Author: kdell.

At a random outing to my local Chapters bookstore, I met author, Adam Dreece. Being that this store is one of my more avid haunts; it was the store manager who introduced me to Adam. She told me that, Adam, was one of the most engaging self-published authors she’d ever met and that this guy is going somewhere.
Looking at his book display in the store, Adam, stood dressed in a dapper steampunk-esque vest and monocle. The table was arranged with accolades to his latest books, complete with professionally put together banners. I was impressed immediately at his dedication and obvious passion for his stories.
Today, I have the privilege of sharing with you, a peek in to the inner workings of this indie author.
So – I introduce to you, Adam Dreece.

 

Adam, you’ve just released your fourth novel in The Yellow Hoods series. How many books are left before the series is complete? And when can we expect them to be released?

The current story arc is going to wrap up in Book 5. However, in Book 4 I’ve laid the groundwork for book 6 (possibly 7 as well). There’s one more piece of The Yellow Hoods storyline that I want to do before I wrap things up, which will likely be 1-2 more books.

 After that, I’m planning on doing more books in the same world. More on that when I get closer to it.2015-11-09 14.20.53

Having read the first two books in your series, I admire how you’ve combined both the steampunk and fairy tale genres together. Can you tell us a bit about the storyline of this series, and what inspired you to write it?

 The story is really one about coming of age, not just of the Yellow Hoods trio (Tee, Elly and Richy), but of ideas that shape society. The story reveals two secret societies, the Tub and the Fare, and how they’ve succeeded or failed at exerting their influence over the past few decades.

 Our fairy tale stories and rhymes are their real world events, whether that’s Santa Claus represented as two brilliant inventors in their twilight years, Nikolas Klaus and Christophe Creangle, or the Tub which is lead by a butcher, a baker and a candle-stick maker.

 For those unfamiliar with steampunk, or those that know it well, I call The Yellow Hoods an ‘Emergent Steampunk’ series. Rather than feeling like you are walking into a Victorian Clockwork world, you start with a small mountain town. All the elements of invention, and the history of the world as well as where its going, are woven into the storyline itself.

 As for inspiration, well my daughter gave me the nudge to write the first story, Along Came a Wolf. I was stuck writing something else, and she suggested I take a silly bedtime story I’d told her once and give it new life, and I did. From a world perspective, I first visited Steampunk back in 2000 when I wrote a Dungeons and Dragons role-playing game supplement for a contest being run by Wizards of the Coast, but it failed to get submitted correctly. Part of that world I’m currently reusing in my free online serial, The Wizard Killer.

What advice do you have for new writers who are just starting out?

COVERMASTER-Book 1-MasterRecognize that there are two great fears: Finishing and Judgment, and find a way to conquer them. It’s hard to declare something finished, that you are going to move on. I see so many people take a redwood of an idea, and whittle it down to a toothpick. Learn to let go and move on. For every story you complete, you will become stronger and better, and you will have better ideas and be able to execute them even better.

 And then comes the Judgment. You need to get early feedback (beta readers) and listen to what they have problems with, and look at their proposed solutions as more hints of what may have bothered them. Their concerns are real, though their solutions are rarely the right ones. It’s hard to get feedback, to listen to it, because while we are fierce in creativity, we are all sensitive to words that affect our sense of worth. All I can say is that the difference between being an author versus being a writer, is putting your work out there and learning to let the arrows harm you as little as possible, and learning to let the praise touch you.

There’s a world of potential marketing avenues out there for indie authors. Do you have any marketing tips or strategies that have worked well for you?

Connecting with people genuinely and directly on Twitter has worked. Genuinely means without automation. No automated thank yous, no automated anything except maybe scheduling some tweets regarding blog posts that people might find useful. Another thing is not blasting your following with ads, because you will quickly get muted.COVERMASTER-Book 2-Master-V2

 Offline, meeting people directly at expos like CalgaryExpo has been amazing for me. Building a fan base is a grassroots thing, and you do it by earning one reader and fan at a time. You have to get out of your shell, put on the author hat, and meet people because no one will be better at convincing them to give your book a chance than you.

Do you have a favourite author or book? What was so memorable about their works?

You know, this is the first time during an interview I actually remembered to mention this book, it’s Good Omens by Neil Gaimen and Terry Pratchett. The characters and their contrast still sticks with me, and the humor. I loved that book.

How can readers discover more about you and you work?

Website: http://TheYellowHoods.com
Blog: http://AdamDreece.comPromo - focus on Book 1
Facebook: http://facebook.com/TheYellowHoods
Twitter: http://twitter.com/adamdreece
LinkedIn: http://ca.linkedin.com/in/adamdreece
Amazon Author Page: amazon.com/author/adamdreece
Indigo – http://smarturl.it/IndigoAdam
Amazon – http://smarturl.it/AmzAll
iBooks – http://smarturl.it/iAdam
Kobo – http://smarturl.it/KoboAll
Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/AdamDreece
Book Trailer: AdamDreece.com/booktrailer

I know that writing hasn’t always been your profession. Can you tell us a bit about what you did before you became a full-time writer, and why you made the change?

Book 3-MasterWhen I was in high school I started doing two things, writing stories and programming. Okay, and playing lots of Dungeons and Dragons, so three things, but they were all inter-related. From there, programming and writing stayed with me.

 For 25 years I did nothing with my writing, and for the past 20 years, I’ve been in software. Specifically, I quickly went from being a software developer to a software architect. I’ve been the write hand on projects as big as $100 Million (I can’t say that without thinking of Doctor Evil), and have worked for Microsoft and in Silicon Valley.

 The drop in oil prices and the sudden scarcity of contract positions for me gave my wife and I an opportunity. We decided that my first year as an author had gone really well, and that it was worth making some life changes to allow me to go full time, and I did. A lot of the skills that I developed as a software guy have paid huge dividends for me, such as being able to strategically think, to look at the end result and figure out how I might get there, and being able to work really damn fast and well.

Can you tell us a bit about your cover design? Who designed it? What inspired you to choose those images?

The initial cover we had when we launched at CalgaryExpo 2014 wasn’t what everyone’s used to seeing. We listened to the feedback from the potential readers and customers. We were then faced with a decision, do we seek out someone who can create the cover that we really want, or do we keep going with what we have? That’s when we found Xia Taptara, and he’s been doing the amazing covers ever since.

 For each of the covers, I’ll send Xia an idea or two, capturing a particularly moment or feeling of the book, and he’ll send me back a few concepts. They always blow me away.

When I look back at the novel I’ve written, I find bits and pieces of my own life that have made it in to my work. Can you share with us a bit of your life that has made it in to your stories?

Wow, there are several. The map itself is littered with several. But probably the one that is absolutely the most personal is Mounira and dealing with her pain in book two. I went through 15 COVERMASTER-Book 3-Mastermonths of horrible scar tissue pain years ago, which was improved to became liveable chronic pain. I understand what it is to have hot, raw pain that wants to consume you. I know how it can eat away at who you are, what you want and more. And putting that into an eleven year old kid, someone who was so filled with joy and innocence, I wanted to walk with her through that journey of taking the demon that was pain and absorbing it, making it a strength rather than her enemy. I have a lot planned for her in the future, I hope I get to go there with her.

Other than being able to write books at a fantastically fast pace, do you have any unique talents or hobbies?

I really miss table top role-playing, but when I’ve tried to return to it, the complexity isn’t there for me. I played a miniatures game called Heroclix for a while and miss it too, I don’t have the time or friends to play it with these days.

 As for unique talents? I’m told listening is one, and my style of writing is another. But then again, what do I know?

Is there anything else you’d like to add?

There’s nothing as empowering as taking that risk for a dream, stepping off that cliff and seeing if you can fly. It’s terrifying and exhilarating, but more than anything, it reminds us that our ideas are worthy and powerful.

 

Hi Eric! As you may have noticed from my website, I like to interview writers. From what you’ve told me, you like to write sci-fi fantasy stories, but also write some business and finance works as well. I’m happy to chat with as fellow writer like yourself, but I’m not going to ask you about your writings today.  Instead, I’d like to pick your brain regarding your passion for helping writers figure out the business side of being an author.

Before jumping into the main questions, can you tell us a bit about your experiences that lead you to want to help writers?

I have always had a passion for writing and storytelling but like many prospective authors I felt that writing for a living was just a pipedream and I went to school for business instead. My love of books and the overwhelming fines I had racked up at the local library led me to become a manager of a bookstore. Over the past few years I have had the opportunity to speak directly with many authors and gain priceless insight into their mind. My experiences have led me to speak with authors just starting out, as well as, others like Larry Correia who have achieved the hallowed, NYT bestseller status.Eric Headshot

As I stepped into this larger store 6 months ago the requests to do author signings and questions about how to publish a book has grown exponentially. From my countless conversations with new authors it was apparent that many authors lack the experience, resources, and knowledge to get their books to their readers hands. I realized that it was selfish for me to hoard the knowledge I had gained through my unique ability to directly interact with successful writers.

I decided to put more of my effort into understanding and overcoming the struggles of new authors. It then became my crusade to help my fellow writers understand the business of books so that they can see the fruits of their labor.

I can name off a long list of struggles, writers go through when trying to publish and market their books. What do you see as being a major reason why a lot of authors fail to get the exposure they are seeking for their books?

This is a bit of loaded question so I will give you a short and long answer for it.

Short: Supply and demand…

Long: Writers often are creative people who would prefer to not have to get their hands dirty with the business side of things. This is why the industry model has been one driven by writers, agents, publishing houses, and bookstores all playing the same role for decades. Writers need agents, who need publishers, who need bookstores, and bookstores need writers, who need… I think you get where I’m going with this.

This model has recently, if you can call almost a decade recent, been altered drastically with the advent of the e-reader. Due to the lowered cost of print self-publishing partnered the ease of e-book publication the market was taken over by people who may never have written a book in the old system. With the a few hundred thousand new titles flooding the market agents have a test market to cherry pick budding authors from. They choose the authors who have the quickest and most likely chance of selling X number of books. By removing the middleman from the equation many authors are left with a voice but no microphone.

The author is forced to pick up the slack and market themselves. The fact that many authors have worked their entire lives on the right side of their brain they lack the experience and business acumen to become the marketer they need to be in order to get their message out there. The writer in today’s over saturated market has to build their own platform so they can stand out to readers, agents, and publishers.

Can you suggest a few things, which you think, a successful store book signing has?

The first thing I would suggest is that the author have a built in audience. Without a built in fan base it is likely that anyone who is shopping the store will not think you are very interesting if nobody has shown up to see you. People think they are missing something if there is a crowd.

Another thing you should have is an engaging topic you plan on discussing. It is great to start by reading a passage from your book but the people who’ve traveled to see you want more. They want to know what the passage meant to you. Let them in on your secret thoughts that led you to write the book. Sharing this content will help the person have a deeper connection to you and your book. These people will sell your book for you.

The last and most important thing you should have is candy. People love chocolate and it may just sweeten the deal and encourage them to purchase your book.

If people would like to find out a bit more about you and your works where can they find you?

Twitter: Twitter.com/EricAyles

Facebook: Facebook.com/WhatAylesYou

LinkedIn: LinkedIn.com/in/WhatAylesYou

Website: WhatAylesYou.com

In your experience as an Assistant Store Manager for a large US bookstore, what advice do you give authors wanting their book on the shelves? Is it the same advice for both indie and traditionally published authors?

Indie:

The primary piece of advice I can give you is to make sure your book is returnable. The management and staff at a bookstore love literature and also love helping new authors get their book to people. With that said they are also running a business that they need to ensure is profitable. If the book is non-returnable then it is not likely the bookstore will be able to carry the book. Some independent bookstores may allow you to do a consignment where you sign an agreement that you will purchase back the books at retail cost.

To my knowledge Lightning Source is the only Print On Demand (POD) publisher who allows you to set up your book as returnable. Keep in mind that this option costs more for the author and there is no guarantee that you will recoup the cost if it doesn’t sell. The author typically has to pay the shipping or destruction cost.

Traditional:

More often authors who have gone the traditional method for publication typically have returnable books so my primary advice is different…

Get your book on Edelweiss.

This website allows publishers to put the book up for bookseller, reviewers, and other industry professionals to download for free. There are over 74,000 people in the bookselling industry who have accounts on this site. These are the people who can and will be the champion of your book. If they like your book they will order it into their store and handsell it to your readers. Partnering this with a well defined social media strategy and you have a great chance of success.

Can you give us an anecdotal story about an author who’s come in to your store? Maybe they were a great example of what to do right – or wrong.

Hmm…That’s a hard one too.

I would prefer not to conjure up the thoughts of failed book signings and although Ronda Rousey and Greg Gutfeld come to mind, I think a more pertinent example would be Andrew Welsh-Do you reviewHuggins. He is a local author of the book Slow Burn and has done a few signings at my prior store. With a Twitter following of only 3,000 he can always pack the store with people. He is brilliant at marketing himself and relating to his followers. When you talk to him you can tell he genuinely appreciates his fans and enjoys connecting with them. This is why I have witnessed him have a successful signing on a Tuesday and do equally well at the Ohiana writer’s festival on Saturday even though it is just a few miles away.

Thanks for taking the time to answer these questions! I’m glad to have gotten the opportunity to connect!

My best wishes for all your endeavors Eric! Katherine

Great Things

Hello all,

The last blog I wrote was about the bits of me that made it in to my first novel, Harmless. Sticking with that theme, I’d like to share with a short piece that inspired my main character, but didn’t make it in to the book. For those of you curious as to what my novel might be like, this short story is a good example of my style of writing. It’s also one of my favorite bits I’ve written. I hope you like it.

Cheers,

Katherine

 

Great Things

 

Sometimes, you just have to hold your breath and jump right in. That’s what I’ve done. Part of me feels like I haven’t come up for air yet … and then there’s another part. There’s definitely another part now.

The screech of metal rubbing on metal. My bed creaks and grinds as I flop all my weight onto the mattress, held up by the old cast iron frame. The smell of rosemary and lavender float up from my pillows and blankets. I breathe it in deep. My grandma washes everything in lavender scented soap and the rosemary … I bring a pillow to my face, covering it. The rosemary is everywhere in my grandma’s house, growing unruly, in clay pots strategically soaking up the sun from every south facing window. The scents bring me back. Back here. To my home. To my bedroom. To my bed. To a safe place.

I let the pillow fall off to the side as I glance around my room. It looks the same as it always has. My worn wooden desk and soft pink computer chair sit beside my bed. My laptop open on top of it, it never closes. The potted gerbera daisy my mom gave me sits by the edge in its terra cotta pot sprouting seven blooms. My four-drawer dresser sits underneath the window dressed in yellowing lacy curtains. And one cardboard box sits crammed into the corner of my bedroom, hiding from the world, refusing to be unpacked. Yep, my bedroom looks exactly the same as when I left it, and at the same time a whole world different.

I slow my breathing in an attempt to filter the rush of senses. My senses are exploding. I can smell the stale air between the cogitated folds of the cardboard box. I can hear the tiny legs of an aphid crawl on the leaf of the plant beside me. I can pick out the tiny flaws in the lacy pattern of my bedroom curtains from ten feet away.

I’d like to say the room is spinning but it’s not. Maybe I’d like it to be or I wish it was, because then maybe I could still convince myself this is all just a dream. But it’s not. Everything’s crystal clear. My mind, my body … clear. Perhaps even perfect.

I grab the edges of the quilts on my bed and wrap them around me tight, covering every inch of me from head to toe. It’s a small comfort, more like a Band-Aid on a gaping wound. I’ve been trying so hard to look the other way, live here in the spaces between reality and … this. But it’s undeniable. I’ve made my choice. I chose to become this … this thing. How long have I spend fighting against this devil I know, only to discover the world is not as black and white as it seems. And good cannot exist without – evil. I know now, with absolute clarity, that God and the Devil are as real as you and me. Can’t say I’ve formally met either but I’m beginning to think the Devil might beg to differ.

A single tear rolls down my cheek. I can smell its salty brine as it hits my pillow, mingling with the rosemary and lavender.

This isn’t the way things were supposed to end! My voice is screaming in my head. So loud, I can’t stand another minute inside this quilted cocoon. I burst from my tight wrap kicking the covers off me in a heated tantrum. This isn’t how things end!

A house fly scratches at some dirt crowded in the corner of my bedroom window. I close my eyes and try to silence the world.

You know … I had this feeling once, that I was destined for great things. But that pinnacle – that tuning point, where I’m faced with my choices, I realized – great things can be mixed with equal parts of terrible. And no matter what I choose, it won’t change what terrible things I’ve already done – or what I will become … a true monster.

It is my pleasure to introduce you all to Catherine Armstrong, author of the Historical Fiction novel The Edge of Nowhere.

So tell us Catherine, is this a first novel for you or have you written others?

The Edge of Nowhere is not only my first, but my first strong attempt at fiction. Though I’ve written for years, I wasn’t sure I had the imagination to write fiction. And then this story got stuck in my head and wouldn’t leave. Since then, I’ve written a YA novel and have started three other novels that are in various stages of completion.

C.H.ArmstrongI’ve always found Historical fiction fascinating. My favourite title in this genre is The Book of Negroes by Lawrence Hill. Did you find that writing a fiction book that stayed true to historical events difficult? How did you do most of your research?

LOVE that book! In the United States, it’s sold under the title of Someone Knows My Name! But to answer your question, staying true to the historical events depicted in The Edge of Nowhere was fairly easy for me for two reasons: First, because the Dust Bowl lasted a full ten years, so there was a fluidity of timeline to work with. Second, because I grew up on the stories of hardships from this era. While it’s a work of fiction, The Edge of Nowhere was actually inspired by my own family’s struggles during this time, so I grew up hearing about the poverty and sacrifices. As a result many of the events depicted actually happened either to someone in my own family, or to another. I think the fun thing for readers will be trying to discover which elements of the story are fact-based, and which are a product of my imagination. And, frankly, some of the answers may surprise them.

Your book cover is very nice. Can you tell us a bit about who designed it and why you chose those images?

Thank you – I admit that I’m really happy with it! The cover was designed by Steven Novak, of Novak Illustration, and was a combined effort of the design artist, my publisher and myself. The inspiration, though, definitely came from the artist. The two things I love best about it are the background and the woman. If you’ll notice, behind the woman on the front cover is a background image that depicts the devastation of the era. Everything you see is a landscape covered several feet deep in dust and dirt, which is very true to the history of the era. The dust storms would sweep in and cover everything in dirt, much like a Minnesota snowstorm buries the landscape in snow. It was very similar, and that’s really what the main character does – constantly. As soon as Victoria overcomes one battle, she has to gear up for another. I love that we were able to find an image of a woman whose entire demeanor says, “Give me a second to regroup, then come at me! I dare you!” Incidentally, the main character was loosely based on my own grandmother, and I guarantee that’s exactly what she would’ve said: “Come at me – I dare you!” She was a strong woman who backed down for nobody.

How can readers discover more about you and you work?

Website: www.charmstrongbooks.com
Facebook: www.facebook.com/catherinehedrickarmstrong
Twitter: @C_H_Armstrong
Linkedin: https://www.linkedin.com/in/charmstrongbooks

Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/ch_armstrong/

Amazon Author Page: Coming soon
Google Plus: https://plus.google.com/+CHArmstrongbooks/posts

Goodreads Author Page: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/14251172.C_H_Armstrong

Did you always dream of becoming a writer? How you pursued other careers in the past?

Yes. I’ve always written because it’s always been the one thing I felt accomplished at doing. With that said, though, I always thought my first book would be a work of non-fiction because, until recently, it was what I mostly wrote.

I have a degree in Journalism from the University of Oklahoma and have almost always pursued jobs related to writing. I’ve been fortunate to stay home to raise my children these last 19 years, but I’ve used that time writing for non-profits and charities, and most recently for a local magazine.

Give us a quick synopsis on your upcoming novel The Edge of Nowhere.

The Edge of Nowhere is based during the 1930s Oklahoma Dust Bowl and tells the story of a young woman’s struggle – first as an orphan and then after the death of her husband. The Dust Bowl and The Great Depression have just begun to gear up when Victoria’s husband dies, leaving her with a farm that cannot produce, a mortgage she cannot pay, and nine children she cannot feed. To provide for her family, she does (arguably) reprehensible acts in order to secure the basic necessities for her family. It really begs the question, “Is there anything at all a parent won’t do to provide for her children?”

While it’s not a “romance,” it’s definitely a love story. It’s the story of Victoria’s love for her deceased husband and their children and, in return, their children’s love for each other.

As a writer myself, I think about this all the time. If your book ever became a TV show or movie, who would you cast as the main characters?

I think Deborah Ann Woll would be perfect for the role of Victoria. She not only looks the part (height and stature), but I think she has the acting chops to go from a somewhat naïve young woman to a kick-butt, get-out-of-my way, leading character.

I haven’t given a lot of thought to who would be good as the peripheral characters.

What’s the most surprising thing you’ve learned so far in publishing a book?

I’m surprised at how incredibly fun it is! My publisher, Penner Publishing, has made nearly every step of the process fun. Sure, it’s a lot of work, but the pure fun is not something I expected. That, and the friendships – I’ve made some incredible friends along the way with other authors going through this same process alongside me.

Is The Edge of Nowhere written as a series? Can you tell us what your working on next?

No – it’s completely stand-alone. With that said, I enjoyed writing about the era and may return someday to tell the stories of some of Victoria’s children. Currently, though, I’m in the process of searching for an agent for a Young Adult novel I recently wrote about a homeless family. It’s a piece I’m really proud of and I hope to find a home for it soon. Beyond that, I have a couple of other manuscripts in the works, but none are really far enough to give much information on them.

One last question . . . Tell us a bit about the person you feel supported you most in your writing career.

I wish I could name only one person. At the top of my list is my husband and children, who have been so incredibly patient while I ignored literally everything around me to get this book in the hands of readers. Beyond that, I’ve had no end of support from my extended family and my “Facebook Family,” as well as many residents in the town of El Reno, Oklahoma (where this novel is set) who have been with me and encouraged me every single step of the way throughout this process.

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The Bits of Me

It’s been a while since I’ve written a blog, and I think it’s time I did. I’ve been hiding in my office, trying to crank out the last of the edits, needed on my manuscript and I can finally say … it’s done. Three and a half years, and the book I’ve worked so hard on is polished to a point I can see my face in it. There’s still lots of stuff for me to do while I wait to hear back from agents, like – watch way to much Supernatural on Netflix, and start writing book two of course.

So, I wanted to write this blog, before I get too far in to writing book two, too share with all of you the ‘bits of me’ that made it in to my first manuscript. A friend of mine said to me. “Katherine, you’re telling all your secrets!” But I don’t think so. Someday, if my book ever goes big, this blog will be a nerd nugget for super fans! I writing this cuz I’m a nerd too and appreciate stuff like this. So here goes …Rosemary

  1. Rosemary: That’s right, the herb used to season poultry! I have huge pots of unruly rosemary plants growing in the south facing windows of my house, and so does the character, Grams, in my book. The sent of rosemary can be used to enhance memory. I used rosemary symbolically in the book. Gram’s granddaughter, Rachel, is always trying to forget what happened in the past, the sent of rosemary brings clearer memories, that were once foggy.
  1. Leather Jackets: I have what I consider to be, a very cool leather jacket. And, when I’m feeling particularly ‘bad ass’ I like to wear it. In my story, my main character, Rachel, also has a leather jacket. Her late brother, a rebel without a cause, gave it to her. My jacket was bought at the mall, but the same as my character’s jacket, it gives her a sense of becoming someone different.Katherine (8)
  1. Turning emotions into analogies about the weather: Long ago, a friend once told me. “Don’t let other peoples weather, effect your weather.” Which basically means, if others are in a bad mood, don’t let it become your mood too. I liked this, ‘emotional weather analogy’ so much, that I created a whole character around it called, Dr. Doppler, aka The Weather Lady. The Weather Lady is a psychologist, who analyzes her patient’s emotions, interpreting them into weather report like analogies. The weather reports give my main character a whole new way to express how she feeling, without actually coming out and saying it.
  1. Conversations over hot beverages: Do you every notice that a lot of important conversations happen over hot beverages? Or is that just me? Just Teaabout everyone in my story think this, except for my main character.
  1. Crow funerals: Did you know there was such a thing? Google it, I dare you. Once, several years ago I witnessed a crow funeral. By chance, looking out the window of my house, I saw a dead crow a little ways off away. Up in the trees, around the dead crow, were perched four or five crows. After a few more minutes, I noticed a few more had arrived. After about twenty minutes, there must have been around eighty crows! Apparently, crows will gather to ‘pay respects’ to their fallen brothers. Crow funerals are a real thing, and are very creepy. I found a way to put a crow funeral in the book … its awesome.Crow
  1. Inner voice vs. outer voice: Anyone who’s had a conversation with me in person, probably realizes that I have an inner commentary that’s always going, and so does my main character. There’s a commentary in my main characters head of what she would have, could have, should have said … but never does. A trait we both share.

I hope you enjoyed these tidbits! Someday I hope you look back on this blog (after reading the book) and say “Hmm – so that’s how she thought all that up – weird.”  :)

 

Good reading and good writing to you all!

Katherine

I’m pleased to introduce to you all, Ben Starling; a lover of marine conservation, a skilled athlete is the sport of boxing, and an author with a just released short story.

Ben, can you tell us a bit about your new short story? Are there any themes of boxing and marine conservation in this tale?

Thank you for interviewing me, Katherine. My short story Something in the Air has just been released on Kindle. While it’s true that there’s boxing and a marine theme in my upcoming novel that will be released in 2016, in this new short love story, the focus is on a returning soldier, a veterinarian and an urban environmental concern.

Here’s the blurb:SITA FINAL COVER - KINDLE LO OCT
Daniel thought war was tough. That was till he fell in love.
What if it’s true that you can never really go home? Returning from a soul-crushing war, Daniel Dragan is determined to put the past behind him. But with his beloved uncle dead and the town’s economy in a slump, there may not be much to keep him in San Prospero, California.
That is till he is startled by veterinarian Willow Dixon at the roadside lookout above their hometown’s new factory. A desperately needed job offer there may offer Daniel the chance he needs – but all is not as it seems at the factory and Willow, determined to save the inhabitants of her animal sanctuary, wants the factory’s operations stopped. Sometimes the road home is neither the one we expect. Nor the one we left behind…
You can find it on Kindle at http://bit.ly/ampgdell

Are you choosing to self-publish, or is this book being published by a traditional publishing house? Why did you choose to go this route?

I am looking forward this Autumn to indie launches of several short stories set in the same world as my upcoming novel. This novel is also a love story – and an indie launch as well.

Independent publishing is one of the most exciting changes happening in any industry these days and is largely an online phenomenon. It’s morphing at lightning speed and no one knows what will happen next. It’s fascinating – and a fun challenge!

And one of the nicest things about online publishing is the interactive component – reading and writing have become a two-way street as readers and writers reach out to each other over the internet and around the world. Traditionally, writing was a very lonely occupation. It’s a great time to be a writer!
How can readers discover more about you and you work?
I can be reached at www.ben-starling.com and at all of these social networks – I look forward to connecting with you.

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From what I’ve read about you online it sounds as though you’ve lived a very interesting life. Tell us a bit about your passions, other than writing.

Well, of course, I love boxing. People tend to think of it as a bit of a brutal sport, but I enjoy it for the technique and the strategy of the game. If you can include strategy in your plan – defensive parries, counters to your opponent’s every move, footwork that is active rather than reactive… it opens up a lot of possibilities. I retired from competition a few years ago and now lift weights, swim and hike to keep fit.

When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?

I’m a freelance editor, working on business plans, articles published in specialist magazines and some fiction. After so many years of working on other people’s stories, it felt like the right time to create an original one of my own.

Do you have any advice for people just starting out writing?

If you haven’t already, read The Elements of Style by Strunk and White. Also any creative writing book by James N Frey is a good investment. Read them all. He is one of the best teachers of structure I’ve come across.

What was one of the most surprising things you learned in creating your book(s)?

That’s a difficult question. What I wanted to achieve was to touch the reader across a range of major emotions: love, despair, excitement, humor, hope, acceptance…to name a few, while also being unpredictable. Twists and turns. Pain and joy.

I suppose what surprised me most was that all the spreadsheets, post-it notes and brain-storming sessions my long-suffering editor insisted upon have produced a novel that I’m very happy with. Spreadsheets for creativity? It sounded crazy. The tunnel was long and dark but I got there in the end! Just about sane.

I love to ask this question! If your book were turned in to a TV show or movie, whom would you cast as the main characters?

Ah, I’d love to see the charismatic Anne Hathaway as the heroine! The hero would be Chris Hemsworth. Or Channing Tatum. Either would be fantastic.

Are there any authors out there that inspire you? What is it about them or their work that helps drive you to write?

Maeve Binchy. Great structure. Great style. I read her work first just for the joy of it, but there is also so much to learn from her. She is one of the master storytellers of our time.

BEN blue_actors headshot sq_AUG2015Is there any thing else you’d like to add?

Something in the Air is the first short story (others coming soon!) in a series. You can find it on Kindle at http://bit.ly/ampgdell

Something in the Water, a novel, continues the journey in this series and will be released on January 21, 2016.

If you’d like to stay in touch and be notified of other new releases, please visit: www.ben-starling.com/contact

Thanks for interviewing me, Katherine. I look forward to reading your work too.

Short Bio: Ben Starling is passionate about marine conservation and boxing, both central themes in his upcoming novel. He is Oxford’s only ever Quintuple Blue (varsity champion five years running), was Captain of the university boxing team, and coached and boxed competitively. Ben graduated from Oxford University with a Master of Arts and an M Phil. He was born in the USA but has lived in the UK since childhood.

 

The Coven 600 dpiBefore I give you my thoughts on this book, I would like say that I was given a copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review.

This book falls in the genre of magical realism, which is one of my favourites. The story starts off in the year 1718 AD on an island off the coast of North Carolina. A coven of witches has gathered on the beach to discuss an impending attack from the infamous pirate Blackbeard. A decision is made by the queen of the witches to send three of the covens daughters as a distraction to Blackbeard. Blackbeard takes the women, convinced that they are not witches, leaving the rest the people on the island to escape his wrath. The queen scarified these women to the pirates to hide there most guarded secret… that they are witches.

After this introduction, the story jumps to present day focusing on the main character Stevie. Stevie is a thirty year old, recently divorced, single mother of a young autistic boy. Stevie has no idea that her mother, friends, and rekindled love interest are all witches, until she saves her son from a near miss car accident. Stevie then discover she too is a witch, and is told about an evil witch who returned to her small town to seek revenge on her and her young son.

I loved the ideas and concept behind this story, but felt it lacked in a few areas. Sometimes I felt confused about what characters were in a scene. And on other occasions, I felt mundane details were described overly, not really adding to the story. But as a whole, the story was good. It kept my interest till the very end.

As a writer myself, I understand the difficulties all to well when it comes to crafting a well-written story. I think this author has real potential in her writing but I’m giving this first book in the Crystal Coast series a 3 out of 5 stars. If you want an easy beach read, and love stories about witches, this book might be for you.

GraemeIngPhotoLet me introduce you all to Graeme Ing, an engineer of peculiar worlds! He’s guest blogged on my site a few times now… How we met? He contacted me after reading another author interview off my site, and so the networking began! Graeme is an author of two published books, one Dark Fantasy and the other a YA Fantasy.

Graeme, can you give us a short summary of both your published books?

 Hello Katherine, and thanks so much for inviting me. My first book is a YA fantasy, “Ocean of Dust.” Yes, the Oceans of this world are made of a fine gray powder, not water. Our heroine, Lissa, is thrust into a harrowing adventure on a “pirate” ship. She doesn’t have a lot of allies on board and many folks are downright cruel. As the ship sails the dust ocean, she develops a rare talent linking her to the ocean and the mysterious creatures that live in it. Next year, I shall be writing sequels, because people keep asking me “what happens next?” Besides, I love Lissa’s guts and determination, and her little sidekick, Branda, is adorable.

“Necromancer” is a dark fantasy. Maldren is our necromancer hero, and he needs to save the city he loves from a fiery elemental intent on burning it to the ground. I particularly wanted to show that a necromancer could be a good guy, not an ancient, sinister old man that summons icky things. That said, bizarre undead abound, plenty of unique spells, adventures into the undercity, and through it all Maldren begins to fall in love with his female apprentice. His only way to save the city is to ally with a murderous, ancient ghost. The pact almost costs him everything he holds dear.

The cover imagery on these is beautiful. Can you tell why you went with these images and who designed them?

I love covers that convey character emotion and a unique setting. Erin Dameron Hill is my amazing cover designer, and I think she nailed it. Here’s her site. I adore the mood and use of color that she brings to her designs. Everyone seems to fall in love with them. Thank you, Erin!

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How can readers discover more about you and your work?

Website: www.graemeing.com
Blog: www.graemeing.com/blog/
Facebook: www.facebook.com/GraemeIngAuthor
Twitter: https://twitter.com/GraemeIng
Lnkedin: www.linkedin.com/pub/graeme-ing/1/541/a5b
Pinterest: www.pinterest.com/graemeing/
Amazon Author Page: www.amazon.com/Graeme-Ing/e/B00A1IOUD4/
Smashwords: www.smashwords.com/profile/view/GraemeIng
Book Links: www.graemeing.com/books/
Goodreads: www.goodreads.com/author/show/6571955.Graeme_Ing

I hear that you’re currently working on a sci-fi mystery. Tell us a bit about that and when can we expect it out?

It’s titled “Emergence.” A millennium ago, the Ancients constructed a mammoth cave underground, to protect the survivors of the Cataclysm. Now the Ancients, the Cataclysm and the Surface remain only as stories. But the Cavern is beginning to fail… If I’ve done my job right, this will be one of these books where the reader is hooked into determining the reality of the situation. As the plot progresses, the reader can attempt to piece it together, only to discover new layers. I hope the final reality is a pleasant surprise. Expect it in the 2nd half of 2016.

You grew up in England but moved to California in the late 90’s. Can you tell us a bit about what sparked your move?

Cold and rainy weather. :) Seriously, as a geek who works in software engineering, what better place to live than California? San Diego has a gorgeous climate with sweeping hills and blue ocean. I’ll always love England, but California is a great place to live.

Other than writing fantastic books, do you have other unique talents?

Well, thank you. Nothing unique, I don’t think. Unless you count that I can bend my thumbs back 90 degrees? No, I didn’t think so. I’m a geek, nerd, gamer, armchair astronomer and explorer, pilot, and am currently taking sailing lessons. Why that’s taken me 20 years in a sailing mecca like San Diego, I have no idea. According to one of my six cats, Pippin, I have a unique lap, because I’m the only one he likes to sit on. Does that count? :)

Was there a defining moment when you knew you wanted to be a writer?

That decision brewed over about 30 years. I remember writing my own stories and screenplays when I was nine, typing them on a manual typewriter. That should have been a hint to me. I wrote a lot in my twenties, but it was only about 10 years ago that it suddenly occurred to me that “Hey, I want to be an author.” Now I’m committed and don’t plan on ever stopping. Probably the defining moment was after reading “Lord of the Rings”, aged 7. My imagination went into overdrive after that. To this day I have hundreds and hundreds of book ideas scribbled down.GraemeSphinx

What’s one of the most surprising things you’ve learned in becoming a published author?

This industry amazes me every day, as do the wonderful people in it. The most surprising discovery was that people actually enjoyed my books enough to write to me. I appreciate every review and email, and love to chat to readers about what other books they like. I never imagined that readers could be so kind and generous with their time to engage me on social media or send me emails. That’s what makes this whole thing worthwhile – bringing a smile to readers.

I always ask this… If your book were optioned to become a TV show or movie, who would you cast as the main characters? Just pick one of your books.

Great question! I happen to have written a blog about it!  I have a cast for “Ocean of Dust” picked out. Emily Kinney (lately of “The Walking Dead”) is perfect for my heroine Lissa. The cute, little Branda would be played by Kailee Bauer. Everyone knows Paul Bettany. He can play the cruel First Officer, Farq. (booo!) The creepy ship’s navigator, Oban, would be played by Ian McDiarmid (yes, he was the Emperor in “Star Wars”.) Finally, Orlando Bloom would be great as the handsome officer. Mampalo, that becomes one of Lissa’s best friends.

And last but not least… Give us fun fact about one of your books for all your fans out there.

Final600x900My favourite of all the characters in my books is the immortal Phyxia, from “Necromancer.” I had such enormous fun writing her scenes. At that time, I formed the habit of eating pistachios while I wrote, and that’s why in the book she has a passion for “jit-nuts,” which she can scoff by the bowlful. Expect to see Phyxia in future books.

Thanks so much for taking the time to do this interview with me Graeme! Best of luck with your writing. I’m sure we’ll chat again soon.

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Let’s Negotiate

Whether you’re an indie author, traditionally published or somewhere in between, there comes a point in every writer’s quest to publish when they have to deal with contracts and negotiations. These contracts could range anywhere from simple paperwork to uploading an e-book, to negotiating international sales territories and optioning rights. For some of us, staring down at a book contract is the realization of years of hard work. For others it’s a huge gulp of reality that their hobby has just become something MUCH bigger.

Currently, I have no signed contracts on my book, but that doesn’t mean I’ve had no dealings with them. I few months ago I was all signed up and ready to self-publish with a reputable Canadian publishing service. I was weeks away from submitting my manuscript when a friend pointed out a few things in my contract. I’m glad I looked in to them further! I found two details, that for me, where deal breakers. Now… I’d like to say, said details were hidden in the fine print of the contact, but no; the font was all the same size. (Ha ha! Writer joke.)

I didn’t cash in my chips straightaway on that contract. I tried to negotiate with them or at best find reasons for their stipulations. I learned a lot about self–publishing that day. Long story short… that publisher wasn’t for me. I cancelled out of that agreement with no hard feelings and a few lessons learned.

So – Next time I stare down at publishing contract… because there will be a next time! I’ve written myself a list of things to think about.

  1. Leave the emotion out of it. I’m sure almost every writer can sympathize that their manuscript feels like it’s their baby. You wrote that thing through blood, sweat, and bouts of carpel tunnel syndrome. It might be the manuscript only it’s mother could cherish… but it’s yours, and you love it. Yeah… BUT publisher are in the business of selling books and making money. Trust me, they like it. Otherwise you wouldn’t even be talking about a book deals. So, take a deep breath and keep an open – not so emotional mind. Little ‘Manny’ might need a haircut and braces before he hit’s bookstore shelves.
  1. Be knowledgeable about what each party brings to the table. If you’re an indie author, shopping around for a printer or distributor, you bring everything to the table, including your wallet to pay for the services you can’t do yourself. You are your own publisher, PR, marking, website designer, content writer, etc., etc…

A traditional publisher, in most cases, is looking for a stellar manuscript with a marketable author. Sounds simple, but let’s make things a little more challenging. The landscape of traditional publishing is changing everyday. So add to that list, that traditional publishers are now looking for authors with solid author platforms, ability to self-promote, and a vision as to where they want to see their careers go… with evidence to back it up. All that extra stuff has got to be worth something, right? Unfortunately, I don’t have a crystal ball, but I suspect it could be with honest and well thought out negotiation.

  1. Know what your goals are with publishing a book. Are you looking to be the next J.K. Rowling? Or do you just want to give it to your family and friends? Are you willing to give it 110% to pump out a sequel? Or is this the only book you’re ever going to write?

I could go on and on about the intricacies of publishing, contracts, and trying to find the right fit. As a lot of writer’s do… I have publishing on the brain. So just remember – Next time you’re staring all doe eyed in to the blinding light of a contract, remember… Stay cool. Be knowledgeable. And know what you want. I’m sure you’ll do just fine.

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Let me introduce you all to Gordon Wilson, a resident of Mason, Michigan, an independent author, and real person I met on Twitter. So far, Gordon has published one book titled Firetok. Can you tell us a bit about Firetok and what inspired you to write this book?

Firetok is about a person who has really lived a rough life in part due to his ability to see things and events outside of the norm. He fights his abilities, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, a destructive relationship and bad decisions. Eventually he finds himself in situations which suddenly make sense of his unacceptable abilities. The discovery leads to a rebirth of self with the help of a somewhat mysterious man and a dog. So the story has what may be considered supernatural elements. To me it is more about discovery of self and a conscious rebirth or awakening outside of societal norms.

The inspiration well, I don’t know if I should admit this but I firmly believe there is more to life than meets the eye. I see things all the time which make me think, I wish I could do something about that. I wish I could right that wrong, take matters into my own hands. While writing Firetok I did just that. Call me a virtual vigilante.

Reading some of your recent blog posts, I see attempts to coin a new genre, Inspirational Horror? Tell us a little about what inspirational horror is, and what draws you to this type of genre?

Inspirational HorrorI started reading articles and interviews while trying to understand genres in general. You are right, I have discussed it in detail in my posts. I was really puzzled to learn how in most circumstances a supernatural element in a story will get you classified in the horror genre. This was a huge surprise. I thought of horror as chainsaw massacre, hockey mask kind of stuff. It has become so much more. So to boil it down, Firetok was this inspirational tale of people really coming out on the other side of situations which were quite awful. The supernatural elements and the dark subject matter push it toward horror, yet the overall message is that of hope, perseverance and positive change. Inspiration. Horror. Inspirational Horror. I searched around and found virtually no instances of it so I jokingly coined the phrase in one of my articles.

What have you found to be the most difficult about writing?

It’s not the writing at all. It is everything else around it. I can write all day if I have the time. It’s promotion. I am not a self-promoter, while I can promote someone else without limit. I have never been comfortable bringing attention to myself. It’s the whole “getting published” thing. The whole “query” thing. The list of things I don’t even know I don’t know yet. What I have found in the process of trying to learn how to write is that you don’t just write a book. Writing is merely the tip of the iceberg, trying to figure out what to do next is where it gets difficult.

From what I’ve read online, I can’t tell if you write full time or not. If not, what do you do? Do you have future hopes of writing full time?

I do not write full time. I have spent nearly my entire adulthood in the construction industry and only in the last couple years have moved over to the music business. It took a couple years of working pretty long hours and writing in the cracks between to put Firetok together. Writing full time has been a dream but I will admit it is a passion thing with me. At this time I cannot even imagine how that would work. Don’t get me wrong, I am open to the concept. In the meantime I spend my days helping my wife run the School of Rock in Ann Arbor Michigan, a dream job in itself.

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I see that you’ve posted many new blog posts lately. Are you ramping up your following for a new project you’re working on? Or going hard promoting your current book and writer interests.

None of the above. Firetok is something I did years ago. I am not actually promoting it at all. I read through it now and see everything I could do better. I felt I needed to learn more about all the other stuff I mentioned before I move forward with another book. Hopefully I have learned and evolved quite a bit as a person and writer since that time and my current work will reflect it. My blog is really a notebook of topics I have studied, researched or read during the process of exploration. I have had personal experiences as well as many things I have learned which make it into the blog. My wife and I have a two hour commute to work each day we typically talk the entire way. Many, many times my blog posts are essentially notes from these conversations. One day we were talking about figuring out Twitter and how to use it. I put it out as a blog post and people went nuts for it. So I was never really trying to do anything with my blog until I discovered people wanting to read it. Now I am promoting the blog itself and have been overwhelmed with the response and support I have received. So to be honest I am promoting my own education and sharing the fruits. Building a following, that sounds like a great idea.

How can readers discover more about you and you work?

Website/Blog : http://www.firetok.com/

Medium: https://medium.com/@gordona_wilson
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Firetok

Twitter: @gordona_wilson
Lnkedin: www.linkedin.com/in/GordonWilsonA
Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/GordonAWilson/
Amazon Author Page: https://www. amazon.com/author/gordonawilson

Instagram: https://instagram.com/gordona.wilson/
Book Links: http://www.amazon.com/Firetok-Gordon-A-Wilson/dp/1478334800
Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/GordonAWilson

You strike me as a person that not only likes to write, but read too. Name a few of your favourite authors or books, and what strikes you about their work.

I read all the time. Lately I have been devouring articles on writing itself and genre while I figure out where I fit in it all. I do love Mark Twain. The dialect and old style way his stories read to me now, really take me away. When I was younger I read about every Stephen King book I could get my hands on. I am looking forward to the release of your book.

Tell us a bit about your book cover? Who designed it? Why did you go with that image?

I did the cover art myself. The font was something I actually painted on paper then digitized to get it where I wanted it. Firetok is a giant Great Pyrenees dog which is what you see as the base image. I wanted it to be surreal except for his eyes which I believe I achieved. There are some scenes in the book where he gets involved in some gruesome action which involves blood. I felt the overall image of the book cover reflects contradictions I was trying to do with the story. The dog looks happy and harmless yet it kind of looks like he could be covered in blood? You get the idea, and like I said earlier, there is more to life than meets the eye.

Other than writing, do you have any other unique talents or hobbies?

I would not say unique. My recent changes in lifestyle have allowed me to get back into music in a way I never thought I would. I play guitar and sing with a group of other guys my age and actually work a lot with kids where I have been able to help them achieve their goals. It is not unique but definitely rewarding. I love horses and dogs and try to be around one or the other of them as often as possible.

 

Thanks so much for taking the time to do this interview Gordon. Best of luck to your in life, and in your writing.