Today our blog puts the Spotlight on Author Lee Jackson. He is the author of the Cold War Rising novels.
Historical Fiction, Thriller, Contemporary
Lee Jackson - Brings Heat to the Cold War
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Lee Jackson was born in Chattanooga, Tennessee, and grew up in Tangier, Morocco. When he was 12 years old, his family returned to the US, and when he was 20, he enlisted in the Army. A year later, the Vietnam war ended. Lee then attended and graduated from West Point, and served on active duty until June, 1982. In 2008, he went back to work for the Department of the Army, and deployed for 19 months each in Iraq and Afghanistan. There, his job was to go into towns and villages and learn anything he could about concerns relating to security, and recommend courses of action to meet military objectives without resorting to lethal methods. He returned to the US in 2013, lives in Texas with his wife, and is a full time writer. Lee Jackson Brings Heat To The Cold War!
SPOTLIGHT Questions and Answers with the Author
Congratulations on your book: Curse The Moon. Rumor has it that you have another book on the horizon called What Were They Thinking? Can you tell us the timeline for its release and give us a little tease?
Thank you for this interview, James. It is very much appreciated. As for the next book, “Rasputin’s Legacy: Cold War Lies and Half-Truths” is a sequel to “Curse The Moon: Cold War Rising,” and is due out in September. That’s an aggressive schedule that might slip a little, but I think will be worth the wait. The completed draft is with the editor now.
You have a good following on twitter. How important have your social media relationships been? How did you build your following in your niche? Did you use forums, newsletters and methods like that?
Social Media is very important to what I do. I’ve learned that no matter how good a book might be, it has to break through the barrier of obscurity. From my perspective, I have to provide the book with every chance for exposure - and the trick is to do it without flat out spamming.
With re-tweeting, maintaining a steady balance of conversational posts and tweets is not easy, but I’ve only had two complaints that I tweet about the book too often, and when you visit my blog, you’ll see that I barely mention it. I understand that “engagement” is most effective. It is also time-consuming, so being careful in how time is applied is imperative. Slipping into being too involved in any social medium to the neglect of other necessary work is easy to do. I try to acknowledge every new follower, and when I engage, we are usually discussing something other than my book. However, I do get questions about my books, and I try to answer all of them.
Do you do book signings, interviews, speaking and personal appearances? If so, when and where is the next place where your readers can see you? Where can they keep up with your personal contacts online?
I fall under the "writer who speaks” category as opposed to the “speaker who writes.” I’ve been invited to three radio shows, and have spoken at four gatherings, including one where I was the keynote speaker. A great friend offered to organize a book signing at a particularly elite country club, but I have not yet done that. Between finishing, publishing, and marketing “Curse The Moon” and writing “Rasputin’s Legacy,” I honestly don’t know how established authors have the time. I have no book signing or appearance currently on the horizon, and would certainly welcome invitations. Readers can see by blog, website, and video at: AuthorLeeJackson.com. My author page on Amazon is at:
I’m on Facebook at:
and communicate through Twitter at: @Stonewall_77.
You have a great book trailer. (See link below.) It looks very professional. Do you know how much impact it has had on your book’s success? Tell us about the process that you used to create your trailer?
My video trailer was done by Circle Of Seven Productions, and I am very happy to give them a shout-out. The people there are very professional, and they did an outstanding job with my video. I understand that they do video trailers for the National Geographic books. Their prices were very reasonable, and they took care of details. I provided the book cover and the arc of the story. From there the process was iterative: they provided drafts, and sent to me for approval. That included listening to various voice-over artists reading the script, and selecting one. They were quick and professional in correcting errors, and the main reaction to the trailer is, “I can’t wait to see the whole movie!” In all honesty, I can’t trace sales directly back to the video trailer. In other words, would I have done as well without it? I don’t know the answer, but I can tell you that I am glad I did it, and would do it again.
Between your book writing, blogging, marketing, family 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?
That’s a great question, James. Time management is tough. I’ve been a soldier, a businessman - I’ve been deployed twice, and my entire career has been marked by competing demands. However, being an indie author is probably as demanding if not more so than anything I’ve done before.
Original authoring is demanding; then self-editing; then incorporating input from editors and beta readers. Meanwhile, getting the cover art with the blurbs, and doing it well is imperative. Once all of that done, then it goes into publishing, and the myriad details and decisions can be overwhelming. Then comes the marketing, and some of the decisions in that regard should have been done at conception - and ya’ find that out as you press the “Publish” button. I don’t follow a set schedule, but there are some things I do religiously every day, and usually first thing in the morning. That has to do with continuing to grow my social media platform, and looking for new and better ways to market. An even higher priority, obviously, is writing - without the written story, I have nothing to sell. I’m not as religious about doing that every day. I have found that my mind is constantly working on the story, so even if I’m not hacking away at the key-board, the development work is being done.
That said, I’ve also learned that no critical part of the story is really worked out until I put it down in black and white. I am a compulsive writer. I’ve told my wife that knowing what I know now, if I had life to do over and could choose my talent, it would probably not be writing. The demands for hard work done in solitude are enormous, and then the effort to get someone to read what was written can be just as taxing - and getting to that point does not mean that the reader will finish it. For those needing approbation with a shorter lag time, being a musician or a paint artist might work better - ya’ get feedback much quicker. (In order to mitigate solitude, I’ve actually developed the ability to write surrounded by my family and grandchildren doing what they do while I write. I rely on great editing to damp out the obvious flaws that result.)
What has been your experience in giving your books away free? Have you been involved in any other type of giveaways and how did that work out? What was your main goal in doing this? Did you run into any obstacles?
I have not had a lot of experience with book giveaways. I’ve done two, and gave away five books in each one. I know of no review that resulted (and as you know, the reviews I’ve received are sterling). I’ve done no other type of giveaway. I’m not opposed to them and will probably do more, but my experience to date has not been encouraging in terms of providing a reliable way to attract readers. I have not yet done “free-book” days. I’m not against them, but they are not as easy to do within a strategy as people might think. Various advertisers have their own requirements, and so before any are done, thought must be given to how doing “freed days” affect what you can do both before and after the fact. My understanding is that free book are not as effective as they once were, unless used as a loss leader for a series (e.g. when a number of books in a series is actually on the market, the author might make the first one be permanently free as a means of attracting new readers).
How do you manage your plots, characters and timelines to keep your stories going? Do you use any software to keep track of your books?
I literally let the characters tell me the story. I don’t develop a timeline. I figure out what the protagonist’s objective is, and what natural obstacles he/she will encounter in meeting it. There are always competing interests, and the antagonist champions those that directly counter those of the protagonist. They both have or develop allies, and that brings in the other characters. Quite often, a character just presents him/herself, and later I find that they grow into major characters, and/or provide a crucial element to the story. A nice result of writing this way is that I am constantly surprised by turn of events in the story. This method also helps break through “writer’s block.”
If I ever feel stymied, I just go to the last most forward movement in the story, and query the various characters about their reaction to it and what counter steps they might take. The only requirement I make of them is that they must be grounded in reality. The endings to my stories can be unbelievable if taken with no context. Therefore, the characters must request that readers suspend their disbelief only to the extent that doing so can be done without causing annoyance. The reader must be engaged every step of the way. I do not use software to track the timelines (not to say I never will). By querying the characters at each major turning point, I ensure that each of t them is up to the moment in the story. I go back over the story many times looking for continuity errors. My editor finds many more, and beta readers are invaluable in that regard.
You have a great blog. You do a great job marketing your books and providing stories about our fighting service men and women. What is your primary goal?
Thank you for the compliment regarding my blog. As you’ve seen, my novels are thrillers, mysteries, strong conflict. The comment is often made that, having started to read, they cannot be put down. My primary goal insofar as writing is concerned is that I intend for my writing career to become self-sustaining and further, to sustain me and my family. I have been startled over the years at the reaction of people to things I write - it has always been very positive, and was a constant all the way through school and on into my professional life. I always intended to be a novelist. My blogs tend to be about real events, and are typically associated with traditional American values. My novels illustrate the worth of those values. Each novel is intended first to entertain, and then to remind of the tremendous sacrifice of dedicated men and women, and the contribution of our values in building our great nation. In that regard, our fighting men and women have been at the forefront of protecting our rights and liberties, and I take every opportunity to honor them. You’ll see a strong theme in that regard on my Facebook page, and in the stories on my blog. Many gave their all for the rest of us, and we can never forget that.
Going along with the previous question about blogging, have you considered bundling your short anecdotes into short stories and publishing them.
The quick answer regarding bundling together my short stories is: Yes - and I intend to. Several years ago, I took a Harley ride across much of the US (started in Montana, detoured down through Yellowstone, ended in Connecticut with a foray into Canada at Michigan and descending back into the US via Niagara Falls). I posted daily stories and pictures along the way to friends and family via email. As I went, other people requested to be included on my list. When I deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan, my job was to be out on patrol with our Soldiers and Marines to interview the local population in their villages, on their streets, and in their homes.
Essentially, we were charged to learn about their concerns regarding security, and to make recommendations on meeting military objectives while avoiding lethal means.
While doing that, I sent emails back to the same list as I had with the motorcycle ride. The list expanded, and my stories eventually were circulated in the Pentagon. I’ve had many people request that I put those real stories into book form, and doing so is on the drawing board. (Example: I once interviewed an Al Qaeda operative in the middle of the street in front of his headquarters.) I still have two other books ahead of that one. There will be a third book out in the Cold War series with the same protagonist (Atcho) - that should be out early next year. Then will come a saga that I wrote some of several years ago, and it won Best In Show at the Golden Triangle Writers’ Conference. I’m not sure if I can do the anecdote compilation ahead of or during the other efforts, but it is one near and dear to my heart, and so it will get done.
What is your method of getting reviews for your novels? Do you seek professional reviews, use social media or do you rely on your reading audience to supply them?
I’ve been very fortunate with reviews. I seek professional reviews, I will send requests to specific individuals - I have not requested reviews via Twitter or on my blog or website. I paid for a Kirkus review - and offer no apologies on that: Kirkus’ reputation is still that they are tough on authors - I came out in decent shape. I was fortunate to get a recent blurb from a top tier author, Joe Galloway who wrote “We Were Soldiers Once…”, a NYT Best Seller and Mel Gibson movie. I approached him directly. I’ve asked other authors, and some have committed when time allows. Readers have been kind enough to take their time to write reviews, and for that I am very grateful. At this point in time, my average is 4.9 stars out of 33. I’ve also used virtual book tours, and that has garnered quite a few reviews. I continue to look for more reviews, and more ways of earning them.
Author's Book List
Curse The Moon
- Cold War Rising
The Cold War. A backdrop to betrayal. A playground to power. He is called Atcho. Cuban-born. West Point Graduate. To save his daughter, he must be a sleeper agent to men he'd rather kill!
Atcho's rise opens doors into US National Defense even as a seemingly omniscient KGB officer holds unflinching sway over his actions. His public life clashes with secrets that only he and his tormentor share, isolating him in a world of intrigue among people whom he is determined to protect.
Curse The Moon
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