A native of Wisconsin and Connecticut, DT deserted aspirations of being a biologist to live the corporate dream and raise a family. After six homes, a ten-year stint in Singapore and Taiwan, and an imagination that never slept, his muse refused to be hobbled as a mere dream. Now a full-time writer, DT writes science fiction, dystopian fiction, alternate-world fantasy, and blogs on Searching for Light in the Darkness.
Social Media Chairman for GLVWG, Dan created and maintains this WordPress blog page, and revamped the group’s Facebook Page.
Sandra Almonte had an opportunity to speak with Dan about what he writes, his blog site, and his on-going struggles as a hard-core pantser extraordinaire when he writes.
Sandra: You write science fiction and alternate-world fantasy. What drew you to these genres?
Dan: I was the middle child of seven and more at home with a book and my chemistry set in the basement when growing up. Robert Heinlein’s “Tunnel in the Sky” was my introduction to sci-fi when I was eight. I cut my fantasy teeth with the Hobbit and Lord of the Rings, all before I reached puberty. As for alternate-world fantasy, my first taste likely came from the Stephen King/Peter Straub collaboration “The Talisman” (though I give Dean Koontz’s “Lightning” high marks for solidifying the genre for me).
I dropped sci-fi/fantasy for many years after I started raising a family and labored in the real world. I credit my older daughter for reintroducing me to it and haven’t looked back since.
Sandra: Is there a strategy you use for your blog page? Do you blog everyday? Are there days you write two (or more) blogs and post them in the future?
Dan: I started my blogging chops with a wonderful group of romance writers in 2008 and came up with the name “Blame it on the Muse” (which is no longer running). These ladies played a large role in fine tuning the craft for me. I tended more toward humor as the ‘lone Y chromosome in a sea of double-x’s, but wasn’t really into the social media thing. It was my agent, Victoria Lea of Aponte Literary, who insisted I must establish a presence, and well, let’s just say I was dragged kicking and screaming into the social media arena. Who’d a thunk I’d end up as the social media guy for GLVWG?
Maintaining a brand and presence requires a degree of discipline and consistency, which I suck at. I prefer writing stories. I set up ‘Searching for Light in the Darkness’ as a subtle riff on characters who end up in their darkest moment and must find a ‘light’ to overcome it. Lucky me, I received permission from photographic artist, Lori Nix, to use her diorama of a tree stretching to a hole in the roof of a deserted library as my cover graphic. Started with bi-monthly posts, meandered on the subject matter (I had this thing about not wanting to be yet another writer talking about writing), dates slipped, and ended up doing a monthly post. Some will say it’s not enough, but I will kick up posting frequency when I finally publish one of the half-dozen books I’ve written.
Sandra: I read an article you wrote, The Perils of Captain Tangent, describing your issues with being a pantser (writing by the seat of your pants, versus plotting). How do you manage to stay focused?
Dan: It’s hard to describe the creative carnival of my writing muse, a process I describe in Pantser in Need of a Serious Intervention. It doesn’t stop me from writing, and I try my best to “plan” as much as my synaptic spaghetti grid of a brain will allow. It’s not like I can’t reach the goal line. I’ve finished several books. Believe it or not, I actually finished one in less than six months once (boy, did that one suck). I write every day. My best creativity is in the morning. I treat it like a job (good thing I don’t get job reviews). If my stories were like directions to Charlotte, North Carolina, I’ll eventually get there, though I may go by way of Norway.
Sandra: You mentioned that your “best creativity is in the morning.” Do you have a morning routine before you start getting creative? If so, what does that routine look like?
Dan: Mornings are best because I’m rested, caffeinated, the brain unfettered with distractive daily doings, and my synaptic fliver is firing on all cylinders. I kick-start my creative juices by reading material I’d written the day before. After excising some of the word junk from divergent tangents that strayed into my thoughts, I’m well on my way to continuing the story journey. I put in at least three hours a day, often stretching to six if I’m in the groove. Keep in mind, it’s not unusual for me to write 10K, then dump half of it. It’s part of the unique insanity that drives my writing process. Most afternoons are for busy work like emails, social media, and naps. Forget evenings – that’s martini time.
Sandra: Your About Dan page says “Loves to cook, because its chemistry and you get to eat the experiments”. Have you ever made a cooking experiment you couldn’t eat? What was it?
Dan: I forget who said it, but if you cook a lot, you have to fail on occasion. Most of my failures are boneheaded, absent-minded blunders because I – got distracted somewhere in the process. Like the time I left paper towels in the turkey cavity when I roasted it. I’m most vulnerable when I imbibe during food prep, where I might forget a key ingredient. Made a strawberry rhubarb pie with stevia in an attempt to cut down on sugar, an epic fail that resulted in sour mush. The one flop I’ll never forget is dry-aging my own beef rib roast for 40 days, build that special fire with real wood, set steaks on the grill, go into the house for a couple minutes, and come back to find Dante’s Inferno. Enough to make a grown man cry.
Sandra: You’re a former Peace Corps Volunteer! What ideas, if any, has that experience sparked?
Dan: The Peace Corps motto used to be, “it’s the hardest job you’ll ever love.” The typical volunteer, used to life in relative comfort, must abandon preconceptions and embrace an entirely different culture, often in very poor living conditions. It’s an education on tolerance, persevering, and willingness to alter behavior to fit the situation. As a child of the fifties, my exposure was limited to the small town I grew up in. That all changed after I repatriated from the Philippines where I served. The experience instilled a desire to work more globally, and that dream came true when I worked for ten years in Singapore and Taiwan.
We are a diverse planet of cultures, yet I found it interesting that fantasy and sci-fi authors of my childhood often created monocultural worlds. My early attempts at world building years ago were no different in that I created settings I grew up with, with characters who were like me. In futuristic settings involving humanity, that just isn’t realistic anymore. That stint in the Peace Corps laid the seed that opened my eyes.
Sandra: Can you share a brief description of what you’ll talk about at your conference seminar on Pinterest for Writers, 7:00 PM Friday evening, March 23?
Dan: Conceived as a virtual bulletin board, Pinterest has grown beyond its visual thematic platform of recipes, fashion, and kid’s crafts, and unlike other social media posts that quickly disappear in a blink, Pinterest postings have a longevity through re-pins that can go on for months. For writers and authors, Pinterest is a great place for writer inspiration, and a way to connect to readers and other writers. It’s all about connecting with good pictures and a well thought out blurb. It’s also highly addictive.
The seminar will cover the basics of setup, creating a great writer profile, themed boards, keywords, search functionality, group boards, and tips from a few industry experts in how to utilize this fun platform to enhance your writer brand.
Sandra Almonte is a Certified Fitness Trainer and Health & Wellness Coach. She is also a Freelance Copywriter (www.thewellnesscopywriter.com). She writes on health, fitness, and nutrition for publications in print and online. Sandra has a poem, Wither Or Flourish, published in the 2016 GLVWG Anthology – Write Here, Write Now. And she’s currently the newsletter chair for GLVWG.
When Sandra’s not training, coaching, or writing she enjoys hiking with her dog, bike riding, making bracelets using sterling silver and unique beads, and volunteering for good causes.