Tag Archives: Author

State of the Sector Address: 2017

My Fellow Sectorians,

Welcome to my first ever ‘State of the Sector’ address, where I share with you all the stuff going on at Sector M for the coming year. So without further ado, here’s what’s going on in 2017!

state-of-the-sector

First, all the stuff for you guys:

Sector M Fan Group: A longtime fan created a Facebook discussion group for fellow fans of my various geeky endeavors. It’s my hope to build a community over there where Sectorians can gather together to chat, get know one another, and share passions for fandom and geekiness, in general. If you want to join, just friend this guy (don’t worry, it’s just a proxy account), and you’ll be added to the group posthaste.

Website Revamp: I’m in the midst of a revamp of the Sector M website. This will include migrating all of the ‘merch table’ to the website proper. I also want to expand the available merch options out there. This one has a lot of moving parts, so I will announce more as things progress.

Goodreads: I’m on Goodreads.com now! I’ll try my best to keep you guys up-to-date on what I’m reading. Also, The Backwards Mask is on there, with a fair amount of ratings. If you’ve read my book, I urge you go over there and give it a rating and/or a review. Also, feel free to ‘friend’ me on there.

Now all of my author-y stuff:

Finish My Current Novel, Start The Next One: I’m about 70% of the way through the initial draft of my current novel. My goal is to have the draft completed by June 1st of this year (my birthday, as it happens). I’ll do edits and rewrites over the summer to hopefully have a presentable draft by Labor Day. Chances are, I’ll begin my next novel around that time as well. I’ve enjoyed my foray into fantasy, but my next book will be a return to science fiction.

Short Story Anthology: I’m collecting a number of my short fiction pieces into an anthology that I’m tentatively calling, Strange Reports from Sector M. More on this as it develops, but I hope to release this in July or August.

Blog Posts: In 2016 I was pretty inconsistent about when I released blog posts. I want to be more reliable about it, so my plan is to release at least one a month on the third Friday of each the month. There could well be more than that, but at least one per month. Mark your calendars.

Writing T-Shirts: This started this off as a sort of geeky in-joke on Instagram, but it seems to have caught on. I will be continuing this bit in 2017, though intermittently. While I own many, many geeky T-shirts, I did burn through quite a few of them this past year, so it won’t be every Sunday. But I will try to do it as often as I’m able. If you have a suggestion for a writing shirt, feel free to post it on Facebook, send me a tweet, or email me at: TheSectorM@gmail.com. I’ll be sure to give you a shout-out if I wind up picking one that you suggest.

How you can help:

If you’d like to support Sector M in its ongoing geekiness, you can follow me on any of these platforms:

Facebook

Twitter and Instagram: @TheSectorM

The Sector M Blog 

My YouTube Channel

You can also download my novel, The Backwards Mask, from Amazon and Barnes&Noble.com. If you do, please make sure to leave a review. And if you’ve read it already, please (pretty please with a cherry on top) leave a review. That is the best thing you can do to help me as an author.

 

I can’t thank you guys enough for your continued support! Full speed ahead for 2017!

Advertisements

Garden of the Gods: An Interview with Author Stephen J. Stirling

I recently had the pleasure of speaking with Stephen J. Stirling about his latest novel, Garden of the Gods. I was lucky enough to read it early and found it to be an concise and poignant thriller. I highly recommend it for anyone who likes what I call ‘introspective action.’ That is, the kind of book that is action-packed, but keeps you pondering its message and themes for days afterward.

This is something of a first on this blog, but it has given me the idea on having other authors on to talk about their work. For now, though, let’s talk to the man himself about Garden of the Gods!

cover

Hello, Stephen. We’re so glad to have you on Sector M! I always appreciate the opportunity to speak with another author about their methods and body of work. So, if you’re ready, let’s dive right in, shall we?

Thank you for having me! I always enjoy my chats with the leadership of Sector M and our glimpses into the future.

Let’s talk about your latest book, Garden of the Gods. Without giving too much away for readers, what can you tell us about the story and your influences for it?

The story itself revolves around a Native American tribe in the northeast Arizona desert. But Garden is largely a statement about worship—any worship—how it enriches our lives and what belief for each of us is really all about. The fact that we live in an age that needs religion so badly was the driving force behind writing this story.

I remember that Alan Moore used to say that the plot of a story is wholly different from what it’s about, meaning the themes, allegory, morals, and all that good stuff. So, what is Garden of the Gods about?

Well, Garden of the Gods is about Native Americans, their rich heritage, their connection with the past, and their hope for the future. . . (and it is also about monsters). But to call it a simple action/adventure would do the story a disservice. The story’s subplot proves that every resolution within this book was motivated by faith, or the lack of it.

The book is a period piece, in more than one sense of the term. What kind of research and preparation did you do about the time period, the various species you include, and native tribes when writing it?

The American southwest is a treasure of unique people and, as of yet, not wholly discovered zoological life. It is a human and animal ecosystem in constant flux, breathing and pulsating with the drama of life. Writing is a funny thing. You begin researching one topic, and end up somewhere entirely different. The Native American people against the backdrop of wartime America was where I tried to focus my research—I wanted to do them and their heritage justice.

When you are writing a book, what is your method? Are you more of a ‘planner,’ who outlines everything in great detail ahead of time, or are you more of a ‘gardener,’ who throws characters into a situation and lets it develop organically without preconceived notions of the outcome? Where you do you fall in that continuum, do you think?

This question is very important, and my answer is—yes. You think you’re one kind of writer who has all the characters lined up and ready to do what they’re told, and suddenly they turn on you. They come out fighting and you’re left to clean up their messes. I guess you could say I fall somewhere in between the two methods.

Let’s talk about your main character, Matt Hayden. He strikes me as being cut from the same cloth as many two-fisted pulp-era adventurers, like Allan Quartermaine and Indiana Jones, and perhaps even a hint of Cussler’s Dirk Pitt. What were your influences and thoughts when creating your leading man?

Hayden is a hero cut from whole cloth, at the same time with a huge wrinkle broadening him into a sympathetic strength that is instantly likable. I did craft him between literature’s Allan Quartermaine and living legend Bring Em’ Back Alive Frank Buck, and yet the combination makes him unique among American characters.

And what about the secondary and/or support characters? What were their roles when placing them into the overall ensemble?

Read the book carefully and you’ll discover that every character has a religious angle. Every character worships something. Every character (even “non-believers”) believes in something. Every character has to fight for something, and every character has to abandon something in the process.

The Nyah Gwaheh, the armored bear, has a very complex role in the story. In some ways it serves as the primary antagonist, but it’s clear that it has a deeper, more symbolic role to play within the narrative. What sort of metaphor does it represent?

The Nyah Gwaheh is a living parable of religious value and the things that we worship, whether we know it or not. He is the driving force of the book.

Any chance or thoughts on a sequel? No pressure…

Oh good, because I don’t see a sequel in the future. I think I’ll leave the characters to their own devices for a while.

This last question is pretty free-form. What would you like the readers out there to know about your book? Anything you like. Here, I’ll hand you the proverbial megaphone.

13-megaphone-graphic-free-cliparts-that-you-can-download-to-you-t4pvba-clipart

Well thank you! I’ve never used a proverbial megaphone before. I’d like to leave you by saying I hope others will find as much joy in reading this book as I found in writing it; and if they find an introspective moment—or two—to contemplate their own spirituality I will have accomplished even more.

Thank you for taking time out of your schedule to chat, Stephen! It’s been a rare pleasure.

The pleasure is mine! Thank you for your interest in my project and your insightful questions. Talking with you has been a rare treat.

Take care now, and don’t be a stranger!

 

There you have it, folks – right from the source himself. Garden of the Gods is on bookshelves now at Deseret Book stores. It’s also available in print or digital format on Amazon and Barnes & Noble.com.

CHECK. IT. OUT.


Best Served Cold: Why You Should Never Cross a Fiction Writer

George R.R. Martin is often quoted as saying, “A reader lives a thousand times before he dies. The man who never reads lives only once.”  What about the other side of that coin?

Well, let me tell you, a writer can kill you a thousand times on paper if you cross him or her. The character may not have your name, or even look anything remotely like you, but a fiction writer, particularly a sci-fi writer, contemplates destroying whole star systems or galaxies during a lunch break. What do you think they’ll do to you?

He tasks me...

It is very cold…in spaaaaace.

Is it just a quiet power trip? A revenge fantasy? More than just a tad petty? Sure it is, but I challenge any fiction writer out there to tell me they’ve never done this. I mean, someone has to get fed to the dragon, right? So why not an abusive boss or your old grade-school bully?

Here’s one of my own literary paybacks:

In college, my degree plan required a sales class. You couldn’t get out of it since it was a prerequisite, which was bad news for introverted guys like yours truly. About 60% of your grade for this class was ‘lab.’ In practice, that meant that the university newspaper gave each student some of the sorriest, most underperforming clients they had on file and expected the students to physically go to these clients (calling them on the phone was expressly forbidden) to solicit ad space in the paper.

Without a doubt, this was the most blatant example of student exploitation I experienced during my years there. No commission for anything you sold, no reimbursement for gas (and believe me, gas money was pretty scarce back then). And to top it off, I was paying for the privilege of doing this for them.

The Doctor will not.

What? WHAAAT?

The man who headed up this program will remain nameless here, though I will say that his name looked and sounded cool. That was sort of a theme with this guy, looking and sounding cool. He had that salesman ‘aura’ to him with great hair and a politician’s polished smile. Dealing with him on any level was the worst for the very fact that he had training on how to overcome objections, and get people to do something that they wouldn’t want to do in the first place. The class remains the most difficult, awkward, and frustrating of my student career.

Years later, I needed a character name that sounded cool, though the character himself was dead. I don’t just mean died-fighting-lions-in-the-coliseum dead, I mean launched-into-the-cold-void-of-space-and-then-falls-headfirst-into-a-star-and-somehow-there’s-a-waiting-volcano-on-the-surface-of-that-star-that-also-has-fangs, irrevocably, irretrievably DEAAAAAAD.

Crunchy

In other words…TOAST.

Well, I flipped through my mental roll-a-dex. Guess who came to mind? Yep, Mr. Perfect-Hair himself. He may never know it, or read any of my stuff, or care one jot or tittle even he did, but I know. That’s my little Easter egg, my private joke to myself.

So, if in your daily travels you come across a person who says that they write fiction, be nice to them. Otherwise, don’t be surprised if one day the first person who gets their soul devoured by Great Cthulhu bears a striking resemblance to someone you know.


Of Roman Senators and Patreon

I am not a professional author, but I would like to become one. It might take years to reach that goal, but I guarantee you that I will reach it sooner with your help than without it.

Let me explain.

Back in ancient Rome, it was popular for the very rich — particularly Senators — to seek out an artist, poet, musician, etc. and become their patron. The deal was this: the Senator would provide the necessities of life so that the artist would be free to pursue their artistic interests.

In return, the Senator would be known as a patron of the arts, and could take partial credit for anything that artist produced. After all, it might not have happened without the Senator’s continued patronage.

12_Rome_Blu-ray

No, seriously, guys…you’ve got to check out this Peter Hollens guy.

Today, it’s a pretty difficult thing for an independent artist to make it out there, and for all the same reasons. The artist in question still has to pay rent, eat, and buy shoes and socks like anyone else. But often it is years, or maybe never, that their art is able to provide enough for them to make a living.

Well, we’ve seen a return of artist sponsoring in recent times with crowdfunding platforms such as Kickstarter, Indiegogo, and Patreon. Instead of depending on a single, super-rich individual to foot all the bills, now it’s possible for many people to contribute a small amount and accomplish the same thing.

motivation_meme

Right – good question, Bobs.

So where am I going with this?

If you are reading this blog, chances are that my art is of some interest to you. I am asking for your help in supporting me in what I love to do. I now have a Patreon account, where you can contribute to my cause on a monthly basis.

The entry level is $1 per month, or $12 a year…or as I like to put it in modern currency, about two modest trips to Starbucks. Fact is, if everyone who has Liked my author page on Facebook contributed $1 a month, I could go professional tomorrow.

fotr1360

Even the smallest donation can make the difference in the life of an artist.

Now, this isn’t a guilt trip; participation here is strictly voluntary. If you can’t participate or just don’t want to, there are absolutely no hard feelings. And if you do decide to contribute, you are not obligated to do so forever. Give as much or as little as you like, for as long as you like – it’s all up to you.

So, if you think that I am an artist worth supporting, please do so.

It’s really that simple.

Check out my Patreon account and rewards here.


Backwards Compatible – Part 5: All Stop

After an incredible start, I settled into getting the characters on the move towards their goal. While there were stopovers on their journey, with a short action sequence on the planet Phoebus, I was already planning the book’s first major combat sequence.  It was going to involve both the spacer/Navy types aboard the Hornet and the Marines doing what they do best.  Everybody needed to have a moment where they did their part.

There were a few things I wanted out of this extended combat scene besides just some Michael Bay-esque ‘splosions. First, I wanted the main character, Coeur D’Esprit, to go up against someone who was as good or better than she was. In the previous books, Coeur’s plans and strategies always seemed to work exactly the way she wanted them to, and it seemed that her enemies were never truly up to the challenge. Since I was at the helm this time, I wanted her to go up against someone competent. To me, the true test of a military commander is when their best-laid plans completely unravel and they have to come up with something else on the fly.

Hannibal_a-team.jpeg

I love it when a plan comes together…and then goes horribly, horribly wrong.

Second, I wanted the aftermath of the battle to tear team the apart. I wanted it to be a Pyrrhic victory which left the characters with more questions than answers and more mental scars than physical ones.  There needed to be a little dissension in the ranks, some internal strife, and this sequence was going to pry those cracks in the team wide open.

The result was the assault on the Lambda-3 asteroid base. The Hornet, which is a converted trade ship, must duel it out in space with a mysterious warship while the Marines confront enemy forces inside the asteroid itself.  My chapters tend to be about 20-30 pages, on average. This sequence, found in Chapter 7, was originally 96 pages. Even when I broke it up into two chapters, those two are still the longest of the book.

I managed to hit all the points I wanted to achieve. We had the Ithklur Marines disobeying orders and abandoning comrades in the field. We had Coeur freeze up when it seemed that she had been outfoxed by her opponent. Everyone is stunned when it is revealed who the enemy actually is (if you haven’t read it, I won’t spoil it for you).  This becomes a central factor in the disintegration of the most important romantic relationship in the book, Dropkick and Snapshot.

So, mission accomplished.  The characters won, but aren’t exactly happy about it. I briefly left the crew of the Hornet and picked up on another storyline for a chapter. Things had become pretty intense, so it was necessary to have a ‘cooling off’ period.

obstaclesdemotivator

What he said.

When I came back to the main characters, things had gone from bad to worse. Trusts have been broken. People are isolating themselves and dealing with their own mental demons.  The good doctor, Orit Takagawa (remember her from the Prologue?) is tending to a Hiver patient. The alien had been horribly treated and tortured by its captors. It likely possesses information that would be vital to the Reformation Coalition, but now it may never regain consciousness.

As she sits in bedside vigil over the Hiver, she is strongly reminded of the loss of her friend, Cicero, a loss that carries with it a crippling emotional impact. During this scene, I wrote this line:

“For several moments she grappled with untangling the knot of emotions that swirled around her head like a galaxy of pain.”

The next line after that is simply the sound effect of : “Bleep, Bleep.” Orit’s instruments are letting her know her patient is waking up.

To-day-they-re-doing-a-birth-monty-python-10868851-713-454

We even have the machine that goes ping!

There was about seven months separating those two lines. As soon as I finished the ‘galaxy of pain’ line, I was hit by perhaps the worst case of writer’s block I’ve ever had. I suddenly looked up and thought to myself, “Now what?” I tried moving forward dozens of times, but something just wasn’t right. Nothing worked to my satisfaction. I would sit there at my desk, hands on the keyboard, and it felt like I was trying to push through a brick wall.

After months of trying and failing to push the story forward, I resolved that the best thing to do was to move forward with the Hiver waking up. There had been a whole other interlude I kept trying to put in there before that happened, but apparently my muse wasn’t having any of it.

Looking back, it seems like I probably should have arrived at that solution a heck of a lot sooner. Live and learn, right? Even today, when I happen to read that scene, I always draw a line in the margins between those two lines to remind me of the vast time gap there, what caused it, and how I overcame it.

Next up, “Enter the Fox.”

[Check out the Backwards Mask on Kindle.]


Not Another Author’s Blog!

Oh no! It’s another author’s blog!

I bet he’s going to pontificate ad nauseum  about his ‘craft’ and why everything he does is high art…yeah, as if it’s Shakespeare or Hemmingway or something.  I bet he’s even going to try to plug his novel on us at every turn, and try to get us to “Like” him on Facebook, follow him on Twitter and all that.

So typical.

Gaaah! Why did this have to happen?  It’s the end of the world as we know it, and Lenny Bruce is not afraid! Dogs and cats living together…mass hysteria.

 Noooooooooooooooooo!

luke_skywalker_noooo

Yep, pretty much…

Yeah, that’s my reaction to a lot of author blogs as well. I’ve read quite a few of them in my time. Some are informative, while others are preachy.  Some seem little more than an outlet for the author in question’s ego − sort of a platform to say ‘here’s why I’m so cool. Bask in my wisdom!’

Well, as it happens I am an author and this is my blog. I will try to learn from my experiences and make this particular blog worth the reading.  A few things right off…

What This Blog IS:

If you’re visiting me here, you probably have some passing interest in my work. This is my way to try and connect with you, the reader, outside of a short story, novella or novel.  Each post will explore some topic that is of interest to me, and (I hope) to you as well.

Yes, I will talk about my writing process at times.  I will also recommend that you read my novel and connect with me on social media. You are welcome to listen to my suggestions, or not. There’s no pressure here. This isn’t a dealership for used cars; it’s a platform where I can share my stories/ideas/thoughts with you.

Could I go the hard sales route, as so many often do? Sure, if I saw my readers and fans as nothing more than a market for a product, I’m sure my eyes would spin with dollar signs like in the cartoons.

If you read one of my stories, you are sharing something highly personal from me to you. Each of my stories holds a special place in my heart. They mean something to me, or I would have never bothered to write them in the first place. That you might read something of mine − and perhaps come back for more – makes you far more to me than just a series of wallets waiting to be exploited.

But I digress…

What This Blog IS NOT:

This blog is not a soapbox for my political or religious views. I may offer social commentary at times, but not because I’m trying to sell you on any particular ideology. Likely it’s because it relates to something I’m writing. What can I say?  I like to explore anthropological themes in my stories, and you can’t do that without kicking over a few rocks and seeing what lives underneath them.  (Figuratively speaking, of course.)

I should also point out that these posts are not for my own aggrandizement. I’m not fishing for compliments here or hoping you’ll stroke my ego. I would appreciate it if we could keep things positive, but if you have something to say, say it. If you honestly disagree with something I’ve said or written, then I welcome any verbal riposte you have to offer.  Just be sure to bring you’re “A” game when you do.

One last thing, I’m a big proponent of Socrates and his idea that ‘the only real knowledge is in knowing that you know nothing.’ I don’t claim to be the absolute authority on anything, and I have little patience for people who do.  I believe that there’s always room for improvement no matter how good you are (or think you are) at something.  I approach writing and life from that perspective.

So, that’s what I’m offering here at the Sector M blog.

Do we have an accord?

We do?

Well then, drink up, me hearties…yo ho!

jollyroger

Yarr…n’ stuff.