It's a late first Monday, but welcome!
It's November, what happened to the year? Only two months left in 2022, so what will 2023 bring?
Well, I don't know, but I know what today brings: Rene Vecka.
Let's hear about him FROM him:
I’ve been a dungeon master since Greyhawk, the precursor to Dungeons & Dragons (now a part of Wizards RPG Team), was first published. What turned me into a dungeon crawler were books like The Lord of the Rings by J. R. R. Tolkien and The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant by Stephen Donaldson. No matter how dark the circumstance or how outnumbered, there’s always hope with magic around. It helps to have friends, to be a stout-hearted individual, and to never, ever, give up. The keys to whatever success in life I’ve had are, in order, God’s blessings, perseverance, and my wife.
I write to transport the reader into another realm, where one can forget their troubles while rejuvenating their spirit. Hopefully, my books inspire kindness to others and remind readers that good ultimately triumphs, though hard work and prayer are needed.
I live with my wife and youngest son in the foothills between Denver and Colorado Springs. Other members of the household include two dogs and two cats. My other two children and two grandchildren occasionally visit, as do the deer, bobcats, coyotes, and bears.
And on we go!
When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?
I’ve had fits and starts over the past twenty years. But I got into it with more intention about five years ago. Then, as I saw the writing on the wall of a coming layoff (just before COVID), I got into it hard–that would be three years ago.
Where do you get your information for your books?
The Mid Dreki Realm is set post Ragnarok. So, I researched Norse Mythology on the Internet, which left me more confused than when I started. Too many versions of the mythos floated about. I knew I wanted to stay away from Marvel’s version, so I went back to the beginning with Snori Sturluson, and bought a scholarly tome. For other items, like clothing, swords, how to mine for gold, etc. I used the internet.
What is your work schedule like when you’re writing?
I try to write five days a week, like it’s a real job. With all five books in the series written, I’m spending my days editing and revising. I’d say I spend about 4 hours a day. Some weekends, I spend a couple of hours working as well. Maybe there’s a target date I’m shooting for to reach some milestone. Sometimes, I take the day off to spend with my family. I’m otherwise retired, so I have flexibility.
Where do you get your ideas for your books?
From my childhood, mostly. I read mysteries, science fiction, and fantasy books starting around 10 years of age. The idea for the Mid Dreki Realm series started with a comment from my then sixteen-year-old son while we were playing D & D. After I made a disparaging statement about kobolts, he gave a convincing retort. A lightbulb went on. It took another ten years before the novel was finished, but I’d started mapping things out in my head that evening.
What do you like to do when you’re not writing?
I like to read, hike, walk the dogs, and play chess. Spending time with grandkids and my adult children is also high on the list.
What was one of the most surprising things you learned in creating your books?
How rigid the industry appears at times. Genres and word counts are set in concrete for not yet successful authors. My expectations regarding success (chance of) and the amount of time and hard work it takes were set early, when I attended my first writer’s conference.
Do you have any suggestions to help someone become a better writer? If so, what are they?
Definitely attend conferences, seminars, or any other venue where they teach the various aspects that make up the craft of writing. Dialogue, voice, pacing, plotting, conflict, structure, editing… I could go on for pages for what it takes to make a good story. I’m still learning. I’m still trying to improve.
What do you think makes a good story?
I like fast-paced action, with complex plots, and some character development. Others might like more of the latter. In either case, a good story must entertain, regardless of genre. When I read, I want to escape into the author’s world. Sometimes, they fight me in the process. I like a good mix of senses (hearing, taste, smell, and even tactile). It can’t be visual all the time, though I rely on that as my primary sense. I’m also a bit nerdy when it comes to logistics. It’s not good when an author goofs up basics like travel time, the need to eat and rest, or sources of food and water. These issues can be great for building an extra layer of tension, but it can be overdone, slowing the pacing too much or deflecting from important aspects of the novel, like character and plot arcs.
As a child, what did you want to do when you grew up?
An astronaut initially. But that was quickly dashed. Then an accountant–I’m good with numbers. That turned into a desire to become a CPA or an IRS agent. I never became the former and, thankfully so my wife says, I avoided the latter. I eventually got into management, and, upon earning my masters, I switched to a finance job, a municipal bond analyst. That was a good mix of working with numbers and writing analytically.
Does writing energize or exhaust you?
Depends on the day. I can go for hours and come upstairs all jazzed up. Other times, rarely, I’m fussy and unproductive. When that happens, I typically have a story problem I’m struggling to solve. I have noticed that if I don’t write or edit for several days in a row, I get cranky. So, short answer, energize.
What are common traps for aspiring writers?
Some of what I’ve read had shifting POVs. It’s Thelma’s chapter and Louise’s thoughts wander into it. A few times I’ve read about something that happened and the character wasn’t there, though it was written like they saw or heard it. A writer has to immerse themselves into their character and see and hear through them. Of course, there are third person omniscient books out there and it can be done, though I think it takes a deft hand.
Have you ever gotten reader’s block? (I read this as writer’s block)
I have not. I hear about it from others, but I’ve been blessed. With the exception of catching COVID some 18 months ago, I’ve struggled with not enough time in the day for all that I want to accomplish. I’ve got more story ideas to write than I have years left in my life (unless I live past 100). It did take me two extra weeks post-COVID to get back behind the keyboard. I just couldn’t find the motivation. It wasn’t writer’s block. I knew what I had to work on–I just didn’t want to do it.
Do you try more to be original or to deliver to readers what they want?
Both? Ultimately, if you want sales, you have to deliver what the reader wants. That said, that can be hard to discern. Read what’s selling at Barnes & Noble or is hot on Amazon. But by the time you write something similar (genre wise), the what’s hot has shifted. But even if you catch what's hot, I think it’s important to be original, to put your own stamp on whatever it is.
Do you think someone could be a writer if they don’t feel emotions strongly?
Whoo. Possibly, but I think it would narrow the genres (crime drama procedurals). So, I feel emotions like anyone else, but as is common for guys, I don’t show my emotions unless it’s at a sporting event. That translated into a weak first draft of the novel, where my main character didn’t show much in the way of emotions. Part of my rewrites includes going through and trying to show versus tell emotions. A great book on that is The Emotional Craft of Fiction by Donald Maas.
What other authors are you friends with, and how do they help you become a better writer?
Tom Harrah is my critique partner. He’s working on his first set of novels, a trilogy set in Avalon. He reads my chapters and I read his. We’re honest with each other about what we like or don’t like, what doesn’t sound right or perhaps we find gaps in the story or maybe the character isn’t properly motivated to act or feel a certain way. Really, really helpful to find someone you can work with.
Do you want each book to stand on its own, or are you building a body of work with connections between each book?
The Mid Dreki Realm is a pentalogy. It’s critical to read them in order.
If you could tell your younger writing self anything, what would it be?
Pay attention in AP English in high school–I skidded by with C’s and D’s due to lack of effort. Begin writing earlier in life with more seriousness. It’s absolutely a truism to say it takes time to develop the skills and, the more you write, the better you become.
How did publishing your first book change your process of writing?
I realized I should have sent out my advance reader copies sooner. Getting feedback is more difficult than you think. Folks have their own lives.
What was the best money you ever spent as a writer?
Attending a writer’s conference, easy peasy. Spending money on my cover was an absolute necessity. Finally, I spent money to have my novel copy edited. I’m one of those guys that can’t see my spelling and grammar errors—even though they’re highlighted in red and blue!
What’s your favorite under-appreciated novel?
Thomas Covenant, the Unbeliever by Stephen R Donaldson.
How many unpublished and half-finished books do you have?
Eight. The four other novels that make up the Mid Dreki Realm. A noir-styled murder mystery that is written in the wrong POV. Two novels in the Science Fiction arena that have seen their first draft. And the first novel I started, but never finished, is about the second coming of Jesus Christ.
What do you have coming next?
The Mid Dreki Realm Book Two: In Search of Kin, is likely to be published in late November or early December. I plan on sending it to my copy editor at the end of October. The artwork is in progress as this written interview is taking place.