Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Word Up! - JUST RELEASED! 10 Questions with Writer's Writer Marcia Riefer Johnston (@MarciaRJohnston)

Cover art by Brian Hull
Cover design by Vinnie Kinsella

The Kindle edition of
Word Up!
by literary luminary and writer's writer Marcia Riefer Johnston

When Marcia was 12, American Girl magazine printed her eight-paragraph story, “The Key,” and paid her $15. She has been writing ever since.

She studied under Raymond Carver and Tobias Wolff in the Syracuse University creative-writing program. She taught technical writing in the Engineering School at Cornell University. She has done writing of all kinds for organizations of all kinds, from the Fortune 500 to the just plain fortunate.

Photo by Wendy Hood
Marcia has written for the scholarly journal Shakespeare Quarterly, the professional journal Technical Communication, and the weekly newspaper Syracuse New Times. She used to write letters by the boxful. She has contributed posts to her daughter’s Peace Corps blog, texts to her son’s Droid, and answers to her husband’s crossword puzzles. Her words have landed on billboards, blackboards, birthday cakes, boxes of eggs, and the back of her book. She lives in Portland, Oregon.

To share her love of writing, she has collected some one-of-a-kind essays into a book:

We chatted with Marcia earlier this year. Word Up! is now available for purchase in print, with all other ebook format coming in August 2013.

1. How did you get into writing?

When I was maybe nine years old, my best friend, Shannon Wood, gave me a blank book. I had always loved reading books. Suddenly, I was inspired to write one. I sat down to do just that, only to discover that I had nothing to say. But I clung to the notion of myself as a writer. When you believe long enough that you can do something that you can’t do, lo and behold, you discover that you can.

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

What I like best: The pleasure of getting it right—finding the perfect word, crafting the ring and rhythm of a sentence, discovering the structure that a given piece needs, nailing an ending. And then I love hearing from readers when they experience those pleasures for themselves. For example, fellow tech writer and self-professed grammar geek, Jennifer DeAngelo, writes, “I find myself forcing others to listen while I read ‘this great part’ out loud every few minutes. My dogs will soon be English experts!” That’s what drives me to write—getting to have, and then share, those moments of earned joy.

What I like least: The time required to get it right. Even the best writers have no shortcut to good writing.

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?

The writing I do for myself fits around my technical-writing contracts. When I’m on a big job, I might not do any of my own writing for months. I have no word-count or page-count goals. Inevitably, something comes along that sparks the urge to write on an age-old topic (all topics on language usage are age-old) in a way that strikes me as unique and fun. Once that flame gets going, I’m a moth who can’t stay away.

Someone asked me recently how many revisions a typical essay goes through. She reported that her husband revises a typical piece five times. Five! I didn’t know what to say. The concept of countable passes brought me up short. I don’t revise in discrete iterations. Writing is editing and vice versa. Each essay evolves continuously, one change after another, over and over. One essay might take the better part of a day; another might take weeks.

When I’m working on an essay, I wake up each day with ideas for additions or deletions. I keep pads of paper everywhere—next to the bed, in the bathrooms, in the car, in the office, in the kitchen. In between bouts of writing, ideas come unbidden. A lot gets worked out for me while I sleep. I don’t mean that in a mystical way. Good writing requires many kinds (and many repetitions) of thinking, critiquing, weighing. It’s a rush unlike any other when your brain is processing processing processing, and the thing you didn’t even know you needed SURFACES. Aha! Quick, get me to a keyboard.

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

Hemingway was my first inspiration in terms of craft. My book, Word Up! includes my two favorite quotations from him, both classics. Here’s one:

If a writer … knows enough about what he is writing about he may omit things that he knows … The dignity of movement of an ice-berg is due to only one-eighth of it being above water. A writer who omits things because he does not know them only makes hollow places in his writing.[1]

Here’s the other:

The greatest difficulty, aside from knowing truly what you really felt, rather than what you were supposed to feel … was to put down what really happened in action; what the actual things were which produced the emotion that you experienced. The real thing, the sequence of motion and fact which made the emotion … would be as valid in a year or in ten years or, with luck and if you stated it purely enough, always.[2]

A writer could do a lot of fine work following nothing but those two principles.

I also admire Ray Carver and Toby Wolff. I had the privilege of studying with both of them in the creative writing Masters program at Syracuse University. What an opportunity! Ray and Toby made us, their lucky students, feel that our words mattered. Their affirmation meant as much as any lessons I learned from them. If anyone reading this hasn’t yet discovered Ray Carver’s short stories “A Small, Good Thing” and “Cathedral,” stop right now and go find them. And if you haven’t yet read Toby Wolff’s memoirs This Boy’s Life and Old School, do you ever have a treat waiting for you.

I also love Barbara Kingsolver, especially her essays. Her Small Wonder and Animal, Vegetable, Miracle take my breath away—in terms of both what she says and how she says it.

And Mary Karr … beware. Reading her is enough to put you off considering yourself skilled or entertaining. Her The Liars' Club tops my list of books to recommend.

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

It was a setup! Okay, I’ll bite. That question mark goes outside. If you were quoting a question, you’d put the quotation mark inside.

I wish that American usage (like British usage) treated commas and periods with similar logic. When you have a word in quotation marks, like “this,” who on earth decided that the comma belonged inside? If I put a word in italics, like this, how am I supposed to get the comma inside the italics? I mean! Ooooh, Ryan. Do. Not. Get. Me. Started.

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

[Dear reader, Follow this answer to its end before drawing any conclusions.] You are going for, blood aren’t, you Ryan? I, say why bother with that extra, comma in fact why, do writers care so much, about commas anyhow since, they just take, up space and readers, can figure out what we, mean right? Those sticklers who insist, that the Oxford, Comma creates clarity, while taking, up hardly any, space well they are, just a bunch, of curmudgeons! Writers should put, commas wherever they like or not just let their words flow as nature intended straight from the brain and let the natural rhythms emerge organically who needs commas when you get right down to it writers who need to lean on crutches like commas can’t hardly call themselves writers now can they and no in case you’re wondering no I am not serious I figure if you’ve read this far you surely have your own opinion on this question and have heard it discussed enough times to have yawned at any straight answer I might have given.

In case you’re still wondering, and if you haven’t come to terms with this question for yourself, and if you don’t have a style guide forced on you at work making the decision for you, then let me give you a straight answer after all and say yes, I cast my vote adamantly in favor of the Oxford comma (aka serial comma, aka Harvard comma, aka the comma before the last item in a series). I just used one in the previous sentence before the final if clause in the series. Did you notice? Probably not. That’s the beauty of these handy little curved marks of punctuation: they make reading easier. Why leave them out when they’re so darn useful?

I know, I know, newspaper columns, etc. Save that snippet of space if your style guide says you must.

I couldn’t put it better than Bryan Garner, whose big, fat Garner's Modern American Usage, by the way, every writer needs. On page 676, he puts it like this: “Omitting the final comma may cause ambiguities, whereas including it never will.” 

Hear, hear! Or is it Here, here? Now there’s a question for you, Ryan. Two can play at this Q&A game.

It's Hear, hear! As in, "Hear him! Hear him!" It's what proper English dudes say when they agree with what has been said and want to vocalize said agreement.

I knew this. Then I got scared and looked it up. But it is "Hear, hear!" Thank you for educating us, Marcia. See that, everyone? Free learnin' goin' on right here.

7. What is Word Up! about and how did it come to fruition?

Ah, back to a serious question. Actually, I love all of these questions. Bring them all on!

I’ve had a passion for the English language since I was deprived of it during my year as an exchange student in Austria in high school. I also credit my English teachers for teaching me writing skills that too few people get these days. Lots of people are hungry for better writing skills. And these skills are teachable. I realized that I had something of value to offer and could have a ball doing it.

For a longer answer to your question, see “Tribute to a teacher who put ‘Word Power’ in his students’ hands”: http://howtowriteeverything.com/blog/about-this-blog

8. What’s your current writing project?

I’m still putting the final touches on the Word Up! ebook. One reviewer recently described the challenge this way: "One of my first impressions of your book was, This is going to be a real booger to convert to the Kindle [or any ebook]. Your book is richly formatted, which is great for the reader, but horrible for the conversion process. Between the footnotes, callouts, scripted titles, index, and appendixes, this is a ton of work for someone in post-production. Nothing is impossible though."

In my dreams, everyone who owns Strunk and White’s Elements of Style (and, if they’re lucky, Art Plotnik’s spunky Spunk & Bite) along with Lynn Truss’s Eats, Shoots & Leaves will add a copy of Word Up! to the same shelf.

In fact, I see this book sitting in the bathrooms of those homes. I see guests (even those who aren't writers) picking it up and, an hour later, emerging with a smile.

9. What books are you currently reading?

You're joking, right? Do other authors find time to read? I can't wait to get back to it!

10. Who or what inspires you to write?

Inspiration comes from anywhere language can be found: a hospital-hallway sign, a snippet of song, a Tweet, a book, a bakery cake, a billboard, the back of my brain.

Finally, is there anything you’d care to add?

Yes! I’d like to give you, dear reader, a sense of why I bothered to write yet another book on writing. The world already has too many writing books. If you piled up all the books on writing, you’d have a precarious, weird-looking stack reaching … way up there. But the world can’t have too many writing books of the kind I like to read, the kind I set out to write. This book doesn’t say the same old things in the same old ways. This book follows its own advice. Practices what it preaches. Shows what it tells. This book uses powerful writing to talk about powerful writing.

Powerful writing entertains, heals, motivates, sells, enlightens. It marks the biggest and smallest occasions of human existence. Powerful writing changes things—for a person, a classroom, a country, a planet.

People tell me that this book will appeal to advanced writers, and I hope that's true. I also believe that "advanced" can apply to high schoolers and college students. It's easy to underestimate what teenagers are capable of. This book could be used in the classroom—I’d love for teachers and students to discover it—but it’s not a textbook. It’s not exactly a style guide either, although it does get into grammar and style. I think of Word Up! as an inspiration guide. One reviewer (content strategist Rahel Bailie) says, “You rarely get this kind of knowledge in such an engaging way. Read the book like a collection of short stories.”

That’s the kind of experience I wish for you in reading Word Up!

Where can people find you online and buy your book?

Selected chapters are available, free, under the “Excerpts” tab on my website: “How To Write Everything” (http://howtowriteeverything.com)

The book, Word Up!, released on April 27, 2013, National Tell a Story Day. Please come to my website for details.

If you made it all the way to the end of this interview, I wrote this book for you—and I can’t wait for you to get your hands on it.

Will you, dear reader who has hung in all the way to the last word, help me get the word out about Word Up!? If you're on Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, or Google+, please follow the Word Up! pages. (You know, click that cute little "Follow" button. Or "Add to circles." Or "Like.") These pages are all listed in one convenient place, here:

Sign up, and then—most helpful of all—let your followers know about Word Up! too. Everybody needs a good word.

Thank you. —Marcia

Thank YOU, Marcia. In my opinion, the world can never have enough books on how to write well. Or even correctly. Or even semi-correctly. Language is a fluid medium and is ever-changing, constantly evolving. That's part of what makes it so much fun. But every pyramid has a solid foundation.

And once again, thank you!

If you haven't yet done so, visit Marcia online at HowToWriteEverything.com and follow her on Twitter:
@MarciaRJohnston (author)
@WordUpTheBook (book)

And purchase your copy of Word Up! from one of the links below. I got my copy this morning and am already enjoying it.

(And Everything You Build from Them)

Kindle                           Paperback

[1] Ernest Hemingway, Death in the Afternoon (New York: Scribner, 1932),153–154; First Scribner e-book edition 2002, http://books.google.com/books?id=Wn69QsdwDlQC&printsec=frontcover&dq=death+in+the+afternoon.
[2] Hemingway, Death in the Afternoon, 11–12.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

James Patterson, The New York Times, J.A. Konrath, E.L. James, and you and me. Oh, and ebooks.

One of the few blogs I read regularly is the Newbie's Guide to Publishing, wholly owned and operated by indie publishing wunderkind Joe Konrath, aka J.A. Konrath.

Joe is one of the hardest-working writers I know of. He's been traditionally published, traditionally screwed by the publishing industry, and now is a 100%-independent self-published (and sometimes controversial) writer. He pumps out new books regularly. He also earns upwards of six figures a month. $120 an hour, 24 hours a day, according to his figures. He's been busting his ass at this for 20 years. He's earned it.

Joe recently blogged about an ad James Patterson posted in the New York Times, decrying the ongoing downfall of book stores et al:

James is basically suggesting the goverment (ie the taxpayers: US!) bail out the bookstores, libraries, and publishers who are losing money because they are too stuck in the proverbial mud to adapt to the evolving business model that is indie publishing and the ebook phenomenon.


Why don't we simply cut to the chase: the government not only publishes the books, it publishes ONLY the books it deems appropriate, thereby dictating to us, the American Public, which books we can and cannot read. Possession of non-sanctioned books is illegal. Reminds me of any number of dystopian novels decrying just such a possibility. 

Do you really want state-controlled media? Do you really? Are you sure? Because in some parts of the world, that's already how it is.

Anyway, Konrath's point is that the publishing industry is archaic and committed to the status quo because the status quo is their bread and butter. Supporting writers is not. Supporting the readers who support the writers also is not. (This is not to say that there aren't scores of hard-working, book-loving folk working their tails off in the publishing industry!!!)

Furthermore, as Joe points out, James Patterson earns $94 million dollars per year. Fine. Great. I don't begrudge James his success one bit. It's important not to spend one's time mired in envy and pissing and moaning about how lucky the other guy or gal is while we simply aren't. Luck is when preparedness meets opportunity. In other words, EARN IT.

Point being that Jimmy Patterson has a vested interest in the welfare of the publishing industry because it is the business model that has supported him and helped him create his empire. James is not a bad guy, from what I hear. He runs charities and helps get books into the hands of children. As Joe himself sez:

Patterson is doing a great deal of good for the world, with www.readkiddoread.com, with his scholarships, with all of the books he gives away.

Fostering a love of books is paramount. My mom and dad did it for my siblings and me. If they hadn't, who knows what I'd be doing today. Waiting tables maybe. Who knows.

And don't get me wrong, I LOVE book stores. Libraries, too. When the Borders Books right by our house closed, it was horrible. I was genuinely sad. I used to go there ALL the time. Almost daily. I took my laptop and wrote there. I wrote much of The Go-Kids series there. I drank a lot of coffee, bought a lot of food, bought a lot of books, and read a lot of books. And the coup de grace, I met my amazing and lovely wife Taliya there at that Borders!

So yeah, when we drive by or have dinner at the nearby Macaroni Grill where we had our first date, and we see the empty building, it sucks.

I often racked my brain trying to figure out how I could own my own book store that would be profitable enough for it to keep its doors open without being in a net loss each month.

Still trying to crack that nut.

Writer David Biddle has penned an interesting article at TalkingWriting.com about the relationship between book stores and independent writers. He mentions Konrath as well. It's worth a read.

But I digress.

The problem is not books; it's business.

Imagine it's 100 years from now. 2113. A man is riding the monorail to work. He is reading a book. Some trashy horror thriller he found online.

A man standing beside him suddenly seizes the book, rips it from his fingers and darts out the door of the train just before the doors close.

A plainclothes cop witnesses the crime, draws his weapon, fires, and kills the man. The cop then returns the book to its rightful owner. Because the book is an antique worth several hundred (thousand?) dollars. It's an actual book. And only rich people can afford actual printed paper books.

This is the future as I see it (as described in my SciFi novel A Shadow Passed Over the Son, which is currently #60 in Amazon Free SciFi; hooray!). Maybe not the getting shot on sight part, but the rarity of printed books. It's coming. If we extrapolate even a tiny bit, we can compare books to records or 8-tracks or cassettes or CDs. They're not the medium by which people consume their entertainment. (As Joe has illustrated many times.)

Little kids in school are already being given iPads instead of textbooks.

Patterson is a wealthy writer. So is E.L. James (author of the 50 Shades series).

Prepare yourself to see a lot more E.L. James's, and a lot fewer James Patterson's.

Just keep writing.

Just keep reading.

You can't stop progress, right?

The ebook revolution and its technology is connecting writers with new readers and readers with new writers. The gatekeeping middlemen who had heretofore held the reins and essentially extorted the source of their fortune (writers, musicians, artists...) are now being relegated more and more to the sidelines. Maybe they'll find a way to wrestle back some of the control they have historically had.

Maybe not.

Either way, the march toward a digital future is inevitable. 

Ebooks are only going to become more popular.

It's not a great and evil conspiracy. It's simply common sense: a more convenient, less expensive, fun way for readers to buy and read books.

How many people do you know who have an iPad/tablet? A smart phone? An e-reader such as a Kindle, a Kindle Fire/HD, a Nook, a Kobo, a Sony, etc, etc?

How many people do you know who still have a telephone land-line in their house?

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Results for Ryan's Free THANK YOU eBook Sale

In order to celebrate the recent release of my new novel Eye Candy, I had a two-day sale last weekend. Saturday and Sunday, most of my titles were free for digital download through Amazon's KDP Select program.

It was two days of advertising mayhem. And it was a blast!

I must say, it was a roaring success.

So THANK YOU to everyone who purchased a book or retweeted one of my tweets announcing the sale, both before and during the actual two-day event. I couldn't have done it with out you.

I thought I would share some of the numbers with you. My fellow writers will no doubt find this intriguing, and hopefully readers do as well. The indie publishing phenomenon is ever changing, and it can be difficult to determine which advertising tactics are best (and which ones aren't so productive).

The only advertising I did was on Twitter. I did a similar sale last year on Halloween and sold over 1000 books. So I thought I would try it again in order to share the news about Eye Candy.

The first day (Saturday), sales really took off in the Amazon UK market. I was pleasantly surprised.

A few hours later, similar numbers began to appear for the US market as well. I remained pleasantly surprised.

I continued to work Twitter like mad. I contacted as many fellow writers as possible and asked them to RT to their followers, which of course they did. (THANK YOU, guys!)

Sunday rolled around and my head was spinning. But the numbers continued to rise. Amazon UK began to slow down by midday, but the US kept on charging. Perhaps folks in the UK weren't on their computers as much on Sunday as they had been on Saturday.

France, Germany, and Canada all had sales, with Canada leading the pack. I even had my very first sale in Japan, which is great because I think Japanese readers would enjoy my books.

Only Spain and Brasil showed zero sales. Alas, something to shoot for next time!

By Sunday at midnight Pacific Standard Time, the sale concluded.

Overall, Eye Candy was the title downloaded the most, which is what I wanted given that it's a brand new book and I wanted to get it into readers' hands so they could enjoy it, spread the word, post reviews, and get hooked so as to purchase my other titles.

Total Books Sold: 1344

Books sold by country:
US 1046
UK 210
DE 46
FR 4
ES 0
IT 2
JP 1
CA 35
BR 0

Books sold by title:
#1 Eye Candy 357
#2 The Leap 113
#3 Get Off 94

The remaining titles decreased slowly, but most were in the 60 range, with the lowest being in the 30s.

Overall, I am thrilled with the outcome of the sale. It's impossible to know exactly how many people purchased books because many people purchased multiple titles or even a copy of every title.

I am perfectly happy with this.

The sale has already begun to generate new reviews, which is always nice, especially when they're positive; plus they help foster sales by building credibility.

The next couple of weeks will reveal if there is an increase or decrease in sales averages. For my next sale, I will do a coordinated effort utilizing other channels both free and paid (Goodreads, BookBub, etc...) and will compare the results. I'm excited to see what happens.

But more than that, I'm excited that so many people now own a copy of Eye Candy. 357 to be exact. I hope each and every one of them reads the book and enjoys it. That's what this is all about. Writing from the heart to share a story I was passionate about and spent a year-and-a-half writing. The sharing is the manifestation of the original idea. We now have a global campfire around which we can all sit and enjoy a good story.

To that end, I want to say Thank You once again, and I look forward to sharing many more stories with each of you.

Friday, April 19, 2013

Ryan's Thank-You FREE Ebook Sale Sat & Sun Only

I am excited to let you all know that to celebrate the release of my new novel Eye Candy, I am having a two-day sale in which Eye Candy and most of my other titles will be completely, totally, 100% FREE! (through Sunday night at midnight!)

I began work on Eye Candy in August 2011. I wrote the first few chapters while completing my research (I love doing research), and then really got rolling on the manuscript. I decided to write this story because of the two main characters (featured on the incredible cover). They called to me, they felt so alive and real, I simply had to write this book.

So browse the books below and see what strikes your fancy. Or download each of them. They're free! And if you would be so kind as to share this with a few friends, I would be truly grateful. Word of mouth is what sells books; it's what allows me to continue doing what I do: creating fun, inspiring, and powerful stories for you to get lost in.

If you really enjoy a book, please take a moment to post a review on Amazon to let everyone know.

Click on each cover to be taken to the corresponding Amazon page.

And if you'd like a complimentary, personalized inscription for any of the ebooks, visit my Authorgraph page.

And again, sincerely, Thank You!

Finally, renown thriller writer J.A. Konrath is having a sale this weekend as well. Nearly all of his titles are on sale for a mere $0.99. After you've purchased all of my books, visit him here:

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

10 Questions with Action Thriller Writer Simon Jenner (@SimonRJenner)

This Author Spotlight features action-thriller writer Simon Jenner, author of Ethan Justice: Origins. Simon is offering a complimentary copy of Ethan Justice: Origins to a lucky few. Read on for more.

Simon Jenner is a man whose goal in life is to discover his goal in life. He lives with his wife, who keeps his dream alive and his stomach tight against his trousers; his son, a dreamer just like his dad; and a dog who "receives fuss" like he’s the one doing the favor.

1. How did you get into writing?
I have always enjoyed writing actually more than reading and started writing books (many books, with the emphasis on starting!) after leaving school. I’d never finished anything until Ethan Justice: Origins – other than a children’s rhyming picture book which was inspired by my son. I think I had to get to an age – in my case 48 – before I could hold my concentration long enough to finish writing one.

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

Self-doubt is the worst thing of all. Some days the words I write are sheer genius, and yet when I read it back the next day, it has inexplicably turned to trash. What is that about?

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 start with an idea and plan out the first couple of chapters and then see where the characters take me. If I try to over plan, I get bogged down and decidedly bored. I try to write 3000 words a day and write 5 days a week. As with most writers, some days I succeed and some days I fail miserably. I do get distracted at times, but mostly I manage to stay on track - until that damn Facebook pings at me!

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

As a boy I enjoyed Alistair MacLean and later I turned to the more macabre with Stephen King and Dean Koontz, although I haven't been so enamored with their latest works. Steig Larson’s Millenium trilogy was excellent, and it was sad and a great loss to writing that he died at such an early age. In the last year or so, I have been sticking to the works of other indie authors. I like to wave the flag for the great thrillers I have come across so I reach out to the authors and feature them with character and author interviews on my website.

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


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

It's useful when items in a list are not single words.

7. What is your book Ethan Justice: Origins about and how did it come to fruition?

Ethan Justice: Origins pits the wits and adrenaline of an underachiever and a beautiful escort against a psychotic soldier in a race to secure a terrifying invention that could kill thousands. It is a fast-paced, action-packed, character-driven thriller, that I hope will make you laugh out loud, cringe, cry and cheer. It came about as I told my wife that I had an idea for a thriller and she said 'write it already or get a job.'

8. What’s your current writing project?

The second Ethan Justice book, Relentless, is being edited. This time around Ethan and Savannah end up in a dangerous cat-and-mouse game of pursuit and survival when they cross paths with Richard Windal, a cool, confident and highly influential yet psychotic entrepreneur.

I have also written a few thousand words for my third action thriller about a man who has fallen on hard times in the current financial crisis. He gets recruited as an assassin to pay the bills, but all is not as it seems!

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

Disappear by Iain Edward Henn. It's a mystery thriller that’s taken me on an enjoyable journey so far and I'm hoping for a great ending.

10. Who or what inspires your writing?

I get a lot of inspiration from movies, other books, life, news items, my wife and my son (although most of his ideas are just crazy –what imaginations 12 year olds have – he loves to help though). I enjoy basing some of my less likeable characters on people that have annoyed me. I tend to rename them, disguise them, and then have them bumped off by my antagonist. It's highly therapeutic!

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

I would like to thank everyone who has read Ethan Justice: Origins so far and would love to hear from them as well as any readers who just want to chat about and share recommendations for other thrillers. I’ve recently decided to try out Twitter so if anyone wants to say ‘Hi’ there that would be great (@simonrjenner). I’m also on Facebook (http://www.facebook.com/SimonJennerAuthor). If you haven’t read Ethan Justice: Origins yet, it is available on Amazon but I’m giving away a free e-copy to the first 10 people to contact me via my website - http://simonjenner.com/contact/ - please mention this interview! It should be out in paperback very soon too – I’m actually at home today waiting for the proof to be delivered – it’s very exciting!

Thanks, Simon, for sharing your books. Best of luck and come visit with us again when Relentless is ready.

Be sure to follow Simon on Twitter and check out his Facebook page for the latest updates.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

10 Questions with Novelist Ryan Schneider (@RyanLSchneider)

This Author Spotlight is a bit different in that it features a book which I wrote. Hooray!

You know that scene in "The Jerk" when Steve Martin runs around shouting "The new phone books are here! The new phone books are here!"

"Stay Away From The Cans" by Rahzzah

It's kinda like that, except that in stead of a phone book, it's my new novel Eye Candy.

For this week I shall therefore be interviewing myself. At last I shall be answering the same 10 questions I force everyone else to answer. Shall we?

1. How did you get into writing?
Writing is something I’ve always done. Every year in school growing up, I seemed to do well when it came to writing projects and assignments of a literary nature. This progressed in high school when I began doing more creative writing. When I got to college I dumped the pre-med thing and switched majors to English Lit. After graduation, I moved to Hollywood and attended UCLA, where I studied screenwriting and independent producing. After a few years, I got into aviation with the objective being to work for an airline. But after a time I realized that was a difficult lifestyle so I decided to finally obey my calling and decided to write in a professional capacity. The advent of self-publishing has been a blessing in this regard.

2. What do you like best (or least) about writing?
What I like best is when you’re in the midst of a story and you see the magic happening before your eyes. For example, you’re working on a scene and you have absolutely NO idea what you’re writing or why you’re writing it, and why the characters in the scene are saying what they’re saying. But you decide to have faith that it will all work out. And, somehow, a few days or weeks or months later, it does.

I also like the initial stages of beginning a new project, when the idea is just a seed, but it’s exciting. Then the research begins. I love research. Being a novelist is the best job in the world because you can spend 50 hours watching nothing but Mythbusters and it’s legitimate research.

If I had to say what I like least, perhaps it’s the inevitable fear, nay terror, that what you’re writing is simply not good but because you’re in love with your work you can’t see it, and no one else has the heart to tell the cute little “writer” that his work isn’t fit to line the bottom of a rabbit cage. We must fight through such fears and not listen to that Inner Critic. No matter what. Don’t listen.

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 tend to outline but not because I want to. I do it out of necessity. The story comes at me so fast, I must get it down as fast as possible. I tend to use a highly efficient combination of stream-of-consciousness rambling bashed into some sort of quasi-coherent outline format.

As for word or page counts, not really. It all depends on what stage of the project I’m in. Once I’m in the actual WRITING phase, where that quasi-coherent outline is my map and my faith that what I’m writing will be everything I hope it can be, then I write a lot, typically every day, and typically for many hours; whatever I can get in given the outside responsibilities life tends to throw at us. When I’m in this stage, my laptop goes everywhere I go.

4. Who are some other writers you read and admire, regardless of whether they are commercially “successful?”
My taste is quite varied. I grew up reading a ton of Stephen King. Carrie and Cujo and Christine and The Shining were all the rage, so I was reading that stuff when I was about 12 or so. Watching the movies, too. But I also enjoyed science fiction guys like Asimov and Bradbury, and fantasy too. I read Narnia three times. I read the Dragonlance Chronicles several times. More recently I became a huge Harry Potter fan. I loathed the little bastard when I first heard about him and saw the book on my mom’s shelf at her house. But when I began writing The Go-Kids, I turned to Harry Potter for research and wound up becoming a huge fan. So I’ve read that series three times. I also like Chuck Pahlaniuk, and Chuck Klosterman. Klosterman’s The Visible Man was probably my favorite book that I read in 2011. It’s one of those books I wish I had written. For 2012 I really loved Ready Player One by Ernst Cline.

I’ve also discovered a lot of indie authors whose work I enjoy. Michael Hicks’ In Her Name series is good. I like R.S. Guthrie’s writing a lot. Russell Blake is single-handedly taking over the spy/thriller genre. I like his Jet series. Reaper of Sorrows by James A. West brought me back to fantasy and made me a fan of his work. There are so many… I could go on and on.

5. Should the question mark in the above question be inside or outside the quotes?
Depends on who you ask. Most people say outside. Some people say inside. Which is why I asked the question.

6. What’s your stance on the Oxford Comma?
Whatever makes the writing clear. But it’s a stylistic choice.

7. What is your book EYE CANDY about and how did it come to fruition?
It’s essentially a love story set in a futuristic Los Angeles. A roboticist goes on a blind date with a robopsychologist and hijinks ensue. There’s a lot of cool futuristic stuff, as well as some serious relationship and philosophy stuff. It’s also about what it means to be a human being.

I began writing it in summer of 2011. I wrote the beginning while doing research (I love research), and got about 75,000 words in the bag before I had to take a break because we moved and big changes in life tend to put a dent in one’s creativity. I finally finished the manuscript in February 2013. The writing process was about a year. 

I also want to mention the cover art for the book. It features an original illustration by a wildly, wildly talented artist who goes by the name of Rahzzah. He and I brainstormed a few ideas and settled on one we both liked. He asked me a few questions about the characters and their physical characteristics, and he did the rest. I think it's positively brilliant. You can see more of his work on his Deviant Art Gallery. Check out Moon Girl, too. He did all the artwork. I don't read a lot of graphic novels or comics, but I read Moon Girl on my Kindle Fire and it was absolutely dazzling.

8. What’s your current writing project?
Don’t know yet. I have four different stories calling me at the moment. Three SciFi, one mainstream. I may take a break from the SciFi for a bit. We’ll see which squeaky wheel gets the grease.

9. What book(s) are you currently reading?
I just finished The Laws of the Ring by Urijah Faber. Enjoyed that immensely. Now I’m reading Mastery by Robert Greene. For some reason I seem to be in a non-fiction phase.

10. Who or what inspires your writing?
I get great inspiration from other writers and their books. But the initial idea for a novel can come from just about anywhere. A movie. A song. Just some random stuff going through my head while I’m driving or exercising. I get a lot of ideas while I’m working out, usually while running. Your mind goes into that zone where your body is on auto pilot and your mind is free to roam. I also get a lot of inspiration from my wife Taliya and our relationship. All kinds of things find their way into the writing. Such was certainly the case with Eye Candy. I dedicated the book to her.

Finally, is there anything you’d care to add? Please also include where people can read your published stories, buy your book, etc.
I want to offer a truly, truly heartfelt thank you to everyone who follows this blog and enjoys the Author Spotlights (I dig them, too!), as well as the folks on Twitter. I literally wouldn’t be where I am today without all of you. I hope you read and enjoy Eye Candy as much as I did when I discovered it through the writing of it. The eBook is available at Amazon now and the paperback will be for sale in about a month. is available HERE.