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Author Interview

Interview with Peter Ryan, Author of Sync City

It’s rare to be able to get excited for a new book to come out when it’s from a first-time author. Peter Ryan is an exception. His novel, Sync City, is a powerful, hard-hitting sci-fi romp through a dystopian future, and I have been patiently waiting for this book through its early production stages. Sync City grabs the reader from the opening lines and does not let up. If you enjoy hard-nosed science fiction, this is a book you do not want to miss. Here’s the book’s pitch:

“In a post-apocalyptic future, fractured timelines are wreaking havoc on the world. Only a tough, hard-drinking enforcer named Jack Trevayne can hold things together. This is gritty, hard-boiled sci-fi with attitude. The future is complicated. Jack is not.”

I had the opportunity to interview Peter Ryan about Sync City, being an author, and what it takes to be a writer.

How did you come up with the idea for Sync City?

I love sci-fi and hard-boiled detective fiction. I’m also a huge fan of dystopian/post-apocalyptic settings. I wanted to combine all three of these. The main character, Jack, came first. I was in Saskatoon, Canada at the time, and this provided the initial backdrop. Then I just started to write. The idea evolved as I went along.

What inspired you to pursue novel writing?

A party with a few mates of mine – we were lamenting the lack of originality in TV and movies. The next day, November 27th, 2013, I started writing a story titled Godspiracy. I’ve pretty much written every day ever since. Before this, I’d never even written a short story.

Who are some of your influences?

For Sync City, Richard Morgan in terms of concepts, William Gibson in terms of background/technology and James Crumley (a fantastic hardboiled crime writer) in terms of characters. My influences seem to change depending on what I write.

Did you have any moments while writing Sync City that you thought you might give up?

No, quite the opposite. I loved writing this story. So much so it’s ended up as a trilogy.

Give us an idea of your writing process.

Generally, in my writing day, I start writing strong and finish weak. So the first thing I do is tweak the stuff I’ve written the previous day. With my stories, I don’t work to a plan, so I don’t say no to any new ideas. I just write them until I write myself into a corner. The next day I find a way to write myself out of the corner and keep the story going. Some of my readers have commented that Sync City is almost serial in nature, which makes sense given the process.

Did anyone in particular inspire any of your characters, particularly Jack, Sync City’s protagonist?

Jack pretty much jumped fully formed into my head. In retrospect, he’s a combo of few people I know and a few characters from stories and movies. Clint Eastwood’s character William Munny in Unforgiven has to be a significant inspiration, as well as Mel Gibson’s Mad Max. The voice in my head when I write Jack is a mix between Harrison Ford in Blade Runner and Edward James Olmos in Battlestar Galactica. Hmm, lots of movies there and not many books.

Author photo final.jpg

What were you doing when the idea for Sync City first struck you?

Sitting at my mother-in-law’s kitchen table getting slightly stuck on another story I was writing. I wrote the opening passage to Sync City imagining the events to be happening in her basement. I’m pretty sure she doesn’t look at the basement the same way anymore.

What other stories have you written or are you working on?

I’ve just finished the first draft of Destiny Imperfect, a video game based story. I’m doing the second draft of the follow-up to Sync City (working title: Sync City Jack), and I’m going to take a look at my very first story attempt (Godspiracy which is an American Gods-meets-The X-Files type thing) and see if I can hammer that into shape. I like to work on two stories at once if I can.

What advice do you have for writers working on completing their first novel?

Have an understanding partner or be single. Seriously, you have to have a lot of time to write. There’s no way around this. Stick your butt in front of a computer on a very regular basis and just keep writing.

What quality do you have that makes writing such a great fit in your life?

A strong enough ego?? Is that a quality? Deliberately or not, you put a bunch of yourself into a story. You then need to be confident enough that people are going to read it. You also need to be confident enough to deal with criticism of your work.

In what ways has your experience living in a country where the native language is not your first language shaped your writing?

Interesting. Probably not so much the language – my Korean is terrible, but definitely the culture. A few sections of Sync City are based on the experiences I’ve had while living in Seoul and the interactions I’ve had with Koreans in general. I also do a lot of writing in Sri Lanka. If you read Sync City and the background is all gray and urban, then I wrote it in Seoul. If it’s all leafy and green, then I wrote it in Sri Lanka – I only realized this after I finished the story.

All of the books on the planet are being destroyed. You can only keep three hidden and safe for you to read. Which three do you choose?

Right now? Altered Carbon by Richard Morgan. Burning Chrome by William Gibson. The Mexican Tree Duck by James Crumley. I owe them all another good read.

Sync City is released upon the world. Follow the links below to learn more and pick up a copy.

Peter Ryan’s bio:

Peter Ryan is a sci-fi lover, motorbike rider, darts player, soju drinker, and T-shirt designer, as well as being an English professor at a university in South Korea. He grew up in Perth, Western Australia. He has traveled much of the world and done a variety of jobs along the way, including sales support at an insurance company, laborer on the building sites of London and Melbourne, chauffeur/minder for an English lord, and business English consultant in Shanghai. Peter lives with his Canadian wife in Seoul, and has done so since 1999. There is no synchrotron in Seoul, though there is plenty of soju.

Sync City Links:

Peter Ryan’s website: http://www.synccityjack.com/

Peter Ryan on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/peterryanauthor/

Inkshares page for Sync City: https://www.inkshares.com/books/sync-city

Sync City on Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/dp/1942645457/ref=nav_timeline_asin?_encoding=UTF8&psc=1

Sync City at Barnes & Noble: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/sync-city-peter-ryan/1125339887?ean=9781942645450

Sync City at the Book Depository: https://www.bookdepository.com/Sync-City-Peter-Ryan/9781942645450

Sync City on Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/33377334-sync-city?ac=1&from_search=true

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Author Interview

Interview with Author Michael Gaudet

Michael Gaudet is not your typical author.

When Mr. Gaudet approached me to talk about his book, I was immediately intrigued. He is a unique author to me, as he is someone who has suffered kidney disease for most of his life, to the point of requiring organ donation. Mr. Gaudet writes frankly and openly about his experiences, and his message is clear and important. Organ donation is a vital need for so many people out there, but it is something that has a strange stigma attached. Mr. Gaudet has taken his time and energy to write about his experiences to help educate the public about his personal journey and health for the betterment of all. Please enjoy the following interview and pick up a copy of his book, “Dancing with Rejection”.

michael gaudet holding book while receiving dialysis

Tell us a little bit about your book, “Dancing with Rejection”.

I particularly admire the review that was written by best-selling author Eldonna Edwards:

“Intriguing story of an enterprising muralist with an appetite for the mystical. Part magical realism, part biography, part how-to guide for the aspiring artist — Dancing With Rejection offers a unique narrative, embellished with spiritual and metaphysical undertones that border on the ethereal. Michael’s saga takes the reader on adventures that include his formative childhood, bohemian lifestyle, a near-death experience with kidney failure and eventual success as a renowned mural artist. This inspirational tale is tenderly painted with brush strokes of resilience and hope that will alter your heart’s canvas long after you put the book down.”

–Eldonna Edwards,  Living Donor Advocate and Author of  Lost In Transplantation: Memoir of an Unconventional Organ Donor.

As I like to say, “If you believe what you are reading, I offer irrefutable proof of ‘life after death’ in my writing. Dancing with Rejection: A Beginner’s Guide to Immortality explores the phenomenon of “After Death Contact” in a visceral, sometimes shocking way, that springs out of seemingly ordinary scenarios. Not for the feint of heart, this book can be very jarring, but always written with a loving nature that pleads for understanding and compassion.

What made you decide to write a book about your experiences with your health?

I have always written about my thoughts and observations since I was a teenager. So, I had a thick raft of long-hand on loose-leaf. I wrote about my “Near-Death Experience” at age 19, and the powerful influence that my deceased father had on my life over the years. Might sound strange, but my personal encounters with his spirit are undeniable, if not inexplicable. My brother Steven donated a life-saving kidney to me in 1979, after I was diagnosed with End Stage Renal Failure. His “Gift of Life” sustained me in excellent health for over 34 years. In May of 2014 I returned to dialysis. I purchased a laptop and began to transcribe all of my hand-written notes into a digital format. I was very determined to make the best of my twelve hours per week tethered to a machine. After all, there is no guarantee that a dialysis patient will survive the rigors of the treatment. In fact, many patients succumb to the precarious life of dialysis. So, the sense of urgency was top of mind, as I toiled away on the project to polish up my manuscript and get my story out to the world. I would not be deterred! Within about eighteen months I had succeeded in publishing my first book. About a year later, I succeeded in publishing my second book, called “A Work in Progress: The Life my Brother Saved”.

What sort of feedback have you had from others in similar circumstances?

Generally speaking, my books have been very well-received by my friends and colleagues that have experienced extreme health challenges, especially my fellow Dialysis Warriors and kidney transplant recipients, and living kidney donors. I think the big appeal is that they see their own stories reflected in a literary setting. I take this whole business very seriously, so treat the fairly delicate themes of “Near Death Experience” and “After Death Contact” with a lot of graphic detail. However, I do not mince my words; but rather, I forge head-long into that rather harrowing subject matter with unflinching honesty.
michael gaudet reading at a podium

Has speaking out about your health changed you or made things easier for you in any way?

I won’t lie. It was not easy to put down in writing all of the sometimes painful memories of my long, slow decline to the point where I came so close to an early demise. I really believe that my readers have appreciated  my candor. Some people have told me that they see themselves in the more “difficult” passages, and also can share my celebratory tones in the chapters that extol the human triumphs of renewed health and vitality. Now, reflecting on these places, times and (extraordinary) people can be a saving grace in and of itself. I am truly blessed that I had the opportunity and determined spirit that enabled me to record all of this for posterity.

Tell us about why it is so hard to receive organ donation.

Probably the most daunting aspect of living organ donation is dispelling the myths around the health challenges involved. Really, once the rigorous testing is completed for the potential living donor, it’s pretty smooth sailing in most instances. The actual surgery is often done “laparoscopically”, which means there are only tiny incisions, assisted by ultrasonic viewing. The recovery time is dramatically reduced, compared to the former, long incision used to harvest a kidney from a living donor. Having said that, it is still major surgery, so the willingness for a person to donate must be tempered by this knowledge. The reality is, once a willing candidate to donate a life-saving kidney to person who is dialysis-dependent is identified, a perfect tissue match is not a prerequisite! There is a protocol called “Paired Match”, where a willing, qualified donor can be paired with the best possible match in a National Recipient Pool. This activates the best possible donor from the pool to be paired to the original recipient. In some instances, the “Paired Match” protocol has brought over a dozen paired matches together!

What is it like having to go through hemodialysis?

Hemodialysis is a life-saving therapy that both cleans the blood of accumulated toxins and also, helps rid the blood of the fluids that add up between treatments. Generally speaking, the duration of treatments are prescribed to alleviate the threat of kidney failure, providing a fairly healthy lifestyle. Having said that, there are times when the dialysis patient feels “off”. Examples of this are “brain-fog”, shortness of breath, general fatigue, elevated blood pressure and of course, swelling of the extremities. In extreme cases, certain toxins such as potassium, urea and sodium accumulate and cause their own world of trouble.
I am one of the rare birds that self-cannulate, or, in other words, insert my own needles in the venus and arterial parts of my “fistula”, which are the sites on my left arm that have been surgically prepped to allow the therapy. Usually the pain involved in initiating the therapy is fairly minimal, mostly due to the fact that I am the one in the driver’s seat. Sometimes, when things go awry, the needles can “blow”, which means they pierce the fistula to allow blood to escape into the surrounding tissue, resulting in a sudden “ballooning” and then, fairly extreme bruising. The only relief is to apply an ice-pack over the site, and then move away from the spot for the next treatment, if at all possible.
My doctor has told me the my fistula is a) my lifeline, and b) the Gold Standard for dialysis. So, any tests, like blood-work or blood-pressure, must NEVER be using my left arm. My Medic-Alert bracelet states that salient fact clearly, in the event that I cannot speak for myself.
michael gaudet in photo session

What do you think is the most important thing you want people to learn from reading your book?

I want my readers to appreciate that a healthy and very productive life can spring from out of the chaos and confusion of a near brush with death. I can only thank my loving brother Steven for insisting that he donate a life-saving kidney in my dire time of need all those years ago.  “Dancing with Rejection” not only describes my own near-fatal experience, but also chronicles the heroic “Gift of Life” from my brother, and goes on to assure my readers that Steven went on to live a full and rich life in the aftermath. It is my (fervent) hope that this story will inspire many others to take the step to become a living donor, and also to reassure the millions of us living with the insidious condition of kidney failure that their day will come, when they are restored to vibrant health and wellness.

What other books have you written/are working on?

I have published my second book called, “A Work in Progress: The Life My Brother Saved”, that tracks some of my significant mural projects, portrays the “love of my life” and introduces the indomitable “Pearl”… who is my daughter. This second book terminates at the moment when I discover, after over thirty-four years of life with my “Gift of Life”, that I must return to thrice-weekly dialysis. Now, I am marinating a third book, that will constitute the complete “trilogy” of my memoirs. The third book, as of yet untitled, will be written in “real time” as I enter the next phase of my life with second “Gift of Life”, that will gain me back my seven days a week, God and all the angels willing.
Please visit me at www.mrgaudet.com to read more.

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Author Interview

Interview with Jason Pomerance: On Writing and Marketing

Today, Jason Pomerance is here to talk about his journey publishing his debut novel, Women Like Us.

Welcome Jason. First, I want to say congratulations on the release of your novel, Women Like Us, which hit shelves on July 26, 2016! How does it feel to be a published author?

Thank you for having me! I think pretty much almost nothing compares with holding your book for the first time. Most authors spend untold amounts of time — years most likely — thinking about his or her book, writing it, rewriting it, editing it, editing it some more, so that when it actually is a physical thing that you can leaf through it’s pretty astounding. Here it’s almost two years after pub date for Women Like Us, and sometimes I’ll pick it up and leaf through it and I still can’t believe it’s actually in my hands. Then other cool things happen — you see it on the shelf of a bookstore, or you see it’s been shelved at a library, or you look at reviews that pop up on Amazon or Goodreads, and if somebody really connected with it, that’s another totally sweet thing. Oh, and when it crossed over from hundreds sold into thousands. That was a nice moment.

Can you tell us a little bit about Women Like Us and what inspired the story?

The book actually began its life as a screenplay. I had in mind to write a mother/son road trip movie, but when I was outlining it, I just kept writing and writing until it began to feel more like a novel. So I just went with it and kept writing. But I have to say the whole thing didn’t really take off until the character Edith Vale started to take on a bigger role than originally envisioned. She sort of sprung to life fully formed; if you read the book you’ll see she’s quite bossy, and it’s like she started telling me what to do!! Anyway once she took on a life of her own, it became not just a story of a mother and son, but a story of a mother and her ex-mother-in-law. And people seem to love Edith, even though, quite frankly, she’s a little bit crazy. But probably everybody knows a person like her.

Is there a primary message in Women Like Us?

I believe there is. Women Like Us is really about family. Oh, it’s a fractured family to be sure, but it’s a family that comes together in a time of crisis. In any family good things happen and bad things happen, and I think the message is that even though bad things might happen, good can also come. It’s sort of a circle-of-life kind of thing too.

How much of yourself do you put into your books?

I think all authors put something of themselves into their characters. And of course often we’re writing from experience, even if the experience may be altered a little (or even a lot!).

Have you ever incorporated something that happened in real life into your story?

Yes!

If given the opportunity to start over, would you change anything in your book?

I still look through the book and find things I wish I could say differently — you know, a different word in a sentence, or a different sentence altogether. When it came time to turn the book in after the final edit, they pretty much had to pry the book from my hands. I love to tinker with words and sentences.

People believe that being a published author is glamorous, how true is that?

I’m pretty sure it’s glamorous if you’re lucky enough to get on a best seller list, but I think most authors toil away in a degree of obscurity that’s not exactly glamorous. But like many writers I’m sure, I’m not doing this for any other reason but to get a story out that I want to tell. For me, anyway, that’s the most important thing.

Do you enjoy book signings? And what is your setup?

I didn’t do a whole lot of book signings unless you count Goodreads Giveaways of signed books, which I actually love and did a lot of until Goodreads changed the price structure on giveaways. But I’ve been asked on a few occasions for signed copies, and I’m always happy to sign.

Tell us about an interesting encounter you had with a fan.

I posted about this on my instagram recently. I walk our beagles by several Little Free Libraries that have sprung up around our neighborhood. One lady had seen me leave a copy of Women Like Us in one, and after she read it she asked if I had written it. When I said, “Yup,” she said how much she enjoyed it and asked for a signed copy, So I was happy to oblige.

What do you do to market your own books yourself? Any advice on that front?

If you’re published under the Quill imprint of Inkshares you’re mostly on your own for marketing so, yeah, I’ve done tons of stuff. Closer to when the book was coming out, I did I whole bunch of guest blog posts — I reached out to a ton of bloggers really and got a good amount of responses but it’s a ton of work. I reached out to a bunch of local newspapers, big and small, and managed to get a little bit of press. Also, we decided to lower the price of the eBook, which I think is critical, unless you’re a brand — people are way more willing to take a chance on your book if it doesn’t cost them a whole lot. And if you want more readers, and you’re not a brand, I think there’s no other way. Then you have to get on a whatever discount ebook email blasters are best in your genre. I’ve had very good luck Book Gorilla and Ereadernewstoday. Promos on both got Women Like Us into the top 100 on Amazon in it’s top sub genre. Which was pretty amazing.

­Have you ever destroyed any of your drafts and started from scratch?

I started and stopped and restarted Women Like Us many times until I got the right tone but I’ve never totally destroyed a draft.

When can the readers expect another book from you? Any details that you can share?

Hopefully soon!! It’s written, although I’m still sort of tinkering and editing. I’ve been in a long agent query process and it’s down to about one or two agents who are reading. If they pass, I’ll go indie and put it out probably via Ingram Spark for print and eBooks. I’m hoping not to have to go that route, but I will if I have to.

Some details? It’s called CELIA AT 39, and it’s sort of SWEET HOME ALABAMA meets MOONSTRUCK. It’s definitely more of a Rom-com than anything else. It’s about what happens when a package mysterious shows up at a front door 40 year after it was mailed. When Celia Bernhart (successful in her career and engaged to marry her longtime boyfriend) decides to try to deliver the package to its rightful recipient, her whole life is turned upside down!

If you were given the opportunity to join a book club with your favorite authors, dead or alive, who would you want to become a part of the club?

I’ve said this elsewhere, but I’ll say it again — I worship at the altar of Anne Tyler. I’m just such a huge fan of almost every one of her books, and I read and reread them over and over again (which I think any author should do). So Anne Tyler for sure. Charles Dickens, of course, because Great Expectations is probably one of my all time favorites, and then maybe one of the hard-boiled noir writers like James M. Cain, who was just brilliant.

What is your preferred method for readers to get in touch with or follow you (website, blog, Facebook, Goodreads, etc.) and links?

Readers can find me several ways!!

Instagram: @whowantsdinner

Twitter : @whowantsdinner

Website: http://www.jasonpomerance.com

Facebook: Women Like Us has its own page here: https://www.facebook.com/womenlikeusnovel/

Goodreads (author page): https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/15205951.Jason_Pomerance

About Women Like Us

 

Order Women Like Us Today!

Susan Jones, a brash and ballsy chef who hopscotches from one demanding restaurant job to the next, was barely in her twenties when she married and had a son, Henry. But after her marriage to Andrew fell apart, she ceded most of the raising of the baby to her mother-in-law, the very opinionated Edith Vale, a woman as formidable and steely as her stiff blond bouffant, the veritable helmet that helps her soldier through life. Now, after letting Henry drift away, Susan is determined to make things right. But just as mother and son seem to make headway after embarking on a cross-country road trip, things take a dark turn. When the family reconvenes in California, everybody must fight to find courage and humor in the face of a situation that threatens to change them all forever.

 

 

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Writing Life

How to Win at Conventions

So, you want to go to a convention. Maybe you’ve attended conventions before, but now you want to go professionally — to make contacts, sell books, or to be a celebrity. Depending on the convention you attend, a booth/table could set you back a lot of money, so how do you make sure your con is successful?

We’ve spoken with several members of the Writing Bloc community who have attended conventions and compiled their tips for planning and executing a successful convention.

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Author Interview Writing Life

Parents Who Make Writing Work: Brittney Trescott Cassity

We have another West Virginia parent to feature today! Brittney Trescott Cassity, who writes under the name Josie Dorans shares her insight on writing when her kids were younger.

Becca: What was your writing routine before having kids?

Brittney: I married young and had my boys young. I was only 19 when we tied the knot. I had my first son a month before my 21st birthday and second son just after I turned 23. I honestly didn’t have a writing routine before I had kids. I had school assignments and sporadic bursts of creativity that I consider more of an outlet than writing for a finished product. Then I had the first taste of grown-up freedom and lost the urge for a while.

Becca: How did that change after having kids?

Brittney: I started getting “serious” about writing when my husband went to Iraq as a civilian contractor in 2005. I was telling my boys a continuing story every night involving a very small dragon. They started wanting those stories repeated so I started writing them down. Then I started illustrating the stories for them. The whole thing evolved into a self-published children’s book. That led into another book, and another, and another until I had four children’s books for a variety of ages and reasons. Next was a perpetual planner based on a blog I had going. By that time, the boys were older so I was balancing the niceness of children’s books (and the interesting challenges of being the mother of teenaged boys) with some feistier work under a pen name.

Becca: How is your writing itself influenced by having kids?

Brittney: I think I’ve always written for my kids. I write stories to help them build a better world even when I am writing a world that I would not want to live in. I believe that stories are the blueprints that we give our children so that they can build their world based on the lessons they learn from what they read. Even at my pen name’s worst, I try to write in a path to a better future. If I hadn’t had children, I’m not sure that I would recognize how important that is to include. I also try to write things that my grown sons can be proud to say their mother created. I don’t necessarily mean the story. They will never get into some of the plots. Still, I try to make the writing solid so they can recommend my books because they think someone will like them and not just because I’m their mom.

Becca: What advice do you have for parents of young kids who want to write?

Brittney: Do it! That doesn’t mean you have to turn it into a job or your career although you definitely can if that is what you want to do. But embracing writing because you love it shows your kids to embrace their own passions. Writing helps you express your joys and your fears. It is an awesome outlet and it can help you work your way to answers when you need them the most. It helps build your foundation stronger. Your children will benefit from the experience of watching you grow as an adult. Share your love of writing with them. Write something just for them even if it isn’t what you would normally write – maybe especially if it isn’t what you would normally write. Let your writing build another bond with your kids. If you’re worried about a writing schedule with the demands you have as a parent, don’t worry about keeping up with a word count or amount of writing time until your demands lighten and more time for yourself appears. Write when you can and for as long as you can. Find YOUR way.

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Author Interview Writing Life

Interview with Cari Dubiel: Marketing books at conventions

This interview is part of a short series looking at marketing and selling books at conventions. You can find my interview with Rick Heinz here and my earlier interview with Rochelle Campbell here. In this post, I talk to Cari Dubiel. Stay tuned for my consolidated advice article dropping in the next few days.

Cari Dubiel

Cari DubielCari Dubiel is the author of How to Remember, forthcoming from Inkshares/Quill. The novel was the winner of the Hugh Holton award from the Mystery Writers of America – Midwest Chapter in 2017. Cari’s previous works include All the Lonely People, a book of short stories, and several other short stories found in anthologies and online magazines. Cari is also a librarian, and she served as the Library Liaison to Sisters in Crime for five years.

 

What conventions have you attended? Why did you pick those conventions? In hindsight, were those reasons valid?

I’ve attended the American Library Association and/or the Public Library Association conference every year since 2012. That was the year I started as Library Liaison to Sisters in Crime, which is a national organization of mystery readers and writers. My term ended in 2017. In that role, my job was to bring writers and librarians together – to help writers sell books and make partnerships with librarians, and to help librarians make connections with writers for their collections and public programming. Since I am both a writer and a librarian, this was an ideal way for me to get started learning about the convention experience. I’ve met so many interesting people and discovered some amazing books, and I’ve learned about the promotion experience from the writer’s side – something I didn’t know about at all before I joined Sisters in Crime. Since then, I’ve also attended some strictly writing conventions, and it’s been a strange but rewarding experience to switch back and forth between the two parts of my identity. This has been a fabulous experience for me, and while I might make different decisions if I were to do it again (see below), it was the right path at the time.

What were your objectives for the conventions you attended (e.g. Direct books sales, online sales, Facebook likes, email list sign-ups, etc.)? Do you feel you achieved those objectives?

We could not sell books directly at the conference, but we wanted to get face time between the librarians and the authors, so we set up signing times for each author with book giveaways. We also collected e-mail addresses. Each author was allowed to collect their own data, since we didn’t want to share organizational data due to privacy concerns. Authors would often have a newsletter mailing list for librarians to join. They also had bookmarks that librarians could use to order the titles when they got back to their library.

It was very tough to measure the success of the booth, because we didn’t have the sales data to draw from. I talked to every author after their signing time. Some were happy and others were… not so happy. I learned a lot about managing author expectations.

What was your strategy for engagement at the conventions? What did you have on display? How did you draw people in and engage? Did you have any incentives? Did you have physical copies of your books on hand?

Yes, we had tons of swag and giveaways. I mentioned the bookmarks – we also had pins and tote bag freebies. We allowed authors who couldn’t be there to send in copies of their books for giveaway. The free books were the biggest draw, especially when the author was there in the booth to sign them. Librarians – and I think readers in general – love to interact with writers and get personalized books. We also had an iPad giveaway for getting on the mailing list, so we usually collected about 500 e-mails per conference.

What did you feel worked well?

The quality of the interaction between the author and the reader was key. ALA brings in about 25,000 people per year. Not everyone who came by the booth wanted to talk to us – they grabbed free stuff and disappeared. When we were able to talk to readers and librarians about what they wanted, and people were able to make connections, cool stuff happened. I made connections with lots of people in the publishing industry, which has ultimately helped me to promote my work outside of conference-land. I hope the other authors I’ve worked with over the years have had similar experiences.

What didn’t work, or not as well as you had hoped?

My main concern was that we were not reaching everyone in our target audience. Not everyone can afford to travel and come to a big conference. I felt there were other ways to reach librarians online or through state and local conferences. When I transitioned my role over to the new Library Liaison, Shari Randall, we talked about ways to do that more strategically. I’m meeting up with her at this year’s ALA to talk about ways we can use our data and experiences to reach more people.

What other lessons have you learnt?

Authors have to think critically about how they use their conference time and how they distribute their swag. Bookmarks, while great, did not get taken as often as they hoped – and they’re expensive! Free books are also expensive, but readers love them, and if they read them, they might review and pass them on. Choosing the right conference/convention is also critical. Because I’m a librarian, ALA worked well for me, but I struggled in the writing-only space. I’m still getting used to that, and I still have a lot to learn in that arena.

I’ve seen some of my friends who write fantasy have great success in fan conventions and medieval faires. That, too, is part of knowing your audience. You have to go to the place where your readers go. ALA was a good opportunity for Sisters in Crime members because librarians and library patrons love mysteries.

Do you plan to attend more conventions to promote your book?

Yes! I won’t go to ALA every year now that I have stepped down from SinC, but I’m going to New Orleans this summer, and I can’t wait. I’m also looking forward to learning more about how to sell books at conventions and conferences!

How to Remember

Book Cover for How to RememberThank you to Cari for sharing her experiences with us. Cari is the author of How to Remember, which is currently in production with Inkshares. I encourage you to check it out.

2017: A woman tries to find out what happened to her during the year she lost her memory. 2016: A man tries to find out who killed his mother. They fell in love once, but she doesn’t remember it.

 

 

You can also find Cari online in the following places:

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Interview with Evan Graham: On Crowdfunded Publishing and Writing Hard Science Fiction

Today, as part of Writing Bloc’s Author Interview Series, Evan Graham is here with us! We’re going to talk about Tantalus Depths and Proteus, his two upcoming sci-fi novels, as well as his journey with crowdfunded publishing.

Welcome Evan. Your book Tantalus Depths is currently in production, and you are also in the middle of a crowdfunding campaign for another book, Proteus. Can you tell us a little bit about the stories? 

They’re both science fiction thrillers set in the same universe, but the stories are set most of a century and several thousand light-years apart, and they deal with very different themes.

Tantalus Depths is about a small survey expedition to the planet Tantalus 13 that goes immediately off the rails when they discover it isn’t a planet at all, but a planet-sized artificial structure built and abandoned by an alien civilization thousands of years ago. Curiosity gets the better of the crew, and they take it upon themselves to explore the interior of this impossible structure, but the secrets it holds may spell the doom of not just the crew, but all of mankind. Adding to the danger is SCARAB: the self-constructing, artificially intelligent mining facility that arrived on Tantalus 13 two years before the crew. SCARAB is hiding secrets of its own; secrets it seems willing to kill to protect.

Proteus is a science-fiction adaptation of Shakespeare’s Richard III. It’s set on a colossal multi-generational colony ship that’s just passed the halfway mark on its 150-year journey to establish a new colony on the distant planet Bella Rosa. Our protagonist is Jacob Sicarius, a cyborg veteran destined to be the leader of the new colony: a destiny that is stolen from him when his cryonic stasis pod is sabotaged. He awakens from stasis to find that the fourth-generation crew of the ship have fallen into mutiny, with half the crew dedicated to continuing the mission and the other half determined to turn the ship around and return to Earth. With his AI combat implant making him a literal killing machine, Jacob sets out to wipe out the mutineers and preserve the mission, even if it costs him his mind and soul.

You successfully crowdfunded Tantalus Depths, selling over 750 backer copies before production began. What did this crowdfunding process look like for you, and why did you chose to go this way for publication?

Crowdfunding Tantalus Depths was, without question, the hardest thing I’ve ever done. It took me farther outside my comfort zone than I’ve ever been by forcing me to beg friends, family, and complete strangers to invest in a project that none of them would ever care about as much as I would. It was such a long road; I experienced every kind of setback imaginable. Campaigning became a full-time job; at one point I was putting in 16 hour days where I did nothing but bug people for pre-orders. It was worth it, though, and through that experience I learned I had way more people in my life who I could count on than I’d ever realized before. Some of my biggest supporters ended up being people I hadn’t spoken to in years, who I never would have thought would be willing to invest so much in my dream.

I went with Inkshares initially because they were hosting a contest that was a really good fit for Tantalus Depths. I didn’t end up winning that contest, but I did come in the top five, and by that point I’d already gathered enough orders that pushing through to the end goal just made sense. I definitely didn’t realize what I was getting myself into at the time, but even if I had, I would have preferred going through all that to the even more soul-crushing work of pursuing traditional publishing. It’s one of the hardest industries for an outsider to break into. I once went to a literary agency’s website to send in a query, then turned right around and left when I saw “Agents typically receive 500 queries a week and only follow up on ten. No repeat submissions.”

When you’re up against that, you’re completely at the mercy of luck. No matter how good of an author you are, there’s no way you can guarantee an agent’s going to see the quality in your writing when you only have one shot to get a five-page excerpt noticed among 500 others. At least with Inkshares, I knew if I could put in the effort, I would reap the reward. So I did.

Tantalus Depths and Proteus are both characterized as Hard Science Fiction. For those who may not know, what are some of the differences between Science Fiction and Hard Science Fiction?

Science fiction comes in all kinds of subgenres. You can really combine just about any other genre with science fiction and get a great story out of it. That’s one of the things I like about it; its versatility. All those different subgenres are going to fit into one of two categories, though: “hard” or “soft” science fiction. The only real difference is how much the story actively tries to stay scientifically accurate.

Soft sci-fi doesn’t try very hard to follow real scientific laws and principles, if at all. Usually the “science” element just isn’t that important to the story it’s trying to tell. It has more in common with the fantasy genre, in many ways, just with a sci-fi flavor to it. You’ll see aliens and robots and laser guns and the like, but most of what you see wouldn’t hold up in science class. Doctor Who is a prime example of soft sci-fi.

Hard sci-fi does try to stay within the realm of the theoretically possible. It’s more grounded, more realistic. You’ll see things that don’t exist in the real world, but most of them are going to be logical progressions of technology we already have, or involve scientific concepts we mostly understand. It takes a lot of research to do hard sci-fi well, and it can also be tricky to make it still seem interesting and not seem like it’s spilling out of a textbook, but if it’s done well, it lends a degree of realism that makes the reader feel like these things could really happen someday, which I love. The Martian is a solid example of hard sci-fi.

How realistic are your books?

I strive for as much realism as possible. It’s not easy, and it requires a lot of research. You have to spend a lot of time learning new things, especially if you’re like me and don’t have a natural gift for the physical sciences, but that’s part of what I like about it. I like having to learn new things, and I enjoy the satisfaction of strengthening my storytelling with newfound knowledge.

That being said, I definitely cheat. I’ve got made-up, entirely unscientific McGuffins in the shared universe of Tantalus Depths and Proteus. Faster-than-light space travel is possible, for instance, though I have very strict rules about what it can and can’t do. There isn’t a real scientific principle that allows for this, but I’ve chosen to give myself the ability to break that rule in order to tell the kinds of stories I want to tell; namely, in order to give the characters in my stories the ability to travel to other worlds we’d never be able to reach with conventional science.

Which of your books took you the most time to write?

Definitely Proteus. I first came up with that one almost eight years ago, and I’ve been fussing with it on and off the entire time. I’d probably still have it on the back burner of my brain if I hadn’t finally taken the plunge with Tantalus Depths and finally started my career as an author.

Do you invent new vocabulary words to use in your book or resort to the existing ones? 

I invent them on an as-needed basis, but I try to keep them as plausible as I can. Since I’m going the hard sci-fi route with these books, I try to name things in a way that feels true to reality. There are no aliens in these stories who speak fictional languages, so I can’t just call a new planet “Zalaprax” or something else entirely made-up. Instead, I look at how we name things right now, and extrapolate how that might be done in the future. We often name stars and celestial bodies after famous astronomers, so I named some of the planets I mention after real or fictional people who could conceivably be important enough to earn that honor, like Hayden, Showalter, and Tahani. We also name celestial bodies after characters from mythology, which I show with planets like Tantalus 13, Atropos, and Buyan. I try to draw from many cultures, so I’ve pulled from Greek, Hindu, and even Slavic mythology.

As far as technology goes, I try to keep that as real as possible. If there’s a real-world term for the thing I’m trying to create, I use it. I am constantly amazed by the sorts of ideas the scientific community comes up with. Some of the real theoretical science out there is wilder than anything I could ever come up with. I love integrating those cutting-edge theories into my writing, though. My favorite so far is SCARAB: the Self-Constructing Autonomous Resource Acquisition Base who serves as the villain in Tantalus Depths. It’s a hyper-intelligent AI that’s designed to build itself using the resources available to it. Science already has a name for that kind of robot: a Von Neumann probe. Ironically, the real concept of a Von Neumann probe is so over-the-top amazing that I had to tone back its capabilities for SCARAB. Reality is just too crazy to fit in fiction sometimes.

Tell us a little bit about your writing process. Do you aim to complete a set number of pages or words each day?

Oh gosh, I wish I had a writing process. I’m the last person anyone should go to for writing advice. I am a chronic procrastinator, but I’m also obsessive about my work, so I often go for days without writing anything, getting more and more stressed and feeling more and more guilty the longer I go without putting words down. Then, when I can’t handle the guilt anymore, I’ll sit down and write for eight straight hours.

I don’t recommend that method to anyone, but I’ve managed to harness my mania and make it work for me.

I think that’s the best thing any writer can do: figure out your own strengths and your own weaknesses, and tailor your writing process to use both of them to keep you productive. As long as you make steady progress toward your goal and put down writing you can be proud of, it doesn’t matter what method you use.

Tell us a little bit about the world building that went into Tantalus Depths and Proteus, and what that process was like for you.

A lot of things happen on Earth between now and the time these books take place in. Earth goes through a near apocalypse called the Corsica Event at the hands of a Rogue AI towards the end of the 21st century, wrecking the global economy  and leading to a period of rebuilding that lasts about 80 years. Resource depletion and overpopulation have forced humanity to colonize new worlds in order to survive. AIs are heavily regulated to keep another cataclysm from happening. New technology arose as a result of the Corsica Event has given us the ability to travel faster than light, so we’re exploring areas of the universe we never thought we’d reach thanks to technology we don’t really understand.

Establishing all that world building in both books has been tricky, since they both take place so far from Earth. They’re still affected by what’s been going on at home. I try to establish a lot of that backstory in offhand, in-character dialogue whenever possible. I like to avoid info dumps whenever I can, because I want this universe to feel like a place where people live and work and establish relationships, rather than a series of encyclopedia entries. The universe in these stories doesn’t look much like ours, but I try to make the people feel like folks you’d meet anywhere, and I want to give the reader the idea that they could step into this world and fit in.

Not that they should, mind you. This universe is a dark and dangerous place. I sure wouldn’t want to live there.

Which writer’s work do you believe most resembles your work?

I feel a kinship between my stories and James S. A. Corey’s The Expanse series. It’s also a hard sci-fi setting, full of intrigue and conflict , where humanity would be its own greatest enemy if the universe didn’t have such dark and deadly tricks hidden up its sleeve. If anyone likes the parts of The Expanse that deal with mysterious remnants of an alien civilization that pose a deadly threat to the survival of mankind, they’ll like Tantalus Depths. If anyone likes the parts of The Expanse that deal with warfare and corruption and conspiracy in a sci-fi setting, they’ll definitely like Proteus.

All books say that characters are fictional, but are they really all made up, or do you base them on people you have known in your own life? 

I try to give my characters unique personalities, but I definitely draw on what I know in order to do that. I’ll take a particular personality quirk I’ve seen in someone I know, or someone famous, and I’ll attach it to a character I’m developing, but I never use more than one or two from the same source. I never set out to make a character a clone of someone else.

I have extensive experience and education in theatre, which has proven to be an incredibly useful tool when it comes to character creation. When you portray a character on the stage, you learn how to think inside that character’s world. You see what drives them, what affects them, what they want and what they’re willing to do to get it. I apply the same lessons I’ve learned as an actor to my writing, making sure every character has a unique, true-seeming personality, definitive goals, and character-specific tactics they’ll utilize to get to those goals.

And my favorite question – if you were given the opportunity to join a book club with your favorite authors, dead or alive, who would you want to become a part of the club?

Isaac Asimov, Ray Bradbury, Jim Butcher, H.G. Wells, Timothy Zahn, Oscar Wilde, and William Shakespeare. Although, if I was in a book club with all of them, I’d never get any writing done. I’d spend the rest of my life fanboying over everything they were working on.

Where does the crowdfunding campaign for Proteus stand right now, and what can people do to help?

Currently, Proteus is very close to the 500 pre-orders mark, and we have until the end of August to reach 750 pre-orders. We’re about two-thirds of the way there, which is very encouraging, but we still have a lot of ground to cover.

The main thing people can do to support Proteus is simply to pre-order a copy, but word-of-mouth publicity is also invaluable. Anyone who’s a fan of grim and bloody military science fiction, or anyone who likes the idea of a science-fiction adaptation of one of Shakespeare’s greatest plays, should find plenty in Proteus to enjoy.

Also, Tantalus Depths still doesn’t have a release date, but we’re about to go into copy edits, so it won’t be much longer until that one launches. Pre-orders are live for that one as well.

What is your preferred method for readers to get in touch with or follow you (website, blog, Facebook, Goodreads, etc.) and links?

I haven’t set up an author website yet, but that’s one of the many things I’m currently working on. Meanwhile, my main social media platform is my author page on Facebook, which you can get to here.

I also have a Twitter and a Youtube channel. Both have been inactive for a while, but as we get closer to launching Tantalus Depths I plan to put out a lot more content on all my platforms.

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Parents Who Make Writing Work: Brandy Renee McCann

Today’s Parent-Writer is extra special because she’s a fellow West Virginian! Meet Brandy Renee McCann, author of short story “Of a Certain Age.”

Becca: What was your writing routine before having kids?

Brandy: Before having kids I had a tenure track position and wrote first thing in the morning at home and between classes at the office.

Becca: How has that changed since having kids?

Brandy: These days my paid work is very part time and I have no office. Also, my kids come to my bed for early morning snuggles and I’ve found it impossible to get up and write like I used to. Now I write after they go to bed at night. I never wrote at night before having kids, even when I was in college. Also, this year they’ve been in preschool, so I’ve had about 10 hours per week during daytime hours. That has allowed me to take on some part time paid work.

Becca: How has your writing itself changed since becoming a parent?

Brandy: My writing hasn’t changed much—I don’t write about parenthood for example—but I have become much more aware of the passage of time and have become laser-focused on my writing goals. It blows my mind to think about how much time I frittered away before I had kids.

Becca: What advice do you have for people who want to write who are parents of young children?

Brandy: I have a rule about housework: I don’t do housework when I could be writing. I try to do all my housework when the kids are with me.

I always keep a notebook or slip of paper with me. And an ink pen. That way if I have a moment free—the kids are napping in the car or I’m waiting while they’re in gymnastics—I can write down ideas or snippets of scenes. I also carry reading material everywhere I go. It is easy to waste that time scrolling social media, but I try to stay mindful and take advantage of those moments.

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Parents Who Make Writing Work: Laney Wylde

Today, Laney Wylde, author of the forthcoming book, Never Touched, shares her advice as a new writer and parent.

Becca: I know you’s said you didn’t start writing until after you became a parent. Can you share what made you start?

Laney: I wrote some when I was younger, and I wanted to major in film/screenwriting or English in college but I chickened out because I thought I wasn’t good enough. But I started reading a book about gifted children in April 2017 and realized, “Wait. Maybe I was gifted. Why can’t I write?” So I started writing seriously. Seven months later, I got a book deal.

Becca: Awesome! What advice do you have for parents of young kids who want to write?

Laney: Be interruptible for your kids and for your writing. When the kids are up, do all your mommy responsibilities. When the kids are asleep, write. Leave the mess, the dishes, the spilled milk on the floor, and go into your one clean writing space in the house. That is your time and space to write and forget about all the mess downstairs. It’s not going anywhere. But your time to write will slip away.

Don’t feel guilty about reading/writing when your kids are awake as long as you are interruptible for them.
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Interview with Rick Heinz: Selling your book at conventions

This post was originally posted here and is part of a series looking at marketing and selling books at conventions. You can find my earlier interview with Rochelle Campbell here. In this post, I talk to Rick Heinz. Stay tuned for next week’s interview with Cari Dubiel and my consolidated advice article.

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