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Survey Results

Here are the results of the survey that went out a couple of weeks ago.

Total participants: 726

Q. Which series of mine do you like (choose as many as you like)?
Tales From the Land of Ononokin: 539 votes
Platoon F: 471 votes
The Lassiter files: 309 votes
The Intergalactic Investigation Bureau: 142 votes
The Queen Arthur Adventures: 52 votes

I’d fully expected Ononokin and Platoon F to score high based on the emails that I receive.
What’s surprising is that The Intergalactic Investigation Bureau series (which currently consists of only 1 book, Starliner) didn’t quite get the love it deserves. It’s funny because every person I’ve spoken to about the Starliner book has said that it turned out to be one of their favorites of all our books. Now, it could just be that they were being nice, but in case you’re waiting for the next Ononokin or Platoon F book, and you’re looking for something fun to read, maybe give Starliner a shot!
Links for StarlinerAmazon USAmazon UKAppleBarnes & NobleKobo

Q. Where do you buy your books?
Amazon UK: 47%
Amazon US: 41%
Apple: 4%
Kobo: 4%
Barnes & Noble: 2%
Other: 2%

This was pretty much as expected since most folks use Amazon these days, but it made me glad that I opted to put my books up on Apple, B&N, and Kobo a few months ago.

Q. If I were to write more serious fantasy/scifi, would you be interested in checking it out?
You bet: 57%
I might give it a shot: 38%
Sorry, I only read comedy: 5%

I was quite pleased with this response as Chris and I have had a new fantasy/steampunk concept bouncing around in our heads for about a year now. It’ll take time to piece it together and build the world out, but we’ll be working on it!

Q: Which character would you invite to a dinner party?
#1 – Bob the Zombie
#2 – Xebdigon Whizzfidlle
#3 – Captain Don Harr
#4 – Paulie the Vampire
#5 – Geezer

This would be quite a party, indeed! I would probably geek out with Geezer for the first half  and kick back with Whizzfiddle (and a few ales) during the second half!

Q. Do you leave reviews?
Never: 62%
Sometimes: 37%
Always: 1%

I expected this because it’s seems that about 1 or 2 out of every 100 readers will leave a review. What was interesting was the follow-up question (see next question)!

Q. If you DO NOT leave reviews, why not?
I never know what to write: 84%
I don’t think they’re all that important: 11%
I don’t read them, so I see no point in writing them: 3%
I don’t like my name to be seen on Amazon: 1%
Authors don’t need reviews to help showcase their work: 1%

The #1 reason is because folks don’t know what to write in a review. At first I was shocked by this, but then I got to thinking about it. There was a time where I, too, stared at those review screens wondering what to write after reading a book I’d enjoyed.

So I wrote up a quick article on how to write reviews easily. Check it out here!

Please note that your review means a lot to us. Just like the old saying about word-of-mouth being one of the best marketing tools, your review acts in that role to readers who are on the fence about trying a new author.

#1 Most asked write-in question: Was Ononokin inspired by Discworld?

You may be surprised to find that the answer is that is no. Actually, I did some digging into my old files and it turns out that I wrote a short story in 2004 when I participated in a writing workshop. That’s where Ononokin was born.

I then worked to finish the first tale of Ononokin in 2007. Back then the wizard’s name was Trelk, not Whizzfiddle. Wacky. Well, I wrote and wrote and rewrote, etc. until I finally had A Quest of Undoinin first-draft form. By now, Whizzfiddle was Whizzfiddle and Trelk was no more. Also, at this point I was not yet working with Chris Young on writing. We only started working together when we’d thought up Starliner. Chris, a long-time friend going back 25 years, wasn’t a fan of fantasy at the time, you see, but once he saw how magic was handled in Ononokin, he found it quite humorous and was on board in a flash.

Around this time, I’d also sent off A Quest of Undoing to another buddy of mine in Scotland and he gave it a read. He said it reminded him of Discworld, to which I replied, “What?” I’d never heard of Discworld or of Terry Pratchett either. I know, evidently I was living under a rock. I’d read stuff by Robert Asprin, Douglas Adams, John Moore, and others, but never anything by Sir Terry. My friend insisted that I check it out.

Once Chris and I had finished A Quest of Undoing, Starlinerand were half-way through The Full Moon Event, I’d picked up a copy of Mr. Pratchett’s Thud! I started reading it and then devoured everything I could get my hands on by him. Obviously, I think his work is amazing, and I’m humbled when people compare my stuff to his, but no, my books were not inspired by Discworld.

So, what about Platoon F?

People compare this series to the Bill, the Galactic Hero series by Harry Harrison. Again, I’d not even heard of Mr. Harrison until my co-author said that the series felt a lot like his work. I found the first Bill book in a local used bookstore and, sure enough, it was similar. But, by that time we’d already written the first five Platoon F books, so — again — the books were not inspired by any one author. Actually, I’d have to more tie Platoon F to works like Airplane!Loaded WeaponNaked GunRed Dwarf, Phule’s Company, and The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.

As I put it to one of the survey folks who’d asked about the similarities to these two authors: “I guess I’m somehow writing like people before I’ve seen any of their work. Psychic-influence? Too bad I hadn’t tried horror before reading Stephen King … I could be wealthy right now!”

#2 Most asked write-in question: How do you and Chris write books together?

It’s actually quite a process, but fortunately we have a lot of fun doing it. It all starts with an idea, which may come from either one of us or it may just spring forth as we’re discussing other things. Usually, though, we set out to find something fitting for the particular world we’re planning a story for.

Once we have an idea, we let it germinate for a week or so as we individually come up with all sorts of angles, characters, plot lines, etc. Then we get together and go over our collective thoughts and start to form a basic story idea.

From here one of us will take that information and start putting together a rudimentary outline. Nothing fancy, just a couple of sentences about each scene. Then we get together on that outline and tweak it until we feel we’ve got something that’s pretty tight. But we also realize that as the book gets written, things are going to change here and there. Characters have a way of not wanting to do what you want them to do, after all. 🙂

The next step is that I sit down and write a script. This is just like a movie or TV show type of script. A quick scene description and then a bunch of dialog between the characters in that scene.

After the script is done, Chris and I get on Skype and act out the entire thing. We select characters, come up with horrible voices, and start going through it all. This call usually takes around 3-4 hours and we laugh a lot. We also move things around, add in some additional points, removing things that don’t work, and so on.

Now is when I start writing the full novel (or episode, depending on the length of the story). While I’m doing this writing, we’re moving on to the next idea and outline so that we have something ready as soon as I’m done with writing the current novel. This means that I may be writing the full novel for one story while I’m writing a script for another. That’s a lot of writing, let me tell ya! 🙂

During this phase, I’m also working with an artist to get the cover art ready. I’ve worked with a few awesome folks over the life of these books, including my son who has done all of my SciFi covers. Here are some links to see the work of the artists I’m in cahoots with: Jake Logsdon, Amy Simmonds, and Ric Lumb.

With the novel draft done, I hand it over to Chris to read. His job is to make sure that things flow nicely, that the story fits the world’s humor style (Ononokin, Platoon F, Intergalactic Investigation Bureau, Queen Arthur, Lassiter, etc.), and that we’re not breaking things on the timeline for that world, and that I’ve not done anything too stupid.

When Chris finishes this part, we get together to go over his notes and make changes as needed. And now the book is ready for some eyes!

The Launch Team is brought in on the fun and they get a copy of the book about 2-3 weeks before publication. This is not the edited version — there are typos and grammar issues — so I ask them to report anything that they may find on that front and to also let me know what they think of the book as a whole. Also, they’re reading the book with the intention of writing a review for it when it launches on Amazon, Apple, B&N, and Kobo. This is probably the funnest part of the process for me because we have tons of laughs in the Launch Team closed Facebook group. It truly is a blast! (Want to be part of the fun? Learn more about the Launch Team!)

After I fix all of the things the Launch Team has found, I send it off to my editor (who happens to be my wife … yay! She’s a professional editor, so I often have difficulty getting on her schedule … boo! No preferential treatment here, let me tell ya!). Once she’s done with her edits, I re-read the book and try to spot any additional issues myself.

Next up is preparing the book for release on Kindle, iBooks, Nook, and Kobo. In conjunction with this, I also work on laying it out for the print edition so that all you paperback fans (I’m one too!) can get your hands on a physical copy.

Finally, after roughly 2-4 months of work, I submit the book for publication and let the world know that it’s out there!

WHEW! haha 😀

#3 Most asked write-in question: How do you come up with all of these characters and names?

This is where you’re going to think I’m odd (if you don’t already). These characters all live in my head. No, they don’t make me do things … at least nothing that I’ll admit to … but they are their own people (or dragons or trolls or … you get the idea). When I go to write a scene, they come alive. A lot of the time I have no idea what they’re going to do or say. I’m more of a vehicle for them to get their stories out. I’m not sure why I only get wacky, outlandish characters floating in my head, but beggars can’t be choosers.

As an example of how independent they are from my normal (term used very loosely) mind, there was a scene that never made it into A Quest of Undoing because the character had refused to do what I wanted him to do. The character was Whizzfiddle. I had set up the scene for him to go down a dark alley where he was going to get mugged and he was going to use magic to stop this mugging. He refused to go down that alley. The mental dialog between me and Master Whizzfiddle went something like this:

Me: I need you to go down that alley.
Whizzfiddle: Nope.
Me: But it will be funny.
Whizzfiddle: For you, maybe. You’re not the one getting jumped.
Me: You do realize that I can force you to, right?
Whizzfiddle: Try it and I’ll stop talking.
Me: That’s not fair.
Whizzfiddle: Neither is making me go down that alley.
Me: I can have you killed off, you know?
Whizzfiddle: Are you trying to play the God card on me?
Me: If I must.
Whizzfiddle: You’ve got a problem there.
Me: What?
Whizzfiddle: I don’t believe in you.
Me: That makes no sense! You’re talking to me.
Whizzfiddle: So? You’re talking to me, too. Does that make me your God?

My brain cramped at that point. I had just lost an argument with one of my characters. Time to see a shrink.

As far as names for characters and cities and such, I can only say that I’ve always been able to come up with weird names, ever since I was a kid. Most of the time, though, the character just shows up, introduces themselves, and that’s who they are. Again, I’m a bit off-kilter. 😀

Thanks again to all of you who participated.
It’s highly appreciated!

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