Monday, May 4, 2015

Alan Black, Empty Space, #giveaway, #free ebooks

Alan would like to do a giveaway. He is offering the winner their choice of any of my 10 books. Autographed. Second place would be an autographed copy of Empty Space and third place would be their choice of any of my books on e-reader. Please be sure to leave your contact information in your comment.

AUTHOR: Alan Black
BOOK TITLE: Empty Space
GENRE: military science fiction
PUBLISHER: CreateSpace

Please tell us about yourself.
I am a #1 best selling author on Amazon. I am a full time writer devoting 50 - 80 hours a week on writing, rewriting and marketing my books. Fortunately, this is something that I can do from home, so I work (mostly) in my jammies. I will admit that I put on pants when I go out to do a book signing or a speaking engagement.

I have just published a new military scifi novel Empty Space. It is about a young man who is screwed by the very military he has sworn to obey. Disgraced and discarded, the military will soon learn they screwed with the wrong guy. I am also doing a major rewrite on a historical fiction novel The Stolen Prize. It is set in 751CE in and around the Black Sea. Mutiny, murder, and revenge! Plus, (whew!) I have started to write a sequel to my #1 bestselling novel Metal Boxes.

I have 10 books available on Amazon. I believe that word of mouth is the best advertisement possible, but I have to make my books known or they don’t have anything to talk able. So, I promote all 10 all the time.

My business plan gives our vision statement as: “We want our readers amazed they missed sleep because they could not put down one of our books. We want our readers amazed we made them laugh on one page and cry on the next. We want to give our readers a pleasurable respite from the cares of the world for a few hours. We want to offer stories we would want to read.”

Our Mission statement sums up why I write what I write. “Our business is to write top notch imaginative novels of all genres to capture a reader’s attention and enjoyment. We will cater to readers of all ages. We will work to stimulate readers and authors to greater imaginative efforts.”

Please tell us your latest news.
I have just published my tenth book. Empty Space is a military scifi space opera that has been likened to Dexter in space.

Are you a full-time writer or part-time, and how do you organize your writing time?
I am a full time writer. As such, I treat writing as a business. That means I have a mission statement, a vision statement, a business plan AND a production schedule with published goals and deadlines.

When and why did you begin writing?
Writing was my first career choice, one that I made when I was in the second grade. However, childhood dreams go the way of monsters in the closet; they are still there, just buried under a mound of dirty clothes, spent hangers and smelly sneakers. After a long series of drudgery-type jobs and more failed novel completion attempts than I can remember, and forty-five years, I decided I was going to write and finish a novel, even if it was never published and no one ever read it. It took me two years to complete the rough draft, writing after work and on weekends. It took another fifteen years of writing and strange bits of publishing before I could leave my job and begin to write, publish, and market full time.

I became an author in 1998 when I finished my first novel ‘Eye on The Prize’ (soon to be re-published as THE STOLEN PRIZE. I became a full time author when I published my seventh novel ‘The Granite Heart’ book two in an Ozark Mountain series. Believe me, I wish I had become a full time writer long before this.

What inspired you to write your first book?
I was reading a history book about the Kzhar Empire between 500 and 1200 AD and how they interacted with the Byzantine and Roman Empires. I thought it would make a good story. And it did.

What do you do when you’re not writing/editing or thinking about writing/editing? 
Reading, TV, Movies, video games…you know…real people stuff.

What are your thoughts about promotion?
It is a tough thing for authors to do. Most of us are not gregarious by nature. But I spend 50% of my day promoting my books. It is a combination of social media, book signings and networking activities. Some helps and some doesn’t. A writer just has to do it all and believe that some of it will stick.

What was the toughest criticism given to you? What was the biggest compliment?
I have received my share of 1* and 2* reviews. Not everyone likes what I have written. The most often repeated criticism is that my grammar and spelling sucks. Yeah, I know. I’m working on it. My biggest compliment was when I had a reviewer say the following: “The Friendship Stones by Alan Black is one of the most beautifully written tales I have ever read, part historical fiction, part inspirational reading, part coming of age, told through the mind and heart of a twelve-year-old girl, the innocence of youth and the times shines through like a glittering diamond.”

Really! I cut this from her review on Amazon. She is also one of Amazon’s Top Reviewers. Really! I didn’t pay her or nothing like that. I haven’t even met the woman. Honest.

Did those change how or what you did in your next novel?
Nope. I write what I write. Well, I did up my editing game, tho’.

Do you ever have writer’s block? If so, how do you get through it?
Actually, no. My #2 rule to writing is never to stop writing unless my protagonist is in trouble and I have to get them out of it. That pushes me to keep writing, to save my hero.

Did you learn anything from writing your book, and what was it?
I have learned that if I can write one, then I can write two, ten or twenty.

Who is your publisher and how did you connect with them?
I self publish through CreateSpace. They are an Amazon owned company and very user friendly. It is super easy to find the link to their site at the bottom of every Amazon page and then signing up for an account costs nothing.

What is your marketing plan?
Ooooo! That is way too long to put in here. I suggest that you check my website and read FAQ #10. It has about 30 marketing suggestions for authors.

I follow some of these suggestions and some I haven’t done…yet.

What are your current projects?
I just released EMPTY SPACE. It is a military scifi space opera. That genre doesn't sell as well as romance, but it does have a loyal following. So I am putting extra time into the initial marketing push.

I am editing book 4 in a Christian YA Historical series set in 1920 Ozark Mountains that should be published sometime in May.

I am working with ACX to build the audio book for TITANIUM TEXICANS, a YA space opera that I published last October.

I am writing the sequel to my #1 best selling military scifi METAL BOXES. My wip is at about the 18% mark on the rough draft.

And I am talking with a movie producer and the director on my western novelette A COLD WINTER set in 1890 in North Dakota.

Other than that, I am just goofing off.

What do you plan for the future?
My 2015 production schedule says I have 6 books to publish this year. I have one done, so 5 more this year. Four of the five books already have their rough draft written. 2016 will be cut back to doing only 4 novels, as will each year through 2019, giving me a total of 31 published works. That is a rolling five year plan, but it is susceptible to change.

How can we find you? Website, Facebook, Twitter, blog, etc.?
Twitter: @alblack77
Amazon Author Page:
Any other news you’d like to share?
I will be at the Phoenix ComiCon on May 28 - May 31 with my scifi books and some scifi author friends.

What genre do you write in and why?
I am uni-genre-phobic. I have already published 5 scifi, 1 western, 1 contemporary action/adventure and 3 Christian fiction set in 1920 Ozark Mountains. I have 8 more books that are unpublished and awaiting their turn in the editing/formatting/cover generation pipeline. 3 are scifi, 3 are Christian fiction set in 1925 Ozark Mountains, 1 is The Stolen Prize (historical fiction), 1 is a western and 1 is a non-fiction how-to book.

Having said that, they are not as far apart in genre as they sound. The location changes, not the type of story.

Tell us about the current book you’re promoting.
I am really giving a larger push to Empty Space over my other books. That is simply because it has only been out a little while. I like all of my novels and try to market them equally.

What gave you the idea for this particular book?
Strangely, it was an episode of Criminal Minds on TV. I thought that just because the future isn’t dystopian, there isn’t any reason to suspect that humans will have learned to identify and treat sociopaths.

Do you outline before you write? If not, what’s your initial process?
I started my first novel with an extensive outline. That is what I had been taught. I had been told that was the only way. About halfway through the book, I couldn’t make the story follow the outline anymore and I caught myself spending more time updating the outline than I did writing the story, so I threw the outline away. Now, I know where I am going to start, where I want to go and about how long I want to take to get there. Then I write by the seat of my pants the whole way through.

What comes first: the plot or characters?
I don’t think you can have one without the other. They are the twin pillars of a good story and like twins, must be birthed at the same time, not weeks apart.

Which of your characters do you love/hate/fear/pity the most and why?
I love LillieBeth Hazkit from An Ozark Mountain Series. She is my mother’s memories wrapped up in my wife’s personality and fictionalized into a strong, young woman. She may only be 12 years old, but in 1920 in the Ozarks a child either grew up fast or she didn’t survive to thrive.

Which characters were the hardest to develop and why?
Often times I have fans and friends who want to see themselves in one of my books. It can be difficult to fit a beautiful young woman into the body of a space marine. Difficult but fun. It is much easier if I am putting in someone that I don’t like, then I can kill them off.

How did you decide how your characters should look?
I only put in physical descriptions that are necessary to move the story alone. Much of the rest I leave to the imagination of the reader.

Do writing violent or highly sexual scenes bother you?  Why or why not?
No. Violence and sex are a part of the human condition. I have had a few people say the description of torture in Empty Space was more graphic than they wanted to read about, but many more say that it fit the character. You can’t write about prostitution without sex and you can’t write about killer aliens without a little violence.

What was the hardest part of writing your book?
Finding where to stop. I envision complete lives for all of my characters, but a novel has to end somewhere.

How long does it take to write a book, and what is your process?
This is a simple question for me. The process is to sit my ever-expanding backside in a chair and type out the stories in my head. I start with an idea. For example, let’s take Mom’s stories of growing up in extreme poverty (I have heard them for the last sixty years-over and over and over again) and fictionalize them to tie them together for a coming of age novel set in the Ozark Mountains. Then I slap together a very fragile and flexible outline. Sitting down at the computer, I slam in the words as fast as my digits can fly. Halfway through a manuscript, the outline goes in the trash as I make it up as I go along. With the Ozark Mountain Series I did have a co-author (Mom) so it was a matter of making her memories fit into the storyline and the storyline fit with her memories.

I do not require quiet. I do not require noise. I am happy facing a window and just as happy to face the wall. I like a messy desk and I like nothing on my desk at all. I prefer snacks while writing and…oops, yeah. I like snacks, okay, so I will buy bigger pants when I write my next novel. The point is that when I am writing, I ‘see’ the landscape and the characters in my head. It is a very clear mental image that I can control and command (oooooo, don’t tell Freud about that, he might make something of it how I don’t control this life, so I make up places that I can command, hmmmm!?) The point is that I write what I see and try to do it in such a manner that my reader can get a similar view.

When I am immersed in this other world, I can usually get down around 950 to 1000 words per hour. So I can write a rough draft of an 80,000 word novel in…well, that is why I write stories since I can’t do math. But, it is quick enough to finish the story before the characters in my other worlds learn that they have the power to rebel against my tyrannical command and control.

What are your current books out right now, and what are the books coming up for release?
Out now are
CHASING HARPO - contemporary action/adventure/humor
METAL BOXES - young adult, military scifi
THE FRIENDSHIP STONES - (book 1 in An Ozark Mountain Series) young adult, coming of age, Christian fiction
CHEWING ROCKS - science fiction adventure
THE GRANITE HEART - (book 2 in An Ozark Mountain Series) young adult, coming of age, Christian fiction
THE HEAVIEST ROCK - (book 3 in An Ozark Mountain Series) young adult, coming of age, Christian fiction
TITANIUM TEXICANS - young adult, science fiction
A COLD WINTER - a western novelette
EMPTY SPACE - military science fiction
Coming in 2015
(May) THE INCONVENIENT PEBBLE - (book 4 in An Ozark Mountain Series) young adult, coming of age, Christian fiction
(June) THE STOLEN PRIZE - historical action/adventure
(July) THE JASPER’S COURAGE - (book 5 in An Ozark Mountain Series) young adult, coming of age, Christian fiction
(October) THE KING’S ROCK - (book 5 in An Ozark Mountain Series) young adult, coming of age, Christian fiction
(December) METAL BOXES 2 - LOST OUTSIDE - young adult, military science fiction

What advice would you give a new writer starting out?
#1 rule of writing fiction: There are no rules to writing. Oh sure, editors have rules, agents have rules, publishers have rules, booksellers have rules, and even readers have rules. But, write what you want and how you want. You will be happier for it, even if you have to make a few changes later to make everyone else happy.

#2 Never quit writing unless your protagonist is in trouble. This will help you avoid writer’s block and help you get back to writing. 
What has been your favorite part of being an author? What has been your least favorite?
My favorite part about being a writer is that I can get up whenever I want to and wander down the hallway in my jammies to go to work. If I want to stop and take a break, I do. No one says anything if I set a soda next to my keyboard.

Of course, my least favorite part of being a writer is that marketing thing. Gaaak!

What was your most embarrassing moment as an author?
I always feel embarrassed when I tell an aspiring author that I won’t read their book. Yes, I want to help others to finish their books and get published, but I run a pretty tight schedule. Reading and criticizing someone else’s work takes time, effort and an emotional tole. I also don’t want to hurt their feelings and tell them that it is crap and to go back and rewrite. I can be a harsh judge of half-finished work.

Empty Space synopsis.
York August Sixteen was abandoned as a baby, abused and molested as a child, beaten and harassed as a teen, and had his rightful place in the Republic’s Space Navy stolen from him. Fighting back against huge government systems was useless. Dispensing justice on an individual case-by-case basis was more to his liking, yet even that was taken away when he was stationed on a lonely communication space station. York’s life would change when he decides to seek justice for people even less fortunate than him.

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