Author Interview – Poppy Kuroki

Joining me around the campfire today is indie fantasy author Poppy Kuroki who has travelled all the way from the land of the rising sun, Japan!


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

I’m a ghostwriter and editor living in Japan. I’ve been writing since I was a kid, and a lot of my inspirations have come from music and video games, as well as real-life feelings and tragedies.

  • What appeals to you most about the fantasy genre?

It’s limitless! I’m always amazed with the fantastic original worlds people can build from the genre. I write quite low fantasy, but I read a lot of high fantasy with magic systems and worlds so vastly different from ours.

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

My latest fantasy is Oath: A Black Diamond novel. I wrote it a year or two ago and sat on it for ages, wondering if it was good enough. It’s coming out on November 1st and has had some great reviews so far! I was going through a rough time when I wrote it and a lot of that is reflected in Colette’s story.

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

I love characters who go through some kind of life-altering experience and grow with the bad things that have happened to them. I mostly write female characters as I can identify with them more.

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

About writing, I’d say that there’s always room for improvement. Read a lot, especially in your genre, and be open to criticism. Study what makes good writing and identify and weed out your bad habits. For publishing, take up free courses and ebooks (there are tons of them out there) and watch out for scams; unfortunately there are many of those out there, too.

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

I set a word count goal for myself when writing the first draft. 1,000 words today, and it’s OK if they aren’t good, just get 1,000 words down! If I don’t feel motivated, I start with a goal of 200, then 500, and that’s usually enough to get me into it.

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

Definitely a plotter. If I start writing without any idea of where it’s going, I won’t finish it. I had a lot of partly finished projects when I was younger before I learned that lesson. I respect pantsers though, if you can end up with a finished project without knowing where it was going to go, more power to you.

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

I’m currently writing a series of origin stories for the characters in Oath and how they became assassins. I’m also working on a steampunk novel. It’s my first time writing in this genre so it’s exciting!

  • 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 always loved dark or sad stories. If a book can make me cry, it’s an instant winner. I can enjoy happy tales too – I love Disney films just as much as anyone – but sad stories with deep, dark themes resonate the most.

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

Lord of the Rings! Where would we be without it?

Facebook group: https://www.facebook.com/groups/greatbookswithpoppygroup
Twitter: twitter.com/poppyinjapan
Instagram: instagram.com/poppyinjapanofficial/
Website: https://poppyinjapan.com

Poppy’s new book A Bard’s Lament is out now!


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Author Interview – Cassie Crow

Joining me around the campfire today is YA fantasy author Cassie Crow. Settle in and enjoy!


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

    Hi. I am the author of The Wayward Haunt, the first novel in The Wayward Series, a YA dark fantasy which was released in June 2020. Since I was very young, I’ve been drawn to stories involving the supernatural. I would spend my lunch times at school creating scary stories for my friends to listen to. Barbie and my dolls would often end up some terrible, haunted, fantasy setting of some kind. I think what inspired me to write was that for a very long time, I couldn’t. I really struggled as a kid to read and write. I hated it. Eventually I was privately tutored by a teacher named Mrs Swann who recognised my love for storytelling. She taught me to see that reading and writing weren’t any different. With her guidance, I caught up to my peers in class. I think I chose to become a writer because I needed to prove that I could do it. Now I write because I love to be creative.
  • What appeals to you most about the fantasy genre?

    I love to read and write fantasy because it takes me into another world where anything can be possible. Fantasy is always growing and evolving. Every author brings something new to the genre, which keeps the stories entertaining and interesting. You never know exactly what you are going to get when you read fantasy, because rules are unbound by reality. The author’s imagination can be limitless. I write dark fantasy because I’ve always enjoyed chilling, ominous stories. The Wayward Series is set in a war-torn, dystopian world where magic is prevalent and ghosts exist, but the themes and events are very similar to what has occurred throughout our own history. I think fantasy allows authors to write about what is happening in our own world, by exploring it through fantasy.
  • 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 current project is the second instalment in The Wayward Series and is the sequel to The Wayward Haunt, titled The Four Revenants. It picks up directly where The Wayward Haunt finishes. I am halfway through the first draft, which I hope to have completed by April 2021, with the novel released early 2022 (fingers crossed). Just like the first book, it has come with its challenges. Time being the biggest. I feel like there are never enough hours in the day to complete everything I wish I could do with my writing. I work part time, have to organise marketing for the first book, and write a second novel. Sometimes it’s exhausting and I have to remind myself that I’m human and need to take a break. Sometimes it’s great fun and I enjoy every moment. Funny enough, that happens after I’ve taken a break.

    The second biggest obstacle is the fantasy-world building in my story. There is so much history and detail in the world that I’ve created, that it could easily become overly complicated. My biggest fear is that the reader won’t be able to follow it. How do I overcome that? Honestly, I ignore it as I write, even though its nagging away at me. I focus on getting the story completed. After a few weeks, I’ll return to the story and read it. If the world doesn’t make sense to me, I know there’s a huge problem. I’ll need to edit and rewrite. Once it makes sense to me and I think it’s ready, I wait to see what the beta readers say. Again, if it’s too complicated, it goes through another rewrite.

    I think the best thing about writing the second novel is that I learnt so much from the first book, that the challenges are less daunting. They’re still there, but now their easier to manage.
  • 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 character types. The easiest characters to create are the ones that are similar to me, or have traits I wish I had. I like to explore both the positive and negative qualities in a character. My main character in The Wayward Series, Zaya Wayward, is strong, confident, and assertive, but she’s also impulsive, judgemental, and has trust issues. I have worked hard to make sure Zaya is always driving the story. Sometimes she makes the right decision. Sometimes she makes bad ones. Just like in real life, her mood dictates what she does. I also enjoy creating villains because… well, what writer doesn’t love creating a superbad guy… or girl. You can be entirely evil and get away with it. It’s great fun. But I do try to make sure my villains aren’t two dimensional. They have a backstory. They have a motive they believe is right, no matter what the cost or sacrifice. Even in a fantasy world, the emotions and thoughts of a character need to be real and relatable. That’s the part I love developing.

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

    As a writer, I think the most useful thing I’ve learned is to manage time and be realistic with what I can accomplish. Writing is hard. It took me years to learn, and I’m still learning. I am a perfectionist (something I’m teaching myself not to be), and often I’d get frustrated at how little time I had to write. When I finally did have time to write my stories at the end of the day, I was too exhausted. My writing just didn’t flow. I had to learn time management and be realistic with what I could write in that allocated time. Everyone has commitments—family, work, relationships, sport, etc. For wannabe writers out there, I suggest finding a realistic schedule that works for you. Don’t tell yourself you are going to write for five hours a day if you know that in reality it’s impossible. If you can only write an hour a day, do it. If you can spare two hours on a Saturday afternoon, do it. Writing should be fun and enjoyable, not a chore. You will learn and accomplish far more when you are in the right frame of mind.
  • What writing tricks do you utilise to hit your deadlines and keep your stories on track?

    I set daily, weekly and monthly goals with my writing. I write and write and don’t care about editing. I just get the story into the computer. The editing comes later. I take a break when I need to, because if I don’t, I will drain myself and achieve nothing. I exercise. Ideas often drift into my head when I’m out on a jog. I take a notebook with me wherever I go. Inspiration can strike at the unlikeliest of places. Some of the dialogue in The Wayward Haunt is directly from conversations I have heard among friends and colleagues. I am realistic with what I can achieve in a day, or an hour.
  • Are you a plotter or a pantser (make it up as you go)?

I am definitely a plotter. Everything in my stories, beginning, middle, end, scenes, chapters, are plotted out and written down. I find that this helps me to keep focus and to meet deadlines. I know exactly where I’m going with the story. Sometimes, unexpected ideas jump in my head as I write. Strangely enough, they work for the scene or chapter that I’m writing. They are always nice surprises when they occur. So yes, I am a plotter, but I do not object to new ideas coming along halfway through my stories. It keeps things interesting.

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

    The Wayward Series will be a set of four books, so book three and four are in the pipeline to be written and published. I have many ideas in my head for other novels that I haven’t given attention to at this stage, because my focus is on The Wayward Series, but eventually I will delve into those other stories. I want to write a cozy murder mystery, something along the lines of Agatha Christie. Knowing me, it will have an element of horror 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?

    I enjoy both. Sometimes I’m in the mood for something a little darker, scarier, and tragic. Other times I want a happy feel good story, or a story where the hero faces dangerous obstacles, but ultimately triumphs. Life throws unexpected situations at us all the time. I like stories to do the same.
  • What’s better, Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings or Star Wars?


To watch, precisely in that order—Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings, Star Wars. To read, Harry Potter, Star Wars, Lord of the Rings. I read Lord of the Rings when I was fourteen. It’s a wonderful story. Tolkien is amazing. But honestly, I don’t have the time or the strong mental energy it would require to read it again.

Author Website: www.casecrowe.com
Instagram: www.instagram.com/casecroweauthor/
Facebook: www.facebook.com/casecroweauthor/
Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/20457182.Cas_E_Crowe


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Another Sneak Peek at Voyage for the Sundered Crown

 Book 4 in the Sundered Crown Saga will be released on December 30th so I thought I’d share another sneaky peek at the book. This scene takes place early on in the book and introduces a new monster; The Devourer.

Enjoy!


Suddenly, one of the sandbanks exploded outwards and a monster the likes he’d never seen before came screeching from it. It was like a giant worm covered in thick bony armoured plates and vicious razor-sharp spikes. The head was nothing but a cavernous maw of deadly snapping teeth. The Rider cried out, only just guiding the Whale out of the reach of the Devourer. With a thunderous boom, the Devourer crashed back down beneath the dunes sending clouds of sand flying in all directions. The whale sped on through the dunes, the Devourer hot on its heels. Luxon glanced over his shoulder and instantly regretted doing so. All he could see, and gaining quickly was that cavernous teeth filled mouth. Ferran too was looking over his shoulder, but unlike himself, there was no fear on his face, instead, his brow was knotted in concentration. The master monster hunter was studying every detail of the creature, analyzing it for any visible weakness. The Rider spurred the Whale to veer sharply to the right causing the less nimble Devourer to speed on past. It let out a frustrated screech before arching around in an attempt to re-engage its prey. Luxon pushed himself up in his seat, his arms trembling against the forces trying to pin him down. Ahead was a rocky outcropping. The Devourer couldn’t travel through the stone.

 “Head toward the outcropping!” he shouted to the panicking rider.

With a crack of the rod, the Whale veered to the right and sped toward the rocks.

 “Get ready to jump!” Luxon shouted. He followed words with action and unsnapped the harness holding him into place. Ferran likewise detached himself. It was hard to move as the speed of the Sand Whale threatened to pin them into their seats. Luxon narrowed his eyes and channelled his magic to create a shield that enveloped him, Ferran and the rider. The G-forces immediately eased allowing them to move more freely. He grabbed the rider’s hand and Ferran gripped onto his cloak tightly. The outcropping approached and Luxon jumped. With masterful skill, he cast a levitation spell that launched them high into the air and off the terrified Whale’s back. They floated across the sand and onto the high rocky cliff. A solitary dead tree stood on the peak to offer some much-needed shelter from the blazing hot sun. Once they were safely on the rock the Whale dived beneath the sand desperate to escape the monster. Strangely, the Devourer allowed the Whale to go, its attention fixed on them.

 “I can’t be the only who thinks it strange that such a beast would be more interested in us than such a large potential meal,” Ferran remarked.

 Luxon crouched and watched the Devourer as it circled the outcropping. In its huge armoured head was a solitary red eye that was fixed on them. He closed his eyes and focused on the monster. There was a familiar presence emanating from it, one that he’d hoped they would not encounter so far from Delfinnia.

 “N’Gist magic,” he muttered. There was no mistaking it. The gnashing monster below was one made from the darkest sorcery.

 A shout came from below. Sir Beric and the other Bannerlords had arrived. Hastily they disembarked their Sand Whale and hurried toward the rocks. To Luxon’s surprise, the Devourer ignored them.

 “Er, it really seems to like you, Luxon,” Ferran said.

The Bannerlords clambered up the outcropping and joined them at the top.

 “There’s the hideous beast,” wheezed Beric. Despite the desert heat he and his companions were wearing their plate armour. On their backs in packs was an array of weaponry.

 The Devourer’s red eye stared unblinking at the outcropping it’s body eerily still.

 “I trust it didn’t do this when you first encountered it?” Ferran asked Beric.

 “No. When we faced it the beast attacked without mercy. It ate our horses first and then two of our squires. The poor sots didn’t stand a chance. Ah well-”

Beric said as he took a spear from one of his comrades “it’s still as a rock now. Let’s kill this thing.”

His squire handed him a spear. Creeping to the edge of the outcropping he drew back his arm and hurled the weapon with all his might. Just as the spear looked as though it would strike its intended target, the eye snapped shut. The spear struck armoured shell to spin wildly and harmlessly off its surface. Beric swore loudly.

 The eye opened again, it stared at Luxon.

“What’s up with this thing?” Beric grumbled taking another spear from his comrades. The four Bannerlords stepped to the edge and all hurled their spears. Again, the weapons bounced off its armoured shell.

 “Let me try something,” Ferran said as he conjured a fireball into existence. With a flick of the wrist, the magical projectile shot downwards to strike the Devourer. The flame engulfed the monster but instead of it retreating in pain as expected it began to vibrate.

 To their surprise, the creature absorbed the flames and with a sickening crack, the shell split and it began to grow in height. It grew so high that now it’s snapping jaws were just a few feet from the top of the outcropping.


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Author Interview – Cully Mack

Today’s author interview is with Cully Mack, author of epic fantasy and has a new book out now!

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

Hi, I’m Cully.  I write epic fantasy.  Think epic battles with immortals and beasts of all kinds, throw in some elemental magic, huge plot twists, portals and unique worlds, and an ever-growing cast of characters trying to save their world. If you like character-driven epic fantasy, you’ll love my books.  I warn you now; I don’t go easy on them…

I’ve always loved reading fantasy, and I have a keen interest in myth texts from the Ancient Near East.  Mesopotamia was the birthplace of civilisation (think pre Egyptian, Greek and Roman etc). Yes, those titans, gods and mythical beings were known to older civilizations

I decided to merge fantasy and myth and created a series, which is filled with ancient myth, the kind that is buried in soul waiting to be reawakened. 

  • What appeals to you most about the fantasy genre?

The possibilities!   They are endless.  I love the ability to imagine and see the world through a different lens.  I prefer alternate worlds, new experiences, so I lean towards epic/high fantasy, but more importantly, I’m drawn to iconic character-driven fiction. 

As much as I love thrilling plots, amazing magic systems, and well-developed worlds, they mean nothing without real human emotion.  Fantasy has the ability to present humanity in extreme circumstances, to test the bonds of love, sacrifice, and endurance, etc.  It sees us at our worst or against terrible odds and shows us we can rise above and conquer.  It gives us hope.  That’s the beauty of the fantasy genre.   

  • 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 is due for release on October 30th 2020.  It is the fourth book in the Voice that Thunders series and is called A Vow That Clashes.  This book has been the most challenging to write due to the complexity of its structure.  It has three plot arcs focussing on a destined one, a fire wielder and an apprentice Acquisitioner. 

Each of them has made a vow.  Their challenge is to either keep or break it,  but they soon realise the hardest battles often come from within.

A Vow That Clashes

When a vow demands sacrifice, who will pay the price?

Far behind Gabe is his innocence, destroyed when a Watcher slaughtered his clan.  Now considered a chosen one, Gabe strives to understand his magic and his calling.  He desires nothing more than to find his sister but is besieged by hybrid abominations intent on extinguishing mortal life, his most of all. 

His allies: a cunning thief, an Immortal, and a Fire Wielder stand fast with those seeking sanctuary underground.  It’s a trap.  The god of deep mines and solver of secrets is coming… A perilous maze of tunnels, their sole hope of escape.

As vows and destiny collide, Gabe faces a devastating choice: abandon the people and his allies or forsake his beloved sister.  

The fate of the world rests on his decision, for the Watchers know a greater adversary approaches, a possessor of flesh.  The clash between darkness and light has never been more dreadful.

You can find out more here: viewbook.at/AVowThatClashes

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

Conflicted ones.  I love adding layers.  I write characters who are passionate, living each day as though it may be their last.  They’re either running straight for or away from something.

I enjoy writing cocky, confident males, which is why I have a few of them.  Ammo is skilled at pretty much everything and a complete risk taker.  He often makes me laugh with his cocky attitude and flirty banter.   Tur is complex, comes across as aloof at first, but he is one hell of a man as his story develops.  Nothing and no one will move him from what he believes in and my god, I really test him. 

I enjoy writing strong female leads.  And what I mean by this is women who have something more than just kick-ass feistiness.  For me, it’s more about attitude.  In fantasy, I often find female characters’ femininity has been stripped away.  I like to write this back in, so even though my characters are capable of tearing you to shreds with their magic or lethal fighting skills, they’re just as capable of destroying you with their determination, wit and grace.

How much of myself do I put into my characters?  That’s tricky.  Sometimes, I write the total opposite of myself, other times not.  Do I know what it’s like to be naïve, think I understand love when I have no idea, or be betrayed?  Yes, I do, but did I respond the same way my characters do?  They each respond in different ways, so I guess not. 

I tend to write from the experience of others.  For many years, I’ve worked with a wide range of people, and learned what makes people tick.  So there is a psychological aspect underpinning my work. 

Although, saying this, in A Vow That Clashes, the arc with the twins is written from personal experience.  I tend to break writing rules, and this arc is a definite no, no, rule breaker (can’t say more – spoilers!).  I felt it was something I could write because I’ve kind of lived it.

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

Don’t quit!  It’s really hard sometimes.  Writing can be isolating, and sometimes you wonder if anyone even reads/enjoys your work.  Reviews help a lot.  A well-timed review has saved my sanity more than once when I’ve been second guessing myself.  

Hold on to your dreams!  Believe in yourself and stay true to your vision.  So much will come your way and try to shake you, hold on.  Quitters never make it.

If I was to start over, I’d start with a shorter book, a stand-a-lone or a prequel, and get myself known a little before plunging right into everything.  

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

I can’t say I use writing tricks.  I write every day.  I’ve never had issues with motivation.  As far as writer’s block goes, I write through it.  

I often find a block is caused by not understanding my character’s goal or personality to the full extent.  I’ve written pure drivel trying to suss out what makes them tick.  If I’m trying to make them behave a certain way to move the plot forward, they sometimes refuse, and when they do, nothing works.  I’ve learned to go with it and write what the character wants. In the end, it comes, something clicks.  Without fail, I’ve gone with character and dismissed my original plan. 

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

Total Panster! I’m a discovery writer.  I tend to know certain plot points, for example, I knew Mirah needed to reach Hermonial because I wanted to write a character who was close to my antagonist. 

My start point was her on the ship.  As I wrote her journey, I added conflict along the way.  I love how characters grow and overcome the challenges they face.  Being a discovery writer, my characters often surprise me and lead me into territory I wasn’t expecting to go.

I love plot twists!

Most of my twists come from writing myself into a hole and then figuring out how to fix it.  There are quite a few big twists in my books, which my mind would never have imagined if I’d sat down and tried to think it up.  Some people might think this tactic is insane, but for me, it keeps my writing fresh. 

I remember my English Professor saying; I love how your writing is so unpredictable.  How do you do it?  I answered, it’s because I have no clue what’s going to happen until I write the words on the page.  

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

I’m actually about to start writing a new series.  I’ve had my head in Mirah and Gabe’s world for four years now, and I want to explore some new characters and new worlds.  So my plan is to draft the first book in a new series before returning to book five in the Voice that Thunders series. 

I will be staying in the epic/high fantasy genre.  It’s where my heart is.  However, I’m keen to write about more familiar races such as Fae, dragon shifters, maybe even vamps with a twist. 

I have found that writing about a mythology which most people haven’t heard of is difficult to market.  If I mentioned Greek myth, people would conjure thoughts of Olympus, Zeus, Titans, etc.  Mention Mesopotamian myth and I get blank stares.  It’s a shame because Mesopotamian myth is an under used resource.  So my plan is to write something which is easier to market.

  • 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?

Ultimately, I prefer good triumphing over evil, but this doesn’t mean the journey can’t be dark.  There are tropes I enjoy reading, e.g. dark, conflicted or misunderstood characters revealing underlying qualities which are good.  I tend to root for the underdog.

As for writing, it depends on the individual character and the context.  I’m always testing my characters and putting them in conflicting situations.  Tur could cope with anything I threw at him (and I do).  Will he triumph over evil?  Who knows, but he’ll give it his best shot.  Other characters would break, experiencing only a little of what he goes through.  So with this in mind, it shapes how I write my arcs. 

Does an antagonist even consider himself evil?  Maybe, but not always.  Regardless, they commit dark acts to achieve their goals.  Opposing worldviews makes for great conflict. 

My characters have experienced terrible evil, but they’ve also experienced the opposite, love, friendship, loyalty, etc.    

I always try to keep things balanced and realistic.  Does evil win?  Yes!  Does Good Triumph?  Yes!  Who wins in then end?  Not sure yet, I’m a Panster.  As my latest book blurb says, ‘The clash between darkness and light has never been more dreadful.’

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

I’ve never read Harry Potter or Star Wars (don’t shoot me), so it would unfair to compare the books.  As far as movies go, I prefer Lord of the Rings. 

I really enjoyed the magical and portal aspects of Harry Potter, but Harry and the gang are a tad too young, and middle grade is not something that keeps my interest.  I just can’t get on board with Star Wars, not sure why.  I think Darth is a great antagonist, and him being Luke’s father was a great twist.  I also liked Han and the droids, but the rest of the characters felt bland to me (sorry Star Wars fans). 

I love Lord of the rings.  The scale of Middle Earth is awesome.  The internal struggles and battles are epic.  The characters and races are diverse to the extreme.  The mythos behind LotR is vivid and somehow feels alive.

If I had to choose which world to live in, I’d pick Middle Earth without a doubt.

A Vow That Clashes (Voice that Thunders #4) is releasing this Friday! 30th October. viewbook.at/AVowThatClashes

Link to first book: http://viewbook.at/AVoiceThatThunders

Here are my social media links:

www.facebook.com/CullyMack https://www.instagram.com/cullymackauthor/

https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/19033629.Cully_Mack

https://www.instagram.com/cullymackauthor/

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Author Interview – Eric Shapiro

The woods can be a spooky place at night with the shadows of the trees eliciting horror if you allow your imagination to run riot. Tonight I am joined at the campfire by Horror fantasy author Eric Shapiro.


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

Hey, Matthew. I’m the author of a bunch of dark fiction and screenplays and the co-owner of a Silicon Valley newspaper called The Milpitas Beat. As a kid, my mom inspired me to write by instituting a no-boredom policy in the home. If I said I was bored, she’d tell me (lovingly) to write a story. As an adult, I stay inspired by dreaming up characters whose minds I find fascinating and want to explore.

  • What appeals to you most about the fantasy genre?

You know, I think I was thrown at you by my publicist Michael Evan (laughs) even though I don’t specialize in fantasy! The good news is, I have some fantasy stories kicking around in my mind. I also tend to see horror as surrealism, which you could argue is a subdivision of fantasy. Anything psychotropic that challenges the banality of consensus reality is worth looking at. It keeps our minds expanded and healthy.

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

My latest fiction release is called RED DENNIS. It came out this past March from Independent Legions Publishing, just as the pandemic was starting. It was a challenge in the sense that it was my first proper novel, after having written 5 novellas. This book was almost the length equivalent of 3 novellas. So the challenges were keeping it tight and propulsive, and also staying in one narrator’s mind for that long, particularly since he’s a very troubled person. I started thinking I was him at times. So how’s that for being into fantasy? (laughs)

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

I’m almost exclusively drawn to protagonists who are neurotic or psychotic. There’s a ton of me in them. They’re not me, but they’re strong aspects of myself, either latent-shadow elements or more overt representations where it’s just me under different circumstances. The protagonists in my novellas IT’S ONLY TEMPORARY, THE DEVOTED, and LOVE & ZOMBIES sound almost exactly like me, but they’re all individuated – from me and from each other. There are subtle yet huge differences; it’s like I’m an actor playing different roles. The protagonist in RED DENNIS doesn’t quite sound like me, but he’s one door down; he lives in an area I feel awkward and alarmed about. Again, it’s like I’m an actor and each time I draw a protagonist, I’m pulling different points of emphasis but using my own available human materials.

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

The more you practice, the more spontaneous and automatic it becomes. This can be helpful from a productivity and inner-access standpoint (as in having access to yourself and your emotions), but it can be hurtful in terms of finding passion to start something new that’s really special. Once you’re used to the medium and confident in your ability to put out professional work, the bar for what gets you excited gets much higher. So I’ve learned that there’s no replacing ass-plus-seat experience, but as you accumulate it, you might lose a little excitement or edge about the work and have to rediscover or rekindle it.

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

I wrote a whole book about this, also out in 2020, called ASS PLUS SEAT. It’s 21 tips for inspiring writers to finish their books and screenplays. The title states the main ethic: You have to sit down and do it. Start writing and then the muse arrives. She’s not capable of making you begin.

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

A little bit of both, with a strong lean toward pantser. I plot insofar as I have a clear scenario in which to operate, then pants my way through it and usually end up surprised by where it goes.

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

I’d love to do a book series; that’s one of my goals. A trilogy or a saga that expands beyond three stories. I’ve yet to settle on a world or scenario, but I’ll know it when I have it. The whole idea’s set to a simmer for now. 

  • 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?

Anything that’s frank or candid goes down well, at all times. As long as it’s not lying to me, I think it’s part of the solution.

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

Star Wars all the way! I just last night watched A NEW HOPE with my kids for the first time. They loved it. There’s three trilogies, of course: the original, the prequels, and the Disney ones, and major peaks and valleys in terms of motivation and quality, but at its best that’s a ridiculously exciting and inspiring world.

Check out Eric via the links below-

https://www.amazon.com/Eric-Shapiro/e/B007167ZP4%3Fref=dbs_a_mng_rwt_scns_share

https://www.facebook.com/eric.shapiro.3386


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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?

I have a poster on my wall above my desk that reads:  QUIT YOUR COMPLAINING. IT’S NOT THE WORLD’S FAULT THAT YOU WANTED TO BE A WRITER. IT’S NOT THE WORLD’S JOB TO ENJOY THE STORIES YOU WRITE AND IT’S CERTAINLY NOT THE WORLD’S OBLIGATION TO PAY FOR YOUR DREAMS. NOBODY WANTS TO HEAR IT. STEAL A PEN IF YOU HAVE TO BUT STOP WHINING AND GET BACK TO WORK.

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.

Huh.

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

My blog is:  https://nikkinelsonhicks.blog/

My Amazon author page: amazon.com/author/nikkinelsonhicks


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The October Update! Cats, Voyages, Vikings and Monsters!

2020 has felt a bit like a perpetual Halloween for many thanks to the pandemic that is impacting all of our lives.

Get the Nightblade for FREE!

This year’s festivities are likely to be very muted compared to other years (much to the dismay of my wife!). As the Nightblade is the spookiest book I have, it’s available for free from today until the 20th of October.

Meet Merli the Cat!

Elsewhere we have a new addition to my household! Meet Merli, the kitten. She’s a playful little critter who has brought a lot of fun during these rather depressing times.
(Some pics below!)

Voyage for the Sundered Crown

In other news, I’m beavering away on Book 4 of the Sundered Crown Saga and have commissioned the new artwork for the book ahead of its November 30th release. Check it out below! Hopefully, there won’t be any unforeseen disasters that will force me to push back the release but I can never rule it out. Oh, and Book 1 in the Saga Heir to the Sundered Crown is just 0.99p/c until November 30th! 

Get Heir to the Sundered Crown for just 0.99p/c

October 14th 2020 marked the 954th anniversary of the Battle of Hastings, a pivotal moment in British and world history. To commemorate the battle I’ve put my historical fiction novel Unconquered: Blood of Kings on sale for just 0.99p/c on Kindle and other formats. If you’re a fan of bloody battles, Viking warriors and epic stories you’ll enjoy this one. A sequel is in the works too!

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Author Interview – Andy Freeman-Hall

The response to my call for fellow indie authors to sit by the camp fire and tell us more about themselves and their work has been fantastic! This time with the bag of marshmallows is new indie author Andy Freeman-Hall. Enjoy!

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

My name is Andy Freeman-Hall, I’m 29, and an ecologist in my day job. I have what I affectionately refer to as turbo-dyslexia, and after many terrifying experiences of having to read aloud at school, I became genuinely afraid of books, getting my fantasy fix from films, TV, and games instead. Then when I was finishing my master’s degree, I decided to give audiobooks a try to help pass the time with all the fieldwork I was doing. And just like that, I was hooked. After my masters, I spent a year struggling to get a job and I decided to try and write instead of sitting around doing nothing all day but wait for rejected job applications. The next thing I knew I was writing for 8-10 hours every day. That dropped down to 2-4 hours a day once I started my PhD, but since then I’ve never stopped. That was 6 years ago.  

  • What appeals to you most about the fantasy genre?

The ability to create entirely new, living, breathing worlds. New concepts, new systems, new ways that peoples, groups, and nations interact. Fantasy (or at least the fantasy that I love most) allows the writer to create a world with unique properties, geography, and history within which amazing stories can immerge organically. That’s what I love to see.  

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

It’s my first novel, The Sage’s Lot (Blood and Balance #1). I tried to get it published years ago when I first finished it, but it was in no way a sellable product. My skill level just wasn’t there after only 2 years of writing.

Since then I have re-written the entire novel from scratch twice because my ability had improved enough that each time it just needed a clean slate. Those were hard decisions to make but the best decisions I have ever made. When I couldn’t get the final version picked up by an agent or publisher, I gave up and started writing an entirely new series to try again at getting a book published through traditional means, but after speaking with a lot of authors and readers, I realised that self-publishing my original novel was the right way to go.

A lot of epic fantasy readers won’t even pick up a book like mine until 2 or 3 in the series are released (I’m planning eight). Now the beta-readers are all done, as are the proof-readers. I’m currently finalising the cover art and working on the maps. The Sage’s Lot will finally be released by Christmas, even if it kills me.

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

My favourite characters to write are the ones with my own sense of humour. I feel like each of the main characters in my book reflects some aspect of my own personality (or some warped version of that aspect), but my two favourites are the ones that consistently make me laugh. I may be the one writing down the dialogue, but the characters are the ones coming up with what to say.

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

Perseverance. I forget who said it (maybe Steven Pressfield), but the only difference between a successful author and someone who just does it as a hobby is perseverance. I want to write fantasy professionally, but the only way I’m going to build my skills enough to do that is to just keep going. I didn’t stop after the 1st rejection, I didn’t stop after the 40th, and I won’t stop after the 400th. In the immortal words of Brandon Sanderson, ‘The most important step a man can take. It’s not the first one, is it? It’s the next one. Always the next step’.

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

Brutality in editing. My first draft meandered down so many rabbit holes that the story often got twisted up in itself. I’m a pantser, so I just write down everything that comes to mind with no predetermined endpoint. After, I have to go back and ask myself in what way each scene progresses the story. If it doesn’t, then I either tweak it so it does or (more commonly) cut it out, slice off the best bits, and splice them into another scene. If you have the problem of writing way too much like I do, you have to be brutal. No prisoners.

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

Pantser, 100%. When I briefly started writing a book in an entirely new series, I added in a little planning, but in reality, I’ve found that no plan survives first contact with the keyboard.

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

I’ll get the first 3 or 4 books in Blood and Balance rattled off and see how it’s going. I’ve got ideas for 4 other series (all fantasy) and a fairly coherent structure for one of them, but Blood and Balance is my baby. It’s the culmination of a lifetime of complex daydreams distilled into some semblance of an entertaining narrative. I need to see if it can swim on its own before testing the waters with anything else.

  • 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?

Anything with characters that make the sorts of hard choices that a real person would in their situation. Most of us wouldn’t sacrifice ourselves for some forlorn cause, and I need to see characters that act that way as it grounds a book in realism, no matter how fantastical the setting. People are people. It also makes our courageous heroes who are willing to sacrifice everything all the more heroic. 

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

Star Wars, but again, I was terrified of books until my early twenties. The Star Wars films were my go to films as a kid and will always hold that special place reserved for a first love.

Thanks Andy!

You can follow Andy on Facebook and Twitter

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Join my ARC Team!

You may be wondering what an ARC team is. Well, ARC stands for Advanced Review Copy and it’s a tactic that many authors use to get reviews of their books and help with new book launches. This is one area that I’ve failed in, but I hope to remedy this today with this email.

If you’re interested in receiving advanced review copies of my books in exchange for posting an honest review on Amazon and other retailers send me an email at matthewolney9@gmail.com or if you’d like to be a BETA reader let me know.

What do you get?
You get a copy of my latest books ahead of everyone else! Ideally, a week in advance to give you time to read it and create a review.

If you are interested I’ll add you to a new mailing list which I will use to send you the books and keep you up to date with the latest ARC team news.

I’m always in need of reviews for my other books too so just let me know if you’d like copies (reviews must be written for them in exchange).

My next planned releases are – 
Voyage for the Sundered Crown
The Supreme

What do you have to do?
Get a brand new book for FREE, read it, write a review and post it to Amazon, Goodreads and other retailers the day of the official book launch. Easy!

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New Covers for the Sundered Crown Saga

Hi all, I’m delighted to reveal the new covers for the Sundered Crown Saga!

For a long time I’ve not been happy with the book covers for the Sundered Crown Saga. They looked a bit boring and didn’t convey the action and adventure that lay within. 

So, back in August I went on the search for a new cover artist who could breathe new life into the books ahead of the release of book 4 in November. (If you’ve not pre-ordered Voyage for the Sundered Crown go and do it!) 

The artist I discovered is a very talented chap from Vietnam who has an incredible back catalogue of work and has been a joy to work with. Below you can see the various stages of the process, the final cover for Book 1 and the other new covers in the series. 

The paperback editions will have the new covers too! Do you like them? Let me know!

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