2018 – roundup

2018 seems to have flown by. Isn’t it odd how individual days appear to last an age, but the year as a whole just zooms past?

Politics has lost what little mind it had – the US government – probably the less said about that the better as I’ll only start an argument. The UK government has been dominated by Brexit, leadership problems and everyone is thoroughly sick of it all. I will say this year there has been a revolving door both at the Whitehouse and the Houses of Parliament.  Jeez – grow a spine, some balls or get rid of the person who is the problem and do it quickly….

Reading-wise – I’ve read over 60 books from true crime to historical to mystery, fantasy, and science fiction. I am planning to read a bit more fiction next year, and pick up some new authors.

Writing-wise – not as productive as I hoped and I’m not going to bore you with excuses. Let’s focus on what I have done.

Lovers in Hell  What a fun universe to write for! Anything can happen – but it usually backfires in ironic, dastardly and hellish ways. (See interviews for Hell Week).

The Secret of Blossom Rise This was my first ghost story – written for the Here Be Ghosts bundle, and Boo V.

The Kitchen Imps won the NN Light Fantasy book of the year.

Bundles:

Here Be Dragons

Here Be Fairies

Here Be Ghosts

Here Be Monsters (no longer available)

Remembering Warriors (no longer available in 2019)

Spring Surprise (no longer available)

Summer Shimmer (no longer available)

Frisky February (no longer available)

There were also audio editions for The Watcher (a Jack the Ripper Tale)

And audio and print editions for the two current Legacy of the Mask Tales:

Tears and Crimson Velvet

Echoes of a Song

What will 2019 bring? That is a good question…

Hopefully more Kitchen Imps, working on book IV of the Light Beyond the Storm, Heroika 2, another Heroes in Hell (assuming I can get the damn story finished), and possibly the completion of at least one novella.

I’m also learning Photoshop (steep learning curve), and have completed a course on Copyright, GDPR, Ancient Egypt, and DSE.

I’ll be a better blogger too….

Swift Six Character Interview – Jesslyn

Character Name – Jesslynn Cotterill

Which book/world do you live in? The Amaranthine Universe (You can find me not only in my own short story, but as a side character in Shades of Gray and Brothers of Darkness)

Tell us about yourself: What is there to tell? I’m married to Oren and now that his mother has finally passed away manage our plantation in Virginia. I’m a mother of two children, Alexander and Tristan. My story takes place before the War Between the States in Virginia.

What are your greatest strengths and weaknesses?

I may not be beautiful, but I’m clever. I believe that brains will triumph over beauty always.

Name three important people/creatures/institutions in your world (such as lovers, pets, government institutions, leaders, gods etc).

My husband Oren is important, of course. I mentioned my children. Though I have birthed many, only Alexander has grown out of babyhood, and now Tristan, not even a year old, is showing signs of the same malady that took the others. It is because of this that I should mention our neighbour, Jorick. An odd man, he is rarely home, and when he is he never walks in sunlight, only under dark skies. Neither does he seem to age or sicken. It is a secret I desperately need to discover if I want to save my sick child.

What does ‘heroism’ mean to you?

Heroism is the strength to do what must be done for the good of all, even if you, yourself, are afraid of it. Just as I am afraid of what secret Jorick carries, yet I know we need it if Tristan is to survive.

What do you think of your ‘creator’?

I assume you mean my author? I have a rather low opinion of her, I’m afraid, as she’s happily stuck me in a dark world with very little chance for light.

Give us your favourite piece of advice:

Beauty fades, leaving only your wit and resourcefulness. Cultivate those over the appearance of the flesh.

 

Links to book

Shades of Gray:

Shades of Gray (Amaranthine Book 1) Kindle Amazon.com

Shades of Gray (Amaranthine Book 1) – Kindle UK

Shades of Gray – Nook

Shades of Gray – Kobo

Smashwords

I-tunes

 

Hell Week 2017 – Day 7- Chris Morris/Orpheus

ClassOf2017final

Character Spotlight

About yourself:

*Who are/were you? Tell us about your life before you came here, and after.

A: I am Orpheus, son of the Thracian king Oeagros or perhaps even of Apollo, but most certainly sprung from the belly of the Muse Calliope, forever to hear the strains of her harmonies in all things. The strings of the lyre thrill to my touch as I to them and men and birds and fishes to the tides of all that is.

* Why do YOU think you’re in Hell?

A: I am in hell, as in life, to be taken amiss in perpetuity, to poetize, sing and play upon my instruments in accord with each unfolding moment and sway all souls about me to respond according to their nature and be reviled for doing so, for their differences cast them at odds.

Who are your friends/allies here?

A: Friends? Jason, for one, who steers our ship away from shoals and plies roiling seas. Atalanta is a friend as well and longs to chase my demons from me. Allies to me are forever the octaves of eternity, knowable to myself alone and mystery to all others.

Do you have any enemies here?

A: “Here” is mine enemy and daily do I war with him; I turn his rage to song and he doth rage the more. Shh…I take some small pleasure in that.

How do you define ‘piracy’?

A: All is stolen which has no owner; piracy is an illusion promising possession.

Come on be honest, what do you think of HSM leadership?

A: All things have a head and a tail; guide, yet follow. He must be for the Grand Punishment Continuum to exist; He is not to be envied or feared, though He must be more than those few things: He is a verse, then a chorus, then a coda; like us, He knows not his beginning, no more than I.

What is the WORST thing about being here?

A: The food.

What are your best tips for surviving in Hell?

A: Feel the rhythm; take your next breath fully; stand straight; drop your shoulders; raise your chest; sing to glory!

Before you arrived here did you actually believe in HSM and his fiery domain? Bet that was a shock!

A: I had been to Hades’ to retrieve my sweet Eurydice and returned, almost, so I knew this place before and now again. Have you seen her; sometimes she slips from view?

Eternity – that’s a damned long time. How to you spend the endless years here?

A: Inquisitor, know ye not that there can be no such thing as time?

What do you miss most about your old. . .life?

A: Amplifiers.

Author Spotlight

*Name and bio.

A: Chris Morris

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chris_Morris_(author)

* Tell us about your story for this edition.

A: Evil Angel is a collaboration with my partner in prose, Janet Morris, my personal Beatrice, guide and companion through the literary depths of Hell. It posits a vengeful Medea, about trapping her mythic nemesis, Jason and his celebrity pirate crew in snares fabricated by no less than the Fates themselves—before whom even Satan pauses. Any Hell story fascinates because if written to form, death has no motive force and the storyteller must dig a little deeper to find the hinges of drama and portray rewards of victories which are pyrrhic at best. Does she still yearn for him? Is she exquisitely a victim of her darkest design?

What inspired you to use the character(s) you’ve chosen?

A: I wished to look through Orpheus’ eyes, hear though his ears, and for a fleeting moment field his musical magic midst Medea’s stark malignity.

How did you become involved with this project?

A: I was present at the inception.

Writing for a shared world is challenging, how do you meet that challenge?

A: Janet Morris and I write stories to “bookend” the collection and impart a sense of proximity to the usually very different themes and perspectives our contributors bring. More than that, our faves, Kit and Will, are writers too and impart a writerly camaraderie that extends beyond their episodes to color the character of the series.

Tell us why you chose this story to tell out of so many possible options?

A: Who wouldn’t want to find out how it feels to munched by a frosty leviathan?

What are you currently working on?

A: Still struggling to get the backlist up in trade, Kindle, e- and audio versions. We’re about halfway. Over the past year I learned enough InDesign to be a little bit dangerous and I love to get lost in producing stuff that with any luck will outlive us.

Name the last two books you’ve read – tell us about them.

A: Brideshead Revisited and Tempus Unbound. Waugh is the consummate stylist, able to twist, turn on a dime, fly high above yet touch down instantly in the mind, not just through the speech of his characters. Tempus Unbound is a rarest of rare birds, a late-coming foundational work for Janet’s archetypal sage and his counterpart, Cime.

What are your views on authors offering free books?

A: “Offering” in exchange for…?

*If you could pick any quote about Hell which would be your favourite?

A: “Now I could drink hot blood and do such bitter business as the day would quake to look upon.” —Hamlet

If you could have a dinner party with any man and woman from anywhere and any when who would invite and what would you eat?

A: Jesus…bread.

EXCERPT from “Pirates in Hell.

“Evil Angel” (Goat-Beard Part 2)

Janet Morris and Chris Morris

*

Up the steep the crew of the Argo must climb to attend her parley. Any who faltered would freeze solid on the slope, languish ice-bound for a hundred years — time aplenty to think things over.

“Come ye, bloody Argonauts, and meet your fated punishment,” she whispered, as if Jason’s shipmates could hear her.

Come one, come all, and let demons devour the hindmost.

Medea set the scene about her with a Colchian standard flapping on a pole, a rallying point fit for such a parley, a solemn conference to discuss terms for the Argo’s surrender. Beneath her fleecy mantle she invoked a robe of snowflakes; on her head she made a three-spoked crown. That done, with her fingertip she kindled a fire on her peaty peak, then summoned a brace of gray and stinking fiends and gave them orders.

As the crew of the Argo ascended and the fiends descended to devour any laggards, Medea spotted her quarry: Iolcian Jason still looked twenty; hell so far had been easy on this son of Alcimede. But not much longer would it be so . . .

Screams of the hindmost, being torn asunder by fiends, sounded a welcome fanfare in her ears. In response, the landing party’s rear-guard turned back to help their brethren, while those in the forefront quickened their ascent.

Alongside Jason hurried Argos, shipwright of the Argo; behind him, Meleagros and his beloved Atalanta, a sometime lioness and fleet-footed virgin huntress whom Medea once healed.

Despite the rear-guard’s swords and spears and best efforts, ravenous fiends grabbed stragglers in their jaws.

The luckless begged the icy wind for help or speedy death. But fiends always take their time, torturing their prey before tearing it limb from limb and sitting down to feast.

The sailors in the lead scrambled faster.

Of all those come ashore, nearly a third would never crest the ridge. The remainder plowed on grimly, taking no backward looks.

Many of these heroes Medea knew. Hadn’t she sailed with them to the Colchian grove to steal the fleece of the golden ram, the very mantle she now wore? She thought she spied Zeus’ son Herakles and man-slaughtering Peleus, climbing to either side of Theseus, founder of Athens. Her eyes lingered on Orpheus, Thracian poet, prophet, and father of songs. But those voyages, those feats, belonged to another time — to life, not afterlife. She banished any thought of glad reunion.

Were it not for Jason and his crew and this damnable fleece forever wrapping her shoulders, she might have spent her afterlife in Erebos, officiating as a priestess of Hekate, sending sinners to Tartaros and innocents to the Elysian Fields. Jason! Every wrong, every ill, every misery, every blot began with Jason. Jason it was who’d ruined Medea in life . . . and haunted her ever since. Mad with love of him she’d been, that fateful day she killed their children.

Vengeance, love’s antidote, always comes hard. And costly.

Watching the Argonauts climb, she recalled that few had treated her as equal. But then, she wasn’t equal: she was superior. If among this damned crew a few were female, a few unknown, then hell maketh bedfellows undreamt in life. She had punishments aplenty to dole out to those who’d top the ridge, fit for one and all.

Dark and frowning, Jason gained the summit first and paused, breathing hard, followed closely by four souls new to her.

Who are these?

One was slight-bearded, auburn-haired and tender-mouthed, sloe-eyed and lithe in a leather jerkin, breeches and hose. By his side came a goat-bearded fellow with fleshy cheeks, one sparkly earring, sloping shoulders and puffy pants. In their wake followed a woman lit with a loveliness otherworldly, which swaddled her better than her simple shift and somehow kept away the cold. This woman got help to top the final rise from a big soul robed in brown, stalwart, hirsute and resolute, who used a knotty staff.

Not one of the four had the seafarer’s eye, the windburned lips, the leathern skin earned by facing hellish weather. Nor were they flowing-haired Greeks or tattooed barbarians.

Medea waved a hand at her fire-pit of peat, and it roared high; in the light from its flames she could see the strangers better. “Pirates, are ye? Come to parley for passage out of the Abyss? No intruders do I welcome here.” Before the strangers could respond, she whipped her gaze across them, to her erstwhile lover: “Jason, whom have you brought me? And why?”

You! You called us here?” Jason rummaged through her soul with wide, reproving eyes. “Pirates, are we, Mother?” He sighed. “Heroes, while we lived. You know the truth, helped make us what you see. In those days, what we took by force and guile we won honorably, not by theft or piracy, but by deeds done to please our gods. And you know it. As for whom we brought — we brought those we need.”

“You’re pirates all, you and yours, Jason: robbers on sea or shore — of goods and hearts and souls.” In that distending moment, Medea wrestled her fatal flaw: she yet found Jason fetching; as much as once she’d loved him, she loved him still: an infuriating weakness, a wound within her riven breast that would not heal. In hell’s own time, that love would turn to hate. Must. For his fate — and his crew’s — she had predestined.

Behind, a shuffle in the crowd of sailors begat Orpheus, elbowing his way to the fore as the sloe-eyed creature by Jason stared hard at her and asked, “And now? Pirates still? Or is it something else? I’ve often said, ‘Where both deliberate, the love is slight.’”

The goat-bearded soul with him added: “And I, that ‘the lunatic, the lover, and the poet/ Are of imagination all compact.’ Pirate once is pirate forever, good for our purpose and for the lords of hell. Orpheus, what say you?”

Medea blinked, dumbstruck by these brazen strangers, so full of themselves and obscure pontifications.

Orpheus, red-haired master of music and poetry, wizardry and augury, unslung a lyre from across his back, then glanced from Jason to Medea to the strangers, and said:

“You ask what I say? I say, beware this sorceress, her caustic hate. One who tears her family to shreds cannot be trusted.” Curling around his lyre, Orpheus plucked one string, one chord, and strummed another. “Set your terms for this parley, old shipmate. Say what you want.”

From the lyre of Orpheus, a theme surrounded the Argonauts. Tones to make Sirens coo, teach trees to dance and rocks to sing, set about seducing Medea’s heart.

“Stop that music, Orpheus! Put by thine instrument of fell design. I know your fey tricks of old. Stay your hands. Part from that lyre. There’ll be no sorcery here but mine.”

The lyrist palmed his strings. Music died a death too curt.

*

 [End of Excerpt]

Links:

https://www.amazon.com/dp/B06Y8WWKMT/

http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/pirates-in-hell-chris-morris/

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chris_Morris_(author)

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Heroes_in_Hell

https://www.fantasticfiction.com/m/janet-morris/

https://www.facebook.com/christophercmorrissings/

https://soundcloud.com/christopher-morris

http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/pirates-in-hell-chris-morris/1126191917?type=eBook

http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/pirates-in-hell-chris-morris/1126191917?ean=9780997758443

Facebook

https://www.facebook.com/JanetMorrisandChrisMorris/

https://www.facebook.com/christophercmorrissings/

Blog/Website

http://www.theperseidpress.com/

https://sacredbander.com/

Twitter https://twitter.com/uvmchristine

https://twitter.com/uvmchristine/media

Amazon

https://www.amazon.com/Chris-Morris/e/B008L41JNO

https://www.amazon.com/dp/B06Y8WWKMT/

https://www.amazon.com/Pirates-Hell-Heroes-Janet-Morris-ebook/

https://www.amazon.com/Chris-Morris/e/B008L41JNO

https://www.amazon.com/Pirates-Hell-Heroes-Janet-Morris/dp/0997758449/

Goodreads

https://www.goodreads.com/series/40812-heroes-in-hell

Book Spotlight – British Bad Boys – Box Set Prerelease – KD Grace – Erotic Romance

The British Bad Boys Are Coming—Pre-Order Now! #99c #99p #preorder #badboys #sexy #romance #brit #british #giveaway

Blurb:

Indulge yourself with this boxed set of stories written by bestselling and award-winning British romance authors. No one knows British bad boys better than they do!

Come and spend time with a dirty-talking London tattoo artist, a Scottish bad boy, a British gangster who won’t take no for an answer, and MORE! These men are all hotter than hell and have accents to die for. Whatever your desire, you’ll find it within these pages.

Packed full of brand new standalone, steamy stories with no cliff-hangers. With happily-ever-afters guaranteed, you won’t want to miss out on this limited collection, available for a short time only!

Special pre-order price of only $0.99. What are you waiting for?

Featuring stories from Marissa Farrar, Lucy Felthouse, Tabitha Rayne, Lexie Bay, Lily Harlem, Victoria Blisse and K D Grace.

Amazon: http://viewBook.at/BritBadBoys

iBooks: http://ow.ly/FV9p308IhFH

Barnes & Noble: http://bit.ly/2lq2k3t

Kobo: http://ow.ly/VPEL308IhME

 

Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/BritishBadBoys/

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/34136905-british-bad-boys

*****

GIVEAWAY!

https://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/display/7a6e997d9/

The full set! Now on Smashwords and affiliate stores!

I’m delighted to announce that all my novels and short stories – except those published via Perseid Press, or the Indie Collaboration are all available on Smashwords and its associate stores.

Formatting is not my strong suit, and I admit for a few I gave up and paid for the formatting for SW. The ‘meatgrinder’ is, frankly, a pain in the arse to work with. Even following the guidelines carefully left we with formatting errors not in the original document unless embedded in the code and invisible to mortals like myself, who don’t speak computer. Anyway ’tis done. So now the following are available on Amazon, Smashwords, I-books, Kobo (Except Books I and II), and Barnes and Noble.

Light Beyond the Storm Chronicles Book I

The Shining Citadel – The Light Beyond the Storm Chronicles Book II

The Stolen Tower – The Light Beyond the Storm Chronicles Book III

Tales of Erana: Myths and Legends

Tales of Erana: The Warrior’s Curse

The Kitchen Imps and Other Dark Tales

Outside the Walls

To save swarming the page with links I’ve simply put the links to the relevant author pages for the stores.

Amazon: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Alexandra-Butcher/e/B008BQFCC6/

Barnes and Noble: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/s/%22A.%20L.%20Butcher%22?Ntk=P_key_Contributor_List&Ns=P_Sales_Rank&Ntx=mode+matchall

I-tunes: https://itunes.apple.com/us/author/a.-l.-butcher/id1111700407?mt=11

Kobo: https://store.kobobooks.com/en-us/search?query=A.%20L.%20Butcher&fcsearchfield=Author

Smashwords: https://www.smashwords.com/profile/view/ALB123

If you would like be be kept appraised of forthcoming or recent publications please contact me here, or use the mailing list sign up.

 

Smashwords Sale – Victoria Zigler 2

Tori Zigler has over 50 books! 50!!!!!

They are  half price in the Smashwords Sale. If you like kids books about animals, fantasy and adventure check out her mighty collection and snap up a bargain.

https://www.smashwords.com/profile/view/toriz

Use the code SSW50 at checkout for 50% off.

Home Squeak Home

https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/526960

 

Isabelle’s Runaway Racehorse 

https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/507356

 

Rodent Rhymes and Pussy Cat Poems

https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/502320?ref=ALB123

 

Yua and the Great Wizard Hunt 

https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/492449?ref=ALB123

Author Interview 110 – Deborah Dixon – spec fic

Welcome to Deborah Dixon

Hi! Glad to be here! Figuratively speaking.

 

Where are you from and where do you live now?

I’m from Kingston, Jamaica. Currently I live in New Orleans, Louisiana, USA.

 

Please tell us a little about your writing – for example genre, title, etc.

Mostly I write under the wide umbrella of speculative fiction – fantasy, scifi, paranormal, that sort of stuff. I like to mix them together a bit – for example, one of my characters is an AI engineer and also part Fae – and put them in a familiar, modern setting (usually New Orleans, because the city’s already weird enough for it!).

 

Where do you find inspiration?

Everywhere. In conversations, in music, in things I see.

 

Are your characters based on real people?

A few of them have certain qualities based on people I know, but that’s mostly it. If an actual person I know shows up in one of my works, it’s probably for laughs.

 

Have you ever used a person you don’t/didn’t like as a character then killed them off?

I have not – at least not in my writing. I am very guilty of doing this in the various iterations of The Sims games.

 

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 research everything from the science I’m referencing to the location of a hotel in Brazil. The amount of research depends on the work – for my novellas I mostly just spot-check my mythology, but for my sci-fi novel I’m reading a few books regarding artificial intelligence and the technological Singularity. My favorite resources, though, are people themselves. My best friend is a great one; she’s familiar with several religions and such practices, and helped me shape my portrayal of them.

 

Is there a message conveyed within your writing?  Do you feel this is important in a book?

There’s a message in everything I write. To me it’s crucial. It is nice to have a little something just to entertain you now and then, like a Hollywood blockbuster with stuff blowing up, but this world is far too complex to sit in it and let its happenings flit on around you, especially if you’re a storyteller of any sort. Art should move people to think and act, in a positive way.

 

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?

At the moment, they’re only available as ebooks. This is due to the process my publishing company uses. They will be available in print eventually, and possibly as audiobooks too; it depends on the amount of interest there.

 

Do you self-edit? If so why is that the case? Do you believe a book suffers without being professionally edited?

I self-edit, but I also usually have another writer also look at my work as well. Having a second set of eyes is more important to me than someone who sells her/himself as a professional editor. They tend to disagree on so many things. Follow the advice of one and you’ll be lambasted by another. Best not.

 

Do you think indie/self-published authors are viewed differently to traditionally published authors? Why do you think this might be?

I think they were, only a couple of years ago. But that has changed, with more indie authors finding success and more Big Five authors stepping back to self-publish. There’s definitely more respect given to that group now.

 

Do you read work by self-published authors?

I read works that are well-composed and original and that make me think. I don’t pay much attention to how they were published.

 

What are your opinions about authors commenting on reviews? How important are reviews?

Reviews are crucial – they can draw a much bigger audience, because they lend your work credibility. They say, “someone has read this and has had thoughts on it.” Authors commenting on reviews can give excellent insight into the author’s process, which is always interesting, but an author should never, ever respond to a negative review. At all, even if it’s just to point out an inaccuracy. That’s a long road of bad impressions you really can’t afford to go down.

 

When buying a book do you read the reviews?

Depends on the book and who wrote each review. I dismiss any review written by The New Yorker or the Atlanta Journal-Constitution out of hand.

 

What are your reviews on authors reviewing other authors?

I don’t see much of a difference. Authors are readers too, just with a bit more insight.

 

What experiences can a book provide that a movie or video game cannot?

Movies and video games provide you with visuals. With book, the author describes the world in words, and you develop the visual in your head. That’s a very personal experience, because you don’t share the same visual with anyone else, not even the author. It’s pulled from your own experiences and perception.

 

What three pieces of advice would you give to new writers?

  • Just write. If you’re having trouble getting started, try using an outline, or start in the middle, or develop your characters with freewrites. But the important thing is that you are writing.
  • Don’t become a writer for the money, because if that is your motivation, you’ll likely never see a dime from it. Write because you love it.
  • Read while you write. “I don’t want such-and-such book to influence mine” is a lame excuse. Everything should be influencing your book. That’s research. (Now, don’t plagiarize any other books you might be reading, of course.)

 

What are your best marketing/networking tips? What are your worst?

Social media is your best friend, but not your only friend. There are resources out there for authors trying to market books (we as authors tend to be terrible at that). There are books and online articles on it, and you can study what other authors similar to you do as well. As for worst, social media is a double-edged sword. Always make a separate, professional account on any site, and do not connect it to your personal one. There are no secrets on the Internet.

 

Most authors like to read, what have you recently finished reading? Did you enjoy it?

I once said, after a certain set of books became popular, that I would never write a vampire story. (Actually, I ranted to several friends about it.) But I read Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter a few years ago, and loved it; the supporting character, a vampire named Henry, is one of my favorite characters of all time. (And yes, I’m aware the book is satire. I saw the movie.) Just recently I noticed that the author had released a sequel that starred Henry – The Last American Vampire. It’s also historical fiction/satire in the vein of its prequel, but the character is even more outstanding. Suffice it to say I now have a vampire story in the works. (It’s not historical fiction, though.)

 

What are your views on authors offering free books?

Everyone loves free stuff. If it’ll get people to read, then by all means offer free books.

 

Do you have a favourite movie?

Many, but let’s go with Spirited Away because I’m in that kind of mood today.

 

Do you have any pets?

I have a sansevieria and a spider plant named Thing 1 and Thing 2, respectively. I’m told that they do not count as pets. However, since I care for them, and since they are actively plotting my demise, I think they do count.

 

Can you name your worst job? Do you think you learned anything from the position that you now use in your writing?

I had a position that was described to me as being “marketing,” but turned out to effectively be “sales.” The manager there was so irresponsible that I actually wound up in the Midwest with no hotel, food, or gas at one point. I didn’t learn anything that helped my writing, but I did learn how not to run a business.

 

Can you give us a silly fact about yourself?

Horror movies don’t scare me at all. Documentaries, however, scare the crap out of me; I can’t sit through one. Think about it: Documentaries are about things that ACTUALLY CAN and ACTUALLY DID happen. See?

 

Book links, website/blog and author links:

http://shalamarmedia.com (Shalamar, my publishing company)

https://twitter.com/Deboracracy (my professional Twitter)

https://shalamartanara.wordpress.com/ (our blog about writing and publishing)

https://www.facebook.com/shalamarllp/ (our Facebook Page)

 

 

 

 

Read an E-book Week on Smashwords

Just in the nick of time!

A reader on SW asked me if any of my books were available for the Smashwords Read an E-book Week. https://www.smashwords.com/books/category/1/newest/1

The answer is yes – until the 12th March ONLY 

Outside the Walls – normally 99c. Use the code RW100 at checkout to get this book for free

Tales of Erana: Myths and Legends – normally 1.25. Use the code RW100 at checkout to get this book for free

The Light Beyond the Storm Chronicles – Book 1 – normally 3.00. Use the code RAE50 at checkout for 50% off

The Shining Citadel – The Light Beyond the Storm Chronicles Book II -normally 3.49. Use the code RAE50 at checkout for 50% off

 

Enjoy and if you take advantage of the offers please be kind enough to leave a review.

Experiments in promotion – part 1

As some of you know I not a big fan or marketing but books don’t sell themselves. In a market place where there are millions of books getting one’s novels seen is tricky.

So what marketing strategy works for me? Honestly I have no bloody idea. Recently I had Tales of Erana: The Warrior’s Curse on freebie for a few days – results were OK. Some downloads but not huge amounts. That said it is a short story and I didn’t promote it much. Whether those freebies will result in sales for the audio book or garner reviews is yet to be seen.

What I have found is author/character interviews help – at least initially and at least sometimes. Of course the difficulty there is finding them and keeping the content interesting. They also take away from writing time.

I tried a Thunderclap a couple of times last year with very mixed results so I’m going to do a couple more – one starting today to promote The Light Beyond the Storm Chronicles Book I and another when the audio is released.

I may also try one for Outside the Walls if I can sort the banner out.  Thunderclaps are an interesting concept – the basic package is free to set up and only needs 100 supporters to go live. There are several Thunderclap groups on Facebook and they do require a lot of pushing. Is there a bump in sales during/after? I’ll let you know.

Anyway if you’d like to support my campaign here’s the link. All you need to do is click the link then support using the big red buttons (everyone likes pressing big red buttons! Or is that just me?) http://thndr.me/CSHXHu

I’m trying another Kindle Countdown for Stolen Tower – I tried one last year, again with mixed results. The

UK Kindle Countdown http://www.amazon.co.uk/Stolen-Tower-Light-Beyond-Chronicles-ebook/dp/B00U8A9044/

The original list price is £1.72 but it will be on offer for 99p until the 7th January.

There will also be a Countdown for the Amazon.com store starting 8am PST http://www.amazon.com/Stolen-Tower-Light-Beyond-Chronicles-ebook/dp/B00U8A9044/

I’ll let you know how they go.

When Book I is released on audio I may well do a blog tour or paid ad. I’m always looking for new ideas so any advice welcomed.

 

 

 

Taking the Plunge – One Writer’s Story – Ramon Youseph

Not so long ago part time writer Ramon Youseph made the decision to leave his day job and work full time as a writer. For many of us this is a dream come true, for others a decision which is terrifying. Any freelance work is risky for someone with bills to pay. One cannot guarantee an income but Ramon is a man of some determination. Here’s his interview.

What made you decide to leave your previous job pursue writing as a full time career? It’s a big step!

Simple really, it’s what I’ve always wanted to do since I was a teenager, and at my age now (44) I decided that I didn’t want to sit about wondering what it was like to live my dream but to get on and do it. For the last six years I tried getting noticed with blog posts, articles and networking but my day job meant I was limited in terms of time, concentration I mean let’s face it after an eight hour day the last thing you want to do is stare at a computer for another five or six hours. Still in that time I managed to publish over 350 articles and posts of my own choosing as well for a client or as a guest contributor. I was even approached for comment by BBC online and quoted in their finished article – it was about the crowdsourced fan film “Star Wars Uncut”. However I Just got tired of seeing opportunities pass me by and not being in a position to seize them. Confidence also plays a big part.

When I started working for Kung-Fu Kingdom it provided me with a sort of litmus test of whether or not I could be a successful writer outside of my own blog. After a very promising two or three months with one very happy client, along with some long talks with my family and friends I decided to take the plunge. Since I have already had to make a couple of big life changing decision in my personal life, the prospect of a third one seemed less daunting, but only a little less.

How much support have you had from your friends and family?

The outpouring of support has been overwhelming if I am honest. Friends who have known me a long time and know this is my life’s ambition have rallied round me expressing their pride, admiration, some even a little envious that I could potentially live my dream. I have been called brave and an inspiration, even one or two of my most risk averse friends have simply said “go for it.” Yet the biggest support has come from my family. My parents are behind me 100% and offering their insight and experience of being self-employed. They appreciate there are risks involved but continue to encourage me, and have every faith that I will make a success of this.

How did you go about making preparations for this?

Well I already had an idea of what was involved from talking to one or two friends who are freelancers. I also picked up this book with the very simple title of “Freelance Writing” by Linda Jones. I noticed it had some good reviews so I thought I would give it a go. It covers all the fundamentals of the business aspect, how to source work, what to do about fees, and so on. It helped me map out a sort of template of the infrastructure I needed to put into place. This is not as a fancy as it sounds – it simply involved many hours in a coffee shop scribbling pages of notes riddled with ideas in a caffeine fuelled frenzy, such as building a professional looking website, marketing, the admin side including what to charge, but mostly what specific services to offer. Writing is such a big umbrella term so I had to think about the specifics that would combine the kind of services I can offer with the sort of writing I like to do. This is still something I am working on but I think I am nearly there.

There was also the question of how to structure my day, working hours, allotted time for breaks and tasks to undergo. I am still ironing out the creases on this. Then there was the question of letting potential clients know that this was the direction I was taking;  I set up a mailshot from my contacts list – people and organisations I worked with over the years and sent them a RamonWrites release to let them know I am available for hire. I also used my existing social media accounts to get the word out. The tough part I anticipated would be approaching potential clients for work and so far that is meeting my expectations, for example I registered with various portals that offer freelancing opportunities and there is a lot to choose from. The thing is that because there is SO much listed work they vary on subject matter which is great but also pay levels ranging from insultingly low (£1 per hundred words) to surprisingly generous (£350 per thousand words). Really it is just a case of being meticulous in the search to find work that is right for me. Above all else I knew it wasn’t going to be easy and my aspirations in terms of earning capacity are cautiously optimistic. So far all my expectations have been met.

You are a determined person, I know you’ve started running fairly recently – tell us a little about that? What else drives you?

I used to run as a teenager but like many things you dabble in at that time in your life there is the tendency to move onto other things – some people obviously stick with them. I got back into running over four years ago, worried that my weight was going to get the better of me. I needed something to drive me so a friend pushed me to run the Bristol 10k. It was grueling work for someone of my size but I did it and since improved on my time in various other races. Yes I am getting fitter although I could always lose a bit more weight and I am working on that but here are some benefits of running that I think those who insist it’s unhealthy or even a waste of time routinely ignore or don’t consider; running is one of the keys to both mental wellbeing and success.

As human beings our minds are riddled with thoughts, and rarely focused on the present moment. Sometimes we even overthink and get ourselves worked up over stuff we can do nothing about. A good run whether it’s a mile or ten will drag you into the present moment (sometimes kicking and screaming). It doesn’t take away your fears and worries which continue to float there like vapours but they can’t touch you especially when you’ve ran that first mile, or if you’re in a race, crossed that finished line knowing you beat your personal best. Nothing comes close to that feeling of accomplishment, it’s a rush and that’s when you truly appreciate what it means to be in the moment.

Running for me also shapes my attitude to my work and life in general. It teaches me what needs to be done to be successful. Through running I appreciate that successful accomplishments only come through adversity, hard work and putting in the time for the best possible results. When I run I push myself to do better, and that’s what truly drives me now that I am a full time freelance writer, the determination, not shying away from hard work and long hours, setting achievable goals, ready to climb hills and work through even the toughest days whether it’s dry spots (writing is very much a feast or famine business) or other things life sends to try us. After that intense tirade it might surprise you to learn that what also drives me is to get as much as joy as I can out of my life in all aspects whether it’s work, running, socializing, everything. You only have one life and I have a tremendous opportunity to live life on my own terms and enjoy the ride, why squander it?

If I recall you are a fan of fantasy/sci-fi, why this genre? What intrigues you so much about it?

Well on the lighter note it’s a lot of fun to be transported to magical realms in some far away land or worlds & galaxies light years away populated by an assortment of alien creatures, magnificent battles and so forth. It really excites the imagination and done well makes for truly engaging story telling. It’s a genre you can have a lot of fun with too and the creators are not necessarily bound by the restrictions of “realism” although science-fiction requires a certain element of that, or at the very least some plausibility. It can be exciting and a lot of fun to just get lost in another world.

Yet what I really love about sci-fi/fantasy is how it can act as a window through which we can examine the human condition, whether it’s speculative as with sci-fi pondering on what the future will be like, or reflective, sometimes even making a point about human activity. Some have said that there was an element of environmentalism in Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings and I think that’s true when you read (or see in the films) the destruction of the forests by Sauruman to build weapons and monsters of war. I don’t think you can get a more impactful representation of the harmful effects of industrialization than that. Both examine the notions of class, society, bigotry with such gravitas but what really draws me in is examining what it means to be human through a non-human conduit such as aliens and my favourite, machines. Isaac Asimov and Philip K Dick created some of the most amazing stories exploring humanity through androids or robots. Films such as Ex-Machina, AI: Artificial Intelligence really get into the nitty gritty of this aspect of sci-fi but none more so than Bladerunner. It still makes for a compelling idea that both the human and android characters are embroiled in their inner struggle for their humanity, and as for the ending – well I don’t want to spoil it for anybody who hasn’t seen it but the idea of epiphany finally learning what it’s all about is just mind blowing.

How important is research to your work? What are your best resources?

 Research is very important regardless of whether you are producing work through your own ideas or working from a brief/instruction from a client. When I wrote for the Daily Crowdsource I was given a brief outline and relevant web links on the topic I was asked to cover. The brief has plenty of information to craft an article but it is vital that further research is carried on receipt of the brief. I would always spend half an hour to an hour scouring the internet either for additional relevant information but more importantly for anything that might question, refute or even make irrelevant the information given to me. It protects the client and you the writer after all it’s not good business to put your client in a position where they have published false or outdated information. This is not a reflection on the quality of the client’s brief but simply having another pair of eyes covering your back but also suggesting angles and information that would stand out from the competition.

The internet is a great  source of information if you know how to use it properly. I try to adapt what I call a newsroom approach to web research which is, say I want to write about working conditions on coffee farms and the first bit of information I come across gives a glowing report. Whilst that is the sort of thing people like to read so that they can enjoy their lattes guilt free I am not going to take one source’s word for it. So I look for a minimum of two corroborating sources and then just to be on the safe side I would research the sources to see where their bias lies. There will always be more than one side to a story and there will always be someone with a challenging view and evidence to support, but what you are doing is checking the validity of your information and sources.  Of course not all briefs will require this much extensive research but it doesn’t hurt to check.

I read a variety of blogs, some of which can just be personal musing but also feature insights from news savvy academics, speakers and activists writing or expanding on various topics that might be missed in a Google search. These can saved to your browser or reader. I place great value on internet research which you can do from the comfort of your own bed still in your PJs. However I do find Twitter is a great source of information for any article. Like any social media site it is a mixed bag of news and gossip, activism and of course ephemeral socializing but there are plenty of accounts that provide specialized knowledge that could prove tiresome searching the web. If you were to write an article about Barbecue food you could contact any chef or connect with @devonwoodsmoke, the twitter account for a Devon based chef specializing in smoked and barbecue food. So that’s how Twitter can put you in touch with people and resources with vast knowledge that will help you add real meat to the bones of any article.

 Your website offers articles on ‘any subject’ – that’s a tall order. How do you aim to pursue this?

 Yes that is quite a boast isn’t it? I am not saying that I have a wealth of knowledge on anything from how to apply lipstick to the implication of Schrodinger’s Cat in solving the problem of the Copenhagen interpretation of quantum mechanics in everyday objects, far from it. However if a client puts out a call to write about either topic, or both, my experience has been that they usually have an idea of what specific information to be included, style suitable to a target readership and purpose. This gives me an idea of what to write and how to structure it and anything that goes over my head I can learn more from internet research, ploughing through relevant blogs or even putting a shout out on Twitter for “expert” opinion.

There are of course limitations to what I can do and I am unlikely to be approached to produce academic essays that can only be read by other academics or professionals although I am always open to a challenge.

I do feel realistically that I can write about any topic that is put before me and fill any gaps in my knowledge with a little research and this comes from my work in crowdsourcing and crowdfunding. Through my blog Crowdsourcing Gazette and my client The Daily Crowdsource I have looked at how those have been used in technology and innovation, film making, journalism, marketing and advertising, crisis management, restoration, scientific advancement, banking, trade, and promoting the arts. It was important for me to understand what I was writing about so that it made sense and that I could decide if certain things needed expanding – for example I wrote an article about a percussion instrument that uses kinetic energy to produce enough electricity to power a USB light or charge a phone – by the way it refers to build up of energy through acceleration. In understanding that I was able to understand how the instrument worked and explain that in the finished article.

Of course I do love writing about subjects of which I have knowledge such as films, martial arts, fitness, and so forth but I am conscious of limiting my market potential should any of these areas “dry up” – I don’t want to be known as a film writer as there is a risk of deterring potential clients. Plus I like a challenge and always relish the opportunity to learn something new. In order to make this happen what I try to do is through freelancing portals apply for work on a variety of subjects but also use my Ramon Writes blog to showcase my varied range. Right now my crowdsourcing work provides ample evidence of my topic range but of course this needs updating. What I am also doing is keeping an eye on the market for what topics are in demand. So far example if it’s Internet Dating, whilst I have some experience as a user I might start reading up on the industry, study blogs and then apply for the job if it is still open.

Do you feel your previous jobs/interests will provide useful experiences for your writing career? If so why?

 My interests will provide me with insight where the work will reflect my passions; my work with Kung-fu Kingdom has involved reviewing martial arts films, events, as well as an interview with a graphic novel that combines Zombie story with martial arts. Since these are also my interests I can write passionately and informatively on all of these.

My previous jobs have certainly provided me with some basic skills – organizational, time keeping, day structuring that sort of thing although I am learning that those can go right out the window if you are hit with the dreaded writer’s block and you have a deadline. I already have experience of writing to deadline or quota (20 articles per month for example) so I can bring that to my new role. What I really bring to the venture is a strong work ethic – I don’t like to boast, although some former colleagues might disagree but for much of my working life clients, customers, and employers have expressed satisfaction with my work, and a happy client/boss makes me a happy worker and content in the knowledge that I am doing something right. I aim to please and (sorry for the shameless self-promotion) if you look at the Testimonials page on my website you’ll see current and former clients telling the world how happy they are with my work.

And of course working as a credit controller for 12 years I am not shy about chasing unpaid bills.

The internet offers a wealth of opportunities for writers – do you think the older, printed materials are becoming obsolete?

 I think it’s a possibility. Reading online whether it’s on your phone, tablet, laptop or PC offers so many advantages over printed materials – I mean if you feel inclined you can take 1000 books on holiday with your e-reader, imagine trying to fit those into your suitcase. Newspapers can only give you so much information as space is a premium whereas a news website can deluge you with a barrage of stories from all over the world, and through other sites. How can printed materials compete with that?

However I think there is a still a generation or two that prefers print over electronic reading the obvious one being newspapers, magazines and books don’t need charging up but also some (like myself) just love the smell of printed material. There is also still a concern that technology is encroaching on our daily lives, evolving too fast and so want to dial it back a bit – reading printed materials gives you a necessary break from your phone, TV and laptop. It can also be quality over quantity – why take 10 electronic books when you can just take one and take time reading it?

The debate is still raging of print over web – someday we could end up with a paperless society but unlikely in our lifetime.

 What are your tips on marketing/promoting yourself and your products?

 Oh that’s a tough one and I am still very much working through this but I would have to say is this;

  1. Put a professional face on your venture, in my case it’s the website. It’s clean, user friendly and visually pleasing on the eye but provides plenty of information without overloading potential clients with too much information. As a writer this is possibly the first glimpse anyone has of my writing and presentation ability so it is vital that the website reflects the best of all of that.
  1. An obvious one, use social media. Whether it’s Twitter or Facebook I try to post regularly my latest work, updates on how the business is going, articles of interest relevant to writing, sometimes I will promote other freelancers work, and even share my latest efforts out running. Seriously I try to keep it relevant to writing, and business but you can add some personal stuff to remind people you are human. Avoid controversy, bad language and text speak. Like my website my social media presence is the professional face of my business. Just like any business a little office banter or water cooler moment is ok but keep it clean and respectable and at some point you have to get back to work.
  1. If am writing about an event, any event I take plenty of business cards. Certain events are geared towards networking so there will be lots of business card swapping. I am conscious at such gatherings I will be caught shorthanded when a potential client wants my contact details and I have none to give him save a scrap of paper that is likely to be lost or binned.
  1. I am currently working on sending speculative letters and pitching ideas for potential articles to various publications.
  1. If you get an opportunity to talk about your specialism, business etc, or to be interviewed then quoted in a publication then take it. Doing presentations at talks and sitting on Q&A panels will work wonders for your professional face unless of course you get a case of flop sweat and start tripping over your words. Seriously, these events showcase what you’re all about and break the ice come the networking stage. If you were engaging enough, people will come to you with questions and want to know more about what you do. I am still waiting for my invitation however I have featured on the BBC website – have I mentioned that already?

 http://www.ramonwrites.co.uk/