Author Interview Number Thirty – Larey Batz

Second Dawn - Cover     Welcome to Larey Batz: Author of ‘Second Dawn’

Please tell us a little about yourself. – I’m originally from Memphis Tennessee, but I’m spent the last six years in Philadelphia Pennsylvania. I’ve been writing since I learned how to put sentences together. I gave screenwriting a serious go before flipping over to fiction, but I still have projects in both arenas. I’ve been described a number of ways over the years, but I think it can all be summed up by the following: Tall, hilarious, beer-drinker.

Please tell us a little about your writing – for example genre, title, etc. – I don’t specialize in a particular genre. I like to dabble in, combine and redefine genres whenever possible. My current novel is ‘Second Dawn’. It combines a little of everything—alien abduction, dystopian setting, rabid hordes of primal creatures and a wisecracking female protagonist who manages to rub everyone the wrong way. It’s the first book of a trilogy. The soon-to-be-released follow up is titled ‘OBEY: Second Dawn Book II’

Who or what are your inspirations/influences? – I draw inspiration from everywhere—writers old and new, mainstream and indie, film, TV, comics, graphic novels, comedians, musicians, friends, strangers on the street. Whoever and whatever captures my interest, for whatever reason, can be both influence and inspiration. You just have to train yourself to be perceptive.

Research can be important in world-building, how much do you need to do for your books? – I believe in researching as much as necessary. That said, no amount of research can make you an expert overnight, but I believe the responsible writer should try to avoid as much glaring inaccuracy as possible.

Do you enjoy this aspect of creating a novel and what are your favourite resources? – Sometimes I enjoy it, because learning new things, or debunking popular assumption can be very intriguing. Sometimes it’s just a pain, especially if it’s an obscure variable that doesn’t have much info available. For a scene on a train in ‘Second Dawn’, I actually had to go down to the train station in Philadelphia and interview some of the workers. I needed to find out how heavy that glass was in the emergency window exit and how it would fall if you released the lever. They were very helpful. Chances are, I could have made up something and no one would have ever called me out on it, but it was really bothering me and I wanted to know for sure. Fav resource is probably the same as everyone else—‘google is your friend’. But I will contact people who have real world experience in certain areas if the need arises.

In what formats are your books available? (E-books, print, large print audio) E-Book and paperback.. Are you intending to expand these?  – I’ll expand as warranted, but right now, the main focus is building a platform

Do you self-edit? If so why is that the case? – Yes. I believe it’s an important skill for any writer to learn and getting practice correcting your own mistakes actually makes you a stronger writer in my opinion.  Do you believe a book suffers without being professionally edited? Yes Of course. And I would never advise that a writer just stop with self-editing and then publish. The final edit should always be done by a sourced/contracted editor. As a professional courtesy, I just believe you should edit your manuscript to the best of your ability before sending it over to your editor. For one thing, it ensures that the final version is closest to your best vision. Just having someone correct a first draft can lead to a great deal of your own voice being lost. You want an editor to correct mistakes, not re-write your work.

What are your opinions about authors commenting on reviews? – I don’t think authors should comment on reviews. It’s a waste of time. No book is going to be universally loved by everyone. Challenging a review or even commenting and trying to take the high road, makes you appear amateurish and insecure about your work.

How important are reviews? – Depends on the quality. When I read a thorough, in-depth review, I can appreciate the time the reviewer put into explaining the reasons why they liked or didn’t like a book. As a result, I tend to give those types of reviews more weight, both as a writer and as a potential buyer of books. If it’s just one of those, “I loved this book! OMG! I couldn’t put it down!” typed of reviews, I don’t pay much attention to those.

What experiences can a book provide that a movie or video game cannot? – Activating the imagination. Video and film are rigid depictions. You’re totally at the mercy of your eyes and ears. Books leave room for your imagination to fill in the gaps. In a novel, you don’t have to be worried that Ben Affleck won’t make a good Batman. When we read, the characters look exactly as we need them to look. The explosions sound like we need them too. A hot coffee on a cold day, tastes as perfect as we can imagine. Books are interactive experiences and that’s what makes writing a process of sharing. I share my vision. You interpret and filter my vision through your own senses.

What three pieces of advice would you give to new writers? – 1. Take yourself seriously. You’re your journey. Do what YOU need to do in order to be successful at it. And stop sitting around wait for someone to encourage you. Encourage yourself. 2. Don’t dismiss or accept any writing advice until you fully understand the reasoning behind the advice. 3. BE INTERESTING. No one wants to read a grammatically correct sleeping pill. Grab my attention.

What are your best marketing/networking tips? – Make connections. Get your book in the hands and on the lips of people who can/will spread the word. There’s only so much you can do yourself. You need word of mouth. You’re not gonna sell a billion books by standing out in the middle of the street like a town crier and ringing a bell. You’ll annoy more people than you’ll interest. Let someone else talk about how great you are.

Most authors also like to read, what books do you enjoy? – Indie primarily. I’ve read, enjoyed and developed appreciation for about as many of the classics as the average person, but lately I find myself gravitating toward those undiscovered gems floating around the indie landscape. I run across a few duds too, but the fun is in the hunt.

Do you have a favourite movie? – It rotates. Last week it was ‘Michael Clayton’. The week before that, it was ‘Jerry MaGuire’. This week, it’s ‘School Daze’ by Spike Lee.

Do you have any pets? – No. I’m sure to get a beagle before I die though. Once I get old, bitter and cranky and no one wants to be around me anymore, I’ll need the comfort and loyalty of a friend that I can keep chained to a post in the backyard.

Can you give us a silly fact about yourself? – I invented the internet. Well actually I didn’t, but I’m so awesome on it, that everyone assumes I did. I also believe, to the very core of my being, that watching ‘A Charlie Brown Christmas’ with a cup of spirited egg nog, is the best holiday experience there is, was or ever will be.

Book links, website/blog and author links:

Amazon KDP: http://www.amazon.com/Second-Dawn-Larey-Batz-ebook/dp/B00E8I95QK

AMZ Paperback: http://www.amazon.com/Second-Dawn-Volume-Larey-Batz/dp/1491242094

Facebook Author Page: https://www.facebook.com/lareybatzauthor

Smashwords: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/343887

Twitter: https://twitter.com/LareyBatz

And here’s an excerpt….

“Can I see her?” I asked.

“All business. You haven’t changed.” His perfect white smile grew wider as he looked me over. There was a sparkle in his eyes which almost made them look kind. “Come.”

Neal and I followed him into a smaller hallway. Kline stepped up to the scanner, and a beam of emerald light waved over his eyes. The three-foot thick steel doors separated. They’d switched to retinal scans instead of fingerprint I.D., probably as a precaution after my incident with Sentient One.

“After you,” he said. I stepped forward and he ushered me through the doors.

The first door we passed was the one—the one where I beheaded an alien and lost my job. Nervous energy shot through my gut as we walked by. Neal glanced over at me. I looked away and stared straight ahead while Kline chatted away about some boat he’d bought recently.

Soon we came to the end of the hallway and turned to the right toward an area I’d never been to before. Kline took us through another set of double doors leading to a larger hallway. Wide windows of thick glass lined the left side of the hall, allowing us to see into a huge examination room.

Through the windows, I saw a teen-aged girl chained to a metal bench. Jennifer Thomas’s head hung low. I noticed the clumps of hair at her feet and the reddish patches of scalp they’d left behind. On the bench opposite the girl sat what looked like a toolbox surrounded by various instruments of interrogation. The pool of urine under the bench suggested Jennifer had been introduced to more than a few of them.

I walked closer to the window. Her bruised and blood stained body reminded me how much I despised the aliens and enjoyed seeing them in pain. Even though she looked human, I knew the truth. To a civilian, the scene I witnessed would seem deplorable. I saw it as no less than just.

“She looks human,” I said.

“Remarkably so,” Kline replied. “Even bleeds red. The normal tests identify her as having human DNA. The alien cells are masked, hidden at almost sub-atomic levels—a perfect genetic mixture of human and alien chromosomes. Needless to say, the scientific community has never seen anything like this.”

“We dropped the ball, Doc,” I said. “We should have known they were up to something.”

“Hindsight my darling,” he said. “And unfortunately none of us can reverse the hands of time.”

“What does she know?” Neal asked.

“She hasn’t told me much so far. What we do know is she goes by the name Jennifer Thomas and until yesterday was a recent high school graduate, assigned to a technical services position in the General Communications Office.”

“Shit,” I said. “Aliens who look like us and can blend in with population. That ain’t good.”

“No.” He paused and watched Jennifer through the glass. “I’m afraid it isn’t.”

“Has she gone primal since she’s been here?”

“It comes and goes, usually when I get rough with her. She doesn’t seem to be able to control it at will, otherwise I fear I’d be wearing a few scars on my lovely face.”

Kline smiled. Even after all I’d seen him do, I wondered how someone so polite and cordial could be so systematically ruthless in the art of inflicting pain.

“She’s crying,” I said, as I watched Jennifer’s tears splatter against the metal floor.

“Yes,” Kline said. “But in my profession I’ve seen a vast number of people cry. I don’t ever think I’ve seen tears as empty and as devoid of soul as hers. Almost robotic.”

“So what happens next?”

“They want her alive when I’m done. That’s all I know.”

“I wanna talk to her,” I said.

He glanced at Neal then returned his smile to me. “Access is restricted for now. But I’ve posted my preliminary findings on the server. You’ll have my full report when I’m done.”

“Okay.”

“We’ll have to catch up, when this is done,” he said. “It’s been too long.”

Kline extended his naked hand and I reached for it. He surprised me by pulling me into a tight embrace. He held me for several seconds before whispering, “Don’t close your eyes darling, not even for a second.”

He ended the moment with a quick kiss on my temple.

I watched him walk away and enter the door at the end of the hall. Seconds later he appeared in the room with Jennifer. The girl looked up as Kline fished through the toolbox. They were in a soundproof room, but the look of panic in Jennifer’s eyes and her muted scream assured me Kline’s report was about to be updated.

“You hungry?” Neal asked.

“If the Buffalo wings are as ruthless as I remember, I’ll pass.”

We took the elevator to the second floor, level “B’. As the doors closed behind us, Neal led me toward the small office at the end of the hall known as the ‘Broom Closet’, a location where agents were individually de-briefed after missions, or given psych evaluations. It was a necessary step before my reinstatement could become official.

Once inside, a burly agent with hairy arms jutting from his rolled up sleeves pulled out a wooden chair from beneath a metal table. He motioned for me to come forward. I noticed a pulse monitor polygraph on the table.

I turned to Neal.

“You know the drill.” Neal walked toward the door. “Hopefully this won’t take too long.”

“You’re not staying?”

“I’ve got to go get prepared for the briefing. I’ll send someone to get you when they’re done.”

I sat in the chair and placed my arms on the table. “Let’s get this over with, Cupcake.”

As the door closed behind Neal, I felt the man’s thick fingers clamp around my wrist. He wrapped a blood pressure gauge around my bicep and pulled it tight before securing the Velcro. As I adjusted to the tightness of the strap, the agent pressed my palm flat against the table and slid a plastic sheath over my ring finger.

My eyes followed the wire leads from the sheath up to the base of the monitor. The agent pressed a button on the device. After a few seconds, a pair of rectangular screens jumped to life and waves of thin lines began flowing across the panels from left to right.

Meanwhile, the agent reached behind the monitor and lifted a small syringe filled with a rust colored fluid. With a blank expression, he leaned in, lifted my right elbow and hovered over the bulging vein. Just as the needle punctured my skin, a light flickered on at the rear of the room. I made out a shadow of a person sitting on the other side of a window. A speaker clicked on, followed by an electronic hum. The burly agent left the room and a woman’s voice echoed through the audio system.

“I am going to ask you questions and you are going to answer truthfully. We have injected you with a chemical agent that will help facilitate this process. When this is over, you will most likely not remember what was asked or what you said. But in compliance with Agent Neal’s request, a video transcript of these proceedings will be made available to you after we have made our assessment. Do you understand?”

“Yes,” I replied.

“What is your name?” The woman asked.

“Dillon Shaw.”

“What is your agent CID?”

“Orphan187.”

“What was your last assignment?”

“Zion.”

“Have you killed for this agency before?”

My eyes grew heavy and my vision blurred. As the warm liquid snaked through my veins, it became more and more difficult to focus. My mind felt unhinged, like my brain was floating in a thick fog and I no longer felt in control of my thoughts. As I struggled to put words together and form a clear response, the woman’s voice boomed over the room again.

“Have you killed for this agency before?”

My lips began moving without my consent.

“Yes.”

Indie Block Party Post 7 – Writing Tips and Advice

Indie block party small

This week focuses more on sharing advice and resources than actively promoting our own books. Hopefully we can all learn from these tips and find useful links and suggestions. Most of the authors I meet are a supportive and helpful lot, which is just as well as writing itself can be quite lonely and frustrating. I have learned a great deal, and made new friends within the writing community. Shared information is valuable, knowledge is power.

Share your most helpful writing tips and advice. What do you know now that you wished you had known when you started writing?

New writers are given an awful lot of information, much of it contradictory and it is very difficult to know the good advice from the bad. Experience is a great teacher!

Here are my top 6 tips:

1)    Keep writing. This is seems to be consistent advice from all the sources I have seen. A single book is great but it is hard to build a fan base with just one title and if readers like your work they may well look out for other articles and stories. I do as a reader. As your writing experience grows you will learn what works and what doesn’t. Write for anthologies, write for your blog or someone else’s or write for research. Yahoo Voices have many interesting blog-type articles and it is a way to build a fan base. Researching for your novel? Great, use that research to help others. There are lots of anthologies looking for submissions (see links below) and some pay, although some don’t. Even the free ones are useful in getting your name out there and are writing practice.

2)    Have a thick skin, you will need it. There will ALWAYS be someone who doesn’t like your book, will be offended by it, hate the characters or simply not get it. We do not all like the same things, if we did the world would be boring indeed.  Bad reviews hurt, but most books have at least one and unless the reviewer has a personal issue with the author (which occasionally happens) then it is one opinion. Reviews are just that – opinions, which can be as varied as the books they discuss.

No writer likes to be told their book sucks and it can be hard to deal with. One of the best pieces of advice is don’t comment, or if you feel you must then be polite, thank the reviewer for their comments and move on. Commenting, especially negatively will do far more harm, go and rant to your best friend, yell at the wall, go for a walk and release that is one person’s opinion only. The next reviewer may love the book. Even negative reviews, except the spiteful ones, have useful advice.

It is hard to work out how much store readers put on reviews, many do look and most simply filter out those which either say nothing or the obviously spiteful or overly gushing ones, but in a couple of studies I have done reviews are surprisingly low on the scale. A good cover, a synopsis which pulls in the reader and recommendations from friends seem more important. If the book is selling don’t worry too much.

3)    Write the book you want to write. Now I am sure other writers might disagree with this tip but not all. Forcing a story to work, editing out important plot ideas or making characters do something they wouldn’t do may well make the story weaker. Write the book YOU want to read. Would you enjoy it? If the answer is yes then go with it. A forced plot will show itself to be just that.  It may depend on whether you are intending to self-publish or whether you are intending to submit to a publishing house of course and whether you intend to get an editor.

4)    Write the best book you can. No book is perfect. Even best sellers have typos which slip through, weak plots or naff characters. However if you are an indie the threshold seems to be higher…there are plenty of posts and threads berating indie self-published books as being substandard. In some cases this is true, we have all seen them but there are very many books which are great, yes some may be a little rough around the edges but the good stories and talent are out there. There are plenty of traditionally published books which are awful. That said releasing a book full of typos, terrible grammar and weak plot/characters is not advisable. Spellcheckers are useful, but invest in a dictionary, a thesaurus and a writing guide. If you can find beta readers or critique groups then do so.

If you decide to self-edit then put the manuscript aside for a while and write (or read) something new. You will see the work with fresher eyes. I know from experience I see what I think is there not what IS there. If you can afford an editor then it is advisable to consider it, but there are great books which have been self-edited. If you choose this route be thorough, it may take several passes through. Although earlier I said write the book YOU want you do need to be strict when editing. It is easy to get carried away and go off on a tangent. Does the scene add to the story/characterisation/world-building? No – then lose it.

5)    Research and plausibility. This is rather dependent on genre of course but willing suspension of disbelief only goes so far. Fantasy gives a lot of scope, especially magic but it still needs to be consistent. Research gives the writer credibility, if you say something works which we KNOW doesn’t work in that way then at the least back it up in the story with some plausibility, or better still find something which people know does work that way. Gravity is gravity. Research medieval battle, weapons and armour, field medicine, herb-lore and such like if you are planning a fight. Movie fight scenes look great visually but aren’t really that accurate. What damage DOES a long sword do? What IS the range of a long bow. You needn’t go into too much detail in the book, but knowing if your archer can hit that bad-guy lurking in the Dark-lord’s tower is helpful. Books can educate, and encourage people to research for themselves, especially if set in a certain time period but accuracy is the key. Of course many readers won’t go on to research or have any interest in the origins of the long bow, the war horse but some might. Besides research is great, it is amazing what you can discover!

6)    READ THE DAMN MANUAL! Really I mean it. Spend a bit of time not only reading writing guides but the FAQ of KDP, Smashwords, Lulu or wherever it is you choose to publish. It will make life a lot easier. There are several free books available – ‘Publish your work on Kindle’, ‘How to Publish on Smashwords’ for example. Most of the sites have extensive guidelines and forums. That is another thing most people have struggled with whatever it is you are struggling with so search the forums for answers. You are now a business person as well as a writer and it helps to know what to do.

What do I wish I had known at the beginning? Marketing is HARD. Where is the line between being a spammy needy author and promoting in such a way that people will check out your books and not be annoyed? Well that depends on who you ask…some people hate any mention of the product, some don’t mind a small amount and some say as much as you can do is the way to go. If I find the right level I will let you know.

World Building:

http://audenstreasury.blogspot.co.uk/p/writing-fight-scenes-resources.html?showComment=1369324942695

http://foilandphaser.wordpress.com/2013/06/27/tips-and-tricks-for-using-science-in-fiction/

http://cbmccullough.wordpress.com/2013/04/30/domesticating/

http://mythicscribes.com/world-building/adding-depth-to-a-fantasy-world/

http://voices.yahoo.com/world-building-costs-benefits-writing-outside-12007265.html?cat=38

http://audenstreasury.blogspot.co.uk/2013/01/dark-fantasy-world-building-names.html

http://profantasy.com/

Writing generally:

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/lifestyle/9764931/The-101-best-pieces-of-advice-ever-received.html

http://robbgrindstaff.com/2013/01/why-are-verbs-so-tense/

http://lissywrites.com/2013/06/28/back-cover-text-book-blurbs-and-other-fun-stuff/

http://venturegalleries.com/blog/writing-short-stories-for-anthologies/

http://www.writingforward.com/writing-tips/tips-for-self-editing?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=tips-for-self-editing

http://www.indiesunlimited.com/2013/07/13/rethink-advice-to-writers/#more-41613

Related articles

Smashwords Sale!

To celebrate deciding to become a Smashwords Affiliate member I am having a sale:) The price of my e-book is reduced by 50% until 31st July. If you wish to buy it please use voucher code LF87D.

https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/290716.

https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/290716?ref=ALB123 affiliates link.

If you buy the book and enjoy it please tell your friends and I would be very grateful for reviews.

Smashwords.

http://www.indiesunlimited.com/2013/04/30/getting-the-most-out-of-smashwords/

With thanks to the original provider of this article. Personally I struggled with the “meatgrinder” and found it quite frustrating. However it does allow you to sell your book via Kobo, Branes and Noble, I-books, Diesel and, of course, Smashwords. There are also vouchers available, which is a great idea as you can give someone a voucher code which effectively allows you to gift a book, or to reduce the price. Once the book is up the dashboard is easy to use and the forums and help are great. (Better than ‘Zon)

 

Reader interview – Lilly Van Horn

Library of Erana Reader Interview – Number One.  Welcome to Lilly Van Horn.

Where are you from?

The United States.

On average how many books do you read in a month? 

Five.

Why are books important to you and what does reading bring to your life? 

They keep my imagination active and keep me learning. They bring much needed relaxation and escape from a worsening world.

What genres do you prefer and why?

I prefer fantasy and sci-fi with erotic elements.

Do you have a favourite book or author, why do you think you like this book/author so much? 

Several! Let’s see if I can narrow it down… My current favorite is An Unexpected Return by Jessica E. Subject because her writing is beautiful, the perfect amount of description and character development, and the sex is hot.

What medium do you prefer – e-books, audiobooks or paper books? Would you care to expand on this? 

I used to be strictly paper books but I’ve moved on to eBooks because it’s so easy to read them on my treadmill. Being able to hold it with one hand or not at all is so worth it! But, if I love the book, I usually buy the paperback or hardback to support the author even more.

How do you usually find the books you read? For example: recommendations from friends, promotion on social networks, your local library, following authors you already know? 

As an author, I read authors who I am friends with or have connections with first. Then I read books recommended by my friends. Reviews do play a small part.

When choosing a book what makes you stop and give it a second look? What makes you turn away? Do you read reviews by others and if so do they influence the choice? 

A great cover! A bad cover will make me pass it up. I still haven’t read the Sookie books because I hate those covers. I definitely read reviews but I take them with a grain of salt because not every book is for everyone. Before buying I MUST be able to read an excerpt or I don’t buy it.

What is the most important aspect in a book for you? Plot? Characterisation? Well written etc.? 

All of the above. As an author I notice everything, even formatting. The most important thing though would have to be if the story pulls me in and the characters keep me wanting to read.

What aspects turn you off from a book? Are there things you avoid? 

Poor descriptions or cold writing (very little emotion) in traditionally published. For self-published, bad grammar, improper switching of points of view, and the same things listed for trad pubbing. For both: bad formatting is a huge pet peeve.

Do you think bricks and mortar bookshops are in decline?

Absolutely. It’s unfortunate because I love them. But then, they also demand a minimum of 45% off an author’s book just to stock them so they aren’t exactly author friendly. I know they have overhead and such but that leaves an author change in their pocket which is ridiculous considering how much work goes into a novel.