To say that you’re a busy guy would be an understatement; not only do you work a full-time job, have three kids, and manage at least three Facebook Groups, how do find the time to write, much less sleep?
I got used to working odd hours in the Air Force. Afterward, I tended to prefer evening/overnight hours, which helped immensely when I got into rock radio. For the first couple of years in broadcasting, I had to take those wee hours shifts, but even after moving into afternoon and morning show slots, I still found I couldn’t get to sleep before midnight. That continues today where I routinely get between five and six hours of sleep. Undoubtedly it’s taking years off my life, but let’s face it; those are the crappy rice-pudding years at the end.
Tell us a little bit about why you created the FB Group, Space Opera.
Actually, John Markley was the original creator. I joined soon after and he asked me to admin, as he wasn’t always available to quash spammers, provide content, and generally provide that cushion against chaos that an active admin can provide a large online group. In fact, membership has recently discussed how refreshing it is to have a respite from the trolls and such that inhabit a lot of other forums and discussion groups. I try to keep things on-topic and free of extraneous, more topical, issues unless those things (politics, religion, etc.) are directly related to a thread about space opera/sci-fi.
After gaining the levers of power (mwuahahahaha) I found that the growing membership had niche interests that were better served in sub-groups. One of the most exciting of those is Space Opera: Writers. This is a craft-only discussion and critique group of sci-fi writers who freely share techniques and processes for both writing and marketing/publishing. It includes experienced and well-known writers such as Van Allen Plexico and Doug Dandridge, as well as exciting newcomers like Jennifer Foehner Wells and Hugh Long.
Absolutely not. We’ve nudged north of 2500 recently and it doesn’t appear to show any signs of slowing down. Its closed membership, which means everyone that wants in, has to get through the admins first. Without that, membership would be much larger, but at the cost of a cohesive, like-minded whole. I don’t screen applicant’s walls for content, though. I just screen applicant’s walls to make sure they ARE people. Accounts with profiles of hot women that were just “born” last month need not apply.
Your love of Science Fiction isn’t just limited to reading and talking about it on Facebook, can you tell us a little bit about your writing?
I’ve dabbled for years, going back to my first full screenplay written at the tender age of 14. It’s crap, but it’s finished crap. Based on a Rick Springfield video, of all things. I know that dates me, but ‘tis true. Recently I reviewed it and it dawned on me that Hellgate is on par with today’s young-adult stuff, so maybe it’s actually got a future…under a pseudonym though, absolutely. Seriously…it’s that schlocky, but so is most YA stuff today.
I kept trying to pick writing back up and try and put something together, having told my son stories I’d come up with for years. Finally in 2010, I bumped into an old college buddy at a reunion and he mentioned that he was already had three books done and convinced me to give it a shot. While putzing around with a few short stories, the central idea for “Not Until We Fall” hit me and I was off and running.
The spark, that first kernel of an idea that makes a writer sit up and go, “HOT DAMN! THAT’LL WORK!” is classified, mainly because the very end of this story is a bit of a reveal/twist. It started with that central idea which generated a 10k word short story. This was hot iron I struck that basically proved to myself that I could actually put a bunch of sentences together into something I found entertaining and thought-provoking. But, when I looked at where these characters were and why they were doing what they were doing, I had to back up and ask those questions. That made me look at the main character’s mother and father. Looking further made me back up to his grandparents.
Not Until We Fall is the first of a four-part series that will continue with Not Until We Fall: Deadlines, Not Until We Rise, and complete with Not Until We Conquer. At its core, the first two will be apocalypse/post-apocalypse stories. Not like we don’t have any of those around, right? However, I feel compelled to do them because there are so few post-post-apocalypse stories out there. What would it take for contemporary Westerners to go from our current pseudo-democratic, ostensibly liberal societies to go full imperial-expansionist, not just out of some rationalized necessity, but with full-on gusto? This entire saga kicks off with the end of civilization, but it’s the society that comes out of that crucible that’s the key to answering that primary question.
I’m shooting for the smart sci-fi reader’s zombie apocalypse, but instead of the typical FIGHT-RUN-SURVIVE-INSERT GRAPHIC VICERA HERE fare that encompasses so much of the zombie genre these days…honestly, most of it seems like cannibal porn to me…I want to provide not only a reason WHY it happened, but give the characters something to DO about it. There’s a specific cause for the world-spanning plague and a specific enemy to fight against afterward. Doing so, changes the fledgling society that emerges from those ashes and their decisions echo down the two generations to my original short story, explaining its setting and why those characters are doing what they are doing…gleefully.
Can you tell us a little bit about your style? Are you a plotter or pantser?
Very much a plotter, though the pantser in me, left over from the impromptu nature of rock radio comedy, plays an important part. I need to get the story’s main milestones down and know where I’m going and how everything fits together, but each scene, every interaction within those scenes, I allow to just expand on its own. I write the narrative parts almost like theater “boxing”, i.e., this character moves here and does this, but the dialog is allowed to come alive on its own. I just slap down the character names and let them talk. Often, I’m surprised by what comes out of that and I’m told by far more experience writers that’s where all the gold is.
I spent a LOT of time (probably too much) researching the various ins and outs of the three story arcs that make up Not Until We Fall. From cyberwar to the US Marines to cruise ship lifeboats, I got to know a lot about these settings and the real people that do the jobs of the characters I employ. Alcatraz features prominently in the first book, as does both the National Ignition Facility (home to the world’s largest laser). The massive shipyard at Newport News, Virginia is the primary setting of Deadlines, so I’m sure I’m on a government watch list somewhere, but hopefully it will pay off.
Peter F Hamilton, followed very closely by Dan Simmons. Niven and Pournelle are high up there, but they don’t produce as much these days. SM Stirling used to be right up there with Hamilton, but something’s happened to his writing in the last four years or so.
What are you reading right now?
On the fiction side, I’m re-reading Larry Niven’s excellent The Integral Trees (space opera world-building at its finest). On the craft side, Larry Brooks’ Story Engineering.
Have you set any goals for the New Year?
Absolutely. Along with continuing my admin duties online, my goal is to write 2000 words per day until NUWF is finished. Target for that is March 1st, followed by no more than two months of editing/revising. Then its cover art and we’re off to the races.
Well, I can tell you I’m looking forward to reading your work and wish you all the best of luck with your fiction and Facebook groups as well. Thanks for stopping by!
Thanks for having me.