Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Kevin Rau - HBS Author's Spotlight

Today our blog puts the Spotlight on Science Fiction & Fantasy Author Kevin Rau. He is an author of the H.E.R.O. superhero book series and blogger.

Author Genre: Science Fiction & Fantasy

Website: Kevin Gerald Rau - Author website
Author's Blog: Kevin Rau's Blog
Twitter: @kevin_rau
E-Mail: kevinrau10@yahoo.com
Goodreads: Check Out Goodreads
Facebook: Check Out Facebook
Pinterest: Check Out Pinterest

Author Description: Born in 1970, I've been interested in fantasy and science fiction since perhaps the age of 10. I believe my love of medieval knights came about when my father built a wooden shield and sword for me to use in elementary school for some event.

Through my school years I read hundreds (or thousands? - it's hard to recall at this point) of fantasy and science fiction novels. Comic books and super heroes came a bit later, although I recall seeing the Christopher Reeve Superman movies at a very young age (and loving them). Since my later teens I believe I've watched nearly every major fantasy, science fiction, and super-hero movie that has come out.

I still love reading fantasy and science fiction, although I wish there were more novels based on superheroes. This is something that drove me to create my own supers universe and heroes in written form. I love supers, but I've always wanted more character depth than a comic book can provide. (Not to mention the immense length of time it takes for a comic series to do a story is just plain too long to me.)

Writing is a hobby for me, I'm a full-time computer programmer and systems administrator for a small company. Fortunately the skills I've learned allow me to work with 3D programs to render the characters (and covers) for my books. My hope is to put out a novel or two a year, time allowing. At this point I'd like to grow the H.E.R.O. Universe with more novels, as well as start a fantasy series at some point.

SPOTLIGHT Questions and Answers with the Author

So what’s next in your universe? Do you have another book or series of H.E.R.O.s on the horizon? Can you tell us the timeline for the release, give us a little tease and tell us in what world we going to next?

If you mean Kev's universe (and if you do, does that mean that my evil plan to take over the world has succeeded - I demand that twinkies be brought back!), then the next thing will be Necromancer's Ascent. It's the first (full-size) novel in my fantasy series. The writing phase is finished; I'm editing now, and anticipate it being out in a few weeks, roughly. As soon as I send that off to my copy editor, I'll begin work on the next H.E.R.O. novel.

I don't anticipate stopping my work on the H.E.R.O. series until I have the most extensive (by books and word count) superhero novel series in existence.

Necromancer's Ascent is set in a new fantasy world, is "high-magic," meaning that mages run about casting spells, and enchanted items can be found. The overall gist of the story is that a large group of necromancers have opened a direct portal to the "realm of death" to enhance their power. Heroes find out about it, and are set on a mission to seek out help in opposing the necromancers.

The story follows the adventurers through their journey to find an ancient gold dragon (in my world, a dragon of life) that has the power needed to help the life mages (druids, as life and death are opposing "elements" in this world).

You have a great following on twitter. How important are the social media relationships that you’ve formed to your writing success?

People need to know that you exist to buy your products. Twitter's been somewhat important there (but not huge for me, at least not that I can tell). It's had a greater effect on allowing me to meet and interact with other indie authors, and to help one another out. I do like Twitter's ability for people to have contact with me directly, although my Facebook page for H.E.R.O. works for that as well.

Do you do book signing, interviews, speaking and personal appearances? If so, when is your next place where your readers can see you? Where can they keep up with your personal contacts online? Do you go to any comic events?

I haven't done a signing, speech (about my writing/books), or personal appearance yet. If I do one, I'm pretty sure I'll be able to talk people's ears off, now that I've got over a million words written in the H.E.R.O. series. I've done a few podcast interviews. I've got links to them at the bottom of this page.

Someday, I'd like to do a Comic-Con, GenCon or the like, although I'm not sure I can do a large enough print run of the books to get the price down to be worth it. I sell almost entirely e-books, probably because the price is between 1/3 and 1/2 the print book price, and that's not even counting handling and shipping. I haven't gone to any comic events in some time. I used to go to GenCon every year, and miss it.

You have great covers. They carry a theme and your brand with them. I understand that you create them yourself. How does your book cover creation process work? Do you get your readers involved in its development?

First, I create the 3D characters. I buy art assets (like the male/female figures, hair, clothing, wings, etc.), modify or make new materials (the color/pattern of cloth/leather/metal), and put them all together in Poser.

Paint.NET is used a lot for the making of those materials, as well as a few tools I use less often. Once I've made the hero/villains I need (I have around 33 or 35 created now), I choose who will be on the new cover, pose them, setup lights, choose the camera angle, and render it.

Then, I fix the inevitable 3D problems, re-render, and do that over and over until I work out the problems.

(For humor on what this can involve, check out the first Shrek movies behind-the-scenes on the issues they had with the Donkey's fur…) I will often post a preview, or in-the-works image or two of what I'm looking at to get some feedback from readers on my Facebook page.

However, I've found that people can often have completely differing opinions on them, and have to just choose to go in a direction. I like giving people a behind-the-scenes look at them, though.

Your Facebook page shows some great pictures of your heroes. With the great graphic art available, have you created a book trailer for any of your books to promote them online?

I have not. I've tried some things, but animating the characters is a real pain (for me). I occasionally get the itch to do one, but it hasn't occurred yet. I do have a lot of pictures of every major hero, and some villains both on my Facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/herobooks as well as on my personal page at http://www.kevinrau.com

What kinds of support groups do you belong too? Do they help with writing, marketing and the publishing process?

I have a small group of beta readers/editors, and a copy editor I hire to proofread and check grammar. I do belong to an author/artist group on Twitter (search the hashtag #ArtKnB), and we retweet for each other to out. We'll also answer questions for each other about the questions above, although in general I think I was ahead of the curve on figuring most things out.

With your busy schedule, how do you have time to keep up with your followers? Between your book writing, blogging, marketing, graphic design, work and all the other things that can get in your way, how do you manage your time? Do you have a set schedule or do your sort of play it by ear?

I check my emails, twitter, and FB every morning, and when I can otherwise, usually in the evenings. I welcome comments or questions from people! (Or androids, I'm okay with you guys too.)

I'm not sure I do well managing my time, other than just trying to spend as much of it writing as possible (unless I'm in the editing or cover phase, and then I spend all my free time working on those).

Social media often slows me down, it's very distracting. No schedule, I just work on it when I get home (er, from work…), or while jogging on the elliptical, etc.

Has the advent of color in ebooks changed anything in your writing, your marketing and the relationship with your readers and fans?

I'm more likely to include extra renders of my characters in my e-books as color e-readers become more common. The normal (low-end) Kindle doesn't show pictures very well, but a Kindle Fire would be great for viewing them. I look forward to that day.

However, I'm a writer, so the pictures would be pure extras thrown in as a bonus. I'm not a comic book writer/artist. I'm not sure the color would change my marketing or relationships, other than being able to provide a better-looking product.

What has been your experience in giving your books away free? Have you been involved in other types of giveaways and how did that work out? What was your main goal in doing this? Did you run into any obstacles?

I keep H.E.R.O. - Metamorphosis, the first (and full-length) novel in the series free all the time or at least for the near future. I've got a dozen books out; it makes me feel good to provide something for people to look at and decide if they like my writing, and want to continue with it, at no risk/cost to them.

The goals include giving back something creative to people, another is to allow people to try out my writing, and decide if they like it.

I've tried short-term giveaways, prior to setting up that book perma-free, and they did well, perhaps up to 1-2 thousand given away per giveaway.

I've also tried coupon giveaways on Smashwords that was less than impressive.

The only real obstacle was on getting H.E.R.O. - Metamorphosis to STAY free on Amazon. They don't seem to read the "I found a lower price over here" messages very often. Once they finally did it, it's worked okay.

How do you manage your plots, characters and timelines to keep your stories going? Do you use a software package or did you develop your own software or database?

I use a spreadsheet to keep track of character notes, plots, etc., as well as a Notepad document for the "to-do" list for my current book. The "to-do" list seems to grow all the time, as there are always ongoing plotlines between books.

How does doing everything yourself working out? Do you outsource any of the process?

I outsource the copy editing/proofreading. Otherwise, it's all on me. It works, perhaps because I'm a person that if I don't know how to do something, I simply research it until I figure it out. It takes a LOT of hours to do, but I'm rather obsessive, so I stick to it.

Author's Book List
H.E.R.O. - Paragon
After a modeling shoot, Diva is called in to aid some researchers in an old mine. After the mine collapses, she is trapped deep underground. Psystar goes to her aid, along with the Gahranii scientists and a powerful 'Builder' super from out East. The opposing Gahranii pirates appear in a bid to capture the Selestor, causing potentially fatal wounds to Psystar and a scientist. Borgz, still bitter from his death at the hands of the Hordemaker, breaks the villain out of prison along with several other powerful criminals. Atomizer, an ultra-powerful new super works with the city to help its landfill issues, and is taken over by one of the villains as they seek out their own revenge against their former boss. The Goth mutants become involved with Borgz as he captures several heroes, Lance's mother rushes to the city in an emergency, and an older hero is murdered. A skyscraper is split in half - can the heroes stop an evil super group as they execute a plan for revenge?
Buy Page: Amazon - Barnes and Noble - Smashwords
H.E.R.O. - Dolldrum
Dolldrum has been lurking out of sight in Metrocity for a year. With the recent events of the Hordemaker and greater visibility of the Goth mutants, he stumbles on the means to launch his greatest scheme yet, and bring his doll empire to new heights. The H.E.R.O. agents of Metrocity become intertwined with the plans of the villain, and seek to stop him before he gains enough power to become unstoppable.

H.E.R.O. - Dolldrum is the 11th book of the ongoing H.E.R.O. series, and is approximately 107,000 words long.
Buy Page: Amazon - Barnes and Noble - Smashwords
H.E.R.O. - Incursion
The Gahranii send an envoy to Earth in search of its leaders. Borgz, ever in search of new bodies and weaponry, stumbles across an alien probe in one of the asteroids near Earth. He accidentally sets off a signal

to the owners, who come to the solar system to scout why an ancient probe of theirs is now active. Finding an enemy species, the starships fight, and the hostile alien vessel speeds to Metrocity in an effort to head off negotiations between species. This sets off an incursion of aliens in Metrocity, and the heroes are caught in the middle.

Sparks helps, thinking one of the starships is the pirate vessel holding a friend of hers, and ends up working with one of the groups of aliens in an attack on the other ship to retrieve her friend.

Unwilling heroes aid in the defense of the city, and heroes die. It's a rough night as heroes find some of the aliens to be more powerful than anything they've seen to this point.
Buy Page: Amazon - Barnes and Noble - Smashwords
H.E.R.O. - Gene Front
Gene Front, a super mutant group that desires to keep superpowers in the hands of supers, and out of the hands of humans. The group hires the supervillain Winterfury to kidnap University professors leading a class in the midst of examining supers and how their bodies and powers work. The situation becomes convoluted for the heroes of Metrocity as Borgz becomes involved, as does Neon, a new super who plays havoc with some of the heroines of the city.

The superheroines of Metrocity have their second gathering, which is repeatedly interrupted by other heroes, villains, a kidnapping, mental takeover, and a revelation to Psystar.

In the midst of the chaos, can the heroes find and stop Gene Front as they plan an all-out assault on a research firm in Metrocity? The bounty hunter Sparks also plays a role as heroes and villains collide.

H.E.R.O. – Gene Front is a full-length novel of approximately 105,000 words.
Buy Page: Amazon - Barnes and Noble - Smashwords
H.E.R.O. - Horde
Red-skinned orc-like creatures appear in Metrocity and assault the mutant-run Goth clubs in the city.

Greg Paffen, a new super mutated in the last meteor shower, is murdered by the creatures - but finds his mind transferred into a robot. He seeks revenge as more attacks of the Hordes occur, and the Goth mutants as well as the heroes of Metrocity seek to find the cause behind the red brutes.

The prison system finds a place for Chrome, Diva meets her agent, a bridge is nearly destroyed and the Gahranii aliens continue their involvement in the city throughout the story.

The ongoing H.E.R.O. series continues in its fifth novel with H.E.R.O. - Horde. Heroes from the previous novels continue making appearances, including Psystar, Spartan, Black Tiger, Diva, Razorwing, Rayna and others.

H.E.R.O. - Horde is a full length novel of over 111,000 words.
Buy Page: Amazon - Barnes and Noble - Smashwords
H.E.R.O. - Dark Research
The H.E.R.O. series continues with its fourth novel. Aliens come to the Sol system to research the umbra - or dark energy behind the powers of supers both on Earth and elsewhere. Finding Earth unexpectedly populated, and after being attacked by another alien vessel, their starship is forced to land near Metrocity. The scientists decide to investigate some of the superhuman activity in the city while repairs are made upon their starship. Separately, researcher Cam Huntsbury leads a team in ongoing research on the meteorite involved in the mutation of humans into supers. An experiment goes awry, ending in a disaster for the research firm Fargene. A large number of supers in Metrocity become involved as the events occur, including Spartan, Psystar, Black Tiger, Diva, Gatecrasher, Razorwing and Rayna, among others. Please visit the author's website for more information on characters and character images. (http://www.kevinrau.com)
Buy Page: Amazon - Barnes and Noble - Smashwords
H.E.R.O. - Rise and Fall
The H.E.R.O. series continues after the events of H.E.R.O. - New Markets. This short novel follows the lives of three newly empowered Supers: Diva: A former model, she is struggling to learn the ropes as a new member of the H.E.R.O. organization. Chrome: As her life shatters from the devastating change into one of the most powerful brick superhumans in Metrocity, she must learn how to cope with the terrifying realities of no longer being human. Gravitix: His story unfolds as he makes a decision for or against the use of power for easy gain and evil. Through their trials, a strange mutant uses her charm and wiles in an attempt to corrupt the new supers and aid her in freeing the bloodthirsty mutant followers she lost in H.E.R.O. - Metamorphosis.

The story brings back many familiar faces from the first two novels in the series as we again interact with Psystar, Spartan, Black Tiger, Gatecrasher, Psycom and Silverlash. The H.E.R.O. Universe is a new world of heroes and villains. As a novel-based story forum, it allows for deeper character development than that of a comic book or graphic novel based story.

Each novel in the series follows the perspective of several heroes - or villains - in their lives and schemes. The common super types include Psychics, Blasters, Bricks and Mutants, although some crossover occurs in unusual individuals. Psychics generally gain mental powers, such as telepathy, telekinesis, or emotional powers. Blasters have the ability to generate or control an element or waveform, such as light, electricity, or heat. Bricks are the strongmen of the world, having massive strength and bodies that can sustain immense damage. Mutants appear less human in appearance due to the addition of blades, tentacles, fins, wings, tails, and more to their bodies, and are between a brick and the others in physical strength.
Buy Page: Amazon - Barnes and Noble - Smashwords
H.E.R.O. - New Markets
Psytar is called in to assist the F.B.I. with a kidnapping. Gunned down in an attempt to capture a kidnapper, she barely survives. Spartan and Black Tiger follow and the team is able to capture the team of kidnappers - only to discover that it appears to be open hunting season for the capture of new supers.

Other heroes become involved as some are kidnapped, others attempt to find and free them, and yet others stop crimes and a fire that occur along the way. The team discovers that a crime lord plans to auction off these new supers as slaves once their minds have been erased by the villainess Arissa.

A failed attempt to rescue the victims leads the group to bring in more established heroes in the form of Gatecrasher and Hellshock, and new hero Firebane joins the team in a final bid to save the victims before they can be auctioned off.

It is a full-length novel of approximately 125,800 words.
Buy Page: Amazon - Barnes and Noble - Smashwords
H.E.R.O. - Metamorphosis
H.E.R.O. – Metamorphosis follows the story of three people - Stephanie, Lance, and Rael. They find they are changed into supers, along with others in Metrocity, when a meteor shower unleashes radiation above the city. The friends discover that they become a psychic, a brick, and a mutant. They must cope with the changes to their everyday life, friends and college as they discover the new powers at their disposal. In the midst of trying to become heroes and dealing with the changes to their normal lives, a mutant villain captures many new supers in a bid to build an army for herself. The

H.E.R.O. series is a new supers universe of heroes and villains. As a novel-based story forum, it allows for deeper character development than that of a comic book or graphic novel based story. At the current point in the universe, supers have existed for about twenty five years. The H.E.R.O. organization – the Homeland Extraordinary Response Organization – allows for a loosely operated environment for the heroes to operate without being vigilantes. The common super types include Psychics, Blasters, Bricks and Mutants, although some crossover occurs in unusual individuals. Psychics generally gain mental powers, such as telepathy, telekinesis, or emotional powers. Blasters have the ability to generate or control an element or waveform, such as light, electricity, or heat. Bricks are the strongmen of the world, having massive strength and bodies that can sustain immense damage. Mutants appear less human in appearance due to the addition of blades, tentacles, fins, wings, tails, and more to their bodies, and are between a brick and the others in physical strength.

H.E.R.O. - Metamorphosis is a full length novel of approximately 122,000 words.
Buy Page: Amazon - Barnes and Noble - Smashwords
Author Recommended by: HBSystems Publications
Publisher of ebooks, writing industry blogger and the sponsor of the HBS Author's Spotlight plus the blog: eBook Author’s Corner. Check out the index of other Spotlight authors. Spotlight Index.


  1. Great interview, Kevin. I had no idea you created your own covers or that the process to create them was so involved. They're awesome--you're very talented. Good luck with your books!