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.

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:

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An interview with SciFi/Fantasy author, Anne Elizabeth Winchell

Welcome to the third interview in the series. This afternoon I am delighted to welcome the outstanding science fiction / fantasy novelist, Anne Elizabeth Winchell, author of a number of published works including; The Last War, Dystopian Galaxies: Visions of the Future and Moon of Lycca. It has been fascinating to discover Anne’s journey and I look forward to hearing more from her in the future.


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

As a Millennial female writer, I specialize in science fiction and fantasy and try to prioritize representation of underrepresented groups in my writing. I earned a Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing from Texas State University and I always have at least three writing projects on the go. This May, I published my first novel, a science fiction work entitled The Last War, and a collection of short stories and poetry, Dytopian Galaxies: Visions of the Future. My writing is constantly interrupted by my wonderful cat, who insists on sleeping on my desk and regularly rolls over on my keyboard.

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

When I’m not writing, I’m either teaching, creating digital art assets, or designing video games. For art, I create human figures and poses for artists and video game designers. I also create interactive stories, which are text-based video games available online. I’ll join the occasional protest march as well, and keep up-to-date on politics.

3. Do you have a day job as well? 

My day job is teaching English Composition and Video Game Studies at Texas State University, where I’m also the faculty advisor for the Video Game Club. I teach a variety of classes on how to use writing to promote social justice, and how to write for video games.

4. When did you first start writing and when did you finish your first book?

I started writing speculative fiction as soon as I could write and I finished my first novel in second grade: a thirty-page illustrated dystopian retelling of the Bible set on an alien planet. Drawing the illustrations was almost as much fun as writing the story itself! My first full-length novel was finished in high school, then revised several times and finally partially published as my thesis for my Masters of Fine Arts. I recently revised it yet again and self-published the novel as The Last War.

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

I’ve always been drawn to speculative fiction, though I veer back and forth between science fiction and fantasy. Most of my ideas come from dreams, and I keep a dream journal that I can refer to whenever I’m stuck and looking for new ideas. Occasionally I’ll have an idea for a story that just appears fully-formed and I scramble to write it out before I forget it.

6. Do you ever experience writer’s block? 

Writer’s block can be debilitating, but sometimes it’s also a sign that I’m taking my story towards a dead end and I need to rethink things. I write a minimum of two thousand words a week, even if I’m just rewriting or writing something I’ll never use. Everyone has a certain amount of terrible writing in them and it’s best to get it out when the stakes are low. Sometimes, though, I’ll just stare at the screen and can’t think of a single word. I usually put my story away, do something to take my mind off it entirely, and come back a day or sometimes a week later. The time off gives me time to reconsider and regroup, and I’m usually able to return after a while.

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

My first draft of a novel is usually written very quickly, often in a matter of days, with no planning at all. But I revise every novel to make sure the overall structure works and I’ll use an outline when revising. Occasionally I’ll have a beginning and ending in mind but I’ll be stuck on the middle, and then I use an outline to help bridge that gap.

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

As a child, the Redwall series by Brian Jacques was very influential, as was Dune by Frank Herbert. As I grew older I started reading female authors such as Margaret Atwood, Ursula K. LeGuin, Octavia Butler, and C.S. Friedman, and I felt as though I had found writing that truly spoke to me as a female author.

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

Some challenges I faced in publishing started because I wanted to publish The Last War traditionally, with an agent and a publisher. I started writing to agents and attending conferences over ten years ago and while I received positive feedback, no one actually accepted the book. I took a few years to develop my writing and get an MFA, revised the novel quite a bit, and then chose self-publishing as a way to get my book out to people with fewer hoops to jump through and more control over the finished product.

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? 

The one thing I regret about my publishing experience is that I didn’t have enough confidence in myself and my writing. As I revised and rewrote my novel, I found that what I really loved about the novel was slowly getting written out and by the time I partially published my novel as my thesis, it felt as though the energy of the book had been drained. Once I gained more confidence in myself and my voice, I rewrote my book (again) but added back what I felt was missing and I believe it improved the book immensely.

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

I market my book through reviews and some advertisement on Amazon and Facebook. I had been using a wonderful advertiser that specialized in science fiction, fantasy, webcomics, and fanfiction; however, this advertiser just closed and I’ll be looking for new places.

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

One novel I adore but haven’t published is a dark fantasy novel with some of my best writing, but I’ve had trouble finding representation for it because of the primarily gay/trans characters, which makes it less desirable to some agents and publishers.

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

My recently published novel The Last War is set in a dystopian future sixty years after World War III devastated the globe. WWIII was waged by genetically enhanced superhumans who continue to rule the world with power is balanced between them. When a rogue superhuman appears, she threatens the balance that has prevented another nuclear war and she must work with an ex-revolutionary in order to keep humanity alive.

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

Quite a lot of my writing comes from my life and the world around me. My novel features genetically enhanced superhumans whose DNA has been supplemented with diamond, an idea I had when I first learned about scientists creating liquid diamond. In terms of timing, I set the events of the novel about fifty to sixty years after the last world war, which is about the same time that has passed since World War II. Based on current events, that seems to be when the lessons of previous wars are forgotten; this novel warns about the dangers of forgetting past tragedies and examines how personal choices can and can’t change the course of the world.

15. What project are you working on now? 

Right now, I’m completing an edit on a young adult fantasy novel tentatively entitled Invasion. It’s about a young woman fighting to save her continent after war has devastated her world. It will be a trilogy and I have the second book mostly written and large parts of the third book written as well.

16. Will you have a new book coming out soon? 

In addition to The Last War, I just published a new collection of science fiction short stories and poetry. The stories and poems are unrelated but share common themes of adaptation, family, and love – they are all very dark. The collection, Dystopian Galaxies: Visions of the Future, is now available!

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 tend to get attached to my characters and my writing is rarely limited to stand-alone novels. I want to stay in my worlds and explore my characters, so I tend to write too much for a single novel and most of my new projects turn into trilogies. I have one unpublished space opera that is currently six books long (no end in sight) with two spin-off novels because I fell in love with some minor characters. While I doubt I’ll ever publish any of it, I enjoy working on it and I’ve been working on it for fifteen years between all of my other projects.

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

The worst criticism I ever received was from a friend. I gave her a draft that I was especially proud of and she started reading. A day later, told me she wasn’t going to finish because she just didn’t care about the characters. That was pretty painful, but spurred me to rethink how I introduced and developed my characters and ended with much stronger writing. On the positive side, I gave a (different) friend an advance copy of my collection of short stories and he skimmed through it, then sat down and read one story, and then kept reading because he was enjoying it so much. I love when people enjoy my work and can see themselves in my characters and worlds.

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

My best advice to writers is to keep writing! If you’re facing writer’s block, write about something unrelated. Write a description of the room you’re in, or what your cat is doing. It doesn’t matter what you write as long as you keep writing. Even if you’re not having any luck getting published, keep writing. If you can’t see a way forward on a book or project, put it away for a while, perhaps even years, and work on something else. And have faith in your voice and your writing. Losing faith in yourself and finding too much fault in your work can be devastating, so remember that you are unique and as long as your writing reflects you honestly, you are doing the right thing.

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

To my readers and fans, I always love hearing from you! Please check out my website and get in contact with me through the website. If you have any feedback, comments, or suggestions, I love hearing all of them. I’m always working on new projects and love incorporating reader comments into my writing.

Please join me in thanking Anne for engaging with me and opening up with some revealing insights into the life of an author. If you would like to ask any further questions, please either use the facilities available below or contact Anne via the following links.

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

Amazon Author Page:

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Previous publications:

The Last War: 

Dystopian Galaxies: Visions of the Future:

Moon of Lycca:


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:





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:

Facebook Author page:
-or- “@faithlesselector”


Editing (the Atlantis Deception) with Professionals

This is my first post in a while for which I apologise. As many of you will know, I am in the lucky position to have found a publisher (Unbound) willing to take my book and polish it towards that elusive goal of publication.

I have been writing the book on and off for several years, self-editing the manuscript around four times now, each time thinking it was perfect. I was very wrong. I knew it was good as it managed to get through a couple of rounds of the Amazon breakthrough contest but something was definitely lacking. On the verge of ditching the project, I happened upon the Unbound crowdfunding model. Initially I dismissed it any another way of labelling vanity publication but the more I looked into it the more I was convinced this could be the route for me. They had published a number of big names including one of the Pythons and that (along with their distribution contract with Penguin) convinced me to submit my manuscript. After reading they only accept around 10% of applicants I wasn’t expecting much, but two months later I received a contract and the rest, as they say, is history.

Now I am a fair way into the editing process I thought I’d share a few of the insights I’ve received along the way. They are only snapshots, but I believe emphasise the need for professional help at this stage. Within a month of funding I received an editorial report comprising 6 pages of rhetoric essentially ripping my work (or rather what I perceived was ripping my work) to shreds. It took me three days before I could read more than the first page – I’d experienced critics before but never at this level of detail! It took my partner to metaphorically, talk me off the ledge. She told me that I needed to detach myself emotionally from the project and just treat it as a piece of work – work that has now been marked and now needs improvement. Eventually I took this on board and implemented a whole host of changes. As an example of the critique I was given, I have included a brief extract below:

Editorial Report

Basically, I think you have made negative decisions regarding point of view. Usually, in a mystery story, (mystery in its broadest sense), we follow one point of view, the detective-like character, as they uncover the clues and the plot.

Now, perhaps this main detecting point of view can be augmented with the point of view of an antagonist, and/or a sidekick. But still, we are pretty squarely, and most often, with our hero.

But here you have elected to pursue the points of view of your hero, Hunter; a copper, McInerney; then a second copper, Tom; the antagonist, Hans; the sidekick, Sarah; the priest, Nathanial, and the bodyguard, Darren. Plus a few others whom we waver into briefly.

As a result, we are not often enough in the cockpit of the mystery, experiencing it, uncovering it, as your detective figure experiences and uncovers it. If we had pursued only Hunter as he unravelled the mystery, then the mystery would have been pressing and close. As it is, he does not carry the burden of the uncovering substantially. He does not shoulder the protagonism, and we are not with him enough – feeling, sensing, hoping, empathising, closing in on the mystery. Instead the protagonist’s role is split between at least himself and Sarah, at times also Paul and Tom.

Basically, the main protagonist whose point of view we follow in a story like this is the reader’s proxy, our psychological avatar, who uncovers the mystery for us. But you have split the protagonism across characters, and therefore blunted, for me, the dramatic effect of the mystery.

But in sum, each time you jump from one point of view to the next, you risk blocking the experience of the reader and knocking the reader out of an immersive reading experience. The consequence of your narrative decision is that you undercut our sense of empathy with your main character.

Once I’d worked through the points raised in the Editorial Report and implemented a whole host of changes, I submitted a fresh draft for closer examination by the same editor within a structural edit. The manuscript was returned mainly with comments and a limited number of tracked changes. The edit challenged the way the book was written – what I could delete and where the plot needed to be thickened. Another rewrite resulted which I completed in conjunction with the editor, asking questions and gaining an insight into why things didn’t work – particularly when I thought they did. The process certainly opened my eyes to the difference between seeing things through the eyes of a reader and a professional. The novel is certainly much tighter as a result and even if self-publishing, I’d advise taking this route. It is expensive but there is a reason for this, and in the end it will make you work infinitely more saleable.

My final brush with the professionals came at the copy edit stage. Unbound provided me with a different editor (and fresh pair of eyes) which initially filled me with dread and a little fear. What if he disagreed with all the changes and asked for yet another rewrite? After a month the report dropped on my desk and certainly didn’t disappoint. The copy editor probed the manuscript with what might be described as a finer sieve, delving deeper into the minutiae of my work. Again, as an example of what one might expect please find an extract below (keep in mind this arrived alongside the manuscript and hundreds of tracked changes):

edit tracked example

The Copy Edit

My main issues with the text are: 1. Sentence construction – more specifically, how you use clauses. More specifically still, commas and semicolons. There are many instances of what is known as ‘comma splicing’, where you use a comma to join what are effectively two separate sentences. Sometimes this sort of thing can be used for effect (all rules for this sort of stuff can be broken under some circumstances), but here it generally seems to be an error. Conversely, you also use semicolons wrongly a lot, usually where a comma is needed instead (before a clause rather than a complete sentence). In general, semicolons should be used sparsely anyway (if you’re interested, the book The Bestseller Code suggests there is some evidence that readers are put off by them, in this sort of genre at least). I have tried to fix all of these things. 2. Overuse of capitals. Again, I have hopefully fixed this. Sometimes there are cases where they are needed (I’ve kept them for the Order, unless referring to ‘an order’ more generally; I’ve kept ‘the Pyramids’ for the specific monuments, but not for more general references to a pyramid or pyramids). I’ve tended to use lower case for the sun, as that’s common modern style. Generally, things like capitals snag the eye a little, so are best avoided unless needed for sense. 3. Occasionally overdone or slack expressions. A particular persistent example is things like ‘He appeared to be pulling at something and something heavy.’ – I’ve favoured simplifying where possible, with just a handful of cases left as they were for effect. 4. There are a number of places where ‘he’ is confusing, so I have tried to sort those out too. 5. It’s a shame, as I like the name, but I wonder if you might want to change the name of Lucien Knight – something made me google it, and I discovered a Lucien Knight is the hero of a series of erotic bestsellers! 6. Chapters in parts 2 and 3 needed renumbering – perhaps some chapters were cut? In a few places there are some abrupt transitions – I’ve attempted to suggest solutions in the comments. 7. There’s quite a lot of adrenaline surging (no capital needed, by the way) – you might want to chop a few instances, but up to you.

I have still a couple of hoops to jump through before my elusive publication date is announced but so far the opportunity to work with Unbound has been amazing. I cannot thank the professionals enough for their time and effort spent with me. I have certainly been through the ringer emotionally speaking but come out the other side without too many scars and all the better for the experience. I do not know what the future holds but whether Unbound choose to publish my next novel or not, I will be seeking the advice of professional editors in the future. They are invaluable in creating a creditable and professional persona for an author’s work. I’d previously hoped to skimp on aspects of the edit when considering self-publishing – now I know this is where the bulk of any budget should be spent. There’s no point building a house if you haven’t got strong foundations.

If you are interested in the Unbound model, please take a look at

In terms of my own work, hopefully my next post will detail cover creation and why books (of new authors at least) are always judged by their covers!



Donald Trump ate my Hamster – Crowdfunding a Novel

Fake news but amused me when I saw the shock tactic title on youtube. – The video is irrelevant but I’m guessing the title may have drawn in more viewers than it should have received! Perhaps it’s something I should learn from…

I’ve just sat through my lunchbreak re-tweeting anything of vague interest appearing on my feed whilst intermittently checking the landing page of my crowdfunding project. Life has certainly changed from those heady and long forgotten days of just logging in and simply writing for the sheer joy of it.

I’m now a nervous wreck of a man, complete with sweaty palms and a nervous tick as I patiently pray for someone somewhere to click on my project – and God forbid – pledge their support. 96% now… 96 – a number I loved two days ago and now loath with abandon at its stubborn refusal to remove itself from my screen, making way for my new and upcoming love… number 97.

My relationship with Penguin’s crowdfunding publishing platform, Unbound, began almost six months ago now. Little did I know when I whooped and hollered at my acceptance email that this single word, crowdfunding, would impact on my life in so many different ways.

I’d just entered a world I knew nothing about, a world full of sharks wanting to separate you from your hard earned cash.

“We have thousands of contacts ready to crowdfund your project!” – No you don’t…

“We can market you on Twitter (or Facebook) to our 500,000 followers!” – Fake followers…

“We can DM all your Twitter followers and guarantee £££!” – Errr no you can’t…

There are so many of these preying vulture sites out in the internet ether, I can’t keep up. Maybe some of them do work, but I can safely say most of them will not work for first time authors. If you are currently in the same crowdfunding boat as I am, then as far as I have worked out there are really only three “guaranteed” mechanisms at your disposal. Your friends and family, their friends and family and anyone you have ever worked or had a relationship with in any capacity. This is where the majority of your initial pledges will be coming from.

It is all very well looking at Facebook and Twitter and dreaming but once online, your project will join hundreds of thousands of others, all of which are competing for the attention of potential backers and readers. It’s a tough environment to enter – as I know all too well.

Since the start of my campaign I’ve tweeted nearly two thousand times, acquired nearly ten thousand followers and spent hours doing so. So much so, there are people out there thinking I’m a bot! The infamous twitter trolls are certainly out there but luckily I don’t seem to be coming across too many. Those crossing my path just get blocked and quickly. I’m told engaging with them is the worst thing you can do. Plus it feels good to block rude people. It’s bizarre that people who have no interest in what you’re doing seem to want to interact more than those who are interested! I digress.

Although I’ve picked up four or five pledges via Twitter, I’m hoping the platform will show it’s true worth once the book is actually published. People are much more likely to spend two or three pounds/dollars or a product they will receive immediately rather than for something to arrive later. It’s probably the same for Facebook but I’m struggling with that medium at the moment (over and above contacting my own friend base).

The same long game style tactic goes for my Website. The first thing I was advised to do was set up a website “to legitimise” my claim to be an author. Although initially good fun, keeping it up to date with interesting blogs and information is not an easy task. Just coming up with potential topics is hard enough. Then you’ve got to write it, find interesting pictures, edit it, worry that it’s crap and then release it anyway. Again I know this is all a necessary evil to inspire whoever might be reading to click a link, but it’s something else I didn’t really think about when signing off with a flourish at the end of my novel.

I’ve been very lucky with my backers so far and in particular my brother in law and his Company have been amazing. Without him I’m not sure what I would be doing now. Writing off for Company sponsorship might have been a possibility; along with setting up workshops; pledge parties; reading to children at local libraries and perhaps a talk or two on the crowdfunding process. These tactics are now all in reserve for the sequel’s campaign (the well of goodwill from my friends and family is definitely drying by the day…) and I expect the night terrors leading up to such events will form the subject of another blog.

I don’t know who I’ve aimed this blog at but if you want to share your experiences or perhaps use me to bounce some ideas off, please don’t hesitate to get in touch.

In the meantime, if you fancy taking a look at my project please find it at

Thank you for your time and I look forward to hearing from you.


How to avoid Account Suspension on Twitter. Playing within the rules.

I’ve recently been at the wrong end of a blocked Twitter account and it really wasn’t the best of experiences. Not only did it take three visits to Twitter’s help centre (each visit taking two days for a response) but the consequence of having a blocked account for nearly a week cost me just under a thousand of my hard earned followers. It was a pain as I’m trying actively trying to build my following to attempt entice backers to help publish my latest novel.

Anyway, as a result I decided to undertake a bit of research into what it is that the Twitter bots are objecting to me doing.

My tactic to build followers is simple and consists of following the followers of authors in my genre. With any luck they’ll notice my follow and like what I’m doing enough to follow me back. The technique seems to work and I’m now up to eight thousand followers. All good but the downside being if I’m not careful, Twitter can mistake me for a spammer and as a result block my account. Bad times.

Twitter’s rules, limits and regulations regarding following and unfollowing can at times be a little vague and confusing. Obviously they are there to stop abuse of the platform and are probably vague to prevent reverse engineering by naughty programmers much cleverer than me.

Assuming you aren’t intentionally trying to abuse Twitter you need at least a working knowledge of these Twitter rules to prevent your account being suspended.

From what I’ve read there are three points that one needs to keep in mind – particularly if you use the platform on a daily basis.

  1. It is recommended that you follow less than one hundred people per day. This is particularly key if you have less than two thousand followers.
  2. Once your following rises above this level you should find you are able to follow more people without a problem. However please note that Twitter has a hard limit of one thousand follows in a twenty four hour period. This is where I think I’ve been caught out; If you follow more than a thousand the account will be blocked and additional follows in the same period rejected.
  3. Be aware there is allegedly no limit on unfollowing, but again I would stick to the thousand limits. Again I have been asked to verify the account on a couple of occasions when unfollowing on mass. It is also recommended that you do not unfollow and refollow the same people repeatedly. Twitter considers this as aggressive activity and will result in a ban.

If you stick to the rules your Twitter account shouldn’t face any account suspension issues. I suppose as a caveat remember that Twitter are entitled to change their rules and limits without notice or even publishing the changes. Good luck and I wish I’d known about these limits earlier!

I am still actively seeking pledges for my latest novel, ‘The Atlantis Deception’ which is on the road to being published by the crowdfunding publisher, Unbound. If you like Michael Crichton with a little Clive Cussler on the side, please check out the project at and perhaps consider becoming a patron of the creative arts.

I’ve Published my book – So what do I do now?

Although in the midst of a tricky crowdfunding sell on my latest novel, ‘The Atlantis Deception,’ I have started to think about the processes to come – the copyediting; the proof reading; the advertising – should I put my eggs in the google advertising basket, Facebook ads, amazon ads, or maybe all three? How should I use Goodreads to its full advantage – and what about twitter, Instagram, Facebook, LinkedIn? Is my website good enough? Are my blogs frequent enough – Is my content even worth reading?

At this point, with my meltdown in full swing, I turned off the computer and crawled under my desk.

I needed to get back to the basics and focus on the why as oppose to the, ‘just do it because everyone else is doing it.’ Forgetting about the pre-publishing bit, I know I need to throw myself into aspects of post publication marketing even now and I need a plan of attack. Without a focus and simply an aimless approach I will achieve nothing and probably just give up, disheartened, like hundreds of authors before me, by the enormity of the task. Even with a plan it still feels like I’m trying to break through a wall with a toothpick.

So what is important? What should I (and therefore you) be trying to improve as I hurtle into the world of publishing? I’ve come up with five target areas I can influence:

  1. Cover Art
  2. Teaser paragraph
  3. Trailer
  4. Reviews
  5. Traffic

I’m linked to a publisher now and I still not certain how the cover art will be dealt with. That said I’ve still commissioned a local artist to generate some advertising posters to support the launch of the novel when it happens. Imagery is so important in this field and given we are artists ourselves, often overlooked. It is ironic that the phrase, ‘never judge a book by its cover,’ couldn’t be more wrong in the literary world – for the first time author (assuming the title pricks the interest of a reader) this is absolutely what our work will be judged on. If the cover does its job, the reader will then move onto the teaser paragraph. Test your cover image before revealing it to the world – if you are online only, ensure it is striking enough to work as an Amazon thumbnail. If you wouldn’t click on it yourself, go back to the drawing board.

I’ve included a couple of images John has created for me. If you like his style and would like to work with him, please drop me a line.

The teaser paragraph is your clincher, you’ve reeled in your potential reader with an interesting title and excellent art work – now you need to wow him and her with your ability to weave an interesting story. Similar to the cover art, you need to do the groundwork. Find out what works and what really doesn’t. Check out the number of hits you’re getting and dump accordingly. Once you hit on the winning formula your views to buys ratio should start to fly!

Item number three on the list is the book trailer. This is a new(ish) method of advertising to me and something I’ve had to create as part of my Unbound crowdfunding project. With little budget I’ve found this tough to engage with and although my trailer (uploaded to YouTube) is okay, an investment of (at most) two or three hundred pounds would make it amazing. Once published this is where my initial budget will be heading. There are so many thousands of books out there now and I believe this is a nailed on game changer and something that will help me stand out from the crowd. In case you are already at the point of requiring a book trailer, these are a selection of developers I have come across so far.

(under 1minute book trailer, around $250). (

Lowest Price (Less than $150): http://redlotusproductions.wordpress

Reviews: This is where social media starts to come into play. Reviews are key (if you believe the hype, Google analytics and Amazon itself) to generating the next of my goals, traffic. Optimising your cover and teaser paragraph will not mean anything without traffic. First and foremost, try and make everyone you know to both buy your book and leave some kind of review. They should be truthful to some extent – we’ve all seen those self-published books with twenty or so five star reviews and they stand out like a sore thumb. That said they will at least move you along the path. It’s then down to begging and pleading (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn); giving away free copies, doing favours and swapping reviews with other authors in the same boat. With any luck over time enough reviews (hopefully good) will land on your plate for Google and Amazon to take notice. Then you’re away!

Once you set out your plan of action and allocate your budget appropriately, the publishing game suddenly doesn’t seem quite so complex. Maybe it’s even a game we can win. Just remember everything you do should be geared towards one thing – persuading readers to click your BUY IT NOW button!

I am still actively seeking pledges for my latest novel, ‘The Atlantis Deception’ which is on the road to being published by the crowdfunding publisher, Unbound. If you like Michael Crichton with a little Clive Cussler on the side, please check out the project at and perhaps consider becoming a patron of the creative arts.


Where is my Muse? – Motivation for bloggers and writers

Another ridiculously hot day here in the south of England, once again hitting 30°C – bordering on assault for my pasty Scottish skin!

It’s tough to concentrate and lethargy has definitely set in. It got me thinking about how I manage to find the motivation to actually pick up a pen or tap away on the keyboard. I’ve come up with a few and it would be interesting to hear what others might add to this far from finite list.

  1. Setting aside a specific and recurrent period of time: Sounds obvious but it works for me. If I know my witching hours are between 8 and 10, I tend not to procrastinate so much and get down to the serious job of creating content. If I sit down ad hoc, I tend to play about on Twitter, Facebook or the like and eventually the time drips away with little to show for my efforts.
  2. The right time: This sort of relates to the above and is personal to the individual. The muse in my head seems to perform better late at night so my creative time has adjusted accordingly. If there’s a time when you’re more alert, make this your daily writing time.
  3. A comfortable space: Again this is personal but I always feel I need a clean and comfortable environment to work in. If my space isn’t just right I go a little bit OCD and clean up everything in the vicinity. I don’t want anything on show past the bare minimum! I suppose the opposite may be true of others and clutter may invoke your muse but the space should and will inevitably match your personality and fit the creative you.
  4. A blank canvas. Switch off your phone. E-mail, smart phones, tablets, and any other electronics-are the enemies of writing. They are the Devil when it comes to distraction and eating away precious writing time. Every notification will pull you into a zone incompatible with creativity. I’m not suggesting doing this if you’re a doctor on call but other than that turn then off – maybe even lock them away! Any messages will still be there when your period of creativity is over.
  5. Ritual: I’m not saying you should be chalking a pentagon into your carpet and chanting at its centre – well unless that floats your boat – but a ritual of sorts might help get you in the grove. I have a set of Star Wars models that must always be arranged in a certain order before I start, but I guess a hat or lucky pants might also do the trick!
  6. A daily quota of words: Back to a familiar one – simply setting a target. I may set aside two hours a day but the word count is the motivation within that period. 1000 words tends to be my minimum and once achieved I can relax. Sometimes I use all my dedicated time to its full and in other instances I finish early but either way having a target quota is essential. If nothing else it is proof you have achieved a tangible result for your efforts that day.
  7. Record and set your targets: I keep an A4 calendar on my desk with daily targets and actual results registered. It gives me an enormous sense of well-being (to quote Blur). It’s nice to see progression and gives you an idea of time frames (first draft will be complete in June – for example).

So that’s me. I’m sure there are many more examples out there and please feel free to share. It would be nice to engage with one or two of you out there in the internet ether.

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 is on the road to being published by the crowdfunding publisher, Unbound. If you like Michael Crichton with a little Clive Cussler on the side, please check out the project at and perhaps consider becoming a patron of the creative arts.

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 ( 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


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

‘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


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


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 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.

Best wishes, Mark

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