Author Interview: Ron L. Lahr

In today’s author interview I speak with US fantasy author Ron L. Lahr about what he’s working on and why he enjoys the most about the fantasy genre.


  • Hi Ron L. Lahr, tell us a bit about yourself and what inspired you to write? I am married with two grown daughters, which is what affords me the time to write. I love reading, gardening, cooking, baking and working on old cars. I have wanted to be a writer since I can remember and started during high school. I chose to stop writing and get a degree and a career to support my family. Now I have the opportunity to get back at it.
  • What appeals to you most about the fantasy genre? Fantasy is my favorite genre to read and write. It has been since I read the Lord of the Rings in junior high. There are many things I love about it, the sense of wonder, good versus evil, and honor mattering.
  • Tell us a little bit about your latest project and the challenges you’ve faced putting it all together? My current project is the Kathaldi Chronicles, an epic fantasy trilogy. Dirk, a thief and sarcastic jerk, is the narrator of the story. He and some friends end up accidentally fighting an ancient evil to save the world. The first two books, Children of Kathaldi and Assassins of Kathaldi, are out on Amazon as ebooks and book one is also available as a paperback and an audiobook on Amazon and Audible. I am just finishing up the first draft of the final book, Destroyers of Kathaldi, so it should be out by the end of the summer.  The challenge of writing this trilogy was finishing the third book during the pandemic. With everything else that has happened over the last year it took me much longer to finish the third book than I thought. I like to think that I’ll be back on track very soon.
  • What type of characters do you like to write the most and how much of yourself do you put into them? I enjoy writing all sorts of characters but my favorite is the narrator of the Kathaldi Chronicles, Dirk. He’s a thief, scoundrel, sarcastic jerk, braggart, and believes himself to be quite the ladies man. However, he is also a loyal friend willing to put his life on the line for you. He’s funny, mean, and gets to say things I would never say in a million years. That is definitely fun to write.
  • For any wannabe writers out there what’s the most useful thing you’ve learned? The biggest thing for me is to just finish the first draft before you start rewriting and editing. Get something done and then work on making it perfect, or at least better.
  • What writing tricks do you utilise to hit your deadlines and keep your stories on track? I’m awful at meeting deadlines so any tricks I use are worthless. I need some new tricks!
  • Are you a plotter or a pantser (make it up as you go)? I am a hybrid. I do create an outline and write pages of notes but the finished story has a lot more stuff in it. Sometime my characters just say or do something while I’m writing that I hadn’t ever thought of and I almost always go with it, even though it can mean a lot of extra work to ensure it fits with the rest of the story. I’d say I’m one third plotter and two thirds pantser.
  • What plans do you have for the future? A new series or perhaps a dip into other genres? All of that and more! I have plans for new series, I will be releasing some humorous books and stories, and I have more plans for the Kathaldi Chronicles, including some anthologies where I write a few short stories and the rest are by other authors, and more books with Dirk and other books that cover different time periods and characters. I’m a planning fool!
  • 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 good to triumph over evil but I don’t mind if it’s a close call and lots of good guys die in the attempt. There can be a fair amount of dark and I don’t mind a bit.
  • What’s better, Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings or Star Wars? This is a tough one because I love all three of these. Lord of the Rings has probably had the most influence on me, the books, although I loved the movies, too. The Harry Potter books were about the only thing my oldest daughter would read and we eagerly awaited the publication of each one and then when the movies came out it was our special thing to go see them together. She gave me the Blu-Ray set for Christmas one year. And Star Wars? I was a kid when Episode IV came out and it changed everything for just about everybody.  I simply cannot choose. It’s like trying to choose between your own children – impossible!

(Please include any social media links – Facebook, Instagram, Twitter etc.)

Amazon series page: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B089GW4FVW

Amazon for Children of Kathaldi (book 1): https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B089FNJHB7

Audible for book 1: https://www.audible.com/pd/Children-of-Kathaldi-Audiobook/B08KHSZXRG

Amazon for Assassins of Kathaldi (book 2): https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B08KNW5TT9

Free audiobook of a prequel short story: https://talltaletv.com/dirk-goes-to-church

Website: www.Kathaldi.com

Facebook: www.facebook.com/Kathaldi

Twitter: https://twitter.com/LahrRon

Email: RonLodellLahr@gmail.com

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/8508877.Ron_Lahr

To join my email list: https://bit.ly/39FIcSu

Patreon: www.patreon.com/RonLahr


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Author Interview: Nils Odlund

This weeks author interview is with fantasy author Nils Odlund whose new book will be released at the end of this month!


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

To begin with, I’m originally Swedish, but since 2007 live in Cork, Ireland, and I write in English.

About ten years ago, I stumbled onto writing, as a hobby, almost by accident. At the time, I was applying for game design jobs, but had no actual experience making games, and I wanted to change that. Only, I had no idea how to get started making a computer game, so instead I decided to create a setting for a Pen & Paper RPG.

This turned out to be a lot more fun than I’d expected, and I put countless hours into it, coming up with all kinds of more or less relevant little details. At one point, a friend of mine suggested that maybe I could write a short story about someone living in the world I’d created, as an example of what life there could be like.

That’s how it started. One short story became another, and another, and another…

There’s a bunch of them, and then there’s an unfinished novel. Somewhere along the way, the world-building faded away, and I spent all my time writing stories. Eventually, I decided it was time to get serious, to stop messing about with exciting ideas and promising beginnings, and to actually finish something.

What appeals to you most about the fantasy genre?

The escapism. The fantastic worlds that can’t be real, but that we can still travel to in our imagination. Why limit yourself to the real world?

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

My latest project is the Lost Dogs series, which I’ve been working on for the last three years. The tenth book in the series is almost ready to publish, and it should be available before the end of March.

The series tells the story of two people. One is a middle-aged man (Roy) who gets the chance to make amends for a mistake that’s plagued him for half his life. The other is a young woman (Alene) trying to come to terms with who she is, and to find her place in the world.

It’s fantasy, but much of the challenge has been in coming to terms with how the fantastic aspects are just the backdrop against which the story takes place. It’s not a typical fantasy story with magic to discover and monsters to defeat. Rather, Lost Dogs is much more about internal conflict and personal struggles.

This wasn’t something I planned for, and I didn’t consider it when I started writing. It made it difficult for me to find people who wanted to read the story I’m telling. As soon as I mention that one of the main characters is a werewolf and a superstar wrestler, people get the impression that the story will have a lot of brutal, furry action (and possibly a fair bit of kinky sex), and that’s not at all what the story is about.

It eventually went to the point where the tag line I used for the series was “A Story of Werewolves, for people who don’t like Werewolf Stories,” but I’m moving away even from that now.

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

I have this idea that I want to write about everyday characters in fantastic worlds. Characters that just live ordinary lives there, and who don’t become heroes or go away on fantastic adventures to save the world. I believe there’s room for stories like that within the fantasy genre, and I don’t see much of it written.

When you contrast the fantastic with the mundane, you can make it seem even more amazing, than if you just throw tons of awesome things onto the reader.

Then again, once you start writing about a person, even an ordinary everyday Joe, you’ll get to know them, and you’ll realise that they aren’t so ordinary after all.

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

One of the hardest and most difficult lessons I had to learn was that no one is going to care about my story just because I write it. I need to make the reader care, and I need to make the reader want to keep reading.

It’s not enough that find the story fascinating.

It’s not enough that I love my characters.

It’s not enough that I know the ending is amazing and will blow your socks off.

If I don’t give the reader a reason to care, they’ll toss the book and go read something else.

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

For a long time, I wrote my books with a three-month deadline, because that’s how far in advance you could set up a pre-order on Amazon (this has changed now). It made sure I had a deadline and pushed me to get the story done.

I also make sure not to strive for perfection. Good enough doesn’t mean something is bad, it really does mean good enough. Also, it’s achievable.

With my first book, the novella Emma’s Story, I tried to polish it to a shine, fix every little detail and address every ounce of feedback. It took me a few months to write the first draft, and another two years of tweaks and adjustments before it was done. Even then, the final version wasn’t all that different from the first draft.

The trick, as such, is to learn when something is good enough. It doesn’t have to be perfect.

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

I’m a plotter. Much of the reason I was able to keep up a three month per book release schedule was that I’d already outlined the books in advance – the entire series. I aimed for an outline that’s detailed enough that actually writing the first draft is akin to filling in the colours in a paint by numbers colouring book.

With my next project, I’m stepping back a little from this, because even with such a detailed outline, I wasn’t able to stick to it. Partly, because the story still took my by surprise from time to time, and partly because I changed as a writer. I’ve learned and improved a lot since I started writing the Lost Dogs series, and I eventually got to a point where I realised that the outline I had for the series just wasn’t good enough for me anymore. I’m going to keep the bare bones, but the details all need to be redone.

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

My next book, Nothing Left to Lose, is the tenth in the Lost Dogs series, and it will be the last book of that series. However, it is not the end of the story.

Like I mentioned above, I’ve come a long way since I started the series, and I feel like the last few books are significantly better than the earlier ones. I’m going to be revising the first books in the series to clean up language and content issues, and that will bridge some of the quality gap, but it won’t fix everything.

It feels like it’d be a waste of time and effort to add books to the end of a long series, when most readers won’t get past the second book. Instead, what I’ll do is I’ll start a new series, with a new name, that begins where Lost Dogs ends. That way, the people who have read Lost Dogs will get the continuation of the story, and new readers will be able to hop into a new story without having to go through a huge number of books, where the first ones aren’t representative of the latter ones.

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?

Lately, I’ve taken a liking to noblebright. Positive cheerful stories, with less doom and gloom. Maybe it’s just me getting older, but I feel like it’s not just this last year. The world’s become increasingly dark and hostile for a long time, and more and more often, I feel like I need to get away from that.

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

Star Wars. It’s basically space fantasy with lasers.

Follow Nils via:

FB: https://www.facebook.com/svrtnsse

Twitter: https://twitter.com/svrtnsse

IG: https://www.instagram.com/nilsdlnd/

Website: https://nilsodlund.com/


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Author Interview – Chris Lodwig

Today I’m joined at the campfire by sci-fi author Chris Lodwig.

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

Well, I live in Seattle with my wife, daughter, and a pile of pets.

I have spent the last twenty-three years working for technology companies around Seattle. I coach soccer and fly fish in my spare time—when I’m not writing, of course.

I have degrees in both Comparative History of Ideas and Communications from the University of Washington in the United States.

As far as what inspires me to write, I love it when I have an image, or situation, or idea in my mind that I want to explain, and I have to struggle at it. I might try twenty different ways to get at the idea, and then, when I get it right, I go, “ah, that’s what I wanted to say.” I get this little shot of dopamine or oxytocin. It’s a bit addictive. And then, when I’m done and someone else reads it, and they get what I’m saying or see what I’m showing them, it’s the closest thing to telepathy I can imagine this side of the technologies I write about in my stories.

  • What appeals to you most about the fantasy genre?

I read a fair amount of fantasy, but I don’t currently write it. I think that I like fantasy for the same reasons I like sci-fi. You’re allowed to bend the rules and write about the impossible and that allows you to stretch the boundaries of experience. Which gives you more room to speculate about what it means to be a human. What would you do if you could be all-powerful, or omniscient, or could have all your problems solved for you? What would you be willing to give up? What would that mean? I love those sorts of questions.

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

In June I released my debut sci-fi novel, Systemic.

It sits somewhere between a eutopia and dystopia depending on who you ask. It takes place several generations in the future. We’ve created a massive AI and for years, it’s been solving all of society’s problems. Of course, now the issue becomes, what happens to us when we don’t have any problems left to solve?

The story itself focuses on three strangers who are each making a pilgrimage to a small town in the middle of the Sagelands called Prower. Maik is hoping to find the woman he loves, Eryn wants to return to her childhood home, and Lem is out for revenge against the AI hosted in the town’s data center.

Without giving too much away, no one knows the real reasons they’re headed to Prower, but it has something to do with solving the problem of us not having any more problems.

Writing Systemic was actually quite easy. It all just sort of fell out of by brain. I feel more like I watched myself write it. Which isn’t to say it wasn’t a ton of work, it certainly was. It took me about three years working in every spare moment to get it all down and edit it. I think I had four major editing passes, plus all my beta reader feedback, etc. But it wasn’t difficult or challenging. And that’s not normal for me. I just finished a thirteen-page short story, that I swear was harder to write than my 500+ page novel.

For me the most difficult thing has been promotion and sales. That’s a whole art and skill in and of itself and I’m not particularly good at it.

  • 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 characters who are different from me. I like to put myself in their shoes and figure out why they do the things that they do. Writing for me is about discovery, and I know myself pretty well, so puzzling together other people’s reality is just more fun and interesting. 

As far as how I do that, I guess that requires me to put something of myself into them. So, for example, I might say, “This guy needs to do this really horrible/funny/selfish/dangerous thing. What would need to be true for me to do that thing?” So, I guess the thing I put in them is my assumptions about how I would come to that decision. In order for me to be a back-stabbing mob boss, I would need to have had a childhood that was so threatening to me that I would have needed to develop a me-verses-the-world mentality to survive.

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

We’re all wannabe writers, or artists, or musicians, or fishermen, or gardeners.  The only difference is doing. 

So, if you want to be a writer, write.

I think the hardest thing about writing, aside from just making the time to do it, is writer’s block. I think writer’s block comes from a desire to write something amazing, but then the thing that falls out of our brains is just some quivering pink embryo of an idea and we’re a bit too grossed out or ashamed to commit it to paper. But writing is a lot like sculpting. You need to have a block of words so that you have something to carve away. Let yourself write crap, just make sure to write a lot of it. No one needs to see anything you’ve written until you decide to show them.

I used to play in bands. It was a lot of fun. I play guitar pretty well, but I used to play thirteen other instruments poorly. But I was the guy up on stage doing it and that technically made me a trumpet/accordion/euphonium/musical saw etc. player. There were a hundred people in the audience who were probably better than me, but I was the one having a great time.

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

I simply force myself to write every single day. If I have writer’s block I write anyway. Which basically means I don’t let myself get writer’s block. And if I’m having a particularly bad day, I edit. Luckily, I enjoy editing almost as much as I enjoy writing.

One thing I have found that is particularly useful to me, is that I write many different ways using lots of different tools. So, one day I might be writing by hand, another dictating, then writing on my phone. I find each of these tools and techniques produces different sorts of work. If I’m experiencing friction with one, I switch to the other. I wrote around 70% of the first draft of Systemic on the bus on my phone with my thumbs. I have a blog post about it. https://chrislodwigauthor.com/2020/08/08/different-tools-for-different-jobs/

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

While writing Systemic, I was definitely a pantser. The whole book just spilled out of me. I hadn’t written in so long that, I was driven more by my own curiosity about what I was writing than any idea that it was going to be a book. There is a major twist about two thirds the way through the book. Readers always tell me how surprising it was. Part of the reason it’s so shocking is because I didn’t know it was going to happen until about a paragraph before it did.

Now that I know the broader arc that Systemic fits into, I’ve become much more of a plotter. I worry sometimes that the much more ridged structure of the sequel will make it less organic. But I also think it will give the whole thing better bones to start with and might make the editing process much quicker. But who knows? I’m still learning, and I have to try new things. I’ll let you know how it all turns out when I’m done.

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

I’m about 300 pages into the sequel to Systemic. There are three main story lines, the first of which picks up Lem and Eryn’s story where Systemic left off. The other arcs deal with an outcast girl finding her purpose, and a band of professors, who have turned the Systemic writings into a psudo-religion and travel around like itinerant preachers teaching it to the masses. I’m starting to suspect it might actually be two books. So, it might be more accurate to say I’m 150 pages into the second and third books of the trilogy. I’ll have to see.

I’m currently finishing up a short story that has to do with transferring emotion and empathy to other people via a social network. It overlaps pretty heavily with the Systemic universe. It just came back from the editor and I need to start shopping it around.

A few months ago, I woke up with this paragraph in my head, and it keeps picking at my attention:

There is a long-standing debate about which of the world’s cities is the most magical. Some say Paris with its bright late nights and palpable romance, or London with its mists and fogs and blind alleys. Prague—which was never destroyed in the war—must be powerfully protected. Then there are Athens and Cairo whose labyrinthine streets have existed since humans began coming together to make their magic…

Maybe I have a fantasy story bouncing around in me. That would surprise and delight me.

  • 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?

That’s tough. Thinking about the books I’ve read lately, it’s hard to tell from the evidence which I prefer.

I recently re-read 1984, and really loved it. Not just because it’s poignant social commentary, but I was also surprised to discover how excellent the writing was. I know that shouldn’t surprise me, it is a classic after all. But being forced to read it in high school, you don’t really appreciate it.  The one thing I came away after reading 1984 was that everyone is scared that book is our future, and I guarantee that both sides think the other one is who Mr. Orwell was warning us about.

I just read Neil Stephenson’s “Fall”, which had some really fun ideas about simulated reality, and some very dark social commentary.

But I’m also reading, “The Girl Who Drank The Moon,” which is charming and light—though with a few dark streaks. I can’t get enough of that book.  And “The Crane Wife” which is lovely and magical, but with threads of sorrow coursing through it.

The one book I am actively advising people against reading is “The Handmaid’s Tale.” That’s just asking for trouble and despair.

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

This is not me punting, I promise. I really do feel this way. None of them are better. It’s like arguing over which color is best. Well, if I’m painting a rose, I’d say “red”, if it’s a sky we’re talking about I’d say “blue”.

So across which dimension of story are we talking about here? They are each nearly perfect platonic ideals of the mythical hero’s journey. But they all have such different qualities. 

Harry Potter feels like a well-told kid’s story, it’s clever and cute, but the magic feels a bit predictable. There are wands, and pseudo-Latin spells, and crystal balls and the like.  Which I get is part of the fun of the whole thing—the idea that all of those are real and are as common as protractors and #2 pencils for wizards. I imagine J.K. Rowling sitting upright in bed one morning as saying, “Get me a pen, I’ve had a great idea!”

Star Wars is a brilliant mash up of swashbuckling pirates, samurai movies, eastern mysticism, and sci-fi. So, it might win for genius if you measure genius by the ability to connect disparate things into a cohesive whole, which is one of my favourite definitions.

But if I had to choose, I would probably pick “Lord of the Rings” simply because it feels inevitable. Like it’s a true history scratched into a rock in some cave somewhere which was uncovered by archaeologists and translated from the dwarvish. That certainly comes from the fact that Tolkien put so much into the world and the depth of its history and mythology.

(Please include any social media links – Facebook, Instagram, Twitter etc.)


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Tips for Indy Authors part 1: Planning

Hi everyone, I was working on my latest book and being distracted by social media (Damn you Facebook!) when I realised that there are so many writers out there that don’t have a clue how about getting their work out there. In this new series of blog posts, I’ll be covering some of the basics.

Now you may be thinking that it might be a bad idea to help other writers. After all the competition out there is fierce and I myself would be classed as a struggling author. In reality, however, this couldn’t be further from the truth. One of the biggest lessons I’ve learnt over the years is that helping one another is really important.

One of the most common questions I see on social media is about how authors go about getting started and planning their books.

It all starts with an idea

A muse, creativity, imagination call it what you like but there has to be something that creates that initial spark. Not everyone possesses such a thing whereas others can be consumed by it. In my case, I get inspiration from the world around me. The news, hobbies such as gaming, people watching (not in a creepy way) and history are great sources of inspiration. It’s hard to describe the feeling when an idea takes root but you know it’s a good one when your mind constantly goes back to it. This where the idea of a muse comes in, a little voice in your head that nags you to look into it more. Sometimes an idea can be tenacious, other times it can hit like a lightning bolt or a Eureka moment.

In fantasy especially, I often start out by creating the world the story will be set in. I’ve written about world building before so check those posts out here. At this phase, you can get lost in creating a history or lore of the world and its during this phase that planning rises to the fore. I have notebooks and word documents filled with timelines, character and place names. I find it helps to write them down by hand first and then compile them onto a computer later.

Once this initial burst of creativity has occurred the actual story is the next step. Now, this is where being an author gets a little weird. In effect, you become something like a god. You create characters that in your mind might be as real as you or I and then you plop these ‘people’ into the world you created. I myself have experienced and been told by other writers that once they do this their characters often do unexpected things that shift a story into an entirely unexpected direction.

I’ve been experiencing this in my current project and while interesting such detours can put a spanner in the works of the story you’re trying to tell. This is why planning is so important.

Pantsing vs Plotting

I am what would be considered a pantser writer which means aside from having a broad outline of how I want a story to go I just let my mind run free and make it up as I go along. Others really struggle with this method and instead intricately plan out every page of a story. No method is better than other as a pantser can often write themselves into a corner thanks to troublesome characters not behaving and a strict planner can become stifled and trapped by their plan to the point of feeling trapped. The perfect method would be to incorporate the two, which is something that I myself am trying more and more.

raybradburyplot

In my current project, I still have a beginning and an endpoint that the story has to reach but whereas before I would wing it and see what happens to reach that end, I am now creating strict plot points that each chapter has to hit. How they are hit however is left to my imagination and it can be tricky reigning in a plot that is trying to go off on a different tangent.

There is software that provides plenty of planning functions and options but for me, a good old-fashioned notepad works best.

Writing is a learning experience and we all develop our own ways of planning out our projects. I’d love to hear what techniques you use. Are you a pantser or a strict planner? Let me know in the comments.

In part 2 I’ll be covering the common question of ‘How do you find the time to write?’.

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Ideas, Ideas, everywhere!

So many ideas!

Hi everyone, I’ve not posted in awhile. So, this is just an update on what I’ve been up to this past month.

Well in terms of writing the novels I’m afraid to say I’ve not done anywhere near enough the amount that I would have liked in January. And that’s because I’ve been settling in at my new job as a content manager, which I think is going pretty well so far.

2017 was a rough year for a few personal reasons but I did manage to release the audiobook version of Heir to the Sundered Crown, book 3 in the saga and the trilogy boxset.

This year I’m hoping for a lot more stability in my life in regards to work and will be hoping to crack on with my current works in progress. The thing is, there is I have so many ideas at the moment that I’m struggling to focus on just one project. As it stands I’m still aiming to release The First Fear sometime in the summer, but at the moment I think that will be my only release in 2018.

Never Enough Time!

Whilst working on that title I will also be working on book 4 in the Sundered Crown Saga and will also be dabbling in a few other projects. Unconquered Book 2 remains on hold due to time constraints but I will do my darnest to focus on it fully when the opportunity arises.

For this blog, I’ll be doing some more writing relating posts, movie reviews and will be opening up some slots for any guest posts that my fellow authors would like to contribute.

So here’s to a (hopefully) productive 2018!

 

 

What I’ve Learnt About Self-Publishing – Is getting a traditional publishing deal better than going Indy?

Is getting a traditional publishing deal better than going Indy?

As a member of many writing groups online I’ve seen more than a few authors brag about landing traditional publishing deals. I have debated and in some cases outright argued with some who claim that landing such deals means that they are superior to us Indy authors.

Sure, landing a deal with an internationally recognised or genre leading publisher is fantastic! Well done you, but in this post, I’m not going to be talking about the big players but rather the small presses of which there are hundreds. Now, some of these are fantastic at what they do and genuinely support their authors with marketing etc., but far too many don’t provide those they ‘sign’ with any support at all.

The thing I think that needs to be made clear is whether going the traditional publishing route will indeed prove more effective than self-publishing. I’ve seen many authors delighted to land a deal, but then their book disappears into oblivion as the publisher does not promote the book at all. I’ve been in arguments with some authors who look down on Indy publishing and believe that because they’ve landed a deal with some obscure publishing house, they are better than those going alone. A simple look at their books ranking on Amazon however soon proves that in reality, their book is doing terribly and that for example, my Indy book sells better than theirs. I get that there are some kudos for landing a deal but at the end of the day if we truly want to be true authors our writing has to make us some form of income.

There are countless scammers out there posing as publishers. (Read my blog about vanity publishers here.) Unlike vanity publishers who demand an author pay them to publish there are some that offer contracts and even pay the author for the rights to their work as well as promising to market the book. I’ve seen many authors fall for these small presses who often turn out to be one man shows or run by people who don’t really seem to know what they’re up to. The number of books ‘signed up’ to these publishers that then go onto to vanish without a trace is quite frankly shocking.

Publishing is a gamble either way

A good friend of mine in the USA wrote a fantastic Sci-fi novel that exploded in popularity on a writing forum. He was then approached by a ‘publisher’ who paid him an advance and promised him to support the book. This was over 8 years ago, and his book has still never seen the light of day, and he is now embroiled in a legal battle with the publisher to get the rights back from them. I know for a fact that if he’d taken the Indy route and published it himself, then that book would have done well, and no doubt would have made him more cash then he’d earn via the small press. In short, he took a gamble and lost.

With Indy publishing, everything is down to you. You control the rights, you control production, and you control your marketing. In my view, its better for your book to be out there then locked away gathering dust. By going Indy, there is always a chance that your book could take off, whereas if a small press is mismanaging it or refusing to publish it, then there is no chance at all and you could end up in a legal battle to get back control of your story.

What do you think? Have you had a bad experience with a small press? Have you achieved success going Indy? Let me know in the comments or get in touch via Facebook and Twitter and please sign up to the newsletter

 

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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What I’ve learnt about self-publishing – Making friends and joining communities

In this series of blog posts, I’m going to tell you about what I’ve experienced and learnt about the self-publishing world. Staying motivated about a work in progress can be tough especially as writing books can take months and years at a time. Encouragement from readers and other writers is vital to keep you going.

Make Contacts and join communities

I started on this self-publishing journey back in 2010 when I started writing what would become Terran Defenders: Genesis.

I’d graduated from university in 2008 with a degree in journalism but thanks to the Great Recession decimating much of the newspaper industry and with the rise of online publications that profession was nigh impossible to break into.

I worked shitty job after shitty job just, so I could afford the rent and put food on the table, and I soon realised that if I didn’t keep writing, I’d lose that thing that all writers have. A need to write. So, in my spare time, I got to work on writing a daft science fiction book that in a lot of ways saved me from losing the plot and giving up on my search to break into the cutthroat world of a paid writing job.

Terran Defenders: Genesis took a year to write, and at the end of it I wondered what to do next. That’s when I discovered the world of Webook (a website that was the precursor for sites like Wattpad). Back in the day, Webook was a fantastic community of writers and readers. I met many interesting people and even made some friends (Aaron from the US I’m looking at you, buddy). I received a great response to the book on there, and it was there that indy publishing was brought to my attention. The Amazon Kindle was still relatively new to the market, and those early pioneering writers were having some great successes.

The Webook community helped me to find confidence in my ability as a writer. I was still learning much of the tricks of the trade at that point, and the advice and guidance of some of the older folks were invaluable.

Sadly, as with everything in life, good things always come to an end, and Webook was no exception. The site was sold, and soon the community began to drift apart and find new avenues for their work such as Wattpad (more on that in a minute). If you venture onto Webook, nowadays the place is a ghost of its former self. The user interface remains the same it was back in 2010 and looks ancient compared to modern sites which is a crying shame. I found that place far more engaging and useful than I ever did Wattpad.

By joining communities, you can test the waters with a work in progress. Readers always spot things that the author does not, and if a plot point doesn’t make sense, then they will most certainly point that out. Use them as critics and proofreaders, (one thing I’ve learnt is that there is always some smartass who just loves playing the role of a grammar nazi. They may come across as patronising or aggressive but look through that at the points they’re trying to make and fix accordingly if they have a point.)

Wattpad

One of the main writing communities these days is Wattpad. I fully embraced this site for a while as like Webook there was a solid community of writers and readers, however, as time went on I discovered that there are issues with plagiarism, not to mention that many of the site’s users seemed to favour genres that I don’t write in. (Teenagers really like cheesy romances for some reason). The forums were great for sharing tips and tricks of the trade, and it was via Wattpad that Heir to the Sundered Crown won the 2014 Write Awards. A competition where Wattpad users voted on their favourite entries. Winning this gave me a big confidence boost, and shortly afterwards I published the book via Amazon where it performed very strongly (and is still my best seller).

Facebook

Social media channels have hundreds, if not thousands of groups just for writers. I’ve met some great authors, and it was via one of these that I was made aware of the now annual SPFBO competition hosted by Mark Lawrence (author of Red Sister, Prince of Thorns etc..). I entered Heir into this year’s contest, but alas it never made it past the first round. I wasn’t too down about that however as simply having the experience, and a chance to meet and communicate with other Indy fantasy authors was invaluable.

Be aware that Facebook is also filled with trolls and asshats too. For every conversation about real writing issues, there’s one where a person is either insulting someone else or just posting inane nonsense. Trolls are just a part of life, and as an author, you’d best be prepared to be on the receiving end of them.

Here are some Facebook groups I’ve found most useful –

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

https://www.facebook.com/groups/1800355053523765/

In my next blog, I’ll cover how to get those words down onto the page, something that many wannabe writers struggle with.

Are there any writing communities that you’re a part of? Let me know in the comments!

 

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Writing Quest Part 3

It’s week 3 already! Despite a rather tumultuous week, I still managed to get the first 2 chapters written up for Quest, I’ve edited Danon (Pre-order today from Amazon)   in preparation for its release at the end of the month.

My fiance came down with an illness which led  me to look after her for most of the week. I even had to call out paramedics on Tuesday as she had shown no signs of recovery despite being in bed since Saturday. After a swift visit to the doctor, we discovered that she had been suffering from severe migraines. She is now rested and feeling much better.

Mid-week Elevenmedia posted their review of Heir to the Sundered Crown. You can read it here.

It has been a very long week, and as it is about to come to an end I will reserve any strength I have for next week. I intend on throwing myself back into my writing starting Monday and hope to have another chapter finished by the end of the new week.

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