Notes from An Alien

~ Explorations In Reading, Writing, and Publishing ~

Author Interview ~ Nathaniel Danes


Released Oct. 14: Nathaniel Danes’ The Last Hero, Book One The Last Hero

And, we have Nathaniel here today for an interview!

Let’s get rolling…

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Welcome to the blog, Nathaniel. Please tell us a little about your newly released novel.

Thank you for having me, Alex.

The Last Hero starts off a couple hundred years in the future after first contact with a race of pacifists has convinced humanity to make peace with itself and disarm.

When we first met the hero, the last Medal of Honor recipient, he’s selling insurance for his father-in-law. A natural warrior, he’s made the best of a demilitarized Earth and become a dedicated family man. He gets drafted back into active service after a third race destroys the New Earth colony, forcing a crash mobilization.

As he travels the galaxy fighting the war, he struggles with the internal conflict between his lust for battle and his father’s-heart which just wants to be with his daughter. And, the law of relativity comes into play, to complicate things.

There are big space battles and large-scale ground engagements—keeps the blood flowing; but, it’s a deeper story than just action—explosion—fire fight—explosion—the end.

I understand this is part of a series or larger universe…?

Absolutely! This is book one of a trilogy. I’m already editing book two and have the third and final installment worked out in my head.

What inspired you to write this story, Nathaniel?

I’ve always had an over-active imagination. As an adult I use it as a copping mechanism to deal with my encroaching blindness. I’m losing my sight to a genetic disorder. To escape this depressing reality I like to drift off and let my imagination go wild. I watch and read a lot of sci-fi which helps to plant seeds…

Eventually, I worked this story out in my head and had to get it out.

Do science and technology play an important role in this story (or in your work in general), or is it secondary to the story-telling and characterization?

If forced to rank them, I’d have to say they’re secondary, though technology certainly does play an important role in the story. It’s just not as important as everything else.

Do you have plans to expand the universe in this trilogy?

I’ve toyed with the idea of doing another series in this universe, but it’s way too early to commit myself either way.

Do you also write short stories, Nathaniel?

Can’t say I’ve ever written a short story. I like bigger plots and deeper history than can typically be achieved in a short story.

What advice would you give the aspiring writer?

Write and read and write some more.

For most people, myself included, it takes a lot of practice before you start to develop into a writer who people will want to read.

Also, find a friend who can read your work and give honest and educated feedback.

Lastly, don’t get discouraged. Success in anything rarely comes fast or easy.

Who’s your single, most influential author in science fiction and what impact have they had on our own work?

Hands down, Joe Haldeman.

To be honest, I’ve only ever read one of his books, The Forever War; but, that’s what got me hooked on military science fiction novels.

Reading is a challenge for me and I used to read only military history. The Forever War changed that and set me on the path that led to writing The Last Hero.

Do you have any other projects in the works not in The Last Hero‘s universe?

I’ve actually already written the first two books in another series that will come out after The Last Hero series has concluded.

And, something I’m sure our readers will want to know—your website?

NathanielDanes.com. And, your readers can read the first three chapters of The Last Hero for free :-)

Nathaniel, been a pleasure—much success to you, Sir…

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And, folks, here are a few more links for Nathaniel:
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Friday Poll ~ Are There Too Many Books In The World?


First, the results of last week’s poll—Should All Writers Blog? 

Too Many Books?

Image Courtesy of Maxim Lachmann ~ http://www.freeimages.com/profile/padrino

Top Vote at 50%—No.

25% for Maybe.

Almost 17% for Yes.

And, one vote in the “Other” category—“If they want to.”

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Now, with self-publishing in full swing, there are more books pouring into the world every day than ever before.

Leaving questions of the quality of this abundance of books aside , some folks think it’s harder to sift through it all to find something to read.

Some aren’t bothered by the flood and just grab what strikes their fancy first.

Some people are working very hard to keep up; and, they’re writing apps to help readers sift through the welter of choices…

So, this week’s poll—Are there Too Many Books In The World?

Again, it’s a real simple poll; but, there is that “Other” space to make the results more complex :-)

Now that you’ve voted, check out the article, “Are There Too Many Books?
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Is Professional Book Design Necessary for A Self-Publishing Author?


Self-Publishing is developing so swiftly that it can be hard to keep up with what it means.

Book Designing

Image Courtesy of Ove Topfer ~ http://www.freeimages.com/profile/topfer

Some folks claim it means writing, editing, designing, and printing a book essentially by yourself.

Some would say the printing can be outsourced but all the other tasks are up to one individual.

Some are now urging writers to consider hiring or trading services for a team of professionals to create the physical and digital book.

The most practical approach would seem to be doing, for yourself, what you can do or learn to do and then finding others for the rest, whether you pay them or trade with them—admitting that crowdfunding is possible and crowdsourcing of editing is beginning to be used…

But, what is “Designing” a book and does an e-book need the same design considerations as a print book?

Today, I’ll share information from two folks who’ve appeared, many times, in this blog—Joel Friedlander and Jane Friedman.

The first resource-link is How Much Attention Should You Pay to Book Design?

This is an interview of Joel by Jane and I’ll only give you the questions Jane asked and let you take the link to read Joel’s answers.

By the way, in case you aren’t a regular reader of this blog, Joel is a true Expert in Book Design with over 30 years experience.

Jane is “…the co-founder and publisher of Scratch, a magazine about writing and money, and is the former publisher of Writer’s Digest” with “15 years of  experience inside the book, magazine, and literary publishing industries.”…

Here are Jane’s questions:

I’m a firm believer in the power of design. I think it affects purchasing not just in obvious ways, but also on a subconscious level. So it often frustrates me when independent authors do their own design work to keep costs low. But I also understand the need to limit financial risk. Let’s say we have to make a compromise. What do you think an author might be able to accomplish reasonably well on her own (that has least potential to adversely affect sales), and what’s the No. 1 thing an author should hire a designer for (because of its potential to increase sales)?

What are the most common mistakes you see authors make when they design their own book interiors?

How can an author find a good interior designer who’s right for their book? How do you properly evaluate one?

When hiring a designer, how much should an author expect to spend for a typical trade print paperback novel (cover and interior)?

Should an author ever use design contest sites (e.g., 99designs.com)?

Do you think there should be a different cover design for print vs. electronic editions? What special considerations come into play for e-book covers?

If an author wanted to educate themselves on what constitutes good book design, aside from reading your blog, what resources would you recommend?

Even if you don’t take the link to read Joel’s answers, those questions should get you thinking about the issues involved in book design…

And, here’s the second resource-link—22 Top Book Designer Tasks for Getting Your Self-Published Book Into Print.

That article is from Joel, the guy with over 30 years experience in Book Design :-)
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An Award-Winning Author and An Angry Book Critic


It’s often said that a writer should not respond to egregiously bad reviews and criticism.

Paddy O'Reilly

Award-Winning Author, Paddy O’Reilly

That’s probably good advice—usually because someone who can find nothing good in a book should, out of simple humanity, say as little as possible; and, no one wins in a heated argument.

It may be considered good form to let folks know you’ve struggled with a particular book and why you abandoned it, like I did in my July 10th, 2013 post.

But, if someone were to disagree with my estimation of a book, I certainly wouldn’t argue with them—any book can spawn a vast range of reactions…

However, there’s nothing wrong with a third party speaking up on the author’s behalf to render a bit of justice concerning their talents and wide-spread approval.

First, let’s look at the Award-Winning Author, Paddy O’Reilly.

I’ve written about Paddy twice before:

My Best Friend’s Best Friend . . .

Modern Literature, Genre Bestseller, and Classic Tale

To help justify my complaint about the Angry Book Critic, let me share a few accolades for Paddy’s three novels:

The Factory did a rare thing: it turned an ingenious intellectual premise into a complex, gripping, flesh and blood story. It was full of ideas about history, art, ego and community, but these all emerged seamlessly from the pacy main plot.”
Australian Book Review

The Factory, the first novel by Melbourne’s Paddy O’Reilly, revealed a writer with a facility for delineating the complex and often subterranean behaviours of the hidden self.”
Sydney Morning Herald

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” … a line should be drawn under The Fine Colour of Rust as the pinnacle of the genre.”
The Australian

“At key moments, O’Reilly displays a deft poetic touch that elevates the prose from functional to transcendent… This is a story about love: where we look for it, what we do with it and how it shows up in the most unexpected packages. It is warm, moving and funny”
The Big Issue

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The Wonders, O’Reilly’s third novel, is a surreal and exotic thing, a finely wrought interrogation of the ways we navigate being human and the presumptuous shambles we make of much of it.”
The Australian

“O‘Reilly has a light touch when it comes to irony, allowing her to explore themes of difference, disability and celebrity in a way that is both playful and profound before changing gear and ramping up the psychological tension… O’Reilly pulls off a unique brand of magical realism with flourish.”
Booktopia Book of the Month

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It’s that last book, The Wonders, that recently received some undeserved vicious criticism…

And, just because Paddy’s books have received such great reviews doesn’t mean everyone loves them…

Now let’s get to know the Angry Book Critic, Marieke Josephine Hardy.

Ms. Hardy’s About Page has two things that enlightened me about her reaction to Paddy’s book, The Wonders:

When referring to her own collection of essays (Ms. Hardy that is), she says, “…you can probably read all about that shit on the front page of this website.”

Why is she being so self-dismissive? And, what could that portend about her judgements of others?

She also says: “She makes host Jennifer Byrne’s life an abject misery once a month on the ABC’s First Tuesday Book Club.”

It’s precisely an appearance on that T.V. show when Ms. Hardy becomes venomous about Paddy’s book…

Until November 6th, you can watch a video of that show or download it to watch later.

There are three other people on the show, all of them supportive, to some degree, of Paddy’s book, as is the host…

Yet, Ms. Hardy isn’t content to say she dislikes The Wonders, she’s more than willing to zealously argue with everyone else…

Ms. Hardy’s first egregious comment: “This is a terrible book.”

The audience immediately laughs, which to me says something about why someone like Ms. Hardy is included in a serious book discussion—folks sense she’s a ringer, not to be taken seriously…

Ms. Hardy continues with: “It’s a terrible, badly written book.”

Some of the others try to mitigate such brash appraisals (and, there are many more), to no avail—Ms. Hardy is correct and the rest of you be damned…

And, to “justify” her remarks (using a thinly-veiled insult about Paddy’s character), when mentioning she might run into Paddy on the streets of Melbourne, she says, “She’ll punch me in the face.”

The Wonders is available for Pre-order on Amazon and signed copies are already available in Australia

So, since Paddy wasn’t on that show and, since I doubt she would ever want to say a word to Ms. Hardy (let alone punch her in the face), I thought it would be helpful to share a video of her talking about her own book:


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Sick As A Dog, Yet Still Faithful . . .


One of my jobs is writing stories and books—another, blogging 5 days a week…

Today I am sick as a dog and have been struggling just to find the picture for this post…

I do love my work and bemoan that I don’t have the energy to do all the work needed for a real blog post…

It’s probably just the flu…

Perhaps tomorrow my body will cooperate with my mind and heart…
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