Good work, Keith!


From the desk of W. J. Onufer…

While in Clarksville, Tenn. last week, my cover Artist, Keith Wood, and I did a Tales of the Vampire Hadley Price book signing at Rick’s Comic City. Something happened there that I’ve never seen in any venue where I’ve sold my books. First off, I’ve never seen book vending where both the Author and the cover Artist are present. Keith and I have done several together and have been well received in that. People are thrilled to have their Tales of the Vampire Hadley Price books signed by the Author and cover Artist.

But at Rick’s last week, Keith did something that went beyond that. And I was blown away by how acomidating and original that was.

At one point, a copy of Torch, the new Hadley book was being purchased. The buyer asked Keith if he would do a sketch, in addition to signing it. I thought this was bit much to ask but after negotiating a charge of an additional five dollars, Keith agreed to do it.

Now five dollars is a give away price for orginial Keith Wood art work. But as long as Keith was good with that, so was I.

I proceeded to run the buyers debit card through the reader on my cell phone to complete the transaction. At the same, I was multi-tasking several conversations with people gathered around the counter where Steve (Ricks’ Comics store manager) had us set up. While doing that, I assumed that Keith would just run off a postage stamp size little drawing. Maybe Hadley’s lips and fangs, something akin to a minimalist tattoo.

But no. When I was done running that debit card, I looked over at Keith and he was doing a full page, head and shoulders of Hadley. The person buying that book couldn’t have been more amazed than I was. Keith was speed-drawning and I knew it. When he and I work together on a Hadley book cover or any other Hadley promotional materials, the pace is much slower to get it all right. He erased the pencil a couple times to redraw and I explained to those watching, that no line in an initial sketch is definitive. Playing with that is necessary to, as I’ve said, get it right.

I can’t promise that Keith will do that in any future book signings that we both attend. While book vending in various venues, things can get a little crowded with people and happen fast and furious at peek times. We may not have the time to acomidate that.

But it was way cool of him to do that at Rick’s. Good work, Keith!

Has anyone else seen something like this at a Con or book singing?

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All Talk. No Action


Family Eternal Cover 2

When Hadley Price stops talking, be afraid. Be very afraid.

From the desk of W. J. Onufer…

My writing style in the Tales of the Vampire Hadley Price books is dilogue-heavy. It’s nothing I planned. It just worked out that way. I just write a lot of damn dialogue. The characters tell me stuff and a lot of that stuff is what they say.

This has come in handy for those times that I wrote scripts used in the Byron Chronicles online audio dramas. Series producer, Eric Busby, has generously allowed my little Vampire gal, Hadley Price, to periodically be a guest character in those on-going, fun-spooky audio episodes. And I loved writing Hadley in those. Truth be told, I never wrote in play format before writing for Eric. It was a something new and experimental for me. And I must have faked that pretty good because any feed-back on scripts I sent Eric had no mention of how I formated that. On that, at least, no correction was needed. So a dialogue-heavy writing style went a long way to adapt to being a playwright.

Some may suggest that a story with a lot of dialogue may be indicative of a story that lacks action. And I’ll address that concern a little later here in relation to the Tales of the Vampire Hadley Price books.

But the point of that is a good one. In the real world, there are those are all talk and no action. And there are people who are braggarts who make a lot of noise in self-promotion. No matter what question is asked of them, they turn it around and loudly talk about themself. But after the talk, there’s no action follow-up.

This is exemplified no better than in the current president of the United States.

Braggarts are nothing new. I’m giving way my age when I say I was teen-ager in the 1970s. There were loud-talking people back then as well. And for me, as a teen-aged guy back then, two men were the prime examples of motor-mouth self-promoters. They were loud and in your face. Two men- Evel Knievel and Muhammad Ali . For young people who have never heard of either of these guys, Goggle them. Very interesting dudes, both.

Either one of them could go one-on-one with Donald Trump in the self-promotion department. There were both in that league. The fact that Muhammad Ali did that with charm and charisma that the other two didn’t match, in my mind, made him the true master of that.

But there’s one important difference between the likes of Donald Trump and the likes of Evel Knievel and Muhammad Ali . When Muhammad Ali  was done talking, he got in the ring and won fights. When Evel Knievel was done talking talking, he got on his motorcycle, flew in mid-air and land safely after jumping long distances. Sure, sometimes things didn’t work out when they each tried that. But both had the panache to back up everything they said. And they had the bravery to face failure when they didn’t succeed and the public saw that. Muhammad Ali and Evel Knievel were macho dudes, the real thing, true bad-asses that made them legends, not just because they did something that was difficult, but also, in their failures, they stepped-up and tried. Not just talk. Action personified.

I see no such follow-up after loud talk by Donald Trump. All talk. No action. Panache not achieved, not just because his words are empty but also because the man has no charm at all. Forget Eminem. Muhammad Ali, back in his day, would blow away Donald Trump in a contest of the spoken word.

(No disrespect intended to Eminem.)

Speaking of panache and the charming woman who has it in spades- don’t let the dialogue-heavy content of the Tales of the Vampire Hadley Price books fool you. When Hadley Price stops talking, be afraid. Be very afraid. Vampire action personified. Bloody will flow.

Get your copy of Torch, the new Tales of the Vampire Hadley Price novel, in paper book or ebook here:

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No Guilt Involved

From the desk of W.J. Onufer…

It’s entirely possible that someone who is a skeptic, might feel guilty for enjoying the the music from the album “To Hell with the Devil” by Styper. A free-thinker liking music by a Christian metal band? A big no-no to admit that something Christian is not totally terrible? What would the other skeptics think of that? Snob-factor not ratcheted up high enough? Would that free-thinker be branded “uncool” for such a guilty-pleasure admission?

The answer to that last question is this: a true free-thinker is opened ended. They get past labels and see for themself. They demand proof. Not hype. They do not depend on the concensus of others and have very little interest in determining what is or is not cool.

Besides, it is likewise possible that that same Stryper-listener free-thinker may also listen to bands like Sabaton, Theatres des Vampires, Alice Cooper, Epica, Haggard and Star One. A person does not have to believe that ancient barbarian wars, Vampires, ghosts, dragons and inter-galactic quests are all real to enjoy music based on those fantasies.

One myth is as good as another.

There’s no reason what-so-ever that a free-thinker can’t enjoy Stryper’s music, in that context.

The truth is, “To Hell with the Devil” is a great Heavy Metal album. In-your-face backbeat. Chunky guitars. Soaring vocals. Great stuff.

Put it on. Turn it up.


No guilt involved.

Kudos to Book Baby

From the desk of W. J. Onufer…

A big shout out to Book Baby Publishing. No, I don’t work for them and they’re not paying me to say this stuff. They are, however, the company that published my last two books- Torch and The Family Enternal: Part One. Both Tales of the Vampire Hadley Price novels. And Book Baby has been a joy to work with getting those books out.

My first novel, Beckman’s Folly, was published by another company. I’ll be tactful enough to not mention them by name. But they were aweful. Unprofessional, indifferent and sloppy. They took any communications from me and my Editor as the opportunity to aggressively try to up-sale us, while blatantly ignoring any issue we got in touch with them about. All of this was made worse because it was our first time out and frankly, we needed a little hand-holding to navigate how it all worked. We got none. Long delays, unanswered emails, voice mail more times than not when we made a call made it all a challenging ordeal.

Book Baby has been the exact oposite. The quality of their book printing is quite good and they’re customer service is outstanding. Emails returned within a day. When you make a call, you get to talk to a real live person, not voice mail! They are pro-active in resolving any issues quickly. And no damn up-selling.

I spoke with one of their people on the phone a couple days ago. I was kind of having a problem with something on their website while ordering paper book copies of Torch, at the author rate, for our up-coming personal appearance book-signings. As it turns out, there were no problem on their website. It was me. I just didn’t do it right. The guy on their end was totally cool about it. He took my second book order over the phone, instead of having me go back into their website to do it. Totally professional. No-hassle pro-active in processing my order. And friendly while he was doing it. This company and their people are totally johnny-on-the-spot.

So major kudos to Book Baby. I plan on releasing any future Tales of the Vampire Hadley Price books with them and recommend that any author consider this company in their publishing plans.






From the desk of W. J. Onufer…

A random thought-

Star Trek Discovery will have Klingons that look quite different than what we’re used to. And some people aren’t too crazy about that. I’m one of them, but not for the reason everyone else is.

If the appearance of Klingons is altered, why not alter the Vulcans as well? In fact, why not leave the Klingons as they are and make that change in the Vulcans-only?

Klingons are loud and in your face. There’s no subltey to them. It’s quite obvious that they’re a warrior race. Altering their appearance doesn’t do anything to better define who they are.

And don’t tell me that there’s some new fangled religious subtext in the new Klingons. I’m not buying it. If anything in the way of religion is introduced and it’s not based on Kahless, they lose me as viewed. I’m open to stories that may tread on territory that takes a few tentative steps that goes beyond canon, but not to stories that blatantly ignore canon.

In either case, why alter the appearance of the Klingons when altering the appearance of the Vulcans would be much more interesting? Think about it. Vulcans look entirely too Human. Base on what they look like, can any of us really say that we think of them as aliens? We tend not to. At best, they’re alien-ish. Humans 2.0.

But the fact is, Vulcans are aliens. Unlike the Klingons, Vulcans are mysterious and enigmatic. What you see is not necessarily what you get. There is nothing obvious about them. They’re quite subtle. If any change has to be make, why not change the look of the Vulcans to emphasize a more alien other-ness? Bring out that they are not-Human. Challenge the viewer to re-examine the riddle that they’re a race, with a Zen-like calm that’s based, not on any religion, but on pure, dispassionate logic.

What would that look like? I only have a few ambiguous ideas on that. But a more alien-looking Vulcans would better serve as inspiration for interesting stories.

A different-looking Klingons does no such thing.




If you can’t say anything nice…


I’m at the point in my writing experience where I’ve gotten used to dealing with other published authors, professional artists, graphics people, editors and people grounded in the reality of book publishing and promotion. I’ve also become acquainted with talented people in other mediums- beside writing. I’m not the best of the best, but I am a player in all of that.

The result is that my standards for all of that have become quite high. Producing a minimum level of quality is necessary is be a player. Anything less is amateur territory. There is a divide between amateurs and people who are are serious about producing quality entertainment for the public.

The Internet has been great in giving opertunities for talented people to show their work, that they wouldn’t have had otherwise. But the Internet isn’t particularly discerning. Anyone can show their work- even people who aren’t that talented. People who have not reached the minimum level of quality.

So what is one to to do when one sees such lack of quality? How does one, who knows the difference, respond to amateur level work- or even work that shows no talent at all?

As a person who used to be on one side of the amateur/professional divide and am now on the other side, allow me to tell you about the differences between the two sides.

An amateur may writing something or draw something, then show it to their mother. They’ll have little or no experience before this. But hey! Look what I did! Isn’t it great? That mother says the writing or drawing is great work. So that amateur goes on to have their friends take a look. And those friends all rave that the writing or drawing is great work. But the thing that most amateurs overlook is that those people in their circle would say it was good if it was good or not. Why? They don’t want to hurt your feels. On the amateur side, there is never a bad review. Blanket statement. As a result, there is no unbiased judgment as to how good or bad it really is.

This happened to me a few decades ago when I went through by poetry-writing phase. (Not a particularly proud time in my writing life.) Some friends read my stuff and they all raved about it. Not a bad review in the bunch. Now, when I look at that stuff and see how truly wretched it was, it makes me gag. It was just god-awful writing. In retrospect, where they sparing my feelings or did they really think it was good stuff? Hard to tell. But now, having the writing experience of those decades behind me, I can report that what I wrote back then- daring to call it poetry -was just self-indulgent crap. Emos didn’t yet exist back then. But if they did, I was one of them. Maybe that’s why I now write Vampire fiction, stuff that’s dark with an edge. That, and stuff that has a sense of humor, that doesn’t become stupified by languishing in the over-emotional.

On the professional side, you have to have an amount of experience to be able to produce work that’s good enough to be taken seriously. They’re not interested in your personal journey in exploring on how to become a good writer. They just expect you to be a good writer. Minimum level of quality is expected before you walk in the door. And they really don’t care if they hurt your feelings. Your manuscript is okay, but this needs to be reworked. This part is stupid, take it out, remove those ten pages entirely. The beginning is weak. Rewrite it. I’m firmly convinced that any writer who has gone through the editing process, no longer has anything in the way of an ego. It’s a humbling experience. Way beyond hurt feelings. The result, however, is good, professional-quality work that is worthy to be released to the public. Quality entertainment that people will enjoy.

I have to admit, there are times when I see things posted on Facebook- writing, drawings, paintings and such -that are simply not that good. Minimum quality not achieved. My initial, knee-jerk reaction is to get on and make note of the lack of talent and tell them that we’re not their mom and their friends. I ignore that knee-jerk reaction and take a more tactful approach. If you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all. And on those posts, people- obviously their friends and possibly their mom, chime in on how great the writing or drawing or painting it. There is a noticeable lack criticism. I wasn’t the only who didn’t say anything at all instead of saying some thing that wasn’t-so-nice. That writer/artist wanna-be would get their reality check some place else, some time else.

There was one time, a few months back, however, when I saw something on Facebook where the reaction was downright cruel. And more so, because it happened in the very public place of Facebook. A guy wrote on Facebook that he writes short stories and inquired how to get published. The problem was, his grammar and spelling were awful. Quite obviously so. People took delightful glee in bullying this person for that. And they were were absolutely merciless in mocking the lack of writing talent. I didn’t recognize any of the names of those mockers. None of them where on my friends list. There’s no way to confirm, but I’m guessing that none of them were writers. People, who’s ego has been reigned in because they went through the editing process. People, who remember when they first started out and weren’t quite up-to-speed on their craft. No one who’s gone through that, mocks a newbie writer just starting out. None of the writers I’m acquainted with are that cruel.

I saw the same post the next day. The snarkiness continued. There were additional and equally nasty posts from when I viewed this a few hours before. I truly felt bad for the guy. No. He didn’t have the writing chops to get published. But maybe he would. Someday. Would this- all this negative feedback -hinder his approach to writing? Would he quit in the face of such hostility? What great stories written in the future by this guy, will never be enjoyed by readers, because he walked away from it all after such mean-spirited feed-back?

Yes. I felt bad for the guy. So I added to that post. I told him that he’s not there yet. I told him to take a year or two and really work at improving his writing skills. Find a mentor. I told him that he would embarrass himself if he approached a publisher now. Take the time. Don’t try to publish now. You’re not ready. I told him that five years from now, he’s going to writing something truly amazing. But not now. Now, you work on getting better at it. I hope I did something in the way of damage control to mitigate the scoffers. I hope I encouraged him. I hope I was at lease one person who didn’t make him want to quit.

Later that day, I saw that post again. What I wrote was still there. With the exception of one other, all the posts there that were snarky and critical, were removed. Gone. Did the original poster remove them? Did the people who put him down, see my post, come to the realization of how needlessly mean they were, and deleted their own? Again, there’s no way to tell. It is interesting, however, to see that only the encouraging posts remained.

There are those who post stuff on Facebook, obviously in the mode of: look what I did. Tell me I’m great. They’re looking for an ego massage. A quick-fix of instant gratification. That, from their mother and their friends wasn’t enough. They go to Facebook for more of it. The quality of their writing or drawing or painting is not up to a minimum standard. Hopefully, someone they trust will take them aside and tactfully tell them that.

But there are also those who post on Facebook who aren’t there yet. Their skills need work. And they post of Facebook, not for an ego massage, but to find out how to get better.

So what is one to to do when one sees such lack of quality? How does one, who knows the difference, respond to amateur level work- or even work that shows no talent?

If you can’t be encouraging, don’t say anything at all.

*     *     *

Get your copy of Torch, the new tales of the Vampire Hadley Price novel, in paper book or ebook here: