30ish (OK… 35)
Where are you from
A little about your self `ie your education Family life ect
I went into the Air Force right out of high school and served as an electronic warfare specialist on B-1B bombers. After my active duty enlistment I eventually earned a Masters of Aeronautical Science from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University while still serving in the Air National Guard. I currently work as an engineer for a company that produces avionics for launch vehicles and spacecraft like the Mars rovers. Most of my family also lives in the Cincinnati area along with my girlfriend who is amazingly patient with me more or less working two full time jobs.
Fiona: Tell us your latest news?
The big news right now is the release of the third book in my “Omega Force” series. The book is titled Omega Force: Savage Homecoming. This book launch was a bit more exciting for me than the previous since it was the first time I worked with a professional editor who also coordinated a launch-day promotional event.
Fiona: When and why did you begin writing?
I began writing short stories at a very young age and I started dabbling with novel-length stories in my early twenties. Like most writers it’s always just been a compulsion, I never really made a conscious decision to sit and start writing. I do credit my love of reading to my mother who used to read constantly to me as an infant, from there the urge to write was the next natural step I suppose.
Fiona: When did you first consider yourself a writer?
That’s a tough one. There have been a few “moments” that I can look back on like when I unpacked a printed version of my first published novel or winning writing contests in school, but I think it was during the long struggle to be noticed when I began to think of myself as a writer who happened to be working as a <fill in the blank>. There was a sense of community with other writers as I dealt with the constant stream of rejection letters and frustration with agents who promised the world and waiting for that big “break.”
Fiona: What inspired you to write your first book?
I’ll answer by explaining the inspiration behind “Omega Rising” since otherwise the answer may not make a lot of sense. I had been working on another sci-fi book that was giving me fits. It required a lot of research and I’d been back and forth for over a year trying to make headway on it. It was during a 3:00 AM writing session (and by that I mean staring at the laptop screen with no words on it) when my disgust hit critical mass. It just so happened there was a back-to-back marathon of Knight Rider and the A-Team on late night cable and I thought, “That’s what I need to write, something fun instead of this drivel.” So the next day I began writing Omega Rising as a stand-alone novel based on the classic theme of a lone human stuck in space. It was always meant to be empty calories… I wanted readers to finish it and think, “That was fun,” and then forget about it. At first I thought the book might just break the logjam in my brain and allow me to get working on the other project again, but as I wrapped it up I became quite fond of the characters and the potential for the story. So… I changed the ending slightly and what started as an exercise to snap a bad case of writer’s block ended up kicking off an open-ended series in the tradition of serial westerns (much like Louis L’Amour’s work) that has been an absolute blast to write.
Fiona: Do you have a specific writing style?
Ha! I wish… I would say I’m a good enough writer for the story I’m trying to tell. I’m writing genre fiction so the prose isn’t going be too flowery. I also think that good space opera, and sci-fi in general, shouldn’t take itself too seriously so there’s a tongue-in-cheek quality to the narration that lets the reader know that this is a romp and to enjoy the ride. I’d imagine if I were to start a hard sci-fi story or a literary fiction work my style would necessarily change.
Fiona: How did you come up with the title?
Once I realized that the first book was going to be the kickoff for a series I wanted a strong name that also conveyed a sense of what the story would be about. From my military background I remember we always had tough sounding, if somewhat cheesy, names for specialized units. “Omega Force” leapt to mind as a plausible name for a small, elite unit and kept with my 80’s action show vibe. So I then titled the first book “Omega Rising” because it seemed like an intriguing title that would grab attention and then make sense when the reader got to the last line of the book. Then the subsequent series titles would always be the recognizable “Omega Force: <whatever the new book is>.”
Fiona: Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?
There was never any intention for there to be a message in the book(s). But as I read reviews in blogs and on the product page I’ve been surprised and delighted that people are finding their own meaning in it. I’ve gotten reviews that praise the strong Christian values in the story as well as an overarching positivity that a lot of readers connect with. These were unintentional, and in some cases I disagree, but it goes to show that ten people can read a book and you’ll get ten different opinions on what it’s about.
Fiona: How much of the book is realistic?
I suppose that depends on how tightly you wear your tinfoil hat… The story is, of course, pure adolescent fantasy with the alien abduction aspect. But, there is a realism in the crew interaction (even though 5/6th of them are aliens) that comes from my time serving in small detachments in remote, unfriendly locations. It’s the reason my characters are deliberately anthropomorphic. I wanted the crew and their relationships with each other to be the centerpiece of the story rather than making them so exotic they not only don’t relate to each other but don’t connect with the readers either. Without that tight-knit cohesion the entire premise falls apart.
Fiona: Are experiences based on someone you know, or events in your own life?
A lot of people who know me think Jason Burke (my main character) is based on me. He is not. For starters… there’s no way in hell I’m getting into a crashed spaceship in the middle of the night by myself. When I thought of Jason I knew I was going to make him an Air Force Pararescue operator for a couple of reasons. One, of course, would be a tip of the cap to my own branch. The other was I wanted to avoid the cliché of him being a Navy SEAL or Green Beret. By being a highly trained warrior whose sole function was to save lives it gave him a unique perspective on the situations I stuck him into.
Fiona: What books have most influenced your life most?
In my early teens it would be W.E.B Griffen’s “The Corps” series, especially the first four books. I knew I wanted to serve in the military from an early age like nearly all the men in my family. I’d always assumed I’d join the Marines like my father, but my obsession with flight led me to the Air Force. The books take place during WWII, an era I’m entirely fascinated with. Later, as I discovered my love for sci-fi, the two books I can still read over and over are Joe Haldeman’s “The Forever War” and John Steakley’s “Armor.”
Fiona: If you had to choose, which writer would you consider a mentor?
Without a doubt it would be the great fantasy author, David Eddings. I’ve read all his books multiple times and I’m always amazed at how he built his characters. His heroes were all deeply flawed and the villains were never without redeeming values. For me, the nuance of that thin line between good and evil as a matter of perspective really drove home that believable characters can’t be caricatures. Plus… who the hell doesn’t like a story about knights in armor and magic?
Fiona: What book are you reading now?
“Crisis” from Joseph A. Coley’s Six Feet from Hell series. I got hooked on the series and the fourth installment doesn’t disappoint.
Fiona: Are there any new authors that have grasped your interest?
Oh wow… there are so many. With this new age of indie publication there are a lot of authors that used to be considered “unmarketable” that are now releasing their work through various platforms. In my own genre people like B.V. Larson, Michael R. Hicks, Jay Allen, Evan Currie, Ryk Brown, Sara King… it’s difficult to name them all. Then of course I would be negligent if I didn’t mention Hugh Howey; besides being an inspiration I was also a huge fan of Wool.
Then in the popular zombie apocalypse world there are equally exciting authors like Shawn Chesser, D.J. Molles, and James N. Cook.
I also love everything David Dalglish has done.
It’s a good time to be a reader, that’s for sure.
Fiona: What are your current projects?
Right now I’m moving full speed ahead in the Omega Force series. The next book is called “The Enemy Within” and I’ve moved past outlining and into the first draft. There are some other projects and stories I have that I will eventually get to, but I’m having too much fun with this group of characters to put them on the shelf just yet.
Fiona: Name one entity that you feel supported you outside of family members.
I’ve made some incredible, lifelong friends though my time in the service that are always there for me. I’m still close friends with people I was in basic training with to this day. It’s good to know that there’s always someone there who has your back no matter how stupid you were to get into the situation in the first place.
Fiona: Do you see writing as a career?
That would be ideal. Right now I love what I do in my day job, but the appeal of being able to write full time is enormous. There is a bit of fear that goes along with that, however, as you never know when sales may dry up or if that last book you wrote was the last decent idea you’ll ever have. I also wonder if the stress of needing to be commercially successful would strip writing of its joy for me. But yes, given the right circumstances I would love to be just an author and nothing else.
Fiona: If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in your latest book?
If you had asked me that about the first book I could give you a long list, the second book less so, but with Savage Homecoming I can’t really think of anything that I’d change. The characters have cemented their relationships and personalities by now so the dialogue almost writes itself and the story was able to address some things that readers had expressed an interest in having resolved. Of the three this was the first one I wasn’t apprehensive about publishing.
Fiona: Do you recall how your interest in writing originated?
It stemmed from being such a voracious reader when I was younger. This was well before the eReader so my poor mom would have to wait while I scoured the shelves at the book stores looking for something that sparked my interest. While reading whatever I could get my hands on I was always tweaking things in my mind or thinking about how it could have been a better story if just this one thing was different. This eventually led to me taking a crack at making a better story on my own. This was met with various degrees of success. I still have some of those early works from my teens and early twenties that I look back on and cringe a bit… but those were important steps that practically every writer needs to go through. (It is in my will that should I meet with an untimely demise those works shall never see the light of day… no point in inflicting that sort of pain after I’m gone.)
Fiona: Can you share a little of your current work with us?
Certainly. I’m working on the next novel in my series that will be titled “Omega Force: The Enemy Within.” While there are still the common threads that continue through the series, this will be very much its own story. In the previous Omega novels the crew is always supported by a benefactor who helps with logistics and intel. He’s a mysterious, powerful man who has connections everywhere. In this book this benefactor gets himself into serious trouble and has to rely on Omega Force to bail him out, something he’s not thrilled about given their track record of collateral damage.
Fiona: Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing?
Time management is crucial for me. In an environment where people forget about you very quickly I don’t have the luxury of taking eighteen-plus months to release another book. With the demands of my full time job I need to be disciplined in making sure I’m carving aside the time I need to hit my writing goals each day. When I’m more established that may become less of a factor, but for now that’s the reality of it. I think a challenge in the future will be when I put the Omega series aside for a bit and start working on the other ideas I have and not let the two bleed over into each other.
Fiona: Who is your favorite author and what is it that really strikes you about their work?
While this doesn’t make me unique, I’d have to say Michael Crichton is still my favorite author. There’s a level of authenticity in his books you don’t find with other authors, at least not over such a wide array of subject matter. The amount of research he would do for a book like Prey, Jurassic Park, or Airframe must have been daunting for someone who wasn’t formally trained in the fields of nano technology, genetic engineering, or aeronautical science. But, he was able to deftly work it into a compelling story and make it approachable for everyone.
Fiona: Do you have to travel much concerning your book(s)?
I’d love to if fornnothing else than just to travel, but no, I don’t need to travel for my current series. For the book that had stymied me to the point of writing Omega Rising, however, I’d love to be able to travel to Machu Picchu and Puma Punku and get a first had look at what would be locations central to the story. Maybe that will be the inspiration I need to get that book back on track.
Fiona: Who designed the covers?
“Design” may not be the appropriate term when talking about the cover for Omega Rising. That was done by yours truly with a graphics program, a public domain image, and an utter lack of skill with said program. When the second book was nearing completion I knew I had to do something about the cover so I went to a website where you can post a job and designers submit their ideas and you only pay for the one you like. Out of about thirty submissions I narrowed it down to one and had the designer tweak it until the cover actually depicted the climax of the book.
When it came time to do the third book I had no doubt I wanted the same guy, someone I know online simply as Proj, and approached him through the same website for a one-on-one job. He gave me three designs that were all so good it took me about two days to decide on the one I wanted. After a couple tweaks I had the cover for Savage Homecoming. Since his designs have established a branding for the series I can’t imagine going to someone else now.
Fiona: What was the hardest part of writing your book?
Savage Homecoming brings a new main character into the mix. She was alluded to in the previous two books but now the readers are meeting her for the first time. Besides the fact that she’s breaking up the “boys club” of the crew there was also the risk of changing the formula that readers had liked so far. But… in that challenge was also an opportunity as this character was able to relate to the crew in a way that they didn’t with each other. You’ll get to see different aspects of their personalities and histories through her that you wouldn’t get through Jason simply because he would have never bothered to ask.
Fiona: Did you learn anything from writing your book and what was it?
I learned not to be afraid to try and play on the full range of emotions of a reader. In the previous books I concentrated almost solely on the action or trying to get a laugh. With Savage Homecoming every single person who read the ending before I published it cried and yet it was still able to end on a positive note and a smile. So the lesson for me was that even with a story as whimsical as this, don’t be afraid to dig in there and grab those heart strings.
Fiona: Do you have any advice for other writers?
Useful advice? Another tough one… 1) Trust your gut. If it doesn’t feel right to you, it probably won’t with the readers either. 2) Don’t chase trends. By the time you catch up everyone will have moved on from sparkly vampire billionaires who tie women up and the well will have run dry. 3) Writers write. More than anything else, make sure you’re meeting whatever goals you set for yourself and let your marketing and promotional work be secondary.
And most importantly… ignore advice from other writers who think they know what they hell they’re talking about.
Fiona: Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?
Only that I wish I could fully express how humbled I am by the response this series has gotten and how much I appreciate each and every one of you who took a chance and spent time and money on an unknown author.
Fiona: Other than writing do you have any hobbies
I’m an avid homebrewer and love experimenting with different styles and flavors of beer. I’ve recently gotten into meads (honey wine) and have been trying my hand at different varieties of that. I have an organic mead that I just bottled that I’ll be entering in the Mazer Cup competition next year. You know you have a problem when you’re walking through the super market looking at everything and thinking, “I bet I could ferment that.”
Fiona: What TV shows/films do you enjoy watching
Right now it’s NFL season so that means I get nothing done on Sundays. Beyond that I love British TV so I watch BBC America quite a bit. Top Gear UK is my absolute favorite show (for those that read the second book that is the one thing Jason and I have in common.) There’s something about the understated humor that I find so much more appealing than being bludgeoned by a punchline like you get with some American TV. My taste in movies is wide ranging so I’ll watch nearly anything. My favorite films are Boondock Saints and In Bruges so I gravitate towards the more quirky, independent films. Modern sci-fi films have been, by and large, a disappointment for me. There’s so much amazing potential with modern effects that is wasted on stories that seem like they were hammered out as an afterthought. Maybe one day mainstream film makers will learn that there’s no substitute for a good story.
Fiona: Favorite foods / Colors/ Music
I’ll try anything that’s put in front of me, but I love good, authentic barbecue, it doesn’t matter if it’s NC, KC, or Texas style. It’s tough to come by in SW Ohio other than the chain stores that aren’t really any good so during the summer and fall we’re firing up the smoke pit a lot for backyard cookouts.
Favorite color: Black for cars, green for almost anything else.
There are a few bands out right now that I really like (Seether, Theory of a Deadman, Black Stone Cherry) but I’ll also listen to country and older hip-hop. Almost anything but current pop music… Honestly, if I hear “Shine Bright Like A Diamond” one more time in my car I think I may just veer head-on into a tree just to make it end.
Fiona: If you were not a writer what else would you like to have done ?
Whenever I go see a friend’s band play I always wish I had the time to pick up the guitar more and practice. But, time is a finite commodity so some things have to suffer. Maybe when I’m a fulltime author I’ll be able to pull them off the wall again and put some time in.
Fiona: Do you have a blog/website? if so what is it?
No blog or website just yet… if people want to check up on where I’m at with upcoming projects I update my Facebook author page fairly often.