Scott Marlowe
Scott Marlowe, fantasy author

Scott Marlowe

Author of the Alchemancer and Assassin Without a Name fantasy series

Interview with MCA Hogarth

The Worth of a ShellMy novel, The Five Elements, is part of StoryBundle’s current Fantasy Bundle. Much like the fantasy genre itself, the bundle features a wonderfully diverse group of authors and books. One of those authors is M.C.A. Hogarth, author of The Worth of a Shell. The bundle’s curator, Blair MacGregor, had this to say about M.C.A and her novel:

I became acquainted with Maggie through her strong and well-thought-out advocacy of indie writers and diverse publishing options, and soon discovered her fabulous talent as a writer and an artist. The first novel of hers I read pulled me into a non-human world alive with distinct cultures, sensory depth, and the harsh consequences of daring to want life outside society's limitations. That novel, The Worth of A Shell, is in this bundle so you can make that the same discovery I did. – Blair MacGregor

I had the opportunity to interview M.C.A. Here are her thoughts.

1. Tell us a little about The Worth of a Shell. What was the motivation behind the story and characters?

I've always liked stories about aliens, and am forever making them; they're an eternal lens into questions about the human condition, and give people a way to look at those questions without bringing along the baggage of society and culture that we all drag around everywhere. If I try to write about gender with human characters, I engage all the reader's history with gender in their own life. If I give them a horse-tailed, dinosaur-browed, jack-legged neuter creature, they can leave all that at home. Or at least, that's the hope. When I'm writing about things that are especially fraught for us, I often turn to aliens to explore repercussions that would hit too close to home if written about humans.

The Jokka of the Shell universe are a lens to examine multiple issues--not just gender, which is the obvious one, but also questions about dementia and loss.

Also, I write aliens because it's fun.

2. Your body of work has a definite anthropomorphic quality. Where does that come from?

I think the anthropomorphic quality is literal. I find human qualities in things that are not human, so that we can look at what being human means. My interest is catholic: I like robots, talking spaceships, sentient tree people, were-creatures, aliens, the whole kit and caboodle. If you put it forth believably, I will be entertained! I am fascinated by diversity in experience and outlook. Science fiction/fantasy is a fantastic place to roll around in all that. As a genre, we have a long history of loving our anthropomorphic characters, from Anne McCaffrey's dragons to Asimov's robots to the million talking cat stories (from Niven's Kzinti to Diane Duane's feline wizards to Cherryh's kif from the Chanur novels). We love our non-humanoids!

3. It looks like you waited almost a decade to write Book 2 and 3 of this trilogy. What happened there?

Wow, well, all right--so I set up this big problem in Shell, knowing that I would have to resolve it somehow. And according to the rules of epic fantasy, huge societal problems can't be resolved quietly or slowly. It's gotta be nuclear, usually in the form of enormous wars. You have an unjust society, it needs to be overthrown and replaced with something more fair, right? That's how it works, how I grew up thinking it should work, and how, once I started writing, I thought I would have to make it work if I didn't want my readers to feel cheated. There should be banners and cavalry and carpets of armies facing off beneath a cloudy sky, with cold winds blowing everyone's mane heroically from their brows! There should be bloodshed and sacrifice and monuments at the end!
And... I couldn't do that with this universe. My first problem being that I'm writing a marginal society: it has so few people surviving in it that a war on the scale of something out of epic fantasy would wipe away the unjust society by rendering the species extinct. Talk about babies thrown out with bathwater! You begin to think of war as a luxury of societies with a lot of either manpower or technology, neither situation of which obtains to the Jokka.

My second problem was that I got fixated on having to follow the Chosen One through the entire narrative. It took me a long time to figure out that there was no chosen one, not really... and that the story had to be carried through other people's voices in the subsequent books, because that's where the action was. I'd been wanting to cling to Thenet all the way to the end of the trilogy, but it's not Thenet who gets us through the next important events.

Once I let go of those two things, I was shocked how quickly Books 2 and 3 came together. But I'm also glad I waited, because I think the resulting story is a lot stronger--and more unexpected--than the one I would have written had I been bludgeoning myself into writing to the imaginary rules of epic fantasy.

4. What's next? Any current projects or upcoming releases you'd like to share?

I just released a high fantasy romance novel, Thief of Songs, which is getting enough good feedback that I think I'll write a second book in that universe. It shares some commonalities with Shell, in that there are multiple genders (in this case, human ones: hermaphrodite and neuter as well as male and female), but it's a much more pastoral setting. In addition, I'm finishing up an epic fantasy trilogy wherein I once again fail to follow the epic fantasy rules--unavoidably, maybe, since I've made a cluster of philosophy students the main characters, and now they want to talk, research, and discuss their way into solutions of problems rather than do the epic stirring battle thing.

I hope I eventually do get to write an epic stirring battle! But that year is apparently not this year!

Make sure to check out the full selection of StoryBundle Fantasy Author Interviews!

Author Interview: J.S. Riddle

Rounding out my series of author interviews is this one with J.S. Riddle, author of Rise of a Queen. Let's see what she has to say.


1. Please tell us about yourself.

A simple introduction as J.S. Riddle is a good start. I'm not old, but I'm far from young.  I was born in the UK to military parents, I left there before I was able to attend primary school. I moved around a lot, so I was always meeting new people. I currently live in the Southeastern United States, it would be hard to pinpoint because I have moved quite a bit in the past few years alone.  Aside from my love of literature and the history of it (I adore Mythology of all kinds) I have a big geek thing going on for me. I grew up on Trek and Wars never choosing either side. I'm obsessed with Doctor Who, I remember my first. The lovely Tom Baker. I like horror movies, action, comedies. I can't sit through a romantic one though. I also have realized how deep the Joss Whedon connection is to everything and have decided I live in the Whedonverse.  My favorite is video gaming.  See? A geek. But a lovely one from what I am told.

2. What's the name of your newest or latest book and what's it about?

Rise of a Queen.

Well I could go the shortest synopsis and say: Tessa became Queen of the Levé’s the moment she was turned vampire. By circumstances she is left to rule her clan alone. With gearing wars with a rival clan and human rebels, from a life she left behind, she had no choice but to fight back. with a whirlwind of deceit,and betrayal,interweaving,It is up to her to become the Queen she was meant to be.

But I would like to add that it is a lot more than that. Tessa is a very strong woman with so many choices to make she is constantly doubting herself. She has two sides to herself, I suppose like each of us; our dark and our light. You feel her plight but find yourself appalled at some of her harsher actions. She loves everything about being a vampire but she can't leave her human world behind. There is lot that happens that kind of makes that quite impossible anyway and the war with the human rebels pains her the most because she has a very personal connection. The fight with the Krone clan is something that had been going on for centuries and Tessa is the unfortunate recipient of finalizing that task once and for all. I would say there is a lot of personal growth, dark pasts, betrayal, retribution, all of which she handles in a way that I hope the reader enjoys.

3. Is this book part of a series or standalone?

It was originally supposed to be a standalone book, but I just couldn't stop writing. There is so much story to be told, characters to grow, wars to be had, that I honestly could have gone on for a very long time. Then I looked at the word count. I realized that I probably wouldn't do good to make a book as thick as War and Peace. So A trilogy was born. What was just The Vampire Realm became a series. The first being Rise of a Queen, the second I'm having trouble naming it without giving away things from the first novel. Rise of a Queen is at just the perfect stopping point that people would be satisfied with it's ending and can easily make it a standalone book.

4. How long have you been writing?

I've been writing since just before I was a teenager. I suppose you could call it writing. Good story-lines I am sure, but lots of growth through that time. I did get my college English 101 teacher to read a novella of mine and said it would be great fleshed out or make a perfect screenplay. I took that as a sign I was at least on the right track.

5. From where or whom do you draw inspiration?

I'd hate to choose just one. I loved so many that opened up each and every realization that I had. I grew up reading Tolkien  Bradbury, CS Lewis, Robin McKinley (my first introduction to how strong a woman could be), Anne Rice, Stephen King, Poe, and reading Shakespeare aloud. Of course as a teenager I enjoyed R.L. Stine's Fear Street before Stine went to more kid-friendly fare. I do believe if I could mash up the worlds Rice has written with the worlds of King, THAT would my my inspiration.

6. What advice would you give new or aspiring writers?

I'm no expert but I will give my opinion. Edit and keep editing. Research also is the key and is kind of the fun part. I would think most people would already know that marketing is tough in this social-networking age, that is something definitely not to be overlooked whether they go Indie or through the Industry.

7. Who do you see as your ideal reader?

My ideal reader is a tough one. I do not write Young Adult, if I feel awkward having my teenage nieces read my work then it's not YA. I don't write romance either so I suppose that just knocked the two of those right off the map. I think for someone to want to read my books they'd have to be ready for a change to a typical story, high intensity, my love for finding interesting ways to kill people off, and complex situations. I can't write about just one thing. There are a multitude of stories within the stories that all weave to make the tale even grander.

8. Tell us about your writing process. Are you a planner or outliner?

What are those? I don't have a technical way of doing anything. No method to my maddness. I can't force myself to sit in my chair and write so many words a day, but I do have notebooks around the house filled with notes or sections I need to add to a book even if it's not the one I am currently working on. I have pictures on the walls to remind me what I think a character should look like, and I have time-lines scribbled everywhere. I do like things in their place, though. I suppose I contradict myself. Mood sets a real tone in what I write. If I'm mad then by George you can bet that is the day someone is probably going to be axed in a not-so-nice way.

9. Are you a "write every day of the week" sort of writer or do you take days off?

Everything is sporadic. There are days where I may get four hours sleep because I am writing so much and then when I just am exhausted I sleep and stop for a while. I switch to my geek mode to the tele, movies, or video games. Those are the easiest ways for me to relax, otherwise I would burn out.

Distract me with something sparkly (not the vampire kind please) and I may be gone a while.

10. What are your thoughts on writers paying for reviews as John Locke is reported to have done?

Having to pay for reviews is not something I am fond of. As unfortunate as it is, if a person would simply review what they've read nobody would have to pay for a review. Even if that happens why would a person want to review if it will be taken down anyway?

11. Do you think retailer rating/review systems are broken? If so, any suggestions on how to fix them?

As I mentioned in the last question I think the review system is broken. I am talking mostly on the web, because everything else has been easily understood that their blurb probably was pulled out of a hat of quotes. They take an incident that is so extreme that they hurt every innocent person in the process. Everything has become a huge combination of politics and capitalism at its finest. If someone's aunt that lives across the country really, truly loves a book, their review shouldn't be taken down just for that connection. They did buy the book from their site and they read it. I can tell you right now I probably would get a stern look from my aunts and uncle for what I write, so would I expect a glorious review? Ha. A simple fan from a webpage writes a review.....stricken. The whole time they're not looking at the broader picture and taking care of the issues at hand. They are so worried about the small things that they could care less that some bitter author (this has never happened to me, but I see it constantly) goes around giving hateful one star reviews because the person is their strict competition. The paid reviews stay on the pages miraculously and the trolls. It is the true fan that gets lost in all of it and that is sad.

I wish I could say there was an easy way to fix it, but it would take more than just a bot searching for relations or words. It would take people, real people that actually care about the products on the shelves, or virtual store, to make it shine brighter and make it more accurate in the process. With each incident comes a new restriction and at some point an author will get no reviews and a book at the bottom of a bin.

12. Some book reviewers won't accept independently authored books for review. What are your thoughts on that? Are they missing out?

I have had that and it stings. I admit it, I am an Indie writer. I think they are truly missing out. There are some great writers out there that may not have the means or finances to try it in the big publishing world. Their work could be the best creation, but because it's not what is "in" at the moment it gets thrown aside. Slush pile after slush pile. The Indie has just cut through that headache and has taken it directly to the fans. There will be a time that is all they will get a chance to review, you would think they would jump on the bandwagon.

13. Some people feel indie authored books are of lesser quality than those that go through the traditional publishers. Do you agree with them? If so, how can independent authors raise the bar and remove this stigmatism?

It is their misconception that blinds them the most. I think there is an assumption that all Indie writers are a bunch of "teenagers" or just nobody's that want to see their word in print. They assume they weren't good enough to be part of the big 6, or even a smaller publishing house. I have seen the argument back and forth on both sides, both quite bitter. People that are Traditionalists are in a circle that cannot be breached unless you went through as many channels as they did and were the lucky golden ticket to be picked. Not all of them are, but I have come across a few. I have also come across someone saying they planned on writing one day so she called herself a writer. Once the pen hits the paper and words flow; that is the moment a person becomes a writer. Every Indie has a chance for greatness, no matter how they start. Every lesson is learned and because they don't have a team, or circle, of people telling them how wonderful they are I think they try even harder and are the first to admit there is always room for improvement. Indie's don't do it for vanity, they do it because they get more control over their own work and don't have to wait until the planets align for their work to get discovered.

14. Any pets? If so, tell us what role they play in your writing, if any.

I have a miniature pincher, Ares. I'm really big into mythology and use it in my writing. With him being a tiny dog with a big personality, Ares was the perfect name.

I also have a cat. Wasn't my choice but I have one. The name is River. It started out as River Song (I'm a big Doctor Who fan) until the first vet check and a thermometer. Surprise, River Song became River Phoenix. The role he plays in my writing is the game of "Give me my pen and get away from my keyboard".

15. Assuming you have an active blog, point readers to a post of which you're especially proud or think will be of particular interest to them.

I think the one that probably would make my point on how the land of social media and attention spans have changed you'd want to check out :

Whata Fickle Pickle People are These Days

My favorite one, though, is how I go into detail about my first love.

For the love of a royal (typewriter that is)

16. I made some predictions for the ePublishing industry for 2013 (http://www.scottmarlowe.com/post/ePub...). Do you think any of them will come true?

1)I hear some vile things about KDP Select and I think it gives newcomers a grandiose idea that they will get a lot of money and attention by signing up for being exclusively their. They honestly could care less for those people once they've been enrolled. Now I have to say, some people are happy with it. I just see it as a way of controlling the market TOO much and there is a reason Barnes & Noble and other brick and mortar stores refuse to deal with people who even whisper the name Amazon. I'm on KDP, not select. I've also used Createspace and it saddens me the disdain toward the company that the innocent author gets thrown in the fire with the probability of having their books sitting on their shelves. Even Indie bookstores tend to boycott anything associated. I would not doubt that Select will drop the 70%. Their hand will have to be forced one way or another.

on 2) The big 6 have been panicking and finally have come to a wake up call to the e-world. They're behind the curve. They will end up doing what it takes to get the books out there, but I don't think they would ever go so low as to lose their grasp on the publishing world. It's hard strong pride, and it will ruin them.

on 3) I think the Indie boom is already slowing down. There are so many out there things are getting mixed in chaotic talents. I'm late to the game. I doubt it would disappear, but I believe that people will think it is a big waste of time to stick their life's work out there. The economics of it in general you are on the ball. People like me have no money. We think we have talent so we write. We don't write because we want to make a lot of money. I would hope for a decent wage but I know it is far and few. Line-item editors, publicists, book cover artists ALL of those are expensive and a person doesn't really get what they put into it. There are a few of us that put in those extra hours and have to do it ourselves.  A little bit of money here and there is a lot of money not putting food on my table. I will always call myself a writer, never a hobbyist because I could not imagine anything else I want to do more.

4)I would love to have a free e-reader. Sign me up please. I own a Sony that was bought 5 years ago and i hardly use it. Something modern would be nice. If it goes that way, I think they would get a lot more sales through the e-books. Right now, people have a tough time buying them. So of course that idea doesn't flow with your #5 thought, but then I'm not really that savvy of things like that.

6) Smashwords revamping their site. I'm reading from Coker's blogs that he plans on doing exactly that, so I do hope that it happens. It is really tough to navigate around there. The erotica always flowing to the top makes it very very very hard to find something else. As they've stated the Adult Filter will filter out more than just erotica. I like the solution to stick it in its own section.

17. R.S. Guthrie wrote a hard-hitting post (http://robonwriting.com/2013/02/05/i-...) on reviewers and the veil of anonymity some of them hide behind. Your thoughts on this subject?

I think that if you give someone a computer and a hollow identity they could do some damage that is for sure. To find the right reviewer is like finding a diamond in the rough. I've mentioned already that I think the review system is flawed. If they WANT to pick up the book because it seemed like something they would like and THEN review it to their most honest breath a 1 star review is more than welcome. It was how they felt, and there was a legitimate reason. Just because you CAN review something doesn't mean you're good at it or really should. I think the mean spirited ones, the superficial ones, all of them are still playing on the playground. It takes meat, bone, grit, truth, and love for the written word to be able to write a review that means something. The others kind of kill that. That is how we get back to what I said before about every day people even attempting to write a review on a simple webpage.

18. Which retailers or others sites can readers find your work at?

Everything is listed under Rise of a Queen if I am not mistaken.

I have a paperback out at Amazon, hoping that I can get it elsewhere soon enough. But my e-book is available at the Kindle store, nook store, Diesel, Kobo, the Indie's best friend Smashwords. Hopefully by the time this is read Sony and the iStore will have gone over everything long enough to have them up also.

19. Where can readers find out more about you?

My website has the best up to date information there is. There is even a blog attached to it that I tend to ramble on about how I have such a difficult time in this social networking world that we have. There were a lot of things I am still learning. Of course some days its just normal babble, nothing profound but it is me, nothing behind a mask. I do have a profile on Goodreads that shows how bad of a current reader I am. There are so many books I have read in the past I am still trying to review them.


J.S. Riddle

J.S. Riddle was born in Oxford, England and currently resides in the Southeast United States. She's been writing since a teenager to hone her skills. The magic started on an old manual mint green typewriter from the 50's from a consignment shop for about $20.

She loves reading and enjoys Stephen King, Anne Rice, Edgar Allen Poe, William Shakespeare, J.R.R. Tolkien, Ray Bradbury, but credits Robin McKinley for her book The Hero & the Crown for her idea of woman empowerment and opened up a fantastical world for her.

Her first book (The Vampire Realm) Rise of a Queen made it to e-stores on Valentines Day of 2013. Print copies will be available soon.

Her style of writing tends to lead toward the supernatural and dark fantasy, but one never knows what the future may hold.

Author Interview: Alayna-Renee Vilmont

For this second to last interview here on the site I sit down with Alayna-Renee Vilmont, author of Ophelia's Wayward Muse.


1. Please tell us about yourself.

Absolutely. I'm Alayna-Renee, and I'm a professional freelance writer currently living in Atlanta. I grew up in the Northeast, lived abroad for a bit, went to school in New York City, traveled around on a cruise ship as an on-board entertainer, and then ended up in Georgia. I'm not exactly a Southern belle, and I'm fairly certain much of the Southeast would like to send me back. ;) I'm the girl who's been the voice behind "Jaded Elegance: The Uninhibited Adventures Of A Chic Web Geek", a successful blog that's provided witty observations, heartfelt advice, and musings of a modern-day urban feminist regarding life, love, self-discovery, and relationships, since 2000.

I've been performing in the world of musical theatre, and later opera, since the age of 6. I've also been writing for nearly as long. I suppose you can say I've always been passionate about self-expression, and pretty insistent upon finding ways to make certain my voice is heard.

2. What's the name of your newest or latest book and what's it about?

Published in late 2012, "Ophelia's Wayward Muse" is an anthology of poetic intrigue. It explores the different ways that, even in a rapidly changing and often disconnected society, the connections shared between people shape who we are and who we ultimately become. It is about love, hate, sex, romance, infatuation, and the challenges most people go through in their late teens and 20's, when it comes to carving out a place for oneself in society.

3. Is this book part of a series or standalone?

It is a standalone publication. It isn't that I will never write another collection of poems or explore this idea of intrigue and human connections, but the poems are woven together in such a way that they tell a story. The character of Ophelia is important because of all she represents in the mythology of art and literature. She is often depicted as innocence, madness, martyr, victim, and the epitome of femininity. She is at the point in her life where she's expected to become a woman, complete with passions and ambitions, and will forever lose that what is seen as most admirable in womankind. It is a modern-day coming of age story, and now that I am sufficiently "of age", I think Ophelia and I have wrapped up our relationship.

4. How long have you been writing?

It seems I've been writing since I could pick up a pen or pencil. Before that, I made up stories in my head and acted them out. A journal has always been a necessary part of my life. By the time I was 7, I was submitting my stuff to literary magazines and local poetry contests. It never occurred to me to let literary magazines know I wasn't an adult, or at least over 13. When I was in 7th grade, I took the SAT and scored highly enough that I could study at this program called CTY (Center For Talented Youth). It was designed to teach younger kids college-level skills, and I think that's where I really learned how to write. I also learned it wasn't something everyone knew how to do. I minored in creative writing, but it's always been a hobby for me.

I think I started to take writing more seriously when I became a blogger, and one that gained a little bit more notoriety than I really deserved, around 2000. I never imagined anyone would care what I'd written before I learned that strangers were, in fact, interested in my life and my experiences. I was dating someone who was very influential in getting the idea of "blogging" to go mainstream. It never occurred to me that I had too much talent as a writer or that others would care to read my work. It still surprises me when I realise I have loyal readers. Over the past two years, I've started to work full-time as a freelance writer and participate in the local artistic and literary scene in Atlanta.

5. From where or whom do you draw inspiration?

I hate to be narcissistic, but I am a bit, so I have to confess that I draw inspiration from myself and my rather colourful life. ;) It isn't myself so much as my own life experience, a rather overly emotional nature, a curious intuitive understanding of others, and a habit of observing the little details about how people act and interact. I was once told "Write what you know", and everything I've ever written that's been successful has been unflinchingly vulnerable. It's a little like applying what actors call "the Method" to writing. I relive emotions, and try to get my reader to go on that journey with me.

6. What advice would you give new or aspiring writers?

Believe in yourself, because nobody else is ever going to do that for you. You'll have plenty of well-meaning supporters and admirers, but you''ll probably dismiss their opinions because they'd like anything you did. On the other side of the coin, you'll face rejection and people who'll tear you down because you're doing something other than what most people do, something many people don't understand. If your sense of self isn't stronger than the self-doubt that every artist has, you'll end up abandoning a potentially amazing talent. You have to be willing to dream, to believe, to wear your heart on your sleeve, and to take things as personally as you want---as long as you get back up and do it again the next day.

7. Who do you see as your ideal reader?

Most of what I write is probably something that people are able to relate to if they're between the ages of 16-35, and are going through that time of transition and soul-searching that comes along with that growing-up process. What I've learned, and what nobody tells you when you're ready to head out into the world, is that you're not just suddenly an adult. You become one, and it takes a long time to get to the point where you've accumulated enough wisdom and life experience to no longer feel like you're trying to figure out who you are. Although my poems, my blog, and my short stories are all told from a fairly strong female voice, I have many male readers who have told me they relate to what I'm putting out there.

I'm sure that once I reach 35, my work will start to tell a different story and perhaps reflect a different perspective. I write for the generation that's too old and a little too experienced to be "young adult", but doesn't yet feel "all grown up".

8. Tell us about your writing process. Are you a planner or outliner?

No. I am not a planner or an outliner. In fact, I can't even claim to have a process. I just have a lot of journals, and a lot of pens, and I write. I've been known to sit up and write entire drafts of things in hours. I may edit them for weeks, or even months, separating what is useful from what's simply extraneous. The creative part, however, is completely organic. Needless to say, not every day is an inspired day. The reason I write different types of work in different genres is because the depth of feeling required to create poetry would exhaust me if I wanted to access it each day. On my "logical days", I'll write an essay. On my "observant days", I'll work on short stories. Some days, I'll simply write in my journal or send a letter to a friend. I think the secret is to express yourself every day, and to engage with the world every day. If you do that, you can't remain uninspired for too long.

9. Are you a "write every day of the week" sort of writer or do you take days off?

I try to write something every day of the week. In between pursuing various projects, communication with friends, blogging, and working as a freelance copywriter, I typically accomplish that. For instance, I am starting off my day by writing this interview at 2 AM, so I've already gotten a head start before visiting Dreamland for the night! In my free time, I run a social group and am an active event planner in the Atlanta area, so there are weekends where I just feel too zapped to create anything. I try to keep them to a minimum, though.

10. What are your thoughts on writers paying for reviews as John Locke is reported to have done?

If I have to pay someone to express an opinion of me or of something I've created, I haven't done my job as an artist. An artist should provoke an opinion, a thought, a feeling. These days, with the accessibility of social media, everyone has an opinion on everything and isn't afraid to present it. If I have to pay someone to write a dishonest or inflated review of my work, not only am I lying to others, I'm lying to myself. I want to know if what I write isn't good, because it may help me get better. It may also help me feel inspired to do something else with my time. I suppose you can say my thoughts are, "That's crap. Don't do it.".

11. Do you think retailer rating/review systems are broken? If so, any suggestions on how to fix them?

Yes, and yet, I'm going to admit to not knowing enough to intelligently comment on this. I don't have a solution. I know that people everywhere are willing to pay someone to write positive reviews of something they've never read, or to simply give one-star ratings to popular publications in order to move up in the rankings. In the end, does it really matter? Some of the most popular books these days are 2.5 star books at best (yes, I've read them), and they land movie deals. Ratings and reviews are on every product on the free market these days, and they don't mean that much. I care what critics with an educated opinion have to say about something they've read without bias. That's getting harder and harder to come by.

12. Some book reviewers won't accept independently authored books for review. What are your thoughts on that? Are they missing out?

Of course, because they won't have the opportunity to read my stuff. *laughs* In all seriousness, though, yes. That's a big mistake. Indie artists are kind of the wave of the future, whether it's bands not signed with a label, people producing television shows on YouTube, or publishing their own books. These days, if someone tells you they're not interested in what you've created or you simply don't like the terms being offered, you have options. It's harder to be an independent artist, but what's being created is often more innovative and less commercial. Certainly, many don't like the phrase "less commercial" because they equate it with "less profitable". Yet, I think all forms of media are going through a largely transitory phase.

13. Some people feel indie authored books are of lesser quality than those that go through the traditional publishers. Do you agree with them? If so, how can independent authors raise the bar and remove this stigmatism?

Oh, that's a complicated one. I've read some books put out by traditional publishers that anyone could write following a cookie-cutter romance/mystery/sci-fi template, and they're considered good enough for publication. From an innovation standpoint, they shouldn't be. On the other hand, I've read innovative indie works that, from an execution standpoint, never should have been published.

The problem is that most indie authors aren't working with publishers and proofreaders. I felt so frustrated with myself when, after 17 revisions, I caught 7 typos in the first printing of my book. It's likely most people won't notice, but I did. It bothered me. I think indie authors need to hold themselves to the same standards they would if they happened to be writing for a publisher or a client. Many do, but not all. Likewise, traditional publishers need to get in touch with what's going on in the literary world. People are losing interest in reading, because there's not always a popular novel worth reading. Everyone owns an e-reader these days, but it costs more to purchase an e-book than to go to the one remaining bookstore in your town and buy it. I think everyone is working out the kinks and adjusting. Indie authors need to take what they do seriously, and realise they're still artists, first and foremost.

14. Any pets? If so, tell us what role they play in your writing, if any.

I have a 12 year-old Labrador/Beagle mix named Trixie. She sits on the computer cord and unplugs it when I am trying to write. I take this as a sign that maybe what I'm writing isn't that good, after all. She's asleep and letting me finish this, so that's a good sign.

One day, she may write a book. I'm sure it will be an indie publication. If she gets a book deal before I do, we will no longer be on speaking terms. ;)

15. Assuming you have an active blog, point readers to a post of which you're especially proud or think will be of particular interest to them.

Peeking at the logs on my site, I see that this article I composed about Beauty Vs. Charisma is still one of my most popular. While I won't claim it's the best thing I've ever written, I'm proud that thousands of people have bothered to read it. Perhaps they've even bothered to think about it, and that's awesome in itself.

16. I made some predictions for the ePublishing industry for 2013 (http://www.scottmarlowe.com/post/ePub...). Do you think any of them will come true?

No, I suppose I don't. Things aren't going to change as quickly as you might like. Amazon isn't going to let go of its terrible royalty sharing program while there are still users willing to enroll under those terms, and major publishing houses competing with indie publishers to put out $2.99 e-books would put many of them on the verge of bankruptcy. I think strides might be made to moderate the pricing structure of e-books, but I don't expect to see huge changes in 2013.

17. R.S. Guthrie wrote a hard-hitting post (http://robonwriting.com/2013/02/05/i-...) on reviewers and the veil of anonymity some of them hide behind. Your thoughts on this subject?

I think this was a brilliant post. R.S. Guthrie is my kind of guy (or gal). There have always been people who are jerks for no other reason than they can behave that way and get away with it. The internet has little to no accountability, and "haters" and "trolls" can tear anything and anyone down. I disabled comments on my blog long ago for that reason.

There is a difference between "criticism" and "constructive criticism". There is a difference between "criticism" and "being a misanthropic jerk who wants to ruin another person's day". Too many people do not understand the differences between these categories, which is why it's so hard for any type of artist to get legitimate and helpful feedback.

One day, I will perhaps publish something new, and you'll invite me back to your website. At that point, I'll tell you the story about how I acquired a "hater" who became a "misanthropic jerk", and then became a "stalker". I'm willing to bet R.S. Guthrie probably had a stalker, too.

18. Which retailers or others sites can readers find your work at?

Oooooooo. You ended your sentence with a preposition in a literary interview. I like rule-breakers. :P

"Ophelia's Wayward Muse" is available in paperback form via Amazon at http://www.amazon.com/Ophelias-Wayward-Muse-Alayna-Renee-Vilmont/dp/1478218886. I've chosen not to do a Kindle version, but I also have the .pdf available for a nominal fee at http://www.lulu.com/spotlight/princessalayna .

As mentioned, I run a website called Jaded Elegance (Uninhibited Adventures Of A Chic Web Geek). It lives at http://www.jadedelegance.net. As of April 2013, I'm going to be launching a feature where I have a guest post, author interview, or book review each Sunday.

19. Where can readers find out more about you?

If, after all of that, anyone still wants to know more about me, I have a very active Facebook community of friends, acquaintances, readers, and maybe one or two admirers tucked away. I'd recommend joining, as I post often and am not a naturally inhibited person, so you may find yourself in a spirited debate. You can find me at my Facebook home.

I'm also a member of the Goodreads community, and have an author profile there.


Alayna-Renee Vilmont is a professional writer, blogger, and poet with an eclectic voice that is insightful, unique, and combines an old-fashioned style of writing with a witty and modern outlook. With an extensive background in the performing arts beginning in early childhood, she is comfortable in front of large groups of people as well as on paper, leading to years as a successful event coordinator and organizer of a popular social group in the Atlanta area.

Author Interview: Trystan Viker

I'm winding down these interviews, with only a couple more to go after this one. They've been fun and educational, but all good things must come to an end. That's just how it is.

But, for this week, we Trystan Viker, author of Devotion. Let's check out what she has to say.


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1. Please tell us about yourself.

I'm an ex-fashion and lifestyle writer changing my career to write Dark Fiction and Paranormal stories. I live in Canada, where most of my writing takes place. I studied English Literature at the University of Regina where I devoured classical Gothic literature whenever I could.

2. What's the name of your newest or latest book and what's it about?

My latest release is called DEVOTION. It's about Alice, a strange young woman as she breaks away from the violent, fanatic cult she was raised in after the death of her brother. Desperate to save the only human family she had, she risks discovery by the cult and other paranormal monsters in order to find some way to rescue her brother from death.

It's also about Dorian, a 200 year old man who might be going through a mid-death crisis. As he struggles with a cloying restlessness about himself, he finds himself trapped in the plans of the despairing Alice as she sees some possible cure for death in his veins.

3. Is this book part of a series or standalone?

Devotion is the first in a series of books called Wonderland that takes place in the dark and paranormal worlds of Saskatchewan, Canada. The second book is slated for release in July/August of 2013.

4. How long have you been writing?

I've been writing for publication for over a decade now.

5. From where or whom do you draw inspiration?

My writing form is likely most inspired from classical Gothic/Victorian era literature. Writers like Le Fanu, Rossetti, Faulkner and Shelley are really pivotal to my form and concept development I think

As for material inspiration, much of the topics I deal with are reactionary pieces to various real life situations. It could come from watching the news, people I meet, etc. There is usually something in my work that is meant to criticize society on a larger scale. It's our flaws as a people that help me create the monsters in my books.

6. What advice would you give new or aspiring writers?

Find a different career. That doesn't mean “don't be a writer”, that means you shouldn't let your one professional goal be “writer”. For starters, it's nearly impossible to guarantee any sort of living wage right off the bat.

But I think the most important reason for that advice is that the experiences you obtain in the “non-writing” portion of your life will give you the experience you need to write. Don't live in a vacuum. It's easy to make your life all about writing and reading, but your writing will suck if you don't have some outside experiences to shape your words. You don't have to write about your day job, but everything you encounter in life is something you can use and transform in your work. And writing is much easier when your bills are paid and you can afford the freedom to explore life for new fodder in your writing.

I encountered more than a few English students who expect to simply become writers. They hopped from part time job to part time job, never worrying about making a primary career. Now ten or more years later, they're still saddled with student debt, working jobs they're over qualified for and under paid at, and still not making anything as writers. So even if writing is your dream job, don't bank your entire future on -just- that. Writing will always be an option.

7. Who do you see as your ideal reader?

I honestly have no idea. It always surprises me when I let someone read a book and I think at the start “You're not going to like this. There's too much creepy/violence/sex/darkness.” only to find out that they did in fact enjoy the whole thing. I'm a horrible judge of who might enjoy my work. So I simply don't know who my ideal reader is.

I guess if I had to speculate, my ideal reader would be someone who appreciates a less glamourous take on the supernatural and paranormal. My books are for people who look beyond the action on the paper and look for the meaning behind the literature. I write about monsters both in human form and not, so my characters are very flawed and complex creatures which might better appeal to someone who is reading the book for the characters instead of simply the plot.

I like to think it's a piece for more literary readers than someone who is looking for a “guilty pleasure”.

8. Tell us about your writing process. Are you a planner or outliner?

I'm both a detailed planner and a “seat of the pants” writer. I like to plan, but I often abandon the whole process once the story takes off. When you compare the early planning of Devotion to what it is now it's a completely different story.

9. Some book reviewers won't accept independently authored books for review. What are your thoughts on that? Are they missing out?

I think it's unfortunate, but I also understand why. In indie publishing there isn't the same gatekeeper system as with the traditional form. When I was a journalist I would get countless “review my book please!” emails. I would give them a read and most of them were really bad. It was a huge waste of my time to open them. That's not to say that indie publishing is mostly garbage; it's important to note that I was a fashion and lifestyle journalist so I wasn't a book reviewer at all. Most of these requests came from newbie writers who hadn't bothered to look up what my areas of work even were. I think there was an obvious correlation between “bad writers” and spamming the wrong type of journalist with their work. I know there is good work out there, but there are also a lot of bad writers screaming at the top of their lungs for attention as well. It would be overwhelming to have such a quantity pouring in.

So I sympathize with book reviewers stuck in such a position.

10. Some people feel indie authored books are of lesser quality than those that go through the traditional publishers. Do you agree with them? If so, how can independent authors raise the bar and remove this stigmatism?

I think that used to be the case. Vanity presses constantly preyed on individuals who were submitting sub-par work and made the whole thing a huge black smear on publishing as a whole. However, now that we have authentic self publishing services that aren't predatory, we can see more writers avoiding the hassles of the traditional model and going direct. That doesn't mean the traditional model is flawed in any way, it simply means were have a new avenue of fresh writing to explore.

I will argue though that it will often lack the “polish” of the traditional publishing models process. Indie publishing will have less editors involved, less changes made to the story to make it more “marketable” and much, much less marketing hype than we used to see. But I think that's wonderful. I think we will see people much more invested in an organic method of writing in exchange for the diversity and quality of story that comes with it.

11. R.S. Guthrie wrote a hard-hitting post on reviewers and the veil of anonymity some of them hide behind. Your thoughts on this subject?

I think it's silly to even give it a second thought. It's like we're taught in school when someone is teasing you, they're only a brief moment of agitation and it's best to move on. It turns me off from a writer a great deal when I see them harping about “unfair reviews”. Yes, there's trolls out there. Yes, there's jerks who might just be sour people looking to be a nuisance. Everyone must know that by now. If I see glowing reviews for a book peppered by a bunch of “This book stinks for no real explored reason at all”, then I know it's someone being a jerk.

I am also smart enough to know that not everyone will have the same tastes. One person's dislike might be something I'm keen about. I think most readers can judge for themselves and when writers get publicly distressed over these negative responses it's an insult to their fans and it shows a very unattractive insecurity in the author to even react to them.

I fully expect a few bad reviews of my own. My books are simply not to everyone's tastes. I'm okay with that. When the day comes that someone says “This writing is garbage! 1 star is too much for this!” I will survive it. I will put on my “big boy pants” and keep writing.

12. Which retailers or others sites can readers find your work at?

Kobo is my primary e-retailer.

13. Where can readers find out more about you?

I have a website and I can also be found on GoodReads


I'm an ex-fashion and lifestyle journalist taking a kick at being a fiction writer. I like monsters, 19th C Gothic lit and Hello Kitty. Oh, and Bats. I love bats.

I also lie to my parents about my career choices so they think I’m a responsible adult.

Author Interview: Tony Gilbert

This week I've got Tony Gilbert stopping by to answer a few questions. Let's see what he has to say.


1. Please tell us about yourself.

My name is Tony Gilbert and I am a married father of three. I have nine year old twins; a boy called Raven and a girl called Harley. I also have a 19 month old son called Cale.

I currently work as a gym engineer but look forward to leaving that and using the copy editing and proofreading course I am studying, in a new career.

My hobbies outside of my family life include (but are not limited too) reading and writing, sports (I recently started boxing for fitness), films and TV and model trains.

2. What's the name of your newest or latest book and what's it about?

My most recent book is called Hugo – A Quest for King Borin. It is part one of a series entitled The Hooded One.

The story is focused around a young knight called Hugo who, after a series of unfortunate events, is sent, by his King, to wage war on the Queen of a neighbouring realm. Unknown to him, The Hooded One, a dark inhuman creature has raised an army of trolls and goblins to destroy the Queens realm and take over.

The story follows Hugo and a group of friends that he meets on his way to the Queens castle as they battle through dangerous lands in their misguided quest.

It is aimed at children between the ages of 8-12.

3. Is this book part of a series or standalone?

It is part one of the series ‘The Hooded One’

4. How long have you been writing?

I have only been writing since June of last year.

5. From where or whom do you draw inspiration?

I draw inspiration from everywhere, the people I meet, the books I read and the conversations I overhear.

The inspiration from my recent novel, ‘Hugo’, for example came from someone that I work with talking about the type of books that his son enjoys reading.

6. What advice would you give new or aspiring writers?

I think that the best piece of advice that I have ever read was from Neil Gaiman when he was asked ‘I want to be an author when I grow up. Am I insane?’ He answered, ‘Growing up is highly overrated, just be an author’.

7. Who do you see as your ideal reader?

I work in a variety of different genres so I don’t see myself as having a specific type of reader. My first published piece, a short story called ‘The Cloud Diary’ is a tale of love, loss and bereavement whereas my recent novel is a fun, adventure story for children. I am currently working on a horror story for an anthology (as yet untitled) which is due to be released in August this year.

8. Tell us about your writing process. Are you a planner or outliner?

The stories that I have written thus far, I have just used an outline but this does seem to be a struggle on longer novels. I am currently working on an epic tale about the beginning of the world and have decided to plan this completely before starting. The plans may work out longer then the actual novel!

9. Are you a "write every day of the week" sort of writer or do you take days off?

I do try to write at least 500 words every day but unfortunately I work very long hours in my day job so sometimes it is not possible. I make sure, though, that I do write a few words every day.

10. Which retailers or others sites can readers find your work at?

The Cloud Diary [Amazon UK], which is raising money for a great UK based charity called Winston’s Wish is available as an eBook.

Hugo – A Quest for King Borin is also available as an eBook.

But will soon be available as a paperback.

11. Where can readers find out more about you?

People can find out about me and chat with me using my Goodreads profile.