- Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?
Certainly, but first, I must say thank you for having me for the interview. I appreciate the opportunity very much.
I have been writing for quite a long time, but only until recently have I decided to go ahead with publishing my books. I started with a post apocalyptic (PA) series in 2010-2011, but I have decided to pull the electronic editions of those books in favor of making them free and using professional editing for my future for-sale books. Editing can really make your books shine, and I love the help a good editor can bring to the table.
I never submitted to traditional publishers or agents. I did send one letter out to an agent after I had released my third PA book, and still haven’t heard back from them. It was more of a “well, everybody does this, so let me see what it feels like” sort of thing. Not a “I must had a traditional publishing contract to feel validated” sort of thing, not in the least.
When I’m not writing, I’m either taking care of my daughter, spending time with my wife, trying to relax in my off time, or answering 911 calls at my day job. Being a police and fire dispatcher, I hear and work all sorts of situations, but I can’t bring myself to write any crime fiction. Maybe one day…
- What do you do when you are not writing?
Oh, dear, I’ve touched on that point a little already. I am a gamer by nature—video games, board games, even role playing games, and I enjoy spending time in those activities with friends near and far. Sorry, though, my preferred medium is still PC. I own an XBOX 360, but it plays more DVDs than video games lately.
Other than that, I have a very active one-year-old-approaching-two, and she keeps me busy most of the time. Every once in a while (usually late at night), we get some time to relax while she sleeps.
- Do you have a day job as well?
Yes, I’m an E911 dispatcher/communications officer, and I handle police, fire, and medical calls at my job. It’s high stress sometimes, but I really can’t see myself doing anything else. I’ve worked retail, food, manufacturing, and other jobs before, but my current job is unlike anything I’ve experienced before.
- When did you first start writing and when did you finish your first book?
My first stories were, like many others, done somewhere around my pre-teen to teen years. Even I didn’t like most of my writing back in those days, but we move forward and forget (read: burn, shred, or otherwise destroy) those old stories.
- How did you choose the genre you write in?
As I had touched on before, I enjoy role playing games in my spare time, and that usually involves epic fantasy in one way or another. Sometimes, it’s paranormal fantasy or paranormal horror, but fantasy dominates role playing games. As such, I enjoy thinking of fantastical places well beyond the confines and rules of our little world, and if I enjoy the stories, I find that others have a good time with them, too.
- Where do you get your ideas?
Ah, the ultimate question, the question that all writers fear (or loathe, or whichever). The easiest way to answer this is that the basic ideas—and sometimes the best ones—can be spontaneous. I may be walking down the sidewalk and see a scene, and then I might imagine the possibilities of that scene. A tree hanging over a road? What if there was a bandit on the limb with a bow? What if the tree itself was alive and grabbed that car as it passed?
Many of my thought processes and baseline plots begin with such a question. Then, I expand on the scenario until I either exhaust any depth of plot or find enough material worth writing about. The beginning question for The Circle of Sorcerers was: “What if sorcerers and priests—both magic uses, just of a different type—decided to go to war?” Then, that expanded into the protagonist, Laedron Telpist, a young sorcerer beginning his training and how he deals with the war (and everything else) once it begins.
- Do you ever experience writer’s block?
In a way, yes. Writer’s block with me is more a motivational issue. Some days I feel motivated to write, and some days I just can’t see to bring myself to do it. Since I write about three novels per year, it’s not a common problem most of the time, but when it hits, it hits hard. I could go two weeks producing 3,000-5,000 words per day, then I can’t write to save my life for a week. It comes in bursts sometimes, too.
- Do you work with an outline, or just write?
I do a little bit of both. At the beginning of this book, I just wrote by the seat of my pants. Then, I start taking notes as to where I want the plot to go, what will probably happen to the characters, and so forth. Sometimes my outlines go right out the window again when the characters do something unexpected or lead me somewhere I hadn’t anticipated. Sometimes those spontaneous ideas pop in and just ruin my well-thought-out (and usually more predictable) plot.
Of course, I have some things that I go by that are set in stone, like a world map or character histories; however, once they’re in the book and living their lives, it can be difficult to lead them where I want them to go.
- Is there any particular author or book that influenced you in any way either growing up or as an adult?
One of my favorite books of all time is The Giver by Lois Lowry. I’m not saying that I write anything like her, but it’s one of the books that made me love reading early in my life. To love writing, one should love reading—they are not mutually exclusive; in reality, they are mutually inclusive.
- Can you tell us about your challenges in getting your first book published?
Since I self-publish my work, the challenges that I face are getting the editing done and making sure the book is satisfactory between my editor and me. Then, the technical skills are pushed to their limits—formatting for Kindle, Nook, Smashwords, print (a separate process for hardcover and paperback), and audio book. Yes, with my fantasy series, I produce an audio book, also. I’ve been blessed by readers, and they’ve made it possible to release in all of these editions.
The cover design can be very tedious, pressing, stressful, and time-consuming. I could say, “Don’t judge a book by its cover,” but I’d be restating a dead and long-forgotten proverb. People do judge books by their cover, and in my personal, humble opinion, they should. If an author—self-published or not—produces a book, it is their responsibility to be professional, and professionalism demands attention to quality and detail in all aspects of a book, the cover included. That doesn’t mean everyone must love your book, but you should try to make every bit of it appealing.
- If you had to go back and do it all over, is there any aspect of your novel or getting it published that you would change?
Probably not, because that would indicate a sense of regret. I’ve made mistakes, that is certain and cannot be denied, but some of those mistakes resulted in wonderful things. Some say that my post apocalyptic books are horrible, but I met a number of readers who enjoyed them, too. The key to mistakes is owning those mistakes and using them to propel yourself forward. If I hadn’t made the mistakes I have, The Circle of Sorcerers wouldn’t have been the book that it is. The next book, Consuls of the Vicariate, wouldn’t be nearly as good and strong as it is.
- How do you market your work? What avenues have you found to work best for your genre?
Promotion is always a problem for anyone without vast budgets and a team. In order to fully understand and answer the question, I must mention the three kinds of promotion: advertising, publicity, and marketing.
I don’t do marketing, not really. Marketing activities fall into the “self-promotion” area along with the more forceful bits of selling one’s books. I’m of the mind that I don’t want to shove my book down someone’s throat. I don’t want to tell people, “Buy my book!” because, for one, that doesn’t really work well with fiction, and two, people won’t die if they don’t read my book. I understand and accept that, and that means I can’t blast it at them with a megaphone—it’s just not in my nature to do so. Some authors have had good luck with marketing and I don’t begrudge them for doing it, but it’s not something I’m terribly interested in doing. Marketing just feels way too imperative for what I’m trying to accomplish with my books.
Advertising, yes, I do some. My advertising budget is a couple hundred bucks a month, and it seems to have a little effect in getting people to check out my book trailer and retail pages on the various sites. It’s one of those little extra things that helps me get through between publicity activities. The one thing to remember about advertising: don’t expect it to pay for itself, don’t expect it to do all of the work for you, and don’t expect every click (or even 1 out of 100 clicks) to be a sale. Play it safe and be cautious in paying for big advertising, regardless of possibilities. Your stories should be fantastical, not your expectations.
Which leads me to publicity. In case you didn’t know, this is publicity. Giving interviews, sending out review copies and making connections with book bloggers, and chatting with people on Facebook and Twitter. All of those are publicity activities, and they’re the things I enjoy most. I enjoy them because I like connecting with people who enjoy books, and if they like my book, even more the better. The thing to remember about publicity is to keep it natural. People don’t like connecting with robots who post the same things over and over again (like “Buy my book!”). Instead, people enjoy connecting with someone real, someone who shares their passions and interests.
- Have you written a book you love that you have not been able to get published?
With self-publishing, this becomes less of a problem. For those struggling with the issue, even those who have self-published, I could understand the pain and the anxiety. When I first started, I wasn’t interested in traditional deals. They had big contracts, poor advances, and you lose control once you sign up. Yes, you get your book on a shelf, and yes, they’ll help you promote (some), but it’s all about your priorities and goals. My goal was to simply distribute my works, and traditional publishing was the long, scenic way to my goal. Therefore, self-publishing was preferable in every way.
- Can you tell us about your upcoming book?
The next book is the next in this series, and it is entitled The Consuls of the Vicariate. It continues the journey of Laedron and his friends in the land of the Heraldan Theocracy, the church lands in the fictional world of the Bloodmyr Isles. It’s sort of a behind-enemy-lines look at how Laedron and his associates deal with restoring balance to the chaos and try to end the war.
- Is anything in your book based on real life experiences or purely all imagination?
Without real-life experience, we cannot write real characters. As such, everything has a piece of the author attached, like it or not. The gift of a great writer is being able to mask himself through his craft and produce an enjoyable, entertaining story. The author shouldn’t get in the way of the storyline regardless of the point he may be trying to make because it will come across as contrived and empty to the reader.
- What was your favorite chapter (or part) to write and why?
I enjoy writing the action scenes the most—particularly, I enjoyed writing the fight between Laedron and Gustav in the first book, and second to that, the character’s perception of their environments. It’s really a balancing act to achieve immersion, good flow, good plot, and good characters all at the same time because including too much for immersion can make the flow drag, making the plot too elaborate can make people roll their eyes, and character development can also drag the flow if what they’re doing isn’t important to the plot or the story whatsoever.
- How did you come up with the title?
The title, The Circle of Sorcerers, is the name of one of the organizations to which Laedron belongs, along with all of his mage friends. The Consuls of the Vicariate is named for the priests—who have risen through the hierarchy to the rank of Consul—and the traditional name of the center of the church’s authority in Bloodmyr, the Vicariate.
- What project are you working on now?
The Consuls of the Vicariate, and it is due to go into editing by the end of January.
- Will you have a new book coming out soon?
Yes, if editing goes well, Consuls will go to publication in February, and the audiobook will probably come out in March. After that, it’s on to book #3 of this series, most likely to be entitled The Immortals of Myrdwyer (but, not set in stone yet).
- Are there certain characters you would like to go back to, or is there a theme or idea you’d love to work with?
At some point in the future, I have plans to write a series about vampires, but before you give me funny looks, it’s nothing like Twilight. I’m more of the Anne Rice school of vampires, maybe with a sprinkling of the original Bram Stoker. I will probably stick with fantasy for a while, but I’m keeping that paranormal horror option tucked away in the back of my mind.
- What has been the toughest criticism given to you as an author? What has been the best compliment?
Being someone who writes and then puts that work out for public consumption isn’t an easy task, not in the least. When criticism is given in a useful, constructive way, I have no problems taking that and running with it. However, there are times that make you question if you’re doing the right thing, and when bad reviews come in, you have no choice but to grunt and bear them. Take what you can and move forward because you have to accept that you’ll be judged in the rawest ways when you put out your books for the public—and, especially, the Internet.
The toughest moment? Your first bashing is always going to be the hardest to take. And they will bash you. Someone will get your book and hate it if you’re doing it right; in other words, if your book is getting into people’s hands and they’re reading it, you’ll find people who hate it. They’ll be vocal, they’ll tear it to shreds. The comments will sting.
Each time after that, it hurts a little less. Someone once told me that to be an author, you have to have thick skin and roll with the punches. On the contrary, I think you have to move past them. The hurt is natural, and if you don’t feel the sting, you’ll never be great because if you don’t experience the pain of your mistakes, you won’t grow. A lack of growth is paramount to the end of your ability to do anything great with your life, so don’t be callous. Don’t block out the pain and anguish because someone didn’t like your work. Take that pain, use it, and become a better writer. All writers get negative reviews. It’s a part of life.
Beyond that, remember that reviews are subjective. You may get a million reviews, but someone, somewhere out there will take your book and embrace it. Someone out there will love it, you just have to give it time and attention.
The best complement I get comes each new time someone contacts me on Facebook, Twitter, or by email and says, “Hey, I tried out this book of yours. I really enjoyed it! Keep up the good work!” My latest message like that represents my best complement because it means that someone new, someone I’ve never met before, took a chance on my book and liked it, and they liked it enough to let me know that. I cherish such things.
- Do you have any advice to give to aspiring writers?
After everything I’ve said above, you’d think I’d be out of things to say by now. One last tip, then. When someone points at you and calls your book (or you, in some cases) trash or garbage, remember that you can only be defeated if you defeat yourself. If you give up, your enemies are right, and they win. Writing is an uphill struggle, and your next work will be your best. The next after that will be better. Keep slugging up that hill and don’t let others pull you down, no matter what.
- Is there anything that you would like to say to your readers and fans?
Yes, of course. Thank you. Thank you, a million times over—no, a billion times over. My readers and fans are the ones who have made everything possible. They ensure that I can keep new material coming, and their encouragement keeps me going when things seem grim. Without them, my books would be just a sitting around collecting dust. Instead, my fans and readers have taken a chance, picked up my book, and the characters, the places, and the stories live in their memories. They bring my work to life in a way that I could never hope to accomplish by myself.
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