GrogHeads Interviews Mark H. Walker
Jim Zabek & Mark Walker, 30 July 2014
GH: Hi Mark. It’s been a while since we last chatted. A lot of events have transpired since then, not the least of which is your latest book, Desert Moon. Can you tell us how you took your first novel, A Craving for Blood, and updated it to Desert Moon?
Mark: It’s been completely re-edited. Both a copy and structural edit. Additionally I rewrote passages that I didn’t like, and deleted others. The basic story remains the same–the enslaved people of a planet fight against overwhelming might with ancient military hardware. Ancient being Abrams tanks and their ilk. Additionally, I felt that the new cover and title better fit the novel. Finally, it’s great to expose the vast Kindle Direct Publishing audience to the book.
Of course, writing novels isn’t the only thing you’ve done. After successfully launching a game publishing company, Lock n Load, and running it for several years, you turned around and sold it. Can you tell us more about that decision?
It was part financial and part total-freaking-burnout. I’m proud of the fact that between June of 2006 and March of 2013, I was able to not only make and produce some pretty damn good products, but also support a family of five with those products. But I grew tired of living on the financial edge, and even more tired of working seven days a week, 52 weeks a year. Make no mistake, I understand how lucky I was. It’s a dream job, but I was ready to move on.
Before selling your company, you successfully produced a PC wargame based on your award-winning boardgame system, Lock n Load. Would you tell us about that journey?
No, I had already sold the company by then. Investors, embodied by Jim Crabtree, bought the company in March of 2013. Since that time I’ve been LNLP’s designer, developer, and sometimes voice, but not owner. Making Heroes of Stalingrad was a trip to be sure. I’ve designed and published board games, written novels, and hammered out 30,000-word video game strategy guides with insane deadlines. None of those things are as tough as making a PC game with a two-man team. But it was a great experience.
And then there is the award-winning novel based on your World at War series. What did you learn from writing that?
That you should never end a sentence with a preposition. Seriously, I guess I learned that it’s risky to mix your paranormal chocolate in serious military adventure reader’s peanut butter war. The book has sold well, and continues to sell well on Amazon Kindle, but I feel that it might have sold better as a straight up alternate history military adventure. Do the paranormal elements work well? Heck, yeah. I’m a huge horror buff, and feel like I know how to create a vampire. Is the military combat authentic? I sure think so. Do the two work together? Again, I believe so, but the trick is to convince the rest of the reading world. Hopefully this interview will do just that.
Your novels are often genre-benders, incorporating elements from horror, science fiction, and military adventure. Why is that?
It just happens. I do like mash-up novels, like Adam Baker’s Juggernaught, but I often read very traditional books, such as Kenneth Roberts historical fiction. You can see his influence in this piece of fiction, The Battle of King’s Mountain.
Do you feel that hurts or helps sales?
Who knows? It probably hurts, but I only know how to write (or design, for that matter) what I love. But I am all over the place. My next release, Elevator, is just a simple short story about growing old, longing for youth, and a bit of erotica.
The release of Desert Moon on will give you quiet a brace of KDP material (two novels and three short stories). Do you feel this is the wave of the future?
I believe that it is the wave of “a” future, but perhaps not “the” future. KDP puts the power of publishing in the author’s hands. That’s great, but I doubt it will replace traditional publishing.
What’s up with your blog? Politics, games, film, books, writing tips, game design tips… it’s all over the place. Most folks try to brand themselves and their blog, you seem to go to the opposite extreme. Why?
I make frequent blog posts. I simply wouldn’t have enough interesting material if I only blogged about books, or games, or whatever. In fact Whatever, John Scalzi’s blog, is the inspiration for mine.
Catching up with your blog, I see you’ve started selling off some of your gaming collection. Personally, my goal is to collect games until my house explodes. Or implodes. Or does whatever houses do when you get some kind of gaming-time-continuum-vortex-thingy. How hard was it to let go of some of those games?
Easy as pie. As I wrote in the post, none of us play these games, we just seem to stress about them. If I could pick my top ten, and sell the rest with a snap of my fingers, I would. My tastes have evolved. I’d rather play King of Tokyo, Avengers Dicemasters, and ARS than the seventeenth-thousand World War II East Front game our hobby has spewed.
What did you sell?
You name it. All my old ASL stuff. Some GMT operational level games, Picket Duty, bunch of stuff.
What did you buy?
Dicemasters: Avengers vs. X-men, Heroes of Normandie, ARS, OGRE Deluxe, B-17, Hornet Leader: The Cthulhu Conflict.
I wish I’d kissed Kate Beckinsale when I had the chance.
OK, now that one you’re going to have to explain over a beer sometime. Anything else you’d like to add?
Hmmm… that’s open ended. First off thanks for interviewing me. I’d also like to thank all the thousands of people who supported Lock ‘n Load Publishing when I was the owner, and ask them to be patient with the new ownership. I think David has some good ideas, he just needs the time to put them in place. And I’ll be there designing along, updating the systems and more. I’d also like to thank all those volunteers, and semi-volunteers, who helped Janice and I keep our chins above water during our tenure.