Interview: Andrea Pearson on “How to Polish Your Manuscript into a Rock-Solid Book”


 
 
How to Polish Your Manuscript into a Rock-Solid Book is in the NaNoWriMo Writing Tools bundle, a collection of a dozen books on writing. A portion of the proceeds goes directly to the Challenger Center for Space Science Education, a non-profit group created by the families of the crew of the Challenger shuttle. This bundle is only available through the end of November 2018.

Meet Andrea!

Andrea is a bestselling author who’s written more than 50 books and over a hundred articles for professional blogs and websites. She writes fantasy, sweet romance, and co-creates a book each year with her illustrator husband and students from the local elementary school. Andrea has written several books for authors, has a series of online courses on marketing, and hosts a regular podcast with her husband.

How to Polish Your Manuscript into a Rock-Solid Book

Are you an author who is struggling with finding volunteers and professionals to help polish your book? Do you wish there was a guide that offered plenty of suggestions for finding these people?

The Self-Publish Strong series, written by successful indie author Andrea Pearson, gives you advice and guidance on building your brand, publishing, and marketing your own books.

In How to Polish Your Manuscript into a Rock-Solid Book you will discover how to:

  1. Find and train beta readers
  2. Hire editors
  3. Test covers and descriptions
  4. Format ebooks and know where to publish them
  5. Typeset print books and where to publish them
  6. Choose a price for print and ebooks

Excerpt

One of the biggest mistakes new indie authors make is using covers that aren’t professional. Don’t hesitate to hire someone to take over this aspect of publishing for you. Good cover designers have been developing their skills for many years, and the cost of the cover will be worth the perfect design for your book.

A good cover will fit the emotions or theme of your book. Your cover needs to be able to catch (and hold) attention. It needs to match other covers in the genre, and it needs to look great.

A cover can cost anywhere from $25 to several thousand dollars, with the average landing around $300 to $450. How much it costs depends on the originality of the artwork and stock photos used. The illustrations and photographs from the popular PhatPuppyArt website, for example, can cost several hundred alone, and that’s before a cover designer starts working on them. Keep in mind that even if a book cover is expensive, it doesn’t always mean the cover will work. Get critiques on all covers, even when you’ve outsourced the creation to a designer.

– from How to Polish Your Manuscript into a Rock-Solid Book by Andrea Pearson

The Interview

What’s the most important piece of advice you’d give an author on how to go from a finished manuscript to a rock-solid book?

Revise, revise, revise! First, do everything you can on your own, then reach out to volunteers – friends and family, etc. (They tend to be the most kind, if you’re just starting out.) Then look for volunteers and professionals who don’t know you. Apply any revisions they suggest that ring true for your book. Pay extra attention to the things the professionals say.
 
 
What inspired you to create the Self-Publish Strong podcast, and why did you and your husband decide to team up and host it together?

We’ve always wanted to do a podcast—six years ago, we made up our minds to start one, but we couldn’t find the right topic until December 2017. I absolutely love teaching and I wanted a place that allowed me to help others without me needing to be everywhere all the time. I knew I could host my own show, but I didn’t want one with regular guest interviews, since there are so many of those already. On the other hand, podcasts that feature just one person can be a bit boring. My husband is 100% my business partner, and as our listeners can attest, he’s a smart guy with a lot of insight. 🙂 It was an easy decision to do it together. 🙂
 
 
How does your Review Crew and Street Team help you?

They’re soooo wonderful! Reviews are so much easier to get now that I have a review team. And whenever I’m running promotions or want feedback on weird ideas, they’re the first I go to.
 

 
You run a Facebook group, BookBub Promotions and More, which is a place for authors to share notes on promoting and marketing. What’s one of the most useful things you’ve learned from running this group?

That the indie community is fantastic, and people are almost always willing to share. But on the other hand, those who have the most to share usually have the least amount of time to share it. Which is why we do chats with successful authors on a regular basis—they’re unable to participate in the group all the time, but they still want to help others out. Win-win for everyone. 🙂
 
 
You write sweet western romance as Andrea Kate Pearson. What inspired you to focus your stories in a western setting, and why specifically in Montana?

I love westerns—I was raised reading them (I devoured pretty much anything sweet romance, but mostly western romances) and all growing up, I wanted a horse more than anything. I took horse riding lessons in high school and still love westerns and cowboys. We attend the local rodeo every single year—I haven’t missed once. And Montana because I hadn’t set a series there for my fantasy books. I’m taking a break from romance (my fantasy is more established), but I hope to return soon.
 

 
What’s one of your favorite resources for maintaining your business excitement and energy?

Finishing a book! There’s nothing more exciting and relieving to know I’ve finished another story. But also podcasts. I enjoy listening to other authors’ experiences.
 
 
You and your husband developed Bezza’s Book of Enchantments with a local group of kids with the intention of helping them learn writing and illustrating skills. What did you most enjoy about that experience? Do you feel it had a lasting impact on the kids?

We’ve done a book a year with the local elementary school—just tied up #5. It’s so much fun! We’ve been able to watch and interact with the kids as they’ve grown into young adults who have a passion for writing and illustrating. And yes, we feel it has had a lasting impact. They appreciate literature and art much more than they would have otherwise, and their parents and teachers tell us this regularly. It’s not a money-making project, but we absolutely love it and hope to continue serving there for several more years.
 
 
Why did you decide to have characters from one of your series, the Kilenya Chronicles, appear in book six of your series the Mosaic Chronicles?

Characters from my books tend to pop up in other series/books regularly. It makes it fun for me to write and fun for my readers to read! I personally love it when other authors do this, and I was really happy that my readers appreciated it too. It’s like finding an Easter egg. Even the books we write for the school share some characters with my books for adults/teens.
 
 
In addition to everything else you’re doing, you were one of the instructors at the 2018 WMG Publishing Business Master Class. What do you enjoy about teaching marketing to authors and publishers?

Everything! Knowing I’m helping other people, learning more (they say you learn more when you teach), and sharing my passions. I love marketing! I’ve been invited to return as an instructor for 2019, and I’m really looking forward to it.
 
 
What story (or stories) are you working on now, and what’s fun about what you’re writing?

I’m just tying up the final book in my Koven Chronicles. I’ve really enjoyed this series. Lizzie, the main character, has the ability to stop sparks, so she works closely with local government officials to stop bombs, guns, and fires—wild, residential, etc. It’s been a really fun series.

About Andrea

Andrea Pearson is an avid reader and outdoor enthusiast who plays several instruments, not including the banjo. She is the author of many full-length novels and novellas, including the bestselling Mosaic, Koven, and Kilenya Chronicles. Writing is the chocolate of her life—it is, in fact, the only thing she ever craves. Being with her family is where she’s happiest, and she loves thunderstorms, the ocean, hiking, public speaking, painting, and traveling.

Find Andrea

Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads

Interview: Craig Martelle on “Become a Successful Indie Author”


 
 
Become a Successful Indie Author is in the NaNoWriMo Writing Tools bundle, a collection of a dozen books on writing. A portion of the proceeds goes directly to the Challenger Center for Space Science Education, a non-profit group created by the families of the crew of the Challenger shuttle. This bundle is only available through the end of November 2018.

Meet Craig!

Craig runs the 20BooksTo50K author group, which has over 26,000 members. A successful indie author, he writes best selling fiction in genres he loves: space opera, military scifi, Space Marine, colonization, and genetic engineering. He lives in Alaska, where temperatures reach fifty below zero, and he and his wife get to watch the northern lights from their driveway.

Become a Successful Indie Author

Demystifying the tangled web of self-publishing to put you on the road to success.

This is a motivational guide based on Craig’s two and a half million published words (mostly with Amazon) to help you see past the hurdles that are keeping you from climbing the mountain of success. Nothing is overwhelming once it’s been explained. If you are smart enough to write a book, you are smart enough to do everything else needed to make your indie author business a success.

Clocking in at nearly 50,000 words, this guide has something for every budding author as well as those who have already published, but for whom success remains elusive. In this business there is only one hard and fast rule—you must find readers willing to pay for your stories. It starts with the first sentence. You have to write a gripping story that people want to read, wrap a cover around the book, and then do the marketing. There’s no doubt that you can do it. Let Craig show you how.

Excerpt

Why publish your books yourself? For the same reason most small businesses start—you have an idea and are the best one to make it a reality. That idea is a story, and you have to write it, then publish it, and then sell it. And then write another one.

Daunting? Maybe.

Easy? Definitely not.

Doable? Eminently.

We publish independently because we get a much higher royalty share, we have complete control over our work, we interact directly with our readership, and so much more. The drawback is that you have to do it all yourself—creativity, production, marketing, and accounting. But indies are betting on themselves, just like any other small business. We stand up and shout, “I got this!” Then we knuckle down and do the hard work where we and we alone are responsible for our success.

Will this book guarantee that you’ll be the next seven-figure author? Absolutely not. But it will show you that if you work hard at the right things, it may not be as far away as you think. Make your hard work work for you.

This book is meant to show you what’s possible, and that you’re not alone on this journey. Arming yourself with information is the best way to win the battle known as “Indie Publishing.”

You can do it. It takes work, but the mountain is not insurmountable.

JK Rowling made over one billion dollars ($1,000,000,000) in book sales alone and estimates suggest that she reached only nine percent of the book reading public. Only nine percent is worth a billion dollars. She didn’t get there because she was trying to get rich. She got there because she wrote great stories and then handled the business side of it.

What if you were able to tap 1/10,000th of what JK Rowling tapped?

Then you would be a $100,000 author, while the average author makes less than $10,000 a year. But we refuse to be average, because we learn from others with readily available information that will help us get to that next level.

No matter where you are on your author journey, there’s always a new level you can reach.

Roll up your sleeves, because it’s time to get to work.

– from Become a Successful Indie Author by Craig Martelle

The Interview

What’s the most important lesson readers should take away from Become a Successful Indie Author?

That if you work hard at the right things, your chances of success greatly improve.
 
 
Why do you believe newsletters are so important?

It is the direct link to my fans. It lets me have a conversation with them at regular intervals. They subscribed because they liked my books. It’s important to keep feeding them.
 
 
What helps you stay motivated?

My fans, the readers who buy my books and make the characters their own. I worked as a Fortune 500 business consultant and seeing the opportunity while applying sound business practices to the art of storytelling is doubly rewarding.
 

 
You’ve written nine books in your Free Trader series, and three books in the Cygnus Space Opera series, which is set in the same universe. What do you enjoy about writing in this universe?

It takes me back to my high school days when D&D was first rolled out. It was a great game of the imagination. The first science fiction role-playing game was Metamorphosis Alpha by James M. Ward. That is the game I loved the most for engagement of the imagination. With the success of the Free Trader series, I was able to connect with James and we have since written two books together and are currently working on our third.
 

 
What’s the most important lesson you’ve learned from collaborating with other authors?

You can learn something from everyone, whether it’s a turn of phrase, depth of character, or so many other things. Everyone you’ve ever met knows something that you don’t. Take a chance to learn what that is
 
 
What suggestions can you give to someone trying to improve their word count?

Practice helps immensely. Writing every day is the key to big word counts. The more you do it, the better you get at it.
 
 
You co-wrote The Human Experiment with Kevin McLaughlin. What was the most surprising thing to you about the experience of collaborating with another author on this project?

That a literary fiction style book takes a different kind of marketing and a different style of writing than either of us was used to.
 
 
Darklanding, a space opera/western series you’re writing with Scott Moon, is being released in a serial format with twelve releases in a season, then a break before the next season begins. Why did you and Scott choose to use this format, and what are your thoughts about it now that you’ve completed the first season?

We wrote Darklanding very specifically to woo the small screen. Each episode can be turned into a one-hour screenplay with minimal effort. We focused on different characters in each episode to make shooting them easier. After completing the first season, we learned that as a series of books in a niche genre, it needs more oomph. We marketed it a great deal before launch. It did well, even with the rapid release but fell off the charts after we stopped releasing.
 

 
You’re a key part of 20BooksTo50K, and a driving force behind the group’s conferences. What’s your favorite part about being involved with this group?

Changing lives. We have helped so many people to turn their lives around. The stories are amazing. I’ve had the pleasure to meet a number of incredible authors because of running the largest self-published author conference in the world.
 
 
What story (or stories) are you working on now, and what’s fun about what you’re writing?

I’m working on a number of stories right, building IP (intellectual property) through outlining and preparing three new series. I have co-writers working on three different military scifi/space operas, a space dragon trilogy, and an epic fantasy trilogy. The stuff that I personally write—my lawyer in space series is doing great and I love writing it (I’m a lawyer, too, my sordid past). The biggest new series is a Young Adult Cozy Mystery set of 24 books that we’ll publish next year—a new story every two weeks. These will be novellas, but they are going to be great fun. Look for Monster Case Files in a store near you. 🙂

About Craig

Craig retired from the Marine Corps, spending time both as enlisted and as an officer. Then he went to law school, took his law degree into business consulting where he became a business diagnostics specialist and leadership coach. He retired from that at age 52 because he was away from home way too much. That’s when he started writing full time, and he has not looked back since. This is a great ride! He have a variety of stories now since he’s been at this for a little while, lots of short stories so you can see if you like his style. He has a number of best selling novels in categories that matter to him—space opera, military scifi, Space Marine, colonization, and genetic engineering. As a serial daydreamer, it’s nice to finally get the stories on paper (virtual and digital paper, that is). And then since he runs the 20Booksto50k author group with over 25,000 members, he has taken what I’ve shared, put it into logical order, expounded on a few things, and then published it as a self-help book for indie authors.

Find Craig

Website | Facebook | Goodreads | BookBub

Interview: Scott King on “Story Pitch”


 
 
Story Pitch is in the NaNoWriMo Writing Tools bundle, a collection of a dozen books on writing. A portion of the proceeds goes directly to the Challenger Center for Space Science Education, a non-profit group created by the families of the crew of the Challenger shuttle. This bundle is only available through the end of November 2018.

Meet Scott!

Scott writes fiction, non-fiction, and is a game photographer. He produces an annual calendar that highlights board and other hobby games. He really, really likes coffee.

Story Pitch

Struggling to start your story or lost in the middle? You need a Story Pitch.

A standard pitch is meant for marketing and selling, but a Story Pitch is a powerful tool meant to be used when pre-writing and writing. It can help you jumpstart your novel, screenplay, comic, or whatever type of story you are trying to tell and it can be used as a corrective measure if you get off track during the writing process.

In this book, you’ll learn:

  • The key elements to story
  • How those elements are connected
  • How to construct a Story Pitch
  • How to use a Story Pitch for outlining
  • How to use a Story Pitch to fix character problems
  • How to use a Story Pitch when lost during writing
  • How to use a Story Pitch for writing book blurbs

If you like honesty, no bull, a bunch of humor, and tons of examples in your writing guides, then you’ll love Scott King’s Story Pitch.

Excerpt

A pitch is a description of a story that a person uses to sell it. In Hollywood, it might be that a writer is pitching a screenplay to producers, hoping they buy it. In traditional publishing, it might be an author pitching a novel to an agent who would then pitch it to one of the big six publishers.

Anytime you meet someone and they ask you about what you’ve written, whether it’s a novella, short story, or full-blown three-hundred-thousand-word epic, what you say back to them is a pitch.

Pitching is part of a writer’s world. No matter how much you might hate giving one, you can’t escape it. Book blurbs that appear on the back of a novel or on a retailer website are also pitches. They are carefully crafted descriptions meant to sell the story to a potential reader.

You can use a Story Pitch to create all the pitches I described above, but the main goal of a Story Pitch isn’t to sell the idea of your story to someone else. A Story Pitch is meant to be a tool you can use when pre-writing, writing, and re-writing your story.

Whittled down, a Story Pitch is a synopsis that introduces the key elements of your story, serves as a guide post while writing, and creates enough interest to hook the listener so they’ll want more.

– from Story Pitch by Scott King

The Interview

You write both fiction and non-fiction; do you enjoy one over the other?

I enjoy them equally but for different reasons. Fiction is my way of having fun. It’s creating worlds and characters that readers care about. I use it to offer escape, fun, and to touch upon themes that I think are important. In a different time of my life I was a college professor and doing non-fiction scratches that teaching itch. It’s not working one on one with students, but I still get to feel like I’m helping people.
 
 
The books in your Writer to Author series are all connected to fiction books of yours. Why did you decided to link your fiction with your non-fiction?

One of the biggest advantage to taking a class in writing versus reading a book about writing is that you get to see the mistakes that other students make in their writing and how they go about fixing those mistakes. By tying my non-fiction books to my fiction books it allows the reader to go on a journey with me. When I screw something up they get to see first hand how I fix it. My book on outlining doesn’t just teach how to outline, but shows how I outlined an actual novel. Want to know how a Story Pitch can be used to fix a problem? I use it to solve a major problem I was having in the original draft of my dystopian thriller Resist Them.
 

 
Why make the the tone of your non-fiction books so non-traditional?

I like coffee and poop jokes. I’m not stuffy. That shows in my books. They aren’t written in an academic style. They are written as if me and the reader are hanging out in a cool coffee shop and just talking shop about publishing and the craft of writing. It allows me to write the books in my natural voice which means I get to focus more on content than presentation.
 
 
How did you come up with the idea for your book Story Pitch?

I had previously published Finish The Script! and The Five Day Novel. One of the most popular subjects covered in both books was how to write a pitch. Since the interest seemed to be there, I decided to flesh out the concept into a full book, with a focus not just on how to write a pitch, but how to use it as a tool for pre-writing and re-writing.
 
 
What are the basic building blocks when writing a Story Pitch?

The core of every pitch has four things: Character, the Character’s Want, an antagonistic force preventing them from achieving their want, and the stakes, which is what happens if the want isn’t achieved.

So looking at Avengers: Infinity War it would break down something like this:
Character: Thanos
Want: To put together the infinity gauntlet (so he can wipe out half of all life forms to prevent overpopulation and the lack of resources)
Conflict: The Avengers are trying to stop him from doing so.
Stakes: If he fails the universe is doomed.

Things like genre, voice, and themes can all impact a pitch too, but this should give you an idea of what basic elements are and how they might fit together.
 

 
 
How can an author use a Story Pitch?

If you talk to most authors, they think pitches are important for selling a book. You pitch to an agent via a query letter or you pitch to a publisher. Then you might pitch to a potential reader via the synopsis on the back cover or the description on an online store. A story pitch is great for those things but it can also serve as a guide when writing or as a test when pre-writing.

When I was a college professor, I needed some sort of gauge to measure a student’s story before they started writing it. I had them write pitches, just so I could make sure they had a clear goal with the story they wanted to tell and I realized in doing so that it helped them stay on track through the writing process.

That’s where I think a Story Pitch really shines, helping writers shape their idea before writing. It’s also a great test when rewriting because you can compare your current draft to your original pitch. Doing so allows you to see where an element might have gotten off track or gone wrong.
 
 
Why might an author choose to write a Story Pitch for each character in their story?

Story Pitches are centered on individual characters. If a story has multiple POVs or a writer is simply struggling to understand a supporting character, writing a Story Pitch can help clear things up.

Earlier I used the example of Thanos from Infinity War. Although he is the “villain” in many ways he is the main character of the movie. He has the biggest wants. He is the most proactive of all the characters. He even has a slight arc in weighing what he is willing to sacrifice to gain his deepest wants.

Writing a Story Pitch centering on him makes sense, but the movie was an ensemble piece. It has a huge cast. Going back and writing addition pitches for the other characters would aid in fleshing out those additional story lines and themes that a writer might want to touch upon.
 
 
In Wrath of Dragons, the first book in your Elderealm series, you do some interesting and unexpected things with your dragon characters—especially with Doug the dragon. What inspired you to write about a dragon turned into a human?

There are a lot of fantasy novels where dragons are shape shifters. That’s not a new trope. What I did that was a bit sneaky is play a bit with expectations at the start of Wrath of Dragons. I set the story up so that readers would think dragons were non-intelligent beasts, because that is the view one of the POV characters has. Within the first two chapters that changes and the readers along with the POV character realize that there is more going on than they realized.

Doug’s whole story in the not just the first novel, but the series as a whole is that he is someone trying to learn how to connect with others. He’s an outcast as a dragon. He is trapped in human form. He has no family. He is simply looking for his place in the world. Although this is a fantastical setting, I think that’s something a lot of people can relate to. It’s probably why he has become one of the fan favorite characters of the series.
 
 
With so much working having to go into all stages of publishing as an indie author, do you still have fun writing?

Heck yeah. I’m a story person first. Money is great, and I’m lucky enough to make a full time income doing what I’m doing, but as things are now I make enough and I don’t need to push to make more. In a way that gives me a bit of freedom with my writing. Instead of fast tracking the next book in a series to push for quick releases, I can take a break and write a novella, non-fiction book, or whatever I want. Writing what I feel I NEED to write next instead of what I SHOULD write next keeps things fun. It lets me feel like I am prioritizing story of business.

And to be clear, there is no right or wrong reason to write. I know a bunch of authors who write and it’s a job to them. Their main goal is providing for their family or they are trying to earn a hire Amazon rank. Those reasons to write are just as legit as my reasons.
 
 
In addition to being an author, you’re also a board game photographer! What do you enjoy most about this type of photography?

People are the worst when it comes to photography. People have things they don’t like about themselves… maybe an old scar, the shape of their jaw line, the thickness of their eyebrows, or whatever. In photos they want whatever that thing they dislike to be hidden or minimized. As a photographer I like to capture things as they are and sometimes if you are photographing a person that means photographing something they don’t want. This can lead to cranky humans because you took a real portrait showing who they really are instead of what they want to appear as.

Because people can be a pain to make happy, I gravitated toward non-people photography, mostly food and landscape. That eventually lead to board games and to be honest, board games are great because they don’t have opinions of themselves. Plus publishers and designers are happy when you take real photos of their games. It’s a win-win!
 
 
You co-wrote your newest non-fiction book, Learn How to Write a Novel by Reading Harry Potter with Clark Chamberlain. What led the two of you to write this book?

Clark had done a Harry Potter class and approached me about teaming up for additional courses. Courses are not my thing, but it gave me the idea of teaming up for a book, and this book is what we decided to do!

Basically the book breaks down as a 101 class in how to write a novel and it uses Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone as the example for all the lessons. In a way it’s a layered so that someone who knows nothing about writing could come in and read it and leave with an understanding of what it takes to write a novel. On the other hand, if someone already has multiple books under their belt and knows what they are doing, Learn How to Write a Novel by Reading Harry Potter is a great re-read companion. The book is structured by chapter so you can read a chapter of The Sorcerer’s Stone and then read a chapter of Learn How to Write a Novel to see an analysis of that chapter!
 
 
What story (or stories) are you working on now?

Soooo much. It’s been a strange year.

I cranked out the first draft of Unchained Shadows, the next book in my Elderealm series. It was supposed to only be about 100k, but is pushing 200k. I’m super excited about it. It’s GOOD, but messy because my first drafts are always super messy so it needs a heavy polish and I will wrap it up by the end of the year.

I have half a dozen short stories I’m shopping around. I also have a sci-fi short story I’m turning into a novella. It’s strange and more literary than mainstream. It will probably be out sometime next spring.

Then this past summer our dog, Winchell passed away. He was raised and trained to be a seeing eye dog. It was very hard and still is for both myself and my wife, Lisa. Lisa raised him from a pup and only though a weird quirk was she able to get him back from The Seeing Eye. As part of the grieving process, I wrote a 40k sci-fi novella based on his story. The first draft is done and it needs a re-write. I’ll probably tie it into my next non-fiction book which will be about rewriting. That should also come out sometime next year!

About Scott

Scott King, an international best selling author, was born in Washington D.C. and raised in Ocean City, Maryland. He received his undergraduate degree in film from Towson University, and his M.F.A. in film from American University.

Until moving to follow his wife’s career, King worked as college professor teaching photography, digital arts, and writing related classes. He now works full time as an author.

Find Scott

Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads

Interview: Lance Bush, of Challenger Center

 

Lance Bush is President and CEO of The Challenger Center for Space Science Education. Challenger Center and its global network of Challenger Learning Centers use space-themed simulated learning and role-playing strategies to help students bring their classroom studies to life and cultivate skills needed for future success, such as problem solving, critical thinking, communication and teamwork.

A portion of the proceeds from the NaNoWriMo Writing Tools bundle goes directly to benefit the Challenger Center. This bundle, put together by Kevin J. Anderson, is an impressive collection of a dozen books on writing that will be inspirational, helpful, maybe even provocative. You can get all of the books for as little as $15. This bundle is only available through the end of November 2018, but you can always donate directly to the Challenger Center!

Meet Lance!

Lance Bush started his career at NASA as one of the chief engineers designing the next generation space transportation. He managed the International Space Station Commercial Development program. He also co-founded and served as the Chairman of the International Space Station Multilateral Commercialization Group comprised of the five partner space agencies (Canada, Europe, Japan, Russia, and the United States) and 16 countries. He has led the growth and expansion of Challenger Center, including the development of a simulation-based program that can be delivered in the classroom. Under Dr. Bush’s leadership, Challenger Center was recognized with the National Science Board’s Public Service Award for its work to promote a public understanding of science and engineering.

The Interview

While I see that you have programs for all ages, your focus has been on middle schoolers. Why did you choose to focus on that age group?

Middle school is a crucial moment in people’s lives. In middle school, approximately half of students decide not to pursue a math or science-related career path. We have success in engaging students in programs that bring science and math to life, igniting their potential and providing inspiration that helps students develop a love of learning and further pursue studies and careers in STEM subjects.

Why does the Challenger Center feel it’s important to have learning centers where kids can interact with hands-on equipment, especially since it would be less expensive not to install special equipment?

A Challenger Learning Center is a place where students from all backgrounds can come together and interact while learning important life skills. Our Centers are not only designed with hands-on simulators that provide an incredible STEM experience, but the Centers also create an environment where students practice critical 21st century skills, like communication, collaboration, and critical thinking.

Your organization has built Challenger Learning Centers not only across the U.S., but across the globe. How does that fit in with your mission?

Our mission is to ignite the potential within every student possible. We want to open their eyes to new skills and ideas that can prepare them for success in their careers and lives. Our Centers across the globe help us to reach these goals. We have already reached over 5 million students over the last 32 years and we look forward to reaching many more in the future.

You are developing a series of Classroom Adventures that use a “simulation-based” learning model. What does that mean when you are in a regular classroom rather than one of your fully equipped learning centers?

We understand that not every student can visit a Challenger Learning Center, that’s why we have developed Classroom Adventures. We want to bring the essence of a Center Mission to the classroom where teachers can deliver the program. Similar to a Mission at a Challenger Learning Center, Classroom Adventures use simulations that are delivered via a computer and include hands-on labs and activities. The program is designed to accomplish the same thing as a Mission — increase students STEM engagement, career awareness, and 21st century skills. Classroom Adventures can be designed for any age group and any STEM topic.

What kind of feedback do you get from kids? Do they have a clear favorite?

We are currently piloting our first Classroom Adventure – Aquatic Investigators — and the students love it! They get to work together with their fellow classmates to help save the Hawaiian Monk Seals.

In a similar vein, what do teachers say about the programs?

We’ve worked with over 2,000 students and their teachers rated student engagement at 4.73 out of 5, and 87% of the teachers wanted the chance to continue using the program. Both Center Missions and Classroom Adventures are effective and provide options for students and teachers to experience engaging STEM subjects in the classroom. Challenger Center programs expose students to a variety of careers, real-world experiences, and skills — teachers love that!

Christa McAuliffe, who would have been the first teacher in space, was a high school Social Studies teacher. A more obvious choice might have been a science teacher, especially since she was selected from more than 11,000 applicants. How do you think she stood out from the crowd? What were her greatest strengths as a teacher?

I believe Christa stood out because she had a great passion for teaching and I believe that’s the greatest strength any teacher can have. Christa wanted to share her lessons with students around the world; she understood the importance of STEM subjects, discovery, and exploration. These too were characteristics shared with other applicants and her backup, Barbara Morgan, who later flew as the first Educator Astronaut. Barbara Morgan helped create Challenger Center and serves as our Chair of the Education Committee on our Board of Directors.

The Challenger Center is now sharing the “lost lessons” that she developed and had planned to teach while on the mission. How have those lessons been received?

The lessons have been well received not only by students and educators, but also by the public. This was a great tribute to Christa and the crew and it came to life when two NASA Educators Astronaut, Ricky Arnold and Joe Acaba, asked Challenger Center if they could complete Christa’s Lessons. It was tremendous teamwork and after nearly 33 years, we are fortunate to complete and share Christa’s lessons and to continue the legacy of the Challenger STS-51L crew.

There have always been those who argue that we need to focus on the problems we face here on earth first, before we pursue space exploration. How would you respond to that particular view?

Space exploration can help us solve some of the problems we face here on Earth. Thanks to space exploration, scientist and engineers have developed new technology and research. Most importantly, space exploration promotes science education. The Apollo Missions inspired my generation to grow up and become scientist and astronauts – the Apollo Effect. Not everyone ended up working in the space program, and many went on to solve other issues in areas like transportation, food development, energy production, and so much more. A Mars mission will inspire a whole new generation of STEM professionals.

Is there anything I haven’t asked about that you feel is important for folks to know about the Challenger Center and your mission?

Today’s students are tomorrow’s innovators and it’s crucial they don’t lose interest in STEM subjects. That’s why our Center Missions and Classroom Adventures are developed to build students’ confidence in their own abilities and demonstrate the power of teamwork. We want to spark a passion for learning that will last a lifetime.

Find Challenger Center

Website | Facebook | Twitter | YouTube

Interview: Kevin McLaughlin on “You Must Write”


 
 
You Must Write is in the is in the NaNoWriMo Writing Tools bundle, a collection of a dozen books on writing. A portion of the proceeds goes directly to the Challenger Center for Space Science Education, a non-profit group created by the families of the crew of the Challenger shuttle. This bundle is only available through the end of November 2018.

Meet Kevin!

Kevin is an amateur astrophysicist whose hobbies include sailing, constructing medieval armor, and swinging both steel and rattan swords at his friends. He wrote his first short story at age seven, and his first novel in 2008 during NaNoWriMo.

You Must Write

No five lines of advice have built more successful writing careers than Robert Heinlein’s five rules for writers.

Whether you are new to writing or the author of many books, Heinlein’s Rules will help you bring your craft and career to the next level. This book delivers the rules in a series of practical lessons, each with exercises designed to help writers build the Rules into their own work-flow. Unlike most “writing rules”, which tend to stifle creativity, Heinlein’s Rules are focused on unleashing the most creative elements of our minds, combating our deepest and most crippling fears, and driving past the greatest obstacles most writers face to reach success.

In this book you’ll learn:

  • What Heinlein’s Rules are, and how they can fit into YOUR writing career.
  • Tools for better engaging your creative mind and shutting out the editorial voice while writing.
  • Methods for identifying and facing down fears that block your way.
  • Chapters on practical application, with examples drawn from the author’s own thirty-two-book career as a bestselling novelist.

Excerpt

The ideas in this book challenge many preconceived notions about the writing process. What you read here will fly in the face of some things you have read or been taught elsewhere. This wasn’t an easy book to write, and I expect it won’t be a simple one to read either. But it will be valuable.

There’s something about being taken outside our comfort zone which helps us to grow. Enables growth, even. It’s what we talk about in the Hero’s Journey, after all: the idea that the protagonist must go beyond their “normal world” – their comfort zone, if you will – in order to become the person they are meant to be.

I’m going to be asking you to do that inside these pages. Some of what you read here will make you uncomfortable.

But none of it is false.

If you read something that feels off to you, consider why. Think about that thing for a while. Ponder it. Try the methods suggested here. You may well find an ability to grow in your own writing practice by stepping outside your comfort zone.

There are many ways to write a book, and none of them are wrong if they eventually lead to a good book that will educate or entertain readers. In these pages I talk about one method, but I want to stress before we begin that this is only a method – not THE method. As we say, there are many roads up the mountain.

This book contains everything you need for one route. It’s a guide to reaching success as a writer that has worked for hundreds of professionals over the last seventy years. There are many ways to reach the summit – but this is a great one.

– from You Must Write by Kevin McLaughlin

The Interview

What are Heinlein’s Rules, and why do you consider them important for writers?

Heinlein wrote down five fairly simple rules for writers to follow, saying that if adhered to they would result in a successful career. Those rules?

  1. You must write.
  2. You must finish what you start.
  3. You must refrain from rewriting except to editorial order.
  4. You must put it on the market.
  5. You must keep it on the market until sold.

But we’re living in a time where common advice passed along over the years argues against this method. We’re told that revision is essential; but most of the professional writers before the advent of computing did not revise heavily, if at all. We’re told that it’s OK to write only when the muse is with us; but most writers who have achieved great success did so based on a strong work ethic.

That doesn’t mean these other bits of advice are always wrong. But neither are they always right. It’s important to have both sides of the story, so that we can learn which practices work best for us as individual writers.
 
 
Why are Heinlein’s Rules hard for most people to follow?

Mostly because fear is a difficult thing to overcome.

It’s fear which holds us back and keeps us from writing, most of the time. It might be fear of success or fear of failure, but it’s almost always fear. Then it’s fear which keeps us from finishing a work we’ve started. It’s not actually that the new idea is any better; we’re afraid that if we finish the book, we might find out it’s actually no good (or too good, for fear of success). It’s easier to never finish and therefore never face that fear.

It’s fear that causes us to revise over and over; because again, if we say ‘it’s done’, then we have to send the work out into the world, and what if it isn’t good enough? What if people laugh at us? What if they don’t, and they expect us to do the same thing again next book?

It’s fear which keeps us from putting our work out there where people can buy it and read it, fear which causes us to give up after a few rejections or a tiny handful of sales when indie publishing.

Fear is a harsh master to live under. The rules require we throw off that yoke. That’s what makes them hard to follow.
 

 
Rule #2 is “You must finish what you start.” Often, a writer will be working on a story, and then get so excited about an idea for a new story that they start working on it and never finish the first one. What tips do you have for dealing with this type of situation?

First off, just don’t do it. (chuckle) Easier said than done, I know! Oh, I get those random ideas all the time. I think most writers do. Every book I write, I seem to have at least three new ideas for something else churn up into my mind, demanding my attention.

What I used to do was write the ideas down. I’d take a notebook and put as much as I could brainstorm of the idea down onto a single page. Then I’d set the notebook down and get back to work. By writing the idea, I was telling my subconscious that I understand this new thought is important, too. That I will get to it at some point. Just not right now.

These days, I don’t even do that much. I’ve become much more ruthless about my ideas. If I have an idea for a new story in the middle of my work, I make a mental note of it and then continue working. I know part of my subconscious keeps working on the idea anyway, so I let it go. I generally have my next three or four books lined up at any given time, so if the idea is still there and still sounds exciting in a couple of months, I’ll probably slot it into my schedule somewhere. If I’ve forgotten it, then the idea probably wasn’t very good anyway.

It’s very rare that I’ll bump an idea into the middle of an existing schedule. I did it recently with the first book of a new series (“The Quantum Dragonslayer”) because I came up with the idea in part to address the trademark silliness going on in the writing community. But it’s also a really cool idea that I’m having fun with. Even then, I still waited until my current work-in-progress was completed.
 
 
Which of the Rules is the hardest one for you to follow personally, and how do you try to manage this?

The first one is the hardest for me. I suspect it is the hardest for most people.

I write pretty fast. I’m cruising along at something north of a NaNoWriMo a month, and working on getting faster – which actually means ‘spending more time hitting keys’, of course.

It’s getting there and hitting the keys that can be the hard part. It’s shutting down whatever cool science fiction TV show is attracting my attention, avoiding Facebook (the bane of all writers!), not playing silly video games on my phone, and actually getting down to work.

I erased all the games from my phone. I erased all the games from my computer. I removed all the social media apps from my phone. I installed internet blockers on my laptop, and then I go out to a coffee shop or the Boston Public Library to write. Even with all of that, it still gets hard sometimes to do as many words as I’d like!

But I persevere. With time, I will get better at this. Practice is everything.
 
 
There are currently nine books in your series Adventures of the Starship Satori. How has the series changed over time? Do you have an ending planned for the series, or do you expect to keep adding to it for the foreseeable future?

Oh, this series has changed a ton! I wrote the first bits of these books years ago when it looked like serial short works might be taking off. Each was about fifteen thousand words long. I launched them just as short serials began tanking (thanks to Kindle Unlimited changing, mostly). Then I got the idea to re-issue them as new books. I merged the first two episodes into one book and the latter three into another, then wrote a third. Now I had three novellas instead of five novelettes, and they started selling.

I made my first four-figure month thanks to those books.

But last November I took it a step further. I’d gotten better at writing in the years since they were first published, and book one was really short. Like, twenty-eight thousand words or so. I took on the challenge of rewriting the entire story, adding entire new chapters and revisiting some of the old scenes to flesh them out more. Then I relaunched them. This relaunch resulted in my first five-figure months of sales.

But wait – doesn’t that violate the Third Rule? I’d say no, for two reasons. First, because I was redrafting large chunks of the book. Redrafting (taking the old thread of an idea and writing a new version from scratch) is still writing in creative mode, rather than editorial (critical) mode. But I’d also learned over the years to split the two up. I went over the book as an editor, noting places it could be improved. Then I went back in as a writer in creative mode and improved those places. In this way I was effectively ‘revising to editorial order’. The editor said ‘make it longer’; the writer made it longer, and the book was much better as a result.

I’m not entirely sure where that series is going. I haven’t discovered yet whether Earth survives the challenges humanity is facing, and if so how. There are going to be at least twelve books before it’s all done, but it could go longer. We shall see what the story demands.
 

 
What’s the most important tip you have for following Rule #4, “You must put it on the market?”

Take the plunge and just do it. Whether you’re planning to submit the work to publishers or publish it yourself, get the work out there where people can buy it. There is a natural hesitation, especially for those first few books. Get over it. That book is not a precious flower. It is (hopefully) the first or second or third of MANY books you will write over the course of your career.
 
 
Why are backlists especially powerful for indie writers?

Well, the Starship Satori series is an awesome example. I’ve repackaged those initial stories twice now. Each time I was able to hit a new and larger audience. In fact, for the most recent relaunch (November 2017) I offered free copies of the new books to my entire mailing list. Hundreds of people took me up on the offer. I felt this was only fair, since many of them had already paid for the stories once. I didn’t want to double-charge fans to read the new versions (even though the new first book was 60% longer than the original!).

Even with the large giveaway, the relaunch was still an enormous success.

Books are evergreen. There’s no reason not to assume I can still be making money from the Satori books a decade or more from now. My backlist is mine to control, to repackage, to relaunch, to schedule push marketing around, and to do whatever else I think will get new readers.
 
 
You co-wrote The Human Experiment with Craig Martelle. What was the most surprising thing to you about the experience of collaborating with another author on this project?

Craig was a good friend who was having trouble with this book. He’d tried working with another writer before me but it ended in failure. I took on the job because the project sounded interesting. Then I ended up getting really sick; our launch was originally supposed to be late December, and it ended up getting pushed back to April. Craig was awesome through the entire time, and I’m really grateful for that.

But the most surprising thing was probably the first chapter rewrite. Craig sent the finished book to some beta readers, most of whom hated the opening of the story. We chatted about it for a bit, trying to figure out how we could punch it up a bit. Midway through the conversation, I told him to give me an hour. I wrote a new first chapter that was a huge improvement over the original and shipped it out to him. He loved the new work, and did the job of massaging the other chapters to smooth it all out.

But without that feedback from the beta readers, the book would have gone out with the original opening. I think the solution we came up with works much better, and the creative process that went into the new first chapter was fascinating.
 
 
How did your hobbies, which include building medieval armor and swinging swords, help you create the setting for your Valhalla Online series?

Well, I like to think I’ve managed to add a few elements of realism as a result! I’ve got a background which includes over a decade in the US Army Infantry, about twelve years of assorted eastern martial arts, and another decade or so of western martial arts (that’s the sword and armor part). Coupled together, I use these experiences to help build realism and believability into my fight scenes and other sorts of combat scenarios.
 

 
What story (or stories) are you working on now, and what’s fun about what you’re writing?

I’m working on finishing up the fourth and final book of the Valhalla Online series. This book has been a long while coming, and I know a lot of folks are really interested in seeing how things wrap up – especially now that Sam is back in the Ghost Wing books! I’ve merged her storyline into the same universe as the Accord of Honor books, creating one big story arc out of all of them: the Ragnarok Saga. I’m enjoying the story again, which is important for me. And since I have big plans for Sam and her friends in the future (Ghost Fleet, and then other books beyond that), it’ll be fun to see how things turn out in Valhalla Online.

What’s fun about writing, for me, is keeping it fresh. If I’m getting bored, I can pretty much guarantee my readers will be as well. I’m always working to push myself in my craft, to build better stories with each book. That is a challenge, and fun. Telling stories that are fun to create is a great part of this job, too. I think if it wasn’t fun to spin these tales, I’d probably go find some other job that was, instead. Fortunately, I love this stuff!

About Kevin

Kevin McLaughlin is a USA Today bestselling author of science fiction and fantasy novels, with over thirty books published. He is a full member of SFWA, and a professional member of the RWA.

He believes in giving back to the writing community that helped him out during the early days of his career, so he uses his experience and to boost others. He has been a speaker at Boskone, Dragon Con, the Nebula Conference, 20Books London, and many other events. A skilled public speaker with experience in education, McLaughlin sees it as both pleasure and obligation to pass along to others the skills he has learned, so that the chain of people helping people continues unbroken.

Find Kevin

Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | YouTube | Goodreads

Interview: Blaze Ward on “Pulp Speed for Professional Writers”


 
 
Pulp Speed for Professional Writers is in the NaNoWriMo Writing Tools bundle, a collection of a dozen books on writing. A portion of the proceeds goes directly to the Challenger Center for Space Science Education, a non-profit group created by the families of the crew of the Challenger shuttle. This bundle is only available through the end of November 2018.

Meet Blaze!

Blaze writes science fiction and fantasy. In addition to his own short stories and novels, he’s the editor of Boundary Shock Quarterly, a speculative fiction magazine with the motto “On theme. With weird.” He also writes non-fiction books for writers. Blaze writes very, very fast!

Pulp Speed for Professional Writers

They’ve told you that writing fast is impossible. They were wrong.

You too can create stories at the speed of the great pulp writers. Not only that, but your craft will actually get better the faster you go. It just takes time and practice.

Come learn the things I discovered as I went from writing at mundane rates to Pulp Speed.

Topics include:

  • Where did the term “Pulp Speed” come from?
  • What are the classifications of Pulp Speed?
  • How does your health and ergonomics impact your speed?
  • What is possible?

Are you ready to break loose and start turning out good stories at amazing speeds? Do you have what it takes to go “All Ahead Crazy?”

Excerpt

We should start off by talking about this thing called Pulp Speed. This is another term for Really Freaking Fast. To understand the background, we need to go back to the era of the pulp writers, which is generally from the end of the First World War, give or take, up until perhaps the end of the Fifties. So about a long generation of time.

In those days, there were not a lot of books published in the field we know today as science fiction. The modern paperback novel, as we know it, came about after World War Two, as a result of all the books that the US Government printed for soldiers during the war. That taught an entire generation of men (and women) to read for pleasure.

Before that, what you had were the magazines. Things like Amazing Stories, Worlds of Wonder, The Black Mask, Weird Tales, etc. They came and went frequently, with a only few of them surviving long, and fewer have made it clear down even to the present. Each tended to lock into a particular genre, and then tried to generate enough newsstand sales to get a subscription base going that could keep the magazine solvent. It didn’t always succeed.

For such magazines, they frequently paid a penny a word (US $) for stories in science fiction. Assuming a short story came in at 5,000 words, the story would earn the author $50. For comparison sake, the median US income in 1940 was $956, or roughly $80/month. Mind you, this is median, so just selling a single story in a month would get you a nice, lower-middle-class lifestyle. And if you sold two, you were living high on the hog.

Not every story would sell, but if you hit once or twice per month, you were set. The key was to write a lot of stories, and send them off. Every story we write is not Pulitzer material. And spending a whole month crafting such a story is no guarantee that it will be any better than one you wrote in an afternoon.

Furthermore, a lot of writers were submitting in those days, and some of them just weren’t that good at their craft. The editors had their favorites, people they could rely on to produce good enough work, on theme, on a regular basis, so they could, it turn, fill a whole magazine. But you couldn’t publish three stories by Bob Brown in the same magazine this month.

You could, however, publish three stories written by Bob Brown, and use pennames on two of them, so “Marc Jones” and “Stan Woods” could also have stories here.

What we had was an ecosystem that favored good writers who could produce good words at speed. They wrote a lot of words. Whole acres of them. Because they treated it like a job.

What does that mean?

These days, you generally go to work and are in an office or in front of a press for eight hours, with a break for lunch and smokes.

The Pulp writers sat down and typed for eight hours.

The new writer, just sitting down and figuring out her craft (and typing on a keyboard, rather than longhanding), will quickly get up to a pace of about 500 words per hour. However, she won’t be able to write for eight hours straight.

Writing for that many hours is a skill, as well as a muscle. Treat your writing the same way you would train to run a marathon. Start slow and careful, and slowly push yourself to greater lengths and speeds, rather than trying to do it all at once.

– from Pulp Speed for Professional Writers by Blaze Ward

The Interview

What is “pulp speed,” and where did the term come from?

Pulp Speed One is defined as One Million Words Per Year, or about 84,000/month. It dates back to the Pulp Writers (1920-1960 more or less) who generated an amazing number of short stories each month and sent them off to all the pulp magazines of the day.
 
 
Can anyone learn to write at pulp speed?

You can. It is a muscle, just like any other. True Pulp probably requires that you have a supportive enough spouse that you don’t have a day job any more. I was writing 450,000/yr with a full time job and a long commute. Once I had the time to think. I more than doubled my speed in about three months, and I have held at 100,000 words per month for six months now, with no slacking of pace.
 
 
Does this work better for different types of fiction, or different lengths of stories?

I write Science Fiction primarily. Dean Wesley Smith writes all over the map. I find it works better for longer pieces, because then you don’t have to spend as much time on administrative overhead (covers, blurbs, formatting, etc.) I also like to write short novels (40-50k) because then I’m in a different universe and different characters every two weeks, so it keeps me from dreading opening a file that turns into a doorstop monolith.
 

 
How do Heinlein’s Rules for Writers help writers get to pulp speed?

  1. You must write.
  2. You must finish what you write.
  3. You must refrain from rewriting, except to editorial order.
  4. You must put the work on the market.
  5. You must keep the work on the market until it is sold.

Quoted more or less above. I have a different mantra I use for writing, because I’m almost completely indie, so 4 & 5 have different meanings for me. “Sit down. Shut up. Write.”

It has to be interesting enough that you wake up in the morning and say to yourself “Oh My God I get to go make shit up for a living!!!” I cycle while I write and have taught myself to write clean first drafts, so I make a single pass after I’m done and send it to my First Reader.

Don’t rewrite. Don’t redraft. Time you spend writing your novel again is time I’m writing a second (and more) novel. Once it is done, I put it out for publication and go on to the next one. I won’t win awards for pretty words, but I make a living from my writing and most of those award winners don’t.
 
 
What inspired you to write Awaken the Star Dragon, and how does Fermi’s Paradox tie in with this?

Fermi’s Paradox: Where is everyone?

Jeffries Corollary: We are the most dangerous, psychotic species in the galaxy and they’re hiding from us.

What happens when a crime boss out there decides to abduct a criminal here? The good guys decide they have to recruit a cop.

I write a lot of so-called military SF, and grand space opera. I wanted to write something that was Pulp in feel. I envision my writer voice as standing in 1950, with the state of culture and technology then, and trying to envision the world as they would have, rather than as a modern prognosticator would. It gets silly.
 
 
Boundary Shock Quarterly is a speculative fiction magazine you started in 2018. What inspired you to start this magazine, and what are you enjoying about it?

I have always wanted to do something like this, but your choices were to either do a crowd-funding thing (Kickstarter, Indigogo, etc.) or run up a massive debt on your credit cards that probably never paid off. But the Seventh Indie Revolution in publishing has finally made the tools available to anyone with enough gumption. I wrote down every one of my steps because once I got there, I wanted others to be able to replicate it (See below) and challenge the major genre magazines. There are quality writers out there, just waiting their chance.
 

 
In addition to creating Boundary Shock Quarterly, you’ve written a book about the process: How to Launch a Magazine for Professional Publishers. What’s the biggest lesson you learned from creating this magazine?

That it was possible. That anyone could do it, if they wanted it bad enough to step up. My Syndicate has been a bit like herding goldfish from time to time (cats don’t move in three dimensions) but they’ve also come through with some quality stories that made it fun.
 
 
What have you found most interesting about the complex world-building you’ve done for your science fiction series Alexandria Station?

Inventing a Cavalry (men and women on horses = Hussar) Legion and invading a planet with it. And building outward from several hundred pages of extended universe bible about details and people. I can’t be wrong with my technology, generally because I never explain how it works. I can only be inconsistent.
 

 
What’s your most important piece of advice for authors who want to achieve pulp speed?

See above. “Sit down. Shut up. Write.”

Pulp speed is a factor of how many hours you spend at the keyboard generating words. And you must find the desire to do this. You must want this more than other things.

I sold my last television four years ago, and I don’t “watch shows.” Those are hours I spend possibly goofing off, but more likely working on story and world-building.
 
 
What’s your current pulp speed, and what do you expect is your personal max?

Currently, I have been holding at Pulp Two (100,000+/month) as a marathon pace. My personal best was Pulp Five (150,000/month) pace, except I intentionally took the last three days of the month off to hold it under that. But it is a muscle and I am writing faster now than I did even two months ago, so I might try pushing at some point, just to see.
 
 
What story (or stories) are you working on now, and what’s fun about what you’re writing?

I got a request to be in a bundle, with the curator sure I had novels he hadn’t seen. But all I have left in the genre were Book Twos+ (the Ones were already in bundles). But I offered to write something on short notice, as I was just finishing a novel that day, and needing a project to start (the writing schedule is always in pencil).

So I’m generating a new Handsome Rob novel (in the Alexandria Station universe) and it has to be done in two weeks. 🙂

About Blaze

Blaze Ward writes science fiction in the Alexandria Station universe as well as The Collective. He also writes fantasy stories with several characters and series, from an alternate Rome to epic high fantasy in the desert.

Blaze’s works are available as ebooks, paper, and audio, and can be found at a variety of online vendors. His newsletter comes out quarterly, and you can also follow his blog on his website. He really enjoys interacting with fans, and looks forward to any and all questions—even ones about his books!

Find Blaze

Website | Facebook | Goodreads

Interview: Simon Haynes on “How to Write a Novel”


 
 
How to Write a Novel is in the NaNoWriMo Writing Tools bundle, a collection of a dozen books on writing. A portion of the proceeds goes directly to the Challenger Center for Space Science Education, a non-profit group created by the families of the crew of the Challenger shuttle. This bundle is only available through the end of November 2018.

Meet Simon!

Simon Haynes is a professional, prolific writer with more than 20 years experience writing fiction. He writes novels in several different science fiction series. His work typically features an underdog fighting for survival against far stronger opponents. He’s a huge fan of Isaac Asimov’s work, in particular the robot novels and the Foundation series. He also enjoys dry, witty comedy, and loves satire.

Simon is the programmer and designer behind Spacejock Software, and is responsible for popular programs like FCharts, yWriter and yBook.

How to Write a Novel

Do any of these sound familiar?

You want to write your first novel, but you don’t know how to begin.

You’ve started writing several novels, but you never finish them.

You’ve written a novel or two, but you want to increase your output and publish more often.

If you answered yes to any of the above, this book might just be what you’re looking for!

I’m Simon Haynes, and I’ve been writing and publishing novels and short fiction for almost twenty years. This guide contains everything I’ve learned about writing a novel, both as an indie and as a trade-published author.

Maybe you want to write a novel which has been on your mind for years. You don’t care how long it takes, you just want to see it through to the end.

Or maybe you see yourself as a career novelist – there’s a real challenge – and you want to write books quickly and efficiently.

I’ve done both, and I cover both approaches in How to Write a Novel.

Excerpt

Okay, we’ve covered plotting and pantsing and there are writers who are firmly committed to each camp, but there is a third choice.

First, let’s recap:

• It can be fun to write without a plot outline, because of the freedom. On the other hand it can take five or ten times as long to write a novel this way, and the rewrites are a big part of that.

• Writing plot outlines can be fun too, because it’s like pantsing an entire novel in a few thousand words. On the other hand, writing a novel from a comprehensive plot outline can become dry and boring.

Wouldn’t it be great if there was another way, where you still had fun but also got your book finished without all that wasted time and effort? That’s where my hybrid method of writing a novel comes in, and if you get nothing else from my book, this next part should be worth the price alone. It’s changed the way I approach my novels, and I’ve gone from writing one novel per year to writing and publishing four novels in the last four months.

They’re not junk, either. The reviews have been overwhelmingly positive, and they’re probably the best-received novels I’ve ever written.

– from How to Write a Novel by Simon Haynes

The Interview

What inspired you to write How to Write a Novel?

Over the years I’ve worked out a pretty good method of delivering a completed manuscript on time. I’ve been applying it to my own work this year, and during the past eight months I’ve written and published seven novels and a 15,000 word novella.

It was after completing the sixth novel for the year that I realised others might benefit from my knowledge, and so I put together How to Write a Novel.
 

 
You often write series of standalone novels, instead of novels where each one is the sequel to the previous book. Why have you chosen to do this for some of your series?

When I was about six years old a well-meaning relative gave me a copy of Borrowers Afield by Mary Norton. It was book two in the series, a sequel to book one in every sense of the word, and I refused to read it until I could get my hands on the first.

Later in life I ended up with two books from a different three-book trilogy. These were re-issues of a 1950’s science fiction series, and the publisher only released the first two books! The front- and back- matter said NOTHING about the third title, which I found out about years later. I ended up having to buy a 1950’s first edition, and they’re as rare as hen’s teeth.

Anyway, I guess the short answer is, I’ve been burned several times by incomplete series and I don’t want to inflict the same torture on my own readers.

(To be fair, missing books is hardly a problem nowadays, thanks to ebooks.)
 
 
If you could go back in time to when you started writing, and could give your younger self one piece of advice, what would that be?

I didn’t start my first novel until I was 27, and didn’t write my first proper short story until I was 18. My advice would be to start sooner and write more!
 
 
You began writing Hal Spacejock in 1994, and are working on the ninth book in the series. What do you enjoy about writing these books, and what keeps you engaged after spending so many years with Hal Spacejock and Clunk the robot?

They’re a fantastic comedy duo (trio, if you include the Navcom). When the three of them get together, scenes just write themselves.

But honestly, I can’t seem to avoid these characters. I managed to work Clunk into my new fantasy trilogy, and all of my novels are interconnected somehow, even the middle-grade titles.
 

 
How to Write a Novel contains a section on facing fear. What’s your most important piece of advice to writers who are dealing with fear?

Most of us worry that our first novel will be a pile of unreadable rubbish. Well, I’m here to tell you … it probably will be! Mine certainly was, and not only that, it was only about ⅓ of a full length novel to boot.

Maybe the second novel is another pile of rubbish, but if you find a story to tell, and write about engaging characters facing interesting challenges, eventually it’ll come together.

Like anything, it takes practice.
 
 
What is yWriter, and why did you create it?

I was a short story writer to begin with, and I’d start writing at the beginning and keep typing until I had 2, 3, 4000 words. Then I’d type The End and start posting it off to markets.

When I started on a novel, with multiple plot lines and points of view, I got to about 20,000 words and it all became too much to handle. I knew I’d written a certain paragraph, but couldn’t find it.

As a computer programmer I deal with software code broken up into small, easy-to-handle chunks. I wanted the same thing for my novel writing, and so I designed yWriter to be more like a programmer’s tool than a document editor.
 
 
Some authors outline their novels ahead of time; others write into the dark. What approach do you use, and do you follow the same approach for each book?

Both, and no!

This is a sore point, because this year I’ve written 3 novels to strict outlines, and another 4 which I just wrote any old how. They all turned out fine, it was just a very different process.

So, with my latest I sat down and wrote a 5,000 word plot outline. It only covered the first ⅔ of the novel. And then, as I started on chapter one, Hal and Clunk kicked the entire outline to the kerb and went off on the adventure THEY wanted to have.
 
 
Tell us about the world’s deadliest paper plane!

Oh yes, true story. I made this acrobatic plane and threw it straight onto the neighbour’s roof. (This was in rural Spain.) They weren’t there, since it was a holiday home in the off-season, so I climbed up the stairs to this kind of rooftop patio, and I could see my plane further up the roof, on the tiles. I reached up to climb past this kind of metal wire fence, then froze. The ‘metal wire fence’ was the overhead high-voltage power lines, which were only about three feet above the roof!

Talk about shoddy building standards. They must have built the house under existing powerlines and just left them there.
 
 
Clunk, the robot in your Hal Spacejock series, also appears in your Robot vs. Dragons series, where you’ve stranded him on a planet that doesn’t have space travel. Why did you decide to create a new series that included Clunk, and has this created any challenges for you as the author–or any unexpected opportunities?

Earlier in 2018 I posted a joke cover for April Fools, the title of which was ‘A Game of Clunks’. There was a shield with a cog on it, and a joke about the robot ‘who couldn’t bend the knee, or anything else.’

The reaction was amazing, with people saying I HAD to write it. I was only 10,000 words in when I realised it had just become a dreaded trilogy. I mean, the books have FOURTEEN sub-plots and a cast of dozens. There was no way I was going to wrap that lot up in one novel.
 

 
What story (or stories) are you working on now, and what’s fun about what you’re writing?

Hal 9, Hal Junior 4 and 5, a three-book series featuring a rookie fighter pilot (scifi), and four adult comedy novels under a pen name. The fighter pilot appears in Hal 9, as an older character, which was a deliberate choice. I intended to include her as a cadet, but decided to make her a senior officer in Hal 9, and a cadet in the series. Same thing I did with the Harriet Walsh Peace Force books.

The variety is what makes it fun!

About Simon

Simon Haynes was born in England and grew up in Spain. His family moved to Australia when he was 16.

In addition to novels, Simon writes computer software. In fact, he writes computer software to help him write novels faster, which leaves him more time to improve his writing software. And write novels faster.

Between 2005 and 2012, Simon completed NaNoWriMo six times. He’s still recovering.

Simon’s goal is to write fifteen novels (quickly) before someone takes his keyboard away.

Update 2018: goal achieved and I still have my keyboard!

New goal: write thirty novels.

Find Simon

Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads

Interview: Dean Wesley Smith on “How to Write a Novel in Ten Days”


 
 
How to Write a Novel in Ten Days is in the NaNoWriMo Writing Tools bundle, a collection of a dozen books on writing. A portion of the proceeds goes directly to the Challenger Center for Space Science Education, a non-profit group created by the families of the crew of the Challenger shuttle. This bundle is only available through the end of November 2018.

Meet Dean!

Dean has written over two hundred novels, and hundreds and hundreds of short stories. In addition to his many original novels, he’s also written film novelizations, Star Trek novels, and has ghostwritten a number of other books. He’s the editor of Pulphouse Fiction Magazine, and is one of the executive editors for the original anthology series Fiction River.

How to Write a Novel in Ten Days

Even in today’s fast-paced world, the myth that writing fast equals writing badly—or, conversely, writing well equals writing slowly—persists. Now, USA Today bestselling author Dean Wesley Smith aims to shatter this myth once and for all with this latest WMG Writer’s Guide.

In a series of blog posts, Smith chronicled his process toward ghost writing a 70,000-word novel for a traditional publisher in just ten days. He wrote about his progress, his feelings about the writing, and how he approached and overcame obstacles. This book takes readers on a journey that demonstrates that writing fast, and writing well, comes from motivation and practice.

Excerpt

This book is pretty easy to explain. It is simply a series of twelve blog posts, one per day, that I did over a stretch of 12 days just under a year ago. The point of the blogs was to detail out a novel I wrote for a traditional publisher in ten days. I had one post ahead of the writing days and one after I finished the book to wrap up.

All twelve are here.

Now granted, as each day went on, I added to the post, and at the end of the day I did a summary on each post. So if you were following this (as thousands were on my web site hour-by-hour), you would see each post grow as each day went on.

The goal of doing the blogs was to help take out the mystery of “writing” fast and show how it can be done easily. You just spend the time. Writing fast is not typing fast, it’s just sitting in the chair and writing for numbers of hours.

A little background: I have written and sold over a hundred novels to traditional publishers over the last twenty-five years. Some years I wrote a great deal, some years I took off during those twenty-five years and wrote no books. But after a hundred plus novels, I know how to write a novel.

I wrote this into the dark, as some writers call this type of writing. In other words, I had no outline. And the novel was published by the publisher with no rewrites from me.

I have left all the blog posts pretty much as I wrote them here in this book, because I felt that would be the best way to detail out the feeling of those ten days.

So I hope this journey through the daily writing process of a novel by a professional novelist is fun and entertaining and enlightening.

I had fun detailing out the process as well.

Enjoy the journey and have fun with your own writing.

– from How to Write a Novel in Ten Days by Dean Wesley Smith

The Interview

 
 
Why did you decide to write a novel in ten days?

Honestly, it was a ghost project and they needed it quickly, then delayed the payment and I never start writing until I have the contract and first payment. Learned that lesson the hard way early on. So by the time the payment got there, I had moved on and just wanted this out of my hair.
 
 
You wrote this book as a way to document your experience ghostwriting a ~70,000 word novel in ten days. Was this an unusual amount of writing for you in this type of time period?

Nope, not at all. About normal for me when I am writing to be honest. I am not a fast typist, so I manage about 1,000 words per hour. For something like this it just means I actually write for more hours is all. Nothing magical at all. I am prolific and fast because I spend more time in my writing chair than others do.


 
 
You write “into the dark,” meaning you don’t create outlines, but instead just sit down and start writing? What type of plan did you have when you started the novel? Without an outline, how did you know the result would come in around the required 70,000 words?

After a hundred novels or so, you tend to know how long a novel will be as you go along, even though you have no idea where the book is going. Just practice, I guess. And a sense of the pacing of the book. A shorter novel has a different form of pacing.
 
 
If you could go back in time to when you started writing, and could give your younger self one piece of advice, what would that be?

Follow Heinlein’s Rules much sooner and never fall off of them for any reason.
 
 
What is the “magic bakery?”

A metaphor to understand copyright. Most writers don’t have a clue about copyright and what they license. The magic bakery metaphor makes it easy to understand and real.
 
 
Your Thunder Mountain novel series combines time travel and the Old West. What inspired this series, and what do you enjoy about writing it?

I have always loved and written time travel, and my families on both sides were pioneers into the Pacific Northwest way, way back. And as a kid my grandparents would take me to old ghost mining towns and tell me what they were like when people lived in them. Also, on one trip into old mining country when I was an early teenager, a friend of mine and I went into an old gold mine (really stupid) and found a bunch of crystals. So that experience and my love of the Old West and time travel just sort of came together. I am working on a new Thunder Mountain book at the moment, actually.


 
 
You and your wife, Kristine Kathryn Rusch, have taught writing workshops for decades, and every year you offer new online classes. What do you enjoy about this?
 
 
The learning. It challenges us both to figure out ways to teach a topic and then I keep learning from the writers taking the workshops as well. We would stop them in a heartbeat if I wasn’t still learning and hungry for the knowledge.
 
 
Pulphouse Fiction Magazine is a reincarnation of a magazine you and Kris offered through the small press Pulphouse Publishing from 1988 through 1993. Why did you decide to bring the magazine back after a twenty year absence? What’s different this time around?

Not much, actually. Crazy, fun stories that are high quality and make people think. What we were trying to do back in the early 1990s. And I thought it would be fun, which after a year, it has been great.


 
 
Your Cold Poker Gang Mystery series is focused around a group of retired Las Vegas police detectives playing poker and solving cold cases. Has what you write for this series since you moved to Vegas? And how does your own expertise as a poker player help with these books?

No poker in the books. The idea was a spin-off of a thriller I wrote called “Dead Money” which was about poker. Nothing has changed since I moved to Las Vegas because I haven’t written a new one here. Plus I really knew Las Vegas before I moved here, so can’t imagine anything changing. I love writing those mysteries. They are so much fun.
 
 
What story (or stories) are you working on now, and what’s fun about what you’re writing?

Working at the moment on a new Thunder Mountain novel. Not sure after that since I never know what I will write until I sit down and start writing. I just like entertaining myself. Figure if I do that, others might like it as well.

About Dean

Considered one of the most prolific writers working in modern fiction, USA Today bestselling writer Dean Wesley Smith published far more than a hundred novels in forty years, and hundreds of short stories across many genres.

At the moment he produces novels in four major series, including the time travel Thunder Mountain novels set in the Old West, the galaxy-spanning Seeders Universe series, the urban fantasy Ghost of a Chance series, and a superhero series starring Poker Boy.

His monthly magazine, Smith’s Monthly, which consists of only his own fiction, premiered in October 2013 and offers readers more than 70,000 words per issue, including a new and original novel every month.

During his career, Dean also wrote a couple dozen Star Trek novels, the only two original Men in Black novels, Spider-Man and X-Men novels, plus novels set in gaming and television worlds. Writing with his wife Kristine Kathryn Rusch under the name Kathryn Wesley, he wrote the novel for the NBC miniseries The Tenth Kingdom and other books for Hallmark Hall of Fame movies.

He wrote novels under dozens of pen names in the worlds of comic books and movies, including novelizations of almost a dozen films, from The Final Fantasy to Steel to Rundown.

Dean also worked as a fiction editor off and on, starting at Pulphouse Publishing, then at VB Tech Journal, then Pocket Books, and now at WMG Publishing, where he and Kristine Kathryn Rusch serve as series editors for the acclaimed Fiction River anthology series.

Find Dean

Website | Facebook | Goodreads

Interview: Jason Chen on StoryBundle

What is StoryBundle?

StoryBundle offers collections of DRM-free ebooks where readers select the price they want to pay for the bundle, and can choose to donate a percentage of the portion of the proceeds to charity. At a certain price threshold, “bonus” books are unlocked. Readers download the books directly to their tablet, ereader, computer, or smartphone.

One of the current bundles is the NaNoWriMo Writing Tools bundle, a collection of a dozen books on writing. A portion of the proceeds goes directly to the Challenger Center for Space Science Education, a non-profit group created by the families of the crew of the Challenger shuttle. This bundle is only available through the end of November 2018.

Meet Jason!

Jason started StoryBundle in mid-2012 because he was seeing people bundle games and other things, but not books.

The Interview

How did you come up with the idea of creating StoryBundle.com?

It’s hard to remember now, in 2018, but back in 2012 there were no book bundles and there were no box sets on Amazon! It was very difficult to find curated sets of books that were both high in quality and sold for a good price. Nobody was putting different authors together back then—as far as most readers knew—so I thought it was a very good market for people who wanted to fill up their ereaders.

So we took this idea for curated books, coupled it with quality authors and curators, plus made an easy delivery system that allowed anybody with essentially any electronic device capable of reading ebooks to enjoy the books, DRM-free!

How do you select curators to create bundles?

We pick our curators from authors we’ve worked with before. This is so that we know how their tastes run, how their promotional efforts go and if they can handle the job of curating, since it’s a totally different set of skills than writing and promoting.

Does StoryBundle put together bundles as well, or are they always managed by outside curators?

We started by curating the bundles ourselves, but as we’ve grown, we’ve moved to an almost 100% author/publisher curating platform.

Does StoryBundle participate in the selection of authors/books for bundles?

We leave most of the curating to the authors/publishers, but we do sometimes make suggestions or try and introduce authors to each other that make sense for different bundles.

If a curator wants to donate to a charity not on your current list of charities, is it possible to add to this list?

Definitely! We’re open to adding new charities all the time, and we work together with the authors to find one that makes the most sense for the bundle theme. And if they don’t have one specifically in mind, we have a lot of charities that we’ve worked with in the past that may fit.

What are the biggest mistakes you see some curators make?

By far the biggest mistake is that some curators think the curation is done after choosing authors to be in the bundle. I would say at least half of the job of curator is to promote the bundle, arrange for authors to promote and figure out how best to get the word out. Because the curator knows the theme of the bundle, how it was assembled and which authors are in it, they’re the best equipped to market the bundle and try and get as many eyes on it as possible.

Is there a limit to how many bundles can be available at any given time?

There’s no technical limit, but the practical limit is that we only launch one bundle a week that go for 3 weeks each. Technically there can be 4 bundles live at once. We’ve also found that it’s good to stagger the bundle themes, so they don’t overlap too much with each other. It’s really no good to have 4 sci-fi bundles live at once, because a potential reader wouldn’t pick up all 4 sci-fi bundles. Instead, we recommend doing a mix of bundles so that readers with different tastes can find at least one bundle they enjoy, and maybe a second in a different genre while they’re here.

How much lead time do you recommend to set up a Storybundle?

We recommend at least a couple months for new curators, but experienced curators with lots of connections can set it up in about a month. Of course the longer the curators have, the better, since it takes publishers often a few weeks to get the books approved to be in a bundle.

What is the minimum and maximum number of books allowed in a bundle? Is there an “ideal” number of books?

The minimum we aim for is at least 8, but there’s no hard maximum. Some bundling sites shove in as many books as they can find for every bundle, but we take the long view that we don’t want to de-value the concept of ebooks. Here’s our thinking: If you can get 25-30 books at once for a really cheap price, how likely is it that you’re going to finish all of them? Unlikely, yes? And how likely are you going to be to buy another bundle when you have 15-20 books in your backlog that you may want to read, but will never get around to? It makes it difficult for subsequent bundles to appeal, and if you’re pricing your books at just cents per book, what message are you sending to readers as far as how much you value those books? And to authors?

Long story short is that just because we’re combining books together in a bundle, we don’t de-value the individual book and we want to make sure we make this sustainable for all our authors and for us as well.

How long are bundles generally available for? Is there a set amount of time, or can this vary

We usually have our bundles for 3 weeks, but certain bundles, like the NaNoWriMo Writing bundles, go for 2 months to cover the ramp-up to NaNoWriMo and the month of November itself!
 
 

 
 
Promotion for bundles is primarily done by the curator and the participating authors. What promotional techniques have you seen people have the most success with?

There’s no one best way to promote a bundle, sadly, or else we would copy and paste the method for every bundle! A variety of things have worked for us in the past, such as involving the charity, getting different blogs to help promote, reaching out to author friends to signal boost, and even getting more notable people to talk about the bundle on social media.

What do you enjoy most about running StoryBundle?

This may be a sappy answer, but the thing I will take away when StoryBundle is over is the friends I’ve made along the way. Getting to correspond with authors has made some friends that I wouldn’t have imagined I would make before I started StoryBundle, and I’m sure these friendships will last when the site is over. It’s been great to get to see different authors’ writing processes from the outside, and I’m cheering for all of them to do well no matter where they’re selling their books!

About Jason

Before starting StoryBundle, Founder Jason Chen covered technology and software as an editor for Gizmodo.com and Lifehacker.com. Before that, Jason was a software engineer, a student, and way before that, a fetus.

Find StoryBundle

Website | Facebook | Twitter | StoryBundle FAQ

Interview: Mark Leslie on the “Books Gone Bad” bundle

Meet Mark!

Mark is an author, professional speaker, and bookseller, with more than a quarter century of experience in writing, publishing, and bookselling. He started writing at 13, and has written three novels, a number of non-fiction books on locations where ghostly and eerie things occur, published numerous short stories, and edited quite a few story collections.

He has a podcast on writing and publishing, publishes a regular video series in which he reads from either his short fiction or his eerie non-fiction, and does many, many other things. Mark loves craft beer, has a skeleton sidekick named Barnaby, and has managed to combine his love of beer with his love of the unexplained.

Books Gone Bad

Books make the world a better place. They are, perhaps, the only thing you can buy that actually make you richer. As Stephen King says, “Books are a uniquely portable magic.”

But what if it were actually true? What if there was actual magic emanating from a book itself? What if a book was sentient? What if a book could actually interact in our world? What if there is something a bit more evil or sinister lurking in the pages?

What if a book doesn’t just open up a world of possibilities to a reader, but, instead, brings the reader into that world? And what about the people for whom books are a central part of their lives? How do they interact with, or perhaps, include books in their magic, their schemes, their lives? How do they protect the infinite possibilities that books store and provide?

This bundle of about 260,000 words from 10 short stories and 2 novels includes explorations of books and the world of books that include magical, supernatural, science fiction or speculative elements. Book nerds will…

The Interview

Books Gone Bad ties the themes of books and magic together. What inspired you to create this bundle?

I have always been a giant book nerd. Books are a special type of magic all on their own. But I have long enjoyed reading stories that center on books and bookish people. I had a short collection of stories on that theme and was trying to figure out a way that I and perhaps some other authors could cross-promote one another. I thought that a themed bundle like this might be just the thing for readers like me.

Having had previous great experiences being part of collaborative BundleRabbit bundles, I thought this might be a great way for me to get my feet wet in curating a bundle to my reading passions.

If this project helps me and the other writers earn a little, perhaps sell more, or attract new fans, then great. If not, then at the very least the project has given me some fun stories to read and enjoy.

This bundle contains your book Active Reader, a collection of three short stories related to books and bookstores. How did your years of experience working in bookstores tie in with this collections?

My experience in bookstores ties in quite tightly with this collection. While one tale (“Browsers”) in the collection is about getting lost in a bookstore (which is more from the browser’s point of view and inspired by an actual experience I had visiting a bookstore in Hamilton, Ontario and getting lost in the store), the other two tie directly to my own bookselling experience. “Active Reader,” the title story, is about the misuse of a bookstore loyalty program (and a story that occured to me when I was in the midst of selling the “Avid Reader” card for a book chain I worked at). And though “Distractions” is about a writer dealing with a combination of writer’s block and distractions, it’s really another cautionary tale about those who follow the advice of self-help gurus (whose books I sold a ton of over the years).

In addition to writing fiction, you have a podcast! On Stark Reflections you interview authors, people in both the traditional and indie-publishing communities, and provide your own reflections on writing and publishing. What do you enjoy about your podcast, and how has it surprised you?

What I love best about the podcast is that it keeps me engaged and learning from authors and other folks from creative industries. With every single chat and interview, I find myself learning something new, or perhaps re-learning something I’d forgotten about. And every single time, the conversation inspires something in me.

While I know the podcast offers quality (ie mean, c’mon, look at the breadth of knowledge that my guests bring) and I know the listener base is constantly growing, I am surprised when I meet someone while out and about, at a conference, etc, who mentions they listen to the podcast and they love the content I provide as well as the open-sharing that I do. I figured my podcast was just another voice adding to an already almost saturated market, but the surprise is how many folks share that they feel it provides a fresh perspective that isn’t offered in the same way elsewhere. Perhaps they appreciate my attempt to balance the traditional and self-publishing perspectives, which I haven’t really seen in the podcasts I have been enjoying listening to.

You’ve combined your love of haunted places with your love of craft beer. Tell us about Spirits Untapped!

I have always been afraid of ghosts, monsters and the unknown and have long described myself as a Book Nerd. So I thought that writing the book TOMES OF TERROR: Haunted Bookstores & Libraries would be the crowning moment of the book I was meant to write.

But then, in 2014, I met Liz, my partner. On our first date, we met up for a beer (both being self-described craft beer enthusiasts) and the rest is history. As our relationship grew out of that first date, our exploration of both ghostly tales and the spirit of beer culture grew from that.

At some point a couple of years ago, we realized that all the traveling that we did together to various beer locations, could be used in a book. So we started the SPIRITS UNTAPPED blog as a way to document some of our beer adventures. While the blog and website itself is for the exploration of the SPIRIT of craft beer culture, the forthcoming book SPIRITS UNTAPPED: Haunted Bars & Breweries, will focus on the ghosts and eerie and unexplained events in bars, breweries and restaurants.
So, apparently, there’s a second “crowning moment” of the book I was meant to write. In this case, Liz and I are writing the book together, so it’ll be a dual crowning moment for us.

How did you select the stories for the Books Gone Bad bundle?

I logged onto the BundleRabbit website and did a few keyword searches for books, booksellers, librarians, then scrolled through the titles available. I also reached out to a few friends to see if they had any titles that might be applicable for such a theme and asked them to submit the title to BundleRabbit so it could be included in the bundle.

It was a fun experience, because as I was scrolling, I picked the stories that were bookish in theme and were ones that I responded to with: “Gee, I’d really like to read that.” So if that were the case, I reached out and asked the author if they would like that story to be included.

You’ve participated in story bundles before, but this is the first one you’ve curated. How has the experience been? What have you learned, liked, or disliked?

Having selected for and edited anthologies, I was already familiar with that type of curation experience. But this one was somewhat easier, because most of the stories were already out there and “completed” and already available. That part was easy.

I think I underestimated the time involved in helping to push and promote the anthology. I created short videos and multiple creative assets for my books as well as the others in the anthology, but, because I’ve been up to my eyeballs with more tasks than I can handle, I let my own promotional efforts slip – I was a bit disappointed to see minimal promotional efforts overall outside of the few things I had done.

There was a really smart curator (you might know her) who told me her method of choosing authors – she shared that she spent a bit of time exploring each author’s own social media and promotional presence as part of her strategy. IE, if they seemed to be active, they were more likely to put some effort into supporting the bundle. I suppose that’s something I learned that I can take with me going forward.

I’m not saying that I’m disappointed, because I think that the stories collected in the bundle are excellent tales by great writers. I suppose I was expecting each author to do at least a bit more sharing of the bundle – but the good news is that soon I’ll likely have time, again, to focus on promoting the bundle (I already have a promo scheduled via a manual request through BundleRabbit), and, since it’s not a limited time release, perhaps different authors will push it at different times, spreading out the effect.

After all, it’s NOT just about the first 30 to 90 days – it’s about long term sales. And it’s a quality bundle, regardless of when or how people discover it over time.

You’ve worked in virtually every type of bookstore, including at an online bookstore – Kobo, where you drove the creation of their author/small publisher platform. What do you miss about working in physical bookstores?

The thing I miss most about working in physical bookstores are the daily interactions with readers and customers and the tactile experience of holding books, unpacking new books and placing books in customers hands.

I created Kobo Writing Life to fulfill a need. I’d been self-published to Kobo, but they didn’t have an easy way for authors or small publishers to get into their systems (not without doing a lot of technical gymnastics) – Also, I had created a similar system for Chapters/Indigo (Canada’s version of Barnes and Noble) about 10 years earlier, so it was using the same methodology – create a FEW platform, let people publish their work and support them in ways to help them grow their sales.

In a nutshell, I created Kobo Writing Life for me to use as an author. Using that as a basis, it’s obvious that there were tens of thousands of other authors who wanted and needed the tool as well. So, like advice writers are given, I focused on a niche and a target audience (me), and many other people like me found it useful as well.

#FreeFridayFrights is an audio and video series where you do live readings of your short stories and your non-fiction about ghosts and eerie tales.

Yeah, I started it back in April 2018 as an experiment of providing something free for two main reasons – 1) to expand and grow my author brand and 2) to give people a free taste of what my writing was like in the hopes that they might consider being a reader/fan of my work.


What story (or stories) are you working on now, and what’s fun about what you’re writing?

Apart from a non-fiction book that outlines my 25+ years of experience as a bookseller, I am working on a variety of short fiction projects as well as finishing up some of the longer/novel length works.

I am the poster child for “do what I say, not what I do” because, despite some of the advice I offer to authors, I have three novels that are the first books in three different series’ out with not a single sequel finished.

For EVASION (Book One in my “Desmond Files” series), I have a ¾ completed COVERSION sequel that I’m working through.

For A CANADIAN WEREWOLF IN NEW YORK (Book One in my “Canadian Werewolf” series), I have a 50% completed draft of FEAR AND LONGING IN LOS ANGELES that I’m working through.

If I were smarter, and followed my own advice, I’d finish off EVASION with COVERSION and the final book in the trilogy, INVASION. And I’d also get my butt back on the “Canadian Werewolf” series which looks like it could be part of something a bit longer. After all, my hero, Michael, has plenty of ways to exploit his “superhero” wolfish abilities.

And that’s not to mention I, DEATH (which I did sell to a publisher – however, I just secured the audiobook rights back from the publisher so do plan on turning that into an audiobook while drafting out the next stories in that series)

Speaking of audiobooks I plan on releasing an audio-book ONLY version of “The Best of Free Friday Frights” – again, just a test concept, since the FreeFridayFrights are mostly previously published stories – I love playing and experimenting with different forms and so compiling an audiobook that combines so many different moving parts could be interesting (especially since I’d already paid for several of the stories I would include to be professionally narrated)

Again, more projects than there are hours in the day. But I love having tons of things to choose from. I never get bored.

About Mark

Mark Leslie would be the first person to admit he’s still afraid of the monster under his bed.

Proudly adopting the term “Book Nerd” for himself, Mark is a writer, editor and bookseller and is most comfortable with a pen in hand, fingers on keyboard or with his nose stuck in a book.

His first book, ONE HAND SCREAMING (2004) collected mostly previously published short stories and poetry along with a few original tales. His other fiction includes I, DEATH (2014), EVASION (2014) and A CANADIAN WEREWOLF IN NEW YORK (2016). Mark’s dark fiction is often compared to “Twilight Zone” or “Black Mirror” in terms of style, exploring “what if” themes with contemporary settings that include speculative elements, gently skipping around the genres of sci-fi, horror and urban fantasy.

Apart from editing science fiction anthologies NORTH OF INFINITY II (2006), TESSERACTS SIXTEEN: PARNASSUS UNBOUND (2012) the horror anthology CAMPUS CHILLS (2009) as well as FICTION RIVER: EDITOR’S CHOICE (2017) and FICTION RIVER: FEEL THE FEAR (2017) Mark writes non-fiction “true ghost story” books that include HAUNTED HAMILTON: The Ghosts of Dundurn Castle & Other Steeltown Shivers, SPOOKY SUDBURY: True Tales of the Eerie & Unexplained TOMES OF TERROR: Haunted Bookstores & Libraries, CREEPY CAPITAL: Ghost Stories of Ottawa & The National Capital Region and HAUNTED HOSPITALS: Eerie Tales About Hospitals, Sanatoriums, and Other Institutions among others.

Mark continues to publish short fiction in small press horror magazines and anthologies and most recently had stories appear in TESSERACTS SEVENTEEN (2015), FICTION RIVER: SPARKS (2016) and 2113: Stories Inspired by the Music of Rush (2016)

Born in Sudbury Ontario, Mark has courted with a serious addiction to reading and writing his entire life. He has called both Ottawa, Ontario and Hamilton, Ontario home and currently lives in Waterloo, Ontario.

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