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?
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?
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?
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?
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?
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?
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?
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?
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?
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.
Do you have a platform? What does it consist of?
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?
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?
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?
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?
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?
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?
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?
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?
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?
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?
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.
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?
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?
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?
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?
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?
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?
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?
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?
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?
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?
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?
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.
What has been the hardest thing to overcome on your journey to authorship?
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?
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?
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?
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?
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?
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?
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?
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?
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?
I think there are three main assumptions that are definitely myths:
- Writing is easy. No one, but other authors, understands the time commitment, dedication, and disappointment that a budding author must endure.
- 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.
- 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.
What do you listen to while you write?
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?
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?
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?
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?
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?
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?
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?
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?
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?
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.