Interview about writing The Jesus Ring

What is one of your favorite childhood memories?

Can a person have a favorite childhood memory? There are many. The best memories are of things where the senses take over, the memory is vivid, and the colors are bright. In great memories you can smell the aroma of the food, feel the nip of frost on your nose, savor the sun’s warmth on your face, feel the heart swell with love, relive the emotion of the moment, and feel the laughter building from within. Some of my favorite or most vivid memories are included in my collection of humorous short stories, Ramblings of an Old Poot. It was released in mid-March 2020.

Do you remember the first story you ever wrote? If so, what was it about?

I wrote a lot of stories while I was in school. The best one was a short story, in my junior year of high school, that I received an A++. The only time I ever received that grade on anything in English class, ever. In 1969, the US was in the grips of the Cold War. I grew up in the west Texas town of Odessa, Texas. The setting of the story was in Odessa. The story concerns the discussions between a boy and his grandfather in the aftermath of a nuclear conflict. The farms were wastelands, the water supply contaminated, and the animals dying from radiation poisoning. The story was written so that the reader would assume the setting was in Odessa, TX in the US. In the final paragraph, it is revealed that the actual setting was in Odessa, Russia (USSR), which is now in Ukraine.

What sort of cultural, spiritual, or social value do you think reading and books hold?

Reading holds the key to everything.

What do you enjoy most about writing science fiction?

What I enjoy most about writing science fiction is I can produce some of the most oddball devices in my stories and not have to explain how they work. The best part about The Jesus Ring is each and every one of the designs God gave to Peter for the life saving devices, weapons, and transporters is actually scientifically feasible. They have been mathematically proven to be feasible but the science hasn’t caught up with it yet. Science fiction is fiction till it’s proven, then it’s just science. Repairing the body with just a different frequency of light? The Bible says “God is light”. Dialing into a specific magnetic band for a flying aircraft? Science has proven there are trillions of magnetic bands throughout the universe, each with its own frequency. Warping the fabric of space and time? Science is working on it now. Science fiction is fun. No matter what oddball contraption we can dream up, the science will be found to prove it eventually. In the 1960’s, Pluto was the edge of our solar system, now look where the limits reach. Science and technology are still infants compared to a hundred years from now.

What challenges did you face while publishing your first novel, The Jesus Ring?

The biggest challenges publishing The Jesus Ring was the title and genre. There is such a negative attitude in the publishing world about anything to do with God, Jesus, Christianity, or the Bible. Like any other writer, I submitted my manuscript to many of the major publishing companies with and almost instant refusal stating they “weren’t interested in Christian books” while it stated right on the reviewer’s bio that they were open for submittal of Christian books. Guess my synopsis and queries weren’t as good of a “hook” as I thought. Agents were just as bad. Querying may not be my strong suit.

Where did you find the inspiration for the character Peter Christian in The Jesus Ring?

God knew the Apocalypse was going to be intense, so He chose a warrior to lead the faithful into those harsh times. Peter was the first of Jesus’ disciples based on the Bible. It seemed fitting that the first warrior God recruited for the “end times’ would be Peter. All of the “Golden Twelve” were named after Jesus’ disciples but very few readers have commented about the connection. I made a point not to spell it out in the book.

What is something that most people don’t know about fantasy books that they NEED to know?

I really don’t know what I could tell people about fantasy books. If they don’t know the difference between fantasy and reality, they need to have Scotty beam them back to their home planet.

How do you usually select character names? Have you ever named a character after your family or friends?

I usually make up names for characters. If I am stumped, I will take an old Houston white pages book and pick a number. If it is 25, I go to page 25 and take the 25th name down. I don’t use friend’s names because a lot of characters get killed off during the book and that would be terrible. I am not normally a superstitious person, but the bumper sticker says, “Crap happens” (something like that) but why tempt fate?

When is writing hardest for you? What do you do you pick yourself up during those moments?

Every writer struggles with their talent. I have been writing technical documents for over 30 years and it is never easy. The “flow” has to come and, sometimes, it doesn’t come willingly. I always likened the mind to a house full of windows. If the window I am looking through is blocked or blurred, I move to another window. I work on something else till the “epiphany” or that sudden insight comes that ties things back together or pushes it onward. I am notorious for adding ideas or thoughts to the bottom of the story to see what can or will fit into the story later on in the book. It may end up looking like a 500-piece jigsaw puzzle but it is interesting to see how these bits of odd shaped ideas can be fitted together to enhance or entice the story. If I don’t write these tidbits close to the story, they have a tendency to dim or be forgotten. If they don’t make it into the final product…well…there is always that “delete” button.

What is the best review you’ve ever received? How do you deal with the bad reviews?

The Jesus Ring has been received extremely well since its release in November of 2019. The very best ones, which are, thankfully, about 95% of the reviews to date, are the ones that say “I couldn’t put it down”. I revel in knowing my stories have made someone lose some sleep or have made them put off doing their chores to continue reading the story. That may seem a tiny bit “mean” but it is an indication that I reached my intended goal to grip the reader and harness their interest for longer than normal. It means they will remember the book and will “most probably” read it again or look forward to see what this “old poot” publishes next.
To date, The Jesus Ring has only received ONE review that wasn’t a 5 STAR rating. Bad reviews are going to come, it’s a fact of life and a fact of writing. It is best to look at the source of the bad review. This particular one came from a 20-year-old, second year college student, that appeared to major in food and towels. She did book reviews to augment their income through a “reviewing” agency. If I received bad reviews from other authors or someone that was actually a book critic or even an English professor, it may make me take pause in my writing skills, but this one was just laughable. Bad reviews will come, and I expect them. John Lydgate said “You can please some of the people all the time, you can please all the people some of the time, but you can’t please all the people all the time”. This is a truism.

What were some misconceptions you had about the book and publishing industry before you became a published author?

Everything about the publishing industry was a misconception. You have a better chance of being eaten by a shark while dodging lightning than you have getting a book published in today’s market. Publishers don’t want to consider your work unless you are an automatic bestseller. If you are unknown, your chances decrease from there, somewhere around winning the Powerball twice after surviving the shark attack. To make matters worse, there is an entire industry devoted to taking your money based on false promises and outright lies. Most of my writing previously consisted of sitting on committees for technical standards that governed the manufacture of major equipment for the oil/gas, petrochemical, and power generation equipment. These internationally used standards governed the manufacture, testing, and operation of equipment that could and would cause injury and fatalities if the equipment were not built and tested in accordance with the very rules and standards we, as the committee members, prescribed. There was an air of mutual respect. There is none in the publishing world. Everyone wants a piece of your creative end work. If they get a piece, you MAY get paid at the end of yearly quarters but most want to send you the pittance of about 10% of the list price bi-annually and even annually. Get your story edited by a professional editor. Many of the so called “editors” offered on the internet aren’t even good readers, much less editors, and wouldn’t know CMOS if they were hit in the head with it. The Jesus Ring still has editing errors in it and it was edited by 2 “professional” editors and the publishing company’s editing staff, on top of the 3 dozen times I personally reviewed it. Research the people you deal with, demand a written contract, and have them specify exactly what will be done with the marketing. Marketing is a huge, necessary expense and a most of it will come out of your pocket. Being listed by Barnes & Noble does not mean they will carry it in their brick-and-mortar stores. So, do your homework! It’s a dog-eat-dog world and the author is wearing Milk-Bone underwear.

What are some of your goals or what are some things you hope to accomplish through your books?

My goals are to keep writing and keep publishing my work. I don’t stay in one genre. I love to look for new and unusual subjects to write about. The Jesus Ring is described as a “Science fiction fantasy with strong Christian leanings”, Shadows is a “fictional horror” about a true southeastern US Native American mythical creature, Ramblings of an Old Poot is a collection of personal humorous non-fiction short stories, Red Tide is another horror story where all male mammals are being killed and it is up to the women of the world to save humankind and, of course, all mammalian kind. What do I accomplish? Well…writing. I accomplish writing. It is something that I enjoy doing as I have reached an age where I can no longer hump the mountains prospecting for gold and platinum, rockhounding, hiking across miles of desert and mountain streams. I can still snorkel and scuba, which is another passion. I am still capable of running the company that my wife and I started nearly 30 years ago. I have managers to run the company and they don’t need me looking over their shoulder. If you hire someone to manage, let them manage. If they screw something up, I will let them know. I am not what you would call a “starving artist” and I would advise any new writer to have a trade to fall back on. They will find that there a lot more instances of mac and cheese for dinner than filet mignon soon enough. I hear some new writers saying “being published is my dream” and it is good to have dreams but remember you and your family have to eat regularly, too. Having a job slinging burgers and waiting tables may be fine so long as you have someone else supplementing your income but it won’t cut the mustard after you get that piece of paper that says how smart you are. I started as a welder’s helper when I was 12, I was a journeyman welder by the time I was 15, I went into the military and served my time so I could go to college, and started my first company within two months after I was honorably discharged. I started college as a 23-year-old freshman. My courses were bent toward engineering and design of pressure equipment and 95% of the world won’t know what that means. I still liked to write throughout my life, I just did it after the work was done. Basically, what I want to accomplish is putting some enjoyment into someone’s life. Reading a good book is that enjoyment. If you have to escape from reality, reading is the best way. It’s not illegal, it won’t kill you, and you probably won’t be pawning your wedding ring for a book.

What is the one thing you feel has helped you shape into a writer?

What shaped me into a writer is authoring thousands and thousands of inspection reports, equipment design criteria for pressure vessels, piping systems, electrical systems, rotating equipment specifications for every pump and compressor configuration known, writing classroom and training documents, etc., etc., etc. This type of technical writing is very demanding. The professionals in the fields, I have dealt with the last 30 years +, are more exacting than any college English professor.

What are you currently working on? When can we expect your next book?

My newest work in progress is titled “Red Tide” and is another horror story where all male mammals are being killed by a new bacterium and it is up to the women of the world to save humankind and, of course, all mammalian kind. This is an eye opener and a very thought-provoking piece. I have posted several of the chapters on Kindle Vella and the positive response from readers has been exceptional thus far. The link is listed below

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *