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 – Leslie Swartz

In today’s author interview we speak with Urban Fantasy author Leslie Swartz.


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

Hi, Matthew! I’m Leslie Swartz, urban fantasy and horror author. I started writing stories when I was four but what inspired me to do it for a living was the movie Legend. I was five or six and it was on HBO all the time. I watched it A LOT. It was the most beautiful and magical thing I’d ever seen and it was then that I decided my goal in life would be to write something that Ridley Scott would want to direct. It’s still the dream.

What appeals to you most about the fantasy genre?

The drama, the high stakes, the badassery. I love that there are no rules. If I want to write a vampire queen falling in love with a depressive angel who tends to punch Lucifer in the face, no one tells me I can’t. If my Messenger of God is a pan woman that sets demons on fire with her mind because she’s having a bad day, no one tells me that’s not physically possible. There are no limits, nothing to stifle creativity. As a writer, fantasy is freedom. As a reader, fantasy is just a good time.

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

I released the final book in The Seventh Day Series in December. The series is seven books that represent twenty years of research and four years of writing, revising, and editing. The biggest challenge came when I was writing Seraphim (book one) and my computer exploded. It completely shorted out WITH my flash-drive in it, corrupting it, too. I lost a third of the book and had to start over completely. It worked out because I didn’t remember a lot of it so I made a ton of changes that made the series more interesting but at the time, I was devastated.

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 funny HBIC’s that are sick of everyone’s s**t, probably because that’s how I see myself. “Gabriel” is basically me with superpowers and no inhibitions. I didn’t set out to make her that way but after writing her first couple of scenes, it became clear that that’s what I’d done.

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

Edit, edit again, then edit some more. Vet your editor with other writers to make sure they’re on the up and up. My first editor was a conman, fake name and all. He butchered my manuscript and hundreds of people bought the book looking like trash. It still haunts me.

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

I make playlists for all of my books during the outlining stage so that when I feel stuck, I can listen to songs that remind me of specific scenes or characters to get back in the right head-space.

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

Hardcore plotter. I’m a type A, OCD, leave-nothing-to-chance kind of person. I write out all my ideas, then put them in order, then make a chapter-by-chapter, scene-by-scene outline. I’ll print it out then scribble in the margins any new ideas I have as I’m writing.

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

I’m currently working on a based-on-true-events horror novel. When that’s done, I’ll write two more horror stand-alones, adapt them for the screen and, hopefully, sell the screenplays, giving me credibility so when I pitch The Seventh Day as a show, industry-types take me more seriously.

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?

It’s very dark in here, *points to head* and that’s how I write. I think I just like the drama, life and death, big emotions. I don’t need a happy ending, necessarily, as long as the ending wraps things up. I hate open endings almost as much as I hate love triangles.

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

Star Wars, for sure. I haven’t read/watched Harry Potter (I know, I know. I’ll get to it, eventually.) and LOTR, while awesome, didn’t give me anyone to care about. Frodo’s great but…meh. The best character was Sam and he didn’t get enough screen time, IMO.

Follow Leslie via –

https://www.facebook.com/LeslieSwartz333

https://www.instagram.com/saffie138/?hl=en

https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/89742.Leslie_Swartz


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Author Interview – Patricia Simpson

It’s that time of the week again! This time joining me around the campfire on this cold dark night is fantasy author and karaoke addict Patricia Simpson.

1.     Hi Patricia. Tell us a bit about yourself and what inspired you to write?

I’m a writer from the Bay Area who has been writing since I learned to read at age 4. I’ve always wanted to be a writer and begged my parents for a typewriter for Christmas. I am married to a Scotsman and have done a lot of international traveling with him in the past twenty years. I enjoy exploring haunted and historical sites wherever I go. I’m an incurable karaoke addict.

2.     What appeals to you most about the fantasy genre?

I find the process of creating unique worlds and populating them with creatures of my own design to be endlessly fascinating.  

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

I started brewing a dark fantasy series, The Londo Chronicles, in 2011, when everyone was talking about the Mayan Calendar and the end of the world. I began by writing a novella to explore the concept of a few human beings who survive a nuclear disaster with the assistance of unlikely allies (vampires). I fell in love with my fictitious Victorian London setting and haven’t yet emerged. I am contemplating adding a fourth book to the series because the characters won’t leave me alone! 

THE LONDO CHRONICLES

Marriage Machine (Novella) – Aug 2011

Apothecary – Jan 2020

Phoenix – Feb 2020

Prodigy – Mar 2020

Chimera – WIP Mar 2022

4.     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 about unassuming protagonists who, when faced with adversity, find strength and courage they never knew they possessed. My characters face dangers that I hope I could overcome if I were in a similar position. So, yes, I guess my heroines are modeled after my own quiet, introspective nature. (But don’t cross me…)

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

That you gotta love writing in your bones to be able to stick with this business. It’s tough but it’s the most rewarding job a person could have. To create something out of thin air and connect with other humans through your characters is nothing short of miraculous.

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

I use “styles” in Word and then use View/Sidebar/Navigation to show my chapter titles on the side of my WIP. I add brief text to the title to cue me into what I should be writing about in that particular chapter. Using titles this way is a great reference tool when editing and makes it easy to jump around in my WIP. If a timeline is important, I will add the day to the title, so I know I’m not getting Wednesday ahead of Tuesday. Once the book is edited, I take off the notes in the title. I also use a screenwriting paradigm to plot my books so the pacing is right for the genre I’m targeting. Once I have the backbone of my book showing in the navigation pane, I start fleshing out the story.

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

I’m a plotster. I come up with a barebones plot (that I add to my Word titles). Then I write from there. If I plot too much, I lose the excitement of writing the thing. If I know too much, my characters aren’t as surprised as they should be. I would rather stab my eyes with a fork than develop a chapter by chapter outline.

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

I’m dipping into screenwriting. I find the immediate gratification of writing an entire concept in a mere 120 double-spaced pages, well…gratifying!

9.     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?

Good always triumphs over evil in my books. But I have especially enjoyed writing the villain in The Londo Chronicles. Neal Moray was an absolute hoot to portray. Every time he came onstage, he wrote the scenes himself. However, because of the dark times we are living in right now, I have switched gears. My screenplay is a dramedy. Something entirely new for me. Jokes. Feel-good. Sidekicks. I just can’t do dark right now. 

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

Hmm. Someday I hope to see The Londo Chronicles included in that question.

Award winning author of gothic, dark fantasy and paranormal suspense
Books: https://patriciasimpson.com/books/

Phoenix: https://patriciasimpson.com/books/phoenix
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/PatriciaSimpsonAuthor/
BookSniffer: bksnfr.me/Patricia_Simpson
Books2Read: https://books2read.com/u/bQdZGZ


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Author Interview – Sarah Astwood

Joining me around the campfire today is romantic fantasy author Sarah Astwood. We dive into what she loves about the genre and hear about her latest projects.


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

Hi, I’m a wife and a mom of four kiddos, who I homeschool. I live in Oklahoma, USA, and I’ve been writing since I was 18. I love to write because it allows me to tell the stories and explore the worlds inside my head.

  • What appeals to you most about the fantasy genre?

The endless possibilities! I always say in fantasy you can make pretty much anything work.

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

My latest project is rapid releasing a four book urban fantasy series. I’ve never rapid released before, and the challenges of prepping manuscripts and getting them ready for publication when you’re raising and homeschooling four children are probably pretty self-explanatory. Especially this year, 2020, when everything seems to have gone haywire! However, Book 1, Ashes on the Earth, released September 2020. Book 2, Down into the Pit, followed November 6th. Fire from the Midst will be available January 2021, and the last book  of the series will probably debut in March or April 2021.

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

I like characters with genuine problems to solve and hard issues to figure out. I would say the part of me that shows up the most in my characters tends to be their sense of humor.

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

Always get plenty of eyes on your manuscript! We’re talking several beta readers, to start with. They will catch many things you never noticed.

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

For me, I work best with a daily word count, be it 500 words a day or 1,000. That sort of routine and daily discipline keeps me on track.

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

Ha, I try to plot, but through the years I’ve learned I’m very much a pantser. I’m pretty much a pantser at life, as well.

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

For the future…after I finish releasing my Stones of Fire series, I plan to return to an epic/portal fantasy series I started a couple years ago called Beyond the Sunset Lands and finish it.

  • 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 a hefty dose of darkness and realism, but with good triumphing over evil in the end. I know a HEA may not be totally accurate, but at the end of the day it’s what I prefer.

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

Lord of the Rings! Half the reason I’m on Facebook anymore is because of this awesome group called Funny Middle Earth. Seriously, if you like LOTR and you’re on Facebook, join this group. It’ll make you laugh, and I think we all need laughs right about now.

For a complete list of all Sarah’s works and the links to find them, visit her website at www.sarahashwoodauthor.com. To keep up to date with Sarah’s new releases, sign up for her newsletter. You can also follow her on Bookbub, or find her on Facebook, Goodreads, Pinterest, Instagram, and Twitter.

Let me know if you have a new release, launch date or promo dates to be added to my monthly newsletter. Spots are limited to 1 per month and will be chosen at my discretion.

Newest future release is Fire from the Midst, coming January 2021.


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Author Interview – Simon Kewin

Joining me around the campfire on this freezing cold winter’s day is science fiction author Simon Kewin.


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

I’m one of those people who always wanted to be a writer. I make most of my living as a software developer, and I do enjoy that, but creating fiction and fictional worlds was always what I wanted to do. I’ve been writing short fiction and novels for around twenty years now.

  • What appeals to you most about the fantasy genre?

I think there’s something profoundly important about literature that allows a complete escape from the real world. It’s noticeable, and a little sad, how many people leave behind a love of fantasy literature as they grow up. I’m with Neil Gaiman on this: “growing up is highly overrated”.

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

I recently completed a science fiction trilogy, and felt the need to write something completely different. I came up with the idea for an urban fantasy series set in the UK and based around The Office of the Witchfinder General – a shadowy branch of the UK government responsible for “protecting the people from the unnatural”. They’re sort of magical detective stories. The first of these – The Eye Collectors – was just published by Elsewhen Press

The Eye Collectors

  • The ebook version published September 4th paperback version came out November 16th
  • What type of characters do you like to write the most and how much of yourself do you put into them?

It’s always fun to write characters outside of your own experience: the imagination needed for that is very liberating. For instance, there’s a character in my recent sci/fi trilogy who is essentially a planet, with a very different perspective on space and time to creatures like us. Writing that was a lot of fun.

I’m sure, however much I try, that there’s always going to be something of me in every character I create. I guess that’s the case for all writers.

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

Write the next thing. In the early days I used to write one thing, then stop while I tried to find a publisher or an agent. Not only can that be soul-destroying, it also means you’ve lost your momentum. Keep writing. Get excited about the next project.

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

I set myself a daily word count target and stick to it. It can be hard to sit down and get into that flow, so what I often do is go back and revise what I wrote yesterday first as a way of getting into the zone. I also try to think about what I want to write next when I’m not at my desk, so that when I do sit down, the words are just there in my head.

I also like to have a few things on the go at any one time – if I tell myself I need to work on story A, something in my brain immediately starts working on story B. I try to let it do it.

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

I’m a pantser who tries to plot but finds it a bit boring, to be honest. It’s good to have a structure, maybe an end point to reach, but I find that if I lay things out in great detail, the actual writing becomes a bit of a chore. I like to discover as I go. It can be dangerous if the text wanders off in an unexpected direction…

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

I have three or four things to work on. I want to write several more (possibly four more) books in my Witchfinder series, but I’ve also written the opening ten thousand words or so of two or three other possible novels, all science fiction or fantasy. At some point I’d also like to write a more realist novel – but then I’d also like to create an epic fantasy trilogy…

  • 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?

A bit of both, I’d say. Ultimately I’m an optimist and so believe in the triumph of good. It can be hard to stick to that belief some days…

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

I love them all, obviously, but Lord of the Rings.

Twitter – @SimonKewin

FB – https://www.facebook.com/SimonKewin.Author

The Eye Collectors print version is coming out November 16th

The box set of my sci fi series (The Triple Stars) is released December 11th


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Author interview – E.V. Everest

Joining me around the campfire today is debut fantasy author E.V. Everest.


  • Hi E.V. tell us a bit about yourself and what inspired you to write?

Hi everyone! I’m E.V. Everest, and I write fantasy and sci-fi books. My debut novel, Seven Crowns, released this year (2020).

A little bit about me: I enjoy the great outdoors. I’m a huge animal lover and have two dogs and two cats. The weirdest thing about me (that I am willing to commit to paper) is that I can play the trombone and ride a unicycle at the same time. Freak flag flying high, ladies and gentlemen!

Though I strayed to pursue a “practical career,” I’ve always loved to write. I can remember shoving several desks together in elementary school to write stories with a friend. Our series featured a cat that travelled to the moon :p

  • What appeals to you most about the fantasy genre?

Fantasy is boundless. As a writer, the only confines are those you set for yourself. It’s a genre where cats can talk, dragons still fly the evening skies, and Elvis *could be* your next door neighbor.

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

I am currently working on a young adult sci-fi series. The first novel, Seven Crowns, was released at the end of July. Blurb below.

A crown is dangerous. A crown split seven ways is deadly.

One year after the death of her mom, sixteen-year-old Anabella Halt is living on her own and breaking all the rules. Life is tough but ordinary.

Until Ana learns her mom’s dangerous secret—she was the heir to a fallen dynasty on a world ruled by seven families. Her family was murdered one by one. Now, assassins are closing in, and Ana could be next.

With the help of a handsome hobo, Ana escapes to the place where it all began—a starflung world where magic and technology coexist. A place where Ana must navigate a tangled web of friends and foes to unmask her would-be assassin before it’s too late.

Travel to a glittering, dangerous world with political alliances and ballgowns, perfect for fans of Cinder and The Hunger Games.

The biggest challenge with the second book (release scheduled for February 2021) is balancing plot lines. I have quite a few threads I want to weave together. Outlining has helped immensely! Overall, I’m really excited to share it with beta readers soon.

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

I really enjoy writing snarky side characters and villains. Their lines are always fun to write.

None of my characters are exactly like me, but a few contain a little piece of me. For instance, I have a little bit of Samuel’s snark, Ana’s independence, and Ophelia’s love of animals.

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

Ask for feedback early and often. A rule of thumb for accepting critique: If one person says your chapter is garbage, ignore them. If two people say your chapter is garbage, re-read and really consider their feedback. If three people say your chapter is garbage, look for a trash can.

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

In the words of Douglas Adams, “I love deadlines. I love the whooshing noise they make as they go by.”

In all seriousness, knowing that readers are waiting for a book, is very motivating.

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

I’m a reformed pantser. Now, I outline. It helps me to build complex, multi-layered plots. I can evaluate the twists and turns BEFORE I get to the editing table. What a time saver!

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

Too many to count! Right now, my first priorities are completing the Bellaton series and building the Coffeehouse Magic series. However, I have a short story that is 70% there. Teaser below.

An out of work architect is desperate for employment. Too desperate. He takes a position redesigning an abandoned nuclear bunker but finds he’s not alone in the deep. Think Night Vale X Twilight Zone.

  • 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?

Like most people, I really enjoy a multifaceted villain with an interesting backstory. However, I’ve been on a light-hearted reads binge. I recently read Meg Cabot’s Avalon High.

That’s also why I wrote The Matchmaker and the Coven. What’s more escapist than a coffeehouse that sits on the boundary between a hundred realms? Or a meddling barista who insists on setting up a water nymph and a mortal?

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

This is a cruel question. I’m also deeply offended that Star Trek didn’t make the list :p I love Harry Potter. I went to the midnight bookstore openings, and it will always have a special place in my heart. I also adore Lord of the Rings, Doctor Who, Star Trek, Twilight Zone, Chronicles of Narnia, and many, many more.

My newsletter is very active and goes out twice a month. We have trivia championships, recommended reads, sneak previews, and freebies. I’m doing a November giveaway of The Matchmaker & the Coven to all new subscribers. So, if you enjoy light-hearted fantasy, give it a try.

https://dl.bookfunnel.com/kj4pspb0vs

Website & Blog:

https://www.evelinaeverest.com

Facebook Reader Group:

https://www.facebook.com/groups/2394603750840538

GoodReads:

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/53474078-seven-crowns

Amazon:

Tips for Indy Authors 3: Writer’s Block

There are no two words more dreaded and feared by all authors than ‘Writer’s Block’. What is it and how do you get through it? Well, let me try and help you.

I’ve been writing books for over ten years now and I have been struck by Writer’s Block more times than I can count. Pretty much every writer out there will succumb to it at one point or another and to those who claim to have never experienced it- well, good for you I guess (I don’t believe you at all by the way.)

Writing is a strange thing. One day your fingers are whizzing over the keyboard and the words just pour out of your brain and onto the page. Then inexplicably and without warning, you freeze. The words stop coming like a once raging river now baked dry in a drought. How you handle these first moments of horror is crucial to salvaging your workflow.

I’m experiencing a bit of writer’s block myself at the moment and from experience, I know what has to be done to break that wall and press on. It’s just getting the right thought process in place to enact it. There are a few tactics you can try but the most important thing to not do is begin to wallow in despair. Putting pressure on yourself is guaranteed to make the situation worse and prevent the words from coming.

Do something else

Now, this technique might sound counterproductive but bear with me. If you’re like me you no doubt have many other ideas and works in progress on the go or in the planning stages. The key to breaking Writers Block is to trick your brain into unfreezing and releasing all those juicy words once more.

If you’re writing fantasy try your hand at another genre or enter some writing challenges. I personally switch between projects as I find that I’ll often have writer’s block on a certain project but am fine with another. Alternate between your works to keep your mind fresh and your interest high.

Force it

This technique had worked for me a few times. I write a lot in my day job so I have to literally force myself to write in order to get paid! Think of Writers Block as a barrier, apply enough pressure onto it and the dam will eventually break. This strategy can fall under the finding the time to write a problem that many writers have as well. Get your ass in that seat and don’t leave until you’ve put down a certain amount of words. They don’t have to be great, just get them on the page.

Take a break and come back fresh

Alternatively, you can simply walk away from the problem project for a few days or weeks. Don’t do any writing, go outside, go on holiday or simply do anything else. Your brain will recharge its words count and when you get that itch to write again, you’ll know that the Writers Block is over.

I’ve learnt that many writers put themselves under a lot of pressure when it comes to Writers Block. I do it myself and so I’ll be following my own advice. Don’t let fans get you down about deadlines or whatever. A book will be finished when its good and ready, you can’t rush these things.

 

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What I’ve Learnt About Self-Publishing – Writing is not for the faint-hearted

Being a writer is a profession that leaves you wide open to critics from all walks of life and backgrounds. You may think you’ve written the best thing ever but be assured that someone somewhere will think its terrible and will most likely relish the chance of putting the boot in.

Now I’ve received this treatment in both my working career as a copywriter and as an Indy Author. Sometimes there is just no pleasing people. A lot of the time the criticism is constructive (no-one is perfect especially me!) but sometimes, just sometimes you encounter people that simply defy all logic and reason. I’ve had people complain about a piece of content I’ve written, but not give any reason whatsoever as to why they disliked it and then I’ve had it where an article I’ve drafted is literally waved in front of my face and been told its crap. Writing is not for the faint-hearted, and it’s a bloody tough profession to succeed in.

So many Indy authors experience the annoyance of obtuse or downright nasty negative reviews on the likes of Amazon. I’ve had some that have said I’m the worst writer ever, others that they simply hated the book and that’s that.

When I was still fresh to self-publishing, each of those reviews stung, and I was personally offended by them (so much so that I even replied to a few). Now though I simply shrug my shoulders and say to myself ‘Each to their own, you cannot please everyone’. As tempting as it is, as upset as you may become, do not respond to negative reviews.

Now don’t get me wrong, don’t just ignore the comments of bad reviews, if they’re genuinely critical then take on board what they have to say. For example, I’ve had a 2-star review that outlined things that I could improve upon, and I am genuinely grateful to that person for writing it as they were correct to highlight things that could and were improved in later titles.

Some reviews, however, are just nasty for the sake of it, and it seems some people simply get a kick out of abusing indy authors. My favourite one has to be a 1-star review from a guy or gal who named themselves The Hater. This sad act of a human being trawls through Indy books on Amazon and just 1-stars them all for no good reason.

There’s a great thread on Goodreads about 1-star reviews that you can check out here

Which brings me to the fact that as an Indy writer you WILL encounter plenty of crazy individuals. I guess as writing falls into the same category of the arts this is to be expected. It draws out all manner of eccentric personalities, (hell, just check out some of the writer’s groups on Facebook for proof of that!)

At the end of the day if we want to succeed at this we all need to develop a thick skin (easier said then done). Learn from every piece of genuine criticism and ignore the bullshit (there’s a lot of that out there). We suffer through the bad times and the negativity because we are writers and it’s what we love to do. Never let the bastards grind you down, keep going, and one day you might just succeed. I’m trying to do just that.

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What I’ve learnt about self-publishing – It’s a collaborative effort

Writing is a lonely profession. It’s a fact. Sure you can talk to people for ideas, but when it comes down to it, it’s just you and the thoughts spilling out of your head.

For a long time, I was going solo. I’d used Terran Defenders and my historical fiction novel Unconquered: Blood of Kings as an experiment into the world of self-publishing and had learnt a fair bit about the technical side of how things worked. It was shortly after this that I finally got down to writing the fantasy tale that had been floating about in my head for many years. It took me three years to finish the first draft of Heir to the Sundered Crown, and it was with this book that I put into practice all I had learnt until that point.

I promoted the book via social media and writing groups and thanks to the support of other indy authors its release (to me anyway) was a huge success. At one point it even outsold Game of Thrones in the USA, an amazing achievement for an author that no one had (still hasn’t) heard of. The success was shortlived, however, and the book drifted off down the Amazon charts to hover around the 50k level.

Collaboration

It was after I launched Heir that I was contacted by a Mr Rob May, another fantasy author who’d grown a large fanbase on Wattpad. He had an idea, and it was one that has proven to be a massive help to me. His idea was to bring together a small number of other fantasy authors and together we would assist each other when it came to creative ideas and the more technical side of things.

Tony Garrett joined, quickly followed by Kate Cudahy bringing our merry band to four. We brainstormed some ideas, and Firebound Books was born. The idea behind Firebound was that when it came to publication on Amazon and other channels, we would do so under that name. It gave us a more professional air to the process.

Via regular communication (most through Facebook messenger) we devised strategies for our literary work. Together we discovered which promotional channels (I’ll be writing about that soon) were the most effective, the best ways to create and launch our individual websites and assist each other with story ideas.

Editing and proofreading are vital. It’s something that many indy authors discover at some point either via reviews or just from giving their books another read through. Even books published by the big publishing houses contain the odd error so I can guarantee yours will contain at least a handful. Finding a good reliable editor can be tricky as you have to navigate the many charlatans that prey on indy authors. Collaboration helps massively here too as fellow authors can share their recommendations to you.

It’s not just publishing that we help each other out on. Being an indy author is a tough thing to be and at times can be hugely demoralising. By collaborating we help pick each other up and keep our shared enthusiasm for writing going. Persistence is key, and I’m sure one day that one of us (hopefully all of us) will truly reach the big time.

When we’ve finished drafts of our books, we get the others to read them through, and Rob, in particular, is a great proofreader. He’s also good with helping with cover designs and the more technical side of formatting.

All in all, without the collaborative efforts of my fellow Firebound authors I know that I would most likely have given up as a fiction writer. If you want an easy life and one free of worries then writing is not the profession to pursue. It can be downright scary and unreliable. Finding others to collaborate with, however, can provide invaluable support in the darkest of times.

In the next blog, I’ll discuss the minefield that self-publishing world is and how to avoid falling victim to the scammers and con artists that want to prey on you.

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Vanity Publishers – A rant

 Ok, so as I was doing my daily round of soul destroying book promoting on Facebook I stumbled across a group where a fellow was proudly boasting that he had landed a publishing deal.

Living the dream? or…

Well done I thought, that’s someone living the dream right there, but pretty quickly my happiness for this author turned to one of annoyance and dare I say it anger. For you see dear reader this publisher was not a proper publisher at all but instead a vanity press (shudder).

What is a Vanity Publisher?

According to Wikipedia- ‘A vanity press, vanity publisher, or subsidy publisher is a term describing a publishing house in which authors pay to have their books published. Additionally, vanity publishers have no selection criteria as opposed to other “hybrid” publishing models. The term appears in mainstream U.S. publications as early as 1941.’

When I was first starting out as a writer I did a bit of research into publishing and at the time my younger more naive self contacted a company that seemed to offer the world. In reality, the company was a vanity press. After making initial contact with said press I was then harassed on a weekly basis by someone urging me to sign up with them, great you may think, but alas when I did some digging into the fine print I discovered that in order for them to publish my work I would have to pay them thousands of my own money for the privilege. It’s basically like me going to work and then paying my employer to use my work.

publish_scam

Jo Herbert’s piece on the Writers & Artists website sums it up nicely: ‘Authors owe it to themselves to be very clear on one point – traditional publishers never ask the author for ‘a contribution’. Traditional publishers only take on work they believe is worth investing their own money in, confident it’ll make a return when the book hits the shelves. Indeed, this is precisely the reason (or one of) it’s so difficult for new authors to get published. The publisher has to be sure that the book will sell.

Vanity publishers are cunning. They know many authors will be worn down by rejection. They know the elation authors will feel to finally receive a glowing report about their manuscript. However, once you’ve signed your name on the dotted line, the vanity publisher will take your manuscript, take your money and print several (usually poor quality) copies of your book. They won’t consult you and they won’t offer any help marketing or distributing the book. The vanity publisher isn’t interested in selling copies of the book, it doesn’t need to – they’ve already made their profit from the hefty ‘contribution’ fee they charged the author.’

Writers need to stop

The only reason these companies exist in the first place is because they prey on naive and foolish writers. Those that pay these scammers are giving these companies the means to exist in the first place. If you want to see your work in print then for the love of god do not pay for the privilege! Self-publishing allows you to achieve that goal without having to cost you a penny! (Paying for cover art and editing is optional but advised), but even if you do pay for those, chances are high that you will pay a hell of a lot less than if you used a vanity publisher.

The worst part is that writers who give these crooks so much cash actually think that the vanity publisher will actively promote and sell their books…sorry but that isn’t the case. Often they still demand the author to do all of their own marketing. Just look at the Amazon rankings for people who have gone down this route. Their books often languish at the bottom.

Would you use a vanity publisher? Have any tips to expose and avoid them? If so post them in the comments.

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