Using Reader Input in your Story Writing Process

I talk about what I’ve learned about including reader character creations into my novels, and an update on new characters in Antioch Burns!

Hi all,As many of you may know, I recently completed a Kickstarter program that helped me to fund a large portion of Copper Centurion’s cost. This go around, I offered a reward level that allowed the backer the option to create a character in my upcoming novel, Steam Empire Chronicles #3 – Iron Tribune.

However, I thought it would be easier – and better – to have the characters (or several of them) introduced through a novella – in this case, Antioch Burns. I’d like to share with you what I’ve discovered from my experiences.

  1. Communicate Early, and make your expectations clear – Of the four people who contributed that level of money, one gave me plenty of information, two gave me some, and one gave me very little information to go on. So I sent an email, then one, then two. Both times I set ‘deadlines’ for people to return information by for inclusion in the story.

Then I waited.. and waited..

You get the point. So I started out writing the novella, and to my surprise recently got a very large ‘info dump’ of information that will be extremely helpful in writing this particular character. But I did have to go back and rearrange some parts of the story – which was fine, I was just three pages in.

2. Accept the fact that people may not commit – Yes, even if people say they want to help, they may not. Oh well, nothing I can do.

3. Remember that every character you get is a blessing! Look at it this way, I don’t have to come up with a very detailed background for this character, nor a name (easier in some genres, harder with Roman background) – Also, I don’t have to come up with characteristics or habits, as someone has already done that for me. Indeed, I was able to start spinning the story in a direction I think I like.

4. In the end, it’s all about how well you spin the story – Just remember. In the end, you’re the boss!

By the way, if you haven’t already, be sure to check out my novels Brass Legionnaire and Copper Centurion. I’m exceptionally proud of both of these novels, and they’ve reached #2 and #6 on the Steampunk Amazon Chart in the last week or so. In addition, Both novels have been consistently ranked top ten in multiple ebook categories (Greek and Roman, Myths, and Alternate history being a few).


For those who want to see it…

Copper Centurion is now available in Print! eBook files to come May 1st!

Copper Centurionis now available in Print! DSCN5945
Yippie! Don’t forget the ebook is coming May 1st! Be ready for it! I’m so excited to share all the hard work with you, my loyal readers, fans, and friends.

Oh, and did I mention that both the Goodreads Book winners packages and thank you notes for kickstarter friends should be going out in the next few days? Pictures will be posted soon! In the meantime, here is a picture of me at EPICon!

Big smile (I had just won the best Action-Adventure novel award!)

Carpe Diem Friends! Only 12 more days!


Turning your story into a community experience

Turning my novel into a community experience.

Hi all,

As many people may know from my recent kickstarter, I offered the opportunity for readers and contributors to create a character for inclusion into Iron Tribune, the third novel in the Steam Empire Chronicles. I know that this can be considered a strange idea. After all, as a self-published author, didn’t I go this route precisely because I wanted more control?

Yes. And No.

As an author, I want to engage people. My goal is to get people to buy my books, enjoy reading them, and tell other people to buy my books because they enjoy them. What better way to encourage people to share the news about my net novel than to let them have a hand in building it? Or at least a part of it?

As a result of the kickstarter, I’ll be introducing four new characters into my story. While I have some inkling of how to introduce them, I still don’t know much about the specifics yet! I have to see what their creators would like to include. That being said, I’m still the author, so I still get to make tweaks as necessary. The characters must fit the story, not the other way around.

I think of this as a professional challenge and opportunity. It’s pushing me to expand my story and not get ‘too comfortable’ so to speak. It is also making me plan my story to a much greater degree, as I’ll have to incorporate new characters and new situations.

What do you think fellow authors? Would you include reader generated characters into your stories? And readers, would you be more likely to read a story you had input into, either character or event wise?

Respond in the comments below! 🙂

My top ten gifts for the book lover in your life, #10-6

This is Part One of my list of top ten things to buy for your book lover this holiday season. Enjoy!

Hi all,

Are you one of these crazy, yet also very patient, people?

The holidays are right around the corner, as are the huge sales of Black Friday. With that in mind, here are my top ten gifts for the person(s) in your life who love to read.

#10 World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War– This novel by Max Brooks is one of my favorites. It reads like a non-fiction documentary that you know (or hope) is simply fiction. Plus, you’ll want to read the book before the upcoming movie turns the actual piece of literature on its head.
#9 Dies the Fire– If you like the show Revolution, you’ll love the book Dies the Fire. Only exception – people who want the lights to come back on. It won’t be happening. Neither, it appears, will guns. Who thinks it’s still a good idea to make fun of the kid learning to fence now?

#8 Small Gods– Wit, sarcasm, and a slightly slow true believer holding the fate of an entire religion in his hands, what’s not to love? This book answers the question – if no one believes, do the gods still exist? Pratchett is a master, so go buy it!

#7 Some good mood music – Nothing gets me into a novel faster than some nice, calm, relaxing music. That, or a huge bottle of soda. But for real, classical music has been shown to do lots of great things, such as rising your intellect and making you understand words like Concerto. This one even claims it is The Most Relaxing Classical Music in the Universe, and you can’t argue with that!

$6 – A good journal – Why a journal? Because I firmly believe that people who are great readers have the ability to become great writers. I have one. It’s not called a journal, it’s called an idea book. Personally, Barnes and Noble has way better ones, especially in store. Check out this page if you don’t believe me.
Well that is it for right now. I’ll be posting the next chunk on Tuesday! Happy short week!

The Illustration Conundrum

To Illustrate or not to Illustrate, that is the (expensive) question!

To begin, I’ve always loved chapter books with illustrations. They breathe life and culture and feeling into a story. Sometimes, I wish to high heavens that Harry Potter books had come with full page illustrations every couple of pages. Not every page mind you, even just one per chapter would have been awesome. Obviously, the style of your book has to lend itself to illustrations. Personally, I think all books could use them in one form or another.

But Wait! You cry. “I have my own created image of what this world looks like, why should someone else make it for me?”

Someone else already has, if the book you are reading has cover art. From the moment you open a book, your mind is building the world that you are reading. The cover (to me) is like the section in a library – Does it have dragons on the cover? Trigger the fantasy imagination component of your mind. Man waving a french flag with a musket? Activate the Three Musketeers and Napoleon memory centers! Illustrations in a book are a way of guiding the reader’s imagination, like mileposts or markers on an old trail. The trail is laid out for you, but you are making the journey. The markers guide you, even shape some of the world for you. But illustrations are expensive, and only the most well paid authors or those with a great amount of extra money to use, those who have won the family/friend lottery (Hey, wanna illustrate my book? I’ll pay you in pizza!) can truly fill a novel book with illustrations. Even Scott Westerfeld of steampunk fame doesn’t have illustrations on every page.


So what is a new/upcoming author to do if they want illustrations. There are a few options.

1.) Sell your firstborn (Just kidding!)

2.) Compromise – Have only a few illustrations that are super critical.

3.) Never have any illustrations and pour that extra money into cover art or extra promotional things.

Of these, option two is the best, and really the only option, that makes the best sense if you have the money for illustrations. As a visual person myself, I love having maps in my book. If your story is going somewhere, have a map! They make great interior covers, and can break up a story neatly into chunks if that is what you need. In my book, I have plans for two maps – one of the entire continent of Europe, and the other of my semi-fictional city of Brittenburg.

My plan for Brass Legionnaire is to have two illustrations that are critical to the story and really tie into the theme and idea of my world. Not only can I have them in the book, but I can get enlarged ones as posters and other things to use as freebies and contest prizes. Theoretically I could sell them eventually too, but I like the idea of having control of a limited number of them in really nice form. Those in the book would be black and white, while the promo ones would be full color.

I suppose I could lay down a pretty penny for one illustration per chapter, but maybe I’ll save that for the omnibus (in the far, far future!) Of course, if you want to make it happen, check out my Kickstarter project and donate. I don’t have much time left on it, and I’m sort of sad that it won’t likely happen, but I’m excited to still have the chance to share the book with you guys regardless!



Just the book cover

Didn’t want to spam, but wanted just this part up for everyone.

Cover Art Proof

Just the possibility of Cover Art makes me all excited! Check it out!
Courtesy of Streetlight Graphics

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