Times of Trouble featured & interview with Karen Baney

Original post

Thirty years in the future, the U.S. government has turned into a tyranny as the EPA and TSA grow with ever more power.

Brian, the main character, tells his story from first person point of view. His work with the FBI involves mostly cyber terrorism and actual cases of potential real world terrorism. Eventually, his wife gives birth to their third child, who has Down’s Syndrome, which does not please the U.S. Health Administration because there are rules and regulations set-up in cases like these to prevent “genetic freaks” as they like to call them, from sucking up a lot of Health Admin money. Because the Atwoods are born again Christians, they never considered aborting the baby, so now the Health people have to take him away to deal with the problem later.

Meanwhile, the Secret Service decides to recruit Brian to be the personal agent of the President of the United States, David Collins, due to his great work stopping a terrorist plot that would’ve involved Offutt Air Force Base. Brian’s faith is tested every day as he deals with a man that has no morals from what Brian can see, and is tested even more when his wife finds out that she’s dying from a fast growing form of breast cancer. Trouble in the rest of the world pits the U.S. against Israel as that country attempts to defend itself from attack.

When the re-election of Collins doesn’t turn out the way he wanted it, he and his people declare the election nullified because of supposed “irregularities” with the ballots. Collins claims that the new President-elect may take the seat sometime in the middle of next year, if everything looks to be sorted out. Collins purges his staff of what he considers unloyal people, including Brian. At the same time, Brian loses his wife, but regains the son he thought he had lost.

Brian moves back to his family home in Nebraska, where we follow what happens as the country slowly falls apart. Events play out as Brian and his family sees the End Times approach.


1. Thanks for being my guest, Cliff.  Can you tell us where are you from?

I’m originally from the Phoenix area. Lived in Apache Junction, Chandler, and Mesa. Family moved back and forth between Amarillo, TX and the Phoenix area, so part of elementary school I was in Arizona then Texas then back in Arizona. Graduated from Mountain View High in Mesa. Family moved back to Texas after I graduated and I’ve lived in Texas now 20 years straight.

2. Wow!  I know all about the Phoenix metro area, having lived here the last 15 years myself.  When and why did you begin writing? 

I discovered I liked to write when I was about 10 years old. My parents made sure I was well read, so I read a couple of books that I liked, and wanted to be like the authors who wrote the books.

3. How many books have you written? Which is your favorite? 

I’ve written six. I would have to say my current novel, Times of Trouble, is my favorite. The reason is, is that I felt inspired to write it and I felt as if God was guiding me to write it.

4. What is the most challenging part of being an indie author? The most rewarding? 

The most challenging part of being an indie author, I think, is the marketing and promoting part of it, especially when you’re doing it by yourself. The most rewarding is being able to instantly see if I’m having any kind of affect on my sales when I do have promotions and how many people were willing to buy my novel.

5. As an indie author, what would you say to a potential reader who has never read anything from an indie author? 

Give us all a chance. I have read a lot of amazing work by indie authors in the last year or so. I’ve noticed the quality of traditionally published work going downhill in the last few years, which is a shame. There are quite a few indie authors out there who do it all themselves and don’t need a team of publicists, editors, agents, or whatever to make their work shine.

6. Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing? 

Probably the most challenging is writing dialogue that doesn’t look wooden and flows naturally.

7. Can you share a little of your current work with us? 

I’m currently working on an indirect sequel to Times of Trouble. A Preacher and his family live in Arizona and their church has shrunk down to 30 people, mostly retirees, and then the song leader decides to take his family to Wyoming to live in a community of Christians who decide to wait for the Rapture. In the meantime, the President orders small church congregations to be rounded up first and have them sent to FEMA Camps. The President decides he doesn’t like the results of the Election, so has it nullified, then orders DHS to round up the slightly larger churches.  The family tries to survive until Christ’s Return.

8. How much of the book is realistic?

I tried to write what a future Health Administration might look like. I have them purge society of “genetic freaks.” So when the Atwoods, the family in the novel, have a son with Down’s Syndrome because they don’t believe in abortion, the Health Administration takes him to deal with the boy later. I try to project how much power the TSA and EPA have in the future of this novel. The TSA not only rules the air now, in the novel, they also limit travel by car. I even have rumors in the novel about the UN and the EPA taking land from people in the Prairies so the land can go back to its native-ness. I even have the President nullify the elections due to ballot issues and forces one of the candidates for President to stop running by coming up with charges of adultery and bribery.

ISBN-13: 978-1469964799
ISBN-10: 1469964791
BISAC: Fiction / Christian / General
Kindle ASIN: B0075CNFFI



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The Same Six Questions Interview

The Same Six Questions – Cliff Ball from http://andyrane.blogspot.com/2011/11/same-six-questions-cliff-ball.html
Welcome to the last interview of November 2011! Where has the year gone?! Today’s guest on The Same Six Questions is author Cliff Ball.

Cliff Ball is 37, lives in Texas, has a BA in English, possibly going for an MA in Technical Communications, but is currently pursuing Certification in Technical Writing. He has independently published 4 novels and won 3rd in a contest for a short story that was written in high school.

The Same Six Questions

1. Have you published a book yet? Yes. I have 4, but here is one of them: The Usurper is a political thriller.

Gary Jackson is raised to hate. Hate the United States, its people, and everything they have ever stood for. His mission is to destroy the country from within, allying himself with the worst of America’s enemies, and one very powerful and malevolent billionaire, to accomplish the deed. Once elected to the highest position in the land, Gary puts his lifelong goals to work, and puts the USA onto the path of ultimate destruction. He stops at nothing to rid the USA of his political and spiritual enemies, until a small group decide they’ve had enough, and they want to stop him. Will they succeed or will the United States be relegated to the dustbin of history? Also available at B&N and Smashwords

2. When did you know you wanted to be a writer?

I remember wanting to become a writer when I was about 8 years old.

3. What was your first lengthy piece of fiction (say, >1000 words)? What was it about? When did you write it? Do you still have it?

My first piece was a science fiction story that I wrote in jr. high (around 1988 or so). It was some inane story about the US and the Soviets 150 years from now fighting over a planet in Alpha Centauri, and discovering humans who already lived there. I do still have it, somewhere in a big Rubbermaid box.

4. When was your first indication, “I can do this (write)”?

I took a Creative Writing class in my senior year of high school, and we sent short stories to magazines. I wrote one that ended up winning 3rd in a contest for a religious magazine for youth. I made $35! (a lot for an 18-year-old in 1992). I decided that someday I would publish something, and I always wanted to be self-published. Luckily, technology has evolved where its easy now.

5. If you could meet one of your characters in real life, which would it be?

I have a character from my novella, Out of Time, who is a clone of Dr Hawking a couple hundred years from now. He figures out the means to time travel, which I think would be cool to do.

6. It’s a dark and stormy night…you’re alone in the house…there’s a knock at the door…you open it, look out, and proceed to scream like a little girl. What’s on the doorstep?

The Publisher’s Clearing House Sweepstakes people who have a million $$$$ for me!


Thanks so much for sharing, Cliff!

Interview on 1st Author Interviews

Premium Interview with Cliff Ball Author of ‘The Usurper’


Brief summary:
Gary Jackson is raised to hate. Hate the United States, and everything it has ever stood for. His mission is to destroy the United States from within, allying himself with America’s enemies to accomplish the deed. He stops at nothing, and a small group of Americans decide they need to stop him. Will they succeed or will the US be relegated to the dustbin of history?

“You know who is one of your enemies, Gary?” asked al Hussein.
“No, who?” the boy asked with a bewildered look on his face.
“One of your enemies is your mother. She doesn’t agree with the government controlling peoples’ lives, and she thinks terrorism to control the people is bad. What do you think we should do with her, Gary?” asked Putin.
“My mother is an enemy? But, she could be on our side,” Gary innocently protested.
“We’ve talked about this before, Gary, and you know what you must do,”
“But… but…. I don’t want to do this.”
“Yes, I know, but she will destroy all that we are working for, and all of your future hopes and dreams. Again, I ask you, what should we do to people like her?”
Gary sighed, gulped a couple of times, and said, “The enemy has to die as an example to others not to think for themselves to do what they want. If my mother is an enemy, she must die,”
“Correct response. We need to go visit your mother to see that she is no longer a threat. Let’s go, Gary.” ordered Putin.
A few minutes later, the trio arrived at the house Gary and his mother lived in. They went inside, where Ann was in the kitchen cooking dinner, she heard them come in, went to meet them, saw her son, and went to hug him, but, Gary didn’t hug her back, so she asked, “What’s wrong?”
“You are the enemy, you must be destroyed.” he said as coldly as possible.
Putin handed Gary a Russian made Tokarev TT-33 service pistol, and Gary aimed it at Ann, who was shocked, but knew that this day would come eventually, and thought about how her life had come to this in the brief moments she had left. Gary, who had no expression on his face, but did have hate in his eyes, aimed, and fired point blank at her forehead; giving his mother no time to react. Blood and brain matter spattered everywhere. Ann died instantly, her body falling to the floor with a thud. Gary handed the gun back to Putin, left the room, did his best to suppress any impulse he had to cry, and he was determined to leave this in his past, hopefully to never be dwelled on again.

Why did you write this book?
I wanted to write a political thriller for a few years, and I’m into conspiracy theories, so I decided that around 2008 I would write a novel based on some of the conspiracy theories surrounding some of our politicians from about the mid-1960’s onwards. It includes such nutty conspiracies as truthers, birthers, and the idea that one all powerful man controls everything behind the scenes. I thought it would be interesting to see where the main character would go if given unlimited power to do what he wanted to the States.
How did you come up with the title?
I figured the main character pretty much usurps the idea of the American Constitutional Republic by becoming a petty dictator, so the title seemed to make sense.
How did you choose your genre?
Well, genre of Thriller makes sense for this particular novel.
What inspired you to be a writer?
When I was in elementary school, my parents bought me the whole Little House on the Prairie set (I guess because we watched the TV series), and I thought it was cool that Laura was a writer. So, when I was 10, I began writing.
Are you writing another book?
Yes, I am. It’s an alternate history, political thriller, science fiction novel. Basically, the US continues with the moon landings, and announces they’re going to Mars by the end of 1989. The Soviets decide to up the ante by building an interstellar starship of their own, but things go awry once they leave the solar system. In the meantime, terrorism against the US begins earlier than in our own timeline. Al Qaeda suicide bombs the State of the Union in early 80’s, and the new President sends an elite team of Green Berets to take out Osama bin Laden. That’s about as far as I’ve written, but I plan on having the US & Russians team up to launch a starship out of the solar system, where they find an anomaly, and find the long lost Soviet ship on a planet not previously known to humans. Unfortunately, the planet has some very dark secrets….. (vampires? zombies? ghosts? demons? dragons? I haven’t decided yet! lol)
Question usually asked from readers: Why should I read this? This sounds like what we’re going through now.
My answer: Sure there are similarities, but everyone only thinks they know this story. Sometimes, a book you normally wouldn’t read or are skeptical of, usually turns into something you enjoy a lot. Some of my reviews have reflected that. All I ask is that readers give it a chance.

Book Title: The Usurper
Publisher: CreateSpace
Author: Cliff Ball
Genre: Thriller
Amazon [Paperback]: The Usurper
Kindle: The Usurper
Smashwords: The Usurper
Author’s Website: http://cliffball.webs.com/
Author’s Twitter: http://twitter.com/cliff_ball

Character interview from The Usurper

Syria Evans asked authors to submit interview questions for their characters. I chose Gary Jackson, and he gave the following interview (re-posted from Syriasays.com)

Syria Says: How did you first meet your writer?

Gary: He was very persistent, I’ll give him that. He popped up in all sorts of places, and I kept refusing to be interviewed, but I don’t remember the very first time I met him. I do clearly remember that he finally cornered me on Air Force One, and since we were 30,000 feet in the air, he wouldn’t take no for an answer. I briefly considered having the Secret Service throw him off the plane.

Syria Says: Did you ever think that your life would end up being in a book?

Gary: Of course not. Everything about me is supposed to be classified.

Syria Says: What are your favorite scenes in your book: action, dialog, romance?

Gary: My favorite scenes are when people cower in fear of me, and I get to throw my weight around. I love my power.

Syria Says: Did you have a hard time convincing your author to write any particular scenes for you?

Gary: I had a hard time convincing him to show me in a good light. For some reason, he wrote me as this totally evil and cold bad guy. I’m just misunderstood is all..

Syria Says: Do you infiltrate your writer’s dreams?

Gary: Only to haunt him for turning me into such a bad guy. Wherever he sleeps, I will always be there.

Syria Says: What do you like to do when you are not being actively read somewhere?

Gary: I like plotting to take over the rest of the world.

Syria Says: Are you currently engaged in a relationship?

Gary: Yes, I’m married.

Syria Says: Are you happy with the genre your writer has placed you in? A political thriller?

: Sure. At least it isn’t a non-fiction novel, because I don’t think anyone would seriously believe that all the stuff I did would happen in real life.

Syria Says: If you could rewrite anything in your book, what would it be?

Gary: I would re-write everything. I mean, the author portrayed me as an evil, cold, and power hungry bad guy, when I’m just misunderstood. I’m not that bad.

Syria Says
: Do you like the way the book ended?

Gary: No, not really, but if you ask the protagonist, I’m sure he wouldn’t like it either.

Syria Says
: Would you be interested in a sequel if your writer was so inclined?

Gary: I don’t think he would be so inclined. I’m sure I could convince a different writer to write a sequel that will tell my side of the story that doesn’t make me look so bad.

Syria Says: Do you believe that you are suitable portrayed in electronic books or would you rather be in paperback only?

Gary: I’d rather not be portrayed in any kind of format, but, if you insist on an answer, I’ll say electronic books. Who reads paperbacks these days?

Syria Says: Did you have any input into the book cover design?

Gary: No, of course not. Why would I get that kind of input?

Syria Says: What is the lamest characteristic your writer has attributed to you?

Gary: Lamest? Hmmm…. I was never such a cute little boy. I was properly trained from childhood to be who I am today, not the little wimp that I was portrayed as.

Syria Says: If you could give yourself a superpower, what would you choose?

Gary: Young lady, what a silly question. Does Lex Luthor have a superpower? I didn’t think so.

My interview on Two Ends of the Pen

Here is the interview Deb Martin of Two Ends of the Pen did with me:

Briefly describe your journey in writing your first book.
My very first novel that I actually finished writing was the novella Out of Time, a time travel adventure story. I wrote it off and on for about 10 years, started from a couple pages long to where it’s at now, about 30k words.

Did you query agents or traditional publishers before publishing on Amazon? No. Back in the late 90’s when I was seriously thinking about publishing any of my writing, I decided I’d rather publish my own stuff. I looked into vanity press, but, that was way too expensive at the time, and I didn’t know enough about self-publishing like I do now with Createspace. In 2008, when I had money, I published Out of Time first through iUniverse with the basic package they had. I uploaded it to Kindle myself, mostly just to see what would happen, since at the time, I thought e-books might be a fad. Little did I know!

What factors influenced your decision to self-publish?
I prefer having control over my destiny, as it were. I figured self-publishing was faster, and preferable to receiving rejection letters six months later, with the generic reasons why they wouldn’t publish. I just happen to like doing everything myself, at least I can see tangible results.

Will you try to garner a traditional publishing contract for any future books? Probably not. Besides, I think traditional media is going the way of the dinosaurs.

Did you design your cover art? If not, would you care to share your graphic designer’s information?

My first two novels I published through iUniverse and Virtualbookworm, so I used what they gave me. Once I went to Createspace, I created my own covers. I did have help from another author who tweaked them for me though.

How did you feel when you got your first sale? Are you pleased with sales so far?
My very first sale was from a short story I wrote in high school back in the early 90’s that won in a contest that I wrote through Creative Writing class. I was thrilled with that, until my mom decided to use the money to create a frame for the check stub, and a little blurb about it that she mentioned to our newspaper. Anyway, in the here and now, I’m pleased with my sales so far, they could be more, but I just have to keep working at being seen.

What kinds of social media [twitter, facebook, webpage, blog, writing forums] are you involved with trying to garner attention for your book(s)?
I’m on places like Twitter, Facebook, Myspace, Goodreads, Shelfari, Linkedin, I have a blog and a website, forums such as Kindleboards, Nookboards, Mobilereads, eBookgab, and trying to promote on the Amazon message boards.
Author website: http://cliffball.webs.com
Author blog: https://cliffballauthor.wordpress.com
Twitter: http://twitter.com/cliff_ball
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/cliff.ball.author

Besides Amazon, are there any other sites where your books are for sale? Barnes & Noble, Smashwords, Apple, Sony, Createspace, Diesel eBooks, Kobo, Borders for my e-books.

What’s next for you?

I’m actually trying to bring up my GPA by getting a 2nd BA so I can get an MA in Creative Writing from the University of North Texas, at least that’s the plan. I’m also trying to write an alternate history novel where the US establishes a moon base in 1979 when a different President is elected in 1976, and then he has the US set a goal of a Mars Base by 1989. The Russians see this, so they decide to create an interstellar starship so they can one-up the Americans. All sorts of real life events get in the way, like the Revolution in Iran, but that gets squashed by US Special Forces rescuing the hostages. The President in 1981 gets assassinated by those who take revenge for the failed Revolution. Al Qaeda comes along later, and blows up a cargo ship to the moon, tries to blow up the sealed habitat on Mars, and then blows up the space station in Earth orbit in the 2000’s, and so the US President orders Osama bin Laden to be taken out, and that’s the last of Al Qaeda. Eventually, US and Russia join forces to explore the galaxy, where they find the long lost Russian interstellar starship.

Wacky Wednesday Interview

Check out the interview I did for the Excuse Me, Miss site:

Author Cliff Ball:

Cliff Ball is 36, single, a Christian. He has a BA in English, currently pursuing a 2nd BA to increase his GPA to get an MA in Creative Writing. Cliff has independently published three novels, and works for himself as a freelance proofreader/editor.

If you won a million dollars, what would your first 5 purchases consist of?

Well, after I pay off my bills, I think my first five purchases would be: a brand new Ford Mustang, a new car for my parents, hair implants! (ha ha), a new house, and artificial grass for that new house.

What kind of candy represents your character? And why?
I don’t know. I really like eating M&M’s, so I guess you could say there’s nothing fancy and uppity about me, I’m to the point.

Favorite sport? Favorite flavor of ice cream? Favorite synonym for the word “cool”?

My favorite sport is NASCAR. I grew up watching it because my parents are big racing fans, I turned into one, and it’s not all about going in circles. Just like Football isn’t about running back and forth across a 100 yard long field, and baseball isn’t completely about hitting a ball with a stick, there’s more to it. My favorite flavor of ice cream is Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough from Blue Bell. I always use cool, awesome is the only other word I can think of, but saying awesome always sounded really lame to me.

Would you rather bungee jump, swim with sharks, climb all the steps to the top of the Empire State Building, or forget to put your pants on for work one day?

Well, since I work from home, accidentally forgetting to put on my pants is something I would rather do than the other choices.

Who is your favorite author of all time?

Well, I have a couple of favorite authors. Currently, my favorite author is Harry Turtledove. I enjoy his alternate history novels, and he writes a good tale based on a small incident in history that ends up changing all of history.

If you were to write an autobiography, what would the title be?

Tall Tales from the life of Cliff Ball

If you could marry any celebrity, who would it be?

I can never make up my mind with these two, so I’ll say either Alyssa Milano or Jennifer Love Hewitt.

If you could describe “life” in one word, what would it be?


Now… check out my novels at the tabs above!

Interview on Kip Poe’s Blog

Interview with Kip Poe’s Blog

1: What is the most productive time of the day for you to write?

I would have to say that my most productive time of day to write is between 10 am and 3 pm. I don’t know why that is, but, it seems like that is when I’m at my most disciplined and focused.

2: Do you start your projects writing with paper and pen or is it all on the computer?

I usually start out with pen and paper, because I find it easier to sit with a spiral notebook on my couch just writing out by hand whatever idea I have. When I feel the story is established enough, I go on the computer to finish the project. This goes for novels, essays, research papers, pretty much anything I write.

3: What do you draw inspiration from?

I’m pretty much inspired by the fact that as an Indie author, I can write what I want, when I want, and I have no deadlines.

4: Do you set goals for yourself when you sit down to write such as word count?

I don’t really set a goal of word count when I sit down to write. Most of the time, I write for as long as I have that idea fresh in my mind for that day, and then I quit. Sometimes, that’s an hour, and other times, its three or four hours.

5: Are you a published or a self published author and how do you come up with your cover art?

Self published author. With my first two novels, I took whatever cover iUniverse and Virtualbookworm.com gave me, they gave me 4 templates to pick from. With The Usurper, I created my own cover with a combination of Gimp and Paint.net, since I was publishing that through Createspace. I took a picture of a fire from when I went camping earlier this year, then downloaded a US flag and a pair of eyes, and that’s that cover. I recently re-did Out of Time and downloaded a public domain picture from NASA, then just added the title and author name. Eventually, I plan on buying something like Book Cover Pro to come up with better covers.

6: What drives you to choose the career of being a writer?

It’s kind of something that I’ve always wanted to be involved in since I was in elementary school, but, as of right now, I’d say it was more of a hobby than a career.

7: Do you own an ebook reading device?

Not currently, but, I’d really like to have a Kindle.

8: Who are some of your favorite authors and What are you reading now?

Some of my favorite authors are Harry Turtledove, Eric Flint, S.M. Stirling, Michael Crichton, Tom Clancy, for example. I’m currently trying to read Color Me Grey by JC Phelps and Draculas by Konrath and his co-horts, when I don’t have to read college textbooks, since I’m pursuing a 2nd BA.

9: What do you think of book trailers and do you have any plans to have any?

I have two book trailers. One was done for me to advertise Out of Time and Don’t Mess With Earth, while I created my own with The Usurper. I think there are some pretty cool book trailers out there, like the Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter, for instance. But, I don’t think they improve sales all that much, at least not for me, and it’s probably just another gimmick someone came up with, and then convinced everyone it was a good idea.

10: How did you come up with the title of your latest book?

The Usurper is about the USSR wanting to take down the US from within no matter what, so, their inside man “usurps” the Constitution, Congress, and the States when he finally gets into power. So, the title “The Usurper” seemed to make sense to me, even though it was probably the third idea I had for the title, but, once I settled on it, it seemed to be a good title.

11: What are you working on now that you can talk about?

I’m working on another two science fiction novels. One is an almost total re-write of Don’t Mess With Earth, after a lot of feedback I had that it had too much exposition, and some complained about my version of history at the beginning. So, I re-wrote the beginning, added a lot more dialogue, and the sequel I had planned for it, is now part of the novel, which is making it a full length 80K novel now, instead of around 50K. It’ll be re-titled, since it’s practically a different novel now. The other novel is an alternate history novel that begins with the 1976 Presidential Election, where the new President declares the US will have a moon base by 1979 and a Mars Base by 1989. The Russians decide to one-up the Americans, so they build an interstellar starship. What happens beyond that, well, I’m still working on it.

Interview on Kindle Author Blog

I had an interview done on the Kindle Author blog, and here it is:


I asked Cliff Ball, author of The Usurper, about his novel, his influences, and self-publishing on Kindle.

: What can you tell us about your political thriller, The Usuper?

CLIFF BALL: Here is what a blog, not owned by me, wrote up about it, that I find to be more precise than a description I can give:

“What if the Soviet KGB had been undermining American society for years by destroying our education system, creating environmental disasters, and corrupting our politicians?

Sounds like communist conspiracy theory? Well, it does make good fiction. It is interesting that fiction, in order to hold our interest must have a viable, tangible plot that relates well with reality. It is kind of like the old saw that a good joke must contain a grain of truth.

Cliff Ball’s premise contains a whole lot of possibility for conjecture. There is little doubt that the Soviets were actively working for years to affect U.S. politics. Perhaps they succeeded better than they knew. Exporting communist ideology has definitely had a negative effect on Western society, undermining the work ethic and destroying free markets—resulting in a decline in prosperity for the majority. It is like the Rush used to say, the best way to defeat our economic enemies is to export liberalism to them. The Soviets did that to us.

Yes, the Soviets were defeated by the U.S. economic juggernaut. However, the old Soviets may get the last laugh yet.”

DAVID WISEHART: What kind of research did you do for your novel?

CLIFF BALL: I researched the leaders of the Soviet Union, mainly Khrushchev. He really did want to bury the United States by undermining our society, by using the people to do it. They were doing a good job too, at least at the government level, until Joe McCarthy went on his witch-hunts of communists. I mention the peaceful coup done on Khrushchev by Brezhnev and Andropov, and I have an appearance by Putin and Gorbachev. I tried to be accurate with what they might have been doing at the time and place I have them in the novel. Gorbachev was in the agriculture ministry in the ’60s, so, in my novel, he meets up with one of the characters in Mexico as they go to Moscow. Gorbachev, in the novel, was researching farming techniques, but wants to be a powerful figure one day in the Communist Party. Putin is a intern of sorts for the KGB in my novel, as he trains the main character to undermine the US. I also researched various terrrorist attacks in the ’70s, ’80s, and ’90s, and tried to tie them to the greater story of the KGB doing whatever it took to bring down the US. Whether it was right-wingers or left-wingers that wanted to destroy the US, it didn’t matter to the KGB, as long as the US was brought down.

DAVID WISEHART: The Russians are still trying to infiltrate the West through covert operations. What’s your take on the recent Anna Chapman spy case?

CLIFF BALL: My take is that it was a rather pathetic attempt, like they were trying to copy a Bond movie, or something. If they want to know what’s going on, all they have to do is read the New York Times or Washington Post, search on Google, or ask one of our politicians what we’re doing. I’m sure they’d all be more than happy to tell the spies. They thought they could spy by living like actual Americans? If they really wanted secrets, they should’ve probably lived near Los Alamos, or in any of the cities with high tech labs, not New York City living the high life. I had actually finished my novel when this whole thing popped up, and I really wasn’t surprised by it.

DAVID WISEHART: Who do you imagine is your ideal reader?

CLIFF BALL: Anyone who enjoys a political thriller and historical fiction, since the novel has the history between the US and the USSR as the basic theme of then novel. If you’re also into conspiracy theories, this novel will be for you too.

: What was your journey as a writer?

CLIFF BALL: I started to write in junior high, but I was a lousy writer back then. I have worked on it for the past 20 years, entered a couple of short story contests, won one for a short story I wrote as a senior in high school. I continued to work a little at a time on my writing in my 20s to polish it, have my writing make sense, but didn’t submit anything anywhere until my 30s. I finally decided to publish my first novella, Out of Time, in 2008, after researching ways to do it myself. I chose iUniverse, but after spending so much money and not getting a whole lot out of it, I tried another POD for Don’t Mess With Earth, didn’t get much from that either. With The Usurper, for much cheaper, I went through CreateSpace and I also did Lulu, mostly to see which one works better for me. Since it’s only been a month, I’ll have to wait and see.

DAVID WISEHART: How has your work as an editor helped your own writing?

CLIFF BALL: I think it has helped me a great deal, along with working for my BA in English. I’ve taken Creative Writing, Technical Writing, and tons of classes about various eras in writing and novelization. Having edited a wide range of things from novels to church newsletters to business reports, I can see how to improve my own writing, just by seeing the wide range of how people write, and improving my style based on what I’ve learned from others. I’ve gone from a rather stiff writing style, to one that is starting to flow.

DAVID WISEHART: What is your writing process?

CLIFF BALL: It really depends. I don’t write outlines, but I am finding that I should probably start. I usually write in a notebook by hand, and then transition to typing it and finishing it on the computer. I only write when I have inspiration. So, some days, I can write for three or four hours, others, sometimes only for twenty minutes. The Usurper, for example, is the only novel I’ve ever written completely on the computer.

DAVID WISEHART: What authors most inspire you?

: I read a lot of Harry Turtledove, because I enjoy his what-if novels. What-if the US and the CSA split, but was at continual war with each other all the way to WW2? What-if the prime time-line of World War 2 was interrupted by an alien invasion. I also like Eric Flint and his Ring of Fire series. I think it’s cool that he managed to work in 20th century West Virginians and 16th century Europeans, and had various historical characters have to work around these intruders from the future. I also like S.M. Stirling and his novels of The Change. While I’m not usually into the whole Middle Ages Renaissance Faire kind of thing, he makes it entertaining, since 20th century people get their technology taken away, and some of them become witches, lords, and maidens, etc. Then, throughout the series, there’s rumors of some kind of presence on Nantucket, along with some dark, mysterious forces in Montana. The main character goes on the classic hero journey to find out why all of this technology was taken away 20 years earlier. So, in essence, I inspire to be as entertaining of a writer as these three men, and weave history into a great fictional tale.

DAVID WISEHART: What have you done to market and promote your work?

CLIFF BALL: I’ve promoted on Myspace, Facebook, Goodreads, Kindleboards, Twitter, my own website, Authors Den, and as many other places as I can find online that has readers and other authors. I have created free press releases online, but I should probably also send them to newspapers. I’ve done Facebook Ads, Google Ads, and Myspace Ads. Unfortunately, with a rather limited budget, I can’t promote my works as much as I’d like to.

: Why publish on Kindle?

CLIFF BALL: My straight to the point answer is: because Amazon sells a lot, almost everyone buys ebooks through Amazon, and it makes sense to be on Kindle.

: What advice would you give to a first-time author thinking of self-publishing on Kindle?

CLIFF BALL: Make absolutely sure you set up your Word or PDF file to format right on Kindle, because it comes out looking much differently than you would think. Since I set-up The Usurper completely myself, it took me three times before I finally managed to get it to format properly, and not look like I had huge blank spots between paragraphs, or weird starts to paragraphs. I would suggest formatting it following the Smashwords style guide, but don’t format it completely that way, unless you use Smashwords too.

DAVID WISEHART: Thanks, and best of luck with your books.