About Robert David MacNeil

I travel and speak on spirituality and the supernatural, and have been to 31 countries in the past 20 years, teaching and researching. I've had a particular interest in angels and demons, and have encountered a few of each over the years. I'm also interested in Judaism and early Christianity, particularly the early Celtic Church in Ireland and Scotland. I've written 5 non-fiction books, and have just completed my first novel, Iona Portal, an epic sci-fi fantasy.


Get Iona Portal on your Kindle NOW for just $.99!!!

IONA PORTAL was first published one year ago this month.  In the past year it’s gained 93 “5-star” reviews and has been one of Amazon’s “top-rated” SF books for 9 straight months.  (It’s been downloaded 17,000 times!)    

I’m celebrating Iona Portal’s successful first year with a month-long anniversary sale.  Don’t miss your chance to get Iona Portal on your Kindle for just $.99! (Sale ends August 31)  CLICK HERE to go to Amazon’s IONA PORTAL page!

Why indie ebooks are the best thing for readers since the Gutenberg press!

To read this post in a black-on-white format, click HERE!

I just read a great blog post by Joe Konrath called “The Tsunami of Crap”  http://jakonrath.blogspot.com/2011/07/tsunami-of-crap.html

WHAT IS THE TSUNAMI OF CRAP?    A frequent argument against indie publishing is that millions of wannabe writers are flooding the market with crummy ebooks–a virtual tsunami of crap–and that good authors will get lost in the morass.  Konrath does a great job refuting this charge, and I’m not going to repeat his points, though they’re worth reading.  But I do want to add my observations…

Are a lot of self-pub e-books crap?  YES!  Absolutely!  Without doubt!  But as a wise man once observed, “90% of EVERYTHING is crap.”  A lot of self-pub books ARE crap.  But the same thing goes for movies.  The same thing goes for TV shows.  (Maybe 90% is a conservative estimate?)

Go down to your local bookstore.  Most of the books on the shelf are crap!    Before an international trip, I used to go down to the dead-tree store and buy 3-4 books, hoping that just ONE of them might be good enough to hold my attention on a long flight!   Most of those books were ditched in the trash when I reached my destination.  Crap!

In my younger days, I’d go to the library and check out 5-10 books at a time.  Most of them would be crap, but maybe, just maybe, I’d find one that was worth a read.

So the tsunami is not limited to self-pub books!  We LIVE in a tsunami of crap, trying our best to wade through the garbage and occasionally find something of value.

But in that tsunami, self-pub ebooks give four distinct advantages over buying at the dead-tree store…

1. With e-books, you can usually read reviews online before you buy.  This greatly increases your chances of finding something good.

2. When you find a book that sounds good, you can download a sample for free… and usually find out in a few pages if it’s worth a read.

3. When you DO buy a book, you’ve only invested $.99, or maybe $2.99… not the $15-$25 price of a traditionally published book!  (And if you’re buying from Amazon… if you get through the book and find that it’s crap, you can return it for a full refund!)

4. Best of all, with indie authors, you can usually go on twitter and actually get to know the author!

So indie publishing is not only great for authors…  it’s great for READERS!   Indie ebooks have made it EASIER to wade through the crap!   No wonder most of us are reading more now!

That’s why the e-pub revolution is the BEST thing that’s happened for readers since the Gutenberg press!

Finding Time to Write

(To read this post in a “black on white” format, click here.)

A big question for many beginning writers is, “How do you find time to write?”  I think all of us have asked that from time to time.  We have an idea of a great book… but weeks and months go by and the book doesn’t get written.  There just never seems to be enough time!

I’ve read advice from some seasoned authors who recommend disciplining
yourself to write a certain number of hours each day, or turn out a certain number of words each session. If that works for them, that’s great. I know that approach would not work for me.

My problem is, I have never had time to write. I  In my “day job” I’m a teacher, conference speaker and dean of a school. I also spend a lot of my time travelling. For most of my adult life, a typical work week has been 70 or 80 hours. Every week. There’s always been more to do than I have time to accomplish. I’m not complaining. I love what I do! I teach, I travel, and I speak. But it’s a very demanding career.

Yet I’ve also had a strong urge to write. I always seem to have four or five books simmering on the back burner of my mind, just waiting for the time they can make their escape onto a printed page.

My first non-fiction book was written on vacation. The book had been burning inside me for months. So while my wife and kids relaxed and visited with family and friends, I sat with laptop open, writing.

My second book found its way to paper while I was stranded for two weeks on the Island of Cyprus, waiting for a kidney stone to pass (not a fun experience!) I didn’t even have a laptop along, so I sat on the terrace of our friends’ home, overlooking the beautiful Troodos mountains of Cyprus, typing my book on a PDA (remember those?) using a portable fold-up keyboard! (Turned out to be one of my best sellers!)

For me, writing always has had a pregnancy aspect. I have a book on the inside and it’s growing and developing, looking for a time it can be birthed. And when that time finally comes, there’s no holding it back.

Because of that, I find it hard to relate to statements from writers who have to discipline themselves to grind out a certain number of words a day. To me, writing is not a job or a chore. It’s a consuming passion. It’s not a task I must remember to do, like cutting the grass and cleaning the garage. The book growing within me becomes a living thing, demanding to be expressed on paper, threatening to explode if I don’t let it out.

Let me share how I wrote Iona Portal, my first fiction book. Iona Portal is a Science Fiction thriller that views the ancient battle between good and evil through the lens of Science Fiction. I like to think of it as Lord of the Rings meets The Matrix. (As of this writing, it’s the top-rated science fiction book on Amazon, and rated #2 for mysteries and thrillers.)

At the start of the project, I had a vague idea of what the book would be about, but not a clue as to any details.

I started with the characters. I wrote a biography of each one, formed a mental picture of them, even scoured the internet to find photographs that matched my mental image of each one.

These people became more than names on a page. I knew their strengths and weaknesses, their struggles and fears… even the sound of their voice. (Michael Fletcher sounds a lot like Sean Connery.)  I knew them so well, I’d be walking through an airport and see someone walking the other way and think… “She looks just like Lys Johnston!” In short, these characters became real people to me. I CARED what happened to them.

Stephen King once said, “I try to develop sympathy for my characters, then I turn the monsters loose!” That was my next step.

Once I had the characters, I let the action start. Iona Portal begins with a gripping scene where our strong female lead, Lys Johsnton, finds herself driving a narrow mountain road in the middle of the night pursued by two strangers with blood-lust in their eyes.

I wrote the first version of that chapter with no idea where the story was going. Lys Johnston was in a dire situation, but I cared about her, and willed her to survive.

In the next scene, I added the next character. The characters began to interact. Then, as the story progressed, the direction of the book became clear. More characters were added, and “the plot thickened!” How would these people manage to survive and save their world from disaster?

And so the story gripped me. It burned within me. I didn’t have to schedule times to crank out words.

I’d often wake up at 3 in the morning with the next part of the story racing through my mind. I’d get up, pour myself a coffee, turn on my laptop, then lean back in my recliner … and write. I had no choice! Lys Johnston needed me! She had to find a way to overcome the armies of darkness and save the planet from destruction!!!

So that’s my advice for time management for writers. Don’t allow your writing to become a mechanical chore. Don’t let it be a job or an obligation.

It has to be a passion! If the story doesn’t grip you enough to draw you back to write, how will it ever draw your readers back to read?

So, be excited about what you are doing. Be passionate. And the time to write will come.

NOTE:  This was written a few months back as a guest post for Dean Rich’s blog, The Write Time.  Please check out Dean’s blog for more tips on time management!

Iona Portal is now available in every format, including paper!

Iona Portal is now “fully published.”  By that I mean that it’s finally available for every kind of reading device, as well as in paperback.  If you haven’t been able to find Iona Portal in your favorite format in the past, your wait is over.  Check out the links below, and enjoy!

IONA PORTAL IN PAPERBACK – $12.00 and free shipping with Amazon Prime.   (Published December 4!  Order now and get it in time for Christmas!)

IONA PORTAL FOR AMAZON KINDLE – $2.99  (For any Kindle, PC, Mac, iPhone, iPad, Android, Blackberry, & Windows Phone 7.   CLICK HERE to get a FREE Kindle reading app for  your device.)



IONA PORTAL FOR THE APPLE iREADER.  (Visit the Apple iReader bookstore and search for Iona Portal, then download directly to your device!)

ALL OTHER EBOOK FORMATS:  Download Iona Portal at SMASHWORDS:  http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/94227 

BREAKING NEWS: IONA PORTAL is now the top-rated SF book on Amazon!!

I’m overwhelmed by the enthusiastic response of Iona Portal’s readers!  (A man told me recently that Iona Portal is his wife’s favorite book…  He said she’d read it at least ten times.)  Reviews have been abundant and consistently positive!

But it was still a surprise when I looked on Amazon and discovered that IONA PORTAL IS NOW AMAZON’S TOP-RATED SCIENCE FICTION BOOK!   All I can say is THANK YOU to my readers!


And now for something completely different…

While Iona Portal is a SciFi Suspense Thriller, those who follow me on twitter know I also enjoy giving my readers a good laugh.  Yesterday a friend named John turned 60 and sent this out as his announcement.  It was so funny, I asked his permission to share it here…


Today I turned 60!  That means I remember when gas was 25 cents a gallon.

I know what it means to “wind your watch.”

I actually still have a watch and I still use my cell phone to make calls.

My hip is now more accurate at predicting the weather than the Channel 8 weather man.

Last summer I went to my high school reunion and realized there was no one there but old people.

I have more hair in my ears now than on my head and sometimes I am not sure whether I have a clear conscience or I just don’t remember.

I sat down at the breakfast table this morning and heard that old familiar snap, crackle, pop but I wasn’t having cereal.

I went in the bathroom and flexed my muscles in front of the mirror and found that my biceps had gone to live with my triceps.

Had a pleasant surprise, though, when I walked in my closet I found some clothes that had actually come back into style.

Last week I walked into one of those quaint little antique shops and saw some old-fashioned kitchen implements and realized that I used to use most of them.

Later I got on an elevator and heard songs that my parents had forbid me to listen to …but they were somehow different.

Someone called me last week at 9:00pm and asked, “Did I wake you?”

Today the fact that I have been losing brain cells since the day I was born has suddenly become a big concern to me as well as the thought that I would now probably be one of the first ones thrown out of the lifeboat.

But at least there’s not much left for me to have to learn the hard way.

All in all I had a great day and a great party with my family even though my kids had to disable the fire alarms in order to light the candles on my birthday cake, and my happy thought for this special day was that I had three more years before I had to get another colonoscopy.

lol  John D.  Age 60

Happy Birthday, John!!!  -RDM

Nook version of Iona Portal coming soon!

I can’t remember the last time I did a blog post.  It’s been an unusually busy season… I’ve been struggling to get over jet lag from the Thailand trip and getting ready to speak at a major conference this weekend.  On top of that I’m trying to get the Nook version of Iona Portal ready for publication.

I’m doing the Nook version through Smashwords, which will also make versions available for all the other e-book platforms.  It’s quite an experience.  The Smashwords instructions are very detailed, and more than a little intimidating!

One of the first steps to publish on Smashwords is to strip away ALL formatting!!!  How’s that for frightening?  Centering.  Bold text for chapter titles.  Even italics!  It’s all gone!  Now, in addition to everything else, I need to go back through the whole book, line-by-line, and add these things back into the text.

I do understand why it’s necessary (and I’m sure the results will be worth it), but it’s a LOT of work!  I’ll be attending a seminar the first three days of next week, and everyone will be sitting with laptops open during the sessions.  Hopefully I’ll be able to work on Iona Portal formatting during some  of the less interesting speakers.  (Shhh… don’t tell anyone!)

My goal is to have the Nook version published by the end of next week.