Author Spotlight: Jay Shaw

Today I’m fortunate to present Jay Shaw, author of The Space Colonel’s Woman.

The Space Colonel's Woman - by Jay Shaw - CoverHi Jay, thanks for agreeing to this interview. Tell us a little about yourself and your background?

Hi Jason, thanks for having me. I’m a New Zealand author, a mum of two teens, and a lover of books. I’m an incurable romantic who stays up early and sleeps in late, writes in bed, loves both action and romance movies, survives on a diet of M&Ms, bottled water, and steak with mushroom sauce.  I have a passion for tall, dark-haired, military men in thigh holsters and combat boots, photography, baking, thunderstorms, bootleg jeans, and boots. My ultimate guest list for a dinner party would include: Queen Elizabeth I, Leonardo Da Vinci, JJ Abrams, Patty Jenkins, Jerry Bruckheimer, Jason Momoa, Ashton Kutcher, Michelle Obama, and Carrie Fisher.

 

How long have you been writing?

Five years now, though it wasn’t until last year that I published my first novel Wolfhaven – a paranormal action romance set in a world of feuding wolf-shifter packs.

 

What inspired you to start writing?

I’ve always been in love with the written word and the power it has to transport you to another world. It’s limitless, and the idea that with the turn of a page you can escape whatever life is throwing at you – even if it’s only for an hour or three – is intoxicating in the best way.

 

Tell us a little bit about your current project. Is it a novel, short story, or something else? Is it part of a series?

I have two current projects.

Limelight and Longing is the first of four movie star romance novellas in which Jenna Long meets actor Jacob Starr at a convention. The attraction is immediate and scorching, but neither is in a position to act upon it. It seems their connection will forever be chalked up to missed opportunity and fantasy. Until, eighteen months later when…

The Shifting Tide is the third full-length novel in the Dragonus Chronicles – my science fiction action romance series which hails the adventures, trials and tribulations, losses and loves of Brigadier General Mark Holden, Julia Holden, their family, and the inhabitants of Dragonus Galaxy. It follows on from The Space Colonel’s Woman, and The Hunted.

 

The Hunted - by Jay Shaw - eBook coverWhat genre do you prefer to write in, if any?

I prefer a mix of genres in my books, because I tend to get easily bored as both writer and reader. A story which has both action and romance within its pages has my full attention, be it on Earth, or set in another realm, universe, or dimension. I love the freedom of science fiction, the way my imagination has free rein to explore the endless possibilities.

 

What authors influenced you?

Wilbur Smith – his ability to plunge his readers into majestic sweeping vistas, while making us believe in the courage and determination of his characters.

Clive Cussler – all hail to his power of description, for his sexy rugged heroes and their taste for adventure, who allow readers to join the treasure hunt.

Diana Gabaldon – for proving a book doesn’t have to be just one genre.

Anna Hackett – at the top of my one-click-to-buy list. She writes action romance and sci-fi romance with such enviable skill and her characters live with you long after the story is finished.

 

What are you currently reading?

Diffraction – by Jess Anastasi

Brilliant, brilliant, brilliant! If you haven’t already you need to read her Atrophy series.

 

Do you write every day? A few days per week?

Yes, every day. The quality, however, isn’t always the best. But then you can edit a bad page, unlike a blank one. I keep pen and paper beside my bed and immediately on waking I’m writing. You know that space between sleeping and waking where all those fantastic perfect ideas and visualizations live? I can’t always decipher what I’ve scribbled, but it’s better to have it down than to forget forever.

 

Do you listen to music when you write? Does it influence how you write?

No. I listen to music while I’m editing. I don’t find it influences how I write, but after I’m finished I’ll notice the lyrics either reflect my story, or add extra depth; almost as if they’re the soundtrack.

 

How do you think your writing has changed from when you first started?

I love that our writing grows with our experiences. I’ve tightened it up. There are less ‘ly’ words, though I’m still fighting to eradicate ‘had’ and ‘that’, lol. I think the more we get to know our characters and the worlds they inhabit, the better we get at telling their story and crafting their journey. It becomes our journey as writers and I think that’s the most obvious when starting a series from the beginning. You travel with not only the characters but the author as well. And I think by the time you reach the end, you’re part of an enduring friendship.

 

Wolfhaven - ebook CoverHow do you create the covers for your books?

I have a mental vision of what I want the covers to look like. Then I send a tonne of stock images to my designer and hope like hell she can translate them into gorgeousness using her artistic genius. Choosing a designer is the hard part. I recommend Googling and checking out their portfolios until you find someone who mirrors your own creativity, then having a chat to see if you’ll work well together.

 

Are there any non-literary influences for your writing (movies, actors, music, etc)?

Hell yes!

I grew up with such influences as Star Wars, Star Trek, Indiana Jones, MacGyver, Battlestar Galactica, Romancing the Stone, Wonder Woman, and Tour of Duty. Then along came Stargate Atlantis, Jupiter Ascending, and The Dresden Files. Everyday heroes standing up for what is right against intimidating odds, finding great love and fighting to keep hold of that love while their world around them heaped danger and adventure on them. An environment where they can prove themselves, can grow and learn who they are inside, and use that knowledge to gain victories. Without struggle there is no strength, without strength there can be no triumph.

 

Where can we purchase your current book? What about previous books?

All my books are available from:

Ebook: www.amazon.com/Jay-Shaw/e/B01CXLFUMG

Print: https://www.createspace.com/pub/simplesitesearch.search.do?sitesearch_query=jay+shaw&sitesearch_type=STORE

 

Where can we find you online?

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/JayShawAuthor/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/jayshawauthor

Goodreads: http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/15094075.Jay_Shaw

Pronoun: https://books.pronoun.com/jayshaw/

Amazon Author Page: www.amazon.com/Jay-Shaw/e/B01CXLFUMG

 

What is your favorite book and why?

To write: is always the one I’m working on because I’m immersed in those characters and their story.

To read: is a much harder choice and I’d never be able to narrow it down to just one. Here’s my top five:

Valhalla Rising – by Clive Cussler

The Burning Shore – by Wilbur Smith

Pillars of the Earth – by Ken Follett

Voyager – by Diana Gabaldon

Plus anything by Anna Hackett, Jess Anatassi, Veronica Scott, and Sarah Madison.

 

Do you have an excerpt from your current work you’d like to share?

“Black Wing eight, clear and headed for uploaded coordinates.” She radioed while staring out the canopy at a squall of vibrant cobalt, lime, and fuchsia clouds, and the blink of golden stars, smeared across the vast ink-black ocean of uninhabited space. Julia understood the concept of a nebula, but to see one in reality; sheer brilliance and scale dwarfing anything that dared to challenge it, was awe-inspiring.

“Acknowledged, Black Wing eight.” Major Walker, Second Helmsman for Columbus, answered in her ear. “Initiate Flight Evasion Sequence one, under Subsection A.”

Julia accessed the menu on her display, loaded a program similar to the flight simulator Stephen and Lieutenant Colonel Dawson created for Phoenix City’s glider training program.

“Initiating Flight Evasion Sequence one, confirmed.” A red AIA icon waited at the base of her display while the F490’s radar matrix registered the outer rim of the Solaris asteroid belt with soft pings and a rash of white dots.

“Black Wing eight, you’re cleared for commencement. Black Wings four, seven, and twelve you’re on a sixty-second staggered start. Confirm.”

“Copy, Columbus Flight, Black Wing eight commencing simulation. Wings out.” Halo and the other pilots radioed their confirmations in her ear as Julia accelerated her AIA through the Heaven’s Arch.

It was breathtaking. Black Wing eight cut through the soaring cotton-candy clouds like a samurai sword through the finest silk. Julia’s wrist didn’t ache as it had after her teaser flight with Halo, proving Black Wing eight was born for space. The inertial regulators didn’t compensate for all the Gs as they cut swathes through Solaris’ luminescent layers of gas and dust, but the push-pull on her body sure added to the thrill. Static scratched in her ear, making Julia wince as Black Wing eight plunged from auroras of bright color into the midnight chaos and lightning storms of the asteroid zone.

Despite the lack of telepathic communication between her and her craft, Julia was lost to the addictive power and graceful beauty of a CobraF490 in her natural element. The two of them flew together in a symbiotic union of style and speed; an osmosis of motion. Black Wing eight translated Julia’s subtle stick-twitches into breakneck swoops, spiral-dives, arcs, and last minute wing-tip turns around, over, and between, the stately avalanche of colossal planetoids.  

Lightning struck from on high in lethal stabs, one-two-three, and Julia gasped; blinked through the livewire echo on her retinas, to haul Black Wing eight into a vertical climb. Her display bleeping with virtual panic as rock debris the size of houses and aircraft carriers cascaded through their previous position, down into the abyss beyond. Bright gold stars streaked by as the excess Gs held her into the seat. Adrenalin licked cool and addictive over every inch of her skin, kick-started her heart and sent it racing. She whooped in delight; thighs tensing to contain the surge of heat pooling low in her belly. Only one other thing ever made her this hot, this primed. And stuck in his office, half a system away, her General was totally missing out. Julia crowed on a bubble of pleasure as she rolled before executing a smooth forty-degree sweep between two massive asteroids and streaking toward the co-ordinates where Columbus waited with her time score.

The Shifting Tide – Dragonus Chronicles III, Jay Shaw

 

Any parting words for writers?

Write what you want to read.

Pay for a professional cover.

For every story there is someone somewhere waiting to read and love it.

Go with your gut. If it feels wrong it usually is.

Enjoy the ride.

 

Indie Author Pricing: Ebooks

When you purchase books, what are you honestly willing to pay for an ebook?

Recently I had a lively discussion with fellow authors who participate in the Heggerwood Showcase (If you don’t know what that is, check it out here). The topic was ebook pricing. From that discussion comes the topic of this post.

Let me start off by saying I am not expert. I’m not a best-seller. Heck, I’m barely a seller at all! However I do have two qualifications that inform my thoughts on this topic.

First, I work in sales. I have for the last sixteen years. I’ve seen what works and what doesn’t. I know what a customer is willing to pay, what they’re willing to hand over their hard earned cash for. I understand they need value for their money. I get it.

Secondly, I’m a reader and consumer myself. I know what I’d pay for something. I have my limits. More on this in a moment.

As an author, especially an indie author who has total control over costs and pricing, how do you determine what to charge for your books? In particular, ebooks, though paperback POD books play a role in this as well.

Let me start with ebooks.

When I released my first book (Almost) Average Anthology, I decided the initial selling price was going to be $1.99. Did I feel it was worth more? Of course! We all think our work is worth more and it should be. We spent a lot of time and effort creating these worlds for others to enjoy. However, I had several things to consider.

What were other books like mine selling for? Would anyone plunk down more than $1.99 for a collection of odd stories from an author they don’t know? Would I? Obviously my answer was no, I wouldn’t pay more than that. I also chose the $1.99 price point so I had at least a little wiggle room to go down in price when the time was right or if I was going to run a promo. I could also run a discounted pre-sale enticing would be buyers to grab it for .99 while they could before the price went up. I did the same with my second collection of dark fiction short stories Moments of Darkness.

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Though neither book tops any charts or blazed new trails, I felt justified in my pricing strategy. I wasn’t scamming the buyer. I offered the books at what I felt were reasonable prices. Prices I would pay and felt comfortable with.

I’ve done the same with my novel The Selection. I offered it at a pre-sale price of .99 before going to it’s standard, and higher, price of $2.99. Because it was a longer piece, I felt comfortable with the higher price and it’s something I would pay for an ebook, especially by an unknown author.

I can hear you asking now “What about your costs? Don’t you want those covered so you can make a profit?” Ahh…good question. And this is where I differed from some of my fellow authors.

Let’s go back to (Almost) Average. My costs on that were almost nothing. I didn’t hire an editor. I created the cover myself, and I formatted the ebook myself. The programs I used to create the book were already on my computer. I didn’t buy anything special. So for that book, my expenses were pretty low.

For Moments of Darkness, I did hire an artist for the cover, but that was my only cost. I edited and formatted that one myself as well. In terms of cost/price, I should have charged more to recoup my costs. But I didn’t.

money-40603_960_720When I decided to release The Selection, I hired an artist for the cover and I hired an editor. There was no way I’d release a longer piece like that without having it edited. You may hate the story or think it’s bogus, but you won’t be able to crush me on the editing. So with this release, I had the most cost associated with releasing a book which seems to indicate I should charge a lot more.

But that’s not my line of thought.

Sure I want to recover my expenses, however there’s a threshold consumers are not willing to part with their money. I know, I’m one of them. I’d love to make tons money on my books, I mean that’s what selling is all about, right?

The approach I’m taking is different. I don’t want immediate repayment of my costs (well, yeah I do) but what I really want is a growing base of readers looking for my work as I continue my career. I want long term growth, long term success.

If I priced my novel at $4.99 and sold enough I’d get my costs covered, but how long will that take? How many people are willing to drop that much on an unproven commodity? I wouldn’t. I can’t expect others to just because I have expenses.

Book buyers are a weird lot (I say that with the utmost respect for my readers. You guys rock!) I’m one of you. I buy books too. There’s a line I won’t cross to buy a book. I have a difficult time spending more than $3.99 for an ebook by a big name author like Stephen King or Brandon Sanderson. Why would I spend that kind of money on an author I don’t know? I’m big on supporting indie authors, we’re in this together. But when I feel gouged with a $3.99 price point for something that’s maybe 100 pages long–nope, not gonna buy it. I understand you’ve got expenses but in sales, sometimes you have to go in the negative before the positive arrives. You have to be willing to spend money to make money.

For now, my thought on pricing strategy is this: Get as many readers interested in me as a writer for the long haul. I won’t price a book higher trying to recover all my costs as fast as possible. It’s a numbers game. If I can sell ten .99 ebooks to your one $3.99 ebook, my readership will dwarf yours. That’s what I’m going for–more readers. Do I feel it’s worth more than .99? Sure do! But to the reader willing to part with their money for a little known author, I have to make it enticing enough to earn their trust and deliver on that with the writing. If I’ve done my job well, they will stick with me.

In my next installment, I’m going to cover POD paperback pricing. Come on back for that.


Let me know your thoughts. Am I off base? Is my strategy wrong? What would you do? How do you price your books? I’m open for an honest and constructive discussion so we can all learn from each other.

Author Spotlight: V.R. Craft

Today in my series of “Author Spotlights” I present author V.R. Craft.


Author Spotlight: V.R. Craft

vrcraftToday I’m fortunate to present V. R. Craft, author of “Stupid Humans.”

 

Thanks for agreeing to this interview. Tell us a little about yourself and your background?

I always heard you should write about what you know, so I decided to write a book called Stupid Humans, drawing on my experience working in retail and my subsequent desire to leave plant Earth. (Nowhere will you meet more stupid humans than in retail.) I also worked in marketing, advertising, and public relations, where I found even more material for my book. I’m now self-employed, and I consider myself a professional shopper. I enjoy the contact sport of shopping clearance sales, slamming on the brakes for yard sales (seriously, you do NOT want to tailgate me), and wasting time on social media, where I find inspiration for a sequel to Stupid Humans every day.

 

How long have you been writing?

Since I was a kid, really. I wrote for some local newspapers and magazines, but never got paid much, if anything, so that made me lose interest in writing for a while. I have a background in journalism, but was always more interested in making up my own stories than writing the truth. I guess it was either politics or writing, and I’m not much for kissing people’s asses, so writing it was.

 

What inspired you to start writing?

I guess I have a lot to say. I’m opinionated. I want everyone to know what I think, and I’d like to think my books and stories make a point. They’re also humorous, because I think sometimes the best way to make a point is to get people laughing and hope they think about the absurdity of the topic.

In Stupid Humans, I poke fun at stupidity, and a lot of things we do in society that don’t make sense. In the book, humanity has discovered that some super-smart humans left Earth about four thousand years ago—the lost colony of Atlantis. So we find our long-lost, distant human relatives, and five minutes later we’ve started a war with them. I honestly think that’s what would really happen if that scenario were true. Or if we encountered intelligent life on other planets. If there’s one thing human beings are good at, it’s picking fights over stupid stuff. In the book, this manifests in a peace rally that goes great until someone starts throwing peace symbols, and then the whole thing deteriorates fairly quickly. It’s a funny scene, but it also makes a point about how we human beings are.

 

Tell us a little bit about your current project. Is it a novel, short story, or something else? Is it part of a series?

Well, I have several projects. I have some short stories that will be published this year—Not Enough Scotch in Scotland, Don’t Feed the Trolls, and A World Without Stories. All are variations on alien abduction stories, which I also do a lot of on my blog, vrcraftauthor.wordpress.com.

Stupid Humans is also being adapted as a serial, due out in early 2017. It’s interesting watching it be adapted into a shorter form.

I’m also working on my next novel, a parallel universe story that will probably be out sometime in 2018.

 

What genre do you prefer to write in, if any?

I mostly write science fiction, because that’s what I like to read.

 

What authors influenced you?

Jack McDevitt, Ben Bova, Douglas Adams. I loved The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy because it was so funny, but it also had a lot of science fiction themes that were interesting. I guess that inspired me to write comical science fiction.

 

What are you currently reading?

Right now I’m reading Saturn Run by John Sandford and Ctein, then I’m going to read Death Wave by Ben Bova.

 

Do you write every day? A few days per week?

It varies. When I’m attempting a Nanowrimo, every day. Or if I’m trying to finish a project. Funny story about Nanowrimo—I started Stupid Humans in November of 2012, thinking I was actually going to write it in a month. Now the finished version of that book is about 140,000 words. The first draft was about 176,000. I finished it in November, all right—November, 2014. Hey, they never said it had to be November of the same year, right?

But there are also some days and even weeks when I don’t write. I know I should write every day, but mostly I write sporadically.

 

Do you listen to music when you write? Does it influence how you write?

Yes, I sometimes listen to music. I don’t really know if it influences how I write. I’m a pantser, so I don’t have anything planned when I write, music or not. I wrote most of the second half of Stupid Humans while listening to Bruno Mars’ Unorthodox Jukebox playing on repeat. It’s still one of my favorite albums, and sometimes I remember writing a scene when I hear those songs.

 

How do you think your writing has changed from when you first started?

I’ve learned a lot about writing style, like deep point-of-view and avoiding passive voice. That’s the main thing. I also try not to overwrite as much. Like I said, Stupid Humans was 176,000 words in its first draft. Part of that was due to being a pantser, but most of it was due to writing a whole lot of crap readers don’t care about. When I edited the first draft, there was so much stuff that I looked at and said, “Do I really need to spend two pages on this? Can I just sum it up in a sentence or two?” Mostly if it was neither relevant nor extremely funny or interesting, I decided the answer was no. The second draft was only about 155,000, and I later cut more from it.

 

How do you create the covers for your books?

My publisher, a small press called Oghma Creative Media, designed the book cover. I really like how it turned out.

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Do you have an excerpt from your current work you’d like to share?

Absolutely! Here’s an excerpt of about 600 words. This is the peace rally scene:

For reasons Hailey didn’t quite understand, the second the shaking stopped, everyone ran for the exits. Hands pulled apart, feet pounded the floor in heels and soft soles, and signs fluttered to the ground as their holders fled.

“This door is locked!” someone screamed from the end of the concourse.

“So is this one!” Clark had joined the fleeing crowd. She’d thought better of him than that, but he’d been dating a Human, and while stupidity wasn’t contagious, people sometimes picked up each other’s habits.

Farley, running through the crowd in his “Peace for peace’s sake” t-shirt, threw the first peace symbol. Samantha said something Hailey couldn’t hear to Sheila, as she flounced out the door of her restaurant and surveyed the scene. Sheila grabbed for the nearest emergency exit door, jostling Samantha, who stumbled into Farley.

“This one’s locked too!” Sheila bellowed.

“It locks automatically after an impact to protect the inner part of the station in case of….” No one could hear her over the noisy crowd, and finishing the sentence with “a hull breach” would only worsen the panic, anyway.

“This is your fault, Human!” Farley yelled at Samantha. “I bet you caused whatever just happened, didn’t you? Your people can’t stand peace.”

Two minutes earlier he’d been holding hands with two Earthers and singing some old Human song, the lyrics of which sounded a lot like, “Come buy bombs.”

“Oh, that’s great!” yelled a Human at the back of the crowd. “Some peace organizer you are.”

“Seriously? You helped organize this display?” Samantha sneered at Farley.

“Not anymore!” He slammed his peace symbol onto the ground. Due to the lightweight plastic and the lightweight gravity, it bounced off the floor and flew up into the crowd, smacking Clark in the face.

Sheila shoved Samantha up against the wall, grabbing the collar of her black jacket. Was that messing up one of the camera shots? “Time for you to stop asking questions and start answering them. What do you know about this Human attack? Which of your people blew up that ship, and how stupid was their reasoning? Or were you in on it, Human?”

“Leave her alone, or I’ll make sure you stop getting an Economic Crisis discount on your rent.” Hailey hoped to come off as a beacon of peace instead of a miserly manager. It was so hard to gauge these things before they hit the news nets.

Sheila let go of Samantha and stomped back into her restaurant, slamming the door on other frantic fleers, but the Human/People clash was far from over.

While Hailey yelled at the crowd to calm down, every peace symbol in the room was lobbed at someone. Fortunately, the cheap plastic limited the damage, but a few pieces managed to leave red marks. One found its way to the mouth of a shop owner just as he yelled, “You people are sub-Human!” The peace sign drove his lip into a nearby tooth, and blood trickled down onto his “Give peace a fighting chance” t-shirt.

What was she doing? She was supposed to be in charge here, and she was gaping at this idiocy like, well, an idiot. Remembering her data pad, she called up the emergency preparedness plan she’d signed off on after Clark wrote it last month. She hadn’t actually read the plan, so hopefully Clark knew what he was doing.

 

Where can we purchase your current book? What about previous books?

Here is the book link for Stupid Humans on Amazon. It is also available on BN.com, and other online stores where books are sold.

 

Where can we find you online?

Facebook:

https://www.facebook.com/VR-Craft-104391266655648/

Pinterest:

https://www.pinterest.com/vrcraftauthor

Twitter:

https://twitter.com/vrcraftauthor

Book Link on Amazon:

https://www.amazon.com/dp/B01H7FQ3VU

Author Page on Amazon:

http://www.amazon.com/V.R.-Craft/e/B01H7POQPU/ref=dp_byline_cont_ebooks_1

Blog:

https://vrcraftauthor.wordpress.com/

 

Any parting words for writers?

Find a good writing critique group. I go to a couple, and they have helped me improve my writing a lot. Because of them I learned about things like deep point-of-view, avoiding passive voice, and other things that tighten up your writing a lot. I also learned how to condense two pages worth of back story into a short conversation in a way that still gets the necessary info to the readers without boring them in too much back story.

 

Author Spotlight: RJ Batla

Today I’m fortunate to present RJ Batla author of AGAINST THE BEAST and FIRE EYES AWAKENED.

Hi RJ, thanks for agreeing to this interview. Tell us a little about yourself and your background?

Hi! Thanks for the interview Jason! I’m a Texan, born and raised, a Christian who loves my family and a fan of good old fashioned fantasy, sci-fi, and superhero books. I’m a country boy who has always loved to read and be outdoors in any form or fashion. I consider myself to be one of the ‘nice guys,’ and try to help anyone I can when I can.

 

How long have you been writing?

I’ve been writing for around seven years now, but I’ve gotten serious about it in the last two and have written over two hundred thousand words since then. Most of it probably wasn’t that good (or will ever see a published book in its current form), but it has helped hone my writing craft. It’s been a journey, but now that I (kinda) know what I’m doing, it’s a lot of fun!

 

What inspired you to start writing?

To get the voices out of my head!

Just kidding. But I’ve always wanted to write a book and I’ve been telling stories to myself in my head for a long time. I wrote a little in college, and some family had said it was pretty good. So I continued on, enjoying the learning of a new skill and telling a story.

 

Tell us a little bit about your current project. Is it a novel, short story, or something else? Is it part of a series?

So I’ve got several projects going at the moment. FIRE EYES AWAKENED is my first full-blown novel, and it’s at the editor right now. I expect to release it around May or June.

The RANGER’S FIELD MANUAL is the companion guide to the world of Terraunum. I’ve gotten it written and edited, and might be available now for free for signing up for my email list! There is a smaller version available now for an email signup, but anyone on my list will get the expanded edition as soon as I can.

 

What genre do you prefer to write in, if any?

I don’t know that I prefer any, but I’d have to say fantasy comes the easiest for me. I like the creation of worlds, the magic (both the system and in general), and the old school sword & sorcery battles.

All of my current works are based in Terraunum, a future earth where Marvels have amazing powers over the elements and much more. It’s Epic Fantasy/Sword & Sorcery with a good bit of Superheroism and some technological elements of Steampunk. So a blend of genres.

 

What authors influenced you?

Oh wow, several. Terry Brooks, who was the first author I really latched onto in the fantasy genre, is a clear influence. Also Jim Butcher, who writes the Dresden Files, my favorite series – I love the main character Harry Dresden, a smart-aleck wizard with a strong sense of justice. Those would be the two biggest influences, though everything I read tends to influence me in some way.

 

What are you currently reading?

So I’ve got several books on my reading list right now. I tend to read several books at once (I know, a little crazy). Right now, here is what I’m reading:

Outbreak by Joshua C. Chadd; Mistress of Masks by C. Greenwood, and Thinblade by David A. Wells

 

Do you write every day? A few days per week?

I try to write every day, but it usually turns into around 4-5 days per week, depending on when the kids go to bed and how much time I have at night. The day job gets in the way (as per the usual), so I do all my writing at night. Usually I can knock out between 500-1000 words per hour after I have my outline done, so I am able to make good use of my time.

 

Do you listen to music when you write? Does it influence how you write?

Absolutely not! I love music and tv, but I can’t do either and write at the same time – I get too involved in one thing and get sidetracked.

 

How do you think your writing has changed from when you first started?

I’d like to think it has gotten better – better at telling the story, better at getting my point across, more succinct, clearer, more descriptive without wasting words. I also think I’ve learned what works and what doesn’t, and how to make sure and only include what is good/important but to make sure I do include those same things.

 

How do you create the covers for your books?

RJBatlaI come up with the general idea for what I’m looking for, then I work with the professionals to get it done right. I am by no means an artist (drawing wise), so I hire out freelancers who are pros. I have two different cover artists that I use, and they are both amazing.

 

Are there any non-literary influences for your writing (movies, actors, music, etc)?

Absolutely! Movies – anything superhero-related, action/adventure, and even some of the drama. I’ve also been heavily influenced by a couple of animated shows, particlularly Avatar: The Last Airbender (the series, not the movie), and Naruto, a manga adaption.

 

Where can we purchase your current book? What about previous books?

I’m exclusive with Amazon right now, so that’s the only place to get any of my books. I’ve only got one out, but several are in the works and will be out as soon as I can get them out there.

 

What is your favorite book and why?

Now that is a tough question. Because you’re making me pick ONE, I’m assuming a work of fiction, I would have to pick Summer Knight (The Dresden Files, Book 4) by Jim Butcher because it introduced me to the Dresden Files series that I love.

 

How do you market your books?

I use Facebook, Twitter, Amazon Ads, and my email list. But mostly it’s word of mouth from other authors and friends.

 

Do you have an excerpt from your current work you’d like to share?

Sure, here is an excerpt from AGAINST THE BEAST.

Royn parried the sword from the left Skeptor and threw up an air shield on his right. Steel clanged against bone as the two traded blows. The second one broke through the air shield quickly and thrust at Royn’s midsection.

Royn teleported at the last second, the creature’s sword hitting nothing but blue light. Growling, they advanced on his new position, circling around again. Clearly they meant to keep his attention divided. The left one started in again, and Royn counterattacked, matching the strikes with his own as the second one circled and jumped in again. Thank God for his Ranger training, or he wouldn’t have lasted ten seconds against these things.

“Flying Knives!” Royn called, arcing his arm and sending dozens of daggers of sharpened air at the Skeptor. They imbedded themselves in the bone, but didn’t penetrate, didn’t even slow the thing down. Again Royn teleported away at the last second.

They continued to circle, and this time Royn put everything he had into his sword work, until he found an opening. “Aha!” he said, driving his blade right into a Skeptor’s chest.

It clanged and bounced harmlessly off the bone armor, the force prying the sword from his hands. “No!” he said, teleporting away, then right back to get his sword and away again too fast for them to react. Damn that was close.

Five more times they circled and advanced, each time Royn throwing a different attack at the second Skeptor, and five more times Royn teleported away. But there was a problem. Royn’s energy was draining quickly—the second bean was wearing off, his reserves already depleted. He was weaker than he thought. He hadn’t fully recovered. He shouldn’t have come. The Skeptors circled again. Like vultures. Might as well be. One of these times they were going to get him. Just a matter of time. How could he win this battle? His attacks fell right off of them, nothing stuck. He was severely out matched.

What is that blasted buzzing? Royn dodged a sword attack and deflected a fireball with an air blast.

“Now.”

From behind him the second Skeptor launched another fireball. Diving away, the heat singed his clothes as he tucked and rolled on the landing, immediately jumping up before he was blasted again.

 

If you’re an indie author, what made you choose that route?

Definitely Indie, though if someone wanted to pay me an insane amount of money I could be convinced!

The main reasons I chose Indie is the ability to actually get your work out in the world and let the people/readers/fans decide if it is good enough, vs someone in a corporate office. So in a word control – I have ultimate say on anything involving my works.

Plus it’s on my timeline – if I need to push something back because I have time with my family scheduled, it doesn’t hurt anyone or myself.

 

Where can we find you online?

Here they are:

WEBSITE: rjbatla.com

TWITTER: @RJBatlaAuthor

FACEBOOK: facebook.com/rjbatla

EMAIL: rjbatla@rjbatla.com

 

Any parting words for writers?

Keep working hard. Take it one day at a time. Grab any time you can to write, market your current works, or read – either for fun or for honing your craft. You eat an elephant one bite at a time, and you write a book one word at a time over a sustained period. You can do it!

 

Author Spotlight: Merri Halma

In my continuing “Author Spotlight” series, I present to you author Merri Halma.


Author Spotlight: Merri Halma

merri2Today I’m fortunate to present Merri Halma, author of the Indigo Traveler Series (Indigo Traveler Book 1 and Keys to the Shadowlands Book 2 of the Indigo Traveler Series).

Hi Merri, thanks for agreeing to this interview.

Thank you for having me, Jason.

 

Tell us a little about yourself and your background?

 I studied Children’s theatre and children’s literature when I was younger. I really wanted to be a writer from a young age. I graduated though with a Bachelor of Arts in Interdisciplinary Studies with an emphasis in Social Studies and the Humanities. Two years later, I earned a Master’s of Science in Counseling-Psychology. I still had the overwhelming desire to write and be published. Back then, I wasn’t aware of the writer’s groups like I am now. My whole goal after graduating was working in my field and attending prayer groups at my Church. After leaving my field and moving to Idaho, I saw a whole new world open. I realized there were writer’s groups and began joining them and seeking out others to work with. Digital publishing started and computers became the normal. Still, I am struggling to get my name out as other indie authors are.

 

How long have you been writing?

 I always had an active imagination growing-up. I used to tell myself stories at night when I was going to sleep. I would often dream in stories or hear songs with lyrics, though I couldn’t write the music to go with the words. I also had a speech impediment, so at 11, I started writing down the poetry, and lyrics as well as stories. Writing became my way of expressing myself. My dad gave me my first journal book at 12 and taught me to never write in pencil. He knew I would write about my feelings because that is what I knew and felt. Words had power to me. Words, the taunts the peers lashed out at me with, had power to cut deep. Those words echoed through the brain. Eventually, that became one of my monsters in Shadowlands. Without expressing my feelings, I knew I would be dead. I discovered all writers feel deep and write from a wounded soul. I write to heal myself as well as to expand my inner self and journey toward Spirit.

 

What inspired you to start writing?

My need to express myself and feel like I am being heard. As someone with a speech impediment, I wanted the friendship and felt fulfilled when I wrote down the words pounding in my brain.

 

Tell us a little bit about your current project. Is it a novel, short story, or something else? Is it part of a series?

 I am currently almost finished with my third book, tentatively titled Many Paths which is the third book in the Indigo Traveler Series. I realized this week that I will likely write another draft and deepen most of the theology bases on that current world as well as work with more development of the new characters that are introduced. I will find readers first to read through this draft to get comments.  I am also doing my best to post a blog on Niume every week. I am hoping to post about two or more times, to drive up interest in my page and draw in more readers.

 

What genre do you prefer to write in, if any?

I have coined the phrase Spiritual Fantasy because I explore the whole concept that we cannot avoid addressing Spirit, however we see Spirit. I view it as a sense of self. I have grown from the view of Christianity as the only way to embracing a more world view that says all spiritual paths have truth in it. The ultimate truth resides deep within each person. My characters all strive to find their self-acceptance while struggling to realize how they fit into the whole Spiritual world or whether they really believe in the Creator of All worlds.

 

What authors influenced you?

After I read the Hunger Games, I began writing like Collins, but it didn’t last. I can’t say any one really influenced me, per se. I love to read, but mostly I have that inner drive to write. If I don’t write every day or work on my book everyday, then my characters begin bugging me or yelling at me. I’ve had my Lynx character begin telling me he was stuck where I left him and he was itching to move on. He gave me ideas of what he wanted to do next.

 

What are you currently reading?

The Fifth Season by N. K. Jemisin. She won a Hugo award this year for one of her books. I found her on Patreon.com earlier this year and was fascinated with her campaign and began following her on Facebook. The Fifth Season is a very deep world but watching as she develops the story and the characters is also fascinating. It is not for the light of heart to read because I find I must concentrate and spend time with it and engage my brain. I highly recommend this book to others.

 

Do you write every day? A few days per week?

I have been doing my best to write every day even if it just in my journal. I have to devote my time to finishing my novel, though.

 

Do you listen to music when you write? Does it influence how you write?

Sometimes I listen to instrumental music when I am the only one home. Right now, there is a Doctor Who marathon going on while I answer these questions. Since I’ve seen most of the episodes, I can write and watch it.

 

How do you think your writing has changed from when you first started?

When I first started writing, and hadn’t gotten published yet, there was only traditional publishing. If someone were to self-publish, they had to spend a small fortune on the printing and finding distributors for the books. I remember stories of the author of the Celestine Prophecy giving his book out for free wherever he went because he couldn’t sell them. The more people who read it, the more they talked with others his book swept through the country and he was awarded a book contract. I read it and it was horribly written, yet the plot, story and message were the driving force of the success. After that, he had someone help him write the second book in the series and it was better.

 

How do you create the covers for your books?

I usually get an idea of what I want, and hire a graphic artist because I can’t draw. I can visualize what I want, I can’t duplicate what I see on to paper. That is why I am a wordsmith, as another friend calls it.

indigo

 

Are there any non-literary influences for your writing (movies, actors, music, etc)?

I really love the Moody Blues. Their lyrics and music sends me into dreams and inspires me to write.

 

What is your favorite book and why?

I have many favorite books. I love the Harry Potter series, Douglas Adams, Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, J.R.R. Tolkien, Percy Jackson series and many more.

 

How do you market your books?

I have one Youtube book trailer that I posted below. I am still learning to market and create the ad copy and how to use PowerPoint. I plan to start teaching classes on how to journal to Journal to Your Soul and hope that platform will lead to people buying my books.

I am doing my best to write every day and learn how to get feedback from my audience.

 

Do you have an excerpt from your current work you’d like to share?

An Titus found himself in a dark forest. The trees grew together so densely no light could filter through the canopy. It was grey, black and off white, but had no natural light. For a few moments, Titus stood completely still, not daring to breath. Finally, he took a cautious step forward and then another. Soon he was roaming through the dense woods. He felt lost, afraid and not sure of how he got here. Voices could be heard in the distance. Some were whispering but they were overshadowed by a few shouting voices. His heart pounded in his chest. He felt alone, yet knew something was there, watching him, waiting for him to make a move.

 A creature made of sticks and stones wobbled out from amongst the trees. The creature’s eyes grew wide when it saw Titus, then cowered on the ground trying to cover his body in fear.

 “Names are names. Just labels that can’t hurt me. Words are empty and meaningless,” it said. “I can hurt you worse.”

 “Your words are brave, yet you cover your body as if you fear me.”

 “Aye–, I am afraid of giants like you. You erupt at a moment’s notice – your temper – your rage. You hurt people with that whip you wear around your waist and send them to a dark place.”

 “Dark place? You mean a place like this?”

 “No, dark places within them, belittling them, telling them they are useless, don’t measure up to your expectations and are no good. From then on, all they do or see is reinforced. It is the dark place that you are experiencing now. You, you, you see, see what you have done.”

 Rustling steps echoed from deep within the forest in the distance, like leaves being displaced as something came through. Titus’ whipped his head around, listening and trying to see what was approaching him.

 “No, no, I can’t bare this! Take me away!” he screamed. “I’m sorry for the pain I’ve caused others. I can’t ever be happy again. Sticks and Stone, Sticks and Stones, they heard and break my bones. But the words are replayed over and over and over. My mother and father could never see me for what I was or wanted to be. The village kids hated me for being the prince. Take me away!”

 “No, I can’t take you away. But I can lead you to another place where you see more. Do you dare continue?”

 *Excerpt from Keys to the Shadowlands Book 2 of the Indigo Traveler Series

 

If you’re an indie author, what made you choose that route?

I was not sure I could land a traditional publisher. I had made friends with individuals who had published on CreateSpace, and they encouraged me to use that because it would cost less and I could control how it is marketed better.

 

Where can we purchase your current book? What about previous books?

My books are all available on Amazon and Kindle. Indigo Traveler Book 1 is also on Smashwords.

http://amzn.to/2e4Mb1n

http://amzn.to/2ftkzVX

 

Where can we find you online?

https://www.facebook.com/IndigoTravelerbook/

https://www.facebook.com/authormerrihalma/

https://www.facebook.com/Clarence-from-Indigo-Traveler-Series-926226174154752/

https://twitter.com/MerriHalma

https://niume.com/profile/96169#!/posts

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bmTn8r679IQ&feature=youtu.be

 

Any parting words for writers?

Write every day. Find writer groups that you can join and learn from. Do not be afraid to share your work nor give up who you are because others say it doesn’t work. If you agree with them, then listen. Above all, it is your book and your words. Consider your message and what you want to say and then say it. We need your voice so please finish that book and get it out there.

Dear Reader

Dear Reader,

Hi there! How are ya? Doing good? I hope so.

I’ve got a secret for you.

I love you.

There, I said it. Don’t tell my wife though, she might get jealous. But in all honesty, I love you.

All those hours I’ve spent crafting a story or a novel are spent with you in mind. Did you know that? Did you know when all writers say “I write for myself,” that they’re kinda lying to you? Just a little. I mean we do write what we enjoy but ultimately it’s with you in mind.

I know I know. If we love our craft we should be doing this solely for ourselves. We should do it for the love of doing it. We should expect nothing and be content with the idea that we created something from nothing.

Yeah that’s cool and righteous but really…what’s a writer without a reader?

Without you I’m that guy that always wanted to be a writer. I’d be the person that says “I’ve been working on this story for years. Just waiting to get it right. Or get the time. Or whatever excuse I come up with.” Without the expectation that someone will actually read the darn thing, I’m twisting in the breeze like a sheet out on the line.

But because of you Dear Reader, I can call myself a writer. You’ve taken time out of your busy life to spend it with me. I don’t take that commitment lightly. When you do that–when you share in something so intimate and meaningful to me–you own a part of me. The words you read expose a little bit about me to you.

books-985954_960_720

Not that the story directly reflects what I want to do or wish to do (I mean there are times when time travel sounds pretty cool) however because I created it, what you read is deeply personal to me.

When you share your thoughts about it, when you’re excited to ask me questions about this character or that story line, I’m screaming inside like a junior high cheerleader. I’ve kept your attention and thoughts long enough for you to care. What an amazing feeling!

And then, when you’re through with my work and leave a review, when you dare click a button and type a few words so others might share in your experience–OMG! It’s a feeling unlike any other.

Dear Reader, you are why I can rightly and confidently call myself a writer. Your time with me is never taken for granted. I treasure it like a pirate.

Argh…welcome aboard matey. I appreciate your stay.

Sincerely,

Jason “Black Jack” Nugent


Psst: Dear Reader, why not check out my newest scifi adventure novel The Selection on Amazon right now? You can even try your hand at winning a free signed paperback copy over on GoodReads. Thanks!

Author Spotlight: Lisa Wylie

Here’s the latest in my continuing series of “Author Spotlight” interviews. Today I interview Lisa Wylie.


Author Spotlight: Lisa Wylie

Today I’m fortunate to present Lisa Wylie, author of Burning Suns: Conflagration.

Hi Lisa, thanks for agreeing to this interview. Tell us a little about yourself and your background?

Hi, and thanks for inviting me. I’m from Scotland, I live just outside Glasgow, and I work for a research software group at an academic publisher. I’m a scientist by training and a sci-fi geek by nature, and I dabble in photography and cooking as well as scribbling in my spare time.

 

How long have you been writing?

In fits and starts since I was a kid – any time there was a writing assignment at school, I’d make up a story. As a hobby, since I was at university, and it’s been a continuous passion since then, so let’s say twenty years.  Yipes…

 

What inspired you to start writing?

The catalyst was having a bunch of friends who were also interested in writing.  We started with our own Star Trek fanfic ship and crew, writing stories for original characters and their adventures within that universe. I fell in love with it at that point. We then moved on to an original work, and writing that, at first as a way to keep a connection, and then for the sake of the story itself, is what really got me hooked.

 

Tell us a little bit about your current project. Is it a novel, short story, or something else? Is it part of a series?

Burning Suns: Conflagration is a project of interesting beginnings, actually. Burning Suns itself is a board game produced by Emil Larsen at SunTzu Games. It’s a sci-fi based game, so Emil had got together with a bunch of artists and produced a galaxy that was populated with fantastic races and locations, and he wanted a story to go with that galaxy—which, for me, was like being a kid given full run of the toy store. When you get a picture like this, there’s a story just waiting to be told…

4268502_orig

And thus Conflagration was born. It’s a three-book series following the adventures of two of the playable characters in the game, although the story is totally standalone – you don’t need to play the game to follow the books. There’s a lot of potential for sequels and other timeframes in the world-build as well, so I hope it’ll keep me busy for some time.

 

What genre do you prefer to write in, if any?

Sci-fi. I dabble in fantasy as well, but I’ve always loved sci-fi a little more, and it was a natural progression from reading and watching to writing. Though, perversely, I think I own more fantasy books.

 

What authors influenced you?

David Eddings, Tom Clancy, Robert Heinlein, Alistair MacLean, Janny Wurts, and Richard Morgan.  That’s an odd list when you read it back, right? Eddings at the top because he was, and is, my favourite author, and even if you haven’t read his other books, the Rivan Codex, which is a companion piece to his Belgariad fantasy series, has a whole wealth of insight into how he wrote the books.  The thing that sticks with me to this day is the advice to: “Write a million words. Then throw them away. Now you’re ready to begin.” It really underscores the importance of practice.

 

What are you currently reading?

The Three-Body Problem, by Cixin Liu.

 

Do you write every day? A few days per week?

I try to write every day, if only for five minutes, although some days I do take a complete break.  Habit is a powerful ally against writer’s block, I find.

 

Do you listen to music when you write? Does it influence how you write?

Usually, and yes, very much so.  I often use it to set my mood.  I love movie soundtracks, I always have. I love the way it’s an emotional amplifier for what you see on the screen, and that once you’ve associated a piece of music with an emotion, it can be difficult to ever shift that conception that you’re supposed to feel “this” when you hear “that” piece. So if I need to tackle a scene or chapter that has a certain emotional tone, I’ll pick the music to put me in the right mindset. And sometimes, that needs to be a terribly cheesy power ballad, hah!

 

How do you think your writing has changed from when you first started?

I’m sure I’m echoing many others in a hope that it’s gotten better! But I think it has. I’m more comfortable with different styles, more confident in trusting to the content of a story rather than dressing it with too many fancy words, more aware that you can’t spend ten thousand words describing something in loving detail no matter how cool you think it is. Getting feedback really helps with that.

 

How do you create the covers for your books?

Burning Suns has a very talented artist crew, and they create the artwork that supports the books and the game. The book covers are a team effort between me, Emil, and our principal story artist, Angelita Ramos, about whom there are not enough superlatives I can use. I adore her work, and I’m really lucky to be working with her. You can see some of that artwork in our trailer for Conflagration – you really get a feel for the scope of the galaxy, I think.

 

Are there any non-literary influences for your writing (movies, actors, music, etc)?

Sci-fi movies and TV series of all shapes and sizes, I would say, and even the odd computer game – Mass Effect was a strong influence on my decision to start writing fanfiction again after a long break. And that led me to the opportunity I have now, so it was definitely a positive influence!

 

What is your favorite book and why?

HMS Ulysses, by Alistair MacLean. The fact that it’s written from experience lends it an authenticity that’s hard to surpass, but the way in which in portrays the better angels of human nature against a setting of such extraordinary hardship and in the midst of war is utterly magnificent.

 

Do you have an excerpt from your current work you’d like to share?

Not excerpts as such, but a series of small stories called snapshots that fill in some background and work as teasers for the main story, available here: https://wyles77writes.wordpress.com/snapshots/

 

Where can we purchase your current book? What about previous books?

My new book, the third and final installment of Conflagration, will be released May 11th. Book One is free to download on Smashwords, and if you sign up for my email list, you can get Book Two for free as well (otherwise you can pick it up on Smashwords or Amazon.)

Where can we find you online?

My website

Facebook

Twitter

My Amazon bio page

Smashwords

 

If you’re an indie author, what made you choose that route?

I’m not really an indie, since technically I have a publisher, but we’re a two-man army so pretty much we do this on our own.  We’re occupying a niche between indie and trad, thanks to the setup of the game world, so we need the control that the indie option brings.

 

Any parting words for writers?

Ooh, gosh—have fun with it! Whatever you’re writing, however far along with it you are, whether it’s fanfic, original fic, poetry, or factual. When you’re putting this amount of time into something, enjoying it is crucial!