What does WOOL mean to you?

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We are really close to the release of WOOL GATHERING, an anthology of WOOL-related stories from nine authors who have each explored Hugh Howey’s WOOL Universe on their own. I’ve gotta say: I’m ridiculously honored to be included in a collection with these authors. Some of the best and brightest from the WOOL authors and I get to be a part of it.

ImageWith the release so close, I wanted to ask each of them just ONE question. I’ve collected the responses here. I find them all fascinating and intriguing. I didn’t place any restrictions on their answers and what I got frankly amazed me. I count myself privileged to be among this group of writers for this short story collection.

The question: What does WOOL mean to you?

David Adams:

Wool means having a breakdown every time I find myself liking a character in that universe, knowing that they live in the Woolniverse and therefore something terrible is bound to happen to them. And that’s the core of good writing. If you can make your reader unable to stop turning the page because they want to make sure that their favourite character’s going to be okay, even if deep down they know they’re almost certainly screwed, you are doing it exactly right.

Ann Christy:

For me, WOOL is the world writ small. Everything in it is intensified and magnified but it represents the choices we make in real life, right now. The ones who crave power, the ones who want to believe in something no one else believes in, the ones who take great risks to make things right are all in there. And the ones who would destroy anything and everything to achieve their own singular goals are in there, too. To me that short little book back in 2011 was an interesting take on belief and doubt and the harsh realities behind the curtains of our lives. What it became as it was expanded and refined was the path of a world with powerful lessons in it about who and what we can choose to be.

Fredric Shernoff:

WOOL represents a milestone in the history of publishing. It showed that someone could become a success and publish a successful story without going through all the traditional gatekeepers. It inspired me to believe that I could maybe do it too and is the reason I started writing and publishing. It also happens to be a great story!

Thomas Robins:

WOOL sparked a reawakening of the short form in my life. Amazon relentlessly promoted WOOL to me as something I would enjoy. I dismissed it out of hand for several months before giving it a read. I was reminded of my long-past high school literature classes when we were assigned mountains of short story reading. The freedom of spending an hour or two reading a short story and then moving on to a completely different story was liberating in and of itself. However, what WOOL reminded me of the most was that, in short form, stories did not have to have satisfying endings with all loose ends explained. Those qualities spark my imagination and engage me as a reader long after I have finished a story.

silosagaLogan Thomas Snyder:

To me, WOOL is a repudiation of the notion that indie authors are somehow a lesser or sub-species of writer. Not that long ago I thought more or less along the same lines. I only read authors who published through traditional avenues, the kind whose works I could find on bookstore or library shelves. Then, in January 2013, I caved and bought my Kindle. The first book I downloaded to it? WOOL, of course. I couldn’t remember the last time I had been so utterly captivated by a story, and of course I certainly couldn’t ignore the fact that Hugh had done it his way, without the aid (or hindrance) of the mainstream publishing establishment. It was an incredibly eye-opening experience, especially as someone who to that point had mostly been writing to an audience of about half a dozen close family and friends with the patience and good cheer to wade through pages and pages of stories on my poorly designed website. That’s when I knew I had to reevaluate not just what I was doing, but the way I thought about indie authors and publishing all together. Since then, I’ve read some absolutely amazing stories I never would have been exposed to had I not taken a chance on an indie phenom. Even better, I now consider some of those very authors to be good friends and among my favorite people. (Oh, and of course, I’m an indie author now, too; way to bury the lead, I know). That’s what WOOL means to me.

Carol Davis:

What is WOOL to me?

It was something small. One among many. Nothing you’d pay particular attention to, if you were just passing by. But it held within it a myriad of possibilities that began to capture the interest and imagination of first one person, then another, and another, and another.

It was something small that grew exponentially.

Like each of us. Small and insignificant (in the grand scheme of things) on the day we’re born, but capable of growing into something wonderful — something that will rock the world back on its heels.

It’s an example of possibilities, and growth, and success.

Lyndon Perry:

WOOL has meaning for me on multiple levels. As a story, it speaks to me of the human condition and our lack of clarity as to what is actual and what is perceived. Great SF engages and wrestles with such universal themes and WOOL is a wonderful example of how literature asks questions and prompts profound pondering. As a publishing phenomenon, it’s a symbol of the new age of publishing. A single story gains grass roots support sparking the author to write more, engage the audience more, and create – in symbiotic fashion – a story that is both true to the writer and accommodating of the fans. It’s fan interaction at its best. And finally, WOOL is a reflection of Hugh Howey himself and his open source philosophy and crowd-sourcing trust. The fact that the world of WOOL is an open playground for writers to dive into begets not only great new stories but ultimately promotes and elevates the original in ways that would not be possible if it weren’t for the author’s vision of entrusting the story into the hands of fans. In all these ways, WOOL plays a significant role in my journey as a writer and I’m grateful to be a part of this culturally pivotal phenomena.

W.J. Davies:

Besides being one of the best Science Fiction tales I’ve read in the last decade, WOOL represents the indie author’s dream come true. The idea is that a story can be so powerful in itself, that it doesn’t need extensive marketing campaigns or the might of a big publisher for it to find an audience. If a story is good enough, resonates enough with readers, is written well enough, a kind of magic happens where the book takes off on its own and insists that it be widely read. WOOL is the perfect example of this phenomenon, and its success gives hope to so many indie writers. Quality stories will always find a way to rise to the top.

Of course, I had the ability to see all these answers before my response was full formulated. With that in mind, I can definitely say their answers informed mine. My answer wouldn’t be complete without them.

Will Swardstrom:

What WOOL means to me is that I’m not alone.

It showed me that someone that was my age could launch a writing career. It showed me that authors are not just grumpy old men who write in a drafty attic space. I discovered that there were others out there, just like me. With the beginnings of fanfic in the WOOL universe, I found a community. I discovered that authors weren’t just self-interested, but that they cared – about writing and the story, yes, but also about each other and seeing others do well.

WOOL means community. The gift we were given by Hugh has tied us together and made us stronger. As a single writer, I can only do so much, but with the amazing fellowship of the other writers I’ve met and discovered through WOOL, I can get better and do more than I ever thought possible.

WOOL Gathering will be released digitally and in paperback in the next couple weeks. Stay tuned for exact release dates.

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Silo Charity Anthology Announcement!

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I haven’t released anything new for your Kindle in a little while and the next thing with my name on it will also have a bunch of other names as well – and it’s all for charity!

Back last summer, after I’d written The Veil, I joined a group of writers who had also written WOOL fan-fiction stories. This has been one of the best things for me – a group that I can talk to about my writing, voicing frustrations, and bouncing ideas off of. The group itself has changed a little since I first became a member, but we’ve done a great job of supporting each other and pushing each other.

All of us can directly tie our success to Hugh Howey and his WOOL universe. As a tribute to Hugh and a way to give back, we’ve decided to team up to release an anthology of WOOL short stories. All of the profits will go towards the NaNoWriMo Young Writer’s Program as we try to help the younger versions of ourselves to get writing before they get to our age and wonder what happened to their dreams. Just kidding…sort of.

Between us, we have 20 separate titles set in one or another of Hugh Howey’s silos (including a few omnibus titles) and I am ridiculously honored to share pages with them. In fact, I have just two Silo stories out – a pittance compared to a few of my comrades.

Joining me in this anthology will be: Ann Christy, Carol Davis, W.J. Davies, Thomas Robins, and Fredric Shernoff.

In case you aren’t familiar with all of them, here are their Silo works:

ImageAnn Christy’s Silo 49 series has garnered a lot of attention. Again, finding a nod to a silo from WOOL, Ann took Silo 49 and ran with it, creating a rich world full of memorable characters. She recently released the third book called Silo 49: Dark Til Dawn.

ImageCarol Davis has six books set in the silos –two silo horror stories – They Kill and They Feed and four other (including the omnibus) in the Rebel State series. The Rebel State books are fairly unique among WOOL stories in that they begin at the beginning – right after humanity was forced underground. The omnibus takes the first three books and puts them together and the title also hints at more on the way: Silo Saga: Rebel State: The Year One Trilogy.

ImageW.J. Davies is really the WOOL fanfiction pioneer among our group. While he wasn’t the first to use Hugh Howey’s silos for himself, his books really were the first to gain popularity and probably helped inspire Kindle Worlds in the first place. His books The Runner, The Diver, and The Watcher are all combined into the Silo Submerged Trilogy. A fantastic look into Silo 35 and into the outside world, Davies crafted a fine story.

ImageThomas Robins is the author of a collection of Silo poetry and three separate Silo stories – The Pawn, The Bishop, and The Rook, his latest, published in December.

ImageFredric Shernoff holds the distinction of having the first Silo story included in Kindle Worlds with his book Angels of the Earth. You can find the great little detective story here.

ImageAnd then, of course, I’ve written two Silo stories – The Veil and the follow-up Behind The Veil, that I published in November.

Almost all of us have also written outside of the Silo as well…and some pretty fine work as well. I’m totally stoked to be included in an anthology with such a great set of authors. The as-of-yet unnamed anthology is scheduled for mid-February. Once we have a title, a cover, and the particulars on each of the stories, I’ll write up another blog post, letting everyone know where and when they can get it.

2013 — A Great Year to be a Reader

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What a year.

I will always remember 2013 for a number of reasons. I finally decided to write (and then publish) my first novel. In fact, since late July, I’ve published a novel, three short stories and a novella. Along the way, I’ve learned a TON about writing, publishing, and marketing…I’ve learned about myself…and I’ve become friends with loads of new people whether fellow authors or readers.

As I looked back on the year, I also realized how many books I read. Just looking through my Kindle, I realized I’d read over 50 books just through Amazon and another 10-20 in physical copy as well. True…many of the Kindle books were what we might call short stories, but I’ll call them books nonetheless. That many books was pretty amazing, especially considering the time I have to spend working on my classes for school and the time I spent writing doesn’t exactly lend itself towards reading.

With all those books, I felt compelled to write a Best of the Year List. I don’t want to rank them, necessarily, but I’ll just say these are the ones that really stuck with me. When I think back on this year, these are the books I’ll really remember reading.

dustDUST by Hugh Howey

I’ll remember this because it was the epic conclusion to Howey’s ground-breaking WOOL Saga. Not only did he finish his story, he nailed the landing. There are a lot of stories that have difficulty on the final leg, but fortunately Howey didn’t succumb to the general rule. It seemed like I waited a long time for the story, but in all actuality, Hugh puts his stories out so quickly that I read WOOL, SHIFT, and then DUST within two years’ time. The book landed on Kindle on my birthday and the best present I received was time from my family to read DUST from cover to cover that day.

lgmLITTLE GREEN MEN by Peter Cawdron

I’d heard about Cawdron through Facebook posts by Howey earlier in the year, but I hadn’t read any of his works until LGM, which came out right before Labor Day in the U.S. I had a splurge in the three days of the holiday weekend and LGM was one of the books I read. The Jason Gurley designed cover catches the eye of any reader and quickly brought me in. Cawdron dedicated the book to Philip K. DIck and you can definitely see influences of PKD as well as Asimov and Heinlein. So good, I bought it in paperback and gave it to my father for Christmas.

pa2PENNSYLVANIA 1 & 2 by Michael Bunker

Why do you torture me so, Bunker?! Okay…so I count Michael Bunker as one of my friends, but even with that admission, I’ll say that both PA1&2 blew me away. Just fantastic. That said…I’d really like to read PA3 to see how this story ends. I said how LGM reminded me of sci-fi masters…well Bunker nailed Heinlein in Pennsylvania. Bunker calls it his “Amish Sci-Fi story” and that really drew me to it. My wife doesn’t read much beyond Amish romance and I love sci-fi — something I’d threatened to write for years. Bunker beat me to it, but that’s alright. He knocked it out of the park.

the sowingTHE SOWING by K. Makansi

Who is K. Makansi? Before I read The Sowing, I assumed it was just another ambitious sci-fi author and my assumption took me towards the masculine. I was wrong. Three times. K. Makansi is a mother and two daughters who wrote the book together and boy…is it a good one. The Sowing reminded me a lot of reading The Hunger Games for the first time — discovering a diamond in the rough. Reviewers compare it to both Hunger Games and Divergent, but I thought it was better than DIvergent. In fact, I read all of the Divergent trilogy this past year as well, including the finale, Allegiant. I wrote a two-star review of Allegiant and one of my complaints was telling the story first-person, alternating the chapters between the main characters Tris and Four. Makansi was able to pull this off between a male and female protagonist and make it feel like two separate people with very opposite lives and goals. Well done — looking forward to Book 2 in 2014.

ImageSTEELHEART by Brandon Sanderson

Speaking of The Hunger Games, there have been countless stories written by Young Adult authors since Suzanne Collins’ post-apocalyptic tale came out that tried to mirror the story. Sanderson managed to make his own futuristic tale with a unique twist — what if super powers existed, but everyone who had them abided by Machiavelli’s principle that men are self-centered. Anyone in the Steelheart universe is either super-powered evil-doer or plain old human. Fascinating and riveting.

ImageTHE SCOUT by Eric Tozzi

I’d first heard about Eric through Michael Bunker and once his book was released late this year, I purchased, read, and loved. It is a great story that jumps off the page like it was designed for the screen. Tozzi tells the story of a man, faced with the personal story of his parents’ mortality, confronted with a possible alien invasion. Tozzi does phenomenal in his debut novel and I’ll be among the first to get whatever he writes next.

ImageGREATFALL by Jason Gurley

I’d read W.J. Davies’ WOOL fanfic The Runner and a few other smaller WOOL stories, but when I finally dove into Greatfall this past summer, I was stunned by how well someone could write a story set in someone else’s universe. This story probably really set me on course to write my own WOOL stories and in fact, Gurley’s work as a cover artist helped me out a ton as well. I’ve had a sneak-peak at Gurley’s book Eleanor, which he should be releasing some time in 2014 and it is already drawing comparisons to Neil Gaiman’s The House at the End of the Lane — and for good reasons.

I suppose we’ll go with those as my Top 7, but I’ll give a few others as Honorable Mentions:

Rick Yancey’s The 5th Wave, Ben Winters’ The Last Policemen, Hugh Howey’s Sand 1 & 2 (we’ll see how Sand plays out in 2014), Carol Davis’ Blood Moon, John Scalzi’s The Human Division (which I read in 13 installments early this year), and CyberStorm by Matthew Mather.

There were so many books I loved in 2013, but I’m betting 2014 will be even better. As always, check back here from time to time for my progress. As of late December, I’m probably 90 percent done with the rough draft of my sequel to Dead Sleep. I’ve also got a couple fantastic ideas cooking in my noggin. Thanks for reading and Happy New Year!

WOOL, SHIFT, & DUST as Historical Allegory

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So…earlier today, I was talking back and forth with new WOOLwriter, Logan Thomas Snyder. We’re doing a back-and-forth interview that I’ll post probably later this week. Some really great stuff from an up-and-coming author. While we were tossing questions back and forth at one another, he threw this at me: “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 (WOOL) series as a whole, or possibly even the way you approached your own history?”

As soon as I read it, I had an epiphany. I had thought about the historical context in some ways and hadn’t really even realized it until I gave it deeper thought today. Here was my answer about Hugh Howey’s books: 

(Warning — THEMATIC SPOILERS for WOOL, SHIFT, and DUST Ahead)

ImageInitially, 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. 

After 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. 😉

To build on that, I’ll toss this out there — that the WOOL books were in some ways a re-telling of the transition from the fall of Rome (SHIFT) to the Dark Ages where Europe is run by the church under the leadership of one man, the pope (WOOL) to the Renaissance, Reformation and the Enlightenment, when people across Europe began to realize the oppression they were under from Monarchical regimes and the rule of the Catholic Church (DUST). 

What do you think?

WOOL and Foundation

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WOOL and Foundation

So, when I read Hugh Howey’s WOOL Omnibus, I was struck at how Asimovian it was. The tone, the characters, the expandibility of the universe — there was a lot that connected me back to the Science Fiction Master himself, Isaac Asimov.
When I was a kid, I devoured books, but it wasn’t until I read Foundation that something just clicked for me. I loved it. Let me say that another way. If I was stranded on a desert island and I only had one book to read, I might take the Foundation Trilogy Omnibus hardback I had when I was in junior high.
I probably started reading them right about the time that Asimov passed away, although I’m sure I didn’t know that for a few years.
Asimov had a way of capturing the reader and pulling them into the story. There was always a certain humanity about all of his tales, whether they took place in a robotics lab, on a distant planet where humans had adapted to live apart from one another, or tens of thousands of years in the distant future in the heart of a galactic empire.
I felt the same way about Howey’s WOOL. At it’s heart, its a tale of what humanity does to preserve and live even when the odds are against it. In fact, I found that in Asimov’s stories, particularly in the Hari Seldon tales, the future was guaranteed. It will happen, it is just a matter of how humanity reacts to it. In fact, humanity has done it all to themselves in many ways.
And so Howey mirrors the same themes in WOOL. The characters drive the story, but the background is established by events out of their control. Their future is seemingly set already and it is only through extraordinary means that they can change their destiny.
Another link to Foundation for me was the interconnectedness. By the time Asimov had died, he’d linked his early robot stories like Robots of Dawn to his later Foundation books. In spite of several decades separating the writing of those books, Asimov pieced together a logical conclusion. Then, when he was gone, his estate allowed three authors to write in the Foundation universe.
Hugh has connected his first, brief, WOOL story to four other parts in the Omnibus — then to three stories in SHIFT, a prequel, and now tomorrow in DUST. Hugh is also allowing fans to write in his world, (including yours truly) and thankfully it isn’t after his death.
After I’d read WOOL, the first review I wrote compared it to Foundation. I can’t find that review today, but I stand by it. I was poking around and found Howey’s Top 10 books of all time and wasn’t surprised at all to find Foundation listed at #4. It clearly left a huge impression on Hugh.
And…just like Asimov took 30 years off between Foundation novels at one point, I wouldn’t be surprised to see WOOL stories from their founder again decades later.

DUST (Not a Review)

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DUST

This is not a review of DUST.
I wish it was, but I haven’t yet laid my hands on the last in Hugh Howey’s WOOL stories. I could have ordered a physical copy and read through it already like some have done, but I figured with school starting for me, I wouldn’t have time to read it before Aug. 17 anyway.
For me, the last WOOL book is significant in a few ways.
1. WOOL and more importantly, Hugh himself, inspired me to write. I read WOOL back in early 2012. I loved it and started following Hugh’s blog. I learned he was just a little older than me and was an independent author. I saw a lot of the same things in him that I hoped to do myself one day. And so, about a year later, when my work schedule lessened a bit, I started to write. After a great summer publishing my first few pieces, here we are, anxiously awaiting DUST to finish Hugh’s fantastic story.
2. One of the stories I’ve written is set in a silo. The Veil is in Kindle Worlds and is a Silo Saga story. I didn’t necessarily write it to make a lot of money (although I won’t mind at all if I do), but really as a tribute to the man who inspired me to start this journey. I’ve met some amazing people through the experience of penning a WOOL story and continue to lean on them for their support and experience as I continue writing.
3. My birthday is on Saturday, Aug. 17. That’s right — somehow Hugh knew about my birthday and made the publication date for DUST on that day. I can’t wait to read it and find where the story ends. Hopefully in a week or two, I’ll have a review in this place, but until then, I’ll be reading about Silo 1, 17, 18, and any others that Hugh decides to venture into in this story.
Thanks for writing and inspiring us Hugh — I’m proud to call you a friend.