Tuesday, June 21, 2022

Author Interview - Andre Jones

Andre Jones was born in Wollongong on the New South Wales South Coast. He has a Dutch heritage and apparently – lost in time – there’s a vague link to Dutch Royalty on his father’s side. And while ‘Jones’ isn’t a Dutch name by any stretch of the imagination, it isn’t a pen name either. He is sure his parents did their best, and while he does have fond memories of his childhood, there are others he would rather not dwell on. In hindsight, it was mostly unpleasant and no doubt got him into reading to escape. So he can be thankful for that.

Andre Jones has worn many hats, as they say, from Police Officer to Council Labourer, to serving in the Royal Australian Navy for almost 20 years and being involved in ‘operational areas’ (war-zones). When he left he did some gardening and handyman work because he likes working with my hands. He finally retired – though he sometimes feels like he is doing more now than before. 

Andre Jones has been married for 36 years to a lovely Scottish lass, has one daughter, and currently one old British Short Hair cat - Alex, and one over the top Jack Russel Terrier - Gordon. 

Genre: Initially epic fantasy, I also love sci-fi and urban fantasy, which is reflected in my books so far. As if I haven’t enough on my plate, lately I’ve been considering steampunk/thrillers ... and crime ... and getting into some mild horror. (I know there is cosy romance and cosy mystery ... can there be a cosy horror?)

Q&A:

Q1: What is the name of your latest book and what inspired it?

The book about to be released is SPHINX, book three of my urban fantasy/tomb raider-esque series ‘Death Wave Chronicles’.

The series started when I fell down the rabbit hole on Youtube, looking at fringe/weird/ pseudo-science with a splash of conspiracy theory and Gaia myth. What struck me about all this was people follow these subjects – some with vehemence.

Is any of it true? Who knows – the court is still out, hence why it isn’t ‘main-stream’ or peer-reviewed science – but, it definitely stirs the (my) imagination.

Q2: What’s your favourite and least favourite part of publishing?

Book covers are fun, working with the designer to come up with ideas that hopefully work and get those readers to click the link.

Definitely marketing is the least favourite. These days with the internet, anyone with a computer can ‘get published’, marketing is far too finicky and superficial. I firmly believe that a great book/author can fall by the wayside and a mediocre book/author will be highly successful simply because of the ability to sell oneself.

(or maybe I’m not trying hard enough ...)

Another least favourite part is the expense to get it done professionally. Yes, I know it can – and has been – done cheaply ... and quite successfully in some cases, but for me, a professional editor and designer is and will always be my preference.

And newsletters, another least favourite. I suck at it. Any ‘newsletter’ is generally used to do the obligatory BookFunnel promo.

Q3: What authors, or books have influenced you?

Taking into account I am 61 this year, some of the names may not register with your readers, but I’ll give it a go. Enid Blyton, Anne McCaffery, Robert Heinlein, Ray Bradbury, Phillip K Dick, Poul Anderson, Katherine Kerr, Isaac Asimov, JRR Tolkien, Stephen Donaldson ... to name a few!

I can’t say any one in particular as has influenced me as they all had a part in forming my imaginings during my youth.

About 10 years ago I started going to Book/Writer conventions and got to know several Australian authors; Glenda Noramly (Larke), Russell Kirkpatrick, Fiona McIntosh, and Karen Miller. Having met them in the flesh, even chatting to them on a one-to-one basis, I guess it inspired me to give my writing more seriousness.

I should make a special mention of a trilogy ‘The Fionavar Tapestry’ by Guy Gavriel Kay. I don’t know how the man does it, but I get very misty-eyed in book 2 – Every. Damn. Time. Definitely not to be read on public transport. I aspire to invoke as much emotion into my readers.

Q4: What is your schedule like when you’re writing a book?

Haphazard at best. As mentioned, I’m a retired Australian Navy veteran, and have plenty of time in my hands ... I guess every day is like a weekend, and I can easily put things off for ‘tomorrow’. And I do. I will write for hours-on-end some days, then plod along on others ... mind you, I do have a young Jack Russell Terrier that takes up much of my time too!

However, this isn’t for everyone. I’m lucky in that, being an independent author, I have no rigid timeline ... other than appeasing my avid readers.

Q5: What advice would you give to a writer working on their first book?

No doubt it will be a different experience for everyone, but the advice will always be the same: ‘Don’t give up’.

Your first, maybe second or even third book will probably be crap – definitely the first drafts will be. I doubt anyone has written anything great the first time; just keep going. There is no greater teacher than experience, and you can’t edit what you haven’t written.

Join a reading or critique group. Sure, you have to read their stuff too, but over time any genuine and practical advice can only make you a better writer.

Q6: What do the words “writer’s block” mean to you?

Not much. I don’t believe in it. Sure, there are times when I feel the muses have left the building and no longer communicating, but in those instances I feel it’s because I’ve missed something in my writing leading me to an area I was expecting (my characters tend to do that!) ... I tend to go back and re-read/edit to see where I ‘left the path’. Soon enough I’m back on it.

However, if that doesn’t work, I tend to write something else, even if it’s notes for my ‘next’ WIP (I have many!) Sometimes too much concentration on a specific thing is counterproductive; those times it’s best to move away completely. It’ll come to you. Just keep writing.

Q7: What part of the book was the most fun to write?

I should say all of it, but the action scenes felt easier to write. I enjoy world building and taking the reader deeper into my worlds, but this can sometimes be a data-dump, so while I write it out initially, the editing tends to turn it into nibbles as opposed to mouthfuls of info  and then spread it around a bit more.

I dare say as my writing ability expands, I might find other aspects are enjoyable; confidence grows with experience.

Q8: How would you describe your book’s ideal reader?

Obviously they would be the astute adventurous type who don’t mind a bit of cross-genre, don’t take things too seriously (I mean, I’m not writing literary fiction), but I don’t mind having a crack at things I find amusing or ridiculous in our society, or even having a laugh at some tropes we use.

For better or worse, I do find I’m writing more books with a female protagonist/hero, see how that flies.

Q9: What are you working on now?

I’m working on several books at the moment: GNOSTIC book four of my urban fantasy Death Wave Chronicles. The series is a mash of pseudo-science, weird-science, fringe-science with a splash of mythology and legends.

I’m also co-authoring a military sci-fi with Pete Aldin; and working on my running ‘memoirs’ (where over 215 days (on separate occasions) I ran 10,000+kms solo around and across Australia for various charities).

Q10: What are you currently reading?

I’m not reading as much as I should ... however, in my To Be Read pile is:

Scrapper (Peter J Aldin), The Stars Remain (Peter J Aldin), and Awaken (GR Thomas).

Excerpt from RELIC - book 1 of the Death Wave Chronicles.

The Message

“I bring a message on behalf of Earth. You may call it Mother Nature, and you may call it Gaia — which is not entirely correct but will suffice for now due to your lack of comprehension of the natural forces which surround us all.

“The world has succumbed to a plague.

Mankind’s ingenuity, believed to separate it from ‘animals’, enabled it to inhabit every niche of land, thereby spreading infection across the globe.

“Mankind has also developed a lust for wealth and power to the extent that the pollution and desecration are now global, threatening the very fabric of the world.

Just as a microbe cannot fathom the complex world in which it lives, Mankind is also incapable of fathoming the complexity of the world. Every living thing on the earth has a role and is connected — or was.

Mankind alone has lost its connections, believing itself separate from everything else.

“A messenger will arrive — Mankind’s one chance to survive.

Those who have lost their connection, who cannot bring themselves to attune, to live in harmony with the earth and the forces around them, will perish.

“Resonating with all that is, she is Nature incarnate. It would be foolish to thwart her, for Gaia’s wrath is never subtle, always fatal. Treat her well.

Mankind’s continued existence relies on its ability to learn respect for the world.

Adapt or die.” 

Vitor Magalhães Xaschoal

Wai-wai shaman – 2046

To find out more about Andre Jones, check out the social media links below:

Facebook

Instagram

Goodreads

AmazonAuthor Page

Website

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Tuesday, June 14, 2022

Author Interview - Craig Randall

Craig Randall is a teacher of Literature and Writing and has loved words and stories for as long as he can remember. He is also an empath and has struggled with anxiety and depression most of his life. Writing allowed him to turn a huge corner and has led to so much healing. 

Genre: Horror and suspense, but I also write a lot of hopeful poetry.

Q&A:

Q1: What is the name of your latest book and what inspired it?

There are two: My debut novel, The Doom That Came to Astoria, which was inspired by semi-autobiographical events (not the creature at the end) in which I had to learn to not allow others so much power in my own life. Like myself, the MC, Charlie, hopes to build a new life free from pain and past trauma…things don’t quite go his way…at first.

The second book, To Chase the Sun, is a collection of poetry that charts my own healing as I sought to rebuild my mind after an anxiety med-wash. Things went very dark for a long time. Both books were written alongside one another and feel like two sides of the same coin. 

Q2: What do you need in your writing space to help you stay focused?

I NEED quiet. Other than that, I could be in an empty room, on the floor, anywhere, and be fine. I supposed I need my laptop, and it’s nice to be surrounded by books and comforts, but when I start, everything goes by the wayside anyway and I feel transported. I write all over the place, as long as it’s potentially quiet.

Q3: If you could spend a day with another popular author, whom would you choose and why?

I would give anything to hang out with Neil Gaiman for a whole day. I would pick his brain about his process, the evolution of his craft, how he deals with certain pitfalls and setbacks. And I would ask him so many questions about his stories, characters, and their connections to the real world!

Q4: What, to you, are the most important elements of good writing?

Good writing, to me, is the heart bleeding on the page. I think good writing must be honest and truthful in its reflection of people and the world. Maybe sincere is the best word for it. When I read something that appears to be the author reaching for something as it really is? That’s powerful. Then we get to join them on their quest for answers. Someone told me a long time ago that great literature answers questions. I see it differently. I think great literature/writing asks great questions and creates a pathway for the audience to find their own answers.

Q5: What are common traps for new authors? 

I think the biggest trap is in expecting perfection or excellence too soon. Too many people give up because it’s not like what they read or wanted it to be. They don’t realize that it might be better than the first draft of their favorite book(s). People don’t realize how often a book has been edited/revised prior to publication and therefore create unrealistic expectations for themselves. Another trap is the belief that writing is a singular effort. It can be, I suppose, but we need people around us, to encourage, to read our work, to give feedback and notes. We write as a tribe and we each need our own tribe to continue forward.

Q6: What is the most valuable piece of advice you’ve been given about writing?

The most important advice I’ve ever been given is in terms of finding a story to write about. That I shouldn’t write about what I feel I confidently know but to write about something I’m unsure of and want to know or understand better. That way, my character’s journey is a reflection of me and takes me on that same journey of understanding. The revelations and growth that happens in the characters become more authentic. Powerful stuff. Then, even if no one ever touches my book, reads or reviews it, likes or hates it, I’ve still grown, and writing was purposeful anyway. No matter what there is victory. That’s been important.

Q7: How do you come up with character names for your stories?

Names carry meaning and tone and feel. I think of what or who that character needs to be and will often go through a massive list of names until I find a match. I focus more on syllable and phonemic sounds, too, than anything else. If its harsh, soft, weak, flimsy, like the character needs to be. Then I look at meaning. Often those things intersect and it becomes perfect. My MC in my trilogy is a combination of two characters from H.P. Lovecraft’s mythology. Each name carries certain traits that my character had or needed to have, so that felt perfect. I chose Charlie, the inspirational character’s name Charles, to update it but it also captures more of the innocence I wanted. In less meaningful cases, I google most popular names (first and last) in the region/setting (if it’s the real world) and pick one that fits.

Q8: At what time of the day do you do most of your writing?

I write in the evenings and at breaks throughout my day. Pending how busy I am, I’ll try to get in an hour or two every Saturday and/or Sunday.

Q9: What are you working on now?

I’m currently writing Part 3 in my trilogy. Doom is the first. Its sequel, The Dreams in the Pearl House comes out in the fall, and I’m hoping Part 3 will drop the following winter. It’s been so fun!

Q10: What are you currently reading?

I’m blasting my way through Stephen King books. Never read him before, and I see and hear so much about his work. I’m loving it, most of it. Currently, I’m 600 pages into The Stand. Only 800 pages left…I’ll get there!

To find out more about Craig Randall, check out the social media links below:

Instagram
Goodreads
Amazon Author Page
TikTok

The Doom That Came To Astoria is now available in paperback and ebook! Check out the blurb below:

DOOM IS COMING…but Charlie West is too busy striving toward a more hopeful future to notice. Eager to move on from a past scarred by pain, he accepts a teaching position at a school just outside Astoria, Oregon. He’d dreamt of this his whole life. Letting go. Leaving. Building his own life free of the shadows and darkness that plagued his formative youth.

Anxieties reel as Charlie works to settle, build friendships, and find his place in a new community. Allowing himself to dream at last, he is unaware that each step he takes leads him further into an intricate web set to ensnare him.

Never could he have imagined what awaited him, nor the extent of his own connection to the coming horrors.

As mental upheaval threatens to overpower him, Charlie is desperate to find out whether a person can ever really move on from their own past, their own pain. Follow Charlie as he grapples with who truly holds the reins of his life and future.

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Tuesday, June 7, 2022

Author Interview - Havelah McLat

Havelah McLat lives on a small farm in rural Ohio with her family. As a kid, she spent hours drawing and then crafting short stories to go along with her illustrations. As she got older, her passion grew to write stories about the world, faith, and topics that matter the most to her. Havelah has written several short fictions that have been featured in different anthologies. When she’s not writing, she reads books, draws, which she shares on my website, helps with activity events in her local church and community, and spend time with her family. During her free time she watches YouTube videos on different writers and authors on their writing journey and self-publishing industry.

Genre:  contemporary clean romance fiction, fantasy, inspirational stories and sometimes historical fiction.

Q&A:

Q1: What is the name of your latest book and what inspired it?

A Forever Summer, and I got the inspiration out of a Victoria magazine from a friend. There was an image of two kids holding a boat and surrounded by water. And a bunch of old letters. That’s where the story begins.

Q2: What is a significant way your book has changed since the first draft? 

Haha, the draft has changed quite a bit. The story was originally set in the 80s but then things didn’t work out and I decided to rewrite from scratch to make it contemporary fiction.

Q3: What authors, or books have influenced you?

Richard Evans, Beverly Lewis and several other authors. Even though both authors write fiction, they each write different types of genres. Richard would write sentimental stories and Beverly would write Christian fiction, but in a way, both have influenced me and how I write stories with valuable morals and faith.

Q4: What is your schedule like when you’re writing a book?

Hmm, I usually like to write in the morning and sometimes in the evening. All depends on my mood and when the inspiration hits me.

Q5: What advice would you give to a writer working on their first book?

Write at your own pace. Trust your storyteller (or main characters) and let them tell you the story.

Q6: What is the best writing advice you have ever heard?

Write a description only if it is important to the plot.

Q7: How do you celebrate when you finish your book? 

Eat ice cream or sometimes buy something to reward myself for accomplishing the draft.

Q8: What do you think is the best way to improve writing skills?

Read books, watch Youtube videos about writing, and learn and grow in your skills.

Q9: What are you working on now?

Right now I am working on a contemporary, clean, winter romance set in the same world as A ForeverSummer, but they aren't a part of a series. They are all stand alone.

Q10: What are you currently reading?

I would read a book that interested me. But I can say I have a long list of books on my TBR I would like to read before the year ends.

To find out more about Havelah McLat, check out the social media links below. Keep scrolling for an excerpt from A Forever Summer.

Social media links:
Instagram
Goodreads
Amazon Author Page
Newsletter
Website

Havelah McLat has generously provided us with an excerpt from Chapter One of A Forever Summer.

Katherine grinned wryly. It could be worse—I could have actually gotten hit. She breathed calmly. There is nothing that needs to be fretted over.

The sound of approaching footsteps caught her attention. She shifted her attention from Maude to the person who returned with a bottle of water in his hand. He was dressed professionally in a dark suit and tie. He was older and his face appeared very serious, but when he saw she had arrived, he greeted her with a friendly smile.

“It is nice to see you Ms. Linton.”

“I apologize for being late,” said Katherine.

He laughed, waving his hand. “It’s alright.” Then he gestured for them to take a seat at the desk.

“Mr. Dan—” Katherine paused and looked down at the name on the plate. “William Danforth, I was told we have a matter to discuss.”

“We do.” He sipped a little water and set the bottle aside. “Let me get the file.” He pushed his chair back and swung his arm to a large cabinet. “Your father told me about you both,” he said as he rummaged through his files.

Katherine glanced over at Maude, who was sitting next to her. “He did?”

“He said you are an artist,” said the lawyer turned his head sideways to look at Katherine, “working for a Boston Lifestyle magazine company, and Maude is a freshman in college.”

Katherine chuckled in amazement, wondering how much personal information her father shared with him.

“He told me how proud he is of you two.”

Katherine sadly smiled as she thought of him, especially as she remembered her and Maude watching him drift away into that deep sleep, and breathing his last breath. She wiped tears from her eyes and swallowed the lump in her throat.

“Should we get this settled?” said Mr. Danforth.

Katherine nodded.

The lawyer pulled out the document and slid back to his desk. “You already know your father has drawn a will…”

Katherine turned to Maude, and they exchanged knowing glances. Shortly before he died, he told his daughters they would inherit his home and everything that once belonged to him. After their mother’s death in a car accident years ago, their father’s will was the only reminder of their parents’ plans for the family.

“Is there something else we should know?” Katherine asked him, noticing a grave expression on Mr. Danforth’s face.

“Before your father passed away, he included something else in his will.”

“What do you mean?” Maude asked him.

What could he possibly add? Katherine pondered the same thought. She squinted in confusion, and the lawyer slid the file in front of them. Katherine opened it and drew out the sheet of paper. She studied it closely.

“What did he add?” she asked, pausing from reading.

“I can show you,” he said, holding out his hand. Katherine gave the document to him, and he pointed to one section toward the end of the will.

She and Maude drew their heads closer and squinted at the paragraph. Katherine raised her brows when she read it. “Our father left us a house in Westchester Bay, Massachusetts?”

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Tuesday, May 31, 2022

Author Interview - MJ Carstarphen

Bio: MJ Carstarphen is a writer of classic style fantasy and contemporary fiction. She has an obsession with trees and prefers tea over coffee. She's not a very talented painter, but she can draw a pretty legit stick figure... She's prone to rambling and knows a little about a lot, so she's a great trivia partner. Her debut novel, The Wandering Tree, releases on June 1, 2022.

Genre: “Light” Dark Fantasy and contemporary fiction

Q&A

Q1: What is the name of your latest book and what inspired it?

My latest book is called The Wandering Tree. It’s the first book in the Creatures of Dreams series. The inspiration for The Wandering Tree came from an image that my old eighth grade English teacher shared on her Facebook page over three years ago (because everyone is still friends with their eighth grade English teacher, right?) It had this dark and eerie looking tree, and while most people commented how terrifying it would be to stumble across or how creepy it was, my first thought was that there was absolutely a story there. The image no longer fully represents the story, but it was definitely the initial inspiration.

Q2: When you’re writing an emotional or difficult scene, how do you set the mood?

I don’t. I wish I could say I light candles or have wine… but honestly, I tend to ignore the scene for days… sometimes weeks. I didn’t write for almost a month when I came to a scene in The Wandering Tree. I felt like I had tried to avoid it and even let the character wander around a bit, but it always came back to this one thing and when I finally wrote it, I had no music or food or drinks…just silence. Then I didn’t write again for weeks because I cried every time I came back to the story.

Q3: What authors, or books have influenced you?

For my fantasy stories I would say Tolkien was my biggest influence. The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings series are some of my favorite books. I literally read them at least once a year, but usually more. I also think I was heavily influenced by old Jim Henson movies and other late 80s fantasy movies like Willow and The Princess Bride…something about the vibes they give off just really inspired me as a kid.

Q4: Which of your characters do you relate to the most and why?

Oh, gosh. If we are talking about The Wandering Tree, I think… probably my leprechaun. He really develops as the story goes on and even though we are quite different, I think a lot of what motivates us and lives within us, is similar. There are moments when he doesn’t see his own value and I know that is something I always struggled with–something most people struggle with, and I think seeing him transform and come into his own was something so relatable.

Q5: What advice would you give to a writer working on their first book?

I think, as cliche as it is, the best advice is to write the story you want. That first draft is supposed to be us as writers, telling ourselves the story. So if it’s messy or has holes and too many commas, it’s okay. If we focus on telling it to ourselves it feels easier than worrying about what pleases others. Every story has its audience; if you love it, someone else probably will too.

Q6: How much research did you need to do for your book

I actually did a lot, but don’t know how much really went into the actual story. I did a lot of research on trees. I wanted to know everything about them and it led me down this spiral of tree and nature books that really opened my eyes. The Hidden Life of Trees was probably my favorite source of research information for the story because it showed me that trees are more alive than we give them credit for, and that the world they exist in is so complex. Even though the story is “done” I am still constantly reading books and articles about trees.

Q7: What was your hardest scene to write, and why?

I don’t really want to give that away, but I think readers will know it when they come to it. All my beta readers had the same sort of reaction to this scene and as much as I didn’t want to put my characters through that… it became the catalyst for the story moving forward and turning into the bit of beauty that it is.

Q8: What is your writing process like? Are you more of a plotter or a pantser?

Panster. 100% panster. At least for The Wandering Tree. Much like the title character… I just sort of wandered and let the story unfold. There were moments that shocked me and brought me to tears and made me jump. I laughed and smiled… I think pansting allowed for the story to really surprise me and forced me to listen to the characters because I didn’t force it to fit some outline, I just had to wait for the characters and story to show me where it wanted/needed to go. However, book 2 is a nice combination of planning and pantsing. I don’t have a hard outline, but made one that has some sort of stepping stones to help guide me to the big events that will take place.

Q9: What are you working on now?

I am currently working on Book 2 of the Creatures of Dreams series as well as polishing my debut contemporary fiction, The Three Loves of Liza Wellerby.

Q10: What are you currently reading?

I am currently reading Extreme Expectations of the Exiled by Tuesday Simon and Songs of the Wicked by C.A Farran.

Find out more about MJ Carstarphen by checking out her Linktree

The Wandering Tree is available on the 1st of June. Preorder it here.

On top of a cliff at the edge of the world, in a land long forgotten by the fools who wander tall on two legs, lives an ancient tree who’s spent many mortal lifetimes silently observing the world around him. Until one day, a magical mistake turns the tree to gold… and brings him to life. Now free to wander a world he’s only dreamed of, the tree heads for the mountains, hoping to discover all the beauty and joy that exists beyond his home.

With new friends at his side, he soon learns the precious gift which gave him life is both a blessing and a burden, desired by those who hold treasure above innocent lives. The world is a much darker place than he expected, yet more wonderful in ways he never could’ve imagined.

But there is a price to pay for being a wandering tree and his journey will teach him that the true difference between being alive and living is worth its weight in gold. It’s a life he never knew he wanted, filled with moments that will root themselves deep in his soul and wander in his heart forever.


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Tuesday, May 24, 2022

Author Interview: Amena Jamali

Amena Jamali is a double-alumna of the University of Dallas with degrees in politics and cybersecurity. She is an active member of her religious community, her university circle, and professional groups that advance the talents of womxn cyber professionals. She is passionate about serious and respectful discussions in politics and hopes to inspire a different sort of thinking about community and political engagement.

When Amena isn't unfolding the story of her written universe, you can find her fully immersed in her quirky sense of humor (inherited from her father!) and talking superheroes with even the most committed DC and Marvel fans. She enjoys embroidery, reading fantasy books, watching action movies, and long conversations with good friends.

Genre: Fantasy, Epic

Q&A

Q1: What is the name of your latest book and what inspired it?

My latest book is The Resonant Bell, and it is actually inspired by my first book, The Bell Tolling. While writing that story, I grew fascinated by what was occurring behind the scenes, in the minds of side characters, and elsewhere in my world. All of that came together in the form of The Resonant Bell.

Q2: What is a significant way your book has changed since the first draft? 

One way that it has changed is expanding from a casual, throwaway sort of project, a glorified collection of bonus chapters, into a set of stories with defined narratives of their own.

Q3: What authors, or books have influenced you?

I would point to a number of books: The Lord of Rings and Beowulf for fantasy itself, Eragon by Christopher Paolini and Bella at Midnight by Diane Stanley for the construction of multiple perspectives, and The Chronicles of Narnia for spirituality and the depiction of deep philosophical ideas in literature. My philosophical ideas (and challenges) are drawn in part from Plato’s Republic, Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics and Politics, Thucydides’ The Peloponnesian War, and Machiavelli’s The Prince.

Q4: What is your schedule like when you’re writing a book?

I do not actually write to a set schedule. I have a list of chapters or publishing or marketing tasks I would like to complete each week, and I do my best to accomplish them. Because of the demands of faith, family, or work, I may not meet those commitments, but they still keep me oriented towards my goal. I do usually write more productively in the early mornings or very late nights 

Q5: What advice would you give to a writer working on their first book?

Respect your own style! There is a lot of advice about writing ‘best practices’ and guidelines that writers absolutely must follow, and they do have elements of truth to them. But all stories, including the words in which those stories are expressed, are ultimately about the soul of the writer, and sacrificing that deep connection in order to check a list of boxes just because you are told to do so will do nothing to satisfy your spirit. The works of literature most revered through the centuries have often been innovative or even rebellious against the existing dogma of writing at the time. So be true to yourself and choose writing supports who understand what you are trying to say, are excited for your stories, and are willing to build you up rather than break you down.

Q6: What is the best writing advice you have ever heard?

The best pieces of writing advice I have ever read or heard were to not think that bigger words make for better writing and to not think that passive voice has no place in great literature.

Q7: How do you celebrate when you finish your book? 

I eat ice cream and chocolate and tell all of my closest friends! I also go back and read my own writing or talk to my characters about how I hope they enjoyed the way I told their stories. If I have an opportunity, I might also spend an evening watching The Lord of the Rings.

Q8: What do you think is the best way to improve writing skills?

The best way to improve is to write and to subsequently critically evaluate your own work. I should add here that I think writing a story, versus merely addressing prompts, is more effective because the thread of the narrative gives you motivation to continue trying. A subsequent evaluation helps you be honest about what needs to improve and what needs to remain the same – essentially, that is the opportunity to determine what you want your style to be. A good writer reads a lot of books, but a great writer knows what the combination of techniques that is best for their story and their soul.

Q9: What are you working on now?

Since finishing The Resonant Bell, I have started drafting the next book of my series and outlining another side project, a romantic fantasy that continues the story of two characters from The Resonant Bell.

Q10: What are you currently reading?

I am currently dividing my reading time between romantic fantasies – I need some context for my romantic fantasy side project – and doing some nonfiction research to build the intellectual foundation for my next book.

Keep reading for an excerpt from The Resonant Bell

“If we commit to it, we must be prepared for war. There will be no freedom without war.”

“Then let us commit,” Belona replied. “We must have that freedom. At any cost.”

I swallowed. “At any cost, my love? Would it not be better if I left Jurisso behind, abdicating my title to you, and joined with only my own name and the friends who chose to come with me? I fear to bring any more retaliation upon our neighbors.”

Belona cupped my bearded chin with her strong fingers and angled my head so that my gaze met hers, without disturbing Dorona’s grip. “In any age but this,” she spoke, “that would be wise counsel, Ciro. But in this age, we cannot do less than devote everything we have to his cause. We cannot act with half a heart.”

“Even if the war takes us from Dorona?” I asked, deeply troubled, even our baby’s playful tugs on my beard failing to evoke a smile.

She smiled mirthlessly. “Rather the war for freedom takes us from her than the soldiers take her from us.”

To find out more about Amena Jamali, check out the social media links below:

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Tuesday, May 17, 2022

Author Interview - Khalid Uddin


I am New Jersey, U.S., based writer and high school English teacher. I’m currently writing the Drowned Realm Series. The first book, Rise of the Red Harbinger, was published in 2017 and the second, Ghosts of Ashur, was released on May 15th, 2022. Aside from that, I’m a husband to a wonderful wife and father to two beautiful/demonic girls.

 Genre: Epic Fantasy

 Q&A

 Q1: What is the name of your latest book and what inspired it?

 The Ghosts of Ashur is my latest book, which is the second instalment of my Drowned Realm Series. The first book in the series is Rise of the RedHarbinger. It’s a fantasy series inspired by my own experiences, as well as by other works and fantasy series, such as Lord of the Rings and The Wheel of Time.

Q2: What are five words that describe your writing process?

Outlines, character-driven, soundtracks, slow, calculated

Q3: What authors, or books have influenced you?

I was originally inspired by Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time, and then similarly by J. R. R. Tolkein’s Lord of the Rings and George R. R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire series. I’ve also found some great inspiration in Brandon Sanderson and Pierce Brown.

Q4: What do you need in your writing space to help you stay focused? 

I’m pretty simple when it comes to that. I need my laptop, a notebook and pencil, my book’s world map for reference, and my phone and headphones. Usually as long as I have music, I can stay focused.

Q5. What, to you, are the most important elements of good writing?

Planning is definitely one of them. I understand that there are “planners” and “pantsers”, but no matter which one you are, you still have to have some things worked out in advance. Good Pantsers still know their characters and worlds well enough that they can trust those things to take the story where it goes. Stories and writing are so much more rich when a writer has taken the time to build a world as in-depth as possible.

Q6: What is the best advice you have ever heard?

Just write. Honestly, the only regret I have about writing is that I didn’t follow this advice. It took me forever to start the actual writing process and I wish I had done so sooner. I think I was afraid to start, and the truth of it is that you can’t be a good or bad writer if you never start writing.

Q7: What is your favourite genre to read?

It’s probably obvious, but fantasy is my favourite. Fantasy is what unlocked my imagination and inspired me to write my own series, and I love that the only limits of the genre are the author’s imagination. It’s nice to be able to read and not worry about the story being realistic.

Q8: What comes first for you — the plot or the characters — and why?

Characters. Interesting characters with dimension can make any story interesting. If you flesh out a character enough, they tell the story for you. One of my favourite parts of my own writing process is that there have been numerous times in which my characters have dictated the course of the story. Literally, in the moment, I’ve realised that a character wouldn’t do something the way I originally planned, and it makes the story so much better for it.

Q9: What are you working on now?

I’ve just sent my editor and publisher the final draft of my second book, The Ghosts of Ashur, and once they look it over for the last time, it should be all set for publication. We’re targeting a May 15th release for it.

Q10: What are you currently reading?

I just started The Satanic Verses by Salman Rushdie. I picked it up years ago and just never got around to it. Now that I have some time to read, hopefully I can finish it.

Keep reading for an exerpt from Chapter 2 of TheGhosts of AshurBook 2 of The DrownedRealm Series

One of the Jinn struck Baltaszar from behind, knocking him face-first into the hard ground. His eyes were tearing from what was sure to be a broken nose. Before he could muster the strength to push himself off the ground, one of the Jinn pulled him up to his feet. He opened himself to his manifestation and summoned a flame to each hand. He had no idea how the flames would help him, but it was the only thing he could think to do. Baltaszar swivelled his neck as his attackers drew closer. He threw his flames at two of them, only to see the fires disappear against their skin. He summoned a ring of fire around himself, thanking Lincan for making him impervious to his own fire. The Jinn drew closer, stepping right through the circle of flames.

On two feet, they stood more than twice his size. On four, they were slightly less intimidating, but still the size of horses. Their thick pale skin was off-putting, especially with the earthy colours always shifting. Jinn generally could only be seen if they wanted to be. Baltaszar wished, at this moment, that he couldn’t see them. It would have been less terrifying to be attacked by invisible creatures than to be surrounded by the grotesqueness of the Jinn, knowing they wanted to hurt him, and perhaps kill him.

Another Jinn advanced towards him and punched at his chest. Baltaszar attempted to shield himself with his right arm, but the blow shattered the bones in his forearm, which then slammed into his ribs, likely cracking some in the process. Baltaszar doubled over and then fell to his knees. He sucked at the air and grasped his broken arm. He labored to breathe and bent forward to put his forehead to the ground. If the Jinn planned to kill him, he could not do much to stop them. A warm foot pushed him flatly to the ground, and Baltaszar screamed at the pressure on his nose, arm, and ribs.

Find out more about Khalid Uddin by following the social media links below

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