How do you get your story ideas?
Story ideas are all around you. The initial idea for opening The Militant Genome came while I took my own Advanced Trauma Life Support credentialing course. Then, a newspaper article on militias in the Ozarks caught my attention. The two ideas came together to form the skeleton of the novel. A number of articles on the creative process have presented the idea that we are often most creative when most relaxed. I’ve personally found that to be true in that ideas seem to flow more easily while taking a warm shower, or in that near sleep period just prior to waking up. In fact, if I’m really stuck on how to proceed with a story, I usually come up with the solution while lying in bed just before getting up in the morning.
More recently, my ideas have come from news reports on issues that I see as injustices to the victims. Those victims might be young women who are trapped in the human trafficking industry, or families torn apart by the state which takes away children without giving due process to the parent(s). In the latter, most of those parents are never even charged with a crime.
Which authors do you personally like?
My wife and I read a lot of different authors, but we are partial to edge-of-the-seat thrillers and good suspense and tend to enjoy the same authors. Among our favorites, in no particular order, are Tess Gerritsen, Brad Thor, Steve Berry, Lee Child, David Baldacci, Michael Palmer, Daniel Silva, and James Patterson (although not his apprentices so much). And of course, our year wouldn’t be complete without a dose of Janet Evanovich humor with Stephanie Plum.
What best describes your writing habits?
Habit might be the wrong word here, at least for now. My writing schedule is totally erratic. There are days where no writing gets done. Some days I’ll get a page or two written, but if I have a scene (or more) clearly “mapped out” in my head, I might crank out ten to fifteen pages in a day. In the summer, less writing gets done than in the colder months. One factor to keep in mind is that I’m not a full-time author and I have no publishing company harping on me to keep to a schedule, so any pressure I feel to write is self-inflicted. Still, I’d like to be able to produce a book a year and I can do that despite my erratic writing schedule.
Do you have any advice for aspiring writers?
It sounds trite, but read a lot and start writing. Often, it’s a matter of overcoming the inertia that has kept you from writing to begin with. Writing well is hard work and requires that you have a level of passion to keep it up, which is easier if you write about things you know. Yet, don’t hesitate to stretch yourself and learn about those things you don’t know. Writing is also a craft and any craft takes time to learn. Go to seminars, join critique groups, and read instructional books to learn the craft. And when you think you’re ready, find an experienced editor to work with. Good ones don’t come cheap, but they will be an immense help in crafting a quality story.
Why did you opt to self-publish electronically, rather than go the traditional route of finding an agent and publisher?
To be honest, I spent years trying to go the “traditional route,” having felt that being accepted by a major publisher somehow validated my work. There was also a stigma attached to self-publishing that implied poor quality. (That stigma has become less and less as high quality writing is common in self-published works.) I diligently sent out queries, filed away the rejections, and kept hoping for ‘that break.’ With The Militant Genome I received numerous replies that it was “a great book … but not for us.” My editor believed in the book and bent over backwards to put me in contact with agents he knew. Same replies. As a Christian, I firmly believe God’s Word when He says He’ll bless the work of our hands, but I kept wondering why it wasn’t happening. Then, our Pastor said something during a sermon that released me to take the plunge into self-publishing. To paraphrase his comments to my specific situation, who was going to get the ‘glory’ when my book succeeded–a publishing company, me, or God? I’d been holding Him back by waiting for a publisher to take on my work. It was time to move ahead and give Him the glory.
Okay, why the cliffhanger ending in Looks That Deceive?”
I’ve been asked this several times, and I’ve been hesitant to answer in an open forum without some formal spoiler alert. Let me just say that the cliffhanger was never intended at the beginning of the writing process. I had an idea for a plot. My editor liked the idea and I decided to incorporate it into book 2, Rescued and Remembered. The only way it could happen was to have the cliffhanger ending in book 1. Some think it was a marketing ploy, but that was never really a consideration. In fact, in hindsight, it’s been a negative factor in marketing. Yet, it is what it is now.
Will we ever learn which guy Amy ends up with?
Sure, at some point. This is a series and not everything is going to resolve in the first few books. Did Castle win over Beckett in the series premiere? Did Harry Potter overcome his parents’ enemy in the first book? So, yes, the love interest will resolve, eventually. No spoilers here. As of November 2017, I plan on a minimum of eight books in the series, so hang in there.
I’ve downloaded the eBook file for my Kindle, but it doesn’t show up on my device. Did I do something wrong?
First off, the .mobi file is indeed the correct Kindle file, but downloading it doesn’t automatically load it onto your Kindle. And trying to open it on your computer gives you the a message that the file is corrupted. The way Amazon does it is that they assign a @kindle.com email address to every Kindle and device with a Kindle app, and they email the file to the Kindle. You can do the same thing. First, you need to use the email address registered to your Amazon account (the one you use to sign in to Amazon) to send the file. Second, you need the @Kindle.com address for your device. The fastest way to find that is to go to your Kindle or Kindle app, and find the Settings option in the menu. It might be under a “More” selection in the main menu. Under the Settings option, you’ll find a “Send to Kindle Email Address.” That’s the address you need. You can also go to Amazon.com, select “Account & Lists” in the main menu bar, and select “Your Content and Devices” from that drop-down menu. In the “Your Content and Devices” window, you’ll see three tabs, the middle one being “Your Devices.” If you select that, you will find a list of all of your devices–Kindles as well as phones, tablets, computers, etc. that have a Kindle app. Each device has a button to the left of its name, with an ellipse in it. Hitting that button will produce a pop-up window showing the device’s @kindle.com address.
Okay. So now you have your device’s email address. Again, using the email address that your Amazon account is set up with, create a blank email (no subject or content) and attach the .mobi file you wish to send (you’ll find it in your Downloads folder). Although I think you can send the email with more than one attachment, I suggest just one .mobi file per email to help prevent file corruption. Within minutes of sending the file, the ebook should appear in your Kindle’s library.
This process can also be used to send other files (pdf, etc.) to your Kindle, as long as the file is in a format recognized by your device. Newer devices recognize formats that older Kindles might not, such as epub.