Book Plug Friday! Meet Margaret Ball

PJM: So, you’re one of the new independent writer/publishers, making it out there, in the new world of selling stories directly to the public.

Tell us a little about yourself. 

MB: I had a slightly checkered education and career path: B.A in pure math with an emphasis on topology, Ph. D. in linguistics, teaching at UCLA, programmer, project manager, software designer, writer and mother. It’s not very dramatic, but even my relatively sedate past can be mined for material. There’s a slightly twisted topology in the current series; two years’ research in Africa gave me background for some short stories; and encounters with the public “education” inflicted on my children infuriated me enough to power an entire novel. Oh, and I once copied a daughter’s chat room transcripts when I wanted an example of teen vapidity, but shh — she still doesn’t know about that. [PJM – ROFL]

When I hit “Restart,” a couple of years ago the publishing world had changed dramatically.

PJM: Tell us how you came to publish indie? Was it a choice?  Did you ever do it traditionally? Do you also traditionally publish?

MB: Before my ten-year sabbatical there was nothing but traditional publishing, so yes, that’s how I published. (Apart from one self-published bead embroidery book that made enough to finance a month in India for the First Reader and me.)

When I hit “Restart,” a couple of years ago the publishing world had changed dramatically. For one thing, writers I knew were complaining that their $20,000 advances had dwindled to $5,000. For another, there was this thing called “indie” which I wanted to explore.

PJM: Tell us about your latest book?

 A Pocketful of Stars is the first in a series about a group of mildly insane mathematics students who discover that they can do what looks a lot like magic by visualizing certain topological theorems. It starts to look a lot more like magic after they encounter a Babylonian turtle mage and his infinite set of magic-enhancing stars.

In the course of the book, they have to deal with suspected terrorists, the CIA, a wizard who is working for the wrong side, and grackles. All these elements and a few additional problems will recur in the next three books (An Opening in the Air, An Annoyance of Grackles, and A Tapestry of Fire), which are already written. I’m not sure about Book 5, which is currently nudging at my subconscious.

PJM: How did you start writing?  What did you envision as your career in writing (if you did)?

I’ve been writing one thing or another since fifth grade when I was the only kid in the class who actually liked Thursday Composition Afternoon. Later in life, I honed my science fiction and fantasy writing skills on proposals for DOD and DOE in which I promised that our company would actually do everything on their wish list. Incidentally, that’s when I learned that it’s very difficult to write good prose when you’re weasel-wording.

But I didn’t think of writing as more than a pastime until I landed what should have been my dream job — freedom to pursue any computer science I liked, unlimited travel to interesting conferences, a major raise — and still I kept coming up with story ideas and scenes that were more fun to think about than my day job. At some point, I said, “Ok, this is not going to go away; I might as well do it seriously.”

Many months of getting up at 5 AM followed — and I am not a morning person.

As for traditional publishing? Been there, done that. I’ve already got a bookcase full of novels and stories released by “real” publishers and don’t feel any need to add to that.

 PJM: What are the good and bad points of being an indie author?  Would you like to be traditionally published someday, or do you have absolutely no interest in doing it?

There are a lot of things I like about indie, not least of which is that instead of writing with one eye on an editor’s prejudices, I’m writing directly to an imagined reader. Whether or not this is good for sales has yet to be determined, but it’s certainly a lot more fun.

Another good thing is not being stuck with the traditional idea that one shouldn’t publish more than one book a year. I can write a lot faster than that, and I have more fun writing fast. Reminds me of the joy of starting college, when for the first time in my life the teachers didn’t yell at me for reading ahead in the book.

As for traditional publishing? Been there, done that. I’ve already got a bookcase full of novels and stories released by “real” publishers and don’t feel any need to add to that.

PJM:  A lot of people point to things like getting editing, covers and such things that the houses used to do.  Is this very difficult for you?

Editing is easy; I have a superb beta reader who critiques for structure and isn’t afraid to tell me “This scene drags, this one is unnecessary, and I don’t understand why she does that thing in chapter seventeen.” As for the small stuff, I’m kind of OCD about punctuation, syntax, and phrasing, so four or five readings of a manuscript clean it up pretty well.

I’m fortunate in having the help of some talented friends who understand the genre and actually know what’s in the books. Dorothy Grant writes better blurbs than most professional editors, and Cedar Sanderson’s covers are awesome. Both these ladies also write sf/fantasy, and very well, so you should check out their books. (After buying one of mine, of course.)

Marketing? I hate marketing and I’m terrible at it. I make occasional vague swipes at the problem and console myself with the reflection that as a midlist author, I didn’t get much marketing help from traditional houses anyway.

PJM: Where do you want to go with your career?  Pie in the sky – where would you like to be in your writing career in ten years?

Alive would be good.

Seriously: I hope to have written many more books that I enjoy writing as much as I have A Pocketful of Stars and the rest of that series.

And, of course, I hope to have readers who like my books so much that they automatically order each one as soon as it’s available, and recommend them to their wide circle of reading-addicted friends, and write five-star reviews... Oops, got a little carried away there. Even a handful of readers who like my books would make me happy. Well, writing makes me happy. Appreciative readers are frosting on the cake.

Find Margaret Ball's Books at her Amazon page.


H. L. LEROY: The Fountain of the Earth.

The Fountain of the Earth is a 2015 Global eBook Awards Silver Medalist.

Terra Vonn is fighting to survive in a destroyed world,

surrounded by unspeakable horror . . .

and things are about to get much worse.

After witnessing the horrific murder of her mother, fifteen-year-old Terra Vonn has a singular focus—exacting revenge on the killers. But before she can complete her plan, savagery intervenes and she is cast alone into a brutal post-apocalyptic world. As she trails the murderers south—through a land filled with cannibalistic criminals, slave traders, and lunatics—the hunter becomes the hunted. Terra quickly learns that she is not as tough or as brave as she thought she was. Worse, she may be the only one who stands between what little remains of civilization and destruction.

 


LEROY NICHOLS & SUSAN YOUNG: The King of Russia: A Square Root of Time Novel.

Times aren’t what they used to be. Literally.

With the multiverse rent asunder by Alimnazer the Hearteater’s interrupted ritual, all the possibilities—all the various interpretations of time and space—have a chance at being represented in the reformed universe. And somewhere or another, most are.

Josanin the Heartless, instrumental in leading the heroes to stop Alimnazer from becoming the only god of all time, finds himself in a strange land with his old enemies, Prince Wilelm and Princess Ambre. Realizing that Alimnazer is probably still alive and striving to complete his spell, the trio is faced with the fact that their feud may cost them the future if it continues.

Meanwhile, Peter Alexeyevich Romanov, known to history as Czar Peter the Great, awakens in a Kremlin he doesn’t recognize, surrounded by enemies from a future he never imagined. Desperate to stop this new enemy, Josef Stalin, from committing the atrocities attributed to him in the future, the Czar allies himself with David Benjamin, an Israeli Nazi-hunter, and Soundbyte, a masked vigilante who wields futuristic technology that ignites Peter’s imagination.

In Philadelphia, George Washington and America's other founding fathers are astonished to find themselves prodded into action by both the extra-terrestrial superhero known as Alien, and the legendary wizard Merlin Ambrosius.

Elsewhere, others are more concerned with simply staying alive. But as the heroes and ordinary folk of this new reality struggle to survive in a world that teeters on the edge of chaos, paths will cross, fates will be tied together, and common cause will be found.

Because Alimnazer is out there. Waiting.

And he has all the time in the world.


MARK BUTTERWORTH: Aryndell

Aliens from the world of Aryndell appear on Earth proclaiming themselves benefactors and offering Mankind longevity, health, higher intelligence, and advanced science. Met with suspicion by government leaders, their medicine untestable by current methods of analysis, the Aryndell sneak a sample of their Cure to a man pleading for his crippled child during a public event in Ireland setting off a chain reaction around the world as word gets out the child is getting well, while others secretly acquire doses for their ill and suffering loved ones. Riots occur as multitudes demand access to the Cure for illness and disease. Governments topple and leaders capitulate allowing the Aryndell to distribute their miraculous panacea, but there is a catch no one will know about until too late. No one will look like themselves any more. They’ll be changed into the Aryndell, and the higher intelligence they gain will lead to the disintegration of their economic systems and societies. Only time will tell if the Aryndell transformation is a blessing or a curse for humanity, but some men can’t wait, plotting revenge and terror against the seemingly benevolent aliens. Aryndell is a tale of a Golden Age offered to a violence prone and long suffering Mankind, but are humans ready, and can they adapt to a new and higher order of being? That is one theme this story explores, along with illustrating who the Aryndell are and how they came to be.


KAREN A. WYLEWho: A Novel of the Near Future.

Have they changed their minds? Or have their minds been changed?

Death is no longer the end. Those who prepare, and can afford it, may have their memories and personalities digitally preserved. The digitally stored population can interact with the world of the living, remaining part of their loved ones’ lives. They can even vote.

But digital information has its vulnerabilities.

After the young and vital Thea dies and is stored, her devoted husband Max starts to wonder about changes in her preoccupations and politics. Are they simply the result of the new company she keeps? Or has she been altered without her knowledge and against her will?

And if Thea is no longer herself, what can they do?

Praise for Wyle's near-future novels:

“Brilliant … convincing characters and a plot full of intriguing twists and turns … a vivid reading experience … I can’t over-recommend this story.” – Readers’ Favorite

“Strange and beautifully fascinating journey … Alluring, different, highly creative, Wyle demands our attention.” – the Review Broads

“One of the most thought-provoking books I’ve read … challenges our view of both freedom and justice, while letting us share in the lives of some very memorable characters. I highly recommend it.” – A Book A Day Reviews

 

 


L.A. MAY: Niko and the Shades.

Fifteen-year-old Niko secretly hopes for magic wands, spells, maybe even a hero’s sword. Instead, unfortunately, he can see the scarpies, sinister little shadow creatures who live in darkness and feed on black magic. Most people can see one or two, here or there, but Niko sees them everywhere, scuttling along the streets, hiding in shadows. And when a powerful figure at the royal court is murdered by black sorcery, Niko begins to think the scarpies are connected. While court factions scheme for power, Niko may be the only one who can stop a magical assassin before someone else is murdered, and a killer takes control of the kingdom.