Frequently Asked Questions… I never said who did the asking
* What is your writing process?
* Where and when do you write?
* What do you do to help with writers block?
* Are your books available as audiobooks?
* How do I stay up-to-date on your books and related news?
* How many books will the Gabriel Ward Chronicles be?
* What else are you writing?
* Do you go to conventions?
* Why are your books only sold on Amazon.com?
* Are any of your characters based on real life people?
When did you start writing & what inspired you?
I’ve long been enamored of writers and writing because I’ve long been in love with books. When I was seven years old, I discovered the book “Watership Down” and devoured it. Rabbit life sounded great to a seven year old. Little did I know when I first sat down with the book that rabbit life included internecine fights and a constant existential struggle. Pretty heavy stuff for a seven year old. Nonetheless, I loved it and was hooked on fiction.
Since then, I’ve read literally thousands of books. However, I’d never written one until I sat down to write my first novel, “Fools Rush In”.
As I mention in my author bio (the ‘About’ section), I’d toyed with the idea of writing but never did more than dip my toe in the water, idly wondering about my prospects and what I imagined the effort and rewards to be.
The reason I finally sat down to take a crack at it in 2017 was more a confluence of events than any particular spur. A couple friends had indie published books in the prior year. Neither enjoyed any success in the venture, but it was sufficient to whet the appetite. Our casual conversations on the subject eventually became organized discussions. Shortly after we started, another friend of many years who, like myself, had envisioned himself a writer in his teens but long since laid down his pen, joined us.
Group discussions turned out to be more galvanic than solo ideations. We made mutual commitments to stop sitting on our laurels or dipping our toe in, perpetually testing the waters, and just jump the hell in, bodily. The water is nice. When I come up for air, I’ll see what kind of splash I made — hopefully it’s huge belly-flop worthy.
What is your writing process?
I’m a hybrid pantser & plotter.
Prior to writing a book, I write a general outline of the book, which is just a few sentences that details the main narrative points (inciting incident, climax, etc.). Then, I make a very sketchy outline that consists of, typically, a couple sentences for each chapter. My focus is the “beats” of the story.The beats are the smallest elements making up a scene or a chapter, and concern a basic action or reaction that is consequential in some manner (e.g., she discovers a body; he storms out, ending an argument; she finds a missing letter; he tracks down the big bad). That’s the extent of my outline.
However, I do a lot of character background prior to writing as well. Every major character I write about has a separate file in Scrivener (a terrific writing program btw) filled with backstory, physical details, psychological traits, and threads/arcs (relationship, plot).
Then I put on my pants, so to speak.
With the general plot and important beats in hand, and a very clear idea of who the characters are — usually to the point that characters can have spontaneous conversations in my head… I know, they make meds for that sort of thing but, hey, it’s useful 😉 — everything else comes to me organically as I write.
Where and when do you write?
When I started writing “Fools Rush In” earlier this year, I had a well-furnished study with a bay window and a nice desk that you’d think would be very conducive to writing. It wasn’t. Try as I might, for whatever reason, I could never write well at that desk or in my study. I’d always end up on the couch with my laptop perched on a throw pillow. It was kind of ridiculous, actually.
I’ve since moved and sacrificed the study.
Both then and now, I tend to write better in casual settings; and, like most authors nowadays, using a laptop. I write on a MacBook; I love my MacBook. Once you go Mac, you never go back! I’m a late convert to Mac; and, like a lot of late converts, a total zealot — and proud of it.
Weather permitting, I like to write at a picnic table in a local park (see my ‘About’ for related squirrel & tree info). In Texas, weather doesn’t permit as often as I’d like. For six months of the year, one’s laptop is jeopardized by dripping sweat, even at night.
So, I often write at a coffeehouse (Starbucks or any of the multitude of independent ones in my area) or McDonald’s — yes, McDonald’s. McDs has unlimited coffee refills (or soft drink refills if it’s too hot for coffee) and some of them have surprisingly comfortable seating. And, as with Starbucks and most coffeehouses, McDs has free wifi in case you need to look something up.
As to when, I set aside three hours a day 6 days a week, with one day a week being an arbitrarily long session to ensure I stay apace of my self-imposed schedule. Typically, I’ll write sometime from 7pm to 10pm or 9pm to 12 midnight, adjusting the times as daylight waxes and wanes with the seasons, moving it to start after sunset. I prefer to write at night. There is something about the cloak of night that lets my mind disengage and wonder more freely.
What do you do to help with writers block?
I’ve never had writer’s block; but then, I’ve only been at this a short while.
My problem is — or was — the converse. To start a professional writing career, I first had to resign myself to the reality that I will never be able to write down in any passable form, let alone do justice to, all the stories and characters that populate my imagination. Not accepting that, letting the perfect be the enemy of the good, was a source of paralysis when I was younger and had first entertained pursuing a career as an author. The frustration of that limitation contributed to the reasons that caused me, long ago, to relegate the notion of writing to the impractical and set it aside.
…Ok, yeah, so one could say that the early paralysis that aborted my pursuit of writing in my youth was my one very protracted episode of writer’s block, after a fashion. That’s a fair characterization.
Fortunately, I’ve since come to terms with that constraint. But as there is far more material champing at the bit than will ever see the light of day — I mix metaphors freely, but always shaken not stirred — I’ve never sat idly at the keyboard waiting on inspiration or the next sentence.
Of course, I recognize that there are brilliant, successful authors who do, from time to time, have bouts with writer’s block. Anxiety about the reception of one’s work is, I imagine, a source of it for many. Being overly self-conscious of what one is writing, either as a newbie writer or as a veteran who has enjoyed success and is in fear of falling short of expectations he or she has set with their readership, are obvious reasons to explain some cases. General anxiety about life can definitely interfere with the discipline required to tune out the rest of the world to sit down and write.
So my optimism that I’ll never grapple with it myself might very well be naive or delusional. …Yeah, now that I think about it, it’s foolish. Odds are very good I’ll have my share of writer’s block at some point.
At least I can say that if I do find myself blocked it won’t be for want of material. I’m certainly not immune to anxiety, though…
Are your books available as audiobooks?
Be cool if they were, right? Unfortunately, it’s an expensive proposition, so not yet. However, as soon as you guys buy enough of my books in e-book or print form to subsidize it, I’ll definitely get audiobook versions produced.
How do I stay up-to-date on your books and related news?
I try to keep my website as up-to-date on release schedules and book news as I can. However, the best source of information on that stuff, and anything related, is my awesome e-newsletter. If you haven’t signed up yet, dude! why not? Go do so NOW. I’ll wait…
Now that you’ve made the uber wise choice and joined the mailing list for my e-newsletter you’ll never have to wonder about book release schedules, promotional events, and other book related news. You’ll not only be up-to-date but ahead of the public — which should totally satisfy your inner gnostic, if you have one. My inner child makes such a mess that my inner gnostic got sick of being sticky and bailed on me years ago.
How many books will the Gabriel Ward Chronicles be?
Before I started writing book one, I had already sketched a series arc and outlines for the first seven books in the series. So, probably seven books.
However, as conceived, it allows for open-ended continuation. Long series are pretty common in UF.
Jim Butcher’s “Dresden Files” series is on… what?… book fourteen iirc as I write this and looks to be vibrant and a great read for a long time to come. I should be so lucky… well, so good. Patricia Briggs has ten “Mercy Thompson” books out at the time of this writing and is thankfully writing more. Ilona Andrews has nine “Kate Daniels” series books out so far and is also, thankfully, writing more (book 10 is due out May 2018). Larry Correia finally (I’d been waiting) released book 6 of his “Monster Hunter International” series this past august. It’s going strong. And Annie Bellet’s “Twenty-Sided Sorceress” series was, I believe, originally conceived as a seven book series — if I recall an old author interview accurately — however, she released book eight this past February and is still going. And why the heck not? It’s a terrific series and fans (myself included) are clamoring for more. Kevin Hearn will have book 9 of his always entertaining “Iron Druid Chronicles” series out around April of 2018; and, fortunately for we fans, has no intention of ending it any time soon as far as I know.
These are, obviously, some of the best case scenarios. But the bigger point I wanted to make, that the readers/fans have a lot to say about the ultimate answer to the question, is illustrated and still stands. When an author sees that they’re delivering something the readers love (as all the aforementioned clearly are), it can be a big factor in the life of a series.
But sometimes an author decides it’s time to bring even a beloved series to a close; I’m sure it’s a hard call when so many fans love your series. Shannon Mayer’s fantastic “Rylee Adamson” series wrapped up with ten books and Kim Harrison’s marvelous “Hollows” series wrapped at thirteen books. In both cases, plenty of reader enthusiasm persisted till the end (I among them). The authors simply had other projects to pursue. Most authors have a lot of book and series ideas simmering in their head waiting for the chance to come to life. Given the limitations of being human, it’s perfectly understandable when an author makes that hard decision. When I do wrap up one of my series, I fully intend to do so with the great consideration that Mayer and Harrison brought to their fans by delivering a powerful, thrilling, satisfying, and, as always and foremost, fun conclusion to it.
My list of examples for this question is chock full of luminaries in UF that sell phenomenally and that I personally enjoy reading (among a slew of others I didn’t name but enjoy equally). If any of you reading this get half as much enjoyment from my series as I’ve gotten from the aforementioned authors and books over the years, I’ll be thrilled.
My bottom line answer is: It’s planned for seven books but is outlined with the possibility of being more open-ended; additionally, I know what it’s like to be a reader who loves a series and will always think of the readers first.
What else are you writing?
I have three ‘intersection’ series (like a spin-off: same world; some characters overlap) set in the world of Gabriel Ward & Dante. I’ll be rolling those out slowly with the first one coming summer of 2018. Two of them feature divergent aspects of the world with peripheral characters from the original series featured more prominently. One introduces an entirely new cast and sub-culture of the paranormal world.
There are a couple projects under a pen name in a completely different genre I’m very enthused about and planning (hoping) to see published next year too.
As I’ve said elsewhere in this f.a.q., I have a mountainous stack of stuff in terms of books conceived and outlined. Most have to take a number and wait their turn — and some are going to have DMV-like wait times. (Note: For those outside the U.S. or who have yet to do penance in pursuit of a license, DMV is the Department of Motor Vehicles, a sinister, bureaucratic, netherworld resembling Purgatory but with more attitude.)
The tip of the iceberg: shifter UF series, an edgy UF redemptive arc series, a paranormal romance series (yes, guys can do PR too), a space opera hybrid series; a thriller series with paranormal elements; a hard science fiction standalone; a soft science fiction with literary fiction currents; and a coming of age story that blends folklore with contemporary and YA with portal fiction. None of the iceberg tip examples are in the near future, so not really relevant to the question I suppose. I just mention them as a very vague sample of possible future projects for the idly curious.
I readily admit, this isn’t a very revealing or detailed answer. Until a book is in final draft and the cover commissioned — or at least written and at the editor — it’s kind of standard form, and smart, to play it close to the vest. (Of course, I make some exceptions for my subscribers to Luke’s E-Newsletter 😏.)
Do you go to conventions?
I used to all the time. I’m a scifi/fantasy/gaming nerd with a strong geek streak too. Admittedly, I haven’t been in quite a while. This coming year, 2018, I’ll be attending a few — and my first as a professional author. Dates will be posted in ‘Extras’ as the events get closer and I’ll be covering it all in detail in my mailing list e-newsletter.
Why are your books only sold on Amazon.com?
My books are featured in Amazon’s Kindle Select program; which, on the reader side, you see as Kindle Unlimited (a reader subscriber service that Amazon provides to let readers borrow (download, read, and return at your discretion) an unlimited number of books).
For an author, the program is free and simply opted into. It has perks and it has limitations. The primary limitation for an author is that any books in the Kindle Select program for KU readership are prohibited from being sold elsewhere: they are Amazon exclusive. The primary benefit for an author is access to a sub-market of unusually voracious readers.
Authors can elect to remove their books from the program if it turns out to not be the best market fit, though that option is tied to a 90 day commitment cycle.
While my books are only available through Amazon for the time being, you don’t have to subscribe to Kindle Unlimited to buy or read my books. Anybody can buy them from Amazon at the listed price.
Are any of your characters based on real life people?
Dante is, obviously. He’s based on the historical figure Dante Alighieri, born in 1265 in Florence, Italy. He was a writer, a poet, a politician, and a soldier, even a pharmacist. He’s the greatest Italian poet and his magnum opus, The Divine Comedy, is generally considered the greatest poetic work of the Middle Ages. Of course, I took liberties with him. To my knowledge, the real Dante hasn’t been living it up for the last seven centuries. That much time changes a man.
Gabriel Ward has bits of me in him and little bits and pieces of various people I’ve known or simply met; as, I imagine, all characters of all authors do to varying extents.
But as far as their personalities being heavily based on a real life person(s), to the extent that it was conscious or might be noticeable to those that know that person well, no, not intentionally. With one exception. One character is heavily influenced but it’s just someone in my life, not anybody publicly recognizable, let alone famous.