Sarah O’Donoghue’s Primortia

Sarah O’Donoghue is here to talk to us about her science-fiction novel, Primortia:

“Primortia: the holy seizure that strikes without warning, the curse that has shaped Hutosan culture and civilisation. After losing her brother to Primortia, Shonoka Lagan devotes her life to studying the phenomenon. Now she believes it can be stopped. With clues from her grandmother’s diary, Shonoka begins an adventure that reveals the secrets of her family, her planet, and the ageless stranger with his peculiar green stone…”

Author of Primortia, Sarah O’Donaghue is a UK-based writer with a background in language and science teaching and she is the co-author of Oxford Content and Language Support: Science (2010 Oxford University Press).
She has been living and breathing science fiction for over twenty years. She has been involved in many fandoms from Doctor Who to steampunk but has always wanted to create her own sandbox to play in.
The world of Primortia has been in development for four years and is growing all the time.
The first of the series: Primortia is available to buy – paperback £11.99, download £3.99 from
I asked Sarah a few questions abut her writing, Primorita and her experience with self-publisher Lulu:
Who, or what, is Primortia?
Primortia is a seizure that strikes some people on the world of Hutosa where most of the book is set. No Hutosan knows what causes it but as the book progresses the reader discovers that nothing about Primortia is what it appears.

Can you tell us a little about it?
A religion has developed around Primortia over the centuries to the point where it defines many of the world’s cultures. People who have the seizure are known as Primortians, and it is known to run in families. Once someone has suffered a seizure they’re on a countdown to transfer, which Hutosans believe to be death. They are fitted with a Primortian Mark by the monks in their local Primortian Temple and are released on condition that they return just before their transfer. This period of time can vary but it’s never more than a few months. The Primortian Temples control Primortians and therefore the fear the general population has of the condition and those who suffer it.
Is Shonoka the main character of the book? What is she about?
Primortia is the story of two women. Shonoka, known to her friends and family as Shony, is on a search to discover what Primortia is. She lost her brother to Primortia when they were children and she has dedicated her life to discovering its secrets. When the novel opens she’s an academic, about to enter what she knows will be a loveless marriage, who is starting to work out some of what Primortia is. We meet her at her grandmother’s funeral. She was very close to her grandmother, Piany, and Shony starts to learn more about her grandmother through the diaries she left behind. The diaries give her information about Piany’s mysterious past and the adventures she got involved with before Shony was born. Shony is inspired to break free from what society expects from her and pursue the truth of Primortia. She gets caught up in a quest she never imagined with a man from her grandmother’s past, and finds out that Primortia has consequences far beyond her world.

What era is Primortia set?
Primortia is set across multiple eras and locations but Shony’s story unfolds in her world’s modern-day which has technology loosely comparable to ours. Hutosa has regular space travel within its own system but people still like to travel by ship. Most cultures have evolved from monarchies to democracies, but religion is dictated by a central order of Primortian monasteries.

How much research did it involve?
The first ideas for Primortia were sparked about five years ago when I had the idea of a woman learning about her grandmother from diaries she’d left behind. From there I started to world-build Hutosa and the other locations and eras within the story. I have always had an interest in science and there is a very important mineral within the novel that became a character itself. I drew on courses I have taken in astronomy and geology to create a source and properties for this mineral which, whilst not exactly true to science, are at least vaguely plausible!

How does it compare with other novels?
I’ve been reading and involved with science fiction for over twenty years and whilst I love the ‘hard’ science fiction of Clarke, Verne and Asimov I’ve always been drawn to science fiction written by women like Marge Piercy and Connie Willis. I love Connie Willis’ work, particularly her novel Bellwether. Her books combine romance, science and science fiction in fascinating ways and I’ve aimed to mix up the genres as she has done.

What audience is the book intended?
Not to sound selfish but I primarily wrote what I wanted most to read! There is very little science fiction with a romantic element out there and I wanted more! Primortia contains space-faring, technologically-based societies, time travel and a brutal war; but it’s also the story of two women, one in the present and one in the past, each trying to escape what their society expects of them and to find out the truth about their families. I hope the novel will appeal to anyone who enjoys science fiction for adults.

How long did it take you to write it, and how many drafts?
The actual writing took about two years. The first half was written as my project for NaNoWriMo back in 2006 and then I wrote another story, set in the same universe in 2007/8. It was then that I discovered that the story was actually one continuous novel and spent the next eighteen months in Editing Hell, moulding and enriching the storyline to create what became the finished book. Looking at my hard drive I went through 16 drafts. I really hope I never need quite so many again!

Will you be interested in writing another genre?
Not at the moment. The science fiction and fantasy genres have been my home for over twenty years because they are so rich. I can’t remember who said it but I’ve read that the grand stories of our time can only be contained by an arena as vast as SF/fantasy. Older societies had mythologies and sagas. SF/fantasy is where our battles between heroes and villains, gods and demons are now played out.

Is it going to be part of a series?
I’ve just started writing the sequel to Primortia, using NaNoWriMo 2010 to kickstart the writing process. Primortia 2 (not the final title!) will answer all the major questions left at the end of Primortia, but there are many other stories to be told within the Primortian universe so it’s a place I plan to come back to in future books. I’m aiming for a reader to be able to pick up Primortia 2 and jump right into the story but the books are designed to be read in order.

Do you have a favourite scene in the book? Can we have a snippet?
I think it has to be the scene where Shony first explores a place called the Sundial Garden. I’ve always loved sundials and their image is woven throughout the novel. Here’s a snippet:

One dial appeared to be made of clear glass, raised looping patterns etched onto its matching base, numbers unrecognisable. She was familiar with the Dargan Firescript of another dial, mounted on a base of volcanic rock, pockmarked with chips exposing the voids within the stone. Next to a sundial carved into a large block of horostone, another base was engraved with spirals and swirls. They were ancient carvings, perhaps dating back to the Samana Dynasty. She remembered reading of their ancient priesthood who worshipped the end of the world and, stooping to look at the worn carvings, she could make out crude figures running from a large spiky shape in the sky. An explosion perhaps? Intrigued, she knelt on the grass, her finger tracing the patterns in the crumbling sandstone. From her new position she could see some of the figures were prostrate, perhaps praying, perhaps dying. Then she saw a blurred shape at the centre of the explosion. It was a large, deep rectangle. Age had barely blurred the edges of the shape.

 Are you agented?

No, I’m not agented and I haven’t tried to find an agent for Primortia for a number of reasons. Firstly, I know that very few agents will touch Science Fiction, secondly, I want to keep control of my books and finally I see internet publishing as getting more and more powerful year by year. Thanks to the internet I can get my book printed, promoted and distributed right around the world; and thanks to the internet I can interact with readers and writers on every continent.

You published with Lulu. What was your experience with them?
I’ve been really pleased with Lulu. I did a lot of research before deciding to go self-published, and I did a lot of research before deciding to go with Lulu. I read a lot of other authors’ websites to find out about their experiences and in the end Lulu seemed best for me.

Were they expensive?
I haven’t given Lulu a penny!

If you hit a problem were they there for you?
So far I haven’t hit any problems, but any queries I’ve had about formatting, distribution etc have been answered on their comprehensive user forums.

Do they help with marketing?
I’ve opted for their Extended Reach distribution package which has given me a Lulu ISBN and distribution with Amazon (that should be online within the month). Again, all this has been free. I’ve taken on marketing duties myself, setting up my website and getting involved in science fiction and writing communities.

Did they typeset the novel?
The option is there but I chose to do this myself. Again, other author pages gave me great advice on formatting the manuscript correctly. I have reasonable IT skills and found typesetting fairly painless.

Did they arrange your bookcover/blurb?
I designed the cover myself and a good friend wrote my blurb.

And finally would you use them again?

Would you call yourself a full time writer?
I’m on a career break from teaching at the moment so, for the next few months at least, I am a full time writer.
Do you have any writing experience?
I’ve always been immersed in words. My first degree is in English Language and Literature and I taught English as a foreign language for over 10 years. I have taken a couple of short writing courses but I’ve learned far more about the craft by reading fiction and getting out there and writing my own. are the co-author of Oxford Content and Language Support what is this book about, and how much input did you have as a co-author?
OCLS Science came out of my background in science and English Language teaching. I saw there was a gap in the market for books to help second language teenagers get to grips with science topics, so I put a proposal together and approached a number of publishers.
Academic writing is the only area I’ve found where publishers are willing to look at unsolicited proposals and so I was able to move forward without an agent.
Oxford University Press were interested in my ideas and asked for a science workbook for second language students. I asked a science teacher friend of mine to get involved and we ended up splitting writing duties 50/50: she wrote the science material, I then unpacked the science content through a variety of exercises and sections on grammar, comprehension and vocabulary. I also compiled a chapter on study skills and a glossary to explain complex scientific terms in straightforward English. It’s been a fantastic project and it’s given me a valuable professional writing credit that I want to build on in the future.


First-Time Author Deanna Proach and her Day Of Revenge

Deanna Proach

Military Captain Samuel La Font may be hot-tempered and headstrong, but he is certainly not about to flee his war-torn country without a fight. He is determined to stay in France and wage a war against the revolutionaries.
For the greater part of the year, everything works in Samuel’s favor. He has the love and support of his close knit group of friends. His Corsican based family has even recruited several skilled soldiers who are more than willing to die for Samuel’s cause. But, towards autumn, fate takes an unexpected and dangerous turn. Now Samuel is forced to make a choice—get his friends and himself out of France or die in battle against the revolutionaries.

Please welcome the author of Day of Revenge, Deanna Proach to my blog. She was born and raised on the southwest coast of British Columbia, Canada, and has completed her Bachelor of Arts degree with a major in History at the University of Northern British Columbia in Prince George, BC. Now, she resides in the small, coastal town of Sechelt where she is writing, editing and acting.

I asked Deanna a few questions about her book and her writing.

Is Day of Revenge your debut novel?
Yes it is and it is the very piece of work, or project I should say, that has been published. I’ve written a few short stories, but have only written them for marks in high school and never considered getting them published.

Can you tell us a little about it?
 Day of Revenge is a historical suspense set in 1793 during the onset of the Reign of Terror. Military Captain Samuel La Font may be hot-tempered and headstrong, but he is certainly not about to flee his war-torn country without a fight. He is determined to stay in France and wage a war against the revolutionaries.

For the greater part of the year, everything works in Samuel’s favor. He has the love and support of his close knit group of friends. His Corsican based family has even recruited several skilled soldiers who are more than willing to die for Samuel’s cause. But, towards autumn, fate takes an unexpected and dangerous turn. Now Samuel is forced to make a choice—get his friends and himself out of France or die in battle against the revolutionaries. much research did it involve?
There is a story behind the writing of ‘Day of Revenge’, but it is a little too long to relate in this question, so I will give an overview on how it all started.

My love for the French Revolution dates back to the year 2000 when I was age fourteen and in the ninth grade. I had this amazing social studies teacher. Her name is Mrs. Sproule and she was always so passionate about history. I remember, she was especially interested in the French Revolution. She showed us this documentary on the French Revolution and I somehow remember the one scene where the camera focused on the blade of the guillotine rising and falling several times. Good thing it didn’t focus in on the people’s heads. I know many people would cringe at this and I would too. I’m not a violent person by any stretch of the imagination, but I just happen to find the study of warfare and revolution intriguing because there was so much of it throughout the ages.

Now, to get back to the question: I spent much time in High School and in University researching the French Revolution before I started writing this book. By the time I started writing ‘Day of Revenge’, I had close to six years of casual research under my belt.

How does it compare with other novels?
 I’ve seen other published fiction books that were set in France at the time of the revolution, but the most notable work of fiction is ‘The Scarlet Pimpernil’. Anyone who read ‘The Scarlet Pimpernil’ would know that the story follows a British nobleman who travels to France and successfully saves French citizens from the wrath of the guillotine. I haven’t read the book, but I saw the film. So, I know it enough to know that the story is similar to my story. But the difference in ‘Day of Revenge’ is that my characters are working against the government within their own country. I think, though, now that ‘Day of Revenge’ is published, I will have to find the time to read ‘The Scarlet Pimpernil’, or a part of it anyway.

 I actually started writing ‘Day of Revenge’ in the summer of 2005, two and a half years before my independent study commenced and completed the entire first draft in February of 2009. Then came the tedious editing process. At that time, my skills in editing were just budding, so in order to transform this book from rough draft to professional, I took an online course in copyediting and read a book that was dedicated to helping authors of fiction edit their own works. On top of all that, I volunteered at the Surrey International Writers Conference the entire weekend it was held, which was at the end of October. After that, it took me until the middle of December to complete all revisions and copyediting.

Will you be interested in writing another genre?
Yes, I actually plan to write in another genre, and that is suspense. I am a huge fan of suspense stories. I love to write suspense, whether it is in a historical setting or contemporary setting.

Is it going to be part of a series?
‘Day of Revenge’ is a stand-alone debut novel.

What are you working on now?
Right now I am working on a contemporary suspense titled ‘To be Maria’. This is my second book. I’m at various stages in writing this book. I’ve completed seventeen chapters hand written.

The first chapter has been typed and is in its third draft. Chapter 2-12 have also been typed and are in their second draft. Chapters 13-16 have not yet been typed and transformed to second draft. I left off partway through chapter 17 and plan to go back to it in November when my performances are behind me. I’m aiming to have ‘To be Maria’ completed by the new year. But, sadly I can’t make guarantees at this moment in time. However, I do plan to have it completed–writing and editing–by early spring of 2011.

You write in long-hand? That’s commendable.
I wrote most of ‘Day of Revenge’ on paper, am writing the entire first draft of ‘To be Maria’ on paper. You can guarantee that I will do the same thing with all of my future books. Some people would consider this old fashioned and very tedious, but I don’t feel the same way. I honestly cannot look at blank computer screen and find the right words to say to make a story flow smoothly. My creative process works best when I’m sitting with a pencil and paper in my hands. I also love to have a first draft to work with when I get to the typing process. It makes the editing and revision part much easier for me.

And would you submit To Be Maria to Inkwater?
I would, depending on how things go with ‘Day of Revenge’. Right now though, I’m taking things one day at a time.

What audience is Day of Revenge intended?
My book is intended for an adult audience, given that it contains violent scenes and some sex on the side.

That said, ‘Day of Revenge’ is not full of violent scenes and scenes with steamy romance. I think that compared to some films, TV shows and other literature, the story in ‘Day of Revenge’ is quite mild. I’m a person who strongly believes in balance. ‘Day of Revenge’ is set in a very dark and violent time, so I couldn’t keep the violence out of my story. At the same time, it has scenes that capture love, humility and togetherness.

How long did it take you to write it, and how many drafts?
Not only was ‘Day of Revenge’ my first book, but the majority of it was written during my university training. I really didn’t start taking it seriously until my grad year. My creative writing professor, Dr. Robert Budde, accepted my application to do an independent study based on the writing of my book-in-progress. He did not go easy on me at all, and I have to thank him for it. Because, if it wasn’t for him I wouldn’t have become the writer that I am today. I re-wrote the first chapter at least a half a dozen times if not more.

I actually started writing ‘Day of Revenge’ in the summer of 2005, two and a half years before my independent study commenced and completed the entire first draft in February of 2009. Then came the tedious editing process. At that time, my skills in editing were just budding, so in order to transform this book from rough draft to professional, I took an online course in copyediting and read a book that was dedicated to helping authors of fiction edit their own works. On top of all that, I volunteered at the Surrey International Writers Conference the entire weekend it was held, which was at the end of October. After that, it took me until the middle of December to complete all revisions and copyediting.

Do you have a favourite scene in the book? Can we have a snippet?
I would be more than honored to share an excerpt from my book. Get ready for some hardcore action!

When Henri enters the room, he finds Robespierre briskly pacing his office floor with his right hand placed on his chin. When Robespierre sees the tall man he asks what made him so late. Henri, in a calm manner, apologizes for his lateness and explains that he had gone home to have a morning meal with his family. Robespierre instantly relaxes and admits that that was a wise thing for Henri to do since he would need the strength to listen and understand his leader’s orders. He offers Henri a seat in front of the mahogany table and then walks over to the cupboard behind the desk. While he looks for a bottle of red wine and two goblets, Henri scrutinizes the thick stack of papers on the desk. The small bottle of pen ink and container of stamp ink beside the papers are nearly empty. Henri briefly goes through the mountain of paper, scanning the bottom of each document. Every paper contains Robespierre’s elegant signature beside a red inked stamp. The signature and stamp always signify the dictator’s approval of a criminal’s execution underneath the guillotine. Until now Henri had never seen a documented death sentence with a bold signature and red seal. He quickly pulls himself away from the pile of documents when he hears Robespierre clear his throat.

“I see that you are preoccupied with those documents, Citoyen Varennes. Is there anything in particular that interests you?”

“Er—no Citoyen Robespierre. I have never seen a pile of documents that thick before,” Henri says.

“Well, citoyen,” he says, seating himself comfortably in the large chair, “as you may have noticed by looking through those documents, the threat of uprisings and conspiracies to overthrow my rightful government—our revolution—are imminent all over France.”

Henri stiffens. “Well, Citoyen Robespierre—you did send me to the Rhone-Valley, the region where the uprisings have been quelled in the most violent manner this past June. For this reason, myself and my comrades have heard no one express discontent for the Republique, and there was no talk of any counterrevolutionary conspiracy. After all, we searched a number of people’s homes and found no letters or documents that contain any planned conspiracy against you.”

Robespierre gives him a skeptical look. “So, you are saying that every citizen in that region of France is content with the Republique, Citoyen Varennes.”

“Yes, Citoyen Robespierre.”

“Well, if you proclaim there are no conspirators in the south, then what about the traitor you found and arrested?”

A cold sweat breaks out all over Henri’s body. It causes him to shiver. He uses all the energy left in him to refrain from displaying his fear in front of the vindictive dictator. “The man who I arrested, Citoyen Robespierre, was guilty of carrying a letter that conspired to overthrow your government.”

“I must know everything. What was the content of this treacherous letter?”

The fierce look upon the man’s face makes Henri’s heart flutter. His hands shake uncontrollably. Fortunately, they are where Robespierre cannot see them.

“The letter laid out the entire plan for your demise, but it was not written by the man we arrested. It was written by another man,” Henri says. Damn you Henri! You bloody fool. You are putting Pierre, yourself and your family in danger. Don’t tell him the truth. Lie to him, a voice inside his head screams.

“Well then, what was the name of the conspirator who wrote the letter?” Robespierre says.

“It was signed anonymous.” Now lie to him. Make him believe your lie.

Robespierre twists one of the large pearl buttons on his nankeen coat. “Do you know of the whereabouts of this unknown traitor and his connection with the man you arrested?”

“I know nothing about this man, Citoyen Robespierre. From reading the letter, I presume he is a soldier who once served in the French army.”

Robespierre narrows his eyes. “What is the name of the man you arrested?”

“His name is Pierre La Metz.” Henri says.

“Then, tell me in detail about the written conspiracy.”

Henri pauses. He envisions the horror Josephine would express if she was listening to this conversation. “I honestly cannot remember exactly what the letter said. It was a very long night—and I got no sleep. I only remember that it contained an organized plot to destroy the Republique.”

If you would like to read the entire book you can purchase a copy of ‘Day of Revenge’ on,,, or directly from my publisher at

Are you agented?
No. I did spend all of January and part of February of this year searching for and querying literary agents. But I was met with endless rejection. So, I changed my strategy and started querying small and medium publishers, Inkwater Press, being one of those publishers. I submitted my entire manuscript to them and touched base with them a few times until early June, when the acquisitions editor read my entire manuscript and took an interest in my work.

Since Inkwater Press is a small publisher, I didn’t need to have an agent to represent me. However, if I do get noticed by a larger press in the future, I will definitely consider searching for the right agent to handle the contract amongst other things.

Tell me about Inkwater Press.
They traditionally publish 3-4 books a year and also offer self-publishing services to new authors like me. I decided, since ‘Day of Revenge’ is my first book, I would go the self-publishing route.

All aspiring authors need a place to start and sometimes self-publishing is the best way to get started, that is if you strategically choose the right publisher and/or self publishing service.

The people at Inkwater Press are great people to work with. They are a dream come true. I did have to put forth money to pay for the publishing and marketing of my book. Yet, so far, they are putting their best foot forward to ensure that I get a good start in my writing career. It all starts with a captivating cover art design and an aggressive marketing plan. Would I refer an aspiring novelist to Inkwater Press? Yes.

Are you a full time writer?
Yes and no. Right now, I’m working part time for my parents. I’m also very active in my local theatre community as an actor. Over one month ago I was cast to play the leading lady in ‘A Bedfull of Foreigners’, a play written by Dave Freeman. The play is put on by the Peninsula Players as dinner theatre which will be performed at a local high-end restaurant the last weekend of October and on the first weekend of November.

Tell us about your acting?
I love acting as much as I love writing. I love to put myself in the shoes of another and I love getting out and meeting new people. I’m seriously considering doing acting professionally when ‘A Bedfull of Foreigners’ is over. I’m thinking, though, that I would like to do TV and/or Film acting alongside my writing career. I just don’t want to write in consolatory confinement.

If Day of Revenge became a film, would you see yourself in a lead role?
If ‘Day of Revenge’ was made into a feature film, I don’t think I would play any of the characters just because of the fact that I’m the author of the book. However, I would like to have some control over which actor plays which character.

Do you have any writing experience?
I have my Bachelor of Arts degree in History. I have also written several short content articles for online magazines, such as, and I’ve also done some professional blogging for a few companies, but the pay was very poor and I made very little off of the revenue sites that I wrote for. Regardless, it was great to get some professional experience behind me and it greatly helped enhance my writing skills. Now, though, I plan to put all my writing energies into my works of fiction.

Connect with Deanna on:

Day of Revenge is available to buy from:
Barnes and Noble

Meet Satanist Cody James, author of Dead Beat.

Cody James
It’s 1997, and the comet of the century is due some time about now, on its 3000 year roundtrip.
“Man, fucking Emeryville,” Lincoln said, pausing in his stride to hock phlegm onto the sidewalk.”
And so, for want of anything better to do, Adam and his meth addict friends end up in San Francisco, wondering where their place in the addict hierarchy might be, why no one has written a good book in over a decade, and what the fuck the comet might mean, when nothing on earth means anything.
And in a zip of light and a snort of meth the comet is gone, taking with it this last snapshot of earth for 3000 years, leaving Adam to wonder if it meant anything at all, or whether it was maybe just a bit cool that the sky looked different. Just for once. For the last time in his life.
The Dead Beat is published by eight cuts gallery press will be available as an ebook from October 1st and paperback from November 1st.

What is The Dead Beat about? Can we have a snippet?
Of course you can have a snippet. It’s about friendship, addiction, and that time in your life when your innocence dies because life is beating the shit out of you:

People on drugs look with disgust and disdain at people on other drugs. There were the alcoholics—if it is a guy, people think it is cool. If it is a woman, she’s thought of as pathetic. As a whole, though, they are society’s accepted addicts, and feel themselves completely removed from drug addicts. There were the potheads. Man, potheads smoke all day and all night, mostly can’t string a sentence together, but vehemently hate all other drugs, from alcohol and cigarettes to crack. They regard all of these as evil, but not weed—weed to them is like a religious, medicinal, God-given thing. They don’t see themselves as filthy junkies like the rest of us; they are just chilled out. Everyone hates potheads in a reciprocal fashion. They’re looked upon as fucking hippies, Jerry Garcias, unwashed, patchouli-smelling, incense-burning motherfuckers. Then, there are cokeheads. They are hated for being neurotic and unstable, plus they always have the cocaine sniffles and their noses are always bleeding. It’s a bummer to look at.

Mitch had once given me a diatribe on how he used to deal coke, but couldn’t stand the cokeheads paging him all the time, freaking out. He felt that tweakers were much easier to deal with. He probably thought this because he was a tweaker himself. So, we come to the tweakers, the meth addicts. Generally reviled for being skinny, sore-ridden and overly talkative, they are looked down on by cokeheads for being cheap. In turn, tweakers think cokeheads are dumb for paying way more for a drug that lasts about 15 minutes with less kick than speed. Lastly, there are the smackheads and the crackheads. These guys are the most hated. They are the untouchables. Anyone shooting smack or smoking crack immediately becomes part of a contemptible alien species. They’re subhuman, the dregs of society. They‘re filthy, vile, disgusting, pitiable, and to be avoided at all costs. As for the smackheads and crackheads themselves, well, if you aren’t doing their drugs, then you’re just wasting your time. You’re an amateur, a wannabe. They don’t even want you in their treehouse.

Can you define the genre?
I would call it a tragi-comedy. The reason I hate writers such as Selby Jr. is because they suck all the humor and soul out of dark subject matter, rendering it false. Life isn’t like that. You can be standing on the side of the road watching an ambulance driving off with your jacked-up friend in the back, feeling sad, only to see him come busting out of the back doors of the vehicle while it’s driving off, and go screaming in the other direction because he doesn’t want to go to the psych ward again. And you will piss your pants laughing. True story, right there.

As well as the author of The Dead Beat, you have a zine called Babylon. Can you tell us a little about that?
Babylon is about a suicidal schizophrenic writer who leaves San Francisco and heads back to his hometown in the West Texas desert. I’d call it an existential religious horror comedy. It explores mental illness and interpersonal relationships, but on a deeper level, it looks at the ancient alchemical idea of apotheosis, and Jesus as Lucifer. When you look at the New testament through the eyes of an alchemist, what is it really telling you? It’s telling you that Jesus is Lucifer and he’s teaching a way of inner transformation that will enable you to be absorbed into Him. Apotheosis in its truest sense – becoming one with the god who accepts you.

You’re also a film-maker and a photographer and on your website there are many examples of your work. You also say you are an ex punk, ex meth addict, a satanist and a schizophrenic. Most people wouldn’t want to reveal their addiction or illness. So why have you?
I don’t really understand not revealing these things. Maybe I just got to the point where I don’t give a fuck what is generally acceptable and what isn’t. I am what I am. If someone doesn’t like that, it costs them nothing to go look elsewhere.

What’s a satanist?

Well, I think most people would think first of the Church of Satan, founded by Anton Lavey. I adore Anton Lavey and the Church of Satan, and I think that you’d be hard pressed to find a better philosopher. But I’m not a Laveyan Satanist. I’m a theistic Satanist. Theistic Satanism is a broad term, but for me, it means I worship the ancient Egyptian god of death, Anubis. Anubis predates Osiris as the original god of the underworld, and has appeared in many guises – such as Hermes, the serpent in the Garden of Eden, Thoth, and, within the Abrahamic framework, as Gabriel. What He wants is for humans to live up to their complete potential, of true apotheosis, of knowledge, wisdom and compassion. There is nothing more pure than Death.

I have read a little of The Dead Beat, and it’s hard hitting. How much of your life experience has gone into the book?
Everything I tell you in that book is true. And I think that’s why people react to it the way they do – it’s real, there’s no bullshit involved.

How did you discover eight cuts gallery?
Dan Holloway is one of my best friends. When he told me what he was planning with Eight Cuts, I was twelve kinds of excited. As far as Eight Cuts publishing The Dead Beat – I guess something about the book touched Dan on a deeper level – that’s all he’s interested in – whether or not something makes him excited inside. He’s not in it for the money or the cred – show me someone else whose intentions are that pure, and I will eat my goddamn hat.

Do you have a critique partner?
For The Dead Beat, it was R.John Xerxes Piche from Love Bunni Press ( who painstakingly edited that manuscript several times. It wouldn’t be the book that it is without him.

Are you working on another book/film?
I am! I’m working on a film about Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold, which is nearly finished. It utilizes their own home movies and journal entries, so really, they are the artists and I’m just their post-humous editor. I’m also working on a book of dark folktales called The Siren’s Song, which I’m pretty sure is the best thing I’ve ever written.

Do you have a website?

To read a chapter from Dead Beat click for more…
The Ugliest Sunrise Ever
I was finding it increasingly hard to be at work. Yeah, everybody hates their damn job, and I had hated my damn job for a long time, but my reasons for hating my damn job had changed. At first, I had hated it because I had wanted to be at home – writing. But now, I was finding it increasingly hard to be at home – writing – too. Now it wasn’t that I wanted to be anywhere else; it was that I really didn’t want to be at work. When my shift ended, I walked out and stood on the corner of the street. Where do I go now? I felt disconnected, my limbs felt alien, as if they were someone else’s, nothing to do with me, and for a good 10 seconds, I couldn’t even remember who ‘me’ was. So, where the fuck do I go now?

I walked to the payphone up the street and paged Mitch. Mitch, our reedy, pockmarked speed dealer who went everywhere on his bicycle. He delivered speed to your house, took your money, did a few lines with you, talked your fucking ear off for 45 minutes, and left. I arranged to meet him at my house. I wanted that bitter taste, that night-long jack up. I mean, what the fuck else was I gonna do?

Later that night, on the BART train on our way into the city. The train went under the Bay. I couldn’t move my hands. I couldn’t breathe. I panicked. I remember leaning on Xavi, and there was Xanax and vodka, and then the harsh lights of the Powell Street station. I found a chemical equilibrium somewhere between the stairs up to the street and Chinatown. I found I was feeling pretty damn good.

At the Lucky 13 bar on Market Street, a debate was raging. Sean had stated that he was thinking of breaking it off with Frank, because Frank had been doing smack. Lincoln had taken offence.

“Wait, wait, wait. You’re standing there telling me that you are breaking it off with him because he’s doing drugs?” Lincoln asked, outraged.

“Smack. He’s doing smack,” Sean said, emphasizing the word, as if to infer that heroin was beyond doing drugs.

“And you don’t find this hypocritical, even though you keep running off to the bathroom to do lines?” Lincoln inquired slowly, narrow-eyed.

“So do you!”

“Yeah, but I’m not dumping someone for doing the same thing.”

“It’s not the same thing at all.”

“So, it’s ok to shove shit up your nose all the time, but God forbid your boyfriend should shoot up?”

Xavi and I were silent, but I was inwardly agreeing with Linc. People on drugs look with disgust and disdain at people on other drugs. There were the alcoholics—if it is a guy, people think it is cool. If it is a woman, she’s thought of as pathetic. As a whole, though, they are society’s accepted addicts, and feel themselves completely removed from drug addicts. There were the potheads. Man, potheads smoke all day and all night, mostly can’t string a sentence together, but vehemently hate all other drugs, from alcohol and cigarettes to crack. They regard all of these as evil, but not weed—weed to them is like a religious, medicinal, God-given thing. They don’t see themselves as filthy junkies like the rest of us; they are just chilled out. Everyone hates potheads in a reciprocal fashion. They’re looked upon as fucking hippies, Jerry Garcias, unwashed, patchouli-smelling, incense-burning motherfuckers. Then, there are cokeheads. They are hated for being neurotic and unstable, plus they always have the cocaine sniffles and their noses are always bleeding. It’s a bummer to look at.

Mitch had once given me a diatribe on how he used to deal coke, but couldn’t stand the cokeheads paging him all the time, freaking out. He felt that tweakers were much easier to deal with. He probably thought this because he was a tweaker himself. So, we come to the tweakers, the meth addicts. Generally reviled for being skinny, sore-ridden and overly talkative, they are looked down on by cokeheads for being cheap. In turn, tweakers think cokeheads are dumb for paying way more for a drug that lasts about 15 minutes with less kick than speed. Lastly, there are the smackheads and the crackheads. These guys are the most hated. They are the untouchables. Anyone shooting smack or smoking crack immediately becomes part of a contemptible alien species. They’re subhuman, the dregs of society. They‘re filthy, vile, disgusting, pitiable, and to be avoided at all costs. As for the smackheads and crackheads themselves, well, if you aren’t doing their drugs, then you’re just wasting your time. You’re an amateur, a wannabe. They don’t even want you in their treehouse.

Xavi was mumbling something I couldn’t understand. Linc and Sean argued on. I smoked, drank my vodka, and formed the notion, without any justifiable cause, that everyone around me was a hell of a lot more stupid than me. I was holding myself up to myself as the epitome of brilliant insight and intellect. I went into the bathroom and did lines. Yeah, I’m so fucking smart.

The next day at work, my teeth felt like they were going to fall out. Not just a couple of them. No, all of them. They felt like they were just hanging in by a thread. I sucked at them, loudly. Nobody was in the store, and the clock was moving so slowly that I had checked if it was working four times. At lunch, I didn’t eat. I had four beers and a whiskey, then walked to a payphone and called Ginny. I arranged to meet her after work. It wasn’t that I wanted to see her, so much as it was that I couldn’t think of a good reason not to. The minute I put down the phone, I realized that there was a really good reason for not seeing her–I didn’t want to. So, I called her back and cancelled. I went back to work, breathing fast and sucking my teeth.

There was something else, too. Starting about a week before, I had begun to smell rot everywhere I went. It had been driving me nuts, trying to figure out where the smell of decay was coming from. Sitting there at work, however, the smell’s origin suddenly became clear. It was coming from me. I wondered, blandly, just what part of me was rotting away.

“Man, I saw this homeless guy today,” Sean was telling me, “and he was just the most homeless, homeless guy ever. His hair was not just matted and shit; it was like one big dread. And he was beyond dirty, with these long, creepy nails, and this blue blanket that he was wearing as a shawl. He was walking up and down the street, with his head held really high. He seemed messianic, you know? So, I asked him what was up, and he told me that God had created himself, so as to create all of this. Pretty fucking interesting, huh?”

We were in Sean’s room. I noticed that everything on his table had been arranged in geometric patterns. He had emptied a jar full of shirt buttons onto the floor and was carefully arranging them into piles, according to size and color. I didn’t want to go into my own room and stare at that blank fucking page again.

I looked at the clock–six hours had passed since I had gotten home from work, and had sat down in here with Sean doing lines. Sean had spent six hours arranging buttons, and even worse than that, I had spent six hours watching him arrange buttons. It was late now.

“You wanna go out or something?” I asked.

“Let’s go to the all-night ‘Payless’ in Piedmont. I need more buttons,” he said.

“Alright,” I answered. I took my cigarette, and burnt my inner arm with it. It hurt. I did it again.

“What are you doing?” he asked me.

Now what kind of a stupid fucking question was that?

By the time we were driving home from the ‘Payless,’ the sun was coming up. I had to go back to work pretty soon. Sean was driving.

“I have The Spiders,” he announced.


“The Spiders! You know, those little black things crawling around out of the corners of your eyes, but when you try to focus on them they disappear or wiggle just out of view” he replied.

The Spiders were actually the reason that I recently stopped driving. Well, that, and I had had three accidents in three weeks. I was jumpy and paranoid and I had The Spiders. But, I didn’t tell Sean that. I said nothing, and squinted out of the passenger window. I didn’t want to go to work. I really felt like I had just left there. It didn’t feel like a whole evening had passed. It didn’t feel like the next day. It felt like I’d had an extended lunch break, nothing more.

You know that feeling you get when you watch the sunrise—the colors are vivid, and the world looks clean, and you are overcome with a deep feeling of hope and optimism? Yeah, well, I didn’t have that feeling at all watching the sunrise that morning. What I did have was a kind of generalized anxiety, an irregular heartbeat, and a wrenching pain in my stomach.

 Words from Cody James:

maybe there is no way to leave the world a better place, and the only thing left to do is tell the truth
according to a man called william branham, 1977 was the year that armageddon would come.
it didn’t.
in 1977 elvis died, and i was born.
i grew up in the east of england,
the south of france,
the north of california,
and the west of texas.
i write because i need to tell you a story.
it’s the oldest story in the world,
it’s the only story in the world.

cody james is the author of the book and zine, babylon. she is a writer, a filmmaker, and a photographer; an ex punk and an ex meth addict; a satanist and a schizophrenic
as a musician she has opened for the white stripes. as a writer she has headlined at rough trade east
on stage she is hypnotic, in person she is magnetic, on the page she is unforgettable; in everything she does she wages a guerrilla war on bullshit
cody spent 1997 in san francisco eating noodles and wondering if comet hale-bopp would change her life forever. it didn’t. but she did write the dead beat. and that might just change yours.

An interview wih chicklit author Stephanie Haefner

A Bitch Named Karma
Stephanie Haefner Haefner is a lady after my own heart – a chicklit lover! People, or perhaps I should say, women like us cannot take life too seriously. We admire the male bod, and other women’s clothes and shoes. We are romantics (nothing wrong with that), and enjoy a good girly read.

Stephanie Haefner’s debut novel is called A Bitch Named Karma. Check out the trailer on youtube. She has had shorter works published in various magazines, which you can find out about if you visit her at or find her on her blog: or website:

Here’s what I asked Stephanie Haefner…

This is your debut novel, but is it your first novel you have actually written?
No, it is not the first I’ve written, but it is the second. The first was this crazy long story that has so much of myself poured into it. I love that story, but it is so green! Someday I may go back to it and try and salvage it…I know there is a lot in it that’s worth saving! A Bitch Named Karma was my second attempt at novel-length fiction and it has come a long way since I first typed “The End”. I also have a third MS titled Spellbound, that I am hoping will find a home someday!

How does it compare with other chick novels/what makes it different?
I’d say it compares with other chick lit in that it is a story about a woman with a fabulous life and friends and a sexy boyfriend, a shoe obsession, and it all falls apart. The difference lies in that Lexi, my main character, finds her new life to be completely different, but it’s the perfect life for her…one she never even knew she wanted.

What audience is the book intended? (ie YA, adult)
Lexi is a very sassy lady and she uses quite a bit of “colorful” language. There is some sex in the book, but it’s not graphic at all. If a parent read the book first, and was okay with their teen reading a story with 4-letter words, then the the story might be pretty inspiring for a teen. It’s a story of finding love where you didn’t expect and that judging covers is not the way to go through life. (I have two teen cousins who want to read it, 19 and 17)

How long did it take you to write it, and how many drafts?

An actual number of drafts, I have no clue!! LOL! The first draft was written in about two months. Can’t explain it. The words just flowed effortlessly! I spent several months editing and perfecting it before my initial query-go-round with it. It went well, actually, but didn’t end how I’d hoped. After that it sat, then went through a few more rounds of edits and a plot restructure. I queried again, with no luck. I finally found a home with Lyrical Press, a primarily digital publisher.

Can you say you are a chicklit author, or have you dabbled with other genres?
I can proudly say I am a chick lit author!! (Don’t get me started on the stigmas of the genre!) I never start a project with a specific genre in mind…I just write and then classify later. But almost everything ends up being chick lit/women’s fiction. I did write one novellette that I classify as romance, but the main character still undergoes a major change.

Do you have a favourite scene in the book? Can we have a snippet?
Hmmm…well…my favorite scene is the very end and I don’t want to give that away!! 🙂 I’ll give you another great scene instead!

I walked down the hall confident as my Manolo Blahniks click-clacked on the marble, ready to raise some hell. A hand-written sign had been plastered to the door: Sheila Brown— Editor. The scent of a black Sharpie wafted into my nostrils as I pounded on the door. I heard a screechy “Come in” and found a middle-aged woman sitting behind the desk.
She flipped through a manuscript and didn’t look up when I strode through the door.
“Sit, Ms. Marshall.”
“I didn’t tell you who I am.” I wanted to show off my tough side.
“I already know,” she said and finally looked up at me. A fluorescent shade of pink lipstick decorated her lips, doing nothing to improve her ghastly pale skin and salt-and-pepper bob. “I’ve read all our books, including the latest.”
“Oh, I see.”
She was well prepared for only being on the job one day.
“Marisol Takes Manhattan, your newest and first in a series.” She paused to push her glasses up on her nose, and I awaited her praise. “It absolutely sucks.”
Feeling like a vacuum had sucked all the air out of my lungs, I struggled for oxygen. Everything around me went gray and the words “absolutely sucks” echoed in my brain over and over. I’d slaved over this book for the better part of six months, making every sentence perfect.
A shrill laugh blared into my ears. It sounded familiar. I couldn’t place it, but knew it didn’t come from Sheila. She sat emotionless.
“What do you mean? Are you sure you read the whole thing?”
“Yes, every boring, plotless, cliché-filled word.”
The room started to spin and a tingle radiated throughout my legs. Fearful that I might black out, I moved a box of office supplies from a chair and sat down. I breathed slowly and deeply, staring at her, wondering if I’d heard her right. How could she possibly say that? I was Lexi Marshall—a multi-published author. Women adored my books. They devoured them. This malicious statement insulted every fiber of my being.
My temperature began to rise as bewilderment changed to anger. Ms. Editor handed me my disc, then ripped some sheets from a legal pad and shoved those at me, too. They were filled top to bottom with chicken scratch.
“I made notes for you. Revise and have it back to me in two weeks.”
Finally finding the confidence and attitude I’d possessed before entering her office, I asked, “And what if I refuse?”
“Then you can try and sell your garbage to another publisher.”

Are you agented?
I am not, but not for lack of trying. I’ve done the query-go-round and though I found some success, it didn’t land me an agent. I will always try to find an agent with any new projects I complete. An agent can help get me a deal with a big publishing house, who will get my work in front of a larger audience.

Who are you published with?
Lyrical Press Inc is my publisher and they have been fantastic! They are primarily digital but offer select titles in print through a POD printer.

Are you a full time writer?
I consider myself a full-time writer though it’s extremely rare that I can actually put in a full day’s worth of writing! I have two children, one of which is school age. I juggle my time between both kids, school activities, house work, etc… I write when I can. When my son naps and it’s completely silent in my house, I get to work on my latest project!

Do you have any writing experience? Ie have you worked as a journalist, completed a university writing degree?
I have no formal writing experience, though I did write several articles for local newspapers when I was a teen. I was the reporter for a club I was the member of and would send in articles about club happenings. I was accepted for a journalism program at one of my city’s colleges but decided on a different career path. I spent over a decade working in the floral industry.

What are you working on now? How far along have you got?
I am halfway though Karma Kameleon, the sequel to A Bitch Named Karma! I did a ton of writing in July and the month of August I decided to spend editing the first half and ensuring that the story is going exactly where I want/need it to go! The plan is to get back to writing the rest of the story when my daughter goes back to school the first week of September, finishing it by mid October.

What is your experience with POD. And do you do your own marketing?
Well, technically my book is not officially for sale in print until December 1st, and will not be sold through my publisher until then. But somehow it is for sale on Amazon. I have received a few copies and so far I am very happy. The book itself is a great quality. The best part of POD though…I found a glaring typo in the text. (A formatting error that was fixed on the print galley but somehow reverted back). I emailed my publisher the minute I saw it and she right away fixed it and re-uploaded to the printer. Mistake fixed. With any other print publisher, that would probably not be able to be fixed.

As far as marketing goes, I do most of it myself. My publisher sends the book to at least a dozen reviewers, but that is really all they can do. But these days, big time authors with big time NY publishing houses, they too have to get out there and promote themselves. I am on Twitter and Facebook. I blog, do online chats and I am on Goodreads. I try to participate in online communities as often as I can. I try to use my time wisely and devote it where I will get the most/best exposure.

Have you tried to go the “traditional” route?
I have and sadly, it just didn’t work out. But I will always keep trying!

How many rejections have you experienced?
Far too many to count!!! We’re talking hundreds!

Read all about it: Stefanie Newell’s The Buzz

The Buzz
Stefanie Newell Jenkins has exactly what most women are seeking – a good looking devoted boyfriend, a flourishing business and a beautiful little girl. But what people don’t know is how she mixed hard work and deception to maintain the celebrity lifestyle she tries to emulate.
Endless taunts by classmates for wearing hand me downs echoes in her mind and motivates Ebony to provide for herself and her daughter. But at what cost?
She dreams big and refuses to be content with what would be considered a fulfilling life for most. Things are going great for Ebony until she suspects her up and coming rapper boyfriend Buzz could be dating the newest R&B phenomenon Arika.
Ebony’s obsession with celebrity gossip and dislike of all things popular in the media fuels her hatred for Arika and sends her on an all out Internet mission to ruin Arika’s blossoming career. As she’s swept up in exposing Arika’s flaws and maintaining her faux celebrity lifestyle, Ebony uncovers some skeletons of her own. This novel shows that attaining fame and riches is not always what it’s cracked up to be!
Stefanie Newell is the author of two books: The Buzz and the non-fiction Marketing and Publicity for the Author. Born and raised in Chicago, IL, she gathered valuable experience and business skills that contributes to her success as CEO of Write One Publications, Inc.
Her debut novel, The Buzz, has been described as a humorous yet introspective look at the entertainment industry and its allure. The idea for The Buzz came while Newell was freelance writing for Unrated Magazine and her entertainment blog The Music Hot Spot. After observing the entertainment industry and lurking on various message boards and blogs over the years, Stefanie put pen to paper and brought to life the gossipping, Internet diva Ebony Jenkins. 
Published by her company Write One Publications, Inc., The Buzz has created a buzz amongst book readers and fans of celebrity gossip. Newell has been featured by media outlets such as Rolling Out,, and the Chicago Fox television show Raw TV.’s company also published the self-help book Pull Your Pants Up and be a man! by author Bernice Harris. Actor Malik Yoba (New York Undercover, Girlfriends, Why Did I Get Married?) dispenses practical knowledge and wisdom in the riveting foreword. The self-help book geared towards young men between the ages of thirteen and eighteen provides a nine-step approach to a goal-oriented life. Pull Your Pants Up was featured at the Father and Son’s Madison Square Garden event last year.
While promoting the book, there became a demand by parents of boys and girls for Newell to speak with students at schools and youth organisations. The Youth Empowerment Workshop was born. Newell is currently working on her second novel, Rules of the Game.

Interview with Stefanie Newell

What came first your publishing company or your book?
The book came first. I had absolutely no intention on starting a publishing company. In fact, I told my family that I was so not the type to market my own book. A few months later, after doing a ton of research and learning whether I was signed to a major publishing house or if I chose to self publish, marketing for the most part would be my responsibility, I had a change of heart. I chose to not only publish my own book, but form a publishing company. It’s quite interesting how things turned out when I think about it…

Who’s involved in the company? Are you open for submissions? What kind of work do you take?

I have a team of people who help with the back-end stuff like editing, graphic design, etc. But the day to day things like managing the blog, Twitter and Facebook are handled by me. I currently have one person signed to my company, author Bernice Harris, but I’m not currently taking submissions. The submissions page on my website has all of the submission requirements and your readers can check to see when I will be accepting submissions again.

This is your debut (published) novel, but is it your first novel you have actually written? Any ms under the bed?
I started a manuscript I believe it was around 1996 and I don’t have a clue where it is. However, the key word is started. It was only a few pages so I really consider The Buzz to be my first manuscript.

How does it compare with books in that genre/what makes it different?
The Buzz is focused around the entertainment industry and follows the lives of three people all searching for “buzz.” Each chapter is written from their different perspectives. I take the readers into the mind of a celebrity, someone trying to become a celebrity and someone who despises celebrities.

The main character is a young lady named Ebony who by all accounts has it all. She has a successful career and a great boyfriend but she’s an Internet addict who’s obsessed with celebrities. While she is obsessed with celebrities she despises them too. So a chance encounter with an up and coming singer provides Ebony the perfect opportunity to ruin the singer’s career by spreading a vicious Internet rumor. The moment the book opens you are smack dab in the middle of Ebony’s Internet drama.

So what makes my book different?
 I would say the use of the Internet and including modern technology in the story and the fact that each of their characters are able to tell the story from their own perspectives. I freelanced for many years in the entertainment industry prior to writing The Buzz and my experience is definitely reflected in the book.

What audience is the book intended?
It is definitely geared towards adults but here’s something interesting… I originally thought the demographic for my book would be women between the ages of 18 and 35 because of the subject matter. But I have had men and readers 35 all the way up to their 70’s tell me they loved my book and have recommended it to people they know. This really shocked me, but I am so happy to know it has been well received by such a vast audience.

How long did it take you to write it, and how many drafts?
The Buzz took me two years to write. I was working a full-time job, blogging, freelancing, being a mom and so much more. So I wrote when I was able to and I didn’t put any real pressure on myself until the end, when I got really close to finishing. After two drafts, it was complete.

Have you dabbled with other genres?
I have. Fiction definitely feels like the genre I was meant to write. It allows me to use my imagination and I believe that’s where my strong point is. At the same time, I’ve always been the person who shares what I’ve learned. So I recently released a non-fiction eBook Marketing and Publicity for the author. I also run a blog which chronicles my life as a writer and I provide tips and advice for aspiring and established writers.

Do you have a favourite scene in the book?

Yes, actually I do. My book is very plot driven, so once the characters have been fully introduced the story is really fast paced and full of action and drama. There is a scene in the book where two of the characters meet up and confront each other over a dispute and what happens is shocking. I have had many people tell me that this was one of their favorite chapters. It definitely was one of my favorites to write.

Are you agented?
No, not at this time.

Are you a full time writer?

I am proud to say writing and running my publishing company is my full-time job. It has taken me many years to get this point, but it feels like home. *laughs*

What are you working on now?
Well, I guess technically, book three because I just released an eBook Marketing and Publicity for the Author. But Rules of the Game is fiction and I am half way through the first draft. It’s a coming of age story about a young lady who thinks she has life all figured out. She doesn’t like the rules that her family provides for her, so she moves out and tries to make it on her own, without the help of her family, and boy is she in for a rude awakening.
Do you have a critique partner or an editor?
My editor usually reads the first draft and includes her critiques. I then review her critiques and make any changes I agree with and then submit the second draft for another edit.

Do you handle your own marketing? And what sort of things have you been doing to promote yourself/book?

Yes, I definitely do. I think its important to note that I market both online and offline. While I do focus most of my efforts on the Internet, I also market offline because having a local fan base is just as important. When I first released my book, I was doing book signings in different cities to get my name out there. Now that some time has passed, I don’t do as many book signings, but I continue to seek publicity through different media channels. I solicit local and online book clubs for book reviews. I do blog tours and of course I use social media daily.

Marketing And Publicity For The Author (eBook)Tell us a little about your ebook, Marketing and Publicity for the Author.
I am very proud of this eBook because it was totally unexpected and born out of need. In June, I was asked to do a workshop entitled Marketing and Publicity for the new author at a college here in Chicago and it was very well received. I decided that I wanted to offer the workshop online as a webinar so that writers in other cities could benefit from the information I was sharing. After a while I started receiving emails from people asking if it was available in any other format and I decided to instead offer the webinar as an eBook and that’s how the idea came about.

Marketing and Publicity for the author chronicles my early days as a published author and journals my successes and my challenges. It’s concise, yet packed full of marketing and publicity tips that will assist writers on their journey. I share how I used the tips learned from my many years freelancing in the music industry to gain publicity for my debut novel The Buzz: When celebrity gossip goes wrong… as well as the steps I took to create a “buzz” around my book. This eBook is for every writer, no matter where they are in their process. Haven’t started your manuscript? This book is definitely for you. If your book is self-published, traditionally published, fiction, or non-fiction, this book is for you! And the tips are executable the day you read it!

How many rejections have you experienced in the past?
I really didn’t have an opportunity to experience any rejections. Soon after sending off a few letters to agents, I made the decision to publish The Buzz myself and form my own publishing company. So the process that most writers go through in the beginning I didn’t experience.

Any message for the struggling writer?
How much time do you have? *laughs* The reason why I wrote the eBook Marketing and Publicity for the author was to share all of what I have learned since publishing my novel. I had so many people share with me in private their marketing challenges, yet no one was talking openly about them. My eBook discusses those challenges and provides solutions for them.

Because self publishing has opened the door for so many writers, we are now seeing an influx of writers. And I think sometimes, it makes it appear as if it is easy to write the book, publish the book, and lastly create a fan base to market to. When in reality there is a lot of hard work and long hours that go into it.

I want writers to know that you should begin marketing when your book is just an idea. I want writers to know that the second most challenging part will be the marketing. And if you want your book to be a success, whether you are signed to a traditional publishing house or you choose to publish the book yourself, you need to completely understand the marketing component.

Where can my readers find your books or more information about you?
I blog daily on I encourage writers or those who want to learn what goes on in the life of a writer to check out my blog, to comment and become a part of my community. If you are interested in my eBook Marketing and Publicity for the author, my novel The Buzz or my author’s book Pull Your Pants Up and be a man, please visit my website

Taking 1960 by Rosa Sophia

Taking 1960 by Rosa Sophia
Rosa Sophia is a mystery author currently residing in South Florida. She lives with her writing partner in crime and their five cats. She works at a library, enjoys watching old television shows, collecting comic books, travelling and hiking. Her favourite authors are Jeff Markowitz and J.W. Coffey. In her photo, she is dressed as one of her characters from her next mystery novel, entitled Check-Out Time, a quirky story that takes place in a grocery store.
By her own admission she loves criminology, psychology, and collecting comic books and worrying, also has an unhealthy obsession with power tools!
You can purchase her book through the publisher by following this link:
Hi Rosa, and thank you for agreeing to be interviewed. If you could sum up Taking 1960 in a couple of sentences what would they be?

Five young men were murdered in the late 1950s. It is up to Katherine to clear an innocent name and dig through her own family history to find the real killer.

Who are the main characters?
The main character is Katherine Maslin, and the story is hers. However, she is supported by her best friend Corry, her boyfriend Jake and eventually her therapist, Janis Crow.

What category would you put Taking 1960? Is it for adults only?
Taking 1960 was never written with a genre in mind. Nevertheless, I had to define it somehow, so I started calling it a Paranormal Mystery. It is essentially a ghost story, with a lot of twists. It deals with heavy issues including domestic abuse. I am sure that teenagers would enjoy it, but it is certainly not intended for children.

What makes your book unique?

There is a mystery, but it is not at all traditional, and neither is the character who ends up solving the mystery. What is especially unique is that Katherine transcends time itself in order to find the man who bloodied her family’s history.

So there’s a paranormal element like time travel?

There is an element of both the paranormal and time travel in my novel.  My main character is continually visited by the spirit of her grandmother. She is somehow linked to her grandmother’s spirit, perhaps even her grandmother’s own memories, and sent back to the year 1960.  If she can manage to alter events, she will be able to save the life of a young boy.  But if she can’t…?
I enjoy reading crossover novels. They seem to be popular.
I’m sure it could be defined as a crossover, but I’m not sure what the other genre would be.  When I first wrote it, I didn’t do it with a genre, and I had to struggle to find one that would define it properly.  I tend to write outside genre restrictions, and I strive to overcome formulas, rather than stick by them. 

Good for you! So, can you name any other authors or books with an audience who would be likely to enjoy reading your book?
Anyone who enjoys dark mystery will like Taking 1960. Fans of dark fiction and suspense will be interested. The Thief of Always by Clive Barker comes to mind. In Taking 1960, the homestead becomes a character in the story. In Barker’s book, a house takes on a life of its own.

What experience do you have when it comes to writing – is this your first book?
This is my first mystery novel, and my first published book, but it is by no means the first book I have ever written. My first novel is part of a Science Fiction series called The Minder, but it is nowhere near ready for publication. I have been writing since childhood, and I have several more novels lined up for publication as well.

Tell us a bit more about your editing service? Prices etc. Do you do it all on-line?
I don’t charge nearly as much as most editors because I like to help out writers who can’t always afford editing services. It can be really hard to get started, so I like to tailor my prices according to a person’s budget. I do everything online, as the majority of my clients live far away from me. For details on my services, readers are welcome to visit my editing website:

Have you done any marketing for your book so far?
My book launch was very successful. Thirty-two people showed up, they had a lot of questions, and I sold almost thirty copies. There has been a lot of positive responses to my book, and once the book hits Amazon, there should be numerous reviews going up. I am also trying to get into some book stores in my area. I am currently living in Palm Beach, Florida, so I am shooting for Books-A-Million and maybe some smaller non-franchise bookstores. If things go well, I hope to attract more people to future signings and events. I also have an author website, an author group on Facebook under “Rosa Sophia” and I have been interviewed a couple of times. You can visit my author site at

How did you get on with your book signing? Was it easy to set up? Do you do your own marketing?
It was great! It was very easy to set up. Conveniently, the book launch took place at the North Palm Beach Library, where I work. Because the publisher is very small and only a year old, I will have to do a lot of marketing on my own.

You also did a “book talk”, can you explain?
I read an excerpt of Taking 1960 and then opened the floor for questions. I was surprised at how many people had questions for me, ranging from the publishing process to how I started writing in the first place.

Who is your publisher, and do you have an agent?
My publisher is Dreamz-Work Productions, LLC, and they can be found at I do have an agent; he is a fellow writer for Dreamz-Work and does a lot for the company itself as far as marketing and pitching ideas to the owner. He is the author of Honoring the Sacred Earth: A Path to Spiritual Awakening and his book can be found on the Dreamz-Work website as well.

Have you had any feedback from readers?
Readers have told me that they “can’t put it down” and that it is a “page-turner.” The first person to read Taking 1960 excitedly told me that she loved it, and that the house featured in the story is a character all on its own. The integration of Katherine’s family homestead as a character happened unintentionally as I allowed the book to “write itself.” So far, reader response has been extremely positive. I can’t wait to read the reviews once it hits Amazon!

Anything else we should know about your book?
Only that I plan to make it as available as possible in the very near future. Dreamz-Work is a very small publisher, and I hope that through some increasingly intense marketing, I can continue to expose Taking 1960 to as wide an audience as possible, while at the same time helping my publisher. When I wrote Taking 1960, I fully intended to publish it traditionally, because I felt it was meant to be. I hope that the messages I convey in the story reach as many people as possible. It’s my baby, and I want to share it with the world!

Visit Rosa’s writing blog:

Excerpt from Taking 1960

An envelope addressed to Katherine Maslin stood out amongst the pile of bills. It is a notice from an attorney… the rights to her grandparents’ farmhouse and adjacent property.

She believes that a change will rid her of the strange dreams she’s been having, wherein an oddly familiar woman visits her, begging for her help. But when Kat realizes that the woman in her dream is her dead grandmother, she begins to have doubts about moving to the farm.

Rumors and nightmarish tales fill her mind, stories of the five men who lost their lives in the late 1950s to a heartless murderer. A man had been convicted, but was he the one the police had been looking for, or had he been framed?

Kat is thrown backwards through time on a journey to discover a terrible truth. The ghost of her grandmother is always one step ahead of her, leading the way. But will she find the real killer before he finds her?

Taking 1960 is also available through Amazon and Barnes and Noble’s website.
To learn more about Rosa, you can visit:

Meredith Cagen – Chicklit Author.

Guilty As Charged
Meredith Cagen
When I was younger, I had a relationship that broke my heart. Adverbs, adjectives and accolades did not do him justice. He was the perfect man. No matter how many times he showed his true colors, I was steadfast in my belief that he was perfect. I languished in my illusion (actually delusion) of his perfection. I was in love.

I didn’t know what to do. There was no expert who could guide me. No published Q and A pertinent for my situation. I searched for a plan, a guidebook, and a path to success: how I can get the storybook ending with Mr. Perfect.

Every “what not to do while dating” offense a girl can make, I embarrassingly did. I was available to him. I telephoned him. I was the one who initiated contact, demonstrating my interest as if he had doubts. Running to see him when he beckoned, accepting his last minute dates and last minute cancellations. Worse, I accepted his lies, I had no self respect. I threw myself at him. I was insane! Where were my friends when I obviously needed them? An intervention was needed but no one restrained me.

Unwilling to consider the possibility of his rejection, I changed myself to meet his requirements.

Yes, Mr. Perfect had criteria. His personal preference was models, blonde skinny models. His office walls were covered with photographs of Mr. Perfect with his choice of arm candy. It was a shrine to his ability to attract these trophy girlfriends. A medium height, curvy size eight brunette (me) didn’t seem to be a worthy enough prize for a man of with his considerable talents.

I tried my best to meet his standards. I dieted, exercised, groomed, and ingratiated myself into his social universe. I attempted to succeed with this game plan. But I committed the biggest sin a girl can. A don’t so whopping that I am banned from giving advice forever. A mistake so huge, there is no known recovery. This dating felony pains me even now, years later. I told him, I was in love with him.

What was wrong with me? The girl police should have come and thrown me directly into jail or a padded cell on the spot. No trial or psych evaluation was necessary.

Crimes Charged: Extreme Stupidity and whatever else is beyond.

Verdict: Guilty.

Sentence: Rejection by Mr. Perfect.

My idiocy haunted me for years. If only I had a second chance. What could (coulda, woulda, shoulda) I have done differently while staying true to myself. In my fantasies, I would still be me, but smarter. What was I thinking during this dark period of being in love? How did I permit myself to act like a fool?

One day, I looked back at my past actions, those silly schemes, attempts at change, and idealistic belief that if I loved him with a pure heart, he would love me back. I started to laugh. It was funny, very funny. Telling this story would be my second chance and shot at redemption

Reality hit me as I lay pen to paper, Mr. Perfection was my upstairs neighbor, he was The Man Upstairs. That was the original title for my book, ‘The Man Upstairs,’ but people thought it was a book about religion.

To this day, I am uncertain what was going through my pathetic naive head during that time. Maybe I wasn’t thinking properly? There are theories that love affects (and obviously impairs) your cognitive thought processes. Next title was ‘What Was I Thinking?’ but people thought that was a self-help book.

My healthy curvy body, thin not emaciated, did not fit into his model sized world. I wasn’t who he wanted, whatever my size. Paroled from my romantic stupidity I realized that the intellectual/emotional connection didn’t exist between us. It is what is on your insides that counts. It’s a cliché but true. The older I get, it’s my sense of humor that gets me through the days and the nights. I love when someone makes me laugh, even if it’s me! I am a Size Eight in a Size Zero World.

Size Eight in a Size Zero World

Meredith Cagen is a working wife and mother living in New York City. She works as a freelance writer and registered nurse. Known as “Queen of the Multi-taskers,” she returned to school to obtain a Bachelors of Science in Nursing. Finding the subject dry, technical and boring, she had a difficult time focusing on her studies. Easily distracted, and prone to daydreaming, she wrote Size Eight in a Size Zero World, an extraordinary book about a working wife and mother.

Size Eight in a Size Zero World can be bought from Amazon (UK) and Amazon USA, plus many other on-line or bricks and mortar stores.


Meet Lindsay Chandler—a 32 year-old New York City working wife and mother with old-fashioned values who thinks she’s living a fairy tale life (she’s not). She’s too busy navigating between her job, husband, home, children, friends and other obligations to acknowledge her loneliness. Then an unexpected friendship with her upstairs neighbor (he is smart, successful, sophisticated and sexy— she’s not) unleashes her passion and re-ignites her sparkle.

This liaison causes her to realize what she is missing. Yearning for a storybook ending, she decides to make changes in her life, embarking on a quest for self re-invention in this hilarious, witty, heartfelt story.

In the tradition of Sex and the City, Size Eight in a Size Zero World, is a modern-day story of a good girl trying to do the right thing and the wrong thing simultaneously, while remaining true to herself, whoever that is.

With the help of a believable cast of characters, Lindsay embarks on a plan to better herself and plight. This novel is a wickedly funny social commentary on the lives of average women in New York City’s posh Upper East Side.

Meet Meredith: and on Facebook

Black Pyramid by Anita Stewart and her thoughts on Author House

Black Pyramid: Ancient Breeds Series
Anita Stewart

Black Pyramid: Ancient Breeds SeriesEgypt. A beautiful land enriched with a history of mythical Gods and power hungry Pharaohs. The ONE who walks among us, who knows the truth of the Ancient Egyptians…. He hides the reality of an era long erased from the Temples and Obelisks, in order to keep the world safe. For there lurks an evil, waiting to regain control of Egypt and destroy the rest of the world!

Melissa Ambers, decides to take the once in a lifetime offer, to excavate a pyramid. Only this one isn’t just any pyramid. It’s the mysterious Black Pyramid! She soon finds out there is more than meets the eye to the stone monument. And within hours of stepping inside the dark tomb, she finds herself on the war path with Siaak. An ancient being, who will stop at nothing, to keep the BloodSeeker imprisoned. Even if it means killing Melissa and all who seek the knowledge of the Ancient Breeds!

Anita Stewart is a mother of three. Part Navajo, born and raised in North Carolina she is currently residing in England. I asked her a few questions on the writing process for Black Pyramid:

What is the genre of Black Pyramid?
Its a romance, fantasy, paranormal book.

Tell us a little bit about the story?
It is based on the Ancient Egyptians. More to the point, the original sand dwellers that predates the mighty Sphinx! I wanted to tell a story that explained who was the real creators of that amazing structure! And to go along with it, I decided to give the world a nasty, vile enemy, the BloodSeekers. A vampire race that ran riot around the world. Destroying everything in their path, including the humans. In order to fight them, the Egyptians, Atlantians, Myans, Aztecs, Amazons, Greeks, Romans and a few other Breeds decided to send their best warriors, in a last attempt at salvation! Black Pyramid, is the first in the series.

Is this your debut novel?
Yes, it is. And it was released July 5th, 2010.

How does Black Pyramid compare with other vampire novels and what makes it different?
My vampires, the BloodSeekers are very unique. They don’t disintegrate in sunlight, nor do they cower underground, or other dark, dank places. They think for themselves and are extremely power hungry, blood thirsty creatures, hell bent on world domination! The BloodSeekers feast on human blood which turns them into BloodSlaves.

What audience is the book intended?
Black Pyramid has one sex scene. Not that my characters didn’t try it on more than once. (laughs) There is violence and language of an adult nature. So it’s not recommended for a young audience.

How long did it take you to write it, and how many drafts?
It took close to a year to write. I have a very young family with health issues and writing has to take a back seat at times. As for how many drafts, I lost count after ten. LOL. But seriously, I don’t think any one author is ever completely happy with their first book. You work your socks off. Putting all your heart into it, and then when it comes to the finish line, you think to yourself, “I could have changed that part, or tweaked that scene.” I had to make myself stop. And tell myself, enough is enough. But I’m very proud of myself and I believe it’s a great story!

How many books are there going to be in the Ancient Breeds Series?
That depends on how well the series is received by the general public, but I’ve planned fifteen.

Can they be stand-alone reads, or will I have to read all to understand the story?
Each story continues on with the next book. Originally I wanted to make them stand alone reads, but there’s just too much to try and shove into one particular book. But that doesn’t mean you wouldn’t understand the story by reading them out of order or at random.

Do you have a favourite scene in the book? Can we have a snippet?
(Smiling) Yes I do. I have a few favourite scenes and I’m open to sharing with anyone remotely interested. I’ve included a small scene. The main characters, Melissa and Siaak, have escaped after a confrontation with a hired assassin and this scene takes place after. I hope you enjoy it.

She took the last drag of her cigarette before flicking it on the sandy ground. She blew the smoke up into the air as she stamped the fire out. With a grunt of annoyance, she pushed off the large granite statue and flew at him. “I can’t believe you’d sink so low as to blame all this on Jonathon. He’s a decent man. Okay, sure, he gets on my nerves. He’s a man, he can’t help it.” She shook her head in denial. She refused to believe what he was telling her. “Jonathon isn’t trying to kill me, don’t be so stupid, I’ve known him since I was nineteen. You, on the other hand, mentioned it a time or two.”
He charged at her, ramming her body into the weathered Obelisk.
“OW!” Her head hit the hard stone making her vision blur. Instinctively, she pulled her fist back to punch him, as she strained to bite him with her teeth.
Siaak blocked her attacks. His hand clamped around her wrist forcing her arm behind her back with a rough jerk.
She sucked air in between her teeth at the sudden burning, cramping pain running along her shoulder blade. Was he trying to pull her arm out of its socket? She gave him a black look as she refused to give in.
The more she struggled, the harder he squeezed.
“I am not playing games Melissa. Open your eyes woman! The man wants you dead. Does that not upset you? I mean, if my friends hired assassins to kill me, I would be a little pissed off!”
“You want me dead, too!” She shouted back as she stood on her toes trying to relieve the burning spasm. His fingers squeezed harder at her accusation.
The sound of steel rang in her ears as he pulled his sword free and held it to her neck, just below her chin. “I can do it here and now if that is what you want?” His stance told her, all he had to do was push. The sharp blade would cut right through her neck, tendons, muscle and bone.
“I will be honest with you. My original plans were to kill you both. If you knew what is locked inside that tomb, you would understand my reasons for keeping it that way. I am honour bound to protect you and everyone else on this miserable planet!”
“Let me guess! It is alien and you have a pair of blue tights on under your clothes?” Her voice dripped with sarcasm.
His features hardened instantly. His dark eyes narrowed to mere slits as he felt the sudden urge to shake some sense into her. The square of his jaw, now sprinkled with black hair, ticked with anger as he clenched his teeth together. “You mock me now, but when the time comes, you will need me at your back.”

Are Mellissa and Siaak your main characters, and will they be in all of the series?
Each book will feature a particular Breed and their HEA. Melissa and Siaak will be in other books, along side other characters. So their story isn’t finished with this book.

Do you have any writing experience? Ie have you worked as a journalist, completed a university writing degree?
(Hangs head) No. I have no prior experience. I just love to write! I decided to publish Black Pyramid, only after enough people encouraged me to go through with it.

What are you working on now?  How many in the series?
I’m currently working on book 2 and 3. Sands of Time: Book 2, and Serpent’s Revenge: Book 3, Ancient Breeds. And like I said earlier, 15 in the series, but that depends on so many factors i.e. readers. And at the moment, I’m a quarter of the way through on each novel.

Have you many unfinished novels/short stories tucked away under the bed?

I have a few short stories completed and unfinished. Same with novels. The Guardians, is a five hundred page manuscript, that I plan to re-write. It’s an open/ending series called, Amirus. I also have three other series I’m currently working on. I tend to take a break from Ancient Breeds to work on the others. It’s a nice change, until the characters start moaning.

You self-published with AuthorHouse. Have you tried to get an agent prior to this?
To be honest, I never bothered with getting an agent. I just assumed that with my life/family/health, that writing would be just a dream. Something I would do for myself, a hobby. So, no…it never crossed my mind to get an agent for my work.

What made you chose AuthorHouse? Can you tell us how much it cost?
AuthorHouse (originally called Traffords) was the first name that came up when I typed in my browser: Publishing a book. I filled in a form with all my details and received a booklet outlining book packages, marketing packages and so forth. Three years later, a few manuscripts completed, I decided to go with the feedback from my beta readers and self publish Black Pyramid. As for the costs of my package, I think it was just over a grand.
As a matter of fact, I just wrote on my web-blog about my experience with AuthorHouse. Titled: Self Publishing Do’s and Don’t’s. It’s under Blog/News

What’s your experience with them?
I have to say, I found it hard. I didn’t know what I was doing. (Self publishing was a whole new world for me.) I knew I should have a hundred questions, but I didn’t know where to start. I mean, don’t get me wrong, the people that worked with me, were great. It’s just that I think they should offer first timers a little more support. Give guidelines instead of shoving a website at you and telling you to visit it. That doesn’t tell me, or anyone else what to do, or where to start. Okay, so you might know more about the process than I do, that’s great! But, for people that are ‘not in the know’ give us more to work on!

Did they help with the editing?
Nope! Not unless I paid for the service. And I have to say, at the price of so many pence/cents per word, ($0.029) with a manuscript of 127,634 words, I’ll let you work the math. But I can tell you, it wasn’t happening for me! The same applies for the marketing side. Everything AuthorHouse and most other self publishing companies that I looked into, offer loads of extras, with a extra price tag. All I can suggest, is that you do a little research and go with the publisher that meets your needs.

Tell us about your marketing experience.

My marketing experience.. (taps chin in thought) has been a real testament of patience. My first idea was a website. I would really recommend a website. If you can afford to pay for one, great. If not, there are loads of Free websites! Then I spent hours at the computer, scouring the internet to find Free sites to advertise. Facebook, Myspace and Bookbuzzr to name a few.

Do you have a critique partner?
Yes, I have several beta readers, or critique partners. More now with the publication of Black Pyramid. It’s amazing how many people want to read your ‘next’ book.

Now your book is “out there” is there anything you’d do differently if you could go back and do it again?
There are a few things I would change. Like, not using a laptop that had seen better days! And I might have looked into a agent.

Any last words?
I would have to say that no matter what, I’ve enjoyed the journey of self publication. Would I do it again? I’m not a 100% certain I would. I think the best advice I could give any writer interested in self publishing…look around for the best deal that suits you, or go with E-books. Use Adobe Acrobat Pro, or Adobe Acrobat to turn your completed manuscript into a PDF file. If you live in the states, go with Kindle. You can make a bigger profit margin with ebooks. E-Junkies is a great service to distribute your ebooks without having to sit by your computer, waiting for buyers, with endless emails of how to and where is my download link? And last but not least, believe in yourself. If you want to write, than do it!

To contact Anita and find out more about her and her writing visit her website:
Join her on Twitter:
Become friends with her on Facebook.
Order her book straight from the publisher or from Amazon UK.
American buyers can grab a book from

Black Pyramid: Ancient Breeds Series


Ashley Stokes
Cult writer and cultural refusenik

Ashley Stokes
Ashley Stokes’s comic masterpiece, TOUCHING THE STARFISH stars Nathan Flack, a writer exiled in a backwater teaching creative writing to a group of high-maintenance cranksand fantasists. When a very literary ghost by the name of James O’Mailer starts to haunt Flack, he has to ask himself: is he sinking into a netherworld of delusion, or is he actually O’Mailer’sinstrument? TOUCHING THE STARFISH has already been compared to Lucky Jim, TristramShandy and the novels of Tom Sharpe.

The Author: Ashley Stokes’s fiction has appeared in over twenty anthologies and journals,including London Magazine and Staple and he won a 2002 Bridport Short Story prize.

Touching the Starfish
You say Starfish is hard to define as a genre, is that like all your work?
Touching the Starfish was definitely a departure for me and I certainly felt let off the leash when I was writing it. My other work was, or can be, a bit more straightforward. This was the first time Id tried to write a comic novel and the first time Id mucked about with the form quite so much.

Was it hard to hook an agent/publisher for Starfish because of the difficulty of knowing the genre?
Actually no, but I was lucky to be in the right place at the right time when Unthank Books was founded. LINK TO UNTHANK

You worked as a copywriter, what is that exactly?
For a short while I worked for the Enid Blyton Company, just after the ‘brand was relaunched in the mid-nineties and all the licenses were up for grabs. I basically wrote promotional brochures for series, like The Secret Seven and The Famous Five. We also had to update the characters as well, which once involved a whole morning deliberating what to call the imp in the Folk of the Faraway Tree because Enid had called him Chinky.

Oh, that’s so funny! Dear old Enid Blyton wasn’t very politically correct, was she?
What was even funnier about the Chinky business was that everyone was so blocked about the name that we dragged up from the stack another Enid book called The Christmas Imp, thinking we could nick that imp’s name and retitle Chinky but his name turned out to be Prick-Ears.

I bet you had some giggles! Have you always worked in the “writing field”? Is this because you’ve always held a long-time belief that you would eventually become published, or has your work made you want to become a writer?
I did always want to be a writer when I was a child but then again I probably wanted to be a Warlord of Atlantis as well. I wrote a lot in my teens, then forgot about it. It nagged, though. Things didn’t seem settled without it. It wasn’t until my mid-twenties that I had the confidence to start. But I suppose I have always worked in related fields. I’d wanted to work with books and worked in bookshops for about two years after I left university. Then I worked in publishing trade sales and international rights. This was before I started to write fiction, something that really got going when I had a year off on the dole. After the subsequent Enid Period I took an MA, mainly to buy some time, and it was after that that I started teaching and editing as a way to support myself and work on my writing. The writing for me is the priority though the teaching and editing do feed into it: write better, teach better, write better, teach better. I wouldn’t teach creative writing if I wasn’t getting my hands dirty myself and I’d  be suspicious of any teacher who wasn’t a writer, too.

You have studied creative writing at university and obviously this will help, but do you think others who haven’t studied/been to university have less chance of being published?
It shouldn’t be that way, should it? Being a writer shouldn’t need a professional qualification like becoming a doctor or a loss adjuster. The best writers write because they need to and what they write is so distinct no one could teach it them how to do it. I suppose it depends on what type of market we’re talking about, too. A glace at the hardback fiction chart suggests that the writers who really shift copies probably didn’t study creative writing at university level, nor produce the sort of writing encouraged by such courses. If the work is strong, then not having an MA can be a positive advantage, I think. Publishers often want to sell an idea of an author before the novel, so “Jack Bratt has an MA in Creative Writing from UEA” may have less allure than “Jackie Bratby used to herd goats on Mount Ararat”. Then again, schooled writers often gain by osmosis a better idea of how the industry works and may make more professional approaches to publishers. They may also have better editing skills, too. Creative Writing course, if they’re any good, only really teach you how to edit.

As an editor, how frustrating is it to see authors’ potential yet know they will be turned down with a standard rejection letter? Have you not wanted to contact them and say, look if only you’d do this, this and this you would have a greater potential?
It can be frustrating, yes, and it has become harder and harder for a first book to find a publisher unless it’s obvious that it will sell very quickly in great quantity at discounted prices. In my work as a creative writing tutor and as an editor for the Literary Consultancy (I’ve appraised over eight hundred novels and only three of the authors have been published) I am always making suggestions about how a book can be materially and stylistically enhanced. I’m doing some editing for Unthank at the moment and have annotated some pieces and asked for them to be resubmitted. Editors in publishing houses used to do this. It’s because they don’t anymore that we have so many creative writing courses and literary consultancies.

Let’s talk about your current novel: Touching the Starfish is a fictional account about a writer, Nathan Flack who thinks he is haunted by a ghost called James O’Mailer. Is your character bonkers, or is he really haunted?
To answer that candidly would give away the end of the story! All I should say is confirm that, yes, that’s the premise. You need to read the last two parts of Starfish for a proper answer.
Starfish opens like a non-fiction how-to-write-a-novel book. Can you talk us through this process?
My basic idea for Touching the Starfish was for it to be a sort of Book Group style light comedy in which Nathan is forced to teach a group of eccentric students. It was easy then to structure the story around a course and give each part the name of the study topic, like Plot or Point of View. In each of these parts, Nathan would give some sort of (hapless) lecture on the topic at hand and in some places more emphasis would be given to the device, i.e. lots of talking in the Dialogue chapter. It’s really an organizing tool but it does mean you get a free textbook with your novel. If I could have wedged in a travel guide or car manual as well it could have been the perfect 3-for-2-table book. Why didn’t I think of that earlier? I’d be rolling in it.

The book is funny. Did you mean it to be, or did it change its direction half way through?
It was intended to be funny. I’ve always found it hard to relax when I write or when I give readings unless I get a laugh. Here, I did want there to be four or five funny lines or phrases per page. What did change the novel during the process was the more or less spontaneous inclusion of footnotes and a ghost character. These just occurred when I was writing the opening chapter and I ran with them. I didn’t really want to write a novel about teaching creative writing to start with and did it to amuse some friends initially. I suppose I was subverting the whole idea of a Book Group-style light comedy and I started to think of it as the least commercial novel imaginable. I didn’t quite anticipate that people were going to find it quite so funny, though I’m relieved that they do.
How many drafts?
There were two. It took quite a while to write the first draft, three years, but I write very methodically, going over and over each page until it reads like publishable prose. It then took me about three months to do the second. draft I diidn’t cut too many scenes and found myself only really making the first chapter better ground what happens later. This hasn’t always been my experience with drafting.

Did you self edit/self proof read considering your baskground, or did you get it professionally checked over?
Actually, we did it ourselves. It’s quite a steep learning curve because when it’s your own work and you know that you can spell the easy words correctly you forget that you can still mistype. The first edition of Starfish has a ‘shorts’ car where there should be a ‘sports’ car. Given that, if it’s your own work I would suggest getting a fresh pair of eyes to proof it.

This is your debut novel, but do you have other unpublished books tucked away somewhere?
Oh yes, there are four earlier novels. I wrote two in my twenties that received very enthusiastic rejection letters from editors.: “Potentially prize-winning author, writes like Donna Tartt but less good, show me what the does next bla bla bla”. My third novel got through this obstacle with a couple of big publishers but if the editors liked the book the sales people said it wasn’t ‘big’ enough to launch a season. My next book was by far the most mature, commercial and likeable, I think (it made some girls cry but in a good way, if you know what I mean), but I couldn’t even get anyone to read it. If this hadn’t happened, I probably wouldn’t have written Touching the Starfish. It was a strange fifteen years getting here but I think I pulled something out of the fire towards the end.
How many “real life” incidents did you put into Starfish?
None really. The incidents are gross exaggerations of things that might have happened. What is drawn from real life is the atmosphere that Nathan lives in. His flat, for example, is pretty much the semi-uninhabitable frost bucket I was living in when I started to write the book. The spine of the book concerns Nathan’s attempts not to be the Chosen One in a supernatural conspiracy story that he doesn’t approve of. That’s not autobiographical, I’m afraid. I did make that bit up.

Do you write straight onto the computer, or do you research first, get the idea perfect in your head and then type away?
I do write directly into the computer, though strangely once I finished Starfish I started writing longhand in pencil again (though this was in winter and it was too cold to stay in the house so I wrote in cafes, something I’d never done before). Usually, when the sun is shining, I spend quite a long time making notes and busking ideas before I turn the computer on. I usually describe to myself what I am going to write, then type it up. The next day I’ll edit this passage before I write anything new. It builds up slowly. I do plan a lot. Even my paragraphs have plans
What are you working on now?
I’m working on a series of twelve stories called The Syllabus of Errors. They’re loosely connected or overlap but not in a Cloud Atlas way. I am also writing a sequel to Starfish called SubGrubStreet as a blog. Nathan can’t ignore the internet forever.

Is it in the same vein as Starfish?
SubGrubStreet obviously is in the same vein but the short stories are mixed. There are some historical stories set before World War Two and some contemporary ones that are more hard-edged than Starfish. Then again, the sort of too-well-read, windmill-tilting male character that I used in Starfish does crop up a lot. There’s also one story that uses footnotes to tell itself which is pretty much in the same vein as the novel. If I concentrated on only one form or tone I’d get bored. Some days I’m happy to gaze out of the window. Some days I want to put a brick through it.
Will you use Unthank Books again? How did you find them?
I certainly will. I was very lucky, really. I knew Robin Jones, Unthank’s founder, because he had been my agent in the past. It was very serendipitous.
When will the next novel be finished?
Well, The Syllabus will be finished this year. Ive just written the penultimate story so theres only one to go. Next year Im intending to start another novel. Ive got some plans. I am likely to muck about again and follow in the same vein as Starfish.

Any last words/anything else you want to share?

Writing fiction is a state of mind rather than a career. I think this is what a lot of beginners forget and it

Is there a link for your Literary Consultancy?
Yes, there is. TLC, the original and the best:

Read the Eastern Daily Press review: of Touching the Starfish.

Touching the Starfish is mostly described as a comic novel and metafiction. Check out Amazon for reviews and others on Stokes’ website. There is also a blogged sort-of-sequel, SubGrubStreet to promote Starfish. 

Marc Nash – A,B&E

Marc Nash – “A,BandE”
Takes a crowbar into the modern British soul, through Gangster threatiquette, “Ibiza Uncovered”, Cilla’s “Blind Date” if it were held in a Police line-up, an NHS nurse on the Casualty frontline, Greek Myths, Oxbridge High Table and nightclub Foam parties. A guided tour into our binge culture conducted by its presiding Mother Spirit and an arse-slapping midwife. Avenging angels both. This scurrilous and scabrous book not only peels away the sunburnt skin of our hens, stags, booze cruisers and sex tourists, but delights in jabbing fingers into the pus below. Wish you were anywhere but here?

Book purchasable online from Amazon
and Clerkenwell Tales Bookshop
Rough Trade Record Shop
Website on the novel
Blog with flash fiction etc
Nash at his live reading
of A,B and E
Ex-playwright Marc Nash is an experimental novelist attempting to pin down the slippery and elusive nature of our language and offer up different narrative voices from what has gone before. Marc has lived and worked in the London counterculture and political scene all his life, but it is managing his twin sons’ Under-13s football team that prompts the most sleepless nights. He currently blogs for the Spectator.
Tell us about your current book?
On one level it’s a book about fictions and story telling. Why do we tell stories, why do we need to hear stories and what does it mean by us using fiction in order to understand reality? I suppose that makes my work a reflective literary fiction but only by default. It’s not fantasy, but it is a sort of hyper-reality, in which what is ‘truth’ can’t necessarily be separated out from what is fed to us through the media, through images and symbols. As to this particular story, it’s about my people, the British. It’s about our identity, our habits and pleasures, as seen through how we behave when we are on holiday away from home, as seen through the eyes of someone forcibly exiled from Britain, as seen through the frontline of pain in an NHS Casualty ward and through the black market and illegality of gangsterism that has come so much to the fore over the last 30 years. These were all what I feel to be unique elements in fiction that hadn’t been covered before, that’s why I gauged they needed a platform.

What gives you the motivation to write in this particular field?
I don’t see it as writing in a particular field, but I am highly motivated to write fiction that engages with the world. My work likes to question some of the things we take for granted as ‘true’ about our lives, our societies, our relationships and ourselves. They are my own inquiries, what motivates me in my daily life and I want to share them through my fiction.

Its title A, B and E, is unusual. Can you tell us your reason for this?
It’s a mixture of A & E (Accident and Emergency ) which represents the nurse character in the novel and B & E (Breaking and Entering) which represents the gangster’s moll and the fact that though the two never even meet within the novel, their fates are ineffably merged. I’ve also got another novel named ‘G’ and I vaguely intend to write a series of novels whose titles cover all the letters in a musical octave! Just C, D & F to go now.

Your main character is a woman, Karen Dash, how hard (or easy) was it getting inside of a woman’s mind?
She’s a woman who’s had to exist in two very male environments, that of academia and then its polar opposite of hardened gangsters. She’s survived in both by forging a certain masculinity in herself, but her femaleness means she both remains an outsider and yet more rounded than any of the men in those worlds. Her struggle is to break down the divide between those two facts. So I slightly cheated I suppose, but I do mainly write female characters as a way of forcing me to travel out towards understanding the character who is very different from who I am.

A, B & E have received a mixture of reviews how do you feel about that?
I knew from the outset it’s not going to be everyone’s cup of tea. Like marmite, a reader will either love or hate it, but they won’t be indifferent to it. It’s trying to achieve certain things not conventionally approached in contemporary fiction and that isn’t going to work for some readers and that’s absolutely fair enough. The strange thing to me is how apologetic those reviewers were, each offering me the chance to refuse to have the review published. While that was incredibly nice of them and most unexpected, I asked them to publish the reviews. They were honest responses and that’s all a writer can ever ask for.

Have your characters or writing been inspired by friends/ family?
Not really, they are fairly extreme! Like most writers I suspect, my characters are an amalgam of several traits, so even if I’ve unconsciously drawn from real people, it certainly isn’t any one person who could recognise themselves from the portrait. I draw a lot on my own imagination, just taking my own behaviour and thoughts to extremes and seeing where it lands the character.

What are you working on now?
One word – marketing! I gave myself 6 months of no new writing in order to promote the book. I suspect I will have to extend it to 18 months. I do have other works already completed, so it’s not really a hiatus. The WIP is definitely on the back burner for a while longer yet though. Mind you, through the marketing I’m probably writing 5000 words a week on blogs and flash fiction and the like.

What is your favourite scene in your book? Can we have a snippet?
I have a soft spot for the police identity parade which the moll and the gangster subvert to turn it into a bizarre courtship ritual just between the two of them and eliminating everyone else gathered there. Of course, the reader has to ask themselves how much of this story is embroidered in the retelling, or whether it even happened at all.

I chanced peering up, to descry an almost imperceptible tilting downward of Damon’s irises in their sockets. What the hell was he playing at? And then it hit me. What a charge! And all the while they were attempting to press charges against him?

Assembled, nay on show here, was a beauty pageant. All tenors, hues and heights were represented. In fact, we pretty much had the entire male gene pool clustered within these specimens. And there was Damon, outstanding among all this rank parade of manhood. Observe how he shone like a polestar alongside these others. While they all blithely beam, safe in the knowledge they couldn’t possibly get picked out, yet still they are unable to quell their edginess. Mark number three there, perspiring like a sow. Since, line any man with his back to this parapet and his mind can’t help but fall prey to working overtime. His lack of conviction, so that anything, anything at all in his whole life, that makes him feel ashamed, out it comes and is displayed here. Guilty by dint of being hard up against this tidemark. First formed and then reinforced, by row upon row of unwashed, sweaty necks. A plimsoll line beneath which they all sink into the mire. But not Damon, head held unabashedly high and proud. His whole body tensed with rippling self-assurance. Now I gleaned why the 5 & 1/2 foot stripe, uniquely defined his stature. Human in scale, but his power could scarce be contained.

It was incumbent upon me, as witness, as adjudicator, to take a long abiding look. After all, he’d sought and located me behind this dividing wall. Made it two-way again. Somehow he’d distilled my superannuated pheromones of desire and condensed them against the glass. So that he could pinpoint me exactly. It was as if we were both putting on a private peep-show for one another. The other punters just didn’t register. Our own exclusive id parade. Teasing one another inscrutably. Playing footsie without flexing a muscle. Come in number 5, your time is up. He could say it with flowers, or how much more exciting to say it with handcuffs. Unwittingly in the guise of Cupid, the Met had given him a pull, in order for him to pull me.
Nash at another reading.
Check out that nurse’s uniform!
Would you use Legend again?
I’ve been happy enough with Legend’s service, though like anything there are tweaks I would prefer to see them put in place. I’m not sure about my chances of further self-publishing since my other books have certain typographical and visual demands which may be beyond a template service. I don’t know, I’ll have to discuss that with them.

Thoughts on SP? I.e. do you think the line on SP and traditional is closing?
It’s impossible to get any trustworthy data right now, since everyone has a vested interest and defends their own corner. Agents poo-poo SP, of course they would wouldn’t they? Self-pubbers big themselves up, but do we see any real breakthrough novels? The whole sector is readjusting itself to new markets and new technologies. It hasn’t settled down at all yet.

How long does it take you to write a book?
I’m a really quick writer. I sit with an idea for 6 months just making notes, but when I finally launch into writing it, the first draft is 2-3 months. The editing however can vary as to how long it takes. This novel was completed, but took me 7 years on and off to edit because I just couldn’t get one section right and tried coming at it from different angles, which impacted elsewhere in the book as well.

Which comes first for you – characters or plot?
Neither! I know I have a workable idea for a novel when a voice comes together with the central metaphor. In this case, a gangster’s moll on the run and having to spin stories like Scheherazade to stay alive. The voice was that of a hardened woman, the book was all about story-telling itself. I had the notion of her as a 40 year old hiding in a Club 18-30 type resort very early on, don’t ask me where it came from, I have no idea.

How did you get into writing? Did you always want to become a writer?
I dabbled with angsty song lyrics like most boys, then at College I started writing plays because there were loads of theatres and would-be directors and actors. I only stopped writing plays because my twin boys arrived and I needed to spend more time at home rather than hanging around theatres. So I turned to writing prose once they were in bed.

What mistakes do you see new writers make?
I can’t speak for others, but my one regret about this novel was I should have paid for a professional editor. It would have made for a very interesting exchange. I suspect all self-published writers ought to seriously consider having their work professionally edited. it’s not that same as having beta-readers or peer review sites look at it. Other than that, I would just advise new writers to trust to their voice and try and make it different from all else that is already out there. That doesn’t mean it has to be radical or experimental, but just fresh.

What advice would you give aspiring authors?
To stick to your vision and not be beaten back down by rejection. Ultimately, if you believe in your work enough, now you have the means of getting it published without relying on others. But you have to be sure it’s good enough and then you have to be prepared to put in an enormous amount of time and effort in promoting it.

Do you have an agent, or have you gone alone?

No, I’ve gone my own way. I published it almost by accident. I couldn’t make head nor tail of how YWO’s self-publishing offer worked, and when I went to Legend Press’ website I couldn’t fathom that any better. I phoned them up and got Tom the MD on the line and started chatting to him. I made the decision there and then to go with them directly – I’d missed the latest round of YWO deadlines and felt inspired by Tom to just go for it there and then as they had a space. What it meant was I had done very little planning and had to learn very fast. I’d always hated the idea of any self-marketing, but having jumped in, nobody else was going to do it for me. And I’ve surprised myself by actually enjoying it. The usual author’s platform stuff, blogs, websites, twitter, videos, podcasts, I’ve ended up blogging for “The Spectator” from my efforts – but as to whether any of it sells novels? I have my doubts. The one thing that you can gauge a reaction from is doing live readings and I really love doing those. I do them in character, which means being one of the two female protagonists…

“A,B and E” by Marc Nash is available to buy now from Amazon
To sample
Website on “A,B&E”
Book Trailer
Twitter – twitter@ExisleMoll (character) twitter@21stCscribe (author)

Meet author Jennifer L Hart

Laundry Hag series: Crime and grime don’t stand a chance.
Have you met the Laundry Hag yet?

Maggie Phillips hasn’t had it easy. As the wife of a retired Navy SEAL and the adoptive mother of two little hellions, Maggie is constantly seeking new ways to improve her family’s financial situation. She accepts a cleaning position for her new neighbors (who redefine the term ‘eccentric’), never imagining she will end up as the sole alibi for a man with a fascination for medieval torture devices when he is brought up on murder charges. Maggie struggles to prove the man’s innocence, her deadbeat brother arrives, determined to sell Maggie and Neil on his next great scheme and to mooch with a vengeance. If that isn’t bad enough, her in-laws the cutthroat corporate attorneys, descend on the house, armed with disapproval and condemnation for the family’s annual Thanksgiving celebration.

As the police investigation intensifies, Maggie searches for the killer among the upper echelon of Hudson, Massachusetts, in the only way she can—by scrubbing their thrones. Of the porcelain variety, that is….

The Misadventures of the Laundry Hag:
Swept Under the Rug and grime are everywhere, at least in Maggie Phillips’ opinion. Deep in the throes of a New England winter, Maggie’s still adjusting to her new role as confidential informant for the Hudson Police Department. When a suspicious fax is sent to one of her new clients, Maggie is sure she’s unearthed a conspiracy. With no crime to investigate, however, the Hudson P.D. can do nothing—that is until a wealthy trophy wife disappears and the FBI is called in to the hunt.
On the home front, her twelve-year-old son is growing up way too fast, while her brother is back with a few surprises destined to wreak havoc on the household. To frost the whole crappy cake, her best friend’s marriage is falling apart, which leaves Maggie worrying over her own. All of the family drama is put into perspective, however, when Maggie is arrested for kidnapping and blackmail.

Between economic woes and a now tarnished reputation, Maggie is in way over her head. Yet out of the ashes of frustration and failure, something great might emerge. If she survives the birthing process that is….
Other fiction from Jennifer Hart:
River Rats
coming August 10th
The new man in town. Ranger Sam Ruiz doesn’t know the trouble he’s in with Alex Hanson…or how far some will go to protect her secrets. Small town living never looked quite like this.
Set in rural upstate New York along the Delaware River, the Wayward Son Diner is a pit stop for tourists and locals of Sullivan County. Waitress Alex Hanson has seen it all and has no interest in the daily gossip-mongering of the natives. Knowing full well what it feels like to be the grease on the wheel, Alex takes pity on new park ranger Sam Ruiz, when he’s accosted by several eligible females whose need to satisfy their biological clocks outweighs their ingrained trepidation of a government employee.
Jennifer L. Hart has tried on many accessories including early childhood educator, Navy wife, video store clerk, photographer and mother of two. The “wife” and “mom” shoes got stuck and she found the hats of mystery writer and romance novelist are a perfect fit—and don’t clash. Jen’s works to date include The Misadventures of the Laundry Hag mystery series, the contemporary romance Worth the Wait and the upcoming romantic suspense River Rats. For up-to-date information, and a few good laughs, please visit her website.
Tell us about your current book? 
The Misadventures of the Laundry Hag: Swept Under the Rug, book two in the Laundry Hag mystery series has been out about a month. The ebook is available on Kindle and Fictionwise as well as Wild Child  Publishing’s  site.
Coming soon also from Wild Child is the romantic suspense, River Rats.  I recently sold a contemporary romance, Redeeming Characters to Passion In Print Press, which will be my first print release with a publisher. 
How many books have you written? Corners was my very first book, which I self published in 2006. Two Laundry Hag books to date, plus the same characters are featured in my uncontracted manuscript Who Needs A Hero? Redeeming Characters, River Rats,  and another uncontracted manuscript, Stellar Timing. So lucky number seven are finished to date.
You write in several genres, how does this affect your readership? 
What sets me apart is my voice, the way in which I tell a story. I’m a very active author online, always promoting my novels and what they are about, including genre. But I am a genre bender and anyone who started with me in mystery knows the romantic elements always play a big part in my work. The second Hag book is listed under romance as well as mystery and humor. I don’t believe in labels as much as the quality of the story. 
Which genre would you NEVER try?
Never say never! If I had to pick, I’d say horror, simply because I don’t think that I personally could pull it off without being downright cheesy.
Have your characters or writing been inspired by friends/ family? Family no, because I have to live with them. 😉 Friends yes and the ones I’ve used, names have been changed to protect the guilty. They know who they are. 
What are you working on now? 
The sequel to Stellar Timing, working title Cosmic Balance. These books are medieval times space operas with my own zany sense of humor leading the charge.  Another contemporary, For A Reason as well as a new series, which is kind of like a genetically engineered X-Men. And Maggie and Neil are getting loud. They want me to do the third Hag book, All Washed Up, ASAP!
What is your favourite scene in your current book? Can we have a snippet?
 This is from the Misadventures of the Laundry Hag: Swept Under the Rug. This scene gives you a good look at Maggie and Neil as a couple as well as the mystery element to this book: 
We parked in front of the Valentino’s house. The brick and stone behemoth, flanked by leafless deciduous trees, sat at the end of a private drive. While the house was gated, the gate stood open, probably in expectation of the police. Lights blazed from every window and reflected off the brilliant snow and the sight took my breath for a minute. The mansion did have a Currier and Ives look to it, even the snow seemed whiter than in my middle-class neighborhood.

“Tell me again why we’re here.” Neil scowled at me and shifted in the driver’s seat, bashing his knee into the gearshift. Whoever had designed the Mini Cooper didn’t have six foot, two inch retired Navy SEALs in mind.

“Mrs. Valentino called me, thinking I had something to do with the dead bird. My logo was on the delivery box. Therefore, I have a vested interest in getting to the bottom of this.”

He winced as he rubbed his abused knee. “Only in your mind, Uncle Scrooge. Do they know you intercepted that fax the other day?”

I rolled my eyes. “What do I look like, a complete doofus? I made a copy of the fax before I beat feet outta there. The original I left precisely where I found it.”

“I still say you’re sticking your nose into somebody’s kinky sex life,” he grinned and met my gaze. “That’s always entertaining, at least.”

I thought of Sylvia’s stricken face. “Not so much from my angle. Besides, you ever heard of anyone with a dead foul fetish?”

“No, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist. I’m a sheltered sort, you know.”

I snorted and unbuckled my seatbelt. “Yeah, Neil the Pure with his lily-white sensibilities. How about the thing you did to me last week in the shower? What bedtime story featured that particular move?”

“My favorite.” He glanced around. “You sure she called the police?” I’m not seeing any lights yet and we’ve been sitting here for five minutes on top of the twenty minute drive.”

“I told her to call, but she was a little busy doing the Technicolor yawn and then my phone went dead. And you left yours at Dr. Boob’s. I mean Bob’s.”

He opened his door. “Might as well knock and see what’s up.”

The air hit me as soon as I straightened from the car, whipping my hair into my face. Neil grasped my gloved hand and pulled me to the relative shelter of the porch. He rang the doorbell and we waited.

“Maybe she took the package directly to the police station. Or animal control.” Neil guessed.

I opened my mouth to respond, but a black Jaguar slid to an abrupt stop in front of the house and Mr.Valentino emerged. He sprinted up the porch steps and brushed by us without a word, inserting his key in the door. It swung open and he didn’t bother to shut it so Neil tugged me inside.

“Candace?” Mr. V called out stomping through the foyer. “I can’t just show up whenever you’re in the mood to….”

Neil cleared his throat and gave me a knowing smirk. Valentino spun on his heel and scowled at us, his gaze focused on my husband. “Who the hell are you?”

Neil dropped my hand and extended his own. Neil Phillips, sir. Your wife called mine.”

“Phillips, Phillips,” Mr. V pursed his lips. “Why does that name sound familiar?”

“Your wife hired me to clean twice a week. I’m Maggie Phillips from the Laundry Hag cleaning services.” I informed him. Though I’d been on the job for almost a month, this was the first time I’d seen Valentino up close. Jet black hair cut fashionably short and GQ worthy stubble only emphasized his high cheekbones and pale complexion. His eyes, almost a neon shade of blue, stole attention from his extra large nose, an almost beaklike appendage which announced his Greek heritage. He appeared the perfect masculine foil for Candie’s petite blonde beauty, but some instinct told me theirs wasn’t a love match.

“Well, get to it then,” Markus Valentino dismissed me with a wave of his hand and continued his hunt for his wife.

Before I could get my back up, Neil called to his retreating form. “We’re here about the bird.”

Valentino stopped in mid-stride, like his feet had been super-glued in place. It was almost comical, like a Wile E. Coyote signature move before he fell off a cliff.

“What bird?” Mr. V’s tone held suspicion, and as he turned back around to face us, I noted a brief flicker in his eyes. Fear perhaps?

“Oh, Markus!” Candie rushed down the stairs and flung herself at her husband. Beneath her tan, she was sickly pale and trembling. “It’s awful, just plain terrible.

“What is?” Valentino held her an arm’s length away. “I get this message from Sierra that you need me here, but no explanation. Just what is going on?”

Candie looked as if he had slapped her. With visible effort she pulled back and composed herself. “It’s in the kitchen.” Without another word she led the way, Valentino hot on her heels.

“What a tool,” Neil murmured almost inaudibly. I heard him though and grinned. He’d read my mind.

We followed the footsteps into the kitchen. A large white box, like a bakery container sat open on the granite island. Candie had been right, it was the little caricature from my business logo, the sprightly little woman with a pink kerchief wrapped around her head and matching vacuum. Candie stood in the corner next to the gourmet refrigerator, arms wrapped around her upper body. Valentino loomed over the box then pulled away in disgust, yanking a handkerchief to his face. I shuffled past Neil and stood on my tip toes to get a better look. The carcass did resemble a large bird, one that had been barbecued. The stench invaded my nostrils and I stepped back.

“If I had to guess, I’d say it was some sort of hawk, maybe a falcon,” Neil moved closer, seemingly oblivious of the putrid smell. “Did you phone the police?”

“What for? It’s obviously a prank.” Valentino scoffed, the tone losing some impact delivered as it was through the hanky.

“If it’s a prank, I’m missing the punch line. Dead foul in a bakery box, how is that funny?” Neil asked his tone mild. “Looks more like a message to me.”

“Just who the hell are you?” Valentino seethed.

“A concerned husband. Whoever sent this didn’t do it by certified mail. The smell alone insures that. And the box has my wife’s logo on it, which means the perp wants to shift attention to her.

“Why wouldn’t he go all the way though?” I asked “If he ripped off my caricature, he could have put my business name on there too, made the connection even more obvious.”

“Who gives a shit?” Valentino thundered, closing the lid with his hanky-free hand. “It’s just some freak playing a game. Not worth all this fuss and bother.”

Out of the three of us, Markus Valentino was the only one who appeared remotely riled. The stress brought out his Texas accent and a vein bulged in his forehead. Neil stood like the calm eye in the center of a shit storm and both Candie and I were green around the gills.

“I recommend you report this to the police. Mrs. Valentino has our number and we’ll be happy to answer any questions they might have.” Neil inclined his head toward Candie and then led me to the front door by my arm.

“We can’t just leave—” I protested as he propelled my forward.

“There’s nothing else we can do.” Neil replied. “We can’t force him to call the cops and your connection is shaky at best.”

“Why do you think my logo was on the box but not my name?” I repeated my earlier question. Neil didn’t answer until we were both secure in the car and heading towards the main road.

“Someone is messing with Valentino. Did you see him freeze when we mentioned the bird? I think whoever sent that box has been watching them and snagged your logo to cast suspicion on you. Maybe they didn’t want it to be obvious that it was you, or maybe the site that I ordered your stuff from has copy write protection for its consumer’s company names. I’ll look into that when we get home.”

I wanted to ask why me, but didn’t bother as it sounded too whiney and Neil had put up with enough from me today. “Do you think Valentino knows who is behind this?” I asked instead.

Neil cut his gaze to me briefly. “I’d bet my left nut on it.” 

Do you have an agent, or have you gone alone? agent, though I do keep trying to hook one. Getting those rejections is tough and accumulating the no’s was what led me to self publish Jackson Corners in the first place.   
Who is your publisher, or who do you SP with?
I self published Jackson Corners with Wild Child holds the rights to the Hag series as well as River Rats, and Passion in Print contracted Redeeming Characters.
Would you SP again?
 Absolutely not! While the tools available for self publishing are fantastic, I’m a detail freak and having to struggle with formatting, copy editing and promoting all by my lonesome was too much for me. After a while I read what was supposed to be on the page, not what was really there. Jackson Corners is full of errors, most noticeably my homonym deficiency. Mixing up, then and than, things like that. It’s embarrassing. 
Thoughts on SP?
I like the idea of self publishing, the fact that you can start with a brain child and get it out there to interested parties is really magnificent. If I hadn’t self published Jackdon Corners, my grandmother would never have been able to read a copy of my work, since she died before the first Laundry Hag was finished.
Another thing that turned me off to the concept were the forums filled with ego maniacs, you know, the misunderstood artists who have been snubbed by traditional publishers.  They are really a small minority of self published individuals but unfortunately they seemed to be the loudest.
How long does it take you to write a book? 
On average, four months, though it depends on the story. I wrote River Rats for National Novel writing month in November of 2008 in 25 days.  Sometimes I churn out chapter after chapter and other days where I don’t even open the document. Redeeming Characters took the longest, three years just to get the plot out and I’m still editing that puppy!
Which comes first for you – characters or plot?
Always characters. I call ‘em the voices in my head. My Laundry Hag has her own page on facebook where she likes to blow off some steam when I’m not writing one of her books.
Plot makes you turn pages but characters have a reader telling her friends “Gee, I just read the most fantastic book…”
How did you get into writing?
I was born to tell stories. LOL, that’s what my grandmother accused me of when I fibbed to get out of trouble. Sometime in my late teens I decided to stop telling stories for the sake of my own comfort and turn them into entertainment. Some days it feels like no one wants to hear them but then I just tell them to my beagle. It’s either get it out or go insane. 
What mistakes do you see new writers make?
Well ATS or Arrogant Tool Syndrome is a biggie. No first draft, no matter how brilliant, is ready for public consumption. Also, putting too much weight on one completed manuscript is never a good idea. Trends change and while I’d never advise chasing them, timing the market is a must.
What advice would you give aspiring authors? 
It’s never too soon to start networking. Blog tours, social networking sites, author groups are all ways to get your name out there. Join a writing organization to get a better grip on understanding the business side of the industry. And for Pete’s sake, write! The fabulous story that only you can tell story is not going to write itself.
For More Information on Jennifer Hart’s book visit:
Redeeming Characters
By Jennifer L Hart
Dakota doesn’t just have writer’s block—she’s got a whole fricking wall of doubt standing between her and her next book. What she needs is sexy Drue, back by her side whispering words of confidence and seduction. What she gets is Drue and the giant axe he has to grind… fantasy is not all it’s cracked up to be.

Ami Blackwelder
America 2060
Three Lovers. Two Species. One Way to Survive

Set in Alaska in 2060, when April enters her Sophomore year at University, she thought Robert might be the love of her life, but as she discovers, she is hiding something inside her, something the rest of the world believes to have died out. She struggles with who she was and who she is becoming as she learns of a family she never knew existed and of enemies she will have to outrun, outfight or outwit to survive. As April embraces her new identity, will she have to leave the life she loves behind?

Tell us about The Hunted of 2060
Summary: Set in Alaska in 2060, when April enters her sophomore year at University, she thought Robert might be the love of her life, but as she discovers, she is hiding something inside her, something the rest of the world believes to have died out. She struggles with who she was and who she is becoming as she learns of a family she never knew existed and of enemies she will have to outrun, outfight or outwit to survive. As April embraces her new identity, will she have to leave the life she loves behind?

With underlining themes of how prejudice breaks human connections and animal/wildlife conservation, this novel which has received rave reviews will leave the reader flipping through the pages of April’s story.)

How long did it take to write the book?
I began writing it in March of 2010 and began professional editing in June 2010. About 3 months to write and 1 month to edit.

And what inspired you?
While in Thailand teaching Kindergarten I had a vision of a woman who could transform into an animal and thought what a fun idea.

Talk about the writing process. Did you have a writing routine? Did you do any research, and if so, what did that involve?
I write novels from passion. If I love the idea, I will write the story! A few main characters come quickly to mind as they develop throughout the writing process. Other characters usually easily emerge later…the beginning and ending are usually clear, but sometimes the ending is blurred until I approach it. The bulk of the story forms when I take the journey with my characters and allow them to make it their own story. Writers can’t force a story for characters. I usually have to research a bit when writing paranormal and when writing historical I research constantly. When writing my novel The Day the Flowers Died set in 1930 Munich, I used YouTube for videos of that time period for music, sound, place and to set me in the right frame of mind.

What do you hope your readers come away with after reading your book?
A sense of appreciation for the wildlife and forests on earth and a better idea of how prejudice can lead to cruel and unnecessary consequences. I hope my readers are entertained while learning. All of my novels have something to teach, but are also very entertaining.

Any other links or info you’d like to share? these are three great sites to gather information about The Hunted of 2060 as well as learn more about me and other paranormal authors.


Excerpt from The Hunted of 2060
At my apartment I thought I was safe from it, from myself, but my arms began to itch. I scratched. The tingling returned. I knew what to expect — sharp, intense pain. Unbearable. I threw myself onto my oversized bed propped up on steel bars and held myself. My hands clasped my shoulder bones. My head pushed into the pillows. My teeth gritted into the sheets. My fingers raked my skin as if I were an addict in need of another fix. My body shook with convulsions. My eyes shut. Instinctual, not of volition. It will pass.
A sound bellowed from my lips, a sound I’d never heard before tonight. I curled up like a baby in need of her mother and let the aching pass. It always passes. It always takes too long. Every minute felt like forever. I need him. I need him to help me get through this. When the violence inside my body soothed, I called him on my phone. He will come. He always comes.
The knock at my door drew me from my bed and to him in one fluid motion. He stood at my doorway with an orange tulip in his hands, my favorite. But I didn’t even have time to thank him for his thoughtfulness. My pain needed his comfort. My mind needed his words. My body needed his touch. He hurried through my door to the foot of the bed. He sat in his dark blue jeans, still wearing his crimson sweater. Too desperate for games, I just told him the truth.
‘I need you.’ The words flowed so easily. He drew close to me and I rested my weary head on his chest. The chill from his skin cooled my warm temperature.
‘What happened?’
‘I don’t know.’
‘Tell me where you hurt. Let me help you.’ The fine lines breaking in his forehead revealed his fear for me.
‘Everywhere,’ I grimaced.
‘Tell me what to do.’ The longing in his words mirrored the longing in his heart. He wanted more from me than I could give him right now.
‘Nothing,’ I said shortly, looked up into his pleading blue eyes and then gave him just an inch of what I knew he wanted. ‘Just be here.’
He smiled and didn’t question me more about it. Robert had seen me hurt before, twice, and learned not to ask me questions. They brought out the agitation in me. With his lips closed, his gentle hands took care of me. I abhorred hospitals. He held me in his embrace. His heart beat fast, too fast. I heard it too well, better than I should.
Never mind. He’s here with me now. Everything will be fine.
I rested on his chest, wrapped up in his arms, his large toned arms. He fell asleep, peaceful. I never sleep so still. Every sound, every motion usually kept me awake. But with him near me, I slept soundly.

* * *
I covered my eyes in the bright daylight at first. We strolled out of my apartment and down the block over the chipped sidewalks. The sky cars in various metallic colors flew past us like birds overhead. Their revving sounded like whistles blowing. The black apartment walls stayed in the shadows of the day and the windows glowed in fluorescent lights laced around their borders.
The electrical newspapers beamed in and out against the shop walls and displayed current events. America clones President Strossey in an attempt to derail assassination attempts. The news faded out while the next page faded in. A trip to Mars is scheduled for next weekend: September 14th, 2060. NASA says the highly anticipated Anti-Matter Propulsion is ready to use for distant travel. On the next slide of news, another space-related event emerged onto the screen. The RAM Jet Fusion Engine will reach the Space Walker today to transport food and water to the Moon Station. Go Green, Go Hydrogen!
The gray clouds rolled in like a tumultuous sea about to storm. The thunder crackled and a few rain pellets began to fall. Robert took out his compact umbrella stashed inside of his front jean pocket. He wrapped his hand around the miniature, rectangular tool and hit the silver button with his forefinger. The shape of the umbrella unfolded around us and clicked into place. People on the busy streets brushed past us in dark raincoats and silver radiated umbrellas. The silver color lit up against the lightning. I wrapped my arm around Robert’s and fastened my other hand over my waist.
‘Are you…’ He stopped his sentence. I knew what he wanted to ask, …alright today? He knew I didn’t enjoy those questions. He cleared his throat, ‘…hungry?’ I smiled at him and shifted my eyes to the chipped sidewalk like a coy animal.
‘Sure, I could eat something.’ In truth, I was famished. I hadn’t eaten dinner last night even though I’d been feeling more hungry than usual.
‘Where would you like to eat? We have the whole day to ourselves.’ His strong blue eyes shone lighter than the sky. ‘Thank God for Saturdays,’ he smirked with a scar over his wrinkled chin from playing hockey. We ambled to the end of the sidewalk. A sky car slowed down, dropping out of the sky in front of us. Its wheels, in mechanical precision, lowered out of its body and hit the aluminum street. The car’s angular tip and short rounded frame propelled down the road and disappeared after turning a corner.
‘We could eat at Uro’s Deli,’,I suggested. ‘I’m craving a roast beef sub.’
‘Uro’s it is.’
The silver, black and white checkered walls of the deli stood out between two buildings. The low brick building to the left reminded everyone of designs long gone. The spiraling crisp white tower to the right reached into the clouds. Music somewhere between disco and techno permeated Uro’s (a name based on the monetary exchange of America since 2025) and the sounds seeped out the deli door and onto the city as we approached.
Robert pointed to the spiraling tower with his forefinger. ‘I would’ve positioned the base more to the left and the tip more to the right, placing the spiral off center.’
‘Crooked?’ I arched a brow. He loved architecture, he studied architecture, but his ideas could be grandeur.
‘Interesting,’ he corrected. I grinned. Robert tripped over cement on the other side of the street.
‘Damn sidewalks. Do you know when they’re going to rebuild them?’ he asked, agitated. I don’t have answers. I can only think of my own pain. I can think of nothing else.
‘No.’ I walked ahead toward the door.
‘They’d better reconstruct them with nano-ceramic soon before someone gets seriously hurt.’ He followed. The entire city began to look like one large piece of nano-material, a substance that wouldn’t bend or break in chaotic weather or over extended periods of time.
Robert sat across from me in the oversized black booth with his concentrated expression. We punched our orders into the Electric Order Form, an efficient device, much like the internet fifty years ago. Square, about the size of a book, it fit into the table on each side near the end. It eliminated the need of waiters.
Robert fiddled with his projection watch. He looked like a budding professor playing with the technology in his hands. Despite his strong body and model-like appearance, he maintained a 3.5 GPA and tutored some of his buddies on the hockey team. He hit the silver button on his watch and the hologram of our Biology textbook appeared over the table. He clicked the arrow button and it turned page after page until he stopped at page ten.
I brushed my onyx hair away from my face. ‘You want to show me something?’ I placed my elbows on the table and nestled my head in my left hand. My palm cupped my chin and my hazel eyes shot up at him.
‘I forgot to mention, Mr. Crougar said this was going to be on the quiz Monday.’
Monday? I can’t even think about tomorrow. I have to take this one day at a time…whatever ‘this’ is.
I nodded like I cared about a quiz, like I wasn’t thinking about something else over every word he read. He hit the arrow button again and the page turned. As he finished highlighting the important parts, the Intelligent Service Robot, dressed in the deli uniform of silver, black and white checkered shirt and pants, carried our orders on its metallic arms. Its back squeaked as it bent over to place our plates before us.
‘Do you ever miss it?’ I said in almost a whisper to Robert.
‘Miss what?’
‘Actual people serving food?’ The ISRs were manufactured and found in every business by 2050 and in most homes by 2055. They brought a great relief to the extra workloads carried by most people, but they also took away many jobs. People were angry at first, until new employment opportunities for the manufacturing and upkeep of the ISRs became available.
‘Sometimes.’ Robert winked and began to eat his chili sandwich, one of his favorites at the deli. The smell of roast beef spun my head in a dizzy frenzy and I began to feel the aches in my bones again.
All I can think about is the meat.

Preview and Purchase Ami Blackwelder books (Prints and eBooks):

Ami Rebecca Blackwelder is a forbidden romance writer in the paranormal and historical romance genre. Her unique experiences from travels in Asia for eight years allows her an original perspective and a plethora of ideas to entertain readers. She graduated from UCF with a BA in English and published her first work after winning the best Fiction of 1997 at UCF and subsequently achieving the semi-finals in Laurel Hemingway Short Story contest of that same year.

An historical fiction set in Munich, Germany in the early 1930s before the outbreak of War World II. Eli Levin and Rebecca Baum fall passionately in love and while their differences should have separated them, they instead forged a passionate bond that would change their lives forever.
While religious and social differences weigh heavily on their families in an increasingly tense Germany, the lovers remain unadulterated in spite of the prejudices. After overcoming family issues and social pressures, the two must sustain under a growing violent governmental regime. When the Nazi party heightens in popularity and the partys ideas influence law, they must face the harsh reality of life and death.
Graphic Novella
Rain is a highly advanced genetically engineered woman designed by the future corrupt government of 2100. She has dreams who remind her of who she really is and decides to go rogue and take the government down.
The Gate of Lake Forest
Within the small town of Green Mountain Falls, Colorado, there exists a quiet forest where a world undiscovered awaits. When soccer player, Michael Cole, of high school Green Mountain Falls sees the new girl Evelyn walk into his senior English class, he is forever changed.
His passion for her draws him deep into her heart and deep into her mystical world. Will their forbidden love be able to sustain them as their separate worlds collide, and Evelyn and Michael journey into magical adventurous and perilous realms where dangerous creatures are determined to defeat them?
High school will never be the same.

A Paranormal and Historical Romance author
Passion with Taste and Twist

Broken Dreams by Nick Quantrill

Finding a publisher – ‘working hard at being lucky’
Nick Quantrill

Since the publication of ‘Broken Dreams’ in March, one of the recurring question I’m asked by readers and writers is, “how did you get a publishing deal?” The short answer is I sent the standard synopsis and first three chapters off and crossed my fingers. From there, Caffeine Nights Publishing asked for the rest of the manuscript and the rest, as they say, is history.

What I try and tell people is that there’s more to the story. The saying, “the harder I try, the luckier I get” has more than the ring of truth about it to me. I started writing seriously in 2006 and produced a string of short-stories, some of which I remain quite proud of, some I’d quite happily never see again, but for better or worse, I created a website and a MySpace page and published the stories. I wasn’t the only one doing this and it brought me into contact with countless readers, writers and independent publishers, several of whom I’m proud to say I now call friends. Networking in an informal atmosphere gave me the opportunity to take a look at the different publishers out there and figure out which ones might be a potential good fit with the vision I had of my work. Writing about a Private Investigator in my home city of Hull, a decaying and isolated fishing port on the East coast, never felt like it was going to be an easy sell, so it seemed obvious that I would have to put the groundwork in to increase my chances of success.

Caffeine Nights Publishing is the brainchild of Darren Laws and I first came across him on MySpace and started to follow his blog, which outlines his approach to the ever-changing world of publishing. Our low-key relationship on the Internet allowed us to keep an eye on each other’s progress and demonstrate that we were both serious about what we were doing and it was this base which underpinned my submission of ‘Broken Dreams’. I was fortunate enough to be offered the chance I needed, but it’s imperative that you’re active. There’s a huge network of readers, writers and publishers a press of the button away. The challenge is to engage with them, enjoy the successes and learn from the mistakes. That way you’ll be working hard at being lucky.

Find me :
‘Broken Dreams’ is available from all good bookshop and online retailers – £7.99.
ISBN – 9780955407024

‘Broken Dreams’ by Nick Quantrill Geraghty, Private Investigator, is used to struggling from one case to the next, barely making the rent on his small office in the Old Town of Hull. Invited by a local businessman to investigate a member of his staff’s absenteeism, it’s the kind of surveillance work that Geraghty and his small team have performed countless times. When Jennifer Murdoch is found bleeding to death in her bed, Geraghty quickly finds himself trapped in the middle of a police investigation which stretches back to the days when the city had a thriving fishing industry. As the woman’s tangled private life begins to unravel, the trail leads Geraghty to local gangster-turned-respectable businessman, Frank Salford, a man with a significant stake in the city’s regeneration plans. Still haunted by the death of his wife in a house fire, it seems the people with the answers Geraghty wants are the police and Salford, both of whom want his co-operation for their own ends. With everything at stake, some would go to any length to get what they want, Geraghty included.
About Nick Quantrill

Nick Quantrill was born and raised in Hull, East Yorkshire. Never realising he could be a writer, Nick spent most of his twenties shouting and bawling his way around Sunday League football pitches before studying for a degree in Social Policy. Approaching now or never time, Nick started writing crime stories set in and around his home city. The result is ‘Broken Dreams,’ his debut novel which focuses on Hull’s past and future through the lens of the city’s lost fishing industry. ‘Broken Dreams’ is published by Caffeine Nights.

Taste the action!

New Author Richard Sutherland

Richard Sutherland
Brace yourself for a hackneyed opening line. Here goes: “I always wanted to be an author”.
Apologies for that. Now let me make it up to you by adding: “But the fact that I did very little writing and was too shy to tell anyone about it hindered this ambition.”
There we go, that’s spiced it up a bit and given me something to focus on instead of just rambling for a few paragraphs. So now I’ll elaborate on how someone who didn’t really write anything ended up being an author. Or I’ll give it a go, at least.
Whilst at college and university, I wrote a few short stories and a single poem (the latter being something which, at the time, I thought was a one-off), but I didn’t consider myself a writer until July 2008, when suddenly everything changed. Waterstone’s (my employer from 2002-09) were running a competition called ‘What’s Your Story?”, which invited the public to create a tale that could fit onto a single-sided postcard. The winners would then be published in a postcard book alongside famous authors the likes of Neil Gaiman, Terry Pratchett, J.K. Rowling and many others. I’d never taken part in a writing competition before but this really took my fancy, and the fact that I worked at Waterstone’s gave me that much needed thrust to actually take part.
Sitting at my computer, I felt dismay at the realisation that I had no idea what to write about. My eyes flitted back and forth around the room, finally landing upon the spine of Aesop’s Fables, this particular edition being illustrated by the wonderfully fantastical artist Arthur Rackham. On the cover, Rackham had beautifully captured an array of characters from the book, one of them being an anthropomorphised stork. This swiftly resulted in me writing a story based not around the fairy tale creature per se, but around a perfect couple who can obtain anything they desire, except for a child. This short story is called ‘Special Delivery’ and it’s the first in my book because I still hold it dear; but the version that I wrote in July 2008 went through many changes before it was published in December 2009, most notably the ending… and the beginning… and pretty much all of the stuff in-between. (One piece of advice I can give: even when you think a piece is finished, chances are it isn’t. There’s often a sentence or even just a single word that might need changing. Take a break, then look at it with fresh eyes. This can pay dividends.)
Having written a full story, I became insatiable! I wrote another called ‘Savage Competition’, which charts the barbaric feud between Polar Bear and Walrus, followed by many others of various styles. One of my favourites, and by far the simplest of them all, is ‘The Life in a Year of the Traffic Lights’, which I wrote at about 3am because I simply couldn’t get to sleep without composing a tale about sentient traffic lights. I’m an odd man.
Anyway, to cut a long story short, I wrote the contents (obviously), designed the cover and overall layout (those pesky margins, page numbers, copyright page and so on), registered with Nielsen Bookdata in order to buy the block of ISBNs and list the book on their database, paid a printer to put ink onto paper, created an account with Gardners Books so that it could be sold to shops, which in turn I then had to contact one by one because I’m my own marketing and press departments, and generally spread the word like crazy! As much as I’d love to say “that’s that”, the process continues until every single copy has sold (I broke even a few months ago, so trickles of profit make their way to me now and then, which is a pleasant surprise).
Self-publishing can be a long and hazardous road (not to mention lined with expensive tolls), but by God, there can be a lot of interesting incidents on the way. And providing you reach your destination, the hard slog makes it all the more satisfying. So I would recommend self-publishing as a route toward getting your words in the public’s view as it’s worked out great for me, but do some research first to make sure that it suits your needs. There are websites such as that publish any book, that publish many books, and then there’s the DIY route that I took (I used the printer, based in Ipswich). Again, take your time and find the method that’s best for you.
Oh, and that postcard competition – I didn’t win. In fact, I didn’t even enter it! Why? Well, because I decided that my story deserved to be longer than a single-sided postcard, simple as that. And who needs to be published
alongside J.K. Rowling? I’m pretty close to her in the alphabet anyway.


Take a collection of short stories that range from the sombre to the slapstick, with characters from the psychopathic to the fairy tale. Add to the mix a bunch of humorous poems, a ‘monologue for two’, a story written entirely in text speak and even one that includes a bit or Morse Code, and you have yourself ‘The Unitary Authority of Ersatz’.
The Unitary Authority of ErsatzDespite the contents incorporating very different genres, styles and rhythms, they all take place within the eponymous city (Ersatz itself), a place where flights of fancy come to land.

The book is now in over 100 bookshops across the UK, stocked by Amazon and, and available worldwide from the author’s website:

About the Author

Richard Sutherland is the author of ‘The Unitary Authority of Ersatz’, a collection of eclectic fiction and humorous poetry.

He studied History and Art History at Hull University and has worked as a Frozen Food Assistant, a Market Researcher, an Electricity Salesman, a Waterstone’s Bookseller and is now in the Marketing Department at Hull Truck Theatre (so he’s accustomed to people dressed as anything from cheeseburgers to penguins walking through the office on a normal day).

His life revolves around a loving girlfriend and two insane cats. His favourite colour hasn’t yet been discovered by scientists and he has a worrying obsession with traffic lights.

To get a glimpse into his bewildering imagination, take a gander at

Blue Bells of Scotland by Laura Vosika

Blue Bells of Scotland
Laura Vosika
Shawn Kleiner has it all: money, fame, a skyrocketing career as an international musical phenomenon, his beautiful girlfriend Amy, and all the women he wants—until the night Amy has enough and abandons him in a Scottish castle. He wakes to find himself mistaken for Niall Campbell, medieval Highland warrior. Soon after, he is sent shimmying down a wind-torn castle wall into a dangerous cross country trek with Niall’s tempting, but knife-wielding fiancee, pursued by English soldiers and a Scottish traitor who want Niall dead.
Thrown forward in time, Niall learns history’s horrifying account of his own death, and of the Scots’ slaughter at Bannockburn. Undaunted, he navigates the roiled waters of Shawn’s life—pregnant girlfriend, amorous fans, enemies, gambling debts—seeking a way to leap back across time to save his people, especially his beloved Allene. But he finds himself liking Shawn’s life…

Author, Laura Vosika grew up in the military, visiting castles in England, pig fests in Germany, and the historic sites of America’s east coast. She worked for many years as a freelance musician, and has taught general music, band, and private music lessons for twenty years.

In addition to The Blue Bells Trilogy, Laura has several other novels in progress and two non-fictions, one on raising a large family and one on Scottish history. She is the mother of nine, living in Minnesota.

Excerpt of Blue Bells of Scotland

“Give me the car keys.” Amy thrust her hand out.
“You didn’t get your international license. You can’t drive.”
“Watch me.”
Shawn laughed, digging in the pocket of his baggy, medieval trews. “I know you, Amy. You won’t jaywalk on a deserted street. I paid good money for this meal. I’ll be out when I’m done.” He flipped the keys at her, much harder than necessary.
She caught them in a neat overhand. “I will expect my grandmother’s ring back as promised,” she said in clipped tones, “or I will cause so much trouble in every possible corner of your life, that you’ll wish you’d never thought up that idiotic story about tinagle connectors.” She threw the tartan down at him.
“I didn’t make….”
“Stuff it, Shawn. I saw Jim while I was waiting in the lobby. He almost died laughing, said there’s no such thing on a trombone. Thanks for humiliating me, on top of it. Maybe some day you’ll come clean about what you needed—make that wanted—the money for.”
“Hey, that’s not fair!” He jumped to his feet. “I needed that money! There was this big Scot. He was coming with his friends to beat the living daylights out of me!”
“Did you sleep with his wife? You probably deserved to be beaten to a pulp.” She shoved past him, glaring back from the arched doorway at the top of the stairwell. “I cannot believe I’ve stayed with you this long!” She spun on her heel. Her voice floated back up from the dark staircase. “I cannot believe I kept thinking there was something better in you!” He ran to the western wall to see her emerge from the tower into the courtyard. Mist swirled around her ankles. “Everybody told me there was nothing better there!” she shouted up at him.
“Bull!” he shouted back, leaning over the tower. “They love me!”
“You have no idea what they say behind your back,” Amy yelled. “Selfish, self-centered, obnoxious, loud! They’re just afraid of your temper. Arrogant!” She turned and stormed across the courtyard, tearing through tendrils of mist grabbing at her legs.
“I am not loud!” he bellowed.
History of Blue Bells of Scotland
Today in history, in 1274, Robert the Bruce was born, most likely at Turnberry Castle in Ayrshire.

The third of ten children, he was the oldest of five sons. His older sister, Isabel, became the queen of Norway. His younger brother, Edward, briefly took the throne of Ireland during the Scottish Wars of Independence. His other three other brothers, Neil, Thomas, and Alexander, all died at the hands of the English, being brutally executed.
Bruce remains today one of Scotland’s greatest heroes, alongside William Wallace of Braveheart fame. In the wake of Edward Longshanks of England’s invasion of Scotland, he eventually became King of Scots and led Scotland to victory against a much stronger army at Bannockburn on June 24, 1314.

To read more about the history click here.

Contact info:
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“Laura Vosika spins a captivating tale that combines historical fiction with time travel and a bit of reverse alternate history cleverly woven in. Instead of changing the final outcome of an important historical event, Vosika changes the history at the start of the novel so that her time traveler changes it to what actually is. Although the grandfather paradox is mentioned, no consequences are shown for the changed history that the time travel generated such as people disappearing as if they never existed. The pacing flows from a measured cadence at the start of the tale and builds to a climatic crescendo reminiscent of Ravel’s Bolero.”
~Joan Szechtman, author of This Time~

See the full review at Joan’s blog, Random Thoughts of An Accidental Author