Fridays 5 with B.C. Kowalski

B.C. Kowalski is a science fiction and fantasy writer living in Wisconsin. His published work includes the Robot Awareness series and the short story The Sand Runner, just released. He is an award-winning journalist in his day job and rock climbs, trains in martial arts and takes photos. His work combines science fiction with his experience in journalism, sports and sports writing and all the characters he's met along the way.

1.) When did you first get serious about writing?

A.)  It started with Anne Lamott's Bird by Bird. I hadn't written since I was a teenager. I think what the book accomplished was teaching me that it's OK to write something bad. You can always make it better later. It was a weight off my shoulders, and allowed me to get back into writing. Since then I started writing for my school paper as a non-trad, then started part-time as a sports writer. I graduated college and got my first journalism job. But since getting back to writing I've always written fiction too, in secret. Then I started talking about it. Then I learned about indie publishing, and realized I could just publish this stuff myself and keep writing. I've been doing that ever since.

2.) What is the hardest part for you about writing?

A.)  Honestly, it's not the writing (other than carving out time), it's everything after. I'm sort of in a catch up mode - I'm publishing stories I wrote a couple of years ago - no matter how much editing I do I can never get those stories up to my current ability. I'm a better writer than I was three years ago, so part of you wants to say "I'm proud of what you're reading now but I'm writing much better stuff now!" Cultivating a fan base is challenging too. It's small but the people who do read it seem to like it. It's getting your work out there in the first place that's hard; making yourself stand out in a huge crowd of indie authors. The marketing takes more work than the writing! (Which is why I haven't done a ton of it - I'm primarily working on building my body of work right now...)

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Synopsis: On the distant planet of Baando, a war rages between the United Alliance and the Veraqui, a ruthless race with a supreme hatred for humans, for the strategic stronghold in the war. Because of technology dampening fields, war is a primitive affair on Baando — no guns, no lasers, no advanced communication. Gina is a member of the UA’s elite Sand Runner program - a group of ultra-running scouts who can traverse the sands of Baando to check on enemy locations and deliver messages in a world that’s devoid of most technology. When Gina discovers a group of Veraqui has a prototype that could dissipate the dampening fields, giving the Veraqui a huge advantage, she’ll need to muster all of her training to deliver that crucial information to her superiors without getting caught by the Veraqui - a fate worse than mere death.

3.) How did you feel upon publication of your first completed project?

A.)  I'm a reporter and I've had new stories run in the USA Today, but selling a small number of copies of Robot Awareness, Part I was still one of the best feelings. Seeing the cover for the first time, making my first sales and getting that one review where the person really gets what I was trying to do - there's nothing that compares to those experiences. But it's mixed; it's a learning process. I thought all my friends would go out and buy my first book. Some did, but not most. But that's not who you're selling to, and you have to realize that. Getting a bad or mediocre review (only one three star so far, phew) can be tough.

4.) What is more important to you, story, or character? Why?

A.)  For me, it's always been about the characters. In my work, they dictate the story. It probably sounds silly, but I've started writing a section and been completely surprised by how it's gone. They go in a completely different direction than I expected. I used to read interviews with authors I liked and they would write about how their characters had minds of their own and weren't completely under the author's control. I always thought that was silly but that's exactly how it is for me now. To me that's the fun of writing. And the fun of reading. Dickens was the master of character, and definitely an influence.

5.) What is a typical day like in your world?

A.)  I'm lucky enough to be able to write for my day job. You very quickly get out of some very bad writing habits when you have editors . As a reporter covering government, then cops and courts, I've had the opportunity to meet plenty of people who've inspired plenty of characters over the years. The downside is that it can be tough to write all day, then go home and write some more. But since I've joined a weekly, it's a more relaxed schedule and I've found my writing production outside my day job has improved. Through my job I meet a variety of people, young, old, rich, poor, homeless, CEOs. People who are following their dreams, and people who have lost all hope. And they all influence my work. All of them.

Windows Birthday Part I

Windows Birthday

 She was too frail to carry her pregnancy to term, and the doctors had warned her that to give birth to the child growing in her womb would surely end her own life. What the doctors had not counted on was a stubbornness that ran counter to the frailty of her physical being. She was determined to have this child, no matter what, and William, who had pledged his fidelity to this child queen stood behind her every decision.

She had once been royalty, before the world they all knew ended, and she had used what resources she had at her disposal to bring them to this desolate place. Far from the danger that now stalked the remnants of a civilization that teetered upon the brink of extinction. Surrounded by dense forest and mountainous ridges that served as a natural barrier against any but the most determined foe. They had come to what was once a summer home but now served as a refuge from those who would do them harm.

The ladies screams filled the short hallway and William turned from the window he’d been gazing out of, watching the forest for anything that might threaten his charge. Doctor Forester was hurrying down the hallway towards him, the blue smock he wore pressed tight against his wide girth.

“You must speak with her William,” Doctor Forester said as he struggled to catch his breath, “she can’t go through with this, and I don’t have the facilities to save her if she does.”

“It was her choice, you know as well as I do how stubborn she is, besides it’s not our place to question her.” William returned to watching the forest.

“Is that all you have to say?” Another scream punctuated the doctor’s words.

“You better go to her, she’s going to need you,” William said without turning away from the window. It was the way of the world, fate was not as set in stone as many believed it to be. There was another reason they had come to this place. To follow a path the lady felt had been laid out for her.

He listened to the doctor’s footsteps retreating down the hall as another set approached. These were much more stealthy than the doctor’s had been, and in the window next to his head he spotted the reflection of a man dressed in camouflage clothing.

“Sir, the outlooks have spotted a group of riders approaching.”

“How long do we have?”

“About an hour.”

William nodded, dismissing the man as another scream cam from the room at the end of the hall, this one more primal than the others before, more terrified, and the sound tore at his heart. Though he may have been her personal bodyguard, nothing more than a well trained servant, he harbored a deep love for his charge. A love that would compel him to give his own life if needed to spare hers.

It wouldn’t be long now, and as her last scream faded to silence, another cry replaced it. That of a child, crying out for its first time as it took its first breath. Turning from the window William quickly strode down the hallway to the room at the far end.

Inside he found her, lying motionless in the massive four poster bed that dwarfed her small figure. Her eyes were closed, her hands folded over her chest, dark hair framing a delicate face. Doctor Morrison was pulling the blankets up to cover her head when William entered the room. He stopped him and knelt beside the bed, taking one of the lady’s hands into his own as his emotions surged at the sight of her dead body. Sorrow and anger battled for dominance as he bowed his head and placed her cold hand against his forehead.

I’m sorry. He thought to himself as he warmed her dead flesh with his own body heat. Then he stood, ready to do as she had asked.

“There isn’t much time,” William said, “give me the child.”

A nurse handed over a swaddled bundle and he looked down into a wrinkled face. From outside a shot rang out, followed by another.

“I thought you said we had time,” Doctor Forrester said.

“Obviously I was wrong,” William said as he turned to leave the room.

“What are you going to do with the child? What about her? What about us?”

“It’s now every man for himself, but remember your oath to her, just because she’s no longer with us doesn’t mean you’ve been released from your obligation. As for the child, that’s really none of your concern. The less you know the better.” With that he turned and raced down the hallway as the sound of booted feet came from the main entrance.

“Give us the child,” a familiar voice shouted as gunfire erupted in the entrance.

William raced down the rear steps, the bundled child held close to his chest as he fled through the house and onto the rear deck. Gathering up the reins of the horse he’d stationed there he pulled himself into the saddle as the sound of booted feet came from the deck above his.,

Hunkered down low he held the baby close to his chest as he jabbed the horse in its flanks with his heels, and sent it racing across the open ground towards the distant tree line.

If he made it to the forest he could lose his pursuers among the trees. A bullet whickered over his head as he neared the tree line. It was obvious they didn’t care if they hit the child, confirming his worst suspicions.

Then he was in the trees, darting to and fro to avoid the slender trunks as the sound of bullets pelted the leaves around him like a lethal rain shower.

Follow Windows adventures as he explores a post apocalyptic world with his three friends. 

Available exclusively at Amazon 
Read for free with Kindle Unlimited


Available exclusively at Amazon 
Read for free with Kindle Unlimited

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Monday Motivational: Writing as Obsession

When you step back and think about all the work involved in creating a three hundred page book, from thin air we build characters, worlds, and the interactions that bring them all to life, one begins to realize there has to be a degree of obsessiveness in each of us. It's what drives us every day to the key board, note pad, or typewriter.

But sometimes we let that obsession rule our lives.

A comment made by Christopher Matson in his Fridays 5 interview got me to thinking about the obsessive nature of writers, artists, and athletes, anyone really who works in the public eye who creates or performs.

"There is, after all a delicate balance between dedication and obsession. Isn’t there?"
-Christopher Matson..

Thomas, one of my regular visitors, a writer himself, responded with a comment that quoted Isaac Asimov.

Someone once told Isaac Asimov it must take enormous discipline to sit at the typewriter for long periods of time. To which he responded (paraphrased) "Nonsense. If I had any discipline, I would move away from the typewriter once in a while."

This from the same writer who once said: "I write for the same reason I breathe - because if I didn't I would die."

Sort of a ying and yang look at the two faces of a writer. The compulsion needed to create the work, balanced with the understanding that one must always be disciplined enough to step away from the keyboard.

There are no easy answers, no real cure, if you will, for the writers gift (curse). I use curse in the same context as gift because it is a gift that comes with its own set of problems. Is it the desire for fame and riches that push us onward, like compulsion that drives the lottery ticket buyer to purchase the same number every week, in the hope of one day hitting it big.

Are we kidding ourselves?

What do you think?

What drives you to the keyboard every day?

Fridays 5 with Christopher Matson

C.B. Matson is the author of the historical action novel, "Broken Sky" along with the upcoming sequels, "Cloven Earth," and "Moonlight and Darkness." Former incarnations have included mining geologist, commercial fisherman, civil engineer, mess-hall cook, surveyor and international port consultant.

He has lived much of his life in Colorado, California and Virginia, but he has also spent considerable time in Moscow, Bogota, Nagasaki and Dakar. When he is not writing, he enjoys walking, tinkering, and "... simply messing about in boats." C.B. Matson and his wife live on the water in Hampton Roads, Virginia.

Visit C.B. Matson's web page, for story synopses and upcoming releases. You can also follow him on twitter at @cbmatson or contact him at

1.) When did you first get serious about writing?

When? I could say always. That is, always serious about writing, about using it as a tool in my career and as a creative outlet in my life. My mother wrote, and my great aunt was a published author; I guess they just expected me to follow their lead. Of course, I didn’t. Rebellious child that I was, I became an engineer (and about a jillion other things) instead. But Richard, the foregoing dances around what I think you really want me to spill; that is:

When did I first believe I could publish creative fiction worth reading? Easy answer: 2013.
Longer answer: The key word is publish, that is write stories, and find readers; perhaps even fans. It was 2013 that I discovered the Mongoliad series of historical fiction by Neal Stephenson, Greg Bear, Mark Teppo and others. I also discovered Amazon’s Kindle Worlds, a self-publishing platform that encourages fiction related to plots and characters created by well-known authors. That is, fan-fic with one huge improvement; Kindle Worlds publications pay royalties and generate feedback, just like any other e-publication platform.

2.) What is the hardest part for you about writing?

Easy. Back to Question 1, publishing. The hardest part about writing for any new author is getting published; getting read and discovered and enjoyed. Writing for one of the Kindle Worlds gets me promoted to those Amazon readers who are searching out the “host” series authors. My personal objective is to build some readership and find out what works and what doesn’t. To do that, I know I must give my readers the best I’ve got. After all, it’s their eight, ten, twelve hours of precious reading time that they are giving to me.

Click on cover for more info or to order!

Synopsis: It is the year 1227; Chinggis Khan, Scourge of the East lies cooling in his grave... His sons ride for Karakorum at the heart of the Mongol empire where they will vie for the succession. Yet beyond the knowledge of any in Karakorum an unwanted child of war is driven from her people and forced to take up a new life as the half-breed niece of a Mongol Khan. When young Cnán is branded a witch and condemned to death by her adopted tribe, she must capture the heart of a young warrior if she is to survive.

Far to the west, Raef of Livonia faces a difficult choice between his values and his desire for vengeance. In a world turned upside down, Raef joins a secret brethren of warrior priests. He must take on their fight to defend what remains of civilization against a rising wave of greed and lawlessness. The ensuing turmoil sweeps Raef from his home and drags him into a world of old gods, warring factions, and sudden death.

Between these disparate cultures, the esoteric league of Binders pursue their own objectives. They know that the Mongol nation will soon move against the weakened Empire of Rome and they fear a world in flames if nothing is done. Through their shadowy intelligence web, the Binders hear of a legendary Red Messenger, destined to stem the Mongol invasion. Somehow, the Binders must contrive to bring the Livonian boy together with the half-breed Mongol girl -- for only together can they summon the Red Messenger.

3.) How did you feel upon publication of your first completed project?

Ha, I was so excited. The shy peeks at my manuscript, the loving touches; then, in that final moment of consummation: premature e-publication. What a let-down; the verbs were all passive, the prose was all stale, the typos triumfed, the run-on sentences ran rampant, and the adverbs prevailed valiantly. I’ve published two subsequent edits and have just finished another full comb-through of my first novel prior to issuing my second book in the series. However, having written and published (and re-written and re-published), I feel challenged to do it again and do it better. I’ve received great responses to my stories and requests for more (working on it, working on it…). All I can say is that good or bad, nothing can compare with the experience of that first novel hitting the street.

4.) What is more important to you, story, or character? Why?

Gotta be character. If the readers can’t identify with at least one character in your novel, they just won’t care what happens in your story. Love Gillian Flynn’s plot construction, fascinating; but in Gone Girl, her protagonists were exactly the kind of people I’ve spent my life avoiding. I finished the book and celebrated its dark conclusion, but didn’t really enjoy it. In comparison, I far preferred her Sharp Objects with its more vulnerable and sympathetic main character. I didn’t mean that as a criticism or endorsement of either book (and your opinions may differ). Rather, I mention it as an example of how character can engage some readers and alienate others.

Sympathetic characters are the most essential component of any Historical novel. The author must develop a team of protagonists who have a contemporary appeal, then place them in some fantastical setting of the past. Currently, I am writing about Medieval Asia Minor, where Mongol tribes clashed with the Egyptian Caliphate and secret societies were all that protected the civilized world. Add a bit of sorcery, a little dark religion, a few old gods, and then let loose the protagonists. Voilà, stuff happens… Oh, and what grand stuff; Historical has all of the wonder-factor found in Fantasy, but it comes with real artifacts and places one can actually visit. At the same time, Historical can provide many opportunities for plot action. If the story doesn’t move, then the characters will not develop and the all-important transformation of the characters cannot take place. Some books are “filled with sound and fury,” and that carries them along quite well, even if the protagonists remain static. I personally like plot-action and jam in as much as I can. However, before the end, the prots have just gotta step up and fight Dempsey or carry the ring to Mordor or somehow become astonishing if the story is to have any meaning.

5.) What is a typical day like in your world?

Richard, I guess those days I consider typical, are pretty dull: get up, jog (‘n think about next chapter), eat, commute, day job, commute, kiss dog and hug wife (or vice versa), dinner… and then write (yeah, I’m almost done with this chapter, Hon) write… (about another ten minutes, Hon) write… (okay, I’m saving and shutting it down now) snerxxx… In all truth, my family is very supportive of my madness, I just couldn’t manage without that. There is, after all a delicate balance between dedication and obsession. Isn’t there?