Tell us about yourself and how many books you have written.
I’m a Canadian living in Chiang Mai, Thailand. Something about this northern city makes it a perfect place to write. I write SF and Horror because I ‘escape’ faster through those genres. Though Historical fiction also appeals to me. I set my horror novels in Thailand probably because Thais have such a rich supernatural tradition. I’ll likely continue writing and publishing ebooks here until they physically drag me away. As for my work load, ironically I’m far busier now with the daily writing, revising, editing, and promoting than I was in the academic world years ago. Frankly, I wouldn’t have it any other way! I’ve written 2 SF titles, 2 Writing skills ebooks, and 1 Horror novella.
What is the name of your latest book and what inspired it?
My last book was in the Writing Skills category, STORY CRISIS, STORY CLIMAX 2. I’m fascinated by how movie structure provides novelists a condensed structure that works extremely well in big picture planning for a novel. This can really help a writer map out the 3-Act story arc, and get a handle on the problem / decision arc the story’s protagonist struggles with. I’m always looking for ways to condense & simplify the tools a novelist uses in writing a novel.
Do you have any unusual writing habits?
I’m an outliner. In my first novel I went so far as to draw up a stairway of steps (scenes) on a 5-foot long scroll of old-style printer paper. I did that partly to convince myself the project was do-able, but then I started enjoying the process of seeing the story events in one majestic arc. It didn’t matter that I changed quite a lot of that plan, it felt great just seeing a blueprint for my story. Since then I’ve tended more to focus on planning the plot points: Act 1 Inciting Incident, Act 2 Turning Points & Midpoint, and Act 3 Crisis & Climax. Then I plan out all of each Act then write the scenes for that. Later Acts usually change as the writing progresses, so I plan those as I move into that part of the story. That keeps the story’s big picture clear in my mind.
On the day I write a scene I list that scene’s goal, problem, & character decision. and get clear on how the scene fits into the Act. I find this is more than enough planning to dispel self-doubt and writer’s block heebie-jeebies.
What authors, or books have influenced you?
Bernard Cornwell, Isaac Asimov, Bobby Adair, Edgar Rice Burroughs, Patrick O’Brian, Hugh Howey, L. T. Ryan, D. H. Lawrence, Robertson Davies.
What are you working on now?
The book I’m finishing up now is INFECTION DAY, a zombie horror story set in Thailand, Malaysia, & Sumatra. I was struck by how AI & robotics inevitably will mimic human physiology & psychology. From there it seemed to me a zombie apocalypse would resemble a dystopian tech apocalypse. Both are an attack on what it means to be human. I wanted to explore that overlap.
I was surprised to find Twitter works the best for building a writer’s ‘brand awareness.’ I used Twitter to invite followers to review my books. I was surprised how well it worked.
What is your best method or website when it comes to promoting your books?
I was surprised to find Twitter works quite well at building a writer’s ‘brand awareness.’ I used Twitter to invite followers to review my books. I was surprised how well it worked.
I want to expand my email campaigns sent to my mailing list of subscribers, and the best site for that (discovered recently) might be www.sender.info. Now I’m using mailchimp. Sender.info allows inclusion of inline downloadable files, i.e. pdf or ebook gifts, in the body of an email to subscribers. It’s a way to send useful & fun product and keep the dialog going. At mailchimp that feature can only be used to gain new subscribers, and sending a gift occurs only after the signup / confirmation / opt-in sequence. But to be able to offer inline material on an ongoing basis in your emails would be excellent.
Most other promotion sites offer paid advertising, which frankly doesn’t work so well.
Do you have any advice for new authors?
The key is finding a powerful way to connect with a segment of readers. Your job in marketing is to find an approach that is exciting for YOU. Then you’ll enjoy the process and your enthusiasm will come through. Some writers love blog tours; others like email campaigns or doing multiple newsletters to subscribers; others prefer video, podcasts, ebook trailers, & a youtube subscription. It’s best to choose one to focus on, then do the others in support of that.
What is the best advice you have ever heard?
I got this from Sean Platt. A tried-and-true approach is the ‘funnel’, which works if you think long term. At the top the funnel is wide, and draws in the maximum number of readers. Place your books at different levels in your funnel (level A, wide top; level B, middle; level C, narrow bottom). Your readers enter at the top, drawn in because it’s easy, cheap. The ideal for Level A is having a Free book(s), or priced at $0.99. Then that sends them on to a book at level B, i.e. Book 2 in a series. Or it could be a spin-off series, related in some way to an earlier series. The point here is to create something to serve as an entry-point, a novella or having a short story in an anthology, which then leads the reader to a conventional novel.
The retail platforms are already set up this way, so it helps if your marketing reflects that. For example, a book trailer, the cover, the description, the Look Inside feature, they’re all ways of getting the reader into the funnel’s ‘lobby’.
To digress, the first Harry Potter book was short, light, easy. The next was longer, more difficult & rewarding. By the 4th it was a tome, darker, more complex in structure & language. And so on. So this isn’t just a commercial marketing gimmick, it reflects the pedagogy of going from the easier & mundane to the more difficult, layered, & rewarding.
Design all your promotion so it invites readers in, easily. Having an email list, for example, is like having all your subscribers at Level A, who you then offer deals to, have contests for, etc. It’s not a fan club, it’s a dialogue and you all become fellow ‘posse’ members sharing a journey together.
What are you reading now?
Cheryl Shireman, COOPER MOON: The Calling; Young, INITIATION (A Harem Boy’s Saga); Cynthia Austin, BETWEEN DREAMS; Patrick O’Brian, BLUE AT THE MIZZEN.
What’s next for you as a writer?
In 2016 I want to radically expand my newsletter and subscription activity. I’ll write a 30,000 word ‘magnet’ book to be given free to new subscribers. Longer term I have 4 more titles planned for the ‘Zero Point Light’ series, and 3 more for the ‘Z Inferno’ series, coming out over the next 3 years. And I’d like to start a new non-fiction series on writing; 75 INCITING INCIDENTS would be the first.
What is your favorite book of all time?
Dostoyevsky’s THE IDIOT