So where's the snow?

Muddling through in Austria; God, life and a small black dog


Guest Post; Val Tobin

This week’s featured author from Mom’s favorite reads, welcome Val!
Tell us a little about yourself
I’ve had a lifelong love of reading and writing but was too insecure to pursue writing as a profession so I went into software and web development. At the same time, my fascination for the metaphysical had me investigating meditation and a variety of holistic modalities. I also wrote for an online tech magazine for a while (Community MX, based in Florida) and that was a bump to my confidence as a writer. In 2004 I became a certified Reiki Master/Teacher and then in March 2008 I went to Kona, Hawaii, to study angel therapy with Doreen Virtue. I received my Angel Therapy Practitioner Certification with Advanced Standing in October 2010. I’d started work on a Bachelor of Science in Parapsychic Science in 2008 and received the degree in October 2010. Then I went on to get my Master of Parapsychology. At the time, I was also writing nonfiction articles for Suite101 and was Topic Editor for Paganism/Wicca and Webmaster Resource. Nowadays, of course, I enjoy contributing to Mom’s Favorite Reads.
My greatest desire was always to write fiction, and in 2012 I finally took the plunge and wrote The Experiencers. I now have seven published novels and some short stories, as well as a box set of my Valiant Chronicles. A lot of my novels draw on metaphysical concepts because I love to explore the nature of reality, mind, destiny, etc. The Experiencers explores possibilities such as free will versus destiny and how reincarnation might play a role in that. My master’s thesis was on the after-effects of near-death experience, and the research I did for that paper heavily influences my writing. I’m currently working on a nonfiction book, Changed for Life: The After-effects of Near-Death Experience, that is based on my thesis.
Why do you write, how did you get into it?
I write because I love to read and have a passion for words and for writing.
I mentioned before that I always wanted to write fiction, but how I finally got to the point where I sat down and wrote The Experiencers is an interesting and somewhat surreal story. Perhaps those who have a strong desire to write a novel but lack confidence, as I did, might benefit from hearing it.
When I was in my early forties, I bumped into a psychic I know at an event I attended, and she told me I’d be writing a book. The message was out of the blue–she wasn’t giving me a formal reading at the time. I got excited. I asked her when, and when she said it would be around age fifty, I was crestfallen. That was so far away. I asked her what would change that would give me the confidence and fortitude to write a book. She said, “I don’t know. Something unblocks and you just do it.” That wasn’t helpful in a practical way, but it at least gave me hope.
Shortly after my forty-ninth birthday in October 2012, I was gearing up for NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) as I did every year for the four years previous without ever actually writing anything. Once again, it appeared as though I wouldn’t participate. My husband and I have a business coaching people through nutritional cleanses for health and weight loss, and a friend was planning to start working her own business under us (this is network marketing). Since she’d require a lot of help and guidance with her business, I decided I wouldn’t commit to NaNo and put it off for one more year. Two days before the start of NaNo, she changed her mind. I asked my husband if he was okay with me participating in NaNo and he told me to go for it. So with two days of prep (plus planning I’d done before my friend had said she’d want to work on the business), I started The Experiencers on November 1, 2012.
The story came together and I reached my 50,000-word target by the end of November and kept writing until I finished the book two months later. It was published in March 2014. The Experiencers became part one of a two-part story (A Ring of Truth completes the story and Earthbound was added to the series later as a prequel). So the psychic was right.
What had unblocked? I think a few things came together to allow me to get out of my own way and just do it. One, I’d gotten some counselling by that point. I worked with a great therapist who helped me adjust my mindset, get out of my head, and stop overthinking everything. I still have a tendency to do that, but as far as writing goes, I’m over it. Two, I’d successfully written nonfiction and even had a story published in Doreen Virtue’s Hay House book Angel Words. My writing, when I was in school, was always highly praised by my teachers and then my profs, and some of my papers were added to the library at a couple of schools I attended so that other students could use it as an example for their research projects, so I’d had some successes that helped boost my confidence even though it was for nonfiction rather than fiction. Three, my interest in UFOs had led me to join a meetup group around that time and the idea for a story grew out of my involvement with that group. The story, when I started to plan it out, came together in flashes of images and ideas. The characters came alive for me, and that helped me to immerse myself in their world for months. Finally, I’d read Stephen King’s On Writing, Chris Baty’s No Plot? No Problem! and Randy Ingermanson’s Fiction Writing for Dummies. I’d bought Ingermanson’s Snowflake Pro software as well, which helps you to plan out a story. The books and the software helped me get not only knowledge and skills but also perspective.
After that, I participated in NaNo almost every year. Sometimes I don’t, because when I finish a project, I get antsy if I don’t have another one started immediately. I can’t wait until the following November, so I get started on it. I believe that writing is my destiny, and that’s why, if I’m not writing, I’m miserable. No matter what else I’ve tried to do, I wasn’t completely happy doing it. When I write, I’m following my passion. Even if I don’t sell millions, I must write. I don’t necessarily have to publish, and I may not publish everything I write because it’s expensive to put a book together, but I will always write.
Tell us about the book you’re promoting at the moment 
I am currently working on and promoting a sequel to the short story “Storm Lake.” Called The Hunted, it picks up the thread of the story twelve years after the events at Storm Lake. In the short story, the two main characters were just children. Rachel, the protagonist, was thirteen. Her brother, Jeff, was seven. It’s a horror story, and the basic plot is that a girl and her little brother struggle to save themselves when trapped in an isolated marina by flesh-eating creatures. The Hunted was never supposed to happen. “Storm Lake” was supposed to be a one-off–a snapshot of a new normal for Rachel and her brother. The reader was to extrapolate for themselves where it would go from where it left off. Depending on if you’re a glass-half-empty person, you can imagine it going a couple of ways. But readers wanted more and it got me to thinking about how society would deal with this situation so I wrote the bulk of it during 2018’s NaNoWriMo. I’ve completed the first draft, done some revisions, and it’s in my beta readers’ hands now. I’ve scheduled it for editing August 1, and after final revisions, I’m hoping to get it up for preorder by September.
In this story, Rachel, who is now a monster hunter, revisits her terrifying past while helping a reporter uncover the origins of Storm Lake’s creatures. It’s more of a thriller than a horror this time, though it does contain horror elements. You can’t have a monster story without some horror.
Are you a plot in head person or the book just arrives under its own volition?
I’m a mixture of plotter and pantser. I plan it out to the best of my ability, but it changes a bit as it flows out organically during execution. I think of the plotting part as me playing God and shaping the destiny of my characters. What happens while I write is the characters expressing their free will.
Your all-time most favourite book!
No contest there: The Lord of the Rings. I fell in love with it when I first read it in grade nine as a fourteen-year-old girl and nothing else claimed my heart and imagination in quite the same way since. It was the perfect blend of prose, characters, setting, themes, and plot. I memorized some of the poetry, studied the elvish, read the indexes and prequels and anything else Tolkien wrote related to LOTR. It made me fall in love with fantasy, and after reading it, I devoured every fantasy book I could get my hands on. I’ve always wanted to write fantasy myself, and have some ideas for a story, but I’ve got other works in the queue before I start that.