Mastodon The Writing Desk: April 2015

30 April 2015

#HFVBT Blog Tour of Godwine Kingmaker, by Mercedes Rochelle

02_Godwine Kingmaker Cover

New from Amazon US and Amazon UK

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Harold Godwineson, the Last Anglo-Saxon King, owed everything to his father. Who was this Godwine, first Earl of Wessex and known as the Kingmaker? Was he an unscrupulous schemer, using King and Witan to gain power? Or was he the greatest of all Saxon Earls, protector of the English against the hated Normans? The answer depends on who you ask. He was befriended by the Danes, raised up by Canute the Great, given an Earldom and a wife from the highest Danish ranks. He sired nine children, among them four Earls, a Queen and a future King. Along with his power came a struggle to keep his enemies at bay, and Godwine's best efforts were brought down by the misdeeds of his eldest son Swegn. Although he became father-in-law to a reluctant Edward the Confessor, his fortunes dwindled as the Normans gained prominence at court. Driven into exile, Godwine regathered his forces and came back even stronger, only to discover that his second son Harold was destined to surpass him in renown and glory.

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About the Author

03_Mercedes Rochelle Author

Born in St. Louis MO with a degree from University of Missouri, Mercedes Rochelle learned about living history as a re-enactor and has been enamored with historical fiction ever since. She lives in Sergeantsville, NJ with her husband in a log home they built themselves. For more information please visit Mercedes Rochelle’s website and blog. You can also find her on Facebook, Twitter @authorrochelle and Goodreads.

Godwine Kingmaker Blog Tour Schedule:

Monday, April 20 Review at Svetlana's Reads and Views Spotlight at Genre Queen Tuesday, April 21 Review at Book Nerd Spotlight at Unshelfish Wednesday, April 22 Review at Flashlight Commentary Guest Post & Giveaway at Let Them Read Books Thursday, April 23 Interview at Flashlight Commentary Saturday, April 25 Spotlight at With Her Nose Stuck in a Book Tuesday, April 28 Spotlight at CelticLady's Reviews Wednesday, April 29 Review at Broken Teepee Thursday, April 30 Guest Post & Giveaway at So Many Precious Books, So Little Time Spotlight at The Writing Desk Monday, May 4 Review at Impressions in Ink Character Interview at Boom Baby Reviews Tuesday, May 5 Guest Post & Giveaway at Passages to the Past Thursday, May 7 Review at Bookramblings Spotlight at The Never-Ending Book Friday, May 8 Review at Layered Pages

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29 April 2015

New developments in AuthorRise, by Chris Weber

Have you ever wondered what triggered a book to suddenly 'leap' up (or drop down) Amazon rankings?  I often do, so it was partly through curiosity that I've been trialling an interesting new concept called AuthorRise. I asked founder and CEO Chris Weber to explain how it all came about:

Our little team started AuthorRise about a year ago to build tools that could help authors grow their own audience. We wanted to build something different than the promotion sites that offer authors a quick burst of marketing. We wanted to support sustainable, everyday actions that any author can take and go from zero readers to a successful business. If someone is serious about becoming a full-time author, it takes time, patience and perseverance.

We do this because everyone on the team is either a writer, a designer, or a maker in some fashion, so we know what it’s like to be doing something creative and also try to build a business out of it on your own. Supporting the creation of great work is one of the noblest pursuits anyone can undertake, and we just hope to help as many authors as possible find the success they're looking for.

In our quest to build the best tools possible, we’ve rebuilt the whole site based on the habits of our most successful members. There are now three sections - Goals, Create, and Track - each with a distinct purpose, but they add up to a system that has been proven to lead to a more engaged audience, and more sales.

The Goals section helps you set simple, achievable goals like “posts-per-day”, and then keep an eye on if you’re hitting the mark. Building a real fan base is a day-at-a-time challenge, and the goals section is meant to encourage you to put in a little bit of steady work every day. It really does add up.

The Create section turns your blog posts, articles, reviews, and recommendations into marketing materials. You can send tweets that include a link to your book and go out as Twitter cards, which are much more visual. We also created “Flyers,” a basic template for sharing content across social networks that we’re able to track. Now you can see how many people are looking at your posts, where they’re coming from, and whether they’re clicking the “buy” button. We designed them to be reusable over time too, so you can re-share the ones that work. It’s a great time-saver in the long run and has a huge impact on the exposure any one piece of content gets.

Lastly, we created a Tracking section to keep an eye on the overall picture of your writing practice. You can see how all of your books are performing at a glance, and compare Flyers to see which ones work, and which don’t. They’re simple statistics, not huge in-depth reports, because we found that while it’s great to keep an eye on things, at some point, more information doesn’t actually help.

On the whole, we’ve found that people who use our tools for 10-15 minutes every day have seen their audience improve in both size and engagement, and we’ve seen an average increase of 10% in sales. We’re constantly building new tools for our members to try. We keep the things that work and ditch the things that don’t. It’s an evolution based on what our community finds to be most valuable, and we love the collaboration.

Chris Weber
On the personal side, I attribute so much of what is good in my life to books, especially reading voraciously as a kid. My parents supported my reading habit without hesitation, even encouraging me to study literature in college despite it's lack of "real world practicality." My goal now is to support the environment that has helped me so much. I think bringing great work into the world is one of the noblest pursuits anyone can undertake, and I just hope to be a part of helping as many authors as possible find the success they're looking for.

Chris Weber

28 April 2015

Book Launch Blog Tour ~ The Tramp (The Bound Chronicles Book 1) by Sarah Wathen

New on Amazon US and Amazon UK

When John was seven, he found Candy dancing in the neighboring yard wearing a yellow polka-dot bikini and red rain galoshes, splashing and dancing and singing at the top of her lungs. She saved his throat from getting ripped out by her grandma’s guard dog. Good thing she did, too. It was John who raised the alarm that day, when the man who smiled with his mouth but not his eyes drove off with Candy in a cloud of dust. The police stopped whatever might have happened next in a seedy motel—a place Candy doesn't dare remember. John rescued her, creating a bond between two friends strong enough to awaken…something. 

That something has haunted the southern mountain town of Shirley since a time before stories were written, in a cycle that has spun for centuries. 

Years later, John and Candy begin to suspect something more sinister lurking amidst the days of football glory and the nights of clandestine rendezvous. John discovers disturbing symbols from the ancient tribes indigenous to the area in his history textbook, in a local cave system, and in his very dreams. Candy uncovers a family history that is more colorful than she knew. If shades of black are colorful. 

If only the two friends could foresee the danger looming before them. For another something, one much more dangerous than the first, is waking up to continue the cycle. 

And this something is bent on revenge…again. 

Murder forces everyone out of sunny valley torpor, and Candy realizes that more than acquaintance connects her with the killer. When a corpse is found, gutted as if for ritual, she knows that whatever evil has overtaken her hometown is moving forward. She will have to exorcise the haunting herself—though she has no idea how—and she will need John’s predestined help to do it. Candy will have to face the memories of that seedy motel room first. At least she finally understands the power she never knew she had—a link to her departed mother and a line of healers shrouded in pre-history.

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About the Author

Sarah Wathen is a storyteller by trade and a painter at heart. She was trained in Classical Painting at the University of Central Florida, then completed graduate studies in Fine Art at Parson’s School of Design in New York City. Her first step into the world of independent publishing was as an illustrator, and Sarah quickly realized she wanted to write her own books rather than illustrate others. That reinvention came as no surprise to family and friends, who remember her as a child always ready to turn a tale. Sarah currently resides in Florida and runs the indie label, LayerCake Productions. Find out more at Sarah's website and find her on 
Facebook and Twitter: @SWathen_Author.

27 April 2015

Guest Post ~ The Testament of Vida Tremayne, by Sarah Vincent

A lonely novelist
A devoted fan
A journal that speaks of unspeakable things

Author Vida Tremayne lies silent in a hospital bed. The forces which brought about her terrifying decline are shrouded in mystery. Meanwhile, her estranged daughter Dory is forced to abandon her fast paced city life to be by her mother’s bedside. Dory is resentful. She hates the country and she and her mother were never exactly close. Luckily Vida already has a carer, the enigmatic Rhiannon Townsend. A long-standing fan of Vida’s, Rhiannon is happy to take care of the bedside vigil. Dory is free to resume her life. Or is she? Then she discovers her mother’s journal. Vida’s chilling testament reveals the trigger for her spiralling into madness. It also reveals the danger that still lurks close by. A danger that will call on Dory’s every reserve of courage if she’s to free her mother, and maybe in doing so, to free herself.

Available on Amazon UK and Amazon US   

Predator in the Plot

Let me confess I’m not a seasoned plotter. Plots either evolve organically or they don’t. Index cards charting every plot twist may be a good plan for some, but I like to be surprised along the way. When I set out to write The Testament of Vida Tremayne, the last thing I expected to turn up was a Puma. Don’t ask me where it came from. All I know is the creature snuck up on me. It was as if it had been stalking me from the very first sentence.

I should wind back at this point. TVT came about after years of writing for the drawer. There was a brief spell of success with a young adult trilogy for Random House. Sarah Vincent is a pseudonym and my short stories and teen books were published under my own name, Susan Davis. Success was all too brief. Disillusioned I crossed to the other side of the fence, to work as an editor. Still I had to write. Something. Anything. Not for the market, not second-guessing what publishers might want in these tough times for the industry, but for ME. So, I scribbled TVT in spurts of inspiration, followed by long breaks in the famous box-file.

All I knew was, there was a writer, Vida, jaded, neglected and living a solitary life in the remote Welsh borders. When she has a nervous breakdown, her estranged townie daughter Dory turns up to take care of her affairs. The discovery of her mother’s diary reveals the terrifying trigger for her condition. This was all I had. I wanted to say something, not just about literary ambition and the toll it can take on one’s personal relationships, but about creativity itself. 

Dory finds her mother has a lodger in residence. Rhiannon Townsend is Vida’s devoted fan. She claims to hold the key to creativity. Her method for removing writer’s block however, is not without its dangers. Enter the Puma.

Both Rhiannon and the mysterious beast managed to slink into my story almost unnoticed. I certainly wasn’t expecting them. I hadn’t invited them. And where did this beast come from? Was it out there, a real animal, one of those exotic pets released into the English countryside, occasionally reported in sightings and even photographed? Or was it symbolic of Vida’s condition, an integral part of her psyche? 

Needless to say I’ve always been fascinated by the idea of these huge felines prowling the countryside. Big cats haunt my dreams. Maybe it’s that combination of grace, stealth and deadly intent that I find irresistible. One month after the novel was published I came upon a notice pinned to a gate on the hills where I live, asking walkers to report sightings, due to recent attacks on sheep. When a black shape honed into view some way ahead of me, my heart almost stopped along with my legs. Could this be nature imitating art? Thankfully it turned out to be a Doberman dog, with the owner not far behind! 

Every reader has a different take on this aspect of the novel and that for me is part of the joy of writing.  I love to hear what people think. I leave it to you, to make up your own minds.

Sarah Vincent

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About the Author

Sarah Vincent has two grown up children and lives in the South Shropshire countryside with her husband and her Jack Russell terrier, Beryl. She writes in a converted coal shed at the back of the house. In the early days she juggled writing with various jobs as a care assistant, school dinner lady and museum guide. For the past twelve years she has worked as an editor and mentor for two leading Literary Consultancies and enjoys helping new writers achieve their goals. Her idea of fun is going off-grid for a few days, and camping in remote places in her tiny caravan. Find out more at Sarah's website and follow her on Twitter @Sarahauthored.

Book Launch Guest Post ~ Walk in the Flesh, by Peter Bailey

In the aftermath of a terrorist attack Neil is given the chance to serve his country by serving up revenge. He soon becomes England's premier spy and assassin. As a man he was unpleasant, dangerous and of little use. As a cyborg he is unpleasant, very dangerous and extremely useful. His suicide missions fit his strengths and his weaknesses. He exacts vengeance, kills without mercy, then destroys the evidence by destroying his temporary body. The aftermath is someone else's problem.

Available from Amazon UK and Amazon US 

Before we get the main body of the post, let me just say that I’m English – with a very English sense of humour. Sometimes this does not travel well, so it may help if you read this in the voice of Stephen Fry or Brian Sewell)

So after the obligatory warning, on to the big question. How did I come to write 76,000 words about a psychopath who kills and then destroys his temporary body?

First, there was the idea

Terry Pratchett described inspiration as some sort of high energy particle, with the human mind as detector. But for me its almost organic process. A seed finds a fertile spot and grows into something mighty. Sometimes the result is perfect and people call it “wonderful writing and compulsive reading” for others the cry is “quick! Burn it with fire”. For “Walk In The Flesh” the jury is still out

But the specific seed for my book was a scene in the 1966 film Arabesque where our heroes are being chased through a junkyard, and The Bad Guy ™ is trying to kill them with a crane and wrecking ball

In retrospect this is like trying to kill flies by throwing refrigerators at them, but at the tender age of 10 (yes, I really am that old) it was a very powerful image. Even now I can remember the scream of the crane as it drew the ball back for another shot, the implacable unfairness of man vs. machine that I later recognised in the film “The Terminator” (some people claim there have been sequels to that film – they lie)

But the seed itself was nothing. Our heroes escaped and most of the cast lived happily ever after. The seed really took root when I wondered – what if the wrecking ball had not missed? The answer that it would have been a very short film was unsatisfactory, there had to be more. But how could there more after a body had been turned into a thin paste? What emotion could be strong enough to make the need to carry on stronger than the pain of death? But answering those questions only raised others. Because on its own ‘need’ is just nice fluffy dreams, to turn dreams into reality would require some very expensive technology, and as Stlson one said – nothing in life is free.  The people that gave the tech with one hand would want tenfold back with the other – and the only stick they had to control their creation was the promise of more death, more revenge.

Which raises an interesting question. If someone does terrible things, does it make those things any less terrible because we understand why?

How I wrote the book

The temptation is to say ‘one word at a time’ (I did say I’m English?) but the real answer is through a mixture of ignorance and arrogance. I started at chapter one, with  "The Mutaween’s neck broke with a wet crack.' And wrote, and wrote every day. Some days a lot of words, sometimes not so many. Birthdays, Christmas Day, all of those. July 2013 I fell and broke my arm (so badly I was still having operations six months later) some of the pain descriptions from that time came in useful.

I hasten to add that my dreams were not of avarice beyond the dreams of man (but a little avarice would be nice). I think it was Stephen King that said writing a book was like carrying a heavy weight, and every word on the page lessened that load a little. Well I felt I was the proverbial 97-pound weakling carrying Charles Atlas.

In retrospect writing the book was like deciding to row from England to New York with no more idea than NYC was a big city over there, and that paddles went in the water. The big plus I had was that I knew what each chapter had to do. I had an exact picture of the book in my mind – all I needed to do was get it down on paper.


Never before in the field of creativity have three letters meant so much. Because first I had to learn to write. Then I had to write the book. The short stories I’ve had printed just showed me which way to go. From there, I was on my own.

The delivery

What did I do when I finished writing? Edit, edit, and more edit. Then professional edit and finally submission. I know many people choose the self-publishing route, but I wanted somebody who knew what they were doing and Barbarian Books rode to my rescue.

So as Bill Paxton once famously said is this is. “Game over man – game over” not quite, not even close. Because now I get the chance to share my nightmares with you. This is just the beginning.

Peter Bailey
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About the Author

Peter Bailey lives in England with his long-suffering wife. He originally trained as a teacher, but now supports Microsoft windows and ArcSight ESM. His first story was a fictionalized account of a disastrous trip to Las Vegas with a dental abscess. Since then, he has written a vampire story (without any actual vampires) and about a perfectly ordinary day at the office that will last for eternity. Walk in the Flesh is his first book, and possibly the only book based on a scene from the 1966 film Arabesque. You can find Peter on Facebook and Twitter: @peterbailey111

23 April 2015

Discovering reader preferences, habits and attitudes - Announcing the 2015 Reader Survey, by M.K. Tod @MKTodAuthor

Writers and readers – a symbiotic relationship. Ideas spark writers to create stories and build worlds and characters for readers’ consumption. Readers add imagination and thought along with their backgrounds and attitudes to interpret those stories, deriving meaning and enjoyment in the process. A story is incomplete without both writer and reader.

What then do readers want? What constitutes a compelling story? How do men and women differ in their preferences? Where do readers find recommendations? What are their attitudes to pricing or their favourite reading blogs? These and other questions have been the subject of two previous reader surveys.

ANNOUNCING A 2015 READER SURVEY designed to solicit further input on reading habits, historical fiction preferences, favourite authors and, for the first time, favourite historical fiction. THE SURVEY WILL BE OPEN UNTIL MAY 14.

If you are a reader or a writer, please take the survey and share the link: 

...with friends and family and on your favourite social media. Robust participation across age groups, countries, and other demographics will make this year’s survey even more significant. Those who take the survey will be able to sign up to receive a summary report when it becomes available.

Highlights from prior surveys:
    HISTORICAL FICTION IS MAINSTREAM: Less than 2% of participants said they rarely or never read historical fiction.

    GENDER MAKES A DIFFERENCE: Women and men differ significantly in their reading habits and preferences and their views of historical fiction.

    AGE MAKES A DIFFERENCE: Those under 30 have different preferences for genre and time period 
and have different patterns of consumption and acquisition.

    SOCIAL MEDIA IS HAVING A BIG IMPACT ON READING: Social media and online sites play an increasingly significant role for those choosing, purchasing, and talking about fiction.

    BOOK BLOGS ARE VERY POPULAR: 1,473 participants listed one, two or three favourite blogs.

    GEOGRAPHY: Responses to questions such as the use of online tools for recommendations and purchasing and preferred setting for historical fiction varied by geography.

    PRICING: Sadly, readers are pushing for low prices. For example, 60% want e-books at $5.99 or less and 66% want paperbacks at $10.99 or less.

    ONLINE BOOK CLUBS ARE GAINING POPULARITY: 21% belong to online clubs while 15% belong to clubs meeting in a physical location

    VOLUME OF BOOKS READ MAKES A DIFFERENCE: for example, high volume readers have different expectations for book reviews, a higher interest in tracking their books, and higher usage of online tools and social media to augment their reading experience.

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M.K. Tod writes historical fiction and blogs about all aspects of the genre at A Writer of History. Her latest novel, LIES TOLD IN SILENCE is set in WWI France and is available from Amazon, NookKoboGoogle Play and iTunesMary can be contacted on Facebook, Twitter and Goodreads.

20 April 2015

Guest Post ~ Finding Inspiration by Lucy Branch, author of A Rarer Gift Than Gold

Abigail Argent stands out: some admire her lean figure and beautiful 
dark eyes, but others notice that she always wears gloves and shudder when they know why. The ones that know her best notice her ability
with metal. Her particular talent lies in the colouring of alloys. She has a gift for seeing the beauty in a plain piece of metal and being able to draw it out. She comes to the attention of a powerful group who protect a strange secret: the real history of alchemy. This group holds the key 
to a mystery of what has been happening to alchemists, and those
suspected of the ability, from time immemorial. Terrifying and thrilling, this is a testimony of being in the grip of people with fantastical views and extreme beliefs. 

 Available from Amazon UK and Amazon UK
There's something very contrary in my nature. I have a tendency to pursue the things I find most difficult rather than those that come naturally to me. At school, I doggedly pursued mathematics and sciences, which fascinated me though I never rose much higher than average in my class. Whereas, at English and languages, I didn't have to try too hard to score well but, perhaps for that reason, I never took them seriously. I would fill notebook after notebook with stories, usually written on my knee hidden beneath my desk, during many classes and yet I never considered a career in writing.
I had my sights on something else. I wanted to work in art restoration which was my family’s profession. I defy anyone not to be interested in this field. I work with large-scale sculptures both historic and contemporary and I get to puzzle-out the reasons for their degradation. There's something very satisfying in taking an object which is down on its luck and researching what it should look like and then recreating that vision or at the least stabilising the current vision so that it isn't lost entirely. However, as much as I was satisfied with my career choice, I still had the itch to keep writing.
In my 20s, I continued to write for myself as I had at school and I didn't feel the need to write for an audience. I used to feel about my writing the way I would feel about reading. I'm a voracious reader - any free second in the day is usually filled with reading a few lines from a book. Even when I've been at my busiest, I've still managed to get through a good few novels just by reading while I brush my teeth, wash my hair, and dress.
I'm the sort of person that walks into lots of lampposts as I can't bear to walk anywhere without reading at the same time. Oh, and I burn a lot of dinners as I'm too busy trying to get to the end of the chapter rather than concentrating on the food. I would write so that I could be in that alternative world in that solitary way that only reading ever provides. I love being in a fictitious world and it’s even better when the parameters are your own. When I neared the end of A Rarer Gift, it suddenly occurred to me that the pleasure I took in it might appeal to others as well, which is when I began to think about publishing.
For me, a story never flowers from just one inspiration; there are always several. A Rarer Gift is a good example as it sprouted from three different places: first and foremost, I wanted to have an opportunity to gush about metals. That may sound odd, but I specialise in restoring metals and they are an incredibly beautiful and special thing, I am endlessly fascinated by their properties and what can be achieved with them. Apart from the great Primo Levi, who wrote magnificently about metals in his auto-biographical book The Periodic Table, I have never read anything which put the wonder I feel about them into fiction. I wanted to relate what I loved about them. This was my opportunity and alchemy is such a seductive subject - it seemed a perfect match.
Secondly, I wanted to play with the boundaries of myth and science. Every day, I work with historic objects and one of the questions I often ask myself when restoring them is ‘what is missing from this object. What can I not see?’ and ‘why might evidence have been lost?’ It has made me very interested in what’s absent from history and why.  Scientifically speaking, alchemy is not impossible it is just very unlikely to be achieved. What consolidates this finding is that there are no physical objects to prove that alchemy has taken place. My inspiration came from asking the question ‘what if history had been airbrushed?’ ‘What if people with a vested interest have made it their purpose to remove all physical evidence of alchemy from the public domain?’ Could there be an alternative history to alchemy? I do love a good conspiracy theory and I find writing out questions about a subject a great way to find inspiration because our brains like to solve and often there’s a storyline in the solution. 
The third strand of inspiration came via an experience which occurred to a good friend of mine who is a historian of science and was studying something very academic. He was calling up some pretty rare books from a library in Italy and received a written warning to stay away from the material he was studying. I wondered why anyone would be so protective of something so dry and academic. I wondered what motivation they could possibly have and what might happen if he ignored the warning. This was one of the pivotal events which I built the book around. 
As a final word on inspiration, I think there is no event so dull or personality so grey that a little magical realism cannot make fascinating - though I imagine, other authors with their own particular penchant for a genre would claim the same thing. I think inspiration is everywhere, but its imagination which is the pixie dust.
Lucy Branch
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About the Author 
Lucy Branch runs a sculptural and architectural conservation company in London. She is lucky enough to have worked on many of the UK’s most famous monuments, art works and buildings including Nelson’s Column, Cleopatras Needle, Eros, St Pauls Cathedral and Historic Royal Palaces. She went to University College London to study History of Art with Material Studies as an undergraduate and worked for many years before taking a mid-career Masters with Royal College of Art and Victoria & Albert Museum. She lives in North London with her husband and three children. Find out more about Lucy on Twitter @lucybranch11 and her website

18 April 2015

Review: Sonnets, by Charles Gerard Timm

Available on Amazon US and Amazon UK

I have a long list of books to review - and a towering pile of half-read and to-be-read books, yet when I discovered Sonnets, the newest work from Charles Gerard Timm, that pile was forgotten.

This refreshingly honest collection thirty-three poems explores the many facets of unrequited love. In a world where we find increasingly inventive ways to express ideas in 140 characters, these sonnets bring a relevant contemporary feel to the familiar Shakespearian format  - and show what is possible within the constraint of fourteen-lines. 

I was inspired to look up the origins of the Sonnet and found it derives from the Italian word sonetto, which means ‘a little sound or song'.  I found these poems touching, revealing and insightful - highly recommended.

Tony Riches

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About the Author

Charles Gerard Timm's professional career began far outside of the arts and included a wide variety of jobs—in retail, hospitality, construction trades, and journalism. But in 2009 he realized that forcing himself into the wrong holes was never going to work, and he gave himself over to the arts.

Since then he has been a full-time writer and actor, whose work has been called "inspirational," "classic," "poetic," and "vivid." He hopes people find their time with his creations well-spent. Find out more at and on Twitter at @charlesgtimm.

16 April 2015

Book Launch ~ The Zoo, by Jamie Mollart

New on Amazon UK and Amazon US

Brilliant and successful, James Marlowe puts in long alcohol and cocaine fuelled hours as an advertising director, creating a new campaign for an international bank. As his life disintegrates around him he comes to despise his client, the corporate world, and himself. 

Now his imagination is fired not by slogans, but by a set of characters he calls The Zoo They lead him into a new, crazier world than the one that's thrown him out. The way back to sanity, the wife and son he's lost, might lie behind the fantasy.

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About the Author

Jamie Mollart runs his own advertising company, and has won awards for marketing. Over the years he has been widely published in magazines, been a guest on some well-respected podcasts and blogs, and Patrick Neate called him 'quite a writer' on the Book Slam podcast. He is married and lives in Leicestershire with his wife and cat. His debut novel, The Zoo, is on the Amazon Rising Stars 2015 list. Find out more at his website and you can find Jamie on Facebook and Twitter @jamiemollart

15 April 2015

Insider Secrets For Successful Freelance Writing, by Susie Kearley

Written for writers who want to take their freelance writing to the next level, this book will help anyone looking for new inspiration and insight, who wants to earn more from their writing. It focuses on making a regular income from writing. 

Available on Amazon UK and Amazon US

Today I'm pleased to welcome successful freelance writer Susie Kearley to share her ideas on how to make the best start in freelancing:

How did you first start to make a living as a freelance writer?

I took redundancy from a career in marketing and had a couple of short-term jobs, one of which opened my eyes to the possibilities as a freelance writer. Basically, I was much better than the freelance writers that this company was using. So when that doomed job ended (and no-one else wanted me) I decided to set myself up as a freelance writer. Getting started was hard work, but I've never looked back. I'm really glad I did it.

I started pitching article ideas to the editors of magazines that I wanted to write for - all day long, relentlessly. I got rejection after rejection initially - and those that didn't reject me, offered 'exposure' in return for working for free. Well I was serious about a career, so 'exposure' wasn't enough. I needed to chase the money.

Among those offering 'exposure' was a glossy women's magazine called Marie Claire. I agreed to cooperate with a short interview piece for Marie Claire, just so that I could say I'd been published in that magazine (or on their website technically). But as a general rule, I was very focused on the money. I had to be. I'd quit my job, and this was supposed to be my new career!

My first paid commission came through from a military magazine, followed by a couple of assignments from gardening magazines and I was away! I kept pitching relentlessly, and the work kept coming in. The rest is history (or in my books if you want more detail!).

Where can new writers find the best opportunities to build their portfolio?

Among my first regular assignments was a column in the local newspaper about events happening in my town. That kind of opportunity is a reasonable starting point - it gets you focused on the writing discipline, meeting deadlines, developing a routine, ensuring a high level of accuracy, and complying with in-house style-guides.

I also had some work published in a regional magazine some years earlier, which meant that when I started writing full-time, I had a modest portfolio of work to show off. I did those early articles for free because it was promoting something that was in my interests. Doing the odd thing for free can help you get a basic portfolio together.

What can writers do to increase their chances of success?

I think it can be very easy to give up in the face of rejection, but if you want it badly enough, you'll keep plugging away, and improve your craft until you get there. I read lots of books, asked people for advice, and persevered. I pitched feature ideas all day, every day, for weeks before I got a positive reply. Tenacity and determination really help - but you've got to have a good command of English and some decent ideas too.

Where do you start to find the right contacts for magazines and newspapers?

The Writers' and Artists' Yearbook, a magazine's website, or the editorial column inside a magazine itself, are all good places to start. Staff turnover can be quite high in publishing, so it's worth checking online if in doubt.

Do you need an agent—and what can they do for you?

I don't have an agent. I got a book contract directly with a publisher. I don't think you need one, but they can be very helpful if you have your heart set on a publishing deal with a large publishing house. Agents represent your interests. They can, hopefully, get your manuscript in front of the people who matter and get you a decent advance. Getting access to the big publishers is very difficult to achieve without an agent, as most of them refuse to deal directly with authors these days.

What are the biggest challenges to a sustainable freelance career and how can writers overcome them?

Getting paid quickly is one of the biggest challenges. You don't get paid until the article is published, which depending on the publication, can take months, or even years. There are also issues with many publications having their budgets cut at the moment, so some are cutting their fees, and others are taking less freelance material. It's a real squeeze.

I think it helps to have other skills so that you can diversify a bit. I intend to do more on the photography side this year, and I hope to do more writing for business markets, where you get paid more quickly.

What are your ‘top tips’ for new freelance writers?

Take notice of all feedback because it often provides valuable insight into how you can improve your writing skills.
Read books on writing, and meet others who write, for inspiration and support.

Susie Kearley
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About the Author

Susie Kearley is a British freelance writer and journalist, working for magazines, newspapers, and book publishers around the world. Among her best known clients are the BBC, IPC Media, and DC Thomson. She has two books on writing available: Freelance Writing: Aim Higher, Earn More and Freelance Writing On Health, Food and Gardens. Find out more at Susie's website and find Susie on Facebook and Twitter @susiekearley  

14 April 2015

Guest Post ~ Inspiration, writing and Indigo’s Dragon, by SophieCroft

Indigo lives in the Lake District, and spends his time exploring the mountains he loves. An unexpected parcel arrives containing a first aid kit inside his grandfather’s satchel. Indigo’s curiosity is raised as he looks through his grandfather’s notebook to discover drawings of mythical creatures. Strange things begin to happen and Indigo travels to the Polish mountains to search for his grandfather and the truth.  Danger looms as events spiral out of control, and Indigo needs to make choices that change him, his world, and his future forever…

Available on Amazon

My mother is a writer. When I was growing up I remember her spending hours of every day at her typewriter, then her word processor and eventually her computer. It was a mystery to me why she spent so much time there. It didn’t seem like a very exciting occupation, sat in front of a computer all day. I remember coming home from school and going into her study to talk to her. Sometimes I had the feeling she was not quite there, like part of her was still away in whatever world she had been creating. I was far more interested in living in the real world.

I grew up and left home; I studied geology at university, I worked as a laboratory technician, then a geologist, and after a few years I completed a PGCE and became a science teacher. My first encounter with writing was via teaching. I saw an advertisement that CGP (an educational publisher) were looking for science teachers to contribute to their revision guides, and I thought it would be a good way to earn some extra money.

I soon found that writing was hard work. I spent hours at the computer; researching, writing and editing, trying to get the words just right, but I did enjoy it. I found pleasure and pride in producing a succinct paragraph that neatly explained a scientific concept. I knew how difficult it was for many of my pupils to grasp certain ideas, and I really wanted to help make science accessible and enjoyable.

The thought of writing fiction did not occur to me for many years. Inspiration came after I moved to Borrowdale, in the Lake District, with my family. I was thirty something, and was taking a break from teaching to be with my two young children. We spent as much time as we could outside, walking and exploring the beautiful valley we were lucky enough to live in.

Everything started to give me ideas for stories; the mountains, the lakes, the wildlife, the local history and legends, and my children. Anyone with young children knows how eager they are to hear stories, and how stories fire their imagination. Spending time with my children in such a beautiful setting is when my writing journey really began.

A Lake District dragon, hiding in one 
of my favourite writing spots.
for this beautiful photograph)

I wrote the first draft of Indigo’s Dragon in a notebook, by the side of the river, while my children played in the water. It was inspired by all the things my children and I liked most at the time; our valley, the fells, dragons, monsters, adventures, mysteries, journeys, and fairy tales. I loved the writing process, with all its ups and downs, and found myself spending hours of every day lost in the world I was creating. When I finished the story, I sent it away to a few publishers and started writing my next book. I had discovered the appeal of living part of my life in a fantasy world of my own creation - something my mother had discovered years before, and I finally understood.

While I was lost in writing my second book, Accent Press got in touch and offered me a contract for Indigo’s Dragon. I was over the moon, and couldn’t believe my luck. Not only did Accent Press want to publish Indigo’s Dragon, but they were interested in sequels too.

I finished writing the book I was working on, and set to work on a sequel for Indigo’s Dragon. I already had some ideas for the book. Indigo’s Demons became a continuation of Indigo’s story, this time set in the Tatra Mountains in Poland. I have never been to Poland, but have always wanted to go as my maternal grandmother was Prussian. I think setting the book there was my way of visiting the country. Many of the mythical creatures brought to life in Indigo’s Demons are inspired by Polish and Slavic myths, which I have always enjoyed reading.

Accent Press contracted Indigo’s Demons, and expressed their interest in more Indigo books. I have just finished the first draft of the third in the series. Indigo’s Deep has been wonderful to write. It is set on and under the sea (the Irish Sea and the Baltic Sea) and involves more than a few sea monsters. It has been inspired by a local aquarium I visit with my children (The Lake District Coast Aquarium), sightings and stories of sea monsters, my experiences scuba diving, and a Lithuanian legend.

The more I write, the more I realise that inspiration comes from everywhere; it is all around, in your past, your present, your surroundings, the people you meet, and the stories you read. Once I started writing I found ideas created more ideas, and now I have a whole list of books I want to write. My mother has around forty books published, and is still writing, so I have some catching up to do.

Sophie Croft

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About the Author

Sophie Croft was born in Swansea, and spent much of her youth exploring the beaches on the Gower peninsula, looking for evidence of sea monsters. At Liverpool University she studied prehistoric monsters, amongst other things, and learned to Scuba Dive (so she could continue searching for sea monsters under the waves). She worked as a Geologist (investigating underground monsters), before becoming a Science Teacher (to seek out and educate young monsters). She now lives in the Lake District with her family, where she walks the fells and canoes the lakes, searching for monsters and other wildlife. Find her on Facebook and Twitter @croftdragon