D C Ballard
‘My mind is the weapon. Everything else is merely an accessory.’
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In the beginning…tell me what made you decide to start writing?
I have always had a creative streak. My grammar was never great in school, and I was a hard C- in high school English, accept my creative writing class. I got my only A in English in that class, not because my grammar or spelling was all that great, but because my ability to craft a story allowed the teacher to ′Overlook′ most of the other issues. From there, it was tabletop RPG′s, DnD and GURPS followed later by RIFTS/Palladium, first as a player, and then as a Game Master. I learned to weave stories with little preparation, which gave my games flexibility, and made it nearly impossible for my players to derail the story as I never had anything beyond a few key way-points determined, and those were only ever marked out as needed, but not specific locations.
So I suppose, the TL;DR answer here is that it seemed to just be a natural extension of the above. I come from a family of artists, my mother paints, my brother draws, and I have perfect color sense, but I cannot draw my way out of a wet paper bag. I have however been accused of painting with words.
Are there any authors or artists who influence(d) you?
For certain there are. Larry Niven, Greg Bear, Arthur C. Clarke, Lisanne Norman, Dean Ing, Spider Robbinson, and so many others. I have two book shelves worth of books that have all been devoured, and those are just the ones I own. I ate my fathers entire library over a summer. Stainless Steel Rat and so much else. When I am not writing or editing, I am a voracious reader, and have eaten an entire 7 book series in a sitting.
Tell me about your book.
The universe is a far larger, more dangerous, weird, and wonderful place than even our worst nightmares dare consider.
More? You want more? Okay….
There are several works in various stages of completion within the Universe I play in. Each an independent, yet interconnected story, feeding off of, yet also independent of the others. Chaos Fountain is the opening volley, following Kyle Durlow as he goes from a Joe-nobody life, to a path where Kyle’s choices will alter the direction of not just his own life, but the destiny of the Earth, Humanity, and the very Universe itself.
After Chaos Fountain, there will be Regent (In Edit), and Emperor (In Edit), which follow characters introduced in in Chaos Fountain, with Kyle as a narrator, though you don′t need to read CF to understand these two, or any of the others.
Beyond these, there is also Raptor (1/2 done), Raptor 2 (Planned – didn′t even know this was going to exist until recently when working on others), Kyle′s Story (Planned – formal title pending. An Extension of Kyle′s story after Chaos Fountain), Arc Project (Planned), and Arc War (Planned).
All again related, but independent stories. Diving into the wider universe, there is Homecoming and its follow up which only revealed itself as I finished Homecoming, which itself was originally a short story to break an episode of writers block. Then we dive out even deeper to Acende′che (3/4 done with a co-author), A Bridge Beyond (In edit with a co-author), BB2 (Title Pending – About 2/3 done with a co-author), and several others in various states of writing that will link to the main universe of Chaos Fountain when Raptor 2 is reached. Though the Bridge Beyond group are SciFi Erotica, so… 😉
How many unpublished and half-finished books do you have?
Good grief, a count….? 12 and counting. (Muse hates me)
Chaos Fountain will be my first. My cherry popping if you will.
What’s your opinion on the practice of ‘banning’ books?
There are few things that make me angrier than banning and burning/destroying a book.
It shows the weakness of the arguments of the person committing the act, their realization, conscious or not, that their position is just as indefensible as the thing they are seeking to ban, if not moreso. If anything, such, acts more often than not, seek to ban books based on ideas, ideas that the ban-ee cannot handle. Banning Harry Potter because it talks about magic and will ″bring kids to Satan″ is absurd on its face, and shows a childlike lack of mental maturity on the part of those that seek such things.
So yeah, strong feelings on that. If you find a book, an idea, objectionable, fine, speak out, prove you are right in the arena of ideas. Don′t read said book. But banning…., not even Mein Kampf.
Tell me about a principal character in your book(s). What makes them memorable?
Kyle (Chaos Fountain) is an every-man, that I hope the reader can empathize with in the early parts of the book as he is overwhelmed by the experiences he is thrust into.
Jassen (Homecoming) is not human, but his experiences help shape him as a person and I hope draw the reader into his world and the cause he sets himself upon.
Indie, or traditionally published – and why?
Indie – Why…? I spent a great deal of time, a year and a half, submitting to agents, as there are few traditional publishing houses that will accept unsolicited and/or unrepresented manuscripts. I collected many a rejection notice, including several personally written notices. Those were nice to get, and validating. The one that stuck out the most was the agent that was apologetic due to an honest desire to take on the project, save that he was already buried under a dozen. Actually asked if I would be okay with him holding my work in reserve, in case he was able to free up space on his plate. I don′t know how genuine it was, but it sure felt good.
It was during this that I also researched self-publishing, which had evolved a great deal from the old vanity presses where you had to buy a certain number of copies up front. Places like Lulu and CreateSpace, where you can do ebook, softcover, and even HardCover is you so wish (Lulu). All without an upfront cost.
I turned my attention that way, towards the Indie route, as I also learned that, even if I got an agent, I would lose a big chunk of creative control, and it would be far longer than I was comfortable with to make it to print; assuming it ever made it there. Indie puts all the work on me, but it also puts all the reward, minus production costs, on me. It is not a harder, nor easier route, it is a different route, and gives me the control and reward based upon my own efforts. Given that most agents and publishing houses now require an author to put in at least as much leg work as an Indie author in promotion, for less end reward, save a bit longer promotional reach, the draw of traditional as I learned more, waned.
Don′t get me wrong. I would love to see my books on a Shelf in Barnes and Nobel with a Baen or TOR logo on them, but I′d also like to see them on the big screen with Ridley Scott as the director. Dreams, right?
It’s said that to write well, you need to read a lot. What do you think?
I would agree with that statement, but that only has to do with the creation of ideas. The ability to express them, to reproduce them from brain to fingertips on keyboard to print, is a function of practice and many, many, MANY, abandoned stories.
Tell me what you feel the worst, and the best, aspects of being an author are, and why.
Best – The ability to get the damn characters to shut up and let me sleep. To see and hear people enjoying what I have written and wanting more.
Worst – The abject terror and self doubt of putting yourself out there. The ′What if …′ of every person that reads your work and might not like it, might even hate it. ′Is my writing good enough?′ ′Did I do a good enough job editing?′ ′Are they going to hate it?′
Are you a plotter, or a pantser? What do you think of the opposite approach?
Panster – Wasn’t familiar with the term until recently, but that is what I am without question.
I understand the plotter approach. Doing outlines, creating story-boards, etc…, but I cannot do that. I rarely know what is going to happen next, and have little control over the story other than what to, and not to, include as it unfolds in my minds eye.
I have only ever once known the end, generally, of one story, when I started. That was my short LitRPG experiment, Arcane. A short written to try and understand the genre. Even then, knowing told me nothing of the trip there.
Writing for me is best described as being the stenographer for my characters. I live their lives vicariously and record their experiences; their thoughts and feelings and emotions, when I am so blessed, or cursed, to share them. I am along for the ride, not directing things, and so, even when I think it should go one direction, they are just as readily able and happily sauntering off in very different directions, and I just have to follow.
There have been several sections, one in Regent specifically springs to mind, that I had a hard time writing, because I don’t get any kind of emotional separation from the characters. Even now, I have a hard time reading that section, because again, I am not afforded, even after the fact, a separation from the emotions the character was undergoing in that moment.
Do you hide any secrets in your books that only a few people will find?
Not deliberately. If they exist, I blame my characters.
Tell me about one favourite hobby or pastime that isn’t writing or reading.
Using my one artistic ability to draw the worlds that my writing takes place in. I cannot draw a straight line, but when scratching out a coastline, that is a good thing.
What are you writing at the moment?
Nothing at this actual moment. I am working on the finalization and formatting of Chaos Fountain for a hopeful publication by the end of 2017. Though Jassen of Homecoming, the crew of the Raptor, and the cast of Bridge Beyond, have all been trying to get my attention.
What’s your opinion on the belief that indie books are badly edited and lower quality than traditionally published?
This makes me sad and frustrated because there are such books that cause the rest to be painted with said brush. It does, sadly, have a grounding in fact. There are books out there that have no business being published, let alone up for sale, and yet they are there, and those horrific pieces of hackery create a harder road to haul for those that do put in the work.
I was asked to review one said work. I could not get through the first chapter before I had to tell the person that I could not review their work. Like others, I won’t review something that I would be forced to give less than at least 3 stars and be able to say more than two good things about in doing so. This book was up for sale, and not free. It was the very definition of what people point to when they make this point, and it can be hard to argue with at times, because these things do exist.
I totally understand having less access to professional editing services, cover artists, etc…, those are not cheap by any stretch and can be prohibitively so for some (me included). That just means that we have to work a lot harder to make sure our work comes up to par.
Those works make it harder for an Indie to get noticed, especially if you are going to use the free ISBN′s from Lulu or CreateSpace or ….. It means that you have to work that much harder to break free of the stigma that these types of work create for all Indie books. There are dozens, hundreds of fantastic Indie authors, people who have done the work, even without a professional editor. Who have spent the time, hours, and pain, to perfect their work to the point that they are potentially better edited than a traditionally published work. Yet, their books go unnoticed or barely noticed because of these.
This was one of the major decision gates when I made the choice to give up the mind numbing and discouraging hunt for an agent and to Indie. It is possible to shine despite this, and be the exception in peoples mind, it just takes work, and an unwillingness to give up.
What is your favourite genre to write, and why?
Science Fantasy or SciFan. I suppose this is because I see no reason that you cannot mix in some magic with your laser pistol. Chaos Fountain, Regent, Emperor, Raptor, and others qualify as Space Opera or more accurately a Hard SciFi Space Opera as I can give detailed descriptions of the technology used. Yet there is also the Fantasy aspect, as there are also Dragons, Magic, Gods, etc…, in my universe. I see no reason to limit myself, not that the characters and story would let me even if I wanted to.
If you could, would you live in the world you’ve created? Why / why not?
Chaos Fountain, Regent, and Emperor – I would jump at the chance. I know the world intimately, I know the technology, and I know I would be able to bring my family along with me later on, once I got myself established, because I know what is possible in that world.
Bridge Beyond, Homecoming – These I would have to think on, but I think I would probably end up doing so as well.
If you could go back to the start of your writing career, what is the one piece of advice you’d give yourself?
Writing it will be the easy part. Just keep at it.
Do you listen to music when you write, and if so, what do you like?
Always. The music is dictated by Muse. What he wants to listen to is what I listen to. Metal on some night, Rock, Happy Hardcore, Electronica, House and standard Techno, 3 Steps from Hell, etc… If one Genre is not letting things flow, I will flip the station until I hit something that does.
What was one of the most surprising things you learned in creating your books?
That I had so little control over where the story and the characters go. So many authors plan out their books, they know what is going to happen when, and just have to fill in the blanks. That is soooo, not my experience.
Tell me three unique things about you.
1) I have had several careers over my life thus far, and hope that professional writer will be one of them.
2) I am a science nerd of the highest calibre and am able to carry on conversations with professional physicists, chemists, etc…, without sounding like an idiot or getting lost when they dive into the deepidies of their profession.
3) If relation to the above. I am able to visualize and manipulate multi-dimensional structures in my head. I can visualize and work with 11 dimensional constructs that allow the folding of space into TARDIS like creations that are bigger on the inside than the outside. I can visualize down to the very fabric and quantum foam of space itself, and out to distances so great that the universe itself is but a point, a single Arc event amongst others within the 3D structure of the skin of the PWIC bubble that is our PWIC event, nestled out in the multiverse amongst other PWIC events.
D. C., thank you for participating in Galaxy of Authors!