Smashwords is entirely responsible for my success. When I gave up on the traditional publisher route in 2010, after numerous rejections, I was convinced my dream of publishing my books was doomed. Then I read a blog interview with a successful Smashwords author and decided that the indie route might be worth a try. My books had been gathering dust on my hard drive for about 20 years at that stage. I felt I had nothing to lose. It was the indie route or nothing. The success of my books via Smashwords stunned me. I was over the moon and pinching myself daily. It seemed too good to be true. The fabulous reviews the books got blew me away. It totally changed my life. After a few months, I was able to give up my day job and dedicate myself to writing full time, which is what I'd always wanted to do. Thank you Mark and Smashwords, you made all my dreams come true!
What is the greatest joy of writing for you?
Exploring fantastic worlds and meeting the amazing characters who populate them. I love all my heroes and heroines, so following their stories and sharing in their trials and tribulations is a wonderful adventure. As a 'channeller', writing is as effortless for me as reading. The stories just appear in my mind as I write, fully formed, and all I have to do is chronicle them for the future. I started writing stories in school, just for fun, and so that I could read them again. That continued until I wrote my first series - Slave Empire - when I was in my mid-twenties. When I'm writing, I'm transported into the other world, and this world becomes inconsequential, so it's the greatest form of escapism for me.
3 of the best kids in the world and the love of a good woman.
What is your writing process?
When I first began, I created an elaborate outline, rich in detail. But then when I started to write, the story quickly diverged from my original plan. Ideas spring to mind, a secondary or tertiary plot point sounds interesting so I add it. Now, I have several scenes in mind when I begin to write and steer the story towards them. I let the story write itself.
My first course of action is to always pick characters names first. If I have a name for a character then I can begin to flesh out their personality. I don't usually do an outline of any kind until I'm about 30,000 words into a novel.
Do you remember the first story you ever read, and the impact it had on you?
The first book that I ever read that truly had an impact on me was A Wrinkle in Time. After read that book I realized just how cool creating a world that doesn't exist is.
I'm working on the third book in the series titled Don't tell my secret. Title is Emerald Hill. 201 May Street is the second in the series. Planet X91 is chugging along nicely. This series was written for teenagers however its great to see the adults are reading the series. Ideal for ten to ninety year old readers. Something for everyone. I have just launched book 14 titled Planet X91 the hidden catacombs. There are at least fifty books in the series. (I'm using my time wisely to get more books out. Even getting up in the dark) I have been working hard to re-edit all my novels and have just finished the last one. Blood red rose three has been launched. I now have the knowledge to set books up into the physical book. I have made six e-books into physical books and are available on amazon's create space . The first book in the Kendal chronicles can be legally launched on smashwords August 2016. The other two in the series Heart of a spider is 2nd I know your secret is third are available. Number four has been started. Blood red rose four might be a gower. still thinking. will keep you posted. If I find the time it's a definite possibility.
What's the story behind your latest book?
My newest book Don't tell my secret is about a crime writer who has writer's block and is told to write a romance. He meets a young lady. They fall in love. They are brought together by an elderly woman who has a secret she has kept all her life. I decided halfway through writing the novel the idea will be a great series. 201 May street has been launched. it's about the life story of a 13 year old girl who planned to commit suicide just so she can control something in her disastrous life. Emerald hill is next. A doctor helps to deliver a baby. unknown to him her husband has been murdered. Planet X91 series book fifteen is nearly finished. titled Planet X91 The sleeping disease. Great series for the whole family.
Losing myself in the story—I may begin the story, but soon it is writing itself—sometimes taking me on a totally different journey than originally imagined. I find myself on a magical ride to new (invented) places, or places I've visited, viewing favorite sites through the eyes of my characters—reliving the feelings, sights, and aromas.
I find it amazing to watch the characters develop and come alive. They are like best friends or cherished family members, not shy about letting me know when something just isn't in their character—so to speak. " :-)
I bounce ideas off my love—brainstorming to see what works and what needs edited—more development, modification, improvement, or just plain deleted.
Where did you grow-up and how did this influence your writing?
I grew-up on a farm in the heart of America. We worked hard and played hard.
For as far back as I can remember I have loved writing, creating, and telling stories. Surrounded by the love of my family and my numerous and unique relatives, I always had lots of ideas for plots and characters. My grandfathers were great storytellers, as were many of my aunts and uncles, as well as Mom and Dad.
Growing up on a farm provides many opportunities for growth and exploration. I was riding horses shortly after learning to walk.
Funny story—When I was really young I had to invent a way to get on my pony. I wasn't big enough to put a bridle on him or get on his back. I'd get some grain and put it on the ground in front of him. When he dropped his head to eat, I'd straddle his neck. As he lifted his head to chew, I'd crawl onto his back. I'd turn around to face forward and away we'd go—sometimes sitting, sometimes standing on his back! No saddle, no bridle, no halter—just Ginger and me! Ginger and I gave my mom many gray hairs—at a young age.
Animals were, and still are, constant companions. They are real - genuine - honest!
I like happy-ever-after endings—even though life throws you curves.
Where did you grow up, and how did this influence your writing?
I was born in California on a Marine base but spent my childhood in many different areas of the United States. The majority of my memories are in Texas and Oklahoma. By eighth grade, I'd been to fourteen different schools in several states. There were years I changed schools two or three times.
It influenced how I think in general because I was exposed to many different people, from a variety of backgrounds, races, religions, and ages. There are a lot of "country" themes in my work because some of the positive memories were spent with my Aunt MeMe on her cattle ranch in southern Oklahoma. She was all "peach cobbler and sweet tea" - an interesting, kind, and beautiful woman.
Since much of my childhood was dark and terrifying, time spent working her gardens, baling hay, and so much more gave me a taste of "normal" that I didn't typically have.
I always regretted having to leave but knowing I would go back to visit again gave me the strength to keep going - to survive the despair of my daily life. It would mean time with MeMe, my grandfather (PaPa), and my grandmother (Nanny).
My writing is infused with those sorts of "silver linings" - people, places, or experiences that give my characters hope and the strength to survive the hell I tend to put them through.
I believe even small things can provide the fuel needed to fight, to survive, to thrive.
When did you first start writing?
I learned to read before I turned three and quickly added writing to my skills. I wanted to imitate the stories I read, the characters I loved, and use my imagination to take myself out of the life that I lived.
Reading and writing have been part of every stage of my life. From my earliest memories until this moment. There have been times when *words* were all that stood between my rational mind and insanity.
Primarily escapism at first, I devoured book after book then wrote what would now be referred to as "fan fiction" based on the characters I read about. After I started school, I began writing my own stories inspired by other people, words on a billboard, or even a stray animal.
I've always known that I would be a writer. It took me a long time to realize that it was alright for me to make it a priority in my own life. It took the push of being laid off - of losing a job for the first time ever - at age 39 to really make me fearless.
Fearless is the wrong word. I'm still terrified each and every time I self-publish.
No matter how my readers seem to love my work (which I am so grateful for), I always wonder, "Will this be the story that makes them think I'm not a very good writer?"
Writers...we are a outwardly confident and cocky bunch as we quiver in nervousness on the inside. Kind of like a chihuahua. I don't think that ever fully goes away - no matter how many books you sell.
I was recently asked by my Chinese translator to answer a series of questions for some Chinese students and fans.
Here are the questions and my top-of-the-head answers for your enjoyment: (Smashwords' questions/answers begin when these numbered questions are finished. If you just want those, you can skip the numbered ones.)
1. You have written many technical books in your early years, but now the books you wrote mostly are about human. What is the cause of this transition?
In the early days of computing, we were burdened with so many technical problems that we couldn't afford to think of much else. When I started, in the 1950s, there were probably fewer that 100 people in the United States who could write a serious program. I personally could have exclusive access to one computer (the IBM 704 #1) that had about 10% of the computing problem in the entire world. Today, a typical person carries a thousand times that much computing power in his or her pocket telephone.
In that environment, we desperately needed more people who could program anything, and anything they could program, no matter how poorly designed, was greatly appreciated. Today, however, there must be more than a million people in the United States who write programs every day. (I don't know how many in China, but I'm sure it's even more.)
Back then, our failures all seemed to be programming problems, technical errors in code. So, that's what I wrote about. As time went by, we had more programmers, more and bigger projects, and though the technical problems remained, we could usually find a large number of people who can solve them. But, with bigger and more complex projects, we began to see that human failures were increasingly frequent, and more serious. At the same time, none of us technically trained people had much training or instinct for solving those human problems. So, because I've always tried to write about solutions to the problems we weren't solving, I gradually changed my main focus–though of course I still write about technical problems, too.
2. How to embrace the great ideas in your book? Sometimes though readers appreciated the idea, still they find them too hard to implement.
If problems are easy to solve, we solve them. After we've done that for a while, what we have left are the more difficult problems, so naturally we have more difficulty solving them. But, if they are important problems, it's worth the hard work it takes to learn to solve them.
One thing my readers can depend upon, though, is that every idea I describe in my books is an idea that some other people have used to solve their problems. So, if you are having trouble implementing one of those ideas, support your work by remembering that someone has really done this successfully before you.
Sometimes, though, the reason you have difficulty is that you believe you must solve every problem alone, with no help from anyone else. In the United States, I know that our schools contribute to this attitude–because receiving help in solving a problem is called "cheating." That might be okay in some school situations, but in the world of real work, the people who succeed best are those people who know how to work with others. So, next time you have difficulty implementing an idea that you feel is important, seek and find another person or persons to work with you.
Some of my readers have told me that they use a "virtual Jerry" approach to get the help they need. When they're stuck, or slow, they ask themselves, "How would Jerry approach this difficulty?" A few actually keep a picture of me in their office, so they can talk the problem over with their "virtual Jerry."
I know it sounds silly, but they say it works. I believe them, too, because I use a similar approach with virtual versions of some of my teachers–Virginia Satir, Kenneth Boulding, Ross Ashby, Anatol Rapoport, Bernie Dimsdale, to name a few. (Actually, I learned this virtual technique from Bernie Dimsdale, who used it with his teacher, the great John von Neumann.)
3. When is the right time to go to the consulting firm? (Q triggered by my "The Secrets of Consulting.")
Does this mean when is the right time to seek the help of a consulting firm? Assuming that's what it means, the answer, of course, is "it depends."
But what does it depend on? Perhaps it's easier to talk about when is the right time NOT to seek the help of a consulting firm. If you eliminate those wrong times, your chances of success will be greatly improved. So here are a few tips:
a. Don't seek a consultant when you're really trying to find someone to take the blame for your own failure. You must really want to solve the problem you're describing–NOT just so you can say to your boss, "If this expensive consultant couldn't solve the problem, you can't blame us for not solving it."
b. Don't seek a consultant if that consultant's success will make you look like a failure. For example, if your boss thinks that anybody who needs help is a bad employee, do NOT seek a consultant. Instead, seek a new boss.
c. Do NOT seek the cheapest consultant, but do NOT seek the most expensive one, either. Seek a consultant for whom you can get personal recommendations from people who have actually used that consultant. Just be sure that the advice you seek will, if successful, be worth what you have to pay the consultant.
d. Do NOT seek a consultant if you're not ready to be told that you've actually been working on the wrong problem. About half the time I'm hired as a consultant, my most important advice is showing them a different definition of their problem.
Well, that's enough of an answer to this question, though there are many other reasons for not hiring a consultant. Maybe you need to hire a consultant to tell you whether or not you should hire a consultant.
4. There are many consulting firms in the market, and they all have their own strength. How does a company choose the right consulting firm for them?
This is a good example of what I was talking about in the previous question (3)–problem definition.
Your problem is NOT how to choose the right consulting FIRM. Your problem may be how to choose the right CONSULTANT. Consulting firms typically want you to believe that any consultant they send to you is as good as any other in their employ. That is simply not true. It is never true, unless the firm has only one employee.
My own firm has just two consultants–me and Dani, my wife and partner. We are not equal, not the same. For some consulting jobs, I'm the best one for you. For other jobs, she's the best, far better than me. So, you would do wrong to choose our FIRM. Instead, you should choose one of us or the other–or some other consultant entirely.
As far as how to choose that consultant, there's no short answer, but you can read my two books on consulting to learn much more about how to make such a choice.
5. Sometimes, the discontentment towards consulting firms and their solutions only come up during the consulting process, how to avoid this situation?
First, read my answers to question (4). Don't take anyone you haven't chosen–such as when a firm tells you they have to substitute another one of their people for the consultant you've chosen.
Second, realize from the start, and keep realizing, that you can "fire" a consultant at any time you're not satisfied. If you keep that in mind, you'll be more careful when choosing in the first place because you won't be able to blame a failure on anybody but yourself. "If this consultant wasn't good enough, why did you choose him or her?"
In my own business, I have always offered my customers a money-back guarantee. If they are not satisfied with my work for them, the simply need to ask and I will return any or all of what they have paid me. Because I know that, I'm always checking with my customers whether or not they are satisfied with my work. If they are not, we either fix the situation right them, or terminate the relationship right then.
That way, my customers are never surprised to find themselves deeply discontented with the consultant's work. Fundamentally, we are using the principle of addressing problems before they grow too big to solve. At least my clients can never say, "We're not satisfied with his work, but we've spent all our consulting money and don't have enough left to hire someone else.
6. Does psychology play a major role in consultancy? How important is that?
If I had to give a number, I'd say that psychology is about 90% of the consulting job. There's no point giving advice if it's not understood, nor if it's not going to be followed. That's why psychology is such a large element of the consulting role.
Dana, tell us about the Detective Marcella Witch’s series. How many books are in it? What’s it about?
The Marcella Witch’s series revolves around five main characters whose lives thoroughly interconnect and evolve from book to book. There’s witchcraft with paranormal suspense, and of course a mystery, usually a crime mystery. In that respect, I make sure that each book is a capable stand-alone, and that the reader gets a satisfactory resolve to the mystery by book’s end. Yet, it’s the continuing back-story that makes the series what it is; the reader’s investment in the characters keeps them coming back for more. To date, there are 11 books in the series.
What genre is the series and what kind of readers will it appeal to?
The genre is paranormal suspense and mystery, sort of a Mike Hammer meets Harry Potter on steroids. Sorry J.K.
As for what kind of reader it should appeal to, well, it's funny. I’d have thought Stephen King readers would look like the series best. Yet, based on the feedback I see on my fan page, the reader cross-section appears much more diverse. Maybe I didn’t have a clue who was reading Stephen King.