Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Guest Author Walter Knight

First off, I should let you all know that I am blogging at Burrowers, Books & Balderdash today. But HERE, we have a guest!

Walter discovered me through the Amazon Breakthrough Author circuit and thought maybe all of YOU might be a good audience to hear about his stuff. I suspect he's right—he is mid-series in a string of humorous Sci-Fi novels and seems to be hitting a unique niche somewhat along the lines of Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy (meaning humorous Sci-Fi).

But I will let HIM tell you all about it...

Welcome Walter!


America's Galactic Foreign Legion is a 13 book humorous science fiction series depicting the adventures of a compulsive gambler who has been tricked into joining future America's Foreign Legion when war breaks out on a distant colony with spider-like alien invaders.  Humans and aliens end up sharing "Planet New Colorado, and I use military, gambling, and culture clash themes to spin a humorous tale of humans and aliens forced to live together.

"We can't just get along."  America not only brings its Foreign Legion across the stars, but also brings drugs, alcohol, Taco Bell, KFC, Walmart, Nike sportswear, graffiti, the Mafia, football, baseball, casino gambling, sports betting, TV, interspecies sex (yuk), terrorism, and much more.  Fortunately, the spider aliens are compulsive gamblers and copy cats.  America uses not only its military industrial complex, but also its culture, to try to defeat the evil spider empire.  One of my favorite scenes is when aliens riot outside of Walmart waiting for the doors to open early on Black Friday.  It's a fun read.

I am a first time author, so the publishing business is new to me.  My first book, "America's Galactic Foreign Legion - Feeling Lucky" was published by a small press, Penumbra Publishing, in January 2010.  "Feeling Lucky" got a nice boost when world famous Sci/Fi writer Piers Anthony gave me a favorable review on his website www.hipiers.com January newsletter saying, "It's wild, improbable, but great adventure."  See Piers' website for the full review.

In April 2010 my 2nd book of the series America's Galactic Foreign Legion - Reenlistment was published.  Up until this time sales had been slow, with a few paperbacks sold every few days.  Then all of a sudden there was an explosion of sales, from an unexpected source.  In July I sold 100 Kindle books.  In August I sold at least 200 Kindle books the first 15 days, and sales are escalating.  That is a big deal for a small press and a first time author.

Sales are boosted by favorable Kindle sales rankings that are updated every hour for every Amazon Kindle book.  Sales and sales ranking seem to feed on each other.  My 3rd book, "AGFL - Silent invasion" was published August 9, 2010, and immediately started selling well, boosted by the already well selling first two books.  I see Kindle sales as the savior of small publishers.  And, I expect Kindle ownership to double this Christmas.

Now I'm selling 10-plus books per day with only three books out so far, and it appears sales are increasing.  It's a good start in a very tough field.

About me?  I live in rural Washington state with my family on 7 acres of field and forest atop a hill, my privacy guarded by my dogs, cats, horses, and fish.  I served three years in the army back in the day, and graduated from the University of Puget Sound School of Law (also back in the day).

The most common question I'm asked is:  You wrote 13 books?  Yes.  I wrote the books over a two year period while at the same time trying to find a publisher.  I'm sure writers out there can identify with that.  Anyway, by the time Penumbra Publishing accepted my writing, I was attaching a a dozen manuscripts to each query letter.  At first they were skeptical, but as they read each manuscript, the quality of writing remained good.  Oh, I had forgot to mention in my query I wrote humor, so that took Penumbra by surprise.  They thought as first they were reading another "Starship Troopers," but found something quite different.

Excerpt from Chapter 1: Feeling Lucky

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, planets, asteroids, alien species, evil empires, galaxies far, far way, or future events and incidents, are the product of the author’s imagination, or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons or aliens, living or dead, events or locales including those on Mars and New Colorado, is entirely coincidental.

The bright and seedy United States Galactic Federation Spaceport & Casino was noisy and busy as usual, crawling with typical characters I’ve come to recognize. The lonely, the bored, the desperate, the broke, and of course the addict needing another gambling fix. I’ve come to know them all because they are all me, in some way or another. But that wasn’t my concern tonight. Tonight, the good ol’ United States Galactic Federation Spaceport & Casino was gonna be my ticket off Old Earth.

And what was my big hurry to get outta Dodge? Loan shark Bubba Jones has signed affidavits to have me picked up for not paying back my loans. Jones also paid the $25,000 needed to allow lethal force should I resist arrest. With Bubba, it seemed like everyone resisted arrest. The man holds a grudge. It didn’t seem right, but it was all legal, signed by the judge and notarized. Anyway, what do I know, I’m not a lawyer. If there was any good news about the fix I was in, it was that the warrant for my arrest was civil in nature, and only bounty hunters could arrest me. The police wouldn’t get involved in the whole sordid affair.

I would not be trapped on Old Earth like some rat in a maze, scrambling about with no money. No money means your life is nothing, and that was not how it was going to end for me. I had a plan. It cost $100,000 to take a shuttle to Mars, $50,000 more if I wanted to be beamed to Mars. I had $50,000 in my pocket, and I was halfway there. I was on a win streak, playing craps at the casino. How could I lose? By making ‘field’ bets, and increasing my bet whenever I lost, my progressive betting scheme was finally paying off. Dice rolls of 2 (pays double) 3, 4, 9, 10, 11, and 12 (pays triple) were winners, while 5, 6, 7, and 8 won for the Casino. How many times could I lose in a row if I kept doubling my bet? Eventually I’d have to win. Right? But it seemed like a losing streak always had a way of sneaking up on me. Now, with only $25,000 left, and all of it out on the table, I was getting real nervous. My pulse pounded, and I was soaked with sweat. The dice rolled…

Five? No! No, no, no! Why does this always happen to me?

I was broke and still on Old Earth. I looked around frantically. The couple sitting next to me laughed garishly, reminding me of evil clowns. I pushed away from the table.

Now what? Get more money from an ATM? Sure. Why not? I was already screwed – why not go all in? I found a Galactic Technologies Corporation ATM to borrow another $50,000. Approved! Outstanding! My credit and good name were still intact. Of course, if I didn’t pay the money back, I’d be working on an assembly line for the GT Corporation for the next two years. But that would never happen. I’d skip out first. Anyway, gamblers are a naturally optimistic lot. It’s our weakness. It’s my weakness.

I put all $50,000 down on a craps field bet and the dice rolled…

Six? Six! No one could have this much bad luck!

My shoulders slumped. I had to get out of here. No! I can’t handle this! I staggered, my knees weak, but I had to get it together. I couldn’t let Bubba find me.

Then a voice called out, “Psssssst, psssssst! Hey you, Big Spender. Need some money?”

“Who said that?” I looked around, but didn’t see anyone. I patted the gun under my coat for reassurance.
“Who do you think? Look over here. If I was a snake, I would have bit you.”

I spied the ATM tucked away in the corner by the cashier’s cage. A surge of optimism coursed through me as I read the lettering on the ATM: ‘United States Galactic Federation Foreign Legion.’ “Are you for real?” I asked.

“Of course I am for real,” said the ATM. “I am the last ATM you will ever need.”

I snorted derisively.

“I’ll extend you $100,000 credit. Right now. On the spot. What do you say? It’s so easy to make your financial problems go away.”

“I don’t think so. I’m no fool. I heard there was a war about to start somewhere.”

“There is always a little war about to start somewhere,” the ATM responded. “What are you, chicken?”

“Don’t call me chicken. I know how this works. If I don’t pay back the loan, it means I just enlisted in the U.S. Foreign Legion.” I was ready to walk away. “Do you think I want that?”

“Come closer and read the details. I will give you a written contract. You can pay the money back anytime you want – this month – and spend it any way you want. Who knows, Big Spender, you might get lucky at the craps table,” added the ATM.

“You know about that? Craps is my game.”

“I know a lot of things. I know you owe the GT Corporation $50,000. You owe Bubba Jones another $50,000. I know Jones is upset and will be here in about thirty minutes,” said the ATM, smugly.

“What do you mean Bubba will be here in thirty minutes?” I asked, my suspicion growing.. “How do you know that?”

“I called him,” replied the ATM.

“You did what?” I reached for my automatic pistol, wanting to shoot the ATM. That wouldn’t be practical in a crowded spaceport. I quickly calmed myself, looking about to see if anyone had noticed my little slip of temper. I seemed to be invisible to the revelers and staff.

“Vandalism will not help your situation, Mr. Czerinski. Bubba and his thug bounty hunters will be here very soon, and you still have some tough financial decisions to make.” A tray extended from the ATM. “Put your thumb on the pad. Take the money. It’s only $100,000. You can pay me back anytime this month.”

I put my thumb on the extended pad, and a pin prick drew blood, splattering it over the glass pad. “Ouch!” I drew away, holding my thumb. “Was that necessary?”

“Enlisting in the United States Galactic Foreign Legion is a serious matter. But you are right. Signing your contract in blood was a bit dramatic. Politicians came up with that idea to test your sense of humor. You have about twenty minutes before Bubba Jones gets here.”

“Aren’t you the least bit concerned Bubba might catch up and kill me?”

“Of course I am concerned,” the ATM said with seeming genuine feeling. “That’s why I keep telling you Bubba Jones is coming. My recruitment quota for the month will be set back if Bubba Jones kills you.”

“You’re facing quotas?” I did some quick calculations and realized I might end up short-changed. “Well, I want twice that. I want $200,000.”

“You are not worth that much,” said the ATM. “I have to justify the expense if the Legion gets stuck with you.”

“Haven’t you heard of inflation?” I argued. “A hundred thousand dollars will hardly get me anywhere these days. And it’s just a loan. I’m not actually enlisting. I’ll pay it back.”

“So you say.” The ATM sounded a bit sarcastic.

“I have lots of military training. I’m worth the extra $100,000.”

“Military records indicate you have some prior experience,” conceded the ATM. “You were in the Arizona National Guard back in the day?”

“Yes. They’re a rough and tough outfit.”

“I’m sure,” said the ATM. “Records show you did not earn your Infantryman’s Badge. How did you manage to avoid combat along the California border?”

“I saw combat,” I insisted. “It’s just that my captain was too lazy to do the paperwork, and my remaining enlistment was too short for me to care. I just wanted out.” “I do not believe your explanation,” challenged the ATM. “Among other faults, you are a compulsive liar.

“It’s the truth. Let God Almighty strike me down with lightning if I’m lying.” Just as I swore this oath of truthfulness, a baggage handler slammed a cart into a railing with a loud crack. I flinched and ducked down, thinking for a second that God had called me out. I looked around. All was still good in the world. There were no lightning bolts, yet.

“Your company commander, Captain Hill, described you in an evaluation report as resourceful, but not a team player. He said, and I quote, ‘Corporal Czerinski never sees the big picture.’ What did Captain Hill mean by that?”

“All officers talk that way,” I said, dismissively. “I was a corporal. Corporals aren’t supposed to see the big picture. We are just supposed to keep ourselves and our men alive for the day. You know, take cover and don’t get shot.”

“Your psychological profile says you may have a drinking and gambling problem. Is that true?”

“Gambling problem?” I asked. “No way. It’s not a problem as long as I win. Are you going to loan me the money or not? There are plenty of other ATMs out there who want my business.”

“I know your type,” said the ATM. “You like to take short cuts. I am going to lend you more money than you are worth, just to make a point. You will squander your money trying to show everyone how smart you are. Then you will be mine.”

“I’m smart enough to stay out of the Foreign Legion,” I challenged. “That’s all that matters. I’m feeling real lucky. I can’t lose.”

“I am going to enjoy watching you crash and burn,” said the ATM. “It will get ugly.”

“What kind of an ATM are you? You have a screw loose? When was the last time you had your diagnostics checked?”

“As long as my recruitment quotas are up, everyone is happy,” bragged the ATM. “I do not need my diagnostics checked. I feel fine. Take your money.”


Old Kitty said...

I love the talking ATM!!

Thank you Walter Knight for a fun interview and a crazy extract of from your novel! Thanks Naked Tart for introducing me to a new author! I am scraping my jaw off the floor at how prolific Mr Knight has been! It's so good to read too that reviewers have helped sales of his saga! I shall browse through for print copies - I'm very sorry but I continue to resist the kindle in all its form but I really really wish Walter all the very best!! By the strength of this extract - he won't need too much for his series to be a blockbusting best seller!

Take care

Dawn said...

Great excerpt! Thank you for sharing.

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

I'm going to look for these books!

Hart Johnson said...

Alex-I thought these might be right up your alley! Thanks gang, for stopping by today!

jenny milchman said...

That is truly amazing, Walter. Congrats. Your output and its ultimate success are inspiring.

Hart, [tugging your sleeve], ask Walter to write a Made It Moment for me!!

Walter Knight said...

Thank you Hart for featuring my Sci/Fi series America's Galactic Foreign Legion. And thank you all for your kind comments.

I just got bac from my vacation to Reno, Las Vegas, Grand Canyon, Brice Canyon, Indian ruins, Jackpot, Salt Lake City (to visit a wayward niece), Pendleton, Yakima, and a lot in between. Even I am not up to date.

I am expecting book four "AGFL - Demillitarized Zone" to be out any day. In August sales topped 500 (mostly Kindle books), and September is looking good too.

AGFL is Science Fiction with humor, wo I have posted comments on a new thread on Amazon so readers are not taken by surprise. AGFL is not your grandfather's science fiction. The human alien culture clash issues explored throughout the series was a lot of fun to write, and I made an effort to make fun of everyone I could, including myself in a cameo apperance.

I encourage new authors to keep writing no matter what anyone else says to you. I ended up attaching a dozen books to queries because I kept writing through all the rejection answers. Finally the shear volume of my work attracted attention, and I ended up having to turn down some publishers because I found myself under contract.

Penumbra Publishing has a great editor in Pat Morrison who cleans up my grammar, spelling, and tense problems. Penumbra is new enough to treat authors fair, so I encourage all to query them. I did not expect to get rich publishing with a small press, but now, I am optimistic.

There are more sample chapters on my website at www.waltknight.yolasite.com. I hope you all enjoy what you read. It's not serious drama, but I am serious about getting all 13 books out in about two years. I'm working on book 14, but editing the others is slowing me down.


Walter Knight

Walter Knight said...

A follow-up:

The "America's Galactic Foreign Legion" is doing very well now, selling 2500 books in just January of 2011. Thank you all for your interest.