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Authors Are Either Good At Self-Motivation (or Crazy)

When you finally finish writing a book, you go through an entire gamut of emotions: Pride, Relief, Fear, Joy, but most of all, the feeling that you accomplished something quite difficult.
The main problem first-time authors encounter is that Pride of Accomplishment quickly morphs into Pride in the Product. What’s that mean? You begin to believe that the book you have written is the best, most well-written, most fascinating story that ever impacted a lucky reader’s imagination.
That feeling is probably the Crazy part. It’s crazy because you can reach a point where you cannot tolerate criticism. That can even extend to close friends and family. That’s the reason why authors are often dreaded guests at parties. They can turn into complete bores, expounding for hours on the beauty of their creation. Yuck!
Sound familiar? If you are an author, I can pretty much guarantee you suffered from this–at least a little. If not, you’re exceptional.
In an ideal world, readers’ responses will confirm the author’s feeling of pride. You know–5-star reviews, lots of sales, speaking tours that sell out, movie offers, lots of money…..Yeah, right:-(
In the real world, sales come slowly. Marketing is difficult, even if you have a great book, there are millions of others all competing for your prospective reader. How do you stand out? You wrote a book, which was hard, but now you have to be a marketer, too? WTH? If you’re like me, you just want to write another book.
I’ve written enough novels to have lost the exhilarating feeling when I type, “The End.” I like good reviews, but when sales come slowly, staying enthusiastic is a challenge.
Sometimes, however, you get another form of confirmation that you are doing a good job. I just got word from the Florida Authors and Publishers Association that my space opera novel, “Pirates of the Asteroids,” is a finalist for the 2020 President’s Award in the adult sci-fi category. Pirates is the first novel in The Belter Series — covering the early settlement of the asteroid belt and the beginning of the Belter society. The Belter Revolution is the follow-up novel that takes the characters farther along their course.
Will there be a third novel? Depends on sales. I like the characters, but I can’t justify writing stories that no one else enjoys. However, I think that anyone who enjoys military-related, dystopian-setting stories set in space, with a little romance, revenge, and great space battles, will enjoy these two.
BTW: They’re for sale on Kindle at $0.99 for the duration of the COVID mess. I lowered the prices of all my books to help self-isolating readers, and that includes my best selling “Heart of Fire Time of Ice” Time Equation Novel.
If you read one of my stories and like it, give me a review — preferably a good one, but be honest and review it as you think it deserves. Remember, you’re fighting author craziness.


Pirates of the Asteroids: The Belter Series Book 1

The Belter Revolution: The Belter Series Book 2

Heart of Fire Time of Ice: A Time Equation Novel Book 1 (1st of a series with the 4th book to be released in July)

Cyber-Witch: Cyber-Magic Series Book 1 – Previous FAPA President’s Award Winner (2017)

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Don’t tell anyone you’re an author. It’s a good way to lose friends…

My 1936 Royal Portable

Somebody asked me what it’s like to be a writer. I thought about it for a bit, then said, “It’s difficult to put it into words.”

Sometimes I get confused about why I keep writing. Between the agonizing labor required to bring forth a fully finished plot and going through all of the multiple steps to format it into a professional-quality book, there’s a lot of unrewarding work. Granted, I do still get a thrill out of typing “The End” when I’m finished with the manuscript, but that’s fleeting and no longer brings tears to my eyes the way it did for the first few books.

The only difference between writing heaven and writing hell is that your books are popular in the former. The pain and labor involved are the same in both locations. I sometimes think that editors, while they are essential, are a form of lesser demon. If an editor was shown a lamp, they’d want to change the lightbulb, even if it was working. They’d replace it, then break the replacement, install an LED bulb, then finally remove that and question why the lamp was necessary in the first place. Seriously, though, I love my editor. She’s excellent and helps make my books far more readable.

The process is more expensive than you might think. Cover art, interior formatting, copyright, ISBN, and editing eats up a considerable amount of money. Unfortunately, sales are more and more challenging to come by, mostly because there is so very much competition. How does a reader find my book or any book he or she wants to read? Some are poorly done with lots of errors, others are poorly written, although a certain percent are quite well done. I aspire to create books in that last category.

It’s said that everyone has a book in them. I wonder if that is meant literally, and if so, where the book is stored. Most of the body doesn’t seem to have any spare space. Getting the book out is a different matter. I was educated to write scientific research and I thought I knew how to write. It’s not all that easy, though. It takes lots of practice. The best way to get better is to keep writing. I keep telling myself that my next book will be perfect. There’s a story in the publishing world about a company that decided to publish a perfect book. It was edited hundreds of times until everyone agreed that it could be no better. Once it was printed and hit the bookstores, someone noticed that the title had a misspelled word. As I said, it’s not that easy.

But, how does a reader find a book out of the millions on Kindle, for example? The key is marketing, and that is the responsibility of the author.

Once the book is finished and uploaded to Kindle for ebook distribution and Ingram for print copies, I belatedly start thinking I should do some of this marketing stuff. I’d much rather be writing another book, of course, but I still make an effort to get the news out.

It got so bad that when I saw an old friend at a party for the first time in several years, I told him I was writing books. When he asked if I’d sold anything, I responded that I’d sold my house, my car, and all of my possessions. I don’t think he got it. He wandered off, and I later saw him pointing at me while talking to the host. I don’t know what was said, but I haven’t been asked back.

I guess whether you’re happy or not in your writing career depends on how you define success. What do I mean by that? I have it on good authority that one of the most successful authors–one who writes things that invariably make people react emotionally, cry, curse, howl, and scream in anger–is the guy who writes error messages for Microsoft.

I like it when readers comment that they loved my characters and couldn’t wait to find out what would happen in one of my books. That’s a thrill, but it doesn’t pay the bills. The fact that some readers do leave reviews helps, though. A series of excellent reviews give a book some credibility so that a potential reader who is searching for a new read might be tempted to pick the one with better reviews.

Then there are the service providers. Those are companies that exist solely to “help” authors sell books. It’s easy to spend far more than the book will ever bring in, so one has to be careful here. Fortunately, I’ve already had a good education along those lines, having taken lots of courses on real estate during my life. Ultimately, you just have to get out there and do things yourself. That’s the most important lesson.

My books do sell, and many readers have left reviews, a few have hated the stories, but most like them, so I feel happy about that. I’m also pleased with my initial decision to publish as an independent. Indie publishing has become mainstream now. There are still traditional publishers, but unless you’re already a success, your chances there are minimal. If Moses were alive now, he’d show up with the Ten Commandments, but he’d spend the next five years trying to get them published. Unless, that is, he did it himself. Then he’d have to go through the entire marketing thing to get people to read them.

At the moment, I’m two chapters from writing “The End” in my latest story, and this little screed has taken some of the time that I should have been using to tie up my work-in-progress. I guess I’ll call this a marketing effort so I can justify my effort.


BTW. I’ve never written a word on the Royal. I keep it to remind myself how hard it used to be in the pre-digital age. Can you imagine? Spell check used to mean paging through a heavy dictionary:-)

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What makes an author grumpy?

poodle & drone

Well, to be precise, lots of things, but I’ve got some specifics that I’d like to discuss.

Cold coffee – this intellectual fuel is best served hot. The major problem is that when I’m “in the flow” and writing as quickly as I can, I forget to drink it and it cools off. Self-made problem, so I can’t blame anyone else, but you’d think someone would come up with a self-heating cup.

Interruptions – This is self-explanatory. What isn’t is why when you’re concentrating on hammering out a particularly difficult section, you somehow become a magnet for interruptions. Everyone in the immediate vicinity seems to suddenly develop a problem or have a question that only you can solve or answer. This goes for text messages also. I’ve just gotten about fifteen-mostly useless. Still, being generous, this is self-made, since I should make it clear beforehand that I was writing and did not want to be disturbed. But, but how was I to know that the urge to figuratively vomit words all over my computer screen was going to hit me? One doesn’t always have the luxury of planning this sort of thing. It seems to just happen.

Guilt – Should be writing, but I’ve got to finish this last game of solitaire. If I could, I’d go back in time and ensure the parents of the person who invented solitaire never met. (Sub-note: Still feeling guilty even as I write this screed. I should be spending this energy on my WIP. I’ve left my hero in lunar orbit, about to be faced with another situation and he’s expecting me to write it.)

Marketing – I’m always grumpy whenever I think of this topic. Point one: I don’t understand it very well. Point two: It takes a lot of time and effort to climb the learning curve. Point three: I feel like I should be creating a story rather than studying audience targeting. Point four: I should be working on it right now, rather than spending time writing about my frustrations. Incidentally, writing this blog post counts as marketing to a certain extent. You know, reader engagement and so on. Plus, it’s keeping me from having to go do yard work:-)

Reviews – Authors want reviews. There’s no substitute. We live in an isolated shell, sending our work out into the void and waiting for some tiny clue that someone appreciates it. I depend on user feedback to determine if I write a sequel. It’s a thin line, too. I wrote a sequel (All the Moments in Forever) to Heart of Fire Time of Ice based on one single review that asked for more of Kathleen’s story. One single review! Readers do make a difference and have more control than they know.

While I’m on the subject of reviews, here’s a couple of points that other authors will appreciate. I recently got a three star review from a confused reader who apparently had read another book. Not one of the rather derogatory things he mentioned was in my story. For example, he stated that the last episode in the book involved time travel. My book Pirates of the Asteroids doesn’t use any form of time travel. He also mentioned some rather clumsy plot devices that I would never use. I asked Amazon to check it out, since I think such a review doesn’t serve potential readers well, but you know Amazon. No action apparently means they are okay with the situation. Take home lesson: Make sure you’re reviewing the right book. (Frankly, I don’t know how you’d make such a mistake, but apparently it can happen.)

Then there are reviews that aren’t. Things like, “I love Kindle books.” or “This story was about prehistoric times.” Yeah. Helpful. My favorite was, “This story wasn’t my style.” Great, pray tell what is your style, and if you know, why did you waste time reading something that has a fairly descriptive blurb and allows previews? If you didn’t like it, let other readers know why. It could help them decide to buy or not to buy. The point of a review is to contribute to the community. Placeholders aren’t particularly useful.

I’ve also received a few bad reviews on different books from people who didn’t take the time to read past chapter three. They then proceeded to discuss the book as if they knew what happened in later chapters. I console myself that no matter what you write, no matter how good or bad it is, some people will absolutely hate it (and by extension, you) and others will love it (though probably not you:-)

The commonly accepted advice is not to comment on reviews, but I violated that in the first example above. I left a comment thanking the reader for his effort in reviewing. Then I stated that I’d love his feedback, but apparently the review was for another book. I was quite nice in my tone. Then I got to thinking about how many times I’ve gone back and reread my own reviews of various products. The number of times is precisely zero, so the chance he gets the message is very low. Don’t know why I bothered, unless some potential reader will see it and be influenced.

As for the bad reviews, if they’re well-intentioned and point out a possible flaw in the story, I see no harm in thanking the reviewer. If they’re vitriol filled and include personal attacks, then that’s nature’s warning not to engage with the reviewer. They have other issues that you’ll never fix.

That’s it. I’ve got an appointment with my writing computer (use a different machine dedicated to that purpose).

By the way, if you’ve read one of my books and have left a review (good, bad, or indifferent), thank you for your effort. I do read them.



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Nano-Magic is the must-read sequel to CyberWitch, winner of the Silver FAPA Presidents Medal for Adult Science Fiction and Fantasy.

The world has been changed forever with the advent of the singularity. The escape of two AIs with greater than human intelligence divided the human population into two groups: The ordinary people, who cannot control the trillions of nanobots that have spread over the globe, and the few who can control nanite swarms, thus giving them powers indistinguishable from magic. Genetically modified creatures in the form of uplifted animals, weres, fairies, and more roam the wilds.

Sophie, known as the CyberWitch and the originator of the method of control, has come a long way from her down-and-out days as a drug addict. After beating her addiction, she has found love and a cause. Now, she is engaged in a self-imposed war on the nanite-based AI that views humans as nothing more than convenient meat slaves to be disposed of casually. Sophie has met all the challenges she’s encountered so far, but a new one has arisen. She’s about to reach a roadblock in her path to make the world safe for humans, and she’s going to need all the help she can muster.

This novel is a wild ride that will have the reader turning pages non-stop until they reach the surprising conclusion.

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Preview: Pirates of the Asteroids

All Adam wanted was a girlfriend and his Masters degree. What he got was totally unexpected. Now he has to figure out how to become a space pirate. Unfortunately, there were no courses on that in University.

Video Preview

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On Writing: Adding a spiritual element to your fiction: OBEs and Lucid Dreams

This post is generally related to world-building for authors, but with a twist. I’ve included a lot of background material on Lucid Dreams and Out-of-Body Experiences. I began studying these many years ago after an intensely personal experience that both frightened and puzzled me. As a trained scientist, I had no ready explanation. This led me to read all I could find on the subject.

Science continually discovers new things about the universe. If everything were settled and known, there would be no need for scientific inquiry. The experiences I’m going to describe are well documented by many people, and their accounts are consistent enough to allow us to draw some general conclusions. I think that if there’s no accepted scientific explanation, but there is enough anecdotal evidence, then a scientific explanation should be sought.

As part of my own exploration of these phenomena, I kept a journal by my bed for many years. I’ll provide some examples taken from it and then analyze them to help clarify the concepts.

After I’ve gone through the types of dreams and associated experiences, I will give an example of how I incorporated the idea into one of my Time-Equation Series books.

Lucid Dreams

Have you ever had a dream of falling or flying? Many people have these types of dreams. How about a dream where you believe you’re awake, but you cannot move your body? These dreams are almost always indicative of an out-of-body experience or a lucid dream. Here’s an example from my journal:

About 4 a.m. I woke up, changed position, and then fell back asleep. I was walking down a sidewalk carrying a U-shaped piece of metal. There was a large pile of rocks located on the edge of a college campus. I went around them and entered a very small cave through a small opening. There was a bed inside. It had drawers under it, and I began looking into them but found nothing of interest, just some vague pieces of machinery.

Then I became aware that there was an old-fashioned kitchen range beside the bed. It had drawers, and I looked in them also. I’m not sure what I was looking for, but whatever it was, it wasn’t there. At this point, I saw a dark door at one end of the cave.

I went through, and suddenly the quality of the dream transitioned to a closer approximation of reality because I became aware that I was dreaming. As a result, I became “conscious” within the dream and had control of my actions.

I looked around at the room that was on the other side of the dark door. It looked like a large, dimly lit barn. There was another door to the right side of the room, and it was very dark. I looked inside the opening and made out the fact that it was a stall for horses, but there were no animals there. To the left, the room became lighter, and there was a large door that was open to the outside. I consciously bypassed that door since I felt that I would wake up if I went through it. After looking around the rest of the barn and deciding that I was satisfied and had seen everything, I decided to go outside. I jumped off a high step and landed right in front of a young man. Our eyes met, and we both smiled.

Was he another dreamer or a figment of my dream? I don’t know. I certainly didn’t expect to see him there. I walked past and turned to the left on the far end of the building. The dream faded, and I lost control and fell entirely out of consciousness and into sleep.

A brief analysis of this dream shows that it 1) started as a normal dream, perhaps clearer and more coherent than most, and then at a certain point, 2) I became aware that I was able to control my actions consciously. This is different than most dreams because we usually aren’t aware that we are dreaming, and we typically aren’t able to control what we do.

There is a slight difference here between my experience and most lucid dreams. In this dream, I didn’t exert any control over the elements in the dream. Usually, lucid dreamers are able to modify anything they encounter in their dreams. Many exercise a significant degree of control, forcing items to mutate or disappear and appear.

After I became conscious in this dream, I had a feeling of happiness and freedom. This was partly due to my sense of mastery of the environment.

I met someone in the dream who appeared to be self-directed. Was he another dreamer? This is an intriguing possibility.

Other people who have had lucid dreams report similar experiences. The critical aspect is that all of us can become conscious and then to control our actions within a dream.

Out of Body Experiences

There are different opinions as to what differentiates a lucid dream from an out-of-body experience (OBE). Lucid dreams can involve any dream environment, while OBEs often involve what I call the RTE, or Real-Time Environment. This is the local space near the dreamer’s body. It is usually the first space they encounter after exiting their body. Their physical body is often present and visible to them. In general, OBEs seem more real than Lucid Dreams and are usually experienced as an objective but different reality.

The first sign of an OBE is that it is often accompanied by an intense sensation of vibration. The second is that it may be accompanied by physical body paralysis. The third is that the dreamer may see their physical body, and the fourth is they find it easy to fly and to pass through physical barriers like walls. Also, OBEs are often accompanied by experienced sounds. Some people wake into these experiences, while others induce OBEs directly from a waking state.

These experiences require a Theta brain state. This is known as the hypnagogic state, the drowsing state before sleep when the brain waves are at a frequency between 4 and 8 cycles per second.

It’s difficult to maintain a hypnagogic state for very long after first going to bed. Most people go through several cycles of deeper sleep followed by lighter sleep or wakefulness in the course of a night. After two or three such sleep cycles it becomes easier to maintain a hypnagogic state. Consequentially you are more likely to have an OBE or lucid dream between 4 and 6 AM.

There is an experiential difference between the OBEs and Lucid Dreams. Despite the extreme freedom of movement enjoyed while experiencing an OBE, it is more like daily experience, since we can’t deliberately morph items into other items the way we can in a lucid dream.

Validating an OBE

Australian author Robert Bruce and psychic suggests that you select a playing card from a deck, making sure you don’t see the card’s face. Place the card on a high shelf somewhere in your house. The shelf should be high enough that you won’t accidentally see the card. When you find yourself in an OBE, remember to go and look at the card. You can then validate your experience when you wake up.

I tried this by placing two cards, one on each of two bookshelves on each side of our fireplace. I was drowsing before getting up.

I rolled over onto my left side and then started to go back to sleep. I suddenly became conscious that my face was bumping against the spines of a long row of books. I realized that I was having an OBE and was near the bookshelf. Then I remembered the cards, so looked and saw that the card was a black four. However, when I tried to see the suit, all I could see was a rectangle with a diagonal line crossing it, the international symbol for “No” that masks a picture of some banned action. After trying to see the suit again, I woke up.

When I checked, the card was the four of spades. The second card surprised me. It was the four of clubs.

The shelves were separated by about two meters, and the cards were on the top shelf above my head level. After thinking about the two fours for a bit, I realized that I couldn’t make out the suit because I’d somehow been trying to see both cards simultaneously and the only commonality was the black four.

This leads me to conclude that our perception is not restricted to natural bodily-imposed limitations.

Common Aspects of OBE

Somewhat more recently, I had another experience that illustrates four of the common symptoms of OBEs. Here’s a brief description:

I was drowsing in a recliner in the bedroom when I suddenly heard my name loudly called twice in a sort of nasal tone. I immediately decided to wake up and became conscious while still in a dream state. I couldn’t move my body or extremities. I know that to recover from this type of paralysis, concentrating on moving your big toe almost always works as a release. I was too panicked to remember this technique at the time. Then I saw that I was floating about 2 feet above my body. I kept trying to merge back into it with no effect.

Suddenly, there was a loud buzz that happened on the surface of my chest right over my heart. It was so startling that I popped back into my body and opened my eyes at the same time.

A brief analysis highlights the four common symptoms. First, I heard a sound–my name. Second, I experienced physical paralysis. Third, I was floating outside my body, and fourth, I experienced a strong buzz or vibration before re-entering my body.

I subsequently read that this type of vibration is attributable to the heart chakra becoming active and releasing enough energy to either start or stop the OBE.

Another experience highlights a few of the features of a typical flying OBE.

I was still sleeping after the sun had risen. Then I shot upwards to what seemed about a thousand feet above the roof of my house. I descended to tree level and proceeded to cruise down our drive and then up near the leaves of a tree. I moved closer to the leaves until I could concentrate on the details of a single leaf. I was elated over the sensation of absolute freedom of movement. Without consciously willing it, I started to become heavy and sank to the ground. Once on the ground, I couldn’t begin flying again. I woke up, regretful that the experience, which had been joyful, was so brief.

There are four aspects of this experience that are common. The first is that I was able to fly easily. The second is that I let my emotions run out of control. The third is that I focused my attention on intricate details and this close focus forced me out of the OBE. The fourth is the feeling of heaviness. Most people attribute this to the physical body recalling the astral body.

Dreaming, lucid dreaming, and OBE states can easily transition from one to the other. However, despite that mutability, the quality of experience is different, and the dreamer can easily sense this difference.

Induced OBEs

The dominant frequency in the EEG pattern is indicative of the current state of the brain. Meditation involves altering one’s brain frequency to a desired state on demand. It can take years to learn the techniques of meditation, but the same effect may be induced artificially since brain waves can be altered by listening to tone frequencies.

Listening to a click played at 4 Hz will cause brainwaves to slow down to the same frequency. This phenomenon is called entrainment or frequency following response. It can be done by playing a series of percussive sounds that gradually slow down to the theta wave level of 4 per second.

An alternate method is to play a pure low-frequency sound. The brain will adjust to match. This works for faster brainwaves but is ineffective for slower brain states because humans cannot hear extremely low frequencies. A special technique called binaural-beats is used to generate the required slow signals.

Parallel Universe Theory

The concept of parallel universes is supported to a certain extent by modern quantum physics. One interpretation states that the universe splits every time there is a choice made on a quantum level. If a photon has the alternative of going through one slit or a second slit in the classic double-slit experiment, it will go through one in one universe and through the other in a second universe. The two universes may then merge into a single universe or not.

Based on this idea, it seems to me, since our brains operate at least partially on a quantum level, that any binary decision we make would result in two universes.

If this is the case, it means that we don’t emerge from our body in the same universe in which our body resides. This removes some limitations and appears to allow our projected mind to move into various levels of the real-time environment as reported by many OBE experiencers.

Writing an OBE into a Story

In one of my novels, my male lead is a Clovis-culture hunter of about 13,000 years ago. While I was writing the book, I, purely by chance, had a rather amazing lucid dream. It was so vivid that I wrote it down and later when it became necessary to give Cadeyrin (my character) a motive for backtracking, I blended my experience into the story.

It took several rewrites to get it right, but after I finished, I had added an entire chapter in which Cadeyrin, previously trained as a Shaman, is able to determine the location of Kathleen Whitby, my modern female lead, who has accidentally translated through time to the Younger Dryas Period of the North American Pleistocene.

As an example, here’s a brief section (Copyright 2016) from chapter eight of Heart of Fire Time of Ice. I used italics to indicate where Cadeyrin entered an altered mental state.

Cadeyrin tentatively started off towards the flickering light along an old bison path worn in the prairie grass. After a few steps, he became aware that a friendly animal spirit was leading him.

Wolves suddenly howled in the near distance. The eerie sound led him to recognize his guide as his personal wolf spirit.

Together he and the spirit walked through the grass until they came to a rise, which they ascended. On the other side was the open space with his fire in the middle. It had burned down in his absence and was guttering, sending out flickers of flame as the wind ignited gasses rising from the coals. As he stepped into the open space, he sensed other spiritual entities around the area, but none intruded on his immediate consciousness.

The wolves came closer as he built up the fire, but he felt no threat from them. It was as if they were just curious about his presence and waiting to see what would happen.

The flames grew high, and his spirit guide took on a feeling of wildness mixed with joy. He followed it as it led him on a triple circuit around the fire. The flames shot out sparks, and a larger burst of flame ascended. At that moment, his companion shifted into a huge wolf-like figure. Together they raised their heads and howled upwards, and then he was following the spirit guide, traveling through the sky, far away from the fire circle.

His sense of being accompanied faded, and he ended up in a high location, as if on the peak of an immense mountain. As he looked down, he could see through both time and space. He could see his childhood: his father teaching him to hunt, one of the old women teaching him about medicinal plants, and the tribe’s path across the plains as they came from the east. He could see their excitement as they encountered herds of bison, and he felt the fullness and satiety after a successful hunt. He could see the attackers as they killed his people while he watched, hidden. He saw his path to this current place. He saw himself by his fire and then he could see his path winding into the future. He traveled towards a forest, then back, then a figure appeared, but it was unclear and hazy. He followed it, and it receded into the future. He paused, and it came back. He felt that somehow it gave him a sense of completeness and he yearned for more of that feeling.

I used many of the traditional aspects of the OBE experience in my description.

The scene is intriguing and compelling precisely because it is authentic, having been taken in large part from my own experience. That authenticity gives the reader a sense that Cadeyrin is real. He becomes a character to whom one can easily relate.

This relates to the old advice to “write what you know.” In my experience, this makes for good reading, but it also seems restrictive to may authors. After all, who has traveled in space, or met the spider aliens from Arcturus 5?

My best advice is to search for situations that you know and then use your imagination to morph them into your story. It’s your story, after all, and you’ve got the right to tell it how you want. Just remember, the more authentic it is, the more compelling it is to read.

I hope you found this discussion both interesting and useful.
Thanks for reading.