Reviews for Blink Are In!

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Blink has been out in the real world for about a week and a half, and the sales have been good, but the reviews have been even better. I seriously could have pulled lines from each of the reviews up on Amazon and Goodreads — all of them are so good. Allow me a moment of pride; Paul and I worked really hard on Blink and are hard at work on figuring out how to get Agent Smith and the Utility Company back on your Kindles. Here are a few quotes from some of the reviews up now on Amazon…


 

unnamed“The Swardstrom Brothers hit all the right notes in this tight little Super Science / Alternate Universes roller coaster. If the X-Files made you want more of the strange and mysterious government organizations battling not just with guns and smarts, but the occasional wit in the face of certain doom, then look no further. This is a great Friday Night read. A fun, fast, adventure where all is not as it seems.”

Nick Cole, author of Ctrl-Alt-Revolt

“…a book that I didn’t want to put down, even when life got in the way.”

Shay VanZwoll

“The story unfolds at a solid pace that always maintained my interest and when it hit a boiling point about mid-way through the novel, the pace became relentless and was extremely hard to put down.”

Chris Fried

“The Swardstrom brothers have co-crafted a sci-fi work of art. Together, they have written a novel that seamlessly transitions between protagonists (and worlds), never losing its brilliant voice, its sense of humor, its sense of the supernatural, its sense of adventure. This is an action packed tour de force that introduces a great cast of characters that I hope return again soon for a new adventure.”

Jonathan Ballagh, author of Stone & Iris

“This is a great book you won’t want to miss, it is like when you know you should go to bed but you just want to read one more chapter than just one more, than another and another, than the book is done and it is way past your bedtime…”

Trisha “Mindjacked” Perry

“The Swardstrom Brothers’ supernatural sci-fi world of Blink is a phenomenal meshing of classic pulp and contemporary Fringe. This is the beginning of something grand.”

Daniel Arthur Smith, author of Hugh Howey Lives

There is still time to get Blink for less than a buck — click on the link above to see what the reviewers are talking about!

How To Write One Novel In A Year

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I recently saw a blog post that detailed how to write four books a year. Of course, I know some writers who write more books than that, but there are plenty who write fewer. Chalk me up on that latter list.

But you know what there isn’t? I’ve not really seen a sure-fire way to struggle and stumble your way into writing a book over the course of 365 days. So….here we go. (By the way, this is roughly the way I’ve written my latest book, which may or may not be finished within the calendar year. [sidenote: it will. {side-sidenote: I really, really hope.}]).

Day 1: Write 27 words as a Facebook status update. Make it funny in an ironic sort of way and laugh about it quietly as a half-dozen of your closest semi-anonymous comment and/or like the post.

Day 2: Write 43 words. Again as a Facebook update, but loosely tie it into the original post from yesterday. Give a little backstory and create some forward momentum. And be funny. Chuckle as only three people “get” your unique brand of humor.

Day 3: Based on the previous two days of Facebook posts, add a twist. The post should reference the previous two days, but give the reader a sense of purpose and originality that is lacking in most Facebook posts. (Author note: this only works on Facebook. Don’t try this on Twitter or Snapchat or any of those other loser social media sites.)

Day 4-10: Add some other junk to your previous smatterings and tie it together in what we writer professionals call a “plot.”

Day 11: Take a day off. You deserve it.

Day 12: OK. So this is a thing now. True, you’ve only written 987 words over the course of a week and a half, but that’s still something, right? Maybe you should examine your characters and their motivations or something like that. Double what you’ve written so far in a torrential downpour of words. Then delete those words cuz they were terrible anyway.

Day 13: Enter THE BROTHER. (Alternately, THE SISTER may be a viable alternative.) THE BROTHER…we’ll call him Saul…sends you a message. “I like your story,” it says. “I came up with a plot device,” it reads. “Can I write more and we incorporate it?” You quickly reply “YES” because what he’s written is about 1×10^26 better than whatever you’ve written so far. Whatever you thought you were writing — YOU WERE WRONG and you need to reevaluate everything. Perhaps even your breakfast choices. A toaster pastry is clearly so 1990’s, after all.

Day 14-30: Marvel at what THE BROTHER writes. He claims to be just taking your lead on the story, but clearly his ideas are better than yours. Maybe you were really adopted? Your genes aren’t coming up with original ideas like he is. What’s wrong with you? Maybe switching from toaster pastries to Cap’n Crunch Berries wasn’t the best move.

Day 31: Time to get serious. Between you and Saul, there are now enough words to actually publish and not be embarrased. Problem is that you only have the beginnings of a story. Only the “P” of an actual Plot if you will. So, take a look at Saul’s additions and embrace it. Switch the entire POV of the narrative and go with the side character that he embraced as his protagonist. Oh…and decide to switch from first person to third person, necessitating an entire rewrite of the story thus far.

Day 32: Super Bowl. Eat Lil’Smokies wrapped in Bacon and dip it in Nacho Cheese. Enjoy the Bathroom tomorrow.

Day 33: Continue pondering where to really take the story.

Day 34: Continue pondering where to really take the story.

Day 35: Continue pondering where to really take the story.

Day 36: Continue pondering where to really take the story.

Day 37: Write a side plot cuz you can’t really think about what you really want to do with your main characters.

Day 38-75: Trade off storylines with THE BROTHER. Be envious when you realize he has the best storylines, and then realize he has the best ones because he wrote them that way.

Day 76: Realize he feels the same way about your storylines and accept that you might actually be a decent writer. Maybe. Perhaps.

Day 77-95: Take a break. You have a short story to write about zombies and football, so focus on that and let Saul take the lead on the book for a while. RIP Jellyroll.

Day 96-108: Stress over the potential edits of the aforementioned zombie/football story. Write 24-48 words a day while under the cloud of future edits, and occasionally go back and delete those very words a few days later.

Day 109: You’ve been working hard. Take a day off.

Day 110: Write a couple hundred words and wrap up a scene that’s been sitting open for two months. Breath a sigh of relief and throw out the Cap’n Crunch. All the cool kids are eating bagels anyway.

Day 110: You’ve been working hard. Take a day off.

Day 111-140ish: Work at a snail’s pace on the book, putting a rough plan in place to “HIT IT HARD” in the summer. As you and THE BROTHER are both teachers, the summer is like Shangri-la. A promised land with candy and time. This will be the summer of finishing ALL THE THINGS. Let’s do it!

Day 141-148: What were you thinking? You’ve got a vacation to start your summer break in the mountains of Tennessee. OK. Do the vacation and then when you get back, do ALL THE WRITING.

Day 149-150: Back from vacation. Worn out and the kids don’t seem to get the fact that you got stuff to do. Seriously.

Day 151-155: Another trip. This time a national tournament for the school’s quiz bowl team. OK. Have fun, and when you get back, do ALL TEH WRITING.

Day 156: Get back. Wife goes to her parents. Kids don’t get it that they need to stay quiet and work on their particle physics all day in their rooms. Especially the five-year-old. Sheesh.

Day 157-165: Wife still gone. Kids still kids. Manuscript still untouched even after weeks of summer break actually in existence and whooshing by like…things that whoosh by. Mind turns to mush after the tenth episode of “Bubble Guppies” in one day.

Day 166-180: Wife calls. Needs you at her parents to set up for an estate sale. Spend the next two weeks cleaning and emptying outside buildings and barns. Physical exhaustion sets in. An unfamiliar feeling…sleep beckons and will not be ignored.

Day 181: Estate sale done. Money made, but not for me. Book still unfinished. THE BROTHER notes your place at the bottom of the pit and tries to reach you. Unfortunately, he lives on the Left Coast and the humidity of the Midwest prevents his arm from reaching you.  Despair. Desperation. The book sits unloved on my Google Drive. It may never see the light of day.

Day 182: OK. First day of July. Let’s do this. Cracking the document open you realize the book isn’t half bad. It might not be half good, either, but it ain’t half bad. One of the kids is at camp…maybe you can get stuff done.

Day 183: Nope.

Day 184: Also nope.

Day 185: Add 500 words.

Day 186-194: Peck away word by word, but look forward to THE BROTHER flying to the Midwest in person. Know THINGS will be accomplished in his mere presence. Put your faith in the ridiculous idea you’ll write 40,000 words in a week of him and his family being around.

Day 195: Nope.

Day 196-210: Hang out with Saul. Talk about the book, but work rarely. Have 99 year old grandmother pass away in Upper South Dakota and have to travel there with the rest of the family. Manuscript survives. But just barely.

Day 210-220: School starts soon. Write a little, but prep for the Fall. Summer is gone and so was your chance to fully write. THE BROTHER starts school later, but he has second and third vacations so he doesn’t write either.

Day 221: First day of School. Yay.

Day 222: Second day of School. Double yay.

Day 223: Third day of School. The GRADING begins. Writing is tough enough without having to decipher the scrawlings of a 10th grade boy. Oy. Forget it. I’ll try again in a couple weeks.

Day 224-260: Try. Try to start writing again. Remember how great of a book this can be and write in spurts.

Day 261: Return of THE BROTHER, along with his cultivated ideas for where to take the story and how to finish. Shame upon your house for not getting it done, but praise be to THE BROTHER. Saul is your muse. Take it and run.

Day 262-285: Write. Write and write some more. Settle on the final details of the final scene. Realize your year-long novel writing plan may end up being a 10-month plan.

Day 286: Write a blog about how to write a book in a year.

Day 287: MAKE BANK>

Day 288: OVER.NIGHT.SUCCESS.

New Release – Jam Night

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Jam NightAbout a year ago, I wrote a short story inspired by things that were going on at the time. There had been some Internet bullying of indie authors, so I worked out some demons by writing a fictional story informed by my time in junior high. I can’t say by any stretch that I enjoyed junior high (with the exception of Mr. Henry’s Geography class and my 8th grade band trip to Michigan), but my experiences developed who I am.

Who am I?

I am a person who was bullied. Even now, over 20 years later, when I write that statement, my heart hesitates. Even admitting it makes me wonder if someone will retaliate against me. You might scoff, but that fear still runs through me to this day.

I was going through my blog the other day and found the story I’d posted, which I called Jam Night. I read through it, dusted it off a little, tightened up the wording and added a few hundred words to the narrative. It isn’t a long story — coming in just under 2,500 words, but it is one I needed to tell. I don’t care if anyone buys it or even reads it, but I wanted to put it out there for anyone who might be going through a tough time at school, or in their personal life with bullies. It is a trite saying, but it does get better. The first couple years of high school were no treat, either, but I can honestly say that a small group of friends made my final few years in high school some of my favorite memories.

Ultimately, writing the story helped me to tackle a few of my own demons left over from junior high. Will I ever be rid of all of the demons? I doubt it, but maybe that’s a good thing. Maybe those demons are there to remind me what it’s like to be on the side of the bullied. As an adult, it’s easy to say kids should just “suck it up,” but for them, the fear can be crippling and debilitating. I hope this story can at least help one person in that regard.

Book Deals of the Week

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There are some great books out there for a great price this week. Let’s take a look at a few:

Soda Pop Soldier by Nick Cole

spsSoda Pop Soldier will be on my list of my favorite books of 2014, you can count on that. I loved Ready Player One, and Nick Cole took that technological society and showcased it through a different lens. I reviewed it a couple months ago here.

Thankfully you can get Soda Pop Soldier for much less right now. Just $1.99 for your Kindle copy. Michael Bunker says this is his favorite book of the year and I won’t disagree. Fantastic book.

This is really one of those books you will read and want others to read as well. That’s what makes the $1.99 price point so great. Buy one for yourself and a couple for friends — all for less than the original price of the book.

Dead Sleep by Will Swardstrom

You don’t think I would do this without including my own book, on sale this week for just 99 cents? This was my first novel and the first in a planned trilogy. The sequel is also available and the third book is about 40 percent done.

Dead Sleep tells a story of discovery with an action-fueled chase pushing the narrative. I was really inspired by Clive Cussler and Lee Child as I was writing this, with a definite sci-fi angle.

Dead Sleep is 99 cents for the rest of the week.

Linear Shift, Part 2 by Paul Kohler

linear shift 2Paul Kohler’s Linear Shift is soon to get its third installment in November, so now is a great time to catch up on what has happened in Part 1 and 2.

Kohler boldly takes on the time travel story, but takes his time setting the scene. Part 2 is longer and deeper than the first part and I fully expect the third story to really advance the plot when it drops next month.

Right now you can pick up Linear Shift, Part 2 for just 99 cents.

Janey X39: Rebirth by Nina Tozzi

janey x39Not really a deal, but after reading it, you’ll feel like you got one. Nina’s first foray into self-publishing tells the story about Janey, a household robot. Of course, there is more to see than just a standard robot story and Tozzi really makes the reader feel.

I picked this story up and read it the same day. Here is some of my review: “I can’t say I was surprised by the ending, but Tozzi does such a fantastic job of portraying heartbreak and loss that I didn’t even mind not being shocked at the reveal. The point is — Janey is shocked. In spite of everything that had happened to her and her existence as an “android,” Janey shows a lot of humanity in the pages of this story.”

Janey X39: Rebirth is just 99 cents.

Free Book Today – Baking With Swords

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The short story collection I published a few months ago with my brother Paul and my sister Betsy is now available for free for a very limited time (just one more day!).
You can pick it up at no cost and enjoy three separate and different short stories. Paul’s story, The Price of Greatness, is about man’s eternal search rivaling the ordinary of daily life. Betsy’s tale, Flutter, tells about a mother and her daughter, who is undergoing inexplicable changes. My story, A Whimper, is an end-of-the world tale through the lens of one person and society’s dependence on technology.
To get it, just click on the large cover image above!

Book Review – Strikers

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Yesterday I shared a short interview with Ann Christy, author of the new Young Adult novel, Strikers. Today, I present a review of that book. Ann has written previous novels in Hugh Howey’s world, but she does not shy away from world-building in this tale.

strikers

In many ways Strikers is a perfect name for Ann Christy’s first work outside of Hugh Howey’s WOOL Universe.  Just taking a look at the cover is striking, the bold design pops out and will certainly draw scores of readers from just seeing it next to the other books in the Kindle store. But beyond the cover, Ann’s story is striking as a great work of young adult fiction.

In the world Ann Christy creates in Strikers, the United States is no more. In its place is a collection of independent nations, including the place where the story originates – Texas. In Texas, the people are controlled by a few select families and going against the law earns the violator a “strike,” including a tattoo on their neck. They go a bit farther than baseball as five strikes earns an out, or rather, death. That should’ve driven most of the people off the land, but even leaving Texas is an illegal act, making anyone who does so a “Striker.”

For Karas, a free spirit, this means her life is made all the harder than it already was. Life takes a drastic turn when her father, who she’d never ever known, shows up and reveals there is more to life outside of Texas. He comes back along with Maddix, the older brother of her friend Connor. Both are Strikers without any strikes left and Karas and Connor risk everything for their family.

Along with Karas, her friends Cassi and Jovan risks their lives to join her on a life-changing journey.  Along the way, Karas discovers who she really is, the truth about her father and the life she never knew existed outside of the authoritarian nation of Texas.

In this book, Ann Chisty does a fabulous job of world-building, creating a realistic dystopian world where Karas and her friends find out what they are really made of. Her characters are very believable and although she does an admirable job tying up storylines by the end of the story, there are plenty of seeds and avenues to explore in future tales in her Striker Universe. I enjoyed reading it far more than a lot of dystopian young adult books on the market today and I feel she really tapped into the emotion that fuels much of the young adult fiction market these days.

Well done, Ann. I enjoyed Strikers and I know many others will as well.

Book Review – Eleanor

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There are many different reasons to read a book. Most times I tend to read to think about something in a new or different way. To spark my creativity and challenge my accepted ideas.

EleanorThis book, Eleanor by Jason Gurley, is not that kind of book. Not that it doesn’t make you think. I had a lot of thoughts while I read this book. I thought about the similarities between it and two other books I’ve read. One was fairly recent – Neil Gaiman’s Ocean at the End of the Lane, while the other I read when I was just a child – Madeleine L’Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time. Both had a profound influence on me, but all three of these books didn’t so much make me think.

They made me feel.

When I first began reading Eleanor, I was struck by the pictures Mr. Gurley paints for his readers. Spending a little time in Oregon and on the coast of the Pacific Ocean, I could readily accept the fog-shrouded town and seaside he presented as real. He worked so hard to place his story in the real world that when the supernatural world opens up later in the book, it feels natural. It feels like an extension of the world Gurley has created and it feels better than the world in which his characters reside.

I’ve followed Jason’s journey of writing this book for the past year (although he’s been writing it for the past 13 years) and I can feel the passion he had for it in every word I encountered. I saw the care he put into it and the work he put in to make it just right.

How to describe this book? I’m not really sure. I literally finished less than five minutes after starting to write this review, so my thoughts are still swirling like the water in a tide pool off the shore of a small island near the beach in Oregon. I felt for the characters that Mr. Gurley painstakingly presented to the readers. How in just the first few pages, we were introduced to Hob, Eleanor and their daughter Agnes. I was getting settled in for a book about this Eleanor, until Gurley ripped the rug out from underneath me and I realized this was not really the titular character – she was still to be discovered.

Discovered is really a great word for this book. Eleanor discovers so much in her journeys throughout this book. You see the younger Eleanor taking care of her family as best she knows how, but then through other means, we see there are better ways she can take care of her family. She discovers who she is, who her parents really are, and her true purpose.

This needs to be discovered. I could call Jason Gurley the American Neil Gaiman and I don’t think many people would argue after reading this book. It is a phenomenal book and one I could not put down. Well done, Mr. Gurley.

Bookin’ It!

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ImageMy novel Dead Sleep has sold pretty well, all things considered, and I totally appreciate anyone who has read it — and even more for anyone who has gone the extra step of reviewing it. It’s been $2.99 since I released it in July and the paperback is currently $11.24 on Amazon. 

Next Monday (12/16) it will be 99 cents. It’ll be that price for a few days and then jump up to $1.99 for a few more days. It’s part of a new promotion tactic Amazon is using called Countdown Deals. Feel free to check out the Countdown Deal page here (where you can find the awesome Cyberstorm by Matthew Mather and some other great books for great prices right now!) That’s where you’ll find Dead Sleep on Monday and you can buy it for cheap! 

But not only that, I’d really love for you to tell your friends and anyone else you know who loves to read. You can’t sniff at 99 cents and the more downloads I get on Monday and Tuesday the better because it’ll start showing up on the charts and more people will buy it and so on. (It’s like a domino effect with Kindle books)

But you might say — “Will, I’d love to, but I really like to read trilogies!”

I understand. I love series and trilogies myself. That’s why I’m nearing the end of the rough draft of Dead Sight, my sequel to Dead Sleep. I’m pretty pumped about it and I’m hoping to have it out in the next few months. After that will come book 3 and who knows from there? 

But you say — “Will, I don’t have a Kindle!”

Totally understand. But, did you know you can read Kindle books on any smartphone or computer? You just need the Kindle app, which you can find here

But you say — “Will, I don’t like you!”

Also totally understandable. I occasionally don’t like me, either. But that’s OK. I learned all about self-esteem in junior high. I’ll be alright and you don’t have to buy my book if you don’t want to. 

Regardless, I just wanted to plant the seed. Buy the book, tell others about it. Tweet it. Text it. Facebook it. Blog it. Share it. Anything and everything you can do would be fantastic. You can even gift it — Christmas is just around the corner!

A Conversation with Logan Thomas Snyder

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A couple weeks ago, I was asked by Logan Thomas Snyder if I would be interested in joint interview. Snyder is the author of one of the latest WOOL fan fiction stories, titled The Disappeared: Part 1, a mystery which looks at the seedy underbelly of silo life. Since I released The Veil back in late July, I’ve been welcomed into the WOOL world and have been blessed in my journey. What follows is a back and forth between myself and Logan over the past few days where we talk about each other’s books, favorite authors and the writing process among other topics. It is a great conversation if I say so myself. With that said – enjoy!

WS: Tell me how you came to write a WOOL story:

LTS: For me, I think, it was the challenge. Obviously I love WOOL (the omnibus was the very first thing I downloaded to my Kindle when I got it last year), but it’s not like I finished and started right away on my story. In fact, I wasn’t even aware there were other Silo stories until I saw Hugh gushing about WJ Davies’ The Runner. So I read that, then Jason Gurley’s amazing Greatfall series, and that’s really when the gears started turning. Now, I’ll be the first to admit that before The Disappeared I had zero experience in quote-unquote fan fiction. I just never felt comfortable writing for other authors’ characters in their worlds. Because of the unique nature of the silo system, though, I realized I could take a silo and run with it. So that was appealing, the challenge of taking an established, closed setting and imbuing it with an original story and characters. Throw in Hugh’s blessing to attach our stories to his world, and it feels like what we’re doing is almost semi-canonical. Or maybe ‘canon lite’ is a better way of describing it. Either way, for better or for worse, we’re all connected now, and that’s exciting.

Same question for you, with a follow-up: What, if anything in particular, inspired your story, The Veil?

Well, obviously I can’t answer that without saying Hugh Howey and WOOL. Just like you and so many others, I fell in love with Howey’s futuristic world after I finished the WOOL Omnibus. But, it wasn’t until I looked him up and started following his blog that I really thought, “Hey…maybe I can do this, too…”

I had planned to write a novel forever, but it was Howey — a man just a little older than me — who really inspired me. I wanted to honor that and pay tribute to his world, especially when I saw WJ Davies’ The Runner and other Silo stories in the early part of this year, but I pledged to finish my novel first. Once I did, I worked on The Veil. But, what directly inspired the story of The Veil? It was my sister. She had written for a newspaper in Grand Rapids about her trouble conceiving and with miscarriages. A line just jumped out at me where she talked about her circle of friends leaving her behind and her being an outsider with no kids. If you’ve read The Veil, this is a part of Mary’s life about halfway through and I basically built a world around that small little scenario, except in a silo.

I will also say really quick, that I had never written fan fiction before, either. I had always dismissed it, but Hugh added a sense of legitimacy to it with his endorsement. Now that I’ve done it, I’ll say it is sometimes more difficult that penning your own work. Instead of framing your own world, you have to follow the guidelines set out by someone else. It isn’t easy and I believe it actually helped my writing by forcing me to be more disciplined.

Next question: The Disappeared is your first work, right? How’s the rest of the story coming and when can we expect them? 

That’s incredible, although I think in retrospect I sensed there was something more personal lurking between the lines of that transition in Mary’s life. There was something very intimate about it that I think most people would be hard pressed to imagine cold, without the life experience underpinning it –- which, of course, is where the best stories often come from.

dis_cover_1As for The Disappeared, it’s actually my first published work of fiction. Up until about five years ago, I was a dedicated biographer and all around nonfiction article writer. Then I just hit the wall and decided I wanted to tell my own stories instead of other peoples’. So, like you, I embarked on my first novel. Unlike you, I failed miserably. I hit a point where I just didn’t know what to do with it. So I scrapped it and started on another one. Same result. That was when I realized I needed to think smaller. The result of that was my first novella, This Mortal Coil. I viewed it as more of a personal project, so I didn’t publish it, but just seeing it through gave me the confidence to return to the novel form. It took a little more than a year, but I finished my first full-length novel, The Lazarus Particle, a few days before my thirty-first birthday.

About a week later I emailed Hugh with a very lengthy pitch for The Disappeared, and he quickly emailed back with his blessing. I started on Part I the next day. As for the progress, it’s going great. Part II is the better part of done, and I’m about halfway through Part III. Part II should be available in early October.

Next question: Let’s talk a little bit about characters. What do you think is the worst of the secrets Mary carries with her? Or, if not the worst, maybe the most potentially damaging? Feel free to interpret the question as you see fit. There’s so many, I can certainly think of a few, but I’m curious as to your view on the subject.

I don’t know that I succeeded where you failed. I had many starts and re-starts over the last 10-15 years, but I wasn’t able to have the endurance to finish until I saw Hugh’s story.

As for Mary (SPOILERS AHEAD FOR The Veil), I’d identify two as damaging. Obviously if you’ve read the story, you know that the entire tale is centered around all the secrets Mary keeps from her family and the rest of the silo. The first of which is certainly one I could lead with. When she decides to reject the lottery as a newlywed and then keep that fact from Jacob, it sends her on a downward spiral. Ultimately the argument could be made that each and every one of her mistakes from that point on were a direct result of the initial secret she kept from her husband.

Veil_Part1On the other hand, the worst and longest-lasting secret would be when she indirectly sent her friend Chelsea to clean. By aiding Ari Green by betraying her best friend, she sided with IT over Chelsea, her mother and even her father’s legacy. But even then, it is really the secrets and the heritage of secrets passed down from her mother that led to it all in the first place. If Mary’s mother had told her earlier about her father, perhaps Mary might have made a different decision at the end of The Veil.

Next question: Was there something specific that led to the ideas behind The Disappeared? If we start wading into spoiler territory for the sequels, just say so.

I thought you might mention that first one and I have to agree. I remember reading her denial of the lottery and thinking it was almost a kind of reverse original sin. She’s presented with this unexpected gift, and instead of taking it, she refuses it, only to continue to come back to that moment, and how much different her life might have been if not for that rash decision and everything that follows. It’s a powerful statement, how people fool themselves into thinking secrets will eventually wither and die, when really it tends to be the exact opposite.

As for The Disappeared, sadly I didn’t have to look too far back into recent history for a real-world analogue. For those of us that don’t have a background in history (it would seem we’re pretty well steeped, you being a history teacher and me being a history major and biographer), Latin America experienced an incredible period of turmoil as a proxy battleground of the Cold War. During the late 1980’s, so many political dissidents went missing in Latin American countries that a new slang term was coined by necessity to refer to them: los desaparecidos, loosely translating into “those who were taken/went missing in the night” — also known more simply as the disappeared.

So to answer your question, my specific motivation for The Disappeared was examining crime and punishment in the silos, in particular what other options there are for someone who isn’t sent out to clean. The other side of the coin, so to speak. And from there it just fell into place, the combination of missing girls as part of a deeply disturbing conspiracy that overlaps our own modern-day concerns about government surveillance and overreach.

Next question: Tell me a little about [your first novel] Dead Sleep. I’ve got it on my Kindle and it’s a strong contender for my next read. Without giving too much away, what should I look forward to?

I think it’s great when we can harken back to a historical event or even to modern-day issues in our writing. The Latin American angle is clear when you explain it, but I can also see parallels to modern-day slavery, similar in some ways to the Liam Neeson movie “Taken.”

So…Dead Sleep. It was my first story, even though the short story Perfect Game was published about a month earlier. I started the book back in January of this year after I had been at a funeral for a friend’s mother. While I was in line to see the family, I kept thinking of a character waiting to see someone who had died. Then, the concept came to me — what if she wasn’t really dead?

As all stories do, it took a lot of different shapes early on, but within a month or so, I pretty much knew where I wanted to go with it. The trick was to finish it. Teaching high school at the time, I was able to work on it alot in the evenings, but I had to stop here and there, once for over three weeks. But…I kept on writing and that’s the trick.

Dead Sleep 3 medI’ll tell you something… the blurb on Amazon references that the main character, Jackson, has the ability to see his future. While that sounds supernatural, there is so much science fiction in the story. Kristina, the girl he thinks is dead, has nanomachines running through her body and later they are pursued by a team of androids. While there are a lot of questions answered at the end of the book, I’ve got a lot planned for two sequels to complete a trilogy. In book 2, we’ll find out a lot more about Jackson and his abilities and book 3 will really showcase Kristina’s talents.

Right now, I’ve actually got a new cover in the works and it may be done by the time this interview goes live (it hasn’t — stay tuned). With it, I’ll also have a print edition for the first time.

Next question: Who are some of your favorite authors? Who do you think you write like?

I was wondering when someone was going to mention Taken in connection with The Disappeared. Not that I disagree with the comparison the way you made it. You’re absolutely right, there are definitely points of overlap. It was one of the first things I had to get past mentally. But, I mean, ultimately, Echo is no Liam Neeson. She can’t fight and for the most part she’s completely out of her element. I mean, as much as she doesn’t understand the word ‘quixotic’ by the end of the story, that’s sort of the irony. What could she ever really have done for Shim on her own, the way she set out about it? And yet, be that as it may, no one could have ever talked her out of her search — as we’ve seen — and so we come to Part II, with her… well, you’ll see.

As for favorite authors? Wow. I’m going to say right off the bat, A.C. Crispin, who sadly passed recently but also wrote the absolutely amazing Han Solo origin trilogy that I read waaay back in high school. I haven’t read it since, but I remember that being sort of a touchstone of science fiction for me, in love with Star Wars as I was at the time. More recently, though, William Gibson, Iain M. Banks (again, another recent passing, so sad), Lev Grossman, Erin Morgenstern, Carsten Jensen, so, so many more. Oh, and all my fellow Woolwrights, of course! We strive for excellence in all things. (Sorry, had to do it.)

Boy, that last one is a killer, though. I don’t think I write like anyone. Not to say that my style is especially unique; I’ve just never really thought about it, I guess. I’ve had such a weird, circuitous journey to fiction that I feel like I kind of had to work it out for myself in large part. Trust me, if you saw how bloody red some of my pages run after a good long editing session, you’d see what I mean.

Same questions.

Wow…just goes to show how many influential authors are out there. I’ve read some of Crispin (Star Wars geek myself back in the day) and a little of the others, but most of the writers you cite I haven’t really read. I’ll have to tap into some of them someday.

As for me, I really have to credit my dad. He is a huge science fiction and fantasy fan and had a lot of classics for me to read through the years. Overall, my main influence in childhood was Isaac Asimov. His robot stories and the Foundation novels really informed my writing a lot. He had a way of advancing the story in a very concise way. Not too flowery for the sake of inserting adjectives into the plot. Robert Heinlein as well…Ray Bradbury, Orson Scott Card, Ben Bova, and Frank Herbert for sci-fi. Anne McCaffrey, David Eddings, Terry Brooks, and J.K. Rowling for fantasy. Writers I like to read today include Hugh Howey, Lee Child, Vince Flynn (RIP), Dean Koontz, Stephen King and Clive Cussler.

I would love to think I write like Asimov. I did a lot of research into him when I was younger and he said he wouldn’t rewrite. He would write what he wrote and he rarely went back to re-do anything in his books. I think in many ways, I’m like that. But, I also have tried to pattern myself after modern-day writers like Dan Brown, Stephen King and Clive Cussler in terms of pacing and action.

Next question: What do you do for a living and when and where do you write the best? How do you find the time to write?

I’ve worked in the incredibly uninspired field of advertising and marketing for a little over three years now. It’s no coincidence that I started really writing in earnest again right around the time I took the job, mostly because it’s so lacking in creative stimulus that I needed some sort of outlet. The best thing about writing, unlike say something like painting or music, is that I can brainstorm and write in my head while I work. Even better, and really the best part about the work, is that I can more or less make my own hours, so if I have a sudden flash of inspiration, I can usually put it aside and get whatever just jumped into my head down on paper. As for where and when, I’ve got a nice little home office that’s pretty much my writer’s nest; I’ve never been one of those people who can peck away in a coffee shop or whatever, I definitely need to have control over my environment and that’s where I tend to find the most inspiration.

Speaking of occupations, one of the things I found most interesting about the world of Wool is how precious little the characters know about the world that came before the silos. As someone who also has a background in history, do you think your background as a history teacher gave you a different perspective or insight into the series as a whole, or possibly even the way you approached your own story?

That’s a fascinating question. Initially, that was one of the things I was really skeptical about in Hugh’s stories. How can a group of people so easily forget their own history? Obviously, he takes care of that with the medication dosed to the people of the silo, but it still has a ring of implausibility to it.

That is, until you look at history itself. The Middle Ages — sometimes referred to as the Dark Ages — was a period just like this. The Roman Empire existed and was the dominant force in the world. They ruled with an iron fist and provoked all their enemies in every direction, eventually suffering at the hands of the Visigoths and Vandals because of it. In WOOL and SHIFT, you can see a similar thing happening. The United States has so much power that it is very much like the Roman Empire in the latter stages. While the Romans had the Germanic tribes to worry about, the U.S. has foreign powers like Islamic extremists and Russians.

DUSTAfter Rome fell, the knowledge they had built up virtually vanished within a generation. All the Greek philosophers — Aristotle and Plato, Archimedes and Pythagoras — all the learning just went away. The world was “controlled” by the church and the bubble it established over the entirety of Europe, but eventually knowledge was re-discovered and Europe emerged stronger than ever. Obviously some stayed behind in the ignorance of the Catholic Church, but for the most part, Europe and the rest of the world were able to break free of the silos — I mean the “darkness” of the age. 😉

Next question: There is a lot of fanfiction out there now for WOOL. How much have you read and what is your favorite? Why?

I definitely see the parallels on the macro level when you put it like that. As a reader, my reaction came more at the micro level. At first I felt a bit of a thrill, realizing I knew considerably more than the characters. That’s an interesting position for me as a reader, because it sets up the internal question of “Well, what happens when the truth comes finally comes out? How will people react, what changes will it elicit?” etc etc. But the further I pushed into the series, the more I realized the gulf of knowledge separating reader and character was not nearly as wide as I initially thought. What more do we really know that they don’t? Granted, we have the benefit of several thousand years of recorded human history to study, but even with that knowledge at our fingertips we’re no more capable of answering the questions that define the human condition to this day: Why are we here? What else is out there? Are we alone? At the end of the day, we’re all basically Lukas, looking up at the stars and wondering what, if anything, lies beyond. That was a powerful realization for me, one that made it a lot easier to relate to the characters and their unique situation.

As for the wealth of Silo stories now available, I have to confess I’m fairly far behind. For a while I was keeping good pace, but it seems like there’s a new one just about every day now! Greatfall continues to be my frontrunner favorite, I think, purely because of how shocking the subject matter was. The Silo Archipelago series was also intriguing to me, primarily because of the parallels with other underground movements throughout human history. As for the rest, my Kindle cup overfloweth with Silo fiction, so those two will definitely have some competition in the weeks to come as I finish up The Disappeared and have more time to kick back and read for a bit before resuming work on The Lazarus Particle.

Aside from your own personal favorite Silo fanfic, one last question: Based purely on your own parameters, which of your works are you most proud of and why? 

Greatfall is amazing. Jason Gurley really knocked that one out of the park. Boy, I’ve read so much of it, it really is difficult to say which is my favorite — they all have different flavors with each author bringing their own perspective on silo-life to the table. Bunker did great with the Archipelago, of course WJ Davies’ Submerged series (The Runner, The Diver and The Watcher) all have a great place, simply because they were really some of the first and Davies managed to end his just after DUST so they were really the first to incorporate facts learned in DUST into the narrative.

There are some great new authors coming up because of WOOL as well — Carol Davis, Brigid D’Souza, Ann Christy and Fred Shernoff to name a few. I’ll read just about anything they have to write, simply because of what I’ve already read from the WOOL universe.

As for my own books — that’s like asking which of my children I love the most!

Nah…not really. Right now, I have four published works (I just published Ant Apocalypse yesterday) with two short stories, a Silo novella and my novel. I think my best writing so far was in the Silo Saga novella, The Veil. I really worked hard at keeping the details clear and concise and fitting that into Hugh Howey’s universe.

However, which one am I most proud of? My novel, Dead Sleep. My writing (and finishing!) it, I proved to myself I could do it. Before I became a teacher, I’d worked for a newspaper and I could write 500-2,000 word articles all day long. But…a novel? I didn’t think I could. Once I learned about Hugh and his process…then found out that he endorsed “shorter” novels with as few as 60,000 words, I really decided to go for it. It wasn’t easy, but I persevered throughout a six-month time period to finish it. The book will always have a special place in my heart, in spite of some flaws in retrospect.

fin.