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An interview with the thriller author, Gary Stark

A FREE DIGITAL COPY of, Gary Stark’s, In The Shadow of Lust, is available to anyone signing up to my blog and messaging me the name of the catalyst who inspired Gary’s writing career.

NOTE – THERE IS A PARENTAL ADVISORY ON THE BOOK and the author suggests 18+ only.

Welcome to the latest in my series of author interviews from talented writers around the world. Today I am pleased to introduce the extraordinary talent that is, Gary Stark, author of the thriller, In The Shadow of Lust. Gary is published by BookLocker.com. I’ve really enjoyed this interview and Gary’s unique take on responding to my questions. Please be aware he has asked me to place a parental advisory on some of his answers.

Cover Pic

1. Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?
Thanks, Mark. Okay, straight up, I can’t play guitar. Or sing. And I’m profoundly in love with an entity that doesn’t exist. Forever and ever, you know it? She’s here with me now. Lucille. We both like pizza and winter mornings and oral but you can talk to her later. This is about me, not my muse, right?
So, I lie about my sex life at the pub and I’m a hopeless gambler. I love the taste of bourbon but because I’m an alcoholic I can only sniff other people’s drinks when they’re not looking. I could take this opportunity to tell kids that drugs are bad but I’m not a hypocrite and this ain’t a pulpit. What else? I like gardening and think most politicians are dickheads. And I adore faded purple. I was a failure at school, but so what. School teaches you how to earn enough money to do the things they don’t teach you in school.
Like how to play guitar. Which I can’t do. Not yet, anyway.

2. What do you do when you are not writing?
I read. And think about writing. And construct abstract sentences in my head – I assume they’re what some people call thoughts – and then scrabble around cursing for a pen and paper to make notes. I suppose all writers do this – wake up and before their dreams even fragment they begin working on yesterday’s chapter. With that shit of a thing sitting fat and contented between your ears, saying, “Really? You gonna end with a preposition?” and suggesting edits to your grocery list even though you’ve only written ‘milk’.
Other times I eat and occasionally I bathe, nothing unusual. Same as you but somewhere else.

3. Do you have a day job as well?
Hell yeah. I earn nothing from writing, it’s a hobby. Like some people watch television, you know? Only writing is a cerebral skill and you gotta concentrate.
I used to work in hospitality but that industry has a use-by date. Working nights, weekends, holidays, eventually you gotta leave the night-owls and boozehounds and try going to work at dawn rather than watching the sunrise thinking about maybe one more beer.
So these days I’m learning construction, like how to renovate a house. Lotsa work painting houses too, cos nobody enjoys boring shit. Moving heavy things around on building sites, stuff like that, jobs so I can write in my head without concentrating on what the rest of me is doing. Anything that’s different from yesterday, I suppose. I don’t understand how people get one shot at life and decide to do the same job every single day for years. Madness.

4. I understand this is your first book? And you recently celebrated turning 50, so tell me, what was the catalyst for writing at this stage of life?
Stephen bloody King. You may have heard the name? Christmas day, I was given his manual – ‘On Writing’ – cos I was never without a book in my hand. But I’d never even considered writing one. I took his advice, read Strunk and White’s ‘Elements of Style’ and on New Year’s Day, sat down to describe my literary masterpiece. And wrote a bunch of unreadable shit. You know how other people make something look easy? And then you try it? Like that. I found out right there and then that it was actually painful to read my own prose. Anyway, I kept going, wrote a dozen short stories, dragged my illiteracy outta the mud and washed it off. One of those stories wouldn’t go away, and that’s when I met Lucy. She was the voice behind the words, my muse. And that’s when we wrote the prologue. Incarcerated in this ancient cathedral, surrounded by the occupants of Perdition, being judged by Death. Always a nice way to start the day, you know? So, not knowing why we were dead, or what we’d done wrong, Lucy took me back to the beginning. And for the next six months, she recounted our life together. Hard to imagine that I’d forgotten such debauched abasement, but there you go. Selective memory, I suppose, or too many drugs.

5. How did you choose the genre you write in and where do you get your ideas?
That was easy cos I wasn’t aware there was a choice. Your first sentence will probably tell you your genre. I wrote ‘Spread-eagled in chains against the wall of this monolithic cathedral, my spine tight against a marble statue of the Holy Father, I observe my unbreakable shadow.’ Then sat back for weeks wondering what the hell that meant. No shit, the thousand word prologue took a month to write. I didn’t know what I was talking about.
‘My shadow has a name and her name is Lucille’.
‘She is my Poet, Priestess, Lover and Muse.’
Excuse me? My shadow is female? Okay. Tell me more. And she did and has never left. Lucy is Ancient, and just then, or whenever I talk about her, I get cold shivers prickle my skin. Maybe you’ve met her too. They say she walks on graves, but I’ve never seen her do that. Anyway, if your shadow narrates the story it’s fair to say that’s where the idea came from. All those voices in your head, telling you their version of the truth, wanting to be the narrator of the next idea.
That, and has anyone with an imagination not wondered if a bunch of flowers is drowning when we put the stems in a vase of water?

6. Do you ever experience writer’s block?
That’s never happened. Probably the complete opposite – Writer’s Diarrhoea. And the only natural cure for pathological verbosity is the wholesale slaughter of innocent words. I culled about ten thousand by the third edit and it made me wonder why I bothered initiating such an extensive breeding program if I’m gunna choose my favourites and only keep the ones I like.
I shouldn’t get emotional and it’s not personal. But you look at some sentences and just know they don’t belong. So you kill them and put them back in storage for later.
But no, I cannot admit to writer’s block. Sometimes I don’t know the next sentence, but usually if I throw a few words at the page they already know what to do, where they wanna go. We like to pretend the arrangement of language is ours to command but that’s just so much bullshit – this sentence was simply waiting patiently for me to write it. And it’ll still be here when I’m gone.

7. Do you work with an outline, or just write?
Just write. I don’t know enough about writing to plan ahead. It might sound weird, but I had absolutely no idea, at any stage, where the story was going. That should’ve been a bit disconcerting, but it was the complete opposite – it was almost as good as getting high.
Each chapter, I found myself writing the opening paragraph, then walking away and thinking about it, wondering at the intent. Usually, those few opening sentences were all I needed to know what came next. I’ve seen musicians do it in jam sessions – someone introduces a riff, maybe a backbeat, whatever. It builds on itself, one instrument at a time, everyone intuiting when to add another layer. Remember this is the first attempt at writing, so everything was unfamiliar and interesting. Like I watched myself build a house made of words.

8. Is there any particular author or book that influenced you in any way either growing up or as an adult?
Too many to name, but I admit to having favourites, those authors who write with ridiculous clarity – Barker, King, Dostoevsky, Straub, Leonard, Nietzsche, Wells, Lovecraft. They’ve all got something different that fascinates me. Style, structure, syntax, the rhythm of honest dialogue. There’s an individual precision in their prose, something unique that makes their writing identifiable without actually knowing the author’s name. Every writer is restricted by the same dictionary, the same finite choice of words, but by their subtle arrangement on the page, some writers step inside the shell of your mind and draw pictures on the walls. That’s the story I want to read again and again, the one that leaves graffiti or scars on your imagination. Like the author has gifted you something personal, something priceless only the two of you share.

9. Can you tell us about your challenges in getting your first book published?
Sure. As per usual, I was utterly clueless. The book was done, now comes the easy part, parading my efforts before a gobsmacked publisher. Strut and preen, bask in the glory, listen to the thunderous applause and watch the street parades in my honour. Toss bouquets from balconies, right?
Wrong. On every account. Shit, I almost felt sorry for myself. Such an idiot.
Seriously, imagine finding yourself not only on another planet, but in another dimension. Where they speak a different language. Then assume the species inhabiting this alien environment wants your soul, cos that’s all you brought with you (you might have your book, but these creatures read it BEFORE you even wrote it, such is their elegant sophistry). You agree to sell your soul but what’s lost in translation is they actually want your virginity. And you’re a man who has forfeit his chastity years ago. It’s fascinating, but also quite disturbing when you recognise how much you don’t know about somebody else’s job. I still don’t know how it works.

10. If you had to go back and do it all over, is there any aspect of your novel or getting it published that you would change?
Easy. I would start off rich, and only then would I write a book. And afterwards, employ people who knew what they were doing to compensate my ignorance. Kind of like the world works anyway, but without me having any wealth. And after writing the first and second draft, I would engage someone to do the third, so I never had to read the bloody thing ever again. That’s yet another thing I didn’t see coming – you come to hate your own words with a passion. Not just simply dislike them, but would rather chew broken glass than Read Them One More Time. And you can’t see your mistakes. Says much about how we lie to ourselves, huh? Ten times I read the same sentence and refuse to see any errors.
So, to avoid the struggling artist syndrome, sell your soul, get rich, write a book, pay someone to do everything else. You’re not doing it for money, so you also keep your integrity. If you have any. I think it’s probably unnecessary to a writer. Kind of limiting.

11. Is anything in your book based on real-life experiences or purely all imagination?
Hmm, maybe I should get a lawyer before answering that one.
Seriously, I’d have to confess to a combination of both. I wanted to address the line between reality and delusion. There’s domestic violence, which I’ve never suffered but happens every bloody day. Drug abuse, with which I’m intimate. Social segregation, the outcasts on the fringe and those dispossessed. Homelessness and poverty. Shit that happens everywhere, constantly, but we, in the general context, feel either unable to change it or worse, are inclined to indifference.
This is no secret – I’ve slept on the street and been a junkie. I’m prone to excess. In everything.
I spent three months in rehab, been clean now for a decade. So, having been an outsider, the story is told from an insider’s perspective.
Everybody knows or has seen someone living rough or with a problem, be it booze or drugs or mental issues. Do you ever put yourself in their shoes? Imagine what it’s like to be so fucked up you don’t know what year it is? Or what town you’re in? Or when you last ate?
And that’s not patronising or preaching. It’s our disconnect that I find interesting – you read the newspaper and it’s all bad news. Then you throw the paper in the bin and go back to work. Even for those with empathy, it’s background noise. For a junkie, EVERYTHING is background noise.
Okay, now I’m sounding preachy. Suffice to say, there’s truth behind the story and I’ve never tried to have sex with my shadow so I probably don’t need a lawyer. Yet.

12. What project are you working on now?
Book Two of the Trilogy. I thought I was writing a stand-alone novel and I was wrong. Confirmation, if needed, of my own lack of awareness. The story has an epilogue, for crying out loud, and I pretended that was it, done. No conclusion, no wrapping the loose ends and walking away. Instead, I left the door wide open. The difference is this one I’m taking my time. The first book was approached as a challenge in both creativity and skill – could I invent a coherent story, and more importantly, was it even worth telling? Outside the walls of psychology, does anyone want to contemplate having sex with their shadow? Should you tell someone, ANYONE, if one day in the sunshine you heard your shadow speak, and found it arousing? I’ll leave that to the individual’s kink. It’s none of my business. But one book wasn’t enough.
It’s human nature to feel slighted, whether manifest or imagined, so I thought about revenge, and keep writing. And wonder why people are strangely obsessed with pointless shit.

13. Will you have the new book coming out soon?
With luck and grace, the second book will be out next year. The third, probably the year after that. Bit presumptuous of me to predict the future, and those deadlines could NOT get any looser, but as the weeks and months go by I feel a certain panic settling in – I’m the type of person whose mind finds distraction in everything. Give me a task and I’ll either do it immediately or never. No middle ground, another endearing characteristic of bipolarity. And there’s that charming parasite we call Doubt, asking me why I think anyone would read the crap I write. I comfort myself with the idea that if I was confident in my ability, I probably shouldn’t be. The parade of lies I afford my delicate ego is endless.

14. What has been the toughest criticism given to you as an author?
I mentioned earlier that Lucy was here? Okay, I’m gunna let her take this one.
“Salve hominibus. Fiat mihi incipere . . .”
Lucy? In English, sweetheart. Nobody speaks Latin anymore, remember?
“Really, babe? Huh. Okay.
You wanna know about critics, right? Fuck that, and fuck them.
Writers don’t need critics. You think they live in ivory towers? Bullshit. They live in basements and make shit up. None of the stuff they talk about ever happened, you know it? In any other universe they’d be locked up and medicated. You don’t let kids drive cars or drink beer but you let writers do it? They spend hours alone playing with their imagination and pretend it’s hard. We tell kids to grow up, spoil the whole Santa Claus routine but ignore it when these lunatics grow into adult bodies and keep believing that if they’re good, they’ll be rewarded. You can’t criticise children and expect them to pay attention. They sulk. And go to their ‘writing room’. With their ‘friends’. Shit. It’s insane. But some people give them money. And smile at them. Tell them to keep going. You don’t encourage that sort of behaviour. Well, you don’t, but I do. See, if I don’t keep my man writing, I don’t exist. I’m his muse, amongst other things. You really think we need some smug self-satisfied prick telling us what they think? We. Don’t. Care. And another    thing . . .”
Umm. Thanks, babe. I think that’ll do.
It’s enough to say we appreciate criticism. It makes us a better person.
Let’s move on, hey?

15. Do you have any advice to give to aspiring writers?
No. I’ve written one book. I still know less than nothing about literature.
But I do have one suggestion – practice the Vacant Stare. Introduce it to social settings or family gatherings. Look thoughtful when you’re bored by inane conversation.
Focus on the horizon and empty your mind, pretend to be writing in your head (you probably are) and encourage people to leave you alone. That way, rather than think you rude, people assume you to be in the throes of creativity. They might even provide food and drink so as not to interrupt the Artistic Process.
Doesn’t always work, but it might save you a shout at the bar.

16. Is there anything that you would like to say to your readers?
Don’t believe anything an author says – they have no grip on reality.

Please join me in thanking Gary for his open and imaginative responses regarding the publishing industry and for sharing his journey as a writer. If you would like to ask any further questions, please either use the facilities available below or contact Gary direct via the following links.

Please show your appreciation by signing up to my blog and obtaining a free copy of Gary’s first novel, In the Shadow of Lust.

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An interview with fantasy author, Mike Brooks

Welcome to the latest in my series of author interviews from talented writers around the world. Today I am pleased to introduce the gifted author, Mike Brooks, creator of the Science Fiction / Fantasy novels, Dark Deeds, Dark Run and Dark Sky. Mike is traditionally published although experienced a few setbacks before securing the writers equivalent of the holy grail. It has been interesting to find out his take on the positives and negatives associated with his journey.

1. Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?
Gladly! I’m Mike Brooks, I’m 36 years old, I was born in Ipswich, Suffolk but came to Nottingham for university and stayed here when I realised it was far more interesting. I’m married, we have two cats and two snakes, I’m disabled (hearing loss), and bisexual.

2. What do you do when you are not writing?
I like to go walking: the Peak District is just over an hour away in the car, which is lovely. I also play guitar and sing in a punk band (no, that’s unrelated to the hearing loss), play tabletop wargames, and DJ wherever anyone will tolerate me.

3. Do you have a day job as well?
I do, although I have managed to drop my hours from five days a week to four as a result of income from writing, which is very welcome. I’ve worked for a homelessness charity in Nottingham since 2004; I used to be a support worker in hostels, but these days I’m a Housing Officer so I deal more with buildings, repairs, and legal issues like tenancy agreements and anti-social behaviour.

4. When did you first start writing and when did you finish your first book?
I started writing about as soon as I could actually form letters. I won a prize for Best Long Story at primary school (the prize was the book Fog Lane School & The Great Racing Car Disaster, I can remember it clearly), so I had the intent from early on. However, I spent my teens and much of my twenties messing around jumping from one idea to the next and never getting anywhere. At the end of 2008 I sat down and told myself that I was going to pick one and either finish it, or admit that I simply couldn’t finish a novel. It took me just over a year, was stupidly long and probably not very good, but I managed it, and it went from there.

5. How did you choose the genre you write in and where do you get your ideas?
I write science-fiction and fantasy, and their various sub-genres, and I chose it because that’s what I like to read and watch. Working with homelessness gives me all I can stomach of the “real world”, so I value escapism. As for where I get my ideas, I can give no better answer than “everywhere” – so many things can spark off an idea for a setting or an event or a character, from a news article to a piece of art to a documentary. The trick is taking something and putting it into your work as something new and interesting, that fits your own setting.

6. Do you ever experience writer’s block?
Not yet. Not really, anyway. Sometimes words don’t come easily, but I keep putting them down and it works through to a part of the story that’s far easier to write, and then sometimes I can go back and tidy up when things are flowing more easily. I mean, some days it just won’t work and I’ll give up and go play a computer game or something, but that’s isolated: I’ll get up the next day and it’ll be back to business as usual.

7. Do you work with an outline, or just write?
I’ll usually start writing with a vague idea and see how things develop. If I feel that what I’m writing has legs, I’ll generally then sit down and start planning out much more fully. However, I always discover new things as I write, as new ideas come up or I realise connections that I hadn’t made until that point, and the plot links together in new and interesting ways. I don’t think I’d be able to write out a plot and stick to it with no divergence.

8. Is there any particular author or book that influenced you in any way either growing up or as an adult?
“Influenced” is difficult. I love Terry Pratchett, but I wouldn’t say my writing style is particularly influenced by his. However, I do very much admire how he used the Discworld series to write whatever he wanted to write, but framed with that consistency. I maintain that science-fiction and fantasy aren’t really genres so much as settings: you can’t write a “science-fiction novel” or a “fantasy novel” unless it’s really conceptual, and incredibly tightly focused on the science or the fantasy element. I view it more as a way of saying “this novel is a certain type of story, but set in a place where physics/biology/chemistry, or our abilities to manipulate them, differ in some way from what we understand to be true”.
As an example, my Keiko series of novels are what I call “grimy space-opera”, and are certainly science-fiction, but if you read them you’ll see other genres there too. The first two are essentially thrillers: in Dark Run, the crew of the Keiko (a spaceship) are blackmailed and framed, and have to outwit a powerful adversary to survive. In Dark Sky, they end up trapped in a subterranean mining city during a rebellion and accidentally end up on opposite sides. On the other hand, the third one, Dark Deeds, is very much a heist movie, but on another planet (with a sub-plot that’s a gangster movie).

9. Can you tell us about your challenges in getting your first book published?
I’d written an urban fantasy novel and managed to get an agent. He liked my writing, and liked the world I’d created, but told me that we wouldn’t be able to sell the novel I had. I went away and wrote a new novel, with the same characters and in the same world, and honed that. Then we took it to publishers. One publisher was very interested and it got to the final yes-or-no meeting… and the answer was no. It wasn’t that it wasn’t good enough, they said, it was because they’d just taken on three urban fantasy novels and didn’t want to take a chance on any more until they saw how well those did. But let us know what you write next, they said. So it was back to the drawing board.
I think some people would have been crushed by getting so close but not succeeding, but luckily my mind worked more on the basis that I would have got a contract had I only got there a little sooner, so I wasn’t going to give up now. My agent asked me what I was going to write next, since we had definite interest from a publisher. I thought about it and said that I had several different ideas I could write about, I just wasn’t sure what to concentrate on. My agent talked to the publisher about what they might be interested in and came back with a list of broad things they were looking for. One of them matched up pretty well with an idea that had been kicking around in my head, so I got to work and, with not much more than a title, a vague concept and two pre-existing characters, started writing what would become Dark Run. The urban fantasy I’d been working on for years never found a home – the space opera I blasted out in six months got published.

10. If you had to go back and do it all over, is there any aspect of your novel or getting it published that you would change?
I think there probably are, there always will be, but I’ve found that I’m good at saying “You know what; that’ll do” and just leaving a novel be, rather than tinkering endlessly. I would have liked to introduce more and stronger LGBTQ themes in my first two novels, but at that point I wasn’t sure what sort of reaction I was going to get from my publisher, and wanted to get my feet under the table, as it were, before I started pushing boundaries. These days I’ve found my writing voice far more, and I’m happier to throw in whatever I want to be there.

11. How do you market your work? What avenues have you found to work best for your genre?
I don’t do a great deal of marketing myself, since I’m lucky enough to have my original work published by two of the “Big 5” (imprints of Ebury and Simon & Schuster) so any marketing I could do would be dwarfed by their reach. Similarly, I’ve started writing for Games Workshop’s Black Library and their connection with their readers is far more efficient than anything I could do. However, I can track sales of my novels (to varying degrees of accuracy) and it is interesting how certain events can spike sales. As an example, a website review that compared my Keiko novels favourably to the Firefly TV series got cross-posted to a Firefly community (possibly on Reddit, I think) and I saw my book sales jump by about five times the week after!

12. Have you written a book you love that you have not been able to get published?
I do like my urban fantasy, although looking back I think it’s probably good it didn’t get published. I’d still like to publish that, and do the series I had planned, but I’d certainly be rewriting it. I’ve developed as a writer but also as a human since I wrote it, and I have a greater understanding of various issues now that I perhaps handled a bit clumsily back then.

13. Can you tell us about your upcoming or recently published book?
Dark Deeds came out at the end of last year, and (as I mentioned above) is essentially a heist movie on another planet. The crew of the Keiko need to pull off a big theft to save one of their number, which sets up a lot of scams, treachery and, it has to be said, tragedy.
I’ve also got my first novella for Black Library coming out towards the end of this year (I know the release date but I don’t think I’m allowed to make it public yet). It’s called Wanted: Dead and is set in the world of Necromunda, their recently revamped and re-released tabletop skirmish game. This was incredibly exciting as Necromunda was my favourite game as a teenager (and to be fair, I’m a big fan of the new version too), and the dark, gritty-but-futuristic feel of it (I always described it as “Wild West meets prohibition-era gangs meets Blade Runner”) was a big influence on the tone I wanted to evoke for the Keiko series.

14. Is anything in your book based on real life experiences or purely all imagination?
Very little of the Keiko series is based on my real life experiences as I’ve never flown a spaceship, shot a gun or pulled a heist. Similarly, Wanted: Dead isn’t based on my experiences as I’ve never been a lesbian gang member fighting for survival. However, I like to think that my characters are realistic and relatable, and – by and large – that’s the feedback that I get. And I do try to do research where I can. Some parts are science-fiction, and the fiction is stronger than the science. However, for the parts that do have some relationship to real-world stuff, I like to make sure that it’s as accurate as I can get it.

15. What project are you working on now?
I’m currently writing my first full-length novel for Black Library, about which I’m contractually obliged to say nothing other that it’s in the Warhammer 40,000 part of their universe, and touches on an area of the background that I don’t think has really been explored much yet. I’m also working on a fantasy novel of my own.

16. Will you have a new book coming out soon?
As I said above, Wanted: Dead is coming out towards the end of this year. Dark Run should also be coming out in French at some point before too long, although I’m not yet sure when. It came out in German in May this year, and it was a real thrill to be published in another language. I also have another Black Library short story called A Common Ground coming out in issue 1 of the relaunched Inferno! magazine, which is another thrill as I grew up reading that in its former incarnation, and I’m in there with some fantastic authors.

17. Are there certain characters you would like to go back to, or is there a theme or idea you’d love to work with?
I find my writing littered with characters that I introduce as bit-parts and which suddenly get their own personality and I find hugely interesting; which can be distracting, but is far better than feeling that they’re flat and lifeless. I could happily write about several of them. As for themes and ideas I’d love to work with, the fantasy novel I’m working on at the moment is doing just that. It features conflicts, but the main themes are around learning tolerance and understanding, and appreciating the diversity of others, and it’s given me a place to play around with my own understandings of sexuality and gender, as well as religion and belief systems.

18. What has been the toughest criticism given to you as an author? What has been the best compliment?
I have quite rigid mental processes, so criticism can be hard to take – my immediate reaction is that the other person must be wrong, because this makes sense to me, so why doesn’t it make sense to them? I’ve learned to work around that though, and to appreciate that other people have different perspectives that are just as valid to them as mine are for me, and crucially, might be shared by more people than share mine. I think I did get annoyed by one reader review which said that my characters were two-dimensional and the dialogue wooden, as I genuinely feel those areas are one of my strong points as a writer. However, they’re perfectly entitled to their opinion, and it seems that it’s not one shared by many others, from what I’ve seen.
The best compliment is probably a tie between “Great fun… Golden Age chic!” from Stephen Baxter and “If Firefly and The Expanse had a love-child” from BookRiot. Both of which ended up as pull quotes on the covers of my books, because my editors are no fools.

19. Do you have any advice to give to aspiring writers?
Don’t be a dick. Apart from that, pick and choose whatever advice seems to work for you. Any piece of advice from anywhere will be contradicted by someone else. People will say ‘write what you love, don’t write what you think will get you published’, but I loved my urban fantasy and it didn’t get me published, and then I wrote Dark Run because I thought it would get me published, and it did. I mean, I enjoyed writing it – the Keiko books are a blast, tremendous fun to write – but I only picked that idea because I thought it would work. So you know, do what feels right.

20. Is there anything that you would like to say to your readers and fans?
I am honestly, truly touched that you were and/or are prepared to take a chance and spend money on stories I make up in my head. Thank you.

Please join me in thanking Mike for his open and candid responses regarding the publishing industry and for sharing his experiences and journey as a writer. If you would like to ask any further questions, please either use the facilities available below or contact Mike direct via the following links.

Please show your appreciation by checking out his work on Amazon:

Dark Run – https://www.amazon.co.uk/Dark-Run-Keiko-Mike-Brooks/dp/0091956641/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1530916179&sr=8-1&keywords=dark+run+mike+brooks
Dark Sky – https://www.amazon.co.uk/Dark-Sky-Keiko-Mike-Brooks/dp/009195665X/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1530916325&sr=1-1&keywords=dark+sky+mike+brooks
Dark Deeds – https://www.amazon.co.uk/Dark-Deeds-Keiko-Mike-Brooks/dp/1534405445/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1530916342&sr=1-1&keywords=dark+deeds+mike+brooks
Inferno! Issue #1 – https://www.amazon.co.uk/Inferno-1-David-Annandale/dp/1784967335/ref=sr_1_2?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1530916371&sr=1-2&keywords=inferno%21+games+workshop

Social media contacts:
http://www.mikebrooks.co.uk
http://www.facebook.com/mikebrooks668
Twitter: @mikebrooks668
Instagram: @mikebrooks668

An interview with romance novelist, Sajita Nair

Welcome to the latest in my series of author interviews from talented writers around the world. Today I am pleased to introduce the very talented, Sajita Nair, creator of the classic romance novel, She’s a Jolly Good Fellow. Sajita has taken the traditional publishing route with her work and I’ve enjoyed hearing her take on the pros and cons of taking that particular road.

She's a Jolly Good Fellow - cover
1. Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?
I am a writer based in India. My first novel, ‘She’s a Jolly Good Fellow’ (Hachette India, 2010) was inspired by my life in the Indian army. Recently, I published a collection of short stories by Juggernaut Books. Apart from these, I’ve also written travelogues, short stories and articles for various publications.

2. What do you do when you are not writing?
Reading and travelling. Reading lets me explore other minds, thoughts and ideas while travelling helps me keep the childlike wonder alive by exploration of nature, cities, cultures and cuisine.

3. Do you have a day job as well?
I facilitate creative writing programs at Nutcracker creative writing workshops (www.nut-cracker.in) and I also conduct corporate training sessions on women empowerment and soft skills.

4. When did you first start writing and when did you finish your first book?
My writing career began with blogging. After every blog post, I would eagerly look forward to feedback from readers. It was a good learning experience. I then moved on to writing articles, travelogues and short stories for reputed print and online publications. It is only then that I attempted writing my novel. The first draft of my novel was done in 2007 and after several edits, I completed it in 2009. It was finally was published in 2010.

5. How did you choose the genre you write in and where do you get your ideas?
When I began writing my first novel, I had limited knowledge of genres. I wrote because of the compelling urge to tell the story. Much later, from the editors at publishing houses I learnt the concept of genres and their importance in marketing books.
About ideas – my ideas usually come from travel, observation and interaction with people. Being a student of psychology also helps as I tend to indulge in psycho-analysis (sometimes landing me in embarrassing social situations). But that notwithstanding, I believe that better understanding of human behaviour and emotions helps create well rounded characters in fictional work.

6. Do you ever experience writer’s block?
I’m just out of one that lasted about eight years! Writer’s block hits me when I feel that an idea is not exciting enough to pursue. I’ve abandoned several projects after a thrilling start. Also, negative review of my work triggers a writer’s block. I get into an introspection mode. But in recent times, I’ve come to understand that each reader is entitled to his/her opinion. Hence I try and distance myself from my work. It is quite a challenge though!

7. Do you work with an outline, or just write?
I work on a rough outline, a short synopsis, which helps me get on track if I lose myself in the sub-plots. Usually this rough synopsis gets edited as the characters take on a life of their own.

8. Is there any particular author or book that influenced you in any way either growing up or as an adult?
As a child, I have been influenced by the works of Rabindranath Tagore and Ruskin Bond. Tagore’s short story, ‘Kabuliwala’ still melts my heart. As an adult, I’ve enjoyed reading Hemingway, JM Coetzee, Haruki Murakami, Kazuo Ishiguro, Jodi Picoult and Amitav Ghosh.

9. Can you tell us about your challenges in getting your first book published?
My novel was selected by a talent scout at the Kala Ghoda Literary festival in Mumbai. And this led to a traditional publishing contract. I believe that such contests/ forums at literary festivals are a great way to land your first publishing contract.

10. If you had to go back and do it all over, is there any aspect of your novel or getting it published that you would change?
Nothing! Although with time, one learns the nuances of storytelling better, I wouldn’t replace the raw energy in my first book. Its imperfection is perfect.

11. What project are you working on now?
My upcoming novel is a story set in North Kerala and tries to capture the essence of a changing society from Maru-makka-thayam (inheritance through nephews and nieces followed among Nairs of Malabar) to the modern day nuclear one. It requires me to study anthropology so as to understand how the society functioned and what triggered the transition. The research is on and I hope to complete it in a year.

12. What has been the toughest criticism given to you as an author? What has been the greatest compliment?
Let’s start with the good things first. The best compliment I received was when readers told me that they could get under the skin of my characters and feel the emotions and challenges. Most readers found my work inspiring and entertaining. The worst however was when a critic wrote in a review that had my paperback not been published, the world could’ve saved more trees.

13. Do you have any advice to give to aspiring writers?
Don’t stop writing. It’s a long drawn process, often replete with rejections, self doubt and criticism. But like the proverbial tortoise, continue to write bit by bit, everyday. Quoting Toni Morrison – If there’s a book that you want to read, but it hasn’t been written yet, then you must write it.

Look forward to reading your work!

Please join me in thanking Sajita for her comprehensive answers and for sharing her experiences of the modern day publishing landscape. If you would like to ask any further questions, please either use the facilities available below or contact Sajita via the following links.

Please show your appreciation by checking out her work on Amazon:
https://www.amazon.co.uk/s/ref=nb_sb_noss?url=search-alias%3Daps&field-keywords=Sajita+Nair

Social media contacts:
Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/sajita.nair.79
Twitter – https://twitter.com/sajitanair1
Instagram – https://www.instagram.com/sajita.nair.79/

Previous publications:
Debut novel, She’s a Jolly Good Fellow – https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/7229386-she-s-a-jolly-good-fellow
Short stories – https://www.juggernaut.in/authors/5a6a2d21b4c3447eb8c2c3d8af50a39f

Book reviews –

https://www.news18.com/news/books/shes-a-jolly-good-fellow-is-thrilling-345663.html
http://www.tribuneindia.com/2010/20100801/spectrum/book4.htm

An interview with YA author, Glynis Guevara

Welcome to the latest in a series of author interviews from talented writers around the world. Today I am thrilled to introduce the very gifted Trinidadian, Glynis Guevara, author of, Under the Zaboca Tree and the upcoming YA novel, Black Beach. Glynis is a traditionally published writer and I’ve enjoyed hearing her take on the process.

black beach imageutzt

1. Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?
My name is Glynis Guevara. I was born in Trinidad, but have lived in Canada for over twenty years. I started writing my first novel at fourteen, and even though it was never completed I never gave up my love for writing. I am a graduate of Humber College School for Writers creative writing program and was admitted to the bar of England and Wales, and Trinidad and Tobago. In 2012, I was shortlisted for the Small Axe Literary (short fiction) Competition, and my YA manuscript, “Barrel Girl” was a finalist for the inaugural Burt Award for Caribbean literature. “Under the Zaboca Tree” is my debut YA novel. My second YA novel, “Black Beach” will be published in September 2018.

2. What do you do when you are not writing?
My second love beside writing is reading. I also love to travel. I have been to England, (I was a student in London for four years), Sweden, Finland, Russia, USA (California, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Connecticut) and Grenada. I hope to travel to Africa next year.

3. Do you have a day job as well?
Yes, I am an instructor. I teach adult literacy classes full time during the day and also two evenings a week. I love my job and I enjoy working with diverse learners in my literacy class.

4. When did you first start writing and when did you complete your first book?
I started writing my first novel when I was fourteen, but it wasn’t completed; however, I never gave up my love for writing. I actually didn’t attempt to write another book until 2006 after I was laid off my job. It took about six months to finish the first draft.

5. How did you choose the genre you write in and where do you get your ideas?
The first book I wrote was an adult contemporary novel, but it has not yet been published. I then wrote several YA books. In the beginning, I didn’t set out to write a YA book; it just turned out that way. So far my first YA novel, Under the Zaboca Tree, has been published and a second YA novel, Black Beach, will be published in late September this year. Social issues influence my writing.

6. Do you ever experience writer’s block?
Not really. I have a lot of ideas in my head! I have permanently injured my right ear which can affect my ability to concentrate at times, but other than that I am quite lucky.

7. Do you work with an outline, or just write?
I start with a theme, but no outline. As I begin writing, the stories shape themselves. I myself am usually surprised at the outcome!

8. Is there any particular author or book that influenced you in any way either growing up or as an adult?
There are many writers I admire, but amongst my favourites is the Trinidadian / American writer, Elizabeth Nunez.

9. Can you tell us about your challenges in getting your first book published?
Initially, I tried to find a literary agent. Looking back now, I realize my earlier works were not ready for publication and probably why I found it so difficult to secure an agent. I hired a private editor and he helped me grow as a writer. This was probably the best money I have spent. Hiring an editor helped me polish my work and as a result allowed me to secure a publisher.

10. If you had to go back and do it all over, is there any aspect of your novel or getting it published that you would change?
I am happy with my publisher, Inanna Publications. My only regret is that I wish I didn’t have an ear issue that has affected my ability to market myself better.

11. How do you market your work?
I am working on improving my marketing skills. Currently, I market by word of mouth, social media, including Facebook and Twitter. I am hopeful I’ll be able to do a number of readings and personal appearances once Black Beach is released in later this year. I’m also trying to figure out how I get time off work to travel to other countries, including Trinidad and Tobago and other provinces in Canada to promote my work. I’m working on having my work included within the portfolios of literary festivals, local and national.

12. Have you written a book you love that you have not been able to get published?
I have two complete books that remain unpublished. That said, I am on the verge of sending them out for assessment. Wish me luck!

13. Can you tell us about your upcoming or recently published book?
My debut YA novel, Under the Zaboca Tree, is a contemporary coming of age story about a young girl affectionately called, Baby Girl, who moves from Toronto, Canada to Trinidad with her dad. Baby Girl silently longs for her mother, a woman she can’t recall ever meeting and doesn’t have a photo of. Under the Zaboca Tree is a contemporary coming of age novel that explores multiple issues including the challenges of being a motherless adolescent, searching for one’s identity, the unbreakable bonds of family, and the ability to adapt to difficult situations.

14. Is anything in your book based on real life experiences or purely all imagination?
There is nothing in my published work based on my personal life experiences; however, in general, social issues influence my work.

15. What project are you working on now?
I am in the early stages of writing two YA novels. The working titles are, Poui Season, and, Gift in my Pocket.

16. Will you have a new book coming out soon?
Yes, my second YA novel, Black Beach, will be launched at Ben McNally Books in Toronto on September 28, 2018. Black Beach tells the story of sixteen-year-old, Tamera who lives in La Cresta, a fishing village on a Caribbean island. Tamera’s mother suffers from severe mental illness. Also, one of the young girl’s schoolmates disappears and no one knows anything about the missing girl’s whereabouts. An environmental disaster strikes the small community devastating the fishing industry. Tamera finds herself at the centre of the mystery of her classmate’s disappearance, the resolution of which shocks the people of La Cresta.

17. Are there certain characters you would like to go back to, or is there a theme or idea you’d love to work with?
Inanna Publications published my first book, Under the Zaboca Tree, in 2017 and will publish, Black Beach, later this year. Inanna will also publish a third book, Barrel Girl, in 2019. I have completed two other manuscripts. However, the character that I feel a strong desire to write more about is Baby Girl, the protagonist from Under the Zaboca Tree. Every day I think about what has happened to her. The rest of her story needs to be told.

18. What has been the toughest criticism given to you as an author? What has been your greatest compliment?
Before I even contemplate sending my work to any publishers, I work on my manuscripts with a professional editor. I am so thankful for all that I have learnt from my current editor. I have grown as a writer because of the constructive criticism he has provided.
I have received many compliments from readers since my debut YA novel, Under the Zaboca Tree, was published. But I think the compliment that stayed with me above all was from a literary agent regarding one of my unpublished works. After reading the first twenty pages of the manuscript she said, “You write dialogue well. Not a lot of people can do that.” These words helped build my self-confidence and gave me the belief to continue.

19. Do you have any advice to give to aspiring writers?
I don’t know if I’m qualified to give advice. My first novel was published in 2017 and I am still learning about the writing and publishing business. However, I think aspiring writers need to be consistent readers and writers. Take writing courses, enter writing competitions. Be active on social media. Believe in yourself and don’t allow anyone’s negative words to discourage you.

20. Is there anything that you would like to say to your readers and fans?
Thank you to everyone who has taken time out of their busy schedule to read this blog interview and also thanks to all who have purchased my debut novel, Under the Zaboca Tree. I look forward to your continued support over the coming years. You are all invited to the book launch of, Black Beach, on September 28, 2018 at Ben MacNally books in Toronto.

Please join me in thanking Glynis for taking part in this interview and for sharing her experiences as a traditionally published author. If you would like to ask any further questions, please either use the facilities available below or contact Glynis Guevara via the following links.

Please show your appreciation by checking out her work on Amazon using the below links:

Link to Black Beach at Amazon.ca
https://www.amazon.ca/Black-Beach-Glynis-Guevara/dp/1771335696/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1530816458&sr=8-1&keywords=black+beach+glynis+guevara

Link to Black Beach at Amazon.co.uk
https://www.amazon.co.uk/Black-Beach-Glynis-Guevara/dp/1771335696/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1530816521&sr=8-1&keywords=black+beach+glynis+guevara

Social media contacts:
website: https://glynisguevara.com/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/gguevaraauthor
Twitter: @GlynisGuevara

Previous publications and links:
Link to “Under the Zaboca Tree” (Publisher’s website):
https://www.inanna.ca/catalog/under-zaboca-tree/

An interview with the action/adventure author, Jordyn Spencer

Welcome to the latest in my series of author interviews from talented writers around the world. Today I am pleased to introduce the talented author, Jordyn Spencer, creator of the action and adventure novel, Whispers of War. Jordyn has selected the self-publishing path and I’ve enjoyed hearing her take on the pros and cons of taking that particular route.

Cover pic

1. Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?
I’m a Pittsburgh native, but spent my later years living in South Jersey. Growing up, I had a love for music and learning. I surrounded myself with musical opportunities by joining marching band, jazz band, chorus, and learning multiple instruments. I also had a fondness for science, having learned much from my grandfather, who was a chemist. I found my love for writing a few years after high school. I love creating worlds and characters of my own.

I’ve always had a deep respect for the military. As a child, my brother and I would pretend we were soldiers. I was also inspired by my grandfather’s service in the Navy during World War II. My admiration for soldiers followed me throughout my life, as I read testimonials about their experiences, read up on historical events, and even visited battlegrounds with my family during the summer. I have always been moved by their courage and sacrifice.

I am a mother to a wonderful, funny, and inspiring son, who constantly motivates me. I have recently gotten engaged to my fiancé of two years, who encouraged me to follow my dreams and finally publish my book. My first book is dedicated to the both of them.

2. What do you do when you are not writing?
When I am not writing, I enjoy relaxing with a good book. It’s important to keep reading to help your writing evolve. I also love anything that I can do with my family. We go for hikes, play video games, bake cookies together, and so much more.

3. Do you have a day job as well?
For a few years, I have worked as a marching band instructor, teaching visual and music, while doing freelance writing.

4. When did you first start writing and when did you complete your first book?
I came up with the idea for Whispers of War in 2014, but was working on other projects at the time. I didn’t start writing it until November 2015. I completed the first draft of the book by the end of the month, but spent the next three years editing and re-editing. I was initially scared to publish, which held my release back, but finally decided I was ready to share my book with the world.

5. How did you choose the genre you write in and where do you get your ideas?
I’ve written short stories in many different genres and still do. My story guided my decision on genre. As much as I enjoy writing action and adventure stories, if I ever come up with a story outside my genre that I really want to tell, I wouldn’t shy away from writing it.

The ideas for my stories come from a variety of places. Some are rooted in dreams, others are inspired by observations, while most come from random thoughts. Music is another big influence in my writing. Every project starts from one small thought and grows from there.

6. Do you ever experience writer’s block?
I think all writers do at some point. When I hit the wall, I will listen to music. Other times I will take a day and work on another project. When I’m not even looking for it, I find the answer to overcome my writer’s block.

7. Do you work with an outline, or just write?
I usually work with an outline. For me, it helps connect major plot points and avoid inconsistencies. It’s easier to make changes to the plot during the outline phase than having to comb through page after page to correct something that isn’t working.

8. Is there any particular author or book that influenced you in any way either growing up or as an adult?
I don’t think I can credit one particular author or book for influencing my writing. I like so many different genres and love books that are willing to cross over genre lines. I wanted to be that kind of writer because it was what I enjoyed reading. With that being said, I was incredibly moved by Laurie Halse Anderson’s book, Speak. It touched on a hard topic and showcased how trauma can profoundly impact someone’s life. It is a book I have read many times and has always lingered in my mind.

9. Can you tell us about your challenges in getting your first book published?
I explored the traditional publishing route, but ultimately my first book was self-published. The biggest challenge I faced was overcoming my own fears with publishing. I felt vulnerable putting my work out there for people to read. Suddenly, your work is on display for all to see and critique and judge. You love your book, but someone else may despise it and ridicule it. Even with the backing of friends, family, and potential publishers, I was still afraid to share it and face reader reactions. I was finally able to overcome my fears and publish the book. I know that not everyone will like it, but there will also be readers who will love it. You shouldn’t deny those people your story.

10. If you had to go back and do it all over, is there any aspect of your novel or getting it published that you would change?
I would have published it sooner. By delaying the publication, I became obsessed with making it absolutely perfect. I read the entire book over 14 times and individual sections even more. If I could go back, I would have more confidence in my writing to publish it sooner.

11. How do you market your work? What avenues have you found to work best for your genre?
Most of my marketing has been done through social media. I occasionally run ads on Facebook or promotions via Twitter. Social media is a great way to reach potential readers, especially when you target the ads. My website is a wonderful tool as well. It allows me to showcase my writing skills to readers. They love when you offer free material, whether it is blog postings, short stories, or journal entries. Readers are more inclined to pay for your books if they are familiar with your writing. It’s less of a risk for them.

12. Have you written a book you love that you have not been able to get published?
No. However, I do have projects that I wish I had more time to do that I want to get published.

13. Can you tell us about your upcoming or recently published book?
In June, I published my first book in The Shadow Team Chronicles, Whispers of War. The series follows Army Sergeant Kara Olson and her team as they face constant battles. Whispers of War focuses on Kara joining her new team. Being the only woman on the team, she faces issues acclimating to her new position, as well as the struggles brought about war, and her past.

14. Is anything in your book based on real life experiences or purely all imagination?
Most of the book is my own original concept, but small portions are inspired by real experiences. In all my characters, I layered in some aspects of my personality. In terms of events in the novel, some are based on real life, although they are embellished a little!

15. What project are you working on now?
Right now, I am working on book two in The Shadow Team Chronicles. I’ve almost completed the first draft.

16. Will you have a new book coming out soon?
I’m hoping to release book two in The Shadow Team Chronicles series sometime next year, as well as a collection of short stories about the experiences of the other members of Shadow Team.

17. Are there certain characters you would like to go back to, or is there a theme or idea you’d love to work with?
I’d like to expand the backstories of the other team members, particularly Fox, Hunter, and Trey. I wanted to include more of their stories in Whispers of War, but things had to be cut for the main story. I hope to cover some of their backstories in the sequels or short stories. They have very interesting histories. There are also some characters from my short stories Making Another Peace and Non-Lethal that I would love to pull completely into The Shadow Team Chronicles Universe, like Dani, Aniyah, and Sergeant Martin. Hopefully, I’ll be able to find a way to reintroduce them.

18. What has been the toughest criticism given to you as an author? What has been your greatest compliment?
When someone asked me why I was not writing in the romance genre and why I was wasting my time writing a military novel, it was hard to hear. Military novels are primarily written by male authors or soldiers who served. It made me feel like I wouldn’t be taken seriously or even be able to compete with other authors. I extensively researched war, military service, and everything else I needed to make up for my perceived disadvantage. Like my character Kara, I was out to prove everyone wrong and ultimately used this criticism to write.

I’ve heard the same compliment from most people who have read my first book. They said they had trouble putting the book down. Former soldiers have read it and complimented me on how realistic the scenes are. Other readers have noted that the book is immersive and that they feel like they are right there in the battle. One reader finished the book in two days and is already excited for the sequel. It is great that people are enjoying the book so much.

19. Do you have any advice to give to aspiring writers?
Don’t let fear of judgement keep you from writing or publishing your book. You have a story that needs to be told, whether others realize it or not. Don’t let them dictate what you need to say.

20. Is there anything that you would like to say to your readers and fans?
Thank you for reading. Without you, I never would have achieved my dreams. You are the ones who have motivated me to write and continue these stories. Please feel free to reach out to me. I love hearing from you!

Please join me in thanking Jordyn for her comprehensive answers and for sharing her experiences of the modern day publishing landscape. If you would like to ask any further questions, please either use the facilities available below or contact Jordyn via the following links.

Please show your appreciation by checking out her work on Amazon:
https://www.amazon.com/default/e/B07DKQY37K/ref=dp_byline_cont_book_1?redirectedFromKindleDbs=true

Social media contacts:
Facebook Page- Jordyn Spencer
Twitter-@jspencerbooks
Instagram-jspencerbooks

Previous publications and links:
Free short stories- https://www.jspencerbooks.com/stories-from-the-shadows-a-collecti
Website- https://www.jspencerbooks.com/

An interview with American artist, Jean McGuire

This week I am moving ever so slightly off-piste and stepping away from my author interviews. Instead I am proud to introduce the acclaimed American artist, Jean McGuire, to my blog. It has been a privilege to showcase some of her work and hear about some the successes and failures she has encountered during her creative journey.

1. Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?

I am a Kansas City native who works primarily in oils. I returned to painting 3 years ago after a 40-year hiatus. Most of my paintings are done with my fingers, creating all the colors in my paintings from four colors: red, blue, and yellow, and white. I love watching the paints flow, shifting colors and shapes almost of their own volition.

2. What kind of artist are you and where do you get your ideas?

I paint primarily in oils on canvas, but I have been exploring other mediums and surfaces. My ideas come to me from all over: the pattern of leafs on the sidewalk; pictures I see on the internet; a glimpse of color or shape that I observe in nature; inspiration can be found almost anywhere.

3. What is your Background and has it had an impact on your creativity?

I was always considered one of the “class artists” growing up, but when I was unable to make my pictures look exactly the way I had them in my head I gave up painting. If I couldn’t be another Rembrandt I wasn’t interested in even trying. When I returned to painting after walking away from the corporate world, I set the intention that I would allow myself to play with the color and not be as invested in the outcome. This path isn’t always easy to follow, but I feel it makes my work uniquely mine.

4. How do you work? What drives you? Are there any guidelines and/or procedures you adhere to which aid the creative process?

I have found that my work ethic is better when I have a studio to go to work. I paint with my fingers a lot, so you can usually find me in a lab coat, non-latex gloves on my hand, barefooted and covered with paint. I usually start by throwing some paint on my canvas just to get started and let things flow from there. Sometimes I have a vision I want to create, and sometimes I just let the paint tell me what it wants to be.

5. Can you tell us about your most recently completed work?

A few weeks ago I painted a rooster for my home, to commemorate my house’s origin as a chicken coop. The painting turned out well and reflects a new look and some new processes for my work.

6. What project are you working on now?

Because of the success of my chicken painting, an artist friend has challenged me to complete a series of 5 chicken paintings. This is very challenging because it’s so easy to rest on the laurels of one project done well. Pushing through to do five on a theme is going to really push me into areas I’ve resisted in the past.

7. What has been the toughest criticism given to you as an artist? What has been the best compliment?

The world has been amazingly supportive of my efforts since I’ve returned to my artistic self, but I constantly judge my own work if it strays from my original vision instead of accepting it for what it is. My favorite compliments come from fellow artists. I am somewhat insecure about my lack of formal training, so it means a lot when an artist with that training tells me they like my work.

8. What role do you think Artists play or should play in society?

We are living through a period of unrest and turmoil. While I believe we should all be involved and speak up, I also believe our souls need a break from the severity of reality. Walking into a museum or a concert, or any other source of artistry, is necessary for the balance we need.

9. What is your favourite artwork/artist and why?

I love art in almost every form. Even if I don’t like a specific piece, I always appreciate the work and creativity the artist put into it. I never thought I liked Picasso until I saw an exhibit that connected his work to his experiences in New Guinea. That fresh look at his work made all the difference in my perception of him.

10. Do you have any advice to give to aspiring artists? 

You grow by doing. There is a saying that says that whatever you do 10,000 times you become an expert in. As I continue to paint I can see my work growing and changing with each piece. Even if I don’t like a piece, I always learn something from everything I paint.

11. Is there anything that you would like to say to your followers?

I love what I do and consider myself the luckiest person I know. I would love to have you follow my work, but even more important, follow your own dreams. It’s so hard to risk stepping outside the norm and following your passions, but it’s worth every moment of discomfort once you know how it feels to live your dream.

Please join me in thanking Jean for her candid and open replies. If you would like to ask any further questions, please either use the facilities available below or contact Jean via the following links.

Please show your appreciation by checking out her work on her website: http://www.artbyjeanmcguire.com/

Social media contacts:
Instagram @artbyjeanmcguire;
Facebook: @artbyjeanmacguire;
Blog: http://jasminepetalsthoughts.com/

An interview with historical fiction author, Intrigue Sui Generis

Welcome to the latest in a series of author interviews from talented writers around the world. Today I am thrilled to introduce the very gifted, Intrigue Sui Generis, author of the historical fiction novel, The Witch Trials, The Becoming. Intrigue has chosen the self-publishing route and I’ve enjoyed hearing her take on the process.

Cover pic

1. Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?
I am a life time learner with a particular penchant for medieval history. I love going back to the primary sources and pulling them apart, dissecting them to give me a better understating of how past events have helped mould and shape present day society.

2. What do you do when you are not writing?
I play the violin, paint and take my children on adventures!

3. Do you have a day job as well?
I am starting an online retail store and recently started a publishing company.

4. When did you first start writing and when did you complete your first novel?
I started writing when I was 12. For reasons I won’t go into, I found myself grounded for a whole month and was bored out of my mind. My sister and I used the time to write stories to pass the time and try and entertain one another. To cut a long story short, I was bitten by the writing bug and my first book was finished 10 years ago. That said I am still re-writing it 10 years on, I’ve honed the craft over time and feel now is a good time to go back and look at the novel with fresh eyes and ideas. It’s amazing how I’ve been able to improve it already!

5. How did you choose the genre you write in and where do you get your ideas?
I always wanted to write historical fiction. I love that I can lose myself in History and almost live alongside my characters during my first draft. A distinct timeframe also gives me a defined focus for the research phase, otherwise I’d simply lose myself in our planet’s fascinating past!

6. Do you ever experience writer’s block?
No, I honestly have so many ideas that pop into my head it’s hard to get them down before I forget them. There are so many I have yet to develop, time is my main problem.

7. Do you work with an outline, or just write?
I write an outline for historical fiction, but tend to allow my imagination to wander when writing regular fiction.

8. Is there any particular author or book that influenced you in any way either growing up or as an adult?
Karen Hancock, The Guardian King series and The Coldest Winter Ever, by Sister Souljah. They are amazing.

9. Can you tell us about your challenges in getting your first book published (self-published or traditional)?
I chose the self-publishing route and I must say, what I didn’t appreciate was how long the process actually is. From Editing, copy-editing, proof reading to cover art design everything takes weeks or even months. One has to learn to be patient way after the first (or even second or third) draft of the book is actually complete. It could still be years before anyone will actually pick up and appreciate your work.

10. If you had to go back and do it all over, is there any aspect of your novel or getting it published that you would change?
Yes. Personally I would have created the book trailer way ahead of publishing date and been able to have It released at the same time as the book or possibly during the pre-sale period.

11. How do you market your work?
What avenues have you found to work best for your genre?
Social media (Twitter), my website (https://intriguingpages.com/), press releases and word of mouth. I am still investigating which avenues work best for my particular genre.

12. Can you tell us about your upcoming or recently published book?
The Witch Trials series is a very informative, action packed way of telling the history of the witch trials themselves and how that contributed to other norms within our society.

13. Is anything in your book based on real life experiences or purely all imagination?
Yes, the events in this book are based on real events, but the characters are all fictitious.

14. What project are you working on now?
Marketing for The Witch Trials book one and I’ve just started writing the second in the Witch Trials series. I’m hoping to release it by the end of 2018.

15. Are there certain characters you would like to write again?
You can expect to see Sylvie in book 2.

16. What has been your greatest compliment as a writer?
My favourite compliment has been that they could not put the book down once they started reading it.

17. Do you have any advice to give to aspiring writers?

Never give up. Perseverance is key, whether you are self or traditionally published.

18. Is there anything that you would like to say to your readers and fans?
Please go out and get yourself a copy of Witch Trials: The Becoming http://a.co/8eQQsIK.
It is a short read and action packed. A necessary predecessor for the next book in the series. You will not be disappointed. There is something in there for both genders. History must not be forgotten.

Please join me in thanking Intrigue for taking part in this interview and for sharing her experiences as a self-published author. If you would like to ask any further questions, please either use the facilities available below or contact Intrigue Sui Generis via the following links. Please show your appreciation by checking out her work on Amazon using the above link.

Twitter: https://twitter.com/IntrigueGeneris
Website: https://intriguingpages.com/

An interview with YA author, Nathan Hopp

Welcome to the latest in my series of interviews from around the world. This afternoon we find ourselves in North America and I am delighted to welcome the talented writer, Nathan Hopp, author of the recently published historical fantasy novel, The Adventures of Peter Gray. It has been fascinating to hear about Nate’s journey as a writer and his route to publication.

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1. Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?
My name is Nathan Hopp, and I’m a college student/author born and raised in the U.S. state of Wisconsin. I’m a big nerd when it comes to topics such as history, anime, the furry fandom and I love exploring new places wherever I go. I mostly write short stories, but I’m pleased to announce my debut novel, The Adventures of Peter Gray, was recently published earlier this year.

2. What do you do when you are not writing?
I’m either biking, studying for / attending university classes or meeting new people such as your good self, on the Internet.

3. Do you have a day job as well?
Unfortunately, yes. At the moment I’m an associate at Walmart, and while the pay is good it doesn’t beat the thought of waking up one morning and doing nothing but writing!

4. When did you first start writing and when did you finish your first book?
I’ve loved reading ever since I was in kindergarten, but I guess you can say writing my own stories began somewhere in my high school library. One day I decided to write poetry, this led to short stories and eventually I hit the hard stuff and completed my first novel by the time I started college. A year later, and here I am.

5. How did you choose the genre you write in and where do you get your ideas?
When I first started, I wrote short stories geared towards fans of serious science fiction. The Adventures of Peter Gray is a historical fantasy; two genres I hadn’t attempted at that point. As such I needed to undertake an extensive period of research and cherry picked features from each genre that best worked for me. As for plot ideas, most of the time they just come to me in moments of inspiration, but they can come from anywhere and at any time. I just have to keep a notebook handy!

6. Do you ever experience writer’s block?
My God, who doesn’t? Some days I feel unable to write a single sentence, and the next I’m hastily writing entire paragraphs of a story on the back of a napkin or scrap paper taken from the Walmart break room. On those days, I’m terrified of forgetting these ideas and additions to a story.

7. Is there any particular author or book that influenced you in any way either growing up or as an adult?
Where do I start? There’s too many books that influenced me, but I can tell you the writers who shaped me. There’s classic authors like Stephen King, Mark Twain, Charles Dickens, Ray Bradbury and the like. Then there’s Marie Lu, Alex London, Kyell Gold, Scott Westerfeld, Anthony Horowitz, George Orwell and countless others that would need an entire book of its own.

8. Can you tell us about your challenges in getting your first book published?
I am lucky enough to have been traditionally published but it has been a tough route. From my point of view, taking criticism was probably the hardest part of being traditionally published. I signed my contract thinking my manuscript was the finished article. Far from it! I think I’d have found the process much easier if I’d started knowing my first draft was about to undergo a substantial period of revision and editing. It is an essential step when it comes to publishing any book, not just mine, but knowing that doesn’t make it any easier when you receive your first set of notes from the editor. The side I enjoyed and therefore found easiest was the promotion side. It helps that I’m currently attending college and my minor is in Marketing, but I’ve loved the creative side and the myriad of ways you can put yourself and your work out there in public and on the web.
Coming back to the process itself, aside from developing a thick skin, patience is a virtue. There is so much waiting once the various edits leave your desk and return for reassessment. I believe the average time to publish a book is a year but it can be much longer. To cut a long story short, my editor and I knew each other back when we were in high school. During our first professional encounter she read the first couple of paragraphs of a short story I’d written and turned to me to say, “If this were a book and you asked me, I wouldn’t publish it after reading the first sentence.” That cut to the bone!
So I worked hard. I practiced and practiced, honing my writing skills, taking on-board any criticism thrown my way – learning from it instead of getting upset. I made sure I grew as both a person and a reader before writing the first draft for, The Adventures of Peter Gray. Five years later, I told her about the concept during one of our email correspondences and she was intrigued by the pitch. I sent her the manuscript and the rest is history!

9. How do you market your work? What avenues have you found to work best for your genre?
I mostly utilize online and local sources. Given my book is about an anthropomorphic wolf who lives in a historical setting, I already know my audience is the furry fandom, that makes it much easier to pitch in arena’s and on sites where I know this type of book will thrive.

10. Have you written a book you love that you have not been able to get published?
Tough question – yes and no. There is another related project I’ve been itching to complete, but both life and my current publication have served to delay it. I will certainly go back to it and I’m hoping my new and existing fanbase will support it once I breathe life into it over the coming months.

11. Can you tell us about your upcoming or recently published book?
Absolutely! The Adventures of Peter Gray is a historical coming-of-age fantasy set in 1899 New York City. My protagonist is an anthropomorphic wolf who lives a life of mischievous shenanigans & adventure on the Manhattan streets. Think of, The Adventures of Peter Gray, as a crossbreed between Disney’s Zootopia and a work of fiction by either Mark Twain or Charles Dickens.

12. Is anything in your book based on real life experiences or purely all imagination?
Given it involves childhood, I have taken some aspects of my own and implemented it into the narrative. You’ll have to read it to start guessing which parts though!

13. What project are you working on now?
Mmm, it’s a bit of a secret, but let’s just say Peter’s story isn’t finished yet.

14. Are there certain characters you would like to go back to, or is there a theme or idea you’d love to work with?
There are, especially in the fictional world of my novel. As for themes, I don’t shy away from tough issues and indeed prefer to embrace and explore them; most recently I’ve run with themes such as diverse as economic inequality and prejudice.

15. Do you have any advice to give to aspiring writers?
J.K. Rowling and Stephen King didn’t become famous by imitating others. It is great to be inspired by others, but don’t let that be the only thing you’re known for in your writing career. Surpass your role models, take and assess the criticism you receive, and be unique in every way you can.

16. Is there anything that you would like to say to your readers and fans?
Thank you so much for all your support, I really appreciate it.
The Adventures of Peter Gray is a coming-of-age tale that will invoke nostalgic memories of your childhood and bring it back to life. The novel is available on Amazon, Goodreads and at any Barnes & Noble store you can visit. Please leave a review if you enjoy my work, not only will I be very appreciative but it is the only way to nudge the Amazon algorithms into life!

Please join me in thanking Nathan Hopp for engaging with me and discussing some of the finer points of life as an author. If you would like to ask any further questions, please either use the facilities available below or contact Nate via the following links.

Please show your appreciation by checking out Nate’s work on Amazon:
Amazon UK: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Adventures-Peter-Gray-Nathan-Hopp/dp/173205116X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1531410182&sr=8-1&keywords=The+Adventures+of+Peter+Gray
Amazon USA: https://www.amazon.com/Adventures-Peter-Gray-Nathan-Hopp/dp/173205116X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1531410278&sr=8-1&keywords=the+adventures+of+peter+gray+by+nathan+hopp

Social media contacts:
Twitter: https://twitter.com/HoppNate
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/NathanWHopp/
DeviantArt: https://www.deviantart.com/domus-vocis
FuAffinity: Userpage of domusvocis — Fur Affinity [dot] net

An interview with YA author, Christopher Galvin

Welcome to the latest in my series of author interviews from talented writers around the world. Today I am pleased to introduce the talented author, Christopher Galvin, creator of the children’s fantasy novel, Strings. Christopher has selected the self-publishing path and it has been interesting to find out his take on the positives and negatives associated with his experience.

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1. Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?
I’m from Co. Offaly in Ireland. My background is in TV and film. I have a BA Hons Degree in Video. I’ve always enjoyed writing since I was very young, whether it was short stories or plays or comics. I write short films which seem to do reasonably well on the film festival circuit – the last one was called Stuck. I really enjoyed writing and co-directing that one.
2. What do you do when you are not writing?
Marketing my book! Pushing it on social media etc. But I’m also a videographer so I edit videos etc. too.
3. When did you first start writing and when did you finish your first book?
I’ve been writing since I was old enough to pick up a pen, but my first book… I recently finished the third draft of my first novel, Arthur Smallwood’s Quest for Magic, which I’ve begun to submit to agents. Although ASQM is technically the first book I completed, Strings, is the first book I published. It’s a children’s fantasy book which I’ve self-published on Amazon and came out earlier this year.
4. How did you choose the genre you write in and where do you get your ideas?
I’m not sure I have a genre as such, but there’s usually something supernatural added whether its monsters or ghosts etc. but I wouldn’t classify it as horror. Maybe drama or comedy with a hint of the unusual about it.
As for where I get my ideas… Sometimes they jump out at me from nowhere. Other times they have been developed from something else. For example, Strings came about because I read about a competition for a story which had certain ground rules (i.e. the protagonist had to be a certain age and had to meet certain people). I simply started writing the requested scene and a couple of hours later I created the basis of a story around a young girl, her imaginary friend and their discovery of a mysterious puppet theatre materialising in her room. After writing that piece I started thinking about what would happen next, so I just continued to write and finished it in a few days.
5. Do you ever experience writer’s block?
Yes. The way your head goes blank. It’s frustrating but it can be overcome. Either by sitting there thinking it through, or by walking away and going about your business. Usually when that happens the ideas eventually start flowing again.
6. Do you work with an outline, or just write?
I just write. Most times I’ll have thought about it a lot, building the story in my head, but when I sit down, I simply write. I can edit out the bad bits later. I’m a great believer in just letting the words flow, especially with a first draft.
7. Is there any particular author or book that influenced you in any way either growing up or as an adult?
I suppose the author or authors that stick out are Stephen King and Terry Pratchett. Their styles, while miles apart, really appeal to me. King’s strength is in his great build up of suspense and the horror he can unleash. Pratchett’s is his wonderful way with world play and his characters. Imagine combining those styles together!
8. Can you tell us about your challenges in getting your first book published (self-published or traditional)?
When I wrote Strings I thought, well I’ll self-publish it. This was on the basis the experience would give me a better understanding of the market and the process if I decide to self-publish, Arthur Smallwood’s Quest for Magic. Publishing it on Amazon was fairly straightforward and went well. The decision on the size of the paperback was a challenge and the cover design certainly had its issues (although I’m pleased with the result). Sales went fine for the first few days (family and friends buying it) but there comes a time when you have to reach out to an audience of strangers and say, ‘Here’s my book – I think you’ll like it!’ I’m still trying to figure out how to do that effectively.
9. How do you market your work? What avenues have you found to work best for your genre?
I post about it on twitter and Facebook. I have a Facebook page for Strings and an Instagram account for it too. I made three short trailers for it (I think the last one got the most response) and I had a one-day sale where the digital version was free for the day. I haven’t cracked the market by any means but I’m constantly researching and plugging away.
10. Can you tell us about your upcoming or recently published book?
Well, I mentioned Strings which is about a young Irish girl who has trouble making friends. She ends up creating an imaginary friend who helps her through her ups and downs. But some malevolent force has detected she is unhappy and initiates a plan to lull her into the magical town of Puppet Town. Now, Puppet Town is great, has marionettes and shadow puppets and hand puppets etc but if she stays there for 24 hours she will become a puppet too and can never go back home. The remainder of the tale follows her journey to do just that.
Arthur Smallwood’s Quest for Magic is a bit more complex and is aimed at the YA market. I’ll talk more about that when it’s ready to go.
11. Is anything in your book based on real life experiences or is it purely imaginative?
One or two little pieces that reflect my own life but mostly pure imagination.
12. What has been the toughest criticism given to you as an author? What has been your greatest compliment?
The toughest I think is that I’m very much in a hurry to get things written and done. In the past my first drafts were ‘it’. I didn’t bother with editing much. But that has changed for the better and I’m more patient. You kind of have to be. It makes your writing better. My greatest compliment is probably that I tend to make things very vivid – if you read my stories you can really imagine what the characters are feeling and the worlds they inhabit.
13. Do you have any advice to give to aspiring writers?
This is hard as I’d still describe myself as an aspiring writer. That said I guess my advice would be firstly to take your time and don’t rush a project. Give as much time to perfecting your work as you can. Secondly is simply to keep writing – don’t wait for inspiration to arrive before writing, it won’t! You have to work at your craft, inspiration rarely just appears and if you simply waited you’d be staring at a blank page most of the time. Finally you must engage with those willing to help. Let people read your work; if you are lucky enough to be friends with someone who can edit, don’t be shy about passing over your manuscript! They are a huge help and can improve your writing. If you have writing heroes follow them and keep reading. Sometimes going to a book signing can push you to want to have one of your own. *takes a deep breath and ends answer*
14. Is there anything that you would like to say to your readers and fans?
Please pick up a copy of Strings and take a look. While it’s a kid’s book, it’s also not. I would imagine a lot of adults now might feel some of what Mary is feeling and enjoy her adventure. And if you do, please leave a review on Amazon and/or Goodreads. Not only is It a huge boost when you read about someone loving the story you have told but reviews are the life blood of a self-published author and essential if new readers are to discover our work.

Please join me in thanking Christopher for the insight into his publication journey and for sharing his more general writing experiences. If you would like to ask any further questions, please either use the facilities available below or contact Christopher via the following links.

Please show your appreciation by checking out his work on Amazon:

Amazon: https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/1981099468

Social media contacts:
Twitter: https://twitter.com/ChrisGalvin1981
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/stringsbook/

Previous publications:
http://www.fishamble.com/fishamble-diaries/playsonatrain-my-lovely-molly-by-christopher-galvin

An interview with Argentine author, Ëlina Ënza.

Welcome to the fourth in a series of author interviews from talented writers around the world. Today I am pleased to share the words of an up and coming writer from South America, Ëlina Ënza, an author operating in multiple genres. Ëlina has not yet chosen which route to take with regards publication and it has been interesting finding out her take on the current state of the industry. It seems to be as hard as ever for emerging talents to get that bit of luck and make the breakthrough allowing them to take their writing forward as a career.

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1. Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?
I am Ëlina Ënza, 30 years-old, originally from Argentina and now a resident of Guatemala with itchy feet. I have ambitions of moving to Europe to pursue my writing career and hopefully the opportunity will present itself once my first book is published. I am proud of my country, and lucky to live on such a beautiful continent, despite some of its people, certain systems of government and a level of corruption not really understood outside of Latin America. Unfortunately, at present it isn’t really an environment conducive to fostering and encouraging artists such as myself.
I used to think myself an extrovert, but over time I have become more comfortable in my own skin and now exhibit the traits of an introvert. Some might even label me a loner – I certainly prefer to spend my days indoors, writing and creating stories; generally using it to block out reality surrounding me. That and I believe I’m good at it!
I live for Literature, and consequently striving to make a living from my gift – although it has definitely been a struggle so far! I have literally been saved by the written word – I suffer from a few mental disorders, and on a practical level, reading and writing is what keeps me going – whenever I read or write, I feel alive. It is my reason for being.
I studied Political Science and International Affairs, and the experience opened my eyes to how the real world works (or doesn’t), and ironically one of the main reasons why I much prefer to create and live in my own creations. I haven’t stopped learning and love the power knowledge brings. I have learnt knowledge is infinite, but my curiosity ensures the level of my education increases every single day. I write 7 days a week, and have a very strict discipline about it, just because… I love writing.
2. What do you do when you are not writing?
A variety of domestic chores. I live with my mother and two siblings. I treat writing as my job and improving is my main goal. You might say I’m very dedicated to the cause!
3. When did you first start writing and when did you finish your first novel?
I started writing around 7 or 8 and completed my first novel in 2010, ‘Soccer Fighter’ – the first in my Fighter Saga series. Prior to that, I dabbled in poetry but it took time to build my confidence to complete a full novel.
4. How did you choose the genre you write in and where do you get your ideas?
I love to write about whatever peaks my interest at that moment so I haven’t really got a genre. I’m multi genre and I think that comes through in my writing. I don’t like being pigeon holed so instead combine them. It also keeps me entertained and interested in where I’m going to go next. Many of my ideas come from dreams. A notebook by my bed is a must so I can write them down when I wake! I also daydream and more often than not mulling over new storylines and ideas. My brain barely gets any respite to be quite honest – so much so, insomnia can be a problem!
I write mostly about women, mainly because I feel as a gender we are often under represented as, what one might term, the “hero” of a story. I like to portray my protagonists as courageous, powerful and influential. I also write about women falling in love with women, because I am a proud member of the LGBT+ Community myself. I want more people to read about reality from a fictional point of view. With struggles other than rejection, hatred and discrimination, because I love causing an impact with my peculiar characters.
5. Do you ever experience writer’s block?
No, never. Luckily, I am always creating new scenarios for my characters. I try to work on at least two projects at the same time. So if I’m struggling with one, I can flit to the other. It also means boredom rarely sets in.
6. Do you work with an outline, or just write?
I’m what some might term a pantser. I write whatever comes to my head. I so work with a vague structure in mind but I generally just let my imagination be my guide. I tend to be more disciplined with the structure once I reach the editing stage.
7. Is there any particular author or book that influenced you in any way either growing up or as an adult?
My grandfather. He used to write poetry. He used to be a school professor and he has been my biggest influence. He presented me with my first book, written by a friend of his, another author from South America. I still keep it with me now.
8. Can you tell us about your challenges in getting your first book published?
Unfortunately I have not yet been published and the negative responses have certainly been discouraging. I am erring on the side of traditional publication mainly as I believe self-publishing won’t serve my purpose of building a career from writing. Although I know the onus is shifting towards the author I still believe the strength of the marketing departments of the various publishing houses are key to ensuring long and hopefully prosperous career in writing. I want to become a best-selling author (and although I know some self-pubbed authors have achieved that) and don’t believe that is something I can achieve on my own.
9. If you had to go back and do it all over, is there any aspect of your novel or getting it published that you would change?
No. I have to remain true to myself and will continue to write what I want to read, and populate an area I feel lacks published work.
10. Have you written a book you love that you have not been able to get published?
Every single one of them! I only write a story once I have fallen in love with the characters and find the plot engaging. I have written 7 novels now, all edited and completed. There are more in the in the pipeline but unfortunately they are all awaiting representation.
11. Are your books based on real life experiences or purely taken from your imagination?
It is a mixture of both. I love to combine fact with fiction. There is nothing better for me than to imagine the life I want to live and the worlds I want to live in.
12. What project are you working on now?
I’m currently working on four books, all in different genres. All of them are about women, each of them struggling with life in different ways; Be it with love, loss, sickness and general survival within a chaotic world. The core theme for me always revolves in some way around love. I believe love can counter and provide a solution for almost every social issue our planet faces.
13. What has been your greatest compliment as an author?
A critic once reviewed me as a raw and innocent writer, which from my point of view was the most endearing thing I have ever read about my work.
14. Do you have any advice to give to aspiring writers?
One of my professors in college once has said to me: “If you want to write, you must learn to write by writing. That is the only way!” I have taken this on-board as my personal mantra and certainly now practice what I preach. It is the only advice worth taking – aside from this I believe it is important for each individual to discover the wonder inside of him or her – it sounds cliché but every aspiring writer needs to undergo their own singular journey to find themselves and their voice.
15. Is there anything that you would like to say to your readers and fans?
That one day, when my work is published, I hope they can feel touched and identify with at least, one of my characters. I pray my stories can help fill their hearts, souls and minds with hope and a certain faith in humanity. Hopefully my work can offer my readers a place to reflect and focus on the positives in our world.
Please join me in thanking Ëlina Ënza for her honest appraisal of her situation and for sharing her experiences as a writer. If you would like to ask any further questions, please either use the facilities available below or contact Ëlina via the following links.
Please show your appreciation by checking out her blog with details of her upcoming work below:

Social media contacts:
TWITTER: https://twitter.com/amtouchedwfire
PERSONAL BLOG: https://wonderwomenwednesday.wordpress.com/

An interview with supernatural thriller author, Jon Clynch

Welcome to the second in a series of author interviews from talented writers around the world. Today I am thrilled to introduce the very gifted, Jon Clynch, author of the supernatural thrillers The Witch of Gallows Oak and The Chapterhouse Beast. Jon has chosen the self-publishing route and it has been interesting to find out his take on the what works and what doesn’t.

  1. Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?

Yes! My name is Jon (Jonathan) and I was born in North London about half a century ago. I am an amateur archaeologist, a writer and a ‘crafter’. I love reading (obviously) and have a range of interests including history, folklore and all things of a weird or of an ‘alternative’ nature. I also have a very eclectic taste in music, ranging from classical to punk, metal to electronic.

  1. What do you do when you are not writing?

As a family we spend a lot of time together as I work from home and we educate our two boys here as well, so we often go out together to visit heritage sites, country parks etc. But most of the time I focus on my other work – running a small business called Jack In The Green crafts, making hand-crafted items from reclaimed wood.

  1. When did you first start writing and when did you complete your first book?

I have been writing for about sixteen years, but have not had the courage to let anyone other than my wife read my work, until I won a short story competition last year. This gave me the confidence to go ahead and write for real. I actually finished my first book, The Witch of Gallows Oak, in November last year.

  1. How did you choose the genre you write in and where do you get your ideas?

I have always been interested in the paranormal/supernatural, I suppose partly due to my upbringing; I was raised in a Pentecostal/Evangelical Christian environment where, perversely, such things are frowned upon whilst encouraging the believer to accept things of a supernatural persuasion! Instead of reducing my fascination and curiosity, it increased it. That is not to say that I immerse myself in it too far or adhere to any dark belief system; I have a respect for it and limit my research to that which I find comfortable. My ideas often come suddenly when I least expect them, triggered by an experience or something said in passing. Either that or, as with my first book, I had the seed of an idea as I was drifting off to sleep one night.

  1. Do you ever experience writer’s block?

Rarely! I can hardly get the ideas down quick enough. I have many, many notes on my laptop that relate to ideas for stories I will write one day. Some have been there for over ten years!

  1. Do you work with an outline, or just write?

Mostly I just sit and tap away, see what comes. Though I wish I’d written an outline for my second book, The Chapterhouse Beast, (just out in Kindle form a few days ago) as I changed the plot and some of the characters’ personality traits when I was three quarters of the way through! I made a complete mess of it and if it were not for my brilliant wife, Nelly, going through it word by word I’d still be sorting it out now!  As a result, my latest project, working title – And Still the Faer Folk Dance, is proving an absolute joy to write. I know it sounds cliché but it almost appears to be writing itself!

  1. Is there any particular author or book that influenced you in any way either growing up or as an adult?

I have a great affection for Terry Pratchett and his works, but as a child I was influenced by Ursula le Guin. It is amazing that I was allowed to read about wizards etc, as they were ‘forbidden’. As my tastes developed, I became a huge fan of Tolkien and remain so to this day. He was a genius of the highest order.

  1. Can you tell us about your challenges in getting your first book published?

I self-published my first two books, the first being a huge learning curve for me! I struggled with just about every single step though the worst, for me, was formatting. The ebook/kindle version isn’t quite as challenging as the paperback but still has its issues. I found a lot of Amazon’s ‘help’ features and templates vastly unhelpful and uncooperative. But then that my just be my lack of knowledge re technology! I was very enthusiastic and naïve, rushing into it without much (any) research or prior knowledge, mainly as Amazon said I could publish a book without any capital in about 7 minutes. I believe that I may approach a traditional publisher for my third book, mainly to see what the experience involves compared to self-publishing.

  1. If you had to go back and do it all over, is there any aspect of your novel or getting it published that you would change?

I think I would have given it far more thought and probably passed it to a traditional publisher. The people who awarded me the first prize in the short story competition had offered to help me but I wanted to go it alone, partly as I’m stubborn when it comes to getting help and partly as I wanted to see if I was capable! As for the novel itself, there is a danger of rereading and editing it to death. No doubt if I read it through now I would think “Why didn’t I say this, or make that happen?” or “That makes no sense, why did I do that?” I think it’s best to leave it as it is, you have to stop somewhere.

  1. How do you market your work? What avenues have you found to work best for your genre?

Out of necessity I keep the marketing costs down, mostly limiting it to Facebook, Twitter and Goodreads. I admit I’m lousy at self-promotion and have struggled for seven years in that area with my woodwork business. I am always open to advice, but often find the whole world of marketing, with its trendy terminology, off-putting. With my writing I am still learning which is the best avenue. I joined loads of Writer’s groups on Facebook but find them, so far, of little value. There seems no point in thousands of authors all saying how great each other’s work is if the news isn’t reaching the buying public.

  1. Have you written a book you love that you have not been able to get published?

Not yet! I like both the books I have written so far, though prefer the first one. My current book will, I believe, be a favourite of mine and (though I am my own harshest critic and hesitate to say this) I think that in the right hands it could be a pretty big deal. I will be massively disappointed if I can’t get this one published.

  1. Can you tell us about your upcoming or recently published book?

The one I published just last week is a paranormal mystery based around a bizarre murder within the chapterhouse of an old abbey, now a stately home occupied by an elderly peer and his manservant. The old man is an avid collector of occult objet d’art and the death is related to this, as well as local legends of a ‘black dog’. The detective sent to investigate this finds himself immersed in a nightmare world of spirits, demons and the ghost of his dead daughter who tragically died in a crash seven years previously, very close to the abbey. The idea stemmed from an image that came to me as I was drifting off to sleep one night!

  1. Is anything in your book based on real life experiences or purely all imagination?

Mostly imagination, though (whether I am taken seriously or not is largely immaterial as I know what I have seen) I have witnessed a number of ‘paranormal’ things, including ‘black dog’ sightings over the years.

  1. What project are you working on now?

My next project, And Still the Faer Folk Dance, is based partly on a dream I had as a teenager and is set at the start of WWI up in the northern border of Yorkshire. It is going to be written almost as the memoirs of two people; the first is a woman who was a young girl who saw her father go off to war and return injured in body and mind. She recalls her feelings, thoughts and experiences, including her meeting with the ‘faer-folk’ who appear to her from the old Round Barrows bear a stone circle close to her village. The second character is a Scotsman who writes books about faires but who loses all interest and belief having experienced the war first hand. I have not yet decided how the story ends, so I can’t give away too much more!

  1. Are there certain characters you would like to go back to, or is there a theme or idea you’d love to work with?

I am a huge fan of Robert Rankin with his ‘far-fetched fiction’ and would like to explore a similar idea. I love the crazy humour, tinged with occult/conspiracy theory ideas. Other than that, I like some of the characters I have created and may use them in future. When I discuss them with my wife they sound like real people!

  1. What has been the toughest criticism given to you as an author? What has been the best compliment?

So far I have not received any criticism and though I don’t look forward to it I would try to see it as a positive. Not everyone will like my work, I get that. There are many books I detest, that have received glowing accolades or been bestsellers. I wrote a blog on Goodreads called De gustebus non est disputandum. It means “There’s no accounting for taste” (or something very similar!) and this is very true. I have had some lovely comments and it is no lie to say I appreciate every single one.

  1. Do you have any advice to give to aspiring writers?

Keep going, don’t give up, don’t listen to those who say it’s too hard or not worth it. If you are writing, you are a writer – don’t let anyone tell you otherwise!

  1. Is there anything that you would like to say to your readers and fans?

Just, thank you. I’m not conceited enough to say I have ‘fans’ but I know people have read, and enjoyed, my work so far. I can’t thank those people enough for taking the time to read my books. It means a hell of a lot to me.

Please join me in thanking Jon for his honest assessment of the industry and for sharing his experiences. If you would like to ask any further questions, please either use the facilities available below or contact Jon via the following links.

Please show your appreciation by checking out Jon’s work on Amazon:

Amazon: https://www.amazon.co.uk/s/ref=dp_byline_sr_book_1?ie=UTF8&text=Jon+Clynch&search-alias=books-uk&field-author=Jon+Clynch&sort=relevancerank

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/AuthorJonClynch/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/JonClynch

Goodreads: www.goodreads.com/jonclynch

An interview with thriller author, James McCrone

I am very pleased to announce a new initiative, alongside a few of my fellow pen wielding brethren, to create a platform which will allow readers to interact and get to know the authors behind the pages of their favourite (or soon to be favourite) books.

With this in mind I am excited to introduce the very talented, James McCrone, author of Faithless Elector and Dark Network, the first two books in the Imogen Trager series of political thrillers. It has been a privilege to hear from him and a great opportunity to discover not only how he achieved his dream, but also learn from the successes and failures he encountered along the way.

1. Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?
Thanks for the opportunity, Mark. I’m James McCrone, and as you’ve said, author of Faithless Elector and Dark Network, book one and two in the Imogen Trager series.
I’m writing the third book right now, working title Who Governs. I live in Philadelphia, PA, with my wife and two of our three children. I have an MFA from the University of Washington in Seattle. National Book Award winner, Charles Johnson (Middle Passage) was the chair of my committee. I’ve been writing (and reading) for as long as I can remember. Telling stories is how I make sense of the world, and it wasn’t until I was 10 or 12 years old that I realized not everyone was like that.
2. What do you do when you are not writing?
I work, I read my ever-growing TBR pile. Becoming active on social media has greatly increased my scope for reading. It’s a wonderful, unintended consequence! I love to cook, too. I’ve worked in restaurants for a large part of my life, both in the front of house and behind the stove. I have a play in mind-set in a busy New York City kitchen as my next work.
3. Do you have a day job as well?
I’m the part-time business manager for the South 9th Street/Italian Market Business Association here in Philadelphia. I love the Market, and it keeps me in touch with great food, great characters and some interesting stories—many I’ll never be able to tell!
4. When did you first start writing and when did you finish your first book?
I’ve always told stories, and I really started putting them down when I was as young as 10 or 12. As I said before, it came as a bit of a surprise to find that not everyone did that.
I wrote my first novel in 1990, a coming-of-age story called The Quickest of Us. I’m afraid I wasn’t able to interest anyone in it, and it remains a manuscript on a shelf in my office. I wrote the first draft of Faithless Elector prior to the 2000 general election, but again, couldn’t interest anyone in it. After the 2000 election, when the Electoral College vote was so close, I thought maybe it was time to try again. After being unsuccessful that time, too, I put it away for many years. It wasn’t until 2015, when my wife and I were in the UK, that I decided I’d work on it again and get it out there.
5. How did you choose the genre you write in and where do you get your ideas?
This is an interesting question. It’s hard to admit, but for a long time in my twenties and early thirties (I’m 54 now) I think I was trying to be someone else in my writing, and the work suffered for it. The past 13 or 14 years have been a process of stripping away some of the artifice and mannerisms I’d allowed to infect my writing. Before, I was writing about things that didn’t matter to me because (I guess) I thought it was what others wanted to read, and my ambivalence came through on the page. There’s a hollow ring to some of the passages from that time that embarrasses and depresses me.
This is a long way around to saying that I went back to what I loved—thrillers, espionage, plausible conspiracies and whodunnits. I love the novels of John Le Carre, Frederick Forsyth, William McIlvanney and Graham Greene. I like that they combine a spare prose with engaging, intriguing ideas. Moreover, within the plot they’re not afraid to spend time on big questions or to linger over beauty. Those are the stories I’m drawn to, and those are the stories I want to write.
As to where my ideas come from, they come from real life. I’m intrigued by the other half of a story, the unspoken part of an official explanation.
6. Do you ever experience writer’s block?
Yes, and it’s brutal. Usually, it’s because I’ve lost the plot, or something I thought would be good has been exposed as unworkable.
7. Do you work with an outline, or just write?
I do both. I begin with sketches, ideas, and I just write. By the time I have about 25-30 pages written, I see what it is I want to do and how to get there. Then I outline. I find, however, that my outline usually has to be revised by about chapter four or five in the MS. Often, the plot I’ve sketched in the outline and the direction of the story begin to diverge. At that point, I have to assess whether I’m following some self-indulgent tangent, or whether the story is taking me in a new, surprising way. The outline is useful as background, but if the story and/or characters are taking the writer in new and surprising ways, it’s more likely a reader will also find it engaging and surprising.
8. Is there any particular author or book that influenced you in any way either growing up or as an adult?
I’ve mentioned Le Carre, McIlvanney, Forsyth, and Greene as early favorites; but I would say the work of George Orwell and Joseph Heller electrified me to the possibilities of language, its power and its subversive elements; of the need to see things from different perspectives.
9. Can you tell us about your challenges in getting your first book published?
When I first started shopping Faithless Elector around, I had lovely rejection letters—far better than those that came with Quickest of Us years earlier. They would praise the timeliness, the setting, or the characters, but in the end they would say things like it was “too far-fetched,” or “no one knows or cares about the Electoral College.” I think they do now!
After failing for a number of years to get a traditional agent and a publisher, I seized the opportunity in 2015 when we went to Britain. My wife was at Oxford University on a fellowship leave, and I, being a foreigner, didn’t have a work permit. My days were my own. I had wanted just this situation for years. I decided, as the English say, to really “push the boat out.” I found an editor, and we reworked the book. It was in good shape by early 2016, and I hoped that publishing it early in an election year would help it stand out. It worked pretty well.
10. If you had to go back and do it all over, is there any aspect of your novel or getting it published that you would change?
I have no regrets, and I try not to second-guess my choices—particularly since with both books I’ve spent a year or more going over it again and again. At a certain point, I think, you have to let it go and move to the next project.
11. How do you market your work? What avenues have you found to work best for your genre?
Learning how to market my work effectively has been a long, painful process. I have limited funds, so I send to Publishers Weekly, Kirkus, Midwest Book Review, book-bloggers and other writer friends looking for (good) reviews that can go into my marketing materials. For both books, I’ve done a Goodreads giveaway, which was somewhat effective, and I use Facebook and Twitter liberally. I have found that personal appearances are the best: book launches, readings, book fairs and the like. I also go around to local bookstores with my sell-sheets and collateral material. Independent bookstores are fantastic. It’s the rare bookstore that won’t agree to carry at least two copies of the book.
12. Have you written a book you love that you have not been able to get published?
I love Quickest, but frankly I’m glad it’s not out there. I might one day be able to rework it, but for now, the shelf is the best place for it.
13. Can you tell us about your upcoming or recently published book?
Dark Network (2017) is the most recently published novel in the Imogen Trager series. (Who Governs will be out next year.)
In Dark Network, Imogen Trager, the determined heroine of the “highly suspenseful” thriller, Faithless Elector, returns. Pushed to the edges of the investigation for her conduct during the Faithless Elector plot, she starts digging where no else thinks to look.
She enlists the help of a computer analyst, Trey Kelly. Together, by scrutinizing gaps in the FBI’s data, they find the backdoor no one thought to lock, uncovering the trail of a vast, coordinated group of criminal cells woven into a sinister dark network, with threads leading everywhere.
She’ll have to fight against time, the network, and even her own colleagues to stop a conspiracy bent on stealing the presidency. In the process, she’ll have to confront her own views on what the Constitution is meant to protect and who she’s becoming. Even if she and Trey are successful, what kind of America will remain?
14. Is anything in your book based on real life experiences or purely all imagination?
Both books in the Imogen Trager series have their genesis in the quirky laws of United States, particularly as they pertain to election of the president. They are a trilogy, but they’re also written to stand alone (no homework required!).
15. What project are you working on now?
I’m finishing the first draft of the final book in the Imogen Trager series, working title Who Governs. Imogen and her team will reveal who the conspirators are, but will the revelation be in time to stop them?
16. Will you have a new book coming out soon?
Who Governs should be out in the Spring of 2019. The first two books, Faithless Elector and Dark Network are available now.
17. Are there certain characters you would like to go back to, or is there a theme or idea you’d love to work with?
Imogen Trager is one character I keep coming back to. And I have an idea for a fourth book involving her. Earlier, you asked about outline vs. just writing, and Imogen is the product of the divergence of which I spoke. Pretty early on in the re-writing of Faithless, I realized it would be a trilogy, and at about the same time, I realized Imogen was the driving force. She had started out as something of a “bit player” in the outline, but she kept stealing scenes. Without getting too mystical about the process, I think it’s important, as a writer, to “listen” to what the story is telling you to do. I did, and I reworked the stories with her playing a much larger role.
As to themes, my work deals with issues of personal and social responsibility and political accountability. I’m also fascinated by the notion of path-dependence; that how you start something has an outsized effect on how you go forward. I’m not entirely sure what I’ll do with that idea, but it’s intriguing to think about how what we do might have been shaped by earlier choices. We think we’re acting, but in reality we’re following a well-worn path…
18. What has been the toughest criticism given to you as an author? What has been the best compliment?
My editor gives some of the most unvarnished, paint-stripper lethal criticism I have encountered. But frankly, I’d rather deal with it from him in the work-in-progress stage than when the book is out in the world. To be fair to my editor (and he’s not only negative), there’s no doubt in my mind he makes the books better, so I swallow my pride and work on whatever it is that’s put him in such high dudgeon. I’ve been fortunate that both books have been well received.
As to the best compliment, I’ll give you one of my favorites: it was when I was still at university, and a short-story of mine came out in a special fiction section of the school paper, the UW Daily. The short story was a comic love story, and a friend told me that two fellow students—a young woman and a young man—were sitting in the back of her class, not listening to the lecture, but reading different parts of my story back and forth to each other and genuinely enjoying it, laughing at all the good bits.
19. Do you have any advice to give to aspiring writers?
I have done so much wrong that I’m not sure I can give advice, so I’ll say what I’ve found to be true: the writer is in service to the story and its characters.
That statement is in many ways a platitude, a cliché, but I’ve spent years trying to live up to it. Stripping away my self to get at what’s necessary to the story has been the hardest thing I’ve done, and the most rewarding. It’s also a continuous process, every time you sit down.
20. Is there anything that you would like to say to your readers and fans?
Thank you for taking these stories and these characters to heart.

Please join me in thanking James for his candid and open replies. If you would like to ask any further questions, please either use the facilities available below or contact James via the following links.

Please show your appreciation by checking out James’ work on Amazon:

Amazon Author page: https://amzn.to/2Hlp12h

Facebook Author page: https://www.facebook.com/FaithlessElector/
-or- “@faithlesselector”
Twitter: https://twitter.com/jamesmccrone4
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/james.mccrone/

 

The Atlantis Deception

Fully funded! Thank you so much to all those who believed in the project. The copy edit is almost complete and the cover art will be released soon for comments. Please register your support and give yourself the chance of winning the limited edition supporters pack, including posters, postcards and a t-shirt. Join our team and pledge your support at:

https://unbound.com/books/the-atlantis-deception/

Logo

Lost cities, secret societies, Nazi archaeology and Atlantis. Join Dr John Hunter in his unrelenting quest to unveil the hidden and explosive beginnings to civilisation.

A German property developer, Hans Hoffmann, revels in the belief he has discovered the key to unleashing the weapon responsible for sinking Atlantis. Hoffmann requests the help of Cambridge archaeologist, Dr John Hunter to validate his mysterious find. Hunter’s acceptance leads the maverick academic on a journey from the headquarters of a clandestine organisation in England, to a lost city in the heart of the Brazilian Rainforest, and climaxes inside a chamber hidden deep beneath Egyptian Heliopolis. Pioneering theory is spliced by epic battles, daring escapes, and elaborate schemes aimed at unravelling a secret history hidden from humanity for the past twelve thousand years.

Atlantis is a very visual word. A word evoking mystery, forgotten realms, underwater palaces… the list goes on. I find this Plato inspired concept of Atlantis fascinating and read anything and everything I can lay my hands on. The theories are diverse and range from the feasible to the outlandish but certain concepts kept reoccurring. The Atlantis Deception takes the ideas of accepted and alternative theory, weaving them together to create a feasible universe where our past still dictates our future.

The novel follows the trials and tribulations of a fictional Cambridge academic, Dr John Hunter. The focus is not on Atlantis itself, but rather on what happened to its people it the wake of the loss of their homeland. The Atlantis Deception is a classic action adventure tale with heroes, villains, shadowy organisations and self-serving plots, each of them underpinned by progressive archaeological theory. The novel is written with the aim of both exciting and making readers think in equal measure. Although imagined, many of the conclusions the characters reach are cutting edge and described in such a way so as to blur the line between fact and fiction.

I am very excited to announce I am collaborating with Southampton based artist, John Howse (XWWX). An incredibly talented artist credited with creating some truly amazing imagery. Inspired by the themes of the novel, John has agreed to take on the task of creating the internal illustrations and a number of additional canvases to be used to fulfil certain pledge levels. Please do check these out, John’s work is highly collectable and these limited edition prints and originals will not be around for long.

XWWX ATLANTIS NEON LAPIS Print

Self Editing and Pro Writing Aid

A few years ago, after fiddling around for the umpteenth time with my first novel I happened across a conversation on one of the various boards I’m affiliated with. The discussion concerned professional editing, the huge cost and what one might do to mitigate such cost. A larger than life contributor started by informing me (without reading any of my work) that no one should publish their first novel. Apparently all first novels are only good for one thing, the slush pile and learning how not to find oneself in the slush pile again. Having spent hundreds of hours honing my characters and plot, this wasn’t quite what I’d hoped to hear. With a sigh I could almost hear through my router, the lady in question pointed me in the direction of two online editing tools; Autocrit and Pro Writing Aid.

“Log in, upload your work and either of them will tell you how far you are behind the curve.”

With a, ’I’ll show you,’ attitude, I dutifully did as I was told. I’ve been hooked ever since.

The entirety of my 105,000 word tome has now passed through Pro Writing Aid and I feel I can comment with a degree of expertise on its functionality. I have tried Autocrit but the price held me back from engaging fully.

For the purpose of this blog however, I’ve decided to give them a side by side test using a few paragraphs from my latest novel, ‘The First Shot Fired, Rosewell.’ Although a PWA user, I will attempt to approach this as a neutral.

(Ten minutes later) I’ve just attempted to elicit the free analysis from Autocrit and stumbled into a slight problem – Autocrit no longer provides a ‘free’ analysis, but rather a very generic report (https://www.autocrit.com/). The Autocrit team then require a payment of $30 before I can proceed to see the detail. The interface itself is impressive and the slaes pitch certainly says all the right things. However, given the free version of PWA exists I can’t really see the benefit of paying so much (I bought a two year licence to the premium version of PWA for $40).

Glancing through their sales pitch I have noticed something new – advertised as follows:

‘Want to know how your writing stacks up against other published works of fiction? AutoCrit compares words and sentence constructions from your manuscript to successful published fiction, including mass-market paperbacks and bestsellers.’

It might be a gimmick, but it sounds interesting! I’m still not convinced though; as far as I can see the free version of PWA does virtually everything AutoCrit does, and in my opinion, a little more. I know more is not always necessarily better, but when it comes to free, it’s hard to beat.

To give an idea of what the PWA software can do I uploaded a few hundred words into the programme and received the following comprehensive report:

Key Actions

  1. A high “glue index” suggests you’re using lots of filler words. Try reducing these. Look at the sticky sentences section below for more specific guidance.

Document Statistics (The key statistics about your document)

594 Word Count

95 Sentences

61 Paragraphs

2,568 Characters

No Spaces

3,396 Characters

With Spaces

Vocabulary

318 Unique Words

291 Word Families

Most Unusual Words

  1. yup
  2. granddad
  3. nappies
  4. refocusing
  5. smirked

Most Used Words

the 37
and 14
of 13
to 10
on 9
a 9
in 9
John 8
‘s 8
Major 8

Your vocabulary was more dynamic (unique words/total) than 52% of ProWritingAid users

Readability Measures (Your text analyzed using common readability measures)

Tip! Readability scores are calculated using a combination of words per sentence and syllables per word. Grade Scores correspond to US school grades. i.e. 5th Grade is very easy to read and easily understood by an average 11-year-old student. To improve readability use shorter words and sentences.

84 Flesch Reading Ease

Target > 60

Grade Level Measures

Flesch-Kincaid Grade 3.1
Coleman-Liau 4.9
Automated Readability Index 2.1
Dale-Chall Grade 7 – 8

Other Measures

Flesch Reading Ease 84.1
Dale-Chall 6.6

Readability by Paragraph

 

22 Easy-to-Read Paragraphs

1 Slightly Difficult-to-Read Paragraph

2 Very Difficult-to-Read Paragraphs

Overused Words (Words and phrases that are overused compared to published books)

Tip! We compare your document to published writing in the same genre to show overused words and constructs. Identifying and reducing these will improve your writing. Note: Often this requires more than substituting a different word.

1 Overused Words

generic descriptions (watch/notice/observe/very) 3 Reduce by 1

14 Not Overused

have 4 Not overused
just/then 4 Not overused
could 2 Not overused
feel/feels/feeling/felt 1 Not overused
believe/think 1 Not overused

Sentence Structure

Tip! Varying your sentence length keeps the reader engaged. Too many long sentences are hard to read.

5.9 Sentence Variety

Target > 3

6.3 Sentence Length

Target between 11 and 18

0 Long Sentences

Your sentence variety was higher than 30% of ProWritingAid users

Your sentence length was higher than 12% of ProWritingAid users

Sentence Lengths (The length of all the sentences in your document. Varying your sentence length engages your reader.)

Tip! Look for areas where all your sentences are around the same length. These areas will benefit from more variety to maintain the reader’s interest.

 

Writing Style

Tip! Highlights common style issues such as passive voice, hidden verbs and adverb usage.

4 Passive Index

Target < 25

0 Hidden Verbs

Target 0

3 Adverbs

2 outside Dialogue

Most Used Adverbs

Surely 1
exceptionally 1
instantaneously 1

0 Repeated Sentence Starts

Target 0

4 Style Suggestions

Top Style Suggestions

You have to let Let 1
began pointing – pointed 1
in turn (omit) 1
Alright – All right 1

Your readability was better (suggestions/sentences) than 78% of ProWritingAid users

Grammar & Spelling

29 Grammar Issues

Top Grammar Suggestions

15
‘Because I still have an ounce of 1
‘What more can there be? We’re stood 1
‘Dr Hunter, what you know is just 1
‘Yup,’ said the Major. ‘Look at Nazi Germany. If 1

1 Spelling Issues

Top Spelling Suggestions

iPhone – orphan|earphone|oven|affine|avenue 1

Your grammar was better (mistakes/sentences) than 67% of ProWritingAid users

Sticky Sentences (Sticky Sentences contain too many common words. They slow your reader down.)

Tip! Sticky sentences are ones containing a high percentage of glue words. Glue words are the 200 or so most common words in English (excluding the personal pronouns). You can think of the glue words as the empty space in your writing. The more of them there are the more empty space your readers have to pass through to get to the actual meaning. By cutting down the amount of glue words in your sentences you help expose the true meaning and make the reader’s job easier.

8 Sticky Sentences

Target 0

46.5% Glue Index

Target < 40%

Your glue index was better (glue words/total) than 30% of ProWritingAid users

Dialogue

13.6% Dialogue

52.9% Dialogue Tagged

Top Dialogue Tags

say 7
ask 1
retort 1

Your use of dialogue tags was higher than 73% of ProWritingAid users

Pacing (Shows areas of slower pacing by looking at verb tenses.)

Tip! Dark areas in the chart indicate areas of slow pacing (backstory in creative writing). Where you have large chunks of slower pacing, try to add some faster pacing to keep the reader more engaged.

1.4% Slow Pacing

Transitions (Looks at words and phrases that link your writing together)

Tip! Transitions are useful when you’re trying to structure an argument. They link your sentences together forming a flowing and cohesive structure.

3.2% Transitions

Target > 25%

Top Transitions

since 2
Surely 1

Repeated Phrases

Top 3-word phrases

let us help 2
to the next 2
the Major pulled 2

Top 2-word phrases

the Major 8
said John 3
Got it 2
the door 2
his body 2

Top 1-word phrases

said 8
John 6
door 4
just 4
Solomon 3

Cliches & Redundancies (Cliches can make your writing sound tired)

0 Cliches

1 Redundancies

Top Redundancies Found

hurry it up 1

Consistency (Checks for consistent spelling, hyphenation and capitalization.)

1 Inconsistent Spelling

Target 0

0 Inconsistent Hyphenation

Target 0

2 Inconsistent Capitalization

Target 0

Usage Consistency

Curls/Smart Double Quotes 2
Straight Double Quotes 0
Curly/Smart Single Quotes 73
Straight Single Quotes 0
Ellipsis characters 1 Fix
Three dots 1 Fix
Hyphens 3
En-dash 0
Em-dash 0

Other Items

Diction

up 3 Avoid using prepositions such as “up” as the last word in a sentence
of 2 Avoid using prepositions such as “of” as the last word in a sentence
about 1 Avoid using prepositions such as “about” as the last word in a sentence
as 1 Avoid using prepositions such as “as” as the last word in a sentence
at 1 Avoid using prepositions such as “at” as the last word in a sentence

Vague & Abstract Words

all 2 Vague
like 2 Vague
cold 1 Vague
about 1 Vague
would 1 Vague

Corporate Wording

exceptionally 1 Try to use a simpler wording. Examples: only when; in this case

 

As you can see the report is very comprehensive and will certainly give even the most pedantic of writers something to think about. Although I must admit to ignoring at least half the reports, the grammar/spelling, repeated words, consistency, and adverb reports have been a godsend.

I’m currently in the middle of crowdfunding my first novel, The Atlantis Deception, via Unbound.com. I firmly believe they would have rejected it had the novel not been edited via PWA before submission. With any luck the copy editing process will also be less traumatic!

In summary, if you are considering using an online editing tool, and have sufficient funds, I’d suggest comparing the two yourself. If not just go with Pro Writing Aid and see how you get on. It is free and good free stuff is hard to pass up.

If you have found this blog useful I would really appreciate your support in pledging to publish, ‘The Atlantis Deception.’ The £10 pledge is currently half price with promo code atlantis5. Thank you for your time and I look forward to hearing from you.

https://unbound.com/books/the-atlantis-deception/

Best wishes, Mark

(I should add I’m not affiliated to either programme in any way – just though it would make an interesting blog!)

Wattpad, Inkitt, Critiquecircle and Unbound – Navigating Writing Websites for the Uninitiated

There are number of outlets for publishing your work on the internet and some are better than others. Over the years I have used four platforms to have my work both critiqued and read: Wattpad.com, cirtiquecircle.com, Inkitt.com, Unbound.com and Authonomy (now deceased).

The biggest of the sites and perhaps the most famous is Wattpad. Boasting an audience of 45 million and over 300 million uploaded books Wattpad felt like the place to start if I were to build a following for my work. I uploaded Atlantis Reborn chapter by chapter over the course of two or three months and set up residence on the club pages, offering advice and help in return for some small promotion of the novel. It was a tough introduction into social media but one that I needed and the experience has held me in good stead for what was to come. I still remember feeling so proud when the novel hit 100 reads!

As with most things in life, you get out what you put in. I (perhaps misguidedly) joined Wattpad after hearing that if you do well there is a good chance of being picked up for publication. Although the chances of being plucked from obscurity to international acclaim is unlikely, even if your work does moderately well, at the very least Wattpad notoriety is something tangible to include in submission letters – should the traditional publication route be your goal. On that point you should note that if you do post a novel online it will lose its first publication rights. This is looked upon unfavourably by many of the big publishing houses. Ironically the same publishers that insist you prove you work can attract an audience – Catch 22!

After realising this a little too late I decided to use my first novel as an advert for the second and treated Wattpad for what it is – a platform to build an audience.

There are two distinct groups on the site; the writers and the readers. There are a huge number of subscribers in the under 18 category, but given the size of their readership, still more than enough to satisfy for most authors to find a readership, whatever your genre.

As a new writer, as I see it your job is to promote your work until it becomes both visible and viable. Treat Wattpad as a kind of safe beginner’s introduction to the world of publication. If you are successful on Wattpad (promoting, reviewing, blogging, tweeting, joining in with forum debates etc.) the experience should provide you with the skills and confidence to apply them in the big bad world of paid publishing. If you do well enough, Wattpad will give something back for all your hard work. From my point of view I was promoted as a featured author and my book even appeared at Comi-con a couple of years ago, associated with the TV series ‘The Dig’. The site are also constantly running various writing competitions throughout the year which again can only look good on a CV if you are lucky enough to win one.

The second of the sites I posted on was Inkitt, which is essentially Wattpad on a smaller scale. The biggest difference in how they market themselves is the analytics. They claim if you prove you have a readership interacting with your novel you will win a publishing deal. This is what drew me in but after a few months the standard and genre of books winning prizes did not inspire me and eventually I removed my work from the site. I have since been told their publishing terms require a 15 year association with their label which seems excessive, especially if the book doesn’t sell.

Criqiquecircle.com is a website I would recommend to anyone involved in writing and interested in improving their craft. The site is free (although there is a paid version) and revolves around reciprocal critiquing. For every chapter you read and review you will receive a credit. Credits can them be cashed by submitting your own work. You need a thick skin as some of the critics can be quite tough on you, some of it warranted but some not. It does hurt, especially at first but it is all part of the learning process. My advice would be to try not to be precious about anything. Take onboard advice you agree with and dismiss what you don’t. That said, if a few people pick up on the same point it might be wise to take notice!

My final port of call is the crowdfunding publisher, Unbound.com. They are a relatively new publishing house and one that has recently taken me under their wing. They may be young but already they can count established names such as Kate Mosse, Terry Jones, Tony Hawks, Andy Hamilton and Katy Brand amongst their clientele.

All crowdfunded monies go directly into supporting the book. It covers copyediting, proofing, cover design, typesetting and eventually marketing. To date, the Unbound community has pledged over £3 million to a variety of projects, ranging from an anthology on race and identity in contemporary Britain to a compilation of terrible old video games you’ve probably never heard of.

Over 113,247 people from every corner of the globe have supported an Unbound project and helped make that idea a reality. To date, Unbound have published 218 books and many of these have been bestsellers and received critical acclaim (included being long listed for the Man Booker Prize). I am proud to have been given the opportunity to bolster that number with my own work.

If you haven’t heard of Unbound I suggest visiting their website. In my opinion this is the seed of change the publishing industry needs to wake it up and end their reliance on the so called super-authors such as King, Rowling and Brown.

Thank you for reading and I hope you can find the time to visit my campaign page and perhaps pledge your support.

https://unbound.com/books/the-atlantis-deception/

Best wishes,

Mark

BECOMING AN EFFECTIVE MEMBER OF THE TWITTERATI – PITFALLS TO AVOID FOR AUTHORS

After struggling my way through Social Media like many of my contemporaries, I decided the time has come to put a few of my discoveries down on paper – or onscreen in this case.

In the last few years, like many others I’ve attempted to grow my readership using a number of platforms: Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, Linkedin, Wattpad and of course, Twitter. This is not an exhaustive list but merely the sites with which I’ve had at least a degree of success. The latter is my current medium of choice (simply due the huge footfall the site attracts), so the decision to choose Twitter as the primary focus for this particular blog was easy.

I’ve heard many of my peers bemoaning Twitter and advising me to steer clear as it doesn’t work and people don’t interact. Ignore anyone telling you this. This is simply not true and merely a indictment of their own misunderstanding as to how the site should be used. Believe me it is a daunting prospect and I’m not surprised people are left floundering on a metaphorical beach, gasping for air.

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PITFALL ONE – YOUR BIO

Does this look familiar?

Author of 5-star #thriller CLOUDS AND CONCRETE available for #Kindle. Fervent #manutd fan, #cats, and #cycling.

So many of us adopt this style (I did) and now know it scares potential followers rather than attracting them into the fold.

Hashtags are a complete no no for one. They are difficult and annoying for people to read. The mini advert also suggests the author will spam followers into buying their book should they choose to follow. Again avoid the tactic if possible. Shouting about your book’s star rating on amazon, or comparing it to Lord of the Rings will only come across as arrogant. Your bio will not sell books. The subject matter and how the follow relates to it is much more important.

It is fine to spam, but do so as tweets mingled with other more ‘interesting’ tweets. Sayings and quotes are perhaps the most popular way of doing this. This will not only humanize you, but also allow you to tweet at least a limited amount of advertising ‘spam’ without annoying followers.

Remember the bio is about you. Talk about what you write and why you are unique; Mention topics you will be tweeting. Your bio needs to inspire people enough to hit the follow button.

PITFALL TWO – AUTOMATED MESSAGES

How often to you hit follow only for an automated advert to flick up on your screen. How often do you read them? If you’re like me, virtually never! They just serve to annoy so avoid them. You instantly fall into the category of a marketing bot rather than a real person. Humanizing yourself is the only way to get results on Twitter so don’t put yourself on the back foot before you begin.

The same goes for automated tweets. That said I do use them through the night to promote to my American audience but rarely during the day. As I said above, mixing adverts and tweets of general interest is paramount to attracting followers. Reacting to world events and tragedies is a must. How distasteful would it be for adverts to go out in the wake of a terrorist attack, for example?

PITFALL THREE – PROTECTING YOUR TWEETS

Obvious, but don’t do it. Remember the point of social media is to be accessible. Forcing people to go through TRUETWIT validation or some other mechanism is a waste of time and who wants to risk being rejected.

PITFALL FOUR – HASHTAGS

Hashtags will promote traffic but make sure the hashtags you use are relevant. If you use an abandoned hashtag you may as well not use one at all! You can check a hashtag is being used by checking it yourself (search Twitter) or use a bespoke website like Hashtags.org.

PITFALL FIVE – LISTS

If you don’t group your followers you should start. I’ve only just started and it is a lifesaver (in terms of time). Tweets coming out of each group can be highlighted using programs such as TweetDeck or Hootsuite.

Lists can also aid in making connections with specific groups – agents, editors, cover artists etc. They are also invaluable in helping build relationships with other writers; keeping track of subject matter experts for potential plot lines; and if you’re lucky for staying in touch with fans.

I hope this has been of benefit and I would appreciate it if you could like or share the post.

I am still actively seeking pledges for my latest novel, ‘The Atlantis Deception’ which I am aiming to publish with the crowdfunding publisher, Unbound. Please check out the project at https://unbound.com/books/the-atlantis-deception/ and perhaps consider becoming a patron of the creative arts.

 

 

The Atlantis of Heinrich Himmler and Nazi Germany

Heinrich Himmler is one of the central characters in Part Two of my upcoming novel, The Atlantis Deception. I thought I would take a moment to acquaint potential readers with a little background to this infamous individual.

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Reichsführer Himmler is widely recognised amongst historians as the second most powerful man in Nazi Germany. As Chief of the German Police and the Minister of the Interior, he oversaw the affairs of all internal and external police forces as well as the German security forces; security forces that included the feared units of the SS and the Gestapo. He is known to have been fiercely protective of his involvement in developing the SS; taking great pride in helping to design and approve the black uniform and distinctive lightning strike insignia.

Himmler infamously presided over the holocaust and as the figurehead of the atrocity attracted sole responsibility for coordinating the deaths of over 10 million “enemies” of Germany. Indeed, after visiting one of his numerous concentration camps, he took the decision to implement the use of gas chambers. The idea being it would prove a more cost effective and efficient method of execution when compared with bullets. Himmler was one of the most dangerous and influential men in the Third Reich; it was a shame that his cowardly suicide robbed the West of its chance to put him on trial in Nurnberg.

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Himmler’s corpse in Allied custody after his suicide by poison, 1945

There is however, a little more to Heinrich Himmler than the cold and calculating war criminal history has grown to despise. He kept a series of diaries from the age of 10, diaries perhaps evidencing metal illness, illness manifesting itself in a fear and subsequent hate for all ‘foreign’ outsiders. The hate jumps from the pages and was something he carried from childhood to adulthood before finding acceptance in the confines of the Nazi Party; an environment where it blossomed into something almost inhuman and consumed him. The diary entries make it clear that, although Hitler and other leading lights within the Party could certainly be considered active racists, some of them can be considered almost left wing when compared to Himmler.

The Reichsführer was certainly not shy of this fact and indeed it is well known he thrived on his reputation as a racist in the extremist sense of the word. What is less well known is how Himmler sought to justify his stance using archaeology. Armed with a huge budget, he commissioned a variety of archaeological and anthropological projects throughout the world, each of them designed to unearth evidence of how the people he considered as Untermensch, or sub-human, genetically pollute the world.

To understand Himmler, one has to understand the world within which he lived and unfortunately thrived within. It is well documented that Adolf Hitler’s National Socialist German Workers’ Party can be traced back to the Munich chapter of a small organisation known as the Thule Society. Founded sometime around 1910, the core belief of its members pertained to the conviction that the Germanic based Aryan race were the direct descendants of the survivors of the Atlantean Apocalypse. However, once the Thule Society had served its purpose in providing Hitler with a public platform, he, perhaps wisely, rejected this core principle; choosing merely to incorporate and adopt the Society’s recognisable swastika logo into his new regime.

History records that Heinrich Himmler did not actually have any direct links to the Thule Society, yet nonetheless he was fascinated with the alleged Aryan link to Atlantis. He believed as descendants of a civilisation mythology leads us to believe was far superior to anything else existing at that time; it followed that those with Aryan blood should also be considered as superior to those around them. In his eyes the world was contaminated and continuing to be contaminated by ‘sub human’ societies. These Untermensch were diluting the blood line and he believed knowingly interbreeding with his beloved Aryans; the sole aim being to steal their ‘superior’ genetics.

Paranoia set it and concerned this interbreeding was effectively wiping out the Aryan race, he decided to take a stand on behalf of what he perceived to be ancestors. His dark hair and weasel-like features not deterring him from the belief he was of Aryan descent.

As a result, through a combination of these misguided fanatical beliefs and his supreme position of power in the Third Reich, Himmler instigated, what he saw as a programme of justified genocide.

Himmler was convinced his standpoint was right, but he wasn’t stupid. He realised that eventually the rest of the high command, and indeed Germany in general, would eventually require proof of this Aryan link to Atlantis and the conspiracy to eradicate it. Once the war was over, whatever the outcome, both he and Hitler must have been aware a time might arrive when they’d have to justify their use of concentration camps; as well as the many other atrocities that were committed in their names.

Therefore, in 1935, with the consent of the Fuhrer, Himmler established the Ahnenerbe, the ancestral heritage branch of the SS.

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Emblem of the Ahnenerbe

Under his direct command, the unit was primarily tasked with investigating the Aryan bloodline and over the next few years, undertook numerous projects designed to uncover the supremacist proof that Himmler so craved. Although carrying out much of their work in Europe, Himmler famously funded expeditions into Tibet and the Andes. It was in the former locale the team is alleged to have struck lucky. Although the find was never made public, amongst a number of ancient texts, it is believed the expedition leader, Ernst Schafer, presented Himmler with at least one document pertaining to the origin of the Aryan race. Unfortunately, from the point of view of archaeology, the end of the war followed soon afterwards and with Himmler’s suicide, the funding and the trail ended there.

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Ernst Schäfer in Tibet, 1938

So what did Schafer find? Evidence of a lost civilisation; a sunken kingdom; proof that the Aryan race was in fact related to Atlantis? Whatever it was, if indeed it ever existed, and depending upon what it actually said, Himmler must have either destroyed it or locked it away. Maybe locked away in the hope of a successful defection at the end of the war. A defection allowing him to one day return to his quest and trumpet the truth to the world.

History, unfortunately for Reichsführer Himmler, had other ideas.

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The Real Indiana Jones

Colonel Percy Fawcett

It may not be a name you are aware of (unless you have watched the recent Amazon film – The Lost City of Z), but Fawcett is alleged to be the inspiration behind the beloved fictional archaeologist, Indiana Jones. Fawcett’s Amazonian field reports were also read by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, inspiring him to write his seminal novel, The Lost World.

During his travels Fawcett recorded his many exploits in a number of handwritten journals; accounts that have most recently surfaced in David Grann’s excellent retelling of his adventures in his book, The lost City of Z.

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The book seamlessly fills in the blanks weaving together a compilation of various extracts from the Colonel’s field notes recorded between 1906 and 1925. There are a number of highlights such as crossing paths with killing a 62 foot giant anaconda, recording unknown animals including an odd cat-like dog, the double nosed Andean tiger hound and the giant Apazauca spider.

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Throughout his various expeditions Fawcett became convinced of the existence of an ancient civilisation, now lost to time which once existed in the Matto Grosso region of Brazil. He claimed to have seen the city, which for the sake of ease he labelled “Z,” and set out on his final expedition in 1925, determined to bring back evidence.

Along with his eldest son, Fawcett never returned from his final adventure, disappearing in unknown circumstances and with his death, the location of Z perished with him.

The journals are a goldmine of ideas for writers and it is easy to see why George Lucas and Conan Doyle pounced upon them. Intriguingly, Fawcett makes it clear the evidence he uncovered in Brazil was enough to convince him absolutely that Z was an offshoot of Atlantean civilisation. A city of refugees founded when Atlantis fell.

“the connection of Atlantis with parts of what is now Brazil is not to be dismissed contemptuously, and belief in it — with or without scientific corroboration — affords explanations for many problems which otherwise are unsolved mysteries.” (Lost Trails, Lost Cities, pp. 15-17)

“I expect the ruins to be monolithic in character, more ancient than the oldest Egyptian discoveries. Judging by inscriptions found in many parts of Brazil, the inhabitants used an alphabetical writing allied to many ancient European and Asian scripts. There are rumours, too, of a strange source of light in the buildings, a phenomenon that filled with terror the Indians who claimed to have seen it.

The central place I call “Z” — our main objective — is in a valley surmounted by lofty mountains. The valley is about ten miles wide, and the city is on an eminence in the middle of it, approached by a barrelled roadway of stone. The houses are low and windowless, and there is a pyramidal temple. The inhabitants of the place are fairly numerous, they keep domestic animals, and they have well-developed mines in the surrounding hills. Not far away is a second town, but the people living in it are of an inferior order to those of “Z.” Farther to the south is another large city, half buried and completely destroyed.”

Many expeditions have attempted to follow in Fawcett’s footsteps and each of them has failed, even one mounted by his own youngest son. Nonetheless, with so much of Brazil still hidden from the naked eye it is not inconceivable that its Rainforest may still hide Fawcett’s lost city.

As his co-ordinates yielded no results, the city has long been dismissed as the mere folly of an eccentric explorer. However, with researchers such as Rand Flem-Ath (The Atlantis Blueprint) offering up new theories as to ancient and long-lost mapping techniques, maybe now is the time to pick our maps back up and re-calculate. Who of us is going to be brave enough to take a chance and act upon the theories of a man who, after all, was the real Indiana Jones…

Pledge and Publish The Atlantis Deception on Unbound. Join Dr John Hunter on his unrelenting quest to uncover the origins of civilisation

https://unbound.com/books/the-atlantis-deception

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The Atlantis Deception on Unbound.com

I am proud to announce my first novel ‘The Atlantis Deception’ has undergone nine weeks of assessment and been accepted by the prestigious Crowdfunding publisher, Unbound.

https://unbound.com/books/the-atlantis-deception/

If you enjoy my style of writing please pledge your support using the above link. There are a number of pledge levels ranging from £10 all the way to £1000. I am very excited to announce I am collaborating with Southampton based artist, John Howse. An incredibly talented artist credited with creating some truly amazing imagery. Inspired by the themes of the novel, John has agreed to take on the task of creating the Cover Art and additional canvases to be used to fulfil certain pledge levels. Please do check these out, John’s work is highly collectable and these limited edition prints and originals will not be around for long.

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To give a little context, please be aware this is nothing like a kickstarter campaign. Unbound are a publisher in their own right. The crowdfunded monies will all go into directly supporting the book; paying for copyediting, proofing, cover design, typesetting and marketing. To date, the Unbound community has pledged over £3 million to a variety of projects, ranging from an anthology on race and identity in contemporary Britain to a compilation of terrible old video games you’ve probably never heard of. They work with new authors such as myself all the way through to television personalities such as Andy Hamilton and Tony Hawks.

Over 113,247 people from every corner of the globe have supported an Unbound project and helped make that idea a reality. To date, Unbound have published 218 books that only exist thanks to the Unbound community. Many of these have been bestsellers and received critical acclaim, and I am proud to be given the opportunity to have my own work bolster that number.

If you haven’t heard of Unbound I suggest visiting their website. In my opinion this is the seed of change the publishing industry needs to wake it up and end their reliance on the so called super-authors such as King, Rowling and Brown.

Thank you for your time and I hope you can find the time to visit my page, maybe pledge your support and make my dream a reality.

Best Wishes, Mark.