Author Interviews, Blog, Sci-Fi Fantasy Blog

Author Interview: William Joseph Hill, Sci-fi/Action

William Joseph Hill,  Sci-fi/action author of CYBER FIGHTER, adapted from his original feature film screenplay

From Planning to Published

When did you start writing and why?

Author:      I actually began writing stories in second grade, writing my own sci-fi stories inspired by my favorite TV show Space: 1999.  Most of my elementary school stories dealt with Commander Koenig from the show piloting the Eagle 1 to other planets.  Then Star Wars came out, and that got me dreaming about becoming a filmmaker.  When my family moved to Hawaii, I started writing and creating my own movies once I got into high school.  At the same time, I began training in martial arts.  My high school adventures that I wrote were very much “ninja epics”.  In fact, I actually made a ninja movie between junior and senior years.  I knew I wanted to have a career in Hollywood, so when I went to college, I took a lot of writing courses which helped me develop my craft.  Once I made the move to Hollywood, I started acting in film and TV professionally, while also writing on the side.  I was hired to write a few screenplays and started writing my own specs, including CYBER FIGHTER which began as a feature script before I turned that into the novel.

How long did it take you to finish your first book?

Author:      I started adapting my screenplay to novel form in 2018.  I finished it and first published on Amazon in November 2019.

If you’ve published, how long did your first book take?

Author:   The process from writing first draft to publishing took about a year and a half.  Most of the work was done in rewrites and editing.  Of course, since I was adapting the novel from my feature screenplay, getting that first draft out wasn’t too hard, as the story structure and characters were all there.  

Has your publishing timeframe improved at all since your first publication?

Author:      You always learn from past experience.  Right now (along with pre-production on a short film version of CYBER FIGHTER) I’m working on mapping out Book 2 in the CYBER FIGHTER series.  I expect that once that’s written and editing completed, going live with publication will be much quicker than my first book.

Are you indie, traditional, hybrid, or vanity, and why?

Author:      I’d say more of a hybrid.  Though I began by self-publishing, I’m always open to having a traditional publisher come on board.  My main goal with publishing CYBER FIGHTER is to reach a fan base that will want to see the feature film. 

How did you determine your target audience?

Author:      I begin with what motivates me; what I like.  I love sci-fi and action movies, everything from Star Wars to Star Trek, to classic written sci-fi from H.G. Wells, Issac Azimov, Ray Bradbury, among others.  I grew up loving martial arts and action movies too.  Bruce Lee and Jackie Chan are major influences in my action sequences.  I also like humor in the Monty Python vein, and works like Douglas Adams’ The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.  Folks who enjoy those kinds of works are who I’m targeting with CYBER FIGHTER.   

What is your publishing process?

Author:    After writing my draft in a Word Document (or Google Docs), I will import it into Kindle Create, where I can format the book for both Kindle and paperback/hardcover.    

What platforms do you use to publish your works?

Author:      I’ve been exclusively using Amazon as I found it to be the easiest platform to self-publish.

How do you get critiques, betas, feedback, and edits?

Author:      I have many writer friends here in Hollywood and often get feedback from them.  I also hired an editor, Christina Gray on CYBER FIGHTER who did a great job with corrections, edits and feedback as well.  It really pays off to hire an editor if you can.  You need a second set of eyes looking at your manuscript in order to find things that you will definitely miss, no matter how many times you comb over it.

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Marketing

Do you have a platform? What does it consist of?

Author:      I mainly use this program called StoryOrigin, which helps authors build mailing lists, get reviews and help with direct marketing by swapping newsletter mentions and promos with other authors.  I send out a monthly newsletter on the 30th of each month to share my recent news, or blog post articles that I write.  I also include other authors’ books in these, and they share my content as well.  It’s really helped me build my mailing list.

What is your launch plan for your works?

Author:      For my next book, I plan on having beta readers do advance reviews for me, and I will also be doing pre-launch promotion via social media and such.  Now that I’ve built up a bit of a following, I can reach out to them first with my new works.

How do you get reviews for your books?

Author:    I’ve gotten reviews through StoryOrigin, and also by hiring a publicist.   I’ve been working with Charles Barrett of The Barrett Company, and it’s really helped get CYBER FIGHTER out there. 

How do you promote your content?

Author:      Along with StoryOrigin and my publicist, I do periodic social media postings on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.  These generally help promote my film projects as well as my book.

What do you think is the most critical marketing component or tactic for becoming successful?

Author:      Persistence is probably the best thing you can do.  Be willing to try different things and never give up.  Keep going till you find something that works, but don’t spend lots of money in the process.  Start with marketing you can do yourself and gradually bring on publicists when you can afford it. 

How do you define success as an author?

Author:      Being able to make your living 100 percent from writing.  If you can sell enough books to pay your bills, and also land other writing gigs, I think that is the dream for most authors. 

About Your Work

What type of content do you write and why? Fiction Novels? Poems? Songs? Screenplays? Short Stories? Epic?

Author:      I am mainly an actor and screenwriter, but have delved into writing fiction novels and short stories. 

What genres and subgenres do you write in?

Author:      I love writing sci-fi and action/military.  I grew up as a Navy Brat in Hawaii, so the military is a big part of my heritage and I like to incorporate it into many of my stories.

What is your author brand (genre, mood, image, theme, message, etc)? How did you decide on it?

Author:      I’m the action-comedy guy.  It began from my actor branding and is the most popular thing I do.  I get lots of positive feedback from it and it just comes naturally to me, most likely from what I cultivated growing up in Hawaii and making my own kung-fu/ninja/sci-fi movies.

How many works have you published?

Author:      So far, I’ve published CYBER FIGHTER the novel, and a comic book adaptation as well, which is based on my short film script concept for the main book.  I have also performed and produced the audio book for CYBER FIGHTER too.

Can you tell us a bit about your most recent publication?

Author:      CYBER FIGHTER is the story of a clumsy temp Brian Baldwin who takes a job at defense contractor Kirkman Enterprises, where he volunteers to test their latest software program on himself by getting black belt fighting skills downloaded directly to his brain via a Virtual Reality immersive experience, turning him into a human weapon.

When Brian discovers that the eccentric main programmer Humbert Cloogey has sold him off to the Army for induction, he makes his escape, assisted by his only ally Dr. Kate Rand,  a neuroscientist who works for the company, but who has some secrets herself.

Simultaneously as Brian is undergoing the experiment, a Triad crime boss and part-time cloning engineer Lau Xiaoming, operating out of North Korea, hacks into the U.S. server hosting the software, planting a Trojan program into Brian’s brain that holds the secret to “Project Starfish”, his plan for world domination.

Brian finds himself pursued by not only the U.S. Army, and FBI, but also by Xiaoming and his minions, all looking to grab him for their own exploits.

The core of my story is Brian’s journey, going from a middle-aged man who gave up on his dreams, to suddenly finding himself empowered with skills he never thought he’d ever achieve.  Almost overnight he acquires an almost superhero status.  But he discovers that he apparently hasn’t achieved any more control over his life than before.  In fact, his life seems pretty much out of control now.

My message to the readers is to not just keep dreaming, but also be prepared for when you do achieve those dreams.  Because there will be forces out there looking to use you for their own means.  This story is also a satire on the U.S.’s military industrial complex and how it’s run almost like a corporate entity – completely profit driven.  I’m also sending up popular action movie tropes in a fun, comic-book way.

Name some common elements in your writing: villains, magic, red-herring twists, the unfortunate ensign, mysterious phenomena, asyndeton, sentence fragments etc.

Author:      My common elements include action sequences and humor. A lot of my humor comes from growing up in Hawaii.  Martial arts are a big part of local culture, and that’s where I began my own training.  I also like to incorporate some references to my upbringing by giving a character a name from Hawaii Pidgin English.  For example, in a screenplay I was hired to write years ago, I named one of the villains Hanabata, which is a Hawaii term for the snot that comes out of your nose.  It’s an inside joke to fellow Kama’ainas (a Hawaiian term for residents).  Hawaii and its culture are such a big part of who I am today, even though I was born on the mainland.  Whenever I can infuse a bit of it into my writing or film projects, it helps to personalize them.

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What was your first goal when you started your journey to becoming an author? Has that changed?

Author:      My main goal was to just build an audience for CYBER FIGHTER, an audience to anticipate the feature film.  But I’ve enjoyed writing a novel so much that I plan on writing the next two books in the trilogy, even before any of them are made into a film.

Do you have other supporting services like a podcast, blog, webinars, courses, video channel?

Author:      I have a YouTube channel, Four Scorpio Productions (http://youtube.com/fourscorpio).  I put a lot of CYBER FIGHTER content there, as well as our web series That Darn Girlfriend, which I’ve created with my lovely and talented actress wife Pamela Hill.

What do you want your readers to get out of your works?

Author:      I’m hoping that my readers have fun reading the story and have a few good laughs, along with being thrilled by the action sequences I have in the story.   I’d also like them to think about the scientific possibilities that the story explores.  As we spend more and more of our lives online, the idea that you could learn skills via Virtual Reality is becoming less science fiction and closer to actuality.

What part of the author process are you working on or studying most now?

Author:      Marketing!  There’s just so much out there to learn how to get my book to reach a wider audience.  The challenge is finding where your readers like to hang out online, and how to reach out to them organically without trying to hard-sell them.

What has been your favorite part of the writing and querying or publishing process?

Author:      I really enjoy writing.  The process of creating characters and exciting adventures has always been fun.  It’s the most creative part of the process; I can focus on the artistic expression rather than the business part of publishing.

Do you recommend any programs, courses, or websites?

Author:      I follow Dave Chesson, the Kindlepreneur, both on his YouTube channel and his website.  He’s got a lot of great content to help you self-publish, especially his free AMS Ads course

Which authors write similar books to yours? How did you find them?

Author:      The closest book that I read similar to my story is Ernest Cline’s Ready Player One.  It deals with virtual reality and 80s pop-culture references too, elements that are also in CYBER FIGHTER.

Have you always read in the genre you wanted to write in? Do you think that’s made it easier or harder to create new stories?

Author:   I’ve always loved science fiction.  One of my favorite novels is H.G. Wells’ The Time Machine; it’s where I first fell in love with the time travel theme, even before Back to the Future came out.    I also loved reading Asimov’s short stories, and Ray Bradbury’s Martian Chronicles

What is your writing process, from idea to polished work? Pantster? Plotter? How long does that typically take you?

Author:      I tend to be more plot oriented, but I often find that I will hit writer’s block when I focus too much on the plot.  That’s when I’ll switch gears and become more of a pantser, writing a passage or two as a character, giving their inner thoughts.  When I write by the seat of my pants, it tends to go a lot quicker, for some reason.  Probably because it’s a stream-of-consciousness method.

Where do you network most with other writers, authors, and creative types? LinkedIn? Wattpad? Twitter? Facebook? Somewhere else?

Author:      I use StoryOrigin to network with other authors, mainly with my newsletter swaps.  I also use Facebook, more so with my acting contacts, but also a few writers there as well.

Do you sprint-write like a starving cheetah, or are you a totally chill turtle writer? Somewhere in between?

Author:      It really depends.  Some days I crank out a lot, others I can’t do more than a paragraph.  So, it would probably average out to a “sprinting turtle”.

Struggles

What has been the hardest thing to overcome on your journey to authorship?

Author:      Self-doubt.  That fear that you have that no one will be interested in your work.  The inner critic that tries to sabotage you from accomplishing your aims.  I have to consciously keep plugging away and not let those doubts take over.  If you go step by step, you will become an author.

How has the writing and querying or publishing process affected you emotionally? Do you have any tips for budding writers?

Author:      Along with those self-doubts, it can be frustrating when you face the fact that you are trying to get your work out there amidst all of the noise competing for attention.  It can be easy to get discouraged.  Just keep plugging away, and you will get your first book done.

Do you have any tips or recommendations for those who want to go the final step and become authors?

Author:      While writing your book, learn as much as you can about self-publishing.  In many ways, it’s the best way to get your work out there.  I recommend Dave Chesson’s Kindlepreneur website and YouTube channel; it was a big help to me.

If you could do it all over again, what would you change?

Author:     I would have definitely had my editor go over my manuscript before I had imported it and edited with Kindle Create.  Since she didn’t have that software, I had to give her a PDF to work from, which was more difficult as she couldn’t add notes directly in the document file.  That probably would have streamlined the publishing process.

Are you a driven & self-advocating author, a gun-shy promoter, or a total marketing procrastinator?

Author:      I am indeed driven and self-advocating, but I have to give a large amount of credit to my wife Pamela who is really good with PR and she will often encourage me to take new steps with promotion.  She was the one who found me my publicist and gave me the encouragement to reach out to them. 

How do you keep yourself motivated?

Author:      By creating a schedule and sticking to it best I can.  But I try not to beat myself up about coming up short.  Writing is a process; if you can’t enjoy the journey, then you should try and do something else.

How do you combat writer’s block?

Author:      If I have writer’s block, I’ll try to focus on the world-building aspect of the story I’m working on.  Maybe write up a backstory or bio on my characters; often that will help jump-start ideas for my plot.

What literary/writer-based term did you not know when you started that has become important and relevant to you?

Author:      I knew nothing about ISBN numbers, how you get them from Bowker, what they are, and how Amazon has their own ASIN numbers that you can use instead.  I did a lot of research about them so that I could understand them better.

How did your family and friends react to your writing? Was it what you expected from them?

Author:      They actually really enjoyed my book a lot.  Even those who really weren’t into the martial arts genre; it was a nice surprise.  I’ve had some family and friends tell me that they’ve re-read CYBER FIGHTER multiple times.  That really means a lot to me.

What assumptions about writers and authors do you think are myths?

Author:      Oh, the biggest myth about writers and authors would probably be how they’re all introverted hermits.  That misconception comes from just a part of the process where you have to be a bit of a hermit when you’re writing, but the rest of your day is spent just like anyone else.  We like physical activity – I continue my martial arts and fitness training five days a week.  So that keeps me balanced.

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Fun Stuff

What do you listen to while you write?

Author:      I love listening to movie or video game soundtracks as I write.  I try to listen to something that gives me the feeling of the genre I’m writing in.  So it can vary from an orchestral soundtrack to a more electronica sound.

Is there a fun word or group of terms you like to put into your writing?

Author:     In CYBER FIGHTER I had one of my characters, the bombastic Buzz Kirkman, CEO of Kirkman Enterprises use one of my dad’s (who was a Navy Captain) favorite sayings:  “No doubt about that in my military mind.”    I also have a reference to the old G.I. Joe cartoons from the 80s:  “Know I know…and knowing is half the battle.”

Where do you write your stories? A tiny office? A loft? The kitchen table? In the bushes while you secretly people-watch like a total creeper? Or a warm café with mocha in hand and feet up on an ottoman?

Author:      I can write anywhere I can bring my laptop, though usually at my kitchen table.  But I’ve also written while acting in film/TV projects, from the green room or my trailer in between filming my scenes.  There’s a lot of downtime for an actor, and that’s a great way to get lots of writing done.

What book are you reading at the moment?

Author:     I’m reading Rising Wind by Dick Couch.  He’s a former Navy SEAL and this story takes place partially on Ford Island in Pearl Harbor where I grew up in Hawaii.  In fact, the author was stationed on Ford Island at the same time I was living there.  So, it’s really cool to read a book with real locations that I actually know!

What is your favorite literary trope?

Author:      I’m more about pop culture tropes; I’ll often put those into my writing as a fun “easter egg” reference.  Like the G.I. Joe catchphrase, or the classic Kung Fu movie tropes I infused into CYBER FIGHTER.

How do you try to “break the mold” and be unique?

Author:  The more I infuse my upbringing into my work, the more original it becomes.  I consider my growing up in Hawaii not only the most influential time in my life, but also what separates me from other creative artists out here in Hollywood.        

What have you learned about yourself from the writing and/or authorship process?

Author:    I think what director Bong-Joon Ho said when he won the Oscar for Best Director: “The most personal is the most creative”.  That is so true; it’s what makes each author unique.    

What is your favorite writing snack and drink?

Author:   A great cup of coffee, especially when I start in the morning.  Later on in the day I love to munch on pretzels and drink flavored seltzer water.  

Do you have a writing companion?

Author:   I’m a solo act when it comes to writing novels.  But my wife Pamela and I both write the episodes for our sitcom web series That Darn Girlfriend. That show is an homage to classic 1960s/70s sitcoms.

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?

Author:    This goes back to when I was studying acting.  An acting coach once told me that the parts of myself that I wanted to hide were actually the most compelling and interesting parts of me, and what would make me relatable to an audience.  To embrace vulnerability and be willing to share that is what makes your work unique and interesting.

Author Website:     http://williamjosephhill.com and http://fourscorpio.com (production company website)

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CYBER FIGHTER the novel on Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B081SJRMJ1

The comic book adaptation: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B08ZL6X6W6

My YouTube channel for Four Scorpio Productions:  http://youtube.com/fourscorpio

Author Interviews, Blog

Author Interview: Emily Ruhl, Fantasy/Romance

Hello! My name is Emily Ruhl, and I am the author of The Bonds Between Us. This is my debut novel, and the first book in the planned Web of Wyrd trilogy. The Bonds Between Us primarily falls into the genres of romance and fantasy, and although I love writing in these genres (and hope to write many more novels that also fall into these literary categories), I would also like to one day expand my horizons into historical fiction to satisfy my passion for history. I currently have several works in progress in all of the aforementioned genres.

From Planning to Published

When did you start writing and why?

Author: I started writing The Bonds Between Us in early 2020. Writing a book was a childhood dream of mine, and I had many ideas for various novels I wanted to write. However, I never sat down to actually put pen to paper, mostly because I had been told so frequently that being an author was an unrealistic goal in life. In 2020 though, a good friend of mine read a short story I had written years prior, and started encouraging me to write a book. Her support and confidence in me restored my enthusiasm for writing and gave me the courage to attempt writing my first novel. Inspired by Italian courses that I took in college and personal events that I experienced throughout my life, I finally started piecing together in my mind the storyline for what is now The Bonds Between Us

How long did it take you to finish your first book?

Author: It took me approximately eight months to finish writing The Bonds Between Us. During that time, I spent most days writing anywhere between 4-10 hours.

If you’ve published, how long did your first book take?

Author: From the moment I received notification from Atmosphere Press that they would like to publish my book, to the day the book officially launched, it took about eight months for The Bonds Between Us to get published.

Are you indie, traditional, hybrid, or vanity, and why?

Author: I consider myself to be a hybrid author. Although I did not go the traditional route of finding an agent who would represent me, I still chose to submit my book to a verified publisher. In large part, this was because I knew I did not have what it took to make my book successful on my own. I had never published a book before, I was not entirely confident in my storyline or editing, and I knew absolutely nothing about things like professional editing, cover design, and marketing. Therefore, I really wanted to find a dependable publisher who would be able to provide the support and guidance I needed to help make my book a success. Atmosphere Press provided that opportunity, and I am forever grateful to them for their huge role in helping my book become a reality.

How did you determine your target audience?

Author: For me, I struggled greatly with determining my target audience. At first, I primarily considered The Bonds Between Us to be targeted toward adult readers due to my writing style. However, I also felt that the fantasy and romance aspects of my book could be appealing for young adult audiences. In the end, after “flip-flopping” back and forth ad infinitum, I strove to target the emerging “new adult” audience category, which is where I feel this book truly lies based on factors such as the age of the characters and the central themes of the story.         

What platforms do you use to publish your works?

Author: I worked with Atmosphere Press to publish The Bonds Between Us.      

How do you get critiques, betas, feedback, and edits?

Author: In terms of feedback and edits, Atmosphere Press editors helped me work out rough spots in the storyline, make corrections, etc. For critiques and reviews, I worked with publicity managers at Atmosphere Press, and also sent out my own requests for reviews from reputable book review sites (such as Feathered Quill) and book reviewers employed by local newspapers.        

Katya Anders was supposed to be a monster, cursed by fate to an eternity of solitude. So the soulmark that suddenly appeared on her wrist must be a mistake… right?

It has to be—especially when her soulmate, Matteo, is both incompatible with, and superior to her, in every way: personality, reputation, bloodlines, magical abilities. Pursuing a relationship with him is not only socially unacceptable… it’s potentially fatal. Logically, Katya knows she should stay away from him. But doing so becomes impossible when an old Venetian folktale turns out to be more real than fiction. Forced to work together, can Katya and Matteo defy their very natures, overcome the restrictions of Vaettir society, and learn to trust their soulbond in time to save Venice, and each other, from the forces of Hell?

In The Bonds between Us by Emily Ruhl, we experience the power of destiny, the strength of love in overcoming all odds, and the realization that we are defined, not by who we are meant to be, but rather by who we choose to be.

Marketing

How do you get reviews for your books?

Author: I get reviews for my books through a joint effort between the outreach of the marketing publicists at Atmosphere Press and my own outreach to book review sites (such as Feathered Quill) and book reviewers employed by local newspapers.        

How do you promote your content?

Author: I promote my content through hardcopy promotion one-sheets, outreach to local bookstores and libraries for stocking and events, outreach to blogging sites, and my own personal social media networking (via Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter). I have also found simple word of mouth to be beneficial.      

How do you define success as an author?

Author: For me, success as an author is measured by what people take away from my writing. On the one hand, my goal with any book is to write storylines and characters that are engaging and entertaining. However, I also want to create works that are relatable and help reveal things about human nature. If people read my writing and are able to find joy in it, feel like they have gained some sort of insight into the world, or discover things that resonate with their personal experiences or feelings, then I feel that I have done my job as an author.

About Your Work

What type of content do you write and why? Fiction Novels? Poems? Songs? Screenplays? Short Stories? Epic?

Author: I mainly write fiction novels because I simply love telling stories. I enjoy creating tales with complex characters, detailed settings, intricate themes, and exciting plots that take the reader through multiple twists and turns. I want my readers to not only have fun reading, but to feel and think deeply about what it is they are reading. Novels allow me the flexibility to do just that, without any kinds of restrictions regarding length or style.

What genres and subgenres do you write in?

Author: Since I currently only have a single novel published, the only genre in which I have written is fantasy. The Bonds Between Us, though predominantly fantasy, also falls into the subgenre of romance. Although I plan on writing more novels that fall into these genres, I also hope to venture into historical fiction one day.

How many works have you published?

Author: I have only published one work—The Bonds Between Us.      

Can you tell us a bit about your most recent publication?

Author: The Bonds Between Us follows the story of Katya Anders, a young American woman who has opted to abandon her life in the United States in exchange for a new life in Venice, Italy. On the surface, Katya appears to be just like everyone else; but she has a secret—she is a Daski, part of an ancient race of magical beings who are notorious for their cold hearts, cruel behavior, and criminal acts. All her life, Katya has fled from this part of who she is. Yet her attempts to deny the reality of her nature becomes all but impossible when she suddenly develops a soulbond—a fated romantic connection she is not meant to have—with a man who seems to be the embodiment of all that is good and pure in the world. Although the connection between Katya and her soulmate is something she craves, she knows that any sort of relationship with him could be dangerous, even deadly. Her internal dilemmas regarding her identity and her future are only made worse when an old Venetian legend comes to life. Torn between who she is supposed to be and who she wants to be, Katya must learn to trust those around her—and even more terrifyingly, herself—if she wants to save the city she calls home from the forces of Hell.

What was your first goal when you started your journey to becoming an author? Has that changed?

Author: My first goal when I started my journey to become an author was simply to fulfill a childhood dream. Ever since I can remember, I loved writing. It was my passion. Yes, I found it to be fun. But it was also much more than that for me. You see, as someone who has always been rather quiet and reserved, writing allowed me an outlet for all of the thoughts, feelings, and stories that I otherwise struggled to express. Therefore, between the joy and the self-expression that I found in writing, my easy, automatic response whenever anyone asked, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” quickly became, “A writer.”

However, as I got older, I was frequently told that being an author was an unrealistic career goal. Yet it was something that always stuck with me. My desire to write couldn’t be hindered, and I have notebooks full of story ideas, scenes, and characters that developed in my mind over the years. But nothing ever came of those ideas or my passion. Not until I met my best friend, Katie—who is practically my sister at this point—did I again entertain the thought of becoming a writer. Katie encouraged me to pursue my passion for writing after reading a short story I had written in high school. She saw potential in me, and pushed me to fulfill my dream of writing a novel. I would never have had the courage to take the plunge and put my writing out into the world without her.

Now that I am a published author, it feels surreal. It is truly a dream come true. Perhaps even more remarkable is the fact that the experience is even more rewarding than I ever imagined it could be. I absolutely cannot wait to continue writing and see where this new path takes me in life. 

What do you want your readers to get out of your works?

Author: I want my readers to take away from my works whatever it is they need most at that point in their lives—entertainment, comfort, acceptance, belonging, hope, courage. After all, that’s what makes writing beautiful. Just like music, paintings, movies, and other forms of art, writing has so much flexibility in terms of meaning. It is all a matter of perspective. Two people could read the same book, and both might take away completely different meanings based upon their past experiences, their mindsets, their interests, their feelings. For me, that was always the magic of writing. I could read any book I wanted, understand the story the author was trying to convey, and still have the freedom to find in it whatever it was I was searching for at that time. That was something so important to me throughout my life, as reading novels truly did help me through some incredibly difficult times. Therefore, I don’t ever want to tell my readers what I expect them to get out of my writing. It is much more important to me that my readers find their own take-aways themselves.

What part of the author process are you working on or studying most now?

Author: Right now, I am working on marketing strategies. As someone who has never quite felt comfortable in the spotlight, marketing and advertising my novel has been a struggle. However, I am discovering that there are so many different ways of marketing books, that I can create a procedure that works for me and my comfort level. It has actually turned out to be more enjoyable than I first thought it would be.       

What has been your favorite part of the writing and querying or publishing process?

Author: Truth be told, I have several favorite parts of the writing and publishing process. First, writing the novel itself—sitting down with pen and paper, creating new characters, planning out in my head the different scenarios those characters would face—was such a joy. I have always loved writing and thinking up new stories in my head, so writing The Bonds Between Us gave me a chance to do some of the things that I enjoy most in this world. Second, seeing the book cover design for the first time simply blew me away. It was at that moment that my book’s publication finally felt real. Lastly, one of the things I had to include in this list was the first time I saw my characters drawn on paper. Shortly after the publication of The Bonds Between Us, a friend of mine drew pictures of the main characters. She surprised me with the pictures as a birthday gift, and the moment I unwrapped the drawings, I couldn’t help but get a bit teary-eyed. Yes, it was emotional to hold my book for the first time; but to see the characters—all of which I put so much time, care, and love into creating—suddenly brought to life on the page in front of me, was a truly emotional experience.

Have you always read in the genre you wanted to write in? Do you think that’s made it easier or harder to create new stories?

Author: I have always read fantasy novels, although I often read outside of fantasy as well. I frequently read mystery, historical fiction, nonfiction, and occasionally romance works.

Speaking strictly about fantasy works, I think it has actually made it more difficult for me to create new stories. Sometimes, I will get an idea, but then one of the next books I pick up always seems, without fail, to contain that idea. This tends to be discouraging because, as an author, you always want to be different, to have something new to share with the world. It can actually be quite frustrating to come up with something that you think is innovative, to get really excited about it, and then realize that someone else thought of it first.

Along with that, sometimes it can also be discouraging when you read a really great book with a unique concept. You get so caught up in how brilliant the idea is, and immediately think, “I could never come up with something that good.” It can make you lose faith in your own ideas and writing, because you think—especially as a new author—that your writing could never compare with that of other authors.

I have therefore found it very helpful to balance what I am reading and writing—at least during the periods in which I am actively writing. For instance, when I was in the middle of writing The Bonds Between Us, I only read nonfiction. I absolutely refused to pick up any works of fiction. I found that only exposing myself to works of non-fiction during my own creative writing process helped me maintain focus on my story. It also helped prevent me from getting distracted, discouraged, or unintentionally influenced by the things I was reading in all of the other wonderful novels that exist in the world.

What is your writing process, from idea to polished work? Pantster? Plotter? How long does that typically take you?

Author: I write in a strange hybrid style that includes both organized planning and allowing myself to be drawn whichever way the wind takes me. Typically, something in the world around me will spark an idea in my head. I then fiddle around with the idea on paper—planning characters, deciding on settings, creating the overarching plot. Then, I try to start writing. Sometimes, this means starting at the very beginning and working my way forward; other times, I write out whichever scenes appear clearly in my mind’s eye, and then go back and connect them all into a single cohesive story.

Where do you network most with other writers, authors, and creative types? LinkedIn? Wattpad? Twitter? Facebook? Somewhere else?

Author: I network most with other writers and authors on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.      

Do you sprint-write like a starving cheetah, or are you a totally chill turtle writer? Somewhere in between?

Author: I would say that I am somewhere in-between. When my ideas are first taking shape in my head, I am definitely the “chill turtle writer.” It may take me several months before I have an idea that is solid enough to start outlining and fleshing out. At that point though, I become the “starving cheetah”—my ideas start flowing like a waterfall, I will start writing virtually non-stop. It is incredibly difficult for me to stop writing once I get into that momentum.

Struggles

What has been the hardest thing to overcome on your journey to authorship?

Author: The hardest thing for me to overcome has definitely been dealing with the “public” aspects of authorship. As I previously mentioned, I am, by nature, a rather quiet and reserved person. Therefore, making my writing public and stepping out of my comfort zone to promote it has been very difficult for me.

How has the writing and querying or publishing process affected you emotionally? Do you have any tips for budding writers?

Author: Querying was honestly one of the most difficult and disheartening experiences I have ever endured. To spend so much time and effort writing a book, only to have it be rejected—in most cases without any reason being given—can be beyond discouraging. As a writer, you put so much of yourself into the characters and plot of your stories. To have a story rejected can therefore feel like a part of yourself is being rejected, too. After a while, it becomes hard not to lose faith in your writing.

At times, I considered giving up on publishing my novel as a result of the many rejection letters I received from agents. In fact, I did occasionally stop sending out inquiries just so that I could take time to refocus on my writing and renew the enthusiasm and confidence that I had in my book.

Therefore, querying was, for me, the part of the publication process that had the largest affect on me emotionally. However, once The Bonds Between Us was eventually accepted for publication by Atmosphere Press, the process was emotionally taxing for an entirely different reason—mainly that I was trying to balance all of the demands of publication along with a full-time job and graduate school.

When the publication process was completed, though, and I was at last able to hold my book in my hands for the very first time, it did feel like a “proud parent” moment. It was the realization of a childhood dream, and after eight months of knowing that dream was finally coming true, seeing the physical evidence of it was indescribable. It was definitely worth all of the struggles, stress, and emotional turmoil. I wouldn’t trade my path to publication and authorship for anything in the world.  

Do you have any tips or recommendations for those who want to go the final step and become authors?

Author: I would recommend two things. First, be prepared to believe in your work. Perhaps that sounds silly, but I think it is extremely important. It’s one thing to write a book, think that it has potential, and send it out for publication with the beautiful mental image of an acceptance email or letter finding its way to you shortly thereafter. The reality, though, is that you might face countless rejections before you finally get the “okay” from an agent or publisher. I have spoken to several people who wrote manuscripts, received rejection letters, and gave up on publication because they no longer believed their books were good enough to be “real” books. I, myself, struggled with that very issue. So, it’s essential, as the cliché goes, to “plan for the worst, but expect the best.” Go into the publishing process knowing that you may be rejected—a lot. But also go into the process believing in your book, and holding firm to the belief that it is indeed “good enough” to one day be accepted by an agent and/or publisher and be put into print.

Second, keep an open mind. Editing, proofreading, cover design, websites and marketing—all of those things (and more) require you, as an author, to work with others in order to achieve the goal of making your book the best and most successful that it can possibly be. Again, this can be difficult at times. As I previously mentioned, as writers, our writing tends to be deeply personal to us, even when the story is entirely a work of fiction. Due to the personal nature of writing and the sheer amount of time and effort that we devote to the works we create, the ways in which we perceive our writing is naturally subjective. Therefore, it is essential for writers to get outside opinions—especially in those areas of writing and publishing that may be unfamiliar or difficult to us. Sometimes, outside sources—editors, proofreaders, copy designers—may have thoughts, ideas, or opinions about our works that completely differ from our own. It can be hard to change parts of your writing, or to be faced with the necessity of surrendering an idea on which you had your heart set, even for the sake of improving your literary work. However, being open to those insights is so important to the publishing process. Indeed, it is only by receiving external, objective feedback that we can truly develop our books into the masterpieces they are meant to be. 

If you could do it all over again, what would you change?

Author: If I could publish The Bonds Between Us all over again, I would definitely have started promoting my book much earlier than I did. I would have set up author accounts on social media platforms and started gaining followers well in advance of the launch date (or even the beginning of the publication phase). This would have allowed me to begin promoting my book while I was still in the writing phase, and trying to gain traction for my book prior to its official launch.     

Are you a driven & self-advocating author, a gun-shy promoter, or a total marketing procrastinator?

Author: I am definitely a gun-shy promoter. I am not a person who is comfortable in the spotlight, so promoting my book is quite terrifying. This adversity to self-promotion definitely makes me procrastinate with marketing at times.

How do you keep yourself motivated?

Author: I take time for myself, which sometimes requires taking short breaks away from writing. By focusing on writing day-in and day-out, I tend to find myself burning out. However, by balancing my life with other things I enjoy, spending time in nature, and doing things that help me to mentally and emotionally “reset,” I have found that my focus and motivation as a writer improve greatly.        

How do you combat writer’s block?

Author: To combat writer’s block, I do something physical. I am a martial artist, so when I am really stumped with my writing, I will usually take an hour or two to do some training. The physical nature of martial arts forces me to stop thinking, which usually helps clear my head and “unblock” whatever it is that is stumping me with my writing. If doing some sort of physical exercise doesn’t work though, and I need some additional inspiration to get past the part of my story with which I am struggling, I love to head outdoors. Being in nature always seems to put my mind at ease, and even the smallest things—like the way the sunlight filters through the leaves of a tree, or the smell of a flower, or the particular shade of green coloring a patch of grass—can help inspire my writing and get me past even the most stubborn instances of writer’s block.

What literary/writer-based term did you not know when you started that has become important and relevant to you?

Author: Copy editing. When I first began, I had no idea how this differed at all from “regular” editing. I never knew that some editors are meant to focus more on storyline edits, whereas others focus more on the “proofreading” aspects of writing.

How did your family and friends react to your writing? Was it what you expected from them?

Author: All of my family and friends have been incredibly supportive of my decision to become a writer. This was not at all what I was expecting. As I explained earlier, I faced a lot of criticism as a child when I said that I wanted to be an author. It was considered an unrealistic life goal. Therefore, when I decided that I wanted to become an author at 25 years old, I was fully expecting a lot of negative responses from those closest to me. However, this was not the case. In fact, every single friend or family member I told about my writing was more positive, supportive, and encouraging than I could have possibly imagined. I consider myself beyond fortunate to have a group of people in my life who believe so unwaveringly in me, and who value my happiness so much, that they did not hesitate to support my decision to change careers and fulfill my dream of writing.    

Fun Stuff

What do you listen to while you write?

Author: I love listening to The Piano Guys and Il Volo while I write. Their music is inspiration for almost all that I do, and has thus been a huge part of my life for nearly a decade.      

Where do you write your stories? A tiny office? A loft? The kitchen table? In the bushes while you secretly people-watch like a total creeper? Or a warm café with mocha in hand and feet up on an ottoman?

Author: I write my stories either curled up on my couch during the winter months, or stretched out in the grass outside during the summer, spring, and fall months. Regardless of the environment though, I only ever write in the quiet, when I am by myself. I find it very difficult to write around other people, as I am easily distracted. That’s not to say that I don’t get a bit of inspiration from people-watching, though!      

What book are you reading at the moment?

Author: I am currently reading three books at the moment, since I can never seem to pick and choose just a single book to read. I would be thrilled if it were possible for me to read them all at once! The three books I am now reading are The Murder of Roger Ackroyd by Agatha Christie, Lost Moon by Jim Lovell and Jeffrey Kluger, and Failure Is Not An Option by Gene Kranz.     

What have you learned about yourself from the writing and/or authorship process?

Author: I have learned that I am much braver than I ever thought. The fact that I have spent more than six months talking with editors, cover designers, proofreaders, etc., and am now actively marketing my book is remarkable. A year ago, I would not have believed it if someone were to tell me that I would be doing all of these things myself… and actually enjoying them! As a result of my quiet and reserved nature, things like this normally terrify me. However, I am finding that I have much more courage—and, oddly enough, am much more of a social butterfly—than I ever thought! It is wonderful that we can always develop and evolve throughout life, no matter our age.       

What is your favorite writing snack and drink?

Author: I love snacking on grapes and iced tea while I write.      

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?

Author: “The best story you can ever write is that of your own life.” These words, spoken by my father when I was a child, have always stuck with me. So, too, has the knowing look he had in his eyes when he said this to me. It was like he knew that I would become a writer one day. Although he has long since passed away, his words seem to resonate through my mind every time I sit down to write. For me, this piece of advice is a reminder that writing is something with which people connect on an emotional and psychological level. They may identify with a particular character, relate to a certain event, or find comfort in a specific theme. As such, writing has the power to provide solace, eradicate loneliness, offer new insights into the world around us, help us find and discover pieces of ourselves… the power of the pen is truly endless. So, my father’s words to me all those years ago still encourages me to take my own experiences in life—no matter how trivial or deeply personal they may be—and incorporate them into my writing. In this way, my own life might be able to provide not only entertainment to others, but perhaps something a bit more meaningful as well. 

emilyruhlbooks.com    
@authoremilyruhl (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter)
Book Sales Pages: Amazon, Atmosphere Press
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Author Interviews, Blog, Steamy Romance Blog

Author Interview: Paul A. DeStefano, Urban Fantasy/ Paranormal Romance/ Dark Fantasy

I’m Paul DeStefano, and I write Dark Fantasy. Riftsiders: Unlawful Possession is the first book of the Riftsiders Series and release 4/18/22.

From Planning to Published

When did you start writing and why?

Author:      I’ve been writing as long as I can remember, but professional fantasy writing started in 2004. That was when I was picked up by the gaming company Fantastique Forges after they read some of my work online. It started as a hobby and spread over the decades to become career.

How long did it take you to finish your first book?

Author:      My first books were things I wrote in high school and for college courses. That’s ancient history I can no longer recall. For Riftsiders, the process was about two months.

If you’ve published, how long did your first book take?

Author:      I wrote it in about two months in 2020, and it his the shelves in 2022.

Are you indie, traditional, hybrid, or vanity, and why?

Author:      Traditional through small press. I really don’t want to get involved in the nuts and bolts of things like format, ISBN and sourcing editors. I’ll happily pay a chunk of my royalties to get the right people lined up for me so I can spend time writing and editing.

How did you determine your target audience?

Author:      It’s me. I’m the target audience.

What is your publishing process?

Author:      I spend some time outlining, then writing, then drop it to my agent. She edits and kicks back. I grumble and reply. She then starts sending it out to publishers, and there’s another editing round there.

How do you get critiques, betas, feedback, and edits?

Author:      I have a few hundred people in my fan groups I can appeal to for feedback. Edits come from my agent.

Marketing

Do you have a platform? What does it consist of?

Author:      I have a few hundred newsletter subscribers, a few hundred followers on Facebook (Paul D’s Tainted Dragon Inn) and I’m a very minor celebrity in the tabletop gaming world.

What is your launch plan for your works?

Author:      I do a few ads on Amazon and Facebook, my newsletter and social media. I’m big into live appearances, doing seminars and talks, which has been on pandemic hold since 2/2020, but I’ve started booking again.

How do you get reviews for your books?

Author:      Haven’t seen any yet…

How do you promote your content?

Author:      Again, I’m big into doing talks at conventions. Nothing beats face to face with fans.

What do you think is the most critical marketing component or tactic for becoming successful?

Author:      Listen. Don’t assume what you have is gold or what you’re doing is the best way. Always be willing to accept criticism, from prose to marketing.

How do you define success as an author?

Author:      I got a text this morning. My book released at midnight last night. Someone read half the book overnight. That’s pretty solid success to me.

About Your Work

What type of content do you write and why? Fiction Novels? Poems? Songs? Screenplays? Short Stories? Epic?

Author:      I do a bunch of horror shorts, several will be in anthologies this year. I have a screenplay I’m trying to get noticed. But the concentration is really novels.

What genres and subgenres do you write in?

Author:      Contemporary fantasy and horror. Traditional sword and sorcery fantasy as well. I ghostwrite science fiction, and may do some under my own name in the future.

What is your author brand (genre, mood, image, theme, message, etc)? How did you decide on it?

Author:      Tainted Dragon Inn, Inc. is my actual corporate name. Literally, the concept of a tavern to go to and swap friendly stories. It was created when I took up ghostwriting due to the amount of fantasy I was working on for gaming companies. I want a comforting place to tell discomforting tales.

How many works have you published?

Author:      My first novel in my own name just came out. If you include things like trade articles, ghostwritten works and online pieces… hundreds.

Can you tell us a bit about your most recent publication?

Author:      I decided it was time to do novels for me, not just as a hired gun. Riftsiders was born. Scary, silly, sexy. I had this concept of possession being a common social issue, and using it as a way to explore racism and bigotry against sexual orientation, neurodivergent and other classifications that are literally ‘demonized’ in today’s society.

Name some common elements in your writing: villains, magic, red-herring twists, the unfortunate ensign, mysterious phenomena, asyndeton, sentence fragments etc.

Author:      My work takes place in an uncanny valley right next to reality. Something is usually dark and twisted. Everything is laced with strange humor. I’m fascinated with the nature of personality and how people are not always what they appear. This is very on the surface in Riftsiders, where the demons can be seen as other aspects of a character’s self.

What was your first goal when you started your journey to becoming an author? Has that changed?

Author:      Make people think and smile. Always the same.

Do you have other supporting services like a podcast, blog, webinars, courses, video channel?

Author:      I had a fantasy podcast a few years back that I’ve dropped, but who knows what’s to come.

What do you want your readers to get out of your works?

Author:      A smile and a new idea of the world around them.

What part of the author process are you working on or studying most now?

Author:      Marekting… The not authoring part.

What has been your favorite part of the writing and querying or publishing process?

Author:      I hate the nuts and bolts of it, which is why I got an agent. I just hand stuff over and she does the heavy lifting. I just write the stuff.

Do you recommend any programs, courses, or websites?

Author:      Sure, anything I teach is awesome. Otherwise, everything is so hit or miss out there. I strongly suggest every writer get some form of editorial software like ProWritingAid. It’s amazing the things you can learn from that. Yeah, it’s incredibly wrong sometimes, but it opens your eyes.

Which authors write similar books to yours? How did you find them?

Author:      Harlan Ellison and Clive Barker each have these ‘reality next door’ feels that I try for. I’ll leave it up to the readers to decide whether or not I get there.

Have you always read in the genre you wanted to write in? Do you think that’s made it easier or harder to create new stories?

Author:      I’m a huge dark fantasy fan. There’s just so much out there. I love seeing what other people have explored, and that often opens new ideas up for me.

What is your writing process, from idea to polished work? Pantster? Plotter? How long does that typically take you?

Author:      I plot like freaking crazy. For an 80K word book, I can easily have 15-20K of background and outline that no one ever gets to see but me. If I spend 12 weeks writing a manuscript, 4 weeks is plotting.

Where do you network most with other writers, authors, and creative types? LinkedIn? Wattpad? Twitter? Facebook? Somewhere else?

Author:      Probably Facebook.

Do you sprint-write like a starving cheetah, or are you a totally chill turtle writer? Somewhere in between?

Author:      When I’m writing, I set hard deadlines. This is a holdover from ghostwriting and assignment work. Usually 2500 words a day.

Struggles

What has been the hardest thing to overcome on your journey to authorship?

Author:      Everyone saying you can’t get an agent. It wasn’t hard and I was just scared going in.

How has the writing and querying or publishing process affected you emotionally? Do you have any tips for budding writers?

Author:      New writers love to say “Writing has no rules”. This is incredibly wrong. If you want to get accepted, put in magazines, anthologies and find agents and publishers to support you, you have to follow very precise rules. Sure, you can write free verse poetry and say no one understands you when you get rejected. But most rejections are because you didn’t follow rules, either the submission process or linguistically. If you’re getting form rejection after form rejection – something’s wrong with the submission. Step back. Make it “right” and try again. Do not become so attached to your art that you can no longer see it.

Do you have any tips or recommendations for those who want to go the final step and become authors?

Author:      Accept criticism.

If you could do it all over again, what would you change?

Author:      I’d probably take the step to novelist sooner.

Are you a driven & self-advocating author, a gun-shy promoter, or a total marketing procrastinator?

Author:      I love promoting me. I get out there all the time.

How do you keep yourself motivated?

Author:      If I don’t, I don’t get to eat. Starvation is strong motivation.

How do you combat writer’s block?

Author:      Writing.

What literary/writer-based term did you not know when you started that has become important and relevant to you?

Author:      ISBN. And I do whatever I can to not deal with it.

How did your family and friends react to your writing? Was it what you expected from them?

Author:      Having always written, it never really came as a surprise to anyone.

What assumptions about writers and authors do you think are myths?

Author:      That they’re introverts.

Fun Stuff

What do you listen to while you write?

Author:      Every project gets its own playlist. This is actually a very important part of outlining to me.

Is there a fun word or group of terms you like to put into your writing?

Author:      Klaxon. I also like hiding obscure messages in names.

Where do you write your stories? A tiny office? A loft? The kitchen table? In the bushes while you secretly people-watch like a total creeper? Or a warm café with mocha in hand and feet up on an ottoman?

Author:      My home office. Next to a window looking down to the street and with hot tea. Always.

What book are you reading at the moment?

Author:      Brain Movies.

What is your favorite literary trope?

Author:      Miscommunication when two people hear the identical thing and interpret it differently.

How do you try to “break the mold” and be unique?

Author:      Horror and humor are not separate genres when I write.

What have you learned about yourself from the writing and/or authorship process?

Author:      I have to slow down.

What is your favorite writing snack and drink?

Author:      Lapsang Souchong. It’s a smoked tea. It smells like burning rope. 3-6 mugs a day.

Do you have a writing companion?

Author:      I have four cats. They often insert themselves between me and the keyboard.

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?

Author:      Everyone can teach you something.

Author Website: PaulADeStefano.com
Facebook: Paul D’s Tainted Dragon Inn.
Twitter: @TDIPaulD
Instagram: TaintedDragonInn
Book Sales Pages: https://amzn.to/3EncU42

Author Interviews, Blog, Sweet Romance Blog

Author Interview: Roger Stark, Historical Romance/ Biography/ Creative Non-fiction

Roger Stark

Historical Romance, WW2, Biography, Creative Non-fiction, 

Author of: They Called Him Marvin  

From Planning to Published

When did you start writing and why?

Author:  Several years ago while working as an Addiction Counselor I wrote two how-to books on recovery. I ended up self publishing them and have had a modest amount of success with the first, “The Waterfall Concept”  has some success. That process gave me a functioning knowledge of the process but I really had no plans or desires to write another book, on any subject.

And then I became friends with Marv Sherman.

Marv and Judy (Marv’s wife) had invited my wife, Sue and I to dinner, it was a sort of thank you dinner for some assistance I gave them when they went on a temporary work assignment (Marv is a veterinarian) to Alaska. Marv and I engaged in a rather emotional conversation about his father that he had never met. His father, Dean, was a B29 Airplane Commander during WW2, shot down over Nagoya Japan, captured and ……..(you will have to read the story to learn the rest.)

Marv’s knowledge of his father was staggeringly incomplete and he openly wept as he told me the story. He had avoided learning about what had happened to his father to avoid the pain the knowledge would bring to him. I felt a compassion for my friend overcame me and I committed to helping him learn of his Dad. That turned into a request to write the story and It was on.  

How long did it take you to finish your first book?

Author:  It took 8 years to write and publish TCHM. Much of that time was divided between research and re-writes. I knew little of the war and was shocked to learn the fates of B29 airman shot down over Japan, to say nothing of my shock at learning how the B29 were used against the Japanese people. During the Viet Nam War I was aware of vigorous condemnations of the use of napalm against the Viet Namese people. Turns out there was a good reason, they newly experience the horrors of fire bombing. Especially the fire bombing of urban areas without military targets. 

Marv had his parent’s letters from the war. Connie had kept everyone of Dean’s letters she received. The only letters from Connie he had were returned to her as undeliverable after he went MIA. Marv could not bring himself to even read the letters, he had attempted to transcribe them but that proved to be an emotional quagmire for him and he did not finish.  

What is your publishing process?

Author:  My process was certainly non-traditional. When I wrote “The Waterfall Concept” about 15 years ago I was a complete publishing novice. After finishing my manuscript I sent it to a few publishers for consideration, waiting for six months to hear back from them, I always got a similar reply, “Great manuscript, unfortunately, we are not interested.”

In my frustration, started to consider how to self publish. That is when I stumbled across Gorham Printing located just a few miles from me in Centraila, Wa. They specialize in helping self publishers, usually printing in small lots. I had to find my own editor and obtain an ISBN number, but they managed the formatting and printing process for me. I really cannot say enough good things about these people. They are incredible!

With several hundred copies of my book, I literally took off in the family car in search of a distributor. That trip did not go well. After lots of miles and lots of “No’s” I gave up and started for home. There was one more potential stop that I had written off because of all the other responses I had received. But a few miles north of Salt Lake City, I engaged in a rather lengthy sales conversation with the owner of Brigham Distributing. I could tell as the conversation wore on that the owner was weighing this opportunity in his mind, with it’s very low chance of much profitability. He startled me when he jumped up and said, “Sure we will distribute your book, do you have any copies with you?”

I could not unload the car fast enough, afraid he might change his mind. Brigham took care of creating the ebook, getting the Amazon listing, and getting bookstores know the book was available.

With all that in mind when I was finishing the “They Called Him Marvin” manuscript, I never considered anything but self publishing. I knew what hoops I had to jump through and it all seemed easier the third time through. 

How do you get critiques, betas, feedback, and edits?

Author:     The secret sauce for me were the writing groups at the Writer’s Attic in Portland Or. Great comrades as we each worked on our individual projects, reading and critiquing each other’s work, we all grew as writers. Many of the key elements of TCHM were developed in the those groups sitting around the tables giving feedback to each other

Normally I don’t respond well to criticisms of my writing (a serious pride issue on my part) but somehow in those groups, my defenses dropped and I could hear what others were saying. Perhaps that speaks to the trust we developed in each other, it was a rather remarkable experience, making these new friends and growing to love them. We could, after all, see right into their hearts by reading their writings.

Marketing

How do you get reviews for your books?

Author:   Reviews. They are quite the writers’s challenge when launching a work.  I thought I was being very aggressive about getting pre publication reviews on Goodreads and Amazon. Being not very well connected in the writing world, I did not have a bevy of fellow writers to trade reviews with. I bought a few initially, used Netgalley, and some other like sources, gaining a few reviews but not in the quantity that I had hoped for. I turned to family (who cares that their last name is the same as mine) then friends, then in a desperation move, acquaintances, using a very loose definition of the word. A few friends talked their friends into helping out and by the publication date we had enough to launch.  

How do you promote your content?

Author: If you have any suggestions, I am all ears. This is where I made my biggest mistake in judgment.  I felt pretty good about marketing and promoting of my Addiction Recovery books . Well, what I learned back then, really didn’t apply to a book about a WW2 love story with a tragic ending. Suffice it to say I am still working on this part of my project. 

I did make a rather expensive mistake on Amazon advertising. In my inexperience I made a several thousand dollar blunder that netted me nothing, I still swear a little bit when I think about it.

I do like Book Tours obviously and feel they are well worth the money. Reduced price promotions of the ebook have raised awareness also. We have a constant Facebook presence and ad campaigns, Amazon ads are on the back burner for now. They have a place in my marketing plan, I am just not sure I know where that is yet. 

About Your Work

What do you want your readers to get out of your works? 

Author:      To remember and honor those that have given so much in our behalf. In TCHM Dean gave his all in service to his country, but it didn’t stop there, his wife and son went on giving the rest of their lives, deprived of a relationship with him. 

Marvin was a half orphan and struggled to figure out life. Some of his teenage exploits are both humorous and terrifying at the same time. He quit high school and in a moment of clarity realized that he needed some discipline that a place, like say the Army, might bring into his life. He was absolutely right about the Army and after his service he went onto college to become a licensed veterinarian. 

Do you recommend any programs, courses, or websites?

Author:   My experience is that there are local writer’s groups all over this country and if there isn’t one in your area the internet can bring one to you. For me writing was the main thing that helped me improve my skills. I wrote for a recovery magazine for several years, my editor towards the end of that work made the comment, “Your writing skills have really improved.” That was news to me! I thought I was just writing like I always did, my own eyes could not see the improvements. That shows the importance of another pair of eyes looking at your work. You don’t need to believe everything you hear, as we say in recovery, “just take what you like and leave the rest.”

What is your writing process, from idea to polished work? Pantster? Plotter? How long does that typically take you?

Author:    I am a rewriter! I long ago lost count of the chapter ones for TCHM. My brain can just see a better way to phrase a passage when I look at a written presentation of it. Ann Lamott in an article on writing gave us all permission to write a shitty first draft. (Her word not mine) That advice has served me very well, when I stopped trying to write the perfect sentence the first time through, the quality and quantity of my writing increased dramatically.

After I was about one half way through my manuscript, Marv came to me with a family history Connie had penned that had been lost to the family. The facts she revealed did not agree with the creative non fiction account I had conjured up. Which meant I wasn’t half way through my manuscript at all.

Struggles

What has been the hardest thing to overcome on your journey to authorship?

Author:  SELF DOUBT. I will say no more on the subject.  

Fun Stuff 

What do you listen to while you write?

Author:   There were three things I  listened to as I wrote. (I am listening to one of them now as I write this.) Disturbed’s version of “Sounds of Silence,” The theme to “The Last of the Mohicans” and Boston’s “Third Stage” album. All were on continuous tape and played at a very high volume.    

What is your favorite writing snack and drink?

Author:    I am not sure of the food or snack but I know such breaks involved Dr Pepper!  

Author Interviews, Blog, Sweet Romance Blog

Author Interview: Angela D Shelton, Christian/Young Adult

I’m currently writing under my true name, Angela D. Shelton in the Christian Fiction, Young Adult genres. In March, I published Collapse: The Death of Friendship with Two Oaks Publishing, LLC. The second book in the series, Collapse: The Death of Honor should be out by June.

From Planning to Published

When did you start writing and why?

Author:      My grandmother was a writer who used her craft to help pay my aunt’s way through college. Though she died before I was able to have conversations with her about her writing, I’ve always wanted to follow in her footsteps. In my freshman year of college, I took a creative writing class as an elective and the professor tried to convince me to change my major to writing. At that time, I figured there was no money in writing for most people, so stayed on my track to becoming an accountant. Two years ago I decided it was time to try my hand at creating stories for the page, and I’ve found that I absolutely love it.

How long did it take you to finish your first book?

Author:      My first book took about six months to write. Unfortunately, it was a learning experience. The result was so awful that my own sister didn’t even finish reading it. Fortunately, I found the American Christian Writers Association and Word Weavers who provided mentoring opportunities through critique groups. There are some amazing writers out there and those I’ve worked the closest with have indicated my work is pretty good now, so I’m excited to share my work with others. Even my sister read my first published book and loved it. She’s waiting impatiently for the second book to be published. Even my sisters don’t get to see it until then.

Are you indie, traditional, hybrid, or vanity, and why?

Author:      I am an independently published author. As an accountant, I understand the financial side of the business and could see very little benefit to traditional publishing other than the vanity aspects of it. I see that it will take a bit more time for my work to be recognized as an indie, but I’m patient.

How did you determine your target audience?

Author:      My critique group pointed me in the right direction. Because my protagonist is a young adult, it makes sense for me to sell to that audience; however, a number of my critique partners have indicated that adults would enjoy my book just as much as the younger set.

How do you define success as an author?

Author:      Since I’m just starting out, I see success in every positive review that I obtain. Unfortunately, many more people tell me how much they enjoyed my book than those who take the time to write a review for me. I do encourage them to write, but folks are busy.

About Your Work

What was your first goal when you started your journey to becoming an author? Has that changed?

Author:      As a Christian, my goal is to share the joy I experience on a daily basis. So many people struggle in their lives, it’s hard to watch sometimes. If I can bring a positive message that helps even one person, it’s worth it. I don’t like heavy-handed preaching though. For the most part, Americans are aware of Christianity, and many have walked away from it for various reasons. Rarely do they walk away from it because of God. Usually, it’s over other Christians and how they’ve been treated. I get that. I’ve been there and “bought the t-shirt” as they say. But we were put on this earth to encourage each other and that’s my goal.

What is your writing process, from idea to polished work? Pantster? Plotter? How long does that typically take you?

Author:      I’m a combination of pantsing and plotting. Using the Save the Cat method, I put together my basic outline of the story. But once I’m writing, I often find myself writing my way out of my outline and have to go back and re-outline because I prefer the direction the new story is going.

Fun Stuff

What do you listen to while you write?

Author:      Nothing. Seriously, it drives me nuts when someone is talking when I’m writing. I live out on a farm, which is where I draw a lot of my inspiration from. So my favorite sounds are birds, chickens, cows, and sometimes my dogs who love to complain. Two huskies, Ricky and Lucy, usually sit nearby when I’m writing, and if I take too long without paying attention to them, they “talk” to me about it. If dogs could cuss, I’d swear they were at me some days.

Where do you write your stories? A tiny office? A loft? The kitchen table? In the bushes while you secretly people-watch like a total creeper? Or a warm café with mocha in hand and feet up on an ottoman?

Author:      It all depends on the day and time. I like to sit at the kitchen island, in the early mornings at my desk, or if I’m on vacation, in the hotel room at the desk with the window open to the beach. Nature inspires me, so my favorite spots include the sounds of animals or the ocean. It’s almost always enhanced with a hot cup of chai latte though. That’s the one constant.

What book are you reading at the moment?

Author:      I can’t share the title yet, because I’m reading for a fellow author who hasn’t yet published it. It’s a really good read though, so watch my website for my review that will be out soon.

Author Interviews, Blog, Children's Book Blog

Author Interview: Lindsay Payne, Children’s/Fiction/Non-fiction

Lindsay Payne is the author of Children’s picture books and chapter books, non-fiction, and fiction which is her favorite to write.

Red Shoes & Wine is published, 99 Red Balloons is in the editing phase and will hopefully be available on Amazon end of February 2022, and she will commence writing The Red Butterfly in February 2022. Her most recent publication is Granny Clampet’s Cupcakes.

From Planning to Published

When did you start writing and why?

Author:     I wrote my first book in 2006 – Bags of Trouble for Valeskia Maleskia – about a beautiful fish trapped in a plastic bag in the ocean. I realized there was a message and moral I wanted to write about and so began the journey of writing children’s books – each with a moral, intertwined between the pages.

How long did it take you to finish your first book?

Author:      It took me three weeks to write Bags of Trouble

Has your publishing timeframe improved at all since your first publication?

Author:      Yes definitely.

Are you indie, traditional, hybrid, or vanity, and why?

Author:      I’m an indie author, purely because it was very difficult to find a literary agent who was willing to give me a chance. I spent years trying to go the traditional route and it was only around five years ago, I found the indie route and it’s been a fabulous ride.

How did you determine your target audience?

Author:    I’m still working on that! My children’s books generally sell through word of mouth and through mums scrolling through Facebook or Instagram. 

What is your publishing process?

Author:   I publish through KDP on Amazon.

What platforms do you use to publish your works?

Author:      I currently publish on Amazon only, but market on Facebook, Instagram and have just started the Tik Tok journey.

How do you get critiques, betas, feedback, and edits?

Author:      I ask close friends if they will read my first draft for me and provide honest, unbiased feedback. I met my editor through a Facebook group last year and he’s now become a good friend and my editor which I’m truly grateful for.

Marketing

Do you have a platform? What does it consist of?

Author:      I use Facebook mainly and have three pages I bounce between, my personal page, my children’s book page and my adult book page. I’m not as active on Instagram, as I am still learning the ropes and have just started using Tik Tok.

What is your launch plan for your works?

Author:   I don’t have a solid plan. What I currently do is publish on Amazon and then will write a blurb about that particular book with the cover image. Once the book is available on Amazon, I then post the links on Facebook, Instagram and Tik Tok.  

How do you get reviews for your books?

Author:     Once my second last edit is back, I will then post on FB that I’m looking for new beta readers. When sending the book to them, I ask that once they’ve finished reading it, would they be happy to write a review.

How do you promote your content?

Author:      Usually a blurb on Facebook or Instagram. I’ve tried FB Ads, but I haven’t been too successful with that. I think it’s all to do with target market and I’m still working my way around research on how to be more precise.

What do you think is the most critical marketing component or tactic for becoming successful?

Author:      I think “soft marketing” is definitely the best approach. One also has to be very mindful of how to self-promote – something I truly battle with.

How do you define success as an author?

Author:  When an author is being mentioned among other authors, then you know that your name is getting out there. Not only are we our own worst critics, but our fellow authors can be too, so if you are being discussed among fellow colleagues for all the right reasons, then you generally should be “good to go!”   

About Your Work

What type of content do you write and why? Fiction Novels? Poems? Songs? Screenplays? Short Stories? Epic?

Author:      Moral based children’s books – which have stemmed from my swimming coaching career since the age of twenty. More recently, I’ve dived into thriller-based novels and at this stage of my life, this is where I’m happiest writing.

What genres and subgenres do you write in?

Author:     Children’s picture and chapter books, non-fiction and fiction.

What is your author brand (genre, mood, image, theme, message, etc)? How did you decide on it?

Author:   My children’s book illustrator, has found her own style with creating the images for all my children’s books and this branding seems to be working well. She has a very keen eye for detail and is very perceptive to the precise images I’m trying to portray.  I had been searching for an illustrator for quite a while, because I literally can’t draw to save my life, and within a few days Meg had produced the image for “When A Stranger Says Hello” a little book for children about stranger danger.


Sally has a wonderful life and special friends. Her best friend is Tessa who lives next door. They have been friends with each other since they first met at nursery school five years ago. Now they are in primary school in the third grade.

The besties love school and seeing each other every day. Both girls are very good readers and often come first and second in the class for their beautiful essays. Their stories are filled with adventure and excitement and Sally in particular, thrives on adventure.

The one thing Sally struggles with is swimming. She is not a very strong swimmer and feels embarrassed about this, until one day she has no choice but to swim.

Follow Sally on her lifesaving, life changing adventure.


How many works have you published?

Author:      I’ve written thirty-one children’s books, two non-fiction books and have just completed the second book in a trilogy series.

Can you tell us a bit about your most recent publication?

Author:      Granny Clampet’s Cupcakes was inspired by an aunt who lives in the UK. She’s a lady everyone loves and a grandmother to eight children. She’s led a very interesting, incredible life and is someone you can have a jolly good chat with. She can talk to anyone, no matter your background or age and so, with this in mind, the idea came to me one day where I thought about how we can’t be good at everything, but as long as we are a good person.

Granny Clampet lives in a cottage on the outskirts of a lovely village called Wiltshire. She has a wonderful life playing golf once a week, bridge twice a week, Scottish dancing every weekend and attending book club once a month.

She’s a terrible baker and this is all tested one day when she’s asked to bake something for the local Wiltshire Community Fundraiser. A whole lot of chaos arises in her kitchen, which creates a chain of remarkable events.

Name some common elements in your writing: villains, magic, red-herring twists, the unfortunate ensign, mysterious phenomena, asyndeton, sentence fragments etc.

Author:      I always try to introduce some sort of villain element into every book I write, taking every opportunity I can, to add in red-herrings and twists and turns, especially in my thriller books.

What was your first goal when you started your journey to becoming an author? Has that changed?

Author:      I’ve always had a love of writing and seeing words formulate into a sentence and then into a paragraph and a page. My love for writing and the bug that bit, has not changed. I had no goal in mind five years ago when I first self-published, I just wanted to write and that has not changed.

Do you have other supporting services like a podcast, blog, webinars, courses, video channel?

Author:   I have a website, a Facebook page for my children’s books and adult books, an Instagram page and have just started on the Tik Tok journey.   As far as finding the support, I certainly have on all the services you mention, which have been the greatest help.

What do you want your readers to get out of your works?

Author:    I aspire to move people when they read my books, to have some emotional attachment to all the stories and characters. 

What part of the author process are you working on or studying most now?

Author:      Marketing is not my strong point, as I really struggle to self-promote, preferring the softer marketing version. So currently, I’m reading up on all sorts of techniques and tricks required to market.

What has been your favorite part of the writing and querying or publishing process?

Author:    I still get an absolute thrill with the start of any book. I love forming the characters, sprinkling them with idiosyncancies that will help connect the reader to the character. I thoroughly enjoy the research that goes into my thriller novels, because this process ignites the beginning of the storyline, plots and subplots and I still get a kick, every single time with the publishing process — as my manuscript is being uploaded, the sense of achievement is a buzz.

Do you recommend any programs, courses, or websites?

Author:      I would highly recommend Mark Dawson’s – Ad’s for Authors and Joanne Penn – The Creative Penn – both on You Tube. There is an endless supply of information, tips from experienced authors.

Which authors write similar books to yours? How did you find them?

Author:      I read my first James Patterson book, Kiss the Girls, when I was twenty-two and then soon afterwards, discovered Postmortem by Patricia Cornwell, while browsing in a book store one day. My thrillers are inspired by the writing style of these two authors.

Have you always read in the genre you wanted to write in? Do you think that’s made it easier or harder to create new stories?

Author:      Yes, I’ve always written in the genre I read, which has definitely made it easier when creating stories. I love reading crime fiction, immersing myself in the story for days.

What is your writing process, from idea to polished work? Pantster? Plotter? How long does that typically take you?

Author:      I stick to a good ole word doc. My budget was very limited when I started on the indie writing path and so I couldn’t afford any specialized app that could help with the process. I’ve become so used to a word document, that I still use it today.

Regarding writing children’s books, I fall back on life lessons that I’ve learnt along the way through various people I’ve met. A moral will form in my mind and then I begin to work out how I can tell the story through a child’s eyes and remain on their level. It usually takes me a week to create and finish a very rough first draft.

With the non-fiction books I’ve written, the first one took me three days to write and a month to proofread and edit. It was easy enough to do, because it was a personal story. The second non-fiction book I wrote, took about two months to complete.

My first thriller in the “Red” series, Red Shoes & Wine – The Sex Traffickers, took me exactly two months to write and two months to edit. I’ve just completed my second book in the “Red” series, 99 Red Balloons – The Organ Traffickers, took me just under three months to complete and is currently in the editing phase. My third book in the “Red” trilogy series, The Red Butterfly – The Drug Traffickers, is yet to be written. I hope to start writing this one in mid Feb 2022 and plan to take my time nurturing it and filling in all the scenarios of crime situations that I’ve been storing away for years.

I use a separate word doc for plotting, sub plot formation and chapters. It’s a fast-track technique that I use to keep referring back to interchanging characters as well as keeping an eye on specific details that need to be remembered and are crucial to the unfolding chain of events.

Where do you network most with other writers, authors, and creative types? LinkedIn? Wattpad? Twitter? Facebook? Somewhere else?

Author:     I’ve joined three major groups on Facebook, which has been paramount in learning as much as I can from fellow author’s and entrepreneurs. They are three very dynamic groups and all unique in what they offer. I’ve started to push myself out of my comfort zone and am networking in a more proactive way.

Do you sprint-write like a starving cheetah, or are you a totally chill turtle writer? Somewhere in between?

  

Author:   Regarding my thriller novels, I’m a sprint-write, high on the writing drug maniac!! I sleep, eat, breathe my characters and the moment a new sub-plot is forming on the tail end of the one in front, I become manic. This demon writing possessed form that overcomes me, is probably not the most therapeutic enhancing but I thrive on the adrenalin!   

Struggles

What has been the hardest thing to overcome on your journey to authorship?

Author:    Overcoming my deep fears of self-doubt regarding my writing. Once I jumped that hurdle, it’s made life a whole lot easier.   

How has the writing and querying or publishing process affected you emotionally? Do you have any tips for budding writers?

Author:      I think I can speak on behalf of most authors when I say, that writing is deeply personal. It’s a very fine balance between not taking anything too personally if someone is giving sound advice and feedback and letting the hard knocks wash over you. Follow your heart and instincts when it comes to your words and storyline. No-one else will have a story like yours, so write with confidence and it will show in the end product. Try to always remain humble, for we never stop learning and growing. 

Do you have any tips or recommendations for those who want to go the final step and become authors?

Author:      Just take the leap of faith. I always advise that even writing that first word, will then lead into a sentence, into a paragraph and into a book, you just have to start somewhere.

If you could do it all over again, what would you change?

Author:      I actually wouldn’t change one thing, because all the challenges have helped to shape my writing, ensuring I strive for a higher standard of quality and excellence.

Are you a driven & self-advocating author, a gun-shy promoter, or a total marketing procrastinator?

Author:      I think initially I fell into the gun-shy promoter category, but am now slowly turning the corner into a driven and self-advocating author. I’ve had to push through that barrier of self-doubt and blaze forwards.

How do you keep yourself motivated?

Author:    The storyline of all my books keeps me motivated. As I finish one story, I’m already thinking of the next one. My fingers are never far from the keyboard, so I’m very grateful that I can remain motivated.  I also try and swim at least four times a week which helps my mind to remain healthy and focused and a lot of plots come to me when I’m blowing bubbles.

How do you combat writer’s block?

Author:     This is one of the writing hurdles that so far, I’ve been very lucky not to battle with! There are too many thoughts racing through my mind at any one time. It’s a very busy place in there! LOL!

What literary/writer-based term did you not know when you started that has become important and relevant to you?

Author:      Up until September 2021, I had absolutely no idea what formatting really meant. I would just write away happily, completely clueless that I was creating all these unnecessary tabs and gaps in my document. I learnt the hard way and had to redo a two-hundred-page book which took me nearly a month to complete. It was tedious, pain staking work, so I’ve learnt so much from that mistake and I’m never doing that again!

How did your family and friends react to your writing? Was it what you expected from them?

Author:    The reactions have been a mixed bag. Some very helpful hints and tips have come through from family and friends and some not so helpful hints and tips have come through from family and friends.

What assumptions about writers and authors do you think are myths?

Author:     I think one assumption that is a myth is that authors wile away their days languishing in comfy chairs and writing when they feel like it, the rest of the time taking leisurely naps! Or taking trips to the coast or woodlands so that they can glean inspiration from these locations! There’s nothing further from the truth.  Most authors I know, are getting by on the sniff of an oil rag and so they need to rely on their imagination to whisk a reader off to an exotic place, all created from a single idea from their mind.

Fun Stuff

What do you listen to while you write?

Author:      Usually the generator powering away in the background! LOL! Living in Zambia the power cuts we have at the moment are immense. If the power is on, I prefer a quiet space in which to write.

Is there a fun word or group of terms you like to put into your writing?

Author:      Because I was born and brought up in Zimbabwe, I have a heap of phrases and sayings that are often in my conversations and I have to be so mindful of this when I’m writing a book in American English. Some of the words I use often are, “Eish” (Wow), “Hobos” (Heaps), “Brekky” (Breakfast), “Muti” (Medicine), “Chisa” (Hot), “Shamwari” (Friend), “Mampara” (Naughty), “Chingwa” (Bread), “Arvie” (Afternoon).

Where do you write your stories? A tiny office? A loft? The kitchen table? In the bushes while you secretly people-watch like a total creeper? Or a warm café with mocha in hand and feet up on an ottoman?

Author:      I have the cutest, tiniest office with no windows. It’s my sanctuary and the place I feel safest and where all my writing and scrawling’s are created. The climate in Zambia can be scorching in summer and so, instead of finding another room in which to write, I just move the fan closer to me and continue writing away. I have such a connection to this space and feel emotionally at peace here.

What book are you reading at the moment?

Author:    The Store, by James Patterson.   

How do you try to “break the mold” and be unique?

Author:      That’s a tough one. I think we all just need to be confident in our writing ability and that in itself will set you apart – my theory that no-one else will have the same story or book as you is important to remember, so that you don’t become overwhelmed by self-doubt.

What have you learned about yourself from the writing and/or authorship process?

Author:   I’m determined, focused and motivated when it comes to writing and I’ve learnt to dig deep and follow my instincts with certain techniques and writing styles.  

What is your favorite writing snack and drink?

Author:      Coffee and anything crunchy – the crunchy snacks certainly seem to help with forming  sub-plots!

Do you have a writing companion?

Author:   I have two cats, Toby & Cosmo, and two dogs, Shilo and Nala. They all seem to take it in turns to sit with me, although my pointer Shilo, is always by my side when I write. She brings me such comfort and a relaxed aura.  

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?

Author:  Take one second at a time and then one minute. Don’t do tomorrow, before you’ve completed today and live in the moment!   

How can readers follow you and learn more about your books?

You can find me on Facebook @ Lindsay Payne Children’s Books & L. D. Payne Books, and my handle on Instagram and Tik Tok is @lindsaypaynebooks. My website is: https://www.lindsaypaynebooks.com

Look forward to connecting with you all!

You can also find Lindsay Payne on Amazon.

Author Interviews, Blog, Sci-Fi Fantasy Blog

Author Interview: R. W. Harrison, Supernatural Thrillers

My main genre is supernatural thrillers. My most recent book is Raven’s Temple, published in January 2022, about a serial killer who belongs to a cult that promises immortality.

From Planning to Published

When did you start writing and why?

Author:  I began writing seriously in 2011. I had a rough story idea loosely based on a series of hauntings I experienced many years ago and finally decided to get it down on paper. It became the first book in my Onyx Trilogy, The Onyx Seed.   

How long did it take you to finish your first book?

Author: It took me three years from start to finish, including research, writing, editing/proofreading, cover design and formatting.    

Has your publishing timeframe improved at all since your first publication?

Author:  I’ve been able to condense that timeframe over the years. My latest book took exactly a year from beginning the outline to publication.   

Are you indie, traditional, hybrid, or vanity, and why?

Author:  I’m an indie author. I did a lot of research as I was finishing up my first book, on both traditional and indie publishing. It came down to a business decision for me. I liked the control that indie publishing offered and that the timeline was of my choosing. Plus, the profit margins are higher.   

What is your publishing process?

Author:  I enlist the help of other authors that I trust for beta reads after I’ve self-edited the first draft. After taking their suggestions and rewriting as necessary, I send it to my editing team. After my rewrites and another review from my editors, it gets polished and proofread, and I work on the formatting and cover design. Once that’s all done, I upload to KDP.   

What platforms do you use to publish your works?

Author:  So far, it’s been exclusively with Amazon’s KDP platform, but I am considering going wide.   

How do you get critiques, betas, feedback, and edits?

Author:  I’m active on a few Facebook groups, including Beta Readers and Critique Partners and Self Publishing Support Group. I’ve made a lot of author friends in the groups and their help with beta reading has been invaluable. 

Marketing

Do you have a platform? What does it consist of?

Author: It’s small, but growing. My platform consists of readers who are new to supernatural thrillers. My books aren’t too dark or scary, so they’re “safer” for the casual reader who just wants a hint of the supernatural in what they read. I also include a lot of geographical references in my writing, so people who live in, or have visited the particular areas, enjoy reading about landmarks and scenery they’re familiar with.    

What is your launch plan for your works?

Author: I definitely need to ramp up this part of my marketing. I haven’t taken advantage of ARCs yet, but will for my next book. I promote the books on my personal social media and my author pages, and “lightly” promote it in some of the other groups I’m active on.    

How do you get reviews for your books?

Author: In the back of my books, I encourage people to leave honest reviews on Amazon and Goodreads, and any other place they normally review books.      

How do you promote your content?

Author:  One of the things I’ve done is become active in Facebook groups that are focused on where my books take place. For example, my Onyx Trilogy takes place mostly in and around Letchworth State Park in upstate New York. There is a large and engaged FB group for the park and I have enlisted the group’s help with research questions, explaining that I’m writing a book that is set in Letchworth. I keep the group informed on the progress, ask more questions, etc. When it released, I asked the administrator of the group if I could announce it. They agreed and I did, which resulted in a lot of interest and sales. The key is to be an active, genuine member of the group, and not be spammy.   

What do you think is the most critical marketing component or tactic for becoming successful?

Author:  I haven’t figured it out yet, but from everything I’ve read, it’s writing more books, being consistent with your marketing, and being authentic.   

How do you define success as an author?

Author:  Personally, I’ll be successful if I can write full time.   

About Your Work

What type of content do you write and why? Fiction Novels? Poems? Songs? Screenplays? Short Stories? Epic?

Author:  I write primarily supernatural thriller novels, approximately 75-80K words in length. I am currently outlining a straightforward thriller.   

What is your author brand (genre, mood, image, theme, message, etc)? How did you decide on it?

Author:  My slogan is “Books to Leave the Lights on For”. My brand is tied to my genre – supernatural thrillers. I’m fascinated by the things unseen in this universe. Sometimes we call them ghosts or spirits or poltergeists. I may not be convinced that those things exist, even though I experienced a haunting myself, but science hasn’t explained them all yet. The things that go bump in the night make for terrific stories.

How many works have you published?

Author: I have published four books: One trilogy and a stand-alone novel.     

Can you tell us a bit about your most recent publication?

      

Author: Raven’s Temple follows a man suffering from a debilitating disease who belongs to a cult that promises immortality. He’s chasing a cure and wants to live forever, but what the cult asks him to do to achieve that eternal life comes at a steep price. It takes place in north central Florida, in the Ocala National Forest and involves ravens, hence the title, which are usually not found in Florida. I had a lot of fun researching ravens and crows, and cults.

Name some common elements in your writing: villains, magic, red-herring twists, the unfortunate ensign, mysterious phenomena, asyndeton, sentence fragments etc.

Author: I try to keep the reader turning pages, so often I will end a chapter with a mini-cliffhanger. The next chapter usually changes POV to another character, so if you want to know how the earlier chapter ended, you have to keep reading.    

What was your first goal when you started your journey to becoming an author? Has that changed?

Author:  I knew I had a story to tell and initially, I just wanted to make sure I could do it. Once I had it down on paper, my goal shifted to getting it in readers’ hands.     

What do you want your readers to get out of your works?

Author:  As a genre writer, I offer an escape. A fun rollercoaster of a read that can be enjoyed over a few days and hopefully a story and characters that will be remembered.   

What has been your favorite part of the writing and querying or publishing process?

Author:  I love the brainstorming part before I’ve even begun writing. Jotting down ideas, bouncing story lines off other authors, coming up with twists and turns for the plot. That’s my favorite part.   

Do you recommend any programs, courses, or websites?

Author: I got a lot out of the MasterClass video courses, especially the courses by Dan Brown, Neil Gaiman, and David Baldacci. I also recommend Mark Dawson’s SPF courses for marketing. A great, free resource for marketing is Ricardo Fayet’s book, “How to Market a Book: Overperform in a Crowded Market”. It’s available for free on Amazon as an ebook. David Gaughran also offers a wealth of free information on indie publishing.      

Which authors write similar books to yours? How did you find them?

Author: In a way, my books are similar to those of Scott Smith, Nick Cutter, and John Langan. Libraries are great places to discover new authors, and since I work in one, it’s easy to see what’s popular or new on the scene.    

Have you always read in the genre you wanted to write in? Do you think that’s made it easier or harder to create new stories?

Author:  I have to be careful with what I’m reading when I’m writing, especially during the brainstorming phase. For example, I’m working on a novella about a haunted lighthouse and happened to start reading a horror novel that takes place in a lighthouse. I put the book down because I didn’t want to unconsciously steal ideas from the book.   

What is your writing process, from idea to polished work? Pantster? Plotter? How long does that typically take you?

Author: I’m kind of a hybrid between a pantser and a plotter. I started my first book, The Onyx Seed, as a pantser, totally enamored with the idea of just sitting down at the computer and typing out my Great American Novel. However, it didn’t take long to write myself into a corner because those characters sometimes take on a life of their own. So I outlined the rest of the book, and that made it so much easier. Now I work from a loose outline, which allows me to go in other directions if I have to.    

Where do you network most with other writers, authors, and creative types? LinkedIn? Wattpad? Twitter? Facebook? Somewhere else?

Author:  I’ve found my community of fellow authors mostly on Facebook. Some on Instagram, but I’m somewhat more established in FB.   

Do you sprint-write like a starving cheetah, or are you a totally chill turtle writer? Somewhere in between?

Author: I wish I could write in sprints, but I’m definitely more of a turtle writer. I’m getting faster, though.    

Struggles

What has been the hardest thing to overcome on your journey to authorship?

Author:  Figuring out the marketing and business end of the journey. I’m far more comfortable with the writing and editing. It’s getting your book in the hands of readers that’s the most challenging.   

How has the writing and querying or publishing process affected you emotionally? Do you have any tips for budding writers?

Author: If I let it, it could be demotivating, but I’m confident that, if I just keep writing quality books, they’ll find an audience. They already have, but it’s modest. I’m not sure who said it, but I heard a quote recently…you want to get to the point where you’re not the one beating the drum for your books – your fans are.    

Do you have any tips or recommendations for those who want to go the final step and become authors?

Author: Keep reading in your genre, read outside your genre, learn the craft, practice, ask questions. And, as the title of James Scott Bell’s book says, “Just Write”.    

If you could do it all over again, what would you change?

Author: I began writing at the age of 47. If I could do it over again, I would have started much earlier.    

Are you a driven & self-advocating author, a gun-shy promoter, or a total marketing procrastinator?

Author: Unfortunately, I’m a bit of a procrastinator when it comes to marketing. I know what I need to work on, but I’m far more interested in writing more books. I justify this because I know one of the keys to being successful is having a large backlist of books.    

How do you keep yourself motivated?

Author: I try to set goals for myself, usually 3,000 words a week. Life gets in the way too much for me to set daily goals. I try to reward myself if I hit the goal with one of my guilty pleasures…watching an old, classic movie.    

The peacefulness of a small, post-World War II town in New York is shattered when Larry McConnell drowns mysteriously in a local lake. When a kind boarder joins Larry’s widow, Margaret, and her young son Davey, she begins to think her house may be haunted.

The sheriff believes a rogue deputy is responsible for Larry’s death while Margaret reluctantly seeks the help of a palm reader. The psychic identifies a dresser in Davey’s room as the source of the haunting and the root of the evil that is now swirling around them and threatening Margaret’s son.

Fun Stuff

What do you listen to while you write?

Author:  I usually listen to Psychedelicized.com. A streaming channel that plays classic psychedelic rock from 1967-70. That’s my go-to music.   

Where do you write your stories? A tiny office? A loft? The kitchen table? In the bushes while you secretly people-watch like a total creeper? Or a warm café with mocha in hand and feet up on an ottoman?

Author: I have an office in the house. I’m very fortunate to have a dedicated space that’s totally mine. It has built-in bookshelves on one wall, a large desk, a comfy chair, and a nice view.    

What book are you reading at the moment?

Author:  I just finished “The Hollow Places”, a horror novel by T. Kingfisher. Next up is “The Crusades: The Authoritative History of the War for the Holy Land” by Thomas Asbridge. I tend to read a mix of fiction and non-fiction, mostly history.

What have you learned about yourself from the writing and/or authorship process?

Author: I’ve learned that dreams can come true. I’ve always wanted to be an author. Writing and publishing one book got me there. And now I’m hooked and loving it. Now my dream is to do this full time.    

Do you have a writing companion?

Author: Often our black cat Tucker keeps me company in the office. One of these days, I’ll include him in a book.    

Readers can find my books on Amazon and more information about them and me on my website, www.rwharrisonbooks.com. I also offer author services such as editing, cover design, and formatting, with details on my website.   

Author Interviews, Blog, Sci-Fi Fantasy Blog

Author Interview: Freya Pickard, Fantasy

I’m Freya Pickard, a Fantasy Author, who’s recently published Fire Daughter.

From Planning to Published

When did you start writing and why?

Author:     Stories have always bubbled up inside me and have to be written out. I enjoy the telling of stories and enjoy telling others my stories. I’ve found that if I don’t write, I become a bit weird and frustrated. Therefore I always write out my ideas, even if they don’t gel the first time round. Nowadays it’s as necessary to me as eating and breathing. Writing is my life!

Are you indie, traditional, hybrid, or vanity, and why?

Author:      I’m an independent author. I do everything myself with some help from 3-4 beta readers and Jonathon B. Hoyt who does the cover designs for me. I tried the traditional publishing route prior to 2014 but it was very expensive, sending MSS through the post. Because I don’t write for a particular marketplace (I write for myself, from the heart) my work doesn’t really fit into traditional publishers’ marketing schemes. In 2014 I nearly died of cancer and that made me change my outlook on my entire life. I decided to self-publish in 2016 and haven’t looked back since! I am a control freak and enjoy being in charge of the entire process from the first word on the first page to marketing my books once I’ve published them.

What is your publishing process?

Author:      I write. Then I draft. I work on my writing a lot. I ask my beta readers to see if I’ve made any mistakes. I work on it some more until I am happy. Then I publish it! The whole process takes 1-2 years as I have very high standards for myself.

What platforms do you use to publish your works?

Author:      I use KDP (one has to) as well as Draft To Digital as I like to make my books available on a variety of platforms. I have plans in the future to venture into Smashwords and Gumroad too.

What do you think is the most critical marketing component or tactic for becoming successful?

Author:      Having a LOT of money in order to promote your work online.

How do you define success as an author?

Author:      Getting the book written is a major success. Getting the book published is also a major success. Getting paid for my writing is a bonus. I suppose I’d consider I was properly successful as a writer when all of my books has at least 20+ positive reviews each!

About Your Work

What type of content do you write and why? Fiction Novels? Poems? Songs? Screenplays? Short Stories? Epic?

Author:      I write Fantasy novels that are on the Darker side of Happily Ever After. For instance, Silver Fire has an attempted rape scene in it which some fragile readers found offensive. I’m not sure why, as the victim attacks the rapist and stops him from committing the vile deed. I prefer to embrace the dark along with the light – life has shown me that if you ignore the bad things that happen to you, you’re not living your life to the full. I like to reflect this in my writing. The Kaerling series is an epic fantasy that deals with prejudice, fate and freedom of choice. I prefer writing in the Fantasy genre as opposed ‘Real Life’, as there is more scope for dealing with senstive issues such as prejudice and sexual matters.

How many works have you published?

Author:      To date I’ve published 15 e-books and 7 paperbacks.

Can you tell us a bit about your most recent publication?

Author:      My most recent book is called Fire Daughter, a paperback, and it contains volumes 4 – 6 in The Kaerling series. I publish 3 e-books before publishing the paperback. Originally I had planned to publish just paperbacks, each with 3 sections. I soon realised that readers nowadays prefer to purchase e-books, so I adapted my plans. Fire Daughter contains the e-books Olin Heon, Hidden Lands and Aura Vere. The paperback introduces new characters to The Kaerling storyline; Lored, a taku-kevir from Olin Heon and Tari, an acolyte in the Temple in Aura Vere. The first two sections deal with Lored’s quest to discover the truth about his mentor’s demise and then his journey to find a new purpose in life. Tari, meanwhile, has her quiet Temple life disrupted by a new priestess, a new acolyte and the sinister kaerlings who question everyone. The third section re-introduces the storylines of Otta and Erl who are desperate to reach the kaerling boy Derri before his kaerling family find him once more. The four storylines are drawn together at the end of the book, making way for the third paperback to begin!

Available on Amazon

What do you want your readers to get out of your works?

Author:      I want readers to immerse themselves in my worlds, to experience the good and the bad in a safe environment and to come back to the real world refreshed and renewed and inspired.

What has been your favorite part of the writing and querying or publishing process?

Author:      My favourite part of the writing process has always been the first draft. It’s a virgin page. I have my notes so I know where the story is going, but really, anything could happen! I love the flow of words, that tapping into my creativity deep within my soul and producing pure poetry on screen. I love the sensation of being a medium between the muse and my readers. I’m a channel for the story to come through.

Have you always read in the genre you wanted to write in? Do you think that’s made it easier or harder to create new stories?

Author:      I read a variety of genres; Fantasy, Science Fiction, Poetry, Romance and some Faction. I write the kind of Fantasy I enjoy reading and feel satisfied with. I learn a lot from other writers; either how to improve my writing or how not to write! No book is ever useless – even if I don’t enjoy it, I learn from it in some way.

Struggles

What has been the hardest thing to overcome on your journey to authorship?

Author:      Discovering that most of my friends and family aren’t actually interested in my books! Despite people in my life always showing a polite interest in my work, most of them have never bought a copy of my work. Once I realised this, I concentrated on maintaining friendships with people online who were genuinely interested in my books. Gradually I’ve let go of everyone else which has been an extremely releasing and cathartic process.

How do you keep yourself motivated?

Author:      I’ve had one brush with death and that has made me concerned that maybe I won’t get my three score years and ten. This provides me with a huge amount of motivation to get The Kaerling finished as soon as possible.

Fun Stuff

What do you listen to while you write?

Author:      I have an eclectic musical taste and prefer to listen to Leonard Cohen whilst composing poetry but I find writing new drafts to Billie Eilish, Ghost of the Robot and Disturbed particularly inspiring! When I’m drafting, I rarely listen to music as I need to hear the words out loud.

Where do you write your stories? A tiny office? A loft? The kitchen table? In the bushes while you secretly people-watch like a total creeper? Or a warm café with mocha in hand and feet up on an ottoman?

Author:      I write in a snug office that I share with my soulmate who is very understanding – eg if I have headphones on he understands that I cannot be disturbed, even if the world is ending. I look out over a field of Devon Ruby Cattle and in the distance I can just see the moorland hills. I use the scenery to rest my eyes and consider the next paragraph on the odd occasion that my creativity falters.

What book are you reading at the moment?

Author:      I’m currently reading “Requiem for the Bastards” by Chris Sendrowski. It’s the second novel in his Dregs of the Culver Waste series. I love his writing because it’s so visual, visceral and unpredictable.

What have you learned about yourself from the writing and/or authorship process?

Author:      To be a writer you have to be selfish and learn to say to ‘no’ to other people in order to write. I’ve learnt not to worry if I offend or upset someone who doesn’t understand my need to write. If people don’t understand that Writing is my life, despite me explaining this many times to them, it’s not my problem, it’s theirs.

What is your favorite writing snack and drink?

Author:      I find eating either a handful of seeds or nuts or dried fruit mid-morning keeps my energy up. I tend not to eat sugary snacks because I get such a low mid-afternoon. Biscuits are for tea time after I’ve finished writing for the day! Favourite drink is peppermint tea!

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?

Author:      Write what you know and enjoy the writing process.

Readers can follow me at:

Author Interviews, Blog

Author Interview: Matt Holmes, Non-Fiction

My name is Matt Holmes (Pen Name: Matthew J Holmes) and I write non-fiction books around the topic of advertising for self published authors. My most recent book is The 7 Day Authors Guide To Facebook Ads.

From Planning to Published

When did you start writing and why?

I have been writing blog posts about marketing and advertising for many years and have also written lots of scripts for all sorts of videos/short films as I used to run my own Video Production Company. However, when Covid-19 hit back in March 2020, my Video Production work came to an abrupt halt.

So although I have written a lot of words over the years, I didn’t start writing my first book until April 2020! And then, with new babies on the way, major house renovations we were doing and feeling the imposter syndrome that a lot of us do, it took me until January 2021 to go back to that first book, review it, rewrite it, edit it and finally publish it.

Since January, I have released 2 further books, so I guess you could say I caught the bug! I wrote these books because I had a lot of information in my head that I needed to get down onto paper and I felt could help other self published authors avoid the pitfalls and mistakes that I have been through with advertising and marketing.        

How long did it take you to finish your first book?

I started writing my first book in April 2020, but I didn’t get round to publishing it until January 2021! So, around 9 months in total! But in terms of the outlining, writing, editing, proof reading, book cover design and everything else that comes with publishing a book, the total amount of time I spent was around 2 months.   

Are you indie, traditional, hybrid, or vanity, and why?

I am indie author; I just love the control that being indie provides; we are in control of our own destiny and can change course if and when we need to, without having to go through lots of red tape or barriers that can come with traditional publishing.     

How did you determine your target audience?

My wife is a self published author and she is my perfect target audience avatar! There will be lots of self published authors, like my wife, who are overwhelmed and perhaps, intimidated about the advertising and marketing side of self publishing, so my books are written in such a way to make advertising more understandable and relatable. Advertising is simple, but it’s not easy. My aim with the books I write is to simplify advertising as much as I can, whilst at the same time, making sure that the reader actually implements and takes action on the content.      

What is your publishing process?

First, I determine where the reader is before they start reading my book. Then I determine where they want to be after reading my book. I then map out the process they need to take to reach their destination, step-by-step and create the chapters of the book from there.

The next stage is fleshing out the content and specifics for each chapter. From there, it’s a case of writing the first draft of the book. I use a lot of images in my books to visually explain what I’m talking about, so I add these images in as I’m writing.

I then go back through the book from beginning to end to flesh out and refine the content, making sure I’ve covered everything I need to. Finally, I run my books through Pro Writing Aid to help with structure, flow, consistency, etc. Pro Writing Aid is an amazing tool; so many powerful features and reports; I can’t recommend it enough to every single author!

What platforms do you use to publish your works?

I publish primarily on Amazon and put all my focus onto Amazon. However, because my books are permafree (i.e. always free) at this moment in time, I also publish them through Draft2Digital and then ask Amazon to price match my books to one of the platforms I’ve published to through Draft2Digital.

Ultimately though, 99.9% of the downloads for my books come from Amazon so that is where I focus all my advertising and marketing.     

How do you get critiques, betas, feedback, and edits?

I have an email list who are fantastic at providing feedback on the books, let me know of anything I’ve missed out on, spelling and grammar issues, etc.     


Marketing

Do you have a platform? What does it consist of?

I have an email list which I have built and continue to build by providing free resources to authors, such as tracking sheets, planning tools for advertising, as well as a free 3 part video series that shows authors, over my shoulder, how I plan, build, optimise and scale ads on The Big 3 advertising platforms for authors, Facebook Ads, Amazon Ads and BookBub Ads.

What is your launch plan for your works?

I’m relatively low-key with my launches! I just publish it to Amazon, tell my email list about the book and then start running Amazon Ads to it. That’s it! Nothing fancy at all.

However, I also run the advertising and marketing for my wife’s fiction novels and they are a different animal when it comes to launching. I start planning for the launches of her new books 3-4 months in advance! I use Kindle Countdown Deals for my wife’s books when launching and spend a lot of money ($2500+ during the 7 day Kindle Countdown Deal) on Facebook Ads, Amazon Ads and BookBub Ads, as well as promo sites, such as eReader News Today, Bargain Booksy, BookRunes, etc. And for the upcoming launch, we are also going to be trying out some PR tactics as well as influencer marketing, which is exciting.     

How do you get reviews for your books?

My email list are great for leaving reviews which is wonderful. And I also use BookSprout; readers receive a free advance copy of my book and in exchange they leave a review.     

How do you promote your content?

Primarily, I use Amazon Ads to promote/advertise my books. However, I have an Autorespinder sequence setup which introduces my email subscribers to books of mine that they may not have read.     

What do you think is the most critical marketing component or tactic for becoming successful?

Persistence, patience and testing. There is no right or wrong way to advertising/market a book. You just have to do what feels right to you. Yes, there will be tactics you try that don’t work and that’s ok. You just have to have the resolve to not throw in the towel and give up too soon.

Marketing/Advertising is something a lot of authors don’t enjoy; they just want to focus on writing because it’s what they love the most and that’s fantastic. However, as a self published author, you need to not only wear your writer’s hat, so to speak, you also need to wear your business hat, particularly if you want writing to become your full time career.

How do you define success as an author?

As a non-fiction author, success to me is when I receive an email from a reader who says that they have taken action on what I have written about in one of my books and they have seen great results from it, or my words have had an impact on the way they see advertising.

If I can impact just one person from my books, that to me, is a success.    

What made you want to learn about advertising?

I have always loved marketing and advertising and I initially learnt about the fundamental of it so that I could reach more potential clients for my video production business. However, when my wife released her first novel several years ago, I jumped at the opportunity to learn about advertising and marketing in an industry I hadn’t explored before. From then on, I’ve been hooked on advertising and marketing books!

Why did you select the platforms you did to study and really figure them out?

Facebook Ads, Amazon Ads and BookBub Ads are The Big 3 as they are sometimes known amongst authors, so this is where I thought I should start.

What do you think is the biggest obstacle when it comes to advertising?

Overcoming the fact that some ads just will not work and to be ok with that. Even the best advertisers in the world have ads that don’t work; it’s just part and parcel of the advertising game.

What is the main benefit for readers who pick up a copy of your book/website?  (What do you hope they get out of it?)

Ultimately, I hope readers of my books will be able to take action on what they read and learn. Paralysis by analysis can be very real when facing something new and daunting such as advertising. I want to help authors overcome this fear and take action. Once they do, and they start seeing results, they will hopefully be able to get out of the mindset that they can’t run ads or don’t know how to run ads and start to reach more readers, sell more books and ultimately, start building their author career.

How do you think our quickly advancing technological society will affect online advertising and its importance for authors?

This is a difficult one! Advertising platforms are changing and evolving every single day. Although the fundamentals of advertising remain consistent, it’s the intricacies of the individual platforms and the tactics we use on them that will change. As the likes of Facebook learn more and more about its users, they have millions upon millions of data points that help us, as advertisers, reach the right readers, which is an incredible tool to have in our toolkit.

However, some people aren’t comfortable with companies such as Facebook and Google knowing so much about them; where they live, their age, their interests, what websites they look at online, etc. Yes, it can be sort of scary when you think about it, almost like Big Brother!

But from my perspective, as both a consumer and an advertiser, I don’t want to see content online that I have absolutely no interest in. Time is our most precious resource and I want spend it on things that matter to me, whatever that may be. So if the likes of Facebook know a lot about me and that allows them to personalise what I see on their platforms, based on my own interests, then I am more than happy for them to do so.

Just think about watching TV and how we tend to ‘skip’ the adverts/commercials. Why do we do this? Because they aren’t relevant to us. If the adverts/commercials were about things that interested us, then we would be much more likely to pay attention to them and not ‘skip’ them. The advertisers would win because they would get more eyeballs on their products/services, the consumers wold win because they would be seeing products/services that can help them, and the advertising platform would win because they would be attracting advertisers who can reach their ideal audience, as well as showing their consumers/customers adverts/commercials that were relevant.

It’s a win-win. The technology to achieve this is almost here really and we are already seeing it a lot on Facebook, Instagram and Amazon. It all comes down to relevance and that’s exactly what Amazon and Facebook are all about and built upon; showing relevant ads/books to relevant readers. The more relevant we can be with our ads and our targeting, the cheaper our advertising costs and the better our conversion will be.


About Your Work

How many works have you published?

I so far have 3 books published, with several more ideas on the back burner! The 3 books are in my 7 Day Author Series:

Can you tell us a bit about your most recent publication?

My most recent publication is The 7 Day Authors Guide To Facebook Ads where I walk readers through how to plan, build, launch, optimize and scale their first Facebook Ads.

Facebook Ads can be pretty overwhelming and daunting the first time you lay eyes on it and as is my focus on all the books I write, I want to reduce this feeling of overwhelm and focus on the fundamentals of Facebook Ads and learn enough to start seeing some results quickly.

A quote I really like is: Action creates more action. Inaction creates more inaction. If you can start taking action, you will want to take even more action and it becomes almost addictive! Likewise, if you take no action, it can be very difficult to do anything more than take even less action.

Yes, there is a lot to learn with Facebook Ads, but what I focus on is not looking at everything you need to do and learn; instead, just focus on the next step, then the next step, then the next step. If you focus on every single thing you need to learn about Facebook Ads in one hit, you are likely to never take any action whatsoever, because you get caught up in paralysis by analysis.    

So that is a long winded way of saying that my most recent book is about making Facebook Ads accessible for authors who don’t (yet) enjoy or get excited about advertising, my breaking it all down in to a simple 7 day process, with actionable steps at the end of each Day to help them take action and keep moving forwards. At the end of the 7 days, my aim is for the reader to have launched their very first Facebook Ad and have the knowledge to know how to optimize and scale their ads as and when the time is right.

Do you have other supporting services like a podcast, blog, webinars, courses, video channel?

I write in-depth guides and case studies on my website all around the topic of advertising and I have recently launched a brand new podcast, The Author Ads Academy Podcast, where I will be sharing weekly content about advertising for self-published authors.     

Do you recommend any programs, courses, or websites?

I find that the Kindlepreneur website has a lot of great blog posts about self publishing and this was a fantastic resource when I was brand new to this industry. I do till go to the Kindlepreneur website today and see what interesting articles they have published.

Sometimes, we need to come out of our own little world and look around us to see what other people are doing in the industry. One thing that is so true with self publishing is that you never stop learning. There are new technologies, algorithm changes and a whole lot more that happen on a regular basis; we need to keep upto date with all of this, because although the fundamentals may remain the same, it’s the intricacies of advertising particularly that can change on a regular basis. The way I see it is if we don’t change and evolve, we get left behind. 

Have you always read in the genre you wanted to write in? Do you think that’s made it easier or harder to create new stories?

I have always read non-fiction books, mainly around the topics of business, marketing and personal development. I feel that this has given me a good understanding from a reader’s perspective about what makes a book enjoyable to read.

On top of this, however, I have found that some books go too deep into the weeds on theory and leave out the critical element of actually taking action on the content within the book. This is why I have written my books in such a way that I provide Action Steps throughout to encourage readers to implement what they are learning so that they can start seeing results.   

Where do you network most with other writers, authors, and creative types? LinkedIn? Wattpad? Twitter? Facebook? Somewhere else?

I primarily focus on networking with other authors inside Facebook Groups and helping out with struggles and problems other authors are having that I have been through or had experience in.    


Struggles

What has been the hardest thing to overcome on your journey to authorship?

I think my biggest struggle has been overcoming Imposter Syndrome. I felt that little voice in my head saying “who am I to…”, “why would people listen to me…”, “what have I got to say that would make people want to pay attention to me…”  

Once I got over those feelings and managed to quieten down that nagging little voice in my head (my inner bi*?h!) through a lot of personal development work, things became a lot easier.

Do you have any tips or recommendations for those who want to go the final step and become authors?

Focus on writing the best books you possibly can. You can’t advertising or market a poor quality product. If you can write a great book, it makes the advertising and marketing of that book so much easier and enjoyable. Also, don’t try and write for everyone. There are some people out there who just won’t enjoy your books and that’s ok. You are not writing your book for them. You are writing your books for those people who devour every word, who clamber over your next book, who get lost in your world and never want to come out. Those people are your readers. Write for them and no one else.      

If you could do it all over again, what would you change?

I would publish sooner. I would focus on overcoming the imposter syndrome and get my books out there into the world. You will never be 100% ready. So just do it. The best time to publish was yesterday. The next best time is right now.     

Are you a driven & self-advocating author, a gun-shy promoter, or a total marketing procrastinator?

I have worked for myself since leaving University back in 2010, so I have always been driven to achieve what I want to achieve. However, there are definitely days where I procrastinate on marketing and promoting myself, without a doubt. That little voice in my head crops up from time to time and temporarily stops me from taking action on some things that are important to me. But once I quieten down that little voice, I’m back on track.      

How do you keep yourself motivated?

Every single morning I read and look at my goals not only for this year, but for my life as a whole. I also practice visualisation every morning and envision the life my wife and I want to build for our family. After my morning routine, I make sure that everything I am doing is working towards achieving those goals and our vision.     

How do you combat writer’s block?

I step away from the computer and spend 10-15 minutes with my wife and our 2 babies. That is enough motivation for me to get back on the horse, as it were and start writing again. It also helps to just give myself a screen break and turn my mind to something else for a few minutes.     

  


Fun Stuff

What do you listen to while you write?

I listen to Brain.fm! This an App that plays sounds/music that affects the way your brain works, but not in a bad way! Within 5-10 minutes, I am completely focused on my writing and almost forget about the outside world! Brain.fm works best with headphones, so I put on my noise-cancelling headphones and I’m gone! It just helps me focus in a way that music from Spotify, for example, just doesn’t.

Where do you write your stories? A tiny office? A loft? The kitchen table? In the bushes while you secretly people-watch like a total creeper? Or a warm café with mocha in hand and feet up on an ottoman?

We have an office in the garden, so this is where I like to write. My desk is in here, but we also have a big couch that I sometimes lay down on to write too!      

What book are you reading at the moment?

I’m currently proof reading my wife’s book before it goes off to the editors, in preparation for her upcoming launch!    

What have you learned about yourself from the writing and/or authorship process?

That I have a lot of knowledge I didn’t realise I had!     

What is your favorite writing snack and drink?

Tea, raisins and cashew nuts. Yea, a little bit weird, but it works for me!     

Do you have a writing companion?

Sometimes, one of our dogs, Freya and Loki, will join me in the office. But I think that’s only because they want to finish my cup of tea!    

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?

You don’t want to reach the end of your life and meet the ‘you’ that you could have been. You want to get to the end of your life with no regrets and know that you have made an impact on your family, your friends and the world as a whole. Live life to the full and enjoy every single moment.     

The best place to find me is on my website, www.matthewjholmes.com. From there you can see my books, the podcast, my blog/marketing guides, my free video training and much more.     

Author Interviews, Blog

Author Interview: Megan Lally, Psychological Thriller & Horror

Hi! I’m Megan Lally, I’m a young adult author who specializes in psychological thriller and horror— all the creepy things that go bump in the night. I’m represented by Mandy Hubbard, at ECLA, and we’re working on edits of my latest manuscript right now, actually. It’s a YA thriller about a girl who wakes up in a ditch, covered in blood with no idea who she is, only to be collected at the police station by her father and brought “home.” But it’s not home at all, and he’s definitely not her father.

From Planning to Published

When did you start writing and why?

Author:      I started writing in 2009? I think? Somewhere in there. My son was just born and someone gifted me the box set of Twilight for my first Mother’s Day and it was the first time I ever read YA fiction. After that, I started reading everything, and eventually I started picking apart characters and endings and wishing they’d done it differently, etc, until I eventually opened a fresh document and started writing a book of my own. It was terrible, haha, but I loved the process! I loved being creative in that way. And I just never stopped writing stories down. I’ve been writing for about 12 years now. Which makes me feel super old.

How long did it take you to finish your first book?

Author:      My first book probably took about a month, month and a half to draft. Haha. BUT, that’s because I knew nothing about writing a book, so it was 120k words of nonsensical word vomit. There was no plot, or character development, and the dialogue didn’t make any sense at all. People just wandered around being surprised about everything for 30 chapters.

I’ve found that the more I learned about writing the longer it took me to get the words down, because I’m constantly applying all that knowledge to every scene. So now it takes quite a bit longer to reach “The End.” If we’re talking about how long it took for me to finish the book that got me my agent, that’s closer to 5-6 months or so, and my latest book took closer to 8 months.

About Your Work

What type of content do you write and why? Fiction Novels? Poems? Songs? Screenplays? Short Stories? Epic?

Author:      All fiction, all the time. Couldn’t do a memoir, my life has been too boring. Haha. And I’m not made for short stories. They all end up being 40k words, because I’m long winded.

What genres and subgenres do you write in?

Author:      Thriller and horror mostly, though I do love to dabble with fantastical elements so I may try a horror fantasy combo in the future. I also have a long lasting love of historical/historical fantasy, so that may make an appearance some day too.

What is your author brand (genre, mood, image, theme, message, etc)? How did you decide on it?

Author:      This is still evolving a bit, as I work my way toward a debut, but I think my author brand is probably a collection of terrible, creepy things, happening to incredibly strong people. All things dark and terrifying, but with a twist of hope and a whole lot of spunk and sarcasm.

Name some common elements in your writing: villains, magic, red-herring twists, the unfortunate ensign, mysterious phenomena, asyndeton, sentence fragments etc.

Author:      I’m a big fan of red-herring twists, and almost every book I’ve ever written has had a thread of romance. Even in the midst of the creepy and terrifying, there’s always another connection there, and it’s kind of like a balance between the light and the dark, in a way. I’m also a huge fan of the em dash, snarky dialogue, and badass girls who overcome seemingly insurmountable odds.

What was your first goal when you started your journey to becoming an author? Has that changed?

Author:      My first goal probably goes back to me reading all those YA books and imagining them happening in different ways. There would always be books I’d read, and sigh, and hold tight, thinking, “I wouldn’t change a single thing about this one.” I wanted to be the one who wrote one of those for someone else to read and sigh and hold tightly with that same feeling. I still want that.

What do you want your readers to get out of your works?

Author:      That the darkness in the world doesn’t always win.

Which authors write similar books to yours? How did you find them?

Author:      Courtney Summers, Karen McManus, Kendare Blake, Barry Lyga, Maureen Johnson. I found most of them from the book store in the thriller/horror section, or on Goodreads. Also from recommendations from friends and fellow writers. LOVE them. Courtney Summers is like, my idol. I love her.

Have you always read in the genre you wanted to write in? Do you think that’s made it easier or harder to create new stories?

Author:      No, I started reading in romance and YA paranormal, and I actually started writing in that vein when I first started, before I discovered my love of creepy things and true crime. But I still read very widely. Romance, fantasy, science fiction, YA, MG, thrillers, contemporary, contemporary fantasy, urban fantasy, historical. They can all teach you different things.

I think it’s vastly important to know your genre really well and understand what kinds of tropes and trends are out there, but it’s equally important to read ALL the things. You can learn a lot from the types of books you write but being widely read will teach you things about world building, character development, romantic arcs, endings, twists, tension, opening pages, and prose that you can’t always get from reading the same types of books over and over.

What is your writing process, from idea to polished work? Pantster? Plotter? How long does that typically take you?

Author:      I’m a HUGE plotter. I can’t pants a book, it would give me anxiety. I can pants a chapter, sometimes? If I know what needs to be there, I don’t need all the details but I’m a tangent writer so if I tried to pants a whole novel I’d start off on chapter one, and end up writing a whole different book, and ghosts and dragons would show up in the middle, and it would be a mess. I need the structure of plotting to keep the story on track.

Typically I start with post-its. I’ll take my spark of a book idea and break it up into the major plot points I want to happen and I’ll write them all down on a separate post-it. Then arrange them in an order that makes sense on one of those foam presentation boards. Then I add more, to fill out the scenes in between. What starts out as 5 or 6 major plot twists, will turn into 30 or 40 scenes, all sketched out on the tiny squares. Then I group them into chapters. After that, I transfer all that information to a word document, broken up chapter by chapter in bullet points. Then I add more details, and sometimes snippets of information and dialogue. My outlines are typically about 5-10k words long. Sometimes longer. Once it feels like it has enough detail, I start with a fresh document and I start writing.

Where do you network most with other writers, authors, and creative types? LinkedIn? Wattpad? Twitter? Facebook? Somewhere else?

Author:      Twitter and Instagram mostly.

Do you sprint-write like a starving cheetah, or are you a totally chill turtle writer? Somewhere in between?

Author:      I sprint. A lot. I typically procrastinate with a lot of my writing time, and then I’ll get really into it and fast draft like a whole chapter in a couple hours, and then I need a nap. Haha. My creative energy has always come in bursts. I’ll never be a writer who can sit down and stay on task for 8 hours a day, but when the burst hits, I can draft quite a bit in a short amount of time, so I guess it all balances out?

Struggles

What has been the hardest thing to overcome on your journey to authorship?

Author:      The self-doubt. 100% the hardest, though I don’t think I’m alone there. Self-doubt is the enemy of so so many authors because being creative is hard! It takes such a long time to not only learn how to do this writing thing, but then to trust that we know what we’re doing. Every time I start a new book I somehow convince myself I’ve forgotten how to write, when the reality is, I’ve just been in editing mode on a much more polished draft, and a fresh manuscript and all it’s flaws is a very different beast.

Struggling with something doesn’t mean you’re incapable, or bad at it. Writing is hard, revising is hard, querying is hard, going out on sub is hard, and you can struggle through all of those things and still be damn good at what you do. That’s been the hardest to learn and internalize.

How has the writing and querying or publishing process affected you emotionally? Do you have any tips for budding writers?

Author:      It’s been a bit of a rollercoaster. A lot of excitement, a lot of waiting, and a lot of anxiety. Haha. It’s just really hard to take this thing you’ve poured your heart into and fling it out into the world for other people to read and have opinions about. I was a mess when I went out on sub for the first time, but it’s a whole process of growing that thick skin that authors need so badly.

So my advice is to remember that not everyone is going to like your books. Some people may hate them, and that’s fine. I’ve read some hugely popular books that I didn’t like either. Personal taste is a real thing, and it’s real when you’re querying, it’s real when you’re on sub with editors, and it’s real as a reader. It’s been a long process to learn how to not take that personally and step back enough to ask myself “Am I happy with what I made here?” and let that be enough, ups and downs be damned. Write for yourself. Write books that you love, and there will always be someone out there who will love it too.

Do you have any tips or recommendations for those who want to go the final step and become authors?

Author:      Grow that thick skin. Don’t shy away from feedback, every “problem” pointed out is an opportunity to make your book even better. Get yourself some quality critique partners, and swap pages. Get used to taking good and bad notes with stride. Learn the market. Read widely, and read critically— seeing how authors pull off difficult scenes, how they describe things in that “wow, I can really see this” way, how they engage you with the dialogue, how they keep the tension. Learn everything you can from the authors you love the most, and it’ll all morph together in your own writing style. And most importantly, keep going. Even when it’s hard— because it will be hard— don’t give up on yourself.

How do you combat writer’s block?

Author:      I try to write my way through it. Usually writer’s block is brought on by a sense that you’ve lost your way a bit in your story, so I’ll take a look at my outline again, and the scenes that came before I got stuck, as well as what I had planned for the next scenes. And then I’ll set a minimum amount of writing time a day (typically around 30 minutes) where I tinker with those scenes until something lights that bulb and I find my way through the problem. Talking things out with critique partners is also immensely helpful. If you look at “writers block” more as “I am lost” it becomes a mission to find your way back, rather than a wall you can’t break through.

Fun Stuff

What do you listen to while you write?

Author:      All the things. I have about a hundred Spotify playlists for various projects. I’m a big fan of writing to music with lyrics, which I know a lot of people hate doing, but I also have a bunch of classical lists, or ambient noise for when I’m struggling to focus. I love making playlists for fight scenes or kissing scenes, or super scary scenes (there are a ton of classic songs that have been slowed down and remade to sound SUPER creepy and I’m totally here for all of them.) The music is a big part of my writing process.

Is there a fun word or group of terms you like to put into your writing?

Author:      Not a specific word every time, but one of my best friends challenges me to throw random words into each manuscript. This latest one was “eggplant.” Haha.

Where do you write your stories? A tiny office? A loft? The kitchen table? In the bushes while you secretly people-watch like a total creeper? Or a warm café with mocha in hand and feet up on an ottoman?

Author:      Tiny office, for sure. My house is pretty old (1930’s) so I think it used to be like a micro bedroom or something, but it’s mostly just a desk, a loveseat, and piles of books everywhere. I also have a whiteboard on the wall for drafting or revision notes, and a big board hung up for my post-it plotting. It doubles as a guest room when we have company. But there’s a really cute coffee shop a couple blocks from my house that I love to write in too. It’s all bricks and mismatched furniture. They make an amazing lavender latte.

What is your favorite literary trope?

Author:      I’m a sucker for a good love triangle, and enemies to lovers!

What is your favorite writing snack and drink?

Author:      Coconut covered cashews from Trader Joes, and lavender lattes!

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?

Author:     “The first draft doesn’t have to be perfect, it just has to exist.”

Or possibly, “Don’t compare published books to your first draft. Published books have been revised a hundred times, and you’re on draft 0, that’s not fair.”

Both have been immensely helpful to me, in really seeing how unfair the expectations I put on myself are sometimes. A first draft will NEVER be perfect, it’s just not going to happen. So if it’s a little messy and filled with notes and problems, that’s fine. That’s what revisions are for. But I can’t revise what doesn’t exist. And it can’t exist at all if I expect it to be as perfect as a twelve times polished published novel. That’s like cracking an egg into a bowl and wondering why it doesn’t look like the quiche I saw on Instagram.

I’m on Twitter! @Megan_Lally

And Instagram! @Megan_Lally_