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In my junior year of college at the University of North Florida, I was sitting in a medieval history class and decided that I just couldn’t sit there one more second. So, I got up, drove off campus and found a U.S. Air Force recruiter’s office. I wasn’t learning anything in college, and I figured that four years in the service would at least give me a skill, let me see something new and put a few bucks in my pocket. That was in early 2001, when we were still at “peace.” I officially entered the service August 28, 2001, thinking this would be an easy, peace-time gig. Two weeks later, we were at war and I stayed that way for 20 years. I became an Air Force print journalist and media specialist, travelled to a couple of very sandy places, and wrote about what young Airmen were doing there. But after 19 years of it, it started to affect my mental and emotional health. When I joined the Air Force, I loved to write. But when it’s your JOB, and your work is never really your own, it wears on you, eats at you. I hated writing. On my last deployment, I just couldn’t do it anymore. I had a mental break and decided I had to leave the service at the first opportunity. I had one more year until retirement, and while I waited for that day to arrive, I decided I was going to go back to loving writing. So, every day at lunch, I would go to a little coffee shop on Scott Air Force Base, and I would write for an hour. That writing turned into my first book, “The Vixen War Bride,” and now I have the absolute greatest side-gig in the world. People pay me to tell them stories. Not a lot, true. But that doesn’t matter. I get paid to WRITE.
What books do you have available?
I have four books currently available, all part of the “Vixen War Bride” series:
The Vixen War Bride
The fifth book, “Cupcake Girls,” is in draft and, I hope, will be out soon.
Can you tell us about your most recent release?
“The Vixen War Bride” series is a military science fiction story set in a distant future where the nations of Earth have just won the first interstellar war with another intelligent species, the only other intelligent life they’ve discovered in the universe. The story follows a group of Army Rangers on occupation duty in a small village on the alien homeworld and how they go about working with the locals without a common language, culture, or shared experience beyond the war. It’s part sci-fi, part war, part humor, part romance, and focuses on the people actually working at the outer fringes of major galactic events rather than the center of them.
Do you stay in one genre when you write or do you find yourself veering toward others?
Right now, it’s sci-fi, but once VWB is complete, I intend to move into more of a fantasy setting. I don’t really have any set genre to work in. I’ve been thinking up stories for more than 20 years, so there’s a lot I want to do: Hard sci-fi, action sci-fi, fantasy, dystopian… As long as I enjoy writing it, I’ll write it.
Are you a panster, planner, or someone in between?
I’m probably somewhere in between. I know how I want a story to start and how to end. I know certain set pieces I want to have in there. Then I draw a line between all of them and fill in the rest as I go.
What is your writing routine like?
I’m a stay-at-home father now. So, it’s easier to write when my boys go to school. Then, if I really want to write, I need to go to a coffee shop or something. It’s hard to write at home because, A, there are too many distractions like chores, TV and the internet, and, B, my goldendoodle, Mimsy, doesn’t want me to write. If she sees me writing, she’ll come up and grab my arm with her paws with a ball in her mouth, and she will not accept “no” for an answer.
Tell me about your favorite character that you’ve created?
Staff Sergeant John Ramirez is not one of the leads, but he’s definitely one of the favorites. He’s just an easy-going guy who loves his job and doesn’t hold grudges against anyone, even the aliens. But there isn’t a better soldier to have in the trench with you when things go wrong.
Where do you get your ideas for world building?
History. History has stories that would blow Hollywood out of the water if you know where to look. And there are little tidbits here and there that make you really consider how people viewed certain things and how it’s changed. VWB, for instance, borrows a lot from the U.S. occupation of Japan following World War II. The world back then wasn’t nearly as connected as it is today, and U.S. troops, drawn from rural farms and city factories, were suddenly faced with an enemy that didn’t look like them, talk like them, act like them, eat like them, played by the same rules of warfare or even share a common alphabet. The Nazis were brutal and evil, but a kid from Oklahoma could look at the front page of a Berlin newspaper and sound out the letters, even if he didn’t know the language. There are people who’ve LIVED in Tokyo for a decade and still can’t read the headlines. For all intents and purposes, the Japanese may as well have come from the moon, and for them it was the same. If we were ever to find ourselves in a position where we would have to fight with someone from another world, that’s probably as close to similar as we could get. So, you look at how people thought and acted back then, what they saw, what amazed them, what threw them for a loop, and it’s easy to picture something similar happening somewhere else.
Do you add romance to your writing?
Yes. One of the key aspects of VWB is a slow-burn romance between the two leads who, thanks to a cross-cultural miscommunication, find themselves married with no way to annul it.
Where do you get character inspiration?
One of the benefits of spending 20 years in the military is that there are so many experiences to draw on. Every kind of character trait, positive or negative, can be found in the military, from the greatest good to the most appallingly evil.
What genre do you prefer to read?
I generally read two books at the same time. One is always a nonfiction history book. The other is typically a goofy, sci-fi/fantasy light novel that makes me smile.
Do you have any specific authors you follow and try to craft your work after?
When I was younger, I read a lot of Harry Turtledove. He was the one that showed me that you could blend history and sci-fi/fantasy to get something incredible.
Do you have any recurring themes in your book?
Cross-cultural communication is a big part of my book. In my books, there are no “universal translators” or aliens whose language is, coincidentally, exactly like English. If you want to get your point across, you have to work for it. And if you fail, there are consequences.
What does your editing process look like?
I’ll typically write until I need a break, and then I might go back and edit. My wife reads my work as I go, and she makes edits. Then, when the draft is done, I go back and re-read it, making edits, adding or deleting parts of it, rewriting others. Then I do that all over again. THEN, I go back and format it for whatever outlet it’s going on and while I do that, I edit it again.
Do you have a preferred drink or snack that you eat/drink while writing?
Coke Zero. Not just for writing, though. It’s just part of my addiction.
When is your favorite time of day to write and why?
Before noon at a coffee shop. If not, whenever I’m inspired to and Mimsy will let me.
What hobbies do you have?
Writing, reading, playing video games. Any game with a historical tie is like crack for me. War Thunder, World of Tanks, Sniper Elite… Stuff like that.
What is something your readers don’t know about you or something unique about yourself?
Before I joined the military and for a long time afterward, I wrote anime fanfiction. No, I won’t tell you under what name.
What defines success for you as an author?
People paying for my work. I know that sounds bad, like “I’m doing it all for the money,” but that’s not it. When someone pays me a few dollars to read what I wrote, and they come back and review it positively, that makes me feel like a success. Someone spent money they had to work hard to earn on a story I wrote, and they did not feel like it was money wasted. That says a lot to me.
What is your work space like?
My basement lair has a little desk, and I’m slowly turning it into a library. I just put in a mini-fridge for the Coke Zeros so I never have to leave. Great success!
Do you have a selfcare routine that you follow?
No. I wish I could say I did, but I don’t.
What advice would you share with new or aspiring authors?
First, WRITE. Even if all you write is a sentence or a few words. You’re writing. You’re maintaining forward momentum. Write every day. Eventually, you’ll find yourself writing more and more. Second, you’re going to have plenty of harsh critics who think your ideas are stupid. You don’t need to be one of them. Write what you want. It doesn’t matter how many people think it sucks. There WILL be people who love it and it’s those people you should focus on. Third, don’t rush it. Just because you CAN publish your novel to KDP right now doesn’t mean that you SHOULD. Spend the time to get it edited properly. Fourth, if the publishers don’t want it, publish it yourself on KDP or somewhere else for free. Don’t pay someone to publish it for you. KDP and other places will do it for free and pay you. Publishers are paid gatekeepers who are looking for things that are guaranteed to sell well. They don’t get paid to take chances. So if you’re doing something different and creative, they may not like your work just for that reason. It doesn’t mean your work is bad, and self-publishing avenues today give you the chance to prove them wrong anyway.
Where can our readers find you?
You can find me on my Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100069514145266
Facebook author page: https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100069514145266
Where to find my books: https://books2read.com/u/mKdpyE