Friday, December 30, 2011

10 Questions with Writer Dan Kind (@DanHKind)




This Author Spotlight features Dan H. Kind, writer of fantasy and speculative fiction, and author of the hilarious and irreverent novel THE FOUNTAIN OF EDEN.


1) How did you get into writing?

I read a lot, I have an overactive imagination, and I'd always wanted to write fiction. But after school I set this ambition aside, except for jotting down the occasional line of bad (and I mean horrible) poetry. Three years later, summer 2001, I attended a Phish show, a habit I retain to this day. During an insanely long Slave to the Traffic Light jam, it was as if the music opened up some unused part of my brain. Right then an idea hit me for a novel. A year later that idea was still stuck in my head and I thought, “It's now or never,” and began writing. Since then I've been hooked. Creating universes is highly addictive.

2) What do you like best (or least) about writing?

Least: that I have so little time to do it. Most: world-building, and when that little plot problem that's been bugging you for days or weeks or months pops up in your mind, solved, like a revelation.

3) What is your writing process? IE do you outline? Do you stick to a daily word or page count, write 7 days a week, etc?

I'm not big on outlining, unless you count the thousands of random notes jotted down in my notebook. These snippets often help me iron out the plot, but I don't bother with full outlines. If I did, I'd probably change so much during the actual writing process that writing the outline would have been pointless.

4) Who are some other writers you read and admire, regardless of whether they are commercially “successful?”

I love humorous fiction, especially with a fantastical twist. During my teenage years I read and reread Terry Pratchett's Discworld series and Douglas Adams' Hitchhiker's Guide. I'm a huge fan of Christopher Moore, Tom Robbins, Jasper Fforde, A. Lee Martinez. I've recently been reading Carl Hiaasen, Tim Dorsey, and Charles Portis. Anything that makes me chuckle inspires me. Also Joseph Campbell, who may be the most intelligent human being who ever lived. And Bodhidharma.

5) Should the question mark in the above question be inside or outside the quotes?

I believe, in that instance, inside. But I'm going with outside because it looks cleaner on the page. And if I say both “right” and “wrong” there's no way I can be “wrong,” “right?” (Or would that be “wrong”, “right”?) Damn trick questions always get me.

6) What’s your stance on the Oxford Comma?

I'm all for it. Sometimes it helps bring clarity to a sentence. But I try to use it only when all else fails. Oftentimes it's better to break a long sentence down into two.

7) What is your book THE FOUNTAIN OF EDEN about and how did it come to fruition?

It all started with a question: “What would happen if a microbrewery brewed a beer with water drawn from the Fountain of Youth and everyday folks around town started attaining Eternal Life?” My original answer was: “Well, just like in mythology, the gods would be pissed and wipe out humanity.” From there, the story evolved. I really had fun with the mythological aspects of the book, borrowing characters, creatures, themes, and motifs from American Indian, Buddhist, Greek, Hindu, modern mythology, and more. I like to call the novel an irreverent comic fantasy because, well, that's what it is. If you like reading any of those zany guys I mentioned in answer #4, you'll probably enjoy Fountain.

8) What’s your current writing project?

I'm working on a series of stand-alone sci-fi and horror shorts. This is my first venture into these genres, and it's been fun. It's also the first time I've killed off characters. But, alive or dead, what's the difference? A character has the distinct chance to live on forever in the reader's mind, whether they survive or perish on the page. I'm also completely rewriting my first, unpublished novel, a fantasy with one foot in the realm of speculative fiction called Eye of the Dome (yes, the one that appeared in a thought-bubble above a Phish show). I plan to have these projects finished in the next few months. I'm also in the early, research stage for a new novel called Alignment. It's about an isolated desert tribe that believes the daily rituals they perform keep the sun coming up and the Earth in alignment with the stars. Now, just to hack out a solid plot . . .

9) What book(s) are you currently reading?

I'm currently delving into a book of essays by Roshi Robert Aitken called The Morning Star. Reading Buddhist literature calms my mind and helps me put things into perspective, and Buddhist philosophy is a big influence on my writing. You'll find themes of non-duality and interdependence running throughout Fountain. But don't flip out! That doesn't mean it's filled with a bunch of philosophical verbiage. Story is #1. Always. As for fiction, I've been reading the works of fellow independent authors such as yourself, Cara Michaels, Christopher Bunn, Ania Ahlborn, and Edward A. Grainger, to name but a few. There's some real quality stuff out there in the indie world, on par with and often better than traditionally published books.

10) Who or what inspires your writing?

Life, the universe, everything, and nothing. But mainly my family.

Finally, is there anything you’d care to add? Please also include where people can read your published stories, buy your book, etc.


*As a 'hair-of-the-dog' special, Fountain will be available for free on Amazon Jan. 1st and 2nd. What better way to recover from New Year's Eve than by reading a novel about beer?

Thanks for having me, Ryan. And thank you, all, for taking the time to read. See ya on the flip-side!


Blog: http://danhkind.blogspot.com/
Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B0068TG8IA/
B&N: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/the-fountain-of-eden-dan-kind/1107312330
Smashwords: http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/104603
Twitter: https://twitter.com/#!/DanHKind
Goodreads Author Page: http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/5342535.Dan_H_Kind

Thanks, Dan!


If you're an author and would like to participate in an Author Spotlight, please contact me: AuthorRyanSchneider@gmail.com

Thursday, December 29, 2011

My review of Daniel H. Wilson's ROBOPOCALYPSE


Daniel H. Wilson
This is what a top-notch roboticist looks like.

ROBOPOCALYPSE has been on my to-read list for some time. When I stumbled across it at the library, I grabbed it. 


I'm glad I did. 

For starters, it's got one of the best covers I've seen lately. Very professional and high quality. 

Without giving anything away, the book is what you expect: the story of a robot uprising against humanity. In this it delivers. The story unfolds as a series of vignettes, almost like short stories, which are all connected. The chapters introduce the various characters and then weave through the story going back and forth and here and there, catching us up with what each character has been doing, how they've been struggling in the New War, as it is called. 

The writing is smooth and not overdone, so no need for a dictionary. The story reigns supreme and is not diminished by any fancy attempts at wordplay. There are a few downright awesome one-liners, too. But I'll leave those for you to discover for yourself. 

The robots are highly imagined, a clear bi-product of the author having earned his doctorate in robotics from Carnegie Melon University. Not bad. The various robots are positively diabolical. 

The book is also being made into a movie by Dreamworks & Fox, with Spielberg directing.



It's an epic story on an epic scale, perfect for film adaptation by the heavy hitters of Hollywood. Drew Goddard is adapting it, writing the screenplay. He wrote CLOVERFIELD



which I liked a lot, so hopefully the film will be a good combination of realism and intensity minus any schmaltzy rated-PG Spielbergness. Here's a link to read more about the film, and a link to the author's website: 





(Release date for the film is July 3, 2013.)

Other works by Dan H. Wilson include:




Follow Dan H. Wilson on Twitter: 
http://twitter.com/#!/danielwilsonpdx


Or shoot an email to him: contactdhw@gmail.com


Overall, I recommend ROBOPOCALYPSE. 

Now, for the more in-depth writerly analysis. 

*Caution: potential quasi-spoilers ahead.*

I had one primary gripe with this book. It was the same kind of gripe I had with THE HOST by Stephanie Meyer. (FYI, I really enjoyed the TWILIGHT saga, so I'm not out to skewer Stephanie Meyer.) The problem is one of authorial choice: the story began too late. In other words, it should've begun sooner. 

In THE HOST, the story begins with the main character Melanie already out of the way, so to speak. This meant I had no time to get to know her, yet I was supposed to care about her and her friends and family. I would have preferred a chapter or two showing Melanie in her day-to-day, so we could get to know her, come to care about her, and then be that much more concerned when things go south for her. 

In ROBOPOCALYPSE, the story begins more or less at the end and is told retrospectively through the eyes of Cormac, a young man who becomes the leader of the resistance. But the climax, or what SHOULD have been the climax, is revealed in the beginning of the story, as told by Cormac, utilizing this frame technique as a means by which Cormac can tell the overall story and provide commentary. But knowing the conclusion deflated the story. It took a fair amount of tension out of it. If I had not known, from the beginning, how the New War ends, I would have been more deeply engaged by the story. Wilson does a fine job of keeping the outcome in doubt; he does a fine job of making the robots into formidable adversaries, and of placing the characters in genuine peril. But each time I found myself wanting to read faster, I kept recalling the beginning of the book and thinking, "Oh, yeah, that's how it ends." 

As I said, I liked the book and recommend it. But I would have liked it more if the conclusion had been left for the end. The structure/frame would have to have been a bit different, but I think it could've been done. While I was reading I kept wondering how these various retrospective vignettes will be handled in the film adaptation. Because there really is an ensemble cast, all of whom are important and integral to the story and to the waging of the war against the machines. 

In conclusion, it's an excellent book, one I found myself eager to read each day.

Bravo, Dan!


Saturday, December 17, 2011

10 Questions with Romantic Comedy Novelist Elle Lothlorien (@ElleLothlorien)


This week's Author Spotlight features Romantic Comedy novelist Elle Lothlorien.



1.     How did you get into writing?

I had professors in college who urged me to become a writer, but the desire just wasn't there.  About ten years ago, I woke up in the middle of the night with a story idea.  I sat on the floor of my bedroom with my laptop and began my first book, a literary novel.  It turned out that writing an entire book was much harder than writing a college paper!  I finished about 25% of it before abandoning it.  My second attempt was a suspense novel. I finished about 50% of it before the same thing happened.  My third attempt, the thriller VIRGIN
was the first book I ever completed; however, it was my romantic comedy THE FROG PRINCE (fourth attempted novel and second completed for anyone keeping score) that was published first.



2.     What do you like best (or least) about writing?

Best: When the characters are transmitting and my receiver is tuned in to that frequency, and I can hear them loud and clear. When this happens I’m “in the zone,” and the story comes into my head faster than I can type the words on the keyboard. When I feel like I’m not so much actively writing a book as I am listening to my characters and transcribing their stories like a court reporter—that’s the best feeling in the world.

Least: The discipline required. It’s very much like going to the gym: you don’t want to go to the gym, you don’t want to work out, you swear you could go your whole life without doing another pushup or lunge. But then you get there, you start working out, and suddenly you’re thinking, “This is great! I can’t believe I didn’t want to do this today! I wish I could exercise all day! I can’t wait to get here tomorrow and work out again!” But the very next morning that feeling is gone, and you start all over again with making excuses about why you don’t want to/need to/have to go. Writing is no different.

3.     What is your writing process? IE do you outline? Do you stick to a daily word or page count, write 7 days a week, etc?

I used to outline, but gave up after VIRGIN when I realized that my characters just do whatever the hell they want to do. I’ll hand out a detailed itinerary that reads: “You will take the train to Cleveland where you will find a clue about your Great Aunt Minny.” My character will look it over and say, “Cleveland? I’m not taking any goddam train to Cleveland. I’m going to Hawaii. My Great Aunt Minny is a bitch, and I’ve always wanted to learn how to scuba dive.”

I long ago abandoned the idea of controlling the story. For me, it makes for a better story when I have only a vague, “big picture” idea of what’s going to happen in the novel, and I just let the characters fill in the details themselves. Of course, it’s a little nerve-wracking too, because if they suddenly stop “transmitting” the story, you’re left in a blind panic wondering if you’ll ever get another page written.

I do try to stick to a daily page count. My goal is three to five pages per day. That way at the end of a few months, I at least have a decent first draft I can start editing. I don’t write seven days a week, but I try to always shoot for at least five to six days, otherwise it’s too hard to “get back to the gym.” Plus, the longer you’re away from the story, the more you run the risk of losing that oh-so-important transmission from the characters. In between books I will usually take at least a month off to rest my brain and to allow for the next book idea to germinate.

4.     Who are some other writers you read and admire, regardless of whether they are commercially “successful?”

As my last name would suggest, I have always loved J.R.R. Tolkien, most especially THE LORD OF THE RINGS. You can’t help but admire anyone who takes twelve years to write a book (well, yes, it is a trilogy, but still)! And Tolkien didn’t just write a story, he invented whole mythologies—cultures, places, and languages that are as real as the Vikings, the Forbidden City, and Latin. Let me just tell you who wouldn’t have the patience to spend twelve years on one project: me. If it takes longer than six months to finish a book, I’m ready to throw myself off a cliff.

When I’m working on a novel, I try not to read a lot of fiction, because I find it’s very easy to adopt the voice of another writer. I’ve always been a huge Jane Austen fan, and have a dog-eared compilation of all her novels next to my bed. That’s my go-to collection when I’m writing a book. Because let’s face it: if you accidentally pick up Austen’s voice and import it into your novel, your characters are going to go around saying things like: “Mr. Biggles, you must needs sit and make yourself comfortable. Did you see that Ms. Courtney came to the ball in a hack chaise? I could hardly keep my countenance!”

5.     Should the question mark in the above question be inside or outside the quotes?

Seriously? It’s nine o’clock in the morning. I’ve tried it both ways:

1)    …they are commercially “successful?”
2)    …they are commercially “successful”?

They both look swell. In the real world, though, I would just let my beta-readers and copy editors cage fight each other until there was just one person left standing. Then I’d use whatever that person thought was correct. It’s a little like the Grammatical Fight Club, but it works.

6.     What’s your stance on the Oxford Comma?

“Oxford Comma” is a catchy song with a great beat you can dance to. Plus, I’ve always loved the band Vampire Weekend.

If you’re referring to the punctuational (I think I just made up a word there) debate of whether or not coordinating conjunctions should be preceded by a comma, I would refer you to the opening lines of the Vampire Weekend song: “Who gives a f**k about an Oxford comma?”

However, a quick look at the list I made in question number four—“… that are as real as the Vikings, the Forbidden City, and Latin”—would seem to indicate that I prefer the Oxford comma.

But seriously, that is a really good song.

7.     What led you to pursue indie publishing as opposed to going the traditional publishing route?

After I completed my thriller VIRGIN, I queried and quickly found an agent. My agent found an interested publisher almost immediately.  Unfortunately, in the end the editor from that house left to start a literary agency before a deal was finalized.  Despite several rounds of submissions, VIRGIN was never picked up by another publisher.  To say that this was a huge disappointment is an understatement.  I finally withdrew my manuscript from consideration and parted ways with my agent. It was such a disappointing experience that I didn’t write another book for two years!

In June of 2010, after months of querying, I had two offers of agent representation in-hand for my romantic comedy, THE FROG PRINCE. One was from my “dream agent” who represented several New York Times bestsellers. Although the second offer was from an agent from a newer, smaller agency, I found her enthusiasm attractive. In the end, and for various reasons which aren’t worth going into here, I chose to pass on both offers.

Which, of course, left me right back where I was before I’d ever queried anyone: unpublished and depressed as hell about it. My friend and thriller author, Boyd Morrison,
was the first author to leverage his indie-publishing success into a four-book, traditional publishing deal. I’m also friends with his wife Randi. She’d read FROG PRINCE and really liked it, sure that it would be my “breakout novel.”



After my agent search hit a dead-end, Boyd called me and suggested that I upload THE FROG PRINCE to Amazon for the Kindle. Honestly, I didn’t do it right away, because it seemed like the learning curve was incredibly steep (and it was). When I did finally take the plunge, I mostly did it so he’d stop harassing me about it. Four months later it became an Amazon best-seller. I keep promising to buy him a drink someday to thank him, but I don’t really mean it.

8.     Given what you now know and have learned, what advice or words of wisdom would you like to impart to a writer struggling to choose between going indie or traditional?

Don’t choose—pursue both. Keep all your irons in the fire. If you’re querying for traditional publication, think about e-pubbing a novel or short story to gauge reader interest. If you’re antsy about how legacy publishing will view your e-pubbing, then use a pen name. If the book is a success, you may be able to use it to leverage a better traditional publishing deal. And if it bombs? Well, no one’s the wiser (except you, but at least you can lick your wounds in private).

In my opinion, it’s foolish to only pursue traditional publishing. You will wait, wait, wait, and wait some more to find an agent. Then you’ll wait, wait, wait, and wait some more to find a publisher. Then you’ll wait, wait, wait, and wait some more for your book to come out. This whole process can take anywhere from two years (which would be lightning fast in the legacy publishing world) to, well, never. Why wait? You could be published in 48 hours on Amazon, and launch a writing career now.

However—and this is important—if you do go indie, be sure you understand what you’re getting yourself into. Because all that stuff a publisher normally does for you—designing a book cover, marketing, formatting a manuscript for e-publication across several platforms—is now your job. Graphic designing not a part of your skill set? Too bad. Those who can’t do either hire or learn on the fly.

So if you e-pub, do it right. No shoddy book covers, no manuscript riddled with typos, bad grammar, or, god forbid, Oxford commas (unless you, like 99.99% of the world’s population, are not a print newspaper journalist—then those Oxfords are A-okay).

9.     What book(s) are you currently reading?

My friend Owen Laukkanen sent me an ARC (Advanced Review Copy) of his highly anticipated thriller THE PROFESSIONALS, which comes out in March. Lucky me! I just started it and I can tell you one thing: it’s torture to have to put it down.

Owen Laukkanen's debut thriller, THE PROFESSIONALS, will be published by G.P. Putnam's Sons on March 29, 2012. Hardcover pre-order available now.


I’m also doing research for my next romantic comedy RAPUNZEL, so I’m reading other nail-biting, edge-of-your-seat, high-octane books such as THE WRITER’S GUIDE TO EVERYDAY LIFE IN REGENCY ENGLAND and  WIG MAKING AND STYLING: A COMPLETE GUIDE FOR THEATRE & FILM.

10.   Who or what inspires your writing?

Anyone who is a writer knows how hard it is. As I said during a recent local TV news interview (begins at 4:33): “Writing novels is not for sissies.”

It’s worth saying again (no, not the ill-advised sissy comment): Writing is hard. Finishing a book is hard. You can be emotionally ground down by the experience. Sometimes you’ll be in the pit of despair, wondering if you’ll ever finish your book. Sometimes you won’t shower or sleep for days (let’s hope this takes place on the weekend if you have a day job). So you’re going to need some kind of inspiration to keep going and not give up. Find that something or someone, because that’s what will keep you going in the days, weeks, and years to come!

For me that “something” is reading. There are times (usually when I’m about half-way through writing a novel) when I think, “I’m not sure I want to do this anymore.” All it takes is reading one fantastic novel before I wonder how I ever let a crazy thought like that enter my head.

And back to the keyboard I go…

Finally, is there anything you’d care to add? Please also include where people can read your published stories, buy your books, etc.

My romantic comedy THE FROG PRINCE is about a Denver sex researcher who meets the man who would have been the king of Austria—if the monarchy there hadn’t been abolished in 1918. It’s available on Amazon as an e-book and in paperback.

My romantic comedy SLEEPING BEAUTY tells the story of a woman with Sleeping Beauty Syndrome—a condition that causes a person to sleep or black out for weeks at a time—who “awakens” to discover that she’s been involved in a whirlwind love affair for over a month.
It’s available on Amazon as an e-book, and will be out in paperback after the first of the year.

My novel VIRGIN is a thriller about a religious cult expert and a DNA technician who undercover evidence of virgin births that go back to the time of the Virgin Mary. It’s available as an e-book on Amazon, and will be out in paperback sometime in February.

My next book is another romantic comedy, RAPUNZEL. I anticipate releasing it as an e-book in March or April.

For authors interested in the “nuts and bolts” of e-publication, I will be doing a four-hour workshop for the Douglas County Libraries Writing School in Highlands Ranch, Colorado on Sunday, February 12th, 2012 from 1:00PM to 5:00PM at the Highlands Ranch Library. The cost is $60. For those of you who aren’t local to the Denver metro area, it will be available as a webinar at the time of the presentation, and afterwards as a webcast through my website at www.ellelothlorien.com.

For authors planning to attend Left Coast Crime in Sacramento, CA in March 29-April 1, I will be doing a presentation on e-publishing there as well. Other speaking engagements and presentations will be added to the Events tab of my website as they are confirmed.


Be sure to visit Elle's website and follow her on Twitter: https://twitter.com/#!/ElleLothlorien


Thanks, Elle!


If you're a novelist/author and would like to be featured in a future Author Spotlight, please contact me: AuthorRyanSchneider@gmail.com.

Friday, December 9, 2011

10 Questions with Writer Patricia Russo

Shiny Thing by Patricia Russo





This Author Spotlight
features

Patricia Russo

author of

SHINY THING




1. How did you get into writing?


Through reading.  I was a constant reader.  Since I have very poor eyesight, I also tended to skip the pictures in the books.  I focused on the text.  The words were what was real.  Words made worlds.  I was quite young when I decided I wanted to do that, too.


2. What do you like best (or least) about writing?


The best part is the initial flash, brain-spark, heart-lift, of an idea or theme or image, or, best case scenario, when several elements come together and form a complete, or almost complete, story, in my head.  Second best part is the actual writing of it.  Worst part is thinking what I’ve written sucks.  And I always think that what I’ve written sucks.  Sometimes it sucks eggs, and sometimes it sucks big hairy donkey dick, but it always sucks.


3. What is your writing process? IE do you outline? Do you stick to a daily word or page count, write 7 days a week, etc?


I try to write at least one new short story draft per month.  I do not outline.   I scribble shit in notebooks and on legal pads. An ‘outline’ would have the names of the characters (always a problem) and two or three elements that must be included.  And a lot of arrows curving around and pointing here and there.  And sometimes stray telephone numbers.


4. Who are some other writers you read and admire, regardless of whether they are commercially “successful?”


Can’t answer.  Would leave too many people out.


5. Should the question mark in the above question be inside or outside the quotes?


OUTSIDE.


6. What’s your stance on the Oxford Comma?


I am a strong proponent of the serial comma, though I know that this is a losing battle.


7. How many stories are in your amazing new collection (which is in stores now) SHINY THING?


19


8. Would it be too goading of me to ask, when are you going to finally write a novel?


I have tried.  They suck.  They suck like black holes. 


9. What book(s) are you currently reading?


Running Through Corridors, volume 1, by Robert Shearman and Toby Hadoke.


10. Who or what inspires your writing?


The desperate need not to be bored.


Finally, is there anything you’d care to add? Please also include where people can read your published stories, buy your book, etc.

I am a misanthrope who hates not only everybody, but everything.   Google my name plus fiction to find some stuff online; go to shiny-thing.com to find out about the collection.

Or, if you want to buy Patricia's book now, like, RIGHT NOW, and I know you DO, here's the link to Amazon: 

Thanks, Patricia!

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Why Your Novel is a Tall, 6-Pump Vanilla, Breve Latte Grande, Extra Hot, Heavy Whipping Cream, Extra Dry Cappuccino (Or It Should Be) by Elle Lothlorien

The Resident Self-Publishing Guru of the Blogosphere, aka Joe Konrath, had a great guest blog by novelist Elle Lothlorien.










I'm mentioning it and linking to it because the self-publishing business is still The Wild, Wild West of the publishing world.


In short, no one truly knows for certain what works, how to garner sales, how to get into the Kindle 1 Million Club, nor how exactly (or when, exactly) one can quit the dreaded day-job and be a full-time Writer.


Nevertheless, Elle Lothlorien has written an insightful article. The comments on her article (90 as of this writing) are equally as fascinating and illuminating.


Here's the link:
http://jakonrath.blogspot.com/2011_12_06_archive.html


And take a moment to explore Elle's novels as well.
Visit her website at http://www.ellelothlorien.com/Home.html

Friday, September 23, 2011

10 Questions with Authorgraph Creator Evan Jacobs (@evanjacobs)




This Author Spotlight
features

Evan Jacobs

author/creator
of
Authorgraph
ebook autograph software



Have you ever had the opportunity to attend a book signing to meet one of your favorite authors, but you owned only the eBook edition of their book, so you whipped out a Sharpie and had them sign the back of your Kindle/Nook/Kobo/iPhone, and then ran home and slapped clear packing tape over the signature?


If you're anything like me, you have a special place in your heart for eBooks (and you've never done the above; well, maybe just that one time, since you're not allowed in that store anymore). eBooks are extremely convenient, weigh far less than a printed volume, and you can carry hundreds and hundreds of them on your choice of eReader.

But have you ever wished you could somehow get an autograph from one of your favorite writers for the eBook edition of their work?


Now you can. (I even got one from E.L. James, author of Fifty Shades of Grey)


I had the opportunity to chat with Evan Jacobs, who worked at Amazon as a programmer for nearly a decade. Seeing the chance to fill a cool niche, Evan invented the Authorgraph.


Read on for more!


1. How did you get into software development, leading to working with Amazon?

I’ve always had an interest in computers and I’ve been programming them since I was a kid. I studied math in college but I also became really interested in Internet applications. After college, I moved to Seattle and got a job at an advertising agency where I built websites for their clients. I really enjoyed it but I wanted to work at a company whose business *was* their website and that’s when I joined Amazon.

2. What is Authorgraph and how/when did you conceive it?

I came up with the idea for Authorgraph in order to satisfy a need that I had. I love to read and I love my Kindle but it felt weird to go to a book reading when I didn’t have a paper version of the book for the author to sign.

3. What is/was the DocuSign Hack-a-thon?

Some people hear the word “hack” and they think of people who illegally break into computer systems. Among programmers, “hack” means something much different. A “hack” is really just a computer program that is created in a unique way or does something surprising or unexpected and a “hackathon” is an event where programmers get together to build these programs (usually in a marathon coding session). The DocuSign Hackathon (where the first version of Authorgraph (originally known as Kindlegraph) was created) was a two-day event.

4. How does Authorgraph work?

Authorgraph uses the “Personal Document Service” that is available on the Kindle. This service lets people send documents directly to their Kindles. The Kindle was the first platform that I targeted (because I use a Kindle) but I plan to eventually support every e-reader.

5. Does Authorgraph work with a Kindle app on other devices? [I’ve been using it on my laptop]

Support for Kindle apps is one of the most requested features and it is coming really soon.

6. Do fans need to own the book for which they would like a Authorgraph?

No, there is no requirement to own or buy the book in order to receive an Authorgraph.

7. The Authorgraph website recently changed its number of author & books listings from 5000 books and 1000 authors to 6000 books from 1200 authors. It seems Authorgraph is really expanding quickly!

I’ve been pleasantly surprised by the adoption of the service. There are now over 8000 books and almost 1800 authors available. I’m also very pleased with the wide variety of genres that are represented by all of the books and authors.

8. Tell us about your plans to recruit authors.

Initially I focused on recruiting authors because once authors have signed up then readers will follow. However, I haven’t really done any marketing to authors as most authors find out about the service from other authors (i.e. via word of mouth). I think this is the best kind of marketing and I’m going to try to continue to build a service that authors (and readers) want to tell each other about.

9. What’s next for Authorgraph?

The goal of Authorgraph has always been to help authors and readers connect more closely and I’m currently working on additional features to further that goal. Specifically, I want to help authors deliver their new works directly to their current readers as well as enable readers to discover new authors that they will love.

10. Would you mind sharing the titles of three of your favorite books, for which you would most like to have a Authorgraph?

I would love to get Authorgraphs from Steven Johnson (@stevenbjohnson) for “Where Good Ideas Come From”
Click HERE to purchase via Amazon
Neal Stephenson (@nealstephenson) for “Cryptonomicon”
Click HERE to purchase via Amazon.
and Matt Ruff (@bymattruff) for “Set This House in Order”.
Click HERE to purchase via Amazon.

So, Steve, Neal, and Matt, check out Authorgraph and join the 1800 authors who have already done so!

Thank you, Evan, for sharing your time and insight, and for creating Authorgraph!

And here's my Authorgraph to Evan for my heroic coming-of-age SciFi novel A SHADOW PASSED OVER THE SON, as featured on TheStreet.com.
Click HERE to purchase via Amazon.


To get an Authorgraph of your very own, or to search for one of your favorite authors, visit  http://authorgraph.com/.


And if you don't have a Kindle, it's okay; you can still get an Authrograph as a .pdf via email.


Also be sure to follow Evan Jacobs on Twitter: @authorgraph or @evanjacobs.


Lastly, if you've not yet done so, check out the above books by Steven Johnson, Neal Stephenson, and Matt Ruff; they're brilliant writers each!

Monday, September 12, 2011

10 Questions with Science Fiction/Thriller Novelist Michael R. Hicks (@kreelanwarrior)





This Author Spotlight
features

Michael R. Hicks

author of
DEAD SOUL





In anticipation of his new Science Fiction novel DEAD SOUL, I had a chance to interview novelist Michael R. Hicks, who is quickly becoming one of the break-out indie novelists in the world today, alongside writers such as J.A. Konrath, John Locke, and Amanda Hocking, all of whom have put up some very impressive sales figures through their combination of talent and hard work.

DEAD SOUL, the latest in the IN HER NAME series, is scheduled for release October 1, 2011.


Without further ado. . . .

1. How did you get into writing?

I’ve enjoyed writing since late in high school, and did a lot of technical and analytic writing during my career in the government.

But I started writing novels because I had hit a major rut in reading science fiction, which was my favorite genre. The breaking point was after I read a book by an author whose work I had always enjoyed, but the book was terrible! I said, “I could write something at least that good!”

That’s how I got started writing IN HER NAME.

2. Is IN HER NAME the first novel you wrote? What was the time frame?

Yes, what’s now known as the “omnibus edition” of IN HER NAME was the first book. I did things a little backwards by taking the original book and breaking it up into three separate novels, EMPIRE, CONFEDERATION, and FINAL BATTLE.







I wrote the omnibus from 1991 to 1994. It took me so long because of the novel’s length - 325,000 words - and because after I finished the first draft I absolutely hated the second half and completely rewrote it!



3. What was the path from finishing IN HER NAME to your indie publishing success, including the writing of your own self-publishing guide?

After I finished IN HER NAME in 1994, I shopped it around to the various publishers who printed science fiction works. Not surprisingly, none of them took it up.

So, the manuscript sat in a box under my desk as a footrest until I learned about Kindle publishing in 2007. My project that winter was to scan in the manuscript (all thousand pages of it), edit it, and finally publish it for the Kindle, which I did in May 2008.

At that point, my wife and I being Kindle fans, I started hanging out on the Kindleboards forum a lot. That was back in the time when there were only a few hundred users, and the few authors who were a rather novel group of folks, if you’ll pardon the pun. Readers on the forum checked out my book, liked it, and encouraged me to write more.

I took up the proverbial pen again after fourteen years and started working on a prequel to IN HER NAME, called FIRST CONTACT. Then came LEGEND OF THE SWORD.





At that point, I was taken with a strong interest in genetically engineered food and wrote SEASON OF THE HARVEST, a sci-fi thriller.




I did a lot of thinking then about what I wanted to do with my writing. My royalties by that time (late 2010, early 2011) were averaging around $300 a month or so, which was nothing to sneeze at, but wasn’t exactly a living wage. Part of that, I knew, was that I wasn’t doing much in the way of promoting my work.

So, when I released SEASON OF THE HARVEST in February, I pulled out all the stops and worked like a dog trying to promote it. I’d already been putting in 12 to 16 hour days for most of the previous three years between my day job and writing, and some days during February and March I worked even more.

And that’s when it happened. My royalties took off like a shot, going from $342 in January to $28,931 in June, and even higher in July. That’s when I decided to go for broke and left my day job to write full-time.

4. What is your writing process? IE do you outline? Do you stick to a daily word or page count, write 7 days a week, etc?

When I’m writing new material, I generally use a word count goal as a benchmark, and it’s something I’m having to be more disciplined about, because now my family’s financial well-being depends on it. My current goal is 3,000 words a day. I have yet to consistently achieve that, but that’s my goal.

For editing, it varies. My general goal is at least five hours a day, or enough chapters to meet my deadline to have a book ready to go to my editor. Right now, for example, I’ve got to get at least three chapters a day edited for IN HER NAME: DEAD SOUL to make my 18 September deadline. It’s a lot.

And normally, yes, I do at least some writing 7 days a week. There are exceptions, but I’m being more ruthless with myself about that.

5. Who are some other writers you read and admire, indie, Science Fiction, or otherwise?

That’s a long, long list! But my faves would have to include Robert Heinlein, Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle, David Drake, Scott G. Gier, Dean Koontz, Robert McCammon, and...well, the list goes on!

6. What advice would you like to impart to a writer beginning his/her journey?

Four things: 1) Don’t stop writing. Ever. 2) Find people to edit and beta read your work, and who aren’t afraid to tell you what sucks. Listen to what they tell you. That’s how you improve your writing. 3) Rejoice when you get your first one-star review. The greatest books ever written have tons of ‘em. You’ll be in good company. 4) Promoting your work isn’t prostitution, it’s part of being an author. People won’t read your books if they don’t know about them. Just be nice about how you do it.

7. You’ve mentioned IN HER NAME being perfect for film adaptation; who would be your dream cast and writer and/or director? James Cameron?

I think Cameron would be great, but there would be others who’d do an awesome job. However, I’d say that Peter Jackson would probably be my first pick after Cameron.

8. Where do you see the publishing business in a year? 5 years? Beyond?

Unlike folks like Joe Konrath, I don’t have any background in the publishing industry other than my fistful of rejection notices. But I guess I can speculate like everybody else!

This is no big surprise, but I think we’re going to see the Big 6 publishers implode. One or two of them might pull out of the Great Extinction by offering innovative and attractive options to authors. There will be a period where they’ll pump up their author ranks with new blood that’s signed up under draconian contracts, but that won’t sustain them. In the end, most are going to head the way of the dinosaurs.

In the meantime, more and more of the better (and smarter) traditionally published authors are going to buy up their rights and publish on their own, offering good to great quality books at great prices.

Brick and mortar bookstores? Barnes and Noble might survive because of the Nook, and independent bookstores that can integrate digital books into their business process will survive. Most others, aside from specialty niche and second hand stores, are going to go the way of Borders.

As for print in general, it’ll still be around for the foreseeable future, but will represent an increasingly small percentage of the reading medium. Looking at my own sales figures, while I’m making thousands of ebook sales per month, I might sell sixty or so print copies. The kicker is that I make more per unit for ebooks: for the IN HER NAME omnibus, for example, the retail price for the print version is $16.95, and the ebook is $5.99. I make $1.00 from each print copy, and $3.99 for every Kindle book. I even make more - around $2.00 - for the $2.99 ebooks, vs. $1.00 for the print books that are priced at $9.95. At this point, I’m questioning why I should even bother making print versions of my future books.

Then we get to the big question: what’s the future of the “indie publishing movement.” People sling around a lot of terms for what’s happening, but I think it’s really a straight case of technology-enabled market economics. What’s happening now wasn’t possible before Amazon introduced the Kindle: that was the asteroid that will eventually kill the publishing industry dinosaurs.

I’ve read a lot of opinions on the whole indie publishing thing, but this is what I think it boils down to: authors who write good quality books, who learn how to effectively promote them, and who have set goals and are willing to work their butts off to achieve them will succeed. That success may take time - years, in some cases - but I believe that as a general rule victory goes to the skilled and persistent, although some luck always helps. This isn’t anything unique to publishing. If you look at any type of endeavor, the successful people have that same combination of traits.

The difference now is that success or failure is almost entirely in the hands o the author, without gatekeepers (the publishing industry) determining who should be allowed access to the readers.

9. What current book(s) are you writing? And tell us about future projects if you’re so inclined.

I’m finishing up the edits for the sixth book of the IN HER NAME series, DEAD SOUL, which I hope to have out the door in ebook format by 1 October.




After that, I’m not sure. I have a ton of projects lined up, but I have to take a look at the market and see what makes the most sense to do next.

10. Who or what inspires your writing?

Right now, it’s the need to keep my family fed! Beyond that, I don’t really have any specific inspirations: stories literally pop into my head out of nowhere, and I have to write them down.

Finally, is there anything you’d care to add? Please also include where people can buy your books, your social networking info, etc.

Just to thank you for this opportunity for some shameless self-promotion!

As for where to buy my books, they’re available for all the major ebook formats, on Amazon (US, UK, and DE), Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Sony Reader, iBooks, and general ePub format on Smashwords. Print versions are available at Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

To get in touch with me, I’m yakking all the time on Twitter as @kreelanwarrior. I’m on Facebook at http://facebook.com/authormichaelhicks, and you can of course check out info on my books and other tidbits of information on my web site at http://authormichaelhicks.com.


Also check out Michael's how-to guide to self publishing; I've read it and recommend it; plus, it's written by a person with the sales numbers to back it up:



Thank you, Michael, for sharing your time, experience, and knowledge with us!

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

How do YOU choose names for your characters?

What you are about to read is a true story.


It is a fundamental tenet of a writer's life that one must always be writing new material. When one project is complete, it goes into the proverbial drawer for a few weeks or a month. This is to allow oneself to forget what one has written, so that after a few weeks or a month has passed, one may look at one's work with the objective eye required to evaluate the work in progress.


During this cooling-off period, one must be writing new material.


This also applies during the editing/polishing phase in which a manuscript is perfected prior to publication.


To that end, while I am polishing Book 6 of THE GO-KIDS, I am two chapters into a new science fiction novel (the title of which shall remain secret for the time being).


While making a fourth pass through Chapter 1 of this new novel, I decided to go ahead and name the two male characters featured in the scene. They stand on a street corner in Santa Monica, California, on their way back to the office after their lunch break. One of the men becomes impatient while waiting for the crosswalk computer to indicate when it is safe to cross the street.


I decided this man's name is Rory. Don't ask me why, because I don't know. My only answer is that 'Rory' was the first name which popped into my mind as I sat pondering who this person is. (The other man is Tim, though for the time being we shall focus on Rory.)


I finished proofing the chapter, sifting through the dialogue between Rory and Tim, tweaking the tense here and there as Tim regales Rory with an elaborate tail of a friend-of-a-friend who ate some bad Japanese food and had what turned out to be an expensive accident an hour later.


I then sat pondering the blank chasm that is Chapter 2, thinking, "Shit. Now what?" Then I was saved by the HooteSuite alert. So I defied all conventional writerly wisdom and checked in on HooteSuite, and then Gmail. In my inbox I found I had a new Twitter follower. I clicked on the profile in order to better gauge the merit of this person, lest he or she be a spammer, guru, or porn-vending pseudo-slut boasting nefarious links to dubious, virus-laden material unfit for public consumption.


This is what I found:


Her name is Carmen Mismit. She follows 984, has 4338 followers, but only 3 tweets, the most recent of which is what concerns us. This tweet dates all the way back to April 12, 2011. See for yourself:
CLICK PICTURE TO ENLARGE
You'll notice the highlighted blue tweet says simply: RORY.


I about fell out of my chair.


A mere five minutes or so had elapsed between the moment I named Rory in Chapter 1 and when I saw this tweet from CarmenMismit.


How do YOU explain it?


I explain it as confirmation from God/The Angels/The Universe that Rory is indeed the proper name.


So 'Rory' it is!


When selecting a name for a new character, I will sometimes consult my Writer's Digest Character Naming Sourcebook, the purple edition with the blue spine, which I've had for years and which has served me well. According to said tome, 'Rory' is Gaelic for 'ruddy;' Irish for 'red;' and Teutonic for 'famous ruler.'


Interesting.


Often, a character name simply appears, without consulting any books, as was the case with Rory.


How do YOU choose the names for YOUR characters?