Nick Howard lives in Eastern Alberta, pursuing a dream of writing and taming weeds on an acreage. So far the weeds are winning, but his writing is giving him a small feeling of success. He shares the untamed landscape with his wife, and a dog that thinks itself as human. Rumors that the dog assists him in writing are greatly exaggerated, as the dog is very poor at spelling.
Repairs needed around the home are nearly constant, although mending fences allows him time to think about new stories. Fixing the sewer, not so much, as you might understand that requires a little more concentration.
Nick hopes you enjoy his stories, and please feel free to pass on your thoughts to him via email. It does get a bit lonely out there, especially when the satellite TV goes down.
What question do you wish that someone would ask about your book(s), but nobody has? Write it out here, and then answer it.
The Praxton book series revolves around women wearing collars and obeying their male guardians on a future alien world. What separates this series from the usual submission and domination books?
The Praxton universe is based on several lines of speculation and the What If question on social behavior.
1) In the far future there will be drugs and gene therapy to help maintain, and alter, one’s looks.
2) Subtle changes in the human DNA results in there being more females than males (55% vs 45%)
3) Political correction in the extreme results in the Charter of Conduct Laws. The laws stipulate that all planets must adhere to social laws so that all societies on different worlds act the same. This includes dress codes, washroom facilities, food and even proper social interaction.
4) The planet Praxton, a planet near the edge of human space, was populated by those who rejected the Charter of Conduct Laws, choosing their own values. An early conflict resulted in women being a highly sought after to boost the population, to the point where they were captured and treated as possessions. The women still wear collar and cuffs, submit to their guardians, but do so in a consensual manner. The generations of women on Praxton have come to believe this is a natural way of life.
5) The Praxton series details the fight of the people of Praxton to remain independent from Alliance world forces that wish to impose the Charter of Conduct. Men and women on Praxton oppose the intrusion of the Alliance worlds’ values.
What is your writing process? Do you follow a regular routine or do you have any weird, funny, or unusual habits while writing and what are they?
My writing gets to be a little irregular. I don’t necessarily start at chapter one and go through the story in sequence. I will sometimes jump a chapter or three ahead if I know that is where I want the story to take me. Occasionally I will start writing a story near the middle and later backfill the first chapters.
Do you ever suffer from writer’s block? If so, what do you do about it?
I don’t have writer’s block very often. Sometimes that occurs when I’m tired. In that case I just stop trying to write and relax.
When I am stuck on a story line, I will work on a different story. Usually I have two or three stories on the go at one time. One will be my main story, the others just the beginning of new story idea.
What is the single most important piece of advice for aspiring authors?
Read and write. Read books that you believe are well written and try to understand what makes them so.
Write Your first draft doesn’t have to perfect. Allow yourself errors as long as you get those words down. Don’t edit right away. Wait a week or two and then review what you have written. You will find there are lots of ways to say the same thing. Find out what works best.
Find a good, objective editor. Likely not a friend or member of the family, as they likely don’t want to hurt your feelings.
What are your current/future projects?
I am working on the final parts of The Erotic Dreams Of Wendi Mitty.
I am also doing an outline on a new Praxton series, one in which the Alliance worlds and Praxton jointly built a new class of spaceships to explore the galaxy. The crew, a mixture of conflicting social values, is part of the problem for the captain and the executive crew.
I also have a couple of short stories in various stages of completion.
Why did you choose to write in your particular field or genre? If you write more than one, how do you balance them?
I have always enjoyed reading science fiction, and that’s where I prefer to write. As I mentioned before, I like to change society rules, and see what the result might be.
I have also written a few fantasy novels Be Careful What You Wish For, The Witch And The Hairbrush, and an April release, Robbing Hood. These medieval themed stories centre around an improbable twist of fate around our heroine.
What do you think is the future for independent authors and do you think it will continue to be easy for anyone to be a published author?
The writing field has changed. In some respects, it is easier to be an independent author. Write, and simply load the book up to Amazon.
But, in that case, buyer beware. There are some rather unpolished works out there.
So the answer is it is easy to be a published author. A great, or even a good one? Not so much.
Most publishers, be it print or ebook, are flooded with manuscripts. They have to weed out the ones that are well written and have a chance of making a small profit for them. If they decide to publish a story, they now have to invest time and money in it. It better be good.
Are you traditional or self-published, and what process did you go through to get your book published?
Traditional. I have never seriously considered self-published. Too much work in editing and in designing a book cover.
My first story was one I simply one I put up for free on Literotica. It received good reviews, so I ventured into writing Praxton, Slaves Of The Rogue World. Initially it was meant to be one book, but it has grown from that, obviously. My editor at the time was quite critical of how English was to be written, and I always feared his latest review of my work. He did find a lot to correct, but he also wrote Stop. Do not give this away for free. Send it to a paying publisher.
So I did. I am happy to say my books have received a reasonable following.
Have you ever changed a title, book cover, or even the content of your book after it was published? What was that process like?
The Praxton series This is the second printing/release of the books. The covers have been redone and I had go over the edits again.
I have to say on reading the books again, I certainly am glad I had to opportunity to make changes.
I guess it shows I have improved as writer, but it was an eye opener.
What opportunities have being an author presented you with and share those memories? (i.e. travel, friends, events, speaking, etc..)
Certainly there have be times when people are surprised to learn I am a writer, then again when I tell them my books all go through a publisher and I am not self-published.
But generally speaking, I don’t bring up the topic that I am a author. Perhaps someday, if my books become more well known, I will identify myself that way, rather than as a recluse living near Grande Prairie )
What are your marketing, advertising, promotion strategies and which one(s) have worked the best for you? If you had to share your most valuable promotion tip, what would that be?
For a while, I just wanted to write and have the books published. I didn’t really care about the money. Just happy to have the books published.
However, I realized I wasn’t being fair to my publishers- they need to make money or they won’t be around.
So I have started to do some marketing. I updated my webpage, and have started on a Facebook page. That is nearly ready. I checked with a few other authors about promotion and am considering some of their suggestions. However, one name that came to my attention as being the best value and very professional, was Author Shout.
My tip is to find ways to get your name out there. Use social media as much as you can. Don’t just promote your book- tell the readers about yourself.
What field or genre would you classify your book(s) and what attracted you to write in that field or genre?
Science fiction and fantasy.
I like the concept of having a new set of rules in which the universe works and see what happens. For example, if magic exists, how does it work? What are its limitations? How can be used or defeated?
Or does faster than light travel exist? How would it work and how much faster is it that light? What are the costs, power consumption, of a such a spaceship?
What do you do if inspiration strikes in an inconvenient place like (car, restaurant, bathroom/shower, etc..) and how do you capture that moment before it gets away from you?
I try to find a way of capturing the thought that led me to the inspiration. Usually just a couple of words will trigger the memory again. For example, I may write soap = multi-universe. Upon review that will tell be universes are connected like soap bubbles.
I’m old school. I nearly always have a piece of paper and pen available. I can use my cell phone to also jot/record down thoughts, but then I have to remember I did so.
Do you have a target amount of words/pages for each of your books or do you just know when enough is enough?
I don’t have a target normally. I like to prune as much as possible and lower the word count. I read too many books where the author uses filler to make the book bigger, but it’s useless information.
How do you think you have evolved as a person/author because of your writing and do you believe your writing has helped others, how/why?
I have improved as a writer, or at least I believe so. I like the idea that I allow someone to escape for a while when they read my books. I hope they identify with the characters and live in the story while they read.
I don’t know if I’ve helped others. I try to end my stories on a positive note, but I hope that I give my readers the opportunity to see what other possibilities are out there.
How much influence do you believe a title, cover, content, page numbers have in purchasing decisions of potential buyers/readers?
The cover may be the most important in that it needs to catch the attention of potential readers. The title must convey what the book is about.
I suspect most readers do a quick scan of the contents of a book, checking the title, blurb or excerpt. But they won’t do that unless the cover is something they like.
Do you believe there is value in a Press Release, have you used any press release service, and what have your experiences been?
I haven’t used press releases so far. It is something to consider, but most press releases are ignored unless the author is already well known.
Do you believe there is value in a review? Do you believe they are under rated, over rated, or don’t matter at all?
Reviews do matter. I suppose there are some readers who buy solely on reviews, although most will still look at the book closely first.
What are your thoughts on authors doing review swaps, paying for reviews, or reviews that just don’t seem right for the book?
I’m not in favour of authors giving each other book reviews. I have never paid for a review, and have not done an exchange with another author for a book review.
Do you believe there are competitors or general readers out to sabotage authors with bad reviews and what are your experiences with this?
There are few reviewers who like to tear apart books and give bad reviews no matter how well the book is written.
So far I have been lucky, not too many negative reviews. I did have one nasty review a few years back. I read the review and decided that person just had to be in a poor state of mind to spend so much effort to say what they did. I hope whatever caused him/her to say what they did has gone away.
With self publishing being so easy these days, do you believe there is an over abundance of books out there and how do you sort through all the hype or copycats?
Well, when I choose a book, there are a couple of things I look for. I prefer books that go through a publisher. That means at least one person besides the author thinks the book is good enough to read. The second thing is I read an excerpt, or just flip open a book at random, and see if it is written in a style I like.
It is too easy to send out a poorly written book as a self-publisher, I afraid. The other problem is pirated books. Someone can easily steal a book, sometimes changing the title or author, and sell it on their website. Beware of places that offer free books for members. The real author and publisher are being cheated out of revenue.
What is your biggest fear about having a book published?
A review where the reviewer points out an obvious error in the plot.
If you have multiple books published what do you feel is your greatest work, why?
My greatest work has yet to come.
In the Praxton series, I really like Praxton Three, The Proposal. In the book I get to describe the problems of a future society in detail, and why some of blessings, such as gene therapy, can be the cause of problems.
What is the intended audience for you book?
Adults, male and female. In many of my books I describe situations of a strong males and submissive females.
I don’t like forced domination, but rather circumstances present a submissive partner as a possibility. However, the main theme of my story occurs outside the bedroom.
Give us a fun fact about your book(s)?
The Witch And The Hairbrush- One Sunday I was watching football. Boring games (rare, but it happens). I opened up my laptop and, instead of working on a current story, started on a new one.
I’m a slow writer, and usually have to go back and forth on a story a few times. But this one just clicked. Finished it in just a few days. I have fun with a few of the characters names as well. For example, do you remember Joe Friday, badge number 714, of Dragnet TV shows? I had Moe Thursday, badge number 417.
Anyway, it was one of those stories that came out of nowhere and ended up being the fastest story I wrote.
If you had the chance to get one message out there to reach readers all over the world, what would that message be?
When you read my stories, understand anything is possible, and we should all be allowed to be different.
Do you find it easier to connect with your readers with the advances in technology we have today like social media? What platform do you prefer, and why?
I prefer that a reader reading one of my stories will want to read another I have written. Social media helps, but I like the ones that are there longer than an instant.
My webpage is fairly constant, and so will be my Facebook page. I find Twitter too fleeting. A few characters typed, you send it, and minutes later another dozen feeds have replaced it.
What makes a good story, why?
Believable characters, one the reader can associate with. The story, the world it is written in, has to believable, and allow the reader to suspend reality to be there.
How important are names to you in your books? Do you choose the names based on liking the way it sounds or the meaning? Do you have any name choosing resources you recommend?
Names are important. If you write a future story, the name has to sound like it came from that time. I sometimes change the names of my characters as they don’t seem to suit their personality.
Occasionally I read lists of baby names, medieval names, or names generated for game playing roles. Eventually I hit on one I feel is right.
Do you read your reviews? Do you respond to them, good or bad? Do you have any advice on how to deal with the bad?
I read reviews written about my stories, but don’t put too much weight on them. If it is a review written by a professional reviewer, I will send them a an email thanking them for the review. I don’t make a comment on the review itself, just an acknowledgment I saw it.
Bad reviews- just check to see if they have a valid point, try to improve from that, and move on. Done- don’t keep reviewing the review!
What is the easiest/hardest scene for you to write, why? (Love, action, fight, death, racy, controversial, etc…)
Perhaps bedroom/racy scenes are the hardest. I feel like I’m invading the private domain of my characters!
I do like controversial/conflict scenes the best, where two or more characters have opposing views, or needs.
What would you like to write about that you have never written about before?
Present day Earth, with a mysterious character that may not be of this time, or perhaps not human.
Have you ever had a book idea or characters come to you in a dream? What did you do about it afterwards?
No, but before I go to sleep I review where I am in a story and ask myself what happens next. In the morning I usually have the answer.
I dream a lot, but rarely do those dreams have an influence in my writing.
Do you have any characters you would like to introduce in other books or a combination of characters from multiple books you would like to write about in one book?
In the Praxton series, several characters make appearance from one book to another.
Were your characters based off real life people/events or did you make it all up?
I suppose all people I have met can have an influence on the characters in my books. However, I try to make each character fresh. There may be a physical, or personality traits, that I borrow, but I like inventing a new person.
What are the most important elements of good writing? According to you, what tools are must-haves for writers?
Spell check ) You have to able to read your work with a critical eye, find ways to improve each area of a story. Condense as much as possible. Create an image your readers can understand.
What book(s), author(s), or significant life event(s) have had a positive or negative influence in your life that inspired you to begin writing?
I ran out of books to read- I usually have a stack of them to read. So, I decided to create my own story late one night.
What are your thoughts about eBooks vs. print books?
I read both. I like the feel of paper books, but have to admit the cost and convenience of having several books on a tablet is pretty nice.
Do you view writing as a career, labor of love, hobby, creative outlet, therapy, or something else?
Right now it is a creative outlet. I do take it seriously- it is literature I am writing.
To me, it is my second career. It isn’t paying all the bills yet, but I have hope.
Were there any challenges (research, literary, psychological, or logistical) in bringing your book to life?
In science fiction, I need to speculate what future technology will look like and where it will take us. When one looks at how far science has taken us in the past decade, it is hard to guess what we will have in fifty or one hundred years from now.
Do you proofread/edit your own books or do you send them off to an editor? If you send them off to an editor, who/what have you had the best experience with?
I proofread my own work, send it to an editor I know, review everything again, and finally submit to the publisher.
The best editor I have is an older gentleman living in the UK. He is a stickler for proper word usage, and knows the difference between American, Canadian and United Kingdom spellings.
What are the advantages/disadvantages of self or traditional publishing?
In self-publishing, one knows one can have a book available to the public easily. Higher profits from book sales and complete control over editing and book cover design. That also means more work, and a greater chance of mistakes.
Traditional publishing means you have to convince the publisher your book is worthy to be published. It can take longer for the editing to be done. You also have to share the revenue. The upside is a usually better product that looks more professional.
Do you have a subject/genre you would never write about, why?
I have trouble writing about cruelty. Other topics, such the darkest side of human nature, and a gloomy future is areas I stay away from.
What motivates you to write and where does your inspiration come from?
I possess a great imagination. I see something, or read something, and my mind jumps to possibilities. I like to write those possibilities down and share them with others.
What makes your book stand out from the crowd?
The Praxton series great covers, a story in the far future, beautiful women and strong men, and a struggle between two conflicting societies.
Do you design your own cover? If not who does, why?
The publisher chooses the artist. In the case of the Praxton series, it was Lynsee Lauritsen. I think she did a fantastic job.
What is your most/least favorite part of the writing process, why?
Editing my story the final time before submitting it. I’m tired of reading it at that point and have to concentrate in catching errors.