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Update #2 – Rebecca Bryn

Rebecca was the second Indie Author to feature in my “A Date With . . .” series during 2018 (the original interview is here). I recently asked her for an update on her career and her hobbies. This is what she said:

“Once again this year, royalties from sales and page reads of Touching the Wire for the whole of January, will be donated to the US Holocaust Memorial Museum. I’d love some more sales, but this year, sales of it seem a bit slow although I am getting page reads via Kindle Unlimited, all of which count towards the donation.

My books are being read, and that is the important thing. I feel as if I’m making a little headway.

Last year, I published The Dandelion Clock, and it’s had some amazing reviews*. (The ending made me cry, by the way) Sales are steady , and I’m embarking on Amazon ads in the hope of spreading my words to a larger audience – I watched a webinar this afternoon about Google and Amazon keywords and categories – interesting stuff if I can put it into practice, but promotion is a tricky business and very time consuming when I’d rather be writing. I suppose it’s part of the price to pay for deciding to be an Independent author.

My WIP, Kindred and Affinity, is inspired by another branch of my errant forebears. This time, it’s my father’s side of the family that’s under scrutiny and comes up not so squeaky clean. My paternal grandfather was a Methodist and signed the pledge, mainly because his father was an alcoholic who beat his wife, got drunk, and fell off a roof. (He was a builder) My paternal grandmother’s father married sisters at a time when it was against the rules of kindred and affinity in the book of Common Prayer, hence the book title. He married his dead wife’s sister in 1891, and it wasn’t legal until 1907 so it must have been done in secret somehow. There had to be a story there, didn’t there? It’s taken me a while to tease it out, and I’ve discovered a lot about a woman I only knew as Auntie Annie, who died aged ninety when I was about seven. If I’d known I was going to write her story, I’d have asked her what it was… But you’ll have to read Kindred and Affinity to find out more. I’m 66,000 words into it and hope to publish it later this year.

This story is the first time that I’ve had no idea of the beginning or the end, but only a part of the middle – usually I have a beginning and an end and no idea what will happen in between. My books are somewhat seat of the pants writing style as dictated by the stupid decisions my characters make. I have various projects in mind to follow next year, but I’m not sure which one I’ll choose. They’re all contemporary fiction – mainly mystery, which will make a change from writing historical fiction. I have the titles and the covers for inspiration, but so far the stories are no more than a vague idea in the back of my mind.

Last year, I revisited all my published titles and edited them. You know the sort of thing – moved a few commas, cut out repetition, tightened the writing a bit. It took several months but was worth doing, and I enjoyed reconnecting with my characters. I had On Different Shores professionally edited and learnt a lot in the process – money well spent – hence my subsequent self-editing spree. I also brought out a box set of For Their Country’s Good trilogy which is selling steadily. Haven’t I been busy?

So busy, my painting has suffered a bit. I’m still painting and exhibiting in St Davids. We have two exhibitions a year at Easter and the beginning of August and sell a lot of work. I enjoy it, even though I don’t do as much as I’d like, and I’ve made good friends. It isn’t such a solitary occupation as writing, where my friends are mainly ‘virtual’ but good friends none-the-less.

Rebecca’s beautifull Pembrokeshire garden showing the new planting

In between painting and writing, I’ve replanted the new garden after spraying the whole area with weed killer to get rid of brambles – 24 one-ton bags went to the tip before we sprayed. I had to wait a year before I could re-plant, so I’m looking forward to some colour this summer. And we’ve put in a new fireplace and new curtains. And when I’m really bored, I mean desperately mind-numbingly bored, (edit out those adverbs) I do some housework!

Anything else? I’m hoping to look into the production of audio books this year. It is something I’d like to do as my mother and mother-in-law both lost their sight in later years and relied on talking books. Other than that, I’m a year older, a year stiffer, and hopefully, a year wiser and a better writer. Life is one huge learning curve, and I’m still climbing it.”

*You can read my review of The Dandelion Clock here, and find all Rebecca’s books on her website.

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A Date With . . . Lisa Shambrook

Lisa Shambrook lives in Carmarthen, “an old market town in the West Wales hills, [which] is inspiring as I’m surrounded by rolling hills, mountains, woods and forests, and I’m a stone’s throw from several gorgeous beaches. The scenery constantly changes and Wales, as a whole, has inspired my latest post-apocalyptic work The Seren Stone Chronicles and I’ve just finished writing the first drafts of all three books.”

I am aware that there is a community of writers residing in that part of the world, several of whom are, like Lisa, members of IASD. I suggested that this must offer stimulation and she agreed:

“I attend several local book fairs, and my fellow Welsh authors are a friendly, supportive, and generally amazing bunch. Christoph Fischer and Graham Watkins are regulars with me, and I recently met Penny Luker when she joined us too. I’ve met some truly inspiring authors within the IASD group and further afield in my local writing community like Carol Lovekin, Judith Arnopp, Thorne Moore, Judith Barrow, Greg Howes, and Cheryl Beer, and read some of their amazing books!”

Lisa recently made the move from self-publishing to a traditional contract with a small independent publisher, BHC. What made her decide on that route and how did she find BHC?

“I discovered BHC some years ago and they recently became my traditional publishers at BHC Press. I struggle with the formatting side of self-publishing and love the way they format my books. They offered me a contract a year or so ago for my Surviving Hope series and for A Symphony of Dragons and the contract worked well for me. I have also been given the opportunity with BHC Press to write an introduction and an original short story for their release of Charles Dickens’s A Christmas Carol, and that was a real privilege.

I found self-publishing difficult within my emotional/mental health parameters and knowing my publisher is looking after me is helpful. I still have a great deal of say with my work and publishing, and marketing, as we all know, is something we take on as authors, so I do a lot of my own marketing too.”

She writes fantasies in which hope springs from tragedy and believes such themes are important in helping people of all ages cope with life’s ups and downs:

“The Surviving Hope books: Beneath the Rainbow, Beneath the Old Oak, and Beneath the Distant Star have dealt with difficult subjects. They work with grief, depression, self-harm, anger issues, and bullying. It’s heavy stuff, but essential to understand the human condition. I have suffered severe anxiety and depression for most of my life and so the themes have been woven easily into the books with compassion and empathy. The main theme of Beneath the Rainbow is living life to the full and reaching for those so called impossible dreams. I think it’s imperative for both the young and the old to understand these themes and to know they are represented within fiction.”

Lisa has participated in a number of collaborations, including with musicians as well as other writers:

“I worked with Samantha Redstreake Geary when she offered a chance to write for a project she was heading for Audiomachine’s album Tree Of Life. We each wrote a story that continued with the next author and moved through the entire instrumental album. I loved writing a short piece that resounded with the music and worked so well with my sense of empathy and beauty. She included me on a couple of other musical contributions too and it was a real treat as music and the written word work perfectly together!

“Working with other authors is revitalising, and I’m very proud of my collaborations, including You are Not Alone with Ian D. Moore, which many IASD authors will know.”

The proceeds from You are Not Alone are donated to the Macmillan Nurses cancer support charity in the UK. Other collaborations also enabled Lisa and her fellow writers to support charity:

“My favourite collaboration is Human 76 which I managed along with my daughter Bekah, and authors Michael Wombat, and Miranda Kate. My family loves taking out-of-the-ordinary family portrait photographs and we did a post-apocalyptic shoot a few years ago. A photo of my daughter became an inspiration to a group of my author friends and we decided to write a collection of stories surrounding her character. It became an amazing project, pulling fourteen authors together with a great original concept. Each story in this collection follows individual characters through a post-apocalyptic world and they meet the main character at some point during their story. She affects many lives as she searches for her kidnapped sister. I wrote Ghabri, our main character, and put together the opening and closing chapters, the other stories weave between and I was astounded at how well they all worked and brought a wonderful book together.

“When we put the book out there we wanted to support a charity and to fit the themes in the book ‘Water Is Life’ is the charity we chose. It provides clean water in countries without it, and it’s lovely to know you are contributing to something worthwhile and important.”

As well as writing, Lisa has a business which uses old books in a unique and innovative way:

“I have an Etsy shop called Amaranth Alchemy (Not to be confused with an American design consultancy with the same name, FP) which I began with my daughter, but I now run on my own. I hate seeing books going to waste and a local charity collects books to give back to the community, but some are beyond repair. I use books that have been damaged or abandoned and give them new life as book marks, picture frames, and other gifts. I breathe new life into old pages…”

I wondered if there were any copyright issues with such a business. She agrees you have to be careful with certain authors’ works:

“You cannot use Tolkien’s books as the Tolkien estate is very protective of any outside usage. Many old books are already in the public domain. I am only reusing pages that would have gone to landfill, and as far as I know there are no copyright issues with recycling.”

When asked about her favourite authors, she admits t having several:

“My most favourite author is Garth Nix, I adore the Old Kingdom series, especially Lirael my favourite book. I love Tolkien, having been brought up with The Hobbit’ and Lord of the Rings. I have eclectic reading tastes, so often choose books according to the individual story, rather than the author. I also love The Slow Regard of Silent Things by Patrick Rothfuss, and he’d be an author I’d like to meet along with Nix. I think I’d ask about their confidence in their writing, how they learned to accept and embrace their own styles, because I think that’s probably one of the most important things about writing. Not sure where we’d go though.”

In answer to my final question she confesses to being “a quiet introvert”, but she loves “to talk about the deep things of life. I find socialising almost impossible and struggle with people. I think I’m a bit of a squirrel – a scatty, secretive, panicky, hoarding, arty, curl-up-and-sleep, autumnal creature!”

I enjoyed my chat with Lisa. I hope you do, too. Why not check out her website where you can find more information about her books along with purchase links.

A Date With . . . Kim McDougall

My ‘date’ today is with a multi-talented woman from the York Region of Ontario, Canada. Kim McDougall started off in Montreal, then moved to Ontario, then Long Island, NY. Next was Pennsylvania, and then back to Ontario.

“And I’m glad to be back. York Region is a cultural hub. There is always something going on – festivals, concerts, fairs. I love that. The only thing I dislike about this area is the snow. That was hard to come back to.”

I was curious about a gap in her publishing history. It turns out this was to do with parenthood:

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“My daughter was born in 2000. I thought I could write and take care of a toddler at the same time. That didn’t work out so well. I kept writing during this time, but I didn’t attempt to publish much. This was when I developed my love of picture books. We read so many, and a few stuck with me. My first picture book, Rainbow Sheep, came out of a story my daughter and I made up at bedtime. She asked me to tell it to her over and over again (the way kids do), until I finally decided to write it down.”

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Kim has also written non-fiction, sharing her knowledge of fibre art, writing and marketing. I asked which, in terms of personal satisfaction, she found most rewarding.

513wpwtw6gl-_sy346_“My current non-fiction book, Revise to Write, has been one of my most rewarding writing journeys. It is a guide to self-editing for novel writers. It came about because this was something I struggled with over several manuscripts. I researched the topic and found little real help in existing books. Revision became my topic of choice whenever I went to writers’ conferences and I was fascinated by other authors’ editing routines. Eventually, I developed a routine of my own and it has markedly improved my writing. I wanted to share that experience with my local writing group (the Writers’ Community of York Region), and I did a presentation on the topic.

I like to give cheat-sheets at my presentations, but this cheat-sheet kept growing and growing, until it became a book.

One that I am very proud of. In fact, I will be teaching a class based on this book next year. And that is the really fun part. Writing is a solitary endeavor. So I like to be part of a community.”

We talked about how the places in which she has lived inspired the settings for her fiction – Kim’s most recent work is a series of novels about a secret coven hidden away in the hills of Pennsylvania.

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517jh2bzx-il-_sy346_“I’ve never been a fan of the ‘write what you know’ philosophy, except when it comes to settings. Many of my stories take place in Montreal or Nice, France (where I spent my first year of college). When I wanted a small U.S. town, I had the pick of memories from all the little towns surrounding Allentown, PA. Though my story takes place in an imaginary town called Ashlet, it is based on the beautiful, rugged terrain of this area.51o-eoeaall-_sy346_

I find memories of places I know are best at evoking the moods I’m looking for in my fiction.

This part of PA, with the hills, forests and streams, was exactly the right spot to hide an entire coven.”

How does someone with such a varied and busy lifestyle fit it all in?

“I have to budget my time wisely because I wear a lot of hats. I try to write in the mornings because this is when my muse is the freshest. I do book design and promo videos through my business, Castelane, and I work on these every afternoon. I also love doing craft fairs. I illustrated Rainbow Sheep with fibre art and I make little needle-felted critters to go along with it. This is my busy holiday fair season and I have at least one every weekend until Christmas. Then, as the program coordinator for the Writers’ Community of York Region, I spend much of my free time organizing guest speakers and events. I am pleased to say that we are hosting our first one-day writers’ conference next October. This is a new project that I will have to fit into my schedule.”

Kim ends this section of our conversation: “Phew. Just looking at all that stuff makes me a little dizzy.” Words which I can only echo in admiration.

When I ask Kim to describe her favourite writing space, she tells me she shares it with two cats:

2003006f0df80e37a14b4113921eef1eea1abc5f63a610“Mostly I write in my office. It’s small, but bright. I have two cat beds on either end of my desk that are usually filled with sleeping cats.

The formality of sitting at a desk, rather than curled up in a chair, seems to kick my creative brain into gear.

I never listen to music when I write. I like silence. And a lot of coffee. I usually only write for 2 hours a day. But on a good day I can get out 1500 words during that time.”

Among her many favourite authors, Kim singles out two:

“Ilona Andrews is my paranormal bar of excellence. She (they, actually. It’s a husband and wife team.) write the kind of fiction I aspire to. Neil Gaiman is another. He inspires me for the way he uses such simple language to convey really complex emotions. I would love to sit around a campfire with all these writers and swap stories. I can’t think of anything more fun.”

Outside of writing and all her other creative activities, Kim enjoys most of the things we all love to do when time permits:

“I love to see shows, musicals, plays, whatever. I don’t do it that often, but for special occasions that would be my choice. I also love to be outside (in the summer). My favourite memories are on the water or camping. Even just a hike in the woods recharges me.”

I always end by asking my dates to reveal something about themselves that might surprise their readers. Her reply tells me that she is very like me in at least one respect – and I suspect it is something that would apply to most writers:

2003001403b8bcc4c29f4bd43dcd6c6cc7dae491919b1b“Until they get to know me well, most people don’t realize that I’m an introvert. I’m not shy. I can get up in front of hundreds of people to give a presentation (and actually enjoy it). But mostly, I prefer to be alone or with my family. I would rather spend time in a barn with the horses than at a mall.

Parties, shopping and concerts are among my least favorite things to do.

Which might seem odd, since I like craft fairs. But I like being on the other side of the table at the fairs. I meet people and get to chat, but I don’t have to deal with the crowds. Thankfully, writing and working from home are the ideal businesses for an introvert.”

I certainly enjoyed discovering so much about another independent author and I hope you did, too. Here is where you can find out more about the 3 strands of her professional life:

Paranormal fiction by Kim McDougall

Children’s fiction by Kim Chatel

Book Designs and promo videos

A Date With . . . Lacey Lane

My “date” this week has an “adults only” ending. I’m talking to Lacey Lane who lives somewhere in the West Midlands of England, the seat of the Industrial Revolution.

“It’s not a busy town, but not quiet either. I love the sea, but unfortunately the nearest beach is about 3 hours drive away. Sometimes, I think it would be nice if I lived closer to the sea. When I was younger, I sometimes wondered what it would be like to move to Germany.

There’s a great open air museum not far from where I live. It’s called The Black Country Living Museum. I highly recommend it. It’s my favourite West Midlands attraction.”

She loves gardening and is planning a major re-design of her garden this year.

“I usually grow a mixture of vegetables and plants. It’s not unusual to find potatoes, carrots, cucumbers, herbs, tomatoes, and lettuce growing in my garden. This year, however, I have a bare garden. I’m planing on completely re-landscaping my garden. I’m still not completely sure how I want the finished garden to look, but I would like a new patio area and a pond to attract some frogs. In the past, I’ve gone for a wild meadow look with my flowers, but next year, I’ll be going for a more organised look.”

She does not have a favourite flower, “but forget-me-knots and honesty plants remind me of my Nan’s garden when I was a child.”

She is married, has neither children nor pets although she has previously owned “a dog, a rabbit and 5 hamsters.” She has “a passion for pole fitness and nail art.”

Her fiction is short, aimed at young people, and involves aspects of horror. “I’ve loved horror since I was a kid. My mom used to tape the late night horror films and we’d sit and watch them together. As a teenager, I used to love to read Goosebumps books and Point Horror books.”

She has a love for making things and her non-fiction reflects that.

“I like to do things to keep active. I’ve also organised craft fayres for my church. Since releasing my 2 craft books, I’ve rekindled my passion for nail art. I spend more time now on nail art than crafts. I guess some people would also consider nail art a type of craft.

I love searching the internet for inspiration and I love painting my friends and families’ nails. I’ve lost count of the amount of polishes I have. It must be at least 300. I have all sorts of nail art brushes and tools. I love looking for nail art related bargains on eBay. I’m actually working on a nail art book. I have no idea when it will be released. Hopefully some time next year.

My craft fans will also be glad to hear that Christmas Crafting with Lacey will be out by the end of October.”

Lacey works in a supermarket: “It’s far from glamorous but it’s well paid and pays the bills.” She also makes and sells jewellery. “It’s a nice little hobby. I’ve also released a range of horror themed jewellery to go alongside my horror books.”

She is happy being a part-time writer and loves getting feed-back from her fans. She is self-published and thinks “being traditionally published would be too stressful. I can write every day for weeks and then other times I can go months without writing. I like that flexibility.”

She can’t afford an editor but appreciates the support she gets from other members of the Independent Authors Support and Discussion on-line group. “Members of the wonderful IASD group beta read for me and point out any issues they spot. Sharon Brownlie has made some of my book covers and I’ll be sure to use her again in the future.

I love being a part of the IASD group. Everyone is friendly, helpful, supportive, and great fun.

I’m really not very good when it comes to marketing. I plan on starting up a blog some time soon, although, I’ve been saying that for at least a year and still not started it. I also plan on creating some new marketing images.”

She loves reading, especially the works of IASD members.

“There’s so many great authors out there, especially in the IASD group. My favourite horror author is John Hennessy. I read Murderous Little Darlings and I was hooked instantly.

When it comes erotica, Tom Benson is the king. John and I could talk about ways to murder and torture people. I could give Tom some pole dancing scenes to put in one of his books. I’m sure meeting either of them would be awesome and we’d talk about anything and everything.

I’ve also been lucky to meet Sylva Fae, Suzanne Downes, and Barbara Speake. I would love to meet them again. I would also love to meet Sharon Brownlie and Susan Faw. In fact, I would love it if we could get everyone from the IASD group together and have a big party. I’m sure there would be lots of cheesecake, beer pools, and naked dancing lol.”

I would certainly be up for that, but first I need to find out what tips Lacey has for would be writers.

“My main tip would be if you love writing, just do it. Create the story that’s deep inside you. It doesn’t matter if you’re not good at spelling or if you’re hopeless at grammar. There’s people out there who can help with that. Just write and have fun.”

Great tip, Lacey. Now, did you say something about a beer pool somewhere? I’m on my way.