Category Archives: Author Interviews

Author Interview: Joseph Malik

Author Joseph Malik writes fantasy thrillers at a level of detail and accuracy that has readers asking him how to get there. He is a member of SFWA. Please welcome him to No Wasted Ink.

Author Joseph MalikMy name is Joseph Malik. I’m a fantasy author and a soldier in the United States Army. I was raised on the Blackfeet Reservation in northern Montana. I live in Washington State. I’m married, no kids, two dogs.

When and why did you begin writing?

My mother wrote romance novels on contract for one of the big publishing houses when I was a kid. I think I started writing stories when I was five or six. I wrote my first full-length novel in high school, about 400 pages.

When did you first consider yourself a writer?

I don’t think there was ever a point when I didn’t consider myself a writer. I used to write short stories in the margins of my textbooks in grade school during class.

Can you share a little about your current book with us?

My current book is called The New Magic. It’s the sequel to my debut novel, Dragon’s Trail, which exploded last year. It was a Kindle Top 100 bestseller in four countries last year and has sold over 10,000 copies, receiving mainstream critical acclaim.

The books are fantasy technothrillers, epic fantasy novels whose plots hinge on intensely researched technical details. Think The Hunt for Red October but for knights in armor instead of nuclear submarines. The New Magic introduces a theme that we see in a lot of technothrillers, using our humanity to overcome a looming technological disaster. The New Magic is a sequel, but I wrote it to stand alone, with the first book functioning as a prequel/origin story if readers discover them that way.

The New Magic is a gritty fantasy written for adults, with graphic violence, sex, and profanity, but there are no scenes of sexual violence and no sexual violence in any of the female characters’ backstories. I engineered it out of the society when I did my worldbuilding. The rape trope is lazy writing, it’s dismissive, and it needs to be culled from fantasy.

Do you have a specific writing style?

Most definitely. My books are epic fantasy but written in the style of modern action thrillers. I write in omniscient third with a moderately opaque narrator. It’s an older style that hardly anyone uses anymore, but I love the way it tells the story. It marries up with fantasy beautifully.

How did you come up with the title of this book?

“The New Magic” is a reference from the previous book; these books are portal fantasies featuring people from Earth who end up in another world. “The New Magic” is the locals’ name for technology.

Also, in The New Magic, a sorceress resorts to very old, forbidden magic in order to combat the influx of technology and level the field; the old magic is so old that it’s been forgotten, so it’s effectively new again. The further I get into the series, the more self-referential the titles become.

Are experiences in this book based on someone you know, or events in your own life?

Almost everything is based on events in my own life.

I did the majority of the worldbuilding for these books hands-on, taking several years while I was learning how to write to also learn swordsmanship (foil and saber in college, then rapier and eventually greatsword), horsemanship, blacksmithing, martial arts (boxing and judo), mountaineering, traditional archery. I built a fully-functional conlang (constructed language) and taught myself to speak and write it, I traveled to Europe to pace off castles and ruins, and much more. I served in Special Operations in the U.S. military, which afforded me the opportunity to learn a lot of really cool things that most other authors just don’t get their hands on: austere medicine, improvised weapons, how to track a man through the desert.

I think one reason that Dragon’s Trail sold so well, and why there’s such a buzz about The New Magic, is that nearly all of the mundane details in the fantasy world of this series are functional. They may not be historically accurate—the heroes didn’t travel in time, after all—but they all make sense and nothing is hand-waved; everything short of the magic would really work, from the phases of the moon, to the economy, to the splinters in the floors. This level of authenticity and believability appeals to the fantasy reader who has a level of knowledge about some type of arcana resident in fantasy tropes; say, a reader who competes in fencing, or studied medieval history, or owns a horse.

The flip side to this, though, is that the unprecedented level of technical accuracy, coupled with my background in Special Operations and intelligence, has spawned emails and messages from readers who seem convinced that I was part of some kind of Black Ops program that explores other worlds. My inbox is an adventure. There is such a thing as being too accurate with your worldbuilding. I get asked where the portal is more often than you’d think.

What authors have most influenced your life? What about them do you find inspiring?

Harlan Ellison and his entire raised-middle-finger attitude. I think that, especially now that I’ve been at this for a while, I enjoy the stories about him more than his actual writing. Tom Clancy, for getting things so right that he got in trouble for it. Douglas Adams, whose Hitchhiker’s Guide series transformed my way of looking at the world when I was younger.

Who designed the cover of your book? Why did you select this illustrator?

The cover for The New Magic was designed by Lynn Stevenson. She was a colleague of my wife’s; my wife is a business development consultant for tech firms. I originally bought a pre-made cover for Dragon’s Trail that needed some tweaking, and my wife recommended Lynn, who did a masterful job. When I wanted to use elements of the Dragon’s Trail cover as a series brand, I went back to Lynn, and she put together the cover for The New Magic.

Do you have any advice for other writers?

Craft trumps everything. Nothing else will do as much for you as time behind the keyboard or with your nose in a book, tearing words apart late into the night to see how they work.

My debut novel sold spectacularly and continues to sell well, but I’d been writing fantasy novels for the better part of 30 years, trying to get traditionally published, before I released it. It was probably my tenth or twelfth completed novel, and none of the others would have done nearly as well. Most of them were terrible. And the early things you write are going to be terrible. They just are. It takes years and sometimes decades to find your voice. That’s hard to hear, especially for young writers in this day and age of instant gratification and becoming YouTube famous; everybody wants to be a successful author and get an Oprah Book Club sticker the day after they type THE END for the first time, but that’s not how this works. You don’t go buy a violin and then audition for an orchestra in six months. This is that. Study. Practice. It will pay off, but it takes longer than you think.

Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?

Thank you. Every one of you. This has been amazing, and there’s much more to come.
TNM R SMJoseph Malik
Tacoma, WA

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The New Magic

Cover artist: Lynn Stevenson
Published by Oxblood Books

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Author Interview: Alma Alexander

Author Alma Alexander writes stories which are roadmaps to places people never knew existed but always believed had to be there.  Please welcome her to No Wasted Ink.

Author Alma AlexanderMy name is Alma Alexander, and I am a writer. I taught myself to read before age 4 (because my mother wouldn’t re-read a favourite book to me, so I just picked it up and started reading for myself…) and I haven’t stopped reading since. My house is built of books (sometimes quite literally – I have an entire room all of whose walls and every available vertical surface of which is covered in bookshelves with (sometimes triple stacked) books. When not reading, I am writing; when not writing, I do gold embroidery (that’s the opulent stuff, with silk and gold and pearls) and I run around taking photographs of beautiful skies and other things. When not doing that, I sleep and I dream – and when I wake, I often make stories out of the dreams that visited me in the night.

When and why did you begin writing?

I didn’t “begin writing”. I always wrote. Since I knew how. I wrote my first poem aged 5 – first novel aged 9 – first GOOD novel aged 11 – and I currently have more than 3 million words in print. It’s always been a core part of me – I didn’t choose it, it chose me, and I’ve been its handmaiden all my life.

When did you first consider yourself a writer?

See above. You could say, when I won my first writing award aged 12. You could say, when I published my first word. You could say, when I was nominated for a major national writing award or two. You could say, when I published my first dozen novels. All if it is true, and none of it is. I have never “considered myself a writer”. I AM one. That is different.

Can you share a little about your current book with us?

There are currently several projects on the go, but I am generally uncomfortable talking about the projects I am currently in the process of writing – simply because I am an organic writer in the worst way and I don’t necessarily KNOW what is going to happen next in any given story. The next published works that are coming out are a reissue of “Midnight at Spanish Gardens”, which I call my Novel of ‘Choice’ and what it means to make one (and there are ALWAYS consequences…) originally published to very high reader approval and involvement but now re-edited, re-covered, and re-issued for a new readership – and a brand new book, a short story collection under the name “Untranslatable” which is going to be a very special book indeed (the conceit being that there are words in multiple foreign languages which mean thing that it takes sentences, even paragraphs, to describe in English – there is simply no equivalent single-word concept. And sometimes the best way to understand these words… is through stories. That should be out in time for Christmas 2018.

Do you have a specific writing style?

No. Although I’ve been accused (jokingly but still…) of having swallowed a dictionary when I was a baby. I DO like language, and I write lush; in my household my husband (also a wordsmith) it has been posited that he writes like Hemingway and I write like Steinbeck. I tend to write very strong female protagonists, sometimes multiples ones in the same book (as in “Secrets of Jin-shei”. But my writing “style” as such changes with every book – and I never write the same book twice.

Is there a message in your novels that you want readers to grasp?

I don’t write novels with “messages” as such – but if there is one, then it might be encapsulated in the prayer my Simonis makes in “Empress”: Give me the life I am meant to live. Take that as a guiding principle, and you’ll inevitably end up gravitating to the things that you want, the things that are meant for you. This doesn’t mean that you will always be happy, or even that you are guaranteed a “happily ever after” ending (I don’t really believe in those…) It does mean that you will live a life that matters. I can hardly do better than that.

Are experiences in your books based on someone you know or events in your own life?

Some. “Midnight at Spanish Gardens” includes things that I do have direct experience of, yes – the ‘Spanish Gardens’ of the title used to be a real place, one I frequented when I was at University, the description of it in the book is pretty much exactly what the real place looked like, and some of the events described as taking place there really did occur. But that’s the least “fantastical” of my fantasies – and in many of the others, the events of which I write are tied into a fantasy milieu where real-life experiences as I or my contemporaries would know them would seem direly out of place.. I’m sure I do some distilling in my own mind and some stuff can inevitably be traced back to things I may not have even consciously been aware of when writing the story – but I don’t regurgitate reality. If I occasionally reimagine it, that would be plenty.

What authors have most influenced your life? What about them do you find inspiring?

Oh, lawks-a-mercy, this question is never answerable. Tolkien. Le Guin. Guy Gavriel Kay. Roger Zelazny. Sharon Penman. Rebecca du Maurier. Howard Spring. Ivo Andric. Mary Doria Russell. Matt Ruff. Mary Stewart. Spider Robinson. Octavia Butler. They have all taught me things – about how to build worlds, how to understand people, how to think when wearing a different mind, how to speak, how to act, what is ethical and what is moral and how far would I go to remain those things. That is not an exhaustive or a final list. You might say my answer to that question is Yes, writers have influenced my life hugely and they continue to do so. And they all bring different things I find inspiring.

If you had to choose, is there a writer would you consider a mentor? Why?

My grandfather started me off in the love of language – a poet, he started me reading poetry when I was almost too young to comprehend it. But it left a lasting mark, and maybe it’s the reason I write so poetically even today. No, I don’t have a ‘mentor’. But in one writing workshop I was fortunate enough to attend, the last one that Roger Zelazny did before he died, Zelazny asked me two questions. How long had I been writing? (and I said, forever) and Did I read or write a lot of poetry? (And I had admitted that I did). And he said to me, “It shows. You have a voice all of your own. Nobody else will ever write like this.” I take those words as something uttered by a master to an acolyte. If you want to call that a mentorship – although it is encapsulated in a single sentence – there it is.

Who designed the cover of your book? Why did you select this illustrator?

This might be changing in today’s publishing culture but I still belong to the generation which, when published, did not “choose” their cover artists and have no direct links or contacts with them, even, in most cases. For something like “Empress” I did commission the cover myself – from Hugo-Award-winning artist Elizabeth Leggett – because I love her work, and she and I worked together on a concept that I had for the cover. For my Book View Café-published novel “AbductiCon”, a humorous science fiction novel about science fiction conventions, the cover designer was… myself. But more often than not authors are presented with a cover during the publication process, and have to hope we like it…

Do you have any advice for other writers?

Read. Read FIRST. Read before you write a single word yourself. Writers who begin by saying that they don’t have time to read… have not done the training required to write. Read first. Read EVERYTHING. And learn from all of it, the good, the bad, and the ugly. Learn about what kind of person, what kind of WRITER, you want to be.

Book Cover EmpressAlma Alexander
Bellingham, WA

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Author Interview: Dorothy Winsor

Author Dorothy A. Winsor writes young adult and middle-grade fantasy novels. Please welcome her to No Wasted Ink.

WinsorHeadhshotI’m Dorothy Winsor. As a kid, I loved reading so much that my mother once tried to get me to go outside more by limiting me to five chapters a day instead of burning through Nancy Drew novels. Eventually, I became an English professor. Then the writing bug bit, and I quit teaching to write full time. I live with my husband in the Chicago area, not far from our son, daughter-in-law, and granddog.

When and why did you begin writing?

Much as I loved fiction, I didn’t start writing until I was in my fifties. All my writer friends wanted to write even when they were kids, but I never thought of myself as creative enough.

Then I became enchanted with Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings movies. Poking around on the web for more information, I discovered fanfiction. Anyone who’s looked at fanfic knows it’s written with a wide range of skill. I looked at stories posted by brave twelve-year-olds and decided if they could do it, I could at least try.

Once I started, it was hard for me to stop (I tend to get obsessive). Raymond Chandler supposedly once said you have to write a million words of crap before you can write anything decent. When my word count hit that number, I decided to try my hand at writing my own stories. The Wind Reader is my third novel.

The moral of my story is there’s no wrong way to become a writer. Also, it’s never too late.

Can you share a little about your current book with us?

When I finished a first draft of The Wind Reader, I wrote a tweet-length description of its premise:

Street kid Doniver is taken into the castle to be the royal fortune teller. Good news? Food and a safe bed. Bad news? He can’t tell fortunes.

That sums up the plot but it probably misrepresents the tone. Doniver is in a grim situation, plus an assassination plot is underway that the prince is relying on Doniver to uncover. He survives only with the help of two street friends and his own wits and courage.

What inspired you to write this book?

I’m a little embarrassed to admit where my inspiration came from, but what the heck. I’ve already confessed to writing fanfic.

My husband was watching the TV show “Psych,” which is about a guy who pretends to be psychic and winds up helping the police solve crimes. I realized I could tweak that premise into a fantasy plot about a fake magician solving a mystery.

For me, inspiration often comes like that, noticing events and stories around me and twisting them a little sideways.

How did you come up with the title of this book?

I was wrestling with exactly what Doniver could do to tell fortunes. We were living in Iowa at the time, and on the edge of the prairie, the wind is a constant force. Doniver is from the mountains and now lives in a prairie-like environment, so I thought the wind might be one of the most powerful forces in his world and made him a wind reader.

Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?

I think in terms of themes (observations about life) rather than messages (advice on how to think or act). A theme can be as simple or even clichéd as love conquers all.

For The Wind Reader, I’d say the primary theme is if you lose your honor, you lose yourself. And by the way, one of the most satisfying parts of writing young adult fantasy is that you can use the word “honor” unironically. In this book, honor means living by your core beliefs and values.

Are experiences in this book based on someone you know or events in your own life?

I don’t deliberately insert people or events from my life, but I think all writers draw from their own experiences. What else do they have to draw from?

So I find I repeat emotional notes from one story or book to another, sometimes in ways that are a surprise to me. For instance, I had parents who did their best, and yet, over and over, I find myself writing about troubled relationships with a father. All I can say is, “I’m sorry, Dad!”

Who designed the cover of your book? Why did you select this illustrator?

Marco Pennaccietti did. My editor at Inspired Quill found his portfolio online and asked me if I thought he’d be good for The Wind Reader’s cover. I liked his work so my editor contacted him. I found it exciting to see how someone else came up with a visual representation for my book.

Do you have any advice for other writers?

I’d give the same advice my aerobics teacher gives our class: consistency is more important than intensity. Write regularly, every week, every day if possible, even if it’s only a line. Waiting for inspiration is a fool’s game. It’s consistent work that creates the conditions for inspiration to appear.

Also, trust your instincts. If a scene or a line or a characterization feels off, it probably is. Learn to love revision because of the way it lets you see the book getting better.

Do you have anything specific you want to say to your readers?

Dear Readers: Most importantly, I hope you enjoy The Wind Reader. I hope you can’t wait to get back to it after you have to put it down. I hope you have fun with it.

But also, I once heard George R. R. Martin say that he thought of himself as the sum of his experiences and reading was an experience. Sometimes the experiences he had reading felt more vital and important than what was going around him day to day. I hope The Wind Reader leaves you feeling that your experience of life has been expanded and enriched.

The Wind Reader - 3D Book (Small) (1)Dorothy A. Winsor
Barrington, Illinois

The Wind Reader

Cover Artist: Marco Pennaccietti
Publisher: Inspired Quill

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Author Interview: The Brothers Cheney

As I wandered through the small press area at WonderCon in March of 2018, I discovered a well-organized table for a group of science fiction authors. The intriguing detail I discovered was that they were three brothers who write military SF adventures, mysteries, and fantasy novels – often at the same time or as co-authors!  I felt compelled to invite them to No Wasted Ink.

Authors - Brothers Cheney

We are three of seven brothers who grew up on the north Oregon coast.

Jeff- I am living in Northern Oregon and working in the Computer Manufacturing industry. I have three grown children (one still living at home) and am living with my wife in a small town in the woods. I am brother number 2.

Craig- Though I’m an Oregon native, I’m currently living in Utah with my wife and children. I have a day job as an electrical engineer, which is constantly offering me new challenges. I am brother number 4.

Jared- I am also an Oregon native, and Oregon has been home for most of my life. I have had brief stints elsewhere, and have traveled extensively in my twenty plus year technology career. I have worked as a global technology executive and leader for more than a decade, which has provided some great vignettes for writing. I am brother number 7.

When and why did you begin writing?

Jeff- I had to write a short story for a junior English class in high school and the story never gave itself up inside my mind. I kept expanding it into a novel length story in my head, though I never finished writing it. I kept writing other stories and those I did finish. With that first story, I started to see stories everywhere and wanted to write them.

Craig- My first attempt at writing a novel was in 1992, though it’s always been an interest of mine. I was living in the same city as a different brother (#3), and we had a great idea for a Star Trek story based on Aleksander, Worf’s son, when he grew up. We had quite a bit done, but ST: The Next Generation was still airing episodes, and eventually, Aleksander’s history changed to the point that our story wouldn’t have worked, and we never finished it.

Jared- I actually began writing in high school, with three different stories that I am still working on.  I have always read extensively and have always enjoyed recounting stories. Writing has been a natural extension of that throughout my life.

When did you first consider yourself a writer?

Jeff- It wasn’t until I finished Dead Reckoning, our first book. Up until then, it had just been a hobby that kept me way too busy. When I was able to stick to the end and finished the project and get it all the way to publication, I truly felt like a writer.

Craig- Writing is still not my principal employment, though I’m trying to move that direction, so I don’t think of myself primarily as a writer, even now. The first time I felt confident in my ability to write was after I entered a writing competition and won the runner-up award. That was my first positive feedback from someone who was neither family nor friend.

Jared- In my college studies, I spent an entire year working on a thesis with a very well published thesis advisor. When I completed it, and he signed off on it as publish worthy work, I began to take confidence in my capability for technical writing as well as storytelling work.

Can you share a little about your current book with us?

Dead Reckoning is the first of four books in the Pathfinder Series. We have just finished the series and really enjoyed the process. Dead Reckoning starts the series as a loyal captain is thrown into the void of space with a few of his loyal crew. They are told they can survive by going to a nearby planet, but the captain is obsessed with regaining his ship and decides that he and his crew have the resources to take their small shuttle back to Earth and return with a crew to take back the ship.

The book tells the story of the captain and his small crew trying to survive, overcome immense obstacles and return home safely.

What inspired you to write this book?

Jeff- We had wanted to write a book together for some time and we got together and chose a theme that none of us had already written on. It was an adventure trying to figure out how to write a book with three separate authors, but it was great fun.

Craig- Honestly, it was a combination of lots of things. The main impetus was the desire to work together so we could hold each other accountable to finish what we start. Before this, I had probably started writing a dozen stories, at least. Then the question arose of what to write, and we decided it wasn’t fair to take a story that one of us had started, because that one would feel too possessive of it. So we decided to create a new story. Some of the elements of Dead Reckoning are loosely based on the book Men Against the Sea, which is the story of Captain Bligh and his loyal crew sailing a tiny boat 4,000 miles across the Pacific to reach civilization after The Mutiny on the Bounty.

Jared- Several of us brothers had wanted to write together for a long time before we decided to find a story that we could create together and tell in an interesting way. The opportunity to work with my brothers on something fun and creative was my motivation.

Do you have a specific writing style?

Jeff- I like to plan out the basic plot but write each chapter creatively. I usually have a list of things that need to happen in each chapter but not how they will happen.

Craig- I am mostly a planner, which is really a necessary thing when writing as a group. There are lots of instances of me sitting down to write according to plan and coming away with something very different, however.

Jared- In order to work closely with my brothers, it requires us to plan closely together. My style leans more towards creative flow, and I tend to see and hear the story playing out as I write in order to make sure it flows well.

How did you come up with the title of this book?

Craig- Dead Reckoning refers to a means of navigating without having any landmarks to work with, where you keep track of your heading and speed to deduce where you are. It was used frequently in Men Against the Sea, and it seemed to fit our book as well.

Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?

Jeff- There wasn’t one when we started, but we wanted it to be a survival story, so the persistence and overcoming obstacles was a big part of the story.

Craig- I think the overall message is to keep moving forward. Bad things happen, but if you persevere, you can still find success.

Jared- For me, it also resonates that you can’t just allow things to happen to you, no matter the circumstances, you have choices and you have to take whatever opportunities you can.

Are experiences in this book based on someone you know or events in your own life?

Jeff- Not any of the stories, but some of the characters have a basis in some of the people that I know. Things that I like and things that I don’t like.

Craig- Not really, though one of the stories the crew tells to pass the time actually originated in that Aleksander story I wrote years before. (Never throw your writing away!)

Jared- Nothing specific, although one of the very frustrated engineers experiences a series of events that drive an outburst I have felt brewing in a few engineering situations before.

What authors have most influenced your life? What about them do you find inspiring?

Jeff- Robert Heinlein is probably the biggest in my early life. Also, Anne McCaffrey. They turned me into a reader at an early age and turned me into a SciFi/Fantasy reader and into science as a profession.

Craig- Robert A. Heinlein’s juveniles were my favorites as a kid, especially The Moon is a Harsh Mistress and Sixth Column. The most impactful books I have read are The Count of Monte Cristo by Dumas and Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance by Pirsig. The former is not about revenge, as most people think, but about justice. The latter just has tons of little tidbits of wisdom about how to interact with the world. Also, Shakespeare’s plays are great reference material for studying how and why humans behave the way they do.

Jared- As a very young reader, J.R.R. Tolkien and some of the classic Sci-Fi authors, Robert A. Heinlein, Isaac Asimov, Phillip K. Dick, Anne McCaffrey were what introduced me to untold worlds. McCaffrey’s Dragons of Pern brought me back around to a thirst for great stories that I found in fantasy fiction, including tragedy and heartbreak, along with the soaring human (and dragon) spirit. I continued to read Sci-Fi, Fantasy and Historical Fiction, Environmental Fiction, traditional western civ classics, along with a lot of business and engineering books over the years. I will forever be grateful to my college Honors professors for interweaving so many classic stories & novels into my education. I will have a bit of nostalgia for those early influential authors.

If you had to choose, is there a writer would you consider a mentor? Why?

Jeff- There are a few that I would name. Michael Stackpole has taught a class at ASU for novelists that I have taken and he has been a great help, answering questions and making comments on my work. Robert Vardeman has also been a part of that program as has Joe Nassise. All three have been helpful in mentoring my writing. There have also been numerous critical readers along the way.

Who designed the cover of your book? Why did you select this illustrator?

Craig- My brother-in-law, Mark McCormick, did a marvelous job on the original Dead Reckoning cover. When we decided to create a boxed set for the series, I created the covers to match each other. I think it’s a good design, but definitely more sterile than the original.

Do you have any advice for other writers?

Jeff- Keep writing! Believe in yourself. Study what you are doing and keep working at it. If you don’t have success with your first effort, start again!

Craig- I’ve heard lots of good advice over the years, but the best was this: “Be married to your book while you’re writing it, but be divorced from it while editing.” You have to be emotionally invested for your writing to be any good, but when it comes time to trim and fix, if you’re too emotionally invested, it can blind you to its flaws and keep you from cutting out what really needs to go.

Jared- Plan your outline carefully to make sure you have all of the nuances the story will need. Then, as you write, don’t be afraid to change the plan when the story needs to evolve, but don’t lose your direction. Let the story come to life, and let inspiration come when it can, but don’t feel like it has to be there all the time. Keep writing no matter what.

Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?

Jared- We really appreciate our readers. I have actually been thrilled to find people we don’t know who have read our work and have great things to say about it. I actually appreciate those that buy it and have anything to say about it at all, but we like the positive ones better.

deadreckoning_lowresJeffery L., Craig J., and Jared L. Cheney
Portland, Oregon and Ogden, Utah

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Dead Reckoning

Cover Artists: Mark McCormick & Craig J. Cheney
Publisher: 7Cs Books, LLC

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Author Interview: J Carrell Jones

Author J Carrell Jones writes science fiction and fantasy dealing with existentialism. His main protagonists typically have a strong sense of duty, integrity, and character. His writing has been described as telling a story first and entertaining second.

Author J Carroll JonesGreetings all. My name is J Carrell Jones. I am a writer. And because I am a writer, I am mentally unstable, and I lie. How else could I describe myself? I hallucinate often, I hear strange sounds, and unseen people talk to me – awake or sleeping. I have a strong urge to write down what I see and hear in my head. My mind’s eye is overly active, and I fib a lot. The stories I tell never happened, but I write them as if they had, or will happen. It is something I do. I am a writer.

When and why did you begin writing?

I started out writing Star Trek fanfiction back in the mid-80s. My alter-ego was a Vulcan male raised by a human martial arts specialist. Chiita Scar’an was the Chief Security Officer on board the USS Shadowstar. The ship, commanded by Captain Sandor Kaos – a werewolf/human hybrid, was a Star Trek: TOS period vessel. The Captain/President, Lee Birdine, of the club wrote the main storyline. Club members wrote satellite stories. I made my first attempt at being a serious writer by self-publishing an Action-Adventure novel. That was 1988. It took me another 23 years to publish my second book.

When did you first consider yourself a writer?

It was 1988. I realized writing stories using someone else’s Intellectual Property was not helping me. I was contributing to someone else’s world and I thought that was silly. If I was going to bleed, sweat, and cry over a story it had better be mine.

Can you share a little about your current book with us?

Enemy Me is about the co-founder of a big Pharma company risking his life, multiple times, to stop the company from realizing a drug that was certain to doom humankind. Pete Walker, the co-founder, created clones to help fight the Pharma juggernaut, Forever Life, Inc. The book begins with Pete 6 waking up after Pete Five sneaks into the building and blows himself, some scientist and vital equipment up. Pete 6 realizes suicide missions was not the way to go. Interestingly, he was the last of the Pete Walker lookalike clones.

What inspired you to write this book?

It was a Star Trek: TOS episode titled, “A Piece of the Action”. Kirk and Spock were lead into one of the Big Boss’ office. The large desk the Boss was sitting behind started the journey. I kept thinking, suppose a scientist was cheated out of money. He knew that it would be near impossible to get revenge without help. He created clones to continue his fight in the event he was killed.

Do you have a specific writing style?

My writing style is straightforward. I like to drive the story using dialog and action. I give enough description to help with the scene, but I focus mainly on what the characters say and do.

How did you come up with the title of this book?

Who was Pete fighting? Strangely enough, himself. I toyed with the words: enemy, self, and fight. After a few days of hard thinking Enemy Me jumped out.

Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?

The purpose we think and feel for ourselves may not be what eventually is our destiny. Individualism and recognition of self must be embraced if we are to fulfill existing and future goals. Success is subjective.

What authors have most influenced your life? What about them do you find inspiring?

Heinlein, Asimov, Gerrold, Brin, Moon, Cherryh, Van Lustbader, King, Clarke, Hubbard, Foster, Zahn, and McIntrye. I’m inspired by how they built their worlds. They all have their own style but knew how to build worlds that were as real as the world we live in. That’s talent and confidence.

If you had to choose, is there a writer would you consider a mentor? Why?

Robert A Heinlein. When I was trying to find my voice, I emulated his style. His books Time Enough for Love, Tunnel In The Sky, Space Cadet, Citizen of the Galaxy, Friday, The Man Who Sold the Moon, The Moon is a Harsh Mistress, and The Number of the Beast talked to me. Heinlein had a way that impressed me to the point that I really wanted to be a writer.

Who designed the cover of your book? Why did you select this illustrator?

I do my own cover design. One reason I decided to do my own book cover is that I had faith in my “artistic” ability. I’m no artist but I am a Graphic Designer.

Do you have any advice for other writers?

If you are writing fanfiction, stop. Stop immediately. You’re adding to someone else’s IP. They are profiting, you are not. I’ve heard the excuses, “but I am honing my skills,” “I like the author’s world and characters,” “My stuff is not good enough yet.” First, hone your skills on your own IP. It’s your world with your characters. You’ll never write your stories by writing someone else’s. Second, great, you like the Author’s world and characters. Who’ll discover your world and characters if you never work on your original stories? And lastly, your stuff will never get any better if you never work on it.

Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?

Continue to read and support authors. We write to tell stories, but if no one reads them, what good are the stories. As writers, we do a lot of eventing – as defined by Native Americans. We spend many hours crafting, building, and shaping our worlds. Without readers, ultimately, the journey is for naught.

Enemy Me Book CoverJ Carrell Jones
Inglewood, California.

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Enemy Me

Publisher: Mythical Legends Publishing, LLC

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