FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
(with answers this time!)
Q: What is the schedule for future books?
A: What I know right now is ExForce Book8: Armageddon will be published in the summer of 2019, and Book9: Valkyrie in December 2019. Generally, there will be an ExForce book in the early summer and early winter each year, until the series is complete.
Q: How many books will be in the ExForce series?
A: All of them!
Q: Well, duh. I meant, give me a number.
A: Seriously, there will be fourteen novels, plus the Book 3.5 Trouble on Paradise novella. Plus, shmaybe, hmm, I can’t tell you monkeys about that right now. Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain.
Q: Is there a plan for the ExForce series, or are you just making stuff up as you write?
A: When I wrote Columbus Day, I created a background story for who Skippy is, how he came to be buried in the dirt on Paradise, who the Elders were etc. Also I wrote a story arc for the entire series, so I know where the story is going. That original vision for the story arc has remained consistent, with minor changes along the way.
Q: Will there be more books in the Ascendant series?
A: Ascendant is a trilogy, and there are three books, so, no. However, my wife loves Ascendant and when she read the last line of the third book, she looked at me and said ‘You son of a bitch’.
When she asked if there would be a fourth book in the trilogy I said something like ‘Duh, no’ (the ‘Duh’ was implied). She pointed out that:
1) It’s my series and I can do what I want
2) I left a whole lot of stuff unexplained
3) She can easily smother me while I sleep
Her argument was very persuasive. So, I thought about it and, darn it, my brain started imagining what the continued story would be like and now I can’t wait to write it. When I will have time to squeeze another 150,000-word book in my schedule is a good question
Q: Craig, when will you have time to squeeze a (or possibly more than one) 150,000-word Ascendant book in your schedule?
A: That is a good question.
Q: Will there be more books in the Aces series?
A: The Aces series was planned as a two-book story arc about Kaylee and Manny, the second book will be Aces: Grounded and I do have an outline for it. Aces is the first book I ever completed, and it taught me how to develop plots, pace my writing, find my writing ‘voice’ and generally how to write a novel. I am very proud of that story. Like Ascendant, I do not know when I will have time to write another Aces book.
Q: What is this writer’s ‘Voice’ BS?
A: ‘Voice’ is a fancy pretentious way to say ‘style’. My style is heavy on dialog, without a lot of description. Also my style is sometimes considered to be sarcastic (I know, I couldn’t believe that either). When I first started writing, I tried to write like authors I admired, and I quickly told myself ‘Ugh, this is not working’. I was bored while writing a scene, so I figured the reader would be bored also. So, I started writing the kind of books I like to read, and that works for me.
Q: How does you long-suffering wife stand living with you?
A: My theory is she hopes her suffering in this life will be rewarded in her next life (like she will be married to Chris Hemsworth).
Truthfully, if she has a shot at Chris Hemsworth, she should go for it. I mean, the guy is dreamy.
Q: Why did you become a writer?
A: It is currently the easiest way to get the stories in my head into a readable format.
Q: Are there plans to make ExForce into a movie or TV show?
A: Define ‘plans’.
Q: Something better than you kidnapping famous producers, and forcing them to make an ExForce movie.
A: There have been discussions with various Hollywood producers and studios. So far, nothing is signed. Everyone who has been through the process tells me it takes a very long time.
Q: What is the most important characteristic a writer needs to have?
A: IMHO, it is the ability to tell a story. If you don’t have an interesting story to tell, and you don’t know how to tell it in an interesting way, it doesn’t matter how ‘good a writer’ you are. If you are that person who doesn’t know how to tell a good joke at a party, you are probably not going to be a successful writer.
So, have an interesting story, and know how to tell it. The rest is just typing.
Q: What did you do before you were a writer?
A: I was in Witness Protection.
Darn, I wasn’t supposed to tell you that. Forget what I said.
Q: Is there a chart of the star-faring species in ExForce?
Q: Is there a map of the world in Ascendant?’
A: Sort of? My drawing skills totally suck. The map is good enough to guide me in writing, not good enough to publish. Sorry.
Q: How did you become a writer?
A: I read a sci fi book that was so awful, I kept reading, thinking ‘this has to get better’. Spoiler alert: somehow it got worse. After finishing the book I told my wife ‘I could write a better book’. So, I wrote a book. Then another, then another. After being on the NYT best-seller list multiple times and having Columbus Day nominated as a finalist for Audiobook of the Year, I am satisfied that I did write a better book.
Although truthfully, my dogs could write a better book than the one I read. That book set a pretty low bar. Like, a snake could not limbo under that bar.
Q: Ooh! Ooh! Will you tell us what that awful book was?
A: No. I respect the author, and he has written other books I like, and he stated in an interview that was not his best book. The guy had an off day. Or year. Anyway, it worked out well for me!
Q: Do you have a fabulous sister? (question submitted by my sister)
A: I do have a sister.
Q: How do you get names for your characters?
A: Many of the human characters are named after family, friends, and fans. ‘Doctor Friedlander’ is named after a friend who is a real-life rocket scientist (he has a shirt that says ‘Yes, it is rocket science’). ‘Katie Frey’ is also a real person who was in my running group in Virginia. Sami Reed, Dani Grace, Lauren Poole, Sarah Rose and Olivia ‘Doopers’ Dupres are my nieces. I need to work my niece Colleen into a future story.
For aliens, I start with the first letter of a name, and imagine something that sounds good.
Q: Where do you get ideas from?
A: The simple answer is I have no idea. The complicated answer is I get ideas from real life. My wife knows that if I say something funny, I immediately pull out my phone to write a note, so it can go into a book.
When developing plots, many times I will put the Merry Band of Pirates into an impossible situation and then ask myself ‘how the F*&# can they get out of this mess?’ When I get stuck for an idea, instead of staring at the keyboard, I take the dogs out for a walk, vacuum the house, ride a bike, etc. That always gets the creative part of my brain working.
Q: Your books are self-published? What is that experience like?
A: My books are self-published, because I originally could not get a traditional publisher (trad-pub) interested in my first three books (Aces, Columbus Day and Ascendant). While my experience has been great, self-publishing is not for everyone. You have to do everything by yourself, including marketing. It is more difficult to get attention as a new author if you are self-published. Although, recently I have heard from trad-pub authors that their publishers have cut their marketing budgets, and the authors are expected to do more of the marketing by themselves.
The advantages of being self-published are:
You get to keep a greater % of your book’s sale price. There is no publisher taking a big chunk of the revenue, and you don’t have to pay an agent 15% of the money you earn.
There is no editor telling you to change your book, make it shorter, cut this, cut that, etc. My wife knows that having an editor, who has never written a best-selling book, tell me how to write, would not work well for me. YMMV, see below
You control the title of your book, the cover art, etc. Every decision is yours.
You also control the marketing, ad copy, etc.
The disadvantages of being self-published are:
You don’t have the marketing clout and expertise of a big company behind you. That can be critical to getting your book noticed.
Maybe having an experienced editor suggest/demand changes to your book works for you.
It is much more difficult to get your books into physical bookstores.
You have to do, and pay for, all the marketing.
Some additional comments on ‘going traditional’:
If you think being self-published means you are not a ‘real’ author, check your calendar. It is no longer 2005. Many successful, traditionally-published writers are going to self-publishing, some of them are using the ‘hybrid’ route (some of their books are trad-pub and others are self-pub).
If you are looking for a trad-pub contract because you want editors to tell you that they ‘believe in you’, it is time for a reality check. Editors who want to remain employed only care if your book will sell, not whether it is ‘good’. If you want meaningless praise from an editor, more than you want people to actually pay for and read your book, then I suggest spending your money on a therapist, because that is just pathetic.
Q: Hey, the above long, rambling and incoherent diatribe sounds like you are bitter about being rejected by traditional publishers.
Q: Can you elaborate on that ‘nope’?
A: Publishers are guessing what books will sell, and because they are human, they generally suck at predicting the future. The first Harry Potter book was rejected by many publishers, before it was noticed by a little girl who actually read the book. My books were also rejected by many publishers. It worked pretty well for me. Publishers are a very tough job, especially in the current environment.
Q: How do you handle rejection and bad reviews?
A: Amazon ads for my books are viewed thousands of times a day, by people who do not buy my books, or even bother to click on the ad. Each one of those people are rejecting me by ignoring my ads/books. Yet, I am a best-selling author because of the many people who do buy and read/listen to my books. So, when people are hurt by getting a single rejection letter, I do sympathize. However, I crowd-source my rejections and get thousands every day. So, I put it in perspective.
Regarding bad reviews, I ignore them. All authors should ignore bad reviews. Most bad reviews essentially are saying “I don’t like this type of book” or “I didn’t enjoy this particular book”. Every review expresses one person’s opinion and nothing more (that includes good reviews). What matters is whether you enjoyed a particular book. Only you are an expert on what you enjoy and don’t enjoy. This is why your Mom should not have forced you to try Brussels sprouts or fish sticks.
Q: Why can’t I find your books in my favorite bookstore? Also, will there be hardcover versions of your books?
A: Most because I don’t know which bookstore is your favorite, duh. Don’t make me guess.
A: I was joking! Right now, paperbacks of my books are available only on Amazon, which prints each book overnight when you order it. Print-on-demand is good (we don’t have to warehouse thousands of books that might not sell) and bad (it is more expensive per book). We basically break-even on paperbacks right now.
We (meaning me and my business manager/wife) are working to get paperbacks and hardcovers printed and warehoused, by a company that handles all the fulfillment activities (taking orders, shipping, returns, etc.). When we have that deal in place, bookstores will be able to order physical copies. At that point, we will need someone to handle book marketing for us, because we are not going to visit every local bookstore across the USA and beyond. It’s complicated, like, really complicated.