Thursday, December 19, 2013

10 Questions with British Writer Frank P. Ryan (@FrankPRyan)

This Author Spotlight

Frank P. Ryan

author of

Book 1 of The Three Powers Series

This week's author spotlight features Frank P. Ryan.

Tell us a bit about yourself, Frank.

I write epic fantasy novels, which form part of a series, "The Three Powers".  I was lucky enough for the first two published books in this series, The Snowmelt River and The Tower of Bones, to have gathered excellent reviews from the British Fantasy Society and Starburst Magazine, which helped to push my fantasy into the top ten bestseller list of epic fantasy novels on American readers have always been able to buy my books as kindles, but I'm also delighted to say that The Snowmelt River was published in the US as a modestly priced hardcover in November 2013.  The third book in the series, The Sword of Feimhin, is with the publishers and will be published in 2014.

I have written each book so it features an adventure in itself - but there is also an epic narrative running through the series.  So I suggest that the books are best read in the right order, starting with The Snowmelt River.  I can promise high adventure and exciting highly original themes.

I wrote an apocalyptic science fiction novel, The Doomsday Genie, a thriller trilogy (Goodbye Baby Blue, Sweet Summer and Tiger Tiger) and a contemporary novel, Taking Care of Harry.

I teach writing skills and have been known to judge fantasy short story competitions.

1.How did you get into writing and why do you write?

I began to write spontaneously after a life-threatening motor-cycle accident when aged 19 yrs.  I also changed career from engineering to medicine.  I had never studied literature as such though I had always enjoyed reading books.  I wrote my first (unpublished, thank goodness) novel over the next two years without attending any classes on writing.

2.What do you like best (or least) about writing?

The creativity.  My background is medicine/ science but I have always had a foot in the arts.  I also ran an art gallery for nine years while working as a consultant physician.  I feel an intense satisfaction from creating a novel.  I don’t write primarily for money although I do appreciate the income for obvious ordinary reasons.  I immensely enjoy the stage, when writing a novel, when the characters are moving around in your inner mental landscape and wanting to have their own say.  Hence I’m playing a kind of surreal game with my fantasy where the four main characters have their own Twitter outlets, although this is only just getting off the ground.

3.What is your writing process? IE do you outline? Do you stick to a daily word or page count, write 7 days a week, etc?

There are two broad patterns that writers tend to follow.  Methodical writers plan it all in detail and tend to keep to a fixed regime.  I’m one of the other types, an inspirational writer.  I rely on waking up and the
next chapter just coming into my head.  This means that the writing has a compulsive quality, which is often remarked on by readers.  I do write any day I like, so it is often seven days a week.  But I only write for an hour or two a day.  In that time I can complete a novel in a year to eighteen months.

4.Who are some other writers you read and admire, regardless of whether they are commercially “successful?”

I read quite widely not just epic fantasy.  I like to read authors who have a sense of writing style as well as constructing interesting characters and an interesting narrative story.  Those three qualities are key to a good novel.  I was inspired, as a young man by great authors such as James Joyce (I loved Ulysses), Thomas Mann (The Magic Mountain), Jean Paul Sartre (The Roads to Freedom), Camus (the Outsider), Hemingway, Faulkner (The Sound and the Fury), Steinbeck, indeed many others.  In epic fantasy I like Tolkein, Ursula Le Guin, Neil Gaiman (American Gods), GRR Martin (though not his killing off his heroes), Tad Williams, currently reading Wolfe, and indeed many more.

5.Should the question mark in the above question be inside or outside the quotes?

Outside.  I might add that quotes are dealt with differently in English English and US English.  Indeed there are far more differences in these versions of English than people realize.  When writing my US-based science fiction novel, The Doomsday Genie, I began to compile my own list of differences between US and UK English usage.  It soon grew into quite a big list.  I made sure to use an American editor.

6.What’s your stance on the Oxford Comma?

I tend not to use it.

7.What is your book about and how did it come to fruition?

I’m currently writing Book Four in a four-book epic fantasy series.  The title of the series is The Three Powers.  It consists of The Snowmelt River, The Tower of Bones, The Sword of Feimhin and a fourth the name of which must be kept a secret for now.  I began researching the series long ago.  Indeed I wrote a book, The Sundered World, which might be seen as anticipatory for the series, which was first published in 1999.  In writing all four subsequent books I begin by going back to notes, character sketches, etc, done at that time.  Each book always contains one or more powerful narrative developments of its own, so that my readers can enjoy them without needing to have all of the series available, but there is a powerful central narrative to the whole as well.

8.What’s your current writing project?

I’m about half way through writing Book Four of the epic fantasy series, having recently revised and polished Book Three after the publisher’s editor had a look at it.

9.What book(s) are you currently reading?

I tend to read two or three books at once.  I’m currently reading Margaret Atwood’s The Year of the Flood and Gene Wolfe’s The Book of the New Sun.

10.Who or what inspires your writing?

That’s a hard one to answer.  I have never lacked inspiration.  It just comes from some kind of a well inside me.  I think that the fact I love biology and I am fascinated by people, history, archeology, anthropology, and all aspects of life, are all grist to the mill.  You might be intrigued to hear that when I go on holiday I take interesting pictures with me rather than any literary source, which tells you that I am very visual in my inspiration. A single striking picture might inspire an entire chapter.  My publisher, Jo Fletcher at Quercus, has told me that my fantasy is different because of my scientific background.  I can see that I use biological knowledge in creating new worlds, strange life forms, etc.

Finally, is there anything you’d care to add? Please also include where people can read your published stories, buy your book, etc.

I have also edited science fiction and fantasy and ran a small press that published people like Sean Williams and Shane Dix as well as my own The Sundered World, so I may have a wider perspective on writing than, say, somebody who has only ever been an author.  This has helped me when employed to judge fantasy competitions.  I also helped Brendan Murphy to set up a teenage fantasy short story competition that went nationwide in Ireland and recruited tens of thousands of applicants.

Thank you, Frank.

Congratulations on your writing success! Be sure to let us know when Book 4 is available.

Be sure to visit Frank's website

And grab a copy of The Snowmelt River right now!



Wednesday, December 4, 2013

When Do You Call Yourself a Writer?

I just received an email with the following subject:

When Can You Finally Call Yourself a Writer?

It was from Writer's Digest.

I found it a tad sensational and inflammatory and offensive. So naturally I clicked to read the article.

The article is penned by Chuck Sambuchino, editor and writer at large.

Here is the article:

When can you call yourself a writer?
This is an important question in every writer’s life. At what moment in time can you actually refer to yourself as a writer?
But even the very question itself is deceiving, because there are actually two questions here:
When can you look in the mirror and call yourself a writer? And when can you call yourself a writer in front of several complete strangers at a party?

When can you call yourself a writer in private?

Now. Absolutely right now.
Tell yourself in the mirror before you brush your teeth, then again when you’re driving home from work.
Say it so many times that you get exasperated looks from your spouse. Heck, get business cards printed, too. I remember reading somewhere that Robert De Niro will sometimes repeat his lines dozens of times before filming a scene, in an effort to make himself fully believe what he’s saying. That’s your goal: say it, then say it again until you believe it.
When you finally call yourself a writer, it drives home the fact that this is real. It’s serious. We’re no longer talking about some vague ambition. You’re a professional writer who has to produce content, be that novels or nonfiction books or articles or whatever.
Go ahead and say it right now: “I am a writer.” The more it becomes real for you, the more it will drive you to sit down as much as possible and put words on the page.
call yourself a writer

When can you call yourself a writer in public?

The answer to this question is also now — but this is a different matter altogether. The reason you want to take this step immediately in public is to apply pressure to yourself. If you start telling people that you’re in the middle of a novel, then you darn well better be in the middle of a novel.
But here’s the rub: there are two things that happen when you’re in public and first start referring to yourself as a writer.
The first thing is your friends and spouse may have an irksome tendency to snicker or roll their eyes. The truth is that one cannot become a doctor or welder simply because they say they are. Such professions take degrees and certifications.
But writers don’t need degrees or training, so it may seem like a “cheat” or “exaggeration” to others that you’re suddenly calling yourself something as prestigious as “writer.” So you don’t want to call yourself a writer in public until you’re fully ready to shrug off any silly passive-aggressive nonsense from college buddies.
Quick note from Chuck: I am now taking on clients as a freelance editor. If your query or synopsis or manuscript needs a look from a professional, please consider my editing services. Thanks!
The second thing you must be prepared for is the question that will boomerang back to you 10 times out of 10: “Oh, really — what do you write?”
I don’t care if you are at a book party in Manhattan or a hole-in-the-wall bar in the Yukon. When you say you are a writer, someone will always — always — ask, “What do you write?” and then when you answer with a general response, they will follow that up with, “Anything I might have read?”
Obviously, at the beginning of your career, with no real credits to speak of, you won’t have much to say when people start asking for details. This can cause embarrassing moments of silence, or rambling explanations that reek of self-doubt. So don’t refer to yourself as a writer in public until you have a plan to deal with follow-up questions.
In my opinion, the most important thing to remember when answering such questions is to respond quickly and concisely. Even if your credits are insignificant, if you answer with clarity and speed, it conveys confidence and that you have a plan you don’t need to explain to the world.  Try this conversation:
“What do you do?”
“I’m a writer.”
“Oh, cool. What do you write?”
“I’m just starting out. But to answer your question: articles, mostly. Working on a sci-fi novel when I can.”
“Articles — great. Anything I might have read?”
“Not yet, but I’m working on it. I’m really enjoying myself so far.”
True, such answers aren’t impressive, but they’re confident. The writer is in control. It comes off poorly when, upon being asked what they write, a writer stammers incoherently, then answers the question by basically saying, “I’m not really sure yet, and to tell you the truth, I may just have no clue altogether! Hahaha!”
So if you don’t feel like you can confidently answer the question, or are embarrassed to say aloud that you haven’t been published, think twice before mentioning your writerly aspirations at a soiree.
But don’t forget that the sooner you start calling yourself a writer in private and in public, and the sooner you create a website and business cards, the sooner you will realize your career choice is a serious endeavor and demands your time and attention.
And that is what will drive you to sit down, put in the hard work and create.
Interesting, no?

This is indeed a dilemma writers face. I know it's happened to me loads of times. And, more often than not, I completely blow the answer. I dislike talking about my writing. Which is why I WRITE. If I wanted to speak, I'd be an orator. It helps to be both.

Nevertheless, I want to share my opinion/answer to this dilemma.

Here goes:

If you write, you’re a writer. If you don’t, you’re not.

If you’ve tried, REALLY tried, NOT to write but you couldn’t, and you KNOW in your bones, in your SOUL, that you MUST write, you’re a writer.

As to what to say when someone asks what you write, I’ll relate some good advice given by Lee Roddy in a writing seminar I took eons ago. (Lee invented Grizzly Adams, by the way.) Lee said, “When someone asks you what you write, you say, ‘What are you buying?’ And then shut up.”

Try that. See what happens. It's a bit cheeky and smart-assed and doesn't really answer the question, but hopefully you get my drift.

In reality, go with the Confident Writer response. Even if you barely believe it yourself, lie if you must. Pretend it's a poker game. Bluff a little. Make a game out of it. Reply as though you're a bestseller and everyone knows your work.

Eventually it will come to be your reality.

I would like to know what you guys think. If you're a writer, do you consider yourself one? Do you describe yourself as such?

If you're a reader, at what point do you feel an author can rightfully refer to him- or herself as a writer?


Please visit Chuck's page to see the article and his website and to leave a comment in order to be entered into a contest to win a copy of his new book. Check out his freelance editing services, too. You'll have to email him for rates. Crafty, he is.


Wednesday, November 6, 2013

10 Questions with SciFi Writer Peter Cawdron (@PeterCawdron)

This Author Spotlight
Science Fiction writer

Peter Cawdron

Author of
Little Green Men

This week's interview features Brisbane-based writer Peter Cawdron, author of seven novels, including his latest, Little Green Men. In addition to writing, Peter enjoys running in the forest, reading Winnie-the-Pooh or Dr. Seuss to his kids, and "looking up stuff on the internet and trying to wrap [his] head around it all…"

1.How did you get into writing and why do you write?

I’ve always loved the creative act of writing.

My first act of creative writing came about after being thrown out of my high school English class. I'd been talking too much. I was sent outside the classroom and told to write a two page apology to the teacher. Sitting there in the hallway with two friends also tasked with this humbling assignment, I could not bring myself to mindlessly write out, “I am sorry for talking in class” hundreds and hundreds of times. Instead, I wrote the screenplay for a best selling novel based on a true story, The Apology.

After the opening credits acknowledging the director, producer, and actors, etc, the main character (an oppressed orphan) apologizes for having an excited mind that wants to express itself at inappropriate times. After one brief paragraph, the closing credits begin to roll, noting the make-up assistants, camera crew, sound and lighting, boom operators, special effects, etc.

After the bell rang, the teacher stormed out to deal with her rowdy pupils. She glanced briefly at two of the apologies but spent some time lingering on the third. Slowly, her visage changed. The frown on her face turned into a smile, and that was it, I’d written my first best seller to an audience of one.

2.What do you like best (or least) about writing?

I like the challenge of articulating a concept in a manner that resonates for others, painting a picture in their minds. That’s a privilege and a challenge I thoroughly relish.

As for what I like least, well, that would be everything other than writing. Being a self-published author, I spend considerable time editing, reviewing, promoting, etc, everything other than writing.

3.What is your writing process? IE do you outline? Do you stick to a daily word or page count, write 7 days a week, etc?

I just write. I use Apple Pages because there’s no tool bar, no side bar, no pop-up messages from other apps, no nothing. Just a blank page and a keyboard. Some authors suffer from writer’s block, but not me. The only think that blocks my writing is a lack of time to massage the keys.

4.Who are some other writers you read and admire, regardless of whether they are commercially “successful?”

I really like Philip K. Dick's short stories, Michael Crichton and Carl Sagan. They’re the three most influential writers on my novels. I try to learn from every book I read. As a writer, I want my best book to always be my next book.

5.Should the question mark in the above question be inside or outside the quotes?


6.What’s your stance on the Oxford Comma?

Oh, I think some people can take the Oxford comma a bit too far at times. There are certainly occasions where it makes sense, but I’m not slavish about it as I think it's a judgement call and can sometimes be distracting.

7.What is your book Little Green Men about and how did it come to fruition?

LITTLE GREEN MEN is a tribute to Philip K. Dick, and has considerable outside-the-box thinking about the nature of alien life, focusing on just how different aliens could be to anything we expect. The challenge is how do you interact with a creature you barely recognize, let alone understand.

The ending to LITTLE GREEN MEN is edgy, but it makes a solid point. From evolution to relativity and quantum mechanics, if there’s one thing science has shown us over the past five hundred years, it’s that reality rarely matches our expectations, and neither does Little Green Men :)

8.What’s your current writing project?

This may sound strange for an established author, but I've just finished writing a fan-fiction novel called SHADOWS that's set in Hugh Howey's WOOL universe as part of the silo saga. Hugh's WOOL series has been phenomenally successful, and I've enjoyed following the story ever since WOOL was a single, stand-alone novella. I've thoroughly enjoyed exploring his fictional universe in my own way.

I’m now working on a tribute to Michael Crichton called DAMNED. It’s got aliens, time travel, all the things Michael would have loved to read about. DAMNED will be out before Christmas.

9.What book(s) are you currently reading?

I’m currently reading Annalee Newitz’s SCATTER, ADAPT & REMEMBER, which is a lighthearted non-fiction book about how the human race can survive into the future. Given that 99.9% of the species that have ever lived on this planet are extinct, surviving into the future is not something we should take for granted, and Annalee provides some great insights in this regard.

10.Who or what inspires your writing?

I’m inspired by science. I don’t think we realize just how much impact science has had on our lives. In the 1800s, quarter of the children born died before the age of one. If that translated to this day and age, how many of us would be alive right now? I think science has enriched our lives in so many ways, awakening our minds to the wonders of the universe, and I try to impart a little of that in a fictional setting to make learning enjoyable and entertaining.

Finally, is there anything you’d care to add? Please also include where people can read your published stories, buy your book, etc.

Thank you for inviting me to be part of your blog.

You can learn more about Peter Cawdron’s novels at

You're welcome, Peter. Thank you for sharing!

Be sure to visit Peter's website, where you can read about all things Science Fictiony. And pick up a copy of Little Green Men now. Link below.

Friday, October 25, 2013

10 Questions with Novelist Jane Chipperfield (@Jane_Chip)

This Author Spotlight


Jane Chipperfield

Author of

Milo's Scale

This week we are chatting with debut novelist Jane Chipperfield.

Jane read Classical Civilisation at Warwick University, going on to enjoy a twenty-year career as a Primary School teacher.  She left teaching to explore other opportunities, initially studying at Sotheby’s Institute in London.

After her time at Sotheby’s, Jane devised, wrote and presented a series of short programmes for schools.  Designed to interest young children in the art that is accessible in Britain, the films give insight by telling background stories relating to pieces featured in U.K. collections.

The last few years have been taken up with writing, initially compiling and editing weekly news pages for websites as well as copywriting.

Her novel, Milo’s Scale, is the first in a trilogy of thrillers featuring Rick Devan and Sophia.

1.How did you get into writing and why do you write?

I was a full-time teacher for twenty years and wanted to explore other opportunities. I’d had an idea for a long time of replicating one of my frequently employed lessons as a cross-curricular TV programme. The theme is to take a work of art and derive several lessons from it in different subjects. There are many easily accessible collections around Britain and the aim is to encourage children to visit the works featured. To increase my background knowledge, I took a three-month ‘Styles in Art’ course at Sotheby’s Institute in London. It was a fantastic experience to be in the class not taking it – to be taught not teaching. The assignments were challenging and occasionally involved presenting research to classmates in such locations as the British Museum. It gave me the confidence needed to write and present the ‘Stories in Art’ films which were taken up by over two thousand schools in the U.K. They are on YouTube at Artstory28.

My agent at the time was keen for me to write books for children but I was reluctant. I felt it was a specialist area covered well by some great writers. Unless I was going to bring something unique to the genre, there would be little point. I knew that contemporary fiction was the way for me.

2.What do you like best (or least) about writing?

Getting to the end of a writing session having reached the goal I’d set myself.

What I like least is at the beginning of the session and the mental assembly of events which lead me there!

3.What is your writing process? IE do you outline? Do you stick to a daily word or page count, write 7 days a week, etc?

I plan but not everything is there. I know the beginning. I know the mid-point and I know the end. There are lay-points in between. How I connect these dots comes in the writing of it. I try to write something every day but not to a strict routine; it suits me that way. I’m generally happy if there are close to one thousand words on the page at the end of a session.

4.Who are some other writers you read and admire, regardless of whether they are commercially “successful?”

There are so many authors I admire but here are a few.

Ayn Rand
Stephen King
Orhan Pamuk
Robert Ludlum
John Grisham
Robert Harris

5.Should the question mark in the above question be inside or outside the quotes?


6.What’s your stance on the Oxford Comma?

I’ve never become involved in the debate regarding the Oxford Comma. However, having been brought up in England, my writing generally follows the convention of non-use.

7. What is your book Milo’s Scale about and how did it come to fruition?

The germ of the idea came from a discussion with my husband, who was complaining about the deliberate confusion sewn by big business and finance houses. Corporations make it impossible to compare prices. You need to be a mathematician to work out the actual value of a mortgage or a mobile phone contract. He felt there should be an easy way to compare any offer, be it from phone operators with complicated deals, mortgage lenders with hidden terms or any retail offer that can’t be compared on a like-for-like basis. Milo’s Scale was born.

8.What’s your current writing project?

Book 2 in the trilogy

9.What book(s) are you currently reading?

An Officer and a Spy by Robert Harris

10.Who or what inspires your writing?

The marvels, the incompetencies and incredulities of the modern world are my inspiration.

Finally, is there anything you’d care to add? Please also include where people can read your published stories, buy your book, etc.

My website is and I have tried to reflect some of the book’s issues in a humorous way in the blogs.

Milo’s Scale is available as an eBook from Amazon UK and

The paperback is available from Amazon UK or by email to

I have an ‘Author’s’ Facebook page at:-

And Twitter @jane_chip

Thank you so much, Ryan, for this opportunity to get my work out there.

You're quite welcome, Jane. I loved the concept for your novel. Necessity is the mother of invention. Let us know when the second installment is available!

Be sure to visit Jane's website, follow her on Facebook and Twitter, and of course grab a copy of Milo's Scale right now!

Review: The Accidental Billionaires: The Founding of Facebook, a Tale of Sex, Money, Genius and Betrayal

The Accidental Billionaires: The Founding of Facebook, a Tale of Sex, Money, Genius and Betrayal
The Accidental Billionaires: The Founding of Facebook, a Tale of Sex, Money, Genius and Betrayal by Ben Mezrich

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I read Mezrich's book after discovering it in the Overdrive ebook section of my library. I was curious as to how it resembled the film THE SOCIAL NETWORK. It turns out that it follows it quite a bit.

Apparently screenwriter Aaron Sorkin and Ben Mezrich were writing their respective works simultaneously yet also independently. They got together a few times and compared notes, but worked in relative isolation from one another. (At least, so says Sorkin on the Wiki page for the film. We'll take him at his word.)

I felt that the film version painted Zuckerberg as a real dick. I wanted to see if the book supported that. I was skeptical, given that Mark did not contribute to the book wheres Eduardo Saverin DID. This makes it look like Mark had something to hide. I can also imagine it was strange and a bit awkward being the center of all of this. I'd probably be reclusive, too.

Nevertheless, the book is quite close to the film. Events are told with slight variation in chronology, and Mezrich does not employ the dual deposition flashback structure used by Sorkin and Scott Rudin in the film.

Mezrich DOES do a fine job of attempting to get inside the minds of the key players, ie Mark, Eduardo, and the Winklevi. He does a good job of proposing what each may have thought and felt, and how the relationships unraveled and led to the lawsuits.

My takeaway from Mezrich's book is that Zuckerberg is not the callous, greedy dick who screwed his business partner, as I felt he was portrayed in the film. Mezrich states that Mark repeatedly asked Eduardo to move to California, but Eduardo did not. Combine that with Eduardo's freezing the meager working capital keeping the fledgling company going, and I can begin to see Mark's point of view. The diluting down of Eduardo's stock to less than a tenth of a percent still seems like a dick move, however. But, we are on the outside looking in, and speculation is merely that.

Overall, a good read. If you've seen the film, you probably don't NEED to read the book, unless you want another take on how it all went down so that you can decide for yourself.

View all my reviews

Review: In Fifty Years We'll All Be Chicks: . . . And Other Complaints from an Angry Middle-Aged White Guy

In Fifty Years We'll All Be Chicks: . . . And Other Complaints from an Angry Middle-Aged White Guy
In Fifty Years We'll All Be Chicks: . . . And Other Complaints from an Angry Middle-Aged White Guy by Adam Carolla

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This is Adam's first book, which was followed by NOT TACO BELL MATERIAL.


CHICKS is similar in tone and rant, but with a more shotgun-patterned-style of subject matter. He touches on everything from driving to animals. TACO BELL focused a bit more on how Adam grew up and extricated himself from the surety of a life of relative poverty.

I particularly enjoyed the inclusion of how he met Jimmy Kimmel, as well as the antics they've gotten up to in the ensuing years.

Fans of Carolla will like his books, as it's very much a written format of his rants popularized on his TV, radio, and podcast outlets.

I'm looking forward to his next book, PRESIDENT ME.

He's also becoming an accomplished race car driver. Maybe next year he'll be at Le Mans with his tool-borrowing racing buddy Patrick Dempsey aka Dr. Dreamy whom I recall from "Loverboy" and "Can't Buy Me Love." Amazing how things work out.

View all my reviews

Friday, October 18, 2013

Review: Not Taco Bell Material

Not Taco Bell Material
Not Taco Bell Material by Adam Carolla

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Fans of Adam will enjoy this. Others perhaps a bit less so. I enjoyed it thoroughly. Adam delves into his lackluster, challenging childhood and adolescence, shares anecdotes of poverty and teenage mayhem, and cites the many crappy jobs he endured after high school. Many jokes, asides, tan gents (no, that's not a typo; it's two words), and rants along the way.

What I DIDN'T like about this book is that Adam mentioned but then neglected to explain some of the key developments in his life (such as meeting Jimmy Kimmel) because he expoused on them ad nauseum in his first book IN FIFTY YEARS WE'LL ALL BE CHICKS. For some reason, I read NOT TACO BELL MATERIAL first. So I'm now reading CHICKS after having completed TACO BELL. It is indeed filling in the gaps.

Whereas CHICKS is (thus far) a lot of ranting similar to Adam's former morning radio gig (which I always enjoyed) and cultural criticism/deconstruction, NOT TACO BELL MATERIAL is more an examination of his life as viewed from where he is now. Being a well-qualified carpenter, Adam structures the book chronologically according to the houses he lived in through his life, culminating in the million-dollar fixer-upper he lives in today (which he personally rescued).

What I MOST liked about this book is that Adam presents a compelling example of how a kid with all the cards stacked against him busted his ass to make something of himself when no one would have blamed him one bit if he'd simply rolled over and accepted his poverty-stricken lot in life. While I do question some of Adam's descriptions of his various exploits because there are always two sides to every story, for the most part he comes across as a straight-shooter who is not afraid to call it like it is, particularly when it comes to the pussification of America and the decline of many elements of society.

NOT TACO BELL MATERIAL is a lot of fun and I'm looking forward to Adam's next book he announced on Leno in September 2013: PRESIDENT ME. That should be interesting. If Jesse Venture and Howard Stern can take the White House in 2016, I hope Adam is part of the administration. ;)

View all my reviews

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

10 Questions with Author Michael Cairns (@cairnswrites)

This Author Spotlight


Michael Cairns

author of

The Spirit Room

Chocoholic Michael Cairns is a writer and author of the real-world epic fantasy trilogy, The Assembly and science fiction adventure series, A Game of War. A musician, father and school teacher, when not writing he can be found behind his drum kit, tucking into his chocolate stash or trying, and usually failing, to outwit his young daughter.

1.How did you get into writing and why do you write?

The writing I do now began three years ago. I was on one of my wife’s retreats, ostensibly to help with the cooking and washing up. Fortunately for me, the cook we’d hired was super-efficient and I found myself with a long afternoon and an empty Word doc in front of me. Two days, ten thousand words and lots of ideas later, I was writing! I loved English in school, and wrote bad poetry for some of my twenties, but hadn’t ever thought seriously about writing, despite a voracious appetite for reading and stories and the escapism that accompanies them. There are few things I love more than cracking open a book and losing an hour (or six) in another world, someone else’s life. The thought of being able to give that to someone else is wonderful, if mind-boggling!

2.What do you like best (or least) about writing?

The writing bit! Putting one word after another is the most fun you can have on your own, except for eating chocolate brownies whilst writing. J I’m learning to love editing, much as a teenager learns to love hard liquor. It’s taking a while, but as the results get better and better, so it’s becoming easier.

3.What is your writing process? IE do you outline? Do you stick to a daily word or page count, write 7 days a week, etc?

My one rule is that I write every day. I aim for about twenty thousand words a week, but, as I work full time and have a young daughter and youngish wife, I don’t always quite make it.

In terms of process, it’s pretty simple. I start typing, usually with little more than a sentence in my head, and see where I go. There have been a couple of times when I’ve started with a ‘what if’ scenario, or a character, but even then I rarely have an end point in mind until I’m deep into things. So far, I haven’t needed to go back and do any serious re-writing, though I’m sure that’ll happen soon. For my novella series, A Game of War, I planned the most recent three parts in what, for me, amounts to quite serious detail (about a paragraph for each chapter). So, it does vary. When it’s planned, I write more quickly, but I love the more free-flowing approach as well.

4.Who are some other writers you read and admire, regardless of whether they are commercially “successful?”

I love Steven King, he’s the most readable author to me. Something in the way he constructs his sentences makes them jump off the page. I love Steven Erikson, for his scale and scope and imagination. I love Neil Gaiman for his atmosphere and work in comics. I love Sarah Waters for her descriptors and the emotion she wrings from every word. I love George R R Martin, both for A Game of Thrones, and also his fabulous work with the Wildcards series. In comics, I love Grant Morrison, for his sheer inventiveness, Warren Ellis for the cool, The Hernandez brothers for putting more humanity into a comic book than most literary authors ever manage, and Terry Moore, for writing about love better than anyone, ever. The list could go on and on!

5.Should the question mark in the above question be inside or outside the quotes?

Outside. Looks weird but does the right thing.

6.What’s your stance on the Oxford Comma?

I say yes, most of the time, more for the cadence of the sentence than concerns over ambiguity. If in doubt, or if it bugs you, switch the sentence around. Also worth mentioning, commas save lives. ‘She enjoyed cooking her family and her dog’. J

7.What is your book about and how did it come to fruition?

I’ve written a few, but the most recent release is called The Spirit Room and is the first in a Trilogy.

‘It’s supernatural conflict on a global scale. Action, adventure, aliens, magic, mayhem & modern day super-heroes…

An ancient cadre of magicians

A select team of extra-ordinary warriors

An unseen foe

As two ancient forces battle for control, reality as we know it is being torn apart. Caught somewhere in the middle, and tasked with ridding the world of the insidious alien intelligence are The Planets. Neptune hails from Rio, the gay daughter of strict catholic parents. Mars, from Ireland, still missing the sister he lost years ago. Uri grew up on the streets of New York, and Venus… well, no one knows and she isn’t telling. Imbued with extra-ordinary powers, these highly trained individuals take the fight across the globe. With startling and unnerving revelations at every turn, the depth of deception is only now becoming clear…’

It began on the retreat I mentioned earlier and took me about three months to write. It then sat in a drawer for a year or two, whilst I wrote the second one (which took considerably longer). Once we had a clear idea of what we intended to do with regards to publishing, I took a first pass at the edit, then sent it off to our editor. He, in the nicest possible way, tore it apart and I had a second go, chopping out nearly twenty thousand words in the process! It then went to beta readers, came back for a less strenuous final edit, got a proof read and was ready to go. Whilst that was going on, we were also working with our cover designer, getting that ready. That was tough, as the first cover, for the Game of War series, was so good, and had really ramped up our expectations. We were finished and ready to go with about two days before launch date, so I spent a couple of sleepless nights formatting and got it live a few hours before the blog tour started!

8.What’s your current writing project?

I've always got a number of projects on the go in different phases of production/publication. There's usually a short story or two, editing of a novel or adding to my novella series, and my main WIP, which is a full length novel.

I’m currently writing a contemporary fantasy novel tentatively entitled The Missing. It is based on a what if? the premise being: What would happen if the government had a database of the DNA of every single person in Britain that told them how predisposed people were to doing magic?

9.What book(s) are you currently reading?

I’m reading I Shall Wear Midnight, by Terry Pratchett, another fave of mine. I read everything he writes, and this one is great so far. Fun, funny, emotionally involving. Comic wise, I’m reading Fairest, a spin off from Fables by Bill Willingham, and Rachel Rising by Terry Moore.

10.Who or what inspires your writing?

That’s a tricky one. Everything I’ve ever read, everyone I’ve ever met. Sorry, bit of a cop out, true though.

Finally, is there anything you’d care to add? Please also include where people can read your published stories, buy your book, etc.

If you'd like to get a free taste of my own particular brand of escapism, at you can download a free copy of my first novella Childhood Dreams (A Game of War, Part one), find podcasts, free short stories, info about me, and of course, links to where you can buy my books.

You can connect with me on twitter

Feel free to ‘like’ (I talk about chocolate mostly, and a bit on writing as well).

Enjoy some of the comic art and inspiring images I repin on

Thank you, Michael.  The covers look fantastic, and the accompanying plot sounds great as well. Let us know when the next book is ready!

Visit Michael at his website, follow him on Twitter, like him on Facebook, and grab a copy of  The Spirit Room or Game of War books at the links below:

Book links:
‘Childhood Dreams’ (A Game of War, Part One) is available for free download from

A Game of War parts two and three are available on Amazon, Smashwords and all good e-retailers. (Amazon & Smashwords links below)

The Spirit Room is also available from all good e- retailers:


Wednesday, October 9, 2013

10 Questions with 11-year-old Author H.G. Sansostri (@HGSansostri)

This Author Spotlight

H.G. Sansostri

author of

The Little Dudes' Skool Survival Guide

This week's interview features a debut author:

H.G. Sansostri.

Harrison (Harri) is an 11 year-old-boy who likes to read and write in his spare time. He has written two books to date: The Little Dudes' Skool Survival Guide and W.C.P. (War Changes People).

He is also an accomplished child actor having appeared in film, commercials and West End Theatre (Lord of The Flies). He played 'Lenny Darwin' in Creation (Paul Bettany and Jennifer Connolly's youngest son) directed by Jon Amiel.

He hopes to study law and become an Entertainments Lawyer and study English and history at a University in London, enabling him to continue his acting and writing career.

What doesn't he like...? Brussel sprouts and Kit Kat bars. What does he like...? Chocolate and chips : )

1.How did you get into writing and why do you write?
Well, when I was ten I really wanted to write a book. More fiction than non-fiction but I found myself sort of writing about my school life and all its ups and downs, though a lot of downs for me, so I then became my book character 'Ethan' trying to cope and sort out my 'bad days.’ I then decided to lighten up the book’s mood with my second character 'Billy' who I thought could introduce some fun and games. We became quite 'A comedy Duo.' We laughed, we fought and we found solutions together! (Billy's character is based on my cousin, with whom I laugh and I fight but we are real good mates.)

Most evenings I just tapped away at my iPad and my mum saw my work and didn't tell me, but she kept emailing each chapter to her laptop when I was at school (as to not lose my work). She then decided to show a few people who showed interest for my book and that's how I started to write.

2. What do you like best (or least) about writing?
What I have never liked about writing is all the plotting and planning of the characters. I have always believed that if you just let your mind and fingers do the writing and let your ideas flow, your story flows too (obviously with some back editing)!

Ps I'm still not sure about my punctuation and brackets, but will improve on that one!

What I love about writing is that there is no end to it! Sounds odd, but you have so much freedom to express yourself and literally escape through your book. My book was really therapeutic for me!

3. What is your writing process? IE do you outline? Do you stick to a daily word or page count, write 7 days a week, etc?
I never force myself to write, because then it won't be natural and coming from my mind. I only ever start to tap away at the iPad if I feel inspired and have a fresh idea in my head.

4. Who are some other writers you read and admire, regardless of whether they are commercially “successful?”

Number one has to be Mark Haddon, he is the 'Ultimate Author' to me. I've read two of his books and just love the way he uses descriptives throughout his work.

Susanne Collins does come a close second though, as The Hunger Games are amazing, a must-read if you haven't read them!

5. Should the question mark in the above question be inside or outside the quotes?
The question mark will be contained in the quotations if it is a question. If it is a passive question then it is on the outside of the quotations?

6. What’s your stance on the Oxford Comma?
I do agree with the Oxford Comma, is that not the serial comma? I tend to use a lot of commas and full-stops in my writing to give emphasis and beats (hence the actor!) to my work.

7. What is your book The Little Dudes Skool Survival Guide about and how did it come to fruition?
The Little Dudes Skool Survival Guide came about because at the end of a school day I would think about how I felt alone and a little unhappy, so I wrote my thoughts and feelings on my iPad, through the eyes of a boy called 'Ethan'.

I decided to put it over in a witty way too, including my fictional buddy 'Billy' who just messes up all the time!

This book talks about school life, bullying and friendship, and what I have observed in school (from the playground bench), 'The Packs'… well, you need to read it basically!!!

There were so many problems, I had to write them down to show Mum... Eventually, I thought it would be a good idea to turn all my notes into a book. Not a boring book though! I decided to add a little comedy to lighten it up and I introduced my two main characters; Billy and Ethan. Amongst the advice we gave out, I wrote in jokes and fights between the two characters and lots of quizzes.

8. What’s your current writing project?
My current project is called The Chronicles of Derek Dunstable.

It is based on a sixteen-year old boy who's life gradually keeps becoming more and more unfair. Derek and his three friends need to survive the school year at any cost!

I currently still don't know what will happen in my book, as I write spontaneously (is that spelling right???)

9. What book(s) are you currently reading?
I am currently reading Who Could That Be at This Hour? and Breathe. They are written by two amazing authors; Lemony Snicket and Sarah Crossan.

Breathe is an amazing book. Although it does have a slow start, it gradually builds up to a highly suspenseful moment. Revolving around three characters on a treeless planet, they are on the run from the ministry, the corrupt replacement for the government and the founders of the company Breathe which allows the citizens to be given oxygen.

Who Could That Be at This Hour? is an astoundingly brilliant book. It does have the same slow start as Breathe but grows more and more interesting as it moves on. The book is based on two detectives; Thedora and Lemony Snicket. They are given the task to find out who has stolen the great statue of the 'Bombinating Beast.'

They soon begin to realise that the item may not have been stolen after all, not even touched actually! These two books are a must read! (I love exclamation marks and commas.)

10. Who or what inspires your writing?
The people that inspire me the most are:
My Mum, she's always there for me, in everything I do.
Mark Haddon- I aspire to write like him!
Susanne Collins- Her Hunger Games trilogy- astounded me!
Anthony Horowitz- Love the Alex Rider series.
My librarian- She's a nice lady that is always cheery and helps you out if you need a hand and is looking forward to getting a signed copy of my book!

Finally, is there anything you’d care to add? Please also include where people can read your published stories, buy your book, etc.
Also what inspires me to write are the children at my school. Observation is key to my book because most of my characters are based on real life children! All the different personalities and looks gave me an endless amount of material to write about. A lot of the stuff in my book happened to me and, as you will see, the ways I solved the bullies with my brain power... ZAP!

Thank you, Ryan.

You're quite welcome, Harri. Your book is a noble endeavor which can certainly help kids all over who are experiencing difficulties at school. Thank you for sharing your work and your story with us. And please visit with us again when your next book is ready!


Are you having hard times at school?

Are your friends not cutting you any slack at all?

Then come and join Ethan and his goofy friend Billy on an adventure into the wilderness of school - more dangerous than a venture into a live volcano!

In order to survive you must adapt or otherwise...KABOOM!

Visit Harri at any of his social media:
Twitter      @HG Sansostri
Facebook  H.G. Sansostri

Be sure to pick up a copy of Harrison's book at the links below:
Amazon UK
Amazon US

Friday, October 4, 2013

10 Questions with Bestselling Author Wayne Thomas Batson

This Author Spotlight

Wayne Thomas Batson
author of

This interview is of particular note for me because back in 2006-2007, I spent a great deal of time writing (working on The Go-Kids) at Border's Books near where I lived at the time. I often took breaks to stand up and stretch, get more coffee, and wander through the aisles of the book store, enjoying the volumes on the shelves and exploring new books and new writers.

On one end cap I noticed a series of brightly-colored books with brilliant, fascinating covers. They were written by a guy named Wayne Thomas Batson.

Fast forward six years, and here we are. I have the distinct pleasure of featuring Wayne and his books in this week's author spotlight. I encountered Wayne and his new book GHOST when Wayne did a guest blog on Joe Konrath's blog (which you can read HERE). So, thank you, Joe!

Now, here's Wayne.

Wayne Thomas Batson is the Bestselling author of fourteen adventure novels including the fan favorite Door Within Trilogy, the pirate duo Isle of Swords and Isle of Fire, the 7-book fantasy epic Dark Sea Annals, and a supernatural thriller for adults called GHOST.

A middle school Reading and English teacher for 23 years, Batson loves to challenge—and be challenged by—his students. So, when he began writing stories to supplement the school district’s curriculum, it was his students who taught their teacher a lesson. Batson’s students were so taken by one of the stories that, over a thirteen year span, they pushed him to make it into a full-length novel. That story became The Door Within. Since then, Batson’s students continue to be his frontline editors. Says Batson, “Two things you can count on from middle school students: Intelligence and Honesty. Kids are so much more perceptive than a lot of us ‘Big Folk’ give them credit for. And when something’s not right in the story, they’ll tell you about it in very clear terms.”

With over half a million books in print, Batson believes his books appeal to so many kids and adults because, at a deep level, we all long to do something that matters, and we all dream of another world.

1.How did you get into writing and why do you write?
I got my start by writing stories for my middle school students. I always hoped to be an author one day, and the students’ encouragement pushed me to try. As for why? I guess I write because it’s fulfilling in a way that other endeavors are not. It’s like dark chocolate for the soul. Plus, I feel like God wants me to write. Who am I to second guess the Creator? ;-D

2.What do you like best (or least) about writing?
The initial idea rush is my favorite part of writing. This is when I’ve got a kernel idea for a story and sit down to start plotting the outline, and WHOOOSH!!! It’s like standing in jetwash. The ideas just come streaming in. One leads to the next to the next to the next, and I just hold on for dear life, trying to get them all down without losing any.

3.What is your writing process? IE do you outline? Do you stick to a daily word or page count, write 7 days a week, etc?
I am a bigtime outliner. But once I have the outline, I always have plenty of wiggle room for wild twists. When I’m on a deadline, I divide up the projected word count into daily goals. Then, I just pound away.

4.Who are some other writers you read and admire, regardless of whether they are commercially “successful?”
For Prose: Cornelia Funke (Inkspell, etc.) The woman writes with such artistry and poetic brilliance. For Creativity: Brandon Sanderson (Mistborn & Way of Kings). The guy is just spectacular in Worldbuilding and Character Construction.

5.Should the question mark in the above question be inside or outside the quotes?

6.What’s your stance on the Oxford Comma?
I always use it.

7.What is your book GHOST about and how did it come to fruition?
GHOST is a supernatural thriller for readers who like Lee Child’s Jack Reacher and Jim Butcher’s Harry Dresden books. John Spector is a special kind of investigator, and he’s on the trail of a killer the FBI gave up on years ago. Both killer and detective are more than meets the eye, and when they meet, the pillars of both worlds will be shaken.

GHOST came about when I finally finished the manuscript and published it on Kindle this summer.

8.What’s your current writing project?
Dreamtreaders is my current project. This is the first of a trilogy with Thomas Nelson/Harper Collins publishing. It’s a wild YA adventure that poses the question: what if having your dreams come true turns out to be your worst nightmare?

9.What book(s) are you currently reading?
The Sky Riders by Christopher Hopper. Very cool epic adventure, fantasy, steampunk, pirate thrill ride.

10.Who or what inspires your writing?
God. Seriously, I almost feel guilty being a writer because I all do is sit there and scoop up all the cool ideas God throws my way.

Finally, is there anything you’d care to add? Please also include where people can read your published stories, buy your book, etc.
You can get all my books on Amazon or CBD with the exception of GHOST
which is an Amazon exclusive. Here’s the website:
Nice to spend some time with you! Never alone.

Thank you, Wayne. It was great to meet you in such a serendipitous and unexpected fashion.

Be sure to check out Wayne's website/blog, and grab a copy of his latest book GHOST at the link below: