Posted: May 20, 2019 Filed under: Chatting with the Pros, Fiction, Historical Fiction, Interview, Western, Writing | Tags: Brock Clemons Series, CAZ series, Chatting with the Pros, Scott Harris, Shotgun Willy series, Six Gun Partners, Western, Writing to be Read
Today my author guest on “Chatting with the Pros” is a successful western author, who also happens to write his own blog, which ranked in the top 10 western blogs by Feedspot. He has written many western novels and numerous western short stories. His Brock Clemons Series was a finalist in the Western Fictioners Peacemakers Award and is ranked as a top selling series by his publisher, (and mine, as it happens), Dusty Saddle Publishing. According to his website, he grew up on Louis L’Amour. When it comes to the western genre, he really knows his stuff. Please help me welcome western novelist Scott Harris.
Kaye: What is most challenging about writing western for you?
Scott: Since I am still working full-time running my company, finding the time to write is the most challenging thing. I usually write in the morning and have to drag myself from the keyboard to go to work. I’m hoping retirement fixes that.
Kaye: You have three books out in the Brock Clemons series? What can you tell me about that series?
Scott: There are actually eight books in the series. The six novels (in order) are: Coyote Courage, Coyote Creek, Coyote Canyon, Mojave Massacre, Battle on the Plateau and Ambush at Red Rock Canyon. Additionally, there are two collections of short stories based on the Brock Clemons characters: Tales From Dry Springs and Tales From the Grand Canyon.
Brock was my first series, so it holds a special place in my heart. The characters are more complex than those in my subsequent series, which makes writing the stories more difficult and more rewarding. I will come back to these characters, but probably not for a year or two.
Kaye: What can you tell me about your CAZ: Vigilante Hunter series?
Scott: This series is pretty much the antithesis of the Brock series. It is six books (Slaughter at Buzzard’s Gulch, Never Shoot A Woman, The McKnight Massacre, Fire From Hell, Hell on Devil’s Mountain and A Whore’s Life) about a man named Caz (no last name) who travels the West searching for and killing evil men who have evaded justice. The series was an absolute blast to write.
Kaye: When writing for a series, do you outline the whole series from the start, or do you add books as you go? Are the books stand alone, or do the follow a chronological path which should be read in order?
Scott: I am on my 3rd series now (Stagecoach Willy) and I’m in the middle of the 2nd book. I have no idea where the next books are going to go and won’t think about the 3rd book until I finish this one. As a matter of fact, I do not outline my books at all. When I finish a chapter, I have no more of an idea of what the next chapter holds than the reader will. I know that’s different than most writers, but for me, it keeps the writing fresh.
For the most part, the Caz books can be read as stand alone, there is very little crossover from book to book. The Brock series is different and benefits by being read in order.
Kaye: The most recent book in the Brock Clemons series is Coyote Canyon. Can you tell me a little about that book?
Scott: Coyote Canyon came out early last year and was the 3rd book in the Brock series. The series can be thought of as two different trilogies (Dry Springs and Grand Canyon), so in that sense Coyote Canyon was the last in a trilogy. It was a fun book to write because it wrapped up Brock and his families time in Dry Springs and set the stage for them to move to the Grand Canyon.
Kaye: In addition to your western novels, you have also contributed to several western anthologies. Do you prefer writing book length works or short fiction? Why?
Scott: I think that depends on my mood. My short stories range from 500 words to 5,000 words and sometimes I have an idea that I think is powerful, but requires no more than a short story. It can be freeing to write shorts without having to worry about the continuity that novels require.
On the other hand my novels (Brock averages about 50,000 words per book and Caz closer to 30,000 words) allow me to explore ideas and characters in depth. I would hate to be limited to one or the other.
Kaye: You wrote a collection of short stories together with your son, Justin. How did that work? Did you write each story as a collaboration or did you each contribute stories of your own? Was it a good experience? Would you do it again?
Scott: We wrote our own stories, though we talk 2-3 times per week about what we’re working on. He is my best story editor and muse. It was a great experience and we’re working on some things together right now. He’s also about halfway done with his first novel.
Kaye: What is the most fun about writing western for you?
Scott: Coming up and with sharing my ideas. It is really exciting to be able to create stories and characters and then do with them what you will. I have learned that it doesn’t take long before the character takes over and I find myself saying “He/She would never do/say that”
Hearing from readers that they like my work is tremendously rewarding. And I’m just old fashioned enough to still love seeing my books in actual print, with paper, ink and a cover.
Kaye: Your blog recently received the Feedspot award, ranking it up there with the top 20 western blogs out there. I believe your blog was actually ranked in the top 10. Would you like to talk a little about that?
Scott: It was flattering, of course. I try to write posts that are honest and candid. I share my troubles and mistakes (at least with regards to writing) and I believe that resonates with people. I love getting feedback from readers. I am absolutely certain that I learn as much, if not more, from my readers than they do from me.
Kaye: Since you write one of the top western blogs, and have been a fan of westerns since an early age, what do you see when you look at the genre today? Do you find more male or female western authors? Do you find the genre dominated by independently published authors? Do you find it trending more toward western romance these days?
Scott: The genre certainly leans toward being male dominated, but it’s changing and more and more women are getting involved, which is great. Certainly the 3-4 huge names dominate the book stores and it’s tough for most of us to get any shelf space. But, Amazon opens the world for independent writers and gives many of us a chance to find an audience. Can’t ask for more than that.
I have noticed the western romance genre getting more notice and attention. It’ll be interesting to see if that continues.
Kaye: Where do you see the western genre going in the future?
Scott: Wherever we want to take it, or maybe more realistically, wherever the readers want us to take it. There are plenty of different genres sitting under the Western umbrella, so it’s up to us to write some great books and pull in readers – new and old – and at the same time, we need to listen to what the readers are telling us.
Kaye: What is in store for the future for Scott Harris? Does Brock or Caz have more stories in store for them? You are working on the second book in the Shotgun Willy series? Tell me about that series, if you would.
Scott: I’m done with Brock and Caz for now. I am working on the 2nd book in the Stagecoach Willy series. Willy is a stagecoach driver and keeps stumbling into trouble and then I need to write him out of it. He has a sense of humor, which is fun to write and has a partner, Ten, that he’s been staging with for years. When I finish the 6th book, I plan to do a “capstone” book that brings Brock, Caz and Willy together in one grand book.
Kaye: What do you like to do when you’re not writing?
Scott: Spend as much time as possible with my wife, Randi, my son, Justin and my daughter Samantha and her husband Devin. Randi and I travel quite a bit, try to take one RV trip per month. Next month is a 3 week trip to South Bend to watch our daughter graduate from Notre Dame Law School.
Next year, we’re retiring and moving to Tennessee. Very much looking forward to it.
I want to thank Scott for chatting with me here and sharing some of his expertise in the western genre. I very much enjoyed this and hope all of my readers have, too. You can learn more about Scott Harris on his blog and website, or on his Amazon author page. Join me next month on “Chatting with the Pros”, when my guest author will be hardboiled crime fiction novelist Jim Nesbit. I hope to see all of you then.
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Posted: March 18, 2019 Filed under: Books, Chatting with the Pros, Collaboration, Dark Fantasy, Fantasy, Fiction, Interview, Science Fiction, Speculative Fiction, Teaching Writing, World Building, Writing, Writing to be Read | Tags: Chatting with the Pros, Fantasy, Kevin J. Anderson, Writing to be Read
My guest today on “Chatting with the Pros” is an award winning and best selling author who has written countless novels and over 56 national and international best sellers. A majority of his works fall into the science fiction or fantasy genres, but he writes across many genres. In a recent introduction for “The Big Idea: Kevin J. Anderson“, an article about the latest release in his short fiction collection, Selected Stories, John Scalzi calls him, “one of the most prolific authors working today”, and one look at his immense book list on Amazon would leave no doubt that this is an accurate assessment. (You can find my review of selected stories here). He’s written a lot of books, 56 of which have hit the national and international best seller lists, and he’s been writing for many years, and I’m sure we will find his knowledge and experiences enlightening. Please help me welcome Kevin J. Anderson.
Kaye: You have written at least 56 national or international best sellers. What makes a good story in your mind?
Kevin: People want to read a good story with an exciting/interesting plot, a well-developed setting, and engaging characters. Make it a story you WANT to read, with clear prose and action. I don’t like muddled, glacial-paced stories where the prose is just too precious.
Kaye: Why science fiction and fantasy? Why not western or romance or mystery? What’s the attraction?
Kevin: Well, I’ve also written plenty of mysteries, and some of my work has been set in the old west, and most good stories have a strong romance component (though I don’t write category Romance or Westerns). I like to tell an interesting story, and I move around a lot among genres, even though I am primarily known for science fiction or fantasy. I grew up in a very mundane small town in rural Wisconsin, and I was captivated by SF/F from an early age, because it showed my imagination what was possible. I wanted to go to exotic places, whether they were filled with aliens or dragons. Science fiction took me to a much wider universe. (And as a skinny, nerdy kid with glasses and a bad haircut, “romance” wasn’t much of a possibility, so I stuck with spaceships and swords.)
Kaye: You wrote several Star Wars and X-Files novels. Is it difficult to immerse yourself in someone else’s settings and characters enough to pick up a thread and run with it in the same tone and writing style? How do you go about getting yourself into that mindset?
Kevin: It’s no more difficult than trying to immerse yourself in the old west or ancient Japan for a historical. A writer’s job is to absorb the story, characters, voice, and setting. I was already a big fan of Star Wars, Star Trek, X-Files, and Dune, and I enjoyed going to work in those universes. In each instance, I would completely surround myself with the property — whether that meant watching the Star Wars films over and over again, or the episodes of the X-Files, or repeatedly rereading DUNE and its sequels. You pick up the manner of speaking, the “look and feel” of the world, and you make it into your own story.
Kaye: You’ve done several collaborations, including books of the Dune series, with Brian Herbert and the Clockwork books which you collaborated with Neil Peart, drummer for the band Rush. What is the biggest challenge when collaborating on a book?
Kevin: You both need to have the same vision for the book—which means a LOT of talking and brainstorming ahead of time—and you both need the same work ethic (so each partner puts in the same amount of time and effort…a tortoise and hare collaboration will just cause a lot of friction), and you need to be flexible. There’s never only ONE way to write a sentence or describe a scene. I would never want to collaborate with a diva!
Kaye: Do you belong to any writing organizations? If so, which ones? Do you feel your membership in these writing organizations have been helpful in your writing successes? How so?
Kevin: I belong to the Horror Writers Association (and edited three anthologies for them, the BLOOD LITE series), IAMTW (International Association of Media Tie-In Writers), and SFWA, the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America, although some of their recent decisions have made me so upset that I would not renew my membership if I wasn’t already a lifetime member. The problem with such organizations is that you can become to engrossed in the politics and bickering that you forget your real purpose, which is to WRITE.
Kaye: You’ve written several series, including Saga of the Seven Suns, Dan Shamble P.I. and the Clockwork books? Are any of your books stand alone? Why do you lean toward series?
Kevin: I’ve written many standalone books. The one I just finished last week, a vampire/serial-killer thriller STAKE, that’s not part of a series. But I like to tell big stories, and once you’ve done all the effort of world building and character building an entire universe, you want to spend some time. To me, a trilogy is perfect — a beginning, middle, and end, with enough room to tell the story and describe the world in all its glory. Pragmatically speaking, it’s a much better decision commercially to build a series, because readers will want more and more, and each new book will help sell copies of previous volumes. Can you imagine if A.C. Doyle had stopped after writing only one Sherlock Holmes story?
Kaye: Science fiction authors create whole worlds from their imaginations, often with new languages created in their own minds, and you have created many. How do you go about creating a new language?
Kevin: Hmm, creating languages? I’m not really a linguist and I don’t know that I’ve developed full languages (though I do use weird words). I just make up the words by making what seem to be the appropriate sounds, linguistic flavors, scary sounds for monsters or villains, softer or ethereal sounds for pleasant things. I can’t really explain it more rigorously than that.
Kaye: Your work has won many prestigious awards. Which award are you most proud of? Why?
Kevin: Awards are awards, and it’s nice to have them, but I really prefer READERS. That’s what makes your writing worthwhile. It’s not terribly prestigious, but the award I value most is one I received very early in my career, when I received a trophy with an engraved brass plate and everything, naming me “The Writer with No Future” because I could produce more rejection slips than any other writer at an entire conference. To me, that didn’t mean I was a failure as a writer or that my work was awful—it proved that I was more persistent, that I kept trying, kept getting better, and never gave up. I still have that trophy.
Kaye: In addition to being an author, you and your wife, Rebecca Moesta, are publishers at Wordfire Press, but originally you were traditionally published. Why the switch to being your own publisher after being traditionally published for so many years?
Kevin: Survival. No choice. The publishing industry has undergone a tremendous upheaval equivalent to the Industrial Revolution, and I could either be a mammal and evolve or stay a dinosaur and go extinct. I am still traditionally published (four books released in 2018, in fact, and a new 3-book contract from Tor Books for an epic fantasy series), but I also have a lot of backlist titles that were out of print and my fans wanted to read them. So I started releasing them myself with all the innovations of new technology. It’s just another alternative.
Kaye: What does Wordfire press offer as a publisher for other authors?
Kevin: We are nimble and flexible, and we can produce books and get them to market far quicker than a traditional publisher can manage. But when you work with an indie publisher, or if you do it yourself, then you have to do all the work, all aspects of it. It’s another income stream and another way to get your book in front of your audience.
Kaye: Is Wordfire taking submissions? What type of fiction is Wordfire looking for?
Kevin: Not really, I’m afraid. When we are open, we’re looking for established writers who don’t need their hands held, writers who already have their own platforms, fanbases, and marketing efforts because we have to rely on them to do the work that a whole department at a traditional publisher would do.
Kaye: You recently signed on as an adjunct professor at Western State Colorado University and you are a finalist candidate for the director of their Certificate in Publishing program. What prompted you to venture into the world of academia?
Kevin: Actually, I’m now a full professor and I run their Masters program in Publishing. I will start the first group of MA students this coming summer. There’s a LOT of paperwork and bureaucracy in academia! I have taught writing and publishing quite often at countless writers’ conferences and conventions, most notably our own Superstars Writing Seminars, which is just hitting its tenth year. Becoming a professor and teaching at a beautiful university in the Colorado mountains is great, offers a little more stability than freelance writing, and (the bane of all freelancers) it gives me health insurance and benefits I wouldn’t otherwise get.
Kaye: Any writing pet peeves?
Kevin: I don’t like artsy-fartsy stuff, dense prose and opaque plots. Tell me a great story with a cool setting and interesting characters!
Kaye: Creating characters, developing plot, world building – what is the most challenging part of writing for you?
Kevin: Those are all fun, but if I had to choose I would say I have most difficulty with building rich, fleshed-out characters. Plotting and worldbuilding—that’s what I excel in.
Thanks to Kevin for sharing with us today. He’s given us food for thought with some really great answers. You can find more about Wordfire Press here: https://wordfirepress.com/. Kevin and his wife, Rebecca Moesta, head up the Superstars Writing Seminars each year in February, in Colorado Springs, Colorado, for those interested in learning the business of writing. If you’d like to become a member of the Superstars Tribe, or would just like more information about Superstars, visit the folowing link: superstarswriting.com. Visit the links below to learn more about Kevin J. Anderson and his works.
Amazon Author page: https://www.amazon.com/Kevin-J-Anderson/e/B000AQ0072/ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_1?qid=1545798018&sr=1-1-fkmr1
Wordfire Press: http://www.wordfire.com/
Join us next month on “Chatting with the Pros”, when I’ll be chatting with romance author Maya Rodale. You can catch the monthly segment “Chatting with the Pros” on the third Monday of every month in 2019, or you can be sure not to any of the great content on Writing to be Read by signing up by email or following on WordPress.
Posted: February 22, 2019 Filed under: Blog Content, Book Review, Chatting with the Pros, Fiction, Film Review, Interview, Nonfiction, Paranormal, WordCrafter Press, Writing, Writing Contest | Tags: Book Reviews, Chatting with the Pros, Film Review, Jeff Bowles, WordCrafter, WordCrafter Press, Writing to be Read
The entries are rolling in for the paranormal fiction contest and each one must be read. Stories good enough to recieve invitations to the anthology will also need to be edited. In order to accomodate a time budget for all this contest judging and anthology compilation activities in addition to my other life responsibilities, you can expect to see a few changes in the Friday Reviews.
One good change is we’ll be seeing more of Jeff Bowles. Last week he stepped in with a movie review of Glass that was brutally honest, but captivating. That review was so well recieved that he’s agreed to share a movie review with us on the third Monday of every month. His review of Glass was knowledgeable of the genre and written well enough to be mistakeing for one of the top critiques. If book reviews are hugs for authors, then Writing to be Read wants to hug the film industry, too. If you want to keep up on many of the latest movies, be sure to catch Jeff’s Movie Review (working title) each month.
I also plan to make two reviews each month instead of four, for books in the genre to go along with the monthly theme set by the genre the “Chatting with the Pros” guest author for the month. In February my guest author was nonfiction author Mark Shaw, so the February theme was nonfiction. My supporting author interview was with nature writer Susan J. Tweit and my supporting post was about my own nonfiction endeavor with the first post in my new bi-monthly series, “The Making of a Memoir“. My reviews were both of nonfiction books of different sub-genres: Mark Shaw’s How to Become a Published Author and a compilation of poetry artwork and writings about mental illness, the Letters of May anthology.
March’s theme will be science fiction and fantasy, and the “Chatting with the Pros” guest author will be national and international best selling author Kevin J. Anderson. He’s written more best sellers than there is room to list here and I’m thrilled to have him on Writing to be Read. My supporting post will be about my science fantasy series, Playground for the Gods. I’m still searching for a author for my supporting interview, but my reviews will be for Kevin J. Anderson’s Selected Stories and Jordan Elizabeth’s Rogue Crystal. If you want to be sure not to miss any of these great science fiction and fantasy segments, be sure to sign up to email or follow on WordPress to get notification of new content.
Before I wrap this up, let me just remind you all that there is still time to submit your short story to the WordCrafter paranormal fiction contest. The deadline is April 1, so don’t drag your feet on this one. The entry fee is $5 and the winner will recive a $25 Amazon gift card and a guaranteed place in the WordCrafter Press paranormal short fiction. Email your submissions to kayebooth (at) yahoo (dot) com and I’ll send you confirmation instructions for submitting your entry fee.
Your submission can be any genre, but your story does have to include a paranormal element, so get those stories in. Other entries may be included in the anthology by special invitation, and all anthology authors will recieve a small royalty share if the book makes any money. You can get the full submission guidelines here: https://kayelynnebooth.wordpress.com/2019/01/28/short-fiction-contest-paranormal-stories-sought/
I do hope you’ll all join me in the exciting changes ahead. I’m always interested in reader feedback, so leave a comment and let me know what you’d like to see on Writing to be Read.
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