Featured Author: Tom Howard is a science fiction and fantasy short story writer living in Little Rock, Arkansas and working as a banking software analyst in the US and abroad. He thanks his children for their inspiration for this story and the Central Arkansas Speculative Fiction Writers Group for their perspiration.
When his four children were younger and traveling in the car for long distances, Tom would tell stories about them as super-heroes. This story, and many others, came from his Superworld collection of tales jotted down over the years. Meteor Man and his partner, Comet Queen, are alien members of a super-hero group called Heroes, Incorporated and fight a giant planet-eater called a Destroyer.This story deals with the concept that the universe is trying to tell us something if we only listen. There is no antagonist, just the heroine fighting herself until she has to take a leap of faith to save the world, arguing with her logical side the entire way. Instead of section breaks, there are news flashes showing how Earthlings are dealing with having a seemingly benevolent alien among them.
Tom is currently working on a Superworld anthology containing stories of his children’s adventures and has begun writing super-hero stories about his grandson and his friends.
Featured Author: Tom Howard Interview
- How long have you been writing?
- What/who inspired you to be a writer?
- What genre do you prefer to write in?
- Describe your writing process. What comes first–character or plot? Do you “pants” it or outline?
- What is your daily routine as a writer?
- What are some of your biggest challenges you feel like you have to overcome in your writing career?
- Do you have a set number of words each day or a goal?
- How much time is spent on “the business of writing” – queries, seeking an agent or publisher, marketing/sales?
- Do you prefer short stories or full-length novels in your writing?
- Can you give some us some insight into your story?
- What advice can you give other writers?
LHP: How long have you been writing?
Tom Howard: I remember some friends and I writing a “cinematic monsters as heroes” story in the fifth grade, and I wrote a lot of Star Trek fanzine stories (mostly about Captain Uhura) in the 80s, but I only seriously began writing about eight years ago when my local science fiction group created a critique group for would-be writers.
LHP: What genre do you prefer to write in?
Tom Howard: I prefer hard science fiction. I’m talking little green men and spaceships, which I suppose we’d call space opera today. I do write fantasy on occasion, and I’ve written a mystery and horror piece occasionally, but my heart is on that ship heading to the great unknown.
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LHP: What/who inspired you to be a writer?
Tom Howard: Many teachers encouraged me to write growing up, and I never really appreciated the four years of English in high school until I got out into the world and realized not everyone had such an aggressive background in grammar and punctuation. Other writers I try to emulate are Andre Norton (I collect her books), Lois McMaster Bujold, and Ray Bradbury.
LHP: Describe your writing process. What comes first–character or plot? Do you “pants” it or outline?
Tom Howard: For short stories, I’m basically a Mozartian (the piece is finished in my head before I put it to paper) instead of a Beethovenian (loved to revise after creation). With a novel, I have done the pantser and the outline methods and prefer something in between: a loose idea of where the story is going but not outlined down to the paragraph.
LHP: What is your daily/weekly routine as a writer?
Tom Howard: Unlike many of my organized writing friends, I don’t have a set schedule. In the mornings, I generally answer emails and log rejections, then I write as work and life allows in the afternoons and evenings.
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LHP: Are there any software tools, resources, or websites you use often while writing?
Tom Howard: No. I find the grammar checkers result in writing that sounds like a computer wrote it, so I tend to use my online and local critique groups as resources. I’ve been attending workshops since I began writing professionally and find some of them more helpful than others.
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LHP: What are some of your biggest challenges you feel like you have to overcome in your writing career?
Tom Howard: Procrastination is probably my biggest problem, so I try to be aware of it and force myself to take steps to prevent it. Fortunately, my stories have lives of their own and tell me when they want to be finished. I’m never plagued with writer’s block. Like everyone, I compete with work and life distractions. I probably should set myself up a schedule, but I have enough deadlines in my life already.
LHP: Do you have a set number of words per day you target? or do you set other goals to meet?
Tom Howard: I do not have a set number of words per day (except during NANO). My goal is to write and sell a story a month, sometimes for a call for a specific anthology or inspired by something I’ve read recently. I have written a couple of novels, and I try to send out agent query letters several times a month.
LHP: Do you prefer short stories or full length novels in your writing?
Tom Howard: Definitely short stories. No subplots or in-depth characterizations to deal with. In a story, you should have a plot and some character development, but in a short piece you can get away with less. Plus, I don’t have to outline a short story or have it in my head for months (or years!).
LHP: How much time is spent on “the business of writing” – queries, seeking an agent or publisher, marketing/sales?
Tom Howard: I dislike all the admin crap immensely. After I update Duotrope, my separate spreadsheet, and maybe update the piece, I’ve lost valuable writing time. Contacting publishers on the current status of a story can be time-consuming as I usually have over 25 stories making the rounds. My biggest complaint is publishers who require strange and convoluted guidelines for submissions.
Several friends tell me I need a blog, twitter, and website as an author, but I feel those things take too much time away from my writing. I’m perfectly happy to update my Amazon author page occasionally and let the publishers deal with the marketing.
LHP: Can you give some us some insight into your story?
Tom Howard: “Star Crossed” has a long history. When my four children were young and trapped in the car for hours when we travelled, I told them stories about a Superworld where almost everyone had super-powers, including them as the Guardians. When they were grown, I wrote down their adventures. As a banking software analyst in my secret identity, I needed a creative outlet, so I wrote. Every Christmas for six years, I bound up the stories and gave them as Christmas presents to my children.
Someone in my local crit group asked me why I didn’t send those stories out to markets. I didn’t think masks and capes would be of much interest, but a good story is a good story, so I removed the capes and sold the first one immediately. Meteor Man in this story is one of the characters created for my children. I really like “the universe is speaking to us” stories, and this is one of my favorites. Since then, I’ve also sold stories with the capes still on.
LHP: What advice can you give other writers?
Tom Howard: Find community, online or local, and progress together. Master your craft. Read what you like to write. Attend workshops, take productive criticism, and keep writing. Learn something new every day. Most of all, don’t give up. With each story I write, I feel my writing improves.
Don’t believe everything you hear about what editors want. I’ve sold over 85 short stories and still have no idea what editors want. Each one wants something different. Keep submitting. There’s an anthology out there just waiting for your story.
Tom Howard recently authored “Star Crossed” for A World Unimagined on sale now.
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