Spring is trying to get going, but as always there are fits and starts, aren’t there?
Well, this is a special treat. We have TWO authors today, and this one is a friend of mine. He’s an excellent space opera/military sci-fi author who brings a unique perspective to everything he writes. Enough about me, let’s talk to Shane!
When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?
I’ve wanted to be a writer since I was in junior high. I started writing short stories back then, and even started on a few novels that never grew to any more than a few hundred words. It’s something I wanted to do for a very long time, but it was a secondary passion of mine so it took a back seat up until recently.
Where do you get your information or ideas for your books?
I’m a career military officer and a student of history. I really draw inspiration from my military experience and from tumultuous historical events. There’s all sorts of fascinating stuff that happened in the past that get the creative juices flowing. My muse has an infinite pool of colorful events to work with.
What is your work schedule like when you’re writing?
Like most writers, I too have a day job. It’s a pretty cool day job, but a day job nonetheless. It keeps me busy, so writing can be a challenge sometimes. Having said that, I plan out a writing schedule and stay disciplined to it. Typically during the work week I will write about 1,000 words every evening after I get home. If I’m feeling particularly ambitious, I’ll knock out 1,000 words a day on the weekends as well. If I stick to my plan, I can have a manuscript drafted in four months or so.
When did you write your first book and how old were you?
I wrote my first book just over a year ago when I was 47 years old. I had been talking about writing a book for most of my adult life, but never had the motivation to follow through with it. Recently my old college roommate and lifelong friend started publishing urban fantasy novels and told me to get off my ass, quit talking about writing, and actually do it. It was all the motivation I needed. Now, just over a year later, I’ve signed my second book deal, and I’m finishing up a trilogy.
What do you like to do when you’re not writing?
I have all sorts of interests, but I enjoy travelling to exotic locations—mostly in Asia, and experiencing new and interesting cultures. I like to hunt, camp and fish; spending as much time as I can in the great outdoors. I also like to brew beer, make mead and ciders. Needless to say, I have lots of things to distract me from writing, so I have to stay focused.
What does your family think of your writing?
I really don’t think any of them thought much about it at all at first. I don’t think any of my family took it very seriously when I set out to write my first novel. They knew I’d finish a manuscript, but I don’t think any of them actually believed I’d get published. Just another daydream. After I signed my first contract they all got very excited, and when they actually held dead-tree versions in their hands with my name on the cover, well… things… changed. Now when I tell my wife I want to write books full time after I retire from the service, she doesn’t roll her eyes at me anymore.
Do you like to create books for adults?
Yes, absolutely. I write the kind of stories that I would like to read, so the content is catered toward adults. I don’t really write anything over the top with regard to graphic sex or violence, but I do use a lot of adult language. If my stories were made into movies (knock on wood!), they would definitely be rated “R.”
As a child, what did you want to do when you grew up?
I wanted to be soldier just like you see in all the war movies. So the first chance I got, I signed up. And then immediately realized that real life is not very similar to how Hollywood portrays it. Don’t get me wrong, I love what I do, and I’m going to continue doing it as long as they let me, but it ain’t the same as you see in popular culture. But believe me, when it’s time to retire—and it will be soon—I’ll be ready to move on. Starting a new life as an author is thrilling to me.
Does writing energize or exhaust you?
Seriously though, when I sit down and tap out my daily word count I do get a little drained by the end of it. But then I immediately start watching Youtube tutorials about writing techniques and the publishing industry, and get quickly re-energized and excited. I love the challenge to it all, creating something you hope people will like, and then getting it out there in the world. It’s a scary thing putting your work out there where people can criticize it, but there is no reward without risk. And this is a risk I’m glad I took.
Did you ever consider writing under a pseudonym?
I’ve actually done it. Not for the novels I’m writing now, but in a previous project. It’s a highly personal decision and one that must be done deliberately. Your name is your brand, for better or for worse and your reputation is tied to it. It’s not a decision to be taken lightly, but at the end of the day I think all writers need to consider the merits of using one.
What other authors are you friends with, and how do they help you become a better writer?
Excellent… name dropping time… sweet! First and foremost, my best friend Doug Burbey motivated me to actually start writing and to get published. Without his inspiration, I wouldn’t have followed through with any of it. My other friend is John Ringo, who told me many years ago that my writing was good, and that I had a future in it—if I actually put my mind to it. Those two are probably the biggest influences who got me to stop thinking about writing, and actually doing it.
What was an early experience where you learned that language had power?
I’d say it was a few years back when I was assigned as a speechwriter for a 4-star general. I spent an entire year learning how to speak in that man’s voice, engaging with senior leaders of industry, the military, and the diplomatic corps. Words mean something, and I learned in that job that they can be very powerful indeed.
Fine words to end with. How can your fans connect with you?
Get with me on my web page; I have the most flexibility to respond to people there!
And now, a special treat: a sample from From The Ashes!
Corporal Hannigan peered through the peep sights on his rifle and did his best to find a target under the flickering light of the parachute flares. He chose the one nearest to him, concentrated on his breathing, and slowly squeezed the trigger. The report of the rifle came as a surprise and it gave him that familiar slug to the shoulder. The magazine was empty and he quickly snapped up a clip of ammunition, thumbing it into the action of his weapon just as he had done countless times before. He worked the action, chambered another round and scanned for another target.
Then enemy tracers got uncomfortably close and some of the Jungee down the bank were shooting back. Conditions all along the defensive position were beginning to get untenable when another volley of artillery shells landed on the eastern bank of the river crossing, in and amongst the supporting machineguns. Only this time the shells were not high explosive, these were loaded full of white phosphorous and made a tremendous evil light show as they rained hot death on the enemy. Meanwhile the heavy mortars started raining in and the lieutenant walked them in as close as he dared.
“Dad, Janovich, how’re you fixed for ammo?” Hannigan inserted another clip of rifle rounds into his overheated weapon.
“Not good Terrence,” said Schmidt while he struggled to free a stuck casing from the breech of his rifle.
“Scraping the bottom of me barrel mate,” shouted Janovich.
Terry looked over to his right and watched as the nearest team of machine gunners worked to replace an overheated barrel, while the other team picked up the slack and increased their rate of fire. He saw that their supply of ammunition was getting precariously low as well. Stooping over to keep a low silhouette, he made his way over to Sergeant Bledsoe who was sending reports to Battalion while the platoon commander worked more fire missions on the wireless.
“Sergeant, my section is nearly out of ball. Do we have any more to cross-level?” Terry already knew there was no more rifle ammunition to be had.
“Not unless you brought more out here yerself. This be it,” Bledsoe said as he slapped his platoon commander on the side of the leg, trying to get his attention.
“What is it Ginger?” Hancock seemed a bit exasperated and not his usual self.
“Sir, the sections are getting low on ammo and Battalion is askin’ fer another report.”
“First off, tell Battalion to get stuffed. Next, get the tribe ready to move; we’re pulling out.” The lieutenant helped his radioman don the heavy wireless set and then noticed Hannigan staring at him. “Corporal get your men ready. Sadly, we are no longer the main event and the big guns are needed elsewhere. Apparently, this is no small probe and there’s a massive offensive underway along the entire brigade’s front. With our fire support gone along with most of our ammunition I’d say it’s time for us to take leave of this tedious place. Wouldn’t you agree?”
The last of the mortars and artillery then ceased, their thundering detonations replaced by the sounds of small arms, whistles, and the cries of the wounded. They all knew that it wouldn’t be long before the illumination rounds stopped coming in as well and then they would be caught out there in the pitch darkness, grossly outnumbered by an enemy that was desperately looking to exact revenge for their horrific losses. This was definitely not the time to dilly dally.
“Right. Let’s get a move on you lot! Peel out by sections on the double! Back to the rendezvous point and let’s be quick about it!” Bledsoe was making the hand-and-arm signal for “rally” which meant for all of them to physically pass by him so that he could count heads and ensure that everyone was accounted for.
They wasted precisely no time at all with Hannigan’s section taking the lead. Janovich made his way toward the middle of the trenchwork and when Bledsoe slapped him on the shoulder he made off to the west at a jog. Schmidt was right behind and Hannigan brought up the rear of his section. Once out they got back in their inverted “v” formation and headed straight back toward where the gun carriers had dropped them off earlier that night. They all moved at a slow run and while the two junior enlisted men focused their attention forward, Terry looked back to make sure the rest of the platoon was behind them and that they did not have a break in contact.
The last section out of the trench chucked their last hand grenades down the slope and sped off to catch up, accordion-style. Sergeant Bledsoe was the last man out and more than a little surprised that all of them were moving under their own power. After all of that, every single one of them had made it out unscathed without a scratch. Frankly, it was too good to be true, but he was going to count his blessings as long as he could. He tossed the last of his own grenades down toward the river bank and launched himself out of the protective earthworks. He sprinted past the trail section and made his way forward until he found Lieutenant Hancock, right where he was supposed to be, in the center of the formation with the command element.
“Sir, all of the blokes are accounted for. No casualties… it’s a bloody miracle,” Bledsoe said, a bit out of breath from the dash forward.
“Well I never had any doubt. Good work back there Ginger, you keep this up and I’ll pin another chevron on your sleeve,” Hancock responded while helping his radio operator along, struggling under the weight of the heavy wireless set.
“You can keep the sodding promotion, I’ll settle for bit ’o whisky instead!”