Book Reviews: “The Unexpected Enlightenment of Rachel Griffin” & “Down to Dirt”

The Unexpected Enlightenment of Rachel Griffin

Hogwarts hasn’t got anything on Roanoke Academy and the magical world created by L. Jagi Lamplighter in The Unexpected Enlightenment of Rachel Griffin. Rachel Griffin has worked hard to prepare for attending, and now as one of the youngest students at Roanoke, she has a lot of expectations to uphold and her magic must be in top form to keep up with the rest of her class. But there is something amiss at Roanoke Academy; a new magic being used for ill gains, an assasin disguised as an agent, a princess who goes places whenever she touches certain people, and a raven which only Rachel can see. Rachel must figure out what is happening and how to battle the forces of evil which seem to be decending upon them and threaten to take over her magical world.

Skillfully crafted to offer up all the pieces for readers to put the puzzle together. It’ a lot shorter than the story about the kid with the owl but just as thoroughly entertaining. Rachel Griffin is a sharp young lady with magical inclinations that will win your heart and make you want more. I give The Unexpected Enlightenment of Rachel Griffin five quills.

Purchase Link: https://www.amazon.com/Unexpected-Enlightenment-Rachel-Griffin-Books-ebook/dp/B01FVJ7DAY

Down to Dirt

Down to Dirt, by Kevin Killiany is a wonderful young adult science fiction novel with an underlying social moral. after spending her whole life in space, Mara’s family decides to send her to visit her Earth bound relatives on what spacers call Dirt. She arrives on Earth fearful and a little confused, but within a few weeks she will come to question everything she has ever been taught about Dirt. With a little help from her cousin, Beth, and her friend Jael, who each in thier own way challenge the prejudices that came with her, Mara begins to see things in different light.

Down to Dirt addresses social issues via a fictional alternate timeline world to create a story which is both engaging and entertaining. I give it five quills.

Purchase Link: https://www.amazon.com/Down-Dirt-Stars-Book-ebook/dp/B01HDT14HI

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Join Kaye Lynne Booth & WordCrafter Press Readers’ Group for WordCrafter Press book & event news, including the awesome releases of author Kaye Lynne Booth. Get a free digital copy of her short story collection, Last Call and Other Short Fiction, as a sampling of her works just for joining.


The Awesomeness of Ask the Authors 2022

Ask the Authors 2022

Purchase Link: https://books2read.com/u/3LnK8e

Ask the Authors 2022 in the ultimate writing reference anthology, with writing tips and advice from eleven talented writers at different stages in their writing careers. Each brings unique perspective to the table on all stages of the writing, publishing and book marketing processes.

To celebrate this awesome writer’s tool, seven of the contributing authors, including myself, are gathering on Mark Leslie Lefebvre’s Stark Reflections podcast to exchange writing wisdoms, much as we did for the anthology. Joining us was fantasy author L. Jagi Lamplighter, media tie-in writer and fiction author Bobby Nash, science fiction author Kevin Killiany, paranormal and horror author Roberta Eaton Cheadle, and speculative fiction author Mario Acevedo. Call it a meeting of literary minds… or maybe just seven authors hanging out on a podcast. No matter what you call it, you can catch the episode on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/events/4069021703323990 or on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nQrhSouh5aU. Of course, you can wait for it to come out on the podcast, if you prefer to just listen, too.

Just in time for NaNoWriMo, you can get this wonderful author’s reference in Kevin J Anderson’s Writer’s Career Toolkit Bundle along with fourteen other great writing tools at a special bundle price. It’s a great deal. You can’t beat it. So grab your bundle today!

Writer’s Career Toolkit Bundle

Purchase Link: https://storybundle.com/blog/writerscareertoolkitbundle/


Ask the Authors 2022 Book & Blog Series: Book Marketing

Ask the Aurhors 2022

Welcome to the final segment of the “Ask the Authors 2022” blog series. This week, a final introduction for Middle Grade & Y.A. author, L. Jagi Lamplighter, whose essay contribution is titled “The Trouble with Troupes” and a Q & A session on book marketing will be finishing off this wonderful series.

I want to thank all the readers who chose to spend their Saturdays hanging out with us for the past ten weeks, as we give this unique writing reference a send off, and let all the authors out there see why they need the plethora of writing wisdom contained between the covers of Ask the Authors 2022 writing reference anthology. And now it’s time to get started with this final segment.

Meet L. Jagi Lamplighter

L. Jagi Lamplighter is the author of the YA fantasy series: The Books of Unexpected Enlightenment, the third book of which was nominated for the YA Dragon Award in 2017 and the fourth book of which won the first YA Ribbit Award. She is also the author of the Prospero’s Children series: Prospero LostProspero In Hell, and Prospero Regained

She has published numerous articles and short stories. She also has an anthology of her own works: In the Lamplight. She also edits for Superversive Press and teaches “The Art and Craft of Writing”. She was also a presenter and panel member for both the 2020 Stay in Place Virtual Writing Conference and the 2021 New Beginnings Virtual Writing Conference.

Website: Welcome to Arhyalon: http://www.ljagilamplighter.com/

And now for the Q & A.

Book Marketing

Mario Acevedo: Here are my thoughts on Book Marketing.

I never thought much about branding myself and wrote what I wanted. Fortunately, everything tended to be in related genres. As for book marketing, if I knew what the magic lever was that you could pull and hit the jackpot, I would keep it to myself. I’ve tried all kinds of methods and gimmicks, some which worked okay, others which never moved the needle. What works for someone else, might not work for you. What works now may not work tomorrow. Remember, those masters in branding and marketing, Disney and Coca-Cola, have their share of million-dollar flops. What I recommend is to keep your name out there in a variety of streams: social media, newsletters, conventions, interviews, podcasts.

Good book covers are essential. Whatever you do, don’t have one that looks Photoshopped by someone who didn’t know what they were doing.

Websites are necessary though really fancy ones (read expensive) are not worth the money unless you have a lot of traffic and sales. You want something catchy and one that you update regularly.

Everyone loves great reviews and people who leave one-star reviews tend to be acting out an agenda not related to your work. Don’t hate them for it, instead pray that they either find Jesus or a competent therapist.

Once upon a time, book trailers were the cat’s pajamas. And about as effective. Two of my book trailers got tens of thousands of views, which is extraordinary for book trailers, but I can’t say how significant they were to sales. Book trailers work best when you play them at a signing booth as when people ask, “What’s your book about?”

Keep in mind that the world doesn’t revolve around you so don’t be a dick to others. Don’t be a doormat either; and in all cases, keep yourself a class act.

How do you brand yourself and your works?

Paul Kane: I think that changes depending on what book it is. So the Paul Kane ‘brand’ – whatever that is – would be more tied into horror, post-apocalyptic fiction or whatever, so I might get invited to a horror convention to talk about that material. While the PL Kane ‘band’ is pure crime fiction, and you’re more likely to see me talking about that at a crime fiction event. But it’s all still just me, when all’s said and done. I try not to cross the streams if I can help it, and I haven’t really ‘branded’ myself as much as the publishers who’ve put my stuff out there have done it for me.

Bobby Nash: Bobby Nash is my brand. I am usually the first point of contact with readers, so I want to make sure meeting me makes you want to read one of my books. I also brand the books. My BEN Books crime thrillers share a universe, so they have similar branding. It helps. I also use branding on title and cover design in series. You know that the Snow books are part of a series, for example.

Robbie Cheadle: My children’s books are primarily a series about a little man called Sir Chocolate who lives in a world where you can eat everything. Each book contains a rhyming verse story for small children and 5 recipes for children to make under adult supervision. It is in essence a first baking book series and I market it that way.

My adult books are all historical and paranormal in nature and I am at this market. I use hashtags for my books on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook. I write under my own name, using different variations to clearly separate my children’s and my adults’ books.

Nancy Oswald: I haven’t paid much attention to branding, but I think a brand is evolving based solely on my writing interests. With that said, the next book I want to write doesn’t fit the historical category, but I don’t want “branding” to stop me from doing it. I guess I’d prefer to write what my interests are than to worry about a brand.

What’s the most effective method of finding followers?

Paul Kane: I have no idea! I just keep doing the writing, promoting it on my social media accounts and seeing what happens. I think using humour on those is a good way to spread the word about yourself, and posting about other people’s work or what you might be reading, watching and so on, breaks up the sameness of just talking about yourself and what you’ve got out or coming out. I think genuineness comes across massively to people and maybe that gets you followers? I’ve only ever been myself online or at events, and I think people can see that. They can spot it a mile away if you’re fake.

Bobby Nash: Beats me. It seems to change from week to week. I try as many methods as possible to attract new readers.

Robbie Cheadle: A lot of my readers have come through my blog. I have two blogs: Robbie’s Inspiration which is for my baking, art work, and poetry, and Roberta Writes which is for my reviews of classic, horror, drama, science fiction, and other adult books. I also do a weekly prompt called Thursday Doors when I share pictures of my travels around South African and other places. I am an active blogger and have a lot of blogging friends who I have discussions with. Many of them have become friends who I email and correspond with.

Other social media I use are Facebook which is great for reading and writing groups, Twitter, and Instagram. I have a YouTube channel which I post to from time to time. I think being an active part of the writing and reading community is the best way of getting followers. Writers are also often reviewers while other readers usually don’t think to write reviews.

I understand that newsletters are a good way of staying in contact with your readership outside of social media. I have not as yet had the time to pursue developing a newsletter following or committing to a monthly or bi-monthly newsletter.

Have giveaways or social media book events been effective in bringing in followers?

Paul Kane: Publishers tend to handle all that side of things for me, so I can’t really say. You do see a spike in numbers when you do a giveaway I guess, or do a blog tour, so I guess they work. But if people don’t like your stuff, they won’t keep coming back no matter what you do. Keeping readers or followers is just as important as attracting them in the first place.

Bobby Nash: Short term, yes. Long term, not really. Some sign up for the giveaway then leave when it’s over. I do have a small fanbase and I try to grow it.

Robbie Cheadle: I do giveaways when I do book tours for the launch of new books. Living in South Africa, which is not a country of big readers due to the excellent weather, I market mainly to Australia, the UK, and the US and rely on social media to get the word out.

Giveaways certainly help bring in some reviews although not every free book has the desired outcome, enough winners do read and review the book to make giveaways a useful undertaking.

Social media events are generally not that well attended, in my limited experience, so I don’t think I pick up many followers that way. I am an opportunist though and will usually grab an opportunity for promotion even if a return is not guaranteed. I enjoy sharing about my books and the anthologies I’ve participated in.

Can you share your logo and the story of why you chose this to represent your brand?

Paul Kane: I don’t really have a logo as such. My main site is called Shadow Writer, after a story I wrote back in the late 1990s, and I chose that because it fits the kind of dark fiction I do as Paul Kane.

Bobby Nash: BEN Books is the name of my indie press. The name is simple. BEN is my initials. Bobby Edward Nash. I designed a simple design with a book and scratched metal half-moon coming out behind it to signify book pages flipping. I liked it. Years later, my friend, Jeffrey Hayes redesigned it for me and made the BEN Books logo look much more professional. I also use branding by putting genre under the logo. A BEN Books Thriller. BEN Books Pulp. That sort of thing. Now that crime thrillers is BEN Books’ main focus, I added a criminal’s mask to the logo. I like it.

Do you have a blog or website where you drive traffic? How effective do you feel it is?

Paul Kane: My SW site’s been going years and we’ve built up a good following on there. We get many unique visitors a month. One thing I did to help with that was to have a ‘Guest Writer’ slot; it was something I ‘borrowed’ from Simon Clark’s site. As with the social media posts, this stops things being just about me all the time, helps promote other people’s work that I like and also crosses over our readerships. People who are fans of their work might have a look around my site, while people who are fans of mine are reading whichever Guest Writer’s work is on there this month. It usually takes the form of a short story or extract from a novel. We’ve had some huge writers on there over the last couple of decades, including Stephen King, Charlaine Harris, Lee Child and Martina Cole.

Bobby Nash: I have a website for all things Bobby. It’s www.bobbynash.com and it has all of my books, art, acting, news, blogs, etc. It’s the hub for all things me.

www.ben-books.com is the home of BEN Books.

Abraham Snow has his own site. www.abrahamsnow.com has everything you need to know about the Snow series.

Lance Star: Sky Ranger also has a dedicated site. http://lancestar.blogspot.com

I like having dedicated websites. Websites are an easy to find way to keep up with things. Posts can easily get lost in the sea that is social media.

Do you have a blog or website where you drive traffic? How effective do you feel it is?

Robbie Cheadle: My blogs are my most effective marking tools, and my blogging friends often promote my work and posts by sharing them on other social media platforms and even on their own blogs. I also write posts for other bloggers sites, including 3 monthly columns for Writing to be Read. I always take opportunities to guest post and try to write engaging posts. I have enlarged by readership of both my books and my blog this way.

Can readers buy directly from you on your website, or must they go through third party venders such as Amazon, B&N, etc…?

Paul Kane: Through a third party. I don’t sell books through my site; as I say I’m not really a bookseller myself. The only thing I do sell on there is remarques, which are unique drawings I do inside the books sometimes for readers. I did a lot of those when Servants of Hell came out, drawing black & white pics inside the books of Sherlock Holmes and my Cenobite creations.

Bobby Nash: In addition to Amazon, Barnes & Noble, etc., I have an on-line store where readers can buy autographed books, art commissions, book box sets, etc. It’s located at https://bobbynash.square.site. Please check it out.

Robbie Cheadle: Readers can buy the majority of my books from TSL Publications in the UK. Anne sends my books to readers in Australia, Europe, and the USA. My books are also available as ebooks from Lulu.com and as print books from Amazon and Lulu.com. Only select books of mine are available as ebooks from Amazon. My poetry books are available from Amazon and other outlets as well as the ten anthologies I have participated in.

Nancy Oswald: Website, Amazon

How do you get reviews for your books?

Paul Kane: Usually the book is sent out via the publisher, or it appears on NetGalley, although I have been known to contact bloggers directly if it’s to set up a blog tour. Most people are quite friendly and open to being approached, though you do get the odd one or two who don’t care for it.

Bobby Nash: Not easily. I sometimes beg on social media, but that rarely works. Most of the time, you just hope for the best.

Robbie Cheadle: I have been fortunate and some of the purchasers of my books have written and posted reviews to Goodreads and Amazon. Some readers can’t post to Amazon because of their reviewing policies, but I am happy to receive reviews on Goodreads and also on TSL Publications’ website.

What are your thoughts on paid reviews? Have you ever used them?

Paul Kane: No, never. And never will. I think if you’re paying to have your book reviewed it kind of defeats the object of it being an objective review of your work. You’re paying for a service, rather than offering the book to reviewers for their honest opinion – good or bad – of it.

Bobby Nash: I do not like paid reviews. I do not use them. How can I trust them?

Robbie Cheadle: I have never paid anyone to review one of my books. I do include a paragraph at the end of my books asking readers to leave a review and share their opinion. I have had readers approach me on Twitter and Goodreads offering to review my books for a fee, but I haven’t accepted any such proposals as it is disingenuous.

Nancy Oswald: Yes, a couple of times. I don’t think they drive more sales, but there are times when a good quote or two is needed for publicity materials and they come in handy.

Different book formats appeal to different audiences. How do you market differently for the different formats your books are available in?

Paul Kane: I’m not quite sure what you mean here, do you mean do I market audios differently to print or whatever? I suppose you have to look at what prices are being charged for the product and that affects how your promote it, for example ebooks are quite cheap so you’re reaching a different kind of reader to the ones who buy a limited hardback because they want something special as a keepsake or to increase in value. Again, that’s more in the realms of bookselling than what I do. 

Bobby Nash: When looking for places to market, I research. As a small press publisher, I try to make my BEN Books titles as easy to find in as many different formats as possible so readers can get the books in the way that works best for them.

Do you prefer online advertising or face-to-face events for marketing your books? Why?

Paul Kane: I think there’s a place for both, and if the pandemic has shown us anything it’s that we can also do events via Zoom and reach audiences that way. So sometimes it’s the only way you can reach people, because face-to-face is out. For me, personally, though I prefer getting out there and meeting readers who’ve enjoyed your fiction and signing copies of books for them. There’s no feeling like that in the world.

Bobby Nash: Both work, but I have found that I have better success with face-to-face events in terms of introducing my work to new readers.

Robbie Cheadle: I enjoy face-to-face events, but I haven’t found them to be particularly useful for books sales locally in South Africa. South Africans are not big readers as they prefer sports and outdoors activities, and our weather is good all year round which facilitates an outdoors lifestyle. In addition, there are 11 official languages in South Africa and the English-speaking community is a minority.

As a result, I mainly market my books through on-line advertising and marketing events and initiatives. I believe the face-to-face marketing is better if the environment is conducive to readers and I would do more in that line if I lived in the UK or USA.

Nancy Oswald: Face to face by far. It’s where I seem to sell more books, but it might be because I haven’t taken advantage of online marketing opportunists. I’m trying a few, now, but the jury’s out.

Do you use paid advertising or stick to the free channels? How effective have they been?

Paul Kane: I always stick to free. If it’s a paid advert, then it’s been paid for by my publishers – for instance I know there was a fair amount of promotion online on Facebook or Instagram for the PL Kane books, but that was down to HQ/Harper rather than myself.

Bobby Nash: I have a low budget, so I used paid advertising sporadically, but targeted. I try to take advantage of free promotion channels as often as possible.

Robbie Cheadle: I have run paid advertisements on Facebook, but I’ve not had a lot of success with them. I haven’t tried any other paid avenues for book sales.

Which book advertising platforms have you used: Bookbub, Fussy Librarian, Booktopia, Facebook, Amazon, etc…? Which have you found to be most effective?

Paul Kane: I’m on Bookbub, mainly because one of my publishers told me I needed to be on it to promote a specific book. And I’m on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and so on. I think they all have their place and if I push a book through one, I tend to do it via all of them, so there’s no real way for me to see which one is working for the best. I just promote through them all.

Bobby Nash: I’ve used Facebook, Amazon, BookBub, and a couple of others. Effectiveness varies.

Do you have a newsletter? How effective do you feel it is?

Paul Kane: I do have a PL Kane newsletter, which has helped me reach more readers. It’s a place where I can share more of my news on a personal level, plus offer recommendations for things I’ve enjoyed reading or watching. To entice people in, I also write new fiction that’s exclusive to the newsletter so I feel like it works both ways. Readers are getting something out of it as well as me.

Bobby Nash: I do have a monthly newsletter. You can subscribe to Nash News at http://www.subscribepage.com/NashNews. I have about 230 subscribers. I don’t get a lot of feedback so I can’t say for certain how effective it is or how many sales result from the newsletter.

Do you use book trailers to market your books? How effective have they been for you?

Paul Kane: I haven’t personally used them, but some of my publishers have and obviously I’ve shared the trailers as and when. There was a great one for The Rainbow Man, which was my first YA novel, and I got a friend of mine Brad Watson to come up with one for Arrowhead when that came out. But generally speaking, I have no idea how much of an impact they have on sales or anything.

Robbie Cheadle: I have tried book trailers to market my books, but I don’t believe they have been at all effective. I don’t think many people bother to watch the video, even if it is short. I can tell from the average viewing time of the video that few people have watched until the end.

Have you ever tried using press releases for your books? How effective has that been for you?

Bobby Nash: I write press releases for all of my books, even if I am not the publisher. I want to get the information about the book out to the word, as well as how to contact me in case of interviews, quotes, etc.

Nancy Oswald: I typically get a press release out to all the local papers. Hard to relate to sales, but they’re free and add to reader recognition.

Do you have a street team or reader group that you use to get reviews? How well does that work?

Bobby Nash: I don’t have an official street team. I have some fans and friends that share my news and I appreciate each and every repost, retweet, and shout out.

Robbie Cheadle: I have a few blogging friends who always offer to read and review my books and they always post reviews. It is kind of them, and I am grateful for the support. I never ask people to read and review my books as it goes against my upbringing to ask people to things like that for me. I had a very strict and conservative upbringing, and some things are very difficult for me as a result. I read and review over 100 books a year and I beta read books for certain individuals too. I always try to help other writers when I can.

Nancy Oswald: For many of my books, I’ve asked other authors with a track record to read and write cover blurb material. I’ve also swapped Amazon reviews with other authors. 

How do you handle marketing for multiple genres, since each one appeals to different audiences? Can a single brand encompass multiple genres or should they be marketed separately, with a different brand or pen name for each one?

Bobby Nash: I tailor my marketing based on the book’s genre. I don’t promote my crime thriller at the same sites where I promote my sci-fi epic. As an author, I only have the one brand. I don’t use pen names.

Robbie Cheadle: As mentioned previously, I market my children’s books and poetry separately from my horror, paranormal and historical adult fiction. I have two blogs, two Twitter accounts, to Facebook pages and I try to keep them as separate as possible. I have different followers on the two profiles and only a few follow me on both. That is what I was aiming for when I created the second profile. I wanted people who were interested in my children’s writing, art, and poetry to enjoy that aspect of my creativity without having to filter out my adult orientated interests and vice versa. I do believe it has worked quite well.

Do you use a pen name? Why or why not?

Paul Kane: I have a few, as you can probably guess from some of the other answers. I think it helps to differentiate between the kinds of fiction I write. So if you pick up a Paul Kane you’re likely to get horror, dark fantasy or the like, while PL Kane books are straight crime. Detectives or domestic noir. There can be some scope for crossover here, because I have fans of all my different kinds of books, and sometimes there are elements from my other work that slip over – The Family Lie is a crime book, but also deals with cults and has elements of folk horror too – but for the most part I try to keep things separate. It just makes it clearer for myself and my readership.

Robbie Cheadle: I do not use a pen name. I was going to because of my professional life, but my husband didn’t like the idea of my not using my married name. I publish my children’s books and poetry under Robbie Cheadle and my adult books under Roberta Eaton Cheadle. The names are linked, but sufficiently different for people to be able to differentiate between them and the different genres of my books.

Nancy Oswald: I used a pen name for my very first published book, but when people started asking me how they would remember and find my book under a different name I gave it up. This book went into a reprint, so I switched mid-stream. It was published by Scholastic Canada, so in this case it made very little difference in sales.

Are your books available in brick-and-mortar stores and libraries? What are the challenges with having your books in these outlets?

Paul Kane: Yes, certainly. At the moment, the challenges seem to be down to distribution, all the knock-on effects of Brexit and such, but I’m hoping that calms down in the future. I know some stores and libraries have had shortages lately because of all this. Luckily, I think most of my publishers are doing okay on that score. There always seem to be plenty of copies available to ship out to stores at any rate, which I’m very grateful for.

Bobby Nash: My books are available to them, though they are rarely shelved there due to the print on demand nature of my small press. You can order them in any brick-and-mortar store, but it’s doubtful they will be on the store shelves. Some libraries have stocked my books though.

Nancy Oswald: Libraries, I usually donate copies.  Brick and mortar is a lot of leg work and there’s a difference in percentages and how you get paid—a lot of record keeping. But I do get sales through these outlets, so it’s worth it, and they collect tax which saves another headache or two. I like craft fairs for face-to-face sales, but I’m choosy about where I go.

Covers are important. They can be one of your best marketing tools. How do you come by your covers: DIY, hire professional cover designer, buy pre-fab covers?

Paul Kane: That’s all handled in-house by the publisher. An indie might ask me if I have a preferred artist, or I might say to them I like a particular image that fits the contents of the book – like Les Edwards’ painting for my Body Horror collection Traumas from Black Shuck Books – but more often than not I might not get a vote at all, especially if it’s a bigger publisher. I have to say I’ve been very lucky with them, though. There’s never been one I’ve absolutely hated in my entire career, and I hope there never will be. There have been some that have grown on me over time, but all in all I’ve been very happy.

Bobby Nash: I prefer to work with professionals because they know what they are doing and do it far better than I can. I do some design work, but not all covers are created equal. Evil Ways, Suicide Bomb, and the upcoming Evil Intent had a simple, design element. I handled those myself. Deadly Games! has a photo cover. I took the photo and designed the cover. The Snow and Sheriff Myers series have covers by Jeffrey Hayes and Dennis Calero. I’ve not used any pre-fab covers. I prefer to have the cover designed to fit the story.

Robbie Cheadle: I design the covers for my children’s books myself because I use my own fondant and cake artwork. I tried using a professional photographer, but that didn’t work that well for me, so I invested in a better camera and I take my own pictures.

I use a professional designer for my adult books. Tim Barber of Dissect Designs designed the covers of While the Bombs Fell, Through the Nethergate and A Ghost and His Gold. Teagan Riordain Geneviene has designed some of my newer covers. I worked well with both designers and am always very happy with my covers.

Nancy Oswald: I’ve been spoiled by my publisher who used an artist for most of my books. I hired the same artist for my latest book that I self-published to stay consistent with the covers in the rest of the series. I know it cost me more money to do this, but felt it was worth it.

Which marketing strategies do you use: rapid release, perma-free, reader magnets,.99 cent promos, etc…? Which have you found to be most effective?

Bobby Nash: Yes. I try everything. Some things work. Some don’t. I don’t know until I try. Plus, I’ve discovered that an effective method for one book might not prove effective for another. It’s an on-going, evolving experiment.

Nancy Oswald: I used to do postcards, but they were expensive, and to mail them was expensive. A few years ago, I switched to bookmarks only—two sided with general info about me on one side (contact info, bio, etch) and images of all my books on the back side. My newest bookmark only has the Ruby and Maude Adventure images with a list of my other books.  (Space consideration.)

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That was a great final Q & A session, with so much information. Of course, book marketing is a topic that could fill an entire book and then some. But that wraps up this week’s segment – and it wraps up this Saturday series.

Thanks to all of the contributing authors for their willingness to share their writing wisdom with us in both blog and book. They are who made this wonderful reference possible. I couldn’t have done it without them.

Thanks to all our readers for joining us. I do hope you readers gleaned some useful advice in this series, and if you missed any of the segments, you can find them all here:

Segment 1: Introductions for Kaye Lynne Booth & Kevin Killiany/Writing Life Q & A session.

Segment 2: Introduction for Bobby Nash/Pre-writing Rituals Q & A session.

Segment 3: Introduction for Roberta Eaton Cheadle/Plot & Storyline Q & A session.

Segment 4: Introduction for Paul Kane/Character Development Q & A session.

Segment 5: Introduction for Mario Acevedo/Action, Pacing and Dialog Q & A session.

Segment 6: Introduction for Nancy Oswald/Tone: Voice, Person, Tense & POV Q & A session.

Segment 7: Introduction for Chris Barili/ Setting & World Building Q & A session.

Segment 8: Introduction for Jeff Bowles/Editing & Revision Q & A session.

Segment 9: Introduction for Mark Leslie Lefebvre/Publishing Q & A session.

Segment 10: Oh, wait… This is Segment 10.

Well then, I guess that’s about it for this segment… And for the series. Again I thank you for sticking with us through all ten weeks.

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Where can you find publishing industry experts willing to share their secrets? 

Ask the Authors 2022 is the ultimate writer’s reference, with tips and advice on craft, publishing and book marketing. Eleven experienced and successful authors share what works for them and offer their keys to success in traditional publishing, hybrid, and indie. You’ll learn industry wisdom from Mark Leslie Lefebvre, Kevin Killiany, L. Jagi Lamplighter, Bobby Nash, Paul Kane, Nancy Oswald, Chris Barili, Jeff Bowles, Roberta Eaton Cheadle, Mario Acevedo and Kaye Lynne Booth.

This book offers tried-and-true ways to improve your craft and explores the many options in the current publishing and book marketing worlds. Take a peek inside and find out what works for you.

Ask the Authors 2023

“Ask the Authors is an up-to-date and broad-based compendium of advice from today’s working writers, to help you with understanding your own writing career. Great information!”

—Kevin J. Anderson, New York Times bestselling author of Spine of the Dragon

The special promotional price of 3.99 is good through today, since this is the last blog segment in the series. Tomorrow, it goes back up to the regular price of 4.99. If you’ve been following, you may have already gotten a copy of Ask the Authors 2022. If not, be sure and grab your copy today.

Available from your favorite book distributor through the Books2Read UBL: https://books2read.com/u/3LnK8e

_______________________

Join Kaye Lynne Booth & WordCrafter Press Readers’ Group for WordCrafter Press book & event news, including the awesome releases of author Kaye Lynne Booth. Get a free digital copy of her short story collection, Last Call and Other Short Fiction, as a sampling of her works just for joining.


Ask the Authors 2022 Book & Blog Series: Publishing

Ask the Authors 2022

Welcome back once again to the “Ask the Authors 2022” blog series, where we’re offering glimpses into the content of Ask the Authors 2022 writing reference anthology; a unique reference packed full with the writing tips and advice from ten different authors and myself. The Q & A sessions can run a bit long, with all of the contributors weighing in, but they are only a small taste of the wisdom contained in this book. I want to thank all of you who have joined us for each session and keep coming back for more. If you haven’t purchased a copy of your own yet, there’s a link for the UBL at the end of this post, where you can grab one from your favorite book distributor at the special send-off price of 3.99 for the duration of this blog series.

If you missed any of the previous segments, you can find them here:

Segment 1: Introductions for Kaye Lynne Booth & Kevin Killiany/Writing Life Q & A session

Segment 2: Introduction for Bobby Nash/Pre-writing Rituals Q & A session

Segment 3: Introduction for Roberta Eaton Cheadle/Plot & Storyline Q & A session

Segment 4: Introduction for Paul Kane/Character Development Q & A session

Segment 5: Introduction for Mario Acevedo/Action, Pacing & Dialog Q & A session

Segment 6: Introduction for Nancy Oswald/Tone: Voice, Person, Tense & POV Q & A session

Segment 7: Introduction for Chris Barili/Setting & World Building Q & A session.

Segment 8: Introduction for Jeff Bowles/Editing & Revision Q & A session

Today’s segment brings you an introduction to award winning author and publishing industry expert Mark Leslie Lefebvre, whose contribution to the anthology is “Publishing Trends to Watch” and a Q & A session on Publishing. So let’s get started.

Meet Mark Leslie Lefebvre

A self-confessed book nerd, Mark Leslie Lefebvre, who is a former President of the Canadian Booksellers Association and the former Director of Self-Publishing and Author Relations for Rakuten Kobo (and founder of Kobo Writing Life), thrives on innovation and excellence within all aspects of the publishing and bookselling industry.

With more than a quarter century of experience, Mark has been involved in bookselling as it evolved from strictly bricks and mortar operations and into online and digital venues, and has continually been at the forefront of applying digital solutions to publishing and book selling.

An author who has embraced both traditional and self-publishing opportunities for himself as well as the thousands of authors he has coached, advised and consulted with over the past two decades, Mark not only believes that each author’s journey is individualized and personal, but that each specific project a writer embarks upon can have its own unique goals, elements and desired outcomes.
He can be found online at www.markleslie.ca

And now on to the Q & A.

Publishing

Are you independently published, traditionally published, or a combination of both?

Mario Acevedo: I’m traditionally published by a large and regional/small presses.

Paul Kane: Combination of both. I started out in the small, indie presses, before working with some of the bigger places, so I like to go back there and write fiction for them when I can. Plus, it gives me a bit more freedom to experiment or write something that might not be that commercial; because the indies don’t have the same kind of print runs as bigger publishers there’s a bit less pressure to appeal to huge audiences. The flip side of that is you get read by a lot more people when you’ve done something for a bigger publisher, simply because they have the money to put behind advertising, production, distribution and marketing. Having said that, I still try to do as much of that as I can myself – I never assume it’s all being done for me. I’ve been known to set up blog tours myself, even when working with bigger publishers because sometimes the personal touch is what bloggers and book reviewers respond to.

Bobby Nash: Both. I’m what they call a hybrid author. I work for traditional publishers of all sizes. I also have my own indie small press, BEN Books.

Robbie Cheadle: Most of my books are published by TSL Publishers in the United Kingdom. I love working with Anne Samson and find her fair and helpful. I self-published Open a new door, a collection of poems which I co-wrote with another South African poet, Kim Blades. I did not enjoy the self-publishing experience and prefer to work through a publisher.

I have short stories and poems published in a number of anthologies which have been published by the editor and compiler through their own publishing enterprises.

Nancy Oswald: A combination.

Mark Leslie Lefebvre: I am a combination of both traditionally published books, independently published books, as well as a hybrid mix of selling work to or collaborating with indie publishers in a slightly traditional way.

What factors influenced you to take your chosen publishing route?

Paul Kane: Things just seemed to slot into place for me, rather than choosing a particular route. I went to art college thinking I’d go into some kind of career in the arts, but it turned out I was better at theory than the practical stuff, so I went to university initially to study History of Art, Design and Film. While I was there, I chose an optional module called ‘Professional Writing’ and loved it, which led me into the journalism – and I figured I could at least make a living writing non-fiction that way, with articles and reviews.

Because I was writing for the day job, I thought I’d do some stories for pleasure – and they ended up being published too, in small press magazines. Then the fiction started to overtake the non-fiction, and the rest is history.

I don’t think I consciously chose any of that, it just sort of happened. I definitely didn’t think to myself when I was younger ‘I’m going to be a writer when I grow up.’ That, honestly, never even crossed my mind because I came from a very working class background where you did manual jobs like being a builder or joiner or whatever. My dad was a miner, so his was a hard job – especially compared to mine – but at the same time he never discouraged me going down the creative route. He did, however, instill in me a solid work ethic which I still have today. 

Bobby Nash: When I started, doing it yourself was not as accepted as it is today. Working for a publisher was the only way to get a book published at the time. Fast forward and there are more options. This allows me to do some projects the way I want through my own press and still do work for other publishers as well. For me, it truly is the best of both worlds.

Robbie Cheadle: Initially, I submitted my Sir Chocolate story ideas to four or five small publishing houses and TSL Publications responded to say they were interested in publishing them for me. I was fortunate as I didn’t experience a lot of rejection and I benefited from the experience and expertise of a publisher right from the beginning of my journey.

Nancy Oswald: For me it’s been like water finding its way through a channel. My course had often determined by which barriers are encountered, force and velocity, and other influencing factors like an unexpected change in the weather, excessive rain, drought, and human factors.

Please briefly share the story of your own publishing journey.

Paul Kane: A lot of that’s covered in the above, but if I’ll take you through from when I started to get stories accepted in the small presses to today… When I got back into writing fiction again in the ’90s, which had been something I enjoyed tinkering with back in my teens, I wrote a lot of short stories. Some of them worked, some didn’t, but it was all practice. I’d been doing a correspondence course to help with my non-fiction and my fiction, and I sent the tutor a story I’d written that had come to me, fully formed, in a dream: ‘The Cave of Lost Souls.’ She loved it and told me I had to send it off somewhere. I’d been toying with the idea of entering it into a writing competition, but then I saw an advert in a trade magazine for a publication called Terror Tales. I sent the story off to the editor, John B. Ford, and he wanted to use it in an upcoming issue. He also lived locally, so invited me to a gathering of writers. I sat around listening to all these stories about what they were doing and thought to myself, ‘wow!’ But also, if they’ve done it, maybe there’s a chance for me too. They gave me pointers as to which publications to try my work with, where I could find listings and so on. That led to more acceptances, attending more events and eventually getting a couple of collections out. I also found out about something called The British Fantasy Society who were looking for volunteers for positions, one of which was for Special Publications Editor. That enabled me to work with such names as Ramsey Campbell, Neil Gaiman, Muriel Gray and Clive Barker. I was helping out running their convention FantasyCon as well, and indeed years later ended up co-chairing a few. In the meantime, someone I’d met at an event – Jonathan Oliver – was looking for ideas for post-apocalyptic novels set in a universe called ‘The Afterblight Chronicles’, mass market books brought out by the publisher he worked for, Abaddon/Rebellion. I pitched a few and Jon loved the Robin Hood idea. I worked up a chapter breakdown, which got me the first book – there ended up being a trilogy of novels a couple of shorts and novelettes and one novella – and suddenly my longer fiction was getting some attention. I’d also gone into editing professionally, putting books together with Marie for places like Simon & Schuster, PS Publishing and Constable & Robinson. Anthologies like Hellbound Hearts, A Carnivale of Horror and The Mammoth Book of Body Horror… All of this enabled me to try my hand at things like film and TV scripting, comics, audio and theatre scripting, which broadened the scope of what I was doing. And it led me into writing crime thrillers for HQ/HarperCollins, which I’m doing today as PL Kane. In a nutshell, that’s my journey.

Bobby Nash: I started writing comic books. I then wrote a novel, then a second, which was published, Evil Ways. Then, I did a mix of comics, novels, and shorter stories for several years. These days, I’ve added screenplays and audio scripts to the mix. I like to try new things.

Nancy Oswald: Published, two large publishers, one it Canada and one in New York, published small Colorado owned publisher, self-published twice, each time for a different reason.

Mark Leslie Lefebvre: I started off in the mid 1980s when there really was no other choice but to submit short stories to magazines in order to slowly build yourself a name within writing and publishing and hopefully attract the attention of an agent or editor who might take your book proposal seriously because of your proven track record.

After years of rejection my first short story was published in 1992. I earned $5 USD and a contributor’s copy of the digest-sized quarterly magazine with a circulation of perhaps 500 people. And as time went on, I started selling to bigger markets with larger distribution and higher pay. (At the time 5 cents a word was considered a “professional rate” for a short fiction sale).

Over the years I sold dozens of stories to various small press magazines and anthologies, but my work never remained in print for more than maybe six months maximum. So, in 2004, I collected a number of my previously published short stories along with a couple of ones that hadn’t appeared anywhere, and I self-published them in print (using Ingram Lightning Source for making a Print on Demand (POD) book entitled One Hand Screaming.

Back then self-publishing was a dirty word, and most self-respecting authors serious about a writing career would ever consider that path. All of my friends who had publishing deals with big publishers told me that self-publishing was the best way to kill my writing career.

But I did it anyway.

I did so because after all those years of writing, I still didn’t have a book out. In addition, the majority of the stories had not only already graduated from the slush piles of the various magazines they’d first appeared in (thus having an editorial “seal of approval” but they had also been edited.

I secured an ISBN, established a publishing company (Stark Publishing – which I use to this day), had a logo for the company created, and had a book cover designed. (The cost for the logo and book cover was about $24, the price of a case of beer paid to my best friend who was a graphic designer.

In 2009, I used the Stark Publishing imprint to publish an anthology called Campus Chills. I solicited sponsorship for this anthology from three university bookstores (University of Waterloo, University of Alberta, and McMaster University Bookstore) so I could pay contributors pro rates for their original stories. The book was a historic publishing first. It was the first professional anthology to be produced exclusively for the Espresso Book Machines that the three bookstores owned.

My first full length book traditional deal was Haunted Hamilton, which was published in 2012 by Dundurn, Canada’s largest independent publishing house.

Since then, I have continued to work with traditional publishers and also use my Stark Publishing imprint to publish my own books as well as a few selected titles from author friends. 

What do you see as the pros and cons of traditional/independent publishing?

Paul Kane: The pros of traditional publishing are, as mentioned, more money behind things like advertising and marketing, distribution and so on. You’ll also likely get paid more as an author. The cons are the restrictions of the marketplace, in that you’ll have to deliver something that’s more of a crowd-pleaser than you would if it was only intended to be a limited book of say 500 copies. That’s where the indies shine, because they’re more likely to take a chance on something experimental. But don’t look for fortunes that way, if that’s your goal. I straddle both traditional and indie and adore both. I’m lucky enough to enjoy writing mass market thrillers, and at the same time put out horror books with huge monsters in. The best of both worlds, frankly. If, by indie, you mean self-published, I’ve never done that, but I know a lot of people who do – some make a very good living at it – so there’s nothing wrong with that either. Do whatever makes you happy as a writer, I say, because that will come across in your writing.

Bobby Nash: Traditional publishing handles the production work, which is nice. They handle the cover, printing, and distribution. If the publisher has good distribution, that’s a big plus. The more places your book is shelved, the better your odds in terms of sales.

Indie publishing offers more freedom to do what you want with a shorter lead time. You handle production, cover, and there’s usually only Amazon and a few on-line retailers carrying your book.

No matter which you choose, you, the writer, are expected to handle almost all of the marketing and promotion.

Robbie Cheadle: Working with a publisher taught me a lot about the publishing process and spared me having to do all the research and experimentation myself. I find it beneficial to have a second set of experienced eyes read and edit my books. My publisher gives me advice about formatting my books and also deals with Lulu.com and Amazon on my behalf. This lifts a lot of the administration from my shoulders. As a full-time working person with a demanding corporate job, I don’t think I would manage the proofing, type-setting, and other administration on my own as well as have time to write and market my books. My publisher also does some marketing of my books which is helpful.

Nancy Oswald: It depends on personal goals, opportunities, and life’s circumstances. Money and control and time are issues that have played into my decision. Marketing is not. You still have to get out and promote yourself.

Mark Leslie Lefebvre: First of all, I embrace both, and I recognize that there are unique pros and cons for each of them. I’ll try to boil them down to a few things.

With self-publishing (or indie publishing), you’re in full control. You are the publisher, which means you control everything. Whether or not it’s published, when it is published, how it’s edited, the cover design, the price, what markets it is released to. That is both a blessing and a curse because there are a lot of moving parts; and many authors don’t like the idea of having to do all that work – or, more specifically, having to hire out the right people for those tasks and project manage the process.

On the plus side, because you’re in control, you don’t need to wait for a gatekeeper to anoint your book from out of a slush pile of millions of manuscripts. If you want to change something you don’t need anyone else’s permission, you can do it.

And, of course, you can earn much higher royalties (up to 70% in many cases) and get paid monthly rather than perhaps once a year or maybe twice a year.

The biggest downside to self-publishing is that while you have easy access to digital sales (eBooks, Audiobooks, and POD print book online sales), you have extremely limited access to “in store” and “on shelf” placement in bookstores. That’s one area where traditional publishing outshines self-publishing significantly.

Traditional Publishers are part of an “old boys” network of a complex and often confusing supply chain requiring warehousing and returns (a business practice instituted during the Great Depression and which remains to this day). But they are the best way to get your books into bookstores.

Dundurn, the largest traditional publisher I work with, not only gets my books onto the shelves of chain and indie bookstores, but has also gotten my books onto the shelves at Costco and Walmart. That’s something I’d never be able to afford to do as an indie author publisher. But with this type of distribution comes setbacks, that I’ll get to shortly.

Another great benefit of working with a traditional publisher is they take care of the majority of the business aspects. They have in house or hire out all of the professionals needed to bring a book to market. From developmental, copy, and line editors to proofreaders, to professional book formatters and cover designers, to in house marketing and sales (to pitch your book to bookstore buyers), they not only project manage all of that, but, more importantly, they pay for all of those services.

The advance an author receives from a traditional publisher is, typically, significantly smaller than it used to be. There was a time when a midlist author could make a full-time living off of their book advances alone. That has not been the case for many years.

Authors also have no idea how their book is selling. They may receive an annual, or perhaps twice-annual statement of their book sales, and are perhaps paid once or twice a year for the previous year’s sales. There is also a 30% withholding on those payments against the aforementioned returns. This means, for every $100 owned to you in royalties, they hold back $30 as protection against the cost of returns.

If I can use two examples of my own books, here’s a bit of a breakdown on earnings.

For one of my traditionally published books that sells for $24.99 in print, I earn 8% on each sale, which is about $2.00. I get paid for that once a year with 30% withheld for a full year. I’m not even going to talk about the eBook sales as that’s a joke and barely adds up to enough sales to even talk about (because most traditional publishers don’t sell a lot of eBooks because they price they high enough to drive people to buy the print version, which is often cheaper, or just a dollar or two more than the eBook price).

For one of my self-published books, which sells for $14.99 in print, I earn $3.20 per sale. But I don’t sell a lot of print on my self-published books. The majority of my sales come from eBook sales. When I sell an eBook for $4.99, I earn $3.49. And I get paid on those sales every month, as opposed to once per year.

One thing most authors misunderstand is that they think working with a traditional publisher means you won’t have to do marketing. That couldn’t be further from the truth.

Authors have to do their own marketing regardless of how a book is published.

One last thing I always consider when thinking about the pros and cons of traditional publishing versus self-publishing:  If it’s important for me to earn money and sell a lot of units in a digital manner where I’m in control, then I self-publish. If it’s important for the book to be in print and on bookstore shelves, then I look at traditional publishing. Because each book I write, or plan on writing has its own unique path often depending on my goals and how they relate to those factors.

Which formats are your books available in: ebook? Print? Audio? Hardback? Large print? NFTs?

Mario Acevedo: My books are available in print, ebook, and audio. My few hardbacks are out of print.

Paul Kane: All kinds, it just depends which book it is. Most are ebook and print. Some have had audios made of them, like The Rot from Horrific Tales. Encyclopocalypse have turned a lot of my back catalogue into audios, but also published a recent collection called The Naked Eye as an ebook and print, paperback and hardback. So it really does depend on what book it is and who brought it out. Doing searches for Paul Kane, PB Kane – my YA pseudonym – and PL Kane will come up with a bunch of stuff from me.

Bobby Nash: I have books available in hardcover, paperback, ebook, and audio. For BEN Books, I make an effort to get the books in as many formats as I can so readers can find it. On projects I do for other publishers, I don’t always have a say in format.

Robbie Cheadle: My YA and adult books are available as ebooks from Amazon and Lulu.com and as paperbacks from TSL Publications in the UK, Lulu.com, and Amazon. My children’s books are available as ebooks from Lulu.com and as paperbacks from TSL Publications in the UK, Lulu.com, and Amazon. My two poetry books are available from Amazon as paperbacks and ebooks and Behind Closed Doors is available through a variety of other distributors too.

Nancy Oswald: Ebook, print, both hard back and soft cover. It has varied from book to book. I’d love to have audio versions of my books, but I don’t think there would be a market for the ages I write for.

Mark Leslie Lefebvre: My books are available in eBook, Print (trade paperback, hardcover, large print) and Audiobooks. Not all titles are available in all formats. And, ironically, my self-published titles are available in more formats than my traditionally published books.

I also have a small selection of self-published titles available in an NFT-type model and will likely expand that over time.

If your books are available in audio format, which distribution platforms do you use? Can you tell us about your audio book experiences?

Paul Kane: Usually Audible, though a few have come out as CDs as well. Her Last Secret was a CD release, as well as a download. I tend to just let the publishers get on with that, as they know more about it all than me. Sometimes I get sent audition clips from people who want to do the narration, and indeed I was put in touch with the guy who did the narration for Arcana from Wordfire Press, Robert Power, because he wanted to ask some questions and I spent a very pleasant evening on the phone chatting to him. But generally, I don’t really have anything to do with it, other than I might listen to some actors reading bits of the book and say which one I prefer or who I think suits the story best.

Bobby Nash: Audible is the biggie. We have also experimented with other audio publishers. I love audio books and have been blessed to work with some fantastic narrators. I love audio and will keep putting them out in that format as long as I can.

Mark Leslie Lefebvre: I primarily use Findaway Voices for audiobook distribution to more than 40 retail and library markets.

When it comes to audiobooks, the expense to produce them is quite high and I’m currently in a position where I’m thousands of dollars in the hole on earning that money back. But for me it’s a long-term thing, that I know will earn out over time. For me, it’s a long-term investment.

Are your books available wide or exclusive to Amazon? Or a combination of both? Why?

Paul Kane: Most, if not all, of my books are on Amazon, but also available from the publishers themselves too – as well as from all good bookstores. Again, I don’t really have much to do with all that as bookselling isn’t my field. I leave it to people much more qualified than me to sell my wares, I just write them in the first place!

Bobby Nash: A little of both. For BEN Books titles, the ebooks are exclusive to KDP so they can be enrolled in Kindle Unlimited. This is a way for me to promote the books to those who subscribe to KU to try my books for free and still make a few pennies. Paperbacks are at Amazon, B&N, Books-A-Million, etc. I also have an on-line store where you can buy autographed books from me directly.

Nancy Oswald: Back to marketing—Amazon on all of them, but I have them in as many local venues as possible; Book stores, gift shops, local stores.

Mark Leslie Lefebvre: I am wide beyond the limited perspective of “wide or exclusive to Amazon.” I could go on for hours, days, and weeks explaining it. You’re better off reading my budgie-basher of a book released in 2021 called Wide for the Win: Strategies to Sell Globally via Multiple Platforms and Forge Your Own Path to Success.

What factors help to determining the pricing of your book?

Paul Kane: I have absolutely no idea honestly. My second thriller, Her Husband’s Grave, has been available for about a year now at just £2 in paperback – and I have no idea why. I’m just delighted it is, because it’s been my biggest seller to date. It’s something to do with price matching, but I have no idea how it all works.

Bobby Nash: The base cost is your starting point. From there, you see the cost the bookstore or Amazon will take. Then, I round up a bit. I make about $1.50 profit per book. That’s why sales quantity is important.

Robbie Cheadle: My publisher prices my books and I am not able to run promotions for free or discounted downloads of my ebooks.

Nancy Oswald: I look at similar books and make my best guess about the market. On my two most recent books, I considered inflation.

Mark Leslie Lefebvre: When it’s a self-published title (ie, when I get to determine the price), it’s a combination of understanding the markets (the global markets, and not just the US markets) and the genres. So country, genre, size and format of the book all play a factor in determining the right price.

One thing I like to remind authors is that they should think of price as a verb rather than a noun. It’s fluid, and can and should change over time to match market conditions and other factors.

Which self- publishing platforms have you used? Please tell us about your experiences with them?

Bobby Nash: I mostly use Amazon/KDP. I have used Smashwords for ebooks in the past and Lulu for hardcovers. The experiences are generally good.

Robbie Cheadle: I have only self-published through Amazon, but I had assistance with the typesetting, cover, and administration.

Nancy Oswald: Only KDP (Create Space first, then KDP) Great experience both times. Books look good, hold up, and I like the POD aspect of ordering.

Mark Leslie Lefebvre: Again, for a blow-by-blow of the majority of them, read Wide for the Win. It’ll take dozens of pages to try to go through them in detail.

But in a nutshell, by default, here’s how I self-publish.

  • I publish direct to Amazon via KDP (Kindle Direct Publishing) for eBook and Print
  • I publish direct to Kobo via KWL (Kobo Writing Life) for eBook (and for selected audio titles)
  • I publish direct to Google Play for eBook (and for selected audio titles)
  • I use Draft2Digital for distributing to numerous other eBook retail platforms (Apple Books, B&N Nook, a handful of others), and most of the major library platforms (OverDrive, Baker & Taylor, hoopla, Bibliotheca, BorrowBox, etc) as well as for print via D2D Print (which is partnered with Ingram Lighting Source)
  • I also do print distribution via a combination of Ingram Spark and Ingram Lighting Source direct. (This is a side effect of being doing it for so long that I have different titles in different systems based on what was and wasn’t available at the time)

When seeking out a traditional publisher, what should an author look for? What should they beware of?

Paul Kane: I think you need to look at the publishers who are releasing books like the one you want to write and sell. You probably wouldn’t approach a religious publisher with a book about demons or zombies, say, but one that’s had some success in this area would definitely be more open to it. As for things to be aware of, run a mile if any agent or publisher asks you for money to look at or publish your book. They should be paying you, not the other way around.

Bobby Nash: What does the traditional publisher offer? If you like what they can do for your book, then go for it. Do they help with promotion? Do they offer an advance? What is their distribution platform like? Where are their books sold? Ask questions and research before signing. Reach out to other authors they publish and ask questions. Never pay to be published though. That’s not traditional publishing.

Robbie Cheadle: I am very careful of the publishing contract. I do not want my characters and ideas becoming the property of the publishing house and my stories continuing to be written by another writer if I die. I retain the rights to my characters in my publishing contracts.

Nancy Oswald: For me, I was lucky to find a small publisher who liked what I wrote. So, I’d say look for a good match. Do your homework in terms of other books the publisher puts out. When I started out, I targeted only big companies with a name, but have since learned that there are lots of small and mid-press companies that can be rewarding to publish with. With that said, trust is a huge issue. I entered into one joint publishing enterprise with my small press publisher, but that is only because we had similar goals and years of trust built up before we agreed to do this. There’s never a crystal ball, and I was lucky. Besides researching the publishers and their lists, you might consider locating and reaching out to some of the authors a certain publisher has worked with and ask them about the publishing experience they’ve had with company X. I have a friend who publishes with X Libris which some experts say you should NEVER do. But she has had a great experience, now has 6-8 books out and is completely happy. Find the publishing match that fits your goals and project.

Mark Leslie Lefebvre: First and foremost, if it’s a proper traditional publisher, the money should always flow TO the author from the publisher, and NEVER, EVER, from the author to the publisher. No exceptions. If there’s any money paid to a publisher, they’re not a real publisher, no matter how much they protest or wave their arms around and explain some asinine and convoluted reasons for it. End of story.

Anyone can hang up a shingle and call themselves a publisher, but if they do not have “old school” traditional publishing supply chain distribution through bookstores where there’s a very likely chance and easy availability for the book to be stocked in a bookstore, they’re typically not offering you any better chance of having a book in stock in a bookstore than you can do on your own. (Yes, they might pay for editing, design, etc, but the “in store” distribution is a MAJOR hurdle).

Also be aware of signing over the rights to formats that the publisher is not actually using. IE, if they want audio rights but don’t publish audiobooks, don’t sign away your audio rights. You can earn more selling them to someone who does.

Any publishing advice for new authors?

Paul Kane: Just to hang in there, and never give up. It can be a hard business with ups and downs, so you need a thick skin and you need staying power. It’ll happen for you eventually if you’re good enough and just keep going. Also, don’t take rejections personally; it’s all subjective and what one editor hates another might love. Just look at some of the big releases that have been rejected so many times before being given a chance.

Bobby Nash: Have fun and enjoy the experience. Yes, writing is my job and there are days it’s a tough job, but t’s still a job I love. That’s what keeps me going.

Nancy Oswald: Just start, and don’t be afraid to make mistakes along the way. Do your homework if traditional publishing is what you want to do. Go to conferences and take advantage of one-on-one interviews with publishers and agents. When a book is returned, even if it’s a form letter without comments, sit down and re-write your book all the way through. You’ll be surprised at how those re-writes will improve your writing.

Mark Leslie Lefebvre: Patience, Practice, and Persistence are three of the main traits needed for a long-term publishing career. Also, you’ll never stop learning and there is no magic bullet for any of the hard work that is required to be successful. So, stop wasting your time looking for one.

Publishing, regardless of whether or not you choose traditional publishing or self-publishing/indie publishing (or, ideally, some combination of both), takes a lot of work, a lot of constant learning and re-learning, and dedication to continuing to work at it even when nothing seems to be working or all the cards are stacked against you.

To get through those times, which will happen to every single writer as the markets continue to shift and change and bend and flow, you need to believe in yourself and never give up on the dream and desire. And, ideally, if you get intrinsic pleasure in the act of actual writing itself, that could be enough to sustain you through the process during those “dry” periods.

What are the advantages of creating your own publishing imprint? Do you recommend it? Why or why not?

Bobby Nash: I started BEN Books to get some of my older, out of print works back into print. Eventually, I realized that I could launch projects there that I might not be able to pitch to a traditional publisher. When I started writing crime novels, I was known for doing comics, sci-fi, horror. It was a hard sell to convince publishers I could write a crime thriller. BEN Books became a way to get those stories told. Now, I’m more known for the crime thrillers. Go figure.

Nancy Oswald: The jury’s out for me on this. I just recently created an imprint and registered it with the state of Colorado. I have no idea what I’m doing, and it’s weird for me to associate with and imprint and not myself as an author which I’ve done most of my years publishing with a small press.

Do you use crowd sourcing or subscription services to fund your publishing endeavors?

Paul Kane: A couple of things I wrote have had Kickstarters, but they’ve been a short film and a comic and the people behind bringing them to life have handled the campaigns. All seemed to go well, though, so I can’t complain.

Bobby Nash: I haven’t crowdsourced any novels yet, but I’m considering it for a box set next year. I’m still working out the logistics. I do have a Patreon page ( www.patreon.com/bobbynash ) that works like a subscription service.

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That’s all for this week’s “Ask the Authors” blog segment. Thank you all for hanging with us. Next Saturday we’ll be wrapping up this Saturday series with an introduction to YA and middle grade author, L. Jagi Lamplighter, whose anthology contribution discusses “The Trouble with Troupes”, and a Q & A session on the most formidable of subjects, book marketing.

This must have writing reference is available through Barnes & Nobel, Rahkatan Kobo, the Apple Store, Amazon, Scribd and many more. As the “Ask the Authors 2022” blog series is drawing to a close, be sure to get your copy of Ask the Authors 2022 at the special send-off price of $3.99 for the digital edition, from your favorite book distributor through the Books2Read UBL: https://books2read.com/u/3LnK8e

____________________

Join Kaye Lynne Booth & WordCrafter Press Readers’ Group for WordCrafter Press book & event news, including the awesome releases of author Kaye Lynne Booth. Get a free digital copy of her short story collection, Last Call and Other Short Fiction, as a sampling of her works just for joining.


Ask the Authors 2022 contributor Kevin Killiany shares more writing expertise on Authorsphere with Dan Alatorre

Ask the Authors 2022

Hey! One of the contributing authors for Ask the Authors 2022, Kevin Killiany is sharing his expertise and discussing writing life with Dan Alatorre on the Authorsphere podcast. They even talk about me. Drop by and give a listen. You might learn something. I did.


Ask the Authors 2022 Book & Blog Series: Editing & Revision

Ask the Authors 2022

Hello and welcome back to Segment 8 of the “Ask the Authors 2022” blog series. This week brings an introduction to speculative fiction and horror author, Jeff Bowles, who shares a his thoughts on editing in the anthology, “Contrary to Popular Editing Beliefs”, & a Q & A session on editing and revision.

If you missed any of the previous segments, you can find them here:

Segment 1: Introductions to Kaye Lynne Booth & Kevin Killiany/Writing Life Q & A session.

Segment 2: Introduction to Bobby Nash/Pre-Writing Rituals Q & A session.

Segment 3: Introduction for Roberta Eaton Cheadle/Plot & Storyline Q & A session.

Segment 4: Introduction for Paul Kane/Character Development Q & A.

Segment 5: Introduction for Mario Acevedo/Action, Pacing and Dialog Q & A.

Segment 6: Introduction to Nancy Oswald/Tone: Voice, Person, Tense and POV Q & A.

Segment 7: Introduction for Chris Barili/Setting & World Building Q & A.

And now let’s move right into this week’s segment.

Meet Jeff Bowles

Jeff Bowles is a science fiction and horror writer from the mountains of Colorado. The best of his outrageous and imaginative short stories are collected in Godling and Other Paint StoriesFear and Loathing in Las Cruces, and Brave New Multiverse. He has published work in magazines and anthologies like PodCastle, Tales from the Canyons of the Damned, the Threepenny Review, Dark Moon Digest, Whispers of the Past, and Spirits of the West. His story, “A Peaceful Life I’ve Never Known” was the winning story in the 2019 WordCrafter Short Fiction Contest.

Jeff earned his Master of Fine Arts degree in creative writing at Western State Colorado University. He currently lives in the high-altitude Pikes Peak region, where he dreams strange dreams and spends far too much time under the stars. Jeff also has two novels published, God’s Body: Book One – The Fall, and Love/Madness/Demon.

On to the Q & A.

Editing and Revision

How do you feel about the editing process? Love it or loathe it?

Mario Acevedo: The editing process is what turns the rough clay into art. The second draft is when your story begins to shine.

Paul Kane: I really enjoy the editing process. I don’t find it half as much work as getting the words down in the first place. I know for a lot of people it’s the other way around, but I like having written, when I’ve got the chunk of words down and I’m going through, refining it, making it better with each edit or pass. It’s like a sculptor with a lump of stone, each time you chisel some of that away the sculpture starts to take shape. The more you work on it, the better the shape becomes. I like having that lump of stone to work with, I’m just not that mad on getting the stone and carrying it to the studio or workshop in the first place, if you see what I mean. 

Bobby Nash: Editing is part of the job. A novel gets multiple edit passes. I do a self-edit while writing it, usually going over yesterday’s work before starting on today’s writing. Then, I give it another edit after I’m finished. Once I’m satisfied, it goes to the editor then back to me for adjustments, changes, discussions. There may be two edit passes here. Finally, there’s the galley edit, which is my chance to look the story over in the form it will be printed to make sure it looks good.

Robbie Cheadle: I enjoy editing and I find it easier than the initial writing process. Re-writing and amending to create a better story is rewarding and satisfying for me. I edit as I go along and at the end of each chapter. If something changes in the story that effects what I have already written, I go back and update it. I cannot leave a change undone and just move on like some writers do. It bothers me too much.

Nancy Oswald: I look at it as an opportunity to make your book better, but there are times I’ve loved it and other times, not so much.

What roles do alpha and beta readers, critique partners, proofreaders and professional editors play in your editing and revision process?

Mario Acevedo: All are necessary and have helped improve my stories. My critique partners are my beta readers.

Paul Kane: I don’t really use alpha or beta readers. It works for some people, but not for me. I find if I get too much feedback, especially if it’s conflicting, it just confuses me more than it helps. I prefer to trust my own judgment initially, or – if she has time – my wife Marie has a read before it goes off somewhere. The editor you’re working with, especially if it’s a bigger publisher, will have things they want you to change or cut or whatever, which is absolutely fine. That’s the process for me, and part of the job. I just prefer to not let anyone see it before then. I think maybe it’s bad luck or something, as I am quite superstitious.

Bobby Nash: I have used beta readers, but not often. I do have a small group of patrons that get stories early. Some offer feedback. I work with editors, proofreaders, and others to get the books as close to perfect as I can make them.

Robbie Cheadle: I am part of an   on-line writing group which meets for 2 hours every second week. We all read excerpts from our stories and give each other advice and feedback. One of the members of this group, beta reads each chapter of my novels as I go along and gives me constructive criticism and feedback.

Once the book is complete and I’ve edited it to my satisfaction, I send it to my developmental editor who provides feedback on structure, plot holes, loose threads, unnatural dialogue, and other important elements of my writing and story.

Once I’ve updated the novel for her comments, I send it back to her for a final read and make any last changes.

I then send it to a proofreader who helps pick up spelling and punctuation errors which I correct before sending the book to my publisher who does a final read and edit.

How do you handle your editing: hire professional editors? Trade-off with other authors? Critique partners? Beta-readers? Self-edit? Have a publisher that handles those things?

Paul Kane: I self-edit until it’s time to send it off to my actual editor at whatever publisher I might be working with at the time. If she has time, Marie has a look through and does a pass, but more often than not it’s me who goes through and does the drafts. Then it might go through several more once the editor has come back to me with notes, then finally the proofing and final editing stages.

Bobby Nash: I have editors I work with on my creator-owned projects. For books I do for other publishers, they provide the editor I will work with on the book. Before it gets to them though, I have done a self-edit pass or two.

Nancy Oswald: All of the above at different times, but bottom line, I like to be involved in all phases.

What do you look for in an editor?

Paul Kane: As I say, I don’t send it to an editor I pay or anything. It goes to the editor at the publishers, and you don’t get a choice in that, seeing as their company is paying you for the story or book. Having said that, I’m very lucky to have worked with some of the best editors in the business and there’s been nothing that’s really had me tearing my hair out. So, I guess what I’m looking for with an editor is someone who’s easy to work with, and we can go back and forth on changes or edits that will hopefully make the whole thing better in the long run.

Bobby Nash: Editing is more than catching typos and grammar errors. A good editor asks questions about story, points out inconsistencies, and offers advice and solutions. It’s a partnership. The writer and editor have the same goal. We both want to put out the best book we can.

Robbie Cheadle: In a developmental editor, I looked for someone who could help me resolve issues with my story without changing my voice and writing style. I found a ‘good fit’ editor a few years ago when I was writing Through the Nethergate and used the same lady to assist me with A Ghost and His Gold. While the Bombs Fell was developmentally edited by a different person. I was very happy with her feedback, but she was not available to help me with my most recent two books.

Nancy Oswald: Editors need to “get” the book. They need to be attentive to details, but not insert themselves into the MS to the extent of it sounding different.

Have you ever received an edit where it was obvious the editor didn’t get what you were trying to do? How did you handle that?

Paul Kane: I’ve had edits where I’ve felt the need to explain certain things, or argue my case about a specific point, but that’s only really been a small part of the overall edit. I’ve never had an editor do a complete hatchet job on one of my books, and for that I’m truly grateful.

Bobby Nash: It happens. Did I not explain it well? If so, then a rewrite needs to happen. The writer and editor talk. You discuss and work it out. As I mentioned above, the editor and writer are partners. The editor is not my enemy. We both want the book to be the best it can be.

Robbie Cheadle: This has not happened to me. Both developmental editors I have worked with have helped me tremendously and so does my beta reader. I am very open to suggestions and comments to help me improve my writing and stories.

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That wraps up this week’s “Ask the Authors 2022” blog series. Be sure and drop by next Saturday, when we introduce author and industry expert Mark Leslie Lefebvre and share a Q & A session on Publishing. You won’t want to miss all the useful information in that one. See you there.

Ask the Authors 2022

But first, just take a minute to grab your copy of this writing reference anthology which no author should be without from your favorite book distributor at the special send-off price of $3.99, using the Books2Read UBL: https://books2read.com/u/3LnK8e

_______________________

Join Kaye Lynne Booth & WordCrafter Press Readers’ Group for WordCrafter Press book & event news, including the awesome releases of author Kaye Lynne Booth. Get a free digital copy of her short story collection, Last Call and Other Short Fiction, as a sampling of her works just for joining.


Ask the Authors 2022 Book & Blog Series: Setting & World Building

Ask the Authors 2022

Welcome back to the “Ask the Authors 2022” blog series. This is segment 7 of this Saturday series, which brings you a glimpse of the fantastic writing tips and advice featured in the Ask the Authors 2022 writing reference anthology, and today we introduce contributing author Chris Barili, who shares his thoughts and methods for character development in his own “Character Blueprint” in the anthology, and a Q & A session on setting & world building.

If you missed any of the previous segments, you can find them here:

Segment 1: Introductions for Kaye Lynne Booth & Kevin Killiany/Writing Life Q & A session

Segment 2: Introduction for Bobby Nash/Pre-writing Rituals Q & A session

Segment 3: Introduction for Roberta Eaton Cheadle/Plot & Storyline Q & A session

Segment 4: Introduction for Paul Kane/Character Development Q & A session

Segment 5: Introduction for Mario Acevedo/Action, Pacing & Dialog Q & A session

Segment 6: Introduction for Nancy Oswald & Tone: Voice, Tense, Person & POV Q & A session.

Let’s get started.

Meet Chris Barili

Chris Barili is a speculative fiction and romance author who was also my cohort in the M.F.A. in Creative Writing program at Western. He writes in a wide range of genres, including weird western (Hell’s Marshal series), and science fiction (Shadowblade) under his own name, and romance (Smothered) under the pen name B.T. Clearwater. Chris was a presenter and panel member for both the 2020 WordCrafter Stay in Place Virtual Writing Conference, and the 2021 WordCrafter New Beginnings Virtual Writing Conference.

Besides writing, Chris lifts weights, mountain bikes, practices martial arts and battles with Parkinson’s disease. Writing just may be his salvation. Chris also was a contributor to the original Ask the Authors writing reference project, back in 2018. When asked about a future where writing left him rich and famous, Chris said he would write more.

Now let’s see how our contributing authors responded in the Q & A.

Setting & World Building

What elements do you take into consideration when creating a new world?

Mario Acevedo: Time, place, setting, and the one many writers forget, mood.

Paul Kane: I’ve very rarely created entire worlds, but the ones I do write about – even in crime stories – I always view as just slightly to the left of ours. Alternate worlds that look very much like our own, but are just slightly different. I always make up locations, such as Norchester in The Gemini Factor, or Redmarket, Golden Sands and Green Acres in the PL Kane thrillers, simply because then you own those places and can do what you want with them. It’s much harder with real places like Nottingham or Sherwood, because someone might spot a mistake you made, even if you’ve done tons of research – for example we went on a private tour of Nottingham Castle just to make sure I could accurately describe things in Arrowhead. Nobody’s going to question something you do in a made-up place, that a street shouldn’t be in a certain spot or whatever. I like creating places anyway, though, because they very often feel like characters themselves. Norchester, for instance, is very much a character in The Gemini Factor. It even has two ‘faces’ as I say in the first chapter: the nice side that most people see, and a seedy underbelly that’s not very nice at all, full of drug-pushers and pimps. Or in this case, where a very unique serial killer operates. 

Chris Barili: As many as the world requires. If I am sculpting an entirely new world, as I did in Shadow Blade, I consider everything from culture to economy, clothing to foods, and so on. Kevin J Anderson covers this really well in his book on world building, and I’ve been lucky enough to learn under him a bit.

Bobby Nash: Most of my stories take place in the real world so I start with the parts that are familiar. The basis for a town is the same in medieval time, modern day, and on another planet. Start with the familiar and build from there.

Nancy Oswald: Since I write historical fiction (mostly) the world has already been created, so the trick is to get to the heart of the historical period and let some of the actual history dictate parts of the story. For instance, the two fires in Cripple Creek in 1896.

Do places that you’ve traveled to ever end up in your books?

Mario Acevedo: Yes. Los Angeles, Hilton Head Island, Florida, St. Louis, Pacoima, New Mexico, Iraq. Haven’t been to outer space yet.

Paul Kane: It’s the same thing I talked about with characters, I put bits of places I know in stories. Unless they’re actual places like Nottingham, then I’ve made them up of various places I know. Redmarket is very much a mish-mash of Northern towns I know very well, Golden Sands is an amalgamation of various run-down seaside towns I’ve visited, mixed with dollops of other fictional towns like Broadchurch from the famous TV series. When I was writing about Glaive City in my comic book stories based around the gothic superhero Mortis-Man, I was very much thinking about cities from famous comic strips I read as a kid, and still read, which might resonate with readers. To give them a certain flavour of what the tales will be about, you see. So, I guess you could say I visited those places, only I did it through the medium of comic books and graphic novels.

Bobby Nash: Oh, yes. I often take photos while on a drive and have found locations that spark story ideas.

Robbie Cheadle: I do include places I have visited in my books. It is easier to describe a place and give a ring of authenticity if you have visited the setting from your story. I have also included places I have not visited and that required a lot of research of various crucial elements like climate, vegetation, and lifestyles.

Nancy Oswald: Yes. Visited the Sand Creek Massacre site, explored Cripple Creek, and the Jewish Colony is practically in my back yard.

What type of details do you add to help create a mental picture for your readers?

Paul Kane: I think the key is not to overdo it, just a splash here, a splash there. That builds up a picture in a reader’s mind, and very often they supply the rest from places they might know. If I say that Golden Sands has a Fish ‘n’ Chip shop, like I’ve just done in the novelette Corpsing, then I don’t need much of a description because chances are the reader will have been to a seaside chippy themselves at some point in their lives. All you need are broad strokes to paint that picture. Unless you’re doing something very specific with a place, making a certain point. If you’re going to have a character get thrown off a building, you need to describe how high it is in order for a reader to know they probably wouldn’t survive the fall. Things like that.

Chris Barili: Again, whatever the story needs. For example, in Hell’s Marshal, I opened in old wet Tombstone, right near the OK Corral, so a detailed description of the saloon in which the story opened was needed, but since many readers have at least seen a recreation of the corral itself, I was able to use fewer details.

Bobby Nash: I describe people and locations pretty well, I think. I try not to overdo it though. If I say a character walks into a bedroom, I don’t have to describe every item in it. The readers know what a bedroom looks like. They will fill in the details from their own experiences.

Robbie Cheadle: My writing style is descriptive, and I try to incorporate all of the senses into my stories.

Nancy Oswald: In my genre, this is a place where historical photos are invaluable, but I don’t see why historical photos or other photos couldn’t be helpful for fantasy and other types of world-building. They would just need to be tweaked appropriately.

Would you share a brief excerpt from one of your favorite setting descriptions? What is it about this setting description that you like?

I received several examples of setting description from contributing authors which made this section too lengthy, so if you want to see them, you’ll have to buy the book.

How do you choose the right sensory details for your story?

Paul Kane: It depends on what you’re trying to say, you have to pick and choose what’s important again – or what feels right. That’s something you only really develop over time, I think. Don’t feel like you have to throw everything in there: sight, sound, smell, touch, taste or whatever. It might be that less is more again, so you have to decide what it is you’re trying to say about a place or person. I don’t tend to put smell in there much, as I don’t have a sense of smell myself – so I’d only really be guessing. Obviously, if someone was near to a chemical plant, or a sewage works, I could probably hazard a guess that the smell is bad, but having never smelt that before, my description would be loose at best. Ask yourself what it is that’s important about a scene, because that should help you decide what to put in and leave out.

Bobby Nash: It’s all by feeling. Senses are important so I use them where I feel they work best.

Robbie Cheadle: I try to use all the sense in my writing. If the circumstances lend themselves to the incorporation of descriptions relating to smell, taste, or touch I try to bring them in. Descriptions involving sight and hearing work their way into my stories easier than the other sense.

Nancy Oswald: Try to stay character driven and historically accurate.  

How do you communicate the rules of the world that you’ve created to your readers?

Paul Kane: The rules of most of my worlds tend to be the same as the one we’re living in, so it’s not that hard in most cases. If you’re writing something like a SF story, you’ll have to give the reader a sense of how that world works obviously, but it should be as the tale goes along – they’ll see through the telling of the story – rather than an info dump. So, in Arcana – which is a parallel universe – I had to show how the magic worked through the course of the story. I do have one bit near the beginning which is a flashback to a school classroom, but that was just to establish we’re not in this universe and that the history of it is different. The vast majority of what I set up in that novel comes through the telling of the story, that way it’s not too obtrusive. It’s not wise to have so many chunks of exposition or explanation too often or the reader will get bored.

Chris Barili: Through character actions words, and interaction with the world. Never by rote exposition.

Bobby Nash: I write the details, flesh things out with dialogue, stuff like that. I’m not a fan of the info dump, so I try to make that happen organically.

Robbie Cheadle: The Boers and the British soldiers in A Ghost and His Gold have their own codes of conduct, religious beliefs, and lifestyles. I bring these elements into my stories through descriptions and also through the use of thoughts and dialogue.

For real settings, do you explore the physical locations in which your stories are set?

Chris Barili: Usually just via the internet.

Bobby Nash: When I can, I do. That isn’t always possible though.

Robbie Cheadle: I explore the physical location when it has been possible for me to do so. Through the Nethergate is set in the English town of Bungay in Suffolk. I have visited Bungay twice as that is where my mother comes from. We have looked around the town and visited the churches, pubs, and the ruins of Bungay Castle.

A Ghost and His Gold is set in South Africa, and I have visited several of the places featured in the book including Irene, Pretoria, Mafeking, and Kimberley. It is easier for me to write about places I have visited, especially as I take lots of photographs.

Nancy Oswald: Yes, whenever possible.

Have you ever had a reader tell you that you missed the mark on a particular detail?

Bobby Nash: Sure. It happens. Sometimes they are right. Sometimes they aren’t. I’m happy that my story moved them enough to take time to let me know what they thought.

What techniques do you use to help readers visualize your world?

Paul Kane: I think it helps to see the world through a character’s eyes. A good device might be to take a ‘fish out of water’ character and throw them into this setting, so that you’re learning about the world as they do, as they go along. If you think about characters like Buck Rogers who gets flung into the future, or Stallone’s cop in Demolition Man, you get the picture. Hopefully then, if you’re giving the reader the right amount of information in the right way, they’re right there with the character seeing what they see.

Bobby Nash: Words and phrases. It’s my job to paint a picture with these words. The reader also helps by bringing his or her imagination into it as well.

Nancy Oswald: Always watch the verbs and passive voice.

Do you plan out your world or build as you go?

Paul Kane: It depends on the kind of world you’re building. If it’s a place that’s going to be a sprawling metropolis that you’re going to need to know inside out to tell your stories, it’s probably a good idea to know which bits are where. Is a new bit next to an old bit, are dangerous bits just a hop, skip and a jump from a nicer bit. I have a place called Graffitiland which is mentioned in my PL Kane books, and was the focus of the novelette of the same name. As you can imagine, this bit of wasteland is so-called because it’s covered in graffiti, so quite rough, but I also wanted it to be within spitting distance of some of the newer parts of the town I was writing about for plot purposes. I didn’t have any maps drawn out or anything, but just needed to jot down that this was the case – especially if I write about it again down the line. But if the whole story revolved around that sprawling city I was talking about, then you might want to start mapping bits out so you don’t contradict yourself.

Chris Barili: I start with an initial world-build, adding to it or changing things as the story progresses.

Bobby Nash: A little of both. When I created Sommersville, the county and town in several of my stories, I went in with a pretty well-established map, but I reveal important places, landmarks, etc. to the reader as needed in service of that particular story.

How do you keep track of the details of your world to avoid inconsistencies in the stories?

Mario Acevedo: Through rewrites and multiple drafts.

Paul Kane: By jotting down notes, essentially, or creating maps. Personally, I wouldn’t spend ages doing all this, because it’s enough to know roughly where things are for the purposes of my writing. But I do know other writers, especially if they’re writing Fantasy say, who spend a long time getting all these details right and recording them. It depends what kind of genre you’re working in.

Bobby Nash: I try to keep good notes.

Robbie Cheadle: I have a spreadsheet for my work-in-progress The Creeping Change as it involves a large number of characters. I write down the names and descriptions of certain supporting characters in my books, so I remember the details correctly.

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That’s it for this week’s “Ask the Authors 2022” blog series. Drop by again next Saturday for an introduction to Jeff Bowles, whose essay contribution, , offers up a view on editing & revision, along with a Q & A segment on the same topic.

Ask the Authors 2022

“Ask the Authors is an up-to-date and broad-based compendium of advice from today’s working writers, to help you with understanding your own writing career. Great information!”

—Kevin J. Anderson, New York Times bestselling author of Spine of the Dragon

Don’t forget, you can purchase a copy of this must have writing reference from your favorite book distributor at the special send-off price of $3.99 through the Books2Read UBL: https://books2read.com/u/3LnK8e

______________________

Join Kaye Lynne Booth & WordCrafter Press Readers’ Group for WordCrafter Press book & event news, including the awesome releases of author Kaye Lynne Booth. Get a free digital copy of her short story collection, Last Call and Other Short Fiction, as a sampling of her works just for joining.


Ask the Authors 2022 Book & Blog Series: Tone – Voice, Person, Tense & POV

Ask the Authors 2022

Welcome back to the “Ask the Authors 2022” blog series, where we celebrate the release of this unique writing reference anthology and share some of the wonderful content featured. In each segment of this Saturday series, you’ll meet one of the contributing authors, and share in a section of the Q & A from the book. This week’s contributing author is Nancy Oswald, who shares a delightful accounting of her own publishing journey in the book, “From Slush Pile to Slushy”, and the Q & A topic is setting the tone for your story.

If you missed any of the previous segments, you can catch them here:

Segment 1: Introductions for Kaye Lynne Booth & Kevin Killiany/Writing Life Q & A session

Segment 2: Introduction for Bobby Nash/Pre-writing Rituals Q & A session

Segment 3: Introduction for Roberta Eaton Cheadle/Plot & Storyline Q & A session

Segment 4: Introduction for Paul Kane/Character Development Q & A session.

Segment 5: Mario Acevedo & Action, Pacing, and Dialog

And for today’s post:

Meet Nancy Oswald

Nancy Oswald loves researching and writing historical fiction books for young readers. She has, however, written in a variety of genres including personal interest pieces, children’s plays, poetry, educational research, biography, and nonfiction articles. Oswald spent her growing up years in Denver but has lived as an adult in rural Colorado and the outback of British Columbia where she taught in a one and a two-room school. She taught for 20 years in rural Colorado and is now retired.  Nancy’s books have won the Spur Award, CIPA Evvy Award, Willa Literary Award, Will Rogers Award, Colorado Author’s League Writing Award, and have had multiple finalist recognitions. Nancy currently lives with her husband and their dogs, cats, cows, chickens, and one nearly human donkey who makes mischief at home and on the pages of the Ruby and Maude Adventures.

And now for the Q & A

Tone: Voice, Person, Tense & POV

Which POV do you prefer: First, second, third limited or third omniscient? Why?

Mario Acevedo: Most of my stories are first POV because I tend to write using the structure of a mystery, meaning the protagonist has to sleuth out the truth at the same pace as the reader.

Paul Kane: I tend to write a lot of my fiction in the third person, simply because you can move between places or characters and tell a more well-rounded story that way. You might be with one character in one chapter, then across town with a completely different character in the next. It allows for a certain amount of flexibility. But I also do like first person POV for certain stories. It works well for psychological tales, for example, or if you’re telling a story through letters or diary extracts. I’ve just written a story that way, actually, but it was because I wanted it to be solely through the eyes of my main character who’s being help captive. It creates a more claustrophobic feel. I also write about my PI Jackie Trent – from the novelette The Scarred – in the first person, because it fits in with that tradition of the noir-ish detective investigating a crime. As with a lot of this advice, which way you choose depends on the kind of story you’re telling and what you want to gain from it.

Chris Barili: I enjoy both first- and third-person. First person is more intimate and allows the reader access to more of the character’s inner self, but third person is safer, easier to write, and more accepted. My story “Outcast” has both.

Bobby Nash: Third omniscient. I like to bounce between characters and scenes, have different POVs in different chapters. It works for me.

Robbie Cheadle: My two current work-in-progress novels are written in a mixture of the third limited and first, depending on the style of the chapter. Both novels make use of journals, letters, and other methods of correspondence and these parts lend themselves to first. The rest of the story is told in third limited because it is my preferred point of view. It’s similar to first, but more interesting.

Jeff Bowles: When I was first learning to write and tell stories, I’d often experiment and try all sorts of things, including creative POV choices. Sometimes they worked, sometimes not. Now that I’ve been doing this a while, I tend to stick with a pretty standard third-person past perspective, mostly because all that trickery can be an impediment for readers. The project I’m working on currently has three first-person narrators, so I guess I’m still playing around with form here and there. If it serves the story, I’ll do it. To be perfectly truthful, however, my favorite POV type will always be first person. I like the idea that a character can narrate a story in their own voice, with all those idiosyncrasies I love to toss in. I like it when characters speak to me. It may be the single most enjoyable thing about writing fiction.

Nancy Oswald: Have used both first and third- and first-person present tense for one of my books. Third is my preference for the age group I write for. As a reader I prefer third, also.  I think “I” books can sometimes have a tendency to go overboard and sound too much like me, me, me….

Kevin Killiany: First is often my first choice, but I’m equally comfortable with close or limited third. First is good for getting inside the person’s head to explore motivation and perception. First is almost always an unreliable narrator, and their misinterpretations, omissions, and projections can reveal volumes. Limited third can be almost as revealing as first—sometimes more so because it provides opportunity to reveal a character as others see them. Omniscient is too far removed for my liking—it’s a landscape when a portrait would better serve. I have never been comfortable writing in the second person, the only practical application I can imagine for it would be a “choose your own adventure” puzzle story that presents the reader with choices.

Have you ever done a rewrite of a story using a different POV? Did it improve your story? Why or why not?

Paul Kane: Once or twice, but usually I’ve worked all that out before I even start writing as mentioned in the previous answer. What I have done quite a few times is write something in the past tense which needs to be in the present, to give it more immediacy. The killings in The Gemini Factor – which are being seen by Jack as they happen – had to be told in the present tense for instance. He’s being ‘shown’ the murders, so it made sense for them to be depicted that way, slipping from past to present tense to give that effect.

Chris Barili: Yes, and fortunately my very good editor caught all the areas I screwed it up.

Bobby Nash: Sometimes I will go back and try a different POV. Sometimes, a different POV helps.

Nancy Oswald: Yes, I started one book in third and it wasn’t working. As soon as I switched to first person, it clicked. (First example above is the one where I switched.) This is all it took for the book to become more immediate for me.

How do you determine what POV to use?

Paul Kane: Whether it’s first person or third, it’s usually the person who’s central to that story or chapter whose POV we’re in. So, you work out who that is before starting… No point telling a chapter from the point of view of a waiter in a restaurant who might be leaving the scene before everything kicks off, or you’ll miss the action.

Chris Barili: I take an initial stab at a certain POV based on how close I think the reader should be to the main character and change it if it doesn’t sound right.

Bobby Nash: As with so much of what I do, it’s a gut feeling.

Robbie Cheadle: A Ghost and His Gold was written from the point of view of three of the main characters: Michelle, a modern young woman; Pieter, the spirit of a Boer; and Robert, the spirit of a British soldier. Each of these three characters told sections of the story from their points of view. Each section was presented as a chapter or series of chapters. I have learned not to ‘head hop’ and to keep different points of view together in this manner.

Do you prefer to use single or multiple POVs in a story? Why?

Paul Kane: Again, it depends on what you want to show. In The Family Lie, the most recent PL Kane thriller, I was only really going to tell the story through the eyes of Mitch Prescott, but my editor suggested I tell a parallel tale of what was happening to his sister, Bella, at the same time. Then you could dovetail the two together for the finale… And she was absolutely right. Not only did it stop the story from getting dull, it allowed me to write from a male and female POV, alternating between them as I went. I found the whole thing really satisfying and from the feedback I’ve got readers really enjoyed reading about what Bella was going through; a few even preferred her to Mitch, so I might make her the focus of a story of her own at some point down the line.

Chris Barili: Depends on the story. More complex books with more complicated plots and large worlds usually require multiple POV characters.

Bobby Nash: Multiple all the way. I want to follow more than one character. Multiple POVs allow me to do that and get insight into more than one character.

Robbie Cheadle: I prefer to use more than one point of view as I think it makes the story more varied and interesting. I like each main character to have their own chapters which progress parts of the story.

Nancy Oswald: For my age group, always single. As an adult reader, it has to be done well, or you risk losing the reader with too much switching or poor transitions.

Kevin Killiany: It depends on the needs of the story. Certainly if there are major subplots each would require its own POV.

When employing multiple POVs does each character get equal page time?

Paul Kane: Bella and Mitch more or less did in The Family Lie, though perhaps Mitch got slightly more as he was closer to the mystery than she was. But again, it depends. You might want to just drop in on a character to shake things up, if you’ve been with another one for a while and things are getting stale. Every now and again in Her Last Secret I’d have a chapter from the wife Julie’s perspective, or the policeman Mathew Newcomb, although for the majority of that novel we’re in the head of Jake: the bereaved father. It was just to make sure things weren’t getting too same-y, but also give us a taster of what some of the other characters were going through during the course of the tale.

Chris Barili: Nope. Only as much as they need to tell their story.

Bobby Nash: I play it by ear. I mean, obviously, the main character is the main character so that character can’t be sidelined too long. I just play it by ear to best serve the story.

Robbie Cheadle: The different characters don’t necessarily get the same page time. It depends on how the story goes, how long each character lives, and whether that character becomes a ghost.

Kevin Killiany: No. Each character gets the time and space they need to tell their story—so far that has never resulted in every story being the same size.

Do you switch POVs within a chapter or do you wait for the chapter break? How do you indicate to readers that a POV switch has occurred?

Paul Kane: I tend to do it chapter by chapter, unless I’m trying to make a point. In Her Husband’s Grave I have a chapter that’s mainly told from psychologist Robyn Adams’ perspective where she’s interviewing someone and isn’t quite sure whether they’re good or bad. Then, right at the very end, we switch to that person’s POV and are left with absolutely no doubt about their intentions. I did this on purpose to give the reader a bit more information than Robyn has, which creates suspense and tension. But, mostly, I do it chapter by chapter because there’s no confusion that way.

Chris Barili: If I switch at a point other than a chapter break, I show that break with asterisks.

Bobby Nash: I use a chapter break.

Robbie Cheadle: Initially, I used section breaks within a chapter for different points of view. Now I use chapters for different points of view and section breaks for changes in setting or time.

Kevin Killiany: The Dirt and Stars novels are epistolary; each chapter is an entry from a different character’s personal account—they almost always see the same events differently or focus on different details. Mara has been instructed to keep a journal of her time on Earth; Beth keeps a diary; Jael is making a meticulous record of her efforts to break the Space Service color barrier; Fatima, who has a social communication disorder, records personal interactions to review with her therapist; Lije, confident he will accomplish much in business or politics, is keeping cross-referenced notes to facilitate writing his memoirs; and Thom, a denizen of Brahe Station who will be introduced in volume 4, is another diarist.
When I shift POV in a short story, I simply insert a blank line and make sure the first sentence after tells the reader exactly where we are. (Some publishers insert centered asterisks or plus signs in the blank line.

Do you prefer to write in past or present tense? Why?

Mario Acevedo: I prefer to write in the past tense since that is more familiar to the reader.

Chris Barili: Past. Present tense is difficult to maintain for longer works, and hard to read no matter what.

Bobby Nash: Past tense. Every publisher I’ve worked for has requested it so it’s just what I’ve always done.

Robbie Cheadle: I like to write in present tense, but usually write in past tense because readers favour it. Some readers won’t read books written in present tense.

Kevin Killiany: Past. That’s how we tell stories—have told them since stories were first recorded. Present tense story telling is a recent affectation that makes structural sense only in second person stories, wherein the character is speaking directly to the reader or to a second, unvoiced character.

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That’s all for this week. Be sure to drop in next Saturday, when we’ll have an introduction for contributing author Chris Barili, who contributed an essay on character development, “Character Blueprint”, & a Q & A on setting & world building.

Ask the Authors 2022

“Ask the Authors is an up-to-date and broad-based compendium of advice from today’s working writers, to help you with understanding your own writing career. Great information!”

—Kevin J. Anderson, New York Times bestselling author of Spine of the Dragon

You can delve into the wisdom of all ten contributing authors in Ask the Authors 2022. It’s the writing reference no author should be without. Get your copy at your favorite book distributor at our special send-off price, for the duration of the blog series, through the Books2Read UBL: https://books2read.com/u/3LnK8e

_____________________

Join Kaye Lynne Booth & WordCrafter Press Readers’ Group for WordCrafter Press book & event news, including the awesome releases of author Kaye Lynne Booth. Get a free digital copy of her short story collection, Last Call and Other Short Fiction, as a sampling of her works just for joining.


Ask the Authors 2022 Book & Blog Series: Action, Pacing & Dialog

Hello again, and welcome to segment 5 of the “Ask the Authors” blog series. This Saturday series features introductions to each contributing author and excerpts from the Q & As featured in the newly released Ask the Authors 2022 writing reference anthology.

If you missed any of the earlier segments, you can find them here:

Segment 1: Introductions for Kaye Lynne Booth & Kevin Killiany/Writing Life Q & A session

Segment 2: Introduction for Bobby Nash/Pre-Writing Rituals Q & A session

Segment 3: Introduction for Roberta Eaton Cheadle/Plot & Storyline Q & A session

Segment 4: Introduction for Paul Kane/Character Development Q & A session

This week’s segment features an introduction to contributing author Mario Acevedo and a Q & A on action, pacing, and dialog.

Meet Mario Acevedo

Mario Acevedo is a national bestselling author of speculative fiction and has won an International Latino Book Award and a Colorado Book Award. His work has appeared in numerous anthologies to include A Fistful of Dinosaurs, Straight Outta Deadwood, and Blood Business. For 2020, he has short fiction in the forthcoming anthologies, Psi-Wars and It Came From The Multiplex, and a Western novel, Luther, Wyoming. Mario serves on the faculty of the Regis University Mile-High MFA program and Lighthouse Writers Workshops. Mario has also been a presenter and panel member for both the 2020 Stay in Place Virtual Writing Conference, and the 2021 New Beginnings Virtual Writing Conference.

And now, on to the Q & A.

Action, Pacing & Dialog

Do you have any tips for writing action scenes/fight scenes/car chases, where blow by blow descriptions could get tedious?

Mario Acevedo: Summarize. Only share the high points and include internalizations. Also add details that are often overlooked like nausea, panic, pain, exhaustion.

Paul Kane: I grew up watching a lot of action movies and TV shows, the ’70s and ’80s were a golden age for action as far as I’m concerned. So, a lot of that went in without me having to do much. I used to recreate certain action scenes with my toys, or I might race off up the garden with mates to pretend fight. When I wrote the Hooded Man books, I had to have a lot of action in there, so I got very good at not making things boring – there are only so many ways to describe a punch, for example. But the key I found was to visualize the scenes, even play them out – just like I did when I was a kid – so that they become, again, more believable. I was delighted when one of my battle scenes for Broken Arrow was compared favourably to those in The Lord of the Rings movies, especially Helm’s Deep; that’s one of my all-time favourite battles on film, so I did a little happy dance that day. The way to tackle any fight or action scene, whether it’s huge like the ones I’m talking about here, or just one-on-one, is to break it down into its component parts. Ask yourself what you need or want to show. Then do your research, watch a lot of fight sequences, or action scenes, mix and match the moves that are being made. If your character is a master of martial arts, study it. I had a character called Tanek, for example, who was skilled in the Israeli hand-to-hand combat of Krav Maga, so I went out and researched that. Jennifer Garner actually studied that for Alias, so I watched some fight sequences from the show. They used a very particular form of combat for the Batman fight scenes in the Nolan movies called the Keysi Fighting Method, which favours forearms and elbows, so it’s worth trying to find something that’s not been done before perhaps. Or not done very much. Finally, give your fight and action scenes a sense of character, make them like a dance or a ballet. They need to have rhythm, flow, so your reader can easily picture what’s happening. Too much going on at once is a big no-no, because you’ll lose them. Same goes for very dry descriptions of a fight: now this happens, now this, then this… Try and find a way to make your descriptions interesting, maybe comparing them to something, like two animals barging into each other or what have you.

Chris Barili: Know what you’re talking about. It seems obvious, but may writers take it for granted, and end up writing nonsense that loses the reader. For example, I have studied the martial arts most of my life, and I hold a second-degree blackbelt in Karate. Thus, I know that someone trained primarily in Judo or Jiujitsu will be a grappler by preference, while a Karate stylist will be a stand-up striker who looks to avoid going to the ground.

Bobby Nash: It can be difficult to keep fight scenes fresh. I learn the choreography, walk out the fights, play around with different ways to describe the action. How is the character feeling/responding to the action? I wrote a car chase once and showed it from the POV of a passenger in the car instead of the driver. As he’s holding on for his life, we get a sense of the danger that way as opposed to only descriptions of what the car is doing.

Robbie Cheadle: I am writing my second novel involving war which includes fighting scenes. I intersperse the fighting with dialogue, humorous comments, scenes of eating, drinking, and entertainment, and the receipt of letters from family and friends.

You cannot maintain tension at high levels for too long or it becomes monotonous and over-done. In real life, people relieve tension by singing, and making jokes, and talking and I follow this practice in my writing.

Nancy Oswald: Elmore Leonard: “I try to leave out the scenes readers skip.” Ralph Fletcher: “Write small and use slo mo. The more tension you want to create, the more important the details. In general focus on one detail well rather than all the details which can wash out a scene.”

How do you handle scenes where there is a lot going on, like battlefields or fights in busy settings?

Paul Kane: As I say, break it down into smaller chunks. Show the scale of what’s happening by all means, like an establishing shot in a movie, then focus in on certain specific fights and details. These will usually be with your main characters if it’s a big battle – so I would zoom in on a fight Robert, my Robin Hood, might be having with someone. Then cut to maybe Jack, who is my Little John, and see how he’s getting on. You have to give everyone who’s a main character a turn in the sun, plus give the reader memorable moments – like Robert taking down the Apache attack helicopter with a bolas.

Chris Barili: This is a tough one. I have found that choreographing the whole thing on a sketched-out map of the physical surroundings can help, and if that’s not enough, having some friends act out the scene can help you identify errors, misjudgments, and so on.

Bobby Nash: I try to make sure all of the necessary information is relayed. If you have a lot of characters, you have to try and balance who has dialogue or stuff to do so that they don’t disappear from the scene. POV helps here too.

Robbie Cheadle: I keep my sentences fairly short during battle scenes, and I use a lot of dialogue to break up the action.

How do you keep action flowing smoothly within a scene?

Mario Acevedo: Keep the scene and story question in mind so that the action strengthens the plot.

Paul Kane: Just keep it tight, moving from one bit of action to the next. Even in a small fight, if you have a character get punched or kicked, it’s enough to say it just winds them or takes them down – you don’t have to go into lots of detail about how it feels, whether they’re recovering, what’s going through their minds as they’re fighting. Keep it rattling along at a good pace. Sounds stupid, because it’s a fight, but make it punchy.

The use of weaponry is a good way of handing readers little details that help them visualize what’s going on. Everyone knows what a knife or rifle or handgun looks like. Of course, it depends very much on what kind of fiction you’re writing. A lot of my Hooded Man stuff was military based, because of the nature of armies fighting each other, so readers who enjoy that kind of thing like you to include the names of weapons, specifics relating to what they can do. Does a certain gun jam more often than others? Which are best for close combat as opposed to distance? I once wrote a story about an assassin called Mr D, who had to tear through lots of guards to get to his target. That started off with long-range sniper rifles, and ended up with hand-to-hand fighting as he got closer to the building his mark was in.

It’s also fun to write about weaponry that’s totally out of context, for example plates and pans in a kitchen that can be used to fight with. In my novel Lunar, Nick Skinner raids old castles and museums to get swords, shields and axes to fight the monstrous Loons. Similarly, The Storm was set in an old castle so weapons like that were no-brainers, but I do have my main character – who’s there as a workman – fight off a huge crustacean with a mini-digger. It was just what was around and big enough to tackle the oversized beast, but it worked a treat.

Chris Barili: Keep it short. A ten-page car chase will lose a reader like a prologue. 

Bobby Nash: When writing action, I use shorter sentences, short, choppy dialogue, sometimes interrupted dialogue. That reads faster so the reader reads the action scenes faster, highlighting the fast-paced nature of the scene. During an action scene is no time for deep thoughts or anything extraneous. Keep it simple and keep it moving.

Do you consult experts to ensure your action is true to life? How do stories benefit from getting those little details right?

Paul Kane: If you know someone who’s been in the military, or police, or someone who teaches self-defense then definitely use them. Use any friends for anything which requires specialist knowledge. This might be something as everyday as fingerprinting or gathering DNA at a crime scene, say, or if you know a scientist it could be as big as how the universe works. But you don’t necessarily have to go to experts like that these days if you don’t know any, because information is freely available on the net and in books – especially writers’ handbooks. At the same time, talking to experts sometimes throws up interesting scenarios and might take a story in a direction it wouldn’t otherwise have gone.

Bobby Nash: Research can help, sure. Whatever you writer, whether it’s a real-world fight or two super-powered characters battling, you have to write it as though it’s real. If you believe it, the reader will believe it.

Robbie Cheadle: I read a lot of non-fiction to gain knowledge about the subjects of my historical novels. To get a good feel for the era, I read works of fiction set during that time. Fiction reading gives me insight into how people lived, socialized, travelled, and dressed during the period in which my novel is set.

Nancy Oswald: I’m a nut for accurate historical detail, even if it plays a minute part in the story.

Pacing

How can dialog help pace your story?

Mario Acevedo: Dialog is a great way to advance the plot by having the characters reveal crucial information or to help build a character. Dialog is more active and interesting then authorial narration.

Paul Kane: I think that’s where the planning comes into it, once more. If you have a chapter breakdown you can see where the novel needs tightening up. Is there too much exposition in a certain chapter, not enough? Too much action all in one go, or not enough for long periods? Are you hooking your reader at the end of your chapters, making them want to go on and read more in the next chapter? Even if you’re only writing a short story, if you jot down the structure of it in a few sentences you can usually work out where you’re going in terms of pace. Compare whatever you’re doing to other novels or short stories, see how they’re paced. If you want to write, then you have to read as well – like Stephen King says in On Writing. There really is no other way to learn how to do this. Similarly, if you’re scripting TV or film, then go away and watch how they’re paced. Or a comic or audio: read comics, listen to audio dramas and make notes. It really is the only way to learn your craft, whether it be characters, setting/description or pacing.

Robbie Cheadle: Dialogue speeds the pace of a story up, so I use more dialogue for tense, fast paced scenes.

What methods do you employ to control and maintain the pacing in your story?

Mario Acevedo: Know when to show and tell. Show is “reveal,” during which you draw out the narrative in a way that pulls the reader into the story. Tell is “exposition,” which you need to keep the reader oriented in between reveals.

Paul Kane: Try and stick to the plotting and planning you’ve done, even if it’s in broad strokes. That doesn’t mean your story can’t go off on a tangent if something occurs to you, but go back to the outlines that you’ve done at that point and rewrite those, see where the new development might take you. Predict and project, then go back to the writing of the tale. In my opinion that’s really the only way to keep a rein on the thing and make it go where you want it to go.

Robbie Cheadle: I break my story down into manageable pieces for each character. In my current work-in-progress, I am alternating chapters between Jake at the Western Front during WW1, and Kate in Orange, New Jersey.

In slower sections I use longer sentences and more detail and description to slow the pace down.

I also use introspection to develop my characters and control pace.

How do you find the right balance between action and dialog?

Paul Kane: For me personally, that’s something which just comes with practice. The more you write, the better at judging this you’ll be, until you’ll be doing it by instinct almost without thinking. If you drive, remember what it was like when you first started, trying to keep it all in your head? And once you’ve been on the road a while, a lot of that becomes like second nature to you, doesn’t it? Or it should do at any rate. It’s the same thing with writing really, you develop these skills over time – so that you can tell when something needs balancing out with a bit of dialogue, or a bit of action. It’s all just about putting in the work, honing your skills.

Nancy Oswald: Try to do them both at the same time by using appropriate action-filled tags.

Dialog

How do you write dialog that sounds natural and realistic?

Mario Acevedo: Listen to the way people speak, then write a tightened version. People tend to repeat themselves. Catalog unique ways in how people express themselves. Also, keep in mind the character’s agenda when using dialog.

Paul Kane: The trick is to get the balance right between it sounding naturalistic and conveying information. Most dialogue should be moving the story along or serving the story, otherwise what’s it doing in the piece at all? In real life we all have conversations that are just random or serve no purpose, or we get distracted and break off from a conversation to talk about something else. You can’t do that in your fiction, because people will get bored. Or they’ll think you’re not in control of your own writing, which would be true at that point. I get criticized a lot for not finishing sentences in dialogue, but what I’m trying to do is leave readers in a bit of suspense, whilst at the same time making it a bit more realistic. Human beings very often leave sentences unfinished, if they’re interrupted or just shocked. I don’t do it all the time, and like I say some people find it jarring, but it is one way of creating naturalistic dialogue if you have a reason for it. Another way is to just let the dialogue flow, batting it backwards and forwards, but don’t forget to keep reminding the reader who’s speaking with a ‘Mike said’ or whatever, every now and again. Or have a bit of action, like Mike scratching his head or getting up and walking across the room to break things up if you’ve had several lines of dialogue. I always find arguments quite easy to write, because the flow of them comes across as very believable, and you can include lots of relevant information. For me, it’s quite easy to imagine a couple of people having an argument, because it happens a lot in our everyday lives; lots of people have opposing viewpoints, so it’s fun to try and get both sides of that across.

Chris Barili: Listen to people talk and write dialogue that way as much as possible. Do NOT write dialogue in grammatically correct sentences…we don’t speak in MLA format, either.

Bobby Nash: A trick I learned is to read the dialogue out loud. That will tell you if it works or not.

Robbie Cheadle: I read all my stories aloud to myself, and to anyone else who’ll listen. Reading my writing aloud helps me to spot errors and clumsy unnatural dialogue.

Kevin Killiany: I read it aloud. (Yes, I do character voices.)

Do you use dialog tags? Basic or varied?

Mario Acevedo: I vary them and use action tags as often as possible. Remember that in interpersonal communication, half of what we communicate is non-verbal so include those clues: tone, pauses, eye movement, facial expressions, gestures, changes in posture to emphasize what is being said.

Paul Kane: I tend to stick with the basics, unless you’re trying to say something specific. For example, ‘he spat’ shows how shocked or mad that person is by something that’s been said. I tend to steer clear of things like ‘he pontificated’ or anything complicated like that, as it throws you right out of the story. But good old-fashioned ‘he said’ ‘she said’ works just fine. It’s amazing how your eye glosses over this when you read. Try it for yourself, read a page from a book, then go back and re-read it looking for those tags – and I guarantee you won’t have spotted half of them.

Bobby Nash: Yes. I used ‘said’ most of the time, but if I need to add a punch to a line, I may use a different tag.

Robbie Cheadle: When I use dialogue tags, I generally stick to ‘said’. I don’t always use a dialogue tag, sometimes I prefer to use an action by the speaker to indicate who is talking.

Nancy Oswald: Both or not at all. Let the actions act as your dialogue tags.

Kevin Killiany: I stick to basics, with some variations. Many times I leave them out. Example:

                Pilar realized her watch had stopped.

                “Jerry? What time is it?”

                “Four. Uh, four oh eight.”

                “Which?”

                “Four oh eight. Nine, now.”

You know who’s saying what and you get an idea of Jerry’s personality with no tags.

Any pet peeves with dialog?

Mario Acevedo: Info dumps and a character not saying the obvious in response to what’s going on.

Paul Kane: Not really, just if the conversation isn’t going anywhere or serving any kind of purpose. Having two characters discuss what they’ve had for lunch, for example. Unless that lunch caused food poisoning that results in something significant happening in the plot, then what’s the reason for including it? 

Chris Barili: No robot-speak unless the character is actually a robot, and usually not even then.

Bobby Nash: Noting specific. I try not to be cliché.

Kevin Killiany: People speaking grammatically correct written English with every pronoun unnecessarily identified. Normal conversation—even in formal situations—is usually made up of sentence fragments because spoken English assumes all members of the conversation understand what’s being discussed.

Would you share a brief excerpt from one of your best dialog scenes?

I asked this question and got some wonderful responses, but most of them are too lengthy to include here, so I guess if you want to view them, you’ll have to buy the book.

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That wraps up this week’s segment of the “Ask the Authors 2022” blog series. Be sure to drop by next Saturday, when we’ll introduce Nancy Oswald and bring you a Q & A on tone and all that entails.

Ask the Authors 2022

And don’t forget to grab your copy of the Ask the Authors writing reference anthology, at the special 3.99 price for the duration of this blog series, from your favorite book distributor through the Books2Read UBL: https://books2read.com/u/3LnK8e

________________________

Join Kaye Lynne Booth & WordCrafter Press Readers’ Group for WordCrafter Press book & event news, including the awesome releases of author Kaye Lynne Booth. Get a free digital copy of her short story collection, Last Call and Other Short Fiction, as a sampling of her works just for joining.


Ask the Authors 2022 Book & Blog Series: Character Development

Ask the Authors 2022

Welcome to Segment 4 of the “Ask the Authors 2022” blog series, where we’re offering up a little taste of what you’ll find in this hot new writing reference of the same name. Ask the Authors 2022 features writing tips and advice on craft, publishing, and book marketing from ten talented authors and industry experts.

In case you missed some of the previous segments:

Segment 1: Introductions for Kaye Lynne Booth & Kevin Killiany – Writing Life Q & A session

Segment 2: Introduction for Bobby Nash – Pre-writing Rituals Q & A session

Segment 3: Introduction for Roberta Eaton Cheadle – Plot/Storyline Q & A session

This week we meet bestselling horror author Paul Kane, who shares his love of the horror genre in his essay, “Writing Monsters”, and bring you a Q & A session on character development.

Meet Paul Kane

Paul Kane is the award-winning, bestselling author and editor of over a hundred books, both fiction and nonfiction. Some consider him to be a master of the macabe. He has been a guest at numerous writing events and conferences, and he was the keynote speaker at the 2021 WordCrafter New Beginnings Virtual Writing Conference.

A former British Fantasy Society Special Publications Editor, he is currently serving as co-chair for the UK chapter of The Horror Writers Association. His work has been optioned and adapted for the big and small screen. His audio work includes full cast drama adaptations, he has also contributed to the Warhammer 40k universe for Games Workshop and writes thrillers for HQ/HarperCollins as PL Kane. Paul lives in Derbyshire, UK, with his wife Marie O’Regan and his family.

Find out more at his site www.shadow-writer.co.uk which has featured Guest Writers such as Stephen King, Neil Gaiman, Charlaine Harris, Robert Kirkman, Dean Koontz and Guillermo del Toro.

And now, on to the Q & A.

Character Development

Nancy Oswald: This whole section was hard for me because I’ve never been good at planning a character. Lists aren’t helpful to me. What is helpful is to put your main character into the middle of their world and write from there. I usually have an ending or a direction in mind before I start writing, but there have been times when the character determines the story and not the other way around.

Do your characters ever surprise you?

Mario Acevedo: I never thought I’d be a writer who said that my characters have taken over the story, but it has happened. Big surprise, it was female characters. I’d have in mind a script for them, which they would rip to pieces and tear off on their own.

Paul Kane: Oh, all the time! If you’ve made them ‘real’ then they’ll suddenly do something that you don’t expect. That is to say, it’ll momentarily surprise you and then you’ll say: ah, of course that’s how they’d react because of… whatever it is you’ve seeded in their past. It’s really your subconscious putting things like that in, things you’ve set up and forgotten about, then when a character does something unexpected it’s only that you’ve forgotten how apt it was in the first place.

Chris Barili: Yes, all the time. If a character is predictable to me, it will be the same to a reader. So, I let them surprise me in whatever way they seem to need. Those surprises don’t always make the story, though.

Bobby Nash: All the time and I love it. In one story, a character let me know that I had the villain wrong. This character was the villain, not the one I had planned to be the villain. The kicker is that the story worked so much better once I realized that this character was indeed the villain.

Robbie Cheadle: No, my characters follow a pre-determined path decided by me upfront.

Kevin Killiany: Not exactly. I’m the only person living in my head—my characters only look like they have free will. That being said, the longer you work with a project, the more time your subconscious has to compost or ferment or percolate the ideas you’re building with—and that can lead to unexpected discoveries that give texture and dimension to the character. Sometimes my characters evolve over the course of writing and rewriting to the point that they person they’ve become wouldn’t do what the story required. Usually that’s an indication there’s something wrong with the story, not the character.

What makes a character interesting?

Paul Kane: I think it goes back to believability once again, which most things do. They have to be well-rounded, living and breathing people. If I get it right, the characters feel real to me. When I talk about them and what they go through, I talk about them as if they exist. You have to think that way in order for other people to believe them and believe in them. A lot of that means knowing your characters inside out, how they’d react to certain situations – in particular the ones you put them in. Would your character run away from a monster or just get stuck in, have a go, even if it meant dying to save others? That kind of thing. A lot of writers think giving characters quirks makes them interesting, but if there’s no reason for that to be there it just stands out. If you give your character gardening as a hobby, unless he’s fighting a giant plant then it’s not really something that should crop up in your story. The character of Alex Webber in Before was a lecturer, so that meant he was interested in making sure the next generation were educated and could make well-informed decisions. So when the future of the world is threatened, of course he’s going to fight against that; it’s just something rooted in his DNA. Those are the kinds of things that make characters interesting, not whether they sleep on the left or the right in bed.

Chris Barili: They have to be flawed. No one wants to read about perfect people with perfect lives and no conflict whatsoever. It is our characters’ flaws that make them realistic, and that set up most of the conflict in the story. After that, it is the act of exaggerating the characters, making them larger than life. Again, no one wants to read about normal people with normal lives. They want heroes and villains who are large and in charge. Would Dirty Harry have worked if he were a normal cop carrying a .38 special? No, because being a six-foot-four rogue cop with a .44 magnum in gleaming silver makes him stand out.

Bobby Nash: I don’t know. Interesting is like art or porn, I can’t describe it, but I know it when I see it. I need to have something to connect to with a character. Once I have that connection, I understand the character.

Robbie Cheadle: My characters all must overcome a lot of adversity in their circumstances. I believe that the growth in the characters as they play the cards which they are dealt by life makes them interesting.

Jeff Bowles: I think I have an answer to that question: idiosyncrasies, idiosyncrasies, idiosyncrasies. The thing about real people is that we all have our strange little quirks that make us who we are. And these are behaviors and beliefs it’s taken us a whole lifetime to accrue. It pays to think of your characters as being a little odd under the surface. The problem with a lot of storytelling out there is that too many authors figure their characters exist to serve the story. They don’t, it’s the other way around completely. Let your characters speak for themselves. Let the breath a little, see where they really want to go next. Don’t push them into situations that don’t serve their full expression. Let them tell you who they really are.

How do you make a character likeable?

Paul Kane: Sometimes you don’t. Sometimes you shouldn’t. I get reviews sometimes that say ‘the characters weren’t very nice’, but then look at some of the things they’ve been through. My psychologist Dr Robyn Adams went through a trauma at the hands of a serial killer, so is addicted to pain killers and drinks too much, leaps straight in with guys too often – because of something else revealed towards the end of Her Husband’s Grave. But you know what, she’s doing the best she can. Her flaws make her human, like all of us, and they make the moments of bravery stand out all the more. I think if you’re always trying to make your characters likable, you’re missing the point of making them believable. Not everyone’s nice all the time, there are grey areas – and that’s totally where your characters should be operating.

Chris Barili: You don’t have to make them likeable, just relatable. Thomas Covenant in White Gold Wielder (Stephan R. Donaldson) is not a likeable character at first, just a relatable one. He almost loses that with a deplorable act early in the book, bit manages to make it through, at least for most readers. I do know some who could not handle it and left the series behind.

Bobby Nash: I start with a likeable person as their base and build the character up from there.

Kevin Killiany: I never consider likeability. I try to make my characters as real as possible—which means complex, with parts some folk will like and parts some folk can’t stand.

How do you make your characters feel real?

Chris Barili: What are their fears and flaws? Read my article, “Character Blueprints” (Ask the Authors 2022) for the tools I use to do this.

Bobby Nash: As I mentioned above, I get to know the characters. Once that happens, they become real people to me. They have their own quirks, foibles, fears, flaws, strengths, and weaknesses. Just like real people.

How do you create a villain readers can love to hate?

Mario Acevedo: Readers must have empathy with all of your characters and understand why they do what they do. Their motivations must be consistent and compelling. One of my best villains was a female mad scientist who at first you cheered until you found out what she was up to.

Paul Kane: I don’t think there’s any magic formula, but the key thing with villains is again that they aren’t just cardboard cutouts. They can’t just be evil for evil’s sake, there needs to be reasons for what they’re doing. My bad guy for the Hooded Man books, De Falaise – essentially my version of the Sheriff of Nottingham – was motivated by the fact that he’d been kept down before the A-B Virus hit. He was a small bad guy in a big pond. The apocalypse gave him the freedom to create a kingdom of his own, so that was his motivation – and Robert, my Robin Hood, stood in his way. You got the impression with some Hood stories in the past that they just hated each other because one was bad, and one was good. In my books, just as Robert has his failings as a leader – for starters, he doesn’t want to be a leader and would much rather hide out in Sherwood waiting to die – so too does De Falaise have his good points, like his loyalty to companions like Tanek, his second in command. I mean, he is evil when you get right down to it, because some of the things he does are reprehensible, but there still needs to be some good in there. Having said all that, the most fun I’ve had writing a bad guy was The Infinity in Before. He’s a version of the Devil, essentially, and likes to meddle in human history. Writing lines for him, simply because he was a stereotypical big bad, was wonderful. It allowed me to put myself in the head of someone who has very few redeeming qualities, if any at all.

Chris Barili: I find that a couple of things can pull a reader into a love-hate relationship. First, a sense of humor. Even if it’s macabre or inappropriate, the ability to make us laugh endears even a harsh villain to us. You can also give that villain a good side by having him or her save a puppy or show some other admirable trait. Intellect combined with arrogance are a nice set of offsetting traits. But most of all, make them flawed like the hero. If they are invincible and pure evil, no one will want to read their stories. Take The Governor on the AMC series The Walking Dead. We find out early on that this otherwise despicable villain lost his whole family to the walkers and thus has them all locked up in his home as he hopes for a cure.

Bobby Nash: Same way as with a likeable character. I get to know them and understand why they do what they do. No villain thinks of themselves as the villain. Most villains believe what they are doing is right or justified. Very rarely is anyone evil just for the sake of being evil. Let the readers see the multiple facets of your heroes and villains.

Robbie Cheadle: Characters that do sadistic and unkind things are easy to make readers dislike. However, my characters all have redeeming features so the reader will end up conflicted, even when the character is behaving at his/her worst.

Do you ever create characters based on people who you’ve actually known?

Paul Kane: I think by necessity characters are mish-mashes of people you’ve known and other characters from books, film or TV shows, plus bits of yourself sometimes. I’ve never based a character wholesale on someone, as that way lies being sued, but I include certain traits from people I’ve known or still know. I was brought up with a lot of strong women around me, so I write a lot of tales with strong female protagonists. RED, my horror reworking of Little Red Riding Hood, is an obvious example of that. Rachael Daniels is someone who fights the wolf rather than running away from it, isn’t frightened to go up against a challenge. Her love-life might be a car crash, but she’s someone you want around when there’s trouble for sure.

Chris Barili: I will plead the fifth on this question, and all writers should, whether they have done this or not. Admitting that you have sets you up for legal action by others.

Bobby Nash: Oh, sure. I have many characters where the basis is a real person that I then built on top of to create a new character.

Robbie Cheadle: Yes, some of my characters are modelled off people I know. Grandfather Baker in Through the Nethergate has a lot of my father’s personality and characteristics. Michelle Cleveland in A Ghost and His Gold has some of my personality and characteristics, but she is more forgiving and generous towards her partner than I would be in the same circumstances.

Some of my characters are model on several people I have come across in a similar situation. For example, Tom Cleveland in A Ghost and His Gold is based on a combination of men in senior positions I have worked with in my own life.

Kevin Killiany: Every character is a composite of people I’ve known. Let’s face it, the only way to research people is to hang out with them a while. I never drop a whole person into a story—it’ll be A’s speech pattern, B’s fascination with baseball, C’s gestures, etc. Of course, those are just the starting points. As I know my character better everything will change, evolve.

Do any of your characters share traits with you?

Paul Kane: You can’t help but put bits of yourself in stories. I’ve talked about Alex Webber from Before being a lecturer, which I was for a while at college, so I could write about him with a degree of confidence and make sure it was authentic. I’ve always been scared of the dark and nighttime, which comes across in a lot of my stories. The little boy at the beginning in Of Darkness and Light – recently reprinted in the collection Darkness and Shadows – is very much based on me as a kid. Staring out into the darkness at bedtime and imagining all kinds of things lurking inside. But I think the writing also helps with tackling your fears, and in that particular story I could make the ‘creature’ in the darkness someone who was actually watching over the character of Lee Masterton, someone who would protect him from harm. He just didn’t know it at the time.

Chris Barili: All of them, of course. We cannot create characters without at least a little dash of ourselves in them.

Bobby Nash: Absolutely. There’s a little something of me in all of them. Some, more than others.

Robbie Cheadle: As mentioned above, Michelle is similar to me in some ways, but very different in others. She is a better me.

Kevin Killiany: Never the main character. But if there’s a plucky sidekick who alternates puns with sardonic commentary, that’ll be me.

What methods do you use to introduce readers to your characters?

Mario Acevedo: One of the techniques that F Scott Fitzgerald used to masterful effect was that he introduced his major characters in terms of their personality rather than merely describing their looks. I keep that in mind as I write my stories.

Paul Kane: I think it helps to show them doing something that defines them, so perhaps through their job. Most detectives are introduced through a crime scene for instance, and then we learn how good they are and what it means to them to be a cop. I introduced my main character Mitch Prescott – who at the start of The Family Lie is a PC – via a riot scene. He’s tried to tell the powers that be that there will be trouble at a demonstration, but they’ve totally ignored him, and of course – surprise, surprise – a riot breaks out in which one of his closest friends is injured. It forces Mitch to question what he’s doing on the Force, which leads to his dismissal when he confronts a senior officer about what happened, which in turn makes it easier for him to just go off and investigate what occurred with his father’s death in his hometown of Green Acres. But just from this one chapter, you realise he’s a man of integrity, a man who’s loyal to his friends, and a man who doesn’t like it when people don’t listen to his warnings – so you set up conflict for later when he reaches Green Acres and he’s being blocked at every turn.

How do you motivate your characters?

Paul Kane: I think that’s the same thing as what motivates us as people. We look after our friends and family, because we love them, and are sometimes motivated to do things we might not otherwise do because they’re in trouble. What motivates characters is the same as what motivates people in real life, because, remember, we’re trying to make those characters real. So, the father of murder Jordan Radcliffe – Jake – is motivated to find out who the killer is, not only because he loved his daughter, but also because he feels like he failed her. Failed her in life as a father, so he doesn’t want to fail her now in death. That’s a powerful motivating factor for any character. In my short novel The Storm, out through PS Publishing, the main protagonist Keegan is all about keeping the woman that he loves safe, even if it means battling giant monsters to do so. Love’s a big motivation for anything, I find, just like in real life. So are things like revenge or jealousy, the usual big ones.

Chris Barili: They are self-motivated by the situation into which I drop them. Usually, it is the will to survive that motivates them, but it can also be love, hate, rage, longing, and more.

Bobby Nash: How do I stop them? I usually have trouble keeping up with them.

Robbie Cheadle: My ghostly characters are motivated by the chance of redemption and moving on from their existence as spirits.

My physical characters are motivated by compassion and empathy for others and a desire to assist the spirits achieve the redemption they seek.

What kind of adversaries and obstacles do you create for your characters and what purpose do they serve?

Paul Kane: It depends very much on what the story is. Creating adversaries tends to go very much hand-in-hand with creating heroes. Myself and my wife Marie O’Regan – a terrific writer herself – do a workshop on this subject, and that’s one of the key elements. The hero or heroes dictate the villain or villains. Both are probably striving for something but pulling in opposite directions. In Arcana our protagonists are just trying to get freedom for magic-users, whereas the M-Forcers are trying to stop them, hunt them down and either kill them or put them in prison. Both have aims, but they’re the exact opposite of each other. The obstacles they face are very much dependent on the story you’re telling. It could be a man vs nature tale, in which your heroes are just trying to stay alive, so the setting would dictate what happens there. If it’s a shark, then you need to be at sea, if it’s snow then you need to be in the Arctic or Ant-Arctic, or you set it at a time of year when it’s snowing… My short story ‘White Shadows’, for example, is about a girl battling living snow in the middle of winter.

Chris Barili: Since most of the opposition to my characters comes from the antagonist, I always try to think, as I close a scene, “what could the villain do that would completely thrown the main character for a loop?”

Bobby Nash: Stories would be boring if there was nothing for the main character to overcome. Whatever the obstacle is, a villain, a test not studied for, a traffic jam, or whatever, gives the character(s) something to overcome or solve. Hopefully, your character comes out stronger on the other side of the obstacle.

What methods do you use to introduce readers to your characters?

Bobby Nash: We meet the characters in story. I let different characters be out POV in different chapters so we can understand them.

How do you give each character a distinctive voice?

Paul Kane: I think that just comes down to their personality really, who they are and what they do. How they respond to things, whether it’s trouble or something nice, will dictate their voice. So it’s all to do with character creation, and that believability factor again. If they respond in an authentic way, that will give them their voice. If you’ve created a strong female character, for example, they’re not likely to take a man bossing them around lightly. Indeed, they might even knock them out, depending on whether they’re a violent sort or not, or whether the provocation was bad. It’s things like that which give your characters a distinctive voice. 

Chris Barili: This seems to come naturally for me. And I think that come from listening. I did twenty years in the military and traveled all over the world. So, I have had the chance to listen to many different conversations in many different cultures, and all of that goes into giving a character their own voice.

Bobby Nash: Once I get to know the character, they tell me what their voice is and that’s what I write. It all comes down to creating a fully formed character.

How do you feel about killing off your darlings?

Mario Acevedo: I am ruthless. There’s a vacant lot in my neighborhood where I’ve left my darlings rotting in shallow graves.

Paul Kane: Do you mean editing, like killing off your words? Or killing off characters? I love editing, chopping bits and refining, making scenes better. That’s the part of writing I like most, apart from being finished and having written. Killing off characters you love is hard, but all part and parcel of being a good writer. If it serves the story, no matter how you feel about the character, then you need to just get on with it. I always knew that I’d kill off Jack in The Gemini Factor, even before I started, which was difficult because I really liked him. He became like a friend. It gave the ended weight though, gave it an impact that would not have been there if I hadn’t just bit the bullet.

Chris Barili: When it becomes necessary to the story, I have no problem doing so. Sometimes, they get in the way. Other times their story line needs its own story because it is taking over. Other times, the main character has learned to depend on them too much.

Bobby Nash: I do it all the time, so I guess I’m okay with it. Ha! Ha!

Robbie Cheadle: I was advised to kill off a few of my darlings in Through the Nethergate by my developmental editor. It was a little hard to let those scenes go but it was the right thing to do. Listening to good advice is the best thing a writer can do.

What methods do you use to evoke emotion in your readers?

Mario Acevedo: Writing fiction gives you the wonderful opportunity to present what characters are thinking or feeling, either through internalizations or visceral reactions.  I use these inner experiences to ground the reader in what the character is feeling and what is important in the story.

Paul Kane: There are all sorts of ways to do that, from killing off people readers have grown to love – as mentioned before – to putting them through the wringer, or even having them fall in love. If you’ve done your job properly, a reader will feel the emotions characters are going through. So when a character hates or loves something, or someone, a reader will feel that too. I once wrote a story about two ghosts falling in love called ‘Kindred Spirits’. The girl ghost has only just died, so she doesn’t know what she is, and the guy ghost is trying to help her because he’s been dead for some time. Hopefully a reader feels the sadness at the start that he feels, being alone where nobody can see or touch him, then the joy at finding someone else he can talk to and touch, even hug. To be able to cover the range of emotions like that in a short space of time isn’t easy, but it’s incredibly rewarding when it works.

Bobby Nash: It’s all in the characters and setting the mood. The emotion comes out of the performance of the character.

Kevin Killiany: Honesty

Which of your own characters was the most fun for you to write? Why?

Paul Kane: I enjoyed writing the character of Nick Skinner in Lunar, because he’s just your average guy in a bizarre situation, having to think on his feet and react to all these weird things that are happening to him. That was fun. And The Infinity, the bad guy in Before, as I’ve said. It was fun to write someone so evil that he’s verging on pantomime level, but that’s just how he is. There’s a scene where someone tells him to stop stirring, and he replies with: ‘I f**king enjoy stirring!’ Because he does. That’s what he’s all about. It was fun creating and writing him, especially writing his lines. The criticism I got the most about that book was The Infinity wasn’t in it enough, so you know you’ve done something right at that point. I’m toying with bringing him back in a short story or two, because you could go back in time and show him at any point – he’s been there at all the major turning points in history. It might be fun to do that…

Chris Barili: I really enjoy writing Frank Butcher, and most of his posse members. They’re some of the most complete characters I have built, and each has their own voice, their own flaws, and their own motivations.  And each has a weird past that helps flesh out their personality, so writing the is easy.

Bobby Nash: That’s like asking me to pick a favorite child or parent. They all have their fun moments for different reasons. I love writing Archer Snow, the surly, but funny grandfather in the Snow series. Tom Myers is also fun to write.

Robbie Cheadle: I have enjoyed all my characters. During the writing process they all become very real and important. Once the book is published, they are quickly replaced by different characters, which is why I haven’t attempted a sequel.

Kevin Killiany: Cadet Fatima Kielani. [I jotted her last name down several years ago when I was watching a news report on Syrian Kurds fighting ISIS—it was on the screen briefly. I assumed it was Kurdish (and have a major supporting character in Life on Dirt identify it as such) but I was wrong. I’ve since learned it’s most common in the United Arab Emirates (with about half as many in Jordan) and is also found in both Austria and Benin, but no one knows its origin.] [It is not the Hawai’ian girls’ name Keilani.] Fatima is a seventeen-year-old Spacer, first generation, born and raised on Tombaugh Station, who volunteers for an experimental program on Earth, even though (or perhaps because) she’s terrified of the place. My background is special education and mental health services, and I gave Fatima a condition that has fascinated me since before it had a name: Social Communication Disorder (Pragmatic Communication Disorder in the UK). In many ways it resembles the Autism Disorder Spectrum, but is in no way related. People with SCD are blind to social norms and nonverbal cues, and must work their way through everyday interactions. I also, because I am cruel and unusual, gave her a rare dissociative disorder: she has trouble recognizing, or feeling, her own emotions.
I have attached an entry from Fatima’s journal to illustrate both how she sees the world and how she interacts with others.

Which of your antagonists is your favorite? Why?

Chris Barili: So far, it’s a tie between Annie’s ghost of a mother in Smothered, and John Wesley Hardin in the Hell’s Bucher-based short story “Witch’s Kiss.” The first because I got to make her up and have her interrupt an intimate scene between her daughter and a man. The second because I researched him thoroughly and felt like I knew him well enough to write a story where this very real gunfighter did some very fictional things, and I feel like I did so without compromising his character.

Bobby Nash: The Controller in Suicide Bomb was a lot of fun to write.

Robbie Cheadle: I enjoyed Lucifer in Through the Nethergate. He was a young, good looking man with an interesting plan to manipulate modern trends and technology to invoke a third world war. I also enjoyed the hell he created.

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That’s all for this week on the “Ask the Authors 2022” blog series . Thanks for joining us. Drop by next Saturday, when the “Ask the Authors 2022” blog series introduces award winning multi-genre author, Mario Acevedo and offers a Q & A on Action, Pacing & Dialog.

Ask the Authors 2022

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