- What literary pilgrimages have you gone on?
What a great question. Breakfield and Burkey began writing technical documentation many years ago. Armed with the technical expertise we delivered many technical workshops all over the world for leaders in technology.
Technical documentation is, well, boring, so we decided to take the best of our technical expertise and leverage it into completing technology-based scenarios relevant to today. The Enigma Series was born. There are ten books currently available in the series, each with a technical focal point like Identity Theft, or how AI steals our future. The first 7 in the series are in audible formats primarily narrator by our amazing voice actor Derek Shoales.
- What is the first book that made you cry?
Collectively for Breakfield and Burkey we agreed it was Old Yeller. What’s not to make one cry with a beloved companion of a boy and all the drama this story takes the reader or audience through. Gheez, we still tear up thinking about portions of it.
This is also what we find Derek does with portions of our stories in brining emotions to high alert for humor, reflection or sadness. Our stories have a technology foundation then we layer on travel, intrigue, mystery, romance, and a dash of humor. We have found that migrating the story to audible provides a more immersive story and love it.
- What is the most unethical practice in the publishing industry?
This is such a hard question. Organizations are in business to make money so that’s how they are constructed. The unethical doesn’t seem to come so much from the industry but rather from those bad actors who take advantage of authors who want options on book publishing. There are horror stories are as plentiful as stars in the sky.
As an example, when we started down the paths of investigating audio formats for ours, we had zero experience, as we didn’t even listen to audio books. We had some awesome guidance and then found for us the best connection was via ACX from a quality perspective. The methods for altering the rights is in the fine print, so reading all the documents is key.
- Does writing energize or exhaust you?
Breakfield and Burkey are both energized by creating compelling stories and then sharing them. We find that offering the books in ebook, paperback, and, yes, audio formats for the first 7, number 8 The Enigma Broker is being produced with delivery in the Spring 2019. What is exhausting is some of the marketing aspects like asking for reviews from listeners and readers to share with others. We have recently earning a Crowned Heart from InD’Tale Magazine for The Enigma Stolen audio, which of course reenergizes us while we are crafting number 11, working title The Enigma A.I. Wars.
- What are common traps for aspiring writers?
Traps, hummm. We find the common traps including thinking if we write it they will come. Nothing says just because someone wrote a book everyone will buy it. In fact we find that the 80/20 rule applies significantly for authors in that 80 percent marketing to 20 percent of generating an amazing book. Adding the layer of getting the book transformed into an audio format requires even more marketing. We love to reach out to readers/listeners, but without the reviews and feedback we are never certain who we are successfully reaching.
- Does a big ego help or hurt writers?
Overall ego is an important element for humans. It is essential that it not go to your head. Breakfield and Burkey fund it interesting to use ego for some characters to illustrate the way they think far too much of themselves. The characters, like people, can fall into the trap of thinking they are invincible. As the stories are narrated you can hear some of this ego centric overtone in the conversations of these characters. Readers can feel this in their imagination, or at least that is what some have said.
As people we don’t have that issue, thankfully, but we would love success. Success for us is getting thousands of raving fans, which in turn, will make us want to create more stories, relevant to people today with technology all around them.
- What is your writing Kryptonite?
For both Breakfield and Burkey, it is a lousy review with no foundation behind it. We get that not every book is suitable for every reader or listener who gets it. However, to say something is poor and disparage it without a reason, sound more like the reader/listener simply had a bad day and took it out on the author. We have had a couple of these and it is hard to totally ignore.
Our goal is to delight our readers and our listeners with fictional stories that take them away into their recesses of their imagination. We would love your followers’ feedback on if that is easier with reading or listening to a book.
- Have you ever gotten reader’s block?
Breakfield and Burkey have gotten writer’s block at times with regards to the next step or turn for a character. Typically, we end up talking about it to resolve or working on another aspect of the current story, letting the problem sit for a bit.
We have also found that one aspect of audio book production is to listen to what has been recorded and approve it. That has helped as we writing new work ahead of the audio book being produced. The listening of prior story aspects has been known to jump start a problem area. Fortunately for us it never lasts too long.
But reader’s block? Well not really. We usually get the reverse where they crab about not having our newest book available that is still in production.
- Did you ever consider writing under a pseudonym?
This has come up as a discussion a couple of time. The original was when we were trying to find out if we wanted to write as coauthors and have both names on the cover. Obviously, the choice there was to go for it. It has caused some issues because many back-end sites where we allow our stories to be told struggle with a coauthor concept. Workarounds from one site to another differ.
If we move into some different genres, we have considered changing author names to help maintain the branding. There are a lot of great authors who have use other names so we would not be the first. It would be interesting if your followers would comment on what they think of author photos on a piece and the use of pseudonyms.
- Do you try more to be original or to deliver to readers what they want?
We, Breakfield and Burkey, try to be originals with the wish that we can deliver readers what they want. We love storytelling and tend to write a story that is for adult readers with life experience. We do not write for children, though we might at some point as we love them and believe lessons in technology are suitable at younger ages all the time.
We went down the path of delivering audio formats for our fictional series as we honestly believe that is the direction more and more people enjoy. After getting more and more positive feedback on the audio book transformation of the series, we feel it was the right choice. Your followers may not realize but the investment in time, marketing, and hard dollars to convert a written book to audible is significant. Without stellar narration such as what our voice actor Derek Shoals delivers, the audio formats would fail. We love what he does with our words and the over 150 characters laced throughout the series.
- Do you think someone could be a writer if they don’t feel emotions strongly?
Emotions are certainly a strong element in stories. We believe however that life experiences and imagination play a significant role as well as emotions. Our TechnoThriller series has compelling situations which our characters need to work out of in a relevant and viable manner. Without Breakfield and Burkey’s experiences in technology, travel, relationships, and humor the stories would not have the depth they offer to readers and listeners.
Part of what captures our raving fans is the involvedness of our characters in seeking the best outcome available in the story framework. One of the best reviews we have received was from a reader who said, “one of the smartest books I have come across…” Another said, “This book not only kept the listener on the edge of their chair but it tugged at their hearts as well.”
Emotions, experience, and life all have a purpose in writing, like a three-legged stool needs three to be firmly seated on the ground.
- What other authors are you friends with, and how do they help you become a better writer?
We are grateful to have many authors as friends. Bella Andre provided some early on encouragement to us. Dr. Judith Briles, John Maling, Mara Purl, B. Alan Bourgeois, and Richard Reiman have all offered comments, criticism, and encouragement to our efforts. Richard was particular helpful with our pursuit of audio book creation.
More recently some of the fabulous award winning and best-selling authors, involved with InD’Tale Magazine, are now friends. We were lucky enough to hear some of the struggles, trials, and obstacles they overcame to be successful at a conference in Burbank CA.
We have learned from them the value of better marketing, more public appearances, and asking for feedback from people does improve what we deliver in our novels and short stories.
- Do you want each book to stand on its own, or are you trying to build a body of work with connections between each book?
For us, this a fantastic question. When we started on The Enigma Series, we wanted the books to stand on their own. To be fair that still holds true though we have characters on both sides, cyber good guys versus cyber thugs which come back in subsequent stories. Each of these books do stand on their own and this is substantiated by several readers and listeners who have taken them out of order.
Each of the stories has a focus like Drones and Nanotechnology, Identity Theft, and Commodity Hacking, as examples, folks may one to focus on when first introduced to the series.
- If you could tell your younger writing self-anything, what would it be?
We have been asked this question before and tend to agree that never shy away from a challenge or fail to try would be the first thing we would convey to our younger selves. For the more part Breakfield and Burkey can admit we should have been better at this but looking back this is easier to say.
As an older younger self, we can say that we should have embraced creating audio formats sooner for the series. However, we are not disappointed with the wonderful narration we have with the series, now through the 7th book.
- How did publishing your first book change your process of writing?
Our first books were both non-fictional and through a publisher. It was not a satisfying experience and helped us determine that we did not want to pursue non-fiction going forward as much as fictional. We love doing the fiction series as it provides us with a bit more latitude. and audio book creations.
- What was the best money you ever spent as a writer?
Breakfield and Burkey love writing stories. The money we spend for covers, interior formatting, eBook translations, and Audio book creations are all the best money spent. Each of these items are critical to the overall success of the series. Spend your money to do a quality production and you will never be ashamed of the output the following year.
As a runner up to the above, marketing spends to supplement what we can by ourselves do to promote our stories. We are on a tour for the audio book elements to help spread the word, gain additional raving fans and find dedicated reviewers who we might provide codes to as each book becomes available.
- What authors did you dislike at first but grew into?
Ian Fleming was an author who was actually represented better in a movie than the initial books. We tend to enjoy movies when they do not stray too far from the authors intent. When Breakfield and Burkey are fortunate enough to see our books on screens albeit Netflix, Amazon, movie theatres, or television we hope that the essence of our stories are still there.
- What did you do with your first advance?
Our first advance was with our non-fictional stories and to be honest we spent it on a celebration meal with our families. The Enigma Series is hosted by ICABOD Press a small publishing company so no advance per se. With our first royalty from the book sales we invested in marketing, with the first royalty from audio book sales we went onto book 2 as an audio book conversion project.
- What was an early experience where you learned that language had power?
Breakfield worked for a high school newspaper and garnered a great deal of followers and acclaim with that effort. The teacher leadership for this effort gave students huge latitude which later got him into hot water with the rest of the faculty. This determination to tell story continues to be one of the main factors in The Enigma Series.
Burkey enjoyed a certain amount of notice with poems when published and portions were leveraged into a couple of songs by local rock groups in her home town during high school. It was a fun effort she wishes she had pursued, though she tries to add some of this into our award winning TechnoThriller series.
- What are the most important magazines for writers to subscribe to?
On line magazines around technology are the primary ones for Breakfield and Burkey so that we can use our work experience in the technology industry and stay current on relevant shifts and changes, like with Artificial Intelligence as an example. We also subscribe to things like InD’Tale Magazine to see what authors are hot and what they are saying.
With all the avenue available today, the digital ones get more attention from us than paper ones. Though each of us enjoy National Geographic for the beauty of the photography and in-depth descriptions of other places and cultures.
- What’s your favorite under-appreciated novel?
We would submit that all our novels are like our own children. Each one has its birthing and growing pains that we as authors (parents) struggle with to get them through. They each go through a phase where we are disappointed in how they are performing and then a terrific review or an award comes in for them and we fall in love with them again all over. So which one, you ask? The one that is not yet published of course.
- How do you balance making demands on the reader with taking care of the reader?
In our stories, be it The Enigma Series, or our short stories, we ask our readers to think a little, use their imagination, and realize these are stories with real technological facts baked in for framework rather than a technical how-to manual. We in turn give our readers characters that we have known and developed over time with some of the same trial and tribulations many of us face. This is why each of the stories in The Enigma Series has a focal point and why our short stories cover different genres. We write because we love storytelling and want to engage our readers in the possibilities.
We have discovered this as especially true with migrating the stories to audibles. In this media the storytelling is a richer experience by hearing the different character voices and intonations. This makes one’s imagination go wild. Derek Shoales is an amazing voice actor who brings our award-winning stories to an even bigger level. When they go on the “BIG” screen it will be amazing for the reader/listener/watcher.
- As a writer, what would you choose as your mascot/avatar/spirit animal?
Breakfield and Burkey have used our favorite animals in the series. We could not decide on one, but have stayed with three main ones.
We have used a wonderfully smart pig, Franklin, in several of the stories. Pigs are not dirty, but rather quite clean and have been used in stories which you might recall from childhood. They can also spend hours playing, exploring, and even sunbathing in their natural surroundings.
We have used a white tiger, Nikkei, who is instrumental in building up the importance of her owners. Tigers are also smart, cunning, and not to be trifled with as Won and Ton find out in dealing with her too roughly. (Never step on a white tiger’s tail) She is one who doesn’t need to be in a story often to illustrate her importance to us.
We also have brought in a Dragon now and again. Most recently the dragon was used in the story The Dragon and The Butterfly to show the importance of having a friend no matter who is big and who is small. Friends are too important to rate on size of body, but rather size of heart.
- What do you owe the real people upon whom you base your characters?
Breakfield and Burkey have pulled many of our characters from those we have worked with or those who have crossed our paths.
Some of our characters have been at the request of a real person, in which case we show them advanced copies of sections they appear in to make certain they like the context of the character. We also list them in the front of the books with our thanks, as with a certain flight attendant who is one of our raving fans.
Breakfield has been known in to approach the person interviewing us and ask they might like to be brought in. Sometimes this is further characterized by an outlandish statement of how we can build them into an evil temptress or evil doer. Great conversation starter.
- How many unpublished and half-finished books do you have?
We are so glad you ‘ve asked that question today. We currently have one partially finished book. It will become book 11 of the series. The current working title of this amazing next gen story is The Enigma A.I. Wars. We hope to release it later in 2019. We have several short stories in the works as well.
- What does literary success look like to you?
For Breakfield and Burkey, literary success is quite simple. We would like to sell over a million copies which would likely elevate us to one or more #1 best seller lists with the high running list givers (you know who we mean). This would then likely launch us into a movie or possibly a series with Netflix or Amazon.
Please let your followers know that getting books, doing reviews and being our raving fans is welcome. Have them sign up for all the latest on our website at EnigmaSeries.com. they can download a free coloring book with email subscription too.
- What’s the best way to market your books?
One of the best methods we have found is via these virtual book tours. Virtual tours allow your followers to learn a bit more about a given author (s) as well as potentially win something for their efforts. We have also found it is a great way for us to get around the general noise in Social Media.
We also spend time at library events, book festivals, author book signings and other events where we can meet potential raving fans. In February, the 2nd and 3rd to be exact, we will be at the North Texas Comic Book Show at the Irving Convention Center. If you are in the area drop by for a special giveaway we have going on for the 2nd.
- What kind of research do you do, and how long do you spend researching before beginning a book?
Research for our stories covers many things. In our professional careers as technologists, Breakfield and Burkey constantly look at new technology being offered by manufacturers and determining how ready it is for the businesses we support all over the world. We look at the viability, security, enhanced user experiences, and more when evaluating the available solutions. It is an ongoing process that we do most workdays.
Our stories have elements of travel for places all over the world. Each or both of us have been to all the places so far in our stories, yet we still research on specific elements we might want to incorporate. We want the accuracy of our locations as it builds the suspense and intrigue present in our stories. For example, you will find multiple references to Texas in our tales. Texas is the home of our respective households and we spend the most time in the state, but the world is out there waiting for us and we want to take you there in our stories.
- Do you view writing as a kind of spiritual practice?
For us, writing is not as much a spiritual practice as it is a way to unwind and relax outside of our professional careers. Breakfield and Burkey write because we enjoy storytelling of complex subject in a fictional meaningful manger. Though it is a job in and of itself, it is a labor of love. Perhaps someday it will be a full-time career for us, but until then we will enjoy every minute of creating our novels and short stories.
- What’s the most difficult thing about writing characters from the opposite sex?
This is one area where Breakfield and Burkey as a co-writing team can help balance one another. For example, if Burkey depicts a scene with a bad guy and he says certain things, Breakfield is the first one to jump in correct things like, no guy on this planet would ever say what you had Jacob just say in that section you sent to me.
Conversely if Breakfield depicts a fem fatale in an odd way, Burkey can help make small changes to keep the essence he wanted yet provide the realism. We believe, this helps us to keep a single voice in our finished product and to keep the character realism. Our voice narrator, Derek Shoals, has also had positive comments regarding this as he speaks for the 150+ characters we us throughout the series.
- How long were you a part-time writer before you became a full-time one?
Breakfield and Burkey have written as a part of our professional careers for over 25 years each. As far as producing fictional novels and short stories we are still doing this on a part-time basis. Someday perhaps that will shift. Raving fans all over the world for The Enigma Series would help us reach that milestone sooner than later.
- How many hours a day do you write?
Breakfield and Burkey average about 3 hours of writing per day. This is early morning in advance of our day jobs or after dinner in the evening.
- What period of your life do you find you write about most often? (child, teenager, young adult)
Breakfield and Burkey tend to write the adults periods in our life, though we have had a few vignettes that touch on earlier times from lives. These stories roughly use things we experienced, but again these are fictional so changes which make it map better to the overall story we are telling is also key to how we integrate those life experiences.
- What did you edit outof this book?”
Breakfield and Burkey work very hard to remove errors from our stories before publishing them. Though we are not perfect, we take comments from readers and listeners to improve the stories as we add more to the series. We also find that concepts we may have initially thought would fit into a story as we close the story may be removed for use in another story.
- Have you read anything that made you think differently about fiction?
We love fiction and non-fictional stories. Breakfield is a huge proponent for example of historical books about World War II written by people that participated in one or more conflicts across the multiple fronts.
Nothing we have read or seen would make us thing anything differently about fiction. One of the fun things about fiction is all the things we can do to character such as eliminate them without committing a crime.