Long and Short Reviews Guest Blog

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Continuing the Blog Tour crossposting, here is the guest blog I did over at Long and Short Reviews.  A lot of this should already be known to long-time readers of the blog, but I figured I’d share for those of you just coming by during and after Planet Comic Con.

Five Down and Glory

I’d like to thank the folks at Long and Short Reviews for letting me come in to guest blog.  By way of introduction, I’m an award-winning author of both non-fiction and fiction.  Since starting off in December 2012 with my short story “Ride of the Late Rain,” I have sold over 15,000 books and reached the top of Amazon’s alternative history genre list twice with my novels Acts of War and Collisions of the Damned.  I was asked to share some advice for new authors.  As a fan and author regarding aerial combat, I decided if five kills is good enough to be an ace, five things I’ve learned should be just about right to list out.  So, with apologies to Stephen Gurney, here in no particular order are five things I’ve learned being an indie:

There is no substitute for time in chair—Almost everything else you do can be farmed out.  However, unless you’ve got a team of ghost writers, the only person who can actually write the story is you.  Be ruthless about carving out your time, as it’s amazing how suddenly everything else in your life will try to be a priority.  If you’re not working on the next project in some form, you’re going to find yourself behind rather quickly.

Do not “own goal” yourself—In soccer, an “own goal” is where a team accidentally puts the ball past their own goalie.  While there are several places this applies, I’ll cover the two most common to writers.  First, it is often tempting, especially on the internet, to let the communications flow before the brain engages.  Remember that you are now a brand, and once you’ve let that salvo fly it’s gone forever.  A good friend of mind has a saying: “You do not have to attend every argument you’re invited to.”  This goes double when your brand is at stake.  To quote Seether, “Words are weapons…”, and we writers tend to traffic in rhetorical fissionable materials.  Don’t let the momentary joy of going Nagasaki lead to months of regret from the fallout.

Second, try to avoid putting yourself in any situation that is going to make people question your integrity, work ethic or, at the furthest extreme, whether you’re even worth the trouble of associating with.  Yes, I have seen the latter, and once an author crosses that particular Rubicon it becomes very hard to get back on the river’s safe side.  There are going to be enough people who will actively work to hinder your progress out of jealousy and spite.  One does not need to help them.

Customers say they don’t judge a book by its cover.  Customers lie.—Yes, there are plenty of people who will tell you in guides, person, or via their blog that people “do not judge a book by its cover.”  In this case, I will use a photo illustration.  Below is the first cover to the Kraken Edition of my sci-fi novel, An Unproven Concept:

 

Kraken Edition Kindle 1.1Unproven Concept

 

Guess what happened when I went to the ballroom cover?  Sales spiked, and stayed spiked for about three months.  I also had customers contact me or tell me in person that they were not so sure about the old cover, but decided to give the book a try once I switched.  I personally thank Jon Holland did a good job on the one featuring the Titanic, but Justin Adams’ work seemed to attract the eye. You can call it shallow, curse at the unfairness of it, and grit your teeth about how Amazon’s thumbnails are ruining writing as we know it.  Fact of the matter is, no matter how good your novel is, covers are the reason that people click on the book.  I did a whole post on covers (and where to find cheap and good ones) over at my home blog.

 

Introversion is not a curse—Most writers, I’ve been told often and archly, are introverts.  I am not one, much to Anita C. Young’s (wife and fellow author) annoyance.  Well, I have some bad news and some good news.  The former is that if you want to be successful, you’re going to have to put yourself out there.  The good news is that social media makes that a lot easier than it used to be if personal interaction drains you.  However, it’s my firm belief that unless you get insanely lucky (and there’s nothing wrong with skipping this paragraph in lieu of rolling the rhetorical D20) at some point you’re going to have to go “hand to hand” with the public.  Things I’ve seen both Anita and other introverted authors do include developing a routine, practice their speech in front of a mirror, figure out their ‘wind down’ plan and, if at a major event, see if there’s a “vendor room” away from the press of people.

 

Network, network, network—The reason that I am such a staunch advocate of getting out there is networking has been so critical to my success.  While you can make your own luck, like a holy relic in a role playing game, networking usually adds modifiers to that roll.  I have heard of more events or received some of the best advice from folks who have been there, done that.  Almost as important, most of my really big opportunities, be it anthologies, events, or guest blogs like this have come through word of mouth.  This isn’t to say that you cannot succeed without “who you know.”  Buuuuuuttt…it is saying that it’s a lot easy to make your “save against anonymity” with a bestselling author in your genre providing tips.  Go to a literary con, join a writer’s guild, or participate in a podcast for starters, then figure out things from there.

 

Well, that’s all I’ve got.  Okay, not really, but that’s all there’s space for here.  Check out my FB page and blog for more tips.

A Bit of A Miscue

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So one problem about the blog tour that I exacerbated by doing two books at once is that it’s easy to get the wires crossed if careful.  The Avid Reader was promoting On Seas So Crimson, and I managed to think it was doing An Unproven Concept.  Didn’t catch the mistake until the post was up.  In any case, here’s the interview:

 

1. What inspired you to write An Unproven Concept?

When I sell the book in person, I tell people it’s a mix of Battlestar Galactica, Robotech, and Halo.  These are several of the influences and inspirations for my sci-fi works.  Mainly I also wanted a military sci-fi series without “hero shields,” i.e., true peril for all characters involved.

2. Can you tell us a little bit about the next books in the Vergassy Series or what you have planned for the future?

The next book out will be Though Our Hulls Burn…, which is chronologically a prequel.  One of the criticisms that I got the most from readers in response to An Unproven Concept was that a lot of “big picture” things were referenced by not fully explained.  So going to go back 15 years to 3035 and explain what happened.

3. Can you tell us a little bit about the characters in An Unproven Concept?

Without giving away spoilers, I take a “large cast so I can whack some of them” approach to casting decisions.  I also believe that characters, like real people, should come into a story with a past.  For instance, Mr. Marcus Martin is a former Confederation Marine officer who lost his entire platoon in an incident prior to the start of An Unproven Concept.  This has led to him having mental trauma and feelings of worthlessness that play a role in his decisions as the starliner Titanic’s chief security officer.

4. You know I think we all have a favorite author. Who is your favorite author and why?

My favorite author of all time is Jack McKinney (pseudonym), the author of the Robotech series. The two men who actually wrote under the singular name did an excellent job of taking the rather thin background of the anime series and expanding it into something deeper.

As to actual singular authors versus collaborations—I’m a fan of early Harold Coyle and David Drake.  In both cases, it’s how visceral they make their combat scenes and characters.

5. If you could time-travel would you travel to the future or the past? Where would you like to go and why would you like to visit this particular time period?

I always think this one is a loaded question.  I mean, the last thing someone wants to do is time travel to, say, “Up Then” in the Terminator universe.  With regards to going backwards—well, let’s just say if I show up on an Antebellum Plantation things are not going to end well.

But…if I had a choice where I could just observe without being scene or interacted with?  I’d like to go backwards to the Titanic, as I’ve always been a student of the wreck.  Forward?  I’d go forward 100 years to see if we actually get our flying cars.

6. Do you have any little fuzzy friends? Like a dog or a cat? Or any pets?

Yes.  My wife, fellow author Anita C. Young, and I have five pets.  Our two dogs are a Newfoundland-Labrador mix and a Blue Heeler / Shepherd of some sort.  As to the three cats-we have one senior cat and two kittens.  The kittens were what happened when we went to “pick up an older cat that was familiar with dogs.”  Whoops!

In Which Your Host Gets Grilled

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As part of the blog tour, I was interviewed by blogger Lisa Haselton.

 

Please share a little bit about your current release:

An Unproven Concept is what would happen if you put Battlestar Galactica, Robotech, and Space Battleship Yamato into a cloning vat then had George R.R. Martin raise the baby.  The book centers on three vessels, the battlecruiser Constitution, the destroyer Shigure, and the starliner Titanic, as they deal with Humanity’s first encounter with aliens.  Without giving away too much, the Titanic is not where she’s supposed to be, and thus gets caught up in the conflict between the two naval vessels and the hostile craft.

If you like capital ship combat, it’s in here.  Flawed characters without “hero shields?”  If this was a list of ingredients, it’d be number two.  Mecha and starfighters?  In abundance.  It has received positive reviews from Amazing Stories, Reader’s Choice, and Pop Cults, with a solid 4-star rating on Amazon.

What inspired you to write this book?
Back in 2006, I entered a short story contest with a novella entitled “On Their Behalf…”  Several of the judges stated the original storyline was simply too broad to shoe horn into 15,000 pages, but that it sounded like a great concept for a novel.  Six years later, I wrote another novella entitled “Ride of the Late Rain.”  Again—great concept, but the judges felt I was trying to compress too much into one storyline.  So, after I had success with “Ride of the Late Rain” as a novella via Kindle, I decided to go ahead and do An Unproven Concept as a full novel.  The Kraken Edition combines both “Ride of the Late Rain” and An Unproven Concept.  You can read an excerpt on my blog here.

What exciting story are you working on next?
In between trying to chop down my dissertation, I’m working on Though Our Hulls Burn…, the sequel to An Unproven Concept.  It will basically explain some of the prior events referenced in Concept, specifically how the Spartans came to be part of the Confederation of Man.

When did you first consider yourself a writer?

When as a 14-year-old I tried to submit a bunch of long hand story parts to a New York publisher.  I cannot remember how, but I’d acquired one of those “Writer’s Guide” that had every publisher listed and the address for their slush pile.  I figured of course they had people to type things up—that’s why they were a publisher!  I don’t think I tell many people that story—because I think my younger self was a wholly optimistic ignoramus knowing what I know now.

Do you write full-time? If so, what’s your work day like? If not, what do you do other than write and how do you find time to write?

On top of my day job, I have a commute that’s over an hour long each way, plus am finishing off a dissertation.  How do I find time to write?  I have a patient, understanding spouse who is also an author.  I also belong to an active writing group that is really good about trying to get together to get some words down.
What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?
Friends and family point out that I really don’t have a “writing” versus “speaking” voice.  I never really thought of the two of them necessarily needing to be separate.

As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?

I actually wanted to be a fighter pilot until my eyes went bad in the 5th grade.  I was heartbroken, and it took a couple years for me to truly accept that dream was pretty much finished when I couldn’t read the blackboard from the front row.

Anything additional you want to share with the readers?

On my FB page is a sign up for my mailing newsletter.  Also, my novellas Pandora’s Memories and A Midwinter’s Ski are available as “perma free” offerings from Amazon.  

 

 

Rogue Angels’ Interview

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So I’m in the midst of doing a blog tour through Goddess Fish.  I intend to do a rundown of things, but I thought I’d catch everyone up with what blogs I’ve been doing.  This post was done for Rogue Angels in support of On Seas So Crimson:

  1. What or who inspired you to start writing?

I’ve always been an avid reader from when I was little.  Growing up on a small farm that was miles to the nearest neighbor, I used to sometimes act out things that I read in books.  (John Carter was a favorite…darn Earth gravity.)  Eventually I also started writing things long hand, and the rest is history.

 

  1. What elements are necessary components for your genres?

I think the biggest components for any genre, not just sci-fi or alternate history, is that you have to have a compelling set of characters.  In the case of the former, that is followed by some aspect of escapism that will allow readers to separate from their daily drudgery into a different universe.  The reasons why Star Trek and Star Wars have been so successful is we’ve come to care about the individuals involved.

Alternate history is a bit different in that the main compulsion lies in the historical pivot.  Most of the “characters” are already known to the readers, but the changing situations are not.  For instance, in my Usurper’s War series, most World War II historians are familiar with Heinrich Himmler as the head of the SS.  However, knock off Adolf Hitler and Hermann Goering, and suddenly he’s in a vastly different role as Fuhrer.  That what if transitioning to what now is the genre’s foundation in my opinion.

  1. How did you come up with the ideas for your novels?

A lot of time it’s a combination of what I’ve read and random inspiration.  For On Seas So Crimson, it was a discussion back in the ‘90s about how World War II could have been different.  For An Unproven Concept, it was being a fan of the old Robotech novels, Star Wars, and the old school Battlestar Galactica.

  1. What expertise did you bring to your writing?

I’m actually getting my doctorate in U.S. History and majored in Military History from West Point.  I’ve placed in historical essay contests and have been published in both Proceedings (the United States Navy and Coast Guard’s professional journal) and the Journal of Military History.  So in the alternate history arena, it could be said that “I’m a professional.”

Alas, I have no experience with commanding a starship or flying mecha in real time.  If any travelers from the future or distant galaxies want to change that…

  1. What would you want your readers to know about you that might not be in your bio?

I’m blessed to be part of a community of writers in Kansas.  Everything from Star Trek to Sherlock Holmes through zombies, I’ve got people who can hook you up.

  1. As far as your writing goes, what are your future plans?

At the moment, I’m working on Though Our Hulls Burn…, the sequel to An Unproven Concept.  I should have my dissertation done by the end of the year, so that will give me more time to work on the third book in the Usurper’s War as well.

  1. If you could be one of the characters from your books, who would it be and why?

This is the point I see a few of my local writer’s group chuckling, as I have a reputation for being a little brutal to my characters.  I’d have to say Jason Owderkirk, the Commander Air Group (CAG) for the C.S.S. Constitution.  Mainly because he has it relatively easy (so far) in the Vergassy Universe.

  1. Do you belong to a critique group? If so how does this help or hinder your writing?

Yes and no.  My local library is incredibly supportive of local authors, with one of the librarians being the Municipal Liaison for Nanowrimo.  This has created a strong community of writers, and we’ll help people out if asked.  So yes, I’d say that finding a critique group is definitely a fruitful exercise.

  1. When did you first decide to submit your work? Please tell us what or who encouraged you to take this big step?

If we’re talking originally, I submitted my work to agents and publishers back when I was in high school.  Looking back, I think the main impetus was that I had no idea how publishing worked, so I figured there was no harm, no foul in submitting.

  1. Do you outline your books or just start writing?

A little of both.  I’ll often have a scene just come to me while I’m driving to work or doing something else.  For example, the ballroom scene from An Unproven Concept just popped into my head.  I was fortunate enough to find a great concept artist, Justin Adams, who was able to convert words to picture (see below).