Wednesday, 29 May 2013

Donna Hosie on 'Just how easy is it to independently publish?'

The super-talented and successful indie author, Donna Hosie is back for a second Speculative Fiction Writer guest post.

Previously she discussed the number one question most writers get asked, Where do you get your ideas from? Today she's asking a very different question. Over to you, Donna. 

Just how easy is it to independently publish?

Although I have an agent based in New York, I have enjoyed the fruits – and the labours – of independent publishing for nearly a year now. It isn’t a career path I ever intend to give up either. 

Self-publishing is hard work, make no mistake. You cannot afford to make mistakes with the actual book, the formatting, the cover art, or the promotion. If you do, your potential audience will be ruthless. After all, with the amount of books for sale now, why should a reader part with their money for an author who was prepared to put out sub-standard work?

However, if you take your time and are patient, the rewards for independent publishing are enormous. You will keep 100% control over your own work, and that’s very empowering. You will also procure some excellent royalty rates: 70% on Kindle Direct Publishing if you price your work at $2.99 or above. 

The first thing you have to do, of course, is write a book. The majority of people will never be able to do this, so take a moment to congratulate yourself when you do. Never underestimate the importance of critique partners and then a line editor. They will ask the questions that you either didn’t think of, or didn’t want to hear. A good editor will also pick up on those silly little typos that you missed, even though you will have read your ms at least 20 times and will see the words in your sleep!

GET A PROFESSIONAL COVER DONE. Unless you’re a graphic artist, then seriously, leave this to the professionals. I despair when I see Kindle novel covers that look like badly drawn cartoons. You will make your money back because more people will buy your book. Be prepared to make an initial outlay. You don’t have to pay thousands whatsoever, and I certainly don’t advocate paying for formatting because I truly believe that this is something that can be done by the author with some time and patience. There are several free guides available - I have one on my blog - for those who want to learn. It really is easy, and if you’re planning on publishing several books, then think of the money you will save by doing this yourself in the long term. 

Self-publishing isn’t the easy option, and anyone who thinks this is a fool! But it is a fantastic, viable option for writers who know they are good enough to grab an audience.

GO FOR IT! What have you got to lose? 

Donna Hosie is the author of THE RETURN TO CAMELOT trilogy, and the trilogy concludes with the release of THE SPIRIT OF NIMUE on May 31st. Find out more about Donna and her books here and here.

Thank you, Donna. Congratulations on the release of THE SPIRIT OF NIMUE. As some who recently entered the world of independent publishing, I want to echo every word of your post. It is hard work. You do need critique partners, an editor, professional formatting (until you learn) and a top-notch cover designer. Make a mistake with any of these and you risk losing a reader forever. Get it write, and you won't look back.

I'll be back on Monday with a post about. . .I'm not sure! Something for me to think about over the next few days. Until then, happy writing.

Monday, 27 May 2013

Simon Kewin's Engn Cover Reveal

Today I have the pleasure of helping long-term writing and blogging friend, Simon Kewin reveal the cover for his second novel coming out this year. It's just as stunning as his Hedge Witch cover, and even more exciting is that it comes out on July 15th, the same day as my next release.


Finn's childhood in the valley is idyllic, but across the plains lies a threat.

Engn is an ever-growing steam-powered fortress, that needs a never ending supply of workers. Generation after generation have been taken away, escorted into its depths by the mysterious and terrifying Ironclads, never to return.

The Masters of Engn first take Finn's sister, then his best friend, Connor. He thinks he, at least, is safe - until the day the ironclads come to haul him away too.

Yet all is not lost, Finn has a plan. In the peace of the valley he and Connor made a pact. A promise to join the mythical Wreckers and end Engn's tyranny from within.

But now on his own, lost and thwarted in the vastness of Engn, Finn begins to have doubts. Is Connor really working to destroy Engn? 

Or has he become part of the machine?

Engn is a YA/Fantasy novel. In case you're wondering, the title is pronounced like "engine". If you're interested in being kept up to date on the book, December House have set up a mailing list, available here. No spam guaranteed!

You can catch up with Simon on his website, and get the latest news on Facebook and Twitter.

So, what do you think? Do you like the cover and blurb as much as me? I'll be back on Wednesday with an interview with this week's Speculative Fiction Writer, Donna Hosie. In the meantime, happy writing.

Wednesday, 22 May 2013

Sharon Bayliss - Speculative Fiction Writer

I always have a stand-out read of the year spot. When I read Hugh Howey's Wool earlier this year, I decided it was going to be his book and that it would take a brilliant book to beat it. The Charge by Sharon Bayliss came close. While it didn't knock Wool off that top spot, it has joined it. If you like science fiction and alternate history, I urge you to read it. The Charge is well written, has a unique premise, is full of twists and turns, and engaging characters. You will not be disappointed.

Which is why I am delighted to be introducing Sharon Bayliss as this week's Speculative Fiction Writer. Over to you Sharon.

How to Re-Write History

Manipulating historical events, either for an alternate history novel or to deceive the masses, takes a lot of research.

Personally, my experience in re-writing history comes from writing my freshly released alternate history fantasy, The Charge (not from being a ruthless overlord). In The Charge, the state of Texas never joins the United States and instead becomes an independent nation. I've complied a set a tips for how to create a believable alternate timeline.

1) Determine and research your pivotal moment

To alter history, you don't necessarily need to be an expert on every single historical event, but you do need to be an expert on at least one pivotal moment--a place in history where if things happened differently it would have taken the timeline off course. Everything that happens before the pivotal moment stays the same, but everything that happened after is on an alternate timeline.

2) Read similar alternate histories

You obviously don't want to steal anyone else's idea, but you can get a solid sense of pivotal moments and possible alternate paths by learning from others. That knowledge makes it easier to come up with your own idea.

3) Start re-writing that timeline!

After you know about your pivotal moment, you have to follow the rest of history from that point and decide what happens next. I suggest a good old-fashioned timeline like we created back in school. Of course, everything that happens after your pivotal moment is in question, but to keep your head from exploding, focus on how the most important events changed.

You'll alter real events, and you may end up creating new events that never happened at all. When you're creating new events, I suggest modeling real world events. No one can say, "that would never happen", if actually did or almost did.

4) Edit with a critical eye

I suggest that you do a final read through where you're specifically looking for factual inconsistencies. Look for any references that could possibly have been altered by your change in timeline. Places, events, brand names, political figures, basically any proper noun.

Put on your critical super-geek pants to assess your work...or another critical super-geek might get you! :)

I hope that novelists and dictators found that helpful! Now go upset your history teacher!


When King of the Texas Empire kidnaps Warren's brother, Warren embarks into a still Wild West to save him. On his journey, he makes a discovery that changes his life forever—he and his brother are long-lost members of the Texas royal family and the King wants them both dead.

He gets help from an activist Texan named Lena, who's itching to take on the King and happens to be a beautiful firecracker Warren can't stay away from. Convincing her he's not one of the bad guys becomes harder when a mysterious energy stirs in his body, turning his brain into a hive of emotions and memories—not all his own.

A legacy of violence is not all he inherited from the brutal Kings of Texas. The myth that the royal family possesses supernatural powers may not be myth at all.

Gone are the days when choosing a major was a big deal. Now Warren must save his brother and choose whether or not to be King, follow a King, or die before he can retire his fake ID.


Book Links:

Barnes and Noble

An audio recording of Sharon reading from The Charge
What Side Are You On? Quiz

Sharon Bayliss is a native of Austin, Texas and works her day job in the field of social work. When she’s not writing, she enjoys living in her “happily-ever-after” with her husband and two young sons. She can be found eating Tex-Mex on patios, wearing flip-flops, and playing in the mud (which she calls gardening).

You can connect with Sharon at and, or on Twitter.

Thank you for sharing your tips on how to write alternate history, Sharon. It's not something I've tried myself but you've certainly inspired me to try. I'm looking forward to reading more of your work.

I'll be back on Monday with a special cover reveal from Simon Kewin. You won't want to miss it! Have a great week.

Monday, 20 May 2013

Kindle News and Cover Reveal/Launch Day Help Request

Last week I did my first free promotion on Kindle Select. At the beginning of the week I was hoping for a couple of hundred downloads a day, which would mean around 1000 by the end of the week. I had no idea whether I would achieve this figure. I needn't have worried. By the end of the week, Passing Time was downloaded 851 times. Not quite the 1000 I hoped for (I'll explain more about that in a minute), but still a great figure. If only 5% of those readers leave me a review, that's potentially 42 reviews. As I'm sure most writers will agree, reviews are like lifeblood when it comes to book sales.

Now back to the 851 downloads. During the five free days I promoted Passing Time in the following ways:

On my blog.
Other bloggers (thank you to everyone who helped!).
Books sites promoting free Kindle reads.
Facebook posts and photo teasers.

Apart from my fellow writers who helped blog, tweet, and FB, I think one of the most important tools was my Passing Time Facebook page. I paid £7.00 to promote a post announcing my book was free on Kindle between May 13th to 17th. As some of you may know that £7.00 is slowly depleted as the amount of people who view the post increases. And it's not just people who have liked my FB page who see it, their friends do as well. The reason I believe the promoted post played such a key part was because I was averaging 220 downloads a day until my £7.00 was used up by the Thursday morning. That figure dropped to around 100 for the Thursday and Friday. Coincidence?

Of course I could have paid for an actual advert, which might have brought in countless downloads. But I could not justify the expense for a freebie promotion. What about you? Have you offered a book or story for free? How did you promote it? What worked and what didn't?

While I'm on the topic of Kindle and freebie promotions, Mark Knight's Blood Family: Quest for the Vampire Key is FREE this week. Grab your copy of his riveting vampire read between May 20th to 24th.


Taking Time Cover Reveal and Launch Day

My science fiction short story collection, Taking Time, will be published July 15th.  I will be working on final edits during June, and the cover is currently being re-designed after I had a major rethink and changed some of the stories. I'm really excited and can't wait to share it with you.

As before, I am asking for help for the cover reveal and launch day. However, I have made the decision not to do a blog tour this time. A tour takes a considerable amount of time and effort, and I'm also working on a science fiction serial that starts in September. I want to conscentrate my full efforts on it as soon as possible. So, I only need help with the following:

June 17th Cover Reveal
July 15th Launch Day

If you can't do the exact date, posting any time afterwards would be just as helpful.

If you can help, please leave a comment below or email me at the usual address. As always, if there is anything I can help you with don't be afraid to ask. Don't forget to call back this Wednesday, when science fiction and alternate history writer, Sharon Bayliss, will be this week's Speculative Fiction Writer. Until then, happy writing.

Friday, 17 May 2013

Untethered Realms, Christine Rains, & Laura Eno

A couple of weeks ago I had the honour of being invited by Mary Pax to join Untethered Realms (UR), a group of speculative fiction writers. Their motto is, 'tap into worlds, wings, and spec fic things'. They are an amazing bunch of writers and friends. The UR website is currently under construction but still worth a peek. We're also on Twitter and Facebook.

Two of my fellow UR members, Christine Rains and Laura Eno, have released new books this week and I'm thrilled to be sharing them with you.



Having fallen for her gorgeous neighbor might not be so bad if Harriet McKay wasn't in her hideous banshee form every time Kiral saw her. Such is her curse. True, he's a vampire struggling with a drug addiction, but he's a good soul. Yet no one could love a cursed witch, especially one not even her cats respect.

After having a vision of Kiral's death, Harriet makes it her mission to save him. Never before has she attempted to change fate, but so strong is her love.

Kiral Ozdemir struggles to make it through every day. The craving for blood laced with drugs directs his every thought until he tastes Harriet's potent blood. The magic immediately addicts him, but she disappears. He's desperate to find her, racing blindly into a city in chaos.

How can Harriet convince Kiral to see past her vile appearance and return her love? If only she can force him to listen to reason coming from a raving crone, perhaps she can save him from the demons hunting him and from himself.

Author Bio 

Christine Rains is a writer, blogger, and geek mom. She has four degrees which help nothing with motherhood, but make her a great Jeopardy player. When she's not writing or reading, she having adventures with her son or watching cheesy movies on Syfy Channel. She's a member of Untethered Realms and S.C.I.F.I. The 13th Floor series is her first self-published series. She has seven novellas and twenty-one short stories published.


Archaeologist David Alexander investigates the cave where his father disappeared and hurtles into another world, one filled with magic and bizarre creatures. The mad ravings in his father’s journals of icemen and dragons may not be fantasies after all.

Convinced his father may still be alive, David begins a treacherous journey to find him and discover a way home. Along the way, he encounters a few unlikely friends. A Dreean warrior, a beautiful thief and a satyr join him as he searches.

David’s arrival into this new world sets off an explosive chain reaction of events. Faced with powerful adversaries and few clues, he may not get the chance to rescue his father before disaster strikes, condemning both of them to death. Or worse.


Author Bio

Laura Eno lives in Florida with a very tolerant husband, three skulking cats and two absurdly happy dogs. After spending years immersed in English literature courses, she now writes novels late at night with the help of muses from the underworld.


Two more books to add to my TBR list! Don't you love Laura's author picture? I do. That's it for this week. I'll be back on Monday. Have a great weekend!

Wednesday, 15 May 2013

Sher A. Hart - Speculative Fiction Writer

I'm delighted to be interviewing writer and editor Sher A. Hart as this week's Speculative Fiction Writer. Her keen insight and developmental editing helped me turn Passing Time into something far greater than I could ever have imagined.

Over to you, Sher. 

Q:  Please tell us a little about yourself. Where are you from, and what do you do when you're not writing or editing? 

Although I was born in Utah, I’ve lived for many years in Panhandle Florida with easy access to white sandy beaches. But instead of going to the beach, I walk around the block with a book. Reading beat art in high school when I wanted to be a dress designer. Reading even beat microbiology and computer programming in college. Much later, the prospect of winning an original Star Trek cast autographed poster made me quit reading long enough to make the costumes pictured on myself, hubby, and my oldest two sons. Yes, I’m that geeky. We won first through third places and tied for fourth. I still have the poster. 

It broke my heart when I found out I had osteoporosis after my fourth on was born, but I (mostly) dropped reading in favor of gardening in order to get enough weight-bearing exercise. Eventually, gardening became too painful, and in desperation I tried reading while walking. It worked! I even write and edit while standing up. Now that my boys are all grown, I’m not involved with Boy Scouts or school as much as before. But I still enjoy singing harmony and started composing music last year. I’m the choir director at church. Garage sailing (sailing from garage sale to garage sale) is another favorite hobby. 

Q:  On your blog you describe your early passion for reading science fiction and fantasy. Which author would you say has been the biggest inspiration to you? 

I can’t possibly choose one. How about four? Giving credit where credit is due, Dr. Seuss taught me how to read, and I still love his books for both the vivid imagination and the rhyme. But J.R.R. Tolkien started my fantasy obsession with The Lord of the Rings. At age 9, I hid under my bed when the ring wraiths rode by. Then I fell in puppy love with R. Daneel Olivaw when I read Isaac Asimov’s I Robot. I triumphed over the school librarian to check that out from the adult section in sixth grade. Later I discovered Andre Norton and Anne McCaffrey. It’s a close contest, because both pioneered as females in the SF field, but Anne wins. 

Q: What is Earth One? 

Since the first time I read about parallel worlds, I decided there had to be one Earth that came first—a powerful Earth made to last as a pattern for all the others. It might even be in the same universe. Then I figured the first Earth had enough time to develop sentience and learn to communicate with its inhabitants, recruiting some as caretakers to act as appendages the planet didn’t have. But it would be very old by now, past the peak of civilization, war-torn, and with depleted resources. If its caretakers were killed or displaced, Earth One might seek new helpers on a younger Earth. Boy Scouts seemed a good fit for a middle grade book. 

Q:  I noticed the header ‘Create wondrous worlds in words’ on your blog. What worlds are you currently creating? 

I know someone who is very accident prone but not stupid. And there’s a reason besides clumsiness that some people sail through life while others have trouble walking out the front door without getting hurt or breaking something. I think that’s just vague enough that somebody won’t write the same book. 

Q:  You were brave enough to offer me developmental editing for my first short story collection earlier this year. What does developmental editing mean? 

Any given story could go a number of different ways, but all are not equal when it comes to creating excitement, mystery, tension, and inability to put the book down until the story is finished. Given a story that doesn’t take off, a developmental editor seeks to make the plot, pacing, characterization, and everything else work together. It might take rearrangement or adding elements to design a story structure that zooms along like a spaceship through uncharted and dangerous territory. You might scream the whole way. But you land out of breath and anxious to take another ride. Even if I come into the book in the copy editing phase, I may offer some key developmental suggestions. Sometimes small changes in plot or structure (moving where an incident or revelation falls within the story) can make a huge difference in reader satisfaction. Some authors take the suggestions, others don’t. I loved working with you because you did. 

Q: What services as an editor do you offer? 

I’m explaining because definitions vary. And I'm going backwards, from details to big picture, because many writers hire me at the last minute before publishing. It’s late, but I do my best to make up for all the editing stages they missed. 

Proofreading: Many writers think they need nothing more than fixing typos. My ability to spot errors of all kinds finally made me realize I should share that talent. This includes spacing, fonts, missing italics, etc. in the print galley or eBook. A once over by anyone won’t catch every error, so I read at least twice. With indies, I don’t usually get the chance to proof after typesetting, which is when proofing should be done to catch any errors missed during copy editing along with errors made during the book design. I always hope writers make every correction I suggest and that the designer corrects any conversion problems. My rates are very low, but I charge more per word for proofreading if I wasn’t hired for editing earlier. That's because I have to correct more things which should have been done during copy and line editing. I often find problems that go deeper than either can fix. If I’m proofing an ebook that needs substantial changes, I’ll suggest going back to the text document to make them. Those who hire a book designer should make sure to get both an eBook formatted text document and a print formatted text document. PDF is not easy to change. 

Copy editing: This is where I check the document to make sure it follows the rules. I look for spelling, grammar, syntax, and…what did I miss? Oh, yes, punctuation! Lack of “comma sense” is the bane of most writers. Few can tell the difference between subordinating conjunctions (don't need commas) and coordinating conjunctions (need commas only if the following coordinate clause is independent). The exception is for clarity. Style rules count as well. I use the Chicago Manual of Style as well as the dictionary. I use track changes, make comments the first time I see a particular mistake, and if I see problem areas, I send links to the rules. They are different for American and British writers, most notably for spelling and single vs. double quotes and placement of punctuation marks for quoted material. Checking for consistency is also part of copy editing. 

Line editing: Many editors don’t differentiate between copy and line editing. They’re hard to separate because they’re both detail oriented. But line editing goes deeper into style and clarity, things that make your writing flow and make sense. All of the copy editing rules can be right, yet repetition, unclear wording, telling versus showing, head-hopping (POV slips), and poor ordering can make reading difficult. I charge the same hourly rate for line editing as copy editing, and I do both at once if a writer comes to me for copy editing. It may take more than one back and forth to correct everything. Again, I often find problems that require substantive line editing, which can be the same as developmental editing. See below. 

Content/Developmental editing/Substantive Line Editing: Some editors separate these, but I don’t. Book failures can happen when writers skip this phase. The main character needs a goal and problem with both internal and external conflict keeping the goal out of reach. Saggy middle is another problem. Story structure is important. Incomplete plot arc is a common mistake—authors leave too many loose ends, especially in series books. When you’re comparing editors, make sure whether you'll receive notes within the text (if it’s called substantive line editing, you’ll get notes within the text) or just an editorial letter. There’s a big difference between somebody pointing out a hole in a sweater and somebody who helps you thread the needle and guides your hands until you get the hang of it. I try to keep my costs low, so if there’s time, I make a suggestion in a specific spot and let the author try to fix the problem. When I reword, I try to keep the author’s voice and tone. Some writers use a good critique group or beta reader as content editor. Both would be better. I’ll find far fewer problems and charge less than otherwise. 

Q: You taught me an incredible amount. What would be the key piece of advice you would offer someone before they submitted their work for publication? 

Thanks! Please, please, don’t think your significant others, friends, co-workers, or anyone with whom you have a personal relationship can distance themselves enough to give an honest opinion of your writing (even if they hate you) or that they have the skill necessary to find and fix the problems a trained editor can. You can’t afford not to use a professional editor if you want your book to garner high reviews and sell well. 

Q:  Now for the compulsory random question: if you could meet any science fiction writer, living or dead, which would it be and why? 

My answer might be different next week, but today I pick Orson Scott Card. His imagination is great. He gets into the alien mind and human character better than most. And he had the courage to rewrite Ender’s Game to fit a changed world. I hope the movie does it justice.

Thanks for inviting me to do this interview. I hope it sways a few more writers to use an editor. Believe me, your readers will notice. My contact info is on my card below.

If you'd rather use my contact form than phone, it's on my website
I do free author hosting on my book blog (limited to kidlit up through YA).
I'd be honored to follow you back on twitter as @sherahart.
I'd love to have you like my Sher A Hart page on Facebook.
On Google+, I will circle writers back as Sher A Hart.

Thank you, Sher. After reading your answers to my questions, I really feel like I've met a kindred spirit. Though we're thousands of miles apart, and our lives are very different, we also share a lot in common. The love of reading, Star Trek (what an awesome family photograph), writing - the list could go on. As for that wondrous world you're creating; if you need any technical advice, I'm one of the most accident prone and clumsy people you could meet!

I'll be back on Friday to tell you about my joining Untethered Realms and sharing Science Fiction writer, Christine Rains latest release.

Monday, 13 May 2013

Passing Time FREE on Kindle & My First Book Teaser

I have some great news to share with you today - Passing Time is FREE on Kindle from now until May 17th (ends 11:59pm PST).

If you haven't got it yet, now's your chance to read it for free.

I have more news to share. My talented cover designer, Ida Jansson at Amygdala Design, has made me a video book teaser. I'm revealing it for the first time today.

Please feel free to share the news of my promotion and/or the book teaser.

I'll be back on Wednesday, when this week's Speculative Fiction Writer is Passing Time's editor Sher A. Hart. Until then, happy reading and writing.

Wednesday, 8 May 2013

Gary Starta - Speculative Fiction Writer

If you're looking for this month's Indie Life post, please click here.

This week's Speculative Fiction Writer is Gary Starta. He's going to tell us about his book Demon Inhibitions and parallel universes. I have a feeling I'll love this post. Over to you, Gary.

What if you could change your universe? It brings to mind many possibilities some of them possibly pleasurable some not so much. Maybe we tend to think of a fresh start with a positive mind: change is good.

When I wrote Demon Inhibitions I wanted to take the protagonist Caitlin Diggs into a parallel universe, something which is becoming less science fiction and more science fact in the eyes of physicists like Michio Kaku who believes portals could lead us to other universes where everything would be altered. Not only things, but us; there could be other versions of ourselves out there.

Caitlin Diggs finds herself in a new universe meeting her ‘other’ self and discovers FBI must be in her DNA. Both Diggs work as Special Agents for the Bureau. But the other Caitlin works for a preternatural division of the FBI because in her universe demons are real along with many variations of preternatural beings.

It is interesting to ponder meeting yourself or in this case, Caitlin meeting Caitlin. Original Caitlin is shocked to find her other self can be so tolerant of demons. She wants to arrest them all but this is possible because they outnumber demons in this universe and they also live in segregation mistreated as if they aren’t entitled to rights.

This gray area intrigued me because if demons are not all evil it’s not okay to hate them all. Further complicating our Caitlin’s perspective, some demons are seeking out a means to curb their violent tendencies. Is it possible demons could have inhibitions? It seems so when Caitlin finds a singer who can temporarily treat demons with her vibrations of her voice. I always loved music and believed it would be a good vehicle to institute peace. But as Caitlin finds out, not all want peace for some odd reason.

There is a conspiracy in this parallel universe and now Caitlin must not only sort out a whole new life including boyfriend, home and friends, but find who has empowered a super demon hell bent on killing both humans and preternaturals.

Please enjoy an excerpt from Demon Inhibitions:

“Caitlin, I’m sorry I became angered when you asked me about my dealings with the paranormal. I do not share your abilities, but I do know something about battling the paranormal.”

Great! How much did Briana spill about me? I bit down on my lower lip to suppress my anger. But Diggs saw it anyway. Why wouldn’t she? Essentially, she was me, just an altered version.

“Try not to be angry, Caitlin. I want you to know you don’t have to feel uncomfortable about your abilities with me. I have no doubt they are genuine. Briana surmised you had left the FBI, your FBI, because they didn’t, or wouldn’t, believe in your psychic abilities. I think they’re foolish. In fact, if I were them, I would be envious.”

I felt a small smile tug at the corners of my mouth. “You would?”

“I would and I do.”

“So how will you report this case? Do your superiors know you are chasing a monster?”

“I have leeway to pursue my own cases if that’s what you’re asking. But if I did tell them, let’s just say they wouldn’t bat an eye.”

My quizzical expression encouraged Diggs to continue.

“There is something else you should know and it might be more unnerving than anything you’ve experienced in the last twenty-four hours.”

I laughed with sarcasm. “This, I’ve got to hear.”

“Caitlin, in this world, the FBI operates a preternatural crime division--a special unit created to hunt and capture demons.”

“Okay,” I said, bracing myself for what might come next. And here I was, hoping she was going to tell me chocolate is calorie free in this universe. I resisted a strong urge to roll my eyes and nodded for her to continue.

“But we don’t go on witch hunts… forgive the expression--sometimes I’m not the most politically correct detective. What I mean is that we only seek to arrest and prosecute the demons, or non-humans,  we suspect are guilty of crime. Humans attempt to live in a peaceful coexistence with demons here. In other words, we don’t and we won’t--profile them.”

My anger bested me. “What!” I gasped. “Why aren’t you pursuing them all? And come to think of it, why are you so damn trusting when it comes to Manners?” I paused. “I’m sorry, Agent Diggs, maybe  you’re just following orders, but when I worked as an agent I found orders to be…”

She rested her hand on my shoulder.

“Caitlin. We live in a very different world… here. We cannot go arresting every demon simply because it’s not possible. In my world, six out of every ten beings are non-human-- meaning those six are either demons or a combinations of species we call hybrids.”

“So is that why you even deal with Manners? Because if you ask me, the lesser of two evils still adds up to evil, at least in my book.” She began to speak, but I cut her off. “Don’t you think when push comes to shove he’s going to side with his own kind?” Spittle flew from my mouth. I had shocked even myself, realizing that tirade sounded quite racist. “I don’t want to sound like a genocidal dictator here, but I’ve seen the man in action. His son is a murder suspect in my world. Manners aided his escape.”

“I know this.”

“And yet, you still trust him?”

“Trust is maybe too strong a word. I believe his intentions to be just.”

Hmm. She sounded a lot like me: the brazen open-minded agent who dared to bend the rules if necessary, never afraid to take a stand against bureaucracy. I began to wonder what was happening to me. Had I become the one-dimensional robotic agent I once abhorred?

“Agent Diggs, I’m just having a hard time acclimating here…”

“Hey, it’s only been a day. You’ll adjust.

“I’ll settle for getting through.” Before I had a chance to finish my thought or clench my teeth, the ring began to take shape…

Book Links
Author website

Thank you, Gary. I did enjoy your post and especially the excerpt. Parallel universes and the paradox of meeting oneself has intrigued me ever since first watching Journey to the Farside of the Sun as a young child. Demon Inhibitions is going on my TBR list!

That is it for this week. I will be back on Monday with an exciting reveal and promotion. Happy writing.

Indie Life: How do you maintain focus when balancing multiple writing projects?

It's time for this month's Indie Life post, a monthly feature run by the awesome writers over at the Indelibles blog. If you're familiar with Alex J. Cavanaugh's Insecure Writer's Group, you'll already have an idea of how this will run. Every second Wednesday of the month those taking part will post something related to indie life, such the highs, lows, triumphs, struggles, and milestones of going it alone.

Today I'm talking about the dangers of losing focus by asking the question: How do you maintain focus when balancing multiple writing projects?

As a newly published Indie writer, I'm all to aware that unless by some miracle my short collection suddenly garners the attention and sales of someone like Hugh Howey, I'm not going to give up my day job on its sales. In fact, I probably won't even make the equivalent of two or three days wages in a month. But if I can have multiple books on sale, then maybe combined they will bring home a decent wage. And that means writing more books.

Easy? It should be. I'm a writer. Writing stories is what I do, and it's the most important part. Not the sales. But I'll let you in on a secret - when I first starting submitting short stories for publication, I concentrated on one story at a time. Yes. I worked on a novel from time to time, but I focused my creative energies on completing one project. I selected an anthology. I knew the final submission date. I submitted on time.

Fast-forward a couple of years and I have multiple projects competing for my attention, and because I'm self-publishing, no deadline. Of course I can give myself a deadline but then I can also change it. The result is I'm losing focus. Instead of regularly completing one of these projects, I have lots on the go. Of course that is not always a bad thing - we need variety so as not to stagnate. But we also need to finish stories.

While it is great for any writer to already have an idea of what their next few publications will be, how do they ensure a steady stream of publications without losing their way? How do they maintain focus when balancing so many writing projects? For me the answer is starting a business plan and publicly announcing a publishing schedule.

As much as I hate to think of my writing as a business, my dream is to write full-time. I can only achieve this through consistent sales. If I want consistent sales, I need to giving my readers more reading options on a regular basis. By setting a publishing schedule, and then telling the world, I will be making a commitment. By working out the hard facts of increasing sales through more books for sale I am focusing my attention on ensuring each project is completed. Talking of announcing publishing schedules, here's mine for the next few months:

July 15th - Taking Time (science fiction short story collection).

September 2nd - episode one of a science fiction serial. Then one more every two weeks. Nine episodes in total.

What are your thoughts on maintaining focus? Do you think balancing multiple projects is a good or bad thing? How many becomes to many?

Monday, 6 May 2013

An Apology & Character Naming Competition

I had planned to bring you a post today entitled 'How to Write and Take Part in a Successful Guest Post'. Unfortunately, I got rather sidetracked in the last week and never got around to writing it. Please accept my apologies for any disappointment caused.

Talking of apologies, I owe a huge and perhaps rather ironic one to Maria Zannini. A few months ago she agreed to be the first host for my Taking Time blog tour, starting May 6th. As Passing Time was published a couple of months later than I planned, Taking Time has been pushed back as a result. Unfortunately, I forgot to tell Maria. I'm really sorry, Maria. I hope I can make it up to you at some point in the future.

Golden rule of doing a guest post: always keep in contact with the host and update them as soon as any changes are needed.

Now for a competition. I was going to do a caption contest - it's been a while since I did one - but I thought I'd do something different for a change.

The first person to name the specific character this costume belongs to gets a character named after them in my upcoming science fiction serial. It's that easy...or hard, depending on how much you love the film.

Happy guessing!

Don't forget to call back this Wednesday, when this week's Speculative Fiction Writer is science fiction author Gary Starta, and I'll be sharing this month's Indie Life post.

Friday, 3 May 2013

Cover Reveals from Donna Hosie and James Garcia Jr.

It's not often I get to post two cover reveals in one day, but today I have two stunning covers to show you from Donna Hosie and James Garcia Jr. Who is excited as I am?

Donna Hosie's Spirit of Nimue



Natasha Roth and her older brother, Arthur, have removed the magical darkness that had fallen over the land of Logres.

But all actions have consequences.

Nimue, the Lady of the Lake, is now a sworn enemy. Natasha realises that the only way the land of Logres will truly be at peace is if the sorceress is removed forever. So with her beloved Sir Bedivere, the feisty Guinevere, and a trusty brethren of knights, Natasha plots to free Logres from the malevolence of Nimue once and for all.

Yet Arthur also has problems. Now a father to Mila, he starts to witness a terrifying change over his girlfriend, Samantha, as she struggles to contain the awakened powers of Morgana.

With dark magic coming at them from all sides, Natasha and Arthur decide to make use of the Falls of Merlin: a mystical landscape of waterfalls that connects 21st century England with the mystical world they fell into. A place that does not exist in the future.

And by the end, they will know why.

As Natasha finally discovers the truth about her past link to Logres a tragedy will strike at her very heart. Can Arthur get his young family back to the 21st century and still continue to be the king that Logres demands he be? What is the secret that Sir Gareth has been hiding all this time?

And who is the true owner of Excalibur?

THE SPIRIT OF NIMUE is released on Amazon on the 31 May 2013. It is the final book in THE RETURN TO CAMELOT trilogy.


James Garcia's Seeing Ghosts


Paul Herrera finds himself bequeathed a mysterious old house near the California central coast by a deceased aunt he never knew. The woman who shows it to him is the spitting image of his wife, taken from him three years before in a senseless car accident which also took his unborn son. While he deals with the ghosts of a past he cannot let go, there are new ghosts Paul must deal with - alone for the week in the expansive two-storey house that he will soon discover holds many secrets. Eventually, he will see that he is surrounded by ghosts as he struggles to hold onto the only thing that he has left in this world - his sanity.

So, you ask, how in the world could a guy who started reading and writing horror fiction end up writing a romance? Well, it is a paranormal romance, so it really isn’t that big of a leap…

Truth be told, although I grew up reading The Amityville Horror and early works by Clive Barker and Mr. King, and watching films like The Thing, Poltergeist and the original Friday the 13th films, my tastes have evolved with age. Now in my 40’s I find myself more comfortable with horror suspense than horror gore. If it’s splatter or torture porn, I’m really not interested. As one may excuse language and nudity when it’s necessary for the plot, I feel the same about violence. There’s certain rough aspects to The Exorcist, The Silence of the Lambs or more recently Let Me In, but the stories are so good that they work on every level.

Though I grew up with horror fiction and heavy metal music, my teenage years and a real lack of dating brought me to face issues of the heart. Even though my wife and I have been together now for twenty five years, I still remember those teenage years where every sad song seemed to be about me. Perhaps one might suggest that there is still a small part of me that wonders if love can be forever, and whether I might yet find myself alone once more? Only God knows. We have a wonderful life together, yet there’s still a part of me in touch with those feelings of love and loss.

My favorite novel is not scary in the least: Beach Music by Pat Conroy. It is a work of genius. It is not paranormal, and I never wanted to read it; however, a sister in law of mine coerced me into picking it up. All these years later I have yet to put it down, reading it or at least parts of it periodically over that time. It is great drama and has a bit of everything in it. I will go to my grave a happy man if I’m considered half as good a writer as Mr. Conroy. Couple this with the fact that I’m most comfortable with a romantic comedy on my television, and you will now begin to understand how it came about that I ended up writing Seeing Ghosts.

I always hoped to write a haunted house story before my writing days were finished, but I did not want to rush it. I had seen too many films or books begin with so much promise, but fall flat in the end. This is not to say that I have written the greatest haunted house story in the history of mankind. But I do think I have come up with something that is very special – it certainly is to me.

And I hope it is for you as well. You’ll have to let me know.

As I say over at my blog, we’ll talk soon. 

James Garcia Jr. 
Author of the vampire novels, Dance on FireDance on Fire: Flash Point and the forthcoming Seeing Ghosts. Stalk him at his blog, Facebook and Twitter.

Wow. Two stunning covers from two talented writers. Two more books to go on my TBR pile. I'll be back on Monday with my guide on how to write and take part in a successful guest post. Happy writing.

Wednesday, 1 May 2013

James Maxon - Speculative Fiction Writer

One of the things I love about Speculative Fiction Writer is meeting and engaging with writers I may never have discovered otherwise. Today's guest - James Maxon - is one such example.

While I love to do interviews, I also enjoy reading the myriad of post topics guest writers come up with. Today's topic is no exception. Over to you, James.

Going beyond the book trailer - How to create a sample reading 

So you’ve written thousands of words, revised them, edited them, revised them again and then edited some more. Proofreaders have caught the majority of errors, and you make some finishing tweaks. Finally, your book is ready for publication.

After catching the eye of a traditional publisher, or publishing on your own, your book is up for sale. Months, perhaps years of plotting, world building and character development are at an end. Readers charge forward like a herd of wild Heffalumps to buy a copy of your masterpiece. All you have to do is sit back and watch the book climb into the top 100 bestsellers list. 

Unfortunately, it’s not that easy. Unless your name is Stephen King, Stephanie Meyer, Dean Koontz or James Patterson, chances are there’s still a lot of work to be done.

If you’re an indie author like me, the world probably doesn’t know you exist, let alone your book. So how do you find readers? Or better yet, how do readers find you? 

Book trailers are one of the most common ways authors get the word out. With a collection of stock photography and music clips, they put together simple slideshows. Catchy words fade in and out in an attempt to capture interest, but the flavor of the story and quality of the prose isn’t presented. So how then do authors enrich a potential audience? 

Sample readings. 

Unlike audio books—which require a full reading—a sample provides readers with a small portion of your story, giving them enough to get a good feel of your book. And the great thing about this is that you can make one for free. 

Here’s how: 

  • Find someone close to you that has a good voice. Ask them if they would be willing to take an hour or two to record a quick sample. All they need is a microphone on their computer. If you don’t know anyone who is willing to lend you a hand, then you can record your own voice.
  • Download Audacity. It’s a free, easy to use, Open Source program for recording and editing audio. After installing it, run the program and load your voice recording into it (or record it now if you haven’t done so already).
  • Create a new audio track. Here you will place a short music clip before the reading starts. Kevin MacLeod offers a wide range of compositions for any genre of book. You can download them and use them free at
  • Now, add some spice. Listen to the reading and add sound effects where you think they’ll have the most impact. You can find free sound effects at In Audacity, simply create a new audio track for each one—you can place them anywhere in your timeline.
  • At the end of the reading, replay the music you used for your intro. Overlap it with a plug for your book. For example, in mine, the reader says, “I hope you enjoyed this reading of Traphis: A Wizard’s Tale, to learn more about the story or purchase a copy of the book, please visit”
  • Once everything is done, simply export your audio as an .mp3 (you’ll need to install the LAME MP3 encoder, which can be downloaded at I recommend saving your file at a high bit rate (but not too high). I put mine at 128kbps.

If you are curious as to how mine turned out, take a listen to it here and let me know what you think!

A Youtube version is also available:

If you have any questions, feel free to leave me a comment below.

Keep writing.
Keep reading.
And keep it true.

About the author

James D. Maxon (1977-Present) was born at Elmendorf Air Force Base in Anchorage, Alaska. His parents were divorced when he was just three-years-old. Raised in a strictly female household, James grew up in the midst of mental illness and depression. He, himself, struggled in school due to a learning disability. Without a positive male role model, James learned how difficult it can be for children to realize their true potential. Having acquired a love for fantasy at a young age, he began to write stories of his own, providing children and teens with messages of faith, hope, and insight. Overcoming his disability, James graduated college with a 4.0 GPA. He deepened his connection to the creative world by following a career in design. He now lives with his wife and daughter in a suburb of Minneapolis, Minnesota, and spends much of his free time applying his imagination to the real world.

Thank you, James. I must admit that a sample reading is something I hadn't even thought about. I loved yours, and can easily see why it is such a great promotional tool. I also love your mantra: Keep writing. Keep reading. And keep it true.

That's all for today. Don't forget to call back Friday, when I'll be revealing new covers from Donna Hosie and James Garcia Jr.