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:

Sci-Fi Fantasy Blog, SFF FLEET

Flash Fiction: A Touch of Revenge

A Touch of Revenge
E. L. Strife
Flash Fiction
Copyright ©2019

You can download the pdf here: A Touch of Revenge

Or read on below:

The enemy spaceship’s display blinked red, indicating its weapons-ready status. Through the wall of windows on the main bridge, Eryk studied five other ships which armed at his command, their missile bays illuminating like rings of miniature stars in the eternal night sky. Eryk’s fingers trembled as they hovered over Release Payload. He didn’t know if he had the gall to turn Earth into ash.

“Humans believe in equality,” he said to himself. We punish criminals.

Eryk had no home to return to. His wife, his parents, his people were dead. The planet was dead.

Three years ago, Kugrons had provided Earth with hover-engines—a “peace” offering. But the engines emitted radioactive fallout. Humans, animals, and plants died. Kugrons colonized in the wake of their destruction—like starving maggots.

The few humans who evaded the fallout had perished while sneaking Eryk onto an automated transport as it dropped off more hover-engines from the ships in space—a ship he now stood inside. The engines were never a gift, always a necessity, one Kugrons didn’t want humans to discover until it was too late.

No one knew what Eryk would find when he docked. He was a soldier; he would improvise.

Empty ships.

Translation chips.

An apocalypse switch.

Eryk slumped in the captain’s chair and stared out at Earth. Every Kugron was down there, thriving in the rot. The once-green continents were brown and red with death, the blue oceans now gray and steaming from decay.

Beside him, in the co-pilot’s seat, a small creature burbled as it licked the bandages Eryk had scrapped together out his clothes. Judging by the glowing collar, it was a pet. He had discovered it while hiding in a ventilation duct. The critter had cowered in a corner until a half-eaten grain cookie given in the shadows had made them friends.

Anger and revenge had been Eryk’s driving force. But after he’d armed the weapons, he’d hesitated.

What if someone else is hiding down there like I was?

He swiped through the diagrams of Earth on a display to his left. A rainbow of terra-forming progress. Wireframe schematics of topography. Landmass acquisitions. Thermal maps. Oceans.

The creature snorted and shook its head. It curled up like an old dog on a cold day. Tufts of its rust-brown fur were charred to the skin, others matted with blood. Eryk had to figure Kugrons had beaten it. A chunk was missing out of an ear, the eye on the same side scarred and milky green. Torch, as Eryk named him, had been the one to lead him to the bridge.

Flipping through the logged data displays of Earth, Eryk found one showing Earthlings in red and Kugrons in blue. He spun the globe, scanning.

Eryk was the last—his red dot alone on a ship in space, a green dot nestled beside him.

Torch.

He sighed and rested his chin in a palm, staring out at Earth. It was never a decision he thought he’d face—the fate of a planet too grand of a responsibility for a grunt like him.

One command from the Kugrons’ main bridge, designed to take out a fleet of battleships, would eradicate his enemy.

One tap of his finger would turn his home planet into a churning mass of magma.

Inside, Eryk felt cold as a corpse on a slab. He sat frozen and torn between saving a symbol of humanity’s existence and exterminating an infestation. No war could callus his hands or heart enough for such a burden.

He would be the sole human in the galaxy. There would be no history but what he could remember.

Still, he’d made his kind a promise.

Eryk focused on the flashing button beneath his fingers. Even if the blast kills me, “At least they won’t be able to do this again.”

He tapped the flashing button.

Streams of white rockets pelted out of every ship, silent swords in the night. They thrust into the planet’s crust like thousands of righteous needles in sadistic nurses’ hands.

No more bills or traffic jams or disease.

Eryk cocked his head and watched Earth’s skin bubble and crack the way Cerise’s had the week she died. He’d seen so much death in recent years that he’d found peace in its silence. It was the end of pain.

Crags of blood-orange light crawled around Earth’s surface. Plumes of steam and ash and dirt from disintegrating tectonic plates darkened the skies.

There was no one left to hug or kiss or cry with.

Torch howled high and long at the ceiling, a sad tune that reminded Eryk of arctic foxes near his home in Alaska—two things he could never see again.

Red lights flashed on the main display. Through the windows, Eryk watched a veil of red fall over the ship. All six of the Kugron vessels donned a shield. Ahead of him, Earth sank inward. Fractures of white light shone through as the planet ballooned.

Rapid beeps rattled Eryk’s ears. He grabbed his harness and closed his eyes.

Something warm and soft jumped into his lap with a whimper. Eryk released a hand to pull Torch close. “Hang on, buddy.”

Carmine light flickered across his eyes as the ship launched backward. Metal groaned and screeched as the hull bore the pressure of the blast. Sirens whistled and warbled from displays at stations on the bridge behind him. Engines kicked on in a distant hum. But Eryk couldn’t hear much over the rush of blood in his ears or think through the realization he was now no better than his enemy.

He had nothing: no family, no home, and no morals. Eryk prayed for the end to be quick.

But the flash of heat from the explosion dissipated. The ship steadied and momentum equalized. Alarms quieted. And the windows darkened.

Eryk opened his eyes to a blinking blue indicator on his display.

Mass Compensation?

With no logical reason not to, Eryk selected it.

Two orbs launched from each ship, one blue, one yellow—twelve in all. Only then, did Eryk see the distance they’d traveled from Earth’s prior location, and noted the expansion. The moon arced off into the distant stars—a motherless asteroid.

The blue and yellow orbs converged into a writhing green knot. Eryk felt a tug on his body and the ship. Everything came to a standstill again. He stared out at the globe of light filling the hole Earth left behind—a hole Eryk had made.

Hours passed that he stared at that tiny flickering ball in the emptiness, too shocked to celebrate or cry. He wished it had killed him so he wouldn’t have to live with the memories and guilt. The other five ships remained in position as if awaiting a command.

Eryk had no desire to move. The sky looked empty and wrong. But there was no going back.

Just as his bones chilled and joints began to ache from not moving, Torch stirred. A warm tongue licked his hand.

He looked down and noticed fluid leaking through one of the creature’s bandaged legs. Tearing off another strip of his shirt, Eryk removed the old and tied on the new. The animal kicked and squirmed in protest, bumping a display.

A three-dimensional hologram lit up the windows. Galaxies and planets danced and swirled in greens and blues and reds, highlighting their bodies and the controls before them. Targeting brackets blinked over different locations zooming in and expanding nine locations. Along the bottom of the display, names and statuses appeared.

Eryk studied them. Planet selected for colonization. Kugron Outpost Twenty-seven. Class M Planet for inspection—Space Travel Capable Colony. Kugron Supreme Council Headquarters.

He hadn’t committed genocide. He’d merely lopped off a finger. Hope sparked in his chest as he swiped through the options with interest. “Couldn’t save humanity, but maybe we can save someone else. What do you think, Torch?”

The creature sat up in his lap and pawed at the hologram in the air. The Class M planet scrolled back to the center of the display. A square expanded with a close-up of the star system. A button flashed beside it.

Accept Coordinates?

Eryk couldn’t still the energy building within him. He would never hold his wife again or sit on a sofa watching TV while enjoying pizza and beer with his friends. There would be no vacations. Every job would fall on him. Maintenance, defense, command—all responsibility would be his.

Drawing in a deep breath, he shrugged to set himself at ease. “Why the hell not? I just blew up my own damned planet. Three months should be enough travel time to learn how to work all this shit, right?”

Torch let out an excited yip.

The button pulsed red beneath Eryk’s steady finger, swollen with the promise of blood.

Giving Torch’s head a gentle rub, Eryk grinned. He tapped Accept.

Author Interviews, Blog, Sci-Fi Fantasy Blog

Author Interview: Erin Simpson, YA Science Fiction Fantasy

  Erin is currently on submission with The Blood Farm and working on a new book called The Blinder.

From Planning to Published

When did you start writing and why?

Author:      Like many writers, I’ve been interested in stories since childhood, but I started “seriously” writing about eight years ago

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

Author:      My first completed manuscript, a Tower of Babel retelling, took several years (I’ve lost count of how many) but I never queried it. My second novel, The Blood Farm, took three years from conception to when I signed with my agent.

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

Author:      Traditional, all the way. I’m not gifted in the areas of graphic design or marketing; I would so much rather leave those projects to people better equipped to handle them and focus on the areas I am gifted in: writing.

How did you determine your target audience?

Author:      I write the kind of books I like to read and, for me, that means YA. Because I spend so much time in that age category, I think my writing naturally takes on the characteristics of that group.

What is your publishing process?

Author:      Because I have my eye trained on trad pub, I’m pretty much forced to follow the basic model: querying, submission, acquisitions, print.

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

Author:      I’ve been very fortunate to have found several wonderful critique partners by putting out calls on social media. Twitter, in particular, has a very vibrant #Writing Community filled with thousands of writers looking to connect. Sometimes it takes a while to find people who truly connect with you and your work, but when you find them, it’s magic.

After I’ve completed a manuscript and put it through rough edits, I send it out in batches of 2-3 readers at a time. I would strongly recommend multiple readers to anyone relying on beta feedback as it helps identify areas that are “issues” as opposed to what might be personal preference. As a rule, if more than one reader comments on something, I take an extra look at it.

With edits, each batch takes about a month. After two or three editing rounds, I send it on to my agent, who responds with her own list of edit suggestions.

Marketing

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

Author:      As an unpublished writer, I’m still working to develop my platform. Currently, I maintain a twitter account (@Ekaylasimpson) and an author website (eksimpson.com)

Struggles

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

Author:      I think it’s very difficult to be objective about your own writing. You develop such an emotional attachment to what you’re writing that sometimes you’d blind to the problems within it or, vice-versa, overly harsh. This is why having beta readers is so important.

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

Author:      The first time I submitted a story for critique I was emotionally unprepared for the feedback. Whether it’s a critique group, a literary agent, or an editor, you really have to develop a thick skin.

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

Author:      I would have written more when I was younger. Plenty of writers put out books while juggling day jobs and families, but I regret all the free time I had in my early twenties that could have been used to hone the craft.

How do you keep yourself motivated?

Author:      Accountability partners. Having someone check in just to ask how things are going makes a huge difference.

How do you combat writer’s block?

Author:      Sometimes it’s about being patient. So often writers want to “push through” by sheer force of will and, while that can work, other times you need to give yourself time to consider the story from different angles.

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

Author:      So many non-writers don’t realize how difficult it is to actually write a book. It’s one of those things that look straightforward on the surface, but only because you don’t see all the layers that are built up underneath; it’s those layers that make an engaging story.

Fun Stuff

What do you listen to while you write?

Author:      It depends on the story. The playlist for my current WIP is a mixture of Norwegian folk songs and Imagine Dragons.

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:      Sitting in bed is my favorite place (we live in the country and there are windows on three walls so the views are fantastic) but we have three kids so more often than not I’m writing at the kitchen table or in the car while I wait for someone to finish piano lessons.

What book are you reading at the moment?

Author:      Sawkill Girls and The Ghost Bride

What is your favorite literary trope?

Author:      I love a good enemies-to-lovers plotline but I haven’t had the opportunity to use it myself.

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

Author:      I read a lot of book blurbs and I’ve found there are a surprising number that have basically the same plot (oppressed magical people fight to overthrow non-magical ruling class etc). I’ve found that focusing in on day-to-day activities not only opens up unique stories (maybe the main character doesn’t care about overthrowing the government, she just wants to open a magical bakery), but makes character struggles more relatable. Not everyone wants to upend the monarchy, after all.

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

Author:      I’m a terrible procrastinator

What is your favorite writing snack and drink?

Author:      Coffee

Do you have a writing companion?

Author:    Usually at least one child, asking for a snack

Author Interviews, Blog, Sci-Fi Fantasy Blog

Author Interview: Milan Oodiah, Fantasy

My name is Milan and I write fantasy. I’m currently getting ready to query End of Oblivion, a story full of magic, spaceships, and confrontations with inner demons. Currently I’m trying to find the time to bring another idea to life called And Her Name Is Fury, where Fury has a kill list and the otherworldly wrath needed to cross out every name on her kill list.

From Planning to Published

When did you start writing and why?

Author:     I started some time when I was teenager, the exact starting point is a blur but I remember trying to write some really edgy dark stuff until I kinda grew out of it. Then I wrote my first full-length book. Mostly because I was bored. I loved a lot of things but really wanted to make something that would be wholly my own. Over time though the reasons for writing changed, but in the beginning I just wanted to do something new and different.

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

Author:      The very first one that I wrote when I was a teenager took about twenty months. I can’t recall the exact details but I think it took me about a year to draft and eight months to edit. It was a book my parents self-published so it was quite an experience to go through as a kid.

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

Author:     After that publication when I was a teenager, I kind of drew a line in the sand. Now I’m fully pursuing a traditional publishing path. I want to focus as much as possible on the writing. I know that I’ll inevitably need to deal with promo and other things but relatively speaking there’s more time spent on purely writing when going through the traditional route – at least that’s what it seems like.

How did you determine your target audience?

Author:      I didn’t. I started writing for myself and I’m still writing for myself. My reasons for writing shifted as I grew up and now, I write for myself and people like me. I think growing up allowed me to just break the pedestals of varying heights I put others and myself on. Everyone’s broken in one way or another, for one reason or another, and that’s who I write for.

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

Author:      I used twitter #’s to find CPs (Hi :D) and probably will in the future too. What I’ve started doing more recently is spending a lot of time on a writing discord. It’s super useful to have this dedicated space where you can find likeminded people in one place. One thing that makes me improve significantly faster is being able to edit other people’s work – which is nice because then I get to help someone else too.

Marketing

How do you define success as an author?

Author:      The thing that gets me is having a community. Seeing things like fan art or people getting to know each other through the fiction they love. Making an impact is how I gauge success. Impact leads to the rest.

About Your Work

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

Author:      I focus on novels but for End of Oblivion I created a massive world full of possibilities and oddities and so to show all it has to offer I also write short stories. I also really love my ‘side’ characters and there’s just not enough pages in the books to give their full backstory and they’re actually all really cool so they have their own little short story series. Most of them are in outlines right now but some day I’ll finally have the time to write them all down.

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

Author:      I have no idea why, but a recurring theme seems to be weird sad boys and angry resilient girls. I have a deep, deep love for Final Fantasy so crystals and summonable creatures, and non-traditional fantasy settings are my favorite. I want to create stories that push far beyond that classic medieval European setting.

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

Author:      I didn’t have a goal when I started really. It’s been a messy complicated journey and though I did start writing when I was a teenager, I put in the work towards becoming an author only in the last five years. There is no single reason for that really. The selfish reason is that I want to rise above leading a ‘normal’ life. I want something different and interesting and to leave a mark. The less-selfish reason, one that I think keeps me going when all other things seem to collapse is that I want to be a tiny little piece of that chorus of voices that help people along their way. Books, stories, art, music, all of those things have made rough patches in my life significantly easier to navigate. Being able to give back, to provide a little bit of relief, some modicum of solace for someone else is the thing that keeps me going through my own tough times.

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

Author:      I started watching My Hero Academia after I had done most of the work on End of Oblivion. That show, that fucking show, gave me such immense boosts in serotonin that I can only hope to replicate. I write every moment that’s meant to blow people away with its soundtrack playing. I want my readers to have that same unmitigated boost in energy and hype that My Hero Academia gives me.

Struggles

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

Author:      When I started following a writer I really loved on Twitter, she made it clear how much work and how much time it took to become an author. How uncertain and how fickle the industry can be. It took some time to digest. It was a hard thing to really understand, given the goals I’m pushing for, but once I internalized what she said and I felt even more determined, it was the sign I needed to know I could do it.

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

Author:      You really don’t need to write every day, sure it will help build your skill level but writing every day just to say you write every day is not worth it. Writing also doesn’t just mean putting words on a page, it means outlining, research, reading craft books, etc.

Fun Stuff

What do you listen to while you write?

Author:      Some days I need songs that fit the theme of the scene, some days it’s one random song on repeat. YouTube has definitely learned the kind of stuff I need at the right time, strangely enough, and instead of being terrified I’ve come to appreciate my lord and savior, The Algorithm.

What book are you reading at the moment?

Author:      Riot Baby by Tochi Onyebuchi

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

Author:      The best writing advice I ever got was that writing advice is not one-size-fits-all.

I tweet a little too much at @MilanMakes

Author Interviews, Blog, Sci-Fi Fantasy Blog

Author Interview: Angela Amberden, YA Fantasy

   Hiya!  My name is Angela Amberden and I am currently knee deep in the editing mud of my first novel.  It is a story about two young women, separated by time but connected by so much more that discover that learning where you’re from, who you are and where you’re going can be magical.

From Planning to Published

When did you start writing and why?

I started this novel, which is the first in a series of three, in June of 2019.  I felt like there was this great story I had within me that i needed to tell for all the young women out there who think they’re ordinary or that their life can never be special.  I wanted it to be filled strong relationships and exciting adventure, but most importantly, authentic characters that readers, especially young girls could connect with and see themselves in. 

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

I challenged myself to write everyday for 100 straight days and shortly there after I completed the ~58K work manuscript.  So less than 6 months for the first draft.  I have been actively editing about 5 months and hope to finish and begin querying late this year.

How did you determine your target audience?

My target audience is pre-teen and teenaged girls.  I chose this audience as I feel like I wanted to bring a story that isn’t either repressively innocent nor scandalously mature to young women. I wanted to share an authentic adventure that any young woman could see herself in.

How do you define success as an author?

Success as an author is typically defined as a published work, and while I completely expect that to be the natural progress my book will take, I also have a certain amount of pride in just completing an entire book. 

About Your Work

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

While I have been working on this book, I have also found it valuable to create other types of content.  I have written essays, poems, and in college I wrote an editorial advice column under a pseudonym.  I am also a contributing editor to a monthly online food magazine. I also have  a treatment for a comedic episodic rattling around in here…waiting for an opportunity to come out.   

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

When I began, my first goal was just to write a book, specifically I was writing a collection of essays, working full circle from being a daughter, all the way to being a mother with the specific focus on being a mother without a Mom.  It was too emotional and raw but as I was writing the idea for my novel came to me.  After completing this work I may retrace my steps to those essays, but we’ll have to see.  The goal is the same though…write and publish.

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

For myself, the greatest achievement as an author would be for my readers to see themselves in my books.  To connect with the characters on the page.  That is what I strive for.

Do you recommend any programs, courses, or websites?

I don’t have any particular programs I use all the time, but I would suggest that any writer attend a writers conference.  I was lucky to participate in one before Covid and it supported, refreshed and taught me so many amazing lessons.  Things that I call back to time and time again when editing.    

Fun Stuff

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?

Prior to covid I had two cafes that I frequented.  I felt a certain legitimization in writing outside of my house.  I don’t know if it just “kept me honest” since there were no distractions of home.  Now that we are in lockdown, and nothing is open, I have a home office, which is organized and quiet where I have the luxury of writing in my robe.

What book are you reading at the moment?

I just finished The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennet which I loved immensely.  I am going to try to mimic her pacing, as it was urgent without being frantic.  I just started A Promised Land by Barack Obama two days ago, and since i’m on page 26 of 760-something, I’m sure it’ll be with me for awhile.

Do you have a writing companion?

I have a black and white tuxedo cat, Ferdinand, who I’ve had to give his own space adjacent to my desk so that he can curl up and be at the ready.  He is a cat that senses stress or anxiety and won’t leave you alone until you calm down via petting him.  I usually know it’s been a rough writing day based on how often he’s interrupted me.

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

If you want to be a successful and even prolific writer, there are two things you have to do.  Write…A LOT and Read…A LOT.

You can find Angela Amberden on Twitter at:

@AuthorAngelaA

Author Interviews, Blog, Sci-Fi Fantasy Blog

Author Interview: Amber Clement, YA and MG Fantasy

Hi! I’m Amber Clement and I write YA and MG fantasy. I’m currently querying my upper MG fantasy about magical girls.     

From Planning to Published

When did you start writing and why?

Author: Back in elementary school, I loved creative writing assignments. I could never get enough of them, but every time, my story idea was always too big to finish. Even in my junior high and high school English classes, I would try to make stories out of the spelling word sentences they assigned us. My interests shifted to manga and graphic novels when I was a teenager. I would always try to make comics about my favorite characters, but found that drawing out my epic stories took too long. Around that time, I discovered fanfiction and that writing the stories was much faster. I kept writing fanfics for fun until I took a fiction writing class my freshman year of college. Looking back, I’m very embarrassed, because I would write fanfiction for my assignments. At first I thought the professor hated my work, because he’d mark them up in red ink, but one day he told me the opposite. I was absolutely stunned. He thought my writing was beautiful and he told me I should try writing an original novel. That summer I did, and the rest is history.

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

Author:  Oh don’t get me started on this haha. The answer to this is kind of complicated, because I made a lot of mistakes. The biggest one was that I kept restarting the book whenever I felt unhappy with how it was going. Which was a lot. This added YEARS to the time it took. I also ended up changing the book from YA to MG after getting feedback from several people. It took a whopping seven years to write the YA version, but then the MG version took less than a year.

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

Author:   My goal is traditional publishing. As a child, 90% of the books I read came from the library, so it’s my dream for my own books to end up at libraries so other kids can read them.   

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

Author: At first I would look on Twitter for critique on my writing. The writing community is amazing, but I found varying success with this. Many of these readers never finished reading, but the few who did were invaluable. More recently I get my betas from the two writing groups I’m in. One is the Forge which consists of PitchWars 2019 hopefuls and the others are the mentees from Avengers of Colour 2020. The people in these groups have been so much more reliable in their feedback. It’s also amazing to have a support system and whisper network. It makes the world of publishing a lot less overwhelming.  

How do you define success as an author?

Author:  Getting my books out there and getting readers. Someday I would love to be able to write full time, but until then, I’ll just be happy by having a small group of loyal fans.

What genres and subgenres do you write in?

Author: Right now, I’m big on all things fantasy. I’ve always enjoyed when stories have a bit of magic or are full of the fantastical.

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

Author:   It may be too soon for me to have a brand, but someday I hope it can be books full of latinx girls having fun and sparkly adventures. I’ve always had a hard time finding characters who look and act like me, so representation is very important to me.

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

Author:   My first goal was to get an agent, and that is still my goal, but now I have more realistic expectations. I now know that it takes time and there’s so much outside of my control. I also know that after getting an agent, there will be many more goals and challenges.   

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

Author:  The characters are the most important part for me. I want my readers to see themselves in the them, and see people they can root for and want to befriend. Since I write MG and YA I also hope to spark creativity in my readers. I want them to be inspired to create, whether it’s through fanworks or original stories.    

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

Author:  Right now I’m querying and getting ready to resume work on my next WIP.   

Do you recommend any programs, courses, or websites?

Author:   I wholeheartedly recommend mentorships. Pitch Wars, Author Mentor Match, Write Mentor all of them. If a writer has a manuscript ready and fits the criteria to enter, they should take every opportunity they can. I applied to many of these since 2019, but didn’t get chosen for one until September 2020. I got to be a mentee in Avengers of Colour and work with Namina Forna on revising my book. Not only did her advice help me whip my book into the best it’s ever been, but I also learned a ton about my writing process. Thanks to her, I’m confident I’ll be able to write my next books much faster and at a higher quality. And also thanks to these programs, I’ve connected with some amazing writers. So even if you aren’t chosen, it’s a win-win.   

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

Author:   I’m still working on my process, but I always start with an idea. Usually the characters come in my head first. I’ll sit on it for a while and try to explore their lives and world. Once I have a clear enough idea, I’ll make an outline. I’m a tried and true plotter. After the outline, I turn it into a very detailed synopsis and then have some readers give me feedback on if the chain of events and motives make sense. Once that’s set, I’ll read a couple recently published books in the same age group and genre. I’ve found this to be a game changer. It really helps me nail the prose as I go on to write.  Once I finish, I would send the manuscript to some readers and revise and repeat until the book is ready. I’m not sure how long this will take, but I imagine it could take anywhere from a few months to almost a year, depending on how much time I can devote to working on it.

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

Author:  Twitter’s writing community was a good starting place, but once I found my groups, we talk on discord. I’ve found it’s the easiest and safest way to be able to talk about many different topics without getting confused or overwhelmed.    

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

Author:  I’d like to think I’m a somewhat fast writer, but I don’t sprint. I try to keep a steady pace without distractions. I’ve found the pomodoro method helps most with that. You set a timer for twenty-five minutes and then take five minute breaks. Technically you take a longer break after the fourth set, but I’ve found the five min breaks are enough for me.    

Struggles

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

Author:  For the longest time I put a wild amount of pressure on myself. I wanted to finish my book and be ready to query ASAP. I also was of the belief that I had to write every single day. These two things caused me to be severely burned out. I almost thought I might quit writing. Thankfully I learned to have grace on myself. I give myself goals that are challenging, but doable and iI forgive myself if I have a bad writing day. I also take a lot of breaks. I take at least one day a week off and I’m currently taking a month break after revising my novel. With this method, I notice that I’m much more productive and can get quite a bit done in a short time. 

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

Author:   Querying has been discouraging for sure. I went in bright eyed and bushy tailed thinking I’d get an agent in no time. I started querying a little more than a year ago and am still at it. It’s an extremely long process. My advice for writers is to keep their eyes on their own paper. There are people on social media who will talk about getting multiple requests in one day or having a 70% request rate. This is NOT the norm. A 10% request rate is more like the norm and it only takes that one yes from a good agent.  

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

Author:   Take your time and try not to stress over the little thing. It’ll take quite a bit of time to learn the process that works best for you. Also be sure to set aside time to write and try to form a habit.  

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

Author:    I would have written my entire first draft without starting over. This would have saved me years of rewriting and frustration. 

How do you keep yourself motivated?

Author:  I usually write around the same time each day so that it has become a habit. I also will take a week or even a month off after hitting certain goals. I think this helps keep it fresh and fun for me.

How do you combat writer’s block?

Author:     To be quite honest, writer’s block hasn’t been too much of an issue for me. I’m a big plotter, so I always have an idea of what will happen next. Another thing that keeps my creative well flowing is that I enjoy drawing in my free time. I think it’s important to have a fun creative outlet besides writing.

How did your family and friends react to your writing? Was it what you expected from them? Author:    My family is pretty supportive, but I think they get annoyed at me sometimes when I lock myself in my room to write. Sometimes I have to shoo them away when they try talking to me while I write haha. THankfully most of my writing is done first thing in the morning when everyone is sleeping.  

Fun Stuff

What do you listen to while you write?

Author:      I listen to video game OSTs. Stuff with lyrics are too distracting, but video game music puts me in a happy and nostalgic place. I don’t know this for sure, but I would think that the music is made to make players want to keep playing, so I’d like to imagine the music makes me want to keep writing.

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 my bedroom. Thankfully there’s enough space for a desk and comfy chair.

What is your favorite writing snack and drink?

Author:      I don’t really eat snacks while drinking, but I always have a water bottle at my desk while I write.

Twitter: AuthorAmps

Author Interviews, Blog, Sci-Fi Fantasy Blog

Author Interview: Nina Castle, YA Urban Fantasy

Hello! I go by Nina Castle, and I write mostly YA urban fantasy (always with a focus on amour.) I am working on my BOUND BY BLOOD series, in which the love between a fairy girl and human Hunter forces them to reevaluate the legal system which subjugates the fay—and their roles within it. Think Romeo & Juliet with racial tensions between fairies and humans.

From Planning to Published

When did you start writing and why?

Author:      Like many authors, I fell in love with writing as a child. Much like an artist adds paint to a blank canvas, the euphoria of creating a new world or person on paper with all the complexity of reality was a challenge that enamored me. For years, I never dreamt of publishing. It was purely for the pleasure of writing.

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

Author:      In high school, I began my first attempts at writing a complete book. Since then, I’d started a ton of stories but never worked one from beginning to end. I often wrote only the scenes that interested me most, leaving gaping holes for transitions with little inspiration to fill them. When I started BOUND BY BLOOD, I forced myself to write chronologically, and ninety percent of the book flowed out in about two months. After that time, I returned to my full-time teaching position, and it took me the rest of the year to squeeze out the last couple chapters.

How did you determine your target audience?

Author:      I wrote the story as it came to me, and I wrote the story that I enjoyed reading. Like I said before, I didn’t start off writing to be published. So, for better or for worse the book follows my personal tastes.

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

Author:      I met many of my critique partners through twitter contest communities, and I hired a couple beta readers from Goodreads. The latest stage of BOUND BY BLOOD is awaiting edits from an editor I found through recommendations on Twitter.

Marketing

How do you define success as an author?

Author:      As an unpublished author, I am hoping to get published through traditional means…So, getting picked up by an agent and obtaining a book deal would ideally equal success. Though sales are extremely important and easy to quantify, I think the most rewarding feeling is knowing your story was lived and enjoyed by other people.

About Your Work

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

Author:      I have found I most enjoy writing fictional stories containing a measure of fantasy. Reading as a form of escapism has culminated for me with worlds that have a magical element we can’t see or experience in our own reality.

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

Author:      I will always and forever have romance in my books. I can remember playing with my barbies as a child and making up love stories for them. While I recognize the vitality and impact of love in our lives through other types of relationships, the intrigue of romantic love has followed me into adulthood.

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

Author:      My first goal was just to translate the story playing in my head on paper. I never imagined anyone would read it! Obviously, that goal has changed. I hope not just to be successfully published, but to have a book worth publishing. I desire the honor – and like Thor, hope to be worthy – of having reached people with my words.

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

Author:      I hope that readers are not only entertained by my work, but also feel and grow through the lives of my characters. I’ve always believed that good art evokes emotion. The music we connect with most are songs that either strike the same chord as an emotional experience we’ve endured, or send us staring through the eyes of another. The same is true of a good book.

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

Author:      As I said before, the first book of BOUND BY BLOOD is hanging out with the editor. I read the best thing to do when you are waiting (and that goes for during edits, critiques, queries, etc.) is to put your time and energy toward another project. At the moment, I am working on completing the first draft of the second book in the BBB series.

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

Author:      I have to say, connecting with other writers who share your hopes, dreams, fears, successes, and failures, has been my favorite part of the process (minus the actual joy of writing.) It inspires me to see so many people from different parts of the world and walks of life coming together to support one another and sharing their experiences.

You didn’t ask this, but editing is my least favorite part of the process…though once I start querying seriously, I’m sure getting rejections will trump that.

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 used to read a lot more literary fiction, which I believe impacts my intentions to instill deeper meaning into my stories. However, when the affliction of adulthood hit, my free time became more limited. This forced me to narrow my scope of books I read for enjoyment, which led me to my niche. Before writing BOUND BY BLOOD, I altogether stopped reading in that genre with the fear that I might accidentally take on elements of other author’s stories in my own. I’ve since learned that is the opposite of what you should do, according to agents and published authors. They say to read widely and often, which is a goal I’m bringing with me into this new year.

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

Author:      Ironically, in every other area of life I am a hardcore planner. But when it comes to writing, I begrudgingly fall into the pantster category. For the most part when a story comes to me, it’s like I’m watching a movie in my head in small spurts over the course of many months…sometimes years. While I’d like to think some inner genius lurks beneath the surface, the truth is that the stories seem to come from outside of me. It is my job to translate them to the page. How well or not well that is done is on me. Since I’m still working on polishing BBB, I don’t really know how long the process will take. Years, I guess!

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

Author:      Twitter, for sure. I’ve joined a couple writers leagues, but those are so large and impersonal (not to mention, pricey). Social media can be an amazing and free resource for writers to connect with one another.

Struggles

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

Author:      The hardest things to overcome are the concepts of time and uncertainty. Time in that it is not the quick rise to fame or fortune we all daydream about (admit it, you do it, too.) It can take years and years of work to write, polish, pitch, edit again, and then several more years publish. And if you go the traditional route, there’s no guarantee you will be published after all those years of hard work and investment, even if you get an agent. And then again if you’re published, there’s no guarantee your book will be bought or read. I’ve heard it likened to winning the lottery. Even with a streak of gamblers blood running through my family, I still find it hard to wrestle with those odds. That’s why you have to love it. Love your book and love the process because that may be the only reward.

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

Author:      As a currently unagented and unpublished author, my tip is to persevere. While a support system is essential, no one else in the world is going to write your book for you or care more than you do about its success. If you give up, no one is going to stop you. So, cry at your failures, take breaks when you need them, and work at your own pace. But at the end of the day, it is you who must decide to persevere.

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

Author:      On the technical side, I learned about “comps” or “comparable titles.” For those who don’t know, a comp is a book/movie/show that is comparable to your own book in some way. This alone helped me to understand the flaw in not reading in my genre, like I mentioned before. Agents need to quickly know the feel of your book and how they would market it. Saying, “My book is unlike anything else out there,” translates to “There is no proven market for my book. I am a major risk (and likely haven’t done enough reading to know the market, anyway).”

On the social side, “imposter syndrome” is a term that I quickly learned. At some point, we all feel undeserving of the title of “writer” for one reason or another. Can you imagine doing a writer’s interview as an unpublished author? *cough cough* But if anything, knowing we all feel that way is just another reason to persevere. Your favorite author felt that way at some point, and if you keep going, you may get to be someone’s favorite author, too.

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

Author:      At my core, I am as shy and introverted as they come. Sharing something as personal as my writing doesn’t come easy for me, so my husband is the only member of my family to have read BBB so far. If I ever become successfully published, I will owe it to his continued love and support.

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

Author:      That we pumped out our dream book in a month, get published within the year, and are then able to jet around the world on tours with our instant millions. I see this happen in movies and shows all the time and it makes me green with fictional envy.

Fun Stuff

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:      Confession time – I must be completely comfortable to write, so I write laying in my bed. I can’t have a lot of distractions, so it’s just me in front of my laptop living in my head for hours at a time.

Do you have a writing companion?

Author:      My pups sometimes lay with me, and my writer friend Cristina Meraki also motivates and supports me in the process!

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

Author:      I don’t know about one piece of advice, but I will say experience has been the best teacher for me. Jump into writing contests and communities. Ask questions, even if you think they’re dumb. Swap writing samples with people who are both stronger and weaker than you. Write that query letter. Odds are, you aren’t going to be immediately successful, but by doing these things you can only improve. Here’s wishing you the best of luck within your own writing journey!

Nina Castle on Twitter @timsheloquence!

Author Interviews, Blog, Sci-Fi Fantasy Blog

Author Interview: Raven Eckman, Dark Fantasy

Hi everyone! I’m Raven Eckman, book editor and author. My debut novel, entitled Shadowspeak, comes out February 23, 2021. I predominately write Dark Fantasy.

From Planning to Published

When did you start writing and why?

Author: I started writing after I read Twilight and wanted something more, something that reflected my thoughts on vampires and werewolves. Prior to that, I was just an avid reader. From that first ten page story, I began dabbling in fanfiction, took writing classes in high school, and continued to read whatever that grabbed my attention. College was when my writing really became a part of me.

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

Author:  Shadowspeak was nurtured, deleted, re-written, and completely ignored for a five year span prior to finishing the first draft and the eight more that followed before being queried.

About Your Work

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 yes. I always enjoyed fantasy and have stuck close to that genre. I believe it is easier, in some aspects, to write new stories because I know the popular trends occurring. On the flipside of that, it is harder to be unique when a lot of those first ideas have already been written and explored in some way.

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

Author: Interestingly enough, my writing process has changed since finishing the very first draft of Shadowspeak till now with finishing the final proof. I tend to plot everything out, what I want, what the characters are named, snippets of conversation that are “musts” to include, and then I just write. And write. And write. As I prepare to start the prequel/companion to Shadowspeak, I find myself less planning the story out and just itching instead to write and see what happens.

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

Author: It really depends. Most days, especially with a deadline, I’m motivated to keep at it (revising, editing, writing) but some days I just can’t get anything done that I am happy with. Other days, the best days, I write and write and lose track of time.   

Struggles

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

Author: This question really speaks to me. There has been a decent amount of roadblocks, some small as to delayed deadlines, and others more personal and more intimidating to handle. The hardest thing to overcome, and something I’m still apprehensive about, is the thought of sharing my work with the world. Shadowspeak has been my manuscript baby for years and now it is as ready as it can be and I have to make peace with that.

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

Author: Can I be all three? I have a decent amount of promotional plans and one some days send out anywhere from 10 to 20 emails … Then FLOP and I’m all gun-shy about trying to contact anyone for interview opportunities or guest posts appearances, or collabs. A goal of mine for 2021 is to be more proactive each day for marketing.

Fun Stuff

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

Author: So much learning has occurred since I returned to my writing. From different methods that work, or don’t, to what motivates me to write, or not, I continue to explore my writing and what stories are just waiting for me to listen. When in school I had a professor tell me I was exploring different genres too much, that they didn’t seem to be me … and that hurt. Who was I as a writer? Why did I have to have only one genre of focus? By returning to my writing, and not holding back, I feel so much freer and ready to see what I’m made of. Just need to remember to ignore the imposter syndrome. Everyone grows at their own pace; everyone falls down at times.

Do you have a writing companion?

Author: My German Shepherd, Atlas, is usually close by when I sit down to write. He gets all the ranting and spoilers and has yet to complain, or spill secrets, so far!

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

Author: Don’t let the imposter win.    

Author Interviews, Blog, Sci-Fi Fantasy Blog

Author Interview: Nicholas P. Adams, Sci-fi, Fantasy

In writing circles, I go by Nicholas P. Adams. I typically write SciFi, but I dabble in high fantasy. My most recent published work is an anthology I co-edited with my critique group and my current WIP is a futuristic SciFi Thriller/Mystery.

From Planning to Published

When did you start writing and why?

Author:      I caught the writing bug in 2013 when I came across a quote, I believe by Toni Morrison. “When you can’t find the book you want to read, you must write it.” I’d had a story idea (favorite world for daydreaming) in my head for over ten years, so I decided to chase the lightning. That quest became The Angels’ Secret, my first self-published novel.

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

Author:      I wrote the first 80K word draft in a month (I knew nothing about NaNoWriMo at the time) and spent the next year revising and adding content until It became the 147K behemoth it is today.

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

Author:      See the previous answer.

(If applicable) Has your publishing timeframe improved at all since your first publication?

Author:      Not really. After writing my first novel, I got into submitting short stories to the Writers of the Future contest. Partially, it was to get practice writing, but mostly it was to trying to get discovered.

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

Author:      I’m an indie-publisher still hoping to get recognized by a big house, but I’m also looking at smaller and hybrid publishers for a high fantasy novel I finished last year. I started the indie route because I wanted to see my author name on a cover, so I suppose it was more for vanity’s sake, but since then, I’ve enjoyed the process of exploring some of the issues we face in our modern world in a way that engages a readers imagination and sense of wonder.

How did you determine your target audience?

Author:      I don’t. I write for me. If my stories resonate with individuals, that’s wonderful. If somehow I can cast a wider net and reach a larger audience, that’s all gravy.

What is your publishing process?

Author:    It’s progressed over the years. I started out as a pure pantser, but I’ve learned how plotting first strengthens the ideas I start with.  I tend to write my first drafts in chronological order, and I edit as I go. I then put it through Grammarly to help me with punctuation, repeated words, unclear sentences, tenses, etc. Then I share each chapter with my critique group to get feedback. After I incorporate their suggestions, I consider it final. If I decide to self-publish a story, I’ll hire a cover designer directly and get feedback from the writing community on each iteration until I select the final design.

What platforms do you use to publish your works?

Author:     Only Kindle Directly Publishing so far. But my anthology is published through a small house that manages it on all the other platforms as well.

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

Author:      I get alpha critiques from my writer’s group. I enlist fellow writers from social media for beta feedback. I’ve also hired independent editors on small projects. It’s hard to afford professional editing services when you have a small writing budget. However, I would say that hiring a developmental coach to help me plot my WIP was the best money I’ve ever spent. I feel like I can do my own chapter by chapter editing after she helped me nail down the plot points and structure.

Marketing

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

Author:      To be honest, I don’t have one, not officially anyway. I do have a website and accounts on Goodreads, Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram, as well as my Author page on Amazon.

What is your launch plan for your works?

Author:      In the past, I’ve used Goodreads giveaways and promoting myself on social media. For my fantasy novel, I’m hoping to get picked up by a literary agent or small press and work with them on promotions, setting up a local launch party, giveaways, etc.

How do you get reviews for your books?

Author:      I used to use Goodreads giveaways until they started charging, but when I had a limited writing budget I had to forgo that avenue. But my co-publishers and I will be doing a giveaway on Goodreads for our anthology early in 2021. And I’ll be investing in them for all my future works.

How do you promote your content?

Author:      Mostly on social media. I like to participate in daily writing prompts on Twitter and post snippets from several stories in hopes of building up a fan base.

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

Author:      Unless you’re a newly discovered rising star: Time. It’s hard to break in without a fanbase, and it’s hard to get a fanbase when you’re an unknown, and it takes time to build up a fanbase without heavy promotion through representation and ads.

How do you define success as an author?

Author:      I feel like I’ve been successful when someone says I wrote something that resonated with them. But, also being able to write full-time and make enough to keep a roof over my family’s head and food in their bellies would be fantastic.

About Your Work

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

Author:      I like to write epic SciFi because I’m a geeky nerd at heart. I grew up on Star Wars and Star Trek, and I love books with fantastic worlds and cultures. But, I also learned I like high fantasy because it allows me to explore human issues with non-human characters. I dabble in poetry, and I wrote a screenplay once (just for the experience) and I spent the last five years writing short stories for the WofF contest. I’ve found that writing short stories is good practice for writing chapters in a novel, and a good novel is a series of short stories with an overarching plot.

What genres and subgenres do you write in?

Author:      I like to write speculative fiction, which I consider SciFi/Fantasy crossovers. But I would say my subgenres are mystery and adventure.

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

Author:      I consider my brand is embodied in my author photo. I hide my face because I want to be known for my writing. I decided on it when I started because I want to retain a degree of anonymity. What if I become really famous? Anonymity. What if my writing really sucks? Anonymity.

How many works have you published?

Author:      I self-published one SciFi novel and two short stories. One of my short stories was published in a small-press anthology, and I co-published an anthology of short stories, all of which were honored by Writers of the Future.

(If applicable) Can you tell us a bit about your most recent publication?

Author:      Cresting the Sun is my awarding winning anthology, recently won the 2020 Gold Quill from the League of Utah Writers for Published Collections. All 12 stories are award winners from Writers of the Future. It’s available on Amazon and other platforms, and we’ll be starting a giveaway on Goodreads in early 2021.

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

Author:      This is a difficult question to answer because I’ve experimented with so many elements over the years. I think the best stories are good vs evil, but I like my villains to be sympathetic. I want the reader to see both sides of the issue, and understand the reasoning of both the protagonist and the antagonist. And I love a good twist. I love a story that seems to be going one way, and then after you get hit with the twist, the clues were there all along so it’s not out of the blue.

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

Author:      My first goal was to become famous and independently wealthy. Has it changed? Yes, and no. I still want to be independent enough to write full-time, but I want to be known for writing good, thought-provoking stories that emotionally resonate with people and give them a glimpse of a hopeful future, not the dismal one I see so often these days.

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

Author:      I have a blog where I promote fellow authors and write reviews of the books I read.

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

Author:      I want to whisk them away to another world and help them see from someone else’s perspective for a time and realize we’re not that different after all.

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

Author:      Finding representation.

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

Author:      Getting messages on social media or through my website that someone was deeply moved by something I wrote.

Do you recommend any programs, courses, or websites?

Author:      David Farland has a wonderful newsletter with tips on all things writing. I’ve also learned quite a bit from K.M. Weiland

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 usually read SciFi, but I’ve also branched out into other genres when fellow authors ask me to review their work. It may not resonate with me as a reader, but I do get ideas on how to improve my writing as an author.

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

Author:      As I said earlier, I started out as a pantser. Then I started plotting my short stories using the 7-Point Plot Outline (which is based on the Star Trek RPG Guide)  as presented by Dan Wells at LTUE years ago. Then, for my WIP, I hired a developmental editor to help me outline my novel after I’d spent months tinkering with ideas and trying to outline it myself. Sometimes, we’re too close to it that we need someone else to help us see and map out the big picture.

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

Author:      I mostly connect with my fellow authors on Twitter, and then on Instagram.

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

Author:      Having a regular 9-5 day job, I have to pace myself to a little time each day. On rare occasions, like when my family is gone for the weekend, I can spend a Saturday writing uninterrupted.

Struggles

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

Author:      Patience. I suppose I had unrealistic expectations as to my meteoric rise to fame and fortune. After all, it’s ever been easier to get published. On the other hand, it’s never been more difficult to get read. I’ve heard KDP has over 1,000 new books published every day, so getting someone to choose your book over the (literally) millions of others makes getting noticed harder each day.

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

Author:      I’ve yet to find success with queries. Agents, like all people, have subjective tastes and it comes down to the laws of supply and demand. Agents and publishers are looking for stories that will sell. I hear that getting a deal with the big 5 publishers is still the best road to fame and fortune, but it’s a hurdle I’ve not figured out how to surpass. My advice to budding writers: learn all you can about the writing craft (structure, grammar, editing, etc) and write the stories that make your fingertips tingle on the keyboard.

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

Author:      Attend local or virtual writing conferences. Listen and learn from those who are further along the path. Sign up for newsletters and, like Stephen King said, read, read, read. You can learn as much about what NOT TO DO from a poorly written book as what TO DO from a well-written one.

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

Author:      I wouldn’t have started by pantsing a novel. I would have started with short stories and developed my voice before taking on a novel-sized project.

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

Author:      A little bit of all three. I’m shameless about sharing snippets of my work on social media, tentative when it comes to promoting my works available for purchase, and (unfortunately) wait until after publication to announce a new work for sale.

How do you keep yourself motivated?

Author:      For me, writing is like moving. If I don’t do it for a couple of days, I start to feel restless. Even if it’s just a 280-character off-the-cuff piece on Twitter, I need to exercise my creative muscles on a regular basis. Most days, I can only go for a short jog. On others, I can do a marathon.

How do you combat writer’s block?

Author:      I don’t force it. Step away from a project. Go for a walk. Set it aside for a couple of days. Do something physical. It’s amazing how much inspiration comes when I’m exerting physical energy that my mental back-burner is simmering and fresh ideas bubble to the surface.

Also, I pray. I pray every day for inspiration that will touch the minds and hearts of the people who will read my stories. I want them to feel encouraged and hopeful, even if my stories are riddled with bleak moments. In the end, I want them to find hope for the future.

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

Author:      Investment. I never knew how much blood, sweat, time, and tears authors invested to get where they are today.

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

Author:      My family and friends were, and remain, ardently supportive. My parents especially (perhaps so much that I doubted their objectivity). But, for the most part, my writing has been well-received from family and friends (old and new).

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

Author:     

1) We’re all coffee addicts. I’ve never drunk it in my life. I get my caffeine from soda.

2) We’re all book junkies. I enjoy a good book, but I also like stories in visual formats (theater, TV, and films)

3) We’re all introverts. Well, that one is more true than not. I know one author I’d classify as extroverted.

Fun Stuff

What do you listen to while you write?

Author:      Nothing. I’m easily distracted. I actually write best in absolute silence.

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

Author:      Not especially. I do enjoy taking a cliche and revising it to fit the theme or world I’m building. It was fun to do in my high fantasy because the characters are hybrids of avian, primate, and marsupial species.

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 a home office, from where I’ve worked my day job(s) for the last three years. I love not commuting, and I can use the extra 90 minutes per day I’m not driving a car to write.

What book are you reading at the moment?

Author:      I just finished Icarus by Rron Knave, an indie-author, but I haven’t picked up a new book yet. I’m also reading the Fablehaven series to my kids at bedtime, so I guess that counts.

What is your favorite literary trope?

Author:      I love a good villain who’s convinced they’re the hero.

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

Author:     I like genre crossovers and retelling of an old story in a different genre. Fractured Fairy tales appeal to me. I also think that the characters all need an internal conflict, as well as an external one, that drives their decisions. If their decisions don’t fit their personality, the plot becomes formulaic and trope-driven and not conflict-driven.

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

Author:      I love writing more than reading. If I have to choose to spend an hour between writing a paragraph or reading a chapter, without hesitation I’d rather write.

What is your favorite writing snack and drink?

Author:      Coke Zero with shots of lime and raspberry.

Do you have a writing companion?

Author:      I’m not a pet person. Does God count? Yes. Yes, He does.

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

Author:      Write what you love, because your passion will come across from the page and it’ll excite the reader.