Author Interview – Jeffrey Bardwell

In this week’s author interview I chat with dark fantasy author and creator of the Metal vs Magic Universe Jeffrey Bardwell. Join us around the campfire and settle in.


  • Hi, Jeffrey Bardwell. Tell us a bit about yourself and what inspired you to write?

I’ve been writing and publishing dark fantasy with a mix of dragons, steampunk, and romance since mid 2017. I have published six novels, two novellas, and one anthology all set in my Metal vs Magic Universe. I love creating new worlds and populating them with interesting characters. When I’m not shackled to my keyboard,  current hobby endeavours include practising my puff pastries, building a Roman style woodworking bench, and growing every type of berry under the sun. I think my favorite cultivar is the haskap. What a name!

  • What appeals to you most about the fantasy genre?

I love that good fantasy is a story with wondrous impossible broad strokes grounded in tiny realistic details. Riding dragons? Well, be certain to describe the aereal formations and how the leather harness is constructed. Steampunk armor? Well, don’t forget to show your characters slogging through all the upkeep and maintenance.                                       

  • Tell us a little bit about your latest project and the challenges you’ve faced putting it all together? (include release date etc here)

My latest project involves wrapping up the fourth book in my dark fantasy / romance / intrigue series: The Tyrant’s Peace, The Mage Conspiracy series. I’ve been wrestling with this one for over a year due to various work and health shenanigans. This series is far more complex than others I’ve written because each book interweaves a related suspenseful intrigue and romantic adventure plot with their own unique sets of conflicts and characters. So, each novel is more like writing two novels. The prospect of pushing forward and finally finishing the series with Book 5 gives me a warm happy glow. Book 4 is coming out April 15, 2021.

  • What type of characters do you like to write the most and how much of yourself do you put into them?

I like taking the most evil, despicable villains and making them sympathetic and even loveable at times by allowing the reader to relate to their human motivations. Everyone is multifaceted and has more than one reason for why they do things. I like to impart that quality into all my characters.

  • For any wannabe writers out there what’s the most useful thing you’ve learned?

Stop outlining, world building, and composing long character treatises. Just write the bloody book already.

  • What writing tricks do you utilise to hit your deadlines and keep your stories on track?

I get a feel for how much I can write per day given my current additional responsibilities. Then, I set realistic goals and buckle down. That is at least the plan, which sadly gang aft agley. Giving your timeline generous fudge factors to account for hiccups and the unforeseen is prudent lest you get burnsed.

  • Are you a plotter or a pantser (make it up as you go)?

A bit of both. My outlines are the broadest strokes simple story beats with motivations and conflicts for the three main characters. Even so, I will often stray from this as the evolving characters reveal a new path while I’m telling their stories. I often leave the last third of the outline especially vague just for this reason.

  • What plans do you have for the future? A new series or perhaps a dip into other genres?

I have three currently ongoing series that I really need to finish. Then, I have four more planned in the future, which I will be writing one at a time. Of these seven series, I already have all the covers designed for four of them. Get your covers done in series batches, folks! Saves time and money later, and allows you to consider series branding as a cohesive whole. My novels all have heavy cross genre elements, so genre hopping is as simple as leaning harder on one point of that epic fantasy / romance / steampunk trifecta. One of my current series is a military fiction (steampunk dragon hunters), the other a coming of age story (prodigy artificer), and the last a court intrigue (spy with magic disguise).

  • 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?

I like stories where the heroes aren’t pure saints, and the villains aren’t pure demons. Give me some nice shades of gray, complex character motives, and juicy betrayals.

  • What’s better, Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings or Star Wars?

I should really side with Tolkien on this one–epic fantasy for life–but in truth I enjoyed all those franchises. Each auteur has influenced me in their own way.

Follow Jeff on social media

Dark Epic Fantasy Website: https://jeffreybardwell.com/

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/16676565.Jeffrey_Bardwell

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/-/e/B071RXS994

Bookbub: https://www.bookbub.com/authors/jeffrey-bardwell


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Author Interview – Thomas K Davis

It’s been a while since my last author interview but I’m glad to say they’re back thanks to a huge increase in the number of authors wanting to take part. In today’s author interview I speak with Science Fiction writer Thomas K Davis.


Hi Thomas tell us a bit about yourself and what inspired you to write?

Hey, I’m Thomas K Davis, author of the Versatile Layer book saga. I’ve always been a huge Sci-Fi fan. I loved shows like Farscape, Battlestar Galactica, and films like Blade Runner 2049 and Valerian- City of a Thousand Planets. Media like this has influenced my own work. I write fiction that has meaning but knows when to not take itself too seriously.

Versatile Layer is a 9-part Epic Space Opera. The best way to describe Versatile Layer would be Romeo & Juliet meets Star Wars. Our two main characters meet completely by chance and fall for each other. They’re separated again by a tragedy that leads to a war between their two peoples. Their quests to reunite gets wild. There’s Exo-suits, Elite soldiers, Robots, Alien Amazonian warriors, jet packs, assassins, a war raging in the stars, gangsters, heck there’s even a cowboy. The setting and battles are epic but the heart of the story is personal and character driven.

Each book is self-contained with treads that weave into future instalments. Kinda like Marvel movies. In fact, the average read time for my books is about 2 hours. They’re fast paced. I’ve been told that reading my work is like have a movie play out in your head. And that was my intent when I sat down to write them.

  • What appeals to you most about the fantasy genre?

You can really just let your imagination run wild. You’re creating this world with a set of rules. What are the rules to your universe? Are they loose and cartoonish?  Are they realistic? Meaning, if a character falls 30ft onto the hard ground, do they just walk it off? Or are they seriously injured, like in real life. Are your characters swashbuckling like Jack Sparrow with little care for the laws of physics or their own safety. Or are they in a stand-off carefully considering their strike because one miscalculation means certain death?

Answering these questions and establishing these rules is what I love about writing.

  • Tell us a little bit about your latest project and the challenges you’ve faced putting it all together? (include release date etc here)

I just released the 8th book in the Versatile Layer Saga: THE BLOODLESS REVOLUTION. It’s the final battle for planet Samael. The exiled princess, Adeola M’falme, has gathered her freedom fighters and is ready to remove her cruel brother from the throne. But his forces, led by the ruthless Master Mega, have other plans. Will Adeola be able to liberate her world without sparking a full-scale civil war? It was released on Jan. 26, 2021 and can be found at the following link. http://versatile-layer.com/books

There were a lot of moving pieces and characters to manage in this chapter and I’m very proud of the end result. The cast really expanded over the last few books and I had to tie all of their stories together for this major event. I feel like every character has a satisfying arc and contributes to the resolution in a significant way. There’s still one more book to go with another cast of characters and that’s going to be the final conclusion to the series.

  • What type of characters do you like to write the most and how much of yourself do you put into them?

I write a lot of tough female characters. Since the aliens in my story are basically Amazons from space, it makes sense.

  • For any wannabe writers out there what’s the most useful thing you’ve learned?

Every once in a while, let a character do a thing that doesn’t affect the overall story. In life people express themselves in ways that don’t matter at times. In ways that only matter to them. If you know your character, then when they’re random, you’ll know why they did that random thing and the audience will accept it because you as the writer put it in with confidence and purpose.

  • What writing tricks do you utilise to hit your deadlines and keep your stories on track?
  • Are you a plotter or a pantser (make it up as you go)?

I have a clear goal and a conclusion I’m trying to reach. I always know the beginning and the end of a story. So, I write those out asap. I don’t outline at all. I’ll be going about my day and scenes will start to play out in my head. That’s chapter 9, that’s chapter 5. If you have a clear vision of where you’re going, you don’t need a map.

  • What plans do you have for the future? A new series or perhaps a dip into other genres?

I’m editing the final instalment of the Versatile Layer series. After that, I’m planning to jump genres. I’m planning to write a dark comedy about vampires. I have the title and some of the characters. I just have to nail down the events, plot, and theme.

  • 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?

I can go either way. Currently, I’ve been deep into Attack on Titan which is a seriously dark story. Thought provoking, violent, hopeless at times. You don’t even have a clear idea of who the villain is because most of the cast is so morally compromised.

But on the flipside, I’ve also been enjoying My Hero Academia (I know, anime.) which is a very hopeful series. It’s full of triumph over challenges and incredible moments of perseverance.

  • What’s better, Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings or Star Wars?

L Before “The Rise of Skywalker” I would have definitely said Star Wars. But after that film, ugh. So much potential squandered. Cringe worthy levels of fan service that hinder the story. (takes a deep breath.) Anyway, I haven’t seen or read any of the Harry Potter series. So, “Lord of the Rings” wins out.

Follow Thomas via –

Website: http://versatile-layer.com/books  

FB Page: http://facebook.com/versatilelayer

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/badpope

Twitter: https://twitter.com/UmojiLegend

 Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/188090.Thomas_Davis


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The First Fear on Sale for just 0.99p/c

It’s sale time again folks, this time my epic fantasy The First Fear is available to buy for just 0.99p/c from Amazon, Apple, Nook, Kobo and more retailers.

Here’s the blurb to entice you into getting yourself a copy. If you love creative world building, super powered beings and plenty of action this is the book for you!


The Supreme rules the world.

For years beyond counting the people have lived in fear and served her will while she reigns with an iron fist. Her servants the Venerable Chamber and her feared Hollowed stalk the land hunting those who may have the Power to challenge her. The Empowered Ones.

Once, they defended the world from all terror using their abilities to harness emotions into supernatural abilities. Now only a few remain, but hope is not yet lost.

Elian, a young man living at the edge of the Imperium discovers he too possesses the Power with devastating consequences for both himself and the people he loves. Forced to flee from the Supreme’s most deadly agent The First Fear, Elian encounters a ragtag band of rebels known as the Liberators and a group of Gifted led by the charismatic Empowered One, Vavius who believes that the key to overthrowing the Supreme lies in the ruins of the ravaged lands of the once mighty Kingdom of Aeranyth.

Can Elian survive long enough to develop his newfound abilities and help them turn the tide against the Supreme or will he die trying?

Reviews for The First Fear

“Fans of Sanderson will love this one.” – The Bookwyrm speaks
“This was such a great book! LOVED it!!! Highly recommend!” – Amazon reviewer
“Really good ideas and a fun read!” – Amazon reviewer
“Amazing world building” – Amazon reviewer


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AFTERLYFE Movie Review

I haven’t posted a review in a while but when I heard of this short movie, I just had to do one. From Wagyu Films comes their first officially released movie and whilst it’s a short it’s bloody good.

What is it?

AFTERLYFE is a horror movie that pulls no punches and in its 20 minute run down has more scares and excellent world building than most of the crap coming out of Hollywood these days.

Created by a small studio and on a low budget the movie does an impressive job of both looking like a much bigger budget production and fully immersing in the viewer.

A Short Movie with a Tall Reach

It doesn’t pull any punches; its short run time doesn’t allow for that and that is one of its strengths. It wastes no time diving into the action by setting up the scene that is both mysterious and immediately scary.

With all that’s being on regarding the Covid pandemic, the opening shot of a man waking up inside a body bag in a dark hospital room with an oxygen mask on his face taps into the fears over the virus. It also gives the movie a 28 Day Later vibe which I absolutely love.

It’s creepy AF

Our as yet unnamed protagonist frees himself from the body bag to discover that there are people in similar bags all around him. The lightning is excellent as the man leaves his room and begins to explore the oppressively dark hospital.

As he ventures down a corridor, he sees other rooms containing other ‘patients. In one room he encounters a man covered in bandages who gives a disturbing performance as someone who is absolutely petrified.

This is where I have to mention the music in this movie. It’s subtle and creepy rising and ebbing in perfect unison with the tension on screen. The tension builds and a female voice cuts into the eerie quiet, that made me jump. The hero finds a walkie talkie and asks the woman questions about his situation, her answers are vague adding to the sense of uneasiness. We learn that the hero had been in a car accident, but the woman says, ‘this isn’t a hospital’. A WTF moment if ever there was one.

The script is great with the exchanges between the man and woman in particular believable and unnerving. The horror aspect itself is done better than some big budget movies with a particular scene of ‘something’ stalking the dark corridors genuinely creeping me out. It definitely succeeds in its attempts to scare and does it in a way that doesn’t rely on obvious jump scares and over the top gore.

A scene where the hero encounters another ‘survivor’ who is armed is perfect as it subverts much of the audiences’ expectations as we realise this isn’t just another zombie survival movie. In fact, that scene flips things on its head entirely to the point where I then felt concern for the ‘survivor’ more than the protagonist. Needless to say, the thing we saw earlier stalking the corridors makes another appearance and its suitably horrific.

To say any more about the plot would ruin the twist and shocking revelations, in short, the writing was great. There was only one point where I could see the twist coming, which as any writer trying to throw an audience off the scent of a big reveal can attest is incredibly hard to pull off.

If this review has piqued your interest, then watch it below!

Is it worth a watch?

Yes! For a debut movie Afterlyfe is excellent and I can’t wait to see more from Wagyu studios. They plan to release more short horror movies as well as a full length movie called Patriarch that looks very promising.

Final Verdict – 9/10


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Easter Sale – Unconquered: Blood of Kings for just 0.99p/c

Flash Sale for the Easter Weekend! – If you love history, battles and heroic characters Unconquered: Blood of Kings is the book for you. Get your copy for just 0.99p/c from – books2read.com/u/bxejqd

The final clash of Saxons and Vikings!

As the kingdom teeters on the edge of chaos, King Edward the Confessor dies without an heir, sparking off events that will see three of the most powerful men in Europe fight to the death for Christendom’s greatest prize, the crown of Saxon England.

Rebellion, war, love and loss will test the strength and faith of Osfrid Hunweldsen, a noble who fights to save his family from the hands of tyranny and the coming invasion of the kingdom. It is 1066, the blood of Kings shall be shed.

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Announcing Heroes of the Sundered Crown Book 5 in the Sundered Crown

Hi all I’m delighted to announce book 5 in the Sundered Crown Saga- Heroes of the Sundered Crown. I’m working away on the book and am hoping for a release sometime in the Autumn of this year.
The fleet of Yundol longships powered through the water towards the shore. On the clifftop, beacons burst into life as the approaching invasion force was sighted by the enemy. Standing proud at the bow of the lead Yundol ship was Ricard of Champia. His greying hair and beard blew in the wind, and his green cape fluttered wildly behind him. His eyes were fixed on the beach. 
For too long he’d been exiled from the Kingdom that was rightfully his. After his defeat and escape from Bison, he’d spent six months overseas seeking aid to strike back at Danon. He had travelled across the continent of Yundol, the home of Delfinnia’s once most feared foes to find support for his war. Most of the Yundol chieftains had scoffed at him; some had even threatened to kill him. Many of the Yundol warlords bitterly remembered the defeats Ricard had inflicted during their failed invasion decades earlier. Despite that, the promise of gold had proven too appealing for some, and before long, he’d mustered a formidable force of mercenaries. 
The cost made him wince; his treasury was now empty; he’d gambled everything on taking the Sundered Crown for himself. Yundol horns blared across the choppy black waters, and the warriors that had once spilt blood across Delfinnia prepared to do so again. The warriors roared, their savage voices carrying in the wind. A thousand men to take the Marble Shore, a thousand of the most dangerous men alive. He adjusted his sword belt and took the helmet offered to him by his squire. He looked back down the row of burly oarsmen and nodded to his trusted lieutenant the elderly Vizar. The fighting men of Champia were packed onto the ship’s deck and bristled as they sighted the stunning white beaches ahead Marble cliffs shining in the early spring sunshine. It was the first time many of them had seen the mainland in months and signalled that they were returning home. Vizar caught his eye and gave Ricard a reassuring smile. The older warrior walked over to him.
 “The men are eager for battle my lord. Let us hope these Yundols are just as good at killing as I remember.”
Ricard nodded before putting on his helmet.
 “Today we take the Marble shore, tomorrow the Kingdom.”
 The horns sounded again signalling for the fleet to increase speed. The warriors hastily strapped on their armour and prepared their weapons. With every oar stroke, the Yundol warriors shouted their battle cry.
 “Death! Death! Death!”
The longship surged forward, and Ricard drew his sword from its scabbard. Behind him, his warriors prepared themselves. Ricard frowned as he spotted figures appear on the clifftops. There were thousands of them!
Arrows suddenly lashed down like hail onto the vulnerable ships. Ricard swore. As they drew closer, the figures became more apparent. All wore black armour, and each was armed with the lethal Sarpi composite bow and barbed arrows. The deadly projectiles struck the ship eliciting screams from warriors and oarsmen unlucky enough to be struck. Just as quickly as it had begun the arrow storm stopped. Then, with a sudden jolt, the ship struck the beach using the furiously rowing oarsmen’s momentum to skid high up the sand. It was the favourite tactic of the Yundols and one that often took a foe by surprise. Ricard leapt over the side of the ship, raised his shield, and roared for his men to follow. The sand was deep and challenging to traverse. Warriors disgorged from the beaching ships, and the Sarpi unleashed another arrow storm.  Dozens of warriors fell to the Sarpi arrows. Ricard’s eyes widened. On the cliff tops, he could see catapults being rolled into place. He watched in horror as the Sarpi quickly loaded the weapons and launched pots of burning pitch down onto the beaching ships. One Yundol longship took a direct hit, erupting in flames that engulfed the warriors on board. Burning men fell screaming over the sides only for their heavy armour to drag them down into the churning sea. 
Ricard rallied his men, and they rushed to him to form a shield wall. He crouched under his shield as another volley of arrows struck. His arm shook under the impact. All around the air was filled with the screams of the wounded and dying, but the Yundol warriors pressed on up the beach. They continued their war chant using their shields as cover from the maelstrom raining down on them. A horn blared from the cliffs causing Ricard to lower his shield. His eyes widened and a knot of dread wormed in his guts. Massing at the top of the steep incline at the top of the beach were hundreds of heavily armoured horses. Their thick black armour covered the animals from head to hoof and sat astride them were Sarpi warriors clad in thick plate armour the colour of darkest night. 
“Spears!” Ricard bellowed.
The Yundols sheathed their swords and axes and hastily formed a phalanx of spear points. With expert skill drilled into them by Ricard, the warriors grouped together until they were three lines deep. Each wielded a long spear and lapped their shields over their neighbours. The Sarpi cavalry surged forward like a black tide to sweep down the dunes. Sand sprayed in all directions, and the ground shook. 
 “Brace!”
The first of the horsemen thundered closer, lowering their long lances, and picking targets to slay. 
With devastating impact, they hit, the Yundol spears having little effect on the charging enemy’s thick armour. Men were skewered on lance points by the dozen, Vizar among them. Ricard was battered to the ground, but he quickly rolled to escape the stamping iron shod hooves of a Sarpi horse. He came up from the roll, threw his shattered spear aside and drew his sword. Despair filled him. All along the beach, the cavalry swept aside the army he’d spent months and the last of his fortune gathering. The dead lay in the now blood soaked sand and bodies floated on the grisly tide. Several of the longships were ablaze to send smoke drifting high into the sky. The lucky ones had managed to force their way back into the sea and were now desperately turning tail to flee back into open water.
 “Niveren no,” Ricard despaired. More horns sounded, this time from across the water. Ricard spun to see a small fleet of Sarpi warships round the headland and move to cut off his forces. The Yundols were trapped. He watched in horror as fire arrows launched into the dull sky and fell like rain on the beleaguered Yundol vessels. The ships caught alight, the screams of the doom sailors drifting on the breeze. All around him, his men were being butchered the cavalry charge having smashed any semblance of disciplined resistance. All of his hopes and dreams of liberating Delfinnia and taking the crown had been extinguished within moments. 
In his heart, he had always known it had been a fool’s dream but seeing his men cut down the realisation of all he had done dawned on him. The thunder of hooves came from behind him, he closed his eyes. A broken man. 

Buy the Sundered Crown Saga

The Nightblade (Prequel)

Heir to the Sundered Crown

War for the Sundered Crown

Quest for the Sundered Crown

Voyage for the Sundered Crown


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Author Interview – Merri Halma

Joining me around the campfire today is American fantasy author Merri Halma the creator of the Indigo Travelers series. We settle down for a chat about the world of fantasy writing and what inspires her.


  • Hi Merri__ tell us a bit about yourself and what inspired you to write?

I am originally from the Yakima Valley in Washington State. I’m now residing in the Treasure Valley, Idaho. I was inspired to write as a way of being heard. I grew up with a severe speech impediment and often I felt like others weren’t interested in what I said. But if I wrote down my ideas or stories, I found an audience. Sometimes younger kids in my neighborhood would gather around me and I would read them my stories or tell them a story I hadn’t written down yet.

  • What appeals to you most about the fantasy genre?

I like the freedom to let my imagination go and the challenge to make the impossible real. I like having animals that can think, talk and guide humans so they have a real relationship, which grows. They challenge each other to be better. Also having plants and rocks that can move on their own, think, talk and have feelings.

  • Tell us a little bit about your latest project and the challenges you’ve faced putting it all together?

My latest project is Ian Temple and the Search for the Wisdom Trees, An Indigo Traveler Series Companion Novel. I have been working on this off and on since 2014.

 Ian Temple hears the calls of the trees and tries to follow them. He knows they are in danger and the Temple of the Wisdom Trees, in another world, has vanished. But he doesn’t know how he will get to that world. A strange cat appears in his room and points out the shadow that is lurking in the corner. The cat calls Ian an Indigo teen and says Albagoth, the Creators of All Worlds, are looking for the original Wood Sprite. Ian doesn’t think that is him, but Ian does heal plants that are ailing or hurt.

  Shadows see Ian as a threat. His parents are hiding who they are and who Ian really is. They are afraid if Ian were to find a way to their world, they will not see him again.

 Ian doesn’t have a release date.

  There is newly released anthology that I have three stories in, Table by the Window by the Caldwell Writers Group, which I belong. The Caldwell Writers Group has both seasoned authors and those new to writing striving for more exposure. One of their authors has had stories published several times in various Chicken Soup for the Soul books as well as other anthologies. 

 The titles of my stories are: My Life, an essay; The Mysterious Chest, a horror; Thirteen Again, an essay I wrote when my son was 13 and I was reliving my life at that age.

  • What type of characters do you like to write the most and how much of yourself do you put into them?

I like characters who usually feel alone, isolated in a way, and feel like they do not belong in the world because they see themselves so different than others. There is usually a part of me in each of my characters, except the antagonist. Majority of my characters are on a deep spiritual quest to unite part of themselves that they have lost. One of my characters was born on another world, but had to her genes altered to appear human and pass as human. As she nears her 15th birthday, a gene turns on that will eventually bring her home to go through an initiation into her birth culture.

  • What writing tricks do you utilise to hit your deadlines and keep your stories on track?

I work for myself, so I set or don’t set deadlines for myself. I tend to blow past my deadlines. I keep a good idea of what I want to do, but seldom set a specific date to finished.

  • Are you a plotter or a pantser (make it up as you go)?

I am a pantser, but I do some planning and plotting, but do use the main ideas of my pervious drafts in my re-writes, while keeping in mind what I want to change.

  • What plans do you have for the future? A new series or perhaps a dip into other genres?

I plan to do another rewrite of the latest draft of Ian Temple and the Wisdom Trees and I have two more stories to write for the Caldwell Writers Group’s next anthology. The theme is Idaho. I will probably attempt some literary fiction with one of the stories.

  • 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?

I prefer fantasy with deep characters. Though, I am reading a non-fiction book on Trees Magic by Iva Kentaz. This is research for my fantasy series since Banyan trees play an important role in each of the books.

  • What’s better, Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings or Star Wars?

I would have to say Harry Potter wins in the magic, fantasy and awe hero journey story. The awe of Harry learning to fly on a broom and fight with his wand was outstanding. Lord Rings scores higher points for Tolkien spending years developing an Elf language and using it throughout all of his books, inspiring so many children and adults. Star Wars is okay, but he really failed in the last two sequels of his original story.

 Lord of the Rings and the Hobbit are classics. I love them for setting the bar high for those of us who desired to write epic adventures.

https://www.instagram.com/merrihalma/

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https://www.bookbub.com/profile/merri-halma


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Why I choose to be an Indie Author

I’ve been an indie author for close to a decade now and throughout that time I’ve had folk say, ‘oh if only you could get a publisher to pick up your work,’ and every time I hear it, I wince. I choose to be an Indie author and likely always will. Here are the reasons why.

Full Control

What many people don’t realise is that a ‘publishing deal’ can mean a whole host of things. There are numerous versions of said deals that range from vanity (where authors are essentially duped into paying money for their book to be published. Read why this is never the way to go here) to traditional deals where a publisher offers a cash sum upfront for the author to write their novel. Often these sort of deals also mean that the publisher attains full rights to the book and the author is tied to often tight deadlines.

Being indie however means that I am in full control of my writing. I can write at my own pace and go down the creative roads that I want to. I’ve heard several stories where a publisher has told an author to do rewrites or remove entire sections of a book, as an Indie I never have to do this.

Writing is a deeply personal experience and the scenes we create are by extension a part of us. Now don’t get me wrong I am always open to criticism and am willing to make alterations etc if they do not compromise the story or my vision. This is where Beta readers come into play as they can make suggestions as to what works well and what doesn’t. Being indie means that I am free to follow their ideas or not.

Publishers don’t guarantee success

I recently received a message from a publisher regarding one of my already self-published books and in the message, they said that they loved the story but that it could do with a developmental edit. They then put me in contact with an editing company to who I permitted to have a look at the manuscript.

As of writing, I’ve not heard back from them, but the experience made me think. I checked out the other authors that the publisher represents and their books and discovered that every single one of them was ranked far worse than any of my books.

Often Publishers don’t advertise their authors’ books and even the biggest ones often insist that the author does much of the leg work themselves. I am a one man band and yet I sale more books than authors with publishing deals behind them. In short, it’s clear that having a ‘proper’ publisher does NOT guarantee success when it comes to book sales and making money.

I recently hit #1 in the Sword and Sorcery category all on my lonesome and with some help from Bookbub

Cover Art

One of my favourite parts of being an author is finding artists or creating and designing my own book covers. I love it and I love the flexibility being an indie author allows for this. Finding a fantastic artist to do your book cover for a good price is an excellent feeling and there is nothing better than showing off original artwork for your books. Some indies don’t have the budget to pay for a good cover and there is a plethora of terrible ones out there. Fortunately, cover design is another skill that can be learnt and with free online tools such as Canva and Paint.net, there’s not really any excuse for truly awful covers. If you’re an author and want a well-priced eye catching cover get in touch.

Just a few of the book covers I’ve had made.

The disadvantages of Indie

Don’t get me wrong, there are downsides to being an Indie author too. Having a professional editor on call is very expensive and is something most trad publishers will cover. Authors that struggle with cover design will often have that covered too although there have been some high profile examples where big name authors have expressed their disappointment at the covers chosen by their publisher.

Literally, all aspects of book creation and promotion are on your shoulders and there are few places to turn that don’t turn out to be scams or nefarious companies and individuals seeking to take advantage or exploit your needs.

My advice is to try and learn all areas of the process. You don’t have to be great at everything but some knowledge in each area will go a long way and help you avoid the pitfalls.

Are you an indie author? Would you rather have a traditional publishing deal, or do you prefer the freedom that being an indie brings? Let me know in the comments below.

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Author Interview – Kevin Buckner

In this week’s author interview I chat with fantasy author Kevin Buckner.

  • Hi Kevin Buckner tell us a bit about yourself and what inspired you to write?

My name is Kevin Buckner. I studied Medical Laboratory Science at the University of Utah and graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in 2011. I am a certified Medical Laboratory Scientist, currently working as a Technical Consultant for a clinical laboratory near my home in the Salt Lake valley in Utah. I have a wife and two children. I enjoy playing games of all kinds with my family, especially the Zombicide series. I am known for liking zombies and super-spicy food. I enjoy playing my guitars and listening to heavy metal music, in most of all the many sub-genres. One thing you would not expect by looking at me is that I am also very good at knitting.

It is difficult to say exactly what inspired me to write. I have always enjoyed playing role-playing games and for many years was the perpetual Game Master because the players all thought I was the best at it, particularly because they liked the world I built and the way I described things. They all agreed I was a good story-teller. I enjoyed writing stories in grade school and gained appreciation for classic literature when I was in high school, where I took Honors and AP English classes and a Creative Writing class. Writing is something I’ve always wanted to do, really. The support I received from friends and family is what pushed me to actually do it.

  • What appeals to you most about the fantasy genre?

I love the creativity I encounter in fantasy. It’s great that the only limits are the author’s imagination. It’s also so great to be able to escape into a world of magic and mystical creatures.

  • Tell us a little bit about your latest project and the challenges you’ve faced putting it all together?

My latest project is the second book in The Cudomerie. It has a working title of The Descent of Rogen. The biggest challenge I’ve faced with it is maintaining continuity with the first book. I have spent a lot of time re-reading the first one to make sure I don’t create plot holes or contradict anything that happened in The Advent of Zon.

  • What type of characters do you like to write the most and how much of yourself do you put into them?

I like to write anti-heroes a lot. People who are basically good at heart and try to do the right thing, but have a darker side and sometimes give into that darkness and do some morally questionable things with the attitude that the ends justify the means. I also enjoy making characters with depth, rather than giving them a single defining trait.

How much of myself I put into a character really depends on the character. I find it impossible not to put at least a little bit of me in everyone I write, but there are some characters that I don’t like very much. I don’t put much of myself in them. I put a lot more into the characters I like a lot, but it’s a complicated thing to say exactly how much. I’s probably say that my most favorite characters are as much as 30% me.

  • For any wannabe writers out there what’s the most useful thing you’ve learned?

You can’t do it all by yourself. While you maintain creative control over your work, you need input from other people if you are going to write something that multiple people are going to want to read. Get a group of beta readers who will give you honest feedback and make sure you have a thick enough skin to receive that feedback. Remember that constructive criticism is intended to help you, not tear you down and that it is much better to receive that criticism before you’re published and can easily change your manuscript than to receive it after your work is already out there for the world to see.

  • What writing tricks do you utilise to hit your deadlines and keep your stories on track?

I have designated Tuesday evening as my writing time. I have informed my wife and children about this so they know not to disturb me on Tuesday evenings. They also know that if they see me wandering around and/or not writing, they need to call me out on wasting my designated writing time. Having designated time helps writing progress. My family holding me accountable is a huge help, as well.

  • Are you a plotter or a pantser (make it up as you go)?

Both. I know from the outset where the book will begin and end and key details that will happen along the way. What happens between the major points is anyone’s guess until it happens.

  • What plans do you have for the future? A new series or perhaps a dip into other genres?

I mentioned at the beginning that I have two works in progress. The second WIP is my NaNoWriMo project from 2013. I wrote the entire first draft in November 2013, but haven’t revisited it since then. It’s a near-future, dystopian sci-fi story, which I’d like to have ready for release by the end of 2021. Of course, I’m also planning on finishing my current series. After that, I have plans for a more humorous fantasy series than the one I am currently working on.

  • 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?

I do like the darker approach to things, but good has to win over evil eventually, even if it seems evil has the upper hand through most of the story.

  • What’s better, Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings or Star Wars?

What’s better, Ice Cream, Cheesecake, or Pie? They’re all good and picking a single best depends on a number of factors. If you were to ask which of the three is the most well-written, then I’d say Lord of the Rings, hands down. Which is the most entertaining? It would be Harry Potter or Star Wars. Not to say that Lord of the Rings isn’t entertaining, but you cannot deny that it is the slowest of the three, despite being a benchmark in both film and literature. The most visually stunning? That would either be Lord of the Rings or Star Wars. If I had to pick a single favorite, I’d probably go with Lord of the Rings, though.

Follow Kevin on –

https://www.facebook.com/KevinBucknerAuthor

https://www.instagram.com/lordzombitten/


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Author Interview – Marty C.Lee

My author interview series continues with YA fantasy author Marty C.Lee the creator of the Unexpected Heroes series.


  • Hi Marty C. Lee, tell us a bit about yourself and what inspired you to write?

I write YA fantasy. My then-teenage-daughter was bragging one day about how her artistic skills came from her father, but her writing skills were unique in the family. So I pulled out my file of writing to show her where she got it from. She wasn’t impressed. (It’s notoriously hard to impress your own teenagers.) Then she found four character paragraphs I wrote in high school and asked me for the rest of the story. When I told her there WAS no rest of the story, she quizzed me for two hours until I came up with more ideas, then sent me off to write it for her. The plotted six-chapter short story turned into a complete novel and eventually led to a four-book series and a lot of short stories.

  •    What appeals to you most about the fantasy genre?

Genres tend to have a typical emotion associated with them, like love/passion for romance or fear for horror. Most fantasy leans heavily on hope and wonder, and I like writing those. I believe in happy endings (though not happy middles), even if the ending happiness is bittersweet.

  •    Tell us a little bit about your latest project and the challenges you’ve faced putting it all together?

Spark of Intrigue is the fourth (and last) book in my Unexpected Heroes series, and is coming out January 4th. In honor of its release, I’ll be putting book 1, Wind of Choice, on a major sale, so it’s a good time to start the series!

The first three books in the series are loosely connected, and you can read them out of order if you don’t mind a few spoilers. Book 4 is a little different… I took a lot of threads from the first three books and tied them all together in ways that surprised even me. For instance, a throwaway line from book 2 became a major hint in book 4. A random occupation in book 1 became super important in book 4. A character who died in book 3 comes back to haunt them in book 4 (only figuratively, sorry). And so forth. That sort of thing happened many times as I wrote the book, and then random characters either inserted themselves in the story or insisted on being more important— or both!     

  •    What type of characters do you like to write the most and how much of yourself do you put into them?

I actually write a wide variety of characters. Some of them are like me in one way or another, but some are very different. I’m a social scientist by education and inclination, and one of my favorite classes in college was a personality class. It’s not the only class that has come in handy in my writing, but it’s certainly one of them. I’ve given my four main characters half a dozen or so different personality tests, and they’ve come up different from each other in every single test.

  •    For any wannabe writers out there what’s the most useful thing you’ve learned?

Read a lot, write a lot, get a writing partner who is better than you at some things, and learn grammar. Please learn grammar. If nothing else—and there IS else—messy grammar buries your story in weeds.

  •    What writing tricks do you utilise to hit your deadlines and keep your stories on track?

Try to write nearly every day, in one way or another (brainstorming & plotting count on some days). Even if you are a pantser, figure out a method of plotting that works for you. (Obviously, if you are a pantser, this will be a much lighter method.)

  •    Are you a plotter or a pantser (make it up as you go)?

I started out convinced I was a plotter. After all, I had a sentence or two of notes for every chapter. Didn’t that make me a plotter? *lol* In the years since then, I’ve developed a much more involved plotting process, though I’m still NOTHING like those people who write a 40,000 word outline. And my plot outline still leaves room for pantsing expansions. (Oh, he has a cousin he didn’t know about? Sure! And she’s a diplomat and is going to have a part in this book? Okay!)

What plans do you have for the future? A new series or perhaps a dip into other genres?

            Besides the Unexpected Heroes series, I already have a free sampler of short stories available, starring previously minor characters (https://books2read.com/unexpectedtales), but I’m working on two more long collections of short stories set in the same world, one “contemporary” to the series and the other “legends” of the different cultures (think “fairy tale retellings from my fantasy world”). Based on reader reactions to one of the short stories, I’m considering an expansion to a novel, but that one is still simmering.

 I’m also planning a series of paranormal (ghost) stories that will be set in modern Earth, but it will be a while before those come out.

 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?

No matter how the world is at the moment, I prefer good triumphing over evil. Evil might win the battle in stories or real life, but in real life, it always loses the war.

What’s better, Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings or Star Wars?

I do like all of them, but Lord of the Rings is my favorite. Starting at age 8, I used to reread it every three or four months, for… oh, more than a decade. My younger sister dropped her copy when she was reading and called me to find out what page she was on. 🙂 When the first movie came out, my older sister gave me tickets (and a babysitting voucher), because it was inconceivable to her that I not watch it in the theater instead of waiting for video.

No, I don’t write like Tolkien. I’ve been told my stories are more reminiscent of Lloyd Alexander and a bit of John Flanigan.

https://www.facebook.com/mcleebooks/

https://www.bookbub.com/authors/marty-c-lee

https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/18960886.Marty_C_Lee


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