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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AFTERLYFE Movie Review

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

What is it?

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

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

A Short Movie with a Tall Reach

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

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

It’s creepy AF

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Is it worth a watch?

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

Final Verdict – 9/10


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Author Interview – Claudia Klein

Today’s author interview is with American fantasy author Claudia Klein. Enjoy!


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

Hi! I’m a military wife and a stay at home mom to my 3 year old daughter. We’re expecting a baby boy in June and we currently live in Colorado. I’ve lived in 13 states so far, 2 of them twice! I’ve always written stories and I was inspired to get published young when I read a biography on Louisa May Alcott who published her first book when she was 17. Obviously, 17 came and went for me and I was still overwhelmed by how in the world to get published. Thankfully I joined a writing group in my early 20s right after college and there were some Indie authors in the group who told me the ins and outs of Indie publishing. It seemed easier than traditional publishing, so that’s the route I took.

  • What appeals to you most about the fantasy genre?

I love that you can imagine almost anything happening and it can happen in a fantasy world. I also love that it’s in the medieval time period. I love history and I especially love that time period.

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

So I’m currently in the final stages of getting my sequel to my debut novel, The Heir, published. The sequel, The Crown, will hopefully make its appearance sometime this late spring. Definitely before baby comes in June, that’s my goal. So it’s the sequel, and in The Heir the world was basically thrown into chaos and The Crown picks up where that book left off where the main characters have to put the world back to rights.

The biggest challenge I faced was getting that first draft written. I think it took me 2 years to write the first draft, which is a ridiculous amount of time. I went through months of just not being motivated to open up the document on my computer. And then of course, I had a 2 year old who every time I opened my computer would try and type too, which doesn’t work. So definitely working with a toddler around and getting motivation to write the sequel is what I struggled with the most. I’m glad it’s almost time to publish it.

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

I would say there’s kind of two sides to myself that you see in my books. There’s the adventurous tom-boy self who would climb Pikes Peak at 40 weeks pregnant or go to a gun range to try and outshoot her soldier husband. Then there’s the gentle, quiet self who likes to stay home and spin yarn. You definitely see these 2 characters of myself in Kat and Lucy, the heroines of my books.

But it’s almost fun to write evil characters too, like wimpy King Eric and the mysterious Creature.

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

Write that first draft as fast as possible. 4-6 months at the most. Like I said, I wrote the first draft of The Crown in 2 years and there were so many inconsistencies and repeated scenes. It was hard to edit and make it into a cohesive book.

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

Gosh, I wish I gave myself deadlines! That’d really help! But my biggest trick is I just force myself to open up the document every day for at least half an hour. Once I open up my book to write it, the words flow easily. It’s just the motivating myself to do it that’s the hard part. And I don’t know why because I love the feeling I get in the pit of my stomach when I’m putting new words on a page.

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

Panster. All the way. I typically have an idea for a story in my head, a beginning scene and usually and ending scene. The rest comes as I write. I have in recent years started writing out the plotline on paper as I develop it in my head. Just so I have it all written down so I don’t forget anything important that’s supposed to happen. That comes in really handy for when I start a story idea then set it aside for a few months and come back to it.

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

I’m hoping to get my Endorlothorien trilogy published next. I have all 3 books started and 1 finished. It’s a fantasy world of Elves. It’ll be under a different name because of course my world name is real Tolkien Elvish and that’s copyrighted! Little did I know when I invented the name soon after reading LOTR for the first time…

I’m also wanting to try my hand at Dystopian. That’s the genre I read the most so I definitely want to dabble in 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?

Definitely the ones where good triumphs over evil. In my book good always has to win. Evil can’t become good. And good always chooses not to become evil.

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

Oh my gosh! Such a hard question! I can officially say I’ve read Harry Potter as of last year. (I know, late to the party). I would have said LOTR hands down in 2019. But I think I have to say Harry Potter after having read them.

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

Facebook: @claudiakleinauthor

Instagram: @claudiakleinauthor


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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: S.E Anderson

In today’s author interview I chat with fantasy author S.E Anderson about her writing journey and her future projects. Join us around the campfire.


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

I’ve been telling stories since I was a kid. I think it runs in the family: my dad could invent a whole novel with subplots on the spot and would distract my sister and I while hiking with these incredibly complex tales. I was telling stories before I could even read, making my parents do all the writing for me. My brain just thinks in stories.

  • What appeals to you most about the fantasy genre?

The worldbuilding. I love trying to imagine the big “what if?” questions that arise when people are subjected to different norms and challenges than what we face every day. It’s fun to push the limits of reality and see what can be!

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

I recently had the fortune of being involved creating an anthology of YA stories. While we were open to many genres, many of them were fantasy, including my own contribution (though it’s more Urban Fantasy). We did this to keep the pandemic from getting to us, and it worked! It kept all of us focused and goal oriented. The book truly is a labour of love and I’m so thrilled to be putting it out into the world. It came out February 15th.

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

I like characters who don’t have life figured out – because let’s face it, who does? Characters who are sure of themselves only to have their foundation shaken, or ones who haven’t yet realized the potential that’s within them. Big change leads to big growth, and I love following them on their journey. As to how much of myself I put in them. It depends on the character. But I feel like each one represents a facet of me, whether I’d like to admit that or not. Who are you, my therapist?

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

To just keep writing. I’m sure they hear this all the time, but it’s so true. An object in motion stays in motion. And how do you learn to write well if you don’t write at all? Take the plunge, and just keep swimming.

Wow, my metaphors are mixed. You see? This is what happens if you step away from writing for too long.

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

Word count goals, mostly. I don’t have any magic life hacks here. Just nose to the grindstone some days, even if it might feel tedious.

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

My first drafts are always a pantsed up mess. But as soon as I put the last period in my draft, I’m off to the drafting board to make the plot actually make sense!

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

I have a new duology I’ve been cooking up for the fast four years, but I’d also like to try more contemporary YA with fantasy elements. I have a lot of stuff I want to explore. The only hard part if knowing I’ll never write everything I want to write!

  • 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 switch it up. I like more exploratory stories, to get me out of my apartment. A lot of wide arching fantasy and scifi, plus a bit of nonfiction here and there. 

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

Star Wars OG trilogy for pure watchability, LoTR for a long binge read.

Author Page: ‪https://www.facebook.com/seandersonauthor/

Website: ‪seandersonauthor.com

Twitter: ‪https://twitter.com/sea_author

Book: ‪http://bit.ly/KSTAR


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Why I choose to be an Indie Author

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

Full Control

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

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

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

Publishers don’t guarantee success

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

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

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

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

Cover Art

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

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

The disadvantages of Indie

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

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

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

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

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Author Interview – Kevin Buckner

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

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

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

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

  • What appeals to you most about the fantasy genre?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • With the world the way it is at the moment what sort of tales do you prefer? Ones with heroes where good triumphs over evil or ones that take a darker approach?

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

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

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

Follow Kevin on –

https://www.facebook.com/KevinBucknerAuthor

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


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Author Interview – Marty C.Lee

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


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

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

  •    What appeals to you most about the fantasy genre?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 With the world the way it is at the moment what sort of tales do you prefer? Ones with heroes where good triumphs over evil or ones that take a darker approach?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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The power of Bookbub

It’s been a while since I’ve written a blog post about the writing process so I thought I’d share with you all the results of my recent Bookbub promotion and how it took Heir to the Sundered Crown to bestseller status in the Sword and Sorcery Category in four countries on Amazon.

What is Bookbub?

So what is Bookbub exactly? Well, it’s a promotion site, the promotion site for books. Landing a US featured deal is like winning the lottery and it took me 4 years of persistent trying to get my book chosen for one.

The official description is: BookBub is a book discovery service that was created to help readers find new books and authors. The company features free and discounted ebooks selected by its editorial team, as well as book recommendations, updates from authors, and articles about books.

An author needs to sign up and create an account before listing their books to their Bookbub profile. (Follow me by clicking HERE) Once that’s done you then need to add the links to the various store fronts (if wide) that your book is sold on. If you’re a Kindle Unlimited author then you will only need to add the Amazon link.

Bookbub sends out emails everyday listed books that it chose for a featured deal and depending on what type of deal your book will be put in front of millions of subscribers. I’ve written about other services before such as Fussy Librarian etc, but Bookbub beats all of those by a wide margin in terms of guaranteed return on investment.

What also makes Bookbub standout is there use of expert editorial teams to choose what books would make the best fit for that days promotion. By using data they assess what type of books are in demand and which ones have the best chance at success.

BookBub notifies its subscribers about free and deeply discounted ebook recommendations selected by its expert editorial team, from bestsellers to hidden gems.

How to get chosen

Now this is a much sought after secret and Bookbub knows this. They have several guides on their site about what gives your book the best chance of being picked but with so many authors clamouring to get a deal the chance you’ll get picked is low. As I said, it took me 4 years of trying to get one!

Heir to the Sundered Crown was first released way back in 2014 but finally achieved over 60 reviews only recently. (If you’ve read it please review it!!!) Reviews help massively in the selection process as does making your book page on the relevant book stores look professional.

During the application process I also mentioned that the book was part of a planned promotion, something that I also think helped it be chosen. My promotion was for the book to be on sale for 0.99p/c.

Cost and Results

For the promotion I got it cost me just shy of £450 or $700, very pricey and a cost that I have to admit made my palms sweat a bit, but as they say you have to spend money to make money. The promotion went out on February 19th and at the time of writing this I have covered my costs and made a nice bit of profit.

Sales wise here are the totals so far –

Amazon (All nations) – 1,258

Wide (Apple, Nook, Kobo, Google) – 406

Total – 1664

Not a bad number and sales are continuing with every passing hour. On the initial promo date the book shot to the top of several genre lists and bagged a best seller badge on Amazon in multiple countries. What was of even greater interest is that my other books began to shift units as well, even the full priced ones. Audiobooks too began to sell with the number of them being sold doubling!

Get Heir to the Sundered Crown on Audio

It won’t be for another month or two until I get the sales data for those but it’s looking good. Another benefit I’m hoping for is that sale through for the Sundered Crown Saga will continue and that readers enjoy Heir enough to buy the rest of the series and maybe try some of my other books.

I won’t know the full impact of the Bookbub deal for another week at least as some of the stores data recording is a little slow, but overall I am very happy with the results of the deal.

Have you had a Bookbub featured deal? What was your experience of it? Let me know in the comments below.

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Author Interview – Mark Johnson

Today I’m joined around the campfire by epic fantasy author and another New Zealander (the desire to write fantasy must be in the air down there!) Mark Johnson.


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

Hey Matthew, thanks for having me on! I’m an Epic Fantasy writer from New Zealand. I started writing as I was getting bored with high school teaching, and decided to do something different with my hours off.

  • What appeals to you most about the fantasy genre?

I’d say the thing that I like most about fantasy is the ‘mystery’ aspect. Most fantasies have some sort of ‘hidden secret’ the author asks you to consider and predict, and for me, the addition of a ‘supernatural’ element into the mystery is just too alluring.

I also like books that explore other societies and ways of living. How would society change if X technology were considered an everyday fact of life? What would you do differently if you could do X?

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

My latest book is coming up in the first half of this year. It’s called ‘The Engine of Gods’, and it’s the fifth in my ‘FireWall’ series, and second to last of the series. The first book is ‘The Renegade Within.’ It’s about a woman who discovers corruption within her martial society, which is similar to Paladins. The corruption turns out to be the tip of the iceberg, and threatens the life of her god. She finds herself going down a path she never wanted, but must if she wants to save the life of her god and people.

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

I tend to write people who just want to get on with their lives, but find themselves morally obliged to participate in the right action. That’s not really me at all, but I find the question of ‘have I done enough for my conscience to let me rest?’ is compelling to write.

I also like writing characters who learn about the nature of their powers, along with the dangers inherent in those powers. Are the powers truly making their lives better? Do they make anyone’s lives better? Can they keep the powers secret so they can just get on with life?

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

Start with dialogue, and dialogue only. You’ll know if a scene works or not if the dialogue flows.

Start with a mystery. That’ll get you to write until the end of the book.

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

Lol: ‘on track’. I usually start out with an ending and the middle changes completely, meaning that my deadlines have to get pushed out so I can go back and write new things. I try to keep to 1000 words a day, but I usually can’t, because I’m too busy redoing the plot and other scenes.

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

Oh man I’m the worst combo of the two. I start with a plot. The plot gets cooler as I go and I have to go back and change the preceding chapters several times as I go, as well as changing the plot outline. If I’ve written several books in advance of publication (like I did for FireWall), then I go back and touch up a few chapters there, as well. It’s utterly frustrating.

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

I’m currently plotting my sequel series and FireWall’s sixth and final book. My next series is about what the consequences are for what happens after the climax of the first series. An ongoing theme of my books is ‘there are consequences even for doing the right things’, and my characters go to a new place, to find the echoes/ripple effects of what happened in FireWall are continuing to spread.

  • 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 find like stories that reflect the spirit of the times. There’s no clear bad guy and the heroes on both sides and their methodologies and worldviews both have flaws.

I prefer a darker approach to deal with the more complex side of social problems, when the answers to society’s problems aren’t obvious.

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

LotR’s context was amazing for the time, and it deserves the praise it gets. But it also is showing its age and overt simplicity. Harry Potter has much more complexity and nuance, and it’s what people need in these times. The good guys aren’t always obvious.

Don’t get me started on Star Wars.

Follow Mark at-

https://www.facebook.com/MarkJohnsonauthor


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