The Outstanding Mr. Robbins

montage of covers of M.R. Robbins zombie series

So who doesn’t like zombies, right? I always jump at the chance to read some new zombie fiction, so for over a year (feels like it anyway), since I chatted with Mike at the 50booksto20k Vegas convention I pined for his’s new series. I pine no more, It’s finally here! And Mike has agreed to an interview.

When, how did your writer career start?

Back when I was in High School I decided that’s what I wanted to do. I was into Poe and Lovecraft and my first attempts at writing were to try to sound like them. Didn’t work. Fast-forward almost 40 years later and I started doing it seriously, learning and working on my craft. The result was my first book, The Tilt. Took 3 years, but it’s a book I’m proud of.

Why zombies?

The best monsters are those that were once human. But unlike vampires and werewolves, zombies can’t hide among us. I also tend toward fast-paced, action stories and nothing will get things started faster than a zombie horde threatening a small band of survivors.

How is your zombie , tale different from the rest?

The location of the first book is the tundra of Northwest Alaska. The way the zombie plague starts is pretty unique. There’s a mass grave of 19th-century sailors that becomes uncovered as climate change melts the tundra and the sailors rise.

Favorite zombie movie?

The original Dawn of the Dead. It was the first movie in the franchise that was in color, and while I wouldn’t want to see Night of the Living Dead in anything but black and white, the color added another dimension.

You live in Alaska did you find that it helped your creative process or was it a struggle? I’m imagining a writer in a tiny home almost swallowed by a landscape of snow. And of course, surrounded by caribous and wendigos.

It helps my writing that the winter’s so dark and cold. I’m not much of a winter sports person, so I spend more time writing during that time of year. Of course, the opposite is true in the summer. I want to be outside and the sun’s up almost all night during the lightest time of the year. I have to force myself to sit inside and write.

What will your next project be about?

I’ve got three books done in the Zombie Uprising series. I have two more planned right now, but that could expand. I can’t control my characters and they often go off in a direction I hadn’t expected that requires another book or two. I plan on going back and finishing The Tilt series. And I have one new series that I’m letting ferment in my subconscious. I don’t want to get specific and jinx it, but I find it a fascinating premise.

One piece of advice for newbie writers?

Decide what type of story you want to write, then find out what the readers want out of it. Without considering the readers, you’re likely to be writing for yourself. While that’s perfectly OK, I really like the reader feedback. I urge my readers to email me and let me know what they’re thinking. That way I can keep producing books that we both like.

 

Cover of book The Awakening The Gauntlet book cover The Citadel book cover

If you’d like announcements of FREE offers, new releases, and exclusive content, please sign up at http://uprising.marobbins.com. You can also find him at www.marobbins.com or get all the links and info from his amazon author page

The talented Ira Heinichen

I first became aware of Ira’s work when I saw the book with the fantastic cover by Tom Edwards. Let’s face it’s the cover that sells the book and this one was very, very cool. It was for the first book of the Starstuff trilogy! The book is ready for you to read, right now (On kindle unlimited even!) I wondered at the time who the writer was, never thinking I’d meet him, and then had the pleasure to meet Ira and the missus at the Vegas convention. Believe me, again, he’s a charming and kind person and you’d love to meet him too. He took the time to answer a few questions for NPH so…hear what he has to share and enjoy!

part of the cover of book Startstuff

What’s your newest book that’s coming out?

I’m currently working on the second book in my scifi Starstuff Trilogy, called “Escape from Red Tower.” Very excited!

What made you decide to jump in, write your first book and go public?

You know, I can actually trace my desire to be a published author back to middle school. I was a huge Star Trek nerd, and I was huge into Star Trek books…so I started writing one of my own. I never finished it because I learned there were these little things called “submission guidelines” and I was breaking two or three of them with my story idea (of course!)…but that was just one stop on a long journey as a storyteller as I grew up.

Most recently I was writing screenplays, trying to break into writing for television and I had an idea for a novel. It was something I’d always wanted to come back to after halting the process all those years ago and never finishing…and I loved it. LOVED. IT. Writing prose, for me, is so much more satisfying than writing for the screen, they’re very different mediums, and it was around that time I started learning about self-publishing and all the possibilities and successes. I mean, people were making very healthy livings selling their own books, and that was something that really, really appealed to me.

So…I made the plunge. So happy I did.

What’s the hardest thing about your publishing journey so far?
Believe it or not, it’s been setting my regular writing routine. When I was writing my first book, I had very small goals for myself; three pages a day. I did that for just over 3 months, and I had my novel’s first draft written. Granted, it took me just over twice that long to revise and re-write it, but those small little bites each day were very easy for me to stick to, and the idea of writing a book a year was imminently doable.

Now that I know more about writing and publishing, I know just how FAST some of these self-pubb’d authors are, churning out a book a month, some of them more. I’m definitely one of those people that’s like “well, sh*t, if they can do it, I can do it,” and I tried to replicate that kind of output.

I failed.

I can’t write that fast yet. I may never be able to write that fast. I really like to work and re-work my stories; even though I write what the industry would consider being “genre fiction,” which has the reputation of being rather pulpy and not that sophisticated, I do have a passion for good well-executed storytelling, and I try as much as my skills will allow me to write such stories myself. And that takes time.

So, my current struggle as I write my second-ever book is really figuring out what exactly my writing process is on a daily basis, and how long all the aspects of that process take me. Once I feel comfortable with all that, I feel like I can really aim to go faster…but I’m not there yet.

What would you tell to someone who’s just starting?

First of all: DO IT. Write that book. If you *want* to write a book, you should *write* it. It’s an incredible process of self-expression and discovery.

My next piece of advice is for anybody who writes a book and wants to be a professional at it: figure out your process. Don’t put the cart before the horse and learn all there is to know about marketing and publishing or plan out a years’ worth of releases when you’ve only got one or two books out. Keep your headspace where it needs to be: on the writing. The writing is the most important thing. Everything comes from the writing. Everything.

What other creative outlets do you practice?

Other than write, I do a podcast called “Two Guys One Trek” – it’s a journey through the original Star Trek series from the 1960s with my long-time comedy partner, who’s never seen it — you only get to watch something for the first time once, and we do it live on microphones!

You can check it out at www.twoguysonetrek.com

Where can we find out more about and your projects?

You can find me, my books, and my daily blog on my website, www.iraheinichen.com.

Thank you so much!

A chat with Tom Edwards Pt.2

Image of a giant robot, End of Liberty, all images copyright Tom Edwards

What do you use for your work, do you have favorite software? I love Blender for 3D art and it seems a majority of artists use Photoshop, what do you use?
Most of my work is created in Photoshop. I use Zbrush a lot, as well as Keyshot for rendering.

I see that more and more artist are trying to get away from the Adobe “Creative Cloud”, I am playing with the idea changing to ClipStudio, have you tried different applications?
I’ve used lots of programs in the past, but I’ve always come back to these. I don’t mind paying for Photoshop monthly as you get constant updates. I’ve tried Painter in the past, but I found it quite cumbersome, especially when client work requires a streamlined workflow.

If you use 3d models in your art. what do you use to create them?
I use a mixture of Zbrush and 3D Coat. I create the bases for the ships, then apply a lot of paint over the top. This stops them looking too ‘CG’ and allows me to have my own style.

What is your process from the time a client contacts you, until completion?
I normally receive a brief from the client first. From this point, I paint a rough for the cover. After any feedback, I begin to detail the cover. I’m constantly sending progress shots to the client throughout the process, allowing changes and feedback after the rough stage. When the client and I are happy with the finished artwork, I work on the text if it’s needed. I have a background in graphic design, so I feel my skills allow me to compliment my own artwork well.

Free Trader of The Warren Deep, cover.

When I looked at covers for my flagship Free Trader series, I researched the bestsellers in the genre. Most sported Tom’s covers. I was elated when he agreed to do the first three in that series, and then he did six more for that nine-book story arc. I’ve also picked up a bunch of Tom’s pre-made covers and I’m still first in line when new work appears. All potential readers see your cover first. Make it the best you can. Tom is easy to work with and one of the best in the business.

Craig Martelle, Author of many, many, many books.

How much time do you normally allow per project?
I allow 2 weeks (including weekends) for most projects. This gives chance for feedback and changes. If a client needs it done quickly, I can accommodate this too.

What’s your creative process when tackling a new assignment, do you sketch out your ideas first on paper or go directly to digital?
Normally I go straight to digital. It allows me to quickly paint something that will look more like the final cover. I re-read the brief and try to picture the scene in my head for a few minutes. I then try to get my idea down and quickly and accurately as I can. This rough is then sent to the client for approval.

What do you use for your digital art, Wacom tablets? Desktop or another type of tablet for artists?
I use a Wacom Intuos Pro and a windows PC. I used to use a Mac, but I needed extra power for the 3D work I do. I’ve always used Wacom as a brand and would love a Cintiq one day.

Hardest and best part of being your own boss and artist?
For me, it’s being on my own for most of the day. I used to work in a game studio, and I enjoyed then comradery and banter with other artists. Constant feedback from other artists was good too, and I feel I grew a lot as an artist while I was there.

Do you need a degree to become a successful artist?
No. I have a degree, but I wouldn’t say it’s helped me much at all. Constant practice and a love for what you do will have a much bigger impact. It’s all about the artwork you put out, not the level of degree you have written on a piece of paper.

For the writers out there, check this pre-made covers ready for your fiction. What? Sold already? Reach out to Tom and he’ll get  you a fresh one 🙂

All images, copyrighted by Tom Edwards