Thursday, December 29, 2011

The Same Six Questions - Chrystalla Thoma

Welcome to this final Same Six Questions interview of 2011! What a long strange year it's been! Today's guest is science fiction author Chrystalla Thoma. Welcome!

Hi Andy! Yes, my name is Chrystalla Thoma, and I’m a Greek Cypriot. Bouzouki music is part of my upbringing, as is smashing plates and drinking ouzo. I own no cats (alas! not yet), I drive a hybrid energy car (Toyota Prius!) and currently work as a freelance translator. I studied languages and speak 5 of them (Greek, English, French, German and Spanish). My favorite cuisine is Indian/Thai, and I am addicted to chilies, especially jalapenos!

The Same Six Questions

1. Have you published a book yet?


I am very pleased to say I recently published Rex Rising, a Young Adult, Science Fiction novel (available exclusively on Amazon and free to Amazon Prime members). The story is about Elei, a young aircar driver in a world where parasites create new human races. He leads a peaceful life — until a mysterious attack on his boss sends him fleeing with a bullet in his side. Pursued for a secret he does not possess and with the fleet at his heels, he has but one thought: to stay alive. His pursuers aren’t inclined to sit down and talk, although that’s not the end of Elei’s troubles. The two powerful parasites inhabiting his body, at a balance until now, choose this moment to bring him down, leaving Elei with no choice but to trust in people he hardly knows in a mad race against time. It won’t be long before he realizes he must find out this deadly secret – a secret that might change the fate of his world and everything he has ever known – or die trying.

I am currently writing the sequel and have published a novelette set in the same world.


2. When did you know you wanted to be a writer?

I think I was about ten when I made my first pathetic attempts at writing stories, but it wasn’t until I was thirteen or so that I wrote my first novel and the idea lodged itself in my head that I would work as a writer when I grew up. A few years later, I was told firmly that being an author is not a job, and that I should get my head down from the clouds and think of studying for a real job. Duh. This I did, and only found myself revisiting my dream long years later. I still work doing other “real” jobs, but I do hope some day soon to make my childhood dream come true and become a full time writer.

3. What was your first lengthy piece of fiction (say, >1000 words)? What was it about? When did you write it? Do you still have it?

Oh, yes I still have it! I wrote it when I was twelve, and it’s a (hold your breath) 700 page, medieval fantasy novel! Unfortunately, my mother tells me it’s my best piece of fiction so far :( I hope that isn’t true, lol.) It’s a wordy epic following the adventures of Taran, a young man, across a country heading to war, told from multiple points of view, with head-hopping and lots of telling, including also many Tolkienesque poems and songs. I am saving it because it really was a turning point for me as a writer. After all, I proved to myself I could write a novel, which was an amazing thing. It is handwritten and I even made a cover for it back then! (I guess I always was an Indie at heart...)

4. When was your first indication, "I can do this (write)"?

When I was sixteen, I wrote a short fantasy novel (in Greek) which won the national young author prize in Cyprus and was published. I guess that was the first time I ever saw my words published in a book, and it was a great moment. But I still didn’t think I could ever be a professional writer. I think my reluctance to accept my true “writerly” nature also comes with my geographic origin: I used to write in Greek, and I’m not even sure there are any professional writers in Greece. Maybe they are – but just how many copies can you sell to 11 million people, most of whom don’t ever read fantasy and science-fiction?

So, to finally answer your question, I guess my first “I can do this!” moment came when I started having short stories (in English) accepted in literary journals and my YA Urban Fantasy Dioscuri was accepted for publication by MuseItUp publishing last year. That was a revelation.

5. If you could meet one of your characters in real life, which would it be?

This is a tough one... I guess it would be Kalaes, from my novel Rex Rising. I admit I find him fascinating, and he’s, well, quite handsome... *blushes* You know, he’s got this wild black hair and two longer, braided strands hanging on one side, and gorgeous dark eyes, and a wide grin, and lots of tattoos. But he’s too young for me, unfortunately (only about 19 years old) – and I also don’t want to cheat on my husband who is my favorite person in the whole world!

Kalaes is a very intriguing character. He’s been through a lot in his past, but he hides his traumas behind a cheerful facade and won’t talk about it (not even to me!), so I need to get him out of his shell and have a long discussion with me. I really need to get to know him better because I’m also writing his story, which forms a prequel of sorts to Rex Rising.

6. It's a dark and stormy night...you're alone in the house...there's a knock at the door...you open it, look out, and proceed to scream like a little girl. What's on the doorstep?

*wonders what would make her do that* Hm. Legolas? Aragorn? Brad Pitt as Achilles? No, wait, you said “scream” not “squeal”. I got it now, lol:

It’s a snake. A huge, undulating, hissing snake. I have a deeply-seated fear of snakes and all slithering things, including fish and worms. They used to haunt my dreams a lot in the past, now they’re either gone, or I don’t remember my dreams anymore. Which is just as well. :)

_________________________________

Thanks for stopping by today, Chrystalla! For more of Chrystalla's writing, be sure to check out her blog, Facebook Page, Twitter, and Google+. Be sure to check out the trailer for her book here.

My first guest of the New Year will be Borislava Borissova! See you on the other side!







Monday, December 26, 2011

The Same Six Questions - C.R. Paynton

Happy Boxing Day to my Canadian and British readers! Happy post-traumatic Christmas recovery Day to my American readers. And, welcome to another edition of The Same Six Questions. Today's guest is fantasy author C.R. Paynton. Welcome!


Thanks, Andy! I am from British Columbia, Canada, and I live in the Rocky Mountains where I work as a police officer. When I am not writing, I enjoy hiking, working out, eating organic food, spending time with my girlfriend, family and crazy dog, snowboarding and reading.


The Same Six Questions

1. Have you published a book yet?


I have published my first book, Wolf Guard Encroaching Dark which is a fantasy about a wolf shape shifter who is destined to lead the Druid people of the forests to victory against a demon Vampire and his Troll armies. The novel is filled with battles, magic, and a little bit of romance. In addition to Amazon, the book is currently available for Nook and other ereader formats and is available in print as well! The second novel in the series, Wolf Guard Unleashing the Underworld is also set to be released very soon!


2. When did you know you wanted to be a writer?

I believe my desire to be a writer started when I was around 7 years old. I had come home from school after either reading a certain book or hearing about an author (I cannot recall) and decided I would make my own picture book. I ended up writing and illustrating the book which was about a boy and a dog. Since then I have written in my spare time for fun. It was only recently that I decided I would make an attempt to become a published author.


3. What was your first lengthy piece of fiction (say, >1000 words)? What was it about? When did you write it? Do you still have it?

There have been far too many to count! I have had the horrible tendency in the past to start a piece and then never finish it, thus I had a number of partially completed pieces that have since disappeared! I have written a number of short stories although those as well are unaccounted for!


4. When was your first indication, "I can do this (write)"?

I believe the realization came one night as I was searching for a good novel to read online. I remember sitting back and saying to myself “Why don’t I create my own novel?”

After that I set a goal for myself to write a chapter as often as I could and before I knew it I had accomplished my goal of writing a novel! After completing the novel and going through the publishing process I realized how much I truly enjoyed every second of it and knew that it was what I wanted to do.


5. If you could meet one of your characters in real life, which would it be?

I think I would like to meet Hershel, he is one of the more important characters of my novel and I happen to think we would get along quite well. He is a stag though so I would have to make sure I brushed up on my ability to speak to animals…


6. It's a dark and stormy night...you're alone in the house...there's a knock at the door...you open it, look out, and proceed to scream like a little girl. What's on the doorstep?

A person holding my novel with a marker asking for an autograph…I am screaming out of excitement.

_____________________________

Thanks so much for sharing! For more of C.R. Paynton, check out his blog and Twitter page.

I hope this holiday season finds you well. Be sure to stop back on Thursday when my guest will be Chrystalla Thoma. See you then!

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Top Six of the Same Six - 2011 - Favorite Covers

Merry Christmas! The last of my Top Six from the Same Six Awards (from my Same Six Questions interview series) go to my favorite covers. Of the 45+ authors who graced my blog this year, these covers stood out the most. Winners are listed in no particular order. Click on the author's name to read the original interview.









I hope you've enjoyed my little end-of-year top 6 recap series. I'm looking forward to meeting more indie authors in the coming year. I wish you a happy and healthy Holiday and New Year.

If you missed any of the other awards, check them out here and here. ;-D



Saturday, December 24, 2011

New Book Cover!

I am very proud to present the artwork for my upcoming sequel, Divisible by Six:


The cover was produced and designed by my very talented friend, James Cornette. Be sure to check out some of his other work (www.jamescornette.com and www.cornfu.com).

Top Six of the Same Six - 2011 - Favorites Answers

Today's Top Six from the Same Six Awards features my favorite answers to my favorite of the Six Questions...#6! While we've run the gamut of long and short answers over the course of the year, these were the ones that stood out as being the most original and/or gave me a chuckle. Click on the author's name to read the original interview. Winners are listed in no particular order.

It's a dark and stormy night...you're alone in the house...there's a knock at the door...you open it, look out, and proceed to scream like a little girl. What's on the doorstep?

1. Kimberly Bettes - One of the most vile, evil creatures nature has ever known.

With beady eyes and hairy legs, it stares me down, longing to consume my soul. I stare back, trying to hide the fear that courses through my veins, hoping my lady-like screams didn’t give me away. If I’m lucky, I can slip back into the safety of my house unnoticed.

What is it, you ask?

Why, it’s a Jehovah’s witness.

Just kidding! It’s a spider. Lord, how I hate me some spiders.

2. Toni Dwiggins - A giant hamburger.

3. Alex Adena - Canned peas and creamed corn! My mom made me eat them when I was a little kid and I could barely swallow them without gagging. I'm grimacing now just thinking about them. Bleh.

4. R.E. Long - Snooki...or a big ass spider. Both are equally creepy.

5. Jennifer Rainey - Pee Wee Herman.

6. C.A. Deyton - John Taylor from Duran Duran. I’ve always loved him...by the way, I would also pee my pants. TMI?

Thanks for stopping by! And, Happy Christmas Eve! Stop on back tomorrow for some more Top 6 fun! Yes, I know it's Christmas, but you might need some books for that shiny new e-reader you got and I'll have a list of those that piqued my interest the most this year. Did you miss yesterday's winners? Well, check them out!



Friday, December 23, 2011

Top Six of the Same Six - 2011 - Most Popular

Top 10 lists are overrated! To celebrate the end of a great year, I'll be featuring some quick posts over the next couple of days to recount some of the "Best of" my interview series The Same Six Questions. Today's Top Six from the Same Six includes the "winners" of the popularity contest. The following six interviews received the most attention (hits/pageviews) this year. Winners are listed in no particular order. Be sure to give these interviews a look and see what all the fuss was about:

1. Ty Johnston

2. Brent Nichols

3. S. Arthur Martin

4. Carolyn J. Rose

5. Anne Holly

6. David M. Brown

Tomorrow, the Top Six from the Same Six Awards continue, so stop on by!



Thursday, December 22, 2011

The Same Six Questions - A.P. Fuchs

Happy Holidays Everyone! Welcome to this pre-Christmas edition of The Same Six Questions. Today's guest is A.P. Fuchs.

The Same Six Questions

1. Have you published a book yet?

I’ve published over 20 books. Obviously, it’s hard to pick a favorite as each hold a special meaning to me in different ways, but if I could narrow it down to something I think folks would enjoy, it would probably be the first book to my Undead World Trilogy, Blood of the Dead, which is very much a shoot-’em-up zombie novel with intentionally B-horror-type characters.

The short synopsis:

Joe Bailey prowls the Haven’s streets, taking them back from the undead. Billie and Des soon have Joe to thank for their lives. As the dead push into the Haven, the trio is forced into fear central: the city. After meeting an old man with a peculiar past, Joe and the others must make one last stand against the undead. A desperate escape leads them to a discovery that will shake the future.

The book is available in paperback and eBook (Kindle, Nook, and iPad, etc).

2. When did you know you wanted to be a writer?

Originally, I was aiming to draw comic books as a career. Long story short, the animation school I attended—with the mentality that if I could draw something in motion I could certainly draw it standing still—stopped teaching us part way through the course.

Bitter—the course cost a fortune—I ended up writing comic book scripts for the guys in class. Having discovered I really loved the writing process, I branched out into short stories and, by accident—when a short story meant to be serialized grew longer than anticipated—begun working on novels.

3. What was your first lengthy piece of fiction (say, >1000 words)? What was it about? When did you write it? Do you still have it?

When I was a kid, I used to write Indiana Jones-like fan fiction, but with me in the title role. This was purely for amusement. I don’t have the stories anymore as they were saved on my computer from the Stone Age and on floppy 5” discs.

However, I still have the first over-1000-word story I did when I began seriously writing with the aim of making it a career. It’s called Rag Man and is about a guy who goes to the art gallery, slips and falls and cracks his head. He dies, and while outside his body, encounters the haunting figure known as the Rag Man. That story had originally been sold to a defunct studio (for around $25US, I think), but has since found a permanent home in my short story collection, Magic Man Plus 15 Tales of Terror.

4. When was your first indication, “I can do this (write)”?

Sadly, I think every writer goes into writing with the notion “I can do this.” Whether that’s true or not depends on agent/editor/publisher/reader/reviewer feedback. If anything, I think writers—when starting out—are poor judges when it comes to assessing the quality of their work. I know I was, and I know of many others who jumped into the pool too soon without honing their craft.

And getting friends and family to give you feedback is a terrible idea as they are usually biased in your favor. If you want to see if “you can do it,” submit your work and try to sell it to a publisher that will pay you for it. Never write for free. Never.

5. If you could meet one of your characters in real life, which would it be?

Simple: Axiom-man, my superhero character who I’ve been fantasizing about for most of my life and finally brought to market in 2006. Thus far, four adventures have been published book-wise, one comic and one short story.

Here’s the general overview:

One night Gabriel Garrison was visited by a nameless messenger who bestowed upon him great power, a power intended for good. Once discovering what this power was and what it enabled him to do, Gabriel became Axiom-man, a symbol of hope in a city that had none.

The Axiom-man Saga will be my life’s work, as it is a giant series (25 books, 25 novellas), with a beginning, middle and end. My goal is to complete it before I kick the bucket.

It’s kind of a Superman meets Batman meets Spider-Man type of story where you got this young man, 24 years old, who gets these powers—that have limits—and has to decide what to use them for, how they tie into cosmic forces more powerful than him, how to face against his archnemesis who has a similar power source but is stronger all-around, life, love and more. It’s very much a life-and-times superhero story, chronicling a superhero’s life from his inception as a hero to—well, I won’t spoil anything.

6. It’s a dark and stormy night...you’re alone in the house...there’s a knock at the door...you open it, look out, and proceed to scream like a little girl. What’s on the doorstep?

A horde of zombies, arms already outstretched, grabbing onto me.

One zombie, to me, isn’t scary, but get a pack of them together and I’m out of there. I’ve had so many nightmares with this scenario.

_____________________________________


Thanks A.P.! For more of A.P. Fuchs, check out the web, Twitter, Facebook, Coscom Entertainment, and Coscom Twitter.

Tomorrow begins my year-end wrap up with the Top Six from the Same Six Awards! Three days of Top Six goodness from the past 6 months of interviews. See you tomorrow!

Monday, December 19, 2011

The Same Six Questions - Nate Granzow

Where has the year gone!? Can you believe it's the 19th already? This is the 5-month anniversary of The Same Six Questions feature and I'd like to welcome my 45th guest, Nate Granzow!

Thanks, Andy! I'm a journalist by trade and I currently work as an editor for Meredith Publishing (of Better Homes and Gardens fame) in Des Moines, IA. When I'm not writing, I enjoy woodworking, leatherworking, hunting, fishing, weight-lifting, and playing the guitar.

The Same Six Questions

1. Have you published a book yet?


Yes. My debut novel The Scorpion's Nest is available through Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and the iBookstore as a digital download. It's a piece of historical fiction told as kind of action-adventure thriller. Essentially, a terrible virus is discovered during WWII, and recognizing its promising lethality, a band of German scientists are sent on a clandestine mission (Operation Scorpion's Nest) into the American southwest to unleash it upon the unsuspecting US. Seventy years later, my protagonist, Scott Kretschmer (an unemployed aircraft mechanic) witnesses a violent bank robbery where the crooks leave the money and take the last logbook from the Nazi operation. Scott suddenly finds himself trying to stop a pharmaceutical company with a Nazi past from replicating the virus and releasing it upon the world as the only provider of the antidote.


2. When did you know you wanted to be a writer?

After reading Jules Verne's The Mysterious Island where the character Gideon Spillett so impressed me with his dashing behavior, bravery, and worldly knowledge. It spurred me to start my school's first newspaper out of my Dad's study when I was in the fourth grade.


3. What was your first lengthy piece of fiction (say, >1000 words)? What was it about? When did you write it? Do you still have it?

I was on an American Civil War kick for a few years when I was 10 or so. I wrote some short fiction emulating Jeff Shaara's work, and I'm sure if I looked hard enough, I could find it tucked away somewhere. My folks would probably have a copy—they're the kind that kept everything I wrote.


4. When was your first indication, "I can do this (write)"?

Writing has been such an integral part of my life—namely that it isn't just a hobby, but also my profession—that I never really had a moment where I realized I could make this work. At many points I've stopped and wondered how I got to where I am, but I sure wasn't cognizant of it when I first set out!


5. If you could meet one of your characters in real life, which would it be?

While I genuinely like my protagonist, Scott, and find him to be a compelling character, he doesn't seem like he'd be much fun to hang out with. I'd go with my comedic relief—Professor Timothy Alejo. The guy has a childish, inappropriate, wildly enjoyable sense of humor.


6. It's a dark and stormy night...you're alone in the house...there's a knock at the door...you open it, look out, and proceed to scream like a little girl. What's on the doorstep?

A time portal sending me back to high school.

____________________________________

Fantastic, Nate! thanks so much for sharing with us. For more of Nate and his writing, be sure to check out his Web site and Facebook Page.

Thanks for stopping in! Thursday's guest will be A.P. Fuchs. See you then!



Friday, December 16, 2011

To Select or To Not Select, That's the Question

So, Amazon's self-publishing arm, Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP), recently announced a new feature for self-publishers called KDP Select. To say that it's created a bit of a stir in the self-publishing world is an understatement.

It presents indie authors with a bit of a double-edged proposition. In order to "join the club", you must make your book exclusive to Kindle for 90 days (ie, it cannot appear anywhere else in any form...including teasers on your own web site). In return, your book will be made available through the Kindle Owners' Lending Library for US Amazon Prime members for "free." (Prime members pay $79 a year for expedited shipping and other perks). Authors will also have an opportunity to set their price to $0 for five days every 90 days (while some books are currently free on Amazon, it's only accomplished through "tricking" the system and putting your book free through another distributor. The new setup will allow authors to set the price to $0 right through the KDP manager).

So, what's the hook? A share of half a million dollars a month. Authors' cut of the share is based on how many loans their book(s) gets. Amazon's example is a bit conservative, in my estimates: "...if the monthly fund amount is $500,000 and the total qualified borrows of all participating KDP titles is 100,000 in December and if your book was borrowed 1,500 times, you will earn 1.5% (1,500/100,000 = 1.5%), or $7,500..."

But, you're not gaining anything by letting your book go essentially for free, you say? Not quite. You see, borrows are now being incorporated into the Amazon ranking algorithm. So, though you may not see increased sales, any "free" borrows will push you up in the rankings (which, theoretically, would lead to more exposure, borrows, sales, etc). Conversely, it means that if you're book is NOT in the program, you're not only fighting sales of other books, but the added weight of borrows against your book's ranking.

Tempting, no? Like a good number of self-published authors, I have cast my book's net as far as possible. I have uploaded my book to Amazon, B&N, and the multi-platform distributor Smashwords for the other ebook fish (eg, iPad, Kobo, Sony). However, when it comes down to actual sales (like a good number of self-pubbed authors as well), I have received the most sales through Amazon. Here's how the numbers break down for my ebook sales after 6 months on the market:

  • Amazon - 77.9%
  • Apple - 10.3%*
  • B&N - 8.3%
  • Smashwords - 2.0%
  • Kobo - 0.7%*
  • Sony - 0.7%*
*May be higher, but reporting is monthly at best

Now, comes the question that many indies are faced with. Do I give up that ~20% of sales produced by the other channels for 90 days to try and grab a piece of the Amazon carrot? To be honest, the only channel I'm loathe to give up is the Apple one. As much a I'm a fan of B&N, they've done little to spur the kind of interest in indies that amazon has. Whereas, Apple hasn't quite got a hold of the potential clout they have with the iBookstore. They could probably be a major player in the ebook world if they just got their act together and cared about it, but therein lies the rub. They'll probably never invest the time and energy required, simply because it's not the game they want to play. They're only in it because the game came to them.

At the moment, my answer has been to not do anything. If the process of removing my book from the various sales channels was an easy one, I might have jumped on the band wagon. However, because it can be a bit convoluted and slow to pull books back from Kobo and Sony, it might be January before I'd be "let into the club." But, with my sequel on the horizon (the slowly developing Divisible by Six), I will have to seriously consider my options. By then, the results from the December kickoff will be in and we'll have some numbers to consider.

But, besides the consideration of whether it will be a financial boon or not, we may need to consider whether we, as self-pubbed authors, are fueling the desires of a machine bent on monopolizing an industry. Yep, I said it. And, it shouldn't be much of a surprise to anyone. Sure, you're only giving exclusivity for 90 days, but what comes next? How much money will it take for authors to completely forego all other outlets and remain exclusive to Amazon? Some have already taken the bait. How many authors might just not bother to put their books back up on other channels after their 90 days is up? It's a subversive move, and akin to a recent move that some US retailers are openly calling ruthless. Is it ok because "everyone else is doing it" and "I don't want to be the one that missed out"? Last time I checked, those were pretty lame excuses. Perhaps we all really need to take a step back and consider the possible consequences of our actions.

Comments? Thoughts? Ideas? I know you've got 'em. Would love to hear 'em.



Thursday, December 15, 2011

The Same Six Questions - J.S. Dunn

It's Thursday, December 15th (nine shopping days left if you're counting)! Welcome to The Same Six Questions. Today's guest is historical fiction author J.S. Dunn.

The Same Six Questions

1. Have you published a book yet?

Bending The Boyne, a fresh take on ancient Ireland; this novel shows the new ideas about who were the first Celts.
Circa 2200 BCE: Changes rocking the Continent reach Eire with the dawning Bronze Age. Well before any Celts, marauders invade the island seeking copper and gold. The young astronomer Boann and the enigmatic Cian need all their wits and courage to save their people and their great Boyne mounds, when long bronze knives challenge the peaceful native starwatchers. Banished to far coasts, Cian discovers how to outwit the invaders at their own game. Tensions on Eire between new and old cultures and between Boann, Elcmar, and her son Aengus, ultimately explode. What emerges from the rubble of battle are the legends of Ireland’s beginnings in a totally new light.

Larger than myth, this tale echoes with medieval texts and cult heroes both modern and ancient.


2. When did you know you wanted to be a writer?

My postgrad studies and career have always involved writing. Learning the tools for writing fiction was a challenge, even though I’ve always read historical fiction.


3. What was your first lengthy piece of fiction (say, >1000 words)? What was it about? When did you write it? Do you still have it?

Here’s the humorous answer: the first piece of “fiction” was probably the first appellate brief, where one is massaging the facts from trial to make persuasive arguments that will win on appeal. If I recall, that brief was a winner.


4. When was your first indication, "I can do this (write)"?

Uhm. See prior answers. Also, when this debut novel won a national, judged competition. That was a fairly clear sign. Winner, historical fiction, Next Generation Indie Awards 2011.

In addition, my first indication that I probably would not use a NYC publisher was when an editor there actually asked the following question regarding 2200 BCE:

Were there people in Europe then?

The reading public are sharper than that NYC editor for historical fiction. --- No wonder the mainstream publishers are going broke.


5. If you could meet one of your characters in real life, which would it be?

As it happens, the characters are based on people I met while living in Ireland during the past decade, so I’m very glad to have met them already. Eire is a lovely island with wonderful people who chat, wind you up, spend quality time, and make every day a delight. For example, my postman (whose surname also happened to be Dunn) used to sneak down the lane to fish my section of the river. But he'd throw part of a fresh salmon in through the window every now again. He knew that I knew, and that was his thanks. So I lined the windscreen and side windows of his postal truck with blackberries. That was to say, You're very welcome.


6. It's a dark and stormy night...you're alone in the house...there's a knock at the door...you open it, look out, and proceed to scream like a little girl. What's on the doorstep?

My next novel in its still incomplete form, and it won’t go away, the unfinished manuscript stands like a naked orphan and keeps knocking and begging to come in....come in from the cold, finish us finish us finish us. You get the picture.

_____________________________________

Thanks for sharing with us, J.S.! For more on J.S.'s writing, check out Facebook.

My guest on Monday will be Nate Granzow. See you then!



Monday, December 12, 2011

The Same Six Questions - Hollister Ann Grant

Welcome to this December 13th edition of The Same Six Questions. You know what that means, right? Only 12 shopping days left! Only kidding. It means that my guest today is Hollister Ann Grant. Welcome!

Thanks, Andy! I live in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania (Civil War, cornfields, and Chevy trucks), but I’m originally from Washington, D.C. When I moved here, I kept looking for the subway for two years. I have a house with a million books that I share with my beloved collie and four cats, and I’m active in animal rescue (strays just know my place is The One).

The Same Six Questions

1. Have you published a book yet?

Yes, Haunted Ground: Ghost Photos from the Gettysburg Battlefield came out in summer 2011. My late husband Jack was a military history buff and nature photographer who took thousands of photos of the Gettysburg battlefield, including some uncanny ones, so for fun I created a book to share them with other people. I’m a lifelong skeptic who became a reluctant believer after we walked through the Triangular Field, an area on the southside of the battlefield that saw vicious fighting during the American Civil War. I laughed about the local legend that says a ghost haunts the field and tampers with cameras and video equipment – until our own camera broke there. My husband took the photo on the book cover in the woods next to this notorious field.

Haunted Ground is a short book, about 40 pages, that includes photos of mysterious mists and orbs, a summary of the battle history at each photo location, detailed directions so people can retrace our steps (the battlefield covers several thousand acres of woods and winding roads), and travel information about the town.

The book is also available for the Nook (color version) and will soon be on Smashwords.com.

2. When did you know you wanted to be a writer?

When I was ten, my sister and I would write stories at night with a flashlight and stuff them behind the dresser so our mother wouldn’t know what we were doing.


3. What was your first lengthy piece of fiction (say, >1000 words)? What was it about? When did you write it? Do you still have it?

In high school I wrote a fantasy about magical animals that Houghton Mifflin publishing company almost bought. They encouraged me to keep writing and send them anything else I came up with, but I got sidetracked by college, marriage, and my job. That manuscript disappeared over the years, but I wish I’d kept it for sentimental reasons.


4. When was your first indication, "I can do this (write)"?

Last year I finished a novel called Lost Cargo, which is now on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and will soon be on Smashwords. It’s a suspenseful sci-fi/fantasy about a galactic animal control ship that crashes in Washington, D.C.’s Rock Creek Park. I’ve always been a fan of classic science fiction (Close Encounters is my favorite movie), so it was tremendousfun to write this novel. A small press accepted some of my short stories this year, plus I’m working on a novella, so I have a lot of projects going on.


5. If you could meet one of your characters in real life, which would it be?

Oh, I would have to meet the ghost from the Triangular Field. If the field is truly haunted (and I believe it is, in spite of being a lifelong skeptic), I’d like to know who he was and where he was frombefore he died. He was probably a Confederate soldier because most of the strange things take place near the bottom of the field, where Union soldiers shot the Confederates as they tried to charge up the hill. And, of course, I’d like to know what happens after death and if a few traumatized souls really linger here. We all have our opinions--whether we’re skeptics or believers--but in the meantime, reality happens, and it’s the same reality for all of us.


6.It's a dark and stormy night...you're alone in the house...there's a knock at the door...you open it, look out, and proceed to scream like a little girl. What's on the doorstep?

Myself at 21 with a bad haircut. No, wait, another six cats that need a home.

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For more about Holly andher writing, check out her blog or find her on Twitter.

Another round in the books! Stop back on Thursday, when my guest will be J.S. Dunn.



Thursday, December 8, 2011

The Same Six Questions - Brett Irvine

Another round of The Same Six Questions! Today's guest is Brett Irvine! Welcome, Brett!


Thanks, Andy! I live in Cape Town, South Africa, with my wife in our tiny apartment. Cape Town is a great place, one of the best cities in the world! We’re also home to the 2011 Arthur C. Clarke winner, Lauren Beukes, which I am immensely proud of! By day, I am a software developer for a payments processing company based out of London. Part time, I am studying towards a BA Creative Writing degree, as well as doing my pilot’s licenses when I have the money available. As you can tell, I have great difficulty making up my mind, and still have no clue what I want to be when I grow up. Hell, I’m not sure if I want to grow up! I also enjoy a game of football/soccer, and am a huge Liverpool Football Club fan. I was also lucky enough to watch a few World Cup games here last year, and it was absolutely incredible.

The Same Six Questions

1. Have you published a book yet?

Yes, I have published a book of short stories. It was my first experimental foray into the world of self-publishing. I put together a short (really short!) collection of short stories which all have a similar vein called Into the Rift. I have another short story coming out called The Magical Tree, which is a semi-autobiographical tale from a town I lived in when I was about 6 or 7. I am also working on a novel, the working title of which is The Christopher Dickens Story, and my first draft blog for that book can be found here. Finally, as with a lot of other writers, I am always working on some short story or other, and I regularly submit those to online magazines. Generally, if a story doesn’t make it through all those submissions, and I feel it’s worthy of being read, I will put it up for sale on Amazon and Smashwords. Again, check my author’s page or blog for details.

2. When did you know you wanted to be a writer?

I always enjoyed writing at school, but I never really had a yearning for it from a young age. I didn’t keep a note book, I wasn’t writing stories when I was a kid, and I didn’t always have this dream of becoming an author. When I left school, of course, I wasn’t writing anymore because I had no English teacher to please. It was around that time that I started writing for fun, just the odd little story here or there. I somehow stumbled across the Strange Horizons website, of which I’d never heard previously, and I realized that being paid to write wasn’t beyond the realm of possibility. I then started churning out more and more stories, and as I’ve gotten better and better, the hobby of writing has now started to become more of a priority than a side-line.

3. What was your first lengthy piece of fiction (say, >1000 words)? What was it about? When did you write it? Do you still have it?

When I was about 21 I wrote a long, convoluted, horribly put together story that had a thick, leaky plot to do with time travel. In my ignorance, I submitted it to Clarkesworld magazine. Needless to say, the rejection came pretty quickly back. I still have the story somewhere, stashed in a folder on my PC, but I hide away from it, too embarrassed to acknowledge its existence.

4. When was your first indication, "I can do this (write)"?

After the first few rejections, I began to take the art of writing a lot more seriously. I refined my work, edited it (I'd never edited it before beyond a first read), thought about the plot and tied up loose ends, started thinking about character development. I started reading blogs and sites on writing, started reading other amateur fiction, and of course kept writing throughout. One of my stories (which ended up in my collection) received a note from the editor, and although I had no clue at the time, this is always better than a form rejection, because generally it means your story is good, but not necessarily for that particular editor or magazine. Over a year later I stumbled across the rejection, and actually took in what it meant. From then on, I knew that with enough work, and with enough rejections, I could actually do this.

5. If you could meet one of your characters in real life, which would it be?

Interesting question. One of my characters is a gorgeous red head that knows a lot about magic, and likes to walk around naked. I guess she would be an interesting one to meet! I also wrote a character who guides people through a kind of purgatory in the after life, and tends to offer them a beer at opportune moments. I love him, and am hoping that when I die he's there to comfort me and hand me an ice cold one.

6. It's a dark and stormy night...you're alone in the house...there's a knock at the door...you open it, look out, and proceed to scream like a little girl. What's on the doorstep?

Have you ever seen a Parktown Prawn? Oh man...those things are invincible, and are pretty much the most terrifying beings in existence. What was the big guy thinking when he made them? I would tell you to Google it, but then you'd have nightmares. If you've seen District 9, I'm pretty sure the "prawns" in the film were a reference to these horrible beasties.

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Meh! I've seen worse. ;) (Wikipedia's Parktown Prawn page). Thanks for sharing, Brett! For more of Brett and his writing, be sure to check out his blog, Twitter page, Smashword's author page, and Amazon author page.

Thanks so much for stopping by today. Come back on Monday, when my guest will be Holly Grant!

Monday, December 5, 2011

The Same Six Questions - Kimberly A. Bettes

Good Monday morning to you all! Today's gues on The Same Six Questions is Kimberly A. Bettes. Welcome Kimberly!

Thanks, Andy! I was born in southeast Missouri and have lived there nearly all of my life. I spent a year in Tacoma, WA, and though it was beautiful, it didn’t have the same small-town atmosphere of home. That Dorothy was really onto something when she kept going on and on about there being no place like home. So I moved back and met and married the most awesome man alive. I live with him and our son in the beautiful Ozark Mountains. When not writing, I crochet, knit, quilt, and of course study serial killers and write thriller/suspense stories. I’m also a freelance photographer, and for fun (and budget-friendliness), I design all my own book covers. Yeah, I have that kind of time.

The Same Six Questions

1. Have you published a book yet?

Yes. This summer, I published 2 novels and 5 short stories using Smashwords. The first one I published is The Good Neighbor, a novel I wrote last summer.

What’s it about, you ask? Well, let me tell you:


The normally quiet neighborhood of Hewitt Street is being upset by the sudden amount of suspicious deaths. In less than two years, three of the residents have died suddenly. Another left, never to be seen again. In a city with only 12,000 souls, that’s a high rate. On a street with only a handful of residents, it’s even higher. The residents have been so caught up in the happenings of their own lives they fail to notice the abnormality of the high death rate of their neighbors. It isn’t until the niece of one of the murder victims moves to Hewitt Street and points it out to them that everyone takes notice. Suspicion falls to each of the 8 residents living on Hewitt Street. It could very well be any one of them. Neighbors become aware of the actions of the other neighbors as love blooms, relationships grow, hatred blossoms, doubts arise, safety is threatened, fear takes hold, and fights ensue. So which of the neighbors is the killer? That’s what the residents of Hewitt Street are dying to find out…

My books are available at Smashwords, Barnes & Noble, Sony, and soon, Amazon.

2. When did you know you wanted to be a writer?

When I was 14, I read Watchers by Dean Koontz. When I finished it, I smiled foolishly, knowing that this was my calling. This was what I was supposed to do. I wanted to make people feel the way he’d made me feel. I was in awe of the way he’d made me laugh, cry, and even get angry with no more than words. It was the first time I realized that simple words on a page could evoke emotions. And I’m always looking for new ways to make people cry.

3. What was your first lengthy piece of fiction ? What was it about? When did you write it? Do you still have it?

The first lengthy thing I wrote was my first novel, Adaptations. I was an elderly 14 years old when I started it. It took me 2 years to finish. No one has ever read it, and I don’t see myself letting anyone read it anytime soon, though I still have it. In fact, I keep it chained to a rusty pipe in my basement where all abominations are kept. It’s about a woman who returns with her husband to the house in which she grew up. Soon, her life begins mimicking that of her abusive mother. There are affairs, illegitimate children, witchcraft, and other things 14 year-old girls write about.

4. When was your first indication, "I can do this (write)"?

When I was in Junior High, my English teacher made us write poetry. I was amazed at how easy it was for me. I wrote a ton of poems and essays just for fun. The words seemed to simply fall from my pen. It was a way to escape, to release all the feelings I had bottled inside. Kind of like popping a pimple releases the goo. Does that bring about a horrible image? Sorry.

5. If you could meet one of your characters in real life, which would it be?

I love all of my characters so it’s hard to choose. I would have to say Brian Boozer from my novel Rage. He was so real to me, I feel as though I already know him. I can totally relate to him, and I empathize with him. He’s such a good kid in such a bad position. I just want to hug him and tell him it’s okay, even though we both know it’s not. (If I couldn’t meet him, I’d want to meet Ace Haven, the main character in Shock Rock. Who wouldn’t want to meet a good-looking, cocky rock star with an original Shelby Mustang?)

6. It's a dark and stormy night...you're alone in the house...there's a knock at the door...you open it, look out, and proceed to scream like a little girl. What's on the doorstep?

One of the most vile, evil creatures nature has ever known. With beady eyes and hairy legs, it stares me down, longing to consume my soul. I stare back, trying to hide the fear that courses through my veins, hoping my lady-like screams didn’t give me away. If I’m lucky, I can slip back into the safety of my house unnoticed.

What is it, you ask?

Why, it’s a Jehovah’s witness.

Just kidding! It’s a spider. Lord, how I hate me some spiders.

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LOL...thanks, Kimberly! For more of Kimberly and her writing, be sure to check out her blog, Twitter and Facebook sites.

Stop back on Thursday, when my guest will be Brett Irvine. See you soon!

Thursday, December 1, 2011

The Same Six Questions - Pearson Moore

Good Thursday to you! Today's guest on The Same Six Questions is author Pearson Moore!

The Same Six Questions

1. Have you published a book yet?

Cartier’s Ring hit the Amazon shelves in May of 2011. I wanted a book that people would enjoy regardless of their genre preferences. I call it an adventure story because that’s a better descriptor than any traditional genre designation. The opening scene establishes the problem: An eleven-year-old girl is in danger. Two dozen men have travelled eight weeks over rough terrain, and they intend harm toward the girl—or do they? We are not so sure anymore, until the end of the chapter, when an even more diabolical plot appears. Yes, the girl is in danger, it turns out, and it’s worse than we ever could have imagined. Cartier’s Ring tells the story of the first contact between Native Americans and Europeans in 16th century North America. It’s an epic that spans eight decades, following Myeerah from those first terrifying moments on the shore of the Atlantic through her triumph over slavery and into her old age as respected matriarch of a large clan. I chose to tell the story in first person, present tense; many readers have told me it’s the most engrossing novel they’ve read this year.

2. When did you know you wanted to be a writer?

Writing is in my blood. My father was a journalist and my mother was in theatre. I was writing as early as I can remember, even before I could string words together into a coherent sentence. I wrote my first story as a first-grader, but I didn’t begin writing seriously as a novelist until decades later, in 2005. I’ve always seen writing as a dialogue. This idea was probably influenced by my impression of my father’s work. He would write his column and later in the week letters to the editor would appear, commenting on or taking issue with what my father had written. Sometimes my father would mention these comments in future articles, so it really was an honest-to-goodness back-and-forth between writer and readers. This kind of daily contact with the realities of journalism made me aware that, whether or not we know it, any idea or opinion we express is subject to interpretation and re-formulation by those to whom we convey the thought. In Cartier’s Ring, I make certain statements regarding the impact of trade on early Native American societies. I don’t expect that these statements will be taken as historical truth. Rather, I hope they will act as a springboard to ongoing discussions regarding the nature of human interaction.

3. What was your first lengthy piece of fiction (say, >1000 words)? What was it about? When did you write it? Do you still have it?

My first bits of writing appeared so long ago, and in such a different mental frame, that I retained no copies. Until recently, I saw writing as a kind of evolution. The first incarnation of a story was Version 1.0, and then a year or two later I’d write Version 2.0. It wasn’t until I began to understand writing as an art—something with definitive beginning and end, something containing a perfection within itself—that I started to see written work as embodying unique ideas worthy of developing into a story sufficient in itself. I completed two novels prior to creating Cartier’s Ring. Those earlier novels certainly tell a story, but I don’t think they achieve the standards I set for myself in Cartier’s Ring. Is the story complete? Are the ideas fully amenable to in-depth discussion with my readers? I wanted anything I wrote to rigorously adhere to those two standards. More than anything, I want to engage the reader.

4. When was your first indication, "I can do this (write)"?

I never questioned my ability to write, and I’ve been doing it from a young age. My efforts soon turned to technical scientific writing, though, and it wasn’t until well into my career as an R&D chemist that I finally decided to attempt a novel. I knew the rubrics were different, and I knew my understanding of the underlying principles of fiction writing was not well developed, so I joined a critique organization. After five years I had given nearly 1200 critiques, but more importantly, nearly a thousand people had given me first-rate advice on my writing. I think a major problem with much of indie writing is the fact that it has never been vetted. My stories have been torn apart hundreds of times over a period of years. They’re better because of it, and they have broader appeal than most indie novels.

5. If you could meet one of your characters in real life, which would it be?

I would love to meet Myeerah, my 16th-century protagonist from Cartier’s Ring. She is from a culture so different from my own. What would I think of her? How would I attempt to communicate with her? What would she think of me and the way I lead my life? Despite the vast differences between us—different culture, different time, different place, different gender—I am excited by the truth that we share dozens or hundreds of things in common. It would be exciting to see the ways in which those similarities or shared concerns came to light as we began sharing ideas and experiences with each other.

6. It's a dark and stormy night...you're alone in the house...there's a knock at the door...you open it, look out, and proceed to scream like a little girl. What's on the doorstep?

I would be screaming like a little girl, but also crying like a baby abandoned, and shedding adult tears of empathy, compassion, and deepest disappointment. It is not the end of life or a physical threat that I find most frightening. What most frightens me are threats to my expression of who I am. Close-mindedness, selfishness, the complete lack of desire to move beyond self-centered ideas and dreams—these are the elements of existence that are the most frightening, because they are themselves entirely outside the scope of true existence. Existence is dependence. I did not come into this world of my own accord. I did not learn to read, write, and create mathematical equations all on my own. I did not learn to respect and honor human dignity by my own lights. I had parents and teachers and counselors and pastors. When I attend conferences, I do not prepare my hotel room beforehand. I do not jump into the hotel kitchen to prepare my meals. All of these things are done for me. What I see on that doorstep is the person who views herself as self-made, as independent, as not requiring human interaction because she is perfect in herself, the woman who leaves the maid a one-dollar tip because that is all the maid is worth in her jaded and selfish eyes. That is frightening, and it is sad and disappointing too, all at the same time.

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Thanks for sharing with us today, Pearson! For more of Mr. Moore, be sure to visit his Web site, art site, and blog.

My guest on Monday will be author Kimberly A. Bettes! Be sure and stop by.

Monday, November 28, 2011

The Same Six Questions - Cliff Ball

Welcome to the last interview of November 2011! Where has the year gone?! Today's guest on The Same Six Questions is author Cliff Ball.

Cliff Ball is 37, lives in Texas, has a BA in English, possibly going for an MA in Technical Communications, and currently freelance proofreads and edits. He has independently published 4 novels and won 3rd in a contest for a short story that was written in high school.

The Same Six Questions

1. Have you published a book yet? Yes. I have 4, but here is one of them: The Usurper is a political thriller.
Gary Jackson is raised to hate. Hate the United States, its people, and everything they have ever stood for. His mission is to destroy the country from within, allying himself with the worst of America's enemies, and one very powerful and malevolent billionaire, to accomplish the deed. Once elected to the highest position in the land, Gary puts his lifelong goals to work, and puts the USA onto the path of ultimate destruction. He stops at nothing to rid the USA of his political and spiritual enemies, until a small group decide they've had enough, and they want to stop him. Will they succeed or will the United States be relegated to the dustbin of history? Also available at B&N and Smashwords

2. When did you know you wanted to be a writer?

I remember wanting to become a writer when I was about 8 years old.

3. What was your first lengthy piece of fiction (say, >1000 words)? What was it about? When did you write it? Do you still have it?

My first piece was a science fiction story that I wrote in jr. high (around 1988 or so). It was some inane story about the US and the Soviets 150 years from now fighting over a planet in Alpha Centauri, and discovering humans who already lived there. I do still have it, somewhere in a big Rubbermaid box.

4. When was your first indication, "I can do this (write)"?

I took a Creative Writing class in my senior year of high school, and we sent short stories to magazines. I wrote one that ended up winning 3rd in a contest for a religious magazine for youth. I made $35! (a lot for an 18-year-old in 1992). I decided that someday I would publish something, and I always wanted to be self-published. Luckily, technology has evolved where its easy now.

5. If you could meet one of your characters in real life, which would it be?

I have a character from my novella, Out of Time, who is a clone of Dr Hawking a couple hundred years from now. He figures out the means to time travel, which I think would be cool to do.

6. It's a dark and stormy night...you're alone in the house...there's a knock at the door...you open it, look out, and proceed to scream like a little girl. What's on the doorstep?

The Publisher's Clearing House Sweepstakes people who have a million $$$$ for me!

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Thanks so much for sharing, Cliff! For more of Cliff and his writing, visit his Web site, blog, Twitter page, and Facebook page.

My guest on Thursday will be Pearson Moore. Be sure to come back!

Friday, November 25, 2011

The Same Six Questions - Toni Dwiggins

Welcome to this holiday weekend edition of The Same Six Questions! Today's guest is author Toni Dwiggins.

Hi, Andy! I’m a third-gen Californian who migrated from southern Cal to northern Cal. What I like most about my state is that one can go from the ocean to the mountains in one day, with a lunch stop in the desert. I like it so much, I’ve set my forensic geology series in those settings. My hobbies are reading (natch), kayaking and hiking and skiing, playing the recorder (a starter flute), and watching pelicans. Random stuff: my favorite food is cheese (I’m with you, Wallace and Grommit). My guilty pleasure is the TV show Man Vs Wild. At the top of my travel wish list: Barcelona, Machu Picchu, and Mont San Michel in France. Where I hide the bodies: in my books.

The Same Six Questions

1. Have you published a book yet?

Badwater came out as an Indie ebook and paperback this summer (also at B&N and Smashwords). It’s been a really fun experience, and a lot of work. The part I like best is the ease of interaction with readers.

The book is about two forensic geologists—a young woman and her father-figure mentor—whose job is to analyze earth evidence at crime scenes. In the Death Valley case, they must do more than solve the immediate crime, they must also prevent a radiological disaster and survive to tell the tale. The book is a bit of a hybrid, part mystery and part ecothriller.

Here’s a short blurb:
Forensic geologists Cassie Oldfield and Walter Shaws embark on a perilous hunt—tracking a terrorist who has stolen radioactive material that is hotter than the desert in August. He threatens to release it in America’s most fragile national park, Death Valley.

But first he must stop the geologists who are closing in.

As the hunt turns dangerous, Cassie and Walter will need grit along with their field skills to survive this case. For they are up against more than pure malice. The unstable atom—in the hands of an unstable man—is governed by Murphy’s Law. Whatever can go wrong, will go wrong.
And it does.

2. When did you know you wanted to be a writer?

I come from a family of writers. Dad was a newspaper aviation reporter, and then wrote books on the topic. Mom wrote a couple of B-movie scripts. Aunt and Uncle wrote westerns and detective stories. When I was twelve, I barged into a meeting of hardboiled writers in their living room—having just finished reading Gone With The Wind. I announced, with tears and snot running, that GWTW was the best book that ever had been written or ever would be written. A lot of polite coughing and a few snickers and one muttered you try it. The next day I wrote a short story about a little girl who loses her favorite doll, simply heartbreaking, and sent it to the New Yorker. Got my first rejection slip. And then just kept on trying.

3. What was your first lengthy piece of fiction (say, >1000 words)? What was it about? When did you write it? Do you still have it?

It was a story called SNOW DEVIL about a woman out nordic skiing who encounters a killer and foils him—using her ski-waxing skills. It got published in a sports magazine. After a lengthy detour writing textbook material, I came back to fiction and wrote my first novel. Full-length lengthy! (Interrupt, about a terrorist trying to take down the country’s phone system. It was published through TOR Books.) I still have copies of the magazine with my story, and quite a few author copies of Interrupt.

4. When was your first indication, "I can do this (write)"?

When I sold my first writing professionally. It was an article about backpacking and bears. I’d been whining to my aunt and uncle, the western writers, that the great American novel I was diddling with just wasn’t coming together. To start a writing career, they said, write what you know. I knew backpacking, and I’d encountered bears.


5. If you could meet one of your characters in real life, which would it be?

Hap Miller, a sardonic health physicist (his job is radiation protection) who simply took over the book in the first draft. I’d like to find out if he’s as compelling in real life as he was to my protagonist in the book. And then I’d probably try to reform him.


6. It's a dark and stormy night...you're alone in the house...there's a knock at the door...you open it, look out, and proceed to scream like a little girl. What's on the doorstep?

A giant hamburger.

My father once took part in an experiment in which creative types were given LSD, on the theory it would increase their creativity. Two weeks after taking the drug, he was driving on the freeway and looked in the rearview and saw a giant hamburger chasing him. He always got a laugh when he told that story, but there was no amusement in his eyes. He’d panicked, terrified he was losing his mind.

Should I find a giant hamburger on my doorstep, I’d fear the same thing. Psychological terror is more threatening to me than giant spiders (although I’d avoid those, too).

_______________________________

Thanks for stopping in and sharing with us, Toni! For more of Toni, be sure to visit her Web site.

To meet your next great indie author, be sure to stop by on Monday, when my guest will be Cliff Ball!

Monday, November 21, 2011

The Same Six Questions - Mike Nettleton

Welcome back to The Same Six Questions! Not to be outdone by his better half, author Mike Nettleton (husband of and co-conspirator with Carolyn J. Rose) has joined us today to give us his version of the answers. Do you think they fight over serial commas? Anyway, welcome Mike!


Thanks, Andy! I grew up in a then-tiny coastal town Bandon, Oregon and moved to Grants Pass my sophomore year. I attended Southern Oregon College in Ashland for five years and accumulated enough credits to graduate. Unfortunately, I'd taken to playing course catalogue roulette and didn't secure a degree before discovering people would pay me to talk on the radio. In 43 years, I appeared on more than twenty stations in Oregon, Northern California and New Mexico. The final sixteen years were spent at 1190 KEX and its sister stations in the Clear Channel Portland cluster. I also ran an audio production studio/creative house in Albuquerque for five years. Rob, my forty-year-old son from my first marriage works for Intel and makes far more money than I ever did. Which is a good thing. I have way too many hobbies, including, golf, tournament poker, pocket billiards, backgammon, travel and reading. Since retiring in January of 2011, I've begun acting again, appearing as Gonzalo in the Shakespeare in the Park production of The Tempest at Lovejoy Fountain Park. As soon as my hambone hormone kicks in again, I'll probably audition for another play.

The Same Six Questions

1. Have you published a book yet?

My wife Carolyn J. Rose and I have co-authored five books including The Hard Karma Shuffle and The Crushed Velvet Miasma mysteries featuring the tie-died one name detective Paladin behind the backdrop of Portland's counter-culture and The Big Grabowski and Sometimes A Great Commotion featuring investigative reporter Molly Donovan and a cast of quirky, funny and sometimes downright bizarre local characters in the fictional Oregon coastal village, Devil's Harbor. The young adult fantasy The Hermit of Humbug Mountain involves brother-sister runaways who are drawn into the ultimate battle of good versus evil deep in the heart of an Oregon Coastal mountain. My solo hard-boiled detective novel Shotgun Start has been released by Krill Press. Neal Egan, a cop who loses his badge after blind rage leads him to beat down his wife's lover has turned to the only talent he possesses to keep money coming in--that of a golf hustler who fleeces wealthy country club types with delusions of golf adequacy. When his ex-wife Desiree Diaz becomes the prime suspect in the shotgun slaying of her washed-up movie star lover, Neal is recruited by her wealthy father to help clear her and is drawn into a web of the methamphetamine trade, internet pornography, brutal bikers and New Mexico's version of organized crime. All of the books are available as Kindles and Nooks or as paperbacks.


2. When did you know you wanted to be a writer?

It was never a conscious decision (I want to be a writer and that's that!). Instead, there was an evolution. My parents gave me a portable manual Smith Corona typewriter for a high school graduation present. Since my handwriting was (and is) totally illegible this was a very practical gift. Initially, I wrote poetry (OMG is it mawkish and ugly) and then started noodling short stories for a college class. My involvement in radio saw me writing commercials, public service announcements, promos and longer form scripts. I wrote radio plays, short stories and even a screenplay. After meeting my wife and fellow writer Carolyn Rose in the debris of my first marriage exploding, I found a kindred spirit and we got involved in writer's groups in Eugene, Oregon. After winning the Pacific Northwest Writer's award blue ribbon for my short stories in the mid-nineties, Carolyn and I finally goaded each other into finishing our first joint novel, The Hard Karma Shuffle. Although we both had to continue our day jobs, we both decided writing fiction would be a part of our lives from then on.


3. What was your first lengthy piece of fiction (say, >1000 words)? What wasit about? When did you write it? Do you still have it?

In 1989 or so, I wrote a longish short story called The Oldest Living Flower Child or something like that. It was about anancient guy who'd been kept alive for research purposes for several hundred years through miraculous advances in medical technology including the replacement of nearly every organ in his body except his brain. He's only semi-lucid and flashes back to the sixties a lot including fragments of performances by Jimi Hendrix and Janis Joplin he may or may not have seen. The climax of the story has him guided to the roof of the hospital by a conspiratorial nurse and tractor-beamed into the belly of an enormous UFO. This story was written on the first computer Carolyn and I owned, an Apple 3C, which had no hard drive and stored data on 5-inch floppies. I believe I still have acopy on a roll of computer paper with perforations on both sides from the old-style printers. Some day, when I'm in serious writer avoidance mode, I should go back and look at it. But I'd have to fight the instinct most writers have to rewrite everything they've ever written.


4. When was your first indication, "I can do this (write)"?

In Eugene, I was in a high-quality writer's group, led by the editor and book doctor Elizabeth Lyon. Although supportive, they pulled no punches in telling you why something you wrote wasn't working for them. I'd cranked out a short story called Take It Like A Man, the night before one of our sessions. It was told from the point of view of a kid waiting to receive a vaccination--or at least that's what you think is happening. As it turns out, something entirely different is going on. As was my custom, I'd spewed the story onto the page and time being short had very little chance to proofread or edit it. To my amazement, after I read the story for group, it was met with almost total silence. I couldn't tell if they were stunned, amazed, offended or nauseated by it. Finally, Elizabethjust said, wow! That's really powerful. Other than some minor structural suggestions, there was no criticism of it. Later, I entered it in the Northwest Writer's Conference Short Story competition. I had no expectations, because I always viewed the story as the strange mutant child of my imagination. It won first place. I felt honored, validated and totally mystified by where the story had come from. The year after, my story SuckerPunch which I'd worked much harder on and rewritten numerous time, won again.


5. If you could meet oneof your characters in real life, which would it be?

I'd love to attend a potluck supper with the residents of Devil's Harbor, Oregon, where The Big Grabowski and Sometimes A Great Commotion are set. I'm sure I'd laugh a lot, and who knows, if I had enough to drink, I might even take off my shirt and get into a belly-bucking competition with the Mango Marauder. But, if I had to boil it down the one character, I'd have to say it would be Rory Monroe. Rory is the best friend, roommate and then romantic interest of Neal Egan, the ex-cop golf hustler who provides the point-of-view for Shotgun Start. She'sattractive, smart, funny and a talented artist. Although warm-hearted and generous, she has a very low threshold for pretensions, self delusion and disloyalty. The one serious relationship she had broke up just prior to marriage when "he decided I was prone to say f*** way too much." In many ways, she reminds me of my wife, Carolyn. In fact, most of my characters are amalgamations of people I've known. I borrow a speech pattern from one person, a cleft of the chin and barrel chest from another and cheap cigarillo smoking from a third and voila, whole new character emerges.


6. It's a dark and stormy night...you're alone in the house...there's a knockat the door...you open it, look out, and proceed to scream like a little girl.What's on the doorstep?

My doppelganger. Except it would be me as I look when I first peer into the mirror in the morning before I've had a chance to splash water on my face and suck up some coffee. What could be scarier, after all, than coming face with yourself? My ex-wife could probably cause the same reaction.


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Hmmm...your answer to #6 sounds like a really good book I know of. ;) thanks for sharing, Mike! Find out more about Mike and his books and read a sample chapter at deadlyduomysteries.com or their blog. You can also find the deadly duo on Facebook.

Come back this holiday weekend when my guest will be Toni Dwiggins!

Friday, November 18, 2011

Guest Post - Chris Blewitt - The Path from 100 Rejections to #1

Today, I'd like to welcome back one of my Same Six Questions alum, Chris Blewitt. Chris has stopped by today to share his self publishing journey with us. So, without further ado...

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            My publishing journey has been long and arduous.  I finished my second novel, Deep Rough in 2005 and anxiously awaited all of the agents and publishers to scoop it up.  I was na├»ve in my thinking, but I didn’t know any better.  I sent out a handful of queries and then forgot about it.  Years later, the itch returned.  I had a good story to tell and the world must have it available to read.  I edited furiously and then proceeded to send out over 100 queries to publishing agents.
            Zip.  Zero.  Nadda.
            Sure, there were a few that said, “Good story, well written, but unfortunately no one reads sports fiction anymore.”  I was frustrated and heartbroken.  Down and out on my luck, I was put in touch with a published author who said I need to find an agent.  Well, I already tried that, I explained to him.  He said to shoot his friend an email that had some success in self-publishing. 
            I quickly learned about Createspace and a few months later, I had Deep Rough in paperback form, in my hands.  It was exhilarating to say the least.  Seven years after I began to write, I finally had the finished copy in my hands.  I told everyone I knew and I sold around 50 paperback copies that first month, October of 2010.  I uploaded to Amazon’s KDP and now DR was available in Kindle, and a month later I put it on Barnes & Noble’s Nook. 
            Now what?
            Sales trickled in.  Sales were decent in December, about 40, and then completely stalled in January.  I sold 4 copies on Kindle, 3 paperbacks, and surprisingly 19 on the Nook.  I made some connections and soon I found Kindleboards, an online networking forum for Kindle owners and Indie authors.  I lowered my price to $.99 in February and sold 23, up from 4.  In March I sold 45 and started to be interviewed on other people’s blogs and websites.  I contacted Daily Cheap Reads and they agreed to feature my book on the Monday of The Masters (the subject of my book).  I sold around 40 copies that day.  I received an email on Masters Sunday from Pixel of Ink and they were featuring my book that day.  I sold 65!
            I was ranked # 1 in Sports Gambling, Sports, and Golf.  In the month of April I sold over 200 copies of Deep Rough.  It was a dream come true.  Was I making any money?  Not really, but at that point I didn’t care.  I leveled out at around 100 sales for May and June but maintained the # 1 position in Sports Gambling and the top 10 in Sports and Golf.  So I did something drastic.  I raised the price to $2.99 and sales fell.
            But not by much.  I sold 63 in July and made a lot more money too.
            Then something strange happened.  I started selling more at $2.99 than I did at $.99.  180 in August.  240 in September and 250 in October!  Sales have since leveled off which I’m okay with because I’m excited about my new release, The Lost Journal.
            So what are the lessons learned:
-          Never Give Up
o   I went from 4 sales in January to 250 in October
-          Have a Plan
o   Request to be interviewed from fellow authors.  Make sure you are on social networking sites as a reader and an author.  Make friends in the indie-world.  Get on Twitter, Facebook, and most importantly for me, Kindleboards.  Don’t be afraid to ask questions. 

-          Experiment with Price
o   $2.99 did not work right out of the gate for me.  I experimented with $.99 and also $1.99.  I got high rankings in my categories so then I raised my price to $2.99.  See what others are pricing their books at in your categories and price accordingly, or cheaper.

Everything I did may not work for everyone.  You definitely have to experiment.  I was on a cover review blog once and they suggested I put something about Augusta on the cover.  I did, “A Thriller in Augusta” now appears and I think it helped sales.  Most of all, don’t give up.  It takes time and energy to get results and I heard this once and it’s a saying I live by:  “If you want to be successful, do what other successful people do.”

The Lost Journal is available on Kindle for $2.99.
In 1778, during the peak of the Revolutionary War, a secret document is hidden and its whereabouts are known to only one man. Now, more than two centuries later, Seth Layton accidentally discovers the journal that will unlock its location and he is on a quest to find it. Joined by his grandfather and new female friend, Madison, they are chased by unsavory characters and some powerful people through historic Philadelphia to the streets of Washington DC. What American secret will the journal unveil and will Seth and his companions live long enough to reveal it? 

Questions?
Feel free to shoot me an email at chris@chrisblewitt.com.