David “Diesel” Lagerford rides his T-box across timelines, where each stop is a parallel world with its own Diesel, wife Lilah, and daughter Rose. Its origin uncertain, the T-box is safe for any of the Diesels to use, and they do so to gather and bond in a tight brotherhood. But instant death awaits all other would-be travelers
I'm pleased to welcome science fiction author Doug J. Cooper to The Writing Desk:
Tell us about your latest book?
I write science fiction action/adventure stories where one of the central characters is an artificial intelligence. I’ve completed the four-book Crystal Series (book 1 Crystal Deception), with escapades that take us to the moon, Mars, and the asteroid belt, all led by Criss, a “good” AI who is friendly, cooperative, and moral.
I am now writing the Bump Time trilogy, a time-travel suspense series where amoral AI Ciopova wreaks havoc on the Lagerford family. I released book 1 (Bump Time Origin) in 2019 and just released book 2 (Bump Time Meridian) in May 2020. I am now deep into writing the third book (Bump Time Terminus), due out in 2021.
What is your preferred writing routine?
I am a creature of habit, so my routine is very regular. I get up early every morning and write for a few hours before I start my regular day. Sometime before noon, I find an hour to spend on social media, pleading with the world to read my books. In the late afternoon, I have a second, shorter writing session, often with a glass of wine before dinner.
I don’t outline or plan my stories beyond big picture ideas. I write the books in chapter order, developing the adventure as I go. In fact, a large part of my joy in the writing process is discovering what comes next for my characters. I honestly don’t know in advance, and just as I do when reading a book, I often laugh and sometimes cry when I learn their fate.
On top of that, I edit as I go, refining the passages I’ve written as I contemplate what comes next. The result of these habits is that my productivity is only a few hundred words a day, leaving me in awe of those who write thousands of words in a sitting. But with that said, my persistence leads to finished books. Three hundred words a day leads to a 100K word book in less than a year. I’ve done it six times and am enjoying working on book seven.
What advice do you have for new writers?
If your goal is to attract readers to your work, pace yourself. As in the realm of music, there are some authors who are “one hit wonders.” But the reality is that most people who develop a readership have been plugging away at it for many years. So keep writing. And when you finish a piece, enjoy an afternoon basking in your success, and then sit down and start the next one. They say you need to work at something for ten thousand hours to perfect it as a skill. If you write for twenty hours per week, every week, that will take you ten years.
Also, the longer you live, the more experiences you have to draw upon to make your stories more engaging. On a forum I recently read, someone wrote, “I just turned thirty-two and want to become an author. Is it too late for me?” I released my first book at age fifty-eight and will be sixty-five when my seventh book is released. I feel my collection of experiences make my stories richer. So don’t let age be a factor in your pursuits.
What have you found to be the best way to raise awareness of your books?
I wish I had a good answer to this because it is a persistent problem. Readers have so many choices, and finding ways to push my books above it all is difficult. The only reliable long-term method I have found is paid advertising. But advertising is so expensive, often costing me fifty cents every time a customer clicks just to look at my Amazon page, that I have not had a positive balance on my book-writing ledger for quite some time.
Recently I’ve had success giving away Crystal Deception, book 1 of the Crystal Series, with the thought that some will enjoy it enough to continue through the series. While it seems to be a winning strategy today, the publishing landscape is constantly shifting, so I remain vigilant for the next new marketing idea.
Tell us something unexpected you discovered during your research
As an engineering professor at the University of Connecticut, I have studied such a breadth of technology issues that I can handle the science part of science fiction without further research. Interestingly, most of my discovery comes from learning the nuances of grammar, book construction, and the like from my beta readers and editor. As a kid in school, I focused on math and science, ignoring language arts because it didn’t seem useful. Now I know better, and I’m enjoying learning.
I also have spent many hours reflecting on human-machine interaction as I decide how an AI should behave as a person, how it should interact with humans, and how it should behave in society. As the influence of AI grows in our society, the topic is both interesting and relevant.
What was the hardest scene you remember writing?
Death of a beloved character is very hard.
What are you planning to write next?
I am now enjoying writing Bump Time Terminus, the third book in the Bump Time trilogy, due out in 2021. After that, I’m thinking of going back into space, but deep space this time. I won’t know until I start writing, though, and I’m looking forward to finding out.
Doug J. Cooper
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About the Author
When he is not writing science fiction novels, Doug fills his day working as a professor of Chemical & Biomolecular Engineering at the University of Connecticut, and as founder and director of Control Station, Inc., a manufacturing plant optimization company. His passions include telling inventive tales, mentoring driven individuals, and everything sci-tech. He lives in Connecticut with his darling wife and with pictures of his son, who is off somewhere in the world creating adventures of his own. Find out more at Doug’s website crystalseries.com
and follow him on Facebook
and Twitter @crystalseries