Sunday, March 31, 2013

Evolution of Process

by Kay Kauffman

Today I’m kickin’ it old school, or at least as close to old school as I can get these days.  The kick-ass sound system of my youth may be long gone, but the tunes it played remain, albeit in a different format (goodbye, analog; hello, digital).  The friends with whom I used to get together to hang out, listen to music, and write no longer live just across town, but great memories and the internet keep us close between visits.  Luckily, my trusty mechanical pencil and college-ruled notebook haven’t left me – life without them would be bleak indeed.

All of this, I suppose, is a rambling introduction to a post about writing process and inspiration.  Many a writer is asked about their process, where their ideas come from, what their work is about.  I always find these questions particularly hard to answer.  For me, “What does your writing process look like?” and “Where do your ideas come from?” are two sides of the same coin because for me, the process of writing starts with the story idea itself (unless, of course, by “process,” you mean the actual act of writing – in that case, I prefer to handwrite everything in pencil while curled up in my recliner, then type it up later).  And an idea, as we all know, can come from anywhere.

Take my novel, The Lokana Chronicles, for instance.  The initial idea for it came from a story I wrote with a friend back in high school.  We’d been inspired by the Disney movie Atlantis and created a (terrible) story about two girls who were long-lost princesses from the vanished city.  They don’t know any of this, of course, so when they manage to find their way back to the sunken city, they are naturally quite confused at their seemingly sudden knowledge of the place and its inhabitants.  Though what we’d written was awful, I really liked the concept of a world within a world and a lost princess who is ignorant of her heritage, so I put my thinking cap on and set to work trying to figure out how to use those aspects to create something that could actually work.

The Lokana Chronicles is the first novel I’ve ever come close to plotting before I started writing.  Standard practice prior to this had been to fly by the seat of my pants and give my characters free reign over the story.  It was chaotic and fun and reflected my love of soap operas.  With Lokana, plotting helped me avoid throwing in one convenient plot twist after another just to have things happen.

Someone once told me that in order to write well, you have to create a detailed outline.  Since there were many subjects on which he and I disagreed, I suspect that’s why I’ve always been so averse to plotting.  At any rate, I created a partial synopsis for Lokana to function as an outline and what a difference it made!  It was so much easier to remember where I wanted the story to go once I had it written down.  Now that I’ve stumbled on my synopsizing idea, I can’t imagine going back to being a complete pantser.

But when it came time to start a new project, I found myself stuck.  It took me seven years to write and revise Lokana; what should I do next?  I began to worry that I had finally run out of ideas, that I would never think of anything else to write.  After spending so much time with the characters in Lokana, I was hesitant to leave them behind.  I’d always envisioned The Lokana Chronicles as a stand-alone novel, but surely there were more stories to tell from my wonderful little world?

I dusted off my thinking cap again and this time, it took me quite a long time to finally come up with a workable concept.  Set twenty years after the first book, the sequel follows the next generation of citizens in Lokana and Arkona.  Some of the characters from the first book appear in the second, but obviously not all of them can.  I’ve been working on the sequel for six months and I think I’m about half finished with the writing, but the writing has been going much slower lately than I would like.  The same, sadly, is true of reading.  I need to be better about that; so much of what I read has an influence on what and how I write (which explains my constant struggle to show and not tell – I read a lot of classic literature, stuff that was written when it was much more acceptable to tell things).

But getting things right is part of the fun, and I like a good challenge.  There’s nothing quite as satisfying as the feeling you get when all the pieces of a well-constructed plot fall perfectly into place, and that’s one of the many things I love about writing.  When things turn out even better than you ever could have hoped for, it’s nothing short of amazing.

Speaking of writing, I ought to be getting back to it.  I hear a pitch calling my name.

Connect with Kay Kauffman:


Saturday, March 30, 2013


10 Questions for speculative fiction writer Joanne Hall. Visit her blog, Follow her on Twitter, Follow her on Facebook, or Visit her Goodreads page.

Hi, Joanne! Can you tell us a bit about your background as a writer? What kind of books do you write?

Hello! I’ve been writing since I could hold a pen: the day I found out that writing books was a real job that people did, I decided that that was what I was going to do when I grew up (having been through the career options: astronaut, fireman, Jedi…) I think I was about six.

My first three books were published by a very small, now defunct, press in America, and I’ve had a collection of short stories, The Feline Queen and other Tales, published by Wolfsinger Publications. My latest book, The Art of Forgetting: Rider, is due to be published by Kristell Ink at the end of June, with the second volume, Nomad to follow in December.

I write grubby heroic fantasy, for the most part, though in my short fiction I’ve dabbled in everything from historical fiction to comedy to full-on SF. But heroic fantasy is my first love. 

What is your opinion on e-books versus physical books? Do you think physical books will ever go the way of VCRs? 

I like e-books. I think anything that creates more access to reading can only be a good thing, and though I’m not a fan of reading off a screen myself, there’s a whole generation younger than me who think nothing of it. The fact that e-books are cheaper than paperbacks is great, it’s brought reading into the grasp of people who might not always be able to afford to go out and buy new books, and it’s made reading cool. So in that way, e-books are great (not to mention the fact that when you go on holiday now you can take your whole library on your Nook or Kindle and not have to worry about going over the baggage weight limit—this might have happened to me a few times…) 

But do I think physical books will go the way of VCRS? No. I think e-books might. I bet there’s not one piece of functioning technology in your house that’s over forty years old, while books, paper books, can last a hundred years or more if you look after them. Paper books don’t have the built-in obsolescence that your computer has. And there will always be people who enjoy the feel of a paper book, the texture, the smell, the embossed covers. Paper books have seen the lazerdisc, the eight-track, the video, the gramaphone record, the cassette all come and go, and outlasted them all. I think they’ll be around long after the Kindle has gone. 

In your opinion, how has the Internet age changed the culture of writing? 

In both good and bad ways (Is that vague enough for you?) On the negative side, the internet is an enormous distraction full of cats and skateboard videos. Also, if you make a mistake on the Internet, if you, lets say, have a go at a reviewer or throw a wobble, it’s there forever. Being a writer online means you have to behave like a professional all the time, even in the privacy of your own blog, because you don’t know who’s reading. You have to assume that everything you say is up for international scrutiny, so always be nice!

On the other hand, the internet provides opportunities to make contact with people (industry people and fans) that were impossible 10-15 years ago. I found my current publishers, Kristell Ink, via a friend’s Twitter feed. I have been able to chat to fellow authors, booksellers, reviewers, agents and fans via the internet—it’s like a virtual convention bar out there. Writing can be quite a lonely profession, so the ability to reach out and talk to people in the same position is invaluable. 

Over the past few years, we’ve seen a lot of trends in the literary world—crime thrillers, paranormal romances, dystopia… as a writer, how do you respond to these trends? Do you jump on board, or do you stick with the genres that are more your style? 

I write the book that’s in my head. If it coincides with what happens to be fashionable at the time of publication, great, but I think my book would be poorer if I added elements just because they’re the “in thing”. The other thing is, it takes so long to finish a book and get it published that what might be on-trend while you’re writing it is going to be old hat by the time it comes out. There are only two kinds of books, books you enjoy and books you don’t. Everything else is marketing. 

These days, it seems that a writer’s “voice” is as important as the book’s plot. How would you describe your “voice” or writing style? 

Quite fast-paced, light on description, snappy dialogue. More David Gemmell than Tolkien ;) You won’t find any three-page descriptions of trees… 

In your opinion, what is the most challenging aspect of writing? 

The second draft, when I look back and see all the things that are wrong that I’m not sure how to fix. That’s when I tend to beat my head against the desk the most, and that’s when my lovely beta readers pick me up and tell me it’s not that bad, and suggest how I can make it not suck.  That’s the hardest draft, after that it’s just endless tweaking…

Are there any books or writers who have particularly influenced your writing? 

I think I’m influenced by everything around me, I’m a total sponge. What led me to fantasy in the first place was my mum and my uncle, who are, let’s face it, a pair of big nerds.  They let me raid their bookshelves from an early age, and that was how I discovered Asimov, Clarke, Tolkien, C.S Lewis… all the greats. Formative influences before I was even a teenager were David Eddings and Anne McCaffrey (McCaffrey was the first one I discovered for myself) but even before then I was reading what we would now regard as YA—Pat O’Shea, Diana Wynne Jones. Then when I was a bit older there was David Gemmell, Raymond Feist and Katherine Kerr. But I grab stuff from everywhere and smoosh it around in my brain! 

What are you currently reading? 

“The Lies of Locke Lamora” by Scott Lynch. It’s been on my “should read” list for a long time and now he has a third book in the series due out in October it seemed like a good time to read it. I’m absolutely loving it, it’s just the sort of thing I like (and like to write), and I regret not reading it sooner. 

Do you outline? Can you tell us a bit about your writing process? 

I outline a little bit. I usually know how a book starts, how it ends, and three or four things that have to happen somewhere in the middle, but that’s it. Beyond that I’m a total pantser, I’ll write it to see what happens next! One of the best feelings is when your characters take control and start doing things you didn’t expect, and all you can do is follow them and try and gently steer them in the right direction…  I know where I’m going, and some stops along the way, but when I start out the journey is a total mystery!

I do my best to write every day, and I aim to write a minimum of 1000 words per day—it doesn’t always happen! Sometimes it’s easy, and sometimes it’s like pulling teeth, especially in those slumpy bits between scenes. The trick is just to keep going, I guess! 

What’s the most important writing advice you’ve received? 

I’ve received so much brilliant advice from so many people—my friend Gareth L Powell is particularly good at giving out motivating advice. The things that I come back to again and again, both to tell myself when I’m having a slow day, and to pass on to other people, are all really the same piece of advice :

“Don’t get it right, get it written.”
“You can’t edit a blank page.”
“Writing is when you make words. Editing is when you make them not suck.”

I think that last one comes from Chuck Wendig’s “Terrible Minds” blog—he’s great at kicking slacking writers into touch!

So what it comes down to is, get words on paper, and then make them good! Something I need to be reminded of periodically. 

What are you working on now? 

At the moment I’m 76,000 words into a stand-alone sequel to The Art of Forgetting which features a few of the same characters in an entirely new setting. It’s called The Summer Goddess, and it’s about a woman’s quest to find her lost nephew who has been taken by slave traders. I can’t say much more about it, I’m kind of superstitious about talking about books before the first draft is finished, but I’m having a lot of fun writing it! I’m also waiting for the Review Copies of The Art of Forgetting: Rider to arrive from the printers, so I can send them out to willing victims…errr, people…. ;)

Friday, March 29, 2013

NaNoWriMo Checklist: How to Prepare for the Ultimate Writing Challenge

by Eve Pearce
OK, so there are a few more months until November yet but although National Novel Writing Month may take place throughout this month alone, it’s never too early to begin planning for it. Like all major projects, the competition (which runs from 1st – 30th November) requires preparation and lots of it. Writing a 50,000 word novel in the space of a month is no mean feat and even the organizers themselves admit that NaNoWriMo usually takes on a ‘quantity over quality’ approach. But the beauty of this is that it also allows anyone to take part, favoring enthusiasm and dedication over writing ability. With a little forward planning you can have the best possible chance of producing something great and getting the most out of this exciting writing challenge. Here are a few things to consider in the run up to this year’s NaNoWriMo.

Sign up

First things first – you need to sign up. This can be done by visiting the NaNoWriMo website at Once you have signed up you will be able to create a profile, get regular news and updates about the challenge and be given access into forums where you can chat with other participants and find out about NaNoWriMo events in your local area. As the month passes you can share extracts of your novel on your account for fellow writers to read and you also need an account to register and submit your final piece before midnight on 30th November. Don’t leave the registration process until the last minute and then find that you have missed the deadline filling in forms.


NaNoWriMo involves a lot of dedication, hard work and, above all, time so other things in your life may need to take a back seat. We’re not suggesting that you go AWOL from your day job for a month or leave your home to go to ruin, but in order to dedicate your time elsewhere it might make sense to prepare a few things before November begins. For example you could have a cooking day, making large batches of freezable food to cut down on cooking time during the month or postpone any non-urgent appointments. This may also be a good time to set up a timetable to fit in manageable writing time around your daily commitments.

You also need to prepare the equipment that you plan to work on to avoid any technical delays. If you plan to write by hand then stock up on writing material…and band aids for your overworked fingers! But unsurprisingly most people choose to write on a computer or laptop in order to produce and amend their work quickly and legibly. Make sure that your computer or laptop is in tip top condition with a full disk defragment and anti-virus software in place to avoid any sluggish programming that might slow you down. It almost goes without saying, but you should ALWAYS back up your work and it wouldn’t hurt to check out a few computer and laptop insurance reviews to pick a good deal for your machinery. That way, even if your laptop or computer does have an untimely demise during NaNoWriMo you can get a quick replacement. Don’t forget to create a nice writing nook (if you don’t already have one) in a well lit, comfortable area where you’ll be happy to spend time – that way it won’t feel like a chore.

Formulate an idea

Although the actual writing process can’t begin until November, you need to at least have a basic idea of a plot before you start even if it is simply a beginning, middle and an end. It is essential to find the right balance between sitting down at your computer on the 1st November thinking ‘now what?’ and overplanning your story so much that you get confused and stressed before even starting. Instead, spend your time reading similar genres for inspiration or completing mini projects to see how your writing goes. Then when you’re ready to start just concentrate on your basic idea and let the words start flowing.

Tell people

There are several reasons why telling people about your participation in NaNoWriMo is a good idea. Firstly it’ll alert them as to why you might be unable to attend as many social engagements during November and hopefully cut down on disturbances! You may also find a writing pal – someone you know who wants to do NaNoWriMo with you. A writing pal can help support you, spur you on and give you inspiration. You can even write together and discuss your ideas and inspiration. In short it can make the whole experience a lot more fun. Finally, telling people about your mammoth project is bound to impress them and they’ll be eager to know how you get on. This will add pressure to your challenge but in a good way. When you find yourself with writers block or feel like giving up, the fear of telling people that you didn’t quite manage it will spur you on and make you more inclined to overcome obstacles. Nobody likes a public failure!

Enjoy and don’t worry

Aside from the practical preparations, the most important thing to remember about NaNoWriMo is that it’s supposed to be fun. The best chance you have of completing it is if you enjoy it. Try to remember that the point of NaNoWriMo isn’t to create a bestselling, well crafted novel…it’s about finishing. According to Writers Digest, 86% of the 250,000 people who took part in NaNoWriMo last year didn’t finish. Some of the primary reasons for this include the fear of failing, over thinking their story too much and worries about creating something that wouldn’t be perfect. These sorts of concerns will hinder your progress before it’s even begun so try to relax and have some fun with this ultimate writing challenge.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

REVIEW: Oracle of Philadelpia (Earthbound Angels) / Elizabeth Corrigan

TITLE: Oracle of Philadelphia
AUTHOR: Elizabeth Corrigan
PUBLISHER: Red Adept Publishing
AVAILABILITY: Amazon US (paperback), Amazon US (Kindle e-book), Amazon UK (paperback), Amazon UK (Kindle e-book), Barnes & Noble (Nook e-book), Kobo (e-book)

Recommended for fans of urban fantasy and stories about angels and demons, such as the TV show Supernatural.


Oracle of Philadelphia is the first in a series.

Corrigan sets up the conflict in the very first chapter of the novel. Much of the story consists of fascinating flashbacks and dialogue, and Corrigan’s intriguing characters coupled with a free-flowing writing style keeps the pace up throughout the book. I read the whole thing in a day.

First person past from the point of view of Carrie, an 8,000-year-old Oracle living in modern day Philadelphia. Carrie spends much of the book telling stories about how she met various angels and demons over the course of her long life.

Carrie, who has also been known over the years as Khet, Cassia, Cama, and several other names, is an 8,000-year-old oracle living in modern day Philadlphia. Born in ancient Mesopotamia with the gift to see into the minds of others, including angels and demons, she does her best to keep a low profile. Then one day, a young man named Sebastian, who sold his soul to the archdemon Azrael to save his sister’s life, finds Carrie and asks for help.

Carrie, world-weary after millennia of hearing cases like his, initially gives her standard helpless response. It’s not that she doesn’t want to help; she literally can’t. In the past, she’s tried petitioning angels, demons, and God Himself, but came up empty each time. However, there’s something different about Sebastian. Carrie has the ability to sense another’s aura—their goodness, wickedness, etc.—and Sebastian’s is so bright with goodness that she almost mistakes him for an angel. She’s eventually unable to ignore him any longer and does something she’s never done before: journey to hell in hopes of making her own deal with Azrael.

Oracle of Philadelphia tells the story of Carrie’s life in a series of flashbacks, which are triggered by the entrance of various characters. Over the millennia, she has tangled with many of the twenty or so major angels, several of whom were cast out of Heaven when Lucifer fell and became demons. The most memorable of these supernatural beings is Bedlam, the demon of chaos, who walks the line between good and evil. He’s technically a demon because he, too, was locked out of Heaven, but aside from a tendency to make mischief, he’s actually a decent guy. Energetic, immature, and smart-mouthed, Bedlam is easily the fan favorite, adding a splash of color to the otherwise composed hierarchy of angels.

In Oracle of Philadelphia, Corrigan treats Biblical stories as mythology and re-imagines several to involve her characters. For instance, she tells the story of the Ten Commandments with Bedlam as the doubter who told the people to worship a golden idol (he thought it was a joke and was very sorry when Moses didn’t find it so funny). These re-imaginings are vividly original and captivating to read.

Much of Oracle of Philadelphia consists of dialogue, and both Carrie’s narration and the other characters’ words spring to life. It’s easy to hear their voices as though you’re in the room with them, listening in on their conversations. At the same time, Corrigan has a real knack for description. Whether it’s a tavern in ancient Rome, a museum in modern day Philadelphia, or Hell itself, all the locations are presented vibrantly on the page with just enough detail to let you know where you are.

Carrie is an easily likable main character. Although immortal and capable of reading minds, she is still human at heart. Imbued with quiet strength, her determination and inherent kindness are nothing short of admirable. In many ways, she’s the opposite of Bedlam, who’s been her best friend since she met him in ancient Egypt. Bedlam’s flashy personality is in stark contrast to her low-key existence, and he brings excitement to her life. She finds comfort in his chaotic aura, the hyperactive thoughts perpetually buzzing through his head.

In addition to Bedlam, Oracle of Philadelphia boasts a memorable assortment of characters. Carrie ends up meeting a number of angels and all of the archdemons, each of whom is depicted with his or her own unique, somewhat theatrical personality. There’s Gabriel, the beautiful angel of joy who spends his time as a do-gooder on Earth. And Michael, the stern and unforgiving general who considers himself guardian of Heaven. And Lilith, the Amazonian archdemon. And those are just the ones I can list off the top of my head.

Entertaining and brilliantly imagined, Oracle of Philadelphia is a must-read for fans of contemporary fantasy, especially those who love tales of angels and demons. Corrigan clearly knows every aspect of her world—angel hierarchies, the mechanics of Hell, supernatural politics—and Oracle of Philadelphia offers a tantalizing glimpse of what lies beyond this earth.

This book is impeccably edited.

This book contains some violence.

[from the author's Amazon page]
Elizabeth Corrigan has degrees in English and psychology and has spent several years working as a data analyst in various branches of the healthcare industry. When she's not hard at work on her next novel, Elizabeth enjoys singing, reading teen vampire novels, and making Sims of her characters. She drinks more Diet Coke than is probably optimal for the human body and is pathologically afraid of bees. She lives in Maryland with two cats and a purple Smart Car.

Disclosure: Red Adept Publishing is also the publisher of my own novel, Artificial Absolutes. I bought and read this book on my own, and the above reflects only my honest opinion.


Wednesday, March 27, 2013

What is Horror?

I tell people I am a writer because not only is it true (and therefore easy for me to remember), but people know what that is. Tell them you're a cryptozoologist and you're there all evening.

The next question is what I write, and that's where we start to venture out onto thin and shifting ice. I tell them "horror" because that's broadly what it is, and I hope most people have a pretty good idea what it means. However, "horror" is a very wide field. A surprising number of people blanch and confide that they "don't like horror stories"; an equally surprising number - often mild-mannered civil-servant types - positively swoon at the prospect of gallons of blood, chainsaws, mutant rats eating children, and bottomless pits of fire and sharp stabbing things.

And therein lies the problem with the "horror" label. It just covers too much. I don't write graphically gory novels; in fact I write the kind of books that non-horror readers would probably enjoy if they gave them a go. My horror is psychological; it works on that small darkness that lives within us all and always has.

Our ability to experience fear enabled us to survive in the very earliest days of our evolution, where spiders, snakes, the dark, all kinds of natural things could harm us. Human beings needed fear in order to survive, but they also needed to develop a capacity to imagine scary things in order to be prepared for things which they had not yet directly experienced.

These days, most of those primordial fears have been rationalized away - we don't come across too many killer spiders or snakes in our urbanized lives, and the dark can be controlled by the flick of a switch. Yet we have retained a capacity for fear. We sublimate it into fear of hospitals (where painful things might be done to us by faceless, powerful people); of flying (where a lunatic with a plastic knife or a box-cutter might turn the plane into a weapon); or of dying alone in an unheated flat at Christmas (because to do so is to lose any meaning or sense of being human). We are, in short, fearful creatures, in a way that no other animal is. (Okay, there's something to be said about the kind of self-awareness that exists in higher primates that might give them a capacity for abstract fear, but that's beyond our discussion here!)

It is this kind of abstracted fear that I play on in my writing. There's a cardinal rule in writing that says "show, don't tell." This rule should be extended for psychological horror to become "don't do either unless you really know what you're doing." Ever notice that even the best kind of horror movie is completely ruined as soon as you see the monster? (Think of the ridiculous flying bat-thing in "Jeepers Creepers" or the silly cave people in the otherwise fabulous "Descent." Even the brilliant "Saw" would probably have been better if we'd never seen the guy who was running the show.) Fear, to me, is about the unknown. It's about that invisible force that suddenly throws us off our comfortable course and into a state of powerlessness. It's not about the monster that, in the end, is only going to kill us. Dead is dead; it's the voyage to that unknown land that is truly terrifying.

In my novel Run, we do see the "monster," and very early on, but the monster is not the driving force of the book. It is merely a vehicle, a way of throwing the main character, Daniel Ang, off his comfortable course. We then watch how his life falls apart, how he loses everything he holds precious, and how he spirals down towards that most terrifying land of all: madness. Daniel Ang is not a hero out to battle the Big Bad Wolf. He is us, as a victim of a random event. It is the same model Richard Matheson used for The Shrinking Man. We see the mist that causes Scott Carey to shrink, as we see the "monsters" that cause Daniel Ang to lose his leg, but those vectors are not that important. We know that in the end Carey is going to cease to exist (and Ang might well too), but again, that is not important. What matters to us is the path those characters take to reach their final catastrophic destination.

Why is this important? Because we are human, and humans care about other humans. We don't care about monsters because we know monsters aren't real. Even when the TV tells us a monster is wielding a butter knife on a 767 we know that, statistically, it is very unlikely ever to be us sitting in seat B3 watching the buildings getting closer. But we are all too aware - because of that primordial capacity for fear - that something like it could happen to us. Something could throw our existence into jeopardy. And how would we cope? Would we suffer the terror that Scott Carey or Daniel Ang suffer? By God, we hope not! But we could... It could be us...

In my forthcoming novel, Unnatural Selection, I go one step further and make the "monster" one of us as well. This works on two levels. The crux of the plot is that a strain of genetically modified rice gets released into the food chain by mistake and causes, shall we say, some problems. We, the fine upstanding humans, are the monsters that are born of eating this Frankenstein food, but we are also the monsters who played God and forgot to look for the Devil in the detail in the first place. Although this novel has some extremely violent episodes, it moves another step away from the shock-and-awe horror of the slasher movie. It plays on the idea that there are people - sometimes well-meaning people - out there who are doing things to our lives and our world that could have terrible consequences. When the lights have been turned on and the darkness banished, when we have proved there are no monsters under the bed, something still remains. It is a fear that has no focus, and that fear often morphs into paranoia. We see it throughout human history, from the persecution of the Jews to the Anti-Communist hysteria of 1940s America to today's Islamophobia. There are PEOPLE... OUT THERE... who are trying to do us harm!!

So, am I a horror writer or not? Yes, in the purest sense. My monsters don't die when you drive a stake through their hearts. Mine are inside you... and they always will be.

Alan Porter's Biography:

Alan Porter was born in Wales in 1967. After a successful career as a composer of theater and commercial music in the 1990s he moved into publishing, initially as a music typesetter, then later as a book designer.

Alan began writing in 2005 and his first horror novel for teen readers, Midwinter Lucie, was published in 2008. His latest novel for adults, Run, was published in 2013.
He lives in rural Worcestershire, England, with his wife and parrot.

Visit his website

Tuesday, March 26, 2013


10 Questions for romance author Donna Yates. Visit her blog, Visit her website, Follow her on Facebook, Find her on LinkedIn, Find her on Goodreads, Visit her Amazon page, Find her on Author's Den, or Visit her Smashwords page.

Welcome, Donna! Can you tell us a bit about your background in writing? What prompted you to write a novel? 

I’ve been writing since I was a child. I’ve started many stories throughout the years but never finished them. Always was different. Once I started to write the story I couldn’t stop. I felt compelled to finish it. 

You describe your novel, Always, as a new age/spiritual romance.What’s the book about? What makes it new age/spiritual? 

Always is thestory of two eternal lovers, Einarr and Katura who come to Earth again toexperience mortality as Simon and April. Simon is 36-years old and set in hisways. He likes an uncomplicated life alone. April is Simon’s best friend’s16-year old niece and she has a crush on Simon. The book is about the lives ofApril and Simon through the years. What makes it new age is that I’ve broughtin a Celtic Wiccan friend for April along with past lives. The spiritual partis the idea that we are eternal spiritual beings who exist on a differentplanet that is made up of love, that we have infinite freedoms to choose ourdestinies. 

In your opinion, how important is romance to a story? 

It depends on the storyline of the book. With Always, romance takes a major part. 

What inspired Always? Did the idea come from one particularsource, or was it a combination of several ideas you’d had? 

I was toying around with a couple of stories when one day Ipictured a middle aged attractive man standing on his balcony looking out atthe town he loves, pleased with his life. From there, as I wrote, the storydeveloped on its own and led me where it wanted to go. 

Have any of your real-world experiences found their ways into yourwriting? Characters based on real people? Settings based on real locations? 

Yes. In Always, characterof Aunt Tillie slapping her hand on tables and talking loudly came from acouple of women I knew once who did that. I have a short story series based onan older woman from the Midwest who loves the “Lard” and prunes. She is basedon several women and their quirky ways. 

Can you tell us a bit about book trailers? Who made yours? 

Book trailers are an easy way to show what your book isabout. You can make them yourself today with the many methods available. I mademy own. It’s more of a PowerPoint, but it was my first try and I’m pleased withthe result. It does explain the concept of the book. 

How would you describe your writing style? 

I like to write simply, with touches of humor here andthere. I’m a storyteller that doesn’t frighten anyone. I like to write a storythat follows the character through the end of their lives. 

What do you find most challenging about writing? 

For me, the most challenging part are the re-writes andedits. They can take so much time and work, but they do produce a much betterstory. 

Is there anything in writing that comes naturally to you? 

Writing and poetry both do. When I’m in the right place,they just flow through my fingertips onto the paper. 

Are you working on anything new? 

I just finished the draft of my second book, The Lone Hero. This one is aboutEinarr’s first mission.

View the book trailer for Always:


Monday, March 25, 2013


10 Questions for thriller writer John Holt. Find him on Facebook.

Welcome, John! Can you tell us a bit about yourself? What kind of books do you write?

I am a retired Chartered Surveyor, who used to work for The Greater London Council, and later had my own surveying practice.  I live in Essex with my wife, daughter, and our adoptive cat Missy.  Adoptive because she adopted us.  Like a lot of people I suspect, I had always wanted to write a novel, but could never think of a decent plot.  The first novel I wrote, The Kammersee Affair, was inspired by a trip to the Austrian lake district.  We stayed at a place called Grundlsee.  The next lake was Toplitz which was used by the German Navy during the war to test torpedoes and rockets.  As the war ended many items were disposed of in the lake, including jewellery, weapons and counterfeit dollars and pounds.  There were rumours of gold bullion also being placed in the dark waters of the lake.  Extensive searches have never found any gold.  The book is about the search for hidden Nazi gold.  But it is much more than that.  It is the story of two men, an SS Major, and an American GI.  It is a story of blackmail, murder, and revenge.  The other published books all feature Tom Kendall, my private detective. 

I noticed that you have a number of books on Amazon. How frequently do you put out a novel? 

I currently have five books on Amazon.  As I said my first book was The Kammersee Affair. It was originally published by Raider Publishing International in New York in 2006.  Then came The Mackenzie File in 2008; The Marinski Affair in 2009; and Epidemic in 2011.  My fifth novel A Killing In The City was published by Night Books (no longer in existence) in March 2012.  The contracts with Raider have all expired, or have been terminated by mutual agreement.  In August 2012 I started to self publish and re-issue the books under my own banner, PHOENIX.  Epidemic was re-issued only a few days ago.  So five novels in seven months, not bad.  If only I could do that over and over.  The truth of the matter is that I suppose each novel would probably take twelve months from scratch. 

What kinds of characters do you like to write about? 

I like characters with character.  By that I mean my characters have to have a strong personality, to have qualities and values and standards that they live by, whether for good or bad.  My main character, Tom Kendall, is a private detective.  But he isn’t the tough guy toting a gun type of detective.  He is methodical, and plodding.  He isn’t as fit as he should be, and eats all the wrong kinds of food. He has a wicked sense of humour.  He is determined, and once he gets an idea into his head he won’t shift until he has been proved wrong in a dozen different ways.  In many ways there’s a lot of me in Kendall.  My villains are dominant, ruthless, out for power and control.  You know they are bad right from the off, and you know they committed the crime.  The point though is to see how Kendall solves the case. 

Do you have a writing process? 

Do I have a writing process? That’s not that straight forward.  I don’t have any hard and fast rules.  Unlike the truly great authors such as Dickens, I could never start at page 1 and make my way through to the end.  I don’t how he (and others) did that.  To write a chapter a week, I couldn’t do that.  Some weeks I might only write a handful of notes; other times I might write large sections.  I usually have a basic ides of what I want in the story.  I might even have a handful of chapters in outline.  Then I will gradually add things as they come to mind.  When I say add them I mean I might think of something to add to the ending, or it might be a piece that fits in somewhere in the middle.  Often it might actually mean I have to change something previously written, but I get there in the end.  Sometimes I use the “What If” scenario.

Generally each novel takes about a year. 

Can you tell us a bit about your experience in publishing? Why did you choose to indie publish? 

Having written The Kammersee Affair, I investigated the possibility of a mainstream publisher snapping it up.  I soon realised that not being a celebrity chef, or an A-Lister, the mainstream publishers weren’t interested.  Then I approached Dorrance Publishers in New York.  They simply loved the book, and were very keen to work with me.  They produced a very nice review/critique.  All I had to do was sign the contract and send them a cheque for $10,000.  Yes, that’s what I said, $10,000. It may surprise you to hear that I never did sign with Dorrance.  After that there were a number of other so-called vanity publishers.  Austin Macauley wanted £2,400; Author House wanted £700.  Eventually I went with Raider.  Yes I paid for the privilege, although it was considerably cheaper than Author House.  Regrettably the books did not sell that well, and suffered from poor promotion.  Then there was Night Books.  With them there was no charge.  Sadly for reasons now water under the bridge Night and I parted and went our separate ways.  I then decided that because I was doing my own publicity and promoting why not do the whole thing: self-publish.  They way I had control over everything—the book, the cover, the price, publicity, and I kept all of the royalties. 

What does it take to turn a manuscript into a book? 

Good question.  How long is a piece of string? When is a book ever finished? I have realised that you cannot possibly please everyone at the same time.  Look at the reviews: “a slow boring read I couldn’t finish” for one person; “A well plotted crime thriller” for someone else. You know full well that as soon as you type The End and put the book in front of the public,  someone is going to be critical.  It’s too long; it’s too short; your characters aren’t realistic. Not realistic! It’s fiction, anything is possible in fiction.  A man wearing his pants on the outside, with x-ray vision, and flying faster than a speeding bullet, isn’t something you see that often. Yet Superman has made a fortune for his creators.  I decided that I wouldn’t try to please anyone except myself.  As long as I was happy then that would be that.  If others liked it then that was a bonus.  So as long as I’m happy with the manuscript, and it says all of the things I had in mind, and I’ve checked the spelling for the umpteenth time, then the manuscript is ready to become a book.  I don’t employ an editor or a proofreader so it’s quite probably that a misspelling will get through; or there will be a punctuation error, or three.  But so be it.  If a spelling mistake spoils the whole book for you well I’m sorry, but stick with the bigger picture. 

In your opinion, how has the Internet age affected the publishing industry? 

Like many aspects about the Internet there have been good, and bad, effects as far as publishing is concerned.  Certainly the growth of e-books has had an effect on paperbacks.  E-books and Amazon has certainly had an effect on bookstores.  I much prefer paperbacks, and resisted ebooks for a long time.  I have now (sadly) realised that paperbacks can no longer compete with ebooks.  In the States, I understand that more e-books are sold than paperbacks.  The same will I expect be true in the UK before long.  The Internet has certainly had an effect on bookstores, and many independent shops have disappeared.  On the plus side is the fact that it is now much easier for self-published indie authors like myself.  With the likes of Lulu and Createspace, it is now easy to self publish your paperback (at no charge), and with Kindle Direct and Smashwords, getting your e-book out there couldn’t be simpler.  Then, of course, the other major consideration is the so called social media.  I have met so many nice people on here, people I will probably never ever meet, but who I call friends.  They are very supportive in all sorts of ways, including encouragement, and publicity. 

Of the books you’ve written, do you have a favorite? 

That’s difficult, but I suppose The Marinski Affair, or Epidemic.  But there again I liked A Killing In The City and… Sorry, you wanted one.  Okay, let’s say Marinski. 

What is your favorite aspect of writing? 

To me writing must be fun, you must enjoy doing it.  If it’s a labour of love, forget it.  If in any way it causes anguish, or worry, forget it.  I write in the hope of entertaining someone.  I know it’s just a little bit of nonsense.  There are no deep innermost feelings to be analysed, but if someone gets some pleasure out of it, or they find Kendall’s humour to their taste, that is absolutely fine. 

What are you currently working on? 

I have four novels at various stages: two more Kendall novels, one of which is about 60% complete; the other is barely an outline. A friend of mine, Hans Fricke, carried out several underwater searches of lake Toplitz.  About two years ago he carried out an underwater search in a Norwegian fjord.  He had discovered a submarine.  It seems that the submarine had undertaken a trip in 1931 heading for an under the ice voyage to the North Pole.  For reasons it never got to the Pole, and was later deliberately scuttled in Norway.  I am trying to put together a novel about it.  That is about 30% complete. Then I have a “What If” novel regarding the assassination of Lincoln. This is 75% so that is the one I’m concentrating on, in the hope of having it ready before the end of the year.

John Holt's novels are available at:

Amazon US:

Amazon UK:

Sunday, March 24, 2013

REVIEW: Upload / Collin Tobin

TITLE: Upload
AUTHOR: Collin Tobin
AVAILABILITY: Amazon US (paperback), Amazon US (Kindle e-book), Amazon UK (paperback), Amazon UK (Kindle e-book), Barnes & Noble (paperback), Barnes & Noble (Nook e-book), OmniLit (e-book), Kobo (e-book) 

Recommended for fans of suspense novels and technothrillers. 


Upload is fairly fast paced, with suspenseful mysteries intertwined with slower-paced emotional scenes.

Third person limited. Upload rotates between the close third perspectives of several characters, primarily the protagonist, Jay, his tech-savvy friend, Bennie, and the mysterious villain, Sturgeon. Each chapter heading states whose POV the chapter will be told from.

Teenager Jay Brooks spends his evenings hunting for Wi-Fi hotspots as part of an online operation he runs with his best friend, a wheelchair-bound hacker named Bennie. One night, he stumbles upon a crime in action and downloads a mysterious video transmission. Meanwhile, the villainous Sturgeon runs an illicit operation, harnessing the skills of clueless programmers and an unscrupulous pair of Russian thugs.

Unable to forget what he witnessed, Jay asks Bennie to help him investigate the circumstances of the mysterious video. Their discoveries bring them closer and closer to colliding with Sturgeon’s dangerous business, and what they uncover threatens not only their lives, but all of society. 

Upload is a fast-paced thriller with elements of science fiction. The technology behind Sturgeon’s shadowy business is speculative but believable, and the scenes surrounding computer operations are very well described. The plot, the motivations behind it, the way the things work... they all make sense and come together to form a neat, satisfying conclusion. Glimpses of nefarious operations and threats to the main characters keep the suspense high throughout the novel.

Yet at its core, Upload remains a very human story. Jay’s life is in disarray after his mother’s sudden death caused his father to fall into a depression so deep, he scarcely seems to notice Jay. Bennie’s company is his refuge, although the situation is complicated by Jay’s feelings for Bennie’s older sister, Chloe. Both daring and caring, Jay is easy to sympathize with. He displays both a youthful attitude and levelheaded maturity, both intelligence and foolishness.

Bennie is a similarly complex character. He spends his days holed up in his computer lab, living with the painful knowledge that he can never have a normal life. Longing for any kind of human connection, he goes to raves for the sole purpose of crowd surfing and feeling the touch of others. He also displays an admirable kind of internal strength, as he is determined to live his life as he wishes in spite of his disadvantages.

From reading Upload, it’s easy to tell that Tobin is a poet at heart. His prose rings with a symphony of similes, bringing images and emotions to life. Metaphors flow freely through his descriptions, and colorful figures of speech appear regularly. For instance:

“His resistance weakened at night, as if he could no longer uphold the straining pulleys of his sorrow. And they squealed unsympathetically, the ropes slipping through his relaxing hands, lowering the great cold boulder of his mother’s absence on his chest.”


“Suddenly, the rush of the last forty-eight hours came back to him like a magician spewing forth his full deck of cards into the air. But one card remained in his white-gloved hand, stiff with expectant applause. It was the calm, steady, red flash of something else, something he couldn’t yet place.”

The character development and descriptive language seems as though they belong in a more literary genre, and indeed, Upload is far more than another page-turning thriller. It has all the elements of its intended genre—suspense, action, danger… I read the whole thing in one day because I had to know what happened (to the detriment of my sleep schedule). The twists and turns Jay and Bennie run into as they uncover the truth behind Sturgeon’s shadowy operation are cleverly plotted and brilliantly imagined. At the same time, the language brings the story to life in a way that’s rarely seen in modern-day thrillers.

This book is impeccably edited.

This book contains some adult language and some gun violence.

[From the author’s Amazon page]

Collin Tobin lives in Massachusetts with his wife and two daughters. He holds a bachelor's in English and master's in Education. He has worked in the software industry for the past twelve years.

He was the lucky recipient of the Mississippi Literary Festival's 1st place in poetry and has also published poems in "character i" and "The Drum".

When he's not writing, he enjoys re-reading Nabokov's fiction in chronological order, eating very hot salsa, and dreaming up inventions with neither the capital nor the initiative to see them through.

His greatest accomplishment is his wonderful family.

Disclosure: Red Adept Publishing is also the publisher of my own novel, Artificial Absolutes. I bought and read this book on my own, and the above reflects only my honest opinion.