Friday, June 26, 2015

Summer on the Water, William Burton McCormick, Season 2, Episode 7

Since summer officially started last week, welcome William to the first Summer on the water blog of the "summer". I hope you're enjoying summer, and even spending a bit of time "on the water."

Now, let's talk about your self-published novella, Blue Amber. What is it about?

Blue Amber is an adventure-thriller long-story set on the coast of the Baltic Sea in the winter of 1910. My hero, Fricis Svaars, is an imprisoned revolutionary and the target of a jail-house assassination by the Tsar's secret police. But Fricis, motivated by the desire to see his wife once more, isn't the sort of man to go quietly to his own murder. In coldest February, while bound in chains, he makes a daring escape during a work detail and is chased through the snow to the rocky shores of the Gulf of Riga by the Tsar's man-hunters. Soon, he is trapped between the guns of his relentless pursuers and the frigid waters of the open sea. Desperate to madness, the choices Fricis make for love and survival are daring indeed.
That sounds very interesting. 

Since this is a 'Summer on the Water blog.' I want to know why did you choose the theme of water for your story? And are the locations you use as settings along the Baltic Sea real or fictitious? 

I wanted to write a story of man reduced to his wits and will against the elements something combining classic sea tales with the feel of Jack London. The ocean, certainly, has both challenged and fascinated man since the beginning of human history. Man is, of course, by nature a land animal so we are literally out of our element when on the sea. There is a vulnerability there that is timeless. And the boundary, the sea shore, is always such a fascinating place. It is the meeting of two very different worlds. What a wonderful and natural place for a tale! I loved such stories as a boy and wanted to contribute one to the world canon, if I could think of a worthy plot.

Finally, the idea for the right story came to me while I was living in Latvia to research and write my historical novel Lenin's Harem. I read about how the inmates in Riga prison during the days of the Russian Empire were made to collect amber on the shore to earn extra money for their captors. I also read how the Tsar's secret police, posing a prison guards, would assassinate suspected revolutionaries during these work details and cover their nefarious work by claiming the victim had attempted to escape.

So, I combined this true history with my desire to write a sea tale into Blue Amber, where one man has to face both the elements and very human enemies.

As for the second part of your question, the locations in Blue Amber are real. I've been to them all, though in full disclosure, here and there I've slightly altered some minor topography for dramatic purposes. Nothing too bad, I hope.

Does water, and specifically the Baltic Sea have any special meaning for you personally? Or is it only the setting of your story?

I think since I've spent so much time in Latvia on the shores of the Baltic Sea researching the history and culture of the land, that it does have special meaning to me. The Baltic Sea, particularly the Gulf of Riga is more than just the setting of my story. It is almost a character in the story. If Fricis can understand the sea, make it his ally then it would aid him greatly. If not, if he can't understand it, he'll die.

By the way, as I live in Latvia presently and as this is a "Summer on the Water" blog, I feel I should mention that June 23rd was "Ligo" which is the main summer celebration here. Thousands of people go down to the seashore to celebrate (or to lakeshores or river shores) building great bonfires in the sand dunes (which by tradition you must jump over - don't try it, trust me) and celebrate the summer solstice. It is a celebration of the warmth, beauty and life of summer, the opposite side of the coin to the harsh, deadly winter sea Fricis faces in Blue Amber.

I'm planning a mystery story set during "Ligo" as well. More on that soon…

That sounds fascinating! Maybe I'll have to put that country on my "bucket list!" Now, let's talk about publishing, why did you choose to self-publish? How is the process going for you? Do you plan to continue as an Indie author?

I came to self-publishing Blue Amber perhaps a little more differently than many. Blue Amber was originally published in Alfred Hitchcock's Mystery Magazine and was very well-received, even being a finalist for a Derringer Award for Best Long Story of 2012 from the Short Mystery Fiction Society. After publication, the rights to the story returned to me. I had this wonderful, acclaimed work just sitting on my hard drive. No one who missed it in Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine was reading it. So, I wanted to give others a chance to enjoy it. Rather than find some anthology for reprints, I decided to use Blue Amber as an experiment in self-publication. I had never done it before, and I'm pretty new at promoting these works myself, but the story is beginning to find new readers which is what I want.

As for continuing in the self-publishing vein, I think yes and no. For new works, if there is a traditional publisher which makes sense, then, one should consider that option. Other works, and certainly my back catalog of short stories and novellas, I want to make sure those get out to new readers as soon as the rights return to me. In the modern age, nothing should be permanently out-of-print especially if it is good. So, I'm certain I'll keep releasing older works on my own, especially those originally released in periodicals. 

Here is a question I am asking all of my writers this summer - You are asked to give a Ted Talk. What will it be about?

Wow, living in Latvia, I don't even know what a Ted Talk is… (quickly Googling). 

Ah! That's something I hadn't thought of, William. Well, I'm glad there's Google!

I see, basically a short speech on any subject. Wow! There are so many things I love to talk about. But, I think I'd address my fellow writers, and warble on about using experiences abroad to collect research for writing. I've lived in seven countries including two stints in Latvia and six years in Ukraine. The time in these places has given me a backload of stories so deep, I'll never tell them all. So, I'd like to encourage writers to travel, and uses these experiences to write a great novel or two or twenty…

William, where can readers purchase Blue Amber and find you?

Blue Amber

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Praise for Blue Amber:

Blue Amber crackles with energy, authenticity and pure storytelling magic from the first line nonstop to the last. William Burton McCormick's timeless tale of men challenged by both the elements and their own psyches, set against the backdrop of Latvia in 1910, reads like Jack London with just enough James Rollins and Steve Berry thrown in for good measure. A beautifully realized vision that's riveting in all respects. Jon Land, USA Today bestselling author of Strong Darkness

This is a grim tale of survival in the harshest of conditions, both man-made and natural and it is a credit to the writer that I was so captivated by a story that is not a genre I would normally read. Where do I begin? The sense of time and place is so strong I felt I was there on the Baltic coast. I can't fault the writing which is equally strong and tight. There isn't a word out of place. The writer's knowledge of and authority over his subject matter meant that I remained gripped to the page from beginning to end and forgot I was reading 'professionally' rather than for pleasure. Stunning. The Historical Novel Society

Friday, June 19, 2015

Summer on the Water, Mark Troy, Season 2, Episode 6

Welcome Mark to this third Friday in June! I hope it's sunny where you are. It certainly looks sunny in your picture. I think all of us reading this might be jealous! Let's dig right in and talk about your new book 

What is The Rules about? Give the readers a brief elevator pitch.

Ava Rome is a personal protection specialist who follows three rules: 

1. A professional doesn't call attention to herself or her principal
2. A professional doesn't leave her principal; and, most importantly
3. A professional doesn't get involved with her principal. 

In her profession, to break the rules is to die.

Ava's principal, Paul, is a young man, a graduate student at the University of Hawaii, who is trying to hide from his past and from his family's criminal empire. Paul is attractive to women and to Ava, who soon realizes she could be in danger of breaking the third rule, which, in her experience, endangers them both.
What body of water you set your story near? Is this a real lake/ocean/river, or is it fictitious? 

The Rules is set in Hawaii and most of the story takes place in a house near Honolulu. The body of water is the Pacific Ocean.

The ocean provides both safety and danger. Ava uses it to protect Paul by locating them near the ocean in a dwelling that is not easily accessible. However, that inaccessibility also serves to isolate them from help, particularly when a dangerous storm threatens them.
Does water, and specifically the Pacific Ocean have any special meaning for you personally? 

I lived with my family in Hawaii for ten years. The ocean infuses every aspect of Hawaiian life because the islands arose from its depths and the people crossed it to reach them.

There was not a day that I did not see the ocean. Weekends were spent at the beach, either on the sand or on the water in our Hobie. Five of those years we owned a house only a few blocks from Kailua Bay, one of the prettiest bays on Oahu. At night, after everything was quiet, I would hear the surf crashing on Kailua Beach. I thought no sound could be sweeter.
Why are you choosing to self-publish? How is the process going for you? What is one piece of advice would you give to authors who are thinking of self-publishing for the first time?

Novellas have gotten short shrift in the publishing world. Periodicals prefer shorter stories and traditional publishers prefer novel-length stories which leave authors having to cut or pad to make sales. The novella, however, has enough length for development of plot, character and setting without unnecessary subplots or excessive exposition. I believe readers are coming to appreciate novellas for these same reasons. The rise of indie ebooks and audio books has created a growing market for novellas among readers with busy lives.

I'm pleased with the process. A professional cover is important for any book and I found an artist who set just the right tone. For the audio version, I found a narrator who has the perfect voice for Ava. Finding both cover and narrator took as much effort as writing the story, but the end result was worth it and I plan to continue with more.

To authors considering indie publishing: Obtaining high-quality feedback is difficult for an indie author. You need to hire an editor. Good editors are expensive, but bad editors are even more expensive in terms of the damage to your career. One book that's not ready to be published will turn readers away from your other works. Get references. Interview editors. Make sure you work with an editor you can trust. Many editors are technically competent, but not all will be candid about the quality of the book.
Thanks Mark! Okay, now for a bit of fun - you are asked to give a Ted Talk. What will it be about?

I would talk to college students and their parents about the importance of having high quality educational experiences such as study abroad, community service, or volunteer work, which we now know, have high impacts on their learning and the quality of their future lives.

That sounds truly intriguing and worthwhile! Where can readers find you and where can they purchase The Rules?



Twitter: @skywritermt


Audio Books

And Mark welcomes emails at:

Friday, June 12, 2015

Summer on the Water, Season 2, episode 5 - Paul Kater

Today I welcome Science Fiction novelist Paul Kater to my blog. Welcome Paul to the Summer on the Water blog. I'm sure you'll have plenty to talk about with my readers. 

First of all, what is your novel about? Give readers a brief elevator pitch. 

Bactine is a mix of Science Fiction and Steampunk with a nice little romance mixed in. Imagine you are an intergalactic soldier who has to take the fall for the mistakes of someone else. And you're shipped off to a distant planet far away as a punishment. How surprised would you be to find sailing ships and pirates there? Daniel Zacharias, a rebuilt soldier, has to experience that. He's never sailed on a boat before and now he'll have to, just to survive.

Since this blog is entitled Summer on the Water, what body of water you set your story near? Is it real or fictitious?

Considering that I have never been on that distant planet it's safe to assume that the water there only exists in my mind (and that of the readers who already visited there). I chose this theme because of the vacation of a handicapped friend. He suffers from MS and he was able to do a sailing vacation of a week on a ship that is prepared to have people in electric wheelchairs. I saw the photographs that someone had sent him and I heard his excited story about all the things that he and the others had been able to do, despite their handicaps, and that was the best inspiration I could have. I told him that I was writing my book based on his stories. I even went to visit him and ask details on certain things of the ship he'd been on, like sails, maps and other stuff. It was beautiful to see how enthusiastic he was about that. That was the best reason to write that book.
Does water have any special meaning for you personally?

The water in my story is a dangerous kind, not the kind we have here. Metal ships won't live long in it, that is why they use wooden ships with sails. That for me is the connection to the old days where fearless people went out in their wooden ships to discover things that lay beyond the horizon, the place where no one had gone before. The water on that distant planet has lots of those dangers built in.

That sounds fascinating! I'm sure readers will really enjoy this. Now, onto some publishing questions, and specifically self-publishing questions. Why are you choosing to self-publish? What is one piece of advice would you give to authors who are thinking of self-publishing for the first time?

My first books were rejected by several publishers and someone kept urging me to get the stories out. Self-publishing was the logical way to go. I have tried getting a few other stories out through publishers but none of them think that these stories have any value. At this point I will keep self-publishing, because I'm used to it and this way no one can tell me what's good or not except the readers. And their voice counts.

New indie authors: I suggest you publish your first book and immediately start writing the next one. Don't wait for the big success to come in because of your fantastic writing. It is that, but you're not the only one who does the first book wait. Don't waste that time. Go on. The book industry is not a sprint, it's a race for the long run.

Okay, now for a little fun. You are asked to give a Ted Talk. What will it be about?

A Ted Talk. Wow. That was a bit of a surprise. I'm glad however that I know what these are. I'm in Europe and Ted isn't that known here yet (as far as I know, but then, what do I know). I think I'd like to emphasise the importance of reading in such a talk. Not because I'm a writer but because I'm a reader. Reading is something that's better for a person than many people would acknowledge. It's calming. It engages one's brain so that has some exercise. It's expanding one's knowledge (provided your read the right books or magazines). Yes, reading would be my subject for such a talk. There is so much knowledge in books, on all the shelves in libraries and in digital / digitised editions all over the world. Leaving it in those books is simply a shame. Read these things, use them, turn them into wisdom. Wisdom is what you get when you take knowledge and employ that in the world outside the covers of the book.

Where can readers find you, Paul?

And where can people purchase Bactine?

The eBook:

Friday, June 5, 2015

Summer on the Water, Season 2, episode 4 - Christine Frost

This morning I welcome historical novelist Christine Frost to my Summer on the Water blog. Water Blog. Christine has written a fascinating novel based on the life of an Irish "pirate queen' Grace O'Malley. This well-known historical figure is really brought to life in Dark Lady of Doona. But let's hear it in Christine's own words, and my interview with her: 

Hi Christine. Give readers the Dark Lady of Doona elevator pitch.

Dark Lady of Doona follows the life of Grania O’Malley (known as Grace or Granualie to some)—the infamous Irish pirate queen of the mid-16th century. She led her own fleet, and was involved in many intense moments in Irish history in terms of trying to maintain freedom as the English encroached on Irish land. Though the men of her time are more likely to be mentioned in the history books, Grania was immensely influential at this time. She even met with Queen Elizabeth I to discuss the release of her son, who had been taken captive by an English governor known to be particularly cruel to the Irish. Through that meeting, she was able to secure her life at sea as well. Though I go to great pains to portray history as accurately as I can, I do take some liberties in this novel, setting up a scenario that some have speculated on, that Grania served as a spy. 

Since this is the ‘Summer on the Water blog’, I want to know why you chose the theme of water for your story? What body of water you set your story near? Is this a real lake/ocean/river, or is it fictitious? 

The novel is set on Ireland’s west coast, where Grania was born and raised, and she knew Clew Bay better than most sailors. Knowing the seas so well was her heritage. When she was a child, she wanted to be with her father, who commanded a fleet of his own ships. She was incredibly persistent, and finally became his apprentice. At one point, I read that they referred to the experts of seafaring as a “prophet of the sea.” Being able to predict the weather, navigation, and so on were essential to survival—regardless of dealing with bad weather or enemy ships—the best captains could detect the subtleties of the sea’s mood, so to speak. Though I never had a chance to go to Ireland to research the story while I was working on it, I studied it intensely. Grania’s so attuned to Clew Bay, she can be entranced for hours by it—recalling ancient myths, such as the god of the sea, Manannan, who stomped around on an island during storms. I loved being able to make the connections between Celtic myth and the very essence of the sea that inspired her. 

Does this body of water, have any special meaning for you personally? What is it?

Quite a few members of my family came from Ireland, and they have also felt a strong connection to the sea. When they came to the US, they settled along the East Coast, from Eastport, Maine, to Boston, and many of them loved boating. When I was growing up, I spent a lot of time on the water with my grandfather and mother, who shared a sailboat. So when I began researching Grania’s life, it was easy for me to imagine her staring out at the water, watching and waiting…and yearning for a very independent life. 

Why are you choosing to self-publish? How is the process going for you? Do you plan to continue as an Indie author? What is one piece of advice would you give to authors who are thinking of self-publishing for the first time?

Having worked in the book industry for many years, it was an easy decision to self-publish. I saw the whole game change over the course of a few short years, and since I had the tools and skills to do it on my own, I embraced it. I greatly appreciate being able to build my own team of editors, artists, and network in a way that makes me feel good about marketing my books. I’m the kind of person who will spend years researching historical figures to be as accurate as possible, and I want that same level of precision in all other aspects of the publishing process—for me, the creative and the business aspect are intertwined. My best advice to others looking into self-publishing is to take your time—a professional presentation is equally important as the words that flow from the creative spirit! 

Okay - now to the fun question - you are asked to give a Ted Talk. What will it be about?

I think the theme would be The Strong Female Character in History. No matter which culture or era I’ve studied, there have been countless extraordinary women who have been mere footnotes in texts. Sure, we all know Elizabeth I and Cleopatra, but I prefer to give a voice to the underdogs, outcasts, and rebels who shaped history in their own unique way—and my talk would focus on the aspects that connect all of the women I’ve chosen to research and write about. Dark Lady of Doona is my second novel about an amazing woman in history, and I have many more to write. :-)

Thank you Christine. I'm sure we can look forward to many more strong women stories! Thank you for your time. Where can readers find you?


To purchase Dark Lady of Doona: