Guest post by James Stone, author of the spy novel, CRYPTO

I think my experience as a writer is unusual.

In the first place, I have read a lot of authors say they get a glimmer of an idea, start writing, let the characters develop, and let them pull the story where they will. My engineer brain completely rebels at that approach, which seems to invite writer’s block. But it seems to work for a lot of successful authors, so who am I to look down from my heights with one book published and criticize. It just won’t work for me.

Now that I’m freed from a regular job and am financially comfortable, my brain seems to be bubbling with ideas. I’m half-way done with a near-future Sci-Fi involving human-realistic robots. Unfortunately, their creator isn’t sufficiently careful with Asimov’s Laws and things go bad. Following on it’s heels is a sequel to Crypto, with the main characters moving on to cyber warfare.

I tend to see the entire book laid out in some detail. It’s almost as if someone has presented me with a screenplay and I set out to do a shooting script complete with story boards of the various scenes. Except I use Microsoft Project to lay out the sequences to make sure they all fit and synchronize with external factors, such as seasons and days of the week. Once I’m at that stage, I’m ready for the fun stuff, the writing. I really enjoy doing the dialog. I see in my mind the current scene and how the characters interact, almost like watching a movie play out. On a good day, with no disruptions, I can do a couple of thousand words. I keyboard. I have Dragon dictation software, but fingers on keys get my juices flowing; the mechanics of dictating tend to dry them up. A confession: my characters do sometimes tug in a different direction – back to Project to see how the new thing works.

Now my experience as a self-publisher. Many years ago, my wife wrote and illustrated an intermediate-age book. It ran 60-some pages, with a brilliant color illustration on most pages. The illustrations were folio-size in her original art. Those were the days when the art had to be sent off for color separations, which then had to be stripped into four objects that were then turned into printing plates for a four-color offset press. When you turn on the press, you can’t really shut it off at less than 500 copies. We, being optimists, ran 2000 copies. The result had to go to a bindery for Perfect Binding. We sent off samples to book sellers. The book was accepted into most of the mall book chains west of the Mississippi. At this point we learned the horrors of who gets what of the money pie, no-sale returns, etc. My wife did signings in most of the larger cities west of the Mississippi. Then we learned another lesson: the book was seasonal, which limited its year-round appeal. Bottom line, we took a major financial bath and still have closets full of the books. Recently, I took one apart and ran it through a high-quality scanner. It’s up on Amazon as an eBook, and we may do some promotion prior to Christmas.

Now my experience NOT self-publishing. I wrote the complete manuscript of Crypto because I had a primal urge to do so and sent it off for mandatory security review. Then I looked in Writer’s Market for a potential publisher. That was in February. I spotted an open window at Twilight Times Books and emailed the manuscript to them, along with a brief resume. The publisher, Lida Quillen, was immediately interested. A month later, I had a contract. Everything proceeded smoothly, resulting in a published eBook on Amazon Kindle and Barnes & Noble, trade paperback soon to follow. I can’t praise Lida highly enough. She has been personally attentive to lead me through my ignorance. The mechanics of editing, cover art, and whatever else was involved in my book turning up on Amazon Kindle were all handled by TTB. Not that I didn’t’ have a lot of interaction. Lida asked my image of cover art and then sent me multiple versions to choose from. And I thought I was a pretty good editor, but found there is a lot more to it than rooting out split infinitives. The editor made it a much better book. All-in-all Lida runs a top drawer operation.

Title: Crypto
Genre: Mystery/Adventure
Author: James Stone
Publisher: Twilight Times Books
Purchase on AMAZON 



Dr. Stone has a Ph.D. degree in electrical engineering, and numerous international certifications in computer security. He has worked at NSA, NASA, and the Department of Defense in various capacities, as well as having been a professor of engineering at a major university.-He recently retired from engineering and plans to devote himself to writing.

Dr. Stone is originally from Arkansas, discovered his wife while at the University, married her while in college, and has never regretted a moment of their lives together. They currently live in Arizona, have two grown sons (one with a Ph.D. in computer engineering and the other is a clinical psychologist and director of a clinic at a major university medical college). Between the two of them, there are five grandchildren, three of them triplets.

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