Author Interviews, Blog, Sweet Romance Blog

Author Interview: Susan Berry, Romance

“Susan Berry spent her free time with her beloved grandmother, reading the latest novels they’d retrieved from a used book store, or the local second hand shop. That reading eventually turned into the writing of her own romance novels. Novels filled with characters who have not yet found love, but eventually find a way to overcome romantic troubles with humor, wit, and the consumption of lots and lots of chocolate.”

View her book tour page here.

How long did it take you to finish your first book?

Author:   My first book, Dance of the Heart, took me two years to write. I’m a single mother of two, and I wrote mostly while my children were asleep at night. And I probably could have finished it sooner, but I was having too much fun getting to know my heroine, Maggie. She is so funny, accident prone just like me, and someone I’d love to be friends with. She’s faced a heartbreaking tragedy in her life, but found a way to overcome every obstacle that stood in her way and eventually found true love.

How do you define success as an author?

Author:   To me, success as an author isn’t so much about monetary gains as it is about enjoyment. The enjoyment of putting on paper the characters that live in my mind, and having someone leave positive reviews, or reach out to me because they felt a connection with that character. Being an author really is so much more than writing books. It’s a shared experience between the writer and reader, that leaves each bonded to the other, and something I thoroughly enjoy.

After a distasteful first meeting, and a rocky start to their romance, Maggie Kinsley has been happily married to Desmond for the last eleven months. And although she was often alone when he traveled for business, she rather enjoyed how he passionately greeted her when returning home.

So when he received a letter naming him as executor of a property that belonged to a deceased family friend and had to leave for a few weeks, Maggie should have been content as she kissed him goodbye. But there was something about the whole thing that made her uneasy. Why was Desmond so evasive with her when she asked him about the previous owner.

Have you always read in the genre you wanted to write in? Do you think that’s made it easier or harder to create new stories?

Author:   Yes, I have always read in the genre I write in. Harlequin romances are some of my favorites. The first one I ever read was given to me by my grandmother when I was ten-years-old. Since I enjoyed it so much, she would take me every weekend to cruise the second hand shops or discount book stores in our town to search for more. My Grandmother  passed away before I wrote my first novel. But I believe she would have enjoyed reading my stories, and I think of her every time one is published. Love you, Gram!

What has been the hardest thing to overcome on your journey to authorship?

Author:   One of the hardest things to overcome on my journey to authorship was self-doubt. Like most women, I’ve faced hardships in my life, which included an accident that left me a paraplegic. But nothing compared to the insecurity I felt when my first book was published. I held my breath as I freed my character from the confines of my computer. And I can still remember the first time a reader said how much they enjoyed my book, and couldn’t wait to read the next one. My smile could have lit up the room. And I still feel that way each and every time a reader reaches out to me. I’m so very thankful, and humbled, by their support and encouragement.

How do you combat writer’s block?

AuthorWriter’s block is something that every author faces and not easily combated. For me, I usually start by taking a break and eating a few pieces of chocolate. Ok…a lot of chocolate.  And truth be told, I’m a firm believer that chocolate could solve any problem and may even be the answer to world peace! After the chocolate is depleted, and I still can’t focus my imagination, I’ll open a new word doc and write anything my mind conjures up—clean out the clutter so I can get back to my characters. That usually does the trick. And what do I do to mark my success at defeating writer’s block? You guessed it…more chocolate, of course.

Do you have any tips or recommendations for those who want to go the final step and become authors?

Author:   My tip for those who want to take the final steps and become an author is…go for it! You are unique and so will be the stories you’ll write. Write every chance you get about anything that inspires you. And don’t let anyone tell you that you’re not good enough. Reach out to other authors for advice and ask lots of questions. Join author groups on social media platforms like Facebook. Eventually your confidence will catch up with your talent and your first book will be published.

 What do you listen to while you write?

AuthorI love to write in the spring and summer time with my window open and listen to the sound of the wind blowing through the trees, or the rain falling on my walkway. In the fall and winter, when my window is closed, I enjoy the colorful leaves or the snow fall. For me, having music playing is too much of a distraction as I find my self signing more than writing!

Susan’s latest book is the clean romance suspense, Promise of the Heart.

You can visit her website at https://www.SusanBerryauthor.com   or connect with her on TwitterFacebook and Goodreads.

Author Interviews, Blog, Sci-Fi Fantasy Blog

Author Interview: E J Fisch, Science Fiction

Hi! I’m EJ Fisch—author, artist, gamer, and overall nerd. First and foremost, I write science fiction, but all of my sci-fi has a thriller twist. After all, they say you should write what you like to read, and those are my two favorite genres.

I most recently published Embers (Feb. 22, 2022), the fifth installment in my character-driven space opera/spy thriller series. It felt SO good to finally get to share five books’ worth of character development with readers and bring the series to a satisfying close…for now, at least.    

From Planning to Published

When did you start writing and why?

Author: I’ve enjoyed telling stories for just about as long as I can remember, and I dabbled in writing as long ago as elementary school. I started writing more seriously in junior high; a couple of friends and I had a goofy Star Wars roleplaying game going via AOL instant messenger, and I’d take the transcripts from our chats and type them up as actual prose. Star Wars had already sparked my love of sci-fi many years earlier, so it was at that point that I started wanting to develop deeper, more complex stories in this genre where there were virtually limitless possibilities and my imagination could run wild. Ever since then, I constantly have new characters and ideas brewing in the back of my mind, so writing (and subsequently publishing and sharing those ideas with others) is a perfect outlet.    

If you’ve published, how long did your first book take?

Author: I want to say my first book took me about 10 months to write. Back then, I was writing totally for my own enjoyment and had no plans to ever publish, so I didn’t keep track of time very well. I actually wrote the majority of it during my senior year of high school and into early college. Then it sat and gathered dust until the spring of 2014, at which point I’d already completed the second book in the series and was well into plotting the third. It finally struck me that I’d put all of this work into these stories only to hide them from the world. That was when I decided to pursue publishing; I took a few months to go back and revise and spruce up the first book (it needed some MAJOR work), and then dove in.    

Are you indie, traditional, hybrid, or vanity, and why?

Author: I am 100% indie. Self-published, to be exact, and not afraid to admit it. I saw a post on Twitter the other day asking self-pubbed authors whether they went that route solely so they could just get their work out there. Not gonna lie—that’s definitely part of it, but it’s only the tip of the iceberg. I chose to self-publish so I could maintain complete control of my work. Not only am I guaranteed to be able to share my stories with other people (even if readership is low), but I can stick to my own schedule. I can design my covers how I want. I can format both my ebooks and physical copies how I want. I can market how I want. I can tell the story I want to tell, and I can keep producing regardless of how a given book performs. Yeah, it takes a lot of extra work, but I can’t imagine leaving those things in someone else’s hands. I’m a strong advocate for eliminating the stigma surrounding self-publishing. There are a ton of incredibly talented writers out there who have chosen to go this route for many of the same reasons I have.   

What platforms do you use to publish your works?

Author: I started out publishing exclusively on Amazon and made use of their Kindle Unlimited program. Then about 3 years ago, I made the switch to wide distribution. Now, my work is available at all the major retailers—Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Apple, Google Play—as well as a number of smaller international retailers. KU/Amazon-exclusivity is so great in some ways and so limiting in others; I’m glad I made the switch.   

Lieutenant Aroska Tarbic is an agent with the revered Haphezian Special Police. He’s lost a lot in a short period of time; the other members of his squad were killed in a tragic accident, and his younger brother was wrongfully convicted and executed for a crime he didn’t commit. Just when Aroska thinks he’s starting to piece his life back together, he’s assigned to a joint task force with a special operations team. It seems like a unique opportunity, at least until he learns his new commander is none other than Ziva Payvan, HSP’s finest operative…and the assassin who killed his brother.

Marketing

How do you define success as an author?

Author: Personally, every single sale is a small win for me. I started this little venture just wanting to share my work with others, so each sale represents a new person to share it with. It’s an even bigger win if those people enjoy the story and leave a nice review, or even better, when they reach out via email. No joke, I’ve had a few people send me a simple, quick email over the years just letting me know they enjoyed one of my books, and without fail, it makes me cry (never underestimate how much it means to an author to hear directly from a reader!). This happened most recently after I published Embers, which was already a very emotional project for me, so the simple message meant even more. I think I’d rather have 50 close-knit, enthusiastic, engaged readers who love my characters and stories than 50,000 random strangers who read the books, aren’t impacted in any way, and just move on with their lives. Of course not every writer is going to define success the same way, but that’s my definition.

And then I know I’ve really made it when people create artwork of my characters unprompted, or when people tell me my MC has showed up in their dreams (welcome to my life), or when people leave 5-star reviews saying they were traumatized by one of my book endings and will need to seek professional help 😉

About Your Work

What genres and subgenres do you write in?

Author: I write sci-fi with a lighter, more space opera/space fantasy feel. Not only is that what I’m more comfortable writing, but it has ended up making my books more accessible to people who don’t always read sci-fi—you don’t have to be a hardcore science fiction nerd to understand and enjoy them. I also like to incorporate thriller elements into my sci-fi settings. The main characters in my series are members of a superhuman race who form a special operations team for the primary law enforcement agency on their homeworld, so it ends up being kind of a cross between spy thriller and military thriller. You’ve got your space travel, futuristic weapons, and advanced technology, but also assassins, espionage, conspiracies, and so much more. It has been a really fun combination of genres to work with. One of the future stories I have planned takes place in the same universe as my main series but will have a little bit more of a post-apocalyptic flair.      

What is your author brand (genre, mood, image, theme, message, etc)? How did you decide on it?

Author: When I first started out, I almost exclusively let my books define my brand, which I eventually learned was a mistake because series grow and change over time. It wasn’t long before my banners, logos, business cards, etc. were outdated, and I also didn’t want to be limited to just one story/series. A couple of years ago, I began using a new, more generic logo that consists of simple shapes and colors but still has a very “spacey” look. Space-related backgrounds set the atmosphere without detracting from whatever is in the foreground. I use a lot of reds in my designs, partially because red is my favorite color, and partially because it’s very befitting of my series namesake character. When paired with my logo, my tagline—“Imagination At Work”—elicits the idea of an expansive, exciting universe, but that phrase itself doesn’t limit me to any particular sub-genre. I use the same font for all my logos, book titles, chapter headings, etc.—it’s strong and crisp and has an adequate futuristic look while still being clear and readable. The idea was to create consistency across my whole platform—everything from the books themselves to my website and social media—while avoiding constraints that would warrant another re-brand a couple of years down the road.

How many works have you published?

Author: I’ve published 5 primary works. My Ziva Payvan series consists of a main trilogy (Dakiti, Nexus, and Ronan) as well as a duology (Fracture and Embers). While technically books #4 and #5 of the overall series, Fracture and Embers are kind of a collective sequel to the trilogy and can serve as a jumping-in point for new readers. The journey the characters go on throughout the series was so much fun to engineer. All 5 books are available in ebook and paperback formats, and excerpts from each are available to read on my website.

I’ve also published an ebook-exclusive omnibus that includes the first 3 books as well as some character interviews and sneak peeks. Dakiti is also featured in Forged from the Stars, a collection that also includes first-in-series sci-fi novels by authors G.S. Jennsen and Tammy Salyer.       

Can you tell us a bit about your most recent publication?

Author: Embers was released this past February and is the final book in the current story arc (the plan is for all my future work to take place in this same galaxy, but everything will either be brand new material with the same characters, or a completely different spin-off). It’s very much a culmination of everything that has happened since the start of the series and has a huge emotional payout for the characters (and readers too, I hope!). Ziva, my main (anti)heroine, goes on such a journey over the course of the story, and it felt so good to bring that journey to a realistic and satisfying conclusion. In the book, she and my other characters find themselves caught up in what is essentially an interstellar gang war, all while hashing out the issues that have plagued them for the last couple of books and dealing with their own personal demons    

Name some common elements in your writing: villains, magic, red-herring twists, the unfortunate ensign, mysterious phenomena, asyndeton, sentence fragments etc.

Author: I of course try to make each of my books unique in their own way, so the characters aren’t always facing the exact same problems, the antagonists don’t always have the same motivations, etc. But in general, my work always includes very strong—and often somewhat complicated—character relationships, regardless of the nature of those relationships. Trust is a major recurring theme throughout the series.

In terms of the writing itself, I’m not ashamed to admit I use a lot of sentence fragments for stylistic purposes—emphasis, dramatic effect, replicating the way people talk, etc. As you may have noticed throughout this interview, I’m also a huge fan of em dashes 😉

What was your first goal when you started your journey to becoming an author? Has that changed?

Author: When I first started, my one and only goal was to simply share my work with others and quit keeping it hidden. On the whole, that’s still my primary goal; if a few people out there enjoy my stories and fall in love with the characters, that’s a win for me. I think every author—especially us indies—wishes they could make more sales and reach more readers, and I’m no different in that regard. But if I ever find myself getting frustrated with lack of sales and lack of reach, I just remind myself why I started doing this in the first place. A few extra bucks in my pocket is nice, but that wasn’t the initial goal. And like I mentioned earlier, I can keep writing and creating regardless of how many sales I have.    

Have you always read in the genre you wanted to write in? Do you think that’s made it easier or harder to create new stories?

Author: Sci-fi and thrillers are the two genres I’ve primarily read over the years, and in many cases (especially on the sci-fi side) that has been really helpful for me when it comes to creating my own stories. I tend to not enjoy reading really heavy, hard science fiction as much, but I also don’t care for it if it’s overly simplified. That has helped me kind of find a balance between the science and the fiction in my own work—I can write the level of sci-fi that I’m comfortable with and that I enjoy reading. Plus, since sci-fi is such an age-old genre, I have a lot of material to draw from in terms of what classic tropes I might want to include, or which clichéd ones I might want to avoid.

On the thriller side, reading that genre has helped more with overall story structure—the way problems are introduced, how a conspiracy unravels, etc. It’s a good way to study pacing.  

What is your writing process, from idea to polished work? Pantster? Plotter? How long does that typically take you?

Author: I am 100% a plotter. I’ve given pantsing my best shot and failed miserably. Whenever I have new ideas brewing, I always start by just jotting down some rudimentary bullet points. Just recently, I experimented a little with writing things out in a more prose-like manner (“So there’s this planet…”) as if I were explaining the ideas to myself. I ask myself questions and branch off if I’m not sure which direction I want the story to go. Eventually I’ll end up with basic bullet points for the entire story, at which point I’ll start breaking them up roughly by chapter get a little more in-depth with my outline. I often continue building on the outline even after I’ve begun drafting, especially if I have notes for continuity-related details I don’t want to forget.

This will sound terrible, but I actually have no idea how long all of this takes. The outlining for my early books took place back when I wasn’t keeping track of time at all (I can’t remember if I even used an outline for the first book), and my last 2 books have been written in the midst of my day job, so everything moves at a snail’s pace. It never fails that the outline comes together fairly quickly, especially if I can gain some momentum, and then it takes me forever to actually write the story.      

Where do you network most with other writers, authors, and creative types? LinkedIn? Wattpad? Twitter? Facebook? Somewhere else?

Author: I’m definitely most active on Twitter. I do a little networking on Instagram, and a little less on Facebook, but Twitter is where the majority of the meaningful interaction takes place.    

Struggles

Do you have any tips or recommendations for those who want to go the final step and become authors?

Author: I can’t speak for the querying/trad-pub process, but if you’re opting to go indie, and especially if you’re wanting to self-publish, my biggest piece of advice is to take your time. Do your research. Build your platform. Make sure your work is the absolute best it can be. If you want/need to hire an editor and/or cover designer and/or formatter, ask around in the community to find people who are a good fit for you. If you’re going to be doing your cover and formatting yourself, study other well-performing books in your genre and see what makes them shine (fonts, color schemes, etc.). If you make friends and build hype in the writing community well before your book is out, chances are you’ll have pretty good readership right off the bat when you launch. Some of those new friends may even serve as beta readers who can offer feedback and help you polish your story.

I say all of this as someone who got way too excited upon finally deciding to publish and rushed things. Frankly, my first book was not the best it could be when I published it (luckily it’s easy to correct typos and upload a fresh document to Amazon). I had no platform whatsoever other than the few people I knew in real life who’d found out I was about to publish. In the intervening years, I’ve redone all my covers and formatting, and I can’t help but wonder how much better all of my books would’ve performed if I’d done those things from the start.

So in short, I know it’s exciting, and it’s easy to get caught up in the fun and the hype. But step back, take a breath, and have patience—take the time necessary to create the most professional product you can, and you’ll be so much better off. Start strong.  

Are you a driven & self-advocating author, a gun-shy promoter, or a total marketing procrastinator?

Author: I’m definitely somewhere between “gun-shy promoter” and “total marketing procrastinator.” I LOVE creating spiffy promotional graphics for my work and sharing them, but I hate feeling like I’m being obnoxious. If I’m running a sale, I tend to post a fun graphic with all the relevant info and links, pin it to the top of my social media, and then sit back and simply hope people see it. I’ve always hated saying, “Hey, buy my books!” (no matter how nice I try to make it sound LOL) even if that’s exactly what I want to happen.   

Fun Stuff

What do you listen to while you write?

Author: I usually don’t listen to anything while I write—I don’t mind some ambient noise, but any type of music tends to be too distracting. Music usually comes later during the revision/proofreading process. I love instrumental music like movie scores, Two Steps From Hell, and Audiomachine, but at this point I’ve listened to all of that stuff so often that my brain forms associations with too much of the music and it’s just as distracting as lyrics would be. I do really like Ambience Lab on YouTube—there are a bunch of genre-specific ambience videos so it’s really fun to find some sci-fi related ones and get totally immersed in my work.    

What have you learned about yourself from the writing and/or authorship process?

Author: I’ve known for a long time that I’m the World’s Biggest Introvert™, and I was just musing the other day about how that means I want recognition for my work and accomplishments but still hate being in the spotlight at all. I imagine I’m not alone in this—it seems like the vast majority of writers tend to have introverted personalities. This whole publishing adventure has forced me to maintain a certain level of self-awareness; in order to see any success, I’ve had to step out of my comfort zone to varying degrees over the years. It can be challenging, and sometimes it’s not very fun, but I think it’s been good for me nonetheless.

What is your favorite writing snack and drink?

Author: I tend to like hard candy that I can suck on absentmindedly while mulling things over—Jolly Ranchers or Gobstoppers are a solid choice on that front (pro tip: don’t eat an entire can of Ice Breakers mints in one sitting or your mouth will be raw for days). If it’s the weekend, you can bet I’ll have an ice-cold Dr. Pepper within reach—otherwise, it’s usually flavored water or Gatorade. In the colder weather, no writing session is complete without a mug of hot chocolate with a melted candy cane in it!    

You can find me on all the major social media platforms—I’m most active on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook. Hit me up! I always love chatting with readers and other writers, even if it’s about non-writing-related mutual interests like video games and movies.

Visit my website—www.ejfisch.com—to find everything you need to know about my work. Read excerpts from each book, find retailer links, check out concept art, and more.

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Author Interviews, Blog, Sci-Fi Fantasy Blog

Author Interview: Sonja Hutchinson, Fantasy/ Science Fiction/ Mystery/ Paranormal/ LitRPG

I’m Sonja Hutchinson. I’ve written seventeen books in the genres of fantasy, urban fantasy, science fiction, mystery, paranormal suspense, and LitRPG, but currently, only three of the Bond-Wolf Series (epic fantasy) are available on Amazon. I’m working on book four of that series, and it should be available at the end of summer 2022. I once tried to write a romance, but after copious amounts of chocolate and coffee, the urge to finish that piece blew away.

From Planning to Published

When did you start writing and why?

Author:    I began writing in 2000 after my first son was born. I had an idea for a story and ran with it while he slept. Then two more boys came along, and I had to take a break from writing to keep them all alive. That was my full-time endeavor. When they were big enough to be moderately unsupervised, I returned to writing.

How long did it take you to finish your first book?

Author:      It took ages LOL. I finished the first draft in nine months, then began editing. I hired a professional to help me with that process and ended up re-writing the entire book.  I moved on to other projects, but between them I went back and re-wrote that first book several more times. The final version is now published as  Voice of the Just.

Are you indie, traditional, hybrid, or vanity, and why?

Author:      I’m an indie author through Amazon.

How do you get critiques, betas, feedback, and edits?

Author:      I have a team of three amazing critique partners. When I reach chapter ten, I send them all chapter one. They push me to stay ahead of them and help with things like pacing, typos, character motivations, and general cheerleading functions. Once the book is finished, polished, and ready for publication, I have another team of betas who give me general feedback (did they like it, is the ending satisfying, is it truly ready for publication, etc.).

Marketing

Do you have a platform? What does it consist of?

Author:      Marketing is the area I struggle with the most. It’s one thing to identify my target audience and another to reach them (plus the whole idea of “I made something, please buy it!” grates against something within me). But it’s a necessary evil if I want people to enjoy my books, so I’ve given it a minimal shot. I use the basic Amazon tools (key words), Twitter, and Facebook to advertise, and I’ve had good success with Kindle Unlimited.

How do you get reviews for your books?

Author:      My beta readers review my books. I’ve found a few book review sites but haven’t used them yet.

About Your Work

What type of content do you write and why? Fiction Novels? Poems? Songs? Screenplays? Short Stories? Epic?

Author:      My favorite genre to read and write is fantasy, but I enjoy too many others to stick with just one. I’ve got a paranormal suspense series I’ll be self-publishing soon, and I’m currently querying agents with a sci-fi piece and an urban fantasy to try the traditional publishing route.

What part of the author process are you working on or studying most now?

Author:      For the past year I’ve been working on mastering Deep POV, a method of limiting narrative voice to funnel readers directly into a character’s heart and mind. I’m still working on the technique, but I love the outcome so far. I should devote more time to marketing, but I don’t want to LOL.

What has been your favorite part of the writing and querying or publishing process?

Author:      I love creating new characters, plotting their adventures, and writing that first rough draft. I also love brainstorming sessions with my writer friends, either on my work or theirs. Sometimes a ten-minute collaboration with a friend can stir the creativity to new heights and fuel a marathon writing session, and nothing beats that rush.

Have you always read in the genre you wanted to write in? Do you think that’s made it easier or harder to create new stories?

Author:      I’m a voracious reader in multiple genres, but fantasy and mystery are my favorites. Goodreads informs me when my go-to authors have a new book out, and I’ve usually got 12-15 books in my to-be-read pile–usually e-books, but sometimes I bring home real library books. As far as creating new stories, I’ve never had a problem coming up with ideas. I’ve got a notebook for jotting down promising bits of dialogue or what-if questions that could someday resemble a plot, and my series characters could continue having adventures as long as I keep writing.

What is your writing process, from idea to polished work? Pantster? Plotter? How long does that typically take you?

Author:      I’m a plotter, but I don’t have the same method for each book. Some begin with the idea of a character in crisis, and the plot springs from that. Once I came up with a fantastic first line and plotted an entire book around that sentence. Most of my books begin with an ending (like a murder mystery), and I plot around that climax, creating all the characters needed to make it happen. One time, I tried pantsing. It was a disaster LOL. I ended up stopping before the end of Act I and planning the rest of the structure before continuing—and quite a bit of the beginning was trashed.

Where do you network most with other writers, authors, and creative types? LinkedIn? Wattpad? Twitter? Facebook? Somewhere else?

Author:      Twitter and Facebook are my go-to for networking now, but before the pandemic, I also attended a writer’s conference once a year. I found my first critique partner at one. I’ve also met several of my favorite authors in person at conferences and connected with a man who later became a good friend and co-wrote a book with me. I’m hoping that book (a LitRPG) will be self-published this year. He’s much better at marketing than I am, so fingers crossed!

Do you sprint-write like a starving cheetah, or are you a totally chill turtle writer? Somewhere in between?

Author:      I usually write six days a week, sometimes seven, for 4-6 hours per day. Sundays I only get in 1 or 2 hours before church. Occasionally I need a break and take a day or two off, but I’ve got a weekly word count goal that I don’t like to miss.

I’ll admit, I’ve been known to procrastinate J  It happens to us all. Sometimes I get bogged down and don’t know how I’m going to get to the next plot point, and that’s when I brainstorm with an author friend. Video conferencing is a fabulous tool! And sometimes, I worry that my story is boring, and readers won’t like it, and the only way out of that vortex of depression is to call my best author friend and let her talk me out of it.

Struggles

How has the writing and querying or publishing process affected you emotionally? Do you have any tips for budding writers?

Author:      I actively queried eight books over a span of 16 years and have over 450 rejections, some of them on paper from back in the days before e-queries. Who else remembers SASEs? LOL. Every one of those rejections hurt like an icepick to the chest. I’d allow myself a few minutes to grieve, have a chocolate, then spend some time playing with my children before moving on to the next project, book, or agent. All these years later, the rejections don’t sting quite so much as they used to, and the kids are grown so there’s no need for play breaks unless I want them J

This process can be So Depressing! It’s long and difficult with incredibly low odds of nailing a traditional publishing house contract. But I’m too stubborn to ever give up, and I couldn’t quit writing if I tried, so I keep pressing forward. I still query sometimes, even though I’ve decided to self-publish most of my works. 

Tips for budding writers: Don’t give up! You can’t do anything with a half-finished product, so finish the book. Then find critique partners or a professional editor to help with the edits. Study craft books to improve your techniques. Reach out to other authors for assistance–you’ll never find a helper if you don’t advertise your need for one. Get involved in writing communities on social media to make connections. Lastly, READ. A lot. Mostly in your genre, but also in others. Read new stuff that comes out so you can follow the market, and study how that author moved you with the prose.

How do you combat writer’s block?

Author:      I have a couple of methods. The first is to back up in the story, maybe just a few pages, or maybe a few chapters, and do something different with the characters. Make different choices for their forward progress—or even opposite choices. Do something unexpected, or dangerous, or ridiculously silly. It might not work, but then again, it might spur a fabulous idea.

My second method is to reach out to my author friend and ask for a brainstorming session. She’s fabulous at coming up with things I’d have never dreamed of. *Spoiler alert, don’t read this next bit if you want to read my books* Once I told her, “I don’t know what happens next. Alex killed redacted”—and Writer Friend said, “Did he? Are you sure he’s dead?” That little comment spurred a sub-plot that now stretches across multiple books.

Fun Stuff

What do you listen to while you write?

Author:      Nothing. I need silence. Though the washer and dryer are usually running, but they don’t count.

Where do you write your stories? A tiny office? A loft? The kitchen table? In the bushes while you secretly people-watch like a total creeper? Or a warm café with mocha in hand and feet up on an ottoman?

Author:      I have a basement office with a huge wrap-around desk for spreading out all my notes, reference books, charts, maps, tablets, and coffee. I’ve been making an effort to go paperless to get rid of these thousands of sticky notes, sheets of paper, and 3×5 cards, but I haven’t succeeded yet. I’ve tried writing in other places (like a coffee shop), but it doesn’t work. A crowded place is too noisy, and I don’t have all my notes and references.

What book are you reading at the moment?

Author:      I just finished Divergent by Veronica Roth and The Dark Hours by Michael Connelly. Up next on the to-be-read pile is The Match by Harlan Coben and Blue Moon (Jack Reacher #24) by Lee Child.

Do you have a writing companion?

Author:      I have a best friend who’s an author. We chat every day, edit each other’s work, brainstorm problems, and push each other to stop procrastinating LOL. I have another friend I co-wrote a book with, and we’re trying to work on a sequel.

I have a website: sonjahutchinson.com.

I’m also active on Twitter @sonjahutchinson.

See Sonja’s books on Amazon

Author Interviews, Blog, Sci-Fi Fantasy Blog

Author Interview: Davene Le Grange, Sci-Fi Fantasy/ Poetry

Hi, I am Davene Le Grange, a Sci-fi Fantasy Author and Poet. I am currently working on a multi-genre 1,200 poems project. The first book in my twelve-book poetry series (inspired by cyberpunk and steampunk) includes almost every punk genre.

From Planning to Published

When did you start writing and why?

Author:      My poem “Once Upon A Butterfly” was published in 2007, but it wasn’t until 2016 that I wrote to publish novels. My husband and the film “Arrival” directed by Denis Villeneuve inspired me to start writing. I wrote “Éatheria: Logbook 1” and the overview for a series of seven dark sci-fi fantasy books, which I hope to complete and publish after some more world-building, rewriting, and editing. 

Marketing

How do you get reviews for your books?

Author:      I typically reach out to friends and family first (recently via my newsletter) to request spreading the word, I will then go onto social media platforms such as Twitter and Instagram to promote my works (as well as the works of my fellow authors involved in anthologies), and also update my author website.

How do you promote your content?

Author:      I did, following the recommendations of fellow authors on social media, try promotional sites, but quickly learnt that there is a lot of controversy on which sites are scams, cons, and that even the generally accepted sites are also sometimes called into question. I am grateful to have come across ALLi which investigates which sites to watch out for, because experience has taught me that even if you think you’re doing everything correct and doing your utmost to adhere to Amazon’s terms, reviews can still be called into question.

How do you define success as an author?

Author:      I have learnt that reviews don’t accurately portray the quality of a book. If what I’ve seen fellow authors share online to be true then a high number of reviews or five-star ratings can stem from large online writer groups, some authors having the ability to spend more on marketing, or sadly when readers are attacked by authors for leaving an honest rating that is below three stars. I myself would rather not rate or even read a book if I feel the quality falls below 3 stars. Follower counters also don’t equate to sales, and I don’t believe that reviews equate to actual success. True success will always be the genuine friends and connections a person makes, and there are no short cuts in the forming of strong bonds between an author and their fellow authors and readers.

About Your Work

What is your author brand (genre, mood, image, theme, message, etc)? How did you decide on it?

Author:     As a versatile person, I am still working on my author brand, but overall, I root for diversity, and would like to leave a lasting message of love, peace, and hope. I’m still discovering who I am as a person, and again rarely confine myself to any one particular label as I don’t like to limit myself. I am full of ideas all the time, my biggest challenge is keeping focused, but as I am still experimenting with finding my true passion project, I’m just enjoying living and discovering.

How many works have you published?

Author:      I have had five works published so far.  I have three short stories in three different anthologies: Broadcast 2220 in Arc City Stories (Todd Cinani as Lead Writer), The Spherical Realms and Penumbra and Luster in The Theater of Nok-Mondu, and The Undercover Goth in Neon Digital Darkness (James L. Graetz as Lead Writer). I also have my poem Once Upon A Butterfly published in Away With Words: Inspirations from Europe (Edited by Claire Tupholme), and have a self-published poetry book The Cyber Punk: Ready-2-Play?

Name some common elements in your writing: villains, magic, red-herring twists, the unfortunate ensign, mysterious phenomena, asyndeton, sentence fragments etc.

Author:      Other than my focus on colorful imagery and diverse world-building, a common element I have noticed in my writing is a main character that questions if their actions are truly good. I personally find it very important to constantly question if I’m on the correct path and to challenge myself to see a situation from other perspectives.

What do you want your readers to get out of your works?

Author:      Cautionary tales for what people build as well as inspiration to build a better world for future generations. My stories are by nature experimental, and I’m happy if they inspire at least one person to push forward with a new idea to create something good and beautiful for our world to enjoy.

Do you recommend any programs, courses, or websites?

Author:      I would love to give recommendations but again what works for one author might not for another, and with the current climate I’d simply suggest adhering to the terms, rules, and laws as best you can but realize that you’re going to make mistakes and have disagreements. Do the best you can, learn as much as you can, and spread kindness rather than judgment. Not every author you meet has the knowledge and access to the same education as you do. If you see someone struggling offer advice and a helping hand or walk away rather than threaten, resort to group mobs, and cancelling people. Not everyone thinks, feels, and believes the same, and if free speech is to truly be free then our levels of patience, tolerance, and understanding need to reflect our acceptance of another’s right to speak freely. There are boundaries and limits of course, but that’s what the mute and block buttons are for. Opinion and fact are not the same, and people are complex and dynamic. Compassion is essential in the writing field.

What is your writing process, from idea to polished work? Pantster? Plotter? How long does that typically take you?

Author:      Most of my ideas stem from thoughts and inspirations I had since I was a kid, and I simply attach new experiences and concepts to them. For this reason, I don’t struggle as much with writer’s block as much as I do with organizing my thoughts and ideas coherently. I typically write an overview to keep organized, and then write without editing until I have a first draft. Next, I edit over and over again until my work is the best quality I can produce. If I’m still willing to re-read and edit my work for the fifth, hundredth, or umpteenth time, then I know it’s a good enough story to publish because I’m still interested in reading the same story. My quickest turn around for a first draft is a week for 30 poems and a month for a 100K word novel, but a polished draft can take a month or years depending on the story.

Struggles

What has been the hardest thing to overcome on your journey to authorship?

Author:      My toughest struggle continues to be discerning between good and bad advice for fellow authors, especially newbie and indie authors. It is a struggle to sift between what a writer needs to do, should do, and should never do. Even giving advice as an author can be tough because what works for me might not work for someone else. Writing much like life involves a constant learning process. If I may share one tip it is to be kind to yourself and others. As perfect as you want everything, and as much as you want everything to go as you envision, sometimes things don’t always go as planned. If you can make it through the writing process, through every obstacle and challenge, and if you can handle criticism with maturity and grace then you will grow stronger as a writer and as a person. No matter what, you and your story are worth being heard.

How has the writing and querying or publishing process affected you emotionally? Do you have any tips for budding writers?

Author:      Absolutely. I have experienced thrilling moments that made me love every day, and I have had moments that made me want to quit writing and never read another book again in my life. I have experienced the same extreme emotions while writing as well where every emotion pours out of me on every page. Therapeutic as that can be, I do suggest allowing time to go through each emotion. Allow yourself as a budding writer to process every step of the writing to marketing process.

If you could do it all over again, what would you change?

Author:      Even though there are times I wish certain things had taken a different route I don’t know that I would change anything because I’ve learnt so much. I believe you meet who you meet and you go through what you do for a reason, and it can all work to help one improve and grow as a person. No route will ever be perfect, and no decision made (good or bad) will ever be without consequence. Nothing can change the past, but working on improving the present, hopefully will mean a better tomorrow.

What assumptions about writers and authors do you think are myths?

Author:      I believe one of the biggest myths is that you can write and publish a book and make tons of money from it. Most authors barely cover the costs invested in publishing, especially as an Indie. Also, another myth is that popular authors are the best authors around. Some of the (depending on your definition of success) most successful and greatest authors (as people and writers) are the yet-to-be-discovered gems. I recommend taking a chance on authors with intriguing book covers, good blurbs, and interesting sample reads rather than focusing on book reviews, popularity, and ratings.

Fun Stuff

What do you listen to while you write?

Author:      I will listen to Heavy Metal when writing a battle scene, Alternative Rock and mostly Evanescence when writing a sad emotional scene. Synth or Melancholic Post-Rock for city landscape world-building, and Starset, Svrcina, and Sleeping At Last if my world-building involves distant planets and galaxies. Music, especially during the editing process, transports me to the correct mindset I need to fully immerse in the moment and emotions I hope to capture.

Where do you write your stories? A tiny office? A loft? The kitchen table? In the bushes while you secretly people-watch like a total creeper? Or a warm café with mocha in hand and feet up on an ottoman?

Author:      I started writing in 2016 after suffering severe nerve damage. The most comfortable place for me to write at that time was sitting on a bed, which I do not recommend for posture or the neck.  Thank God, I made a full recovery last year, and now write at the dining table or on the couch when our (my husband and my) adopted rescue pup Ava sleeps curled up between my legs. Once a dog falls asleep it’s an unspoken rule that moving is out of the question. I’m able to write a lot until Ava wakes up. I don’t mind that she interrupts my writing, watching her heal and grow is worth every second, and she fills our home with so much love. I wouldn’t trade my precious time with my husband and her, not even for a writer’s award or movie deal. For me true success is the love and joy shared with others, and there’s no greater blessing from God than the love and support of my Hubs and our pup. Everything else is an extra added bonus.

Author Interviews, Blog, Sci-Fi Fantasy Blog

Author Interview: Jonkohrr, Fantasy/ Science Fiction

Hi. I’m G Jonathan Hall (Jonkohrr) and I write in the Fantasy and Sci-Fi genres. There are only two works I can talk about for the time being. First, there’s The Enigma of the V, which is an epic fantasy adventure that’s been published on Webnovel; and then there’s also It’s a Brave New World, a Sci-Fi thriller that’s still a work in progress. You can read it in its early stages at Wattpad or Inkitt.

From Planning to Published

When did you start writing and why?

Author:      The official answer is March, 2020. I started because I needed something to do in order to maintain my sanity during the lockdowns (whether or not this was successful is debatable). But unofficially, I started writing fan-fiction comics ever since I was a kid. I even made a 16-issue series of Dragon Ball Z, creating both the art and writing the story. The thing is that I’ve always had a creative side. The Enigma of the V has been the greatest expression of that so far.

How long did it take you to finish your first book?

Author:      I finished the main story for The Enigma of the V in two years. There is a secret ending still in the works, but the official ending was completed at the end of April 2022.

If you’ve published, how long did your first book take?

Author:      The Enigma of the V was published with Webnovel under an exclusive contract. Due to the way the site/app works, it is a “web novel”, meaning that new chapters were made available to the public as frequently as I was able to write them.

What platforms do you use to publish your works?

Author:      So far I have published The Enigma of the V, my fantasy novel on Webnovel. I’m in the process of publishing It’s a Brave New World on Wattpad and Inkitt.

How do you get critiques, betas, feedback, and edits? Author:      Occasionally, very few kind people would leave critiques and feedback for me on the Webnovel review section. The editing I’ve done it all myself, and with each re-read I find other things that need to be corrected. I’m hoping to receive a lot more feedback in the near future.

What would you do if a pigeon told you that you had to save the world?
Read More on WebNovel

Marketing

Do you have a platform? What does it consist of?

Author:      The main platform I’m active on is Twitter (@jonkohrr). This is where I make announcements about the progress of my works and try to spread the word about what I’m working on. I also have a Facebook page (The Enigma of the V) and an Instagram (@jonkohrr1983), but I’m definitely more active on Twitter since I get the most engagement from there.

How do you promote your content?

Author:      Mainly Twitter. I made a blog to share some additional information about The Enigma of the V primarily, but still haven’t seen any engagement there. I’ll try to revive the blog, though… especially now that I have a new work in progress that is so different from the previous one. I even have a Patreon and a Ko-fi account that I made for whenever the fans arrive. On those two platforms I mainly have some artwork that I created for the main characters of The Enigma of the V.

How do you define success as an author?

Author:      For me, success would be to have my stories known. Writing the storylines, characters and worlds of The Enigma of the V particularly has been an endeavor that I have thoroughly enjoyed. I want other people to be fond of that world and those characters. If I’m able to achieve this, then I will have succeeded. And of course, I wouldn’t mind having my story receive an anime adaptation. A guy can dream…

About Your Work

What was your first goal when you started your journey to becoming an author? Has that changed?

Author:      I’ve always wanted my first story (The Enigma of the V) to be made into an anime series. That has not changed… It remains my dream to this day. I say anime, but what I really mean is that I want it to be an animated series. It doesn’t necessarily have to be made by a Japanese studio (although I would definitely love that!).

Do you have other supporting services like a podcast, blog, webinars, courses, video channel?

Author:      As I mentioned before, I have a blog (https://gpanbrasil.wixsite.com/website). I also have a Youtube channel where I mostly repost promo shorts from my Tiktok (Jonkohrr).

What do you want your readers to get out of your works?

Author:      A safe place to ponder and meditate. Hopefully also incite excitement over the worlds and characters I’ve created.

What has been your favorite part of the writing and querying or publishing process?

Author:      My favorite thing about writing so far has been enjoying the power conferred unto me by creation. To create an entire universe with its own set of rules, liveliness and characters with their own hopes and dreams… what is that if not the power of God?

What is your writing process, from idea to polished work? Pantster? Plotter? How long does that typically take you?

Author:      For The Enigma of the V I first decided that I would divide the story in five parts/volumes. Then I created an outline for the chapters I envisioned to have in each part, both naming them and writing a short summary of where the story was supposed to go in that chapter. Many times this ended up changing by the time I arrived at the chapter to actually write it, but it provided me with a guide so I would always know where the story was going. Depending on how the creative juices were flowing, it would take me either a few hours or a few days to complete an outline for one part/volume; and well, the entire thing took me two years to complete (not considering the super-secret part VI that’s actually still in the works… the true ending to the story).

With my new work in progress (It’s a Brave New World) I’ve gone full-fledged pantser. I’m discovering the story as I go. It’s actually pretty exciting!

Where do you network most with other writers, authors, and creative types? LinkedIn? Wattpad? Twitter? Facebook? Somewhere else?

Author:      I have a presence on all these sites, but I’m most active on Twitter. The reason for that is that I’ve found a mostly welcoming writing community there. Even though it’s not a lot, I do get some engagement there, so it makes posting things somewhat worthwhile.

Do you sprint-write like a starving cheetah, or are you a totally chill turtle writer? Somewhere in between?

Author:      Seeing as though I don’t really have much to compare with, I would guess that I’m a slow writer. I’ve had a lot of time available for writing; otherwise I wouldn’t even have finished the main story for The Enigma of the V.

Struggles

What has been the hardest thing to overcome on your journey to authorship?

Author:      I’ve had to deal with some personal issues, among which figures my overall health. There was a point at which I was unable to focus on writing because of it.

If you could do it all over again, what would you change?

Author:      The change I would make is publishing with Webnovel. It really didn’t turn out the way I expected, and it greatly limited what I’m able to do with my story. It was a hasty and generally uninformed decision that I made which I’m sad to say that I now regret.

How do you keep yourself motivated?

Author:      My motivation comes from my stories and characters themselves. They are the ones that keep me going. When I’m writing, I see everything play out. I’m there in that universe both as creator and spectator. Their goals are also my goals. I just have to see the story to the end.

How did your family and friends react to your writing? Was it what you expected from them?

Author:      I was hoping for them to read my first story The Enigma of the V. I don’t think they did… though I’ve received their support in other ways.

Fun Stuff

What do you listen to while you write?

Author:      There was a time when I used to play an MMORPG called Perfect World. I had made a playlist for when I would play back then. That playlist was full of OST’s from video games and series that I liked. I keep adding to it to this day, so it’s grown to be pretty massive. I don’t always listen to this playlist, but when I do, it ends up adding one more layer of concentration and immersion in the story that I’m writing at the moment.

What have you learned about yourself from the writing and/or authorship process?

Author:      I’ve learned that there’s a piece of me in all of the character’s I’ve created. Writing has helped me process some of the deepest darkest issues that have haunted my soul.

What is your favorite writing snack and drink?

Author:      I don’t eat or drink anything while writing. At least I’ve never done it yet.

How can readers follow you and learn more about your books?

Author:      Ok. First of all, follow my Twitter (@jonkohrr). Secondly, my blog which I promise to show some love to again. Hopefully, there will be others that do so as well (https://gpanbrasil.wixsite.com/website). I’m also on Patreon and Ko-fi as jonkohrr, and on Instagram as @jonkohrr1983.

My first novel, which is in the fantasy genre and is called The Enigma of the V, can be found here:

WebNovel: The Enigma of the V

Twitter: @jonkohrr
Instagram: @jonkohrr1983
Blog: https://gpanbrasil.wixsite.com/website
Wattpad/Inkitt: Jonkohrr
Patreon: https://www.patreon.com/jonkohrr

Author Interviews, Blog, Sci-Fi Fantasy Blog

Author Interview: Randy C. Dockens, Futuristic Fiction

Hi, I’m Randy C. Dockens. I write Futuristic Fiction (with a Science Fiction feel and a Christian perspective).

My latest publication is the Erabon Prophecy Trilogy (Myeem, Sharab, Qerach).

From Planning to Published

When did you start writing and why?

Author:     

Oh, wow! How do I begin? It’s a rather convoluted story. I think I’ve always had that desire most people have: write a book and be published. Yet, there was never any real follow-through as it seemed like such a dauting task. Plus, I never felt I had the time for such an endeavor. Several years after receiving my doctorate in pharmaceutical studies, working for the Food and Drug Administration for four years, and then starting a career as a scientist in the pharmaceutical industry, I decided to go back to school for biblical studies. I at first just wanted to learn, but then when I was asked if I wanted to audit or take the courses for credit, I decided that if I was going to do the work, I might as well get the credit. Again, no real plans there, just a desire to better understand the Bible. Yet, one thing led to another, and I found myself with another doctorate. This time in biblical prophecy. I found the subject so fascinating. That’s when I had to decide what was I going to now do with all that new-found knowledge.

Once, for my pharmaceutical job, I had to take a round-the-world tour stopping in India and Japan for several meetings. So, while in flight, the idea of writing a book came back to me and I began to write out what later became a nonfiction book about how the entire world is tied to a Jewish timeline. Yet, I never got any real traction from agents on that concept, so I began to think about taking my biblical learning and putting that into fictional stories. I took my understanding of science and of end-time prophecy and wrote a story about a character living in the coming Messiah’s promised kingdom and what his life could possibly look like in that environment. Most people I asked about their understanding of this time in future history as discussed in the Bible stated they really didn’t understand what the Bible taught about such a kingdom, so I thought readers could learn something and be entertained at the same time.

When I talked to a publisher at a writer’s conference about my idea, he stated that while my idea was possibly a good story, that may not be the best idea for a debut novel. So, I had to think more about a story more general and relatable. Driving home from work one day, my mind thought about the current world view and how God seemed to be less and less in our culture. I then thought about what would happen if the knowledge of God was completely taken away or banned. What would that look like? That’s when I started on The Coded Message Trilogy. This story is about an astrophysicist who works on a Mars mission and finds certain discrepancies at his work that then leads him down a road discovering how the masses are being controlled by mind manipulation. He then begins to search for the truth certain elites are trying to hide from everyone. It became a dystopian mystery trilogy and the first series that became published: T-H-B, F-S-H-S, and T-U-L-E. The book titles are the clues the characters in the books must solve to understand the truth for which they are seeking. The books allow readers to go on the same discovery mission along with the characters.

How long did it take you to finish your first book?

Author:     

Again, this is also somewhat convoluted. For me, my first book written was not my first book published. The first book I wrote was a nonfiction book about how the Bible is a unique book and tells a story of how we are all tied to a Jewish timeline. Much of that book was written within a week as I was traveling around the world on a business trip to India and Japan. A lot of time was spent in flight which was when I did most of the writing. For some reason, I was unable to sleep while on the plane. The book then went through several revisions over the next several months. Then it sat dormant for several years although I did post a few chapters to the website I had at the time.

The second book was quite the journey as well. I think I wrote the first draft in only a few months. Yet it went through many, many revisions over several years. This was when I was learning about writing techniques and how to put a story together. I went to several writing conferences, got a lot of feed back at those as well as from doing a lot of reading from other authors and editors. I can’t even tell you the number of revisions that I did. So many.

The first book I wrote that became published is T-H-B. This is about an astrophysicist working on a Mars mission who discovers his world is not as wonderful as he thought it to be. He discovers that almost everyone in the world is being controlled and influenced by an elite few via mind manipulation. The reader then goes on a mission with the main character to understand what T-H-B means and how it becomes the answer to his search for how that clue will lead to the answer to his questions. Writing the book was likely a three-month process. Then, probably another three months of revisions.

If you’ve published, how long did your first book take?

Author:     

The first book published was T-H-B, book one of The Coded Message Trilogy. It took me about three months to write the first draft and then likely another three to make the necessary revisions. That version went to my editor. His review took about a month. I then went through all his revisions, edits, and questions. The revisions and edits were mostly straightforward as he was after all the expert so there were few corrections to challenge unless he misunderstood some point I was making. I then answered his questions which dealt with the way I said something, a knowledge gap I had created in the storyline, or something he found confusing in the way I had worded it. Going through those questions and getting them resolved took about another month. This version went to the interior designer who put the text in a book layout format. I then read back through that version to proofread and ensure all looked and read correctly. That effort took approximately two weeks for me to finish. Anything I found went back to my editor who then did a thorough proofreading. His proofreading took another month at which time I then went back through his findings and answered any questions he had. This did not go back to my editor unless there was a major question I had for him. This version went back to the interior designer who implemented the changes which took one to two weeks depending upon the number of changes. I then ensured all corrections were as requested. Once complete, this version was sent to the publisher who worked with the printer to get the final book completed. As you can see, this entire process took about one year from the time I started to write until the final book was completed.

Has your publishing timeframe improved at all since your first publication?

Author:     

Oh, absolutely. The first fiction book I wrote went through dozens of revisions even before an editor even saw it. It was probably three years before it even went to an editor. Yet, this book provided the learning that allowed me to have better quality from the get-go for my later books. I still have to edit and revise before the manuscript gets to my editor, but fewer edits are typically needed before I send it out. Yet, I have to say, no matter how many edits I make myself, my editor finds many, many more edits and revisions needed on my work. I do get some thrills occasionally when I find large stretches of text where he has no comments. I never expect to have none from my editor but it is still a worthwhile goal to at least try and get as few as possible. Yet, the book always reads so much better after his edits are incorporated even though I thought it read well after my own edits. An editor is such a crucial step, I hope no author skips it.

Are you indie, traditional, hybrid, or vanity, and why?

Author:     

I think one would call it a hybrid. It is called custom publishing. While I get all the benefits of a publishing house in many of the things a publisher does, the buck stops with me and I have to approve all aspects of my book: text, cover design, interior design, font decisions, book size, etc. My publisher certainly weighs in on those aspects, but the final say is mine.

I met my publisher at a writer’s conference. He proofread the first 5,000 words of one of my stories and like it. He gave me his card and I contacted him about six months later. One of the main reasons for doing so was that it was very challenging to get an agent’s attention. Therefore, I went with his custom publishing concept because he had worked with a major publishing house for many years, had a good reputation in the industry, and really seemed to know what he was doing.

How did you determine your target audience?

Author:     

I call my genre futuristic fiction which has a science fiction feel and a Christian perspective. While the “Christian perspective” may limit the target audience somewhat as there are Biblical views in the stories, that is not always the case. I have had some readers even from other faiths read some of my books and they commented that they enjoyed them. I have had others say they are not science fiction fans but enjoyed my books because they were so thought provoking. Therefore, while the major audience would be those who enjoy books with a moral perspective, this does not limit these books to just that audience entirely.

What is your publishing process?

Author:     

It typically takes me about three months to write the first draft and then about three months to make the necessary revisions. That version then goes to my editor. His review takes about a month. I then go through all his revisions, edits, and questions. The revisions and edits are mostly straightforward so there are few, if any, edits to challenge unless he misunderstood something I was trying to say. I then answer his questions which deal with the way I said something, a knowledge gap I created in the storyline, or something he found confusing in the way I worded it. Going through his comments and questions and getting them all resolved takes about another month. This version then goes to the interior designer who renders the text into a book-type format. I proofread the version sent back to me and ensure any and all revisions look correct and reads well. That takes approximately two weeks for me to finish. Anything I find goes back to my editor who then does a thorough proofreading himself. His proofreading takes about another month. I then go back through his findings to answer any remaining questions if he has any. This version does not go back to my editor unless there is a major question I have for him. This version goes back to the interior designer. This takes only one to two weeks depending upon the number of changes. I then ensure all corrections are as stated. Once complete, this version is sent to my publisher who works with the printer to get the final book completed. Overall, it takes nearly a year from me starting to write until the final book is complete.

What platforms do you use to publish your works?

Author:     

I go wide with my work. My publisher produces a hard copy in paperback and works with another company to provide an electronic version of my book. The books are available directly from the wholesaler and through various sources like Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, and others. I typically get an audiobook completed using a hired narrator and my publisher uploads the completed audio files to Audible.

How do you get critiques, betas, feedback, and edits?

Author:     

I don’t have any one way to accomplish this. I have had family and friends read some stories to give feedback. I have found this strategy not that successful as many will just say it was good with not much feedback. Yet, I have had a few friends give some very good feedback. For Mercy of the Iron Scepter, one friend suggested I provide more information to what was going on in Jerusalem when the main character visited for several days. That led to me creating Chapter 7 of the book which has become my favorite chapter for that book. For another story, Hope Renewed, a friend suggested I bring back a certain character later into the story to provide some resolution. I did and found doing so provides a nice finish to a part of the book that would otherwise be left hanging—not a glaring problem but one more satisfying by telling the reader what happens to that particular person.

My editor gives a lot of feedback for when the storyline does not seem to have good resolution in a certain area or in how I have not explained something well or a concept or idea in the storyline doesn’t quite resonant with him. This lets me know that if that particular aspect of the story doesn’t resonate well with my editor who is so closely invested into the story than any other reader will likely be, then other readers will likely have similar concerns since they will understand even less of the whole storyline. Therefore, I gladly make those changes to either make that area of the storyline make more sense to a reader by either adding more rationale for the decision that was made by a certain character or adding more detail to a scene to help it have better closure.

Marketing

Do you have a platform? What does it consist of?

Author:     

I have a website, http://www.RandyDockens.com, where I will post information about each book, how it can be purchased through various media, and even have a bookstore where the books can be purchased directly from the warehouse for a slight discount. In addition, I advertise the books through such media as Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

What is your launch plan for your works?

Author:     

I will announce my upcoming book on my website, through social media like Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, and will send out e-mail announcements to those who signed up for a newsletter via my website.

How do you get reviews for your books?

Author:     

I utilize social media about new books as they come out. I sometimes will have giveaways on Goodreads and will announce through e-mail to those who have signed up for newsletters on my website. Yet, these methods, while sometimes fruitful, do not always yield the desired reviews. I find that spontaneous reviews occur about the same frequency as trying to obtain reviews through targeted means.

How do you promote your content?

Author:     

To be honest, I’m still trying to learn how to do this better. I currently rely mainly on word of mouth for those who enjoy my books to share their enthusiasm with others. I do use social media to also advertise as well as send periodic e-mails to those who have signed up for the newsletter from my website.

What do you think is the most critical marketing component or tactic for becoming successful?

Author:     

I’m not sure there is any one way to become successful. I think everyone has a different story and a different journey to tell. It may be that different genres and different audiences need to use different marketing techniques. Sometimes one needs to experiment with various avenues to find the one that works well for their content. I have found the Christian market seems to be more cautious than other markets. For whatever reason, the Christian audience is more skeptical and afraid to try new material and authors they may not know anything about. Probably more so than any other genre, it often seems that an author needs someone with a larger platform to endorse them and their work before it can be extremely successful with name recognition. That may not always be true, but it seems to be true from my perspective.

How do you define success as an author?

Author:     

Every author likely defines success differently. However, if one defines success only by being extremely lucrative monetarily, then only a few would be able to claim success. I think if one enjoys writing and enjoys the stories they write, they are successful. Yet, by that statement I don’t mean writing without good quality but writing in a way that editors and publishers consider it well written. While it may take a while, I do think there is an audience for the work of each author.

About Your Work

What type of content do you write and why? Fiction Novels? Poems? Songs? Screenplays? Short Stories? Epic?

Author:     

Most of what I write I would describe as futuristic fiction. I know that is not a term many may be familiar with. I would say it leans toward science fiction but not all have the classic features of science fiction. Most stories occur in the future or have some form of futuristic nature to them, but do not have the classic features of science fiction design as most of my novels do not have aliens in the story, or not in the classic sense. I currently have only one series that is truly science fiction in that the main character encounters aliens as we would think and describe them. In my Erabon Prophecy Trilogy (Myeem, Sharab, Qerach) the aliens are found to be anatomically different from humans. Most of the other novels do have a science fiction feel to them but no aliens. For example, The Coded Message Trilogy (T-H-B, F-S-H-S, T-U-L-E) is set in the future near the end of the 21st century. The science fiction feel comes from the main character being an astrophysicist and working towards a Mars launch which occurs in the third book of the series. The Stele Prophecy Pentalogy (Mercy of the Iron Scepter, Promised Kingdom, Hope Renewed, Darkness in the Light, and Iron in the Scepter) has a definite futuristic feel to the stories as they are set in our distant future. While no aliens, per se, they do have angels, so the stories do have a futuristic, fantasy vibe to them if not truly considered science fiction. I now have a new series that I’m working on, The Adversary Chronicles, where classic Bible stories are retold in a way many will likely not have heard before. These stories are told from the perspective of one of the archangels, Mikael. One will read how the spiritual and physical worlds are tied together to achieve our historical outcomes. That’s why I describe my stories as futuristic with a science fiction feel and a Christian perspective.

I have been working on turning some of these novels into screenplays. I have taken the book T-H-B and divided the book into one-hour screenplays that could yield a season of shows for television. I haven’t received traction on that concept yet, but I haven’t given up on its success. I would like to turn my Erabon Prophecy Trilogy into a science fiction screenplay as a full-length movie.

I do have one nonfiction book entitled, Why is a Gentile World Tied to a Jewish Timeline? The Question Everyone Should Ask. This takes the culmination of by biblical studies and puts them into a cohesive narrative. My doctorate thesis was on how Gentiles are dealt with in the Bible. Most know that the Bible was written by Jewish authors and the story is about the Jewish nation. Yet, the Bible contains a lot about non-Jews as well. This was the topic of my thesis showing both groups are prophetically tied together very intimately.

What genres and subgenres do you write in?

Author:     

I guess the genre would be science fiction, but the subgenre would be futuristic fiction. I usually describe the stories I write as futuristic fiction with a science fiction feel and a Christian perspective.

What is your author brand (genre, mood, image, theme, message, etc)? How did you decide on it?

Author:     

I have an educational background in pharmacy and in biblical studies. About a year after getting by degree in pharmacy, I went back to college and obtained a doctorate in pharmaceutical sciences. I then worked for the Food and Drug Administration and later for the pharmaceutical industry as a pharmacokineticist. That fancy word just means the study of how a drug is absorbed, distributed, metabolized, and excreted by the body and then how to describe those processes mathematically. I have always had an affinity for the study of biblical scriptures and decided to take courses to better understand them. I first got a master’s degree in Jewish studies and then a doctorate in biblical prophecy. Because of my background, and my interests, my books contain a lot of science and also tie Jewish biblical prophecy into them. I think this makes them unique from other science fiction and/or futuristic books available. I think the science helps the stories to be believable and the prophecy components help to educate the reader about aspects of God that they may not have considered before. While the goal of each book is to be entertaining, the reader can also learn something simultaneously even though they are not reading for that particular intent.

How many works have you published?

Author:     

I have quite a few books and media. Here is a list:

The Coded Message Trilogy (T-H-B, F-S-H-S, and T-U-L-E): paperback, eBook, and audiobook

Two backstories to T-H-B: eBook

The Stele Prophecy Pentalogy (Mercy of the Iron Scepter, Promised Kingdom, Hope Renewed, Darkness in the Light, and Iron in the Scepter): paperback, eBook, and audiobook

Erabon Prophecy Trilogy (Myeem, Sharab, and Qerach): paperback and eBook. Myeem is available as an audiobook. Sharab is currently in the process of being made into an audiobook.

The Adversary Chronicles: four of these are expected. Only the first, Rebellion in the Stones of Fire, has been published: paperback and eBook. The second book of this series, The Holy Grail of Babylon is currently being edited and is expected to be published in June of this year, 2022.

Why is a Gentile World Tied to a Jewish Timeline? The Question Everyone Should Ask: nonfiction book in paperback and eBook.

Can you tell us a bit about your most recent publication?

Author:     

The series that just completed is called Erabon Prophecy Trilogy. Interestingly, the genesis of the idea for this trilogy happened over a dinner conversation. My wife and I met with some friends of ours one evening at a local restaurant. The conversation went far and wide and even verged on the ridiculous. We started talking about aliens, and our conversation at first posed the general types of questions most think about: What would aliens think of us humans? How different would they look from us? How advanced would their technology be from ours? Those thoughts then led to deeper questions. What would be their core beliefs? Would they serve a different type of God than we do? As we talked, we came to the realization that if truth is truth, then our God would also be their God. The way they look, the customs they follow, and the way they worship may be different, but the essence of who God really is to them should be the same as he is to us, if God is really God of the universe.

This series has the main character, Nuke, find worlds totally different from anything he has ever experienced, yet he finds certain things so familiar to him. This makes him question the reality of what he is experiencing. Also, when back with his friends in his solar system he always felt different because his skin has an electrical conductance which causes the medical equipment to go haywire during his physical exam when he first enters the Academy for training in the International Exploration Federation. His best friend, Michael, laughs it off and calls him “nuclear” which leads to his nickname Nuke which all his friends begin to call him. Although he brushes it off, this always makes him a little self-conscious and feel different from others. Yet, he finds this human uniqueness to be a benefit on these alien worlds as it allows him to fulfill certain alien prophecies.

Nuke finds that he is supposed to help unite six different alien clans, each on a different planet, to help prepare them for the return of Erabon, their deity. Yet, he finds each clan to be bias in the way they worship as they feel their way superior to the way the other clans worship. This fact and the imposed moratorium on space travel become big obstacles to overcome to achieve his prophetic objective. It seems a miracle is expected each step along the way to allow these clans to listen to him and accept him as the prophesied prophet to lead them back to Erabon. Each book portrays his work on two of their worlds: Myeem tells of his work on Myeem, the water planet, and Eremia, the desert planet. Sharab tells of his work on Sharab, the fire planet, and Ramah, the mountainous planet. Qerach tells of his work on Qerach, the ice planet, and Aphia, the air planet.

I will add that another series, The Adversary Chronicles, has just started. The first book of this series, Rebellion in the Stones of Fire, was published in February of this year. This series tells of various Bible stories but are told in a unique and original way that most likely have not heard before. In addition, they are told from an angelic perspective. This first book is about the fall of Lucifer and the worldwide flood. I want readers to better understand and appreciate biblical scripture and perhaps gain a perspective about God they may have not considered before. For example, in this first book, it demonstrates the flood was more about God’s love than it was about God’s vengeance.

Name some common elements in your writing: villains, magic, red-herring twists, the unfortunate ensign, mysterious phenomena, asyndeton, sentence fragments etc.

Author:     

The most common element is that each series provides a Jewish perspective to biblical elements that are in my novels. The reason for this is two-fold. Almost all biblical scripture is written by Jewish authors and thereby from a Jewish perspective. Also, when the Jewish perspective is understood, it adds another layer of understanding that makes scripture come alive and be more meaningful. A lot of scripture is multidimensional: it had meaning for those in the past, has meaning for us today, and has future prophetic meaning as well.

I think another common element is the way characters in the books communicate to each other. There is a lot of comical banter between them. I don’t think it is overdone, but it does add some tension relief when the stories become tense or when a serious topic is being discussed. It helps to propel the story forward in a way that mimics real life better and helps to keep the interest of the reader as another goal of mine is to help educate readers but in a way that is first and foremost entertaining. Learning is important but not at the expense of enjoying a good storyline.

What was your first goal when you started your journey to becoming an author? Has that changed?

Author:     

Well, one of my goals is to educate readers on biblical topics. That was more paramount in the beginning. For example, when I wrote the first draft of Mercy of the Iron Scepter, about the first third of the book was backstory for the reader to understand how the Messiah’s promised kingdom occurs. I thought that was important. However, after several agents and reviewers read the draft, I discovered not everyone wanted a geographical and historical lesson before they read a story. They want a story first and foremost. Therefore, this book went under a huge transformation. I had to take a lot of the information out and intersperse important pieces of backstory that were necessary for understanding the backdrop of the storyline throughout the novel so the information was digestible in smaller chunks and did not overwhelm the reader or cause them to lose interest in the story. Doing it that way helps the reader know bits and pieces of the backdrop and historical aspects so he/she can appreciate and understand where they currently are in the storyline. It helps propel the story forward at the same time as preventing the reader from getting lost by not knowing the background for the dialogue, action, or scene that is unfolding for them as they read.

Do you have other supporting services like a podcast, blog, webinars, courses, video channel?

Author:     

I do have a blog on my website. It is more of an educational blog in that there are biblical topics brought forward and explained from a Jewish perspective so that the true meaning of the topic and the supporting scripture can be better understood. The topics are varied and span a lot of topics: from understanding how quantum physics helps explain the Godhead to understanding how the apostle Paul kept his Jewishness even when prompting Gentiles to not follow certain Jewish customs and why.

In addition, I have a YouTube channel where I have a couple of book trailers and have several videos to explain Biblical topics that are covered in the first book of the Stele Prophecy Pentalogy, Mercy of the Iron Scepter. I did this because certain aspects of the backdrop of the story are from my imagination and others are from biblical scripture. I thought it important for readers to be able to know the difference if they didn’t already know.

What do you want your readers to get out of your works?

Author:     

First and foremost, I want readers to be entertained by a good story in which they can immerse themselves and get lost in. But secondly and yet still importantly, I want readers to perhaps learn something about God they may have not known or considered. I think God and the Bible are amazing and others may think so as well if they are given a better understanding and appreciation of them. I think my books are good for those who do or do not take these aspects seriously. If they consider that part fantasy, they can still get a good story with entertainment value. Yet, if they want to go further and work through the understanding with the characters as they go on their quest to understand deeper matters, then they will not only be entertained but learn something new, unique, and different along the way. I hope readers find that an exciting aspect to my books.

What part of the author process are you working on or studying most now?

Author:     

I have always enjoyed the creative side of being an author. I am constantly thinking about what the next topic, world, or idea to develop can be and still make it unique and exciting. That is something I am constantly working on because, while it is fun, it is also a lot of work to achieve that and make it seem spontaneous, vibrant, and different for readers from other works I have written.

Also, technically, I am always working on sentence structure so my prose will not seem repetitive and to make the sentences flow from one to the other without them seeming choppy or worded stiffly. Getting ideas and the story down on paper is one thing. Making the story flow effortless and smoothly in a reader’s mind is quite another. There is more than one way to write a sentence and more than one word to use to convey a thought. Yet, there is a unique way that creates the right flow and the right thought that propels a reader onward and not wanting to stop.

What has been your favorite part of the writing and querying or publishing process?

Author:     

I think understanding the publishing process has been very eye opening. It is first and foremost a business and took some time to really realize that. I have been publishing a book every four months for a couple of years now. That means I’m writing a new book, editing the draft of a completed book, proofreading another book, and working with the cover designer on multiple books simultaneously. This means I must be able to multitask and not get all those elements mixed up in my mind, which I have done from time to time. I try to read other works to help keep my creative juices flowing. Plus, I’m a father and a husband so all those aspects of my life must be fit in as well. It’s rewarding for sure, but I must constantly remind myself to enjoy the journey.

Do you recommend any programs, courses, or websites?

Author:     

I have taken two courses that have proven helpful. Yet not everything they teach may apply to all genres, but they do provide good guidance in how to move one’s writing career forward. One is the Self-Publishing Formula (SPF) by Mark Dawson. He has both a course about how to market oneself and one’s work as well as podcasts where various authors are interviewed to reveal how they have been successful and what they did that worked for them. The other is Author Marketing Mastery Through Optimization by Lars Emmerich. Both are somewhat expensive yet do provide good information for consideration and provide a technique to follow. However, as with anything, there are no guarantees of success. Each person, genre they write, and goals they have are different.

There are several books that may prove helpful as well. Here are some I have found helpful:

Self-Editing for Fiction Writers: How to Edit Yourself into Print by Renni Browne and Dave King

The Story Template by Amy Deardon

The Elements of Style by William Strunk Jr. and E. B. White

On Writing Well by William Zinsser

The Emotion Thesaurus: A Writer’s Guide to Character Expression by Angela Ackerman & Becca Puglisi

Which authors write similar books to yours? How did you find them?

Author:     

Several readers have commented to me that reading my books feels like watching a movie and they have compared them to a movie rather than to a book, although many of the movies mentioned are also books. Here are a few examples:

Some readers have commented that The Coded Message Trilogy reminds them of the Divergent Trilogy by Veronica Roth. I think the reason for that is that the main character in my trilogy, Luke, is similar to the Divergent main character, Tris, in that he represents a threat to the elites who manipulate the world because he is immune to the mind manipulation the elites have imposed on society similar to how Tris was considered dangerous because she did not fit into any one faction in their society.

The Stele Prophecy Pentalogy has been compared to the Left Behind series by some. I think that is because the backdrop for both series is similar even though the story lines and plots are different.

The Erabon Prophecy Trilogy has been compared by some to James Cameron’s movie Avatar. I assume that is because both have a lot of imagery with unusual and colorful aliens and their lives center around a deity they worship.

The newer series, The Adversary Chronicles, I think is somewhat similar to the books by Frank Peretti like This Present Darkness in that they both deal with the spiritual realm and how that realm affects the physical realm and directly impacts people’s lives.

Have you always read in the genre you wanted to write in? Do you think that’s made it easier or harder to create new stories?

Author:     

I have always loved science fiction stories and movies. I grew up watching such shows as Star Trek, Space 1999, Doctor Who, and Battlestar Galactica. Even as an adult I enjoyed Star Wars, Stargate SG1, Avatar, Jupiter Ascending, and more. I think all these shows, as well as my science background, have influenced and inspired a lot of my writing. I think they have made it easier to come up with ideas because they have allowed my mind and thought process to go far and wide to envision what could be even if the concept can’t be implemented today.

What is your writing process, from idea to polished work? Pantster? Plotter? How long does that typically take you?

Author:     

I have to say I’m a pantster. I have tried plotting everything out beforehand but found that, for me, that process seemed to inhibit my creativity. I have a concept in mind and a general idea of where I want to start and where I want to end, but no idea how to get there. I just start, put myself in the moment and see what develops. I know that would likely drive some authors bonkers, but that’s sort of how I roll. It makes it exciting for me because I feel like I’m on a constant adventure and discovering where the story goes each time I sit down to write. I think it makes it more exciting. The length of time it takes varies but it is usually around two to three months to get the first draft completed. Of course, there is another two to three months to get it more polished and ready for my editor. My wife can tell you that once I start on a story it is difficult for me to break away before I have the first draft of the story completed. My brain seems to be on it constantly. My wife is happy that I write but then happy when I complete a story so she can have me back for a while.

Where do you network most with other writers, authors, and creative types? LinkedIn? Wattpad? Twitter? Facebook? Somewhere else?

Author:     

I would have to admit that this is one of my weakest links. I don’t really network with other authors. I did try to join a writer’s group at one point, but the group really didn’t go anywhere. I did attend writer’s conferences early on that were nearby, but I found after attending a few they seemed to be repetitive in nature. I did not pursue those conference where I would have to travel. This is definitely an area I need to work on.

Do you sprint-write like a starving cheetah, or are you a totally chill turtle writer? Somewhere in between?

Author:     

I think I’m closer to the starving cheetah than the chill turtle but maybe more of a hungry cheetah than a starving one. Once I start writing, the storyline is on my brain constantly until I get the first draft completed. Once that has been achieved, there is still much work to do, but I can then work on it at a slower pace. Although, I admit, I seem to be working on something related to my writing constantly.

Struggles

What has been the hardest thing to overcome on your journey to authorship?

Author:     

For me, the hardest thing has been marketing. A lot of the tactics I have learned for marketing that has worked for many other authors has not worked that well for me. It just seems the Christian market is a tougher market to break into. I think many individuals in this type of audience are very skeptical of new books and authors they may not be familiar with as it seems doctrine plays a big role for this type of audience despite whether the story is a good one or not.

How has the writing and querying or publishing process affected you emotionally? Do you have any tips for budding writers?

Author:     

The first thing to remember is that publishing and everything that goes under that umbrella is a business and many times a cutthroat business. One must have a thick skin and develop a healthy look at oneself and one’s writing. Many agents can be blunt and verge on being almost cruel.

I did get discouraged in the beginning due to the negativity and rejections. It wasn’t all negative, but not totally positive either. For example, I had one agent tell me that they loved the way I wrote but did not want to represent me. I kept pressing her to find out why as I didn’t know how to change anything if she couldn’t tell me why. She then became blunt and stated she didn’t want me to be a project for her. This took me aback at first, but then I realized she was saying that the way I wrote and put words together was good, but just not refined. That’s when I went to studying the craft of writing.

The best advice I can give is to just never give up. Continue to read and improve your craft. If possible, take all the comments you receive as opportunities to learn and grow so you can build up confidence in your work despite what hurtful comments may get hurled at you. While everything others say may not be totally accurate, don’t dismiss what they say entirely. Take their words and ignore their tone. There is likely some truth there you can glean even if it hurts at the time.

In the beginning be sure you have an excellent editor. You may need a grammar editor and a separate content editor, especially in your early days to be sure you are developing your stories correctly in a way that appeals to others. Comments from these editors will be real gold nuggets to help you get on the right track.

Just note that whether you go the traditional publisher route, self-publishing route, or the custom publishing route, most of the marketing will be up to you. Therefore, be sure and study marketing techniques. Also remember that just because one method works for others may not mean that method will necessarily work for you. It helps to know your audience as that helps you to know how to market to them.

Do you have any tips or recommendations for those who want to go the final step and become authors?

Author:     

The best advice is to not give up. Even successful authors had a starting point, and their start oftentimes was not pretty. So, don’t get discouraged. Learn from every feedback no matter how positive or negative it is. Don’t focus on the tone of the feedback but the content of the feedback.

Learn and study the craft of writing. Good grammar and correct spelling are really very important. Granted, one does not have to use correct grammar all the time in one’s writing because as an author you are writing to convey not only information but feelings. Yet, everything you write and the way you write it needs to be deliberate. In other words, you may not follow good grammar, but you need to know that you did not follow good grammar and it was intentional. Every sentence, every word, and every punctuation should be purposeful.

If you could do it all over again, what would you change?

Author:     

My only regret is that I didn’t start earlier. I perhaps would have more time to try and go the traditional publishing route rather than the custom publishing route. Yet, I think one can be successful no matter which route one takes. Yet one way may require more or different marketing efforts than others.

Are you a driven & self-advocating author, a gun-shy promoter, or a total marketing procrastinator?

Author:     

I am very self-motivated as far as writing is concerned. I do procrastinate somewhat when it comes to marketing for it is time consuming. There is a lot of trial and error when it comes to marketing. I think once one finds a method that works well for them and their genre it gets better and perhaps can become somewhat automated. Yet, a lot of time is needed to get name recognition.

How do you keep yourself motivated?

Author:     

I’m not sure I have a good answer to this question except that I think writing is something that comes from within. I think if you are born to write you have to force yourself not to write than force yourself to write. I suppose it could be a learned craft and then you must figure out how to motivate oneself to do that. Yet, that is not what I have personally experienced.

How do you combat writer’s block?

Author:     

I haven’t experienced writer’s block per se. I have had to take time to research how something is done or to understand the science around a process so that the story comes across as believable, yet not that I didn’t know where to even go. I think if you write about things in which you are passionate then writer’s block will be less likely.

What literary/writer-based term did you not know when you started that has become important and relevant to you?

Author:     

When I first started, there was a lot that I did not know. At that time, I took everything I read as gospel and tried to follow everything I read to the letter. That is why my novel Mercy of the Iron Scepter went through so many revisions before it was ever published. For example, I read that the word that should never be used because it is superfluous, the word was should never be used because it is too vague and passive, exclamation points should never be used because good writers can write in a way that will indicate the emotion rather than having to show it with an exclamation point, and dialogue tags should not be used because that is the sign of a weak writer.

What I came to realize was that these were just pet peeves of certain writers, agents, editors, and publishers. Yet, they are not absolute. Now, each of these points are useful and can be taken to heart, but not be gospel. These people should have clarified that one should be aware of these pitfalls and to not overuse them. It is impossible to avoid each of these altogether. For example, many times the word that can be omitted because it is superfluous. Yet, that is not always the case. It is true that was can often be passive and a better expressive word can be substituted, but not in every case. Regarding exclamation marks, yes, one should write a sentence that a reader can tell it is an exclamatory sentence. Yet shouldn’t one use a exclamation point if the sentence is an exclamation? I think the point is that an exclamation point does not make a sentence an exclamation if the tone of the sentence is not written that way. And, finally, yes sometimes dialogue cues are not needed, and dialogue can be written without them. Yet, if there is any chance of a reader getting confused, then a dialogue tag is needed.

My point here is that one should take to heart what others say about writing tips and tricks, but realize they are not absolute. You need to be sure your writing style and emotional content comes through loud and clear but done in a way that uses good sentence structure, spelling, and grammar. But, if an element or emotion is needed that dictates not to use traditional grammar or traditional sentence structure, then that is okay as long as what you do is intentional. Your reader will be able to tell if what you did was purposeful or not. So, you can do anything, just know you did it and that it was a purposeful change to accomplish something special for your reader.

How did your family and friends react to your writing? Was it what you expected from them?

Author:     

I found family and friends are verbally supportive but not necessarily financially supportive. Many of my family and friends have never read one of my books. They will always give a “like” on social media but never read my novels. The most irritating thing is that for them to agree to read one of my novels, they expect a free copy from me. That surprised me in the beginning, but I’ve found to just love them and let it go.

What assumptions about writers and authors do you think are myths?

Author:     

I think there are three main assumptions that are definitely myths:

  1. Writing is easy. No one, but other authors, understands the time commitment, dedication, and disappointment that a budding author must endure.
  2. You write a story, it is published immediately, and you make a lot of money. No one, but again other authors, understands how much time it takes to go from starting a novel to having it published. So many people get a piece of the pie before the author gets their piece, or rather their crumbs.
  3. Sales are automatic. No one, but compatriot authors, understands how much time and effort are needed from an author to get noticed and recognized for the work they have put their heart and soul into.

Fun Stuff

What do you listen to while you write?

Author:     

If I listen to anything it is usually instrumental music. I find it difficult to listen to singing when I’m trying to think of something in my own mind. More often what I will do is go out to a restaurant franchise (like Saladworks or Dairy Queen) and get something to eat and then write, edit, or proofread. For some reason if they play music, I’m able to tune it out better than music played at home. I do find that different venues rather than sitting at home and writing from the same place all the time help me to get a lot of writing accomplished.

Is there a fun word or group of terms you like to put into your writing?

Author:     

To be honest, I never thought about doing that. I do try not to use the same terms all the time, but I do find there are certain words or phrases I wind up using without meaning to do so. I recall in one of my novels my editor told me that I had everyone smiling too much. One of the things as a writer I want to do is show and not tell. That means I need to describe emotions rather than just stating the emotion. This does mean I need a wide variety of words with similar meanings to convey that same emotion so readers are not inundated with the same word description all the time. That does make it challenging, yet imperative.

Where do you write your stories? A tiny office? A loft? The kitchen table? In the bushes while you secretly people-watch like a total creeper? Or a warm café with mocha in hand and feet up on an ottoman?

Author:     

Many times, I will go out to a restaurant franchise (like Saladworks or Dairy Queen) and get something to eat and then write, edit, or proofread. For some reason being at different venues helps me more than sitting at home and writing from the same place all the time. Most of the time I am at home at the dining table or in my comfy chair, but I do find the change in venues helpful to keep ideas flowing in my mind.

What book are you reading at the moment?

Author:     

I am not reading anything now as I seem to have a lot of things going on currently. I did recently finish the trilogy Time Traveling Journals of Sahara by Tracy Higley.

What is your favorite literary trope?

Author:     

In almost every book or series, I have a good deal of banter between the main characters. This sometimes employ sarcasm, irony, or hyperbole. I think this adds a whimsical atmosphere to tense situations. In my book T-H-B from The Coded Message Trilogy, I have Natalia who is a very serious person in the book with ninja-type qualities make a joke which, I think, makes it even more funny as it is unexpected. In one scene, she is talking to two other women when the main character, Luke, approaches them and says, “Well, I see all the beauty is on this side of the room” to which Natalia responds, “Well, it was.” This takes Luke aback as that was something he did not expect from her, and I think it does the same for the reader.

Another example is in Myeem from the Erabon Prophecy Trilogy where the main character, Nuke, often uses earth expressions like killing two birds with one stone and says it to a Myeemian who doesn’t even know what a bird is much less why one would want to kill it. He keeps telling himself he needs to stop doing that, but he always repeats his error. It again helps to relieve some tension in some serious or tense situations as well as help make him real and show his human side while in an alien world.

How do you try to “break the mold” and be unique?

Author:     

I think my books are unique in that I bring the Jewishness of biblical scripture into almost every series. I want people to know that there is a richness to scripture they might not have considered, and this brings a new aspect to who God is.

What have you learned about yourself from the writing and/or authorship process?

Author:     

I have found that I enjoy writing more than I ever thought I would. It has helped me combine my joy of science and my joy of scripture together to produce something cohesive with a purpose. While it I important that each book provides a satisfying entertainment value to the reader, I want it to be even more for the reader so that, if they wish, they can learn something they did not know before or at least provide some food for thought they can mull over long after the story itself has ended.

What is your favorite writing snack and drink?

Author:     

I never really thought about this before. I can’t say that there is anything that I eat or drink on a routine basis when I write. Although most of my writing is done at home, I do like to go out to do some of my writing. I typically go to a place like Saladworks and eat my salad and drink my Diet Coke while I write. Other times I will go to a place like Dairy Queen for a Blizzard or Sundae to eat while I write. I do try to limit the number of times I go to the latter.

Do you have a writing companion?

Author:     

I don’t have a writing companion, but I will pass many ideas through my wife and get her opinion. Sometimes it just helps to get a different perspective to help the story go in the right direction. I often have her read the first draft or sections of the first draft for her thoughts. She is more of an emotional person than I am, and she can help me get the right emotion expressed for particular situations. For example, in Promised Kingdom from my Stele Prophecy Pentalogy series, a good female friend of the main character was dying in his arms. I had him crying because she was a good long-time friend. Yet, my wife stated that because he was a soldier, he would more likely deal with what was going on without expressing his emotions and then later break down when he was by himself. I thought that was very insightful and that is how I wrote the scene.

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?

Author:     

I think the best advice I was told was to write what you are passionate about. If you as the author can put your heart and soul into a piece of writing it will help the reader to experience that emotion more intensely and seal the reader to one’s work.

Book Sales Pages:
https://www.randydockens.com/bookstore
Amazon Kindle         
Barnes & Noble
Rakuten Kobo
Audible.com

Author Interviews, Blog

Author Interview: Cendrine Marrouat, Multi-genre/ Co-founder of Auroras & Blossoms and PoArtMo

Hello everyone! My name is Cendrine Marrouat. I am a poet, photographer, blogger, short story writer, and multi-genre author (poetry, photography, theatre…). I am also the co-founder of Auroras & Blossoms and PoArtMo, as well as the (co-)creator of several poetry forms and a type of flash fiction.

My most recent works include In Her Own Words: A Collection of Short Stories and Flashku and Tree Reflections, a collection of photographs.    

From Planning to Published

When did you start writing and why?

Author:    I started my career in 2005. I just felt compelled to write. Even today, after so many years, I still cannot explain why…   

Are you indie, traditional, hybrid, or vanity, and why?

Author:   Indie all the way.

I started my career as a poet. When I decided to release my first collections, I knew that it would be very difficult to find an agent or traditional publisher, because poetry books rarely sell well. So, I did a lot of research on self-publishing and then went all in. My first three books were released in 2006. I have never looked back since.

I enjoy self-publishing because I love the freedom attached to it. I know how to format manuscripts, design book covers, create promotional videos and press kits, write press releases and blurbs, etc. As a former social media coach, I also know how to create and implement a strategy.

It also helps that I am a photographer. I always have images that fit my projects, covers, and videos.

What platforms do you use to publish your works?

Author:    I have used several platforms over the years: Lulu, Smashwords, Amazon, Blurb (photography books), and Draft2Digital.

D2D is the best of them all, and not just because it is free. The website is user-friendly and offers wide distribution for books and ebooks. You can see what I mean here: https://creativeramblings.com/books/

Marketing

What is your launch plan for your works?

Author: It really depends on the book. I create a specific strategy for each launch.   

How do you promote your content?

Author:  In many ways. For example, I blog, do interviews, and use Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube.

I also spend a lot of time reading others, leaving comments on their blogs, and engaging with people on social media. This often leads to fascinating conversations.

To me, the human approach is the most effective form of self-promotion in the world. I have sold more books by being genuine, supportive, and respectful of others than by trying the marketing gimmicks recommended by self-proclaimed gurus.

About Your Work

What is your author brand (genre, mood, image, theme, message, etc)? How did you decide on it?

Author:  I consider myself a minimalist. I create like a Haikuist (haiku poet). That is why I choose the following slogan for my brand: “Visual Poetry of the Mundane.”

As a photographer, I mostly document the simplicity and beauty of nature. My written work speaks to the importance of embracing challenges, growth, and positivity. 

It is just the way I live my life. 🙂

How many works have you published?

Author:    If I include the anthologies I have co-edited, I have released 40 books since 2006.

Can you tell us a bit about your most recent publication?

Author:  Tree Reflections features 50+ digital and film images that I took in several parks and urban forests in Winnipeg, Canada, during early spring 2022.

In my province, we had a very long and wet winter. The snow-melting period also came with quite a bit of rain. So, as you can imagine, rivers flooded. Trees in parks and forests were immersed in water, which created stunning reflections. That is what I documented in the book.  

Here is an example.

For more information on Tree Reflections, visit https://creativeramblings.com/tree-reflections/

Do you have other supporting services like a podcast, blog, webinars, courses, video channel?

Author:   I have a podcast, called The Haiku Shack. I share thoughts on life and art, as well as some of my poetry. Each episode is under 5 minutes long. Right now, it is on hold because I have been busy with several projects, but I plan on releasing new episodes very soon!    Link: https://anchor.fm/cendrine-marrouat

On YouTube, I upload short poetry and photography videos a few times a month. Link: https://www.youtube.com/user/cendrinemarrouat

What do you want your readers to get out of your works?

Author:  That life is too short to waste it wallowing in negativity or constantly seeing your glass half empty. That difficult experiences are there to teach us important lessons. And that there is always a light at the end of the tunnel.

Where do you network most with other writers, authors, and creative types? LinkedIn? Wattpad? Twitter? Facebook? Somewhere else?

Author:  I love Twitter! It’s a fascinating platform, where you can meet very interesting people. I also enjoy engaging with people on Medium these days. The community there is nice and supportive.

Link: https://cendrineartist.medium.com/

Struggles

Do you have any tips or recommendations for those who want to go the final step and become authors?

Author:   Just do it! That’s simple! Don’t cut corners, do your research. Have a strategy in place. If you do not have a lot of money, learn to barter!

If you could do it all over again, what would you change?

Author:   Nothing.

I built my platform without any help. It has been a LOT of work, but every mistake has been a blessing. I would not be the artist I am today without the learning curve I had to experience. That is the reason why I celebrate every little victory.   

Are you a driven & self-advocating author, a gun-shy promoter, or a total marketing procrastinator?

Author:  Very early in my career, I realized that nothing comes out of waiting for things to happen. I had to create my own opportunities and open my own doors.

Even though I am an introvert, I have a healthy level of self-confidence. I know my worth as an artist. So I have never been shy about promoting myself. But I don’t spam people. I engage with them.

Promotion is fun when you know the ropes and aren’t scared of testing new ideas. I’m constantly in marketing mode.

Fun Stuff

Do you have a writing companion?

Author:  David Ellis, a fantastic UK-based poet and author. Together, we have co-authored several books, and co-founded Auroras & Blossoms, a platform that celebrates upliftment and inspiration in the arts.

A&B gives a voice to young and adult artists from around the world via its flagship publication, the annual PoArtMo Anthology. (Link: https://abpositiveart.com/store/) Our mission is to inspire creativity in people ages 13 and over. That is the reason why we write guides for authors and artists and run a series of prompts and challenges on Medium. Finally, we also invent poetry forms.

Link: https://abpositiveart.com

We are currently looking for stories and visual art for the third volume of our anthology. Feel free to check us out (https://abpositiveart.com/submit/), we pay royalties to selected contributors. 

My website: https://creativeramblings.com

Books: https://creativeramblings.com/books

All my books are available from major online stores. However, I encourage you to shop locally and ask your neighborhood library to carry my books. I explain how here: https://creativeramblings.com/books.

I am very active on Twitter: https://twitter.com/haiku_shack. I am also on Facebook, Instagram, and TikTok, but I am not a big fan of those social networks. I use the same username: @haikushack.

Author Interviews, Blog

Author Interview: Allen Madding, Southern Fiction

Hi, I’m Allen Madding. I write southern fiction. My most recent project is Summer of ’82: Coming of Age in the Forgotten South.

From Planning to Published

When did you start writing and why?

Author:      I wrote my first short story in 1982 (my senior year in high school) called “The Bug” after reading The Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka. I had a creative itch and enjoyed story telling so it seemed like a logical extension. I wrote a few manuscripts that I wasn’t happy with and didn’t publish anything until the release of Shaken Awake in 2014.

Has your publishing timeframe improved at all since your first publication?

Author:      Amazingly enough I wrote the first book of the Shaken Awake trilogy in under 3 months. I’ve not completed anything that fast since.

Are you indie, traditional, hybrid, or vanity, and why?

Author:      I’m indie. Strictly because I’m too chicken to deal with all of the rejections involved in submitting query letters.


In her work as a loan processor at Sunshine City Bank in Saint Petersburg, Colleen Smithwick has always found it hard to cope with the increasing pressures of work–suffering myopic and tyrannical loan officers while grinding through unreasonable deadlines. She plays the part of a committed wife well, but a restlessness weighs heavy on her mind. When murders of two high-officials rock the bank, Colleen becomes enamored with the lead detective investigating the case.

It’s Detective Gary Black’s job to see the risk in every situation, but he is unaware of the danger surrounding his own life. Since the time he first met Colleen, he has felt a strange attraction for her, the attraction that leads him into a world of dark secrets, throwing him into the path of a psychopathic killer. He must do whatever it takes to solve the case. That is, if he can stay ahead in the game.

Who is in danger? Who is in control? In this devilishly gripping thriller, nothing is what it seems on the surface.


If a homeless man froze to death on the steps of a church, what would it change?”

Shaken Awake – The Complete Trilogy is three books in one (Shaken Awake, Awakened, and Woke!)

“A dreadful chill ravages the city and a homeless man is found frozen to death on the church steps…

The city of Atlanta had weathered a thousand wet and chilly days in winter with occasional snowfall… but never one like this. A snowfall that begins in the noon turns into a vicious ice storm by evening, obliterating everything in its way. People are stuck into the whiteout, and trying to look for a way out.

Now, as the Peachtree Church opens its door to those out in cold, the church members come face to face with a stark reality.


About Your Work

What type of content do you write and why? Fiction Novels? Poems? Songs? Screenplays? Short Stories? Epic?

Author:      My main content is fiction. I grew up in a family of storytellers and enjoy the freedom that fiction provides.

How many works have you published?

Author:      6 – the Shaken Awake Trilogy, Volunteer Management 101, Lendercide, and Summer of ’82


A coming-of-age YA story that is as hauntingly authentic as it is deeply thought-provoking.

The summer of 1982 in Whitiker County in Southwest Georgia was another hot and dry season. The best friends, Ricky, Jimmy, and Buck, are ready to graduate from high school and step into adulthood. But when the lovely Jenny catches both Jimmy and Buck’s eye, Ricky has a bad feeling about the whole thing. Soon, Ricky’s fears come true. Madding’s storytelling is entertaining, and readers will laugh out loud at the boys’ adventures and sympathize with their heartbreaks and failures. As enjoyable as all the characters may be, the standout character of the book is Ricky, whose grounded, sensible nature will have readers rooting for him throughout. While the storyline is intriguing, what sets this novel apart is how beautifully Madding explores the boys’ vulnerabilities, hopes, and passions while delving into themes of love, young adult drama, friendship, mistakes, and regrets. Setting his tale against the quaint backdrop of the forgotten South of the 1980s, Madding skillfully weaves together multiple story strands to create a poignant coming-of-age tale. This is a page-turner. – The Prairies Book Review


An employee needs the paycheck to pay the rent, the mortgage, the car payment, student debt, the credit card bill, the utilities, and a host of other bills.

Volunteers, on the other hand are not motivated by a paycheck to stick it out when the manager is chewing someone out or things get uncomfortable.

The volunteer is simply motivated by making a difference and being a part of the organization. Their commitment hinges on how vested they are with the vision and purpose of the organization. When it gets to be too much of a hassle to serve, when they begin to feel unappreciated, when they feel the commitment is too demanding, they will walk away – usually without any warning or explanation.

With several decades of experience between them, Madding and King share insights on how to manage these valuable resources in your organization.


Struggles

What has been the hardest thing to overcome on your journey to authorship?

Author:      MARKETING! Ugh. I have tried Amazon ads, Google Ads, GoodReads giveaways. I’ve read marketing books, and it still seems like I’m floundering. The only real success I can claim in marketing is author signings (which are few and far between).

If you could do it all over again, what would you change?

Author:      I would have stuck to it through the 80s and 90s. I often wonder where I would be in the whole process if I had not shied away from if for 30 years. Perhaps it would have been easier if we had platforms like KDP to publish in the 90s. But, I think if I had adopted a writing regiment after releasing the Bug, I would have been able to really hone my writing skills over the 30 year gap.

How do you combat writer’s block?

Author:      I read a quote from Hemmingway that I have used to avoid writer’s block:
“I always worked until I had something done and I always stopped when I knew what was going to happen next. That way I could be sure of going on the next day…” — Ernest Hemingway

Fun Stuff

What is your favorite writing snack and drink?

Author:     Drinks: Coffee, Old Fashions, or Crown and Coke Zero. I’ve about swore off all snacks as they all seem to be carb loaded and I’m trying to slim down.  I guess my latest snacks are nuts and beef jerky.

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?

Author:      WRITE! And then write some more. Don’t throw away or delete your writings. Keep them all and go back and consider revising them once you feel your writing has improved. Don’t quit!

Author Interviews, Blog, Sci-Fi Fantasy Blog

Author Interview: William Joseph Hill, Sci-fi/Action

William Joseph Hill,  Sci-fi/action author of CYBER FIGHTER, adapted from his original feature film screenplay

From Planning to Published

When did you start writing and why?

Author:      I actually began writing stories in second grade, writing my own sci-fi stories inspired by my favorite TV show Space: 1999.  Most of my elementary school stories dealt with Commander Koenig from the show piloting the Eagle 1 to other planets.  Then Star Wars came out, and that got me dreaming about becoming a filmmaker.  When my family moved to Hawaii, I started writing and creating my own movies once I got into high school.  At the same time, I began training in martial arts.  My high school adventures that I wrote were very much “ninja epics”.  In fact, I actually made a ninja movie between junior and senior years.  I knew I wanted to have a career in Hollywood, so when I went to college, I took a lot of writing courses which helped me develop my craft.  Once I made the move to Hollywood, I started acting in film and TV professionally, while also writing on the side.  I was hired to write a few screenplays and started writing my own specs, including CYBER FIGHTER which began as a feature script before I turned that into the novel.

How long did it take you to finish your first book?

Author:      I started adapting my screenplay to novel form in 2018.  I finished it and first published on Amazon in November 2019.

If you’ve published, how long did your first book take?

Author:   The process from writing first draft to publishing took about a year and a half.  Most of the work was done in rewrites and editing.  Of course, since I was adapting the novel from my feature screenplay, getting that first draft out wasn’t too hard, as the story structure and characters were all there.  

Has your publishing timeframe improved at all since your first publication?

Author:      You always learn from past experience.  Right now (along with pre-production on a short film version of CYBER FIGHTER) I’m working on mapping out Book 2 in the CYBER FIGHTER series.  I expect that once that’s written and editing completed, going live with publication will be much quicker than my first book.

Are you indie, traditional, hybrid, or vanity, and why?

Author:      I’d say more of a hybrid.  Though I began by self-publishing, I’m always open to having a traditional publisher come on board.  My main goal with publishing CYBER FIGHTER is to reach a fan base that will want to see the feature film. 

How did you determine your target audience?

Author:      I begin with what motivates me; what I like.  I love sci-fi and action movies, everything from Star Wars to Star Trek, to classic written sci-fi from H.G. Wells, Issac Azimov, Ray Bradbury, among others.  I grew up loving martial arts and action movies too.  Bruce Lee and Jackie Chan are major influences in my action sequences.  I also like humor in the Monty Python vein, and works like Douglas Adams’ The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.  Folks who enjoy those kinds of works are who I’m targeting with CYBER FIGHTER.   

What is your publishing process?

Author:    After writing my draft in a Word Document (or Google Docs), I will import it into Kindle Create, where I can format the book for both Kindle and paperback/hardcover.    

What platforms do you use to publish your works?

Author:      I’ve been exclusively using Amazon as I found it to be the easiest platform to self-publish.

How do you get critiques, betas, feedback, and edits?

Author:      I have many writer friends here in Hollywood and often get feedback from them.  I also hired an editor, Christina Gray on CYBER FIGHTER who did a great job with corrections, edits and feedback as well.  It really pays off to hire an editor if you can.  You need a second set of eyes looking at your manuscript in order to find things that you will definitely miss, no matter how many times you comb over it.

BUY THE BOOK

Marketing

Do you have a platform? What does it consist of?

Author:      I mainly use this program called StoryOrigin, which helps authors build mailing lists, get reviews and help with direct marketing by swapping newsletter mentions and promos with other authors.  I send out a monthly newsletter on the 30th of each month to share my recent news, or blog post articles that I write.  I also include other authors’ books in these, and they share my content as well.  It’s really helped me build my mailing list.

What is your launch plan for your works?

Author:      For my next book, I plan on having beta readers do advance reviews for me, and I will also be doing pre-launch promotion via social media and such.  Now that I’ve built up a bit of a following, I can reach out to them first with my new works.

How do you get reviews for your books?

Author:    I’ve gotten reviews through StoryOrigin, and also by hiring a publicist.   I’ve been working with Charles Barrett of The Barrett Company, and it’s really helped get CYBER FIGHTER out there. 

How do you promote your content?

Author:      Along with StoryOrigin and my publicist, I do periodic social media postings on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.  These generally help promote my film projects as well as my book.

What do you think is the most critical marketing component or tactic for becoming successful?

Author:      Persistence is probably the best thing you can do.  Be willing to try different things and never give up.  Keep going till you find something that works, but don’t spend lots of money in the process.  Start with marketing you can do yourself and gradually bring on publicists when you can afford it. 

How do you define success as an author?

Author:      Being able to make your living 100 percent from writing.  If you can sell enough books to pay your bills, and also land other writing gigs, I think that is the dream for most authors. 

About Your Work

What type of content do you write and why? Fiction Novels? Poems? Songs? Screenplays? Short Stories? Epic?

Author:      I am mainly an actor and screenwriter, but have delved into writing fiction novels and short stories. 

What genres and subgenres do you write in?

Author:      I love writing sci-fi and action/military.  I grew up as a Navy Brat in Hawaii, so the military is a big part of my heritage and I like to incorporate it into many of my stories.

What is your author brand (genre, mood, image, theme, message, etc)? How did you decide on it?

Author:      I’m the action-comedy guy.  It began from my actor branding and is the most popular thing I do.  I get lots of positive feedback from it and it just comes naturally to me, most likely from what I cultivated growing up in Hawaii and making my own kung-fu/ninja/sci-fi movies.

How many works have you published?

Author:      So far, I’ve published CYBER FIGHTER the novel, and a comic book adaptation as well, which is based on my short film script concept for the main book.  I have also performed and produced the audio book for CYBER FIGHTER too.

Can you tell us a bit about your most recent publication?

Author:      CYBER FIGHTER is the story of a clumsy temp Brian Baldwin who takes a job at defense contractor Kirkman Enterprises, where he volunteers to test their latest software program on himself by getting black belt fighting skills downloaded directly to his brain via a Virtual Reality immersive experience, turning him into a human weapon.

When Brian discovers that the eccentric main programmer Humbert Cloogey has sold him off to the Army for induction, he makes his escape, assisted by his only ally Dr. Kate Rand,  a neuroscientist who works for the company, but who has some secrets herself.

Simultaneously as Brian is undergoing the experiment, a Triad crime boss and part-time cloning engineer Lau Xiaoming, operating out of North Korea, hacks into the U.S. server hosting the software, planting a Trojan program into Brian’s brain that holds the secret to “Project Starfish”, his plan for world domination.

Brian finds himself pursued by not only the U.S. Army, and FBI, but also by Xiaoming and his minions, all looking to grab him for their own exploits.

The core of my story is Brian’s journey, going from a middle-aged man who gave up on his dreams, to suddenly finding himself empowered with skills he never thought he’d ever achieve.  Almost overnight he acquires an almost superhero status.  But he discovers that he apparently hasn’t achieved any more control over his life than before.  In fact, his life seems pretty much out of control now.

My message to the readers is to not just keep dreaming, but also be prepared for when you do achieve those dreams.  Because there will be forces out there looking to use you for their own means.  This story is also a satire on the U.S.’s military industrial complex and how it’s run almost like a corporate entity – completely profit driven.  I’m also sending up popular action movie tropes in a fun, comic-book way.

Name some common elements in your writing: villains, magic, red-herring twists, the unfortunate ensign, mysterious phenomena, asyndeton, sentence fragments etc.

Author:      My common elements include action sequences and humor. A lot of my humor comes from growing up in Hawaii.  Martial arts are a big part of local culture, and that’s where I began my own training.  I also like to incorporate some references to my upbringing by giving a character a name from Hawaii Pidgin English.  For example, in a screenplay I was hired to write years ago, I named one of the villains Hanabata, which is a Hawaii term for the snot that comes out of your nose.  It’s an inside joke to fellow Kama’ainas (a Hawaiian term for residents).  Hawaii and its culture are such a big part of who I am today, even though I was born on the mainland.  Whenever I can infuse a bit of it into my writing or film projects, it helps to personalize them.

BUY THE BOOK

What was your first goal when you started your journey to becoming an author? Has that changed?

Author:      My main goal was to just build an audience for CYBER FIGHTER, an audience to anticipate the feature film.  But I’ve enjoyed writing a novel so much that I plan on writing the next two books in the trilogy, even before any of them are made into a film.

Do you have other supporting services like a podcast, blog, webinars, courses, video channel?

Author:      I have a YouTube channel, Four Scorpio Productions (http://youtube.com/fourscorpio).  I put a lot of CYBER FIGHTER content there, as well as our web series That Darn Girlfriend, which I’ve created with my lovely and talented actress wife Pamela Hill.

What do you want your readers to get out of your works?

Author:      I’m hoping that my readers have fun reading the story and have a few good laughs, along with being thrilled by the action sequences I have in the story.   I’d also like them to think about the scientific possibilities that the story explores.  As we spend more and more of our lives online, the idea that you could learn skills via Virtual Reality is becoming less science fiction and closer to actuality.

What part of the author process are you working on or studying most now?

Author:      Marketing!  There’s just so much out there to learn how to get my book to reach a wider audience.  The challenge is finding where your readers like to hang out online, and how to reach out to them organically without trying to hard-sell them.

What has been your favorite part of the writing and querying or publishing process?

Author:      I really enjoy writing.  The process of creating characters and exciting adventures has always been fun.  It’s the most creative part of the process; I can focus on the artistic expression rather than the business part of publishing.

Do you recommend any programs, courses, or websites?

Author:      I follow Dave Chesson, the Kindlepreneur, both on his YouTube channel and his website.  He’s got a lot of great content to help you self-publish, especially his free AMS Ads course

Which authors write similar books to yours? How did you find them?

Author:      The closest book that I read similar to my story is Ernest Cline’s Ready Player One.  It deals with virtual reality and 80s pop-culture references too, elements that are also in CYBER FIGHTER.

Have you always read in the genre you wanted to write in? Do you think that’s made it easier or harder to create new stories?

Author:   I’ve always loved science fiction.  One of my favorite novels is H.G. Wells’ The Time Machine; it’s where I first fell in love with the time travel theme, even before Back to the Future came out.    I also loved reading Asimov’s short stories, and Ray Bradbury’s Martian Chronicles

What is your writing process, from idea to polished work? Pantster? Plotter? How long does that typically take you?

Author:      I tend to be more plot oriented, but I often find that I will hit writer’s block when I focus too much on the plot.  That’s when I’ll switch gears and become more of a pantser, writing a passage or two as a character, giving their inner thoughts.  When I write by the seat of my pants, it tends to go a lot quicker, for some reason.  Probably because it’s a stream-of-consciousness method.

Where do you network most with other writers, authors, and creative types? LinkedIn? Wattpad? Twitter? Facebook? Somewhere else?

Author:      I use StoryOrigin to network with other authors, mainly with my newsletter swaps.  I also use Facebook, more so with my acting contacts, but also a few writers there as well.

Do you sprint-write like a starving cheetah, or are you a totally chill turtle writer? Somewhere in between?

Author:      It really depends.  Some days I crank out a lot, others I can’t do more than a paragraph.  So, it would probably average out to a “sprinting turtle”.

Struggles

What has been the hardest thing to overcome on your journey to authorship?

Author:      Self-doubt.  That fear that you have that no one will be interested in your work.  The inner critic that tries to sabotage you from accomplishing your aims.  I have to consciously keep plugging away and not let those doubts take over.  If you go step by step, you will become an author.

How has the writing and querying or publishing process affected you emotionally? Do you have any tips for budding writers?

Author:      Along with those self-doubts, it can be frustrating when you face the fact that you are trying to get your work out there amidst all of the noise competing for attention.  It can be easy to get discouraged.  Just keep plugging away, and you will get your first book done.

Do you have any tips or recommendations for those who want to go the final step and become authors?

Author:      While writing your book, learn as much as you can about self-publishing.  In many ways, it’s the best way to get your work out there.  I recommend Dave Chesson’s Kindlepreneur website and YouTube channel; it was a big help to me.

If you could do it all over again, what would you change?

Author:     I would have definitely had my editor go over my manuscript before I had imported it and edited with Kindle Create.  Since she didn’t have that software, I had to give her a PDF to work from, which was more difficult as she couldn’t add notes directly in the document file.  That probably would have streamlined the publishing process.

Are you a driven & self-advocating author, a gun-shy promoter, or a total marketing procrastinator?

Author:      I am indeed driven and self-advocating, but I have to give a large amount of credit to my wife Pamela who is really good with PR and she will often encourage me to take new steps with promotion.  She was the one who found me my publicist and gave me the encouragement to reach out to them. 

How do you keep yourself motivated?

Author:      By creating a schedule and sticking to it best I can.  But I try not to beat myself up about coming up short.  Writing is a process; if you can’t enjoy the journey, then you should try and do something else.

How do you combat writer’s block?

Author:      If I have writer’s block, I’ll try to focus on the world-building aspect of the story I’m working on.  Maybe write up a backstory or bio on my characters; often that will help jump-start ideas for my plot.

What literary/writer-based term did you not know when you started that has become important and relevant to you?

Author:      I knew nothing about ISBN numbers, how you get them from Bowker, what they are, and how Amazon has their own ASIN numbers that you can use instead.  I did a lot of research about them so that I could understand them better.

How did your family and friends react to your writing? Was it what you expected from them?

Author:      They actually really enjoyed my book a lot.  Even those who really weren’t into the martial arts genre; it was a nice surprise.  I’ve had some family and friends tell me that they’ve re-read CYBER FIGHTER multiple times.  That really means a lot to me.

What assumptions about writers and authors do you think are myths?

Author:      Oh, the biggest myth about writers and authors would probably be how they’re all introverted hermits.  That misconception comes from just a part of the process where you have to be a bit of a hermit when you’re writing, but the rest of your day is spent just like anyone else.  We like physical activity – I continue my martial arts and fitness training five days a week.  So that keeps me balanced.

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Fun Stuff

What do you listen to while you write?

Author:      I love listening to movie or video game soundtracks as I write.  I try to listen to something that gives me the feeling of the genre I’m writing in.  So it can vary from an orchestral soundtrack to a more electronica sound.

Is there a fun word or group of terms you like to put into your writing?

Author:     In CYBER FIGHTER I had one of my characters, the bombastic Buzz Kirkman, CEO of Kirkman Enterprises use one of my dad’s (who was a Navy Captain) favorite sayings:  “No doubt about that in my military mind.”    I also have a reference to the old G.I. Joe cartoons from the 80s:  “Know I know…and knowing is half the battle.”

Where do you write your stories? A tiny office? A loft? The kitchen table? In the bushes while you secretly people-watch like a total creeper? Or a warm café with mocha in hand and feet up on an ottoman?

Author:      I can write anywhere I can bring my laptop, though usually at my kitchen table.  But I’ve also written while acting in film/TV projects, from the green room or my trailer in between filming my scenes.  There’s a lot of downtime for an actor, and that’s a great way to get lots of writing done.

What book are you reading at the moment?

Author:     I’m reading Rising Wind by Dick Couch.  He’s a former Navy SEAL and this story takes place partially on Ford Island in Pearl Harbor where I grew up in Hawaii.  In fact, the author was stationed on Ford Island at the same time I was living there.  So, it’s really cool to read a book with real locations that I actually know!

What is your favorite literary trope?

Author:      I’m more about pop culture tropes; I’ll often put those into my writing as a fun “easter egg” reference.  Like the G.I. Joe catchphrase, or the classic Kung Fu movie tropes I infused into CYBER FIGHTER.

How do you try to “break the mold” and be unique?

Author:  The more I infuse my upbringing into my work, the more original it becomes.  I consider my growing up in Hawaii not only the most influential time in my life, but also what separates me from other creative artists out here in Hollywood.        

What have you learned about yourself from the writing and/or authorship process?

Author:    I think what director Bong-Joon Ho said when he won the Oscar for Best Director: “The most personal is the most creative”.  That is so true; it’s what makes each author unique.    

What is your favorite writing snack and drink?

Author:   A great cup of coffee, especially when I start in the morning.  Later on in the day I love to munch on pretzels and drink flavored seltzer water.  

Do you have a writing companion?

Author:   I’m a solo act when it comes to writing novels.  But my wife Pamela and I both write the episodes for our sitcom web series That Darn Girlfriend. That show is an homage to classic 1960s/70s sitcoms.

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?

Author:    This goes back to when I was studying acting.  An acting coach once told me that the parts of myself that I wanted to hide were actually the most compelling and interesting parts of me, and what would make me relatable to an audience.  To embrace vulnerability and be willing to share that is what makes your work unique and interesting.

Author Website:     http://williamjosephhill.com and http://fourscorpio.com (production company website)

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CYBER FIGHTER the novel on Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B081SJRMJ1

The comic book adaptation: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B08ZL6X6W6

My YouTube channel for Four Scorpio Productions:  http://youtube.com/fourscorpio

Author Interviews, Blog

Author Interview: Emily Ruhl, Fantasy/Romance

Hello! My name is Emily Ruhl, and I am the author of The Bonds Between Us. This is my debut novel, and the first book in the planned Web of Wyrd trilogy. The Bonds Between Us primarily falls into the genres of romance and fantasy, and although I love writing in these genres (and hope to write many more novels that also fall into these literary categories), I would also like to one day expand my horizons into historical fiction to satisfy my passion for history. I currently have several works in progress in all of the aforementioned genres.

From Planning to Published

When did you start writing and why?

Author: I started writing The Bonds Between Us in early 2020. Writing a book was a childhood dream of mine, and I had many ideas for various novels I wanted to write. However, I never sat down to actually put pen to paper, mostly because I had been told so frequently that being an author was an unrealistic goal in life. In 2020 though, a good friend of mine read a short story I had written years prior, and started encouraging me to write a book. Her support and confidence in me restored my enthusiasm for writing and gave me the courage to attempt writing my first novel. Inspired by Italian courses that I took in college and personal events that I experienced throughout my life, I finally started piecing together in my mind the storyline for what is now The Bonds Between Us

How long did it take you to finish your first book?

Author: It took me approximately eight months to finish writing The Bonds Between Us. During that time, I spent most days writing anywhere between 4-10 hours.

If you’ve published, how long did your first book take?

Author: From the moment I received notification from Atmosphere Press that they would like to publish my book, to the day the book officially launched, it took about eight months for The Bonds Between Us to get published.

Are you indie, traditional, hybrid, or vanity, and why?

Author: I consider myself to be a hybrid author. Although I did not go the traditional route of finding an agent who would represent me, I still chose to submit my book to a verified publisher. In large part, this was because I knew I did not have what it took to make my book successful on my own. I had never published a book before, I was not entirely confident in my storyline or editing, and I knew absolutely nothing about things like professional editing, cover design, and marketing. Therefore, I really wanted to find a dependable publisher who would be able to provide the support and guidance I needed to help make my book a success. Atmosphere Press provided that opportunity, and I am forever grateful to them for their huge role in helping my book become a reality.

How did you determine your target audience?

Author: For me, I struggled greatly with determining my target audience. At first, I primarily considered The Bonds Between Us to be targeted toward adult readers due to my writing style. However, I also felt that the fantasy and romance aspects of my book could be appealing for young adult audiences. In the end, after “flip-flopping” back and forth ad infinitum, I strove to target the emerging “new adult” audience category, which is where I feel this book truly lies based on factors such as the age of the characters and the central themes of the story.         

What platforms do you use to publish your works?

Author: I worked with Atmosphere Press to publish The Bonds Between Us.      

How do you get critiques, betas, feedback, and edits?

Author: In terms of feedback and edits, Atmosphere Press editors helped me work out rough spots in the storyline, make corrections, etc. For critiques and reviews, I worked with publicity managers at Atmosphere Press, and also sent out my own requests for reviews from reputable book review sites (such as Feathered Quill) and book reviewers employed by local newspapers.        

Katya Anders was supposed to be a monster, cursed by fate to an eternity of solitude. So the soulmark that suddenly appeared on her wrist must be a mistake… right?

It has to be—especially when her soulmate, Matteo, is both incompatible with, and superior to her, in every way: personality, reputation, bloodlines, magical abilities. Pursuing a relationship with him is not only socially unacceptable… it’s potentially fatal. Logically, Katya knows she should stay away from him. But doing so becomes impossible when an old Venetian folktale turns out to be more real than fiction. Forced to work together, can Katya and Matteo defy their very natures, overcome the restrictions of Vaettir society, and learn to trust their soulbond in time to save Venice, and each other, from the forces of Hell?

In The Bonds between Us by Emily Ruhl, we experience the power of destiny, the strength of love in overcoming all odds, and the realization that we are defined, not by who we are meant to be, but rather by who we choose to be.

Marketing

How do you get reviews for your books?

Author: I get reviews for my books through a joint effort between the outreach of the marketing publicists at Atmosphere Press and my own outreach to book review sites (such as Feathered Quill) and book reviewers employed by local newspapers.        

How do you promote your content?

Author: I promote my content through hardcopy promotion one-sheets, outreach to local bookstores and libraries for stocking and events, outreach to blogging sites, and my own personal social media networking (via Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter). I have also found simple word of mouth to be beneficial.      

How do you define success as an author?

Author: For me, success as an author is measured by what people take away from my writing. On the one hand, my goal with any book is to write storylines and characters that are engaging and entertaining. However, I also want to create works that are relatable and help reveal things about human nature. If people read my writing and are able to find joy in it, feel like they have gained some sort of insight into the world, or discover things that resonate with their personal experiences or feelings, then I feel that I have done my job as an author.

About Your Work

What type of content do you write and why? Fiction Novels? Poems? Songs? Screenplays? Short Stories? Epic?

Author: I mainly write fiction novels because I simply love telling stories. I enjoy creating tales with complex characters, detailed settings, intricate themes, and exciting plots that take the reader through multiple twists and turns. I want my readers to not only have fun reading, but to feel and think deeply about what it is they are reading. Novels allow me the flexibility to do just that, without any kinds of restrictions regarding length or style.

What genres and subgenres do you write in?

Author: Since I currently only have a single novel published, the only genre in which I have written is fantasy. The Bonds Between Us, though predominantly fantasy, also falls into the subgenre of romance. Although I plan on writing more novels that fall into these genres, I also hope to venture into historical fiction one day.

How many works have you published?

Author: I have only published one work—The Bonds Between Us.      

Can you tell us a bit about your most recent publication?

Author: The Bonds Between Us follows the story of Katya Anders, a young American woman who has opted to abandon her life in the United States in exchange for a new life in Venice, Italy. On the surface, Katya appears to be just like everyone else; but she has a secret—she is a Daski, part of an ancient race of magical beings who are notorious for their cold hearts, cruel behavior, and criminal acts. All her life, Katya has fled from this part of who she is. Yet her attempts to deny the reality of her nature becomes all but impossible when she suddenly develops a soulbond—a fated romantic connection she is not meant to have—with a man who seems to be the embodiment of all that is good and pure in the world. Although the connection between Katya and her soulmate is something she craves, she knows that any sort of relationship with him could be dangerous, even deadly. Her internal dilemmas regarding her identity and her future are only made worse when an old Venetian legend comes to life. Torn between who she is supposed to be and who she wants to be, Katya must learn to trust those around her—and even more terrifyingly, herself—if she wants to save the city she calls home from the forces of Hell.

What was your first goal when you started your journey to becoming an author? Has that changed?

Author: My first goal when I started my journey to become an author was simply to fulfill a childhood dream. Ever since I can remember, I loved writing. It was my passion. Yes, I found it to be fun. But it was also much more than that for me. You see, as someone who has always been rather quiet and reserved, writing allowed me an outlet for all of the thoughts, feelings, and stories that I otherwise struggled to express. Therefore, between the joy and the self-expression that I found in writing, my easy, automatic response whenever anyone asked, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” quickly became, “A writer.”

However, as I got older, I was frequently told that being an author was an unrealistic career goal. Yet it was something that always stuck with me. My desire to write couldn’t be hindered, and I have notebooks full of story ideas, scenes, and characters that developed in my mind over the years. But nothing ever came of those ideas or my passion. Not until I met my best friend, Katie—who is practically my sister at this point—did I again entertain the thought of becoming a writer. Katie encouraged me to pursue my passion for writing after reading a short story I had written in high school. She saw potential in me, and pushed me to fulfill my dream of writing a novel. I would never have had the courage to take the plunge and put my writing out into the world without her.

Now that I am a published author, it feels surreal. It is truly a dream come true. Perhaps even more remarkable is the fact that the experience is even more rewarding than I ever imagined it could be. I absolutely cannot wait to continue writing and see where this new path takes me in life. 

What do you want your readers to get out of your works?

Author: I want my readers to take away from my works whatever it is they need most at that point in their lives—entertainment, comfort, acceptance, belonging, hope, courage. After all, that’s what makes writing beautiful. Just like music, paintings, movies, and other forms of art, writing has so much flexibility in terms of meaning. It is all a matter of perspective. Two people could read the same book, and both might take away completely different meanings based upon their past experiences, their mindsets, their interests, their feelings. For me, that was always the magic of writing. I could read any book I wanted, understand the story the author was trying to convey, and still have the freedom to find in it whatever it was I was searching for at that time. That was something so important to me throughout my life, as reading novels truly did help me through some incredibly difficult times. Therefore, I don’t ever want to tell my readers what I expect them to get out of my writing. It is much more important to me that my readers find their own take-aways themselves.

What part of the author process are you working on or studying most now?

Author: Right now, I am working on marketing strategies. As someone who has never quite felt comfortable in the spotlight, marketing and advertising my novel has been a struggle. However, I am discovering that there are so many different ways of marketing books, that I can create a procedure that works for me and my comfort level. It has actually turned out to be more enjoyable than I first thought it would be.       

What has been your favorite part of the writing and querying or publishing process?

Author: Truth be told, I have several favorite parts of the writing and publishing process. First, writing the novel itself—sitting down with pen and paper, creating new characters, planning out in my head the different scenarios those characters would face—was such a joy. I have always loved writing and thinking up new stories in my head, so writing The Bonds Between Us gave me a chance to do some of the things that I enjoy most in this world. Second, seeing the book cover design for the first time simply blew me away. It was at that moment that my book’s publication finally felt real. Lastly, one of the things I had to include in this list was the first time I saw my characters drawn on paper. Shortly after the publication of The Bonds Between Us, a friend of mine drew pictures of the main characters. She surprised me with the pictures as a birthday gift, and the moment I unwrapped the drawings, I couldn’t help but get a bit teary-eyed. Yes, it was emotional to hold my book for the first time; but to see the characters—all of which I put so much time, care, and love into creating—suddenly brought to life on the page in front of me, was a truly emotional experience.

Have you always read in the genre you wanted to write in? Do you think that’s made it easier or harder to create new stories?

Author: I have always read fantasy novels, although I often read outside of fantasy as well. I frequently read mystery, historical fiction, nonfiction, and occasionally romance works.

Speaking strictly about fantasy works, I think it has actually made it more difficult for me to create new stories. Sometimes, I will get an idea, but then one of the next books I pick up always seems, without fail, to contain that idea. This tends to be discouraging because, as an author, you always want to be different, to have something new to share with the world. It can actually be quite frustrating to come up with something that you think is innovative, to get really excited about it, and then realize that someone else thought of it first.

Along with that, sometimes it can also be discouraging when you read a really great book with a unique concept. You get so caught up in how brilliant the idea is, and immediately think, “I could never come up with something that good.” It can make you lose faith in your own ideas and writing, because you think—especially as a new author—that your writing could never compare with that of other authors.

I have therefore found it very helpful to balance what I am reading and writing—at least during the periods in which I am actively writing. For instance, when I was in the middle of writing The Bonds Between Us, I only read nonfiction. I absolutely refused to pick up any works of fiction. I found that only exposing myself to works of non-fiction during my own creative writing process helped me maintain focus on my story. It also helped prevent me from getting distracted, discouraged, or unintentionally influenced by the things I was reading in all of the other wonderful novels that exist in the world.

What is your writing process, from idea to polished work? Pantster? Plotter? How long does that typically take you?

Author: I write in a strange hybrid style that includes both organized planning and allowing myself to be drawn whichever way the wind takes me. Typically, something in the world around me will spark an idea in my head. I then fiddle around with the idea on paper—planning characters, deciding on settings, creating the overarching plot. Then, I try to start writing. Sometimes, this means starting at the very beginning and working my way forward; other times, I write out whichever scenes appear clearly in my mind’s eye, and then go back and connect them all into a single cohesive story.

Where do you network most with other writers, authors, and creative types? LinkedIn? Wattpad? Twitter? Facebook? Somewhere else?

Author: I network most with other writers and authors on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.      

Do you sprint-write like a starving cheetah, or are you a totally chill turtle writer? Somewhere in between?

Author: I would say that I am somewhere in-between. When my ideas are first taking shape in my head, I am definitely the “chill turtle writer.” It may take me several months before I have an idea that is solid enough to start outlining and fleshing out. At that point though, I become the “starving cheetah”—my ideas start flowing like a waterfall, I will start writing virtually non-stop. It is incredibly difficult for me to stop writing once I get into that momentum.

Struggles

What has been the hardest thing to overcome on your journey to authorship?

Author: The hardest thing for me to overcome has definitely been dealing with the “public” aspects of authorship. As I previously mentioned, I am, by nature, a rather quiet and reserved person. Therefore, making my writing public and stepping out of my comfort zone to promote it has been very difficult for me.

How has the writing and querying or publishing process affected you emotionally? Do you have any tips for budding writers?

Author: Querying was honestly one of the most difficult and disheartening experiences I have ever endured. To spend so much time and effort writing a book, only to have it be rejected—in most cases without any reason being given—can be beyond discouraging. As a writer, you put so much of yourself into the characters and plot of your stories. To have a story rejected can therefore feel like a part of yourself is being rejected, too. After a while, it becomes hard not to lose faith in your writing.

At times, I considered giving up on publishing my novel as a result of the many rejection letters I received from agents. In fact, I did occasionally stop sending out inquiries just so that I could take time to refocus on my writing and renew the enthusiasm and confidence that I had in my book.

Therefore, querying was, for me, the part of the publication process that had the largest affect on me emotionally. However, once The Bonds Between Us was eventually accepted for publication by Atmosphere Press, the process was emotionally taxing for an entirely different reason—mainly that I was trying to balance all of the demands of publication along with a full-time job and graduate school.

When the publication process was completed, though, and I was at last able to hold my book in my hands for the very first time, it did feel like a “proud parent” moment. It was the realization of a childhood dream, and after eight months of knowing that dream was finally coming true, seeing the physical evidence of it was indescribable. It was definitely worth all of the struggles, stress, and emotional turmoil. I wouldn’t trade my path to publication and authorship for anything in the world.  

Do you have any tips or recommendations for those who want to go the final step and become authors?

Author: I would recommend two things. First, be prepared to believe in your work. Perhaps that sounds silly, but I think it is extremely important. It’s one thing to write a book, think that it has potential, and send it out for publication with the beautiful mental image of an acceptance email or letter finding its way to you shortly thereafter. The reality, though, is that you might face countless rejections before you finally get the “okay” from an agent or publisher. I have spoken to several people who wrote manuscripts, received rejection letters, and gave up on publication because they no longer believed their books were good enough to be “real” books. I, myself, struggled with that very issue. So, it’s essential, as the cliché goes, to “plan for the worst, but expect the best.” Go into the publishing process knowing that you may be rejected—a lot. But also go into the process believing in your book, and holding firm to the belief that it is indeed “good enough” to one day be accepted by an agent and/or publisher and be put into print.

Second, keep an open mind. Editing, proofreading, cover design, websites and marketing—all of those things (and more) require you, as an author, to work with others in order to achieve the goal of making your book the best and most successful that it can possibly be. Again, this can be difficult at times. As I previously mentioned, as writers, our writing tends to be deeply personal to us, even when the story is entirely a work of fiction. Due to the personal nature of writing and the sheer amount of time and effort that we devote to the works we create, the ways in which we perceive our writing is naturally subjective. Therefore, it is essential for writers to get outside opinions—especially in those areas of writing and publishing that may be unfamiliar or difficult to us. Sometimes, outside sources—editors, proofreaders, copy designers—may have thoughts, ideas, or opinions about our works that completely differ from our own. It can be hard to change parts of your writing, or to be faced with the necessity of surrendering an idea on which you had your heart set, even for the sake of improving your literary work. However, being open to those insights is so important to the publishing process. Indeed, it is only by receiving external, objective feedback that we can truly develop our books into the masterpieces they are meant to be. 

If you could do it all over again, what would you change?

Author: If I could publish The Bonds Between Us all over again, I would definitely have started promoting my book much earlier than I did. I would have set up author accounts on social media platforms and started gaining followers well in advance of the launch date (or even the beginning of the publication phase). This would have allowed me to begin promoting my book while I was still in the writing phase, and trying to gain traction for my book prior to its official launch.     

Are you a driven & self-advocating author, a gun-shy promoter, or a total marketing procrastinator?

Author: I am definitely a gun-shy promoter. I am not a person who is comfortable in the spotlight, so promoting my book is quite terrifying. This adversity to self-promotion definitely makes me procrastinate with marketing at times.

How do you keep yourself motivated?

Author: I take time for myself, which sometimes requires taking short breaks away from writing. By focusing on writing day-in and day-out, I tend to find myself burning out. However, by balancing my life with other things I enjoy, spending time in nature, and doing things that help me to mentally and emotionally “reset,” I have found that my focus and motivation as a writer improve greatly.        

How do you combat writer’s block?

Author: To combat writer’s block, I do something physical. I am a martial artist, so when I am really stumped with my writing, I will usually take an hour or two to do some training. The physical nature of martial arts forces me to stop thinking, which usually helps clear my head and “unblock” whatever it is that is stumping me with my writing. If doing some sort of physical exercise doesn’t work though, and I need some additional inspiration to get past the part of my story with which I am struggling, I love to head outdoors. Being in nature always seems to put my mind at ease, and even the smallest things—like the way the sunlight filters through the leaves of a tree, or the smell of a flower, or the particular shade of green coloring a patch of grass—can help inspire my writing and get me past even the most stubborn instances of writer’s block.

What literary/writer-based term did you not know when you started that has become important and relevant to you?

Author: Copy editing. When I first began, I had no idea how this differed at all from “regular” editing. I never knew that some editors are meant to focus more on storyline edits, whereas others focus more on the “proofreading” aspects of writing.

How did your family and friends react to your writing? Was it what you expected from them?

Author: All of my family and friends have been incredibly supportive of my decision to become a writer. This was not at all what I was expecting. As I explained earlier, I faced a lot of criticism as a child when I said that I wanted to be an author. It was considered an unrealistic life goal. Therefore, when I decided that I wanted to become an author at 25 years old, I was fully expecting a lot of negative responses from those closest to me. However, this was not the case. In fact, every single friend or family member I told about my writing was more positive, supportive, and encouraging than I could have possibly imagined. I consider myself beyond fortunate to have a group of people in my life who believe so unwaveringly in me, and who value my happiness so much, that they did not hesitate to support my decision to change careers and fulfill my dream of writing.    

Fun Stuff

What do you listen to while you write?

Author: I love listening to The Piano Guys and Il Volo while I write. Their music is inspiration for almost all that I do, and has thus been a huge part of my life for nearly a decade.      

Where do you write your stories? A tiny office? A loft? The kitchen table? In the bushes while you secretly people-watch like a total creeper? Or a warm café with mocha in hand and feet up on an ottoman?

Author: I write my stories either curled up on my couch during the winter months, or stretched out in the grass outside during the summer, spring, and fall months. Regardless of the environment though, I only ever write in the quiet, when I am by myself. I find it very difficult to write around other people, as I am easily distracted. That’s not to say that I don’t get a bit of inspiration from people-watching, though!      

What book are you reading at the moment?

Author: I am currently reading three books at the moment, since I can never seem to pick and choose just a single book to read. I would be thrilled if it were possible for me to read them all at once! The three books I am now reading are The Murder of Roger Ackroyd by Agatha Christie, Lost Moon by Jim Lovell and Jeffrey Kluger, and Failure Is Not An Option by Gene Kranz.     

What have you learned about yourself from the writing and/or authorship process?

Author: I have learned that I am much braver than I ever thought. The fact that I have spent more than six months talking with editors, cover designers, proofreaders, etc., and am now actively marketing my book is remarkable. A year ago, I would not have believed it if someone were to tell me that I would be doing all of these things myself… and actually enjoying them! As a result of my quiet and reserved nature, things like this normally terrify me. However, I am finding that I have much more courage—and, oddly enough, am much more of a social butterfly—than I ever thought! It is wonderful that we can always develop and evolve throughout life, no matter our age.       

What is your favorite writing snack and drink?

Author: I love snacking on grapes and iced tea while I write.      

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?

Author: “The best story you can ever write is that of your own life.” These words, spoken by my father when I was a child, have always stuck with me. So, too, has the knowing look he had in his eyes when he said this to me. It was like he knew that I would become a writer one day. Although he has long since passed away, his words seem to resonate through my mind every time I sit down to write. For me, this piece of advice is a reminder that writing is something with which people connect on an emotional and psychological level. They may identify with a particular character, relate to a certain event, or find comfort in a specific theme. As such, writing has the power to provide solace, eradicate loneliness, offer new insights into the world around us, help us find and discover pieces of ourselves… the power of the pen is truly endless. So, my father’s words to me all those years ago still encourages me to take my own experiences in life—no matter how trivial or deeply personal they may be—and incorporate them into my writing. In this way, my own life might be able to provide not only entertainment to others, but perhaps something a bit more meaningful as well. 

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