Author Winfield Strock Releases Long Shadows

Author Winfield Strock smilingWe recently had a chance to catch up with Amelia Indie Authors member, science fiction author Winfield Strock. And of course we couldn’t resist the opportunity to turn a celebratory cup of coffee into a bit of an interview. We’re pleased to introduce you to Win.

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AiA: With publication of your new book, Long Shadows, you have produced five science fiction and steam punk novels. What drew you to these genres? Do you have a preference for one over the other, and if so, why?

Strock: As a fan of history and science fiction, steampunk came naturally for me. Both offer an escape from normal life. Dystopian sci-fi serves as a warning about dangerous trends taken to their extreme. Characters have to fight against the world to make it a better place. Utopian sci-fi offers hope of what’s to come if we manage to get our act together. Characters have to save their world from those who would corrupt or destroy it.

Utopian sci-fi offers hope of what’s to come if we manage to get our act together. Characters save their world from those who would corrupt or destroy it. Click To Tweet

AiA: Long Shadows features an intergalactic conflict between two civilizations that could not be more different. Where did you get your inspiration for them, and how did you come up with the detailed descriptions? Were they purely from imagination, or was there some research involved?

Strock: Beginnings aren’t what comes to me first, so I have to retroactively create one from clues in my concept. The Salei and Alkir had to be at odds but willing to cooperate, so a cold war made sense. Each side’s goals defined the kind of creatures they needed to be. The Salei are like locusts: they ravage resources. The Alkir are herd-minded herbivores who fight only when cornered.

Cover of Win Strock’s new novel Long Shadows. AiA: The hero of this book, James, is a teenager coming of age, trying to find his abilities and purpose in life. He is in love with a street-smart, red-haired girl who works in a bar. She seems familiar, like someone most people would recognize from some point in their lives. Most fictional characters reflect the author’s experience. What relationships or people from your own past have informed these characters?

Strock: As a kid with Asperger’s Syndrome (before anyone knew what that was) interacting with other kids didn’t come easy. I think that’s why I became such a sci-fi fan. I imagined myself an alien that looked like the other kids but remained very different. There was a girl named Glenda in my childhood. I had a crush and she was pretty harsh. Not much of a story, but that kernel of personal connection made writing that part of the story easier and more real for me as I wrote it.

As a kid with Asperger’s Syndrome (before anyone knew what that was) interacting with other kids didn’t come easy. Click To Tweet

AiA: Like your previous work, Touching Butterflies, Long Shadows features a male friendship that is important to the hero’s journey. How is James’ friendship with Matt different from Neil and Roland’s relationship in Butterflies? James learns from his friend in unexpected ways. How did you see this relationship developing under very difficult circumstances? How did you manage to keep both friends on equal footing, when one gains such tremendous power?

Strock: For the most part, Matt’s character grew from James’s weaknesses and interests. Prior to the first scene, James (like me) has just made a big move. In a new neighborhood, at a new school, he sees a chance to react differently to the world hoping to gain better results. He’d been timid and shy; now he means to speak his mind and waste little time meeting the world head-on. Matt’s caution and logic are the guardrail that keeps James from tumbling to his doom.

Neil and Roland from Touching Butterflies were a case of role reversal. Neil had been the awkward geek and Roland the popular athlete in high school. Now with Roland’s football career destroyed and Neil’s computer skills at a premium, it’s Neil’s turn to have power and prestige go to his head and allow him down a dark path.

AiA: In Long Shadows, the warring civilizations seek power, and the real prize is in the form of telepathy. Tell us a little about your interest in telepathy, and what drew you to feature it in the story? And because science fiction is often predictive, what potential do you see for telepathy to actually gain the kind of power you describe sometime in the future?

Strock: Telepathy served two purposes in Long Shadows.

For the Salei, telepathy threatened their civilization, where secrets and hidden agendas kept the powerful on top.

For the Alkir, being part of a global mind meant they were unable to come up with new ideas because negativity of the collective mind about anything risky or untried magnified their fears.

If humanity becomes telepathic the upheaval is inevitable. Everyone’s a liar on some level. Sometimes they lie for a ‘good reason.’ Imagine going to a car salesman or to court knowing that your thoughts and memories are like a book on a shelf.

Everyone’s a liar on some level. Sometimes they lie for a ‘good reason.’ Click To Tweet

AiA: Long Shadows ends with an open possibility for a sequel. Do you intend to follow up with a series, or are you thinking of something different for your next book? If so, what can you tell us?

Strock: I always have ideas for sequels but I seldom act on them. Currently I’m working on The Kitten’s Apprentice. It’s a story about a sorcerer who tries to pass his powers on to a younger man. During the ritual, a cat interferes and the magical powers are shared between the man and the cat.

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3 Types of Nonfiction That Can Improve Your Novel

Bharat Krishnan, Author

We’ve all had to do it at some point in our academic and professional careers: the Dreaded Personal Statement™. Why do you want to join this university? Why do you think this job is right for you? And going beyond personal statements, some of you might have even written an online dating profile. I know I did, and it led me to my wife. Finally, every day we write emails to colleagues, friends, family, and even strangers.

What if I were to tell you that by mastering the art of the personal statement, the art of the online dating profile, and the art of email, you could become a first-rate author? You’ve probably had plenty of practice doing these things anyway, so why not tell yourself that spending time doing this stuff counts towards your daily word goal so that you don’t feel so guilty spending time on Tinder or Gmail?

Here’s how it’s worked for me, and how it could work for you, too.

Personal Statements 

Writing about yourself is hard, and many authors want to compartmentalize their writing as just one aspect of their multi-faceted lives. But the thing about writing is that it begs to burst from your soul. You write (or at least I do) because you just cannot keep the words inside of you for a moment longer or you’ll explode. Writing is intensely personal, then, and there’s no need to be embarrassed about that. The first short story I had published was about my alcoholism. Anybody can sit at a computer and type on a word document, so what makes your writing stand out is that it is YOU writing it. You are telling a story that only YOU can tell, and you owe your readers the answer as to why that is. Why can only YOU share this tale about two brothers searching for revenge in a desert? Why can only YOU pen this tale about a girl who just wants to go home?

The thing about writing is that it begs to burst from your soul. You write because you just cannot keep the words inside of you for a moment longer... Click To Tweet

My first book was essentially a 150-page personal statement. In 2016, I wrote an autobiography based on 10 years of working as a professional political campaign manager; being able to tell my personal story in that medium turned out to be a massive help over the next several years of my life. In 2017, I had to write a personal statement to get into an MBA program and, thanks to months spent refining my “less is more” style of weaving a personal narrative in a few words that still manages to captivate, I got a full scholarship to my top choice. It turns out that when you learn how to write about yourself in an interesting way, writing about other things in ways that captivate the soul becomes much easier.

Online Dating Profiles

Growing up in that awkward period — when the internet wasn’t quite yet a thing in grade school but everyone had an AIM screen name by 6th grade — I became well-acquainted with just about every dating app available by the time I hit my 20s. OkCupid, Tinder, Hinge, and – what finally worked for me – Coffee Meets Bagel. Just as in writing a personal statement, when writing a dating profile you’ve got to explain things succinctly.

Unlike personal statements, though, online dating profiles require HUMOR. Just think about that – why do you swipe right on someone’s profile? How much can you really learn about someone given a few words and a couple of pictures? Enough to make you feel safe and happy enough to want to spend an evening with them? Perhaps our inhibitions drop and we’re convinced of a person’s authenticity when we know they can crack a joke: humor is a cheat code. 

What I mean is that when you can make someone laugh, they start to think less logically and more emotionally. All your favorite stories – from Harry Potter to Star Wars to the Avengers – have inconsistencies in them. Why don’t Deatheaters weaponize polyjuice potion? How can Leia remember her birth mother in Return of the Jedi? Why doesn’t Thanos just double the universe’s resources? We don’t mind these inconsistencies because, by the time they’re introduced, we’re thinking emotionally. And one surefire way to make sure people react emotionally about your writing is to make them laugh.

Perhaps our inhibitions drop and we’re convinced of a person’s authenticity when we know they can crack a joke: humor is a cheat code. Click To Tweet

There’s Always E-mail 

I never knew there was an actual term for what I often do: “ping-ponging.” I frequently will respond to a just-sent email with a few words, and then follow up with a few more words, and then follow up with a few more words. You’ve now received 3 emails from me in the span of five minutes, and it’s all because I couldn’t just chill and read your entire email in one go. 

You’ve now received 3 emails from me in the span of five minutes, and it’s all because I couldn’t just chill and read your entire email in one go. Click To Tweet

When writing anything, you want to gather all your thoughts in one go and then succinctly do the thing. This way, you can make sure your writing is compelling and to the point. You need to write something that fully addresses all the questions your reader might have, but isn’t needlessly long. As authors, we might have less than 500 words to convince a reader to buy our book instead of just reading the free preview on Amazon. 

Improving your email etiquette could make you a better author by ensuring that each word in your novel is justified.

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Bharat Krishnan is currently working on his third book in four years, and during that time he decided he wasn’t quite busy enough so he also got married and graduated with honors from LSU’s Flores MBA program. He lives in Columbus, Ohio as a philanthropic consultant, and loves to cook when he’s not writing or working out.

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Launching The Earl in Black Armor

A launch party on St. Patrick’s Day 2019 was perfect timing to formally release my latest Irish historical novel, The Earl in Black Armor. But just as the earl could not have put on his heavy armor without many helping hands, I could not have published this book so successfully without similar and most generous help.

I could not have published this book so successfully without similar and most generous help. Click To Tweet 

Launching The Earl in Black ArmorWhen I first started writing this book I expected it to be easy and quick, because I’d already studied much about the period and I was only covering a time span of seven years. But it turned out to be the most difficult and complex book I’ve written to date – and also the most rewarding accomplishment.

Even though I’m a former journalist and experienced writer, I knew this book needed many eyes on it to make sure it was right. After revising my manuscript numerous times, I used several beta readers, plus two editors, and two proofreaders who found the errors I could not see, and who pointed out the places where I needed more clarity. 

I was able to test drive parts of our Amelia Indie Authors network. I had help finding exactly the right people to assist me at each stage: they supported and encouraged me when I felt frustrated and celebrated with me when the final product was in hand.

But that is just the beginning. My Amelia Indie Authors co-founder,  author Andrea Patten “had an idea.” (If you get to know her, you’ll get used to hearing those words.)

A capacity for building connections led to a remarkable opportunity for me: to lead a literary tour in Ireland in 2020 Click To Tweet

Andrea’s vision and her natural capacity for building connections led to a remarkable opportunity for me: to lead a literary tour in Ireland in 2020 — exploring the sites traveled in my books and bring those scenes to life in real experiences for readers. What other authors have had such a tour? How about Maeve Binchy, and Frank McCourt? It is a tremendous honor to be able to join such renowned company. 

The Earl in Black Armor is a story of conflicts: loyalty and betrayal, love and hate, courage and fear, honor and disgrace. Click To Tweet

The Earl in Black Armor is a story of conflicts: loyalty and betrayal, love and hate, courage and fear, honor and disgrace. Because of the work I put into it, and the help I have received, I have no conflicts at all about promoting this book with confidence. I know it can compete successfully — not only with other indie books in its genre but also with those traditionally published.

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Two Ways to Avoid Sharing That Most Annoying Quality

I love indie authors and right now I’m annoyed. Aggravated. Disappointed and sad. I’m not sure what is worse — the feeling that I’ve wasted time and money on poor quality books or my current reluctance to pick up another book written by an indie author.Two Ways to Avoid Sharing That Most Annoying Quality

When Nancy, D-M and I decided to start Amelia Indie Authors, we had two goals in mind: to protect indies from over-priced industry predators and to help raise the quality of what indie authors are publishing. The reading I’ve done over the past few weeks was disheartening. And, with any luck, motivating. Hopefully, it will make me even more passionate about the success of other indie authors.

Like many other authors and publishers, we attend book festivals. We often trade titles with others in attendance. We no longer look at the festivals as a place to sell books, but, rather, an opportunity to connect with readers and other authors –and, of course, spend too much money on an armload of intriguing titles.

Hopefully, it will make me even more passionate about the success of other indie authors. Click To Tweet

In the last ten days, I’ve read several of the books from two festivals just past. Two fiction, three non-fiction. Two for the little people in my life and three for the grown-ups. It was a nice cross-section but the quality made me very unhappy. Instead of writer’s block, these five works may have given me reader’s block.

I am not a snob. I make my share of mistakes. Besides, I love indie authors and, quite obviously, am invested in their success. But this is the sort of thing that makes the rest of the indie author community look bad. I could not finish the novel written entirely in the passive voice but got all the way through the two skinny non-fiction efforts that were half story and half filler. The major first-page typo in one of the next selections was almost enough to make me put it down. I’m glad I didn’t: while it’s got some spots that could benefit from an experienced editor, it’s a hella good story. And the last juvenile fiction is of a quality that could compete on any best seller list.Two Ways to Avoid Sharing That Most Annoying Quality

So, then, why so grumpy?

Because they were all good ideas. Some were great ideas. Their authors put in their own measure of blood, sweat, and tears to bring them into being. Unfortunately, some of these titles are likely not going to do anything but sit in a box in the author’s closet — until he or she gets tired of the business and gives them all away.

That doesn’t need to be. But how does a writer get the kind of feedback they need to write in a way that gives excellent voice to their wonderful ideas? And what’s their responsibility to do so? Part of it is to keep the implied promise to readers: that the book they hold in their hands represents the writer’s best work.

Writing a book -- any book -- takes guts. Click To Tweet

Writing a book — any book — takes guts. Authors face rejection each and every time they ask someone to give it a read. Eventually, their names are emblazoned on the front cover and if the release is poor quality, readers may never give them another chance.

  • The first line of defense can be as simple as a grammar program — not just the spell check that comes with most basic writing software by something a bit more sophisticated like Grammarly or ProWritingAid.
  • Second? How about using some beta readers who are not family and friends? People who don’t normally read your genre or are unfamiliar with your topic? They’re going to tell you where they’re lost and confused and these are signs that more work needed. After all, you want anyone who picks up your book to be able to understand it, right?

'you got this' chalked onto roadAn author willing to accept some hard feedback from strangers and take the time to work through multiple drafts can produce something anyone can be proud of — something of such high quality that could compete on a best seller list.

 

 

 

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black and white image of neon sign says "do what you love"

How a Tribe Can Make You a Better Writer

 

By Darryl Bollinger

I recently celebrated a birthday and received a wonderful card from dear friends. On the cover, with pictures of Dorothy and her three traveling companions in The Wizard of Oz, was the inscription It’s not WHERE you go . . . It’s WHO you meet along the way. How appropriate. All of us have the innate desire for tribal affiliation. While an anthropologist could do a far better job of explaining that longing, my simple perspective is from a writer’s view.

All of us have the innate desire for tribal affiliation. While an anthropologist could do a far better job of explaining that longing, my simple perspective is from a writer’s view. Click To Tweet

It is also a subject foremost in my mind these days, having relocated from Florida to North Carolina in the past year.

black and white image of neon sign says "do what you love"What a joy to spend a week surrounded by my writing tribe in beautiful Fernandina Beach, Florida for the Amelia Island Book Festival, a “family” reunion. We stayed with close friends who live there, one of whom is writer Dr. J Author. We reunited with long-time “relatives” including Andrea Patten, Nancy Blanton, Samuel Staley, my editor, Heather Whitaker, and discovered new ones, such as Amelia Indie Authors. The subject of a writing family led to this post. How does a writing tribe make one a better writer?

It is both comforting and selfish. It is relaxing to be in the company of people who love and accept you without reservation. A place where you can be yourself and lower the guardrails. Where it is okay to make a mistake, where you don’t have to constantly be on guard parsing your responses and comments. While writing may be the one common link, I am amazed at the diversity within the circle. There may be other common elements we sometimes share, but there are also areas within which we can respectfully disagree.

It is both comforting and selfish. It is relaxing to be in the company of people who love and accept you without reservation. A place where you can be yourself and lower the guardrails Click To Tweet

Selfishly, it is an opportunity to gather something of great value. I always leave feeling that I am leaving with more than I came with. My mind is racing to the point of insomnia, flooding my brain with thoughts and ideas triggered by lively conversation, helpful suggestions, and insightful commentary.

It is an opportunity to share and to give back to my tribal community. To help others benefit from my mistakes. A testing ground and sounding board for thoughts and dreams. To laugh together and share unique life experiences and the benefit of acquired knowledge and wisdom. Prompts, motivation, and challenges abound.

It is an opportunity to learn. The stimulation and mind-expanding are tangible. The writers in the family bring their significant others into the tent, with even more experiences to add to the stew. I never cease to walk away from these gatherings invigorated and challenged beyond my wildest expectations.

What do you look for? In the words of my motorcycle riding friends, If I have to explain, you wouldn’t understand. As I search for my tribe in my new residence, I am asked, “What are you looking for?” and I don’t know how to answer. It’s like asking what you look for in a friend. Certainly, fundamental traits such as honesty and loyalty are important, but it goes far beyond that. I think of close friends, several of whom were there and how on our initial meeting, we instantly bonded. Why? I can’t explain. If I could, I’d write a book on that subject and probably be set for life. All I can offer is to try on different groups and you’ll know when you find it.

I hear people say that writing is a solitary endeavor. While it may be true that the actual task of sitting down at a keyboard and putting words on paper is solitary, writing is very much a collaborative effort. Family is important. Find your tribe. It is a gratifying experience for the soul. 

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Find Darryl on his website, Facebook, Twitter, Amazon, and Goodreads!