Lucas Bale Interviews Me: “Convergence, by Michael Patrick Hicks – Analysing a Writer’s Process”

Lucas Bale, author of The Heretic, interviewed me for his site. You can go read the discussion in full at the link below.

I met Lucas through KBoards and enjoyed the heck out of The Heretic. You should go get a copy at Amazon (only $2.99) and give it a shot. Be sure to join his mailing list too! He’s got some big plans for his Beyond The Wall series, which kicks off with his debut and it sounds like there’s going to be a lot more to come.

The Interview: Convergence, by Michael Patrick Hicks – Analysing a Writer’s Process — Lucas Bale.

And, just to put the reminder out there, Convergence is on sale for 0.99 for the rest of this week on all platforms. If you do buy a copy, please consider leaving a review at Amazon, Goodreads, or wherever else you feel is appropriate.

Right now, Convergence is sitting pretty nicely at #27 in Cyberpunk (in the US; it’s currently #68 in the UK Kindle store), and I’m hoping it’ll start ranking in other categories soon. So, please be sure to tell all your friends and family about this sale, too, and help spread the good word!

Convergence is keeping good company in the Top 30 Cyberpunk titles. (July 14, 2014)

Convergence is keeping good company in the Top 30 Cyberpunk titles. (July 14, 2014)

Guest Post: Lucas Bale, “The Heretic”

Today, we’ve got a guest piece from author Lucas Bale, who made his sci-fi debut this week with the just-released The Heretic. In my opinion, this is a book well worth getting (my review is here), but be warned: you’ll want more and may have yourself hooked on a new series in very short order!

Check out the description below, and then read on as Lucas discusses ‘hard’ vs ‘soft’ sci-fi and where The Heretic falls, as well as some of the inspirations that helped drive his work.

Heretic EbookEARTH IS GONE.

Centuries have passed since the First Cataclysm ended life on the blue planet. Humanity’s survivors are now dispersed among distant colonies, thousands of light years from the barren, frozen rock that was once their home.

A new Republic has formed – one in which freedom no longer exists. In return for the protection of the Consulate Magistratus, citizens must concede their rights. The Magistratus controls interstellar travel, access to technology – even procreation. Organised religion is forbidden. All crime is punished by banishment or a lifetime of penal servitude on the Kolyma prison fleet.

And humanity’s true history survives only in whispers of a secret archive.

Yet there are those who preach a new religion and who want to be free.

A REVOLUTION IS COMING…

The Heretic is the first book in the Beyond the Wall series, an epic story about the future of humanity and the discovery of the truth of its past.

Buy it on Amazon:    US  | UK

Buy it on Kobo

Buy it on iBookstore

Buy it on Nook (Barnes and Noble)

Add it on Goodreads


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I have always been most inspired by what I now know to be ‘hard science-fiction’. I don’t shy away from stories which fall towards the ‘softer’ end of the science-fiction, but my natural inspiration seems to derive from stories which seem to me to be theoretically possible, and therefore more compelling to my mind. We write, at least at the beginning of our careers, what appeals to us most. This is probably the safest course as we learn our craft and we hone our ability to take our readers on the journey we want them to experience. Experimenting with new angles is best left for later stories, or shorter ones.

I can’t say why I am seduced by hard science-fiction, but even when it comes to fantasy, I prefer the worlds in which magic is explained in some way, or operates according to very concrete rules. I find the whole thing more believable. I find the surreal uncomfortable –I simply don’t enjoy it. Perhaps the simple fact I can relate it to something real makes it more chilling, more compelling. More believable. For me, Alien and Aliens, taken together, are at the pinnacle of thrilling, suspenseful science-fiction. They might be said not to be hard science-fiction in the classic sense. The kernel of hard science-fiction is the relationship between the accuracy, and amount, of the scientific detail in the story and the rest of the narrative. In 1993, Gary Westfahl suggested that one requirement for hard science-fiction is that a story “should try to be accurate, logical, credible and rigorous in its use of current scientific and technical knowledge about which technology, phenomena, scenarios and situations that are practically and/or theoretically possible.”

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On the basis Einstein’s theory of special relativity tends to preclude faster-then-light travel, most hard science-fiction authors shy away from it. Others might use it as a device whilst maintaining rigorous scientific scruples in respect of the rest of the story. I wouldn’t want to be the butt of what Westfahl describes as ‘The Game’–the search for scientific inaccuracy in a science-fiction work –I am too concerned such rigor tends to inhibit storytelling, and we all take artistic liberties in storytelling. That said, Westfahl concedes, ‘hardness’ is in reality less a matter of the absolute accuracy of the science content than of the rigor and consistency with which the various ideas and possibilities are worked out. For my part, regardless of recent advances which might make Warp Travel possible, through the auspices of an Alcubierre Drive, I chose wormholes as the device to permit interstellar travel. This was as much about the theme underpinning the entire series as it was a construct to allow my story to move along. To say more would ruin the series, but every hard science-fiction story needs to take some liberties and, often, the way in which those liberties are taken can enhance the storytelling. The world I created to tell the Beyond the Wall story is as important to the story as the characters. It is not just a setting, it is a character in itself.

Yet, the themes explored as Beyond the Wall develops are more akin to soft science-fiction –they are political, psychological, anthropological and sociological. In fact, whilst I have attempted to maintain a hard science-fiction tenor in respect of the setting, the story explores far more human themes than technological. The dystopian theme might well be considered ‘hard’ science-fiction, but by definition it must be soft, dealing with social sciences as it would usually tend to. Such is the danger of to rigid a categorisation of fiction –good fiction is usually a blend of different areas. Science is critical to Beyond the Wall, but only in the way it impacts on the remains of humanity, struggling to find its way.

Apart from Aliens, one of the other significant inspirations for Beyond the Wall was Joss Whedon’s Firefly. In many ways Firefly is Space Opera, yet it also carries with it many of the characteristics of hard science-fiction –no faster-than-light travel, no alien life-forms, no technology which is unexplainable or specifically advanced beyond that which might be expected of the setting. It operates within norms which make it more believable as a consequence. I think that is why it appealed to me and why I began, when it’s run was prematurely terminated, to think about my own setting. Beyond the Wall is very different and will become even more different, but I named Shepherd as a nod to Joss Whedon’s superb show. Yet the themes in Firefly are more properly considered to be soft science-fiction, covering the political and psychological ground as they do. They are very human themes and I think we identify with them far more as a result. In the end, ‘hard’ or ‘soft’, what we really want is a story which is believable; which grips us on an emotional, psychological level and which we can identify with. I think good science-fiction has elements of all of that.


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Lucas Bale writes the sort of intense, thrilling science-fiction and suspense stories which make you miss your train stop. The sort of stories which dig into what makes us human and scrape at the darkness which hides inside every one of us. When he looks up at the stars, he sees the infinite and myriad worlds which are waiting for us, and which need to be explored. He wasn’t always a writer, but who can say that? He was a barrister for fifteen years before he discovered crime doesn’t pay and turned to something which actually pays even less. No one ever said he was smart, but at least hes happy.

His debut novel, THE HERETIC, is the gateway to the BEYOND THE WALL series, an epic story about the future of humanity and the discovery of the truth of its past and is out from July 7th.

Author website: www.lucasbale.com

Twitter: @balespen

Lucas Bale on Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/lucasbale

Therin Knite’s OTHELLA Blog Tour

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You may have noticed that today we’re doing something a little bit different in this corner of my site. In May, I participated in a blog hop for speculative fiction authors. Today, I’m giving a bit back in the spirit of that previous blog tour for the indie community and am hosting a segment of a blog tour for fellow author Therin Knite, who will soon be releasing OTHELLA.

Some of you may already be familiar with Therin from ECHOES. I had the opportunity to read OTHELLA in advance of this tour, and I really think you’re going to enjoy this book. It’s a terrific story and Therin knows how to keep the pages turning. I had a blast with it (you can read my review over here), and it’s going to be too long of a wait for book two of the Arcadian Heights series.

Below, you’ll find information on OTHELLA, Therin Knite, and an excerpt of her latest. There is also a purchase link (protip: you’ll want to buy this one, and soon!) and a link to a giveaway of the paperback. The giveaway contest is running until July 25, so try your hand, but don’t delay.


About OTHELLA

Welcome to Arcadian Heights,
where the world’s brightest minds go in…and don’t come out.
___

Georgette

Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Georgette McClain can’t resist a juicy tip. So when a rumored crazy ex-CEO gifts her evidence of a vast conspiracy involving the world’s premier scientific community, Arcadian Heights, she sets her sights on the story of a lifetime. And all she has to do to grab it by the reins is sneak into the most secure facility in the world—and expose it for the slaughter house it is.

Marco

Tech company CEO Marco Salt has it all. Fame. Fortune. Family. But not long after Marco’s beloved genius daughter is invited to join Arcadian Heights, a rogue agent reveals to him the horrifying truth about the revered scientific community. Forced to flee for his life, Marco finds himself on the run with a deadly secret in his grasp and a single goal in mind: destroy Arcadian Heights.

Quentin

Quentin Belmont has been the Arcadian Heights spokesman for the better part of two decades, and his singular motivation is to keep the community safe at all costs. So when an internal incursion leaks vital information to an outside party, Quentin preps a “cleanup” without a second thought. But what at first appears to be a simple task turns out to be anything but, and Quentin comes face to face with the unthinkable—a threat that could annihilate the community.

Othella


About Therin Knite

Therin Knite: n. speculative fiction writer, college student, and master of snark.

Or at least that’s what I’d like to believe.

If you’re reading this, then I’m assuming you’re wondering who the hell Therin Knite is, and the answer is nobody. Yet. I like to think I’m an up-and-coming author or sorts, but you know how those things tend to work out. In case you’re still interested, however, let’s put me through my paces.

I’m a Senior in college, majoring in Finance and English (which makes me about 22). I write every length of literary work known to man, from flash fiction to epic-length novels, but my genres are a bit more limited. My short stories and flash pieces tend to be any genre I’m in the mood for that day, while anything longer is pretty much limited to some variant of sci-fi or fantasy. Mostly sci-fi, though.


Where to Find Therin Knite


OTHELLA Excerpt

[From Chapter 1]

6

Quentin

( 5 Years Ago )

I call it the “last supper.” I’m morbid that way. But it’s an accurate enough description.

After greeting the recruits as a group, I lead them to the temporary dormitories where they’ll be spending less than a night, nervous and excited for the orientation program that doesn’t exist. They have most of the day to unpack belongings that will be trashed by the end of the week, get acquainted with fake orientation class schedules, and get a taste of the spa and gym area I had cleaned and prepped two days ago for their arrival.

Droids have no use for facial scrubs and elliptical machines. And God knows I haven’t exercised since my MBA stint at Harvard. So dark it stays for most of the year like most things droids and I don’t need. It’s a hassle to get all that crap up and running again for less than twenty-four hours. I’d do away with the pretense if Howard would let me, but he lectured me again this morning about how the recruits deserve a few moments of rest and relaxation before the transfer.

So I head yet another table of bright young things with glorious visions of the future. Howard was right—this recruitment round has brought in major talents. Sachiko Nakamura, who started inventing clean energy tech when she was twelve. Vincent Star, who revolutionized gene therapy before he finished his undergrad years. Clarissa Salt, who built her first computer in elementary school. Brilliant kids.

It’s a pity they have to die.

I open dinner with a warm welcome and begin carving a freshly cooked turkey, handing slices out one plate at a time.

Star, scratching his stubbly chin, passes a plate to Nakamura and asks, “Mr. Q, when will we get to meet some of the other scientists? I noticed there hasn’t been anyone around since we entered the community.”

I smile and nod. “Yes. It’s just a ritual. When we have your official welcoming ceremony tomorrow, everyone will greet you together as a group before you’re split into your respective departments for orientation.”

“Ah, I see.” He grabs a biscuit from a nearby basket. “I look forward to it. One of my old mentors is here. Green, you know?”

“Of course. Dr. Green is currently heading up one of our major genetics projects. I’m sure you’ll be working with him again soon, Dr. Star.”

The children dig into their meals and chat amongst themselves. One of them throws a question my way every now and then, and I answer with the same dull lies I repeat every dinner. Yes, there is a pool. Yes, we purchase all the latest films for your enjoyment. No, skydiving is not an available leisure activity at the Heights. Try bowling instead.

I’m munching on a slice of pie when I hear the patrolmen coming. Their boots pad against the hallway tiles, and their shadows slink through the gap underneath the dining room doors, lining up in attack formation. I remember the first transfer. A bloody, awful battle. I made the mistake of trying to convince the recruits it was the best choice. I earned a broken collarbone for my efforts.

I wipe my mouth off with a napkin and rise from my seat. “I’ll be back momentarily, everyone. I have an important business call to make.”

Most of them ignore me and continue their discussions about mass bat die outs and gene splicing—God, science is a bore—but one of them stares at me curiously when I make for the door opposite the assault force entrance. Clarissa Salt. Frowning. Her eyes are narrow, rife with suspicion. As I slip through the door to safety, she glances at the same shadows I perceived moments ago.

Observant, that one. But too late.

The instant my escape door clicks shut, the patrolmen burst into the room. Children scream. Glasses shatter on the floor. Chairs overturn. Some try to run but are swiftly captured and sedated by the patrolmen. A few of them attempt to fight, using whatever they can find. I listen to silverware bounce off bulletproof chest armor and plates fragment as they’re swatted to the side by robot men who feel no pain or fear. But then, the kids don’t know that. To them, the community guards are flesh in powered suits.

I begin to march off through the darkened kitchen area, but something thumps against my escape door. I pause and wait. Another thump. Then the knob spins around and Clarissa Salt bolts into the kitchen, slamming the door shut in the helmet-covered face of an oncoming patrolman. Before I can react, she’s got me by the throat, dinner knife flush with my carotid artery.

The patrolman kicks the barrier out of its way, hinges splitting on impact, and the thick metal door crashes into the cooling stove in the corner. Beyond the now door-less threshold, the other patrolmen are carrying the unconscious recruits two at a time into the main hallway. The dining room is a wreck. Typical.

“What the fuck is going on?” Clarissa Salt’s rapid breaths are hot against my ear.

I blink at the patrolman in Morse code. Wait. The machine registers the order and pauses mid-step. I wet my bottom lip and say, “Only what’s necessary, Dr. Salt. I promise you that.”

The serrated edges of the knife nip at my neck. “Don’t give me that non-answer bullshit. What are you doing to the recruits? Where is everyone else? Dead? Are you killing them?”

Yes. “No. I’m changing them. In a way most of them won’t accept, unfortunately, if I give them the option to decline. And I can’t have them all decline, Dr. Salt. We’re on a tight schedule here.”“If you don’t stop speaking in riddles, I will slit your throat.”

I raise my hands in a non-threatening manner, fingers extended and spread. “Don’t be rash. I’m doing what needs to be done.”

“For what?”

“For the world.”

Her hair tickles my cheek as she leans over my shoulder. “Explain.” The knife bites deeper.

“You know why the Heights was created.”

“To speed up scientific advancement and improve the prospects for the future.”

“Yes, except, you see, there is no future. Not for the current human civilization anyway. It’s all going to fall down. Guaranteed. We started this project too late to stop a total collapse. So instead of planning for a better future for our society, we had to plan for a better future society. We had to plan to rebuild. And in order to create a human society not doomed to repeat the same cycle of rise and fall, rise and fall, we need to achieve an optimal level of advancement across eighty-six critical disciplines before we go about rebuilding. And we need to be ready at the moment of the fall, too, or the community will inevitably collapse before we can implement anything. So, you see—”

“You’re rambling. Make it quick. I want the whole story.” She puts her thumb on the knife blade and increases the pressure every three seconds.

“For fuck’s sake! You’re slow, okay? You’re too damn slow. We tried this the real way at first, providing the safety and the funding and the leisure activities and everything else we advertise to ‘boost your productivity.’ But it wasn’t enough. Human beings are too slow. You cannot create at the rate necessary to reach the tech level required at the fall.”

“So?”

“So we came up with an alternative solution. One that cuts out your inefficiencies. One that increases your productivity to the appropriate level.”

“What solu—?“

A second patrolman leaps out of the shadows behind us, grabs both of Salt’s arms, and rips her away from me. She shrieks, kicking and clawing at the iron grip, but the first patrolman is already on her. It roughly yanks her hair to expose her neck and injects the sedative. She struggles for almost a minute more, the energy draining from her limbs as the seconds tick by. The patrolman who jumped us lifts her weakened body into its arms and strides in the direction of the ruined dining room.

Before it crosses the threshold, Salt mumbles, “What are you going to do to me?”

I dab at the blood pooling on my collar. “Remove the inefficient parts. The parts that cause all the problems, all the time. That have always caused our problems. The parts that have built empires and ground them into dust. The parts that make us act when we shouldn’t yet idle when we should. You know, Dr. Salt: the human parts.”


For the duration of Therin’s blog tour, the OTHELLA eBook is on sale for only $0.99, so be sure to buy a copy quickly and before July 18! A paperback addition is also available – you can either buy it through the Amazon link below, or enter the giveaway linked to below.

Buy on Amazon

Or Enter the Rafflecopter Paperback Copy Giveaway

(contest runs from June 25 to July 25)

Where to Find Me

Facebook has become a bit of a headache lately, with the service opting to focus more heavily on filtered feed content, advertising, and promoting paid posts over basic updates and content.

As such, I started dabbling a little bit with Google+ recently and figured it might be a good time to post a comprehensive list of all the various ways you can find me online. It’s always nice to hear from readers, so hopefully those of you out there will connect and engage.

You can find me here at this blog, obviously: http://michaelpatrickhicks.com. You can subscribe to the site or follow by e-mail over on the right. Feel free to check out previous blog posts in the archives and drop a line in the comments at the bottom. There is also a Contact button in the upper menu that you can reach me at. In the future, I expect to be making greater use of my mailing list, so feel free to sign up on the upper right-hand side, or by clicking here.

On Google+ http://plus.google.com/u/0/118298043352697628891/posts

Twitter: http://twitter.com/MikeH5856

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/7909523.Michael_Patrick_Hicks

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/authormichaelpatrickhicks

Anyone of these options is a great way to stay up to date, and I’ll have some big announcements on future works in the coming months that you won’t want to miss!

Convergence and the Path to Publication IV: In the Wild

[Previous Path to Publication articles for Convergence: Part I, Part II, Part III]

A few months have passed since I last checked in here with the status of CONVERGENCE and its path to publication. The reason is simple – I published it!

Now that my novel is out in the wild, I thought I’d use this post to explore some of what’s happened since the novel went live on all major platforms toward the end of February. Some of this information has been scattered in previous posts and interviews, so this is a small attempt to collate a lot of that stuff into a single post.

First, though, a little bit of background. In October 2012, I submitted my book to Harper Voyager during their very rare, very brief open door digital submissions period. A few months later, I tossed my hat in the ring for the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award 2013, where I placed in the quarter finals and wound up with a glowing Publisher’s Weekly review.

I attempted to use this achievement to land an agent, initially intent on pursuing a more traditional path toward publication. Unfortunately, after many a query I only collected a small handful of rejections and was entirely ignored by the rest. As summer approached and Harper Voyager was still reviewing submissions, mine among them, I decided to begin exploring self-publishing options. I hired an editor and cover designer and polished the manuscript, giving it a pretty swift kick in the ass with lots of revisions.

December 2013 rolled around, and Harper Voyager promised to respond to all remaining authors regarding the status of their manuscript by the end of January 2014. I’d been patiently waiting for some word from them, and when their self-imposed deadline passed I decided to take full control and responsibility of my work and go all-in as an independent author-publisher.

CONVERGENCE released Feb. 21, 2014. For what it’s worth, I left my manuscript with Harper Voyager until late April, hoping to hear something — anything! — from them, but saw little point in continuing to wait. They’ve gone radio silent, near as I can tell, but it’s no longer of any matter to me and I formally withdrew my manuscript from the running (although I haven’t even received confirmation or acknowledgement that they actually did).

In the three months since it’s release, my book has earned a few solid reviews on Amazon, as well a very positive A+ review from Melissa The Book Lady over at Must Read Faster. It’s even built up a minor bit of traction on Goodreads and is making its way onto people’s to-read radar. I did a giveaway on LibraryThing and had over 50 people sign-up for an eBook copy (for the record, this is 50 more people than I had anticipated).

CONVERGENCE was also chosen as a Kobo Next featured title for Science Fiction & Fantasy reads, and was displayed in their weekly newsletter at the start of May. It rocketed up the charts pretty quickly in Canada, and netted me my first sales outside North America.

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Screenshot courtesy of @KoboWritingLife

I’ve also hit some best-seller ranks in the cyberpunk and techno-thriller categories in Amazon’s UK and Australia stores, as well their US store multiple times.

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Sales ranking in Amazon UK, May 16, 2014.

All of this, however, is not to say that CONVERGENCE is a raging blockbuster success. It isn’t. If it ever is, it likely won’t be for quite a while. These are minor, albeit wonderful, milestones that I hope will continue to accrue and grow over time.

Selling my own work has provided a modest bit of income and my writing is allowing me buy a tank of gas here and there. I think that for a first-time self-published author, that’s about the best you can expect. And the key to being a happy first-time self-published author is to have zero expectations.

Every month since CONVERGENCE released, I have fully expected to have zero sales. Then, when I do earn a sale, it’s a victory. And when those sales build into double-digits, well, it’s a freaking giant rush! Every single sale counts and means something. I’ve reached a new reader; I’ve given somebody new material to enjoy, and hopefully they’ll like it enough to post a positive review, visit this site often, join my mailing list, and check out my next book when it releases (more on that bit of news soon!).

My only regret is that I didn’t embark down this path sooner. It’s a common complaint among the indie author crowd, but only because it speaks to a larger truth. All that time spent querying for agents and waiting for replies, or letting so much time lapse that I flat-out gave up on receiving any reply whatsoever, feel like wasted months. My book wasn’t selling while it was sitting on my hard-drive, going nowhere. I was too busy waiting on others, and that’s never a good place to be.

Would an agent have been a validation? Yeah, sure. But being a quarter-finalist in the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award 2013 contest was a validation. And the glowing Publisher’s Weekly review was a HUGE validation. Those two things combined were enough to get me thinking of self-publishing. The more I tried to go the traditional route, the further I was lured into going indie. Now that I’ve heard back from several readers and reviewers, I’ve gotten all the validation I really need.

That’s the second key component for me. I misinterpreted where on the spectrum, exactly, that my work needed to be validated. It turns out, I did not need validation from New York agents or executives in publishing houses. Those folks are just middle-men, a means to an end. By controlling my work and being able to deliver it directly to my customers, I’m hitting the truly necessary people in a quicker, more straight-forward manner, and that’s you, the reader. Readers are the number one priority. Writer’s don’t always need agents (with some exceptions, like negotiating film rights or foreign rights), but they do need readers. I don’t need validation from a bunch of suits in nice offices who weigh my work against their bottom line. I do need validation from my readers. And, right now, I have it, and that is beyond awesome. As I said during my IndieView interview, the ABNA, PW review, and, now, my readers are a much stronger endorsement of my authenticity as a writer than some New York power-broker would be. Conversely, how much validation would there be in having an agent and waiting a year or two or three for your book to release, or even having an agent but not a publishing house? It’s important, in that traditional path, not to put the cart before the horse and presume that the former automatically gets you the latter. By selling my work directly and having heard back from several readers directly, I feel like I’ve arrived as an author. I write, I make money from it, and, ergo, I am a writer. As the great Stan Lee once said, “‘Nuff said.”

Except for the matter of producing more work. I’ll be letting out some news later about what comes after CONVERGENCE, but I do recognize the importance of building up a body of work. That’s one of those things that can only happen with time, and each writer has a different pace and workload or lifeload to grapple with in order to produce. CONVERGENCE is selling, but it’s not breaking any records. And that is OK!

My advice to any other potential or current newbie indie authors out there – don’t focus too heavily on the now when it comes to your sales. Better authors than me have noted time and again that this writing gig is a long con. Build up your catalog of books and the sales will follow. CONVERGENCE is doing all right, but I bet it’ll be doing even better when I have three or four other books out there to draw in more readers, simply because I’ll be casting a wider net. I’m just one guy with one book. But when I’m one guy with ten books? Well, by then I’ll be ready to smack any fool in the face for calling me an ‘overnight success!’

(Not really.)

I haven’t sold millions or even thousands of books. But, I have sold – which a year ago seemed unfathomable. Even more unfathomable was selling my work to readers in foreign lands, and yet now I can say I’ve sold in Canada, Australia, Singapore, and the UK. I’ve even gotten highlighted on a few other blogs and Facebook groups, and did a couple interviews (check out the Press & Accolades here). And I did it independently of the traditional model; no agents or publishing houses needed.

To go back to that issue of validation for a moment – readers aside, there is no greater validation as a writer than producing a professional product and being able to control it whole-cloth from start to finish. Keep in mind that writing, ultimately, is a business. By hiring your editors, cover designers, and book formatter, you are in direct control of your book and have the final say on the end product. You are assembling your team with the end goal of achieving success and putting out material on par with the Big 5 publishers. But as an indie author, you have more control and more flexibility over how that end product is presented. Going the traditional route, you likely have zero say in how your book is designed and distributed. As an indie, you control distribution, you control art work and design, you control pricing. You decide your final sale price and control promotional efforts. If it sounds like a lot of work, well, yeah, it is. Like I said, it’s a business. And it is completely worth it. Do it properly and avoid cheaping out where you can, and indie publishing becomes one of those scenarios where the rewards outweigh the risks.

I knew all my life that I wanted to be a writer. While I got to dabble in journalism for a few years, I always wanted to be an author for as far back as I can remember. I had a goal of being published by the time I hit 35. Well, I did that.

My very first attempt at becoming a published author was in my twenties, and there was no other method beyond the query process. Whatever infantile form of self-publishing existed at the time was a joke and a non-starter. If anything, it was a brilliant way to ensure your work never got read by anybody. Thankfully, times and technology have changed drastically, and those changes have given creators and content producers greater control over their work.

Now, I can say with a certain degree of confidence that by the time I’m 36, I will have two novels to my name with more on the way. And to top it all off, to borrow from The Chairman of the Board, I did it my way.


[Keep reading: Part V]

CONVERGENCE is available for purchase as an eBook on Amazon, Kobo, Barnes & Noble, iBooks, and other retailers, or as a print copy here.

Penguicon Smashwords Celebration and Another CONVERGENCE Giveaway!

Penguicon kicks off this weekend, running May 2-4, 2014 at the Westin in Southfield, MI. For those not keyed in, Penguicon is a big celebration of geekiness and nerd interests, ranging from science fiction to Open Source coding and DIY projects. You can read more about it over at their site. Unfortunately, as a life-long Michigander with a strong geek side, I have never attended Penguicon. And, alas, I will not be in attendance for this year’s convention, either, since it falls on the weekend of my fourth wedding anniversary.

But, I’m making up for it!

Since my novel, CONVERGENCE, fits comfortably in the wheelhouse of Penguicon I thought it appropriate to offer up a minor celebration to show my appreciation. I’m doing this in two ways.

First up, is a Smashwords coupon for 50% off. Buy through that outlet, and you can get the .epub edition of my book for $1.99 for a limited time. Feel free to share this code and help spread the word!

Prior to completing your check-out at Smashwords, enter the code AV28S. This code is good until Wed., May 7, 2014, so act fast.

Please note that this coupon is only good through the Smashwords website. If you prefer a different vendor (or .mobi for Kindle), you can still buy eBook editions for Kindle, Nook, and Kobo, or through the iBookstore, for the always-low regular price of $3.99. Print copies are also available through Amazon for less than $13 if you prefer the physical copy.

Secondly, I’m also offering up 10 copies of CONVERGENCE for free through a LibraryThing giveaway contest over here until May 23.

If you decide to take advantage of the Smashwords coupon code, or win a copy through LibraryThing, please consider leaving a review at these sites, or at Goodreads and/or your etailer of choice.

CONVERGENCE Signal Boost and eBook Giveaway Contest

Hot on the heels of yesterday’s eBookSoda listing, I’d really like your help in generating a bit more noise about my release. If you read and enjoyed CONVERGENCE (or if you’re just a Good Samaritan, which is always welcome) there’s a few painless things you can do to help me out.

If you’re on Twitter, please give the following message a retweet:

Another thing you could do for me is to visit my book’s Goodreads page and add it to your Want to Read list. Or, if you’ve already read it and enjoyed it, rate it and review it.

A brief review on sites like Amazon and Barnes & Noble would go a long way, too.

I’m also on Facebook, where a simple Like could help spread the word significantly. You could also share some of the recent posts that have gone online and help drum up interest.

So, what’s in it for you?

Beyond the knowledge that you’re helping support an indie author whose work you have (hopefully) enjoyed and would like to see more of?

Well, it will help guarantee the release of my second novel, of which I recently completed the first draft and will begin my first round of edits soon in an effort to have it out early next year. You’ll be able to pat yourself on the back and know that you helped make that happen, and that you helped directly influence the establishment of an audience for a work you enjoyed. Because you liked CONVERGENCE so much that you can’t wait to get your hands on the follow-up, and you want to share this book with your friends and family.

But, wait. What if you haven’t read CONVERGENCE but really want to?

Well, how about an ebook giveaway to three random tweeples?

The rules:

Your tweet MUST contain these two things:

a. The hashtag #CONVERGENCEcontest

b. A link to this blog post

For good measure, you could also include my twitter handle @MikeH5856 just to make sure I see your entry.

This contest runs today only – Thursday, April 24, 2014 – until 11:59 EST. I’ll pick the winner tomorrow.

Again, this twitter contest is for the eBook only, in your preferred format (.mobi, .epub, PDF).

Following Up with the 50 Self-Published Books Worth Reading Shortlist

You may have heard that Indie Author Land is hosting an open voting round to compile a reader’s choice list of the top 50 self-published books worth reading.

You may have also noticed my huckstering for votes. And while the shortlist names are in, and mine is not included, I’m here to encourage all of you wonderful readers to consider tossing my title, CONVERGENCE, into the contest once more.

The good/incredible news is that CONVERGENCE walked away with as many votes as Hugh Howey‘s DUST! Not bad for a first-time self-publishing newbie, if I do say so myself. (In all fairness, Hugh did get some nods for several of his other works and SAND did make it to the shortlist for voting…but still…I tied with DUST, people!)

So, here’s where I need you. You can still cast a write-in vote for CONVERGENCE by selecting OTHER in the Science Fiction category and writing in my name (Michael Patrick Hicks, by the way…) and book title (CONVERGENCE, in case that hasn’t been made apparent yet). If you’d like to see CONVERGENCE pop up in the next round, get to typing!

Go vote!: http://www.indieauthorland.com/vote-50-self-published-books-worth-reading-201314-science-fiction/

And, of course, many, many, many thanks to those of you voted already. Your support is incredible and humbling!

Also, while you’re over at Indie Author Land, check out the interview I did with them earlier this month.

Indie Author Land: The 50 Self-Published Books Worth Reading (2013/14): Nominations

Although CONVERGENCE has not been out long, it has managed to gain some legs over the past month+ of its release. If you read and enjoyed my novel, please take the time to cast a write-in nomination over at Indie Author Land. It’d be much appreciated, and thanks in advance! Nominations are being collected until April 6.

The 50 Self-Published Books Worth Reading (2013/14): NominationsIndie Author Land.

Genre Bias and the Hurdles of Discovery

A few days ago, I was contacted by a reader who is currently enjoyed CONVERGENCE and is five chapters deep. We had a brief conversation over e-mail and she admitted that she was not really a fan of the sci-fi genre, but my book’s description swayed her enough to give it a shot.

First off, I was humbled and amazed. It was a great feeling to be contacted and to be able to converse a bit and learn more about her typical reading selections. I got to thinking about that genre divide that we, as readers, kind of build up on our own and curate with our own set of expectations. She said that maybe she just hadn’t known what she was missing by passing up this genre, and I think that’s a statement we can all take a moment to reflect on and ponder our own genre prejudices and why it’s so important to, every once in a while, attempt to reach out and expose ourselves to unfamiliar things.

Now, I like and enjoy sci-fi in general. But, I also have a bit of a prejudicial streak when it comes to this genre. While I certainly like Star Wars and Star Trek, I will typically avoid these types of stories when I’m jonesing for a sci-fi book. I have a really hard time getting into alien cultures and fanciful names on page, so I typically eschew these literary works, leaving these elements for enjoyment on the silver screen or in video games. I am much more apt to lean towards Richard K. Morgan’s Takeshi Kovacs series or his novel Thirteen, where we have a more conceptual sci-fi aspect to it, like advanced tech or future dystopias. When Joss Whedon was developing Firefly, one of the mandates was no aliens, if only because humans were antagonistic enough on their own and so varied in their cultures and beliefs that you didn’t need to create exotic, heavily made-up stand-ins. While I’m certainly not looking for a documentarian approach to sci-fi, I do find the genre more palatable when it’s a bit more grounded and Earth-based.

When I was writing CONVERGENCE, one of my main goals was to keep the story relatable and human. While the technology is advanced, it’s not so far advanced as to be implausible (IMHO, but YMMV) and much of it is based on real-world tech. Some of this tech, if I can crib slightly from Max Headroom, is coming at you live 20 minutes into the future. But the settings, the motivations, the duplicity, the characters – all very human. In fact, as the story grew and the writing process went on, I sometimes had to remind myself that I was writing a sci-fi thriller, rather than just a thriller. Strip away the tech and the future setting, and it could easily be a modern-day thriller in the vein of Barry Eisler, Lee Child or Vince Flynn. But, tweak the world stage a little bit, toss into a future that’s seemingly right around the corner along with tomorrow’s technologies, and it’s science fiction. For me, the science aspect of sci-fi was vital. Mostly, I just wasn’t interested in telling a space-alien story, and I kind of have to remind myself that the sci-fi genre is certainly far more open and flexible than that single more commonly well-known approach. For some people, that’s their bread and butter, and some authors pull it off with incredible finesse and skill. That’s just not me, for the most part, but if the story is engaging and can suck me in, I’m happy to go along for the ride. In fact, I should broaden my exposure to sci-fi works simply in the hopes of finding those stories that challenge my expectations and break apart my own preconceived biases.

The thing is, though, I totally get where my reader was coming from when she reflects on not knowing what exactly she was missing by passing up the genre. Ten years ago I was privately scoffing some adults I knew who were reading the Harry Potter series. Until, of course, I became one of those readers and realized that the young adult genre does not automatically equate to kids stuff. And, really, as a comic book fan and video game player, I should have known better. How many people routinely besmirch adult comic book readers and gamers for enjoying “kid’s stuff?” And how many of those people would blush and turn away if presented with any random page from Preacher or Transmetropolitan? Could they really so easily dismiss Mass Effect or the Call of Duty franchise? Yet, there I was, hyped up on my own sense of self-importance as to what qualifies as worthwhile in the literary sphere and making blind judgement calls on works simply based on a vague, hazy, ill-defined genre label. It’s important to experience new things, but it’s even more important to just get the hell over yourself enough to be willing to try new things.

Whether or not we realize it, we are prejudiced readers. In fact, it’s important that we do realize this simply so that we can work to overcome it and expose ourselves to a greater sampling of the works available to us. Recently, I read THE WAKING DARK, which if had not known it was young adult I would have automatically listed it as a horror novel. Chuck Wendig’s cornpunk trilogy, starting with UNDER THE EMPYREAN SKY, is another one I probably would have passed on simply for being YA, if the author hadn’t been a known quantity and deciding factor to go for it. And again, if I hadn’t of know it was young adult going in I wouldn’t have consciously realized it or labeled it as such. What I’ve learned over the last few years is, simply because a book is classified as one thing it is not solely defined by that single limiting classification. Young Adult is a book that just so happens to have a young adult/new adult cast, often times dealing with very adult subjects. Kind of like how CONVERGENCE is a thriller that just happens to have some sci-fi elements to it. These novels are so much more than a mere one-word qualifier.

As readers, we can’t let these classifications get the best of us. I will concede, though, that sometimes certain genres just aren’t our cup of tea. And that’s OK. I have a difficult time getting into fantasy outside of George RR Martin, R. Scott Bakker, or (again) Richard K. Morgan. Maybe I just like the grimmdark stuff, I dunno. The few times I tried to go outside of these authors were with mixed results, but mostly disappointment (for instance, I like The Lord of the Rings films, but was bored to death by the books). That said, I have yet to completely swear-off the fantasy genre and am always looking for a new “in” to this segment of stories. While I can’t quite get into straight-up fantasy, I have an easier time digging into urban fantasy, like Wendig’s Miriam Black series, or Buffy and Angel, and, again, I think a lot of this has to do with the familiar setting and relatable, mostly human, characters

Sometimes we readers get into a groove with certain types of books that it puts blinders on us to the larger world of stories and methods of storytelling. Right now, I’m on a huge horror kick, but there was a time I wouldn’t read outside of the mystery genre. If it wasn’t a Michael Connelly or Dennis Lehane book, I wouldn’t read it. Then I became a horror fan after discovering Dean Koontz and Stephen King. Then I found out about John Connolly, who was masterfully crafting horror-mystery-thrillers with his PI Charlie Parker series. These authors opened up multiple avenues into different worlds for me, and I started to glom onto the importance of looking at different genres. The mystery, and then horror, shelves ended up being a gateway drug to other works and mishmash literature.

This year, to take things further, I’m making a concerted effort to not only explore other genres, and trying to read more non-fictions, which I’ve been sorely negligent on, but to also actively try to read more female authors. So many of my typical go-to authors are white males. I’m not saying that’s a good or bad thing, but I do think it’s important to branch out and get a different perspective on the world and to find some works by non-white guys. Again, it’s part of that whole growing, challenging, and learning thing that I think we all need to do if for no other reason than our own personal betterment.

The literary world is such a deep, expansive ocean that I cannot think of a single good reason to limit my reading selections to a tiny, shallow pool, deliberately or otherwise.

So, what are your suggestions, comments, critiques? What books or authors do you recommend to a non-genre fan to pique their interest and get them to read outside their comfort zone? What were some of your gateway books into other genres and authors? What shakes up the standards conventions and gets your roaring to read? Sound off below!