Thursday, November 12, 2015

Author Interview Johan Twiss

One of the things I love about writers conferences is the chance to meet new authors. In October I met John Burger at Boot Camp. His book, I Am Sleepless: Sim 299 just came out. I'm almost finished with it and will post a review soon. In the meantime, I wanted to introduce him to you.

Author Bio-
My name is Johan Twiss. It's a pleasure to meet you and thank you for your interest in my books. Besides being an author, I'm also a husband, a father, a church volunteer, and a business owner. As such, I am sleepless. I often find myself staying up late into the night, and then waking up in the wee hours of the morning, as my mind races with ideas faster than a particle accelerator.

Have a question? Complaint? Want to send me a gift card to the Cheesecake Factory? Simply reach out to me at my website or contact me via Amazon Messenger.

(I can also tell your future at no extra cost, although gift cards to Cheesecake Factory tend to make the predictions more accurate.)

Who is your favorite author?
Brandon Sanderson. I’ve been hooked to his books ever since I read his Mistborn series. I’m pretty sure I’ve read every book he’s published, some of them multiple times. The worlds he creates, the magic systems, and the intrigue/mysteries he has running in the background make amazing stories.

What do you do when you are not writing?
I love to play instruments and create music. I play/dabble in a number of instruments including guitar, bass, trombone, blues harmonica, piano and percussion. The best part is my kids are getting old enough that they are starting to make up songs on the piano and we have Family Jam Sessions. We also have Family Fight Nights. My oldest children take martial arts and we like to put the sparring gear on and go at it. The kids take turns coming at me two at a time, (even my 3-year old daughter), and they practice their strikes, kicks, blocks, etc... Basically, they get to hit dad and we have a lot of fun.

My wife and I also own and operate the online retail store We sell toys, games, costumes and home d├ęcor items. It’s more than a full-time job, but luckily we have a handful of wonderful employees, (most of them family members), and we get to work from home. This gives me a little more flexibility to write.

When and why did you begin writing?
This writing journey started as I became more involved volunteering with Anti Human Trafficking non-profits. You can learn how I became involved in that work at my blog As I researched, learned and met individuals who had been sold into slavery, I realized I wanted to tell these stories. But some of the stories are so raw and unnervingly sad that they are hard to read about and can send people into depression.

I’ve talked to some people who said they couldn’t handle how sad these tragedies made them and they didn’t want to learn anymore about it because it made them so depressed they couldn’t function.

So I set out with the goal to write a fictional story that gave the facts of human trafficking, showed you what was going on around the world, but gave hope through a hero, almost a super hero of sorts, that fought back. I wanted to make learning about these tragedies palpable to help spread awareness about what’s going on and what’s being done to combat modern slavery.

This became my first story, ABOLERE. Right now Abolere is a trunk novel. It was the first book and I learned a lot about writing in the process of creating the story, but it still needs some TLC to make it publishable. My goal is to finish it by Dec 2016. You can read the first chapter sampler on my website at

What genre do you consider your book(s)?
This is tough because I have books planned for multiple genres including Science Fiction, Fantasy, Historical Fiction and Crime Fiction. I also have two non-fiction books I want to write.

That’s why I decided to create the pen name Johan Twiss. I plan to use the Johan Twiss pen name for all of my SciFi/Fantasy books and my real name, John Burger, for everything else.

The problem is I have a backlog of book ideas and I get more each week. My wife lovingly smiles and nods her head, sometimes rolls her eyes, every time I say, “So I had a dream last night and I’ve got this great idea for a book.” Maybe someday I will be a full-time writer and my writing will slowly catch up to my list of ideas.

Do you write an outline before you write?
Yes, but it’s very bare bones. I have a long list of book ideas that I let simmer in my mind. When one of them starts to combine enough “cool scenes” in my head, I move it to the outline stage. My outlines consist of a few bullet points, with very few details, and they are usually incomplete sentences. It’s basically a list of the scenes I’m excited to write about, put in order for the story to take place.

This is where my addiction to writing is fed. I love the discovery process of filling in the gaps and creating a story from these scenes. I’m always surprised and fascinated by the ideas that pop into my mind and exploring where those take the characters and plot. It gives me goosebumps. It’s the drug that keeps me writing.

Please fill in the blank:
Keep Calm and Eat Chocolate-- unless you're allergic, in which case I will eat your chocolate and mourn for you.

About the Book:
While the others slept, Aidan spent hours each night running sim after sim. Although he was only a twelve-year cadet, he had completed more simulations than any prime— ever.

“You are setting history,” General Estrago told him. “No one has ever made it to the current simulation you are attempting. The other Masters and I are eager to see what comes next.”

So was Aidan.

The planet Ethos is at war with a mysterious enemy known as the Splicers. Their only successful defense is the Prime Initiative. All newborns with the compatible genetic code are taken from their families and injected with the Prime Stimulus. Each child that survives the stimulus develops an extraordinary ability and is conscripted into the military for training.

After turning twelve, Aidan is moved to the upper-class at the Mount Fegorio training complex. His special gifts allow him unprecedented success in the virtual training simulations, advancing him further than any prime cadet in history. No one knows what lies after sim 299, not even Director Tuskin, the ruthless and reclusive ruler of their planet. But something, or someone, has been guiding Aidan there. If he can pass the final tests, he may discover the key to ending the Splicer War.

Amazon Buy

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

IWSG, Nanowrimo and Christmas Kisses

Wow, I sort of overbooked myself for today, but that's okay! I'll keep my IWSG post short so we can get to the book review.

Purpose: To share and encourage. Writers can express doubts and concerns without fear of appearing foolish or weak. Those who have been through the fire can offer assistance and guidance. It’s a safe haven for insecure writers of all kinds!

Posting: The first Wednesday of every month is officially Insecure Writer’s Support Group day. Post your thoughts on your own blog. Talk about your doubts and the fears you have conquered. Discuss your struggles and triumphs. Offer a word of encouragement for others who are struggling. Visit others in the group and connect with your fellow writer - aim for a dozen new people each time. Be sure to link to this page and display the badge in your post.

I'm currently #66

My insecurities have been calm the last month. Maybe I've finally reached a good balance of taking care of my family and finding the time to write. The conference and retreat in October helped me get back into writing and so far I haven't lost the momentum. I haven't written every day, but I have worked on something writing related--writing, editing, or marketing of some sort. It feels good!

Here's where I'm at on the writing front.
1. I should finish the first round of edits on SEARCH FOR KNOWLEDGE (book 2 in Talia's series) this week and send it back to my editor.
2. For Nanowrimo I'm continuing to draft book three in Talia's series--DEMON RISING.
3. I've signed up on and someone is currently in the process of recording FADE INTO ME and STELLAR CLOUD for audiobook format. They should be available in time for Christmas.

The only tiny bit of insecurity is wondering if I'll be able to keep moving forward. It seems like every time I've started off doing great in the last year, something has kicked me back to the ground. All I can say is I'm grateful for all my friends and family that keep encouraging me to get back up and keep trying. Sometimes that's all we can do, right? So, I'm going to enjoy this good writing run while it lasts!

And now for the review! I'll add my thoughts in italics after each story blurb. I'll give each story a rating and then the collection as a whole a rating.

Christmas Kisses is a collection from five bestselling and award-winning authors.

Set in the snowy town of Echo Ridge in upstate New York, these inspirational romances are sure to delight while you sip cocoa by the fire and listen to Christmas carols.

***$.99 November 3 - 7***
Amazon * Barnes and Noble * Kobo * iTunes * Smashwords

Add it to Goodreads

The Candy Counter Heiress by Lucy McConnell Amazon bestselling & award-winning author

Someday Reese Gates will own The Candy Counter at Kenworth's; but someday can't come fast enough when the manager threatens to bring in a national candy provider. Reese secretly takes matters into her own hands hoping to save her parents from additional worry and prove herself capable of running the company. Her deception deepens as she ropes computer guru Andy Edwards into helping her expand the business.  Reese wanted to shake things up, but she wasn't planning on her heart getting caught in the mix by Andy's stolen kisses. If she can hold it together until after Christmas, then she can reveal her successful online company and her feelings for Andy. Unfortunately for Reese, even the best laid plans can melt like chocolate. and Facebook

Okay, I really enjoyed this story. I liked that Reese was ready to take on more responsibility with the family business. She was willing to do whatever it took to prove she could make the Candy Counter even more successful. Andy was as sweet as the chocolate he liked to steal. The only thing that bugged me was how Reese's parents reacted to her deception about the online business. Same with Andy. I didn't buy it. Yes, Reese didn't tell her parents what she was doing. Yes, she fudged that little detail when dealing with Andy, but it was successful! Why would any mom throw a fit about it and demand it be taken down? Anyway, I still give this story a 4 because I loved everything else.

Christmas Makeover by Cami Checketts Amazon bestselling author

Chelsea Jamison has been infatuated with Drew Stirling longer than she's loved playing basketball, high-top sneakers, and the Knicks. Unfortunately, all Drew sees is the kid who kicked his trash in the high school free throw contest and not the girl whose heart breaks into a fast dribble when he's near.

Drew makes an unexpected visit home to Echo Ridge and their friendship picks up where they left off as they scheme to make a teenaged boy's Christmas dreams come true. When Chelsea realizes she's fallen for her best friend, she wonders if there is any hope of a relationship with Drew or if she's stuck in buddy-status for life. and Facebook

I love that Cami's characters are not your normal stock heroines. Chelsea is not the over the top feminine girl afraid to get sweaty around a guy. She's 100% real and that makes this story so relatable to me. (And I'm not saying I'm athletic, because I'm not! But I'd rather go hiking than hang out at the salon.) Anyway, this is a sweet story of two best friends who finally come together. I give this one a 4.5.

Soda Fountain Christmas by Connie E. Sokol Amazon bestselling author

Keira Kenworth has one focus this holiday season: save her father's old-time department store from bankruptcy. She is not focused on Tayton Wells, the tall, dark, and genius marketing guru from downtown New York, hired to make it happen. He is as doubtful that her nostalgic connect-the-town ideas will succeed as she is about his numbers-first plan. However, it's not just their different approaches that cause sparks to fly. Working together on a fast deadline to save the store before Christmas, the unspoken connection between them grows. But will the tough decisions they face drive them back to their separate worlds, or will they lead to the beginning of love? and Facebook

Mm, I think Keira was pretty focused on Tayton from the moment she learned he wasn't the well dressed guy in the office. This story gets my vote for the best first meeting. :) I loved the how Keira went off on Drew thinking he was Tayton. The rest of the story kept that same playful vibe and it was great. My other favorite moment is when Tayton shows up after the fire. He's there when Keira allows herself to fall apart. I give this one a 4.5.

Hope for Christmas by Rachelle J. Christensen Amazon bestselling & award-winning author

Anika Fletcher hates Christmas--its promises of good tidings and hope for the future are as tinseled as the ornaments on Kenworth's Hope Tree. Despite her feelings, Anika wants to maintain her daughter's faith in the magic of the season and gladly accepts a second job working with the handsome Carlos Rodriguez to restore Kenworth's old fashioned soda fountain. Carlos is no stranger to hard times and slowly shares his life of light and joy with Anika as they work together. Just as her fragile soul begins to feel hope again, an ill-timed act of charity changes everything. Anika isn't sure who she can trust or if hope is worth nurturing--especially at Christmas when it's easy to enjoy a kiss and believe love can last longer than the season. and Facebook

This story is heartbreaking. A single mother struggles to find her faith through the season when it should be easy to find. However, watching your world fall apart while your little girl dreams of Christmas day is really hard. I loved Carlos and how much he wants to help. He tries so hard not to push, and yet he does when Anika really needs it. Another 4.5!

One Winter Night by Heather Tullis Amazon bestselling author

Jonah Owens thought moving to Echo Ridge to open his art gallery would solve all of his problems. The need to sell his grandma's house adds an unexpected complication. It would be easier if his neighbor didn't have all those farm animals.

Kaya Feidler's family has owned their land for nearly a hundred years--long before the neighbors were there. There's no way she's giving up the animal therapy business she's been struggling to make profitable. She gets a temp job helping Jonah in the gallery. Spending time together is a recipe for romance, but can they overcome their own hangups to be more than friends? and Facebook

This story made me smile so much! I loved that Kaya is strong and gutsy. Even though she knows Jonah has something against her (could it be the chicken she took to the rehabilitation center his grandma is at?) she still shows up on his door to apply for a job when she's forced to quit hers at Kenworth's. I love when two people work well together to get over their preconceived notions.  Well, Jonah's preconceived notions at least. 4.5!

I love these clean romances. I don't have to worry about skipping scenes, or language, or anything else. Even better, all of these stories are about the same community. They are perhaps my new favorite style of stories. I like getting to know several people from town and watch how their paths cross. I give the collection a 4.5.

1-5 scale and what it means:
1: I couldn’t even finish it / just plain bad
2: I hope I didn’t pay for this / disappointing
3: I didn’t hate it, but it was still missing something / forgettable but inoffensive
3.5: On the line between good and ok / like, not love
4: Solid mind candy / worth reading
4.5: So very close to perfection! / must read
5: I could not put it down and I’m still thinking about it! / a true treasure

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Post Sharing with Unicorn Bell

Quick Update on Last Week
Did you notice the pretty word count meter over on the right? Last week's writers retreat was a huge success for me. I added almost 20K new words on book 3 in Talia's series. I also worked through 90 pages of edits on book 2. There are a few things still to work on in those pages, but things are moving along in the right direction.

There was a time Wednesday evening when I was writing a scene and trying not to cry in front of the other writers. That's when I knew I needed a break. I re-wrote the beginning of the romance short story for a change. Now my characters meet sooner, so bonus!

This Week?
This is my week over at Unicorn Bell. In the interest of time (meaning I don't have it to plan two separate posts), I'll share the same stuff over there and here. Here's yesterday's post on what I learned about character arcs among other things from a class on writing romance at a conference I attended two weeks ago.


No one would argue that the romance genre is hugely successful as a market. I don't consider myself a romance writer, however all of my books have a thread of romance in them. I took this class because I am giving a romantic short story a go. Maybe you are a romance writer, but even if you're not, there's much to learn from the genre that will improve our own stories. Whether it be science fiction, fantasy, paranormal, horror, contemporary, or any other genre out there.

What Romance Writers Understand


People read romance to feel the emotion of first love all over again. They love the anticipation, the disappointment and subsequent journey to repair the relationship and reunite the lovers, and finally the pay off at the end.

The emotions in our novels might be slightly different, but we all need to ensure our stories are cram-packed with them. If someone picks up a horror tale, they expect to be scared so bad they can't sleep that night without the bathroom light on. Those reading suspense in any form want to be kept guessing while sitting on the edge of their seat in concern for the characters.

Getting the picture?

So how do we ramp up the emotion?


We talk about this one all the time on UB, but has it sunk in? Conflict doesn't have to be high speed chases, kidnappers, and explosions in order to keep readers interested. Here's a quick refresher course on the two types of conflict.


Something outside of the character (another person, the environment, etc) that forces them to take action or change. This conflict MUST MATTER, not be something stupid (like Sharknado, just saying) that is simply a tool to push your characters somewhere. Make it realistic.

The external conflict should make the character face what they fear the most. 

The introduction of the external conflict often brings the internal conflict out into the open. This conflict is solved by external means--they cut the right wire to shut off the bomb, the cops/FBI/CIA/detective catches the bad guy, and so on.


In many genres, including romance, this is the most important type of conflict. Internal conflict is all about what your character brings to the story intellectually and/or emotionally. It comes from their experiences, beliefs, personalities, and prejudices.

This type of conflict is solved by character growth. 

Identity vs. Essence

This is perhaps the most important concept of them all. It follows perfectly that last statement referring to character growth. Here's the best way to start talking about identity vs essence.

Just like ogres, all of our characters need to have layers. We start with Identity, or how the character sees themselves or how they think the world sees them. As the story progresses, conflict peels away the layers of identity until we are left with Essence--the character's true self. Reaching essence is reaching their potential.

I don't know why, but I'd never considered character arcs quite in that way before. The presenter didn't talk about Shrek, but when she mentioned peeling away the layers to get to the essence that's exactly what I thought of. And it finally clicked. All characters have layers and we have to peel them away in order to reach their potential.

Share one of your favorite character with us and tell briefly how their identity from chapter one changed to essence by the end of the book or series.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Writer's Retreat Day 2

Day 2 was a success! Here's the stats.
I finished my 10,000 words at 10:30 pm, putting me at a total of 22,269 words for Demon Rising. 

I've edited 60 total pages on SFK. I really hope we can come up with a snappier name for this story. There are spots in those pages I'll have to return to once I decide what to do, but things are moving nicely. 

Here are a few more lovely photos for you to drool over. 
Afternoon sprint view front and side

And the final sprint...

Monday, October 19, 2015

Writing Bliss!

I'm at my writer's retreat! There's no internet so I'm getting lots done. I thought I'd tease you with some pics. 
First Tamara and I stopped for chocolate to tide us over for the next few days. Nothing beats hand made treats. 
Here's the cute cabin front porch. There is a pond with waterfall for great ambiance. 
And the back porch where we spent hours this afternoon as well as where we ate dinner. 

Don't you wish you were here?

1st day stats--
--Read through the 8000 words I wrote 6 months ago 
--Added 3500 more to the draft
--Worked on edits for the first 34 pages of SFK based on my editors notes
--Learned to blog from my phone 
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...