The Write Stuff – Monday, November 19 – Nathan Dodge Interview

This week’s featured author, Nathan Dodge, began writing as a teen, completing several novels, all, in his words, of questionable quality. During the next decades, he wrote spasmodically, in the meantime earning a BS in electrical engineering from Southern Methodist University and MSEE and PHDEE degrees from The University of Texas at Austin. Although he continued to experiment with writing, mainly science fiction, Nathan served as an engineer and engineering manager in the industry for two decades before joining the University of Texas at Dallas faculty. He retired in 2014, although he still teaches half-time. He won several teaching awards at UTD.

Nathan began writing seriously in 2012 and has attended seven Superstars Writing Seminars. He has a story in the Purple Unicorn Anthology with daughter Sharon, a short story sale to Mike Resnick’s Galaxy’s Edge, and recently sold the a book series of young adult science fiction stories to WordFire Press. He and Sharon will soon release an anthology of SF stories entitled, To the Stars, on Amazon.

In his spare time, of which there is surprisingly little, he loves weight lifting, hiking in Colorado, and solving crossword puzzles with wife Faye Lynn.

This is the premise of his WordFire Press release, Shadow Warriors, Book 1 of the Shadow Warriors series:

Cal’s father is drinking himself to death over the passing of his wife. He has lost his job and spent himself into complete bankruptcy. Their home is posted for foreclosure. Letty’s parents started out poor, but the business they founded has made them rich. Now, though, they fight all the time, and it’s driving Letty crazy. Tony has lived on the street for months with his prostitute mother, but he woke up this morning to find her dead, OD’ed on drugs. Ophelia is the daughter of a billionaire, but her father died mysteriously and now her stepmother is plotting to take all her inheritance. Sasha lives in a foster home with an abusive family that feeds him scraps and threatens that if he complains, they will send him to jail.

All five have terrible personal problems—and then one day, they wake up aboard a spaceship, kidnapped. They must train as the crew of a galactic fighter to defend the very civilization that has abducted them. The enemy is a predatory, unstoppable enemy that threatens the entire galaxy, including their home planet Earth. Either they successfully train to become a capable fighter crew, or they will die in battle. A gripping new adventure series in the spirit of Ender’s Game!

What do you want readers to know about your book?

Shadow Warriors is a Young Adult space opera, about five teens who are kidnapped and forced to train as a fighter crew in a galactic war. The underlying theme is family. The five protagonists have never had close  family relationships, or if they had, they didn’t last for long. Thrown together in training, they are first hostile and angry, but quickly learn the value of close relationships. The real theme of book one is that family is where you find it, not necessarily just the group of individuals that are your blood kin.

Aside from the plot, is there a story behind it?

None other than that I wanted to write a “cracklin’-good” story. However, the characters, themselves very independent, took me where they wanted the story to go.

Why is your writing different from other authors in this genre?

I think my characters spend time exploring relations and learning the meaning of family to a greater degree than in many stories. But in addition, I believe that the story is a fun and exciting description of the beginnings of an epic galactic battle that will span five books.

What was your path to publication?

I spent nearly four years learning my craft after I finally started writing in earnest, with only one novel submission, which was rejected. I submitted MANY short stories, with a remarkable rejection rate, selling only one story in the Purple Unicorn Anthology with my daughter, and one story (a contest win) to Mike Resnick’s Galaxy’s Edge.

I shopped Shadow Warriors only to Baen’s Toni Weisskopf, which she rejected. Not surprising, since Baen doesn’t really do much YASF. I then sent it to Dave Butler at WordFire, more requesting an evaluation of where I should send it than really making it a submission, but Dave recommended that WordFire sign me to a contract. Since that time, WFP has agreed to publish all five books.

What are you working on now?

My first book series was a dystopian SF trilogy, which I have never finished. I am writing the third book now as I have time. It is slow going, as I am re-editing my other four Shadow Warriors books and getting ready to submit to WFP. The second book is already in process, and I hope to send in the third before Christmas.

What else have you written?

Two volumes of the dystopian trilogy, another YASF novel called The Freedom Conspiracy about a teenager living on the moon, and a novel about the first intelligent android, called I, One. It is currently submitted to a publisher other than WFP.

Are there any awards or honors you’d like to share?

Not a lot of writing honors. I have previously received two honorable mentions in the Writers of the Future contests, and just this week I received a Silver Honorable Mention for a story in the latest contest.

Do you create an outline before you write? 

I ALWAYS complete a thorough, chapter-by-chapter outline before I write a single word of a novel. That is due entirely to Dave Wolverton (Dave Farland), who trained me well!

How do you think you’ve evolved creatively?

I’ve become a far more “complete” writer over the last six years. I’m better at dialogue, character evolution, and scene description. I still struggle, and I still, from time to time, change character point-of-view in a chapter or scene, which is a real no-no. To quote the famous painter, Degas (modified for writing rather than painting), “Writing fiction is really easy when you don’t know how, but very difficult when you do.”

Tell us about your writing community.

My writing community is the Superstars group, and I am friends with many of them. I would say without fear of contradiction that the writers in that group are all great folks, and I feel close to all of them. I have only collaborated with daughter Sharon, also a writer and Superstar. I think it’s hard, but frequently worth it.

If you could do anything differently, what would it be?

Definitely start writing a couple decades earlier!!

What is your greatest life lesson?

Don’t waste a single day! Our time on Earth is limited, and we need to make the most of it!

What makes you laugh?

I must confess to enjoying ironic jokes of most types. I love the TV show “Big Bang Theory,” which almost always gets a few belly laughs. And sadly, I often laugh bitterly at the attitudes and prejudices of many of our public officials at all levels.

Who are some of your favorite authors?

Have you got an hour? Robert Heinlein, first of all, closely followed by Kevin J. Anderson, Dave Farland, Brandon Sanderson, J. R. R. Tolkien and Robert Jordan. So you see, I like fantasy as well as SF, but I usually write SF. I also love Nora Roberts’ Eve Dallas murder mysteries written under the name of J. D. Robb—which are also really a mild science fiction.

Before I present our visitors with a Shadow Warriorsexcerpt, followed by your social and book buy links, I’d like to conclude with a Lightning Round. Please answer the following in as few words as possible:

My best friend would tell you I’m a: Good guy basically, but can be grouchy if irritated, and not very tolerant of stupidity.

The one thing I cannot do without is: coffee in the morning! Or almost any time of day!

The one thing I would change about my life: I’d take a few more chances, and start serious investing a bit sooner.

My biggest peeve is: Traffic in general. And also, how many BAD drivers are out there!

The person or thing I’m most satisfied with is:

Person: My wife, and the way she has encouraged me to be a fiction writer. Even though she doesn’t like fiction!

Thing: My exercise routine, which has served me well for over 30 years.

Do you have a parting thought you would like to leave us with?

My favorite thought is a saying which I think of as applying to us writers, but can equally be for anyone who wants to lead a satisfied and useful life. It has credited been to sayings as far back as Confucius, although the earliest modern attribution is to something published in the “Princeton Alumni Weekly” in 1982 which quoted a Professor of Philosophy named Arthur Szathmary, who himself attributed the words to an unnamed “old-timer” who was not identified. That is: Find something you love to do and you’ll never have to work a day in your life. I think I’ve been able consistently do that. I loved being a computer systems engineer and manager, and I fell in love with teaching at UTD. I probably love writing even more. I can truly say that I’ve NEVER had to “work.”

Excerpt:

 As they got their bearings, Tony sang out, “Formation sighted, sir. They are about to enter the system where we blasted the four ships last week.” He scratched his head. “They are very widely dispersed. It’s an unusual spread, approaching the planet. It stretches back in a cone-shaped formation nearly a thousand kilometers long.”

“Makes them harder to engage,” Cal observed. “They’re also probably looking for their four scouts. Opi?”

She raised her head from the portable. “We’re headed into an ambush, sir. They used this exact formation ten years ago and caught two dozen Warrior ships off-guard. Only one survived. We’re about to be trapped like foxes by the hounds.”

Cal got the point. They were preparing to attack; he had to move fast. He called out, “Red Seventeen to unit leader.”

A moment later, Valin’s voice snapped through their speakers, “Seventeen, Lead here.”

“Sir,” Cal said, “Our planner’s spotted a potential ambush.”

They could hear the sneer in Valin’s reply. “Seventeen, this is real war. Follow my lead, that’s an order.”

Cal almost screamed in frustration. “Lead, requesting permission to leap with engines hot.”

It took precious seconds to generate sufficient leap power. Going in “hot” would mean keeping leap power at maximum.

“Negative, Seventeen,” Valin said. “Form up for attack. Lead out.” The comms snapped off.

Cal swore under his breath. “Get Raj.”

In a few seconds Raj came on line. “Red Seventeen, Green Lead here.”

“Sir,” Cal almost shouted, “Opi’s spotted a trap. Heads up!”

A long silence followed. “Copy, Seventeen.”

“Go in engines hot, sir!” Cal persisted. “Warn your ships!”

Another long pause left Cal sweating. Then Raj said, “Roger that, Seventeen. Green Lead out.”

Cal blew out a sharp breath. “Everybody hold your breath.”

“I hope we’re wrong,” Opi muttered, “but I don’t think so.”

They waited in silence, Cal shifting uncomfortably in the pilot’s seat as though this were their first training exercise.

Shortly, Valin transmitted the signal to advance. Cal triggered Tony’s plotted leap, and a stretch of deep space lay before them. Silver dots scattered across their long-range displays.

They would micro-leap again to begin the attack.

Surveying their targets, the trailing section of the scout column, Cal identified about twenty ships. He and Red Eleven were closest, with the rest of the Red ships spread along the rear of the column.

As the Shadow Warrior ships appeared, Cal counted down, marking their attack points and exchanging target data with his fellow pilots. In seconds, Valin’s voice came through their comms, “On my mark. Three, two, one, leap.”

Cal initiated.

Directly ahead lay a Horde ship, with two more to port a few kilometers farther away.

Cal said, “Fire at will.”

Sasha opened up, and the Gatling cannon rumbled.

Under cover of its racket, Tony said softly, “Jump engines still hot, sir.”

The ship ahead disintegrated as they swept past. The other two moved directly ahead as Cal fired thrusters. He could see their blast cannons sparkling to life as Sasha fired again.

One ship exploded as the other fired at them, its weapons a combination of particle beam and laser blast, sparkling red as it crossed the gap to their ship. Their shields glowed red, absorbing the blast, and Sasha continued to fire. Sasha felt no contact from the beam, but the lights dimmed momentarily as the shield generator sucked power to absorb the energy of the blast.

Red Seventeen’s projectiles penetrated the skin of the enemy vessel, and the energy beam lit it up. Sasha had already targeted several other more distant ships.

Concentrating on tactical, Letty gasped. “Cal, ships coming in from six directions! Lot and lots of ships, maybe hundreds! Must have been hidden behind the planet.”

Watching the long-range display, Tony yelled, “Holy crap! She’s right, sir. Coming in from all over the place.”

Cal toggled his com line. “Red Unit, Red Seventeen! It’s an ambush! We’re in a trap!”

Valin’s angry voice came back. “What trap? What—?” He strangled into sudden silence.

Cal could identify at least twenty ships, the new type, small, fast, and sleek, zeroing in on his own.

“Bringing her about!” he warned the others, and leaned on the directional controls. “Sasha, you’ve got a straight shot.”

Thrusters flared and roared, and the ship swung toward the attackers. Sasha opened up, spraying bullets ahead as the ships came in. This time, Sasha felt buffeting from all the energy blasts as multiple ships began firing.

“Captain, we can’t take this beating long!” Sasha yelled. “Our shields are not going to last at this rate.”

Author Website:       https://www.nathanbdodge.com/

Amazon:                    https://www.amazon.com/Shadow-Warriors-Nathan-B-Dodge-ebook/dp/B07J2SRYZ2/

Baen Books:              https://www.baen.com/wf201810-october-2018-wordfire-press-books.html

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