The Write Stuff – Monday, November 20 – Interview With Bryan Thomas Schmidt

This week’s guest, Bryan Thomas Schmidt is an author and Hugo-nominated editor of adult and children’s speculative fiction. Especially known for his knowledge and passion for space opera, his debut novel, The Worker Prince received Honorable Mention on Barnes & Noble Book Club’s Year’s Best Science Fiction Releases. His short stories have appeared in magazines, anthologies and online and include entries in The X-Files, Predator, Joe Ledger, Monster Hunter International, and Decipher’s WARS, among others. As book editor for Kevin J. Anderson and Rebecca Moesta’s WordFire Press he has edited books by such luminaries as Alan Dean Foster, Tracy Hickman, Frank Herbert, Mike Resnick, Jean Rabe and more. He was also the first editor on Andy Weir’s bestseller The Martian. His anthologies as editor include Shattered Shields with co-editor Jennifer Brozek, Mission: Tomorrow, Galactic Games, Little Green Men–Attack! with Robin Wayne Bailey, and The Monster Hunter Tales with Larry Correia all for Baen, Space Battles: Full Throttle Space Tales #6, Beyond The Sun and Raygun Chronicles: Space Opera For a New Age for various small presses and Joe Ledger: Unstoppable with Jonathan Maberry for St. Martin’s Press.

Today, we are discussing his most recent release, The Exodus (Saga of Davi Rhii Book 3), the concluding volume in his epic space opera trilogy published by WordFire Press this September. It is described as follows:

The tyrant Xalivar is dead, and yet the Vertullians are weary of the persecution against their people. They have decided to leave the Borali System and start over somewhere else. But the attacks begin again, first by space pirates, and then by something more. When large numbers of officers from the Borali Alliance military disappear, High Lord Councilor Tarkanius is forced to ally with Davi Rhii and the Vertullian leaders. Once again, they have to face a threat that might destroy them all. Can ancient enemies ever live in peace?

What was the biggest challenge you faced writing this book and how did you overcome it?

The small press that published the first two books went out of business shortly after launching the second book, which had little press and success compared to the first. It had been several years since I wrote either so I had to go reread, and, in the process, decided my writing level had advanced enough that both needed revisiting and revising in order to match whatever I would write as the final novel. I did new passes on both, involving revision on The Worker Prince and major replotting and revision on The Returning, book 2, and then wrote this one, so it was a bit more involved of a process than just one book.

What other novels have you written?

Two unpublished epic fantasies and a near future police procedural which is being marketed by my agent. I have several others in proposal and development stages as well.

What is your work schedule like when you’re writing?

Mornings and late nights are for writing. Mid-day to afternoon are for editing and PR stuff. Meals in between as well as emails and social media. Rinse and repeat.

Do you create an outline before you write?

It depends. For the first book, usually not, unless it is required, such as with a tie-in novel or story. With original pieces, usually I outline a few scenes ahead and keep in the back of my mind key scenes and turning points as well as character arcs.

Why do you write?

I can’t not write. I have stories to tell, things to sell.

How do you think you’ve evolved creatively?

My skills, knowledge, and interests certainly have as well as my knowledge of genre and storytelling tropes and types. Beyond that boring answer, I do less drafts as I incorporate from draft one many elements I used to have to go back and work on individually, and as a result, writing is easier and more fun and satisfying from the start than it often was in the beginning, of course, back then I didn’t know how bad my prose was…so maybe that is just my bias at looking back.

What is the single most powerful challenge when it comes to writing a novel?

Finishing. It is great to think it up, start it. But seeing it through is most important. Finishing that first draft. Until you have that foundation, nothing else can happen. It is key. The foundation for everything else.

Do you have another job outside of writing?

I am a full time freelance editor of anthologies, novels, and short fiction.

What motivates or inspires you?

Injustice in the name of justice. We have too much of that now. Tolerance is worth nothing if it only applies to you, and there has to be a give and take to living together that gets lost in the shuffle a lot these days. I think we need to work on that to salvage our sense of community and belonging to and with each other. A lot of my stories revolve around those ideas.

What has been your greatest success in life?

Founding a non-profit and leading leadership training teams in Ghana, Brazil, Mexico and more. Then writing and editing novels and anthologies in collaboration with some of the writing heroes who inspired me growing up.

Thanks, Bryan, for taking time to share with us. Before I show our visitors a sample from The Exodus, as well as your online social and book buy links, I’d like to conclude with a Lightning Round. In as few words as possible, please answer the following:

My best friend would tell you I’m a … Stubborn, determined bastard.

The one thing I cannot do without is: My dogs. They are my loves.

The one thing I would change about my life: I would start earlier with my creative focus. Because I am still struggling to build audience and financial stability after 8 years and it would be nice to be a bit further along in some ways.

My biggest peeve is: People who assume things about you off one sentence or two without taking time to find out the truth.

The thing I’m most satisfied with is: My latest project, whatever that is at the moment.

The Exodus

The Xanthian’s fist struck Farien’s jaw like a hammer, twisting his head back and to the right as he shifted his body to cushion the blow, then launched a strike of his own. The Xanthian merely chortled at the weak effort, and Farien wondered how his team had gotten off mission so fast.

“I don’t think this is what Lord Aron had in mind when he sent us to locate supplies,” Tela muttered from beside him as she ducked the swinging arm of the Xanthian’s companion, a Tertullian pilot who looked alarmingly like a steroid-enhanced version of Farien’s old friend, Yao.

Farien winced at the memory, but he knew she was right. It was the first combat any of them had seen since the engagement off Tertullis six months before. At least then they’d been in fighters, not face to face with their enemy. “Let’s just wrap this up before Matheu gets back, all right?” he replied.

He spotted his pilots—Virun, Jorek, Os and Ria—squaring off against other bar patrons nearby and wondered why he’d been so quick to jump in and try to save their asses. After all, they’d started this foolishness.

“He insulted Ria,” Os had claimed, when Farien and Tela came running at the sound of the commotion.

“I can take care of myself,” Ria had growled back, sending a Xanthian flying with a punch from her fist. Her foe flew across the bar top, shattering glass as various liquors splattered then pooled out in her path from their broken containers. Patrons scattered.

The two young pilots had just joined them, and to Tela they looked like kids. Inseparable, Os was blond, bulky, chubby, and short, while Ria was tall and thin, with dark red hair stretching halfway down her back making her appear far more feminine and frail than anyone who dared tangle with her would discover. Their flying skills rivaled anyone else in the squadron and their fierce loyalty to and competitiveness with each other drove them to excel far more than Farien’s orders ever would.

The dimly lit bar was crowded and the raging techno music had cut off mid-chorus when the fight broke out. Now groups of patrons lined the bland, wooden walls, making bets as they cheered on various participants, like gamblers choosing their champions at an Old Earth cockfight. The bartender and waitresses also stood in a group, watching with dismay as their workplace became a shambles. Other than smashed tables and chairs, broken glass and spilled drinks, Farien barely noticed a difference. With its creaky worn floor and unpainted, undecorated wood-slate walls, the bar had been nothing to brag about from the beginning, but still, shack or not, some people did come to consider their workplaces like second homes.

“Do you think they’ll make us pay for this?” Farien wondered again to Tela, as they stood back to back, preparing to repel yet another attack from the Xanthian brute and his Tertullian sidekick.

“They started it,” Tela answered as she planted a foot and reared back with her fist, launching it toward the Tertullian.

Farien echoed the move and both struck their opponents at the same moment to little effect. “If we don’t find a way to finish it, none of that will matter. What are these guys made of?”

“Your nightmares,” the Tertullian said with a laugh as he and the Xanthian swung their own fists, and Tela and Farien bowed and ducked, trying to avoid them. Pain shot through Farien’s right shoulder as the Xanthian’s fist grazed him, but Tela swung clear, untouched yet again.

“For a woman, you’re way too good at this,” Farien muttered.

“What? Women can’t fight?” Tela laughed. “You’re starting to sound like Davi.”

Actually, it had been a misunderstanding that caused a deep tension between Tela and her fiancé for several months, but they’d worked it out. “I thought you’d settled that,” Farien replied as the Xanthian rushed forward and got him in a choke hold. The brute dragged Farien backwards on his feet as he punched him in the lower back from behind.

“Feel free to prove it on this big guy,” Farien choked out as he struggled to free himself.

“You’d rather fight the one that looks like Yao then?” Tela asked as she and the Tertullian circled, each trying to anticipate the other’s next move.

“I was trying to take it easy on you,” Farien said again as his hands pulled at the Xanthian’s sweaty bluish-gray skinned arm and his back raged with pain from the continuing blows. “These guys don’t fight fair.”

 

Those of you who would like to learn more about Bryan, can do so here:

Website/Blog:         www.bryanthomasschmidt.net
Twitter:                      @BryanThomasS
Facebook:                  https://www.facebook.com/bryanthomass
Goodreads:               https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/3874125.Bryan_Thomas_Schmidt

You may purchase The Exodus here:

https://www.amazon.com/Exodus-Saga-Davi-Rhii/dp/1614755582/

https://m.barnesandnoble.com/w/the-exodus-bryan-thomas-schmidt/1127080518

https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/747162

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The Write Stuff – Monday, July 31 – Interview With Ian J Malone

Today’s science fiction issues from a raft of varied authors. Drawing from their personal histories, each crafts their unique contributions to the ever-evolving genre. This week’s guest is one of the talented and comes from a typically unusual background. (Please pardon me if that sounds oxymoronic.)

As a graduate of Florida State University, Ian J. Malone has written in a variety of arenas ranging from public health to news and sports. When it comes to his fictional work, however, he’s a firm believer that nothing shapes an author’s writing like experience. That’s why he credits his tenures in radio, law enforcement, and military contracting for much of his inspiration, plus the legion of family and friends who’ve stood with him along the way.

Beyond writing, Malone is an avid fan of audiobooks (he’s legally blind) and the outdoors. It’s also not uncommon to find him at a ballgame, a concert, or somewhere out by a grill. He is an active member of the Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America and a resident of Durham, North Carolina, but he’ll always be—in his words—a “Florida boy” at heart.

Today, he is sharing details about At Circle’s End (The Mako Saga: Book 3), a space opera/science fiction adventure published in April of last year. He describes the story’s premise as follows:

In the months since his disappearance, Danny Tucker has retreated to the darkest corners of Alystierian space in search of intelligence on the empire’s new chancellor, Alec Masterson. Backed by a crew of outcasts and fighting from the shadows as the enigmatic Rogue centurion, Danny will stop at nothing to achieve his mission: absolute vengeance for Masterson’s now infamous “Return to Fear” demonstration. Still, try as he might, Danny can’t remain underground, and with sightings of the Rogue growing more frequent, Lee Summerston won’t rest until the lost Renegade is found. Meanwhile, in the core, Aura stands on the brink of annihilation as imperial forces, aided by an ancient enemy, draw ever closer to her shores. In the end, scores will be settled, and brothers will rise united… or they’ll all burn together.

At Circle’s End is the soaring climax to Ian J. Malone’s epic space-opera series, The Mako Saga, and a heartfelt sendoff to sci-fi’s most beloved band of bar buddies turned intergalactic heroes of war.

Please tell us more about it.

My last release was At Circle’s End, the final installment to my space opera trilogy, The Mako Saga. Naturally, you can’t have space opera without an epic interstellar conflict, so this was the book that wrapped all that up. It was also the final “ensemble book” for The Renegades, the plucky group of college-buddies-turned-intergalactic-war heroes who served as the series’ heart. Now the plan is to split them all off into standalone stories or perhaps even series of their own.

What was the inspiration behind the series?

I started Mako as more or less a stress outlet in 2009. Like a lot of folks back then, I was unemployed. That meant a lot of time spent writing resumes and cover letters, and eventually I hit a place where I needed something that could be mine. A creative vent, so to speak. I had this goofy story in mind about a bunch of bar buddies from college, now in their thirties and down on their luck, who play a video game for kicks then run off to outer space. So, I just started writing. Six months later I had a draft. Six months after that, I had a second draft. Fast-forward a few years—then drop in a marriage, parenthood, and three moves in between two states—and I was ready to share my pet project with the world.

The series was your entrée into writing. What was the biggest challenge you faced writing Mako and how did you overcome it?

Beyond the fact that I had absolutely no clue how to write a novel back then—most don’t in a debut—I’d probably say the biggest challenge facing me was the use of body language as story beats (“Lee pursed his lips, eyes twitching side-to-side,” etc.). The reason for this is because I’m legally blind and can’t see facial expressions. That meant a lot of reading and a lot of research.

Not at all typical of most authors’ research, but yes, absolutely essential when you’re writing for a sighted audience. What other novels have you written?

First came Mako, which sold remarkably well for an indie. That gave me the requisite funds for editing, cover design, formatting, etc., on the remaining two saga books (Red Sky Dawning and At Circle’s End). I’ve since written another novel not of this series, though I’m sure we’ll get to that shortly.

Heading in that direction, what else are you working on?

I’m extremely busy right now. For starters, I’ve got a short story coming out this fall in an anthology set in Chris Kennedy’s Four Horsemen universe (military sci-fi). Next, I’ve written another novel, tentatively titled Colonies Lost, which I’ve contracted with Red Adept Publishing to release in 2018. That’s created something of a delay in my schedule, giving me time to prep my first Mako spinoff novel, as well as a much-needed second edition of that original story. Mako 2.0 will drop later this year with an all-new cover. After that will come re-releases of Red Sky Dawning and At Circle’s End, followed by the spinoff novel then finally Colonies Lost. I’ve also got two more short stories planned for my email listers.

What is your work schedule like when you’re writing?

I find that I’m freshest in the morning, so I gear my schedule accordingly. I’m up by 4 a.m. to write, after which I head into work at my day job. I then use the evenings for an hour or so of admin time (social media, responding to emails, publishing logistics, etc.) after dinner is cooked and my kid’s in bed.

Tell us about your path to publication.

I started as an indie with Mako and stuck with that model for the rest of the series. I’ve since become a hybrid, publishing projects with Red Adept Publishing (Colonies Lost) and Seventh Seal Press (Four Horsemen short story). To me, the hybrid life is the right life in that it offers me the best of both worlds. I still get to control my own destiny with passion projects like The Mako Saga. However, I also get the exposure and notoriety that comes with being traditionally published through my work with small presses.

Do you create an outline before you write? 

I do now. I’ve gone the “pantsing” route with books before, and while I enjoy the ride, I learned later that outlining typically yields a better story (better pacing, better development, fewer plot holes, etc.). Outlining also helps me crank out a story in about half the time—a must for indies.

What is the single most powerful challenge when it comes to writing a novel?

Finding the time to park my butt in a seat to do it. Writing a novel isn’t rocket science. It’s about making a conscious choice to begin a project then carving out the necessary time to see it through. As writers, this inevitably means we sacrifice things. For me, that’s television. Once upon a time, I was a total TV junkie. These days, not so much. Now I watch Florida State football (GO NOLES!), the occasional NASCAR race, and a handful of shows with my family. That’s it. When I’m not doing any of that, I’m reading (I shoot for a book a month, minimum).

Do you have another job outside of writing?

I do. I work in communications for a government agency here in Durham, North Carolina.

Would you care to share something about your home life?

Only that I’m married to the greatest woman God ever created. Seriously, I couldn’t do what I do without her. She’s the consummate teammate, and the proverbial engine of our family. I help where I can with cooking, cleaning, yard work, and so forth, but she’s the one who keeps our house on-schedule while I’m in the office writing.

What inspires you when writing?

Family and friends are obviously a big part of what I write. They’re often the backbone for a lot of my characters. I also draw a lot of inspiration from music. Case in point: the playlists I listen to when writing. In Colonies Lost, for instance, I was writing a protagonist from America’s Deep South. That meant gorging myself on artists like Charlie Daniels, Waylon Jennings, and Chris Stapleton. When writing action, on the other hand, I like things upbeat (The Chemical Brothers, Lacuna Coil, Van Helen). When writing romance, I may plug in Howie Day or Gladys Knight, whereas straight prose usually requires something more innocuous (instrumentals, movie scores, video game soundtracks). It really depends on my mood and what I’m trying to accomplish. However, there’s rarely a time when I’m writing that some sort of music isn’t playing in the background.

What else motivates you to write?

I’ve never been one to “write to market,” as they say. If I don’t love a story, I can’t bring myself to put in the kind of time and work it takes to finish one. That said, I’d be lying if I told you that money doesn’t play a part. I’m a grown man with a family, a mortgage, and a college education to save for. My wife and I base our budget on our fixed income (jobs), but it’s the proceeds from writing that help us pay off our house early and take vacations. If I wanted a hobby, I’d go fishing.

Ian, I’d like to thank you for taking time out of your day to share with us. Before I provide my site’s visitors with an excerpt from At Circle’s End and the social links afterwards that will guide interested visitors where to follow you and purchase your books, I’d like to conclude with a customary Lightning Round. In as few words as possible, please answer the following:

My best friend would tell you I’m a… Redneck nerd.

The one thing I cannot do without is: COFFEE!!!

The one thing I would change about my life: I’d be a millionaire.

My biggest peeve is: Beer snobs

The thing I’m most satisfied with is: My family.

 

Without further ado, At Circle’s End:

A muffled funk sounded, and two red blots catapulted in high arcs over the wall into the fork’s left passage. A crash rocked the scene, smoke billowing skyward, and both runners scampered for what they thought was safety in the right corridor.

They were wrong.

Fire. The XL’s barrel went full white when both runners hit the clearing. The first reacted well, knifing right and scarcely averting a head-on collision with a boulder.

The second never stood a chance. Ice became fire, and the runner was gone.

“Hell yeah!”

Mr. Black yelped a red-lettered protest when fresh taps pelted his back.

“Oh, no you don’t.” Danny wheeled right and scrambled for a lock as the last runner broke for the chamber exit. Fire. The volley went wide. Fire. Wide again. Fire. Into a wall this time. “Damn it!”

The runner shot like a bullet through the stalactite-filled opening.

Danny vaulted atop the dune he’d used for cover, nearly tripping over his own feet in the process.

“Bridge integrity at the eighteen percent,” Mr. Black warned.

Wait, eighteen what? Danny’s attention snapped back to the ground when his crosshairs went red on the last runner. He straightened his arm. See ya.

“Jam!” Shotz screamed. “Turret’s jammed!”

Danny whirled to the open west and saw the Dart bearing down on his team. Shit. “Hold on, Garbage Team—I’m coming to you!”

Danny leapt off the dune and struck the ground with a thud, bones jarring in their sockets as he rolled through the snow. His agility was shot, and apparently, so were his pain meds, but the last thing Danny had was fifteen free seconds to stop, drop, and redose. He had to go, and now.

Danny pushed off with his hands and got to his feet then took off across the open ground as fast as Mr. Black’s legs would carry him. Faster. The armor shuddered but complied. Faster. It shuddered harder but with more speed. Faster!

“Bridge integrity at six percent.”

Danny’s joints were on fire, his limbs becoming weights, but he had to keep moving. Faster!

“Mr. Black, where are you?” It was Shotz again.

Faster!

“Bridge integrity at four percent.”

Faster!

A low moan reverberated through Mr. Black’s operator cocoon, and Danny suddenly felt as if he were sprinting through concrete. “Oh no, no, not now! I’m supposed to have at least eight more minutes!”

In his last gasp of strength, Danny threw up his right arm, sighted the Dart as best he could, and hoped like crazy for the best. XL, full spread. Fi—

Danny toppled under his own heft and face-planted into the snow, his view flickering dark save for a small battery icon. Activate.

No response.

Activate.

Nothing.

Come on, Mr. Black—get your ass up!

Still nothing.

Danny accessed his battery, which had barely enough power for an emergency redose, and used it to key his faceplate. It opened, and the cold that flooded in could’ve frozen the soul.

Danny gritted his teeth then dared a squint. His eyes opened wide when the Dart, now primed for the kill shot, descended on his team. “Doc, Shotz, get out of—”

The Dart’s starboard nacelle exploded as if struck by Zeus himself.

What the hell?

Shards of flaming debris flew from the smashed engine housing as the ship coughed and sputtered amid plumes of black smoke. Somehow, though, it managed to right itself, and once that happened, it wasted little time getting out of there.

“Who in the worlds is that?” Befuddlement was thick in Shotz’s voice.

Danny managed just enough strength to crane his head upward as the underbelly of a second ship flew overhead. Short and frumpy looking with a thick boxy frame and small, stubby wings, the freighter bore a striking resemblance to an oversized UPS truck. Or at least, that was how Danny had always described it in the past.

“Is that a…” Doc broke off. “A Newbern-class freighter?”

Danny held his response, eyes fixed on the sky, as a deluge of mixed emotion poured over him. “Yes, Mr. Blue. Yes it is.”

“Who in the worlds still flies one of those old beaters?” Shotz marveled. “And where’d they get the weapons package?”

Key juice release, ten percent. Danny waited while Mr. Black’s systems came back online. Then he climbed to his feet. “Not important right now, Mr. Red. Just get to the ravine, and prep to move out for Lynder. I’m right behind you.”

 

Visitors who would like to follow Ian online can do so here:

Web:               www.ianjmalone.net

Twitter:          @ianjmalone

Facebook:      @authorianjmalone

You may purchase his books at:

Amazon:        https://www.amazon.com/Ian-J.-Malone/e/B00BJ5QO50

Audible:         http://www.audible.com/search/ref=a_hp_tseft?advsearchKeywords=ian+j+malone&filterby=field-keywords&x=8&y=16

 

 

The Write Stuff – Monday, April 10 – Interview With Doug Dandridge

WordFire Press is noted for taking on prolific and widely read authors. This week’s guest, Doug Dandridge, is exemplary of their decisions. Doug had been writing since 1997, and had garnered almost three hundred rejections from publishers and magazines before trying his hand at self-publishing on December 31, 2011. A little over a year later he quit his day job with the State of Florida, and has been a full-time author ever since. Doug has published thirty-two books on Amazon, science fiction, fantasy, steam punk and one nonfiction about self-publishing, and has sold over two hundred thousand copies of his work. His Exodus books, with twelve volumes in the main series, plus five in the two spinoff series, have sold over a hundred and seventy thousand books. They have consistently hit the top five in Space Opera in the UK, as well as top ten status in the US. Doug likes to say that he does not write great literature, but entertainment, and his fans agree enough to keep buying his work. He has well over three thousand reviews on both Amazon (4.6 star average) and Goodreads (4.12 star average).

Doug attended Florida State University (BS, Psychology) and the University of Alabama (MA, Clinical Psychology). He served four years in the Army as an Infantryman and Senior Custodial Agent, followed up with two years in the National Guard. A lifelong reader of the fantastic, he had an early love for the classics of science fiction and fantasy, including HG Wells, Jules Verne and the comics of Stan Lee and Jack Kirby. He writes fast moving, technically complex novels which appeal to a hardcore fan base. He has plans for several future series, including several space operas, a couple of classic fantasies, some alternate history, and even a post-apocalyptic tale. He puts out about five books a year, and still has time to attend several conventions, including Dragon Con and Liberty Con. This year he added board member of Tallahassee Writers Association to his resumé.

He describes the most recent contribution to his space opera catalogue, Exodus: Empires at War: Book 12: Time Strike, as follows:

The New Terran Empire is still trying to recover from the Ca’cadasan strike that left over three hundred million dead and ripped the heart out of the ship production of Central Docks. The Donut, the huge station in orbit around the supersystem black hole, was almost destroyed in that strike, and its defenses have been strengthened considerably. That Caca strike didn’t do all they had wanted, but it had hurt the Empire’s war making capabilities.

The Ca’cadasans are at it again, with a two-pronged attack on the Empire. Sean has to decide, and quickly, how his fleet is to counter this move. The fleet, short of resources, could use the almost thousand ships destroyed and damaged in the enemy strike. And Sean would give his soul to get his heir, killed in the Caca strike, back. The lure of changing time, something he learns is very possible, beckons. Despite the warning that time travel was the undoing of the Ancients who had once ruled his sector of space.

But the Ancients are not extinct, and they will do whatever they can to prevent the humans from disrupting the time stream and destroying their own race. Even if it means destroying the one weapon the humans have that might win their war of extermination against the Ca’cadasan Empire. They will try to prevent the Time Strike with their last resources, with their lives.

Please tell us about this one.

Exodus: Empires at War: Book 12: Time Strike is the twelfth book (as per the title) in the main Exodus series. The series is about a war of extermination between two enormous empires spanning thousands of star systems and tens of thousands of light years. In book eleven the Ca’cadasans (the bad guys) had hit the capital of the empire and killed over three hundred million citizens. The emperor has decided to use his empire’s wormhole technology to change the timeline so that the strike didn’t happen, despite the many warnings about trying to change time.

What was the inspiration behind it?

I have always had a problem with the paradoxes of time travel. In another series, I dealt with time travel by having some unknown power in the universe snuff out the offenders before the changes can take place. I had hinted about time travel throughout the series, and decided now was the time to tackle it.

What was the biggest challenge you faced writing this book and how did you overcome it?

I have tried to keep the Exodus series fresh from book to book, changing tech, throwing in tactical innovations. That has become more difficult as the series has advanced. I also have a desire to get on to other projects, and keep getting sidetracked by research and development. Still, I kept slogging through, and I am now almost finished.

How many other novels have you written?

Thirty-one. The Hunger (vampire novel), Daemon (steampunk fantasy), Aura (fantasy), Refuge (five book fantasy/technothriller series), Exodus: Empires at War series, Exodus: Machine War series, Exodus: Tales of the Empire series, The Scorpion (near future scifi), Diamonds in the Sand (near future science fiction, and the Deep Dark Well series.

What else are you working on?

I am still trying to get books out in the Refuge and Deep Dark Well series. I also just signed a two book deal with Arc Manor to develop a space opera shared universe. I also plan on writing a post-apocalyptic series and have ideas for several World War 2 alternate history series.

What is your work schedule like when you’re writing?

I usually get up late, about 10 AM, and go out for breakfast, reading something I’m interested in while at the restaurant. I then work out for an hour, then come home and take a nap (I know, rough life). I then write into the evening, usually knocking off at midnight, then in bed at 2. If I am editing a book, I will download it into my kindle and take notes on mistakes while I read it at breakfast and sometimes dinner. I am going to try and rework my schedule to get up earlier, because cons kind of throw a wrench in that schedule, and I really need to stay on a consistent schedule for my health.

Tell us about your path to publication.

I spent about thirteen years trying to get traditionally published. The rejections letters improved, but they were still rejections. On December 31, 2011 I self-published two books, The Deep Dark Well (scifi) and The Hunger (urban fantasy). The Deep Dark Well sold about twenty copies in eight months. Then I did a giveaway for DDW and gave over four thousand books away. A month later Exodus: Empires at War: Book 1 came out, and sold almost a thousand that first month. By January 2013 I was selling a hundred a day of both 1 and 2. Have since sold twenty-four thousand of book 1, and about twenty thousand of book 2. And it went from there. In March of that year I quit my job and have never looked back. Over four years I have sold about fifty thousand books each year, for a total of two hundred thousand.

Do you create an outline before you write?

I used to, but now just take a general idea and then pants it the rest of the way. I found that I was almost always veering away from the outline. Currently, in the project for Arc Manor, I have been asked to produce an outline, with the understanding that I will probably make changes along the way. I will probably be using more outlines in the future with long running series, because I find myself getting stuck in corners more and more.

Why do you write?

I love the nerd life. I love researching new things in science and history. And I love to make up stories, especially when I see lazy writing in TV and movies, and figure I can do better. To me it’s the absolute best job I can imagine. I wouldn’t want to do anything else. It’s gravy that I can get paid to do it, and don’t have to hold down a day job.

What was your previous working life like?

I had a day job for thirteen years while writing, trying to get published. My last job was working for the State of Florida. I hated that job with a passion, and it drove me to write continuously, struggling to get out of that job. I wrote the equivalent of seven novels in 2010. I quit my job in 2012 because I was selling online. I used the day job as motivation to get the career I really wanted. Luckily, I don’t have to go to work every day, getting on the road so I can get to the office at a certain time. I do what I want when I want. The only problem lately has been to have enough discipline to get enough work done to keep progressing.

Would you care to share something about your home life?

I have five cats. A lot of people think that is too many, but if I had room I would have more. They force me to get up in the morning even when I don’t feel like it, since the litter has to be scooped, and they have to be fed. They are spoiled little brats, but I love them, and they can make me laugh even when I’m feeling down.

What follows is an excerpt from Exodus: Empires at War: Book 12: Time Strike, after which visitors can find Doug’s social and book buy links:

“There is no one here, my Lord,” said the sensor officer. “We are detecting nothing.”

“And this was supposed to be one of their most important systems in Fenri space,” replied the chief of staff, looking up from his station.

“Then they have pulled out without a fight,” growled the high admiral in charge of this force. “Cowards.”

While they would still achieve their mission by taking the system without a fight, that was not all they wanted to do. They needed to destroy human ships as well as orbital installations and industrial plants. If they spent their time chasing an enemy that kept running, luring them off their path, what would the accomplish? And an enemy they hadn’t chased down could always come in behind them. Even if they never fired a weapon, they still needed antimatter to run the reactors so they could boost. And even more to run the hyperdrive arrays. An enemy that was striking their supply line would keep them from resupply.

This was the third marked system they had come to that was empty. Each time they had jumped down through hyper, costing even more fuel, to find the system unoccupied. Yet they had to check out these systems. And if they started sending smaller forces in to recon them first, they were likely to run into ambushes a small force couldn’t contend with.

“Why in all the hells haven’t they tried to fight us,” growled the tactical officer.

Because they’re smarter than we are, thought the high admiral. Most Cacada would still not admit that they weren’t the absolute masters of the universe, the strongest, the most intelligent. The high admiral was at the high end of the intelligence scale for his species, so he knew how stupid the average male could be. And he had a better idea of how his people stacked up against other species, including the much too clever humans.

“We’re picking something up on the sensors,” called out the sensor officer. “I’ve never seen a reading like this before.”

“Their impossible fighters?” asked the chief of staff.

“Doesn’t look like them,” said the sensor officer. “Though there are some similarities to their resonances. Small objects, moving very fast.”

The high admiral looked at the plot that was showing thirty-six objects heading straight for his force. They still couldn’t track the inertialess fighters worth a damn. They could tell they were out there on a general heading. They could definitely tell when they were close enough to waste fire on with the chance of a hit. But these things were pretty easy to track, even though they were moving.

“Twenty times light speed?” blurted the high admiral as the velocity figures filled in under the vector arrows. Of course those were only estimates, but still.

“I can’t tell you what they are, my Lord. But they are heading straight for us, and they will be here in about seven minutes.”

* * *

“Any changes in the targets?” asked Captain Wilma Snyder, the commander of the truncated wing that was moving into the attack.

“No, ma’am. They’re coming in fat and sassy. Not that’s there’s much else they could do.”

Snyder nodded. The enemy ships had jumped down before hitting the barrier at point three light, their maximum translation speed. They had started to accelerate as soon as they were through. There really was no quick way back into hyper, where the warp attack craft would not be able to hunt them, not that the Cacas knew that. It would take them several hours to slow to a stop, before they could start accelerating back out, which would take several more hours.

“We’ll be in range in six minutes, forty-three seconds,” continued the wing tactical officer. “Launch at that time.”

“Very good,” said Snyder, leaning back in her chair. She was trying to look as cool and calm as she could, and was not sure how she was doing. This was a first ever strike by the warp attack craft. Theoretically, they should come as a lethal shock to the Cacas. Theory was fine, but this was where they found out if they were a good as advertised.

“I want us to go to the port after launch. All ships will come out of warp at three light minutes from the Cacas, then spun and go back into a second attack.”

Her ships each had four missiles, also using warp technology. They carried lasers as well, as a last resort. The captain didn’t want to get into that kind of a knife fight with capital ships. Her craft would be in normal space, trading beams with ships that outmassed them by over three thousand times. Her lasers might not even make it through their screens, while theirs would vaporize her craft.

She looked at the plot, willing it to expand to cover the entire system and beyond. The carrier was out at ten light hours beyond the barrier to spinward. The craft could reach it in warp in about forty minutes, rearm, and be on their way back in. Snyder smiled as she thought of some of the other weapons on the boards for her babies. She wouldn’t have them, but sometime further into the campaign the Cacas would meet their acquaintance, and she hoped enjoyed the meeting.

“Launch in fifteen seconds,” called out the tactical officer, as the command went out over the com to the other thirty-five craft.

There was a one second delay between the time her ship fired and the last got off its missile. Thirty-six weapons jumped from the launching craft, erecting their own warp bubbles and then streaking off on their prearranged tracks. Warp field penetrated warp field. As soon as the missiles were out into normal space they dropped their fields for a couple of seconds, then went back into warp on tracks that would hit their designated targets. The launching ships meanwhile turned in space and lit out to the front and side of the enemy force. Unlike craft in normal space there was no accel or decel to deal with. Changing vectors meant they were now moving at warp in that direction.

The missiles took off, going from a standing start to ten times light speed in an instant. The weapons were all right on target. Each hit the side of their targets, their warp fields blasting through electromag screens and into twenty meters of armor before the missiles broke up, their warheads going off and flashing into the interiors of the ships. When the flares died down they left behind twelve spreading clouds of plasma and twenty-three still intact but seriously crippled ships.

If you’d care to learn more about Doug or dive into his works— at this point I can’t imagine why you wouldn’t—here is the wherewithal:

WordPress Blog:       http://dougdandridge.com

Website:                     http://dougdandridge.net

Twitter:                      @brotherofcats

Amazon:                    https://www.amazon.com/Doug-Dandridge/e/B006S69CTU/

The Write Stuff – Monday, May 11 – Interview With Sally Ember

In the wake of featuring so many authors from genres other than mine, I’ve decided to focus on creators of science fiction and fantasy for a while. Although I read a wide variety of literature and most of you do as well, most of my followers look first to the genre I create. That said, I have the pleasure of introducing Sally Ember, Ed. D., author of the complex and controversial Spanner Series.

Profile pic 4inchAs in the case of some earlier guests, Sally and I met through Facebook’s Fantasy SciFi News Network, #FSFNet, a group open to readers, writers and bloggers alike. Sally, who fits into all three categories, has been passionate about writing since 3rd grade. Now, she blurs the lines between fact and fiction in the space opera, The Spanners Series, utopian sci-fi with romance/ paranormal (psi only)/ multiverse/ Buddhist/ Jewish components. She meditates, writes, swims, blogs, reads and hosts her Google+ Hangout On Air (HOA) *CHANGES* conversations between authors, broadcast from St. Louis, MO, USA. Sally has worked as an educator and upper-level, nonprofit manager and has a BA, Master’s & Doctorate in education.

When I asked her to describe her work, she had this to say:

The Spanners Series is a 10-volume (planned; Volume I released Nov., 2013; Volume II released June, 2014), original, science-fiction/ romance/ multiverse/ paranormal/utopian/speculative fiction ebooks series for adults/new adults/young adults.

I was halfway through Volume III in early April, 2014, when I had a terrible accident, resulting in a concussion and broken nose. With Post-Concussion Syndrome, all my fiction writing had to come to a halt and hasn’t resumed, yet, for my series. I hope to return to The Spanners Series soon (June or July, 2015) and release Volume III later this year. I had also already started Volume IV, which I hope to return to and complete for release in spring, 2016.

This-Changes-Everything----web-and-ebooksVolume I, This Changes Everything, “spans” the entire series’ time frame, moving freely and non-linearly between events that occur [the series is written entirely in the present tense, remember, to remind us all that all time is simultaneous] many millennia prior to Clara’s meeting with the first five alien holos from the MWC in late 2012 and extend throughout Clara’s entire term as Earth’s CC, about thirty years. As the introductory Volume for the series, it lays most of the groundwork for all ten books.

Volumes II and III cover the same time period as each other, the five years of Earth’s “Transition.” These five years are the time that starts with Clara’s revealing her visit with “The Band” of alien holos and the deadline given to Earth for deciding whether or not to join the Many Worlds Collective. Each of the Volume’s narrators come mostly from the two different age groups, so we get their perspectives. Volume II also includes “Snapshots” from ten Octobers in Clara’s life, about one every five years for a while then one every year after the aliens visit her, starting in her childhood and extending beyond the Transition, to allow readers to get to know her and her generation better.

final cover printVolume II also provides more details and scenes that show both her and her nephew, Moran’s, Excellent Skills Program trainings, Moran’s “Interludes.” The main Chapters for Volume II are the interviews Espe conducts with Clara’s son, Zephyr (32 when the series begins), and each of Clara’s nephews, nieces; her grandnieces and -nephews make a few appearances.

Both Volumes II and III refer to Earth’s internal Psi-Wars, the extreme consequences from the problems that occur when Fragmenters and Trenchers protest Earth’s accepting the MWC’s invitation. There is more about those conflicts in Volume III than II.

Volume III has more narration and scenes from the older group of narrators, including Clara’s siblings, friends and her mother, Epifanio, and a few new characters, some not human, while also including Espe and Moran as well, providing more stories from the five years of Earth’s “Transition.” Some allusions to later Volumes and their events appear in Volume I and each of the earlier Volumes, leading to Volume IV, which is entirely set at the Earth’s first Campus’ Excellent Skills Program (ESP) trainings.

The stories in Volume IV focus on the experiences of the youngest and youth/young adult students, human and not, but Clara, Moran, Espe and a few others appear again, including a new/returning love interest for Clara, Steve. Epifanio, as her husband (and not), depending on what timeline Clara happens to be experiencing on any given day, also keeps appearing.

Whew! Time related stories are certainly complex. What was the biggest challenge you faced writing this series and how did you overcome it?

Still working to “overcome it,” I guess. Meditation was also affected, and losing my ability to meditate for almost 8 months was worse than not being able to write fiction. I have coped by focusing more on nonfiction, writing short pieces for my own blog and creating guest blog posts. I also began an online talk show, *CHANGES* conversations between authors, in August, 2014, that I still do almost every Wednesday (10 AM Eastern USA time), and which is how I met YOU, Raymond! Thanks for being a guest!

 What else have you written?

The two Volumes I’ve released in The Spanners Series are my first two fiction novels. I am a produced playwright, a published short-story and feature articles writer and nonfiction co-author, an uncredited ghostwriter and editor of several other nonfiction books.

Have there been any awards, productions, videos or anything else of interest associated with your work?

On my YouTube channel (Sally Sue Ember is my Google+ ID and Youtube Channel name) are four self-made book trailers (via Animoto.com): three for Volume I and one for Volume II (concussion, remember?); also, two author public readings from The Spanners Series, and one author Q & A (with almost no “A” because the feature didn’t work!) as well as all the *CHANGES* Episodes (as of this week, up to Episode 29). https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCqnZuobf0YTCiP6silDDL2w/videos?view_as=public

What else are you working on?

I do some editing/proofreading and write reviews occasionally, but mostly I write for my blog and host my show, waiting for my brain to return to full enough function for me to resume writing my novels, again. My sci-fi series is immensely complicated; even with a spreadsheet I had created prior to my accident (THANK GOODNESS!) that only hints at all its components and overlapping, multiple timelines that span over 80 years for the main characters and grab historical events from “past” millennia up to the present as well.

The novels are also all written in the present tense, which is a meditation-while-writing that takes an enormous amount of concentration, since it’s not the way we usually write (or think or speak, either). Suffering still from memory problems, aphasia and other brain deficits makes that kind of writing impossible, still.

I also can’t yet quite access my full memory of what I planned to include in this and future Volumes, so I keep exercising, meditating (which I was recently made able to return to and it’s working almost completely, now), writing short pieces and trying to be patient.

I have some research topics for the series and my own interests which I regularly blog about: physics, astronomy/cosmology, the multiverse and parallel universes, medicine/health, meditation/brain mapping, feminist topics, book reviews, movie reviews, and much more: whatever I’m in the mood to learn and write about, I do. I also have created and will write some more guest blog posts (most are about writing or indie publishing), some more interviews like this that are really more writing projects than interviews, per se, and who knows what else?

What inspired you to write your series?

Unrequited love. Really. I needed an outlet and a place to write the life I wish I were having with the man I love who does not return that feeling. BUT, I also wanted to write him OUT of my life. So, I’m doing both!

Furthermore, I feel a deep despair about Earth’s future, including extreme disgust with many humans. I recognize the need for better interspecies communication here and with beings from off-planet.

Combine all that with a life-long keen interest in and belief in quantum physics, astronomy, multiverse existence and life elsewhere, and BOOM: sci-fi/romance.

I am writing the future I wish us all to have. Somewhere, somewhen, not just because I’m writing it, all of this IS happening because, as physicists are fond of reminding us, everything that can happen is happening in the multiverse.

Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?

I am “Crowdcreating” Volumes VIII and IX of The Spanners Series, so I seek YA-aged and -themed and NA-aged and -themed writers, readers to contribute to Vol VIII and I seek adult authors/readers for Vol IX.

I am also requesting readers’ suggestions, questions and ideas for what I’ve left out of or you’d like to see of alternate timelines’ versions of stories in any previous Volume to put into Vol X (the final Volume in the series).

Please contact me (sallyember AT yahoo DOT com) no later than Jan. 1, 2016, if you want to participate in Crowdcreating by offering suggestions and even writing portions or entire Chapters of Vol VIII or IX. The deadline for submitting questions and ideas for Vol X is January 1, 2017. Share!

Now that’s an uncommon approach. Tell us, Sally, what motivates or inspires you?

Dreams, visions, meditations, experiences.

One night in February, 2012, I was awakened by a very clear voice that said: WRITE. I went to the computer, hearing sentences and seeing scenes in my mind. Five hours later, most of the first Chapter, all of the summaries for all the Volumes, and the Chapter outline for Volume I were drafted. I kept going from there and finished the first draft of Volume one in 8 weeks.

TCE went through 19 other drafts via my own ideas, consults with friends and family,and letting it “sit” over an 18-month period to reach the final version. During that time, I started Volumes II, IV, and V and sketched out parts of the others as well. I feel very driven. Part of the reason is that I identify a lot with Clara.

The line between fiction and nonfiction is very blurred in these Volumes, intentionally, and my life seems that way sometimes as well. I’m curious as to what the readers will decide is “real.”

Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?

I strongly believe that Earth is in serious trouble, politically, economically, environmentally, socially: in every way. I do wish we could be rescued by stronger, more intelligent, compassionate, capable beings! I wanted to show how things would change, and especially, how things would improve, if Earthers could be certain that we are not “alone.” Then, there would to be some dissenters of various types and intensities, so the psi Wars came about, with the Psi-Warriors and Psi-Defiers.

Fascinated by physics, multiple timelines/multiverse concepts, alien life and psi phenomena, family relationships, world affairs and the environment, and unrequited/requited love, I have incorporated all of these themes and topics into my sci-fi novels. I have and continue to do extensive research for each Volume. The parts that are scientific and authentic are the most fun to fictionalize.

I also subscribe to the optimistic view that their are inherent intelligence and value in all species, so interspecies communication among equals, both on Earth and off-planet, becomes central to the Series.

Because I am very interested in the Excellent Skills Program (ESP, or psi) aspects. I look forward to and have enjoyed writing the parts about each character’s ESP training and experiences, uses of the Excellent Skills and the ways having access to these Skills changes Earthers.

Finally, my erstwhile love is not with me, just as Clara’s is sometimes not with her, so I empathize with that situation and write scenes in which she and Fanio are together as a sort of wish-fulfillment. Then, I introduce other interests, romantic and personal, for Clara, to show how a strong, independent woman does NOT need a lover to be happy.

I always conclude with a Lightning Round. Please answer in as few words as possible:

 My best friend would tell you I’m…

intensely loyal and forgiving, but once I write you off, we’re done.

The one thing I cannot do without is:

Buddhist dharma principles and practice.

The one thing I would change about my life is…

I wouldn’t have had an affair with one of my college professors as an undergraduate.

My biggest peeve is…

incompetence.

The person I’m most satisfied with is…

my son, Merlyn Ember; he’s an amazing man (he’s 35).

For those who’d like to learn more about Sally and her writing, here are some links:

 Author Central Amazon link: http://www.amazon.com/Sally-Ember/e/B00HEV2UEW/

Purchase and other Links all on http://www.sallyember.com Look right; scroll down.

Vol I (PERMAFREE):

http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00HFELTG8
https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/376197

Vol II ($3.99):

https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/424969
http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00KU5Q7KC

Facebook personal page: https://www.facebook.com/sally.ember

Spanners Series’ page on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/TheSpannersSeriesbySallyEmber

Twitter: @sallyemberedd

Spanners Series’ page on Google+ http://goo.gl/tZKQpv

Sally Sue Ember on Google+ http://www.google.com/+SallySueEmber

Pinterest: http://www.pinterest.com/sallyember

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/7237845.Sally_Ember