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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Get the History of Esperia eBook FREE!

Hi everyone, I hope you’re doing well and not letting these lockdowns and general global rubbishness get you down.
 
 One good thing about these lockdowns is the extra spare time I have. For a long time I’ve wanted to put together a book that covers the lore and history of the world in which my fantasy novels are set.
 
 To that end I present you with the history of Esperia companion book! Claim yours absolutely FREE from the link below.


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Author Interview – Sarah Astwood

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


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

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

  • What appeals to you most about the fantasy genre?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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January 2021 Update

It’s finally over, the year that felt like it would never end! I hope you all had a great holiday season and ate and drank your fill. 

2020 was a crazy year for all of us and I’m sure 2021 will be rough for many and just as mad, but there is hope on the horizon that one day life will return to normal thanks to the vaccines. (I hate all this talk of a new normal) I for one don’t want to have to wear masks forever and never be free to go to the pub with my mates again. 

Last year may have been tough but I am proud to say that I managed to get book 4 in my Sundered Crown Saga written and released. I hope those of you who have picked up a copy are enjoying it (please leave reviews!).

Anyway, enough of 2020 (boo, hiss), 2021 will be another busy year for me in terms of writing. So far I have achieved my goal of releasing 1 new book a year and in 2021 that will be the sequel to my historical fiction novel Unconquered: Blood of Kings. Book 2 covers the aftermath of the bloody Battles of Stamford Bridge and Hastings and will see Osfrid become a rebel fighting to liberate his homeland. 

Other things I’ll be working on are –

  • Book 5 in the Sundered Crown Saga (Aiming for a 2021 release)
  • Book 3 in the Empowered Ones series (Aiming for a 2022 release)
  • Book 2 in the Unconquered Series (Aiming for a 2021 release)
  • A rewrite and relaunch of Terran Defenders: Genesis 
  • Planning for 2 new fantasy novels and a new sci-fi series

Also, I’ve set the Sundered Crown prequel novel The NightBlade to just 0.99p/c on Amazon and have now released it on other retailers. I’ve also republished my Terran Defender stories on wider retailers and Amazon. 

Both are now available on Kindle and other retailers. TDG Amazon – mybook.to/TDG2TDG other retailers – https://books2read.com/u/bzaVyGTDR Amazon – mybook.to/TDRBTDR other retailers – https://books2read.com/u/4EyG9e

Phew! 2021 promises to be another busy year. I hope it will be a great one for all of you as well. 


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Author Interview: C.T Phipps

Welcome back to the campfire. Pull up a seat and warm yourself against the cold, dark winter. Today I’m joined by prolific American author C.T Phipps.


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

Hi, back! I am 39 years old and from Ashland, Ky. I’ve been writing since I was a child but eventually I got decent around college. I’ve always wanted to tell stories and whether it was table top gaming or fanfic, I was always honing my craft. I eventually decided to write two separate series: The United States of Monsters and The Supervillainy Saga.

The United States of Monsters is now composed of multiple trilogies (Bright Falls Mysteries, Morgan Detective Agency, Red Room Saga, Straight Outta Fangton, and Psycho Killers in Love). It’s set in an urban fantasy universe where the supernatural came out in 2008 and deals with various heroes trying to make the adjustment.

The Supervillainy Saga is a six book (so far) series about a self-styled supervillain named Gary Karkofsky a.k.a Merciless: The Supervillain without MercyTM. It’s a comedic series with a serious core about a guy who wants to be the bad guy but isn’t quite evil enough to pull it off. It’s an homage to all the wonderful comic book media I’ve consumed over my life and utterly zany.

  • What appeals to you most about the fantasy genre?

I believe what I like most about the fantasy genre is the fact that it is limited only by your imagination. I just don’t feel the same connection to historical or “realistic” settings and I feel like fiction allows you to test the limits of reality far better than something that must stay within the boundaries of the plausible. Despite this, I admit I am fonder of urban fantasy than I am high fantasy or grimdark (low fantasy). Heck, even science fiction, though I have dabbled in that genre too.

One of the reasons I decided to do a superhero universe was because almost anything can happen in them. The Supervillainy Saga was based on the idea of setting it in a world with magic, super-science, gods, demons, wizards, aliens, and more. It’s the ultimate genre mash-up and I feel like you only get to really enjoy a superhero universe if you completely go gonzo with it.

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

My most recently released work is PSYCHO-KILLERS IN LOVE for the United States of Monsters universe. It’s set in 2000 before the 2008 reveal and is a story that homages 80s slasher movies as well as the 90s reinterpretations of them like Scream and Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

William and his sister Carrie are the children of an infamous holiday-themed slasher, Billy the Undying. After a Final Girl took Billy down, they were imprisoned for years in an asylum for their father’s crimes. Escaping, they’ve tried to stay one step ahead of the authorities while dealing with their father’s ghost as well as rising supernatural urge to kill. Arriving in a haunted small town with a mysterious cult, they discover a slasher hunter named Nancy that has her eyes set on wiping their kind out. However, William has eyes for her and hopes they can cross all lines of good sense to be together. Can the family that slays together, stay together?

I’m currently working on The Horror of Supervillainy, which is the 7th book in the Supervillainy Saga. I’ve had a real blast writing these and I’m very glad that my fans have continued to follow me through these. This volume has Gary struggling with his recent attempt to go straight and getting lured into a haunted swamp to rescue the President’s daughter from Dracula. It turns out to be a trap and he’s soon confronted with an entire host of past sins coming back to bite him.

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

I confess, I absolutely love snarky and sarcastic pop-culture spewing protagonists. A lot of my characters follow the Buffy, Harry Dresden, Iron Man, Mercy Thompson, and Spider-Man mold. Gary is certainly in that vein and I absolutely love how he reacts as a bundle of weird comic energy through your typical superhero universe. Mostly because if the reader is entertained every second of reading a page then they’ve more than gotten their money’s worth. As for how much of myself I put into books? Well, every one of my characters has a part of me in them. I hope I’m not a budding supervillain or serial killer (of killers), though.

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

Patience. A lot of authors think that they’re going to be an immediate success if they release their book as quickly as possible. They don’t realize they’re going to be part of an ocean of millions. As such, they need to adjust their expectations and build a strong social media presence as well as a following. Completing a book is already an enormous task and that also will require massive amounts of editing, beta-reading, and revising. Basically, this is a marathon not a sprint.

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

I like to immerse myself in the genre of the work I’m writing. If I’m going to be writing the Supervillainy Saga, for instance, I want to immerse myself in comic books and superhero movies in order to make sure that’s where my mind is presently at. Stephen King said that writing was like milk in the fridge, “It tastes like whatever it is left against.” Aside from questioning what exactly is in King’s fridge, it inspired me to keep that in mind.

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

I go for a hybrid. I love to plot out a basic idea of where I want things to go. However, I love letting the characters decide how to get there. Plenty of times I’ve decided to handle things going one way, only for my characters to completely change where I was going to go next.

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

I’m currently planning on continuing to finish off my existing trilogies and works before moving onto new projects. I got a little big for my britches by starting a half-dozen series at the start of my career before focusing on one at the start. Still, this worked out for me as the Supervillainy Saga proved to be the most successful one by far. I have plans for twelve books in that story and that should keep me occupied for some time.

  • 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’m a definite fan of antiheroes. People who have their own selfish motivations that may triumph over their better natures but who still have limits they won’t cross.

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

Star Wars remains my universe from beginning to end. I grew up on the movies, loved the Expanded Universe in high school to college, and still manage to pick up the occasional canon work.

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Author Page: https://ctphipps.wordpress.com/

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Author Interview – C.F Welburn

Joining me around the campfire today is fantasy author C.F Welburn creator of the Ashen Levels series.


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

As far back as I can remember I’ve had a passion for writing. Certainly, since primary school when I fell in love with Fighting Fantasy books, The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe and subsequently, The Hobbit. I was lucky that I had parents that read to me, and some great teachers that encouraged me to use my imagination! I also grew up in the countryside, so playing in the woods and making dens always gave me a sense of adventure!

  • What appeals to you most about the fantasy genre?

I suppose it’s just the sense of magic, danger, adventure. Something that used to set my young mind to daydreaming and these days as pure escapism.

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

I’m currently being torn between two projects. One being a standalone grimmer-darker tale of revenge (TBA 2021); the other being a four book series which will have multiple POVs and be more of an end-of-the-world affair… I’m also working on the narrative for a videogame with my brother-in-law, called The Prison.

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

This would depend on the story. For example, in The Linguist the main character is pretty flawed, and his decisions have led him to a very dark place, which was interesting to write and get inside his headspace. But the most fun character to write by far has to be Balagir from The Ashen Levels. Despite myriad challenges he never loses his dark sense of humour, and ability to outwit most of his adversaries.

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

I’m afraid my advice will likely be the same old spiel… Write what you want to read, enjoy what you do, never be afraid to push your ideas much further than the initial spark. If you’re in a slump go for a walk, travel, listen to music, read, play! Try to write little and often… Basically, have fun! This is your creation, make it shine!

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

[insert manic laughter] Fortunately, I never tell anyone about my constantly shifting deadlines, to avoid putting unnecessary pressure on myself. It’s ready when it’s ready and if that takes twice as long as intended, or the book doesn’t resemble in any way its original concept, then so be it. The creative process is exactly that; a process. Like making a cake when the kitchen is covered in flour and smells slightly of burning. In the end it’s the final product that you put out that matters. If I’m not 100% happy with it, I’d rather sit on it and write something else. With the Ashen Levels I had some loose plot points, but lots of room to manoeuvre, so the story never was on track, because there was no track… Well, perhaps a dirt track, choked with nettles and riddled with ditches. That made it more enjoyable to write, and gave me more freedom to chase surprising ideas.

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

I tend to be a little bit of both. I have general ideas, milestones, situations in mind, and then I begin to see how they might all fit together. Of course, this depends on the project. The Ashen Levels’ first draft was 75% pantsing, whilst the series I’m working on at the moment is requiring significantly more plotting to make sure the magic system makes sense…

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

I want to write a mixture of standalones and series. These days I’m tending to prefer standalones in the way that they feel self-contained and stay in my mind, like the old classics used to. However, Epic fantasy as a genre works really well in series format and it’s nice at times to get lost in something you know is going to last you a while! I have working titles for my next 3 books, but I’m keeping them close to my chest until nearer the time.

  • 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?

In spite of the current situation I haven’t found that my reading (or gaming/music) tastes have changed. I like stories that have a fun element and quirky sense of humour, but I’ve always been drawn to the darker, tragic side of literature, too. If it’s too happy I don’t feel as much impact from the story. Then again, too much doom and gloom can be a bit tiresome. Think about a dark, dramatic, stormy day with the occasional shaft of sunlight and invigorating breeze.

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

Despite being born in 1977 and my early years being spent with the (original) Star Wars trilogy, I’m going to have to go with LOTR. The book formed a cornerstone of my childhood, and I thought what Peter Jackson did with the films was spectacular! (The Hobbit films, not so much). If Harry Potter is on at Christmas I’ll watch and enjoy it, but I kind of missed the Hogwart’s Express on all of that.

Thanks for the interview, Matthew! My website has just had a facelift which you can check out for a bit more about me and my books. Oh, and Part 1 of The Ashen Levels (Fledgling) is currently 99c. If you want to take a stab at something for the price of a Mcdonalds’ cheeseburger, then you’ve not much to lose. It’s not quite as fattening, but may leave a greasy residue. I also occasionally lurk on Facebook and Instagram.

www.cfwelburn.com


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