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Literary Wanderlust
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Lose Yourself!
Lose Yourself!

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Author Kevin Michaels talks about the most important elements of good writing. His new book Still Black Remains is available now!

What are the most important elements of good writing? According to you, what tools are must-haves for writers?
Good writing starts with conflict. Without conflict there’s no reason to read a story – conflict is the engine that drives everything forward (otherwise you just have a lot of dialogue and pretty scenes and a group of characters just drifting form page to page). Norman Mailer once said, “I got a sense of the power of restraint from Hemingway…I learned the power of simple language in English. He showed what a powerful instrument English is if you keep the language simple.” I try to follow that approach in my own writing. And your story needs a unique voice – don’t try to be someone else. There was only one Hemingway. And one Faulkner. And one Fitzgerald. Writers who try to copy someone else are rarely good enough to imitate someone else with any degree of success.
I keep a copy of Elmore Leonard’s 10 Rules of Writing taped in front of me while I write – they may not be appropriate for every writer, but I’ve found that his rules work for me:
1. Never open a book with weather.
2. Avoid prologues.
3. Never use a verb other than "said" to carry dialogue.
4. Never use an adverb to modify the verb "said”…he admonished gravely.
5. Keep your exclamation points under control. You are allowed no more than two or three per 100,000 words of prose.
6. Never use the words "suddenly" or "all hell broke loose."
7. Use regional dialect, patois, sparingly.
8. Avoid detailed descriptions of characters.
9. Don't go into great detail describing places and things.
10. Try to leave out the part that readers tend to skip.
His most important rule is one that sums up the 10: “If it sounds like writing, I rewrite it.”
Any last thoughts?
People always want to know if I’m that guy on “Breaking Bad”…… it would be cooler if they thought I was Brad Pitt or George Clooney…..
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Kevin Michaels shares his advice for aspiring writers. His new book Still Black Remains is available now!

What advice would you give to aspiring writers?

You need to write – every day. And you need to keep writing. And when you’re not writing, read. Stephen King said, “If you don’t have the time to read, you don’t have the time or the tools to write.”
Never stop trying to improve and never stop working at your craft – the most important thing you need to do is to keep writing. If you want to write realistic dialogue you have to listen – every conversation has a certain style and flow, and as a writer you need to capture that and reflect it in the dialogue your characters use. Keep working at it and never allow yourself to get complacent or careless. Then edit. Revise and review what you’ve written, and don’t be afraid to make changes, even when they are drastic. Make the book as tight and error-free as possible. Edit ruthlessly. Don’t be afraid to cut out the parts that don’t work. Then finish what you’ve started – the best advice I got was this:
“You have to finish things — that’s what you learn from, you learn by finishing things.”
Don’t give up. And don’t let somebody else tell you that you can’t do something. Take rejection as a motivator – learn from it, work hard, and study the craft and keep trying to get better.
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Author Kevin Michaels talks about his audience for his new book Still Black Remains available now!

Who did you write “Still Black Remains” for (audience)?

I didn’t write “Still Black Remains” for any one particular audience or demographic (which might explain why it was more difficult to initially find the right publisher – I might have had more options if I had chosen a genre like YA, Horror, or Science Fiction that has a specific audience). I wrote “Still Black Remains” because it was a story I wanted/needed to tell – even if no one else wanted to read it. If I tried shaping the book toward a particular segment of the audience when I began writing it, I might have been tempted to change the voice, or soften the language, or minimize some of the violence. It is a gritty story. Life in neighborhoods like the one where the book is set is gritty and violent and harsh. I wouldn’t want to sanitize “Still Black Remains” or try to turn an “R-rated” story PG to find a broader audience.
But now that “Still Black Remains” is finished, I think it can find an audience with both younger and older readers. The same demographic who watched and enjoyed gritty, realistic dramas like “Breaking Bad”, “The Sopranos”, “The Wire”, and “Empire” should enjoy “Still Black Remains”.
Where can we find you online?
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/kevin.michaels.37
Twitter: @KMWriter01
Instagram: KMWriter01
LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/kevin-michaels-aa136519
Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/4256551.Kevin_Michaels
I post my fiction along with periodic writing updates at A Cold Rush of Air, and I can be found at my other blog: Sliding Down the Razor's Edge to offer my opinion and POV on topics not too earth-shattering in size, scope, or detail. And those few people who really want to know more are always welcome to email me at KMWriter01@yahoo.com.

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Still Black Remains (available now) author Kevin Michaels talks about what it is that makes him write!

What motivates you to write?
It’s very simple: I love writing. There is unimaginable power and enjoyment in using imagination and creativity to tell stories – writing makes me feel complete.
I think Hemingway said it best: “My aim is to put down on paper what I see and what I feel in the best and simplest way.”
Why did you write “Still Black Remains” and what was your inspiration?
One of the most meaningful books I ever read was “Dawn” by Elie Wiesel. I first read it in high school along with “Night”, and found it powerful, moving, and compelling. In the book, Elisha, the protagonist, lost his family in the concentration camps and in the aftermath of WWII he joins the armed struggle for the foundation of a Jewish state, thereby hoping to contribute to the creation of a new homeland. At the same time he sees in his comrades a family unit offering him comfort and trust. However, his world is turned upside down and his new sense of purpose is shaken when he is ordered to shoot a British hostage. Elisha survived the terror of Nazi concentration camps only to be ordered to become an executioner himself? “Dawn” addresses how someone can be haunted and ultimately changed by trauma; it looks at the philosophical questions of when does killing become murder and how exactly does murder (or the possibility of being a murderer) change a person. I liked that question of “does the end justify the means”, even it involves the death of someone else.
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Still Black Remains author Kevin Michaels talks about other writing projects.

What other projects are you working on?

I have two other novels in the pipeline – the first that I’m finishing is one entitled “All Those Yesterdays” which is about domestic violence crossing three generations of a family. Domestic violence is a subject that I’ve actively written about over the past few years, and this book allows me to not only explore the topic in detail but to feature a strong female character at the heart of the story. In my other books I haven’t had the opportunity to do that, and it’s been exciting creating that kind of character will giving voice to an epidemic that affects individuals in every community, regardless of age, economic status, sexual orientation, gender, race, religion, or nationality. The second is tentatively entitled “A Steady Rain” and falls within the more traditional crime fiction category (“Breaking Bad” meets “Justified” with a touch of “Winter’s Bone” and “A Simple Plan”)
Do you have a day job in addition to being a writer? If so, what do you do during the day?
I run a community based organization called Story Tellers that develops literacy through the art of writing. We started a few years ago in Asbury Park, New Jersey and within the past eighteen months have expanded into Georgia. Using reading, group exercises, and one on one mentoring, Story Tellers provides under-served teenagers and young adults the opportunity to write their own stories which can inspire them to discover the strength and power of their own voices. The goal of the program is to develop literacy, self-expression, and self-esteem.
Self empowerment through self-expression.
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"Quirk with a twist of irony is how I would describe these highly original stories."--Susan Tepper. We agree!
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Terri Howells says, "This book was amazing." Yep!
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