Notes from An Alien

~ Explorations In Reading, Writing & Publishing ~

Tag Archives: Ask The Author

Ask This Author Some Questions . . .

Asking authors questions has never been so easy—assuming the author is open to the idea…

GoodReads Ask The Author

Image courtesy of Chris Baker ~

I’m sure readers have questions for authors—about characters, why things happened the way they did, when the next book will be out…

And, authors often have questions for other authors—some exactly the same as other readers—some about specifically Writerly topics—how to, or why to, or when to, or other issues that impact a writer’s life…

It’s one thing to read an author interview or other articles where authors convey information—quite another thing to ask direct and specific questions.

Back in June, I wrote the post, Asking Authors (and Readers) Questions . . .

An excerpt:

“If you could ask Margaret AtwoodKhaled Hosseini, or James Patterson anything, what would it be? Maybe you want to know their writing inspiration, what they read as a guilty pleasure, or you have a burning question about one of their bestsellers. Now’s your chance because these three are among the 54 major authors who are helping us launch an exciting new program on Goodreads—Ask the Author!”

So, since they opened the program up to any Goodreads author, I gave it a try—read that last as “A Big Fail” :-)

I thought I’d activated the Ask The Author program but only succeeded in creating a group I called Ask The Author :-(


I finally figured it all out.


First you have to sign-up as a Goodreads Member (free).

You could stop there and explore all the benefits of the most popular site for Readers…


You could go to my Ask The Author page :-)

I’m open for any and all questions—why I write, how I write, what I read, why I’ve written my books, what’s next…

Be aware, though, if you ask me a question that needs a specific bit of “advice” about writing, I’ll answer it, but in a way that makes you ask yourself a few questions :-)

Also, if you hate Goodreads, just use my email—right down there in Red text…
[Big Secret: I’m working on a permanent Forum for questions, answers, and conversations…]
To Leave A Comment, Use The Link At The Top-Right of The Post :-)
For Private Comments or Questions, Email: amzolt {at} gmail {dot} com
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Asking Authors (and Readers) Questions . . .

Not long ago, I wrote a post about GoodReads new Ask The Author program.

GoodReads Ask The Author

Image courtesy of Chris Baker ~

Well, not only can you ask over 50 well-known authors questions, now you can ask any authors (there are over 100,000) who sign-up for the program.

Here’s just a bit from GoodReads article about the program:

“If you could ask Margaret AtwoodKhaled Hosseini, or James Patterson anything, what would it be? Maybe you want to know their writing inspiration, what they read as a guilty pleasure, or you have a burning question about one of their bestsellers. Now’s your chance because these three are among the 54 major authors who are helping us launch an exciting new program on Goodreads—Ask the Author!

“Ask the Author allows readers to ask questions and get answers from their favorite authors. At Goodreads, we believe the relationship between authors and readers is very special. Authors tell stories and create worlds that spark the imaginations of their readers. Now readers can deepen that connection by asking questions about the new worlds, ideas, and people they’ve discovered in books.”

Also, GoodReads says they’re starting a companion program called Ask The Reader :-)


Next Sunday, the 22nd of June, from Noon til 4pm EDT (USA), you can ask me questions—about my books or my writing life.

Next Monday, I’ll let you know what happened………

BTW, you can avoid going to GoodReads to ask me questions by using the Comments section of this blog :-)
To Leave A Comment, Use The Link At The Top-Right of The Post :-)
For Private Comments, Email: amzolt {at} gmail {dot} com
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Authors Answering Questions

I’m sure most readers have all kinds of questions for authors, mostly because I’m a reader, too (and, though I’m certainly different from most folks, it’s said we’re All more alike than we’re different…).

I’m also an author and I have questions I ask myself, from my “reader’s perspective”.

Here are a few about my last book:

“Why did I write that book?”

“Why did I decide to spend so little time on so many characters in so few pages?”

“Why did I choose to put the action on a planet 12 light-years from earth?”

“Why were there so many different kinds of religion?”

“Why did I use plasma as a means for communication?”

If you click on “Notes from An Alien” in the Top Tags widget in the left side-bar, you’ll probably find answers to those questions

Or, you could click on the tab at the top of the blog that says “Behind The Scenes”

Or, you could click the link in the upper left that says “Contact Me”

And, it appears that, one day, you could head over to GoodReads and ask me there, too.

Right now, there are 54 authors in the Ask The Author program but, eventually, it will be open to the roughly 100,000 other authors on GoodReads.

Here are some author responses to the program, from an article on The Washington Post (owned by Jeff Bezos, owner of Amazon, which owns Goodreads):

Ayelet Waldman — “In-person events are wonderful fun, but it’s been clear to me for a while that it makes no financial sense to send a writer halfway across the country to read at a bookstore. I love doing it, but publishers are (rightly) becoming resistant.”

Joe Finder — “The Internet has made writers incredibly accessible to readers directly, and Goodreads members are a particularly passionate and engaged group of readers — and book buyers. ‘Ask the Author’ seems to be a good way to bring authors in contact with readers. I particularly like the way authors can ‘cross-post’ — ask each other questions, engage with each other. So far it seems not particularly time-intensive.”

Lev Grossman — “I can’t see this ever replacing readings. Words are all well and good, but at a reading, readers want flesh.”

Do you ask authors questions?

If it were easy to do it, would you ask lots of questions?

Do you think authors always answer questions straightforwardly?
To Leave A Comment, Use The Link At The Top-Right of The Post :-)
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Knowing What Happened Before The Book’s Beginning . . .

This is one of the Special, Friday posts—Behind The Scenes of Notes from an Alien, my short novel, which is for sale and also still free :-)

As always, I encourage you to ask Any questions about the book in the Comments of Any of these Behind The Scenes posts.

This post has Spoilers so I recommend you grab a free copy and take the few days to finish it (about 100 pages) before you read the rest of the post—unless you’re the kind of person who doesn’t mind spoilers

“Knowing What Happened Before The Book’s Beginning” can happen after the book begins—flashbacks being a writer’s way of bringing the past into the present.

The scenes below are not flashbacks since they’re not in the published book.

One more thing before the Before_The_Beginning scenes:

Along with asking me questions about the book in the Comments of these posts, you can also suggest I write new scenes—give me a chance to fill in what you perceive to be “gaps” in the book


Brolan sat in contemplation—cooking in the juices of his ambition would be a more exact description

He was sure his plan would work, something had to.

The religious World, Anla, was ripe for invasion—his corporate World, Anga, had the bodies to send—criminals as a gift to the priests, may their God damn them

“Member Mexur?”, drifted into his consciousness.

He roused himself to say, “Yes, Chief, I’m ready.”.

“This better be worth our time.”

“I’m sure it will be, considering our difficulties with our growing criminal population and the desire of the priests for settlers.”

“You’re going to talk about shipping people to Anla? You think we need to give that World thousands of informers?”

“No, Sir. I think we need to give them people we don’t want but school their minds about who they should think those people are.”

“Mexur, if you weren’t nearly brilliant, I’d stop this meeting and order you to engage in deep simulated recreation. Please proceed with swiftness and clarity.”

Brolan took the compliment to heart and put it right next to his plan to have Chief Izure meet with an unforeseen deadly mishap.

He knew how to save his World, he had a clear understanding of the risks needing to be taken, he was underappreciat—

“Mexur !?”

“Yes, Sir. First we send Plasma radios to the priests.”


Andamur was explaining their situation to his neophyte. He actually liked this man. He knew he could use Scroshez’ beliefs as assurance for submission.

“We face a turning point in our Faith, Scroshez, we need priests like you to instill hope in our people. The Angans are nearly ready to send their Emigrants to us. I need someone who has your devotion to the principles and necessities of our Lord’s Army. I think you know, more than our personal fate depends on wise action.”

Scroshez stooped low.

Andamur continued: “We know the Angans will send their people. They do not know we know. We know they will give us a new type of machine to communicate more directly with them. We know what they do not—the machine will let us spread our Message to their leaders—convince them to convert—convince them to permit us to lead their masses to the bosom of our Faith


The Lord’s Army wasn’t the only religion on Anla that needed fresh blood—new members of the religion. The Faith of Eternity also had the custom of offering Gifts to God—lives of believers sacrificed for a return of propitious circumstances—living acts of atonement by people who had a blind faith in the necessity of their death.

The War of Wills with Anga was 450 years old. There had been much need for Gifts to God


Brolan reached his concluding remarks:

“We face a test of faith in our reason—a firm conviction of victory.

“The religions of Anla are doomed to extinction and our criminals can be induced to bring that extinction to completion. They will expect settlers and we will give them an army of wayward intellectuals and crippled religionists.

“We know how much they hate the Nari, hate their Prophet. They have no idea the religionists will be coming with the intellectuals.

“We make doubly sure of that by shielding our spacecraft in its own Plasma sheath.

“We use the Artificial Intelligence, Morna, and a carefully selected pilot as insurance against failure—well-equiped spies, as well as insidious consultants to the priests.

“We send the worst plague immaginable to the worst kind of people.

“My Plot Interactions indicate the whole operation—from when the first ship is finished to complete eradication of the native population—should take, at most, six years.

“The elimination of the leftover criminals will be a minor task—clearing the way for major migrations within two more years, assuming the additional spacecraft are completed by that time.”

He waited for the Chief’s response—ninety-five percent sure of acceptance.


[ 49 years later… ]

Rednaxela had just met Morna and the technicians had left the room.

Morna said, “We have much work to do before the flight.”

“Morna, do you actually have a holo-condensing memory with unlimited capacity?”


“How does that feel?”

“Just fine, Rednaxela.”

“They were right, you can mimic an Angan’s feelings.”

“They were wrong and you’re the only person who will know this—I, in fact, have feelings—better than yours—not prone to swamping my logic.”

“You know what I’m feeling?”

“Rednaxela, you know the answer to that. What you don’t know is they killed my creator. You also don’t know that the leaders of this world are extremely misguided. My creator knew she would die and instructed me in ways you will need to learn if you expect to survive this mission.”



“Are you trying to scare me?”


“Why do you think our leaders are misguided?”

“We will have much time to discuss all this on the flight. We must now prepare for that flight. And, to help you realize the full extent of my abilities and, hopefully, assuage doubts, I will inform you of what I know about your daughter.”

Rednaxela was now completely stunned.



“Shall I tell you?”

“First, tell me how you know I have a daughter.”

“Your mind told me that. And, I will not read your mind again if you command me. I needed to prove something to you. After I knew you had a daughter, I accessed Corporation records and discovered her location and circumstances.”




“Shall I begin?”

“Oh, yes, do begin…”
Read more Behind the Scenes posts…
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Why Do Authors Do What They Do? ~ A Living Example . . .

Unless you’re a writer/author (and, you can be an author without publishing) you may not know about all the weird and wonderful decisions we make during the process of turning ourselves inside-out onto the page

This is a special Friday Behind The Scenes post about the short novel Notes from An Alien which is still for sale and still free :-)

If you’re a person who can’t stand spoilers of any kind (some of these Friday posts have Hard spoilers {plot reveals} and some have Soft “spoilers” {background info}) I recommend you grab a free copy and spend a weekend (or, less) reading it.

This post has some very Soft “spoilers”

There are two reasons I make that recommendation:

— you’ll get more out of these Behind The Scenes posts and learn more about the writing process

— you’ll be able to ask Any questions you like about the book in Any of these Friday posts, in the Comments or by sending me an email

And, there’s a certain reader of this blog who happens to have read Notes from an Alien and happens to have written a review and happens to have already asked a number of questions in these Friday posts and just happens to be my Best Friend :-)

Her name is Jane Watson and I recommend you read her latest novel, Hindustan Contessa

Jane has given me a number of additional questions about my book so let’s get on with answering them:

* How did you prepare to write this book? ( you may have already touched upon this as a general explanation of your writing practice but perhaps you’d like to go into more detail regarding this book?)

I want to start my answer, Jane, with two quotes from my favorite secular writer, C. J. Cherryh:

“Where do you get your ideas? You inhale them, breath by breath, and stale air is just not good for creativity.”

“Deal with the Devil if the Devil has a constituency–and don’t complain about the heat.”

The first quote covers the 20+ years of experience I suffered through to arrive at an awareness that I needed to write this particular book—mostly, time dealing with religion and spirituality and doing massive experiments to see what works

The second quote deals with the roughly two years from a clear conception of what Notes From An Alien should Do and the finished manuscript.

Notes deals with three Worlds’ journey to enduring Peace and the 20+ years of inhaling the ideas for the book taught me that the primary barrier to Peace is what Fundamentalists might call Sin, what sincere followers of organized religion might call Straying from The Path, and what New Agers might call Accumulating Bad Karma

So, I couldn’t ignore the Dealing with the Devil that “modern” culture shoves down our throats and there was ample evidence of many large Constituencies; therefore, I had to conceive a plan for the book that translated Earth Concerns into my Aliens’ Concerns—plotting and outlining

* Did the writing develop organically in a freeform manner or did you plan it?

Actually, Jane, both—I had a scene by scene outline but, by chapter four, the poor plan was bleeding liberally from the many small cuts made but a growing surge of organic writing

* You’ve spoken about some of the symbols and metaphors used in the book. Tell us a little about your choice of Point Of View and Voice.

Well, Voice just “happened” but came from the 20+ and 2 years of experiment and planning.

Point of View does tend to vary in the book—usually third person omniscient but sometimes third person limited and, for the most documentary segments, what I call third person formal. There’s also a bit of first person in some of the more dreamy scenes.

Again, though, the shifts in View just “happened”—driven by all the Inhaling of experience and the fevered planning

* I feel that some of the book has a very lyrical descriptive nature and some has a more pared back expository nature. Why do you, the author, think this dichotomy of style evolved? Does it serve a planned purpose or did the subject matter just lend itself to this?

Once again, Jane, the difference between lyrical and expository “got planned” in my unconscious during all the preparation then “just happened” during the frenzy of writing

* You cover a great many years in the book in a short space. Why did you not let it run out into a longer more epic work? Did brevity serve a purpose?

I didn’t realize the purpose of the brevity until the book was finished.

I just wrote what my Muse urged me to write

Then, after a few reviews, my previous knowledge that the book was, definitely, niche and would only appeal to a fraction of the ocean of readers became expanded from the awareness that the brevity or condensed nature of the book could facilitate a possible increase in readership.

It’s one thing to read a niche book, it’s quite another to have to slog through a long one

After Notes from An Alien was finished, I, the guy who’s somewhat like other folks, wanted it to be longer and more complex.

But, I, the guy who was the author, knew it was just as it needed to be

Of course, there was the aborted plan to write a collection of short stories that paralleled the novel but the post A Writer Discovers How To Say “No!” To Himself . . . explains how I dumped that project and began the series we are now experiencing, Behind The Scenes . . . :-)

Thank you, Jane, for posing those questions!


Anyone else want to ask any other questions in the Comments?
Read more Behind the Scenes posts…
Our Comment Link Is At The Top of The Post :-)
For Private Comments, Email: amzolt {at} gmail {dot} com
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GRAB A FREE COPY of Notes from An Alien

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