Thursday, August 29, 2013

Interview with Hercules Editing

Just a quick post to link to an interview I recently completed with BZ Hercules of Hercules Editing and Consulting Services, who, by the way, have great prices on editing for any Indie Authors still in need. I have not personally used their services yet, but they are on my short list of considerations when I get to that point. Anyway, please check the interview out here:

Here's a snippet:

In exploring her characters, Bissell paints a picture of some complicated and intense personalities. “Ruth is a woman stuck in a rut. She is married to her high school sweetheart who turns out not to be the man she once fell in love with and now she needs a way out. She is naive but tough and determined. She can be impulsive and stubborn. She is slow to trust.
“Julien is a conflicted being with a good heart but a need for blood against which he can't fight. He is indecisive and uses alcohol to quiet his thoughts. He does not trust himself."

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Why I write about the places I've been

Those who know me personally, and maybe some who know me only virtually, know I love to travel. I've been fortunate to have been to many amazing places; Jamaica, Guatemala, Ireland, France, and many places throughout the US and Canada. I've also lived in many interesting locations, if even for a month at a time; my small hometown in North Central Iowa, Iowa City and Cedar Rapids, IA, Minneapolis, MN, Warsaw, MO, Kansas City, MO, La Antigua, Guatemala among others. These places have stuck with me even years after my time spent there.

That is why I write about these places. Sure, I could imagine being in many other locations and write about those. I'm sure I could do the research about those places and make it seem authentic enough. Many authors do this and do it quite successfully. I, however, find it much more real and raw to write about places I can see in my head, not because I've found photos on Flicker or looked at Google Maps, but because I can remember them from my own experience. Much like I try to use personal experience to enhance emotional content, or personality traits I've witnessed in myself, family, friends or strangers to enhance authenticity in my characters, I find that using places with which I am familiar makes them that much more real in my mind and hopefully that of my readers'.

My upcoming Novel, Beyond the Reach of Judgement features many places including Kansas City, MO, Las Vegas, Niagara Falls and Warsaw, MO. While in the big picture, my intimate knowledge of these places may not matter to the story's plot or flow, I feel that my personal experience has been valuable in several key aspects. For example - early in the plot my main male character, Julien, finds himself in a not so great part of town intentionally with ill-intent. How did I know where in Kansas City to send Julien for this story? Besides the fact that this neighborhood appears on countless lists of "Most-dangerous," I also use to live there. Here are some of my photos:

My old apartment building in the old Kansas City Osteopathic Hospital. While it does not appear in my story, it is interesting none the less.
My medical school was right across the street (thankfully) and was the main reason I choose to live in this neighborhood. It is a beautiful, but out-of-place campus, in a very old part of Kansas City
Next door, was the Seven Eleven.
 And these hotels, do feature in my story and were next door to the above Seven Eleven.

But it's more than just knowing the "bad parts" of town and the "good parts" of town, because most readers, unless they too have lived in those places, wouldn't know the difference and may not even care about the accuracy in a Paranormal Romance or Urban Fantasy novel. It's about knowing the vibe of the City and its people. It's about being able to understand that it could be possible for my characters to be what and who they are and do the things I wish them to do in that environment. It is because I can picture Julien living at 909 Walnut or similar highrise loft and driving through the streets to Independence Avenue to the motels rumored to have prostitutes in their walls and then later to party it up in The Plaza and Power and Light District. I've driven those same roads and walked those same streets. I've eaten at those restaurants and danced at those clubs.

By the way, for some awesome and stunning photos of Kansas City - recommend Eric Bower's Flickr Stream.

Niagara Falls at Dusk and Night:

Las Vegas:

I would love to hear your thoughts on the subject. Is firsthand experience important to making a location feel real or am I just a lazy/poor/unimaginative writer looking for excuses to show off my travel photography?

Sunday, July 7, 2013

KDP Promo Days Reviewed: His Eyes

So my free promotion using Amazon KDP Select for my short speculative fiction piece, His Eyes, has now ended. Here are the stats:

-3 days (July 4-6)
-Reached #2 on Free Teen/YA Science Fiction, Romance, Dystopian
-Reached #36 on Free Teen/YA Science Fiction
-Reached #4136 for Kindle Free

Although I applied to several websites that feature free promos, only two posted my event. I also got two tweets from these reaching in total ~68K followers (plus my own 780 followers). I myself was able to follow my self-inflicted rule of tweeting a max of 2 tweets per day regarding my event. I picked up two more "To-Read"s on Goodreads.

What I learned so far:
-Many websites that feature free promos without charge have rules about which books they are willing to post - rules such as a minimum amount of positive reviews and an average star rating.
-Many websites that feature free promos without charge require a 10-14 day advance request
-Advertising is difficult work - there is a fine line between informative and convincing and annoying.
    -Targeting audiences that would be more likely to download what I am offering would likely be more effective than just broadcasting widely to anyone and everyone willing to listen. I just need to figure out the most effective way to do this in the future.
     -You get what you pay for - free advertising is great but you have no control and no guarantees 

Check back later for a recap and to learn if my free days improved sales or gained more reviews of His Eyes. Still trying to decide if I should use KDP Select for my upcoming novel, Beyond the Reach of Judgement, a vampire romance for a New Adult age group.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

A trial with KDP Free Promo Days - His Eyes July 4-6

Starting July 4 and ending July 6, my short speculative fiction story, His Eyes, will be available for free download via the Amazon KDP Select program. I am considering this the first real test of the KDP program before deciding if I will enroll my upcoming paranormal romance novel, Beyond the Reach of Judgement, into this program upon completion of final edits and formatting.

My first trial was back in May when I did a single day promo on Cinco de Mayo with very little advertising other than a few Twitter Posts and a few Goodreads Forum posts that day before and the day of the event. It really was a spur of the moment, poorly prepped thing. Despite this, I had 25 downloads in 24 hours. I also got to #35 in Teen Science Fiction Free and in the top 100 for Free Short Stories during the promotion. I consider this a small success given the genre and short length of His Eyes.

This time I've stepped it up a notch - this post included. I found multiple sites that list KDP Free days for no cost. I found this lists on two sites:

I will plan to tweet the upcoming promotion at least daily but not more than twice daily, in attempt to increase awareness of my promo days. I've created a Goodreads Event regarding my upcoming free days which has 100 invitees. I also posted details of my free days on several Goodreads forums.

Stay tuned for updates as the promo gets underway!

His Eyes

Anya is a teenager of the future. She grew up in a world which warned her of the "Wild Days" of the turn of the century; a world that uses law to enforce morality and government to determine the definition of that morality. Her father is in prison for cheating on her mother, and her mother no longer knows she exists. But when she meets Jackson, none of that matters. What will happen when she gets lost in those thoughtful dark eyes and forgets all else?

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Movie Review: The Great Gatsby

Over the Top as only Baz Luhrmann could do

Let me start of with a confession; I've never read The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald. I know to many people reading this, that may make me unqualified both to review this movie, and possibly to even claim myself an author. However, I might say that it makes me uniquely qualified to review this film on its merits as a film and not as an interpretation of the classic novel.

Mr. Gatsby is an amazingly rich and over the top gentleman living in the richest area outside New York City in the biggest house and throwing over the top parties every weekend. Everyone seems to know of Mr Gatsby, but no one seems to actually know Mr. Gatsby. That is until Nick Carraway moves into the small, nearly forgotten cottage next to Mr. Gatsby's mansion. Nick finds himself intrigued by the man and the mystery surrounding him. He finds himself personally invited to Mr Gatsby's home and hears the story of his life straight from the man himself. Finding it all too much to believe, Nick finds himself swept into the world of Jay Gatsby and becomes part of Gatsby's plan to regain the love of his life, Daisy, Nick's cousin, whom happens to already be married to another very rich, but very unfaithful man.

Even if that is not exactly true, this movie at least feels very historically accurate. Knowing the amount that I do about the time period in which it takes place, I feel like the film has captured the imagery, mentality, and romance of the time in way that can be appreciated by our current society. It is also visually impressive and just plain fun to watch. With it's modern day soundtrack, and colorful dream-like montage sequences, and has Baz Lurhamnn's stamp all over it.

Leonardo DiCaprio's performance is as great as all of his other takes on classic characters and historic people that America (and beyond) knows and loves. There is just something about him that allows you to forgot the actor entirely and see only the character in a way that few others do quite as well. I was also fond of Elizabeth Debicki's performance as Jordan and Isla Fisher as Myrtle because of their ability to bring a strength and intrigue to female characters that were not the leading lady. In fact, they may have even overshadowed Carey Mulligan's Daisy Buchanan. I don't feel this is anything against Carey's performance, just that the character was a lot less interesting which adds to the dynamic of the romance between her and Gatsby. 

Whether you were a fan of the book or not, I think this film has something to offer most movie-goers.

 See It Rate: ***.5 (partly because everyone else you know will have inevitably experienced this film and you wouldn't want to be left out, would you?)

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Meet Ruth

Mary Ruth Jacobson-Ryan: small town girl dreaming of something more

Born an in 1987 and grew up as an only child in Warsaw, MO. Her father left her mother when she was 15 years old and her mother did not cope well. Mother became fanatically religious and forced her extreme beliefs onto Ruth which pushed her away from her mother and the Church. In her rebellion, she found interest in nature based religions and started practicing a Wiccan/Pagan type spirituality.

At the age of 16, she met Jonny, the neighbor boy. They were married by age 18, and he left her to join the military while her few remaining friends went off to college. He spent most of his four years deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan. She saw him only twice during this time. Meanwhile, she worked as a cashier, waitress, and babysitter and wrote letters to her husband daily. In her free time, she kept a blog full of her "dream vacations" and "virtual wardrobe" and dreamed of her husbands return. She made plans to attend college or study online but never followed through due to lack of resources.

When Jonny returned home for good, however, she found he was not the same person she fell in love with in high school. She knew he had endured many terrible things during his time away from her, but she could not break down the walls he had built around himself. Even when he became aggressive towards her, she was determined to be a faithful wife.  The night she learned of her pregnancy, she left her husband quickly and quietly. 

While she was finally free from her small town life, she found she was still trapped by her own circumstances. Pregnant, broke, and hungry, she was ready to resort to drastic measures to keep from returning to her previous life.

...until a she crossed paths with Julien.

Physical Description: 5’4” tall, curvy in a 1950s movie star sort of way, long dark hair with side-swept bangs, blue eyes, small hands/short fingers, belly button piercing, and double pierced ears with several cartilage piercings.

Personality: She can be impulsive and stubborn. Independent but naive given her background. Slow to trust. Dreamer.

Habits/Mannerisms: Chews on her lower lip when nervous. Stares at people when she is upset with them. Loves nail polish. Likes to try new things and have new experiences but is limited by her situation. Enjoys shopping online because she cannot afford to travel to any “real stores.” 

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Excerpt 2 from Beyond the Reach of Judgement

“People who cease to believe in God or goodness altogether still believe in the devil. I don't know why. No, I do indeed know why. Evil is always possible. And goodness is eternally difficult.”
- Anne Rice, Interview With a Vampire

Julien was alone in the stone cell. He paced its perimeter repeatedly until finally positioning himself seated against the unforgiving wall opposite the cell door. He stared straight ahead and tried not to think of her. Focusing on the cracks in the stone and the number of blocks stacked to form his enclosure, he memorized the angles and the dimensions. He struggled to think of anything he could to keep the despair from creeping in, anything to keep the memories of their final moments together out of his thoughts, anything but of her.

His concentration wavered as something was slipped through the bars of the cell door. It was immediately recognizable to him, even in the dim lighting, as a medical grade pint of red blood cells. Although his hunger was freshly sated by the girl’s last remaining ounce of life, it called to him. The more he tried to ignore its presence, the louder its call became. Thankfully, it remained unopened because he doubted he was strong enough to resist the scent of what was within.

His jaw clenched, and his fists tightened as a pain started to build in the back of his throat. For distraction, he imagined himself back in France in the Church of Saint-Pierre de Montemartre. Staring up at the ceiling, he closed his eyes and began to chant.

AVE MARIA, gratia plena, Dominus tecum. Benedicta tu in mulieribus, et benedictus fructus ventris tui, Iesus. Sancta Maria, Mater Dei, ora pro nobis peccatoribus, nunc, et in hora mortis nostrae. Amen.”

Over and over, he chanted the words, repeating them until they became senseless in his mind. He could not allow himself to look in the direction of the blood bag. He place his head between his knees and squeezed his eyes tighter. When his mind started to wander, wondering what blood type was written across the bag in bold letters or to how fresh it may be, he changed prayers. When he started to reminisce about the sensation of his lips on warm flesh or the sound of a pulse echoing in his ears, he changed prayers. When he thought about her scent in his nostrils and her flavor in his mouth, he changed prayers.

When Agent Wolfe appeared at the cell door, he did not look up. He recognized her footsteps and her  smell. After a long silence, she finally spoke. “Mr. Durant, tell me, why should I spare you?”

“You should not.” He replied.

“And why is that?”

“I am a monster. I deserve to be ended. I wish to be ended.”

“And why should I give you what you desire?” Her voice hinted at genuine curiosity.

“You should not.”

She said nothing else as her footsteps disappeared down the long corridor. It was silent once again. He was alone; alone with the blood.

He imagined himself back in the Spiritual Exercises. He had conquered the evil and disorder within him once so many years ago. It could be done again. Ruth taught him that. It took losing her to prove to him that he had the choice, he simply needed to take it.

But now she was dead.

 Read more at :

(Note, this is not the finished novel but a "pre-final-edit version". Complete novel, post editing and formatting will be available this summer!)

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Movie Review: Warm Bodies

Young Love in the Zombie Apocalypse? Why not?

In a not so distant future, the majority of the world has been infected by a condition which essentially renders them mindless corpses surviving off the living. In this world our heroine, Julie, is the young attractive daughter of the Commander and Chief of what remains of the human world. She also happens to be one of the few, along with her alpha-male boyfriend and ditsy best friend, allowed outside the walls of the human city to collect the necessities for the rest of the survivors.

During one of these outings, unfortunate circumstances brings her face to face with our Zombie Heartthrob, "R." For some reason, which I won't spoil for you, he finds an attraction to her and decides not to ingest her brain. Instead, he saves her from the other would-be brain-eaters and takes her back to his "home."

In typical teen romance style, he charms her with his awkward geekiness and music collection, until she starts to see past the smelly corpse and into the soul beneath. As she does, R starts to find himself again.

I must admit to being pleasantly surprised by this film. The previews really just made me laugh it off as a wannabe box-office hit feeding off Twi-hards desperate for some new material. What I got instead was a clever film with somewhat tongue-in-cheek humor and a new twist on the Zombie Apocalypse. There was still plenty of cheesiness to go around, but I enjoyed every moment of it.

See It? Rating:  ***

See It? Rating Scale:
* Don't do it to yourself!
** Maybe worth a discount ticket
*** Enjoyable

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Meet Julien

Julien René Durant: Classy, charming, cultured, but always conflicted

Born in 1614 in Saint-Malo, France to a family with good resources. At seventeen, he joined the priesthood as a Jesuit.

In 1640, after completing his formation, he left to New France (Ontario, Canada) to mission to the Natives in the name of his God to whom he had dedicated his life and to escape the temptation of a certain female for whom he had developed feelings. 

After two years among the Natives, learning their language and customs and teaching them of his religion, he had an unfortunate run-in with their "Devil" which left him undead and forever hungry for the blood of humans. 

For the next four centuries he travels around the United States, Canada and England avoiding detection while trying desperately to find a solution to his need to kill and to ease his aching conscience. 


While he found creative ways to compromise his morals to help ease his guilt, he never could accept what he had become, and he wished for nothing more than his own demise. 

...Until he met "Magdalen."

Physical Description: 5’10” tall, slender/lean bordering on gaunt/waifish when he has not fed, dark hair slightly shaggy hair with thick dark eye-brows and lashes, ice-blue eyes, pale/sallow complexion except for times shortly after feeding, always well groomed, enjoys wearing fine/well-fitting and well constructed clothing,

Personality: Deeply conflicted and even slightly naive considering age/experiences. Can be giving and a good listener when necessary but can be impulsive alternating with indecisive at times especially when hunger at highest and energy at lowest. He knows how to turn on the charm to get what he needs.

Habits/Mannerisms: Soft spoken. Loner. Enjoys the taste of alcohol and the feeling of drunkenness - dulls his pain and quiets his thoughts. He is aware of his ability to charm when necessary

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Excerpt from current project: Beyond the Reach of Judgement

He had waited too long. Intense hunger was all that drove him to fight the weakness that threatened to let him expire. Two day ago, his intentions were to let his end find him, but as usual, the intense pain of his hunger was too much to fight any longer. His need pulled him like a magnet from his bed and down the elevator into the parking garage below the building. He crawled into the driver’s seat of his black two-seater and brought the engine to life.

His tires squealed loudly as he pulled into the street towards Independence Avenue, his favorite hunting ground. It did not take long before his eyes found her standing stiffly on a corner with another female. As he slowed, her “friend” pushed her towards his vehicle and gave her a slap on the thigh. “Ooo, a Porsche. Lucky you. You can do this, Girl.” He heard her say with a drunk sounding slur and a giggle. Once again, the streets of Kansas City had blessed him.

He rolled down the window and forced his most charming smile. He could not help but notice the momentary flash of panic in her eyes when their gaze met. Did she know his secret? Still, she leaned into the window as her long dark hair tumbled over her shoulder. Her scent was intoxicating, and her heat hit him like a wave. He could hear her heart pounding in her chest, and his eyes instinctively drifted down to the cleavage positioned so perfectly above the vital organ. She would be an excellent choice for his evening plans. He almost grabbed her then and there but instead clenched the steering wheel tight in defense.

“This is a dangerous neighborhood, Sweetheart.” He gave her a slight smile. “You really should not be out here so late and all alone.” He shook his head with feigned empathy.  It was his usual line. “Allow me to take you somewhere a bit nicer, won’t you?” He motioned to the passenger seat as the automatic lock clicked up.

“Aren’t you a gentleman?” A flush slipped across her cheeks as she smiled and laughed nervously. “A gentleman with cash, I assume?”

“Of course. Your company will be well compensated.”

As she moved around the car to the passenger door he watched her movements like a cat watches a fish in a bowl. Her shoes were clearly too tight and too tall based on her awkward gait, but the clingy green number she was wearing more than made up for that. He longed for her now, but he knew he would have to be patient. How had he gotten so lucky tonight? She would be worth the wait.

She sat next to him and reached a hand over to touch his thigh with another nervous giggle. Instinctively, his body tensed, but she did not pull away. The warmth of her touch crept through his jeans and into his groin. He looked over at her from the corner of his eye. She was certainly younger than his usual selections, and a bit easier on the eyes. In fact, compared to most of his ladies, she was radiant. He almost felt guilty about taking her.


To read more, check out my LeanPub page at

Or my website at

I am also available on Twitter @jobissell

Sunday, April 21, 2013


I will start with a confession -- I've had many failed blogs in the past. My first turned out to be a online journal filled with rants and raves about the life of a college student and ended when I found real world friends and no longer needed the online ones to reaffirm me. My second, a project with my husband dialoging our year of monthly beer shipments thanks to a wonderful "Beer of the Month" wedding gift, lasted about 3 months which is about 12 different beers sampled and reviewed so not a complete failure... My third was an attempt to document life as an osteopathic medical student in a major city. My last was as part of a fundraiser project for a Medical Missions trip to Guatemala. Since the only folks that donated were friends and family whom already got the full story and photos via the world of Facebook, I quickly abandoned that project.  There, now that that is out of the way, let me begin.

Why have I created this blog?
I've written my first full length novel thanks to NaNoWriMo 2012, and my intent is to use the blog to catalog the journey of creating and marketing a self-published novel as well as have a place to share helpful links, advise, and people that others may appreciate. I admit in advance that this blog is likely to get distracted with my other passions such as travel, thrift-store shopping, and medicine.

What do you write?
The above mentioned novel is a paranormal romance called Beyond the Reach of Judgement. I also have a short speculative fiction story entitled His Eyes which is currently available on Future projects include an urban fantasy novel involving the Black Angel of Iowa City, IA, and paranormal romance involving gargoyles.

Please check out my website if you are curious. Otherwise, stay tuned for details.

What do you Doctor?
Hospitalized adult patients

Where do you travel?
I am willing to go just about anywhere I get the opportunity to go. I've been to France, Ireland, Guatemala, Ontario Canada, Bahamas, Jamaica, and throughout the United States. I've stayed in everything from Hostels to B&Bs to All Inclusives.

Any other questions?
If so, feel free to comment me.