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By Joanne Elder
Four years ago, my over-active imagination tapped me on the shoulder and whispered, “You should write a book.” A crazy thought, perhaps, but is it any crazier than daydreaming about thrilling, sci-fi adventures? I had always been a sci-fi fan, but a writer of science fiction? I pondered this notion acknowledging that I had a great deal of technical writing experience under my belt from years working as an engineer. But, to make the leap to fiction? I dismissed any uncertainties and sat down at my computer, knowing that when I start something, I like to take it the max. Now, with two science fiction books published, I thought it’s time I tell my story.
For months, I dedicated myself to writing Spectra. I became consumed with the plot, and the background research. All the while, I felt certain that upon completion of the manuscript, I’d get a literary agent to represent me and land a contract with one of the big publishing houses. After all, how many people could possibly dedicate themselves to a project of this magnitude and see it through to fruition? Well apparently thousands.
My cocky attitude was quickly humbled as I queried agents and larger publishers. Letters of rejection filled my inbox, but they didn’t crush my spirit. I turned my sights to the smaller presses and very quickly signed a contract with MuseItUp Publishing.
One year later not only did I hold a printed copy of Spectra in my hands, I had a second contract for its sequel, Entity. My overzealous attitude reignited. Launching my debut novel was akin to starting up a business and I believed success would come with the proper investment of both time and money. I did a press release, a book trailer, and threw myself into the social networking scene with a website, Facebook page and Twitter. I started blogging on my website and as a guest on others. I actively participated in forums, and Facebook and LinkedIn groups. I attended conferences. I even advertised with key science fiction magazines and websites. I watched my sales statistics each step of the way and, at no point, found any positive correlation between books sold and my efforts.
Next step, I hired a publicist. I will give a word of warning to any author considering this promotional avenue…shop carefully. They can lure you in with their promises and provide few results. That was my experience with the first publicist I used, which I will refrain from naming here. Their efforts, although well intentioned, lead to nothing more than a few reviews from mediocre review sites. Once again, no increase in sales. Bad fortune can make us smarter and I’m now working with a publicist I’m very pleased with. Will sales go up…time will tell.
Of all my efforts to promote Spectra, there is only one success story, which I inadvertently fell into. I submitted the novel to RT Book Reviews Magazine for review and they gave it their rating of TOP PICK, which they give to few books. For the month it appeared in their magazine, sales soared. Perhaps there is one lesson to be learned here. Good, reputable reviews sell books.
So how do authors get their name out there? What’s the right promotional recipe for success? I had hoped that with my experience I’d have these answers by now. The writing world is a changing place with ebooks and online sales dominating the marketplace. This has increased the selection of books for the discriminating reader, yet many still gravitate to the big name “Cadillac” authors. Readers often don’t realize that the latest novel penned by their favorite author may have actually been written by a ghost writer. Book clubs often stack their shelves with the latest media hits boasting vampires or things that are best kept behind closed doors. Are these books literary works of art? I think not, but they sell. I try to take things to the max and I’d like to think I’m not there yet with Spectra. Beyond perseverance, if the key to an author’s success is out there, I’ll find it. In the meanwhile, I’ll keep writing for no better reason than that I love it.
Joanne Elder is a member of the Professional Engineers of Ontario. She received her Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in Engineering Science at the University of Western Ontario. During her professional career, she spent several years in the aeronautical and nuclear industries, published numerous technical papers in the field of Metallurgical Engineering and presented at international conferences. She now resides in King City, Ontario with her two teen-aged children and husband. Spectra, Elder’s debut novel, and the sequel, Entity, were published by MuseItUp Publishing.
You can visit Joanne Elder’s website at www.sciencefictionthrillers.com.
Award-winning author Hank Quense lives in Bergenfield, NJ with his wife Pat. They have two daughters and five grandchildren. He writes humorous fantasy and scifi stories. On occasion, he also writes an article on fiction writing or book marketing but says that writing nonfiction is like work while writing fiction is fun. A member of the Science Fiction Writers of America, he refuses to write serious genre fiction saying there is enough of that on the front page of any daily newspaper and on the evening TV news.
He has a number of links where you can follow his work and his occasional rants:
Strange Worlds website:http://strangeworldsonline.com
Follow him on twitter: http://twitter.com/hanque99
Facebook fan pages: https://www.facebook.com/StrangeWorldsOnline\
Q: Welcome to Beyond the Books, Hank. Can we start out by telling us whether you are published for the first time or are you multi-published?
A: I currently have 13 books published; 6 in print and e-books and 7 in e-book only
Q: What was the name of your very first book regardless of whether it was published or not and, if not published, why?
A: I honestly don’t recall the name. I wrote it early in my writing career. I tried to get an agent and/or a publisher but, after a year or so, I came to the conclusion that it was rubbish and I gave up on it.
Q: For your first published book, how many rejections did you go through before you either found a mainstream publisher, self-published it, or paid a vanity press to publish it?
A: I had maybe a dozen rejections. Eventually, it was accepted by a small indie publishing house and made it into print. The reading public was unimpressed.
Q: How did the rejections make you feel and what did you do to overcome the blows?
A: Before starting a writing career, I was an account executive selling high-tech telecommunications equipment. Rejection is part of the selling job. I grew accustomed to it and writing rejections were the same as selling rejections. You shrug them off and try somewhere else.
Q: When your first book was published, who published it and why did you choose them?
A: It was published by eTreasures and I didn’t choose them, they chose me. They offered to publish the book and I let them, since no one else made that offer.
Q: How did it make you feel to become published for the first time and how did you celebrate?
A: At the time, I felt quite proud. I don’t recall what I did (It was about five years ago)
Q: What was the first thing you did as for as promotion when you were published for the first time?
A: After I got over the shock of realizing I was now the marketing manager and the sales manager for the book because the publisher wasn’t going to do a bloody thing, I started wasting money on useless promotions since I didn’t know have an idea on how to market a book.
Q: If you had to do it over again, would you have chosen another route to be published?
A: No. I think the process I went through was a valuable learning process.
Q: Have you been published since then and how have you grown as an author?
A: Yes, I have a number of books published since my first one. My story design skills and story-telling skills have improved greatly since the time I wrote that first published book.
Q: Looking back since the early days when you were trying to get published, what do you think you could have done differently to speed things up? What kind of mistakes could you have avoided?
A: I don’t think I could have speeded up the process. I read once that to become a decent writer, you have to write a million words. You can’t expedite that process. However, with the ease of self-publishing now, you now have tons of junk stories getting published by writers who haven’t spent the time learning how to design the stories and learning how to tell a story.
Q: What has been the biggest accomplishment you have achieved since becoming published?
A: I have become famously unknown
Q: If you could have chosen another profession, what would that profession be?
A: An alien hunter.
Q: Would you give up being an author for that profession or have you combined the best of both worlds?
A: I’d do both. t takes a lot of time to travel between galaxies and I could write fiction during that travel time
Q: How do you see yourself in ten years?
A: Probably dead. But maybe not. It’s hard to tell.
Q: Any final words for writers who dream of being published one day?
A: Don’t start writing the story until you know the ending.
About Falstaff’s Big Gamble
This novel is Shakespeare’s Worst Nightmare.
It takes two of the Bard’s most famous plays, Hamlet and Othello, and recasts them in Gundarland. There, Hamlet becomes a dwarf and Othello a dark elf and Iago and his wife, Emilia, are trolls.
If that isn’t bad enough, these two tragedies are now comedies with Falstaff, Shakespeare’s most popular rogue, thrown in as a bonus.
Both Hamlet and Othello are plagued by the scheming Falstaff, who embezzles money from Othello. After Hamlet becomes king (with help from Falstaff) the rogue becomes the dark nemesis behind throne.
About The Strange Worlds of Hank Quense
Hank Quense has written about the Strange Worlds that he has developed as a background to many of the books he has written. One of these worlds is called Gundarland, a planet inhabited by humans and fantasy creatures. The second is Zaftan 31B, home world of the alien race known as Zaftans. The books contain information on culture, races, religion, politics and other topics. His latest book in this series is Zaftan Enterprises.
Called to action by a mysterious ancient Order-an ancient Order in cahoots with the Empress Flaccilla of the First Galactic Empire of Emperor Tulla-to help bring about the fulfillment of a long forgotten prophesy, the beautiful galactic pirate, Captain Bonny Morgan, sets out on her mission to successfully bring the prophesy to reality. By kidnapping the Empress’s daughter, Princess Cosette, Captain Morgan sets into motion an adventure awash in political intrigues, hidden agendas, unexpected revelations, and bold, daring gambits by those involved at every level of the conspiracy. Setting out to find her kidnapped sister, Princess Lysette, joined by her beautiful, mischievous, and extraordinary slavegirl, Tink, crisscrosses the galaxy in a bawdy, erotic, and often hilarious attempt to find Cosette. Along the way, Lysette and Tink fall in with a variety of extraordinary allies in their attempt to find Cosette, meeting the Lady Brit, Jon Black, Pirate Queen Colleen O’Malley, Gunns Mannigan, Buster O’Malley, the beautiful pirates Kana and Blaze, and Bully, the roguish owner of the pirate tavern, the Pretty Red.
This is the premise of Robert “Doc” Gowdy’s new book, Captain Bonny Morgan: The Cassandra Prophesy. Doc is here with us today to give us five little known things about his book!
FIVE THINGS YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT CAPTAIN BONNY MORGAN:
THE CASSANDRA PROPHESY
- Captain Bonny Morgan: The Cassandra Prophesy was a joy to write. The ideas for the novel came to me from several places, particularly from my love of mythology, science fiction, old movies, the Golden Age of Piracy at the turn of the eighteenth-century, and classic literature. Captain Bonny Morgan, ostensibly the novel’s main character, is an amalgamation of several “things,” e.g., the combination of the real pirates Anne Bonny and Sir Henry Morgan, the addition of fairy-like mythological attributes, and a hard-bitten West Country brogue a la Captain Hector Barbossa from Pirates of the Caribbean. However, the true joy of the novel—at least to me—and, to my mind, the novel’s real main character, is Tink, Princess Lysette’s mischievous slavegirl. Tink, of course, is my nod to J. M. Barrie’s Tinker Bell from his novel Peter Pan. While my Tink is not a true fairy, but a full-grown human woman, I tried, nevertheless, to instill in Tink many of the same qualities, both emotionally and psychologically, that drive Tinker Bell. Tink is beautiful, mischievous, extremely jealous, playful, funny, and highly intelligent. Emotionally, however, like Tinker Bell, Tink is unable to hold a single emotion at any one time, making her a little volatile and quite unpredictable. Although highly skilled at everything she does, Tink is nevertheless the playful and mischievous spirit of the novel.
- My love of old movies—and movies of all kinds—also drove my creation of the novel, as well as the characters I created for it. For instance, Sergeant Major “Buster” O’Malley is a nod to Victor McGlalen’s character Sergeant Quincannon in She Wore a Yellow Ribbon, and Kevin Conway’s character Sergeant Buster Kilrain in Gettysburg. The character Jon Black is a nod to Long John Silver of both the Disney movie, Treasure Island, and the Robert Louis Stevenson novel of the same name. Like Captain Bonny Morgan, Jon Black speaks in a West Country brogue (they are, in “reality,” both of the same species), and I crafted the brogue from both Robert Newton’s rendering of it in the Disney movie Treasure Island as Long John Silver, and Geoffrey Rush’s from his rendering of it as Captain Hector Barbossa in Pirates of the Caribbean. But it was Robert Newton’s landmark rendering of the West Country brogue in Disney’s Treasure Island that truly drives both Captain Morgan’s and Jon Black’s dialogs in the novel. Robert Newton essentially created pirate-speak.
- In the novel I also created an ethnic species of people based on the Fenians, or Fianna of ancient Irish mythology. For anyone interested, a reference to the Fenians can be found in the Dubliners’ song “The Foggy Dew,” particularly the version sung by Paddy Reilly. It can be found on YouTube. The Fenians are the race of beings that Sergeant Major Buster O’Malley, his sister, pirate Queen Colleen O’Malley, and Buster’s superior, General Sean Francis Padrick “Gunns” Mannigan come from. The Fenians make up the bulk of the galactic pirates within the nine competing factions of the galactic Brethren. Colleen O’Malley is the leader of the O’Malley Brethren. Nevertheless, I had to create a Fenian (or Irish) brogue for the Fenian characters to speak in the novel. Along with writing the West Country brogue, I used as my guide for the Fenian brogue Stephen Crane’s novel, Maggie: A Girl of the Streets. In Maggie, Crane writes a New York-Irish brogue that I used as my guide for writing the dialog of the Fenian characters. Oh, and Gunns Mannigan, he’s a nod to John Wayne’s character Michael Patrick “Guns” Donovan in the movie Donovan’s Reef, and the now defunct Austin, TX blues band, Blitz Mannigan.
- I tried to add a great deal of both subtle and overt humor in the novel. My love of comedy, comedy teams, and my rather quirky sense of humor tends to be sprinkled throughout the novel. For instance, Tink and her owner, Princess Lysette, subtly take on the qualities of Laurel and Hardy as they progress through the novel. Lady Brit, a Miinian noble who joins Tink and Lysette on their adventure, starts out as a rather sophisticated and refined young Lady, but as the novel progresses she becomes more and more mystified by the events occurring around her. Lady Brit is particularly mystified by Tink and Lysette, and later on by the beautiful pirate team of Kana O’Shay and Gunner Blaze. I also have Lady Brit give George Lucas and Star Wars a nod when she tells Captain Morgan that Princess Lysette’s skiff, the Tavia, can make point-five beyond lightspeed. Then there’s the jovial, rather large owner of the pirate tavern Pretty Red on Spiller’s Point. His name is Bully. Bully serves a pirate ale called Spiller’s Ale—good to the last spilt drop. And just down the road from the Pretty Red, is Sim Carstairs store. Sim Carstairs is a nod to the boatman Sim Carstairs in Clint Eastwood’s movie, The Outlaw Josey Wales. Also, in Princess Lysette, I created rather a hard drinker—at times. She’s rather a pirate drinker, so to speak. She becomes quite drunk during Lady Brit’s pirate branding on Prilla when Colleen O’Malley makes Lady Brit a pirate lord in the O’Malley Brethren. Then next morning when Lysette has a thundering hangover, Tink happily informs her that she has a hangover. Lysette then replies, “Tink, calling what I have a ‘hangover’ is like calling the Centellon flood a slight drizzle.” That line is a direct nod to Gig Young’s character (and his tremendous hangover) in the Clark Gable and Doris Day movie, Teacher’s Pet.
- I also created some rather cool, but evil characters. Admiral Kul, who is trying to take over the galactic Empire of Emperor Tulla, the Empress Flaccilla’s second husband, is quite a flawed man. I tried to create a truly psychologically troubled man, which makes his attempt to gain the Empire look rather cowardly and shallow. Then there’s his aide, Commander Pangko. His go-to guy. Commander Pangko, who is quite evil, is nevertheless quite intelligent and quite conniving. Then there’s Commander Pellon, the rather unsavory executive officer aboard Admiral Kul’s personal Imperial Super Carrier, Death’s Talon. It seems that whenever Commander Pellon comes into Tink’s presence, he creates rather a foul odor in her nose. The odor, however, is only apparent to Tink, and no one else. And then there’s my favorite evil character turned good guy, General Ziett Thom. General Thom is the quintessential Death Watch General. I patterned him after Bill Nighy’s character General Friedrich Olbricht in the Tom Cruise movie, Valkyrie, right down to the nervous tick with his head suddenly jerking to one side. And although the Empress Flaccilla is not evil, she is a very, very fun character who is quite conniving in her own right—as she, too, is trying to take over the Empire from her husband—but is rather a nymphomaniac in the bargain. Oh, and one last fun character. Captain Rafer O’Toole, who is Fenian, but speaks with a rather refined, aristocratic accent, is patterned after Bernard Fox’s character Colonel Crittendon from “Hogan’s Heroes.” He’s quite a fun character. Tink has rather a lot of fun at Captain O’Toole’s expense, and much to his sophisticated chagrin.
Robert “Doc” Gowdy is a graduate of the University of North Texas with a Ph.D. in Literary Criticism and Theory and an emphasis on Nineteenth-Century British literature. His specialization in literary theory is psychoanalytic criticism and theory, particularly Lacanian psychoanalysis, with further emphases on Milton and Eighteenth-Century British literature. Doc Gowdy is currently an adjunct assistant professor at Texas Woman’s University where he teaches various literature classes. His interest in writing is long standing, but aside from academic writing, his first novel, Captain Bonny Morgan: The Cassandra Prophesy is his first foray into fiction. Captain Bonny Morgan is based on archetypal themes and patterns from mythology, such as fairies, goddesses, and the Hero’s Journey, and based loosely on Doc Gowdy’s active duty service in the United States Marine Corps with special emphasis on the Golden Age of Piracy in the Caribbean at the turn of the Eighteenth-Century.