Tag Archives: DragonCon

Interview: Doug Dandridge

Doug Dandridge is one of the great independent writers out there. He’s done really well in part because he puts out a ton of good material. My personal favor is his Exodus: Empires at War series, but he has over thirty published titles, including two other series, Refuge techno-fantasy and The Deep Dark Well trilogy. Now he’s started Kinship Wars, a traditionally published series. Let’s just say I’ve visited his Amazon Author’s Page: https://www.amazon.com/Doug-Dandridge/e/B006S69CTU/ref=sr_tc_2_0?qid=1522973584&sr=1-2-ent a number of times to get his books.

Exodus: Empires at War, Book 1 Cover

And I’m not the only one. According to his bio, “(h)e has amassed over 5,000 reviews across his books on Amazon, with a 4.6 star average. 5,000 reviews! And about that same number on Goodreads. I am learning just how hard it is to get a single review out of readers, so that’s even more amazing to me than the hundreds of thousands of books he’s sold.

Clearly, he knows both how to write and how to market online, so I was excited when he agreed to answer my questions.

Doug Dandridge

What is your quest? I like to craft technically sound science fiction (and fantasy as well) in an interesting and well thought out setting, with strong characters. Sometimes I actually succeed. I like the physics, chemistry, biology to stay as close to accurate as possible. Which doesn’t mean I don’t make up whimsical of utterly fantastic elements, but I see no need to step on real world principles when not necessary. My major influences include Robert Heinlein, Poul Anderson, David Weber, Robert E Howard, Jim Butcher, R A Salvatore and Larry Niven. I get a little bit from each one and possibly blend them together into something of my own. It seems to work, as I was able to not only quit my day job, but make a very good living at it.

What is your favorite color? Like Jim Butcher I start off with a map most of the time. I do a lot of research. Even in fantasy, I look up a lot of information, put a lot of it on paper. I world build to an extreme, probably more than I need to, but then, when I have a series, I just need to add onto the already detailed world. And I draw a lot of things out on graph paper, which allows even a poor artist like myself to visualize my settings. Spaceships, star systems, castles, even the look of dragons. All goes down on paper. And when I’m creating a star system I like to use programs to look over the configurations of planets and make sure it all works (wouldn’t do to have your inhabited planet go spiraling into the star). Probably more than I need to, but I read the horror stories of people finding fault with the science in other works. I even use Nukemap to make sure my things that go boom have an accurate damage radius.

Doug Dandridge with Helicopter

What is the average flying speed of an unladen paint brush? I wrote a series called Refuge, which actually started off really well. Both of the first books sold over 5,000 copies. They mixed modern technology with magic, with people from Earth crossing over to another dimension against their will and having to fight wizards, dragons and things that go smack in the night. With tanks, attack helicopters and a couple of tactical nukes. Due to the physical and magical laws of the planet, the technology would only last for a short period of time, and the humans had to use it or lose it. So by book three they had lost it, and I had lost my readership. Turned out that the majority of people who bought the first two books loved the idea of technology versus magic, so book three sold just over two thousand copies, while four barely made it over a thousand. I’ve tried to salvage the series with book five, resorting to magic imbued steam tech. But I’m afraid once you lose readers you’ve lost them for good, at least for that series. The lesson? When something is working, don’t make radical changes.

What are the powers of your personal Holy Hand Grenade? I am really proud of the Exodus: Empires at War series and the spinoff, Exodus: Machine War. This is the universe that turned me into an independent success. Of the 240,000 odd books I have sold, over 200,000 of them are in these series. They have been well received, and I have collected a lot of fans from all over the world from these books. I feel that I write battle scenes really well (see R A Salvatore and Jim Butcher above), and I’m also good at putting in technical details without overwhelming people with info dumps. The Exodus series is nearing its end, but I will start another side series, going back in time to the origins of my human Empire.

Lightning Round

  • Crunchy or Creamy? Crunchy.

    Five by Five Cover
  • Favorite Sports Team? Florida State University, because I went there and I live in Tallahassee. Any of the teams, not just football. I go to women’s soccer, both basketballs, softball, volleyball, even sometimes baseball.
  • Cake or Pie? Pie, because cake is too rich.
  • Lime or Lemon? Lime, because lemon is just too sour.
  • Favorite Chip Dip?  Home-made French Onion dip. None of that weak store made stuff. The Lipton’s Onion Soup with sour cream.
  • Favorite Musical Performer We’ve Never Heard Of? A German Jazz guitarist named Vogel Kreigel. He played in a little hotel in North Germany back in the late 1970s. One of the best jazz guitarists in the world at that time.
  • Whisky or Whiskey? I used to love Wild Turkey 101. Haven’t had a drink, for health reasons, in fourteen years.
  • Favorite Superhero? Spiderman. I’ve been a Spidey freak since I was five years old, and I bought the issue of Amazing Stories that featured the webhead.
  • Steak Temperature? Medium rare.
  • Favorite 1970s TV show? Man, go back to the sixties and I might have something. The seventies did nothing for me, and I spent half of them in the Army.
  • Winter, Spring, Summer, or Fall? Fall, love the crispy temps. Best time for going to football and soccer.
  • Favorite Pet?  (provide pictures if you want) I had a ginger cat years ago named Beau who was the smartest pet I have ever had (and I’ve had an Australian Shepard). He died way too young at age nine.
  • Best Game Ever? Video Game? Fallout New Vegas, with lots of mods. Best gaming world, best story, a lot of fun to play in VR.
  • Coffee or Tea? I’m a big coffee drinking. Buy the beans and grind them myself before brewing them.
  • Sci-Fi or Fantasy? I love them both. I would actually like to write more fantasy, but somehow I slid into the scifi niche, so there I am.

What question(s) would you like to ask me? How do you come up with these questions?

My Answer: I think the first time I asked questions like this happened because I got tired of internet question memes, so oddly that made me make my own. The ones out there were just bland and boring, and so I made a whimsical one to have fun with my friends.

I used the idea again when I got married to my second wife. We wanted to make it fun, so I asked a larger series of questions to everyone involved in the ceremony. Then, we had a friend who is great at such things introduce us all as if we were wrestlers coming into a WWE event or something like that. We had a fantastic wedding.

As everyone who answers the interview questions realizes, I want to get some idea of your methods. Hopefully, this will help me and my readers find things that might improve our writing and publishing skills. However, I didn’t want it to be bland and boring, hence the Monty Python way of asking the questions.

But I also wanted to give each of you a chance to be something more than a name on an e-book. For example, I think it’s awesome that I now know you’re a Florida State fan. Plus, given how much I like to host people, it’s always a good thing to know how to cook their steak should the opportunity arise.

Aura Cover

Tell me again where we can find your stuff? 

Final question for you: What should I have asked but did not? How did you ever decide to get into this crazy business?

I was out of work and pissed off at the employer that had just fired me, and decided to write a book exposing the corruption of mental health organizations. I sat down and wrote that book in two weeks, then started on an alternate history. When that was done, I went to work on a 260K word fantasy.

Refuge, Book 1 Cover

I wrote on an off for over a decade, collecting over three hundred rejection slips, but trying to do it the old way, through a publisher. Finally, in 2010, I was really sick of my job and wanted to become a full time writer. I wrote the equivalent of 7 novels that years, including the books that were turned into the first two volumes of Exodus: Empires at War and Refuge: The Arrival. I didn’t actually put anything online until December 31, 2011, and nothing much sold for the first eight months. I did a giveaway for a book called
The Deep Dark Well, and 4,100 went off the Amazon hard drive. When Exodus came out in November (I had put out Refuge first, thinking it would be the breakout novel), I started selling 100 books a day. In January of 2013 I sold 8,900 books and the sales continued into February with 5,400. I kept getting good sale the first couple days of March, and I turned in my two week notice and never looked back.

What’s Your Upcoming Event Schedule? I will be attending, again, LibertyCon in Chattanooga (June 29-July 1) and will be on panels. I will also be an Attending Professional at DragonCon in Atlanta (August 30 to September 3). I will also have books coming out later this year from Arc Manor Publishing (Kinship War) and Chris Kennedy Publishing (When Eagles Dare).

Doug’s Book Biography:

Doug Dandridge is the author of over thirty self-published books on Amazon, including the very successful, Exodus: Empires at War series, the Refuge techno-fantasy series, The Deep Dark Well Trilogy, as well as numerous standalone science fiction and fantasy novels.  In a five year period as a self-published author, Doug has sold well over two hundred thousand eBooks, paperbacks and audio books.  He has amassed over 5,000 reviews across his books on Amazon, with a 4.6 star average, and a similar number of ratings on Goodreads with a 4.12 star average. He has also written his first traditionally published novel, the first of a series, Kinship Wars. He served in the US Army as an infantryman, as well as several years in the Florida National Guard in the same MOS.  Doug, who holds degrees from Florida State University and the University of Alabama, lives with his five cats in Tallahassee Florida.  He is a sports enthusiast and a self-proclaimed amateur military historian.


Thanks for reading. If you’re interested in any of the other interviews I’ve done, you can find them all here: http://robhowell.org/blog/?cat=326.

If you are a creator, especially an independent creator, and you want to be spotlighted in a future interview, email me at rob@robhowell.org.

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Rob’s Update: Surviving the Dragon

Week of 3-9 September

Well, I survived DragonCon. I have an AAR up at: http://robhowell.org/blog/?p=798. The TL:DR version: the logistics of 80,000 people in downtown Atlanta limit the fun, but there’s still lots of fun to be had.

Now I’m back home, sorta. We found a house and put in a bid. In fact, I signed the accepted counter-offer while in Atlanta. We went through the inspection yesterday and, for a house built in the early 50s, it’s in fantastic shape. There are quibbles here and there, and a couple of things we’re going to ask from the sellers, but by and large, nothing we can’t fix.

Exciting times.

Now we just have to make sure the financing goes through correctly. I get there are reasons for all of this but man this process is frustrating.

As for writing, I’ve done a little here and there, but for the time being it’s going to be iffy. Between the move and planned trips, time has been an issue. I did manage to get a good start on a particular thread while at DragonCon, though.

Now, the time has given some ideas a chance to percolate, so it’s not been unfruitful. Also, I’ve come up with a good short story idea that I’ve been dabbling with. I can’t finish it until I get access to my books, which are currently packed up, though.

The big news next week is that my opportunity to be “And More” will arrive as For a Few Credits More will be released on the 15th. I’ll have a link for you next week.

Tonight, the NFL season starts. I’m so ready. I’ll be writing my NFL Preview during the game so expect that post late tonight.

Quote of the Week

I’m not a huge Neil Gaiman fan. Yes, I know that makes me a heretic. However, I do love this quote.

“Fairy tales are more than true: not because they tell us that dragons exist, but because they tell us that dragons can be beaten.”
Neil Gaiman, Coraline

News and Works in Progress

  • New short story. It’s a secret 🙂
  • Brief Is My Flame (12k)

Recent Blog Posts and Wiki Additions

Upcoming Events

Spotlight

While Van Allen Plexico let me have space at DragonCon, it was Brett Brooks and his wife Allyson who did much of the work manning the booth. You can find Brett’s Facebook author page here: https://www.facebook.com/brettbrooksauthor/. He has a fun and whimsical take on the Noir detective.

Let me know if you have any suggestions on the website, this email, or cool story ideas at rob@robhowell.org. Especially let me know of suggestions you have for the Spotlight section.

Have a great week, everyone.

Rob Howell
Author of the Shijuren-series of novels

Currently Available Works

If you think you received this email incorrectly or wish to be unsubscribed, please send an email to shijuren-owner@robhowell.org

DragonCon AAR

Greetings all

I have survived my first DragonCon. It’s probably not my last one, but I have to have a good reason to go back.

Much of DragonCon is fantastic. Lots of incredible costumes. Lots of cool stuff to buy. Lots of interesting panels. Lots of celebrities. Lots of parties. All of this is great.

Thanks to the generosity of Van Allen Plexico and Brett Brooks, my books were on display in the Artists Alley section. None sold, but a bunch of bookmarks were given out. It can’t hurt, and since I didn’t actually pay anything it’s a net win.

I got to see several friends up for Dragon Awards. Some won, some lost, but it’s still cool to realize the quality of writers I’m earning a place among. I had a great time hanging out with Barflies. I should have actually spent more time with them and other writers and publishers.

The Hyatt House, where I stayed, had a fantastic staff, and my roommates, who I’d never met prior to Thursday, were all pleasant to deal with, even though five of us squeezed into a suite.

I gamed a lot, playing in four Pathfinder Society scenarios including two specials, which are a blast. I also played in an ad-hoc game on Thursday which was hilarious. I was the second to die. This will come as no shock but it was because my character couldn’t keep his mouth shut. I also played in some random games in the large gaming area. Cards Against Humanity is always fun, especially with the alcohol flowing, and DragonCon is one huge party.

But the execution of the event seemed oddly amateurish. As if this wasn’t the 30th time they ran this, but the first or second.

For example, I spent most of my time gaming once I figured out I wouldn’t be needed in a booth. I decided to play Pathfinder Society, and so I looked for PFS registration area. This was on the 2nd floor of America’s Mart Building 1, in the far corner, about as far from the entrance as could be.

That’s not necessarily a problem, but the directions on the boards and the app weren’t terribly clear, and the actual Pathfinder Society games were on the 1st floor of that building. There was room enough for the registration area to be in that same room, but for some reason they chose to put those tables up a floor on the other side of a big building.

Since the biggest complaint I have relates to traffic control, it will come as no surprise I look at this particular weirdness as emblematic of the con. All of those who wanted to just play Pathfinder Society could have been arranged in one particular area, but by setting things up as they did, it added congestion at the one set of escalators available.

Unfortunately, this was not the worst traffic control mistake they made. DragonCon runs along a ridge in downtown Atlanta. The hill is substantial, but there are walkways between buildings and other things that ameliorate such problems. Still, it’s not easy to get around, and climbing up and down that ridge can suck.

The vendors were all placed in the America’s Mart, Building 2, which  was a fine choice in many ways. It certainly had room enough. However, it was located at the far end of the con at the bottom of the ridge. Again, with walkways and such it’s not a big deal. Also, the main entrance was on the upper side of the building, which was closest to the other convention buildings.

But there was apparently a problem with this arrangement and in the middle of the con they suddenly shunted all access to the vendors to the downhill, farther side of the building. This meant you had to go up three extra sets of escalators. Oh, and those walkways? They closed them off.

Let me repeat. In the middle of the con they closed off all entrances to the building that held the vendors but the farthest, least convenient entrance possible.

All of the maps that said where to go to see the vendors became instantly wrong. Few of the people doing traffic control knew the exact directions. To get to the vendors, one had to hunt at the far end of the con to find the one way in.

This is again where the amateurish appearance comes to the forefront. It is not like they haven’t used these buildings before. It is, after all, the 30th time they’ve had this event in Atlanta. I get that it has grown and they’ve had to adjust, but it seems incredible to me that they couldn’t anticipate the traffic flow.

By comparison, GenCon, which is similar in size, manages all of this nicely. It’s busy and there are people everywhere, but you know where to go and they are much more efficient with their traffic flow.

I get it. I get that 80,000 people are hard to deal with. However, closing off all but one of the six or so available entrances to a huge building does not seem like a good answer to me. They also did this to America’s Mart Building 1, which held all of the gaming.

Clearly they could afford people to check badges at every door, because all of the closed entrances had people stationed there turning attendees away. No, for some reason, they were convinced that restricting access to one door on each of these two buildings would provide the most efficient traffic flow.

Given that I spent most of the con in these two buildings, I’m particularly frustrated by this. I will say, other parts of the con might have had better traffic flow, though it didn’t seem like it from what little I saw. I saw a lot of miscommunication amongst people working the con. Some confusion is to be expected, but not as much as I saw, especially related to traffic flow.

Again, I should emphasize that there was much to enjoy. Best cosplay con I’ve seen, no doubt. I really enjoyed the gaming that played.

But they do not seem to have a good handle on the logistics of 80,000 people. It’s a tough thing, alright, but other places have managed.

Perhaps the answer is to move DragonCon to Indianapolis, which could handle it just like it handles GenCon. Maybe there are solutions in Atlanta. I don’t know enough to even guess at solutions. What I do know is that their ConCom needs to figure that out.

Will I go back? Maybe. I’m inquiring on different room options and prices for next year to weigh the choice. I’m likely to go if I’m ever fortunate enough to be a finalist for a Dragon Award. I do have friends there I enjoy, including some new gaming friends.

There’s definitely fun to be had at DragonCon, but it’s an open question whether it’s worth the expense and hassle. We shall see.

Rob’s Update: Off to DragonCon

Weeks of 20 August – 2 September

Greetings all

Sorry I didn’t make a post last week. I spent most of last week up in Omaha looking at houses. We’re going to put in a bid later today, I think, depending upon the details. We’ll see how it goes. In past houses, I’ve been on a serious time crunch. I’ve a lot more time flexibility now, so I’m not as inclined to bid full price now. I don’t necessarily expect to get a yes on the first offer, but you never know.

Anyway, it’s an exciting time.

I did write a bit, but it was more in the way of refining stuff that had already been done, so I’m still hovering around 10k on Brief Is My Flame.

My weekend was filled with an SCA event near Omaha. Giulia and I camped, which meant we got a chance to hang out with friends much more than we have recently. We’re also in the process of combining our camping resources, and that’s been somewhat humorous as we both have our ways of doing things. Unfortunately, it rained on Sunday morning, so Giulia has deal with spreading out, drying, and folding a bunch of wet canvas.

She has to deal with it because I leave for my first DragonCon tomorrow.

I’ll probably spend a goodly amount of time at Table 22G. Van Allen Plexico and Brett Brooks have generously offered me a corner of their booth to place my books. Come buy something from all of us.

The rest of my time I’ll be pretty feral. I’ll probably see if I can play in a Pathfinder Society scenario or two. Maybe some panels. Be at Barfly Central a lot. I don’t have any real schedule so I can actually enjoy a con for a change.

I’m also excited to go watch the Dragon Awards, where a number of friends are nominees, especially the military SF/F category. I voted for Cartwright’s Cavaliers by Mark H Wandrey. Frankly, this category was full of books I enjoyed, but the tiebreaker was that it’s the first in Four Horsemen Universe. Yes, I’m now a part of it, so I’m biased, but this is already becoming an awesome sandbox and there’s lots more to come. However, it was a tough choice, given the competition. One of these days I’ll have a military fantasy series set in Shijuren, and I can hope I’ll be in this list myself.

I’m ready to get this party started.

Quote of the Week

Instead of a normal quote like most works, I’ll send you to a Twitter hashtag feed, which is a list of whimsical quotes overheard at DragonCon:

https://twitter.com/hashtag/overheardatdragoncon?src=hash

You shouldn’t need a Twitter account to see that list, by the way.

News and Works in Progress

  • Brief Is My Flame

Recent Blog Posts and Wiki Additions

Upcoming Events

Spotlight

As I said, Van Allen Plexico has graciously allowed me to put my books on a corner of his DragonCon table. If you come by the table, make sure to take a look at his stuff. For those not at DragonCon, here’s his Amazon author page: https://www.amazon.com/Van-Allen-Plexico/e/B002QISYCA/.

Let me know if you have any suggestions on the website, this email, or cool story ideas at rob@robhowell.org. Especially let me know of suggestions you have for the Spotlight section.

Have a great week, everyone.

Rob Howell
Author of the Shijuren-series of novels

Currently Available Works

If you think you received this email incorrectly or wish to be unsubscribed, please send an email to shijuren-owner@robhowell.org