Words with Andrew P. Weston, Author of "The IX"

Your recent release with Perseid press, “The IX” has become an international bestseller on several Amazon genre lists. It’s also topping lists on Goodreads. Can you give readers a little background on “The IX” and who it would appeal to?

Certainly, I undertook the writing of The IX following an animated discussion during a Royal Marines veterans reunion dinner in the early part of 2013. Military history has always been a hobby of mine, and several ex-colleagues started a debate as to the true fate of the legendary lost 9th Legion of Rome. Five thousand men marched into the mists of Northern Caledonia (Scotland) around AD100 – 120 and were never seen again.

That conversation stayed with me for several months until I happened to catch an old movie on TV, Millennium. In that film, time travelers visit the present day and steal passengers from doomed aircraft with the intention of repopulating a barren world of the future.

I am an avid science fiction buff, and the conversation from the reunion dinner immediately sprang to mind. Obviously, I began to imagine what if?

What if they were taken? Not into our future...but somewhere and somewhen else entirely. And what might it be like if their antagonists were also snatched away with them?

I started to let that though roll, and came up with a nice twist. Would it be a good idea to include other groups of refugees from varying time periods, and throw them together into a nightmare scenario where they had to face the very real prospect of death all over again?

It took a great deal of research and preparation, but I was very pleased with the resulting outline, as it provided a fresh approach to an exciting genre.

Those who like their science fiction fast paced and gritty, and full of realistic action and dark humor in the face of overwhelming odds will love the IX. In particular, I think fans of Julian May’s “Saga of the Pliocene Exiles,” Robert Heinlein’s “Have Space Suit, Will Travel”, and Jerry Pournelle's “Janissaries Series” will really relate to the message it portrays. It combines the divergent elements of the past, present, and future, and blends them together into a slick and stylish package that will leave you breathless and hungry for more.

How long have you been working on this book?

After I devised the idea, I did quite a bit of research. Three months worth. Then I started to write. As I’m still a part time novelist, that took about five months. But it was one of the best five months of my life.

Perseid press is owned and operated by Chris and Janet Morris, the authors of the Tempus Thales and Sacred Band novels. What was it like working with them? Specifically, what was the experience of the editing process like?

Fantastic. It’s clear they have an extensive knowledge of the business and a great many professional contacts. Receiving the benefit of such a pedigree has helped my work immensely and encouraged me to excel.

This was particularly reflected during the editing process, where many layers came together to play their part in cutting and refining and polishing the rough diamond we started with, and transforming it into a pristine gem of an end product. It truly is priceless, and I’m really pleased with the way it turned out

I notice that you are a regular contributor to Amazing Stories Magazine. What kind of work do you do for them?

I submit monthly astronomy and physics related educational articles, and snippets regarding some of the latest scientific breakthroughs reaching the news.

I notice you have nine novels available on your Amazon author page. Can you give us some background on these? Which has sold the best? Which is your favorite? Who the various publishers are?

The Guardians Saga is a science fiction series devised over my many years of service in the military and police force. Basically, it deals with what might happen if it were ever to become public knowledge that beings with extraordinary powers and technological sophistication were looking out for us from behind the scenes. Human society can be extremely fickle. While many people would love the idea that ‘Guardian Angels’ are watching over us, others would merely perceive them to be a threat, and go out of their way to be as obstructive as possible.

The Cambion Journals Series follows the life and struggles of Augustus Thorne, a demon-human hybrid, cursed with a hunger he can barely control. He hates what he is with a passion, and goes out of his way to use his extraordinary powers to hunt down and exterminate any Incubi or Succubae he can find. Along the way, he has to struggle with the loneliness his lifestyle imposes on him, and of course, with the ever increasing efforts of the demon council to end his unholy crusade.

Let’s just say, the results are as explosive and as bittersweet as they are action-packed.

Both series are produced through Pagan Writers Press – as are a number of other short stories and anthologies – and they are the first publishers who recognized my talent, and the promise I showed as an aspiring writer. I’m very grateful to them, as they encouraged me to experiment with aspects I wouldn’t normally even look at, in an effort to improve my depth and range as a writer.

Finally, we come to Perseid Press, and The IX. I’m obviously continuing to apply myself to my craft, as the IX has outsold everything else I’ve ever produced by far, and has become an international bestseller. Needless to say, I am extremely pleased about this, and am keen to make writing my fulltime vocation. In fact, it’s an obsession of mine now, as I feel that’s the only way I can go, to ensure I devote the necessary time and energy to my work as it deserves.

Any hints as to a follow up novel to “The IX”?

No hints as yet...But watch this space :)

Thanks for dropping by Andrew!

Words with M.S. Olney, Author of "Heir to the Sundered Crown"

Can you tell us a little bit about Heir to the Sundered Crown?

The Heir to the Sundered Crown is the first part in what I hope will become an epic series. Last year it won Wattpad's Write Awards 2014 and in the first two months of release it became a top ten bestseller in the USA, UK and Australia. 

The Kingdom of Delfinnia is in chaos. After assassins kill the king and his family, greedy self serving men battle one another for the crown. Unknown to them is that one heir yet lives, a baby boy now hidden and protected. 

In the mage city of Caldaria is a boy named Luxon. A young mage who will discover his past and his powers. For he will one day become known as the Legendary, the wizard who would break the world, the man who would embrace death and live and the hero who would give a realm its greatest king. 

Sent on a quest to find the one responsible for the King's assassination Luxon teams up with Ferran of the Blackmoor the legendary Nightblade and hunter of fell beasts, Sophia Cunning the land’s greatest witch hunter and Kaiden, a noble knight sworn to defend the world from darkness. 

Together they find the answers they seek, but the truth is far worse than anyone could possibly imagine. 

The Heir to the Sundered Crown is a fantasy tale that will ignite the imagination and set the stage for an epic battle between the light and the darkness.

What's your background with writing? 

I write for fun and for a living. When I am not writing stories I write content for a leading foreign exchange company. Prior to getting a job as a copywriter I got myself a degree in Journalism and am a NCTJ trained journalist.

Who are your inspirations/influences?

I love Tolkien, and Patrick Rothfuss. They were/are master story tellers and one day I would love to become as skilled as those two at storytelling. I also love the works of Bernard Cornwell, the guy is a master at writing battle scenes. 

Who was responsible for the cover/book design?

A very talented digital artist called Phil Barnes. I stumbled across his work whilst browsing through deviantart and he was generous to allow me the use of the image that became the book's cover. He has also created the cover for my current work in progress. You can check out his stuff here.

What are you doing in terms of marketing/publicity?

I have hit the social networks pretty hard and have generated a pretty solid following on Facebook and get some decent traffic for my blog. I also try to interact with as many readers and other writers as possible via Wattpad. When Heir won the Write Awards 2014 I definitely saw a boost in sales. 

What is the name of your blog and what can readers expect to find there?

My blog can be found here. I tend to post updates about my works in progress and offer insights on how I go about planning and creating my stories. I also post previews of works in progress as well as background information on world and character building.

What projects do you have planned for the future?

I am currently working on the sequel to Heir to the Sundered Crown and hope to have it released sometime this year. As well as that I am working on a science fiction trilogy called Terran Defenders and hope to get back to my historical fiction series Unconquered.

Is there anything else about you we should know?

I love to talk to other authors and readers, so feel free to get in touch with me on my blog.

Thanks for dropping by!

Words with Martin Bolton, co-author of "The Best Weapon"

Can you tell us a little bit about "The Best Weapon"

The Best Weapon is the story of two young men, born on the same day on opposite ends of the world and into two vastly different cultures, who are inexorably drawn together by forces outside their control or understanding.

As they come of age and face their own personal trials, they begin to become aware of their true identities. Driven by dark forces, their shared fate draws them on a journey to the center of The World Apparent, where their enemies gather in wait.

As their world slides into war and chaos, they discover there is much more to The World Apparent than meets the eye, and glimpse the other worlds that lie beyond the physical plane. Created and manipulated by demonic forces, they must seize control of their destiny, conquer their fears, vanquish their enemies and prevent the very disaster they are supposed to bring about. But first they must learn that the power to do so lies within...

What's your background with writing?

Before I met David Pilling in roughly 2007 at the Tate Archive (where we both worked), I spent most of my time writing small pieces of nonsense, mainly just for the amusement of my friends. I posted a few surreal and ridiculous blogs on MySpace. When I met David, he encouraged me to try and write a serious short story, so I wrote a nightmarish, gratuitously violent story called The First Day.

It was a bit raw, but he seemed to like it, and we got talking about co-writing a fantasy novel over a few beers. That's when we came up with the idea for The Best Weapon.

Who are your inspirations/influences?

My influences tend to change and evolve over time, but the ones that stay with me and really inspire my way of writing are Robert E Howard, H.P. Lovecraft and Bernard Cornwell.

The writers I have recently been reading and taking a lot from are Rafael Sabatini, Carlos Ruiz Zafon, Joe Abercrombie and Charles Bukowski, to a name a few. I take something from every writer I read. I enjoy reading almost as much as writing and I think it is important for any writer to read as much as possible. After all, my love of writing was born of my love of reading.

Who was responsible for the cover/book design?

The cover is by More Visual. We had a vision of what we wanted the cover to look like and I did a very scruffy sketch and sent it to More Visual. They pretty much nailed it first time. They also do the covers for David's historical fiction books.

What are you doing in terms of marketing/publicity?

We've done a few interviews on various blogs and we're trying to take advantage of social media as much as possible with Twitter and the Bolton and Pilling Fantasy Fictionfacebook page. We also gave away three paperback copies on Goodreads.

We have several four and five star reviews on Amazon and a few different fantasy blogs and websites, but you can't have too many reviews and I'm now looking for reviewers.

What is the name of your blog and what can readers expect to find there?

Bolton the Writer. I mainly talk about my writing on my blog, I do the odd author interview and occasionally I'll post a short story. You will also find artwork posted, as and when I complete a piece. I document my dreams too, whether they're sleeping dreams or day dreams. I find I have particularly vivid dreams and for some reason my memory of them often seems to remain clear, this may be a result of irritable bowel syndrome as discomfort and sometimes pain in my stomach seems to disturb my dreams.

What projects do you have planned for the future?

We have written a sequel to The BestWeapon, titled The Path of Sorrow, and it will be released later this year. We are currently working on a third epic fantasy novel set in The World Apparent, but further to the east and with a whole new cast of characters and new cultures and landscapes. I can't say much more about it and this stage and we're still discussing the title.

I also write a short story every month for The 900 Club, a group of four writers who each write a 900 word short story and post them on the blog  on a monthly basis.

Those two things take up most of my time but I am also working on some artwork and potentially starting a new t-shirt business using some of my designs. So I have plenty to keep me out of trouble!

Is there anything else about you we should know?

You can see some of my artwork here. I mainly work in ink (dot drawings) and pencil.

Thanks for coming by Martin!  Pick up "The Best Weapon" at Amazon here!

The Ever Changing Demands on a Modern Writer

I've come to believe that there are four stages to any writing career.  They are as follows:

  • Stage 1: Nobody wants to publish your writing
  • Stage 2: People want to publish your writing but they don't want to pay you
  • Stage 3: People want to publish you and they'll even pay you a little bit
  • Stage 4: People want to publish you and they want to pay you a lot
I fit pretty much right in the middle of stage 3. If I were a single man, I could probably support myself on writing alone, as long as I didn't mind living out of a van (which I probably wouldn't to be honest).  I have a family though, so in addition to writing I also have to devote a certain amount of time to making money.  What I've found is that after spending significant effort attempting to sell your written work, you learn everything you need to know to sell more viable products with ease.

There certainly are paying gigs out there, it's just a matter of how much time you want to spend pursuing them.  Ralan.com remains a great resource for finding paying markets for your work.  I'll still dabble in that from time to time, but I find it's a better tactic to have your work sold before you even write it.

For a while there, blogging seemed to be the answer.  Google Adwords made it possible to generate a regular income just from posting Google Ads on your site.  The result of that was that all bloggers became focused on producing "click bait" articles in the hopes of generating a million views (which lead to ad revenue).  These articles still proliferate the web, and you are probably familiar with them in the form of the links with the snappy titles that appear on your Facebook news feed.  The problem is that producing "click bait" isn't writing so much as it is typing.

I blogged daily for about five or six years on my Peru themed blog StreetsOfLima.com.  In its lifetime, this web page has received 1.25 million hits...which seems like a big number but it's hardly remarkable for a blog.  I never made much from Adwords (maybe $400 to $500 a year) but for a while I did very well selling individually placed links on specified keywords.  I had two major accounts, Adbeans, which paid me $65 per link, and a travel page that was good for about $150 in advertising per month.  Adbeans used to provide me with 12 to 15 keywords a month which was perfect at the time because I was launching a business and I didn't have any extra money.

Eventually Google changed their search engine algorithm and I was summarily dismissed from both of my accounts because link placement on my site had begun to actually hurt the clients.  I began to receive emails requesting that the links be removed...which I agreed to do for a $5 fee.  Some of them balked at paying this, but the reality was that it took around fifteen minutes to find the article and erase the links, so I didn't feel I should be expected to perform that action for free.

I stopped writing Streets of Lima daily a few years back, but not before I had produced 2069 posts for the page.  Isn't that an insane number?  If we estimate that each article is around 500 words in length that comes out to 1,034,500 words.  Jack Kerouac once said that you must write one million words to forger yourself into a writer, and I think there is some truth to that idea, but, again, blog writing barely qualifies.

Beyond Streets of Lima, I also wrote (and continue to write) for CyclovaXC.com.  That page currently stands at 1359 posts.  There are other contributors to that page, but my guess is that about 1,000 of the articles are probably mine.  Using the same metric as before, that adds up to another 500,000 words.  My guess is you could find another 500,000 words of mine online (credited and uncredited) for stories, articles, and interviews that I've written throughout the years.  Wow...2,000,000 words!

Blog writing is not novel writing though.  As I write this I'm just composing directly into the blogger interface and when I'm done I'll give it a quick re-read before hitting "publish."  A novel is different.  For my upcoming work that is to be released shortly with Perseid, I'd guess I've reread and rewritten the novel in excess of 20 times.  These days I find that I'm most taxed by novel writing.  I do that in the morning when I'm fresh.  In the afternoon/evening I still have energy left over for...you guessed it...BLOGS!

I signed a publishing contract with Rhemalda Publishing back in 2011 for my novel The Bone Sword.  Part of the agreement included writing 100 blog posts for the Rhemalda page...although some of the other authors complained and we weren't required to finish that (I wrote over 80 though I'm pretty sure--they were probably deleted at no great loss to posterity).  Rhemalda also published my second book Beyond Birkie Fever before finally ceasing operations about two years ago.  In a kind move, Rhemalda let all the rights revert back to the authors.  I kept "Birkie," and placed "Bone Sword" with Harren Press.

I'd seen the writing on the wall with Rhemalda and managed to develop a good relationship with the folks at Perseid Press before Rhemalda closed its doors.  Perseid is a wonderful publishing house run by Chris and Janet Morris.  They have an editing team that knows what they're doing and I've learned a ton from working with them.  Also, they're in it for the long haul, so there's no ridiculous pressure to try to write the next "trendy" piece of literary trash.  My first release with Perseid was The Reader of Acheron in January of 2014, and the next one will be a memoir about Peru which should be released in the next month or two.  A lot of my readers are patiently waiting for a sequel to "Reader," and I'm working on it diligently at the moment, but the book was delayed due to work on the Peru memoir.  I hope to have a first draft done soon...but again, submitting a novel to Perseid Press is not like writing for a blog.  I've got to distill some greatness because I don't want to waste the time of Chris and Janet Morris.

These days I get a couple monthly requests to provide articles for local publications.  In exchange, they give me advertising space to promote my business.  I also recently was selected to become a paid blogger for Singletracks.com.  They have suggested the pay will be around $200 a month, but my guess is that the biggest benefit to me will come from the exposure writing for them will give to my other work.  I also occasionally field requests for travel articles that pay in the $100 to $200 range.

I like that there is a lot of demand for my work, but it is just getting to the point now where I need to turn down "for the love" assignments.  If a magazine has major circulation, or they allow me to put an ad in for an event I'm promoting or a business I'm involved in, then it's worth it, otherwise it is not.  I've received a lot of benefits through writing, and I'm even starting to get review requests from Amazon that involve shipping me free products.  As a writer, you must be cognizant of the "trade" value of your work.  Rarely do you receive a check, but I once got to tour the Inca Trail for free in exchange for writing some articles...that was about a $4000 value.

Achieving writing success has basically seemed hopeless for the whole time I've been pursuing it.  In the beginning, there was some delight in the idea that I could write a novel, release it, and then never have to work again.  I was wrong about that idea. Go time yourself writing 1,000,000 quality words and see how long it takes you.

I still think there's a certain amount of luck involved in this whole pursuit, and I'm a long way from getting so much attention that my work really becomes valuable, but I'm pleased with the current progression of things.  In any artistic endeavor, there is plenty that you cannot control.  The only thing a writer should worry about is becoming a better writer.  Success will take care of itself.  But one thing I know for sure, you aren't going to find success until after you've written millions and millions of words.  There's nothing wrong with that though...after all, it's kind of what I signed up for!

If anyone is interested in receiving a review copy of one of my books, you can request one by writing to: walterrhein@gmail.com

Best of luck everyone in everything that you do!