Friday, March 30, 2012

Interview with author James Hockings

1.) For those who don't know you, James, can you tell us about your books and yourself as a writer? 

I could fill 100 pages in answer, but this is Ty’s blog and not mine. Blah, blah, blah … yep I rite reel good books, eh? (Canadian)

But the one fact that might interest folks is that I became a writer by accident. We all have “party pieces” — yarns from our past that are more or less true. We drag them out and bore the assembled multitudes after a few drinks. Well, one day I decided to write down my favorite yarn.

And a little later, I wrote another and then another, until I had 3 decent short stories. Then I did a few more and I thought, “Heck, I have a book of short stories.” Then that evolved into a book of linked short stories, then into an episodic first-person novel, then into a chronological third-person coming-of-age novel that became SURFING VIETNAM three years later.

2.) One of your books is titled How to Kill Your Wife. Are you married? And if so, how does she feel about this book?

My ex-wives drag this book out at their weekly support group meetings and try to figure out how to sue me. They meet every second Thursday in the basement of the Moose Lodge Hall and new members are always welcome. Free parking out back …

3.) Your doctor informs you that you have only months to live. How do you react? 

What, again? I’m on my second cancer diagnosis now and could do a third one standing on my head. If you start living your life differently in the face of a terminal diagnosis, it just means you were living it wrong in the first place.

4.) Five minutes later the same doctor returns to you and says, "Oops! Sorry, I was looking at the wrong chart. You're fine." What is your response to this? 

Sue the bastard. It’s the American way.

5.) Another doctor informs you your eyesight is failing and if you continue to read, your sight will be completely gone after you finish one more book. Do you read that book or not? And what would it be? And, would you then turn to audio books or some similar technology?

Reading is no longer the fetish it used to be with me. I read 3 books a week for decades and am not thrilled with reading anything lately. I would just turn on my audio book.

My favorite art form is a TV series viewed in sequence on DVD — THE WIRE being the best example of the excellence that is possible in long form video story telling. Series like THE WIRE are the War and Peace of our age.

6.) You are eating in a restaurant when Chuck Norris kicks in the front door, stomps his way over to your table, points at you and says, "You and me. Outside. Now!" Then he turns to storm away. What do you do?

I would pick up my purse and sashay after that big brute and give him a piece of my mind.

Books read in 2012: No. 26 -- Secrets to Ebook Publishing Success

by Mark Coker

Started: March 27
Finished: April 2

Notes: Mark Coker is the founder of Smashwords, one of the major players in the world of indie e-book distribution. Here he has gathered knowledge garnered from the most successful e-book authors over the last few years, so I'm hoping to pick up a few new ideas.

Mini review: For someone just starting out with e-book publishing, this is a fine little book. But for me, there was nothing new. Well written, though, and a quick read, so beginners should check this one out.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Interview with author of 'Johnny Mustang' and 'Highway 90'

I recently sent out onto the World Wide Web a call for authors who would like to be interviewed. Heather Ross was one of the first to reply. Below are my questions for her as well as her answers. Thanks, Heather!

My goal with these interviews is to do something a little different. We've all read the same old questions and answers over and over again, and some of that will be found here, but I wanted to go for a few quirky questions to give everyone a look into the minds and hearts of these writers.

1.) You have published two books so far. Can you tell us a little about them?

Highway 90 is a young adult novelette that basically centers around a young girl tired of the monotony of her small town life. To break it up, her and a friend take a trip to a night club in Mexico, but it's the ride home that tests their character, views on freedom and the meaning of love.

Johnny Mustang is an illustrated children's book. It is based on the life of my grandfather who grew up on the desert of southwest Arizona. Johnny loves horses, particularly wild horses that roam free in the desert. His family as well as others catch and use them on their ranches. This book details Johnny's first wild horse round-up with ten color illustrations. A fun read for all ages and fun to write! I used a pen name for this book to keep my genre's separate.

You can read more about them including excerpts on my website

2.) What plans do you have for future works?

I'm currently working on edits to a romance novel I wrote a few years ago. I'm also finishing another young adult novel about a girl who would like to be a dancer, but finds she isn't so great at it. I may write a sequel to Highway 90, but I haven't decided yet. I've also started another Johnny Mustang book. I just can't stop! (writing)

3.) You are also a photographer. Have you considered doing a book of your favorite images?

The thought did cross my mind at one point, but I wasn't sure the public was ready for random shots of my life, some horribly out of focus. Seriously though, I may do this in the future when I can be more decisive about which images to include because as I am right now I'd produce a book with hundreds of photos.

4.) What is your favorite color? That's the easy part. Here's the hard part: Now tell us why it's your favorite color?

My favorite color is black and it's not a difficult color to love because it's versatile on so many levels. It's slimming, it hides stains (well, unless it's yoghurt), it doesn't scream "Hey look at me!" and it compliments every other color on the spectrum.

5.) What kind of dog do you have?

We think our "affection hog" is a cocker spaniel/poodle mix, but we're not sure. She's a pound puppy. Black, of course and doesn't shed. Woo hoo!

6.) If you could have any other name than the one you currently have, what would it be?

Now this is the difficult question. I like so many names I can't decide. Do you mean a name I conjure up or a famous name? Well, I'd have to say maybe Elektra. It sounds cool and doesn't require a last name. Kinda sexy too.

Here's more from Heather:

You can read more about me on my website:
Friend me on Facebook:
Follow me on Twitter:!/WriterHeather

My books are available on my website as well as Amazon:

Highway 90

Johnny Mustang: The Adventure Begins

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Books read in 2012: No. 25 -- Effortless Marketing

by Jeff Rivera

Started: March 25
Finished: March 27

Notes: Jeff Rivera is a bit of a celebrity figure and public figure. He's been published in all kinds of periodicals, has been a public speaker and far traveler, and he's managed to create for himself a solid-sounding e-book following. So, I figured he is something worth paying attention to. Thus, I picked up this little e-book from him.

Mini review: There were some good ideas here, especially concerning the right approach to take when taking part in message board. That being said, I was turned off a little by several suggestions of turning to other e-books for more information.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Amazon, writers and KDP Select

There are plenty of debates online concerning indie writers making use of the KDP Select program from Amazon. Some writers like the program, having had success with it, while others seem much more skeptical. I can't say I hate the program, but it has not lived up to my expectations, so I'm not likely to use it again.

But I'm not here to go on and on about the pros and cons of KDP Select. Instead, I thought I'd mention an article written by Jim Kukral over at Huffington Post about this very topic. And yep, Jim even mentioned a comment I had posted over at the Kindleboards, so thanks Jim for the push.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Books read in 2012: No. 24 - Tarzan of the Apes

by Edgar Rice Burroughs

Started: March 19
Finished: March 22

Notes: As my latest read came to a screeching halt because of pages missing in the trade paperback edition, I've had to find other reading material. Which is fine. I now turn to an author with whom I need to become more familiar, the master of Sword and Planet literature, Edgar Rice Burroughs. This was another Amazon e-book freebie, so I can't argue with the price.

Mini review: I had read only a little Burroughs before now and it had not made me a fan, but this novel did. I was surprised how much I liked it, how much kept with my own notions of Tarzan and how much swayed in other directions. I will be reading further novels in this series.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Books read in 2012: No. 23 - Duma Key

by Stephen King

Started: March 18
Finished: March 29

Notes: As I'm still in the mood for some horror, why not turn to the modern master? This is one of a few King books I've not read, so here goes.

Mini review: So I start this Pocket Books trade paperback and get to page 54, and it suddenly jumps to page 87. The missing pages have not been torn out. They have not been moved elsewhere in the book. They're just not there. I guess I'll read something else until I can get another copy. Update: Finally got a new copy of this novel, so now I'm off to read it. Another update: Now that I'm finished ... I have to say, this is the best King book I've read in quite a while, and the man can always write. For me, this was one of the most emotional stories he has ever told, the only other one that hit me harder being his Wizard and Glass, the fourth of the Dark Tower books. Mr King, it is likely we will never meet, but I salute you. Bravo.

Books read in 2012: No. 22 - Bullets and Fire

by Joe R. Lansdale

Started: March 18
Finished: March 18

Notes: It has been a long, long while since I've read anything by this author, but I always found him to be quite the chilling horror writer, him having been one of the founders of the splatter punk movement in the 1980s. I'm most familiar with some of Lansdale's short stories from 20-plus years back, and I thought it time I gave him another read. Besides, my recent readings have got me in the mood for some horror.

Mini review: If you're looking for a story that packs a lot of punch but isn't completely filled with gore and blood, this is an excellent choice for you. I felt the ending could have been a bit stronger, but it's not bad. Be prepared for the action, 'cause when it hits it hits fast and hard and is somewhat unexpected.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Books read in 2012: No. 21 - The Monster of Florence

by Douglas Preston and Mario Spezi

Started: March 15
Finished: March 18

Notes: 20 years ago, I went through a few years in which I devoured every true-crime book I could get my hands on. I read tons of those books. At the time I wanted to be a horror writer, so I felt I was doing myself some good, educating myself about serial killers, the occult and other real-world ghouls and terrors. I eventually burned myself out and got turned off somewhat from the true-crime books, and to this day I still feel a little creeped out by such books. However, I've been drawn to The Monster of Florence for a few reasons. First off, decades back when I was reading similar literature, I remember the serial killings around Florence, Italy, upon which this book is based, and the fact those slayings were unsolved at the time. Second, I've found it interesting that the two authors of this book actually became part of the case, being considered suspects at one time or another. Also, my understanding is that despite the fact their have been multiple arrests in this case, the real killer is believed by many to never have been caught.

Mini review: Quite the interesting book, and well written. The first two-thirds of this book I quite enjoyed, this being the section detailing the events most directly concerning the slayings of a likely serial killer. The last third I felt got somewhat bogged down, but perhaps that was because the book switched away to events concerning various Italian government officials and their alleged attempts at intimidations, threats and even imprisonment (temporarily) of the writers of this book; while I found this last part of the book interesting, it didn't seem to read as well as the earlier sections. Maybe it was just me. One thing I did find interesting, and maybe makes me feel a little proud, is that the individual I felt most likely to be the real Monster of Florence is the same one the authors concluded was the killer, and I had decided upon this before reading their chapter making their revelation. Perhaps I've simply studied too much about serial killers over the years. To be honest, I found the law enforcement and court officials of Italy as portrayed in this book more frightening than I do the thoughts of a serial killer.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Books read in 2012: No. 20 - Secrets of Successful Writers

edited by Darrell Pitt

Started: March 14
Finished: March 15

Notes: This compilation of Q&A sessions with 50 of today's writers, many of them indie writers, is perhaps a little out of date. To be fair, however, if this had been published last month, it would already be out of date. Oops! It was published last month. Boy, the publishing world really changes quickly nowadays, doesn't it? All kidding aside, a collection such as this is nice because it gives insight into a bunch of different writers without me having to go around to a bunch of different blogs. So, it's nice to have all this in one place, a quick way for me to get a feel for a number of other writers.

Mini review: This one got a bit monotonous at about the halfway point. Many of the same questions were followed often by similar answers. Still, this opened the door for me to quite a few new authors, and I even already picked up a few new e-books which I'm sure I'll get to sooner or later. Was this one worth reading? Sure. Anyone starting out as a fiction writer, especially as an indie, would be served well to read about these authors and their various stories and levels of success. Each writer is different, after all, and each of us has different roads to success.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Books read in 2012: No. 19 - Mary, Mary

by Ed McBain

Started: March 10
Finished: March 14

Notes: Though I've read a fair number of Ed McBain novels, all of them have been from the writer's 87th Precinct series. That series was not all McBain wrote, however, not even his only series. This particular novel comes from his series about attorney Matt Hope. As it's my first Hope novel and my first McBain novel away from the 87th Precinct, I'm interested to see the writing and compare it to that which I'm familiar.

Mini review: If this one is typical of the Matt Hope tales, I prefer the 87th Precinct novels. The writing is as quick and crisp as always, but much of it was courtroom drama, and I'm just not all that interested in courtroom drama. For me, there's more tension when a cop is asking a crook the questions than when an attorney is asking a defendant. That's just me, though. Still, I'd definitely read another Matt Hope novel and, in fact, already have one, so I'll probably get to it eventually.

Friday, March 09, 2012

100 Years of Blood, my current work in progress

I've not mentioned much about my current writing project, so I thought it was about time I did so, for those who might be interested.

I'm going off in a different direction with this novel, delving into magic realism and going more literary. I spent all of last year writing (and a lot of reading) epic fantasy, and I was becoming burnt out on that particular sub-genre. I needed a different challenge.

So, I challenged myself and it's ... different. The title is 100 Years of Blood, and as this is a magic realism novel, yes, I admit the title is somewhat of an homage to One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez, though I make no claims to even trying to be as talented as Marquez. Nor is my story similar to his, other than the events take place over a century. If anything, my novel combines some things I've picked up from Marquez as well as James Joyce and even Bram Stoker.

The story concerns an English lord who decides to build a comfortable home for himself in a backwards Appalachian region. The tale begins in 1902 and will rise up through 2002, though I'm tempted to add an epilogue that adds an extra decade, covering ground through 2012. My work will cover a lot of ground in what I'm thinking will be about 80,000 words.

This will not be a work of excitement. Those seeking action and adventure are better served to look elsewhere. There will be a touch here and there of intrigue and mystery, but this is not a novel of explanations. I freely claim the mysteries will not be explained. There will be one major mystery overshadowing this story, and I will not explain it. That will be up to the reader, to make a decision for his or herself.

Because of this, I do not expect 100 Years of Blood to be a popular novel, to bring many sales for me. But that's fine. This one is all for me, and as a writer I'm generally more interested in exploration than I am coming to conclusions.

When will this novel be available? I'm shooting for the middle of April. Initially I wanted it out to the public by April 1, but as this is more of a literary novel, I'm finding I have to take more time with it.

The cover image up there at the right is only a tentative one. This is my third cover, each wildly different than the one before, so I'm having a lot of trouble in the design department. This one is my favorite so far, but I'm still not crazy about it, so it's likely to change again. At first I was going for a darker feel, but then I backed off that as my initial cover had a horror-novel look to it and that is not what I'm wanting here.

Thursday, March 08, 2012

Books read in 2012: No. 18 - Breaking an Empire

by James Tallett

Started: March 8
Finished: March 10

Notes: This fantasy writer is new to me, and since it's always important to check out the competition, I thought I'd give him a try. Right? I've read the first few pages, and so far the characters are reminding me a lot of the soldiers from Steven Erikson's Malazan series, though the writing isn't nearly so heavy. That's a good thing, by the way, as I love Erikson's novels but find him overly wordy at times. I'm looking forward to this one.

Mini review: There seemed to be a definite Malazan influence here, what with the veteran soldier characters and their thrown weapons of glass orbs. I would be surprised if the author isn't a Malazan fan. Not bad writing here. Not overly deep, in my opinion, but not bad. I'd be interested to see what this writer can do in a longer work. One fault I did feel this tale had was there was little sense of true concern for the characters during the first two-thirds of the story. Several battles, but none seemed truly deadly to our heroes, at least not until the final conflict.

Appalachian literary novel 'More Than Kin' available in print

My Appalachian literary novel 'More Than Kin' is now available in print at Amazon at this link.

The cover is different than the e-book version, but I still believe it is somewhat reminiscent of it. I actually like the e-book cover better, but I didn't think it looked good in print, so I went with an Amazon cover, a bit simple but not out of the realm for this story.

Here is the description:

Walt Johnson has been a rolling stone most of his life, moving from town to town and living on the edges of homelessness. Now he has run out of time as lung cancer has left him only months to live. Walt then begins a quest to find the son with whom he lost contact decades earlier. Out of money, he lands a job at a small-town restaurant in an attempt to save enough to buy a bus ticket to the last known whereabouts of his son. The friends Walt makes at his new job soon become family for him, especially 14-year-old Danny who is emotionally paralyzed at the loss of his own father in Iraq. Faced with Danny’s struggles to grow up and the struggles of his other new friends, Walt comes to realize he is not only on a journey to find his own son, but he is on a journey to find himself worthy of being a father.

Tuesday, March 06, 2012

Books read in 2012: No. 17 - Echoes of Olympus

by Darrin Drader

Started: March 6
Finished: March 8

Notes: This is a novella from a fellow member of the Monumental Works Group. My understanding is this novella is sort of a preview to a longer novel which will be coming out either later this year or in 2013. I've not been reading much fantasy lately, which has been intentional because I felt I was suffering some burnout after reading and writing so much fantasy last year, but now it's time to dip my beak back in.

Mini review: Quite the nice introduction to a fantasy world based more upon Greek mythology and history. This one is a bit more than just fantasy, though, also containing some alternate history. I liked where the story was going, and the characters. Structurally I might have laid the story out a little different, utilizing a different starting point, but that was just me. There's action here, but I would have preferred to have seen it a little earlier in the story. But that's just me. Solid writing keeps the story from becoming drab, so no worries there. The characters I found truly interesting, and it'll be interesting to watch them fleshed out further in the longer novel.

Sunday, March 04, 2012

Backing off the online world

After two blog tours in the last six months, I've decided to take a break from online life. No, I'm not going to give up blogging altogether or anything like that, but I will be backing off some. I enjoy blogging and social networking, but frankly, it's just become too much. Every time I turn around there's some hot, new site that everyone just has to be on.

I say enough. I already spend time on Facebook, Kindle Boards, various blogs, and sometimes twitter. That is more than enough. It's time to spend more time writing.

Which is what I'm going to do right now.

After I feed the beagle.

Friday, March 02, 2012

After the blog tour

So, blog tour February 2012 is over. Each blog tour teaches me a few new things, and this one was no different. As always, I got to meet a bunch of new people, and I thank all those who hosted me for that.

One of the big differences between this tour and my last one in 2011 was that near the end I got burnt out. I had several days where I was feeling under the weather, and then I was stupid enough to have given myself far too large of a workload.

Remember one of my posts where I said I planned on writing a novel a month? I still plan to do that, and actually I'm on track so far, but that on top of trying to do a blog tour combined with my illness was just too much. Something had to give, so I've a few blank days toward the end of the blog tour.

Live and learn.

As for my goal of writing a novel a month, can I keep up with that? Honestly, probably not. But it's the attempt that matters here. Even if I only reached half my goal, six novels, that would be six more than I would have had.

Also, I've fudged around on that goal just a little. Instead of 12 new novels this year (one of which is already available, Demon Chains), I've decided that I must have 12-novel's worth of new fiction this year, which isn't exactly the same thing. It basically means each month I need to have a minimum of 60,000 words of new fiction (at least new to the e-book market). So far, I've reached that goal. I also plan to keep experimenting, to write in genres new to me, and to experiment with pen names.

It's going to be a busy year, and hopefully a fun one.

Thursday, March 01, 2012

The Kobalos Trilogy Omnibus edition

If you've been wanting to read The Kobalos Trilogy, from your's truly, but have yet to do so, now you can have all three novels in one e-book edition for the Kindle (I'll get around to making it available for the Nook and at Smashwords, promise).

Yes, that's right, in one place are all three novels: City of Rogues, Road to Wrath, and Dark King of the North.

Have a Kindle and what this collection? Right now it's only $4.99, and you can find it at this Amazon link.

Bayne's Climb reviewed

My short novel Bayne's Climb has received a mostly positive review over at The Resurrection Blog with a perhaps unique (at least so far) look into the story and the character of Bayne.