Sally. You can make sure you didn’t leave too large a clue that this character was not human before your reveal, and make sure you didn’t insinuate otherwise with word choices.
Beta readers are integral. And you need to make sure you have ones that aren’t just going to say “good job” or “I loved the part about Suzy and Brad” or “This is not in line with my spiritual beliefs, so I left in the closet for three months while you waited on me to tell you I didn’t read it.” You want Betas who will tell you what sucked, what they had to read three times to understand, what happened so fast they missed everything important. That’s not self-editing, but it is very helpful to the last stages. You need to clean up most messes before you give a WIP to a Beta or you just turn them into proof-readers. Anyone can spot your typos and correct them, but if it’s all typos, they stop seeing the plot, and the plot is why you wanted a reader to start with.
After I have weighed and changed things the readers pointed out, I run it through an editing software. There are dozens of choices. I currently use Style Writer. It lets me chose the type of story, the target audience, and which version of English I’m writing in. Most importantly, it doesn’t just do; I have to select all changes and it points out bad, possibly bad, and probably to smart/dumb choices. One of my common trends is passive voice, which sometimes I want, but usually I don’t. It points that out.
The other trend I’m trying to shake is tense agreement. I seem to love to switch from past to present and back. Editing software will not catch this. It is probably the thing that gives my editor the most grey hair at this point. And my editor is the only reason that using a writing software is functional. The first piece I sent off was so red I had to take note and improve. Had I sent that one through the software first, I never would have submitted it anywhere because I’d still be trying to sort through the software’s suggestions.

What is it that you want a reader to take away from it, be it one emotion or a thought or a memory?
Life is full of moments. We let so many of them pass us by. This story drew from several trips I had the fortune of being able to take. Several of the characters are essentially real – I took large liberties. I am always very present when I get to travel, and those moments we are present keep us young. Time does not pass faster and faster as we age for any other reason than we stop being present in as many moments as we can. Many of the moments we do stay aware of are repetitious. (E.g. the time with a grandbaby.) Be present in all of it. You only get one life. A hundred things a day will interest you if you are paying attention, but weeks will go by in a blink if you are not. Fill the moments with joy. Let those around you be comfortable being themselves so that you can be aware together. What was the line from Before Sunrise? “Spirit is alive in the space between us”? or something to that effect. Let your spirit be alive.

Did your story play out as you planned it?
Absolutely. I had already written a draft of this story years ago, with a focus on one particular holiday. When the call for this anthology came out, it was in contention from the start, although I wrote several other things as contemplative pieces first. In the end, I decided that this story could fit quite nicely if I added in a bigger bond between the two MCs and highlighted all of the other connections. I stitched in other moments to make it a more complete story, but what I wanted from the start was for you to be able to connect with the thrill of a journey, the power of the stones, and the simple love one can enjoy within a circle of complete strangers if we only let ourselves participate in life.
There are only two named characters. Bina and Carl. Carl carried a lot of my spirit as I was able to travel, and the core of Bina in the story is a real person, who really did write a thesis on Stonehenge. The newspaper scene was a real memory, but a lot of the feel of the scene was from other times with other people. I wanted the focus on them, so not giving names to the other characters was intentional. I think you could still feel the importance of their presence and recognize that they all had their own stories intersecting in this one place and time where everyone just got to share themselves as they were. Pretensions and expectations were always within reach and not entirely avoidable but being able to set them aside is what let the time become timeless and durable.
So, go out and love one another for who you are, and let the spirit in between breath deeply of that love.

Pick up a copy of “A Bond of Words” in paperback or eBook at any book retailer worldwide, including Amazon. If you purchase the paperback directly from Scout Media, you will get another ‘Of Words’ anthology of your choosing in eBook for FREE as well as a FREE companion soundtrack download!!
#ScoutMedia #ABOW

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book release/reading party tomorrow night!

So tomorrow in Lakewood I’ll be reading a few bits from my new book, Reintroducing Chuck mosley: Life On and Off the Road. Who will I see there?

Anyone who comes will get a free CD of their choice from Indoria, VUA, or whatever else I find in my closet. Please share the news and come celebrate the book. (And help me complain about how Amazon has sabotaged the release!)

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Author Sarah Kaminski Interview Takeover

12/03 (Tuesday) interview:

Today, I am featuring author Sarah Kaminski, whose story “An Act of Love” is included in the anthology “A Bond of Words,” alongside my own brand-new story, “Rhythm of the Bug-ity Beat.”

What are you working on now?

I am trying (with minimal success) to finish a rewrite of a punk rock themed YA contemporary romance about a YouTube video leaking six students’ biggest secrets and how the six of them come together to get revenge, only to grow as people, learn to love themselves as they are, mistakes and all. The original draft was ridiculously long (I’m too embarrassed to admit an actual word count, suffice it to say, it was bad) so I just needed to start over and focus on the major plot points and work from there. Easier said than done.

What is the hardest part of writing for you? What is the easiest?

The hardest part – plot structure. I can sit and write scenes all day long, but when I actually have to put them into an order that makes sense and builds into a readable story arc, well things start to look a little wacky.

The easiest part – getting into my characters’ heads.

If you could meet one author, living or dead, who you choose?

Probably Margaret Atwood. I really like her work. I have no greater reason than that.

What is your ideal writing snack?

I eat so much junk food, it’s hard to narrow it down. I like a glass of wine, generally Cabernet Sauvignon. Candy is good, chewy candies like Skittles or Sour Patch Kids, because I won’t go through them as fast as I will chocolate. If I want something salty… cheddar popcorn.

What personal bond inspired your story?

Not necessarily a bond, but the simple act of baking a birthday cake. I really do think homemade cakes exhibit a level of love and devotion toward a person that store-bought cakes can’t, and I take a lot of pride in baking my children birthday cakes every year. I happened to be baking a chocolate cake for my oldest son when the idea began to form in my brain, and I went from there. Of course, I left out the secret ingredient.

Pick up a copy of “A Bond of Words” in paperback or eBook at any book retailer worldwide, including Amazon. If you purchase the paperback directly from Scout Media, you will get another ‘Of Words’ anthology of your choosing in eBook for FREE as well as a FREE companion soundtrack download!!
#ScoutMedia #AFOW

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Can’t turn back…the book is out.

After almost two years of writing, editing, rewriting, second-guessing, and third-guessing, my book, Reintroducing Chuck Mosley: Life On and Off the Road is out in the world. I can’t change it. I can’t sugarcoat it. I can’t take it back.

The book is available exclusively at until December 3rd.

book trailer by Jim Brown

Jim Brown put together this book trailer and some ads to help promote the book.

Not everyone will love the book, not everyone will approve of what we did or I did, or of some things that I say. They may be right. I wrote this book directly after Chuck’s death, so things were fresh and raw in my mind. There was a temptation to edit it, now that my mind is slightly clearer, but in the end I decided to put it out as-is with a few more recent updates.

I would appreciate your help in spreading the word on the book and I am available to answer any questions you might have, to expand on the stories, to clarify details, or to contact for review copies: douglas at Don’t hesitate to follow this blog or my twitter @douglasesper.

This isn’t the end all be all book about Chuck’s life, but it is about as close to what I could share via my point of view from my time with him. There are a lot of people to mention and thank, which I plan on doing as time goes by.

I’d love to hear your thoughts about Chuck’s music, memories, shows, or on the book in the comments.

Douglas Esper

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The Music Career That Wasn’t (Part Two)

After performing with Skipline in early 1998, I started considering singing more seriously than I had before. I anxiously awaited the weekly Scene magazine, which had band member wanted ads near the back of each issue. I found reasons not to call most of them, and didn’t hear back from the ones I did want to pursue. This was a meandering, weird time, and I don’t blame you if you decide to skip ahead to part three of my journey 🙂

I bought a PA system with a powered amp and two speakers. I set up a keyboard, a drum machine, a microphone, rack mounted effects, and a fostex four track recorder in my parent’s basement. I made random noise and tested out my limited vocal range. I spent hours sampling dumb tv and movie clips and then running them through echo, delay, and distortion until they were unrecognizable. I brought over friends to add their two cents and the project was eventually called Maslar, named after a prank phone call I made from a pizza shop in town.

I don’t recommend listening, but: (Also there is swearing, so maybe don’t play it at work or school or your house or your car or in public)

Maslar- and got killed or whatever

It was a fun, safe place to test out how well I could communicate what I heard in my head to the outside world. It was a great excuse to be obnoxious:

Maslar- fifdomgobots Feat. Bulk Cruiser

In late 1998 my buddy Pooch was trying out to play guitar in a band. He asked me to come along to one of his auditions. He knew the bassist of the band who came from our town, but the other guys were from around the west side of Cleveland. We met the singer and bassist at the singer’s place and the three of them started discussing songs and style and sound, while I read old Nintendo power magazines and whispering vocal ideas I got from the riffs. At one point Pooch was messing around with his guitar, so the guys asked if I wanted to try singing and the singer would play drums. I ran through a few songs ad-libbing lyrics from the Nintendo Power magazine I had been reading. Metroid, Super Mario brothers, and Zelda were the main ones I recall. The music was a mix of metal and hardcore and the PA wasn’t really powerful enough to compete with the loud music in the tiny room, so nothing I did could really stand out. They did like that I tried mixing yelling with singing rather than just yelling and screaming all the time. The singer, Eric, thought maybe the band could use two singers.

We played one of the songs several times and I had a melodic chorus where I repeated a land from one of the Nintendo games, over and over. The place was called Indoria. I don’t recall which of the games had it though. I liked the word and the peaceful landscape, so it stuck with me. Afterward Pooch, the bassist, Adam, and I went to Applebees and bonded over all you can eat riblets.

The band fizzled without much more progress being made as the drummer dropped out and Eric had another project going, but Adam and I stayed in touch and eventually I played him some of the Maslar stuff. He and I collaborated on a few more noise things and also dabbled in some hip hop-ish tracks.

We used the Indoria refrain for an intro to a song and we came up with another tune that used a sample of The A-Team as the hook. Adam had sampled it from a spoken word part in the theme song where the guy says, “they survive as soldiers of fortune.”

Adam was in a female fronted pop/rock band called Cat5 at the time and their main songwriter recorded at his house. One night we took my beat, his sample, some keyboard ideas, and some shoddy lyrics to the studio, along with Eric to try and cobble something together. The first version of Soldier of Fortune was born. I don’t have a recording of it anymore, so I’ll just assure you that it sounded amazing. The one thing that became clear that night was Eric, for as charismatic and cool to hang out with as he was, he wasn’t really into what we were trying. I think that was the last time we included him in our project.

After that Adam and I retreated back to my parents basement to attempt cobbling a few more things together, but nothing came of them. Well, we had a lot of incomplete demos and ideas, but as far as I know it was all lost.

At the end of 1998 I went to go see Snapcase, Quicksand, and The Deftones at the Agora in Cleveland. It was the only time I’ve ever been jumped and beaten up…

All through the night there were weird electrical currents running through the crowd, like someone had forgotten to ground a wire properly or something, so as you were in the pit you’d get mini shocks out of nowhere. During the Deftones’ set Chino jumped out in the crowd and I helped catch him. We held him up and pushed him back toward the stage, but at some point he reached down toward me and started screaming at me. I couldn’t understand why. When he got back onstage he explained that someone had tried to steal his shoe. I guess he thought it was me. It wasn’t. Shortly after pointing in my direction I got jumped by a swarm of shirtless frat boys. They took out my leg and my knee dislocated. when I hit the ground the guys quickly surrounded me and started punching as fast as they could. All I could do was hold up my hands and take it.

Luckily, my friend saw me on the ground and he did his best to beat the guys back…moments later he was laying next to me getting it just as bad. Security came in and dragged me to the edge of the pit. I popped my knee back in place and allowed two guys in the crowd to help me up. They said I looked familiar and asked if I was a singer. I nodded as I caught my breath.

It was Sean, the drummer from the first band I had tried out for the previous year, and his buddy, Chris. I knew Chris’ older brother from other shows as a dude with a million bootleg tapes. In fact, I had a VHS tape he gave me of an Incubus show from earlier that year. They had a new project, but needed a singer. I agreed to come try out and I vowed not to chicken out this time.

Now, I know this chapter was a little dry and bland without more music and photos, but as far as I can tell, I don’t have any photos from this era, and the less amount of Maslar stuff, the better it will be for my reputation. Here is something Adam and I did mixing our various goofball stuff together:

taken by my dad in 1996 while hiking the redwood forest
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