Guest Post- 7 Tips to Write, Make Deadlines, and Not Get Lost in the Process

Hi everyone! Today I am very excited to bring you a guest post by Max E. Stone, an author who knows the struggle of writing, hitting all the deadlines, and staying focused on the task at hand. He has agreed to share some of his tips and tricks to help you be able to manage the crazy  writing life!


If your life tends to be stressful and hectic like mine, keeping deadlines is tough to say the least. Maintaining a cool head in the face of that turmoil is harder still. Add “Writing” into your “already-crazy” schedule and you could downright lose your mind.

Speaking from personal experience, there were times I’ve worked myself into so much of a ball of stress that I swore up and down it was Tuesday morning on a Friday afternoon. Since that time, exactly a year and a half ago, I’ve learned a few things about keeping cool and managing my time.

  1. Set workable deadlines

You know you better than anyone else knows you. You know what you can do in a given timeline and you know what is important to you. So dig deep. Ask yourself specific questions. One of the things I ask myself whenever I put together my work for the day, week, or month to come is this: “Of everything on my to-do list, what are the most important things?” From there, set deadlines you can work with and make provisions for changes that may come along the way. Which leads to the next tip…

  1. Start early

Life gets in the way. I’ve been there. You’re into the hour you’ve schedule for writing when suddenly you get a phone call that’s going to send you out the door for what you know will be at least another hour or two.  I’ve found that, if I have a task due in two weeks, I’ll begin for a half hour two weeks early. Then, I will do a little bit of it each day until it is completed early or on time. This way, I’ve made room for the changes that might come in the day, I can complete my other tasks, and I haven’t driven myself completely nuts in rushing to the end of that one thing to do.

  1. Don’t freak if/when you don’t make those deadlines

As hard as you or I will try, there are going to be times when you don’t make the deadline set. When that happens, don’t freak out. Don’t worry. It happens.  Just keep going and keep pushing.  You do that and everything will get done.

  1. Exercise/Get some fresh air

Straight from my mother’s mouth.

Both fresh air and exercise have numerous mental and physical health benefits. Sometimes, you have to step away from the computer, desk, etc. in the middle of the day because, frankly, you’re sick of looking at it or in my case, your eyes are burning and your bottom’s sore from sitting. At that point, I strongly encourage you to go outside, get active, go for a walk, or do some yoga. During the mornings, I run, and during the middle of the day, if I feel the need, I’ll go for a walk. So do what you can. Your body and mind will not only thank you but the quality of your day and work will immensely improve.

  1. Read

Books are awesome. No doubt about that. However, the mental advantages are similar to that of exercise and fresh air. I read for about an hour a day, whether its fiction, non-fiction, or education. I just read and let my mind take me away for just that hour. When I come back to my tasks, I’m fresh and all set to finish up what’s needed.

  1. Ask others

I spend a good portion of my day asking questions. No one person has all the answers to every question. Researching and asking questions is so essential. If you know someone who has mastered the art of managing their day, talk with them. Pick their brain and find what works for you.

  1. Rest

I learned this one the hard way and ended up not only losing a day but driving myself crazy in the process. So do yourself a favor. If you’re tired, go to sleep. Get a nap. If it’s late at night, go to sleep. It’s not only refreshing to do so, but medically necessary. Not getting enough sleep can’t hurt you and, among other things, impair your sense. Your body does a lot for you. Take care of it. Let it relax and reload.


Max doesn’t remember ever not creating a story, pen or no pen.
A writer and lover of books since the age of nine, Max first set pen to page as a hobby, constructing stories that were anything but fit for children. Entertaining classmates 13692597_1057472987641139_8414948098222036885_nwhile simultaneously concerning surrounding adults with blood-ridden tales of gory mysteries and heavy suspense that “just came to mind”, Max, with the help of family and the encouraging words of an inspiring fifth grade teacher, continue to develop this gift.
Little was it known at the time, but said gift would become a lifeline.
From horrific trauma in max’s teen years, writing played an instrumental part in the difficult recovery and the Warrens, Bennetts, and Johnsons, three interconnected families all with issues, mysteries, and secrets that threaten their livelihood and lives, were born.
Max reads everything and everyone and relishes the journey, learning something new each day.
Find Max Online:

Artist Spotlights- Bad Carrot Studios and Day Light Full

Along with my undying love for books, I happen to love art. All kinds of art, from acting and dancing to painting and drawing. So I decided to shine whatever spotlight I have on some wonderful artists that combine my love of books to my love of art.

What art form does this? Fan art.

After looking through pages and pages of fan art on Etsy (which is pretty much my favorite online store at this point) I found two incredibly talented artists who agreed to do some art for me! For the purpose of this post, I sent the artists identical descriptions of some of the characters from my current work in progress (Candy Wrappers  ) to see what they came up with.


The first artist is Brittany from Bad Carrot Studios . Here is a little bit about her:

Brittany is an actor with a youthful and energetic voice. She has a background in singing and a Masters in Fine Art from the Savannah College of Art and Design. She majored in Sequential Art, and after graduating in 2008, she became the primary artist for the first eight chapters of the webcomic Snow by Night. Since then, she’s been working as a freelance artist through Etsy as Bad Carrot Studios.

Along with a talent for art, Brittany has had a passion for Acting and Voice Acting since she was young and has been working in the industry since 2012. She completed the full training course from Voice Coaches and continues to further her education at Nick Conti’s Professional Actor’s Studio for acting and with Deborah Richards Studio for voiceover.

Brittany is currently working as an actor in various productions around Atlanta, GA and doing commercial voice overs nationwide.

Brittany did two sketches for me: one of Malia Reed, who is my female main character, and one of Warren “Ren” Hartman, who is my male lead.

Brittany was able to draw the characters with only a brief description of them, and her full blown fandom art is unbelievable.

It was very interesting to watch the sketches go from first draft to finished. Each draft had a little bit more of the characters in them, and she worked tirelessly until they were perfect.

I love Brittany’s style of art because of how well proportioned they are. They look like they could walk right off the computer screen and flop down in the chair next to me.


 

The second artist I worked with is Whitney from DayLightFull. Here is a little on her:

I’m 21 years old and I’ve been drawing since I could hold a crayon. I’ve drawn all my life but only in the last 4-5 years have I been able to draw exactly what I see in my head. I have a tremors in my hands and an very dyslexic which make my two favorite things in life (art and writing) a challenge. The tremors in my hands make it very hard to draw smooth and precise lines but I never let that stop me! Even though the tremors get worse as I get older, I’ve worked hard and long enough to where you can hardly tell I have the disability in my art! So I’m always encouraging people to never give up on their passions because of a diagnosis. Art is my passion and I love making people smile with it!

Whitney’s art style is much different than Brittany’s, but unbelievably beautiful. She drew Malia and Ren, as well as a few other important characters in the plot line. Here is what she came up with:

I love Whitney’s art because of how much I can feel that characters personalities coming off the page. She did a wonderful job of capturing their attitudes and expressions.


I want to say a huge thank you to both of these talented artists for making these beautiful pieces of art for me. I encourage all the readers of this post to go look at their other work; you will be amazed!

Guest Post- 3 Things You Need To Know Before Crowdfunding

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Hi everyone! Today I have a special guest author, Grace K. Francis, who has written a guest post about her experience Crowdpublishing her novel. Grace is a German writer and her debut novel, Codename: DEREC was published in April 2016 with the help of publishing company Kladde. Read about her experience and the pro’s and cons of Crowdfunding!


The term crowdfunding has been around for what seems like forever, hasn’t it? Platforms like Kickstarter have given it a huge boost in the last few years. When I first heard about it, I thought it was a great idea for young entrepreneurs to find financial support for their business. I had no idea that the same thing existed for books, which is also known as crowdpublishing.

After finishing the last edit of my manuscript at the beginning of 2015, I had already long forgotten about crowdfunding. The thing I worried about at that point in time was whether I should contact a traditional publisher or dare to go down the path of self-publishing. Self-publishing seemed pretty intimidating to me so I discarded that idea pretty quickly; although I admittedly didn’t do much research on it. Instead, I went on the search for a German publisher, and like every young author aiming to make their debut, I was terribly insecure.

During fall, 2015, I found Kladde, a small publishing house in Freiburg, Germany. That was when the term crowdpublishing entered my life again. Kladde publishes their authors’ books via crowdfunding only, because that’s how they collect the money they need in order to pay their proofreaders, editors, cover designers and so on.

By referencing my own “publishing journey”, let me tell you the most important things you need to know when considering crowdpublishing your work.

1. You still have to decide whether to publish traditionally or self-publish

The number of publishers like Kladde, who only publish via crowdfunding, is significantly low; even more so in the English-speaking publishing world than in the German one. You could, of course, start a crowdfunding campaign for yourself to raise the money you need for your project. But keep in mind that with self-publishing you have to do everything yourself from editing to marketing and everything in between. If you go with a traditional publisher when you crowdfund, they will set up the campaign for you, advertise your novel, and you’ll be able to profit from their experience.

2. There is the risk of not getting fully funded

The thing about crowdpublishing is you take a big step at a very early stage of your publishing journey, and at that early stage you have to be convincing.

The website of my campaign contained a short video of me introducing myself and my novel, an extract of the novel, a synopsis, and a list of “perks” that those who donate receive in return (example: someone who donated 10€ received a copy of the E-Book and a handwritten Thank You card).

This early step can be a blessing and a curse: your audience (aka your possible readers) are the ones who decide whether your book gets published or not. They decide whether it’s interesting enough for them to read. Once they decide “Yes, I want this novel in my shelf,” they will most likely donate, which is of course a great thing because it’s a way for readers to actively be involved in shaping their personal, literary preferences. However, if you’re not convincing enough, they’ll just close the tab of their browser and move on (which would be bad).

It will make you doubt yourself and your work

Trust me, I’ve been through self-doubt with my debut novel.

My campaign started off really well; probably because the first people who donated were family and friends who I had told about my project. I reached the first 15% of the funding threshold within the first two days and I got incredibly excited!

My crowdfunding was set up so that I had a total of 55 days to collect 3000€. After my initial friends and family head start, I received several donations from people I didn’t know (but who most likely read about the campaign on my publisher’s Facebook page). I didn’t start to feel the self-doubt until about 5 days prior to the end of my campaign, when the donation number stopped going up.

You have to know, I can be very pessimistic at times. That was such a point. It made me feel like my book wasn’t good enough to be published. I began to doubt my writing skills, my style, my entire novel because I knew that if I didn’t reach my campaign goal, my novel wouldn’t get published. I was dependent on these readers, and if they left me hanging so close to the goal, I surely must have been not convincing enough, right?

Wrong.

I ended up reaching my goal just a few hours before the deadline ended. I even reached more than what I would have needed.

It was then that I realized that crowdpublishing is indeed a risk, but it’s a risk worth taking, because at least you’ll have people supporting you who are genuinely interested in your book. Of course you’re dependent on them, but hey, at some point in life, everyone is dependent on someone, right?

I’m glad that I took the step of crowdpublishing for “Codename: DEREC” because although it’s nowhere near perfect (the sequel will be so much better), I learned a lot from the experience itself. I learned how to represent my novel and myself as an author on the internet and on social media. I also learned how to deal with self-doubt and even with 2 star reviews, after it was published. And knowing those things can help a great deal once you’re really getting into the “industry”.

And remember, if there are any new opportunities opening themselves up to you, take them. As long as you’ve got “your book’s back,” you can do anything!


GKF

Grace K. Francis is a bilingual author born 1997 in Germany.

She began writing at the age of 10 and published her first book “Codename: DEREC” on April 20th, 2016.

While working on its sequel, she’s now started to work on her first English-speaking project, a homoerotic novel set in Japan.

Grace K. Francis has a partiality for everything Japanese, music, tattoos and cats.

Grace is currently searching for Beta Readers for her newest novel! If you are interested, message Grace on her Twitter (click here).

Book Review- Billy Bedivere in the Quest for the Dragon Queen

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Billy Bedivere in the Quest for the Dragon Queen: A Kingdom of Legends Adventure  by Alan Sproles
Published by Bookbaby on December 3, 2015
Genres: Children’s Books, Fantasy, Fairy Tales
Pages: 222
Goodreads
Amazon

Would you like to leave on a camping trip poor and come back rich? But what if that meant fighting a vicious huge blue bunny, or a big black bear, or man-eating trees or a two-headed dragon guarded by giant spiders? That’s what happened to Billy on a weekend camping with his dad and friends. Told by his dad not to cross the creek, Billy does just that when he hears the call for help from inside a large cave in the side of a cliff. Billy, the good scout, goes in the cave alone concerned that someone was in trouble. As he moved deeper and deeper into the cave Billy falls into a vortex that sweeps him into another world. It is a brilliant but very strange place. It appears to be a one-way trip until he acquires some very strange and even famous characters as friends starting with a rose that has been calling out for help because a large bunny has been eating them. Rose informs him that the only person who can help him get home would be the genie and tells him how to get there. On the way Billy encounters Hansel and Gretel who accompanies him on his journey. After their near fatal encounter at the chocolate house of the witch they make it to the genie who informs them that the only way home is to defeat the Dragon Queen, a two-headed dragon at Flagara’s house of Sad Faces. To return home Billy must grow up fast if he is to survive and conquer the biggest challenge of his life- if he can. Does he have what it takes? He’s just a kid but he’ll need to be a man to get home. Billy Bedivere must defeat the Dragon Queen but first his life will change forever along the way! It changes because of his new friends- a droll named Sparkie, a pixie named Pippy and a talking dragon named Dreadon to name three, and there are many more. Billy succeeds in getting through the Dark Forest and to Flagara’s house of Sad Faces where the great dragon is protected by a hoard of giant spiders. The Dragon was once a princess that was cursed by another very evil witch. Billy is victorious in his battle with the dragon but that victory will reveal something even more shocking. And that will change everything again!

Billy Bedivere was an interesting book. The story itself makes a good children’s story, however, it did not feel like I was reading a children’s book. The writing style was strange… some version of third person present tense, but there were several places in the book where it slipped in to second person, which did not exactly read well. If anything the way the book was written kept it from being more exciting.

This is a book that would be amazing if it were rewritten. The story itself is somewhere between Narnia and The Magic Tree House, and definitely has a lot of potential. It’s just the writing that makes it fall short. The writing takes away some of the magic.

All of the characters in the book are great. There is a good mix of fairy tale characters and magical creatures that team up together to go on an amazing quest/adventure. It’s a heart warming tale and I really did find myself enjoying it, and I do think that I will read the second one when it comes out. I just really wish the writing was a bit different… I think that would make a huge difference.

I am going to give Billy Bedivere in The Quest for the Dragon Queen three out of five hearts.

♥ ♥ ♥

*This book was sent to me for free by the author in exchange for an honest review. This has not in any way affected my views or opinions of the book.

Author Q&A- Michael Connick

Today I had the pleasure of interviewing Michael Connick, author of Trapped in a Hall of Mirrors, which is based off his life working with the NSA and SAVAK. Read the Q&A below!
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Q: How long have you been writing?
A: The short answer is since September of last year (2015). That’s when I started writing my novel, “Trapped in a Hall of Mirrors”. I’ve been a voracious reader all of my life and I promised myself that when I retired I would write a novel. That’s exactly what I did late last year. I actually had no plans on publishing this novel, I simply wanted to write one. However, I got lots of encouragement from the few people I shared it with, and especially my wife, and so I actually did get it published. Much to my surprise, especially as it’s my first novel, it’s gotten very good reviews and has sold quite well. Apparently, I can actually write – I’m really pretty amazed!
The longer answer is that I’ve been writing all my life. However, it’s been “business” writing. When I worked with the intelligence community, I had to write voluminous reports. When I transitioned my career to becoming a management consultant – again, I had to do lots of writing and learn how to communicate complex ideas clearly and skillfully. Between all the reading I’ve done and the business documents I created, I somehow learned how to write a novel. It’s certainly been a non-traditional way to do it, I know!
Q: What inspires your writing? Do you have a muse?
A: I’ve always loved to tell stories. I don’t really have an external muse, as such, just a yearning to write stories that I enjoy and that others seem to enjoy reading, too.
I’m still frankly astonished when people come up to me and tell me how much they enjoyed reading my novel. I’m shocked when someone asks to have their picture taken with me. I’ve actually been interviewed twice on television about my novel! I must admit that all of these kinds of incidents are really reassuring to me, and they help motivate me to continue writing whenever I start to doubt my ability to craft stories that people will actually want to read.
Q: Tell me about your debut novel, Trapped in a Hall of Mirrors. What was the original idea behind it?
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A: The title page contains a line that really summarizes its driving idea: “A Novel Based on True Events”. The book actually starts out as a fictionalized autobiography of me. Its protagonist, Stephen Connor, is a fictionalized version of me. Like Stephen, I grew up and was raised in San Francisco, worked with the NSA at their headquarters in Fort Meade, MD, and consulted with the SAVAK in Iran. I also lived and worked in Vienna, Austria. So I’m really telling something of my own story in this novel. Many of the characters in it are real people and I’ve sometimes even used their real names. Others are based on real people but have had their names changed. Finally, some were completely fabricated by me. However, once Stephen gets to Austria, the novel starts to becomes highly fictionalized. Unless he got himself into a whole lot more trouble than I actually did there, it would have ended up being a pretty boring book! Nevertheless, the entire book is historically accurate and I think very true to life.
Which brings me to the secondary purpose for my writing this book – I really wanted to write a realistic spy novel. Most of the spy novels I read are extraordinarily inauthentic. The protagonists are supermen, their weaponry ridiculous, and their descriptions of the way the intelligence community is actually run are completely absurd. I really wanted to create a story that was based on reality. My protagonist is quite flawed, naive, and makes some pretty foolish decisions. He accidentally stumbles into some very devilish situations. The KGB completely misinterprets his activities. That’s what the intelligence world is really like – spies stumbling around in the dark trying to make sense of what they see and likely misinterpreting quite a bit of it. I also tried to give readers a feeling for the bureaucratic nature of the management of the intelligence community.
Q: How has the time you spent consulting with the SAVAK influenced your writing?
A: Again, the portion of the book that deals with the protagonist’s time in Tehran is all based on what really happened to me while I was there and what was going on in Iran at that time. The Shah was about to fall from power and no one realized that was going to happen. Iran was really a fascinating place to live at that time. I really tried to give readers a feel for what life was really like in that country during that time period.
Q: You have traveled and lived all over the world. What have been your favorite and least favorite places? Why?
A: My absolute favorite city is Copenhagen. It’s a beautiful place and the Danes seem to be incredibly happy and extremely friendly people. I also am in love with Grand Cayman Island in the Caribbean. I’ve visited there on three different occasions and have found it to be the closest thing to a tropical paradise that I’ve ever encountered. A bit of trivia – the picture of me on the back cover of my book was actually taken on Grand Cayman Island.
My least favorite place? That would have to be strictly a matter of degree, because I’ve always found something to enjoy in every place I’ve lived or visited. If pressed, I guess I’d have to say Greenland was my least favorite place. That’s because the sole part of it that I visited was a US Air Force Base that was fairly primitive in its amenities – and it was COLD!
FYI: here’s a list of the countries I’ve either lived in or visited: Austria, Belgium, Canada, Cayman Islands, Czech Republic, Denmark, Egypt, France, French Polynesia, Germany, Greenland, Iran, Ireland, Italy, Mexico, Namibia, Netherlands, South Africa, United Kingdom, and the United States.
Q: Are you currently working on any writing projects? If so, what can you tell me about them?
A: So many people have asked for it, so I’ve now started work on a sequel to “Trapped in a Hall of Mirrors”. It will be called “Funhouse Mirrors” and will continue to follow Stephen Connors’ CIA career in Vienna. This book will be almost totally fictionalized in contrast to the highly autobiographical nature of my first novel. Nevertheless, I am continuing to strive for realism and it will be very historically accurate. It will also continue the tradition of the first novel in trying to convey the ongoing sense of confusion and misunderstanding that permeates the real intelligence community. Working within it really is like being trapped in a hall of mirrors!
Q: What is something you want the world to know?
A: Life is wonderful if you are willing to take risks to fully live it. I have certainly been blessed with luck and good fortune, yet I also think that much of what I have accomplished has been due to a sharp focus on goals and plain old hard work. If you really want something, take the risk to actually work towards getting it and I think you will be amazed at what you can accomplish.
Find Michael Online:

Author Q&A- Thomas Fleet

Today I had the pleasure of interviewing Thomas Fleet, a world building, fantasy writing author who recently published his debut novel, The War of the First Day! Read the interview below.

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Q: How long have you been writing?

A: My earliest relevant memory is from a Spanish class in high school. We were practicing conversation by discussing career choices, and when it was my turn, out popped “escritor” (or whatever the Spanish word for writer is).

I first wrote a complete story when I was 25. It lay dormant for a long time before being submission-ready. It’s about a woman in the 1600s who’s accused of being a witch and has no tools with which to save herself but her own wit. She has to figure out how to threaten, beg, seduce, or razzle-dazzle her way out of it.

Q: What inspires your writing? Do you have a muse?

A: There are two things that inspire me. One is just that cool idea or image that pops into your head. For example, there’s a witch in The War of the First Day who constantly has little copies of herself running around all over her. This ended up as the cover image. I don’t remember the origin of this idea. Where do images like that, or story ideas, come from? It’s a mystery, isn’t it?

The other thing that is inspiring is reading great fiction by other writers. A really innovative writer will blow open your conception of the possibilities of fiction. Jorge Louis Borges, with his “Fictions,” did that to me. Even if it doesn’t rise to that level, if it’s fun and capably executed, good fiction makes you want to hop back on the computer and start writing.

The sheer range of possibilities in fantasy is energizing. Two recent examples of this are Scott Lynch’s Gentleman Bastards series, which follows the insane adventures of a gang of con artists in another world, and Lev Grossman’s Magicians series, which imagines what magic would actually be like in this world if brilliant twenty-somethings got their hands on it. They’re very different (and they’re both very fun).

Q: Tell me about your debut novel, The War of the First Day. What was the original idea behind it?

A: The novel is a fantasy novel about a war between two groups of witches. The idea is to combine pacing which (I hope) takes your breath away with intellectual and emotional themes that engage other parts of your brain. Action novels are all about ka-boom, obviously, but you need some emotional weight to ground the ka-boom.

Its genesis was a vignette in which a young woman wanders across a forbidden border and is captured by a witch. The witch tells her that as punishment for her transgression, she must kill or be killed. I became intensely interested – cough, obsessed, cough – with this vignette and reworked it again and again in my mind before writing it down. Later, that sequence of scenes was to develop into a core sequence in The War of the First Day. The book grew vastly around it, and the captor had her moral rough edges filed down somewhat, but it’s still the heart, in terms of the heroine’s internal conflict, of the novel.

How this got to be embedded in a war of extermination between rival camps of witches, I don’t remember. There’s that mystery again!

Another thing I wanted to do was to get back to the roots of the western world’s fairytales, but that goal sort of got tossed out the car window along the way. E.g., as one reviewer noted, the dialogue sounds fairly modern; it isn’t much like stereotypical fantasy novel dialogue. Ultimately the classic fairytale roots ended up in the setting: The area is roughly medieval politically and technologically, and a lot of it is northern climate with craggy rocks and lots of pine trees. It’s very witchy. I have a lot of affection for this classical fantasy setting and may return to it in the future.

Q: How much ‘grunt work’ goes into your writing?

A: A great thing about fantasy is that you get to make up your world. You could probably get away with very little grunt work, in terms of research, compared to, say, science fiction. Every now and then there’d be something that I’d want to not embarrass myself about, so I had to do a little research. Fortunately, my setting (although in the future) is roughly medieval-ish, and the medieval period in Europe had a pretty broad range of economic arrangements, building styles, weapons technologies, etc., so the writer has a lot to choose from.

I’m also helped by the fact that I’m story-oriented, not world building-oriented, so I don’t have detailed fictional languages, etc., to keep track of. My world building supports the story; beyond that it keeps out of the way.

Q: Are you currently working on any writing projects? If so, what can you tell me about them?

A: One of the many things I learned in the course of writing TWOTFD is that writing a good novel, one you put your heart, mind and soul into, is emotionally and intellectually exhausting! So the brief answer to your question is, a bunch of short stories! I am going to re-charge my batteries for a while before I start in on another novel.

About half of the stories are fantasy. The non-fantasy ones are all over the place: A crime story, a fanciful book review a la Borges or Stanislaw Lem, and a story about a person who house-sits for her vacationing neighbors and gets snoopy. You can play that sort of scenario for horror, as in the classic Bluebeard story, or, as I’m doing, just for amusement value. A short one, which I flung up on my web page instead of trying to get published, is a take on the classic “inertialess drive” from SF. What happens if you actually try to take the physics of that idea seriously?

Q: If you could become a character from any book, who would you be and why?

A: From *any* book, whoa! Hmm… Most stories that are entertaining drag the hero/heroine through some horrible times, so it wouldn’t really be fun to be them. But there certainly are lots of worlds that would interesting to take part in. For instance, the worlds of…

The Magicians, by Lev Grossman. You’d be one of a group of very smart people with magical powers. Also, you can go to R-rated Narnia if you want. ’Nuff said.

Illuminatus, by Robert Shea and Robert Anton Wilson. I wouldn’t want to be Hagbard Celine, but hanging out with him would be great, because he’s creatively crazy. You get the sense that he might do anything at any moment, yet most of it actually has a purpose. He’s the owner and captain of a submarine made of gold, LOL.

Man to Hagbard: “You take yourself too seriously.”

Hagbard: “What do you mean? I own a yellow submarine; it’s straight out of a rock song.”

Dark is the Sun, by Phillip Jose Farmer. A crazy SF book set billions of years from now in which evolution has created tons of weird animals and plants, and remnants of high-tech civilizations are left strewn around to be used or abused by the current inhabitants. A setting in which anything could happen. It would be hair-raising to live in this environment, but you’d never be bored. Come to think of it, maybe I’d just stay home watch the documentary on Animal Planet.

Q: What is something you want the world to know?

A: Good fiction proceeds from who the writer is. If you’re a left-brained person who likes action novels, write like a left-brained person who likes action novels. If you’re a right-brained person who is entranced by the possibilities of meta-fiction, then you should nevertheless write like a like a left-brained person who likes action novels. No, just kidding! Write like a right-brained person who is entranced by the possibilities of meta-fiction.

And if you are made to do this, you’ll make your own contribution. You’ll look at the world of fiction and think, why is everyone else ignoring this thing that they could be doing with fiction? That’s the thing you should do.

Find Thomas Online:

Website

Goodreads

Library Thing

Author Q&A- Jordan Mason

Today I had the pleasure of interviewing Jordan Mason. He is the author of several ghost stories, including The Man In Black, which you can read more about below!

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Q: How long have you been writing? Why did you start?

A: I think my first word put down on paper was something horrifying, something ghastly. I’ve written short stories and ghost stories ever since I was a young boy, and so to place a beginning on my writing would be near impossible. I remember being around ten and writing the most terrifying stories I could think up; the horror films didn’t help; I was obsessed with The Exorcist even then.

As far as “professional” writing goes, not very long. I decided to become an independent author because I like control. There’s something satisfying about being the puppet master, wielding the strings.

Q: What inspires your writing? Do you have a muse?

A: I grew up reading Stephen King and Susan Hill, two very different writers. One is very American, and one is very British. The two always spoke to me the same, though, and they inspire to this day. Their style is impeccable.

Aside from their direct influence, I suppose my dreams inspire me a lot, but you don’t want to know what goes on up in there, trust me.

Q: Tell me about your upcoming book, The Man in Black. What was the original idea behind it?

A: The idea was to tell a ghost story as precise as possible without jamming the thing with a whole load of filler. Ghost stories shouldn’t delve too much into that, they should never sidetrack, but should always focus on the present and remain fast and consistent. You should indulge in backstory to set up something worthwhile; characters are essential, but you have to get things done very quickly in a ghost story and not a lot of people can tap into that anymore, which is a real shame.

Its setting came from growing up around the industrial towns of the North East. I wondered how spooky a terraced home would be if it were haunted, and how I could channel that through a short story. ‘The Man in Black’ wouldn’t work as a novel, it’s just too small of an idea, but as a short I thought it could really thrive.

Q: What are the greatest challenges you have faced while writing The Man in Black?

A: The most difficult thing was to convey the language and the setting as accurately as I could while still maintaining a sense of the norm so that readers around the world could follow it with as little trouble as possible. The dialogue alone was tricky, because the North of England, especially the North East, has such a strong and distinctive dialect that I simply couldn’t rinse over; realism would be lost, and I wanted to keep things as real as I could.

Marketing the book was, and still is, a great challenge. Being an independent author has its uphill struggles, but it has its rewards, too.

Q: Which of your characters is most like you? In what way?

A: I think there’s a little bit of me inside every one of my characters, whether it be in this story or in another. It’s a conscience thing. Unavoidable, like death, or good bourbon.

Q: What would you do if you were caught inside your book, The Man in Black?

A: Move house. Quite simple, when you think about it. But then there wouldn’t be a story, would there?

Q: What is your favorite thing to do besides writing?

A: I enjoy reading, networking, and spending time with my girlfriend and my close family. You can’t beat a good horror film, neither. I love sitting down with a wealthy glass of bourbon or a nice beer, only to lose myself in the magic of the movies surrounded by my home comforts.

I love the outdoors, too. I walk as much as I can, and I try and eat well. That keeps me alright.

Q: If you could be in any movie made in the past two years, which would it be any why?

A: Anything by Paul Thomas Anderson or Quentin Tarantino. The Hateful Eight enriched me when I saw it at the cinema. I wouldn’t mind being in that.

Q: What is something you want to do before you die?

A: Get every single one of my stories out there. I have a head full of ideas that are just aching to get out. Whether or not I’ll publish more than one novel in the future is uncertain; I have one in the pipeline, but somehow I’ll get my work noticed. Determination is key. I’m very focused on getting my novellas and my short stories out there, starting with ‘The Man in Black’.

Q: What is something you want the world to know?

A: The world should know how important the traditional ghost story is, how its foundations paved way for the wide spectrum of horror we all know and love today. Drama, even, wouldn’t be drama as we classify it today without the bread and butter of the Gothic ghost story.

I also want the world to know how incredible Bob Dylan is. He really is. Just, fantastically incredible.

Find Jordan Online:

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Author Q&A- Tim Heath

Today I had the pleasure of interviewing Tim Heath. He is the amazing author of Cherry Picking, The Last Prophet, and The Tablet, and has more books on the way! Read the interview below.

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Q: How long have you been writing? Why did you start?

A: I guess I’ve been writing stuff since I was at school (so, erm…. fifteen years plus…) Back then, I didn’t really know where the stories were going. About ten years ago the first real idea dropped into my head – title, characters, premise etc. That’s now how all my ideas come. So about that time I started writing during my lunch hour at work – just over 7 years ago, after moving to Russia, I suddenly found the urge to write regularly, the first draft flowing. I guess the rest is now history!

Q: What inspires your writing? Do you have a muse?

A: I’m not so sure about a muse, but maybe my answer is the same for both of these. It’s my ideas that inspire me. Seeing these mini films in my head (I’m a visual thinker) I really want to do them justice by writing them into novels. Of course, probably making the film directly would be easiest, but maybe one day! So it’s certainly doing the idea justice that pushes me to keep writing.

Q: How much ‘grunt work’ goes into your novels? Is there a lot of research involved?

A: Yes, I would say over the years a lot of grunt work has gone into them, not only by myself, either! I have a great team of pros who help me get it from second draft to publication. I do research quite a bit, plus use experts I can ask questions to, usually giving them copies of my latest draft to read and feedback on.

Q: Where is the strangest place you have come up with an idea?

A: As they drop into my head (so my part is really just recognizing when it is an idea!) I have no great control over that. The idea for The Last Prophet came to me as I walked down the hallway of our new rental flat about a month after moving to Tallinn. Sometimes ideas come when I’m in bed – I think it’s those moments between sleep and awake when the mind is quite creative. So one time (for something I’ve not written, yet) I was a little unwell so went to bed to rest – until an idea came, iPad open and notes taken, now fully awake, no chance for the rest I’d needed.

Q: Tell me a little about your books Cherry Picking, The Last Prophet, and The Tablet. What were the original ideas behind them? Which was the hardest to write?

A: How do I not make this a very long answer! Amazon will give you the blurbs, so I don’t need to repeat that here. Cherry Picking, being the first, was the big adventure for me into becoming an author. There was no pressure, though total vulnerability in releasing it. It’s done well, and after a recent tweak in marketing, has been a regular in the top 20 in the US in the conspiracy thriller chart! It also once made #2 in the UK on the mystery chart as well as recently hitting #3 in the US.

The Last Prophet, therefore, had a little pressure – now I had a readership.

The Tablet combined what I felt was the best bits of both previous novels – most are say this is my best one yet, and with it just take 13 days for the first draft, was certainly my quickest one yet!

I can’t really reveal the original ideas behind them as these are what makes the stories readable, not knowing what the idea is until you come across it. I love books and films with depth, so write that way too.

Q: Are you working on any writing projects now? If so, what can you tell me about them?

A: Yes, I’ve always got two projects on the go as one time. Novel 4 (written in first draft form already and my first sequel) is called The Shadow Man, and it builds on events and a character, by the same name, that emerged from The Last Prophet novel. The draft is sitting on my book shelf next to me – it’s good to leave it several weeks/months and move on, so that the editing process can be a little more subjective.

I have today, in fact, started on my latest project. It’ll be a series of three novels coming under the series title of The Hunt, and book one is called The Prey. Picture The Hunger Games in the real world, with Russian oligarchs etc….lots of fun. I actually managed 6,650 words today, so if I keep that up, could rival The Tablet as the quickest one written! I’ve very excited about this series and hope to deliver something special. It’ll be the next three books I write, I think, potentially over the next two years, unless I really do write it in one month, and then maybe it’ll be less time.

So, watch this space!

Q: Which of your characters is most like you? In what ways?

A: I don’t know really, I didn’t (knowingly) write them with me in mind. You’d have to ask my wife, see if she can spot anyone!

Q: If you could have a brainstorming session with any author in the world (alive or dead), who would it be and why?

A: Oh, interesting question. Actually (I know he’s not exclusively a writer) but would love a session with JJ Abrams and see what came out of that!

Q: What has been the biggest challenge in your writing career? What have you done to overcome it?

A: I guess just making sure I get on with actually writing. I plan well now (my whole year is planned 12 months in advance, with what I should be doing each day – I’m ahead of schedule at the moment, which is great).

As writing in a long term investment, it can be easy to get discouraged or distracted. I’m far from getting this one totally sorted, but have found extra motivation to really press through this year.

Q: What is something you want the world to know?

A: Know that God loves you and that he’s helped me to write books that I’m sure you’ll all enjoy! ☺

Find Tim Online:

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Novels- UK  US

Author Q&A- Roger Billings

Today I had the pleasure of interviewing Roger Billings; and up and coming historical author. Read all about him in the interview below!

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Q: How long have you been writing? Why did you start?

A: I have been working on my current novel for over five years, and I hope to finish in 2016. Yea!

I am a lawyer in my real life and it is often a struggle to find time to write.

I have been an avid reader all of my life. I thought of writing as something I should do, but never did, until a few years ago I was reading the biography of Bernard Cornwell. He moved with his wife to the United States and he did not have a work visa. Since he was not allowed to work at a traditional job, he started writing instead. From that came his first historical novel, Sharpe’s Eagle. I thought if he could do it when he had to, maybe I can do it because I want to.

Q: What inspires your writing? Do you have a muse?

A: I am often inspired by a sense of place. I love to find out-of-the way places that people might not have heard of before but that have a rich history. Then it seems natural to write about what might have happened there back then. One example is the floating islands (hortillonnages in French) in Amiens, France. They are a series of tiny islands that have been cultivated out of marsh land in the Somme River. It is a labyrinth of gardens and water, the history of which extends back to Roman times. I love to write about the kinds of mysteries that might have happened in places like that.

A: On the other hand, I have noticed that I am not “full of ideas” to write about, as some say they are. I feel like my ideas are buried in the subconscious and most of the time I am not aware that they are there, until I start writing. When I write, those buried ideas come to the surface. So I suppose I write to find out what is in my subconscious.

Q: You are a historical novelist. How much research goes into your projects?

A: There is more research than I expected, but I probably do more than I need to. No, I definitely do more than I need to. My idea for my current novel came from general reading in the time period of the French Revolution until several historical facts started to cluster together and I realized I had a book to write. Then the real work began of reading histories, biographies, and letters, and studying maps, lists and court cases, and anything else I could get my hands on. It has been countless hours. How much? I have not keep track, but I enjoy the research, so it has not felt like work.

Q: Why historical novels? Have you always been fascinated by history?

A: I do love history and historical research. In particular, I love literary history. The first thing I think about with respect to a particular time period is who the writers were then. My novel takes place in France and England in 1792, so I think a lot about the writers from that time and immediately prior to that time, such as Rousseau, Dr. Johnson, Fanny Burney, Cowper (I love Cowper!), and of course William Blake, Wordsworth and Coleridge, to name only a few. Both Wordsworth and Burney were in France during the Revolution, and Rousseau made an infamous visit to England some years before, all of which is great food for the imagination.

Q: What is the favorite place you have visited? Why?

A: If you take the time to get to know a place, anywhere is magical.

One example is the ancient walled city of York, in Northern England, that I visited many years ago. Any time there is still a massive wall around a city, going there is like a trip back in time.

CJ Sansom wrote a novel, Sovereign, set in York at the time that Henry VIII and his huge entourage visited the city. When royalty travelled, it was called the Progress, and nobles who hosted royalty on a Progress were sometimes (often?) bankrupted by the expense. I would have liked to have written that book. It is great fun.

In addition, some of my ancestors are from Yorkshire and my great grandfather sang in a choir for boys at the Minster Cathedral in York. I have a drawing of the Cathedral hanging on my wall. So York is special, for sure.

Q: When you travel does your family go with you?

A: Generally I travel with my family, and I enjoy traveling much more when I am with my family. Otherwise, traveling seems much more like just work.

Q: Tell me about your kids. Do they (or do you hope they will) love history as much as you?

A: It is easy for parents to expect their children to be projections of themselves, instead of individuals. My wife and I both love literature and culture. My children have their own unique interests and pursuits. I don’t think any of them are as fanatical about literature as I am, but they know what they are interested in and we encourage them to follow their interests.

Q: You are working on your first novel! What can you tell me about it so far?

A: I am in the middle of my second draft. But the second draft feels like a first draft, because as I wrote the first draft, I learned a huge amount about writing fiction. Now I can see much more clearly what I did wrong or what can be improved. The first draft was an apprenticeship, a great learning experience. Now I just need to finish and then celebrate!

The story goes as follows: a British spy dies while rescuing a young seventeen year old aristocrat from the French Revolution. The aristocrat, ungrateful and mortally offended to owe his life to a commoner, determines to discredit the spy’s reputation. Searching for hidden scandals, the aristocrat inadvertently uncovers a plot to overthrow the British Monarchy, pulling himself into a perilous underworld of treason and crime. Journeying from the jostling streets of London to the lonely mountains of Wales, the young aristocrat can only survive by finding the man within himself, and by finishing the work the detested spy had started.

Q: What challenges have you faced in your writing?

A: Finding the time to write is hard. I have been doing some dictating, which helps to use the time better.

Learning not to edit myself while I am writing and letting the words flow has been difficult. When I am being too critical and I want to write faster instead, I sometimes challenge myself to purposefully write as badly as I can. That gets me started, which is great.

I have also been challenged in finding the historical sources and information I need. For example, I had a scene in which my characters visited the office of the Foreign Secretary in London in 1792. I wanted the location to be authentic, but I wasn’t sure where it was back then. I knew it was somewhere in Whitehall and that the office had been recently created but I didn’t want to be vague and I didn’t want to guess. Then I found a Twitter address for an official historian for the Office of the Foreign Secretary, and they responded that the office was in Downing Street at that time, next to the Office of the First Lord of the Treasury (now Prime Minister) at 10 Downing Street. It was much easier writing the scene knowing I had the location right, and the actual location turned out to be a very significant part of the scene.

Q: If you could go back and meet any historical figure, who would it be and why?

A: There are so many I would like to meet. Perhaps the 18th century poet Samuel Johnson. He was known as one of the greatest conversationalists of all time. If you are going to go to all of the trouble of meeting someone from the past, it had better be an interesting conversation! I was also thinking of Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire. She was also a great conversationalist, but there is a bonus that she was almost always surrounded by many other luminaries: Richard Sheridan, Charles James Fox, the Prince of Wales, the Duchess de Polignac, many others.

Q: What is something you think the world should know about you?

A: I think people should know that I like to look for the good in people. There is much more good out there than can be easily seen, and so looking for it is necessary.

Find Roger Online:

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Author Q&A- Ian Jackson

Today I had the pleasure of interviewing I. D. Jackson, the author of Deadly Determination and Dead Charming. He is currently working on his next novel, so if you haven’t read his books yet, now is the time to catch up!

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Q: When did you start writing?

A: I began writing as a child. Whenever we had people around my parents would wheel me out as the ‘party trick’ and ask their friends to come up with a character and a situation and I would be expected to create a fascinating story on the spot…I was about 6 they tell me! My first books were adventure stories written when I was about 10 and passed among my friends and family – unfortunately none survive, but I can still see and ‘feel’ them in my mind…. yes, I’m strange!

Q: What inspires you to write? Do you have a muse?

A: You know what I don’t, but probably should. Psychology and human nature fires my imagination to write.

Q: Tell me about your books Deadly Determination and Dead Charming. What were the original ideas behind them?

A: My interests lie in psychology and I’ve always been fascinated how seemingly normal people can be affected by an event or perhaps another person in their lives which then drives them on to commit heinous crimes. A germ of a story began emerging in my mind that eventually went on to become my first novel, Dead Charming which was greeted with critical acclaim. Deadly Determination is the second book (not a sequel) and carries through these themes. Both novels are crime thrillers with a twist that will take the readers breath away.

Q: How much ‘grunt work’ went on behind the scenes of writing your novel?

A: Many hours of research as well as interviews with detectives, coroners and some criminals – fascinating stuff.

Q: You have written articles for magazines such as Concept and Style Guide. How is this process different than that of writing a book?

A: When I wrote for magazines and newspapers it was a job to be completed, whereas now I get to write about things I’m interested in – thrilling crime!

Q: Did your days as a local magazine and sports program publisher help you in your quest to publish your novels?

A: Surprisingly not – the contacts I have through publishing magazines are completely different to novel writing and literary agents – like chalk and cheese really.

Q: What is some advice that you wish you had received when you began writing?

A: Start pitching your book as soon as you’ve written the first three chapters and have a tight synopsis ready for the rest – literary agents and publishers only want to see the first three chapters anyway and will base their decision on your writing style and the synopsis of the book.

Q: How has becoming a published author changed your life? Has it always been your goal?

A: My life hasn’t particularly changed as such. I love the fact that I have two books in print, but it wasn’t one of my ambitions as a young man.

Q: You got married to your wife, Susie, not to long ago. Has she read your books? Does she like them?

A: Yes, she has. She helps me as I go through reading chapters and commenting on characters and plot-lines. I think she enjoys the creative process and she says she likes the books…but then she has to really!

Q: What is something you want the world to know?

A: Labels are dangerous and anyone can work to improve their psychological imbalances, however severe they are. I believe in redemption for everyone when they are ready and I hope that readers identify with, and even feel sympathy for, some of my darker characters.

Find Ian Online:

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