John M. Wills

Books and blog



Rescuing Finley by Dan Walsh (Kindle edition)

51jg0ONcRxL._SX322_BO1,204,203,200_Rescuing Finley is a refreshing, comfortable story, one that leaves the reader with a good feeling about society and the inherent goodness in people. Chris Seger, a former Marine, lost a leg while serving his country in Afghanistan. But he suffered more than just physical pain—he developed PTSD—a condition that interferes with his ability to interact with people in a normal manner.

Amy Wallace has her own troubles. Drug addiction and a few brushes with the law resulted in a prison sentence. Her behavior caused her family to reject her. Now she finds herself alone and scared in an environment that is both dangerous and potentially violent.

A very special dog, Finley, has suffered his own trauma. Finley’s master, Chaz, was killed while serving in the Middle East. Chaz’s mother was watching Finley while her son was gone, and now she’s stuck with a dog she can’t control while she grieves her son’s death. It becomes too much for the woman, and she finally brings Finley to a shelter.

Finley is chosen for a special prison program that trains dogs and matches them with military members suffering from PTSD. Amy becomes one of the inmate dog trainers in the program, and draws Finley as one of the dogs picked to participate. Chris accidentally discovers the dog-training program through a friend, and learns that adopting one of the dogs is possibly the answer to his PTSD problem.

Rescuing Finley is a delightful story suitable for all ages. It’s a tale of despair, hope, love, and more importantly, redemption. What’s unique about this novel is that Dan Walsh gives Finley a voice, one that rounds out this character driven narrative. As we see the story unfold through the eyes of the dog, we come to better understand the compassion and love these animals have for their caretakers. It’s a beautiful account that will warm your heart.

Meet Author Kurt Kamm

Today I’m hosting author Kurt Kamm.

First responders and the hazards they face and deter are at the heart of the fact-based mystery novels of Malibu, California author, Kurt Kamm. A graduate of Brown University and Columbia Law School, Kurt had a successful career as a financial executive and CEO before immersing himself in the world of the first responders who feature so prominently in his books.  After attending the El Camino Fire Academy and training in wildland firefighting, arson investigation, and hazardous materials response, Kurt also became a graduate of the ATF Citizen’s Academy and has ridden along with the Los Angeles County Fire Department’s famed Urban Search & Rescue Task Force.  Along with this, Kurt has has used his 2 kurt kamm headshotcontacts with CalFire, Los Angeles and Ventura County Fire Departments, and the ATF to enhance the research which vests his novels with a realism that puts his readers on the ground with his characters.

Kurt, when did you realize you wanted to be a writer, and when did you actually begin to write?

I have always enjoyed writing and won a short story prize in high school. When I was at Brown, I took a career guidance test and was advised to become a writer. Even in those young, naive days, I knew I couldn’t earn enough money as a writer and decided to go to law school and on to Wall Street. I look at writing as a final reward for working hard at other things for most of my life

What in your background prepared you to be a writer?

Every lawyer has to learn how to write, if not in the most interesting way. Right brain-left brain. I was never very good at math, but I was a terrific reader and had a good imagination. My business partner couldn’t write two sentences but was brilliant at numbers. We made a great pair.

It is said the key to becoming a writer is to sit in a chair and write. What made you finally sit down and write?

I retired, was recently divorced, and moved out to Malibu. One day I woke up and had NOTHING to do. A friend from the LA Times convinced me to start writing classes. We were encouraged to keep a journal, and write something, anything, every day. That’s how I got started. I really enjoyed it and thought, this is something I can do.

You write faction – fiction based on fact. How much research goes into your novels?

A lot of research. I just read about an author who wrote an entire series of novels about India without ever having even been there. That’s inconceivable to me. I have to be out in the field, smelling, touching, checking out the colors and textures and, most important, listening to the people around me. I have spent hundreds of hours with the men from LA County Fire Department in training situations and at actual incidents. I’ve never had so much fun in my life and have opened a window into a part of life that was unknown to me when I worked in the financial world. I use those experiences as the backgrounds for my novels. I could never dream that stuff up.

Do you do your research yourself, or do you have an assistant do it?

I do all the research myself. I’m not sharing the fun with anyone!

With the attention you give to detail, you know a tremendous amount about your topics. Why faction? Why not non-fiction?

Non-fiction is boring. I want to create factual backgrounds and then insert unique characters: identical twins who are terrorists, albinos obsessed with tattoos and rare blood, and weather broadcasters fixated on fires.

In Tunnel Visions you bring attention to the realities we are facing with water in California? What made this topic of interest to you?1 Tunnel Visions Cover

The idea for Tunnel Visions came from an actual event, a disastrous gas explosion in a water tunnel which killed 17 men. Once I adopted that as the background for the novel, the whole issue of California’s water shortage became part of the story.

Is this reversible? How?

It’s hard to reverse a water shortage unless you are God. Conservation will help. The rain/drought cycles may be decades long. The western United States had a 50 year wet cycle up to end of the 20th Century, so everyone adjusted their expectations and water usage upward. Now we’re in a drought cycle and it’s hard to know how long it will last.

For you, what drives a novel – plot or character?

Character drives the novel.  I love to imagine people who are slightly, or significantly, off center. Isn’t everyone a little weird?  The personality issues create the plot.

You are, shall we say, seasoned. Yet you capture the voice and pathos of a young protagonist easily.  How easy or difficult is this for you?

I refuse to admit my age. Who wants to read something written by an old guy about an old character who’s been there and done that? I like to write about young characters who are intrepid and enthusiastic but don’t have enough life-experience to avoid making mistakes. Actually, it’s easy to create these young characters, and I love ‘em all! Now excuse me, I have to take my mid-morning nap.

Your female character in Tunnel Vision is particularly strong. Did you make her this way on purpose? Did you model her on anyone in particular?

I do know a woman who is a special agent for the ATF, and she gave me some insight into her life in law enforcement. She is attractive, feminine, and tough as nails. I almost fell off my chair when she told me that she worked undercover for two years in an outlaw motorcycle gang in Wichita. (“Winter on a bike sucks.”)  I like including strong female characters – I guess it brings out my feminine side.

What do you hope readers take away from your books?

First, I hope they simply enjoy the experience of reading my novels and find my characters interesting, lovable, or reprehensible. I would also hope they get some insight into the skill and dedication of the first responders who make everyone else’s life safer and easier.

What is the best advice you ever received as a writer?

How about the worst advice? The worst advice was, “Write what you know.” If you do that, you might not ever write anything interesting. Get away from your computer. Get yourself into something you know nothing about, and learn something new. Then go back and write about that.

What is your best advice for aspiring authors?

When I was a master’s bicycle racer, I spent hours, training by myself and trashing my body. Then, on race days, I got up at 4 AM, drove two hours to a 7 AM race start, busted my gut for 2 hours, and sometimes ended up on the podium. And guess what? Almost no one was around and almost no one cared. Sometimes I asked myself, “Why am I doing this?” The answer was, because I loved it. The same applies to writing. You may spend hours working hard to create something no one notices or cares about, so you had better enjoy the process, because that may be all the reward you get. There are no guarantees. That said, if you do love what you are doing, don’t ever give up.

Kurt Kamm is an award-winning novelist of fact-based fiction.  His latest thriller, Tunnel Visions, is on shelves now.  You can read more from Kurt on Huffington Post or Facebook.  To read interviews conducted by Kurt with some of your favorite best-selling authors, visit




Promoting Your Book

PSWA Member graphicLast week I attended the Public Safety Writers Association Conference. One of the presenters was Patricia Fry, a full-time writer, speaker, consultant, editor and the author of 39 books. Patricia spoke about author promotion, emphasizing that the role falls to the author, rather than the publisher. Here are some important points to consider about book promotion:

  1. No matter which publishing option you choose, it is up to the author to promote his/her book.
  2. Your book will sell for as long as you are willing to promote it.
  3. There are hundreds of ways to promote  your book and most of them are free, but many of them do take time, thought, effort, creativity and energy.
  4. In order to successfully promote your book, you MUST know who your audience is and where they are (what they read, where they buy books, etc.)
  5. Target your marketing efforts toward your target audience.
  6. When devising your marketing plan, remember to think, “exposure, exposure, exposure.”
  7. Experiment and discover which promotional effort is most effective for you and for your particular book. Do more of that activity!
  8. Don’t give up after one disappointing promotional activity–the next book festival (presentation, book signing, etc.) might be ultra successful.
  9. Be open to new promotional ideas, but  don’t spread yourself too thin. Keep to the basics that are working.
  10. Before launching out to speak, do a book signing, etc., put out a LOT of publicity. Use all of your social media accounts, newspapers, appropriate newsletters, posters, blogs, your email list, etc.
  11. Seek out unusual, but appropriate,venues for  presentations/signings/demonstrations and to place your books for sale. Choose locations where your audience congregates, shops, etc.
  12. For fiction–do home parties and let guests help act out a scene–bring costumes/props.

    This is just the tip of the iceberg. Use your imagination and get creative in planning your own marketing plan–always keeping your audience/readers in mind. Patricia’s, “Promote Your Book, Over 250 Proven, Low-Cost (mostly free) Tips and Techniques for the Enterprising Author” has hundreds more ideas for both fiction    and nonfiction authors.

PSWA Results

John's yet to be released novel.
John’s yet to be released novel.

What a wonderful conference I just attended! My writing network continues to expand, as I met several new members to our organization: the Public Safety Writers Association. One couldn’t help but improve their writing after all of the excellent presentations and panels. Truly a worthwhile event.

I was blessed to have won multiple awards for my submissions to the writing competition. However, what pleases me most is that my next book, The Year Without Christmas: A Novel, won an award. It is set to be released in October, and tells the story of a family’s struggle to recover from a tragic accident. Two prevalent problems surfacing in our society today–PTSD and homelessness–themselves become characters in this compelling read. Watch my blog for further details.

Meet Author Bob Doerr

Today, I’m pleased to welcome a friend and fellow author to my blog, Mr. Bob Doerr. Bob served our great nation for twenty-eight years as a criminal investigator in the Air Force. His background is exceptional. He graduated from the Air Force Academy and also later received a Masters in International Relations. Bob is a counterintelligence expert, having worked espionage and terrorism cases all over the world. Learn more about Mr. Doerr at his website: Bob Doerr, Author.No One Else To Kill

Please introduce yourself and tell us about your writing journey.

I grew up as a kid in a military family and then spent nearly thirty years in the Air Force in a small organization known as the Air Force Office of Special Investigations. After the Air Force, I spent eight years as a financial advisor. For the past five years, I’ve been writing professionally and have thoroughly enjoyed it. To date I have had five books published, all in the Jim West mystery/thriller series.

Do you write every day, and are novels the only things you write?

I try to write just about every day, but probably average five days a week. I have written short stories and have been published in two anthologies, but for the most part I write novels.

I know that you recently won a prestigious writing award for one of the books in your successful Jim West series.

My book, No One Else to Kill, was selected as runner-up to the winning book in the commercial fiction category of the 2013 Eric Hoffer Awards. The Eric Hoffer Awards are held annually and are open to any book that is published in English by anyone except for those books published by the big six publishing houses. The books can come from mid size presses, university presses, very small publishers and can even be self-published. This is a very large contest with 1000 – 1200 books submitted for consideration each year, so as you can imagine, I was extremely pleased to have my book selected as runner-up. No One Else to Kill was also selected as a Finalist for the DaVinci Eye award in the same contest that is awarded to the book with the most outstanding cover.

What authors most inspire you?

Tough question! I read a lot when I was younger – guess I still do, so it’s hard to pick out the authors that have inspired me the most. Guess I would pick John D. MacDonald, Rex Stout, and maybe Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.

What is your most rewarding writing experience?

Getting emails from people I don’t know who say they have just finished one of my books and have really enjoyed it. I’ve gotten comments from India, Australia, and Canada, in addition to those from here in the USA. I have also found it very rewarding to have met other authors and people involved in the writing world.

Where and when do you write? Do you create a certain environment for writing, i.e., certain music playing, favorite chair, etc.?

I like to go out to a coffee shop and write. It gets me away from everything, and I seem to be able to focus better despite the crowds or noise around me. I do most of my rewriting at home where I have a large desk in our master bedroom. I don’t put on any music, nor do I create any special environment to help me in my writing. I enjoy writing and find it easy to dedicate time to do it.

Are you working on a new project?

I wrote a short novel with the assistance of my twelve-year-old granddaughter. It’s a fantasy targeting middle grade readers and should be out late summer. Currently, I’m working on an international thriller that will not be part of my Jim West series. Hopefully, that book will be available by the end of the year. I do plan to write more books in the Jim West series, but not this year.

Is there anything else you would like to share with our readers?

I like feedback and would encourage any of your readers who happen to read one of my books to kindly let me know what they think. I also want to thank you, John, for having me on your blog.

You’re welcome, Bob. Thanks for sharing your background and writing career with my readers, and good luck in all your future writing endeavors.

On Becoming Published

English: Logo of french publisher Léon Vanier
English: Logo of french publisher Léon Vanier (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Writers have more options today than ever before to get their work “out there.” In addition to the conventional route, utilizing agents and query letters to established publishing houses, there now exists a host of small presses that are willing to take on new authors.

However, not all small presses are the same. A potential choice should be researched and evaluated before submitting one’s work. For example, one distinguishing feature about a small or indie press is that they rarely, if ever, offer to pay the author an advance. There simply is not enough money to allow for that. And be forewarned—if  during your inquiry to a potential publisher, you learn there are fees involved, you should look elsewhere. Requiring the author to pay for anything, whether it’s cover design, editing, etc., is a dead giveaway that the operation is a vanity press or a self-publishing service. Some examples are AuthorHouse, iUniverse, Xlibris and Trafford. They try to disguise their identity by referring to themselves as indie publishers. Not true.

Do your homework and Google the publisher before making your final decision. Investigate whether or not there are any complaints associated with the company. Often times the complaints will appear on authors’ websites or blogs. A good resource to find any negative information is Writer Beware. If the publisher is new, or has published very few books, that should raise a red flag for you to avoid them. Check out the publisher’s website. If the site focuses more on promoting itself rather than its books and authors, that’s a good indication they are trying to attract clients.

Check the potential publisher’s pricing for printed books. If the pricing is above the norm, steer clear. Ebook pricing remains somewhat unsettled, but $9.99 seems to be the industry standard. Small presses combined with feedback from ereaders, seems to indicate a price point somewhere between $2.99 and $3.99 to be the most attractive.

Ensure that you check to see if your potential publisher has a distribution network, and that the books are available on Amazon and other major online vendors. Ingram or Baker & Taylor are the conventional wholesalers for printed books.

Marketing is important. Once your book is published, how will you get the word out that your book is published ands available for purchase? Most indies expect the author will do the bulk of marketing, by attending book fairs, signings and conventions. However, check to see if your publisher makes ARCs available (advance reading copies) to potential reviewers and endorsers. Including favorable reviews and blurbs by established writers, reviewers and celebrities will help with advertising and make your book more credible.

Many authors discover that writing the book is the easiest leg on their journey to becoming a published author. The challenge then becomes one of getting your book into the readers’ hands. If you’ve already encumbered that process by choosing the wrong publisher, you may have to go back to square one.

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