Author Interview Sixty-Seven – Barbara G. Tarn Revisited.


, , , , ,

I’d like to welcome back author Barbara G.Tarn

 Please recap briefly about your books: I’m the prolific writer who keeps putting out 25 titles per year, but sometimes it’s rewrites of old stories, sometimes it’s translations and only a third is brand new stuff.

What has changed since you last visited? Tell us your news! This year’s new stuff is about the Assassins Guild of Godwalkar, first mentioned last year in Saif’s Legacy and now in my Wyrd Worlds 2 story Guisarme. The other stories will come out between October and December.

Do you think indie/self-published authors are viewed differently to traditionally published authors? Why do you think this might be? I went to Loncon this year. I felt even more invisible than at Chicon. The fans aren’t aware of us – or maybe the Worldcon is for old people who are not aware of the ebook revolution – so we’ll never be nominated for a Hugo, unless we sell a short story to a traditional market that would put us in front of everybody’s eyes. The worldcon is still traditional publishing kingdom at this time, unfortunately. Hopefully things will change soon! :)

Looking back what do you wish you’d known when you started writing? I started writing longhand on a notebook long before the internet! What I see now with new writers is lack of patience. They want to get rich with one or two books. They don’t write because that’s a way of life. I could stop publishing (which is something I’ve started doing in the new millennium), but I’d never stop writing. And I’m grateful things are changing in the publishing world, allowing little me to put my work out there!

How have you progressed as a writer since you started? I’ve learned some writing techniques and can now write fluently in two languages (saves the money of translations in this global world, LOL!). I also learned to reduce my casts and move slower (some of my old stories read like summaries with dialogues), showing more and telling less, although I’m still not too fond of descriptions. I have a dry prose because that’s why I like to read.

What are your best marketing/networking tips? What are your worst? As long as you have fun, anything goes. Nobody knows the perfect recipe, so experiment with what you’re comfortable with. A friend of mine asked if blogging is still necessary. I don’t know, I do it because I enjoy doing it. When I won’t have anything left to say, I’ll stop. As for social networks, I use only Facebook and Goodreads, but your mileage may vary! ;) Oh, and my #1 rule for marketing is “write the next book”! Announce the birth of your latest baby and go back to writing, without obsessing with sales!

What are your views on authors offering free books? It might work to spread the name… I’ve given away free POD books. Two I donated to a bookshop, and 4 that I didn’t sell at Loncon I improvised a UK-only Goodreads giveaway. I have only a couple of free e-titles, though. Free e-books don’t work as well as they used to (but I’m getting rid of all those dead tree books, LOL!).

Do you have a favourite movie? Nope. But I have a cinematic writing. I write down the movies in my head (hence the virtual casting) and often take inspiration from movies.

What are your plans for the future? When will we see your next book?  Tell us about it. Already written: the Assassins’ Guild of Godwalkar. Waiting for the betas, then I’ll revise and send off to the editor/proofreader. Expect something in October as a taste, and the rest between November and December.

Give us a bit of information about your primary character(s). The protagonist throughout is Kilig  I’m not sure yet in which order I will release them, but one part is about him and Saif, the other is about him and Hakeem, Saif’s son that you’ve met in Saif’s Legacy. He’s an assassin and a loner, but he did fall in love – twice. First with the father, then with the son… He lives in the interesting times of the birth of the Varian Empire, also explored in other books of the Silvery Earth saga (namely: Books of the Immortals – Fire)

Links etc.




Author Central

Where to find everything (although the i-bookstore link seems to be broken):

Silvery Earth (adult unconventional fantasy):


Wyrd Worlds II – An anthology of Science Fiction and Fantasy


, , , , , , , ,

Last year I was delighted to be asked to participate in the Smashwords Authors group anthology Wyrd Worlds, a collection of speculative fiction from some of the new talent, and established talent on the Good Reads site. We had such fun putting together the free anthology decided to do it again! Thanks to Steph for her support and hard work and to Ross for the cover art.

This year a few more authors got involved and the talent ranges from Steph Bennion, who once again organised and edited the book, to Victoria Zigler author of children’s fantasy.  There is quite a mix of stories, mine include ‘The Joy of Socks’ part of the Kitchen Imps tales. It may well explain where socks go in the washing machine. The other is ‘Free Will’, a tale of the musings of a god as he watches the small blue-green world he cares for. There is something for everyone in this anthology, young and old.

This ebook contains a bumper 19 short stories from 17 independent authors from around the world, encompassing a wide range of science fiction and fantasy. Here lurks tales of the future, steampunk and time travel; of magical realms and fantastical deeds; and of things so weird they defy categorisation. The original WYRD WORLDS rode upon a new wave of indie collaborations; and now we’re back! In this anthology you will find:

HORIZON – KIRA: PART 2 by Ross Harrison – It was just her and a boy, alone. Kira had to concentrate on keeping him alive.

THE VISITOR by Neil Shooter – Time is relative. On an ordinary blustery British night an extraordinary visitor comes.

A WORLD TAKEN OVER by Douglas Schwartz – He had conquered the world. How much more effort was it going to be to unconquer it?

THE JOY OF SOCKS by A.L. Butcher – The imps knew what they wanted from the Bringer of Offerings…

THE COLONIAL PLAGUE by L.L. Watkin – It’s been years since Missra was executed and now her soul is shut away, but being the most powerful magical healer of her generation gets her out of the box occasionally…

HUMANITY WAS DELICIOUS by Ubiquitous Bubba – Imagine you were the werewolf who ate the last human. What will you eat now? More importantly, how are you going to get off this alien ship?

MY LAST DAY by Zach Tyo – Disaster awaits the Earth, yet an unexpected gift brings joy.

GUISARME by Barbara G. Tarn – Members of the Assassins’ Guild can be as honorable as anyone. They might be trained to kill, but they’re just people with loved ones to protect and avenge.

ROCK OF AGES by Steph Bennion – Letters from the past were hidden for a reason. But breaking into the secure facility was child’s play compared to an unexpected family reunion…

THE DINER by Michael Puttonen – Sometimes a life lived hasn’t been lived at all.

HOMELESS by Neil Shooter – Winter didn’t end, but his world has. Is he completely alone? In a world gone cold, what can keep the spark of life shining?

GY by Peter Lean – The Book was the knowledge that could open the door, but the worlds had been separated for a reason…

IRREVOCABLE by L.J. Hick – He did not accept finality. All he knew was that he had to change the impossible.

POISONED GROUND by Laurel A. Rockefeller – Lady Abbess Cara of house Ten-Ar must find the cause of a mysterious plague of illnesses before it is too late for the city of Nan-li…

SASHA AND THE COLLARED GIRL by Stan Morris – The man was willing to trade his prized possession, but she was already lost.

QUEST FOR THE PURPLE PUMPKIN by Victoria Zigler – A glittering surprise in the woods leads Polly to another world, where just being human is punishable by death…

FREE WILL by A.L. Butcher – The other Grand Wizards thought Leonardos eccentric, indulging the little World Marble like a favoured child…

AT THE BOTTOM OF THE LAKE by Clark Graham – A tabloid journalist discovers his outlandish stories just might be true.

CHANGING EVERYTHING by Josh Karaczewski – Two men set out into one of America’s roughest neighborhoods as one piece of a grand plan to change everything…

For now it is only available on Smashwords – Free – but will shortly appear on Amazon and all the Smashwords premium stores. (Smashwords Link) (Website for Wyrd Worlds II)

Janet Morris and Chris Morris interview on the collaborative process in literature


A great article about the writing process

Originally posted on sacredbander:

Originally published in Uviart.  Thanks. Uvi Poznansky, for this incisive interview


Interview about Collaboration:
“Though this be madness, yet there is method in it.”
Janet Morris and Chris Morris
Authors of
And more books
So said Shakespeare’s Polonius of Hamlet, in Hamlet. So say Janet Morris and Chris Morris, lifetime collaborators in words, music, and strategy. I cornered this elusive pair to ask some hard questions about how they do what they do, and why.
Janet and Chris, writing is known to be a solitary art. How do you two manage to write seamlessly together, so much so that no one can tell which of you wrote what?
Uvi, Apropos of collaboration, Shakespeare’s Touchstone said in As You Like It, “We that are true lovers run into strange capers.” As Chris and I often…

View original 2,590 more words

Character Interview Number Twenty-Six – Nia


, , ,

Tell Us About Yourself

Name (s) Nia. And that’s the only name I know of.

Age: 22

Please tell us a little about yourself. Oh, only a little? I’m a spy, an assassin, an eyes-and-ears, the watcher in the shadows… though ironically I work for a Watcher

Describe your appearance in 10 words or less. I’m really very ordinary. Dull brown hair, blue eyes, too many freckles, small breasts, no hips to speak of… need I go on?

Do you have a moral code? If so what is it? I have a code that I live by, although you’d be quite naive if you referred to it as in any way moral.

Would you kill for those you love? I don’t know what love is. Actually, I wish I hadn’t said that- you may be one of those few people who feel sorry for me for whatever reason. I’m not worth feeling sorry for- move on.

What would you say are your strengths and weaknesses? I’m fast, pretty good at most types of fighting, *very* accurate with throwing knives, excellent at gathering information, and I know how to follow without being seen. As for weaknesses, I don’t think here is the place to talk about those. In fact I don’t think anywhere is the place to talk about those…

Do you have a family? Tell us about them. Don’t you EVER ask me that question again.

Tell Us About Your World

Do you travel in the course of your adventures? If so where? I travel most places in the civilised south. Obviously I never go beyond the Never-Built Wall, as even the influence of the Seven wanes drastically as you step anywhere north of Mornkastle or thereabouts. But I have the freedom of the south. Lucky me!

Does your world have magic? If so how is it viewed in your world? Magic is tightly controlled in the south. Only the Seven may use it with impunity- well, of course, because they’re the Seven, immortal sorcerors and overlords of Harn. Well, the south of Harn. In the distant north, it’s chaos. Witches and warlocks, mad superstitions, folk being burned at the stake if the moons are in conjunction… 

Does your world have different races of people? If so do they get on with one another?There are many of them. The luyan and du-luyan would say there are too many humans, and they’d probably be right. Then in the far north there’s the orkar- huge cannibalistic savage beings… 

Does your world have any supernatural/mystical beings? Please tell us about some. There are none more mystical than the Seven. They arrived a thousand years ago and no one knows from where they came. The sorcery that they weave is unlike any other. Certainly it’s beyond my comprehension, but then I’m not a dabbler in the unknowable arts.


Author notes:


Book(s) in which this character appears plus links


Oblivion’s Forge (Aona Book 1) –


Secret Roads (Aona Book 2) –


The Endless Shore (Aona Book 3) –


Author name: Simon Williams

Website/Blog/Author pages etc.
Website and blog:


Twitter: @SWilliamsAuthor


Meet Guest Author Mike Jecks


Great interview with Michael Jecks, historical mystery author. His books are fantastic, and a great insight into the time.

Originally posted on Chris The Story Reading Ape's Blog..... An Author Promotions Enterprise!:

Michael Jecks 01Hi, I’m Mike Jecks, always writing under the name Michael Jecks, and I’m the author of 35 published books, as well as a bunch of short stories, novellas with Medieval Murderers, and, let’s not forget, five unpublished books.

I never meant to be a writer.

Back in the 1980s, I embarked on a new career in computing. Before that I’d been determined to have a life as an Actuary. What’s that? A mathematician and statistician who applies his brain to insurance and finance problems. Or, as I learned later, having failed every exam for two years, a person who finds accountancy too exciting.

I thought there must be more to life, so I set out to be a computer salesman. And I did very well. My first 5 years saw me as one of Wordplex’s top salespeople; my second 5 years saw me as a successful salesman in Wang Laboratories

View original 4,826 more words

Cover Designer Interview Number Six – Rustin Petrae


, , , , , ,

My name is Rustin Petrae. I am a self-published author as well as a graphic designer. I wrote the Histories of Purga novels (Book One: Dragon and Book Two: Roc) as well as the Bane Pack Novels (Blood Ties: The First and Coming Soon! Blood Ties: The Second). I am also the creator and writer for the comic book Hybrid Earth published through Scattered Comics. I’ve been a graphic designer for over 5 years and I have really illustrative, stylized designs.

1) You are a cover designer, what made you decide to get into this line of work? When I first published my own novels, I spent a lot of time looking through other self-published works. I quickly saw that there was a need for my skills and so I offered them.

2) Can you tell us about some of the covers you’ve designed and authors you’ve worked with? (name of books, authors you’ve worked with etc.) I designed three covers (both eBook and print) for Irish author Matthew W. McFarland. He wrote 50/50, The Liar, and Defenestration. I also did a cover for LA author Ryan Haynes and Indian author Sneha Bansal. And of course, I designed all the covers for my own books as well as all the images you see inside them.

3) Can you tell us what is involved? (I have no clue so you can be as elaborate as you like!) I first start off with thumbnails. These are very rough sketches that give the client (or myself) an understanding of the proposed layout of images and graphics. Once we decide on the route we want to take, I go about creating the images, titles, pick out fonts, etc. I then send the client a proof and they either approve that or come back with any changes they may want. Once we go through several drafts and decide on the final product, I email them their finalized files.

Software used – where you source your images, how long a cover takes etc.

I almost exclusively work with vector graphic software but I am also highly proficient with other programs such as Photoshop, InDesign, Quark Xpress, etc. I can create nearly any effect or manipulation that someone might be looking for, all they have to do is ask. When I do create my covers, depending on what graphic I want to use, I usually just create my own.

4) Where does your inspiration come from? Do you read the book first, then come up with a design, or can you produce something from an author’s description? I do not read the books first as most people aren’t quite finished with them yet. I ask the author what thoughts they have or if they want any specific graphics or images they want me to use and then go from there. Once I have a really good idea of what they are looking for, I can picture the cover in my head and start to design what I envision.

5) What are your thoughts on ‘generic’ covers – such as a sword or throne and skulls for fantasy, or interchangeable torsos for romance? Generic, to me, is usually pretty boring. I’m not saying all generic covers are boring, but if they were jazzed up and looking really cool despite being an interchangeable torso or a skull or a sword, then they wouldn’t really be classified as generic anymore anyway. You can make any image look amazing if you’re talented enough.

6) When you buy a book do you look at the cover first? What else attracts you? What turns you off? When I buy a book, the cover is the number one draw. If it looks cool, I will definitely pick it up. The second thing is the back blurb. If that is interesting enough, then I will buy it. I don’t necessarily have turn offs when it comes to buying books, just certain genres that don’t interest me much so I won’t even go in that section.

7) What advice would you give to anyone starting out in this line of work or who might want to design a cover? Be patient. Be receptive to the client’s critiques. And above all else, make sure that the client gets exactly what they’re looking for. A happy client could mean more business in the future.

8) What are your thoughts on sites like Fiverr where people can buy covers cheaply? Do you think they encourage substandard or very generic images? I haven’t actually been on Fiverr so I couldn’t offer an opinion on that particular site. I don’t necessarily think the people doing those all have substandard or generic covers but I imagine there are probably loads of them that are. It is a shame because you have to wade through a lot of people that think they can do it to get to the people that can actually do it.

9) Do you have a genre you prefer? I don’t really have a specific genre that I like to work on more than others. It’s all very entertaining to do but if I had to pick one, it would probably be fantasy. I really like drawing monsters and mythical creatures.

10) Please tell us about your favourite image and the favourite cover you have worked on? I haven’t done a huge amount of covers yet and so I can remember them all pretty easily and I have to say that there is something I like about each one. At the moment, I don’t really have a favorite.

11) Can you give us a silly fact about yourself? I really like the notion of the basic elements like water, earth, fire, wind, etc. That really sneaks its way into a lot of my stories and my artwork.

Blog/website links etc.



Author Interview Number Sixty-Six – David A Tatum – Fantasy/Sci-fi


, , , , , , ,

Welcome to David A. Tatum

Please tell us a little about your writing – for example genre, title, etc. I like to think I will write in a lot of different styles and genre in my career. So far, however, I have only published two fantasy novels (“In Treachery Forged” and “The Kitsune Stratagem”) and a sci-fi novelette (“To the Rink of War”), and outside of some poems and experimental fiction in one anthology I have planned those two genre look like all I’ll be writing for the next few years.  By the end of this year, I expect to have launched four series.  “In Treachery Forged” and “The Kitsune Stratagem” start different series, Book I of a new sci-fi series should be coming in the next couple months (assuming I can finish the editing and get the cover art done in time), and “To the Rink of War” was intended to start a series of shorter fiction as well (though that idea may be put on hold due to an apparent lack of interest).  Next year I will be publishing the sequels to at least two of those series, plus that anthology I mentioned and possibly another novelette\novella.  It’s going to be a busy couple of years for me.

Where do you find inspiration? Inspiration can come from many sources. “In Treachery Forged” originated with a discussion about the possibility that mythical representations of chi in martial arts legends might have been the result of the mental manipulation of bioelectromagnetic fields.  “To the Rink of War” began with the mental exercise of creating a new sport (in this case, Microgravity Hockey, which has yet to appear in the series but has been mentioned).  “Voices,” a short story which will be in that upcoming anthology I mentioned, was inspired by a college professor insisting that it was impossible to write in first person omniscient perspective (so, of course, I had to write a story in that perspective to prove him wrong, even if he never saw it).  “The Kitsune Stratagem” partly came about because of an editor going on a total rant on the overuse of elves, dwarves, and dragons, going so far as to say he would throw the next manuscript he saw with the word “elf” in it across the room, send the author an automatic rejection, and blacklist him from ever being considered for submission by his company again.  I didn’t understand his complaint about elves, dwarves, and dragons — to me, that’s like complaining swords or armor are overused, since all you’re doing by using these creatures is give your readers a short-cut to understand what physical abilities and characteristics they have — but I still decided to research other creatures that could be used as fantasy races.  So, instead of elves and dwarves and dragons, “The Kitsune Stratagem” is populated by kitsune and wulvers and bunyips.

Research can be important in world-building, how much do you need to do for your books? Do you enjoy this aspect of creating a novel and what are your favourite resources? Yes, research is important, but not necessarily in the areas I anticipated when I started taking my writing career seriously. As a reader, I’ve always been a bigger fan of historical fiction (especially with a nautical bent) than any other genre.  I’m a history buff, but the standard for research in historical fiction, at least in the examples I was most familiar with (CS Forester, Patrick O’Brian, and Kenneth Roberts), was daunting.  I’ve known readers of historical fiction to blacklist authors simply because they accidentally referred to a slightly anachronistic color pigment in a woman’s clothes.  I correctly assumed that it was unlikely I would get slammed by a reader for my choice of fabric color in science fiction and fantasy.

However, that doesn’t mean there’s no research, or even that the research burden was that much less.  When writing “To the Rink of War,” I had to calculate whether a ramming weapon was practical with a ship that could only accelerate at a maximum of six meters per second squared.  When writing “In Treachery Forged,” I wanted to have my characters — who were wearing a mixture of different types of armor and clothing, both noble and peasant in origin — strip down to cross a river.  I needed to know what type of underwear they might have underneath that clothing and armor in a pre-elastic society.  Three hours and fourteen different styles of pre-elastic underwear later, I had it all figured out… and then scrapped the scene and had them cross on a boat.  For “The Kitsune Stratagem,” studying Roman-era concrete mixing techniques led to me changing the wulvers from being a small fishing village of a few dozen people into a powerful civilization situated at the base of an active volcano… and then I needed to know what sorts of advantages and disadvantages a society would have when living at the base of a volcano.

In terms of resources, it really depends on what you’re looking for.  Wikipedia is hardly the most reliable of sources,  but if all you need is (for example) a list of mythological creatures you could add to your fantasy novel’s legendarium, it’s a good way to get started.  If you want to create a medically accurate herbalist’s apothecary kit, however, you might want a resource like the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center’s “About Herbs, Botanicals & Other Products” page (see ), which will give you the latest in medical research on traditionalist “home remedy” herbal treatments.

In what formats are your books available? (E-books, print, large print, audio.) Are you intending to expand these and if not, what is the reason? All of my books are available in .mobi (Kindle) and .epub (Nook, Kobo, iBook, etc.) eBook formats. Novel length works are also available in print (though often will be released after the eBook).  I have approached a couple of voice professionals about producing audiobooks, but so far nothing has come of it.  I (or a member of my family) may wind up doing the audiobook reading ourselves, though ACX’s recent reduction of royalty rates has reduced the priority for getting an audiobook version produced.

Do you self-edit? If so why is that the case? Do you believe a book suffers without being professionally edited? I do a round of self-editing after letting the work “age” for a while. Then I give it to beta readers and do another round of self-editing.   If I anticipate the book will earn enough to make it worthwhile, I then hire a professional editor; otherwise, I find a different batch of beta readers to read through it again.  I don’t necessarily think a book suffers without a professional editor, but I think you MUST have a third party who has some understanding of both the technical issues of writing and the genre you are writing in look at the book prior to publication.

Do you read work by self-published authors? I’d be pretty hypocritical if I didn’t. I still read trade publishers more than indies, but of the hundred or so novels currently on my kindle (I just cleared it out for space concerns) I’d say about thirty or forty are self-published works.

What are your opinions about authors commenting on reviews? How important are reviews? Reviews are critical to an author, both to show the author that his work is enjoyed and to help other customers decide whether to buy the book… but I don’t think authors should read, much less respond to, any reviews. Responding is unprofessional.  It almost never does the writer any good to even read them; one negative review has the potential to do more harm to the writer’s mental attitude than a hundred positive reviews.

When buying a book do you read the reviews? Yes. They are a far better tool for evaluating a potential purchase than merely rating it.  That said, it’s only one tool for deciding whether to buy a book.  I’d almost say a good cover (or rather, not having a bad cover) is just as valuable.

What are your reviews on authors reviewing other authors? I… am uncomfortable with it, personally, but as long as no reciprocal review is asked for I don’t have a problem with other authors saying anything. That’s not to say I won’t ever write a review, myself, but only if I’m in close enough contact with them to warn them, ahead of time; I tend to pick out the negative to evaluate even on books I really like, which is great in a small group where you’re after constructive criticism but which is terrible as an endorsement in a public forum.  I don’t want to accidentally hurt another author’s sales just because I want to point out a silly anachronism or mention that a portion of the book felt rushed.

Do you have a favourite movie? Actually, no. I love movies, don’t get me wrong, but to pick one single movie as my favorite?  There are just too many to decide.  I’d give the same answer for books, pieces of music, or even food.  Even limiting it down — favorite FANTASY movie\book\etc., for example — is really too difficult.  I can’t pit an old chestnut like Willow up against the Harry Potter movies up against the Lord of the Rings movies up against the Chronicles of Narnia movies up against The Adventures of Baron Munchausen and come out with an undisputed number one movie.  Even if I could, I’d then have to pit the winner of that up against the winner of the battle between Star Wars, Star Trek, Serenity, Dune, and John Carter, or the winner of Master and Commander, Captain Blood, etc., etc.  Well… you get the idea.  Deciding on one favorite movie just isn’t possible — I love too many of them.

Book links, website/blog and author links:

In Treachery Forged:

The Kitsune Stratagem:

To the Rink of War:

Fennec Fox Press (with alternate links to the above):



Audio Book Narrator Interview Number Two – Mike Legate


, , , , , , , ,

Name: Michael J Legate, by night known as Mike.

Tell us a bit about yourself: I was raised by theatre wolves.  I grew up behind the stage, basically.  My dad teaches theatre, as do I.  I went to school to learn theatrical sound design and someone decided that was reason enough to give me a job teaching all aspects of theatre design!  Sound design isn’t a huge part of my job anymore, so I look for opportunities elsewhere to scratch my audio itch.  Besides that, I’m 33, recently moved to Colorado and enjoy dark beer, Rueben sandwiches, and watching my two boys Jameson and Salem chase my German shepherd Oskar around the house.

How did you become involved with audiobook narration and production? When I was younger I acted in a few plays.  I was never any good, but my favorite part was the cold reading that we’d all do at the very start of the production period.  I was excited just to read aloud my parts along with other people.  When I started going to college, I would work on a few shows and I would use my voice and I was always surprised whenever someone didn’t recognize my voice.  I’ve always enjoyed reading to other people, and now that I’ve got kids to read to, I’ll never be out of practice.

Do you have a preferred genre? Do you have a genre you do not produce? Why is this? Fantasy and science fiction are my preferred genres as they provide the widest variety of voice work.  Trying out new voices on characters is immensely entertaining.  I try to stay away from financial self-help books.

 What are you working on at present? I’ve just up the short story collection “Tales of Erana” by AL Butcher.  It’s been a fascinating book to work on, since each story has a different feel than the one before it – one story will be a tragic love story involving the thunderous wrath of a goddess and the next would be a lighthearted lesson in why you don’t mix your magical potions up.  It’s been a lot of fun.

*Tell us about your process for narrating? Whenever I design a show, I’ll read the script all the way through for fun, and I’ll try not to think about designing, although inevitably my designer light seeps through the cracks a little.  I try to look at the script from the perspective of an audience member first, and then I can go back and begin to read it from a designer’s point of view.  Audiobook manuscripts are sort of the same way.  I have to read it as unbiased as I can so I can be affected as a reader first, and then I’ll have a better idea of what the author wants.  I’ll try a few different voices to use for the narrator, based on how the mood of the script feels.  A dark thriller sort of novel would lead to a more serious sounding voice, that sort of thing.

I have a pretty cheap rig with a homemade pop filter in front of the microphone, so my first job is setting everything up and doing a few voice exercises.  I’ll read for a few minutes first to let my voice warm up and then start recording.  If I mess a word up, I’ll pause for a moment and redo the whole sentence again.  I use Sony Vegas for all my mixing.

What aspects do you find most enjoyable? I really enjoy doing a mix of different voices.  I grew up plastered to the television on Saturday mornings, and I continue to watch cartoons to this day and have a deep respect for animation voice artists.  I’m also delighted any time I can add atmospheric sounds or music for added effect.

Do you listen to audiobooks? My day job and family doesn’t give me a lot of time to sit down and listen to audiobooks, but I honestly also have difficulty listening to audiobooks at length, since my mind sort of drifts away.  I’ve always been a daydreamer, so unless it’s a very compelling story (or a short one) I generally tend not to listen to them.  I love podcasts, however, so figure that one out.

With many people owning MP3 players do you think this is the future of reading? The paperback will never die, and I think that’s a good thing.  Every new bastion of technology brings about a new way to tell a story.  Just look at how engrossing the storylines are in video games nowadays!  There will always be something new and shiny to come out that can tell a story in a different way, but the key isn’t going to be in the tech itself, but how to really use that tech to help tell a great story.

Why do you think audio books are becoming so popular? A whole lot of people travel to work by themselves, and everything we own is becoming more incorporated into our iPods and smartphones.  Everyone is potentially carrying around a little book reader with them at all times.

Can you remember the first audiobook you owned? I remember as a kid, I had a huge Disney collection of read-along books on cassettes.  They were the kind that made a ‘ding’ sound when you were supposed to turn the page.  I remember that I found the audio more much more engrossing than the book illustrations I was supposed to be looking at, so I’d just sit there and listen instead…

Please tell us a silly fact about yourself. I have bent pinky fingers and can repeatedly crack all my finger joints.  I am truly an endless font of talent.

Cover Designer Interview Number Five – Melissa Stevens


, , , ,

Welcome to Melissa Stevens

You are a cover designer, what made you decide to get into this line of work? I’ve always loved drawing, from the time I was small. But roughly five years ago, I had the opportunity to try my hand at a cover for a fellow writer. There was no turning back once I started!

Can you tell us about some of the covers you’ve designed and authors you’ve worked with? (name of books, authors you’ve worked with etc.) I have worked with Cathrina Constantine, Chris McMullen, Julie Harper, Nazarea Andrews, C. T. Nicholson, and several others. Some covers have not been released yet, so I have to stay quiet, but favorite covers would have to be Tallas, by Constantine, The Horde Without End by Andrews, The Empire Series by AN Latro, and the Self-Publishing Series by Chris McMullen. Really, I love all my covers.

Can you tell us what is involved? (I have no clue so you can be as elaborate as you like!) Well, I begin by sending the author a list of questions surrounding the cover. I like to know as much about the book as possible. I also request a description of the characters, even if they are not on the cover. If the genre is a little murky to me, I ask that as well. I have found reading the blurbs give me enough info for a cover, but I would always rather have too much than too little. The back blurbs also give me a sense of the author’s style, which helps. Then it comes down to if the author has a clear cut idea of what he/she wants. If so, we fine tune the idea (if need be). If the author doesn’t have any ideas, I take a few days to come up with some. Usually, my first gut idea is the one. Not always…

I try very hard to keep the author engaged with the design as much as possible. So throughout the process, I send updates to the author to hear their feedback. It also makes for a more personal cover, which I think is ultimately the important part of the process.

Once the cover is completed to the author’s liking, I send the final JPEG and/or PDF file for uploading!

Software used – where you source your images, how long a cover takes etc? I use Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator for my covers. Usually, I tend to use Depositphotos for my photo-manipulations if they are needed. A cover can take anywhere from 24 hours to 8 weeks, depending on the level of detail needed and how fast communication is.

Where does your inspiration come from? Do you read the book first, then come up with a design, or can you produce something from an author’s description? I always ask for as much description as possible. I want the cover to convey a story as well, and one that is intriguing and holds to the book. Rarely do I read the book first, unless I am completely stumped. I just don’t have the time to read them all.

What are your thoughts on ‘generic’ covers – such as a sword or throne and skulls for fantasy, or interchangeable torsos for romance? You have to have generic ideas for covers. A potential reader already has idea in their head when they go searching for a book. The job of a cover artist is to add to that generic-ness and change it enough that the one looking at it still has an idea of the genre, but the image pulls them further into wanting to read the blurb, pick up the book.

For instance, would you find a murdered corpse on the cover of a romance? No. Because you already have an idea of what should be there. My job is to push your idea of what should be on the cover just to the edge of being uncomfortable. Because it will intrigue you into picking up that title.

It’s a lot easier to create a generic cover, and the world is full of them. And, oft times, the author would like the standard naked torso. Which is fine. Use it. But at the same time, make the background or text interesting. Make it stand out.

When you buy a book do you look at the cover first? What else attracts you? What turns you off? I unashamedly always look at the cover first. If it is pixelated, or colored with crayons and markers, I move on. The cover has to be graphically decent in order for me to read the back. If there are grammar mistakes on the cover, I pass. If the blurb is written well, I will keep reading. But the cover is the first thing that draws me in.

What advice would you give to anyone starting out in this line of work or who might want to design a cover? Research. Research EVERYTHING. Youtube has some fantastic tutorials. Go to and make yourself an account, then look at art. Go to Amazon and scroll through the books. Notice what draws you, and what turns you away. Then start drawing. Start creating. A lot of folks create premades for practice and to build their portfolio. Oh, yes, by the way, make a website. And if you can’t make one to look professional enough, hire someone. Never do anything halfway. Because that is how you will be described, and remembered. And in this line of work, word of mouth is everything.

What are your thoughts on sites like Fiverr where people can buy covers cheaply? Do you think they encourage substandard or very generic images? I’ve glanced through Fiverr only a couple of times. They have some wonderful artists on there that are selling themselves short. If you can draw a cover in five minutes and it come out looking like it took months and professionals would want to purchase it, by all means, go ahead. It takes me longer, and I have to pay for subscriptions and photos, and quite frankly, I think my work exceeds the five dollar range. I’m not being snotty, and it took me years to believe in myself that much. But. Now, I do.

Do you have a genre you prefer? I love horror. I don’t do a lot of it, but you can be much more abstract and shocking in it and get away with it.

Please tell us about your favourite image and the favourite cover you have worked on? I still fall back to the Tallas cover I designed. It just has a striking front, and lots of details that you don’t notice at first. Image, I would have to say the tree house I made for Julie Harper’s Printing Practice Handwriting Workbook for Boys.

Can you give us a silly fact about yourself? When someone asks me to create a cover and I receive their blurb, I get a sense of color for the book. Weird, I know. But 9 out of 10 covers I create have that first color that I ‘saw’.

Also, I have to sleep with the closet door closed, always… hey, I have a very good imagination.


Blog/website links etc.

Boys Print Three Quarter Page Tallas Full Cover Final


Author Interview Sixty-Five – Victoria Zigler – Fantasy/Children/Animal Stories


, , , , , , , ,

Welcome to Victorria Zigler, or Tori, if you prefer.

Where are you from and where do you live now? I live in the UK.  I was born and raised in a valley near the Black Mountains in South Wales, but now live in a town by the sea in the South-East of England.

Please tell us a little about your writing – for example genre, title, etc. I write some poetry, but mostly I write children’s stories, which are either fictional or semi-fictional.

My “Toby’s Tales” series, for example, is a semi-fictionalized series based on my own struggles to adapt after sight loss.  And my “Kero’s World” series is a semi-fictionalized series about the life of my dog, who we lost in August of this year.  But my “Magical Chapters” trilogy is entirely fictional.

As for actual genres… Mostly I write animal stories or fantasy/fairy tales.  But I do have a few stories planned in other genres (still aimed at children though).  For example, I have a story called “Vinnie The Vegetarian Zombie” due out in October, which is about a little girl’s encounter with a vegetarian turned zombie while waiting in hiding for her parents’ return during a zombie apocalypse.

I won’t list all the titles here, because I’ve published more than 30 books; five of them are short poetry collections, the rest are children’s stories.  If you want a full list of titles, you can find them all listed on my website, Goodreads profile, etc.

Where do you find inspiration? I find inspiration pretty much everywhere: in conversations I hear while out and about, in my own random musings about whatever pops in to my head, in things people say to me, in things I hear on the radio or see on TV, in questioning how something I read would have gone if some crucial plot point had been different, and in dreams.

Do you have a favourite character? If so why? I have two favourite characters: Kero from my “Kero’s World” series, and Daisy from my “Magical Chapters” trilogy.  Kero because he was my beloved dog; my most loyal friend for a little over 10 years.  Daisy because she’s the sweetest and kindest dragon you could ever meet, and I’d love to have a dragon friend like her.

Do you have a character you dislike? If so why? Hmmm… This one is more difficult, since I like most of my characters.  If I had to pick one though, I think I’d probably have to go with Rith from “Snowball The Oddball Kobold”.  Rith is a kobold brawler who delights in making Snowball’s life miserable just because Snowball happens to be a different colour to the rest of the tribe, and I hate bullies like him.

Are your characters based on real people? I think there’s always something of the people or animals we know in our characters, as well as ourselves; whether we want there to be or not.  But some of the characters I have are actually based on real people intentionally: Toby from my “Toby’s Tales” series is based on a combination of myself and my brother, Carl (who is also blind).  And Toby’s little sister is based on a little girl who’s almost like family.  Jacob, Jasper, Jenks and Joshua from my “Degu Days” series are based on my own degus, and Kero from the “Kero’s World” series is based on my own dog.  Also, Cubby the polar bear from “Cubby And The Beanstalk” is based on the same dog, who I often called “my little polar bear cub” or “Cubby” when he was alive.  Plus, there’s a Westie in the book I’m writing at the moment – he’s the main character, actually – who is also based on the same dog.  But where the “Kero’s World” books are semi-fictionalized accounts of Kero’s real life experiences as I think they might have been seen through his eyes, this new book – which is called “Yua And The Great Wizard Hunt” if you’re interested – is complete fiction, but just happens to have a dog based on my own Westie as a main character.

Have you ever used a person you don’t/didn’t like as a character then killed them off? Not yet.  It does sound like a tempting idea though… *Grins evily*

Research can be important in world-building, how much do you need to do for your books? Do you enjoy this aspect of creating a novel and what are your favourite resources? I don’t need to do that much research, but I do some anyway.

So far most of my research has been on the known facts of animals and fantasy creatures, as well as the medicinal properties of plants and herbs.  Since I love animals – real or fantasy – and have an interest in the medicinal properties of plants and herbs, this means that the research has been just as much fun for me as the writing.  Some of the facts I already knew and just needed to verify, others were new facts I discovered while verifying things, which I enjoyed learning.  Mostly I’m just checking up on things I want to be sure I’m getting right, or checking on things I plan to do differently to make sure I’m aware of what I’m changing.  After all, if you’re going to break a rule, you need to know what the rule is, right?

As for my sources… Various websites, online encyclopedias, and the rulebooks of the Pathfinder roleplaying system have been my main sources so far.  If it was from Pathfinder I’ll check the rulebook, or the information I’ve gathered on the different races and classes for the system, otherwise I generally just type in a web search for what I want to know, find what I need, and make notes in documents (which are on my computer and backed up on a memory stick) so I can find them easier next time I need the information.

I actually have a folder called “research” which is full of such information (about creatures I’ve already written about, about creatures I plan to write about, and about creatures I found while looking for others and thought looked cool so grabbed the information in case I want to write about them later).

Is there a message conveyed within your writing?  Do you feel this is important in a book? Many of my stories have a message in them, but I don’t feel it’s essential to have one.  I’ve been working a lot with the theme of accepting differences and disabilities, though not exclusively, so acceptance is a common theme in many of my books: from Frank the ogre finding a place where he can belong without having to pretend to be something he’s not, to Snowball the kobold proving everyone has a role to play in society; regardless of the colour of their skin (or scales).

In what formats are your books available? (E-books, print, large print audio) Are you intending to expand these and if not, what is the reason? My books are currently only available as ebooks.  They’re available from many ebook retailers, but not Amazon (before anyone asks).

I have considered making them available in print, but lack of skill, and lack of funds to pay someone to sort it for me, means I’ve abandoned the idea of doing the books in print for the time being.  I did also consider audio, but lack of funds prevents me from being able to pay someone to read them for me, and there’s no way I’d do the reading myself as I hate my voice on recordings.  I know there are options available where you can do a royalty share, but I’m not too happy with the contracts, so I’m reluctant to do that too.  I did also consider having them in Braille – the “Toby’s Tales” series especially – but the only way I know to do that is via the RNIB (Royal National Institute for the Blind) and when I contacted them they wouldn’t even give my books a glance, since they’ve never heard of me, and I don’t have the backing of a known publisher.  So, for the time being at least, my books will stay as just ebooks.

Do you self-edit? If so why is that the case? Do you believe a book suffers without being professionally edited? Yes, I self-edit.  I do this because I don’t see the point in paying an editor when I can do it myself for free.  Even the best editor can miss typos; the mistakes you find in even traditionally published books these days proves that.  So, since I can do it myself with a bit of time, I don’t see any reason to pay someone else.

As for whether I think books suffer for not being professionally edited… I can honestly say that I’ve read professionally edited books with more typos than some of my first drafts (which are awful, let me tell you) and I’ve read self-edited books where I’ve failed to find a single typo.  So, no, I don’t think a book suffers for not being professionally edited.  I do, however, think a book suffers for being published before it’s been edited at all, just because the author is too eager to wait for it to be ready.

Do you read work by self-published authors? Yes, quite often.  Some of it is excellent, some not so good.  But that’s the same regardless of the method of publication.

When buying a book do you read the reviews? I only read the reviews if I’m on the fence about buying a book and want some opinions on it to help me make up my mind.  But this doesn’t happen often, to be honest, and I’ll sometimes buy a book with bad reviews if the reasons given for the negative comments and low rating are ones I think are probably just people being petty.  I just use the reviews to get some opinions, then make up my own mind based on the synopsis and reviews.

What three pieces of advice would you give to new writers? Simple: read, write, and edit! All three of these apply whether you plan to use a traditional publisher or self-publish.

Firstly, if you don’t read, you’ll never make a good writer, because you won’t know what kinds of things make for a good book.  So, both before you begin writing and afterwards, read as much as you can; especially in the genre you hope to write in.

Secondly, if you want to write, just sit down and do it; don’t make excuses.  Too many people claim not to have the time to write.  Sure, OK, you may have a job and a family that both need your attention, and that’s fine; those are valid claims.  But if you really want to write then you’ll find the time.  Even five minutes here and there are enough; those five minute writing sessions all add up!

Thirdly, even if you plan to have a professional editor look at your work, make sure you do some editing yourself; a poorly edited manuscript doesn’t look very good for you.  A traditional publisher is more likely to take a proper look at your work if typos aren’t jumping out at him or her every couple of words, and people won’t come back for more from a self-published author who can’t take the time to do a bit of editing.  Like I said, even the best editor can miss things, so the more typos you catch yourself, the less your editor will need to find, and the more chance you’ll end up with a mistake-free project at the end of it.  And, if you’re your own editor, then it’s even more important to edit, edit, and edit again!

Most authors like to read, what have you recently finished reading? Did you enjoy it? I’m currently working my way through the books in Barbara G.Tarn’s “Books Of The Immortals” series, which I’m really enjoying; despite it being in a genre I don’t read much.

Can you name your favourite traditionally published author? And your favourite indie/self-published author? What? Just one of each? Hmmm… I think this is the most difficult question of the entire interview! I love so many authors – traditionally published and self-published alike!

If I had to pick just one of each though… Well… It would have to be David Estes for the self-published author, and Hans Christian Anderson for the traditionally published author.  David Estes has an amazing young adult series made up of two sister series, and Hans Christian Anderson wrote the best fairy tales.  If you haven’t read David Estes’ “Dwellers” and “Country” sagas, then you’re missing out on a great set of books! And I don’t think I need to tell you how good Hans Christian Anderson is!

What are your views on authors offering free books? I think it’s strange when an author has all their books free, but free books can often be good promotional tools, and having one free as an option for people to use as a risk free way to try your work can be a good idea.  It can be kind of frustrating when people grab the free book, say they loved it, but don’t come back to buy your other books though.

On the subject of free books… I have a book called “Frank The Friendly Ogre” which is free all the time as a sample of my work.  Plus, to celebrate being author of the month on the “Smashwords Authors” group on Goodreads, I’ve got some books on sale on Smashwords throughout September – 6 free ones, 2 half price ones.  Details can be found on my blog.

Do you have any pets? I have four degus and 2 gerbils; all male.  The degus are called Jacob, Jasper, Jenks and Joshua, and are the stars of my “Degu Days Duo” books, and the gerbils are called Bilbo and Baggins.  Bilbo and Baggins don’t have their own book… Not yet, anyway!

Book links, website/blog and author links:









Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 1,888 other followers