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.

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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, 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 – Cameron Johnson

In today’s author interview I chat with Cameron Johnson the author of the excellent Traitor God and other fantasy novels.

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

Hello, and thanks for having me. I’m a totally not-middle-aged (expecting 100+ years achieved via a combination of whisky and cybernetics) guy from Scotland who writes darker fantasy, loves archaeology, history and mythology and exploring ancient sites. I was a library kid and I guess I caught the storytelling bug from that, and it evolved from reading a whole lot to wanting to tell my own stories.

  • What appeals to you most about the fantasy genre?

Part of it is revelling in the sheer imagination of it all, from floating castles to terrifying monsters, otherworldly places and fascinating characters landed in situations that suck you in. In a way, reading fantasy is like being an explorer of strange new worlds and as that sense of discovery is a wonderful thing.

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

The Maleficent Seven will (probably) be out in August 2021, and let me tell you, writing seven (and a bit) villainous points of view is a pretty daunting prospect after writing two books with only a single point of view protagonist. In the end, I really enjoyed writing those characters and seeing them develop their own unique voices.

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

I like to vary characters so I don’t have a set type, other than perhaps one with a sharp tongue. One thing I do try to do write are characters that are never 100% good or 100% evil – a bad guy might be a good father or love and care for dogs for example. People are bewilderingly complex creatures. As for how much of myself I put in, probably very little – I’m thankfully much nicer than most of my characters.

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

Know that most authors are incredibly self-critical, and what you read has gone through several rounds of editing and rewrites. When you start out, the first draft of your first novel or short story will probably not be good, and that’s OK – many published novels started life on shaky feet. To write well you need to learn to write, and then you have to learn to edit your work so it makes sense and reads smoothly. Don’t despair at your first attempts and give up – you will learn from writing it, and then learn to edit it.

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

Panic? Hot cups of tea? Perhaps the odd whisky? There are no tricks sadly, just sitting down, avoiding the internet and distractions and getting the words down. It’s easy to procrastinate with a million other things you could be doing, but you just need to resist and get to work.

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

-Almost entirely a pantser. I like to know the start and the end of a story, and perhaps a few important points along the road to give it shape, but other than that the characters make their own decisions and write their own story.

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

Oh, lots of plans. Too many, really. The only problem I have is what one I want to explore next. I have a few standalone fantasy novels I want to write so I will probably toss the dice to decide what one I start writing first.

  • 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’ve noticed a slight preference for less grimdark fiction at the moment, turning to more popcorny adventuresome stories instead. I expect that’s trying to find an emotional balance with the relentless craptitude of 2020.

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

-I’ll go with Lord of the Rings for this one. What a world! That said, I do love The Mandalorian.




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Author Interview – Nikki Nelson-Hicks

Writing by the flickering flames of the campfire I see all sorts of shapes and tales cast by the light. Adventures and heroes, villains and horror. A twig snaps in the woods nearby and I look up to see my latest guest. Author Nikki Nelson-Hicks.

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

Hi! I’m Nikki Nelson-Hicks and I think my interest in writing started because I am a reader. My childhood was chaotic and I found solace in stories. That is still where I find peace and the place I flee to when I need some guidance and a cosmic head rub.

  • What appeals to you most about the fantasy genre?

The world building. Creating entire civilizations, races, religions, universes, all from the static medium of ink on paper. Think about that. It’s magic.

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

This past year I’ve been putting together all the stories from the Jake Istenhegyi: The Accidental Detective series into an Omnibus. My first intention was to put them all into one volume but, yikes….it turns out the first one was 300 pages long. I had to split it into two volumes.

The first volume is already out on Amazon in paperback and Kindle. The second one, will be out hopefully in November.

The biggest obstacles I faced while writing…well, I should say re-writing, reformatting and re-editing, these stories was coming the grips that, although they were originally published by another small press company and did pretty well….they weren’t very good. Oh my. Especially that first story. Yikes. What a mess. I’ve grown as a writer and I was able to go back, make corrections, add some meat to a very decrepit skeleton and make the series not only flow better but more enjoyable for the reader.

Oh, and 2020. That pretty much got in everyone’s way.

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

I love to write heroes that take on the bad guys and fix wrong and make everything right. It’s the Fury in me. I put a lot of my hopes and dreams into my characters. I wish I were as strong as they are.

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


Oh, and get a chair with good lumbar support.

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

When I have a deadline, everything else in my life gets put on hold. The house turns into a pigsty. Meals are whatever you can put together in a pantry. Showers are on a need-to basis. My family learns to deal with life all on their own. Momma’s got work to do.

If I’m not a deadline, I force myself to work at least two hours a day on a story. Hey, I have a day job, a family, 5 cats and 2 dogs to take care of. Two hours is a lot to carve out of my day.

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

I’m a hybrid. I loosely plot. I need to know the Beginning and The End. The middle bit can be a bit more muddy but I can make my through it as long as I know The End.

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

I write in all sorts of genres; I don’t like to get pinned down inside one box. (Although I’ve never tried Romance. I’m not sure I have the stomach for it.)

When I finally put the Jake series to bed, I have two stories I want to work on.

 One is called “Crown of Feathers”. It is based on the Appalachian legend that a crown of feathers can be found underneath the pillow of a dying person. If you find it, it means they are going to heaven There are actual examples of them in an Appalachian Folklore Museum in East Tennessee. In my story, set in the turn of the 19th century, a boy steals the Crown of Feathers from beneath his dying mother’s pillow so that Death won’t be able to take her away. Shenanigans ensue.

The other is a modern day thriller called “Hand Me Down”. Short and sweet, it is about a woman whose dark deeds from her past bleed into her present and threaten to destroy everything. There’s lots of murder in it. It’s gonna be fun.

  • 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 want my heroes to win. I want the bad guys to get what they deserve. It is bourgeois but I don’t care. If I wanted stark, dystopic reality, I’d watch a freaking history channel. Fiction helps me see a world the way it SHOULD BE and, maybe, it can teach us how to create a better one. If something can be imagined, it can be created.

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

Did you know that an interview question posited by the FBI is: Would you rather be a serial killer or a terrorist?  It’s a way to tell if a person is an individualist (serial killer) or team player (terrorist).

I feel the same way if a person asks if I like Star Wars or Star Trek? It’s a way to tell if a person is a team player/bureaucrat (Star Trek) or if a person is more of a rebellious streak (Star Wars).

Confession time: I have never read Lord of the Rings.  I have what I call a Tolkien Block. When I was a teenager, a group of girls started up a coven and wouldn’t allow me to join their group because I “wasn’t their type” because I didn’t read Tolkien. Ever since then, I can’t stomach it.  I didn’t even like the movies. I got bored. I mean….don’t even get me started on those damn eagles. WHY DIDN’T THEY JUST USE THE EAGLES??!?!

So, we’re down to Harry Potter or Star Wars.


Harry Potter is fun but if you really stop and start to think about the idea of a Wizarding World that, for some stupid reason, lives in a Dickensian dystopia and doesn’t use their obviously laws of physics bending powers to aid the world at large, it starts to fall apart. Seriously. Quills over a ballpoint pen? Owl mail over Email?

Star Wars has a very warm, fuzzy spot in my heart because I was there at the beginning, sitting in the theater, 1977, when that Imperial Cruiser pulled out overhead.  My heart still races when I think of the opening overture.

Yeah. I gotta go with Star Wars (despite the terrible prequels and then even sadder sequels). At least we have The Mandalorian. #itistheway

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Author Interview – John B. Rosenman

The flames crackle and the light flickers as the campfire finds new vitality from the fresh kindling I’ve thrown onto the fire. The night is cold but that doesn’t stop another author making their way to warmth of the flames. Tonight I am joined by prolific sci-fi and fantasy author John B. Rosenman.

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

 Hi. I’m John B. Rosenman, and I’m a retired English professor who writes speculative fiction – science fiction, fantasy, horror, paranormal (and one young adult). I’ve published a couple dozen books as well as two hundred and fifty stories in places such as Weird Tales, Whitley Strieber’s Aliens, Fangoria, Galaxy, Endless Apocalypse, The Age of Wonders, and the Hot Blood erotic horror series. My novels include action-adventure scifi novels such as Beyond Those Distant Stars, Speaker of the Shakk, A Senseless Act of BeautyAlien Dreams, and the Inspector of the Cross series (Crossroad Press). I’ve also published a four-book box set, The Amazing Worlds of John B. Rosenman  (MuseItUp Publishing). Recently I completed a science-fiction novel Dreamfarer which is the first in a new series.

I love ideas and story concepts. In fact, I always have.  When I was a small child I would say to my father, “Tell me a story.” His stories by my bed at night planted the seed. I like to create alien worlds, fascinating characters, and prose and something poetry that is as good as I can make it. I also like to revise, though sometimes it’s a struggle.

  • What appeals to you most about the fantasy genre?

Fantasy makes the invisible visible. There are other worlds, other realms, other universes with beings as wild and as beautiful as I can make them. So-called objective reality is not the only reality. I recall a line from a movie that said you can live in the Imagination. That’s the most beautiful nation of all.  My favorite title for a science fiction / fantasy magazine was If. If you can imagine it, in some way it must be true and exist somewhere.

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

Crash is due out in mid to late November. It’s the sixth novel in my Inspector of the Cross scifi / adventure series and reflects a new approach to the adventures of my hero because the alien enemy, the Cen are no longer involved. Also, Turtan loses his memory and no longer knows who he is. Oh, he faces all sorts of challenges, and I had to reimagine the whole series. Plus, I faced other challenges because circumstances required me to pack up the whole series and move it to a new publisher, Crossroad Press.

At the same time, I resurrected a novel I wrote nearly forty years ago. Dreamfarer is about a world where machines give people dreams that are so much more beautiful, exciting, and fulfilling than real life.  At the age of thirty-two, you can have yourself “interfaced” and dream the rest of your life away. What could go wrong? What’s wrong with that? Dreamfarer will be published by Crossroad Press, but I don’t have a date yet. I’m also at work on a sequel, Go East, Young Man. Like Dreamfarer it focuses on the adventures of Sam Adams, a man who had the misfortune to wake up forever from his wonderful dreams and who is determined to destroy the dream industry because of its terrible impact on humanity.

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

I’m addicted to noble, tormented heroes who battle evil and sinister forces. Sometimes they’re Christ-like in nature as in my Inspector of the Cross series, and occasionally they have godlike powers of healing as with Dax Rigby in Dax Rigby, War Correspondent. I put a great deal of myself in them, particularly my desire to be like them. In my mainstream, coming-of-age novel, Johnny Roth embodies two traits I yearn to have. They are to be a great boxer AND a great artist.

Sometimes I try to see things from girls’ or women’s POV. Sky in Skyburst is a fifteen-year-old girl dying of cancer. What must it be like to be a young girl faced with such a problem? Ah, but as with others of my heroes, she has great, even transcendent abilities. Stella in Beyond Those Distant Stars is turned into a cyborg after she has a radioactive accident. Like Sky she’s tormented and apparently doomed, yet she manages to find love and fight against an alien enemy that seems invincible.

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

Above all, never give up or let yourself be defeated by rejection and negative thoughts. If you’re a writer, you will be strong and forge on.

Beyond that — Read, read, read; write, write, write; revise, revise, revise. If possible, join a good writers’ group where expert criticism and critiques are supplied on a regular basis. Analyze everything. If a work of creative fiction astonishes you, try to identify some of the elements that make it work. Read critical articles discussing them and take a course or two in creative writing.

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

If I have a deadline, I will make it because I want to be published. I guess you could say my desire is my writing trick. If there’s a deadline for submitting a short story, and I have a good idea or like the subject, well, then, I will get my story or stories in on time. The same goes for a situation in which a publisher indicates that a certain date is the deadline for getting my novel in. In this case, NOT BEING PUBLISHED is my writing trick.

Also, if a story or novel is going well, if my inspiration is hot and flowing, I tend to harness my inspiration and keep scribbling. This is especially true with a novel, which requires dedication and the long haul. Skip it for a few days or weeks, and I may never go back.

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

       I’m a pantser. Often it’s like I’m wandering in a fog and only gradually does the road ahead become visible to me. I may have an idea of the eventful conclusion but no clear, overall plan of how I’m going to get there. I used to walk through a local Barnes & Noble that I found particularly conducive to inspiration and sometimes the slightest thing there would suddenly spark a story. For example, I saw a book titled The Calm Technique and instantly a story leaped almost full-blown into my head. The Death Technique is about a man who has the       gruesome ability to make his body rot and resemble a corpse. I sold it to a pro anthology.

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

      I plan to finish Go East, Young Man, the sequel to Dreamfarer and see it published.  I’ve       been thinking of shifting my focus after that and concentrating on short stories. They take less time and sometimes can be written quickly. There are various publishers I’ve published with before and various anthologies and magazines that have published my fiction. It would be nice to submit short fiction to them. I also love “theme” magazines, newsletters, and anthologies. Recently I published revised, previously published stories in Flame Tree Press’s Endless Apocalypse and Dying Planet collections.  In addition, I hope to generate some new stories. Will I try Romance? I doubt it. Nor do I see myself getting into elves and faeries. But you never know. It’s better to be fresh and try new things. 

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 used to like horror and dark fiction more than I do now. Heck, I was Chairman of the Horror Writers Association. As I’ve gotten older, though, I’ve come to prefer tales where the sun occasionally shines and good tends to triumph over evil. My science fiction / speculative fiction novels feature heroes who ultimately conquer or prevail over villains.  But I do love my villains, whose darkness sometimes threatens to overshadow the goodness of my heroes because it’s more compelling and interesting. I do continue to like subtle, atmospheric dark fantasy or horror, where darkness is suggested and hinted at rather than shown. Please, no extreme, gory horror, though I used to write some.

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

Star Wars, I think, primarily because I sometimes write space opera novels with swashbuckling heroes and larger-than-life bad guys. I read the first two Harry Potter novels. They were okay, but I never went back.  I read the first 560 pages of Lord of the Rings and then stopped reading. Please, somebody, tell me why and where I’m wrong!

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The Indie Authors guide

Want to publish that novel you’ve spent days, months or years of life sweating and crying over?

Want to get it to market without falling victim to the vast array of scammers out there? Want to navigate the minefield that can be the author community and do it without breaking the bank?

Well, with this quick guide you can!

Indie Author M.S. Olney takes you through the steps needed to get your book on the market without going bankrupt in the process!

He’s been writing books for a decade and he’s experienced pretty much all the BS an Indie author will experience.

From one Indie author to another, let’s get your book out there!


A Guide to Nano Wrimo 2019

It’s that time of the year again when writers from across the globe decide whether to embark on one of their toughest challenges- yep, the annual Novel Writing Month Contest (NanoWrimo) is here!

I’ve entered NanoWrimo four time since I began this crazy journey of writing books and have only succeeded just the once. In case you don’t know what it is Nano challenges you to write a complete 50,000 story in just 1 month. To some this word count is easy but to others (like me) it is one of the most gruelling challenges out there. To offer some guidance I’ve put together some top tips that should help see you through to the finish line.

Write whenever you can

If like me you have to do a real job (boo! – I joke…) that takes up the bulk of your day you need to take every opportunity you can get to put those words down on the page. To hit the target you have to write at least 1,667 words per day (Around 2-3 hours of work). If your commute into work is a long one do some on the bus or train, do it in your lunch breaks and if you work a 9-5 job make sure you write in the evenings. This is easier said than done of course as funnily enough life often gets in the way. If you have children, pets and other commitments then… good luck!

Accept that the 50,000 words are going to suck

The whole point of Nano is to prove to yourself that when pushed you can hit the word count of 50k within the space of 30 days. I know a few Indy authors that can do this with their eyes closed and you’ll likely see in the Nano forums that some entrants will smash this number within a matter of days. Don’t feel disheartened. Instead get your words down and accept the fact they won’t be great. Getting the words down is the true challenge and if you like what you’ve done then spend the next few months refining them. It’s likely that you’ll end up cutting a fair amount and rewriting whole parts but for now focus only on hammering that keyboard or scribbling that pen.

Do not edit!

If you’re a stickler for perfection then Nano is not for you. Many writers fall into the trap of editing as they go. Don’t! If you do that you will never reach the end goal of 50k words. Editing, of course, is one of the most important if not the most important parts of the whole writing process but for Nano resist the urge to edit as you go.

Check the forums for support

There are many support groups on the NanoWrimo website that provide a wealth of support. One forum I’ve used in the past is the regional forum where you can make contact with other entrants in your area and work together to build your regions word count. Seeing which region will top the word count leaderboards adds an extra element of competitiveness and motivation.

Am I entering this year?

Yes, I am. I’m working away on my current project: The Temple of Arrival and Nano will be a huge motivator to get down as many words as possible. With the book currently at 50k already with probably more than that to go, NanoWrimo will be the perfect thing to push me on and help me finish the first draft.

Are you taking part this year? Do you have any tips that you’d like to share? Let me know in the comments or via social media.

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Marketing Tips for Indie Authors – Making a Mailing List

Marketing is quite possibly the toughest aspect of being an indie author. How do you get your books in front of readers? How do you stand out from the crowd? In this series of blogs, I’ll be focusing on marketing and some of the tricks I’ve learnt over the years to generate some sales.

Part 1 –Mailing lists

Making a mailing list has so far been the most effective way for me to sell books and whilst I’m no master at it I thought I’d share what I know.

The first thing you need to do is not worry too much if your book is nowhere near ready. When it comes to marketing it doesn’t hurt to try and get yourself out there early. Also, if you have a huge back catalogue of books it’s not too late to start building a list from scratch.

Who to choose?

There are numerous email marketing services out there and each offers you different functionality and features. To start with I’d choose either Mailchimp or Mailerlite. Both provide the ability to easily create email templates as well as have plenty of options for integrations (more on that later). As a newbie to list building, I recommend Mailchimp (simply because that’s the one I have the most experience with).

Joining Mailchimp is incredibly easy and it takes you through step by step on how to get started. Another benefit of MC is that it provides automation functions which will come in handy down the road.

I, however, am using email Octopus as once your list grows to a certain size Mailchimp and Mailerlite can get a bit pricey. With MC, for example, a list of over 2,500 was costing over £30 a month to maintain and the price goes up as your list grows. With email Octopus, it costs me £20 and I won’t have to upgrade again until I have 10,000 subscribers.

Growing a list

Once you’ve chosen your provider the next challenge is to start growing your list. If you have a website you can easily create a modal popup that will hopefully encourage your site visitors to subscribe.

Sharing the link to your subscription page via social media can also work but what you need is something to encourage people to sign up. In my case, I give away a copy of my novella The Nightblade to those who subscribe. Giving away a short story or piece of artwork can be a great hook.

There are also services such as InstaFreebie (now Prolific works), Book Funnel and the newer Story Origin that all help build list numbers. This is where integration comes in. Each of those services can be linked to your mailing list and automatically new subscribers that come in through that route. InstaFreebie and Book Funnel require a fee but as yet Story Origin remains a free service. The only downside to that service is that it is slightly limiting when it comes to what mailing list services can be integrated.

As I use Book Funnel, I’ll talk about how I’ve used it to grow my list from a few dozen to almost 3,000 subscribers in less than 6 months.

Book Funnel allows users to create and join promotions. All you have to do is set up a book giveaway click on a promo that you like the look of, fill in the form and join it. The success on the promotion comes down to the members of the promo sharing it to their social channels and mailing lists. Sometimes one promotion can generate hundreds of new subscribers.

What to put in your emails?

If you’re working on a book keep your subscribers informed with updates on its progress, the challenges you’ve faced and perhaps some excerpts to whet their appetite. It’s also a great opportunity to work with and help other authors as you can share other authors works in your list and in exchange, they’ll do the same. There are several social media groups dedicated to finding swaps for example.

Write about you as a person. Let your readers learn more about you and let them know you’re human. Other things you can include is news on the latest giveaways, discounts, reviews or character bios and maps.

I’m sure there are more experienced authors out there who have mastered the mailing list if so, I’d love to hear from you! Leave a comment below with your top tips and please subscribe to my mailing list via –

In the next post I’ll be taking a look at some of the promotion services that are available and which ones are worth the cost.

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Tips for Indy Authors 4: Cover Art & Covers

If you peruse the Amazon Kindle store you will be greeted by more books than you can count. Unfortunately, many of them are likely to have book covers that quite frankly suck and that were obviously cobbled together by the author.

With so much competition out there you need your book to stand out from the crowd. Sure we all want to save money and many authors do take their books to market without spending a penny on anything, but do those books go on to sell more than a handful of copies?

Do it yourself?

Making your own covers can work don’t get me wrong; if you have a background in art and design. Knowing what works is vital to making a good cover. I’ve been doing content creation for years now so feel pretty comfortable using design tools but I know for a fact that the covers I have made myself could be so much better if I had paid a pro.

Getting the imagery and title fonts right for your genre is also key. If you can draw then good for you, you can create something unique from scratch. For the rest of us mere mortals however, we can turn to stock image websites. Free sites like Pexels provide free images to use but these are pretty limited. For a basic package with sites such as Shutterstock or Adobe Stock, you will have a lot more choice. With some photoshop wizardry, you can easily turn a stock image into something unique looking. There are few images out there, however, that been used numerous times so try to use one that no one else has used yet.

Free tools such as Canva and allow anyone with an eye for design the ability to create some pretty decent covers.

Finding Artists

Unless you’re really lucky and have a family member or friend who is a designer or artist finding the right person to do your book’s cover art can be tricky. Deviant art is an excellent place to find pros and if you’re a signed up member you can post job requests on the job boards. You’ll always get someone willing to offer you their talents but as is correct the artists will ask for payment (no one should work for free after all!)

It was through Deviant art that I met the cover artist for the First Fear and the up and coming second Empowered One’s novel. Having a professional cover is an amazing feeling to have as you’re proud to show it off. There are many other places where artists lurk but in my opinion, you should avoid Fiverr as I’ve heard some horror stories.

There are also many pre-made book cover services out there but again the quality is hit and miss, and you cannot guarantee that what you buy is solely yours.

There are some absolute shockingly bad book covers out there. Be sure to not have yours end up on a list like this one

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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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