Interview with author C. Lee Brown

Author C. Lee Brown, is the creator of  the Tales of the Bard series, and editor and contributor to A Visitor to Sandahl. Lee wrote and published his first novel, Cable Hornman: The Bard Begins and chose the self publishing route. In this interview we learn about the pros and cons of self publishing. As well, Lee gives readers valuable insight into the process of POD (print on demand) publishing.

Tell us something about yourself and how you became a writer.

I'm a newcomer to sci-fi & fantasy writing. I was born in 1948 and raised in Southern Illinois by my mother, a seamstress, and my father, who worked as a mechanic and electrician in a coal mine. My father passed away when I was just fifteen and it was mom and I until I graduated from high school. I was married on my eighteenth birthday, left home, and spent the next twenty-one years in the U.S. Army. My military service, working as an analyst in Army intelligence, was very interesting, but I always had a love of the imagination and the creativity of sci-fi and fantasy books. I attended college at several different institutions through the Army Education Service while on active duty and also attended Armstrong Atlantic State University in Savannah after retiring from the Army. A world traveler and avid reader, I fondly remember reading major works in the fantasy and sci-fi genre to my children at bedtime. It was this love of the mystical and supernatural that inspired me to write the Tales of the Bard as a legacy for my grandchildren. I had already created a unique fantasy world called Methanasia for the setting of these stories.

Do you plot your stories or do you just get an idea and run with it?

I guess you could say I already have a plot in mind when I start writing a story about Cable Hornman. As the main character in my Tales of the Bard series, I already knew what Cable did from his late teens up to his mid-thirties because he was a character I used in playing games with my kids. I draw upon those games for the plot for my novels and short stories. Once started along the lines of the plot, I often find the story taking on a life of its own as new ideas and twists come to mind. These happen mostly when I interject humor or a particularly nasty creature. The supporting characters of Oskar Zulu, Bar-lo-Mein (the dwarf) and Kaeglius (a Druid monk) were also derived from friends and family icons used in the role-playing games. So I know how they behave and interact with other characters in my stories. Each has their own backstory, which I bring out in increments as the story unfolds. I have enough material for the trilogy and probably six or nine more adventures. And that's just the good guys! I have several villains, not the least of whom is the evil half-Drow, Xthril. These could be used to write a complete rogue’s gallery about Skald Valley, their homeland hidden in the Great Mountains of Methanasia.  

Tell us about your novel(s) and where readers can purchase a copy.

My first book is titled Cable Hornman: The Bard Begins. It is the first in the Tales of the Bard series and introduces readers to Cable Hornman. Cable sets out to avenge his parents’ murder and finds more intrigue than he bargained for as he encounters dwarves, assassins, a giant clay golem and an entire cast of challenging characters. Cable arrives in Smeln, the old capital of the Western Empire, and joins the City Guard to learn fighting skills and weaponry. Cable’s life as a soldier is tough, but he proves his prowess by solving a murder. He becomes obsessed with the lead murder suspect, a part-elf female named Xthril, and his persistence in finding her sends him on a dark chase, as Xthril will stop at nothing to pursue wealth and power. Along the way Cable makes new friends and learns the fellowship of men-in-arms.

Cable Hornman: The Bard Begins is available in soft-cover and kindle on Amazon:


http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss?url=search-alias%3Dstripbooks&field-keywords=Cable+Hornman&ih=10_2_0_0_1_0_0_0_0_1.156_380&fsc=-1&x=12&y=28

 
The second book in “The Tales of the Bard” series (Secret of the Druids) is in production and should be out around the end of 2011.

After Cable Hornman, I reached out to several writers in an online writer’s group “The Next Big Writer” http://www.thenextbigwriter.com and created a short story compendium set in the same fantasy world of Methanasia. It is titled A Visitor to Sandahl. I worked as editor and also contributed a story to the anthology. It is not part of the Cable Hornman storyline but contains interesting, frightening and sometimes humorous tales. Sandahl is a town set in a mountain valley at the crossroads of the continent of Methanasia. It is here that the three great mountain ranges meet and also where the trade routes cross. Most of the writers of these short stories were unpublished and did an excellent job of providing wonderful tales.
A Visitor to Sandahl is available in soft-cover and kindle on Amazon:

 
 



How did you come up with the idea for A Visitor to Sandahl?

I had three things in mind when I decided to do A Visitor to Sandahl. First I wanted to try something that would benefit my friends in the Fantasy, Paranormal and Horror writing circle. So I thought “Why not tempt them with the prospect of getting published?” Second, I felt that if they wrote stories set in my world of Methanasia, it could develop a following of readers. This might increase sales of Cable Hornman. Third, and not the least consideration, I wanted to see what it would be like to create an anthology from a variety of writers. How much work would it be? What ideas for plots would arise? How long does the actual publication process take? I admit I learned a great deal more by putting a book together than I did by writing one. In the end, I learned a lot and we all got to say we are authors.

What was your experience like with collaborative writing? Is it something you would do again?

I really enjoyed the whole thing. It was a lot of work though. I feel much closer to the writers who contributed to the anthology now and am proud of what we created. I’d often read other sci-fi and fantasy anthologies and usually bought the annual “Years best in...” to see what had been picked for inclusion in that year’s list of short stories. I'm seriously considering another book of short stories in the not too distant future. Perhaps I’ll call it Return to Sandahl or Sandahl Revisited.

You’ve chosen self-publishing instead of going the traditional route. Tell us a little about that journey. For instance, what were your reasons for choosing to self-publish and would you do it again? Has it been a successful venture for you?

There were a couple reasons I went with print on demand (POD) company like Create Space https://www.createspace.com/. I wanted a book and I wanted it fairly quickly. The usual process of finding a publisher can take months or even years. I didn’t really care about making a fortune as a writer. I wanted it to leave as a legacy for my children and grandchildren. I was willing to use some of my own money. I had received a substantial tax refund which coincided with completing the first draft on my book. All things seemed to come together at the right time. I shopped around and decided on which POD company I would use. It has been a success in the sense that I have two vanity books out, but it has also been a very disappointing financial venture. It’s a good thing I’m not writing to bring home the bacon because the books have not taken off like I had hoped and the royalties haven’t covered a tenth of the costs. I spent over $2,000 on the first book and about $3,500 on the second. Last time I checked they have brought in just a couple hundred dollars in royalties. I have a gentlemen’s agreement to share royalties with the other writers on A Visitor to Sandahl once they exceed the cost, but sales have been very slow. “Gotta love what you’re doing to take a loss like that.” There are success stories with self publishing but if you look closely they either had good marketing or were self help type books.

What are some of the pros to self-publishing and what would you say are the cons?

In terms of pros, the author has more control with self publishing. Since it is the author’s money on the line, the author will probably want the work to be the best possible before they release it to the POD. It makes the author pay more attention to the details. The POD works very closely with authors to explain options, services and costs. They usually assign the author a production team that helps all the way through the process. They also try to answer all your questions. If it is something that is not actually their responsibility, they will point you in the right direction.

On the down side, the POD does little to get your work recognized. Their marketing strategy is to place the bulk of the sales strategy on the writer. They send out notices to a wide variety of potential sellers but yours is just one more book on a long list. Also, you have to foot the bill, which can be anywhere from a few hundred dollars to several thousand. It all depends on what services they provide.

What advice would you give to someone just starting out. Someone who’s considering self-publishing?

A new writer should join some type of writer’s circle. There is a wealth of information to be gained just by sharing thoughts and editing each others work. Get organized by setting up different files on your computer. Things like plot-lines, characters, place-names and so forth help you keep the story in good order. Have a backstory for your main characters. These provide sub-plots and interesting insight into these characters. Don’t be afraid to ask for help! As for self publishing, make sure you have enough money to defray the costs. Shop around and see which companies have a good reputation for customer satisfaction. Does the POD usually work with your genre? Look up POD comparisons on-line.

Anything you’ve found to be particularly helpful in marketing your book(s)?

Sadly, marketing is probably my weakest facet. There are several resources for marketing books and also many keen ideas on how to get the attention your book needs to be successful. I’m still hoping that people will read A Visitor to Sandahl and develop an interest in other works by the authors who contributed. That group of writers spans the entire globe and the book could eventually become the best marketing tool for our other books.

What are you working on right now? Tell us a little about it.

My current work in progress is Secret of the Druids. It picks up the story of Cable Hornman after he leaves the City Watch in Smeln. He travels to Sandahl in between the stories and meets up with an old magician named Lorenzo (the Great). This story begins with Cable and Lorenzo travelling west through the pass from Sandahl to Vinberg. The small town of Vinberg is also home to Vining, the great hall and homeland of the High Druid Council. Cable has been summoned there by Ravenlock, enroute to a marriage of his elf friend. The city of the elf’s, Lodi, is just a short journey south of Vinberg. Cable Hornman in this tale is more mature, an accomplished swordsman, he’s learned a variety of skills useful to a young adventurer. He is joined by his old comrades Oskar and Bar-lo-Mein. He meets and befriends a new character named Kaeglius, a young druid monk. Of course they will have trouble with some evil-doers and maybe even rescue a damsel. You will have to read the story to find out, but I will let one cat out of the bag. Oskar Zulu will find a love interest in this tale. Cable’s motive for seeing the druids is to better understand magic and master his own powers. The full title will be Cable Hornman: The Secret of the Druids. It will be book two in “The Tales of the Bard”.

Thank you, Lee for sharing your wealth of knowledge and experience...Jeanne

Comments

  1. Great interview, Jeanne and Lee! Very much looking forward to another Sandahl anthology!

    Linda

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  2. Thanks for stopping by Linda. I appreciate the comment. :)

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  3. Absolutely wonderful!
    Keep it coming!! :)
    I'm always here to support you.

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  4. Thanks for stopping by and for your kind words, Fresh Garden :)

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  5. This is the first POD discussion I've seen by someone who tried it. Thanks for posting and for the frank reality. Marketing IS hard...much harder than writing. I didn't try POD, but still struggle with getting my name and books "out there." I'm not sure what works, and because of the investment publishers make in authors, I don't really know how they afford us. Every now an then they must have a book that catches on. Unfortunately, it hasn't been mine...yet. I'll keep trying.
    James

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  6. Thanks for your comment, James. Best of luck with getting the word out on your books. I think we all feel your pain :)

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  7. What a great interview! Thanks Lee and Jeanne for letting me in on the personal experiences of POD and self publishing. You know I purchased both books, Lee and enjoyed them both very much. I also enjoyed working with you on the anthology. It was a pleasurable experience and a learning one as well.

    Susan Stec, author, The Grateful Undead series.

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  8. Hey Susan, thanks for stopping by and for leaving a comment :)

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