Interview, Len Vlahos (BISG)

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[Image from Booksellers NZ]

* Interview #72, with Book Industry Study Group’s (BISG) Executive Director, Len Vlahos!

* Note from Jess: BISG is the leading book trade association for standardized best practices, research and education. I noticed Mr. Vlahos’ “very interesting and unique bio” on GoodReads — so I decided to send a quick Q&A on career and life vision!

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Hi Len! Describe yourself in 5 words:

Vlahos_Len_107

Caffeine free since August 2012.

What do you find most exciting and/or challenging with being the executive director of the Book Industry Study Group (BISG)?

I love BISG because we represent every corner of the supply chain. Our members include Amazon, B&N, Kobo, Google, Random House, Harper Collins, Hachette, the American Library Assn, digital only companies, indie bookstores, small publishers, printers. the Author’s Guild, wholesalers, and on and on and on…

We are at the very center of the book industry. We exist to build consensus, and to help trading partners work more efficiently together. It’s a broad mission, and it provides real value to the entire publishing ecosystem. And it’s fun. :-)

You dropped out of NYU film school in the mid 80s to play guitar for Woofing Cookies (a punk-pop band that had a full-length LP on Midnight Records), before working in the book industry and writing novels — what a unique bio! Do you approach music the same way as you approach writing?

Dang the Internet! My cover is, apparently, blown. The bio is true. I took a circuitous route to this point in my life, not always an easy route, but one I wouldn’t change for anything.

My prose writing is more methodical than my songwriting. With music, I pick up the guitar and futz around until inspiration comes or it doesn’t. With prose, I try to stick to a fairly rigid schedule of writing everyday, which forces a more deliberate, measured approach, if that makes sense.

Share a short excerpt and blurb of your debut novel, The Scar Boys (10-100 words):

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Excerpt: An older and much larger boy stood over me, blotting out the sun. “You weren’t goddam here when we chose up the goddam sides.” He was trying on curse words the way a little girl tries on her mother’s shoes.

Blurb: The Scar Boys is the story of Harbinger “Harry” Jones. His journey from outcast to guitar hero takes center stage in this rock and roll coming of age novel. There’s love (conditional and not), sex (imagined and not), drugs (prescribed and not), and a whole lot of music.

(For the record, I’m not as good at blurbs as I am at fiction.)

Share a short excerpt of one of your favorite author’s work (10-100 words):

At the far end of town, where the grickle grass grows
And the wind smells slow and sour when it blows
And no birds ever sing, excepting old crows
Is the Street of the Lifted Lorax.

(The Lorax, by Dr. Seuss)

Do you personally prefer print books or eBooks?

When e- first started getting going (2008), I read quite a lot on my iPhone (using a variety of different apps). I would I say 50% of all my reading over the next two + years was on the iPhone.

But over the last 18 months, I’ve migrated back entirely to print. I’m not sure I can explain why, other than I think I suffer from screen fatigue. While I know that e-ink devices are supposed to be the antidote, they still haven’t really replicated the visual experience of ink on paper. Printed books are just easier on the eyes. That said, I have nothing against e-, and wouldn’t be surprised if I wind up reading e- and p more interchangeably in the future.

Please share your #1 tip for balancing work and family life:

Insomnia.

Please share your #1 tip for publishers and writers to keep up with the ever-evolving book publishing industry:

The transformation that has engulfed the book industry is not about technology; it’s about human behavior. People want to access content in myriad ways, and want to consume and share it in ways not previously imagined. Our industry should be focused on the customer and her needs and desires, and shouldn’t obsess over the technology. And don’t be afraid to fail. (That might be more than one tip.)

Your websites/blogs/etc:

Website | Twitter

Email: lenATlenvlahosDOTcom

(Man, that’s a lot of “Len Vlahos” for one paragraph.)

Much thanks to the gracious and very cool Len Vlahos for taking the time to share his thoughts with us!

Check out his bio at GoodReads, along with his bio at Book Industry Study Group (BISG).

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Author Interview, Tony Healey

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Interview #69, with writer and Kindle All-Stars contributor, Tony Healey!

Describe yourself in 5 words:

Blood, Sugar, Sex, Majik, Ha!

OMG I *love* that RHCP album (lol!). Share a short excerpt and blurb of your work (10-100 words):

From my short story ABC featured in the upcoming anthology CARNIVAL OF CRYPTIDS:

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I checked my watch again. “I’m sorry to push you, but I’m really pressed for time. I’ve got to–”

He laid a hand on my wrist. His eyes were fixed on the horizon, on the line of the sea beyond the boats in the harbour. Those little black eyes peered through time as he spoke. “This happened about twenty years ago. There’s a long stretch of woodland lies above the cove, between the farms and the moors.”

“I’ve seen it,” I said, mystified.

“Every man I ever told this story to has just laughed at me. Called me a drunk. Called me a senile old man. But with you I think it’s different. I think you’ll listen and understand what I’m telling you,” he said. “I think you’ll have an open mind.”

Share an excerpt of your favorite author’s work (10-100 words):

I think my favorite author is Arthur C Clarke. He’s not the best writer I’ve read, but there’s something about his singular vision of our future I find enlightening and hopeful. This is a quote from his novel THE SONGS OF DISTANT EARTH:

“The lives of men, and all their hopes and fears, were so little against the inconceivable immensities that they dared to challenge.”

Comment on the writing versus publication process, in your experience:

I don’t really have a problem with the publication process. It’s always an interesting and fulfilling experience. To write something, have it edited, polish it and then simply click a button and PUBLISH it is quite mind-blowing when you think about it. It can be frustrating when something of yours doesn’t quite hit a chord with readers, but like a writer friend of mine said: “Forget the haters. If they don’t like your book, write another one. Write ten more.”

I think that as self-publishers we should be working on that next project. We can’t sit on our hands and rest. The BIG 6 sure aren’t going to cut us a break. It’s a battle of the old world versus the new.

Yes to productivity ;) What is your definition of “good writing”?

Writing that isn’t up its own arse. There are writers putting work out, and I won’t mention names, but they seem more concerned with WORDS than telling a story. These people are so filled with their importance as WRITERS that they forget people don’t want to sit through that. I may be punching above my weight in saying this, but I don’t think it’s necessary to spend 100,000 words telling a story you could tell in 60,000 words. I love pulp fiction, and although I know it’s not to everyone’s taste it can teach writers some valuable lessons. The same could be said of reading bestsellers. You know, your Dan Browns and James Pattersons (shudder!). Although they’re not great books, they are fast paced and well-plotted. I love writers like Michael Chabon, John Irving, people like that who can spend 600 pages or more meandering back and forth within their story. Their books are a joy. But not everybody can be the next Chabon or Irving.

Good writing for me, at the moment, means brevity where possible and for the author of the work to remember they’re a storyteller first, and a high and mighty writer second.

Please share your #1 tip for writers:

Get a pair of headphones. And Led Zeppelin.

Your websites/blogs/etc:

http://www.tonyhealey.com

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Much thanks to Tony Healey for stopping by — do visit Tony’s Website for more info on him and his projects! And do check out the Kindle All-Stars FB page too.

Tony has a free eBook on Amazon too that you can check out!

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TONY’S BIO (in his own words):

Tony Healey is a Sussex-based writer and a born-and-bred Brightonian. He is the author of the best-selling Far From Home series.

He was a contributor to the first Kindle All-Stars short story anthology, Resistance Front, along with award-winning authors Alan Dean Foster, Harlan Ellison and 30 others.Tony has also contributed a piece of flash fiction to the anthology 100 Horrors.

As well as his writing, he’s interviewed numerous figures in the publishing world for his site, including Bernard Schaffer, Meg Gardiner, Alan Dean Foster, Debbi Mack, Russell Brooks and many, many more.

Tony can be contacted via tonyleehealeyATgmailDOTcom and at his personal site, http://www.tonyhealey.com

Land of Hope, Junying Kirk

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Part of the Land of Hope Blog Tour! (5 – 25 October 2012)

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I interviewed the very talented and cultured Junying Kirk almost a year ago.

Land of Hope is the third and final novel in Junying’s Journey to the West trilogy, which was recently published.

Here’s a book blurb and excerpt!

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Land of Hope [Blurb]:

Every year, millions of illegal immigrants cross borders in search of wealth, happiness and a life of ease in the Land of Hope. Some succeed. Others suffer unimaginable hardships.

When Jack Gordon, Inspector in the SCS (Serious Crime Squad) hires Pearl Zhang, a professional Chinese interpreter, they join forces to fight injustice in the corrupt underworld of international crime, human trafficking and sexual exploitation.

Pearl is the voice of broken dreams, translating raw, deranged, and colorful tales of those who cannot speak for themselves. As Pearl gets more and more tangled in the lives of strangers, Jack becomes a welcome diversion, complicated by the fact that both are married. Their trans-continental roller-coaster ride derails when Pearl tumbles into the sinister world of her clients, a world full of secrets, lies, and unspeakable violence — only this time, it’s directed at her.

Can she depend on Jack? Find out in this third and final book of Junying Kirk’s Journey to the West trilogy.

Land of Hope [Excerpt]:

A sudden, cracking sound from the kitchen interrupted her train of thought and made her mutter. “Shit,” came out under her breath. As if by magic, Jack appeared at the door in a flash.

“You all right?” His voice was filled with concern.

He is awfully quick on his feet, she noted, as she knelt down on the now-wet floor, sweeping up broken pieces of glass.

“I broke the vase, but it’s no big deal.” She stood up and glanced at Jack quickly before diverting her eyes, her face burning scarlet, reflections of the red roses.

Before she opened the cupboard to locate another container for the flowers, she heard Jack’s tender yet commanding whisper behind her. “Come here, Pearl.”

An electrical current shook through her as his strong arms reached out and drew her close.

Her back touched his first, before he turned her around to face him. She smelt a faint aftershave, assaulting her super-sensitive senses. His touch was so charged with an electrifying passion that her body responded with an unmistakably earthy desire. Involuntarily, and fatally, she allowed herself to fall into Jack’s inviting, enamoured embrace.

What happened next was beyond her control, as his ardent kisses showered first on her face and neck, then moved on to her mouth, which was already on fire. As soon as his lips touched hers, Pearl’s body started to tremble.

She let out a soft moan under his hot kisses and found herself responding to his fervent touch. Instinctively she pressed her body against his, willing herself to melt. The feeling of being wanted was so powerful that it overwhelmed all her other senses. In one quick movement, he picked her up and carried her towards the bedroom next door.

“Oh Jack,” was all she managed to utter.

Check out Junying’s interview with me, and the other Land of Hope blog tour stops (with Robert Pruneda on 13th October, and Andy Wood on 14th October)!

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Author Bio:

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Junying Kirk grew up in the turbulent times of the Cultural Revolution. A British Council scholarship led her to study English Language Teaching at Warwick University in 1988, followed by further postgraduate degrees at Glasgow and Leeds. She has worked as an academic, administrator, researcher, teacher and cultural consultant.

When she is not traveling to Courts & Police stations as a professional interpreter, she loves spending her time reading & writing books, and traveling the world. Her ‘Journey to the West’ trilogy, ‘The Same Moon’, ‘Trials of Life’ and ‘Land of Hope’ have been published on Amazon.UK, Amazon.Com and Smashwords. She lives in Birmingham, UK with her English husband.

Self-Publishing Tips (Quick Checklist)

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*** Based on an email from an aspiring indie author asking for help with starting out with self-publishing ***

I’ll add this post to a future edition of my Self-Publishing Wiz eBook. Adding to my blog here in case anyone else finds it useful ^^.

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[“Think Long Term” | Image from Canrock Ventures]

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Original Email (from a “19-year-old proud Filipino male”):

“…Oh yes! I have plans to appear as a new writer in the publishing world. I wanna have my own novel and let people know that I am writing such book. But I am pretty much confused as to how I would start my journey after I’ve written one. What will be my first step(s) after I have my novel? ”

Jess’s reply (original email = quick thinking + typing):

First step after the novel is done — I think would be to plan/design a book cover (I usually “think of it” while writing the novel). The book cover has to look good when small image (since people will be browsing it online — has to be eye-catching as a small image).

Follow the Smashwords Style Guide to properly format the eBook version. If you’d like to have a print version, there’s www.lulu.com, www.createspace.com, and www.lightningsource.com (this last one = most expensive option but most professional also).

Some reviews would be good too (like the “members giveaway” programme on LibraryThing). I like to spend more time on production side though. But the reviews are good for credibility. Your book should be “easy to find” from your blog/website/etc also (for new visitors/readers to find).

*** Publishing is pretty much a long-term thing — so I think it’d help if you think of how you want to build up your brand over time. What is your work about / what’s your message / what are the genres you work in (something to attract people to your brand / your books). For me I had/have to usually think about whether I want to write “as an art form” or “commercially.” ***

You have to write a good summary and synopsis for your book also. It must be succinct yet enticing at the same time (people have short attention spans!). Choose good keywords and categories (easier when you have “books in series,” since people tend to buy all the books in a series if they like the first book).

I would recommend first uploading the book on www.smashwords.com (that’s where I first uploaded). Amazon’s would be https://kdp.amazon.com (but I’m not sure about how the international tax forms work). Smashwords allows you to sell on Barnes and Noble and some other retailers under the “premium” programme (which is still free at the moment).

SINCE people like free samples / free things, you might want to do some freebie promos (either mini eBooks, or perhaps a short story, essay, etc.). That allows more people to find you also.

It helps to have *** clearly-defined goals *** from the start — if you want to focus solely on profits, target a commercial niche that has a large audience (thrillers; horror; epic fantasy; etc.). If you have goals that are not just money-related then it’s best to respect those goals also (making a difference; originality; etc.). The good part is that you really have full business and creative control.

Hope that’s not too confusing — I usually just charge ahead and “see what to do” along the way (no structured sequence, lol!).

P.S. I bolded and put a “***” above on the points that were “most important” to tackle, in my personal experience.

Poet Interview, Edward G. Brown

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Interview #56, with Edward Giles Brown, who wrote a Sonnet every day for a year in 2005!

Describe yourself in 5 words:

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Patient Industrious Stubborn Impulsive Curious

Share a short excerpt and blurb of your work (10-100 words):

365 Days of Verse
(365 Days of Verse: Volume II | Book Cover)

From Volume 1:

Good it does breathing the provincial air,
While wet bullets plunge from the well-armed line,
And spent shells run slick under foot, downhill;
Canopies of green hover on ridges
When no mist grows thick around their borders,
In every season, envious they bloom;
And when no white eclipses heaven’s edge,
Myriad ancient signals make their way
Across an infinite span to meet me,
Each flicker never to be repeated,
New and fragile and then at once dispatched
Through the glory of eyes and intellect.
Many pleasures and sweets in city lights,
But none compare to these rustic delights.

— Copyright 2005-2011 Edward G. Brown

Share an excerpt of your favorite poet’s work (10-100 words):

From W.H. Auden’s The More Loving One

Looking up at the stars, I know quite well
That, for all they care, I can go to hell,
But on earth indifference is the least
We have to dread from man or beast.

How should we like it were stars to burn
With a passion for us we could not return?
If equal affection cannot be,
Let the more loving one be me.

Admirer as I think I am
Of stars that do not give a damn,
I cannot, now I see them, say
I missed one terribly all day.

Were all stars to disappear or die,
I should learn to look at an empty sky
And feel its total dark sublime,

Though this might take me a little time.

— Copyright 1960 W. H. Auden

Did reading a poem first spark the desire to write poetry, or was it an experience?:

When I was in high school I used to sit under a tree in the back yard and read Whitman’s Leaves of Grass. There were many times when reading the poetry transformed my experience of life. It taught me to observe and truly see what was around me. Writing poetry always puts me in touch with that kind of experience and I began to crave it. So in a sense, both.

Nice :) What goal do you seek through your poetry?

I always endeavor to capture some sense of truth in my life, and to do it in a way that isn’t trite or shopworn. It’s a huge challenge, especially when working on a project that requires output every day. If I’m honest, I wouldn’t hate a bit of recognition for my efforts. I’ll keep at it regardless because writing is its own reward in many ways.

Yes, the work itself has to bring satisfaction (along with the recognition)! Please share your #1 tip for poets/writers:

Write something every day.

Your websites/blogs/etc:

http://365daysofverse.wordpress.com/
https://twitter.com/#!/365DaysOfVerse
http://amazon.com/author/edwardgilesbrown

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Much thanks to Edward for stopping by!

POET BIO: Edward Giles Brown wrote a Sonnet every day for a year in 2005 and is publishing them in 3 volumes. Volumes 1 and 2 are currently available on Amazon. Check out his WordPress blog and Amazon author page for more info!

Author Interview, Nipaporn Baldwin

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Author Interview #42, with Nipaporn Baldwin, who writes about space dragons (AKA original and unique fantasy + science fiction)!

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Hi Nipaporn! Please describe yourself in 5 words:

Dragon, Gamer, Italophile, Simplistic and Artist

Please share a short excerpt and blurb of your work (10-100 words):

Society On Da Run

(Nipaporn: Since I have so many stories, I can share a blurb made specifically for all the books in the series)

Blurb: Earth has seen many visitors, from space dragons colonizing the planet in Pre Cambrian times to intelligent insectoids. Follow the adventures of a wide cast of characters as they encounter the dragons of the Draconizica empire, and Ashuton Karrucci, the god of dragons going about his daily life in Italy. From a story about a small town ravaged by an airborn dragon virus, to a story about a cruel dragon king on a terraformed Mars, to the story of a girl pregnant with a Dragon god, these stories are not bound by the norms of Fantasy and Science Fiction genres.

Excerpt:

“When the world stops spinning and the people I’ll die I will think of her and wish I had pie.”

Wish I had pie.

This was the thought that lingered in Anjou Merkrai-Kidogo’s head. His French cheetah was thinking of her home on the Sarenghetti, and his dragonling was thinking about the strange beams of light coming down from the sky. The burning car’s speed was dawning into the hundreds, but the dragon in the sky were still chasing after them. With the Dragon were several small Winter Wyverns, all of them focusing their ice breath on the speeding car.

Share an excerpt of your favorite author’s work (10-100 words):

* An excerpt from Ravens by George Dawes Green:

When they got back to the Tercel, Shaw said he was wide awake and could he drive? That was fine with Romeo. He got in on the passenger side, and they descended into the North Carolina piedmont. His ears popped; the air grew humid. He tilted his seat all the way back and looked up at the moon as it shredded in the pines. Somewhere after Elkin, NC, he let his eyes slip shut for just a second — and then the highway started to curve beneath him, and he felt himself spiraling slowly downward, into a bottomless slumber.

* An excerpt from The Devil’s Queen by Jeanne Kalogridis:

At first glance he was an unremarkable man, short and stout with greying hair and the drab clothes of a commoner. I could not see his face from my vantage two floors above, but I watched him recoil as he emerged from the carriage and his foot first met the cobblestone; he signaled for his cane and reached for the coachman’s arm. Even with these aids, he moved gingerly, haltingly through the sultry morning, and I thought, aghast, He is a sick, aging man – nothing more.

Comment on the writing versus publication process, in your experience:

In my experience, the writing and publication is always fun. It’s the marketing that I have a problem with. Because I have so many stories, it’s hard to market them, and being an unknown author it’s increasingly hard. I try hard not to give up, and almost did several times.

Yes, “give in, give up, or give it all you’ve got” ;)! What is your definition of “good writing”?

If it does not bore the hell out of me, it’s a good story. Most novels bore me, that is why I stick to short stories.

Please share your #1 tip for writers:

Get to know your readers and what they like and don’t like in a story and strive to be completely different. Do not be bound by clichés! If you have to write a vampire story, try writing about an android vampire fighting Ninjas after the Apocalypse. Spice it up, don’t be gray!

Yes, I personally favor originality over something that’s rehashed and/or forgettable. Please let us know your websites/blogs/etc:

Short Story blog (where stories are posted): http://dragonshortstories.wordpress.com/

Smashwords (where you can read current stories from TSODR): http://www.smashwords.com/profile/view/thedragongod

The 700-page omnibus edition: http://www.amazon.com/Dragons-Cicadas-Society-Omnibus-ebook/dp/B006ZDQH0I/

And here are my social media links:

Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads

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Much thanks to Nipaporn for stopping by! Her short story blog has more info about her unique stories written in a non-conventional Fantasy and Science Fiction setting. While you’re there, check out her Facebook conversation story, titled “Kitty Kat Wants to Sell Moar Drugs.”

Author Interview, Joseph Robert Lewis

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Author Interview #20, with science fiction author, Joseph Robert Lewis!

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Hi Joseph! Describe yourself in 5 words:

Obsessive, disciplined, inquisitive, busy, anosmic.

Share a blurb of your work (10-100 words):

Heirs of Mars — The dream that was Mars has become a nightmare for the children born there.

To save New Troy from falling birth rates, Asher Radescu secretly clones people in the back of his old truck. To save New Troy from despair, Claudia Cruz hosts the most popular racing show on two worlds. And to save the city from destruction, they’ll rally persecuted cloners, resurrected colonists, and racing celebrities to fight homicidal AIs. HEIRS OF MARS follows the lives of six men and women through the final days of the first war on Mars, a war between humans, machines, and the resurrected souls who aren’t truly one or the other. But even if they survive the war, there is no escape from the red planet.

Visit my site for two free short stories set before Heirs of Mars (19 years and 24 hours, respectively): http://josephrobertlewis.wordpress.com/books/heirs-of-mars/

Share a list of your favorite author’s novels that influenced your new book:

Accelerando, by Charles Stross

A Song of Ice and Fire (series), by George RR Martin

The Wreck of the River of Stars, by Michael Flynn

Comment on the writing versus publication process, in your experience:

Writing is work. (Fun, cool, exciting work, but work nonetheless.) Heirs of Mars took a total of 250 hours of research, writing, revising, editing, and polishing. I believe a book has to be perfect — every word, every idea. If you expect someone to pay for your work, then they deserve the best work possible. Never settle for “good enough”! But with practice and experience, I’ve found a process and a rhythm for completing an entire novel in 3-4 months and while it is still work, it is work I really enjoy.

In sharp contrast, publishing is easy. It took me less than an hour to properly format and upload the book itself. And then a handful of hours to update my website and blog and to post announcements on the various ebook forums and review sites, as well as my fellow indie authors’ blogs. The best part is that I can simply reuse the same text and images and links for most of those announcements. And at that point, it’s pretty much up to the world to either take an interest or pass. As for me, I’m off to write another book!

What is your definition of “good writing”?

There’s no such thing. Good writing is whatever an audience enjoys. (Seriously, we’re all people and we all have different tastes.) It can be over-written purple prose, like Tolkien, and it can be under-written dots and dashes, like Hemingway. Any abundance or lack of description, dialog, action, and exposition can be “good.” All you have to do is find your audience.

(But if you can’t find an audience, well, then you’re writing may not be good. Or you may have forgotten to get published. Check your royalties if you’re not sure which.)

Please share your #1 tip for writers:

Have a goal. I don’t mean as an author: “I want to be rich and famous.” But as a writer trying to write a book, have a goal. Don’t just try to tell a story. Try to accomplish something, whether it’s as simple as making your readers laugh or as ambitious as inspiring them to lead a revolution.

Do you want to be funny, or scary, or erotic? Do you want to fight social injustice by creating heroes for a certain type of reader? Do you want to expose people to exciting new ideas in science or fascinating facts from history? Once you have a goal, hold on to it. As you write your book, keep asking yourself whether you’re moving closer to reaching your goal. If the answer is no, then start reaching for your Backspace key.

Your websites/blogs/etc:

Web: www.josephrobertlewis.com
Blog: josephrobertlewis.wordpress.com

Heirs of Mars is available on —

Amazon.com: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B0049H94G6/
Amazon.co.uk: http://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B0049H94G6/

Much thanks to Mr. Lewis for the chat!