Author Interview – Jonathon Lively

  • Hi Jonathon Lively tell us a bit about yourself and what inspired you to write?
  • I was inspired to write because I used to run a small business writing professional resumes. I fell in love with writing at that point but I didn’t have the correct outlet at the time. I tried to write a book about resume writing but that didn’t go anywhere. I was just regurgitating information that was already freely available. One day, I was sitting at the bar where I worked and reading a book. I kept thinking that I’d rather be writing, than reading. So, I went home and did exactly that. Question two tells a bit more of that part of my story!
  • What appeals to you most about the fantasy genre?
  • I started writing in the Fantasy genre because it is basically all I read. Except for some self-help/business books, I read for entertainment. I like to escape to a new world. I love the idea of magic and imagining how it would work blended with today’s society. When I first started writing fantasy, it was a background story on a character I was going to play for a DND campaign. Later that night I turned in a ten-page backstory that made my Dungeon Master want to puke it was so long. But for me, it was just the start. Three days later, I had about sixty-seven pages written on a character that I’d never thought about before. I did not research, I had no pre-determined goal, and there was no outline. I just wrote. That’s when I knew.  
  • Tell us a little bit about your latest project and the challenges you’ve faced putting it all together?
  • My first completed work has been published and I am in the midst of learning how to properly market a book. That is easily the challenge that I am facing the most. I also struggle with my editing. Sad things for an author I know but its true. I LOVE to write stories but I never claimed to be an English major. I have big problems with my run-on sentences, commas, and fragments. So, I get to pay someone for all of that!
  • What type of characters do you like to write the most and how much of yourself do you put into them?
  • With my limited writing experience at this point, that is tough to answer. Currently, I am really enjoying the exploration of anti-heroes. I have a few characters detailed out that will be in the coming sequels that I hope, are relatable anti-heroes. I always put a small piece of myself into each character, otherwise its difficult for me to view from their perspective. I envy authors that can come up with these wild characters that have no basis in reality and think completely alien. I haven’t been able to channel that yet. The main character of my first book, Lathan, was based upon my life at the time. At least before the supernatural stuff kicked in. I’ve been told that the introduction to him was slow but that was intentional. I wanted people to relate to this guy who was real, with real problems. And then thrust him into a magical world, hoping that my readers would put themselves in his shoes and say, “how would I respond to that?” The approach had mixed reviews. Some loved it, others thought it was too slow and had trouble getting into the book.
  • For any wannabe writers out there what’s the most useful thing you’ve learned?
  • The advice I will give is the same that I received from Dakota Krout. He was a mentor for me in my first book and without his help, I am not sure if I would have finished the book. Just write. That’s it. Just write. That is vague I know. But for me, it meant two things. First, when you do not know what to write or have writers block. Write something. Anything. Writing something, is better than writing nothing. And once you get the ball rolling, you’ll come back to your WIP, I promise. Second, do not edit your WIP to death. When you are in the zone, when you cannot type fast enough, and the ideas are just rolling out of you, write without stopping. Do not fix those red typos, ignore those blue grammar mistakes, just keep going. You can get all that when you move into your next draft or start editing. Sometimes, if I have writers block, I will review my previous chapter to get back into the zone. In doing so, I will edit a lot of that stuff out at that point. But do not do it in the moment. Just write. 
  • What writing tricks do you utilise to hit your deadlines and keep your stories on track?
  • I write best at night. And currently, I am working nights as a 911 Dispatcher. So, on nights off, I write while the rest of my house is quiet. And on nights that I work, I do smaller projects. If I end up with downtime, I try to spend it working on a project that isn’t too involved. That way I can drop it at a moment notice. When I am home though, I’ll usually sit at my kitchen table or in my recliner. I throw on some head phones and listen to a playlist called Deep Focus on Spotify. The playlist is meditation like music with no vocals. I can’t focus on my writing if the music I am listening to has any singing. Although, I do enjoy throat singing a little. I don’t usually eat while writing, too distracting. But I will drink obnoxious amounts of water and pee like a race horse. 
  • Are you a plotter or a pantser (make it up as you go)?
  • I am a bit of a pantser so I don’t do a ton of research before beginning my writing. I usually start writing, fill in what I want to be true, and then go back and verify or change what I’ve written. That’s more for a chapter or some detail that is super specific. In regards to a book, I have only written one and I spent about three months outlining that universe. I spent probably twenty hours researching various parts of my universe to make sure that certain aspects were even possible. In the future though, I am unsure if I will do the same level of research. Because I know as an author, I can get really tied down in the research. However, as a reader, I can’t point to a single time when I have stopped reading and looked up a fact to check if it was true or not. I’m reading fantasy fiction, I am taking what I read at face value.
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  • What plans do you have for the future? A new series or perhaps a dip into other genres?
  • I am working on the sequel of my first book, The Last Soul. I am working on the sequel following book two as well. In fact, I am writing them as one book, a continuous story, and then finding a good breaking point to split it into two novels. Also, I am writing a side story to my trilogy and I am considering turning it into a podcast. We’ll see. The side story is still in the works and not my main focus at the moment. 
  • With the world the way it is at the moment what sort of tales do you prefer? Ones with heroes where good triumphs over evil or ones that take a darker approach?
    • Right now, a darker approach. I don’t feel my stories need to combat the current climate, I feel as though they are some sort of reflection of it. Hence my interest in anti-heroes at the moment.
  • What’s better, Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings or Star Wars?
  • Depends on the medium. To read, Harry Potter. To watch, Lord of the Rings. To debate endlessly about, Star Wars. I have more interest in living within the Harry Potter and Star Wars universes. However, I prefer to write in a world most similar to the Lord of the Rings. So, short answer? Yes.

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Where do writing ideas come from?

Author Robert Rees asks the question; where do writing ideas come from?

Much of my university life was spent realising that as a scientist I was unlikely to reach the heights of my childhood heroes – Newton, Maxwell, Feynman and many others. Not only was I in the company of some truly exceptional scientists who far outshone my talents, but I was also getting singularly fed up with having to go to chemistry practicals in the afternoon, thereby missing sport and many other enjoyable activities. Luckily, for those to whom science had become a chore, there was a small yet perfectly formed alternative course dealing in the History and Philosophy of Science. And although an element of attendance laziness remained (I was known as the ‘enigmatic Mr Rees’ in the faculty). I found the subject compelling, so much so that I continue to follow it to this day.

One of the areas which intrigued me about science was discovery – that moment of intuition when a scientist suddenly finds he can understand with clarity something that no one else has ever realised. The philosophy of science had plenty about how things are explained, but could never really cope with the moment of discovery. Indeed – not many scientists could either – they attributed the intuition to dreams, accidents, in fact to anything that bore no explanation. The hard work came later, in testing the idea, and reconstructing the logic behind that initial flash of brilliance.

I feel that writing starts with a similar notion. Some trigger in the mind sets off a chain reaction that arrives as an idea for a plot, in a fashion that is explicable only after the event. So in my case, I can track the genesis of my plot ideas back to a few sources, but I could not for the life of me explain how they came together. I was driving around the Seychelles, and noticed a game of cricket being played on a little square of grass hewn from the jungle surrounding it. This was unusual, as cricket in the Seychelles was practically unknown at the time. The date was around the mid -2000’s, and after twenty-five years in the City, I was ready to move on to something else. But I had not considered anything in particular. These two thoughts dove deep into my unconscious and stayed there for some time.

It was after seeing the film ‘Cool Running’ some four years back, about a team of Jamaican bobsleigh riders, that the idea suddenly re-emerged. An ex city gent, finding himself in the new cricket league in the Seychelles, seemed to me like a situation that could produce a funny story. And I have always liked Dad’s Army.  So now, I thought, if I were to add some lunatic characters, in a good situation, with a plot, I would have something to work with. And even better, this took place at about the same time as the match fixing scandals besetting cricket, which gave me my crime story.

When laid out like this, it almost sounds like the tale was waiting to be created. Just like a scientific theory, the events in the best books make sense, feel like they have to occur, and characters react as they must. But of course, it is nothing like that in the beginning. Just a few ideas jousting with each other in the dark recesses of our minds. Maybe we are just the lucky interpreters of our unconscious.


Check out Robert’s book A Season in the Sun A perfect summer read.


Writers: How to Be a Fairy Godmother

In this latest guest blog post, Rebekah DeVall the author of When Your Melody Fades gives us some tips on how to be inspired.

Fairy Godmothers got all the good stuff. Seriously. You don’t see pretty capes or magic wands sitting around anywhere besides a costume store, do you? And if you do, they’re most certain to be counterfeits.

Figures, when we writers need all the magic and bippity-boppity-booing that we can get. After all, we’re expected to pull full worlds and stories out of thin air, aren’t we?

Now, my fairy godmother is out somewhere today, but she’s left me a note giving me her Top 3 Tips on How to Be a Fairy Godmother.


  1. Steal for all you’re worth.

As somebody sometime said, “Good artists copy, great artists steal.”

Did you really think the Beast’s enchantress (from Beauty and the Beast, of course, what other beast do you know?) just invented a mirror for him out of thin air? Ha ha. Yeah right. She stole the idea from the Evil Queen’s fairy godmother, fifty-seven years ago, in 1937 to be exact.

Be a fairy godmother. You see a worldbuilding aspect you like in someone else’s work? Steal it. Just make sure you cover up your tracks. Fairy godmothers don’t take kindly to the theft of their ideas.


  1. Choose a time period.

Use your gifts wisely. If you must bippity-boppity-boo a magical object or gift out of the air for one of your damsels in distress (ahem, characters), make it time-appropriate. Cinderella was given glass slippers, not neon pink stilettos.

A modern-day damsel in distress must not be given the art of drawing on cave walls—unless you intend to lock her up in a cave somewhere, in which case you deserve whatever grief she gives you.

This includes their names. Fairy godmothers aren’t just called to bless a baby on their birth, they’re often called to christen the baby too.

Cinderella was christened Ella. Christening her Apple or Montana would have been a dreadful mistake. Though Rapunzel’s name was ridiculous in its meaning, it fit her time period, as did Charming for the prince.

Be a fairy godmother. Name your people according to their time period.


  1. Storm castles.

Fairy godmothers are too often envisioned as being weird old ladies who give gifts—or curses, remember Ella Enchanted—to little girls and nothing more. That… isn’t always true.

Fairy godmothers have affected royalty for many ages, far longer than most care to admit. They raise kingdoms, demolish kingdoms; begin wars, end wars; bring to life and send to death. They stare fearlessly into the face of battle and of death and laugh.

Be a fairy godmother. Bring your people—your characters—to the brink of death and back. Take them to the depths of the deepest ocean—and don’t be afraid to let them drown.

Raise kingdoms and demolish them. You weren’t given that magic wand—I mean, pen—only to whip dresses and slippers and pumpkins into existence.

Give your stories meaning. Bring them to their peak, drop them to their deepest depths. Don’t fear danger. Don’t fear adventure.

Be a fairy godmother. Be brave.


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Susan Perrow and the Healing Power of Storytelling

In this latest guest post writer C. East discusses the power stories have to heal.


 This morning I listened to an interview with Susan Perrow on 702 ABC (Australia) ‘Conversations with Richard Fidler’. Perrow is a passionate writer, storyteller, teacher trainer and parent educator. Listening to her tell her life and career stories inspired me to tell others about this incredible talent and her unique work. She’s known as a ‘Therapeutic Storyteller’ and believes in the healing power of stories.

Stories have been an integral part of humanity’s existence, probably since we could produce intelligent speech, to communicate in oral tradition; knowledge, wisdom, belonging, danger, safety, hope and many more, which have enabled us to survive and thrive long before modern times.

Some indigenous people’s use the oral tradition of storytelling otherwise known as; ‘dreaming/songlines’ to First Nations people in Australia. For First Nations people of Australia they used storytelling to teach each generation the lines they would walk as nomadic people, where to find water, hunt for food, sacred places, healing places and their own laws and culture.

In a modern context, storytelling is just as vital to our existence, surviving the rigors & stressors of modern times and thriving in these circumstances, requires more joy and hope perhaps than ever before.

There are stories for; explaining death to children, giving hope to adults & children alike, encouraging imagination & learning, and stories to distract from our busy, fast-paced, stressful lives. Slowing down to read a book, is a simple pleasure which most people can enjoy.

Towards the end if the interview Pellow detailed the power of storytelling in one tale as she briefly recounted an opportunity given to her by Norway, after the bombing in Oslo & mass shooting at a summer youth camp in Utøya in 2011, when 77 were killed, 69 of those youths and 319 injured by Anders Behring Breivik.

Norway asked her to write a story for children ranging from primary school age through to high school age, it was to be read on the children’s first day back at school since the attack over the summer, they wanted a story to instil hope in the children after what had happened, as every child in Norway would have been privy to what had occurred. It was a big responsibility and Perrow didn’t feel adequate for the task, but did some research anyway, which sparked the idea.

She came across information on the marches the Prime Minister of the day organized for every major city to march with roses, citing “we are going to answer hatred with love”. And so they did, every person from children and babies to 80 year olds participated, they marched together each carrying a single red rose, which were carried through the streets and then left in the town squares.

She also discovered that Norway has a royal family and castles, the whole fantastical ideal for a fairy-tale story.

Perrow said she had a vision of a rose, a rogue thorn and falling petals, so combining this and the Norway culture of royalty, “The Rose and the Thorn” was born.

Teachers read the story to children and children started their school year not in fear or grief, but in hope. Teachers said children drew pictures of the story and spoke about it, it was exactly what was intended and shows how the right story, at the right time can give you what you need to be happy, to be healed, to change your mindset, and perhaps even your life.

You can listen to Susan Perrow conversation with Richard Fiddler here:

More about Susan Perrow can be found on her webpage:


Description and other monsters

Description and other monsters

In this latest guest post, Aiden Meyer discusses how to write descriptions and the importance it has on a story.


Oddly enough, description does a lot more than just describe things. Think about this: “The sky was gray.” It’s the simplest, blandest description you can come up with, and yet it does more than just say that the sky was gray. If the sky is gray, the sun isn’t shining, there might be a chance of rain or snow, the atmosphere might be heavier, the world might be bleaker. What I’m getting at is that description doesn’t exist in a vacuum. Let’s see how it impacts everything else and how to make it come alive in the reader’s head.

Senses: This is probably the first lesson in description, but it’s worth keeping in mind. Since the world is being witnessed by someone, keeping only to sight limits how much you can immerse the reader into your world. Having wonderful visual descriptions is great, but it’s in the smell, in the hearing, in taste and in touch that your reader will feel your world. It doesn’t mean you need to have your characters licking lampposts all the time, but trying to incorporate all senses can really pay off.

Motion: This is how you bring the setting to life. Having dynamic elements in your description will make the world feel alive. The flickering of a light, servants rushing around, tending to their duties, a flock of birds heading south, grasshoppers jumping out of the characters’ way. It gives the impression that there’s more happening in the world than just your plot. When everyone and everything move independently, the world feels real, not a static playground for your characters.

Interaction: Having characters interact with the environment, especially during dialogue, can be a great way to use description. Not only does it break up dialogue and lessen that talking head feel, but it also helps your descriptions feel less like a list of traits. For example, you can make a character stir the fireplace and throw a log into the glowing embers while he speaks. When the characters interact with their environment, both become better for it.

Cause and effect: Things in the setting need to have an effect on the POV character. If there’s a horrible smell in the air, the character needs to have a reaction. What that reaction is depends on the type of character, but they need to react somehow. The heat should make them sweat, fan themselves. A cold breeze should yield a shudder and so on. Make sure your environment affects your characters, and their actions change the environment.

Entire books can be written on the topic and this is by no means an exhaustive list, but it should have you on your way. Experiment, practice, and keep working on it!

Find out more about Aidan at –

Check out his novel here-


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In this blog post my fellow Firebound author Rob May talks about his new novel; Girl Under the Gun. Check it out today!


When I wrote my epic fantasy trilogy, Reckoning of Dragons, I tried to bring the excitement, pace and plot twists of my favourite thrillers into the mix. So when I sat down to write an actual modern day thriller, I thought I’d flip my approach on its head, and supplement the car chases and gun fights with some classic fantasy elements.

So Girl Under the Gun has a lot of things you might recognise from your favourite fantasy trilogy: a young hero takes her first steps into a wider world; an experienced warrior finds his jaded worldview challenged; an old conflict is re-awakened; and a trail of secrets leads to a hidden treasure, while several factions with conflicting motives stalk and fight over dangerous new territories.

If this sounds like an odd mix, don’t forget that The Lord of the Rings could arguably be described as a chase thriller: everyman Frodo Baggins is pursued by sinister agents all through the book, from his home in the Shire right to the entrance of the Crack of Doom itself.

Before I started writing, I couldn’t decide if I wanted an old-school, tough protagonist, like James Bond or Jack Reacher, or whether to feature a resourceful fish out of water, like Robert Langdon or Christopher ‘Fluke’ Kelso (from Robert Harris’s Archangel, one of my favourite thrillers). In the end, I went for both options: LJ Hardwick is young literature student, who has never left England, while Mark Grant is a soldier-turned-spy, whose reckless, unconventional approach to missions has earned him the nickname the Game Breaker.

But LJ is smart, fast and adaptable. The word of spies and secrets might just be the future that best fits her growing potential. And for Grant, finding solace in new friends and rightful causes might finally put the brakes on his untrammelled aggression.

Of course, since Girl Under the Gun has the same twists and subversion as Reckoning of Dragons, you won’t find the answers to any of those questions until the very last page …


Girl Under the Gun is out now, for the special price of 99c/99p for a limited time, or read it FREE with Kindle Unlimited.

Or get in touch via my website, and I’ll send you a free review copy.

Finally, for fans of Reckoning of Dragons, book one of the follow-up series, Empire of Dragons, will be out in August. Sign up to my mailing list for more info!


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Audio Books – Obvious next step, or a bridge too far?

My fellow Firebound Books author and the creator of the bestselling Eastern Kingdom Chronicles and the Whistler Novels, T.J Garrett discusses audio books and whether they are the right choice for every writer.

Since commissioning the audio narrative for my book DEAD AGAIN, I have had two predominant thoughts. Firstly: “Oh my god, I can’t wait to get my first audio book published.” Secondly: “Bloody hell this is expensive; I hope it isn’t a waste of money!”
Audio books are great, and they are getting very popular. With the success of Audible, a lot of indie authors are choosing to go down this route. But is producing an audio book a necessary step, or even practical, for everyone?

Is It Necessary?

If you’re not selling eBooks, I doubt producing an audio version will do you any favours. At the end of the day, audio books are just another format, and much of the same marketing rules and trending concepts apply to their sales. It is possible, I suppose, to have a successful audiobook career and not sell eBooks, but if you’ve tried selling eBooks, and haven’t been successful, then what makes you think audio will be any different? I think the point I’m trying to make is, audio books will not boost a flagging career just because they are a different format; you still need to market the product, and you better be good at that before you spend the huge amounts of money required to produce a good quality audio book.

Is It Practical?

Audio books take a long time to produce. Unless you have a narrator in your pocket, waiting on your manuscript, the lead time for an audio book is at least twelve weeks. For most of us indie writers, getting the books on the shelf is the most important stage of our business, so waiting another three months for an audiobook may not be practical. Yes, you can release the audio book later on, but you’ll miss out on all your initial marketing. Also, where do you advertise your audio book? To my knowledge, there are no Bookbub-type services for the audio book industry. The best form of advertising appears to be within the Audible App, and that is bloody expensive!
Note: If you know of any advertising funnels for audio books, let me know!

The End Game
Why are you making an audio book?

Yes, it’s a great ego boost to have someone read out your manuscript and have it “aired” on sites like audible – it’s kinda like the poor man’s version of having Hollywood knocking at your door. You’re making a multimedia version of your work, but is it going to make you any money? Don’t forget, if you have a series, you are going to have to have all your other books recorded, too. If you have three or four books, you’re looking at least a five-grand production budget – and that’s based on the cheap end of the spectrum. You need to think seriously before undertaking this endeavour.

What are the Advantages?

To be honest, I don’t know. I haven’t released my book yet. All I have at the moment are a lot of what-ifs. What if I’m wasting my money? What if I can’t find a way to advertise? What if nobody wants it? This process has taken me right back to the initial decision I made when deciding to become a full-time indie writer. I hope it will work. I hope people will like the recordings and buy lots of the audio books. I hope I’ll at least make my money back. But at the moment, it’s all just questions and doubts.
I’ll let you know what happens after I’ve released the book (June 2017)

For more information of T.J’s work check out his website at –


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Being A Fantasy Reader

In this guest post author and book lover, Claire Buss discusses being a reader of fantasy.

Today is World Book Night. A perfect excuse to spend the evening curled up with your favourite book which is an easy ask for a book lover but what World Book Day really wants to do is encourage non-readers to pick up a book and have an adventure. That’s the great thing about reading, it will take you somewhere you’ve never been before or if you’re lucky, take you back to explore it all over again. Often readers of fantasy get a bit of bad rap – there can be mocking and sometimes you don’t want to admit that you read sci-fi & fantasy because it puts you in a pre-determined box but on this day of book celebration I think we can stand loud and proud and shout to the stars that we read fantasy and it’s brilliant.

Or to put it another way – isn’t all fiction fantasy? Because it’s fiction therefore it’s not ‘real’. When you read that chick-lit novel about girls doing lunch and talking about their love lives you may sit wistfully wishing you could be a lady wot lunches. It’s no different to me wishing I could go on a quest in a magical land. My imagination just requires a little more immersion, perhaps.

It can be difficult for an avid reader to entice a non-reader to pick up a book, especially when you stumble over the intricate plot twists of sorcery and sword fights. But think about the books that brought you into the genre – I mean I can go as far back as The Magic Faraway Tree by Enid Blyton, talking animals in Farthing Wood by Colin Dann and The Worst Witch by Jill Murphy. These aren’t hard-core fantasy tomes. They’re magical children’s books and what a great way to get kids reading by giving them a little bit of adventure. I mean, Harry Potter wouldn’t have been the sensation it’s been without the reader’s ability to immerse themselves in an alternate reality.

Not only am I an avid reader – of all genres but with a particular liking for fantasy & sci-fi – I am also an author. My book is hard to define, it doesn’t really set within a predetermined category. It’s listed under sci-fi because it’s set 200 years in the future but there are no aliens or spaceships. It’s dystopian because there has been a mass extinction event, we learn how humanity coped, adapted and now tries to break free of control. But it’s hopeful and in general dystopian novels are bleak and literally end of the world. And it’s not about a plucky group of teenagers. Instead it looks at the relationships of couples and how they cope with massive life changes. Being a new author it’s hard to get readers at first so you turn to friends and family, most of whom said “Oh I don’t read Sci-Fi”, however once I convince them that The Gaia Effect is not hard-boiled sci-fi, they should try it, they might be surprise and look, it’s such a lovely slimline novel with great cover artwork – how can you say no? Then they read it and text me, telling me off for making them cry. Success! All reviews from family and friends start with the phrase ‘This is not my usual genre’ or ‘I don’t normally read Sci-Fi but…’ and I think that’s the key, if you can just get a non-reader to try something new they might be surprised.

Let’s not forget that genre is an invention of the publisher to make it easier to categorise books and not a request from the reader. I don’t think about genre when I recommend books to friends and family, I think about them and choose books to fit, overriding any objections of ‘I don’t read that genre’ with reminders of all the previous excellent recommendations.  Once we’ve managed to get sporadic readers picking up our novel and getting to the end, our next challenge is to ask them to write a review – even a simple star rating is enough, every little helps.

Find out more about Claire and her book on the following links –

Website: www.cbvisions.weeblycom



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Writing as Art

In this week’s guest blog post, author Tom Barczak discusses whether writers are artists too.


Every time I speak to a room full of authors, I ask the same two questions, seemingly unrelated, but they do have a point.

I ask: “Who considers themselves an author?” Most people in the room raise their hands, depending on their definition of that particular claim.Then I ask: “Who considers themselves an artist?” Only a few of those hands formerly raised are raised a second time.

Then I ask: “Who considers themselves an artist?” Only a few of those hands formerly raised are raised a second time.

And that I think is a mistake.

When someone goes to a gallery, they don’t go to buy a painting, they go to buy an artist. When most people go to a bookstore, most people don’t go to buy a book. They go to buy an author.

They do that because, well I believe, writing is very much an art. It’s as much an art as painting, dance, or music. And how would you, or could you, expect great work from a painter, or dancer, or musician who didn’t consider what they did as art, or themselves for that matter as artists.

It is that very thing, that acknowledgement, that taking of responsibility, that I believe makes their work great, that makes what they do, art. Because they’ve taken that responsibility for it. There is now a piece of them in it. And they can never get it back.

So why do we sell ourselves short in that regard? I think it’s because most of us don’t want, or afraid of the responsibility. Of the risk.

As for myself, I am a visual artist as well, a painter and illustrator. Perhaps that’s why I feel so strongly about this.

I’ve always loved the old coffee table books I remember from when I was a kid, with the illustrated plates before every chapter.

With my first published written work, Awakening Evarun, a 6 part Kindle serial like the old dime store serial novels, I wanted to illustrate it. For me, my drawings and words are somewhat intertwined. I often sketch my way through writer’s block. With my first novel, Veil of the Dragon, I did the same, illustrating every third chapter.

I love the way they both worked together as a whole, through the words and the drawings.

My latest novel, Mouth of the Dragon: Prophecy of the Evarun, published by Perseid Press, is not illustrated, although the Dragon on the cover is mine. It’s been a good reminder for me that one art form need not necessarily be dependent on the other. But still for me they will always be inseparable. I will always sketch my way through writers block. I will always write what I see as the story in front of me.

I write like I paint. I put down the story as I see it before me. For me, it’s a story that’s’ already written. It’s already real, just someplace else. My job as a writer, and as an artist, is to translate it in such a way that the reader will understand what they see. That whatever purpose there is to my seeing it will be passed on to them. You see, in the end, it’s not even my story. I just get to carry the message.

One of the things I just mentioned was risk.

When I write, when I create art, I do give away a piece of myself. I can’t not. But it’s always for a reason.

I believe the words you write on a page, even the book you publish that sits on a shelf, physical or digital, waiting to be purchased, is only half done. The other half of the great work is done by someone else, the reader. I think perhaps that theirs may be the greater half.

Imagine it’s the difference between talking to yourself and telling a story to kids around a campfire. It’s the difference between leaving a painting in a drawer or putting it on the wall of a gallery. It’s the difference between leaving your manuscript in a drawer where no one can ever see, and getting it published.

Art, and therefore writing, is about having a conversation. A dialogue has to happen. It is the difference between craft and art. It is a gift that must be received. And once it is then I believe both, giver and receiver, are forever joined and changed.

The amazing thing about all of this, about art, is that what you have to say may not even be up to you. You may never even know. But I promise you, you do have something to say. It’s what makes you an artist. It’s why you were given a voice unlike anybody else, for someone out there who is waiting to listen to you.

Check out Tom’s work at the following links:

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Editing Myths – by Walter Rhein

Welcome to the first of what I hope will be long-running series of guest blogs. To kick things off Walter Rhein looks at editing myths.


There are some pretty absurd misconceptions floating around about editing a manuscript. Facebook and the internet in general, have conspired to proliferate a lot of insanity, but Stephen King’s 2000 release ‘On Writing’ is particularly to blame. Sure, there is a lot of valuable information in ‘On Writing,’ but the literary landscape has changed considerably since the book was first published and much of the information isn’t applicable to small press writers.

The part of ‘On Writing’ that is the most problematic is the godlike reverence that King holds for editors. Although this is the kind of thing a new writer needs to hear, you shouldn’t let the editors know. When you have a good employee you don’t actually tell the employee s/he is doing a good job because now you’re stuck negotiating a higher salary. Sometimes things that are true need to be handled with pragmatic subtlety.

In a perfect world, there is a balance of power between the writer and the editor. A writer is foolish not to listen to an editor’s suggestions, but at the end of the day, it is the writer’s name on the cover.

A thing to consider too is that many writers are working with small publishers who simply don’t have the same quality editors that Stephen King is used to working with. Just because somebody has a Master’s Degree in English doesn’t mean they’re going to offer you competent editing advice. There are plenty of completely incompetent editors with Master’s Degrees out there. After all, if you can continue to pay the university, they’re going to give you a degree eventually. Degrees are somewhat the scholarly equivalent of self-publishing.

Most recently I’ve been fortunate to work with Janet Morris as an editor. Morris is the author of the bestselling Thieves’ World books published by Baen Books. She is a big name in the industry and is as gifted as an editor as she is a storyteller. Prior to working with Morris’s Perseid Press, some of my earlier manuscripts were handled by smaller publishers. Some of these had good editors, and some were tougher to work with.

For the most part, the editor for my cross-country skiing novel ‘Beyond Birkie Fever,’ did a good job, but at one point during the process, she became convinced that I should use the word “dissipate” instead of “disintegrate” to describe how a lead pack of cyclists fragments during a race. If you’ve never seen a bicycle race, you could think of it like a comet. Pieces break off the head and leave a trail of riders behind.

The head disintegrates. The tail dissipates into space. I was speaking about the head.

I still contend this is the correct word, but I ended up receiving a series of emails both from the editor and the publisher explaining why my word choice was wrong.  The editor went so far as to type out definitions of both the words, which wasn’t helpful to her cause when I pointed out the definition of “disintegrate” was the situation I was trying to convey.

After a face to face meeting with the editor, the publisher even called to urge me to change my position. Once you’re accused of being obstinate, it’s difficult to crawl out from under that shadow. The editor clearly had it in her mind that I was trying to convey some other image and didn’t seem interested in communicating with me.

In the end, it started to seem like the conflict was more about establishing authority than doing what was right for the passage. The publisher let me keep ‘disintegrate’ but the editor elected not to put her name on the book. To me, this seemed like a rather large response to a minor disagreement over a choice of words.

That editor was eventually replaced by the publisher and even though we’d disagreed on this small point, I was sorry to see her go. The replacement editor was absolutely terrible. Not only did she offer questionable suggestions, she did so with snide and sarcastic comments that were unprofessional and unhelpful. About a year after the new editor was hired, the publisher went out of business.

I’d been through about ten editors by the time I started working with Janet Morris. I’d lost publishing contracts because I’d been stubborn about not making certain changes here and there and that had left me somewhat cautious. I brought this up to Janet and she assured me that she expected me to engage in dialogue about her suggestions—which was a great load off my mind. It was also good to know that this was the way the writer/editor relationship was expected to be handled by larger publishers.

None of this is meant to suggest that the editing process is ever easy. Stephen King was right to underscore that the writer has to get over his/her own ego and accept that passages need to be improved. Editing can be painful, and there are still times I have to walk away from an edited passage and come back later with an analytical rather than emotional mindset. It’s a lot easier working with Janet Morris because I respect and admire her abilities as a writer and editor. It’s pointless and counter-productive to create tension over power struggles. The objective is to make the best novel possible. That objective casts its own shadow of authority over the process which should provide enough motivation for anybody.

About the Author:

Walter Rhein is the author of The Bone Sword with Harren Press. He maintains a blog about Peru at, and contributes regularly to Silent Sports Magazine. His novels The Reader of Acheron and Reckless Traveler were published with Perseid Press. His novel, Beyond Birkie Fever, was originally published by Rhemalda Press. He can be reached for questions or comments at: